Monday, July 29, 2013

Make Each Day Meaningful

Resilience is a quality we all have within us.  We can take that resilience and make it work for us and strengthen ourselves if we choose.
Resilience is a tenacity of spirit; a determination to deal with adversity in our lives.  I know it doesn't feel like it at the time we are trying to handle one of life's stressful or sad times, but the courage and patience that we find inside ourselves as we process hardships can help us come out on the other side of it a better person.
A better person, you ask?  How can that be? 
Adversity can sometimes make us better people in terms of gaining new insight about life and about yourself.  A better person in terms of coping and reordering our priorities.  And a better person in terms of appreciating and loving life even more than we did before because we know how it can change up in a snap.
The good times sparkle even brighter after those challenging times, don't they?
Of course, I am not wishing adversity on anyone.  I don't have to because life hands it to us all on its' own.  I know this from my own experiences and those of my family and my dear friends.
Accepting and even anticipating change helps us maintain flexibility about life and all that come rolling our way.
Remain calm.  Remain peaceful.  Remain hopeful.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

So You Know You Can Dance!

Everyone can dance.  And they should!

For dancing gets you moving and helps you get rid of the stress and tension you are storing all over your body.  Dancing also helps you heal your soul. 
While listening to music, my mind momentarily stops thinking about hurt and pain and frustration as I allow my body to take over and lose itself in the rhythms and sounds of whatever is playing.
Dancing is definitely therapeutic!!  And today, in Washington, DC, you can go to The Kennedy Center and dance pretty much all day to your heart's desires.  Or you can do what I intend to do which is dance wherever you are and go with it.

It's National Dance Day, an official and recognized event started in 2010 by Nigel Lythgoe, the co-creator and judge of the television show "So You Think You Can Dance."  His purpose in founding this day was simply to get people dancing and inspire others to get on their feet and move and discover the wonders of dancing as a healthy lifestyle.
Lythgoe will be in Los Angeles today for that city's celebration of dance.  Besides DC and LA, there will be performance, tutorials, and flash mobs in Austin, TX, Vail, CO, Montgomery, AL and Rockford, IL, among other locations.
The DC event at the Kennedy Center is free and today will feature hip-hop, salsa, modern, Bollywood, flamenco, African, tap and ballet from 1 pm to 11:30 pm.
"The whole concept is to have fun, to bring people to dance, to start knocking down the barriers we  build," Lythgoe said.  "You know, you put any piece of music on and a baby starts dancing, just quite naturally.  And somehow we lose that as we get older.  We start to feel embarrassed about ourselves and embarrassed about our bodies."
So get up and strut your stuff and boogie all the time for it's great for your body and your sweet, sweet soul!  Here's an oldie from one of my favorite groups, Earth Wind & Fire, singing a hot song, "Boogie Wonderland."  If this doesn't make you move, I don't know what will:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Exiting The Control Lane

It is Friday and I am one big burnt piece of toast!

It has been a week of going to the hospital (hopefully my Dad will be discharged today), car maintenance (way too expensive) and early starts at work (hate the alarm).  But I am truly looking forward to the end of today because that is when my well-deserved vacation begins!!!!!!

As hard as I try to maneuver around the built-in stress of the above situations, I am just a human being like anyone else and I do get sucked into worrying about all of these things instead of having faith that they will eventually get solved or will eventually be handled.

This where managing my expectations comes in.  For some reason, after all these years, I still think that if I treat a person nicely that they will treat me nicely.  NOT!  I really have to work on cutting loose my expectations of a situation and just let the situation happen.  Not to say that I should just lay down and let life roll over me but I need to tell myself that there is a difference between trying to control a situation and going into a situation with an open mind.

Photo Courtesy of Associated Press
The Elite Daily has come up with a list of the 20 things we need to let go of in order to be happy and I think it's a good solid list for all of us to consider.  I would say that #20 is an area I need to definitely focus on a lot; like every day; like all the time.  I do unfairly disappoint myself because I set my expectations higher than I should and then come away wondering why something happened the way it did. 

Instead, I should learn to sit back and let things develop.

Check out the list for yourself and see what you think.  If there is an area that you think you need to focus on in your life, please share below.  So without further discussion, away we go!

Here's the list from the Elite Daily:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sonia Sotomayor

I am a big believer in the idea that when someone offers you a helping hand that you should turn around and offer your hand to help someone else.

It's the right thing to do and haven't you also found that you always get more out of life when you become actively involved and emotionally invest in it?  I know I do!

I'm guessing that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor practices this same philosophy because she recently went back to her childhood roots in the Bronx, NY and spent the day with young children from the Dream Big program at Environment Day held at Fordham University.  Dream Big is a four to six week summer arts enrichment program for elementary school aged children program at local schools and community based organizations.

US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor reads
to the children at the Dream Big program
Sotomayor had a rough childhood.  She was born in a public housing project, her father was an alcoholic and she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was eight years old.  After her father died when she was nine, her mother worked as nurse and raised Sonia and her brother, Juan.  The power of education was something their mother emphasized over and over to them and it was Sonia's ticket out of the Bronx.
She was inspired by Nancy Drew books (my favorite too!) and those books plus watching Perry Mason on television lead to her wanting to become a lawyer and ultimately the first Hispanic to become a member of the Supreme Court.

"My dream is that each of you finds your dream and that it comes true," Sotomayor told the children.  "And I hope that when you reach your dream, you'll write me a letter and you'll tell me."

Despite her very busy schedule on the Supreme Court, Sotomayor frequently returns to the Bronx, which she calls her "beloved world," to stay involved with her dynamic community, to give back what she has learned so far in her life journey and to help inspire children to achieve goals that may take them beyond their neighborhoods.

"Don't give up chasing your dreams," Sotomayor said.
Giving to others can offer us a view of ourselves as strong and valued and needed.  Whether you come from the Bronx or you are in a place where you are trying to rebuild your life, I hope Sonia Sotomayor's tenacity inspires you to stay on your path and continue to follow your passions wherever they may take you and don't forget to help another person along the way.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Kindness of Nurses

Have you ever been in an emergency room at 2 am?

Unfortunately, my son and I found ourselves there Sunday night because we needed to take my Dad to the hospital for medical attention to various issues that by themselves were not a big deal, but taken collectively, for a man in his 80's, they added up to a serious situation.

The doctors agreed about the seriousness of my Dad's symptoms but didn't decide to check him in until after midnight and then he was finally assigned a room around 2 am.  By the time we got home, it was 3 am.

Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep.  After putting in a full day's work on Monday, I was looking forward to going to bed early but before I pulled the blankets entirely over my head, I wanted to say add a few words about nurses and their kindness.

Nurses are incredible.  Their jobs are physically and emotionally demanding yet they continually show unbelievable amounts of compassion to people who are in various and varying stages of sickness.

Mixed in with all the beeping medical equipment that never seems to quiet down, nurses provide the essential human touch that people really need, especially in the middle of the night when things always seem worse.  Sometimes it's a hug or a pat on the hand or a quick joke, but nurses seem to always be dispensing good will and just all around emotional support to those who feel sick or those who are scared and nervous about being in a hospital.

I'm not taking anything away from doctors and the obvious importance of their roles in anyone's medical care.  But it's the nurses who end up rolling up their sleeves and doing the down and sometimes dirty support work of taking care of their fellow human beings.
My Dad is still in the hospital as of this morning and I know the nurses will be doing what they do best!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Moon Landing

Today marks the 44th anniversary of man walking on the moon.
It is a historic date and a landmark event that people today still use as a standard or a call for national action on an issue as in "if we put a man on the moon then why we can't we......."
I think most people remember where they were when the moon walk happened.
With all the lights off in the living room of my parents beach cottage, my siblings, our parents and I watched the incredible, once-in-a-lifetime event live on television with the rest of the world.  We knew it was something very important because we were allowed to stay up and watch it and no one was allowed to talk. 
The televised black and white picture of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin slowly descending the ladder from their NASA module to the surface of the moon was so grainy you couldn't always tell what was happening but you didn't dare move your eyes away from the screen because you didn't know what was going to happen next.
Many decades later, the moon event has additional significance for me because my late husband, Thomas O'Toole, was a reporter for The Washington Post at that time and he wrote one of the insightful front page stories describing the exciting yet tense moon event.
Photo Courtesy of NASA
While it has been nine years since his death, the anniversary of this moon event brings him back to me ever so clearly.  I think this is because he was a very talented workaholic who devoted almost every waking moment to learning and knowing everything he could about NASA and its space program.  He was fascinated by science and all that was associated with space and the race to put a man on the moon.
I asked him many times to describe for me what that day was like and what it was like to write the story as it was happening.  I loved to listen to him tell and retell the details of the newsroom atmosphere and what was going on in terms of getting the newspaper printed.  It was a tremendous amount of pressure and truly an example of deadline writing and reporting.
I write about him today because I -- and I'm sure others -- invest a variety emotions into special days whether those days are birthdays or anniversaries of weddings, deaths, or other special events.  Acknowledging my feelings about these special days is just one step of many that I have been taking to rebuild my life, our son's life and to discover new resources strengthening my resilience.
Writing about my feelings helps me sort through and process whatever it is that is going on in my brain and in my heart.  I also write about my feelings as a way of reaching out to others and letting them know they are not alone in the complicated and unexpected things they feel on their grief journeys.
There are many ways to express your feelings and in time you will find the right one for you.  Some people need to talk their feelings out while others prefer quiet projects like painting or photography.
I appreciate and adore all of my wonderful readers and today thank you very much for allowing me to share the feelings about my husband that caught me off guard and took my breath away on this special anniversary.
I tried to find my husband's story from July of 1969 but when I Googled for it, this is all I could find:

A Peaceful Soul

Thought For The Day. . .

Photo Courtesy of The Secrets of the Sea

For it was not into my ear you whispered,
but into my heart.
It was not my lips you kissed,
but my soul.
                       ~ Judy Garland

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cheerios With Nana

While watching television last night, this commercial came on twice and I had to stop and watch it both times.
It's only 31 seconds but it's so sweet!
It reminded me of my wonderful Nana and how I miss her so much.  She died a long time ago but she is still very special to me and also to many, many of my cousins.  We all adored her!  How I would love to be at her house today just to hear her talk or sing or play the piano.  I think food also brings back strong memories of loved ones; either because of something they would make or something they loved to eat and perhaps you ate it with them.
Photo Courtesy of Cheerios
For my Nana, it is a coffee cake recipe that she would make and you could eat it hot or cold.  I believe it is a recipe she made up herself and she called it Snapdoodle.  Being a child of the Depression, Nana would say that anyone could make this coffee cake because the ingredients would be things that you would always have on hand in your kitchen or cupboard.
Everyone loved Snapdoodle and when Nana made it, it was a treat!  Just like her, Snapdoodle has simple straightforward ingredients but it makes a lasting impression of something sweet and basically good.
I'm sure you must have a Nana in your life or someone who might have filled the role of a nurturing Nana for you.  If this person is still with you, give her a call today or give her a hug.  If she's no longer with you, then talk to her, for I bet she can still hear you and is still looking over you.
Cheerios or Snapdoodle, it doesn't matter which one.  Loved ones stay with you forever.
Here's the Cheerios With Nana commercial:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Zumba Zumba

The guy who invented Zumba, Beto Perez, wears a black sleeveless T-shirt and says to me, "Feel the Music."

And I do!

I am watching Beto, along with 5 other Zumba dance instructors on a DVD and I am taking the 20 minute Zumba express lesson in my house.

What's so great about Zumba?

Well, for me Zumba feels more like fun rather than exercise and the workout burns mucho calories which I am always trying to do.  Having discovered Zumba this summer, I am finding it to be everything I heard.  First of all, the music is great!  It's not like an exercise class at all.  I am writing about Zumba because I genuinely like it, not because the company sent me materials and asked me to endorse anything.

Even though I am watching a DVD rather than being in a live class, it still feels similar to being in a party atmosphere.  I have watched a lot of exercise DVDs and enjoy all of them for different reasons but Zumba is different.  Don't get me wrong, you definitely do break a sweat will following the instructors! 
But the Zumba program, which involves dance and aerobic elements, doesn't feel robotic in terms of constantly counting where you are in the exercises and how many you have left to do to get to the end.  Also, if you fall out of step in one of the routines, it's more forgiving.  You can easily find your place again if you just keep moving.
We all need to move around a lot more than we do.  Our bodies were designed for movement.  We are built to be active. 
Over the winter I could tell that I was spending more time sitting and I knew this wasn't a good thing.  I could tell because I was started to gain a little weight and I felt sluggish.  Plus there are more and more studies coming out about how sitting all day may shorten your life.  As a person who works in an office and spends a good amount of the day in front of the computer, I find those studies to be scary.
So I was prepared to get off my butt but I needed to find something new to jumpstart me and keep me off my butt.  I had heard about Zumba for a while and had casually watched some infomercials and I thought it always looked more like dance than exercise.
Try it for yourself and see what you think.  Even if you don't follow the routines you can dance or move along with the music which is better than sitting in front of the television or the computer.  Any movement is better than no movement.
Here's a short introduction Zumba clip to watch so you can see what it's all about:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Widow Chick

I don't know the woman who writes the amazing blog called "Widow Chick" but I feel as if I do.
She (aka Catherine) is to-the-core honest and humorous in writing about her daily travels as a widow and a woman who is trying to be Mom and Dad to three young children.  I regularly read her blog and it always gives me a boost!

Widow Chick's Husband
Yesterday she wrote a particularly touching post about an important anniversary in her life and I would like to share it with you because she is right on point in expressing her thoughts and feelings about what happened.
Please read this link which will take you to Widow Chick's blog post:

God bless you Widow Chick!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dominic Moore's Comeback After Wife's Death

Finding this story in the sports section of the New York Times is a positive sign of how far we as a society have come in our ongoing discussion about grief.
Who would have thought even five years ago that a professional athlete would give an intimate interview about dropping out of playing his sport to care for his wife in the last months of her life and how her tragic death changed his priorities?
Dominic and Katie Moore
The world of professional ice hockey is full of ice, blades, speed, sticks, pucks, mixed in with a very heavy dose of testosterone and ego.  Once the gloves come off in the heat of competitive play, you know that some kind of awful fight is about to begin and someone will lose teeth and/or break something.
It is not a world of talking about your feelings or inner emotions.  It is not a world of taking time out to heal yourself.  Toughing it out is what it's all about.  Why do you think professional ice hockey has something called a "Power Play"?
Moore, 32, was playing for the San Jose Sharks when his wife, Katie, was diagnosed in the late spring of 2012 with a rare form of liver cancer.  He took a leave of absence during the 2012 playoffs while she fought her cancer and Moore did not play last season either, when Katie, 32, lost her battle on January 7, 2013.  Following her death, Moore also started a charitable foundation in his wife's name called the Katie Moore Foundation.
Now Moore is back and as a unrestricted free agent with a one year, $1 million contract, he will be playing for a new team: the New York Rangers.  With his decision to make a comeback, he courageously talked to reporters last week and openly discussed his time off while taking care of Katie and how he spent the time after her death.
"Dealing with the disease and what we went through, it's a lot to try and describe in one simple answer," Moore said.  "But one thing I'm grateful for is the time we had.  In a way, those months were the most special months with each other that anyone could possibly ask for, despite it being the most difficult and painful months that anyone could possibly deal with."
I think Rick Carpiniello, who wrote USA Today's story about Moore summed it up best: "Regardless of your NHL allegiance, if you are not rooting for the Rangers' Dominic Moore next season you need to go out and get a heart."
Here is the New York Times story about Dominic and Katie Moore:

Friday, July 12, 2013


I left a couple of bananas on my kitchen counter the other day and the current heat and humidity in Washington, DC ripened them so fast that in two days they were too mushy for my cereal.  I'm not one to throw food away, so I found my trusty banana bread recipe and baked them into golden goodness!
This banana bread recipe below is from Martha Stewart's best-selling book, Entertaining, and I highly recommend making it and having it on hand for a quick breakfast.  I once tried the recipe as muffins and they were okay but the recipe is more delicious cooked in a loaf pan as bread.
When you are grieving, or under a lot of stress, it is so important for you to begin the day with breakfast.  Even if you find you have temporarily lost your appetite, this banana bread, perhaps with some yogurt, is easy to digest.  Bananas are high in potassium which is important in regulating blood pressure and keeping your muscles healthy.  Plus bananas are low in calories.

We can't stop life from handing us tough emotional times but we can control what we do for ourselves.
You may be having trouble sleeping or finding it hard to concentrate for long periods of times.  A balanced diet, rest, and moderate exercise could help to give you some structure and guide you towards slowly processing your raw emotions.  It is not a small thing to take care of yourself and learn how to keep yourself on a healthy track.
I hope you like this bread as much as my son and I do:
Martha Stewart's Banana Bread
1 large loaf or 4 small loaves
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar (I use less sugar, sometimes almost halving the amount)
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (usually 2)
1/2 cup sour cream (I use low fat)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (these are optional; I leave them out)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter, sugar and eggs.
Sift the dry ingredients and combine with the butter mixture.
Blend well.  Add the bananas, sour cream and vanilla; stir well.
Stir in the nuts if you wish and pour into a well buttered 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan or several smaller pans.
Bake 1 hour.  Turn out onto a rack to cool.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Resting Your Mind

The older I get, the more I find the below quote to be true.
  What do you think?
Photo Courtesy of French Essence

"The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook."

                                  ~William James
                                     The Principles of Psychology

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Delaying The Inevitable

I'm scared of things.  Lots of things.  And there are things that I really don't want to do.
But I usually force myself to do them.  Because eventually I know I will probably have to do them all by myself.

I could ask other people to do things for me but I always feel silly doing that because I know I can do it for myself.  Besides, by the time I ask someone else to do something for me and I explain what it is that I need done, I could have done it for myself.
I try to live my life by making choices that I feel good about but still there are situations I find myself in that I really don't like.  At all.
I don't like certain things that happen when I am at home and I don't like certain situations at work.  However, I don't have control over the majority of things I don't like or am scared of so I end up talking to myself and trying to work my way through these potential walls that could possibly make my life very narrow if I let them.
Everyone has something they're scared about; it's just that I don't want my "scary things" to stop me from enjoying spontaneous times with friends and family.  I listen to my "scarys" but I try never to act on them.  Last week I was invited to join some friends for dinner in a place I was not familiar with at all and I almost didn't go.

All I could imagine was that I was going to get lost and not know how to get out of where I was or I would make a wrong turn anf find myself driving on 95 heading south towards Richmond.  I really hate getting lost when I am by myself.  I talked to myself about the whole situation and how ridiculous it was to feel that way and then Google mapped my directions and then talked to myself again.
And then I went to dinner and had a great time!
Life is full of choices.  It's up to you which ones you decide to make.
You've got the power!!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Owen Danoff -- On & On & On

A big shout out today goes to the multi-talented singer songwriter Owen Danoff for exceeding his Kickstarter goal of $15,000!!!

Owen and his supporters raised $19,391 by June 30 and now Owen has the money to record his debut album this year!!!  In fact, he's already started work on his album.  This past weekend, he and his rockin' band went to NYC to spend time in a recording studio putting down music tracks.

I write about this today because it is truly exciting and yes, healing, to watch someone who I have know since he was a baby find his passion in life and then follow it.  It's healing because it is renewing and energizing to see Owen or anyone else commit to their talents and continue to work hard at developing and mastering them.
Everyone has a talent and everyone does something a little better than someone else.  It doesn't matter how old you are or what phase of life you are in, there is always time for you to develop and follow your passions. 
If you are not familiar with Kickstarter, it is an online resource dedicated to funding creative projects.  Films, games, music, art and technology, Kickstarter allows the person proposing the project with a funding goal and deadline to have complete control over it.  Kickstarter offers an online platform where people can pledge money directly to fund a proposed project to make it happen
Here, in Owen's words, are some of the reasons why he wanted to record an album:

"Music is about how it makes you feel, and I know the feeling of having a friend in a favorite album when there's no one else to turn to. I know the feeling of listening to a song that's so in tune with the world around you that you can't help but dance a little in public, or close your eyes and soak it in. I know the feeling of sitting on a bus or a plane for hours, and putting in headphones to let music steal away the time.
Those feelings, those connections we have with the music we love, are magic. If you give me the chance, I will do my best to create that magic for you."
If you haven't heard Owen Danoff before, I have posted a video of him and his band singing a song a wrote called, "On & On & On."  I liked it from the first time I heard it.  It has a driving beat and I love the lyrics.

Here's to Owen's debut album and may good luck continue to follow him and his band "On & On & On" as he goes about creating his magical music for us.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Crying & Healing

This post is for anyone, and in particular someone who is close to me, who is currently going through an anxious time in their life and is unsure how it will turn out.

Anxiety may be dogging you and causing sleepless nights, loss of appetite, an increase in appetite, a need to abuse alcohol or drugs (please don't!!!!), crankiness or sadness and crying.  As in crying constantly.  Like every day.  At any time.

This person close to me was talking recently about how crying really does make her feel better but she's also aware that it doesn't make others around feel better.  Crying is normal and is a healthy release from sadness, tension, frustration or anger about a particularly stressful situation.

But even though crying is normal, it scares alot of people; both men and women.  I have seen people who can handle incredible amounts of stress or pressure or work completely mishandle a situation when they see someone cry in public.  They either just stand there fumbling through words that they hope will make some kind of sense or they find a reason to excuse themselves and walk away.

Hello?????  Really??????  All the person needs is a comforting gesture.  Let's exercise our human natures and try to connect with one another.  A hug or holding a person's hand or putting an arm around their shoulder would be wonderful place to start.  Just keep telling yourself that it's not about how uncomfortable you feel.  It's really about helping the other person who is obviously in some kind of distress and is falling apart in front of you.

Many years ago, I would cry all the time.  I didn't plan it.  And I didn't do it on purpose.  I would just feel an overwhelming sadness and then the tears would start to well up and I couldn't stop myself.  I had no control over my feelings at all.  At the time, I was grieving over the loss of my husband, for our life together and for our life as a family with a young child.  I really did try to keep it together but for about a year I cried a lot.

I didn't even care where I was when I cried.  I didn't even care how other people reacted to my crying.  I was so beyond worrying about how I looked when I cried.  Sometimes I would do "The Ugly Cry," as Oprah calls it, which is full out face crying with your face twisted and red and your mouth wide open and then other times I would find myself sitting quietly and the tears would roll down my face.

I did scare myself once with my crying.  Once, when I was at the cemetary early in the morning during the work week when no one was there, I was kneeling on the ground and talking to my husband at the same time.  I was full of emotion and frustration and anxiety and I cried so hard that I got a nose bleed.  That was bad!
I was at a particularly low point in my life and never in a million years would I ever wish that absolute down-in-the-gutter feeling of loneliness on anyone.  God bless you if you happen to be in that place right now.  I am sorry for what you are going through righ now and I am sending you a hug and a message of strength so you know you are not alone and that there is always hope.
I know it doesn't feel like there is any hope right right now.  The person close to me doesn't feel it either.  But there is hope and I know it is within you.
Let it burn within you and please allow yourself to feel your inner strength and always believe in your ability to build on it.
It's okay, in fact it's necessary to give yourself permission to cry, for your tears are a comfort and a sign you are processing your anxious feelings.  Releasing your tears may help you sort out your feelings but they will never extinguish your beautiful inner spirit or your power to renew your life.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Movement As Medicine

When I spend too much time in front of the computer or television I don't feel right.

I don't feel as if my body and mind are working together as they were designed to do, and when this happens I know it's a signal for me to get up off my inactive butt and do something physical.

As in get the heart pumping and break a sweat.
It doesn't matter what you do, just get up and move.  Exercise anywhere and everywhere.
Exercise is a gift you give yourself because it can reduce anxiety, clear toxins from your system and just clear your mind and give you a fresh outlook on your day.  Even when I don't want to exercise, I convince myself to do some kind of activity because I always feel like a new person when I do.  Always!  It's amazing!
Our bodies are designed for movement.  Dance. Walk. Garden. Stretch. Play a sport.  Run.  It all works!
Here is a recent inspiring story from The Washington Post about the mental and physical benefits of exercise classes that a group of people diagnosed with Parkinson's take on a regular basis.  As the author, Lenny Bernstein, writes, "Here, exercise is therapy, perhaps no match for Parkinson's disease over the two decades that it generally inflicts misery on its 1 million victims, but certainly a dose of nonprescriptive relief in the short term."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Birthday America!

Parades, picnics, cookouts, and the day off from work.  These are just some of the ways we as Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, a day set aside to mark and remember when the United States first declared its independence from Great Britian in 1776!
Tonight, in the nation's capital, there will be a spectacular display of fireworks, and I'm sure it will be just as dazzling as it was last year.  It truly is a special event!

Photo Courtesy of Associated Press

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope you have a great day today.  I will be with friends hanging out by their pool and enjoying the time with special people.

Be safe, stress free and sing your heart out when you hear "The Star Spangled Banner." 

The Star Spangled Banner
By Francis Scott Key 1814

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Preventing Burnout

Holidays are the best!  They always seem to arrive at the right time, just when we need a break from our daily routines.  Just when we need time out to relax and recharge.
Holidays help us take a break, both mentally and physically, from the responsibilities we carry out every day. I intend to sleep in, exercise more, hang out with friends, and read.  I do all of these things on a regular basis but holidays allow me to do them for longer, uninterrupted periods of time.  And I can do them spontaneously which adds to the fun.
Holidays also opens up our creative juices and gets us to thinking of different ways to decorate our houses, apartments or even ourselves!  We try new recipes and sometimes even travel to a new place.
When we continually do our work routines or personal responsibilities over and over again in just the same way, every day, with hardly any break in the routine, we can start to burn out and then things start to go bad.  You can be on the path to burning out and not really know until it's too late.  Others probably know it because they see a change in you, but you are probably determined to power on, pushing to do what you need to do at all costs.
It's time to take a break!
The Washington Post story below is about nurses and how they deal with patient burnout but their solutions could be our solutions too:
Nurses at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
do stretching exercises
Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Monkey Bars

Yesterday I wrote about one small aspect of holding on to a deceased loved one's material things for a long time.  It's a rather large emotional minefield of an issue but if you ride along with me for a bit more today maybe we can make some progress together and get on with it.
Let's be real:  nobody wants to hurt and nobody wants to feel pain.  It's in our DNA to try and protect ourselves and so we naturally want to run away from pain and suffering; even sometimes to deny its existence.  I think this is one of the main reasons why painful issues hang around for so long and aren't resolved quickly.  They just plain hurt.

Unfortunately, I know this for sure:  you are only delaying the inevitable.  At some point, you're going to have to feel the hurt and pain to get to the other side which actually can be very freeing.  This time around for me, it was a jar of Ovaltine, but it could be anything the next time: a possession, a feeling, a person or even a situation.

I think it's almost similiar to that feeling you may have had as a child while working your way across the metal monkey bars on the school playground.  You notice I said metal.  I'm old enough that those playground structures like monkey bars were made of metal so when you put your hands on them they were either blistering cold in the winter or burning hot in the summer.

While hanging from the bars and trying to swing my body back and forth, I knew I was in safe territory as I slowly but surely moved forward to the other side.  It was familiar and all I wanted to do was reach the other side and let go.  And then there were those times when I would miscalculate and I would get tired and be hanging somewhere in the middle.  "Oh no," I would think, "I'm almost over to the other side.  I don't want to drop and fall to the ground."  The ground seemed so far away and I didn't want to release my hands from the bars as much as my arms and hands might hurt.  I wanted to stay on the bars.
It's the same with being hooked on a comforting feeling that a possession, a person or a situation can give you.  You've convinced yourself that everything will be okay if you have that possession, person or are in that set of circumstances.  It helps you ride through the pain, at least for awhile. 
For me, pieces of paper with my husband's writing on it were comforting.  It didn't matter what he had written.  It was just the quick glance at his distinctive handwriting that would make me feel better, as though he had just handed them to me.  I would fold them and put them in my purse, pin them on the bulletin board behind my computer at home and generally just leave them lying around. 
Then one day, and I would say it took about a year for me to feel this way, I started to actually read the papers and really look at them and I realized that keeping all these papers was getting to be messy; that keeping one or two significant handwritten notes was enough and I could toss the rest in the trash.  The papers were getting in the way of moving forward.
The process of learning to let go happens at a different pace for all of us.  Sometimes we move quickly through anger or frustration and slowly through anxiety or it can be the other way around for another person.  We are all different in our ways of handling and expressing grief.
Just as we work our way across the monkey bars one by one, we work our way slowly but surely through the grief process, step by step, beginning to heal and feeling oh so much stronger as we reach the other side.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tossing Emotional Baggage

A spilled box of cereal this weekend took me through an unexpected, yet healthy exercise.
While trying to do too many things at the same time in the kitchen, I spilled a box of cereal inside one of my kitchen cabinets.  Don't you hate it when that happens?
It was such a klutzy move and right away I was annoyed with myself.  I looked at the shelf with the cereal spilled everywhere inside the cabinet and knew I was going to have to take everything out and vacuum the shelf.  Damn! What a pain!
I knew the sooner I started the sooner it would be over.  While muttering to myself, one by one I pulled all the items from their shelves and put them on the counter and on the floor.  Of course, you know what happened next.  One cabinet led to another cabinet and before I knew it, I had a full fledged kitchen project going of vacuuming the shelves, throwing out expired stuff and relining the shelves.
But in the process of cleaning, I came upon an old yet distinctive jar of Ovaltine.
There's only one person in my family who used to drink Ovaltine and that person was my husband, who is no longer with us.  Sad to say and embarrassed to admit, but that jar of chocolatey malted powder has sat there in the back of the cabinet for almost nine years.  I know.  Nine. Years.
I would see the jar but not really see the jar if you know what I mean.  There were times when I would scold myself and say "This is ridiculous!  Why are you holding on to this Ovaltine?"  But there was something about it and I couldn't bring myself to toss it in the trash can.  It just reminded me of him so much.  It was his thing.  And no, I did not open the jar.  God knows what I would have seen!
You know how they say that deciding what to give away and what to keep is a hard process when going through a loved one's belongs after they have died?  Well, that is true but in this case I think I went too far.  It was only a jar of Ovaltine and yet it sat there for ages.  I guess it was a reminder to me of my husband and it didn't seem like a big deal to keep it in the cabinet.
But I did hold the jar in my hand for a long time before I threw it away.  I allowed myself to go backwards in time, to a time when we went grocery shopping together and he would always throw a jar of Ovaltine into the cart, a time when he would mix the Ovaltine into a tall glass of cold milk and talk about delicious it was, to a time when Ovaltine was supposed to make him feel better when he was sick.
Who knows why I was ready to throw the Ovaltine away on Saturday!  Maybe it was because I was throwing other stuff away and felt like I was on a roll to declutter or maybe I was just ready to see it for what it was: an old jar of Ovaltine.
I surprised myself by my inability to let go of such a simple item.  Some things that belonged to my husband I very easily discarded, donated or threw away.  Just because the jar is gone doesn't mean I threw away the memories too.