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.”

Hidden Blessings

Sometimes I wonder why we are burdened with misfortune. Sometimes it seems like it happens more than it should. Other times I think about all of the blessings we have received, and wonder how we got so lucky.

As I have written in previous posts, between 2000 and 2002 I was severely ill, and almost died as a result of Crohn’s Disease. I have often said that due to that period of time in my life, I became a much stronger, happier, and confident person. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and is preparing us for our future. There are always hidden blessings.

After life-saving surgery for Crohn’s, we decided to adopt our beautiful daughter, Carleigh. I would never have been so brave to put my trust in a foreign government and travel to China, if it wasn’t for my Crohn’s, and the realization I had to live life to the fullest and not be afraid to step out of my comfort zone. Once we brought Carleigh home, and the opportunity arose, we moved to Shanghai, China for 4 years. We would not have experienced life abroad and traveled to countries all over Asia, giving our children such unusual life experiences, if not for the disease I had, or the adoption we were honored with. There are always hidden blessings.

If not for our adoption, we would not have had the unfortunate experience of having a bullied child attempt suicide. There is nothing good about this. To even think that is unimaginable. However, if not for that incident, we would not have found the most amazing therapist, who sees three out of four of us, while we go through the medical issues that we are now experiencing with Bill. I also would not have the strong, confident, compassionate, thoughtful daughter who has learned so much through her difficulties. There are always hidden blessings.

If not for all of the travel in Asia, Bill and I may not have caught the wanderlust “bug” that we treasure, and would not have had some of our recent adventures both before, and since, news of his health issues. We have already traveled to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Anaheim, Puerto Rico, Spain, Italy, New Orleans, and went on an East Coast and Midwest minor league baseball tour. Next month we are headed to Kansas City to see the Chiefs, his favorite football team, and if all goes well…Morocco in February with a 24 hour stop over in Paris. As long as money and health hold out, we are hoping to make it to Greece and somewhere in South America in the next few years. He is unable to work right now, and we are moving up the plans we had for retirement. If not for this unexpected health complication, we would not be able to spend every day together, and travel the world making memories. Sometimes these unfortunate events in life remind us to appreciate every minute that we have. There are always hidden blessings.

It is undeniable….life hands us obstacles. I deal with them like I am putting them through a colander. All the big bad stuff stays inside the wire mesh, and I do with it what I must, while the blessings trickle out into a bowl for me to discover and appreciate. Even when I couldn’t initially see them, they were there. If there is one lesson I have learned in this life, it is that there are always hidden blessings.

I hope you discover some beauty in the depths of a terrible situation and embrace it. Every individual is responsible for creating their own happiness. Love life through the good and bad. Finding a ray of light in a time of darkness can make all the difference. There are always hidden blessings.

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…..

Life is Too Short to Sit on the Porch

Last December we had to say goodbye to one of our miniature dachshunds. She was old, and had been abused before she came to us. We gave her 9 good years, as she did us, and I’m glad for that. She was a sweetheart, and I miss her often. Norah, our other doxie is 11 and still going strong. She had been growing accustomed to the quiet life that she and her senior “sister” enjoyed, and I’m sure she misses her, but with no more fighting for mom’s attention, she was in her own version of heaven. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long.

Little did Norah know, Bill and I had been keeping an eye on PetFinder for a puppy to add to the family for several months. Not long after BoneZ passed we found what we hoped would be our newest family member, Darwin Atlas. We adopted Darwin, who is an Australian Shepherd/Australian Cattle Dog mix, when he was 11 weeks old. He is full of energy and very jealous of anyone who takes my attention away from him. I’m not sure Norah has completely forgiven us yet.

I love Darwin. He is feisty and curious, handsome and smart, but I’m pretty sure he only loves me because I have opposable thumbs. He spends his days flopping toys into my lap to play Tug of War, or to throw out for him to catch. All day. Every day. If I let go of the toy, he looks at me sympathetically and flops it back onto my lap. “Poor mom dropped the toy. I’ll help her.” If that doesn’t work, he will yip in the highest pitch he can achieve (in case you’re curious, it is impressive) until I can’t stand it anymore and I throw it again. I told you he’s smart.

Those thumbs are also useful for filling his food dish, although I’m sure he’s not against eating it right out of the bag, filling his water dish, putting on his leash for a walk, and for gently chewing on when bored.

Someday I’m sure he will love to snuggle with me on the couch without any demands of play. Maybe one day he will protect me from danger without a toy in his mouth expectantly waiting while I fight off an assailant. Maybe one day……but for now I’m just a pawn for his endless games.

It’s fun to have a puppy in the house again, much to Norah’s chagrin. He keeps us busy, and that’s never a bad thing. He’s full of life and reminds us not to take anything too seriously. He’s reminding us to love hard and play harder.

Life is too short to sit on the porch.

Hold On

It’s has been a very long time since I have written a post, but there has been so much I have wanted to say. Although I will still not divulge all, for my husband’s privacy, I will give you a glimpse into what has caused my delay. This post is titled “Hold On,” in honor of Sarah McLachlan’s song of the same name on her Mirrorball album. I heard it for the first time in years yesterday and it spoke to me so deeply that I can still feel it resonating within me today. The words are as follows:

Hold on

Hold on to yourself

For this is gonna hurt like hell

Hold on

Hold on to yourself

You know that only time will tell

What is it in me that refuses to believe?

This isn’t easier than the real thing

My love, you know that you’re my best friend

You know I’d do anything for you

My love, let nothing come between us

My love for you is strong and true

Am I in heaven here or am I–?

At the crossroads I am standing

So now you’re sleeping peaceful

I lie awake and pray

You’ll be strong tomorrow

And will see another day

And we will praise it

And love the light that brings a smile across your face

Oh God, if you’re out there, won’t you hear me?

I know that we’ve never talked before

Oh God, the man I love is leaving

Won’t you take him when he comes to your door

Am I in heaven here or am I in hell?

At the crossroads I am standing

Now you’re sleeping peaceful

I lie awake and pray

That you’ll be strong tomorrow

And will see another day

And we will praise it

And love the light that brings a smile

Now you’re sleeping peaceful

I lie awake and pray

That you’ll be strong tomorrow

And will see another day

And we will praise it

And love the light that brings a smile across your face

Hold on

Hold on to yourself

For this is gonna hurt like hell

My husband continues to be by my side. I love him more than I could ever have imagined possible. We just celebrated our 28th anniversary. However, as we all know, life throws obstacles, and the best made plans are upended.

Bill is 51 years old, and has been the picture of health for most of his life. I was always the one sick, Crohn’s being my biggest health concern, as discussed in previous posts. Recently the situation has flipped, and it has thrown us for a loop. It is not cancer, nor mental illness, and that is a blessing, but it is still a very large obstacle. The kind that knocks the wind out of you. The kind that moves you to readjust your bucket list timeline. The kind that reminds you of how precious life is. The kind that forces you to count your blessings. The kind that changes everything, and nothing at all.

The love of my life is fighting a disease that he shouldn’t have to, a disease we never expected, a disease that came out of nowhere and slapped us in the face. and honestly…..it hurts like hell.

“Losing” Mini Me

I’ve been away from the blog for quite a while. I have had plenty of subjects that are worthy of a post, but some I am not comfortable sharing yet, and others were just not striking any deep resonance within me to write about. In a way this is good because it means nothing especially terrible has happened. Plenty of great memories have been made in the last six months, including a husband and wife trip to Spain and Italy, and a family trip to Philly, Stone Harbor, NJ, and NYC. At some point I’m sure I will post about these wanderlust travels. Today, I want to talk about our youngest son. My taller-than-me male duplicate. My mini me. 

Brennan turned 18 in June. He graduated from high school in May with his International Baccalaureate degree and a departmental award in History. He is such a bright kid. His book smarts far exceed mine. He loves to learn, and really enjoys physics and history. I am one proud mama. We must have done a few things right along the way because he has grown into a wonderful young man. We have been preparing him for this moment his whole life. I knew it was coming, but time goes too fast. On August 23rd, We moved him into his college dorm. I had to say goodbye to my little boy. My mini me. 

We have been fortunate because our eldest, Ethan, has been commuting to college while living at home. We still get to see him every day. We know where he is most of the time, and we know he is safe when he comes home at night. I knew It’d be hard when the first one left, I’m sure it will be hard when the second and third do, but you never really know how it will feel until they are gone. I tell myself we are lucky. This is a good event. a GREAT event. We succeeded, HE succeeded, but I miss my boy regardless. I miss my mini me. 

It is getting better day by day. I even go a few days without texting him now. I try to give him space. Space to grow, to learn, to thrive. The nights are the hardest. I think it’s because even if he were gone all day before, he always came home at night. I don’t know where he is, what he is doing, or if he made it back to his dorm at night anymore. I have to rely on what we have taught him, the decisions he makes, and God’s protection. Stay safe, my mini me. 

I love you, Brennan. This house will never be the same, but this world will be better because of you, and I’m proud to be a part of it. You be you, my gift from God. My mini me.

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.