Embracing the “Soul” in “Soldier On”

We have had many blessing in our lives, as well as numerous challenges. We have been lucky to overcome quite a few, and wish we could overcome them all. Sometimes you have to brace yourself, and do what you can to make the best of what you have, and of what is to come. This has been my goal throughout the challenges in my life. Since the first, my diagnosis with Crohn’s in 1998, I have tried to embrace the positive while trudging forward. Today, I’ve decided to focus on a line from a song by “The Script,” titled “No Good in Goodbye, ” but flip it upside down, and prove there is a soul in soldier on.

For many years I have wanted to start yoga, hoping it would help in one of the many challenges we have had. I bought a few DVDs at various times and tried to practice in the living room, but it didn’t seem to do much for me. The thought of going to a class and stumbling around for an hour in embarrassment was not a great motivator, and I really thought it would be the same as the DVDs. I always thought of yoga merely as a way to help your body and mind relax. Slow moving stretches with some balancing moves that would help blood flow, respiration, and flexibility. In my mind it was not a serious workout, and definitely not an essential in life. My my, how things change.

When Bill got sick we heard from, and read, many sources claiming that yoga may help to slow his progression. In an attempt to do anything we could to treat his condition, it now seemed worth the time, money, and awkwardness to try a class. Since Bill was no longer working, we could go to classes mid-day instead of early morning, or later at night, which was always a motivation obstacle for me. We bought a Groupon for a few classes and then felt locked in to giving it a shot.

I went to our first class in full makeup, as it was in an upscale location where I thought I might feel self conscious. Our class was taught by a former Golden Glove boxer, in a dark and somewhat hot room. It was a mentally, and physically, painful jumble of arms and legs, where I cursed our instructor in my head repeatedly, and spent a good amount of time lost and reverting to child’s pose. We left absolutely soaked from head to toe. Makeup streaming down my face. Hair soaking wet. Defeated. Stinky. Sore. Exhausted. Surprised. Invigorated.

We continued once our Groupon ran out, and have spent the last seven months going three to four times a week. After about a month of going, I stopped silently cursing the instructor, we no longer looked like newbies in class, and we were used to leaving the studio looking like drowned rats. In the months since we began, Bill’s health has been fairly stable, my platelets (Essential Thrombocythemia) have been down, and our body strength is up. If you had told me at the beginning of this year what a difference yoga would make, I wouldn’t have believed you, but the benefits carry through every part of our lives.

We feel more settled, and calm, and know what to do if we are not. We have found yoga breathing comes in handy occasionally, a few daily stretches feel great, and for the first time since early childhood…..I can touch my toes in a forward fold! We continue to remove anything and everything negative, hateful, and/or toxic (that we have control over) in our lives, and try to find happiness in every way we can. We only have one life and believe in living it to the fullest, no matter the obstacles.

I hope we can continue yoga, and that it will help us cope with what is to come. As long as we are able, and with the help of friends, family, and God, we will continue to find the “soul” in “soldier on.”

Fifteen Years Ago Today

We all remember where we were and what we were doing when something unusual or shocking happened. So many events or memories go in and out of our brain, but others really stick. Where we were when President Reagan was shot, what we were doing when the Challenger exploded, the events of the morning of 9/11. Some events are more personal, your wedding day, the death of a relative, the birth of a child. One of those memories for me was 15 years ago today, August 14, 2003. It was the Great Blackout and it took out power in Detroit, New York City, Cleveland , Toronto, Ottawa, and many other smaller cities.

The morning started out with me taking our 2 year old cat to be put down. He was an awesome cat. He was also very ill. He had reoccurring bladder stones that were very painful for him. He had already been through one surgery, and was headed for another. Unfortunately, in his short life he had chewed through 45 phone and electrical cords. He’d even been shocked by one, but that wasn’t the last. Do I find this a coincidence? Great Blackout….Rudy going to Heaven? Absolutely not. That was Rudy’s final farewell. His last dance. His parting shot. Sorry people. He was a stinker. Anyone that knows me, knows that that is something I would do. I loved that little guy.

I think we ended up being out of power for about five days. Food went into coolers, solar powered lights went outside in the morning, and came back in at night. Thanks to their flat tops, they were the best and safest way to light the house with young children. Coffee was traded for the use of a coffee maker in a house with a generator. Food was used as quickly as possible. Anything that could be grilled. Chicken, hamburgers, steaks, fish sticks…..yeah, the last didn’t work so well.

Gas was taken from cars and put into generators, as gas stations were without power, and the very few that weren’t had mile-long lines. Mobile phones were dead, E-readers didn’t exist. There was nowhere to go to escape as power was out EVERYWHERE. Many hours were spent outside. Playing board games, reading a paperback, chatting with neighbors.

Fifteen years ago today, the Great Blackout happened. It was actually kind of awesome. Sometimes when you take away some of those things you have become dependent on, you see what you are missing. It’s a great reminder of what is most important in life. Family, friends, community.

Now that I think about it…..maybe that’s what Rudy was trying to show me all along…..

I Am Not Old, But……

I am not old. In fact, I am very young-at-heart. I love life. If you have read my previous posts you know that I have had some very rough periods in the past. I haven’t even told you all of them. It is because of these moments that I am the strong, confident, life-loving, person thar I am today. I refuse to be bitter, or harbor grudges or hate. Life is too short. Life is too beautiful. 

I am not old, but I am too old to put up with negativity. It’s waste of time. If you don’t like it and it is not under your control to change, or the likelihood is exceptionally small, than figure out a way to live with it. You’re only hurting yourself and your health. When you are on your deathbed are you going to think….”I’m so glad I spent all those years being negative and bitter!”? Probably not. 

I am not old, but I am too old to worry about your opinion of me. If you don’t like my political beliefs, or they don’t line up with yours, and you feel that you cannot be my friend because of that, then  you have never been a real friend, because I have stuck with you regardless of your political beliefs. 

I am not old, but I am too old to deal with baseless rants. I am always up for a good debate. In fact, I enjoy them. I am open to your point of view, but you have to be open to mine. This doesn’t mean we have to agree in the end, but we have to be willing to listen and respond to opposing views with thoughtfulness and kindness. We should respect each other’s right to a differing opinion. 

I am not old, but I am too old to waste my time with anger or self-pity. Of course I have these feelings every now and then, but I only allow myself a day or two. After that it’s back to rainbows and unicorns. Why? Because life is too short, and I’m  going to enjoy every minute of it that I can. 

I am not old, but I am too old not to love the life that I am living. I wish more people would do the same. 

Welcome to My Party! 

Many of you know me personally. I am a cheerful person most of the time, however, every now and then life gets me down. I’m not looking for advice. I’m not looking for encouraging comments. I am taking today for what it is….my own personal pity party. Welcome!  Feel free to enjoy some refreshments! There is red wine, or red wine, or maybe you’d like some red wine?! Is it okay that it’s from a box? Only the best at our house. 

I can’t say I woke up knowing that today was party day. It more or less smacked me in the face like a frozen glove not long after that though. It’s dreary outside, it’s cold, and Mother Nature is having a hard time deciding if she wants to make it snow or rain. It’s a holiday, so I should be happy that the entire family was home for at least part of the day. We went for a walk at the mall. I was trying to change the theme of the party, but after my delicious fruit smoothly got knocked out of my hand and spilled all over the floor, like the proverbial kid with the ice cream cone,  I lost all hope. 

Do I know why I am depressed today? I have some ideas. Life. It sneaks up on you, and before you know it kids are getting ready to leave home. It’s good and bad……because they CAN. We have prepared them. They grow so fast though. At times it seems like life is constantly trying to bring us down. We deal with the hand we are dealt, but sometimes it seems like the deck is stacked against us, which brings me to…. worry. I try not to spend too much time partaking in this activity, but sometimes the unknown gets to me. Sometimes, I worry about what is yet to come. 

I saw an article online this morning referring to today as “Blue Monday.” By the time I read it I had already realized that it was party day, but it did explain my feelings a little. Apparently, I’m not the only one who is down today. The holidays are over and spring  is still to far away. The weather is crappy. There are pity parties happening all over the world. As they say…..”misery loves company”…… so CHEERS to you and yours!  This, however, is one party that I won’t miss when it is over. When you leave the party, take all your belongings. There is no coming back. Tomorrow is a new day! 

Stop Lying! It Doesn’t Become You.

I can’t even express the feeling. Anger? Sadness? Confusion? Disgust? Or a combination of all of these. Yes. That’s what it is.  It stirs within me for the unbelievable number of people who are out there pretending they have never made a comment…EVER…..that could be construed as racist, sexist, blah, blah, blah. It’s a load of baloney. Every single person who is making claims right now about others, has sat in a room with a bunch of friends or family and made a comment in relation to a stereotype about another’s sex, race, or religion. Are they racist? No. Are they sexist? No. Are they human. Yes.

We have lived in China. We have a Chinese daughter. We live in a very diverse area. I have friends of many different races and religions, all over the world.  I have friends who have different sexual orientations than me. We have been friends for years. I love each and every one of them for who they are. I will stop in a store, on the street, or wherever I am and start talking to a complete stranger. No matter what they look like. As I have said before, my husband and now even the kids, say I can make a friend anywhere. I love people. I love interacting with them. I love learning about their lives. I love. With every part of my being. Have I made a joke at some point that could be considered racist. I’m sure of it. Am I racist? No. Am I human? Yes.

So for those individuals, and groups, who are out there spewing hate, under the guise of stopping “mostly fabricated” hate. Stop. Are there racists in the world? Unfortunately, yes. Are there sexists? Again, yes. Are there people we could tag with all these other hateful labels? Yes. Are there many? Probably not. Is it half of our nation? That’s crazy talk. So STOP. STOP PERPETUATING HATE. It’s ugly, and it doesn’t become you.

A Letter to my “Otherly-Raced, Religioned, or Abled” Friends

I am not racist. If you are a good person. Kind. Caring. Thoughtful. Honest. Polite. You will always be my friend. I don’t care what color you are, or what religion you believe. You are my friend.

I could never say that I didn’t notice your color, because I did. Just like my red-headed friend, or my really tall friend. I noticed, but I will not treat you differently than any other friend. If someone asks something, where I have to point you out as an area of reference, like “it’s over there next to the tall, red-headed girl.” I will. I may refer to your color: “See that Asian girl? It’s to the right of her.” But that means nothing about how I feel about you. We all have differences. I am short, and a little over-weight. Feel free to point that out. I don’t care. It’s who I am.

I don’t care if you go to church, synagogue, or mosque. Believe what makes you the best person you can be. What gives you hope. What makes you get up every day. Don’t try to change who I am, and I won’t try to change you, but help me grow as a person. I enjoy learning from my friends, or anyone for that matter. I love other cultures, and experiencing them.

I don’t mind a good debate. Don’t get mad at me if I don’t agree though. I will do the same for you. Mutual respect for differences is important. I have lived in an area that is populated by many, many people who have political views that are not the same as mine, for most of my life. That is not a problem for me. Again, if you are a good person, believe what helps you to be your best you. What makes you happy. What makes you thrive. I will never hold your beliefs against you.

If you have a disability, please don’t be offended if I say that word. It doesn’t mean I look down upon you, or think you are any less than me. It’s just a word. My friends are full of gifts to give the world. You contribute to society in many ways. You contribute to MY life in many ways. I don’t care if you can’t walk, talk, see, hear, or anything else for that matter. It doesn’t mean anything to me, so don’t be offended. It implies nothing, except  maybe a closer parking spot.

If you are not a good person, I don’t care what color you are. Bad people come in all colors, religions, races, and abilities. If I have a friend who is not who I thought they were. If I find out that they are not the kind, thoughtful, honest, and polite person I thought they were. They won’t be among those I call friends.  I surround myself with people who I feel have a positive effect on the world, and humanity. I don’t care what color you are, or what god you believe in.

Good people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and religions. I will take all the friends I can get. They are blessing from Heaven. Be a person to be proud of, and I will call you friend.

 

Guilty Pleasure

I am a rule follower. I have not taken, sniffed, snorted, or smoked any illegal or dangerous substances. Ever. I have never even smoked a cigarette. I DID hold a lit cigarette once, but I didn’t inhale. I didn’t even hold it to my lips. I do drink alcoholic beverages, but not everyday, nor to the point of being all out drunk. The few times I have, I have hated it. I don’t like feeling that loss of control.  I could never be an addict.  I do, however, have one guilty pleasure.  I LOVE getting anesthesia.

In the last few years I have had a few surgeries and procedures that required sedation. While this makes many, maybe even MOST people apprehensive, it makes me giddy. I love the feeling of the medication when it starts running through my  blood. The seconds before I am out like a light. When I go from all the medical personnel and commotion in the room to waking up in  recovery. It’s like Christmas morning for a kid, and then the disappointment that it is over.

I have known about this strange attraction of mine for many years, but have not needed to have any procedures requiring it again until recently. I hope I don’t have any more soon because I’d rather have unquestionable health, but if I do there will be no fear from me.  Bring it on, but only if it’s legal. I am a rule follower, but with a very strange guilty pleasure.

The January Vacuum

It pulls everything out of me, and I feel like a deflated balloon. I struggle to function. Hiding in a corner like that lone dust bunny, just trying to make it through the storm. Closer to March, closer to spring. January sucks. It sucks everything out of me.

In Michigan, it is a cold, wet, gray, month.  Long gone are the sounds of college football blaring from the TV, and fall breezes wafting through the open windows. The trees are bare, and the neighborhood children have moved their play inside, away from the winter chill. The holidays are over, and it is too far to the next. There are more overcast days than blue sky days, and warm weather is too many months, or too many miles away. Going out to do errands, on wet and sloppy, or slick and icy roads, is unappealing. Crawling into bed with a good book, or a movie, and a hot cup of coffee, is much more so. Then again, being cooped up brings me down too. I waffle between the safety and comfort of home, and raging cabin fever. I have often felt that there is no way to win the battle of January, at least not in my world.

For years, I let January swallow me whole, but recently I have tried to find ways to overcome the vacuum. We have bought light therapy lamps, and when we consistency turn them on while waking up, they do help. On those days I manage to drag my body out of the warm bed, early morning workouts go a long way to making me feel better, as well. Vitamins. Music. Essential oil aromatherapy. I’ll get there. I’ll find the right mix, and eventually, we’ll move to a sunnier state. For now, I continue to fight for good, for light, and hope for the renewal of life outside my window.

I am JUST a Homemaker

I recently read a post from a friend who was belittled for what she does for a living. She has many, many talents, and is constantly looking for ways to impact the world around her with the use of those talents. Her biggest passion, one of her finest  talents, is loving and caring for dogs. She has three of her own, and she walks many others for a living, for people who trust her with their precious pets while they are away at work. She is always happy and smiling, and has a peace within her that most do not. She works hard. She has found a way to make a living doing something she loves. It’s unfortunate that some do not find that to be a worthy job. That one would diminish another, who is making the world a better place for others.

I am JUST a homemaker. I have been so since the birth of my second child. I do not work for a paycheck. I DO work outside of the home, though. I have a job that requires travel. I spend hours traveling to, and waiting outside of my children’s schools, going to doctor’s offices, guitar lessons, rock climbing gyms, volleyball, baseball, and swim practices, meets, and games. Driving children to and from work, and friend’s houses. I don’t get paid for gas or mileage in the typical way. My payment comes in the form of happy, healthy, well-rounded children. We don’t force them to play sports or take lessons, they only do what they want to. We let them explore their talents, and find their passion. It is worth every penny I  ” lose”  by not working for a paycheck.

My life involves daily professional development seminars. I am constantly learning FROM my children, and FOR my children. They share with me. They talk about subjects that they are excited about learning, goals for their future, and  what they are worried about. They ask advice. They look for reassurances, and guidance. I am always there, doing the best I can to provide it, and constantly looking for, and refining, ways to help them meet their goals.

I have odd hours, and I am constantly working overtime. My busiest times of the day during the “work week”  are between 6:30am and  9am, and 2pm and 11pm, but that varies day-to-day, and I am by no means “off” during the time in between, I am merely working independently. I don’t have weekends or holidays off. I am constantly on call, and I can’t leave my “work” at work, at the end of the day. Vacations are severely limited. The pay raises and bonuses are not traditional, and may not be fully realized until years  later. They come in the form of growth in my children. Kindness, gratitude, honesty, empathy, courtesy, morality, love. My bonus comes in ensuring that  my children are raised to be decent, thoughtful, giving, caring, happy adults who don’t diminish others for what they choose to do.

This is NOT a thankless job.  I know I can never be replaced. Job security is never an issue. There is no possibility of a lay off in my future. The health benefits are variable, but the retirement benefits are countless. I have never regretted this job. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I have been given.