Once Again, A Memoriam

The following post is a reblog of my initial response to the shootings in Aurora earlier this year. Once again, my heart is aching with the same sentiments. Oh, America, what has happened?

Retro Wishes, Childhood Dreams

“Be home before the streetlights come on,” was the summertime rule in my house. Growing up in the small town of Plymouth, Michigan, during the 80’s was a real-life Sandlot experience. Between the large park around the block, the gas station with the Slurpee machine down the street, and the “downtown” movie theater only a quick bike ride away, my friends and I spent the bulk of our summers outside.  We rode bikes, climbed trees, flew kites, and built lemonade stands. Our parents knew that if we weren’t swimming in Jamie’s pool, we were probably in our tree forts in the park. We didn’t have cell phones or Ipods; we were blissfully entertained by the song of chirping crickets, the light show of dancing fireflies, and the tinkling sounds of the ice cream truck.

A school shooting wasn’t even a figment of my imagination. 

Today, not only do I mourn the loss of innocent life in Sandy Hook, but also the loss of the childhood innocence of a generation. Our children are growing up with the morbid possibility of school shootings, theater massacres, and terrorist bombings. The TV violence of the 80’s has become real-life breaking news. My heart is heavy.

Fighting the Darkness

It’s time for us to stand up for the future of our children, to champion the cause of preserving the innocence of childhood. Our country is not lost; there are still families who eat around a table, children who play in parks, and parents who diligently teach ethics and morals. We have not slipped into the reckless abandon of a lawless society; rather, we have parents, teachers, leaders, and civil servants who protect order and preserve peace.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.  ~Ambrose Redmoon

It is the duty of us all to promote courage within our society. We all have influence. I influence people you will never meet and vice versa. It is our civil responsibility to fight the darkness that is slowly descending upon our nation. Our children depend on us to preserve their childhood. Their childhood memories are weighed in the balance of our willingness to stand up for what is right. The cause of morality needs champions.

There isn’t enough darkness in all the world to snuff out the light of one little candle. ~Robert Alden

Morality Rises

This weekend, rather than going to see a movie or a ballgame, why not spend time with your family. Hug them a little tighter, tell them a story of courage in the face of fear, show them a memory of your own retro childhood. Be a child’s hero this weekend. Fly a kite, build a fort, read a book. Let’s make morality rise in our country once again.

The families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims are in my prayers.

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Societal Honesty: Do You Really Want to Know?

Some people will not tolerate emotional honesty in communication.  They would rather defend their dishonesty on the grounds that it might hurt others.  Therefore, having rationalized their phoniness into nobility, they settle for superficial relationships.  ~Author Unknown

According to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, “On March 15, the television show Primetime Live with Diane Sawyer focused on honesty in everyday life and asked Michael Lewis, PhD, to tell the truth about lying. “Socially acceptable lies form the glue of our society,” explains the researcher. Lewis believes that lying is a very common activity evident everywhere from presidential politics to international affairs. “In a single day, most of us lie a minimum of 25 times and by age 2 to 3 years, 70 percent of all children lie very well,” he says.”

Wow. Really? I generally consider myself an honest person. Being brought up in a Christian home, I was taught that “honesty is the best policy.” I learned the lesson that a lie only gave way to a punishment, normally of the “tanned backside” kind. I’m thankful that I was taught to be an honest, upright citizen, despite my childish willpower to hide the truth. But this blog post isn’t focused on lying about where-you-got-that-orange-Faygo-in-the-fridge-when-Mom-told-you-not-to-go-downtown {story for another time!}, this post is about one of the socially acceptable lies we tell each other every day.

“How are you doing today?” We all ask and answer this question numerous times each day. Whether it is in line at our favorite coffee shop, greeting co-workers in the office, talking to family members, or simply passing an acquaintance in the hall, more often than not, we answer with a lie or expect a short generalized reply. And, to tell the truth, do we really want to know? Are we really interested in the answer or do we expect the nondescript “Fine, thanks!” as we walk by? Are we a society of habitual liars? If we base our answer upon the University of Medicine/Dentistry, I guess we truly are.

Making it Personal

Over the past nine months, many people have asked me how I’ve been feeling. Maybe it’s just me, but 3x a week physical therapy generally means that you’re still in quite a bit of pain. Surgeries aren’t fun. Yesterday, my physical therapist said that I’m looking at six months before the intense pain starts to go away and a year until it becomes bearable. Lovely. Just what I wanted to hear.

I hate being negative. I loathe the defeated spirit that I constantly battle. I’m not perfect; I wrestle with post-surgery depression and the feelings that I’ll never again be able to lift my arm without pain. Unfortunately, my line of work generally requires heavy involvement from shoulders and I wonder if there will ever come a day when I go without my faithful Ibuprofen. I desperately want to play my piano, but know that I am not strong enough to play even a simple song without pain. All of these facts run wild inside my head when I try to figure out how to respond when asked how I’m feeling.

The Flip Side

Despite the pain, I’ve learned that “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” (Ben Franklin) I have come to realize that without the pain of recovery, there will be no strengthening. If I don’t push through the pain, the muscle soreness, the bone aches, I will never reach the level of mobility that I desire. Truly, no pain, no gain. Without struggle, no battle is won. I relish the recovery because I will be stronger when it is done. I will play my piano again, I will complete a work day without pain medicine, and I will be able to lift my arm with minimal pain. These things will happen… I just have to keep doing what I know is right, push through the pain, and focus on the finish line.

In the midst of all of the conflicting emotions of ground won and lost through physical therapy, I realize that I am actually quite blessed. I have a wonderful doctor and therapy team. I woke up this morning and got out of bed. My eyes see, my ears hear, and my mouth speaks. I have use of both my arms–my shoulder hurts, yes, but I have two working arms. My knees still work and my feet carry me where I need to go. I have a family that loves me, friends that support me, and a job that pays my bills. I breathe clean air, live in a city where people vacation, and love the man God made for me. 

So, I’ve decided that when someone asks me “How are you doing?”, I will answer, “I am blessed.” Now that, is being completely honest. 

“I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for health that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all men, most richly blessed.” ~Author Unkown

Eye Life: Living in the Eye of the Storm

In Florida, there are basically three seasons: Summer, Not-So-Hot Summer, and Rainy Season. This week, the eyes of countless weathermen have been watching the skies south of Florida as Tropical Storm Isaac makes its way toward our coastline. At the time of this writing, it is still a Tropical Storm and has yet to hit Puerto Rico. They predict that after passing over the Dominican Republic and Haiti, it will either slam into Florida’s western coast or gain speed in the Gulf of Mexico with a nebulous track toward the as yet undetermined southern states. Needless to say, the husband and I will be buying water and saltines tonight.

I’ve always loved storms. Even as a child, thunder and lightning only brought excitement and wonder. I think it may be because I grew up in a house not too far from railroad tracks; the feeling of thunder in a shaking house still reminds me of a train coming, never the possibility of the destruction from an impending storm. As a child, thunder was “God’s bowling league” and lightning was only “gigantic lightning bugs.” What can I say? I was an imaginative little tyke.

Travelling in Tampa Bay this weekend is going to be limited at best due to the Republican National Convention. It’s one of those weekends where staying home in pajamas is a delightfully rational idea. However, now that TS Isaac is in play, it’s an even better idea.

Defining the Eye of the Storm

According to ehow.com (you’d be amazed at how many sites didn’t have a usable definition of ‘eye of the storm’), “A hurricane (tropical cyclone) is a giant rotating storm with winds of 74 to 200 mph and heavy rain, which can cause high tides and waves. It is in the center of this activity that the eye of the storm is formed, an area clear of storm. The eye of the storm can be slightly cloudy or clear resulting in limited to no precipitation. If you were to stand directly in the center of the eye of the storm, you would notice that the weather is calm, there is a slight breeze and there is no precipitation. Blue skies are seen in the daytime and the stars at night. When viewed from helicopter, airplane or satellite, the eye of the storm appears circular.”

Living the Eye Life

In the eye of the storm is shelter from all-encompassing weather; in the Eye Life is shelter from all-encompassing worry. 

Life is hard. Sometimes it feels that the storm is too big, the resources to small, the trial too large, the escape hatch too far away. If we are to successfully navigate this thing called life, we must live in with the storm in view. The Eye Life. To me, it’s ok for the storms to rage, the winds to blow, I have an anchor safely secured in the eye of the storm. We should live inside the storm tethered to our anchor, affecting change upon our individual Eye.

My anchor is my family, my faith, my worldview. The world does not revolve around me; on the contrary, sometimes I feel as if the world is passing me by with people moving on into grand futures and me staying here, faithful about my duties. Working at a college does that to a person, I guess.  I do not live by focusing on my surroundings, but upon the stabilizing influence of my mentors and my faith. If I veer too far from my anchor, I enter proverbial “inclement weather” and lose my stand by shaky footing.

Stand upon the rock of your convictions, the resolution of your faith, the stability of your family and support system, and the balancing of your fear. Join me in living the Eye Life. 

Is today a day to gather strength from the storm –
a day to to learn life lessons for the next battle?
Or is today a day to sit by the fire
and watch the storm rage outside?
Either way, the storm is just life.
Give thanks for all of Life.
– Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Pain and Suffering: Lessons Learned from Physical Therapy

On January 7, 2012, I was rear-Tboned by a large SUV. In my brand new car. Literally. We had made one payment on the Corolla. Long story short, I messed up my right shoulder and arm. After three months of physical therapy, my doctor ordered arthroscopic surgery of my shoulder. May 31st rolled around, the surgery was completed, and I was put back into PT. (That’s about as brief as I can make the story.)

Today, I began Phase III of the shoulder rehabilitation program and introduced 1 lb weights to begin strengthening the arm. Mind you, this comes on the heels of a painful few days due to a muscle spasm in my deltoid…  which had to be worked out through a deep tissue massage by my therapist. It’s a love-hate relationship these days with my PT. Love it because it helps, hate it because it hurts.

What I’ve Learned from 7 Months of Physical Therapy:

  1. Your therapist is both your friend and your worst enemy, only unlike your friends, they don’t care what you think of their methods.
  2. Just because I stop breathing doesn’t mean my therapist is going to stop the exercise.
  3. Regular, daily used household items can double as torture instruments when in the hands of a physical therapist. Rubber bands, folding chairs, paint rollers, and rubber gloves are scary things.
  4. “Would you like some Biofreeze on that?” is a cunning ploy used by therapists to make “deep tissue massage” sound more appealing.
  5. Saying “I can’t” makes no difference. You’re going to do it anyways.
  6. Losing count during repetitions just means you get to start over again.
  7. Asking me about movies, travel, or work does not take my mind off the pain, it simply challenges my multi-tasking abilities.
  8. Ice and Ibuprofen: the recipe for relief
  9. “Try this” never turns out the way you think it will.
  10. No Pain, No Gain

All that being said, I am truly thankful for the physical therapists that have been working with me over the past 7 months. While it is still far in the future, there is an end in sight only because of them. Thank you, James and Eric, for putting up with my complaining, pushing me through the pain, and helping me along this road to recovery!

Life’s Greatest Loss

Last week, a friend of mine posted a shocking quote in her facebook status that has sent me into a whirlwind of deep, introspective thought. While it is fascinating, it stands as a stark contrast to the societally accepted norm of reactionary emotions surrounding the event of a death.

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live. ~Norman Cousins

This quote can be interpreted in many different ways; quite possibly, it is translated differently for each individual. To me, the fundamental definition of this quote is that my greatest personal loss did not occur when a battle with cancer ended my Dad’s life in 2003. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live. Very simply: the mountain of his death is irrevocably written upon the landscape of my past, but it should not define the outlook of my future.

Real Life Inspiration

Not nearly an expert on coping with death and loss, I’ve drawn upon the life of a childhood hero, Corrie tenBoom. A Dutch woman living in the Netherlands during World War II, Miss tenBoom and her family risked their lives to help Jewish refugees escape invading Nazi troops by hiding them in a secret room built in the walls of their home. Their activity was discovered and Corrie and her family were sent to various concentration camps. Her father, sister, brother, and nephew died as a result of their imprisonment, but she survived and was released due to a clerical error in Ravensbrück Prison. Before her sister died, she said, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Imagine that. The unfathomable torture received in Ravensbrück, and she still knew that God was in control. While at times it is difficult to bear the loss of my father, it is in no way comparable to the ever-present suffering of the tenBoom family at the hands of their captors. My Dad suffered greatly during his battle with cancer and I would never belittle his courageous survival, but we all know that prison camps held unspeakable horrors. Despite all of that, Corie and her family had somehow figured out that death is not life’s greatest loss.

When she was a little girl, Corrie asked her father about death:

I burst into tears, “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can’t die! You can’t!” “Corrie,” he began gently. “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?” “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”~excerpt from The Hiding Place, by Corrie tenBoom

Real Life Application

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live. To respect those we love, to hold their memory in our hearts, to live in honor of their memory is to go forth into the future with abandon. It is not living in the past or dwelling on the loss. We must choose to exist, to conquer, to “be” despite the pain, despite the loss, despite the tragedy. Loss is inevitable; living within its imprisonment is a choice.

So, I guess this blog is a charge to you who have lost. It is an encouragement and a challenge to not lose a single moment of possibility. To take the pain, the heartache, and the loss and morph it into resolution. I know my Dad would be so pleased with where I am in life. I know he would love my husband, encourage our dreams, and champion our goals. Yes, I would like to consult him for advice, but I know what he stood for and how he responded to adversity; he lived an example for me to follow. I choose not to dwell on the fact that he is gone; rather, I choose to capture my moments, embrace the possibilities, and strive for excellence. By doing so, I will honor his memory. We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.  ~Kenji Miyazawa