Hey Mom, I’m Just Like You!

My mom and I share a common trait. It is refer to as white coat syndrome. This is when you go to the doctor and the people in white coats, which really doesn’t exist anymore, takes your blood pressure and everyone get concerned because you are a few seconds away from a stroke or perhaps even your death.

Last week I had a follow-up appointment to make sure my pneumonia was all gone. I had put this off since there isn’t any sign it’s still around. However, I did have soreness by my rib cage and I wanted someone else to tell me that I had bruised a rib during one of the thousand coughing spells I lived through and that it wasn’t something more serious. The soreness had grown to a pain over the past few days and was poking me in the side, which prompted me to make the appointment.

After arriving 10 minutes early, filling out minimal paperwork, I sat down to wait for my name. Breathe, I kept repeating to myself. Relax. The door opened and I was invited to enter. Once through the open door I was directed to the scale which clearly said being sick the months of November and December had taken it’s toll.

“You can sit here,” she instructed.

“It’s going to be high,” I instructed. “It always is when you take it.”

She put the cuff on and the air began to fill. The machine stopped as if taking another breath and kept going. The pressure was enormous and I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head.

“Is it going to stop?” she said quietly. I laughed, closing my eyelids to hold them in.

It finally did and I waited as the pressure slowly released. “Wow.” she said.

“How high it is?” I asked.

“200 / 100,” she replied.

“Wow! It’s never been that high.” I think 200 / 100 is close to death… glad I lived!

Five minutes later she took it again and it had dropped, not to the You’re one healthy chick! level, but it did drop.

“I’ll take it again after you see the doctor,” she said. I was a little concerned they wouldn’t let me leave until it was safe.

The doctor entered, pulled over a small cart and spread my file out. He check my heart, my lungs and all was well. Then he felt my ribs. “You’ve injured them,” he confirmed. “It will take a while to heal.” I nodded and smiled.

“Your blood pressure is high,” he said.

“It’s really high!” I said “But it does that in the office.” I explained that I have had times where I had been borderline but with diet and exercise I had brought it down to safe levels. “I’d like to try again before you put me on medication.”

“Make an appointment in 6 weeks,” he instructed in his doctorly tone. “Take your blood pressure 3 times a day and record it.”

“I will I promised.” Three times, I thought, I’ve never had to take it three times.

Just before I left, they checked one more time, it had dropped again.

I left defeated. “I’ve been here before, why am I here again. When am I going to figure out the importance of diet and exercise. I fell asleep dreading the next day and starting yet another time, a diet.

In the morning the light had made a difference, as it usually does. This is the first time in my life that I don’t have to change my lifestyle cause it’s too stressful! I thought. I’ve eliminated all of that and I think I’ve learn to keep it at bay. This is now a new lifestyle that I will have until I die. (I’m planning on 40 more fun filled years!)

Fast forward one week. Right eating, daily exercise and all readings are well within the safe zone and going down.

I’ve had a few reminders and discoveries since that doctors appointment.

Two weeks prior Jeff and I were reading about one of our favorite actresses who had lost 100+ pounds. She simply said, “There is no magic pill. You have to eat right and walk more.”

I was reminded that one week prior I had asked God to help me with diet since I couldn’t seem to find the key. He always answers pray and sometimes (most of the time) it’s in very creative and humorous ways.

The soreness in my ribs that forced me to the doctor in the first place almost vanished the next day. If we listen, our bodies find ways to get our attention when something is wrong. For me it was as if it was poking me in the side, telling me to make an appointment. Not that my rib was an issue but it brought me to a place that shined a light on a real problem.

What so amazes me is that well before I knew there was an issue, the solution was making it’s self know. I love how life works when we listen.

Eating right and daily exercising is no long something I have to remember to do, it’s what I do. It’s not because my life is stressful. It’s not because I’m not disciplined. It’s simply because my Mom, who turns 90 this year, and I share a few common traits…

 

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Feb Release

 

Streams

I’ve been thinking (and talking) a lot about inner tubes in the past few months. It’s an image that we use in the book Living Unstuck and it’s an image that has etched itself into my brain.

The idea of living life as if we are resting on an inner tube and gently floating through life is a great image but what does it really represent? What is the inner tube and where do I find the stream? This is the very discussion I had with myself last weekend.

These are the answers that my smarter-self had to offer:

The inner tube is our life. The image I have is a large, oversized, black inner tube.  It’s an inner tube for one, such as our lives are. We interact, get connected, we get involved, but at the end of the day, we have been given, are responsible for, and live ONE life.

The stream is the current we choose to propel our inner tubes. There are a million streams! There are streams named anger, jealousy, and resentment. I think these streams carry a lot of sickness and disease and when we choose to float down them we are at risk of contamination. There are streams known as, self-doubt, insecurity, and self-centeredness.  There are streams of instant gratification, striving for success, and prosperity. If you can think it, there’s a stream for it.

We are all currently floating down a stream in our inner tubes of life. We can try and pass the blame onto someone else for putting us in our stream, but if we are honest, we are all in the stream of our own choosing.

I don’t know about you but these words have suddenly messed up the lovely image I had in my head a few moments ago of an oversized black inner tube allowing the current to take me through life.

So what can we do when life suddenly sweeps us away and we find ourselves in a stream of yuckiness?

That’s easy! We simply stand up, pick up our tube, and go back to the gentle stream. We set our tube in the cool water and careful get on board. We breathe deeply as we release the yuckiness we’ve carried with us and  once again begin to learn to trust the stream.

The more I think about life as an inner tube, the more I fall in love with the idea of it.

 

Feb Release

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Sand Dollars

There is a large glass vase that sits on my fireplace. It has the words Lest You Forget etched into it. It’s meant to be a marker, a way of remembering.

We need markers in our life to help us remember. As young parents we forget what it was like to be a kid. As parents of teens we forget the stupid stuff we did that taught us life lessons. As mature adults we forget the mistakes made that allowed us to become mature adults.

When we first moved to California, I spent a lot of time collecting sand dollars, seventy to be exact. They weren’t just any sand dollars, they had to be perfect; no cracks or missing backs. I brought them home, wash them and let them bleach in the sun. Then, I carefully laid them in the jar. This jar and its 70 perfect sand dollars was a marker to me of life prior to California.

Two Fridays ago I had an nagging feeling all day that I had forgotten something. It wasn’t until evening when it dawned on me that exactly ten years ago on that day, I had flown into San Luis Obispo, CA for the first time. A decade, my mind immediately began recalling all that had happened in those ten years.

It wasn’t an easy decade by any stretch of the imagination. There was an enormous amount of change, health issues, loss of career, financial loss, and family tragedy. The images that filled my head were not of celebration but of pain. And then suddenly, there was the image of a large glass vase filled with sand dollars and it no longer marked life prior to California, rather our first decade here.

The next day we packed a small cooler, a shovel, and a large glass vase filled with dusty sand dollars and Jeff and I headed to the beach.

We parked and Jeff took the shovel and began digging a hole while I retrieved the cooler and poured two glasses of wine. When both tasks were complete, I pick up the glass vase and held it for a moment as if placing all the sadness I had been reminded of into it. I then carefully tipped it over and seventy, once perfect, sand dollars spilled out.

As the last of the dollars landed I couldn’t help but notice the perfect, white, brilliant ones that now laid on top of the pile. “And there it is,” I thought. “That’s the full circle.” Surrounded by faded, dusty and broken sand dollars were beautiful white perfect ones, so breathtaking that I had to stop myself from retrieving them.

I had been remembering the loss and had forgotten that it was only because of the loss that life is now more amazing and wonderful than I could have ever imagined…and I have a big imagination.

Jeff covered the hole and we toasted to the past, to lessons learned, and to all that lay ahead of us in 2018 and beyond.

…There is a large glass vase that sits on my fireplace. It has the words, Lest You Forget etched into it. It’s meant to be a marker, a way of remembering…it’s waiting to be filled.

 

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Living Unstuck; finding your joy!

Feeling or Fact

I heard him say, “I just can’t forgive myself. I feel so guilty…”

I’ve heard others say this very thing but on that day his words hit me in an odd way. What would cause someone to not accept forgiveness? Why would anyone want to hold on to the past that badly?

“I feel guilty…” I played it over and over. Then it dawned on me, maybe guilt isn’t an emotion. Maybe it’s just a simple fact.

There are two reason why we feel guilty. The first is that we are super sensitive, insecure, and feel like everything that goes wrong in the world, in our lives, and in the lives the people around us must be our fault. We have caused all the evil, bad luck, and devastation in the world and are resigned to carrying the guilt and responsibility until the day we die. To those I simply ask, “How’s that working for you?”

The second reason we feel guilty is that we are. We did something – that cause something – thus we are guilty. In this case, guilt isn’t an emotion, it’s a fact. We are guilty!

This should not be alarming to anyone since we are all guilty of something. Even God says we are all guilty. So why do we pretend we aren’t? Why do we prefer making this fact into a feeling and carry it through life with us?

Once we flip the switch from feeling guilty to admitting that our guilt as a fact, we are free to accept forgiveness. Whether that’s God’s forgiveness, the forgiveness of another, or forgiving ourselves. It can only be accepted when we admit we were wrong.

Guilt is a fact, not a feeling.

I’m quite sure a jury never came to the conclusion that the defendant felt guilty.

 

 

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Three Little Words

As 2016 came to an end, I contemplated what adventures were awaiting the arrival of 2017. I like making resolutions, but last year I simplified it to three words: Books, Trips, Easy.

As I’ve begun thinking about my words for 2018, I decided to look back and evaluate my 2017 results.

Books. YES! it was a good year for books!

  • I got to meet wonderful, creative, new authors
  • The Plan, my favorite title, was re-worked and re-released
  • The Retail Ladder was recorded and is available on Audible
  • Ready for print is “Living Unstuck” my first collaboration.

All in all – Books was good!

Trips…

  • Wisconsin in the February. Visited my mother who had a very bad bout with the flu. There’s ice and snow, wind and freezing rain in Wisconsin in the February. No one has ever written a lovely song about it as they have of other places.
  • Wisconsin in ‘later’ Spring. Visited my mother who was recovering from the flu and moving into assistant living. There’s ice and snow, wind and freezing rain in Wisconsin in ‘later’ Spring. Still no songs being written about it.
  • Denver in the Summer. Drove to LA, flew to Denver, met the grandkids at the airport, flew back to LAX and drove 3.5 hours back home…all in one day.
  • Las Vegas in the Summer. Drove to Las Vegas to return grandkids and returned to LA in an adventurous 16 hours.
  • Chicago at Christmas. Three nights on Michigan Avenue enjoying the lights of the city; Wicked, jazz clubs, Hot Spiced Rum, pneumonia and a funeral.

Lesson: I must learn to be more specific with my words!

Easy… Easy is my new way of life.

Easy was a success!

What three little words will define 2018?

I’m still thinking about them, redefining them. The first is rock solid, the other two need to be evaluated. I’m considering adding an adverb or two. After all, my 2017 Trips may have been different if I had said, “Vacations”.

 

Tubing Through Life

Every been tubing? It was a favorite summer activity as a teen. We’d drive to the middle of nowhere, pay our fee and climb on an old school bus painted hunter green. With a strong enough imagination, you could pretend you were traveling with the Partridge Family. The bus would transport us up a winding road, hugging close to the edge of the river. In tow was a trailer filled with big black inner tubes.

When we arrived to our destination, the bus quickly emptied and its passengers made our way to the river bank. At the same time, the bus driver made his way to the trailer and with the pull of the end of a single rope, giant inner tubes donut rolled down the incline and landed in the water.

In a blink, Partridge Family bus guests forgot they were on tour and dove into the water to catch an inner tube before it floated off.

Once captured, the next challenge was mounting the black rubber vessel. Some would fling it over their heads and allow it to settle at their waist. The next challenge was figuring out how to get their legs up through hole.

Other’s would do the daring backwards leap in hopes their butts would land dead center. Seventy-five percent of the time both human and tube would capsize, throwing the human in the water and the tube in the air.

The preferred method was to belly flop on top of the tube and once balanced, roll over allowing gravity to pull our butts through the hole. Once securely settled in, our feet were free to kick the air, arms were wrapped around the warm rubber tire, head leaned back resting on tube, allowing the current to take us down the river.

No matter how one mounted the tube, once safely on board the river did the rest of the work. For the next few hours, the river was in control and there was no doubt it would take us to the where we needed to go.

In the past year I’ve experienced moments in life that felt like I was still tubing. Moments where things fell into place, strangers I needed to meet crossed my path, opportunities bumped into me and all the while I was just floating along on my inner tube trusting the river. It felt easy. It felt amazing. It felt right.

Those moments have turned into a preferred way of life. A life filled with anticipation to see who I’ll bump into, or what adventure will find me around the next bend. But nothing really needs to happen because floating peacefully down stream, safely tucked away in my big black warm inner tube, is pleasure enough.

There are a few secrets to tubing through life: the first is learning to trust the River. Call it whatever you’d like, Universe, Source, Light, my preference is God; you’ll never begin floating until you begin trusting that the River will take you to where you need to be.

The second is to stay in your own tube and don’t invite anyone to ride along – you’ll likely capsize. The third is to let go of anything that would keep you anchored, bound, tied or tethered, you can’t hold on and move at the same time.

Jumping into the river can be scary. Mounting your tube can be challenging. But once you’ve figured it out, floating down the River is a blast and you’ll never want to live any other way.

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Here’s the thing…

In early August, Jeff and I booked reservations to travel to Chicago on December 6th. It would be the second of our newly established annual Christmas on Michigan Ave get-a-way.

On November 9th I caught a bug which was diagnosed a week later as pneumonia. A week on antibiotics and I still had no energy and a cough that wouldn’t end.

The pneumonia made us rethink our trip agenda, simplifying to allow for a lot of rest time.

A week before our trip, Jeff booked a room close to LAX for the night before our scheduled departure in order to keep our travel days manageable.

We loaded up the car Tuesday morning and headed south to LA. As we neared Santa Barbara the haze over the ocean turned to smoke and we began to see the plumes billowing up from a wild fire still 30 minutes away.

“This probably isn’t good for me,” I said though a series of coughs and quickly covered my face with my sweater making a custom face mask. Jeff took the hanky he always has in his back pocket and did the same.

As we drove further south we were surprised by the lightness of the traffic as we sailed through a stretch of highway that is usually at a stand still. The sky grew darker and sun turned red, it reflected orange sparkles off the water.

When we passed the area that had been ablaze during the night, the sky became brown and black as new fires erupted. After we passed the view in the mirror resembled the severity of a mid-west tornado.

Then the winds hit. The 40 to 60 gusts that were predicted were now a reality. Palm trees swaying, sand and dust blowing across the highway. The ocean looked angry as if it was being churned up from below. Large pockets of mist and salt air circled over the top like a giant caldron.

Jeff was holding tightly to the stirring wheel as we felt the force of the winds. The road wound around the coast line forcing us in and out of the blowing sand, gusting winds and ocean spray. Rounding a bend we both saw the wall of brown heading toward us, as it hit the sound of stone, shells, and sand bounced across the hood of the car, slamming full force into the windshield, and sliding across the roof. There was silence for a second and then round two repeated the performance.

A man on a bike was stopped on the side of the road trying to protect his face from the on slot of nature.

We rounded two more bends and the sky began to lighted. The sun displayed hints of yellow once again. Reflecting off the windsheild we saw the new dents, cracks and divits the sand storm had created. Ten miles down the coast we again saw the ocean mist turning to smoke as another fire had broken out and the high winds carried the smoke over the ocean waters.

Pulling into the beautiful beach town of Manhatten Beach we were both tired and ready to breath fresh air. Lunch and a walk on the pier calmed the nerves but the smoke had irritated the annoying cough that had lingered the past four weeks.

Ready to settle in for the evening we made our way to the hotel, out quiet night was beginning at 4:00.  A short time later we settled into a corner table in the bar. We talked about life and about relationships. I coughed and sipped on a hot toddy.

The next morning we woke to the lights of LA and the layer of smoke that blanketed the hills. It appeared that there was new plumes of smoke billowing up just east of the HOLLYWOOD sign.

I turned on the local new for updates from the fire we had driven through the day before. There were now six fires burning across the LA area, schools were closed and highways shut down.

Then it hit me, if Jeff had not persisted in making Tuesday nights reservations, we would have never made it to the airport this morning.

So, here’s the thing – this is the God I believe in.

He’s not wizard and we aren’t chess pieces on his chess board.                                      He isn’t a God that stops all bad things from happening.                                                         He is a God that promises to walk with us.                                                                            He is a God that has promised he knows what’s ahead and he’s made a straight path for us.                                                                                                                                                                  He does this by gently calling.
He quietly directs.
He offers ideas, inspirations, opportunities.

He impresses on a husbands heart to make a reservation that will allow his wife, recovering from pneumonia, to have a more enjoyable trip. A week later, it is the only way to get them to the airport due to out-of-control raging wildfires.

This trip that was planned three months ago will take us a few short hours away from our family who has experienced a great loss this week. I’m not suggesting for a moment that this tragedy was predestined. But what I will confess with confidence is when we learn to listen to God’s quiet nudging, life flows in ways that gently carries us through the best and the worst of times and gets us to where we need to be even when we are unaware we need to be there.

 

Layers and Layers and Layers

In the past few weeks it’s been made very apparent to me that I’ve created a bit of a nightmare. It started by cracking the door open just a tad and suddenly I realized it was taking all my strength to keep this monster contained.

The monster is made up of all the extra responsibilities I’ve taken on over my lifetime. It’s all that STUFF we do that we don’t really want to do, or things we do because no one else will, or because we feel guilty. Perhaps it’s because we can do it way better and faster than anyone else. Those things.

Now, I find myself not wanting to do most of them anymore! But it’s not that easy to stop. I know people are expecting me to simply continue to do those things. Yo!

All this STUFF feels like a zillion layers of clothing that I’ve put on and now it’s just heavy and hot under the weight of it all.

I had thought that maybe I needed to stand up, throw off all the layers of clothing  and proclaim that “I’m done!” But that could create a few ripple effects and possibly even a tidal wave or two. I also considered packing my bags and leaving, except I like where I live and for the most part, I like my life. I don’t want to start over.

I was contemplating how could I possible be free from this mess I had so willingly created over my lifetime when the image of a naked toddler popped into my head. You know, 18 months old, totally naked and making his escape from bath time. Running through the house as fast as his chubby little legs could take him, butt cheeks flapping, arms waving in the air and a giggle of freedom that makes you laugh just thinking about it.

“Oh, God, how do I get from here to there? How do I get out from under all these layers?”

One layer at a time…

Yep, just one layer at a time. One situation at a time. One new discovery at a time until I’ve removed all the extra layers and find myself to just me, doing the things I enjoy.

I don’t have plans to run around naked but I would be delighted to sashay through the remainder of my life in a sundress, wide brimmed hat and a shawl – just in case it gets cool. I’d like a refreshing beverage in my hand and every time an opportunity presents itself, I’ll straighten my dress, adjust my hat, take a long cool sip and respond, “I don’t want to do that… but thanks for thinking of me.”

6.2.1.glasses

I just recently realized what the saying, Six to one, half-a-dozen to another means. All my life I thought it referred to a mathematical equation – like a ratio.

6 is to 1 like 1/2 of 12 is to another; another equalling X, thus 6:1 = 6:X.

The equation made sense but what was mind boggling was how this equation trickled down into our everyday vocabulary, especially when it came to ordering donuts.

You can imagine my surprise as Jeff and I were driving past Big Tire and I realized that perhaps this mathematical theory was simply referring to the number 6 and the different ways it can be described.

It’s like the Glass half-empty or half-full saying. I love half-full people and I hope the half-empty people will someday see life differently. But if it weren’t for the half-empty people, the half-full people wouldn’t have so many opportunities.

I wish the world was divided into these two groups; half-empty, half-full. But I know it’s not.

I feel sad for the Why isn’t anyone filling up my glass people.

And there’s always the Where did I put my glass? folks.

We’ve all met the I believe that’s my glass person.

In our house we have someone who puts all the glasses in the dishwasher before we’re done with them so we become Where’d my glass go? people.

There seems to be a rule that there’s always a no one gave me a glass guest at every party.

And the precise, did you wash that glass? ones.

There’s the patient I’m waiting for the perfect glass who have a difficult time with the I’ll drink out of anything people.

Then there’s my favorite, Do you have a pitcher?

Half-full, half-empty – it’s kinda like 6 to 1, half-a-dozen to another!

All My Friends…

She claims she doesn’t remember saying it. But she did. I remember the moment. We were sitting in her unfurnished new home and every word we spoke echoed through the open space bouncing off the walls back to us. It was like sitting inside a really bad stereo.

She was making something to drink and the words rolled off her tongue and changed me forever.

“All my friends are strong women…”

I can’t tell you what she had said prior, I may not have been really listening. I have no idea what followed because those six words clogged my ears and brain.

What does that mean? I asked myself.

We finished our time together, said good-bye, and I crawled up in my jeep.

“All my friends are strong women,” I said as I turned the key in the ignition. “I have no idea what that means – but I think I should!”

I repeated this bold statement to family members at dinner. They seemed unaffected by it and all agreed with it.

“What do you mean it makes sense!” I shouted in my head. “You can choose your friends?” Now my words hit me just as hard as her had a few hours earlier. “I can choose my friends! Why didn’t anyone ever tell me?!?!”

A few days later we were at dinner with friends and I was still contemplating this idea.  I repeated the story; “…and she said, ‘All my friends are strong women.’ I don’t know what that means.” I confessed. “But I sure want to!”

I sensed I had comrades across the table. Our friends looked at each other and I recognized their expression. I had the same the moment I heard it said.

“Did you know that?” I asked. “You can choose your friends! Go figure? You don’t have to have a relationship with everyone you meet!”

I now repeated this proclamation every day (and several times though out.) The idea that I have the power to choose who I let into my life, who I invest my time and energy in, and who I intend to build strong relationships with has rocked my world to a new level. It seems silly, even childish, but it’s not.

It’s giving me a measuring stick and a way to evaluate my relationships. It’s given me a new standard to live from. It’s given me a new appreciation for those I call friend.

What’s also just a little weird…(I’m lowering my voice in case someone else is listening)…since I’ve been making this proclamation…I’ve met several strong, interesting, intelligent people and it feels as if we are already old friends.