Friday, November 28, 2008

Flashback Friday, Writing Genes

It's Flashback Friday again, peeps! :)

For this installment I'm actually going to flashback to my Great Grandma, Marie Frankl. Marie was my Grandpa Gerald's mother, and I've discovered that part of my love of writing may have come from her. My Aunt Janella sent me a few articles that Marie had written for the church bulletin, and others that she wrote for the newsletters that were published at her nursing home as well.

 U B & Mary Frankl
Urban Bernard & Mary "Marie" Mulligan Frankl
(I may have also inherited her hair, but that's another post...)

The nursing home is where I have my memories of my great-grandma. Mom and I would go visit her when I was little and my older siblings were in school... I can remember sitting in bed with her and she would always have some sort of fruit in the room, like oranges, that she would sit and share with me. And as soon as Mom and Marie would start talking I would wander the halls and pop into people's rooms... asking if they would like to talk to me about anything.

I was a hit in the nursing home.

Eventually I'll share some of her articles with you, but the first piece of writing I'm going to publish is a letter she wrote to my dad when he graduated from high school. My dad is the second oldest of nine children (7 boys and 2 girls), and the boys spent quite a bit of time working cattle with my grandpa. You'll notice in her letter how proud she was of their farm life and the man my dad had become. This letter was written on May 27, 1962:

My dear Mike,

Congratulations on your graduation. I know it means a great deal to you, the accomplishment of something you have worked hard to attain. Now comes the time to think seriously of your life's work -- pray that you may be wisely guided in finding your vocation -- only in serving the Master to the best of one's ability is there lasting happiness.

I know, Mike, that with your kindly ways, your pleasing smile, and those honest blue eyes, you are one that will go out of your way to be gracious and helpful to others. This sort of treasure hunt for happiness seems to be universal to the world over -- may you find contentment and happiness in your daily living.

You boys from the farm, on graduation, take with you a special kind of heritage -- your farm background. Your experiences, as a farm youth, will be an advantage in later life, no matter where you find yourself. You have, in your manner, your habits, an integrity that is always recognized by your superiors. You have learned that value received is in proportion to value given. You have compassion and warmth to give the world, which it sorely needs. You farm boys are richly blessed because you have lived close to the earth -- you have planted seeds and watched them grow day by day, and then helped with the harvest. You have learned respect and awe for nature and what she can do to and for you and your efforts.

Life will not be free from hurts and disappointments. These come to all of us -- the dark threads in the tapestry of living. But you have a head start on the solution of many of life's problems -- a sort of insulation against them and a remarkable amount of good sense in dealing with them. Liking people is one of the important ingredients for getting the most out of life -- if you like people, you have an enthusiasm for working and living. You give of yourself to others, and, in return, you find yourself getting a great deal from them. It pays dividends not only in your work, but in the enjoyment of living.

Each of you boys has a special role to play -- what it will be, no one knows yet. But I'm sure you will assume your responsibilities a little bit better because you came from an Iowa farm.

In closing, dear, I trust you may know peace and find inner contentment, and may you and all your dear ones be blessed with peace of soul. May God bless you always, is the prayer of your loving grandma, Marie Frankl.

I read through this and realized that she knew my dad so very well then, and also had the foresight to see the man he would become. And she would be so very proud of him now. As he and my mom get ready to move on from farm life, they can look back proudly on the family they raised in the same vein Marie spoke of in her loving letter to her grandson.

She gave a lot of lessons to dad in this letter, and he obviously took them to heart. And I'm grateful he and mom took the time to pass those lessons on to us as well. I wouldn't have traded growing up on the farm for anything... it served all of us well and I pray my parents will be fulfilled in whatever life brings to them next.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Turkey Day, people!

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. 
                                                           ~ William Arthur Ward

Just wanted to tell you, from the bottom of my heart, how thankful I am for each and every one of you... and I'm praying all of you are surrounded by loved ones and showered with blessings today.

I had written an extra Flashback Friday last week, so there will be one posted for you tomorrow. Eat lots of turkey, take a good nap, watch some football and I'll see you next week...

And since it's been a whole week without a Riley post, I'll leave you with this image to show you what we'll be doing this weekend:

IMG_023111 f


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What's Thanksgiving?

thanksgiving meal
What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?
                                                             ~ Erma Bombeck

Since Susie told me they are going to be bringing me a plate on Thanksgiving, that no-diet applies to me, too. It's such a bonus having nice friends who are good cooks.  :)

[ Big improvement in arm motion today... I even typed this with two hands. Woo Hoo!!! Hopefully progress continues... ]


Monday, November 24, 2008


Hey, blog peeps... just a short note so you don't worry. :) Typing one handed is a challenge, but I figure a short note is better than no note!

This hasn't been fun, but today is a little better and it will keep improving... it's just taking a bit more patience on my part at the moment. You all are SO kind and thoughtful... just know I appreciate you and am so thankful to have found you all.

DON'T WORRY! :) I'll hopefully be doing better in a few days and will be back bugging you on a daily basis. I was just afraid if nothing was posted this morning your imaginations might run wild... but at least now Susie can say she's a blogger... and she's pretty sure all the comments were because of her mad writing skills. :)

Thanks for everything, friends... truly. You can't know how much it means to me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Hi everyone!  This is Sara's friend, Susie...  Sara asked me to send out a post today because she is having a rough day and she isn't able to type a message.  She was sitting at her computer this morning and got a very severe pain in her neck and shoulder - now she can barely move her arms and she isn't able to type.  She says she will be fine, but she thought if she didn't have a post on her site by Monday morning, some of you may wonder...  They're forecasting the possibility of freezing rain and snow here tonight and the drastic changes in weather usually have a very negative effect on Sara - so that's probably what's going on.  Regardless of what it is, she is in a lot of pain (I should say, more pain than usual), so please keep her in your prayers.  She said she will write again as soon as she is able...  Thanks for checking in.  - Susie   

Friday, November 21, 2008

Flashback Friday: Mary's Song

Hey, blog peeps...

So, I've decided to implement a new feature here on the Gitzen Girl blog. I'm not going to lie, I put absolutely no thought or planning into this. It's just an idea that popped into my head as I was trying to think of something to write about so I thought I'd just run with it. As Julia Roberts so eloquently said in Pretty Woman, "I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl."   :)

What is this exciting new feature, you ask? It's called Flashback Friday and every week I'm going to post old photos and stories about my family, or my childhood, or maybe re-publish some old posts that new readers might not have seen... or whatever random kind of flashback my brain can come up with. If you have suggestions feel free to throw them at me since obviously nothing here is set in stone.

For this first installment I want to tell you all about my mom's best friend since I was a little girl, Mary Burns. Or MaryB as I refer to her. She calls me Sarsie in a way that only she can. For as close as my mom and MaryB have always been, I think God knew what he was doing when he put my life in contact with hers. She has lived with multiple sclerosis and has gone through so many ups and downs over the years. She has gone from the extremes of walking fine or with a cane to being wheelchair bound and back again. She has been completely blind and her sight has been restored. She knows what it is to suffer and she knows what it is to celebrate. And she has maintained a faithful spirit throughout all of it.

hp photosmart 720  
Me and MaryB, November 2003

Yesterday (Thursday, 20th) was MaryB's 69th birthday, and mom said they had a fun dinner out with her kids and grandkids... and I couldn't help but smile to think of good times we've had in years past. Mom and MaryB would "do coffee" at the Pizza Hut in town when I was little and I was an active member of their little social circle. I was attached to my mom's hip anyway, but when she sent me off to preschool my first question every day when she would pick me up was: "Did you and MaryB go for coffee without me?" Mother assured me they would never do anything of the sort and I was crushed on the day they let it slip they were meeting on the sly.

I eventually got my own special connection with MaryB, however. My junior year in high school I asked her to be my confirmation sponsor, and it was at the celebration dinner that I came to a realization that about put everyone on the floor laughing in hysterics.

When mom and I would ride into town for our coffee dates with MaryB we would always sing on our way there. It was a little tune that went as follows:

Father, we adore you. Lay our lives before you. How we love you. Jesus, we adore you. Lay our lives before you. How we love you.
Spirit, we adore you. Lay our lives before you. How we love you.
Mary, we adore you. Lay our lives before you. How we love you.

I was telling everyone the story of how we used to have coffee with MaryB and how we would sing to her on our way into town. Mom looked at me like I had three heads and suddenly it clicked to me that we weren't singing to MaryB... we were singing to the Blessed Virgin!

But can't you hear the confusing similarities in a little kid's head? "Mary we adore you" and "Mary B adore you" sound pretty darn similar when you're four years old.

I was, however, 16 years old before I figured out that my love and adoration for MaryB didn't actually inspire a song.

But I do think she was pretty flattered by the company she was keeping in my mind and my heart... and, apparently, in my songs. Happy Birthday, MaryB! I really do adore you...


Thursday, November 20, 2008


I love words. Not just for the sake of writing and their meaning, but the way they sound when spoken aloud. There are certain phrases that are given a depth that would otherwise go unnoticed. It's just something about the way the words sound together.

The quote pictured below is on my wall of doodles, and it's a perfect example of a message I like for it's meaning, but one I like so much better when said aloud. Try saying it and see if you feel the difference:

IMG_2052 1 
"In the midst of winter, I finally learned
there was in me an invincible summer."
                                                              ~Albert Camus

See what I mean? It sounds like poetry to me.

It's also a quote that happens to be true. I put this on my wall not to inspire me, but to remind me of what I've already learned so I don't have to keep re-teaching myself.

When things get harder, when my health is more trying, the thing that keeps me calm and sane is the fact that I know I've done it before. The pain has been bad before, the symptoms are all ones that I've faced in the past, the exhaustion has reared it's ugly head and the headaches have tried to break me. And during those times, those wintry moments when things seem cold and endless and bleak, there is a summer deep within me that is untouchable. Invincible. I know it's there even when it seems far away and unreachable because I've been through it all before... and the summer always rises to the surface.

I have faith that He hasn't left me empty. So in those moments I remind myself of what I've already learned... that in the midst of winter there is in me an invincible summer.

What have you already learned that seems easy for you to forget?

Because I really do believe that once we know better we can't pretend to be ignorant anymore. Try making it a habit to remind yourself now of what you've already learned so that during your next run of trouble... the winter moments that inevitably come... you will remember and believe that He hasn't left you empty.

Remember that He has given you an invincible summer within.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Peek A Boo

I may have pulled 587 muscles in my back tonight, but my dog had me laughing so hard it might have been worth it.

Dawn came and cleaned my house today, and the Mediacom repair dude was here for a few hours replacing my DVR because the hard drive was fried. Bad news: I lost all the episodes of tv shows I had recorded and was waiting to watch. Good news: he replaced the DVR and changed out a cable that makes my picture look about a million times better. I'm just hoping that has full episodes of Brothers & Sisters and Desperate Housewives online or I'm going to be a sad little chica.

Anyway, my point is that I had a lot more activity in the house than either Riley or I have been used to since I've been feeling less stellar. And while it made me tired and ready to lay on the couch all night and pretend that the blog writes itself (it doesn't, by the way... no matter how much I procrastinate), the extra activity RILED up RILEY.

He was whining and unsettled. And persistent. He wanted in the other room, he wanted me in the other room with him, then he wanted us back in the red room, then he drove me insane. And that's when it happened. I turned to walk away from him (yes, I was following my dog around... don't judge... I already know I need a life), and when my back was turned I could hear him creeping up behind me like he was sneaking up to scare me or something.

So I turned around quickly (that's when the 587 muscles got pulled) and I scared the life out of my dog. He took off running through the room, jumping from couch to chair to couch again... I swear to God if dogs could laugh, he was laughing. And as soon as I turned my back and started to walk away from him, he did it again. We played that game for as long as I could take it (only about 3 times) but it was quite entertaining and he's no longer whining.

Playing that game reminded me that while I've told you guys about his love of Hide and Seek, I've never shown you photos of him playing Peek a Boo. I'm so glad I have photographic evidence so you all don't think I'm crazy and that this disease has somehow affected my brain as well.

This is the pup, burrowing his face to hide behind the pillows... waiting for me to say, "Where's Riley?"


I'm telling you, the dog is just that side of human.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I was talking to mother about a phone call she received from my niece Becca, who had a school project for which she needed some information. One of the questions she asked my (almost) 65-year-old mom was, "What was one of the most influential things that changed your life?"

First, let me say that's not something I could come up with an answer for just off the top of my head... I always think I would give an answer and then two days later come up with something way more relevant, making my first answer seem superficial.

Good thing she didn't ask me.

Anyway, mother started talking about how much things have changed since she was a little girl on the farm. Remember... she's only (almost) 65.

They didn't have running water. As in, no functional toilet in the house. She specifically remembers coming home from school one day to discover that her parents had bought a double basin sink that had running water hooked up to it ~ which meant no more going to the pump outside to bring in water for dishes.

They didn't have electricity... and their telephone? It was one that you had to crank.

And as she's talking about all of this I'm thinking that I remember episodes on Little House on the Prairie when the Oleson's got an indoor toilet... and that was WAY before my mom's time. (You're welcome, mom.) :) What I'm trying to say is... it wasn't that long ago that things were very different.

And THANK GOD it's changed!

I remember visiting my Grandpa and Grandma Frankl at their house one winter and we were going to town to rent a movie. In "those days" no one owned a VCR, you rented them from the movie store for the night. On this night, however, all of them were checked out... and my Grandpa rented a movie anyway, walked into a department store nearby and bought a VCR. I am telling you, I'm not sure if I thought he had won the lottery or lost his mind! But it was pretty darn exciting for the six of us grandkids when he did it.

Now picture that excitement compared to indoor plumbing. Seriously.

I just found it amazing that in the last 65 years we have gone from no technology to me becoming close friends with people I may never meet in person because space and distance no longer matter. We've gone from cranking telephones to me having video chats with my niece and nephew whenever the mood strikes. I can give testimony, first hand, that if you have the money to pay for shipping... you never have to leave your house again.

It's insane.

And I'm just trying to imagine what Becca's grandchildren will be shocked by when she's (almost) 65 years old...

Monday, November 17, 2008



Did you ever have a lemonade stand when you were little? I never did at home because we lived on an acreage and there isn't a lot of traffic on country blacktop roads. And the traffic that did go by were farmers who didn't believe in speed limits... so a folding table at the end of our driveway wouldn't have been the safest place for a kid.

There was one summer, though, when I was staying with my cousin Stacey for a week... she had lemonade stands all the time. We got our fancy signs made and my Aunt Darlene helped us whip up some sugar-filled concoctions for the cars that passed by. And then we waited. And waited. And waited.

Every once in awhile people came by with their 50 cents to buy a glass... and a few times they'd hand us a dollar and would tell us to keep the change. We were crazy excited and thrilled that our hard work was paying off and people seemed to be pleased with our little venture.

And then HE stopped by. This random man who pulled his car to the side, asked for two glasses of lemonade, drank them, handed us a $20 bill and got back in his car. We were INSANE with excitement. We ran into the house talking over one another, relaying the story, running out of breath and celebrating our windfall... it was a good day to be in the lemonade business.

I was talking with a good friend of mine the other day who has had a lot happen in her life. She made the comment that she didn't think she was turning her lemons into lemonade.

I get that... me and my Pollyanna-self is always trying to take the lemons and find a new way to mix them up until something sweet comes from them. But I started wondering... what if it's more than that? What if all these lemons we're handed in life... the sour things we have to take, squeeze, stir and add bits of ourselves to in order to make them digestible... what if that's just the first step?

What if WE are the lemonade?

It's important for us to look at our lives, the gifts and burdens we're handed, and be open to the ways we can add sweetness. The ways we can intentionally help someone else, make our own selves better and try to do our best in any given situation. Turn our lemons into lemonade.

I know I couldn't do any of those things on my own. There is no way I would have the perspective, strength or fortitude if I didn't ask God for help in those everyday areas of my life. Our lemons turn to lemonade because He's given us the gifts to make that happen.

But have you ever thought about it from God's perspective? That He sees all of the challenges we have in our lives and He lets us walk through them for a reason? He could easily make every obstacle we face easy... smooth out the rough road ahead of us and make every day simple. But He's watching us as we work through the sour patches... as we take the lemons in our lives, squeeze all the juice from them, add in the sweetness of our faith and trust and acceptance, and press forward.

Maybe while we are going through the rough patches with as much grace as we can muster, He is smiling... seeing the big picture.

Smiling because He knows we will sometimes break even with our 50 cents, sometimes exceed our own expectations with a dollar tip, and have magical times when we are graced with a windfall of $20 just because we persevered. He is smiling... and pleased with the sweet concoction He's created in each and every one of us.

Maybe we don't just take our lemons and make lemonade.

Maybe to Him WE ARE the lemonade.

Just a thought.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Living Until

"Even though we think of our goals as some future state to achieve, the real goal is always the life of this moment, this moment, this moment."                                 ~ Charlotte Beck
I have a habit of "living until." Sometimes it's a bad thing, sometimes it's a good thing, and sometimes it's just a way of creative denial that helps me survive the moment. 

I used to do a lot of living until. When I was at the magazine I thought that I would work part-time from home until I got myself stronger and could be at the office full-time again. Then I decided I would go on disability but just until I figured out a better way to handle the pain, and then I would find a way to get back to work again. And then I decided I would just do freelance work until I got better... and then I realized I wasn't really living. I was setting goals for myself that were impossible to attain. I was just existing while the world kept turning because I was looking back instead of looking ahead. 

During that time, I was living until because I wasn't happy with the reality that faced me. That happens, it's just a survival thing... but the problem was that a part of me stopped living altogether. I wasn't trying to find a way to make my life work as it was, I was very determined to find a way to make my life work like I wanted it to. To pull and cram and rearrange the facts to fit into a box that had fallen apart and disintegrated before I was ready to let it go. 

I was joking about my denial with my friend Susie the other night because I realized that last winter, when the cold was making my bones ache, I kept thinking that if I just held on until spring it would be better. But then I got pneumonia in February and I spent the entire spring in a cycle of migraines because of the increased thunderstorms we had. So I told myself to hold on until summer. Summer would be better and I would spend every day sitting on my patio, reading and soaking in the beautiful sunshine. And then I started reacting to something in the air after the flooding in our area and I spent the entire summer trapped in my house... couldn't even open a window. So I told myself to hold on until a freeze and then I would be able to breathe. But I forgot that a freeze meant winter ... and I would be right back where I started. 

Which means I spent a very hopeful and forward-thinking year trapped in my house. My ability to live in denial astounds even me. :) 

I have been in a lot of pain and my body has felt generally unwell since the cold front moved in and we've had rainy, snowy weather. It's been the kind of unpleasantness where I get sick in the middle of the night for no reason... not because I have the flu or I ate something bad... just because my body can't take anymore. And today I decided I needed something to change. Something to get excited about. It has been freezing cold here more than once and I decided whatever was in the air that I've reacted to must be gone by now. I wanted to breathe fresh air even if it is raining outside. I wanted to celebrate something. 

So I opened the window. And breathed in the air. And the reaction wasn't as bad as it has been... but it wasn't gone. While I wasn't gasping for air, my breathing changed. Eventually my eyes started hurting and my ears were sore and my head ached. I was starting to feel worse. And do you want to know what I did? 

I left the window open for a little while longer. 

Stubborn me tried to pull and cram and rearrange the facts to fit into a box again. Apparently it takes me awhile to relearn the same lesson over and over. 

It doesn't mean that it won't happen eventually. But it means that it's not happening right now. And I have to remind myself that "living until" it happens doesn't work. I may keep staying put in my house. I may eventually have a day where I feel a little stronger and try to get out despite the pain or reaction. I may not get to have a choice between the two. But I'm not going to waste my time in here wishing I was out there

I am going to keep focused on the goal of "the life of this moment, this moment, this moment." I'm going to hold onto my creative denial and hope that after enough cold weather hits whatever is left in the air will go. But I'm not going to stop living while I wait for it to happen. I'm going to focus on this moment. 

However, while I'm not going to "live until" I can get out into the world again and my window is able to stay propped open... you can be sure I will shout from the rooftop when it does. :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Smoothie

So here's something you should know about me: I have had more hairstyles than anyone else on the planet. I have had short hair, long hair, curly hair, straight hair, colored hair, highlighted hair, big bangs, no bangs, flipped in the back and everything in between. Whenever anything was feeling crazy in my life, my solution was to change my hairstyle.

I once had super-short hair like the new Victoria Beckham style:
and after I grew it out my (then very little) niece Anna told me she liked my hair long better than when I had it, "cut like a boy's." It's stayed long ever since.

I would show you all the photos of my different hairstyles, but that would mean bombarding you with photos of me, and I would enjoy that about as much as having my fingernails ripped out. So instead, I'm going to show you some "dog hairstyles."

I've only taken Riley to be groomed by a professional a couple of times. One reason is that I cut my own hair to save myself money, so I can't really justify spending it on my dog's hair. Another is that Riley dislikes being around other dogs more than anything else, so it seems silly to inflict a day at the vet's on him when it's not necessary.

The final reason is that the one time I had him groomed and asked for her to just "trim him up a little" he went from looking like this:


To looking like this:


Which required me to buy him this:


because it was winter and he was shaking from being so cold.

My friend Susie has a Goldendoodle named Sadie, and she is big and fluffy and funny and adorable. She's pictured below in a photo with Jonboy, which was taken before a crazy grooming appointment where she went from looking like this:


To looking like this:


After getting over the initial shock of thinking they gave her the wrong dog, the groomer told Susie that Sadie had some mats and it was easier to give her a cut they called "The Smoothie."


Just so you know, that is one hairstyle I'll never be asking for. No matter how crazy my life is or how much I think I need a change.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

50 in 50

So, I haven't been up and about or moving around much, and I decided I had to make myself get up and stretch my legs today. I realized I hadn't gotten my mail since Friday so I looked at Riley and said, "Buddy, should we get the mail?"


I think his head exploded off his body and reattached itself before I had the chance to grab my crutches. So I put on his leash and we took the "long" walk down the hall to check my mailbox. And then I took off his leash and let him run down to the end of the hallway and back (shh... don't tell anyone... that's a no-no in my building).

He came back in and plopped down in front of the fireplace... exhausted. This whole dog-acting-like-his-owner-thing is getting ridiculous! :) Most dogs would have just been warming up and wanting to keeping running. But while I have taught him nothing other than how to pose for the camera to get a Cheerio... I have obviously trained him to have pretty low expectations.

Which reminded me of my friend Kelly's daughter, Kaitlyn. I believe they were having Thanksgiving dinner at Kelly's parents' house and Kate commented that it was a good meal but the mashed potatoes tasted funny. She really preferred her mom's recipe.

The problem: they were REAL potatoes... she'd only ever had them from a box. Low expectations...

If my friend Susie and her boys come over for dinner, she walks in my condo with a bag of groceries... including basics like milk and ketchup. Because she knows what's in my house: ramen noodles and peanut butter and jelly. I've trained her well: low expectations.

But there are people out there who deserve more than low expectations. People who need help with the basics of daily living... food, clothing, shelter. There's a program called Soles4Souls that is doing an amazing challenge you all can be a part of:

 The 50,000 Pairs in 50 Days Challenge

Soles4Souls facilitates the donations of shoes, which are used to aid the hurting worldwide. They are trying to get 50,000 pairs of shoes in 50 days, and if you want to help you can go to their site... 2 pairs of shoes can be given for a $5 donation. Which is pretty darn incredible. Need a small Christmas gift for a Secret Santa? A $5.00 donation to put shoes on the feet of a child would be an amazing gift. And when you donate you are automatically registered for the chance to win a trip to Mexico and help hand out the donated footwear.

Sometimes it's a good or funny thing to have low expectations.

Sometimes it's a great thing to raise someone's expectations and give them a simple gift that means the world.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Soapbox

Ok, blog peeps, I'm going to ask for your indulgence as I get up on my soapbox for a moment today.

I know what you're all thinking, "If she's not usually on a soapbox then what the hell has she been standing on?!?!"

My own two feet, would be my answer. :) When I write to you all here everyday, even though there are times when I encourage you to try something new or challenge you to think, I'm not making a declaration as someone who has any degrees or authority. I've never written a book or studied philosophy (although I wish I could... that would be so interesting). I'm just a girl who happens to be stuck in her house and has lived through a few things. My only goal is to tell you about those experiences and hope you glean something of use to you... or at the very least enjoy a well told story.

No, today I want a soap box. And your forgiveness if it's a little longer than usual. I want to make a declarative statement about illness, doctors and our rights as patients. There have been so very many times I wished I didn't feel so alone in the process of being sick, and today I want to tell you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

This declaration today comes from reading so many comments and emails from people who sound discarded, defeated and dismissed. You feel safe to say that here, but I think it needs to be said louder. Many of you aren't sick, but this soapbox moment is for you, too... for that someday moment, God forbid, when you find yourself feeling less stellar than you do now.

I have been so fortunate that through most of my illness, before we knew what was wrong, I had my regular doctor, Annie. Dr. Annie Kontos to be exact. I'll use her full name because I have nothing but good things to say for her. She has done everything in her power to help me, and when she was in over her head she sent me to others who had more experience.

That's where things typically would go wrong. But even then I would come back to Annie's ~literally~ open arms and we would start again. I have been to specialists who assumed the digestion problems were because of trouble with a boyfriend. When I informed him I didn't have a boyfriend at the time, he then took that to be the problem. You know, because the doctor man would assume every woman would fall to pieces and develop internal issues over the lack of a man in her life.

**** I'm just taking a moment for all the women  
to be able to laugh publicly at his idiocy ****

Moving on...

I have been in a room with a doctor who looked at my chart, made dictation, made decisions and dismissed me without examining me or glancing in my direction. At one point I had a question right after my appointment and was standing with the nurse in the hallway immediately after leaving his room. He came out and we asked him the question ... and he had no idea who I was. I had left him not more than 30 seconds earlier. He literally hadn't looked at my face.

I went to a rheumatologist who examined me, looked at my chart and said absolutely he knew what was wrong with me and would help me... only to return on my next appointment to have him tell me he changed his mind and didn't know what was wrong with me again. Talk about emotional whiplash.

I am very accustomed to the ups and downs... I've been dealing with all of this to varying degrees for almost 15 years now, but even the strongest of us have our moments. I have been in and out of the hospital many times and am quite independent about it. Back when I was able to drive I would take my own car to the hospital, check myself in and handle it on my own. I always had friends stopping in to see me but never felt nervous about the process of being there and dealing with whatever arose. Most of that is because I have always found nurses to be the most compassionate souls on the planet.

A few years ago, however, I had an experience where I drove myself to the hospital and checked in, and was put in my room. I was in an extreme amount of pain and had pneumonia. I sat in the room and waited. And waited. I called the nurses' desk and would either get no answer or a quick... we'll get to you. After two hours of no one in my room, no IV put in, no pain meds given... I was ready to lose my mind. After 3 1/2 hours I was doubled in pain, couldn't straighten up and crying my eyes out. And I don't cry easily.

I called my friend Kelly and all I could get out was that I needed her help, and she got to the room and raised holy hell. Or as my friend Kathy would say, "She went all Shirley MacLaine on 'em." But even she couldn't get anyone to get things done... they were busy with paperwork for other patients and would get to me when they could. She finally called the after hours number for my doctor, who called the hospital and nearly 5 hours after I checked in they came in with drugs. Kelly later saw that nurse in the hallway laughing outside my door.

In that same hospital stay they messed up my medications and gave me 4 times the normal dose of one of my meds two days in a row, even after I questioned them on the dosage. Let me say this: this was a one time event for me. I spoke to the hospital administration and the nurse who treated me was not a regular there; she was a temporary floating nurse who was more used to administration than care. And she's the only nurse I've EVER had trouble with.

But my reason for telling you this story is that after 15 years of managing my disease on my own, I will never go into a hospital again without someone with me. Not because problems are inevitable, but because they happen. And we all have a right to a voice, and to have someone who is louder than we are when we are sick.

There was a time when I thought I would never find a specialist who could help me. I have, thanks to Dr. Kontos. She never let me give up or stop looking... because I would have. I now have doctors who know what they're doing, understand my disease, and want to keep looking for solutions. I know there are many of you out there who haven't found that person yet. Keep looking. Don't think you're alone or that you don't have the right to ask questions and, if necessary, fire your doctor and look to another one.

I know. I've been there. I have been ready to give up. But I am so grateful I kept going until I found the ones who were worth the wait. I'm also grateful for home nursing so I can be at home instead of the hospital during the rough times. But mostly, I'm grateful I kept trying. You should too. I get that it's hard. I get that it's discouraging. I get it.

You are not alone.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Define Joy

Joy is a big part of life... no matter how you define it or what brings it to you. I'm sure there are as many things that instill joy in people as there are people to describe it.

Maybe for you it's the smile on your child's face in the early morning hours when you walk in the room to lift them from their crib.

Maybe it's walking along the beach as the waves crash on the shore and seagulls make a choir in the distance.

Maybe it's pulling into a gas station where the price is below $3/gallon.

To each their own.

But here's a question: have you stopped long enough to figure out what brings you joy, define what that joy feels like to you and realize that, like everything in life, it can be a choice?


I made a decision a long time ago that I was going to choose joy. I even painted a big rectangle on my wall and printed it in big letters so I wouldn't forget to make that choice every day. The major word in that rectangle isn't joy... it's CHOOSE. It's looking around me when life is difficult and trading every complaint I have for something beautiful in my life that far outweighs it. I know, it's that Pollyanna personified thing again... but living joyful beats being cynical any day of the week.

My friend Tam asks a lot of questions, both on her blog and in her emails... she peppers me with questions that nearly always make me stop to think before firing off a simple answer. I like that challenge. On her blog awhile back she posed the question: how would you define joy?

She didn't ask what brings you joy... she asked for it's definition. And I had to think about it for a bit. I tried to think of what REAL joy feels like to me... not the fleeting moments of happiness or elation, but that real, deep down, nothing can touch the lightness of my soul kind of joy. Here's what I decided for myself:

Joy: the unwavering trust that God knows what He’s doing and has blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of it… not despite what’s happening in my life but because of it. When everything earthly feels heavy He gives me an internal lightness that can’t be touched.

That's what it feels like and means to me. Take a minute today to think about what joy is for you and then take it one step further. Take a moment to leave yourself a note... on your nightstand, on your bathroom mirror, by your computer... leave yourself a reminder to stop, take a deep breath and consciously choose joy today.

Trust me, it's worth your time.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Prove It.

I love that I got to work at a magazine. I started out being an editorial assistant and began getting more responsibilities and more writing assignments as time went on. I realize that I barely dipped my toe in the water of what might have been, but my toes enjoyed the experience very much.

One day, on one of my first writing assignments, I was sitting in my office trying to figure out a way to make a complicated technology seem simple to the readers. Since college, my way of writing has always been to do as much research as possible, know my stuff and then set it aside as I sit down and write. I was never good at planning the outline in advance; I would have to start writing before the whole concept could really form for me.

So on this particular day I had done all my research and I started writing. And hitting backspace. And writing. And hitting backspace. I just couldn't figure out a concept or a way to begin. So I did the only logical thing I could think of... I went to the person in the office next to mine and we ordered chinese food. Because when you don't know what else to do, procrastination always seems like the best course of action.

I ate my sweet and sour chicken while we talked about anything and everything besides work, and then I opened my fortune cookie. And I kid you not, this is what it read: "You are competent, capable and creative. Prove it." Well, ok then.

fortune cookie

I took fate's swift kick in the derriere, went back to my office, took a deep breath and started writing. And it was one of the more fun articles I wrote. The thing is, I always knew what needed to be said and I had the way of telling it inside of me. I just forgot for a moment.

Why am I telling you this story? Because I think we all have so many gifts and so much potential inside of us. Sometimes we have such definite ideas of how something should go that we forget to let go and let life happen. Sometimes we get so caught up in thinking about doing something great, and worrying that it might not turn out good enough, that we forget to start. We forget to take a deep breath and trust that God made us... which means that who we are is enough. It means that whatever we need in any given moment, we have. We just have to trust ourselves, trust Him and trust that we are capable.

And then prove it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Miss Caffeine

This picture cracks me up. Riley was sleeping on the pillows and when I went to snap a photo he woke up and looked at me... his hair all sleepy-faced and bed-head looking.

You know how they say dogs and their owners start to look alike? He looks just like me at this moment.

Storms are coming; the weather is changing. We've been in a little Indian summer and now the cold front is moving in. The highs have been in the 70s and in a day or so the highs will be in the 30s. It's raining and forecasted to snow. Ahhh... Iowa.

I won't repeat how this affects me... I've posted about it before [click here if you missed it]. Needless to say my pain is intense and I'm a little nervous as to how this winter is going to feel on these tired old bones.

Ok, I'm not that old but I sooo understand what old people mean by that. :)

And of all the things in the world I could wish for... oh, what I wouldn't give for a Diet Mt. Dew. It was always my version of comfort food. I'm a simple girl, really, but pop is no longer in my vocabulary. (Neither is soda for all you people in other parts of the country.) And I am one of the few people in the world who can't stand coffee... which is good because I've never wasted my money at Starbucks.

But the end result of that pain and tiredness I mentioned, and the lack of caffeine, is that my brain could think of nothing to talk about in today's post. Nada. Nothing. Zip. So that's why I'm admitting to you all that I look like my dog with bed head. It's like we're twins.

Except, you know, he's cuter. :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Something to Ponder...

Riley's been pondering this question... 

What do we do now?

You know, now that the election is over? Who will be buying airtime now that commercial space is available? And who will be on the other end of the phone when it comes up "unknown caller" now that no one is calling to tell me about their Presidential candidates?

More importantly, are we all going to set down our swords now and be united for a common purpose?

Because to me, it doesn't matter if my candidate won or not. 

*shock*   *gasp*   *horror*

I know, hard to believe, but I'm not going to say who I voted for or if I'm happy about the result. In all honesty, I'm writing this post before I know the election results. What I will say is that I'm going to support the President. Pray for the President. And pray for those who have his ear.

Because to me, people, what's done is done. Messes that have been made are made. Successes that have been achieved are achieved. I was just talking to a loved one recently about the fact that others in our lives make decisions that affect us, but all we can do is decide how we will react and carry on from there.

And the only way I know how to react is to live by example. If the government drops the ball on an issue, then we should pick up the ball if it's possible. If your neighbor needs help, help them. If someone feels they are being treated unfairly, listen to them and help if you can... help them understand their worth. Donate. Speak truth. Volunteer.

We have elected a new President, but that doesn't mean we're done. That just means the commercials are done. Now is the time to start. New mistakes will be made and new accomplishments will be written in the history books. But our decisions, our reactions are still in our hands. It has to start with us. And the possibilities are endless.

mother teresa quote

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Horsing Around

Since yesterday's was a more serious blog and everywhere else you go today will probably be about politics, I thought I'd inundate you with cuteness. I think I may have mentioned once or twice that I have the cutest, smartest, kindest and most loving nieces and nephews on the planet... but in case you've forgotten...


This is my sweet niece Rebecca Jo peeking through the window... more commonly known as Becca. When my sister Laura was pregnant with her we didn't know if she was a boy or a girl, but for months my nephew Thomas would announce to anyone who would listen that he was going to have a sister and her name was Reeeeebecca. Emphasis on the "e." They had never discussed that name, but when she was born a beautiful and healthy little girl, they decided he may have been on to something and stuck with the name.


This photo was taken at my place about a year and a half ago. You might be able to see Becca in there somewhere, but what you can't miss is Sassy... the horse that was almost bigger than her. I'm not sure how they fit Sassy in the vehicle with the four of them, but Becca hardly needed the couch cushions with Sassy there to lay on.

Horses have been the theme of Miss Becca's entire life. And I don't know how to fully explain this passion to you. Because passion, truly, isn't a big enough word. When she was little, Becca didn't just WANT a horse, she wanted to BE a horse.

The photo below is from Christmas 2001, when she got that black horse from Santa. We were all watching a movie and Becca was in her "stance" watching along. Notice her snack of choice? Carrots, of course. I am telling you, she had the stance perfected... and she could gallop and buck and whinny with the best of them.

Becca as Horse11

One night, Becca was in tears over the fact that no matter how much she wished, she would always be a girl and never be a horse. My nephew Thomas, trying to console her said, "But Becca, if you were a horse we'd never be able to hug you."

Here response? "Yeah, but you could pet me."

She was determined. And with a face like hers, who could refuse her anything? We used to play for hours, not with her horses, but with her being the horse. She would have scenarios all worked out and give me one of the following scripts to follow:

1. I was a girl coming to the barn to pick out a new horse, and she was so beautiful I had to pick her. Then I would be her trainer and teach her tricks... give her food... tell her when to rest.

2. I was a race horse trainer... she was usually named Lightening, and we would set courses for her to run around. Over and over again. Endlessly.

3. It was my birthday and I would receive a gift... after opening the box I would think it was a statue of a horse (she was CRAZY good at being still)... then she would surprise me by being a real horse and we would eat cake. (That was my favorite... because even pretend cake is better than no cake.)

Becca on Horse11

This was our routine for years and years. And the girl still loves her horses, although I haven't seen her gallop through a room for quite awhile. She may have outgrown that stage. My brother-in-law Jeff has built her barns for her horse collection and pretty much anything she has on her wish list is horse-related. She found her calling early in life.

I'm excited to see how this passion plays out for her... but with her love for animals and compassionate spirit, I have no doubt it will be worth the wait.

Becca Bucking11

And you have to admit, she's got the bucking thing down pat...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Be Intentional

Awhile back I told you all to ask me anything that's on your mind and I'd do my best to answer... so ask and you shall receive... :)

You've actually touched on this topic before but could you/would you expand on it, in a post? What does it mean to you to live "with intention?" How is "intention" defining or maybe working in your life?

When I mentioned it before it was one of my Life Goals... to be intentional in all things. Here's the thing: I really do believe that everything we do, no matter how small, carries with it an impact. The decisions we make about who we want to be, how we want to live and how we treat others affects more than just our immediate surroundings. If I come in contact with someone I either leave them feeling better about themselves or worse, but I never leave them unaffected.

I can smile and give a compliment or I can begrudgingly say hi on my way to do something I deem more important. I can remind people of their value or I can diminish their worth by saying nothing. Every one of us matters in every moment of the day. Sometimes it's even in the way we talk to ourselves in our own minds. Do you get up and decide you're not in the mood for the day or do you get up and decide you will make a difference today? Because that conversation will directly affect how you treat each person you see.

The way for me to make sure I'm living intentionally is to first be sure I'm really present in the moment. I'm not crazy enough to think this is easy, or even always possible. I have enough friends who are moms to know that multitasking is a way of life. But when your kid comes up to tell you something exciting about his/her day, are you really there when you listen? Do you look them in the eye, soak up their joy, get excited with them and make them feel heard?

One of my most vivid memories of being little is when I was sitting at the dining room table and my mom was vacuuming. She stopped, sat down next to me and helped me write my name until I got it. She left her stuff intentionally, made me important and gave me her attention. I'm 35 years old and I still remember how that made me feel.

When I'm talking to or even emailing someone, I intentionally give them my focus and try to leave an impact. My goal is to leave everyone with whom I am in contact knowing they are special... that someone cares. It can be through joking with them, through complimenting them, or just by letting them know I am paying attention to the details of their lives. For me, being intentional is paying attention to what the need of the other person may be and doing my part to fill it.

be intentional

It also exists on a much broader scale for me. A lot of big changes have happened to me in a short number of years. I can no longer work. I can't travel. Reality check: I don't leave the house. I don't feel well and it would be very easy to let the world pass me by, thinking that if everything has been taken from me I might as well act like it.

But it's my intention to be open to whatever God has in store for me. My biggest fear is that He has a purpose for me and if I'm not paying attention, I'll miss it. So I pray for guidance and pray that I can be intentional in all things. I pay attention when I feel a tug on my heart or have an idea of something to do for someone else. I think those are God's ways of letting me know when I'm needed. As time has gone on and more of my own life has fallen by the wayside, I've come to realize that my biggest role in life is that of encourager. I believe in people when they don't believe in themselves... I believe in God's plan when others lose their faith... I encourage and, hopefully, leave someone feeling better than when I found them.

I only see that need in others and strength in myself when I am intentional with my habits and am paying attention to the words and actions of others. And, in a way, I've been blessed that this illness has stripped some things away from me. It's allowed me the freedom to no longer try to get it all done, usually without knowing my intention. I no longer feel the need to be the best at everything, and instead try to be my best by doing what will best serve.

This blog is a great example. I had the urge to write on a whim. I listened to the tug on my heart and I started. I am intentional with the things I say and my only goal is to write every day for all of you... so you all know how important you are, that you are worth my time and that your lives hold meaning to me. I love seeing you all show up on each others' blogs to lend support and be community for each other. That's what living with intention is all about.

I drop the ball on it all the time... I mess up with the best of them. But my intention is to always keep trying.