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The Being Place

Century farms.  Marriage vows. Each of them bound by bands of nothing (1)00. Both of them held together by the daily decision to stay in one place, no matter what.

For the Century Farms, the land is more powerful than the individuals trying to submit it to their wills, as the land will never be completely tamed by the stewardship of those owning it.  The land must possess the farmers, as the land has remained, but the people toiling on it have disappeared over time. And even if their bodies aren’t buried on the land, their sweat mixed in with blood and love have been tilled into the sweet, black earth, and they will either poison or fortify the crops, based on the farmer’s skill and life’s luck.

In Iowa, a Century Farm cannot be a plot of garden like in the neighbor’s backyard.  Instead, a Century Farm must dramatically encompass a chunk…

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What families do

caregiver, creative non fiction, family, forgiveness, health & wellness, meditation, Only Children, psychotherapy, Social Trends, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

me and parents 2As an only child, I bargained with God to protect me from seeing my parents die. God ignored my fear-of-grief-based request although He gave me the grace of nearly two decades between the departure of them.

My father left us quickly. He had gone in for placement of a defibrillator pacemaker. I believe he lost interest in life when doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to repair lawnmowers because of the interference of the electromagnetic fields on the heart device. Repairing lawnmowers was a satisfying hobby for him because it was mechanical and practical.

My mother lived independently for many years after my father died and we were mutually supportive to each other. We took over mowing her yard and when I returned to work she took over caring for my first-born son who was only six months old when his grandfather died.

My father left us quickly, but my mother took her time. She lived with me and my family for the last two and a half years of her life. Daily, I was filled with anxious dread she’d fall and re-break her femur, which was the body part that ultimately stole her independence. She fell twice. The first time she broke her nose, blackened her eye and sprained her ankle.  The second time was the precursor to her final days as she was just too weak to hold herself up anymore.

Fast forward two years after her death and I continue to process the profundity of having cared for my mother. I spontaneously completed an on-line survey for the Institute for Spirituality and Health, which is conducting research on personal quality and medical hardship and researchers followed up with a phone interview.

The Rice University college student probed what personal qualities I possessed which allowed me to persevere through my mother’s medical hardships. I inventory myself frequently for self-improvement but when pressed all I could identify as to how I managed to juggle all the demands on my time is “that’s what you do for a family.”

He queried about how society could better support people who are experiencing medical hardships.  I didn’t delve into political divisions but spoke about the benefit to society when families are better supported in caring for any relative with a medical need.  If women were paid for the informal caregiving they provide to relatives, it would conservatively be valued between $148 billion and $188 billion annually.

He asked me how I dealt with the disruption within my family when my mother lived with me. It wasn’t a disruption. It was a 180-degree change. Everything changed within and without for our family, including our living arrangement.

When women provide unpaid caregiving, they sacrifice about $40,000 in retirement savings because of the compromise they make for paid work. To accommodate my mother’s mobility needs, we moved from a 1,000-square foot home to a 3,000-square foot home and invested in handicap accessibility tools. I transferred my retirement savings into this family investment.

To supplement financially, some caregivers are fortunate to have a large network of extended family who can pitch in. As an only child, my extended family consisted of my husband and two sons. My husband worked to keep the roof over our heads, and my sons weren’t old enough to drive themselves, much less anyone else.  So, any supplemental support we needed was a fee-based one, including for tasks as Good Samaritanish as giving my mother a ride to see her doctor.

Research and statistics indicate caregivers absorb an inordinate amount of stress and sacrifice. With the baby boom population aging at the speed of sound, more middle-aged children will be stepping into new roles. No matter a person’s inner stockpile of eagerness, loyalty, and love, caretaking is daunting.  Many medical-specific organizations and caregiver-based groups offer in-person and on-line support groups.  Both society and families benefit financially and emotionally when caregivers are supported.

Without stating it directly, he inquired as to the psychological toll on me. I reflected the personal story of the anonymous statistics and while my mother was living with me I didn’t have time to participate in emotionally satisfying functions. In the remote area in which I lived, it was difficult to access therapy but I reached out for on-line counseling, which was a competent substitute for a face-to-face therapeutic relationship.  

Finally, he asked me how others responded when I told people I was caretaking for someone with a medical hardship. I gave him anecdotes of how medical staff laughed at my mother’s awkwardness with her walker and wheelchairs. Other people’s daughters who weren’t yet faced with this season would remark, “I could never live with my mother like you are.”

Pity on them, not me.  I couldn’t really do it either, yet I did. And if life should demand this from you, you can, too. Because that’s what well-meaning families do.

timothy verse

 

Mama called the doctor

health & wellness, meditation, mindfulness, psychotherapy, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

monkey

If someone is sick, you take them to the doctor. Sometimes, paramedics are called in to put the person in an ambulance to take them to the ER.

So where do you go if you are spiritually sick? You go to the Spiritual Doctor. Of course, there are specialists who deal with the brain, the heart, the skin, the kidneys. If you have a cold, you can go to the brain doctor, but it’s not necessary. The brain doctor might choose to not see you because she has more serious cases which require her level of expertise. So you go to the general practitioner who sees a wide variety of common disorders.

How do you decide how spiritually sick someone is? What are their symptoms? And who are the specialists of the Higher Order cases? That’s a tough question for which to determine an answer. Ministers don’t advertise specialties like a doctor does, yet it would seem a similar comparison could be made. What if a Healer was some obscure medicine/religious person who lived in a remote area? How would you find them? And if it’s still ultimately God, God heals us through his people.

You call the Great Healer through prayer, but you still have to pray.

Here are some signs of a spiritually healthy person:

1. An increased tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.

2. Frequent attacks of smiling.

3. Feelings of being connected with others and nature.

4. Frequent overwhelming episodes of appreciation.

5. A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than from fears based on past experience.

6. An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.

7. A loss of ability to worry.

8. A loss of interest in conflict.

9. A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.

10. A loss of interest in judging others.

11. A loss of interest in judging self.

12. Gaining the ability to love without expecting anything in return.

 

Stripping away the excess

health & wellness, meditation, mindfulness, psychotherapy, Social Trends, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

dear heartMy ego is scared at least a million times a day and the shell of it is so strong that my spirit can barely breathe. I suffocate my soul with layers of roles and labels I pin on myself.

Eventually, though, through aging and, ultimately, death all of these superficial wallpaper titles will be chipped and stripped away and all to remain will be my spirit and soul. It is this untamable, unnamable aspect of self God loves. Fortunately, the indefatigable spirit within me constantly seeks out God.

Briefly and interstitially it peeks out with no attachment to food, caffeine, money, or smooth relationships. In these rare moments, life can just be as it is and I have an opportunity to soar.

In Your Wildest Dreams

How has a dog improved your place of being?

autism, health & wellness, meditation, mindfulness, psychotherapy, Social Trends, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

dog thoughts

This May it will be four years since we “rescued” Pepper Moo from the Hobbs (NM) Animal Shelter. Truth be told, she has rescued us. Over the years, Pepper has offered us  countless hours of comfort and support. Ostensibly, I agreed to a dog because I had read the research about the many benefits canines offer to people with autism and other disabilities.
When my mother was alive, Pepper, in fact, did rescue her. She had fallen one day and the rest of us were in another part of the house. Pepper with her keen hearing, heard my mother calling for help and she barked and barked until my husband, Mike, investigated. Even though my mother used a wheelchair, she was fairly independent and so many times in the evening, she retired to her room and the rest of us retired to ours. Had Pepper not been on the lookout, my mother might have suffered far more severe consequences than a broken nose that night.
Pepper is on 24-hour duty. When it’s bedtime, Pepper without prompting goes into my son’s room and lays at the foot or on his bed guarding him from nightmares and other anxiety provoking stimulations, such as midnight thunderstorms or distant emergency sirens.
But, mostly, she has rescued me. When my mother died, I saved my grief for the early mornings or afternoons when I was in solitude, except for Pepper. And today was no different.
As a member of Planet Earth and in my current vocation, I am a survivor and witness of grief and loss, respectively. Sometimes, my heart needs a companion while tears cleanse me so I can trudge a little further with others. Pepper has been my loyal companion and I thank God for sending her.
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Love is stronger than death

creative non fiction, health & wellness, meditation, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

My father, who would have turned 85 today, showed his love in practical ways. He grew a garden and its bounty he shared with others, he repaired lawnmowers for free, and he often gave rides to strangers who were down on their luck.

I inherited one of those three talents from my father. Giving rides to and toward strangers in unfamiliar territory is something I’m able and willing to do. So, when an opportunity was offered on my late father’s birthday for me to facilitate a Monday night depression and bipolar support group, I plugged in the GPS the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center.

My father studied the Bible, searching for answers to explain the pain and suffering he witnessed during his time on Earth. Had he not been a Presbyterian Jehovah’s Witness, I think he would have found solace in the Jewish faith.

hollis in koreaAt least that’s what I think if I work under the premise children are at least half and half of each parent. I think about my mother all the time, but I feel all the time the same way my father seemed to feel about many things in life.

The generational difference between him and I, though, is I was born at a time when tools became available to more peacefully cope with the suffering that surrounds us, whereas my father was born at a time when he enlisted in a war and responded the way anyone would who sees the powerful injustice of suffering. He raged at it. His favorite book in the Old Testament was Ecclesiastes: There is nothing new under the sun and everything is meaningless.

After the group, I studied the gallery of Jewish philosophy hanging in the community center and wondered what my father would have experienced had he been there with me. I like to think he would have realized how whole his broken heart really was. And that he would have found reassurance in that love is stronger than death.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s always sunny in a rich man’s world

business, politics, Social Trends, trump, Uncategorized

New Microsoft Publisher Document

Winners are good to hang with. They come out ahead. They have drive and focus and when they have spare time they volunteer on boards and city commissions and sometimes write large checks for art programs. But their winning is predicated on someone else losing and once you’re behind it takes a superhuman, supernatural effort to get ahead.

If you’re lucky like some of the popular underdog-turned-superdog stories out there, you’ll sell the right product out of the trunk of your car on the right corner of the right city. With enough drive and perseverance, they tell you, you’ll come out on top and then you can sell your advice, books, and DVDs to the adoring teeming masses.

But what if you don’t have a car to begin with. Or an Internet Connection. Or any Connection. Then what?

You stand in line.

  • At the Welfare Office,
  • At the Food Pantry,
  • At the Salvation Army.

    That is if you’re still able to stand in line.

    But what if your days of driving and standing are long gone. Then what? You rely on programs such as Meals on Wheels. And if someone decides to cut funding, you’re too hard of hearing, seeing, and writing to speak up.

    And you hope someone who’s not too busy winning will notice how far behind you are.

Do you need a breakthrough?

health & wellness, meditation, mindfulness, psychotherapy, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

swimmer (800x439)

One of the most gratifying aspects of serving as a counselor is the breakthrough moment clients experience in finding the source of dissonance within their lives. Whether it’s the honest acknowledgement of a feeling towards another or the awareness of their own behavior, the breakthrough moment is an earth-shaking moment which is felt by both of us.

How does the process unfold to arrive at a particular apex in time? Like a drowning person who is frantically swimming to the water’s surface, a counseling client is sifting through a tidal wave of emotions and thoughts which is submerging her authenticity. A word at a time, a client wrings out the excesses of her relationships to get to the simplicity of one relationship—the relationship with herself.

When the breakthrough occurs, it’s like the near drowning swimmer who has reached through the water’s surface. He is freed to let out the carbon dioxide suffocating him and inhale the oxygen of a life that has been missing. It’s a release of a defense from the intimacy with the universe followed by a burst of energy which gives back a life for one’s self.

What breakthrough moment are you waiting for?

Remember to BREATHE

health & wellness, meditation, mindfulness, Social Trends, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

Has your life knocked the breath out of you? No wonder, as multi-tasking has been tagged as the the working person’s holy grail when it comes to getting it done.

But for all of the star treatment multi-tasking has garnered over the years, efficiency experts are now learning that focusing on one task at a time is more productive than simultaneously attempting to complete many things.

If you find yourself distracted and scattered throughout the day, spending a few minutes paying attention to your breathing can bring back your focus.

According to integrative health physician Andrew Weil, M.D., “practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.”

Breathing by its very nature is a singular activity. Try exhaling and inhaling at the same time. As a foundation to a mindfulness way of life, breathing is the cornerstone.
Here are some tips for beginning a mindful breathing practice:

1. In the beginning, just breathe and pay attention to your breath without any inclination to adjust its depth or length.
2. If feeling anxious, take time to breathe deep into your belly. This breath intention will help dissipate feelings of anxiety.
3. Alternate breaths by covering one nostril and taking one inhale and exhale with one nostril and then switching. This technique will bring more attention to the air that passes through your sinus.
4. Say a phrase that helps you focus on your breathing, such as “breathe in faith, breathe out fear.”

Many books, cds, and dvds are available from a variety of sources for personal use to learn how to improve your breathing technique. Local community groups, such as mental health groups or hospitals, may offer in-person classes.

At its breakneck speed, life takes our breath away. Taking a few minutes each day to catch it, will allow us to be living beings again.