Hop to it, but a nap might be better

By Lauren Kovacs

Hop away from the old and hop to the new. It is always a good time to star anew, fresh air and new life. Leave to cold dead winter behind. Shed it like an old snake skin.

I know easier said than done. I face the “why bother” monster too. Spring feels magical. Embrace that magic. Before the suffocating, still summer heat, and bugs, enjoy the clean breeze and light air.

New beginnings don’t care where you plop them, but springtime seems to be good. Try a bit of exercise. Maybe some easy, gentle yoga? Maybe a few sit-ups. Maybe a pet is your new or perhaps something else. Organizing something to better suit your needs. Be open to anything being a new beginning.

A new hair cut is a refreshing way to mark a new beginning, even if it is crushed by fatigue. I think making plans is just as good as doing them. Trying is worthy for us. Daily unplanned obstacles are thrown at us, like an over filled water balloon.

I plan on getting some pink streaks in my hair this summer. If I can get it done, great. If not, no loss. I avoid appointments because I never know what MS will do. I am far from spontaneous and I hyper-plan. With MS, appointments often are commitments I avoid. MS requires flexibility. I am more set in stone, a “yes sir” kind of girl. MS is at odds with being raised a Navy brat.

So, plan your new beginning, but be flexible enough to change plans. MS is like chocolate in summer. Some days it melts on your hand and other days you have bad tremors and it melts in your hair. True story. Plan, but be flexible.

I like to see flexibility as plan B. Flexibility and spontaneity cause me anxiety. New beginnings are more like goals. I think any new good habit is a new beginning really. Self improvement is great. Self care is a great new beginning too. 

Fresh flowers, for example, on my kitchen counter, all the time, was a new beginning for me. My allergies don’t really like it, but too bad. I enjoy fresh flowers, as my morning greeting. I just have tissues handy. New beginnings should be good. They may require a contingency or a strategy.

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Mother’s Day-Celebrating all the Women in Your Life

She is your mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, godmother, cousin, or friend. She is a woman you have been able to rely on throughout your entire life. No matter the type of relationship, there are women we have been fortunate enough to have in our lives that care about us unconditionally. They support and motivate us to be better people and are our angels here on earth that we’re blessed to know. The women who influence our day to day should be celebrated, and Mother’s Day is a great outlet to do so.

The day doesn’t have to look a certain way either. If you’re celebrating someone who is not ‘technically’ a mother in the traditional sense, that’s perfectly fine and good! Mother’s Day is about acknowledging those who are significant to you. The women who’ve surrounded you with motherly qualities, kindness, compassion, and strength. Celebrate her. Talk to one another, visit if you’re able to, send a card or note, flowers or gift. Just saying thank you to her is a wonderful gesture.

I want to recognize that it may also be a day that is difficult for some. For those who have lost and mourned important women in their lives. Those struggling to become mothers or who have lost a child. The day may be one of remembrance and somberness at times. But it can also be a beautiful day where you can honor someone and recall fond memories. A day where you can hold onto hope that things may look brighter for future Mother’s Days to come. And to celebrate those in your life who have made a difference.

Wishing everyone a beautiful day filled with light and joy.

National Flowers - List Of National Flowers by Country
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How to Find Your Purpose in Life

From “Finding Purpose in Life” – The Motivator

MSAA is proud to introduce the latest edition of The Motivator, now available in both print and digital editions! This edition’s cover story, “Finding Purpose in Life” discusses how the concept of Purpose in Life has been shown to dramatically affect one’s emotional, mental, and physical health.

Read an excerpt from our cover story below:


Finding a Purpose in Life is a deeply personal thing. For it to have optimal impact, it must be something that resonates for you – something that reflects your beliefs, your interests, and your goals. They key is knowing how to unearth it under the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

  1. Make a list and check it twice.

Actually, make several lists…

  • What makes you happy?
  • What are your talents?
  • What can people learn from you?
  • What calls you to action?

Spend time with your answers. Perhaps your purpose in life is on one – or more – of your lists.

2. Thank-you notes.

Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write thank-you notes to the people who have made a difference in your life. Sometimes, in acknowledging those people and the impact they had on our lives, we find a desire to do the same for others.


Continue reading for more tips and check out the entire Winter/Spring 2021 edition of The Motivator on MSAA’s website today!

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Tamara Darling – May 2021 Artist of the Month

Each year, we feature the work of artists affected by multiple sclerosis in our annual MSAA Art Showcase, including highlighting one artist each month as our Artist of the Month. This month, we are proud to feature artist Tamara Darling of York, ME:

Tamara Darling art photograph entitled Nubble Wave
“Nubble Wave”

About the Artist

Continue reading
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Meet the Board – Michael Schoenhaut

MSAA strives to be a leading resource for the MS community by Improving Lives Today through vital services and support – and we could not accomplish this without the help of our volunteer board members. MSAA’s Board of Directors is comprised of accomplished professionals from across the country who volunteer their time to further MSAA’s mission. Our ongoing series, Meet the Board, introduces you to our wonderful volunteer board members! 

This month, MSAA is proud to highlight our newest board member Michael Schoenhaut and share his inspiration for joining the Board of Directors and future goals for the organization.  

Michael Schoenhaut

Professional Background: Michael Schoenhaut is a Managing Director and Senior Portfolio Manager on J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s Multi-Asset Solutions team, based in New York. Mr. Schoenhaut is responsible for a global suite of multi-asset income strategies and is lead portfolio manager across the funds. He focuses on asset allocation, portfolio construction, manager selection, and risk management. He was previously a member of the SmartRetirement portfolio management team which was awarded the 2014 Morningstar U.S. Allocation Fund Manager of the Year for their efforts.

An employee since 1997, Mr. Schoenhaut has held other positions within Multi-Asset Solutions, including portfolio manager for GTAA and balanced strategies and head of quantitative portfolio management. Mr. Schoenhaut earned a Bachelor of Science in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering from Cornell University and is a CFA charterholder.


What inspired you to join MSAA’s Board of Directors?

After my wife was diagnosed with MS seven years ago, we researched a bunch of organizations that supported patients and research efforts. She had been fortunate to have her MS under control, but we knew that many were not so fortunate. After finding MSAA, Gina Ross Murdoch – MSAA’s President and CEO – reached out to me and personally introduced me to the organization. We kept in touch over the years. Given my background in finance/investment, when an opening on the Board of Directors arose and Gina reached out, I thought it was the perfect way to utilize my professional skills to help a cause that was personally meaningful to me and my family. 

What are your goals as an MSAA Board Member?

I would hope to make a difference as a Board Member. Whether that’s starting new programs, helping with existing ones, raising money, or getting to know the people we are serving, it’s all interesting to me. I will be on the Finance Committee and am happy to help MSAA where needed. In addition to the needs of the organization, my personal need is to be an advocate and supporter in the lives of our friends with MS. I hope that my knowledge of MS and passion for supporting others enables me to be a great Board Member and I look forward to the days when we can meet in person!


Editor’s Note: MSAA is extremely proud and honored to enlist the support of Michael Schoenhaut and all dedicated Board Members who volunteer their time, expertise, compassion, and leadership to help us achieve our mission of improving lives today for the entire MS community. We are very grateful for their service and look forward to their continued support as we strive to serve more people in more places than ever before. Thank you once again Mr. Schoenhaut!

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MS with Arm Weakness and Spasms

For many people in the MultipleSclerosis.net community, Anita Williams’ article was a game-changer. Williams wrote openly and honestly about how this diagnosis affects her arms

This is something that is not often talked about in the community. But it seems it should be. This article stirred the community, leading folks to realize they are not alone in facing this symptom.

To dive deeper into what this issue looks like for community members, we reached out on the MultipleSclerosis.net Facebook page. We asked, “Foot drop is a commonly discussed MS symptom, but what about arm drop?”

More than 400 people commented. Here is what was shared:

Understanding of the issue

An overwhelming number of folks with MS shared that they have arm spasms and lack of functioning in one or both arms. Many did not realize that other people with MS deal with this same problem. Several thought their arm problems were due to their physical jobs and not a result of MS. There is comfort in people knowing that they are not alone and in finding out the real cause.

“I completely understand this kind of pain and, before reading this article, felt I was alone. It is comforting to know that I am not.”

“For the longest time, I thought I knew no one with arm problems like mine.”

“I thought it was just me who dealt with trouble in my arm.”

Dropping things constantly

For many community members, this shows up as dropping things at unexpected times. Many with MS cannot trust themselves to hold anything – coffee, keys, or even a baby. Some have adjusted by buying things that can withstand being dropped, like protective cases for cell phones.

“I hate dropping things.”

“I have been using plastic dishes for a very long time. I drop things more and more.”

“I will never have a phone without an Otter box and insurance on it thanks to this.”

Dealing with limited functionality, especially when arms are overhead

This issue can affect someone with MS by making it difficult to raise their arms overhead for more than a few moments. This can make it a challenge to blow-dry hair or put away groceries. Some community members do chores in short bursts with lots of breaks so their arms do not get tired.

“I cannot raise my arm all the way up.”

“I get where my fingers get stuck and I cannot move them. It actually hurts I have to pry them apart with my other hand.”

“If I hold my arms up, they start feeling weak.”

Having the problem only on one side

Many who deal with these symptoms find that only 1 arm is affected. The good news is that this leaves 1 arm with full function. But this also means learning how to work with 1 reliable arm. Some learn to use their non-dominant arm, which takes some getting used to.

“I have learned to do most stuff left handed, except writing.”

“Happens with my right hand and arm. Most of my issues are on my right, dominant, side. I cannot keep track of how many cups of coffee I have spilled because it is ingrained into my brain to use my right hand.”

We want to say thank you to everyone who shared for this story. Thank you for being a part of this community and showing so much support for one another.

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Stress Management with Chronic Illness

By Moyna John

It was November 2019, and my life was extremely challenging. I was struggling to find a balance between working and parenting my two-year-old toddler. I questioned myself at every turn. Being a first-time mother, I was very unsure of myself. Plus, I was still experiencing a case of post-partum depression. I was not handling all the stress well. Weeks later, I woke up with blurred vision in my right eye – this was the beginning of my symptoms. By the end of December 2019, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). I am sure that my high stress levels led to my initial MS symptoms.

Stress is something that everyone experiences. But managing a chronic illness can add even more. Unchecked stress can lead to various physical and mental symptoms. Some of these symptoms are chest pain, anxiety, headaches, depression, high blood pressure, and panic attacks. Stress management can provide healthier methods to cope with stress. Here are some stress management tips that I use.

Take care of your body.

You only get one body in this life; it’s essential to take care of it. Your body will give you signs when you are overly stressed. There are many different ways you can take care of yourself. Exercise is a great way to relax your mind and body—the endorphins from exercise can relieve stress and pain. I bought an exercise bike for my home. I try my best to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Also, a well-balanced diet is another way to take care of yourself. Since my diagnosis of MS, I switched to a gluten-free diet. I have found that this diet has helped reduce my symptoms. Before making any changes, consult with your doctor first.

Relax your muscles.

I have noticed that my body gets taut when I am stressed. During overly stressed moments, I experience muscle spasms. One way I keep my muscles loose is through massages. COVID has prevented me from going to a spa to receive a massage. I purchased a massage gun, and it is a game-changer. It can be painful sometimes because of the intensity of the massage gun. Another quick way to relax your muscles is taking a hot shower/bath.

Grounding techniques.

According to Dr. Sarah Allen, “Grounding means to bring your focus to what is happening to you physically, either in your body or in your surroundings, instead of being trapped by the thoughts in your mind that are causing you to feel anxious.” My therapist recommended trying grounding techniques when I feel stressed or anxious. I have found these techniques to be very helpful for calming myself down. Here are the following techniques I do:

  1. Deep breathing
  2. Take a sip of cold water
  3. Focus on listening to my surroundings
  4. Recite lyrics to one of my favorite songs 
  5. Think about everything I am grateful for
  6. Countdown backward from ten

Finding a hobby.

A hobby is an excellent way to occupy your mind. Find something that interests you or keeps your hands busy. My hobby is coloring; I have found a color by numbers app for my phone. Also, I purchased a paint by numbers kit that comes with an easel, paint, paintbrushes, and canvas. I think these kits are great because you get everything all in one; something to occupy the mind and hands and beautiful pictures that look lovely once completed. 

Life is full of stressors, and chronic illness can only make it more challenging. Stress management strategies can help reduce stress-related symptoms and maintain a quality of life. Be mindful of taking care of your body through exercise and a well-balanced diet. Grounding techniques can be helpful for self-calming. Plus, finding a hobby can occupy your mind and keep you relaxed. Overall, stress can be detrimental to someone with a chronic illness. Remember to keep your health a priority! 

*Moyna John is a multiple sclerosis advocate and freelance blogger. She is passionate about adding representation within the MS community, creating space for Black MS warriors, and empowering modern women to live a purposeful lifestyle outside of chronic illness. Visit her website or follow Moyna on Instagram.

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Lemon Blueberry Bread

Hello Spring! And hello delicious Lemon Blueberry Bread! Blueberries are in season and are easy to find these days at your local grocery store or farmers’ market. This healthier option bread is simple to make and is packed with flavor. Perfect for a warm and sunny day.

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup maple syrup or honey
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup coconut oil melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup lemon juice plus zest of one lemon
  • ¾ cup blueberries fresh or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon flour for coating blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to oven to 350°F. Grease a loaf pan.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl add Greek yogurt, honey, coconut oil, eggs and lemon juice and mix well.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk until mixed through.
  5. In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with flour to prevent them from sinking into the loaf. Gently fold into the batter along with the lemon zest.
  6. Transfer to greased loaf pan and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7.  Cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan.
Lemon Blueberry Bread
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Relaxing Method: 4-7-8

By Doug Ankerman

4-7-8 relaxing method of breathing

Trying NOT to sound like an infomercial, snake oil, salad shooting pitchman BUUUUUT here’s the easiest, cheapest and most relaxing method to melt stress and ease pain while clearing your head.

No more warming oversized beanbags in a microwave.

No more soaking in the tub till you’re a giant prune.

And no more oily and expensive massage sessions.

Yes, this stress reliever is no mess. Can be done anywhere at YOUR convenience. And is absolutely free. You heard right…FREE!

What is this life-changing, stress-reducing procedure, you ask?

It’s breathing! Breathing to a count of 4-7-8, in particular.

What’s 4-7-8, you ask? (You ask a lot of questions!)

Well, 4-7-8, beside being my locker number in junior high, is a simple, deep breathing technique that helps restore energy, focus… and sanity in this cray-cray world.

Let’s break it down so you can learn to breathe the 4-7-8 way…

FOUR

Begin by inhaling through your nose to a slooooww count of four. One…. Two…. Three…. Four. Make it a deep, belly-expanding breath. Filling your lungs to max capacity with fresh air.

SEVEN

Next, hold that glorious breath for a seven count. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

EIGHT

Finally, exhale through your mouth as you slowly count to eight. Tighten your belly, squeezing out as much stale, old air as possible.

Repeat the compete cycle again. Inhaling through your nose to a slow count of four. Hold the fresh air for seven. Before slowly exhaling through your mouth for an eight count.

Do the 4-7-8 cycle several times as you focus on slowly inhaling, a relaxed hold, followed by a slow, controlled exhale through your mouth.

I like to breathe 4-7-8 when first waking up. Breathing fresh air deep into every cell gets your body ready to rise and shine. Likewise, a few 4-7-8’s before bedtime releases the day’s stress and preps your mind and body for a restful night’s snooze.

The 4-7-8 breathing technique can be done anytime! Anywhere! At your convenience! Whenever you feel stressed. At work. At home. Even at the in-laws! 

Melt stress today…. with 4-7-8!

4-7-8 is yours, absolutely free, but I feel no shame in accepting credit or even a donation!

*Doug Ankerman writes silly stuff about MS and other blurbs on his humor blog at myoddsock.com.

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National Volunteer Week 2021

National Volunteer Week — April 18-24, 2021

Volunteer button

It’s National Volunteer Week and volunteering has changed over the past year. We haven’t been able to get out and support our favorite organizations as much as we may have liked to. But you probably volunteered more this year than you think did! Maybe you volunteered to help a neighbor who fell on hard times during the pandemic, or made masks and donated them to places that really needed them. Even sharing resources on your social media accounts so your friends and family knew where to find information they needed counts as volunteering.

Whether you did good deeds consciously or subconsciously during these difficult times, just know that your willingness to offer up your time and energy has likely helped more people than you know.

If you’d like to dedicate your time during National Volunteer Week to supporting MSAA’s mission of improving lives for the MS community, we have some easy, safe ways to do so.

Street Squad

As a member of MSAA’s Street Squad, we will send you copies of our impact flyer, which includes information about MS and how MSAA can help. You can share it with your friends, family, and peers. If you want to, you can also hang copies of the flyer anywhere in your area where you might find a community board (with permission, of course).

Virtual Volunteer

Virtually volunteer by following MSAA on social media and sharing our content! MSAA regularly posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest about our programs and services. Help us spread the word by reposting or sharing with your friends and followers.

Either of these options could have a great impact on people in your community who have been affected by MS. If you have interest in these programs, or have volunteer suggestions, please reach out to Volunteer@mymsaa.org. We appreciate everyone’s efforts!

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