Posts Tagged With: Health

 
 

Open Letter to That Motorcycle Dude In the Hotel Laundry Room

Dear Motorcycle Dude in the hotel laundry room,

It’s been over a month since I ran into you at that hotel a couple hours outside Yellowstone Park and you’re still on my mind. I thought perhaps if I wrote you a letter it might clear my head, or at least sort out my thoughts.

I don’t normally wash laundry at hotels, in fact, this is the first time ever. I didn’t even know hotels had a laundry room that guests could use. Pretty handy.

Clearly I startled you more than you surprised me. I was just standing there with my laundry bag of whites waiting for the single washing machine to finish its cycle, wondering who else in the fully booked hotel needed to throw in a load. I figured whoever it was would be in shortly and I’d just wait rather than wandering back to the room. You walked in just as the cycle on the washer ended, which was dang good timing, if you ask me.

When you walked in with your face turned away from me and toward the washer I thought you were a woman with your long wavy hair. But I was wrong. When I caught a glimpse of your face the beard gave it away.

I said something dumb like, “Wow, good timing there.” And you about jumped out of your shorts. Obviously you hadn’t seen me when you walked in. If the situation had been reversed I’d have probably fainted.

800px-yamaha_fzs600_fazer_rj02“Oh, hey,” you said, sounding all cool and collected, as you gathered up your clean wet clothes and tossed them into the only dryer. You threw out a conversation starter with,  “I road my bike up from Cali. There’s a bunch of us. Been up in Yellowstone.” You reached into the washer a little further.  “Man it’s crowded up there.”

“Yeah,” I said, trying to sound cool myself. “I’ve been wanting to get back up to Yellowstone but I figure I’d try to go after the crowds settle out, maybe after Labor Day, in September.” In my head I knew it’d be pretty dang cold already in September, but that’d be the best time to go for someone who doesn’t like traffic and crowds like me. I don’t like the cold either, but it’s the lesser of the three evils.

“It was nice. Glad I went.” You settled your quarters into the coin slots and pushed in the lever, and started up the dryer. “All yours,” you said with a smile.

“Thanks. Nice meeting ya,” I replied.

“Same here,” you replied. And you were out the door and down the hall.

I started my load of washing, adding the miniature box of laundry powder MSH had gotten at the front desk, pushed in my own quarters and levers, and set my phone timer.

Half an hour later, when I went back to the tiny laundry room the washer hadn’t finished its cycle yet. So, once again I stood there waiting. The dryer was still tumbling a load dry, too. A couple minutes later you walked in and said, “hey!” like we were old friends.

“Hey there,” I said back.

electric_clothes_dryerAs you were pulling out your dried clothes you offered up this surprisingly personal information, “I have a couple twenty year old boys. One of em has a baby, dang kid. “

“Sweet!” I said.

“Yeah,” you answered, stopping with your laundry gathering for a moment. Then you added this gem, “I can be standing there at work getting yelled at by some plumber and my phone will ding with a text. “ Then you held your hand up like you’re telling a guy to hold that thought a second. Then you go on. “I’ll look at my text on the phone,” and here you held up an imaginary cell phone, ” and there’s a picture of the baby. Just then I could care less what I’m getting yelled at for. My face breaks into a smile. Man!” And your eyes lit up like how I feel when I’m with my own grand babies.

“Grandkids are the best, aren’t they?” I answered. “Makes it all worthwhile.”

“No kidding!” you said as you gathered your laundry into both arms. I grabbed the door handle and pulled it open for you. “Thanks!” you said as you made your way down the hall.

I gathered my wet laundry from the washer and tossed it into the dryer wondering why you chose to tell me about your sons and a grand baby. I don’t think you mentioned if it was a girl or boy. I wish I’d asked to see a picture. Dang it!

I felt lucky to have heard about this small joy in your life. I have no idea even what your name is or what part of California you’re from. I think the juxtaposition of a “motorcycle dude” as a softhearted dad and grandpa just caught me off guard. It shouldn’t have. After all, my son rides a motorcycle, and he’s one of the nicest guys I know.

I definitely have a tendency of putting people in categories, not as a judgmental thing, just as a way of simplifying life. If I think of every single person as a complicated, intricate puzzle of relationships and feelings I might get overwhelmed by worry, or love or responsibility or concern, but maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I’d just be happier and more open to possibilities.

Thank you for sharing that tiny bit of information about a huge part of your life. You opened my eyes and heart. Every time I see someone on a motorcycle now, I smile. And I wonder how they are and who they are.

From now on, when I see a motorcyclist, I’d like it to remind me not to box people into categories so quickly. Sure, people can be messy and complicated, but they can also bring such sweetness and light.

motorcycle-safety-signHey, you stay safe out there, especially on those California highways. I wish people in cars would be more careful, y’know, look twice, pay better attention. I’d hate to have anything bad happen to you.

 

With affection,

The lady in the laundry room,

Kami

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Being Human, People, Transportation, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Getting Healthy in all the Right Places

Doctor’s waiting rooms seem ripe with all sorts of possible bad outcomes. Don’t you agree?

I always wish I had my own bottle of hand sanitizer after simply opening the door to go in.

There’s those pens, the ones with flowers taped to them so no one takes one. Who’s going to walk off with a bacteria laden pen from a doctor’s office? Not me! Even minus the fake flower. Not to mention the clip boards. I’ll bet no one has ever swiped a disinfectant wipe across one of those boards o’ infection. The arms on the chairs? Ew. Potential illness abounds.

Let’s not even get started on the magazines from 1990 something, or last year, or even last month. Petri dish some of those pages and see what you come up with!

Brrrr.

Brrrr.

Last month I availed myself of the attentions of a new doctor, an internal medicine specialist. Nice guy. He looks like he’s about the same age as one of my son-in-laws, who happens to be a med student.  Putting my health in the hands of someone so young seems like kind of a scary thought, but then he seems up on the latest studies, schools of thought in Europe versus here in the States. And he takes his time with me. No sense that he’s in a big rush to get to the next patient.

Bonus points for this: he only treats grown ups. Grown ups have complicated, twisty knotted up weirdness in the physical health area. I’d suggest an internist if you fall into that category. So far, I like the guy.

So this young internist writes out a series of tests that he says I need. Labs, scopes, prods, pokes, whatever the heck you’re supposed to do on a regular basis that I (cough) rarely do. So I’ve spent the past month or so doing all that fun stuff. At one of the funner procedures, NOT the one I wrote about, I got put in a little dressing room, put on a gown which would become completely useless in no time, and took a seat next to some nice, crisp, newish magazines. I was told to wait. Or maybe I was supposed to say, “Ready or not, here I come,” when I was decent. I don’t remember.

Anyway, I had a minute to read one of the magazines called “Experience Life.” I laughed when I read the title. Like I need a magazine at my age (relatively young-ish) to tell me anything about experiencing life. I found the idea rather humorous. But, surprisingly this one article caught my attention. In fact, it riveted me to my seat and made me forget my half-nakedness. That’s pretty impressive power.

"Healing Spaces" the book

“Healing Spaces” the book

The title of the article is “Healing Spaces”. In fact you can CLICK HERE to read what I read, only online. It’s written by Esther Sternberg, MD, who excepted it from a book she wrote called Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being. I checked it out from the library and can’t wait to read it.

Basically, these ideas took hold when someone noticed that patients who could see trees through their window while they were in recovery left the hospital a full day earlier than those without a natural view. This prompted a variety of studies which have come up with some fascinating conclusions about things that help improve the healing process. Conclusions I happen to support wholeheartedly, based on personal experience.

Don’t you love it when research backs up what you already know? Makes me feel kind of brilliant. Ha!

So what sort of things has this research concluded help us to heal faster? I’m glad you asked. These things right here:

  • Quiet places
  • A place in the sun
  • The presence of loved ones
  • Places that smell good
  • Walking paths and labyrinths
  • Places of belief
The Riparian on a rare rainy day.

The Riparian on a rare rainy day.

All those things already top my list of priorities. My sanity requires regular quiet mornings and my wandering walks. The Riparian Preserve where I walk fills up some awesome smells that change with the seasons and the weather. Living in the desert Southwest I get lots of glorious sunny days.

The baking I love to do makes my home smell heavenly and right now the air is thick with the smell of citrus blossoms. Some of my most cherished moments each week I spend in sacred places. And, I know I feel better and happier when I spend regular time with family and friends.

Based on where I spend my time and this book, I ought to be one of the healthiest people around.

According to my doctor and all those tests, I’m in great health, with a couple of things I need to work on. (Aren’t we all a work in progress, or egress?) I’m pretty sure that the time I spend in all these places keeps me in better health than I deserve. Mentally, I’m certainly saner than I’d be without such places in my life.

So breath deeply, wander some, soak up some rays, enjoy family and friend time, hang out somewhere sacred and luxuriate in a bit of quiet. Your body and your brain will thank you.

~~~~~

“Some people see scars, and it is wounding they remember. To me they are proof of the fact that there is healing.”  ~ Linda Hogan

Categories: Mental Health, Nature, physical health | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sunday Afternoon Magic

So, here I sit out front, fuzzy black slippers on, in my porch swing. My computer sitting on my lap. I thought, maybe, being outdoors would somehow prompt some inspiration or insight or intelligence. All “in” words, which is contrary to being “out” here.

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If you look closely you can see a reflection in the water.

Still, there’s something comforting on the breeze. The cooler air smells different, fresher, promising, tentative. A couple of hummingbirds hover at the feeder that I’ve let run dry in the past day or two. I should get up off the swing and make up some nectar to fill it. Then the tiny chirps would sound less insistent. Two house wrens, make that three,  jump from bush to bird bath, taking turns dipping into the water, drinking, checking, drinking, checking.

The bush they flit about in needs a good trimming. It’s overgrown and leaning to the east. Every time I’ve thought of getting out the trimmers for a little shaping the bush is in full flower, purple over the entire outer surface. The unkempt look of the bushes matches the wildflowers which are getting taller in sporadic and uneven places. They look more like weeds than ever. I’m not sure where I’ve put the “Wildflowers Under Construction” signs. I should locate and set those out so the HOA knows not to fine me for weeds.

Leaves skitter down the road from time to time as the wind picks up occasionally. Drifts of orange curls settle in crevices and under bushes and between stepping-stones. Then here and there a rain of tiny gray-green leaflets fall from the boughs that oversee almost the entire front yard. I ought to get the blower/vac out tomorrow morning and clean things up a bit, before the garbage truck arrives. But I probably won’t. Let the rest of the leaves from the trees on our street finish their deleafing, then I’ll “clean up” what ought to be left out for crunching footsteps and mulching gardens.

Still with a lengthening to-do list growing in my head as I swing I find a sense of okay-ness out here.

Maybe it’s the family groups that walk or bike the perimeter of the park.  Maybe it’s the sound of children playing on the swings across the street. Could be the chips and cheeps of unseen birds or the blue softness of the sky. It could be the ease of a Sunday afternoon spread out languidly before me. Nothing but a diet Coke to work on.

Choices abound. I recognize how amazingly lucky I am to have the option of being comfortably inside or outside in December. That I live in a place with room for a porch swing feels almost decadent. That growing things surround my home and provide homes for birds and rabbits and an occasional stray cat helps me feel more of life in my days. Healthy and able to walk or dance or bake or spend time with MSH or my children seems like something I shouldn’t ignore or presume.

Yes, pending loss cracks open the shell of the universe, hearts border on breaking.

And yet, somehow goodness and beauty soothe and succor. Something about the outside world gentles the  pounding in my heart and hushes the worry circling my head.

Categories: Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Winds Will Blow

Thursday Afternoon:

The current variety of stomach bug snuck up on me  from behind and attacked in full force with vengeance and slaughter as its only aim.

Thursday Night:

The wee hours brought a thunderstorm that parked itself over our house and proceeded to play a few frames of Bowling with the Gods. In my semi-delirious state I thought perhaps they’d be carrying me away when the games played out.

Friday Morning:

Surprisingly I woke in my own bed the next morning, spent, still spinning a bit but able to walk. I slogged to the front door and peeked out to see what havoc had rained down whilst I attempted sleep. A gray sky still hovered low and ominous save for a small area of sunlight valiantly attempting a go at it. I grabbed my camera and captured this image.

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All gray sky but this one small area of sun trying to break through.

And with this scene I also captured a desire to go outside, under that sky. I wanted to capture a few lingering raindrops, to feel the fresh air on my pallid skin. More than anything I wanted to replace the rancid indoor air of my lungs with this ozone enhanced and rain cooled wonderful misty infused oxygen.

Friday Noon:

I’m sure I’ve never walked so slowly through the Riparian. My energy levels sat near zero, but my wish  outdoors drove me there almost as much as the car did. My slow pace lent itself to noticing things I sometimes miss. The overcast skies kept the wildlife active and vibrant where they’re usually subdued and snoozing at midday.

Friday Afternoon:

I’d certainly walked too far for how ill I’d felt the day before, but the effects of nature’s tender cloud filled  embrace had worked magic on my heart.

Saturday:

Here I share a few of the glories available less than one mile from my home. I think it’s time I made a regular practice of visiting there as I did a few years ago.

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” ~ John Muir

Categories: Nature, Outdoors, physical health | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

More Words I’d Rather Not Need to Know

Hospice

Hospice (Photo credit: ellenmac11)

Hospice.

My sweet friend called to let me know she had begun hospice care. She sounded relieved, happy, almost excited.

I was baffled and confused.

To me that word meant end of life. Period. And a near immediate one at that. Period.  How could she be so positive about this?  I thought of hospice as a kind of throwing one’s hands up in the air, oh well, now we’re done fighting kind of attitude. That’s not typical of my friend. After all, less than a month ago she was a patient aggressively fighting a fiercely unrelenting disease.

I’ve had it all wrong for a long time now. I’m glad I looked into it more.

So what is it? Here’s a definition I found from a place called Hope Hospice.

“Hospice is not a place. It is a special kind of healthcare focused on keeping the patient comfortable once the patient and physician have decided that the underlying disease can no longer be treated or cured. Hospice helps the patient, their families, and other caregivers and hospice care can occur in a variety of settings. It neither hastens nor postpones death and is focused on the belief that quality of life is as important as length of life. Hospice staff members help manage pain and symptoms and provide emotional and spiritual support so patients can make the most of each day.”

Here’s another new word: Palliation. It means easing the severity of a pain or a disease without removing the cause.

That word helps me understand Wickipedia’s explanation of hospice.

Hospice care is a type and philosophy of care that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill or seriously ill patient’s pain and symptoms, and attending to their emotional and spiritual needs. The concept of hospice has been evolving since the 11th century. Then, and for centuries thereafter, hospices were places of hospitality for the sick, wounded, or dying, as well as those for travelers and pilgrims. The modern concept of hospice includes palliative care for the incurably ill given in such institutions as hospitals or nursing homes, but also care provided to those who would rather spend their last months and days of life in their own homes.”

No more visits to a clinic or hospital sounds wonderful to someone who has spent the past five years staying in or visiting both on a daily, biweekly or weekly basis. To be cared for in one’s own home by nurses and healthcare providers relieves anxiety and frustration and improves communication. Increasing pain gets addressed quickly, logistics and questions receive almost immediate action, concern for all involved increases.

To work with professionals trained specifically for treating those with less than six months life expectancy changes the focus to comfort and communication and caring.

hospice spiralI get it now. I understand why she feels relieved and happy about being in hospice care.

She isn’t dying so much as she is living. Now that she’s isn’t battling the effects of the chemotherapy and other treatments along with the myeloma, she has an opportunity to spend better quality time with her family, make a few more wonderful memories, cherish every minute.

She’d love to take her kids to a hockey game, go to a symphony with her husband, see a few plays, spend time with extended family, eat well, laugh as much as possible, and live as long as she can. Anything anyone can do to help make any of that happen is welcome to extend a helping hand.

My hand will be held out to her as long as she needs it. And then some. I’m glad so many other hands have now joined in her care.

Categories: Death, Love | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Newborn-babyitis

I’ve acquired newborn-babyitis.

This involves being confused about night-time and day time. Specifically it means where the rest of the world believes it’s time to sleep my brain and body is a non-believer.

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Don’t be fooled by this sweetly sleeping infant. This photo was snapped midday.

Like a newborn, this occurs at the most inconvenient times and places. Specifically at bedtime and in bed.

There’s no logical reason for a baby to think it’s time for alert and active thrashing about and for making various odd noises when almost everyone else (except those who work third shift) has drifted off into dreamland, or as I call it, “that which cannot be named or achieved.”

There’s no logical reason for my own thrashing about and the sense of my body plugged into a direct current of electricity. Wakeful and semi-alert well past bedtime reeks of the nonsensical and infuriating.

This state of unrest, literally un-rest, is particularly aggravating when not ten minutes before climbing into bed my head kept nodding off to the side, dreams kept intruding in the current episode of White Collar or Burn Notice on Netflix, and my eyelids had lost the ability to remain open.

Why, oh why, oh why, couldn’t that near comatose state in the family room translate into the bedroom, on comfy pillows, with a fluffy comforter and total silence?

A pacifier

Unlike a newborn, I don’t have a wet diaper, I don’t need feeding, I’m past the swaddling stage, a binky is completely optional lately and swinging or rocking would just make me nauseous.

This happens even following a completely caffeine-free day. No diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew. And no, none of that surreptitious caffeine like they sometime put in Root beer. My body craves, desires, requires, can’t go on without, will go stark raving mad without sleep. I’m not about to jeopardize that with a little fizzy fling on ice.

Why such rebellion from an otherwise cooperative and compliantly sleepy brain? I sort of understand the infant’s topsy-turvy sleep schedule. They’ve been ensconced in a perfect floating world for so long where sleeping and waking all looked and felt the same. Suddenly changing when those things happen appears illogical to that tiny brain. But a full-grown, semi-sane adult should drop off into Never Never Land with nary a thought.

It’s like getting in the car and finding the engine won’t turn over. Not even an Rrrrrr, or a click. Just Nothingness. A giant void of non sleep. I don’t even begin to approach that little ledge between consciousness and sleep. Yeah, you know, that elusive line of awareness, fuzziness and goneness. That blissful, wonderful, coveted lack of sensation.

That slippery slope dried up recently. A fence got built in its place.

Baby blankets

Baby blankets (Photo credit: happydacks)

Grrr.

I’ve had experience with sleep meds so I’m not really anxious to go there.  Poor sad potato.<<== Click there to make sense of that weird phrase and to understand my reluctance to go the chemical route.

Eventually newborns adjust their sleep patterns to conform to the family schedule. At least usually. Or so I’ve heard. Not sure I ever experienced that with my own children.

I could take a cue from the wee little ones. Maybe I need to try a pacifier, a blankie and a lullaby or two.

And naps. Lots and lots of napping.

Categories: Mental Health, parenting, physical health | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Not my “A” Game

Do I have to show up with my A game?

Or can I just show up?

How about if I show up in my pajamas?

My A game is definitely down today. Might be best not to show up at all, even in pajamas.  Does anyone have the number for calling in sick to life?

Open bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol and Ext...

Sore throat, earache, head ache, me ache. Sleep remains elusive and fickle. The doctor and I get to chat today. With any luck I’ll leave with a prescription or two or five that will a.) help me sleep; b.) take away some of this dumb pain; and c.) cure whatever this is that’s ailing me. Maybe he can even write one up for d.) an attitude adjustment that minimizes whininess and self-pity.

It’s probably a virus. That’s why I’ve waited this long to visit with the doc. When I go to the doctor only a few days into an illness, I’m told it’s a virus, or it’s what’s going around, and I should drink lots of fluids, get rest and (ha) take it easy.

Somehow my body isn’t getting the message that this is “just” anything and that it should heal itself.

I feel so whiny and wimpy when I think of how my best buddy has suffered through five flipping years of pain, chemo and crap. And she’s done it with less whining in five years than I’ve produced in the past week. You’d think I’d have learned something from her amazing example of perseverance and perkihood and optimism.

I have.

I’ve learned that she’s exceptional and strong and gutsy. I’ve learned that she’s kept her focus on her family. Her priorities have been on three things: 1.) doing what’s essential for her own spiritual well-being; 2.) doing what she can that’s necessary in caring for her family; and with any remaining energy 3.) she does some nice stuff that brings variety and beauty and enjoyment into her life.

That order of priorities has kept her focused and hopeful and happy, in spite of the pain and loss and sickness.

So maybe I can’t bring my A game today. But maybe I can muster my B game and stop being whiny. I could do that.

Right after a nap and some Tylenol.

Categories: Family, People | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Dressing Down in the Dressing Room

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I recently found myself in a department store with a small hopeful stack of shirts and sweaters to try on. As I walked toward the dressing room I saw an unusual sight. The top of a man’s head poking above one of the dressing room stalls. Then I noticed a stroller poking out the bottom of the changing stall. “Must be a dad helping his daughter find something to wear,” I thought to myself.

My assumption turned out wrong. It wasn’t his daughter in there with him it was his wife and child.

How did I know this?

She proceeded to make it clear in no uncertain terms. Here is approximately what I unavoidably overheard:

“*#(%*@ size ____. I’ve never been this big in my life. Disgusting!!! How can you even stand to look at me?

You look fine, honey.

I look like a big, fat, stinking pig. Why are you still married to me?

Honestly, you look great to me. Who are you trying to impress anyway?

&)@*!!! *^ I am a fat stinking *&**!!!%@!# [insert most derogatory swear word you can think of] Do you hear me? You should be so disgusted and just leave me because I am a worthless *#&%@*!!

Another woman in another dressing stall piped up. Girlfriend, you’re a size smaller than me. You can’t look all that bad.

You want to come see. It’s disgusting. I’m a fat *#*%@.

At this point her husband tries to shush her as she’s now not only berating herself in the worst possible terms, but also making other people upset as well. They leave the changing room and thankfully I have no face to put to her words.

Here’s the thing.

If someone else called this woman the names she was calling herself, her husband would have certainly punched their lights out, demanded an apology and made sure they couldn’t walk for at least eight weeks. That’s what I hope MSH would do if someone treated me with such disdain and disrespect.

But it was a woman berating herself publicly. Okay, semi-publicly.

Here’s the other thing.

I’ve thought very similar thoughts. I’ve gotten angry at what I’ve seen in the dressing room mirror. I’ve sworn off shopping for clothes at times because I can’t find anything that I feel presentable in. I’ve left stores hating myself for what my body looks and feels like.

And my size, that number we all give so much power to, runs significantly higher than the number that angry woman was so disgusted about.

I admired the intervening voice, the other woman trying to serve as a voice of reason and solidarity. I thought about saying something, but having felt similar feelings, knew it was impossible at that point to comfort, soothe or repair anything.

Maybe she’d not slept enough, maybe her baby in the stroller had kept her awake night lately. Maybe she’s still recovering from growing, laboring and birthing a child. Maybe she missed lunch or was dehydrated. Maybe she was just having a bad day anyway and the dressing room fiasco was the last straw.

Whatever the reason my heart hurt for her. And for thousands of us who let the mirror determine how we feel and what our worth is.

Is there a way to stop looking in the mirror and being so critical? Is there a way to stop caring so much about the book cover and be more concerned with the quality of the words and sentences and story?

I wish there were an easy answer. But I know there isn’t.

Categories: People, self-image, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

I Can See Clearly

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for my eyesight.

Colors blaze in every hue and tone, distinct, vibrant and clear. I can’t imagine life with color blindness. (Also known more accurately as deficiency of color vision.) A world of gray and white and black would lack vitality. What joy colors bring into the world.

My eye

(Photo credit: orangeacid)

Blessed with a full range of vision, my eyes and brain are aware and make sense of things on either side of me. I can successfully navigate  the cluttered aisles of a store, a plate of food and the minefield that can be had in getting in and out of a car.

My eyes and mind communicate important information such as a fork in my hand or a doorway on my right or left.

Slight variations in what my right eye perceives and my left eye looks at gives me depth perception and lets me gauge the distance of my hands to the keyboard or the width and height of a step I might need to negotiate.

What a wonder to see clearly with the simple assistance of a pair of eyeglasses. Without these specifically curved and polished pieces of glass or plastic my world appears blurry and vague. With such simple tools I recognize faces, read signs, and enjoy a view in the distance.

Since my mother’s stroke her eyes work in a new way. As far as I’ve been able to decipher all the information I’ve just barely begun to study, the closest definition of what her eyes do is called homonymous hemianopsia. Basically it means that the right half of her vision in BOTH eyes is missing. There is nothing wrong with her eyes, but rather the error occurs in the brain. It would look something like this:

Now transfer that to every single thing you look at every day. A plate of food, doing your hair, reading a newspaper, checking your Facebook page, riding in a car, walking. Seeing only half of everything from both eyes!

The thought of it makes my heart hurt and my brain throb and my entire self want to drop to my knees. Exhausting. Learning to see becomes a whole new task, actually I suppose it’s learning to interpret what you see.

Mom usually just laughs when she can’t find her fork that she’s already holding in her right hand. Today she tried to get some jam from her glass of milk because her eyes told her she had picked up the jam jar. She just started giggling at the absurdity of it all.

If it were me I’d throw the glass of milk and the jam jar across the room and scream in total and complete frustration. But Mom, she simply laughs. Amazing woman!

English: Photo I took of one of my own pairs o...

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With time and healing and prayer her vision could improve and with it her ability to navigate her new world. That is our hope for her.

After breakfast we went on a drive out among the beauty of the rural countryside. I soaked it all in with my eyes like a water starved desert stranded person. Every wheat field, red barn, hillside, body of water, and silo filled me with wonder and gratitude. How blessed I am that I can SEE it all. To see it ALL!

I wanted to take photographs of every single thing I saw. I wanted to remember every detail, every color, every panoramic scene.

Look around you today. What do you see. Really look. Close one eye and look. Look out one eye and then the other, switching back and forth between the slight differences in perspective. Glance to your right and to your left without turning your head. What’s over there? Stare at your hand. See the freckles and the way the half-moon on your fingernails is lighter than the rest of the nail. Is the ceiling above you textured or smooth? Is there a reflection on the window? What color is the sky now, what color is it at seven?

Yes, I’m feeling immense gratitude today for what I can see.

What wonders there are around us.

What wonders there are in us.

Here’s a cover of a Johnny Nash Song “I Can See Clearly Now” that reminds me of my Mother’s optimistic attitude about the challenges she’s facing one month after her stroke. Thanks to the beautiful voices of Kristin Errett and Caleb McGinn.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Brain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain

Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

Brain scanning technology is quickly approaching levels of detail that will have amazing implications (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m amazed, astounded and thankful for the human brain. As I watch my mother heal from her stroke I find it fascinating to see abilities and skills re-engage, words circle around and connect, ideas form and fill in. Skills that were nearly impossible two weeks ago now seem almost easy. Strength returns in surprising ways.

It’s equally surprising to see the areas that haven’t yet recovered. Similar abilities often use vastly different aspects of the brain. I never would have thought it worked that way.

For instance she can sit at the piano and play a simple song with both hands but finding her spoon on the tray and getting it into her right hand challenges her. Or she can carry on a perfectly normal conversation about almost any topic, until she’s asked about one of her children and the names elude her. And this one surprises me: she can tell a joke, but math baffles her.

I wonder as I hear her laugh, why her sense of humor has come back better refined, more active, mischievous and funnier. You’d think after going through what she’s been through she’d be upset, or feel sorry for herself, or aggravated at the losses and the challenges. But no, she’s optimistic, grateful and laughs at herself easily.

I think about the things an infant learns in just a few short months. Crying, eating, tracking objects with their eyes, reaching for toys, controlling head movements, sitting up, rolling over. All those synapses and nerves and neurons and signals and messages sent and received. What a wonder! Is there anything we’ve been able to create that duplicates that?

Seeing my own hands moving across the keyboard, typing, turning thoughts into words on a page seems miraculous and beyond belief. How does the brain do that? What electrical impulse does what where and how to make all that happen? I am in awe.

Before I get too serious I want to sidetrack here and say how giddy I feel, full up to overflowing with gratitude that Mom’s brain is healing and healthier every day. I also want to laugh out loud with gratitude. I think that feels incredibly appropriate.

So, In honor of my mother’s refined sense of humor and Dad’s new learning curve of care taking I’m including a couple of jokes that they will appreciate. You can laugh along if you want to. (Thank you Reader’s Digest for the great laughs!)

One hectic day at the hospital where I work, I was trying to take the medical history of a woman while being constantly interrupted. Flustered, instead of asking, “Are your parents alive or deceased?” I asked, “Are you alive or deceased?” She smiled and remarked, “I have got to start wearing more makeup! (–Vera Krause)

This next one actually reminds me of my parents:

Two elderly couples were walking down the street, the women a couple of metres ahead of the men. One man told the other that they’d had a wonderful meal the night before-great food, reasonably priced.

His friend asked for the name of the restaurant. “Well, I’ll need your help on this. Let’s see, there’s a flower that smells great and has thorns on the stem?”

“That would be a rose,” his friend responded.

“That’s it!” the man replied. Then he shouted to his wife: “Hey, Rose! What’s the name of the restaurant we ate at last night?” (– by Kerry Barnum)

A Dry Cleaning Joke

A man came into the dry cleaner’s where I work to pick up a pair of pants that he’d left two weeks before. He didn’t have his ticket, and I couldn’t find them. “Maybe you picked them up already,” I suggested. “I hope my memory isn’t that bad!” he replied, but said he’d go home and check. A minute later he was back, carrying the pants he had wanted cleaned. “I’ve been driving around with them in the car for two weeks!” he laughed. (–by Carolyn Brennan)

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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