Health & Wellness

A Dose of Serenity

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This quote is speaking to me BIG time!

You know how when you need to learn a specific lesson, and you’re open to learning that specific lesson, input regarding that specific lesson starts coming at you from all directions? Maybe that’s just me, and if it is, I’m okay with that. The lesson I have had to learn as of late is that control is fleeting, and for the most part, non-existent.

We have so little control over most matters, it’s best to only spend energy on that which we can control.

Being out of control really hit me hard when the pandemic first took off because there was so much uncertainty and very little information-stability. But my extraordinary husband and I came to the place of acknowledging that all we were in control of was how we handled our little corner of the world to keep us, and the rest of our family, safe. Fortunately, keeping our circle of family safe also keeps the rest of those with whom we come in contact, safe. A win-win situation.

In my corner of the world, health challenges (nothing serious, yet prevalent) seem to be bombarding me – disrupting my peace, displacing my calm, and spinning me into a mental health spiral. And keep in mind, mental health is health, so there is no separating the physical from the emotional.

I am doing what I can control: addressing my mental health which – quite naturally – positively affects my physical health because…

MENTAL HEALTH IS HEALTH

I would like to say, however, that wanting to fix others’ problems denotes a certain amount of caring – a lot of caring – for those with whom I entangle myself. But one thing I’ve learned the past two years is that I have to love myself first and foremost before I can spread love towards others. When I exhibit self-compassion, I gird my heart, my mind, and my body with the resources they need to flourish going forward. And yay, that means I’m more available for others!! Another win-win situation!

And one step at a time isn’t just recommended, it’s required. I leave you with this:

 

 

Alzheimer’s: am I next?

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Your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia and as their biological child you wonder, “Will that be my fate?”

In 2019, an article of mine, Me Worry? Not on your Life was published on the CogniHealth website, a company that in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland, developed a caregiver aid for those – especially family members – providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. (Please note that the linked post references an extraordinary non-profit that I am still a part of but no longer serve in a managerial capacity, having retired from doing so.)

I chose the topic of whether or not dementia might be passed along to biological family members because as a daughter who witnessed the decline of her father as a result of dementia, I certainly had an opinion on the matter. Does one need to worry their entire life about the chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease?

I hope you will read my article that while transparent and painfully clear, also provides many rays of hope and encouragement for those in similar circumstances.

At the very least, I am certain you will come away with a clearer understanding of how little value worry contributes to ones’ life.

Our life: an ongoing parade

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Here I go again, relying on Dr. Bernie S. Siegel to provide some wisdom for your day, but what can I say, his 365 Prescriptions for the Soul catches my attention more often than not and when it does, I like to share the good stuff I find.  The following is provided verbatim:

Parade of Life

Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you are going to do now, and do it. – William Durant

oktoberfest-819706_640Life is a parade. Sometimes we march along and realize we have passed by what we were looking for. What do we do? Stand there and drop out of the parade? March on with regrets? Feel bad about how we looked or that everything we wanted was on the wrong side of the street? It’s passed! Forget it and march on!

Sometimes our parade isn’t so pretty, and the crowd isn’t interested in us. If we drag everything we have passed with us, we will destroy the present. We have no future when we live in the past.

We even talk about past lives. Whether you believe in them or not, the same principle applies. If you are living a past life, you are destroying your present one. In therapy, people come to understand why they are acting the way they are and how the past is affecting them. They learn to let go, move on, and not sit in the same classroom year after year. They graduate and commence a new life.

To conclude, I, Irene Frances Olson, have this to say about Dr. Siegel’s comments:

The good news is that we can learn from our past, both the good and the bad, but if we stay cemented in the past and don’t move on? That parade Dr. Siegel talks about?  It’ll pass us by.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get left behind.

Solo Caregiving

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My recent post, Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport assumes the person providing care for a loved one has a wealth of family members upon which to draw for support. When that is not the case, it can be difficult – but not impossible – to find willing team members to provide that support. This article provides advice to the solo caregiver and his/her friends, business associates, neighbors, and community contacts.

THIS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING INFORMATIONAL POST, BUT IT IS A START.

CAREGIVER: BE BOLD – ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.

Those people with whom you have contact probably know that you’re the only one carrying the ball when it comes to caregiving but they can’t possibly understand the degree of difficulty you are experiencing. Assuming that to be the case, your friends, business associates, and neighbors may not feel the need to reach out to you with assistance. Now is the time to be very transparent with them and tell them what you need. Easier said than done, I know, but a challenge worth pursuing. Here’s just one suggestion – one that could provide respite and community support.

DINING ALONE IS A DRAG – NOW’S THE TIME TO ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT

If you are able to leave the house for a meal, there is no shame in inviting yourself to dinner. If these are true friends/acquaintances of yours, they will welcome you into their home. Once you’ve invited yourself a couple times, true friends and valuable neighbors will start to invite you into their dining room on an ongoing basis. Besides, they’ve probably been wondering what they could possibly do to help you out in your situation and you’ve just presented a very easy way for them to do so. Heck – they’re going to cook dinner for themselves anyway; one or two extra people aren’t going to throw a huge wrench into their meal plans.

!!!ATTENTION WELL-MEANING FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS!!!

I think the rule of thumb in these situations is to assume that your solo caregiver friend needs a hand with something, so ask him what he needs. Let’s look at the difference between the following offers of assistance.

  1. Hey Sam, call me if you ever need some help.
  2. Hey Sam, could you use a little extra help around the garden? I’m all caught up with my yard work and would like to help you in any way I can.
  3. Hey Sam, we always cook for a crowd and always have some leftovers. I’d like to give you some leftovers in disposable containers that you can freeze and use any time you don’t feel like cooking for yourself. (Especially needed for the caregiver not at liberty to leave their loved one alone.)

In the 1st example, you’re leaving it up to Sam to feel comfortable enough to inconvenience you (in his mind) with a request for help. I know I’m being somewhat judgmental when I say the following, but I’m gonna say it anyway: The first example of help is an empty offer – an offer that doesn’t carry much weight. Why? It comes across as an expected social comment without any true meat on its bones. You’re basically doing the minimal amount of due diligence while forcing the caregiver to ask for help. In the 2nd and 3rd examples, you’ve given Sam an offer of tangible, definable assistance that shows that you really mean it when you say you’re willing to help out.  If neither of those offers fit within Sam’s current needs, you’re still making it easier for him to ask for help with something else: “Wow Larry, thanks so much for your offers but what I could really use is help figuring out the health insurance issues that have kept me awake at night. Can you come over for a cup of coffee, and between the two of us, maybe we can make some sense of this mess in which I find myself.”

Friends, work associates and neighbors – your solo caregiver friend needs help and you could be just the right person with the skill that he needs. Some day you may find yourself in a similar situation and will know first hand how difficult it is to be a solo caregiver. If it takes a village to raise a child, it must take at least that to help someone with the burden of being a solo caregiver.

Life Happens

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We all have a strong preference that life should be easy, comfortable, and pain-free, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with life when it isn’t those things. It’s just life and it’s not how you would prefer it to be, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with it. – Constance Waverly, WaverlyRadio podcast #132

I imagine we all would prefer to live a life of health, happiness, and success (however success may be defined but certainly not limited to financial prosperity). With those three preferences met, life would be a carefree and joyful experience. Given the complexities of life, however, we are guaranteed a certain degree of physical pain, emotional heartache, want, and for some, absolute devastation.

Even an innocent newborn baby immediately discovers that his existence on this earth is anything but 100% delightful. He can’t define what that means when he’s a minute old, but he certainly feels it.

We tend to wonder why good things “always” seem to happen to bad people – an inaccurate thought, nevertheless it’s one that we entertain from time to time – but those of us who endeavor to do no harm aren’t blessed with easy, comfortable, and pain-free lives.

I don’t have the answer to that question but I do have an answer: our assumptions about others are just make believe because we have no way of knowing what is actually going on in their lives. A person’s outward show of perfection, boundless happiness, and ease is just that: their outward public mask that very well may hide an entirely different one worn in private. Let’s face it, no one can be ecstatically happy and fulfilled 365 days of the year – or even 24 hours a day, or dare I say, a mere 60 seconds at a time – so why is it that we assume others have mastered that very impossibility?

Part of what I’ve learned in my almost seventy years is that what matters most is how we live in the present, regardless of whether or not that present pleases us. Living in the moment, accepting that moment as our life’s current state of being without pushing back against it can be far more fruitful and enjoyable than the alternative: anger, complaints, and hatred. For example, Ariel and Shya Kane, in their book Practical Enlightenment, point out very clearly that getting angry does nothing toward changing ones current situation. Case in point: you’re running late for work in disastrous traffic. You pound the steering wheel, honk your horn, and yell at the other commuters and what do you know? Your situation hasn’t changed but you’ve become your own worst enemy because your previous misery has been considerably compounded by your fruitless actions.

  • Traffic doesn’t happen to us, it just happens.
  • A rent increase wasn’t directed at us personally, it was simply a business decision made by the landlord.
  • Long lines in the grocery store didn’t occur to inconvenience us; quite simply, like us, other people decided to shop at the same time.
  • Coming down with the flu a day after a person arrives in Hawaii for the vacation of a lifetime wasn’t preventable; germs are everywhere and will do their thing at any time and any place. Even though it sucks that the germs manifested themselves just as the vacationer was heading to the beach, please know he’s not being punished for trying to have a good time.

All the wishing in the world won’t change our current reality because anything we could have done in the past is over and done with. Anything we could possibly do in the future hasn’t yet happened, so we should give it up and just be where and when we are right now.

Piero Ferrucci had this to say about the illusion of being in control when his preferences weren’t met during a vital point in his life:

The outside world did not adapt to me: More simply and practically, it is I who must adapt to what is happening moment to moment. The Power of Kindness.

 

Deathbed promises and how to fulfill them

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Here’s a post from the past that draws lots of attention. Bringing it into the present today.

First of all – take a deep breath and shed the mantle of guilt you’re wearing.  Now let’s address your dilemma.

When your father was on his deathbed you made a promise to take care of your mother in her old age. Now she is at the point of not being able to care for herself and you realize that you’re absolutely not cut out for – nor are you capable of – taking her under your roof to provide the care that she needs. What’s a dutiful son or daughter to do?

I’m not advocating that you break your promise to your father but I am suggesting that you consider redefining what that promise looks like. You promised your father that you would take care of your mother and that’s exactly what you’re going to do.  aking care of your mother is not solely defined as moving her into your home and taking care of all her basic needs until she dies. Very few people have the ability or the means to provide 24-hour care in their home. You made that promise with the best intentions and you can still honor your promise without dishonoring your father. Keep in mind that loving your mother doesn’t guarantee your success as her caregiver. Even adult children with a fabulous relationship with their parent struggle greatly in their efforts. And if your relationship with your mother is tenuous at best, try picturing the scenario of you as caregiver and her as recipient of that care. What effect will that have on her, you, and the remainder of your household?

Let’s clarify how best to care for your mother.

Why can’t caring for your mother mean that you’re honest enough to admit that you’re not the best caregiving option? Do your best to find the care alternative that will provide her an optimal quality of life, e.g. adult daycare, errand and housekeeping services, assisted living. Do the research and consult the experts to confidently fulfill your promise to your father by securing the best care solution for your mother. If that solution involves selecting an assisted living facility, there are many resources available to you that can make this move a successful one for everyone involved. As her son or daughter you will be able to lovingly help her transition into a residential location with like-minded older adults where she can receive the care that will fulfill the promise you made to your father.

Now imagine the NEW normal that your mother and your family can experience.

Your mother lives nearby in an assisted living residence. She has companions with whom she enjoys spending time. She receives three wholesome meals a day and when she, or you, feel like seeing each other, you’re just a short drive away! The time she spends at your house will be as a pampered visitor – not an inpatient (or impatient) relative. It’s probably difficult right now for you to see this as a viable option, but I think in time, you’ll find that everyone, including your father, will be pleased with the outcome.

Here are some links to get you started on your quest: www.alz.org; www.caregiver.com; www.ltcombudsman.org

The Brutality of Loss

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My first novel, Requiem for the Status Quo, released in July of 2017, speaks of the brutal protracted loss of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Caregivers for a loved one with dementia witness the gradual loss of someone they love over an extended period of time.

Once my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it took four years for him to leave me. I was devastated the moment he took his last breath on October 13th, 2007, but my heart was continuously ripped apart during the years leading up to that final breath.

48 months, 208 weeks, 1460 days, 35,040 hours, and 2,102,400 minutes of ongoing departures from my and his life.

The characters in my novel have a front row seat to their loved one’s measured departure from this earth. That departure might appear as more-than-a-senior-moment of forgetfulness; an inability to perform simple tasks; struggling to come up with the name of the spouse to whom a person has been married for half a century; or the complete change in personality from a loving spouse to an actual threat to the other spouse’s life.

Loss is a life event from which recovery has no prescribed length of time, but recovery does eventually occur. In time, we live a minute where we can truthfully acknowledge that during that brief snippet of time, we didn’t feel the pain and despair as deeply as before. When that happens, dear friends and readers, I encourage you to celebrate that moment because if you wait for the big events for which you might hold a celebration, you just might be waiting for a very long time.

Celebrate even the smallest of victories and joys that come your way. Doing so will guarantee you many more reasons to be grateful, to experience joy, and perhaps to even witness the life-giving feeling that hope can bring.

I wrote Requiem for the Status Quo to honor my father, other loved ones like him, and all those current caregivers who are just trying to mess up less today than they did yesterday.

Perfection isn’t possible, but when you’ve done your best, you’ve done your best.

I celebrate you.

Requiem is available where all books are sold, or readily ordered if not currently in stock. On Amazon, the eBook is $1.99 and the paperback, is less than $7.

Sticky Stuff

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You know how it is: something sticky gets on the kitchen floor and no matter what you do (spot cleaning the floor, wiping the bottom of your slippers) NOTHING gets rid of the sticky stuff that appears on your walking surface unless you do a thorough scrubbing & cleaning. (I know of what I speak as I had to do that just this morning.)

Life is like that as well: daily matters constantly go awry, what used to be the norm blows up into something unrecognizable, and what seemed to work before just doesn’t cut it any more.

Is it me who is at issue? Is it everyone else?

Let’s pretend it’s everyone else. Even if that is the case, there’s still nothing I can do to change everyone else so it’s up to me to adjust how I handle that very unlikely source of stickiness.

If it’s me, the onus is on me to figure out what is needed to attain a status quo with which I can once again be happy. If I don’t do something to change things up, I’ll continue to walk around with stickiness on my shoes, reminding me with every step that unless I get to the source of the sticky and eradicate it, I’m…well…stuck with it.

In a couple months, I will be 69 years of age. I have had many opportunities to examine what’s what when it comes to emotional and physical quality of life. Each and every time such an examination takes place, I have the option of pretending nothing is wrong, of pointing the finger at someone else, or being honest with myself – and therefore with others  – by making adjustments that will get rid of the gunk that insists on hanging around.

More often than not, I’ve settled on the third option and more often than not, such a plan has worked well to unstick my life. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always the right thing to do.

Assigning blame to others or other circumstances rarely provides an actionable benefit.

At least that has been my experience. What about you?

 

 

 

Hate is not the opposite of love…

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APATHY IS.

The existential philosopher Rollo May maintained a different perspective of opposites, as stated above. I like his take on the love/hate continuum.

We aren’t necessarily meant to love everyone – love having a different degree of emotion depending on the situation – but not caring about a person’s plight, not giving them the time of day or a second or first thought seems cruel.

Merriam Webster defines apathy as follows:

  • impassiveness or indifference

The Oxford dictionary provides this definition:

  • lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern

And finally, Dictionary.com offers this take:

  • lack of interest in or concern for things others find moving; freedom from emotion of any kind

Ugh, all those definitions leave me feeling emotionally bereft, and being on the receiving end of someone’s apathy would be devastating, wouldn’t it? The following example is extreme, but relevant nonetheless:

A man falls down on a crowded sidewalk and each person who encounters him walks over or around him without offering assistance.

Okay, like me you’re thinking, “No way would I do that, I would offer whatever help I could so I am not guilty of such behavior.” But what about the time I tried to avoid a particular neighbor because said neighbor always waylaid me in conversation for what I considered an interminable amount of time? Yep, I did that several weeks ago when an elderly neighbor turned the corner onto my street when I was at the curb to pick up my mail. With my head down I retrieved the mail and quickly walked back into my house.

Lordy I felt guilty, as I should have. I had nowhere else to go and nothing else to do, yet I didn’t allow this person an opportunity to engage in conversation with me – perhaps a much needed bit of socialization for her day. Five minutes out of my non-busy day to connect with someone…was that too much to ask? No, it was not. I have reformed since that time, seeking out opportunities to provide socially engaging respite for this woman and her canine companion. I didn’t like the Irene that previously ignored this neighbor; I don’t want to spend time with that Irene, ever again.

The cost of apathy is a far too high price to pay. I certainly cannot afford it.

Can you?

 

 

Words Matter

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Words hold so much power: power to harm and power to heal. This post is about words that have the power to heal.

I am a writer with two published novels and close to 1200 blog posts and I still have to carefully choose my words in any given situation. I don’t always get it right, but the healing goal is always the same.

The other day I found myself at a local Urgent Care clinic; the non-urgent reason for being there is immaterial to what transpired there. My appointment completed, I walked from the treatment area of the clinic through the front office area where three delightful women held court to greet – and say goodbye – to each person who found themselves in need of medical treatment when primary care offices had no available appointments.

One of the women said, “Before you go, can I just tell you something? When you walked in here, I couldn’t help but notice how much you look like the actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Wait, let me find a photo of her for you.” The photo she found on her cell phone was this one:

She also held up the photo to her fellow front desk peeps and they all agreed and said, “You really do look like her! Wow!”

Now I know the resemblance, if there is one, is quite a stretch, but it didn’t matter. In that moment, I felt far better than my body was allowing me to feel at that moment.

Later that evening I relayed my experience to one of my sisters-in-law and she said, “I’ve always thought there was a resemblance but I didn’t know if you’d be flattered or not!”

Double whammy of healing statements, all in one day!

Our words have the power to heal and the power to harm; the other day I was on the receiving end of healing words. It’s sobering to realize that all words are just a different combination of the same 26 letters of the alphabet. I am now even more committed to putting those 26 letters together to form words that uplift, encourage, and yes, heal. I guess the bottom line is:

We can all be healers.

Bad Things Happen to Good People

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I don’t like when that happens.

I am not advocating badness for those I don’t consider good, but I absolutely DO advocate that lovely people should have it somewhat easier. Don’t get me wrong, I know that life isn’t always fair and that we have to take the bad with the good, but gosh darn, it’s difficult to witness.

Family members getting sick recently, and friends and acquaintances facing health and economic struggles are just a few of the recent situations that have come to light in my little corner of the world. At this writing, I am reeling from what happened to our family members a couple weeks ago, and recently, to the wonderful pest control worker who takes care of our home’s needs. Just the other day, John told me that he missed work for several weeks because he suffered a stroke while under one of his client’s homes. He was lying on the ground under a house when it happened!!!!

This gentle soul was rescued, obviously, and while I am gobsmacked by what happened to him, I celebrate that he has recovered, that the stroke didn’t occur while he was driving and therefore putting others at risk, and that he had the distinct privilege of being able to talk to me the other day about what happened to him.

He lived to tell the story!

And now I have told you the story and I will leave you with John’s words of encouragement about life in general:

Recovering from devastating health issues sure do make a person appreciate the life he’s been given. I’m grateful for so many things now.

May you appreciate even the smallest of victories that come your way. Through the good and the bad times in my life, I know I certainly have.

 

 

I Hope You Are Well

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Writing is oftentimes about myself, but always with the intention of making a difference in the lives of those who take the time to read what I put out for public consumption.

This, my 1,173rd blog post, is the briefest post of all time for me; a post that is intended to make you feel noticed, let you know that I care how you’re doing, and to assure you that I sincerely hope you are well. I reside in the United States, in a semi-decent sized town in Washington State, and I’m glad you are following this blog that I started more than ten years ago. It takes time out of your day to read my ramblings, whether those ramblings are about the two novels I’ve written, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO and A JAGGED JOURNEY, or just my take on life.

THANK YOU FOR READING WHAT I HAVE TO SAY.

BE WELL. STAY WELL.

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK.

The Flight of Time

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In the far too distant past, we can all remember how long it took for a special occasion to arrive, whether it was Christmas, a Birthday, or the beginning of summer vacation. It seemed as though time C-R-A-W-L-E-D when we were lots younger than we currently are.

But now? My husband and I will be discussing a past event, trying to decide on when (what week or month the event took place) so we consult our calendars to discover that the event in question occurred more than a year ago.

How did that happen? Why can’t us 60-something-year-olds discern the passing of time better than that? This post from Scientific American sheds a light on this phenomenon. I’ll let you read that post and this one from Harvard University to acquire a better understanding. But here’s a quote from the Scientific American post that seems to summarize what happens as we age:

From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills. As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments. As a result, our early years tend to be relatively overrepresented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer.

The truth of the matter is that we’ve lived longer, we’ve had a heck of a lot of experiences as a result, so we look at the passage of time from an entirely different perspective. The Harvard post puts a more neurological spin on the matter:

People are often amazed at how much they remember from days that seemed to last forever in their youth. It’s not that their experiences were much deeper or more meaningful, it’s just that they were being processed in rapid fire.

I guess that means that the older we get, our brains aren’t firing as rapidly as they used to. Well, duh! When I’m trying to remember the title of a book, an excellent book that I deem the best book I’ve ever read in my entire life, I may not remember the title of it because I have read 1000s of books in my sixty-eight years.

The bottom line, dear friends, is that our brains are older than they used to be and due to the wealth of experiences we have lived through, there is far more data to weed through to land on the most accurate in-the-moment response. Assuming there is no disease process going on in our brains, is that a problem about which we should lament or be concerned?

No. Why? Because aging is a privilege. Just the fact that we have lived long enough to be struck with the phenomenon of inaccurate time passing is something to celebrate: I’m here, but people I love who passed before their time are not. Those dear people would probably give anything to have the opportunity to complain about this confusing, mixed up passing of time.

On their behalf, I will try to do my level best not to complain about my age, or anything having to do with aging, ever again. I will most certainly fail, but that doesn’t mean I won’t die trying.

Brain Gratitude

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The brain is an organ we need to nurture, support, and appreciate. But sometimes the brain steers us in the wrong direction and if you’re like me, when that happens your well-being can get out of wack.

That’s when I end up having a love-hate relationship with my brain. Bear with me while I explain.

Let’s face it, that most sophisticated computer that rests within the skull that rests on top of the shoulders, doesn’t always get it right, like when the following scenarios occur:

  • Insomnia because your brain wants you to figure out absolutely everything needed in order to cure the ills of the world – or at the very least, the ills of the small portion of the world in which you reside. Such future-focused attention doesn’t provide much present comfort, does it?
  • Anxiety that doubles in intensity because anxiety is always fueled by fear – a fear that the brain expertly releases because of its innate fight or flight behavior that is simply trying to keep you safe but really overdoes it a bit…or a lot, if you’re me.
  • Distraction gets in the way of full-functioning because too much input floods the brain so its ability to compartmentalize, eliminate surplus, and operate properly, stumbles a bit out of the starting blocks.

That’s just a few of the computer malfunctions that can take place within this wonderful mass of gray matter that no living being can do without.

But speaking personally, when I examine each of the bullet points above, I can willingly acknowledge that I might have more control over those anomalies than not.

  • INSOMNIA: Instead of obsessing about the future – over which I have no control whatsoever while lying on my bed prepped for sleep – I can do my level best to be in the present where the future has no bearing whatsoever. Breathe. Read a book to sideline the brain’s worrisome thoughts about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. One thing I know for sure, just lying there being frustrated about my sleepless state won’t do me any good so at the very least it’s a good idea to get out of bed and do something soothing to sidetrack the future-focused craziness going on inside my head.
  • ANXIETY: If I address the current state of my being and realistically assess what is and what is not happening – shifting my focus from hyper-alertness broad spectrum attention to in-the-moment reality – my fear of the “what if” has no place in my day. I’ve learned that what I pay attention to magnifies in intensity. If I’m just focusing on that lower back pain twinge, that’s all that exists. You and I both know that isn’t the case but if you’re me, that little twinge may as well be a life threatening stabbing knife.
  • DISTRACTION: Understanding that multi-tasking is not productive and is a myth that has been perpetuated over the centuries, challenges me to do one thing at a time so my brain does its level best on one task and then moves onto the next one. The more multi-tasking that occurs, the more chances to make mistakes – some of which can be dangerous; multi-tasking while driving, or taking care of a child come to mind.

Of this I am certain, however: I am grateful for my brain that most of the time serves me very well. You see, my father died from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 89 so I’m well aware of what can go awry in the brain’s circuitry, and there are so many other anomalies and abnormalities that can affect the brain, but I’ll try not to lose sleep over them!!! Although my brain isn’t perfectly normal, I will celebrate that it’s not all that abnormal so I will do my level best to not sweat the small stuff.

And although I don’t believe that it’s ALL small stuff, I can admit that a heck of a lot of it is.

 

 

 

Are You Whole?

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Being whole and experiencing wholeness is something I need to figure out for myself so I consulted the Oxford dictionary that defines wholeness as follows:

  • the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole;
  • the state of being unbroken or undamaged;
  • good physical or mental health.

Okay, so I’m not whole, but I absolutely know I want to be.

Being whole, for me, is a healthy balance of mind, body, and spirit.

This brings to mind another definition – cooperation:

  • the process of working together to the same end.

That works for me because if mind, body, and spirit – however that may be defined – work together toward a goal of wholeness, that is what appears to be needed in order to attain that state. Let me tell you, at this point in my existence I am VERY willing to cooperate.

And I think it’s important to understand that those three elements – mind, body, spirit – are not separate. They all work in tandem to bring about the best outcome for our well-being.

When we work on one, we’re working on all three elements:

  • Exercising to work on the body, and maintaining a healthier diet, affect the mind and spirit.
  • Choosing to have some sort of meditative time – however that may look for each of us – nourishes the body and mind.
  • Learning something new and being exposed to new experiences no doubt will benefit spirit and body.

There is no separation because all three are attached, right? Yeah, you can’t touch one without affecting the others. And that’s a good thing because we only have so much time in each day to improve on matters so it’s a good thing that even one effort addresses all three aspects of our being.

May you figure out what works for you to attain WHOLENESS in 2022.

I’m looking forward to hearing all about it!

My 2022 Word

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Several years ago a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of setting a New Year word – not a resolution. My 2021 word was:

EQUANIMITY: mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

For what may seem obvious to many is the fact that that single word – or way of being – really resonated with me leading into 2021. But did I always succeed at upholding that word? Absolutely not, but having that as my daily, or hourly, goal certainly benefited me more than not.

My word for 2022 is more or less from the same word family but some may argue it is the antithesis of equanimity:

HOPE: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

It’s far easier to abandon all hope – yet more difficult – than it is to cling to it. I decided to raise a banner of hope for me, my loved ones, and the world at large, regardless of what that action entails. Doing something with an eye to a redeeming new year is that to which I am committed. As I said in my post Hope + Action = Winning Combination, just wishing something to be true doesn’t quite take care of the hope function; we have to do something while hoisting hope onto our backs.

What you do to activate and maintain hope and what I do are individual efforts and may not look at all similar to each other, but that’s the beauty of the hope commitment: what I do supplements you and what you do augments me.

BE WELL AND STAY WELL IN 2022 MY FRIENDS.

CELEBRATE EVERY GOOD THING THAT COMES YOUR WAY, REGARDLESS OF HOW SMALL, BECAUSE EVERY LITTLE BIT COUNTS – DON’T YOU THINK?

 

Gratitude + Optimism

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A recent AARP magazine post spotlighting Michael J. Fox, star of Family TiesBack to the Future, and of other popular, noteworthy fame, answered a reporter’s question about how he had managed to pull himself out of a dark place where he landed after recovering from a 2018 spinal surgery to remove a benign tumor wrapped around his spine; having to learn how to walk all over again as a result of that surgery; and falling at home four months later, shattering his arm in the process. Keep in mind, for over thirty years Mr. Fox has suffered from what is currently an incurable disease. He knows there will be no cure for Parkinson’s in his lifetime, but remarkably, he was able to admirably respond to the AARP reporter’s question.

I started to notice things I was grateful for and the way other people would respond to difficulty with gratitude. I concluded that gratitude makes optimism sustainable.

And if you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, keep looking. Because you don’t just receive optimism.

You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You’ve got to behave in a way that promotes that.

For this, my last blog post of the year – also my 1,166th post – I will simply say that I am inspired by the above words; I am humbled by them; and I accept the challenge these words have presented.

That’s all, but it’s enough. See you in 2022.

Hope + Action = Winning Combination

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Are you tired? Yeah, me too. Tired tired – due to lack of sleep. Emotionally tired – due to the day to day personal challenges we all face. And sick and tired of the status quo in a world that just doesn’t seem to want to get better. My intent with this post is not to single out any causes for the mess we’re in – that would not be a popular post and quite frankly, I just don’t have the energy to address that mess.

Rather, I simply want to state that all of us need to do better at the art of living and how that living affects others. One way in which to do better is to shift from a hopeless base to a hopeful one. Doing so may not be what it takes for you to have a positive mind shift, but it has worked for me in the past so it’s a tool that I am drawing on now.

Please accept the following sentiments as nourishment for your own journey of hope. These are quotes from the book, The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams:

Hope does not deny all the difficulty and all the danger that exists, but it is not stopped by them. There is a lot of darkness, but our actions create the light. Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.

Hope is what enables us to keep going in the face of adversity. It is what we desire to happen, but we must be prepared to work hard to make it so.

Hope without action dies on the vine; it needs nourishment in the form of constant feeding and forward motion. None of us need to be scientists, psychologists, or world changers in order to be effective, but all of us need to do something positive within the limited real estate of our little corner of the world. Is it easier to just give up and let others take the lead? Yes…and no. Giving up means you have no control and if you’re like me, you don’t want to surrender the reins to just anyone!

I need to pick up this tool – this hope tool – every day and treat it as though it just might be the answer to my well-being and yours. If you and I employ it starting with our own household and then to that which exists within our control, we’ll all be better off as a result. A little bit goes a long way, especially if more people than not opt to disembark from the train of desperation and climb on board the far more promising hope train.

ALL ABOARD! LET’S GO.

 

Countdowns

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Our need for countdowns is something we most likely don’t think about 24/7, but while we’re in the midst of one we are front and center and ready to move forward. 

Take the Holidays, for example. As soon as I turn over the calendar page to November, I’ve hit the ground running and once the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday has arrived, it’s just a matter of days before Christmas is upon us and then, voila! The end of the year and the start of a new one!

Whether counting down the days until the start of a planned vacation or our much anticipated retirement from work, we love crossing out the days that bring us closer to our goal. It’s sobering to realize, however, that the passage of time not only brings us to notable calendar events but it also ushers us into the inevitable aging that many of us have the privilege of experiencing.

And it is a privilege, isn’t it? We are all intimately acquainted with the fact that not everyone has spent as much time aging as we have: adult siblings and other loved ones die far too young, friends are victim of a disease or an accident that robs them of their lives, and most cruelly, children fall victim to similar diseases and accidents that rip them from the face of the earth, robbing them of the opportunity to grow up and move forward into productive and event-filled lives.

Most of us will not know in advance how long our lives will be, but as we age, we tend to feel the passage of time.

But it’s not all equal-knowing, is it? There are glorious days when I am shocked by the realization that I am sixty-eight years of age, followed by days when I can hardly believe I’m not far older than my years. But all in all, I celebrate that I am still here – even with the aches and pains and frustrations oftentimes inherent with aging. I am not counting down the days until I am no longer here – that’s a fruitless and unrealistic practice in which to be engaged – but I am celebrating that thus far I can most certainly count 25,016 days as my portion. 

 

 

Choosing to Celebrate

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My column, In Your Corner, is in an online Australian publication for which I have written going on ten years now. The most recent issue has as its theme Celebration.

I wrote Choosing to Celebrate to point out how rewarding it is to celebrate even the most mundane positive occurrences in our lives. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

The Futility of Worry

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Maybe I’m the only person among us who has perfected the art of worrying. Although I don’t do anything perfectly, I do a really grand job of worrying – thereby inviting the existence of fear – quite well.

Many profound statements have been made about the futility of this practice – scripture, poetry, self-help books and the like – but we still seem to settle quite comfortably into this practice, don’t we? And we usually kick ourselves after a particular stressful situation has passed as we acknowledge that the level of worry and fear regarding said stress did nothing to lessen our mental load.

Each and every time I have lost sleep over something, I experienced the futility of doing so.

I’ve also come to understand that when I worry, I have left the present and jumped into the deep end of yesterday and tomorrow – locations I had no right to be in.

  • When I fret over what transpired yesterday, losing sleep over words said or not said, actions taken or not taken, I abandon the only place I need to be – the present.
  • When I worry about tomorrow (or even when I worry about something occurring a brief hour from now) I am wrenched away from the present – a wasted practice because when I leave the present, I’ve missed out on what was right in front of me. What a shame!

It’s a frustrating cycle of behavior I’ve practiced time and again in my many decades of adult life. You would think I’d have learned by now that worrying adds nothing to my life so I should abandon any such behavior posthaste, but last time I checked, I’m still human so perfection will continue to elude me time and again.

But I’m still learning. I’m still sussing out the fine art of living day to day.

As long as I keep recognizing the times when such worry rears its ugly head, I guess I can celebrate that at the very least, I’m aware of how I might do better the next time.

And I’m okay with that.

My Best Foot Forward

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I came to the realization the other day, how many places my sixty-eight year old feet have taken me.

AND JUST THINK ABOUT WHERE YOUR FEET HAVE TAKEN YOU!

I’ve lived in the following US states: California, Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington. I’ve traveled to the following countries: Canada, Mexico, France, Scotland, and the British Isles. (I know, that’s not a lot of places but just the same, my feet took me there and back!)

Sometimes our feet take us to geographical places; other times they take us to and through life experiences – not all of which are easy or pleasing. But those gnarled toes and fallen arches managed to carry us where we needed to be and will continue to do so until they can’t.

About two years ago, I came to a place of acceptance of my current body resulting in gratitude for everything it has endured and managed to survive. That may not seem like a monumental achievement to some, but for me, it most definitely has been. My body’s challenges and your body’s challenges may not be identical but there isn’t a person around that doesn’t have them – bodies or challenges – and we’re still here!

I HAVE SURVIVED THE LESS THAN ENJOYABLE BODY FOIBLES 100% OF THE TIME AND HAVE LIVED TO WRITE ABOUT IT!

Wow! And because I have evidence that such successes have occurred, when I’m in the midst of seemingly insurmountable medical, physical, or emotional challenges, I can look forward to getting to the other side of them to add yet another success to my growing evidentiary list.

And my feet will take me there.

 

Strong People Ask For Help

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This post ties in with my previous post about vulnerability. Why?

Because vulnerability is a strength.

In that previous post, I said that life isn’t a competition, and I stand by that statement. When I ask for help, I am admitting that I can’t do something on my own and when someone answers my call for help, she/he is supplementing what I have, providing what I do not have. That sends a signal to the helper that when she needs help some day, she should feel at ease to ask for it. What a healthy cycle that creates!

In the workplace, an employee may feel that if he admits a need, he may be considered less than and therefore not as valuable as the fellow employee providing assistance. Nothing could be further from the truth, and an employer who faults that need for collaboration isn’t worthy of a person’s service.

And what about friends? True friends won’t harshly judge when a call for help goes out. True friends understand that a person can’t be 100%, 365, 24/7, so they affirmatively respond and both are better off as a result. One person has what the other person needs – it’s as simple as that.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say.

Vulnerability

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In the past several years I have come to understand that being vulnerable is a strength, not a weakness.

Synonyms for the word vulnerable, found in the Merriam Webster dictionary are: endangered, exposed, liable, open, sensitive, susceptible.

l believe that vulnerability is a worthwhile and honorable trait in which to indulge, especially as my life experience involves the last three synonyms: open, sensitive, susceptible. Recently, however, I felt vulnerable and I didn’t like the feeling at all as it gave me a feeling of being endangered and exposed.

Several days ago I had skin cancer surgery on my nose, and although vanity is not a prominent characteristic in my modus operandi, the fact that my visage was going to be messed with sent me into a tailspin of unease, bordering on depression. It’s not the surgery itself that was of a concern to me; I had hip replacement surgery four years ago that was far more invasive and brutal and I don’t recall feeling as emotionally affected as I did for my nose surgery.

Perhaps what was at issue was the fact that the affected body part is face forward – so to speak – and therefore more noticeable than a joint replacement could ever be. The very good news is that the surgery was minimally invasive, not even needing stitches, so the same face I’ve had for sixty-eight years remains intact. 

I’ve had this same face – more or less – for sixty-eight years! Fortunately the alteration leaves it just slightly different from how it used to be.

I know, my sixty-eight year old body isn’t the same as it used to be either, because aging is a privilege and with that privilege comes pain, body sags, and wrinkles rivaling an intricate interstate highway. But the face? It’s somehow a different entity all together. Fortunately, my concerns turned out to be much ado about nothing.

Let me clarify, however, that the unease/depression I felt wasn’t a function of how I’ll look once everything is healed. No. It’s related to the vulnerability I felt leading up to the surgery, and the time during the surgery when I was fully awake, that really messed with my mind and my emotions. A surgeon who knows absolutely nothing about who I am, whom I only met once prior to the procedure, was in charge of ridding my nose of cancer. Once patient number 1234 was out the door, the surgeon would move onto patient number 5678, and so on and so forth, committed to her surgical training but not necessarily committed to Irene Frances Olson, born in Southern California, the youngest of three siblings, who couldn’t have asked for better parents, who eventually wrote two novels to first document her family’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and then to document society’s struggles with tolerance, acceptance, and human kindness

Was it my outward appearance or my inward identity that was at issue?

The latter, to be sure, and since beauty is only skin deep, I will fall back on the inner beauty that I’ve worked on throughout my life. With age comes wisdom, and for me at least, without the aging, wisdom would still be on the sidelines waiting to make an appearance. So maybe this whole surgical experience has taught me something new that without the unease and depression I experienced, this new nugget of wisdom would not have been birthed:

My inner beauty will always outlast my outer trappings, and those who truly know me see that first and love me for it.

WHAT A BLESSED WOMAN I AM!!!

 

 

Making New Habits

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Instead of wallowing in habits we’d prefer to discard, we can create new ones – breaking old ones – that benefit us greatly!

That’s Breaking Good News, isn’t it?

I’m not going to get into the proven science about how long it takes to break one habit and adopt another – you know how to Google that information and find it out for yourself. Rather, I just want to mention how exhilarating it is to switch things up a bit in ones’ life. And I’m not going to address vices that double as habits. Nope! Just the routine behaviors that so many of us fall into.

You and I have adopted habits that are so ingrained in our day-to-day existence, we don’t even recognize them because they just are. Lately for me, I’ve benefited from changing up my routines, finding that doing so puts a fresh coating of delight on the mundane.

  • Maybe your favorite mug isn’t all that any more and another mug would serve to better float your boat; or
  • Exercising a little later – or earlier – in the day feels better than what you’ve been doing; or
  • Meditating at a different time of day than you’ve done for years on end actually provides more Zen moments when you switch it up now and then; or
  • Tacos are just as gratifying on Thursday as they are on Tuesday. Can you say, Taco Thursdays anyone?

You get the idea: just because you’re accustomed to and comfortable with your daily routine doesn’t mean that getting out of your comfort zone wouldn’t be better. For me, it was a matter of being so entrenched in the same-o same-o that I became brain-lazy. Life became so droll and ho-hum that I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning. Oh crap, another day just like yesterday? Ugh!

There are countless ways to add novelty to a day. I don’t know about you, but I have a few daily outfits I wear over and over again while my closet is close to bursting with colorful t-shirts, pants I forgot I even owned, and let’s not forget to mention the sock drawer that rivals that of a sock-owning addict…oops! Time to clean all those clothing storage areas of the house and donate a good portion to charities whose clients could really use what I didn’t even realize I had.

Wow…not only do I get to switch up my wardrobe but others benefit from the slight clothing hoarding I failed to acknowledge!

ANYWAY, I think you can come up with your own changes that will perhaps provide freshness to your day and increase your joie de vivre! Whatever you decide to do, do it soon. Take it from someone who knows of which she speaks – breaking habits and adding new ones does not have to be difficult, but it really and truly needs to happen if you’re looking to change things up a bit.

I’m looking forward to hearing about the changes you’ve decided to implement in your own life. They don’t have to be HUGE, just worthwhile and meaningful to you!

Identification: Who are you?

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When referring to identification in this post, I am talking about human characteristics – specifically, emotional and mental states.

For example, I tend to be anxious – allowing anxiety to rob me of my peace, and oftentimes, rob me of my sleep. But being anxious is not my identity. I get anxious but that is not who I am.

Being labeled (pigeonholed) by others is one thing, and it’s harmful, but even more so, labeling ourselves does each of us a huge disservice.

I may have anxiety, but I am not anxiety. Someone else may have ADHD, but that person is not ADHD, they have ADHD tendencies. If someone suffers from depression, their identity is not depressed person, rather, she/he is a person who gets depressed. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to put someone in a pigeonhole is to, unfairly think of or describe someone or something as belonging to a particular group, only having a particular skill, etc. For example, actors don’t want to be pigeonholed as only having comedic skills; a talented actor wants to be thought of as having more range than that. Similarly, a lawyer is also a parent, a spouse, a friend – not just a mediator or adjudicator. My gastroenterologist’s whole identity isn’t wrapped up in her specific field of medical expertise – thank the good Lord – she is also a hiker, a mommy, and an accomplished baker.

If I place myself inside the box of anxiety, I may have the tendency to remain there longer than is healthy. If I live outside of that box and only end up there from time to time, I have more range as a human being and can branch out and experience calm and peace as a natural state. I am not anxious person Irene, I am Irene the mother, spouse, grandmother, sister, friend, and as luck would have it, published author.

ANOTHER WAY IN WHICH WE LABEL PEOPLE IS BY THEIR DISEASE.

When my father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, he wasn’t his disease, he was everything he was before the disease and even everything he became after diagnosis. He had limitations, don’t get me wrong, but those limitations didn’t define who he was: an extraordinary human being. When my sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer, that was one horrible aspect of her life but that didn’t define who she was before she died. She was a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend; she was a caring person with a keen sense of humor; she was the goddess of her wonderful household who kept it running like a fine-tuned engine.

Labeling limits our perception of who someone is in their essence

There are so many directions this post could have gone – physical characteristics, gender identity, race, ethnicity – instead, I decreased the scope because emotional, mental, and medical matters have been weighing upon me as of late, so that’s where I went with this 500 word post. That was enough for me, I hope it was enough for you.

Be well, y’all.

 

 

Falling Into A New Season

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Photo by Lainey P.

I love Autumn. I know it signals the end of summertime fun and weather, but there are years when such characteristics are best left behind.

I always welcome the possibilities inherent with a new season, a new calendar year, or simply a new year of life. Having survived my 68th birthday earlier this year, I came to the realization that aging truly is a privilege, and the longer we live, the more opportunities abound for the taking.

Whether you are 28, 48, 68, or 88-and-counting, you rarely don’t have the choice of whether to try something new – or leave something behind. Sometimes our chosen career path or passion loses its shine. Other times, relationships that in the past were nurturing to both individuals lose their nourishment and become like a slow-acting poison that nonetheless harms or kills the spirt.

Walking away from what we’re accustomed to is difficult, but oftentimes extremely necessary.

You don’t live long on this earth before said walking away becomes a reality, and it’s those first steps that are the most difficult. I’ve embarked on that path in my professional life and in my personal life, knowing I was doing the right thing but nevertheless grieving the separation.

If new endings and beginnings beckon you as you approach the new season’s landing, my wish for you is that doing so strengthens your reserve to celebrate the one life you’ve been granted. And please always remember, even the smallest of victories warrant a celebration. 

SO PARTY ON!

Why Bother?

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We’ve all read about the effectiveness of vaccines, most recently the vaccines to prevent Covid-19 virus infection. My post today is a brief one in which I am not offering my opinion, but I am offering data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, Yale Medicine, and WebMD.

I’ve heard people state – whether directly to me or through social media – that getting the Covid vaccine doesn’t guarantee we won’t acquire Covid-19 so why bother getting it? The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are not 100% effective toward warding off the virus, but they are in the mid-90s percentile of effectiveness. Click this Yale Medicine link to see how successful they can be at warding off the virus and therefore preventing its spread.

The flu vaccine is nowhere near as effective as Covid vaccines but it is a vaccine many acquire each and every year as new flu vaccines are developed to fight the upcoming flu season – the vaccine changes each year to keep up with flu virus variants. This CDC link outlines the 2019-2020 flu vaccine efficacy to be between 25% and 55% depending on a person’s age.

Another bit of data I find extraordinarily helpful is this WEB MD link that spotlights how effective our Covid preventative measures have been toward making the current flu season almost non-existent, compared to previous years’ infection rates. Let’s face it, wearing masks, being diligent about hand washing, and limiting exposure to others seems to illustrate how the same measures we’re employing to prevent Covid transmission have had an amazing side effect: very limited flu virus transmission. That’s not my opinion, thus far 2020-2021 flu is a non-issue.

“But Covid is still an issue and people are still dying from it.” True. Covid is a virus, but it is not the flu. Covid has proven to be far more transmissible and deadly than the flu with which we’re familiar. Because of that fact, in the United States, bothering to get the Covid vaccine is an inconvenience 81 million fully vaccinated people have chosen to experience, with 202 million doses given nationwide as of April 15, 2021. There have been some rare cases of breakthrough Covid infection post vaccination, but viral loads are low, and the transmission rate to others is greatly reduced. Given the data provided, we all should be able to decide whether risking infection is something with which we are comfortable, and whether vaccination to reduce infection is an option to consider.

 

Last Sneak Peek of A JAGGED JOURNEY

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This final novel excerpt before A Jagged Journey is released on April 15th, introduces you to a key character, psychologist Gretchen Marks, and her unlikely friend, Amit Singh, an Uber driver who comes to her aid when no one else is available. Gretchen’s life has taken a cruel detour, in part because of her way of being, in part because life is oftentimes no respecter of persons.

“Are we going to the same place today, Doctor, where you have previously visited?”

“Yes, please.” Gretchen glanced at Amit and then out the side window. “Unfortunately, it will be a place I visit every day for a few weeks. If I had my choice, I’d rather have a root canal, but it appears God has chosen to punish me so I get to have these treatments instead.”

“I do not know what this root canal is of which you speak. Is that something to do with the hair on the top of one’s head?”

A smile broke out on Gretchen’s face at the innocence projected by her driver. “That’s a good one, Amit. Thank you for making my day.”

“A good one you say?”

“A root canal involves the teeth, not the scalp. It’s when a really bad tooth needs a lot of work, and it’s not enjoyable at all. But given how my treatments make me feel, I think the dental work would seem like child’s play…it would seem like something far easier than what I’m doing.”

“I see, yes, my splendid wife, Faria, had something similar to that soon after we arrived in this country – there was a cavity in one of her teeth. And you indicated that these treatments you are enduring are a punishment from God?”

Gretchen thought it was just like a foreigner to take idioms literally, but she had to admit his way of thinking was somewhat refreshing. “It’s just an expression people sometimes use when things aren’t going well for them. And a contrary statement might apply if, when we arrive at our destination, there’s a parking space available at the front where you can pull in and let me out. If that were to happen, I might say, “Well, I must have done something right in my life and now God is rewarding me.”

“Thank you, Dr. Gretchen Marks, for your very thorough explanation about expressions Americans use in their speaking.”

Amit and Gretchen arrived at their destination, Amit pulled into an open space right in front of the building. “I see, Dr. Marks, that you must have done something right because God has graced us with this parking space.”

He parked the car and stepped out to assist Gretchen. He guided her out of her seat by her elbow and helped her step over the curb. “There you are, Dr. Marks.”

“You know, you can call me Gretchen.”

“Oh no, Doctor, you have attained a very important status in life that accords great respect. Unless it offends you, I will continue to address you as Doctor.”

“That’s fine, Amit, and regarding this parking space?”

“Yes, Dr. Marks?”

“It was because of your good works that God arranged for this space to be available. I’m quite certain my past works didn’t warrant such a benefit.”

“Either way, it is good that we are able to claim it, yes?”

Gretchen fumbled with her purse for a tip. “Yes, it is very good. I’ll see you after my appointment later today and I will call you a half hour before I am done.”

Gretchen’s appointment did not go well as she received some devastating news – said news put Gretchen on the defense when her Uber driver picked her up later that day.

Amit picked up Gretchen at the appointed time and although he tried to engage the doctor in conversation, he wasn’t entirely successful. At one point, Gretchen lashed out at him.

“Amit, are you a United States citizen?”

He looked at her in the rear-view mirror. “Not currently, but that is my goal, Dr. Marks.”

“How long have you lived in this country?”

“Four years, Doctor.”

“What’s taking you so long to become a citizen?”

Amit drove a couple blocks then asked Gretchen a question. “How many amendments does the Constitution have?”

“What? What has that to do with anything?”

“Twenty-seven.”

“Excuse me?”

“Amendments. Name one of the writers of the Federalist Papers that were written in support of the Constitution of the United States.”

“I have no idea. I’m not sure I’m even familiar with those papers.”

“I am. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were two of the writers.”

“Good for you, you’ve memorized the answers on the civics exam for citizenship, that doesn’t make you a US citizen.”

“In this country it does.” Amit pulled up in front of Gretchen’s condo. Looking straight ahead, he had one more question for her. “Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?”

Gretchen looked at her lap, then out her side window. “You win, Amit, and I’m sorry for being such a horrible person today. My doctor gave me some bad news and it’s made me angry at the world.”

Amit got out of the vehicle, opened Gretchen’s door, and helped her out. “This bad news, is it something you want to talk about with Amit?”

She patted the hand that rested gently on her forearm. “Maybe tomorrow, Amit. Will I see you at eleven?”

“It would be my extreme pleasure, Dr. Marks, thank you.”

There are many characters that are a part of the lives of those with whom you have already met: Charlie Brooks, the high school teacher and his fellow teacher Jamila Sanders. Single mother, Hannah Palmer and her engaging son, Sammy. And now, Dr. Gretchen Marks, and her Uber pal, Amit Singh. The cast of characters you will meet in A Jagged Journey are varied in age, life experience, and intent. I hope to see you soon, within Journey’s pages.

Worth the Price of Admission

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A year after the Covid spread became a verifiable pandemic, I received my 1st dose of the vaccine that will open up the possibility of arriving at herd immunity…depending on the percentage of people who agree to voluntarily submit themselves to the needle.

The global community has been immersed and drowning in a disaster that will become future school students’ history lessons on what can happen when a not-detectable-by-eye virus travels the world on the backs of unsuspecting travelers.

I’ve lived sixty-seven years and therefore have already lived through news events and disasters that are currently a part of history books everywhere. Trust me when I say, I would rather have a boring life experience than be able to recount the tragedies that have befallen my country and our world over the past six decades. The current pandemic is just one of many, but it’s currently front and center in my life, and in the lives of many.

On Thursday, February 25, 2021, after weeks and weeks of concerted effort, I submitted myself to the vaccine needle. I didn’t make finding a vaccine appointment a full-time job, but my dedication to doing so was sincere and robust. The day before I received my shot, my husband and I were preparing to go outside to enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest weather. “I’ll join you in a few minutes…I just want to check the vaccine websites one more time before I go out and play.” 

And lo’ and behold, when I checked the 4th of as many appointment sites, a 1 pm appointment the very next day just a few blocks from my house showed as being available and I signed up for it as fast as I could, not wanting it to slip out of my hands.

THE VACCINE EXPERIENCE – GLORIOUS!!!!!

Three other similarly aged people stood behind me in line as I checked in – early! – for the privilege of moving forward in a vaccinated world. For me, the price of admission into that world is a sore arm, and that is all. But even if more uncomfortable side effects were guaranteed as a result of acquiring the vaccine, my husband and I were committed to getting vaccinated because a couple days of discomfort beat any day of having Covid. (My husband will acquire the vaccine when his age makes him eligible.)

Before I left the neighborhood pharmacy where I acquired my 1st dose, the pharmacy tech scheduled me for my 2nd dose, which will occur a few weeks later. I walked out of that pharmacy floating on air – and not because I was experiencing delirious or detrimental vaccine side effects. Nope! I was merely feeling what it’s like to be moving toward the other side of Covid, and closer and closer to once again being able to spend time gathering with loved ones with a greatly reduced chance of acquiring or spreading the virus that could make us severely ill, or even usher us into the great beyond.

Many express their desire to get back to normal, but I don’t think normal will ever return, nor should it. Just as after 9/11 we all adjusted our normals to accommodate our present experience, so too will we adjust our normal as a result of this virus experience that as of today’s date has killed 508,000 US people, and 2.5 million people world-wide.

BUSINESS AS USUAL WON’T AGAIN BE OUR NORMAL, BUT OUR RESILIENT ABILITY TO RESPONSIBLY MOVE FORWARD WILL SERVE US WELL.