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Therapeutic

I was a few minutes early for my appointment and took a seat in the waiting room area. A young man checking out stood at the counter with his back to me. I wondered what he was ‘in for’ and silently surveyed him to see if I could tell. When he turned, he gave me a knowing smile before leaving. As I have come to understand, there is a comradery among those seeking help. The receptionist smiled and told me she’d let my guy know I was waiting. I thanked her and watched as she disappeared down a hallway lined with original artwork. I closed my eyes and tried to relax some before my session; I could hear music from hidden speakers playing a familiar song. “Cold Play” I said aloud. I only know this song because it’s one of my daughter’s favorite. “The Scientist” I say to no one; and wonder if hearing it now, today, is coincidence or providence.
“Hi, are you ready?” my therapist stood before me.
I nodded and followed him to his office space. It was quiet and well lit. There was a desk, a chair and a lounging chair. I knew which one was meant for me and sat down shifting a bit to get comfortable and kicked my shoes off.
“I think I have everything I need.” He took a quick look at his notes and smiled. “The last time you were here, you were telling me about your daughter, how is she doing?”
“Wonderful, amazing; but she complained that the Christmas break was too short.” I watched as he turned to gather a few things from his desk.
He turned back to me, “Ready to start?” I nodded and he switched on his machine. “Now tell me why you are here again.”
“Well, it’s my girl, she has this smile that lights up a room when she enters and her eyes dance about impishly.” I leaned my head back and stared off. “She was Valedictorian of her high school class, received awards for National Honor Society, the President’s Award for Educational Excellence; oh, and The Davidson Fellows Scholarship for harvesting energy.”
“It sounds like she is doing great! So, what is your concern?” he paused writing and looked at me thoughtfully.
“Oh, she is; but it’s me.” my voice trailed off and I winced.
“You miss her.” It was a statement not a question, and he was right.
“I do. I am coping with the distance just fine, it’s just that there is this boy.”
“Humm” he nodded his head in understanding.
“Ok, don’t get me wrong, we didn’t expect her to be celibate or anything, we were just not ready for or expecting this.” A bit too much emphasis sent spittle flying. Thank goodness his head was down.
He paused, looking up at me thoughtfully, “We?” he questioned with a gentle smile.
“Ok, me.” I corrected myself. “I wasn’t ready”. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. He switched his machine off and waited patiently while I fidgeted.
“Need a break?” he asked kindly.
“No, I’m fine now, let’s continue.”
“Ok, where we left off.” he pointed and clicked on his machine.
“So, we… um… I wasn’t ready and I am really ashamed of how I reacted when she brought this boy to our home.” I sighed deeply.
“Does, ‘this boy’ have a name?” he asked.
“He does… “
“Then you should use it, that’s respectful.” he said in a matter of fact tone.
“David.” I think I spat again. “David.” I said once more in a softer, kinder tone.
He looked at me briefly before turning toward his desk. “Tell me about David.”
“He just showed up one day.”
“Like a stray cat?” he said this flatly, but it made me laugh. When he looked at me I swear I could see that same little imp I saw in my daughter, but perhaps I was just projecting.
“No, she told us she was going out with ‘friends’. That they were going to pick her up. We were ok with that, we know all her friends from high school – Sasha, Dina, Hixxy; I think he’s gay… “
“Does that matter?” he interrupted me.
“No, irrelevant I suppose.” I squirmed a bit. He kept hitting touchy spots. “We hear a car pull up and she squeals and goes flying out of the front door. My husband said, ‘what was that all about?’ so we went to the door and see her in the arms of this boy… “
“David?” he interrupted again.
“Yes, David, and we see her, them, in an embrace on the sidewalk!”
“Scandalous.” he said with a faint grin.
“Look” I said sharply, “We had no idea she was even interested in boys let alone seeing one. It was a shock!”
“A shock?” he stopped and straightened up. “Why would you be shocked? You describe your daughter as a beautiful, vivacious, smart and talented woman; certainly, she has emotions, desires and needs!”
“Whoa, whoa!” this time I interrupted him. “Who said anything about desires and needs?” I was starting to feel clammy.
“Want to take a break?” That’s what I loved about this guy, he knew when to push me just to the edge of my comfort zone and when to back off.
“No, let’s continue” I said taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly. “So, she told us she met David in class; they were both a part of a group project in physics.”
“Ok, he’s smart. And the problem is?” he pressed in some.
“Yes. He’s smart and funny and charming and goal oriented and she adores him…” I know that I sounded disappointed and I hoped that he didn’t pick up on it.
“And?”
The question hung in the air a bit too long so I blurted out, “He has tattoos. Tattoos all up and down his arms.” he visibly stiffened, our eyes locked and he looked pained. Now I was really uncomfortable, but then his face softened and he began to laugh.
“Do tell. And the problem with this is?”
I’m sure the question was rhetorical, but I answered anyway. “Me, I’m the problem. That’s why I’m here!” It felt good to say it, to own it. “My husband said basically the same thing. In fact, we had quite a heated discussion about the subject.”
“About you being judgmental?”
“Ouch!” I jumped a little as he hit another tender spot.
“Sorry, but I had to go there.” he said sweetly.
“I know.” I continued “It’s ok. So yes, my husband told me that I wasn’t giving David a chance; but you know, when you have kids.” I tried to defend myself. “You want the best for them. You want to save them from hurts and disappointments and… “
“Making mistakes?” he finished my sentence, then paused and looked at me. “Edison said that he didn’t make any mistakes when working to create the light bulb, he discovered 10,000 ways not to do it. Your daughter is discovering the ways that make her light shine brightly and you need to step back to give her room for this discovery; which will include some mistakes, but these will be a part of valuable research in her life.” He paused to let that sink in. “Ready to continue?”
I nodded.
“Did you happen to ask David why he chose to get tattoos?”
“I didn’t, but my husband did. David told him that they were ‘outward expressions of the things that were important to him’. He has one tattoo on his forearm of a paper with creases and a coffee stain. There are equations written all over the paper. He said that tattoo was for the time he spent all night cramming for an exam. One is the phases of the moon and another is of a beaker being heated over a Bunsen burner, it’s black and white except for the flame under the beaker, it’s blue. They really are very well done.”
“So, you can appreciate the art?” he asked, then adding, “Do you know who the artist is?”
“No, no I don’t.” I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “To be truthful, I’ve never considered tattoos ‘art’.”
“Narrow minds limit art to canvas.” he said this without malice.
“I am discovering this.” I smiled then continued, “Well, then I received an e-mail from my daughter with an attachment. It simply said, ‘Mom what do you think of this?’”
“What was attached?” he scooted his chair a bit closer.
“A sketch of eleven hearts each with letters in them. There were two rows, six in one row and five in the other and they were all connected.”
“Someone’s name perhaps?” he turned to look at his notes.
“No, the letters didn’t spell anything so I asked her in an e-mail reply, ‘What are you sharing with me?’ “
“Her reply?” he asked while writing.
“Her reply shocked me! ‘A tattoo I’m getting.’ I am sure I swore out loud. I mean, what was she thinking? I just knew that boy… “
“David.” he corrected me.
“Yes, David was going to influence her.” I realized that I was gritting my teeth and had to work to relax.
“Did you talk to her about it?” he reached for a paper from a stack on his desk.
“Not right away. I needed time to process all this and I wanted to talk with my husband about it.”
“Good move.” he mumbled and made additional reassuring noises.
“When she called on the weekend, I thanked her for sharing and asked her to explain the sketch and her thought process.” I stiffened and closed my eyes.
“And she said?” he prompted me.
“She said that it tells her story. The hearts represented love, and inside of the hearts were the symbols for eleven of the elements of the periodic table that were found in our bodies and this speaks to her love of science.”
“And where is she considering placing this tattoo?” he sounded intrigued.
“On the inside of her left bicep; and I quote, ‘On the heart meridian between the Highest Spring and the Cyan Spirit’.” I rolled my eyes for emphasis.
“She broke up with David.” he said, the corners of his mouth turned up and he shook his head knowingly.
“Yes, but according to her, they are still friends.” I rolled my eyes rolled again.
“And you are relieved.” he paused to look at me. “So please explain the transition in your perspective and why you are here?”
“I needed to understand and to be able to let go while still keeping her close.” I was getting very emotional.
“I’m sorry, but we are just about out of time.” He sat back and stretched; then looked at me thoughtfully, turning his head from one side to the other, his brows furrowed in contemplation. “We’ll wrap this up for today, but I think we will need one more session, in about four weeks?” he asked while reaching for one of the folded papers on his desk. They were soft and cool and felt good as he applied them. Then he gently rubbed ointment on my raw skin. “Want to see?” he smiled handing me a hand mirror.
There, on my chest, just to the left of my heart was the black and white image of my daughter. He had captured her 1000-watt smile and the sparkle in her eyes. Her hair was pulled back off her face into a loose bun and around her head was her signature pink bandana with a repeating pattern that was the exact replica of her tattoo; two rows of hearts connected and each displaying symbols of the periodic table. I allowed the emotions that had been building to escape and roll freely down my cheeks. I can’t wait to see my daughter when she comes home for Spring Break, I want to show her that I have been on a discovery of my own and how I’ve realized just how therapeutic art can be!

In Sickness and Health

Today, my husband Tom and I celebrate our wedding anniversary. Twenty-five years ago we made promises to each other pledging to honor and cherish one another come what may. And boy did it, sickness and health, riches and poverty, good times and bad; we’ve seen it all. Thinking about everything we’ve experienced through the years made me laugh and wonder if the vows we had taken should have been a little more down to earth, something like this:

“I take thee, as my lawfully wedded spouse and promise to love you through sleepless nights, and bouts with the stomach flu. While choosing curtains and hosting holiday dinners with my extended family. I will abide in faith, remaining respectfully silent while buying a home and making DIY repairs. I will find a way to cherish your opinion even during an election year.”

Of course when I looked up nuptial vows, I did not find anything as pragmatic as the aforementioned. However, what I did find made me tear up, because I realized what I had promised to accept in marriage, I could not accept in myself.

How many of us can stand before a mirror and say,

“I take you to be no other than yourself. Loving what I know of you, trusting what I do not yet know.

I take you, with all your faults and strengths; and I will offer you help when you are in need.

I will respect you and have faith in your love for me through all our years and in all that life may bring, in sickness and in health.”

I know that it is especially difficult for those of us with chronic illnesses to love ourselves, let alone accept that others can, and do love us despite our lingering issues. But, Dear Ones, if we promise to love ourselves the way we would vow to love our partner, we will be taking a step in the right direction!

Imperfect Perfection

Sometimes inspiration can be found in the oddest of places, and some days, at the most inconvenient of times.

The Vernal Equinox is quickly approaching and I am sitting in my craft room making flowers for a friend’s very special occasion. I pour over photo references for color, shape and size. In a word, I want these flowers to be perfect.

It’s nap time at the Double H Cat Ranch and all is quiet, a rare opportunity for productivity, however, something is nagging at me, something my very wise husband Tom said to me when I asked him his opinion on how to make these flowers stand out, how to make them realistic.

“Don’t make them perfect. In nature, things aren’t perfect.”

So simple, so profound, and yet complex in its execution. In essence, Tom was telling that I should take my perfectly shaped flower petals, the ones that I spent hours cutting out and shading; tear them, cut into them, and crumble them to make them look real.

Ludicrous!

Genius!

As I did this I watched the petals came alive in beauty and that’s when my productivity came to a screeching halt, the muse of creative writing thumped me on the back of the head and that’s when I heard a little voice screech say…

“Where is your pen, where is the paper, TAKE NOTES!”

I am not prone to easy distraction, I do not have ADD; although, I have become quiet adept at multitasking as physical limitations dictate. Quickly abondoning one activity in favor of another when my body ever so delicately SCREAMS at me to stop. However, when the muse of creative writing pops her lovely head in demanding a few minutes hours of my spare time, I drop everything thing and run to my tablet like a kitty who just heard the crunchy bowl being filled!

This my friends, was one of those times. In mid-cutting, the nap-time clock ticking loudly indicating that my window of peaceful opportunity was closing soon, I stopped flower production to share with you what I learned amid crepe paper, hot glue and flower tape.

Why in the name of all that is beautiful would I expect myself to be perfect when nature isn’t?

Flowers and trees are seiged by disease; insect infestations mar their leaves and petals. Tree trunks are bent and twisted from the storms they have bravely weathered. And yet, they stand, with their beautiful faces looking up into the radiance of the sun drinking in its warmth. Trusting in nature’s timing, the coming Spring that brings more light to each day, showers to cleanse and nourish; a rebirth of imperfection in its most perfect form.

Dear Ones, take a step in the right direction. Follow nature’s example, embrace your beauty, even in what society may deem imperfection.

My love to you all!

Musical Chairs

michelle nicole photography

I live my life in increments. Twenty minutes here, thirty minutes there. Flitting about from one activity to another with all the frenetic energy of a room full of children surrounding a single chair waiting for the music to stop, only to pop up again with a squeal at the sound of a new melody.

I do not have ADD, or ADHD; although at times, I’m sure it appears as such. I have chronic pain stemming from nerve damage and many, many surgeries to stabilize my spine from birth defects that affect my ability to sit or stand for prolonged periods of time. There are however, days, where one would never know my constant struggle to maintain some semblance of normalcy. On the surface, I appear to be your average middle aged wife, mother, grandmother, and stay at home cat mom. A deeper look though, would reveal a string of incomplete projects.

Journals filled with unfinished blog posts and a book manuscript, waiting for brain fog to lift. Boxes of patterns and fabric in need of hours at the cutting table and sewing machine, anticipating the day they are transformed into fashion statements or beautiful costumes. Flower petals cut from paper awaiting for permission to “bloom” and be placed into unique bouquets. Tasks abandoned as a matter of priority, like chairs pulled aside with each new round of music. Every day, a new melody, every day the need to assess my level of pain and energy to prioritize what I need to do verses what I want to do.

Recently, I apologized to my husband for a nap, something becoming more of a routine than a thing of spontaneity. He was very kind and understanding stating that he knows I’m “not normal”. I bristled at his sweet statement, but deep inside, I know he is right. That day, I chose my “chair” carefully; I attend a fitness class to stretch and strengthen muscles. It took every bit of energy I had and once the music stopped, I found the nearest BarcaLounger, plopping into it, welcoming as many cats as would fit to join me!

It has become quite a process; but through patient practice I am achieving balance, allowing myself the freedom to choose which chair I want and learning the cues that my music is about to stop.

Angels Among Us

Angels. The Bible tells us they are created beings who have a definite hierarchy and hold very important jobs in heaven. Some believe that we are issued winged guardians on the day of our birth, provided to guide and protect us throughout our lives; others say when our loved ones pass on they become angels, still others speculate that angels are actually aliens. There are many beliefs about these beings, and despite our varied speculations, I feel that we can all concur that there are times in our lives when we encounter someone who breeches the realm of coincidence; someone who reiterates, almost verbatim, our most private meditations and makes us wonder if we have just had an encounter with an angel incarnate.

My husband Tom and I were sitting in the lab waiting for my name to be called for blood work when a gregarious man of color entered the lab and greeted the receptionist, in French.

“Comment allez-vous?”  (How are you all?)

The receptionist smiled politely, asked him to sign in and have a seat, which he did one chair down from Tom and me. I tried to ask his name with my limited knowledge of French and realized immediately that I used the incorrect verbiage; but in retrospect, perhaps not.

“Qui est-ce que c’est?”  (Who is it?)

The man did not answer me but began to tell us how he had learned French in high school while living in West Africa. I heard his accent now and had to lean over Tom to hear as he exclaimed what a glorious day it was, a day to be grateful for all things. 

“Just to open your eyes is a gift. Each day we may face challenges, but God didn’t say it would be a bed of roses. He said he would bear with us, help us. If God, who created me, is helping me how can I do better than that?”  The hair on my arms was standing up and I was listening intently.

I am facing a new challenge. I was in the lab for additional blood work after my ANA (anti-nuclear antibody) was positive, an indication of an autoimmune disease, specifically, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. I was having a difficult time praying about this, words it seemed, escaped me. The most I could utter (after an expletive) was “Seriously?!” and “Just whatever!”

“We need to do more than just attend church, we must read the Bible, allow it to become part of us or we become a part of the world and sin.”

Since moving to North Carolina five months ago, Tom and I have been attending Sunday services at a local church faithfully and have participated in other church events; but I have not been diligent about reading the scriptures and have been wondering if just attending church was enough to sustain me. Goose flesh crawled up my spine, I could see Tom was getting uncomfortable too, but this man had my attention.

He must have noticed Tom fidgeting. “I am sorry to sound preachy, but I must share!”His face lit into a huge smile.

In an attempt to change the subject, Tom asked if he had family. “I have a wife and 2 children; a son who is 26 living in Baltimore, doing very well for himself and a 16 year old daughter.”  My spine was tingling now! Tom and I were both born and raised in Baltimore; huh, what a coincidence? 

Then he pulled out his cell phone. “My daughter and my wife like Facebook. I sent this to them today.” he began reading his post to us. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions, fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

I was almost in tears. You see, that very morning as I was getting ready for my appointment, I was quietly signing the old hymn, Great is they Faithfulness, written by Thomas Chisholm and inspired by the scripture our new friend had just shared with us. 

Again our friend reiterated, “I must share because you do not know who you will meet and how they might need encouragement… “

I stopped him in mid-sentence, “I know why you had to share. You were sent here, to this place today, just for me, for us.”

Now HE was leaning in across the open chair, his smile broad and eyes shimmering.“Tell me!” he said with enthusiasm.

“I’m here for blood work because I have… “

“Some health challenges.” Tom interrupted. At that, the phlebotomist called my name. We rose, and the man with us. “Janet Hartlove”, I extended my hand introducing myself.

“I am called Antony.”  He shook my hand. “God bless you!”  He may have stated his last name, but I don’t recall, and I’m not sure that it mattered. The message he had delivered was received loud and clear. No matter what the blood work revealed, I was going to be ok, because God is faithful, each and every day!

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father

There is no shadow of turning with Thee

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not

As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be…

Great is Thy faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me…

The Road to Discovery

michelle nicole photography

 

Hello friends. It is I, the long-lost author of The Write Direction, she who has been, for some months, directionless. My apologies for the HUGE gap in communication. These past few months that I have wandered in wordless abandon were not without incident or powerful life lessons worthy of sharing. Many times, I had thoughts of this blog and felt pangs of remorse for not remaining communicative; but my thoughts were so fleeting I could barely see them as they passed let alone catch them in my paper ‘blogger-fly net’. I wondered if my time for sharing had come to an abrupt end when, quite unexpectedly, it happened. I awoke one morning and my paper ‘net’ was FULL to overflowing with words. Beautiful, rich and poignant, they cascaded out spilling into my journal and onto my keyboard. It was as the Heavens opened up and rained down gloriously on a hot summer’s day leaving puddles for me to splash in. Of course, I pulled off my sneakers and ran right in, despite mountains of empty boxes and packing tape that called to me from disheveled rooms. That right folks, we are moving; nearly 500 miles south and it has been this new adventure that allowed me to discover what happened to my words!

Tom, our three Maine Coon cats and I will be going to a small town just on the outskirts of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In keeping with the small town living we have grown to love over the last ten years in Pennsylvania, we will be living near Main Street dotted with an eclectic mix of shops. A place where time seems to move slower and the tea is a bit sweeter. It should come to you as no surprise that as moving day approaches and we dive deeper into purging and packing, I have been too busy for the laisse-faire existence of our Maine Coon house mates or anything in the creative realm. I have not made jam, I have not baked, save for the gluten free, dairy free, soy free bread we eat for breakfast each morning; I have not sewn a single stitch and I have not touched one sheet of card stock. So, it was just about when the first onslaught of verbal rain hit me, that I realized…

My creativity is like a one lane road

Yup, it appears that my brain has assimilated to country living as well, preferring to meander down winding, tree lined back roads than travel multi-lane interstates! Simply put, I cannot do two things at once. When I am in the throes of a sewing or paper project where creative ideas are using the cerebral HOV lane, my words are content to wait on the one lane bridge for the mama duck and her ducklings to slowly pass to the other side. Can anyone out there testify? Let me hear you say AMEN!

So, with this new understanding of how my brain works, I feel relieved knowing that I have not lost my ability to express creativity through written word and I understand to an even greater degree how important balance is in my life. Until we meet again on the WWW, may you all continue to travel in the right direction, be it on a bucolic back road or a major interstate.

 

 

Star Gazing

 

michelle nicole photography

Star Gazing

“When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you”

I remember the day I wished for my heart’s desire clearly, although it was over 25 years ago. I was exhausted and frustrated from trying to work full time and care for three young children when I uttered the seemingly benign words…

I wish…

I wasn’t laying in a field of clover on a dreamy moonlit night, staring up at the heavens searching for a shooting star to wish upon, I was sitting at the kitchen counter in my parent’s home sipping coffee and whining talking to my mother.
“Mom, I need a break. I’m so tired. I wish I didn’t have to work, I don’t like to send the kids to day care, all I want to do is be home with them.”
What I wanted was sympathy and a little coddling; what I received was sage words spoken from a wise woman.

“Watch what you pray for child.”

My mother said this without malice, but her words stung like the tears welling in my eyes. I was hyper- sensitive, feeling over worked, under paid and unappreciated. Little did I know that at that very moment, my stars were aligning; the countdown had begun and production of my heart’s desire had commenced. To my knowledge, no genies had been present nor had a magic lamp been rubbed when I uttered those two little words; yet somehow my insignificant comment had made it to the Wish Fulfillment Center landing squarely upon the desk of Fate; who was no doubt, a new hire.

“If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do”

My whiny weekend rant long forgotten, I forged on at my job as a payroll administrator day after day, trying to maintain a healthy balance between work, motherhood and social life. I was four months into a relationship and looking forward to beginning a new chapter in this area of my life with the most wonderful man I had ever met. I awoke each morning with joyous anticipation, excited for new adventures. Adventure: an expression my buddy Noah Webster defines as, “an exciting or very unusual experience”. Little did I know that exciting and unusual would turn out to be a bit of an understatement so it would seem, as my genie, Fate, had a different understanding of the concept. Apparently Fate, obviously encouraged by her colleagues, used the highly scientific process called Chance when placed before the virtual whiteboard containing adventurous wish scenario selections. I am convinced this procedure was akin to spinning a blind folded child on a tilt-a-whirl then placing a stick in her hand as she teeters below a dangling piñata.

“Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
their secret longing”

Much to my surprise, no more than two weeks after I had expressed my secret longing, it came to fruition. Technically, my wish had been granted, but apparently there was a breakdown in communication at the fulfillment center, as in, this isn’t what I was expecting. I was indeed provided an opportunity to stay home with my children, but my sabbatical from employment was presented to me in the form of an extensive spinal surgery. My parting gift? Shinny titanium pieces, 60 of them, all neatly wrapped in disability papers and tied with a Demerol bow.

“Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true”*

Perhaps Fate and I could have dialogue a little when she received my request; maybe teased out a few if/then scenarios or even ask me that all important question, “Are you sure this is your heart’s desire?” before those words ever came out of my mouth. But, alas, this is not how wishes work my friends; as so often our wishes often are born from malcontent. Staring out at life through our ISO solar viewers, the grass on the other side of the fence is infinitely greener, the cows on the pasture are thinner, in better shape and produce sweeter, more nutritious milk, the farms are newer and more extravagant; far better than anything on our run down, god-forsaken parcel of dirt. However, if we just take a moment to sit down with Fate and see our lives from her perspective, I imagine we would promptly write her a thank you note. For what you may ask, a life of chronic pain and disability? Oh yes, this and much more…
That guy I was seeing, the most wonderful man I had ever met? Well, even though I tried to push him away to spare him a life of heartache with a disabled woman; he wouldn’t leave because “he loved me for more than my legs”, providing the unconditional love I had always dreamed of. He became my husband and is a wonderful, compassionate, partner; the experiences we’ve endured together through 17 surgeries have brought us to a level of trust and intimacy I pray every couple can know. I was able to be home with my children at a time when ‘latch key kids’ were en vogue, even adding another to our brood. They are loving, generous adults with great respect for the disabled and have blessed us with 4 grandchildren. As I journeyed through these years of pain and illness I have had the opportunity to learn much about the human body and how to cope with chronic health issues; information that I gladly offer to others I meet who journey this path as well. I have had the exciting experience of self-publishing the journal that I kept through the implantation of a Dorsal Column Stimulator to share with chronic pain patients that are candidates to help prepare them for the experience. Oh, and of course I have had the distinct privilege of sharing my continued anecdotes with all of you here on the WWW via The Write Direction.

Fast forward 26 years…  Fate and I have found a way to live harmoniously. I awake each morning grateful to be; be alive, be walking, and I have promised to abstain from uttering rash wishes for anything, because you see, I have found the secret longing of my heart; contentment in any situation!

*Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Walt Disney

In Lieu of Flowers

My suitcase was packed except for a few toiletries and what I would be wearing on the plane in the morning; leaving Arizona would be bittersweet. I had traveled to our daughter’s home to help her after acute pain in her abdomen led to emergency surgery. Her husband, children and even her cats had welcomed me with open arms from the moment I walked through the door, with everyday life flowing smoothly around and including me as if I had always been there, living with them.

Now my visit was coming to an end. The doctor had released our daughter from care to resume normal activities and my assistance was no longer needed. My help may not have been needed, but the family demonstrated with loving words and gestures that my presence was wanted, making the departure that much more difficult. Even the kitty seemed to be saying, Don’t leave Mayam, when he brought me a parting gift…

… the tail of a lizard, recently detached and still writhing.

I thanked Hunter, so aptly named; profusely and with as much gratitude as one can muster while carrying a still warm, severed lizard tail back outside. With Hunter in tow, I tried to find the owner of said tail to return it, but having come up short, (pun intended), I laid the gift on a paver stone and once again thanked my benefactor.

Back inside the house, I sat down at the kitchen table and started to cry. I really missed my husband and our three fur babies; I wanted to get back home to them, but I didn’t want to leave my daughter’s home and her wonderful family, especially since I didn’t know when we would be able to see each other again. Then a very random thought occurred to me…

I wonder if this is what it’s like when we approach that time in life when we need to depart.

I allowed my mind to wander to that place where conversations on the topic are avoided or held in very hushed tones and only when the discussion is absolutely necessary. Once again, I was there at the bedside of my family member who was about to depart on their one-way trip to Glory, a posture I have been in too many times. That place where we hold frail hands, whisper loving sentiments and all the things we had been meaning to say but never did. A place where grief and guilt collide fusing into anguished prayers for more time together. I wondered if my loved ones had bittersweet feelings about departing, reluctant to leave their kith and kin on this plane, but excited to see those that had gone on to the next plane years before and were deeply missed.

Hunter sauntered inside from the patio, sans lizard tail, and plopped down at my feet; this time offering his soft white belly as a gift. As I pet him I thought about how we so often express our love and sympathy with the traditional arrangement or spray of flowers; beautiful upon receipt but whose fairness fades with time. Of course, like most customs started centuries ago that we continue to practice, the original purpose was established for practicality; simply put, fragrant flowers mask the odor of decomposition. Of course with innovation and the advancement of technology over the years, we no longer need floral arrangements, and it has become acceptable to request donations to organizations near and dear to the deceased in lieu of flowers, which led me to wonder…

… why NOT lizard tails?

Does the gift really matter, be it flowers, a memorial donation or a casserole; isn’t the message the same?

You mean a lot to me, I’m thinking of you, I hurt too, but I’m here for you!

Can you imagine how corporate America would have capitalized on the marketing campaigns for giving gifts of lizard tails instead of flowers? There would most likely be Lizard Growing Farms and Lizard Shops; cute adobe buildings housing warm rooms artfully decorated with rocks displaying various varieties of lizard’s tails to choose for your loved one. There would be silk and plastic lizard tails for those who preferred not to destroy Mother Nature’s handy work. Advertising firms would create catchy slogans like:

Getting sick Skinks! Wish them well with a beautiful tails.

February 14th is Valentine’s Day, Iguana wait to the last minute? Gecko going, quantities limited.

Designs by Liz

It’s been three months since I left Arizona and now I am in Florida at the behest of my sister-in-law. My brother had a heart attack, required by-pass surgery and I am here to be of assistance. As we sit in their living room, a lizard skittered by sending my brother’s wife flying off the couch to catch it and put it outside. He had been in her room the previous night, no doubt to let her know that he was there to comfort her and tuck her in. I smiled at the coincidence and knew right then and there how I wanted my obituary to read when the good Lord sees fit to call me home:

In Lieu of Flowers, Please Bring Lizard Tails

El Mejor Regalo

Foto de Clark & Company

Fueron cinco días antes de Navidad

Y en toda la casa,

Nuestros tres gatos estaban dispersos, cazando un ratón de catnip.

Corbin persiguió a sus hermanas lejos y cerca,

Sin saber que en unos días

PATAS SANDY

Pronto estaría aquí!

Sus medias estaban colgadas en algún lugar alto de una pared,

¡Y para evitar las cuentas no deseadas del veterinario, no tenemos ningún árbol en absoluto!

Como me siento con mi pluma tratando de escribir, no una galleta se hornea ni se envuelven envueltos,

Mientras que las visiones del sueño acenan, “Ven acá un sueño, toma una siesta!”

Entonces, de repente, desde el segundo piso, se levantó tal alarido,

¡Yo quería levantarme, pero no tenía energía para ver qué era el asunto!

Para entre el tiempo frío y la actividad adicional de la alegría del día de fiesta,

Un Fibromyalgia Flare estaba muy cerca!

“Hay cosas que hacer, la Navidad estará aquí en ningún momento!”,

Me levanto de mi silla con un gemido y un gemido,

¡En Corbin, en Cleo, en Lady Jade!

Hay cajas para envolver, las comidas deben hacerse!

¡Vaya la fatiga, vaya Cerebro Mushy, POR FAVOR PARE EL DOLOR!

¡Los invitados están pronto para llamar, ahora se alejan, se alejan, DASH AWAY ALL! “

Así comienza otra fiesta con Dolor Crónico y Fibromialgia. Mientras me siento en medio de montones de papel de envolver, telas de colores y arcos, me pregunté cómo en el mundo iba a estar presente para todas las próximas festividades. Era justo entonces que recibí la foto de arriba de mi hermano Rick, un Santa de carne y hueso, que me ayudó a entender que los mejores regalos que podemos dar no vienen envueltos en paquetes bonitos. Su presencia junto a la cama de un paciente en el piso de cáncer pediátrico me recordó que hay muchos que sufren de enfermedades crónicas que pueden no ser capaces de asistir a fiestas o incluso ser el hogar de regalos abiertos apilados bajo un árbol bellamente decorado. A través de su amor y compasión Rick me demostró vívidamente que el mejor regalo que tengo que dar es el don de mí mismo.

Después de muchas lágrimas y mucha contemplación, les presento las siguientes estrategias que me parecieron que funcionarán para mí, y comparto la esperanza de que quizá otros puedan recoger algunas cosas útiles para futuras celebraciones, ya que en este sexto día de 2017, Rápido lejos el viejo año ha pasado ‘, fa fa la la la la, la la LA!

Estoy eligiendo estar PRESENTE en el momento. En un día y la edad cuando la tecnología nos permite vivir en vivo, video chat y enviar fotos de todo al toque de un dedo, estoy eligiendo para disfrutar el tiempo que tenemos con la familia y amigos, así que no pierdas un momento mientras intenta Para capturarlo.

Me permitiré PRESENTAR a otros la oportunidad de ayudarme. No soy la Mujer Maravilla o incluso un facsímil razonable de ello, a pesar de todas mis piezas Cyborg y partes. Soy un mero mortal con dolor crónico y no es razonable para mí esperar que yo pueda hacer todo yo mismo. Yo pediré humildemente, y recibiré ayuda de otros para que yo pueda disfrutar más plenamente de las celebraciones a mano.

Voy a ser UNA PRESENCIA en la habitación. No soy muy bueno acerca de estar sentado y participar en la conversación social. No es que me sienta incómodo en una multitud o se comunique con otros, es que me siento incómodo sentado durante largos períodos de tiempo; Y la razón, si necesito hacer estallar para arriba debido a una articulación del dolor, yo podría también hacer algo mientras que estoy para arriba. En retrospectiva, he encontrado esto muy grosero a nuestros huéspedes que vinieron a visitar con nosotros, no sólo Tom.

Acepto que en mi PRESENTE FORMA, hay mucho sobre la vida que está fuera de mi control. Sin embargo, hay; Algunas cosas que puedo controlar, como la cantidad de fatiga y estrés que experimento. Amigos; Es fácil quedar atrapado en el merchandising de ocasiones especiales, gastando tiempo y energía preciosa para encontrar ese regalo perfecto y / o crear una comida deliciosa. He encontrado una manera de equilibrar mejor mi descanso y actividad es mediante la compra de regalos especiales durante todo el año en lugar de en uno o dos días largos y agotadores. También he encontrado útil para preparar platos o productos horneados antes de las celebraciones y congelarlos. Por último, y lo más difícil para mí para aceptar, es el intercambio o renuncia (GASP!) El trabajo de acogida. Sé que el comercio en mi delantal de una invitación sería el aliviador de la tensión definitiva y el tiempo libre para mí para ayudar a mi hermano, Santa, repartir regalos!

¿Alguna vez pensó en darle el regalo a otros? Hay muchas organizaciones como la que mi hermano, Santa, ofrece su tiempo. Hope Matters se encuentra en Fort Walton Beach, FL y trabaja para “crear un cambio de paradigma en la forma en que niños y adultos experimentan viajes dolorosos”. * Si se trata de cáncer, Alzheimer, dolor crónico u otras enfermedades crónicas y debilitantes, la gente necesita el regalo De su presencia en sus vidas. ¿No estás seguro por dónde empezar? Tome un paso en la dirección correcta, póngase en contacto con su cámara de comercio local o echa un vistazo a la búsqueda de voluntarios ubicada en: https://www.volunteermatch.org/search

* Maryann Makekau, Hope Matters

The Greatest Gift

photo by Clark & Company

 

It was five days before Christmas

And all through the house,

Our three cats were scattered, hunting a catnip mouse.

Corbin chased his sisters far and near,

Unaware that in a few days

SANDY PAWS

Would soon be here!

Their stockings were hung somewhere high on a wall,

And to avoid unwanted vet bills, we have no tree at all!

As I sit with my pen trying to write, not a cookie is baked nor are presents wrapped,

While visions of sleep beckon, “Come hither sleepy one, take a nap!”

Then suddenly from the second floor there rose such a clatter,

I wanted to rise, but had no energy to see what was the matter!

For between the cold weather and extra activity of holiday cheer,

A Fibromyalgia Flare was quite near!

“There are things to do, Christmas will be here in no time!”,

I rise from my chair with a groan and a whine,

“On Corbin, On Cleo, On Lady Jade!

There are boxes to wrap, meals need to be made!

Go Fatigue, Go Mushy Brain, PLEASE STOP PAIN!

Guests are soon to call, now dash away, dash away, DASH AWAY ALL!”

            So begins another holiday with Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia. As I sit amid  mounds of wrapping paper, colored tissue and bows, I wondered how in the world I was going to remain present for all the upcoming festivities. It was just about then that I received the above photo from my brother Rick, a flesh and blood Santa, who helped me to understand that the best gifts we can give do not come wrapped in pretty packages. His presence beside the bed of a patient on the pediatric cancer floor reminded me that there are many suffering from chronic illnesses that may not be able to attend holiday parties or even be home to open gifts piled under a beautifully decorated tree. Through his love and compassion Rick demonstrated vividly to me,  that the best gift I have to give, is the gift of myself.

After many tears and much contemplation, I present to you the following strategies that I felt would work for me, and I share in the hopes that perhaps others may glean some helpful tidbits for future celebrations, seeing that on this sixth day of 2017, ‘fast away the old year has passed’, fa la la la la, la la LA!

I am choosing to BE PRESENT in the moment. In a day and age when technology enables us to live stream, video chat and send photos of everything at the swipe of a finger, I am choosing to enjoy the time we have with family and friends so I don’t miss a moment while trying to capture it.

I am going to be A PRESENCE in the room. I am not very good about sitting still and participating in social conversation. It’s not that I am uncomfortable in a crowd or communicating with others, it’s that I am uncomfortable sitting for long periods of time; and I reason, if I need to pop up because of a joint of pain, I might as well do something while I’m up. In retrospect, I have found this to be very rude to our guests who came to visit with US, not just Tom.

I will allow myself TO PRESENT to others the opportunity to help me. I’m not Wonder Woman or even a reasonable facsimile thereof, despite all of my Cyborg pieces and  parts. I am a mere mortal with chronic pain and it is unreasonable for me to expect that I can do everything myself. I will humbly ask for, and receive assistance from others so that I can more fully enjoy the celebrations at hand.

I will accept that in my PRESENT FORM, there is much about life that is out of my control. There are however; some things that I can control, like the amount of fatigue and stress I experience. Friends; it’s easy to get caught up in the merchandising of special occasions, spending time and precious energy to find that perfect gift and/or create a delicious meal. I have found one way to better balance my rest and activity is by shopping for special gifts throughout the year instead of in one or two long and exhausting days. I’ve also found it helpful to prepare dishes or baked goods prior to celebrations and freeze them. Lastly, and the most difficult thing for me to accept, is the sharing of or relinquishing (GASP!) the job of host. I know that trading in my apron for an invitation would be the ultimate stress reliever and free up time for me to help my brother, Santa, hand out presents!

Ever considered giving the gift your time to others?  There are many organizations like the one where my brother, Santa, volunteers his time. Hope Matters is located in Fort Walton Beach, FL and works to “create a paradigm shift in the way children and adults experience painful journeys.”* Whether dealing with cancer, Alzheimer’s, chronic pain or other chronic and debilitating illnesses, people need the gift of your presence in their lives. Not sure where to start? Take a step in the right direction, contact your local chamber of commerce or check out Volunteer Search located at: https://www.volunteermatch.org/search

*Maryann Makekau, Hope Matters

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