Against All Odds…It Waits For Us

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Always waiting to inspire…

Available for free for anyone brave enough to grab it…

An endless source of positive energy…

A place for faith when outcomes are unknown…

An expectation that things will work out in our favor…

A feeling of optimism…

A type of confidence that things are as they should and will be…

A choice…

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Weapons Of War

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Every day that I live and breath, I fight an invisible battle with my chronic condition. Most of the time this is an invisible battle but make no mistake, it rages inside of me assaulting me without mercy some days and planning its next attack others.

While its weapons might be all manner of relentless pain, I am not powerless. I have my own ammunition and I am willing to fight. I eagerly engage in battle daily because even though my life is forever altered by this disease, I will never wave the white flag surrendering my quality of life.

My arsenal is vast.

I stare down my enemy with the power of acceptance. I evade its advance by taking my medications as prescribed. I dodge its attack by eating a healthy diet and exercising even as my legs cramp and my lungs burn for air. I prepare for its advance by getting enough sleep and rest when fatigue charges at me.

My secret weapon against this enemy is the illusion of disguise. I fool my disease by looking good even when I feel lousy. I avoid sweatpants, wear makeup and do my hair.

When the enemy begins to gain the upper hand, I change my attitude. I write a gratitude list and suddenly the tables turn.

This may be a war and I don’t know who will win in the long run but hope is a strong ally of mine and joins the battle when my reserves are low.

In fact, I have many allies in this combat: love, perspective, appreciation, awareness, happiness and peace. All of them help me beat back my enemy as we take the fight to the front lines.

I am not willing to concede. I will hold my position and I will rework my battle plans in order to keep my enemy at bay.

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Reissuing “The 100 Challenge”

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In the spirit of the season, a time to acknowledge our blessings, I am reissuing “The 100 Challenge” which I encouraged folks to take part in a few days ago.

(https://sarcoidsoldier.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/the-100-challenge/)

And to prove there is never a shortage of things to give thanks for, I will create a new list of 100 things in my own life that I am grateful for, bring me joy or make me happy.

1) The excitement of possibly breeding our puppy

2) Interesting TED Talks

3) Waking from a really good nights sleep free of muscle cramps

4) The first light of day

5) Cheating my vegan diet with a McDonald’s hot fudge sunday

6) Trips to NYC

7) An upcoming visit from my step father

8) Peanut butter

9) Breakfast in bed

10) Scarfs

11) Low fatigue days

12) Really good quotes

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13) Being able to keep my house plants alive

14) Playing in a pile of recently raked leaves

15) The taste of really good homemade pasta sauce

16) Memories of my mother

17) The smile on my husband’s face when his beloved Chicago Blackhawks win a hockey game

18) Springbox jigsaw puzzles

19) Trying to look my best even when I don’t feel well

20) Playing euchre

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21) Drinking a cold glass of orange juice every morning

22) Having a working refrigerator

23) Electricity

24) New hobbies

25) Being able to connect with other people who suffer with the same disease I have – especially my friends Betty and Kelly

26) Good neighbors

27) Hearing the garage door open knowing my husband has come home from work

28) The Law and Order Franchise

29) Ear plugs so I don’t have to listen to my husband snore at night

30) Independent Films

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31) Days I only use my rescue inhaler once

32) The view from the Washington Monument

33) The DC Monuments lite up at night

35) The National Mall at Christmas time

36) Making smart decisions

37) Being spontaneous

38) A freshly made bed

39) Making vegetarian stew in my slow cooker

40) That feeling of relief when my husband comes home from a business trip

41) Crossword puzzles

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42) The beauty of the Savannah River rapids

43) A quiet mind

44) Moments free of worry

45) The smell of freshly baked goods

46) The change of seasons

47) Watching my puppy chase the vacuum cleaner…hilarious

48) Being in historical places

49) The way a fresh pair of jeans fit perfectly when you first put them on

50) Bunny rabbits in my backyard

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51) Looking for alligators on Hilton Head Island

52) Visiting beautiful old European cities

54) Having a sheepdog curled up on my feet when I sit on the couch

55) Clean teeth

56) Taking time to be grateful every day

57) Knowing when things are tough…they could always be worse

58) Ken Burns documentaries

59) Good surprises

60) Fluffy pillows

61) People who dedicate their lives to saving our planet…especially those who work with endangered animals

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62) NPR News

63) PBS documentary programs like Frontline and American Experience

64) A really good salad

65) The taste of a crisp sweet apple

66) Remembering to have a sense of humor about myself

67) Knowing when I am having a bad day that I can start over

69) Knowing that love DOES mean having to say you’re sorry sometimes

70) The art of compromise

71) The way ginger ale quiets my frequently upset tummy

72) Never losing hope that one day I will be able to get off my current medications or at least some of them

73) Forging a new life for myself despite now being chronically ill

74) Watching “When Harry Met Sally” every Christmas season with my husband

75) Christmas Carols

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76) An organized closet

77) Brooms…no wait…the Swiffer!

78) Boots

79) Petting zoos

80) Donkeys

81) The fact that my mother and step father provided me a stable home in which to grow up

82) The wisdom that comes with aging

83) The way my dogs can actually tell time with their stomachs (They never fail to let me know when it’s meal time and they are usually right….give or take 30 minutes)

84) Tree sloth…how does nature create one of these? So cool!

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85) That I only have to think of 15 more things to be grateful for or happy about on this list

86) Black beans and rice

87) Anticipation of good things to come

88) Memories of spending time with my family on Keuka Lake

89) Watching the Grand Slams (Tennis)

90) Learning to have a better perspective on what is important and what isn’t

91) The Declaration of Independence and The Gettsyburg Address

92) The sound of the frogs in our backyard in summertime

93) Sea horses

94) Actually having a good idea for a blog

95) The fact that my dogs make a lot of people smile

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96) Knowing every day is a new adventure

97) Being happy spending a quiet night at home

98) Dancing to a really fun song

99) Kindness in all its forms

100) Grace and mercy for everyone

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Realism

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Realism is the art of practicing acceptance. Realism is understanding the hand you’ve been dealt and preparing yourself accordingly.

Realism means learning to live with the situation presented to you in the best way that you can.

Being realistic about my disease does not mean I am hopeless. It does not mean that I don’t try to stay positive day by day. Having a chronic condition is simply part of my reality.

Facing the reality of my disease does not mean I am being hard on myself or dislike myself. Facing the reality of my disease is practical and it helps me cope with the daily challenges of living with compromised lung function and complex side effects from my medications.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in the power of prayer and it doesn’t mean I don’t believe thinking in positive ways is not of benefit.

Being realistic is not mutually exclusive from hoping for something better.

The benefit of realism is that it helps me manage expectations which is a very important part of living with a chronic disease. Managed expectations affords me a peace I would not otherwise have and would not be attainable if I failed to accept my current circumstances.

Realism can live quite compatibly in the same world as hope, faith, desire and positivity.

I can be realistic about my disease and still have faith. I can be realistic about my disease and still wish for more for myself. I can be realistic about my disease and still feel joy.

So don’t mistake realism for unhappiness. Realism is just putting common sense to good use. Realism is honesty. Realism is authentic.

No one knows what tomorrow will bring but even though I am realistic that today may be difficult, I always hope tomorrow will be better and you know what…sometimes it is!

 

Visiting Lincoln And Lessons From A Flat Tire

Spontaneity is fun most of the time. And even when more than the unexpected happens it can still provide us with great life lessons, if we look for them.

My husband and I have been visiting his family in Muncie, IN this week. Every time we come here we think about going to Springfield, IL to visit the Lincoln museum, home and grave site. It’s only a few hours from Muncie.

This visit, we decided to throw caution to the wind and off we went. We got a hotel room and even left the dogs behind so it was like leaving the kids with a sitter. It was a real date night! YAY!

It took us about four hours to get there in the pouring rain. It was cold and damp. There was a lot of construction which slowed us down. It was not that fun a drive especially after we had driven 11 hours to get to Muncie a few days prior anyway. A lot of time in the car! My husband had a headache and I was, as usual, not feeling well at all. But we trudged our way there.

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Once we arrived at the museum, we both relaxed a little and things become more interesting. I even had my picture taken with the Lincoln family. I am apparently a little under dressed for the occasion!

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We really enjoyed the museum. It was well done. There was one exhibit that I found particularly moving. It was a restoration of what the state house in Springfield would have looked like when Lincoln was laying in state there. It’s hard to describe how it made me feel but I got teary eyed and walking through that exhibit I truly felt the impact of his life and his death on all of us…on our nation and what one man accomplished to keep us whole.

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After the museum, we went to his home in Springfield. It was very engaging to be in the home of such greatness and see such ordinary living all at the same time. I could really feel Mr. Lincoln at his desk in his bedroom reading and writing letters.

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After the museum and the family home, we went to get something to eat and eventually found our hotel. Neither our car’s GPS or the phone’s GPS could find it. We ended up taking quite a lengthy tour of Springfield until one of us finally relented and called the hotel for directions.

Oh wait…before we went to the hotel, we did make a quick pit stop to Wal-mart for some much needed snacks for the evening! Twizzlers, dark chocolate bars, trail mix. Yum! Then finally arriving at the hotel, dog free (yippie), cold, damp and wet, we settled in and with our tummies full of junk food we had ourselves a warm and good night’s sleep.

The next morning we went to Lincoln’s Tomb.

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I had hoped for a somber moment with our 16th president. One quiet moment to thank him and appreciate him and give him my respect. Unfortunately, there were school children everywhere and it was not at all quiet nor was there an opportunity for a moment to give my personal thanks for his nearly unimaginable contribution to history and to our nation.

So we didn’t stay long and I was able to snap this picture by nudging my way through a throng of pimply teenagers all standing around staring at their cell phone screens instead of appreciating where they were and the magnitude of this man’s impact on all of us. What is it they say…”youth wasted on the young!”

Anyway, after this less than worthwhile experience, we decided to head home. We were not ten minutes away from the grave site with a four hour drive ahead of us when suddenly we heard a thundering noise under the car and my husband, who was driving, let out a string of concerned words. We pulled over and sure enough…a flat tire.

Expertly, my husband pulled out the spare, jacked up the car and changed the tire. But it wasn’t just the tire that had been damaged. The wheel also had a huge gash in it. So, while the spare would get us back to Muncie, we needed to get a new tire and a new wheel.

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Thank goodness for smart phones. We spent the better part of the first hour of the ride back to Muncie calling tire places and junk yards and dealerships to find a wheel and a tire. Eventually we found a place that had a wheel that could be ordered for next day delivery and we also found a place that had the right tire.

So, our trip is being extended by a day or so to get all this taken care of.

But as I think about this experience, I realize that there are lessons from this flat tire and our visit to honor Lincoln. We could look at the flat tire like it was all a huge hassle and how unfair it was that this happened to us. Or we can look at it another way.

No one got hurt. We got all the parts we needed to fix the car. We can afford to fix the car. We get to visit with family for an extra day. It’s just a car. Getting the car fixed properly will allow us to travel home safely even if a day later than expected.

And after visiting Lincoln, you realize that a flat tire is nothing compared to what people endured during his presidency. Millions of people died, millions of families destroyed. People enslaved. A nation was divided.

We just had a flat tire and while it was annoying.. it is nothing. Truly nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Once again there is a lesson here in the importance of perspective. These lessons seem to be everywhere.

And Lincoln continues to teach us important life lessons.

Excuses…Blah,Blah,Blah

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There are thousands of them, aren’t there for not doing what we should or for not being our best self? There always seems to be a reason to justify not doing something or for not taking care of ourselves

I happen to have a ready made excuse. I have sarcoidosis, a chronic and painful disease that makes breathing very difficult for me.

But I also have a choice and here is what I have learned about excuses.

I can use my disease as an excuse to lay in the bed all day feeling sorry for myself making the pain worse and feeding an isolating depression.

Or I can decide to take care of myself, push through the pain and live my life as normally as I can. Every day I get up and have to make that choice one day at a time.

Most days, I think I chose well because I chose life. I plop my aching tired feet on the floor and stand on my shaky pathetic legs and I decide that I will not let this disease be my excuse to give in, let go or give up.

Once the choice is made, the rest of the day falls into place. I am up. I am out of bed. I am showered and I am among the living. I feel human and I feel buoyant like simply making the decision to be my best self has made me lighter. I am freed of the burden of the emotional drudgery that would otherwise weigh me down if I had made that other choice.

I don’t have be a person stuck in the misery that is my disease. And I won’t be.

This is not to say that I don’t have bad days. Of course I do. I have stay in bed days. I have down days. But I don’t wallow in them. I accept them as part of having this disease, get through them and focus on tomorrow being a new day…fresh and full of possibilities.

Why people reveal in the pain of their misery is a huge mystery to me. Why any person would chose to be a victim when enough bad stuff out of our control already happens to us, is mind boggling. Why someone chooses to lose themselves in their problems instead of seeking to grow from them makes no earthly sense to me but then I didn’t learn these lessons the easy way myself so perhaps I should not judge.

I believe it was George Washington who said something to the effect of “better to have no excuse at all than a bad one.” I think excuses are always bad. They are in their own way lies.

If we don’t do something that we should because we don’t want to…that’s the reason…plan and simple, isn’t it? Attaching some additional justification to it does not negate that we failed to do the thing that we should have.

Excuses are shields we use to hide from the truth. If we fail to do something, perhaps it is because we lacked the will or worse yet, we were lazy. Well, who wants to admit being lazy?

Living an excuse free life takes discipline. It takes a moral integrity difficult to reach. It takes an honesty that is hard to come by. In many cases it takes being strong enough to make the harder choice.

So I won’t use my disease as an excuse not to take care of myself and I certainly won’t use it as an excuse to justify bad decisions. I won’t use it as an excuse to lash out at others and I won’t use it as an excuse to retreat and isolate.

But perhaps most importantly, I won’t use my disease as an excuse not to try to act with integrity. I won’t use my disease as an excuse to lie to myself or anyone else.

Instead I will be strong, despite or perhaps because of my disease, and I will strive to live an excuse free life.

We Are Who We Decide To Be

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Recently someone shared this quote with me:

“I am not a product of my circumstances, I am a product of my decisions.”

– Steven Covey

It has been rolling around in my head ever since. I like this quote a lot as it gives us no opportunity to use our circumstances as a reason to be stuck in unhealthy situations or to justify negative behavior toward others. It takes away our excuse to be neglectful and holds us accountable.

Being a chronically ill person is one of the circumstances of my life. Only one circumstance. It does not define me and I can decide not to use it as an excuse to justify unhappiness, nastiness, laziness or negativity.

A lot of times I do not feel physically well. I am short of breath. My joints hurt. I am foggy headed from the medicine I take for my sarcoidosis. I get fevers and my bones often hurt. My legs muscles are weak so I am prone to falls. Having gotten this disease has changed my life. There is no way around that.

It is part of my life now and I must learn to accept it and to cope with it. I have the ability to use it as an excuse to sit on the couch and dwell feeling sorry for myself. Or, I can decide to do whatever it takes to do my part to minimize the effects it has on my life. I chose the later. I chose to take care of myself and I chose to eat right, exercise, manage my stress, get enough sleep and take inventory of my behavior on a daily basis.

Having a chronic disease that creates its fair share of challenges does not give me a free pass to act like I was dealt an unfair hand and it does not justify my lashing out at others.

Lately the idea of excuses vs. explanations has also been rolling around in my head and this quote speaks perfectly to the challenges of not using excuses to justify unhappiness or negative behavior toward others.

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If I am a product of my decisions rather than my circumstances than I am always responsible for my behavior regardless of my circumstances. There is freedom in this concept but it also requires personal responsibility. So if I am having a bad day from my disease, I have a chose. I can lash out at others and be unhappy or I can try to do the things I need to do to minimize the symptoms of my disease.

I do not have a right to take out my pain on others. And I do not have a right to use that pain as an excuse to act in ways that are counter productive to my emotional well being and my physical health.

If I use my circumstances as an excuse to lash out or not take care of myself, then I have no one to blame for the outcome of this behavior other than myself. And I will live a lonely unhappy life.

The fact that we are actually products of our decisions rather than our circumstances gives us far more control over our lives than if we allow circumstances to turn us into victims.

Circumstances may sometimes explain our behavior but they never justify bad behavior on our part. They are never an excuse to hurt people or ourselves.

I may have an illness that has effected my life but it’s my decision how to handle it. And I don’t want to be a victim of it. I am not a victim of it. I will not allow it to define me. I will not allow it to justify being stuck in unhealthy places in my life.

The decisions I make every day about how to live with my disease are what define me…not the disease itself. So I chose positive decisions.

I chose physical activity despite pain.

I chose eating a healthy diet.

I chose to reach out to others instead of self isolation.

I chose joy over self pity.

I chose personal responsibility over excuses.

I chose kindness despite discomfort.

I chose living over existing.

I chose happiness over a constant need to be right.

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