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.

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.

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.

Celebrate your life

I have been pondering what to blog about for weeks. When I start a post it is usually because I am feeling passionate about a certain topic. Lately that topic has been the election, so I have not posted. I do not want to talk Trump or Clinton. Instead,  I want to discuss a number of  comforts we as Americans are lucky to have, and take for granted every day.

As I stir fried some onions and garlic for a chicken broccoli stir fry for dinner, I looked down at the abundance of food that was already in my fancy pan, and by “fancy” I mean low cost, IKEA, metal, clean. I thought of all the people in this world who don’t have that pan, or the food in it. They don’t have a delicious, warm, apple cake sitting next to it, either. One that my children have already consumed a great portion of in the two hours since they have been home from school.

Speaking of school…….many children around the world don’t get to go to school. Our children do. They leave their soft bed, eat breakfast, and head out the door of the home that keeps them warm, dry, and safe, every day. While they are learning at school, in another safe, dry, and comfortable environment, they eat another meal. Lunch. For those that cannot afford a lunch, our government makes sure that they are provided one. While at school, if it appears that a child is not being taken care of, or is being mistreated at home, our educators can contact social services to make sure that the child is protected. We have services for all kinds of disabilities. We have programs for all levels of learning. Sometimes kids fall through the cracks, sadly, but a majority of our children are well cared for at home and at school. We are blessed. Have you ever thought of the children in third world and developing nations? What happens with them? How do their resources compare to ours? Well……they don’t. Not. Even. Close.

A majority of us Americans wake up in the morning and sift through our closet to decide what we want to wear. We have options. We have more than one or two set of clothes. We head downstairs and open the fridge to see what we want to eat. We have options. We have fresh food. We turn on the tap and fill the coffee maker. We have clean water, and machines that make our coffee in the morning. We don’t have to walk miles and miles for water. You know…..a necessity for LIFE. We sit down at a table to eat. Not on a rug. Not in the sand or dirt. We wash our dishes in a sink mere feet from the table we ate at. When we leave for work, we hop in the car, on the bike, or walk to the bus stop. We have work, and transportation to get there. At the end of the day we come back to the comforts of home once again. Food, water, shelter.

We have healthcare. Phenomenal healthcare. We have the doctors, specialists, medication, machinery, and facilities we need. We need to work on cost, but we have it. We have natural healthcare choices. We have options. There are so many people in this world without any healthcare whatsoever. We, as Americans, also have the technology and resources to research our health symptoms and conditions, our doctors, our facilities. We have options. Many, many in this world have nothing.

Finally, we have family, and in my mind that is what is most important. The presence, love, and support, of my family keep me going on a daily basis. And God. Every Sunday at Church, for as long as I can remember, I have thanked God for the blessings I have listed above. Every single time I kneel down and pray, I thank God for these comforts. We, as a nation, have amazing privileges and opportunities. Let’s not take them for granted. Let’s focus on what is important. 

FIRE…..Again…..and Again…..and Again

I have issues with fire. I know, not many people like a fire that’s not In a pit or a fireplace, but I have more encounters with fire in the WRONG  places than the average person.

My first  encounter with the bad kind of  fire  was when I was  9 years old. We had been at a parade a few miles away from our house and saw the smoke cloud.  Completely out of character for my mom, she  decided to see if we could find it. We drove through a nearby subdivision before giving up and heading home. When we got to the end of our street we saw the fire trucks. It turned out to be two houses over from our own. Neighbors were spraying our shingles and shutters to prevent them from melting, or catching fire. For me it began a fear of fire. For years I would constantly check the stove, hair dryer, curling iron, and other appliances. Unfortunately it would not be my last…..or second to last……or……third.

Moving on to my wedding day. A bit of advice for all of my readers………DON’T LEAN OVER CANDLES. Not even when your drink is on the other side of them, and especially not while wearing a veil. As I stood by the head table talking to my lifelong best friend and bridesmaid, I began to smell something burning. I looked down and noticed a brown spot on my sleeve. “Oh, look Lynn……I burned my sleeve.”  At this point she looked down and started beating my leg, while my father-in-law grabbed my veil from behind, threw it to the ground, and started stomping on it.  Pieces of my veil were burning off and falling on to  the sleeve and skirt of my gown, causing the fire to spread al over me……while I chatted away. Luckily, I got married in the early 90’s and the dresses were big, so no damage to my body. Maybe a few shorter hairs on my head though, as it was not In a fancy upswept style, but hanging down around my face.   It’s amazing it didn’t go up in flames with all the hair spray I used.

A few short years later I was cooking in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. I was pulling something out of the oven, and I heard the potholder “pop.” I knew it must have hit the heating element, but couldn’t see a flame on it. I took it off and started moving it around to check it.  All of a sudden I felt a bit of a burn and as I pulled the potholder away, all the layers stuck to my thumb.  Found it!

When my oldest was about three years old he was sitting at the table eating dinner. I was in the living room and decided to straighten a picture frame that was sitting on our fairly tall entertainment center. I reached over a lit votive to do it. It was already burned pretty low, so I didn’t think it would be a problem. Let me remind you, and rephrase what I said earlier……. DON’T EVER REACH OVER A CANDLE!  Needless to say, my sweater caught fire. Once again I heard a “pop.”  I went into a little panic and did exactly what you should never do……I blew on it, then I watched it race up my arm. Being silly, I was afraid if I stopped, dropped, and rolled, I would start the carpet on fire. It occurred to me to open the door and run outside and roll in the snow, but I can’t imagine what that gust of oxygen would have done for it.  Instead I started doing a little dance and a low scream…….” I’m on FIRE!”  My husband came running out of the kitchen and yelled “STOP, DROP, AND ROLL! ”   Feeling sensibility return, I did just that. The fire really just burned the fuzzies off of the sweater and it was one of my favorites so I asked Bill if he thought I could salvage it. His response….. “You smell like a barbecue.”  My son’s response……. “It’s okay, Mommy. Next time you catch fire you can just stop, drop, and roll, then take off your sweater, throw it away, and buy a new one.”  My thoughts are…..I hope there’s not a next time.

Today. I finished cleaning the kitchen and headed upstairs to get ready to go out. My son, Ethan, was off of work today, by the grace of God, and decided to go in the kitchen to get a drink shortly after I went upstairs. He screamed up to me with panic in his voice, but I didn’t hear what he said and had to ask again. “THERE’S AN ELECTRICAL FIRE IN THE DISHWASHER!”  I started  running downstairs, then had to back track to get my phone. When I got downstairs I opened the dishwasher and asked him to go flip all the circuits off (I am proud of this moment of intelligence compared to what follows.) Next,  I spent at least two minutes trying to remember how to work my phone to dial 911, because that’s what happens with me in these situations.  When my memory returned I dialed. I proceeded talk to them in panic-mode (which I’m sure they’re used to) and within minutes the entourage arrived. Three cop cars and a fire truck. Nothing like a good neighborhood show.

All is fine. The neighbors have been filled in. The crowds have dispersed. A new dishwasher will be here soon……and I pray that this will be the last fire situation I ever have to deal with.

I’ll end this with some advice……….. DONT EVER LEAVE YOUR WASHER, DRYER, OR DISHWASHER RUNNING IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE HOME, OR ARE GOING TO SLEEP.  We were lucky. We were home and awake, but there have been many times I have left or gone to sleep after starting a cycle on one of these appliances. Never again.

…….. and an ever-so-appropriate quote from my sister-in-law.

“Seriously, woman. You and fire…….”

 

 

 

Live. Love. Laugh…….and Handle With Care

Sometimes we forget. We forget that life is fragile. We forget that we need to seize every opportunity we can with those we love, because those moments are fleeting and can be gone in the blink of an eye.

Occasionally God gives us a little reminder. Something unexpected and sometimes tragic. A house lost to fire, a car accident, a serious illness in the family, a life taken too soon and without the chance to say goodbye. It is easy to take those we love for granted, to forget we have a gift that can be taken from us at any moment, and that what is here today may not be here tomorrow. We often forget that our blessings must be handled with care.

It is one thing that we all have in common. No one is immune. Even those of us who have had those reminders in the past will eventually fall into periods of ignorant bliss again. It is human nature. We will fall into comfortable denial, until we are once again reminded to appreciate what we have, and who we have in our lives. We are reminded to handle with care.

So what do we do?! Do we live in fear? Do we avoid risks at all costs? No! We live life to the fullest. We step out of our comfort zone and experience the world. We make amazing memories with those we love. We take every chance we get to spend time with friends and family. We never miss a chance to say “I love you.”  Never miss a chance to make a new friend, to reach out to an old friend, or to show kindness to someone we have never called “friend” before. We choose happiness and love. We choose to appreciate the wonders of this Earth, and enjoy them with others. We choose to find something  positive in even our darkest moments. We choose to embrace life, and do our best to live a life without regrets.

If there is one thing I have taught myself in life, one thing that has brought me the most happiness,  it is reminding myself of this:  Live. Love. Laugh……….and handle with care.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Second Mom Love

My husband is playing loud, peppy, music on the Amazon Echo, the 12-year old is trying to comfort me with talking, but what I need is silence. Today has taken a sharp turn for the worse. That day has come. It’s the day I knew was coming for a very long time, but I pushed it to the back of my mind. The day I have to prepare to say goodbye to someone I love. I guess I am lucky, at least I get to say goodbye.

She did not give birth to me, I did not live in her home, I did not give her snarky, teenage lip, but she is still my mother. She’s had more influence on my life than she’ll ever know. She gave me plenty of advice when I was younger, a reprimanding when necessary, a hug when needed. Without saying a word she has taught me to be carefree whenever possible, and that worrying wasn’t something to waste time on. She taught me that kids running in and out of your house are a blessing, and the more the merrier. That if your best friend’s six-year old daughter shows up at your door looking for one of those yummy yellow apples you always have in your refrigerator, invite her in for one. She’s taught me so much that it’s hard to separate it from what I learned from my other second mom, or my actual mother.

There were three of us. Families that lived on the same street in a time when kids were outside playing until dusk.  Between all three families there was someone for everyone to play with. Mrs.Ps kids were my brother and sister’s age. My other second mom, Mrs. E., had kids that were my sister and my age. The youngest, Lynn, has been my best friend since she was born the year after me.

They called themselves The Three Musketeers. They did everything together. Every week they would go bowling. They would throw all nine kids into the back of an old “Woody” station wagon and head to the local alley. We would go to the in-building daycare while they played a few games. They only left a kid once, and only for a few minutes, but lesson learned to count before leaving.

Along with the other neighborhood kids, we could always be heard and seen hanging out on the block after school, on the weekend, or on a hot summer day. I remember once when we had  a massive rain storm,  Mrs. P’s kids pulled out the fishing boat, and we rowed around in the flooded ditch. It was the highlight of the year on our street, at least for us kids.

Eventually all three families moved, and we had to stay in touch from afar. Same state, same county, different cities. We visited plenty, but no more walking down the street for a yellow apple for me. Even later still, my family was the only one left in the state, but no matter how far apart or how busy our lives got as we grew older, the bonds have remained strong. They are my family. They always will be.

One of my mommies is leaving this Earth soon and I’m not ready. I never will be. I thank God that He put her in my life though. She will always be a part of me, and always have a piece of my heart.