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Guest Post: Arthritis Awareness Month and a Personal Journey

IMG_1678[1]Today’s post is written by Elizabeth Bender, this blogger’s daughter.  Beth was a contributing author in “Wherever,” published last month.  She currently attends Baylor University and hopes to be a Child Life Specialist when she graduates.  Many thanks to Elizabeth for sharing her story and insights!

May is Arthritis Awareness Month. I want to share my personal story with how arthritis has impacted my life and how I live with it as a part of who I am, but not letting it control who I am.

I never thought that I being 20 years old would have to deal with arthritis. Arthritis is an old person issue, right? Wrong! In fact, over 100 different forms of arthritis exist impacting individuals of all ages. Each form of arthritis affects individuals in different ways. I personally struggle with reactive arthritis.

Reactive arthritis occurs because of infections that attack the joints. A range of infections can bring about reactive arthritis. My reactive arthritis comes from strep. So my actual diagnosis is post-streptococcal reactive arthropathy. In October 2015, I was diagnosed with strep and was put on an antibiotic. Unfortunately, I then had recurring strep infections throughout the fall.

I continued to struggle with a sore throat, body aches, and extreme fatigue (I fell asleep on the bathroom floor one day during a class). I was then told I had some bad virus that was taking months to go away. The sore throat went away, but my body aches did not! Specifically the joints of my wrists, fingers, ankles, and knees were in great pain. There were days where I wasn’t sure if I could get out of bed, but I did! Finally in February, I was referred to rheumatology by my primary doc.

After a few appointments with him and a bunch more blood work, I finally had a diagnosis and an action plan. My strep antibodies were elevated, but no strep bacteria. The strep antibodies attack my joints which is what causes the arthritis. My action plan included monthly penicillin shots for 6 months to five years to lower the antibodies and continuing pain meds with evaluations every once and awhile.

I have now received three penicillin shots and have noticed some improvement. However, those days of not being sure if I could get out of bed are not gone. I still have those days. I am pretty much constantly in pain. It just ranges in severity. Constantly being in pain has the side effect of extreme fatigue; however, I am learning how much sleep I need to make the next day go better. I have tried to not take pain meds, and it doesn’t always work. Some days, I am unable to get my shoes on because of the swelling of my feet (this really bothers me when I want to wear a certain pair of shoes with my outfit!).

When I go to bad at night, I never know how I will feel when I wake up the next day, but I live each day to the fullest that I am possibly able. I have chosen to not let my pain take over my life. I finished two semesters of college when many people told me that they would have just dropped out and wondered why I did not.

I choose to do daily activities and go out with friends and put a smile on because I am happy and I want to do the things that make me happy. Some days I have to alter what I do, but I do what I want to do within the constraints of what my body allows.

Over the past seven months, I have had to redefine what normal is to me. There are days where I wish things would just go back to normal, to the way they were back in October before I first got sick. I am learning, however, that that definition of normal is gone.

This state of being is my new normal and I am learning to accept what this means. I am constantly learning and re-evaluating in my life to understand my own feelings and attitude towards my struggles.

At times, I realize I need to adjust my attitude and once again focus towards the positives and good things in my life.

I find that often it is not the fact that I have reactive arthritis that I struggle with the most, but it is rather how other people interact with me that I struggle with. Many people know that I have been sick, but few people understand that I continue to be sick and that I may struggle with this for a long time. My least favorite comment I frequently receive is, “You are looking good,” or some variation of that phrase. It can be hard to hear this when I am constantly in pain. I do not like talking about myself and the pain I am, but sometimes I wish that people just knew so that I do not have to “endure”  these types of comments.

Living with asthma, chronic kidney stones, and reactive arthritis has taught me something I think is particularly important. Everyone deals with different problems whether emotionally, mentally, or physically. Many people believe that they should not discuss their problems because other people deal with issues that are “worse” in comparison.

While I think it is important to have a healthy perspective on one’s own problems, I fear too often we do not welcome discussion of problems because we constantly play a comparison game. I hope that everyone can find a place where they are comfortable to discuss what they are going through no matter the “size” of the problem and receive support to help them through it.

I want to reiterate that over 100 forms of arthritis exist, yet few methods of treatment or prevention exist for them. May is Arthritis Awareness Month. I hope you seriously consider what you can practically do to raise awareness for arthritis and medical research for this condition that affects people of all ages.

Perhaps you do not feel passionately about arthritis.  I encourage you to find something you are passionate about and create awareness for that issue so that working together we can make the world a better place.


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Some Days I Walk Into the Counseling Office and…

…. I look like I just got out of bed. My hair is in a ponytail with those crazy sprigs making that fuzzy weird look that happens when I haven’t had time to shower. I’m wearing sweatpants – not the yoga pants that are almost acceptable at work now – the full on sweatpants that even the most uncool won’t wear outside of their house anymore. I’m wearing my most comfortable sweatshirt. It is the one that I’ve had for a long time, that a friend gave to me, and that I’m pretty sure will stay with me until I die. Even though the ends of the sleeves are unraveling and breaking apart, I find comfort in the worn-out inside that makes me feel like me.

These are the days in the counseling office when we pick apart the scariest parts of my brain. The scary is mostly caused by chemistry and impacts energy. The energy changes that come with the ups and downs of a bipolar brain can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Although I have some sense of seasonal impact, I really do not know when a change could happen.

Most people think that the scariest part of mental health are the low energy times.  In fact, for most people high energy times are much worse.  The brain races along faster than we can catch our thoughts. We open businesses, agree to too much, and talk super fast.  We might not even be able to listen to you because your words are not coming out fast enough for us. We interrupt, speak for you, and often misunderstand what you really meant.

Another common misconception is that low energy and sadness go hand in hand.  This is simply not true.  While they can co-exist, they are two separate entities.  Depression/low energy is not really a bad mood.  It is simply low energy.  Imagine influenza with the headache and fatigue.  That is low energy.  The DSM might have depression in the mood category, but I think it is wrong.  Sadness is a feeling, and that can happy in a high energy time or a low energy time. Feelings and energy are different.

I digress – back to the counseling office.

On other days, I show up looking like I may head to the beach. I’m wearing the shirt that makes me feel the most like me. This past summer I wore the same shirt to all of my counseling sessions. I bought it when I was on a trip to Rhode Island for a wedding in May. Somehow I had under-packed and needed more clothes. Having to go to the store and find a couple of shirts that would look OK in the various occasions that I had to attend is one of the worst things that I could need to do. On rare occasion, though, I find things in stores that scream me.

My favorite days are when I enter the counseling office and it might not be clear which is of us is the client and which is the counselor. I look like I’m ready to conquer the world.  I may be in those yoga pants or the black dress pants that I wear to to important meetings. This is when I think that I have all my crap together, and being in the counseling office might actually be a waste of both of our time.  But it isn’t.  These are the days that I get the most done and am able to identify how to keep my crap together once I leave the office.
Even though we have come along way in our society in regards to our attitudes about the counseling office, we still attach a stigma to those (like me) who spend several hours a year there.  More often than not, we do not want to say that we are going there, why we are there, or how long we have been there.
I have decided that, regardless of which of these Stacys walk into the counseling office, it is a good place to be.  My counselor is only concerned about me making good choices, she has nothing at stake in this, and she is trained to ask the hard questions that most of us would be afraid to even think.
If you think you need a session or two with someone who can do that for you, I highly suggest that you seek someone today.  If you live in a little town without a counselor, contact Family Innovations in Minnesota. They have just added online counseling to their arsenal.


Filed under Relationships, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Where Are You All From?

Dear blog reader,

imageI have been noticing that people who read my blog are from all over the world, and I am grateful. Thank you!

I may know you. Our paths may be in sync or have been at a time or season. We may have spent hours together, and you read my blog to find out what I wouldn’t say to you over coffee. Please, do not be offended. I love you and appreciate your support of my writing.

I may not know you. I mean that I really have no ideas who you are, how you found my blog, and why you like my writing. I love you, and I appreciate your support of my writing.

I for sure know you! We have been friends forever – at least since Sunday when we tasted the same cookie after church. I love you, and I appreciate that you support my writing.

As as I look at the stats that tell me how many friends read the blog, how many strangers read the blog, and how many people from other countries read the blog, I realize that there is a whole lot of reading my my words happening!

So to everyone: thank you! Your support is amazing. I would love to learn more about you in the comments. Where are you from? How did you find this blog? How often do you come back? Do you have a favorite post?

These are the things I need to know as I scrape around in my brain to find the right something to share with you all.

It’s not just for you. Some of it is for me. My hope is that we all leave the screen mote ready to live as God prepared is to do and to show love.

Friends: introduce yourself in the comments and tell us where you are from!

Happy Wednesday!



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Several months ago, I snapped the picture below at my neighborhood Starbucks.


This caught my eye because someone had taken the time to label the pitcher so that it would have a specific use but then it was used for something else.

There was nothing wrong with the way it was being used.

No laws were broken.

Nothing bad happened (I hope) from this.

But it caught my eye and made me look a second time.

Possibly for the first time EVER, I have nothing really to say about this. In fact, I have no objections. I am sure that it made sense at the time, that it did not last long, and that everything turned out just fine.

So – I’ll ask the readers instead…what comes to mind when you see this?

I’d love to hear from you!


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Hot Dogs at the Pharmacy?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was recently in a Target store to pick up some medication from the pharmacy.  While there I saw some things that caught my eye.

It seems that I am pretty much always an observer of the world around me and that I see things that make me look twice.


This scene did not make me look twice.


In fact, I just stood there – most likely with my mouth dropped in complete shock that a huge hot dog would be hung from the ceiling within feet of the pharmacy sign.

For so many reasons this is wrong.

  1. The food court is on the other side of the store.  It is not easy to miss because it is the first thing that one encounters when entering the store.  If the store peeps want me to go to the food court, this sign does not show me where to go.
  2. What do hot dogs and a pharmacy have in common?  Nothing!!!  They could be related, I supposed, as too much of one (the hot dog) makes us need the other (the pharmacy) more.  Other than that, though, I am at a loss.
  3. The hot dog sign is ugly and completely blocks the view of the pharmacy.  If I am supposed to be able to find the pharmacy, a huge hot dog sign makes it a bit hard.

I know that I try to pull deep thoughts from pictures that I see (see Out of Place from a few days ago), but I have nothing, zip, zilch for this one.  There is nothing deep, let alone appropriate, that I can share from this.

However, it was simply too good of a photo not to share with readers.  I hope that it brings you a bit of joy, a smile, or a giggle.  Sometimes that is what we need, right?

Happy Sunday!


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Getting Wild in the City!

Fridays are hectic days in my office, but last week turned interesting when a hen turkey decided to take a walk right in front of my office windows.


Believe me when I say I was surprised!

What has surprised you lately?

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Taming Mount Laundry

My brain is tired. 

I have a lot of things going through my mind right now: things that are going on in our lives, loved ones in the hospital, the schedules to keep, bills to pay, and people to see.  And, of course, there are also the many blog posts I would like to write in response to unthinking bloggers who write posts about The Hunger Games without finishing the movie or reading the books.  On top of that, there are parenting blogs to write, and so many more…

And I cannot get to those posts because I had to take a minute (actually – an entire day) to attend to those mundane things that require our attention and our time….like folding towels.

I could have named the mountain of laundry that had overtaken the laundry table in our laundry room.  First of all, stop and think about this: I have a laundry table in a laundry room.  Until moving into our current home, we had lived in two bedroom apartments that had the laundry machines in our kitchen.  I folded laundry in the living room, on my bed, or on the couch.  I now have a room with a table for this task!  And guess what?  When you have a room with a door that can be closed, things can hide in there…like a mountain of laundry!


I spent the better part of an hour taming the mountain into a neat stack of towels. It was so therapeutic.  The mountain of towels represented what has been a very hectic two months of speech season when the kids and I have passed every Saturday at a school – they as competitors and I as a judge.  It has been a great two months, but laundry – a task which can be done as needed but eventually caught up to me – had been neglected.  When we needed a new towel, we just went to Mount Laundry and grabbed it.  While this is a great coping skill, it is not the way that I like to lead my life.  I have a towel cupboard, and that is where the towels belong. 

Today was the day to tame the craze of the past two months and restore all to its normal state.  The table now is clear of towels and other items and can be used for folding clothes as they come out of the dryer rather than for storing them as they wait for me to do what needs to be done.

Mount Laundry, though not a problem in and of itself, represents how I can just let things go until they overwhelm me. I probably could have tamed the mountain a few weeks ago, but at that point I was simply too overwhelmed with the craze.  This is so backwards! In letting it go even longer, the mountain only grew as more towels found their way to the top of the mountain.  In taming the mountain today, I have cleared the slate and can start over.  I need to attend to the business when it presents itself rather than putting it off until tomorrow.

Earlier this week, a friend and I started “Water Only April” a bit early.  She stated on Facebook that she would like to drink only water for the month of April and wanted to know if anyone would join her.  I need to get some of my “drink calories” under control, so I was game; however, I asked if we could start the next day.  I knew that if I waited even another five days, I would not be dedicated to do so.  In the meantime, I would have schemed and cooked up many reason to avoid the mountain rather than to tame it.  And, believe me, this mountain is much harder to tame than Mount Laundry!

What motivates you to get things done today rather than putting them off until tomorrow?  How can we stay focused on tasks at hand rather than on constant distraction?

Do you have a Mount Laundry waiting for you to tame?  Good Luck!

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Eyebrow Raising Moments–Round Three

When I am out and about, I see things that make me stop long enough to take the picture.  You just never know when you might see things that make your eyebrows raise, so I am very thankful for the camera in my phone.

The winner – the best thing that made me stop in awe – is the handiwork of workers at the Fridley Cub Foods. Either they are really dedicated to advertising and being relevant, or they had too much time on their hands.


I guess everyone loves a little March Madness.  And I love a little can of Coca-Cola!

The next photo comes from the recommendation of my daughter’s friend.


This really is the best lip gloss every. As it says, it “applies gently to sore lips.”  I felt better just looking at the box; imagine how good it felt actually on my lips!

The last photo for this edition of Eyebrow Raising Moments comes to you from the Maplewood Mall Barnes and Noble store.


Ironically, I was on my way to the bathroom when I passed this book in the children’s section of the store.

Hope your day is great!

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Open Letter to Caribou Coffee

To: Caribou Coffee

From: Stacy Bender

Re: A mini size drink

The first thing you should know is that I am a huge fan. My entire family – even my two teenagers – are Caribou fans.  Whether a turtle mocha or a northern light something, the huz and the children are happy supporters of the ‘bou.  I do not typically drink coffee, but a zebra hot chocolate can really hit the spot when I need a treat.

The other thing you should know is that I am a fan of your employees, your coffee shops, and – the best – your corporate headquarters (which happens to be only a couple of miles form my house!!!).  I love that you are a Minnesota based company that allows us to support locally while thinking globally.

For these reasons, I respect you enough to give you a great idea rather than to your competitors.

The other day, I was at your Lexington/Blaine location off of I-35 at County Road 23.  I had a bag of pop chips and a glass of water while I passed some time between appointments.  While I was there, samples were served of the turtle mocha and northern light mocha.


The sample size of these drinks was the perfect size!  As someone who does not like coffee that much and as someone who wants to have just a taste of something great (turtle mocha sample size is a GREAT drink), I beg you to consider offering this size as an option on your menu.  Have you seen the Dairy Queen mini sizes? Same idea!

I realize that the question you may have relates to price point.  Consider Dairy Queen again.  I am willing to pay more per ounce to have a smaller size.  Why?  Because I need to eat less but do not have the will power to simply eat less of a larger size and then save it for later.

I know that this sounds ridiculous, but I would willingly pay $2.50 for a sample size turtle mocha because it was the perfect size!  It was so good = three swallows of yum.

Do the market research.  Consider it.  Ask around.  And then let me know what you think.



ps: Our favorite location is the corporate office.  Krista is a great employee!

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Wilde Roast Café–Minneapolis


Located right in my office building is a gem of a café where I love to eat. Unfortunately for them as a business and for me as a consumer, it is a tad pricey.  That did not stop me yesterday when the huz wanted to join me for lunch on his day off.  It was a bit cold out yesterday, so the idea of staying in the office building while still having lunch with him was a big draw for me.  I also really like their food – especially the sweet potato waffle fries which are served with a side of cinnamon spiced marshmallow fluff.  Other dip their fries into the fluff, but I eat the fries separately and then consume the fluff as my dessert.  A touch of heaven?  Definitely!

I have loved this café since first going there.  They had me at “Wilde”…especially with the floor to ceiling tapestry of author Oscar Wilde. I realize this is a bit odd, but our family loves Oscar Wilde writings.  The girl even used a portion of The Picture of Dorian Grey in her Interpretive Prose category during last year’s speech season.


The owners have decorated the entire café with Victorian era furniture and feel.  This is a fun mix with booths, high top tables, and other fixtures of modern cafes such as refrigerators.


Choosing from the extensive menu is truly the only hurdle in this outing.  I do require that my selection (or the huz’s if he is willing to share) includes the waffle fries with fluff.  Someday, I do want to venture out and try one of their pizzas.

The huz had the Zena Burger with waffle fries.  He asked for it to be medium, but it came out well. As he said, “When you pay $10 for a burger and ask for it to be medium, it should be medium.”  I do not know if he would order a burger again in the future.  They do chicken breasts with the same toppings as their burger – maybe that would be a better choice…unless you like well done burgers, I guess.  The coolest part of the burgers, in my opinion, is the circular, pretzel bun.  Ok – that is a yummy idea!


I had wanted to try the Famous Mac&Cheese for quite a while now, so I jumped in even though it seemed absolutely C-R-A-Z-Y to pay more than $10 for the dish.  Unfortunately for my budget, I really liked the dish.  A lot.  And I would definitely want to order it again.  I would not order it with the regular (non-sweet potato) fries even though they were interesting with a hint of garlic flavor that seems to have come from the oil in which they were cooked.  The odd thing is that the menu says it comes with a side salad, but the person who took my order said it would be an up-charge of $1.


Although the prices could stop many people at the door (desserts are even uber pricey), venturing in will prove to be a worthwhile investment.  I am so glad to share this yummy café with only 700 other employees of the office building.

So – come to visit me at work, and we can go have lunch here.


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