It’s great to be alive!

Last week I complained about how overwhelmed I was with our upcoming move. I spoke of being crabby and unnecessarily irritable, sleep deprived and addled. This week, as I am beginning to check off some of the boxes on what appears to be a neverending to-do list, a bright thought enters my mind. I’m crazy stressed out but isn’t it great to be alive?

The fog that as little as two weeks ago engulfed me has lifted ever so slightly. I can now see the floor. I feel a modicum of control again. Ergo the ray of light, the optimistic thought that reminds me of all the good in my life.

My husband doesn’t understand how choosing a potential hairdresser or church in Portland can make me happy.  These are twigs I am collecting to build my new nest with. I can’t go to Portland with nothing! I must bring with me as many nest building pieces as I can. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to being settled into what could easily be our “forever home” with my important and necessary relationships (hairdresser, chiropractor, grocery store, doctor, church, etc.) locked down, even if some of them change down the road. One at a time, please.

Sure, I have stress in my life right now. I have trouble sleeping. I worry about the future sometimes. But, boy am I happy to be alive and well, stressed or not!

I read a story today of a man we know who has a rare form of cancer and possibly only a few years to live. He has recently come home from a long hospital stay and is so weak he can barely get out of bed. He has trouble eating and sleeps most of the time. It breaks my heart. His story is one of thousands. It brings be back to what is important and what is merely a temporary discomfort.

That reminds me of something I saw on Facebook yesterday. A small circle a few inches away from a larger circle. Inside of the smaller circle were the words, “comfort zone.” In the larger circle it said “this is where the magic happens.” Good food for thought. It takes your fear of the unknown and turns it into excitement for the adventure that is to be.

No matter what your current story is, remember and say aloud, “It’s great to be alive!” You’ll be amazed at how it changes you. God bless.

One day at a time

It’s hard to sleep. If I wake up in the middle of the night I lie awake for hours before dozing off. During the day it is hard to focus on anything but what is currently going on. I am making lists and keeping notes. Lately I’ve noticed that I am irritable and crabby and taking it out on anyone who is lucky enough to be nearby. I’m quick to get angry. This is not who I am!

It’s the impending move. We haven’t put the house up for sale yet but within the next few weeks we will. We’re deciding between two realtors. We’ve had an appraisal done, a stager come out with suggestions, a painter come out to give bids. I’m trying to find a handyman to do several odd repair jobs. I think I have found a mover but haven’t decided for certain. I believe I have a transport company for my horse but the timing can’t be locked in yet and I’m not sure how smoothly that will go. They have to book it when there are other horses going to the same general area. I have decided that no matter what I must be there on the other end when she arrives. What about our two cats?

Boxes. We need boxes. Lots of them. Will the appraisal be high enough for what we need to sell for? Will the house sell too quickly for us to get out of here? Will it not sell soon enough? When do I give notice to friends and service providers? When the house goes into escrow or when we put the house up for sale? What if it sells and then falls out of escrow?

Welcome to the inside of my mind. I thought I was coping well until I noticed three days in a row that I was in a bad mood,  wanting to lash out at people. That is not acceptable. I will not turn into the mover’s equivalent of “bridezilla”!  No, I have to figure out how to do this moving thing without killing anyone. And then it came to me this morning, One day at a time. That sounds simple enough but can I do it? I have to. I have no choice if I want to stay married and keep my friends. Of course I can do it but how?

I will not look beyond today for what needs to be done. If I need to set up future appointments, I will do so but then I won’t think about them once they are on my calendar. One day at a time.

I’m thinking this is my solution to not feeling overwhelmed. I’m supposed to enjoy the journey, right? This is still my life. It doesn’t stop and then re-start once we get to our destination. I will take my life  day by day, every day. Perhaps we should be living this way all of the time anyway.

When I wake up in the morning I will only allow myself to think about the next 24 hours. This will work.  It will keep me on more of an even keel. I won’t kill anyone, I promise. God bless. :))

The power of music

I just had an argument with my husband. Nothing terribly serious but enough to upset my equilibrium. I used to walk away, find a quiet place and sulk. I would listen to the “devil” side of me which grew my righteous anger and in the end solved nothing. It only served to make me more miserable.

I don’t do that anymore. I still walk away but now I go into the bedroom, gently close the door (that’s important) and turn on KLOVE radio, a Christian music station that plays modern, positive, uplifting music. (By the way, they are all across the country, not just in Southern California.) Within a few minutes I am feeling better. Soon the dark mood I was in has evaporated and I can go back to my husband and my day, forgetting whatever it was that led me to be irritated in the first place. Being a man, my husband  had moved on as soon as I left the room.

It doesn’t just work after an argument. When I am upset, worried or frightened about the things that haven’t happened yet but could, the “what if’s” of life, listening to this station affirms God’s love and  how He wants the best for me. The music reminds me that in these matters I have no control so I turn it over to Him.  Sometimes, when my human side wins out and the fear takes over, I reach out my hand to Him, knowing He will take it. Just as I reached out for my mother or father’s hand as a child. I am God’s child and He is always there.

There are other pieces of music that touch my soul, fill my heart and light my fire. As a child of ten and eleven I remember Sundays in our home were classical music days. That is where I learned to appreciate and love classical music. Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 in C minor (my most favorite piece) takes me to depths I am often reluctant to go. It is painfully beautiful and haunting as it finds its way inside of me, taking over my emotions as it takes me away. I can’t truly hear it without crying. For me it is the most incredible piece of music ever written.

Then there is Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, another favorite. In this piece, Ravel uses human voices like instruments. Again, beautiful, soulful, dramatic music.

Now on to Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue. My father could actually play this on the piano. Amazing piece of music. You can get lost in it.

Jumping now to more recent music, I recently bought KC & The Sunshine Band’s greatest hits. I love them! As I play that music I am taken back to Tehran, Iran, circa 1975 and dancing at a club with my first husband. We did the “bump” to many of their songs. I can’t sit still when I hear that music. It makes me joyful and full of energy.

Many other artists’ music has the same effect on me. It’s wonderful! When I am in a certain mood I often choose music that I know will enhance it. Or when I am in no particular mood I may listen to music that creates one.

I love country, some jazz, show tunes, classical, rock, ballads, Christian – all kinds, depending on the day and time. What’s your go-to music? Whatever it is, enjoy. It is truly one of the many gifts we have been given as humans. God bless.

Free will can be annoying

I was going to write about the power of music this week but what is in my brain of late is a scattered mess. This morning I told myself to take a deep breath. When I try to discern my thoughts it feels like watching clothes tumbling around in a dryer. Ask me an easy question and it takes me twice as long to answer. Words are swirling around inside my head until it feels like my brain will burst. Have you been there?

I like to be settled. I like familiarity. I like consistency, security, structure, plans, etc. My life is anything but those things right now. Because of this I am floundering and trying to keep it together for people who are unaware of what is going on.  I pretend it’s life as usual but that is hardly the case. I am voluntarily ripping out my roots to make a big move out of state. Part of me is excited, the rest of me lies somewhere between uncomfortable and panic mode.

I mentioned it once before in another blog that we are considering a move to Portland, Oregon. Not a bad place, a place I actually lived in over 17 years ago. I’m older now and uprooting is more of a challenge. I love my life. I have an amazing church, a great trainer (horse), the best chiropractor (I’ve been going to him for 12 years) and the most talented and dearest friend for a hairdresser (15 years). I have a good health care plan that is not available in Oregon, wonderful and special friends and my sister whom I see every six weeks for a “sister day”. I have a son and daughter-in-law here plus three grandchildren and three step grandchildren although it is true that I have a son with a family in Portland as well.

To show you how much I resist change, I remember the moment I knew my first marriage was over. One of the first thoughts that came to me was, “But we have tacos every Friday night!” Routine, habits, tradition.  Walking away from them is not only hard for me, it is painful and scary. But is that a healthy way to live? Shouldn’t breaking away from routine and branching out be good for us? Can’t the change you’re afraid of end up being the best thing that’s every happened to you? Yes!

On the other hand, sometimes making a big change can turn out to be a huge mistake, right? Even disastrous! Oh Lord, help me please.

My husband also has mixed feelings. If he were more on board and optimistic, it would be different but he’s hesitant. He has his reasons, both of which I understand. But then he started the whole move conversation some time ago, making it sound like we had no choice.

I pray about it but no answers come. I try to turn it over to God but decisions have to be made, work has to done, people must be notified.

I’ve been living in limbo for months now not knowing what we will end up doing. Limbo is not my favorite place to be as you can imagine. A decision has to be made soon. We have people waiting in the wings, ready to begin the process.

Breathe, Sarah, breathe. No matter what you decide, you and Bill will make it work. You always have and you always will.  Stay tuned…..

Hope and why I love it

I remember as a child asking my mother for something I really wanted. The second best answer was always “maybe”. “Maybe” soon became my favorite word because it gave me hope. “No” was final, a dead end which led to a young girl’s despair. But “maybe” was something I could handle. It wasn’t “yes” but it wasn’t “no” either. I really didn’t care how long it took to get the final answer. The longer, the better. I let my hope stretch out as far as it could go.

As an adult, even a much older adult, I find myself attached to “maybe” in the same way. Hope. It means that all is not lost. There is still a chance I could get what I want or have a certain outcome. I often hang my hat on it.

Are you someone who believes that if things look bad it means that they will end badly? This is typical and completely normal. But it doesn’t make you feel good. It can lead to depression and a negative approach to life. When things look bad or scary, know that the outcome isn’t necessarily going to be what you imagine. There is always hope. “It isn’t over until the fat lady sings.” (Not very p.c., is it?)

With God all things are possible. I remember hearing about someone who needed a lung – a lung! I immediately thought, Oh, this is really bad. He’s not going to make it. Then it dawned on me that I am very limited in my understanding of what is and what is not possible. I have a human brain. There is still hope because God has the final say. What happened? He got his lung and is alive and well.

Don’t ever decide how things will turn out until they’ve turned out. Hold onto hope until it slips away  and you have to let it go.  Sometimes things don’t work out but sometimes they do. There is a certain mystery in not knowing the outcome. And there is always hope that in the end you will get what you wanted anyway. God bless.

 

Coping

I’m sitting on the ground at the barn near my horse who is in a paddock playing. It’s hard to talk about coping in such a serene setting. All I can hear are birds overhead and the occasional whinny from one of the probably thirty horses that call this place their home. We (my trainer and I) moved our horses here a week and a half ago. So far, so good.  So where does coping come in?

My husband Bill came home a week ago after having hip replacement surgery. With all of this comes many additional tasks, a home that is upside down and new appointments to go to. For the most part he is doing well, except for some post operative swelling that is significant and painful for him. The thought of something happening to him was very real and very frightening. I am so grateful he survived. Now is the time for healing and coping, both of us in our own way.

If someone were to ask me how I am doing I would say I am coping well, most of the time. My husband is being very considerate, even more than his body is allowing him to be. But I still get tired and sometimes overwhelmed with taking care of him, the house, my horse, my life. I don’t sleep very well and often feel irritable and cranky. I was upset yesterday afternoon at a receptionist who told us we would have to come back tomorrow (90 minute drive, one way) because they hadn’t scheduled his ultrasound even though his doctor’s office told us to go there as soon as we left physical therapy. I was tired and ready for everything to run smoothly. When it didn’t, I almost lost it, in a waiting room full of people. Not very Christian like but very human.

How do I manage to remain a helpful, loving wife when I am tired and stressed out? I tell myself everything will work out just fine. This is temporary. I listen to Christian music and its wonderful messages, “You’re not alone..” or “You can lay it down…” (your worries) I take time in the morning for prayer. I escape with one of my many wonderful books. I go to the store alone and wander around mindlessly. I watch my shows on television. I find ways to recharge, like riding my horse or just hanging out with her.

I remember before my father died my mother had to take care of him for the last eight months. Her only respite was when either my sister or I would drive up there and take her grocery shopping. I don’t know how she did it, day in and day out. You do what you have to do,  I guess. In caretaking situations it is very important that the caretaker takes care of themselves. The reason is simple. Of what use or value are you if you are tired, overwrought and stressed out? Not only can you not function well as a caretaker, but deep down inside of you, you stop caring! You know how when flying they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first and then on your children? Same principle.

Find moments of escape, longer if possible.  Read, go for a walk, practice yoga, go for a drive, listen to uplifting music, meditate, pray.  Even five or ten minutes where you can let down and focus on yourself is beneficial.

Whatever you are going through you will get through it. It is a desert experience (biblical reference) that has a beginning and an end. Be aware of that. Be confident in your ability to cope and find your strength in yourself, in your loved ones and last but certainly not least, in God. Take care.

p.s. Happy Mother’s Day!

Hands and feet

No, I am not talking about body parts nor is this a lesson on Sesame Street. This is about being the hands and feet of Jesus, something we Christians are told to be.

Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.   Yours are the eyes             through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is         to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.                                                   Saint Teresa of Avila    

I hear the expression “be the hands and feet of Jesus”often and have come to what I believe is a good understanding of it but that is about as far as it goes for me. When I considered this topic for my blog today, I almost shelved the idea, feeling that it would be hypocritical of me to write about something I rarely do. What a phony! I thought to myself. What are you doing, Sarah, as the hands and feet of Jesus? Very little, I’m ashamed to say.

You might feel the same way about your contribution in this area. You’re probably thinking, as I did, of the obvious ways in which to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Ways like serving meals to the poor, going to Africa or some other third world nation and teaching about Jesus, or English or administering medical aid, or feeding the poor, or building a school, etc. Are you doing any of these? If you are, God bless you. This blog is not for you.

I am speaking to the average person, probably but not necessarily a Christian, who wants to serve others but feels like they are failing miserably if they are not in a soup kitchen or on skid row. Are these truly the only ways we can serve? Absolutely not. It dawned on me recently that the fact I am serving my husband now in a manner that is beyond the usual might count here. He is awaiting hip surgery and is in excruciating pain most of the time. I do much more for him right now than I would if he were not in this condition. It’s not heroism on my part, it’s what I signed up for when I married him. But I think it counts as serving.

My church has a weekend of service this coming weekend. I will serve in my community on Saturday for four hours. It’s inconvenient and makes me “give up” other activities I would much rather do. Big deal. This is what it means to serve. I helped a confused woman in the grocery store recently, does that count? Yes, I think so.

Here is the bottom line (Sorry if you hate that expression but it is expressive.) We were not put on this earth to take care of ourselves and ignore our fellow humans. We were put here to glorify God and help our brothers and sisters, especially those who are less fortunate than we are. If you are well off, then   you are in a unique position to assist others who are struggling. God isn’t impressed when you have your nails done or buy yourself a beautiful new outfit. He is impressed when you give a meal to someone who might otherwise go hungry, when you pray with someone who feels lost and alone, when you take things you no longer need or use and give them to someone who does need and will use. This is taking care of your fellow humans. This is being the hands and feet of Jesus. You don’t have to go to Africa, unless you want to. God bless.

                                            

 

Comfort Zone or Danger Zone?

By all accounts I am an introvert. In a small gathering of friends I’m fine but put me in the middle of a large party and I don’t know what to do. It’s very uncomfortable. I’m a writer. My comfort zone is in front of a computer or notepad, alone with my thoughts.

My home has always been my comfort zone, not a big surprise. I think it is for most people. Even though I’ve grown personally in the last few years, I still have to push myself out the door six days a week (I am home all day on Mondays). Retreating into my cocoon is inviting, desirable and hard to resist. But resist I must. The draw is strong but spending your life in your comfort zone is not only a waste of your talents but it becomes a real loss for people around you whose lives you could potentially impact in a positive way.

One of my biggest challenges as a writer has always been promoting my books. Putting myself out there. It is difficult and frightening, not comfortable at all. I know of writers who love to write and are good at it but the fear involved in self promotion prevents them from being read.

This year I have decided to dramatically reduce my comfort zone time and push myself to step outside my shell. This means talking to more strangers, being more open and less self-aware. Being overly self-aware prevents you from taking risks out of fear of failure or worse, of looking foolish. I was always afraid that people might see that I don’t have it altogether, that I’m vulnerable and completely imperfect.

Here is  an undisputed fact – you cannot grow while in your comfort zone. You cannot stretch or unfold your wings. That’s not to say that there isn’t a recognizable need for the comfort zone. I retreat into it to recharge, regroup and prepare myself to step out and fly. But learn, grow, discover? With the possible exception of self-reflection, I cannot achieve anything within the confines of this limited space.

The lure to go there is real and understandable and that’s okay. Just be disciplined enough to pull yourself away so that your life has balance. Don’t deny yourself the chance to see how far you can go or how much you can grow.  Argue for your limitations and sure enough they’re yours.  Richard Bach

As I see it, spending most of your time in your comfort zone equates to playing it safe, choosing a smaller version of yourself. Get out into the world, start with training wheels if you have to, but learn and grow and discover – just how amazing you are!  God bless.

Clear a space

As human beings we have an abundance of stuff, things we have accumulated over the years, stuff we covet and stuff we have but don’t need and never use. We also have mental stuff – thoughts, worries and regrets that fill our minds on a regular basis, interfering with the daily task of living, at least productive, healthy and joyful living.

When problems arise, when we are faced with challenges, hurt and pain, we turn to God. But how can we commune with God when our minds are a jumbled mess? How do we focus on Him when we have no focus, when we can’t focus on anything? Have you been there?

It happened to me this morning. I sat down to have my quiet time with God but my mind would not cooperate. I’m a juggler at the moment, balancing several plans at once and trying to keep any or all of them from crashing to the floor. Breathe, Sarah, just breathe. Push everything out of the way. Clear a space.

This is a beautiful phrase coming out of a six part sermon on The Lord’s Prayer by David Brisbin, a pastor in San Juan Capistrano, Ca. I have listened to it twice. The pastor speaks the prayer in Aramaic, its probable original language. He then breaks it up into five sections, interpreting and translating it so that the listener will hear it as the multitudes heard it from Jesus’ lips over two thousand years ago. After you have listened to this version, you will never hear The Lord’s Prayer the same way again. Our translation is about as close to the actual meaning as the East Coast is to the West Coast. The problem is that we hear and understand it from a western cultural point of view. Jesus belonged to an eastern culture. In the 1970s I lived for two years in Tehran, Iran and soon realized I had no frame of reference there.

Pastor Brisbin takes the first part,  Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, and condenses it to the phrase Clear a space.  In order to be in unity with God, we must separate ourselves from all earthly matters and make a space for God to show up. It struck me as such a simple yet powerful concept that it has now become a mantra for me. Clear a space first if you want God to come in.

I would highly recommend you purchasing or borrowing this set of six cd’s. I got mine from Amazon. It is a treasure and the new understanding you gain from listening to it (I would suggest more than once) will change how you see your life and your world.

I didn’t mean for this to become an infomercial for David Brisbin’s cd’s but so be it. Do you want or need a new perspective on life? Do you feel stuck in old patterns that take you from one miserable place to another? Are you simply unhappy or unfulfilled? Even if your life is going well, I highly recommend that you listen to these six cd’s. Each one takes about 45 minutes. I listen in my car to and from the barn which is an hour round trip. It’s an investment in time that will change your life forever. God bless.

 

No! Not again!

I was feeling a little run down. My throat was sore and I was sneezing more frequently than my allergies warranted. No! I can’t get sick now! I’m supposed to go to Portland on March 26th. That was less than two weeks away! I just got over bronchitis for Pete’s sake. This can’t be happening. I started downing  Vitamin C in the form of Airborne. In desperation I bought the Zicam nose swabs that had helped me in the past. I am not getting sick again!

Things got worse. I developed a cough, a very deep rattling cough. Because I have asthma, that worried me. I couldn’t possibly be getting bronchitis again. I had recently been exposed to two people who were sick. One of them was my son. I knew he had a cold but I don’t see him that often and so I had to hug him. How do you not hug your kid?

A few days after both of these exposures, I felt like I had full blown bronchitis. Well, there’s still time to get over it before I have to fly, I thought to myself. All is not lost, yet.

I figured it was viral and so I stayed home, rested, took cough medicine and waited it out. I developed a slight fever which I had for three days. The cough became worse and now I was wheezing terribly when I went to bed at night. It sounded like someone was inside my chest crinkling up thin plastic sheets of paper every time I exhaled. Nyquil was the only thing that allowed me to sleep.

I gave in and called my doctor the following morning and went to see her the next day. She had me get a chest x-ray. They called me while I was at the pharmacy getting my prescription filled for an extra inhaler.  “You have pneumonia. The doctor is calling in a prescription for antibiotics. You need to come back in ten days for a follow up chest x-ray.” Oh great. Pneumonia. That’s just swell. A month ago it was bronchitis that messed with my normal routine. Now pneumonia was going to do more than that. It was going to prevent me from going to Portland to see my newest grandbaby.

Why am I telling you this? Because sometimes, against all the odds,  against everything that would seem fair, you get kicked in the stomach. It just so happened that the week I got diagnosed with pneumonia, my husband, who is in constant horrific pain awaiting a hip replacement, had an especially bad few days. It was all I could do to keep from feeling sorry for myself. Every morning when I awoke, despair was sitting in the chair next to my bed. “Good morning, Sarah,” she would say mockingly. “But then again, it isn’t really a good morning now is it?”

I knew I had a choice to make and not much time to make it. I abolished despair to the netherworld and told myself everything was going to be fine. I would get better. I would take care of my husband and make his life as pleasant and comfortable as possible. We would get through this. I would postpone my trip to Portland and life would go on. My other choice was to wallow in self pity, make my husband’s already challenging life more difficult and end up with both of us at the bottom of the well.

I’m going to Portland in May. My husband’s surgery is less than four weeks away. I am back in my normal routine and in control of my world. My husband was more than grateful for my positive attitude and for taking such good care of him. It has actually brought us closer.

Next time life kicks you in the stomach, straighten yourself up, show despair the door and carry on, knowing that you will get through whatever it is and come out on the other side stronger, wiser and more resilient. God bless.