Friday, June 30, 2017

Are You Your Own Best Friend?

It is important to have friends, yes.  But it's also a good idea to be your own best friend.  But what does that mean exactly?  Here's how I see it:

  • Enjoy alone time:  You can find plenty of engaging and satisfying things to do by yourself.  You do what is fun for you.    
  • Enjoy the freedom to do your own thing:  You like not having to rely on other people's schedules.  You go with whatever feels good at the time.
  • Concentrate on being yourself:  So you don't want to join the crowd.  That's fine.  You have your own opinions and you're not afraid to voice them.  You show your true colors without wondering what others will think.  You wear what feels comfortable, not what's "in fashion."  And you do it in a way that is non-threatening to others.  There's no reason to become defensive when you're being yourself.  Just be, and those who appreciate and love you will accept you as you are.
  • Take care of your own needs:  You put your own needs first.  If you are tired, stressed out, or feeling under the weather, you aren't afraid to say no to an invitation to hang out with friends.  You skip the movie, the hike, the party, and instead, rest, read, listen to music, meditate--whatever it takes to recharge your batteries.  There will be other opportunities to socialize. 
  • Go with your gut:  If it doesn't feel right, you don't do it.  If a person doesn't seem sincere, you back away.  If that business deal you're trying to work out just doesn't set well with you, you drop it.  You always listen to your gut.  It steers you right every time.
  • Love yourself unconditionally:  You realize you are really good at some things and you're really bad at others.  You will be spot on regarding certain decisions, and a mile off on others.  You celebrate the wins, the good decisions; and forgive the losses, the goofs.  
  • Be honest with yourself:  You don't make excuses.  You've gained weight.  You treated a friend unfairly during an argument over something stupid.  You have gone without proper sleep for way too long, opting instead to work or play on the Internet into the wee hours.  You are honest with yourself, admit when you're wrong and make the changes you need in order to live a healthy life.
  • Be your own cheerleader:  You know what you want in life.  You know what your limits are.  You push yourself to accomplish your goals the best that you can.  
  • Step back:  You don't get too far into your head.  If you tend to keep hearing the same messages in your head, such as, "I'm not good enough," or "I can't do that," then you stop and take a step back.  You examine the source of your negativity and do what you can to alter those thoughts that are bringing you down and holding you back.  
So, there you go.  That's my take on what it means to be your own best friend.  Do you have other suggestions that you'd like to add?  If so, great.  Post them in the comments.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Feeling Out of Place in the Family

Hi!  Hope you're day is going well.  Here is my latest video post.  It's on feeling out of place in your family.  It is especially geared toward those of you with special needs and health issues.  

Do you have issues with your family?  Have you had issues in the past?  If so, how did you resolve them?  I'd love to hear from you.  Take care.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Gender and Friendship: Does It Make a Difference?

With one of my best friends, Carl, when he visited us several years ago.
Although I have some close female friends, I have always felt comfortable with male friends.  They generally come with less drama, they seem to have a unique understanding and compassion regarding my health issues, and I seem to have an easier time communicating with them.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I grew up with six brothers.  My only sister is 14 years (and change) older than me, so, while we did spend time together over the years, I spent more time with the guys.

Some of my best friends are guys, and it has raised a few eyebrows among family and other friends.  Especially when I went to visit Carl on my own a couple of time over the years.  People just didn't seem to understand that I could be friends with a guy without any romance cropping up.  They were baffled that Jim would allow me to go visit Carl on my own.  

I've talked about one of my male friends already in past blog posts, but this one centers on Carl.  I met him online shortly before a major medical procedure.  My doctor ordered a nephrostomy in March 2006, out of the blue.  I didn't have any symptoms of trouble, but he didn't like the looks of the test results.  He was adamant that I have the procedure.  Well, I freaked out.  It put moving plans on hold.  I visited the ostomy clinic (awesome people!) for dressing changes and flushes, but Jim, my mother, and a neighbor also went to the clinic to learn how to do it, too, since the nephrostomy was not in a convenient location for me to reach.  I was super-nervous of getting an infection and drove Jim nuts with my paranoia.  Sure, everything needed to be sterile, but I went overboard.  I was a nervous wreck.  It ticked me off, to be honest.  Other doctors didn't think I needed the procedure, but this doctor did.  The ostomy nurses talked to the doctor for me, I tried to talk with him, but there was no budging him.  The nephrostomy would stay put as long as I needed it.  Turns out he was right because I haven't had any major kidney issues since.  

But it was a frustrating ordeal.  Carl's friendship was a huge reason I stayed relatively sane through it all.  He contacted me daily, let me vent, stayed calm, and made me laugh.  I'm convinced he was sent by my guardian angel to help me.  I just know when a person has been sent to me.  They usually come into my life out of the blue and I feel a special connection with them.  They're always guys.  Always.

My take on the situation is, as long as I feel comfortable with Carl, and Jim is comfortable with me being friends with him, that's all that matters. Friendships provide valuable benefits, and having a variety of friends is a plus.  In other cultures, opposite sex friendships are common and accepted. I wish more people in the US felt the same way.

Do you have best friends of the opposite sex?  If so, do other people in your life understand?  If you don't have opposite sex besties, what are your thoughts on the topic? Are you averse to it?  Do you just not think about gender when seeking out friends?  Let me know,  thanks!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Taking Proactive Steps to Reduce Stress

I've no doubt mentioned before that I don't like to drive.  Well, I had a doctor's appointment today with a doctor I only see once a year, so I always have to refamiliarize myself with the route to his office.  His office is located at a very busy intersection, and I'm always nervous that I'll get into a fender bender on the way there.  But I was tired of being afraid.  Tired of worrying.  So, I decided to scope out other routes to his office.  It occurred to me that it was a particularly difficult left-hand turn followed by the need for an immediate lane change in order to turn right into the office parking lot in time, that always gave me fits.  

I remember talking with my sister-in-law about driving years ago, and she said that it doesn't matter how you get there, as long as you arrive safely.  So, I started thinking of creatives ways to get to the office without making those tricky maneuvers.  And, it came to me that I have no problem driving to another doctor's office located a mile or so down the same street from the office I was headed to today.  So, instead of making that pesky left-hand turn, I drove straight through the intersection down to the left-hand turn I felt comfortable with, made the right turn into the other doctor's office parking lot, meandered around the lot to the exit, drove to the pesky intersection, hitting it from the other direction, took a right and another right into the parking lot, and, viola, I made it without incident.  

Now that I've discovered a more stress-free way to get to the doctor's office, I won't feel so crazed the next time.

What activity stresses you out every time you have to do it?  Do you get overly nervous before a doctor's appointment?  Do you freak out when confronted with anything unfamiliar?  If so, take a step back, relax, and brainstorm ways you can tackle the problem and make the situation much less stressful.  What bothers you most?  What adjustments could you make that would ease the stress?  Who could you ask for help?  Good luck!

I would love to hear how you help avoid, or at least diffuse, stressful situations.  Email me at or post a comment below.  Thanks!  Have a great weekend.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Vlog: Chronic Illness and Feeling Low

Hello, everyone!  I hope you're having a great day.  Here's today's vlog post on chronic illness and feeling low.  Have your life plans been hampered by health issues?  It's frustrating, I know, but remember to put your health first.  Do what you need to do to get passed those stumbling blocks, then concentrate on work, school, that new job, that new activity you'd like to try.  Nothing is as important as your health.  

If you have a specific topic you'd like me to cover in a blog post, let me know.  Anything on special needs/abilities, health issues, or friendship.  Either post it in the comments below or shoot me an email (  Thanks.  Take care.

Monday, June 19, 2017

What to Do When You Just Aren't Interested in Continuing a Friendship Anymore

Do you hear from old friends out of the blue periodically with long stretches of time in between?  Does it surprise you that they keep contacting you?  Do you find yourself rolling your eyes and wondering when they will give it up?  Do you "forget" to return their calls?  Are you just not interested in continuing the "friendship?"  Do you feel guilty about any of these feelings or reactions?

I've had similar friendships.  The person acts as if the two of you have been in constant touch for a lifetime and that it's perfectly normal to pick up the phone or send an email without any explanation or introduction of any kind as to why they have been basically ignoring you for the last six months or, oh maybe, 10 years.  They commence dumping all their news, woes, tragedies, celebrations, and accomplishments on you without one word of inquiry about what's been going on in your own life, and then they're gone again.  For another six months to 10 years.

Maybe they needed to vent.  Okay, fine.  There are many different types of friends, and, as long as they are nurturing and positive, there's room for them all:  the talker, the listener, the comedian, the thinker, the mentor, the volunteer buddy, the exercise buddy, the work buddy, the best friend, the casual acquaintance.  I have no problem with that.  What I have a problem with is a lack of consistency and give and take. Don't just drop back into my life when it suits you if you aren't planning on committing to a full-on friendship.

Friendship is a commitment, whether that friend is across the hall or across the world.  It means you commit to meeting three times a week to work out together; visiting regularly in person, on the phone, or via messaging; or inviting each other to events periodically. Commitment.  It's not a one-sided, drop in-drop out relationship.  

So, what should you do if you are faced with this situation?  Well, if you still like the person and remember their friendship fondly, you could just deal with it.  Call, chat a bit, and then let it go until the next time they pop back into your life.  But if you have outgrown this particular person or they annoy you and you're just not interested in continuing the "friendship," you need to be honest.  Let the person know how you feel about these surprise calls and one-sided conversations.  Maybe they don't realize there's anything wrong with what they're doing.  Or maybe they will fly off the handle about it, thinking you are an ungrateful jerk.  Either way, you'll have cleared the air and will know where each other stands.  

Do you have a friend who drops in out of the blue periodically?  How do you handle it?  Are you comfortable with it or is it a friendship that's been limping along for years that you would like to end?  Think about what impact your actions would have on your life and that of your friend.

Friday, June 16, 2017

"Me Before You:" My Take on It

"Me Before You," by Jojo Moyes, has gotten a lot of attention.  As soon as I read the blurb about it on the back cover, I grabbed it.  I tend to favor books exploring male-female friendship, so that was the first thing that jumped out at me about this book.  Then, the fact that one of the characters used a wheelchair captured my interest.  I haven't seen many books like that.  

Louisa is hired to help take care of Will, who is a quadriplegic and uses a wheelchair.  Another reason she's hired by his parents, unbeknownst to her at first, is to help Will find joy in life again in an attempt to prevent him from going through with plans for assisted suicide in 6 month's time.

The Controversy

The book has sparked somewhat of a controversy: there is no point in living if you have a disability.  This because no matter what Louisa does to try to perk him up and otherwise help him, he doesn't back down from his original intention: to end his life.  He's got parents who love him, a woman who loves him, friends who love him, but it's not enough.  He still faces years in the "prision" of his wheelchair, only able to move his fingers a bit, with the promise of deteriorating health, and total dependence on others.   

My Take on It

Assisted suicide is a very personal issue, and it is difficult to know how a person would react if he were in the situation for real of being paralyzed with the strong possibility of losing more ability and function as times went on.  It was up to Will to decide.  It was his life.  No one could step into his shoes and realize how he felt, or suddenly flip a switch that made all the problems go away.  He needed to do what he felt was right for himself.  The same is true for someone who is adamantly opposed to assisted suicide.  The decision is, ultimately, his.

I thought it was a fabulous book.  It felt authentic.  Since I spent a large chunk of my life in a wheelchair due to the effects of spina bifida, I could relate to Will's character so much.  Moyes either is a very talented writer with excellent research skills, or she has experience with being in a wheelchair or has someone in her life who uses one because she was spot on with the feelings, frustrations, stares, difficulty getting around barriers, and so on.  Her characters had conversations nearly word-for-word from those I've had in my own life. I hated every minute I spent in that chair.  Rather than treat it as a means of independence and freedom, I loathed it as something that made me stick out and look different in a sea of "normal" kids.  I wasn't paralyzed like Will, but numerous foot surgeries and issues kept me in the wheelchair for extended periods of time.  It caused countless headaches trying to get from one place to another. It was just a nuisance in my eyes.  

By the time I hit high school, I had had enough.  I was angry, depressed and concerning my parents with talks of wanting to die.  I hadn't come up with a way to do it yet, but I was very close.  My mom took me to a psychiatric nurse who was experienced in counseling teens.  The nurse helped some.  But, as nice as she was, I found myself play-acting with her; telling her what she wanted to hear.

The real breakthrough came when I met a fellow classmate at school.  He was in my freshman history class.  I never usually looked around the classroom, just at my lap, my books, or the teacher, but that day, I looked to my right and we both did a double take.  I clicked with him immediately.  He was interested in medical stuff, we were both outsiders at the time ( he was new to the school while I wasn't, but I didn't feel like I fit in), he stuck up for me, and he boosted my confidence.  

Will and Louisa's relationship reminded me somewhat of ours in reverse, but his friendship helped me decide to live, not die.  I'm thankful for that.  Thoughts of death were replaced with a determination to ditch my wheelchair.  I fought to walk and I finally won at age 16.  

I didn't read the book thinking that it sent a negative message to people with disabilities.  I thought of it as a story of two people coming together to help each other live the best lives possible.  Sometimes endings just don't turn out the way we want them to, but that is what made the book so authentic to me.  It wasn't a storybook ending.  It was about real life issues and the tough decisions we have to make in the face of adversity.  He made his choice.  She was devastated but supportive in the end, and that's what real friendship is.  That's what it means to love and respect another person.

I only had a couple of gripes with the book:  1.  Will and his family just had to be loaded.  I suppose to finance all the joyful experiences someone would have to be rich, but I really wish more books were written with the message that you don't have to have piles of money to be happy or for your dreams to come true.  2.  Will died.  I was hoping he'd change his mind at the last minute, but no.  

If you are feeling down about your health issues, surround yourself with positive, caring people--friends, health care professionals, family, clergy, colleagues, and the like..  Or you may only need that one friend who sticks his neck out to make you feel whole, capable, happy, and ready to take on the world--or at least your little corner of it.  If you feel depressed, please seek help from a qualified mental health professional.  Whatever works, go for it--for life.

So, have you read the book?  If so, what did you think of it?  And, if not, I'm sorry for the spoilers.

Note:  I just happened to write about this book because, like the graphic above says, it spoke to me.  It was about friendship and health issues and I loved it.  I am not writing this as a review for an affiliate.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Importance of Having Different Types of Friends

I've talked about the benefits of friendship before, including stress relief, reduced sense of loneliness, and overall feeling of well-being, as well as how to find new friends.  But today I'd like to talk about the importance of having a variety of different types of friends.

Three Friendship Models

In a study on the effects of social connections on academic performance published in the October 2016 issue of the journal Contexts, three friendship models were identified:

  • Tight-knitters:  You tend to hang out with one big group of friends who basically all know and offer significant support to each other.
  • Compartmentalizers:  You have different smaller groups of friends who are unrelated and don't intermingle.  For example, work friends, church friends, book club friends, sports/fitness friends, and school friends.
  • Samplers:  You like one-on-one friendships.  
I have been a part of all three types of friendships over the years.  My favorite type of the three is one-on-one.  I like to form deep friendships which is difficult in a group setting where I tend to clam up and get drowned out. If I had to choose a second favorite, it would be compartmentalizing.  I like having all sorts of friends with different interests and personalities, so the smaller groups of this friendship model suit me.  At one time Jim and/or I had these friendship groups: football, church, school, volunteer, work, workout.  We've had friends of different ethnic groups, ages, socioeconomic status, lifestyles, interests, faiths, and political views. The most important thing is to have quality friendships, no matter the number.  

Types of Friends

There are many categories of friends who can have a positive impact on your life.  Here are some examples:
  • Cheerleader:  This person is always in your corner supporting your new project at work, relationship, or fitness program.
  • Good-Time Charlie:  You are guaranteed to relieve stress with this friend.  This is the friend you go out dancing, play games, and go on road trips with.
  • Kindred Spirit:  This friend just "gets" you completely.  You can be totally open and honest with each other without fear of feeling stupid or being betrayed.  
  • Polar Opposite:  Opposites attract, right?  This friend helps keep you balanced, and you do the same in return.  
  • The Neighbor:  Neighborliness still exists,  Scope out your area for friendly neighbors.  You may just talk over the fence once in awhile, but it's important to make that connection. Getting to know your neighbors not only may spark a friendship, but it gives you a sense of security as well.
  • The Mentor:  This friend guides and challenges you to do your best whether professionally, spiritually, or in other facets of your life.  
  • The Guardian Angel:  This friend comes into your life when you need him the most. This person provides support that no one else can give you at that specific time in your life.  The friendship may last a few days, a couple years, or a lifetime. 
  • True Friend:  This friend doesn't fit into any specific category.  She is there to provide emotional support without fail, during your high and low points; through the good, the bad, and the ugly.  
Again, I have or have had many of these types of friends and they have each taught me important lessons about trust, loyalty, honesty, self-confidence, and tolerance.  It takes me awhile to establish a friendship, but that's pretty normal.  It takes time to build trust and feel comfortable exposing vulnerability that fosters close friendships.

What type of friendship model do you prefer?  Do you have a variety of friends, or a few close ones?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or email me at  

Monday, June 12, 2017

Don't Be Afraid to Travel: Prepare, Relax, Have Fun, and Be Well

Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark, May 2017
Hello!  I'm so excited to be back!  Jim and I went on an amazing vacation to Denmark to visit Naja, who we hosted when she was an exchange student during the 2015-2016 school year in Utah.  

Of course, it was incredible.  The weather was great, we saw so many beautiful sights, met some awesome people, hopped over to Sweden, where my mom's family was from, for a short visit which was a thrill, and I didn't get sick or hurt.  I repeat, I did not get sick or hurt!  I didn't even fall.  That was freakin' amazing!  It was pretty perfect.  Ah well, my knee hurt the whole time, but other than that, yeah, it was pretty perfect.

Then why did I spend the better part of the previous six months before the trip worrying about it? Ah, this is my nature.  A little gift of the genes that my dad gave me.  I have always worried about what might happen on a trip, especially one to another country.  In particular, I worry that I might get sick on the food and water.  I've gotten sick on the water in different perfectly decent countries in the past, so I was again fearful of that happening.  To try to ease my anxiety, I sent an email to Naja's mother letting her know what foods bothered my sensitive system.  And I drank bottled water throughout most of the trip.    

I think I worried just as much about having to spend so much time on health maintenance, and not being able to keep up with everyone while out and about sight-seeing.  I guess that wasn't so much a cause for worry as it was one of frustration.  These feet and short legs can only go so fast.  And, there were always medicine schedules to keep and medical mumbo jumbo to take care of, so I was off doing that instead of relaxing and visiting.  Of course, I visited, but I felt like I was pulled away from conversations too often.  

Also, I found myself managing my day in my head.  While Jim was care-free and getting deep into conversation about certain landmarks and customs, I was thinking, "I wonder if there's a bathroom around here?" or "I wonder where we will eat and will I be able to eat the food?"  or "I'm getting really low on water and I need to take my meds soon.  Must look for water."  Oh, it's annoying! 

I also spent time worrying that I would be a nuisance, having to stop for bathroom breaks maybe a bit more often than others, having to take breaks to rest my feet maybe more than others, or having to take my medication way before mealtime and, whups, I forgot. But, really, everyone was patient, kind, and understanding.  I was able to do everything I needed to do, and found everything I needed without much fuss  I went my own speed most of the time while walking around, and Jim stayed with me so I wouldn't be the only one at the back of the pack.  Ha!  Naja's mother had gotten some of the food items I needed before we even arrived, as well.  I had nothing to worry about.  

I have heard the saying that if you are nervous about doing something, it's a sign that you should do it.  That very thing you fear most could bring significant growth, boosted confidence, and feelings of accomplishment, if tackled.  

So from now on, I will face trips with this attitude and mindset:  Prepare, be confident, have fun, and be well.    

How do you handle traveling with heath issues?  Do you freak out, thinking of everything that could go wrong?  Or do you consider it an exciting opportunity and just take snags in stride as they come along?  I'd love to hear from you.