Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Are you puzzled?

I have never been good at puzzles!  They require stillness, patience, and other skills that I do not claim as mine. Having said that, I have been in the mood to put puzzles together lately.  I guess that it's just another one of the surprising changes and rearranges that are happening as I'm moving through life.

One of my favorite memories is of a dear Great Aunt.  I met her when I was 5 years old.  She had been widowed in her 30's.  She was pregnant at the time.  Counting her new babe she was left with 6 children to raise alone.  Somehow she managed to raise strong, remarkable human beings.

On my first visit she gave me a beautifully hand pieced quilt for my doll.  I still treasure that intricate little quilt.  I probably will frame it and put it on my wall at some point.

Aunt Leone put together puzzles.  She had puzzled lots and lots of puzzles.  After she finished, she could not bear to pull the puzzle apart and put it away to put together again at a later time.  So she would modge podge the puzzle, and frame it, and up on her wall it would go.  At the wise age of 5 I did not understand why she would do that.  I mean, it's fun to do the same puzzle over and over, right?

Now I understand.  At this age...when the past seems more comfortable than the present or future, when time becomes more precious, I too have a hard time putting a puzzle together only to take it apart when I'm finished.

Life has many puzzles for us to solve.  There is the puzzle, "Do I get a college education?  What college would I attend?  What major do I wish to pursue?  Will I date?  What type of person do I wish to marry?  Where would we choose to live?  Will I have children...on and on endless decisions puzzle our minds as we move through life.

When my husband attended Law School, and I worked as Executive Secretary of Finance, at the liberal arts college attached to my husbands law school, and we had two beautiful small daughters, I frequently would comment how happy I would be when he finished his schooling.  I wanted to quit my job and just focus on him, raising our girls, and THEN I would be happy.

My sweetie stated one day, "If you wait to be happy at some mysterious point in the future, you're going to miss the happiness that you could have, RIGHT NOW!"  He was right.  Even in the hectic time of him getting his J.D degree, and me working fulltime, and raising our beautiful kiddos, there was much happiness to be had.

We made wonderful friends that I stay connected with all these years later.  Nyle grew intellectually.  I grew in job skills.  Our girls grew as they watched their parents achieve worthwhile goals.  It WAS a time of great happiness.

Sometimes however, it was easy to forget to choose that happiness.  Did you notice the key word in that statement...CHOOSE?  Most of the time in life happiness is a conscious choice that we can make.  We CAN be happy IN SPITE of any struggles that we face.

Our family motto is "Happy not Crappy."  That refers to this idea.  We can choose to be happy even in negative life situations.  Hard is not necessarily BAD.  Often in hard times there are kernels of joy to be discovered.

Life can be easily compared to a giant puzzle.  Each step of the way is like putting pieces together in that puzzle.  I believe that when we have finished this life, when we've done the best that we could do, we'll be thrilled to look at the overall picture of the puzzle.  Even the hard times, the struggles will lend texture and shading to that marvelous picture. 

Some of the lessons that I have been reminded of as I have been puzzling are:

1.  If a piece doesn't fit one way, try it the other three.  I have been pleasantly surprised how many times just looking at the piece from a different perspective will help me find the position where it goes in the puzzle.

2.  If you find yourself frustrated and not finding the pieces you need, quit working on that part for awhile.  Find a simpler part to tackle until you've calmed again and are ready to tackle that trickier part.

3.  When you start putting together the pieces you can't see the whole picture of how it will fit.

4.  Each piece is separate.  A piece of cardstock/cardboard cut out that will fit in some mysterious part of the puzzle.

5.  Each piece is attractive alone, but MORE attractive and stronger when they have been connected.

6.  When you see the entire finished puzzle you can look at it and think, "Oh, that's why that piece fits there, and this other piece fits there.  It all makes sense. 

7.  There is a framework that goes around the edge of the puzzle.  This frame anchors every other piece of the puzzle as you put it together.

8.  There is not a single only way to approach puzzling.  Some folks like to choose the exterior pieces and put them together first.  Some prefer to put them together matching colors and working out towards the exterior.  Some group the pieces by color.  Each way can result in a completed, lovely puzzle.

There are so many opportunities for newness in this life.  Every morning can be new!  Every week, month, and year offers a chance to change and grow.  For some of us, every decade can bring growth.  In the creation of your puzzle be aware that we CAN overcome the past.  We CAN choose to leave behind mistakes, and foolishness.  We can improve and grow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

That First Christmas - After We Married

Nyle and I had been married for four and a half months on that first Christmas.  Somehow I think that I expected that we would spend that very first one with my family.  We had never discussed this idea...again I assumed.  I mean, after all, his family were spread out quite a bit across the country.

Nyle had spent almost three Christmases by himself before we met, fell in love, and married.  Those holidays that he spent alone were very sad days for him.  One Christmas he was recovering from emergency colon surgery.  The next one he was recovering from major knee surgery.  His family were all living away from where he lived.

When I finally voiced my expectation about being with my family just a few days before Christmas he told me that now WE were a family.  He wanted us to start, right away, to begin our own family Christmas Traditions.  I don't know how many actual traditions we started that Christmas.  We did, however, begin our own family.  It was incredibly joyous for both of us when we discovered a few weeks before Christmas that our very first child was preparing to join us.

I bought an ornament, that 30 years later looks a bit grimy, that says "Our First Christmas."  It still brings back the same tingles that I felt just looking at my handsome hubby during that wonderful time.  I'm certain that we must have done some fun Christmasey things.  All that I remember is feeling that I was the most blessed woman alive to marry Nyle Smith!  (It goes without saying that he was extremely blessed to marry ME!  Hey, I was quite a catch)!

Nyle was absolutely the best gift giver ever.  He gave wonderful, thoughtful gifts.  One of our last Christmases before he passed away, he gave me several sets of fleece sheets.  I did not even know they existed.  Flannel sheets yes...fleece sheets, NO!  Those sheets were magical.  In the icy cold winters of Utah, it was like climbing into a hug!  I still treasure those sheets, more so now that he is not here to give me a hug.

He taught me the importance of giving gifts of caring.  It was terribly hard for me to find the perfect gift for him.  It was ironic, actually that he gave such thoughtful gifts, and I struggled to figure out what he would enjoy.  To make things worse, we rarely had much money to spend, and he always had excellent, expensive taste.  (That is not to say that I had poor, cheap taste...not then or now.  I mean, come on, I married him proving my excellence in taste)!  There was the telescope that he just desperately wanted...that I spent three years paying for!  Or the time I put a bunch of nice pens as one of his stocking stuffers, and then he teased me about it for years, "Pens, really?  That was the best you could come up with?"  He never let me forget those pens...ok that's an exaggeration.  He let me forget after 25 years or so! 

Nyle DID appreciate the gifts that I really spent time on.  For example, I knitted him a six foot long, four foot wide Colonial American flag.  He loved that gift.  On the other hand, he felt odd using a flag to nap under.  Flying proudly in the hot summer sun one year, I discovered that he had hung it from our patio.  Nobody could miss that mark to our patriotism.  I did wonder if they were confused by the fact that it only had thirteen stars on it.  Again, I had knit a COLONIAL flag...not the current flag with fifty stars.

The best gift that Nyle gave me, is our two darling daughters.  Their presence in my life keeps him alive.  He was an amazing Daddy.  His wicked sense of humor continues in our daughters.  I am a rather intense individual, and can be VERY emotional.  They have learned to simply say, "Don't go deep Mom, don't go deep."  That is in reference to my intensity of emotion.  He used to keep me from taking myself too seriously.  Now they do. 

These dear daughters insist on helping me with my disability issues.  Nyle taught them that sense of love and honor by his example with his own Mother.  His Mama was brilliant.  She raised five sons, largely by herself.  Her husband became an alcoholic during their married life.  She tried to hold together their marriage, their family, for years.  Finally divorce was the only possible option.  Mom had not worked in around 25 years outside of their home.

She was able to gain an entry level job as a secretary/receptionist.  The pay was negligible...around $380.00 a month.  That was not much even in the 1970's.  Within two years she had worked her way into the position of Detective, Consumer Fraud in her state.  She was the FIRST female detective in her field in the state.  She received many awards, and lots of accolades for her ability to look like a sweet, naive Grandma.  The business owners were always shocked when she would come back and shut them DOWN. 

Tragically the last five years of Mom's life she developed dementia.  It was painful to watch this brilliant, wickedly witty, loving woman, lose herself.  Nyle and Mom were the best of friends.  He traveled once or twice a month across several states to take her to the doctor, and to the hairdresser.  After years of discovering dishonest, or downright evil businesses, and then shutting them down, in her delusions she would not trust anyone unless Nyle was there.  Sometimes she didn't trust people, even then.

She called many times and poured out terrible accusations directed at Nyle.  It broke his heart.  Yet, in spite of the false ideations she sometimes had about him, he still gave as much, and as loving, of care as he could possibly provide.  I know that his example of love, honor, and duty towards his Mother made a firm impression on our girls. 

You might ask, "How did these ideas about your adult girls, and Nyle and his Mom have anything to do with your first Christmas together?"  My answer is, "Very little.  Hey, how much sleep have you been able to get this holiday week?  Me too."  So forgive my tangent.  It may be off topic, but interesting don't you think?  Back to the subject.

Nyle made me promise that I would never send out a basic, newsy, Christmas letter.  He always wrote very funny ones.  He wanted me to continue the tradition.  He actually made me vow (although I did NOT put my hand on any book, Bible or otherwise), I do NOT have his sense of humor.  To give you an example of my sense of humor.  Remember when you're sitting in a darkened movie theater watching a movie and some odd lady laughs really hard when everyone else is completely silent?  Yes, sirree, that's me!  Since I can't write zany letters, I will probably not write Christmas letters.  However, when you get my New Year's letters, who knows what format they will take?

I wish to you all Happy Holidays, whether you rejoice with Channukah, celebrate Kwanza, sing Merry Christmas or find some other holiday to make you joyful.  When you're with those you love, EVERYDAY is a celebration!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Snurffle Day?

Oh the day was filled with wondrous activity.  In one day we bought pajamas for the girls, then went to a Christmas tree farm.  When we got home we decorated the house for Christmas.  That is the bare bones of Snurffle Day.  Let me enlarge that framework.

The holiday started as a Nyle B. Smith production.  He would go and get a license from some small town in central Utah.  Then he would take our four wheel vehicle up into the mountains and find THE perfect tree! 

I would stay home with the girlies, or we would go out and purchase new jammies for them.  We would all be buzzing with anticipation as we knew that our Christmas tree would soon be at home.

It was Nyle that gave it an official name.  I believe I asked him, "We should have a name for this day."  He did not even hesitate.  He said, "Snurffle Day."  I said, "Perfect!"

Over the years the day continued to evolve.  Living in Portland we had very close access to all the Christmas trees that we could ever want!  No more licenses and mountain climbing for a tree.  We found a lovely Christmas tree farm that was about 20 minutes out from our home.  We would ride in a van up to the hill, then we would peruse acres of beautiful Christmas trees before we made our choice.  In typical fashion, the girls would chose one and then say, "Oh look, there's a better tree down there!"  Then off they would sprint, adrenaline powered by Snurffle Day excitement.   

I did not usually mind the chase for the tree.  Well except when it was raining so hard that it was like a lake fell out of the sky.  Then I was eager to find that dang tree, have them chop it down, and get us down to the cafe, gift shop and dry warmth!  NOW! 

More often, it would be a perfect autumn fading into winter type of day.  The hill that we chose our tree from dropped back on each side.  On the top of that ridge, I felt like a Queen perusing her kingdom.  Acres, and acres of evergreens dropped into a valley with quaint farmhouses and barns in the valley below. 

Sometimes it seemed as though low lying clouds would get tangled in all the trees.  When that happened it was a completely different sort of scene.  Then I felt we were walking through or maybe on top of the clouds. 

After we chose the perfect tree, we had to wait for a tree chopper to come by to chop said tree down.  Then we had to wait a little longer for a van to drive us back to the cafe/gift shop.  Free hot cocoa was served there. 

Most years, Santa would be there waiting to hear the wishes of all the boyzus and girlzus.  Sarah was TERRIFIED of the Jolly Old Elf.  We have a few pictures taken where Santa is holding her, and she screaming at the top of her lungs!  It was only for a couple of moments, and she has not needed therapy to overcome the trauma!

Each year we, the entire family, would have our picture taken with the jolly old chap!  It's so much fun to look at all the pictures taken over the years.  Our youngest daughter never did feel positively about Santa.  I guess I can understand, I mean, apparently this man is hundreds of years old and lives at the North pole?  It did not help when we went shopping and she saw Santa's all over the place at the same time.  (We explained that Santa had LOTS of helpers).  That seemed to calm Sarah a bit.  She just never appreciated sitting anywhere close to a man with an obviously fake beard.  Sitting on Santa's lap?  Never an option!  In this era of "Stranger danger."  I get it.

There are several years when our beloved neighborhood daughter was also in the picture.  She brought us great joy.  I loved having a fresh new perspective on Snurffle Day.  I believe that she and her husband have their own traditions for Snurffle Day now.  (We do not have a patent on Snurffle Day.  Anyone may use it)!
 One year we were too late.  St. Nicholas had returned to the North Pole.  He evidently had a new, improved, sleigh that did not fly so much as warp sped him home!  

We were all ever so disappointed.  Nyle excused himself to use the facilities.  Several moments later I almost choked on my hot cocoa!  He assured us that it was OK REAL Santa had gone home.  Ghetto Santa was there to help us.  Oh how I wish you could see this fabulous Santa.  He had the traditional white beard, and moustache.  They were made out of toilet paper.  Hence the "ghetto" appellation.

Nonetheless, we were undaunted by his rather unique apparel, we took that family picture gosh darn it!  That became my favorite of all the Snurffle days.  I mean, come on, how many times do you get to have Ghetto Santa at your party? 

 After the traditional family pictorial if we became bored waiting for our tree to be shaken, bound, and tied on top of our car we would climb the stairs to a magical kingdom.  In that place and space I felt like a child.  Not a child AGAIN, because I never really left my first childhood!  I firmly hold on to the right to be childlike.  This means that I get to be truly astonished by the blinking of Christmas lights outside or on the tree.  Glitering Christmas tree ornaments still give me wonder.

A few years my Mama was either living in Portland or had come up for the holidays.  I had so much fun watching my 80 something Mama walk through that gift shop.  As I watched her I realized who had taught by her example my childlike wonder.  She too was mesmerized by the tiny Christmas villages, the ornaments of dizzyingly different sizes, shapes, and selection.

My Mom, myself, and our girls created three generations of Christmas joy!  All too soon it would be time to head to the car.  The car would be infused with the magical smell of evergreen.  Not the tiny deodorizer evergreen that is common these days.  No this was the real thing.  The piquant, unique smell of a lovely hillside.  It was the smell of clean air, pine sap, and happiness.

Sometimes we would stop at a store afterwards to buy those wonderful jammies.  I still own a robe that we purchased for my Snurffle Day bed attire...I probably will have to put it on today!

Update:  I just received a most delightful Snurffle Day surprise.  One of my favorite holiday treats...Kisses that are white chocolate with little bits of peppermint candy!  AWESOME!

For the rest of my life I will keep close to my heart the magic and wonder of Snurffle Day.  It is a day when everything seems possible.  The hardest parts of life are suspended for one entire day. 

Nyle, the Snurffle Day Master passed away four years ago but he left behind two beautiful daughters who carry on his traditions.  Nyle will be present, in spirit, at each and every Snurffle Day.  We will hear his laughter, and relish the things he taught us.

HAPPY SNURFFLE DAY TO ALL...AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT! Well, that's after Snurffle Day, you know when it gets dark and it's time to go to bed...after Snurffle day is actually over, that's when you should have a good night...okay, I will now stop rambling...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hard Things - Good Things?

My nephew was driving rapidly down the freeway.  My niece was also there to give me moral support.  Our route was right past the car accident.  I should say THE car accident.  The accident that my husband and two daughters had just experienced.

As we passed what was left of our daughter's car I began to sob.  The car looked like metal spaghetti.  I could not fathom how anyone could have survived such enormous trauma!  I managed to sob out to my nephew and niece, "Don't worry, I'm OK, I just need to let out this sorrow so that I can then be strong in the hospital for my family."

As we continued hurtling rapidly down the highway an impression came into my mind.  The impression was, "You are about to attend a master class on difficulties of many types, many levels.  If you endure them well there will be gifts given, and lifetime lessons learned."

I didn't completely understand what that meant.  When we entered the ER I could hear my husband shouting.  No sound had ever been so lovely to me.  Having him shout meant that he was very much alive!

Our oldest daughter was in a room with a badly broken right arm, and in shock.  Our youngest daughter had been holding everything together, but when we arrived she kind of fell apart.  That meant that I had three family members, in three different ER rooms.  How could I be in three places at once?  Our dearest nephew and niece had two children at home.  They had left them in the care of Grandma.  They spent their night helping me to make certain all three of my family had support at all times.  We would rotate so that I could spend time with each one.

HARD?  I kept telling myself, it could be SO MUCH WORSE!  They're all alive...they're alive!  At one point a Highway Patrol officer who had reported at the accident site came to the ER to find me.  He said, "I just wanted to tell you that it's a miracle your family is alive.  I reported at an identical accident last week.  Every single person was dead!"

I thanked him, but was shaken by what he had told me.  I also came to realize another miracle.  I was supposed to be in the car with them that night.  I usually sat behind Nyle in the car.  Anyone behind Nyle would have been crushed.  The trunk was pushed forward around Nyle, and his seat was pushed back into the trunk.  I had decided at the last minute to stay home and take care of a procrastinated, and necessary errand.

The following six weeks were AGONY!  My sweet husband had broken all 12 ribs on the right, punctured his lung, damaged his internal organs, broken his right arm, and right shoulder, and destroyed about 5 levels of his back.  He was one giant bruise from head to foot.

Ardis and Sarah were adults.  Yet every cell in my body cried out to be with them as they battled the consequences of this horrific experience.  I will eternally be grateful for beloved friends that stayed with Ardis and Sarah for two weeks to make certain they were OK.  They sacrificed lots of things to make time for their care of our girls.

Nyle was in horrible pain.  (As you can imagine).  He had many life threatening health problems before the car accident.  So many that I did not dare leave him alone in the hospital.  There were a couple of times that I was able to catch a mistake that the nurses almost made that would have killed him.  He had one nurse that I felt comfortable enough with to actually sleep for a few hours.  (I kept a foam mattress there and would stretch it out and sleep when I could).

I was overwhelmed with the support of friends and family, and our wonderful church family.  When I reached critical mass, (beyond my own physical limits) many men volunteered to stay with Nyle around the clock so that I could get some rest, in my own bed, in my own home.

It seemed that anytime a need happened, a solution appeared.  Our family car was very, very old.  The accident was in 2009, the car had been a grand luxury car in the mid 1980's.  All the luxuries were wearing out.  For example, the electric windows.  The windows had fallen into the track and would not come out.  If I needed to drive somewhere during inclement weather, I would have to take a blanket to put over my left shoulder to keep from getting soaked.

Then we got a call from our niece.  They had been about to turn in their old van to get a new van.  She had felt impressed to not sell the old van.  They gave it to us.  To them it was an "old" van.  To us it was about 20 years newer than our car.  We needed a van.  Nyle's mobility had been severely compromised before the accident.  He had an electric scooter.  Previously we had not been able to take his scooter with us (no car that would do that), and now we could.

Food mysteriously appeared on our doorstep.  Money also mysteriously came to us.  The outpouring of love and support was wonderful.

When Nyle came home from the hospital, it was even harder.  At least at the hospital there was a nurse to help me with Nyle's care.  His insurance ran out, and would not pay for in house physical therapy, so even though he NEEDED physical therapy, and care in a hospital, he had to come home.

I can't imagine how I would have managed without our angel daughters.  We took turns caring for him in the night.  That meant that usually we could get at least 4 hours of undisturbed rest.  Often I would lie down and sleep on the floor next to Nyle's bed.  (He had to have a special adjustable bed to sleep in due to his injuries, and lung disease).

The bed was another miracle.  I had been crying on the shoulder one day of a dear friend.  I confided that I didn't have any idea what I was going to do when Nyle came home and needed an adjustable bed.  He literally could no longer breathe when he lay down in a flat bed.  Also, the pain from his multiple injuries was worsened in a bed that was flat.

She said matter of factly, "We purchased an adjustable Tempurpedic bed for me.  It was the best adjustable bed that we could find.  I can't sleep in it.  For many reasons I sleep in a reclining chair.  We're going to give the bed to Nyle."

My response?  "Shouldn't you speak to your husband?"  Next I said,  "No, we can't take that, it's too much.  Unless, we might be able to pay you a little something once in awhile?"

She answered firmly, "This is the right thing to do.  Nyle needs the bed, and I have the bed."

Her husband was not as quickly excited by the idea as his dear wife, but he came around.  She would allow for no other possibility.  She just continued to say, "This is the right thing to do...so this is going to happen."

Nyle had a rental adjustable bed that he had been using at home.  We sent it back (thus ending the enormous rental bill), and men from our church group picked up the donated bed, traveled to our home, and put the bed in Nyle's room.  Voila!  Nyle was the proud owner of a very comfortable bed!

Some of the lessons that I learned in this fiery amalgam of experience?

1.  Family and friends are the greatest blessings you can have in this world.  Love, kindness, and constant support were poured out upon us as we faced this experience. 

2.  God was as close as a prayer.  He did not take away the challenges, but he strengthened us to bear it.   He also spoke peace to our souls while we struggled.

3.  Our needs were met in a timely manner, and often in a miraculous fashion!

4.  I love Nyle...forever...and for always.  I loved him before the car accident.  Having him almost taken away reminded me how much I loved him!

5.  We have two amazing daughters.  They came to the hospital everyday and spent hours lifting their Father's spirits, this even though both of them were still struggling with pain issues of their own.  They did everything they could to support their parents with great love and humor.

There were so many gifts, lessons, and love that helped us through this almost indefinably hard time.  My list up above just barely scratches the surface!

I would NEVER wish to experience anything like that, ever again!  Yet I am grateful for the gifts of love that we received, and the lessons that I learned during this experience.  Was this hard?  Of course it was.  On the other hand, hard does not always mean bad!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bambi Sings to Bingo

During our dating, Nyle and I made fun of silly people that were in love and calling each other foolish nicknames.  You know, like Snoogybuns, or Booie, (Nyle rented a room from a couple for the first year of their marriage.  They called him Baby Booie)!  lol

When we married, we started calling each other silly names as a joke.  OOOPS!  Poor idea as so many of them stuck.  Some where based on parts of Nyle's name...Nybrith, Nylie, Nyleanator, etc.
He pretty much just called me honey, honey bunny, or honeybunch.  Nobody told us that those names would stick and be repeated for 27 years of marriage.

Nyle came to our marriage with MANY nicknames all ready.  His beloved nephew called him Nagoo Nyoo.  Apparently that name happened when the nephew was too young to say Uncle Nyle.

In his family of boys, each had a nickname that rhymed with their first name.  Nyle's was Nyle the Pyle!  He, for obvious reasons, did not care for THIS nickname.  His family also called him "Dunky Doll," because he was admittedly one of the cutest little boys imaginable.

Nyle burdened himself with the nickname Bingo.  He played a tiny role, in a tiny play, in a tiny theater at his college.   Nyle was an ACTOR!  He was very proud of his chops as an actor and rightly so!  He was so embarrassed to be in this play, (with a tiny part) which his professor/friend had bribed him to be in, that he put his name on the program as BINGO SMITH.  That backfired....big time!  Imagine his surprise when he received an extremely prestigious nomination in college acting circles.  The "Irene Ryan Award."  Some of you may remember the actress as Granny Clampett in the show, "The Beverley Hillbillies."

Actually, NYLE Smith did NOT receive the nomination.  You guessed it, BINGO Smith received the nomination.  The nickname stuck.  Many dear friends remember him with that name.

Bambi?  Nyle and I faced many, MANY health crises in our life together.  We developed a "gallows humor," approach to living with the distinct possibility of death.  Between the two of us we faced cancer (both of us), Diabetes (Nyle), and many, many other life threatening illnesses.  So we would joke back and forth, "If I die, I want you to remarry."  He said it to me so many times I finally said, "Fine.  If you die, I'll remarry.  I won't remarry somebody wonderful because NOBODY could be as wonderful as YOU!  So, I'll marry a Stupid Stud named Steve!"  (Obviously we liked alliteration, but wait here comes the rest).  He countered with, "I'll marry a Blond Bimbo named Bambi."

Somehow, someway, Bambi became one of MY nicknames.  On a business trip, he sent me a postcard.  It was a picture of three, extremely attractive, brawny, ripped, and tan, men.  The postcard read, "Bambi, Heard the old man's out of town.  We should get together, signed, Steve, Steve, and Steve."

We adored to sing together.  One Karaoke night, Nyle excused himself.  I was chatting with our other friends at the table.  Suddenly I hear the DJ announce, "Now we'll hear a musical number from Bambi and Bingo."  I looked up, and Nyle was standing by the DJ beckoning for me to join them.  Of course, I did.

Nyle DID die before me, THE STINKER!  I will NOT be dating or marrying any Steve's.  I WILL be carrying on the best of the love we shared, and looking forward to being reunited with him in the world beyond this life.

I could NOT sing or speak at his funeral.  I was numb, faced with the reality of endless days and nights without my love.  In my mind I promised him that I WOULD sing a concert for him, and about our love and marriage.  This coming Friday, I will meet that goal.  I am also writing a book, "Happy Not Crappy," that is based on the true story of our courtship, romance, and marriage.  Please watch for that book.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hero/Heroine? Hero/Shero

I wonder who in the history of our language decided that the female version of a hero should be a heroine?  That is the name of a drug.  Why would a heroic action performed by a female be called the name of a drug?

Actually if you look at the work HERO you can see evidence that the word itself referred to heroic females.  HER O...spoken in the inflection Her  OOOOOOHHHH!

Hero and Shero seem like a better choice to me.  I would never wish to be called the name of drug for performing acts of service.  I've heard people use the term hero for both male and female.  I believe that makes some sense.  If you need to be reminded, check the paragraph above.

This last week our youngest daughter had "Hero Day," at the school where she teaches 5th grade.  It made me think about the heros, and sheros of my life.  I have so very many, grandparents, parents, my beloved husband, but especially our two daughters.

When Nyle died, his income died with him.  That left me attempting to pay all of our bills on my Social Security Disability Income.  That teeny amount did not even begin to pay the monthly bills.

Our youngest daughter worked at a part-time job that she really did not enjoy.  It earned money.  So she stuck with it.

Not long after our oldest daughter got a job.  They both stuck by me as we attempted to find a "New normal."  I moved, and then we got smart and realized that having all three of us share the expenses of a home made the most sense.

That is not all our girls do.  They watch over me and my physical challenges with great love and patience.  They pay the bills and keep an eye on expenses.  They cook and shop.  They make me laugh.  They are patient with me when I chatter like a magpie.

Our girls are one of the very greatest blessings in my life.  They ARE my SHEROES!  I want them to know that I recognize this about them! 

Happy Birthday to Ardis the Great(est) Daughter!!

The doctor said, "It's a girl!"  Nyle said, "How can you tell?  All you can see is the babies head?" 
The doctor said, "This baby has very feminine features.  "I'm almost always right! about gender!"

Sure enough the baby DID have feminine features.  She was beautiful from the first moment she drew air.  Her hair was thick and black.  Her eyes were a deep sky blue.  I was ever so excited about her eyes.  I thought she would have eyes the color of her Father's.  I was a bit disappointed when her blue eyes turned golden brown.  The disappointment didn't last.  She has the same golden-brown eyes as MY Father.

Any place that we took baby Ardis she drew attention.  People raved and ranted over her lovely features, and her amazing hair.  We were surprised and amused at how many people told us that her hair WOULD fall out, and then grow back in.  I imagine they were trying to be kind in warning us.  Ardis' hair NEVER fell out.  It just got longer, and longer.  It was to her waist by the time she was three years old.

Ardis was a very easy baby.  If she fussed you KNEW that something was wrong.  For example, one night she cried, cried, and cried.  We took her to the ER about 3 a.m.  They discovered that she had a terrible ear infection.

From the first, Ardis was always good at self-comforting.  Feed her, change her,  give her a playpen, toys, and she would be happy for hours.

When I was pregnant with Ardis her Papa listened to some pretty rowdy music as "white noise."  He was a very light sleeper but the music seemed to help him relax.

It had the opposite affect on me.  I wanted to get up and dance to the music.  After he went to sleep I would turn off the music and I would go to sleep.

When Ardis was about a month old I was trying to rock her to sleep one night.  She could not seem to calm herself and go to sleep.  She wasn't fussy, but she wasn't sleepy either.  I put on some calm Barry Manilow music.  That seemed to make her fussier.

Then I thought about Nyle's crazy bedtime music.  I put on one of his cassettes and she was asleep in minutes.  I do think that she eventually grew out of listening to loud music at bedtime, thank goodness.

Today is the 29th anniversary of Ardis' birth.  I don't believe that we had any concept of the great things that she would accomplish.  She was Valedictorian of the History Department at Brigham Young University.  She went to London Study Abroad as part of her undergraduate work, and then also attended a term at Cambridge as part of a student transfer program.  She then earned her Master's at Cambridge University. 

Ardis volunteered with the Model United Nations program at BYU, and then at a National Level.  She has helped teach students from all around the world about the Democratic Process of the United Nations.  In this work she has elevated the lives of hundreds of young people.

Ardis has always been a deeply loving daughter.  As parents we have always been hugely blessed by Ardis.  She has helped us to reach higher in life, and to reach out more to others with love.  Thanks RDK for being such an amazing human being.  We love you!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Sun is Shining

It always amazes me how good it makes me feel to open my eyes and see sunshine.  Living in a desert climate I'm grateful for the brilliant light that we are graced with.

I lived in the Northwest for almost 20 years.  I tried to learn to love the shade and shadow as the natives did.  It never really happened.  There was one winter with ninety days in a row that the sun NEVER showed up!  People were so cranky!  It wasn't the rain that made me grumpy...it was the GRAY!

I find that this weather discussion is an excellent analogy for living.  How many times do we wake up to find difficulty facing us?  Many times we wake up to gray days or rainy days (symbolically).   A teen has started experimenting with drugs, your husband is addicted to pornography, or you're going through postpartum depression.  There are ever so many problems that can arise in life.

In Portland when the sun refused its warming light my husband put in broad spectrum lights throughout our house.  There was a lamp that you could buy that was supposed to mimic the effect of sunlight.  There were gadgets and gizmos aplenty. 

One of the most important lessons that I have learned about life is that rough times come BUT THEY ALSO GO!  Yesterday I was in horrible, all encompassing pain.  I have several medical conditions that cause pain.  Usually I can keep the pain at a manageable level but that huge change in barometric pressure seems to make pain encompass me at the cellular level.

Then the very next day, today, I awakened to the shining sun.  I moved out of bed, took the animals outside, started to check Facebook and realized, "That horrible pain is gone!"  HOORAY!  I did a happy dance.  (It's a good thing that I was inside at that point).

I never would request the pain filled days, or the challenge laden days.  A friend recently said to me, "I would like a little boredom, just for awhile."  I can concur with that assessment if that means that my pain is limited, and I feel well enough to conquer the necessities of the day.

At the same time, I would not give away the lessons learned about empathy, strength, and thriving through those hard times, those days when I struggle to even have the sunshine in my soul.  This is one of the paradoxes of life.  To truly understand happiness you need to face sadness.  Joy is more fully felt after sorrow.  There is a reason for the word bittersweet. 

Sometimes it feels as though there is no break between hard, challenging thing in life.  At that point you must create that break!  My husband was in the hospital at one point for six weeks.  I was there with him throughout.  One bleak night I knew that I had to do something to shore up my sagging spirits. 

I imagined that Nyle and I were on a cruise (one of our favorite activities), and I was going to another deck to get a late night snack.  I went to the cafe and bought myself a luscious shake.  I sat and reviewed all the joyous memories of our cruising days.  One of my favorite was snorkeling with my honey.  We held hands and swam with our faces inside the water.  We saw coral reef, and magically bright colored fish.  It was ever so romantic to be linked by our hands while we shared this majestic beauty.

When I returned to the reality of Nyle in the hospital I felt renewed.  I could see that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  Before my little break I felt like there was only another tunnel at the end of the tunnel! 

Today, I WILL accomplish necessary beads on a string with no knot on the end types of chores, but I will also dance and sing.  The sun is brilliant.  Beads of rainy droplets shine on the grass like thousands of diamonds.  The birds are joyously enjoying the suns return.  I think I'll join those lovely birdies and sing to the sunshine!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Thrive, Don't Just Survive

In difficult times there is no shame in just surviving.  In fact, I agree with the song, "I'm a survivor, I'm gonna make it..."  In my mind Surviving means to cling with all the tenacity you possess, starting to slide, fingernails digging into whatever you can reach, the branch on the edge of the cliff you're sliding into, the tiny crack in the bricks of the skyscraper where an earthquake threw you.  (The examples, of course, are figurative.)  To be literal, let me use these examples.  Your spouse is dying, your finances are a total snarly mess, your kids are quarreling all the time because of the stress caused by your spouse dying, or you are dying, or your child is dying, or you all are dying!  In these situations surviving may be the very best that you can do.

On the other hand, I wish to suggest a better way.  Is it possible to THRIVE in the midst of gut clenching, earth shaking challenge?  My answer would be yes, well not only yes but ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY YES!

Do you need to be delusional to THRIVE in such a horrific time of challenge?  I think it's more of a delusion to let crisis and terror take any and all joy out of your life.  Oh I'm not suggesting that you think, "Somebody I love is dying?  I'm so HAPPY!"  That is called psychosis, or a total disconnect from reality.

There is a darling movie out right now called "Inside Out."  I love this movie.  It speaks to how our brains work.  It even suggests that emotions we consider, negative, can achieve a positive result.  For example, again, your spouse or family member is dying...OF COURSE YOU FEEL SAD!  There is a quote that says, "Sorrow is the price for great love."  Is it possible to use this sorrow to thrive?  Yes.  Is it easy?  NOT EVEN CLOSE.

The older I get, the more I realize that the things that have mattered the most in my life, family, faith, friends, have NOT been easy.  They have been richly rewarding.  Indeed, I think that the things that matter the most in our lives do NOT come easily.  This process of experiencing pain, sorrow, disgust, fear, has precious lessons to teach us.   The kindest, most loving people that I have ever met have faced some of the hardest challenges that life can offer.

One example was my beloved friend that had a son die in a robbery.  He was one of the robbers.  To have a beloved child die while causing great suffering to others?  I don't think anyone would disagree that this would be an enormous weight of sorrow pressing you down into the ground.
She used her sorrow to drive her to be more compassionate.  I was one of the grateful recipients of her loving and giving,   In other words, she thrived in spite of this horrific experience.

I wish to suggest a few methods that have helped me to THRIVE when SURVIVING seemed my only option.

1.  Prayer or meditation.  However you perceive God, or whatever name you use to address Him or Her, science has shown a significant positive power in the use of prayer.  If you don't believe in God slow down and meditate.  Whatever method works for you, quiet your mind.  Do this as often as your sorrow threatens to suck you into a giant vacuum of grief and pain.

2.  Reach out!  Getting professional help can be extremely beneficial in times of extreme challenge.  Sometimes you have to shop around to find the right "fit," for this clinician.  For example, one therapist actually said to me in a time of huge crisis, "I don't have anything to help you.  You are welcome to come and cry if that helps."  REALLY?  REALLY?  I'm going to pay money to come and feel worse when I leave?  Wrong fit.

3.  FAMILY/FRIENDS are usually wonderful sources of love and support.  They can't read your mind so call them when you need them!

4.  Read only uplifting material.  Watch only uplifting material on the TV or computer.  It's no secret that connecting with upbeat positive ideas can lift your soul...ESPECIALLY in the hardest times of life.

5.  At least daily but more if needed do powerful visualizations.  Example?  Imagine an enormous sink.  Now go through your problems one at a time.  Take each problem, one by one, and put it in the enormous sink.  Now you will turn on the water and watch all those problems, those struggles wash down, down, down, the sink and disappear down the drain.

6.  Throw a potluck party.  Invite all your family/friends to come.  It can be a theme party where everyone comes dressed like their favorite movie/book character.  Parties are excellent ways of connecting and celebrating the best in life when the worst in life is walking with you.

6.  Serve others!  There are as many ways of reaching out to others as there are people.  Volunteer at a soup kitchen, non-profit organization, your church, a foodbank...the list goes on and on.  It's amazing how your problems seem lighter when serving others. 

As usual my post has helped ME tremendously.  I hope that it can help someone, somewhere out in the blogosphere.  Remember, none of us needs to be alone!  One of the best things to understand in this life is, troubles come, but they also go!  Cling to the reality of this idea.  Problems will come but you can do more than just survive them.  You can thrive in spite of them!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Flowers to my Mama

I served an LDS mission.  My 2nd Mission President, Monte Brough, was a wonderful man.  (So was my first but this story is not about him).  I had the privilege of serving as his secretary when he first arrived.  He had a habit that I thought was marvelous.  Every year on his birthday he would send his Mother flowers to thank her for giving him life, and then teaching him how to live it.

From that time forward, no matter how far away I was from Mama I would arrange some how, some way, to send her flowers.  Sometimes it was by the hand of a dear friend that lived close to her, sometimes it was when we lived in the same town.  It was ever so important to me that every single year I gave her flowers on MY birthday.

Mama was one of the most remarkable women I have ever met.  After she lost a precious baby, (she was in labor for 24 hours, and the cord was wrapped around his neck) she went into shock.  She was told that she must never again have a child.  The traumatic birth left her with all types of health issues.  She was also told that she could never even get pregnant.

Imagine her surprise, and delight when four years later she discovered that she was pregnant.  That was me, her 8th pregnancy, and 3rd child to live.  I was born a bonny, bouncing, baby at 8 pounds.

When it was time for my delivery, her doctor was stuck in snarling LA traffic.  So she was delivered by two residents who were total strangers to her.  The doctor arrived simultaneously with me.  Standing in the back of the delivery room (he hadn't time to prepare to assist) he announced, "I want everyone here to understand that this is a miracle.  Birth is always a miracle but this birth is many types of miracles.  Sarah was sterile, unable to conceive.  When we discovered that she was pregnant that was miracle enough.  Sarah could not carry a child.  She had too many health problems to carry a pregnancy to full-term.  She could certainly never deliver a child safely.  Yet here is this beautiful baby.  These events are all miracles!"

Mama often reminded me that I was a miracle baby.  It gave me a strong sense of identity and worth from my earliest memories.  (On the other hand, my daughters may have gotten a little tired of the story when they could quote it word for word from memory).

Mama and Papa brought me home to my two adoring siblings, 10 years, and 6 years old.  All was blissful until...one night I began to "bark like a dog," as my Mother colorfully described.  She called a doctor and asked for advice.  He said that I probably had the croup.  She held the phone up to my mouth and said, "Does this sound like croup?"  I was not only croup coughing, but wheezing like crazy.

Mama, and Papa went to the doctor's office with me.  They discovered to their horror that I had virtually no immune system.  I was also severely allergic to pretty much every item of earth life, from food, to plants, and lets not even get started on the pollution in the 1950's worsening air in California.

On another visit the doctor wrapped me up in a blanket and I started to turn blue.  He quickly released me and said, "If you put her down to sleep in a crib she could suffocate in minutes.  You must hold her round the clock."

Fortunately, our church group was very loving and supportive.  Volunteers came to take turns holding me so that Mama and Papa could get some much needed rest.  I can't remember those tender times. 

Back to Mama.  Can you imagine the stress and worry of having a severely medically fragile child?  The Mayo brothers came to Los Angeles and Mama and Papa took me to them.  They tested me for a long, long time.  Finally they called Mama and Papa in and said, "Your daughter is the most highly allergic child that we have ever seen."  They gave my parents a three page, single spaced, list of must dos and must do nots.  Little things like running the vacuum three times a day throughout the house.  Keeping me away from all animals, and the list went on and on and on.

Mama said of that time, "We lived in prayer.  We never knew when you would have your next attack or if you would survive the next attack!"

This was the late 1950's.  There was only two treatments for asthma.  One was oxygen.  The other one was a painful pounding on my back to loosen the mucus secretions that my body insisted on making thicker than necessary.

I grew up hearing the story of irritation, inflammation, and infection.  My body would become irritated or inflamed due to allergy, this would lead to infection, which would worsen the irritation and inflammation and around and around I went.

Papa was working full-time during all of this.  He often would need to give me a blessing or run me to the hospital in the middle of the night.  Mama was doing her best to raise her other two lovely children, and keep a house.

Mama was ferociously independent.  The idea of constantly receiving help from others was just not acceptable to Mama.  One of her church friends said, "That's right Sarah.  You just keep insisting on keeping all the blessings to yourself.  You and I know that you can't serve without receiving blessings.  So you won't let me serve, and you keep all those lovely blessings to yourself!"  Mama let Mary help.

Mama and Papa would often drop everything and we would drive to Mt. Baldy.  My Brother and Sister also had to drop everything and come with us.  As we would rise above the pollution my asthma attack would lessen and finally subside.

I also remember being carried to our neighbors.  Mr. Bench had emphysema and they had an oxygen tank in the house.  Lovingly the Bench's had offered me use of their tank.  Oxygen was very expensive to have at home.  My parents couldn't afford it.  Going to the Bench's was quicker, and there was no Emergency Room expense.

Think for a moment what it would be like to live this way, day in and day out.  You never know when your precious child might die suddenly.  You are constantly guarding this child from illness and yet attempting to give the child as normal a life as possible.

Doctor's told my parents that it would be quite likely that I would not live to be two years old.  One day after a hospitalization, a resident came up to my Mama and said, "Mrs. Cheney, if you do not get this child out of Western Medicine, she will simply not survive."  He then added, "If you tell anyone that I said this I will deny it."  It took courage for him to make such a radical suggestion.

Mama listened and off we went.  I think we went almost from A to Z of what alternative medicines were available at the time.  Allergists (non Western allergists), Chiropractors,  Dietitians, Herbologists, and Naturopaths,   Some helped a great deal, others made things worse, and some did nothing at all.

Through all of it, Mama was endlessly optimistic to me.  She never complained about all the stress I brought into her life.  I was a MIRACLE!  What an enormous blessing it was and is to a child with such significant health challenges to have such a CHAMPION for a Mother, never giving up, always looking for ways and means to improve my life.

She kept watching out and over for me for the rest of her life.  I can only imagine how hard it was for her to let me go...leave the nest...and trust in my own ability to manage my health.  I know that her faith was not an inactive belief.  Mama's faith was an enormous power.

Mama passed away at the age of 95.  I will do my best for the rest of my life to send her flowers on my birthday  I thought of delivering them to her grave but decided against it because her soul is not there!  The soul of my Mother is just as busy and loving on the other side of the veil as it was here.  I know that she is still lovingly watching over me.  So, I will find ways and means to celebrate Mama, to bring her flowers for as long as I live.

I love you Mama...beyond death.  I cherish your influence in my entire life.  I'm so grateful that I got to keep you for 57 years!  I never want you to forget how grateful I am for all of your sacrifice and love. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Here We Go Again!

Last night I was eating a delicious piece of candy  I love sugar, especially when it's covered by chocolate!  Suddenly I was aware that there was a piece that was extremely hard.  When I fished it out of my mouth I discovered that yet another of my teeth had broken off at the roots.

Sigh...it didn't hurt...it just gave up.  So now I have an even bigger space where my upper teeth should be.  Thank goodness that when I lived in Portland, Social Services actually paid for a dentist to crown my two front teeth.  They are now two of the only 4 teeth I still have on the top level.  Oh, the roots to the broken teeth are still there.  Roots that abcess far too easily.

I am eager to have them all removed.  I'm hoping, praying that my health will improve when I no longer fight this constant battle.

I have come to understand that I am extremely vain.  I liked the way that I looked with teeth.  After my parents sacrificed to get me braces my teeth were lovely.  I often had people tell me that I had a beautiful smile.  I liked hearing that.

Nobody would tell me that now.  I look very much like a chipmunk.  Remember how they only have two large teeth in front?  Chewing is very entertaining.  How much can you chew without teeth?

I know that it will take awhile for my gums to heal after the extractions.  It will take awhile for me to get used to dentures.  I still know that it will be better than it is now.  It will be awesome to just see myself with teeth, even if I can't use them to chew for awhile!

In my late teens and early 20's I had nightmares of my teeth breaking to pieces and falling out.  I studied dream psychology and found out that those dreams were showing a fear of lack of control.  I no longer have to dream about my teeth falling out, and breaking off, it has become my reality.

I do not have the confidence to try to approach anyone to sell my books with these raggedy, jaggedy mess of teeth.  All I have to do is to open my mouth and they will not listen to another word I say.  I know that people are judgmental about bad teeth.  I know this because I used to be.

I worked with a kind man who had all his teeth pulled in his 20's.  He grew up in a desperately poor family.  They never had money for tooth work.  When I met him I thought that he was at least 60.  He would have many days that he didn't wear his dentures.  They did not fit properly.  They caused him pain and so he would just go without them.  I thought he was at least 60.  He was in his early 40's.

Children growing up now do not have the benefit that I did of proper dental work.  It's prohibitively expensive to get a tooth filled, or teeth cleaned.  Unless you have a dental benefit through your employer I do not know how you could afford to keep your children's teeth healthy.

I remember an appointment with the dentist when I was 11 or 12.  He just checked my teeth for decay.  It cost $13.00.  THIRTEEN DOLLARS!  The same appointment now would cost at least $60.00.  Our middle class income has NOT kept pace with inflation.

So is there a point to this post?  I guess the point is that I needed to vent a bit about the situation that I am currently facing.  I DO think that dentist's should have a sliding scale of charge for people who can't afford to get their children's teeth cared for, forget their own.

I also think that Social Services should understand that just because I live with my daughters (because I can't afford appropriate housing on my own), they should not count my daughter's income as though it is mine.  I should still be able to get medical and dental assistance.

Venting is done.  I wish that I had the answer to these problems.  If I DID have the answer I would not need to vent.  Anybody out there that knows these answers? 

UPDATE:  It was harder than I thought to become toothless.  Suddenly the face looking back at me in the mirror looked about 20 years older.  I still can't wear my bottom plate.  Bone deterioration has left little for the plate to be attached.  I had implants placed in my lower jaw, but I can't afford the $1,400.00 price to get my dentures prepared for that.  (I didn't realize that cost was involved).

On the other hand, my health HAS improved.  I have been able to make goals and actually meet them.  That is such a freeing thing, when you know that you can plan for the future!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A New Type of Journey

In the post I just wrote I acknowledged the fact that I am old.  There are certain types of challenges that I'm facing as an old woman.  My beloved daughters do not want me to "own" being old.  They want me to be young.  They watched their Father die when he was a mere 54.  I have been advised that I will live at least to 95 preferably to 120.  When I suggested that if I made it to 120 I would be a shadow of a human lying in a bed going blah, blah, de blah blah.  They replied, "Yes, but you will still be with us!"

However, moving my way through life I have had seasons of "repair," for this body, and seasons of just radiant joy in enjoying the gifts that having a mortal body gives me. This year is a season of repair. A season of healing.

The Bible has a wonderful scripture that says, "To everything turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn, and a time to every purpose under heaven."  This is that type of season.

My poor teeth.  They have served me ever so well.  This fact can be attested when a glance is made at my current 220 pound framework.  I have a firm foundation.  I'm a curvaceous cutie.  Or as my sweetheart used to tell me, "You're Rubinesque!" 

My dear parents sacrificed a great deal to pay one thousand dollars to get my teeth straightened.  That would be about 5 thousand dollars now.  At the end of my teen years I faced the world with glistening, beautiful, white teeth.  It was a huge confidence booster.  Before braces I had too many teeth in a too small mouth.  I had my Father's rather large teeth in my Mother's rather small mouth.  My oldest Brother shared a similar fate.  I still am a trifle jealous of my beautiful sister who had and has perfect teeth.  I did say just a trifle.  She's beautiful all the way through and I no longer let jealousy hold my love for her back.  My Brother also had braces, but he achieved them in his 30's.  He was and is so handsome that crooked teeth were more about good health.

Now, I stand on the threshold of the removal of all those teeth.  Well, there aren't so very many left.  A mere 14 teeth stand between me and a new life with dentures.  Am I embarrassed to admit that I will have false teeth?  Not even a little.  I will be filled with gratitude to smile and not have embarrassing gray, rotten teeth, with little jaggedy, raggedy broken parts left.

Why on earth would anyone post about this subject?  I do so with the hope that there is someone in the Cyber world who will read of my experience and receive courage or comfort in a common journey.

It is not just my teeth that will be removed this year.  Both of my knees have been well used.  I dance. Sometimes the dance is performed in a wheelchair, or regular chair, but I DANCE!  I have promised myself that if all I can move is my eyes, or my soul...I WILL DANCE!

Two miserable knees, that have literally been knocked sideways hinder my process.  I use medication to palliate the worst of the hideous pain but there are days that I simply can't face walking up and down our stairs, let alone dressing and going out in the world.

I went to my dentist to have molds made, and measurements made, and choices made to the color of my dentures.  I admire my dentist. He is not only proficient at his craft, but he is a deeply spiritual man.  He is the unpaid shepherd of his religious flock.

The assistant came to me with two denture pieces to decide what color my dentures should be.  I suddenly realized that she was holding up the pieces next to my teeth.  When I said, "Wait, are you trying to match the color of what teeth I have left?  They are rotten, nasty.  I want dentures that AREN'T rotten and nasty!"

She said, well this is the color used the most often.  (There was very much an unstated, AT YOUR AGE).

I replied, "My teeth are awful.  They are all damaged and rotten.  Why on earth would I want dentures that are the same color?"

She then showed me a lighter tone and said, "Well this is the color next to it.  Is this color ok?"

I wasn't really certain that I appreciated the slightly lighter gray tone that she was showing me.  After she left to take care of some other business, and the dentist was working with someone else, I got up and looked at the colors of dentures that she hadn't shown me.

When the dentist returned I said, "Is there some reason that I'm missing why I would want dentures that look old and dingy?"

He said, "We have found that lighter shades of color do not look realistic.  So we prefer to use these colors.  Most people do not want others to realize that they have dentures."  (Not an exact quote of what he said, but the meaning is there).

I said, "I have been battling with my rotten teeth for at least 10 years.  Now my daughters are helping me to get the old rotten pieces removed and dentures in place.  I am NOT trying to hide the fact that I'm getting dentures.  I'm quite proud of the idea.  I'm a rather open person.  Those people that I care about will know for a fact that I have dentures!  So why would I want gray, dismal dentures?"

He didn't really have a response for that.  I think my attitude was a bit of a surprise for him.  An almost old woman who wants white dentures?  What?

I loved it when he measure the two front teeth that I do have (they are both crowns, but lovely crowns), and said, "Your teeth are a good length for us to make the dentures."  Did you hear that Mom, Dad?  My teeth were a good length!  So even if there was that too little of a mouth for too many teeth thing, you gave me teeth that were a good length!

The hardest part of all of this was the financial part.  I have fought ever since Nyle's death to find a way to get my teeth cared for without having my daughters future compromised by debt for my rotten teeth.  I tried many, many different avenues for charitable assistance.  There was always some reason that I didn't qualify.

When we lived in Portland I had an assistant who came three times a week for four hours each time.  She helped me with the tasks that I'm not supposed to do.  Things like "Dishes, laundry, vacuuming, shopping for groceries, and sometimes helping me in and out of the bathtub depending on the level my disability was at.  In addition they paid for any dental needs, and any and all medical needs.

We moved to Utah because our two beautiful daughters grew up and went to school in the general area.  We also moved because my Mama was almost 90 and needed more care.  Then there were the myriads of Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, etc. that I had been missing for almost 20 years. 

I made the fateful assumption that I would be able to qualify for a similar program here in Utah.  I could not have been more wrong.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints is very strong here.  I am a member.  I have actually had social services suggest that I need to turn to my family and/or clergy. 
So much for separation of church and state, right?

I'm so beyond excited for this to be over and done.  One of my dear friends who also battles the fights of disability had to have all her teeth extracted at the young age of 45.  She is such a light, such a positive soul.  She said, "The day they pulled my teeth I went to a movie with a friend.  Once my gums were healed and my dentures were made I would go to bed, take out my teeth, and eat chocolate.  No worries about tooth decay any more!  I would go to the dentist, take out my dentures, hand them to him, and just SMILE!  No more drilling, filling, or the other horrors of dentistry!"

I will strive to be positive as I march through this part of my journey this year.  I am blessed with a wonderful support network.  I know that I will come out of this year's challenges BIONIC!  Oh watch that girl chew!  It's amazing!  Watch that girl hike/dance/walk ferociously!  Two new knees, and a beautiful grin!  I'm SO EXCITED!


Where are you on your Journey?

I'm old.  I declare that with a certain type of pride.  After all, the doctors told my parents that two years would be the quantity of my life.  Breast cancer, many car accidents (there was that naughty deer standing in the middle of the road on a curve) later and I'M STILL HERE!

I know exactly the moment when it became apparent that I was sliding down the slippery slope of middle age to old.  I was listening to music on the radio.  They announced that they were going to play some "retro" types of music.  Then they played the music of my youth.  "Retro music" indeed!

I can quantify my years easily by the days, weeks, months, and years that I have lived.  They have piled up around me.  Sometimes it feels as though I have to knock some of them back, climb out of those large stacks to move forward.  I look in the mirror and it seems as though daily there are new lines and creases.  My hair is not really auburn.  Gun metal gray would describe it's actual tone more realistically.  Thank goodness for Loreal warm auburn dye!

When I was a wee lass, not old yet, not old at all, my beloved Grandma came to the dinner table.  (The only time I beat her there).  She had a look of surprise on her beloved face.  She turned to me and said, "I just had the oddest experience."  I responded, "What was that Grandma?"  "I just looked in the mirror and an old lady looked back at me."

I remember thinking, "Well, of course Grandma because you're really, really old!"  Ah the innocence of youth.  Somehow I did not understand that the spirit within her all too mortal body was still young, still 21 and knowing that all of life, not just a small parcel, was ahead of her.  Now I understand with full force.

Is it BAD to be old?  All of these 58 years that I've lived I've heard the quote, "Beats the alternative."  Oh I hear protests from friends about the new aches, pains, and surgeries that they face.  Yet I feel great joy in the knowledge that I did NOT die at two years of age.  To me each year, whether good or less than good, is an award that says, "Congratulations, you've made it one more year!"

"Women never have to tell their age."  This quote has been a frequent statement in my life.  Ask me.  Ask me how old I am.  I am NOT 29 or 39...no soon, I will be 59!  I'm ever so excited!  What an amazing thing to be this age.

Perspective is a wonderful thing.  I have lived through so many difficulties.  The lesson I have learned is that good and bad pass through us in this life.  The secret when facing very, very hard is what I have just mentioned.  Let it pass through us!  Don't lodge the hard, bad, and ugly in any corner or crevice of your heart and soul.  Each and every night release all the bad.  Let it slide away, far far away.  I visualize a giant sink with an enormous drain.  I pile all the sorrows that try to own me in that giant sink and watch them slide into that enormous drain, and down, down, down away from me.

Does it always work?  I am not quite perfect yet...not even close.  Yet in sliding those nagging troubles away and down that drain  I give myself the gift of renewal.  This morning is BRAND NEW!  It is completely unscored by all that has passed.

Learn from the past, live in the present, plan for the future.  These are the words that inspire me...inspire me to count each and every day as a win!  I'm still here.

I wish to end with a story that happened to me.  When I was battling breast cancer at the ripe old age of 34 I went to the radiation clinic one bleak seeming day.  My attitude was lower than the roots of an old tree.  Fear pervaded my soul.  I was ever so frightened that I would not live to see our beautiful daughters grow.  There was also the fear that I would have to leave my sweetheart far earlier than I wanted.

Sitting in the waiting room was a very old man.  It was quite obvious from his emaciated, battle scarred body that he was terminal.  He gave me an enormous smile.  Then he said words that have echoed through my soul since that time.  "Remember, every day above ground is a good one!"

Here I sit all these years later still "Above ground."  I witnessed the beauty of my daughters growing, and becoming the amazing women they are.  My sweetheart and I spent another 18 years of joy together.  I'm surrounded by windows filled with the loveliness of spring.  My brand new day lies before me with countless possibilities.  I'm still "above ground," not only in a physical way, today my attitude, my spirits are also high and far "above ground."    



Saturday, April 11, 2015

Frustration - First Thing in the Morning?

I started sewing a lovely summer house dress last Spring.  That's right, one whole year ago.  In the beastly heat of summer I do NOT like to wear denim jeans.  Somehow they just feel much warmer than a loose fitting dress.  It's still exciting for me to pick fabric, connect it to a pattern, and create something original for me.

The problem is that I never really learned about all the workings of a sewing machine.  For example, what is the name of the two pieces of metal that lie behind the bobbin?  I have Googled, Asked, and used various and sundry ways of trying to find this information.  I found one DIY video that gave instructions, but while she was teaching her hands were in front of the pieces.

1.  What is the name of those pieces?

2.  How do I put them back in the machine?

3.  How many years have I been sewing (around 40) and still don't know what these pieces are called, and how to reinstall them?

4.  It really would be cheaper to go to a thrift store and purchase a ready made summer dress.  Why do I still feel this compulsion to create something of my own?

5.  Living with my two beautiful adult daughters there is already a plethora of clothing in the home.  Why do I feel as though I need to make something new?

6.  Why am I writing this silly post about my frustration with my sewing machine?

I watch the "reality" show "Project Runway," about the designers who create clothing according to instructions for multiple tasks.  It whets my appetite to sew, design, and create something that is absolutely specific to me.

I LOVE, ADORE, fashion.  I toyed with the idea of becoming a fashion designer in my youth.  I have always been fascinated with fashion, both from a historical vantage point (Did you know that in Egypt it was just fine not to wear anything on the top of you, but heaven forbid, don't show your ELBOWS) and a current point of view.  I gave the idea up because I can NOT draw.  Drawing is an important skill when you are creating a garment by making your own pattern pieces. 

At darn near sixty years of age, I have determined to follow "classic" fashion styles for the rest of my life.  On the other hand, I like to toss in accessory things that are fresh, and current.  A classic dress can look new and chic with a new necklace, a shrug, or a cardigan.  Earrings can also make a great statement.

I use fashion to cover when I'm having a tough time.  "If you can't make it fake it." Is a philosophy I agree with wholeheartedly.  Sometimes I can't stand the most basic of make-up, so I wear a lovely necklace, or statement earrings, or a delightful bracelet.  I have discovered that if people see these things, they aren't looking as closely at this old lady with no make-up on!

Frustration can hit at any time with any activity.  Do we let frustration stop us?  I hope not.  I am really, really, talented at being frustrated.  I'm trying to learn a better skill-set than stomping around the house grumpy and annoyed like a terrible two year old.  Gratefully, I can vent in my blog.   I would love to hear comments about what makes you frustrated. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sick, Sicker, Sickest

Being really sick from time to time has definite benefits.  Before anybody hisses and quits following, or reading my comments let me explain further.

I have battled throughout my life with mind bending, soul gripping types of illness.  If that hasn't been enough my husband was quite ill for the last thirty years of his life.

We both knew that we had a choice, a very, very difficult choice, but a choice nonetheless.  We could choose to let our illness completely define us, (it IS a part of who I am, but not ALL of who I am) or we could focus on all the things we COULD do, not those we COULDN'T.

My husband was a powerful example for me, for our two daughters.  "Happy, not crappy," became our family motto.  It means the we CAN be happy in spite of our circumstances.  Yes, I said HAPPY!

Last week, I was a health mess.  My tooth abcessed and all of the demons of medical challenge that I juggle daily came spiraling down around my head.  I was at stress level 100 of a scale of 1 to 10.  For two days I was in the land of, "This hurts more than I can bear!"  Gratefully antibiotics have groomed the pain back down to manageable.

Why do I share this?  That time of misery was not wasted. There were periods of time when I thought of all my loved ones that have passed, and smiled with joyous memory.  I prayed, I watched interesting things on TV while I embroidered on an antique family quilt top.  Many of my family that have now passed on worked on this quilt from the 1930's forward.  Somehow Mama just never was able to finish it.  At 90 she considered throwing it away, and I had a figurative heart attack and snatched it back.  This quilt top WILL be finished.

I was not able to do laundry, wash dishes, or perform other household tasks.  This was a time for "other" kinds of duties.  Watching the sun rise, and the moon rise behind our mountains became a daily point of joy.  I was grateful for all my senses (Except for those days when pain was so severe.  I am not a Saint)!

Time slowed to almost a stop.  Instead of racing through my day with tasks, and schedules, and appointments, I was forced to s  l  o  w  w  a  y  d  o  w  n.  Sometimes I felt like I could hear the tress greening, and the flowers poking their seemingly shy heads above the winter chilled earth.

I am not advocating that all of us quit living so that we can listen to the flowers grow.  I'm discussing the hard times that come to almost every human being that lives.  I'm not talking about, "Oh goodness, what shall I do, I can't choose which Prom dress to wear!" kinds of troubles.  I'm referring to soul shaking, bouts of illness, financial stress, or especially financial ruin, divorce, death of a loved one, or disability.  I would wish these troubles on nobody.

I watch, listen, and learn from others as I move along life's path.  I learned from the woman confined to bed by Multiple Sclerosis.  She could do nothing for herself.  She had her Caregiver's get a white board and mount it next to her bed.  Each morning she would have them list people who requested that she pray for the issues in their life.  She labeled herself, "The Prayer Warrior," and spent her days praying for those who were struggling.  Can you catch the irony?  She...the woman bound fast in her bed, was praying for others, for their struggles, and juggles.  It was a way to empower herself and connect with her God.  She did not choose to be pitied, or to spend her day feeling sorry for herself.  She found ways to serve.

I learn from reading, "The Hiding Place," by Corrie Ten Boom.  Corrie, her sister Betsey, and their beloved Father hid Jews during World War II.  They were devout Christians but saw all humanity as brothers and sisters.  A neighbor turned them in for treason.  Betsey and Corrie never saw their elderly Father again.  Betsey did not survive the Concentration Camps.  Corrie was released through a miracle.  She found out later that it was a "Mistake."  If she had not been released she would have been killed a month later.

An example very close to my heart is my beloved Mama.  At the young age of twenty she was diagnosed with incurable kidney disease.  This was 1939.  She was given a long list of behaviors that she should follow.  She should rest a great portion of everyday.  She should NEVER marry.  Having children could easily kill her and the baby.  She would be an invalid.  She probably not live to be very old.

She called a beloved friend for support.  Mama was crying so hard that her friend had a hard time understanding what she was saying.  Shocked to silence, Mama could not believe it when Emma started to laugh.  What Emma said next changed Mama's life.  "Oh Sarah, you're going to learn to take such good care of yourself that you'll outlive the rest of us."  Mama said that she thought, "You can do that?"

Emma's statement proved to be prophetic.  Mama read books, she did research on kidney disease.  She learned ways and means of improving her health.  She gave birth to three children, and lived to be ninety-five years old.

My Mama is my Shero.  She taught me to trust in God with all your heart, and then do everything in your own power to make things happen.  A partnership with my Creator came more from her actions than her words.  She showed that partnership each and everyday by the choices that she made.

These examples of monumental courage in the face of great fear and challenge help me as I face my problems.  I watch how these "ordinary people," faced their extraordinary challenges.  It reminds me that courage does not mean doing things in the absence of fear.  Courage means facing your worst fears. 

When all else fails, remember, "Happy not Crappy!"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Live in the Present

In this moment, I am sitting at my favorite table surrounded by beautiful mountainscapes outside my window.  There are blossoms everywhere, pink, white, lending new life to the view which is mostly still waiting for spring to arrive.   I am finishing eating a delicious, healthy granola bar, and my critters (one cat, two dogs) are roaming about eating their breakfasts.  In this moment I am safe.  I am immovable from joy, I am grateful for life.

What happens when the moment you are in is NOT safe, or positive?  That will happen, likely many times in your life.  In all of the thousands of moments in your lifetime there will definitely be some that COULD pull you back, or down.  This post is about learning to live in the present.

We all know that we can't go back to the past.  That is a scientific fact.  We are rooted here...right here...in the moment that we're living.  What can we do to improve this moment?  Here are some suggestions.  (Note that there are many similarities to my last post of learning from the past.

1.  Learn to quiet down any trauma or drama from the past.  Let go of any worries about the future.
2.  Visualization is a grand tool.  Imagine yourself sitting in the most comfortable of places (or go sit in the most comfortable of places).  Close your eyes and imagine how safe you feel right now, right here.  Breathe deeply in, and then out.  Count to ten as you breathe in, and ten as  you breathe out.  Do NOT hyperventilate, which would consist of taking breaths in and out that were too rapid.
3.  Write in your journal.  Focus on this moment.  Use your senses as you write.  What do you smell, see, hear, feel, taste?  Do not allow yourself to wander, stay focused on this one tiny moment in time. 
4.  Play music, sing at the top of your lungs.  (Please do not do this in a crowded place, or space).
5.  Call a friend that is supportive and loves you unconditionally.
6.  Create a safe space.  Make a space in your home where you feel protected, safe.

Why is living in the moment so important?  Life can be completely, absolutely overwhelming.  If that is not true for you...CONGRATULATIONS!  Most of the planet HAS experienced these overwhelming times.  It is much easier to find control, and feel peace, if life is handled one moment at a time.

On the Net Flicks TV situation comedy, "Unbreakable Kimmy," she is kidnapped and kept in a bunker under the ground for fifteen years.  She explains that she decided in that horrible place that she could do anything for 10 seconds.  So she would slowly count to ten, and then start counting again when she finished the first sequence of counting.  In this way she faced horrible things.

Most of us will never face being kidnapped, or kept in an underground bunker.  THANK GOODNESS.  At the same time this philosophy is very helpful.

My husband was in a horrendous car accident.  About five levels of the middle of his back were just turned to powder.  At one point on his back there was bone pressing on the spinal cord.  The good docs were astonished that the sharp bone had not severed his spine.

Extensive back surgery was performed to put his back together again.  The moment he began to become conscious from the surgery he was in agonizing pain.  They gave him lots of pain medicine but none of it worked.  For thirty-six hours he was in grinding, unrelenting agony. 

Finally one of the pain management docs found another medication that worked.  Then he slept for thirty-six hours.  It wasn't that the medicine took away all the pain.  It was that we all have certain limits of I can handle this, types of pain.  The medicine simply made his pain bearable.

Of this extremely difficult time he said, "I looked at the clock and thought to myself, 'I can handle this pain for one more moment.'  I got through that experience one moment at a time."

I just wrote about two extreme types of moments to live in and move beyond.  Here's a gentler moment.  It had been a frantic morning.  I had two darling little girls to get ready for school.  Their school was a half hours drive away.  I also had work.  So, in the process of feeding two cranky little girls, and helping them dress, and then getting myself ready we were all snappish, and genuinely grumpy.  In that moment I wanted to go back home, and all of us just go back to bed.

Instead, we sang a song together, quoted a scripture, and said a prayer.  (I did NOT close my eyes as I was driving to say a prayer.)  I was amazed at how that simple little experience changed all of our attitudes and made our day much brighter.

If organized religion is not your choice, sing a children's song, recite a poem, say a prayer.  Anyone can say a prayer, no matter what name they give to God.  This works if you are carting your children hither and yon.  It also works if you're alone, driving to work.  Let's face it, it's very important to start the moments of your day in a positive place.  When we start the day negatively, it rarely gets better from there.  So find a way to start the moments of your day in a positive place.

Is your moment, right now, right here, filled with sorrow, crisis, and difficulties?  Not every moment in our lives will be blissful.  We will no doubt have many hard, soul wrenching moments.  We can learn to thrive even in the hardest moments of our lives.

When my family was in a terrible accident, my niece and her husband picked me up and drove me to the hospital.  As we drove past the accident (the car was metal spaghetti, torn to pieces), in my mind I heard, "If you will be strong, this is a Master Class for you to learn about life."

The accident was horrible.  Our two daughters were left with permanent disability.  My husband came very, very close to death.  Yet within that terrible time there were bright moments of love.  Our neighbors across the street loaned me their family van so that I could get back and forth to the hospital.  Our car had been destroyed.  One of our nieces had a van that they had been planning to sell to help pay for a new van.  She felt impressed to hang on to that van.  It wasn't very much later that she gave it to us.  Men came and stayed with my hubby in the hospital so that I could go home and be with our girls sometimes.  (They were both adults, but even adults want their Mommies when they are hurt).

I learned about the bright love of human kindness.  Nyle and I were simple astounded at the outpouring of love from our families, and our church group.  Our oldest daughter was very close friends with a young married couple.  They came and lived with the girls for two weeks.  The girls were too sick to care for themselves, but not sick enough to be in the hospital.  I will be grateful always for those two dear young people.  They literally pushed their own concerns to the side to care for our girls.

So moments of bright joy right next to moments of dark sorrow.  The important thing to remember is that there is a choice.  We may choose the easiest path which is crippling sorrow.  Or we may stretch our souls as far as we can to find joy, even in the darkest of times.

My husband taught our daughters (and me as well) a phrase that he made up, "Happy Not Crappy."  That's a very simple phrase but what it means is that we do not have to let circumstances determine for us if we'll be happy or miserable.  We can make a conscious choice to find joy, or take the easy route and let the sorrow own us.

The next time you are faced with a "Master Class of Life," remember that you have a choice.  You can let the obvious sorrows and struggles bury you, or you can dig deep, stretch high, and be happy not crappy.

In this moment I challenge you to write down what makes you happy in this moment.  Even if it's something as simple as, "My breakfast was delicious."  or, "The view out of my window is breathtaking."  Find the things that bring you happiness, especially when it's not obvious, when it's really, really hard.

Remember, "Happy Not Crappy!"


Friday, March 13, 2015

Learn from the Past, Live in the Present,PLAN FOR THE FUTURE! (I love to teach)

My post today is focused on "Learn From the Past."  In future posts I will discuss the ideas of  Living in the present, and planning for the future.  All of mankind can benefit from these three concepts.

I LOVE TO TEACH!  I LOVE TO TEACH ADULTS.  In my blog I try to teach lessons that I have learned that have helped me.  As I write I gain a great benefit by reminding myself of these ideas.  Never at any time do I wish to promote the idea, "Look at me, I've conquered it all.  I'm smooth, I'm clever, I'm always perfect."  SHUDDER...unfortunately, there really are people like that.  It seems that the majority of them either need professional counseling, or have been involved in professional counseling for a long, LONG time.  (Not necessarily a bad thing, unless you are being counseled by someone who likes your money more than your mental health).

Somewhere along the 59 years of my life-path I discovered the philosophy I wrote on my subject line.  I will repeat it, Learn from the past, live in the present, plan for the future.  Each and every one of those timelines is important, but can you go back to the past and change things?  I'm not discussing making recompense to those you have offended.  I'm talking about waking up in the morning and then spending your entire day beating yourself up and feeling negative about yourself because of something that happened long, LONG ago.

The folks who struggle with this the most are reading this and thinking, "I do that."  Then they add that particular idea of guilt and shame and are not uplifted by these ideas, but they actually use the positive ideas of growth and improvement as sticks to beat themselves with.  Trust me, I know guilt and shame and the terrible things that they can do, close up, and personal.  I have three words to give you about that idea.  Are you listening?  DON'T DO THAT!  Repeat that out loud.  (Unless you are in public transportation, a grocery store, or church.  Speaking out loud in those places may add some other types of issues to your negatives from the past list).

Here's an analogy that helps me.  At birth you are handed a symbolic bag.  You are told that this bag has been given to you to contain any problems, traumas, and/or dramas   You know, a great big bag like Santa has in his sleigh.

Usually the first years of life do not give you much to add to that bag. One of my friends was a children's crisis counselor.  Those beautiful children she counseled had a lifetime of grief to put in that bag, and they hadn't reached the tender age of ten yet.  I do know that there are precious, young souls who have a bag full and running over.

As we walk through life the bag gets heavier.  You march along through life adding those struggles, challenges, and sorrows into that bag.  I was bullied and tortured from grade one through twelve.  Teachers bullied me, kids bullied me, and in one instance the administration bullied me.  They actually said to my Mother when she reported an incident when one young man threw a pen that hit inches above my eye, and I had to literally pull the pen out of my flesh, "Mrs. Jones, boys will be boys.  There is nothing I can do about it.

I had to go back to that classroom and sit with those boys around me.  They did NOT quit the bullying or the torture.  Tacks randomly were placed on my seat.  They did it randomly so that I would forget to look first.  That only happened twice...after that I did NOT forget to look at my chair each and every time before I sat down.  Sexual innuendos and harassment were constant.  I took a good book with me to that class.  I read that good book almost all the class to block out the misery.

My Mother went to Parent Teacher Conference.  When she asked that teacher why I received a NOT SATISFACTORY on my citizenship score he said, "She doesn't participate in class."  (Remember that book I was hiding behind)?  Mama said rather heatedly, "I'm certain that you remember you have her seated surrounded by boys who harangue her non-stop."

A long sigh from my teacher.  "Mrs. Jones where can I sit those boys?  They are a problem wherever I seat them."  My suggestion today to that teacher would have been, "Sit them in the hall, send them to detention, get them transferred to a different class...GET THEM AWAY FROM ME!"

Today that scenario simply would not, could not happen, I HOPE!

So now you've witnessed my account of those events that weigh heavily in my bag.  I just participated in a dangerous thing.  I pulled out that misery from my bag and reviewed it, actually, kind of relived it to a degree.  I discovered a year ago that the three main young men that tortured me, have passed away.  I never wished them dead.  I just wished them gone from my life, and now gone from my memory."

Each and every day we add other burdens to our bag.  At the age of fifty I could no longer even drag that bag behind me.  I came rather unglued.  A friend challenged me to spend my 5th decade of life learning and improving myself.  It's been a real journey of discovery.  During this decade I learned the above lesson in the first paragraph.

When I awaken and feel as though I simply can't move I take a few minutes for visualization.  In my mind I simply dump each and everything out of the bag into a huge, bottomless hole.  A hole where all of the struggles, and juggles of my lifetime this far spill down, down and there is a trash compactor to chew them all up.  (I wouldn't want them filling up a landfill, right)?

My beloved husband used a very dramatic visual to help me with this.  For my 40th birthday he had a huge party.  At one point he had each of our guests grab a helium balloon and head outside.  What a sight to see FORTY helium balloons.  My honey explained, "Each of these balloons represent trials, and problems that my wife has experienced in forty years of living.  We are now going to let each and every problem float away.  Watching those forty balloons float, up, up, UP, and away into the sky was magical.  I literally felt lighter of soul.  

Carrying the past around in that big bag stops you...it STOPS YOU!  You may still be functioning, going to work, doing your job, being a wife, husband, or child.  It stops your sense of hope for the future.  It bogs you down so heavily that you couldn't feel joy if it slapped you. (Wait, if joy slapped you, would that be joyous?  Hmmm...)  Even on a sunny day your soul is filled with big, black, dark, dangerous clouds.  (You may have noticed that I like analogies.  I hope you do as well).

Let me share another hard lesson learned.  Those burdens in the bag can actually change to a vaporous state and sneak into your sub-conscious.  Some event in your present may trigger some of those vaporous burdens from the past.  They will then sneak out and into your psyche.  This will stop you. The burdens literally weigh more than any human could drag. Even if the human we're discussing has an Atlas' type of muscle power.

If you feel dark, heavy, worried, or any other negative emotion give yourself a ten or fifteen minute time out.  Use those minutes to look inward.  Ask yourself these questions: You could also write them in a journal to review later...an amazingly helpful tool of mental health, journaling.

1.  Have I been sneak attacked by a burden from my bag?
2.  Was there an event that triggered this sneak attack?
3.  What can I do to restore myself to peace and contentment, better yet JOY?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.  It's a process of healing.  Remember when you were little and your Mama pulled a bandaid off you?  Did she do it quickly so it only hurt for a few seconds, or did she take it off slowly, painfully?  Only YOU can decide the method of healing that works best for you.

Please understand that there is HUGE world of difference between discouragement, self-defeating behavior, feelings of worthlessness, and clinical depression.  Clinical depression is caused by a physical chemical imbalance in your body and brain.  You can't just pull up your britches and move on when you are battling the demons of clinical depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, or any other serious type of chemical imbalance.  For those you need medication and professional counseling.

Back to our bag.  Did you write down the answers to those questions?  If the answers will take longer than fifteen minutes you will have to go back to them later.  To clear any negative energy from you do a quick visualization.  Imagine all those balloons.  You can imagine them black...
that may help you to remember that these are negative past experiences that you are removing from your world.

Write yourself a list of support.  My Mama could always tell just by looking at us when were having a negative experience in our lives.  She also could tell that we didn't wish to share.  With me she would simply say, "Honey, go dance."  Who knew in the 1960s and 1970s that exercise increased endorphins and serotonin?  Who even knew that we had endorphins and serotonin?  For my brother the encouragement was, "Go run.  On the other hand, sometimes he danced.  He also taught me how to sing and dance.  My sister also taught me to sing and dance.  They performed together in our church group, and other church groups.  Sometimes I got to join them.  So Mama cleverly helped us to learn self supporting skills.  Below is a suggested list.

1.  Call, text, email, Facebook, connect in person, somehow or someway connect with somebody that loves you.  You might need professional counseling.  They are neutral to your situation and can give you objective ideas to help you.
2.  Dance -  I don't care if you have THREE left feet...anyone can move to the rhythm.  Even people who are deaf can feel the rhythm and move with it.  I am NOT telling you that you can only dance if you are very, very good at it.  I'm saying, let the music move your soul, and your feet.
3.  Run -  This is a marvelous way to improve your mood and give you perspective.  Do NOT start running when you are in your fifties, have heart, back, or knee  problems, and have never ever run in your life!  Walk first and then run.  If you can't run, jog, or walk.  If you are in a wheelchair, get outside.  Look at the sky, clouds, mountains, or mountains of skyscrapers."
4.  Write in your journal - You may and probably will be surprised by the words that start tap tap tapping on  your mind trying to be let out into your journal. 
5.  Meditate and visualize - Another visualization that I really enjoy is to imagine all of those issues and troubles as knots.  Think of all the knots and tangles we have in our lifetime.  Visualize a huge ball of twine filled with all sorts of gnarly knots.  You are going to start and unknot one miserable knot at a time.  Or you can envision that twine magically becoming smooth and unknotted.  Just like your life.
6.  Use your spirit. - I'm referring to our life force.  It has many names.  Consciousness, soul, spirit, energy, psyche, etc. etc.  Read uplifting books.  My favorite go to book is "The Power of Positive Thinking," by Norman Vincent Peale.  It's a classic and always lifts my soul.  The Bible, Torah, or Koran, are grand for those who are in more of a traditional religion.
7.  Bask in beauty - As I write this I am surrounded by large windows.  The view from our Hillside Home is magnificent.  The home is in the foothills of a mountain range.  Late winter has painted a rather brown landscape.  Brown is NOT an ugly color.  There are many hues and varieties of brown, from golden, to mahogany.  The mountain range that I am looking at has been (depending on who you ask) around for thousands of years, at least.  Use that image...those strong, long lasting mountains to remind you that YOU are strong.  YOU may be immovable.  Not as in close minded, or stuck in one place.  No, you are immovable (meaning nothing can remove you) from joy, from gratitude, from the positive virtues that bring wonder to life.
8.  Write down all of your favorite quotes or scriptures and create your own go to happy basket -  I heard of one marvelous lady on Facebook that has a huge "Happy Jar."  Everyday she writes down some wonderful moment.  She NEVER empties the jar.  Her kids also write happy moments and put them in the jar. Imagine the fun and joy of pulling out the happy memories and reviewing them.

I'm going to stop at eight ideas even though there are many, MANY more ways that you can support yourself, or have others help you support yourself.  If I include them all here, I will be writing all day and into the night.  I have many other things that I need to do today so those may pop up in another post.  

Today's lesson is "Learn from the Past."  The next lesson will be, "Live in the Present."  You are all such wonderful students, class dismissed.