Monday, January 27, 2014

Time Magazine - Bill Saporito

I am delighted to read "Time" Magazine as a source of news.  I enjoy the "commentary" section the most.  These are opinions that are most definitely shaped and sized to fit the author's view.  I have quit watching news on television or in the newspaper.  I do NOT wish to hear about the rapes in the state, or the murders, or the horrific car accidents.  It's not a matter of denial...I KNOW THEY EXIST.  Instead it's a question of where I choose to place MY focus.

"Time" does cover some rather gritty ideas in their magazine from time to time.  Yet their "gritty" stories are usually tempered by a point, counterpoint of the issues.  I will always wish to see both sides of any idea before I make a judgment.

Bill Saporito's commentary is called "When to Live-Blog Your Cancer."  The title seems cold and callous to my viewpoint.  A discussion of someone's "right" to blog about this incredibly pivotal journey?

Nonetheless my interest was piqued.  The first line says, "Cancer is great material to work with."  He uses as an example the comic Tig Notaro's method of introduction to an audience, "Hello, I have cancer, how are you?"

I have battled breast cancer myself.  The unfortunate reality of our world today is that cancers of all types are more prevalent than during my parents generation.  Gratefully, we also have better weapons to fight the battle against cancer.  I understand "Hangman's Humor."  This is the ability to find things humorous in the darkest times of the human experience.  Studies have been done to show that humor has actual medical benefits.  To my way of thinking, "Really, you spent how much money drawing a conclusion that is completely obvious on the face of it?"

At the beginning I was all prepared to be offended by Mr. Saporito's article.  Again, to me it seemed cold and calloused.  He saved himself in the first paragraph by claiming his own battle with cancer.

"Hangman Humor," is a strong attempt to embolden the human spirit.  Believe me when you are in the trenches of the cancer battle you need all the weapons that you can get.  However, Cancerthrivers, (A term that I have coined..."Thrive, Don't Just Survive" is the title of my newest novel, soon to be released in publication), are quickly offended by anyone being humorous when they are NOT a member of this dark sister and brother hood.  Let me repeat this idea in different words, "Making jokes about cancer when you have NEVER had the disease is NOT funny."

Mr. Saporito discusses specifically Lisa Adam's blog about her battle with stage IV breast cancer.  I am grateful for Lisa Adam's courage in sharing her journey.  Her willingness to be vulnerable and open about her experience frees others to also share.  I am amazed and blessed to know that sharing your cancer battle strengthens you.  There is great strength in knowing that you are NOT alone!  Here is a visual.  The battle is fierce, you are in your foxhole fighting against an entire platoon of infantrymen.  You are fighting so zealously that you do not realize for a long time that both of your buddies sharing your foxhole are dead.  Your entire squadron lies dead...and you are alone to battle.

If this idea seems a trite melodramatic I hope that it explains the need to share your battle.  There is oh so much strength in support.  Think of the famous Alcoholics Anonymous "buddy" system.  Each and every person is assigned someone to support them in their battle against their addiction. 

I wish that there was a "buddy system" incorporated into our medical treatment of cancer.  This is a battle that is best fought in a platoon, instead of solo.  Lisa Adam's blogging gives her a wider sense of support.  In addition, as she battles, she enables others who may not have a broad sense of support to feel less alone.  Struggle is universal but shared it becomes easier to bear.  There might even be snippets of joy tucked in the struggle waiting to be found.

I am aware that most medical conditions have support groups that you may attend.  On the other hand when I was battling cancer the radiation made me so sick that it was wondrous on the days I felt well enough to wash the dishes, launder dirty clothes, or play outside with our two young daughters.  I never felt well enough to get dressed, drive to somewhere new, and then meet a large group of strangers.  Reading was one of my means of reaching out to others sharing this struggle.  There was no internet, no blogs to read. 

Mr. Saporito contends at the end of his article that cancer "Is a battle that we are still losing."  I agree, and disagree.  We may be losing in the battle for curing people of cancer.  On a personal level I do not ever wish to view death at the end of a well lived life as a LOSS.  It's a loss to the bereaved family, and friends grieving over the separation that death creates.

Death after a well lived life is NOT a loss of the battle.  We all will die.  Dying is a part of life.  It is not a part of life that naturally imbues great joy in the heart of the dying, or their loved ones.  (Unless they are unhealthy mentally, but that would be an entirely different sort of post).  I can not bear to think of dying from cancer as losing a battle.  Instead I think of it as a different type of winning.  The release of our soul from a diseased riddled body...that is victory...just a victory of a different type.

Thank you Mr. Saporito for writing an article that stretched my mind.  We all need mental aerobics as much as we need physical aerobics.  My brain is less flabby now!

Friday, January 24, 2014

So Many Subjects, So Little Time!

I write.  I have a series of novels, romance historical fiction, Women of the Drifting Anchor Ranch.  I write two blogs, this one which in my typical random manner covers topics as broad as "Act, Don't REact," which is a commentary about a positive approach to living,  responses to articles that I read in various and sundry publications, recipes (I really, truly, do not like cooking but since others in the Blogosphere DO like to cook I share things that I have learned over the last 57 years of living), "Third prize winner for my peanut butter cookies in the county fair (I was 13 at the time and could not have been more pleased if it was an Academy Award), my speech would have been as follows,  "I wish to thank my parents, my grandparents, and my great-grandparents, my over 70 first cousins, my nephews and nieces (64 of them counting spouses, and I will list them by name, and or character traits) what the red light is blinking already?  Too bad, I will continue to speak until someone drags me from the podium. 

I have had many people ask me, "How do you come up with so many ideas to write about?"  I'm always surprised by this question.  Do these people live on the same planet that I do?  I need to live to be 1,000 to even touch on all the interesting things in the world...and I still would not be done!

The subjects that interest me the most, of course, will receive the majority of my time.  I do have priorities about the things that I wish to study and then write about.  My list is as follows, faith, family, friends, methods to make life more about thriving than merely hanging on day to day by my fingertips,  western United States history during the 1800's, music, (I bleed musical notes...really), television, and health, which in my world includes so many sub-topics that that one topic could use all my time and effort to write about.
So, there is my priority list.  My priorities do change on a day to day need to be flexible order. For example today I should write about the pressing need I have to wash the dishes (we are all out of clean spoons).  I DESPISE, LOATHE, HATE, ABHOR, and every other descriptive word that is negative washing dishes.  Yes, I have a dishwasher.  However it is old, and if I truly wish to have dishes come out of the machine clean I must wash them, and then wash them again in the dishwasher.  It would NOT be worth the effort, but I have a damaged immune system and every way that I can keep from sharing germs I must.

There is a logical reason for my extreme dislike of this task...I am so sensitive and allergic that washing the dishes, with or without soap causes the skin on my hands to split. Please do not suggest using gloves...the gloves make the condition worse.  I have neuropathy in my hands (nerve damage) and so after my skin splits my hands throb painfully with each heart beat.  Knowing this does it seem logical for me to wash the dishes?  I DID use paper plates for a long time.  I HATED it.  I recycle, and do my best to refrain from creating more waste in my lifetime than is absolutely necessary.

I also need to catch up on laundry.  There are three of us in our family, all females, and I often wonder how it is possible for us to wear so many clothes.  We all love fashion, and our enormous wardrobes reflect that love.  I am the volunteer laundress.  I actually enjoy doing the laundry...except for the putting clean things away.  So, our family room often looks like the back room of a dry cleaning shop and we often just look through the piles of clean but not put away clothing on the table in the family room without actually putting anything away.

Now...what is the purpose of my spouting, and venting?  It IS for me like the action of releasing steam from a pressure cooker.  I do not know those delightful folks in China and or Poland who read my blog.  I wish that they would comment on my posts so that I might see if there is a commonality to life in general in different countries.  Maybe they (male or female) also despise, loathe, hate, washing their dishes.

One of my many cousins told me once that she LOVED washing the dishes.  She explained that when she was a small child they had no running water in their home.  She had to walk about a 1/4 of a mile to obtain water for household chores from a river.  She would then haul the incredibly heavy water filled buckets home.  Once the water was home it had to be heated on the wood burning stove.  (Just getting the stove going was another huge job.  It involved finding kindling, to start a fire, then splitting logs to make wood small enough to fit in the fire portion of the stove).  Once the water was heated it was poured into a large sink like pan just for this purpose.  Then soap flakes were added, and by hand the dishes for 8 people were washed, three times a day, every single day!  She adored being able to simply turn on a tap and have hot water run into her sink.  She looked out the window as she washed and thought of pleasant thoughts about her family as the chore was completed.

Thank you, each and every one of you who read my blogs.  That interest in what I have to say blesses me with feelings of affirmation.  Even if you disagree with the things that I post, it's gratifying to know that what I say may interest someone else.

OK...tangent completed, pressure cooker venting ended...and I'm so grateful to live in a country of free speech.  It's such a huge blessing to be able to write a blog about this, that, and the other thing, knowing that I am safe in my communication.  Mission post ended....rats...time to wash the dishes!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fear or Faith

Faith is often relegated to a religious role.  For those folks that don't feel comfortable in a religious setting this can make faith seem as realistic as fairies and leprechauns.  My favorite definition of faith is, "Faith is the evidence of things UNSEEN."  Let's expand the idea of faith in this post.

To me faith "Evidence of the unseen," refers to a belief that each day the sun will come up, to brighten the world, and each night the sun will go down and let us rest and refresh ourselves.  We have faith that winter will follow autumn, and spring will follow winter.  We have faith that in the spring plants will be reborn.  We have faith in love...the richness of romantic, or family love that brightens our lives.

As a child I was very ill.  I was not expected to live past the age of 2 years.  I was born with very little immune system, and allergic to pretty much EVERYTHING.  That isolated, protected environment spun off a host of fears.  I learned much too much at an early age about different types of fears, fear of heights, darkness, poverty, illness, you name it and I was afraid of it!

For years my fears were always close to the surface creating in my core being a definite sense of anxiety.  When fear fills your life it is pretty difficult to feel any type of peace.

It took decades but I have come to understand that fear is usually triggered by a lack of faith.  This could be an intense discussion about religious faith, faith in God, and knowledge of eternity...etc. etc.  I want to keep this post simple.

I believe that at the base of each and every fear there is ONE idea, a common thread that makes all fear unite.  We fear when we can not and do not know the outcome in a situation.  So if you are afraid of heights, the fear comes from the idea that we could fall, and we do not know what the outcome would be, or we DO know what the outcome would be and it would NOT be a good outcome!  So all fear comes from a common root.

Although most fears are irrational, we do NOT have to spend the entirety of lives being ruled by them.  There is ALWAYS a way to conquer fear.  That way may differ from person to person.  For me, the way is meditation, or prayer, or study.  Sometimes I am not even aware that my feelings of anxiety are coming from my sub-conscious...from some memory.  I have to ponder, study, meditate before I am able to discover what is causing my sense of discomfort with life.  Yet the encouraging reality is that after I do those activities I am able to feel peace again.

Today...will you let fear fill your life, or will you be able to conquer your fear with faith?  Remember there is ALWAYS a choice.  It may be very difficult, and it may involve humbling yourself to get professional help...but it IS possible!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Oh Really Martha Beck?

Martha Beck is an excellent writer.  Her writing is concise.  She is extremely articulate.  On the other hand I just read an article in Oprah magazine that left me going, HUH?

The article was on the importance of valuing our intuition above our thought process.  Intuition she affirmed has been around far longer than the practice of a more analytical process of thinking things through before you act. 

My confusion comes in this...ok so your intuition tells you, "Don't get in that elevator with that scary man," and you act quickly and walk away.  I understand that sort of "intuitive" reaction to situations that might be dangerous.

On the other hand, thoughts, feelings intuition?  How do you sort these ideas?  There is a school of thought for facing clinical depression and other mental health ideations that teaches "Feelings are not facts."  When you are battling clinical depression you are taught that your "Feelings/intuition," have become damaged by a physical process leaving your brain stripped of the chemicals that it needs to work properly.  In this context you work best ignoring your "intuition," or "feelings," and using your thought processes to overcome your emotions.

Do we rely only on our intuition?  I think that this could be cataclysmic in our world.  I think almost every human on the planet has faced a point in their life when their feelings could have led to destructive actions for themselves and others around them.   Road rage, for example?

"Unless you can describe it as a sensation, what ever is going through your mind is not instinct but thought."  This is a quote from Ms. Beck.  "Sensation" is now what we will base our choices on?  I feel hot therefore I should put on a sweater is a "sensation" driven choice.  Now let's take this idea to a more complex level, "I sense that my neighbor is gossiping about me to all the neighbors."  What would the choices be from that usually flawed "sensation?" 

I actually knew a woman that believed that she could read people's minds.  She once told my Mother that she had called me.  On that call she knew that I didn't answer the phone because I didn't like her.  In actuality, I was under the weather, having a nap, and didn't even know that she had called. 
Her "instincts," were completely flawed, and yet she continued to navigate her life with them.

When we have those "feelings," or "sensations" don't our reactions to them stem from our "thoughts?"  I guess that my wish would be that Ms. Beck would express more clearly that feelings and thoughts are almost impossible to separate, after all we process our feelings, intuition, or sensations, through our thoughts.  Chicken and egg Martha?

Coupons...Extreme Couponing?

There is a television show in America called "Extreme Couponing."  My first reaction was, "Who is going to watch a TV show about clipping coupons?"  Curiosity got the better of me.  I watched it the first time, and then the second...and so forth, and so on.

There are several themes that reoccur in this program.  Many of the "Extreme Couponers," have faced serious trials in their lives, job loss, divorce, death of a spouse, etc. etc.  Their reaction hasn't been to lie down and give up.  Instead they discover that they can purchase their food and household items for free or close to free by the clever use of coupons.

A statistic is given that only 3% of coupons are used in America.  After watching this show I think that number will increase.  My daughter has started to coupon.  She's finding out that it can be quite addictive to get even 50% off at the cash register.  On the other hand, couponing takes hours and hours of work.

Another one of these "themes," many of these people admit, "Couponing has become my life."  They have full-time jobs, they have children, they have husband, and homes,  but night and day they are clipping, and saving.  They are dumpster diving, and teaching their children to dumpster dive for those coupons.  One lady (who did not have a full-time or part-time job) admitted to spending 70 hours a week couponing.  SEVENTY HOURS a week?  That's like working two jobs.  Basically she sleeps, eats, and coupons...end of her life activities.  She has a ten thousand dollar stockpile in her house.  Yet she continues to coupon seventy hours a week.  How much is enough?  Is enough, ever enough?

One couple was paying $70.00 a month for a service that clips your coupons and sends them to you.  My question is, do they add that $70.00 a month to the amount they are paying at the cash register?  Then there are those couponers that no longer spend time with their small children unless it's diving into a dumpster.  In the long run are those savings worth the lack of time with their children?

I believe that one of the very most important principles in this life is balance.  I think couponing is a brilliant idea.  Especially if you are in a life cycle of difficulty.  I wish that I'd known about extreme couponing when my husband and I both lost our jobs within six months of each other.   Yet when you have a full-time job, maybe you could back off a little and use some of that precious time you are giving to coupons to caring for your children and husband in other ways?  Moderation, balance are important principles.  

There are couponers that do what they do and then donate their purchases to Food Bank's.  I think they are stellar!  What an amazing way to give to their community!  I loved one clever couponer's gift.  He purchased 100s of boxes of cereal.  He put them in the driveway for pick-up in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.  It was so lovely, I would hate to have taken it apart for the cereal contribution.

So what is my point?  Couponing can be an amazing method of saving money.  One couple coupon so that they can go on a cruises.  They saved $500.00 that they would have spent on groceries and used it along with money from their savings account to purchase a cruise for the husband's 40th birthday.  BRILLIANT!

On the other hand, couponing can lead to hoarding.  It IS addictive to be able to shop and purchase things for next to nothing.  I stood at the register when my daughter's couponing saved us $200.00 on a purchase.  It was a very SWEET moment!  Yet, how much is enough?  I shuddered when one lady purchased hundreds of a product that she knew that she and her husband would never use...just because she had a coupon for it?  She was not planning on giving the item to charity, she was just adding it to her stockpile.

Remember balance and moderation folks, don't spend all of your life in couponing, but DO stretch your family budget through this method.  Well, that's enough of that post...excuse me, I'm going to go clip coupons!!

Monday, January 6, 2014


Are you in prison?  You probably scoff at the very idea.  You may be thinking, "Of course not.  I'm not in prison.  I have done no crime that would take away my freedom."  Yet look a bit closer.  ARE YOU IN PRISON? 

There are many types of prisons.  Your mind can be a prison.  That is the hardest one to deal with.  You see you can NOT run away from yourself.  Believe me from time to time I've tried.  The annoying thing is that wherever you go, YOU go with YOU!

I have faced mental health challenges.  I have also had many friends who battled with mental health issues.  

In the past those with chemical depression often landed in "Sanitoriums," an institutional name for "Warehouse of the damned."  Anyone that did not meet the criteria of "normal," was in danger of landing in these places of darkness.  People were treated like brainless children.  Extreme measures were taken to "heal" them.  If you were not chemically impaired when you first went into the Sanitorium it would not take long until you WERE, permanently damaged.

It's a grand time to live.  We understand so much more about our brains.  Scientists have discovered many of the chemicals that cause our brains to create a feeling of satisfaction or euphoria.  Regions of the brain have been charted and explored to explain what may cause chemical depression, or any other mental disorder. 

Trust me when I say when you are dealing with clinical depression, schzoid disorder, or disassociative disorder you ARE in prison.  Your mind is telling you lies, but they seem like truth.  The lies are things like, "Stay in bed.  Sleep all the time.  You are nothing but a burden in this world.  Give up...your family and the world will be better without you!" 

It's important while you face this type of prison to realize that FEELINGS ARE NOT FACTS!  Just because you feel as though you must die, kill yourself, or worse yet, OTHERS, these are not facts but strange derivations caused by abnormal chemicals in the brain.

Now let's discuss physical prisons?  I have been in TEN car accidents.  YUP...TEN.  Seven o f those accidents were without seat belts.  In my defense I grew up in an innocent time in America.  Cars were still a "New fangled invention" for the most part.  We didn't have seat belts in wagons, or on horses, so why would we wear them in a car?

The first accident occured when I was eight years old.  An extremely inebriated fellow hit our car from the back.  He was trying to pass us as we were going up a hill.  He pushed us down a ravine.  Gratefully the car did NOT roll.  The reporting officer told my Dad, "This is the only place along this entire stretch of road where you could have just slid down the hill without rolling."

I did sustain the traditional whiplash injury as the force of the crash threw me violently forward, and then back.

Next I am sixteen at a stop sign.  A car making a right hand turn hits ice, and slides into me.  NOPE, no seat belt. 

At eighteen I was riding in a car with two friends, and fellow Thespians from the Pink Garter Theater in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  A deer was in the road as we came around a sharp curve.  A rock mountain was on the right, a drop off down to a reservoir on the left.  No time for choice, my friend hit the brakes and down we rolled, once, twice, and plunk down on the wheels again.  I was thrown from the front seat into the back seat.  (Again without the seat belt?)

I will not regale you with the ugly other accidents but one thing I wish to point out.  The last wreck was my second accident on Friday the 13th of January.  The license plate began XCJ.  That's right X on CJ, (which is my nickname).  Twice on that date?  I will NEVER climb in a car again on the Friday January 13's of my life.  I didn't used to be superstitious.  Now I'm a little bit.

All of these automotive collisions resulted in a spine full of damage and disorder.  There are bone spurs, nerve damage, compressed and compromised spinal cord, etc. etc. etc.   The sum and total of all this is that I am now imprisoned in a body that will not allow me freedom.  Oh I am richly blessed.  I could have been hurt so much worse, or I could be dead.  I AM blessed.  Yet for the rest of my life I will have to plan and balance my life ever so carefully.  I have about a dollar's worth of energy and there is no pushing beyond that limit. 

You may have switched away from this point thinking, "What is her point?"  My point is that absolutely no prison can restrain your spirit, soul, the essence of your self.  My body does not take me as far and as busily as I would like it to take me.  Yet at the same time, my mind gives me freedom.

Two of my "Sheroes" in life are humans that others might discount as having no validity.  They might be called INvalids.  One has Multiple Sclerosis so badly that she can't function at all for herself.  She is totally in bed, can speak, think, but has no abilities beyond this.  She had her caregiver buy her a white board.  Daily she has a friend or caregiver list friends of hers that are struggling, and what the struggle is that they are having.  She calls herself a "Prayer Warrior."  Her life is certainly not INvalid.  Her spirit still soars!

Another story that touched my heart was about a friend going to visit an elderly friend in a care center.  The old lady was inching her way out of life, bound to a bed, unable to perform any of the daily tasks of self care that most of us take for granted. 

The young lady was sad thinking of this brilliant, multi-faceted, talented, lady now confined solely to bed.  To make matters worse, it was the Christmas season and this woman was a devout Christian.

Approaching the old woman in the bed the young lady bent and kissed her age worn cheek.  She couldn't think of one positive thing to say. 

The room was dingy, and dark.  There was a tiny Christmas tree placed carefully on a table so that the old lady could see it.  There were no ornaments, and just a few little white lights.

The old lady took the hand of the younger lady.  "Sit down my dear."  The old lady managed to make a bit of room on the small bed for her friend.

"I just want to tell you how grateful I am for my blessings."

The young woman again looked around at the dingy, dark room.  She thought of all the people this lovely lady had served.  She thought of the parties at her beautiful well-furnished home.  It seemed so cruel that her life had come to this kind of an end.

The older lady said, "When I was young I was always so busy.  First it was getting through college, then it was having a husband, bearing and raising children, participating in PTA, Church service in many capacities.  I was involved in many neighborhood committees, and always volunteered with the community voting booths."

"I always prayed so quickly that I wasn't certain if the Lord could even hear me."  The old lady sighed softly.  A tiny tear trickled down her face.  "Now I spend all day, and most of the night speaking to my Lord.  I'm so grateful for this sacred time of preparation to meet Him again."

I did embellish on these stories, but they are true stories that have touched and changed my life for good.

I used to think of my life in terms of "Good days," and "Bad Days."  I loathed and despised the idea of giving my life away to even an hour or two of "Bad Day."

One day the inspiration came.  Not "Bad Days," but "Quiet Days."  On a "Quiet Day," I may just sleep most of the day, praying as I awaken, and praying as I sleep.  I may speak on the telephone to those I love.  I may write a note or letter to a friend.  There are ever so many wonderful things that I can do on a "Quiet Day."  I have made a list of activities that I CAN participate in on "Quiet Days."  I make it a personal quest to focus on the things that I CAN DO, instead of the things that I CAN'T!

Jail, prison...there are so many things that can feel restrictive, as though they cut of our freedom of choice.  My ultimate goal in life is to not let the prison of my body or mind keep my spirit from soaring, high, and bright!