goals and gifts

I’ve heard it said that the secret to happiness and success in your life is that ‘your goals must match your gifts.’  Actually, my cousin, a retired Green Beret, said this to me. His goals definitely match his gifts.

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If your goal is to be a prima ballerina, you’re a little overweight, think you’re a great dancer, and you can even point your toe shoes with the best of ’em; your chances of fitting into that tutu and living that ethereal moment on stage with The Pacific NW Ballet is most likely not going to happen. It doesn’t matter if the tights make you look great! It just isn’t very likely, right? If this is you, look for something you love that matches your gifts.

I think part of the goal is to find your TRUE gift. I’m convinced we all have at least one gift, if not a few. Some people find their gift early in life like Olympic gymnasts or swimmers. They know right away, hey, this is easy!  If your goals are not realistic and don’t accentuate your given talents, it just isn’t going to happen for you; no matter how much you think it should.

We need to be realistic in our lives. For instance, “I KNOW” I can’t sing for the life of me.  I am never going to cut an album with P!NK or even sing in a crowded bar because it would be disastrous.  First of all, no one wants that kind of noise grating on their eardrums. Second of all, I am completely aware that I a not a good singer. Singing is not one of my gifts.  I may be artistic, love to draw and paint, even love writing. Are they my best gifts? I’m not so sure yet.


So how do you decide?  How do you figure out what your gift is, which in turn could indicate your goal? How do you find peace with happiness? As my retired Green Beret cousin said, “Some people just don’t know how to recognize their gifts.” I think when it comes to gifts, you need to pay attention to compliments. If someone told P!NK she was an amazing seamstress (and she may well be for Heaven’s sake), but the blanket she made looked more like a coaster, her seamstress days may be numbered, right? God gave her a voice that is a perfect instrument, a gift!  Goal matches gift? Check!

I’ve not quite identified my own gift. Therefore I’m not sure what my goal in life is. I know I have lots of empathy for my patient’s I see every day. I know I spend quality time talking with some of the older people and really enjoy what they have to say and the stories they weave. I also know I can make them laugh when they may not have been so happy in the first place. It happens every day. I’m a medical assistant today and before that a medical transcriptionist, but I’m not sure I have the correct goal and the best gifts in place. I am going to need to consider this. I do know I NEED to find my goals and gifts to be happy and have peace.

If someone would pay me to paint watercolors on a beach in the Virgin Islands, I would be in Heaven. I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in years though. I’d love to write the great American novel. I have lots of ideas saved on Pinterest but I haven’t acted on anything yet. And I’ve often said if someone would pay me to throw tiny rocks or shells into the sea from my chaise lounge on the beach (with sunscreen on of course), I’d gladly sign a contract! That last was for my dermatologist who knows me well.


Sailing. Now there is something that excites me. I can see myself sailing in the waters of the Caribbean, seeing hundreds of islands, stopping to help a stranded boater who needs a tow, exploring the streets of some distant shore – listening to the story of a local character, sharing a smile and laugh. I’ve fantasized about owning a sailboat, living aboard, sharing sunsets with my husband and our kids who would come visit, rocking in a bay while counting stars from the cockpit, falling asleep to the gentle lapping of the waves on the hull. Those are the romantic notions.

I know of course that B-O-A-T stands for Bust Out Another Thousand.

How do I get to the goal of a sailboat? I definitely can’t afford one now. We could sell the house, Harleys, furniture and stuff that we’ve accumulated of course. We would still need to work until we are least 60 though, 8 more years for me. I’m not trying to wish away the years yet! I need to stay young, (which is relative because my kids already categorize me as old).


My goal is to help others, just as I have been doing but in a different venue. On the sea. I would love to sail to Grenada or Haiti and help people continue to simply live after natural disasters. I’d like to take a child who wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise, for a sail and give them that feeling you only get from the wind in your hair. Freedom. Its what we all search for in the end.

I’d like to help people who don’t know they need help, listen to people who have stories to tell, get in touch with the feeling of exemption. I don’t want to have to be somewhere at a certain time, I want to write the stories that I hear and sail to places I’ve only heard of. I want to put my arms around someone who could use a hug, and wipe away the tears of years of frustration.

If I could simply save our Oceans I would do that too. I’d tell other sailors to take care, not to litter, and to think of the sea as part of the family, as trite as that sounds. I think I’ve just shown you a ‘piece’ of my soul, again.  Goals and Gifts. Lets all search for our own.

From my heart to yours, may you find your gifts that get you to your goals!


surfing an emotional tsunami

Since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I feel like I have been engaged in surfing a monster emotional tsunami. I’m sure there are many people on this planet with similar emotional issues, those with PTSD, for instance. While I don’t know “how you feel,” I do know that there is an inexplicable emotional intensity related to things that happen in your life, whether from the past or the acute anxiety of right this second. Giant waves are generally destructive and I feel this one is no different.

I did not receive a diagnosis of MS until I was 33. Up until that point, the early years were relatively easy with kids. When I was diagnosed and my husband left, my baby was only 1 year old. As I have said, it was a blessing in disguise. My ex-husband was and still is an alcoholic, a running theme in my life. I’ve long since forgiven him because what he faces forever is far worse than anything I’ve experienced.

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When the kids were little, I don’t remember significant levels of stress. I remember dealing with problems but not stress. I think my youth was definitely in my court back then, and in my case, not ‘wasted on the young.” I was devastated when he left me for another woman (and I use the term ‘woman’ loosely). I felt especially ravaged after having just been diagnosed with a disease I had never really heard of, small children to take care of, no child support, no job, our house foreclosing, and cars repossessed.

My hands, arms, and upper body were numb, I had a broken heart, and most of all I couldn’t type very well anymore. I had to find a place for us to live, figure out how to get another job doing the only thing I knew how to do, transcription, and try to help my children deal with the loss of their dad at home, and eventually from their daily lives. I also continued giving myself daily injections of Copaxone in hopes my MS would not get worse.

I cried myself to sleep some nights, I prayed I’d wake up and “feel” again. We made it through but I have to say I know what it’s like to stand in line at the food bank for your Thanksgiving turkey. I know how it feels to pay for groceries with food stamps and have your older kids say, “I’ll meet you at the car,” because they were so embarrassed when I would pay at the cash register. When they got home though, they were always hungry.

Eventually, Annie (then about 13), asked if I would teach her how to give me my shots. I don’t know if she wanted to help or if she wanted to poke me with a needle. I showed her how though and she was actually very good at it. She did it off and on for awhile and then lost interest, like 13-year-olds can. Sometimes the injections worked for a year or two before I would have an exacerbation (a worsening of my symptoms), and I would head to the doctor for the dreaded IV infusion of prednisone and hopeful antiinflammatory relief.


You might not believe it but looking back, the stress I felt was mostly financial and the tidal wave was much smaller then, if that’s possible. Child support was unmentionable, insignificant, and when I couldn’t make the rent, we usually had to move. I always kept my children in the same school though, they had one constant in their lives, and that was their friends. Some people do well with stress, and I think I used to be one of them. I wasn’t the best at cooking, I was not strict like a good mom is, but I know I did the best I could with what I had.

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My last baby learned to walk on a soccer field watching his big brothers play. Medical transcription began to save our lives. Eventually, I could type again and it allowed me to be home with the kids, go to soccer games and practices, LaCrosse, and to the barn for the girls to ride their horses. I tried so hard to give them everything I could but somehow it never seemed to be enough. Keeping up with the Jones’ was harder than I thought it would be, the older the kids got. Eventually I was able to buy our own turkey dinner, and I got to go to school functions and conferences.

The most important thing to me was my children did not have to go to daycare. I’m proud of that. Looking back, life was happy even though it was hard and there were many things ‘the village’ around us helped my kids accomplish when I couldn’t. They all know who they are. Friends dads were the father figures the kids needed and I won’t ever forget them.

The hard part seems over, but in reality I have more stress now than I ever did before. Sleep comes more fleetingly, I worry more about all my kids more than I did then. No one told me the hardest part of being a parent was AFTER they grow up. Those six ‘adults’ are my life still. I feel blessed that they trust me enough to share their problems with me, call me in the middle of the night if they need to, let me share in new relationships with boyfriends and girlfriends, and even past ones I can’t stop loving. I wouldn’t trade it for the world; though this is all part of the giant tsunami that feels like my life.

Multiple sclerosis did not create this giant wave. My choices, life circumstances, 6 kids, my husband leaving me, and everything else I’ve experienced helped shape the wave, helped bring it into being. MS was not the cause, it just gave me the catastrophic rating of a Tsunami. I don’t feel sad I have MS, I feel like “I’m doing it.”


Because of my job, my husband’s job, and mostly my husband, money isn’t as worrisome as it was before, but the stress of making the money builds the wave higher and denser for me. I’ve realized that Kevin takes care of me more so than anyone ever has, in countless ways. I’ve also realized how grateful and thankful I am for my life and all I have.

Maybe instead of trying to beat the wave, I need to surf the wave, become one with the wave and thereby make it work for me, make the wave go where I want it to go. I don’t have to let it devastate me.

After all, the view from up here is spectacular!


overcoming gravity

Everyone knows what insomnia is, I don’t think I need to define it here. We’ve all had it. Restlessness, can’t turn your mind off, too much caffeine all day, a crazy busy day or you just woke up from a nap an hour before you go to bed (duh).

I can assure you it would be easier to levitate; simply overcoming gravity would be much simpler when insomnia hits. I have no idea why this happens to me. Is it related to stress? Work? Children? My dog, Beckham, barking like a maniac at the heat coming on in the night, 3 milliseconds after I’ve finally dozed off? No clue. I have no idea why I can’t seem to fall asleep like normal people do.

On the surface, I THINK I’m exhausted. I work hard during the day at my job, at least I feel like I do. I  also spend a significant amount of time in my car commuting to and from my job, I get home and have no energy to cook (and if you know me, you know I despise this horrendous task), and honestly no desire to do much of anything. I can’t remember how I used to take care of my kids after 5 p.m. back in the day. I can’t be positive I even did.


My sleep doctor says I need to stay awake until at least 8 or 9 p.m. Seriously? All I can think about are pajamas and flannel sheets when I get home. I haven’t always been this way. I used to be able to sleep when my head hit the pillow. Now, sleeping like that is a fading memory. Of course, exercise is an important thing to consider to get a good nights rest. We all know that. I do walk at lunch during the work day but I could probably put forth more effort. In the last several months, I have lost a significant amount of weight, 60 pounds to be exact. This has helped with back pain and knee pain, but I still don’t find the deep sleep of hibernation. People who do not have multiple sclerosis most likely also experience insomnia, but I wonder if their cure could be an Occum’s Razor; (the theory that the most likely solution to a problem is the simplest one). When you have MS, it tends to throw a monkey wrench into any possible answer for any imaginable problem. I think a visit to the neurologist may be in order.

Lately it has been very wet outside. Living in the NW, you’re secure in the fact that winter days mean the sun sets early, (or the clouds fade to black sooner than normal). It’s dark when I leave for work AND when I get home. Seattle is a beautiful place to live when the sun is visible, when you can feel the warmth in your bones on summer days; and the sky really is “the bluest blue you’ve ever seen.” The surrounding evergreens are calming to be sure. We have the beautiful yellows, golds and oranges of fall, the deep greens of summer and of course the clouds of battleship grey serenading the flooding rains of winter. The view from my bedroom is actually beautiful and I do feel blessed. The rain on the roof, wind heaving through the trees and a stormy night can set us up for a cozy night indoors also. This could make one sleepy and relaxed watching a storm outside the window, right?


Most nights I can fall asleep, but at 1 a.m. I’m wide awake and can’t seem to drift off again. Maybe I should just get up, clean the toilets, fold laundry, vacuum and be done with it. I could leave for work at 4 a.m. and never be late because of traffic again. Sounds nice but when I get to work I either need an intrathecal grande quad latte drip throughout the day or a nice nap before I go to bed! I can’t win for losing.

I think I understand “Snowbirds.” This is the time of year they all leave for the sun. I crave the sun and the light. Warm blue water, white sand beaches and the warmth of the sun every day. It could be that I am 52. I don’t feel like I’m old, but I’m sure my kids think I am. Is it age that keeps me from sleeping? Hormones? Too much time on my hands? I’m of the opinion its all of the above. I sincerely thought it would take a lot longer to get old. Maybe I’m just dreaming all this too.

Eventually, I’m going Coastal.


drifting in the current

I often feel as if I am ‘drifting in the current.’ Some days are spelled out and others are not. Go to work, come home, eat, sleep and do it again. To me this is drifting. While I have lived in Seattle nearly my whole life, with the last 22 years spent in Snohomish, I still don’t feel like I’m home. This could have something to do with being an “empty nester” and that my kids are all technically adults. It could be that I miss the chaos of having so many children in the house, fighting, yelling, laughing, slamming doors, and repeating those ghastly words, “Mommm…. what’s for dinner?” I do miss those days – did I just say that? – Was it my fault? Did I wish those years away?

I remember thinking, ‘I can’t wait for them to be self-sufficient, do their own laundry, clean up their own dishes, drive themselves to school,’ etc. Now they have their own homes, cars, phones, lives and significant others. Is this what I wanted? Time sure flies. I used to wonder how I would get through the day with my babies, picking up Legos for the 18th time, working feverishly to get the Play Doh out of Annie’s hair, and wondering how they could lose an ENTIRE box of Crayola Crayons in less than an hour!

Now I miss those days terribly. Is this why I don’t feel like I’m home? Is this why I feel like I’m drifting in the current day after day, hoping for any sight of land?

Recently, in fact only days ago, I had the pleasure of having my daughter and her fiancee stay with us. I hadn’t seen Jody since April 2016. Now, you might think that wasn’t so long ago, but it was a world away and a lifetime ago to me. In April I traveled to THEIR home in the Caribbean and lived aboard their beautiful sailboat, (named after Peter’s mom, Mary Christine). I spent a month with the kids, and I felt like the luckiest mama in the world. But when they flew away on a big ‘ole plane 3 days ago, I couldn’t even take them to the airport because I knew I would be crying all day if I did. I knew my work would frown on this display of tears. My husband took them, and thank goodness for that. Goodbyes are just plain hard, especially for me. I knew they were going home to my happy place, a place where I feel peace, and for them, I was happy.


The first time I ever went to the Virgin Islands was in 2008 with my husband. We stayed in White Bay on Jost Van Dyke, BVI. It was ON that trip my happy place became apparent to me. See my toes?

Three and a half years ago Jody and Peter set sail in Florida eventually ending up in MY happy spot.  I met them in Puerto Rico and was with them as we sailed from the Spanish Virgins to the USVI, and on to the British Virgin Islands. On January 25, 2005, Kenny Chesney released “Be As You Are ~ Songs from an old blue chair.”  That album resonated in my soul and the lyrics became ingrained in my heart. This is how I found my happy place. That trip was epic for me.

I came home and tried to explain to my kids, my mom and dad and my sisters.  No one really understood.  It was the one place where I felt I wasn’t just floating with the current; I felt like I was home. We were there for only 10 days, but in that time I began to feel my hands again.  Something I hadn’t felt since 1997.  My MS seemed better in this spot.  Each time I go back, its the same. I feel like I’m home instead of drifting in the current.


The kids left to go back to their home in the islands as liveaboards, and are fortunate to have jobs working for a catamaran charter company, Aristocat Charters, in the BVI. While it was sad for me to say goodbye, I feel like I played a small part in their finding this place. During the trip to the USVI, my mom met us on St Thomas. We picked her up and she got to experience the Virgins with me. Now she understands. I’m trying to get my sisters there in 2017, who knows if that will happen though. I’d love to see all my kids there at one time, and perhaps when Jody and Peter decide on their wedding date, we all will be. It has only been a few days and I miss the kids and their sweet dog, Betsy, terribly.

So for the time being, I consent to drifting with the current and being pulled by the tide until I can be in my happy place. The calendar is open and I am actively anticipating my return “home.”


Check out the kids’ blog and follow along to see what they are up to; where the coconuts grow!

an old proverb: the highest happiness is peace

Peace is what many of us yearn for.  It is also a struggle to achieve anything even close at times.  For many, peace never comes.

One idea of peace is that feeling you get when you take a deep cleansing breath, the air fills your lungs slowly and it feels good, almost like you forgot to breathe for a moment, and then you slowly let it out.  Ahhhhhh….. You’ve just completed some dreaded task like cleaning the toilet, right?  Phew!  Its over!  Relief.  I am sure you can insert an experience of your own and understand what I mean.  Peace can come at the end of a workday, at the end of a workout, after a difficult life issue is resolved or just taking a deep breath.

Finding peace for me comes when I’m in my happy place in this world, the sunny Virgin Islands, when I am on a sailboat on the water or sitting beside it on a white-sand beach.  This brings peace and happiness to my soul.  Living with MS can be very difficult, its an invisible illness.  For the most part, not many people remember I even have it.  Hardly anyone asks, “how are you?” and means, ‘how are your symptoms, how are your hands, can you feel anything more so today?’  And why should they?  Those who have an invisible illness don’t want pity, they just want someone to remember occasionally that we have other issues that we deal with.  I NEED peace in my life.

Stress decreases the likelihood of peace and tranquility in ones life.  For someone with MS, this can be synonymous with disaster.  Sometimes I feel lost in my head, unworthy, not needed or burnt out.  I have fatigue you couldn’t imagine even if I tried to explain, (but I will).  People say to me in the morning, ‘why are you tired, you just woke up?’  I think to myself, are you kidding!?  Fatigue is more than physical.  It’s mental and emotional.  It’s debilitating.

Fatigue in MS is not like you just ran a marathon and you’re exhausted and need to sit down and put your feet up for a few.  No.  Fatigue in MS is like you just walked across the United States in 1 month with a 50-pound backpack on, dragging bricks attached by ropes to your ankles, pain all over your body (in some cases), undergoing mental and sensory overload, enveloped by stress that you wear like an itchy wool cape in the blazing sun, numbness in your hands (in my case), and walking on legs that feel like Jello ~ all while you search for a 4-leaf clover, peace and tranquility that you can’t quite find.  That feeling can be overwhelming and mind numbing, yet you’re still expected to be a good mom or dad, show up for work mentally and physically, and be the spouse or significant other you signed up to be.

So, mentally and physically I persevere.  I tell myself I’m doing this, even though I’m sure no one close to me quite understands.  I try to think positive thoughts, I tape pictures of sailboats to my refrigerator and nightstand, I visit the Virgin Islands whenever I can.  I try to visualize and maximize my chances to be in my happy place.  I try to overcome the feelings of being burned out and forgetfulness by thumbing through Island photos in my mind, reliving my memories of cruising and snorkeling, imagining the sound of those waves on those shores, the sunrises and sunsets, the starry night skies while bobbing in the Caribbean sea, and all the people I’ve met there ~ and lets not forget the Lobster!  Retirement is a word I only dream about but work for every day.  You bring about what you think about, right?


They say that each leaf a 4-leaf clover stands for faith, hope, love and luck.  Well, I faithfully hope for love and luck to take me to my happy place very soon because I truly believe that the highest happiness IS peace.


For a peace-full journey, “Enjoy Four kinds of Peace“, by Rick Hanson, PhD, here.