Happy, Healthy Halloween 🎃

Healthcare happens at your table. Your kitchen is your lab. Your pantry is your pharmacy. ~  Dr. Terry Mason

by Michelle

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yes – Halloween and all the holidays are upon us and if you are anything like me, you are excited for all the fun, festivities, and food!

We need a little bit of balance while still getting in the spirit, especially for families. I love whipping up easy alternatives or healthy twists on sweet classics.

Here is a quick, easy and clean Candy Corn Parfait! All the spirit of Halloween, without the crazy sugar, and with hidden probiotics and fiber. Oh, did I mention it’s kid approved? Winner winner! 

You will need:

A can of coconut cream (refrigerated over night), Mandarin oranges (in juice of canned), Pineapple chunks (in juice of canned), Dash of pink Himisalt (or sea salt), 1 Tbsp of organic maple syrup, 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
Optional: Candy Corn 

We’ll start with our vegan whipped cream. Grab the coconut cream. Make sure it is refrigerated overnight so the water and cream can separate. Open the can and pour out any water to separate from the cream. Then scoop out the coconut cream into a bowl. If you can refrigerate the bowl too so it stays really cold, that will help with consistency. I go all out and refrigerate my beater too. 

Once the cream is in the bowl, we will add our maple syrup, dash of Himalayan salt for flavor, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. One all ingredients are added, grab a hand mixer, you could also beat this by hand if you need too. Start with the setting on low, then add some speed. Be careful of any splatters. Once the ingredients are folded in well and you have a whipped cream consistency you are all done.

Now all you need to do, is take about 1/2 a cup of the pineapple chunks, make sure the juice is drained if you used canned pineapples, and scoop them into a tall dessert cup. Then scoop about 1/2 a cup of drained mandarin oranges on top of the pineapple. Lastly add a dollop of your vegan whipped cream on top. Optional to add a candy corn piece on top to make an impression for a party. 

Super simple and delicious! Great way to stay on track and get in the fall spirit. Seriously Fun Fitness is a great community resource to stay accountable during the holidays! Enjoy.

Finding Balance through Lifting Weights

The myth that women shouldn’t lift heavy is only perpetuated by women who fear work and men who fear women. ~ Source Unknown

by Guest Blogger Sally

Want to gain a fit and healthy body, while trying to maintain a feminine figure? One reason why so many female students tend to stay away from weights is the one fear of building “too much muscle.” However, adopting a manly physique that some female bodybuilders have takes years of weight training, a specialized diet and more – all of which does not apply to women who wish to enhance their frame. 

Research suggests that strength training in women may help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While weight training can make muscles larger, it also protects bone density in women. While men have more potential to put on muscle naturally through intense weight training, women have it more difficult due to the low significance of testosterone levels.

Here’s how to keep a feminine figure and boost your self-confidence while weight training.

Focus on Strength Training

Weightlifting workouts such as circuit training can help burn 200 calories at a higher rate than cardio exercises. The process of resistance weight training will help keep your body burning calories throughout the day. As a result, combining cardio and weight training results in an optimal fat burn. 

Use High-Intensity Interval Training

Build a strong lower body by using HIIT. Instead of focusing on cardio to burn cellulite and fat, HIIT will firm up the legs and butt region and give it a lean, athletic look without adding major muscle mass.

Choose Isometric Exercises

When it comes to ab workouts, stick with isometric exercises that vary in plank positions. You can choose plank and renegade rows to keep the muscles working. You will also avoid developing large muscles while having a well-defined core. 

Don’t Focus on Lower Body Routines

Not all women want to achieve masculine legs. However, toning your legs will enhance the shape and strength build up. That is why you should choose squats over deadlifts to build a curvy bottom without the intense muscle growth.

Embrace the Curves

Weight training doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. In fact, it is very beneficial for women to get toned with a lean look while gaining strength. While it may take time to achieve the desired results you hope to gain from the gym, choose to build your self-esteem and feel your body’s self-esteem. 

Spend more time focusing on building lean shoulders with exercises like the push press and worry less about making certain body parts bigger or smaller. Learn to embrace your shape and feminine traits. A healthy life with positive training will make you look and feel amazing. Once you decide to embrace your body and treat it right, you will see the results you desire.

Finding Balance … and Inspiration

You have touched my soul, and I have seen your heart, and I know that I am forever changed by the essence of you. ~ Jenna Roads

by RunJodi

Part 2 of a 5 part series sharing the people that have touched my soul and changed my life. 
I met Peyton and her family with the help of Ainsley’s Angels. I was an interpreter for the public school system years prior to meeting Peyton… even though my ASL (American Sign Language) was a little rusty, we were able to communicate just fine. She is easy to love! Her personality is animated and happy. She in very social and has lot of friends.

Peyton has joined me for several races and even has completed a half marathon with me.  Together we make a great team. I’m so happy she chooses me to be her friend. 

In light of her ninth birthday, Peyton’s mother shares her story. A story of love, hope and family:

Robert and I were expecting our first daughter in June 2008. We were so excited! Just before she was born we had a 4D ultrasound and that’s when our lives began a journey we would continue to take for the rest of our lives. We received a phone call the next day from our OBGYN that told us something was wrong and we needed to come in.  The ultrasound showed our daughter had a pretty significant cleft and we were referred to a craniofacial surgeon in Orlando.

After Peyton was born she was taken to the NICU where we would later find out she had a more in depth medical problem than just the clefting. At 3 months old Peyton had her first of 17 surgeries (to date with more to come). It seemed like every time we were starting to feel like we were getting some grounding some new medical problem would show up. When she was 9 months old was the first time of many we thought we were going to lose her. After a bath I had laid her on the ground to change her, I forgot the diaper on the couch and when I had turned around Peyton was completely blue/purple. She was not breathing. She was taken to the hospital where we found no answers. This was the first of many times we would almost lose her.

Fast forward…when she was 2 years old we found out she has a VERY rare genetic syndrome, 1 in 7 in the world EVER! Hypertelorism Microtia Clefting Syndrome (Yes,it took a while to learn to say that). She is also profoundly deaf and has pituitary dwarfism. 
I remember one event when she was about 4 when we were in Chic-Fil-A and she was in the play area. I was sitting just on the other side of the glass so I could closely watch her and she was in there with her 7 year old brother. She was running and tripped, stood back up and her eyes starting rolling in the back of her head and her brother was walking by just as she was about to fall. He caught her and brought her to the ground slowly. She was blue and not breathing again, we called 911 and just began to pray. When she started breathing again, Brock (her brother) came up to me and said “that scares me when she does that!” And was trembling, at  7 years old!!! She has been seen by 5 different neurology teams and they can’t explain what is happening to her.

She still has these episodes now at 9 years old. God has taught me more about faith and trusting in Him more in these past 9 years than I have ever had to know in my life. We may not understand why she has so many struggles but we know that God has a purpose and a plan for her life. He has taken us places that we would have NEVER thought we would go. We have met so many people that we have shared Christ with and have shown us what Christ is capable of that we would have never met if not for the trials we have had with Peyton. When I’m holding Peyton in my arms while she is completely blue and looks like she is completely lifeless and I can do nothing for her as a mother other than pray God will allow her to stay with me longer….He has shown me what it means to completely surrender! It has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs but we wouldn’t trade it for the world. We take it one step at a time. 

You can follow Peyton’s journey on her social media page:
https://www.facebook.com/PeytonGStrong/

Gratitude in Tough Times

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh 

by Jenn

Irma has left most of us in a whirlwind of stress with damages, power outages and, for some, displacement. As Hurricane Irma approached our area we were glued to our TVs waiting to hear where this storm was going and praying for a favorable outcome. It is unfortunate that as we prayed it would move away from us; our good luck, when the storm moved slightly east, was someone else’s misfortune. As this storm moved through our area we saw downed trees and power lines and many of us were as long as a week with no power but as I observe other places affected by Irma I feel so grateful. Had this storm been a direct hit on our area it would surely have been much worse.

In 2004, my husband and I became skilled at prepping our house beginning with Hurricane Charley and continuing with 3 more that year. That was the year we bought our generator because we decided that being out of power wasn’t for us. I was pregnant at the time and we worked nights so sleeping during the middle of a summer day with no power was miserable. Working nights did have its advantages though. We went to the 24 hour Home Depot and got plywood for the windows, we filled our own sandbags in the dark of night so there were no lines, and we worked a crazy amount of overtime for the phone company restoring service. That year when Charley was supposed to hit us and turned at the last minute was a challenging time and when Irma was coming our way I was happy that we had already learned how to prepare our home. I recognized mistakes I had made the last time and one lesson learned was:  don’t panic. These storms change and no one really knows for sure where they are going until they get close. Watching days of storm warnings, spaghetti models and cone projections on the news just causes early stress and worry.

Working all day preparing your house is not easy; putting up the protection for your windows, hiding away all of your outdoor furniture and plants, making sure you have supplies and stressing because the supplies at the stores are gone. Struggling with feeling like you haven’t done enough and also trying to decide if you need to evacuate. All of this stress can weigh you down and the storm hasn’t even gotten here. Now add in the storm.

Whether you rode it out in your home or evacuated you have added more stress. If you were like me and stayed at home you probably were up all night listening to the wind and cracking of trees around you. (I was hoping my roof didn’t blow off and a tree wouldn’t crash into my house).  As the fatigue sets in and you realize have made it through the worst you try to sleep only to wake up to a mess outside and no power. That is when the real work began for me. Cleaning the yard and checking on neighbors first then calling family and friends to check in with them. Thinking about putting everything back, I felt like I would rather throw away all my displaced items than return them to where they belonged. I was thankful through it all that we were safe and that debris was our biggest problem with the house. We all shared in this experience, each slightly different, and it will be something we will never forget.

Days after the storm I was still cleaning up sticks and trees and finding items from other people’s lawns. We had no power but we were happy that we had our 2004 generator to run the fridge and a few other items in the house. Each night I would turn off the generator and put it away so no looters would take off with it in the night. The things I appreciated in that darkness I never imagined being a blessing before that first night. The stars were amazing and the sunrise and sunset each day were more beautiful than I have ever seen. I took cold showers every day and didn’t hate them. It was actually refreshing to have the cool water after such a warm day and night but it made me also appreciate how much better soap works in warm water. I was a better planner with food this time around and I bought things I knew I could prepare on the grill. I am now confident that I can make anything on the grill if I have my cast iron skillet. It was fun playing “Little House on the Prairie” and pretending to be Ma cooking on an open fire. I am sure it was much harder then but in my imagination I was back on Plum Creek for 6 days. I was also glad I had a little break from the TV, the computer and the phone. It made me think about what is truly important.

I learned a lot from this experience. When people are going through tough times it does bring out the best in most people. I saw neighbors helping neighbors and getting involved in their community. I saw people giving others a place to stay when they needed to evacuate or had no power. My church collected food, water and basic items and drove south to deliver to areas less fortunate. On Facebook, many people shared where you could find gas or who was open for supplies. I saw people donating their unneeded supplies to people who needed them. The people of Seminole hosted a dinner for the visiting power company linemen working in our area giving them a much needed break from their hard work along with some wonderful food and music. Our area was very fortunate and it was wonderful to watch our neighborhood come together. We showed that we live in a place that can work collectively and help one another. We are resilient, compassionate and although we might bend a little, these hard times won’t break us. I know it could have been much worse but I do believe this empowers us and shows us how strong we truly are.

Collections at our church for South Florida.
Loading the truck with community donations.
Truck loaded with donations
Community dinner for the Linemen.

Working through Compassion Fatigue

The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet. ~ Naomi Rachel Remen

by Danah

Attention Passengers: in the event of a drop of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from overhead. Secure your mask over your nose and mouth and pull the strings to tighten. The bag may not fully inflate, but oxygen is flowing. SECURE YOUR OWN MASK BEFORE ASSISTING OTHERS.

This, or a more accurate variation of this, procedure may sound familiar to those frequent flier readers. You sit in your seat and anticipate your journey, making yourself as comfortable as possible, and if you’re me, listen as closely as possible to emergency instructions while trying not to get distracted or fall asleep. We always hope there is no emergency. Best case scenario, things are perfect. And I think it’s safe to say, most of us have never had to recall these directions for our own safety, but maybe we can apply them to life. No, no… I’m not saying to put on an oxygen mask, you can breathe fine, but SECURE YOUR OWN MASK BEFORE ASSISTING OTHERS.

For the past 10 years, I have been in a helping profession and I’ve experienced first hand compassion fatigue. Yes… you heard me… compassion fatigue. A term coming from what is known as secondary post traumatic stress disorder.

“Compassion Fatigue is a state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper.”, according to Dr. Charles Figley of Tulane University.

It can also be described as caring for another to the detriment of ones own health. There are many behaviors that can manifest when compassion fatigue sets in. It can manifest in destructive behaviors, apathy, isolation, depression, substance abuse, bottled up emotions. We can also trap the trauma in the body without adequate self care which can manifest in illness or chronic pain.

Compassion fatigue is not always easy to self identify, but adequately caring for yourself and learning the signs and symptoms can help avoid this type of trauma. Caring for yourself could involve developing a self care routine, scheduled time off, learning to say “no”, asking for help, yoga, kickboxing, or other healthy stress relief exercise, finding support groups. Self-care can look different for each person depending on your individual needs, but no matter what it looks like the importance never changes.

No matter who you are, life asks a lot of you. Whether you are a caregiver to a child, elderly parent, or individuals with special needs, if you are a first responder or medical personnel, a counselor, a case manager; you are first and foremost a human being. We aren’t invincible. As much as we would like to be super man/woman, living up to that ideal is not realistic without caring for the man/woman behind the mask.

Find more resources at:
http://www.compassionfatigue.org/

Leaving a Legacy

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. ~ Mother Theresa

by Guest Blogger Kelly

A few weeks ago, I sat in the second row of a funeral chapel listening to person after person speak about how their lives were touched, inspired and even made better and I realized there was a lot I didn’t know about my grandmother. To me, she was just Grandma – maker of pancakes and ice cream floats with peach Hi-C (they taste better than they sound!). She was a hard working business owner, loved her sports teams, was proud of her family and remained a loving companion to my grandfather for almost 73 years. She was on this earth just short of her 96th birthday and what impressed me most was not how long she lived but what she did with that time.

A longtime family friend spoke that day at the funeral and told a story I’ve never heard before. He described how my grandma took him under her wing when he was about 20 years old. He said he was on the wrong path and she gave him a job, a car and most importantly a set of values to live by. She became like a second mother to him. Ever since I was a kid, I heard him call her “Ma” and I never knew why until that day a few weeks ago. There were so many stories like this – neighbor kids whose grandparents were deceased, that considered my grandma as their own; a distant cousin who lived out of state that confided in her often and looked to her for wisdom and advice; friends who thought so highly of her that they travelled from another country to be at her funeral. What an amazing legacy she left! That got me thinking about my role in this world. I know certain goals I have for myself – to be a good wife and mother, a loyal employee, be kind, unselfish, and a person of integrity. But beyond that – what kind of legacy do I want to leave? How can I make a difference?

I’m sure leaving a legacy of value means different things to different people. For me, it’s not anything tangible like money or property but more of leaving this world better than I found it. For the most part, I do ok; I recycle, don’t let the water run when brushing my teeth and donate to charities and food drives, but I can definitely do more. I want to do more. I want to make more of an impact on other people’s lives. Personally, I would love to quit my job and volunteer my time working with children or the elderly, but my teenagers like to eat and in order to keep them flush in pizza rolls and Panera, that’s just not possible. So, for now, I strive to find balance.

I think it’s easy for people to throw themselves into one aspect of their lives – work, family, church, hobbies. I am definitely guilty of this, but in the long run I don’t think that makes for a completely fulfilling life. Going forward, I need to concentrate on leaving work at the office, not worrying about how clean my house is, and to start searching for more opportunities to step out and help others.

At the end of it all, my wish is to have my family and friends sitting in a funeral chapel listening to people speak about how I helped in some way to make their lives better. Maybe one of my grandkids will even be inspired to write a blog post about me.

*************************

Kelly Johnson is the blessed wife and proud mom of 2 amazing teenagers! On her downtime she likes to read and spend time with family. Whether it’s watching movies, game night or just driving around listening to music (She’s lucky to have teens that like her kind of music!), she cherishes every moment. Her favorite flower is the sunflower which she’s always been drawn to, not only because it’s beautiful to look at, but also because of its rich symbolism in many different cultures. She has learned that the sunflower is not only a symbol of good luck and happiness, but also of loyalty, longevity, unwavering faith and God’s love, as it is always seeking out the light. 

 

Finding Balance … and Cultivating Gratitude

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~ John F. Kennedy

by Jodi

Recently, I was on a layover in Athens, Greece. As I sat on the balcony, sipping some wine and watching my 12th floor view of the city becoming slowly enveloped by the darkness, I felt a wave of gratitude wash over me. THIS is my life and I am amazed by it!

Growing up, we were always the poor family compared to all of my friends. My father suffered some job losses resulting in the loss of our home and several moves which uprooted my life during some crucial social development times throughout my childhood and I had to make all new friends. Our phone got shut off often and I clearly remember on my Mom’s 30th birthday, my Aunt and Grandma came over with bags of much needed groceries as a birthday gift. It was tough to be a “have not” in a social circle full of “haves” as a kid.

What it did though is make me strong, resilient and not afraid of doing hard work. I got my first job at 14 years old and have worked at least one (more often several at a time) jobs ever since. I like to think it has also given me the perspective I need to look at WHO people are versus WHAT they have. Our childhood does not define us, rather it directs our thoughts and informs our future choices.

If you look at your life, I bet you will find a few incredible examples set by your parents that you follow to this very day. For my part, I had this AMAZING Mom who believed with all her heart that her kids could do anything (she still does, incidentally) and so I have NEVER shied away from a challenge. So much of what I have dared to do stems from this unshakable belief she has always had in me. I feel that faith and strength every time I have cause to doubt myself.

The other side of the coin is the power of opposites. There are a few things we all wish had been different for us as we were growing up. Since my father was often laid off and money was so tight in between jobs, my siblings and I grew up with the mindset that you should always have a backup plan. As a result, we have all had a variety of jobs, often several at the same time. Although we all have a primary career, it seems that we do not feel at ease without having a side gig going on too. So, a strong work ethic and having something to fall back on came from our desire to avoid the unemployment line no matter what.

Currently, I am on a quest to love and accept myself unconditionally. To help facilitate this process, I am leaving myself little reminders, doing daily meditations and overhauling my nutrition and exercise habits to nurture my body promoting both healing and balance. At the heart of everything I am doing is the simple yet profound idea of GRATITUDE. I am consciously choosing to be grateful for my experiences, examples, blessings and challenges. Some days, I am overwhelmed with the task of finding something good in whatever happened that day. Flying for a living is its own special kind of torture in the summer so I have had to look deeply and a few times, I was just grateful that the day was over and I got through it without a major meltdown.

This is my invitation to you: Join me by establishing you own Gratitude Practice. There are lots of ways to embrace gratitude. Make a list each each day of what you are grateful for, do a Gratitude Meditation, find an organization to donate your services as a volunteer (there many opportunities to help out fellow Americans impacted by Hurricane Harvey), give a compliment to a stranger each day, pledge to smile at EVERYONE you see, pay for coffee for the person in line behind you or choose your own way to spread love and express your appreciation for another day to grow into the best version of yourself possible. Have FUN, get creative and SHARE what you are doing to give the rest of us ideas👍

 

Finding Balance ….. And Motivation

Your greatness is not what you have, it’s what you give. ~ Unknown

by RunJodi

Greetings everyone! I’m Run Jodi and I would like to welcome to part one of a five part series dedicated to sharing the stories of those with a super human spirit.
Today I share with you the story of Michael Wasserman. An amazing soul who has defied the odds and changed the world. Sit back, relax and be inspired…..

“He has no future.” This stark statement confronted Michael Wasserman’s parents in November, 1961, as physicians urged them to place their newborn son in an institution.  Michael’s parents chose to ignore this advice, although they were aware that the world they were bringing him home to in 1961 offered little in the way of information, support, childcare or playmates for children with intellectual disabilities.  Fast forward 55 years and you’ll see that the doctors’ bleak prediction never came true.

Michael’s life today is one of active participation in the world around him. He graduated from Litzsinger School in St. Louis in 1981 and went on to a happy, productive life in community service. Along with his peers in the St. Louis Arc’s Community Integration program, Michael contributed countless volunteer hours at the Rosewood Nursing Center, Food Outreach and the National Council of Jewish Women. The NCJW presented Michael with a Volunteer Excellence Award in recognition of his exceptional accomplishments. For a number of years, Michael was very proud to serve as St. Louis Arc Community Ambassador. In 2011 in recognition of inspiration he gives to others, Michael was honored as one of the recipients of Morgan’s Wonderland Walk of Fame Awards. Michael also readily shared his life experiences, frequently making himself available for organizations ranging from the Arc of the United States, the United Way and numerous presentations at St. Louis colleges and universities. In 2006, his life experiences were shared with medical students at Grand Rounds at Washington University School of Medicine.

Of course Michael has faced hurdles, too. From 1985 to 1987 he endured complicated experimental bilateral hip reconstruction, a long stretch in a body cast and 17 months of five-days-a-week intense physical therapy. He was a man who might not ever walk again but – he responded with perseverance and determination and by returning to Special Olympics and winning yet another medal in the 50 meter dash. It was thought that Michael’s miracle hip reconstruction would last 2 to 3 years but – he stretched that prediction out to twenty-four years and 24 days.

In 2007, Michael and his parents retired and moved to California to live by the Monterey Bay where he attended an adult (ages 45 and up) I/DD social activities program. After program hours and on weekends, Michael spent his time exploring the Pacific Coast. He loved sailing on the Bay, exploring tide pools, visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium and he loved going to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk to ride the BIG roller coaster by the Bay.

In 2011, Michael entered his first ever art competition at the Santa Cruz County Fair. His painting, “Sea Dragon,” won 4th place. He began donating his paintings to area nonprofits to be sold at auction at their fund raising events. His first donated painting sold for $450 to benefit Hope Services. He presented a one man show to benefit Imagine Supported Living Services. His art was featured on the front page of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Michael expanded his community giving when he opened a Facebook page and began auctioning his paintings. Winning auction bidders donate 100% of their winning bid to a nonprofit of choice – any working to enhance quality of life for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The winner keeps the painting, the nonprofit benefits from the donation and Michael has the joy of giving back to others. Over the years his paintings have raised over $9,000 for nonprofits.

Little did Michael know that his art fan base on Facebook would lead him to a friendship with Timothy Boyle. Tim posted on his own page he was finding it difficult to drum up the motivation to run to lose some weight. Michael posted back, “Tim, you can run for me anytime.”
Tim, inspired by Michael’s comment, asked if he could start a new Facebook page that he would call “I run for Michael.” When this FB page began in 2013, it was Tim and Michael only. Soon, others asked to join. I Run for Michael now is 43,000 members strong and growing. As the group grew, Michael asked Tim to change the name to I Run 4 so that each runner could fill in their own buddy name. 

In 2014, Michael and his parents moved to Southern CA for a warmer climate and to establish advanced, cutting edge pain management care with UCSD Medical Center in La Jolla, CA.  At age 55, Michael is known to his family and friends as Old Champ. His two favorite mottos are ‘Rock On’ and ‘Forward with Hope!’ Hope and determination … all any man or woman needs when told, “He has no future.”

Finding Balance Living with MS

Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it. –Buddha

by Jenn

As we approach the end of summer, I feel a bit guilty that I was looking forward to school starting. Don’t get me wrong, I love summer. I love the freedom we have; no alarm clocks, lots of vacations and so much extra time to fit in all of the fun. It isn’t that I’m ready to get rid of my child either but summer is the hardest time of year for me and turns into a big reality check for me. My MS puts me on notice and it reminds me that I have to slow down. When school finally starts back up things become routine again. Yes, my days are boring and yes, I still spend the school year longing for summer but my body loves being on a lackluster schedule even if I would rather have excitement.

So let’s talk about this MS thing. I have spoken a bit in other blog posts about having Multiple Sclerosis but I want to tell you more about this disease. Not everyone knows what MS is but I can tell you from experience that Multiple Sclerosis is different for each person diagnosed. Let me first start by explaining MS and how it affects the body. MS is an autoimmune disease where your body’s own cells attack the protective sheath around the nerves as well as the nerve fiber itself in the central nervous system. When the nerve is damaged the normal signals are interrupted and distorted creating the different symptoms that a person with MS feels. These symptoms are unpredictable and can vary from person to person. The summer heat wreaks all kinds of havoc for people with MS and for me, just like many, it amplifies all of my symptoms especially my fatigue. Along with fatigue other problems like neuropathy, blurred vision and brain fog also make more of an appearance in the summer. I try to take naps but summer napping is more difficult with a tween in the house, a dog, a husband who works nights and family vacations so many days the naps get skipped. These days are the hardest because I really have to fight to keep going and I sometimes I feel like I am losing my mind. I end up irritable, yelling too much, over reacting to the smallest problems, sometimes crying and overall I am depressed. I think one of the most difficult parts of MS is that no one can visually see any of these symptoms so it’s hard to explain to the people around you why you are acting the way you do sometimes. Even though I look fine I don’t always feel fine and it’s hard to tell people that.

These invisible symptoms can be hard for MS patients to manage. I am lucky to have supportive people around me and even though they cannot feel exactly what I’m dealing with I know they understand. Sometimes it’s funny when I tell someone of a problem I am dealing with and they say, “oh me too”. Yes, my problems are similar to yours but they are slightly different too. When most people are tired they can take a nap and feel rested while I have a hard time finding my energy again. For me, I can become completely exhausted just from a quick visit to a grocery store. I have become really good at scheduling myself, or let’s say not scheduling myself. I know I can’t really do too much in one day and I have learned what tires me out the most. Driving, shopping or social interactions where I have to think too much are my hardest tasks. This can make living a “normal” life really difficult but I feel like it makes me appreciate things more now.

Okay, if you are squeamish then stop reading now because I want to share a few embarrassing symptoms I have too. These affect many people with MS and I am not too shy to let you into my world of weird. The most awkward troubles I have are urinary troubles, cognitive issues and some emotional instability. It is super embarrassing to have pee-pee problems, as many of my Mommy friends can attest to, and sometimes I question this one:  Is it from having a child or is it an MS symptom? This I will truly never know but it is something I can’t stand. Don’t sneeze, don’t laugh, definitely don’t do jumping jacks and be careful not to drink too much water if you aren’t near a bathroom. Besides losing a little water I sometimes I lose my words too. My brain can become foggy and I can’t remember basic words when I am talking. It makes me feel really stupid, especially when I say the wrong words. I am sure people who know me understand but it makes me feel a little insecure when talking to others. It’s kind of a joke with my husband and I because now instead of struggling to find the words I’ll just say whatever crazy word comes to mind. “They came to vacuum the yard”, instead of using the word “mow” is a normal sentence in my house. Okay, the third one is my emotional instability. I seriously can cry for the craziest reasons or even no reason at all. I have had to cover up so much crying in my life. No, I am not crying because this has made me sad or upset, I just can’t control this part of me. I found myself crying during the song, “Happy” by Pharrell once because I actually was super happy and don’t get me started on the National Anthem because it is a downpour. Every baseball game is a nightmare when they sing that song. So crazy and embarrassing but it is part of what makes me the person I am.

I love my life no matter what speed bumps I’ve encountered. I have actually been very lucky with my MS and I am grateful for having a slowly progressing form of Multiple Sclerosis. Everyone with MS has good and bad days and I am blessed with mostly great days. I really don’t like to complain about my disease because it doesn’t change anything but sometimes it feels good to vent a little. Being super honest with yourself and putting it out there for the world to see is scary but also therapeutic. When you share yourself with others you get to know yourself just a little bit better. With each difficult moment there are also superior moments. When I was diagnosed with MS I was flying through life without a care in the world and this disease forced me to slow down and appreciate things much more than before. I would probably never have found food as medicine like I have. I am pretty sure I would be still eating a S.A.D. diet without the knowledge I have gained and the truth about nutrition and processed foods. Yoga was in my life for years before MS but after getting this disease it became a way of life. Choosing to teach yoga was one of the best things MS gave me. It gave me a kind of balance I didn’t know existed. MS also made my marriage stronger than it already was. My husband began as my best friend but now we have gained an unimaginable closeness that I could never have envisioned. It’s like an unbreakable bond that is always my light in the darkness. My perspective on life has changed as well because the things that seemed so important before MS have evolved and changed as our lives have changed. I realized that life is unpredictable and I have to try to go with the flow even if that is hard for me to do. I have learned I have to take my time and go moment to moment and enjoy this rollercoaster ride of life. In closing, I will share what I have learned most from MS. Try to live in the moment, listen to your body and don’t stress too much about the small stuff. 

If you’d like to learn more about Multiple Sclerosis, check out the National MS Society website. 

Work at Home Moms: The Worst of Both Worlds?

I think every working mom probably feels the same thing: You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking, ‘This is impossible – oh this is impossible.’ And then you just keep going and keep going, and you sort of do the impossible. ~ Tina Fey

by Guest Blogger Michelle

Of course there are a million reasons why being home with your kids is so rewarding, but what we don’t share is all the guilt we feel too. Often everyone thinks working from home means that we can drop anything for our children whenever they need us. I hear it every day “You’re so lucky that you get to work at home.” But really we’re always working to find that balance. Being a working mom is hard, being a stay at home is hard, but being a work at home mom is just crazy!

They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder. When I worked full time, I just missed my children and so desperately wanted to be with them. I often cried in the break room cause my maternal side felt guilty. The same rule applied when I was a stay at home – I longed to have an adult conversation that didn’t involve Mickey Mouse or to not get interrogated if I tried to sneak veggies in their muffins. So to throw both my family and work under one roof (literally) seemed like the perfect solution. Which has lead me to stumble across a new saying: Constant presence makes you want it to be ‘Margarita Monday’ everyday! 

Balancing your work life with your home life is a whole different ball game I was not completely prepared for. I figured this would be all cupcakes and rainbows. However, I’m answering emails from clients and feeling pressure to add new content to my website while trying to find that one missing lego piece, and suddenly there is twice as much laundry as there was when I woke up in the morning because my child needs new underwear every time they use the potty.

I wish someone would have given me a ‘heads-up’ of what I was getting myself into: Feeling all the guilt of a stay at home mom and working mom, every moment of every day. Seeing your kids faces every day but not always being present. Or finishing your work and finally sitting down to a pretend tea party they made just for you, while you have piles of chores that need to be tended too. 

Finally, I realized that at the end of the day that no matter what choice I make, it is a hard choice. I am constantly learning every day, and every day is not perfect but I am learning how to not make the work at home life so crazy. Here are a few of my tips:

Tip 1: Don’t try to be Wonderwoman

As moms we often get this Super Mom complex in our brains. Rightfully so – we really are amazing! Often that leads to an inflated ego. Drop the idea that you have to do it all to be worthy. Prioritize your tasks so you know what is really important to achieve. And give yourself a break if you don’t achieve it all in one day. You always do the best you can do.

Tip 2: Make a schedule

This one was challenging for me. Once I became a work at home mom, I realized that I am not very organized. While I always knew I wasn’t a type A personality, I used to think that organized chaos would work – doesn’t. So set a schedule where you have set hours to work and play. Set times to sit at your desk and to make those phone calls, along with play dates and nap time schedules. Feel free to try and roll with the punches, but I am here to hopefully save you from my mistake. Now there is no one perfect work schedule for everyone to follow so just make it work for you and your family 

Tip 3: Fill your own cup

Once you combine your work and home life, suddenly you realize that you have completely lost yourself in the whirlwind. What helps me  is waking up before my family. It gives me time to enjoy my coffee in silence, read a positive intent for the day, exercise, shower, and get myself ready before I get everyone else ready. Like I said, there is no one-size-fits-all schedule, but this is my personal way of ensuring I always have time for me, daily, and I urge you to take time daily for yourself too, even if it’s some quiet time to journal. You can’t serve from an empty cup. 

Tip 4: Meal plan

Yes, this seems like a weird tip for finding balance as a work at home mom but everyone gets hungry. Having plans for snacks for yourself and your children will keep everyone happier. Try throwing stuff into a crock pot at breakfast time so your lunch is ready to go. Get your partner, or older children, involved and ask them to help with dinner once or twice a week. You will also find that meal planning will not only save you the stress of ‘what am I going to eat next’, but it will save you money from dining out all the time. BONUS👍

Tip 5: Communicate

We always have these genius ideas in our head and then somehow forgot to tell everyone else about them. Communicate your schedule with your partner and your children. My kids know when I am on my computer I am working, and when ‘Cars’ is done, they can talk to me. My husband knows when I have stuff set aside for work for after the kids go to sleep, or when I am behind on chores so he can help. Beyond your own home – communicate with other moms. When you hear other women going through the same stuff, it makes you feel like you’re not so crazy. Who knows, maybe you and another work at home mom can arrange to swap days so you will both be more productive. 

So maybe we’re a little nuts for taking both the crazy of the working world and the crazy of raising a family and putting them together, but stay positive and know this – You are doing awesome! And having the worst of both worlds also means the best of both worlds.

 

Michelle Leon is a Mom, a Wife, a Blogger, a Yoga Instructor and self-described ‘Fitness Junkie’ who runs her own business from home while sharing lots of inspiration and motivation to everyone around her? Her mantra: “Love Life Fiercely!”