My Happy Place

buoyant, beautiful and brave….

When I think of my happy place, all is well within. Who wouldn’t be happy here? My life is changing; there seems to be a diacritical mark coming. After all, life is about change, right? I don’t feel brave, that’s for sure, but I feel my life is about to become buoyant and beautiful!

I do feel that positive thinking with a “lady-luck attitude” definitely could maximize my chances of obtaining this and so much  more. This particular picture, this particular place means so much to me. Prevailing as the one place that brings me total peace, this place – White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, in the BVI’s – is the essence of happiness for me. Circa 2008. Not too many boats in the anchorage then, this was before it became so well known. Swimming in this sea, here, generates a simple interconnection with everything for me. One word? Soulful.

Nowadays there are swarms of people who flock here for the rum drinks called ‘painkillers.’ I wish they didn’t. My MS symptoms tend to dissipate down here. I’m not sure why, but there is no question that stress does not hamper me here. Yes, my life is changing. I have been persuaded to take some time off work, to take care of me. Luckily my husband supports this wholeheartedly or I wouldn’t have a chance to de-stress at all.

I have had some worsening on my T-spine MRI, causing more numbness in my feet and legs. Many things can cause worsening, but stress is one of my biggest issues.  So, once again, I’m headed back to these most amazing islands in the coming weeks. I am sincerely grateful to my work family who also support my health and wellness. I am truly blessed to have had a home like Madrona Dermatology.

This falls in line with trying to take care of myself and not stay wrapped up in the chaos that surrounds me at times. Life persists and at times is hard for everyone. I’m one of those people who may have too much empathy. Is that possible? I can literally feel on many levels what others are going through. Guilt is sometimes an overwhelming emotion when I can’t solve or fix a problem, whether it belongs to me or someone else. I am also someone who can’t say ‘no.’ You want me to jump off a cliff for you without a parachute? “Yup, I’m your gal!” Maybe this evolved from having so many children or maybe its just me.

Understandably, all mothers have an inherent need to take care of others. At least most mothers do. When your kids are in turmoil, then your heart feels agitated, turbid, a mini eddy in your chest. Believe me, it was so much easier when they were little.

We all need to have a sense of self-control, duty, loyalty and elite belonging. This was explained to me one day, and I wholeheartedly agree, by a family member who valiantly cloaks himself in each of these along with brotherhood and commitment. My goal is to reach out and obtain a few of those traits this year, as I suppose I am lacking. I believe if our children, especially our boys, could come to engage themselves in actions such as these, many dreams would come to fruition. They are simple words with intense meaning when grouped together.

Letting go of what I can’t control is perhaps the hardest task at hand. There are so many good things happening around me. There are grand-babies expected, dreams waiting to become reality, and adult children trying to do the best they can in their lives, while learning from mistakes. I’m grateful for everything I have and positivity is the the pathway I seek. Visualizing what I want in my mind’s eye is something I do every morning before I get out of bed. Focusing my energy on good is much better than drowning in bad.

From my bedroom, I can see the conch shell I brought home from the British Virgin Islands, on the railing of my deck just before I go to sleep. I look at it and remember how we found it, and how my son-in-law cleaned it out. The colors inside are my favorite ones. It’s really an amazing piece of the islands, even as it sits in the freezing cold on our deck overlooking Panther Lake in the Pacific Northwest. I bet it never imagined living here! I really am blessed.

I’ve read that in Chinese Buddhism, a conch shell signifies a prosperous journey; the spiral formation inside the conch is a symbol of infinity, of victory over suffering. Now whether that is true or not, I don’t know, but it sure is a nice thought.

I hope for a prosperous journey in the next few weeks to see my daughter and son-in-law; and of course her growing bump that is my first grandson. I’m excited to post more pictures soon, but I also wish my sister, Kirsten, could accompany me on one of these trips. If anyone deserves some ‘me-time’, its her!

White Bay 2008

My dream is to have all my children here someday. Way back in 2008, when I first visited the British Virgin Islands, that was all I could think of. I talked about it daily when I returned home to Seattle. Everyone said it looked beautiful. My eldest daughter, Jody, was the first to come here and I was ecstatic; then my mom. I’d love for my sisters to see it as well. On the east coast, this is where people vacation. On the west coast, it is Hawaii.

I’m fortunate in that I’ve traveled to both and they are lovely, but I’m smitten with the Virgins. In 6th grade, my best friend, Kay Adams, used to tell me stories of living on St. Croix, riding her little bay mare, Lady Bug, on the beaches and over the hills. I knew someday when I grew up, I would come here. I just didn’t know how much peace I’d find or that I would need it so much in my soul.

Stay tuned, I’ll be posting more pictures when I go back! I hope you can to see how beautiful the Virgin Islands are. My hope and my prayer is that wherever you feel at peace, wherever your happy place is, that you get to enjoy it this year for as long as possible. My daughter, Annie, reminds me to, “Always remember the dream.” I love you Annie girl, my little Cancer. This place is waiting for you to explore. I know it will be in your soul as it is in mine.

Never forgotten, thanks to my friend Kay, and wish I knew where she was today <3

the k-k-key’s in the c-c-conch shell…..

It’s cold outside! My conch shell is out of place. When my son-in-law found it for me, it was at least 15 feet below the surface of the crystal clear Caribbean sea. I brought it home with me one year, not too long ago, to remind me of my time in the Islands. Here it is on my deck, with a tiny snowman. Looking at it all covered in snow still brings me happiness and peace. One thing is for sure, when I go back to find my little cottage on the beach, there will actually be a key in this conch shell for friends to enter when they come to see me.

On the first day of the new year, I look forward. I hope for a better year. Last year was a very difficult year for many people, me included. I pray for change. New and better. I think it’s a common thread at the beginning of a new year for all of us. Particularly though in my life, and those I love, I hope 2017 brings much happiness and transformation, more than ever before. I can already feel that change is coming. I’m not sure how or when, but a certain gravitational inclination is at work.

So many tragedies and such sadness last year turns my thinking toward much needed optimism, blessedness and bliss. Some of our loved ones are not here any longer, but some of us have had additions to our families. Weddings and babies are especially happy times. I feel privileged to have a son-in-law and new grandchild on the way in June 2017. I’ll be traveling to Tortola, in the BVI for this long-awaited event in the summertime.

(Photo by Necesse Photography) You can see the whole story in photos here.

I also feel very blessed to have lost just over 70 pounds since July 2016 – gone forever. I have 40 pounds to go and look forward to being back to my “normal” self. I haven’t taken any photos yet as I still have the mind set of being too heavy. It’s one thing to lose the weight physically; but perhaps most difficult, you have to lose it mentally too. After 6 children (more than 20 years ago), I decided to have weight loss surgery. I am SO happy I did it. Not one regret, other than I wish I had done it sooner. This year is going to focus on all things I am happy about.

I have particularly enjoyed my time at home over the last week. For those of us who have to work for a living, its nice to de-stress a little around this time of year. It’s cold outside, warm inside, and just resting with a good book or watching a movie seems like a good thing to do. The holidays are over and we can all focus on the new year and what it means for each of us.

In this new year, I hope to see my daughter who lives in San Diego more often. I know I’ll travel to the Virgin Islands, which is my happy place. I hope all my children will make the same trip to see their new little niece or nephew in June, and experience the waves, sun and fun of this special place.

I’m going to try to visualize the positive and actually go there in my mind to maximize my chances of having an amazing new year. Every year I have hoped to lose weight. Well I’ve finally achieved that goal and its gone forever. Its time to move on, so to speak. I am also consciously going to try to be happier, I’m going to look for the good in every situation. I am going to let go of all the things I cannot control. Believe me, this is a HUGE undertaking in my life. As a mom, its natural to try to fix everyone. Not anymore. I’m going to focus on my health and doing positive things to reduce stress in my life. This will in turn hopefully reduce the symptoms of MS.

I am also going to let go of the occasional sadness felt living in an empty nest. It’s a good thing, and it’s time to let it BE a good thing. I have never focused on me and my own happiness. My kids have always come first, as they should have back then. That’s what it means to be a mom.

This year I am going to take a deep breath, breathe in and out, and I am going to love every minute of this new year whether I like it or not! After all, I am blessed beyond belief with amazing children and family, a great work life, a cozy roof over my head, a car to drive, the opportunity to go to the Virgin Islands every year where I can nourish my salty soul, and look forward to another trip around the sun!

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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?

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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.

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