Monday, January 22, 2018

Spoonie Diaries: Thoughts from the Field

Hello! I am finally writing on my blog for the first time in 2018! A momentous occasion.

Okay, but seriously, I don't actually know why I haven't written in so long. Things have been a bit rough, and my depression has been around. I guess mostly my thoughts have been changing, and I have been considering starting a new blog and devoting more time to my YouTube channel (both of which I have not yet done, either), but I never intended to abandon this blog entirely. I guess it's just something that happened, and now here we are.

Anyway, something that has been on my mind of late is chronic illness - specifically my chronic illnesses - and how you can sometimes be doing everything right but they still react or get a bit worse. A term that I use often - and that I know a lot of other spoonies use - is 'flare'. 'I'm having a cfs flare', 'my fibro is flaring at the moment', 'I'm going through a pretty bad flare of everything right now'. It works well because people can then understand that it's a sudden increase in symptoms that will most likely then die down to a 'normal' or 'regular' level later on.

The thing is, sometimes these flares can feel like they come out of nowhere. I have started to understand the impact that the weather has on my health - heat, for example, is a trigger for my migraines, so I have to be really aware of that. If we are expecting a big storm, or the weather keeps changing from sunny to rainy/cloudy, the air pressure changes involved in that will often trigger a cfs and fibro flare, and I will have trouble moving around and just generally feel unable to get up from a horizontal position.

But, sometimes, the weather is absolutely fine. Not too hot, not too much wind or rain (sadly enough for me, because paradoxically, I love the rain, even though it causes my symptoms to get worse). And yet I am having bad symptoms and can hardly understand what my body is doing.

I had a realisation yesterday that maybe I should have understood years ago when I was finally diagnosed, but apparently I needed to take my time with this one. When I was finally diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome a few years ago, it made sense. It was frustrating, because that's really an umbrella diagnosis (that is, they are unable to pinpoint what is causing your pain/discomfort/issues, so they say it falls under the general symptom profile of IBS. CFS is the same.), but it made sense. And then, last year, when I discovered I was allergic to egg and gluten, I figured if I avoided those two things completely, I would be fine. Make sense so far? 

So, I have been avoiding egg and gluten for about a year now, and yes, my IBS has gotten better. But it hasn't gone away. I still sometimes get quite bad stomach pain, or discomfort, and my body's way of digesting things seems to be completely different from other people (ie. super duper SLOWLY). Yesterday, I was idly thinking about this as my stomach gently hurt, and then it hit me: Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It's right there in the name. My bowel is just easily irritated and inflamed - which then causes pain. It hit me that it may just be like that for the rest of my life. And weirdly, that kind of comforted me. 

It was like someone saying 'you're doing a great job at looking after yourself, it's just the tools you're working with are a little bit...wonky.' There can be so much guilt involved in having a chronic illness; particularly if it's invisible. Often spoonies are constantly asking themselves 'am I really sick enough to need this support item? they (whoever 'they' is) think I should work harder/go back to work/try harder to get better. am I trying hard enough? what if all of this is just psychosomatic? what if I am making all of this up as a way to get attention?'

To realise that I am actually doing the best I can (which is true, yes, silly brain lying to me) and my pain and discomfort is not actually a sign that I have failed again, but a sign that my bowel is just a grumpy so-and-so, is quite freeing. It doesn't make it much easier when the pain comes on, or I have to cancel another thing because I am too sick to go anywhere, or have my friends and family worried about me because I've had a wave of pain whilst out with them, but it does mean that I can move towards the cessation of self-blame.

Here's to 2018: the year when I stop letting other people make decisions for my body and start learning to understand it myself.

Love to all who read.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: Ten Tales from Tibet by Lama Lhakpa Yeshe

Title: Ten Tales from Tibet: Cultivating Compassion
Author: Lama Lhakpa Yeshe
Publication Date: 27th September 2017
RRP: $18.99AUD

Synopsis: "Ten Tales from Tibet is a timeless collection of traditional stories exploring the absolute essence of Buddhism - compassion.

Told with utmost simplicity, these beautiful tales will awaken and nourish your spirit, inspiring you to create positive change for yourself and others around you."

My thoughts: In the interests of keeping in line with this book's overall feel, let me keep things very simple.

This book is beautiful, well-produced, with simple, well-told stories interspersed with beautiful photographs. I found myself getting lost in both the stories and the images chosen to accompany them. I found that I had to pause after each story to really absorb its message.

Only one story didn't quite resonate with me, but I suspect that is because I didn't fully grasp its meaning. Other than that, all of these stories are beautiful, and I know I will be returning to this book in the future for cultivating compassion.

{I received a review copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!}

Rating:  8/10

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Reading // November 2017

books read:
~ The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2) by Philip Pullman
~ The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) by Philip Pullman
~ Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More by Erin Boyle
~ Holiday Wishes (Heartbreaker Bay #4.5) by Jill Shalvis
~ La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman
~ The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell
~ The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World's Happiest People by Meik Wiking
~ Unearthed (Unearthed #1) by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner (review)
~ Beauty Food by Lola Berry (review)
~ Kilted Yoga: Yoga, Laid Bare by Finlay Wilson (review)
~ Genealogy for Gardeners by Dr Ross Bayton and Simon Maughan (review)
~ The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia #3) by C. S. Lewis
~ Saga Land by Richard Fidler

currently reading:
~ ALL the fanfics
~ The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (review)
~ rereading Written in Red (The Others #1) by Anne Bishop
~ dipping in and out of Middlemarch by George Eliot

Phew! I was really trying to catch up this month with review books, but it was rough. A few that I received just weren't working for me, and with lots of other stuff going on in my life, it just didn't feel super possible that I would get any reviewing done. But I managed four books! And I am reading another now! So that's a win in my (heh) books!~

Stand-outs for this month are: Philip Pullman! All the Philip Pullman. Honestly, I read The Golden Compass/Northern Lights last year and kind of didn't get what all the fuss was about. Lyra kind of irritated me and, yeh, daemons were cool and all but I think I wanted to a familiar like in Harry Potter more than that. But then I read The Subtle Knife and it was like something clicked for me. I suddenly got it! I got why everyone loved these books so much. And then to be able to go on and read La Belle Sauvage was just awesome - I am thinking of rereading The Golden Compass/Northern Lights soon to see if my feelings on that have changed, too.

Jen Campbell's new collection of short stories, The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is eery, haunting, and absolutely wonderful. I already have a favourite, but I think I will be going back to reread different stories in the future.

Saga Land was a book a spied in Target when I was trying to reward myself for going to a particularly difficult medical appointment. It has a most gorgeous cover, and the content is fascinating and gave me a wonderful glimpse into Icelandic Sagas, Norse Myths (I am allllll about the Loki, lately) and more personal things about the two authors. I absolutely loved my time with this one, and I highly recommend it.

I hope everyone is reading some awesome stuff as we head into the last month of the year!

Love to all who read.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Book Review: Kilted Yoga by Finlay Wilson

Title: Kilted Yoga
Author: Finlay Wilson
Publication Date: 14th November 2017

Synopsis: "An eccentric, fun and motivational guide to the fundamentals of yoga - based on the sensational Kilted Yoga video.

Get ready to lose yourself in the wilds of Scotland and reconnect with the natural world in this gorgeous little book that will make you look at yoga in a whole new way - kilt optional!

After recovering from an accident, Finlay Wilson found yoga was the best way to rebuild his strength. Now a qualified yoga instructor himself, he's decided to bring a modern take to this ancient practice, laying it bare - often quite literally. Feast your eyes on his yoga moves and discover why his Kilted Yoga video became an instant global sensation.

Finlay introduces you to the fundamentals of yoga through four progressive sequences to help you develop your practice. Combining stunning photography of the Scottish Highlands with practical advice, Kilted Yoga is the inspiration you've been waiting for - join the movement here."

My thoughts: First of all, I must confess to originally thinking this might be something of a gimmick. I now know that this book goes so much deeper than that. Even just flicking through this book is a wonderful experience - the photography is absolutely stunning, and the photos that feature Finlay (and sometimes his friend) are informative and really help you to understand the poses that he is trying to explain to you.

The sequences are really well-thought out and demonstrated, and Finlay's simple instructions only help with getting the most you can out of each pose. And the kilts are also flipping gorgeous (as are the men that wear them).

I am not sure what else to say here - I just really love everything that this book and Finlay Wilson are about: recovery via yoga, beautiful Scottish countryside, kilts. It has really all come together to make a wonderful book to look through or learn from.

[I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!]

A favourite line from the book: 'For me, kilts are a piece of heritage that reaches from the past to the present, and I have taken to wearing them more and more, even having kilts made with pockets to give them a modern and practical feel.'

You would like this book if: Anything in the realm of yoga, kilts, or Scotland appeals to you.

Rating:  9.5/10

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Book Review: Lola Berry's Beauty Food

Title: Beauty Food
Author: Lola Berry
Publication Date: November 2017

Synopsis: "Nourish yourself inside and out with Lola Berry's delicious wholefood recipes and natural beauty treatments.

When it comes to glowing skin, sparkling eyes, lustrous hair and healthy nails, we truly are what we eat. Whether it's olive oil for thick, strong hair or health fats for radiant skin, Lola's recipes and beauty tips celebrate the benefits of eating wholefoods for your body.

Lola also includes advice on which chemicals to avoid when buying cosmetics, foods that can have a negative impact on your skin (hello, sugar!) and the importance of that miracle youth elixir, sleep.

Say goodbye to expensive face creams and salon treatments, and start stocking your fridge and pantry with healthy wholefoods that will make you feel beautiful from the inside out."

My thoughts: This is a beautiful little book, filled with gorgeous photography, simple styling, and delicious recipes. I have really loved Lola Berry's books in the past and this is definitely no exception - in fact I think I liked this one even more than the last!

Helpfully split up into sections depending on which part of the body you want to assist most (hair, eyes, face, etc.), each section starts with the 'hero ingredients' that will really benefit you, before moving into the recipes, and then finishing up with some homemade treatments, such as masks.

Lola's voice in this, as in all her books, is friendly, down-to-earth, and informative. She also shares some great yoga poses to help with circulation and such, all in an effort to help you feel better in your own body.

This is a wonderful little aid to have in your arsenal, and I highly recommend it. I have already tried (and become addicted to) several of the recipes, and am planning to make quite a few of the homemade treatments.

[I received a review copy of this book from Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!]

A favourite recipe from the book: I am a suck for a good smoothie or milkshake, and the Maca, Macadamia and Carob Shake is one I was slightly sceptical about but now adore. Highly recommend!

You would like this book if: You like Lola Berry; you like books where they help you to look and feel good via your gut.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Perhaps a herbal tea with some nettle for detoxifying?

Rating:  10/10

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Book Review: Genealogy for Gardeners by Dr Ross Bayton and Simon Maughan

Title: Genealogy for Gardeners
Author: Dr Ross Bayton and Simon Maughan
Publication Date: 27 September 2017
Price: $35AUD

Synopsis: "Genealogy for Gardeners is the latest in the bestselling series that includes Botany for Gardeners and Lating for Gardeners. It is a unique and accessible guide to the genealogical relationships between plant families.

For ease of reference this book has been divided into three thematic sections (the gymnosperms, monocots and early angiosperms, and eudicots) and further subdivided into chapters representing the 'core' families, with a particular relevance to gardeners. Key factual details are accompanied by beautiful, informative illustrations and diagrams to aid identification. Additional information boxes highlight other interesting facts, including practical uses for the garden and notable members of plant family groups.

This book will help gardeners, horticultural students, budding naturalists and amateur botanists to make sense of the enormous biological diversity of the plant kingdom by piecing together family likenesses and genealogical connections."

My thoughts: This is such a beautifully put together book. The illustrations are absolutely stunning, the pages feel good in your hands, the naked hardback is textured, and the ribbon bookmark is a beautiful dark red. The entire experience of looking through this book is beautiful.

The information is laid out in an easy to understand manner, without too much clogging up each page. Your eyes naturally follow the progression of each page, making the reading experience easier than you would expect (though my mind does still stutter on some of the names that I can't even begin to pronounce).

As this is more of a reference guide than anything, I'm not sure what else I can really say other than this is a valuable addition to any amateur botanist/fascinated gardener's library. A beautiful piece to admire and learn from.

[I received a review copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!]

Rating:  7/10

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Book Review: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner

Title: Unearthed
Author: Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner
Series: Unearthed #1
Publication Date: 22 November 2017

Synopsis: "When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying's message leads to the planet Gaia, a treasure trove waiting to be explored.

For Jules Addison, the discovery of an ancient alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study... as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don't loot everything first. Despite their opposing reasons for smuggling themselves onto the alien planet's surface, they're both desperate to uncover the riches in the Undying temples. Beset by rival scavenger gangs, Jules and Mia form a fragile alliance, but both are keeping secrets that make trust nearly impossible.

But the more they learn about the Undying, the more Jules and Mia start to feel like their presence is part of a grand design - one that could spell the end of the human race..."

My thoughts: This book is such a ride! Pretty much none-stop action from the start, I felt like if I put it down something bad was going to happen to the characters. It took me a little while to really get into things, but when I did I just kept reading and reading and then suddenly, out of nowhere, there was no book left! (P.s. Amie and Megan, I am eagerly awaiting that sequel, please!)

I have to say, while I love it when Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner team up to write books together, I was a teensy bit sceptical about this one. I was excited about the scifi element, but not sure about two teenagers being the ones to attempt to understand the culture and thoughts of an ancient race of aliens. I needn't have worried. What they have created here is something absolutely fun and interesting to read - gripping, with fantastic characters, and intriguing puzzles.

The setting is also extremely interesting, and it is clear that the authors have done their research here to flesh out both the world their characters are visiting, the somewhat dystopian environment they have left behind, and the character development. Jules has to be one of my favourite YA characters in a while, and he had quite a few quirks that I just adored.

I, for one, am definitely looking forward to the sequel, particularly with the ending they left things on!

[I received a review copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!]

A favourite line from the book: 'Despite the guns, despite the furious shouts and threats in two different languages trailing after us as we run for it, despite the alien suns beating down on us and the thin air, I'm really not sure this guy fully gets the kind of danger we're in.'

You would like this book if: You enjoy thrilling adventures stories.... IN SPACE.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Do you have any space tea? or space cocoa? See if you can find some. and then try not to choke on it when things happen.

Rating:  8/10

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