Technology and Me, Part Two: Taking a Stand

By: Marianna Boyce

VariDesk

Nowadays, technology is used for most everything we do. If you read Part One of Technology and Me, I shared the love-hate relationship I had with Siri. Of course, I love my iPhone, but hate the intrusiveness that comes along with having one.

On a more positive note, Siri has helped me out of a tight spot on more than one occasion, making her an unlikely hero.

This was especially true as I navigated my way through a serious health issue that mysteriously appeared out of nowhere just a few years ago. It turns out, I was suffering from horrible symptoms similar to those of rheumatoid arthritis.

RA is a life-altering illness where the immune system and brain gets their wires crossed. The immune system sees healthy cells as foreign invaders and literally fights against itself. This autoimmune disease targets and breaks down the lubricating fluid surrounding the joints, setting off a terrible chain of events. The intense chronic pain, inflammation, and swelling makes it impossible to lead a normal life—or it did in my case.

RA packs the kind of pain that changes people from the inside-out. It doesn’t take long for it to physically and mentally take its toll.

I work in a cushy office environment for a large insurance firm. One might think sitting behind a desk all day wouldn’t be difficult, but with RA, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is difficult—even the smallest of mundane tasks. Sedentary work, or doing nothing, is actually the worst for an RA sufferer.

In my case, it always felt as though cement was hardening around my joints, making it excruciatingly painful to stand up from a seated position. I had to keep moving for the pain to be tolerable. Counterintuitive—I know, but that’s how RA works.

I desperately struggled. My confidence level plummeted and I could no longer keep up the facade of a happy, thriving employee. I was absolutely miserable.

One particular morning, I allowed the pain get the best of me. I vented my seemingly endless list of frustrations to Mr. Wine, my district office manager. Fortunately, I had a great boss that allowed me to rant in order to get things off my chest. What neither of us knew at the time was that Siri took note of my every word, and it was Siri that would be the driving force that kept me from temporarily leaving my cushy office job.

As I wrapped up my itty-bitty pity party with Mr. Wine, I continued to mumble as I walked away. Under my breath I uttered, “My life would be so much easier if I could just stand up all day.” Just like that, Siri chimed in on our ‘private’ conversation—only she didn’t say a word. She didn’t have to. Siri’s suggestion spoke for itself.

After Mr. Wine’s iPhone ‘dinged’, he looked at it with a surprised look on his face. He said, “You’ll never believe this,” When I looked at his phone, I was speechless, and thought to myself, “That’s so weird!” I unconsciously snatched Mr. Wine’s phone and began perusing the website so brilliantly displayed on the screen.

It was an advertisement for Varidesk, and I was like a kid in a candy store.

Varidesk, (now simply Vari) is a company that makes adjustable workstations where one can choose to sit or stand—all while maintaining a productive workflow. Also included is a convenient cushioned mat to help alleviate pressure on knees an ankles.

I was sold! I wanted one—like yesterday.

An adjustable desk was exactly what I needed, and there was no doubt my husband would purchase one to aide in my fight against RA. Gerry is just amazing like that, but Mr. Wine wanted to approach from a different angle.

He contacted the ‘powers-that-be’ at our home office and asked them to invest in Varidesk on my behalf. They surprisingly agreed, but only if I could get a letter of recommendation from my rheumatologist. Of course, that letter would be obtained within days, and the rest is history.

For me, unless I’m experiencing an RA flare, sitting down on the job is simply not for me.Thanks to Siri, Mr Wine, and the powers-that-be, I don’t have to sit all day anymore. I can take a stand against this debilitating disease instead. Sometimes I just have to remind myself: I have RA—RA doesn’t have me.

I have not been paid or given any special services for Vari’s mention in this post.

Technology and Me: Part One

By: Marianna Boyce

pexels-photo-714700.jpeg

Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

While many of us are unapologetically addicted to technology, we should also be leery of the intrusiveness that comes along with it. I’m not the most computer savvy person in the world, but I certainly know how to power off Siri so she doesn’t listen in on conversations. I also go the extra mile to switch location services off to keep the phone from tracking my every move. If you like them on, that’s okay too. It all boils down to personal preferences.

With that being said, I wonder how ads have popped up on my Facebook feed after only a ‘POOF’ of a thought in the back of my mind. Apparently, Siri is not only a tracker and an eavesdropper, but she’s also a mind reader. Yet, in her defense, she has helped me out on more than one occasion.

In a cleaning frenzy in 2016, I wondered what to do with the outrageous number of band t-shirts my son accumulated during his high school and college days. I knew he could never part with them, but also knew he would never wear them again. I don’t recall ever discussing with anyone that I was looking for a solution to my t-shirt dilemma. Imagine my surprise when an advertisement for “Project Repat” popped up on Facebook a day or so later. I’d never heard of this company before, but was quickly drawn in by the fact that they make quilts out of old t-shirts. Wow! I’d never entertained the idea of a quilt, yet the answer was staring me directly in the face.

As I apprehensively clicked on the link, I was thinking, “how in the world did Facebook know?”

Needless to say, I loved the idea and ultimately ordered the quilt. I shipped Cody’s shirts to North Carolina, and ‘POOF’—a few weeks later, he was wrapped up in a queen-sized commemorative t-shirt quilt (which is super-cool by the way). Thanks to Siri for suggesting this phenomenal idea to preserve these amazing memories.

TShirtQuilt

The second time she came to the rescue was an entirely different scenario altogether.

Early one morning at the office, my boss and I were having a serious conversation about my issue with rheumatoid arthritis. Siri was eavesdropping in on our conversation through my manager’s smart phone. I believe the buzz word picked up at the end of our conversation was in my last statement to him…“I wish.”

It turns out “my wish” prompted an interruption from Siri that ultimately changed my work environment for the better. In this case, I’m glad she was listening. Be on the lookout for my next post to hear about this game-changer in my fight with RA.

I am not being paid by Project Repat, or receiving any goods or services for their mention in this post.

The Little Country Church on the Side of the Road

By Marianna Boyce

LittleChurch2

Growing up in the Bible Belt, there was never a question where my family would be every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. It was important then, and even more so today. However, with all the social distancing, slowing the spread, and flattening the curve, I’ve been staying home to live-stream church services instead.

This past Easter, as I laid in bed with my eyes wide-open, many thoughts filled my mind. Realizing this would be the very first time I physically wouldn’t be at my home church for Resurrection Sunday, I had a tug to visit a notable place from my childhood.

My little journey required an early morning drive across Lake Murray Dam. I turned onto Highway 176, and plotted my course for a small town about thirty miles up the road. As a child, my family traveled this route often—at least three times a week.

LittleChurch

Old barns still stand along the two-lane country highway. The dilapidated storehouses intrigued me as a young girl, and, as much as I wanted to stop and explore some of them, today was just not that day. Instead, a small country church on the side of the road was beckoning for a visit. This special place holds some of my earliest childhood memories. It was the church my dad pastored for much of my young life. My siblings and I recently talked about Victory Baptist Church, which is probably why I had such a desire to go.

When I spotted the white cinder-block building in the distance, I slowed my car to a crawl. There were no other cars out that morning, so I stopped on the road just before turning into the deserted churchyard.

Once I entered what used to be the driveway, my car sat idle on the overgrown weeds and grass, I allowed my mind to wander. I thought of nothing in particular, but everything in general—all at the same time.

LittleChurch3

Nostalgia got the best of me, and I was immediately transported back in time.

My dad’s ministry started the year he married my sweet mama in 1956. I was born twelve years later. Since I was the baby of five, my memories are vague at best, but I know this little church will always be an integral part of my Christian heritage.

When it was organized, there was no running water—which meant no indoor plumbing. Kids weren’t constantly going back and forth to the restroom during the preaching hour. They simply had to wait. If they couldn’t, there was a bush behind the building. The church underwent a remodel years later and small restrooms were thankfully added.

The children all gathered in one Sunday School class. That’s all we had. We squeezed into that tiny room to learn about Adam and Eve, Noah and Jonah. Most importantly, we learned about Jesus. My brother, Lewis, also learned the books of the Bible here. He felt incredible when he was able to recite them all from memory.

On hot summer days, we’d open the windows in hopes of feeling a gentle breeze from heaven. Since none of them had screens, that gentle breeze periodically brought in a wasp or a bee, but we’d fight ‘em off with those old-fashioned funeral home fans with the wooden stick handles.

In the winter months, gas heaters were fired up to warm the cold air. By the end of the sermon, we were always toasty and warm. It could’ve also been the convicting power of God. Who knows? At the time, I was too young to understand, but I totally get it now. Conviction can certainly make anyone a little “hot under the collar.” My brother, Tommy, recalls one particular winter day in 1962 when he experienced that true power of conviction. He knelt at the alter with my dad’s sister and Aunt Emily led him to the Lord. It was a wonderful day, indeed.

Mom played the piano while Uncle Ralph led us in songs from yesteryear. We didn’t need more than “Amazing Grace,” “Victory in Jesus,” and “Sweet Hour of Prayer,”—my Grandma Caldwell’s personal favorite.

My sister, Beverly, held me on her lap until mom finished playing the piano. There was no such thing as a nursery in this little church. If children misbehaved, their parents would simply take them out and “have a little word of prayer with them.” Many times, the kids would start crying before that “necessary prayer” even took place. We knew what was coming. It didn’t take long for us to learn to sit up and behave for an hour or two…ish.

As the preacher’s kids, my siblings and I always ran the risk of being called down from the pulpit. Don’t worry. None of us bear permanent scars created by the embarrassment of our childish misbehavior. We’re all thankful for parents that made us mind. Discipline never hurts anyone. It only hurts when there’s none.

My sister comically recounts a story when she decided to rest on the front pew during dad’s sermon. This was okay given Cindy’s age, but when she raised her arms and legs straight up in the air, she garnered more attention from the preacher than those sitting behind her. I’m not sure what she was thinking, but immediately sat back up when daddy called her out. Needless to say, she never did that again.

After church, we’d all run outside to play chase, red rover, or mother-may-I until it was time to head home. The older kids would stand by the road waving at the occasional passerby. Of course, no one would hear of allowing this today—and for very good reason.

We had some good times at this small country church on the side of the road, but as you can see from the photos I recently took, this building sadly sits empty as it gives way to the elements. The green grass and beautiful wild flowers I remember have been choked by weeds and suffocating vines. Those weeds are now taller than me and my sister when we stood in the churchyard proudly holding our umbrellas so long ago.

LittleChurch4

I’m not sure why I needed to visit this special place from my past. Maybe I just needed to reconnect with a time and place that anchors my Christian heritage. Living in an unprecedented day of change and uncertainty, there is one thing that is still abundantly clear—God is in control of it all. I continue to find much comfort in that.

Mixed Emotions

By: Marianna Boyce

not-today-covid19-sign-on-wooden-stool-3952231

For now, the thought weighing heavily on my mind is staying healthy. It’s not a selfish thought. We’re all working diligently to fight this invisible enemy. Other than the obvious—overall good hygiene, washing hands, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or bend of our elbow—the bottom-line answer to this situation is to simply stay home.

But what if your place of employment remains open for business? What then?

It was a sobering thought as I read the memo given to me Friday afternoon before my commute home. I received my “authorization to travel” in the event the surrounding areas enforced a “shelter in place” order. The top line of the memo reads, “Critical Industry Employee, Authorization to Travel.” A statement in the body of the memo reads, “if you work in a critical infrastructure sector as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”

As crazy as it seems, my plan is to do just that.

selective focus photography of open signage

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

I’m the senior administrator for a large insurance company. Working for such a firm guarantees I’ll have plenty to keep me busy while others are hunkered down at home. Don’t get me wrong. This makes me happy, but extraordinarily sad at the same time.

I’m not particularly fond of being considered an “essential” employee. In my opinion, everyone’s place of employment is essential. I truly hate for any business to be closed. What makes my job more important than yours? Nothing, my friend, absolutely nothing. It’s as frustrating to me as it is to you, but while many of you wish you were able to go to work, I secretly wish to be hunkered down at home.

Before Coronavirus, my mantra was to crawl in sick as opposed to call in sick, but since COVID-19 entered the scene, I’ve totally changed my opinion on the matter. So far, I’ve been well, and taking extraordinary precautionary measures to stay that way, but the mental battle to choose work over home is still grueling. I have plenty of PTO time I could take, yet I’m more inclined to work.

My coworkers and I have put many social distancing rules in place. We wash our hands constantly. Hand sanitizer and latex gloves are always within reach. Lysol wipes and spray are always close by for us to use; although, the rationing has begun…

Watching the world being brought to her knees in a matter of a few weeks is surreal. The entire ordeal feels like a terrible movie, and we’re all the stars of the show. Public enemy number one is on the rampage, and no one has the answer in combating such a vicious virus. I think we’re close, but not quite there yet.

When the worst has passed (and it will), we will never be the same. As a people, we will be different. In my opinion, we will be greater. As was the case of September 11, 2001, America will adopt a new normal—but what will it be? That remains to be seen.

All I know for sure is, God is good all the time. He’s never surprised by anything, and always in control. We’ll make it through. Stay strong my friend, and if at all possible—stay home!

Has It Ever Occurred to You, Nothing’s Ever ‘Occurred’ to God?

By: Marianna Boyce

pexels-photo-1112048

Before ‘Coronavirus,’ ‘social distancing,’ and ‘flattening the curve’ became household words, I planned to submit a comical post written about technology and the older generation, but as the past few weeks began to unfold, I felt it wouldn’t be appropriate at this time.

The title of this particular post is a statement I’ve often heard my dad say, and no, nothing suddenly dawned on God. He didn’t just ‘wake up’ one morning and say, “Wow—I didn’t see that one coming.” Although I find much comfort in that, uncertainty is still somewhat unnerving. This unprecedented crisis developed in breakneck speed, not only in the United States of America, but also around the world.

It’s no secret America is at her best when we all stand together as “one nation, under God, indivisible…” but prayer is the key. Our country was founded on biblical principles. Praying to an all-knowing God has gotten us through some very difficult times in the past, and I have no reason to believe He won’t do the same now.

My pastor says that prayer is the slender nerve that moves the hand of God, but in my opinion, it shouldn’t take a global pandemic to get America back on her knees, yet here we are.

As we seek God’s face in the coming months, let’s fervently pray for our leaders and those in authority. Like them or not, they have an incredibly difficult job.

Of course, our doctors, nurses, and first responders need knowledge, wisdom, and strength to keep pushing forward.

Our truck drivers tirelessly keep our supply chain moving. I’ve noticed many more on the road in the past week or two, and I’m okay with that. How about you? They’re carrying precious cargo—our food, water, and other essential supplies, including that elusive toilet paper. Let’s be patient when we’re on the road with them.

If you’re working extended hours in our grocery stores to clean, sanitize, and re-stock shelves—thank you. You’ve not been forgotten.

As we practice social distancing from our friends, neighbors, and co-workers, let’s not distance ourselves from a great and mighty God. After we thoroughly wash our hands, lets remember to fold them in prayer for one another—not only for the United States of America, but for the entire world.

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (KJV)

“The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” Nahum 1:7 (KJV)

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. I’d love to know yours.

Exercise and RA: Part Four

By Marianna Boyce

active-adult-athlete-body-416778I’m sure we can all agree exercise benefits us all—regardless of gender, age, and fitness levels. There are many options to choose from, but not every workout suits every need. The key is to keep looking until you find which one works best for you.

 

In the beginning, I used rheumatoid arthritis as an excuse not to exercise, but quickly found anything water-related was a soothing option for my aching joints. For that very reason, I joined a gym and participated only in their water fitness classes. After about a month, this particular activity enabled me to build strength and endurance, ultimately giving me the confidence I needed to search for more options.

 

Since I preferred group classes, I looked for some I could do without creating painful regrets. There’s a difference between RA pain and exercise pain. I can handle the exercise pain alone, but paired with RA, it’s a frightening thought.

 

To follow is a list of some of the choices I’ve made so far. I certainly plan to add to the list as I become stronger, but for now, I’m challenging myself. It’s a balancing act, but the motivation is quite simple—feeling better while improving my mobility.

 

Aqua-Fit/Aqua-Tone/Aqua-Zumba

Each of these fun-filled workouts is for people of all ages and fitness levels.

 

I reaped many benefits from these non-impact underwater exercises performed in a temperature-controlled pool.

 

The instructor guides each step of the way, and most importantly, if you mess up, no one cares. As long as you keep moving, you’re doing it right.

 

I like to say, “What goes on under the water stays under the water.”

 

There’s no judgement and no rules.

 

Okay, there’s only one rule—no drowning allowed, and since your face is never submerged, it’s an easy rule to follow.

 

As I gained momentum in the areas of flexibility, strength, and mobility, I mustered up enough courage to try a Yoga Restore class.

 

Yoga Restore

This relaxing hour is also encouraged for all ages and fitness levels.

 

woman-in-purple-long-sleeve-shirt-and-grey-leggings-sitting-3756509

It uses breathing, stretching, and restorative postures to assist in feeling refreshed and renewed. With the lights dimmed, the intimidating factor most people feel when starting out makes it easier to attend. It’s a great way to treat your body to a calm, relaxing workout.

 

There’s no judgement and no rules.

 

Okay, there’s only one rule—just do you. Since you know your body better than anyone, it’s an easy rule to follow. The instructor never pushes beyond your limit. If you can’t hold a particular stretch or pose, do one you can.

 

RPM (Indoor Cycling/Spin Class)

This class is for all ages and fitness levels.

 

athlete-bike-black-and-white-cycle-260409RPM is a calorie-burning workout on stationary bicycles where you ride with the instruction of an enthusiastic coach. An instructor will guide you through various terrains—including hills, flats, and mountaintops.

 

In this class, there’s no judgement and no rules.

 

Okay, there’s only one rule—just have fun. It’s not a competition. The instructors constantly encourage members to listen to their bodies.

 

This high energy class is great, but I always take it much easier than everyone else. My knees and ankles don’t allow for the intensity many others exert—and I’m okay with that.

 

Barre

Wow—I love this class. It’s incredibly challenging, but miraculously doable—even for those with joint-related issues such as RA.

 

It’s a low-impact, high-energy program that integrates principles of yoga, Pilates, and strength training all in one class. The instructor focuses on slow, full-range movements combined with high repetition and isometric contractions. It increases strength, endurance, and bone density. It also improves posture, functional movement, and engages every muscle in the body through each pose and exercise.

 

Did I mention, there’s no judgement and no rules?

 

Okay, there’s just one rule—challenge yourself, but only within your physical limitations. The instructor will give modifications to any exercise if necessary.

 

Is it easy? Absolutely not. Has it been well worth the extra time, effort, and money? More than you’ll ever know. Until September of last year, I’d completely forgotten how good exercise felt. These activities changed the trajectory of my health and wellness goals.

 

Trust me! There’s still much to do, but the benchmark I recently set for myself was to simply feel better without focusing on a number on the scale. I’ve met that goal—so what’s next?

 

If you’ve ever entertained the idea of joining a gym, I encourage those of all ages and fitness levels to take that plunge if at all possible. Not all have a pool, so if you’re searching for water-fitness in particular, MUV fitness is a good option. If you don’t necessarily need a pool, I definitely recommend any reputable gym that’s convenient and affordable.

 

The reasoning is simple, and has nothing to do with vanity, but everything to do with mobility.

 

I’m not 100% pain-free, and may never be, but I haven’t felt better in years. Exercise is helping in ways I never thought possible—mentally and physically. It’s something I never thought about until it was snatched away, but I can honestly say I no longer take it for granted. The power of movement and mobility—it truly does matter.

beach-woman-sunrise-silhouette-40192

I’ve not been paid or given any services from MUV Fitness.

 

Exercise and RA: Part Three

By Marianna Boyce

waterfitness1

After the onset of perplexing RA symptoms in 2016, it’s taken me more than three years to pull myself together—especially in the area of health and wellness. The counterintuitive aspect of combining exercise with rheumatoid arthritis seemed ludicrous, but I’ve been desperate to feel like my old self again. I know exercise is an important factor. I’m not getting any younger, so it’s high time to get started. No more quitting.

Everyone’s probably heard the definition of insanity—the one where you do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results? Yeah—that’s the one. I was driving myself crazy trying to figure out what I was doing wrong.

It was clear what kept me in tip-top shape in my thirties and forties wasn’t clicking in my fifties. I had entered a new season of life—and wasn’t happy about it.

This change was inevitable, and throwing RA in the mix was much like throwing gasoline on a fire.

In a nutshell, I just missed me. It was evident I needed a different approach, so I got back to basics—start slow and do what you can.

Initially, I resorted back to my home workout videos, but they weren’t as easy as they used to be. I was desperate for outward results but didn’t realize at the time that I needed to work on things other than vanity.

Wanting to lose twenty pounds, I started making better food choices, but also took the plunge and began working out in my sister’s pool last summer. It was then, something strange happened. After a few sessions in the privacy of Cindy’s backyard, I felt incredible—and hadn’t even lost one pound.

Disappointing? Maybe at first, but as time passed, I made a conscious effort to stop fretting about the number on the scale and concentrate solely on the inner me instead.

When summertime came to a close, Cindy covered her pool for the fall and winter months. We decided to join a local fitness center with an indoor pool as we waited out the colder weather.

In all honesty, we weren’t thrilled with the idea of shaking up our daily routine by going to the gym throughout the week, but it’s something we had to do. It sounds like a zany idea for two women in their fifties to be joining aquatic activities in a public pool—yet there we were, along with other people of all ages, shapes, and sizes.

We both loved it immediately.

After the first few sessions, one of the instructors asked if we’d tried classes other than the pool-related ones.

At that time, Cindy and I were on an incredible exercise high, but our instructor knocked us right back down to earth when she asked us about trying other classes.

My thoughts were, “We’re just here for the pool, lady—nothing else. We’ve found our new comfort zone, and we’re happy about it, so there’s no need to push the issue.

This intuitive instructor wasn’t convinced. She thought we could do more. This sweet lady suggested we try a Yoga-Restore class offered upstairs in their main studio.

I told her about a few yoga videos I enjoyed at home (pre-RA,) but they were currently more advanced than my physical capabilities allowed.

She explained this particular class was more concentrated on breathing, stretching, and relaxing. The more she talked it up, the more Yoga-Restore intrigued us. balance-body-exercise-female-374101

Breathing is a necessity; stretching leads to mobility, and relaxing is a luxury.

Sign us up. When’s the next class?

Little did we know how amazing we’d feel the day after yoga.

If you suffer from RA, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, etc., you know that mornings are the worst. The pain and stiffness after waking up are debilitating, but after the first yoga session, our mornings were much more tolerable—not 100% pain-free, but definitely a considerable difference than before.

Branching out to take that one additional class prompted us to seek more possibilities, but we agreed the pool would be a constant. Our new yoga class was also a keeper, but we now looked at the gym in an entirely new way. It appeared Cindy and I were much stronger than we initially thought.

Our options are limitless, but our health issues sometimes keep us grounded. There’s always a fine line to tread, but as a team, we have each other’s back as we both make progress.

How can we push ourselves without going overboard? What else can we possibly do? Just about anything we put our minds to.