Thursday, December 25, 2014

Humor, Healing, & Why We Love "A Christmas Story!"

Humor, Healing, & Why We Love A Christmas Story!

[Authors Note: Okay, it's been a WHILE since we posted - mostly because "blogspot" had us locked out of our own blog since we couldn't remember the old e-mail/pass word. Which is WHY we are in process of moving to Word Press (and hope you will follow us there next month, and promise to make regular posts and provide new info on Living and Coping With Chronic Illness). For now, being Christmas Day 2014, we hope you'll find some smiles and healing endorphins in the following article. Healing Hugs & A Healing, Healthier New Year!]

The movie, A Christmas Story, about a young boy growing up sometime in the late 30s to early 1940s, in a Northern Mid-West town in the U.S., first aired in theatres in 1983 to lukewarm reviews. In fact some reviewers such as Vincent Canby, wrote in The New York Times, a somewhat scathing interpretation - as some reviewers seem to relish in doing, which is why many of us; both artists and audiences, tend to view their opinions with a measure of suspicion. The first sentence of Canby’s review stated, “There are a number of small, unexpectedly funny moments in A Christmas Story,' but you have to possess the stamina of a pearl diver to find them.” 

Of course that was in November 1983 on the day the movie premiered in theatres, and it’s always easy (at least it seems so when it comes to some ‘reviewers’) to beat up on a movie with a new concept, new writer, new director – or in other words, anyone who hasn’t already earned a name and reputation in the movie making business. Mr. Canby’s review ironically resembled the movie’s neighborhood bully, Scut Farkus (played quite realistically by actor, Zack Ward), who was always a thorn in the side of the movie’s main character, Ralphie, also played with convincing precision by Peter Billingsley. In fact, it’s acting by kids such as Ward and Billingsley that has always made my husband and I wonder why there is not an academy award specifically for actors under the age of seventeen. 

But back to Canby; apparently there a millions of people who completely disagree with his opinion of there being any difficulty at all in finding plenty of “unexpectedly funny moments” in this movie. In the 30 plus years since that review was written, tens of millions of people have watched A Christmas Story (typically as an annual Holiday past time – just as previous generations watched, It’s a Wonderful Life, with Jimmy Stewart), with much amusement and nostalgia. 

In fact, it is the nostalgia for many viewers that makes this movie so special and delightful to watch. After all, it depicts a childhood that has all but become extinct in the era of the Internet, high-tech video games, and cellphone chat and texting. Back when those of us born in the 20th Century, recall a time when our parents told us to, “Go out and play!” and we knew exactly what to do and, were almost always happy to comply.

Today, if you tell a kid (between the ages of five and fifteen) to “go out and play,” most of them will look at you quizzically and ask (seriously), “Go out and play what?” Other than skateboarding or roller blading (and these are typically done at a specified place other than our neighborhood streets or sidewalks), kids today really don’t have a clue as to what to do if they are asked to “go outside.” They would likely sit on the porch or driveway and play a hand-held computer game or text on their cell phone.

Whereas, those of us who were born pre-tech boom and who grew up virtually any time during the 20th Century all the way to say the late 1980s, knew exactly what to do if we were given the edict and the freedom to “go out and play.” We knew that this meant any number of possibilities. It could mean riding one’s bike around the neighborhood (something most parent’s would not consider safe today), roller skating up and down the street or sidewalk (and I said, roller “skating,” not roller “blading”), kicking a can down the street (yes, I said “can” as in an empty soda can). And, if someone was lucky enough to have a ball; a basketball, baseball, soccer ball…any kind of ball, well, that was a whole other set of ‘fun possibilities!’ 

Even if there were no bikes, skates, balls or empty cans; if you had enough kids, there were always those numerous ‘kid games’ such as; “Mother May I?,” “Red Rover,” “Simon Says,” “Hide & Seek,” and even the simple but always fun “tag.” Even my daughter, who grew up ‘on the cusp’ of the new tech era, but as a young kid in the 1980s still enjoyed the meaning of playing outside with other kids, didn’t know some of these simple but incredibly fun games that required action; exercise and some mind strategy (a.k.a. “using one’s brain to create fun moments). Fortunately, we encouraged her to be creative and that showed in her starting an environmentally aware group before Greenpeace was a household name, along with being a talented dancer from age 4 ½, but I’m still not sure if she knows what “Red Rover” is about…?

My husband and I have on several occasions thought of the many different things we would do as kids to ‘create fun’ playing outdoors. For instance, if a new house was being built (or renovated) in the neighborhood, finding empty appliance boxes meant creating an entire town; houses, stores, etc., could be gleaned from the imagination of a group of kids that would mean fun for sometimes an entire day or even several days (or, until the boxes were worn down beyond their original structure). If there was a park, or a small piece of woods, or an open field nearby, then this was a plethora of avenues for ‘kid fun,’ from chasing butterflies, to trying to capture frogs and tadpoles in small, shallow creeks, or even just exploring through the tall grass or trees, to spot a new nest of bird eggs, or a startled rabbit hopping quickly out of sight. Today, this would be unheard of in most medium to large cities as parents would not allow their kids to venture into such places without a supervising adult for safety reasons. 

But, Ralphie, his little brother, Randy, and their friends, didn’t have to worry with these restrictions nor did their parents have such concerns, and playing outside – whether constructive such as all of those games that required both physical action and some mental exercise, or not-so-constructive such as shooting off a BB gun or slingshot, meant the freedom to be a kid and get lost for hours at a time in that world. And this is one of the reasons that A Christmas Story tugs at our hearts and makes us laugh and grin from scene to scene, because it reminds us of a time (that realistically is or has all but become extinct) when we experienced the fullest scope of being a ‘kid’ and all that entailed. From euphoric moments of exhilarating fun to those “oops moments” when someone inevitably got hurt in the process of all of that freedom of movement, or worse, when some kid found it necessary to bully on another kid or another group of kids. And then, the ‘fun’ was definitely over – at least for that day.

The great thing about A Christmas Story, is that it captures all of these aspects of a childhood that many generations experienced before most kids ended up indoors playing games on computers or video players, or doing pretty much anything related to technology. And while this is the way of life today and will likely become even more so as we venture further into the 21st Century, kids from this newer era may never know the joys and sorrows; the ups and downs, and the sheer thrill of having played one’s self out only to be directed toward the bath and then, (secretly) blissfully happy to fall into bed and into that deeply satisfying sleep that only a day of physical and mentally exerting ‘kid fun’ could bring.

A Christmas Story also reminds us of a world where it was still “okay” to say “Merry CHRISTmas,” and to also "believe in Santa Claus." When it was common to save cereal box labels so we could turn them in for things like “Sea Monkeys” and “Secret Decoders,” only to find that the Sea Monkeys were just tiny brine shrimp, and the decoders were usually just a series of questions or “challenges” that ultimately ended up with some corny advertisement for the cereal product.  

Most of all, A Christmas Story has captured a brief moment in time that we can now mostly refer to as “history,” where a kid could simply ‘be’ a kid. When our parents would either spank us (usually in front of the other neighborhood kids – which was the most painful aspect of the punishment), or at the very least, wash our mouths with soap (really) for cussing out loud, fighting with another kid, or either accidentally or accidentally-with-intention; damaging property. You know, like accidentally throwing a ball out of range and busting a window out, or, throwing eggs at someone’s house or bike, or toilet papering the trees in their yard (usually because they’ve done something mean to one of the other neighbor kids).   

Oh, and if we made the dire mistake of running down the street to avoid “the punishment,” other neighborhood Moms would inevitably (like a complex interactive talking GPS system) point us out and call out to our pursuing parent our location, while simultaneously warning us that we “had better turn around and go back home” (to face the firing squad)! 

Today, if a parent pursued their child down the street with a spoon or a switch with intent on physical punishment, neighbors (who too often don’t even know one another) would call CPS on the parent to “spare the poor child.” Amazingly, most of us survived those punishments without scars and mostly just a bit of wounded pride – which possibly seemed worse. We also ultimately learned healthy boundaries and a respect for adult authority and wisdom that has made us better adults. Granted, there were exceptions for some unfortunate kids where the punishment became abusive, and that is altogether different than what I’m referring to and most of you born before the late 1980s know what I’m talking about firsthand (so-to-speak). This is why we find the scene with Ralphie having to put a bar of soap in his mouth so amusing.

This movie also reminds us of a time when parents had a special collection of “parental warnings” that they often resorted to when called for, such as the ongoing warning to Ralphie, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” for having and shooting a BB gun. Other such warnings from this time capsule of childhood included sayings such as; “If everyone else jumped in the lake, does that mean you would too?” (This, usually in response to our nagging and ongoing subtle harassment of our parent or parents, to allow us to do or have something that “other kids” did or had). Then there was, “Stop that crying before I really give you something to cry about!” (Which meant, “Knock it off with the crying otherwise, you’re going to drive me to do something that will really justify your crying!”). “Don’t make me come out there!” was the warning we’d hear when failing to come in after our parent(s) had already told us to get in the house at least two times before, and yet, we were still testing THEIR boundaries by remaining outside. Likewise, “Don’t make me come up there (if your bedroom was on the second floor) or, “Don’t make me come in there,” if on the first floor – meaning, “I’ve already given you so many warnings to get in the bath, or get in the bed, or get quiet if you’re in the bed, or turn your light out,” that if you make me say it one more time, I’ll come in there and do so in person and that will most definitely NOT be all I do!” 

Then there’s my all-time favorite of warnings that includes prize winning statements such as, “Don’t come running to me if you break your neck,” or (similarly) “Don’t come running to me if you cut your toes off!” (Typically associated with attempting to mow the lawn, or, ride your bike, without shoes). So when we hear Ralphie warned on a number of occasions that he’ll ‘shoot his eyes out,” from shooting a BB gun, we can hardly avoid a nostalgic giggle.

And again, it’s this very time specific nostalgia of an era of childhood that reminds those of us born before the mid-1980s that brings the joys of being a kid in that time frame fresh to us - as if they just happened yesterday. It’s what makes us laugh and agonize with Ralphie, his little brother, and their small group of friends and class mates, over and over again. We know in our hearts that this was a truly special time to be a kid and many of those experiences no longer are part of the generations of kids born mid 1980s and after. So when I read that The Library of Congress selected A Christmas Story to be “preserved” in the National Film Registry for being, “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” I was not at all surprised.  

I’m not sure what time frame Mr. Canby grew up in but I would guess that it either was before the era that A Christmas Story depicted, or, perhaps he had a difficult childhood and missed out on the very incidents and adventures that made the rest of us laugh so often at the antics of Ralphie & Company. I know one thing for certain, the many amusing scenes in this movie required very little “stamina” and were surely far easier than “pearl diving!” 

Merry CHRISTMAS (and watch out for falling icicles)!

 "Playing Outside" with my brother and little sister around Christmas time =)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Chronic Healing: Clean Air and Water Fortify Us From Seasonal Allergens & Toxins

Chronic Healing: Clean Air & Water Fortify Us From Seasonal Allergens & Toxins
As our South Texas Spring rolls quickly into summer, the yellow dusty residue of pollen seems to be everywhere; on the outside of our windows, our entry porch & steps, and especially on our car (even though my husband washes it several time a week). For those of us dealing with one or more chronic illnesses, the extra burden of allergens can weigh heavily on our health. Additionally, as the temperatures start to soar, so does the ozone exposure.  
We are not completely at the mercy of Mother Nature though as there are things we can do around our home that can provide us with extra support through the coming months.
If you live where there is a lot of sun and heat, and in a highly populated area with heavy traffic on the freeways, you are likely to have more exposure to ozone's.  Air Now is a great Internet site to put on your desktop or in your "favorites" file because it will give you an up-to-date reading of both the ozone's and the allergen count in your area. Just click on the site above and then, type in your zip code at the top of the page. A map for your area will show current Air Quality Index (AQI) on a map as well as provide a count (number) for allergen particles and ozone's with color coding. Green -anything under 50 is "good air quality," whereas, yellow - over 50 but not over 100, indicates some problems for people who are extremely sensitive (that would be me and many people with compromised immune systems from chronic illness). The counts and warnings then go on to orange and red - which can affect people not typically sensitive to allergens and/or ozone's. Obviously, if the readings are close to, or over 100, I try to stay inside during the worst of it (ozone's are almost always worse during the hotter part of the day, and allergens may be less prominent in evening and early morning).
In addition to being aware of the outside conditions there are also some things you can do to keep your indoor environment healthier - here are just a few ideas:
1) Make sure your windows and doors are sealed well. Our 100 year old house has it's original windows and they allow a lot of outdoor air in as the seals are virtually non-existent. Since they are so old and fragile, we cannot put new sealing around them, but we discovered a great product to help keep the hot air AND the BAD air out, in 3M Window Insulator film. This is NOT solar window film typically used to minimize the sun's rays as it actually goes over both the window and the window frame and is inexpensive and easy to apply.  For more information on this product go to:
2) Another great investment for improving indoor air and reducing allergens is The Vollara "Classic" Air  Machine.  About 15 years ago, I wrote an article about air purifiers for the home and after weeks of research, found this machine which eliminates bad ozone's and allergens (and even dust mites). It is by far, the best machine I found on the market for cleaning up to 1500 square feet of air. It is a bit of an investment but considering the job it does and how long it lasts (and the fact that it does not require filter replacements - you just wash the one it comes with about once per month), it is the best deal around. If I place a vase of fresh flowers anywhere near it, they will last twice as long as they typically do without the air machine!  I became a representative just so I could get the products at a reduced rate for my family and friends. To see more on the "Classic" Air Purifier, go to my page and click on products and then click on "air," and scroll down page. If you, or a loved one decide to get one, contact me as I can order it for you and get the $75.00 off. It will also will quickly remove any toxins in the air from cigarette smoke to paint fumes (even smoke from a fire - our toaster oven  ;-)  Breathing in air that’s free of irritants and toxins is incredibly healthful!
3) Drinking and bathing with clean water is also an essential part of boosting our immune system's ability to withstand seasonal heat, allergens, and ozone's. There are a number of really good water purifiers on the market - I prefer the kind that has the ionizing feature. We also purchase Mountain Valley Spring Water in the glass containers whenever possible, and I typically drink between 95 and 110 ounces per day (allotted out over a 14 to 16 hour day). The recommended amount for the average person is about 70 oz. per day but those of us battling chronic illness typically need more as we are more prone to dehydration from both medical conditions and medications. I take several types of allergy medicine and several prescriptions that are sodium based, so I compensate with an extra 25 to 40 ounces. (I do count decaffeinated teas and coffees and clear natural juices in this daily intake).
Water and air are referenced throughout the Bible and in many religious texts as being associated with life, healing, and health, but no matter what your beliefs; breathing healthy air and, hydrating your body with clean water will fortify you to cope better with the extra burden of allergens and toxins that often accompany the Spring and Summer Seasons. 
The following is a great drink I created to hydrate the body and keep cool on hot days.
Super Hydrating/Cleansing Summer Cocktail:
2-3 oz. Organic Aloe Vera Juice
2 Oz. Organic Cranberry Juice
2 Oz. Organic pure lemon juice
2 Oz. organic pineapple OR orange juice
2 Oz. organic apple juice Or Pomegranate Juice
1 tsp. organic maple syrup and/OR
1 packet pure Stevia (natural sweetener)
Stir together and serve chilled. For an extra “kick” and immune booster, you can add 2 oz. liquid from slowly simmering organic ginger pieces in purified water, OR, 2 oz. “Maine Root” Ginger Brew. Delicious and so good to your health!

Cry Some, Laugh More, Pray Often ~ Jamey Lacy July

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chronic Coping

Chronic Coping

There's a story about a man riding the commuter train home one evening who was visibly upset. Another man who took the same train knew the harried man from exchanging regular greetings and light conversations during their rides to and from work, asked him what was wrong. The first man proceeded to tell him that his company had downsized and he had just lost his job along with his health benefits. He then added, "And my wife told me last night that she wants a divorce and our son was suspended from school yesterday afternoon! I don't know what to do," he added with an exasperated sigh. The second man looked at his distressed friend and after a few moments said, "Here's what you should do. Don't think about any of this the rest of the night. Go home. Have a really good dinner, take a long hot shower, and get a good night's sleep." He was basically telling his commuter buddy that after re-grouping and recouping from clearing his mind, eating, relaxing his body and resting his mind, he would be much better equipped with sorting out all of his problems.  

This advice, or at least the wisdom of the concept of coping, can be vitally helpful for those of us in the long throes of battling chronic illness, and, for those who love and care for us - especially our "main" caregivers. When our symptoms flare up and seem out of control; other "life burdens" such as mounting medical costs, unexpected home or car repairs, seeing one of our children injured (recently, a broken foot in our daughter's case), job or income changes, an unforeseen increase in property or income taxes, and a thousand other potential trials that can come at us without warning, can quickly put us in a place of panic. 

Having a plan of action or a regular list of coping tactics can spare us from spinning completely out-of-control. The following are things that have helped us when life's ups and downs seem to turn upside down:

> Get QUIET. ["Peace Be Still" Mark 4:39 These 3 simple words that Jesus said to calm the waters for his disciples calm me in the midst of "life storms" when I say them out loud]. If you are at home, close the blinds or turn the lights down and sit in the quietest room/space in the house. If you have non-toxic scented candles - light a few and/or, put on some calming music. Now, take at least 7 to 12 deep breaths through your diaphragm (letting your upper abdomen rise as you inhale), and holding the air in for 3 to 5 counts, then, slowly (3 to 5 more counts) exhale. Try to clear your mind completely - if thoughts crowd in, push them out. It sometimes helps to focus on an image (a blue sky with white clouds or a babbling mountain creek).

If you are at work or driving or out in public, find a bench or an area where you can sit and do the above breathing exercises. As you breathe and clear your mind, your heart rate will slow down and the urge to panic will subside.

> If you believe in God (Divine Love/Power), then pray for peace and guidance, asking for clarity in dealing with your dilemmas.

> Nourish and hydrate. Eat a healthy meal or snack (clean; organic, Non-GMO, non-trans fat, low sugar, lean protein and complex carbohydrates). When you put premium fuel in your body it will reward you with the energy and strength to handle most situations. Drink 20 oz. of fresh purified or Spring water at least 4 intervals throughout the day (five or six if you are taking medications that dehydrate such as antihistamines and sodium based drugs).

> Exercise and/or stretch slowly. Gentle Yoga movements, a short walk on soft surfaces, climbing stairs, cycling (stationary, or if outdoors - in an uncongested area). Just 12 to 15 minutes can do wonders in circulating blood flow and promoting oxygen intake - which will give you more mental clarity to respond better and make sound decisions.

> Relax tense muscles with a hot bath and mineral salts and a few drops of organic essential oils OR take a hot shower and use bath gel with essential oils such as chamomile, lavender, or tea tree.

> If at all possible, get a massage or an acupuncture session. Both of these treatments will help your body to detoxify from extra stress factors. Most cities have massage  and acupuncture schools where you can get an intern to provide treatment for about half the cost.

> Rest. Get a power nap during the day or get to bed early enough to get 7 to 8 good hours of sleep. If you have medication to help you sleep - be sure to take it. Also, Chamomile, Valerian Root, Lavender, and Peppermint (or a combination of these) can help you relax and sleep better. Kava Kava is also very helpful for relaxing and a sleep aid. It comes in tea and also capsules and liquid tincture (you can find at most holistic stores and grocers).

> After you've quieted your mind, fueled and exercised your body and regenerated from rest, you can better access life challenges.

Put it down on paper; just like you would write a "pros & cons" list, make a list of your current problems and a list of potential solutions. Do this together with your caregiver or your patient spouse if possible (it helps you both value that you are a team - in spite of the illness and health restrictions). IF you can't partner up with your mate/caregiver, call a friend or family member, or someone who can counsel with you without getting over emotional. (A pastor/reverend/ church counselor, a therapist/psychologist, or life-coach).

> Seek specialists when they are needed; attorneys, accountants, therapists, support groups and sponsors, etc.

Use these contacts/individuals to help you make a "game plan" designed to help you work through the challenges or obstacles. Keep a list of things to do (to avoid panic and distress), AND, your "game plan" posted where you can see it and make notes and updates as things transpire.

> Seek inspiration. Stay inspired through DVDs, CDs, helpful books, visualization exercises and images, self talk, and lectures and videos on the Internet.

Think of all of the things you've survived in the past and let that fortify you through this set of trials or challenges. You CAN cope even in the midst of chronic illness!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Resolutions" Vs. "Re-Do" Lists and Erasable Calendars

"Resolutions" Vs. "Re-Do" Lists and Erasable Calendars

By this time into the New Year we have typically had time to reflect on the previous year and may be examining a “New Resolutions” list…or maybe even a “Re-Do" list! For those of us facing the challenges of chronic illness, over time we learn that each day is an opportunity to “Re-Do” something we may have missed the day before due to a flare-up of symptoms. The calendar holds a different perspective for us. We’ve learned the benefit of having a wipe-off calendar where erasable markers set the dates and the proposed activities and appointments, with the capacity to make frequent changes as the days and weeks transpire. That erasable or “re-doable” calendar signifies how we live our lives and how we, as a couple, as a family, or even as an individual, can truly live each day in the face of life changing illness.

Around this time of year, back when William and I were still dating, we started making special plans for our Valentines’ date to go to a really unique and romantic restaurant in an eclectic part of the city. That year, Valentine’s Day fell on a week-end which meant planning even earlier than usual to get a reservation on that extra busy holiday. By Thursday night however, my daughter Laney, who was a young teen at the time, had come down with a fever and sore throat. On Friday morning her symptoms were worse and it was clear she wouldn’t be able to go to school that day.

Having lost two infant sons prior to the birth of my daughter, you could say that she was truly a “miracle baby,” and I loved her as such. I had made a commitment that I would never be away from her whenever she was sick, and told my clients and friends that plans would be re-scheduled if my daughter needed me home with her. So, on this Friday morning, I knew I would need to cancel my Valentine’s Dinner with William. It was our first Valentine’s celebration together (as we had just become a “couple” the previous summer), so I felt really bad knowing I would have to tell him I couldn’t make it.

Little did I know that for him, the day was unfolding with problems of his own. He had encountered a number of hitches in his schedule that day with work on his second book, Understanding The Tin Man; a phone meeting with his new agent had been pushed back, and editing work had hit an unexpected snag. By the time I got the nerve to call him on his cell phone early that afternoon, he was standing 20 people deep in a line at the flower shop near his house while simultaneously trying to iron out matters on the phone with his editor. When I beeped in on call-waiting, he asked if he could call me right back and sounded a little harried. I thought to myself that my news wasn’t going to make his day any better.

When William called me back he briefly told me what kind of day he was having and I told him that Laney was home sick and hesitantly said I thought I should stay home with her that night, and probably the next (which meant we would have to cancel our hard-to-get dinner reservations). I could hear William let out a deep sigh on the other end of the phone as he said, “wow, I’m really sorry Laney’s not feeling well but to be honest, I was wondering how I was going to get everything done today and make our dinner on time.” He told me he’d been standing in line to get flowers for me for over 20 minutes and there were still about a half dozen guys in front of him waiting to do the same for their girlfriends or wives. We agreed to make “our own date” for Valentine’s and by Saturday night Laney’s fever was gone and she was feeling much better so we rescheduled our dinner for Sunday night.

William brought flowers for me and Laney on Sunday evening, and he was relieved that it only took fifteen minutes to get them since the furor over Valentine’s Day was over. We left Laney with a family friend and a new movie while we went to our Valentine’s dinner. When we arrived at the lovely restaurant that had been converted from an old church with a beautiful frescoed ceiling, we were surprised to find that except for one other couple who were dining outside on the patio, we were the only couple there. It was as if we had the entire restaurant just to ourselves!

That evening over a lovely candlelight dinner, we made a vow that from then on, we would never let a calendar dictate our plans or cause unnecessary stress. Little did we know that years later, as illness greatly altered my health and our lives, this would be one of our best survival tools! We learned to plan birthdays, anniversaries, and special holidays on the best date for us and our situation - with an alternate or “back-up date” in place. Friends, family and associates who know (and understand) the challenges we face living with chronic illness, also know that we do our best to honor plans or appointments but there will be times when we need to re-schedule, or, may even miss an event according to how my health is.

We've learned to accept that on occasion we will have to pay a cancellation fee if last minute health problems arise and I have to miss a professional appointment. We only make "flexible plans" to go to dinner, an outdoor concert, or a museum exhibit with friends and family members who are "on board" with our situation. This has removed unnecessary stress from our lives and helps us feel less anxious about making plans. Today, our erasable calendar encompasses four months and hangs on one wall of our office. It reminds us that life can and often does, change unexpectedly from day to day, and that IS a reality when dealing with the unpredictability of long term illness. And every day can be a "re-do day" if necessary -- no matter what time of the year, and erasable calendars can make life less stressful -- no matter what state your health is in!

Do you have a story about how you have learned to manage your time differently since you or a loved one became ill? If so, we'd love to hear from you!
[You can leave your story or tip in the comment box below or e-mail us at:]

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Drought of The Body & Spirit
It started the last of May. A gentle celebratory hug incited yet another fracture in one of my ribs – long bouts of prednisone medication had made my once strong bones weak and brittle.  We were planning a short trip to see my niece graduate and now, as the pain and inflammation made it hard to lie back or sit up, or even walk at a normal pace, I sadly realized that the trip was no longer a possibility. Trips for me require an unimaginable amount of planning, extensive packing (from medications and remedies, to special food, linens, air filter, and other items to reduce intense allergic reaction to most allergens both indoors and out). But I was determined as was my husband, William – who also had a special place in his heart for my niece since she stood up with us in our wedding as ring bearer when she was just four! During the first years of our marriage before my health spiraled downward, this precious one would visit us often and as my God daughter was much like the second daughter I didn’t get to have. As my health has been weighed down by more conditions and travel has become so difficult, I’ve missed out on visiting her and my other nieces and nephews. 

My sorrow over missing her graduation and the pain from the re-fractured rib sent me into depression and then, to make matters worse, a terrible heat wave rolled across the state and enveloped our far most Southern city with the hottest temperatures in 30 years. The high levels of humidity and the resulting ozones from the heat and pollution seeped through the loosened seals of our hundred year old house, leaving me burdened with chronic allergies and heightened fatigue and pain. And thus began the worst drought – environmentally and for me; physically and spiritually.

It takes a great deal – me digging way down inside with Divine Assistance to share with others (especially those who I interface with who are also battling critical/chronic illnesses) and of course anyone reading this blog or our book, when I have come to an impasse with health challenges and my life in general. For most of my adult life and even some of my teen years, I spent a good deal of time with my writing and in my work as a Fitness Specialist helping many clients in overcoming weight and eating issues, rehabilitating from injuries, illnesses, and poor metabolisms and weakened bodies. Whether writing fiction (short stories & illustrations) for a youth magazine as a young teen, or writing non-fiction on wellness topics over the years of my career, I’ve always been the “coach” the “encourager” the one who helped and hopefully inspired others.

Now, after battling a half dozen debilitating chronic diseases (two, for over 20 years – the others for over 10 years) I find myself at times in a place where I feel physically and spiritually crippled, stymied, without encouraging thoughts let alone, uplifting words.
To some, who know of my faith as a Christian-the kind who loves and tries to follow Jesus’ teachings, or as author, Dave Burchett, suggests in his book, When Bad Christians Happen To Good People… to get my walkin to match my talkin, it may be hard to read this. “Jamey, you’re always so encouraging – so supportive,” many have said, but truth be known, I too fall into the darkness. And here is where I am learning humility. Oh, I’m very familiar with being humble for chronic illness, chronic (and regular debilitating) pain, and body altering medications - that have added more damage to my body from ravaging side effects, has made humility a regular companion. But like the five months of relentless drought conditions in our region, I am trudging through the desert physically and spiritually, with no oasis in sight, I worry that to speak this, to write it, might somehow discourage others or get them down. Okay. I know I’m not God;, I’m not puffed up with myself – just uncomfortable with the thought that by revealing my moments of despair and even hopelessness, for concern that I might create sadness in someone else who needs encouraging words and hope.

While reading, What I Learned While Lying Down, by Angie Dugi, I was completely surprised to find similar feelings expressed by this dear woman who is surely one of the sweetest and most faithful women I’ve ever encountered! Her book is also about her odyssey with chronic illness and how it has changed her life and the lives of those who love her – especially her husband, Greg, and their children. In between so many inspiring pages there are also passages such as this; “I am grieving and mourning over so many losses…I’m alive and breathing but I have lost sight of what it really feels like to be alive. I catch glimpses of it in other people and I envy it…I long to escape the pain, even to run away, but the disease would only follow. Sometimes I hate this sick body because it traps me with all its malfunctions and restrictions. I it is so hard to positive and I feel like I’m losing my grip and slipping down a steep slope…I have felt such despair, it has been dreadful and dark.”  I realized as I read these words tucked in with other passages of how Angie persevered and overcame such trials, that all of these feelings; from the hope to the despair, are the threads that compose the tapestry of our lives and our journey with chronic illnesses.

With that said, I’m going to be reveal my own vulnerability and confess that like Moses, I’ve been stumbling around in the desert for several months now. I’ve endured bouts of angina, a lupus flare up that is affecting my organs and not letting up, and a complete break-down of my immune system with chronic allergies weighing down my body’s already limited ability to contend with chronic disease. Then there are the baffling and ongoing skin problems and the chronic pain from inflammatory disease of the muscles (which greatly affects both the nerves and incites more pain). I spend 5 to 8 hours per day applying and maintaining special ointments to my skin to protect it because my immunities aren’t doing the job and, it takes me 3 to 4 hours of careful preparation before I can even leave our house. Now, if you’re still reading, you’ve got courage and compassion; two vital things for those battling chronic health conditions and, also for those who are not ill, but who loves someone who is.

In the book I co-wrote with William, A Husband, A Wife, & An Illness, there are many places where I write about the burden of illness but also, about many different ways to cope, and even overcome some aspects of chronic disease. It’s actually some very good stuff – written from my heart. And I am humbled and overjoyed that many people have told us it has helped them in their own ordeals with illness. However, this “record dry spell” of fighting several illnesses at full flare for over five months has left me bone weary and just wanting to lie down and sleep and never awake to the pain and suffering again.

Have I given up on my faith? No, because I still pray to a Loving God daily – granted sometimes in silence and sometimes in moans. Yes, I pray for help and strength and healing and sometimes just for God to let me go to my eternal home. I also continue daily to pray for loved ones (some of whom have no idea that I do so) and for virtually anyone who comes into my mind or heart with needs. And then, like Job, some of my prayers are more a display of anger, frustration, and questions; “God, are you listening? Do you still care?” Have I lost all hope then? No, not ALL hope, and if a mustard seed of belief can carry us then I would think a mustard seed of hope would too…time will tell.

In the meantime, I will do what I can, not one day at a time, but one hour and sometimes even one minute at a time, to try to survive this drought and hopefully, prayerfully, come upon an oasis where my body and spirit may rally.

Cry Some...Cry More if you need to, Laugh (whenever you get the slightest opportunity), and Pray Often (especially when you don’t feel like it!) ~  Jamey Lacy July