Monthly Archives: November 2012

Thanksgiving Tips

Courtesy of Google Images

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I know I have an extremely long list of things that I’m grateful for, and though I’d love to share them with you, that’s not my intention for this post. Instead, I want to focus on giving you some tips to make the holidays easier. You can keep these in mind for next year.

Mom and I are in charge of cooking dinner every year, and we know that sometimes it’s more challenging for us. We want to enjoy the holidays too, without pain and without feeling completely wiped out. We only have to cook for 6 people this year, but you can use these tips no matter what size your family is.
Make sure you get some help. Mom and I have to work together to get things done. If either one of us had to do everything by ourselves then there wouldn’t be a dinner at all. As much of a Type A personality as you might have, admit to yourself that you can’t do it alone. Get some helpers that can take care of chopping onions, mixing cake batter or pie fillings, or even just handle the cleanup.

Get a head start. We always begin our food prep the night before. For example, I make stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer every year. I make the stuffing the night before and keep it in the fridge until the next day when I’m ready to bake the mushrooms. We also make the pies, blanch the cauliflower, and peel the turnips. This way, we can take more breaks in between cooking to rest and don’t have to worry about running around like lunatics to get everything done.

Alternate tasks. After standing over a stove for long periods of time, the pain in my back becomes unbearable. To prevent this, I keep switching tasks. Alternate between things that require you to be in front of the stove and things that can be done while sitting. For me, this meant working on the cooking part of a cheesecake and then sitting down and taking the stems off of my mushrooms. If you’re done with food prep and have a high stool, it’s sometimes helpful to sit by the stove while you’re cooking.

Use cooking gadgets. Everyone makes fun of me for having a Slap Chop, but it’s honestly the

Courtesy of Google Images

greatest invention ever. My fingers begin to lock up if I try to mince garlic or onions for longer than 5 minutes. Plus, the arthritis is bad in my fingers and makes chopping things more awkward. Get pans that have two handles so that you can lift with both hands and take weight off your joints. User blenders and food processors whenever possible. Get knives specifically designed for people with arthritis. Electric can opens are essential as well. There are many stores that sell these gadgets, but you can check here as well.

Don’t stress. I always have a flare when I’m stressed out. Know you’re limits, and don’t panic if you can’t do “better” than them. If cooking is too much for you, opt to go elsewhere for dinner instead of taking on the responsibility yourself. The point of a holiday is to enjoy time with friends and family, and you won’t be able to do that if you tire yourself out before dinner even begins.


Back With a New Game Plan

Courtesy of Google Images.

Okay, so I already told you that I pretty much had to throw in the towel when it came to NaNoWriMo. Between work and school, my joints just weren’t cooperating. Now that the craziness following Hurricane Sandy has died down, I’m back to work as usual, meaning very little free time until Winter break.

Working in a college Writing Center definitely has its perks. I’m surrounded by lots of talented writers every day. Most of the tutors are English majors, and some are poets and fiction writers going for their MFA degrees. My boss and a few of my other coworkers were doing NaNoWriMo with me, and the last time I had checked their word counts, they were doing pretty well. I got to work early yesterday morning, so my boss sat down with me and we just talked while we waited to open the center up. She’s sooo cool, and we have the kind of rare employer/employee, professor/student relationship where we can talk to each other about anything. She gives me great advice all the time, and occasionally I do the same for her. I told her how I fell off the wagon and how much that disappointed me. Then she made a great suggestion: why not bend the rules a bit? Living with RA means that sometimes you have to improvise in life, so why would this situation be any different?

The solution we came up with was that I shouldn’t worry about writing a new novel this month,

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but instead worry about fixing the ones I HAVE written. I have two “finished” first drafts of novels that I’ve been neglecting. She challenged me to finish editing at least one of them by the end of the month. Challenge accepted. At least with the editing, I won’t have to worry about writing a lot all at once. I can break it up into smaller, more manageable pieces. It doesn’t matter to me if I’m not following official NaNoWriMo rules at this point. All that matters is that I’m not allowing some achy joints to prevent me from doing what I love most.

Hopefully by the end of this month, I’ll be able to announce that I have a second draft finished. My boss also invited me to join her writing group. She and 2 other women meet every so often to read and critique each other. I’m totally going to jump on that chance, because that pressure is definitely what I need to keep going. Slowly pushing forward…

What the Eff?!

A Photo of My Receipt

So, I was originally planning to have this post be about natural healing, but I feel that this is a slightly more important topic. As I’ve mentioned probably a million times before, I am taking Plaquenil and Celebrex to control my RA. I take Plaquenil twice a day to keep my immune system under control. The Celebrex is taken twice a day as needed, and I usually only take it on days when my inflammation levels are high and there’s a lot of pain. My doc told me it was okay to take it daily, but at $60 for a 30 day supply, I figured I’d save myself some money.

Well, I recently needed to get a refill on my prescriptions. Imagine my surprise when the pharmacy told me that it would be $160 dollars for the Celebrex! I was aware that my insurance company had bumped up my copay a bit, but really?! My Plaquenil only went from $10 to $15. Sometimes I feel like insurance and pharmaceutical companies think everybody is rich. The truth is though, that if my prescription is going to be $160 a bottle, then I need to make sure the bottle I just got lasts for the next 6 months. I’m still in school, so I only work part time. Quite frankly, this expense is worth half of my paycheck. I still have school loans and other bills to pay, and I need to somehow find a way to feed myself. I know Mom will always be willing to help, but I’m too stubborn to have other people paying for my expenses. And I’m sure as hell NOT going to charge it to my credit card, because 60 little pills aren’t worth the ridiculous amounts of interest that I’d be stuck paying.

I spoke to a friend of mine, who happens to be a pharmacist. She explained the 3-tier system that insurance companies use for determining the amount that we pay for a certain drug. She sat down with my and we checked out my insurance company’s website to see what they had Celebrex listed as. Turns out that it is a third-tier prescription (meaning the most expensive) and is also listed as “Supply Limited” for my insurance company. At that moment, it dawned on me: this week makes it exactly one year since I got my official diagnosis. When I told her this, she said that companies usually only cover a certain amount of a prescription’s cost for one year. Any longer than that, and a patient needs to pay a higher price.

However, there might be a happy ending. She said that since this is a medication I might be on for the rest of my life, my doctor may be able to contact the insurance company and get the price brought back down to what I was paying before.

This got me thinking though…I consider myself to be very fortunate. As much as the pay may suck sometimes, I have a job that gets me by. I have medical insurance (thanks to Mom, of course) that keeps me from paying full price for doctor visits and prescriptions. But what about the people who aren’t as lucky as I am? How are they supposed to buy the medication they need? Or are they just supposed to suck it up and deal with the pain in other ways? What if it’s a child with JRA who’s in pain? Tylenol and Aleve help slightly, but they aren’t strong enough to combat a full blown flare. And then of course, my thoughts turned to my boyfriend, who has HIV. If he didn’t have insurance, how could he afford to pay thousands of dollars a month for the medication that’s keeping him alive? What if his insurance company started charging him a higher copay for it?

Here’s my logic. Plants and herbs are relatively cheap, correct? And though I’m not a pharmacist and don’t have a degree in medicine or chemistry or anything, aren’t most medications made with plants? So, doesn’t that mean that in theory, it shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg for a single pill? I mean, generic brand prescriptions and OTCs are generally on the cheap(er) side. Does that mean that the only reason I’ll need to sell my future firstborn child to pay for this stuff is because it’s a “designer label”?

My doctor and I have had the same discussion a million times about why he won’t change my prescription. I’ll explain that in a future post. So, I’m going to ask: What would you do if your copay went up? Would you continue to buy the prescription as usual? Would you stop taking it? Have your doctor change it? Feel free to leave some comments, but be nice!

NaNoWriMo Fail

So, if I haven’t mentioned this before, I will mention it now: I’m a published children’s author, but I’ve written a couple of novels as well. They’re still in the editing phase, but they’re written. Every year for the last two year’s I’ve done National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It’s a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel from start to finish by November 30. Granted, I’ve never actually “won” NaNoWriMo and finished the entire novel, but I’ve come close. I always thought that once I was finished with school and had more free time I would be able to do better.

Even though I’ve never hit the word count, I’ve at least made it to the end of the month before with about 30,000 words. This November is just a total disaster though. I was off to a great start at the beginning of the month. I was getting my daily goal of 1,667 words with little trouble, and for a few days I was ahead of the game. Then, BOOM: stiffness and horrible pain in my fingers and wrists. I guess I’m just not used to typing that much anymore.

I tried everything to make my fingers work. Liniment oil worked for the pain, but didn’t help much with stiffness. My medication didn’t do much better. Google and WebMD provided me with some stretching exercises that felt great for awhile, but overall there was no permanent solution. I kept writing, but my daily word count was dwindling. I haven’t touched my novel in days.

I’ve disappointed myself. It’s been a year since my official diagnosis, and I wanted to use this novel to prove to myself that I’ve made progress. But like everything else in my life, I realize that sometimes it’s just not possible to keep up with other people. I need to pace myself to avoid having to admit defeat. So, I’m going to set my own goal. I’m just going to write something, anything, every day. I’m thankful that I have the ability to write and to write well, and it’s not a talent I want to waste. Even if it’s only a paragraph, I will be happy. Because it’s not about quantity as much as quality, right?

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