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I grew up with a camping family. It’s a cheap way to go on vacation with three kids and two adults, and it’s fun as well. Sure, there were some…incidents…involving my brother setting up his hammock underneath a raccoon’s mating tree, or when a couple of squirrels fought over a cookie all night long. They make good stories now, and I guess maybe they built character?

I think a good analogy for hotels versus tents that it’s sort of like the difference between driving and walking. If you drive, you’re better protected from the elements, it’s usually pretty comfy, and you tend to get places more quickly. If you walk, you get to notice more. Since it takes time to walk by that house on the corner, there’s time to notice the chihuahua in the window hopping up and down and barking like mad. You can notice when the tulips start coming up, and whether someone new has moved in to a house. It’s more relaxed than driving.

Camping is similar. There’s time to sit out talking by the campfire (it smells so good!). I like listening to the birds in the morning, or watching the sun come up. And the stars are amazing!

When I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I thought my camping days were over. Sleep on the ground? You’ve got to be kidding me. Set up a tent, carry gear, ride in a car for hours to get somewhere? Impossible.

I think it probably was pretty impossible when I was first diagnosed. I had trouble going shopping in one store, and I was pretty much limited to half hour car trips. I also stopped exercising because I was afraid of pain, which made it even harder to get around. At the moment, I’m definitely not “cured.” I still have aches and pains, and when I have a flare-up it is, well, agonizing. I really want to make camping work, though. I enjoy it, and it’s a cheap way for someone living on disability income to go on vacation.

I think the key to making camping is going to be having the right gear and being prepared. (Although really that’s the key to any camping experience. You do not want to be cold and wet.)

Here’s my camping plan, complete with accommodations and ways to work around common fibromyalgia issues:

  1. Getting there: long car rides are tricky for my back and my body. My doctor has recommended that I take frequent breaks. I think she said I should take 15 minute breaks ever hour, although that adds a lot of time to a trip. Whatever the case, I try to get out of the car and stretch frequently. Solution: take frequent breaks and stretch.
  2. Making sure I can manage the gear (e.g. setting up the tent, loading the car, etc.): This is where I probably need an ally to help me. I can do some of this, but no matter what your ability level, setting up a tent alone is tricky. I want to go camping with friends anyway, so this is pretty much taken care of. Solution: recruit a friend.
  3. Getting a good night’s sleep: Sleep is such an issue for people with fibromyalgia anyway. I think some people even use it as part of the diagnostic criteria. I managed to get a foam camping mat that is self-inflating and 3.5 inches thick. It’s not cheap, but I think this is one of the most important pieces of equipment. I do not want to feel every bump on the ground when I’m trying to sleep. I would also recommend checking night-time temperatures for the area you’re going to be camping. In my region, it usually drops about 20 degrees overnight. So if it’s a comfortable 65 degrees outside during the daytime, you’re going to be sleeping in 45 degree weather. I have a down sleeping bag from when I was a kid. I think any kind of thick blanket or comforter can work, unless you’re going in winter or something. Camping can also be noisy. I’m used to forest noises (birds, the occasional rustling), and I find them quite soothing. If the dawn bird chorus bothers you, you might want to get some ear plugs. If there are any sleep issues that you usually have at home, think about how you usually deal with them and try to mimic it when camping. Solution: Plan ahead, invest in a good sleeping mat, stay warm, and be prepared for things like noise and temperature.
  4. Morning stiffness: This is usually an issue for people with fibromyalgia, even when sleeping in a bed. Make sure you know some good stretches, and bring anything you normally use to deal with morning stiffness. I find menthol rubs such as icy-hot or Tiger Balm helpful, and Thermacare wraps are a-MAZ-ing. If cold is your thing, try bringing a small ice chest with some ice packs in it. It’s also good to bring any pain medication you have. Solution: stretch and use heat or ice therapy, as well as anything that usually helps.
  5. Other issues: All campers have to be prepared for certain things. Does your campground have showers with hot water? If not, investigate how other people keep clean. Do you have gear for inclement weather? Do you want to prepare food or eat out? Don’t forget to bring things like sunscreen and mosquito repellent. Check out camping guides and books before you go. Also, remember to bring anything that’s part of your everyday treatment routine – plus things for flare-ups – with you. Don’t forget your medication! Solution: Read up before you go, prepare for the unexpected, and bring necessities such as your medication with you.
  6. Don’t forget to have fun! Otherwise, what’s the point?

I tried a test run of my set-up in the backyard last night. It worked well, although I did have some morning stiffness. I’ve been stretching, and it seems to be going okay.

I’m going for a “real” camping trip Wednesday night – beach, here I come! So this is also a roundabout way of saying that there will be no Wednesday update. However, I’ll try to write up some after-thoughts about camping on Friday. Maybe I’ll post some pictures too, who knows.

This post is the third in a three-part series on exercising with physical limitations.

If you went to public school in the United States in the past couple of decades (or had a child that did), you’re probably familiar with the dreaded physical fitness tests administered every year. Gym teachers administer five fitness tests to determine each student’s fitness level. In front of all their classmates. These tests include: “curl-ups or partial curl-ups, shuttle run, endurance run/walk [‘The mile run’], pull-ups or right angle push-ups, and V-sit or sit and reach.” The students who pass a certain number of tests get awards, and the others sigh in relief because another year has passed.

Those events were hellish for me, although possibly not for every child. I always had trouble with the pull-ups. Since my gym classes tended to be after lunch, the mile-long run/walk usually ended with me clutching my side while walking around the field as my classmates headed off to get drinks of water.

I am not here to talk about those tests.

The same President’s Council on Fitness and Sports created some very helpful programs for adults. (Or maybe it’s just better if you’re an adult, it’s voluntary, and you’re not judged by a jury of your adolescent peers.)

These include the Presidential Champions* and Active Lifestyle programs.

The Active Lifestyle program is a really awesome program that I’ve participated in twice. I’ve found it really good motivation to continue exercising. Your goal: Exercise 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week, for 5 weeks. (You have 8 weeks total for the program, so if you end up missing a week it’s okay.) “Exercise” can be anything outside your normal activity level – walking, doing housework, gardening, swimming, playing Nintendo Wii. It can be low-impact, ease-you-in kinds of exercise, or it can be high-endurance things like weight-lifting. They don’t even have to be 30 consecutive minutes of exercise. Basically, the Active Lifestyle program encourages you to work at your level of fitness.

Many of the fitness resources I have state that keeping an exercise log helps motivate people to continue exercising. (I can’t link them here, because they’re books. Sorry for the lack of an immediate citation!) It’s really satisfying to be able to look over your log and think, “Wow, when I began I could only walk for 10 minutes at a time. Now I’m walking to the park!” The program helped me increase my confidence in my ability to exercise. Even when I’m unable to exercise because of a circumstance outside my control (such as a stomach bug), I know that I can ease back into the program.

Oh, it’s also nice to get a snazzy certificate at the end.

*In case you were wondering, the Presidential Champions program is a more challenging program, in that you input the kind of exercise and length of time you did it, and the program assigns a number of “points” to your total score. When you reach a certain number of points, you get the medal. There is no time limit, although they do limit the amount of points you can get in a day to encourage participants to exercise daily rather than in large bursts. (Yes, Sarah Palin was a recipient of the Gold Presidential Champions medal. That does not mean it’s good or bad, and it did get some publicity about the program out there.)

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A fibro-friendly item from my Etsy store

I've been working on making fibro-friendly jewelry. I'd love it if you checked them out by clicking the image above, or going to

About Me

This blog is intended as a place for me to reflect on my own healing journey, in the hopes that others may also gain insight from my experiences. I've "borrowed" a line from Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken:

'Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.'

I think the most important thing for me now is that I feel empowered to be a force for positive change in my life. And that, my friends, has made all the difference.

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August 2020


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