Inspiration/Motivation

WHY LIVE IN OKLAHOMA? I KNOW WHY!

I have never been to Oklahoma, but my niece lives there with her husband and three children. She tried to tell me once how special the people are, and being a Michigander and just a bit miffed, I said something stupid like, “Honey, we all think that of where we live.”

oklahoma-map

The State of Oklahoma highlighted on U.S. map.

I didn’t know . . . so much.

I’m embarrassed to say that until I Googled this map, I didn’t really know exactly where Oklahoma is. My uneducated impression was that it looks hot and dusty, has lots of snakes and big spiders, and gets a lot of tornados.

I could never wrap my brain around the whole tornado thing, even when I see them on television. I just can’t imagine.

moore-OK-5-20-2013

Then, on May 20, 2013, it hit a little closer to home. Moore, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City, was hit with a monstrous cyclone, called an EF5 tornado. It was 1.5 miles wide, traveled approximately 210 miles an hour, and was on the ground for nearly 44 minutes.

It was a monster.

It tore through tracts of homes, two schools, and a hospital. And it killed 24 people. Nine of them were at Plaza Towers Elementary School, of which seven were very young children.

Oklahoma Tornado

The destroyed Plaza Towers Elementary School is seen in aerial photos during a mission flown by the Civil Air Patrol Sunday, May 26, 2013, in Moore, Okla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel).

Thankfully, my niece and her family were safe. We talked that night for three hours.

We cried together in relief. And for the fear she had felt for her husband who was out working and almost didn’t reach a shelter. And for her in-laws who were away and didn’t know if they had lost their home or their cherished family dog. We cried for the children. And for the heroes.

I waited until the next day to watch the news coverage. It was heartbreaking.

Journalists interviewed residents wanting to hear about the massive storm, their near escapes, their fears, and their heroic stories. And they wondered, as many of us Americans have:

Why in the heck would anyone want to live there?  

I don’t wonder anymore.

I know why.

They call it The Heartland. And the Bible Belt. And there’s something to all of that.

I watched the interviews and I heard some incredible stuff.

There was a man and his wife standing in front of a pile of rubble that was once their home. It was just flattened. There was nothing recognizable. They stood in front of the camera looking dusty and winded and grey. We would expect them to be overwhelmed, exasperated, and emotionally devastated. And they were. But there was something else.

I listened to the stories; teachers lying on top of children and using their bodies to protect them from debris, a neighbor getting harmed trying to help another neighbor, emergency help being right there immediately afterwards. In interview after interview, I saw the same people, with different faces, saying the same things over and over again.

They were devastated. And they were standing in front of the wreckage that used to be their living room, or bedroom, or bathroom.

“It is just stuff.” They said.

Long before the government appeared or produced any help, the many Churches of Oklahoma had already hit the roads with food, water, supplies, and help. They were ready. And they didn’t waste a minute.

“I thank God that my family is safe.” They said.

Some of them ran towards the storm, knowing that their help would be urgently needed.

“We were much luckier than others were.” They said.

It just blew me away.

I cried as I heard the stories.

But I was never so proud to be an American as I was watching them.

They are so genuine and humble, so strong and devoted . . . and so grateful.

And although I am quite the liberal gal, and I imagine these Bible Belters to think quite differently than me, none of that matters. Not a bit. We could all learn a lot from them.

They are our fellow Americans.

They are Oklahomans.

And they are a beautifully unique breed of something I have yet to see anywhere else.

“It is just stuff.” They said.

I’ll never forget those words.

********************************************

TO HELP THOSE IN OKLAHOMA:

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross has several shelters open in Oklahoma and Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles have begun delivering hot meals throughout the affected areas. The Red Cross is also working to link loved ones in Moore who are OK through a website called Safe and Well. Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, donate online or by phone at 1-800-RED CROSS.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is activating disaster response teams and mobile feeding units to help residents and rescuers in Moore, as well as in other locations in the Plains and the Midwest that were impacted by tornadoes. Donate online or text STORM to 80888 to contribute $10 to the Salvation Army’s relief efforts or make a donation by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY. If you’re sending a check make sure you put the words “Oklahoma Tornado Relief” on the check, and mail it to: The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 12600, Oklahoma City, OK 73157.

AmeriCares

AmeriCares has a disaster relief team working with first responders and local health care organizations on the ground in hard-hit Oklahoma City suburbs. Shipments of water, medicines, and emergency aid have been sent, with more shipments underway. You can help by donating through the AmeriCares website or by phone at 1-800-486-HELP. Text LIVE to 25383 to make a $10 donation. You can also mail a check or money order to: AmeriCares, 88 Hamilton Ave., Stamford, CT 06902.

 

Operation USA

Los Angeles-based international relief agency Operation USA announced it’s providing emergency aid where needed to community-based health organizations across Oklahoma. Donate online, by phone at 1-800-678-7255, or by check made out to Operation USA, 7421 Beverly Blvd., PH, Los Angeles, CA 90036. You can also donate $10 by texting AID to 50555. Corporate donations of bulk quantities of disaster-appropriate supplies are also being requested.

Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief

Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief says it has deployed at least 80 volunteers to respond to severe weather in Oklahoma. Those interested in helping can make a tax-deductible donation to the BGCO’s Disaster Relief ministry online or call (405) 942-3800. You may also send checks to: BGCO Attn: Disaster Relief 3800 N. May Ave. Oklahoma City, OK 73112.

Feed the Children

Feed the Children, which is headquartered in Oklahoma City, has transported bottled water and food to the impacted area. The organization is accepting diapers, canned goods, non-perishable food, snack items, water, sports drinks, and cash donations. Text “Disaster” to 80888 to make a $10 donation. After receiving a confirmation message you must type “yes” to complete the donation. Cash and corporate donations can be made online or by phone at 1-800-627-4556.

Samaritan’s Purse

Samaritan’s Purse, which provided relief to residents of Moore after the devastating tornado in 1999, deployed two Disaster Relief Units from their North Carolina headquarters before dawn on Tuesday. One will be based in Moore, and the other in Shawnee. Samaritan’s Purse is looking for volunteers to help with the relief effort. You can donate online or by phone at 1-800-528-1980. To give by mail, please send donations to: Samaritan’s Purse, P.O. Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607-3000.

Save the Children

Save the Children is mobilizing staff to provide support, relief and recovery services to communities and families in Oklahoma. The organization is prepared to deploy their Child Friendly Space kits in shelters, creating safe play areas for kids. They are also ready to deploy infant and toddler hygiene materials to support young children displaced from their homes. Text TWISTER to 20222 to donate $10 to Save the Children and help the response effort. You can donate online or call 1-800-728-3843.

Operation Blessing International

Operation Blessing International, a Virginia-based humanitarian group, is deploying to Moore, after working on tornado relief in Granbury, Texas, following last week’s storm there. A caravan of OBI emergency equipment was sent to Moore, including a construction unit, mobile command center, trucks full of tools and supplies, and a team of construction foremen. You can donate to the group online or donate by phone at 1-800-730-2537.

PLEASE DON’T FORGET THEM. THEY NEED OUR HELP. THANK YOU.

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Categories: Family, God/Spiritual, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

IT DOESN’T HURT & IT’S FREE

My Pomeranian, Baxter, likes hanging outside on our small fenced-in patio. Today, when I go to the door to let him in, he is carrying a piece of unopened mail. It looks like an invitation.

baxter w mail

And it is addressed to my neighbor.

The one who called the Police on me for parking too close to his car.

It was a couple of years ago. I was in my apartment and heard a commotion and walked outside to find the Police and my neighbor and his wife standing next to my car.

And yes. I was guilty. I had gotten home unusually late the night before and had carelessly pulled right up tight to him; almost touching my bumper to his bumper. There was hardly air between us.

But sheesh, he didn’t have to call the cops on me. Of all the shady things I’ve done in my life, this is when I see the cops? Too much.

I walked up and looked at the bumpers up close. They were not touching.

I looked over at the cop, who was still in his car, and threw my hands up in disbelief.

“Really?” I said, flabbergasted, “this is all a lot of nonsense!”

The cops shrugged, I advised the man to take a breath, gave his wife my sympathies, and walked back into my apartment.

There is just no such thing as communication anymore. Technology has created new ways to talk and it seems that actual face-to-face conversation has gone right out the window.

What a shame.

So today, Baxter delivers this unopened mail to me. I don’t know how it ever got over my fence and into my yard because my neighbor and I have several feet of lawn between our buildings. And I am not even sure if it is his.

But I have a feeling.

So I write a post-it note explaining how his mail was delivered to me by my dog, Baxter, and after confirming his address, I walk over to his building and put it in his mailbox. Maybe it will make him grin.

I walk away feeling a little pleased with myself.

Why be so nice to someone who was obviously wrapped a bit too tightly?

Oh, what the hell. I’ll show him how it’s done.

Neighbors. . . Kindness. . . Nice and simple. It’s an old-fashioned concept.

And I’m helping it make a comeback.  🙂

Categories: Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

I’M NOT NEEDY

I DON’T NEED TO . . .

. . . ALWAYS BE RIGHT. Sometimes being kind is more important.

. . . ALWAYS DO MY BEST. Sometimes less than that is okay too.

. . . ALWAYS GIVE MY OPINION. Sometimes it’s not needed/wanted.

. . . TALK SO MUCH. Sometimes listening is more important.

. . . BE AN ADDICT in order to cope with life.

. . . CRITICIZE OR DIMINISH OTHERS to feel good about myself.

. . . STEAL YOUR THUNDER. I will always let you shine.

. . . ONE UP YOU. Our friendship is not a competition.

. . . BE IN A RELATIONSHIP to feel complete. I complete me.

. . . JUDGE OTHERS. I will tend to my own garden.

I DON’T NEED TO . . .

. . . BE A SIZE 6 to feel good about myself.

. . . UNDERSTAND ART to love it.

. . . AGREE WITH YOU to respect you.

. . . ACCEPT ABUSE FROM ANYONE. You do NOT have my permission.

. . . PROVE MY POWER. Having it is good enough.

. . . BE VALIDATED by anyone.

. . . BE EMBARRASSED. It’s good to laugh at myself.

. . . HAVE A DESTINATION. Sometimes the joy is in the journey.

. . . UNDERSTAND YOU to love you.

. . . LAUGH AT YOUR EXPENSE. Although I love to laugh at mine.

I DON’T NEED TO . . .

. . . LET BIPOLAR DISORDER DEFINE ME. I am so much more.

. . . LET GRIEF DESTROY ME. I embrace the love and the pain.

. . . ALWAYS BE STRONG. I can ask for help.

. . . BE LIKE YOU. Being me is just fine.

. . . CLOSE MY EYES to see your face.

. . . LIE. I am brave enough to be honest and gentle.

. . . HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS. The ones I have love me well.

. . . BE GRACEFUL to be a lady.

. . . TALK SO MUCH. It bears repeating.

. . . EAT A SHIT SANDWICH to know I wouldn’t like one.

Categories: Inspiration/Motivation | Tags: , , , , , | 23 Comments

THE OTHER SISTER

There were four daughters born to my parents. The eldest died of lung cancer at the age of 52. The second eldest took her own life at the age of 39. Then there is me. And then comes my youngest sister who, although very much alive, has always seemed fragile and unreliable.

I was the strong one, the confident, unshakeable, unafraid, independent middle child and the fixer of all things unacceptable or unjustified. And I proudly wore that label for most of my life.

Until it caught up with me.

Until all of that self-imposed responsibility chipped away at my boulder-like core and I began to diminish . . . one small piece at a time, until finally crumbling, when I was needed most.

I am great in a crisis. No kidding. Point me towards an explosion and within minutes, I will assess the situation, determine the damages, and map out a plan of action. Because that is what I do. I fix things.

And I expected no less from myself when my Mom recently suffered some sudden and very serious health issues.

The moment she arrived at the hospital, I went into work mode. I made inquiries, recited the millions of memorized bits detailing her medical history, confirmed information, and ensured that the greatly appreciated hospital staff was doing their jobs.

I did not know it, but that was the easy part.

What I did not anticipate was the change in Mom’s behavior. It was due to hospital psychosis, a temporary psychiatric condition that affects many older patients who become hospitalized. I learned that it is an elderly patient’s involuntary negative reaction to the overstimulation, confusion, and unfamiliarity of a new and hectic environment, coupled with the debilitating effects of their physical ailments. Its symptoms present in irrational and sometimes violent behavior such as hallucinations, depression, attempts to climb out of bed, removal of intravenous tubing or other devices, paranoia, fear, or a demand to return home.

And Mom delivered it all . . . full blast. And man, was I unprepared. And ill equipped. Even though I knew that this new condition was not her fault, I reacted badly.

I suffer from bipolar disorder. (Read, “Being Bipolar” at: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-hF ). I am hypersensitive to sounds, my brain obsesses, races, and rarely stops, I’m over-emotional and often prickly and annoyed. Hospitals, grocery stores, and nightclubs are three of my most difficult environments, in terms of sounds and the frustrations and difficulties of interacting with the public.

Now, take the unique ingredient of hospital ambiance: the bright, harsh lights, the steady barrage of sounds – like beeping machines, sounding alarms, blasting intercoms, and the boisterous staff who assume that everyone has a hearing deficiency, and add to that the challenges of having bipolar disorder, and then add to that the stress of a critically ill family member who now suddenly seems out of her mind . . . and what you have is the perfect recipe for a mental breakdown.

Mine.

I am not kidding. I am terrified that I will awaken one morning in unfamiliar and padded accommodations and not know how I got there. I’m pretty sure that’s how it happens – you just awaken in that room. I don’t think you feel it coming on. And if so, it probably feels something like this.

I remember standing, trembling, in the doorway of Mom’s hospital room. She was on a ventilator and could not be sedated because of her dangerously low blood pressure. She was highly agitated and was trying to remove the vent. She was still irrational the day after its removal and was demanding to leave.

Everything negative and bipolar triggered in me. Even though I knew that Mom could NOT help it, I was angry with her for being difficult and for struggling. I was horrified at the tubing, the fluids, and the sound of the ventilator and her gurgling. I felt tortured by the alarms that went off each time she tried to sit up. I resented that she had not taken better care of herself. Hell, I even resented her for being old. And then I really saw her . . . looking so thin, frail, and helpless, and I hated myself for feeling as I had. The guilt was overwhelming. I wanted to run away and hide. Or to just die.

I watched Brenda, my remaining sister, the younger less competent one, as she stood at Mom’s bedside and gently held her shoulders down while explaining to her why she could not leave. She stroked her hair and lovingly whispered her reassurances. And Mom quieted.

Hysterical and unable to bear it, I went home and cried myself to sleep.

But Brenda stayed at Mom’s side and calmed her down, over and over again, throughout the entire long night.

The next morning, I arrived early to find my sister exhausted, but still there.

I hugged her and began to cry.

“All this time . . . I thought I was the strong one. But I was wrong. You are. I have never given you any credit for anything. I have always criticized you and judged your choices. I am so sorry. I was wrong. I didn’t know.” I said.

In the days since then, Brenda and I have talked more and have become closer. We know that when it comes to the medical care and daily living assistance now required by my reluctant, stubborn, and sometimes selfish parents, we both have different strengths. I am the one who remembers every single medical detail, handles the quick decisions, and ensures a plan of action; and Brenda is the one who is patient and compassionate. She is the understanding and calming force, the one that gets my parents to listen and to accept. After all, none of my action serves any good if they will not listen or receive our help.

I was the fixer for way too long. It was impossible for me to learn anything new because I already knew it all; I had the answers to everything. My ears were not listening and my mind was not open. Nor was my heart.

But I have corrected that.

Mom is currently, somewhat stable. But she is not well and she is not out of the woods yet. We have a long journey of unknowns before us.

And I am suspecting that along with bipolar disorder that I may be suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. I have seen first-hand, too many dead bodies, sat with too many dying ones, and witnessed too many collapses and injuries. The images flash through my mind. I jump out of my seat if someone twitches. My heart races if the phone rings. And I cry the moment I open my eyes in the morning. I do not know how long this level of anxiety can be sustained or this constant stream of adrenaline can be tolerated before something in me just . . . goes.

But I am trying to take care of myself. I have an upcoming appointment with my therapist, and meanwhile, I have learned to say a few things I have never said before:

  • “I have a mental illness. I am bipolar. I can’t handle someone else’s instability.”
  • “No, I am sorry, but I can’t do that”.
  • “Please, help me”.

And I am not alone anymore.

I have some really terrific friends who love and accept me, keep me in check, and sometimes can even make me laugh; they are good medicine .

And I have a really wonderful and compassionate little sister who steps up to the plate and accomplishes what I cannot.

Her name is Brenda.

She is the strong one.

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Family, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE

I had a brief unpleasant encounter with an obnoxious drunk person at a social thing recently. He kept punching me in the arm, and he loudly got right up to within inches of my face. Others dealt with him pretty well and seemed able to shrug him off; I could not.

I have tried to let it go. But it won’t go . . .

Why?

Because I suffer from BIPOLAR DISORDER and the encounter rattled me and then took hold. It triggered my latest downward spiral and I am having a really hard time pulling out of it.

A few moments of someone’s drunken stupidity messed with my state of well-being and opened up some old “mean-drunk” wounds and memories of abuse. Not to mention the effort and energy it took for me NOT to smack him and tell him to grow the fuck up.

Being exposed to these careless kinds of people really takes a toll on me, and I’m beginning to think I need to stay home and isolated from the rest of the world. And that breaks my heart.

Honestly, I love to party as much as the next gal does, maybe more even, and I understand that not all of us deal with our problems in the same way, but aggressive and intrusive behavior is just not acceptable.

A few weeks ago on Facebook, I witnessed a friend bully someone who she knows has mental health issues. She disagreed with his inappropriate and offensive post so much, that she jumped on him HARD . . .  and she became an abuser. Afterwards, I asked if she thought her behavior would affect his mental well-being and she said that she could not be responsible for how someone reacts to what she says.

Bullshit.

We are ALL responsible for our words and actions and how we affect those around us. Seriously, do you think your right of free speech entitles you to say anything to anyone, and not be held accountable?

Double bullshit.

Almost a week later, I finally forced myself to leave the house and decided to deliver three crocheted afghans I had made for some friends. I put each into a white garbage bag, attached a note, and threw them into the car.

bags of afgans                 

I drove to Trenton and stuffed one in the door of a friend, and left. I then crossed the Grosse Ile Bridge to deliver the next one.

GI FREE BRIDGE

Afterwards, while crossing back over, a thought crossed my mind.

“I could drive off of this bridge right now. Today could be the day I drive off of the Grosse Ile Bridge.”

Although the thought was hardly a consideration, and I couldn’t actually drive off of the bridge even if I really wanted to because it has long been reinforced with concrete barriers and high railings, I glanced at the last remaining bag in the front seat.

afgan in bag

“I can’t”, I thought, “She would wonder why everyone got their afghan but her.”

The thought seemed silly and I almost grinned.

But I didn’t.

Because the truth was right there . . . teetering on the edge.

My point?

No matter your intentions or how your words come wrapped, in spirituality, positivity, in the name of everything love and light, in your own cloak of self-absorption or instability, or even wrapped in the name of God, you had better be careful with them. Because you are responsible for your impact on others.

That’s not my opinion. That is the truth.

Although I won’t go so far as to say that someone else is liable for my action of, say, driving off a bridge, I will take the leap and say that they can certainly be the car behind me, riding my rear bumper and giving me that extra little nudge into nothingness.

We are all responsible for what we do and what we say. We have the potential to cause pain. Everyone affects everyone else.

I completed my goal that day, safely making all three deliveries, and later that evening, I wrote my daily post-it note for my “2013 Kindness Jar”.

note glasses pen

Categories: Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

FROM PUMPKINS TO PYTHONS

I think I’m turning into a bit of a Blog Attention Whore.

Good grief. I wonder if there is a support group for that.

In my quest to keep things interesting and fun, and in an effort to lighten up and step outside of my comfort zone, I’m finding myself doing some pretty unusual things.

Since I use my own pics in my blogs, I now carry a camera everywhere I go. Everything I see is a potential photograph, and every photograph, a story.

Much to my chagrin, and the chagrin of others, I’m discovering that there is nothing I won’t do for the sake of the blog. Well, almost nothing.

One night while partying with girlfriends, one of them said, “We’d better cool down or we’re going to end up in jail!”

My response? “Oh, that would be a great blog!”

Sheesh. I seriously may need help.

On Halloween, a holiday that I’ve never enjoyed, I made an attempt to funny-up and embrace the day. While driving about with my good friend, Patti Petroline, we passed a side-of-the-road pumpkin patch.

“We should buy a pumpkin, carve it out, put it on my head, and then snap some pics for my blog!” I screamed, as I pulled the car over and turned it around.

Patti, the forever spontaneous and always-game adventurer, and my self-appointed personal Smart Phone Photographer, was up for the challenge. What resulted was, “A Halloween Dream”, http://wp.me/p2ckKM-jM.

Who would have guessed that this crabby, claustrophobic, hot-flashing, quirky old beotch would end up doing this?

CARTOON OH MY HEAD

We had a blast and laughed for hours. It was truly one of my finest moments.

That brings us to this past Friday night at River’s Edge Gallery in Wyandotte, for the opening reception of “Pure Genius”.

And it was.

Pure genius, that is.

That “River’s Edge Gallery Gang” just makes me all crazy. Crazy excited. And crazy inspired. But be warned, you’ve gotta watch these folks, because before you know it, you will be seeing, feeling, and experiencing all sorts of unexpected things. You’ll find yourself crying over things you don’t understand, falling in love with things that you can’t explain, and dreaming of things you can’t imagine.

Sometimes you might even see yourself up on the wall . . .  being displayed through someone else’s eyes . . . in their art.

It blows me away.

This show was outstanding. But it was different from others I’ve attended. Actually, there was one REALLY BIG difference.

And her name was Cinderella.

9SNAKEclose

She is a beautiful Albino Burmese Python snake that is NINE FEET LONG and WEIGHS 45 POUNDS. She and her owner were given permission to attend the show, as an opportunity to educate those attendees who were willing to walk over to her table and meet her.

Not me. No sir. No thanks.

I’m not a snake person.

Are you kidding me?

I SCREAM AT THE SIGHT OF HER FOOD!

When I found a mouse in my apartment, I called the Landlord, hysterical and from high atop a dining room chair. And afterwards, I sat in the same chair sweating, panting, and sobbing over my plight of husband-less-ness and my involuntary independence. I experienced it again when I discovered a large colony of gianormous slugs on my patio. And yes, I know they like beer. I supplied their slimy nasty-looking asses with a can of Budweiser one night. Sure, they drank it. And then they sludged away back home . . . all slow and buzzed up, while leaving a trail of ik.

But I digress.

So, there we stood, in awe, at Cinderella’s table. Patti stood much closer to it than I did. She’s the calm one. I am not. I would be the sweating, hyperventilating, twitching one.

At heart, I am an animal rights advocate. I don’t agree with wild animals being kept as pets or being hauled around from place to place for display, but honestly, I didn’t consider any of that.

She was beautiful. And I was mystified, captivated, and horrified, all at the same time. Her owner seemed to adore her and has been in the business of educating people with reptiles for many years. And I kind of agree with that.

So, in the spirit of stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing my limits, and being the Blog Attention Whore that I suspect myself to be, I said, “I should hold her and snap a picture for my blog!”

So I did.

I didn’t anticipate her weight or the feeling of her incredibly strong solid mass of muscle wrapped around my upper body.

1crazylook

It . . . freaked . . . me . . . out.

*

I don’t think I was even breathing.

2ADJUSTG IT

*

In this photo, I was smiling through gritted teeth and begging Patti, “Did you get the pic? Did you get the pic?

3funny mouth

*

As soon as she said yes, I panicked inside and had to get the snake off of me . . . like, right now.

4REMOVING

*

It looks like I’m pretty upset, but I was just in a hurry.

6leaving

As soon as I got away from her, my adrenaline soared, my heart pounded, my knees began to shake, and my hands visibly trembled. I kept saying, “I did it! I did it!”

And I must have looked every bit a wreck, because the owner kept saying, “You did great! You did great!”

He knew how frightened I was as I approached their table. Later he told me that I was really brave. He said doing something risky isn’t brave unless you’re afraid. I agreed.

Much later, Patti and I determined that the series of photographs was taken in approximately 20 SECONDS. That’s how long I lasted. 20 SECONDS.

Several hours and a half a Xanax later, we were looking at a couple of pretty amazing photographs that I deem frame-worthy.

Because I did it . . .

7CLOSEprintthis

. . . even though I was afraid.

*

And it was a good thing.

8MEHOLDINGUPCLOSEPRFCTprint

**********

SIDE NOTE: The next day I Googled our little Cinderella, and read this, “The Albino Burmese Python are readily available but grow up to be huge snakes. This is one of the snakes that needs a healthy dose of caution, so think twice (or more) before getting one as a pet. Although Burmese Pythons are generally quite docile, they are incredibly strong, and it just takes a single mistake in handling them, to have disastrous results.”

**********

Nice.

**********

Categories: Animals, Art, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Humor, Inspiration/Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 55 Comments

MY KINDNESS JAR

This is my 2013 Kindness Jar. mixed nuts

Each day I will write a note about a kindness, a good thought, or an inspiration and I will put it in this jar.

At the end of the year I will read all 365 notes and see how I have done. At the very least, for a moment or two each day, I will focus on something positive long enough to write it down.

And that is a good thing.

I found this container at my Grandpa’s house after he passed away several years ago. I use it for post-it note-ideas, but will empty it to make room for all of the upcoming daily bits of happiness.

Notice the jar’s label. Appropriately named. Just for me. Ha ha. You gotta love it.

mixed nuts upclose

2013 is going to be a great year.

And this nut wants to ensure that she takes a moment out of every single day to notice and appreciate the good things.

So here goes . . .

And Happy New Year, my friends! Thank you for your laughter, inspiration, support, and comfort. You mean the world to me. Please be safe and be well.

Until next year . . .

(p.s.  This is not my original idea. I saw this idea of a jar online, tweeked it, made it mine, and ran with it!)

Categories: Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion | Tags: , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

AN AUTHOR, AN ANGEL & A HEALING BRICK

I lost my infant son almost 30 years ago.

He was my only child and I donated his tiny precious body to Science in the hopes that through medical education he could somehow prevent another person from knowing my heartbreak.

I knew I didn’t need a gravesite to honor him; I could honor him in my heart. And I didn’t think I needed a piece of granite to grieve him.

But I was wrong.

Last year, I learned about Richard Paul Evans, author of the book, “The Christmas Box”, and about a statue that he commissioned called, “The Christmas Box Angel Statue”.

The short version is this:

He wrote a fictional story in which he mentioned a woman grieving the loss of her baby while at the foot of a beautiful statue of an angel.

The book was published and soon grieving readers began inquiring of the location of the statue, and since it no longer existed, the author had one created.

It is bronze and beautiful, and surrounded by a hexagon of 800 paving bricks, which can be purchased and engraved with a name or message in honor of a lost child.

angel statue frm afar

There are now Christmas Box Angel Statues all across the country and each year on December 6th at 7:00 pm, there is a candlelight vigil held at every one of them.

Last year I got my son’s engraved memory brick. The first time I saw it, I was overwhelmed. I had no idea how desperately I needed healing. Until it happened.

I wrote this piece a few months later:

THE HEALING BRICK

Nervously, I approach the Angel Statue thinking I’ll have to search for my son’s recently engraved and installed paving brick, but I look down and there it is, nestled in amongst all the other little angels, his name in print, for the entire world to see.

This sight provokes something unfamiliar in me, deep in my soul, in my very core. I kneel down and through my thin grey slacks I can feel the cold, hard, roughness of the bricks on my knees.

“My knees could bleed as I pay homage”, I think, as if atoning, “let them; I would almost be grateful.”

I touch his name.

“Oh sweetie, look at you; you’re finally here.” I whisper.

006

Humbly, I bend down and kiss his words. Instantly I flash back to the hospital and he is in my arms again, and now I am not feeling the cold textured brick, but I am kissing his face.

I open my eyes, tears streaming.

Like a cat coughing up an unmanageable hairball, thirty years of guilt, grief, and torment begin to rise, large and ugly, from deep within and catch in my throat.

I remember when I was pregnant with him and how I didn’t watch my diet and I didn’t reduce my stress and I didn’t get enough sleep. And I remember laboring, and how I screamed, “Don’t let me die!” but I didn’t scream for the life of my own son.

“Please, forgive me.” I whisper.

I hear a guttural animal groan escape from inside me as the words allow my agony to detach itself and release.

I was like a broken bone that had healed misaligned and needed to be re-broken so that it could be set right and mend properly.

Michael’s brick has been my one quick SNAP! I am now re-broken, re-set, and relieved.

I am deeply comforted and grateful, and finally healing well.

*****

I cherish the moments. Please read, “WOULD I GRIEVE A SUNRISE?” at: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-cH.

Will you please share this? Too often the loss of an infant is suffered quietly and alone, and whether it was yesterday or 30 years ago, healing is needed. I hope that this helps you or someone you know.

For the location of a Christmas Box Angel Statue near you, or information about purchasing a memory brick, please visit the website of Richard Paul Evans at: www.richardpaulevans.com/angel-statues/locations.

Categories: Grief/Healing, Holidays/Birthdays, Inspiration/Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 65 Comments

IT’S ALL RELATIVE

Gosh, I was cute when I was young. We all were. Like goofy adorable little puppies.

Look at me in this pic. Quite the helmet head. Wow. Ha ha.

I look at this pic now, some thirty years later, and the first thing I notice is that I actually have eyebrows! And a firm jaw line with no crazy duo of jowly thingies, like I have now. And I have only one neck. Wow. I fogot that. But I do remember how self-conscious I used to be about my looks. Nothing ever seemed quite right or good enough.

It’s been the blink of an eye and here I am in my fifties. Now I’m sporting a 30-pound muffin top that I’m ready to name (Mary Francis) and start a Facebook page for, my eyebrows are merely wispy remnants, and my butt, which, back in the day, I didn’t want to be big, has now deflated like a birthday balloon two weeks after my birthday. Sheesh. It’s just cruel what time can do to an old gal’s body.

I’m working at improving myself though. On the inside, where there’s still hope. I’m trying to focus more on my inner beauty and worry less about my outer losses.

I look back . . . with some big fat regrets. Man, I wasted so much time just being all messed up. I spent a lifetime grieving for people and things that were gone. There were so many things I was going to do . . . and be.

We had it all. We were young.  But time just didn’t carry the same significance as it does now.

Tic tock. Tic tock.

That sound you hear is NOT your biological clock. That is your life clock! And time’s a flying!

But you know what? It’s all relative.

You know how we look back to when we were twenty or thirty and see cute little puppies?

Well, there will come a day in the not-that-far-away future, when we’re in our seventies or eighties and we will look back on THIS time and say, “Wow. Look how gorgeous we were! We still had all our own teeth and hair! We could still dance, and walk unassisted, and drive!”

Don’t you see? Our fifties have become our new thirties!

This is it, folks. This is prime time. So let’s kick it up a notch. There is no red Easy Button and there are no do-overs. Let’s laugh as much as we can and create great memories everyday, so that when we are actually REALLY OLD, we can look back and say, “Weren’t our fifties just the best years ever?”

It’s all relative.

Tic tock. Tic tock.

Categories: Humor, Inspiration/Motivation, Physical Health | Tags: , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

WALK OUT OF THE DARKNESS

This poem was inspired by last year’s experience at the “Out of The Darkness Community Walk”, which benefits The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, (see my blog: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-gC). FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THIS YEAR’S WALK (OCT 13th, 2013) OR TO MAKE A DONATION, PLEASE VISIT: http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=2358. Thank you.

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You’re hurt and bruised, feeling empty and used

You think you’re lost and you know you’re confused

Your problems are different from mine

But if you need it, I’ll give you my time.

*

You’ve found your voice, but you don’t know the words

You’re screaming for help, but you still feel unheard

You just want your pain to end

Come take my hand, my friend.

*

And Out of The Darkness together we’ll walk

I’ll be the listener who hears when you talk

We’ll reach out for comfort and learn how to cope

We’ll walk Out of The Darkness . . . and into the hope.

********************************************************************************************************************

For more information on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, or to make a donation, visit: http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=2358.

GERRI ASAM TRAGER, AFSP Board Member, AFSP Community Outreach Volunteer, Metro Detroit/Ann Arbor Chapter, Phone: 810-229-4266. The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org . Also see: www.outofthedarkness.org and survivoroutreachMI@gmail.

If you have lost someone you love to suicide: www.afsp.org/survivingsuicideloss

*IF YOU ARE IN SUICIDAL CRISIS, PLEASE CALL 1-800-273-TALK (8255)*

Because everyone matters.

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health, Photography, Poetry, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments

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