Friday, May 12, 2017

Using My Imagination to Cope

Did you ever make up an imaginary world to "live" in to help you cope with health issues or other problems as a child?

I did.  

From the time I was about nine years old, I lived in a fantasy world of my own making as much as I possibly could.  My bedroom was my sanctuary.  There, I entered a world where I was healthy, strong, popular, and happy.  In it, I was an actress, singer, writer, and artist.  I made movies, I sang on a television music program, I went on tour around the world, met celebrities. I walked with my imaginary friends throughout the family farm where I grew up, taking them on wild adventures and showing them my favorite hideouts. I took some of my fantasy world friends to school with me at times as well, and as soon as I got home, I'd scoot up to my sanctuary again until it was time to join the family for supper.  It never interfered with chores or homework.  I studied like crazy all through school.  Later, I married, had children, got divorced, remarried in my fantasy world.  Then I retired at the ripe old age of 24 when I, myself got married for real.  I still visited my fantasy world off and on for many years after "retirement," when a particularly challenging health issue came up.  But today I rarely venture there.  

I remember, several years ago, I was talking with a psychologist and the subject of my fantasy world came up.  The doctor said that I had chosen a very healthy way of dealing with the stress related to my health issues.  When I ventured into my fantasy world all those years ago, I had no idea I was actually providing myself with my own brand of therapy.  But it worked.  Along with my family, medical team, special friends, music, art, and writing, my fantasy world helped me cope through some of the most difficult times of my life.  I'm thankful that my nine-year-old mind came up with the idea and that I stuck with it for as long as I did.  

So, have you ever done anything like that?  If not, what did you do to help you cope during tough times during childhood or otherwise?  

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I will be on vacation for the next few weeks.  I promised my husband I wouldn't work during our time off.  I will see you back here the first week of June.  Be well.  Take care.  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Coping With the Loss of a Friend

Friendship is a special relationship that we can share with a spouse, another person, or a pet.  Losing a friend can be devastating, whether through abandonment, moving, divorce, or death. Going through the process of grief takes time, and everyone's schedule is different. It's important to take that time, find ways to cope that work for you and learn how to move on in a healthy manner.

What is Grief?

Grief is the response to a loss.  It's natural to feel emotional upon losing a friend. Reactions vary but may include anger, shock, guilt, and overwhelming sadness.  The closer the friend, the deeper the grief is felt.

The stages of grief are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance
You may not go through every stage.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  It is unique and very personal to you. 

Effects of Loss

Following the loss of a friend, you may feel numb, lost, confused, unable to concentrate or make decisions, unable to sleep, and unable to stomach the thought of eating food.  So much has changed. This person was so much a part of your life.  You shared everything.  You were always together: talking, exercising, traveling, shopping, eating dinner, maybe even working.  Now, she's gone.  The feeling of emptiness is crushing.  Every place you hung out now brings back so many memories. 

Or maybe your husband was your best friend and he has either died or you've gotten divorced.  Meeting with lawyers, selling or dividing property, packing, making needed repairs to the home, moving, changing your insurance policies, trying to juggle work and household responsibilities as a single person or single parent, feeling insecure living on your own possibly for the first time, making sure bills get paid, trying to keep yourself together for your children, dealing with the guilt that you should have been able to save him or your marriage--on and on.  

If you've lost a pet, you experience loneliness, heartbreak, and sadness, too.  You miss the comfort your furry friend provided when you are sick, or the joyous greeting he offered when you come home from work.  Your children may feel confused and even afraid that they could lose others important to them as well.  Your friends may not understand the true depth of your loss since you "only" lost a pet, not a child or other human being dear to you.  But losing a pet can be just as difficult or even more so than losing a family member for some.  

It is a lot to take in and process.

Coping with Loss

So, what can you do to cope?  

In general, make sure you take care of yourself, first of all. Get plenty of sleep, eat balanced meals, pay attention to personal hygiene, and exercise regularly.  

Here are other ways you may find helpful to cope:
  • seek out the support of friends and family who understand the gravity of your loss
  • join a support group for spouses, pet owners, or friends, either locally or online
  • find comfort in your faith
  • keep a journal of your experience and how you are feeling
  • be honest about how you are feeling and accepting of those feelings
  • don't let anyone invalidate your feelings
  • meet anniversaries, birthdays and other special occasions with a plan
  • create a memorial for your friend in your home or on your property
  • remember the good times by sharing funny stories about your friend
  • put money aside to save up to visit your friend who has moved
  • arrange for regular FaceTime or Skype chats with your friend who has moved
  • volunteer at a local animal shelter, and maybe eventually adopt a new pet when you're ready
  • date when you feel ready
  • go out on a double date or group date at first if you feel uneasy about being alone with a new man
  • host a potluck at your home
  • get out into your community - join a gym, volunteer at an organization near and dear to your heart, or join a bowling league or choral group--whatever you are interested in
  • Take a class or workshop 
  • Stay involved with your current hobbies or adopt new ones
When to Seek Professional Help

If you find that your grief isn't dissipating over time, or that it is intensifying, or that it is keeping you from getting on with your normal, daily life of responsibilities and activities, you may be experiencing complicated grief.  If you are feeling hopeless, worthless, intensely guilty, or suicidal, you may be clinically depressed. Seek professional help immediately.

Have you lost a dear friend?  If so, how did you cope?  Feel free to post in the comments or email me at  Take care.

Monday, May 8, 2017

My Thoughts On Magnificent Monday and Health Care

It's Monday.  Over on Instagram, I post Magnificent Monday each week.  I ask how people plan to make their Monday magnificent and then offer up how I plan to do the same.  Well, today I had nothing.  Zip. Zilch. Nada.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't think of any way I could make Monday magnificent. Mondays have become hectic, unproductive, and frustrating to me.  I plan, I make lists, I psyche myself up.  Then, Monday comes and I am behind from the start.  How does this happen?  

It's not just that I've never been a Sunday person either, so I don't have the gumption to get ready for Monday.  It's not that I dislike my job:  I love it.  

I seriously think it's because I've battled so many sicknesses this year.  The sicknesses most likely came as a result of sleep issues.  I haven't slept very well for a bit, something I think I inherited from my mother.  Once I turned 50, my sleep became choppy at best, and non-existent on the worst nights.  

Other than heredity, the sleep issues just might be caused by the health care debate (Ha!  Did I say debate?  What debate?  It's an all-out war by the looks of it through media reports.

Warning:  Political talk ahead.  I normally don't talk politics much in my blog, but this is a very personal issue, so here we go.

Being that I have a pre-existing condition, I'm very interested in how this all plays out.  Will I go bankrupt trying to pay for my health care costs?  Will insurance companies be required to cover me?  And, if so, will the premiums be so high that I can't afford coverage?  And, if I can't afford coverage, what happens if I have to have surgery?  How will I pay for my medical supplies and doctor's visits?  And medication!  Oh, don't get me started on the cost of medication.  

I just heard that people with pre-existing conditions will be covered under the new proposed health care plan put forth by the House, or so they say.  Okay, so they offer coverage, but at what cost?  It's fine and dandy to say that people with these issues will be covered, but if the costs of health care are astronomical and the coverage minimal, what is the point?  It's not helping anyone except to line insurers' pockets.  

Something else I heard troubled me.  Some politicians are saying that people with pre-existing conditions are cheating the System and/or that they don't deserve to be covered because they didn't take care of themselves.  I, for one, was born with my pre-existing condition.  I didn't cause it.  My mother didn't cause it by anything she did.  It just happened.  And, the government is lumping me in with all these supposed "cheaters" and "lazy people"?  That is offensive to me.    I have never cheated the System.  I would never let my coverage lapse for no reason.  Why should anyone have the right to charge me more for restarting insurance coverage?  That reeks of requiring people with pre-existing condition to have insurance at all times in order not to be charged more--a mandate, in other words.  The very thing that they didn't like about the Affordable Care Act.  That is two-faced, in my opinion.

That we are the only industrialized nation that doesn't provide universal health care is bad enough, but then to blanketly blame the people who need health care the most for their own problems is horrendous.  Lawmakers, and their supporters, seem to have forgotten that these are human lives they are casting aside.  Oh, but they are all for supporting the anti-abortion cause.

This isn't over.  The Senate still has to get into the action.  This will come to an end eventually.  We'll 
figure out what to do about our own individual health care needs.  I hope that each of you will be able to get the health care that you need.   

I welcome your input.  What are your thoughts on the current House bill?

Friday, May 5, 2017

25 Fun, Feel-Good Questions

It's Friday.  The end of the week.  It's a fun day.  Okay, so here's something different for today's post.  I've come up with a variety of questions that will hopefully evoke smiles and fond memories. You can respond and keep the answers to yourself, team up with some friends and take turns asking each other the questions, answer them in the comments below, or send your responses to me via email at  I would love to read your answers if you'd care to share them.  Here we go!  Have fun!
  1. What was your best friend's name in elementary school?  High school?  College?
  2. What was the first record you bought?
  3. When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
  4. Love roller coasters, or not?
  5. If you could time travel, where would you go?
  6. What was your favorite game as a child?
  7. What was a favorite book as a child?
  8. What was your favorite holiday growing up?
  9. What's your favorite type of vacation? (Beach, staycation, mountains, etc.)
  10. What's your favorite aroma from childhood that brings back great memories?
  11. What usually puts you in a good mood?
  12. What would the story of your life be called?
  13. What is one of your favorite memories of your childhood?
  14. What's the most inspiring movie you've ever seen?
  15. What hobby would you get into if you had the time and money to do it?
  16. What is your little-known talent?
  17. What chance encounter changed your life for the better?
  18. If you could make any event an Olympic sport, what one would you choose that you're good at?
  19. Where would you like to live? 
  20. If you could have any job what would it be?
  21. What age do you wish you could permanently be?
  22. What's your favorite travel destination?
  23. Where was your favorite hide-out as a kid?
  24. What was your first pet and what was its name?
  25. What's one thing you've done that you never thought you would but it turned out to be successful and fun?
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Good Friend Is a Connection To Life

Spouses, children, parents, grandparents, siblings--that's who we usually concentrate on, but it's our friendships that are the most connected to our well-being.  We are never happier than when we are with our friends, according to research.

Friends:  Keeping Us Present and Healthy;  Keeping Us Sane in an Insane World

Friendships offer a massive number of benefits including:
  • Mood boosting:  Friends are often sources of fun and laughter.
  • Accountability:  You usually share your plans with your friends, whether it is to find a new job, lose weight, or go back to school. Friends help you to stick to it by checking in with you periodically for the latest updates on your progress.
  • Stress reduction:  Friends allow you to feel less lonely which helps shore up your immune system and keep you healthier.  Being able to vent to a friend is a great stress reducer.
  • Support through hard times:  Whether it's a shoulder to cry on, babysitting while you go job hunting, or providing you a place to stay if your spouse kicks you out of the house, friends are there during some of your toughest times.
  • Support going over that hill:  Friends often provide companionship, resources, transportation, someone to celebrate victories with, and someone to commiserate with through loss of loved ones, retirement, and health issues.  They keep you going strong. 
  • Helping you feel needed:  Friends help each other all the time and that feels great!  Having a purpose in life and feeling needed boosts the spirits.
  • Offering guidance:  Friends are a great source of knowledge and resources when you're faced with perplexing questions and aren't quite sure what to do.  Whether it's finding an attorney, or plumber, or medical services, friends can serve as a wellspring of information.
  • Making you feel as if you fit in:  Friends are a great source of confidence.  You can be silly, frightened, sad, philosophical, angry, elated, and okay, yes, stupid with them and it's okay!  You can be yourself.  It's all okay. They have your back.
Friends:  Ties to the Past

While some people feel you should leave the past in the past, including old friends, there are benefits to keeping in touch with such friends.  Here are some of many:
  • Acceptance:  Old friends accept you as you are.  That can help you immensely when you face rejection of some kind.  
  • Hope:  Old friends give you hope that everything will be all right.  They know you and remind you of what is important to you, to help keep you grounded.
  • Reminders:  Old friends can boost your mood during troubling times by reminding you of the good ol' days.  They can help you forget your troubles even for a little while.
  • Crisis management:  Old friends remember the worst of times, and how strong you were through it all.  They remind you during a crisis that you are tough, and that you have the strength to conquer any obstacle.
  • Shared history/milestones:  You've gone through a lot with old friends.  Hijinx, learning to drive, your first car, first dates, first kisses, teen angst, pulling all-nighters to study for exams in college, making the team, being cut from the team, first jobs, long talks that lasted into the night, moves, promotions, missed promotions, illnesses, marriages, children, lost jobs, divorces, deaths, insecurities, and more.  It helps to have those people in your life who really know you, and understand where you're coming from.  You can laugh with them; they make you smile.  You feel at ease with them.  They can relate to you.  They "get" you. 
  • Memories:  Old friends help keep memories alive.  They knew your parents, a favorite uncle, the story of a wild road trip.  They will sit with you to relive those memories, laughing and crying along with you over the old days.  They may even arrange for a literal trip down memory lane in the form of a road trip back in time.  That's something your current and more recent friends just can't do for you, by no fault of their own.
  • Talking about anything:  You can talk to old friends about anything.  You know each other so well, you can finish each others' sentences.  There are no secrets.  There is nothing to hide.  You are accepted fully and unconditionally.
Friends:  A Road to the Future

Friends are a significant part of your life.  Their influence on you is so strong that it can affect the life you lead in the future.  Here's how:
  • Thoughts and feelings:  Friends can have a tremendous influence over how you think and feel about yourself.  If you friends have confidence in your abilities and see you as a strong, intelligent person who can do anything she sets her mind to, then, over time, that tends to rub off on you and you adopt those views yourself.  It is a wonderful feeling to discover friends who truly believe in you.  There's nothing like it.
  • Behavior and choices:  Friends can also influence your taste in books, music, art, movies, clothes, and hairstyles, as well as choices of a larger significance such as whether to spend freely on vacations, electronics, and cars, invest your money in ways that could garner a healthy return or involve a high risk, or save a majority of if for an emergency.  They also could have a hand in how you spend your time (sitting around watching TV, partying, volunteering, being self-absorbed, investing in your education, or hanging out in a dream world), the pets you have, whether or not you decide to have children or get married, and your views on social issues. 
  • Future friends:   You may have a hard time trusting friends in the future if your past or current friends abused or deceived you.  You may shy away from sharing too much of yourself.  On the other hand, if you experienced love, kindness, and support from those friends, you may feel comfortable opening up to future friends.
  • Health:  Socialization is good for you.  Good friends help you live a long and healthy life, according to research.  They tend to relieve stress, which may help you reap many health benefits.
Important Qualities in a Friend
  • Genuineness
  • Accepting
  • A good listener
  • Comfortable sharing and receiving deeply personal information
  • Causes a warm, comfortable feeling after time spent with them; it was time well-spent
  • Makes you feel like you can be yourself with them, say what you really feel
  • Makes you feel safe
  • Supportive and respectful
  • Trustworthy
  • Makes you feel like you can tell them anything, even private thoughts and feelings, and it will be held in confidence
Making New Friends

Whether you are new in town, shy, or just looking to add a friend or two, there are many ways to find new friends.  Here are some tips:

  • Look around you:  Opportunities for friendships are everywhere.  You could simply say hi to someone with a friendly face while standing in the check-out line at the grocery store, meet while volunteering at a local sporting event, or strike up a conversation with someone in the break room at work. The possibilities are endless.  Be open to people, and you'll find friends.
  • Be genuine:  People can tell a phony, so if you want to make friends I'd suggest being real instead.  Show people who you really are and you'll never have to wonder if you're attracting the right kinds of friends.  
  • Volunteer:  I mentioned this above, but it bears repeating.  Volunteering is a fantastic way to meet new friends.  You already have one thing in common--volunteering.  Visit with other volunteers to find out what other interests you may share.
  • Take a class or workshop:  Again, you'll start out with at least one thing in common with a classroom full of people.  Seek out opportunities before and after class, or during break times, to talk with fellow classmates and see if you click.  

Online Friends

There's no doubt that it is exciting to talk with people from all over the world via the Internet.  I remember the first time I got an instant message from an old friend.  I was over the moon that we could keep in touch across the miles so easily and so fast.  It does come in handy in a world where people seem to be constantly moving around instead of staying in their hometowns like they generally used to.    

But there is a downside to being friends across the miles.  Despite FaceTime, Skype, and the countless social media platforms available, the personal, face to face connection is missing.  You may be able to send your friend a "hug" emoji, but you can't hug them in person.  Touch is a very important part of the connection between friends.  You may be able to celebrate a birthday via Skype, but it's just not the same as being there.  You can write about what's going on in each other's lives via email and messaging, you can send videos and pictures, but your friends can't truly relate to what's going on in your world if they never experience it themselves in person.  So, it's important to make time for in-person contact as much as possible.   

Don't let online contact replace in-person contact.  Make an effort to visit your friends even once or twice a year if you live a considerable distance apart; more often if you live closer.  Meet for coffee, go out to a movie, go for walks, go shopping, play tennis--whatever you enjoy doing together.  Talk on the phone, Skype, or get on FaceTime between in-person visits to help shore up the feelings of closeness and familiarity.  Messaging and email will help too.  Friendships are vital to our well-being and they deserve attention.  It takes an effort to make them work, but they are worth it.  

Where did you meet your best friends?  Are you still in touch with childhood friends?  What benefits have you received from your friendships over the years?  I'd love to hear from you on this.  

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Attitude Is Everything

Your attitude is how you view your life.  You get to choose your attitude.  It's not a done deal that is pre-programmed within you from the start.  It is learned, and it is everything.
How you perceive your life has a huge effect on how you live it, how you behave, how you react to different people, how you work, the chances you take, how you handle crises, the people you meet and relate to, the opportunities you take advantage of and those you let pass by.  Everything!  
For those of you who have chronic health issues, a positive attitude can make the difference on how fast you heal.  If you mope around and complain and refuse to do what the doctor tells you to, then you'll most likely be faced with a longer recovery period, and you might just shoot yourself in the foot and not recover at all.  But if you try to find the positive in any given situation, there's a good chance that you'll come through your health crises much faster and healthier. 

I've gone through periods in my life when I didn't have confidence in my abilities.  I would shy away from jobs I could very well have done, just because I was scared to try, or didn't want to drive in that particular area of town.  
I've also dragged my feet, putting off important decisions until it was too late because I didn't have confidence in my abilities.  I've given up too soon on jobs, educational opportunities, community involvement opportunities, and relationships.  I've also hung on to jobs, ideas, and relationships way too long because I had an unhealthy attitude about them.

But it doesn't have to be like this.  Commit to an attitude adjustment and you'll notice a huge difference in how your life plays out.  

Ways To Improve Your Attitude

1.  Discover your "why:"  Why do you want to change your attitude?  Have you been ridiculed, lost friends, or missed out on important opportunities because of it?  Or, do you feel it just doesn't serve a valuable purpose in your life anymore?

2.  Daydream:  Use daydreaming to practice conversations with others.  Role play them to see if you can come up with more positive ways to communicate: use upbeat tones, smile when talking, use positive, non-judgmental words, practice good listening skills, and so on.  You could even role play with a close friend and ask for feedback as an alternative to daydreaming.

3.  Wake Up Grateful:  Practice waking up grateful for all the good in your life.  There are days when this will be difficult, but stick to it and see what a difference it makes in your attitude.  Starting your day on a positive note can spill over to the rest of the day and make it awesome.

4.  Be Enthusiastic:  Find the good in any situation.  Tackle each problem with curiosity and enthusiasm.  Of course, not everything is going to warrant enthusiasm, but make a point to infuse your attitude with enthusiasm as much as possible.

5.  Take Time For Yourself:  Get away from the craziness of life often to just be.  Be quiet, be contemplative, be you.  Connect with your inner self and really listen to it.  What is truly important to you?  What do you need to let go?  What do you want to do with your life?  What makes your heart sing?  Answer those questions and then go out and do those things, find true happiness.

6.  Laugh!:  Humor is a great tool to change your attitude and get you through tough times.  Try to infuse your conversations with humor.  You don't have to joke all the time--that's annoying--but now and then break out the funny in you to lighten the mood and give your attitude a jolt of positive energy.  Learn to find something funny in your situation.  Learn to laugh at yourself and with others over silly things that happen at the clinic or hospital.  I remember one time when I was at the doctor's office for a pre-op physical; I was pretty nervous as I was headed for major surgery.  The doctor came into the exam room where I was waiting for him and said, with a totally straight face, "So, are you scared poopless?"  I had to do a double-take to make sure this was actually my usual conservative, quiet doctor.  Yep, it was him.  I had to smile.  He came through for me when I really needed him.  Through pre-op, the hospital stay and recovery, every time I thought of what he had said that day in his office, I had to smile or giggle.  And that was the perfect medicine to help me get through that difficult ordeal.  Kudos to him!

7.  Move!:  No, you don't have to move away, although that could be what you need.  That's your call.  But definitely, move your body.  It was meant to move, not be stuck in front of the TV or computer for hours on end.  Find activities you enjoy doing and get out and do them most days of the week.  Running, walking, tennis, cycling, team sports, swimming, lifting weights, wheelchair dancing, dancing, paralympics, and so on.  It's all good.  Choose a variety so you don't get bored.  Ask your friends and family to join you as well.  Having a workout partner helps keep it fun and helps keep you accountable.

It is important to find a balance in life, so you take the opportunities that are presented to you, have a healthy attitude about them, give them a good go, let the unhealthy situations and relationships go, and cherish the ones that turn out to be magical, or at least pretty darn cool.

I welcome your comments.  I'd love to hear how you have made attitude adjustments and how your life changed as a result.