JITZUROE   101,090
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

If a friend asked you to post a photo of yourself, would you be able to pick one immediately? Let me be more direct: If your weight has gone up and down like a roller coaster, which 'you' would you want to have them view???
The 'you' that you wish to get back to? Perhaps a photo of someone else's body that you were striving to be like? How about the bravest of the pack, who post photo's of their true 'you', as in today's version?

Another Spark friend had encouraged me to post a photo on my Spark Page months ago (CANNIE50). I recall being initially terrified since I had been hiding from the camera for a couple of years now - save for one silly photo with the Southwest Airlines Santa last December. My husband and I REALLY needed to shake off some sad feelings after a double funeral that we flew down for that morning. But Southwest's St. Nick was not going to tell anyone, and neither was I.

The idea of not only posing for, but posting a photograph of the 'current me' in transformation mode wafted through every grey wrinkle in my brain like the scent of burning popcorn in the microwave - it just wasn't going to fade away any time soon. As you know, I was still hiding from my mirror until recently, so you can imagine the anxiety I felt about seeing even myself in a pic.

I wasn't prepared emotionally to take a new photo of myself, so I started to look for photos I already had; or photos I had not yet thrown away that is. There have been so many variations of 'me' these past 5 or 6 years, and I was having a hard time picking one.

Have you ever tried to describe a new hairstyle to your hairstylist or a friend? Randomly whipping through magazine pages and often repeating phrases like, "it's like this, but more red like this other picture", or "I like the cut on this one, but the bangs are too short, and I wanted it more bouncy", etc. Well, I was lost at which Bren to pick. It was time to dive in and see what I came up with. I started to look through a small stack of photos.

There were snapshots from 8 years ago, before my disease, when my hands and legs were normal flesh tone and not swollen; before I let it take over my life for a while.
*OK, let's skip anything with full body shots to avoid that dilemma.

The next few pictures were of me when I was far too thin, about 7 years ago. A group of food intolerances decided to jump into the mix for fun, and I looked very pale and unhealthy.
*Keep flipping...

Then I came across a photo from 3 years ago with my husband and another couple, who were both Emergency Room doctors, so they knew a lot about my rare disease. They very discreetly posed in a way to cover my swelling and redness (sweet people!), but there was so much pain in my eyes behind my forced smile, that I couldn't bear to look at it.
I think that was about the time in my life when I gave up the fight and let my disease and the basket-full of autoimmune illnesses drown me for a long while. I was so tired of being attacked from all sides, and I felt very alone.
*Down to the last picture.

No surprise, it's with Southwest Santa. I was almost 30 lbs heavier from swelling and depression weight, and really was not occupying a great place emotionally. I needed something tangible to grab onto and get out of the muck.

I shared with a couple of super duper Spark friends that I had made a promise to myself to pose and post a picture on my Spark Page on my birthday a few weeks ago.

I did my hair, I applied my make up with a butter knife (ha!). I primped and posed. I really tried to be in the moment and let my new appreciation for myself shine through to the camera.
Honestly, I pulled strength from many of you Sparkers, who proudly post their photos, to gather the courage and do so myself, and for that I thank you all. I feel a bit embarrassed now that I hid for so long.


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

AAAACK 8/12/2011 3:21PM

    Again, I have to say that I look at everyone photos, and your's is right at the top of this list, and think to myself, "but these women are SO beautiful, how can they hate their photos like I do?" And again, I refer you to my blog about the same subject - I see so much physical beauty in all of you here, and Bren, you are absolutely gorgeous!

Maybe we just don't like pics of ourselves b/c our minds eye sees something different than the camera does? I don't know. But I do know that you have nothing to fear - nobody could look at your photos and think anything other than beautiful!

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WINACHST 8/12/2011 8:27AM


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CANNIE50 8/10/2011 11:57PM

    Well, honey, if you would not wear a furry hat with a ball on the end, and if you just do a wee little laser removal on the chin ar.....oh wait, silly me - you are the STUNNER on the left. I am so glad you have posted photos of you and your handsome man. You know how hard it was for me to find a photo to post. Arrgghhh, not my favorite thing but it definitely makes a statement when we don't hide behind the scenery (me) or the muppets (ahem). It would take a lot more than mean diseases to steal your beauty, my dear sparkly friend.

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RYDERB 8/10/2011 11:08PM

    I'd still be using my dog picture, except my husband took one, I didn't hate completely, but only because it's slightly out of focus. It's amazing what that can do for your skin emoticon You're absolutely BEAUTIFUL! I hope you never feel the need to hide again.
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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CLOVER2 8/10/2011 10:26PM

    You're lovely, and that isn't just being polite. Your hair and coloring are striking. Good for you! Me, I haven't been able to work my bravery to the point of having anything that even vaguely resembles me on the site. emoticon emoticon

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    you're gorgeous! i understand you're self-conscious...but you really do look cute in this picture and i don't notice any of your ailments that you talk about in this blog.

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Dean Martin & The Peanut Butter Lullaby

Monday, August 08, 2011

This is the story about the infamous peanut butter jar. The packaging is always easy to recognize since it tends to come in 2 types: heavy rounded glass or a plastic tub of equal size. For PB addicts like me, it's a shape I tend to zero in on, in anyone's cupboard - whether it be in a movie set or in my home.

I don't buy peanut butter these days since I have an unhealthy relationship with it. OK, to be brutally honest, if I had free reign with a jar of PB (AKA Butter from Heaven), I'd eat myself sick (again). My husband used to think this was funny too.

Recently while at Safeway, my husband bought the luscious stuff, right in front of me (!!!).
I asked him not to. Actually, I pleaded: "Noooooooo! Please don't. It's so hard for me to have that in the house".
"Well, that's not fair to me and I want to have it around for when I crave PB&J sandwiches", he replied. He was right, but my mind was consumed with its presence. I swear it sang to me at night.

If peanut butter had a voice, it would sing like Dean Martin...

I had a tough time being in the kitchen after that. Every time I opened the cupboard for something, the jar's signature silhouette would taunt me.

Ain't That a Kick in the Head?

My husband had to go out of town soon after that grocery run, and I knew I couldn't trust myself overnight when the singing started, nagging and whispering sticky creamy lullaby's, and dissolving my sane eating goals. I was worried that the challenge would be too much for me.

Blue Moon...

Do you know what I did with that jar the day before he flew out? I brought it to work. I figured that if I left it at work, then I would not be tempted by the nuttiness and drive myself nutty in the process.
Well, it worked! I brought the little fellar home that following Monday and wiped the sweat off my brow since I tackled the nut butter test (this time).

I'm not going to lie and tell you it's been all roses since then. I have this strange attraction to peanut and almond butter; almost like a crazy obsession (think Gwen Close and Michael Douglass in Fatal Attraction). I can't recall ever scooping out a petite proper spoonful and relishing it - Nope. I'd grab a kitchen spatula and take that jar over!

And hubbie knows this. He KNOWS how hard it is for me, but I guess he didn't really UNDERSTAND, and there is a big difference between those words. That probably explains why he has thrown PB in the shopping basket a few times (again with me). Is it bizarre to pray that the craving go away?

Let Me Go, Lover!

Last weekend was different. We walked into the store, grabbed what we needed, and got in line. Then my husband said, "I'll be right back. I want peanut butter and jelly for sandwiches", and started to walk off.
My heart sank. Ugh, Will this ever get easier? Must I fight my food triggers all of the time? - I thought to myself.
Then the most amazing thing happened. He came back to my side and said, "Never mind. I know it's hard on you. It's not your fault". And we left the store.
I was so thankful that he did that. I'm an emotional eater if you couldn't already tell, and for now, I need to pick my food battles. That is something I work on daily. One less oily, churned PB assault is a relief.
I think my husband might actually understand my challenges a bit more. I don't feel so much like I am on one side of the chalk line and him on the other. He's next to me now. It's a great feeling.

That's Amore!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

AAAACK 8/12/2011 3:28PM

    There are two other PB packages that might help both you and your helpful hubby. World Mkt (Cost Plus) has little single serving ampoules (ok, I couldn't think of a better descriptive word, but when you see them, you'll understand). They have PB and also have Nutella (yum). Also some regular grocery stores have a new packaging for PB (also almond butter) in a little soft plastic packet, it's a single serving. He could buy one and keep it hidden someplace. And even tho you know it's there, you may not go to it b/c it's a different shape and won't catch your eye, and even if you did take it you'd know you were taking HIS one serving of PB. And if even that didn't stop you...well, at least you'd only be eating one serving b/c it's all that's in the house!

It's so sweet that your husband wants to help, so maybe tell him about the other types to look for? I'm sure he'd play along!

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RYDERB 8/10/2011 12:36AM

    What an imaginative blog! I LOVE it, because it's so true, and it's just funny! You know I can hear Dean Martin singing now. Peanut butter and honey, use to be my biggest weakness, but then I ate it for breakfast, one morning before my training session. Let's just say, big mistake! HUGE! Now I can't stand the smell or even the sight of the jar! emoticon I guess it was a little intervention from above. emoticon I'm glad your husband finally "understands" how hard it is for you. emoticon

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CTUPTON 8/9/2011 8:23AM

    I just gotta think of my trigger food and write a blog like this. You are truly talented in discovering the emotional depths of something. Very enlightening to me!

And the biggest blessing was having your husband understand! Wow!
Thanks! Chris

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1HAPPYWOMAN 8/9/2011 1:59AM

    Isn't it funny how people have different trigger foods? Congratulations for taking that crooning jar of PB to work -- yet another successful strategy! You are making BIG STRIDES, my friend!

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CANNIE50 8/8/2011 11:46PM

    Some women's idea of romance is emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon but this is MY idea of romance (okay, I kind of like the whole flowers and card thing, too). I like the little sacrifices to make the life of our beloved just a bit easier. emoticon emoticon

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JULES-AT-HEART 8/8/2011 11:20PM

    That's great that your husband is starting to understand your issue. It is difficult to live with someone who doesn't need to watch their weight or worry about what types of food they eat.

Good for you for figuring out a way to fight your urges by removing the trigger. =]


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Looked In The Mirror Today

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

I think it's been about 8 months since I really took a good look in the mirror, or at least looked South of my face when applying make-up anyway. I had been so down and depressed about the weight I had gained, the pain I was in emotionally and the chronic pain I struggle with each day.
I remember catching a glimpse of myself in a full length mirror as my husband and I walked past a store a long time ago. I swear, I did not even recognize that the person in the reflection was in fact me. The mental self loathing and bashing immediately climbed on board with the extra weight, and I somehow sentenced myself to 'mirror blindness' from then on.

I don't really like to shop, so it wasn't too hard to avoid the mirror at first, but I kept gaining weight from my emotional eating, and also from the bodily swelling with my disease, so I needed bigger clothes. I HAD to shop.

Personally I felt that the discount stores plotted against me since I went up a size (or 3). I swear I could not find anything for my growing thighs that wasn't already tagged as 'irregular'. I FELT irregular, so why didn't it fit??? I never left with clothes in hand. Sure, I had some great gardenia shower gel in a slightly sticky bottle, and a dusty candle with fingernail marks on top of it (what is that about anyway?), but no jackpot on well-fitting clothing.

Clearly I had to go to department stores. My poor husband would drag me there, taking my hand, leading me to the larger circular racks, and even dive in for me. Bless that man for putting up with my bottom lip pouting and refusal to like anything.
I was angry that we were spending hard earned money to literally cover my a**.

Plus, we all know that only the cruelest people in the world design dressing rooms; detailing each mirrored coffin with oh-so attractive fluorescent lighting, bleeding it's cellulite highlighting rays over my head.
Should I also mention that I am convinced that the same Mean Team of gremlins also build women's restrooms to have too few stalls, and thus, add to the wait time for women of the ENTIRE world?
Sorry, back to the bathroom mirror...

It was common practice for me to face away from the mirror while dressing and undressing, and making sure the door to whatever room I was changing in was tightly closed. If I could have hermetically sealed that sucker, I would have.
Inside I was treading water in the sludge of self loathing, and needing a life preserver, in more ways than you can imagine.

I stumbled onto Spark People and decided to join. I quickly connected with some incredibly supportive Sparklers and Teams. After 4 months, I feel lighter. Not just physically, but emotionally. I can share about my challenges with food and even talk to others about my rare disease - not feeling broken because of them. I have found more strength and support than I thought Imaginable, and am learning so much about myself.
Spark has not only pulled me out of the sticky sludge, but empowered me to take on my inner demons, laugh at myself, and love myself more.

I looked in the mirror while putting on my make-up today. I went to apply the blush brush to my cheeks and didn't have to fake that cheery smile to do it - I WAS smiling. My eyes seemed more focused and present. I took a breath and turned my gaze downwards and thought, 'here we go... deep breath!'

I expected the usual skin buffet of scars & spots, freckles & dots, but this was different.
I looked like a woman.
Big or small, this is ME. I can either turn away from the surgery scars, sun damage and wrinkles as if I were not worthy of self confidence, or I could use the tools before me and honor my body.

I won't be doing the running man in front of the mirror in a bikini, but let's just say that I am not closing the door anymore when I change at home. And I am only getting better...

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

RYDERB 8/5/2011 7:52PM

    Bren, You're so right. This journey is about so much more than just the scale. What an amazing transformation of your spirt! emoticon I'm so happy for you. Who knows, maybe one day much sooner than you think, you'll be doing the "running man" in front of your mirror, in that bikini emoticon

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1HAPPYWOMAN 8/4/2011 12:42AM

    Oh my gosh, it's so wonderful to hear about how you're changing! And what profound changes!! Whoo boy, you're taking big strides in self-acceptance, and that is so powerful and so beautiful.

SparkPeople is a blessing because of the support and the freedom to express ourselves.
And you are a blessing, because of your honesty and your very funny and engaging writing! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings. It's a great gift you're giving us all.

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    You are such a gifted writer Bren. I love your blogs.

And, what a great story. I am proud of you for looking. You are worthy to look at!


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AAAACK 8/3/2011 11:18PM

    This brought tears to my eyes! What a wonderful healing story. So inspiring. Thank you for sharing. You are amazing!

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MOXIEGAL67 8/3/2011 10:45PM

    I know this story like the back of my hand, but what I don't always appreciate are the moments when I get past the self-doubt and self-bashing. Thanks for reminding of what is possible and what I need to be grateful for. emoticon

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CANNIE50 8/3/2011 10:14PM

    Now, THERE is a sparkly goal if ever I heard one: "do running man in front of mirror whilst wearing bikini". There you go - your newest goal. I am so sad to read how badly you used to feel and so happy to read about you letting that go. Your body is being beat up by the monstrous illnesses, it does not need you piling on, missy. It needs TLC and I don't mean the channel (a little "My Strange Addiction, anyone?). Your mirror and your eyes have fallen under the "sparkly spell" - in order to keep the spell in force, you just have to keep signing on to SP (and e-mailing me - pretty sure that is part of it, too). emoticon

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SEMAJEWS 8/3/2011 10:04PM

    Hey, I found your page from the recent blog feed and followed it here! I understand you on the avoiding mirrors and self loathing. It's something hard to get over. But it sounds like you're doing great with it and your right, you will only get better! :)

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One Less Roll! Am I on a roll?!?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Was it the one less California Roll? Perhaps the lack of sushi rolls lately??
Pretend I am a news anchor about to break some rather graphic news. Be sure that your children are away from your computer screen before reading further.
And my apologies in advance, as this all takes place in the women's bathroom at work...

How many of you have willingly put on a pair of nylons in front of your significant other? I don't see one hand raised. Want to know why? I'll tell you, because it is the LEAST ATTRACTIVE THING that I believe anyone can do in front of someone else, even the dog. It's humbling, yet horrifying , all at the same time, right? We put up with a lot as gals, but throw nylons in there, and I suddenly feel like a whining 5 year old. "I don't want to!"

I wear nylons every workday, and over the years have drifted into what feels like a size 'S' if there was such a thing, on that Tetris game looking grid on the back of the cardboard pantyhose package.
Size 'A' was a distant dream from decades ago.
Size 'B', also not part of my reality.
Size 'C' was barely cutting it (or, err, covering it).
Emotionally, I felt like I was a size 'S' for Sumo-Sized.
But for now, let's get back to the bathroom stall:

I went to the restroom to tinkle from all of the water I am consuming these days (gurgle), and did my business. I then performed the usual routine of squatting like a Sumo wrestler and yanking my nylons up and over my belly rolls.
They were noticeably easier to hike up! I looked down and realized that I had one less roll to strap down with my nylons!
Does this mean that the 6 day a week workouts and daily attempts to eat well are actually working??? I was jumping up and down with my virtual pom poms!

If you've read my recent blog about falling off the tootsie roll wagon, basically defining the term 'emotional eating', then you know that I took 1 step forward and 2HUGE steps backwards recently into a puddle of nutella and a wall of carrot cake.
As one of my Spark friends said recently, "it wadn't purdy".

So how is that that just 4 days ago I blew it so badly, and today notice less roll-age? I knew I needed to stop over-thinking the 'why' of it all, and just be happy. Actually, I was overjoyed about the whole pantyhose exercise.
Thank GOD no one else was in the restroom, since I repeated my Sumo Stance over and over again just to make sure that the extra roll had left the building like Elvis.

What ever will I do with that extra room in my hose?
Should I keep the TV remote in there so my husband never gets to watch college football again? (Hmm, enticing thought). Perhaps I should put my reusable grocery bags in there instead of shoving them under my armpit like too many of us do. Oooh, maybe I could keep my sunglasses in there so that I am not digging for them in my purse. Maybe not. I just got a visual of Ben Stiller in Zoolander yanking on his underwear.

I am so happy that my body is rewarding me on the outside for what I am trying to do to the inside. The Sumo Stance Dance was just what I need to stay motivated to workout. Perhaps someday soon I won't need to wear the tri-force-spandex type of nylons that I had committed myself to wrestling with daily, and opt for the less strength pair. What would that be, Size 'CJ' for 'Clean and Jerk Olympic Weight Lifting? : )

I feel like greasing my hair back into a low pony tail, sticking my favorite pair of chop sticks in my short pockets and dusting my hands with baby powder - I am ready to wrestle this weight off, SUMO STYLE!!!


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

RYDERB 7/31/2011 11:08PM

    I definitely have NEVER put a pair of pantyhose on in front of ANYONE! I loved your blog. You're just so funny! Congratulations on your non-scale victory! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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1HAPPYWOMAN 7/31/2011 4:38PM

    You always make me laugh! It's so FABULOUS that you are seeing results from all your hard work! AMAZING! WONDERFUL! Yeah, baby!!!!!!

Seriously, you deserve it! I hope you are so proud of yourself for sticking with it through thick and thin(ner)!!!

emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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CANNIE50 7/31/2011 12:20AM

    emoticon I am cheering on your roll-wrestling. Gotta love those visible results. Lower blood pressure - yawn, better resting heart rate - whatever, less stress on joints - yeah yeah yeah. Less chubbly stuff around the tummy? emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon I am happy for you - it is a relief, isn't it? You have certainly earned it.

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THISYEARSMODEL 7/30/2011 11:21PM

    Congrats and a whoo hoo!

LOL -- Your blog reminds me of an interview with the actress Angela Lansbury I saw years ago: they were asking her the secret of her long-time happy marriage (despite her image and senior citizen status, she and her husband were really hot for each other), and she said "Maintaining a sense of mystery between us. There's no good reason for a husband to ever see his wife stuffing herself into her tights!"

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TTSMARTIN 7/30/2011 10:42PM

    Congratulations on the roll loss! (and I hear yah about the sumo stance - LOL!)

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Until Home Shopping Sells Arms and Legs...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I guess I will need to put up with the misbehaving ones I currently own.
I have a rare disease (Erythromelalgia) amongst other things that attack my body daily. But this one, we'll call it EM for short, is my 'monster'. It's both neuromuscular and neurovascular. It affects my limbs, and makes me feel like I have Tabasco sauce in my veins at numerous times each day. Have you ever wondered what chili sauce feels like on the inside of your body? That's my daily life.

Ice packs are a necessary evil, almost everywhere I go. It's like carrying around a little baby; except it's blue, gel filled, and wet. When those babies (har har) thaw out, I grab ice cold cans of soda if I am desperate. I have had no success with the various drug trials, so I try to eek my way through each day. And when my hands scream out with bright redness and intense swelling, I know that any activities involving my hands, like driving, opening that (now warm) can of soda, or even feeding myself, comes to a halt. When you add in the 25 lbs of depression weight that I gained over the past few years, things get frustrating.

So I just wanted to throw it out there that those home shopping shows should sell new arms and legs. Why not? This would make my life SO MUCH easier! They already sell celebrity hair extensions, fake nails, eye lashes, gel breasts and tans in a can.
Message to HSN: Sell some appendages! I am waving my credit card at you and sending S.O.S. signals with my make up mirror!

It might be a good idea to sell them in pairs too. You know, in case you ruin one and need another. I definitely don't think that selling super snazzy arms and legs (cellulite free of course) in an odd number would be wise. I mean, that's like the whole conundrum with hot dogs: 10 hot dogs per package but only 8 buns - all over again - Augh!

I'd love to pre-order some taut, jiggle free arms with slender fingers, and neatly pushed back cuticles please - sans the painful redness and swelling. Oooh, while we're at it, can my new arms come with the American Sign Language add-on, and perhaps the New York slang hand expressions? I recall secretly being jealous of Rosie Perez in It Could Happen to You for the latter item mentioned...

For the legs, I think they should have calves in a heart shape, tinted with that tan glow, and be completely free of any bumps, spider veins or bruises. Toes should look like cute little peanuts, and always soft. My add-on here would be the optional Kung-Fu kick when needed. Oh yes, and perhaps throw in that silly hat trick of being able to pick up pennies with my toes...

You see, losing weight is challenging enough; spiritually, emotionally, physically. When you factor in a rare disease that seems to just wreak havoc on my goal to get into my clothes from a few years back, the burden seems too great at times.
Although I cannot imagine a day without my chronic pain - wringing out my motivational well until there are only drops left - I won't allow myself to throw in the towel on my diseased arms and legs.
You see, I was a healthy and active gal until about 7 years ago. I clearly remember what my hands and feet looked like before my EM attacked. I remember beautiful high heeled shoes and sparkly costume jewelry rings. And I want them back fiercely - the sparkles too!

So until some factory in Timbuktu hope on board with shipments of bubble wrapped appendages to fulfill at least 1 person's custom order, I will need to make nice with my disease; and do what I can to workout, as often as possible. I will rest when my disease tells me "no", but realize that the "no" only means, "not now". I should continue to eat right, workout when my pain is low, and be thankful for those drippy ice packs to calm some of the fire.
I truly believe that I will learn form my EM, and that great success, even in weight loss, can come from the challenges before us.

Of course, you know where to find me if you happen to wander on by the shopping channel and see those little items I secretly dream of...

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

RASMUSSEN5 7/28/2011 9:13AM

    I had never heard of this...love your sense of humor!

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AAAACK 7/27/2011 1:16AM

    I love your sense of humor! You have such a light touch with words that they pack a great motivational punch.

On another note, have you seen techni-ice? It stays cold for so much longer than traditional ice packs. You could put them in a small insulated lunch bag, they can be cut into quite small cubes, too, so not as much bulk. You just have to use a plastic bag around them b/c as they thaw they are a little bit slimy. You probably also couldn't put them directly on your skin for long - use towel in-between or even shirt or pants, but it could allow you to last a bit longer without having to seek new sources of chill. (My kid has an eating disorder so I have to bring his food everywhere, and these things have allowed us to last much longer than we used to at amusement parks and the like.)

Your courage and humor are so awesome - thanks for sharing!

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PURESTILLWATER 7/27/2011 12:08AM

    Wow, I have never heard of this. It sounds absolutely horrible.

On a positive, you have quite a talent in writing. This blog was fantastic!

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CANNIE50 7/26/2011 10:41PM

    oh, honey, you know my heart aches for you. I have told you before, you pretty much wipe out any excuse I may ever have for not working out. I pray for your cure, for you to be delivered from this pain. In the meantime, I will do my tiny part to distract you from the fire in your veins, and I will offer up gratitude for my very non-perfect appendages. Bless you Miss Bren. oxox ps this emoticon is for you.

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