Nice & Easy Does It

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What a hoot watching ducks walk on ice. It seems like certain conditions call for adaptations from all of us. Even funnier was watching birds fly in for a landing on ice. All things considered, a graceful slide while remaining on his feet (although the tail does seem to be dragging).

MSU Bird Sanctuary 078-2 I am so thankful for the two times I have been able to get out with camera in hand and the companionship of friend Julie. When in Florida, I forget how hard the cold weather is on my body and the grey sky is on my morale. I know what I need to do to keep pain and fatigue at manageable levels but there are still times when I do everything right and still have a bad body day.

Yesterday was one of those days when my firm footing became precarious. I don’t know why – maybe just a change in atmospheric pressure. Every cell of my body hurt at some point and my attitude was shameful. I was irritable with a friend who called to invite us to supper later in the week: speak of biting the hand that feeds me. JB could see I was having trouble, even before I started crying. He tried to hold me but I wouldn’t let him because it hurt, both physically and emotionally. Usually bad body days aren’t accompanied by a bad attitude – I just use those days as rest days finding quiet things to do while sitting in my favorite chair.

This morning I woke up refreshed, body feeling relatively good, and my mind sharp and happy. I was active today, being sure to allow time for periodic rests. And I’ve decided to give myself an early Christmas present (besides the new CD player I ordered). I have decided that every day doesn’t have to be an isn’t-life-great day where I am joyful and thankful. In my heart I am full of joy and gratitude, but there are days when the ice is just too slippery and I fall on my tush. I refuse to be grateful for my really bad body days. I’m going to grumble a lot and do what I need to do to make the next day better.

That decision feels really good – and everyone else is just going to have to deal with it. That is what I do best – just dealing with it. And on this good day I’m sending all of you peace, love, joy, and lots of hugs. And maybe there is a special gift you need to give yourself.

Gentle Day Roses

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I’m in a gentle frame of mind – not wanting to think too much and not wanting to do too much. It is a beautiful day with clear blue sky, warm sun, low temperature, low humidity. Perfect for getting lots of things done but I need to be still and quiet.

I am loosing weight which isn’t easy for me because exercise is very difficult. It doesn’t take much exertion to create pain in my muscles for a couple of days but I also need to exercise to help my central nervous system respond appropriately to pain signals and keep my muscles conditioned. In those first few years it felt like I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. I’ve learned to live with it, most of the time, and am continually looking for the “sweet spot of perfect exertion.” Is that a song title that would sell?

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One of the characteristics of fibromyalgia is pain amplification – they have done some really interesting studies measuring how much pressure on the thumb nail it takes to create pain in “normal” people and people with FM. Pain is subjective but they made it objective by watching the pain centers of the brain flash on. It helped me to know that my brain really does get very active with just a small amount of stimulus – and when people without this CNS disorder are given thumb pressure to make their brains light up as much, they said ouch! I no longer feel like a wimp after reading this research report.

So, what does that have to do with my gentle day roses? Yesterday I got really discouraged; I’m-going-to-eat-worms-and-die-then-you-will-be-sorry discouraged. I beat myself up pretty badly because I couldn’t do my weight loss program the way it should be done. I didn’t lose 3 jean sizes in a month type of discouraged. I can’t do this discouraged.

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I don’t stay in these moods long because they aren’t fun. I move pretty quickly into problem-solving mode so after I shed a few tears I thought about why it wasn’t working and how I could make it work. I worked out a new plan and today I met with my coach and she thinks I have a good plan – at least for this week. That’s all I need is a plan for this week – then I can evaluate and create a new plan for the next week if I need to.

I needed to post these roses as a gift to me. They are for my courage when I know what I am trying to do is going to make me hurt but I do it anyway because it is good for me. They are for my eagerness to see beyond my stuckness to find ways to make my life better and help me meet my goals. They are for my tenacity to stick with a decision even when I get tired and discouraged and question whether I can really do it. They are for my willingness to see the funny side of life that helps me connect with others and draw others into wanting to help me when I need them.

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These are the perfect kind of roses to meet my gentle day needs. They hold the memory of the joy of photographing them at the garden center, I had the fun of processing them to learn how beautifully my 50mm lens does depth of field, and best of all I can share them with you if you are needing a gentle kind of day when some roses would sooth your spirit and reward your inner strength.

Please enjoy and consider them my blessing sent to you.


Nostalgia for Great Britain

I just checked out the blog “breathofgreenair” where Seonaid takes us on a tour of her neighborhood – Edinburgh. She did such a great job and it made me all nostalgic. One of the things that I lost when I developed symptoms of Fibromyalgia was taking students on three-week culture trips to England, Scotland, and Ireland. I think my memories and nostalgia were also triggered by a post by Megan Sayer on traveling. She is excited about traveling with her family to the US later in the year but also talks about not being able to fulfill this strong desire to travel earlier in her life. Isobel, along with her cat MasterB, lives in London and gives me a regular fix by posting photos and telling us about life in that wonderful city and her trips around UK.

My trips with students were so much work and were so strenuous. I guided students in learning about culture and specifically about the uniqueness of British culture through the study of the major cultural institutions of religion, family, government, economy and history. We rode trains and walked. We stayed in youth hostiles and B&B’s. We lived on the cheap because most students don’t have a lot of money and I wanted to teach them that it is possible to travel light. I also wanted them to learn the joy of becoming engaged in the cultures they visit.

I think I went 6 times. I was engaged. I met so many wonderful people and I walked so many wonderful streets. I miss these experiences so very much. Here is what I wrote in my journal as I was grieving all my many losses.

I love introducing students to travel and expanding their world views, and it is just plain fun to go places as a part of my work. I know I’ll never be able to do England/Scotland again and I grieve this decision. So many things trigger memories. I went enough times that the places we visited and the people I interacted with became “old” friends.

I don’t feel like I had an opportunity to say goodbye so I can relish the memories instead of feeling pain. I miss Bath and can feel myself walking down the hill past the post office toward Bath Abby. I want to sit in the sun in the plaza between the Abby and the Baths to watch the pigeons and the tourists. I want to take the students for tea and scones with clotted cream.

I’ll never go to Avebury to walk around the stone monuments, walk the streets of Lacock, or buy greeting cards in the gift shop in Castle Combe. I miss Edinburgh, even the youth hostel. I can see the buildings of old town as I walk down the Royal Mile past St. Giles Kirk (without stepping on the stone heart that people spit on).

My years of memories blend together so that sights and sounds blend into one wonderful experience. I long for a meal in the Indian restaurant on the Royal Mile where I never know what I’m ordering but always get a wonderful meal. I want to walk down the steep winding streets to the park for a “Mark & Spencers’” take away lunch while I sit on a bench listing to Princess Street traffic while gazing at the “Old Town” skyline. I want to go to the museum one more time and feel my legs burn as I climb all the stairs back up to the castle.

I miss York, too. I won’t ever listen to Rev. Greg Hoyland explain the Church of England ever again and I won’t ever stay at a B&B on the Ouse River. I won’t walk through the park past the ruins to that special place where York Minster looms bigger than life over the busy city street – almost like a time warp. I miss Evensong. I won’t shop the narrow, twisting market streets that I have learned well enough that I almost never get lost. I won’t go for “special coffee” in my favorite pub or have their wonder meals.

And I’ll never stay on the Isle of Skye again. I’ll never experience the absolute quiet of Kyleakin or experience rush hour in Porttree, the main city that doesn’t have enough traffic to warrant stop signs. I’ll never have supper by the harbor with the fishing boats anchored on the still water. I’ll never see the mountains and the sheep, and the cliffs, and the wooly coos, learn Gaelic words, and hear the Gaelic legends. I won’t hear passionate tales about the Scottish clans and climb on castle ruins.

I won’t ride the trains and see the stone wall fences. I won’t walk uphill from the train to our lodging pulling my luggage over cobblestones. 

And I miss London. I miss candle-light concerts and bread pudding at St. Martins in the Field, I miss Leicester Square, Parliament and Big Ben, Sunday worship in St. Pauls, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden in the evening, hearing “Mind the Gap”. I miss the English breakfast and the warm hello I received from the Valodes every morning. 

I miss going to Oxford and Cambridge and Windsor. What wonderful experiences, what wonderful memories. I cry because I will never go back. I didn’t say goodbye when I was last there. 

I still feel the pain in this journal entry deep in my heart. Maybe there is some pain that never heals. I can live with the loss because I am so glad I had these experiences.

Starting Over

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Wake up Lazy Cat

I think I have to admit that I’m a lazy person. I haven’t always been like this – I worked really hard in my younger days. I accomplished a lot when I was working, building an academic program into a large, respected and accredited educational major. I, along with my wonderful husband, raised three children adults and I earned several university degrees while doing this. But now I feel lazy and this is tearing me apart and tearing me up.

I retired three years ago and life has changed a lot. As I wrote elsewhere, I didn’t want to retire but had to because of low energy and chronic pain, and I’ve come to terms with that. I am very happy being retired and don’t have any desire to work except for doing a little contract work here and there – and my desire for this is diminishing. I’m very selective. But I can’t shake the feeling that my life lacks meaning.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. (J.R.R. Tolkien)

This was a recent Goodreads’ quote of the day and it speaks to my discontent. The one that says, “What is the purpose of my life… now?” My faith in God has been central in my life for a long, long time and while I was working I looked to God for guidance – I still do. I believed that God’s purpose for my life was to give students a quality education, especially students who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to get one and who want to make the world a better place. I looked to God to give me what I needed to make it through each day and to do right – I still look to God but I don’t know what to do that is good and useful and right. I still want to make the world a better place, but…

I had a conversation with friend Kerry, back when I was unhappy about having to retire and he was oh-so-ready. I explained that for me, doing so many of the things people like to do when they retire, like day trips and volunteering, were very difficult. If I had the energy to do those things, I would still be working. I have active days that are happy days but I have to plan on the following day being very quiet and, well, lazy.

Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth. (Alan Wilson Watts)

I’ve been trying to redefine myself. I have thought about the lack of meaning in my life for close to a year now. I even thought about giving up and just accepting that life is just about living, nothing more. I had one of my eyeball-to-eyeball conversations with God and I think I heard that I am to enjoy life. Maybe I didn’t hear right – maybe it was just my own voice echoing this nonsense. I still believe I have a lot to give but I haven’t found a way to use those talents in a way that is compatible with how I have learned to live with my body and helps me feel useful. I know that I enjoy thinking, teaching, writing, photography, blogging – all things I have been doing. My interaction with all of you has brought me great joy – but can I find meaning? Is it enough to bring pleasure to people as I share my neighborhoods and travel experiences with you?

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I really have a lot of fun posting photography because it is popular and gets a lot of traffic, especially through the challenges that I participate in. I admit that it is rewarding to see the “likes” add up and to read your comments. I think, however, I need to balance this form of “instant gratification” with some posts that involve writing. I know a lot about the human experience. I have written a few posts on my experience with chronic pain and finding a new way of living – like this post. These posts receive fewer “likes” but also seem to touch those few of you more deeply.

I think I can find meaning in sharing my perspective on life’s joys and challenges as I am starting anew each day. I can draw on my professional wisdom to write about my todays that build on the best and worst of my past. I wrote previously that I remember my past but live each day as a new day. You know, that is what we do every day of our life. We start over, we start anew. And maybe, just maybe, what I have to say about my “new-day-built-upon-yesterdays” will resonate with what you have to say and we will build a dialogue. There, that feels good!

What about the lazy part? Well, this post has been bouncing around in my brain for a couple of weeks but I had been too lazy to put forth the effort to write it. Writing in a way that is clear and concise and engaging is really, really hard. But I am feeling really fulfilled now that I am putting the finishing touches on this post. God never told me life would be easy but maybe she was right – that I am just supposed to enjoy life at this phase of my life-cycle. This means that maybe I can make a difference through my blogging if I am willing to do the hard work that brings joy to my life. I can start over – while building on my yesterdays.

The “Daily Post Challenge – Starting Over” was what got me off my rear end to write this post. You can find out more about it and join the fun by clicking here.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Thankful

This morning Jim and I put up our first winter wreath for Christmas. I am so thankful for a new day to share with this wonderful person. We brought home two grand-daughters last night – a serendipitous event and I am enjoying their giggles and chatter. It turned really cold and it is snowing and that always excites me this time of year (snow more than cold – but they do go together). We have lost so many friends and family so we know how precarious life can be. Consequently I rejoice that I am watching one more snowfall – I hope it is a big one. I’m thankful that I was able to do exercise today that I almost enjoy, keeping my mind and body healthy.

Every so often I stop and smile as I remember all the fun we had at our family gathering yesterday. Not everyone was able to make it – one daughter is at her new job in Texas and our two grandsons had other plans. Also Hebah and Natashia weren’t there. We missed them but Marv cooked a wonderful meal (Thanks Marv) and there were a lot of hugs and laughter and leftovers. What joy. Tonight I am planning left-over turkey for supper.

If you want to share what you are thankful for and see other posts, go to