Friday, June 24, 2016

Always Keep Fighting!

One of the more delightful aspects of rheumatoid arthritis (yes, I'm being sarcastic) is the very real issue of brain fog. What is brain fog? It's when you feel confused, forgetful, lack mental clarity, and in all seriousness, feel like you are in the early stages of dementia.

Unfortunately, many of those with chronic illness suffer from brain fog, and I'm no exception. I used to pride myself on my memory. I could have a list of things to do in my mind and never forget a single one. Words came to me easily. Focus wasn't hard. Conversations were easy since I hardly ever lost my train of thought. And now? I'll be writing and can't for the life of me think of a simple word I need to use. This happens in conversations, too. And many times, I'll be talking and struggle to find my words, which results in me feeling quite embarassed  since I flounder around like a beached whale. I am forgetful, make mistakes at work that I never did before, and can't find the focus I need unless I literally close my eyes and force myself to.

It's not fun. But it's something I have to deal with, and I'm learning to find ways to work around it. For example, I make lists. It's a must. And at work, I have to force myself to slow down and double check my work. Zipping around on social media, flitting from Twitter to FB to Pinterest doesn't help, so if I really want to focus, I need to have all those tabs closed. Finding my words is harder to fix, but slowing down when I talk to people or pausing to collect my thoughts is about the best I can do.

And writing? Oftentimes, I'll rely on my thesauraus to help me out - the word I want is often listed amongst the synonyms of a related word.

Brain fog isn't fun to deal with. It's frustrating and at times, scary. But having a plan of action to combat it is vital.

Lately, I've had to really force myself to look at my illness in a different light. Yes, I have a chronic illness. But it doesn't have me. I am more than my illness. It is not my identity. That's hard to remember when my joints are aching so bad that I'm in tears, or when I'm so exhausted all I can do is sleep. However, it's necessary for good mental health. I'm not going to lose who I am  - and I am many things: a wife, a mother, a daughter, a niece, a sister, a friend, a co-worker, a writer, a creative person, a historian, a fighter - to this disease. I am far, far more than my illness!

If you're suffering with a chronic illness or condition, please know that your illness does not define you. It is a part of you, yes, but you are made up of many, many parts!

I always like to turn to Jared Padalecki (of the TV show Supernatural) and his wise words of wisdom: Always keep fighting!



Monday, June 13, 2016

Random Thoughts Edition #2698

Ok. So I haven't really had over 2,000 "Random Thoughts" post. Instead, I just picked a random number out of a hat. Because that's what these random posts are all about!

Onward...

1) Rheumatoid arthritis? Inflammatory polyarthritis? Inflammatory polyarthropathy? Ah, the medical world. I've had two rheumatologists diagnose me with the last two, but they have not yet pulled the trigger on an official "rheumatoid arthritis" diagnosis even though these three things essentially mean the same thing. Oh, there are different types of inflammatory polyarthrisi/arthropathy, and RA is just one of them - but it is the one that my symptoms most closely match. Why won't they give me an official RA diagnosis? That is a darn good question. One is that my bloodwork doesn't show certain results associated with RA. Except...a large chunk of those with RA don't have those markers. The whole thing is driving me crazy. I'm going to my rheumy tomorrow (this is my second rheumy after I had to let the other one go because he was NOT helping me) to talk about all of this mumbo jumbo.

2) Depression. When you have a chronic illness (see above) and can go for a few weeks without having a good day, depression becomes a very real problem. Yesterday, I managed to do some housework and get groceries with my husband, but that was it. I ended up on the couch, watching episodes of Supernatural all afternoon (because Sam and Dean are so hot that it takes your mind off of almost, well, everything). I couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to do anything else. It really stunk. I'm feeling better - emotionally - today, and as far as the chronic pain? All I can say is thank you, God, for meds that help make that pain manageable.

3) Oh summer, how you vex me. That's probably one reason I was depressed yesterday. It was 100 degrees Saturday and Sunday and that just made me mad. I cannot enjoy summer when the heat takes your breath away the moment you step outside! Again, I think an isolated place in England or Scotland would do just fine.

4) And speaking of isolated, a lone cottage in the middle of the Highlands would get me away from crazy people. This world is going bonkers. Okay, it's always been bonkers, but social media has highlighted the bonkerness (is that a word?) so much more.

5) My husband is awesome. Some men would have turned tail and ran the moment they found out their wife had a lifelong, debilitating chronic illness. Not mine. It's frustrating for him, yes, but he sticks by me. And he also makes sure I have plenty of chocolate.

6) The new novel is going splendidly - or it was until yesterday when the depression climbed into my head and refused to let me work on it. I mean, I didn't even want to be on the computer at all yesterday. That's pretty unusual for me. But I remain confident that this will be temporary and I'll get back to tormenting my characters. And believe me, these two are tormented.

7) I miss going to Curves. I miss feeling my body grow stronger and leaner. I haven't been physically able to go for several months now, and I actually dropped my membership since I wasn't using it. Maybe I'll get to go back someday...

8) Oooh! It's my birthday Wednesday! And my husband will be home and so will my daughter. We are going to have lunch together at a local Italian restaraunt resteraunt restaurant (I misspelled restaurant at my junior high spelling bee, and it was the word that got me kicked out of the finals! GAH!). Maybe we'll catch an afternoon matinee. Bottom line is: I WON'T BE AT WORK.

9) Through my cousin, I learned about a man from my hometown who served in the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, precursor to the CIA) during World War II. He went on missions behind enemy lines. I found his OSS file in the National Archives and I'm ordering it pronto. I cannot wait to see what that file reveals. WW2 espionage and secret missions are my sweet spots when it comes to WW2 history. I love those kinds of stories! Research, here I come!

10) I want a cookie. Like right now. But I don't need a cookie. Lack of exercise due to chronic pain/illness + comfort food to get me through the pain + menopause = weight gain. I'm trying to adjust to this, but if I could lose some weight again, that would be fantastic. And eating cookies doesn't help with that (especially since I had some cookies last night). I need to get back to my "one dessert a week" rule. But chocolate doesn't count in that rule. Ha!

So. Those are my random thoughts for the day.

I'll leave you with this:

I have done this multiple times!

Monday, June 06, 2016

The Longest Day

Today is the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day invasion. As a World War 2 historian, it's always a day of special significance for me. This invasion brought about the eventual liberation of Europe. But the cost was heavy, most notably on Omaha beach where the Americans suffered horrific casualties.

There have been many movies documenting this invasion. Saving Private Ryan is probably the most recent, as is the highly-acclaimed HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers, though BoB shows the airborne invasion.

My go-to movie for D-Day, however, is 1962's The Longest Day. The all-star cast, directed by noted director Daryl F. Zanuck, includes actors from the UK, America, France, and Germany: John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Henry Fonda, a young Sean Connery (before he was Bond), Richard Burton, Eddy Albert, Peter Lawford, Robert Mitchum, Wolfgang Preiss, and others. Why do I turn to this movie in particular? Because it shows the invasion from every side: the French Resistance, the German Armed Forces, the US Armed Forces, the Free French, and the British Armed Forces. And it shows the perspectives of regular soldiers, generals, and civilians - actual men and women who were involved in the D-Day invasion.


If you haven't watched it, I highly recommend taking the time to do so. It doesn't show the horrors of battle nearly as well as newer movies - i.e. you won't have to worry about seeing blood and guts. But that doesn't diminish it's power.

I can only imagine what it was like to be a part of this day. What a mammoth, incredible undertaking it was, an invasion that liberated the people of Europe enslaved to Hitler's fanaticism. Thank God they succeeded.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Getting There

For the past three months, I've felt like I've been climbing a mountain and instead of getting closer to the top, I've actually slid downhill. With buying a house, my health, my husband's stint in the hospital, my dad's stroke, moving, work, a history conference, and then the latest - jury duty! - I've been swamped. Life usually isn't this busy for me.

But things changed today. Jury duty is over (and that is a whole 'nother post for another time), school will be out soon for my daughter (which means I won't have to do the school drop off and pick up ever again since she will be driving next year!), and the busy season at work is winding down, as well. May is always a busy month no matter how you slice it and this one was no exception.

Yesterday, after an early morning meeting, I came home and took a nap, then took the rest of the day to do whatever I wanted. I read, I surfed the internet, I watched some movies with my family, took a walk, and I relaxed.

Today I took my mother out for lunch for Mother's Day, and when I got home, I was seized with a sort of motivation I haven't had in a long time. There were several projects around the house that had fallen by the wayside for too long, and I felt it was high time they were addressed. I vacuumed the stairs, cleaned the washer and dryer, did laundry, went through the stack of paperwork that had accumulated on my desk, finally found a place for those books that had been sitting on my floor for forever, and found a spot for some of those items floating from one place to the next because I couldn't decide where they needed to go.

Best of all? I finally unpacked the last box sitting in my room, clearing a large amount of space in my already snug bedroom. That simple act unleashed a flood of relief within me. Who knew unpacking a box could be so freeing?

When I finished all my tasks today, I sat on the couch and at last felt as though I'd reached the top of the mountain. My soul is settled and at peace with my home and my life. For the past few months, I felt like a boxer on the ropes, taking the punches life kept doling out and trying desperately not to go down for the count. Now, I'm on my feet, standing my ground with my fists up, ready and alert.

I'd say that's a pretty good place to be.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Finally

So after another week of battling health struggles and getting very frustrated at my inability to work on the novel, I finally am doing just that. It's been a pretty quiet Saturday (except we had to get groceries which I hate!) and for the past two hours, I've been on the couch, working on figuring out the suspense plot I'm incorporating into my novel. It's gray and rainy outside, yet the birds still continue to chirp. My cats are as lazy as I am, flopping themselves on the couch or the nearby chair, content to doze the day away.

These are the kind of days I adore.

A short and sweet post today, so I'll leave you with this:


Sunday, April 24, 2016

#ProudHistoryGeek

Over the weekend, I had the very good fortune to attend the Dakota History Conference at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.This year's theme was "World War II Comes to the Northern Plains."

Yep. Right up my alley!

Sioux Falls is about a three and a half hour drive from where I live, so I left Thursday night. And I took my time, even stopping to take pictures of gorgeous scenery and landmarks that I'd never seen before. When the conference started bright and early on Friday morning, I was ecstatic. To be around other people interested in World War II? What more could a WW2 historian want?

The presentations were wonderful. They ranged from academic scholars to independent historians to those who just wished to share their experiences growing up on the farm during the war. It was a wonderful mix.

I presented on the POW camps in Nebraska during World War II and I was very happy to have a big audience. I love sharing history with others.

And of course, I also met a lot of wonderful people. I sat next to a World War II veteran at yesterday's luncheon (he served in France, Germany, and Czechoslovakia), met a scholar whom I'd only connected with online, and connected with a delightful woman whose mother worked in Washington D.C. during the war (remember my article on Mary Lou?) and will be a wonderful resource for when I finally get back to that historical novel of mine set in D.C. during the war.

When I came home last night, exhausted (and let's face it, in pain due to my wonderful fibromyalgia and RA!), I was in a fantastic mood. I loved this conference. I loved being around historians. I love the atmosphere.

As I lay in bed recovering, I began to think about what I'd learned. And one of those things was this: history is all around us. Regional and local history is incredibly important, too, and we often forget about it. Even more, each one of us can be a historian! You don't need a degree to record history. In fact, I started tweeting my thoughts and it turned into a lot more than I thought! And here it is (please ignore the location; I really don't live in Austin, Texas!):



Now go forth and make history!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Settling In

I'm happy to say that we are slowly settling in to our new place. It hasn't been easy - for one, I have too much darn stuff, and a lot of that stuff is books! (Well, and my vast Snoopy collection). But I *think* we've found a spot for just about everything and now I'm to the part where I begin to hang things on the walls. I'll also need to pick out some curtains here in the coming weeks.

I've really missed my novel. I want to dive back into it and become immersed in its setting so fully that I am living and breathing my characters and their world. But that will come.

Once I get things settled here at home, I really want to get back into blogging. I never realized how searching for a new home to live in, packing, doing all the loan paperwork, inspections, and moving could so completely take over your life. I'm ready to get back to some sense of normalcy! I have lots of books I need to review for my WW2 review blog that I want to get to soon, and I also have other article ideas. 

For now, though, I have to adhere to my mantra: one day at a time. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Where To Start?

My world sort of imploded in the last two weeks.

Now keep in mind that for the last month and a half, I have been preparing to move. I've been sorting and tossing and stirring up dust motes that have left me sneezing and with runny eyes more than once. During that time, my house has been a disaster area with boxes upon boxes stacked up everywhere.

Two weeks ago (and two weeks before our closing date on the house), my father suffered a moderate stroke. I flew out to Denver to be with him for a few days last week. He's doing well and should make a complete recovery. I'm so, so glad I went, but the trip left me exhausted. Still, I figured I had a good week in which to get more packing done.

Then Monday hit. I felt like a tank had plowed me over, and I stayed home sick from work. That morning, my husband went to the dermatologist for a skin infection. They sent him straight to the ER and he was later admitted to the hospital for a staph infection. If you've followed my blog, you'll know that in 2007 he had a very long hospital stay with a particularly nasty staph infection.

I don't mind telling you my panic button flashed bright red.

Not only was the house not yet packed, but my husband, the man who had once been a professional mover in Germany and is one of the hardest working men I know, was out for the count. Worse, I was terrified we would end up on the same long journey as last time with days turning into weeks at the hospital. And I was terrified he would still be in the hospital today (Friday), the day that we closed on the house and started to move in.

Each day crawled by. I still felt horrible and spent much of the day in bed, texting my husband who was stuck in the hospital. Both of us were sick and we couldn't take care of each other. And we were making contingency plans for the move and for the closing. I called my realtor, asked what we could do in case my husband wasn't available to sign the documents. I brainstormed a list of people I could get to help us move.

But thankfully, the good Lord took care of us. My husband was dismissed from the hospital yesterday (albeit with two big containers of antibiotics for the staph infection) and feeling pretty darn great.

This morning, we closed on the house and as of this writing, my husband is packing up what he can in the moving truck. We have a whole posse of people coming to help us tomorrow.

I'm so excited to be in a house that doesn't have a leaky basement and older than dirt windows and a cracked front window! No more landlady showing up in our driveway, honking her horn, summoning us to her side to discuss something or other. We are the king and queen of our castle once again! :D

But in all of this, there is a longing tugging at me. My writing. I want to work on my novel so badly, but I have literally not had the time or the head space for it.

However, we won't have cable or internet at the new place until Tuesday, and I plan to take advantage of it.

I'm utterly exhausted, both emotionally and physically. My body is crying for a day of rest. But there's too much to do yet.

I will have to stick to my mantra to make it through: "One day at a time."

Monday, February 01, 2016

Snow Day?

We have a big snowstorm headed our way. Now usually these snowstorm predictions tend to be far grander than what actually happens - i.e. we usually end up getting a few inches as opposed to the foot they were predicting.

But this time, it looks like it might be different. And since I work at a university, if the administration decides to call a snow day tomorrow, I will get one, too!

I have visions of baking chocolate chip cookies, of hunkering down with a blanket and a good book, or maybe a few movies. Maybe a nap. Maybe some writing. Maybe all of the above!

What would your ultimate snow day look like?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Never Forget

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day 71 years ago, the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz, one of the worst concentration camps.

Even though I studied and read quite a bit on the Holocaust during graduate school and in my own free time, it's still difficult for me to wrap my head around how such a cultured nation as Germany could allow it to happen. Historians are still trying to answer this question.

For today, though, I'd like to feature some artwork from survivors of the camps that shows how they felt after liberation. This online exhibit is at Yad Vashem's website. I encourage you to look at all of the art and read about the artists.

Here's one that particularly wrenches my heart:

Israel Alfred Glück (1921 – 2007)

Liberation, from the album My Holocaust
Drawn at Bergen-Belsen DP Camp, 1945
Charcoal on paper
Israel was first sent to Auschwitz in 1943, and ended up in Buchenwald in 1945 where he was liberated.

I urge you to take a moment today to remember the Holocaust. We must keep its memory alive.

Never Again.