Friday, May 31, 2013

Mama of Mine

Restless, driven, energetic, enthusiastic, but most of all unconditional loving...all of those characteristics and more describe my beloved Mother.  I can not think of her without smiling.  She has been a safe place all of my life. 

Mama was in labor for a month before her water broke.  Papa set new speed records on a residential road getting her to the hospital after her water broke.  She was already so far along the birthing process that attendants were literally holding things around her for privacy while they readied her for birthing.  I was born 20 minutes after they entered the hospital.  (At least I didn't make my appearance in the elevator, right?)

Mama's doctor was stuck on the Los Angeles crammed freeway.  (Even back in 1956 it was always a mess).  Two staff docs delivered me.  Mom's doc arrived as I made my appearance.  (Knowing me I probably tried to take a bow, but nobody noticed...hee hee)  Mom's doc stood in the back (not gowned or sanitized) and told everyone that would listen.  "This is a miracle.  Oh giving birth is always a miracle.  This woman has had such serious medical issues that it simply was no longer possible for her to be pregnant.  She could not maintain a pregnancy because of her kidneys and uterus.  Yet here is a baby....miracles happen!"

Mama always called me her little miracle.  To this day she will tell anyone who will listen the miraculous story of my birth...and she does it with such grace and instinct that it's still interesting...or maybe I just love hearing about my own birth!

Segue to the present.  Mama is 94 years old.  Her hair is mostly white.  She has very few teeth left.  Yet every morning she is helped to get dressed and spends the day with others, swapping stories, listening to sorrow or joy.  Even though she can no longer take care of herself, she can still love, share her stories, and listen to the stories of others.

I love my Mama...she is the very best in the world...for me!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Little Fun A Little Chat, A Little Thought of This and That

My last two posts were on the borderline of preaching, or lecturing.  OK maybe they WERE preaching or lecturing.  I want any readers to understand that usually when I post I am reminding MYSELF, first of some very important life lessons.  I try to post ideas that have a broad spectrum application. 

Yet we all come from different places and spaces...different heredity, different environments.  So, of course, sometimes I will say things that you may disagree with.  (No, really?  lol)  I LOVE IT when I get comments, a different point of view or suggestion about what I wrote. 

One of my books that will be published this year is "Thrive Don't Just Survive."  This book will contain many of the posts that I have written.  If you would like to see a specific post in that book you can vote for that by reading and commenting.  I am literally looking at the posts I have written that have been read the most to determine what to put in my book.  Not totally, there will also be some things in my book that probably aren't on my blog.

Obviously, I am still in the formulating stage of the book writing.  I would appreciate any comments, and ideas that you would like to share.  With your permission, I may include some of your stories in my book. 

It's no surprise that we are always stronger when we are united in a common purpose.  My common purpose is to make the world brighter for everyone.  This is something we can do together.  Thanks for all those who do read and comment.  I learn from all of you.


Adapt, Adaptable, Adabtability...these are three very lovely words.  They refer to the ability to face life in all it's possibilities for both good and bad, and keep going.  There are three other words that apply to this philosophy, IN SPITE OF.

Writing this blog I've come to understand that we all speak very different languages.  I'm not referring to the obvious, English, American, (they are two very different languages), Spanish, French...etc. etc. We all communicate in extremely different ways.  Verbal language, body language (those interesting hints and clues that we can see by watching someone else), and facial expression.

These different languages are also influenced for each person by their frame of reference.  (Where they grew up, what kind of parents they had, and were they raised by orangutans (parenthesis in parenthesis, sorry grammarians,  a phrase my husband used to use when he was teasing our daughters...hence suggesting that he and I WERE  Are they analytical, romantic, idealistic, what era did they grow up in, history shapes all of us....on, and on, and on.

It's not a surprise that we all have frequent misunderstandings and communication breakdowns.  It's rather amazing that we are ever able to communicate well at all!

I didn't even touch base on the different languages of gender.  (I know this is gender generalization but there IS a difference.  I was married to one of those MALE people.  I believe the book title IS right, "Men are from Mars, and women ARE from Venus." lol

I digress hugely from my initial topic.  Let's give you a hypothetical to think about.  You and your husband (or wife) have worked extremely hard to become financially solvent.  You have spent at least 5 or 6 years working together on education, raising small children, working at a demanding job (your spouse as well), and then the glorious day comes....One or both of you graduate.  Life gets smoother.  Instead of cramming, home, family, work, and education into each 24 hour period you now have some flexibility.  You can pay off some school debts, and buy something "fun" every once in a while.

AND THEN...just 2 years after you reach that incredible goal, your spouse has a stroke.  They are now unable to speak well, let alone work.  They are disabled.  You still keep working (the bills still need to be paid), and now you're juggling care for a very sick spouse, and care for your children.

AND THEN...4 months later YOU fall, messing up both of your knees and back.  Now YOU can't work either.  The bills pile up, the nasty creditors are calling day and night, AND discover that you have to file for bankruptcy...your children cry as they watch the beloved family van towed away (still owed too much on it to keep it, but how will you possibly get your family around now?)

Just wait, the fun doesn't stop here.  (Notice my sarcasm in the word FUN?)  You manage to pull yourself together enough to get a part-time job.  So now there is some money coming in but not nearly enough.  So, gratefully your family helps, your church group helps so that there IS food in the house.

You think, OK, we can figure this out, we'll get through it together...AND find out that you're pregnant.  (How is that even possible with all the craziness going on?  You've tried to be pregnant for years and NOW?)  The odd thing is that the pregnancy is a huge blessing.  AND THEN, the baby dies inside of you at 16 weeks.  You have heard his precious heartbeat, felt him moving within you, know that he lived, and was a part of your family...but now he's gone.

Oh wait, it keeps getting better, and better, right?  NOW, your husband is diagnosed with an incurable disease that is called "A medical enigma?" is destroying your husband's heart and lungs.

Ready to quit, lie down, give up, pull the covers over your face?  Oh we're not quite finished yet.  AND THEN, two years later you have to have surgery, and your own list of much ignored health problems grow too large to allow you to work.  (How do you work when you have a migraine 3 to 4 days a week, so bad that you have to go to the hospital to get medication to calm down the raging fires in your brain)?

Do you remember I said, "Hypothetical?"  Well I just may have been fudging a bit.  Actually I lived all of those things and more during that time.  Now here is the REALLY GOOD PART!  I lived all of that trauma and drama as the wife of Nyle Brent (Happy Not Crappy) Smith.  Somehow in the midst of all of that craziness he still managed to make each day an adventure, from his bed.  I'm not just talking survival here...the bare hanging on to the edge of life sort of living...I'm referring to THRIVING, in spite of, adapting to the difficulties of our circumstances of our life at that point.

From Nyle's bed he taught a men's group at church.  They would come over and Nyle would teach them, I repeat, from bed.  (Did I emphasis that a bit too much?)  He gave legal advice (mostly pro bono...he always wanted to help others, even when he needed the help even more).

Nyle would say to me on many occasions, "I can't wait for happiness.  It will not arrive at some magical time when life is smoother, and we don't have problems.  We have to be happy NOW, IN SPITE OF!" 

Our two adorable daughters would come home from school and run into the family room.  (We converted it into our bedroom when Nyle was bed bound.  It was larger, and had great windows).  They would cheerfully share with him the details of their school day.  They would fix a snack for both of them.  Nyle would help with their homework, or they would watch an educational show on TV, or they may have fallen asleep together, heads close together, reminding me how much of Nyle was in our daughters as their sweet, beloved faces were side by side.  Such a sweet, precious memory, IN SPITE OF!

I am very, very good at making a "Short Story Long," instead of the more usual other way around.  The last paragraph needs to summarize the rest of the post.  The points that I wished to make in my post were, It's important in life to be able to ADAPT, IN SPITE OF.  Today...this very minute look around...yes right now.

Well one more paragraph, apparently I wasn't really finished....PSYCH. lol.  Are the dishes piled high in the sink, the kids have dragged all the pans out of the cupboards and you haven't even showered yet?  Are you at work and you have two different bosses who like to play tug of war, each convinced that THEIR work is more important than the other person?  Are you sick, poor, or struggling with huge grief issues?  Try this simple exercise...take a very deep breath, in (slowly) out (slowly).  See how slowly you can do this.  Then forget about anything but right now.  Leave the worries of before in the past where they are.  Don't think even one minute ahead...just be safe and satisfied in this minute.  When you have a little time, actually when you MAKE a moment...count your blessings.  Oh they ARE there.  They may be camouflaged by life's hard lessons, but they are there.  Even if you have to tug hard from the weaving of life to pluck those blessings out, and claim them...even if the only blessing that you can think of is that you can breathe, without pain, wheezing, or coughing.  (Anybody with respiratory issues understands why that is a blessing).  REMEMBER, we humans are remarkably adaptable, in spite of.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Suicide and Depression

We lost another one.  Last week a high school boy from my youngest daughter's Alma Mater killed himself.  He had everything to live for.  His life was all ahead of him.  He wasn't old enough to know about all the potentials, all the possibilities.

I say, "WE" lost him because each unnecessary death from suicide is a HUGE loss for our world.  Who knows what potential this young man would reach?  Perhaps he could have invented the next great thing that made this planet better.  Or maybe he would simply be a kind decent man who blessed everyone that he came in contact with.

Why?  Why are so many young men and women killing themselves?  We know more about the human brain now than we did when I was young.  Yet it seems like the more we learn the more questions are raised.  Why does suicide seem so much more common now then when I was young?  What can we do to prevent our children from killing themselves?  Is clinical depression caused by the pollution in our world, poor nutrition, too much sugar?  Is it an environmental thing, or a birth defect?

The problem with most of these questions is that the answer is, "We just don't know."  That answer is so frustrating.  Yet maybe changing the question can empower our world again.  Instead of asking all the "WHY" questions we can ask the "HOW" question.

How can I safeguard my children?  How can I watch for signs of suicidal or homocidal ideations in my child, spouse, parent, friend, or other family member.  If I see signs of abuse in my neighbors children, or clinical depression what should I do?  How involved should I get?  How do I bear living now that my child and all his potential are gone?  How do I bear living since my Father or Mother killed themselves? 

I didn't say the "HOW," questions were easy.  They aren't.  Yet it's the "HOW" that help us do more than just merely survive, clinging to life by our bare fingertips, or hiding in our bedrooms in our pajamas...unable to even get up and get dressed.  "HOW" can be a stepping stone on the path to prevention or healing.

I repeat this idea multiple times.  I want the entire world to hear these important words.  Clinical depression IS NOT THE SAME as discouragement.  Discouragement CAN lead to suicide but it is much less frequent.  Discouragement is reflected by the circumstances in a persons life.  So a high school student tries out for the student play and is not cast.  That is discouraging.  An adult is "let go" as a result of downsizing from a job where they have worked for 30 years.  That is discouraging.  The mood reflects the circumstance.

Clinical depression is a very different beast.  Oh people in bad circumstances can develop clinical depression, but generally speaking clinical depression is not necessarily reflective of life circumstance.  Think of Marilyn Monroe.  The woman was beautiful, rich, men were all mad for her, she could have and do anything she wanted, and she battled constantly with clinical depression.  In her case it was probably hereditary because her Mother battled the condition all of her life.

If you notice your child sleeping more often, or not at all...if they show signs of not eating, or eating constantly, if they start listening to disturbing music (no parents, not all modern music is the equivalent of disturbing), I'm talking about songs with lyrics about death and destruction.  These are some of the signs to look for.  It's especially tough to detect clinical depression in teens because they are by nature more inclined to tell everything to their peer group and less inclined to share with their parents.  I have heard that this is evolution's way of helping youth become independent adults.  Whatever the case it is VERY frustrating.

I guess the summary of the above paragraph is educate yourself.  Look for the signs.  Many of the signs of clinical depression are the exact same signs of drug use or sexual promiscuity.  The thing is that drug use or promiscuity CAN lead to suicide or homocide.

One of the most important things I can say is GET PROFESSIONAL HELP, GET PROFESSIONAL HELP, GET PROFESSIONAL HELP!  At some point in life we all need help.  There is nothing shameful or embarrassing about this fact!  If you are an adult battling suicidal ideations there are organizations that meet daily, several times a week, and at different hours in the day.  Speak to a church leader, ask for referrals, Google them....get help.

See a professional.  This is the challenging part...getting to a clinician that actually helps.  Unfortunately there are those unfortunate practitioners that should not be allowed to be therapists.  Some have a "One size fits all mentality."  I went to one during a particularly difficult point in my life.  She started explaining to me "Humor therapy."  I said, "My husband and I could teach that class.  That is one coping skill that we have well learned."

Obviously disappointed the woman put down the book and we just chatted, simple small talk the rest of the time.  (There seemed to be no back up plan).  I came back the next week and out came the same book, and the same ideas.  This time I was too tired and disappointed to remind her that we had been down this disappointing path before.  I was much younger then (I actually paid for those appointments.  Now I would have complained and at least gotten a discount.)

Go to a therapist with the knowledge that you may need to see one, or two before you find a good match for your personality, and lifestyle.  Do NOT stay with a poor clinician.  After all, would you take your car for repair at a boat shop?  They both have engines, and similar materials construct their bodies but unless you drive "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," the repairs would be far less than satisfactory.

A Psychiatrist is a mental health professional who strictly prescribes medications designed to treat mental health issues.  A therapist, psychologist, or counselor does different types of behavioral therapy.

There is one clinician that I have watched with great respect.  His name is Daniel Amen.  He treats "mental illness," differently than any other clinician I have researched.  He actually has a scan done of the brain while it is active.  Then he maps out the chemical activity of the brain and treats mental illness from a clinical empirical diagnosis.  There is no, "Um, well this medication works well for this type of situation, I don't know if it will work for you, but let's try it."  He makes no snap judgments.  The patient goes through an extremely intensive intake interview, sometimes three days long.  Then they scan the brain and then depending on all that criteria, Dr. Amen makes a diagnosis.  I hope that I will live to see his brilliant methods become more mainstream...meaning paid for by insurance.

Well this has been one of my long rants.  I feel so very strongly about this topic.  Imagine if just one of those that kill themselves were saved.  When my beloved nephew killed himself I couldn't believe it.  He was very good at masking his symptoms.  Nobody knew how bad the thoughts had become for him.  He is missed greatly.  We will always miss him.  His one year old daughter will not remember Daddy. 

One thing I want anyone reading this to remember.  In studies done of patients who tried to kill themselves and then lived the most common statement was, "As soon as I began the process of killing myself I realized I was dealing with a TEMPORARY problem in an extremely PERMANENT manner."

Last story.  I read about the life of a young wannabe actress in Hollywood.  She spent several years trying to break into Hollywood.  She pounded the pavement, went to interview, after interview.  Finally in a grand dramatic gesture she threw herself off the Hollywood sign and died.  The next day the letter came in the mail telling her that she had been cast in an amazing part in an amazing movie.  It would definitely have allowed her to break into Hollywood.  ONE DAY!  Life is filled with twists, turns, trouble, and trial.  Yet it is also filled with joy, wonderment, beauty, and love.  Let's reach out to those that need help...we never know when it might be our turn to need help.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rainy days and Tuesdays?

I woke up thinking that it was Monday.  That is because yesterday was a holiday and our girls were home with my little brain automatically assumes that makes the next day a Monday.  hee hee

Last night our beloved oldest daughter informed me that her right arm was killing painful.  She was in a car accident that shattered her right arm, then she had a botched surgery, and now she calls that arm, "robot arm."  Honestly the arm is more reliable than any meteriological report.  If the arm is killing the weather WILL change!  Now the arm can NOT predict whether it will be wind, rain, sun, simply knows that the weather pattern is changing.

Rainy days?  Do you know how many negative songs have been written about rainy days?  Let's start counting..."Rainy Days and Mondays," (thereby castigating not only a type of weather, but a day as well), "It's Raining it's Pouring, the old man is snoring, went to bed, bumped his head, and couldn't get up in the morning."  (Apparently he had some issues with rain pain as well)  "Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day..."  Ending with the all too poignant song from Les Miz "A little drop of rain can hardly hurt me now..."  She has been shot, is dying, and lying in the arms of her beloved Maurius (who is in love with another woman and she knows it).

ARGH!  Why don't we sing HAPPY songs about rain?  When I lived in Portland, Oregon for almost 20 years a major portion of those days were filled rain.  I soon learned that it wasn't the rain that pulled and tugged at my emotional spirits.  It was the GRAY!  The hideous gray was how it was branded in my mind.  One year it lasted NINETY DAYS!  I think MOST human beings would have to be watched for their own safety after ninety days without even a peek at the sun.  My clever Nyle did research and discovered that there was a type of broad sprectrum light bulb that he could buy and affix to our electrical light fixtures.  That did help, a litle.

Then one day a dear friend (we carpooled out children together for years) looked up at me in surprise when I said that "Rainy days made me crazy."  She calmly and matter-of factly explained, "I LOVE rainy days.  They entice me to stay another minute under the bed covers and stretch.  Then I drink a warm glass of tea, or hot cocoa while I read a great book.  I bake cookies, and some yummy dinner for my family.  I LOVE rainy days." 

LOVE rainy days?  Was this woman crazy from lack of sunshine?  Then another perspective started being repeated to me by Portland residents.  I often heard about their "Webbed feet," and how they were cracking from lack of moisture.  These clever residents had adapted to their environment.  They didn't see those rainy days as a negative feature.  Instead they were days that they could fill to the brim with a different type of activities.  A day that encouraged everything around them to be green and gorgeous.

The plant life in Portland was phenomenal.  The earth was rich, black, and not a trace of cloying clay in sight.  I learned my 2nd year there that spontaneous growth was a possibility in this bewitching place.  Our first house in Portland had blackberry bushes growing on three sides.  Since the lot was 1/2 an acre that was an astounding amount of blackberry bushes.  I spent most of one day cutting away mounds and heaps of blackberry bushes.  Speaking of adaptable, those blackberry bushes had taken over about half our yard at that point.

I did not have on long sleeves (foolish, blackberry bushes have long thorns that just love to rip at skin...and I am allergic to their thorns) and our two children needed some overdue attention.  So I left the heaps and mounds of thorns in the back yard...for about 7 months.  Finally I grew tired of having my yard taken up by dead pieces of blackberry bush.  (Did I mention that I had small children that could be hurt by them?)  I put on a long sleeve shirt and went out to perform the odious task.  To my shock and amazement those amputated blackberry branches were sprouting!  Sprouting, and seemingly reaching back towards those locations where they had been removed.

Squelching my often over active imagination (really, the branches were missing the other branches?), I grabbed up an enormous arm full of them.  (You can't put them in trash bags, they just rip it apart, you can't put it in boxes you rip yourself up trying, you could put them in a wheelbarrow but I didn't have one at that point in my life.)

To this moment I am astonished at the blackberry branches that were chopped away from their source of life, and then began to sprout and grow again in a pile in the backyard. 

There is a reason why cliches, idioms, and old phrases are used over and over through generations.  It's because they have a universal center of truth for all of mankind.  The homily that struck me on that day was, "Bloom where you're planted."  Or as Victor Frankl said, (paraphrased) circumstances do NOT determine happiness.  (He was in a Concentration Camp when he made this discovery).  If course there is my own personal hero, Nyle Smith who said, "Happy not crappy."

So, today I will squelch my natural tendency to sing negative things about the rain.  Instead I will spend the day singing (as one of my dear friends suggested) I'm singing in the rain!  If you see a 50 something woman with red standing straight up hair dancing down the street in the rain, don't be's just me.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Steroids...Or Breathing...An Analysis

Frequently in my life thus far I have heard stories about athletes using steroids to bulk up, to create an unnatural burst of speed, and an exaggeration of their strengths in sports.  This usage covers the entirety of sports.

I have needed to take Prednisone (an oral steroid) many times in my life due to my asthma.  For me they are just barely better than not breathing.  I take them as the absolute last resort.  The side effects are miserable, mood swings, heart palpitations, weight gain, (Even when I'm barely eating food), and inability to sleep.

On the other hand they give me a very real burst of energy that usually lasts for a day or two after I quit taking them.  My daughter once told me, "Mama you're lots of fun when you take steroids."  She was very young and had seen much of me being very, very quiet as I battled the medical conditions that I have.  It was a time when I actually had enough energy to do all the things that I wished to.

What about the medications that we take today?  Most of the people I know are taking some sort of medication for a medical condition.  We know more about the human body, and that means we have better diagnosis of most medical conditions.   Many like me take a large quantity of medications, like Prednisone (steroid) for asthma (it can also help with the inflammation of joints and arthritis), or thyroid meds, or anti-depressants, anti-histamines....etc., etc.

I remember as a child when I would see my doc he gave me ideas to try that went beyond taking yet another pill with its possible side effects.  For example, because I had chronic streph throat and bronchitis I also had the thrill of yeast infections....did you hear the sarcasm in that statement?  My dear doc prescribed yogurt and buttermilk (not sugared yogurt but good old plain yogurt with no sugar).  If you have ever used the western medicine version of an anti-fungal you know the misery of it's side effects.  The condition is better than the cure!

The other thing that the good doc would say was, "You need to get out and exercise to bring down that blood pressure."  Or, "Change your diet to more of complex carbohydrates and less of refined sugars, and flours."  The one size fits all mentality of medical doctors now is very frustrating to me.

A couple of times I visited my doctor for a medical condition.  The doc prescribed a medication.  A few days later I started having a pretty serious side effect.  I didn't know it was a side effect because my clinician had not pre-warned me about the possibility.  Grateful for Google I found out myself that this medication while helping one condition was exacerbating another.

In this era we MUST be our own advocates.  We MUST be wise enough to research our medical conditions and find ways to treat them.  Sometimes that involves Western medicine.  Sometimes it involves more exercise, getting enough rest, and eating better.  Sometimes alternative medicine is the answer.  Massage, and acupuncture have been life savers in my world, literally they have saved my life.
So...I'm tired, I think I'll step down from my soapbox now.  To summarize...take good care of yourself.  Do not see taking lots, and lots of pills as the only possible solution to a physical problem. 
Use exercise, essential oils, vitamins, and minerals, western medication as needed, acupuncture, chiropodists, podiatrists, Rake, and sleep.  Choose carefully the elements of this wonderful planet that can best serve you in your quest for health.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Which are You?

Non-descript would describe my little meditation basket.  Brown and tan woven straw in a rectangular shape.  In it are several tiny things that represent life changing people or things in my life.  A zip bag of tiny quotes that a dear friend gave me to bring comfort when I was traveling through the valley of cancer.  A wooden flute painted red, green, and gold in vividly brilliant colors represents the travel that Nyle and I did.

In my basket are two pieces of wood.  Similar in color, shape and size these two pieces began life as a tree.  One piece of wood is driftwood, discovered resting on a beach in Oregon.  The other piece is petrified wood found in southern Utah.

Each of these pieces underwent a process of pressure...ongoing, powerful pressure.  The driftwood turned into spongy matter.  I can flake off pieces with my finger.   The petrified wood has turned to stone.  It is now hard, literally as is rock.

Both objects absorbed the surrounding elements, water for the driftwood, and soil for the petrified wood.  The analogies to life are easy.  How do WE react to the environment that  surrounds us?  Do we let negative slowly seep in, like water to driftwood?  Do we have positive elements that make us stronger like soil to the petrified wood?

Let me remind you that both started as the same type of matter.  Yet one became weaker and one stronger.

My favorite of favorite songs (I LOVE music) is "The Impossible Dream." In the play "Man of la Mancha,"  Don Quixote de la Mancha is an elderly man.  He is a widower, his children grown.  All of his life he has dreamed of leaving the world better than he found it.

Finally he takes leave of the reality that no longer suits him.  As a knight errant (in a time when there are no knights) he rides off with his trusted friend to battle evil, and bring higher ideals to the world.

At one point in his story is a quote, "Too much sanity may be madness, and maddest of all is to see life as it IS and NOT as it SHOULD BE!"  I get chills just typing that line.  That is the world I see...the world as it SHOULD BE!

He sings, "To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to bear when your arms are too weary, too reach the unreachable star...this is my quest to follow that star, no matter how hopeless no matter how far, to fight for the right, without question or pause, to be willing to march into Hell for a Heavenly cause.  And I know if I'll only be true to this glorious quest that my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I'm laid to my rest.  That the world will be better for this that one man torn and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable star.

Well, I have lifted my spirits today.  I hope that someone will read this little post and be lifted as well.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Limits and Limitless

Limits and limitless.  Does everyone realize that we are all BOTH?  My husband HATED being defined by the multiple illnesses that he had.  He was determined to be remembered for far more than a collection of medical issues. 

I wish to throw out the question for thinking.  Don't our limits define us...not in total...and certainly not completely, but at some point in all of our lives we will be confronted with real, all too real limits.  When this happens it does become part of us.

I have been disabled by COPD (Chronic Obsructive Pulmonary Disease), Degenerative Spinal Disease, two very funky knees, carpal tunnel in both wrists, Fibromyalgia and a bout of breast cancer.  There HAVE been times when much to my chagrin I have let these limits define me, enclose me, and make it impossible for me to reach out to other human beings.

I have begun to realize that these challenges ARE an important part of me.  Yet I choose to focus on the limitless instead of the limited.  What?  Each and everyone of us have unlimited assets.  In my example I have unlimited hugs, and kisses that I can give.  I have unlimited winks that I can give small children trying to make them feel more at ease. 

I have unlimited imagination, which can take me anywhere that I wish to go.  (Think of a small, bored, wheezing child before she could read, and before there were any interesting television programs on during the day, ESPECIALLY for children.) 

One of my inspirations NOT because he shared my malady, COPD, virtually no immune system, allergic to the world...but because of the way he chose to focus on his limitless instead of his limits.  Robert Louis Stevenson.  Did you know that he wrote "Treasure Island," having NEVER EVEN SEEN A TROPICAL ISLAND?  He wrote his books often from bed, many times through the thickness of fever, and struggling to breathe.  Yet his limits did NOT define him in total...he WAS disabled, but more importantly he was also limitless.

I realize that limit vs. limitless is an oxymoron.  How can you be limited AND limitless?  By making use of conscious choice. 

Nyle, my beloved husband, was in a terrible car accident.  He broke 12 ribs (that's every rib on the right side of his body), destroyed his back on about 5 levels, (they had to do surgery and repair his back.), broke his right arm, AND his right shoulder.  He had a punctured lung, and countless injuries to all of his other organs.  He was in the hospital for 6 weeks. 

Less than 6 months later he rehearsed and was in an extremely physical part in a play.  Nyle ADORED the cretive process of rehearsal and acting.  He actually danced with all those ribs a jangling.  (Most severely broken ribs NEVER completely heal.  So they constantly shift and move and irritate muscle and nerve around them.  He was still supposed to wear a back brace, nope that wasn't on.

YES, there was risk in his action.  He faced the closely calculated risk of further injuring himself.  Yet his seemingly limitless ability to face down his challenges and do what he loved anyway served him well.

I'm certain that if you read my blog you may get a bit tired of Nyle as an example.  Get over it!  He was, and is an example to me of courage under pressure.;  Plus since his death speaking about him helps me to cope with the seemingly limitless amount of grief that I feel.

I AM limited in the joy that I feel in this part of my life.   I miss Nyle on a cellular level.  It feels as though all my corpuscles will simply collapse in on themselves sometimes.  Yet the sun is shining, the spring enhanced green of the world outside my door tells me to have hope.  I count all of my limitless assets (I can go for limitless walks....sometimes really close to my home but I can WALK!"  I can write limitless blogs (aren't you readers so very fortunate....hee hee), I can write limitless books.  Best of all I can chose to take Nyle with me throughout my day.  I can hear his laughter in my mind.  I can close my eyes and hug him of his LIMITLESS hugs that engulfed you with a magical type of love.  I have limitless memories of life with my beloved and I choose to let them keep me from deep despair over his loss.

I'm choosing today to focus on my limitless possibilities  It's NOT denial....I am sharply aware of my limits.  The pain that I live with always, my wheezy, asthmatic lungs, my awful financial situation.  Being DISabled by so much medical stuff that often it feels as though it will simply inhale me.  (I have spent THOUSANDS of hours trying to cope with the red tape of insurance, and medical bills....THOUSANDS of hours....that I will NEVER get back!)

I am a happy ending sort of writer, and human.  My beloved daughter said yesterday, "There is ALWAYS a happy ending for everyone.  I wish that were true on this earth.  Yet I KNOW with my heart and soul that there IS a happy ending for may not be while they are on this earth.  Yet I KNOW that all things will be made right...even having to face life without my darling.  (When I die and we are reunited I will be hanging on to him for at least the first limitless part of eternity!  I won't let him out of my

The happy ending I choose to end my ruminations with is to remind you of the beginning.  Limited or limitless?  We are both, but which do we make the conscious choice to focus on?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Past and Future

I love to sit at our dining room table and pound out stories, ideas, and descriptions.  Tonight I sit at my table at twilight.  Sandwiched between two huge windows looking at the reflection in my enormous sliding glass doors, in the back I see the sunset, the lights in the valley twinkling on.  Looking forward I see the backyard shadowed by the darkness of the mountain.

It's a remarkable analogy of my life right now.  It's often that my past seems bright, filled with the joy of being Nyle's wife.  In the hardest times being married to Nyle made the darkness bright, brighter.  Miss him...oh so much.

Yet that shadowed darker future calls to me.  It murmurs of new possibilities...actually supporting myself on my writing...AWESOME IDEA!  Watching my girls continue to make their way in this world and being around to catch them if they ever need a safety net gives me a strong motivation to keep on keeping on.

Yes, here I am in the beginning of evening and the darkness of night and still I'm here!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Substitution has oh so many meanings.  When someone on a sports team is injured or just plain worn out the coach yells, "Substitution for," and then names the player he is pulling out.  This allows the team to continue to play at their best.

When making a recipe sometimes there may be reasons that you need to substitute a different ingredient.  For example, if the recipe calls for white onions or purple onions it is necessary for me to substitute yellow onions.  Yellow is a sweeter onion and is not as powerful as the other onions.  I have digestive issues that make eating any onion other than yellow painful for hours afterwards.

I love to make fruit crisps.  Sometimes I make apple, in season I love to make peach, and berry crisps are berry berry yummy!  I published my recipe which I've developed over the last 30 years of my life.  It is quite a simple recipe.  If you are interested you can find it at

On Monday I found that I did not have time to go to the store to purchase two missing ingredients, vanilla and butter to make my fruit crisp.  I had butter but not nearly enough.  I was "presenting" at a group that night.  So, I left out the vanilla, and put the not quite enough butter in.  The fruit crisp was ok...but not as delicious as usual.  I still used lemon juice in the apples to keep them from browning too fast and give it a nudge of a tart taste.  The problem was that without the vanilla to balance that tart taste the crisp was on the edge of sour....not a taste that is positive in the realm of fruit desserts.  To make things worse I put less sugar in than the recipe calls for.  It makes the recipe slightly healthier but again accentuated the tart taste.

What things in life cause us to make substitutions?  Substitutions that sometimes turn out better than the original, but often are just a bit too sour?  I would LOVE to hear comments from anyone about things that they have substituted that have been great, or things that have not turned out very well, (like my fruit crisp).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Is Life Ganging Up On You?

I have honed and polished terrific coping skills in my life.  As a matter of fact I have said jokingly many times that when I die if I am sent to Hell, at least I'll have good coping skills in place.

What skill set do you use when things in life are overwhelming, and you have a headache but it's your turn to bring treats to little Suzy for school, and you rush to the store, buy the treats because you just can't possibly cook them today, rush back to your car and it won't start...or even worse, you've locked your keys in the car and there is nobody that you can call to get the spare set because your husband is traveling for work and is out of town, or even worse still, you have your little doggy in the car, you can't get to the keys and the day is marginally a bit too warm for a dog to be left in a car for longer than five minutes, did I mention that you had to rush to the bushes to throw up because your headache has now turned into a full blown migraine?

Next scenario, one of your family members has an emergency, so you run out to your car so that you can drive to help, only to find out that you have a flat tire, so you call your neighbor to take you to your family member's rescue, and they are having a worse day than you (hard to believe but it's true), so you call a friend and they don't answer the phone, so finally you manage to change the tire, but then the baby messes their diaper, and your family member calls frantic to know where you are and why you aren't there with them, NOW?

Lest anyone scoff and say, "That doesn't all happen together," (In which case may I have YOUR life, because quite honestly my life has had all those scenarios and more on the same time over and over and over again) I beg to differ.  Not only has this been my experience in life but I have seen it happen over the span of life to many other people.

Some people think that somehow you can wrest control out of life's sometimes chaotic rhythm.  Bully to you if you do!!  Three cheers and many hoorays!

For most of the humanoid species it is positively, absolutely, one hundred percent impossible to plan for any and all eventualities that may happen in life.  Does that mean that I'm saying, "Give up.....become very, very self-pitying."  No, that is NOT what I'm saying.

I wish to discuss a couple of techniques that I have learned through the years that have gotten me through many a sticky wicket.  I just love that oh so English phrase, "Sticky wicket."  Anybody out there that knows what it means?  It just sounds ever so deliciously threatening, and well, um, sticky.

1.  HUMOR...this is the best, Best, BEST, of all techniques in coping with the uncontrollable events of life.  I don't recommend that you go around all day in public places with an idiotic grin on your face laughing hysterically to yourself.  The general populace would find this behavior extremely problematic.  You may find yourself invited to a comfy place on a therapist's couch.  (No doubt a good place to be if you ARE walking around laughing hysterically and telling yourself jokes out loud.)  Watch funny movies, comedy shows, sing silly songs (to yourself please) I've heard one too many people singing silly songs to themselves on the bus and it has much the same effect as laughing out loud and talking to yourself!

When my dear Mama was in her late 70s she developed a habit that I highly recommend.  If she were feeling blue she would simply slip on a fake nose with moustache and glasses.  She wouldn't say anything to anyone but you would walk past her room and there she would be casually watching television englassed, and nosed. (Who knew that in my world nose could be a verb? "Nosed?)  She did this when she was the passenger of my car once.  I glanced over and there she was with those on.  I almost wrecked the car!  We did enjoy a grand laugh at the reactions of others when they saw my dignified, lovely Mama with her silver white hair, with a fake nose on.

2.  EXERCISE....a friend once told me of her adult struggle with weight.  She disliked being overweight.  She thought about the younger years of her life when weight was no issue.  She could eat anything and not worry a bit about gaining weight.  So she began to exercise.  Not only did the weight not come off but she was bored and ready to quit quickly.  So she began to remember the activities that she loved as a child.  Jumping on a trampoline, as an adult she developed a wonderful exercise program that you can do on a mini-trampoline that gives her the same rush as it did when she was young.  She LOVES the water, so she became a water aerobics instructor, and then re-designed the class to include elements of Pilates and Cardio workout.  She lost 60 pounds, and then discovered hiking, rock climbing, weight lifting....she went from couch potato to hot potato.  The results are very sustainable for her because she LOVES doing them.

3.  MEDITATION/PRAYER...Even if you do not believe in God, or call him by another name than Jesus, spiritual connection has been proven multiple times to relieve stress and renew your spirit.  I have a meditation basket that I use to direct my thoughts.  I have a pretty significant case of ADD or ADHD (I'm just generally mentally scattered and need the visual to hold my mind on course)  Sometimes I add the benefit of a journal to that basket.  I write the thoughts that come to me as I review the items in my basket.  The items include these things, something tiny that represents the four most important inspirations in my life, My Mama, My "other" Mama (some may have a mother-in law, I had another Mother), my Papa, and my beloved husband.  I have a seashell, and a rock (ocean and mountains are places that I love to be), and other things that have significance in reminding myself of who I am and who I wish to be.  Sometimes I direct my thoughts to a higher being.  My prayers are not memorized, but it's OK to use memorized prayer, there are no absolutes in this's a matter of finding something that strengthens you and using it.

Well I have achieved my purpose in writing this blog.  My purpose was quite selfish.  I had a rough day today (they come to us all) and needed to remind myself of some productive ways to get through.  I hope that someone that needed this lift will read this post and smile.  I will end this post with the wise words of my deceased darling Nyle, "Oh buck up!"

Monday, May 13, 2013

Round Peg in a Square Hole?

I think that life gives most of us, if not all of us a turn or two at feeling like we're different, and not in a happy sort of way.  The expression that we often hear is "Feeling like a round peg in a square hole."  Now you must admit that doesn't sound very comfortable.  You could roll from side to side but never feel the comfort of a safe snug fit.

What makes you feel different or left out?  Do you have lots of health problems?  Do have you lots of financial woes, possibly because you have lots of health problems?  Do you perceive things differently than your peers?  I believe Albert Einstein struggled with that challenge for most of his life. 

After Kindergarten in California we moved to Utah.  I HATED Utah.  It got cold, there was no beach, and I didn't have a single friend in first grade.  Then to make things worse I got sick, sicker, and sickest.  I spent six months of that first school year sick, and in and out of the hospital.  I had red measles, three day measles, and German measles.  (If I were German I would be annoyed to think that they had named such a miserable illness after my nationality).  I had mumps on one side and then the other.  With each illness my asthma made the condition much worse.  So I was also in and out of the hospital many times for oxygen.

Can you imagine facing death frequently caused me to be a little different than the other children?  It was common for me to awaken in the middle of the night gasping for air.  There was nothing that could be pills, no inhalants.  When my asthma was at its worst off I would go to the hospital for oxygen.

Today we think of asthma rather casually.  After all there are ever so many treatments available now for the condition. 

Why do I choose to remember something that could be so unpleasant?  I learned much about empathy, tolerance, and unconditional love during those trying times.  I understand very well what it feels like to be different, strange, not like everybody else.

Now I'm a 56 year old widow.  When I go to activities in my church the other widows are usually in their late 60's or older.  Once again I am in a position that could be (and usually is) very negative.  I miss my darling so very, very much! 

Yet it was my darling that taught me how to face this situation.  If he could speak to me now I know that he would say, "Happy Not Crappy CJ."  What that means in our family is that the circumstances of life do not determine our happiness...we determine our happiness.  In addition he would add, "Please do not remember me with tears and sorrow.  Remember me in all things joyful and enriching."

How about you?  Do you ever feel different, and not in a positive way?  Remember we all feel different, or odd at some point in our lives.  One trick that helps me is to focus on others.  If I think about them I'm not feeling sorry for myself, or focusing on my "oddness."  If you have any ideas or things that have helped you I would love to hear about them.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

"You've Got to Shine Your Star"

One of my favorite songs of all time is from my youth.  "You've Gotta Shine Your Star."  The song was performed by "Earth, Wind, and Fire."  These words are not only earth's elements but an amazing performance group that enlivened and lightened my life.

This song says, "You've gotta shine your star, no matter who you are, shine it bright to see, what you can truly be."  I used to have the egotistical attitude that I was the only human on the planet that suffered so much.  I was the only human that felt marginalized and victimized by life.  

I have grown up quite a bit in the months since my husband's passing.  I have come to realize that my negative feelings are quite frankly human.  EVERYONE feels inferior, and/or marginalized at some point in life.  The amazing thing is that a great deal of those people push past...find a way over, or under their insecurities to accomplish wonderful things.

"Stay at home Mom's" are a case in point.  In our society there has been a dramatic shift in focus since my youth.  In my childhood most Mom's were "Stay at home Mom's."  Now women who make the conscious and difficult choice to stay at home and raise their children are often considered less than.

These are the creator's of the next generations of our society.  These children will grow up to negotiate peace, run our country AND, raise the next generation of children to take their place.

Brigham Young, a former governor of Utah once said, "If you educate a man you educate one.  If you educate a woman you educate the nation."  

Back to the general populus and how we "Shine our Star."  The next time you feel invisible, unimportant, or worse a burden to society,, "Shine Your Star."  Each and every human on the planet has the capacity to shine like a brilliant star (and we're not burned out pieces of metal reflecting the light from another planet!)

How can you shine your star?  Tutor a child, mentor a child, raise a child, visit the elderly, listen to them and learn from them.  Make things for a homeless shelter.  They always need warm, clean clothes, hygiene items, and in the winter in Utah, warm clothing.  Volunteer in any of these capacities and you will be amazed to learn that you simply can NOT shine your star without finding your light reflected and increased.

What if you are disabled and stuck in bed for long periods of time?  I read a story about a woman with such severe multiple sclerosis that she could no longer do one thing for herself.  The things that we think create independence, bathing, toileting, walking, all of these were denied to her.  So she shined her star by becoming a "Prayer Warrior."  Each day her caregiver would list people by name, and need, then this "Prayer Warrior" would spend a great portion of the day praying for them.

I was deeply touched as I read her story.  I have had long periods of forced inactivity in my life.  I used to think of them as "bad days."  No I see them as an opportunity to do "quiet" activities.  Pray, meditate, read, write, connect with those you love by social media or phone, watch educational TV, (or Bones if you are a murder mystery junkie such as myself).

So I end as I begin, "You've gotta shine that star, no matter who you are, shine it bright to see what you can truly be."  Thanks Earth Wind and Fire for performing a song that has blessed my life.  A huge thanks to the person that wrote that inspiring, move and groove song!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Thrive Not Survive

Thrive Not Survive.  Three small English words.  What do they mean to you?  I would love to hear from people with their description of what these three words mean.  

Since I do not yet have access to your experiences I wish to share the ones that I am most familiar with; mine.

In 1991 My beloved Papa died of a nasty virulent form of cancer.  A few months later my husband almost died from a hideous infection after surgery.  Then in the fall, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and the day before Christmas Eve I learned that I had Breast Cancer.

Is there ANYTHING blessed, positive or affirming in these experiences?  I read voraciously everything I could get my hands on about surviving the hardest challenges that life can hand you.  I wasn't discouraged....I was way beyond discouragement.  I was lying in bed shaking from fright worst than that.

One blessing (though it did NOT seem like a blessing at the time) was that I simply did not have time to lie down in bed and bawl like a baby. I did not have time to follow my heart and curl into fetal position in my bed and quit life.  I had two children, and a big, "husky" (his description of himself) husband.  I had a full time job (more like a time and a half job) Nyle was attending Law School full-time and working part-time (Even with that nasty life threatening infection).  Did I mention that we had two, brilliant, beautiful, daughters 2 and 1/2 years and 5 years old?  YUP, the blessing was that I simply did NOT have time to give up, or curl up, I instead had to keep moving, keep moving, keep moving.

Why was that a blessing?  Because I am prone to "over" think each and every situation in life.  I didn't have time to think very much.  I just had every single minute of every day filled to capacity with the needs of life.

The unfortunate thing that I have discovered as I walk along through life is that the fears and fires of life refuse to be ignored permanently.  If you can not or will not address them in the daytime they will bite you in the bottom HARD in the night.  

There is a popular song right now that chants, "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger."  I think they should add a simple word..."What Doesn't Kill You CAN Make You Stronger."  The reality is that it can also turn you into a pile of burned out ashes.

At this point are any of you questioning, "Where is the THRIVE part in all of this?"  Be patient I promise, it's coming.

I had stage I breast Cancer.  It was found in two diverse locations in my left breast.  So research and asking doctors advice, and lots and lots of prayer later, I determined to have two lumpectomies, and 25 radiation treatments.  (I simply can not call it RADIATION THERAPY.  It helped save my life but it's far from THERAPEUTIC).

If you are wondering why everything is now in Italics it's because my smarter than me computer randomly switched and I can't figure out how to switch back.  I can give you bold or underline text, but normal seems to be beyond my abilities.

Back to the story.  One day as I was slogging back from radiation I was so discouraged I could barely breathe.  In addition I was miserable!  If anyone tells you that radiation is no big deal THEY ARE LYING!  It was an enormous deal especially with Fibromyalgia that overreacts to every physical causation.

I was in the Waiting Room, waiting to chat with the good doctor.  There was the most frail old man you can imagine.  It was obvious that he was terminal.  I was amazed that he still could speak coherently or think his body was so obviously ravaged by the disease.  He had an enormous grin on his face.  I found that reaction counterintuitive given our common situation.

He said cheerfuly to grim faced me, "You know every day above ground is a cause for celebration."  Now if someone out on the street that was healthy, and was not facing every difficulty life could hand them had said that I would have been tempted to smack them (I'm generally non-violent but that situation would have stretched my non-violent limits!)

Coming from this man the words had impact and value.

Those simple words triggered a huge change in my outlook on life.  I had been clinging to living with the barest of fingernail tips...starting to drop off the "Hang in there," mindset.

Was it actually possible to "Celebrate every day above ground," even when those days were fraught with the worst of life's uncertainty?  Would it make me delusional to still hear the joy of a bird's call in the morning?  Was it right to feel radiant happiness after a nap to discover my precious daughters had tucked themselves in around me, framing me like a family photo?

One of the radiation technicians loaned me a book.  The name and author is long gone to history.  One of the points made in that book is embedded in my soul.  It spoke of our tendency in life to go up and down as life's circumstances arrive.  The point of this book was that it is up to us to determine that we will be happy, even joyous NO MATTER WHAT LIFE HANDS US!  The idea was revolutionary to me. I could be happy by choice?  I did not have to let the uncertainties and fear of my current life setting paralyze me with fear?  I could learn to "Thrive" instead of merely clinging to life "Surviving?"

As the years have come and gone with trouble AND joy I have been ever so grateful for those incredibly difficult lessons learned.  In case anyone doesn't understand I am NOT saying that THRIVING instead of SURVIVING is EASY!  It's actually quite difficult.  It's not a denial of difficulties.  It's honestly assessing those difficulties and choosing to squeeze happiness out of them.  It's a conscious choice, and often over and over, and over again the choice must be made.

The song, "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger," is correct if that one word is added, "What Doesn't Kill You CAN Make You Stronger."  Remember it's a choice...your choice to find joy even when it's hidden deeply amidst the hardest circumstances that life can hand you.