Friday, January 30, 2009

Flashback Friday: UNI and the Super Bowl


I love football. As a matter of fact, I hardly knew what to do with myself last weekend when there were no games on to occupy my mind and provide a soundtrack in the background of my day. I mean, I like basketball... but it doesn't have the same sound, the same feel, the same fervor to me as football.

Living in Iowa during cold football seasons, I loved sitting in the stands under piles of blankets, drinking hot cider and screaming - not only to cheer on the team - but in an effort to expend energy and keep the blood flowing enough to stay warm. The excitement of high school football, small hometowns rallying behind kids that are living the glory years while they can, is infectious. Is it any wonder I'm obsessed with Friday Night Lights?


But when I went to college at the University of Northern Iowa, I had no complaints when the cold air was shut outside of our great Dome. We all dressed in our purple and gold to cheer on our Panther's... shake our keys and yell as the sound of the Panther's roar boomed over the loud speaker. That's where we watched Kurt Warner play.

Yep, we at UNI love Kurt Warner. We loved him when he was our quarterback... he didn't get much of a chance to play until his senior year, but when he did he proved his worth. We loved him all the way to St. Louis and take pride in him as he leads the Cardinals.

Do you wonder who I'll be rooting for this weekend?



[I feel the need to apologize to my nephew, Alex, who may have a differing opinion on this game... but a girl's gotta be loyal...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Forming Habits

"We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same."
                                                               – Carlos Castaneda

When I first looked at this quote awhile back the part that struck me is that people work to make themselves miserable... we all know people like that. We've all been those people at points in our lives when sitting in our misery seemed like an easier task than finding a place to sit that had a better view.

But it is still work to be miserable. You have to wake up every morning and look at the burdens instead of the blessings. You have to decide to be annoyed by your child's laughter waking you instead of the joy of hearing a giggle first thing in the morning. You have to decide to be annoyed by the snow on the roads rather than the sparkle of diamonds that are created when the sun hits it just right. You have to decide to grumble about the burden of work rather than get on your knees in gratitude that you have a job that feeds your family.

It takes a lot of work to be miserable. But for whatever reason, it's an easier habit to form than being chronically happy.


I had a reader ask me in the comment section last week if I have physically been feeling worse... I had written the two posts that were a little more "heavy" about free will and the difference between spiritual and physical gifts... and she wondered if I did more of that kind of pondering because I was struggling with not feeling well and was trying to make sense of it.

I had to think on that a bit. Truthfully, I wrote those posts because one of the readers that has become a friend asked me specific questions that I was trying to answer. They were big questions and I wanted to answer as sincerely as I could... so it really had nothing to do with how I was doing physically.

But the truth is, I have been feeling worse. And I wondered if that showed in my writing without it meaning to. And I tried to notice if that's something I do when trying to cope with not feeling all that great. Here's what I came up with: like the quote, it's work either way... trying to write about serious, meaningful things is hard when I don't feel well because it's a little harder to see the positive.

I take that back, it's not harder to see the positive, it's harder to feel the positive. But I find it to be a good exercise to challenge myself to feel it when it's not easy because the next time it comes more naturally. Like a habit.

On the other hand, writing funny, frivolous posts can be difficult because I have to find enough energy in me while sitting at the keyboard to really express the funny, the joy, the silliness of the moments I want to share. But I find myself drawn to telling silly stories and old memories when I'm sicker because they more easily lift my spirits and help me forget for a moment the state my body is actually in. It's still work... still a habit, but an easier one to achieve.

My point is, I don't want you all to think I just plop my feet on the floor every day and see sunshine and rainbows because I've chosen to live a happy life regardless of circumstance. It takes work to be miserable and it takes work to be joyful... I just figure if I'm going to put in the effort either way I might as well have a pleasant outcome in the end.

Since many of you have so kindly asked repeatedly what you can do to help me, I'm going to ask for you to do me a favor in the comment section. When I'm not feeling well, I always have an urge to write (which is why this blog has been great) but it's often hard for me to think of what to write about. Partly because I never leave the house, so nothing new or remarkable really ever happens on a daily basis, and partly because when you're tired and in pain it's hard to think of anything other than being tired and in pain.

That's why I loved being able to answer that reader's questions last week... it gave me something to focus on, to think about, to feel like I was having a conversation with all of you. So today, or every day if you like, leave me a question or a topic of interest that you'd like to hear about. It can be ridiculous, it can be funny, it can be sincere or deep or nosy or flat-out bizarre. I would just love, on days when I'm feeling empty, to be able to pull up your questions and have the challenge of writing for you.

So here's your chance, peeps... ask away. :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009



I said chocolate in all caps with periods in between. Because it cannot be emphasized enough in certain concoctions.


For Christmas, my friend Nicole's mom - Clarita Culpepper - sent me this crazy yummy looking box of the Barefoot Contessa's Outrageous Brownie Mix. For me, putting the word outrageous and brownie in the same sentence is either redundant or stating the obvious... because I love me a good brownie. In an outrageous sort of way.

That Clarita Culpepper knows me too well. [Ok, go ahead right now and say her name out loud while you're reading this. Because there is no way humanly possible to say the name Clarita Culpepper aloud without getting a bit of a grin on your face. I swear... it just kind of rolls off your tongue and makes you happy.]

So anyway... being the expert baker that I am (ha!) I read the directions carefully, and after deciding I had no idea how to melt the chips in a bowl over a pot of water (what? who does that?) and I didn't have a fancy mixer with a paddle attachment (I blame that on never being married and not getting a proper wedding shower), I went ahead and did it my way... melting the chocolate chips in the microwave and using my good old fashioned $10 hand mixer from Walgreens.


The one thing I paid close attention to, however, was the fact that the Contessa was adamant about baking the brownies for EXACTLY 35 minutes. Even if I believed them to be under cooked, she stated on the package, take them out anyway! Never let it be said that I don't do what I am told.

I removed the brownies, let them cool for an hour and then tried them out... and decided that the Contessa was wrong about my oven. The outer edge brownies were perfect, but the middle? Not even close. Way under done.



But then they cooled some more. And I put some tinfoil over them and checked on them in the morning [don't judge me... you know you would have eaten them for breakfast too] and I discovered the Contessa was RIGHT!  Decadent. Rich. Scrumpdileitious. Not undercooked, but perfectly chocolaty and moist and dense and yummy. And how it managed to bake and still leave chunks of chocolate un-melted is beyond me.

Run, don't walk people, and buy yourself some of these brownies for your Superbowl party this weekend. And for the love of all things holy, bake them the night before for only 35 minutes...

Trust the Contessa.

*the author of this post takes no responsibility in the resulting chocolate cravings that will inevitably occur after reading.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

No Pain, No Gain

I used to apply the term "No Pain, No Gain" to working out... going to the gym, going for a run, whatever moved me in that moment. These days it takes on an entirely new meaning... and it has everything to do with laughter.

It's SO not the best medicine.

Well, it is for my spirit, certainly. But for my body? That's a whole other story. The first time I realized it was a problem was many years ago, and I blame it all on my mother. [Hi, Mom!]

I had been in the hospital here in town for about a week, during which time they had done a spinal tap on me. As the week went on I got much worse instead of better, with excruciating headaches and nausea. My poor friend Susie would come see me every morning before work and every evening after work, and without fail every time she would help me up to walk to the bathroom I would proceed to get sick to my stomach from the pain of moving my head. It was unpleasant to say the least. And she was such a trooper.

At the end of the week they transferred me to a hospital in Iowa City where they did a blood patch because the spinal tap had apparently allowed spinal fluid to drain and caused "dry brain" (go ahead and insert whatever joke you'd like to make here... many others have had fun with it, believe me). Basically, the spinal fluid that keeps the brain afloat in my skull was gone and I needed it back.

My parents and my sister Janette came to Iowa City when I was transferred (as did my friends Jenny and Susie ... I'm telling you, my friends are the best), I had the blood patch, and over the course of the next few days the headache improved dramatically. One of the doctors that was assigned to me was a very nice man, and while I can't remember his real name, I certainly remember the name my mother kept calling him after he left the room.

She seriously, sincerely and repeatedly kept referring to him as Dr. Dinkledorff. I was medicated, in pain and out of it... but even I had the good sense to look at her like she had three heads and wondered if she was a bit medicated herself. You should have seen the look on her face when she realized she was wwwaaayyy off on his name, and how ridiculous the name she kept rattling off was... and then she got the giggles like you would not believe.

People, I can hardly type right now because I'm trying not to laugh at the memory.

The problem was that I was totally punchy from the week I had, so when she started laughing uncontrollably I followed suit and could.not.stop. Which made her laugh harder. Which made me laugh harder. And the whole process was PAINFUL to me. It made my head hurt worse and my body ache more and I started swearing at her to make her stop and then she'd laugh harder. She would leave the room and walk down the hall, we'd get settled down in the room and she'd come back in and it would start all over again. It took a good 20 minutes to end the process and by the time is was over we were all exhausted.

Years have passed and the laughing thing has gotten significantly worse. When I start to laugh I have to turn off my brain and take slow breaths to make myself stop because it starts a whole chain reaction of pain that is better to avoid. But sometimes, laughter just gets the better of me.

And this time, it was the fault of these three beautiful people:laura jeff becca im

I say that tongue-in-cheek since there are few people I'd love to laugh with more. :) My sister Laura, brother-in-law Jeff and niece Rebecca stopped by to see me on Friday afternoon on their way through town to watch my nephew play in a basketball tournament. We were talking about the blog I had written about being gullible, and Laura asked me if I remembered how they used to all go off and ride horses and leave me in the front yard on my plastic bouncing horse that was mounted with springs because they didn't want to have to help me ride along with them.

[I know... they were cruel weren't they? Just wait... it gets worse.]

I said, "That wasn't the worst of it... remember when I was really little and Jim and Steve convinced me they had hooked up the sprayer on the kitchen sink to a speaker, so if I talked into it when you were all out riding horses they could hear me?"

I don't think any of us breathed again for the next five minutes we laughed so hard. Apparently Laura never knew they did that to me, and the image of me as a little girl, sitting on the counter in the kitchen, waving at them out the window while talking in the sprayer was too much for her to take. She was red faced, tears streaming, shaking with laughter... no amount of slow breathing was pulling me out of this one. Jeff was no better and Becca was just staring at me like I was a freaking idiot. I definitely lost cool points for that story.

So, while it was lovely to see this beautiful face:becca 3

And Riley got to enjoy the company of others:

becca laura riley 3

becca laura riley

I am just starting to recover from the number that laughing did to my body. And for good measure, I am definitely keeping the rest of my stories about me being an idiot to myself.

Well, at least until the next time I need something to blog about.

Monday, January 26, 2009


You know how I've been chosen for a couple of giveaways in this blog world of ours? This next one is hands-down the one I'm most excited about.

Pretty much everyone who reads blogs has heard of The Pioneer Woman (aka Ree). If you haven't heard of her, click on her name and follow that link to find out what big-time blogging is all about. She's funny, she's talented, she cooks and takes photos of life on their ranch, and tells one knee-buckling story about her courtship with her husband, affectionately known as Marlboro Man.

And she has a big heart.

Late last year her husband and two oldest daughters went on a blogger mission trip to the Dominican Republic that was sponsored by Compassion International. If you have a minute, you should go read through the archives of their trip ... hear their stories and see the photos they took while visiting and helping the children and communities in need. To say it will touch your heart is an understatement of great proportions.

You can click on the banner below to find out more about the Compassion program, but basically for $32/month you can support a child by providing...

  • clean water, food and nutritional supplements
  • critical health care
  • opportunities to learn in a clean and safe environment
  • mentoring, to help kids reach their full potential in Christ
  • Bible training and daily exposure to our loving and caring God

Sponsor a child online through Compassion's Christian child sponsorship ministry. Search for a child by age, gender, country, birthday, special needs and more.

One of the important components of sponsoring a Compassion child is the emotional support you give through correspondence and letters. You take the child you are sponsoring into your life and your heart - making sure they know they are cared for, believed in and loved.

Ree and her husband, through working with the program, found out there is a great need for people to sponsor older children. I imagine that, much like you see with fostering and adoption situations in our own country, older children are simply harder to place. So Ree's family made the decision to sponsor a certain number of Compassion children that are age 16 and older, but because the communication aspect of the sponsorship is important and requires a certain level of time commitment, they wanted to make the financial commitment and offer others the opportunity to mentor.

Which works out great for me... because I don't have the money but I do have the time and desire to help. So I sent my email to the Compassion representative and heard back that I will be matched up with an older Compassion child.

I am so excited to do this.

And I'm so grateful for Ree's kind heart and generosity that made it possible for me to give of myself, and for a child to be supported.

So... when I get my packet of information I'll fill you all in and let you know how it's going, and will also keep a permanent link on my sidebar if any of you are interested in learning more about sponsoring a Compassion child. I have the distinct feeling that I will be getting more out of this than the child I'll be matched up with... because it never fails that when I've taken the time to give I've received so much more in return.

Question of the day: Do any of you sponsor a Compassion child, or work with any other similar programs?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Flashback Friday: Real Live Doll

The fun thing about being the youngest of six kids is that you have built-in playmates ready and waiting for you. I was born and instantly became their real live doll... apparently I talked and walked earlier than my other siblings, but mother says it's because I had five little kids constantly trying to teach me new tricks.

Maybe they should be trying to train Riley for me.


This is a picture of my sister Janette and me when I was little. She had changed my clothes so we were wearing matching checked outfits and doo-rags... and it looks like I wasn't complaining a bit about the attention. Janette's been a fun and loving sister in so many ways ... but she also thoroughly enjoyed being the older one who could get me to do just about anything.

She would be in the bathroom upstairs doing her hair and would yell for me... I'd go running up the stairs to see what she needed and she'd casually ask me to get her hairbrush from the next room. And like an idiot, I'd do it. And it took nothing more than a "Hey, I'll time you..." to get me to fetch anything that came to her mind.

She also liked spinning tall tales to prove that she could pull anything over on her little sister.

Like the time Dad had been welding and wasn't wearing that protective mask, so he hurt his eyes in the process. She woke me up that morning and very gravely told me that dad had an accident and burned his eyeballs out of his head. I didn't believe her and went running into his bedroom where he was laying in bed with a cold washrag over his (what I was assuming to be hallow empty sockets instead of) eyes and I FREAKED OUT.

Or another time when she pulled me into the laundry room so she could talk to me about the fact that she was really my mother. She told me she was too young to have a child - that it would have been scandalous - and so mom and dad had to step in and raise me as their own. Of course, if I had known about the birds and the bees I would have been able to calculate that the five year age difference didn't really make that feasible, but at the time I believed her and I FREAKED OUT.

Of course, she'd also help me make covers for my school books every year and taught me how to make the cool rainbow design around my name on the front. She'd hide with me at the top of the stairs and help me scare our brothers after an episode of The Incredible Hulk, and she was always up for goofing around the house, playing Barbies and just plain being silly.

But I still totally blame my being gullible on her and all of her tall tales... which is why I've completely given up answering the phone on April Fools Day.

So here's your Question for the Day: Which one are you... the gullible one or the one who spins the crazy stories to see what you can get people to believe?

[Amy, if you're reading this: We've already covered which category you fall under in last week's flashback!]

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Spiritual Gifts

Ok, so now that I talked your ear off yesterday about free will and how I believe God leads us through the aftermath that our choices inevitably leave, I want to have a discussion about the other part of the reader's question (again, everything I'm about to say is my opinion and conclusions I've come to through living it... it doesn't mean I'm right. It's just what makes sense to me). In a nutshell, this is what she was asking me to explain:

If God knew this disease would befall me (because He sees all and knows all) then why would He have given me talents knowing I would later lose them? Why wouldn't He just give me talents that could be used throughout my life, with or without this disease?

I understand this question because it comes from an empathetic person who would have liked to see me spared the emotional pain of loving something and letting it go. I appreciate that. But once again I have to separate the gifts that were given to my body by genetics, from the gifts that were given to my spirit by God.

We are given our bodies from our parents. Those genetics provide us all with the same basic body structures, but different parts of those bodies excel in different people.

Maybe your lung power and your leg muscles have made you a powerful long-distance runner. (I didn't get those genes.) I was given a set of lungs and some vocal chords and an ability to hear rhythms and notes, which just happened to work together to produce somewhat decent singing. All of that is physical... a genetic talent. Now, if you add to it the gift of my spirit, then it adds the ability to feel the meaning of the words in order to bring a level of emotion and feeling to a song.

My vocal chords, strictly speaking, are a genetic gift. It's when I add my own spirit to the song that it begins to make the singing an "experience" ... something that reaches people on a deeper, more emotional or more spiritual level. Do you see the difference? Most of the talent is genetic... the gifts we bring to the talent to make it fulfilling are spiritual.

I had a lot of genetic talents this disease has stripped from me. I used to love to sing, I used to love to dance. I craved being able to work out and exercise. I also used to love to water ski at the lake, and turn cartwheels and do round-offs with the little kids. I used to perform on stage in high school and community theater, I was a cheerleader 
and also ran track and was on hurdle relay teams and did the long jump. I had a wide-array of interests and was certainly never bored.

And I can't do any of those things anymore. But ALL of those things were abilities I could perform because of genetics... without my physical body working correctly, it wouldn't have been possible.

But it's the gifts of my spirit, given to me by God, that were there along with my body... and they still remain after the disease has made my body, in many ways, useless.

While I loved to sing... what I really loved was the emotion that went into it and the connections I felt with the people I sang for. While my physical voice helped that along, the real part of that was spiritual and emotional. Those gifts from God remain and I have those moments of connection with family and friends and you blog peeps that come here.

While I enjoyed exercise and physical activities, part of that was a way to burn off stress or deal with things going on in my life. I remember a moment when I was in college and I was walking down the basement steps in the house we were living in... I jerked in pain, couldn't catch myself and fell down the stairs. I was in pain, but I was SO intensely frustrated because I not only was losing abilities, I was losing the physical ways to cope. I wanted to hit something or go running or even obsessively clean to keep busy... but I couldn't do anything. My physical/genetic body failed me, but God never took away the gifts of my spirit.

I still had the desire to think analytically and write my thoughts so I could learn how to deal with them.

I still had the desire to be positive and find the good amidst the bad.

I still had the desire to learn better ways of coping... He provided me with patience and fortitude and understanding and compassion and empathy.

Genetics took away some talents, but God never did. This disease has taken things from me, but it can't take away the spirit that God put inside of me... the core of who I am... as long as I choose to nurture that side of myself. But like everything in life, because of free will, it's my choice. One I'm grateful I get to make.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free Will

A blog reader asked my opinion last week about some big questions... like why God gives people talents only to later take them away with disease. And why some others, who have been given talents and choose not to use them, are left alone to their own devices. Basically, why in the world would God give a disease to me and not to someone else.

So, here's the deal... I have no basis for my opinion other than the fact that it makes sense to me. I'm sure there are people waaayyy smarter than me who could give you scientific information and people who could point you to biblical references. All I have are conclusions I've come to by living it, praying about it and doing my usual ... mixing my logic and my faith together and seeing what emerges.

So, tomorrow I'm going to write some thoughts on talents, but first I'm going to repost something I wrote back in June that will hopefully help you understand that I don't think God, as my Father, decided to make me sick or chose to bestow an illness on me. Loving parents want to spare pain and hurts, not inflict them.

Just my opinion.

I think free will allowed two people to fall in love and have a child, and their genetics combined to create me. And in those genetics was a disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis. Just like others may have heart disease or diabetes or a myriad of other illnesses... it's just luck of the draw. But I think God, after allowing that free will, then helps us to see that we can make beautiful choices out of difficult situations. He may lead me to the best ways to cope, He may lead me to comfort, He may lead me to serve by helping others... but choosing to follow His lead is my choice through free will as well.

Here is the post that will hopefully help that make sense:

Pick A Road
(originally posted 6.30.2008)

You know the Robert Frost poem about two roads diverging in the woods? It's been popping into my head a lot lately and makes me wonder if it may be how God works with free will.

I know, it's scary to think about how my brain works, isn't it?

Bear with me. I've been watching a lot of news coverage about the horrible effects of the floods around my area. At first it was a constant state of urgency about the water levels and people needing to evacuate different neighborhoods. One news station was running solely on generators and kept apologizing for the fact they hadn't showered in three days because they were in the heart of the hardest hit area and had no running water.

To be honest, that part of the tragedy was easier to watch.

Now we are hearing about the long-term effects. The contamination. The waste. The ruined homes. The plans to demolish. The homeless. The jobless. The exhaustion. It breaks my heart. And somehow, so many of the people interviewed talk about the hope they feel, the resolve to rebuild and make their lives strong again. You can tell it's at the core of who they are, because it's their instinct to believe in hope even when their eyes are so very weary.

There was recently a news piece about a church community that had lost their building, and another faith denomination had offered their church as a place of worship. The interviewer was asking different people about their situations and how their faith has pulled them through. Some people said they knew things were going to be ok and they couldn't make it without their faith. Others just simply said they didn't know how God could do this to them. And I think it's a valid question; when you talk about God having a plan for us... then wouldn't the bad stuff be in His plan as well? But that question lacks a key component: free will.

Free will means that stuff is going to happen. We make choices every day that affect the outcome of our lives. We choose where to live. We choose who to marry. We make decisions about our education or having children or where to have dinner. People with more power in society decided where to build towns and levies and infrastructure.

And then it rains.

I don't think God looked around this Earth and decided one day to mess with the people of Iowa. I think all of our decisions and our ancestors' decisions came together with a natural rain and it created an opportunity for a flood. Free will. Stuff happens. Could God stop it all? You bet. But He promised us He wouldn't. He gave us free will and the opportunity to make ourselves strong again.

That's where the poem comes into play. (I told you my brain would take you there eventually.)

I think in front of every person who is hurt, God lays out paths in front of them... roads, if you will. I don't think one is necessarily better than the other, but they are choices for us to make. You can rebuild your home, you can move away, you can relocate to higher ground. And whichever road you choose to walk down, I think God is on it making sure you see the potholes you could fall in, the pebbles you could trip over and the sunshine that could warm your face through the trees. In every instance, I truly believe He is putting the possibility of blessings on your path if you're willing to reach out and take them.

I'm not so crazy as to believe any one of the roads will be easy. You might choose a road of self-pity and despair for awhile, but eventually you'll stumble on a blessing that will make your path smoother. It's not about God making sure bad stuff never happens. It's about the fact that He holds us when it does. That's what dad's do best. They don't stop you from trying new things. They don't tell you not to take any chances. They cheer you on when you choose to try. They tell you that anything is possible. And when you mess up, when you fail, when you fall... a dad picks you up, brushes you off and wipes your tears away. Then he tells you to try again.

The flood victims are in the stage where they need to be brushed off and their tears wiped away, but I believe with my whole heart that there will be roads diverging in front of them, and God will be there cheering them on as they try again. Because that's what fathers do.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I like fresh starts. New beginnings.

I know that no inauguration can truly usher in a fresh start... there are always problems and triumphs, expectations and assumptions that carry over from one term to another. But regardless of who we each voted for in November, today is a new day.

President Obama will place his hand on Lincoln's bible and he will declare his loyalty to the nation... a nation that is once again interested in politics, a nation that is both hopeful and hurting, a nation that will be watching with an eagle eye for every misstep and every success he garners over the next four years.

I know that, with all of the historical implications, I should be thinking of something profound to say in this post as Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. I should probably have something at least slightly intelligent to say about politics and social programs...

But what I keep thinking is this: I'm kind of excited to have little kids in the White House.

I know, I know! Don't hate me for being so superficial. But there is something so humanizing about watching a young family in the midst of the power and craziness. I've always loved the stories of Caroline and John-John during the Camelot years... seeing photos of them in the Oval office or riding horses in the back lawn. There's something  relatable about kids and family that provide little moments of reality and spontaneity.

I was reading some coverage about the train ride the Obama family took this week, following the same route as Lincoln, and smiled at the surprise birthday party the little girls threw for Michelle when she got back on the train. They had strewn about streamers and balloons and made homemade signs... and were squealing with delight and anticipation when they ushered their mom in with a hand over her eyes to surprise her with what they had accomplished.

Yes, their dad is going to be President. Yes, they are going to be living in the most historical building in our country. But with streamers and balloons they are keeping everyone in check with a simpler reality. Great moments in our nation's history are about to be made. Power struggles will occur, good choices and bad choices will inevitably be implemented, and we all will have a myriad of opinions about every bit of it. I have hopes and fears about it all just like the rest of you, but personally, I'm going to let myself enjoy the superficial moment of a little family embarking on an enormous journey.

And I'll be praying for wisdom, compassion and fortitude for the President and all who have his ear.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I've Succumbed

I've succumbed to the world that is Facebook.

I didn't mean to do it. I swear. I thought blogging was enough for me. Then a friend strong-armed me into being a Twit (yes, Tam... I'm talking about you), and considering I'm phenomenally behind at returning the growing number of emails in my inbox, I figured all of that was plenty enough to keep me busy.

But a friend of mine had some photos she uploaded to Facebook and the only way I could see them was to create an account. Seriously, though... how big of a deal could that be? I'd open an account, fly in under the radar and just lurk a bit.

Oh, how very naive of me. I opened an account, responded to a couple of friend invitations that were waiting for me, and three hours later I was sucked in... writing on people's walls, sending notes, uploading my blog. Seriously, people? What is wrong with me? I am physically incapable of resisting the urge to be a joiner. I can't help but jump in with both feet.

Suddenly I'm Facebook friends with cousins I've never met, high school friends I haven't spoken to in years, college friends whose weddings I was in and yet didn't know how many kids they had. I'm able to see that my niece is going to a Rascal Flatts concert (seriously, Anna? Country?) and gloat to an old friend that I was right about the Cardinals (never underestimate the power of Kurt Warner).

So, if you're on the fence about Facebook (*cough*Susie*cough*) my advice is to go ahead and jump in. The water's fine. And for the love of all things holy, people, if there's another social network out there you think I just can't live without -- keep it to yourself. I'd hate to get so caught up with the online world that I forget to blog...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Flashback Friday: Going Batty

Hey there, blog peeps!

So, Flashback Friday this week is inspired from the post I did yesterday about the creative and thoughtful cards my cool classroom of kids provided. Ok, they aren't "my" classroom of kids since I'm neither their teacher nor their parent, but since I'm their class project I figure they get to be my kids.

Right? Right.

Anyway, the Thanksgiving card Jonathan put inside the big pink cards he and Ben made had me staring, reading, blinking and laughing.myself.into.hysterics.


That card looks innocent enough, right? Cute house, probably filled with people ready to celebrate Thanksgiving together... nothing funny there. But then we look a little closer...


I realized it wasn't just any old house; it was the house his mom and I lived in with two other friends when we were in college together. That photo of a girl locked in her bedroom on the main floor? He's designated her as Sara (me). And those things up there in the attic? He's labeled those as BATS.

If I ever doubted that child was listening at any given time, I've laid those doubts aside... because he not only listens... he knows every freaking detail.

I've mentioned this in a post before, but the last few years of college I lived with three (sometimes four) other girls in what we termed "The Big House." It didn't resemble a prison or have any sort of law enforcement implications... we were just phenomenally uncreative and called it The Big House because, quite frankly, it was a really big house.

And it was a fun house... except for one little detail: it had bats.

I don't do bats.

And I was in good company, because my roommate Amy didn't deal well with bats either. My bedroom was on the main floor of the house because I was already having trouble with stairs and was sometimes walking with a cane, and my three friends (Wente, Susie and Amy) each had a bedroom upstairs. Amy also had her own phone line because, as you can imagine, there was a lot of demand for phone time in a house of girls.

(Amy, Susie, Wente & Me celebrating Wente's engagement in 2006... Wente doesn't normally wear a crown for everyday occasions.)

That arrangement proved useful anytime those little rodents with wings would make an appearance, because as someone would yell, "Bat!" I would flee to my room, shut the door and stuff a towel under the crack, and Amy would do the same in her room. She'd call me on the phone and we'd give each other play-by-plays while Susie and Wente (and whoever else they could persuade into helping them) chased the bat through the house, swearing at the two of us for being both useless and chicken.

Quite frankly, I was totally ok with that.

Especially as I sit here with the knowledge that I made it through years of living in that house and never once so much as saw a bat. That, in and of itself, takes skill. Of course, there were some pretty hilarious moments because of it, too. Like when I was trying to make my way upstairs one night (which was no small task) and I had gotten about 3/4 of the way up when Wente yelled, "Bat!" and I tried to flee down the steps. No one could even chase after the thing because they were on the ground laughing at the sound of me and my cane trying to make it down the stairs while spouting a couple of profanities.


Apparently the distinct sounds of stairs, me and a cane are enough to put my friends into hysterics. I'm pretty sure whatever I was screaming in the moment didn't help matters, either.

The worst bat story, in my humble opinion, had to do with my friend Amy. What you need to know about this girl is that she is a sweetheart. She is so kind and caring and you wouldn't think she'd ever hurt a fly. But what most people don't know about her is that she LIES LIKE A DOG.

That's right. She'll randomly tell you a flat-out, not a shred of truth in it, bold-face lie just to see if she can get you to fall for it. And she's really, really good at it. And I'm really, really gullible.

So when I came home from work one night and she told me there had been a bat in the house earlier that no one caught and they didn't know where it was, I totally believed her. And I walked around the house for the next two days with one eye constantly peeled for the black little devil that might swoop at my head...

Until we were all in the kitchen one morning at breakfast and I asked if there were any more sightings of the bat. Amy casually looked up from her cereal, shrugged her shoulders and said, "Oh, there never was a bat. I was just kidding. Did I forget to tell you that?"

And they thought they had heard profanity that night I step-thumped my way down the stairs...

Ahh, memories. I'm so glad Jonboy drew me that photo and reminded me of those good old times, because it brought to my attention the fact that I never did pay Amy back for all of her antics back then.

Hey, Amy... keep your eyes open, girl... you never know what I may have up my sleeves...


Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Hate Being A Penguin

My (thoughtful, kind and caring) friend Deb is a teacher at our local Catholic grade school where she teaches a combined classroom of first and second graders... and in her class are my friend Susie's son, Jonathan (2nd grade), and my friend Meg's son, Ben (1st grade).

I would LOVE to be a fly on the wall in that room everyday. :)

halloween (Batman aka Jonathan, and Dracula aka Ben) 

It's been such a fun year for me, because Deb's class has made me their project of sorts. Around Thanksgiving time each year, the kids in Deb's class make cards for the elderly/homebound members of the parish associated with the school. Even though I'm not a member of that parish or on the list (or elderly thankyouverymuch), Deb told the kids that she had a friend that couldn't leave the house and thought it would be nice to make me cards, too.

She said Jonboy and Benny Boy (yep, that's what I call them) were eager to tell the class that they were my friends, too, and when she made a comment about how much I would love the cards when I was lonely Jonboy quickly quipped:

"Oh, she's never lonely. She has Riley!"

He may have heard me tell him that a few times. Good to know he's really listening. :)

So at Thanksgiving this year I received two big cards, decorated by Jonboy:


and Benny Boy:


that contained cards from the entire class:


(photo-taking was momentarily interrupted by a jealous dog who needed some attention and a toy thrown for him):

ANYWAY... I absolutely loved my cards and the sweet sentiments they all wrote to me. Some were signed "your pal" and many wrote about their favorite Thanksgiving food or where they were going for the holiday. Seriously, I loved each and every one of them more than you can know. And at the same time discovered that I'm not too bad at deciphering phonetic spelling!

So I was thrilled when Christmas rolled around and I received a new batch of cards that were even more decorated and elaborate than before:


Deb has played a cd of my songs in her classroom from time to time, so I had letters about the music and even a few that said they hoped the cold weather wasn't too hard on me. I'll admit, my eyes might have leaked a little over that one. Such little people, and yet they have such very big hearts.

And, oh my cow... did I laugh, too. Because sometimes, a kid just needs to tell it like it is... like the following card that I can't get enough of. The outside is a drawing of a penguin that says:

IMG_4186 "I hate being a penguin!"

And on the inside is a drawing of an elf that says:

IMG_4211"I love being an elf!"

Yep, this one hit the nail on the head, because they are pretty much the sweetest little elves I've ever met.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Little Curl

So, I like pictures of myself about as much as I like a root canal (which I've never had and plan to avoid, much like having my photo taken). But I made an exception when I walked into the bathroom the other night and looked in the mirror and started laughing at this:

IMG_4050 crop

Because when I was little, and had pin-straight hair, my Grandpa Gerald would point his finger at me and say,

There was a little girl
who had a little curl
right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good
she was very, very good.
But when she was bad
she was horrid!

Of course I would remind Grandpa he couldn't be talking about me, because I didn't have a curl anywhere on my head. And he would say, "Oh, I might see a little one there..." which would send me running to the mirror to look for the little curl in the middle of my forehead that didn't exist.

Then I got older and my hair turned curly ...

Turns out he just might have known what he was talking about.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's Not About Me

It's not about me.

That's what has been popping into my head a lot lately when people ask me questions about how I deal with being sick, why I don't get more frustrated, why I don't complain more or why I'm not angry about my situation.

We all want life to be fair. We want goodness to prevail and hard work to mean that life will be easier and ... that green grass on the other side of the fence that belongs to the people who don't appreciate it? We'd like that to be transplanted into the lawn of the person who spends all day feeding and watering the sparse looking grass in hopes of a fruitful harvest.

But all of that is "me" thinking... and it's not about me.

The plain and simple truth, if we take big lessons in life and strip them down to the bare essentials, is that we are tiny blips on a very big screen. Only God has the capacity to see all of it. He saw all that came before us and sees all that will come after us, and only He can know the role that each of us can play that will best serve Him and each other.

So, my life isn't ideal by our standards. By my standards, it's getting less ideal by the year. That whole living in pain thing? I could do without it. The getting sick thing? Gets old really fast. The never leaving the house thing? I could think of some fun places to go. I miss fresh air. I miss singing at church. I miss dancing until I'm out of breath and riding in a boat so fast if you close your eyes you think you're flying.

But it's not about me. It's about what He can do with my life. I have learned a lot about myself, my faith, my perspective. But that doesn't mean I was given this illness to teach me something. For all I know, God saw this illness was going to be in my body and helped nurture me so that I could use it to affect someone else. And as much as I would like this disease to be gone when I wake up in the morning, if it serves a purpose for another person to see their life or relationship with God in a new light, then I wouldn't ask for it to be taken from me.

Because it's not about me. Nothing about my life is about me... it's about who He needs me to be.

And how can I complain about that?

Oh, complaining can come so easily for all of us... your small house, your flat tire, the promotion that should have been yours and the grass that grows so fast you don't have the time to mow it...

But what if the small house is so you are next to a neighbor who needs your help when her husband dies? Or your tire went flat when you were driving so it didn't happen when your teenage son was driving and he wouldn't have known what to do? Maybe the promotion would have been a dead end for you and next year a better opportunity will be waiting. And that lawn? Maybe it's the only exercise you do each week and is saving you from a heart attack.

The point is, you don't know. I don't know. But it's not about me. It's about how He can use my life... so as far as I'm concerned, even those things that make me want to pull my hair out and scream "Why me?!?" are blessings in disguise. Blessings for me, or for someone else, or for a reason I can't even imagine.

But it doesn't really matter. Because it's not about me.

Monday, January 12, 2009

10 Things...

Hey, blog peeps...

So, I was tagged by ISO last week and am supposed to come up with 10 things about myself to tell you about. I've been tagged before (see here) and am not sure there's anything left that is a mystery about me after months of blogging, but since I didn't have anything else pressing to write about I figured ~ what the heck! So, here are 10 things y'all might not know about me:

1. I'm not Southern and have no right to use the term y'all, but I've made some friends in the South that are bringing it out in me.

2. When I was a senior in high school I went to a meeting about touring (singing/dancing) with Up With People. Then my parents laughed and said have fun in college.

3. When I started college I was a Biology major for about 15 minutes until I realized how much math was involved.

4. One of my favorite classes in high school was Advanced Bio. when we got to dissect cats.

5. If I was on death row and got to choose my final meal it would be fried pork chops, potatoes with milk gravy and corn.

6. I just realized after I wrote number five that it could have been placed in a better position than after talk of dissecting cats... sorry about that if you're eating breakfast right now.

7. When my Grandpa and I would play cribbage and I was counting my 15's, he'd tell me to "drop my voice" when I found them all so I'd stop looking for more. When Riley barks I tell him to drop his voice. It worked better when Grandpa said it to me.

8. I bought this book: IMG_3873
with a gift certificate I got for Christmas and I think I heard Riley say, "Enough with the pictures already, woman." Then I told him to drop his voice.

9. When people ask me to pick favorites (song, movie, etc.) I literally can't do it. I like too many things to choose and my favorite is usually whatever I'm watching or listening to in that moment. So those security questions that banks give you online to access your account? Brutal.

10. The one exception to number 9 is my favorite TV show: it will always be Alias. I so want to kick butt like Sydney Bristow.

I wrote all of those without pausing, so now you know what it's like to live inside a brain that takes narcotics. I'm thinking it should be used as a lesson for teenagers to not do drugs...

On a side note, my friend Brent asked me if I would collaborate on a post with him this week on his blog, and since he's such a nice guy I couldn't help but say yes. He's posting about complaining and changing our perspectives on his blog today, and my follow-up thoughts will be posted there (and here) tomorrow. Just thought I'd point you in his direction in case you're interested in hearing his thoughts before reading mine.

Just for fun... leave me one random thing about you we might find interesting in the comment section. :)

Friday, January 9, 2009

We Interrupt this Flashback Friday...

With a brief commercial for a program called Storm Stories.

I've met some great people through the blogs I frequent, and so many of them try to take blogging a step beyond it's boundaries. NorEaster is doing a great feature this month called Storm Stories... where others share their stories of going through a storm, be it in their past or in their present, and how they have endured and hopefully triumphed.

He invited me to share my story so I did a short post that is going to be up on his site today. I'm posting it below, but encourage you to go to Nor's site and read the other Storm Stories for yourself. After this month is over I'm pretty sure no one who is struggling or suffering will be feeling alone. We all have storms, it's just nice when we can share an umbrella.

***** ***** *****

"If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."

Yep, I'm quoting Dolly Parton. But that little sentence pretty much sums up my day-to-day life, because in my body there is a constant rainstorm raging. A storm of debilitating disease, pain, limitation and progression. At 35 years of age I have found myself homebound and having to give up every freedom and ability I used to treasure and enjoy. I can count on my hands the number of times I stepped foot outside of my house in the past year, and all but one of those times were for doctor appointments. There isn't one function that my body can perform without medication and my ability to do something as simple as type this post changes on a dime.

I have no career, no husband and kids, no financial security and no potential to change any of those things.

And I've never been more at peace in my entire life.

I've discovered that when everything is taken away... when nothing is left but the core of who you are... that's when you have to make a choice. I can either hide inside and let the fear of getting struck by lightening paralyze me, or I can stand out in the rain to be washed free of everything but the comfort of a God who would never let me fall. I choose every day to be washed free.

It's not easy, but it is simple. I put up with so much rain everyday, but the rainbows I am given are fantastic. I have food, shelter, clothing. I have friends who love me, not despite all of my limitations, but with them. I write everyday on my blog and people show up ... it has been a connection to the outside world that I didn't realize was missing until it fell into my lap. I have an obnoxiously cute, spoiled and ornery pup who keeps me company 24/7 and brings joy to my otherwise quiet days.

I am so blessed, people.

But the reason I am happy is because I choose to look at my blessings more than my burdens. The burdens are persistent; the pain is relentless. I walk with crutches and it takes me longer to get up out of a chair than it does for my friends to get up and walk the length of my condo and back. But I know that if God didn't have a purpose for my illness He would have taken it away from me by now. So I take it humbly and pray that if He has a purpose for me, I am paying attention so I don't miss the opportunity to serve. I'm ok with not knowing why this is happening to me because I know He knows why. It's not about me, it's about what He can do with me... my job is simply to pay attention and enjoy the rainbows.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Mental 'Shhht'

You all had to read that title twice, didn't you? Admit it. I know you did a double take. But no, I wasn't swearing.

I was pulling that Dog Whisperer sound on myself.

So, I told you yesterday about my new obsession with that show... but as I was watching and listening to his philosophy on dog psychology (stop laughing... there is such a thing as dog psychology) I realized that what he was doing with his dog is what I've been doing mentally to myself for a long time.

Stick with me. I swear I'll start making sense.

Some of you have emailed and asked me how I got to this point of accepting where I am, and it's been hard for me to figure out how to answer that question. It's a process; everyone is different in how they process things in their lives. But one thing I have always believed is that once you know better, you can't pretend to be ignorant anymore. I've told you all before that I've had my moments of exhaustion when I've wondered when it was going to be my turn to have the nervous breakdown I so deserve... but the breakdown never comes because I just can't pretend not to know better.

I can't pretend that God isn't going to take care of me. I can't pretend that I'm not going to have what I need when I need it. I can't pretend like I'm alone in all of this. I simply know better.

And that's when the mental "shhht" comes into play.

When the Dog Whisperer is trying to redirect a dog's focus, he makes his 'shhht' noise and gives them a tap on their chest or their back leg to snap them out of the moment. Once a dog is focused, he is blind to everything else but the object of his attention. The sound and the tap knock the dog's brain back into a normal state where the Dog Whisperer can then redirect.

As soon as the negative thoughts start coming into play for me... the whole, "I don't think I can do this for another day without losing my sanity and grip on reality" thing... my brain gives me a mental 'shhht' and it's replaced with, "You don't have to do this for another day; God's doing this for you... you just have to keep showing up."

My friend Heidi recently asked me if I ever write a post, make it positive and think to myself, "What a load of crap... this just sucks and there's nothing positive about it."

While the question made me laugh, the answer is no.

There is no doubt that there are days I feel like this: IMG_0730

And while, in the beginning, I would have to consciously stop myself and remind myself of the good things, remind myself that God knows what He's doing... it eventually became an automatic 'shhht' response in my head. The thought comes, the 'shhht' happens and my thought changes. I don't know if that works for everyone. I don't know if that makes sense to you, but it's how it works for me. I made a choice at some point to remind myself of the good instead of the bad, and it eventually became an automatic response.

And now, after writing this, I'm seriously thinking of making t-shirts that say "Shhht Happens." Anyone want to buy one? :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Dog Whisperer

People, I'm doing it all wrong.

That's what I learned from my Dog Whisperer experience. No, he didn't make a special trip to my house, and now I'm never going to ask him to because I already know he'd pull his whole, "It's totally the owner's fault" thing.


National Geographic ran a marathon of The Dog Whisperer every night last week... and I watched every single episode. One of which featured a spoiled Maltese named Bubba that was running his household. I've decided that step one in every endeavor is admitting there's a problem.

Hi. My name is Sara and I'm not the pack leader.

Now, since Riley and I spend 98% of our time only in each other's company I had been in the mind set that it really wasn't that big of a deal that he ruled the roost. But Ceasar (the dog whisperer) set me straight on that one. Dogs, deep down, want to have a leader... and when they don't have one they don't know what to do with themselves. They get anxious (um, yes) and act out (hello, Mr. I-can't-help-but-mark-by-the-table). And since it has been getting harder for me physically to hold him back on a leash when someone is at the door, I figured it might be a good idea for him to listen to me now and then.

"I don't think I like this show..."

Now, we're only a week into this whole thing... but I'll be darned if my dog can't actually respond to a command and act appropriately.

Who knew?!?

I've got that whole "Shhht." sound down that Ceasar throws around at his dogs and it totally works. I'm not crazy enough to think he'll do everything I want when someone walks in the door and his brain is exploding with excitement, but I figure we'll just take this one step at a time. Repetition and consistency are the new words in this house. That, and my new calm-assertive energy I'm sending to the pup. [At least I have all of Ceasar's lingo down pat.] :)

"Yes, O Pack Leader... How can I serve you?"


We may not have the whole "I-love-to-beg-for-treats-at-the-door" thing taken care of yet...


But would you look at that self control while waiting for the command to eat it?

I swear, all this power may start going to my head...  

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Getting a Clue

Before getting into today's post, I have to copy part of Vicky's comment from yesterday here... because I found it HILARIOUS and I want to make sure none of you missed it. I swear it made me laugh  multiple times yesterday when it would pop into my head:

Out of the blue the other day in the car Nolan says "Mom, do you think Sara knew Riley had issues like getting riled up when visitors come and that's why she named him Riley? Like you named me Nolan and you have to say NO to me all the time!" HA!

Now if that didn't crack you up, there's something seriously wrong with your funny bone.

Ok, now onto today's post...

On the Monday before Christmas my brother Steve and his family were coming to visit on their way home for the holiday, and the funny thing about my pup is that he senses when change is coming. I kid you not, he sat like this in front of the window for a good part of the day just waiting for them to arrive. I kept trying to tell him they left a little late, but he didn't seem to mind keeping a lookout.


I was so excited to see them and also thrilled because that was the morning I discovered my fantabulous new camera waiting for me outside my door. I spent a great part of the day playing with the controls and settings and getting ready for the cute little people to arrive so I could bombard them with kisses and opportunities to pose.

It was shortly before they arrived that I heard the news my Aunt Judy had passed away... and in the confusion of that news, them arriving and phone calls from my sisters, I had set down the camera and forgot all about the fact that I had messed with the settings.

And switched it to manual focus.


So, I spent a great part of the evening snapping photos of the kids opening presents and hanging out (thinking I'd have a ton of good material for a blog post), and Steve played with the camera and did the same. And because the auto focus wasn't set they were some of the worst pictures I've ever taken in my life. Blurry doesn't even begin to cover it. So my conclusion is that new camera + grief + cute kids = blurry shots.

There were a few lucky ones that randomly worked, so here's the story of our night in three photos or less...


This, people, is a volcano cake. And if you've never had it... you are so missing out. It cooks in the microwave for 8 minutes in a Pampered Chef rice cooker, and is the most delicious, moist and decadent cake I've ever had.


And the kids like it just a little bit. Partly because they like to help mix it and crack the eggs, and partly because we don't worry about manners at Aunt Sara's house. Cake just tastes better when you put it in the center of the table and dig in. I have to admit I took this at the beginning of the feast and only about 1/3 of the cake was left when we were through with it.

And because Cooper was falling asleep on the couch by the time they left, I think he now understands the meaning of a sugar crash.

Coops made me this fantastic ornament:IMG_0799

And Avery made me this lovely pencil holder/vase:pencils
[both taken later with auto focus on so it doesn't
count in my three photos or less declaration :)]


And last but not least, we played a rousing game of Clue... which I hadn't played since I was little. A very expressive Miss Avery very thoroughly explained the rules, which may have taken longer than the game itself, but was just as entertaining. I just can't tell you how much I love that little family and how glad I am that my house is directly on their way back home... because those faces are ones that I really can't get enough of. Getting to see them is a holiday in and of itself.

Oh, and as for how the game went? I'm not saying who won or anything, but I'll give you a Clue ... it might have been me. :)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Santa Has Gone to the Dogs

Yes, it's a Christmas post... but I have a few things I haven't been able to catch you all up on.

Like the fact that Riley was not left out when it came to the gifts. My friend Kathy had dropped by with some Christmas treats (which I'm not ashamed to say I finished off like a pro) and a little treat for Riley, as well.


Does she know my dog or what?


Because I'm telling you, peeps... he has a tendency to switch between the modes of naughty and nice multiple times a day. Like the other day when I was on the phone with Linda talking about my grocery list and he walked up and PEED.ON.MY.SHOE.

Jealous much? Need a little attention? Yeah... rest assured that little move got him plenty of attention, it just may not have been exactly the kind he was looking for originally.


All of that naughty/nice bipolar behavior wore the little dude out.


And apparently Santa had been watching, because he brought Riley the most appropriate gift for his stocking. Trust me when I say that nothing screams Riley more than a shirt that says, "I Have Issues."

Thank God he's cute.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Flashback Friday: Life Goals Repost

So, today I'm doing a shorter-time-frame flashback. Back to one of the earlier posts of this blog. I thought this post would be fitting for a time when so many are making resolutions, planning out their year and looking ahead in their lives.

One of the best things I did a few years back was make a list of Life Goals for myself, and it pretty much has negated the need for resolutions since... so here it is again for you today:

Life Goals 
(originally post 6.23.2008)


Quite a few years ago I was working at TeleProfessional Magazine. I really loved everything about it. I loved the administrative and organizational parts of it. I loved getting to do interviews and write articles. I really loved the proof-reading, which my brother Steve once told me makes me the oddest person he knows. But to me, it was like getting to play every day.

I had goals back then, about what I wanted to do professionally and how I wanted my life to turn out. I have a friend who has a special kind of date night with her husband so they can talk about finances and personal goals for their family. And I think that is good and necessary and responsible... something more couples should probably do. Goals are just a necessary part of moving forward in life.

The way to look at goals changed for me when my doctor first approached me about applying for disability. Maybe approached is the wrong word. I was sitting in a hospital bed (one of the three times I was in the hospital that year) with my laptop open, typing up dictation from an interview I had done so I could write an article. I'm sure you can imagine the look on her face as I'm hooked up to an IV of antibiotics and a Demerol drip... working was not what she had in mind for me to be doing. Recovery was more important at the time, but I was still in the mode of fighting to maintain a life that had already changed. My mind just hadn't caught up to the reality of it yet.

I would say Annie (my doctor) looked surprised, but I think disapproving was more the word for it. How in the world did I expect to get better and fight off an infection when I was expending all my energy working? That was happening in that hospital room, but it was the pattern my life had been following for awhile... I would get sick or be in a pain flare, just start getting better and then resume life as normal. And that normal would wear me down and start the cycle all over again. When I finally applied for and was approved for disability, I had to figure out what my goals in life were now going to be. And eventually I came up with this:

    Life Goals:

  1. To not be ashamed to stand before God.
  2. To fulfill God's plan by living the best life I can with what I am given.
  3. To be aware and present in every moment.
  4. To love what I have and not yearn for what I lack.
  5. To spread the Joy, not the fear.
  6. To be intentional in all things.

So far, I haven't had a situation come up in my life that hasn't been covered by these goals. It's how I want people to remember me, the impression I want to leave on people I meet. They are lofty goals. They're not easy to reach every day. But they are what I was left with when I took away the idea of having a career, having a family, having financial security or some sort of status in society. I think it's something I had to look at, but it's something I should have been looking at all along.

So, that's my story of figuring out who I want to be. And if you are thinking about who you are, where you are going and how you want to be remembered, I recommend starting with number six... being intentional with your life. After that, most everything starts to fall into place.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I Will Hold You

I'm not a New Year's resolution girl. As a matter of fact, I'm not a New Year's girl at all.

I used to be... I'm a social person and loved to celebrate with the best of them... but a few years ago, when getting 'out and about' was replaced with 'in and alone' New Year's started feeling a lot different. There were two years in a row when I had pneumonia over the holiday, one of which I was in the hospital and another when I had home nursing come to me. Last year I held the pneumonia off until the end of January, but New Year's was still a no-go because of pain.

Now, there are lots of holidays I miss out on or things I can't go to... but this is the only holiday I used to dread. (And by 'used to' I mean before writing this tonight.) It's the time of year everyone looks back over the past and forward to the new year with hope and resolve. That doesn't work for me. Looking back to see how my health has declined isn't fun. Looking forward and imagining what might come is worse. And making resolutions and plans is simply setting myself up for failure. It just doesn't work for me.

Last year, I decided to participate in Ali Edwards' One Little Word challenge ... to pick a word that you would use as your touch point for the year. A word that you would come back to in order to keep yourself in focus and moving forward. I liked that a lot... the idea of centering myself without creating unrealistic expectations.

Kind of.

I chose a bit of a loaded word: Maintain. The idea was that I was not going to push myself too hard, not entertain the idea of travel, not push myself beyond limitations that I know will lead to more pain and probably illness. That was big for me because, in case you haven't noticed yet, I can be a little stubborn and a smidge anal retentive. And when I get stubborn or anal I push myself harder than I should.

Well, it was a great idea... but part of that maintaining had me assuming that if I behaved and did things as I should I would maintain my health... not get sicker... not have setbacks. See why it was a loaded word? Because I look back on the last year and I most certainly did not physically maintain.

But from another view, one that I didn't intend, I maintained very well. I maintained my spirit, my outlook, my intentions. I maintained this blog and established friendships and purpose and meaning. I maintained mentally and spiritually because I showed up every day and spoke my truth to all of you... which in turn spoke to myself in a way I hadn't realized I needed. So despite the physical stuff, I'm calling 2008 successful. Thanks to all of you.

This is a treasured Christmas gift I got from my friend Susie this year:IMG_0820
[for all of you asking for a recent photo of me... that's my hand. :) ]

I love it. I mean really love it. She said she got it for those times when things aren't good and she doesn't know what to do or say. I love it because it's something I can hold onto, something to ground me physically and remind me emotionally and spiritually that I'm never alone. I also love it because it represents something that I've been wanting to do more of... reading the Bible. You'd think after 12 years of Catholic schooling (which I loved and am grateful for) I would have done a lot of that. Now let me tell you, I can recite prayers like no one's business, but I can't recite scripture verses or call to mind stories or lessons from the Bible the way I'd like to.

Which is why my word for this coming year is going to be Devotion. I'm going to focus on being more devoted to studying and learning, and also staying focused on devotion to others. Devoted to all of you here, to people in my life who need encouragement or attention, devotion to others as a way to live out the gospels I'll be reading.

And, of course, I'll be devoted to taking photos like this one of the posing pooch:


What about all of you? Have you made resolutions? Are you choosing a word to keep yourself focused? Tell me how you see the new year shaping you...