Monday, 16 January 2017

My Word for 2017: HEALTH

From October 6th to the 21st in the Fall of 2016, I was in the hospital. My proctitis had flared up and I became really sick. I became anemic, could barely eat, and lost weight. I basically felt like I couldn't do anything anymore because of such a lack of energy and I was getting to a point where I felt depressed. I was not in a good place. I went to several doctor's appointments and I went to emerg at the hospital twice. I was put on medication but it wasn't working like it should. My family doctor, along with the gastroenterologist that was filling in for my usual gastroenterologist, decided that it would be best if I was admitted to the hospital so that they could do some tests to figure out what was going on.

The day after I was admitted to the hospital, I went for a colonoscopy and it showed that the inflammation that had stayed put at the end of my colon for almost five years had spread to the rest of my colon. I remember hearing the gastroenterologist say "no wonder you're sick." I didn't have proctitis anymore. Now I had ulcerative pancolitis which basically means that there is ulcerative colitis in the entire colon.

I was on fluids and an IV form of prednisone. Once they took me off of that, I was on some pills. I was getting better but it was very slow. At one point, my hemoglobin went low (it dropped to 71) and I had to get a blood transfusion. Through the slow progress in the improvement of my health and the fact that I had to get a blood transfusion, the gastroenterologist said that my body was not responding well enough to the usual medications and I had my first dose of Remicade two days after my blood transfusion. Remicade is a biologic drug which is taken through an IV and it is basically the strongest drug for ulcerative colitis. I now have to receive it every two months, basically for the rest of my life since it is the kind of medication that you have to continue to receive in order for it to continue working. If Remicade failed, then I would have to get my colon removed.

Staying in the hospital was a scary experience for me. I had never stayed overnight in a hospital before and it didn't help that needles freak me out and I had to get IVs put in several times along with blood tests every day. I also got really depressed, which was possibly due to side effects from the medication, so my mood and my thoughts were really messed up. Also, I had to deal with the fact that my chronic illness had now become way worse than it used to be. I cried a lot and my parents took turns staying with me overnight for most of the nights because I would sometimes wake up all freaked out or I would wake up in the morning feeling really scared and alone. It was awful.

It wasn't easy once I got home either. There was so much information along with appointments and paying close attention to my body while it was still healing. I got really overwhelmed. So, I did something that always helps me when I'm overwhelmed by too many things. I organized! I put all of the information into a binder and split everything up into categories using dividers. Some of the things that I have in my colitis binder include a page for important phone numbers, calendars for keeping track of appointments and medication schedules, medication information, diet information, etc. Having everything organized nicely in one place rather than just having  pile of pages helped so much! My brain didn't feel so scattered anymore. Another thing that I did was make sure to keep on top of phone calls that had to be made and appointments that I had to go to. I made sure to get things done right away instead of putting them off until later.

Fast forward to now, over two months later, and my colitis is much better than it was before but my body still has some more healing to do. I have had a total of three Remicade infusions so far with my fourth one coming up next week. My colitis started improving a lot the day after my first Remicade infusion in the hospital but the other Remicade infusions seem to only make it improve a little bit more rather than a lot more. I guess I'm still lucky though to have it work as fast as it did because it can take several infusions for some people before they start to see any improvements at all. So, maybe the Remicade still hasn't kicked in entirely for me yet. It is definitely working though, because I'm not getting sick again like I did before.

Having said all of that, it was easy to choose my word for this new year. My word for 2017 is HEALTH. Even though my health has greatly improved, there is still more healing to do. Also, I need to pay more attention to my body now since my colitis spread to the rest of my colon. I need to focus on my mental health as well since living with a chronic illness, especially when it is considered severe since I am on the strongest medication for it, can be difficult and can really affect how you feel. I hope that by the end of this year my colitis will be completely under control thanks to the Remicade and that I can say that I chose the perfect word.


Friday, 8 July 2016

Finding Inner Peace Before Outer Peace

During the time that I've spent facing my personal challenges and figuring out how to deal with them, I came to a realization about peace. It came to me as a question: How can I want the world to be at peace if I'm not even at peace with myself? Seeing all of the bad things that have been happening in the world within  the past few years (and even longer than that), I have wondered what it's going to take for the world to be peaceful. Of course, you can hope for peace or you can create it, one little step at a time. However, you need to find inner peace first. How can you speak of peace if you haven't even found peace within you? If you haven't learned to control your own challenges? If you are going through tough times? Maybe spreading peace in the world will help you with your inner peace but shouldn't you focus on your inner peace before outer peace? Shouldn't you find peace within yourself? Shouldn't you learn to be at peace with yourself? Shouldn't you create peace within yourself?

Sure, you can smile and pretend that everything is okay while you try to spread peace and help other people but all that you'll be doing is wearing a mask if you don't address what you're going through and do something about it. Wouldn't you like to be at peace before you start spreading peace? It's just like that idea of self-love: How can you love other people if you don't even love yourself? By finding inner peace, we learn how to be peaceful and I think that's the first step to making the world peaceful. Be a peaceful person. Show peace. Feel peace. Be peace. Then you can create peace outside of yourself.

Now, I admit that I still have some work to do on myself. I want peace in the world but I am still in the process of finding peace within myself. Writing this post, I felt like maybe I am not qualified to write it since I am still in the process of doing exactly what I say should be done. But then again, I need to write this to get these ideas out and start acting on them. I need to address the fact that I am still working on finding inner peace so that I can begin to find inner peace. And then I can work on taking steps to do my part in making the world a more peaceful place.

My problem is that I bottle up a lot. I bottle up emotions, thoughts, worries, and fear. I bottle them up until I finally just break down. My mind is not always at peace. It's a crazy storm that just keeps going, as well as growing bigger. It makes it hard to concentrate. It makes it hard to relax. If I address what I'm feeling and learn how to deal with it in a healthy way, then I'll be able to focus on other things. I could try to focus on other things but it would only be temporary. My restless mind will just be there waiting for me to get back after the distraction.

People find peace in various ways. Meditation, yoga, belief systems, art, and music are just some of the ways that people relax and deal with whatever life throws at them. Our mind can be both our best friend and our greatest enemy. It can pick us up or it can throw us down. We need to learn how to control it. We need to use it to our advantage. We need to use it to make ourselves better people and make the world a better place. We need to remember to keep working on it and then, someday, we will feel enough inner peace to be able to spread our peace further out into the world.

Wishing you peace,

Thursday, 7 July 2016

The Big Blog Question: What Do I Blog About?

Sometimes blogging becomes difficult. It becomes difficult because you, as a blogger, suddenly face a big blog question once again: What do I blog about? You first face that question when you create your blog and as you start to blog. It comes more easily to some people than others. Sometimes people know exactly what they want to blog about and they have a vast knowledge of the subject so blog posts just flow from their brains and through their fingers as they type. For others, it is a tougher question to answer.

It might be a tough decision to make because the blogger just doesn't know what they are good at or interested in. Or maybe they like so many things and can't decide which things to choose to blog about. Or maybe they feel that they don't have enough knowledge about the things that they like to actually be able to blog about them. Or maybe they are scared about what other people will think about their blog posts and are therefore afraid to blog about certain things. Or maybe they are perfectionists and they feel that they just won't do a good enough job blogging about certain subjects. The list goes on and on.

For me, it is definitely a tough decision to make because I love so many things. I am fascinated by and enjoy learning about so many subjects! I love doing so many things! I love making so many things! I love talking and writing about so many things! You get the idea... I am simply all over the place when it comes to living my life. I always have something to learn about or do. So you can see how it would be difficult for me to figure out what to blog about. I get worried that my blog will be too all over the place or sometimes there's just so many things that I want to blog about that I don't know where to start or even how to start. I have a list full of blog post drafts that only have a title that describes what the blog post would be about but nothing else. No outline. No text. No further explanation. No photos. No links. No labels/tags. Just the title. Because it's something that I want to blog about in the future but I just don't feel like writing that particular post right now or I just don't have an idea yet of what exactly I want to say.

I didn't even know exactly what I wanted to say in this blog post. Do I simply want to state the fact that I've struggled with this problem? Do I want to let other bloggers know that they're not alone if they have this problem too? Do I want to share tips on how to work through this problem? Or, do I  use this post to figure out a plan for tackling this problem that I have? How about I do all those things! After all, I've pretty much covered the first two already. Now onto the next two!

I'll start by making a list of the categories of all of the things that I love and enjoy doing/learning about/talking about (in no particular order):
  • Books and reading
  • Writing
  • Music
  • Arts and crafts
  • Photography
  • Cooking and baking
  • Health
  • Movies and TV shows
  • Nature
  • Outdoor activities
  • Animals and pets
  • Travel
  • History
  • Living a positive life
  • Frugal living

Ok, so I have a basic list of categories. Now I can add more detail! I can add lists to each of the categories. In each list, I can put the specific things that I like that fall within that category:
  • Books and reading: graphic novels/comic books, novels, short stories, poems, information/educational books
  • Writing: blog posts, pen pal letters, poems, stories
  • Music: playing piano, playing flute, singing, listening to music
  • Arts and crafts: drawing, watercolours, origami, loom knitting, making dreamcatchers
  • Photography: photographing... pets, my brother, nature
  • Cooking and baking: cooking with lots of vegetables, healthy cooking, baking cookies
  • Health: healthy eating, exercise, mental health
  • Movies and TV shows: way too many to list (hehe) but I enjoy talking about them and noticing things (especially since I took a screenwriting class when I was in university and can never watch a movie or tv show the same way ever again)
  • Nature: environmentalism, trees, plants, animals, landscapes
  • Outdoor activities: Geocaching, gardening, camping, hiking, walking, biking, swimming, exploring
  • Animals and pets: my dog and bunny and fish, birds... especially chickadees, bunnies
  • Travel: in Canada, in the U.S.A., in Europe, visiting museums, visiting landmarks
  • History: 1920s, early Canadian settlers, my own genealogy
  • Living a positive life: gratitude, self-love, happiness
  • Frugal living: natural DIY products, environmentalism, simple ways to save money

Now I can put certain categories together and place them under larger, more inclusive categories:
  • Arts: Writing, Music, Art, Crafts, Photography
  • Entertainment: Books, Reading, Music, Movies, TV Shows
  • Nature: Environment, Outdoors Activities, Animals
  • Living: Positive Life, Frugal Living, Health, Cooking and Baking, Travel, Pets
  • Learning: Books, Reading, History, Travel

I could now choose one of the above five categories to blog about. I could even choose one of the categories from my larger list. Some bloggers will choose to do this and it would definitely make for a more focused blog. Do you want to have a blog of DIYs? Recipes? Helpful tips? Educational information? Reviews? What category would you like to blog about? What parts of that category would you like to blog about? If someone wants to know specific information or is interested in a specific topic, they might come across your blog and find it to be very helpful and handy. Maybe they like the same thing as you. Maybe they'd simply like to learn more about something. Maybe they have a certain obsession. Having a blog that focuses on 1-3 specific topics/subjects can be very attractive to blog readers.

I, however, want to blog about all of those things that I'm interested in. Some people might think, well why did you do all of that work when you were never going to choose just one category. Why did you have to write down all of the things that you're interested in? Don't you already know all of the things that you're interested in? Well, I was actually thinking the same thing. I wondered why I did this exercise when I was still just going to choose to blog about all sorts of things. This exercise can still help me because now I have more of an idea of the specific things that I would like to blog about. I have a list of categories and the things that I like that fall under those categories. My interests are now organized. If I ever get stuck or need help with ideas for a blog post or ideas for what exactly to talk about in a blog post that falls within a certain category, I can refer back to these lists.

I guess you can say that my blog is like a journal for me. I write about the things that I like and feel passionate about. Except in this case, I'm sharing my words with a public audience and I also sometimes have to include information that I might not include in a journal. Like knowledge that I already know but that my audience might not know. Or website links. Or links back to other "entries." And then there's always information that I would write in a journal that I would not put online. Personal information that I don't feel like sharing or maybe should not be shared.

So here's my blog and, I guess, here's my life. You get a glimpse into it. I always like blogs where the bloggers share bits and pieces of their life and interests. There are more stories. More passion. More heart. The posts ooze with sincerity and authenticity. You don't get to see only one topic. You don't get to see only one part of my life. You get all sorts of different parts of it. You get all sorts of different knowledge and stories. Because that's the way that our lives are. We have lots of different interests. We have lots of different paths that we walk. We use our time on Earth to do so many things, to truly live! And I want to blog about it!


Wednesday, 6 July 2016

A Place To Go During Meditation

You may have listened to recorded meditations that suggested imagining a place in which you could meditate. Maybe it even walked you through a visualization in which you were told to imagine a certain setting, certain sounds, certain weather, etc. In this case, you already know what I'm talking about when I say that it can be very beneficial to imagine yourself meditating in a relaxing setting completely different from the one that you're in. Maybe this is just an entirely new concept to you. That's fine too.

If I were to choose a place to imagine myself meditating in, I would choose the lounge of Killarney View House, a bed and breakfast in Killarney, Ireland. You may remember that I have mentioned the peat-fed fire at Killarney View House before. My family and I stayed in this bed and breakfast for a few nights while we were in Killarney and the rooms were fine but what impressed me the most were the public spaces in the building like the entrance with the front desk and a table with flowers, the breakfast dining room, and the front porch. It was even fun just to walk down the nice hallways. The lounge, however, was my favourite place there.

There were couches, tables, and pretty decor. There was a door that led out onto the front porch but it was too wet to go out and sit there during our stay. The large windows looked out over the river and there were drinks like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate available along with yummy cookies. In the evening, the staff would light the fireplace and feed it with peat, dried bricks of interesting soil that are well-known in Ireland.

I didn't take any photos of the room at night but let me just tell you that it was cozy and magical. I loved spending time there in the evenings. If I ever go back to Killarney, Ireland, I would definitely stay at Killarney View House just because of the lounge.

I didn't actually meditate in the lounge while I was there but that doesn't mean that I can't imagine myself meditating there! It was such a beautiful and relaxing place and I always think back to it with fondness and remembrance. When imagining yourself meditating somewhere, it doesn't actually have to be a place where you have been or seen before. It can be a place completely created from your imagination. Whether it exists in real life or in your imagination, it is important to not only imagine what it looks like but to also engage all of your senses when thinking of it. What sounds are there? What smells are there? What do you feel around you? Make it real in your mind and enjoy a blissful meditation!

Where do you go in your mind when you meditate? Or do you just choose to stay where you are?


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Our Flowering Crabapple Tree

The property that my family and I live on, along with the house, pool, garden, and everything else on this land, belonged to my grandparents on my mother's side. When my grandparents were still alive, my grandma once received a flowering crabapple tree in the mail from Quebec. She hadn't ordered it. It was a bit of a mystery. She planted it in the yard and it ended up growing into this big beautiful tree that grows gorgeous blossoms every year.

It used to grow blossoms all over it when it was younger but now it only grows blossoms on one half of it. We had some family portraits taken beside it when I was younger, back in its days of looking like a big snowball. The tree has spread to grow another tree right beside it and that one leans and sort of acts like an umbrella. I'd like to put a small table and chairs underneath it someday.

When it blossoms in the Spring, the flowers first grow as little pink and magenta balls until they start to open and they turn white. It's a really beautiful sight and I love clipping some of the branches to put in vases inside the house, especially if some of the blossoms on the clippings haven't opened yet and can open in the house.

There's usually a lot of bees around the tree when it flowers so I get a bit scared when going near the tree since I have a severe phobia of bees, hornets, and wasps. I'm thankful for the bees though (I love honey!) and I'm glad that this tree provides for them.

This tree is so lovely and the mystery behind it only makes it lovelier. It only blossoms for a certain amount of time in the Spring though, so we have to enjoy it while it lasts.

This tree is really a very magical sight and I'm so glad that it's in our yard. I don't know if this tree being sent to my grandma was a mistake but I like to think that it was destiny. I like to believe that my grandma was meant to receive this dreamy tree and that it was meant to be here.

The garden decoration that I bought at the Sudbury Gardening Festival this year looked perfect in the crabapple tree while it was blooming!

We have a little garden area set up underneath the crabapple tree. We have a bench, a swing, a birdbath, various garden decorations on the ground and hanging in the surrounding trees, as well as a few plants that grow well in the shade. We call it our "zen garden" even though real zen gardens look completely different.

The area looks so pretty when the petals from the blossoms fall on the ground. It's like Springtime snow!

Thanks for letting me show you this magnificent tree!