Inspiration/Motivation

BEING BIPOLAR

I’m bipolar.

But, don’t worry. You can’t catch it.

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric disorder (also called Manic Depressive Disorder), that causes my moods to swing between really high and really low, to a degree that interferes with my daily functioning and quality of life.

You might be thinking, “But everyone has their ups and downs.” For you, a high mood might entail a lot of laughter at a party, island hopping while on a vacation,  or even the rush of winning at the slot machines.

My high is manic. It is actually like being high and can feel quite wonderful. Euphoric even. It includes the aforementioned ups, but it goes way beyond that to obsessive-compulsive behaviors – like racing thoughts, the inability to stop thinking or to control the images in my mind, and irresponsibly impulsive spending, promiscuity, rapid rambling speech, little to no sleep, and illusions of grandeur.

Having bipolar disorder feels kind of like surfing. When I’m in a manic state it is fast, wild, and an adrenaline rush. But not something that can be sustained or controlled.


What you consider to be a down or depressed period might entail feeling disinterested, moody, quiet, annoyed, or sad and teary.

But my depression lasts from several weeks to several months and involves isolation, self-neglect, and suicidal thoughts. As low as I have ever been, I have gone lower. I’ve learned that suicidal people don’t want to die; we just want our pain to stop. We just run out of steam . . . and hope.

The crash of depression.

The most difficult thing about being bipolar?

The loneliness. My racing, tormented mind. Being dismissed. Not having someone in my life that is brave or patient enough to love me.

Bipolars require medication. Usually an anti-depressant coupled with a mood stabilizer. But other drugs work too. And the right one can change your life. I’ve had some bad reactions and side effects and have been unmedicated for quite some time. So my time between the surfing and the crashing consists of a constant struggle just to function and “stay even”. It means endless and exhausting paddling.

This disorder often manifests in destructive or violent behavior. The social stigma of bipolar violence stems primarily from the behaviors of those untreated and unmedicated. Just as with any disease, there are degrees of affliction and degrees of management.

Between my mania and depression lives an aggravated state that I call, “EXTREMELY ANNOYED”. I wrestle with it everyday. It can be brought on by many things; loud sounds, harsh smells, bright or flashing lights, pushy or bossy personalities, unexpected circumstances or disruptions, or even minor pain. Sometimes I just awaken annoyed with myself. Honestly.

When I’m triggered, it feels like an intense frustration that begins to build and build. If I do nothing, it will escalate, until it finally explodes into a loud exchange or outburst.

But I don’t do nothing.

I’ve learned that when my brain REACTS, I need to RECOGNIZE my prickly feelings, and RESPOND. I can’t control what people around me say or do. I can only control the way I respond to them. So I’ve learned a few tricks to navigating these bipolar waters; like breathing, visualization, distancing myself from someone, or if necessary, removing myself from an environment or situtation.

So, why haven’t I talked about my bipolar disorder before this?  

Because talking comes at a cost. I’ve been prejudged, discounted, and dismissed.

I’ve been embarrassed because of the social stigma and ridicule; like when I hear someone say, “She went bipolar on me.”

Admitting it, has cost me a date or two and a few friendships. People are scared by what they don’t understand.

And because people don’t understand what they can’t see and sometimes say stupid things; like I look so normal that I must be mistaken. I guess I don’t act crazy enough. Ha ha. And if they should get a glimpse? They run. Fast and far.

And why am I talking about it NOW?

Because in the U.S., six million people have it. And 1 out of every 5 bipolars will successfully commit suicide.

Because people who have it hide and suffer silently.

Because there is hope. Although there is no cure, the right medication and treatment can help us function better in our lives, and most importantly, prevent self-injury and suicide.

And because at this age, I just own who I am. It is what it is. But being bipolar isn’t who I am; it’s what I have. I am a fairly intelligent person who is not only funny, but also kind and compassionate. I’m a woman, writer, and a good friend, who happens to have bipolar disorder.

There are many celebrities and incredibly artistic people who have come out as bipolars.

“Creativity is closely associated with bipolar disorder. This condition is unique. Many famous historical figures and artists have had this. Yet they have led a full life and contributed so much to the society and world at large. See, you have a gift. People with bipolar disorder are very very sensitive. Much more than ordinary people. They are able to experience emotions in a very deep and intense way. It gives them a very different perspective of the world. It is not that they lose touch with reality. But the feelings of extreme intensity are manifested in creative things. They pour their emotions into either writing or whatever field they have chosen.” Preeti Shenoy, Life is What You Make It

 

This is the face of bipolar.

    ME SMILING

Me, Julia Kovach.

And here are a few of my famous friends who also suffer with bipolar disorder.*

*Information gathered from Google states that all of the above individuals were diagnosed, are self-confessing, or are believed to have suffered from bipolar disorder before it was medically recognized.  **All images from Google. Copyrights to their rightful owners.

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Categories: Addiction, Bipolar/Depression, Inspiration/Motivation, Mental Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , | 91 Comments

YOUR BOOBIES & THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT

I want to talk about BREAST CANCER.

I’m not going to blog a bunch of cancer statistics and information on research and treatment. Nope. You should know the important stuff and if you don’t, Google it.

What I will do is share my opinion.

And my opinion about breast cancer is this: LISTEN TO YOUR FLIGHT ATTENDANT!

Let me explain.

The key to surviving breast cancer is early detection and treatment. So we women have to do two things: Do breast self-examinations every month, and get a mammogram every year. Pretty simple, right?

                        

Last year, I casually blew-off my mammogram; I just didn’t worry about it. I’m sure I was busy doing something important.

This year is different. I am motivated by the incredibly strong women in my life who have lost so much:   her mom . . . her breasts . . . precious time.

Yesterday, I stopped being stupid and scheduled an appointment.

Today, I drive 15 minutes to the clinic and learn that I have not had a mammogram since 2006. Sheesh.

I lost two of my siblings that year, so I guess I’ve been in a time warp or something. Here I thought I missed one exam, when I have actually missed five. Things happened. I got busy. I got lost. I guess I got diverted.

My mammogram takes all of 15 minutes, involves a little discomfort, and 20 minutes later I am home again.

It is that easy.

So now, I want to know: Have you had your mammogram this year? Why not? It’s already October! What are you waiting for?

I know what you’re thinking, “I’ve been meaning to, I’m just so busy.”

And I get that. I know that you are crazy busy all the time. You have a job. You take care of the house. And the kids. And your partner. Even the dog counts on you. You take care of everything. Every single day. You think you’ll get around to taking care of you, but then . . . you don’t.

Now, think about the last time you were on an airplane. Do you remember when the flight attendant reviewed the emergency and safety procedures? What did she say about your oxygen mask?

She said, “In an emergency, you are to place your oxygen mask on yourself first, and then place one on your child.”

In short, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. It’s that simple.

So just do it. Right now. Make your appointment. Don’t let another day turn into another month. It is too important. You are too important.

This life of ours is a wonderful journey. And we love you and want you here for the entire beautiful flight. So ladies, please, stop with your excuses and put on your damn mask.

Thank you.

Categories: Family, Friends, Inspiration/Motivation, Physical Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

OUT OF THE DARKNESS

On Sunday, October 7, 2012, I attend a community walk called, “Out of the Darkness”, at Lake Erie Metro Park in Brownstown, Michigan.

“Proceeds from this event benefit the AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION (AFSP), the leading national not-for-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the understanding and prevention of suicide through research, education, and advocacy, and to reaching out to those suffering with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.”


SUICIDE CLAIMS MORE THAN 38,000 LIVES A YEAR. Did you know that? Think about that number for a minute . . . 38,000 lives every year.

Every 14.2 minutes, a person successfully takes their own life. And every minute of the day, a person attempts to take their own life. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. And it is the 3rd leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old.

This event is personal to me because in 1996, my sister, Chris, took her own life. She was 38 years old. I still struggle with this loss, and the grief and torment that accompany it. And due to my struggles with bipolar disorder, I have come dangerously close to losing myself (1 of every 5 people suffering with bipolar disorder takes their own life).

From left: My sister, Chris, and me, as children.

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Intelligent and compassionate Gerri Asam Trager is the organizer of the “Out of the Darkness Community Walk” for the downriver area. She and her amazing band of beautiful volunteers are the primary reason for this event’s huge success.

Gerri Asam Trager, on right. (Photo taken from AFSP Downriver Out of the Darkness Walk, Facebook event page, by Bob Eccles).

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It is a cloudy, chilly day, but attendance is high, as are the spirits of the organizers, volunteers, and walkers.

  

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This beautiful woman, Jaqueline Worthey, a poetry reader, graces the stage by reading a special poem every year at this event.

 

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We are blessed with the kind and compassionate, former Detroit Lion’s football player, Eric Hipple, who speaks to us straight from the heart.

 

After losing his own 15-year-old son in 2000 to suicide, Hipple now travels the country and gives speeches to High Schools, Youth Groups, the U.S. Military, and Corporations, on suicide prevention and Mental Illness. His book, “Real Men Do Cry”, published in 2009, discusses his playing career with the Lions and his experiences with depression, grief, and suicide prevention.

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We are then introduced to the lovely and extremely talented, NEENUH. There are no words to describe her beautiful voice.

Connect with Neenuh on Facebook. She performs solo shows (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica) around Downriver, MI. Search “Neenuh” on YouTube and you will find uploads of her videos.

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And we are delighted by the amazing talent of Fiddler, Mick Gavin, who plays onstage AND along our walking path. Wonderful!

Gavin was born in Co. Clare, Ireland. Since the 1970’s, he has performed concerts with many traditional Irish performers in the Chicago and Detroit areas. Mick now teaches Irish fiddle throughout the Detroit metropolitan area. Three of his students took 2nd at the All-Ireland in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 2002.

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The 3.5-mile walk begins on this gorgeous Autumn afternoon.

 

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Even the canines walk the walk!

  

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Afterwards, we are treated to hot food and refreshing beverages, and a safe place for good conversation. There is also a raffle which offers terrific prizes of food and services generously donated by some of our local restaurateurs and merchants.

We bond over our losses and experiences, but join together to celebrate life . . . and bring about change.

AND OUT OF THE DARKNESS . . .

. . . COMES HOPE.

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For information or to make a donation, (donations for walks can be made thru 12/31/12 for this year), contact:

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 800-273-TALK 8255)*

Categories: Addiction, Bipolar/Depression, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health, Photography, Physical Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

ART HEALS

I don’t know a thing about art. All I know is how it makes me feel. But I haven’t let that stop me from exploring this aw-inspiring means of expression. No way. In the last few years I have been attending art shows and gallery receptions, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that art is always about so much more than art.

Regardless of the name of the exhibit, the theme of the show, or even the title of a painting, creative expression far exceeds any label we may attach to it.

Art is all about life.

And boy did I learn that this past week. I hardly know where to begin, so I’ll start at the start.

Meet Patricia Izzo, award-winning Fine Arts Photographer and painter.

Patricia’s a pretty heavy hitter in the art world. Her fine art photography has been featured in numerous national publications like American Photo Magazine, Home Décor, and Woman’s Day, just to name a few. And her images can be seen in the 2010 Harold and Kumar III movie. She’s had extensive exhibits throughout the Detroit Metropolitan area, the East Coast, and Traverse City Museums, and she published a fine art photography book called, “FRAGILE AWAKENINGS” in 2008. She’s a board member or is active in, just about anything that promotes the arts. She creates it, teaches it, promotes it, changes it, advances it, and shares it with children. And she is the artist-in-residence at River’s Edge Gallery, right here in Wyandotte, Michigan.

I see her as a compassionate woman, a creative genius, and a . . . well, a sort of spiritual guide.

I run into Patricia at the DOWNRIVER COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS (DCA), in Wyandotte, and she tells me about her involvement in an upcoming art show there, called, “ART HEALS”.

She mentions something about some art classes, some kids, and the Josephine Ford Cancer Center, and I eagerly agree to meet her there the following week.

I think I’m just going to watch a couple of art classes and, then at the end of the week, go to an art show. But Patricia is a little bit sneaky . . . she is going to take me on a life changing journey instead. I just don’t know it yet.

As I drive to meet her the following Tuesday, I am flooded in memories of my small encounter with cervical cancer over 20 years ago, my subsequent surgery and cure, and the fear that I still feel all these years later when going for a pap test. I think of my sister who passed away six years ago from lung cancer, of my friend who lost her breasts, and my other dear friend who lost her mom. I think of my childhood friend who is currently undergoing chemotherapy right here at this facility, and how I’ve never visited her during her treatment. Sheesh. How did I not think of all of this earlier? I blink back the tears and swallow hard to get the lump in my throat . . . down.

I arrive at my first visit to the Josephine Ford Cancer Center to observe the Children’s Support Group as they gather to make paintings for the upcoming art show.

My photographs are limited to the art and the creative process, so I hope you enjoy them! And hospital gowns are worn as smocks so the acrylic paints won’t stain clothes.

The room isn’t gloomy and dark with talk of pain or cancer. The kids lighten me and I am blown away by their incredible wisdom and insight, and their uncanny ability to remain silly and playful. I take their full impact head-on and heart-full.

Hands this small should never need to know the word cancer.

 

Below is a photo of each child’s artwork both in progress, and as displayed at the “ART HEALS” exhibition. I will let the art speak for itself.

  

Painting: “STRENGTH”, by artist Alex Rupp.

 

  

Painting: “FLOWER CHILD”, by artist Amanda Rupp.

 

  

Painting: “ME”, by artist Chad Donahue.

  

Painting: “PLAY”, by artist Evan McKeith.

 

  

Painting: “POSITIVE”, by artist Jadem McKeith.

  

Painting: “FIGHT CANCER”, by artist Jared Sturdz.

 

  

Painting: “GO TEAM CANCER”, by artist Marissa Lewandowski.

 

  

Painting: “REACH YOUR GOLE”, by artist Melissa Rupp.

 

  

Painting: “VICTORY”, by artist Rachel Sturdz.

The oldest artist in the class is 18 years old and wears this message on her t-shirt (front and back):

  

She also creates the “FLOWER CHILD” painting. I just adore this girl! I think we are soul sisters!

As the day draws to a close, Patricia casually invites me to a Women’s Art Therapy Class that is meeting on Thursday.  Their art will also be displayed at Thursday night’s show. Of course, I am interested and once again, I agree to meet her at the Josephine Ford Cancer Center.

And once again, I am unprepared for the creativity of the artists, and the spirituality and power of very wise and humorous women. The short time I spend with them is enough to cause marvel at their uniqueness, and be affected by all .

I title this photograph, “Beautiful Warriors”. True strength does not have to be loud and hard; these women are kind, compassionate, and incredibly strong. “It is the rain that grows flowers, not the thunder.”

Artists, Left to right: Sue Spotts, Ruth Ann Brayman, Nancy Pitel (artist who subs as teacher), Patricia Izzo, Shirley McBroom, Brenda Kahn, (not pictured, Deborah Helton).

 

The artists and their work at the “ART HEALS” exhibition:

Painting: “PEARL EARRINGS”, by artist Sue Spotts.  Sue has discovered her enormous talent only in recent years and is humble and casual about it. She says of my writing craft, “you’re just using a different brush”. I love that. A very gentle and humorous warrior.

 

Painting: “MEDITATION GARDEN”, by artist Ruth Ann Brayman.  Ruth gives glory to God by hiding a cross in each of her beautifully detailed paintings. She has the most lovely eyes; painted like an early summer morning blue sky misted by a light fog.  A sweet and loving warrior.

 

Painting: “CABIN IN THE MEADOW”, by artist Shirley McBroom.  Shirley’s incredible artwork shows perception, depth, and a wonderful natural talent with shadows. She reluctantly agrees to this photo, although she is as lovely as her painting. A warm and gracious warrior.

 

Painting: “EXHALING HOPE”, by artist Brenda Kahn. Brenda hiked 8.5 miles around the mountainous trails shown in this painting. We talk briefly, but intimately, and I realize that I, too, am a cancer survivor. My eyes brim with tears. She welcomes me warmly and somehow, I feel honored to be included in such elegant company. A gentle and graceful warrior.

 

Painting: “KAYAK CALLING”, by artist Deborah Helton.  Debbie is currently working on a painting of a cabin she has up north in the woods. We bond in agreement that it, “looks like a small piece of Heaven!”  She herself is like a delicate, but strong flower that one might find growing in the shade of a beautifully wooded piece of paradise. A soft and kind warrior.

 

Completing the “ART HEALS” exhibition, are paintings created by the children of the SandCastles Children’s Grief Support Group.

And from the mouths of babes . . .

  

  

After visiting with the artists and with other admirers such as myself, I go home with my creative hungers satisfied and my heart full. I feel blessed and grateful.

On Friday morning I rise, tired, but still basking in the afterglow and glory of an incredible week and amazing people.

But my day begins early today.

Once again I walk into the Josephine Ford Cancer Center. My friend smiles and says, “Oh, Julia, you made it! It’s so good to see you!”

I swear she’s got the elegance of Grace Kelly.

Soon, we celebrate that her lab numbers are up and while she is getting her chemo, we spend the time in intimate chat and laughter. I treasure the moment and mark it as forever precious.

I look over at her and smile.

I have come full circle. What a journey.

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A special thank you to Patricia Izzo, all the artists, the Downriver Council for the Arts, and the wonderful staff at the Josephine Ford Cancer Center, for welcoming me and graciously allowing me to share in your magic. You are all a treasured surprise and have deeply touched me. I hope that I have done you justice; I fear that I have not.

The words have yet to be created for those as wonderful as you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Art, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Mental Health, Photography, Physical Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

A BRILLIANT STAR

A brilliant star was plucked from the night

but Heaven got brighter

Can that be right?

I think of you and I understand why

You’re making God smile

and it lights up the sky!

Categories: Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Love, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , | 13 Comments

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

Friday is my birthday and I’m turning FOUR YEARS OLD! Yay me!

HUH?

That’s right. I no longer celebrate the number of years since my birth. I now celebrate the number of years since my rebirth; the years I’ve been nicotine free.

 

I smoked 2-3 packs of cigarettes a day for over 30 years; it’s no wonder no one believed that I could quit. If I was awake, I had a cig in my mouth. Every move I made, place I went, and thought I had, was based around taking my next puff. And no matter how long or hard I sucked, I couldn’t seem to get enough.

 

It was exhausting.

People say you have to want to quit, to be successful at it. But I was pretty comfortable in my addiction, until the day I caught a bad cold and learned I had emphysema. I didn’t want to quit. I had to.

 

I decided that if I was going to war with this addiction, I needed to prepare for battle. So I did my research and armed myself.  

 

I requested information from the American Cancer Society and joined their phone counseling program. I was advised to set a quit date and chose my birthday.


Then, I told people about my plan. The guy at the store where I bought my cigs actually laughed.

I learned about visualization and how to imagine possible weak moments, so I would know what to do and could combat them when they actually happened.

 

I also learned about the voice of addiction. You know those thoughts that have you toying with the idea of smoking just one cig? The thought that says you can quit tomorrow instead? That thought is your addiction talking. Ignore it. That voice still whispers in my ear on occasion, but I silence it.

“Sorry, dude, shut up.”


I started on the medication Zyban which is taken WHILE you quit and can help reduce withdrawal symptoms.    Amazingly, my cigs started tasting mucky and I put them out sooner. 

 

The night before quitting, I cleaned the ashtrays, scoured away the smoky smells, destroyed all remaining cigarettes, and stocked my refrigerator with TONS of healthy food.

 

Some previously purchased tools included a pair of walking shoes, my first athletic bra, and an MP3 player. I awoke that first morning and reached for the cigarette on my nightstand. It wasn’t there. 

“Oh, *%&$! It’s gonna be a loooong day!” I whined.

Then I got up, laced up, and went for a walk.

This obnoxious, but well-intentioned four year old has a list of THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO DO while you’re trying to quit smoking:

DON’T OVER-THINK IT! Don’t try to imagine the rest of your life without cigarettes, or even the rest of your week. Just take it one day at a time.    

DON’T ANTICIPATE THE WORST! I envisioned myself draped on the sofa crying desperately for one more puff, while being slammed with wave after wave of cravings.

They say that cravings last no more than 20 minutes, but I’ve never had one last longer than the time it takes to get a tasty snack or lace up my walking shoes.

 

SOMETIMES, DON’T LISTEN. I’ve been told that heroin users who try to quit using have a higher success rate than smokers do. Now WHY ON EARTH would you tell me THAT?! I’m sure it was said in the spirit of support, but that’s why we smokers don’t even try to quit. We think it will be pure torture.

I expected this:

But it never happened.

DON’T EXAGGERATE! You’re not solving the problem of world hunger or curing cancer . . . you are choosing to stop an addictive behavior.   Nothing more.   Just make up your mind, put on your big person panties, and do it. And don’t look back. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE YOURSELF! You can do ANYTHING! Be your own superhero. Afterwards, you’ll live in a healthier world that you created for yourself and you’ll be amazed at your newfound confidence.

 

So HOW AM I DOING FOUR YEARS LATER? Well, my smoking dreams have long ceased, as have my daily cravings; and my idle hands have discovered more productive activities. There are many days, and sometimes even weeks, when a cigarette never even crosses my mind. I would’ve never thought that possible.

 

There have been those of you with questions for me. Many a wrinkled, weathered face has coughed, gagged, huffed and puffed as they inquired with concern about possible weight gain. Quite familiar with this excuse, I peer through the haze and smell of the ashtray . . . and smile at the irony.

 

“Yep, I’ve gained some weight. So what. “

 

So what if I’m a bit chubbier due to my incessant new habit of popping grapes and consuming large amounts of cheese; I’ll tackle that or adjust it . . .  all in good time. At least now I’ll have the breath, the energy, and the time, to work it off and to work it out.

 

Sometimes those first few baby steps can be a bit wobbly.

But I’m standing stronger these days.

 After all, I’m a big girl now. I’m turning four.

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(For information on quitting smoking, visit any of these sites, see notices in your newspaper, or call for free programs provided by your local hospital. Also available: hypnosis, acupuncture, the nicotine patch, smoking cessation programs, or support groups).

National organizations and Web sites

Guide to Quitting Smoking: AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETYwww.cancer.org/Healthy/…/GuidetoQuittingSmoking/index

QuitNet
Web site: www.quitnet.com Offers free, cutting edge services to people trying to quit tobacco

Nicotine Anonymous Toll-free number: 1-877-879-6422 (1-877-TRY-NICA)
Web site: www.nicotine-anonymous.org For free information on their 12-step program, meeting schedules, printed materials, or information on how to start a group in your area

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health
Toll-free number: 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO)
Free quit support line: 1-800-784-8669 (1-800-QUIT-NOW)
TTY: 1-800-332-8615
Web site: www.cdc.gov/tobacco Free information on smoking and health; phone hotline for people who want to quit

National Cancer Institute
Toll-free number: 1-800-422-6237 (1-800-4-CANCER) for cancer information
Toll-free tobacco quit line: 1–877–448–7848 (1–877–44U–QUIT)
Web site: www.cancer.gov
Direct tobacco Web site: www.smokefree.gov Quitting information, cessation guides, and counseling is offered, as well as state telephone-based quit programs

American Lung Association
Toll-free number: 1-800-548-8252
Web site: www.lungusa.org Printed quit materials are available, some in Spanish. Offers the tobacco cessation program “Freedom from Smoking Online” for a small fee at www.ffsonline.org

 

Categories: Addiction, Holidays/Birthdays, Humor, Inspiration/Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

NEW GROWTH

While at the checkout counter I saw a rack of these. How interesting.

This small packet has planted an idea.

Later I discover this at another store. It is a Sunflower Grow Kit.

 

This kit contains everything needed to successfully grow a sunflower. It includes the pot, seeds, growing medium, and instructions. I must supply the water, sunshine, and attention.

“Too bad they don’t sell People Grow Kits”, I muse as a new thought begins to take root, “but they don’t need to. I have within me, my own little Grow Kit.”

I possess all that I need to change or begin anew at any time I choose. It starts with an idea and the desire; the seeds of change.

And it’s all up to me.

I can’t just toss something into the dirt and wait for a flower to sprout. That’s like wanting a better life and expecting the wishing to make it so. No, it requires thought and some work.

I am responsible for gathering the necessary tools. I must prepare myself to be the dark, rich soil from which all things will grow, and choose healthy, loving people who will help nourish me. God will provide the light and the life.

But growth can be painful. And sometimes I’m like a teething puppy who constantly chews to relieve painful gums, and my development is uncomfortable not only for me, but for those around me.

At other times I am delicate and fragile and my friends are the lifelines that support me until I’m strong enough to stand on my own.

April marks one year that I am clean of the fog and sedation of unnecessary prescription drugs. One year clean . . . after nearly 40 years of addiction. It has been a year of challenge that hasn’t been easy.

But it certainly has been worth it.

“Every moment is another chance to turn it all around.” – From the movie, Vanilla Sky.

New growth is new life.   And hope.   A fresh start.

We are never too old and it is never too late.

 Photograph by Renske de Jong (from the Netherlands); amazing photographer, artist, & friend.

Categories: Addiction, Inspiration/Motivation, Nature | 29 Comments

EARNING MY EULOGY

This posting is dedicated to JAMES JOSEPH BUJNO.

Although I never met Jim, (his sister, Sandy, is my friend), I learned some things about him as his friends and family paid tribute at his memorial service on Saturday, April 21st.

I looked at the photograph collages displayed at his service and it was clear that he was a man who was full of life. His smile was huge and his spirit, even larger; there was just no denying it. Picture after picture, he was surrounded by smiling friends and family. I suspect he was greatly responsible for those happy faces, as I couldn’t help but grin as I looked at them.

I learned that he was a really good man who loved life and having fun. He loved shooting pool, bowling, golfing, riding his motorcycle, dirt bikes, and hunting, boating, snowmobiling, and playing video games. He loved watching hockey and the Red Wings. Someone named the things he loved to do. I remember, it was like, everything. Wow, the guy knew how to live. He was a wonderful son, brother, father, and uncle, and he had A LOT of friends.

Every time one of them reminisced about him, they smiled. Even as their tears flowed . . .

What a testament to a man.

I sat, reflecting on the crowded room of tearful, smiling, grieving faces, and thought about the man who had brought them all together and how they honored him.

Anyone would be so lucky to be remembered that way . . . but not everyone would be so deserving of it. It is obvious that he was.

And so, this remarkable man whom I never met has inspired this week’s blog. He brought me to a place I needed to revisit.

This one’s for you, Jimmy Bujno, a man who lived life well.

EARNING MY EULOGY

I sat at a funeral recently and was profoundly touched at the sight of those in mourning. What honor they bestowed upon their loved one with their presence, words, and tears.

I’ve given many eulogies over the years. Too many times I’ve stood at the podium singing the praises of someone I had loved and lost. At times I wondered who would be left to sing for me. And when I looked around, it broke my heart; there was no one.

I had to take a close look at why. And then I needed to climb the steep steps to change. I needed to make some important adjustments in ME and the way I was behaving and living. And I had to learn to be a better friend. And I am learning; because I have some pretty amazing girlfriends who teach me by example every day.

Now, I’m pretty sure, there would be someone to say a kind word or two on my behalf after I’m gone.

A friend jokingly told me that she was working on the photo collage for her “someday funeral” NOW because she didn’t trust her sons to pick out her best, most flattering pictures. Although we mused over this, it got me to thinking.

NOW IS THE TIME to create the memories and live the experiences that are reflected in those wonderful photograph collages. And NOW IS THE TIME to become the person worthy of the eulogy that I would want spoken in my honor.

But I had to wonder, “How would I be remembered?”

Upon reflection, these are the words that I would want spoken:

“Julia was a kind and compassionate Christian woman who helped people and animals humbly and without expectation. Through her writing she shared her greatest weaknesses and joys in an effort to comfort, share, and show a new perspective. She was honest, brave, and passionate. She strived to be a better person, lived life to the fullest; made us laugh, and was well-loved. She was a good friend.”

Just as my friend gathers the pictures she hopes will be displayed at her own memorial service one day, I will strive to live my life NOW in a way that will earn me these words LATER.

We determine how we are to be remembered.

Tell me, what do you want your eulogy to say?

Categories: Family, Friends, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation | 26 Comments

WRITING NOTES

Sometimes late at night while I’m watching television in bed, things get percolating in my brain and become inconveniently irrepressible. Being the lazy creature that I am, most times I won’t rise to retrieve my laptop, but will take a pen to whatever is lying on the floor next to the bed, whether it’s a napkin, bookmark, or random scrap of paper.

In this case, appropriately, it was the back inside cover of an  issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine;  and I used every bit of white space that I could find on the page to expel my thoughts.

And although this now illegible page is entitled, “Write Great Fiction”, what I ultimately pulled from all my chicken scratch was not fiction at all, but a poem for a friend who had just lost her husband.

One small part of that is a simple but heartfelt sentiment that I’m rather fond of:

“A brilliant star was plucked from the night,

but Heaven got brighter, can that be right?

I think of you and I understand why;

you’re making God smile and it lights up the sky!”

When something needs to be expressed, anything can become a canvas; and whatever the creative endeavor, the important thing is to find your own canvas and your own way to paint it.

Of course this bit of scribbled mess was eventually transferred to my laptop where it was worked and reworked; but it started here, with a heart full of emotions, a slothful disposition, and the old fashioned notion of taking pen to paper.

Imagine that.

Categories: Art, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , | 18 Comments

MY PLACE IN THE SAND

Do you remember the doggie-paddle; the canine swimming technique copied solely to keep even the simplest of human heads above water?  

Well, I’ve spent most of my life doing it.

And apparently while I was doing this desperate and undignified dance, and expending the endless energy required just to keep my feet paddling, my lungs inflated, and my big fat head afloat, life had somehow slipped right. . . on. . . by.

I was so busy treading life’s tumultuous waters that I failed to see the lifelines that were all around me. I was so frantically intent on staying up, that I inadvertently forgot about standing up.

But today is a new day and I have finally reached the shore! This rudderless wonder now resides contentedly on the soft and yielding warmth of a safe, new beach. My exhausted paddling feet are now retired deep beneath fine, cool granules of pure white sand, while once heavy shoulders blush in appreciation at the sun’s affections. New eyes look at the ocean today and through remembered treacherousness, they now see beauty. My heartbeat has slowed and my soul is quietly and gradually healing. 

I am very protective of my little stretch of beach. I’ve spent a lifetime paddling my way, earning my way, to this treasure.

This is my time . . . and this is my place . . . where loving and compassionate friends gather to uplift, heal, and celebrate life . . . and one another.

So, when I extend my hand to you in invitation, it is because you are my friend and can be trusted to respect my priceless little home here in the sand.

Even Heaven’s greatest delight is in the sharing.

So I thank you for joining me.

Now please take off your shoes.

Categories: Humor, Inspiration/Motivation, Mental Health, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

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