Aging, Dying, Red Convertibles, Wine and Chocolate

Aging, Dying, Red Convertibles, Wine and Chocolate

My friend Janet and I with her red convertible. Notice the basket of wine and chocolate.

A friend of mine owns a red convertible. She got it over 18 years ago and it still looks great. She is now in her late 70s but as vibrant as her car. Her license plate is Joy 4 All, and she lives that every day of her life from her vintage clothes and hats, to her thoughtful gifts and notes. This friend recently lost her oldest son to early dementia so it’s hard for her to have that joy all the time. In fact, as she feels her grief and experiences her body aging, like all of us, she has occasional meltdowns. But not for long, for something will come along that not only delights her but delights someone else.

Recently one of her neighbors was celebrating their mother’s 94th birthday party. One of the things on her bucket list was to drive around in a red convertible. The son of the birthday girl was trying to figure out how to make this dream come true. He called several rental car companies to no avail. No one had an available red convertible for rent. He thought of borrowing one from a car dealer, but unless you put a down payment on the auto, you are out of luck. Then an idea came to him. He said to his wife, “ Doesn’t our neighbor own a red convertible?” Light bulb idea!!! He called my friend and said he had an out-of-the-box favor to ask. Could he borrow her red convertible? My friend, joyful as can be, thought this was a great idea and would be happy to let him use the car for the day.

On the day of her birthday, the son surprised his mother by picking her up in the morning for a day of celebration and driving around in a red convertible. She was so delighted and could not believe her dream came true. They had a day out to brunch,  then  took a ferry ride to Maysville and toured the home of Rosemary Clooney followed by a celebration dinner.

Later that day they returned the car, full of gas, with the utmost gratitude. My friend told me this story with a smile on her face -“Oh! It was so much fun to make someone’s dream come true!”

I have another friend who recently celebrated her 77th birthday in hospice. Two weeks ago she was walking my neighborhood and now has weeks to live due to a malignant and aggressive brain tumor. I went to visit her. It was 11:30 in the morning and there she was sipping a small bottle of Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc. I said, “ Are you drinking wine?” I was smiling as I do love wine and thought, why not? Glad they let you have it here. I think I might want to do the same thing. She turned her head to me and said, “Yep! All day long-that and chocolate. What else can I do?” She explained that she chose not to have any treatment, but rather to take the path of palliative care, which assures comfort and allows her to spend what time she has left with her family and friends and enjoy her wine and chocolate. She said if anyone asks what to bring-wine and chocolate!

A group of us put a basket together for her. Each person contributed something based on the theme, wine, chocolate, and comfort care. We brought her a basket full of wine, chocolate, cookies, books, and more. I think she appreciated the thoughts as well as the things. She died about 10 days later at peace and surrounded by her family

One never knows how much time we have left to age and then to die. We don’t all have the same dreams or the same joys. We don’t all have the same experiences, but what we do have is a choice to live as full a life as we can and to be there when someone asks for an out of the box favor and to give with an open heart. It is healing for all.

It has been awhile since I wrote this and I want to add that we all should imagine just for a day that we are in hospice with only 6 months to live. How will you live those days? Angry? Afraid? At peace? Have you had those important conversations with loved ones and friends? Don’t wait to suddenly be told you only have weeks or months to live. We all are on a time line. Life is precious.

 

 

 

Friendship The Medicine of Life

Friendship The Medicine of Life

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing…not healing, not curing…that is a friend who cares.”

-Henri Nouwen

Friendship is an art. We are born into families but we must cultivate our friends. A true friend is priceless- someone you can call when you are confused, have a problem, or when you are excited and want to celebrate. Sometimes we need a friend to listen and not fix our problems or advise us with the best solution. Yet, how many people have someone in their life who will listen and love unconditionally without an ulterior motive; without asking for anything in return; someone whose own spirit is lifted by allowing you to share your dreams, worries, fears, confusion, anger, and other emotions.

This is rare in today’s society because we are in a hurry and listening takes time. It is also difficult these days because much of our communication is lost in texting, e-mail, facebook, and lack of self-awareness and mindfulness. How can we understand what someone else is feeling if we never take the time to understand our own inner world? Make friends with yourself first and you will be able to open your heart to others.

Like doctors, we want to give our friend a solution. Often we don’t want a solution; we just want to talk it out. A true healer will listen until they don’t exist so the other person can come up with their own solution, but this takes time.

There was a time when I went to a doctor and I said to him, “You know, Doctor, I think there is an emotional component to this and I really want to heal at a deeper level.” He looked at me with a sense of helplessness, and said, “Well, get up on the table and let me listen to your heart.” After putting the cold stethoscope on my chest, he proclaimed, “You are just fine.” Isn’t that funny? Would he really take the time to listen to my heart and soul and mind? No, not because he doesn’t want to, but because he doesn’t have time. Listening to someone’s feelings and emotions is difficult. We quickly want to solve the problem, hurry the pain away, and heal the person. We can’t expect our doctors to be our friends, but if we had more friends we might not need as many doctors.

You may have a “ton of friends,” but how many of your friendships are open and unreserved allowing you both to expose your soul and unleash your feelings and emotions without fear. You are fortunate if among the multitudes of people you know, you have one or two trusting friends who will be there for you even when they don’t understand you.

Cultivating friendship takes time and thought and the ability to give and to forgive. It is the desire to want to be in a relationship with another human being for no other reason than the healing energy of knowing you can count on that person and they can count on you in life when it is challenging or when it is exciting. This kind of friendship is the best medicine.

I Believe in Magic! Home Remedies for Cold and Flu

I Believe in Magic! Home Remedies for Cold and Flu

“Healthy people eating healthy food should never need to take an antibiotic.” -Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Tis the season for colds, flues, viruses, sinus congestion and just feeling plain yuk! Many run to the doctor at the first sign of illness, which usually is not necessary and simply spreads your germs or sends you out only to pick up some more.

For a virus, antibiotics do nothing but mess up your normal good bacteria in your digestive tract (mouth, stomach, intestines).

When I get sick there are a few things I do that seem to shorten my days on the couch, but I try to start my natural regime at the first sign of a depleted immune system (scratchy throat, achiness, fatigue, or what I call the eewy geewies when I just know there is a bug in me).

If you have incredibly horrible symptoms like a high fever, cough, sore throat, sneezing and blowing out green or yellow gunk for more than a week – you may need to make an appointment with your doctor but generally rest, stress management, and supporting your immune system with a healthy diet and natural remedies will decrease your time on the couch or bed.

Before you try any of these remedies, although you probably don’t need the doctor, I would at least ask what he or she thinks of the magic. More than likely your doctor will say “whatever works” or “there is some research to show…” or “never heard of it but it can’t hurt” or just take some Tylenol, Ibuprofen, or Aleve and rest. That’s all good advice but is there anything else you can do? Yes! Here are some home remedies you can try.

Natural remedies

First and foremost eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins and antioxidants-vegetables and fruits, green smoothies and soups with added healing herbs and spices such as garlic, ginger, onion, and turmeric. Apple cider vinegar added to your food or taken as a drink has long been known to heal sore throats, colds, and viruses. Horseradish root is an excellent natural antibiotic and decongestant great for loosening mucous or encouraging a blocked sinus to drain. Avoid sugar except for raw honey, which has long been used for its antibiotic properties. Honey added to a cup of ginger tea and sprinkled with a pinch of cayenne pepper is an excellent sore throat remedy.

My favorite natural remedy is garlic. I carry garlic with me when I travel and at the first sign that I feel like there is a bug in me. I eat raw garlic chopped up on bread or mixed with my food. When I am dining out, I don’t hesitate to ask my waitress or waiter to bring me a side of chopped garlic. And yes sometimes you do reek to those around. There is a famous quote “Since garlic then hath powers to save from death, bear with it though it makes unsavory breath.” – Salerno Regimen of Health.

I can remember a time when I was traveling and while at the airport waiting for a flight, I felt like I was coming down with something. I went to one of the airport restaurants and ordered hot soup and a side of garlic. I ate it all. While on the airplane I heard the people in the seats behind me saying “ I smell garlic. Wow! I bet she just ate Italian food!.” It seemed my garlic ingestion was noticeable.

And speaking of garlic, check out my recipe for Garlic Soup.

MARY’S GARLIC SOUP

Start with Chicken or Vegetable Broth (You can use any clear soup or make your own with bullion cubes). Bring to a boil

Add Several cloves of fresh garlic cut up. (I add as many as 10 cloves to about 4 cups of broth) Use as much as you can stand and don’t over cook the garlic.

Simmer the soup with the garlic for a minute or two. (Another variation is to sauté the garlic in the pan before adding the broth. This makes the garlic more tolerable if you don’t like it raw.) I eat garlic raw so I cook as little as possible.

Remove from heat and add: 1 tsp of Apple Cider Vinegar. Sprinkle with Cayenne pepper. (According to taste -a dash can create quite a tang so add according to what you can tolerate).

Other helpful spices are Turmeric, Cumin and Ginger which all have healing properties.

Another variation is to add a beaten egg to the boiling broth like egg drop soup.

If you want to make a more hearty soup, go ahead and add some cooked chicken, turkey or sautéed vegetables. Onions are always good for healing.

Be sure to chew the garlic pieces when you eat the soup.

Enjoy! And Be Well!

 

 

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The Crying Room

The Crying Room

“What soap is to the body, tears are for the soul.”
-an old Jewish saying…

 

Everyone needs a good cry once in a while. Crying is therapeutic. Emotional tears release stress hormones and endorphins similar to the chemical release of a good run. Interesting that when you cry from cutting onions you don’t get the same effects.

A friend of mine was going through some tough times and was at a loss for solutions, and in fact did not want to be fixed, simply needed more spiritual support or just something to help her gain some perspective. She decided one Thursday evening that she would go to a church-any church that was open.

Growing up, I remember being able to walk into any Catholic church to light a candle, pray quietly, or share your problems with Jesus or Mary or one of the other saints that were represented in statues around main sanctuary. Its different today. Churches are under lock and key for security reasons.

My friend, who by the way, is Jewish, found an open church. It was Methodist and they had an event going on that Thursday evening. She walked into the Church and noticed the sign for the “Crying Room.” “How nice” , she thought. “That’s just what I need.” She walked in and there were rocking chairs. As a therapist, she knew that rocking is very soothing for the body and soul. She also knew the benefits of therapeutic crying.

She had the room to herself, and made herself comfortable in one of the chairs. She began rocking and saw a pile of coverlets, which were to be used by nursing mothers, but my friend thought they were for warmth and security while rocking. Again she was impressed with how welcoming this room was and how it had everything to sit and have a good cry.

There was plenty of Kleenex and a few spiritual books and Bibles scattered around the room. She quietly rocked and let the tears flow. What a great idea! She had never seen a crying room but praised the church for having the insight to provide such a place.

She walked out of the church feeling lighter and later told her husband about the experience at the church.

He laughed and told her that a crying room was for parents with small children who might disrupt a service with their noise. And also this room provided a place for nursing mothers with babies. My friend was so embarrassed. She had never even thought of that. To her, a crying room meant a place to cry-a place to release the tears of suffering that we all experience from time to time.

She laughed and laughed about this experience gaining the benefits of a good laugh and good cry.

 

 

You Have to Stop Sooner or Later – A Reminder

You Have to Stop Sooner or Later – A Reminder

As I reflect on my life right now, I want to share an article I wrote that I am reminding myself to follow.

This year has been a very stressful, yet exciting year. We made a major move from a house of 31 years to a new home- very different, a connected “landominium”, maintenance free living-quite a change. Between preparing the house for sale, decluttering,  keeping it immaculate for the weekly showings for months, working with the builder on the plans for our new home, and the major task of moving in general, my body has taken a toll. You really do have to be mindful of a stress and the affect of pushing until your exhausted. We are now settled and loving it, but I reacted to something while unpacking and developed a major allergic dermatitis reaction. Now on steroids and drugs, it is important that I take time to heal the cells of my stressed out body, by reconnecting my mind and spirit.

Today I put out the yoga mat while listening to meditative music and did a 40 minute yoga routine for detoxing. It felt very necessary and quite nice. My husband and I have resumed our Tai Chi practice in the evening, and hopefully this bout of illness will pass, having been a blatant reminder that YOU HAVE TO STOP SOONER OR LATER!

Anyway, here is the article:

For years people who have talked about wellness referred to weight loss, fitness or smoking cessation programs. Later we identified the role stress plays in our overall health and wellness so we developed stress management programs.

Interesting that although the wellness industry has spent the last 20 years designing programs and providing health promotion information to the point that most consumers are very well educated, health is not improving
much – Not the kind of health that is defined by an overall sense of balance of body, mind and spirit or physical, emotional or spiritual togetherness. In fact many people are exercising and watching their weight. Unfortunately many people have given up and continue to spiral upwards. There is no loss of material on what constitutes a healthy diet or adequate fitness program. There are also more self help books published than ever before to help us deal with our stress management.

Keeping all of this in mind, it is interesting that when I work with people as a wellness coach, their vision often includes a regular exercise program and healthy diet, but it always seems to include the word
balance and gaining more energy and enjoying life more. Yet that is the one place it is hard to concentrate. To stop all of our activity, whether it is for our work or just to keep the house managed is very difficult. We just keep going until our body can’t go anymore and then we get sick. It is when we get sick that we question how we have been going about getting all these things done.

More and more people have said to me that they need to take time to meditate, yet less and less do. Why is that? I know for myself I often feel that once this or that item on my to do list is complete, I will be able to sit back and relax. Sitting seems such a waste of time when there is so much to do. That is why we recommend that you schedule a regular time for meditation regardless of what is going on in life or with work. It has to be as built in as brushing your teeth. It has to be an everyday occurrence.

But what if we are just not of the makeup to sit in a formal meditation? That is not necessary, but what is necessary is to have some sort of practice built into your life for reflection on more than your everyday tasks. The fact is that one’s body and mind can’t keep on going without a break. Eventually you will have to stop.

Regardless of what your life looks like right now, it is helpful build into your day a time( even if just 5 minutes)  for silence, prayer, yoga,reflective reading, listening to peaceful music, journaling, or if you can, sitting in a position of meditation, following your breath long enough to feel a difference in your body- a feeling of peace and quiet rather than rushing and a sense of urgency. If you practice enough, it will become a memory in your body that you will be able to tap into when life is speeding by. Like all of my clients, it has to be a priority and goal for change. Let that be now and not later.

Don’t Miss the Moments. Slow Down the End of the Year Rush

Don’t Miss the Moments. Slow Down the End of the Year Rush

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First snowfall on top of autumn leaves

What is your vision for the rest of the year? Before you know it, we will be celebrating a new year. Are you looking too forward without enjoying the days we have left? I know this is an overwhelming time-busy with Fall cleanup, preparing for Thanksgiving, Hanukah and Christmas, business deadlines, and for many struggling with a budget or health issues. But this can also be a very peaceful time if we savor the moments right in front of us.

Let’s stop a moment and see if we can put our activities in slow motion.

Autumn is such a pretty season. The leaves certainly take their time revealing their colors and the leaves fall at their own slow and flowing pace. Sit under a tree and wait for a leave to fall in your hand. The task of raking leaves seems never ending especially if you have a large oak tree in your front yard like we do. And our red maples are almost ready to shed their glorious crimson leaves before our first snowfall. (Which came last night). Yet autumn leaves can be magical when a child jumps into a pile just raked or we feel their crispness under our feet as we walk.

In a couple of weeks, we will all be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it is not about material gifts but rather the gift of gratitude and family blessings. December is the month of gift giving, which we do for both Hanukah and Christmas. However this year is different. The first day of Hanukah is Thanksgiving. We light the first candle the night before. This means that we will be celebrating both holidays on Thanksgiving.  No problem. I will decorate sooner and perhaps have potato latkes in addition to mashed potatoes and gravy. For the grandkids we normally give a book each night of Hanukah. So this year they will get to open book with all of us after dinner.

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Loved the leaves covered with snow. If you look close you can see the leaves falling.

I always enjoy the first snowfall of the year. Like the leaves, snowflakes take their time falling on the prettiest snow days, flake after flake, each a different shape and identity. Remember the song- “Here comes Suzy Snow Flake. Look at her tumbling down. Bringing Joy to every girl and boy as Suzie comes to town.” Can Suzie bring us all joy? (Full lyrics below)

Soon there will be the lights of the winter holidays as they sparkle in neighborhoods all over the world. I can’t wait-oh, I mean yes I can, but when they shine I will savor each moment of experiencing the joy of the season.

Let’s not rush through these last days of the year with anxiety. I do feel sadness when I think that stores are going to open Thanksgiving night to get a rush on holiday shopping, cutting short quality time and warm conversation.

I know there is a lot to do. I feel the anxiety too, which is why I am writing this. I want to remind myself to slow down, and take note of all I am thankful for including the fall leaves, the holiday experience, and the warmth of being with family and friends.

*Lyrics to Suzy Snowflake:

Here comes Suzy Snowflake
Dressed in a snow-white gown
Tap, tap, tappin’ at your windowpane
To tell you she’s in town.

Here comes Suzy Snowflake
Soon you will hear her say
Come out ev’ryone and play with me
I haven’t long to stay.

If you want to make a snowman
I’ll help you make it, one, two, three.
If you want to take a sleigh ride
Whee! The ride’s on me.

Here comes Suzy Snowflake
Look at her tumblin’ down
Bringing joy to ev’ry girl and boy
Suzy’s come to town.

If you want to make a snowman
I’ll help you make it, one, two, three
If you want to take a sleigh ride
Whee! The ride’s on me.

Here comes Suzy Snowflake
Look at her tumblin’ down
Bringing joy to ev’ry girl and boy
Suzy’s come to town.

*”Suzy Snowflake Lyrics.” Lyrics.net.
STANDS4 LLC, 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.
http://www.lyrics.net/lyric/3592509

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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