Saturday, January 24, 2009

I Want the Blues!

School's started up again for me.
My hours at work have gotten cut more and more.
I'm not in the best shape financially.
My cell phone died.
I'm slightly unstable and super emotional.

Basically, I'm probably not going to be writing a lot in the next little while. Not like I'm the most constant writer anyhow, but don't expect anything big for a bit.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oh Heath Ledger

I was going to do a momentous post about Roe v. Wade, hope, change, the future, etc. But CNN just told me I have to post an in-memorium instead.

One year to the day after Heath Ledger's untimely death, he was named as an Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actor in The Dark Knight.

I hope he wins.

RIP Heath

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's Christmas Morning!

Well, maybe not exactly.

But it is Inauguration Day! Woohoo!

Since you guys know I can't really keep anything serious, I grabbed some of my favorite silly Obama videos to share with y'all.

If you haven't watched Alphacat's impersonation of the 44th President, you are missing out. He's hilarious.

If those ones aren't stuck in your head, this one will be.

And I can be a little serious today, I suppose.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Martin Luther King Day

This video is quite long, but always worth the viewing.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Finally - The Prevention First Act

With the inauguration of President-elect Obama quickly approaching, it is time to turn our attention to the many problems that need to be fixed both in our country and our world.

For eight long years, abstinence-only education has been the norm and the only federally funded sexual education program. As a result, unexpected/teen pregnancy and STI rates have greatly increased. However, with the change in leadership here, Congress is already planning to back comprehensive sex ed in order to educate the masses about birth control and more. The link embedded in the title of this post goes directly to the NARAL site's explanation of the Prevention First Act. Here are, without much explanation on my part, the goals for the act:
  • Help Women Obtain Family-Planning Services.
  • End Insurance Discrimination against Women.
  • Provide Compassionate Assistance for Rape Victims.
  • Improve Awareness about Emergency Contraception.
  • Reduce Teen Pregnancy.
  • Fund Honest, Realistic Sex-Education Programs.
While these all help everyone in the long-run, they're most important for people stuck in poverty. Women in the middle and higher classes have a better chance of having enough money (as odd as I know that might sound to some) in order to visit the doctor, obtain proper health care, or have access to family planning materials. Planned Parenthood is very popular because of the anonymity and low cost of services. Hopefully, with this act, they'll get more funding and be able to function much better.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I'm Stuck in Limbo

  1. As was previously mentioned, it's so cold that a cotton-candy-wielding Morgan Freeman isn't happy.
  2. My car wouldn't start this morning.
  3. I missed work today because of it.
  4. I was so frustrated I spent time playing shoot-em-up games and sleeping instead of doing laundry or anything else productive.
  5. My parents had to come jump-start said frozen car.
  6. I was on the computer all night playing games because people were otherwise occupied.
  7. I just realized I didn't take my vitamins the last two days.
  8. Once I got to watch some television, I found the satellite dish wasn't working right...
  9. And I don't know how to fix it...
  10. I don't get any channels...
  11. Except WTMJ...
  12. And I'm stuck watching Jay Leno.
  13. And then the TV went out again.
This. Sucks.

The only good part?
Hugh Laurie is on with his TV actor band :)

It's out again...

Oh Tommy Boy

Tom Hanks, you are never too far from my heart:
“The truth is this takes place in Utah, the truth is these people are some bizarre offshoot of the Mormon Church, and the truth is a lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop-8 happen,” he told Tarts. “There are a lot of people who feel that is un-American, and I am one of them. I do not like to see any discrimination codified on any piece of paper, any of the 50 states in America, but here's what happens now. A little bit of light can be shed, and people can see who's responsible, and that can motivate the next go around of our self correcting Constitution, and hopefully we can move forward instead of backwards. So let's have faith in not only the American, but Californian, constitutional process.”

Bill McKeever, a rep for the Mormonism Research Ministry, added, "Personally, I find it un-American to tell people that they shouldn’t vote their conscience. Hanks said he doesn’t 'like to see any discrimination codified on any piece of paper.' Considering that just about every law discriminates in some form or another, makes this comment ridiculous. Hanks’ comment shows that he very much believes in discriminating against people with whom he disagrees. I may not agree with Mormon theology, but I certainly defend their right to express their opinion."
I agree with both points. However, I agree with Tom Hanks more. I've said it once and I'll say it again, I don't think that churches should be involved in politics to that extent. Technically, they could tax exempt status for doing so.

If America is really the land of the free and the home of the brave, then why do we not allow everyone to have the same rights without fighting even harder than the last minority group?

Thursday, January 15, 2009


It's so freaking cold that Morgan Freeman can't smile! And he has cotton candy even!

This is not good... not good at all...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ode to My Shoulder

The two worst joints on my body are my left knee and my right shoulder. Today I'd like to focus on my shoulder, since it's driving me absolutely crazy right now.

If you're a normal reader, you know already that I love baseball - the smell of the grass and leather, the pinstripe pants, playing catch with Theron - even if I don't quite understand every single thing about the game quite yet. When I started playing catch with Theron, I noticed that my shoulder wasn't hurting as much. I got better at catch and wasn't in as much pain - for me it's a win-win situation.

Sadly, with there being a wind chill advisory from the National Weather Service, I'm not in a rush to go out and play catch. With that said, who says you can't play catch in the house? Yeah, my mom said that too. As long as you're not actually throwing something, you should be fine though right? Normally, if I work my shoulder like a pitcher, it feels a lot better. Sometimes I don't even have to take medicine, which is always nice.

Sometimes, though, the pitching exercise approach doesn't always work... and given the fact that I can't just stop moving my shoulder between work, school, and my everyday activities, there's not a whole lot more I can do... Or is there?

Ice and wraps usually do the job when exercises won't work. It's harder to take care of a shoulder problem, however, since there's no easy way to wrap it and keeping ice on it is really difficult. On top of that, there's really no comfortable position to keep my shoulder in so that it doesn't hurt. The other bad thing about the arthritis affecting my shoulder so terribly is that the effects usually do spread down into my arm or up into my back and neck. For instance, my forearm is aching something fierce (I feel like I'm 87, so why not talk like I am?). Occasionally - and this is probably not a good sign - my elbow or forearm will go numb from the pain.

It makes it hard to conduct my everyday activities, especially during school. I am right-handed, so that really doesn't help my situation. I have a feeling though that if I was left-handed, my left shoulder would be in pain. I'm lucky enough to have friends at work who will help push my arm until it pops the right way again. This method doesn't work so well, but it helps to relieve the pain for a short while at least.

With time and rest, this feeling generally will go away. It just always takes way more time than I'd like.

NOTE: Since my monster post, I grew less lazy and bought some multi-vitamins. I've only been taking them for about three days, so I can't say that I've had a remarkable change quite yet. I really hope that it helps get my body the nutrition that it desperately needs.

ANOTHER NOTE: You may have noticed that more of my posts lately are related to my disease. I hope that by blogging about my JRA pains I might be able to help other people. Plus, I've been told it's pretty interesting to read about. I will still blog about the news and politics here and there, so don't fret!

Friday, January 9, 2009

The {Not-So} Skinny on JRA

What is This Noise All About Anyway?: JRA, Still's Disease, and Other Fun Stuff

The type of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis that I have is called Systemic Onset JRA, or Still's Disease after Brit George Still. Systemic means that the arthritis not only affects my joints but the rest of my body as well. There isn't a known cause of the disease, but there are a few ideas. The "Onset" part of the disease means that an event occurs that triggers a hidden autoimmune disease. This is the most commonly accepted explanation. For example, I had Strep Throat shortly before the symptoms of the disease starting appearing when I was about four. Nowadays, they've come up with yet another term for JRA - Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). This is meant to differentiate JRA from Rheumatoid Arthritis.

There are three major types of JRA:
  1. Oligoarticular JRA, which affects four or fewer joints. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, or swelling in the joints. The knee and wrist joints are the most commonly affected. An inflammation of the iris (the colored area of the eye) may occur with or without active joint symptoms. This inflammation, called iridocyclitis, iritis, or uveitis, can be detected early by an ophthalmologist.
  2. Polyarticular arthritis, which affects more girls than boys. Symptoms include swelling or pain in five or more joints. The small joints of the hands are affected as well as the weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, ankles, feet, and neck. In addition, a low-grade fever may appear, as well as bumps or nodules on the body on areas subjected to pressure from sitting or leaning.
  3. Systemic JRA, which affects the whole body. Symptoms include high fevers that often increase in the evenings and then may suddenly drop to normal. During the onset of fever, the child may feel very ill, appear pale, or develop a rash. The rash may suddenly disappear and then quickly appear again. The spleen and lymph nodes may also become enlarged. Eventually many of the body's joints are affected by swelling, pain, and stiffness.
About one in 1000 children develops one of the above types of arthritis. Out of those, only about 10% are affected by the systemic variety.

How D'ya Feel?: Symptoms of Still's

I know that there must be diseases out there where the pain is worse, even more constant. It saddens me to think about that. Now, I can't truthfully explain the pains that I go through everyday, because this pain is really all I know. I don't know what it is like to be a 'normal' person, someone who can be overly active and not suffer greatly for it.

The first major symptom that I had was fatigue. I was exhausted, lacked energy - for a four year old, that's generally a pretty bad sign. I then developed a salmon-colored rash all over my body that really only occurred during the nighttime and disappearing by the time any doctor's appointment could be made. Sometimes it itches, sometimes it doesn't. Scratching it can lead to odd bumps all over the skin. Another big symptom is high fever. I once had a fever of 106 degrees, which sent me into convulsions and shakes. I also had the iritis that was mentioned in the tidbit on Oglioarticular Arthritis. They thought that I had pink eye for a while.

Other than that, there is excessive bone popping. We all know that terrible feeling when your ankle or elbow pop at the wrong time. On a normal basis, I no longer feel it because the amount of pain I'm normally in is far greater. Another problem that plagues many suffering from JRA are TMJDs, or Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorders. Confused? Basically, I have terrible jaw pains. I can actually pop my jaw out of place, which can be a cool party trick or a painful accident.

Other than the rashes, there are several other skin conditions that are prevalent to those with JRA. Dry skin is a big problem, which I have found only Burt's Bees to cure. Occasionally, I will get what we call "alligator skin" - small bumps, similar to goose bumps, which bring about terrible dry skin. This condition can last for up to a month and longer. Nodules can also appear. These can resemble small pimples or giant lumps under the skin. I generally get them on my knees in pimply form. You really aren't supposed to get rid of it through your own means. However, the pressure from them can be terrible. Sometimes they can be picked like a pimple, others they must be popped with a needle. The best solution, if possible, is just to cover the nodule with a band-aid and wait.

The biggest thing that makes Still's Disease different from any other form of JRA is how it affects other parts of the body. My organs are affected on a daily basis. I have problems with my digestive system, which results in those annoying gurgly noises mid-class that end up distracting others. More than that, foods that I may be fine eating one day can turn my day into a nightmare the next. In the past, my stomach has suffered terrible aches for up to eight months at a time. Also, because the disease attacks my liver, I have to be careful of the medicines that I take.

And let's not forget that teeth are also bones.

Who Needs a Break?: Video Time!

While it's not much, a video is always a good distraction - even if it's related to what you're reading.

This little girl can hopefully look forward to a better life with the advancements in technology.

Poked and Prodded: My Life Story

Blood tests for Rheumatoid factor and lupus, which both show the adult stage of Rheumatoid Arthritis, usually fail to show any signs of JRA. Back in the day, doctors really didn't know about JRA. When I was first sick, they thought I just had allergies. I had a whole booklet of foods that I wasn't supposed to eat so that we could find out exactly what I had a problem with. I was a four and a half year old banned from eating PB&J! Imagine the sheer torture! But I digress, as usual...

For months on end, they drew blood every week hoping to find what was wrong. I was anemic with a high white blood cell count. I had high levels of phosphorus, alkalines, and LDH. On occasion, I had: high AST (SGOT); low CO2 (poor lung capacity); low glucose; low urea nitrogen; high globulin; high MCH; low MVP; very high sedimentation rate; and, as I have already mentioned, a low red blood cell count.

And I was losing proteins quickly. In fact, any time I sweat or use the bathroom I lose proteins. I always eat as much meat as I can in order to get proteins back in my system. Now, I know pizza isn't the best thing for me, but I love most meat lovers zza's. I usually try to have some sort of nuts around, like cashews. Veggies are good to have around too. I love Caesar salads and wraps. And, thanks to Chartwells' amazing new options, there's an organic place to eat on campus where I can get tasty soy and tofu products too.

We got hit by a mack truck when we got a misdiagnosis. When I was six years old, we were told that I had just six precious weeks to live, that I was dying from Leukemia. The doctors told us that, if I was started on chemotherapy right away, I could prolong my life and maybe even beat this cancer. Luckily, my mother had great medical knowledge and knew that the symptoms didn't really fit. Through tireless days and weeks and months of research, we were able to come up with Still's Disease. After the searching, there was a name to the monster that was banning me from school, friends, birthday parties, and normal child activities. Finally, we could start finding ways to treat and cope with this disease.

Trick or Treat-ment: Limiting Foods, Gross Medicine, and Ace Bandages

With all these problems, it can be pretty overwhelming to try and live a semi-normal life.

Unlike most people confronted with this disease, I control it with Aleve, diet, and meditative pain management. Why? Because I have no insurance. I also do not like some of the (possible) side effects of the medicines out there - anal leakage? C'mon, really? I'd rather limp and have my dignity.

In all seriousness, this is really a disease that needs medical attention. I don't personally think that all medicine, all the time is the way to go, but for some people that works. I took liquid Naprosyn as a child and it reeked havoc on my digestive system. As I mentioned before, I do take Aleve - which is Naproxen Sodium and not that much better - occasionally. Any over-the-counter pain reliever is good for me really. Since I really don't have any experience with other forms of medication, I went a-searching the interweb to bring you information on this front:
First-line medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are usually the first medications tried to control JRA inflammation and symptoms. Naproxen sodium is the most frequently used NSAID treatment for JRA. Doctors choose naproxen based on its low incidence of side effects compared to its effectiveness.10 Ibuprofen is an effective alternative. But in general, less than one-third of children will have significant relief from NSAIDs.5

NSAIDs and corticosteroids are most often used to control the initial stages of systemic JRA and may be used in children who have pauciarticular (oligoarthritis) with shortening of the muscles around the joints (contractures) or polyarticular disease with joint pain and swelling.10, 5

Second-line medication. If symptoms are not well-controlled with NSAIDs or corticosteroids, stronger medications such as methotrexate are often used successfully.10, 5 Methotrexate, sulfasalazine, and other second-line medications are sometimes referred to as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Some experts prefer to call them slow-acting antirheumatic drugs (SAARDs).

Some children with JRA gain significant benefit from early methotrexate treatment. Although there is no definitive way of knowing which children are the best candidates for early methotrexate treatment, this practice is becoming more common in an effort to prevent joint and eye damage. Early treatment with methotrexate is often used for polyarticular JRA.5

Biological therapy is a newer option to treat JRA, particularly polyarticular JRA, that does not respond to other treatments. The biological agent etanercept, which is a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor, has had some success in relieving symptoms and decreasing the number of flare-ups. Other TNF inhibitors, such as infliximab, are still under study to treat JRA.11

Medications used to treat JRA


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Injected corticosteroids


Etanercept (Enbrel)
Infliximab (Remicade)
Oral corticosteroids

Other second-line medications used less often

Antimalarials (such as hydroxychloroquine sulfate [Plaquenil]
Adult therapies, such as cytotoxic (cell-destroying) drugs and intravenous human immunoglobulin, that may be used for rheumatoid arthritis in adults but are not yet proven to be safe and effective for children with JRA

Gold salts were one of the first treatments used for joint inflammation, and you may still hear about them. However, injected gold salts have been replaced by methotrexate for the treatment of JRA. Gold salts taken by mouth (oral) have not been shown to be effective for JRA.10

In one of my first posts, I detailed how I meditate to relieve pain. That is, when I focus enough in order to do that. On a more normal basis, I actually meditate without really even knowing. I don't even space out anymore; I focus on what I am doing, but am concentrated enough that I don't really feel the minor pains. I won't lie and say that I am pain-free - far from it - but I feel less pain on a consistent basis than other people I know with JRA or RA.

I have a feeling that a lot of it has to do with attitude. There is an older woman who works in the shoe department at work with RA. Her hands are deformed terribly and yet she still works. She still tries her hardest to not let the disease get to her. I almost always have a positive attitude. Even when I'm in pain, I know that things could always be worse. I still have pretty good control of my motor skills and I'm not in a wheelchair (which, by the way, was a prediction for around age eight when I was diagnosed).

Physical therapy is also an important thing. Water activities are better than anything else really, because it's low-impact exercise. The warmer the water, the better. Who needs a better excuse to get a hot tub huh? Range of motion (ROM) exercises are also very important in keeping joints as healthy as can be. Regular exercise should be done when possible. By looking at me now, you'd never guess that I used to run upwards of twenty miles a day, but I did. Surprising huh?

Diet is another important part of controlling the disease. Since I am anemic and hypoglycemic, I have to make sure that I eat enough iron, protein, and sugar. In reality, the hardest part is getting the nutrients that I need daily. I've been debating whether or not I should set aside some money to get multivitamins to take everyday. Seeing as I don't always eat right, it's probably a good idea, but I'm too lazy.

And if all else fails, wrap the most affected joint with an ace bandage. Seriously, it helps a lot.

The Moral of the Story: What Can You Learn About Living With JRA?

The biggest thing to remember is not to feel weird. There are plenty of people out there living with different ailments and there's no need to feel alienated because you're not "normal." After all, what is normal these days?

While there isn't a cure for JRA, remember that there are many tools available to fight the disease. With a positive attitude and a supportive group of family and friends, you can be the best you possible. Research as much as possible. Ask questions of your doctors. Be as active as you can be. And remember that I am always one email or comment away if you have questions or need advice.

Compare yourself to a hurdle runner - you have many hurdles to jump over, but if you stretch first and pay attention to the track ahead of you, you will be able to clear every hurdle in your way.

Blagojevich Impeached


The Illinois House of Representatives impeached Governor Rod Blagojevich for abuses of power after federal prosecutors accused him of trying to auction President- elect Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat.

The House voted 114-1 today to remove Blagojevich for violations of the state constitution such as creating health- care programs unauthorized by the Legislature and rewarding campaign contributors with jobs and contracts. Blagojevich now faces a trial in the Senate of the fifth-most-populous U.S. state.

Blagojevich, 52, is the first governor impeached in Illinois’s 191-year history. A 67-page report underpinning today’s vote said the governor should be removed for “scheming to obtain a personal benefit for the Senate appointment” and engaging in “abuse of office of the highest magnitude.”

“This is a good, glad happy day for the state of Illinois because it shows that no one is above the law,” said state Representative William Black, the deputy leader of Republicans in the House.

Blagojevich, a former prosecutor twice elected to the state’s top office, is the fourth of the past seven Illinois governors to be arrested. His predecessor, Republican George Ryan, is serving 6 1/2 years in a federal prison for corruption.

Now they'll have to spend millions of dollars taking his name off of the toll road signs. Yipee.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


That's cyrillic Serbian for "Merry Christmas!" :)

Serbians and other followers of the Eastern Orthodox Church use the Julian calendar, which places their Christmas on January 7th instead of December 25th.

Here's some fun stuff to learn about it:
On Christmas Eve, families gather and all families fast and don't eat food that comes from animals. It is the last day of the Christmas fast. Christmas is a very religious holiday and most people go to the Christmas Services.

There are a lot of old Serbian traditions associated with the countryside, which have now lost their meaning because more people live in towns and cities. On the morning of Christmas Eve the father of the family used to go to the forest to cut a young oak called the 'Badnjak' (Christmas Eve tree) but today people just buy one. Under the table there should also be some straw as a symbol of the stable/cave where Jesus was born.

At Christmas a special kind of bread is eaten. It's called 'cesnica' and each member of the family gets a piece (and the house does too). There is a coin hidden in it and whoever gets the coin will be particularly fortunate in the next year!

Nifty huh?

So, on behalf of my Serbian side of my "family" (Hi Theron!), CPEЋAH БOЖИЋ!

Note: I'm still working on my monsterous JRA post, so look for that soon.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Interesting Stories of the Week

Yay love!
Using brain scans, researchers at Stony Brook University in New York have discovered a small number of couples respond with as much passion after 20 years together as most people only do during the early throes of romance, Britain's Sunday Times newspaper reported.
I really thought this story was interesting. It's kind of funny to note how long people I know are generally in "long" relationships (about a year and a half at the longest) before they break up. My parents, as silly as they can be, are still in love the same way today as they were five or six years ago when they first started going out.

This English town is starting to ban "rude-sounding or unflattering names like Hoare Road and Cracknuts Lane." I can understand where they're coming from, but that's kinda silly. By acknowledging that those names are dirty, they're going to cause more of a problem than exists right now methinks.

And why is it scary to be four years old right now?

Lil William Nelson was able to give enough details that the police have arrested a suspect in his mother's killing.

They said he told them a strange man had entered the home without knocking and shot his mother. His account, including his home address and parents' names, led to the discovery of Nelson's body.

"I began asking him questions, and he told me that a stranger had come into his house without knocking," Mike McConnell said from Baltimore. "And I said 'Well, where was your mommy?' And he said 'He shot my mommy."'

Explaining how the little boy was able to give specific information to authorities, Nelson said: "He's a very sharp kid. He's like a sponge, he just soaks everything up. My wife, especially, insisted that we work on him learning his address, learning the phone numbers, just important things ... a lot of things people would take for granted, and it saved him."

This lil girl was not so lucky. A reclusive and mentally unstable man was found to have her dismembered body in his fridge.

"He said that human meat was in fact delicious," Chinese media quoted a neighbor as saying, recounting comments the suspect allegedly made while watching a film depicting people being killed in battle.

And if you need some cheering up after that, check out the new X-Men movie trailer. I know I'm excited.

And one final exciting note: I'm working on a post to help explain more about JRA, so if you're interested in that, stay tuned!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!

We've made it through another year! Wahoo!

In the spirit of giving, I leave you with my all-time favorite quotation from one of my favorite movies, IQ:

Catherine Boyd: You took Albert Einstein for a ride on that thing?
Ed Walters: Sure.
Catherine Boyd: Well don't ever do that again!
Ed Walters: Come on. He loved it. He went "Wahoo."
Catherine Boyd: Wahoo?
Ed Walters: When's the last time he said "Wahoo"?
Catherine Boyd: Well I'm sure I don't know.
Ed Walters: When's the last time you said Wahoo?
Catherine Boyd: Well I'm sure I don't know.

If you haven't seen it, go rent it. It really is Meg Ryan's best performance, not to mention Tim Robbins. Oh, and it contains a fun performance by our then little known, lovable OCD-germaphobic friend Tony Shalhoub.

Happy New Year everybody!