Tag Archives: compassion

Get Real!

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Some say the world is a dangerous place and filled with hurtful, angry people. Others won’t even think of bringing a child into a world like this. No, we cannot let kids roam free like they used to and often we don’t even know our neighbors’ names, much less socialize with them. We build fences and stronger locks to keep people out and away. We arm ourselves against our fear of unknown violence. We honk and curse and shake fists at one another on the roadways. We look down and avoid eye contact and certainly don’t smile at strangers. We scurry from place to place, consumed with our own lives. Yes, this is how we live… sometimes.

But there are souls in this world who long to change that, who have soft hearts that desire to spread goodness, peace, comfort, and, of course, joy, to others. Today I was the recipient of something truly extraordinary. A group of women in a neighboring city gather on a regular basis and collect money as they share time together as friends. Every quarter they choose someone to receive the money they have collected. I was nominated for this gift several months ago, unbeknownst to me. Until today, I had never heard of Womenade of Highlands Ranch. I had no idea that complete strangers had decided to give to me out of the kindness they feel inside.

There was a letter inside along with the gift, and also a note from the individual who nominated me. She shared that “even though their gifts may be small, their compassion for other women is vast.” I have to disagree. I believe their gifts are monumental because of their compassion. They give selflessly, to complete strangers, and expect nothing in return. That is the best way to give. That is the heart of compassion and love. These women, and others like them, unlock the doors, put gates on the fences, seek to know their neighbors, look deep into another’s eyes, wave and smile on the highway, and offer smiles readily to everyone. That is kindness. That is generosity of spirit. That will melt anger and turn hurt into healing. That will make the world beautiful and fill it with delight. The lovely woman who nominated me thanked me for being real. I thank her and the other members of Womenade, and countless people around the world, for choosing to be real as well. Yes, in her words…

Real People = Joy 

My Story – The Downward Spiral

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This was taken 4/12/2009 and 13 days later my life took an unexpected turn. I weigh 118 here. In my mind, even today in a much better state of thinking, I still see the flaws. Admitting that is difficult.

Hmm, where did I leave off last night? Oh yes, numbers defining my worth and triggers causing me to resume my cycle of binge eating and starvation.

My obsession with how I looked and what I saw in the mirror became a big numbers game. I weighed myself at least once a day, usually twice. I can tell you what I weighed before I got pregnant with each of my kids. I can tell you what I weighed before I moved to Missouri and Florida, during significant times of my marriage, and other milestones. My chiropractor in Denver once asked me what I weighed and I replied, “About 112.2.” He said Brian and I were the only people he knew who answered that precisely. It’s pretty telling that I put the word “about” in front of that precise number.

There was a period of about two years where bingeing was all I did. Some hurtful words were said about my weight by someone close to me and I went on a downward spiral. I ate and ate and got further disgusted with myself for having no self-control. Then I decided I’d go on a real diet. Well, the one I found, if followed correctly, might work, but for someone with my problem, it gave me permission to fast for days at a time. I did that repeatedly. The weight came off and I felt better… emotionally. I had other problems, but I didn’t relate them to my poor eating habits. I started to feel good and in control of myself again.

This cycle repeated itself a couple times. Then, 2009 came. That was the beginning of three years of hell, to put it bluntly. In April of 2009 something devastating happened and my response was to try to make myself into what I knew I should have been all along: the perfect wife and mother, the ideal homemaker. I weighed 118 at the time. My goal was 105.

I had been running for about a year and I kept it up very regularly at that time. Running is a great way to relieve stress and make your heart healthy. There’s nothing wrong with running. But there’s a huge problem with not feeding your body after running. I know that now, but at the time, all I knew was the pounds were coming off again and I was on my way to becoming a person my family could be proud of.

I’ll stop my story again here. It’s difficult to write these things and not feel as though I sound crazy! I am finding joy in the telling of my story though. In writing this, I realize I’m in a much better place today than I was for so many years. I’m glad that I’m able to admit to myself and to others that I’m not perfect, that I have struggled with who I am and what I’m supposed to be.

Admission = Joy

Storytelling

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I’ve lived in many settings, and while I love the serenity of rural life, I also find myself very much at home in a bustling city. Perhaps it’s because you can lose yourself in the city. I don’t enjoy being the center of attention and a large city offers anonymity. Walking the streets of San Francisco or Denver or Dallas, I could be virtually anyone from anywhere and there is something freeing about that.

One of my favorite pastimes is people watching. Oh, what opportunities there are for that in a crowded place. Sitting at an outdoor café recently, I watched people walking by and in my mind I could create stories about who they were, why they were there, and where they were going. Of course, other people watchers could be doing the very same to me, making up tales about my life. It’s a great creative exercise.

Sometimes I place people in comedies, other times dramas, occasionally stories of action, and, on very rare occasions, sci-fi adventures. It makes life more interesting and, you never know, some of those stories could be pretty close to reality. Truth is stranger than fiction, after all!

Today I had to go back to Children’s Hospital for one of Jordan’s follow-up visits. That’s a mixed bag when it comes to people watching. There was an adorable little girl there today. She was with her mother and she was dressed in a black sparkly skirt with a hot pink tank top and matching shoes. Her blond hair was pulled back and she had a cute little face and bright eyes. She hopped on the elevator, waved to Jordan and me, smiled and said, “Hello!” I wondered what her story was. I know they were at the hospital for her because we got off at the floor for the Lab and she started to whine a little and protest. She didn’t want to go in there. I felt bad for her. I had watched my 17 year-old be poked and prodded for two weeks and he’s tired of needles and labs. Imagine being three or four… But when I looked at that sweet little girl I also imagined that she is the life of the party, that she lights up a room. I picture her spreading joy as she waves to strangers on elevators and flashes her brilliant smile. No matter what she has gone through, what illness she may be facing or what her future holds, I like to imagine that she is a little fairy here on earth, depositing joy wherever she goes and bringing light and love to everyone.

Fanciful Fiction = Joy

13 Days

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We lived at Children’s Hospital Colorado for 13 days. When Jordan walked down the hallway yesterday nurses cheered for him and wished him luck. One dad, sitting by the door of his son’s room, smiled at us and congratulated Jordan on getting to go home. I wished at that moment that every child in there would get to go home soon. When we walked through the lobby of the building, Jordan commented that it was the first time he’d ever seen that part of the hospital – the happy part with the colorful floor and kids laughing and the noises of parents and children talking and going every which way.

The ride home was bumpy and I cringed and looked at Jordan every time I hit a pot hole or a rough spot in the road. He cringed too, but we both laughed about it. Really, what else are you going to do?

Now, the worst is over. Jordan is on the mend. He has stainless steel wire holding his sternum together (no, it won’t mean TSA goes crazy when he  passes through airport security), internal stitches holding his skin closed, and a nice long line of steri-strips. He’ll have five other small scars when  his other incisions heal up. His arms are sore from five IV sites and 16 other “poke sites” where blood was drawn every time he ran a fever. His chest is feeling more normal now that the 14″ chest tubes are gone. He has a bacterial infection, so he’s on an antibiotic for the next couple of months and has weekly visits for blood work with Infectious Disease at Children’s to make sure he’s tolerating the medication and getting well. He is sitting and walking and eating and managing his own pain with Percocet and Motrin. He sleeps sitting in “the cancer chair” that was purchased when his dad had cancer surgery back in 2005. When all this is over, I’m donating the cancer chair! In six months, Jordan should be back to normal, save the awesome scar marking this time in his life.

Jordan had the best attitude while in the hospital. He never complained, joked with his nurses and doctors, and tolerated the entire experience with a smile. There were moments he was frustrated and just wanted to get home so he could shower and wash his hair, but he made the best of every day and found things to be happy about. He and I shared tears and laughter. We also shared a lot of quiet moments where there really wasn’t anything that needed to be said. Silence is sometimes the perfect prescription.

So we are now home again and ready to journey on. Very soon we will be getting back to school work, not Jordan’s idea of a good time by any stretch of the imagination, but probably better than surgery! I’ll begin work on my book and on making Joyful on Purpose bigger and better, trying to infect the world with the idea that nothing in life is without joy. Nothing.

We are hoping for smoother sailing. The water has been just a tad rough this year. I can’t see what is on the horizon, but I do know that growth can come through pain, tears, adversity, disease, and even death. I have many more lessons to learn. I will undoubtedly still screw up… a lot. I am sure I’ll have days where joy is very hard to find and other days where there’s so much of it, I can’t see anything else. I’ll take either one. I’ll take them all. Life is good.

Smooth and Rough Seas = Joy

A Selfish Way of Thinking

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Jordan apologized to me yesterday. He hadn’t done anything wrong, of course. He said he was sorry that I was having to take care of him in the hospital, and do things for him that are, in his mind, not very fun for me and probably awkward for him. I told him the only thing I could tell him: the truth.

The truth is that I hate being in the hospital. It’s cold, uncomfortable, and noisy. I wish we were anywhere but here. But because Jordan is here, trying to recover from having his chest pulled open and a tumor cut out, there is absolutely no place on earth I’d rather be.

Hospitals like this one are places that will teach you perspective real quick! When Jordan was in pre-op, I watched a little boy walk down the hallway with a tumor the size of a large grapefruit on his head. I’ve seen kids with baby-smooth heads, their hair lost to chemotherapy. I’ve watched parents sit, looking bewildered, at their tiny infants tangled up in tubes and wires, clinging to life. I’ve heard children screaming at the top of their lungs in agony. Massaging Jordan’s back, tending to bed sores, helping him endure 14 blood draws so far, turning and moving him in his bed, working with him on breathing, maneuvering him to and from the bathroom, waking up when he calls for me… those things are easy and, compared to what others have been dealt, I have it made.

I have heard, time and again, how I’d make a great nurse after going through everything I’ve experienced over the last five months. Actually, I’d make a terrible nurse. Everything I’ve done has been out of necessity. Love too, of course, but definitely necessity. There’s no other option when you are faced with death and illness. I could never choose to care for the sick and dying. I have compassion, but I don’t have the stomach for what nurses see day in and day out. I don’t know how they are able to handle the heartache, especially in a children’s hospital where the patients are so innocent and vulnerable.

The hand that has been dealt to me has not been easy, but it could be so much worse. Tonight, joy is found in some rather selfish thinking. I’m glad I’m not experiencing some of the things I’ve seen. I am grateful this has turned out so well. In all honesty, I have thought, more than once, “I’m glad that’s not me.” I hope I will leave the hospital with fewer complaints and more compliments, fewer gripes and more gratitude. I want to selfishly cling to all that is good in my life.

Selfish for the Good Stuff = Joy