Friday, December 30, 2011

Do Me a Favor...

...actually, do yourself a favor. Tomorrow night is a night when so many will be out celebrating the end of the 2011 and the beginning of 2012. 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 31 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, December 16, 2011

Struggles...we all have them

My life is a mess right now. I am in the midst of very trying times. Lost my home to foreclosure, dealing with illness-including these miserable shingles-moving, financial problems, deep dark depression, if it weren't for bad luck, etc. So I have to remind myself of some things. Our lives are lived half in light and half in dark. In Hebrew scripture God assures us in Isaiah(45: 6-7)...

I am the Lord, and there is none else: I form the light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.

This scripture helped me to understand that those times when I am  experiencing the feelings that I compare to the dark night of the soul, those times were created for my good by Most High God. Now, how can feeling separate from my Creator be for my good? Because it is in those times that I truly have to believe that I would seek my Creator even when I am not feeling like  Most High is there. The times when my prayer life seems devoid and dried up, I can continue in my prayer life, because I know that God exists no matter how I feel. 

In the New Testament sacred literature it seems to me that the followers of Christ were the only one's who doubted. The Romans, the Sanhedrin, the enemies, they knew that here was someone who was going to change everything. But, just as Thomas became forever called doubting Thomas, the followers of the Christ had questions. They were right there with him, they heard what he was saying, they saw the miracles,and yet, we see time and again them questioning and the Christ explaining. If questioning continues even in darkness, the answers must come,though I don't have them right now. So, as darkness must turn into daybreak, waiting on the Most High God must be able to survive the darkness. Sometimes it is just the natural progression of light (activity) and darkness (rest or passive)that is normal in everything.

In Dark Night of the Soul (which is a poem and a treatise on the meaning of the poem) St John talks about the darkness as stripping away the ego. In psychoanalytic jargon the ego is that part of us, the self,serves as the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality especially by functioning both in the perception of and adaptation to reality.So John of the Cross would say that 'greater is the darkness wherein the soul journeys and the more completely is it voided of its natural operations, the greater is its security'. In other words, the more of self we are stripped of, the more secure we are in the fact that God is out there.That the planet will turn and the light will follow, and growth will have happened as the natural progression of times of activity and rest.

None of us follow the same path in our spiritual growth. Many of us experience many different traditions in our journey. We are asking questions, looking for answers. The Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount, everyone that asks receives. The word used for receive has the meaning of gaining. So those who question gain. Those who can embrace the dark as times of rest and growth can relax and know that the questions that inevitably arise in these times will be answered. So while I am struggling,I have to hang on, continuing to question.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Up On The Housetop...

...this is not going where you think it is. Yeah, I know, this time of year those words will automatically cause you to start humming, and trying to remember the words to the song you learned  back on the playground. But, as lovely as that memory is, and you may well thank me abut the 2000th time it runs through your head today, this is about an entirely different subject.

Up on the housetop, your dwelling is covered by a variety of building materials. There are several different types of roofing materials available. This story will use the name of one of the most prevalent types, but it's not about your roof either. (it's my blog, poetic license, and I am in a mood).Not that I am not qualified to discuss roofing materials, I am the daughter of a roofer. A man that worked for the same Roofing and Building Materials company for over 50 years. A man who fell from our roof on October 31, broke his hip, had surgery, and returned to work on January 2nd, at the age of 82. I grew up schlepping buckets, rolls, bundles, believe me I am qualified to talk about roofing materials.

But, I digress. I do that more often these days.

Today I do indeed want to talk about shingles. But, not the shingles that go up on the housetop...I was just attempting a bit of humor, jocularity as it were. Take my word for it, I can use all of the levity I can find these days. No, today I am writing about the disease commonly referred to as  shingles. Herpes zoster, from the varicella zoster virus that gave me a lovely case of chickenpox when I was in the first grade. By the way, my little sister and I had may have been considered overachievers, as it turned out we had the measles and the chickenpox at the very same time. But, as children do, we recovered, which was no easy feat as those illnesses require different types of treatment!

So, this virus gives you a mild childhood illness-or you acquire it through vaccination- then it hunkers down in your body and hibernates for, oh, let's say 50-60 years and attacks you with a vengeance. What the heck is up with that? One more question for my list!! Now I am no stranger to adversity, no stranger to medical problems, I am a cancer survivor-3 times, 28 years cancer free now- I broke my back in a car wreck, I have a neurological disease that is the most painful disease known to man, but I am not ashamed to admit that shingles has whooped by butt! I have never been as sick as I have been over the last couple of weeks. I will not bore you with the details, suffice it to say that since my head and face are home to the problem there are photos and I think those who make Zombie movies will be interested in buying them.

I will share that I have learned that there is a shingles vaccine. I honestly did not know that. It is recommended for those 60 and older, which may be why no one had mentioned it to me!! Honestly, I am not a proponent of vaccines. I am just a mature old growth hippie, I kept my son unvaccinated-and he has never had an illness that a vaccine would have prevented. BUT, I admit that the prospect of another bout with these shingles has me looking into the vaccine. Since this evil little virus NEVER leaves your body (how rude is that?) the vaccine can be useful even after you have had an outbreak. It is a fairly new vaccine, and I recommend you discuss it with your doctor. One can never have too much information.

Turns out,  that I won't be having the vaccine, I am allergic to one of the components. So, I will just be hoping that my body will not need new roofing materials anytime soon. Believe me, I will never look Up On The Housetop again without thinking about the shingles!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Humbled and Honored

Another Blogger has honored me today. This is one of the blogs I follow, as Roy is a very cool guy and gives the world wonderful insights and delightful slices of his life every day. I just wish I was as good a blogger as he is.

So, those who follow me are urged to check out Roy's Blog. Yes, he has honored me today, but I think you will find interesting tidbits there most days!
Peace and Blessings,

Monday, November 21, 2011

'Tis the Season

Does it seem as if all of a sudden every where you turn you are encountering rude behavior? If so, believe me you are not the only one. I think it is just a stressful time of year. We have entered the 'holiday' season. Since time began, humans have had celebrations during the winter season, and for good reason. When the winter is upon us, we sometimes need to be reminded that it will not always be dark and the light will return.

So here we are, just a few days from Thanksgiving, and we are already starting to see people running around getting stressed out and being rude and unkind to each other. It is not easy to remain calm when someone is rude, but if we are to reclaim civility and peace for our society, we have to start by reclaiming it in our own lives.

The holidays are hard for us sometimes, in that the reality often doesn't match up with our expectations. We want so much to create either the holidays of our memory or the holidays of Norman Rockwell's imagination. For those of us who don't have halcyon memories to draw on, we think we will make up for it by making sure our loved ones do. For those of us with great memories we compete with trying to accomplish all of those things in a different time. And so we are worn out, frazzled, frustrated.

I think the first place to start to reclaim some peace and tranquility at this time of year is to acknowledge that the Norman Rockwell holiday was a figment of Rockwell's imagination. I love Rockwell's work, but honestly those illustrations were just that- illustrations. Yes, I am sure that there are families and celebrations that look like that, but I am also sure that there are families that don't. So I think we have to allow ourselves to relax and to create what works for us. No more 'keeping up with the Joneses'!

Now my maiden name was Jones, so I have always found the thought of 'keeping up with the Joneses' absurd. Believe me, we weren't worth keeping up with. Holiday dinners at our house were fraught with difficulty.When all of the siblings and their families got together there were bound to be arguments, fights, and just general mayhem. I don't remember a time when everyone was speaking to each other, there was always some point of contention somewhere. One of the memories I laugh at was the year Thanksgiving dinner was at the home of one of my brothers instead of my parents. That brothers wife did not care for me (her loss) and she very cleverly made that known! I happen to have food allergies,in particular coconut and walnuts. On that table there was not one dish that did not include coconut or walnuts. NOT ONE! From the salads to the stuffing to the gravy, some form of coconut or walnut had been included in every recipe. Then she whined because I excused myself from the table without eating anything. My brother yelled at me that I was disrespecting his wife, and as I left the room my family started arguing. Just another family gathering at the Joneses!

So, as we start the countdown to the end of the year, my advice is to relax. All you can do is all you can do. Perhaps it is time to simplify anyway. As we encounter rude people who are stressing out, smile, perhaps say a little prayer that they will be blessed, and remain calm. That guy that just cut you off on the freeway, ask God to bless his life and keep him safe. That cranky neighbor, ask God to pour out blessing on her. That frazzled cashier, thank her for working hard and wish her a blessed day. Whatever you do, do not repay rudeness with rudeness. You only make yourself unhappy when you do that, and the truth is rude people are unhappy people, no need to add to their numbers.

Perhaps remind yourself of the first few lines of the prose poem Desiderata (Latin for desired things)

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit..."

Who knows, perhaps we can reclaim good manners and civility in our time, and if not we can certainly reclaim it for our life!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Anger is on my mind!!

I don't often talk about current events or news. I try desperately to not talk about politics or religion. I have friends from across all spectrum from left to right, and fortunately we respect each other enough to agree to disagree. But I am going to make an exception today. Because there is a story in the news that has caused me, and others like me pain.

The child rape case involving Penn State is an horrific thing. When I read the first story in the newspaper I was immediately saddened and sent prayers for the young people who had been so betrayed. Then there were the stories about the fallout, an venerable old man losing his job, and then the riots. That is when I started having trouble sleeping.

See, like an estimated 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys in this country I am a survivor of sexual abuse, child rape.Now, I am 57 years old, and have had much therapy over the years, and truthfully think of myself as having healed from the memories of being raped as a vulnerable 4 year old.But, as I read the paper, and the rapes of a 10 year old child were described in much more graphic terms than I had expected, it seems to have triggered a bit of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I was actually surprised at how deeply the newspaper story had affected me.

Maybe it's not just me, maybe there are others out there that are also feeling the pain, and the anger. Honestly, how could this be happening in this day and age. How can we still be a society that allows our children to be raped? I know that 50+ years ago things were not spoken, but I have seen in my lifetime increased awareness, increased information, or so I thought. Apparently we haven't progressed as much as we think we have.

I am not even sure why I started this post, maybe I just want to say to all of us that it is past time for us to speak up, stand up, and make this world safer for our children. I can honestly say I have called Children Services and reported things in the past and will not hesitate to do so again.When I was working, I have intervened in situations where I saw children unsafe, and would do so again. Had I witnessed the rape of that child in a shower,the police would have shown up as  they would have had to pry my hands from around the perpetrators neck.

Maybe I just started this post just remind myself that we need to make ourselves available to to protect our children, all of our children. As a child I knew that what happened to me was wrong.Then when I became a mother I knew that I would die to protect my child. I will never forget the moment my son was put in my arms for the very first time. I knew, in that moment, that love existed, and that every child deserves the best we have to give.I have always made sure I listened to him, and I fouhgt for him when I had to, I would do the same for any child, anywhere.

In the words of Albert Einstein...
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Thanks for listening.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

November is RSD/CRPS 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?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween,oh my!!

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It was a beautiful sunrise here in the heartland. Because Daylight Savings time lasts longer this year I get an extra week of sunrise meditations. With the clock going back on Sunday, I may not get up early enough for sunrise for a while. I can't remember a Halloween with such nice weather. Usually it is cold and wet, a few years ago we got a huge snowstorm, still referred to as the October Surprise by weather forecasters around here. The trick or treaters will actually get to show off their costumes rather than hide them under winter coats this year.

Halloween chills and thrills are fun for some, but for others it is simply the harbinger of a time of year fraught with difficulty. The holiday season draws nigh!!!!

It is amazing isn't it how many emotions get stirred up in us as the holiday season draws near. There are those of us who had less than functional families growing up, and this time of year always seems to be a time when family dynamics can be trying at best, and downright dangerous in some instances. I remember the first Christmas stocking I ever had. I was a freshman in college, and in conversations with a new friend, it came out that we didn't have pleasant holidays in my family. I loved hearing the stories told by my friend Lizzie of the traditions of her family. Christmas stockings were important to her family, so much so that her stocking was being sent to her to hang in her dorm room before she took it home with her for Christmas. When the package came, there were two stockings. The one she had treasured all of her life, and a brand new one for me. As alien as the concept of loving family was to me, the concept of a non loving family was even more alien to her, and she had asked her family to make me a stocking. I visited her home several times over four years of college. Stopped off at her parents house a few times in my travels as an adult. I will always remember that they taught me about Christmas.

So when I became a mother, I purposed in my heart to create traditions for my son. There was just the two of us for the first 12 years of his life, and we created wonderful traditions. Then I met my husband, and we  adapted some of our traditions into family traditions. We have pizza on Christmas Eve because I was too tired from working at the store to cook, so my son is in charge of Christmas Eve. He cooks the pizza and serves us. While I am at work he bakes 2 batches of cookies. One batch is a recipe he has baked every year since middle school, and then he combs the holiday magazines for a new recipe to try. Christmas morning my son opens presents, there usually aren't any for the 'grownups' we spend the money on my son. I fix biscuits and gravy for breakfast, and we go to the movies in the afternoon.We come home and have our dinner, ham and wild rice dressing. I am not sure how that came to be our tradition, but it has been since my son was small.

Traditions can be created where there were none. Traditions can be changed when the original traditions no longer fit, traditions can be thrown out the window when they simply aren't good for us to continue them. We can choose to make healthier traditions. Do we usually cook too many things that are tempting? Try new recipes. Yes, stick to those one or tow things that you have to have, but honestly, we all cook things that no one will miss. Think about what goes into the fridge as leftovers. Maybe that's a dish that can be changed.

Not only can we change the things we cook, but if there are issues that come up for us in this emotional time of year, we can change how we think about them. If there are expectations from others that aren't in our best interest, we can choose to not feel like we are letting someone down. Our well being is our concern, and we are not dishonoring anyone, or disrespecting anyone when we choose to honor our needs and respect our choices. Choose to take care of you! YOU are then better able to take care of the ones you love.

Do something spectacular for yourself today, choose to not let the candy dishes take control. Choose to be in control of what you eat.

Peace and Blessings,

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Let's Go Racing!

Last weekend was a racing weekend. My son and I have season tickets at Kansas Speedway, and yes I have had people question whether that is a good use of our money. I usually answer that if I have to rob a bank, my son will have his Nascar tickets! It is a one of the no compromise parts of our budget. There are only a couple of people who the right to question, and they don't. Our entertainment dollars are budgeted for the Nascar tickets, and the return on investment is priceless.

Nascar is one of my son's sports interests, and it has been very good for his social skills. When we were at Crazy Horse Memorial he was able to have a conversation with a stranger once the subject of Nascar came up. When we go to the Speedway, the other season ticket holders that sit around us no longer notice the things that make him different. In fact, our arrival is eagerly anticipated and my son is warmly welcomed. Everyone is glad to see him.

One of the positive aspects of my son's autism is that when he becomes interested a sport or any other subject he studies it in depth. In fact, I would venture that very few people understand the rules of a sport he is interested in as well as he does. Now that I think about it, it may be a male thing more than an autistic thing. My late husband could give you infinite details about college football teams and players. My son can do the same thing about Nascar. He knows the rules, he knows who owns and  drives every car, he knows every detail of every drivers career. And he knows the rules. So, when we go to the races, the people around us don't see someone who is challenged, they see someone who is knowledgeable. They see someone who can answer any question about the sport, and they look forward to sharing that sport with him.

It is always a joy to go to the races with my son. It is always good for me to see him in a situation where he is admired. Now I personally think he is the most amazing person I have ever known. But, I admit that as his Mom I may be a tad biased, so it is always good for me to see him succeed in a social situation.

Races are a week long round of activities in our lives. There are show cars displayed around town and there are opportunities to meet your favorite driver. We take advantage of as many of these opportunities as we can. One of those opportunities this year was also what I call a divine appointment. Like the young woman I was able to share with at Mt. Rushmore, or the gentleman that talked to my son at Crazy Horse, an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time. We were standing in line at a local grocery store waiting to meet Clint Bowyer. I got in a conversation with the 2 people in front of us in line.

The conversation started off about Nascar. But was soon about something even more important. It turned out that the gentleman was the father of a 9 year old son, a son blessed with autism. As my son was able to hold a conversation with this man about the sport of Nascar, I could see that something even more important was happening. This father had never met an adult with autism, and he was soon sharing with me how important it was for him to be able to talk to my son. To be able to first see my son as a fellow Nascar fan before he saw him as a person with autism.

When we become parents, we dream dreams for our children. The first time you hold that child in your arms, you think of the future.As your child grows from a newborn to a baby to a toddler, you start to imagine what they might be when they grow up. When you start to figure out that there is something different about your child, and then perhaps when you receive a diagnosis you often have to let go of some of those dreams, but you are in uncharted territory, and you don't know what the future is going to look like. So often, we have no frame of reference because we have never met anyone who has faced similar challenges. Standing in line that day, this father met an autistic young man. A young man who was knowledgeable and interesting, and for the first time in a long time this father could imagine a future for his son.

I think that is a great return for our Nascar dollars, don't you? Makes me a very proud Nascar MOM!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Social skills?

Our neighborhood had it's fall picnic over the weekend. Unlike the weekend before, the weather was perfect, and the turnout was good! My son went with me for the very first time. He used his best social skills, shook hands with the people I introduced him to, enjoyed the hamburgers and hot dogs, stayed much longer than I thought he would, and chose to leave when he felt uncomfortable. I was very, very proud of him. His social skills get better all of the time.

This story isn't about my 26 year old autistic child, however. This story is about neighbors.Like  the 2 year old I met at the picnic. His behaviors were the spitting image of my son at that age. He was a beautiful little boy, the MOST interesting grey eyes, and to this MOM, exhibited many characteristics of autism. His parents had their hands full keeping up with him!

I attempted to open conversation with his parents a couple of times. After all, if he is indeed autistic, I have a lot of experience. I could offer support and encouragement. But, they are fairly new to the neighborhood, and seemed a bit wary. Now that may or may not have anything to do with their son, who may or may not be autistic. It could have just been the nerves of meeting all of us old folks, many for the first time.

Our neighborhood is a throwback to a different time. The 100 homes in our subdivision are inhabited by mostly older folks who have lived together for decades, raised families together, become family for many. I can remember the address of the Southern California house I grew up in, if pressed I might be able to figure out the addresses of the rest of the houses on our street. But in my mind, and my memories they will always be remembered by the names of the families that were living there. Our house was the Jones house, William E to be specific, and we had to be because directly across the street was the William H Jones family-no relation. There were 6 original families, families who built their homes themselves, upgrading over the years. Then in the late 1950's a new subdivision replaced the fields across the street creating a new neighborhood. A very interesting neighborhood, a mix of ethnicity's and family styles moved into the really nice 3 bedroom houses-2 floor plans available-that were affordable for working class families.

The homes were built on the same floor plans, but every house had it's own color and landscaping as the families made them their own. As we children grew up together we knew all of the houses by the names of the families. We knew that we were safe on our way to school as we walked past the Bartletts, the Martinez, eventually past the Bachelor's house. As an adult I know that the bachelors were a same sex couple. As a child, they were just the Bachelors, a very important part of our community. They were always there to lend a helping hand when needed.

I thought about the Bachelors today. I was reading some really hate-filled comments on facebook, and I felt so blessed that I grew up in a diverse neighborhood. A neighborhood where you were not judged by anything other than your being part of our lives. I don't know when it dawned on me that the Bachelors were a 'same sex' couple, because it just didn't matter. What mattered was that they were neighbors. Good neighbors. It can be so easy to get jaded in this day and age, but then I think about our neighborhood and the neighborhood I grew up in. When I see people saying ugly things, I need to remember that there are places in the world where you can grow up to believe that all people are just your neighbors and it doesn't really matter whether you have much in common with them other than the most important thing, they are part of the weft and weave that makes up the tapestry of your life. Just like this neighborhood has been for my unique son, and hopefully will be for the little guy with the grey eyes.

Friday, September 23, 2011

On Needing Help!

Things are still unsettled in our lives, we haven't found a place to move to yet. BUT, the truth is we have to move, so we have started getting packed up. I am ashamed to say that I would be an excellent candidate for one of those Hoarding shows. Grief, depression, and physical pain have conspired to make me let the house go. Not making excuses, and actually thinking moving will help me to get things back under control. There, a positive thought!

But, right now I am feeling overwhelmed. I know I need help, but have no idea how to access it. Most of my family and friends live far away. The ones who live closer have problems and issues of their own, but honestly if I asked might try to help out. So, why haven't I asked? Back to that old pride thing, I think.So, why am I blogging about this? I think I am sharing these thoughts in order to help myself get past that embarrassment causing pride so that I can make myself reach out.

Part if the problem is that it is all too easy to become isolated in this day and age. Technology is awesome, but when it is easy to keep in touch with those you care about by email, facebook, message boards, and blog posts you can become a hermit and so no one sees that your house has become untenable. It is easy to pretend that no one visits because everyone is busy, but the truth is you haven't invited anyone to visit in a very long time. You used to have people over, used to fix meals, used to share your hospitality, when did that stop? No answers, but the questions are important to becoming accountable to yourself.

So, here I am, struggling to pack up a house full of memories buried in years of detritus.I know I need help, yet have no idea where to start. But, I can already feel myself changing, I can feel the need to come out from under this grief and depression in a way that will make life easier and better. How encouraging that the most difficult thing I have dealt with since I lost my husband is bringing positive change to my thinking. Moving forward, brick by brick. Perhaps just acknowledgng to the world that I need help is the first step in reaching out for it! Every step I take is a step away from where I used to be, and I am taking steps every day!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

On Tough Times

Tough times come to all of us. Some tougher than others, but all of us will experience challenges and obstacles in life. Today I am reminded of something I wrote not long after my husband was killed. It is as applicable today as it was then, so I think I will share it.

The quote for the day is...
People say, "What is the sense of our small effort?" They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.~~Dorothy Day~~

This one has applications for my life right now, and for our weight loss journeys, our spiritual growth, our every day existence. Right now, it is all I can do to put one foot in front of the other. Everything I know about life, everything I believe has come into play these last few weeks, and the next months and years as I look to build a different life than I had expected to be building. But, that life will only be built one brick at a time. That's all anything is built by. Fortunately, for me, I have most of my bricks in place. I have a good foundation of friends and family, a strong belief in my Higher Power, bolstered by years of study and practice. I am blessed by these bricks, and blessed that they are available to me. One step at a time, that is all I can do, that is all any of us can do.

Friday, September 16, 2011

On Being Poor

Yes, I know I just took a vacation, but honestly it didn't cost much, and it was necessary for our mental health. The whole trip cost just a bit more than one months mortgage,and that would not have saved my house from foreclosure.Yes, I am aware that some would question the decision I made to take a trip, but honestly the need for healing, and the spiritual benefits far outweighed any other factors and were well worth it. We would not have made the trip if we had not had free hotel rooms available and a car that gets outstanding gas mileage!

Finding a place to rent has become an exercise in frustration. I am finding that no one will take a chance on low income people. Frankly, if I had the income level that is being required I would be able to afford the mortgage payments. I have no other debt, my car is payed for, I have no credit cards, and I am very good at living frugally. All I need is a safe place for my son and I to live.

I realize that most people would choose to live in a safe neighborhood, in fact most people take living in a safe neighborhood for granted. But when your resources are low, as so many these days, finding that place that feels safe is nigh on to impossible. So once again, I am seeking a miracle. Been there done that, but this morning I am wondering if my miracle quota has reached it's limit.

Wow, just typing this is making me feel vulnerable and I am not known for feeling vulnerable. I am know for my strong positive outlook. I am known for counseling others to remain positive and in the moment. So this morning I am looking at my circumstances,and trying to ignore them as I seek a solution.

Ignoring circumstance may seem foolish, but how many times are we in a position where we have to do just that? When talking to a landlord this morning I had to give a synopsis of our challenges, and even as I spoke I assured the nice man that we weren't quite as pathetic as we sounded, but I also was not surprised that he couldn't take the chance.. Yes, we have moved from crisis to crisis in recent memory, but honestly all we need is a chance to build on our healing and go forward. OK, so my husband was unemployed for 5 months, and then killed by a drunk driver on his way home from the first day on a new job, and then I fell at work requiring surgery, then fell at home breaking my leg, then lost my job, then my neurological disease worsened, then my autistic son became seriously ill and I got behind in the mortgage and need to move because of foreclosure. I do sound like a lost cause.

But I refuse to believe that. I refuse to believe that I won't find a safe place to live,and I refuse to believe that circumstances will keep us from being safe. I just refuse. Does that make me an idealistic dreamer? Perhaps, but these days our dreams for the future are all that we have to hold on to, and we do have dreams for the future-we just don't have a place to live. That puts us in company with so many people in this country and around the world. Yes, it is a scary place to be.

But as one of my mantras has always been "fear is the mindkiller", I have to ignore the fear and move forward. The only way to move forward is by continuing to have faith that we will find that safe place, that place where we can heal and reach for our dreams. Faith doesn't always make sense, but it is necessary. Faith means believing even when circumstance tells you different. Faith means that in the words of my son "Just because you know the truth doesn't mean you don't believe."

So yes, I know the truth, we have no place to live. We have major obstacles to finding a place to live, but we have to continue believing that this circumstance is not the end of the story.We have to continue ignoring the circumstance and not let the current obstacles keep us from looking forward. I know that somewhere there is a place for us, I just haven't found it yet.

Well, as the opening to this blog says, some days I may celebrate, some days I may whine and vent. But always, I am going to share my stories. This morning I needed to whine and vent, but in doing so I have found my positive outlook hiding in my story. Time to put one foot in front of the other and act out that faith!!

Peace and Blessings,

Thursday, September 15, 2011


You know it is so easy to become cynical these days. Turn on the TV, check your newsfeed on Facebook, read a message board. Everywhere you look people seemed to have become mean, hateful, lacking the simple human qualities of compassion and kindness. It honestly doesn't matter what your political, or religious beliefs are you can find examples of people who just seem to have forgotten how to behave towards other people. If you are in a difficult situation yourself, it starts to feel rather personal. It starts to feel as if you just have no right to exist if you are down on your luck.

I think it is to easy to say ugly things about other human beings when you are anonymous. I think that if we turn off the TV, get off the computer and encounter one another face to face, most behave differently. Yes, a few will still be hateful uncaring monsters-quick to demean or ridicule anyone they see as different. These are just all around miserable people and it must be hard to be that unhappy. But most people are not that miserable. Most people will speak kindly even to a stranger.

While vacationing last week we met so many nice people. People who were truly happy to have us in their home town, or visiting their area. As I worked my way through doorways, or up a step or two with my cane or my walker, there was always someone rushing to hold a door, or offer a helping hand. I tend to want to let others go through the doorway before me, offering the caveat that I am slow, and no one ever takes me up on it.

It seems to me we need to get out and meet each other. It seems all to easy, no matter where your belief lies on the spectrum to demonize those who are different than you.Personally, i have never understood bigotry and hate, and it seems to be growing stronger. It seems like it is all too easy to think that the problems are all the fault of the 'others'. But when the 'other' is someone we are face to face with we are able to see that we are all fighting some battle, and we aren't all that different. Those folks, young, old, male, female who held a door for me, or waited to get to their seat while the lady with the walker made her way slowly ahead of them had no way of knowing whether I am a liberal or conservative, a Christian or a Muslim or a pagan, or any thing in between. All they saw was a middle aged woman with mobility issues, and they were happy to offer assistance or a bit of encouragement.

It is so easy to fall into cynical thinking, I have thought many times recently that there are those who would gladly let me die by the side of the road because I am no longer a productive member of society. And there may be a couple of those out there, but for the most part this country is full of good people, people who will offer a helping hand no matter who you are or what you look like.For the most part this country is full of friends we have yet to meet. And even those who say the most hateful hurtful things under a cloak of  anonymity, will usually think that their friends or family are not who they are railing against.

So we need to get out of the house, out of our neighborhood or comfort zone and meet each other. Maybe then we will remember that we are all human, and all deserving of a bit of help now and then.We have to remember to be kind, even to those miserable ones, because truly we never know what battles the other person is fighting,and our smile or kind word may remind even them that they are human.If it doesn't, we must truly feel sorry for them, because it certainly can't be easy to be that unhappy.But, we must not let the hate we see and feel rub off on us, we must fight the cynical tooth and nail, but we must fight it with kindness and caring, and that is what I found out there in our country. Nice people, they really do exist!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

People who meet people

While vacationing, we were in awe of so many things. The vastness and diversity of the landscape of our country literally took our breath away many times a day.  We saw mountains, prairies, canyons, and forests that defy description. The English language doesn't contain enough superlatives to convey the beauty and grandeur. But, as awesome and inspiring the land is, the thing that impacted me most was the people we met along the way.

At Mt. Rushmore, as you sit on the viewing terrace it is possible to hear a myriad of languages spoken, as the tourists come not only from our own country but from around the world to be astounded by the majesty of the place. Those same international tourists were part of our encounter at crazy Horse Memorial the next afternoon and evening. The Crazy Horse facebook page posted that in addition to the bus tours, the parking lot contained vehicles from 46 states-including Hawaii- and 7 Canadian provinces. Diverse peoples coming together to share sacred space.

At Crazy Horse Memorial, I met the daughter of one of my favorite authors.I was able to chat with her while my son looked at museum exhibits. I find now that she is also an author, but she never mentioned her own books as we discussed the profound effect her father's writings have had on me. What a lovely tribute.

During our trip I was fortunate to meet some caring people who worked at the hotels and restaurants. Everyone has a story, and though most of us would not consider our stories worth telling, the truth is each one is worth hearing. In Chamberlain South Dakota, I met Yolanda. She was the overnight worker at the hotel desk, and since I tend to wake early and seek out a place to meditate, I had time to spend with her. Turned out it was her birthday and that she and I are the same age, with children of similar ages. Of course, Yolanda also has grandchildren, something I am not blessed with. I think if I lived in the area Yolanda and I could be great friends.

In Cheyenne Wyoming the server in the restaurant was Luke. He was 19 years old and had just moved to Cheyenne two weeks ago from Pittsburgh PA. How does a young man from Pittsburgh end up in Cheyenne? Well, it seems his older brother became interested in rodeo and moved to Cheyenne to go to college last year in order to learn about it. When Luke graduated from high school this year he decided to join his brother out west. You have to love young persons with a sense of adventure. No matter where they end up, these brothers will be the richer for it. They will have a broad sense of people and places to draw on as they mature, and that can only be a good thing.

This broad sense of people and places is why we travel. I want to provide my son with as many enriching diverse opportunities as possible. Sometimes  in our routines we can isolate ourselves from the chance to meet people whose lifestyles and traditions are different than ours. When we do not have to opportunity to learn about the way other people live we limit our own choices. Something as simple as a trip to the grocery store is different depending on where you are.

In North Dakota and Montana we found that a trip to the grocery store could involve a drive of over 60 miles one way. My friend Linda thinks nothing of getting in her car and driving two towns over to see her grandchildren. In a normal week, I may put 10 miles on my car since everything I need is within a 2 mile trip. The hospital is 70 miles away for my friend. Just a whole different way of thinking about normal everyday routines. At one point in our drivng we passed thorugh a town and a billboard announced the 'last McDonald's for 205 miles'. Now we weren't looking for a McDonald's, but that billboard stuck in our minds as we drove that day.

Yet, as traveled, the people we met felt like friends. I am certain, had we got aorund to discussing such things, we would have held widely divergent beliefs on many topics. But the only topic that was important was to opportunity to connect with another person, and so as we traveled we learned that  Barbra Streisand' classic song is a seminal truth..People who need people are the luckiest people!

Peace and Blessings,

Monday, September 12, 2011

We Are All Related

We returned home yesterday after an incredible week of vacation. We spent time with friends in 2 different parts of the country, and met many wonderful people along the way. We felt the peace and sacredness in places that were as varied as landscape can get. From the lush verdant farmlands of the midwest to the striking Badlands and Black Hills, we found sacred ground where the Spirit of the place touches you so deeply that you will never think the same way again. But even more importantly we found people.

'Mitakuye Oyasin' is the Lakota phrase that says We are all related-We are related to all things!Four-legged, two-legged, winged ones, swimmers, crawlers, plant and rock people.We are all related. As we traveled this week we felt this relationship even more strongly than ever. As we drove the scenic drive in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and a group of wild horses came right up to us, it was easy to believe that all things are related. As a wild horse put its nose a few inches from the face of my autistic son and his camera, there was no question that the horse knew to be gentle with my son. Yes, in that moment 'all things are related' was very evident. But in other moments we met other two-leggeds who seemed to instinctively know how to relate to my son, and he was afforded the opportunity to practice social skills we have worked long and hard to instill.

At Crazy Horse Memorial, we shared a picnic table with a couple from Minnesota and a couple from Rapid City. The man from Rapid City just happened to  be a Nascar fan. He and my son were able to talk about their love for all things Nascar. It didn't matter that one of them was a successful businessman and one of them was an autistic young man, it mattered that they were related in their love for a sport. It mattered only that all 6 of the people sitting together, from different parts of the country, different lifestyles, different faith traditions, were related by Creator and  their love for the Spirit of this place, and the spiritual need to be there on this special night. It mattered only that we were sharing and honoring the sacredness of relationship.

Relationship is an attitude that we found in our travels. We may get so wrapped up in our day to day existence, our problems,routines, issues, that we forget this important lesson. Relationship is based not on blood ties, nor proximity, or even similar belief systems. Relationship is the underlying commonality that we seem to have lost in our hectic lives. We see all around us, on the internet, on the news the differences that keep us divided and suspicious of each other. What we really need to be reminded of is that even when we are from different places, believing different things, we are related. An autistic young man and a South Dakota businessman can come together in conversation. A wild horse can recognise the special need of a  two-legged brother who is different and behave with gentleness, and in doing so honor our relatedness.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mount Rushmore

There are amazing places in our country. One
place we should all try to visit is the Black Hills area in South Dakota. I think I could spend weeks here and never run out of things to do. Of course,no visit would be complete without a visit to Mt. Rushmore.

The first time we visited here was on our family honeymoon trip 10 years ago. It was the most amazing trip, and we decided then and there to return for our 10th Anniversary. Well, a lot of things can happen in 10 years, and Mr. Bill was killed beofre we could make good on that decision. But, my son and I decided that we needed to follow that dream, and here we are!

One of the more memorable parts of that family honeymoon trip was our visit to Mt. Rushmore. It was memorable for so many reasons. It is a most inspiring place. The four Presidents were chosen to represent the first 150 years of our country history. When you are approaching on the road, your first glimpse of the carvings will take your breath away, and standing on the view terrace of the memorial looking up at the mountain will give you goosebumps. But, on that trip, another life changing event occurred in my life. Walking up that path I experienced the first symptoms of RSD. I was walking towards the mountain when I felt the first excruciating pain that would become a constant in my life.  I had to find a place to sit down as I waited for it to pass. I remember thinking that I had never felt anything like it before-not when I had cancer, not when I broke my back in a car wreck, not when I was in labor for 72 hours. No pain I had ever felt came close to what I felt there in the shadow of the mountain. It passed in a couple of minutes, and I chalked it up to being in the car for hours, needing more exercise, etc. I had no idea then that the pain in my right leg that day would eventually become constant and spread to the rest of my body. That day it was just a momentary nuisance.

This trip I am using a walker, and taking my time, because that momentary nuisance is now a constant presence in my body. One of the several chronic pain conditions that plague my middle aged body. But, as I have mentioned before, the pain in my body is never allowed to win, never allowed to define who I am or what I choose to do. Of course, that is not to say that it hasn't changed the way I do things. So, me and my friend PurpleWalker,were at Mt. Rushmore again yesterday, walking up that same path where I met RSD for the first time.

I chose to let my son explore on his own for a bit as I sat and relaxed in on the view terrace. Soon, a young woman came to sit near me as she caught her breath. She asked about my walker, and during the conversation she shared that she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. We talked about attitude being the key when battling any problem. I shared some of my health history, and assured her that she was more than her disease, and that her disease could ravage her body but that it could never steal her spirit. We spent a sweet half hour sharing, and I believe it was good for both of us.

Healing comes. Healing comes in its own time and its own way.Spirit uses places and people to bring the peace that is necessary for healing to take hold. Spirit is strong here in the Black Hills, and a few cleansing tears have fallen, but the opportunity to encourage the young cancer patient was truly a moment that could only have been orchestrated by Spirit.

I have been feeling useless lately. I have felt like a failure, that I have failed my beloved husband by not being able to keep the house he was so proud of buying for us. I have felt that I am failing my son because our finances are so unstable. Choosing to make this trip was difficult, after all, my house is in foreclosure. This trip is costing roughly the equivalent of one mortgage payment. Not enough to save our house, and honestly I think we are receiving a better return on the money! Yesterday I was able to encourage a stranger. I was able to say to her that cancer is survivable, I've done it. I was able to say to her that pain does not define you in any way, and that you must believe that you can heal. You must hold on optimism and be open to the lessons that Spirit will arrange for you. I felt the healing taking place in her, but more importantly I felt healing happening in me.

I am not a failure as long as I am open to the urging of Spirit, as long as I can be where Spirit can use me. I am not useless. My diseased body is not who I am, and I may have to do things differently, but I can still manage to be where Spirit needs me to be. I am able to persevere and be available for healing. Someone else's, maybe, but my own for sure!!!!  

Monday, August 29, 2011


Lately life is like the lyrics to that old song...

Detour, there's a muddy road ahead, detour
Paid no mind to what it said
Detour, oh these bitter things I find,
Should have read
That detour sign

This week, the words really hit home as we are planning our healing road trip. There really are detours because large sections of the highway we would usually zip north on are closed due to flooding along the Missouri river. Now this flooding started months ago, and really should be clear by  now, but of course, the waters are taking their time to recede.Even after they recede, the road will need extensive repair. So, detour will be the theme of our first day on the road.

But, you know, it kind of seems a fitting way to start the trip. Life has been just one big detour after another for us.Just this morning, my son and I were checking maps and planning our route. Since we love road trips, we came to the conclusion that the worst thing that will happen is that we will see some places we have never seen before. Not an unpleasant outcome.

Last year, we inadvertently became part of a Homecoming celebration in a small southern town because of a detour. It was great fun actually, people were lining the street waiting for the parade to start, and everyone waved as we drove through. Pretty cool detour.

Now, in life, some of the detours aren't that pleasant, but as long as you keep heading forward, you manage to get through them, or around them. That is actually why we are taking this trip, one more step forward in our healing process. In my experience healing has never been a direct route to begin with. How many times have we had the flu and thought we were over it to be sick again a few hours later. Healing is a process. Not always a pleasant process. The fever that indicates our body is attempting to heal itself is often more uncomfortable than the original problem. But, it is something that has to happen, just like the inevitable detours along life's road.

Detours often make you think that you can't get there from here, but that is never true. Detours only mean you can't get there the way you originally planned. The original route has been compromised somehow, the road is underwater, or being constructed, but there is always an alternate route.Will it feel unfamiliar? Yes. Will it take you over roads you haven't previously traveled? Probably. But, as long as you follow the signs it will get you where you need to go, and once in a while you may find yourself being welcomed as part of a celebration you didn't know was taking place, along a road not to nowhere, but a road to recovery.

Just make sure you heed that detour sign!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pride Goeth before!

Not long ago my bank called,no not one of those auto-mated calls, my bank vice president called.She left a message on my machine, "Hey, EB, this is Penny*,I'm concerned about you, give me a call."  Now, not only is my bank Vice President a she, but we have known each other for years, and call each other by our first names, or in my case initials.This is what comes from banking in a small community, with a small bank (up until 5 years ago 2 branches, now 4). Truth is I should have called her at least 2 weeks ago, but pride being one of the issues I struggle with, I kept thinking 'tomorrow'.Then after so many tomorrows had passed I was too embarrassed. Well we all know how that works! Pride is a hard place to be when life is kicking you in the backside over and over.

So, this morning when she went through her list of overdrawn accounts she saw mine there, and gave me a call. When I called her back a few minutes after she left her message, she didn't mention the bank balance until after she asked how I was, how my son was, etc. Then I said, "I know I am overdrawn" and before I could finish my thought she said, oh good, I was worried something had happened and just called to check on you. We discussed my situation, and the conversation ended with her assuring me that my overdraft protection had kicked in, and  telling me to take care and keep in touch. Never once did she mention how overdrawn I was, or give me an ultimatum to come up with the finds. Just relief that I was working on it, and take care.

So, I hung up the phone feeling stupid for not having called sooner, an thankful that I bank there instead of one of the BIG banks. I felt stupid because I know that this is how my bank handles things. This is the bank that gave a single Mom with a handicapped child and a part-time job a car loan, then when the Mom got sick a few months later the bank President stopped by my house to pick up my deposits and payments. So, it was just pride that kept me from calling them.

Pride, now there is an enigma if there ever was. We should all be proud of our accomplishments, have pride in who we are. I was trying to figure out where the line is between good healthy pride and the pride that becomes unhealthy, and keeps us mired in shame and embarrassment when neither is called for. I have no problems telling you that I am a proud woman. I have had an amazing blessed life. I have accomplished many things that I have every right to be proud of. I was just remembering a few days ago a story from my life where I was very proud-the healthy kind, and someone else embarrassed herself because of pride-the unhealthy kind.

This story takes place before EB was the Fat Lady, she was still just the Fat Girl.I am not putting myself down, I really will write a post someday about why I call myself this and it's a good thing. But you will have to wait for that. This story takes pace my junior year of high school, back in the 1960's in a rural area of the midwest. If you have ever seen a movie from the 50's or 60's portraying high school in small town America, you have a good idea of our high school. Now every school has slightly different traditions, and the tradition at this school was for the Junior class to give the prom to the Senior class as a gift.It was more than a dance, it  was a grand soiree, a party given in honor of the Senors.The Junior class raised money and paid for the prom. The Seniors got to go to prom for free, and there was a buffet dinner and the dance. It really was a lovely tradition.

In small town America the Prom is often a very big deal, and in this town everyone showed up for the beginning of the evening. The Senior couples lined up in the front of the school in all of their finery and had the Promenade.All of their parents and grandparents and uncles and cousins were there, pictures were taken, and everyone got to see how beautiful everyone looked in their finery.

 There was a Senior Prom King and Queen, but there was one other highly sought after role and that was Junior Prom Hostess.  Every student in school voted for Senior Prom Queen, but only the Junior class voted for Hostess. Being chosen Junior class Hostess was a very big deal.The Senior Queen and King weren't announced until later in the evening, about halfway through the dance, but the Junior Hostess was announced a day before the dance. The young woman chosen by the Junior class became the Official Hostess for the party.As the Senor Class Promenade made it's way to the ballroom they were announced and presented to the Hostess. It was like a scene out of Victorian times, the Seniors were guests at a ball given in their honor and the hostess received them like she was a great Lady or Duchess. Junior class hostess was a very coveted position.

So, there we were sitting in homeroom, and the announcements were being made over the PA. Because of our place in the alphabet I sat in front of the most 'popular' girl in school. Key Club Sweetheart, Homecoming Queen, etc., etc., etc. Barbie doll cute and Blonde. The announcements conclude with the proclamation of Junior Class Hostess...drum roll please...The Fat Girl-OK they announced me by name, but that is who I was!!! Well, behind me, Miss Barbie Doll fell out of her desk. Literally, when they started the announcement she had assumed it was one more feather in her cap and started to stand up, and was halfway there when my name came over the PA. She gasped and fell backwards. Fortunately she wasn't hurt except for her pride. Me, I was shocked,to say the least, but very touched that my peers thought highly of me.

Pride, when and where does it cross that line? How do we keep our pride healthy enough that we don't cross over into the place where it can keep us from being the best we can be? I think we have to remind ourselves every day that we are worthy individuals. In this day and age that is sometimes so very hard to do. Seems like everyone is trying to make themselves feel better by marginalizing, demonizing someone else. How very sad is that.

But how did I get so tired that I allowed old behaviors, old fears to surface and let pride cross over the line. I believe it was Margaret Thatcher who said "You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it." With everythign that has been going wrong in my life, I occasionally give in to some old fears. The important thing is for me to recognise them as soon as possible so that I may return to living in the moment.When we are in the midst of a life situation that incolves pain or suffering, it seems  as if the pain and suffering is all there is, and we get weary.So I need to remember to rest, and to not feel guilt, or shame, or embarassment because my life has handed me nothing but lemons. I need to fight the battle, no matter how many times it rears its ugly head.

I admit that when things are going badly, it is so easy to feel overwhelmed.Believe me, I know! I know that when in the midst of troubles we are often at a loss as to how this could possibly turn out good. But I also know that we have the choice to believe that it will. I know that it is all too easy to believe that my life is harder than anyone else, that I am the only one I know going thruogh this much hardship. But the truth is every person you meet is struggling with something. Life is not easy for any of us. So we must remember to choose to live in the moment, to choose in this moment to have healthy pride in our choices and accomplishments and not let old fears and behaviors cause us to trip over the line into the unhealthy kind of pride. Because we all know what 'pride goeth before...' and I choose to stay on my feet!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011


LOOK, I have redecorated!!

Well, when I say I have, I mean to say that I won a blog makeover many months ago from my dear friend Paige's blog The Nurse Mommy The contest was for a makeover from Virtual Serendipity So the lovely folks at Virtual Serendipity hooked me up with Margaret   , VOILA, I have a new look!!! Well, it wasn't exactly voila, Margaret was EXTREMELY patient with me, and so easy to work with. When we started the process last weekend, I had no idea what I wanted, but eventually it hit me, and Margaret got it right immediately!! THANK YOU Margaret!!
Thank you Paige for running really cool contests on your really cool blog, Thank you Visual Serendipity for hooking me up with Margaret!

The clay piece pictured in the header is the storyteller sculpture that my son did in elementary school. It represents who I am these days and it reminds me of how incredible his mind and imagination have always been!

So, hopefully, working on the design has reminded me that I enjoy sharing my stories here, and will give me the kick in the backside I need to get back to doing it regularly!

Peace and Blessings,

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Has it really been a Month?

Wow, has it really been that long since I wrote a blog post? Where have the days gone?

So much keeping my mind occupied, and just can't seem to find the muse these days. I love to write, I love putting words together in a way that makes people glad they read them. So, why am I blocked now.

Well, there was the depression that set in around my 10th wedding anniversary. I miss my husband so much, and I managed to grovel in my grief for weeks. I am starting to feel better, the anniversary of his being killed is in a few days, and I will muddle through. My therapist says I am normal, that there isn't an instruction book for how long it takes to grieve. I love my therapist!

Then there have been the ongoing health issues. My son is feeling better, but I am really struggling. But as my favorite quote reads...Shame on the body for breaking down while the spirit perseveres~John Dryden.

Of course we add in the financial struggles, a house in foreclosure. very limited resources, and the worry that accompanies all of that. Being poor seems to be a full time job these days. Trying to find a way to bring the mortgage current, and a way to save our house-which is a wonderful home in a very safe neighborhood-all of these things require way more energy than I seem to have at my disposal these days. But, we struggle on.Wish I could think of a fundraiser to pay off the house!! Hey, a girl can dream can't she?

I really don't have a point with any of this. Just thought I would update folks on why I haven't been blogging. Whining doesn't get me anywhere, but every now and then I seem to be indulging in it for a bit. Need to get my self in hand!!

I am so blessed, with all of the problems in life, I have so much to be grateful for. I have an incredible son, the most amazing person I have ever met. Autism has truly been more of a blessing than a challenge these days.

I have wonderful friends, who care about me, and encourage and support me,and would do so even more  if I would share my troubles with them more often. I tend to be a very independent person, and admitting to my problems is hard for me. Maybe that is what the point is today, a way for me to admit that I am a mess and I need help. That is hard for me, and most people. Admitting that we need help, then the next step, seeking help and accepting help. Why is that so hard? If I had the answer to that I wouldn't be in the doldrums this month!!

So I will srew up my courage, and accept the enCOURAGEment of my friends!

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.~~Ambrose Redmoon

We are each of us some of the most courageous people I know. We get up every day and judge that no matter what we may fear we have the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty- so we set forth on our day. What? you may be saying. I don't do that , I just get up and get ready for work, or to take care of my family. Well, when we choose to get up when the alarm goes off we are preparing to VENTURE forth into a new day.We have no idea what that day will bring, perhaps it will be a routine day, or perhaps we will stumble into a grand and glorious miracle or a difficult obstacle, and yet we Venture forth.
Each of us has some challenge in our lives, and we never know what challenges the people we are interacting with through the day are dealing with, and yet we PERSEVERE in the face of those challenges. Whether we are dealing with health issues, mind issues, or spirit issues, we choose to go about our day and accomplish what needs to be accomplished we are persevering in the face of difficulty.

Off to persevere!
Peace and Blessings,

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Conversation with the Grackle

I have mentioned that I have a depression disorder. I don't talk about all that much, as I take good meds, and I have an excellent therapist.So, I honestly don't worry too much. But, as with all of us with mental health diseases, I have days when all of my coping skills come to naught. I have always called these days my BlackBird days.

BlackBird days are the days when it feels as if a huge black bird has flown into my field of vision, wings outspread, covering my eyes and my mind from seeing anything but the darkness. I knew I had the right therapist when shortly after beginning to work with her, she mentioned something she called Black Bird days!! I nearly wept with joy to know that she got it!!! She is an integral part of my healing and growth.

My BlackBird days are much fewer and farther between than they have ever been, and when I do have them it seems it is more a matter of grief than mental illness these days. Grief, is the most difficult process!! It rolls over me in the oddest times, just when I think I am healing here comes a black day!! This week was my late husband's birthday. Plus I am dealing with the feelings that my mobility issues have brought to the fore, and the weather is just middle of July, midwest UGLY!! So there I was sitting on the deck, kinda feeling sorry for myself, which I honestly try not to allow!!

It was early morning, my favorite time of day for my deck. The sun just starting to approach the horizon in beautiful cotton candy pinks and pale lemony yellows. The morning song of the birds a wonderful backdrop to meditation.Then I saw the grackle, sitting at the end of my deck. Now a grackle is part of the family of birds known as blackbirds. It is often mistaken for a crow, it is longer, and its tail is different,and its behavior is a bit different. The thing I love about watching the grackles in my yard is that they do not hop, they walk, and the adult birds are very concerned about the younger birds. Usually, though, the grackles don't get very close to my deck, they tend to stay out in the open in the yard. So I was surprised to have a grackle sitting there about 6 feet away.

Of course, I said good morning, I always speak to any of the birds or animals that visit me when I am on the deck. Most often the bird or squirrel will scamper away, unless it is one of my regular visitors. the critters who have become used to me being there. This bird was not one of my regular visitors, so I was surprised when he just looked me in the eye, and walked a bit closer.

Now, this is the part where you can decide that I imagine things, and I would not disagree with you. But, to quote Albert Einstein...Imagination is more important than knowledge.

The grackle continued to look at me, and then the grackle spoke to me. No, the grackle did not SPEAK with words, but the grackle did speak, in the not unpleasant squawk of the grackle-it is less jarring than a crow. Hmmm, I took it to be a greeting, good morning right back 'atcha' type of thing, so I continued to speak to the grackle.

I thanked brother grackle for visiting me on my deck, and I talked about the weather, and all the time the grackle was listening and vocalizing. We had some companionable silences, and then I began to tell brother grackle about my images of Black Birds. I shared that the image of the Black Bird blinding my vision has always been uncomfortable for me. While I was sharing, brother grackle turned a bit, and I saw the most amazing thing. Grackles, are not black! Oh they look black when you see them in your yard, but sitting this close, and in the morning sunshine I saw the truth. This bird was anything but black, the feathers are wonderfully iridescent in all of the colors you can imagine!Well, that made me think!

So I talked to the grackle about his feathers, and the beautiful colors, and I started to see that my mood this morning was not a part of my depression,not a part of any illness but a normal part of the grieving process. I have several things that I am grieving. Of course, the loss of my husband is the major loss, but other parts of my life are lost to me more every day. Because of the neurological diseases I no longer am able to sew, and I miss sewing. I can no longer wield a chef's knife with skill as I cook, and I miss cooking. I can no longer just decide to go for a walk, or visit a museum. Walking is more and more difficult and painful and I must decide whether I need my cane, my walker, or my wheelchair today.

But, sitting there seeing the beautiful colors of the black bird on my deck was a gift. I could see clearly that things aren't always as you originally perceive them, and just because something changes, doesn't look like you thought it should or would, doesn't mean that it doesn't look like it is supposed to! I often say perception is reality. But the really marvelous thing is that when your perception of something changes, the reality must change with it. So, instead of sitting on my deck feeling the oppression of a BlackBird day coming on, I could learn to see that not all black birds are black. Not all sadness is depression, and sometimes you just have to grieve the things that you have lost. Part of the grieving process is to to come to terms with the fact that your life will be different, and to help you move towards that new normal.

I thought about all of these things as I sat there with the grackle, and then the grackle turned and walked away. I am so glad the grackle visited me this morning, blessed me with a conversation and a lesson. Amazing that Spirit would send me a helper in the form of something I feared-a Black Bird. How often do our fears keep us from perceiving things as there are? Perception, just like life, is changeable, and those who can adapt will always be open  to the beauty that can come even in the form of a black bird who wasn't ever black to begin with!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Road Trip-a Healing prescription!!

The summer was always our favorite time of year! Starting with Mothers Day until the end of July we were celebrating something every couple of weeks. Mothers Day-Memorial Day-Fathers Day-My birthday-4th of July-My husbands birthday-and our wedding anniversary, every two weeks or so all summer long. That all changed for me when he was killed a few weeks after our wedding anniversary, and the long, difficult healing process of grief began.

The morning before my husband was killed, we sat on the deck for a couple of hours. We talked and planned. Mr. Bill was starting a new job that day, and we discussed getting back on track financially, and we discussed our 10th wedding anniversary. We were married at a courthouse,our son the best man and  the snack bar attendant as my witness. We planned to have a vow renewal, a small wedding for our 10th anniversary.A wedding, with a beautiful dress that I had already designed- I spent a long time in the theatre as a costume designer-it would have been a spectacular dress! We would make the same trip that we made as a family honeymoon trip-going back to the Black Hills, a wonderfully spiritual magical place that we all adore.As my friend Michelle referred to it,"the place where love and family became one!"

July 30 is that 10th anniversary. As part of my continuing healing, I have just booked the trip for my son and I to take. We are not going until a few weeks later, I want this trip to be a new beginning, and if we went on the anniversary it would hurt too much.So we will go after all of the days that are no longer celebratory for me, and we are hoping to continue learning how to celebrate life again.

I firmly believe in the idea of sacred space. I after all, spend a lot of time on my deck, which is for me a place of safety and sacredness. Most faith traditions have an idea of sacred space. For me, sacred space is often more a state of being than an actual place, but there are also places where we can instantly feel more at peace, more able to access the things of Spirit. My deck is sacred space, but when I am away from home it is almost as if that sacred place is where ever I am. I visited the home of a dear friend, and her deck, which looked nothing like mine, felt the same, and was for me a refuge of meditation and worship. Staying in a convention hotel, I once slipped out of the room without waking my roommate to find a lovely secluded chair in the lobby that felt like a sacred space for my prayers and meditation. A sacred space feels right, it feels safe, and nurturing, and healing.

One of Mr. Bill and my favorite ways to spend a Sunday afternoon, was to take a Sunday drive. We always planned to buy a house, and we would drive through different neighborhoods just looking at the for sale signs. I often made him a little crazy, sometimes we would turn into a neighborhood, and I immediately asked him to get out of it, it FELT wrong. Now some of these were lovely neighborhoods, in the best parts of town, but the Spirit of the place was just disturbing. When we were ready to actually purchase a home, we looked at dozens, and I drove our realtor crazy too. When we turned onto the street we live on, I felt safe and nurtured. As our realtor opened the front door of this house before I stepped a foot across the threshold , I knew I was home.

Home is what I feel in the Black Hills. I think because it was where our life as a family began it will always be a sacred place for me. So, as my spirit heals, I feel the need to return to that place to honor the memory of the time before the grief, and perhaps to move into a time where the grief can heal. Paradoxically, I will be traveling back to the place where I experienced my first symptom of neurological disease (you can read about it in the blog post from 4/29 A Glimpse Into One Part of My Life).

Last spring when my son's health and our financial problems became an issue, Spirit told me that this trip would be provided in September. Thanks to our "Great American Road Trip" last fall, I have enough rewards points that I only need to pay for two nights lodging-and those will earn me enough points that I will be able to receive free lodging again next year!!! So, the majority expense will be gas and food, and I know when Spirit has promised something, provision will be provided. My therapist said this week that this trip is just the prescription she would write for me.

So, as I move through the minefield of birthdays and anniversaries this summer, I feel stronger, and part of that is because I know I am supposed to go home to the place where love and family became one!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July

I am not a very patriotic person. Yes, I pray for our military, and I love to read history books. But I am just not one to get all worked up over a flag waving holiday. My late husband, on the other hand was a Marine, who loved the 4th of July!! We really did balance and complete each other! I tend to think of him often on these flag waving days because of the flags flying in our subdivision. Our subdivision has approximately 100 homes. It has been a close knit neighborhood since the late 1930's early 1940's.My home is over 75 years old.

This neighborhood welcomes new families from the moment you turn into it's streets. Mr. Bill was so happy here. He soon noticed that on every holiday, flags flew, and it did not take him long to become part of the team that put them up and took them down. I Think every utility pole in the neighborhood gets a flag. Which means that there is a flag in front of most houses.

I usually sit on my deck, but for some reason this morning, I was sitting in my wheelchair on my front porch as the flags were being placed. The guys all waved at me, and I was pleased to watch them place the flags. They still miss Mr. Bill I am told!

That is the flag in front of my house!

 It was a beautiful morning this morning and I took a couple of pictures in my yard...
This is my ramp and that bush needs trimmed!

My sedum is blooming...

As well as my shastas and daylillies...

I had a lovely morning, even though I am using my wheelchair today instead of my cane or walker. Just one of those days!! I don't have anything profound to share, just a slice of my life today. Thanks for stopping by! I totally appreciate it when you do!!!