Quality of Life

Kindness Fridays

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For years now, I’ve practiced the habit of celebrating even the smallest of victories that come my way. The more aware I am of something that goes right, or of something that brings joy to my life, the more celebrations I get to enjoy.

Tuesday of this week saw me hustling and bustling around town getting various errands accomplished and even though my adrenaline was at a high level, I still could use some help. While at my local grocery store I purchased a Diet Pepsi in a screw bottle and got in my car to continue the remainder of my day’s tasks.

Except I couldn’t open the Pepsi bottle. After several valiant attempts to unscrew the top, I stopped just short of shredding the skin on the inside of my hand. I’m pretty sure the bottle top machine in the factory needs to be adjusted a bit so the consumer can enjoy their beverage right away instead of having to bulk up one’s upper body before attempting access.

Next stop was to fill up my Corolla with gas; that’s when I saw my opportunity. I approached a young man in the commercial truck behind me at the pump and asked if he could please unscrew the top of my Pepsi because, “that caffeine ain’t gonna get in my body any other way.” With a smile on his face, he gladly fulfilled my request which then put a smile on my face.

Kindness doesn’t have to be earth shattering to make a difference – it can be as simple as helping a caffeine-starved person get their fix.

Kindness Fridays

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Today’s installment combines two passions of mine: kindness and hiking.

Since my husband’s retirement in April of 2016, we’ve managed to hike every week except during the winter months. Now with the snow a distant memory on most of the Pacific Northwest trails, we’re well into this year’s hiking season.

On Tuesday of this week, we headed out to Barclay Lake located in the lower Stevens Pass area of western Washington. This was a new hike for me and one perfectly suited for a sprained right foot, mine, needing a bit of coddling while on its healing journey. The hike was just under 5 miles and only had an elevation gain of 500 feet.

About two miles into our hike and a half mile from the lake, a couple in their late 60s were making their descent and as I always do for every hiker we meet on the trail, I greeted the man and woman which then encouraged them to pause and spend some time with us. This couple hiked 30 times last year – to our 18 times – which seriously encouraged me to continue our hiking activities during the winter season, albeit on trails at lower elevations to avoid snow encounters along the way. The kindness extended was the mutual sharing of favorite hiking destinations: for us, it was Margaret Lake, for them, Bowen Bay.

My husband and I, geared up.

The excitement from each couple describing their particular trail favorite created a commonality of experience that went beyond any differences we may harbor within ourselves, be they political, religious, life experience, or otherwise. The four of us agreed that being out in nature and accomplishing our individual hiking goals contributed greatly to our quality of life.

On the trail, differences in beliefs or political leanings simply don’t come into play. And that, my friends, is a glorious way to experience kindness.

 

The Alzheimer’s caregiver: NOT a fictional character

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REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO, to be released July 2017, contains fictional characters right out of yours and my reality. If your life hasn’t been impacted by caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, you are at least tangentially connected to someone who has been.

  • A parent’s senior moments transform into hair-raising episodes of wandering and getting lost at all hours of the day and night during varied seasonal temperatures that may very well threaten their lives.
  • The husband who was Mr. Fixit for all home repairs, big and small, no longer knows how to use a screwdriver, and becomes combative when challenged.
  • A sister’s successful writing career is derailed when she can no longer write coherently or understand the written word.
  • The middle-aged next door neighbor pounds on your front door demanding entry to his home and threatens to call the authorities if you don’t immediately vacate the premises.

Variations of these scenarios abound, and within those story-like confines exist the caregivers who have been thrust into a role for which they were not prepared, derailing their status quo – their normalcy – beyond recognition. These same caregivers had very full lives before their days became what has become the caregiver’s  36-Hour Day. Any down time they enjoyed prior to stepping into their ill-fitting caregiver shoes has been filled with doctors’ appointments, loved one-sitting, and putting out fires. Carefully crafted family and retirement plans are no longer feasible because life as the caregiver once knew it no longer exists.

REQUIEM will give readers an intimate look at a caregiver’s day-to-day reality while also endeavoring to provide hope for what lies ahead. To be sure, there are no happy endings, but promises of resolution and lightness spring forth in the least likely of places and during some of the most awkward of times. Whether you are a caregiver, a former caregiver, or know someone who is, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO will become a most cherished and often-read bookshelf addition.

Wearing It

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I like Nancy’s take on labels. In this instance, labels seem to be a darn good thing. Thanks, Nancy, for this fresh insight.

notquiteold

Last night, just as we were falling asleep, my husband drowsily remembered a conversation he had earlier in the day.

“Oh,” he murmured, “I talked to that guy from the committee.”

“Which guy?” I asked.

“You know… That guy… He wears a limp.”

My husband was only semi-conscious and that probably explains his weird phrasing.

But I kind of liked it.

The man wears a limp.

A limp as something you wear.

Think about the control that gives the man over his limp.

He owns that limp. It doesn’t own him.

It makes me want to think about other conditions that we experience as something we wear. How differently we might consider our issues, problems – our very bodies – if they are just Something We Wear.

We could wear our health:

“She wears some arthritis in her fingers.”

“She’s wearing her third pregnancy.”

“She wears a stroke on…

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Kindness Fridays

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My sister, Mary Riesche, has gone out of her way to follow all of my social media posts – including those relating to my upcoming book publication, Requiem for the Status Quo, which will be published by Black Rose Writing the third week of July.

You might be saying, “Yeah, who cares? What would you expect of a family member – and besides, social media is so easy to follow!”

My sister, an artist in her own right, is one of the most creative people I know. Her entire life has been spent developing her craft and that dedication has paid off with gallery showings in California wherein she earned various juried awards.

But my beautiful sister isn’t a computer-oriented person. This is not news to anyone who knows her, and it’s not news to Mary. But she has gone out of her way to support my publication efforts by boosting my posts and bragging about me to others through those boosts. Mary never goes onto an actual desktop or laptop computer, she only uses her smartphone, and most of her “writing” is via voice control, not typing.

It means so much to me that my sister extends the love she has for me through her social media kindness – regardless of how cumbersome it sometimes is for her. Her acts of kindness warm my heart and make me feel like a valid, almost-published author.

It’s a darn good feeling. Thank you, Mary.

See also: Mary Riesche: artist and sister extraordinaire, Art worth viewing: spotlight on Mary Riesche

Kindness Fridays

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Is it possible to receive kindness from nature? Yes, it certainly is.

Earlier this week I was headed to my twice a year dental appointment and to be honest with you, my mood at the time was extraordinarily melancholic. Maybe you’re familiar with that feeling?

If you’ve ever experienced periods in your life when your body complains a bit louder than usual and everything you try to accomplish feels like a major undertaking, then I’m talking to the right crowd.

That was my state as I stepped out of my vehicle and made my way through the parking lot to the dental office’s front door. I was limping – one reason for my crummy mood – and paying close attention to each step I took so I didn’t add insult to injury by further harming my right sprained foot.

As I turned the corner and stepped onto the sidewalk, I looked up. It was a good thing I did because a natural kindness was extended to me of magnificent proportions, a kindness that instantly elicited a smile resultant from the beauty that it offered.

A cluster of red Azaleas dragged me out of my funk.

And that, my friends, is this week’s Kindness account, brought to you by nature.

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 sixty-plus 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.