Tag Archives: Health

April 27 – 20 Minute Gardening

by Letty Watt

Our weeds are flourishing in the garden. My eyes see the beauty of the Pansies, and then I grimace when I see the purple Henbit blowing in the breeze. Henbit first became my nemesis when we lived in Kansas, and our garden under the mailbox turned purple every year.

The mailman once explained to me that the pioneers enjoyed the Henbit for its food and beauty. I replied that I really did not plan to eat it any time soon. Shortly after that discussion Jack and I were driving down country roads on a warm spring day gazing at the shades of green growing crops when suddenly a massive field a purple exploded on the horizon. My jaw dropped in awe. Imagine the wagons of pioneers toping these purple hills of central Kansas in the spring.

However, I digress. I know that I tend to overdue projects and end up straining my back and hamstrings. I hit upon the idea of twenty-minute weed pulling this spring.

First, I assemble the supplies: a plastic table cloth for throwing weeds onto; gloves to protect my tender hands (from washing and cleaning the house with Clorox and water); digging tools; knee pad; plus set a timer on the phone for twenty minutes. In the beginning, I returned all items used to their place in the garage when I finished, but now I have found it saves time to keep them together in a bucket or wrapped in the cloth. Most importantly for me is to select a small area where I can make a difference visually, tending to the hidden weeds last.

Start the timer and dig away. Twenty minutes did not take me to the end of the entrance of our walkway, but I stayed with the timer and felt no pain afterward. The next patch can be weeded later in the day or another time.

In the next project, I discovered a most valuable lesson. Since I am not able to attend the Yoga and Tai Chi classes during this Covid-19 stay home stay safe time, I realized that I need to stretch every chance I get.

With the next twenty-minute gardening project I added several opportunities for stretching during the dig, and then plenty afterward. For a healthy back, allow at least ten minutes for back health when the twenty-minute timer rings.

The most relaxing stretch for me when I am on my hands and knees is to practice cat/cow, a yoga move. When I stand to move to another location I now bend at the hips to touch my toes and pretend that my back-end is up against a wall. It is a great stretch for the hamstrings which typically do not like to pull weeds.

Just imagine getting fit and healthy while weeding the garden, and staying home, healthy, and safe. The blooming flowers will thank you and so will your back.

Writing soothes Letty Watt’s soul and clears her mind. She began writing a weekly blog over five years ago, with the purpose of building a repertoire of stories for telling aloud, but things changed. Now she writes because stories hidden in the recesses of her mind are begging to get out into the world. Check out her blog, Literally Letty, at https://literallyletty.blogspot.com.

April 6 – Their Peculiar Ways

by Sara Etgen-Baker

“Wash your hands, little lady!”

“I already washed them a little while ago. Why should I wash them again?”

“You’ve touched countless things since then; your hands are dirty.”

“But Grammy,” I turned my hands over, closely examining them. “They don’t look dirty!”

“Yes, they are! The kind of dirt I’m talking about is invisible; it rides on your hands and can make you sick.  It can only be removed with soap and water. So go wash your hands!”

Invisible dirt riding on my hands?  I hadn’t heard of such a thing and didn’t understand why I washed my hands more at Grammy’s house than I did at home.  Maybe she has more invisible dirt at her house, I reasoned.  Grammy had many other peculiar ways so I chalked up her handwashing practice as another one of them.

Before disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer were available, Grammy took sheets of paper towel and a small can of disinfecting spray with her, stuffing it inside her rather commodious purse. While out and about, she used her spray, liberally coating the surface of restaurant tables, public phones, restroom doorknobs, then vigorously rubbing the area until the coating disappeared. I never questioned her ritual but found it odd and even a little embarrassing.

Even my mother had her own baffling ways. She didn’t use her dishwasher because it cost too much to run. She never threw away any empty plastic butter tubs.  Instead, she washed them and stored them in a cabinet for putting leftovers in. Eventually, the cabinet became so full that when the cabinet door was opened, the tubs tumbled out onto the floor.

Bar soap was cheaper than body wash or liquid hand soap and was, therefore, Mother’s preferred choice for washing one’s hands and body. Anyone who’s ever used bar soap knows that the bar gets smaller and smaller with each use.  Eventually, all that remains is a balled-up, dirty, disfigured, and insignificant piece of soap that’s annoyingly impossible to use. Mother habitually gathered up all these mutant miniature soaps and placed them in—you guessed it—the empty butter tubs.  Once she’d collected enough tiny soap pieces, she chopped them up; placed them in a Styrofoam cup; filled it with water; and cooked it in the microwave for 30 seconds. After drying for a few days, wah-la! A new bar of soap.

So what’s the point of rambling on about these women’s peculiar ways? Grammy was 18 when the 1918 flu pandemic began and lost a cousin to the virus making her highly sensitized to the presence of unseen germs. Mother grew up during the Great Depression and, out of necessity, learned to live prudently and waste nothing.

When the COVID19 pandemic struck, I suddenly had a new appreciation for what I thought were Grammy’s over-the-top sanitizing habits.  When store shelves emptied in the wake of the pandemic, I found myself understanding Mother’s fear of not having and respected her frugality.

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. 

Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

 

March 30 – Corona Virus Chronicle

by Sara Etgen-Baker

Almost three weeks have passed since we first saw evidence of the coronavirus—people frantically hoarding toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectants, rubbing alcohol, and hand sanitizer. The next week, we watched shelves being emptied of food essentials such as eggs, bread, cereal, crackers, cheese, peanut butter, meat, bottled water, juice, etc.

“What’s happening?!*” Bill and I commented to one another. Had we miscalculated the seriousness of the pandemic? Or were people just over-reacting? I hate to admit it, but we succumbed to the fear and chaos; quickly grabbed a shopping cart, and purchased some of our frequently-used items and even some random items believing that things were direr than we realized. We wanted to be prepared.

That day even before mandates to self-isolate, Bill and I isolated ourselves in our home shielding ourselves from exposure to the coronavirus. To stop the virus’ spread, schools, businesses, restaurants, malls, and non-essential businesses soon closed. Everyone suddenly found themselves shuttered inside their homes facing a string of rainy, sunless, dreary days and negative news. The pandemic was real after all, and we hunkered down seeking solace inside our home.

The past ten days have been challenging ones for Bill and me as we came to grips with the ever-changing new pandemic reality—a reality riddled with more questions than answers. Although we’re retired and don’t get out much, we suddenly missed the freedom of being able to go wherever we wanted when we wanted. We missed dining out and the social contact we had at our favorite restaurants. During my morning walk through our neighborhood, I saw only an occasional car but nary a person was out and about. How surreal and life-altering it all was.

But today shortly before noon, the rain stopped, and the dreary, gray skies that had enveloped our neighborhood slowly lifted. I opened the garage door; stepped onto our driveway; and glanced upwards to the sky. Pristine white clouds drifted by. The concrete was warm under my feet, and I was glad to be free of my fear and the confines of being inside. I removed my shoes and sat cross-legged on the lawn running my hands over the soft green grass relishing the new growth. I closed my eyes; the warm sun on my face felt like the kiss of summer without the fiery heat of noontime in August.

I opened my eyes and watched as neighbors opened their doors and windows bringing the clean air into their homes. One by one, my neighbors emerged from their houses making their way to the end of their driveways. We all stood at the edge of our driveways many feet apart and had conversations, offered emotional support, and shared laughs. This sort of chit chat connected us to one another. And there in the midst of a pandemic, a feeling of hope swaddled our neighborhood.

CORONA VIRUS LESSON LEARNED:  There’s great power in fresh air, sunshine, and camaraderie.  And I’ll never again take those things for granted.

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. 

Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

 

November 11 – Traveling With Burning Mouth Syndrome

By Kalí Rourke

I have written posts about Burning Mouth Syndrome for this blog in the past, and if you do not suffer from it or other chronic pain, this may be of no interest to you. But if you do, or if you know or love someone who does, take a minute and join me in my Burning Journey.

My husband and I like to travel, and we have always dreamed of going to New Zealand. The timing is right (We have the resources but aren’t too old or infirm to enjoy the activities!) and so we have planned an adventure-filled excursion. We will deal with a 15-hour flight there and back, crossing the International Dateline, and a time zone change beyond what I have ever experienced.

The question arises…How do you stay on top of Burning Mouth Syndrome or other chronic pain under these circumstances? 

Plan, my friends, and plan well.

Make sure you have enough of whatever medicine works for you and keep it on your person. If there is lost or delayed luggage, you don’t want it to have your meds in it. Plan your coping strategies and then be sure you are keeping those with you as well. In my case, I will have a large bottle of water to sip on and xylitol gum to chew sparingly as needed. Stay hydrated. Avoid alcohol and keep your coffee and tea intake at your normal level since it can be dehydrating if you have too much. You know what your triggers are, so avoid them and care for yourself like any person with a chronic illness should.

Think about the time differences and be sure to stay on your medication schedule so you don’t unintentionally under or overdose yourself.

Stress, lack of sleep, lack of control over your diet and other factors may cause a flare of your burning or other pain. Sometimes this is inevitable and you just have to get through the flare to the other side, so mentally prepare for that and nap when you can. Stretching and deep breathing are also great ways to relieve the physical stress of travel so I will be doing that as much as I can!

Relax as much as you can and allow as much distraction and fun as you are able. 

That’s my plan!

Do you have some other travel tips for BMS or other chronic pain sufferers? Share them in the comments! You never know when something you think is basic information is very helpful to someone else.

Kali RourkeKalí Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, and active volunteer. She is a Seedling Mentor and serves as a Mentor for the Young Women’s Alliance. Kalí is a philanthropist with Impact Austin,  Austin Community Foundation Women’s Fund and serves as a Social Venture Partner with Mission Capital.

She blogs at Kalí’s Musings and at A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome where a version of this post also appears.

October 23 – Mortality Check

by Ariela Zucker

Nine o’clock at night and all is quiet. I doze in my hospital bed when suddenly the monitor I am hooked to with many leads starts flashing an angry red.

Startled I look up at the heartbeat counter, it shows a big red 0. Before I manage to move, five people show in the room. They stand in front of my bed in a row, they look at the monitor then at me. I look back at them not sure what is going on but sensing that I play a key role in this bizarre scene I cannot resist the urgent need to say something meaningful.

“Zero heartbeats, does that mean that I am not alive? “this is the best that I can come up with being totally unprepared for playing the dying patient. No one smiles.

I feel a bit winded and light-headed like I did for the past week but my heart that for a few weeks now was beating and fluttering in my chest like a caged bird desperate to fly away feels strangely quiet. Maybe I am indeed dead.

I cast another look at my attentive audience. Two female nurses and three very young, attractive male nurses and I wonder if the abundance of male nurses in this hospital presents a subtle way to help female patients stay alive. It’s a funny thought, so I start to giggle while I toss in the bed in a try to get a better look at the alarming signs on the monitor. In that exact moment, the display flickers and my heartbeat start to climb up. I breathe in, breath out, smile an encouraging smile at the crowd in front of my bed.

“I guess I am still here,”

No one smiles back.

I nod my head to my unresponsive audience, rest it back on the pillow and close my eyes. I am tired. It’s been a long week and tomorrow they will fix whatever it is that does not work in my heart. The long words and explanations that were thrown at me had one thing in common; like a flawed machine my heart, the one I trusted until now has failed me, and someone needs to go in and fix it.

Tomorrow another piece of machinery, a pacemaker will assume the responsibility. The pacemaker will do an excellent job they assure me.
“You will be as good as new,” these words are like a mantra that supposed to make me feel good.

A specific model, a series number, battery life, all this detailed information is shared orally and in written documents. My signed consent is requested, and still, I feel that my presence in the process is not, I am not a heart mechanic I am only the carrier of this damaged piece of equipment. Only the carrier.

It’s a somber thought that I need to come to terms with. It makes me feel that in some ways the process of separating from my body had already begun.

Ariela Zucker was born in Israel. She and her husband left sixteen years ago and now reside in Ellsworth Maine where they run a Mom and Pop motel. This post originally appeared on her blog at Paper Dragon.

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November 9 – A Pattern of Pain

by Kali’ Rourke

selective focus photography of zebra

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

I have begun my 8th year of chronic pain with Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) and finally, something is working.

I have Primary BMS. If you have no underlying conditions and things look normal, despite oral burning every day that worsens as the day progresses, but ceases while sleeping, eating or drinking…welcome to our club and our pattern of pain.

If you have the same symptoms, but you also have an underlying disorder, then you may get a Secondary BMS diagnosis. Treatment of your illness may also relieve the BMS.

When you first start burning, you will try anything. I did.

Capsaicin rinses, aloe vera juice, vitamin supplements, etc. with no relief. Compounded estrogen spray in the belief it was hormonal, Lidocaine gel, which tasted foul and merely numbed everything…None of these helped me; not even a little.

Next stop, Specialists; each with their own perspective. They can cloud the issue if you aren’t careful. See your Dentist, Family Doctor, and an ENT to start. They can often diagnose and treat the “horses” of this diffuse neuralgia. Some horses are an incorrect bite, dry mouth, allergies, hormonal imbalance, geographic tongue, and even acid reflux, so see a Gastroenterologist if GERD is suspected.

Often, we end up working with a Neurologist who will rule out the horses of tumors and nerve impingement, and when everything comes back normal, he will begin to look for “zebras.” Zebras are rarer maladies and often syndromes of exclusion. In other words, everything looks fine but you are still in pain, so it must be a Zebra.

What do we do with our Zebra?

In primary BMS, there is no cure and we can only guess at a cause. Hormonal changes, dental procedures, stress and more are suspected, but no one knows for certain.

For those of us who are generally healthy except for this chronic pain, there are few medications that have been shown to be effective.

I tried Neurontin and Klonopin on my neurologist’s orders. Neurontin had too many side effects, and nothing changed when I went off it. It was not helping me.

Klonopin was different. I dissolved the hard tablets in my mouth, swallowing the medicine, and although it had the side effect of drowsiness, it took the edge off my burning and helped me cope.

This summer, my latest Neurologist switched me to Klonopin ODT dissolving wafers and they have been MUCH more effective for me. I put one on my tongue and let it dissolve, holding the liquid in my mouth for at least a minute and swish before swallowing.

I am now out of pain. I still get tingling at times, but about 98% of my day is mine again. My pattern of pain is broken.

If you suffer from BMS, consider discussing this treatment with your Neurologist or Doctor.

For the first time in over 7 years, BMS is not the first thing on my mind every morning. This may be temporary or perhaps it will last, but it is a joy not to burn and I will revel in it for as long as I can.

krourke-web

Kali’ Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer/songwriter, avid volunteer, philanthropist, and a proud Seedling Mentor. She blogs at Kalí’s Musings and at A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome. A longer version of this post can be found at A Burning Journey.

 

 

 

 

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August 22 – The Tiny Life

by Sally Nielsen

What does a turtle do or think about while inside its shell? Is it only concerned about when it’s safe to stick its head out of its shell or does it contemplate its life while inside it? Today I feel I might be a turtle.

This year two of my close friends and several of my acquaintances have started new life journeys. They are consumed with house details. One moved from a split level into a smaller house on her new husband’s large wooded lot. Another friend is building a new house with a forest preserve behind it; it has tiny closets and a tiny yard. Another is moving into a cabin in the woods. One has locked up her delightful condo and moved into the home of a poor Peruvian Andes family for ten months of Peace Corps work.

I’m not going anywhere and my life in a busy neighborhood in a large sprawling North Florida city seems routine and small-minded. I felt I should strike out on my own, show some moxie and become a fiercely independent lioness of older womanhood. Should I buy a tiny house and live off the grid in some out-of-the-way woods? Never mind that I have a ton of friends and children who care about where I live.

I have spent a great deal of time looking at YouTube videos of tiny houses–in particular those tiny house dwellings built by people who prefer to live off-grid. In one an interviewer exclaimed “It’s amazing!” constantly. Using the sun to heat your house in the north woods was amazing and bucketing water into the house was a sign of ultimate independence.

I began to realize tiny house life demands constant personal focus on its details. When tiny house dwellers video their spaces they use monotone voices. They speak of their challenges with patience and forbearance. And sighs. Although they will share a friendly selfie their videos view life from the eyes of a turtle inside its shell.

Doctors have discovered I have what appears to be a tiny lump in my left breast–a cancerous one. As I begin to make my way through the bewildering levels of cancer detection and treatment, tininess obsesses me. Let this one lump be microscopically tiny. Let it be solitary and let it have no grid, I pray. I fight against the impulse to retreat into my hard shell but the fact is I have dozens of people outside my shell–connections who have been through this and experts who are willing and able to help me.

As I caress my breast, promising it that I will try all I can to keep it there, I realize I already live in a tiny house that requires attention. I need my doctors, my nurses, my family and every one of my friends. I am grateful for my grid.

Sally Nielsen is a life writer who lives in North Florida.

July 17 – No Explanation

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

“I don’t believe this,” I exclaimed to my husband. “The caregiver at ARC informs me that Stephen needs a new wheelchair. The one just purchased last year is already missing a headrest and a foot rest.”

Stephen lives in a home for the disabled; as he was born with profound disabilities and was predicted to die within weeks, then months which now have become 50 years this August 17, 2015.

Oh, I made an attempt to keep him at home, until sleepless nights coupled with uncontrollable seizures gave me no choice but to relinquish his care in a setting where caregivers had 8 hour shifts; thus relieving them of the constancy of his care.

These caregivers are only paid a minimum wage. Thus, the constancy of his care is compromised by the frequency of staff leaving for a better paying job. And, yet, the legislature drags their feet regarding any increase in the minimum wage for workers caring for the ‘least of these among us.

Their primary concern is to halt all abortions. You know their spiel about the sanctity of life, blah, blah, blah. Does that include quality of life as well? Have any of them visited or cared for a child who is profoundly disabled in all facets of their bodies?

Stephen needs touch and a constant pair of eyes and ears. Vicky, a massage therapist, gives him a massage twice a month and then reports to me the state, or lack thereof, of his home and care. She has become my eyes and ears regarding his care.

Stephen, I pray that when you and I both are not bound by the limits of the physical realm we can have a conversation about all these years and the profound impact they have had on each of our lives.

Patricia Roop HollingerPatricia is a retired LCPC/Chaplain from a inpatient/outpatient psychiatric hospital as of 2010. She is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and the daughter of a mother who will be 102 on July 12th, 2015. She is a voracious reader, musician, lover of cats, and is currently exploring her writing skills.

May 14 – My Patio

by Doris Jean Shaw

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I take my coffee out on the patio just as the sun begins to hit the sky with a slight tinge of white. It is cool so I pull my housecoat close about me and watch as the sky changes to a delicate shade of pink. Sun up and coffee drank, I start my morning with breakfast served on the patio. I worry as Bud takes the step down from the house but he makes it.

In a previous life I must have been a nomad who lived outdoors most of the time and only went inside to sleep. Even better, I would be sleeping under the stars or in a lean-to that kept the wind off while I enjoyed the night sky with the soft velvet dotted with sparkles of light. Now, I get out as much as I can. Duties drive me inside only temporarily.

Lunch finds us back on the patio. I look across the table at Bud and flashes of by-gone days on the beach cross my mind. He would prop his feet up on the rail and watch the activities going on around the pool. I think I could sleep out here if a lounge could be shoved into the four-foot space.

No such luck, Bud is down for a nap and I attempt to complete the necessary housework to keep us going.

Supper finds us on the patio having missed the sun pouring in during the late afternoon. We now must deal with the descending shadows and the cool breeze coming our way. I linger for a moment before helping Bud up the one step to the house wondering how much longer he can make that step.

Doris Jean ShawDoris Jean Shaw is a retired educator, Life Coach, author and member of  the Beauregard Parish Writers Guild–The Ink Blots. She loves to travel and writes romances, children’s stories and devotionals. Mrs. Shaw presents a workshop, entitled Reclaiming Me that helps women find direction for their futures.

April 10 – Staying Calm

by Doris Jean Shaw

I have no Sunday to hang my week on; sometimes I lose track of what day it is. When my husband could no longer sit through a church service, we no longer attended. At the present, my one concession is to get up a few minutes early, drink my coffee in a room that starts out dark and is illuminated by the rising sun. I need that time to myself and to prepare for the day.

No longer is my time my own, as his health diminishes, my husband depends on me more and more to help with every day tasks. By ten o’clock, breakfast and bath are behind us. Any doctor’s appointments are scheduled for mornings, as by afternoon he is worn out and struggles to get out of a chair. Preparing lunch and seeing that he gets up and walks a bit drains me as well. The hardest part is to remain calm while he grows agitated. No longer can he dress without help. Eating is a challenge as his hands shake and food falls off the spoon. His foot does not want to move. Just getting through the ordeal of daily living leaves us both ready for a nap to rejuvenate. Between treatments for various ailments and his frequent trips to the bathroom, I am once again exhausted after supper and preparations for bed are complete.

Sleep eludes me as I wrestle with what I have to do, and the negative responses I get from those who have nothing but unsolicited advice. Thankful I am not in charge of the future, I get down on my knees and thank God for helping me through the day, and pray that tomorrow will be a repeat of today for I am not ready for the alternative.

Doris Jean Shaw is a retired educator, Life Coach, author and member of Beauregard Parish Writers Guild “The Ink Blots.” She loves to travel and writes romances, children’s stories and devotionals. Mrs. Shaw presents workshops, entitled “Reclaiming Me”, “My Parents Keeper”, “The Trouble with Retirement”, and “Care for the Caregiver” to help women find direction for their futures.