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!!!!