Saturday, November 2, 2013

Discovering Gratitude in a Challenge - My Story

Life was good.  I was married to my best friend, we enjoyed our family, we were doing good financially, and we were healthy.......... or so we thought.

Unlike many people approaching retirement age, the LAST thing on my mind was retirement.  I was 63 years old, with a career I enjoyed; employed for 12 years with a successful company, where I was appreciated and compensated with a good salary and benefits.  Coworkers and management were like family.  The only thing I would have preferred to be different was my commute of 60 miles roundtrip daily.  But, nothing is perfect, and even that commute wasn’t terribly awful.  Although I moaned and groaned at times, the drive was worth the effort to be working at a job I loved.

With my vital signs and blood test results good, my doctors didn’t find any reason to be concerned, even in spite of some stomach issues and arthritis pain.  BUT, that all changed in January 2011, when my leg pain became severely unbearable.  My husband took me to Urgent Care, where it was discovered my left leg was loaded with blood clots.  That diagnosis was scary to hear!  I was put on temporary disability leave from work.

Approximately one month later, my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  We both began seeing specialists, and continued to be tested, monitored and treated for our medical issues.  During the following several months, it seemed all we ever did was go to see doctors.  We laughed about those being our dates, trying to find humor in our medical issues.

It was a long road, but ultimately, my husband’s cancer was cured, as well as side effects from the procedure disappeared.  However, I continued to experience chronic pain; and continued to see specialists and be tested to try to determine what was causing my pain.  During the following months, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, Nerve damage and Lymphedema, in addition to the DVT.  It was then I was placed on permanent disability and forced to retire from my career early.

At times I felt lost and sometimes useless, and without a purpose any longer.  I had worked for 46 years.  This was a challenging time.  Not only could I not work, but I could not do many things I had previously enjoyed, such as dancing and gardening (to name only two).  Often, I could barely walk.  On the most painful days, it was difficult to avoid depression.  

Throughout it all, I repeatedly searched for gratitude, sometimes wondering if I was delusional.  Did gratitude really exist in this difficult time?  

As I was able to peel off the layers of the challenges, finally I was able to discover the gratitude within, by being mindful and aware. 

Then, suddenly, there was that AHA Moment! 

The message I was receiving was to slow down, and stop the crazy busy stress-filled lifestyle; and enjoy the precious little moments in life.  I became aware of the small, but valuable, things I’d been missing.  

The lesson I learned was to be able to just sit in tranquility, take time to be mindful of the treasures and beauty surrounding us, and to appreciate all of it.  

Although I am unable to work, dance, play in the dirt in my garden, go to the gym, etc., I've learned that there are still many things I am able to do.  I am still alive and do whatever I am able, whenever I am able; even if it means I may need to take a day or so for "time-out" afterwards to gain my strength back.  

I've also learned to be grateful for my down time, when it's needed.  Rest is peaceful and relaxing.  

I am not ready to give up; not yet!  
There is still much life left in this old body, and I intend to live every moment to the fullest!

There truly is gratitude in everything, including in the challenges of life.   

If I had not been blessed with chronic pain and medical issues, I would still be working, instead of being retired; and there are so many treasures and pleasures I'd be missing right now.

With Love and Gratitude,

Something my dad used to say a lot:

Friday, April 6, 2012

Her Name Was Marlena

She was my best friend for many years, right by my side at all times.  I guess you could say she was my shadow.  Everywhere I went, there she was.  But, I didn’t mind.  She was the perfect companion for me.  Whatever I liked, she liked too.  She treasured and protected any secret I told her in confidence.  She maintained my sense of humor.  She gave me a sense of safety.    

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but suddenly one day I noticed, she had disappeared.  She would sneak a peek in everyone once in a while, just to remind me she had not really left.  But, sadly, as the years passed, her visits became fewer and farther between, until she no longer appeared.

With the passing years, tarnish developed in my imagination.  My life got busy, crowding out thoughts of Marlena.  Forgotten memory was only temporary, as everything is.  Then as swiftly as she vanished, unexpectedly her image surfaced once again.  She looked precisely as she had so many years ago.  Immediately I recognized her.  She was a welcome sight, a vision of warmth and friendship; a sense of comfort. 

It was apparent our paths had crossed long ago for a reason.  That purpose was clarified when we were reunited.  And, just as is true of any authentic friendship, even after so many years, we easily picked up, where we left off, as if no time had passed.

The difference is that now she is with me for only brief periods of time.  Now, so many years later since my childhood, my desires have changed, leaving less room in my life for Marlena.  However this whimsical fantasy returns to me, whenever a need exists. 

Created within the depths of my heart, soul and imagination, Marlena has become my sanity.  I am truly grateful for this gift.

If everyone had an illusion, just like Marlena, this world would be a more peaceful and happier place.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gratitude for the K.I.S.S.

Gratitude for the K.I.S.S.

I think it was about forty years ago, when I first heard this acronym.  It was at a seminar conducted by Terry Cole-Whittaker.  

The KISS Principle was a design principle articulated by Kelly Johnson.
Variants from Wikipedia:   The principle most likely finds its origins in similar concepts, such as Occam's razor, and Albert Einstein's maxim that "everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler".  Leonardo da Vinci's "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication", or Antoine de Saint ExupĂ©ry's "It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away".
K = Keep
I = It
S = Simple
S = Stupid

A good reminder, which I often forget.  I am inclined to complicate things, without intending to do so.  Being detail-minded is a good quality, but I tend to push it a bit too far sometimes.  When writing, I’m often verbose.  In my poetry, I digress, going off on a tangent, compounding the words, resembling an almost novel-length piece of work, instead of a creative sonnet. Sometimes I don’t talk, but rather ramble, on and on and on and on.  I sense the annoyance of that, when my family breathes sighs of boredom.

My boss would remind me to keep it simple, when writing emails.  But, I’d think it was necessary to include all those extra details in order to get the point across to the reader.  Maybe that’s true sometimes, but not usually; and definitely not to the extent I carried it.

I’m writing about this now, as a reminder for me to focus on transforming my complexity into simplicity; and my accumulation into minimalism.

But, how does one undertake this task, after sixty-four years filled with the obstacles of complication and obscurity?  I honestly do not know.  But, what I do know is that it’s never too late for learning a new concept.

Even now, as I write, this would be a good place to end, maintaining brevity.  But, my inner voice tells me to keep my fingers moving on the keyboard, as random thoughts swirl around in my head.

For now, I’m telling my inner voice to be silent, while I attempt to KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Lesson one, in this challenge to consolidate my words into simplicity, is to conclude this chapter immediately, without another thought.

THE END ………………………….  for now anyway

Biting my tongue, sitting on my hands, closing my eyes, holding my breath…..

GRATEFUL for the courage to challenge and defy my inner voice

GRATITUDE for the K.I.S.S.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

GRATITUDE for Valentine's Day - Past & Present

Reflecting back with fond memories - fourteen years ago (1998), on a very wet, stormy day, we went to a wedding. He asked me to pack an overnight bag, but wouldn’t tell me where we were going. It was a surprise. After the wedding he swept me away to places unknown. The rain was coming down very hard, but he kept driving. Finally we arrived at our destination – The Embassy Suites in Arcadia, CA. He had reserved a special room with the Valentine’s Day Love Package, complete with champagne and chocolate, among other things. On our way to brunch the next morning at the hotel, we watched in the courtyard garden area, as two people (strangers to us) spoke their wedding vows, pledging their love to each other. We had not yet talked about marriage, but I dreamed that one day we would be that couple in that same gazebo in the garden, promising to love, honor and cherish each other forever.

For more than a year, each month, he gave me beautiful fresh roses – each month adding one more than the month before; with the exception of August, when he had thirty amazing roses delivered to me. This represented the thirty years since we had first met in August 1968.

Thirteen years ago (1999), barely awake, still in our jammies, hair not combed, teeth not brushed, we sat in my backyard drinking coffee. He excused himself and went into the house. Shortly he returned with a bouquet of twenty-four red roses, but these were artificial – silk ------ “fake” flowers????? This was so unlike him, or so I thought. But, it was exactly just like him – the wonderfully loving romantic man in my life. As he held the flowers, he explained that unlike real roses, these would last forever, just like his love for me. Then he got down on one knee and proposed.

There was no engagement ring, but it didn’t matter to me. We were in love and we were going to get married to share the rest of our lives together. That’s what was important. When we finally got around to discussing a wedding date, this fifty-four year old man suggested waiting a few years. Wait? A few years? For what? We had known each other for over thirty years! We’d been involved for over a year. We had no doubts about our love for each other. There was no reason to wait. But, we did wait one year, because we wanted to get married close to the date of my parents’ wedding anniversary, February 15th. With my lucky number being 19, it was perfect – the following year (2000) February 19th fell on a Saturday. But, we’ll get to that day in a little while. There’s more to the engagement chapter.

A couple months after his proposal on Valentine’s Day in 1999, we were out dancing.  While moving slowly on the dance floor, wrapped in each other's embrace, he said “Put your hand in my pocket.” I was shocked! What???? He said it again. I said “I am not putting my hand in your pocket out here in public on the dance floor!” As I tried to escape, he took my hand and put it in his pocket, where my engagement ring was hiding. He put it on my finger and proposed again. The ring is not only beautiful, but lovingly thought out. There are two gold angels, one on each side of the stone. He told me these angels are there to protect me always.

Fast-forward to February 19th, 2000, our wedding day. In front of family and close friends, we said our vows, in that gazebo in the garden at The Embassy Suites in Arcadia – the very same place we had watched others get married two years before.

Remember those silk red roses from 1999? Yes, they do last forever! We’ve kept them displayed in our home, ever since he gave them to me.

Fast-forward to today, February 14th, 2012, Valentine’s Day. This morning, he walked over to me, while carrying those same silk roses. He proposed again, very much like he did thirteen years ago; with the exception of getting down on one knee. We laughed when he said his body doesn’t allow him to bend that way anymore. This is something we both understand all too well.

In five days we will celebrate twelve years of marriage together, as soulmates, best friends, and lovers. Life is not perfect. We have our challenges at times. But, we are perfect for each other, and still very much in love.

For this, gratitude fills my heart.

P.S. Last night I came across a love letter that Mike had written to me on Valentine’s Day 2010. I didn’t re-read it, until after I had finished writing this. Some of what he wrote is almost exactly what I’ve just written. Just another example of our amazing bond, and proof that we were meant to be together.

Always and Forever ♥

Thursday, January 12, 2012


It seems natural to write this on January 12th, 2012, exactly one year after being diagnosed with the life-threatening medical condition of Deep Vein Thrombosis.

As the year 2011 was coming near the end, I was dreading the thought of an entire year known as 2012.

For the past five years, the number twelve has had an adverse effect on me. When that number would surface in my life, in any way, shape or form, I’d cringe, as if a huge dark cloud consumed me. It had become so overwhelming, that I’d avoid that number whenever possible. For example, when playing “Scrabble” or “Words With Friends”, if my score was to end up being twelve, I’d find another word to play, even if it meant a lower count. Never ever would I choose the number twelve, when picking lottery numbers to play. Please don't give me a hotel room with the number 12, and don't offer to seat me at table 12 in a restaurant!  I was allowing the number twelve to control my actions. The twelfth of any month caused uneasiness within me.

You see, on December 12th, 2006, my precious step-daughter was killed in a car accident, at the very young age of only 31. Then on December 12th, 2009, my amazing, loving father passed away.

Although not nearly as devastating as the loss of two very special people, as mentioned above, it was the 12th of January 2011, after an entire day in Urgent Care, when I was given the frightening news of the DVT diagnosis.

In my twisted, grieving mind, the number twelve was causing depression, sadness, and at times, even misery and a feeling of hopelessness. So, it seemed understandable (to me anyway), that the year 2012 was going to be a very long twelve (there’s that number again!) months to survive. I’m not one to “worry”, but yet, I wondered how I would manage.

As the new year of 2012 arrived, I was blessed miraculously with one of those glorious "A-HA” moments! Suddenly the terror of the number twelve transformed into a “Gratitude Moment”! I knew that 2012 would be a wonderful year, filled with magical memories.

All it took was a simple change in perspective - -
an attitude adjustment!

You see, NOW, when the number twelve surfaces for me, a new perspective has transformed my thoughts of loss (of very special loved ones), into precious memories of those loved ones --- wonderful memories dance in my mind and sing in my heart and soul.

NOW, the number twelve sends me reminders of how wonderful these two individuals were, the influence they had on my life, and how my life was better because they had been a part of it.

For this, and for perspective and attitude, I am GRATEFUL.

In gratitude & love, always 


Friday, March 18, 2011

Let Your Starlight Shine Beyond Your Challenges

In the silence of the very early morning, these words suddenly flowed into my thoughts, as if to tell me something I needed to hear.

Soft translucent veils of clouds attempt to obscure the glow of the nighttime stars.

Nevertheless, the brilliant radiance of the starlight glistens optimistically, penetrating the random layer of haze.

Reminding me that we are the stars, and the clouds are our challenges.

Don't be pushed by your problems. 
Be led by your dreams.

Just like those stars, with belief, hope and determination, we are able to shine through our adversities.

A little gratitude goes a long way. The amazing power of gratitude creates the hope and determination necessary to continue to shine, regardless of what challenges invade our serenity.

P.S. There will always be challenges in life (that's a 'given').  Our happiness is not dictated by our problems; but, rather, it's determined by "how" we handle the issues that surface. 

Attitude is a conscious choice and determines what will either emphasize and increase our chaos, or provide acceptance to create manageable solutions.




(These will save your sanity)


Monday, January 24, 2011

The Only Time to be GRATEFUL is NOW

Salvador Dali's Last Painting:
Les Montres Molles, 1968

(One of my favorites)
The Melting Clock
But, I've always called it MELTING TIME

TIME does have a way of MELTING away rapidly without warning.

Just another Something I've Learned in the Past Eleven Days ~~~

I'd like to believe that I never cease to learn life's lessons.  However, as we scurry through our busy daily activities, we often miss some valuable knowledge.  This was so very true for me.  Knowing the importance of slowing down and taking time to "smell the roses", rarely translated into the actual act of successfully even finding the "roses" to smell.

Ah, the twisted irrational perception of TIME.  That which robs us of this one NOW present moment.

Daily responsibilities for years upon years had become such a routine.  With always something to do, commuting to the office, burying myself deep into the work I love, and attempting to squeeze in projects at home on weekends and evenings ~ where was I to discover TIME to enjoy the little joys of life?

Time ..........................
......... often represented by a clock

An interesting word .............................
(most words are interesting, if ya think about it)
... "the system of those sequential relations that any event has to any other, as past, present, or future; indefinite and continuous duration regarded as that in which events succeed one another."

Although this is only one small piece of the definition of TIME, it seems appropriate for this blog.

As a child, I remember waiting and waiting forever and ever, between birthdays and Christmases.  A year seemed like an eternity.  I can still hear Mom's words ringing in my ear:  "Time flies by so much faster as we get older."

Just Mom's wisdom, which I ignored as a child, but now understand completely.

Time is relative. 
Time is our individual personal perception.

Time, in reality, should not be judged by a clock (in my opinion, from what I've recently discovered).

However, we become so caught up in schedules, appointments and duties, that we allow that object with numbers from one to twelve, to dictate our lives.

To a certain degree, this type of TIME is a part of the reality.  But, I've learned that it's not necessary to become a prisoner to that TIME.

I truly thought I knew the value of TIME.  I sincerely believed I was living in each NOW present moment.  I'm convinced I have known the importance of this.  But, as we all do, I've allowed the busy-ness of life to interfere. 

The recent discovery of my new health problem has opened my eyes to my own mortality.  Even after having other awakening experiences in the past, my life continued, with the knowledge, but without applying what I've known.

Although not what I'd elect for my life right now, my recent health issue has provided me TIME -
TIME to relax
TIME to heal
TIME to observe
TIME to reflect
TIME to pray
TIME to meditate

TIME to open my eyes to the little joys that surround us daily.

A short walk around my backyard gives me so much pleasure now.

Taking the TIME to actually view a beautiful sunset, is so rewarding.  Sure, I notice sunsets, but have I really taken the TIME to look at them and actually see the beauty in them?  I thought I did, until today.

I believe the universe has given me a great gift, during this time of being forced to slow down to heal.  While, what initially seemed like, being "stuck" in a vacuum of boredom, I've suddenly become aware of this wonderful opportunity that I've been granted.

Instead of pondering the past
Instead of wondering what's yet to come
I'm utilizing this time to simply "be" in each "now" present moment; and to discover the little joys, which are so often overlooked.

Again, as always I'm counting my blessings.  The difference from before, is that now I'm really taking time to "smell those roses". 

I'm thoroughly GRATEFUL for this recent revelation, to discover these "little" things; which, in reality, are actually very "huge" things.

I'm very GRATEFUL for TIME - for each precious moment of TIME, and for realizing the best ways to use it.

In love and gratitude,