Monday, May 7, 2012

Chasing Daylight & finding happiness

I'm reading a really good book, Chasing Daylight by Gene O'Kelly. Because of this book, I had one of the best days I've had in a very long time. The author, a CEO of a major global company, tells the true story of the last three months of his life. He had inoperable brain cancer. When he's diagnosed, he's told by two top neurologist that he has three months to live. I know this sounds terribly depressing, but it's not. It's one of the most uplifting and moving books I've ever read. It's about how to live your life. It's really making me stop and reassess my life.

I took the day off from work and decided I wouldn't feel guilty about it. I had a hectic weekend getting the final paperwork together for my guardianship implementation plan and inventory for my sister. I put the finishing touches on it this morning (it's about 100 copies), had seven copies made at the UPS Store. Had my original notarized and certified mailed to the Alaska Court. Then the four other copies sent to the the four interested parties. I'm so glad that's finished. It was a huge project and has been hanging over my head for two months. It's not due until May 28 so I'm getting it sent in a couple weeks early.

Today I decided to take my sister to have her hair done, color and cut. There's a 40% discount on Monday's at the salon for the month of May on Mondays. Since their services are rather pricey that's a great savings. I also had her brows waxed and tinted. She loves getting her hair done (something I personally hate), so she was very happy on the outing.

Before I left to pick her up, I read a few chapters of Chasing Daylight. It really put the whole sister thing in a different light. Instead of feeling like it was chore to be with my sister, it felt like a gift.I had a whole different attitude about it. We had a really fun time together. After her hair and brows were done, we went for a walk near her home (the assisted adult family home). It was a spectacular day. Sunshine and 75 degrees. We walked (well, she "wheelchaired") for at least 15 blocks, then turned around and went back to her home. There was a perfect breeze and it was a perfect day.

When I came home, I decided I'd do more of the following in my life. These pictures are from this afternoon.

Enjoy the cherry blossoms in our front yard. There have been years (and this one almost one of them) that I barely even noticed this amazing tree.

Enjoy the perennials that come to life without any help from me. The bleeding heart is so beautiful. Again, there have been years when I saw it from the window but never even stepped outside to appreciate it.

Look up at the sky, under the umbrella of our huge maple tree. I love this tree. 

Spend more time with this guy, Mickey (fondly referred to as Mickey Mouse...get it, a cat named after a mouse). This is the coolest cat I've ever met (but I say that about every pet I've ever had). But guy really is special. Comes when he's called, cuddles when I want to cuddle, and loves to wrap his paws around my ankles when I come home, forcing me to pick him up. Who could resist?

Work less. Yes, I mean that sincerely. This was my cubicle about two weeks ago. Someone put up police tape as a joke because I told them to all stay out of my cube! I had work that had to get done and couldn't talk to anyone! Yes, work less is one of my goals.

Eat great food. This was my dinner. And yes, that is a small hamburger in the lower left corner. It's grass fed, 1/3 of a pound of beef, and it did taste delicious. I rarely eat beef, but today I wanted beef, so I had beef (soaked the fat out on a paper towel - but really, didn't worry too much about it). There's avocado on the salad and olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dressing. It was my only meal today and it was wonderful. I didn't intend to only eat one meal today. It just happened. Not a big deal.

Ah, the sun. I love the sun. When it shines here in Western Washington, I want to stop and just appreciate it. We don't get enough of it, and I want to soak it up when it's here.

My bare feet in the cool, moist grass. It felt great!

Read more, and read better quality books. The last three books were stroke books (possible therapies, the details of what happens during a stroke and after, how to prevent a stroke, etc.). They were as depressing as it can get. I need to read books that fill my soul. Chasing Daylight is one of those books.

Eat fresh, perfect, sweet strawberries. These were incredible strawberries. 

There's a whole life to live. It's not a downer to be alive. My sister isn't a downer. In fact, she's an inspiration. To have gone through what she's gone through in the last seven months and still laugh at herself when she does crazy stuff (her world is a little upside down and backwards), well, she's nothing short of amazing.

I think I found my happiness.

Health and happiness - lacking both

I can't remember the last time I posted, but I know I didn't say much. I've been quiet because it seems like all I do is whine and complain about my life.

I've continued to eat poorly and not exercise. The result is continuing weight gain. My last weigh in on Friday was 202 pounds. I feel and look like hell.

Then there are the hives that are occurring more frequently. I had a hive breakout Thursday night, Friday morning and Friday night, Saturday morning and Saturday night. No hives on Sunday. Then this morning was the worst one yet, with big, red welts from my knees up to my breasts, and both arms.

I went to the gym this morning when the hives started and were only a few splotches on my stomach. This whole hive thing started when I started slacking with my workouts and eating a lot of processed foods. My workout was good today, but the hives got worse during my my hour at the gym. By the time I was done with my workout I felt like my entire upper body was on fire, and I was an itchy mess.

The hives also started exactly one week after I was made my sister's permanent guardian on February 28. This means I'm responsible for her for the rest of her life. She's 73 and in spite of having a major stroke, she's in perfect health. Even her blood pressure, without blood pressure medicine, is normal. She'll probably live several more years. I have mixed feelings about this. I love her to pieces, but I know she's not happy, trapped in a body that doesn't work on one side, and unable to communicate through speech or written word. Her life isn't easy.

Strangely, when I take a shower the hives calm down and disappear in about thirty minutes. I thought maybe I was allergic to our laundry detergent. I switched to a no dye, no perfume, made for sensitive skin laundry detergent a few weeks ago. It hasn't made any difference.

The funny thing about not having hives on Sunday is that I spent several hours with my sister. She was having a screaming, crying fit when I arrived because of an incident that happened at the home with another resident at lunch. An old man fell, couldn't get up, and the caregiver had to call the paramedics to help him. He wasn't hurt, and was resting in his room when I arrived.

My sister was furious with the caregiver for not helping the old man when he was on the floor, but he weighs about 220, and is a big guy. He refused to try to help himself and he was wailing his arms, hitting anyone that came near him. Then my poor sister, paralyzed on one side, in a wheelchair, tried to help him, and another resident screamed at her to stop because she could get hurt. My sister was extremely upset about this incident. I arrived about an hour after it happened and my sister wanted to make sure I knew about it. I didn't get the information from my sister because she's impossible to understand, but I got it from another resident that tells me everything that goes on at the home.

The caregiver came in and tried to calm my sister down, but it made it worse. My sister screamed at her, crying the whole time. This was very stressful, yet I didn't break out in hives. I never break out in hives when I'm with my sister.

My sister finally calmed down and let me do her hair and makeup so we could go to the movies. We saw The Avengers in 3D, and it was really good. I think she like it. She always seems to enjoy going on outings. She put her one 3D glasses on and when I looked at her I realized they were on upside down, which was pretty funny.

I still haven't seen my regular doctor about the hives, but I don't know what she can do for me anyway. The doctor I saw six weeks ago prescribed a heartburn medicine, Zantac, because he said it sometimes had the side effect of preventing hives. I've never had heartburn and it certainly didn't help the hive situation. After I gave the doctor a two-minute overview of my life, he was positive the hives were stress induced. He told me I needed to learn how to relax. I wish it was that easy to not worry about stuff and just take each day as it comes. Unfortunately, I haven't figured that out yet.

I thought about taking an anti-anxiety drug, but after I read about the common side effects, there's no way in hell I'm taking that stuff. I'm not much for taking drugs anyway, and these anti-anxiety drugs sound downright scary. I know a few people that take anti-anxiety drugs, two of my nieces and a good friend, and although they seem relaxed about things and rarely get upset or worried, it's changed them in other, undesirable ways. I'm sure someone reading this will tell me they take anti-anxiety meds and they're fine, and I'm sure that's true for a lot of people. I'm just not willing to add another thing to my life the might cause me harm. I've done enough of that already.

So, I need a plan. I need to lose weight, get healthy and hopefully, stop the hive outbreaks. 

1. Cut out ALL processed foods, count calories.

I didn't realize how easily I'd fallen into the processed food trap. SmartOnes, Lean Cuisines, when I'm trying to eat healthy. Then I eat junk when I just don't care what I eat (which is often!).  Portion control? That hasn't even been on my radar.

2. Exercise

I have to workout almost every day. I feel better, I eat better, I work harder at trying to keep my weight under control, and exercise is good for me, mentally and physically. I can't believe how easily I went from a minimum of five days a week to one or maybe two days a week of exercise. That's just insane. It's back to my routine of "exercise isn't optional, it's a requirement".

3. Yoga

I have nine more sessions of yoga left on my prepaid card. I went once and although I really liked it, it made me nauseous. It was that stupid "put your legs in the air and pretend your riding a bicycle. That exercise always make me want to throw up. Next time I'll just skip that one and relax instead.

Well, I guess that's enough words for today. I'm making up for lost time. I'm taking the day off from work. I have some legal stuff to take care of for my sister. It's a gorgeous day and since my weekend was spent either working on paperwork for my sister (12 hours on Saturday, and 4 hours on Sunday) or time with my sister, I need a little me time. Perhaps a yoga class is in my future today.