Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Choices have Consequences

Today is the anniversary of my husband's death.

My husband was killed by a drunk driver.

Quick, what picture did your mind flash when you read the words 'drunk driver'?

In our case the words 'drunk driver' mean a 22 year old girl. A lovely young woman with her entire life before her. Recently graduated from college, with honors. From all reports, she was a goal oriented, studious college student.She is very close to her family, she goes to church on Sunday. After her May graduation she went to work, as an accountant and moved into her own apartment.

After she got off work Friday night, she reportedly went out with some friends. Young people, enjoying themselves on a Friday night. Laughing, talking, drinking. Then she got into her car to drive home. Her blood alcohol level was around .118, well over the legal limit. In her intoxicated state she drove up a freeway off ramp, past the signs that said WRONG WAY and drove northbound in the southbound lanes for a couple of miles at freeway speeds until she hit my husband's car head on, killing him instantly I am told.

This is on my mind because my friends and I have children in this age group. Children that are stretching their wings. I remember reading somewhere about how a butterfly struggles to exit the cocoon. If we were to help the butterfly, the butterfly would not be able to fly and would die. It seems that the struggle to break free creates the strength necessary to fly. Those of us with growing children know the truth in this. We watch as our children struggle with the silken constraints, and we want so much to help them, but the most we can do is hope that we have taught them right from wrong, and that life is always about choice, and every choice has consequences. We watch our children stretch their wings, and hope they know that there is nothing they can do that will make us stop loving them. We hope they know that when we see them struggle, we will do our best to make sure they learn how to fly.

Being a parent is a hard job. We watch our children stretch their wings with such pride and fear. What if we see them struggling, when do we help, how do we help. Have we talked to them about the embarrassing stuff? Kids will groan when the subject turns to sex, drugs, alcohol. They will roll their eyes, but we must tell them anyway.

Do your children know your stories? Do they know that you were their age once, and that you made choices and lived with the consequences of those choices. Sometimes the consequences are benign. You are 22 years old and you choose to celebrate the end of the work week by going out with friends and laughing and talking and having a good time. Since you are choosing to have a drink, you need to have chosen whose turn it is to be the designated driver.

Sometimes the consequences are tragic, and you have too much too drink and you choose to drive drunk, and you drive up the off ramp past the WRONG WAY signs and you kill a man, and nothing is ever the same again.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Happy 'birthday' to me

Today is my birthday. Not my belly button birthday, my day I got clean and sober birthday. Today I am celebrating 35 years of sobriety. Celebrating 35 years of choosing to deal with life and all its challenges, obstacles, defeats, and victories without using drugs or alcohol. 

What a year it has been, my 34th year of sobriety. Today marks my 35th anniversary of the day I chose to get sober. I have to say the last few months have been the most difficult in those 35 years, and that is saying something as my life has very rarely been without difficulty. But, even as I have battled my demons- stress, addiction, depression,my sons illness, etc.- the last few months, I have continued to work on my sobriety.

There have been many times lately when I said to myself out loud "Damn, I need a drink." Fortunately my next thought has been "Stop it, you don't drink."  I am not ashamed  to admit that that next thought comes slowly some days. Sobriety really is one day at a time. For me it is one moment at a time most days.

Why 'One day at a time'?

The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.~~Abraham Lincoln~~

For me that means I need to concentrate on living in the moment. Being present and living in the moment helps to keep me focused on the task at hand. When we live in the moment, one day at a time, we don't have time to become mired in regrets and worries over what happened and how we SHOULD have done. No guilt, no condemnation.Which is not to say that if we hurt someone we should not make amends. It is to say that if we live in the present, the past can no longer hurt us. We can let it go, forgive ourselves and others, and choose to live  for today.Living in the present means that we no longer have to constantly review the past, trying to explain our actions or the actions of others. No more guilt or blaming. Living in the present means that we do not have to worry, assume, obsess about what may happen in the future. If we do that we sometimes project unwarranted negative outcomes to things, when all we really have to do is deal with the outcomes of our actions today, this day.

So, today, this day I will celebrate one more day of sobriety. One more day of hangin' in there, no matter how difficult life has become.

Easy? No, I don't think it is ever easy, but just because a thing is hard to do doesn't make it any less worthwhile.  

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Celebrate Responsibly (my yearly reminder)

... do yourself a favor. Tonight is a night when so many will be out celebrating the end of  2015 and the beginning of 2016. Please, make a plan. If you drink, don't drive! If you drive, don't drink! Not complicated. But it does require some thinking ahead. It requires you to think about using an alternate form of transportation such as a taxi, or using a designated driver, or being a designated driver. It might mean that you provide a place for your guests to stay, or that you provide a driver. There are many ways to be responsible.

Now I have nothing against enjoying yourself. I have nothing against those who choose to enjoy alcohol. Personally, I will be celebrating 35 years of sobriety in a few weeks, but that is because I am an alcoholic. I do not begrudge you one sip. But I do want you to think ahead and plan accordingly.

If you drink, please do not drive. I don't care how much you drink, one drink or several. Drinking and driving do not mix.

Lives are changed, destroyed in the blink of an eye. When my husband was killed by a drunk driver not only was my family destroyed but the family of the young woman who killed him was changed forever.

I know, most people think this can't happen to me. The young woman who killed my husband did not think she was impaired when she got on the freeway going the wrong direction and hit him head on at 60 miles per hour.

So, celebrate.Enjoy the party! Have a great time, but have a plan in place. Please.

If you drink do not drive!!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Ignite the Flame

The quote for today is...
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.~~Albert Schweitzer~~

 This is why we must all learn that we are valuable, worthy individuals, women of immeasurable beauty. I am reminded of something that happened when I was still working at the grocery store. I had a young woman and her daughter, about 5 years old, come through my line. I was commenting on the fact that I saw kid food, and then I said I see healthy food, I bet Mom is eating healthy things. The little girl said "That's because she's fat." I looked at the little girl and said, "Mom's not fat, Mom is very beautiful, and you look a lot like her." The little girl said "Except I'm not fat." Even though we were very busy, I took a moment to look in the eyes of the mom, and said "You know that when you say things about your body, you are building your daughter's body image. Please know that you are a beautiful young woman, and if you choose to believe otherwise, you are wrong." I could see in the eyes of the Mom that she did not know that,that this beautiful woman who was not overweight, did not know that she was beautiful.I hope that she took in what I was trying to tell her. I hope that somehow she would learn that she has beauty and value so that she won't pass on the wrong message to her daughter. 
We all know people, women especially whose light has gone out. We may indeed be one of those who is in need of rekindling. We may have let someone teach us that we are not beautiful because they did not realize their own beauty.So today, choose your words carefully, speak aloud your beauty and worth. Speak it even if you don't believe it yet. Speak it until you believe it.The next generation of woman is listening and learning from you. When I was the same age as that little girl, I was blessed to have a teacher who taught me the truth, and who chose to kindle the flame in me. I am deeply grateful every day for that. I choose to keep my flame burning so that I may kindle another flame. This is how I honor the one who taught me.
Today I leave you with a traditional Navajo prayer...I open my meditations with this...
As I walk, as I walk 
The universe is walking with me 
In beauty it walks before me 
In beauty it walks behind me 
In beauty it walks below me 
In beauty it walks above me 
Beauty is on every side 
As I walk, I walk with Beauty. 

Peace and Blessings,

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

November is CRPS/RSDS Awareness Month

Awareness months seem commonplace these days, and so it can be easy to ignore them. Then of course, something hits home with you in a personal way, and you feel the need to be part of the awareness. As the parent of a young man with autism, I have written about autism awareness. This month, I am writing as a person with RSD.

What is RSD/CRPS you ask? Well, according to the National Organization of Rare Disorders "Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS), also known as complex regional pain syndrome(CRPS), is a rare disorder of the sympathetic nervous system that is characterized by chronic, severe pain. The sympathetic nervous system is that part of the autonomic nervous system that regulates involuntary functions of the body such as increasing heart rate, constricting blood vessels, and increasing blood pressure. Excessive or abnormal responses of portions of the sympathetic nervous system are thought to be responsible for the pain associated with reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome."

Now, this post is not to seek sympathy, but to increase awareness. So many live with what are sometimes called invisible diseases. It can be difficult for those who love us to come to terms with the fact that we are in pain. My late husband hated my pain more than me. He felt completely helpless, not an easy thing for a loving spouse to feel. The first few years-I experienced my first symptoms in 2001 on our honeymoon-I felt a lot of guilt. Yes, guilt. It isn't easy knowing that family times and plans depend on how Mom is feeling that day.

It took a year before I found the doctors I rely on. Rare disorders are like that. Most doctors have limited knowledge of the disorder and even less knowledge of how to deal with it. I was misdiagnosed by several doctors. Really unfortunate because if diagnosed early there is a chance to stop the progression. I was progressed into phase 3 of 4 before I found the right doctors.Still, I was not finished with unknowing medical professionals. After I found my wonderful neurologist, who not only knew what was wrong with me, but knew how to help me, I had to change my primary care  physician. The one I had been using quite simply looked at the diagnosis from the neurologist and told me there was no such thing as RSD and that I was imagining it.

Now RSD has been in the medical literature for 150 years. The name has changed through the years, in fact the name has changed since I developed it in 2001, but it has been written about since the Civil War. So, you can imagine how disheartening it was for a physician I trusted to look me in the eye and tell me I was imagining the most excruciating pain known to exist. He simply refused to continue treating me if I persisted in seeing my neurologist for treatment of the RSD. For me, this is underscores why  we need to have an RSD/CRPS awareness month.Even doctors need to be educated.

Twenty five years ago when I first started seeking answers for what was different about my son, it became obvious that educating people was going to be part of the equation. I had never met anyone dealing with autism, and so I found myself researching and studying so that I could educate family, friends, even the doctors and educators we were dealing with. Fast forward,and I am find the same need to educate when it comes to RSD. Luckily, we now have more avenues open to research, share information and connect with others doing the same thing. All too often when you are dealing with something you can feel isolated, as if you are the only person in the world who has to go through what you are going through. In this day of social networks and awareness months it is so good to know that there are others out there who understand.

While no two people have exactly the same experiences, it is always helpful to know that you are not alone. This disorder is not easy to live with. There is no cure, and as horrific as enduring the physical pain can be, the psychological and spiritual pain can be even worse. It is not easy being in pain, being treated badly by the medical establishment,misunderstood by friends and family, needing large doses of narcotics just to get through the day. It will wear you out. It isn't even easy to describe the pain you are feeling.OK, imagine that someone has set your nervous system on fire, is applying a cattle prod and attempting to shred the flesh from your bones with a giant meat fork, all at the same time. I told you it was hard to describe the pain that an RSD patient endures. NOW multiply what you imagine that might feel like by about 10,000.You might be getting an idea of the severity of the pain. Honestly, that is the best picture I can give you. Now imagine that the pain that is constant at about a 6-7 out of 10 can be spiked up to about a 12 out of 10 (I am not exaggerating) simply because the fabric of the skirt you are wearing was touched by a puff of wind. The pain colors every moment of your life. Every breath you take. Am I enjoying a sunset on my deck? What if the wind comes up, what if the fabric in this skirt is scratchy, what if I simply breathe deep and the pain flares? You have to think about these things,and learn to deal with them.

Of course, RSD is not the only disease/disorder that involves chronic pain, there are way too many. It just happens to be one of the diseases I have (it is the only one I talk a lot about, I won't bore you with the other 4). There are an estimated 5 million people worldwide suffering from RSD.The reason I talk about RSD is so that other people can be encouraged to talk about what they are dealing with. It is my small way of saying that you can learn to manage your pain, and perhaps even to manage to have a life in spite of it.

You can learn to manage the pain with medication, good doctors, and with the meditation and breathing that you use for so many things.For me Faith is so important in learning to manage something like this.Some days you might be stuck in poor pitiful me mode, but Creator will not leave you there. Most High will whisper to you that your next blog post should talk about the pain. So Spirit will nudge you to share your stories, share about the pain that is so integral to what is going on in your life.Share that I really do believe I have the choice to pray for healing, the choice to deal with the disease should healing not come. Life is all about choice. I choose faith in my Creator to overcome even the most painful disease known to man. What choices do you have today?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

perspective--little things that are big things

You know, sometimes you can get so caught up in the stresses of life that you miss the little things that are a reminder that you are truly blessed. 

Yes, life is difficult sometimes. You get behind and there is just no way to ever get caught back up. Honestly, for many of us, we no longer have hopes or dreams of getting ahead, it's breaking even that stays just out of our reach, and wears you down. BUT, even in the midst of that, it seems there is always something that will bring you back to the reality that life is a good thing.

I admit I have been struggling with depression again. It's just hard to be behind all of the time, and every now and then I give in to wallowing. 

But the good thing is I know I have good friends,and I hope I have value to the world. 

So, you go along wallowing and then the littlest thing can make you snap to.

My son is autistic. He has never said the words I Love You to me. But, he does things that let me know. At my  infant sons christening I asked Most High to help me make sure that my son would experience the magic of childhood. The answer was the gift of autism. The most amazing blend of special needs, genius, and faith that is my son. My son believes that God will always provide, and that whenever we meet a challenge, Mom can find the answer. My son trusts me to help him learn to navigate a world he has trouble understanding.

But, even knowing all of that, sometimes I just wish he could tell me he loves me. AND THEN, he does.

Well, he doesn't use words. He does things like bake cookies, or carry all of the groceries in from the car, or opens a tight jar lid. Or the one I noticed recently is the TV.

 I only watch one show that he doesn't watch, and I admit, I always have to ask him what channel somethings on if I am the one with their remote in my hand. But, the last couple of weeks, as I get ready to watch TV on Monday night (yes, I admit to loving dancing With the Stars) I have noticed that no matter what channel we were watching earlier in the day the TV is already on the correct channel for my show. It is such a tiny little thing, but it shows me my son cares. He loves me. 

Well, either that or he doesn't want to hear me ask "What channel number is ABC."I am choosing to believe he loves me. It's the perspective I embrace today.

Peace and Blessings,

p.s. I dislike doing this but there is a paypal button over there, just in case. I told a friend who was embarrassed about asking for help that if we don't make our needs known how does anyone ever know we have needs. So, just as embarrassed, I am pointing out the button. Blessings.

Monday, October 5, 2015

gas prices and a reason to smile

So, we filled up the gas tank Friday. We haven't filled up in a while, mainly we tend to get a few dollars worth when we have to.Fortunately (or unfortunately) we don't get out much and so we manage to keep from running out of gas--by the skin of our teeth some months.

 Friday we had to have gas, the low gas light came on, and we had planned on the gas station as one of our errands anyway. We have a fuel rewards card from the grocery store we shop regularly,and we had been watching the gauge and the prices--because truthfully, it often seems if we need gas and we stop to get some the next time we are out the price has dropped...or if we decide to wait until the next errand day, the price has gone up. Its all futile, gas is one of those things you have to buy--no matter what the price is or how far behind you are on your other bills.

BUT, this time, we got lucky, we had a good amount on our fuel saver card, and it was payday, and the price had gone down a couple of pennies.

Now, I don't pump gas--that is my sons job,and he is very methodical about it. The last thing he says before starting to pump is "I have to ask, how much." Then I usually give him a dollar amount and he is always right on the penny.

Friday, with the reasonable prices and the discount I debated, and told him to go ahead and fill it up. He chuckled and said "You now what that means."

The young man in the pick-up next to us overheard our conversation and asked "What does it mean?"

"Well, it often means with our luck the prices will go down." I answered. "But we don't use a lot of gas, so it is a chance we have to take." Then while my son pumped gas, this young man and I had a nice chat about the weather, and weekend sports.

He finished filling his pick-up, and as he was getting in the car said "Enjoy the nice weather, and thanks for filling up. I drive over 200 miles a day in my job, and if you filling up causes the price to go down, I will be grateful. I'll think of you next time I get gas."

Now there are several things to enjoy about the conversation. First, I don't get to chat with strangers all that often,  I don't get out much. Second, how nice that the next time this young man gets gas he will think of me when he looks at the price, and for some reason that makes me smile.

Connecting with other human beings-even if just for a moment at the gas station-is always a great way to enjoy the day!

Peace and Blessings,

p.s. I dislike doing this but there is a paypal button over there, just in case. I told a friend who was embarrassed about asking for help that if we don't make our needs known how does anyone ever know we have needs. So, just as embarrassed, I am pointing out the button. Blessings.