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Sunday, February 26, 2017
Now, I don't talk about certain things, such as my health, very often here on the blog because I don't like being in the spotlight. But I felt it was time to share today.
I had what I call an 'awakening'. I hadn't been feeling well for several months, so I went for a physical. Long story short, I found out I had to battle another round of cervical cancer. Went for test after test, doctor after doctor and sent to expert after expert. In the long run, I ended up getting treatment early enough that it didn't get too far, but I found out a multitude of other health issues I have to deal with that are, ironically enough, way more serious than what I had to go through with my cancer.
What a shocker to find out that not only do I have many issues to deal with all at the same time, each with its own treatment methods, effects on the rest of the body, etc., but that I've had these issues my entire life and just finding out about them now. Let's just say although I'm dealing with everything the best I can while working, taking care of a house and a husband and children, admittedly I did not deal with things earlier in this discovery as well as I could have.
So here are the six most important things I have realized in times of stress, turmoil and challenges that seem too overwhelming to climb over:
1) Listen to your body: First and foremost, you need to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. When you try pushing yourself too much when you aren't well, you'll only make yourself feel worse. This was a tough lesson for me because I am normally a super active person who does four things at once, which is necessary with four busy children plus a husband always wanting to be on the go. But I found, and still do find, that when I tried to do things the way I had before, I often got sick. What good is it to push getting things done when you are sick for three days afterward? Do what you can, when you can and leave the rest for later.
2) Accept and ask for help, when needed. Anyone will tell you that I am one tough girl to 'help'. Some call it stubbornness, I call it overly strong independence. I have been on my own for a very long time so to accept help, especially when I didn't ask for it, was very hard. But you have to realize people aren't offering to help because they think you are weak or that you aren't able to do things. Only because they want to make things easier for you while you are trying to heal yourself, and they care. Don't be afraid to ask for that help when you need it, and be gracious enough to accept it when it's offered.
3) Direct emotions where they truly need to go: It's okay to be frustrated, angry, sad, withdrawn or even resentful. But always be sure you know where those emotions are coming from and who, or what, they are supposed to be given to. Taking things out on those closest to you (or even people you don't know) just isn't a good path to go down. Negative emotions trigger negative emotions and one thing you don't need when you are trying to get your body back to normal is to have a toxic environment surrounding you. If you feel as though you are about to explode into the negative realm, walk away and get some alone time. The people around you may not totally understand what you're going through, but they may have some idea of why you get cranky sometimes.
4) Talk about it. One thing I learned was that if you don't reach out and talk about what you're going through and feeling with those closest to you, they worry more. And, honestly, they feel as helpless about what you're going through as you do, in a different way. You don't need to go into any deep details, just give enough information so they can say, "Okay. I get it." I wasn't, and am still not, very good at this one but I'm trying. I've always been on my own during times like this, so having a huge crowd of people wanting to listen, help and talk has been very overwhelming. But I am truly blessed to have people who care enough to want to be there.
5) Cope in the healthiest ways possible: This is also very important. 'Coping' means you find a way to get you through your tough time. It should involve something healthy like yoga, relaxation, a walk, reading a book, writing...relaxing things. These are activities that counteract the negative feelings that brew up. THAT is good coping. Drinking, drugs, excessive spending, smoking and other such activities are crutches. They are things that we turn to that may seem like they are helping, but can actually cause more harm than good. And do you really need to get over a habit or addiction on top of trying to get over your trauma or illness? No.
6) Get as much sleep and healthy food as possible: Sleep and food deprivation, even in the healthiest person, can lead to a weak body. Your mind isn't as sharp, you may feel weaker than usual, your moods will alter, your tolerance level will plummet, you find frustration with the simplest tasks and the list goes on. Just like in point #1, do what you can do when you can do it, then rest. If you can't sleep, even simply laying down and being motionless for awhile helps. Trust me. As for healthy eating, eat even when you aren't hungry. You don't have to eat much, just remember to put food in your system that counts. That means healthy food over things like chips, fries and other junk. What you put in, helps your body do what it has to do.
It's going to be a long road for me, but I am positive. I've given up my negative coping, embraced the help I'm given (most of the time) and I am forcing myself to eat, even when my appetite isn't there.
Things will get better.
For all of us.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Okay, for today's writing sample I am sharing a snippet from a WIP I began for Young Adults. It is intended to be a series and it will be a challenge for me as I've never worked on books about swordplay, etc.
AH well. I never shy away from a challenge.
The books are based on the idea of the older television show, 'Highlander'. Malvina Campbell grew up in Scotland in 1523. Her father, William, was also an Immortal and in hiding...but the Watchers found him. The events that followed one fateful day leads to Malvina realizing she was more like her father than she realized.
It's fun bringing in century-old traditions and history into modern times. I'm sure this will be both fun to write, as well as for readers to enjoy.
The following is a sort of introduction to the story, and where Malvina came from. I'll be sharing other snippets from this story so stayed tuned!
“Malvina! Stop your daydreaming and put your mind on your chores,” Gwendolyn Campbell shouted to her seventeen-year old daughter. “The sooner they’re done, the more time you’ll have for play.”
Malvina was the oldest of her four siblings and the only girl, so far. There would have been seven of them, but two of her brothers were taken by a fever and the baby girl her mother had the previous year died at birth. Born two months too soon in winter’s cruelest days, she was too little to survive the harsh elements. So Malvina prayed daily that the new bub living in her mother’s womb would be a girl and all the burdens of growing up female in a house filled with men would finally be shared.
She watched her brothers practice swordplay with their father, William, aching to have that time with him too. So what if she wore skirts while they sported pants. She was strong and, unbeknownst to them all, she honed on her own sword skills while they worked in the fields and their mother rested. Her skills were equal to those of her brothers; perhaps even greater. And yet, being female, her interest and talents were overlooked forced instead to wash britches, clean the home and help her mother with cooking.
Stupid, lucky boys, she thought.
“Malvina!” her mother shouted even louder, startling out of her thoughts. “I can’t see this laundry jumping up to the line on its own, now. Please come and have it done.”
“Coming,” she said, flinging her dark, auburn hair over her shoulder.
Malvina was the spitting image of her mother with her beautiful, waist-length curly hair and eyes as green as emeralds. She had a slight figure, but was strong from doing chores and helping in the fields when needed. William was a doting father who treated all his children equally and believed man and woman were team members, sharing life responsibilities. The only thing he forbade Malvina from participating in was swordsmanship. Because she was the only girl, he didn’t want her to participate in any of the fighting going on around them at that time. She understood but was still disappointed she wasn’t given the chance to at least practice with him.
She grabbed the basket of soaking wet laundry her mother had left for her at the door and steadied it on her hip. Her mother appeared at the door.
“Ah, Mallie-girl,” she said, placing her palm on Malvina’s freckled cheek. “I know how much you’d like to go out there. I guess your Pa is afraid he’ll lose you.”
“It’ll happen one way or another,” Malvina said, pressing her mother’s hand closer to her face with her shoulder. “I have to go off to have my own family one day, don’t I? I can’t be a maid to this lot for all times.”
Her mother laughed. “Aye. I guess you are just the dear one being the only girl. He knows you practice out back, you know. Between us, he thinks you are very good. He couldn’t deal with losing his beautiful Malvina should a soldier take her in a fight. It isn’t just because you’re a girl. But don’t tell him I went and said so.”
Malvina didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or proud that her father knew she picked up a sword. She smiled, kissed her mother’s palm then nodded to the clothing line running from the side of the house to the tree several feet away. “Our secret,” she said. “You go on in and lay down while I hang these. Then I’ll help with supper.”
“Sweet Mallie-girl. What would I do without you?”
With that her mother pushed the door closed and Malvina lugged the basket over to the line and dropped it on the ground beside her. She grabbed one of her father’s shirts by the shoulders, flicked it into shape then hung it over the line. The boys had dropped their wooden swords into the grass and were wrestling with their father. He was well over six feet and stronger than most other men. With all three of her brothers dangling from his shoulders and arms, he was still able to run about with little trouble.
Malvina smiled. She was about to bend down to pick up another shirt when something caught her eye in the distance. She squinted. A chill exploded through her body. A massive band of men on horseback thundered across the field. A trumpet blew and the band divided into several smaller ones, each heading to a different section of the entire community.
Their family lived in the lowlands of Scotland in a small farming community not far from the ocean and the city of Edinburgh. There were several families living around them, each with their own patch of land, and during harvest time they’d all travel to the village to celebrate and sell their wares. At that moment, she watched as the larger group of the band came straight at her father and brothers. As they got closer, Malvina recognized their English uniforms.
She dropped the shirt she was holding and ran to the edge of the field. “Da! Da! Soldiers!”
William froze, looking around them, then threw the boys in the direction of the house. “Malvina! Get them inside and shut the door. Secure the door and hide. Now!”
Was he insane? She wasn’t about to let her father stand up to those men alone. But she knew she had to get her brothers and mother to safety. As she rushed out to meet the boys, her father picked up his sword, holding it close to his side. It had to be the size of her five-year old brother, Duncan, if not a stone bigger. Fear paralyzed her.
The two older boys ran past Malvina into the house, screaming at their mother to hide. Duncan, whose right leg was lame, wasn’t able to keep up the same momentum. He kept stumbling the harder he tried to run. Malvina sprinted to him, yanked him off the ground then hoisted him up. He wrapped his arms and legs around her torso, hiding his face in her hair. She paused.
The leader of the group coming toward them looked nothing like the rest of the soldiers. First, he wasn’t wearing a uniform. He was dressed like a Highlander, the Scotsmen in the mountains who wore their clan’s robes. His black, wavy hair hung past his shoulders and his eyes, darker than the tea her mother brewed. His skin was leathery and rough, like a man who had spent many years in the cold weather. He held himself tall on his horse, commanding control merely with his presence. And he scared Malvina worse than any demon could.
He seemed to know her father. “William of Campbell,” he yelled, his sword held out, leading the men. “You cannot hide any longer. Today is your turn.”
Sunday, November 27, 2016
I've been going through some of my older works and found a gem I wanted to share.
It's like a movie review with a personal touch. I wrote it for Chicken Soup For the Soul years ago and I hope you all enjoy it.
Believe in guardian angels.
Or at the very least, that someone truly is watching out for you.
I’ve always loved the idea of guardian angels watching over us. Someone to help us up when we fall, to comfort us while we grieve, to guide us down the path we choose and to guide us back when we go off track. The movie, City of Angels, strengthened my belief in angels and gave me comfort during a very tough time.
My grandparents were the most important people in my life. So, their deaths were excruciating for me. I lost them both within two years of each other. My grandmother’s death, although upsetting, wasn’t a shock. She’d been fighting Alzheimer’s most of my life so I had been able to accept, and make peace with, her death long before it happened. When Grandma died, I was sad but I was comforted by the fact Grandpa was still there.
But a couple of years later, the worst happened.
Grandpa had a stroke and was gone within days. I was out of town when he passed away so I didn’t even get to say goodbye. The way he died, without warning, took a part of me too. My soul was lost and I stayed in a fog for several years.
I moved to a different city to start fresh. I figured with new faces, new experiences, I’d be able to move past my grief. But it seemed I couldn’t get past my sadness no matter how many good things would come my way. Then one day, I went to the local dollar theatre to catch an afternoon Matinee.
I’ve always loved movies. They take you off to a different world where you can forget about your own life for a bit. We can laugh, cry, or scare ourselves silly. Or, better still, they can kick you in the rear end with reality.
The dollar theatre showed movies no longer showing in regular theatres. I always thought of them as a place to see movies cheaper – as renting them – but you got to see them on the big screen so you were still seeing the movie the way you were supposed to. That particular day, City Of Angels was playing. I shielded myself from knowing what happened in it so I’d enjoy it more.
I’m glad I did.
I never disclose details of a movie in case others haven’t seen it yet, but this movie was the most beautiful movie I’ve ever seen. There is no other word to describe it.
It’s just beautiful.
I was carried on a wave of emotions from the beginning where angels gathered on a beach to watch the glorious sunrise over the ocean to the ending credits rolling up with the haunting song Alanis Morrisette echoing through the tiny theater. As the lights came back on, I along with every other person there, sat weeping uncontrollably. For me, it was the first time I’d allowed myself to cry since my grandparents had passed away.
I think I was meant to see that movie at that particular point in time. I also believe my grandparents, somehow, guided me to that theatre to hear the messages in City Of Angels.
Unconditional love is always with us even if we’re only able to experience it for a little while. Or it is taken away from us suddenly. It’s what gives us strength to get up and face another day. Most important to remember is that love never dies.
The most significant message I took from the movie is a quote from Nicholas Cage’s character, which I wrote on a piece of paper and still keep in my wallet. When asked by another angel whether Cage regretted giving up what he did for Ryan’s character he answered, “I would rather have had only one day with her…to feel her love than to have lived a lifetime without it.”
Because of that movie, I finally allowed myself to grieve. I also learned, maybe, it’s not such an outrageous idea to believe we have guardian angels watching over us.
I know I do.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
But they can't stay there.
Life is what we make of it. Yes, that is such a cheesy saying, and I have been told that many times, but it's true. You are what you surround yourself with. You become who you are based on those you choose to be around and you have chosen to become and influenced by. You only allow your heart to open so much due to what you've allowed to harden yourself to.
Don't allow that to happen.
Trust me. I have been there...many, many times. Allowing yourself to be consumed with negative energy, and surrounding yourself with those that have absorbed themselves in it, does nothing but make you stay in a very dark place. And that dark place is very powerful.
You have the strength to move out of that dark place and to move towards brighter things. It may not seem like it when you are in that place, but be strong enough to stand up and push through.
~ Let go of negative thoughts.
~ Let go of negative people that drag you down.
~ Don't allow anger to run your life.
~ Surround yourself with love and positive energy.
~ Do one thing every day for yourself that makes you happy.
~ Allow your body to rest, whether it is through meditation or rest.
~ If there is something in your life you are passionate about - whether it is music, poetry, writing, reading - embrace it and turn to THAT before anything else.
~ Realize that social media is a convenience and not something that should run your life, because there is a lot of negativity out there too.
~ Be the best you that you can be, when you don't think you compare to others.
~ Accept help, when it IS helpful, with grace because someone else may need you too one day.
~ Love with your whole heart, even if it can hurt sometimes.
~ Don't allow others to slam you down, hurt you or push you into a being that you weren't meant to be. It isn't always easy to recognize when it is happening, but when you do, stand up and move forward.
~ Do not allow yourself to enable someone that is capable of caring for themselves. Trust me when I say that is a downfall.
~ Don't ever allow someone to tell you that you can't do something.I tell my kids all the time that there is no such word as 'can't'. Even if the task is hard, trying is the most important part.
~When life gives you a challenge, take it head on and persevere to the best of your ability. No one on this planet is perfect, nor should anyone expect perfection.
This is the bookiversary of my memoir, 'Not Just Spirited'. These are all words I have said to my two children who are on the Spectrum and live with SPD. Both have overcome so many odds and have grown into extraordinary young people. Did I have anything to do with it?
Meh...I don't know.
What I DO know is that all I did was give them the courage and strength to keep moving forward to achieve all they could be. A girl who feared touch to the point she'd run away from people is giving hugs and has her first job. The boy who couldn't speak until he was four is a math and science genius and so sociable.
Be ALL you can be...how you can be.
Today, write about how you can be the best you, you can be.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
People's interpretation of 'strength' fascinates me. Most of us think of it in terms of the muscles or buffness you show or how much you can lift or how hard you can hit someone. But it is so much more than that.
Strength is mostly inside of us, which is something most of us don't realize. We need it to fight off health struggles we never asked for. We need it to fight against invisible disorders others often judge us for, but don't realize we are trying to deal with. We need it to bring up courage to face adversities we are faced with, without our permission. We need it to overcome the most severe times in our lives, and to keep moving us forward.
I chose this quote because Ghandi was an amazing human being who had to be one of the strongest people I have come to known. He gave his life to fight for what he truly believed in, and his body was small and weak but he wasn't.
He was strong. And he was right...struggles develop your strengths. Don't let those struggles drag you down. Use them to give you the motive to lift you up. Trust me when I say if I allowed my struggles to drag me down, I wouldn't still be here.
As he said, do not surrender.
Your writing prompt today is to reflect on a time when you were faced with issues that made you want to give up...to quit...to say, 'no, I can't'...and how you overcame it.
We all have that inner strength.
We just need to learn how to tap into it, draw it out and draw from it to keep life moving.