A Day In The Life…Of A THRIVER


I have to tell you about my day.

I went to brunch with a new friend. I am forcing myself to get out more because being home all the time just isn’t for me. I’d dare say it’s not for most people and I know how much more complicated getting out with fibro can be. I am here to tell you: JUST DO IT ANYWAY!! I had a great time.

Health came up. My new friend knows I have fibro and more and she didn’t treat me like a leper.

In fact, she has the same thyroid disease as me so we talked about how hard it can be. But, we also talked about our families, life, dating/men/husbands (she’s single, I’m married), and our hair. Girl talk.

Then she said something to me that I have never heard and that is what I really want to share with you.

She said, “You look so healthy…Your skin looks so healthy.”

Healthy? Me?

She used to work in a dermatologists office so she is really tuned into people’s complexions and how they reveal their health.

It was so shocking to hear. I thought, for a second, about arguing with her about how makeup is hiding decades of acne scars but instead I took a deep breath and said thank you. I also meant it.

Part of why my skin looks healthy is one of the tiny little things I do for myself to remind myself I still do matter is take care of my skin. It takes me less than five minutes a day plus a once-in-a-while pampering facial at home.

I know so many of us talk about how much fibro changes us. Friends, fellow THRIVERS, I am here to tell you there is precisely zero requirement for you to look the part.

Yes, there are days where the pain is written all over your face and body.  They certainly happen to me more often than I would like.  But how I THRIVE is deciding what I am doing with the rest of my time.

What about your other days?

What about the two seconds in the shower you could use to gently exfoliate your skin?

What about making sure you use a good moisturizer and sunscreen?

What about loving yourself enough over, under, around, and through the pain to find a way to work any of this into your day?

But, do you want to know why this was especially special to me?

Last week was health hell. My thyroid’s freaking out again and my doctor was worried I had cancer. My son totaled his car with his brother in it and both of them walked away with just a couple of bruises. I was a tear-filled, pain-up, barely functioning mess. But, I washed my face and used my moisturizer even on the days I couldn’t move.

Today I looked…and felt healthy. No, that doesn’t mean I was pain-free or normal. I just mean I didn’t feel bogged down with sickness and pain.

I went out. I had a great time.

I also came home and took a nap. My back’s a little tight from the quirky seating but if I focus on that I might be too afraid to go do it again.

I do not live in fear of fibro. I THRIVE!!!

PS…You can too 🙂

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Nurturing in Nine Easy Steps (The Hard Part Is Deciding You’re Worth It)


The prompt for this #1000Speak post is nurturing.  When I first saw it, I thought, “Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy.”  And then the blank page began to mock me.  Oh not because I’m not a nurture-er but because I started thinking about how hard it was for me to cultivate that skill.

You see I used to feel I was not worthy.  For a long, long time–too long–I did not feel okay using my own energy on myself.

Lame.  Super lame.

But, I can only say that now that I’ve been through it.  In the moment, it felt so wrong to carve out some time for myself even if it was just to make sure I had enough to give everyone else in my life.

As I let myself remember how un-self-nurturing I used to be, I tried to put a time span on my journey through recovery.  I can’t.  And because I can’t give you step by step instructions on how I learned to be a nurture-er I was stuck to write about it.

This morning I decided I needed a quote to give me a good kick-start.

It was a noble idea.

I scrolled through several hundred quotes about nurturing our inner child, comparing the process of nurturing to gardening, of giving our talents the attention they require, and how it is Godly or Divine to nurture others (and a few about nurturing ourselves).

Blah, blah, blah.

And that’s when I decided you are probably a lot like me and looking for more than just an abstract quote.  You need real, functional, actionable things to do….but I’m also going to give you the cute little quote memes because if you’re anything like me sometimes you just need to look at the pictures.

Oh yes, that is where it’s at.

If you’re like I was and just starting on the path to nurturing yourself you need ideas.

Here you go:

  1.  Repeat, “I am worth the effort” a zillion times until you really feel it.  This can take a day or a lifetime and only you can decide how long it is going to take for it to get through that beautiful head of yours that you are worth the effort.  Use a quote or a poem or even song lyrics but make them inspiring.  Get in the habit of telling yourself it is okay to nurture yourself.  No one is going to do it for you.Worth
  2. Start small; find just one thing and repeat it daily while you’re getting used to treating yourself with all the love and compassion you try to extend to others.  When I started my journey, my husband left me and our kids for another woman–his cousin, actually–so I was feeling pretty low and not at all pretty.  It lead me to pick the color pink.  Pink is feminine.  Pink is a womanly symbol.  I also hated pink (those of you who know me now are probably stunned to learn I once hated the color).  Pink it was.  My mission: To wear it every single day until I felt worthy, feminine, and beautiful.  It meant I had to go shopping because at the time I did not own a single stitch of pink clothing.  For the days I didn’t want to be caught dead in pink–and there were many in the beginning–I picked up nail polish for my toes and Sharpies to draw a little heart or flower on some patch of hidden skin.  This small gesture to myself actually became more powerful than I have words to explain.Great Start
  3. Feed yourself.  This means in every way.  Eat good food.  Listen to good music (whatever lights you up).  Inspire yourself (with quotes, scripture, books, art).  Exercise body, mind, and soul with goodness and light.  Yeah I know that sounds a little woo, woo new agey but you cannot nurture yourself standing on ugly ground.  You have to take the time and make the space to fill yourself with goodness, light, and beauty.  Get over it and just do it.Ego Spirit
  4. Do good things.  Wait how is doing good things for others nurturing yourself?  Try it.  When you’re feeling low and not sure you’re worth it go make someone else’s day and just watch what happens to your own spirit.  It reminds of that scene in Castaway when Tom Hanks’ character starts freaking out because he made fire.  Okay, maybe not at first.  Maybe at first it will feel foreign or awkward but that is because you’re not used to hearing the “Thank You’s” that are going to come your way.  As mothers, as women we serve all the time and often without thank you’s so this becomes your chance to put yourself in place to hear, “Thank You.”  About 10 years ago, I brought a newly single woman a flower on Valentine’s Day.  From time to time, she still drops me a little note to say “Thank You” and a good bit of the time it is when my own well is dry and I need to remember I am worth the effort.  It is okay to serve and be thanked.  Those who do not thank you do not know how or maybe they’re just selfish jerks but this is about you so go find some appreciation.  Gratitude and nurturing go hand in hand.Gratitude
  5. Resolve to treat yourself as nicely as your car.  Sounds weird, right?  But answer this one question for yourself–How often do you let your car run out of gas, oil, transmission or even washer fluid?  Not often, I hope.  So when your car is running on empty you take swift action to avoid disaster, right?  And now you’re really going to sit there and try to convince yourself you do not have time to give your own body, mind, and soul the same attention.  Please, sister, please for the love of all the light of your soul please love yourself as much as a car.  Refuel often!  With what?  Whatever lights you up!!!  If you don’t know, take some time and figure it out.  You have to or you’re going to keep running on empty.  One of my early treats to myself was a simple cranberry mandarin orange candle.  It cost me all of a dollar but every time I lit it and took in the fragrance and remember I bought it just for me, just because I loved it no matter what was going on in my world I felt better–including during a conference call with my soon-to-be ex-husband and our court-appointed mediator.  That dollar candle accomplished more than years of therapy.  That was almost 15 years ago and I still have one sitting on my desk right now.Big Bang Check Engine Light
  6. Be patient with yourself.  This is not one of those bicycle moments–you’re not going to learn it and then always remember it.  Life is going to happen.  You are going to forget.  Know this now so when it does happen you won’t beat yourself up about it.  You know what to do now.  Just get back to it.  Let the process flow.Be Patient With Yourself
  7. Sign a “No Bullying” pledge with yourself.  This goes hand-in-hand with being patient but for me it is not the same thing.  I can be patient but I can still be a real bitch to myself sometimes.  If I’m basking in the glow of my favorite candle while trying on clothes and calling myself “a cow” I’m only part-timing my nurturing.  Watch that self-talk.  Don’t bully yourself into feeling like you are not worth it even if you really don’t love your thighs.Mind Body Bully
  8. Learn to say “No” when you really want to.  If there’s one disease that affects all women it is saying “Yes” when we really mean “NO!”  We feel we need to give every last drop of ourselves.  It’s crazy and it has to stop.  We’re a bunch of depleted shells of what we could be if we would just learn to draw the right lines around our time and energy.  Yeah, that means learning say “NO!” will actually give your more time, light, peace, love, energy, and happiness.  I thought it was crazy too until I tried it.  Please trust me.Learn to Say No
  9. Repeat often.  Schedule it, if you have to.  Make nurturing yourself your priority.  As you walk this path, you will begin to recognize when you need a good recharge.  You will get to the point when you can slam on the brakes of your life and bask in whatever you’ve decided brings you those feelings of peace and serenity.Who Were You Before You Put Yourself Last

Cruising with Fibromyalgia–The Wrap Up


I’m a SoCal girl born and bred and for the first time in my life the sights of L.A. on this particular morning failed to light me up.  In fact, I cried–not good tears either.  There was also no sunrise thanks the abundance of smog.

It’s been three weeks since we were on the ship and we have not stopped talking about it.  Everyday.  Tonight, while watching Hawaii Five-O my husband said, “You know…I could go for those Pacific breezes right about now.”  This is significant when you understand he’s never been interested in going to Hawaii.  When he says, “You know…maybe I could go there now,” it’s pretty huge.

Cruising did that.

I’m calling it a miracle.

Miracles aside…

I was pleasantly surprised by how many disabled people were on the ship.  There were more than a dozen in scooters and at least three times that many with walkers or canes.  In a population of 3,000, it’s fairly significant to notice more than 10-percent of the people on the ship had visible disabilities.  As we all know at least that many more were dealing with invisible illnesses.

Personally, I was also wonderfully surprised how well my fibro behaved.  As I thought about it though, stable temperatures and stable humidity make fibro bodies super happy.  As I’ve written this series several people have commented here or on Facebook with similar experiences.  Tonight, I hurt like hell so of course I am missing the peace and calm of my week at sea.  I’m also really missing that bed!

Friends if you’ve been following me for longer than five minutes you know how I advocate for THRIVING life with fibromyalgia.  So I have to say very plainly: TAKE THAT VACATION!!!  Land or sea, just do it!  Please.  For the love of your life, just build yourself up to it and go have fun for heaven’s sakes.

Please do not lose yourself, your zeal to this obnoxious disease.

Now that I have experienced a cruise I absolutely know going from our normal fibro world to the sea would be a colossal mistake.  I would not want to attempt a cruise, or similar vacation, without that preparation however.  I have seen many a fibro make that mistake and it never ends well.  I say I was pleasantly surprised by how well my body responded but the truth is I trained for this.  My months of preparation absolutely paid off.

I was watching one of Oprah’s Master Classes this morning and she said, “There is no luck.  What we call luck is the moment where preparation meets opportunity.”

We may have to work harder and be more creative than normal folk but friends it is so worth it.  Prepare.  Go.  I did not have a good time because I was lucky.  I had a good time because I was ready.

Dare to cruise.

Prepare to have a good time.

You have to do both if you expect to THRIVE the experience.

Until we met again…

My heart is out there somewhere...
My heart is out there somewhere…

Cruising with Fibromyalgia–Day Six and the Formal Dinner


It’s our last full day on ship and my heart is begging for more.  I have been all over the country but I have never been touched to my very soul the way this cruise touched me.  One of the advertising taglines Princess Cruises currently uses is “Come Back New,” and I did.  Thank you.

This is another missed sunrise.  I was exhausted and we were riding into a storm so my sleep was interrupted multiple times during the night so I have no sunrise to share.

Now one thing to note is when you’re heading to Mexico the ship moves at about 15-17 kph (knots per hour) on the way home 20-24 kph.  This means more movement.  When there’s also a storm, there’s even more.  This is the first day that didn’t feel so pleasant.  Not only were we moving faster there was wind.  Lots and lots of wind.  Like 40mph wind.  After my swimming triumph on Wednesday I wanted to go again but considering the wind I stayed in my cabin and doodled instead.

I'm calling this one "Sailboats and Villas"
I’m calling this one “Sailboats and Villas”

I also realized I failed to tell you that we won this cruise in a radio contest.  The sponsoring travel agency also gave us a pass to the formal restaurant.  When we arrived on board our reservation was for one of the formal dining evenings which also happened to be the same day we would go whale watching.  I wisely changed the reservation to our last night on ship.

But first the dolphins treated us to one final show…

See them jumping in the center!
See them jumping in the center!

The storm did not give us a blazing sunset but it did do something spectacular…

The heavens marked the spot!
The heavens marked the spot!

You need to understand my man is a burger and fries sort of dude.  Jeans and t-shirts both likely with holes from how hard he works are the bulk of his wardrobe.  In other words, he’s not the formal dining sort of man.  I am a foodie.  Flavors and textures with funky salts are more my speed.  I was in heaven and he was my reluctant companion.  He ordered a steak and fries–with garlic herb seasoning that he thought was awful.  I was seared scallops, Jack Daniels Bleu Cheese French Onion soup (oh yesssssss), a baked potato with volcanic salt, and LOBSTER, and a quartet of mini desserts.  Honestly it was work to really savor those flavors with Captain Sour Puss sitting across from me.  But even now as I type the memory of that lemon buttered lobster is making me salivate!

While the meal was nice, the moments before were better.  A very nice man stopped us and said, “You two look beautiful together…Let me take your picture.”  His gesture touched me so that when I found him the next day as we were disembarking there were tears in my eyes as I thanked him.  I never got his name but I will never forget his face or the kindness.

IMG_7810We will cruise again.  My hubs now wants to go back to school to study oceanography.  And, we’re dreaming of a whole week in Cabo San Lucas and spending our next anniversary whale watching at Dana Harbor in Long Beach.  Come Back New.  I know I did.  But, the degree to which my sweet man is now obsessed with the sea is the very best moment of the whole experience because it will endure our whole lives.  Princess Cruises, thank you.  Thank you for a wonderful vacation.

Cruising with Fibromyalgia–Cabo San Lucas


It’s whale watching!!!

I could stop right there, right?

But in case you’ve decided you want this experience too, I want to share what I learned.

After the sunrise…

I have never wanted the world to hurry and wake up like I did today!
I have never wanted the world to hurry and wake up like I did today!

First of all getting off the ship is A LOT of hurry up and wait.  It’s right here in this moment that any sadness I had about not getting off the ship in Mazatlan disappeared.  I am glad I’d saved my strength.

In Cabo San Lucas, the cruise ships anchor in the harbor so you have to take a tender to shore.  A tender is a small boat.

The is a lifeboat which also serves as a tender to shore.
The is a lifeboat which also serves as a tender to shore.

You have to step from the bobbing platform to a bobbing boat.  This is when I felt very glad for all the times we’ve been in the mountains and I’ve walked over rocks.  In all honesty, my gait is stronger on rocks than on dry land so for me it wasn’t too bad.  I loved being on the little boat zooming across the harbor.  My husband who’s never been in a small boat was a little unsettled.

From the dock we made our way to our whale watching boat.  We picked the larger boat and after seeing the smaller ones it was also an excellent choice.

In minutes we were cruising past our ship, El Arco, and out into the Sea of Cortez.

Nice timing!
Nice timing!

We were in position less than10 minutes before a momma grey whale and her calf made their appearance.

On the left the momma is spy hopping and on the right the baby is practicing diving.
On the left the momma is spy hopping and on the right the baby is practicing diving.
Just a breath...
Just a breath…

It was by far one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  She and her calf continued to frolic for our entire tour.  In two and a half hours, I took over 600–6-0-0–photos.  Thank goodness for a camera with continuous drive!!!

My hubs, who’s never spent much time near the ocean, is now addicted to the sea.  In this, I am not disappointed.  Even before we reached shore we decided we were coming back to Cabo San Lucas.  There’s a spirit there.  Pure magic!

Back on the docks we had just enough time to snag a couple of souvenirs before getting back on the ship.  That we did not have more time for street tacos and sightseeing was my only regret.  We did however see all manner of tropical fish while we moving along the docks.

IMG_7413 IMG_7419 IMG_7414 IMG_7408

It was like “Finding Nemo” right before my eyes!

The tender back to the ship was not as calm as the earlier one.  My poor man was just a wee bit unsettled that the wake was rising above his head.  I was thrilled.

But I snapped my Brown Pelican!!!!!  Look at him isn’t he gorgeous!

Just in love with these creatures!
Just in love with these creatures!

Back on the ship, we floated all the way to our room and straight out to the balcony.

Once underway, we didn’t have to wait long for another whale show.  A pod of twenty, what appeared to be blue whales, were off the portside (our side).  Even at the distance, hubs says is two miles but I don’t think it can be that far knowing the limits of my lens, the show was amazing!!

See that splash!!!  That's the papa whale showing off for the ladies.  We watching him do this about 100 times (seriously I have 324 pictures just of this pod of whales).
See that splash!!! That’s the papa whale showing off for the ladies. We watching him do this about 100 times (seriously I have 324 pictures just of this pod of whales).

And then the sunset…

Here the hiss...
Here the hiss…

Life has perfect days.  Today was one.

One of the happiest moments of my life...
One of the happiest moments of my life…

Cruising with Fibromyalgia–Day Four


If you haven’t read Day Three, I would encourage you to go back and read because it sets the scene for today.

But first, the sunrise…I missed it.

Why?

Yesterday wiped me out.  Not just physically but emotionally too.

I was so stinkin’ mad at my hubs I could have thrown him overboard.  Right now I wished I would have kept a journal to be more raw with you but I didn’t.  We’ve since talked a lot and I do understand better about his freak out.  But, in the moment…not so much.

So here I am grumpy about him being a grump, sore from walking with swollen feet and ankles; and feeling a little bit resentful toward my body.

Before we left home we decided we were not going to an excursion in Mazatlan so I could be well-rested for Cabo San Lucas.  It’s a totally fibro smart thing to do.  However, under the circumstances I wanted off that ship.  I wanted physical distance between me and my hubs.

But there we were hanging over the rail of the ship staring.  I was glaring.  Just taking pictures and glaring.

That's a coconut plantation!!!  I so wished I could fly so I could go see it.
That’s a coconut plantation!!! I so wished I could fly so I could go see it.
Mazatlan is a city of nearly 500,000...LOOK how CLEAN their air is.  There were factories puking black smoke in the skies but it was still gorgeous.
Mazatlan is a city of nearly 500,000…LOOK how CLEAN their air is. There were factories puking black smoke in the skies but it was still gorgeous.
This is what they use to load the cargo on to the cargo ships.
This is what they use to load the cargo on to the cargo ships.
A fishing boat
A fishing boat
And this was the beginning of my obsession with capturing a brown pelican.
And this was the beginning of my obsession with capturing a brown pelican.
So many fishing boats!
So many fishing boats!

“I just want to go home,” I said honestly hoping it would be a dagger to his heart.

I’m not one of these game playing women who prey on emotions–normally–but in the moment I did not care one lick.  I wanted him to feel bad.

It didn’t work.

It just made me madder.

I sulked even more.

Then I remembered my letter to myself!

Ah ha!

SWIMMING!!!!

I am going to find my distance swimming.  Hubs is allergic to chlorine so he’s not coming anywhere near me.

BINGO!!!!

I won’t go into detail about that experience simply because I’ve already written this whole post about it.  But I will tease you with it was a long overdue epiphany.

After that, I was okay.

Letting myself have that moment–albeit a briefly scary moment–changed my whole perspective.  I was here for vacation so I let it go.  We also had a long talk and got to the root of why he was being such a pill.  MEN…why do you practically have to beat it the real issue out of them!!!!!!!

We ended up having a wonderfully relaxing day including a long nap on the most wonderful bed and pillows.

Did I feel like I missed out on Mazatlan?

Yeah…and no.  I did want to experience being there but I knew I needed to treat my body right.  It’s the Yin and Yang of being fibro smart.  Picking your battles–walking around Mazatlan vs Whale Watching in Cabo San Lucas–is not even a contest in my book.

Then we decided to head up to the forward-most deck to catch the sunset.  Holy WIND!!!!  It was not fibro friendly for sure!!!  But, I stuck it out long enough to get a few photos but there was so much wind most of them were blurry.  Yeah THAT MUCH WIND that it was shaking my camera!  However, I can also say I was in that space and I will never forget it.

The sunset wasn’t much though…

IMG_6515 IMG_6511

Tomorrow….WHALE WATCHING IN CABO SAN LUCAS…SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Cruising With Fibromyalgia–Day Three Puerto Vallarta


The storm clouds from yesterday followed us to Puerto Vallarta.  Maybe some people would be sad to have rain on their vacation but since one of my main goals was to capture the sun clouds make for wonderfully colorful skies.

Now, y’all know I love to share but I have to be honest and let you know you’re not going to get the best pictures because some of them are good enough that they’re headed straight for photography contests.  There’s one sunset shot that as I was scrolling through the SIXTY-ONE images of the sunset that just would not quit that as it popped on the screen it pushed me back in my own chair!  The colors, the contrast, the intensity it’s just one of those shots that as a photographer make you go “Whoa.”  It will also go on the photo wall I’m building–nothing but sunrises and sunsets from our favorite places.

Anyway, let’s start back at the beginning of the day…

The sunrise…

Like I said...not my best shot but stunning nonetheless!
Like I said…not my best shot but stunning nonetheless!

To give you an idea of just how big a cruise ship is…

I'm standing on the dock about 25 feet away from the ship and I can't fit the whole thing in the frame!!!
I’m standing on the dock about 25 feet away from the ship and I can’t fit the whole thing in the frame!!!
The ship was decked out with these quilted banners.
The ship was decked out with these quilted banners.
Until right this moment...I was not a fan of sugar skulls...but WOW!!!
Until right this moment…I was not a fan of sugar skulls…but WOW!!And then…we snapped.

I was a little girl the last time my feet left U.S. soil so I was a bundle of giddy.  So much so that I failed to notice my man was a bundle of nerves about stepping on to a foreign land.  But I’m just snapping away…

This picture does not do it justice!
This picture does not do it justice!
We hadn't broken down our money yet and I was not paying $20 for a photo when this guy was sitting on my shoulder for a few seconds.  Not having that photo is one of my regrets.  He even gave me a kiss on the cheek!
We hadn’t broken down our money yet and I was not paying $20 for a photo when this guy was sitting on my shoulder for a few seconds. Not having that photo is one of my regrets. He even gave me a kiss on the cheek!

We walked for about half an hour looking through all the brightly colored souvenirs at the dock-side flea market when I said, “Hey let’s get a drink.”

“Oh hell no…I’m not drinking a thing until we’re back on the ship.”

He was not going to get even a bottled drink.

Now I’ve been on vacation with this man when he has gotten dehydrated because he doesn’t want to pay tourist prices for a beverage.  It isn’t pretty.

We rarely snipe at each other but his nerves (yet to be admitted) had reached the point of stupidity.  i actually told him, “Just go get your ass back on the ship then.”

Fortunately we sat on the benches just outside the gate and talked.  He finally confessed to being scared.  And in that moment I was reminded how brave fibromyalgia has made me.

Two years ago I stood on the raw edge of The Grand Canyon and looked down despite being terrified of heights.  And today, I was in a foreign land without a care in the world…except the stubborn pain in the ass who was going to let himself get dehydrated and miserable again.

At that point I was sure I wanted to cruise again but not convinced it would actually ever really happen so I wanted to soak in as much of it as I could.  In some ways, I admit I was being selfish.  In others, who in their right mind goes on vacation and refuses to have an experience (my man).

Then I remembered normal people for all their un-pained bodies live in fear.

“What if I drink something that makes me sick,” is where he was living.

Oh hell!

We talked some more.

We finally decided to just grab a cab and go.

In Puerto Vallarta store fronts face the beach with the street and walkways in between.  On one side, the local color and on the other the beach. Amazing shops–all tourist traps–but all very different that what you’d find in America tickled my imagination.

It made me laugh
It made me laugh
This made me laugh harder.
This made me laugh harder.

Honestly, I wished my man was a little more adventurous because I wanted to explore everything.  Instead we walked awkwardly.  I still wanted to kill him just a little.

And then it happened.

From the sidewalk on the beach side, you can look up the streets and see the facade fades the farther you get away from the tourist zone.  The hillside reveals the poverty and the lack of infrastructure and building codes.  Even on a gloomy, rainy day the contrast is unreal.

“You know…I knew things were different here…but seeing it with my own eyes…I just had no idea.”

The culture was a definite shock to him.  Honestly, it was a little to me too but growing up in Central California and working with the children of farm workers as an adult I wasn’t as shocked as he.

“And this is one of the touristy places….I mean this isn’t even somewhere rural.”

The enormity of the realization about the level of poverty was visible.

I’m glad his ass did not listen to me and actually get back on the ship. Everyone should have a moment like this.

The clouds made the beach not so beautiful but the bronze sculptures, pebble-patterned sidewalk and sand artists gave us great things to see.

There were hundreds of these!
There were hundreds of these!
Just stunning!
Just stunning!
All manner of designs were painstakingly laid into the pebble-paved walkway.
All manner of designs were painstakingly laid into the pebble-paved walkway.
The detail!!
The detail!!
Amazing!
Amazing!

We walked until we couldn’t walk anymore and with my severely swollen feet and legs it wasn’t as far as my heart wanted to.  It was the first time on the trip that I really resented being a sick girl.  I wanted to see EVERYTHING.  My body said, “No.”

Sigh.

But as always some flowers cheered me up.

IMG_6335 IMG_6334

We decided to go back but we turned a corner and I found this I was really mad at my body.  I was sore.  I was tired.  I knew I’d passed my limit half an hour ago but I desperately wanted to see more things just like this.  I love nonsense and whimsy.  I have no explanation for what it is or why but I’m okay with not knowing because it’s completely awesome!

I may not know what it is but I want it!!!!
I may not know what it is but I want it!!!!

And then we took a WILD cab ride back to the ship.  When I say wild I’m not kidding.  The cab was held together with DUCT TAPE!!!  I wasn’t sure we were going to make it okay.

But, what I did see, what we did do, was absolutely worth the pain.  Totally FLAREWORTHY!!!

This sunset and the 60 other sunset pictures were why I showed up in the first place.  Yes these are of the same sunset.  I dubbed it “The sunset that would never end,” because it lasted for about two hours thanks to all the clouds bending the light every which way.  This is why I left home!  This is why I THRIVE!  This is what being a THRIVER is all about…taking that pain and living anyway.

IMG_6380 IMG_6386

Cruising With Fibromyalgia–Day Two, Full Day at Sea


There are moments in life when you just know everything is perfect.  Being surrounded by water was one of those moments.

Watching a storm at sea is nothing like watching one on land!  It was one of the most spectacular things I've ever seen.
Watching a storm at sea is nothing like watching one on land! It was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen.

Some people go on a cruise for the entertainment.  Some go for the casino.  Some go for the food.  My goal was to catch every sunrise and sunset and to see if my hubs would let go an relax.  I missed three moments with the sun–one because I overslept, one because there were too many clouds at the wrong moments, and the very last one was shrouded in the L.A. pollution.  But, I was not the least bit disappointed on any of the other moments especially when I looked out the sliding glass door to the deck and saw my man asleep on the deck.

Awww...I don't think I'll ever forget this moment.
Awww…I don’t think I’ll ever forget this moment.

It brought tears to my eyes then and tears now.

Princess Cruises, do you really understand what a bit of magic it is for him to totally let go?

We have been married just over four years and I do not need all the fingers on one hand to count the number of times I have seen him THAT relaxed.

We literally spent hours watching the wake from the back of the ship.  I will never grow tired of watching the water churn and froth.  We also watched from our balcony.  At sea, the freedom is delightful.

But finding a rainbow was a slice of heaven.

It made me cry!
It made me cry!

Spectacular sunrises and sunsets.  Cozy naps encouraged by the breeze and the bobbing of the ship.  Of all the best days of my life, day two is absolutely in my top 10.

This was pure bliss.  And the best part even with the storm my fibromyalgia was down to a very dull roar.  Stable humidity, stable temperatures, and being totally and completely relaxed and at peace did this body good!  Ahhhh!!!!!!

Sunrise!
Sunrise!
Sunset!
Sunset!

Cruising With Fibromyalgia–Boarding the Ship and Day One


First of all, this is what you see when you arrive. The Crown Princess!

I thought I understood the enormity of an ocean liner.  I did not.  I have been close many times in my life but never THIS close.  The cruise ship dwarfs the cargo ships and even the USS Iowa anchored nearby.

The Crown Princess makes the USS Iowa look like a bathtub toy!
The Crown Princess makes the USS Iowa look like a bathtub toy!
I admit to crying at the sight of it.
I admit to crying at the sight of it.

Because I wanted to give you an accurate account of what the experience is like, I did not request assistance boarding the ship.  In the moment, it felt like a mistake.

Before I go any farther, you need to understand the equivalent of an entire small city is trying to go the exact same place you are.  There are going to be lines and standing in lines.  It is also going to loud and chaotic.  Those things I expected.  I did not expect it to be as warm as it was.  Body heat.  I did not consider the heat emanating from 3,000 bodies.  I also did not expect the lines to move as quickly as they did.  It really was not too bad.  However, I was (and am) going through a bout of edema in my legs, ankles, and feet and for that reason I wished I had requested a wheelchair.  Otherwise, it wasn’t too bad.

We drove from home to the port so we did not arrive until around 2 p.m.  Next time–oh there will be a next time–I think my body would be better served arriving much earlier and/or spending the night before locally to avoid going from the six-hour drive to the ship in such a short period of time.

We also brought our pillows from home just in case.  They were not necessary.  Can you say Egyptian cotton linens, supportive pillows, and a mattress that was like sleeping on a cloud.  The bed and bedding were a pleasant surprise.

Carrying those pillows through security and check in was an enormous waste of energy to the point I actually wonder if I would have fared better had I not had to wrangle them.

All good lessons for next time.  Did I mention there WILL be a next time?  (Yes, I know I did but I just wanted to make sure you understood.)

The absolute worst part of the boarding experience comes in the mandatory safety drill.  Mandatory safety drills are a good thing.  Fibro bodies doing them immediately following the trauma of a six-hour car ride, toting unnecessary pillows, getting overheated, and the extra adrenaline coursing through my veins not so much.

The safety drill involves going from your cabin to your assigned muster station.  No big deal.  Except the use of elevators is not allowed.  Depending on your location on the ship you may have a few feet to walk or several flights of stairs.  We were on the top-most deck so we had stairs.  Lots and lots of stairs.

THANK GOODNESS I PREPARED MY BODY BY WALKING FOR THE MONTHS LEADING UP TO THE TRIP!

Then you end up in a crowded lounge waiting with the rest of the people assigned to this space.  Then there’s the safety presentation and practicing putting on the life jacket.  All good information.  All wrong in the moment for someone who’s already spent all her spoons.  It’s NOT that the drill itself is difficult–okay those stairs were not pleasant–it’s just this is around 6 p.m. on a travel day when I was running on four hours of sleep to begin with and for that reason it just was not the best thing for my fibro body.

And then we’re off…

Leaving land behind...this is one of my favorite photos.
Leaving land behind…this is one of my favorite photos.

With my bppv (vertigo) I could not watch the ship move away from its berth.  The motion played tricks with me.  it was cool though…not the tricks but just knowing we were underway.  Once the ship was turned and moving out to sea the visual disturbance stopped and I could move out to our balcony and watch the dirt disappear.  It was exhilarating!

The ship moves at between 16-20 kph (knots per hour…a knot is 1.15 miles per hour) so it did not take long for land to disappear.  Nothing but water.  It was amazing.  My husband was worried he would ‘freak out’ not being able to see land but he also had never been on the sea and the only time he been to the ocean was when he was five.  He had no idea the power of the water.  He was mesmerized.  To see his eyes dance at all the new sights was my favorite part of the cruise.

Once we were hungry we moseyed on up to the buffet dining room.  Holy food!  Good grief there was so much of it.  The buffet has over 200 items from which to choose.

The food was good but honestly not great.  The service was disappointing.  We would later find out it’s also totally normal for the first night.

While we were eating, the captain announced there was a pod of over 100 dolphins racing the ship.  DOLPHINS on the first day!

See 'em jumpin'
See ’em jumpin’

It was also my lesson to bring my camera whenever I stepped out of the room.  I mistakenly thought that since we were going to eat there would be nothing to see.  WRONG!!!  I missed some great dolphin shots sprinting back to my room to retrieve my Canon.

And then came the sunset.

This!  Just THIS!
This! Just THIS!

It did not disappoint.

Sleeping on the ship.  Humm, let’s just say now I better understand why babies like to be rocked to sleep.  What a pleasantly soothing feeling it is to bob in the waves as you drift off to sleep.

And then came the sunrise.

All days should start like this.
All days should start like this.

It did not disappoint.

Then before breakfast there were more dolphins and WHALES.  Just in front of the ship and off the port side (our side) from the balcony we could see the spray of whale coming up for air. I missed the puff of water but I did catch them frolicking just off the bow.  It was awe-inspiring.  I’ve been to the ocean a few hundred times but I’ve never seen a WHALE!!!  (I can’t even type that without tears coming to my eyes and remembering how the very sight of it made me gasp.)

They're just breaching the water just in front of the wake.
They’re just breaching the water just in front of the wake.

Hubs and looked at each other and said, “Yep we’re doing this again.”  In less than 24 hours we had already decided cruising is our new favorite thing.  And now that we’ve been home two weeks our minds have not changed.  We loved it.

Then there were hours and hours of just watching the water go by as we made our way to Puerto Vallarta…Pure Bliss!  Princess Cruises you have two fans for life!

One...at least this one...does not tire of watching the patterns in the wake.
One…at least this one…does not tire of watching the patterns in the wake.

Vacationing With Fibromyalgia–10 Tips to Help You THRIVE


It’s that time of year in North America where the trees start to bud out, the temperatures become pleasant, and you catchWishing Well yourself staring out the window for the 500th time wishing you could get away.

STOP WISHING!!!!!

Actually that’s step one:

  1. Let yourself go–You are causing yourself more pain and grief feeling trapped by fibromyalgia.  Just stop.  Plan a little get away and just go.  Be happy.  Accept you might have a little pain but you will also get out of your house and make memories.
  2. Make a plan–Where many of us fail, is we fail to plan.  Vacationing with fibromyalgia is NOT like vacationing for non-fibro folks.  Our bodies cannot go from whatever our normal routine is to some other routine without extensive preparation.  If you are going to do more walking than you’re used to you have to start walking months before you leave so your body will be used to the extra activity.
  3. Do your research?–Once you decide you’re going to let yourself go, research your destination.  For example, do you know how accessible our national parks are for people with disabilities.  There are many places in The Grand Canyon, for example, where a wheelchair can roll right to the rim.  A travel agent can be really helpful too.
  4. Understand the typical weather–If heat kills you, perhaps vacationing to The Grand Canyon in July is not the best time of year for you.  Or if snow is in the forecast, will you need extra time to get ready everyday.  By knowing yourself and how you react to varying conditions you can make the best plans.
  5. Will you need anything special for your trip?–If a cruise is more your speed, have you considered motion sickness medication.  Really dig deep into the details of your destination so you can be prepared for anything.
  6. Know your limits–If ten minutes with your family is too much then do not plan to spend ten days with them.  I know you feel you ‘should’ but this is your vacation and you do deserve to have a good time.  And if you are afraid of heights maybe a hot air balloon excursion isn’t the best choice.  Set yourself up to have a great time by knowing yourself and your tolerance levels.
  7. Mode of travel–Deciding how you will get there is as important as where you are going.  If you’re flying, there are a whole slew of preparations you need to make that you might not if you are taking a road trip.  Again, study it out so you are prepared.  Ask for help!  This is not the time to just suck it up and deal.  Walking through an airport is not like walking through the mall.
  8. Learn to be flexible–Don’t get so married to your itinerary that the slightest change leaves you feeling like the whole trip has been ruined.  Vacation is not the time to be dramatic.  You are supposed to be relaxing.  Go with the flow.  It’s okay.  It’s also better than making yourself nuts because you missed the exit to see the world’s largest thermometer (I’ve seen it and it is cool but it’s really not worth a flare if you drive on by without seeing it…Of course, this is the silliest example I could think of but you know what I mean, right?)  Take a deep breath and say, “Next time,” and then let yourself have a next time.
  9. Plan quiet time–Oh I know the temptation to pack every single day full of activity but resist.  It is okay to sit and watch a fountain or make pictures in the clouds.  It’s also okay to take a nap.  You already know our bodies need more recharging than others so put that in the plan.  If you don’t, you should probably pencil in time for a flare and losing the rest of your vacation to pain.  Do you really want that?  Of course, not.  REST!  It’s good for you.
  10. Have fun–Yes, I’m serious.  Plan for fun.  Get to know yourself as a person with fibro and decide what you like to do.  Then do that.  If people watching is your idea of a good time, find a comfy spot and watch.  If strolling through a botanical garden is more your speed, the don’t forget to pack your most comfortable shoes.  Maybe the old you would make other choices but vacationing with fibromyalgia is not about living your old life.  It is embracing your new life and having fun.

Of course these are just the basics.  And yes I use them.

I have actually been on more vacations and weekend get a ways since my diagnosis than before but partly because I have all this time on my hands.  I also happen to live ridiculously close to several national parks and dozens of state parks plus I am a half a day’s drive or less from Las Vegas, and the beaches of southern California.

Crown Princess at duskI am actually going on cruise to Mexico with my husband in the morning.  The trip has been more than a year in the making.  When we were picking our destination, I did a lot of research.  Thankfully, our cruise line has each excursion mapped out down to the number of steps so I knew what I would expect.  Then for the last several months I have been working myself up to more activity.

Yes, fibro is a pain in the ass.  But, when you use every little thing you know about fibro and about how your body responds you can find ways to flatten your symptoms so you can take a vacation.

Will you still have pain?  Maybe.  However, I can promise you it won’t be as much as if you went straight from your normal world to the vacation you choose.

Am I worried about what this new adventure will do to my fibro body?

Uhhh, YEAH!!!

But…

I also practice what I preach.  I move daily no matter what our plans and my increasing my activity level I know my body will be conditioned to the extra activity.  Did I move every single day?  No.  The thing is you don’t have to as long as your moving more than you are not.

I have seen so many fibros have horrible vacations because they go from their sedentary world to some grand adventure without preparing their bodies.  They flare.  They’re miserable.  They blame fibro.  They swear to never leave home again.  That’s their choice…all of it.

But, it’s not how I want to live my life and neither do you.

Let go and go!!

Found on iheartvacation.com
Found on iheartvacation.com