Travelling with illnesses: dealing with hot weather

Help for sufferers, Posts, Travel, Travelling with illnesses series

A big issue with travelling abroad is that, often, you are visiting an environment which is different to your own. The problem with this? Drastic temperature changes can seriously impact your health, and moving from your usual climate to somewhere super hot is pretty much a recipe for disaster. These are a few things I do to minimise its effect on my fibro:

1. Drink plenty of water.

Hydration is key to dealing with heat, so make sure you top up constantly throughout the day. Rehydration sachets also come in handy if you start to fall behind, and consider carrying a water bottle when you are out and about to avoid sweating out too much H2O when you don’t have access to drinks.

2. Battle the chub rub.

Those of us who suffer from chafing; whether it be in the thigh area, under the arms, or somewhere else altogether; know just how much of a nightmare hot weather can be. There are a few tried and tested methods out there that can help prevent the dreaded chub rub, and it’s worth investing before you go to tackle the problem before it starts. I like to put a layer of roller deodorant on my affected areas, and then top this with a good coat of talc. Sometimes, though, it’s easier to play it safe by making sure there’s a layer of fabric between the two points of contact (I like long, floaty trousers for this).

3. Fatigue.

Fatigue is pretty much a constant when it comes to fibromyalgia, but this can spiral out of control when the temperature comes into play. Make sure you have plenty of rest, seek shade as much as possible, and consider a decent fan as back up. Don’t forget to make use of your usual fatigue coping techniques, as these will help to keep your day to day problems at a minimum.

4. Fainting.

I don’t know about you, but I have a bad habit of fainting when I get too hot or too cold. Try not to over do things, and pace yourself as much as possible. It is best to have someone to accompany you if you feel like this may be a problem, and if you do start feel faint, alert someone nearby before lowering yourself to the ground. The aim is to get blood flow to your brain, so laying on a level surface, putting your head between your knees, or even putting your legs up against a wall, are all techniques which help with this. Stay low to the ground to avoid heavy falls (if you do happen to lose consciousness, you don’t want to hit your head as this may cause concussion, so preventing falls is very important). When you feel a little better, make sure you have some water and something sweet to boost your blood sugar. (N.B: a good excuse to eat chocolate!)

5. Clothing.

It is important for any vacation that you pack the right clothing for your destination, but it is especially so when you have an illness to think about. Personally, my fibro makes me very sensitive to temperature change, so I find it vital to pack the right clothes for my holiday. Try comfortable, loose fitting clothes in light colours in order to aid ventilation and reflect sunlight. However, remember that all climates are prone to temperature variation, and you may find an unsuspected cold period knocks you off course. Thus, always pack a few warmer layers that you can play about with depending on the forecast. Furthermore, hot weather often results in other problems, think: sweating, chafing, heat rashes. Make sure you choose breathable fabrics which are itch- free and easy to wear, and avoid piling up on accessories. For all of my ‘feminine’ followers, I avoid jewellery in case of theft or loss, but also because hot metal and skin is NOT a good combo. A sunhat and glasses will suffice during the day, and one multipurpose necklace and a set of earrings add glamour for a night out. Finally, don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes, especially if you plan to do lots of walking, so as to avoid blisters and athlete’s foot. A simple pair of worn in pumps or sandals will do perfectly.

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Travelling with illnesses: be a pro jetsetter

Help for sufferers, Posts, Travel, Travelling with illnesses series

So obviously travelling is a nightmare, but it gets so much worse when you’re ill. Here are a few bits of advice for next time you hop on a plane.

1. Be organised.

Before you go, gather up all your documents and get them in order, and then write out an itinerary for your travel. Give yourself plenty of time and plan out any rest breaks or emergency stops in advance.

2. Get comfortable.

Pack a snuggly jumper, fluffy socks, and whatever else you need to get cosy. I like to bring a soft, lightweight scarf, so that I can use it as a blanket when it gets chilly. Wear comfy clothes and consider taking an extra pair of shoes that slip on and off. If you’re spending a good few hours on the plane, you need to do it in comfort, otherwise you’ll regret it later.

3. Pack your pills properly.

Make sure you have everything you need in your hand luggage (just in case), and bring all of your appropriate prescriptions as proof. Remeber to pack extra in case you run out or lose some. All of this means that can you can guarantee that you won’t lose them in the hold, and you have them in case of an emergency.

4. Stay hydrated.

One of the worst things about flying is that you get reeeaaallly dehydrated. Not only does this give you a headache, but it can severely effect your body, and make chronic illnesses feel ten times worse. Make sure you pick up a bottle of water in duty free, and make the most of any free drinks you’re offered in-flight. If you’re prone to dry skin or eczema, it’s also a good idea to pack a small, travel-sized moisturiser or emollient. Furthermore, rehydration sachets are brill as a pick-me-up if you feel worse for wear, and come in handy for hot weather as well.

5. Upgrade your seat.

It’s worth thinking about paying extra for more leg room, but as a last resort, you can always ask to upgrade to an empty seat once everyone has boarded. This is usually free, as no one is going to be using the seat anyway. This is especially useful if you have joint problems, chronic pain, a weak bladder, or any physical disability, because it means you get more room for movement and easier access to the aisle and toilets.

Hopefully, this will help the next time you travel. I’d love to hear if you have any suggestions, so don’t forget to like and comment. I’ll write a few more travel posts soon, so remember to stay updated! Thanks guys x

Travelling with illnesses: what I was told.

Help for sufferers, Posts, Travel, Travelling with illnesses series

So I’ve got an apology to make. I haven’t posted anything in over two weeks. This is partly because I have been suffering (more on that soon), but also because I’ve been jetsetting.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been in a beautiful little country called Laos, making an attempt to help those less fortunate than me. Not only has it been one of my lifelong goals to travel, but spending time there helped me to improve who I am as a person, and truly push my limits to the max.

Of course, traveling with fibro, or indeed any other chronic disability, can be a bit of a challenge. Whether it be the plane journey, the climate differences, or the new activities; travelling can be a pain (literally!).

Throughout the next week, I’m going to be sharing a little about what I did over in Laos, along with giving some helpful tips for you to remember the next time you’re abroad.

In the meantime, here are a few suggestions I was given whilst away, that you might like to try out for yourself…

1. Be mindful.

I was told that one of the most important parts of looking after your body involves being able to listen to what it has to tell you.

Next time you have a quiet five minutes, get yourself comfy and listen. Start by breathing slowly and deeply, counting your breaths and feeling your body relax as you do. Then, focus on each part of your body, starting at your toes and working up to your head, and allow yourself to feel what’s going on there. Forget about your stress, forget about the outside world, just focus on you. Once you reach the top of your crown, allow your mind to accept and then let go of those feelings, and then concentrate back on your breathing.

This time, try and empty your mind, and allow any new thoughts, feelings, or worries to float through your mind and be let go. Spend a few moments like this, allowing your mind and body to relax and push aside any mental or physical problems for the moment.

2. Get a massage.

Sometimes, having a massage can really help you to relax, and what better way is there to treat yourself than to soothe your body and ease any achy muscles? Next time you have some spare cash, book yourself in to your local spa; or if you prefer to spend a little less, get a close friend or family member to spend some time with you for a pamper evening, where you can help each other.

3. Try yoga.

Personally, I haven’t had the chance to properly test this one out yet, but loads of people have told me that it is worth the effort.

Start simple and spend five minutes each day stretching out your body and focusing on breathing exercises. As you adjust, build up your routine to focus on longer, more complicated yoga positions. If you need inspiration, just try searching your fave social media for some yoga advice, as it is a popular hobby that is widely available online.

Do you have any advice you’d like to share, or an idea to try? Or, maybe you have something to say about what I’ve shared? Let us know what you think in the comments below, and don’t forget to like and share if you enjoyed this read!

Thanks guys!

What is ‘pacing’ and how can it help my fibro?

Help for sufferers, Posts, Work

Plenty of people with chronic illnesses like to talk about pacing, but if you’re newly diagnosed or have only recently started looking for advice, then you might not know what this is.

Pacing is a method of coping with the fatigue-like symptoms often associated with chronic conditions such as fibro. It involves creating a broken down or spread out routine, so that tasks can be separated into smaller, more manageable chunks. This ensures that you can concentrate longer on tasks by giving yourself small rest breaks in between.

For example, I like to split up my daily chores, study sessions, and various errands by having at least five to ten minutes of nothing for every hour or so. After a while, I have a larger break, and if I’m struggling, I will increase the frequency of my breaks. If you don’t like to sit and do nothing, try doing something easy that takes little energy (mental, physical, or otherwise) and is a distraction from your task.

(N.B: From here on it gets complicated, so you might want to skip the next paragraph if you dont fancy the heavy reading!)

The next question is this; how do you figure out your rest to work ratio? Well first of all, you need to spend some time figuring out how long you can go before you lose the will to live. This is how long you can go before you need a big break. Then, try and count how many times within this you get distracted; this is how many mini breaks you need. Spread them evenly within the time frame, and aim for between five and fifteen minutes for each break. you can alter this to your taste later, if necessary.

If all of this sounds too complicated, just remember to aim for 3:9:10 (for every 3 hours, have 9 equally spaced lots of 10 minute breaks, so every 20 minutes have a break). Or, have a 10 minute break every so often if you can’t keep count. Don’t forget as well that you can mix up the same ratio for smaller or larger amounts of time, and for every 3 hours, have at least half an hour or more to recuperate.

Most importantly, though, is to remember that you aren’t aiming to get loooaaaddss done, but to work at an efficient pace that keeps you healthy and happy. If you can’t do as much as you thought, that’s okay. Just stop for the day and adjust accordingly tomorrow.

If you like my pacing method or think you have something to input, please help us all out and let us know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

My latest obsession

Posts, Uncategorized

So I have a confession to make…

I have a bit of an addiction to houseplants. They’re pretty, easy to look after, and university friendly. What could possibly go wrong? Well…

Here’s the thing: having fibro means that you often do silly things out of boredom, and very easily create obsessions to occupy the time when you’re stuck in bed. I got a bit of an obsession with all of the pretty houseplants that I’d seen on Tumblr and Pinterest, and it got a slightly out of hand. Every time I saw an interesting plant, I had to buy it. I spent a FORTUNE.

It doesn’t make it any better that I miss my animals whilst I’m away at university, so I’ve replaced them with a windowsill full of greenery (well I had to find SOMEWHERE to put my affections, right!?). Having plants gives me something to do when I feel well, and something to look at when I’m not. The best bit is that you can choose plants that rely on very little water, so that you don’t have to spend too much time on maintenance, especially when you’re poorly.

Anyway, house plants are pretty good for fibro sufferers (much easier than a dog) and also for tenants who aren’t allowed pets, but they can get pretty expensive. I daren’t tell you how much I’ve spent perfecting my windowsill!

If you fancy starting your own collection, look into buying cacti, succulents, and other common houseplants that require low maintenance. You can pick them up from all over nowadays, most of mine are from my local Lidl supermarket, and I’ve even got a few from the carboot. If you want a good deal, look out for the plants that look a little bit worse for ware. As long as they still have healthy growth and aren’t too far gone, you can usually bring them back to life. My favourite part about that is that the shop usually wants rid of the ones that aren’t doing well, because they are less likely to sell, so you can normally get them at a reduced price.

My favourite plant from my own personal bunch is a spider plant. It fills out the space in my room and, best of all, sprouts loads of new growths. This means that I can snip them off and pot them up, thus giving me loads of new little ones (yay!). I’m currently waiting for my ten spider plant babies to grow a little so that I can pot them nicely and send then as gifts to the people I love.

Let us know if you have any interesting hobbies that are fibro friendly, because it’s great to have an obsession when you’re stuck in bed feeling low. Also, if you have any houseplants that you care for, I’d love to hear your advice. Last but not least, don’t forget to like and comment so I know I’m posting the good stuff!

Beat back the fog in five simple steps

fibro fog, Help for sufferers, Posts

Having fibromyalgia has many a downside, but one of the most irritating (and most overlooked) issues of the condition is fibro fog. From losing your glasses (check the top of your head) to forgetting an important appointment, the fog ruins us all at some point. Here are five simple steps to get the worst of it under control…

1. Establish a routine.

If you set a daily routine, it helps to keep track of those pesky things that love to disappear, such as your glasses and keys. I like to leave my keys in the same place each day so that I know that they will definitely be there when I need them. Likewise, checking for That Important Thing every time you do a certain task can help to set up a routine.

2. Set reminders on your phone.

I ALWAYS forget to take my meds, as in, I forget my meds every. single. day. To combat this, I have two reminders set on my phone, one at my usual wake up time, and one a few hours later, just in case. Honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and it’s prevented countless numbers of flares.

3. Invest in a diary, journal, or planner.

Planners are useful for getting down those daily events that often slip your mind, and getting a little pocket diary means that you can take it everywhere for when you need it the most. Appointments, anniversaries, contacts, and to do lists can all be jotted down, and you can even take note of any important symptoms or fibro issues that you think are important. This way, you have an ‘external hard drive’ for your brain.

4. Load up on post it notes.

If there’s something you know you will forget, there’s nothing better than a huge glowing sign to remind you. Although not quite huge or glowing, an easy trick to help you to remember something is to leave your future self a post it. They have the added benefit of being colourful, sticky, and small enough to take with you, so you can use them anywhere and anytime. Write down a quick message and stick it where you’re sure to see it (mirrors, doors, the kettle, your fave snack).

5. Learn to ‘pace’.

Pacing is a technique often used by people with chronic illnesses which allows them to function for longer. Although it primarily helps with fatigue, it is also good for curbing mental exhaustion and cloudiness. Set out daily goals with steps towards each one, but make sure that they are small and achievable with breaks in between. Remember, set yourself a limit and do not exceed it. This way, you are less likely to spur on any foggy moments that would usually be caused by tiredness.

Have you got any of your own ideas? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to like the post so I can see that I’m not just talking to myself *awkward laughter*.

Five things to do when you don’t know what to do with yourself.

Depression, Help for sufferers, Pain, Posts

Sometimes, being tired and in pain can make you feel a bit restless, and when it does, I sometimes find myself struggling to know what to do. It’s times like this when I really wished I had some advice, but, as it stands, I never actually got any. That’s why I’m writing this post today. Here are my five favourite things to do when I don’t know what to do with myself…

1. Build your ‘mind palace’.

As a kid, I was quite an introvert and, being an only child, I often had to find ways to amuse myself. This usually meant making up fictional lands inside my head and filling them with fictional people that had fictional stories. They often resembled the plots of my favourite novels, or the odd movie I had seen. It sounds silly, but escaping into my mind made me feel like I had control over my microcosm, and gave me a certain amount of relief from reality. Not much has changed. Although much more confident and outgoing, I still rely on my own inner sanctuary when I get stressed, bored, or in need of a distraction. You should try it sometime.

2. Eat some food.

You know the drill. You’ve been on a healthy eating craze for the last two weeks, and you’re doing so well, but now you’re miserable, you’ve got cravings, and you need a mega distraction from your current state. Take it from me, everyone needs a break now and then, and giving in to that tub of ice cream in the back of your freezer won’t do any harm as long as you start tomorrow afresh.

3. Talk to your ‘person’.

You can probably agree with me here that most people are lovely in small doses, but then they get a bit annoying. However, most of us tend to have at least one special person (or animal, as younger me would like to insist), and they are the ones who don’t wear you down. It’s pretty obvious that it’s these special people that we need to look after and keep hold of, but it’s also important to remember that they have a purpose in our lives too, and will probably be more than happy to help. When you’re feeling down, give them a shout, send them a text, or plan a night in. Having someone to talk to about how you feel will make you ten times less miserable. It’s like they say; “a problem shared is a problem halved.”

4. Surf the endless pages of the internet.

It’s very easy nowadays to drown under the endless amounts of information available at the click of a button, and nearly everyone can agree that it can get a little dangerous. However, having a vast sea of distractions at your fingertips is the perfect remedy to a case of restlessness. Next time you’re feeling meh, use the time to catch up on your social media, Google any weird questions you have, or dive into an endless array of buzzfeed quizzes. I can guarantee that you won’t he disappointed.

5. Have a Netflix binge.

Losing yourself in a box set, or, if you’re more traditional, a series of novels, is one of the best ways of escaping your current situation. By watching a film, video, or tv series, you don’t have to concentrate much on what’s at hand. This makes it a brilliant way to lose yourself without having to over-process your foggy mind.

These ideas are just a few of the things I do to avoid feeling restless, however there’s many more out there that I’m sure you will have tried. Feel free to comment if you have any suggestions, as I’d love to hear them, and they could help other readers the next time they are feeling naff.

Six tips for a Sufferer’s S.O.

Help for friends, family, and significant others, Posts

It’s difficult to know what fibro is like when you don’t actually have it, and plenty of people have asked me what I would like them to do to help, because they simply don’t know what I need. I’m going to share some tips; for best friends, parents, siblings, significant others, and anyone else who wants to help. I think you’ll find that most sufferers will appreciate it.

1. Educate yourself!
Nothing is quite as powerful as knowledge, and one of the most simple and inexpensive things that you can do to help is to learn a little about the illness. Read up on the symptoms of fibro, have a look into common pain management techniques, and find some articles about current research. I can almost guarantee that your fibro sufferer will love the effort that you have gone to in educating yourself about their illness.

2. Ask questions.
Some people don’t like others prying on the state of their health, but most fibro sufferers will agree that it’s nice to clear the air. It is difficult to know what to expect when you haven’t got any experience, and who better to refer to than the person themself? Ask them if you can help in any way; maybe by carrying something heavy, putting the kettle on, or even just enjoying their company in silence when they are having a bad day. Remember though, no one wants their independence taking away, so try not to over do it too much.

3. Know when enough is enough.
Like I said previously, it is easy to smother someone when you are trying to care for them. Similarly to before, if you feel unsure, just ask.

4. Treat them like you would everyone else.
No one likes to feel belittled, and the quickest way to do that is to act as if they aren’t ‘normal’. Of course, nobody is normal, really, but don’t change your actions towards someone simply because they have an illness.

5. Pick up after yourself.
If you live with a fibro sufferer, it can sometimes be difficult to remember that they can’t do everything that others can. This means that simple tasks around the house can get much more difficult than you think they are, and the last thing a chronic sufferer will want is to pick up their mess, let alone anyone else’s!

6. Gentle reminders can go a long way.
Many people with fibromyalgia get the notorious ‘brain fog’. Not only is this annoying, but can be potentially dangerous. One of my biggest issues is forgetting to take my meds on time, and a quick nudge from my boyfriend really helps to avoid a flare later in the day. It can also help with other forgetfulness problems, such as leaving my keys in the fridge by accident or forgetting to let the dogs outside before bed.

7. Patience is a virtue.
I can honestly say that having fibromyalgia drives me up the wall, whether it be the pesky ‘fog’, the achey muscles, or just feeling tired and miserable. I can only imagine how my poor family must feel when I snap over something silly they said or did, simply because it pushes me over the edge. Please remember that us sufferers don’t intend to be mean or bitter, but sometimes it is difficult to cope. Likewise, you may find that spending a lot of time around a grumpy, moaning, bag of bones isn’t very fun, especially if they are mid way through a flare and haven’t washed in a day or so (sorry!). If this is the case, make sure you get some ‘me’ time, and give yourself a break. Nobody blames you for getting irritated, and you will find that you appreciate your special person a lot more when you next see them. In the mean time, try to have some patience.

Ten pain- busting tips to try TODAY

Pain, Posts

Now one of the things you should most definitely know about me is this: I am a sucker for a good life- hack. Dont get me wrong, there’s a few things where nothing but the ‘original recipe’ will do. When it comes to chronic pain, however, I think we can all say that we would try anything. Below I will be sharing my list of chronic pain hacks. Short disclaimer: little old me thinks these work brill, but not everyone has the same opinion. Remember to keep your mind open, but please don’t take my word as gospel. That being said, It won’t hurt to try, so go ahead and take a peek at my list…

1. Drink more water.
It sounds pretty obvious, but drinking more water helps avoid dehydration, one of the main causes of your day-to-day headache. I don’t know about you, but my day tends to go significantly better if I ditch the headache, as it gives me more of a chance to manage the rest of my pains. Plus, drinking more fluids helps flush out the toxins in your body, increases your metabolism, and helps you to think more clearly. Sounds pretty good to me.

2. Cut back on caffeine.
I’m not sure on the exact science behind this (although I reckon a little Google-ing here or there could sort that one), however, I’ve been given plenty of advice on this and, as far as I’m concerned, it seems to have done the trick for me. Cut down on coffee, sugary drinks and – the source of all evil – energy drinks. Not only will this help beat those shakes and sweats you’ve no doubt complained about, but it also appears to do some good for your pain. Remember, check out what your consuming, because you would be surprised by the amount of caffeine in some of your usual ‘not-very-caffeine-ey stuff’. Better to be safe than sorry, eh?

3. Swap those cheeky treats for some tasty, guilt-free alternatives.
Like I said before, consuming healthier things just makes you feel better, but it also has another benefit. Getting the vitamins and minerals you need, plus ditching those pesky calories, means that your body can function better. This means that your body has more energy to spare, helping you deal with pain. Furthermore, you’ve probably noticed that your fibro leaves you feeling low on energy, and that reaching for those calories is your first move. The weight that most fibro sufferers gain through this is one of the biggest contributors in making them feel naff, because it means carrying around extra baggage. Not only does this increase the amount of pain you may feel, but it also wears down your energy levels even quicker. It’s a never ending cycle. Cut out the rubbish in your diet and you’ll find that you cut this issue too. Lower calories = lower weight = less pain + more energy. It’s a simple equation. Similarly, those of you who find yourselves losing weight and muscle mass (thus making you weaker and in need of more energy) can plan your diet around this too, building on healthy fats, proteins, and wholegrains in order to build your body mass in a healthy way.

4. Exercise.
I have three things to say about this. Firstly; yes, I know it’s a pain in the you-know-what. I hate exercise too. Secondly, yes, this is the fourth tip I’ve given in what seems like an obvious list, but trust me, it gets better. Thirdly, well, this is where you need to pay attention. Pain makes exercise hard, and so does fatigue, but trust me on this, it pays off in the end. By building muscle mass and burning fat, you can help your body to cope better when it comes to the stress of fibro. Increasing your capacity for activity helps you to last longer, and you release a bunch of lovely endorphins along the way, which make you feel better emotionally too (yay!). It’s even been said that the endorphins that you release during exercise help reduce the amount of pain you may be feeling. Can’t go wrong, really.

5. CBD oil.
This is where is gets interesting. Get your learning caps on guys, were about to have a lesson in biochemistry. So, CBD oil is a plant-based substance that you can buy from your local whole foods retailer, such as Holland and Barrett. It is also known as Cannabidiol oil, and (don’t freak out) is a product that’s derived from cannabis. It’s a type of cannabinoid, one of the chemicals naturally found in marijuana plants. However, there’s no need to panic, you won’t get the ‘high effect’ that you would usually expect from the plant, because this is caused by a separate cannabinoid, known as THC, which isn’t present in this case. This means that CBD is legal, and so is available on the market at low concentrations for around £20 per bottle. Oh, and as far as we know, it is completely safe to use and has little to no known side effects (Woo!).

6. Massage it out.
Getting a massage, whether by a highly trained professional or by your bestie, helps to ease your achy muscles. Adding some fancy smelling aromatherapy oils can also help, giving you some mental relaxation too. Try some calming music or some candles to help set the mood if you’re at home, because a spa day is the perfect remedy for everyone. And if your pain doesn’t ease as well as you would have hoped? Well, at least you feel pampered.

7. A hot, steamy bubble bath.
Again, not only does it give you an excuse to feel pampered, but this actually can help with your pain. Soaking in warm water helps your muscles to relax, easing that annoying ache.

8. Heat pads, hot water bottles, and microwave buddies.
I have a microwaveable cat and believe me, he is my best friend. Using the same theory as above, the heat helps to relax your muscles, so bang it on your ache and hopefully you should feel some relief. Be careful though! Sometimes these can get too hot, so wrap them in a towel if you think you might get burnt.

9. Cool packs.
Put these on your aching joints to soothe and reduce any inflammation. Fibro often correlates with co-morbid diseases such as arthritis and hypermobility syndrome. If this is the case for you, you might find that achey joints can be eased by reducing their inflammation, and the cold temperature of ice packs are perfect for this.

10. Netflix and, uh… chill?
No! Not like that! Get your mind out of the gutter you filthy animal… Now, it might seem silly, but sometimes, when nothing else seems to be working, one of the best things you can do to ease your pain is snuggle up in bed with your fave movie and take your mind off it. I know, easier said than done, but it’s better than being in pain without the bed or the Netflix, right??

*** Please note that no microwaveable cats have been injured in the making of this post. ***