Uninspired, but Educated

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I’m not feeling well-inspired these days. Life’s been rough for weeks now.

It’s challenging to live with a chronic illness, as many that do, know so well. It robs you of your energy. It robs you of your abilities. It robs you of your freedom.

Yet, there are positive aspects to the experience of disease. It’s taught me about what’s really important in life. It’s taught me about gratitude. It’s taught me that even though I don’t have a post-secondary degree in anything, I still have much to offer.

One of the experiences RA disease is giving me is the opportunity to live in poverty. Living in poverty has forced me to reach out to agencies and groups in the community.

When I worked full-time, the network of community supports just wasn’t on my radar at all.

I had no idea that people on social assistance received $599 per month for housing and food and the people on disability received $1,064. Nor, did I know that the affordable housing wait-list is six years long and the majority of the food available at the food banks is either canned or packaged.

Living in poverty is an educational experience.

As well as being educational, it is giving me an opportunity to participate in community work and to develop skills in areas such as advocacy, public speaking and writing articles.

In addition, I’m learning about the various levels of governments and the procedures in which they operate.

I’m mostly involved with a group called, Awareness of Low Income Voices – ALIV(e). We have a website and a new blog.

ALIV(e) is a collaborative group of individuals dedicated to bringing an active and positive voice to individuals and families who are experiencing or who have experienced poverty level living in the Waterloo Region.

ALIV(e)’s goal is to educate the public about the impact of poverty on peoples’ lives, to inform the public about changes in policy as it applies to those who live at poverty level, and to share information on available resources that may not be well known to the general public.

On the blog’s “About” page we state;

Poverty (for the most part) is not a choice. Many of the people who live in poverty experience challenges and barriers that create obstacles to rise above their situations.

Societal attitudes, social policy issues and systematic barriers, as well as low wages, disabilities, psychological or emotional factors, illness, single-parent families are among the challenges faced by those who live in poverty.

My personal story is an example of how someone who once had a full-time job ended up in poverty through a debilitating illness.

Others end up in poverty due to mental health issues, undiagnosed learning disabilities, psychological and emotional disturbances or disability due to accident.

All want to work, but find it hard to do so without considerable outside supports which, by the way, are non-existent.

From time to time, I hear comments from those not living on social assistance. Some of the comments are things like; they’re lazy, they get “free money”, they’re ripping off the system, they’re deadbeats…

I have to say, this makes me sad.

The majority living on assistance are truly needy individuals who deal with significant challenges.

It’s equally sad to see that when governments have cuts to make, they tend to target the social assistance programs. Why? Because they can.

After all, it’s the poor. They have no high-powered lobby activists to make deals on their behalf. They have no bargaining power.

It seems, quite frankly, the poor don’t have rights.

It seems, they don’t have the right to live with dignity and respect. It seems, they don’t have the right to a hopeful future.

Poverty is growing in cities and rural areas all over the world. Yet, many of us want to ignore it because it doesn’t affect us. Many of us still have our jobs.

It is wonderful to have jobs and hopefully governments will help create more jobs. The more jobs, the better. But, let us not forget and leave behind those who deal with significant challenges and barriers to employment.

I urge people to look into the social assistance policies in their cities and countries to see if they will adequately meet the needs of one who is unable to work.

And if one is fortunate enough to “have it all covered”, maybe rallying around those who “don’t have it all covered” will be the push that governments need to create policies that provide adequate safety nets for those in need.

Please visit the ALIV(e) blog to read my article, “Exploring Social Welfare Abroad”.

Thank you very much for reading and leaving your comments. Wishing all a wonderful weekend!

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Prepare to be Prepared

2 wicker baskets full of muffins sit on a blue...

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Recently, I learned something new about myself. Well, maybe I already knew it deep down inside. Events of the weekend before last reminded me. If I want success with the diet change I propose, I need to prepare to be prepared.

Some weeks ago, I made a decision to try Dr. McDougall’s diet for 4 months to see what effects, if any, on the RA symptoms I experience (click here to read).

Bright (it was actually dark) and early(5:15 a.m.) on Saturday October 22nd , I headed for Toronto to attend a conference. Usually, it’s a 90 minute drive, so I turned the car toward the McDonald’s drive thru where I ordered a large tea with milk to sip along the way. The server asked if I’d like to add a muffin to my order. Hmmm, “Why not”, I thought, “a muffin goes well with tea.” After listening to the muffin choices, I settled on the fruit and fibre. It seemed like the healthiest choice. Sounds like justification, don’t ya think?

I knew I’d be away all day as a volunteer for Brenda MacIntyre who had a booth at the conference, so I packed a lunch with snacks as well as toast and nut butter for my breakfast on the road. I put the muffin in my bag and took out the wheat-free toast with nut butter to munch on while I sipped my tea during the drive (is this legal?).

So far, so good, except, according to the McDougall diet plan, I’m not supposed to have tea or coffee either. Oops. It may take a while.

I arrived at the venue in Toronto somewhere around 7 a.m. and ate the fruit and fibre muffin sometime that morning. Next to the homemade meal of rice, mung beans, beets, garlic, onions and celery, an assortment of raisins, figs and dates, and 2 protein bars (which I knew would give me gas), it seemed like the most interesting item in my lunch bag.

What would your choice be?

During the lunch break, I ate the  rice and mung beans and had the raisins, figs and dates for dessert.

That’s good. I’m back on track.

Saturday was the first day of the two-day conference.

The presenter on Saturday afternoon was a man by the name of Ti Caine, Hypnotherapist, Healer, Speaker, Life Coach and creator of Future Visioning. Ti gave everyone in the audience a useful 20 page hand-out that describes the Future Visioning process in which he states,

“First I help you design your Ideal Future, and then I will guide you out into that Ideal Future so you can actually meet your Awesome Future Self, and experience yourself living the life of total success, health and happiness that you really deserve!

Then I will guide you back into the past so that you can heal and release the old emotional blockages and limiting beliefs that have created all of your struggles, illnesses and self sabotage. You can then more powerfully and gracefully move forward to create your true unlimited success.”

Ti’s presentation drove home for me the importance of consciously designing my own future. In some areas, not all, I’ve lived my life unsure of what I want.

If this interests you at all, Ti has free material available on his website.

By the time Ti’s presentation ended it was late afternoon. Feeling a little tired from the 4 a.m. rise, I needed a pick me up. There was a coffee shop a few blocks away. I ordered a Chai Tea Latte. The man behind the counter asked if I’d like to add an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie to my order (or maybe I thought I heard him say that). Either way, I left with Latte and cookie.

As I reflect on the lessons from the day with regard to the transition to a new diet, it seems to me that I need to prepare to be prepared.

Maybe I could have planned to have wheat-free vegan cookies and baked goods since I enjoy them so much with tea and hot drinks. Would you agree? Any additional ideas?

Since I have a future vision of life without RA, I really have to get a handle on a way to have the best of both worlds – adherence to the McDougall diet and my love of cookies and baked goods.

On the second day of the conference, author and speaker, Gregg Braden gave a talk and led a meditation. Unfortunately, I missed it and I missed helping Brenda at her booth as well. When I got up on Sunday morning I could barely stand on my feet let alone walk. Extreme pain and inflammation prevented me from attending.  Sunday was no fun at all.

Oh well, we live, we learn.

Have a happy day and thanks for reading!

I’m so Pumped!

It’s after 11 pm and I’m still pumped from the “Vibrant Women” group meeting I attended this evening. It kinda feels like a caffeine high although I haven’t had coffee, tea or anything else that would have caffeine in it. So, I have a caffeine high without the caffeine. How healthy is that. Yay! Except I might be sleep deprived tomorrow.

It is so exciting to be a part of a group of dynamic ladies who support each other to grow and create the life we want to live. We’ll be meeting roughly every second week over the next six months. It’s facilitated by four amazing women who each bring unique talents to the group. I’m so looking forward to this journey.

Today, I’m on track with sticking to the McDougall diet breakfast portion and stayed away from eating foods that I might be sensitive to. Now I’m off to do my mindfulness homework. Maybe it will relax me enough so that I can go to sleep.

I’m so excited! Night all.

Uplifted Spirits!

Today I read the article by Reverend Misa Hopkins titled, “How to Stay Positive When Your Chronic Pain Seems to Keep Getting Worse.” (click on the title to read the article)

Misa’s article points to helpful suggestions that will uplift spirits when faced with loss of hope and depression so easily caused by relentless chronic illness and pain. The article states that engaging in creative activities along with helping others takes our mind off the condition and helps give our life meaning. This, Misa states, makes us feel better.

I know from my own experience that Misa’s advice is right on. I feel so much better this week. My spirit is uplifted. My physical condition is the same (ie: pain, inflammation, stomach upset) but, I feel wonderful.

What do I attribute this wonderful feeling to?

These 7 things.

  1. The incredible people in my life (click here to read about).
  2. The 8 week “Managing Pain Mindfully” program I’m participating in.
  3. The monthly meeting of “Playtime” facilitated by Grant Rawcliffe of The Third Conversation, where we create the life we want to experience.
  4. The newly starting “Vibrant Women” group.
  5. Planning the transition to Dr. McDougall’s plant-based diet.
  6. Mindfulness program homework and loving-kindness meditation.
  7. Interacting with blog-mates and friends while on this journey.

This is so cool. All this stuff helps to give my life meaning. Misa says that by being creative and doing things you love to do you send the message to your body and emotions that life is good and worth living. If you know someone who struggles with a chronic condition please feel free to pass this information along.

Moving forward on the new diet plan, I penned in the next 12 days (minus next weekend for the conference) of breakfast meals on the McDougall Weekly Menu Planner. It’s really a handy tool, I think.

Mindfulness practice went well today.

So that’s it for today.  Hope everyone is having a lovely weekend.  And by the way, is anyone doing any “occupying”?  I just heard about it. Sounds like they have a valid point to me. I just hope it stays peaceful. Although, I read it wasn’t peaceful in Rome. These are exciting times.

Gearing Up

So, I’m gearing up to ease into Dr. McDougall’s diet plan as I mentioned in a previous post. Last night, I printed 12 days of the McDougall meal plan. Today, I had a gander through the list of menu items. Mulling over my strategy, I determined that I would begin the program by focusing on one meal per day for the first week. So that means that I will follow the McDougall meal plan for breakfast this week. I’ll make a list of the groceries I need and pick them up over the weekend.  (To see what I’m referring to just click on the underlined links and it will take you to Dr. McDougall’s website.)

I completed the mindfulness program homework however, I felt like I rushed to get it done because it was a busy day so I’ll have to plan better next time.

I’m thinking I should post some markers so that I’ll be able to identify how a change in diet may help alleviate RA symptoms. With the RA meds I currently take, I still experience inflamed swollen joints to a greater or lesser degree. For instance, the other night I went to the tenants association dinner and when I stood up to leave, my left ankle was so painful and swollen that I limped home. Was it something I ate? I wish I knew. Hopefully, the change in diet will answer this question.

Inflammation and pain level seems to change daily and sometimes hourly. Gastrointestinal pain and discomfort is due to the meds even though I take the prescribed acid-blocker. It’s just downright frustrating.

Next week, I have an appointment with the Interventional Cardiologist. Did you know that there is a type of doctor called a Non-Invasive Cardiologist? I wonder what his treatment would have been for the pericarditis or would he have referred me to the Interventional Cardiologist. I’ll have to ask when I see him. I like the sound of the Non-Invasive Cardiologist.

Thanks for reading and blessings to all. May your day be filled with loveliness.

Healthy Living Is A Result of Healthy Thinking

One day while I was thinking about my journey to health, this statement came to me: Healthy living is a result of healthy thinking. I’ll explain what I mean.

Years ago, I knew “I should” put more attention into establishing healthy eating habits. Coffee, sweet and salty treats, breads, pasta, poultry, sauces, salads and rice (in their order of importance) made up my daily diet. Thoughts of replacing any or all of these items with vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains and healthy protein were constant. I wondered why I could never make those “I should” thoughts into reality for more than a day or two here and there.

Fast forward to last year: my breakthrough year. I discovered that the source of my challenges were unhealthy thinking patterns and best of all, I learned how to overcome them. I’m no longer stuck in a rut with my diet. I’m no longer confused about what I want to do with my life. Now, I find joy in being alive and realize that peace really does reside in my heart. Healthy thinking emerged.

A few months ago, I put my intention and prayer on locating a community food growing farm. Healthy thinking translated into a desire for live, fresh, vibrant vegetables. Last week, the answer appeared. I walked into my local health food store to purchase the usual items and noticed a flyer taped to the cash register. Transpire Organic Farm and Wellness, a new community supported agricultural farm is looking for members.

Yummy

Back at home, I called the number, had a lovely conversation with the owner, Candace Wormsbecker and signed up to receive this years harvest of; beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, cherries, kale, leek, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, radish, scallions, swiss chard, squash, tomatoes, tomatillos (what are these and what do you do with them?) and herbs, basil, cilantro and parsley.

I can’t wait to receive my first basket in June. I’m imagining the vibrant taste of fresh picked locally grown organic produce as I write this blog post. Eating food with its life energy intact nourishes the body’s supply of life energy and produces vibrant health. Growing up, I never thought about food as having life energy in it.

Healthy thinking created an achievable desire for healthy living. The reverse is also true: Healthy thinking is a result of healthy living. In his book, The Sunfood Diet Success System, David Wolfe, researcher and educator states;

A physiology of vibrant health produces a mindset, emotional attitude and spiritual power of vibrant health.

Healthy thinking is a result of healthy living. The one feeds on the other and produces a cycle of health giving and health affirming behaviors.

Another neat thing is that Candace encourages members to get involved. I was raised in the city close to supermarkets and butcher shops. The closest I got to gardening was in watering a few plants every now and then. Apparently, my ancestors were farmers and whether it’s in the blood remains to be seen as I plan to visit the farm to learn how to grow food. At any rate, it will be an adventure I look forward to.

You may want to consider looking into community supported agriculture in your area. From what I’ve seen it’s a win-win situation because it provides a supply of high-quality fresh food full of life-giving nutrients to the consumer and provides the farm with a sustainable living to ensure a fresh food supply for future generations. We need an alternative choice to the genetically modified, irridated, waxed, injected produce that is picked raw and transported thousands of miles before it sits and rots on store shelves and grows mold from plastic wrapping.

So how about you, do you believe the statement; healthy living is a result of healthy thinking?

Breaking news…just received an email with a link to a website for CSA in the US;

Ready, Set, Go: Change Your Life

I’ve been thinking. Thinking about ways to improve my health and well-being.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated a wealth of information (too bad it’s not money). You could say that I’m an information “junkie”. In fact, I think I have too much information. Maybe information overload is the reason for my feeling like I go round and round in circles when trying to make changes in my health and well-being. I seem to constantly chase the “shiny new object” that appears. Or I find some new expert to follow for a while. I think I need to learn to trust and listen to my own guidance system.

This weekend, I’ve decided to begin to make slow methodical changes in my diet. I’ve compiled some information about foods and supplements that help alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. I expect that new information will come to light as I go along so that I can tweak meal and snack preparation to gain optimal results. My goal is to have a whole food diet that is nutrient and mineral dense and that is recommended for the condition of RA.

In addition to diet, there are other areas that I’ll zero in on as I go on this journey. Areas such as; self-care, meditation, finances, fitness, career etc.

The plan for this week, starting Saturday, is to incorporate a daily serving of the following; 2 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp. ground black sesame seeds, carrots, kale, broccoli, chopped walnuts, acerola fruit. Then each week thereafter, all I need to do is change the vegetables, nuts and fruit to make sure I’m not getting into a food rut. I promised myself that I need to have these foods daily, no exception.

Also, since my blogging friend Kathy mentioned the benefits of deep breathing meditation, I’ve decided to try it out. I thought it would be good for me to start with five minutes every morning and work up from there.

The idea I’ve mentioned is contrary to my usual way of doing things. Usually, when I decide to make a change, I dive right in head first and do it ALL at once. The trouble is, it never lasts. I’m good for a week or two then I’m back into old habits before I realize it. Then another six months passes before I try something new again, only to have that go nowhere also.

This time, it will be different and I will use the blog to keep myself accountable by posting ALL about the experience. Would anyone like to join me?

The Road Ahead