Have you ever heard someone say "a storm is coming I can feel it in my bones?" That is me. I always know when there is a big storm coming in because of the change in barometric pressure. Barometric pressure (atmospheric pressure) is the pressure exerted by the weight of the atmosphere at any given point. As a storm system develops, the barometric pressure begins to drop. I also have more problems with my arthritis when I am stressed. Stress can increase muscle tension, which can be related to increased pain among people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
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I first noticed the stiffness in the joints in my twenties. Arthritis was prevalent on both sides of my family. I ignored it and went on with my life as if it wasn't there. I jogged and exercised going for the burn. I skied. There was nothing like the sensation of zipping down the pristine snow with the cold stinging your face. I got interested in yoga. My Mom was amazed at the positions that I could get myself into.
As the only daughter among four brothers it isn't much of a surprise that I was a tomboy. It also wasn't much of a surprise that I loved to participate in sports as my Dad was a sports nut and my brothers were never really interested in throwing footballs or softballs with Dad and I was. They were more couch potatoes in front of the television. Dad wasn’t sure what to do with a daughter so he treated me like a son.
I was also an artist and craftsperson. My second grade teacher put a big note on my report card telling my parents to “take a look at her art work!” Dad taught me to sew and I made most of my own clothes for years.
I loved to cook and was often in the kitchen slicing and dicing and creating new dishes.
I was always writing and my stories and poetry appeared in local magazines and in Internet magazines. I tended to ignore the aches and pains in my hands and knees and back and other joints because I didn't have time for them.
The hectic active lifestyle started to takes its toll. Eventually doctors confirmed that I had arthritis in every joint in my body. I had pushed my body to its limit and the sports and constant use of my hands caught up with me. I could no longer do everything that I did when I was younger. I couldn't hold a pen and do intricate drawings for hours on end. I couldn't sit down and write for hours. I couldn’t run. My hands cramped up when I was cutting vegetables. My sleep became disturbed because the aches would wake me up several times a night.
Once I got the arthritis diagnosis I became determined to see what I could do to live with it and not give up what I loved doing. I studied arthritis. I found out that there are many different types of arthritis and that it can hit at any age. I also found out that being stubborn was a good trait to have with arthritis because I was determined to continue to live my life doing the things I loved.
Most days I can force myself to ignore my arthritis. The problem is that arthritis doesn't like being ignored. I’ll take aspirin or ibuprofen during the day and before going to bed. On real bad days I switch to Tramadol. Usually I can count on at least a couple hours of sleep before I wake up again. On bad nights I will wake up and the joints feel like they are going to burst into flames. After a bad night I can guarantee that the next day I’ll barely be able to move because of the pain. “Arthur” and I have a definite adversarial relationship. I refuse to be slowed down completely and he refuses to be ignored.
Although the verdict is still out on arthritis and barometric pressure doctors are starting to listen to patients telling them they can feel a change in the weather. My brother Reid has multiple sclerosis and he notices the change in barometric pressure the same as I do. My arthritis has been especially bad since the return from California with Reid because the crooked moving company I am having to fight is causing a major amount of stress.
Obviously arthritis brought a change in how I live. I can't do a lot of things the way I used to and I can't take one of the most popular joint supplements Glucosamine/Chondroitin since I'm allergic to shellfish. I do try and remember to take vitamins that have omega 3 fish oils. I do try and eat healthy and keep my weight down.
I love to cook and have almost 400 original recipes typed up and another 250 to refine and type into Master Cook. When the arthritis started getting really bad in my hands I realized that I was going to have to make changes in the way I did things. I was going to need alternative methods for kneading bread, for slicing and dicing, for a lot of things that go into cooking.
For the kitchen I discovered a company called Oxo. Their motto is “tools you can hold onto.” I replaced most of my kitchen knives, spoons, etc. with their products. They have thick and cushioned handles that I can grip easily. I have a food processor and stand mixer. These help me mix and even knead bread. I have a mandolin to slice and julienne vegetables. I learned to use tools to make cooking easier.
I don't knead bread dough anymore I let the KitchenAid stand mixer do that. The large Cuisinart food processor can make the homemade pizza dough very nicely. I use the food processor to make the salsa for when my family comes to dinner. I have made quadruple batches and it disappears like crazy.
My crockpot is absolutely essential for cooking. I've developed a lot of recipes for it. It make preparing dinner so easy. In fact since it will just be Reid and I for Thanksgiving I'll prepare the whole Thanksgiving dinner in the crockpot. We will have the turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry relish and I won't have to mess up numerous bowls or spend all day in the kitchen.
Two spices that I use a lot are actually good for arthritis. They are ginger and chilies. Fresh ginger root is a staple in my house. I use it in all of my stir-fries and have developed The Ultimate Ginger Cookie using it. I love Tex-Mex and use a lot of chilies and chili sauces.
Since holding a pen or paintbrush wasn't an option any more, I determined to explore the growing field of computer art. I started doing computer art in 1998. The original models were clunky at best but I was still able to do award winning pictures. They sold well at conventions. Lately the state of the art has increased dramatically and I am redoing all my old art. I use software from DAZ. I have continued doing computer generated art to this day because I can use an ergonomic mouse to create it with. I was not ever going to give up my art. I have been an artist all my life and I have to continue doing my art. It is a part of my soul. Christopher Garcia has been using my art frequently in his Hugo award winning fanzines. He even gave me my first magazine cover. When someone loves your work so much that they once used eight different pieces in one magazine then I can't let arthritis slow me down. You can purchase merchandise with my art designs at my Zazzle store. You can purchase prints with my art designs at my Fine Art America store.
I discovered the ease of using the computer for my writing. I have an ergonomic keyboard and beaded wrist rests for my keyboard and mouse that makes it easier to type. I transferred my fantasy short story collection, recipes, and poetry to the computer. The computer has been a life, wrist and hand saver. I will stop and use the Chinese Baoding balls when my hands start to hurt. My Dad gave me these many years ago. Mine are made out of steel and the two balls fit my hand. I also have the larger pair that my Dad used when he was alive. Rolling the two balls around in my hand does help to uncramp my hands and strengthen them at the same time. It is also very relaxing.
When I was younger I made all of my own clothes. I still sew to this day. I got myself a new Brother sewing machine that has 99 stitches so I can embroider things easily now. I made my niece’s wedding dress. She had always wanted a Princess Bride dress and that is what I made her along with the veil and the silk flower bouquets. I use a needle threader to thread my needles now. I use slightly larger needles that are easier to hold. As far as my clothes now it is leggings, geeky t-shirts, and comfortable slip-ons.
I use precision pliers and tweezers now when I make my jewelry. My little helper Pixie does her best to be right there for me when I'm doing jewelry making. It probably explains why it takes me three times as long to make a necklace now since I have to move her off the supplies and find what she did with the thing I need most. I have recently expanded into Steampunk inspired jewelry. I'm updating my jewelry sale page.
I walk a great deal. I love taking photographs and got a wide padded strap for my camera. I love uploading the photographs to the computer and see what has been captured. I will do the gentle Tai Chi exercises to try and maintain flexibility. My main exercise these days though is unfortunately helping my brother up when he falls. I came home from the store the other day to find him flat on the ground. His M.S. was acting up and his feet gave out and he couldn't pull himself up. At times like those you discover just how much strength you have.
I do what I can to control the stress. It isn't easy when you have to deal with crooks. I do take stress tablets when it gets too bad. I try and do things that I know relaxes me like listening to music. I have found several New Age albums in Celtic, Chinese, and Native American styles of music that I really like. I read a lot. I watch my movies on DVDs. I just got the extended version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and am impatiently awaiting the next chapter The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I'll decorate for Christmas the beginning of December and start my Christmas cookie making.
Living with severe arthritis is hard. I do what I can to make things easier on my body. I'll ask for help when I need it. For me though the thing I have to keep in mind is that I am a caregiver again this time to one of my younger brothers. Reid has severe diabetes and multiple sclerosis. He needs me. That does give me an extra reserve of strength I believe. It also makes me take good care of myself. I have to stay healthy because I chose to take care of him.
One of my favorite art pieces.