Friday, August 18, 2017

Stick With True Friends

We can have all types of friends, yes, but pay special attention to those who are true friends.  To me, true friends are those who:

  • celebrate milestones.  Of course, any friend may react positively to your good news, but the closest of your friends will get in there and celebrate your news with you.  You can tell the difference between heartfelt congratulations and the halfhearted variety.
  • call, text, email or visit often.  If you are on her speed dial, stick with her.  If you hear from him daily, weekly, at regular intervals relatively close together, or when you're sick and she just has to bring you over her homemade chicken soup to comfort you, hang onto that friend.  That person cares.  You may not even be especially close to her.  You may not be able to tell your deepest, darkest secrets to her.  You may even feel a bit intimidated by him at times.  But if he's there for you, if he cares, pay attention to him.  In these times of crazy busy lifestyles when friendships are dissolving due to lack of time, these types of friends are worth their weight in gold.  
  • are inquisitive.  I'm not talking about a busy body who doesn't know how to mind her own business.  I'm talking about the friend who is truly interested to know what's going on in your life.  She wants to know the details of the trip you went on or the book you're reading.  She wants to know how you managed to pick the career, child's name, the book, the vacation, the clothes you love so much, or what your childhood was like.  Did you have a treehouse?  Did you grow up in an apartment, mansion, orphanage, farmhouse?  He wants to know why you feel, think and act the way you do.  She wants to know what makes you tick.  She's curious.  These friends are awesome!
  • open-minded.  These friends take you as you are, 110%!  They love you no matter what your house looks like, what you look like, how you dress, who you voted for, what kind of car you drive, what your sexual orientation is, what your beliefs, values, and opinions are, where you come from, how much money you make, or anything else.  They are in your corner, without question.
  • spontaneous.  Okay, it's not necessarily that great to have friends knocking at your door at 7 AM wanting to chat or inviting you on a road trip THAT VERY SECOND.  But, it can be energizing and heartwarming to answer the door and find your best friend standing there with a wide smile ready to hug you, or just to say hi and see how you're doing.  They may invite you to lunch, they may just stay a minute, but you're better for it.  It perks you up.  
I am lucky enough to have these types of friends.  They are the ones who are there for me no matter what.  I can turn to them for help, a chat, anything, anytime.  They make me smile.  It's comforting to know I have such special friends in my life.  

How about you?   Do you have these types of friends?  How have they enhanced your life?  If not, that's okay.  Everyone has a different view of friendship, and what they need as far as friendships in their day to day lives.  I'd love your input on this.  Thanks.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Message to Parents: Encourage Independence

Hi all!  I hope you're having a good week.  Today's vlog is on coddling.  My message to parents--and other family members--is to avoid coddling your children with chronic health issues and special needs.  Let them grow, learn, explore, make friends, and be independent.  It will help your child develop into a strong, confident adult.  Of course, you need to do this according to your child's abilities and needs, but each child should be encouraged to be as independent as possible.  Do you tend to be protective of your children, whether they have health issues or not, or do you let them explore their world?  I'd love to hear your take on this issue.  

Monday, August 14, 2017

Listen: To Break Down Barriers and Avoid Conflict

Listening is such an important skill.  Do you feel that people really listen to you?  Do they hear what you say?  Do they pay attention?  Or do they busy themselves with projects and everyday tasks and insist that they are still "listening?"  Or, do they flat out ignore you as you talk?  Same goes for you.  Do you really, truly listen to people when they are talking to you?  Do you engage in conversation?  Or is your mind wandering all over the place, thinking of the laundry building up at home, the report that's due tomorrow, the doctor's appointment on Wednesday, the friend you promised you'd make time in your schedule to meet with this week, or how you're ever going to fit in everything you have to do today?  

No, you don't have to get right up into someone's face like this cow gets right up close to the camera, but it is important to listen closely to others.    It can make or break friendships and business deals.  It can make the difference between a person really feeling heard and giving up on life.  It can help those who are mourning the loss of a loved one work through their thoughts and emotions in order to heal.  Mindlessly nodding and periodically mumbling, "uhuh," won't do.

Listen up!  Listening is a skill that many of us don't have or hone, but it is key to successful relationships, both personal and professional.

Breaking Down Barriers

If you experience barriers to work, shopping, activities, friendships, or other facets of life, think about how you can knock those barriers down.  Is it due to chronic health issues, race, social status, religious or political views, or something else?  Get to the heart of it.  How could you make a positive change, or at least begin the process?  Here are some ideas:

  • Arrange a meeting with a prospective employer to discuss concerns regarding accessibility, abilities, reliance, sick time, and so on.
  • Ask for a family conference so you can all air your concerns, good news, bad news, and discuss and resolve any conflicts before they blow out of proportion.
  • Attend a board meeting to voice your concern over accessibility problems at various businesses around town.
  • Speak at local organizations about chronic health issues and special needs to raise awareness and answer questions.  
  • Approach one person at school, work, or in the community, smile, say hi, and break the ice.  Start a conversation about, well, anything, and, over time, open up about yourself and encourage the other person to do the same.  You may build a lasting friendship that means the world to you. 
  • Really listen to that friend who is going through chemo or a divorce.  Sometimes that's all a person really needs.  They don't need your coddling, your answers, your sympathies.  They need your undivided attention in order to vent about the BS that is happening their lives.  Give it to them.
  • Take notes while a person is talking while maintaining eye contact as much as possible.  The note-taking will help prevent the urge to interrupt the person while they are talking in order to say something before you forget it.
  • Switch off your cell phone while having a conversation someone else.  If you're having lunch with a friend, be there for that friend.  Eliminate the temptation to answer the phone whenever it rings.  
By listening to others, we can open minds, ease tension, clarify positions, promote understanding--we can break down barriers.    

Avoid Conflict

Avoiding conflict has a lot to do with effective listening as well.  Consider the political and religious conflicts of late.  People are giving up friendships, not talking to family, firing employees, beating and killing people over differing political and religious beliefs. Those beliefs run deep, of course, but there is absolutely no reason for people to do such awful things to each other in the name of politics and religion.  My advice is to calm down, grow up, and listen to each other.  Converse.  Communicate.  Respect.  Listen!  

Magical things can happen when you get together with people you don't understand or agree with, and:

  • really talk 
  • really listen
  • use non-threatening speech
  • avoid blame
  • show respect for the other by being silent while they are speaking
  • reflect the other person's emotions
  • rephrase what they say so they know you are listening
You come to realize that, yeah, maybe you don't agree on certain political issues, but you do agree on others.  Same goes for religion.  And, you may also discover that you are both huge fans of the same band or author or movie, love to travel, enjoy woodworking, love classic cars, participated in theater at the same college years earlier, share the same birthdate, went to the same high school, lived in the same far off place thirty years ago, both worked on a kibbutz, or are obsessed with Pokemon.  You never know.  Once the listening starts, all that conflict begins to be resolved, the stress eases up, and other more positive likenesses come shining through.  

Are you a good listener?  If not, use some of the tips above to improve your listening skills.  Do you have any other tips to add to the ones included here?  Feel free to leave them in the comments.  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Practice Self-Acceptance

Self-acceptance is very important.  I didn't realize how much so until I was an adult.  I had never accepted myself fully throughout childhood.  I had never fully accepted my life with spina bifida and the health issues that came with it.  I got good at self-care, but that didn't mean I had made my peace with it.  I hated it.  I was very self-conscious, shy, and insecure.  I didn't appreciate the fact that being unique was a good thing.  I didn't appreciate my talents and strengths. 


So, how can you practice self-acceptance, you may be asking.  Here are some of the ways:

  • Avoid judging or criticizing yourself.  Be as good as you can be.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Don't beat yourself up about it.  
  • Be your own friend.  Remember that your friends wouldn't say hurtful things to you, so neither should you.
  • Accept your body as it is.  This doesn't mean to let yourself go, but to accept what is, and not freak out or punish yourself for not being "perfect." Flaws are inevitable.  Work on improving yourself over time without judgment. 
  • Live a healthy lifestyle.  Eat properly, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep.  Your body knows what it needs.  Listen to it.
  • Do what makes you laugh.  Do what makes your heart sing.  Wear what you want.  Wear your hair the way you want.  Be your best self.  Be someone you'd love to hang out with, because, let's face it, you are who you hang out with ALL the time.
  • Make a point to challenge feelings of self-blame, -doubt, and -shame.  
  • Celebrate your strengths, talents, abilities, and uniqueness.
  • Take notice of the types of people you hang out with.  Are these healthy relationships?  Are these people good to you?  Do they have your back?  Or are they always finding fault or trying to drag you into activities you don't feel comfortable doing?
  • Surround yourself with positive people.  Get yourself a strong support system you can rely on.  Stick with people who believe in you.
  • Forgive yourself.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Mourn those mistakes and move on.
  • Tell that inner critic to hit the road.  It doesn't serve you in the least to listen to that negative voice.  It's not wise.  It's not protecting you.  It's only helping to kill your self-acceptance.  Ditch it.
  • Let go of those things; those circumstances you can't control and concentrate on those that you can control.
Do you do any of these things?  I do, yes.  Some.  Do you accept yourself as you are?  Yes, I do, now, I'm happy to say.  Of course, everyone has their off days, but make a point to practice self-acceptance every day and you'll find it easier as time passes.  

Can you think of anything else that I've missed?  Let me know in the comments.  Have a great weekend!  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Fitness and Chronic Health Issues

Hi!  I hope you're having a great Wednesday.  Today's vlog focuses on fitness and chronic health issues.  I discuss how to get started, the importance of talking with your doctor or medical team before starting a fitness program, and how to advance your fitness program to get better results.  I hope you find this video helpful.  Exercise is so important to our well-being.  Whether you use a chair, walking aids, or you walk without aid, there are exercises you can do to get and keep fit.  I'm a former certified personal trainer.  I gave up my certification recently, but I still know a thing or two about fitness.  So if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.  If I can't help you, I can refer you to other professionals who might be able to answer your questions for thoroughly.  Good luck with your fitness program and have fun!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Take Time to Let Loose and Have Fun

I was on Facebook Live this afternoon.  My phone isn't keeping a charge, so I'm coming to you from Facebook Live.  Here's the link to my Facebook page.  Scoot down to today's post (August 7, 2017) and check it out.  It's all about letting loose and having fun.  Let me know what you think.   Thanks.

Start Where You Are Now

Do you feel stuck?  Do you wonder what career you should pursue?  Do you want to make friends but you're unsure how to go about it?  Have you experienced a major life change and you just don't know how to restart your life?  

Years ago, I read "Three Feet From Gold," by Sharon L. Lechter and Greg S. Reid.  In it, they talked about combining what you love with what you're good at to be more successful.  That concept has stayed with me ever since.  I truly believe that if you do what you love and combine it with what you're good at, you will succeed at whatever you set out to do.  

Try it.

  1. Start where you are right now.  Really feel, hear, touch, taste, and see your surroundings.  Be present. What do you experience?  What makes you want to change?  What things would you like to change regarding your current situation?  
  2.  Take a notebook or open a new document on your IPad or similar device, and make two columns.  Label the first column, "What I Love."  
  3. Ask yourself what you love or love to do.  What brings you joy, excitement, satisfaction?  List them all in this first column--as many as come to mind.
  4. Label the second column, "What I'm Good At."  
  5. Ask yourself what you are good at.  What skills, knowledge, abilities do you have?  List everything you can think of in the second column.
  6. Compare the two lists.  What do you see?  Can you combine one or two items from each column to make a career, find friends, restart your life?  For example, say you love to teach and you're good at playing the piano.  Could you possibly combine the two and give piano lessons?  Or, you love animals and you're good at organizing.  Could you volunteer to be on the board of the local animal shelter and help organize fundraising events as a way to potentially meet new people and make friends?
  7. Once you've picked at least one item from each list, start thinking how you can make this new venture a reality.
  8. Make a new list.  What tools do you already have?  
  9. And another.  What tools do you need?
  10. And another.  What potential roadblocks could you come upon to keep you from following through?
  11. Another list.  Who could help you conquer these roadblocks and accomplish what you set out to do?
  12. What timeframe will you give yourself to accomplish this goal of a new career, new friends, new lifestyle--whatever new endeavor you chose?
  13. Another list.  What three things will you do in the next week to kickstart this new venture?
  14. And one more.  What will you do to celebrate little victories along the way, and that big victory when your goal is accomplished?

So, what do you think?  Is this exercise something you're willing to try to get yourself unstuck?  If you do try it, please let me know how it turns out.  I'd love to hear about your journey.   

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

First Impressions in Friendship

Today's vlog is about first impressions.  Do first impressions dictate if you'll give a friendship a chance?  Do you know right away if you click with someone?  I'm usually good at knowing right away if a person is friend material or not.  My first impressions are generally correct.  If I don't like someone from the get-go, they usually end up being jerks long-term.  If we connect immediately, they usually are friends for years.  Let me know how first impressions regarding friends usually work for you.  Take care.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Do You Talk to People in the Elevator?

Happy first day of August!  I can't believe August is here already.  It's crazy how time passes by so quickly.  

Today's vlog topic is elevator talk.  Do you talk to people when riding in an elevator?  Do you think there's no point because you'll be on there too briefly to really get into a conversation?  Do you feel awkward talking with people you don't know?  In the video, I give examples of several conversation starters to use the next time you're in an elevator.  That exchange could lead to a solid friendship, or you may never see the person again.  But the time to connect and converse any chance you get, wherever you may be.  It opens up our world.  It can perk our day up.  Give it a try and let me know what happens.  Take care.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The True Secret of Happiness

There are many books on the market on the subject of happiness:  where it comes from;  how to get it; how to keep it; how to cope when it seems elusive.  I've read many of these books, and they truly have been helpful and interesting to me.  But I think William Morris has the best advice of all as stated in the quote I've included here to the left.

Taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.  That's what's important.  Being real.  Having an honest-to-goodness interest in your life, moment to moment.  Marveling at them.  Appreciating them.  Savoring them.  

It's easy to think that your life is mundane if you are constantly looking at it as compared to that of celebrities or friends who have more affluent lifestyles.  But consider looking at your life as if through a microscope instead.  Take every aspect of your life and think of the simple things that make it so awesome.

I've mentioned the Circle of Individual Perspective exercise before.  Draw a circle and divide it into six sections.  Next, label each section as follows:  Career, Relationships, Financial, Health, Spiritual, Well-being.  Now, rate your happiness in each of the six areas of life from 1 (very unsatisfied) to 10 (very satisfied).  Finally, draw a line across each pie slice approximately at the point that represents your satisfaction.  For example, If you rated your health a "5," you would draw a line across the midpoint of that slice.  If you rated your financial situation an "8," you would draw a line across that pie slice close to the edge of the circle.  This exercise is also sometimes called "The Wheel of Life," because, once those lines are connected, you can see how bumpy your life is compared to one in which each segment is quite equally satisfying.  Once you see that wheel, you can devise strategies and action plans to smooth things out and get each section closer to "10."  

Now, back to those "details."  

Career:  What is most satisfying about your career?  Who at the office makes you smile whenever you see him/her?  What simple ritual do you look forward to taking part in each day at work?

Relationships:  What little things do you love about your family and friends?  Who can you be alone with in a room, not talking or doing anything together, but feel totally comfortable with?  Do you have a sweet memory that pops into your head as soon as you think of a specific friend?  Do you have someone in your life that you can be silly with and it's totally okay?  Do you have someone in your life who totally "gets" you?  Do you have that special person in your life that you want to tell everything to as soon as it happens?  Do you have a special bond with someone who just makes you smile whenever you think of him?  Do you have a person in your life who you absolutely love to do thoughtful things for--pick up a colleague's favorite coffee on the way to work, write a love note to your spouse before you leave for work in the morning, or stop by an elderly neighbor's house to read to or play cards with her?  Do you have simple traditions that you look forward to participating in when you get together with certain friends and family?

Financial:  What are you thankful for regarding money?  What inexpensive activity do you love to do--maybe something you did as a child and still find joy in?  Do you feel secure money-wise?  If you are financially secure, what is one frugal thing you still do to save money?  Do you have simple saving tips you learned from your parents or friends that you still use?  Do you keep a jar for change in the house somewhere and look forward to seeing how much you've saved by the end of the year?  Every little bit helps.  (Side note: Jim is a genius at finding loose change.  He has funded a significant portion of our vacations with found money at various times over the years.  Tip:  look in coin returns at store checkouts and in vending machines (and on top of them), on the ground, on the floor, under seats and seat cushions, etc.  He never swipes money he personally sees people drop, however.  He picks it up and returns it.) 

Health:  Are you thankful for your good health?  Are you thankful for the health professionals who offer kind, encouraging words in times of illness?  Do you find something funny to laugh at even when you're in the hospital?  What tips have you picked up over the years that have helped you maintain good health?  What simple health-related rituals do you enjoy practicing?  What are some tricks that you have picked up to make fitness fun?  Do you have simple, healthy recipes that you enjoy preparing on a regular basis?  Do you have favorite go-to places for deals on healthy foods and exercise equipment?  Do you relish taking advantage of a 10-minute window of time to dance around your living room or go for a quick walk?  

Spiritual:  What simple things bring you peace?  What symbols of goodness and faith make you smile when you see them?  What beliefs bring you comfort during hard times and joy during good times?  Where is your favorite place to contemplate, meditate, or think?  Do you find peace in visiting the resting place of a loved one who has passed on?  Do you believe in guardian angels?  Do you find joy in doing simple acts of kindness for others?  Do you find it natural to be an honest person?  Do you feel comforted by the belief that spiritual entities/beings/higher powers are looking out for you?  Are you living your life purposefully?

Well-being:  Do you feel thankful for your life as it is right now?  Do you generally feel happy?  Do you wake up every morning, excited to start the day and see what it has to offer?   Do you find that your life is pretty much stress-free, or that you can handle the stressful situations you encounter in a healthy way?  Are you generally in a good mood?  Do you feel as if you are contributing to society in a positive way?  

These are just some questions you may want to ask yourself about different facets of your life.  I'm sure you can think of others that pertain to your life specifically.  The important thing is to ask yourself, "Am I happy?"   and "What is happiness to me?"  Then, live your life each day as close to your values and beliefs--your true self--as possible to help facilitate a feeling of true happiness.

What is your take on the topic of happiness?  Do you think it comes from the inside or the outside, or a little bit of both?  


Friday, July 28, 2017

I'm Tired: Dealing With Health Issues

Walking through the sprinklers in the park.
This has been quite a week.  It started out amazingly.  I got up early on Monday morning and got a ton of stuff done--personal stuff and business stuff.  I had every intention of keeping this productive, motivatiing trend going all week.  


Monday night, I started bleeding.  I won't go into the gory details, but it was more than a teensy bit of blood.  And it wouldn't stop.  I am usually pretty calm when it comes to medical stuff; health-related stuff.  I've lived in the medical world my entire life.  Most things don't freak me out.

Except blood.  And especially, bleeding that doesn't stop.

Even Jim was like, um, you need to go to the InstaCare, and he is usually the "wait and see what happens" type.  

I get to the InstaCare at the hospital and explain what's happening.  A doctor is consulted.  It's a 3-hour wait, and they aren't even sure they can handle my situation.  So, we decide that I should go to the ER.  I'm asked if I would like someone to wheel me over there in a wheelchair.

Um, no thank you.  I can walk.

Okay, we get to the ER.  They've been briefed by InstaCare already and are waiting for me.  I'm led to a room where they take my vitals, ask what's up, and review my meds.  Then, I'm told to wait in the waiting room.  Although the wait isn't extraordinarily long, it's long enough for the stupid bleeding to stop.

Sure, yes, that's a good thing.  But it means that I basically went there for nothing.  If I had waited at home for 15 minutes, it would have probably stopped.  But when it comes to blood, I act first and ask questions later.

I left the ER after about two hours with instructions on what to do if the bleeding started up again--wait 15 minutes, if the bleeding hasn't stopped, contact the doctor or return to the ER-- and a referral to a surgeon to look further into the matter.  

I was a nervous freakin' wreck!  We didn't get home until close to midnight.  I was exhausted but didn't sleep well because I was wondering if I would wake up in a pool of blood.  Luckily, Jim stayed home from work most of Tuesday to keep an eye on me.  I did not want to be alone.  Jim only left for a couple of hours leaving me with strict instructions to stay put in bed until he got back.  I did have more bleeding that day, so I was glad he was home during that time.  

But that was it.  Negligible bleedling since then.  That doesn't mean I didn't spend the week worrying.  I'm good at worrying.  

What a waste of the week!  It really ticked me off that, after such a productive start, I was screwed the rest of the week because of this stupid bleeding that turned out to be nothing.

Great, it was nothing.  But I am so sick and tired of having one thing after another come up to mess with my productivity, my progress, my work, living my freakin' life!   This year I have been battling lots of health issues:  shoulder and knee injuries coming back to haunt me, foot issues, one cold after another, sleep issues, a kidney function scare (that turned out fine, too, by the way)--enough already.

I'm tired of being me.  I'm tired of doctors, tests, sicknesses, having trouble with mobility because of this stupid knee pain, being told to exercise and then having the knee hurt even worse afterwards, having trouble losing weight because I can't freakin' move without pain,  having trouble losing weight because I am resorting to comfort food eating because I'm frustrated about not being able to move and lose weight.  Get the picture?  Not a happy camper, here.

All this has led to me being down lately.  Actually, feeling down a lot this year so far.  But this week it hit me especially hard.  

But I have a pretty awesome support unit.  I found comfort in talking with friends, rather than chowing down on junk food, ironically.  (Finally, junk food didn't come into the picture.  I haven't had any all week!)  And, walking.  It has provided some much-needed stress relief.  The other night Jim and I went for a walk through the sprinklers in the park.  Something gave just then.  Something clicked.  I was suddenly in a playful mood.  I love those friends and I love those sprinklers.    

What helps you get through the tough times when health issues just about drive you crazy or send you reeling in despair?  Who are your go-to people who are always there for you when you need them?  What activities do you do to get out of a funk?  Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know.  Thanks.  Take care.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Lived In or Cluttered?

Is your home lived in or cluttered?  Or, is it really neat and tidy?  I consider our home lived in while Jim tends to think it's cluttered.  I've been to cluttered homes.  Ours isn't cluttered.  Cluttered homes have stuff EVERYWHERE.  There's no place to sit, hardly a place to stand.  Books, magazines, old pizza boxes, and broken toys everywhere.  That's not our house.  Lived in means, maybe you leave a glass out on the counter.  It'll get picked up when you wash the dishes in the evening.  Or you leave a project out that you're in the middle of working on.  Or you leave a book lying on the sofa that you'll return to tomorrow.  We have six cats and a parrot.  There is no way that our house is going to be pristine.  It's lived in.  I grew up in a lived in house and I liked it that way.  So, I'm carrying on the tradition.  You can wear your shoes in our house (well, unless they are muddy, but that just makes common sense to remove muddy shoes.), you can eat and drink in any room in the house.  We are flexible and relaxed about that.  I understand that other people have their own opinions and ways of doing things and that is fine; this is just the way we do it. 

What is your take on this topic?  Is your home "lived in," "cluttered," or "neat and tidy?"  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Do What You Want to Do

Do you tend to try to get others to do what you think they should do?  This could be fixing a lock on a gate or replacing a small appliance that has been sitting around unusable for months.  Or it could be that you think your husband or sibling should go to college or get a better job.  Step back a minute.  Could it be that what you're actually doing is chiding yourself for not doing those things? 

Do your best to stop worrying about what others are or are not doing, and concentrate on what you really want out of life. Pay attention to what you're doing.  Do what you want to do, whether it's starting a business, going back to school, learning to change a car tire, taking a CPR class, marrying, divorcing, having a child, or quitting your job. 

Do you find yourself harping on other people who don't do what you think they should be doing?  What was their reaction?  What did it tell you about yourself?  What did you learn from the experience?   

Monday, July 24, 2017

Are You Ready for Life on Your Own?

Parents and spouses are important parts of your support system.  But what happens when they're gone?  What if they pass on?  Are you ready?  Not only for the emotional impact but for living on your own without your primary source of support?

In 2003, I had a premonition of sorts.  I started thinking, "What if something happens to Jim? Would I be able to function on my own?  Would I know who to call?  Would I know how to handle the business side of our lives--bills, repairs, general maintenance?"  And so on.  I panicked.  I voiced my concerns to Jim, who usually took care of pretty much everything.  I started insisting that he give me a crash course in, well, everything he did for us.  He thought I was overreacting and didn't take it too seriously.  He explained a few things, but I was still pretty much in the dark.

Then in December of that year, he fell.  He fell when the old ladder he was standing on to remove snow from our porch roof broke in two.  He landed on the shoveled concrete walkway in front of our house, with three feet of fresh snow on each side of him. 

I was about to be put to the test.

 As soon as I saw Jim lying on the walkway, unresponsive, I kicked into emergency mode.  It was automatic.  It was instantaneous.  This is one thing I can tell those of you who think you are wimps and clueless about how to handle emergencies:  I said the same exact thing, and yet I did exactly what I needed to do at the time.  You will do what you need to do too.  Your instincts will kick in.  I just hope you never have to experience such razor-sharp instincts.  I wouldn't wish that on anyone.  

Besides keeping up with my medical care, the household stuff, bills, and Jim's condition, I had to manage a move. We had just sold our house and the closing was scheduled for December 31, less than two weeks away. I had to get help to remove the rest of our things from the house.  I had to get a power of attorney so I could sign for Jim at the closing.  We should have backed out of the sale, but we didn't.  Luckily, we had amazing friends and my family who helped get everything done on time, plus provided me with constant support, including transportation to and from the hospital.

Although the neurosurgeon in charge of Jim's care told me afterward he had had his doubts that he's be able to save him, save him he did.  Jim has partial hearing loss, short-term memory loss, and has had bouts with blood clots, but considering the shape he was in when he fell, he's doing quite well.  

Things to Consider 

These are things I wish we had considered well before Jim's fall.  Take a look:

  • Sit down with your parent or spouse--or another primary person you currently live with--and discuss what to do in case of emergency or death of that person.
  • Make a list of important phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses, and other important contact information.
  • Make a list of account numbers:  banks, credit cards, and so on.
  • Do your own banking and handle your own money.
  • Add your name to every account, loan--everything--if possible.  I couldn't get information about our car loan because it wasn't in my name at the time of Jim's fall.  
  • Surround yourself with people you can count on to help with ANYthing you need.  These people will stay up all night with you while you talk about the same things over and over and cry your eyes out.  These people will drop everything to help you.  These people will have a place where you can stay, at least temporarily, should you be unable or unwilling to stay alone.  No excuses, no questions, no B.S., they are there--period.  Find those people and stick with them.
  • Get used to asking others for help when you need it.
  • Get used to getting around on your own, whether by car, bus, train, plane, your own two feet, via your chair--whatever--get really good at it.
  • Get used to shopping, prepping your own meals, and cleaning your own living space.
  • Get used to basic maintenance of your car, chair, house--anything that needs to be done.  Or make a list of reliable repair services you can count on to do it for you.
  • Keep up with your health maintenance.  You need to be strong and healthy in times of emergency.  The healthier you are on an on-going basis, the better off you'll be during and after the emergency.

Have you ever experienced a similar situation when you had to take charge and you weren't quite sure you could handle it?  How did you do?  And, do you live on your own?  I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Vlog: Where Is Your Favorite Place to Just Be?

Where is your favorite place to just be?  Where you go to relax, be at peace, meditate?  I talk about my favorite places in this video.  I'd love for you to share your favorite places with me.  It can be inside or outside.  Wherever you feel most at peace.  Have a great weekend.

Vlog: Want Change? Swap the Negative Thoughts Out For the Positive

Hi, everyone!  I have two more vlogs for you today.  This first one is about making changes.  The best way to make a change is to concentrate on the positive rather than the negative.  Never might the old, worn out complaints, feuds, mistakes and so on.  Slowly swap out those outdated thoughts that don't serve you anymore, and replace them with more positive ones.  And watch the magic begin to take place!  Have a great weekend.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Vlog: Friendships: Distant and Local

It's Wednesday, and that means it's vlog time.  This week I'm talking about friendships, both distant and local.  Are most of your friends in your local area, or do you have friends all over the world?  I'm talking super close friends; deep friendships.  Not a random buddy at the gym or your lab partner at school.  I'm talking about friendships that go much deeper than that.  My take on this subject is that you can have deep friendships with people anywhere--across the street or across the world.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments or email me.  I'd love to hear from you.

Related posts:  

Gender and Friendship:  Does It Matter?  

What to Do When You Just Aren't Interesting In Continuing a Friendship Anymore 

A Good Friends Is a Connection to Life  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Fear: Contributing to a Life-long Habit of Poor Decision-Making

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.  It is often referred to as anxiety.  Fear causes a gut-wrenching response (frozen in fear, for example), while anxiety may make you feel mildly queasy.  A bit of anxiety can be a good thing.  It can help you prepare for an important exam or meeting, and even that reasonable fear can prevent you from crossing a street into oncoming traffic.  But a phobia is a different story altogether.  It is an intense, persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, situation, activity, or person.  People with phobias will do anything to avoid what triggers this intense fear.  While anxiety and reasonable fears don't necessarily hinder a person from leading a normal life, phobias certainly do.

Fear and Decision Making

I can relate to fears and even phobias.   I grew up fearing so many things.  Some were normal fears, while others did get in the way of my living a normal life.  From the time I was a small child, fear has contributed to poor decision making on my part.

  • Fear of strangers:  At my oldest brother's wedding, I was afraid of my new sister-in-law's father as he was a stranger to me.  But I think the more significant reason was that he wore a white suit coat which I must have associated with those worn by doctors.  Instead of snuggling up to him, I screamed until he finally handed me back over to my mother.  Ouch!  I was six months old.
  • Fear of the dark:  It took me ages to leave my parents' bedroom for my own.  When I finally made the switch, I was afraid of the shadows, thinking they were monsters.  I still don't like being out and about in the dark, whether walking in the neighborhood, sitting around a campfire, navigating the rooms of our house, or driving.  I rarely drive at night.  I can't navigate streets as well as I can during the day, and I easily get lost.  This limits me in that I opt out of events that I would enjoy going to that Jim has no interest in, such as concerts, lectures, or parties.
  • Fear of being alone or abandoned:  This has always been a big one for me.  I was in isolation in the hospital when I was about three years old due to an infection.  Between the strict visiting hours and my parents' having seven other children to take care of at home, I didn't see them much.  I developed an intense fear of being left alone or abandoned.  If my mother dropped me off at the mall, I would worry that she would forget to pick me up.  If my husband dropped me off at college, I would think the same thing.  That feeling still crops up to this day when I'm dropped off somewhere and the driver drives off.  I am certain that time in isolation is the reason for this fear.  I have never lived on my own.  I went from my childhood home to an apartment with a roommate to an apartment with my husband.  I think it would have been wise for me to wait a bit before getting married.  I was too young.  I'm in my fifties now and feel like I'm still in my thirties, so imagine how young I felt when I got married at 24.  I was an infant emotionally.  I had no clue how to do the marriage thing.  None.  I wish I would have lived on my own for a year or two before taking the plunge.  It would have made those early married years much less boggling.  But both my husband and I thought we were getting long in the tooth (he was a whopping 26, oh my) and if we were going to get married, we'd better get on with it.  Oh, please!  Age doesn't mean a thing.  We should have concentrated on, "Are we ready?"  or that little voice giving us warning signs that it's just not the right time.
  • Fear of thunderstorms:  Another big one.  I totally tense up at the slightest sound of thunder in the distance.  When I was a young child, I would lie on the couch and cover my head with pillows until the storm passed.  As I got older, I would simply lie in bed if I was home until it was over.  If I was out and about, forget it.  I was a mess.  I wrote about one particularly frightening episode that happened in Florida decades ago.  I inherited this fear from my father who was deathly afraid of thunderstorms.  He was a hard worker, but if a thunderstorm hit, all work stopped and he and my siblings would head for the safety of the house.  He cautioned against using the telephone, stove, and any number of other things during a storm.  He developed his fear when he was a boy working on his family's farm.  He was tending to a cow when the barn was hit by lightning.  The charge traveled to the cow, which died and fell on my dad.  He never forgot that.  To this day, I will not drive in a thunderstorm.  If it's supposed to storm on a day I have an appointment, I cancel it.  My husband, meanwhile, loves thunderstorms.  While I run for cover, he runs outside to watch it roll in.  Oh, my.  
  • Fear of dogs:  I have always had a fear of dogs.  I'm short and my balance is not that great, so jumping dogs are especially worrisome.  I've been tripped and knocked down by a few pooches in my day.  I have nothing against dogs in general, but I automatically tense up when I see a dog.  I especially get nervous when I see a dog running loose with or without a human companion.  That happens a lot in the park behind our house, and occasionally in the neighborhood, so I never walk alone.  That is a bummer because I would love to explore the area on my own. 
  • Fear of the unknown/uncertainty:  Here's yet another big one for me.  I have always feared the unknown, including the world of work, social clubs, being in a large group of people I don't know, working for others, traveling with or without Jim, and most recently, health insurance.  I like to know what's ahead.  I like to have a routine.  With the above examples, I don't know how it's going to go.  So I freeze up and avoid it if I can, or if I can't, I worry about what could go wrong.  It's mostly tied to health issues.  Will I get sick?  Will I get hurt?  Will my supervisor understand if I have to take time off for illness or surgery?  (Even if she is understanding, I will still feel guilty about it.)  Will my ostomy pouch leak in transit on a trip or during a gathering?  Do I have enough health maintenance supplies with me?  What if... What if... What if...  It drives both Jim and myself a little nutty, to be honest.  That's why I work at home and have for the past 20+ years, and I love that I can do that.  The traveling, well I grin and bear it when traveling with Jim, but inside I'm calculating when I need to do the next maintenance or take the next medication, and how to fit these things into the day's activity schedule. I've declined opportunities to travel with others, depending on the circumstances. I wish I could just go, have fun, and forget about the medical stuff just for a bit.  But my medical mind never shuts off.  It is always talking to me, keeping me in check. As for health insurance, don't get me started.    
  • Fear of change:  The comfort zone feels safer, so I generally like to stay put.  I've made that not-so-good decision many times during my life.  Change means beginning again.  It means learning routes to work, school, the grocery store, the hospital in a new city.  It means telling my new doctors my medical life story--again.  It means hearing from those doctors that I'm "a unique case"--again. It means new people, new places, new jobs, new everything.  Or, it means simply changing an attitude a little bit.  Ha.  Simply?  Not.  It's difficult.  It takes time.  Meanwhile, I'm fearful that I won't be able to adjust.  I've put off moves, jobs, switching to a new doctor because I dreaded the change.  But it's worth the effort.  Change is good.  It provides growth and learning and cleans the cobwebs out of our brains and bodies and lives.
  • Fear of water:  I've always been leery of the water.  I never learned to swim, almost drowned in the high school swimming pool, and get the heebie-jeebies when crossing a bridge over water.  I'm afraid of going more than ankle-deep into the water.  The smart decision to make in this case would be to sign up for swim lessons, but I never have.  Yet.  I absolutely refuse to learn to swim with a group.  That's how I almost drowned in the first place.  One on one lessons appeal to me.  Another fear has gotten in the way of those lessons, though:  the facility is across town and it's a tricky driving route.  Sigh. 
  • Fear of intimacy:  I was self-conscious about dating.  I tended to stay inside this wall I built up around myself, to keep me from getting too close to others.  To keep me safe.  But it also made me feel isolated and alone as well.  To this day, I have a hard time opening up to people until I know them quite well.  Sharing super-personal stuff related to health issues comes only when I have known a person a long time, and then only if I sense that they will understand.  I have to experience a certain vibe when I'm with the person.  If it isn't there, I won't share.  So, I didn't date much and I have very few deep friendships.  
  • Fear of driving:  Around the age of 13 I started stressing about learning to drive.  The closer I got to 16, the worse my anxiety became.  Most of my classmates were a year younger than me due to the fact that I repeated second grade because of frequent health-related absence that year.  While some of my classmates were envious that I was old enough to get my driver's license, I was petrified at the notion.  I absolutely did not want to get my driver's license--ever.  But, finally, when I turned 19, my mother dragged me down to the DMV.  She had waited until she was in her 50s to get hers and she wasn't about to let me do the same thing.  It took me four attempts, but I finally got it.  But, license or not, I hardly ever drove.  I was afraid to drive even on the quietest of roads.  I was afraid to drive without someone with me. I was afraid I was going to get into an accident, break down, or get lost.  I dreaded coming across a detour and not knowing how to navigate it.  And forget about driving on snow and ice. It petrifies me.  It is one of the reasons, actually, why we moved to the desert.  We hardly ever get snow.  I also never drive long distances by myself, so no solo road trips for me, although it is enticing.  I've passed up job opportunities because of this fear.  I've passed up going to social gatherings as well.  It has been a significant and limiting fear for a very long time.  When we moved to Utah 10 years ago, I decided that I would attempt to conquer my fear of driving.  I went driving with Jim early on Sunday mornings when NOBODY was on the streets to practice finding my way around.  It took some time, but now I can drive fairly stress-free in most areas of the city.  That was a huge accomplishment for me.
  • Fear of rejection:  This fear has caused me to shy away from opportunities for work, friendships, and dating.  I was afraid to try.  I was afraid that I wouldn't get the job because of my disability; that people would think I would be a liability, or that I wasn't qualified.  I was afraid that people wouldn't want to be my friend because I was too different, too weird, too broken.  Or, guys wouldn't  want to go out with me because of my health issues, because I walked funny, or because I wasn't pretty enough, or smart enough, or tall enough.  My confidence was in the gutter on this one for a very long time.  
  • Fear of public speaking:  This one goes back quite a ways.  I have always disliked public speaking.  It means getting up in front of people.  It means all eyes are on me and, oh boy, what if I goof.   It involves being vulnerable.  All things that really creep me out.  So, I've stayed away from public speaking in business, which means I'm limiting my exposure to those audiences; those potential clients.  Ironically, the best speech I ever gave was on spina bifida.  I was in college at the time.  Maybe that should spur me to actively entertain speaking more on special needs and abilities as well as friendship.  But the thought of doing it still creeps me out, even though it is enticing.  We'll see.
  • Fear of death:  This fear has to do with driving, rather than medical stuff.  Medical stuff, I'm good.  I am not afraid to die from my health issues.  I just don't want someone to smack me when I'm out and about driving and end up killing me in the process.  And what's even more frightening is, I don't want to be the one charged in a case of vehicular manslaughter.  I would absolutely never, ever, ever, ever drive again if I ever killed someone while I was driving.  Especially a child.  Never.  I would fall into a bazillion pieces.  Whenever a child runs out from behind a parked car on my street, chasing a ball or something, I about die. And when I drove our most recent exchange student to school every day, well, you can imagine how I felt as we approached the school and teen drivers were everywhere, kids walking in the street, on the sidewalks, everywhere.  My stress level was through the roof.  But I did it.  I did much better this time around than when we hosted years ago.  That fear just about did me in. I wouldn't drive.  Would NOT drive.  I was obsessive about it, and it caused masses of tension that contributed to that student leaving to live with another family.  Luckily, in 11 years between the two exchanges, I've calmed down just a tad.
  • Fear of getting physically hurt:  All my life I've been afraid to get hurt physically.  I didn't want another reason to have to go to the hospital.  So, I avoided walks with my family through the rough pastures on the farm, organized sports, backyard ball games with my family, gym class at school, and many other things that would have helped me keep in better shape as a child.  Also, there are countless hiking trails near us, and it bugs me that I can't tackle strenuous ones for fear of landing in the hospital or ending up dead.  
  • Fear of failure:  This is another big one.  I was afraid to try activities, hobbies, classes, jobs, and business opportunities because I thought that I would mess up.  It ended up being a pain in the neck because I got so, even if I did give something a shot, I didn't have the confidence to stick it out.  So, rather than keep going when things got a little sticky, I gave up.  But the kicker is, to me now, giving up is worse than failure.  Not giving myself time to get settled into a position or activity is cheating myself out of a potentially life-enriching experience.  Instead, I would give up and go home, convinced I was a failure.  I wasn't a failure.  I just didn't have the confidence to stick it out to the true end, whether that end came in a day or in 30 years.  
How We Develop Fears

So, how do we develop these sometimes annoying, sometimes debilitating fears?  There are generally three ways:

Direct experience:  We are afraid of thunderstorms because we were hit by lightning.

Indirect experience:  Our father is deathly afraid of thunderstorms because he was hit by lightning, and observing his fear makes us fearful as well.

Learned from the media: We hear about devastating storms in the media, so every time there is a thunderstorm, we freak out, thinking it's a tornado.

What to Do?

There are many things that you can do to try to ease your fears to help facilitate better decision making.  Here are some suggestions.  If these don't work, and you find that your fears interfere with your ability to function normally, day to day, consult a health care professional for help.

  • Take your time:  Think about the options and the pros and cons of each one.  Think of the people, time, and energy involved.  Will you be able to stick with your decision happily for the long haul?
Be true to yourself:  Think about the decision in terms of your priorities, goals, and values.  Whatever feels right to you in your gut is most likely the best choice.
  • Reduce the stress in your life:  If you are stressed, you'll have a harder time concentrating on the decision you need to make.  Keep your life as simple as possible to help facilitate positive decisions.  Clear space in your calendar to really concentrate on the issue at hand, go for a walk, meditate--anything that will calm your spirit and give you clarity.
  • Avoid worrying about making the wrong choice:  Instead of worrying about making the wrong choice, be happy that you do have a choice.  You're not being forced to make one decision over the other, you are being given the gift of, maybe, several choices.  Concentrate deeply on each option and go with your gut, again, when making your decision.  It is usually right.  
  • Get inspired by others:  See what others did when they had a tough decision to make.  What strategies did they use to figure out what to do?  You can ask your friends, family, colleagues, neighbors--anyone you trust to give you an honest answer.  You can also read inspirational books and articles, and view videos to gain insight.
  • Treat mistakes as lessons:  You may choose the wrong path.  Down the road, you're thinking, "What did I do!?"  But, you made the decision based on the knowledge and information you had available to you at the time.  Treat it as a lesson, make necessary changes, and try something else.  It's done.  It's over.  Work on forgiving yourself and move on.

Have your fears contributed to poor decision making on your part?  How did those decisions affect your life?  What did you do to facilitate change?   

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friendship and Life Changes

As I've mentioned before, friendships are very important to your well-being.  They comfort you, laugh with you, defend you, and provide companionship.  

But what if you make a major change in your life?  Will they still be there?  Will they know how to handle the new you?

Some changes that could affect friendships are:

  • Weight loss:  Your friends may be jealous of your ability to lose weight.
  • Eating healthy:  You're new eating habits don't fit in with their beer and pizza mentality.
  • Stopping smoking/drinking/abusing drugs: Sometimes the only thing you have in common is a bad habit.  When that's gone, the friendship is gone too.
  • Values:  If you have been friends with people who steal, lie, cheat, are disrespectful to others, and change your ways, you may find out that they no longer want to hang out with you.  They aren't willing to change with you.
  • Political affiliation:  This has been a hot one in recent years.  Your friends don't understand how you could possibly buy into a party they feel no affinity towards.  You've been friends for years, but suddenly you are dirt.  The tension is too intense and they dump you.  Over politics.  Bye!
  • Job--financial status:  You may lose touch with friends from work who you no longer see on a regular basis.  You may not have anything but work in common with them, so you drift apart.  You also may lose friends if you suddenly find yourself in a lower or higher tax bracket.  They can't seem to relate to you anymore.
  • Marriage:  Your single friends may drift away after the hoopla of the wedding and reception.  You have new responsibilities and priorities that don't necessarily fit into their single lifestyle.
  • Having children:  When you start a family, your single friends, again, may not be keen on this new you.  You aren't the footloose and fancy-free friend you used to be, so they back away.
  • Sexual orientation:  When you "come out," some friends may totally freak out and abandon you.  The same can be true if you decide to go through gender reassignment surgery.    
  • Divorce:  Your friends may feel torn between you and your former spouse.  They care about both of you, but they feel like they are being forced to take sides.  It could become too much of a strain for them, so they walk away from the friendship.
  • A move:  Even though friends can keep in touch with you via Skype, phone, email, texting, and visits once you leave, for some it just isn't the same as day to day in-person contact.  You're each experiencing new things that you can't necessarily explain or share intimately from a great distance, so they eventually fade away. 
  • Illness:  Of course, your closest friends will most likely understand when you're sick. But others may get tired of waiting for you to feel well enough to go out shopping, hiking, to the theater or a favorite restaurant when you used to be ready and willing to go on the fly.  You're just no fun anymore.
  • Death:  Again, you're closest friends will generally stick by you after you've suffered a personal loss.  But others may not know how to respond or what to do, so they back away.
  • Betrayal:  If you betray a friend's trust, you have a good chance of losing her.  Without trust, everything else you had with that person is gone, done, over.

Friendship is a tricky thing.  Some friendships last decades while others only last a weekend.  The important thing is that you stay true to yourself.  Do what feels right in your gut.  Make the changes you need to make in order to live your best life, and your true friends will be right there beside you, supporting you every step of the way.  

Have you lost friends due to changes you have made in your life?