Sunday, December 31, 2017

Fresh New Year of Adventure

So many people write resolutions on New Year's Day. Lofty plans to loose 50 pounds or read a book a week - and by the middle of February they have just about all gone by the way-side. At least that's what my experience is trying to have resolutions. One year I decided to "set goals". Trust me, that's just a New Year's Resolution with a different name!

Then, back in 2012, my friend Terri announced what her "word" for the year was going to be. I asked her what that meant? She chooses a word each year and that is her focus in the days to come. She reflects on that word and how it plays into her life.  Hmmm....

Monday, December 25, 2017

My Precious Family - Merry Christmas

Amy Grant sings a wonderful song titled Heirlooms.  The lyrics of the first verse go like this:    
                                               Up in the Attic
Down on my knees
Life time of boxes
Timeless to me
Letters and photographs
Yellowed with years
Some bringing laughter
Some bringing tears
Time never changes the memories, the faces
Of loved ones that bring to me,
All that I come from
And all that I live for
And all that I'm going to be.
My precious Family
is more than an heirloom
To me.

I used to sing this song in church every Christmas, and every Christmas it touched me deeper. My family has always been a huge part of my life, and, as I get older, I find I treasure them even more.  

Oh, we're not a perfect family, but we are just right.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Roots Day

December 23rd is “Roots Day”, a day to celebrate heritage. 

My parents are sort of a mixed bag of ancestry. Grandpa on my dad’s side was born in the US to Czechoslovakian immigrants.  

Grandma was born in Yogoslavia and came to the US when she was three years old.  

Dad was the oldest of four kids - 

Mom, on the other hand, has family in the US going back before the Civil War. Trying to trace her history has been an adventure! We know that somewhere in the distant past, there is Irish and English - even a splash of Native American. I never knew my grandparents on that side. I wish I had - but mom was a great lady.

Mom's cousin traces the family history and used to share with us stories and the things he learned.  

So half of me is third generation immigrant and the other half is 100% United States American.  

I wish I knew more about the people in my family tree and maybe someday I will. I am grateful for the family I was born to - I am grateful for the love that we've shared. I treasure my roots and all the branches that stem from them.

Happy Roots Day.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Do They Know it's Christmas Time at All?

I was driving home from work last night, listening to Christmas music and envisioning the upcoming day with my treasured family.   Then the song, "Do They Know it's Christmas?" came on.  I've heard it before, many times, but I've never really heard it, until now - and it made me feel small.

Back in 1984, a group of musicians got together and formed a "super group" to raise money for the famine that was happening in Ethiopia.  The song that came out of this effort was "Do They Know it's Christmas?" -

As I said, I've heard this song many times.  My thoughts have been, how wonderful of these bands to help people.  But it's never really driven my heart before.  But as I listened I thought about our society and the hustle and bustle and needless over spending to celebrate this season we call Christmas Time.  I thought about my own attitude and my own heart position.  It was an eye opener!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Post Thanksgiving Reflections

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  I was busy the whole week preparing so that on the day I could enjoy my family.  And that's what the holiday is all about.  Family.

I think back to Thanksgiving as a kid.  My dad had a pretty large family - two sisters and a brother and their spouses and children...  And we all gathered together for laughter and love.  We would go to grandma's house early on.

Sometimes it would be at our house with my mom's brother's house and we shared the day with his family.  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

World Diabetes Day

I spent a couple of years being a nanny to my two beautiful great-nieces.  I had so much fun with them, learning about them and growing to love them deeply.

During that time, the oldest was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 8 1/2 years old.

 It was a terrifying time for her family as they learned all the things that could happen and all the things they had to do.  This sensitive little girl had to learn to poke herself multiple times a day and make herself bleed.  She had to learn how to calculate the "carbs" in everything she ate.  She had to be brave - as did her sister and mom and dad.

But this family rose to the occasion.  Daddy bought Ava a punching bag so she could "punch out diabetes" when she was frustrated.  Mommy bought her a journal to write down her thoughts.  They encouraged but never coddled.  This is the new reality.  And Ava handled it all like a trooper. 

She is now soon to be 14 years old - a smart girl that does great in school, has friends, is an athlete and lives like any other teenager - except she still has to check her blood sugar, count her carbs and be constantly aware of her diabetes.

In honor of Ava and every other child that has T1D - #WearBlue and learn what you can about this disease and how you can help in the research on #WorldDiabetesDay

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran's Day.  A day set aside to honor the men and women that have served our country and remember those that paid the ultimate price for our freedoms.

Our country seems to be in a state of flux these days.  There is so much anger and disrespect, it's hard to have any conversations about our personal thoughts and beliefs.  I am reminded of a conversation in one of my college courses.  I was a human studies major and one of our core classes was "the relationship with the other".   As we discussed other humans as the "other", we talked about values and why we choose the people we do to hang out with.

 One of the women told a story of the group she hung out with - beer drinking, music loving pals.  They were friends for several years.  One day, one of the men divulged that he was a skin head.  They all froze.  This went against all the things they believed.  But she began to question - Is he different now than he was the day before?  Did this information change the foundations of their friendship?  Some of the group decided it did.  But she decided it did not.  This was part of who is was and what shaped the person she had grown to love.  They had some long discussions about why he felt this way.  I don't know if he ever changed,  but her attitude certainly changed me.

Another remark made by the same very wise young lady, was about people we would normal turn away from - that dirty homeless person or the person that is getting signatures for an issue we disagree with - her question was simple.  What is their story?  She took the time to start conversations with people to understand who they were.  She did not judge, she simply listened.

At the end of our discussion, the instructor stated, "it is important to hear alternating points of view.  It does not mean we need to marry them, only entertain them". 

In today's divisive political culture, I think these things are important to remember.  I don't have to agree with you, but I can learn by listening and being respectful of your ideas and belief systems.  And in doing so, I would hope you would do the same for me.

But back to veteran's day.  Do we respect the people who have dedicated, even given their lives for us to be able to disagree by treating each other so disrespectfully?  Let's start showing our gratitude for these sacrifices by appreciating the fact that we can disagree. 

We live in a great country, regardless of all the negativity we are currently experiencing.  So I for one say thank you.  Thank you for wearing that uniform and reminding me of how truly blessed we are to live here.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Life goes on...

It's been awhile.  Life has been crazy.  September was full of vacation and guests and preparing for the new school year at work.  I've started training teachers and had several workshops to plan.  Then before I knew it, October was here and some of those workshops I'd planned so carefully were ready to be presented.  Then more company and then, then....

I had a cat.  Bucky.  In May of 2007 we found this little guy in our potting soil out back.  No mom around and no siblings.  Just this tiny little guy with his eyes barely open.  It was estimated that he was 10 to 14 days old.  We decided to take him in and foster him.

I had no idea what I was getting into.  Did you know kittens don't go to the bathroom on their own?  When mama cat is licking their bums, she's stimulating them to go.  I had to learn how to do that - no, I didn't lick him. I learned to simulate that with a little wad of charmin. 

Every two hours he ate.  And ate.  He had to come to work with me so I could feed him.

 And I sang after every feeding - You are my Buck-shine, my only Buck-shine.  You make me happy, when skies are grey.  You'll never know dear, how much I love you.  Please don't take my Buck-shine away".

The years past and this tiny little yellow cat turned into a robust big yellow fella.  We loved that cat.  He was trained on a leash so he could safely go outside.

 And he slept in the bed with us.

Then, suddenly, without warning, he had a heart attack on October 16 during the night.  We had no idea what was happening, only that he couldn't breath and he collapsed.  He started breathing again while we were looking for a 24 hour vet and seemed to be recovering.  The next day we went to our vet and she thought it was asthma.  She gave him steroids and antibiotics and we went home.  He didn't get better.  He stopped eating.  He lost weight.  On Monday, October 23 we took him back.  My sweet boy was in congestive heart failure.  It was time to say goodbye.

As he lay fading from consciousness, I began to sing - You are my Buck-shine.  My only Buck-shine... and I sobbed.

It's been a rough couple of weeks.  I've lost beloved pets before, but never have I felt the depth of sorrow this boy has left.  There is an actual energy void in our house.  We feel that he's not here.  My heart has been aching.

But life does go on.  We are trying to move forward without our boy, but God.  I miss him.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Summertime, and the Living is Easy...NOT!

Holy moly!!  Has it been more than a month since I was here?  It's just been that busy - I've been researching early retirement, like next year.  Well, that's not going to happen.  I don't qualify for Medicare for three more years and health insurance is untouchable without it or a job!  And so I decided they are stuck with me for three more years.

I've now moved into planning a business - something that will help get some bills paid off while I'm still working and will supplement the retirement income (AKA Social Security) after I stop working.  I am going to do workshops for Early Learning Professionals - but I had no idea how much went into planning, not only the workshops but the business it's self - wow!!

And now, getting back to summer.  Oh, haven't I been there yet?  Well, it's been a HOT one!!  I've never been one that enjoyed really hot days, but as I travel through those crazy menopausal days of personal heat coupled with the really hot days (I mean like 110 one day), it's been nasty!!

Now some of you from warmer climates might say, "oh that's not hot!  It's like that here every summer", need to understand I am a West Coast girl all the way!  I grew up in the temperate climates of Southern California - a beach community no less.  Our temperatures were almost always between 50 and 78 degrees,  depending on the season.  Then moving to Oregon, we have real seasons here by comparison, but the hot summer days are usually one three or four days all summer and, maybe, in the 90s.  This year we had five days in the triple digits that started with a week in the upper 90s and was followed by a week in the upper 90s.  And today there is rain.  Not so hot, but oh so humid.

And my poor ol' menopausal body is just not liking it....

Friday, June 30, 2017

Independence Day

It's almost the 4th of July.  In my family, a holiday was an event and we celebrated with gusto!  Growing up in Huntington Beach, the fourth always starting with a walk down to Lake park to grab ring side seats for the 4th of July parade (going early was dad's job).  After the parade it was time to go home or to the beach for the barbecue - an event for friends and family full of good food, good fun and good people.  


Gotta do croquet!

California is always warm and sunny in July so a backyard barbecue was perfect.  And then, when it started getting dark, we took a walk downtown to the pier for the fireworks display.  

It was a long, full day that was dedicated to family and the celebration of the freedom we enjoy in the US.

Seems things have changed a little.  Although there is still a lot of celebrating, the cause seems to have gotten lost in all the political conflict.  I hear so many people complain about the left or complain about the right - our leaders are doing nothing for us...blah blah blah.  I haven't heard much lately about how great it is in our country to be able to voice those complaints and to have an opinion that differs from the mainstream ideas.  Our country has gone through a lot of change and I believe it will continue to change - like it or not.   But the one thing we cannot ever lose sight of is the freedom that has been fought for over the last 200 years.  The freedom that continues to be fought for.  The freedom that gives us the right to our beliefs.

I've decided that during this month of July - the month that celebrates our independence as a nation and our freedom as people - I will reflect on how much we have and the freedoms that make our nation great.  I will be grateful for all the sacrifices made to give us those freedoms and not take for granted my rights that are given because of these freedoms.  

America IS great and I for one am honored to be here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Going Back - Huntington Beach

I visited my oldest and bestest friend Alexia a couple of weeks ago.  It's been a couple years since I've seen her and I went to her place in our old stomping grounds.  We had a wonderful time together in the present and spent a little time going down memory lane.

An old post card
I grew up in Huntington Beach, California.  It was just a funky little beach town back then in the 1970s.  You could drive down Main Street - There were no massive hotels (except the Sheraton) spoiling the view on Hwy 101 - and what is now Bolsa Chica State Beach we called Tin Can beach, a deserted stretch of sand the surfers called home.  All the houses downtown were the old 50s style bungalows that the hippies and surfers lived in.  It was laid back and wonderful.  But not so much anymore.

There are huge hotels and resorts dotting Pacific Coast Hwy.  Main Street is a total shopping zone - and all the restaurants offer al fresco dining out on the sidewalks and you can't drive on the lower blocks.  The homes are all rebuilt and have that Newport feel to them - and they cost in the millions!!  

We ate at the Sugar Shack - best for it's pancakes.  When I was living there it was a little hole in the wall place that the locals hung out in.   Although the original restaurant is the same, most of the dining is outdoors.  I was not impressed - even the food had changed too much (and not for the better).

We headed off for the pier - Looks quite different!  It was rebuilt in the early 90s after it collapsed for a second time in 1988.  

Complete with street musicians - and this kid was GOOD!

 Looking over one side looked like a remembered it.  A long stretch of sand full of sunbathers and surfers.  No buildings or clutter on the beach. 

Looking over the other side exemplified the changes - multi-floored hotels, restaurants along the beach.  A mecca for tourists instead of locals.

Right on the corner of Main Street and PCH is Jack's Surfboard shop - an icon of the area.  That store has been there since the 1950s and up until the 80s hadn't changed much at all.  Just a single level store full of surfboards and surf paraphernalia, it is now a two story tower set up to fit in with the surrounding villas of shopping and eating.  Even the merchandise has turned tourist.

Here's how I remember it (a photo from the 60s, but very much like the 70s).

And here it is now......

We drove past the high school.  It has been remodeled and added on and changed a lot.  Even the surrounding area has changed - built up.  No more bean fields or open areas.  Then we visited Dwyer middle school - that is where I met Alexia.  We were in what was then called Jr. High School (that started at 7th grade, not 6th).   It hasn't changed much.  As one past student recalled, "Still looks like a prison".  But it has stood still in time.

As I pondered going back, it was odd to be in a place that was familiar but so different.  It felt like home but a world away.  Am I that different now?  Have I evolved to something that is familiar but totally changed?  I think so.  Time has a way of making us who we are.  Those experiences and memories are integral in who I am right now.  And although I do enjoy strolling down memory lane from time to time - I am completely happy to be in the now and revel in the who I've become.  

You can't go back, but you can delight in the memories and dance with the passage time.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Time Flies

Where does the time go?  It's been almost three months since I posted last.  Well that's not very committed, is it?  But I really have been busy.  I write three other blogs besides this and I've tried to stay on top of them -  I've worked two very long weekends at a festival selling my photos 



and - and here's the big one - I joined Weight Watchers.  

You know, I never even told you what that visit to the emergency room ended up being.  Well, a visit to the cardiologist (who said I need to lose weight), a stress test and an electrocardiogram later - I have hypertensive heart disease.  Not terribly bad, but enough that I need to make some lifestyle changes.

I've had high blood pressure since my twenties.  I've been on medication since then and I thought my blood pressure was controlled.  I check it regularly and I take my meds faithfully.  But that's the trouble with hypertension (also known as the silent killer).  You think its controlled, but it isn't.  Little things make it jump - and it's not controlled all the time.  And that causes damage.  

So here I am, trying to exercise regularly and I attend a Weight Watchers meeting every week.  I could do it online, but I'm one of those people that needs to be held accountable.  I can't just push off a gain and move on to the next week.  I have to get on that scale for someone else and let them see if I've worked the program or not.  Ouch!

But I have lost 9 pounds - only 41 more to go!  And I'm feeling a lot better.  If fact, when I look in the mirror, I feel pretty pleased with the mature woman that looks back.

  Far from perfect and certainly not young, but strong and motivated and ready to tackle each day with intention!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Woman's Day

It's International Women's Day - A day to honor the achievements of women and a call to accelerate gender parity.  There are so many famous women to be honored that shaped the world they way we know it today.

Mary Wollstonecraft - an English writer in the mid 1700's that wrote, "A Vindication of the Rights of Women", discussing the need to give women human and political rights.  She was the one who laid the foundation for the women's movement!

Jane Austen - a writer in the late 1700 moved past the barriers of a women as writers and came to write some of the most popular novels in history - Like Pride and Prejudice and Emma.  She opened the doors for women in the future to be writers!

Sojourner Truth - an African-American abolitionist that spoke in plain language and fought for the recognition not only that all men are equal, but that women are just as equal.

Margaret Fuller - an American author whose writings influenced they way men and women were perceived.  Her work, Women in the Nineteenth Century, was important in the early feminist movement.  It advocated that women be self sufficient and not so dependent on men.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton - one of the principle authors of Declaration of Sentiments (1848), she was one of the leading figures in the early women's suffrage movement.

Susan B. Anthony - with her tiring efforts and campaigning through the Temperance movement, she convinced society of the need for women to vote.!

And the list goes on .....  Women like Elizabeth Blackwell, Marie Curie, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, Billlie Holiday, Indira Gandhi, Anne Frank, Benazir Bhutto, Princess Dianna and Malala Yousafzai.  I could list so many from the past and the present.

Each of these women has played a role in the fight for women's rights and freedoms around the world.  Use this day to tell others of the women that have impacted our world and honor their achievements that have changed our lives for the good.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Heart of my Hearts

Today is my 61st birthday.  I don't feel old. When I look in the mirror I don't see an old person, I see a woman with some years on her - some good years.  I am happy with my life (although I wouldn't mind being a little more financially secure).  I have a wonderful family, a good job and a lot of things that interest me and keep me busy.  February is National Heart Health Month and I've learned a few things.

And last week I learned how quickly life can change.  While talking on the phone at work, I started to have some chest pains - I don't mean gas pains - I mean put the phone down this really hurts pain.  After a couple of rounds I got clammy and hot, then cold - and my neck and left shoulder blade had a dull ache.  But, it can't be my heart!  I just saw my doctor.  My labs looked pretty good.  I'm loosing weight and exercising.

I called a friend who recently had "small" heart attack and turns out she has a heart condition.  I asked her what it felt like and she told me to call my doctor immediately.  I did.  They told me to go to the ER and don't drive myself - uhm - I'm already in my car and almost to my eye appointment - half way home.  So off I went to get my husband to turn around and drive me back to where I had started.

To make a long story short - three hours in the ER and they couldn't tell me a lot.  The only indication of a heart attack was a possible left atrial enlargement and an abnormal ECG.  AND it all could be caused by an esophageal spasm - GERD.  So they sent me home with a prescription for acid reflux and a notice to make an appointment with a cardiologist within two days - except they can't fit me in until four week later.

UPDATE: it was not a heart attack.

What have I learned from this (so far)?  Women's heart health is different than a man's.  When we have a heart attack, it often presents itself different and different than the symptoms we've all come to know as a possible heart attack (those were taken from a man's response).   

First - don't ever think everything is fine just because you feel fine and are eating right and exercising.  Always get a check up and follow your doctor's directions - that's not to say you shouldn't question what you don't understand.  That is to say, make sure you understand the whys of the instructions you are following.  And don't think if you do all these things it won't happen to you!

Second - be aware of the classic symptoms for a woman - they are:

1.  Chest pain - and women feel this different than men.  It may not be just on the left side.  It is usually a pressure.  It is not necessarily "pain" but a deep "discomfort".  For me it felt like there was a huge air bubble in my chest pushing from the inside and it was almost totally central (although slightly to the left).

2.  Sometimes pain in the left arm, but also, often, pain in the neck, back, and jaw.  It may be gradual or it may be sudden.  Mine was light but constant for several hours.

3.  Stomach pain - it could feel like heart burn or the flu, but often more of a pressure - like someone sitting on your belly.  

4.  Light headed, short of breath, dizzy - if this is unusual for you or it is happening in conjunction with other symptoms, you may be having a heart attack.  

5.  Sweaty - Not like you just worked out or you're hot sweat, a nervous sweat - or as I felt, a "cold" sweat.  Then I got hot - then I got cold.

6.  Fatigue - Tired, even when sitting.  I've been experiencing this for weeks.  There are other factors that we have been looking at as well, but it could have been an indication that my body has not been circulating oxygen as it should.

You may not have all these symptoms, but if you have any of them along with chest pain, get to the ER.  It may be nothing.  And it may save your life.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Annual Words - What will 2017 bring?

My friend Terri got me started on choosing a word for each year, and then at the end of the year reflecting on how that single word impacted my life.  

2013 - I chose success.  I made a little jar and each time I had a success, I wrote it down and put it in my jar - big or small, it went in.  My jar was pretty full.  I graduated with a B.A. degree, 
started grad school, lost 18 pounds (that I gained back while in grad school), had my first paid portrait photo shoot, and more.  It was a great year!

2014 - Prosperity -  I learned that prosperity comes in many forms.  It isn't just financial, however, we had several unexpected windfalls - one was $12,000.  We got some debt paid off, some much needed repairs done around our home and even took our first real vacation in 6 years!
But we were also blessed with new friendships, new family and more.

2015 - Momentum; lets keeps this going!  The first half of the year was fabulous.  I graduated with a Master's degree
-  my grandson graduated from the National Guard Youth Challenge program (if you don't know what that is, its a program for kids that are having trouble in high school - and it's tough.  Almost half his class either left or were kicked out - but he finished and finished well!).  As 2015 drew to a close the momentum had changed.  I was moving backwards.  I no longer had the push of school to get things done.  I sat.  I watched the world go past me.  My motivation was dwindling.

SO -  bring in 2016.  Not just one word - how about a whole phrase?  Lets get this old girl back on track.  The phrase I chose for 2016 was Forward with INTENTION.  I posted it on my phone, on my bulletin board - a reminder that moving required intention.  But I also had a different thought.  I assumed my movement would be where I wanted it to go.  Wrong.

I learned from that phrase.  Movement is what's important - fast or slow, just move forward.  I learned that when we plan the direction we want to go, sometimes life decides on a different direction.  The intention come in play by choosing to be content with that direction - to go with the flow.  Intention is seeing the golden treasures to be found when the path takes an unexpected turn.  It's choosing to grab onto those jewels and make life beautiful with them.  The intention should be to keep the movement going, allowing the journey to play out in front of us and taking those authentic revelations to heart - making them part of our lives.  So what word for 2017?

2017 -  Discovery