Wednesday, June 30

The PROS and CONS of YOU!

I've been writing a book for the last year or so.

OK, let me be honest; I've been writing a book for several years and just never felt like it was flowing the way it should, so I kept setting it aside. Then it hit me! I was writing the wrong book! I was putting all my energy into a work of fiction when I work best with reality. I mean, c'mon, it's my tag line for life. I'm a realistic optimist - yada yada yada...(If you haven't already, you can read my personal tag line for life on the left under the "About Me" section.)

Finally sometime last summer the light bulb over my head illuminated and I tossed the fiction aside and am now happily nearing a complete non-fiction manuscript! Yay!

While talking on the phone with my sister, I was telling her about a chapter in my book where I talk about the importance of truly knowing yourself; as it's necessary in order to begin the journey of self-improvement, and how a good start in that process is to write down a list of the Pros & Cons of YOU, being completely honest in all areas. In my experience, people tend to fall under one of three categories:

1. People who are unnecessarily hard on themselves.
2. People who are more satisfied with themselves than they probably should be.
3. People who claim they don't care to be bothered with all that "pop-psychology" stuff.

The ideal, in my humble opinion, is to get to a place somewhere between 1 & 2. We won't talk about the people who fall into the 3rd category. I'll let them and their shrinks work it out.

Ask anyone who really knows me and they'll tell you I have a tendency towards being very highly critical of myself, to the point of getting on the nerves of those who love me. In very limited doses, self-criticism can be a useful tool to keep us from getting complacent. The danger is that far too easily it becomes habitual, and destructive to our self-esteem. For the most part, I've learned to stop myself when I go into 'let's pick Michele apart' mode.

Writing down my Pros and Cons has been very helpful with seeing myself in a better light. Merely saying aloud what your good and bad points are just doesn't cut it though. The visual of seeing it, and reading it, as well as saying it aloud helps us to actually absorb it more.
If you think you could benefit from any of this, try it for a few days, or even better, a few weeks.

Get a pretty journal, or stationary that you like. Pretty paper and journals make me happy, I'm dorky that way, but that's another blog post.
On the first day, write down 5 things you like about yourself (my dorkiness is actually one of the things I like about myself) and 5 things you don't like about yourself.
This next step is very important in the process, so please don't skip it.
Next to each thing you DON'T like about yourself, assess whether it's genuine. If it's something you've just gotten into the habit of picking on, like when I make fun of my nose, that's not really something to add, so cross it off.
My nose is what a few people would refer to as somewhat "ethnic" but considering I have a richly ethnic background, it's something I should embrace. It's a part of my heritage and something to be proud of. So I crossed that off of my list. I'll admit that I'm not at the point of actually adding it to my LIKE list, but hey, it's a start. Bottom line, make sure your DON'T LIKE list is valid.
Once you have your list of dislikes, look them over and decide if it's something that can be improved upon, or changed. If so, set about doing just that.

Every day after the first day, write down THREE things you like about yourself, and ONE thing you don't like. When you've finished that, look back at the previous entries and make a note of anything you've done to improve the things you don't like.
This plan can really help you to start appreciating your good points more, and stop focusing on your less than fabulous ones.

Please let me know if you plan to give this a shot, and report back how it's helped you! I look forward to hearing about your experiments! ♥

You Got a License for That Thing?

"A Little Something From My Lighter Side..."

In 23 years of wheelchair-ing (I think I just made up a new word) through life, I've heard some interesting remarks regarding me and my chair, so I thought I'd share a few with you. Exciting, huh? You get to be disabled vicariously through me! WooHoo! Lucky you!

I guess I should start with the most popular, the ones that if I had a dollar for every time I heard them, I'd be blogging right now from a villa in Greece, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea... or in some brilliant but twisted geniuses la-bor-a-tory, having deviously experimental surgery to repair my spinal cord, so that I could then be a guest star on the Benny Hinn show!

1. You got a license for that thing?
Now, you'd think after more than 2 decades of hearing that pretty much weekly, I'd have some snarky reply, or just ignore people, but I just don't have it in me to let anyone down or make them think their quip is unoriginal, so I giggle as though I've never heard it, much less heard it 6 million times, and say something like, "Nope, and I don't have insurance either so watch out!"

2. Slow down or I'm gonna give you a speeding ticket!
I think I actually hear this more than the first one. Surprisingly, I don't even have to be rolling fast for someone to say it. Maybe I should comb my hair...perhaps the constant windblown mess is giving me the look of speed!

3. Wanna race for pink slips?
This is what people who've injured a leg and are temporarily using a wheelchair often say. It's their way of exhibiting camaraderie. You have to laugh because they're usually in a hospital issue clunker chair, as opposed to the $2500 glorified bicycle I roll in. (That's not even an electric or power chair! I avoid those because they'd encourage me to be lazy and I would probably be 6000 pounds.) Anyway, the old hospital loaner wheelchair against my sparkly turquoise, lightweight chair with purple wheels (yep, really) is like a scene from a 1950's drag strip, handicapped style! Which leads me to number 4...

4. I know how you feel.
This is another that I often hear from people who are temporarily wheelchair-bound. I smile and nod my head sympathetically, biting my tongue to keep from pointing out that 3 weeks and 23 years are a teeny bit different, but eh...ok. At least they've glimpsed what those of us who're lifetime wheelers experience, and I can appreciate that. They often ask me how long I will be in the chair, and when I say "forever" they usually flinch, then ask me what happened. This is when it gets fun because depending on how much caffeine I've had that day, the stories can get good. My favorites are when I say that I can't talk about it due to the terms of my probation... or when I nervously dart my eyes about, then begin to tell them of my secret life as a spy and how while I was scaling the walls of the Kremlin... but if I tell you more I'd have to kill you.

5. How do you go to the bathroom?

I roll there. C'mon people! Really? Is it polite conversation to ask people about their potty habits? Oy Vey!

6. Can you still have sex? (I'm being serious...I've been asked this by complete strangers.)
My standard reply is, "Is that a proposition?"

7. Did you get married before your accident?
This has got to be my favorite one...(not really, my sarcastic side has come out now) and I must explain that this question is almost always asked assuming I was married before, and that my long-suffering hubby was a saint for not high-tailing it to Georgia once he realized I was going to be damaged for life. And when I answer this one, saying that 'no' we met after my accident -- number 8 is sure to follow...

8. What a great guy! (Meaning my saint of a husband who married that poor little crippled girl.) They've obviously not spent the last 13 years with him! I am kidding here. He really is the sweetest guy I've ever known. He's long-suffering, putting up with my constant neurosis, creative whims, and flights of fancy moods. We started out as friends, and unbeknownst to me he had a crush and researched all about spinal cord injuries so he could understand more about my life. When I first introduced him to my son (who was 6 at the time) my sweet little one kicked him in the shin. In response, my now-husband said, "Do that again and you'll be sorry." My precious boy reared back to kick him, flung his tiny foot out, my big guy caught his ankle and made him plop solidly on his butt...they both broke out in laughter and have been going at each other in this manner for the past 13 years now. I'm so blessed to have him in my life, and I know it. I thank God daily for this big lug by my side.

Tuesday, June 29


Although I consider myself a [non-denominational] Christian, I enjoy studying world religions, finding the many parallels they share, and gleaning bits of wisdom from all of them to apply to my own personal faith. One of my favorites is Taoism. I appreciate what I see as 'simple profundities' in their practices and meditations.
About a dozen years ago, a friend gave me a book called, "365 Tao - Daily Meditations" which despite it being meant as a year long collection of devotions, I devoured in about a week, happening upon a single paragraph that gave me an overall philosophy for my experience as a person with a lifelong disability:

'Acceptance does not mean fatalism. It does not mean capitulation to some slaughtering predestination. Those who follow Tao do not believe in being helpless. They believe in acting within the framework of circumstances.'

You see, in the movies and books, the person who cannot walk, refusing to accept the sentence of being crippled for life, almost always miraculously rises up from their wheelchair out of sheer determination and will.

Real life is rarely like the movies.

Back in the early 90's I was at a church that was nice enough for the most part, but at one point I was accosted by a group of people who wanted to lay hands on me and bring about a healing. They were actually pulling me hard, trying to get me up and out of my wheelchair, while I was doing my best to maintain politeness, and explain that I think I'd know if I'd been healed, and I'd rather not have to fall and break something to prove otherwise. When all was said and done and I wheeled back to my row in the congregation, I felt I'd let them down. I didn't wonder why God didn't heal me. I knew even back then that I was where I was for a reason that would fall under "the greater good" category. But being a people-pleaser usually knows no limits, so in my mind, I'd failed them all and should be ashamed of myself.

Society is so used to seeing unrealistic portrayals of people with disabilities thanks to the media and low-life television evangelists who stage "healings" every week. The following are actual statements people have made to me regarding my disability:

1. I would never let the disability win. I would just get right up out of that chair! ~Really? My spinal cord would like to make a $$$ bet with you.

2. If you just have enough faith, you'll stand right up and walk.
~And if I have enough faith, maybe the person saying this would have to live a week in my body...I won't hold my breath on either account.

3. You're not receiving a healing because you have unforgiven sin in your life. ~Wow. This gem came from a preacher. I guess he hadn't read the part in the Bible about Jesus dying for my sins.

Seriously, I think God's miracle in my life is bringing me through the first 30 years without me killing myself, and then going on to actually give me JOY, and to become what most people would consider a decent and contributing member of society.

He helped me to 'act within the framework of my circumstances.' I didn't just passively accept that I would live out my life unable to walk. I acted on what had happened, using it as both a lesson to myself and to others.
Remember, I always refer to myself as a 'realistic optimist' -- sure the glass is half full, but maybe not full of something you want to drink...but nonetheless, there it is. Better to act on it rather than sitting there staring at it, waiting for it to change into something sweet to drink.

I'd love to hear other peoples opinions on incorporating bits and pieces from world religions into your own walk (or roll) through life. Thanks for reading my rantings. :)

Sunday, June 27

Talk Less - Listen More

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

Confused? Yeah, me too!

Want to be a better parent, spouse, or friend? Talk less, listen more. That's it. Four words and you didn't have to spend any money on a book, counselor, or parenting class. Not many things say "I love you" more than giving your time and undivided attention to someone. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is.
Especially in today's high tech society, we often half-listen to people while our cell phone is chirping at us; or we nod and say "mm hmm" while we're simultaneously thinking; 'what can I make for dinner tonight?, I wonder if I turned the coffee maker off this morning...why is she wearing chartreuse, doesn't she know her complexion is too sallow for chartreuse?'

Lack of good communication can lead to a whole host of marital problems, and even more frightening, when we're too "busy" to _really, truly, deeply listen_ to our kids, we could miss some major signals that they're either consciously, or unconsciously wanting us to know about their lives. Kids will often speak in roundabout ways, waiting for parents to solve the puzzle and realize that they need our help with a situation they've found themselves in. God forbid we're too busy blogging, texting, or worrying about the house being a mess, and fail to be there when they need us. Another problem that can interfere with 'active' listening is thinking you already know where the other person is going. Sure, sometimes you do, but not always. Better to pay attention and be positive. Particularly with intimate relationships this can be problematic. We're so used to hearing that person talk, and we often think we know them, inside and out, but if that were true in all cases, I doubt the divorce rate would be as high as it is.

Just to let you know, I'm speaking to myself as much as anyone else. I'm ashamed to admit that I've been guilty of absentmindedly pretending to listen while my son was talking, only to find out later there was a problem that could have been nipped in the bud, had I been actively listening. Important to keep in mind is that listening is not just done with the ears. It's watching body language, keeping eye contact, looking for signals or unexpressed emotions. Connecting physically can really enhance your listening and tune you into what the other person wants you to hear. Take their hands in yours while they talk. This simple form of contact makes it much more difficult for your mind to wander, and at the same time it shows the person talking that you truly care what they have to say.

Repeat key points back, saying something like, "I want to make sure I'm understanding you, so what you're saying is, _________________?" Again, this shows the speaker that you care enough to want to be sure you're 'getting' what they're expressing, and if not, you've just given them an opportunity to clarify themselves.

I think the Indian Philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti says it beautifully: "So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.

Saturday, June 26

Life is Unpredictable - Take Lots of Pictures!

I know I've mentioned this in previous blogs, but in case there are folks reading who haven't read back that far, on some subconscious level I'm pretty sure that I thought the motorcycle accident, which left me a paraplegic in 1987, filled some mysterious accident quota for my lifetime. The car accident on March 15 of this year proved otherwise. It also taught me something I should have already been actively aware of; just because I'm following the rules of traffic, does not mean everyone else sharing the road with me is. OK...another lesson learned the hard way, but at least I'm still here, right? Yay!

With just a split second one way or another, it might not have turned out this well. Thinking about what I could have left behind is overwhelming, so I've tried not to go down that path much, but in one respect it shined some light on an issue I've had for many years...

I hate having my picture taken.

I'm probably preaching to the choir here. Lots of people, especially women, feel the same for a variety of reasons. Mine are as follows; for a few years I was very overweight, but even once I lost most of it, I've still struggled with a very stubborn, clinging like a tick on my dog, last 10-13 pounds, and I've never liked my nose. I'm not wild about my arms either, because they're more muscular than what I consider feminine, but that's just a part of being an active paraplegic; my arms take over where my legs can't.

These issues have had me hiding from cameras for years. When I came close to leaving this earth recently, I realized my son would have had very few decent photographs of me, and almost no video. How very selfish I'd behaved all that time.

Seriously, if I were still very overweight, or if my nose were even bigger than it already is, it's still the "visual me" that my son and loved ones knew/know, and I'm pretty sure they like me, and would appreciate some decent photos. Who am I to take memories away from my kid, and future grandchildren and great-grandchildren who may someday want to see what that crazy old grandma they'd heard so much about looked like.

So my newest quest (because it's not like I'm getting any younger, cuter, or skinnier) is to allow pictures to be taken anytime, regardless of my hair being a mess, my tummy feeling "poochy" that day, or having missed my eyebrow waxing appointment, I will smile, genuinely, and keep in mind that I'm preserving a memory for someone who loves me.

Just to prove is a picture from yesterday, riding with the top down, no makeup, hair a mess, but SMILING!

Friday, June 25

Free Friday!

I'm one of those people who believe in the "healthy mind/healthy body" connection, so I don't eat a lot of refined sugars, etc...

BUT, everyone needs to have a little fun now and then, right? So I implemented "Free Fridays" at our home! WooHoo!

Each Friday I choose something decadent to make, and I allow myself to eat a serving (or two) of it. Today was so far beyond bordered on debauchery!

I present to you...

Coconut Cupcakes!

Here's the recipe I used:

From The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten


* 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 2 cups sugar
* 5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
* 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
* 3 cups flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

For the frosting:

* 1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
* 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
* 1 1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Thursday, June 24

My Personal Commandments

Along the same lines as my "Truths" blog from yesterday, I thought I'd share a wonderful idea I got from Gretchen Rubin and her book "The Happiness Project."

I highly recommend this book. What's funny is that I almost didn't read it because as I often do before I read something, I researched it a little on amazon and checked out her website, then wondered what in the world can I, with all my past baggage, trials and tribulations, learn from a woman who seems to have had it easy most of her life. Then I realized I was being ridiculous, since we can all learn something from one another, and I read the book.

Glad I did! I enjoyed it from beginning to end, so much so that it earned a spot on my "special bookshelf" where I place books I plan to keep in my personal collection, rather than passing on (which I must do with most so books don't take over my home!)

Anyway, back to what I want this blog to be about today. One of the things to do when you begin your own Happiness Project is to make a list of personal commandments. I loved doing this! Being a compulsive list-maker, this was right up my alley, but beyond the satisfaction of simply writing things down, I found myself turning inward and really contemplating what was important enough to me to become a "commandment."

Here's what I came up with:

1. Trust God.

2. Be me.

3. Accept compliments graciously.

4. Talk less & listen more.

5. Don't assume things.

6. Always be there when my son or husband need me.

7. Prune toxic relationships and nourish healthy ones.

8. Roll with the punches.

9. Give for the right reasons.

10. Practice kindness daily.

If you decide to do your own List of Personal Commandments, consider sharing them. I'd love to see what others come up with.

Wednesday, June 23

A Few Important Truths

1. Don't take to heart what people who constantly criticize you have to say.

~I've found that the most critical people are usually the most self-loathing. They either consciously or unconsciously magnify flaws in others so their own seem small in comparison. Sometimes people have been hyper-critical for so long that they don't even realize how they negatively affect others. If you suspect this may be the case with someone you know, and you'd like to preserve the relationship, consider just asking them why they feel the way they do. You may just stump them.

2. If someone gossips TO you, they'll probably gossip ABOUT you.

~It's the nature of the gossip monster. Just don't feed it.

3. Words are incredibly powerful. One cruel remark can hurt someone for life.

~We've all had something hurled at us that pops back into our heads time and time again. Don't be a person who plants a bad seed.

4. The fewer possessions you have, the more they do for you.

~When I was 17, a roommate stole all the clothing I had except what was on my back. As I slowly replaced items, and I mean s-l-o-w-l-y, because I had no money to speak of, you'd better believe I cared for each cheap t-shirt and pair of shorts as if they'd been purchased on Rodeo Drive. Now, having been married and living in the same house for quite a few years, I've accumulated too much 'stuff' and it makes me feel overwhelmed. Recently I started downsizing and it feels so good every time I get rid of another box of needless 'stuff'.

5. Revenge is for petty people.

~King Solomon said, "It is the glory of a man to pass by an offense." Seeking revenge puts us down at the same level as those who wronged us. By letting either justice or karma work it out, we elevate ourselves above our offender, which probably irritates him/her to no end.

6. It's harder to burn calories than to not consume them in the first place.

~Trust me on this one. I never even noticed I was gaining weight back in the early 2000's -- that's how easy it was! Conversely, it took me a lot of time and a ton of sweat to lose it.

7.. Everyone is carrying a cross. Some just don't show as much as others.

~If you ask anyone who knows my husband to describe him in one word, it would most likely be one of the following: goofy, funny, happy, outgoing, friendly, kind, giving... get the picture? He's a super nice guy with an awesome sense of humor. Only a few people realize he'd lost his entire family by the time he was 6 years old. First his mom to cancer when he was just a toddler, then his stepmom, 2 older brothers and baby sister all in one car accident where he was the only survivor, and finally, shortly after the accident, his dad to a heart attack. I think it's why he's so understanding of my past and where I came from. He knows about suffering and loss. More importantly, he knows about the joy of living.
We tend to think everything shows on our surfaces when in reality, we hide it well most of the time. Keep this in mind, especially when dealing with people who seem angry, rude, or defensive for no apparent reason. Their cross may be especially heavy that day.

Please share some of your truths with me. :)

Tuesday, June 22

Silly Meaningless Things I'm Thankful For Today!

Diet Coke

Converse sneakers in multitudes of colors to match my moods.

Hoop Earrings

Dark Chocolate Hershey Kisses


Goody Spin Pins (gushing over these things!)


My fat, mean cat Waffles.

The frogs that eat the mosquitoes in the carport at night.

The Nintendo DS my son gave me! Woot! I rock at Super Mario DS!

Saturday, June 19

Letting Go - Moving On

I stood in the center of the driveway, defiantly. We locked eyes, her behind the wheel of her car, me, in too tight jeans and top, bursting with the kind of rage only a desperately hurting, motherless 14 year old girl could summon. She angrily honked the horn and began to move forward, and I glared before sulking out of her way. She'd already won anyway. She was my dad's new girlfriend, and even though I was young, I knew this was more serious than the string of other women he'd dated...and this one didn't try to pretend she liked me. She was different than the others.

About a year later, the house I'd grown up in was for sale, and my belongings thrown into garbage bags in the back of my dad's pickup truck. He asked me where I wanted to be dropped off. I was being evicted at 15 years old.

Just like my mom had seen me as disposable 3 years earlier, so now had I become the throwaway kid to my dad. I mean, what choice did he have? He was about to marry a woman who disliked me from the first meeting in the driveway.

Don't feel sorry for me yet. I was a full blown drug addict. A little bit of whatever, mostly cocaine. I weighed about 85 pounds and kept company with a 27 year old drug dealer who drove a Harley. I guess my dad had liked him well enough though, since once when "Billy" had come to pick me up, it had just started raining, and my dad tossed his car keys to him, telling him we needed to stay dry. As if me getting wet was all he should have worried about. "Billy" introduced me to freebasing coke that night, so now I had a faster way to kill myself than merely snorting lines. He also made me feel beautiful, the way he loved taking photos of me.

I was so incredibly lost.

When I find myself feeling old resentments popping up from so many years ago, I try to keep in mind a quote from Maya Angelou; "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." I know that my mom apologized to me, several years before her death, and I know my dad wishes he could have handled the situation better, but they did what they knew to do at the time.

I've spent the last 25+ years trying to "take back" the bad impression I made on the woman who became my stepmom, but most of the time, she still seems to see me as the angry 14 year girl defiantly standing in the driveway. I did then what I knew to do...
I know better now...but some people never forget, or forgive, and that's ok. Every now and then there's a glimpse of the relationship we could have had, and it brings me both joy and pain. We all want to be loved, especially by those we call 'family'.
Sometimes though, we have to just accept that there will be people who won't forgive us for a wrong, whether real or imagined. I've done all I can to ensure that her dislike for me is no longer justified, but I fear it will never be enough, and I've had to put down that burden.

I say it often because it's worth repeating: Life is too short, sweet,and precious to hang onto anger and resentment. We need to release those heavy loads so we can spryly move forward. Is it difficult to let go? Sometimes, yes-- and every now and then you'll find that somewhere along the road, you've unwittingly picked that burden back up and it's weighing you down. You may have to drop it several times before you lose it for good. Try to remember that forgiveness is primarily for our own sake, so we no longer carry the burden of resentment, and forgiving does not mean we will continue to allow injustice.

I share my experiences hoping it helps someone else, and because it helps me to appreciate the life I have now that much more.

Friday, June 18

One of those days...

People often ask me what my secret is. They want to know how I continue smiling and being upbeat and positive, full of hope, when so much has gone wrong in my life. Most days I'm just so thankful to be here, experiencing this beautifully amazing ride we call life, that I can barely contain myself from gushing all the ways I find joy and enthusiasm for living.

Then there are days like today; days that challenge me to put my money where my mouth is.

As many of you know, after spending the last 23 years in a wheelchair in amazingly good health considering all that could have gone wrong, I was t-boned (for lack of a better term) on March 15th while driving home from the gym, by a woman who ran a red light.
This shook my resolve, but thankfully, only briefly, then I was back on course and setting my sights on the light at the end of that dark tunnel.

Today's challenge began with a letter from my attorney, stating that despite many attempts to rework the numbers, there just will not be enough money to cover my bills, much less leave me anything for my pain and suffering.

I was sitting there reading this, trying to find a way to wrap my brain around the fact that a woman was texting on her phone, ran a red light, almost killed me, caused me to have to undergo blood transfusions, surgery, and months of recovery, to end up with a leg that, although thankfully healed, will never be the same, and in the doctors own words, will cause pain the rest of my life. I'm trying to digest the 'hows' and 'whys' -- It thought I did all the right things.

I had/have full coverage auto insurance with extra coverage for underinsured motorists, which she was.
I have health insurance, albeit, nothing fancy, but something nonetheless.
There were about 10 witnesses to the accident, so there's no dispute as to what happened.

Why am I still getting shafted? What's wrong with the system in this country? Why is this woman not in jail?

You see...I could really get caught up in this never-ending cycle of questions, and rage at the injustice of it all, but to what end?

***deep breath***

Know what? In the grand scheme, does any of this matter? Not really. I've been on a tight budget my entire life, so I'll make it. Most importantly, my son still has his mom, my husband still has his wife, and my sister still has her best friend forever. God brought me through another trial, and kept the flame in my heart alive. I have to believe that there's a reason for all that happens, and that I'm meant to bring hope to people through my story. When I step back and look at the big picture...

Surviving childhood sexual abuse, abandonment, drug addiction, suicide attempt, spinal cord injury...I mean really...I was able to overcome all of these things so in comparison this is nothing more than a tiny wrinkle on the map of my life.

I'll be ok. :)

Wednesday, June 16

Bedroom Oasis

The bedroom is the first place you see in the morning and the last place you see at night. It's a place for relaxing, dreaming, and loving. Many people don't realize how important it is to keep the bedroom sacred, much like a temple. The reason for this is that you don't want to carry any of the 'world' into this place of peace. Of all the rooms in the home, this should be the one where you can escape the pressures of the day.

You can't walk into your bedroom, have to move a pile of unfolded laundry, shoo the dog out, and then see a stack of bills on your nightstand and not feel some level of anxiety. Don't we have enough to deal with all day? Shouldn't we all have one place in this world where we can breathe a sigh of relief and The answer, in my humble opinion, is a resounding YES! The best part is that you don't need to have lots of money, fancy furnishings, or a feng shui expert to accomplish this. I do lots of my decorating by shopping at thrift stores, consignment shops, and best of all, vintage hand-me-downs from my Mom-in-law and my Grandma.

Simply by doing a little housekeeping, then following a few easy rules, anyone can turn their bedroom into a boudoir.

Here's my basic plan...hope it helps someone.

1. Clean your room. Yes, I know this is stressful to read, but trust's worth it. Just do it right once, and the upkeep is easy if you follow the plan. Vacuum, dust, and throw away- or find new places/homes for clutter. Clutter is the enemy of a peaceful house, and even more so the bedroom! Also, make your bed every day...even if it's just throwing the duvet over the rumpled sheets (the best I manage.) It really makes a difference in how the room feels. Trust me, try it!

2. Get throw pillows, lots of them- for reclining, reading in bed, putting your feet up, etc...and simple, clean sheets, with throws and blankets you love. Get rid of anything scratchy, loud, and in my opinion, not made from 100% natural fibers.

3. Change your light bulbs to soft light, or consider a dimmer switch.

4. Set the mood with scented candles. Avoid cloying or over-powering scents. Stick to light, classic scents like vanilla or lavender. If you don't want candles in your room for safety purposes, consider a Scentsy. I received one as a gift last Christmas and love it so much! I'm pretty sure you can buy these sorts of wax warmers in lots of places, probably for cheaper than the brand name one.

None of the following should be allowed in the bedroom:

a. Arguments, or talk about bills, work, deadlines, carpools, gossip of any get the picture, right?

b. Speaking of pictures, lots of experts agree that family photos should be saved for the family rooms. Glancing at a picture of great-grandma could lead to worrisome thoughts of her health, etc...

c. No pets in the bedroom. This one was difficult for us because we have 3 dogs and a cat, all of whom love to stay underfoot; but I can tell you from experience that banning them from the bedroom increased the peacefulness dramatically.

d. Instead of TV to numb your mind into sleep, consider a small, indoor fountain, or a CD of relaxing music as a lullaby.

By following this, or a similar plan to create a peaceful space in your home, you'll probably fall asleep faster, and enjoy better quality sleep, so you can wake up feeling more refreshed and ready to face a new day. It's small changes in ones life such as these that, little by little, increase the overall quality of living.

Now I'm off to bed...G'nite!

Life is funny point at it and laugh!

A little levity today...and a lesson in just embracing those less than awesome moments in life, and laughing at them.

I thought I'd share some of the more 'stellar' moments of my life in a wheelchair, just a few, because to try and remember all the times I've looked like a dork over the past 23 years would take me another 23 years.

Might just as well start at the beginning. It was the first time I was allowed to leave the rehabilitation center after the accident in 1987 that caused my paralysis, so I was obviously new to the whole 'wheelchair/spinal cord injury' scene. I was only on an afternoon pass, and this was somewhat monumental since it was my first public outing with wheels. We went to a restaurant for lunch, and ended up waiting in the hostess area for a bit due to the large crowd of Sunday diners. The longer I sat still, not pushing myself around, the more cramped up I began to feel and my legs started having spasms, trying to kick straight out in front of me, but I kept placing my hand on them, holding them down so I didn't freak people out.
Finally, a table opened up and we began to follow the hostess into the dining area, when my right leg had a hard spasm, and kicked out straight in front of me, unfortunately sending my shoe flying across the restaurant, where it less than delicately landed on a table where several senior citizens were eating. Suffice to say they were not amused, thinking I'd done it on purpose. With a red face and a vow to never again venture out in public, I retrieved my shoe, and apologized.
* For those who don't already know this, it's not unusual for paralyzed limbs to have muscle spasms and shake or kick out. Many take medicine to control this, I just deal with it and look at it as "exercise" for my legs.

Obviously I got over it, and even dared to go out into the world again. And a few years later I learned that I didn't even need to leave my house to be mortified.

By this time I was married, and the hubster and I decided to order a pizza from Domino's. My better half was busy when the delivery guy showed up, so- no problem, I grabbed my wallet and answered the door. He turned the box to show me the total due, not saying a word, and then he gestured again and I realized he was hearing impaired...good on Domino's for being an equal opportunity employer! I was feeling a bit of kinship, knowing that he knew what it was like to live with a disability, when disastrously, this was a moment in time when my leg decided to make itself a solo act again, and it kicked out in a rigid spasm, landing square in the delivery man's crotch. I backed my chair away from him at the speed of light, to put distance between his nether regions and my fresh foot, and began apologizing, knowing he couldn't hear, praying he could read lips. I motioned for him to keep the change, a larger than necessary tip, and he didn't argue, just turned to go. I did call the Domino's and asked them to make sure he understood what had happened. The manager on the phone assured me all was well, although we never saw that same delivery man again.

Lastly, just so you'll know that not all of my foibles involve my disability...when my son was small I learned the embarrassing way not to let him walk around naked all the time just because he wanted to. He was so funny, he'd stand there talking to anyone, in all his 7 year old glory, hands on hips, buck nekkid, as we like to say around here.
Around this au naturel time, he'd also taking a liking to crawling into the metal cage/dog crate we used for training our dog. He was combining these two habits one day when the doorbell rang. I can't quite explain to you the feeling that grips you by the throat when you realize that your kid is naked in a dog cage and someone is at the door. Thankfully, it was my neighbor, Waneen (a whole 'nother story) -- and seeing him in that state didn't seem to faze her (if you knew Waneen, this wouldn't surprise you.)
BUT, I did sit down that afternoon and have a talk with my son about being naked all the time and locking himself into the dog cage. I'm happy to report that today he's a healthy, almost 19 year old young man who does not, to the best of my knowledge, run around naked or spend time in dog cages.

Tuesday, June 15

Body Acceptance - The Path of MOST Resistance?

Every man is the builder of a temple called his body. ~Henry David Thoreau

If you follow my blog, you may begin to notice that different slants of the same subject (body acceptance/body image) pop up again and again. This is due to my own lifelong struggles with the mirror...after all, to teach is to learn twice, so I'll keep trying and hopefully it will stick for good one day.

For the most part, I consider myself a confident woman, but like so many, I still struggle with body image. You may assume I wrestle with this issue because I'm a wheelchair user, but surprisingly, I've dealt with that long ago and although of course it can be, literally, a pain in the butt to sit 16+ hours a day, it's not what challenges my confidence.

Throughout my life, from puberty to now perimenopause, I've launched salvos of judgment at my reflection, while I seem to be deaf to compliments and have bionic hearing for criticisms.

I'm five feet tall (should the word "tall" even make an appearance in this sentence?)
I've been overweight and underweight and thankfully now I've learned what's healthy and I hover at average, but the number is not what really matters. I know this because even when I was underweight, I still saw chubby cheeks, a poochy belly, and thick thighs.

See the complete and utter weirdness here? I'm 'OK' with being in a wheelchair, but have struggled most of my life with the fact that I'm a curvy gal with boobs, hips, and a butt. (All three of which my husband has assured me he's more than happy with.)
Unfortunately, I'm not alone. Here are some startling statistics to mull over:

• 20 years ago models weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, they weigh 23% less.

• The average American woman is 5'4" and weighs between 140-160 pounds. The average American model is 5'11" and weighs 117 pounds.

• An estimated 40-50% of American women are trying to lose weight at any point in time.

• A study found that 53% of 13 year old American girls are unhappy with their bodies. This number grows to 78% by the time girls reach 17.

All of this while a study in 2009 showed that American women are getting larger, with 62% being in the "overweight" category according to BMI charts. Even though many of us understand basic psychology enough to know that negative attention creates negative behaviors, it's clear that many are not putting it into everyday practice.
My solution has been to seek out constructive ways to reinforce a positive body image. Obviously I'm not completely convinced yet, but the fact that I'm striving towards acceptance is a plus. I won't give up...anyone who knows me will tell you I'm too stubborn for that.

Here are 5 steps I've found helpful in my journey towards a healthy body image:

1. Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you.

2. Keep a top-10 list of things you like about yourself -- things that aren't related to how much you weigh or what you look like.

3. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of body. Remind yourself that true beauty goes beyond appearances.

4. Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in the mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts.

5. Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.

I hope that as I help myself on this topic, I'm helping someone else along the way. Please feel free to share your thoughts or experiences.

Monday, June 14

You are (here) •

When you step into a mall you've never been to before, it helps to look at the directory or map, specifically if there's somewhere in particular you're wanting to go. Now of course, if you have no set destination, you can wander around aimlessly wasting time. Sometimes that's fun, and you never know what you'll run into, but more often than not you'll end up tired, discombobulated, and more than likely having spent too much money on things you really didn't need anyway.

This situation can also be applied in our lives. Not only does it help to know where we're going, through setting goals and mapping out how we plan to reach them, but we must know, first and foremost, where we are when we're starting out. I think this key point gets lost in translation a lot when people set a course. Often we just see where we want to be, and aim for that place. Sure you can get there this way, but if you know your starting point beforehand, it makes it easier to figure out the shortest distance from A to B.

Stick with me here...this concept kind of goes back to my "Life is now" post. We have to sync up the route towards our goals with where we truly are right now, not where we wish we were. Acknowledging who we are right now gives us the best chance for success in reaching our goals. While we should always be striving to be better people- being honest with ourselves about who we are at this moment in time helps us start out from a place of respect for our situation and, most importantly, ourselves. Traveling from this solid place helps us reach our goals more easily and quicker, with less struggling through rough terrain because we're less likely to be plagued by self-doubt, fears, or pressures to try to live up to where we'd have preferred to start out.

Most importantly is to remember that none of us are perfect, and that's not only 'OK' but it's the human's normal. When you aim for perfection, you'll discover it's a moving target. We'll always wander a bit, get distracted, and even stumble while trying to reach our goals, but when we do, we square our shoulders, line up our sights, and soldier on.

Saturday, June 12

Every Stripper...

Every stripper, before she was a stripper, was someone's little girl. ~Tim Dorsey

This quote really struck a nerve with me. It reminded me of a conversation I had about 15 years ago- with a pastor who was trying to explain to me why I didn't view God in the right way. He said, "You're thinking of God (the Father) the way you think of your own father." I looked at him quizzically, so he went on to further explain, "Your own father has never shown you the kind of unconditional love you desire. He's always made you feel as though you'll never be good enough. So you expect the same from God. Until you realize that one has nothing to do with the other, you'll never be able to fully accept God's love."


He was absolutely right. I did think of God as some meanie in the sky, always disappointed in me, denying His parentage, waiting for me to screw up so He could rub it in my face.

The relationship between a father and daughter is so delicate and complex. If properly nurtured, a dad can provide a solid foundation on which his little girl can walk from childhood into healthy and happy womanhood. Alternately, if not handled with care, that foundation can become a shifting pit of quicksand into which she sinks.

I'd love to round up every dad with a daughter(s) in the world, and implore them to please LOVE LOVE LOVE their little girls and their big girls. I'd tell fathers to let them know that the stars shine in their eyes, and that no matter what happens, dad's love will never waver.

Studies, and society in general has shown us what can happen when a girl has little to no positive interaction with her father. Frequently she'll seek approval relentlessly, and in the most negative places, from the multitudes of bottom dwellers that are more than happy to take advantage of an emotionally needy female.

In a 2002 study involving more than 1000 prostitutes, 81% reported having had either a bad, or no relationship with their fathers, and 59% of them reported growing up in a home where their father was not present.

Here are a few more father stats to consider:

•Girls with a healthy father-daughter relationship have higher self-esteem, are more likely to get along with people, and seek higher education.

•Girls with fathers who are actively involved in their life show higher English and math skills, as well as having a higher IQ.

•Girls with involved dads tend to be more determined, more successful in school, more self-nurturing, more independent, and are less likely to have abusive relationships.

•Dads that are loving tend to have daughters that are less likely to try drugs, and less likely to be truant or delinquent.

With numbers like these, why leave anything to chance when it comes to precious little girls?
Here's some excellent reading from Joe Kelly on the subject of Dads & Daughters:

Stat sources:
*Healing Hearts & Families 2008

Thursday, June 10

Beyond Stereotypes...

Disclaimer: I use the word "cripple" in this post, so if it offends you, stop reading. I feel like I can use this only in reference to myself, since I am a person living with a disability and it does not make me uncomfortable. I would never use it on someone else without knowing fully that they were ok with it as well. If anything, I like the fact that I use the word without cringing. I've owned it.

I tend to do a lot of soul-searching, mostly to keep myself in check, making sure my attitudes, motives, and actions are all coming from a "good" place.
During one peek inside my head recently, I asked myself if I was so optimistic and outgoing just to make sure no one placed me into the stereotype of "angry cripple." My immediate reaction to my thoughts was, "Of course not! I'm a happy person!"

Now don't worry, I didn't actually have an audible conversation with myself, although if I did, it probably would not have been the first one...or the last.

I pondered it, and and as I originally thought, I was quite sure that, for the most part, I truly feel optimistic about life, and I really just like being nice to people. No worries about people lumping me in with the "angry cripples." But guess what? I do, more often than you'd think, get lumped into the category of "super-crip" - a stereotype usually perpetuated by other people with disabilities who think of "one of their own" as "Pollyanna-ish" if you're too upbeat and positive. Damned if I do, damned if I don't.

We don't have to look far to see stereotyping. Asians are supposed to be smarter than everyone...African-Americans are supposed to like watermelon (I ♥ watermelon) Latin-Americans, Gay men, Lesbian women, Band Geeks, Jocks, Cheerleaders, Democrats, Republicans, Southerners (watch it!), Northerners, Irish people, Jewish people, Blonds, get the picture. Society has managed to attach a stereotype to pretty much every walk of life.

Stereotypes can put pressure on people to act, or not act, a certain way for fear of being misunderstood. In my humble opinion, none of them are good, not even the so-called "positive" stereotypes because we shouldn't have to try to be anything we're not.
If you want to put someone on a pedestal, or abhor them, fine...but know who they are before you make that decision. Don't do it based on perceived notions. Call me a "super-crip" because I can bench press 125 pounds for 3 sets of 15, or do bicep curls with 20 pound dumb bells. Heck, I even impress myself sometimes! But don't call me one because I smile a lot.

If people don't like someone for who they truly are, that's OK. There are plenty of people who will.

Wednesday, June 9

Stepping out of your comfort zone...

Let's talk about those invisible boundaries we set for ourselves. Why do we have these lines we try to stay within?
Because it feels safe, and for some of the time, that's a good thing. Humans tend to do very well with routines.

But...guess what I've come to realize? (Don't laugh at me if you'd already figured this out by the 5th grade - I'm a late bloomer!)

Almost all of the most amazing opportunities we'll come upon are found outside of our comfort zone. Neat, huh? Scary? OK...for me, the thought of leaving my comfort zone is always daunting, but I do it anyway, fairly often. I do it because I want to live up to my potential, and I found that being comfy didn't cut it in that department. You know what they say, "big risks equal big rewards."

In 2003 my mom died a very sudden and tragic death. I was devastated and slipped into a very dark place. There was a lot of intensely emotional history between us. I seemed to lose my mom over and over again. She walked away from my dad and me when I was 12, but we reconnected when I was an older teenager. Then I had the accident that left me a paraplegic and she just was not emotionally capable at the time to deal with it, so again, I lost her for a while. After I married and had a child though, she really bloomed into a beautiful grandma to my son, and she and I became very close again...the way we'd been when I was very young. So you can probably see why losing her for good, at least in this lifetime, was so difficult for me.

Looking back, I can see how my descent happened, but at the time, it wasn't so clear. I slept too much, ate too much, stayed home too much...and before long, I'd gained 40 pounds and developed high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. When I was sitting in the doctors office and it all hit me, I was mortified. He said I'd have to begin taking medications, but I pleaded with him to give me 6 months...I promised him I would get healthy without pills. He was very skeptical, but reluctantly agreed to give me a chance.

It was time to step outside of my comfort zone.

Being a woman in a wheelchair, the thought of joining a gym was a little overwhelming. I'd done it before in the past, but it was a tiny gym, rarely crowded and I never became a regular. The irony here (is it irony? I'm always a little unsure if I use that term correctly, even after researching it) is that before the accident that left me a paraplegic, I worked as a weight trainer and aerobics instructor for a chain of health clubs popular in the 80's called "Spa Lady."

So, I knew there was a gorgeous new gym in town...strangely enough, I knew because, prior to opening, the director had asked me to test a piece of equipment made specifically for people with mobility impairments. I knew the gym was there and was incredibly universal in design, meaning, it was user-friendly for people of all abilities, yet I was reluctant to join. As confident of a woman as I usually am, being in a gym environment, especially one as popular as this one, made me think about looking out of place...not only was I in a wheelchair, but now I was overweight.

I bit the bullet, and joined. I've been a "regular" ever since. I've lost the 40 pounds and then some, and kept it off. I have perfect blood pressure, perfect blood sugar levels, and awesome muscles! Also, rather than stare at me, most people seemed fascinated in a positive way, asking what happened, or telling me that they've been inspired to keep plucking along, despite being frustrated, when they see me working so hard. I've made some great friends, and even a few lucrative business connections. Best of all, I'm healthy and my doctor was pleasantly surprised. He says it's not very often that people put their money where their mouth is when it comes to matters like this.

Where would I be if I hadn't stepped outside of my comfort zone? I shudder to think about it.

So, if you're contemplating a move like this, go ahead, don't just put your toe over the line, jump in with both feet.

Tuesday, June 8

What Can I Do? I Can Laugh...

I think about this question a lot. What can I do to improve myself? Can't we assume that in the process of bettering ourselves, we not only improve our relationships with others, but even help improve the world, albeit in a tiny way? Think about it -- if everyone did their tiny part, what a wonderful world it would be.

Gandhi said, "As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the in being able to remake ourselves."

For women this is important... (not underestimating the importance of men's feelings, but pointing out things as I see them from my personal perspective.) Women tend to be more sensitive to their surroundings than most men, and we tend to be able to orchestrate the mood of our environments. You know the old sayings about 'mom being happy', etc...
It can be a double-edged sword for sure, but when we use our power for good and not evil, life can be sweet.

I did a little experiment recently, and was pleased with the outcome. My husband is a very quick-witted, funny guy. To give you an example, his "About Me" section on his Facebook page reads: "Taking the burden of being correct off of you since 1964" (1964 being the year he was born.) Well, after 13 years of being together, I know he's going to have something funny to say every 2.4 minutes so I don't always laugh out loud. In fact, I realized that a lot of the time I was just kind of nodding my head to acknowledge he'd spoken, then going on about my business.
For my experiment, I made sure to, at the very least, give a little giggle whenever he said something that I truly found funny. Before long, my laughter came easily, not feeling forced or fake. The best part of the experiment was that he genuinely seemed to have a lifted mood as well, maybe even a little more confident. Now when I feel myself slipping back into 'nod-mode' I remind myself how easy it is to laugh, and how it brings a lift to everyone around.

A study done at the University of Maryland (Go Terps!) found that laughter causes the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium, to dilate or expand in order to increase blood flow. The study went on to say that lots of laughter along with an active sense of humor can actually reduce your risk of having a heart attack. They found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease! Also, neuroscientists at the University College London concluded that laughter really is contagious: the brain responds to the sound of laughter and preps the muscles in the face to join in the mirth. Imagine that...laughter really is good medicine!

So my conclusion is that my tiny part to try and make the world a better place, at the very least, can be to smile easily and laugh often. Laugh and the world laughs with you!


Sunday, June 6

~Contentment ~

I have 3 dogs, and feeding time in our home is, to say the least, frenzied. They jump up and down, eagerly awaiting their meals- panting, sniffing, and pushing to be first.
Then something strange soon as the last of the three bowls are on the floor, they each begin running to see what the others have been fed, and try to steal a bite from a dish other than their own. The biggest of the 3 is the worst. He'll literally spend hours guarding his meal without savoring a single bite, all the while waiting for a chance to steal a bite from his sisters.

Have you ever known anyone of the human variety like this? Have you ever seen this quality in yourself? Of course I'm not talking about stealing food from other peoples plates...but wanting what others have instead of being content with what you've already been blessed with.

Far too often these days, the pursuit of happiness is interchanged with the pursuit of things. What so many never seem to grasp is that the feeling you get from attaining material possessions is temporary at best, and often leads to a destructive cycle of overspending, feelings of guilt, and even depression. Personal credit card debt in the US has more than doubled since 2004, and personal bankruptcies are at the highest rates ever- all while the median American family has less than $10,000.00 in assets. Not surprisingly, more than 21 million in this country suffer with clinical depression.
Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, and 3rd among individuals 15-24. I find this confounding, and incredibly sad that in a country where we have so much, there are so many people feeling empty enough to take their own lives.

I believe that one of the first, and most important steps in taking control of your destiny is to grasp the truth that until you make peace with who you are, you'll never be content with what you have.
And on that note, I'll close with a quote from the ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus: "Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."

Friday, June 4

Change "survive" to "THRIVE"

I mentioned in yesterdays post that once we enter into the realm of thankfulness, we'll begin to see opportunities where we once saw only obstacles. Let's elaborate on that thought for today's post.

Take a look at the world outside, and sadly you'll begin to see that many people are walking around, day to day, in survival mode. They're basically going through the motions...just -existing. Considering the fleeting nature of life, it's a shame that we can so easily get trapped in such a wasteful loop.
Too often we get hung up over the things we perceive as obstacles, keeping us from doing what we really want to in life, so instead of trying, we settle in defeat. This is where we can slip from living to existing.

When I feel like I'm at a stumbling block in the road, I envision it instead as a vaulting board or a trampoline. Often in life we're confronted with several stumbling blocks at once. Why not look at them as stepping stones instead? Consider the obstacle and brainstorm over how you can use it as a jumping point. For example, I'd been wanting to start a non-profit organization to help people with disabilities pursue physically active lifestyles through adaptive sports and recreation, but the process overwhelmed me whenever I seriously considered it, so I did nothing. Then I had a bad car accident and figured that since I was stuck at home anyway, I might as well get busy on it, and the first steps (the most difficult) were taken, and we're now on our way to establishing what was once just a dream. I turned an obstacle into an opportunity, and the possible long-reaching effects have great potential.

Louis Pasteur said, "Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity." In other words, make a decision now to not be a quitter. Don't give up, don't give in. Persevere!

So much of what happens in our lives is a direct result of the decisions we make. If you're walking down a path and come to a huge boulder blocking the way, instead of turning back, be the one who learns to rock climb! It's taking that extra step when the road gets rough that can move you from surviving to THRIVING.

Thursday, June 3

Be Thankful...It Increases Your Brain Power!

G. K. Chesterton wrote: "I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."

Way back when Oprah was promoting keeping a "gratitude journal" I jumped on board. If you're a friend of mine, then you know that I make lists constantly, and have stacks of filled up notebooks and journals to prove it. This was another excuse to have a nice, fresh, clean journal- its blank pages inviting a pen to show it some love.
Seriously, is it just me, or is there something exciting and hopeful about blank paper in front of you? It's probably just me. I'm kind of a nerdy dork that way, but I can honestly say that listing the things I'm thankful for on a daily basis has not only increased my awareness but my happiness. How can you be anything but happy when you're focusing on all the many things in your life that you appreciate? Thanks brings well-being to your day... and it helps release the "feel good" hormone, serotonin. By being grateful, you can not only have a better outlook each day, but boost your brainpower, too.

Over the years I've encouraged friends and family members, even my son, to keep a gratitude journal. I strongly believe in the power of being appreciative for the little (and big) things in life. If you're reading this while living in the United States, then even those in the worst of financial circumstances are better off than so many around the world. So there already is something to be thankful for.

I challenge you to begin a gratitude journal and can guarantee that if you approach it sincerely, and with an open heart, you'll be surprised at how much you have to be thankful for that would typically have been overlooked. A good start is to list 5 things you're thankful for today. Even things as tiny as a smile from someone in line at the grocery store, since there's nothing too great or too small to appreciate.

Before long, you'll begin to see things in a new slant. Instead of grumbling that roses have thorns, you'll be thankful that thorns have roses. You'll start seeing where obstacles offer opportunities, and that positive energy attracts more positive energy.
For those who are really motivated, try a 5/5 formula for your journal. Five things you're grateful for, and five things you'd like to invite into your life.

I'll close with words from Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C. : "Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die, so let us all be thankful."

Wednesday, June 2

Showing Now -- "Life" - Starring YOU!

Someone very near & dear to me used to always say "When I win the lottery..." followed by a flowery picture of how life would be so much better with a few million in the bank.
I'm sure that having plenty of money would make some aspects of life effortless, but then again, from my experience it seems a lot of people live a breath beyond their means no matter how big their bank accounts are. Sure, you may be more comfy in a mansion with a yacht moored in the boat slip than having a rowboat sitting in the grass outside of your trailer, but the bills still come due once a month.
I'm making an assumption here because I'm a woman of moderate means, but it seems the worries would get larger as the bills do.

Something I'm quite the expert at however, is thinking I will achieve some higher level of consciousness once I lose 10 more pounds. I've had to fight with myself FOREVER to get past that warped way of thinking, and still have to remind myself from time to time to stop obsessing.

What I really want to wrap my arms and head around and never let go of, is that LIFE IS NOW. Life does not wait for those last 10 pounds to come off. It does not wait for one to win the lottery, marry "up", or get that promotion at work.
Author Lou Erickson said it perfectly - "Life is like a taxi. The meter just keeps a-ticking whether you are getting somewhere or just standing still."

Every day we should take a moment to remind ourselves, maybe even write it out on a piece of paper and stick it somewhere we pass by regularly, "LIFE IS NOW", so we don't get stuck in the taxi on the road to nowhere.'

Carpe Diem~

Tuesday, June 1

The Importance of Touchstones

Everyone has touchstones in their lives, by which they measure the authenticity or worthiness of new ideas, values, relationships, etc...

They can be abstract, or tangible. I refer to my sister, Diane, as my "touchstone" all the time. She has been, throughout my life, a safe haven, an anchor to keep me grounded, as well as a moral compass to whom I feel accountability, somehow without ever feeling convicted.
When I met my husband, I realized he'd become all of these things to me as well, and I felt a peace about marrying him and spending the rest of our lives together. I used my tried & true touchstone (my sister) to measure the authenticity of my relationship to my husband...and guess what? Thirteen years later my husband and I are still going strong, more in love than ever.

Life can become so overwhelming that it's easy to lose our way, and we may not always have a firm idea of what it is, exactly, we believe, how we should behave, and how our actions impact others.
Sometimes it's a good idea to ask yourself what, or who your touchstones are. Try to recall a time when you felt at complete peace, or on top of the world, then ask yourself what precluded that feeling. Who do you feel comfortable sharing your dreams with? Answering this may move your closer to finding your own personal touchstones, and offer a safe haven for you to refuel and refresh.