Archive for March, 2014

The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

I am enjoying time with friends and listening to what they have to say, to who they are. But I am distracted by a tickling in the back of my throat and ask Marie to reread an inspirational passage she has just read. I’d been coughing and all I heard was the cadence of her voice.

As I open a cough drop and lay the wrapper in my lap I notice something I’ve never seen before. Sure I’ve soothed my throat with Hall’s Drops for years, but I never paid a second’s notice to the paper. All I cared about was easing the irritation. Messages appear on the wrapper: Push on. Don’t give up on yourself. You can do it. I laugh and then read them aloud.

All four of us have never noticed the words tucked around that promise of relief. Pat gets up to ask her husband if he has ever seen the tiny printed words. He has. I gather the rest of us have been too busy, focused only on a task—or worse on the end product, not the blessings inherent in the moment. Since the purpose of our gathering is spiritual, I get the clue: life is in the now, every minute aspect of it.

Two days later, after I’ve taken a picture of the wrappers that didn’t get blown away by an unexpected wind that reached into my pocket, something else unexpected happens. I haven’t had breakfast but feel as if my stomach is full, or as if something very heavy is weighing it down. Nevertheless, I manage to sample two free cookies and my usual coffee with another group of friends. Within an hour I’m desperately sorry. Everything comes up much faster than it went down.

Since my husband continues to recover from fractured ribs this is not a good time to be relegated to the couch—inches from a plastic bucket. However, like the unexpected blessings printed into the wrapper, surprises appear.

“What can I get for you?” my husband asks. True, my gut hasn’t yet recovered from my last upchuck, but it doesn’t matter. Jay doesn’t want me to get dehydrated. “I need to try to do a little more anyway.” The graciousness in his voice is transparent. This is good. It’s what real-life love is all about.

cough drop wrapper

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The possibility for rich relationships exists all around youyou simply have to open your eyes, open your mouth and most importantly, open your heart. ( Cheryl Richardson)

If I had been given a crystal ball before I was married, I’m not sure I would have been grinning like a school girl as I took my vows. Oh, I’m not regretting that choice; I’m considering everything that happened just because life doesn’t play favorites. It rains both fortune and misfortune without deciding where either should land.

Not everything I saw as a treasure contained lasting gold and not every catastrophe was fatal. In fact the most difficult situations often brought me to a new level of understanding. Actually, I’m not too comfortable with the folk who are completely satisfied with themselves; I have nothing in common with them. They don’t have anything more to learn.

On July 3, 1971, in an elegant, impractical white gown I wore once, I didn’t foresee two sons and three granddaughters. If I had known one of those beautiful girls would have Down syndrome I would have been terrified. Of course at that time not much help was available for folk who had special needs. Moreover, Ella would require two surgeries before she could leave the hospital after birth, one for duodenal atresia and the other for an AV canal defect. Heart surgery is a relatively new medical advancement. Perhaps, the lack of a future view has been fortunate.

In those long-ago years my heart hadn’t been prepared for the spectacular gift I was going to receive either. My spirit wasn’t large enough yet. However, our youngest granddaughter enlarges it just a little bit more every time she grins and her eyes sparkle with honest love. Most people, and I’m included here, have an innate desire to succeed. In order to do that they compete for first place, for honors, for look-at-me in some form. They often don’t hear what someone else says because they are too busy planning what they are going to add. Most folk with Down syndrome are who-they-are. They don’t try to dominate. They are real. They give without strings attached.

When a pregnant woman learned she was carrying a boy who had Trisomy-21, better known as Down syndrome, some young people who live that life gave her an answer. Warning: the beauty in their responses can lead to leaky tear ducts.


March 21 was World Down Syndrome Day. That date was chosen because Down syndrome is caused by the tripling of the twenty-first chromosome. Somehow, I suspect the people affected tripled their ability to grasp patience and joy, too. My Ella teaches the importance of simplicity, the glory of living in the moment, and the wonder of learning something new.

May the gift of the so-called handicapped become contagious. Peace to all!

they call in down syndrome but

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The following is the guest blog I promised by Sarah Wilson of Ottawa, Canada. Sarah may have needed to try harder to become a coach in her own business. But she doesn’t focus on the struggle. She lives the triumph.

Determination gives you the resolve to keep going in spite of the roadblocks that lay before you. (Denis Waitley)

I never knew until recently what polarity really meant, but I have come to understand it as the act of attraction or manifestation. For example what you attract or manifest to your life is what’s meant to be in that moment. Negative situations arise and create negative results, but good can come from them; it’s all about perspective. I strongly believe everything happens for a reason and whether good or bad, every experience we have in our life was brought to us for a reason.

For example, I was born with a physical disability or what I call unique ability. I think it also has to do with your energy and keeping it in a positive state rather than negative. I think as much as you need that push and pull of negative vs. positive in order to have life lessons and make the best decisions for yourself within each moment; it is very import to try to find some balance that works for you. This is because being super happy all the time can be super annoying very fast to others, but also being down all the time is not only draining to you but can be draining to others around you as well.

For me I have always thought that having a disability, on assistance in low income housing is just the way it was always going to be for me. I really got into a space where I settled and thought this was just as good as it was going to get. But starting college at age 18 began a journey of self-discovery.   When I started my business and left my last relationship I decided, “No, this isn’t as good as it gets; I want more for myself.” It took these two life moments to really get me to realize that my choices needed to change.

Life has been far from easy for me but I refuse to have decisions made and handed to me as if I were a child. I think that working for what I want and need helps build character and helps an individual mold his or her own course in life. Growing up I had a lot of support and it wasn’t that things were handed to me, but I didn’t want for much either. Perhaps I am fortunate because growing up I didn’t have many moments where I was made fun of or looked at as different. This really didn’t take place until my first year of college. I didn’t quite understand this situation since I came from a very sheltered background and moved from one small town to another. But I guess location doesn’t determine people’s nature and whether or not they will respect you. This provided yet another character building moment in my life.

Throughout my journey I really wouldn’t change anything because I think if I did I wouldn’t be where I am in my life and I wouldn’t have met the people I have. This life hasn’t been easy and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I think it takes a strong person to get through the things that I have overcome and why I have had issues with confidence throughout my life.

I believe there has always been some part of me that knew I could persevere, and I did!

In life I think balance comes from, belief, trust, and faith in yourself and that you can do whatever you set out to do. I don’t think anyone can be balanced all the time because people’s faith and trust gets tested from time to time. After all no one is perfect; right? I have come to realize that the key for me is to have supportive people around me. They make the difference.

I do think it is extremely important to have your own faith and belief in yourself. It is also essential to have other like-minded people around you who believe in you. This makes it much easier to keep moving forward. For me, I have always felt that events happened to me for a reason and I believe everyone was put in my path for a purpose. I think my life purpose is to teach others how it feels to live in a lifestyle that requires courage for survival, and spread the message that no matter what obstacles in life appear, you can persevere.

dancing in the rain PIQ

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Wherever you are, be there. Lifestyle is not something we do; it is something we experience. And until we learn to be there, we will never master the art of living well. (Jim Rohn )

My husband’s ribs are healing slowly. Of course we can’t see the bones as they knit together. The slightest extended movement predicts a return to our normal life. Sometimes that improvement appears to move in geological time. I’m encouraged when Jay smiles at something as silly as an old F-Troup or Hogan’s Heroes rerun. That means he isn’t hurting at the moment.

Then, somehow, my added tasks feel less like work. Since my father once told me he wanted me to take a mechanical aptitude test to see how low a score I would get, it’s amazing that I am now leveling the wash machine and plunging the toilet. (Please note I prefer the former task to the latter.) Perhaps these accomplishments have come as side effects of my husband’s accident. Chances are I wouldn’t have attempted either job if I had someone with a strong arm and intact ribs close by.

However, I can’t give the impression that I’m bouncing from moment to moment with the serenity of a saint. And I don’t drink alcohol or use drugs so I’m not drifting in avoidance land either. Sometimes fatigue and the impossibility of bi-location attack me, and they can lead to a bad attitude the way black ice leads to the fall that initiated this situation.

Friends make a difference between finding balance and slipping into why-me or super-stress land. One friend, Marcia, helped me to soothe my soul back into my body through massage. Since I was concerned about leaving my husband for any extended period of time, she brought her magic table to my living room. I am blessed.

One of the gifts Marcia gave me was  the ability to focus enough to appreciate the now. I allowed myself to float into her care. I trusted her implicitly. After that relaxation I could consider trusting me, my own body and soul, my ability to fill my spiritual larder so that I had enough stored to give to someone else. While this notion should seem obvious, it isn’t the first thought of a girl brought up in the 1950s, where the female’s giving role was often skewed. In the popular “Christmas Story,” overplayed in December, Ralph’s mother is expected to be subservient to her husband. That position is not questioned. Sure she thinks the leg lamp is beyond tacky, but it needs to crash into smithereens before she can admit it.

I want to be present to my mate—as a choice, expressed in a continuous now. Who knows whether or not he will need to care for me some day, in a far more difficult situation. There is no sense to speculating about the future. This afternoon the sun has decided to make an appearance again, for a while. Every cell in my body has been enriched by Marcia’s loving skill, and the next post will probably be a gift from someone else—my first guest blog. Watch for it! This woman emanates positive thinking. In the meantime, peace to all!

enjoy little things words of wisdom

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We must stop regarding unpleasant or unexpected things as interruptions of real life. The truth is that interruptions are real life. (C. S. Lewis)

I spill grease all over the kitchen floor and sigh. Sure, I’d like to blame some external force, but my hurry caused the problem. I’m on 24-hour duty right now, and a shift change isn’t likely. My husband fell when he went outside to get last Sunday’s newspaper. The first few steps were wet, no sign of ice. The last one, however, threw him as if he were a discarded rag doll. However, rag dolls don’t have bones. Jay fractured four ribs. Four very painful ribs. The healing process will take months. In the meantime I am his right-hand-left-hand-everything-that-requires-movement woman.

One day this will be part of the past. It isn’t. Yet. It’s miserable. But, that doesn’t mean a lot of goodness hasn’t appeared along the way. Perhaps it’s the length of the relationship I have had with my husband, or perhaps I simply don’t sleep deeply anymore, but I tend to be at least half-awake when Jay needs me during the night. We are both learning as we go; it’s an awkward dance. Neither of us is ready for Dancing with the Stars, except perhaps in some comedic form. However, we aren’t important enough to be mocked in a routine, even on a local circuit.

Our first moment of gratitude came when Frank, our neighbor, shoveled the snow from our driveway with his snow blower. Then he cleared our sidewalk as well. When we had an appointment with the orthopedist on Monday, he led Jay to his car and drove. Our Toyota is much too low. That was not the end of Frank’s assistance. I know he will be there if we need him.

Missi, another neighbor, brought beef barley soup and has kept close watch on us. Several people from my church have offered to stay with my husband so that I can breathe air outside this small house. Other neighbors, Eric and Crystal, helped carry my groceries into the house and return our garbage and recycling bins after pick-up. Our sons are always present. Steve is working on a way to raise the level of our couch.

Yes, interruptions are real life—and they can hurt, take up valuable time, and make me angry at fate. I realize Jay could have hit his head on a concrete step. Awful could have taken endless forms. I’ve heard many stories that had no possibility for a happy ending. Each day is precious.

When the blessings appear, even simple ones like a card in the mail from a church member, I know diamonds are born from compressed coal. Friends let the sparkle show through a little bit early.

struggle part of the story

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The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the one thing we never give enough of is love. (Henry Miller)

My less-than-two-weeks-shy-of-her-tenth-birthday granddaughter clears the dinner dishes while I fill the dishwasher. She tells me she is saving her money for something special, but has a long way to go to get what she wants.

“What’s that?” I ask.

“Molly, the American Girl doll. She’s retired and even more expensive now. Rebe really, really wants her.”

I pause, beginning to understand what Kate is telling me. Even though it is her birthday approaching, she is saving money to give her little sister a gift. “You are really beautiful. You know that?” Tears want to fill my eyes, but I can’t let them. Not now.

She smiles. We stand nearly at eye level now. I rinse a dish and wonder if my pride will flow down the drain with the water, unseen. I don’t want to waste something like awareness of Kate’s inner goodness. I stop to face Kate eye-to-eye, give and receive love. The dishes can wait a minute or two.

My granddaughter has an incredible awareness of the inner workings of other people. She sees beyond labels, handicaps, and external barriers to the real. She has mentioned a friend at school several times. Later—much later—I learned he has some form of autism. Kate never told me about that aspect of his life. It doesn’t matter. She accepts him as he is. Complete.

In the evening she asks me if she and Rebe can download some games on my iPad. I forgot my password, tried to change it and found myself in a strange loop of confusion, so peculiar it refused to accept my birthday as valid information, and since I’ve had more than sixty-five of them, I’m pretty sure I know when it is. I have told several adults the story. They suggested I go to the Apple Store. Great idea, but that visit hasn’t happened yet. Snow and too much else in life has intervened.

Kate says she will try to figure the problem out. She does! I’m amazed and tell her so. Kate, Rebe, and I stay up a little too late. But this is a sleepover night. And Grandma has a lot of life to learn from her young teachers.

learning from children  morning coach

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