soul

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!

peace is my priority

Mixed feelings come at this time of year. The Holidays. It’s beautiful, joyful, exciting and peaceful. It’s also difficult, sad, stressful and lonely depending on who you are and how you are. I celebrate Christmas, as does my family. I’ve always found it a difficult time of year since I began “adulting.” Financially stressful, especially. I’ve never had ‘lots’ of money in my adult life and I think that definitely makes a difference.

Money doesn’t solve all your problems. For instance, it can’t buy happiness, but it sure does help a lot.

We should know the holidays are not about money or gifts. The reason for the season, the birth of Jesus Christ, is what we need to remember. Now, I don’t want to get into religious debates with anyone, but I do feel a definite holiness about this time of year. I love Christmas and the memories I have as a child. I hope my children have some happy childhood holiday memories too. We didn’t always have a lot but we had each other. Nowadays, my nest is empty, and its especially hard when my babies are adulting themselves.

Peace is most apropos at this time of year. I feel a necessity to find peace in my life during the holidays. I miss the younger years with my children, wishing I could have a do-over of just one Christmas eve. I smile and think about those times and reminisce about the joy of Christmas morning. Living in Seattle, we don’t get much snow, but there were a few years Seattle saw a white Christmas.

Remembering the things I am thankful for gives me peace. My family, my cozy home, my work family and friends, my pets and knowing that I am fortunate enough to go to my happy place at least once every year in the British Virgin Islands. In concentrating on peace and solace this year, I find I am less stressed than any other year before. I’m positively unsure how this works, but for some reason it does.

For some of us, loved ones have passed on and we miss them most during the holiday season. And, for some, there are new babies to bring joy to our lives, whether as grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or our own children.

Some enjoy baking during the holidays, cooking big meals for our families, wrapping gifts, going to church, and just having everyone under the same roof. I think being surrounded by the ones we love is extra special. Of course sometimes our families are spread all over the planet, in far away places, or unfriendly lands fighting for our country. All of us are so different, yet we all want to belong and yearn to be part of something bigger. Thinking of that, remembering my blessings, brings me peace.

Then I watch my husband shovel snow for me at 6 a.m. so I can get down the driveway to get to work without ending up in the lake, and I truly feel grateful. (In Seattle, this is a blizzard)!

Peace. It’s one of those words that means different things to different people. In the world we live in, I’m fortunate. Blessed. My wish for anyone reading this, is that you find some sort of peace this year. Recognize the people who do nice things for you or simply smile at you. Take note of how fortunate you are to just be alive. We are all exactly where we are supposed to be. I guess we can find peace in that fact alone.

My soul is peaceful this year, it’s a priority.

ripples and pebbles

People like me, those of us who tote around a diagnosis of MS, will at times appear like you. I’ve heard it said that we resilient souls who have MS are like snowflakes, no two are ever the same.

That may be true but we all understand similar symptoms can sometimes mean the same thing. Its very hard to put into words. Most of us can understand a smooth surface, like a body of water without even the slightest ripple. It’s the beautiful epitome of quiescence. There are moments in all our lives that are frozen in time, a moment where you feel…… well, you feel perfect. But even pebbles can cause ripples in our souls and our lives.

The smooth surface of water, seeing it or languishing in it, creates for me a feeling I’d like to wrap around me as a cloak when I have exacerbations. Sometimes I have to go into my mind to accomplish it. The Ocean, even with waves, is my happy place. I am a Salty Soul at heart. When someone throws a pebble into the water, it sends little waves out in all directions. You just never know how big the ripples will become. Could be nothing at all, a normal symptom such as increased pain and numbness OR it could be more significant. Sometimes I feel someone has tossed in a boulder.

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That’s how it feels to have an MS exacerbation. It’s a giant game of Clue trying to figure out what caused the symptoms to worsen, how to make them better, and if they will ever go away at least for awhile. I find that when I have no stress, my symptoms are miraculously wonderful. Even I sometimes forget I have MS when I’m in my happy spot.

Now some people progressively get worse, this we know is called Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. I fortunately don’t have this kind, mine is Relapsing/Remitting; meaning that I’m fine for awhile, but then it seems I have a worsening of symptoms. I sometimes wonder if I have progressed to Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. It kind of sucks either way to be honest.

I was doing well for about a year. But within the last two weeks, I started developing weakness on the right side of my body and began falling to the right when I least expected it. I started falling into walls and tripping over things like my feet, chairs, floors, etc. Even my right heel on my tennis shoe showed more wear. This may be the worst exacerbation I’ve had in years. I try not to tell people what’s going on, because I don’t like to complain.

I have an invisible disease, and if you didn’t know me well, you would not even guess I have MS. That’s good I guess, but sometimes people just don’t understand. They forget you have a disease. You don’t want to talk about it. You work on the premise nothing has happened. Inside though, the idea of these worsening symptoms race around in your brain and you pray they don’t get worse. Your colleagues and friends have sustained expectations that you aren’t even sure you could accomplish if you didn’t have MS.

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So it is, I am having my second of 3 infusions today. One thousand mg of IV Prednisone (solumedrol). It takes an hour to infuse three days in a row. By tomorrow I’ll be crawling out of my skin. I’ll probably be early to work after I make a new dust ruffle for the bed, weave new area rugs for the kitchen, clean the bathrooms, give the dog a bath and maybe the cats, limb up some cedar trees in the yard, wash my car in the rain, and vacuum it out too! Yuck.

For those who don’t understand MS, I’m seriously happy for you. For those who have friends or loved ones with MS, don’t worry, we’ll be okay! It seems to help to write about it and vent, per se. You can’t understand how we feel and that’s okay. It is nice when someone asks how you’re doing, just occasionally. You can’t know what the symptom of fatigue really is with this disease unless you have it. Urinary symptoms, visual symptoms, muscle weakness, pain, numbness, tingling and I could go on and on. It’s different for everyone and therefore a generalization is not possible. Fatigue is my worst enemy. There are no words.

I do find it comforting to talk with other people who have MS, compare notes, see what helps them and what doesn’t, talk about new medications and ones we have failed. If you have MS and you are reading this, please feel free to email me, I love feedback!

We can’t always have what we want in our lives, but I am blessed with so much, and I’m not bitter about this ripple on the water. At least I’m alive. I know my kids love me and still need me. Hopefully I’ll be here on this planet for a long time, I have so many plans and dreams left to pursue. I’m trying to find a way to live on a sailboat in the Virgin Islands, my happy spot. Until then, it’s life as usual. This too shall pass.

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