April 24, 2013

Boldly Going Where No Crayon Has Gone Before

...and that would be into my hands for an art project!  (Trust me, it's a fate no art instrument deserves.)

As you know, my good Blogger Buddy (and general Sjoggie-extraordinaire) Julia always has a unique idea up her sleeve.  A recent favorite was her plot to procure a small 'fainting goat', but trust me when I say that's just the most recent and relatively mundane idea to come out of her dangerous noggin'.

In fact, one month ago she undertook a particularly risky enterprise.  She opened a contest for designing an image around which Sjoggies can rally.  A mascot, a logo, or a symbol, if you will, and encouraged all her readers to participate.  Now, my family can testify that for all the traits I inherited, I was spared any and all artistic skills.  But Julia, being as persuasive as we know she can be, made me an offer I just couldn't resist - the opportunity to attempt to put an image to the invisible world in which we live.  Come on, now, how can I pass that up?

Clearly, I can't.
Photo courtesy of my dear husband.  Who was beyond amused by my undertaking.
Yes, ladies and gents, I dug out (ok, had my husband dig out) my big 'ol box of crayons and give this a go.

What?  You want to know what I'm drawing?  HA, can't tell you that!  It's a killer idea - can't let anyone snag that;)  But fear not, I'll reveal my entry and rationale after Julia's deadline.

In the meantime, why don't you join me?!  Here is Julia's original post about this competition (oh, did I forget to tell you - there are prizes?!).  You'll see the original deadline was this past Monday, but she has since extended the deadline for slow-moving art-eests such as myself, and you now have until THIS Monday, April 29th!  Here's a short summary of her criteria and rules, but check out her posts for all the details:

  1. Email your image, drawing, concept of an image, sketch, or model that you think universally represents sjoggies everywhere. Use of a word or alphabet letters will disqualify your entry.
  2. You may submit as many entries as you like.
  3. You may email your submissions to: juliaschulia(at)gmail(dot)com.
  4. All submissions must be received by April 22nd 29th, 2013, midnight. 
  5. Judging panel includes: John, Terese, Greg, and D#1. 
  6. If judging panel is unable to make decision, I -- yours truly -- will cast the deciding vote. 
  7. Finalists will be notified via a post on Reasonably Well and their mailing addresses will be requested. 
  8. Winner will be announced by on or about May 1st 13th, 2013.
So there you have it, folks.  You have 5 more days to try to out do my design magic...if you dare...(mwahaha).  GO!

April 11, 2013

This Monkey Needs No Uncle

This is Able, the NASA monkey who, with pal Baker, became the first mammals to be successfully launched into and returned from outer space.  Photo (and related article) found here.
Able is a rhesus monkey, and was chosen from a group of 8 select monkeys who had undergone many months of training and testing through NASA's early space program.  The monkeys were being considered for a special project - to be the first to successfully launch a living animal into space and return it to Earth in tact.  Monkeys were the chosen species for their biological similarities to humans, and of these, Able was chosen to make the journey.  Why?  Because it was believed she could remain calm during flight.

The monkeys (Able and her travel mate, Baker) weren't just strapped into the capsule, they were fitted into full-body restraints which prevented nearly all movement.  In these housings, they were sent up in a windowless capsule.  According to Mysteries at the Museum, they were launched atop a 60 foot rocket to a maximum height of 300 miles above the Earth.  On the way up, Able's body - covered with sensors providing biological feedback to NASA's crew on land - showed signs of distress as she attempted to withstand excessive g-forces.  Once they reached their peak, both astroprimates returned to normal and healthy vital stats.

However, this reprieve was temporary, for after only a few minutes in orbit, the nosecone of the capsule which carried these hapless travelers separated from the rest of the vessel and plummeted toward Earth.  We are told the monkeys experienced forces equal to 30 - 40 Gs on their descent, which ended only when their nosecone literally crashed into the ocean.  A US ship immediately moved in to retrieve the capsule and its passengers, and the crew members were the ones who would have to open the capsule and discover their fates.

Able and Baker were alive and well, still secure in their restrictive carriers.

Yes, dear readers, the first mammals, the first primates, to survive a trip to outer space AND the return to Earth were women.

These women were chosen for their intelligence, strength, and most of all, ability to remain calm and level-headed under extreme conditions.  They survived physical environments that quite literally would crush most of us, not to mention the psychological terror of being immobilized in an enclosed space - one I highly doubt was lit or at least not well - that was propelled by unfathomable force, momentarily floated, then plummeted until it crashed and bounced about in the waves.  Women who emerged just as stable as they were when they left the planet.

Perhaps there's a deeper biological story behind the fortitude we see in modern women than we consider.  We are creatures designed with the physical ability to grow a human being within our own bodies, to eventually convey this being to the outside world, and even to then provide all nourishment and care necessary to sustain this life, all on our own power.  Furthermore, we see other women go through these experiences and still accept the tasks for ourselves...in fact, many of us feel a deep need to do it even if we are terrified.  That is, we withstand severe psychological challenges to do what we know must be done.

Of course, I'm sure there were male monkeys in the group of animals trained for space flight, and that they may have been nearly as qualified as Able and Baker for this trip.  It's perfectly reasonable that the ladies exhibited traits that were inherent to them as individuals rather than them as females, just as some women are more adept at certain skills than others in our society.  Surely, Able and Baker were selected for their unique personalities and abilities and not for their gender.  But am I surprised that the first living Earth creatures to survive these trials were women?

Not in the least.

April 10, 2013

You Can't Finance Energy

Illustration by Tim Bower, originally published with this article in Vanity Fair.
Well if that doesn't look like the way I feel on the inside most days....

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar to you:
It's morning (or lunchtime or afternoon or the middle of the night during an insomnia spree or basically any time of day), and you want nothing more than to lie in bed a while longer.  Not because you're comfortable - in fact, you may be in pain.  But because getting up requires moving your body and that requires energy and you don't have any.

But you do it; you get up.  You have to.  You have a child to get off to school, a friend to meet, a boss waiting for a presentation, and you have to get up.  Furthermore, after you slog your way through a morning routine and are able to leave the house, you have to smile, pay attention, join in conversation, solve problems, and navigate other interactions in this world of ours which all require - you got it - energy.  How are you supposed to do something with nothing?

What's that?  A resounding chorus of "YES, THAT'S MY LIFE"?  Thought so.

Which of course means the next part will sound familiar too.  The way so many of us get through this is by doing what I call "financing energy", but I don't think this is a very good idea.

When we say we're going to "finance" something like a car, house, or even an education, we mean we're going to borrow money for the purpose of making a major purchase and pay it back over time.  We agree to give up a smaller amount of our money each month for a period of time so we can have something bigger & better right now.  Usually, at least if we do it right, we first consider how much we can handle giving up each month to make sure we don't "over extend" ourselves and if we were right, this works just fine.

The problem is that energy doesn't work that way.  You could say that we give up some money to get energy when we buy and consume coffee, energy drinks, even high-sugar items, or any  other device or trick we can buy that results in what appears to be energy.  But in the end, the only way to pay back energy is with energy.  You can't trade money for it.  If you use this energy now, you won't have it later - and furthermore, you can't spread out that "cost", you have to pay it all back right away which means you won't have any energy left for other things for a while.

Oh and the way we pay interest on purchases we finance?  Where we pay a little extra in total for the luxury of spreading out the expense?  Our bodies didn't forget that either.  If you expend more energy that you really should have used, you won't just be out of energy tomorrow, you'll feel worse than you started today.

Financing energy is a dangerous, if common, practice.  It almost always ends in the bodily equivalent of foreclosure...or one might say, forceclosure.  (I know, I'm slipping into Jen Pun Land, but this one's actually pretty logical.)  An attempt to obtain more energy now than you should have will probably result in a total loss of all energy for a period of time and cause you some level of suffering.  So, we have to find alternatives.

Obviously, the best solution would be to space out tasks to respect your energy limits (much like credit card limits in this case), but this is obviously difficult at best.  If this can't be done, we can try some less ideal options that might still save us the pain and regret later.  A difficult but effective solution is to learn to say "no".  No, I can't run that errand today.  No, I won't be attending that event this time.  No, you will need to wait for us to go over that.  It's a fine line, because sometimes saying no leaves us feeling controlled by our diagnosis but it's really the other way around, we're in control because saying no now means we'll be able to say yes to things later!  We have to remind ourselves, and each other, and those around us, that it's ok to sometimes say "I will be happy to do that tomorrow" or "please let me know next time that comes up".  We fear missed opportunities, perhaps even more than the average person.  But when we take out the energy loan we can't pay back, all we really do is guarantee ourselves a whole lot more missed experiences.

Instead, let's build a new "bank" for ourselves, where we make deposits - running an extra errand on days we have some extra time, doing favors for others when we can so we don't feel bad for asking them to return them later, or even strengthening our foundations by doing things to make ourselves healthier through diet, exercise, and proper rest.  Let's create a culture where "saving" is good; where reserves are built up before they are drawn down, and where balance is valued.  We are not the USA; we do not have a national debt and cannot print money.  Just like our society is realizing across the country (and globally), it's time to make a habit of living within our means.

Ironically, as I was about to hit publish on this entry I saw the following post on Facebook.  Seems I'm not the only one with this train of thought today!

April 4, 2013

Just Another Day

Drama masks found here.

As any good Sickie knows, there are times we just aren't doing well.  Times when we're run down, experiencing increased symptoms, and may be having heightened disease activity.  These times are unpleasant and, especially as an activist, I spend a lot of time and effort trying to convey just how severe these bouts can be.

Among ourselves, we often discuss the way our society encourages us to suppress this reality.  We're supposed to put on a smile like the face on the left even when our bodies and souls feel like the face on the right.  If asked "how are you?", any answer other than "fine" is considered impolite.  Naturally, this adds to the feelings of isolation we tend to have and can an even contribute to the phenomenon where those with invisible illnesses begin to question their own sanity - and sickness.  It is necessary for us to have ways to explain what we go through that resonate with "the outside world".  This is why diagnoses are so important - a name, given by a doctor, means it's real, right?  Medications and treatments are only given for "real" problems, of course, and having unified terms for hard-to-describe symptoms, such as flares, help us unite ourselves as well as demonstrate the validity of our experiences to others.  And this is important.

On the other hand, at the same time that we are trying to validate ourselves, we also have a singular reality to deal with - we are sick.  Every day.  Not always to the same degree, and affected by a myriad of factors, but still "sick".  And if we were to get worked up every time we hurt, are weary, or experience some other common symptom, we would eventually cease to function altogether.  And so we develop our own sense of scale; our own perceptions of what's worthy of some emphasis and what's par for our own course.  We simply do not want to live in a constant state of drama - it's bad for us and it can suggest to outsiders that we are drama mavens rather than reasonable people going through unreasonable challenges.

But these two facets - validating the severity of our situations and moderating our own daily sense of peril - can come into direct conflict.  After all, it's rather hard not to sound dramatic when the word for a burst of illness is called a flare, don't you think?

Yet another reality, one I discovered while trying to write a laid back-sounding email requesting information so I could reduce my stress and avoid making myself sick.  Oh bother, one battle at a time, I suppose.  I think I'll channel Eeyore while I head off to bed and leave the problem of refining the English language to someone more qualified.  Good night!!

I'm considering having this made into a sign for my bedroom door .  In the meantime, you can see the original site, here.

April 2, 2013

I'm Ba-ack!

I'm home!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This post is coming to you live from my new computer, complete with this-decade operating system and web browser, which allows me to use Blogger!

I'm overwhelmed and don't know where to begin, and the husband is leaving in a couple of hours for an out-of-town convention and I want to spend more time with him, but I had to stop in.

I'm alive,
I'm doing ok,
I haven't fallen apart or had an major medical mishaps.

I have, however, heard that some of you have been trying to check in on me, and I'm so moved.  I also know an amazing number of you have stayed extremely loyal and continue to visit my blog or send others my way.  What I don't know is how to tell you how grateful I am.

Which is why even though I don't have time right now to do you justice with a quality post, the first thing I had to do with my new operating system was stop in and share a huge virtual group hug, because I may have been MIA from your browsers but you haven't been missing from my heart all this time.

I'll be back to try to make it up to you as best I can.  MWAH!