Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"O" and "R" Are Not The Same

About a week ago, I got an email from someone at YouCast Corporation. As far as I can tell, YouCast is a social media company that is helping the Arthritis Foundation promote their new website. The email they sent me had the subject: "May is National Arthritis Month - PSA Campaign from Arthritis Foundation/Ad Council." Sounded pretty interesting....

Here is how the email started:
Dear Mariah,

I wanted to say that I appreciate what you do, sharing your journey of having RA. I love your tagline: I have RA. It doesn't have me. You are an inspiration.
Wow. How nice, I thought. The email then continued:
I wanted to share a new PSA campaign with you, Fight Arthritis Pain. It encourages everyone - especially those with arthritis - to simply move for better health.
Cool. I'm certainly all for "fighting" arthritis pain. Arthritis pain sucks. And I have been trying to get more active lately. Let's see what the Arthritis Foundation has to say about that.

The email then continued by encouraging me to use this blog as a forum for spreading the word about about their new campaign. But when I went to their website to check it out, it turned out that the website was almost entirely focused on osteoarthritis (OA). On the whole website I saw only two passing references to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and nothing on the website clarified at all whether the suggestions they were making about OA are also useful to RA patients.

Now, I'm not trying to downplay OA at all.  Like I said, arthritis pain - any arthritis pain - sucks a lot and I am all for fighting it. But I do think it has to be acknowledged that OA and RA have different causes and thus they may need to be addressed in slightly different ways. For example, I'm not convinced that exercise is always the best option for someone with RA. Not during a "flare" anyhow.  I have certainly done that in the past and it has made things worse, not better.

Interestingly, however, I think whoever is behind the actual FightArthritisPain.org website seems to be aware of this issue, because the website itself is extremely careful about using the phrase "OA" or "osteoarthritis." Even the video clip says "osteo-arthritis."And, as far as I can tell, they never use the confusing phrase "arthritis" alone. 

But somewhere along the line the difference between OA and RA got totally lost. From what I can tell, the advertizing was being targeted at me simply because I have the word "arthritis" in my blog. And even though it looked like the person from the ad firm had actually looked at my website - they even typed the word "RA" in the message they sent me - they obviously didn't understand that the product they are marketing is targeted at people with OA, not necessarily RA. 

In response, I sent them the following message:
Thank you for your email. I am actually very interested in getting involved in arthritis education and outreach on my blog. I'm also in the process of trying to figure out - for myself! - how to be a bit more active. And I am certainly interested in fighting arthritis pain.

However, the materials that you have sent me - the video, the website, and all the related resources - are all talking about osteoarthritis (OA). I have - and my readers have or are interested in - rheumatoid arthritis (RA). My joints aren't aching from age, wear and tear, obesity, or injury. I was extremely active and only 25 years old when my RA hit and my body shut down. RA is an autoimmune condition. OA is not.

I think one thing that makes RA particularly difficult to deal with - particularly for a younger person who "looks healthy" - is the confusion over what "arthritis" means. Sometimes, when I tell people I have rheumatoid arthritis, they respond with "oh, I have a little arthritis in my knee." But it isn't the same thing. And promoting "movement as the solution to arthritis" without clearly differentiating the different types of arthritis only perpetuates this confusion.

I see only two passing references to RA on fightarthritispain.org. Nothing really clarifies what RA is or whether the suggestions about OA are also useful to RA patients. While the resulting joint pain may be similar, the causes are fundamentally different, thus I don't think that solutions to OA are necessarily solutions to RA. While movement probably/usually helps with RA, I'm not convinced that is always the case.

If you have some materials that are more specifically about RA, or at least differentiate between the different types of arthritis, I would be more than happy to post links to those on my blog. But this information seems pretty obviously directed at OA, so I'm not really sure why I would write about it on my blog about RA,

That was six days ago. I've had no response at all, so I guess that gave me a reason to write about it. It boggles my mind that the people who made the website were obviously clear of the difference between OA and RA - and even went out of their way to always use the phrase OA to make it clear. But somehow the people who are advertizing the website think OA and RA are the same thing? That makes no sense at all to me. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Last Wednesday, I found myself sitting it yet another three-hour long exhausting policy seminar for which I hadn't done the reading because I have no interest in the material. I was passing the time by thinking about how I would finish all the requirement's for my master's thesis next semester when I made a very important discovery:

I have completely lost my focus.

Before getting diagnosed with RA, I started this dual degree graduate program - for a law degree and a master's in environmental policy - with a purpose: the issues fascinated me, I had enthusiasm for finding answers to complicated problems, and I had at least a vauge idea of where I wanted to end up when the whole "graduate school" thing was over. 

I have no idea what I'm doing anymore. 

While I still think environmental issues are important, no particular issue grabs my attention anymore. I couldn't think of a single topic that I'd like to spend six months researching - or even that I could bear to spend six months researching. I still think the world needs to find answers to complicated issues, but I'm not certain if I should be the one finding them. And I have zero idea what kind of job I'd like to end up with when I finally muscle through these degrees. If it pays the bills, I'm not sure I care anymore.

I know this is partly (mostly?) exhaustion talking. I know I'm tired from a long  four years of law school, the past two of which I've done while trying to get my RA under control at the same time. I know I'll think more clearly when finals are over and I've had some time to recover. So I'm not making any decisions any time soon. 

But, lately, I can't stop myself from thinking. Or crying, actually. And the only reason I can come up with for why I am still "doing this" is because I'm stubborn. Because I already put in most of the work so I might as well finish it, no matter how miserable it makes me. It will be "worth it" somehow. That's what everyone else says too. "You're almost done." "You might as well finish." "You'll feel better soon." "It will be worth it in the end."

But I'm not sure a Masters in Stubborn is that good for my health. Or my sanity.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I Think I'll Go For A Jog Outside?

A few blocks from our house there is a lake that has a paved walking path all the way around it. I'm pretty bad at estimating, but to go all the way around the lake is probably less than a mile. But it is a beautiful location, surrounded by a park, budding trees, and a fantastic view of the Flatirons. Aside from the goose poo that is all over the grass this time of year, it is an ideal place to go walking.

We've been taking River walking there lately because she gets twice as much exercise when we let her jump in the lake after a stick or a ball. Pros? She's nearly impossible to wear out, so we need all the help we can get!  She behaves better when she gets exercise. Cons? She smells like dirty lake. And then the goose poo in the grass sticks to her more when she rolls in it. (Not going to lie: we still let her on our bed sometimes.) But she just looks so unbelievably happy splashing through the lake after the ball, like nothing better in the world ever happened to her, that I just can't resist. It makes me happy to watch her.

In any event, I don't know if it was the fresh air, the gorgeous day, or the the fact that we were both wearing practically unused running shoes, but today APL and I decided to jog halfway around the lake. I'll repeat that: jog. Cons? It hurt my bad knee and both of my hips. I got tired pretty fast. Pros? Even though it hurt some joints, it somehow also felt good too. I think maybe it also made me feel more energized and focused this afternoon. 

Halfway around the lake isn't very far, but at least I jogged at all!! Maybe I'll try again tomorrow. But don't hold me to it.


I was just considering writing a post wondering what on earth I was thinking when I decided that law school was a good idea. Then I realized I already wrote that exact same post when I was studying for finals last semester!!! Ha ha ha! (Funny laugh? Or crazy laugh? You be the judge.)

So: ditto.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dication Fail

To survive through law school exams, my hands need to be ready to somehow manage typing an exam upon which my entire grade depends for three hours straight. Granted, I get a little bit of extra time because I have a "disability," but that barely makes up for how my hands slow down at typing as they start to hurt. It doesn't give me much time to rest my hands during my exams. 

Which is why, the week before finals, I really need to be taking care of my hands. Resting and preparing for the hard work they are going to do. Unfortunately, my attempts at this are failing somewhat.

Up to this point, my Mac Speech Dictate dictation program has been extremely useful. All I had to do was put the headset on and read out loud and the computer would type my notes for me. Occasionally it would make a mistake, but for the most part the notes were still very useful. And using the dictation software saved my hands from a lot of typing.

Recently, though, the dictation program has been totally failing at writing down what I say. I have no idea why. Has my voice changed somehow? I did all of the voice training again, but it didn't seem to make a difference. Is something wrong with the microphone? It seems to hear me just fine. It just writes down something different than what I actually said. For example, here is the sentence I just read out loud from my environmental law casebook:
The enactment of the Clean Water Act of 1972 reflected a fundamental shift away from a water quality-based approach to pollution control toward an approach that emphasized technology-based effluent limitations.
And here is what my computer typed
we clean water 1972 reflected a fundamental shift way water quality based approach to pollution control the approach that emphasizes the elegy-based limitation
If I go back and read that later, I'll have no idea what it means!!! And I don't really have time to screw around with trying to fix whatever is wrong with the dictation program. I've probably wasted too much time on it already!!

In fact, I probably should be reading and outlining instead of blogging, now that I'll need to type all of my notes....

Crap. If I disappear off the face of the internet for several weeks, you'll know why.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rate Your Pain On A Scale of 1 to 10....

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it on this blog before, but I hate when doctors ask me to "rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10." I hate it even more when they give you that little chart of faces to use as a reference point. Umm....I feel most like sad face number 6? Except sad face number 6 looks constipated.

Since I live with pain every single day, I think pain that someone else might describe as a 9 or 10, because it is so unusual to them, might only be a 6 or 7 to be because I'm so used to dealing with pain. But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. And, just because I'm trying to be optimistic and smile and joke and not be miserable about this pain-causing disease that will be with me for the rest of my life doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.

However, if you tell the doctor that your pain is only at a 6 or 7, they basically ignore you (at least in my experience. Oh, and also supported by research in the New York Times.) But then if you tell the doctor your pain is a 9 or 10 to get them to take you seriously, but you're so experienced with dealing with pain that you're not rolling on the floor sobbing, they don't believe you either. Awesome. Hence, I hate that 1 to 10 scale. As long as me picking a number is going to result in you having no idea how much pain I'm in anyways, I'm just not doing it.

In any event, aside from complaining about the 1 to 10 scale for no apparent reason, the point of this post is to share something hilarious a friend sent me. Here is a link to a blog called Hyperbole and a Half. The blogger, Allie, has re-drawn the sad face pain scale to be more representative of reality. 

I may print it out and take it with me next time I have to go to the doctor for unusual pain. No, really.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sugar Doll Blogger Award

After what has been a rough couple of days, it really made me smile to see that Laurie, who writes the blog Frozen Woman: Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis and always leaves me encouraging comments on this blog, nominated me for the Sugar Doll Blogger Award. Thanks, Laurie!

I think these blogger awards are a really fun way to acknowledge and thank fellow bloggers for the entertainment and support we bring each other. But the thing I really like about this award, in particular, is that in addition to passing the award along to fellow bloggers who bring happiness and inspiration to your life, you are also supposed to list 10 things that people may not know about you. So here goes:

10 Things You Might Not Know About Me!!

(1) I've been on the cover of a magazine.

(2) By the time I turned 25, I had been to all 50 states. 

(3) I can speak and read some Japanese. At least theoretically. I studied it in high school and college and also spent two summers in Japan. But I probably have the reading level of a Japanese kindergartner. 

(4) Once, I almost stepped on a puff adder, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. I was camping in Botswana, in the legitimate middle of nowhere. If it had bitten me, I probably would have died.

(5) Occasionally, I actually enjoy law school. Don't tell anyone. 

(6) APL and I have been to almost half the National Parks in the country together.

(7) I've been best friends with my best friend since kindergarten. Our friendship is more than two decades old.

(8) I originally met APL when I was 14 years old. I was a high school freshman on the varsity water polo team. He was a junior and in love with the captain of my team, so he used to hang around the pool.

(9) My favorite food in the world is artichoke. I decided this when I was six and haven't changed my mind yet.

(10) I'm weirdly ambidextrous. I eat and write left handed, but I throw right handed.

Women That Inspire Me (And Their Blogs!) 

Kelly Marie is a friend who has been dealing with autoimmune stuff for years, but she never lets it stop her from being totally cheerful!! Her ability to stay positive despite medical drama has always amazed and inspired me. And she doesn't let being ill stop her from achieving her dreams!! What started as selling a few handmade cards has become her own business designing and selling stamps!! Her blog, Lawn Fawn, is always full of beautiful, crafty, uplifting projects. And if you like stamps the Lawn Fawn Stamps are the cutest ever!! 

And while I'm on the subject of amazing and crafty women who inspire me, I think I'll also pass this award along to my friend Paris! She not only graduated from law school a semester early (totally unheard of!!) but she has also started her own home business making all-natural bath and body products, a little company called Blue Duckling. Paris and her husband make all the products by hand in their own kitchen! Paris inspires me because, even when times are tough, she always find something to do to keep herself hopeful and smiling. 

Lastly, my cousin Karla. To be fair, I've already given my cousin a blogger award, and she's given me one too. So maybe it's really silly to keep giving them back and forth to each other. But the thing about my cousin is that she's amazing. Her blog, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, is mostly about the amigurumi (which are highly adorable plush toys) that she knits/crochets. But my cousin also has RA, and so sometimes it is completely beyond me how she is able to do such amazing things with her hands. On top of being fabulously crafty and dealing with RA, my cousin is also mommy to a toddler!! Being a mom is never easy, and I think being a mom with RA must be even tougher. But, when I worry about how it will ever be possible for me to manage it, I just think about how my cousin is already doing it!! Plus, I'll have something she doesn't have - her advice!!

In any event, like all of these ladies, I hope I someday find a way to be successful at something that makes me feel satisfied and happy.

RA + strep throat = permission to relax?

Today I feel like I've been literally run over by a steam roller. My body aches all over- more than I can possibly explain. 

But, it's weird, because somehow I also feel more relaxed today than I have in a couple of weeks. I slept till well past noon and then lay in bed with River for an hour before getting up. Then I made myself a cup of tea and some toast and proceeded to look at old travel pictures for several hours. I haven't even considered trying to outline environmental law or write that 20 page paper on black carbon today.

It's like somehow being "actually" sick gave my brain permission to take a break from everything. Not that I like having strep throat - obviously I don't need any more pain or fatigue than I already live with everyday - but figuring out how to give my brain permission to take a break is something I could totally get used to.

In Reporting Symptoms, Don’t Patients Know Best?

A friend just sent me an interesting article from the New York Times: In Reporting Symptoms, Don’t Patients Know Best? 

The column addresses whether doctors have a tendency to play down the symptoms and complaints of their patients. Apparently, research suggests that this happens quite often. The reasons a doctor may minimize a patient's symptoms are complicated:
The tendency to downgrade symptoms may be based on the doctor’s knowledge that a patient is in the early stages of an illness and could be much worse. Or the doctor may be making mental comparisons with other patients who are sicker….Sometimes the downgrading may reflect wishful thinking by doctors, who may think that a certain drug will help patients and don’t want to take them off it.
In any event, though the article is more specific to side-effects from drugs rather than treatment in general, I found it interesting. And a little scary.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

When Help Isn't Helpful

Remember that part in my last post where I said: "I don't want to deal with bad doctors right now"? I jinxed myself, I think.  

The psychiatrist at student health just chastised me, quite harshly in fact, for trying to do too much. He pretty much flatly said that it was my own fault that my body is falling apart. I tried to express the effort I have already put into cutting back on my activity level, and I even agreed that I still need to cut back some more. But I also said that I didn't see how that conclusion helped me get through the end of this semester. His response was that it didn't matter if I failed all my classes, I could always take them again.
Now, I don't have a PhD in psychiatry or an MD or anything like that, but aren't doctors supposed to help their patients? It is not helpful to tell a law student that it is ok if they fail all of their classes. It is not helpful to tell someone with an autoimmune disease that being sick is their own fault.

It is not ok for me to fail all my classes. Just because I have an autoimmune disease doesn't mean I have to give up my aspirations. And it is not my fault that I am sick. It's just life. And I'm doing the best I can with it.

Doctor, I don't think I need your help anymore.

Strep? As in Strep Throat?

To cap off yesterday, which was truly delightful, I missed a call from my doctor around 6pm. It was the results of the lab test I had done a week ago. I had already assumed, since I hadn't heard from her for a week, that the results were totally normal. Instead, the voicemail said the lab "actually found a few colonies of strep" in my throat. Strep? As in, strep throat? Awesome

When I finally got in touch with my doctor this afternoon, she said it wasn't a type of strep they always treat, so it would depend on how I was feeling. How am I feeling? As I already told her last week, I've got this crazy pressure/pain in my ear that won't go away no matter what I do and my lymph nodes are swollen and hurting. I've got a headache, I can't sleep, and there doesn't seem to be anything I can do to alleviate my exhaustion. And, with the stress of law exams coming up, I don't see this improving much over the next four weeks. How much does my throat, in particular, hurt? I have no idea. As much as other stuff hurts? I think I'm so experienced with ignoring discomfort and pushing through pain that I've sort of lost the ability to evaluate how much stuff hurts. 

Granted, I didn't say all those words to her (though I probably should have). I basically told her my ear still hurt, my throat hurt some, and that I wasn't feeling that well and didn't make it to all of my classes yesterday. Her response to this was that we probably didn't need to treat the strep if my throat wasn't hurting that much. 

It wasn't until I said I was a little nervous about infection (based on my immune system already being compromised, taking immune suppressants every week, and past experiences with infection) that she decided I should take some antibiotics for the strep. She changed her mind pretty fast, in fact. It seems like there are two potential explanations for this behavior: (1) I've become a total hypochondriac, too worried about infection for my own good, and she was just trying to get rid of me or (2) she actually thought that I was going to have a normal immune response to the infection until I reminded her that I wouldn't.

APL thinks its the latter. He thinks this doctor isn't paying attention to my needs and consequently isn't taking very good care of me and my complicated health problems. He's pretty annoyed and says he wants to punch her in the eye. I am reluctant to take this position because I am pretty dependent on this doctor for my general health needs - I don't have a lot of options through student health. On the other hand, as APL points out, part of her job is knowing what I need, and if she's forgetting that I have a compromised immune system then she has absolutely no idea what I need.

In conclusion: I don't want to deal with bad doctors right now. I feel like total crap.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Grumpy Bear

I didn't sleep much or well at all last night, despite prescription medications that are supposed to help me with this problem. I also woke up with aches in pretty much every joint in my body, a headache, and feeling exhausted. I'm not sure if there's anything more frustrating in the world then waking up already exhausted. 

I felt so gross and grumpy this morning that I was surly at APL and then cried about it before even getting out of bed. I did manage to force myself out of bed to school, but only made it through one class before realizing that I hadn't even had energy for that. So APL picked me up and drove me home on his way to an appointment. After he left I laid on the floor and cried for 20 minutes.

Awesome start to this day/week.

At least APL understands that it's not him I'm actually upset with. And River was there to lick the tears of my face. 

And at least law school will be over soon...if you can call two weeks of classes, one presentation, one 20 page paper, and 3 three-hour exams upon which my whole grade depends "soon." Grrrr.....

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I Rock!

This is probably going to sound a little silly, but I am proud of myself for playing Guitar Hero last night for the first time since getting diagnosed with RA (i.e. almost two years).

Long ago (in a galaxy far away?) APL and I used to play Guitar Hero all the time. We'd play at parties with our friends or just the two of us. It was always fun, and I was actually pretty good at it. I think that's why I was a little bit afraid to play it since the joints in my fingers started acting funny.

Don't get me wrong - I've certainly played video games since getting diagnosed. But mostly we play Wii or Wii Fit, which doesn't really involve specific finger movements. We have even played some "traditional" Mario style games, but the only fingers those games really involve are your thumbs, which have never given me too much trouble (knock on wood!!)

Guitar Hero, on the other hand, requires you to rely on the specific motions of individual fingers to be good at it, or even to not get booed of the stage. (If you don't know the game, one hand presses on colored "fret" buttons that match the notes on the screen while the other hand "strums," like playing a guitar.)

Obviously I can use my fingers individually - I do a fair amount of typing! - but I also can type at any pace I want and go back and fix typos. And I use my dictation software if my hands are feeling achy. So I think the idea of depending on a particular finger movement to play a game scared me somehow. Mostly, I think I was afraid of being disappointed if I wasn't able to do it.

But, last night (not going to lie: after APL made me a mango mojito or two) he talked me into trying it. I wasn't amazing at it, but I could do it enough to play and have fun while doing it. And, though it's just a silly video game, that felt like a pretty good accomplishment to me.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pens and Needles

Occasionally,  I feel isolated and misunderstood at school - surrounded by law students who are starting to panic about upcoming finals without a thought for anyone around them. That's when I feel extra grateful for this blog and its ability to connect me with understanding and supportive people. 

Another "friend" that I have never met in person who often leaves me uplifting comments is  Helen. I've also been reading her blog, Pens and Needles, for a while now too. Diagnosed with RA at age two and dealing with a host of other medical problems, Helen has extremely insightful things to say about living with a chronic illness. And, since she's about to start law school, I hope I've got useful things to say to her too! I will also be continuing to follow her blog from this point forward.

I'm so grateful that the "blogosphere" has helped me meet these wonderful women!!

Frozen Woman: Life With Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you ever look at the comments on this blog, you have undoubtedly seen the  many insightful and uplifting comments on my posts from Laurie. I've been reading her blog, Frozen Woman: Life With Rheumatoid Arthritis, for some time now. But it only just occurred to me yesterday that I hadn't listed it as a favorite or shared it here as I usually do when I find a great RA blog. So I wanted to remedy that!

Although Laurie and I have never met in person, I consider her one of my "RA buddies." She was diagnosed at the beginning of this year, so I think we are able to understand each other through stories and advice as only someone else with RA can. Despite her recent diagnosis, Laurie is keeping right on going with her busy and successful life - her perseverance is inspiring. And sometimes her comments are just what I need to keep going when I feel like giving up. So, I will,of course continue to follow her blog from this point forward and I recommend that you check it out too!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Touche, John Muir

John Muir once said: "tug on anything at all and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe." 

He was referring to the natural environment. His point was that you had to be  really really careful about how you influence nature because things are connected in ways you can't even imagine. Even the simplest actions could have unintended consequences.

If John Muir had been a medical doctor, I'm pretty sure he would have said  pretty much the same thing about the human body. Everything in the human body is connected to everything else, but nobody understands exactly how.

For example, I went to the doctor for the four billionth time today to have my blood pressure checked. It was high AGAIN which was beyond frustrating because I now (a) take two different medications to control it (b) have seen a nutritionist to help me get on a very low sodium diet (c) have been trying to stay physically active and loose some prednisone weight and (d) I have been taking my blood pressure at home for almost two weeks and it hasn't been that bad!!

To move me out of my frustration, my doctor asked me how I was doing otherwise. I said not that fantastic, actually, because I feel like I have an ear infection or sinus infection or something. There has been this crazy pressure in my ear - like I changed altitude and my ear won't pop - and it won't go away. It hurts. And now the lymph nodes on that side are hurting too. So, while we were checking to see whether or not I had an infection, I mentioned that I had taken some Sudafed but I wasn't sure whether it had helped.

Well at least the Sudafed helped with something - apparently it explained my high blood pressure. Apparently, a drug that is meant to relieve allergies and sinus pressure also raises your blood pressure.  I'm not clear on exactly how my blood and my sinuses are related, though. At least these two things both have the word "pressure" in them (unlike the hacking cough). In any event, it is now perfectly clear to me that any attempt to fix one problem is my body is almost certain to have an effect on some other, seemingly unrelated part of my body.

Touche, John Muir. You were right about pretty much everything.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Parents' Pow Wow Weekend

On the last weekend of spring break, APL and I invited my parents to come to Groveland for a pre-wedding parents' pow wow. Mostly, we wanted my parents to see the wedding location, as neither of them had ever been there. But we also did some fun research for the wedding while they were in town.

My parents have been divorced since I was in high school, so I must admit that it is always a little bit uncomfortable to have them in the same place at the same time. However, I think the weekend went really well and everyone actually enjoyed themselves. Plus, I obviously want them both at the wedding so we all have to get over that discomfort at some point!

In addition to getting to see the wedding location, APL and I took my parents to look at possible rental houses for the wedding party and their families. We had lunch at the local country club (which was lovely but so not our style) and then had beers at the Iron Door, the oldest saloon in California with dead animals and old pictures of Yosemite all over the wall and dollars stuck to the ceiling (much more our style!!)

The next day we had lunch at a local BBQ place that we are considering for catering with my parents and APL's parents. It was fun to talk with them all about wedding stuff.  It suddenly made the whole thing real, and made APL and I feel strangely like grownups! The moms and I stopped in at a local florist to look into flower options, and then we went beer tasting at a local brewery and wine tasting at a local winery. The theme here, as you can see, is local. We really want as many as our wedding vendors as possible to be local.

In any event, it was great to get my parents up to Groveland and to get all the parents excited about the wedding. And, needless to say, I did not want to leave Groveland to head back to class. But I did. And it sucks. But it will all be over soon!!! Can't wait for summer - spring break was not nearly enough break!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dead Wood

During the week of spring break, APL and I had a few days of downtime on "the farm," where we helped APL's mom with the farm-work. APL shoveled turkey poo manure into the back of the gator (the utility vehicle, like an off-road golf cart) and then distributed it to each of the trees in the orchard. I spent literally two days clearing dead wood from the oak grove where we hope to have our wedding ceremony, dragging big pieces into a pile to be saved for winter firewood and using the gator the haul smaller or rotten pieces close enough to chuck on to the burn pile. Clearing the dead wood will not only help us create a gorgeous ceremony location but also protects the grove from the significant fire risk in the area every summer. 

I have to admit that it was a pretty physically difficult job - bending down to gather dead sticks, carrying them over uneven ground to the gator, chucking wood on the burn pile, lugging half-rotten logs out of the weeds that had grown around them. But it was so satisfying to be doing something physically active and outside in the sunshine. It also gave my mind a two day break from the hundred million worries I've been worrying about. And, if I loved that oak grove before, I love it even more after toiling under those trees for two days straight.

However, that being said, I totally crossed the threshold that leads to RA crashing. This is something I still majorly struggle with. Not only do I have a hard time identifying the threshold, but even if I am able to identify it I have an even harder time making myself listen to it if I'd rather not.

I worked under the oak trees, hauling dead wood, all afternoon on Tuesday. By the time we stopped for dinner it was all I could do to eat something before falling into bed. I was exhausted and sore too. But the problem didn't really start until I woke up the next morning actually feeling good. I was still tired, yes, and a little bit sore, but what else is new? I figured if I could work a whole afternoon and feel like that the next morning, I could certainly work a bit more.

But I didn't work a "bit" more. I worked a lot more. I worked pretty much all day. About halfway through the day, I already knew I had done too much, but I didn't stop. Part of it was that APL and his mom were still working, and I really wanted to contribute. But most of it was that I liked the work I was doing. I liked contributing to the place where our wedding will be and I liked the way it freed my mind to just be outside in the sunshine, rather than worrying about assignments and doctor's appointments. I should have stopped, but I didn't. I kept working late into the afternoon. It was like I knew the crash was coming, but it hadn't come yet so I might as well enjoy what good feeling I had left.

But I paid for it. Really paid for it. The next day, I felt like I was going to die. Every joint and every muscle in my body was on fire. My head throbbed and I felt nauseous and dizzy all day. My body was heavier and felt more rotten than any of the wood I had hauled to the burn pile. It took a tremendous amount of effort just to stay upright and behave like a normal human being. I don't think I've ever crashed that hard before. It took several days to come out of that nosedive.

The problem is, though the crash was horrendous and probably pretty unhealthy for me, I'm not sure I regret the two days I spent working in the oak grove. I want to be able to do physical work sometimes. But I do recognize that I should figure out how to limit myself a bit more in the future - to do some work, enough to be satisfying, but not enough to knock me down so hard. However, I think this is easier said than done. And I guess it will be a process of trial and error.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

California Wedding Dreaming

Over my spring break, APL and I drove to Groveland, California. We drove, instead of flying, so that River could come with us.  This was not only so we wouldn't have to find someone to watch her, but also because we love to have her with us because she makes us so happy. We went to Groveland because that's where APL's parents own ten acres in the Sierras. Over the past couple of years they have built a house and planted dozens of fruit trees. They are currently building a foundation for a barn that we're hoping to help them build this summer. It is also the location where APL and I will get married in May 2011.

It is an absolutely gorgeous piece of property - open grass meadows and beautiful ancient oak trees surrounded by a ring of hills. This time of year,  the oak trees are brown but the grass is green, the daffodils are sprouting, and there's a creek running across the bottom piece of the property. In the summer (and, likely, in May), the grass will be a little less green, the creek will likely be dry, but the oak trees will be totally green and create a heavenly shade underneath them. 

The property is also only 45 minutes away from Yosemite National Park, which is quite possibly my favorite place on earth. And, since APL's parents are planning to move there permanently when they retire, it's a location that will continue be important for the rest of our lives. Someday we'll take our kids there. I can't imagine a more beautiful and meaningful location for our wedding. 

Even though our wedding is more than a year away, living in Colorado means we won't get too many chances to spend time in Groveland between now and then. We also want to make sure my parents and the wedding party get to see the location before the wedding.

APL, River, and I arrived in Groveland late on Friday afternoon. That evening, three members of the wedding party and each of their significant others arrived as well! My maid of honor (my little sister), one of my bridesmaids (my best friend since kindergarten), one of APL's groomsmen (my little brother) and their boyfriends/girlfriend.

We had a fantastic weekend with them! On Saturday morning we went into Yosemite Valley, a place my brother and sister and I had spent a lot of time together as kids, as our family used to go camping there at least once a year. I think this was the first time all three of us had been there together in probably ten years. It was a lot of fun for all of us.

In the afternoon we went back to Groveland to climb oak tress and daydream about the wedding. (Well, at least that's what the girls did! The boys had bro beer time!) Then my brother (a culinary school graduate) made fantastic enchiladas for all of us and APL's parents for dinner - chicken, pork, and artichoke hearts!

We were both really glad that my brother and sister and best friend got a chance to see the wedding location. Since APL's brother has obviously been there, and APL's best friend has been there too, there is now only one member of the wedding party who has not been there: our good friend RK, who helped both me and APL survive the horrors associated with  me going to law school and was an unfailing source of support for both of us when I fist got diagnosed with RA. Get on a plane RK!! Let's go back today!! (For serious: maybe this summer? Or next fall??)

Spring break story to be continued...