Monday, September 26, 2016

A New Life

I turned 40 a month ago. I honestly didn't think I'd live to see the day, but by the grace of God, I made it to the milestone birthday. And He had to pull off some fancy miracles to make it happen. I suppose that is why I was SO excited to celebrate this year. I can't remember most of the birthdays in my 30's. I spent several of them in the hospital. But for this one, I wanted to be with the people I love and to enjoy life in ways I haven't in a long time. I wanted to show God that I didn't take this gift for granted, the gift of feeling stronger and having less pain. I wanted to celebrate this amazing body, each and every part, and the way it all works together in unison. I wanted to let my happiness glow like birthday candles and infect those who have stood by me through the good and the bad.

It was a magical weekend, and I came away with a huge hang over of gratitude. Gratitude that what was is in the past. Gratitude for the profound progress I've made, physically and emotionally. Gratitude that the future, for the first time in a long, long time, looks hopeful. And gratitude most of all for the love that surrounds me, even when I'm at my weakest.  A girl doesn't get much luckier than that. I've vowed to myself to make every effort to show the Divine just how appreciative I am for every step forward, even the teeny, tiniest ones. The best way I can do that is to make every day count.

Little by little, things are getting better. I'm getting stronger.  My pain is still there, but I'm learning how to bargain with it. I give the pain a nap in exchange for having the strength to take the dogs on a walk. What's going on in my body is much like an open-air market where my organs and diseases are the vendors, setting the prices for the delicacies they have to give. Delicacies that most would take for granted, like the ability to get through my physical therapy without too much shortness of breath. I'm the eternal shopper, looking for ways to give my body what it needs in order to give me a piece of life. I'm less fuzzy, my thoughts and memories no longer completely clouded by medicine I no longer need. While I'd gladly give back the pain, I wouldn't trade the lessons it's taught me for the world.


For the first seven years of my health issues, I still managed to sneak in a bit of living. For the last decade, I've been the equivalent of a bubble girl. If not in the hospital, I've been in my room, usually heavily sedated from the pain that ravaged my abdomen. Friends have moved on as their lives have naturally evolved.  My career faded away as it became clear I wouldn't be returning to work anytime soon.

The World has changed while I've stood still, and I've been ignorant to the events and changes that affect us all. My mind has been too numb to absorb anything but the issues and changes before me, my eyes sheltered from anything that wasn't happening either in the hospital or my home. My brother recently took me on a ride around downtown Columbus, and I was shocked to see that Clipper Stadium had moved. I was even more shocked to hear from Keith that it had moved over ten years ago. I'm thawing like a spring frost.

Healing is a journey, not a finish line. I'm not delusional enough to see my 40th as the end of my health issues. Some of them are ongoing and require routine check-ups. But it's the first time in a long time that my body has made a slow, but steady recovery. Where my pain used to be a daily 8 out of 10, it is now on average a 4 or 5 out of 10. For some, a 5 may still sound horrible, but to me, 5 is a miracle. It's like a rare comet I never thought I'd see. My physical therapy has strengthened muscles that had atrophied after being cut and weakened by surgery after surgery. I recently got a copy of my medical record. Between 2006 and 2016, I had over 40 surgeries. Three of them resulted in a stay in the SICU on a ventilator. All of them were scary, and every one brought me closer to God.

There's a peace that has come with knowing my decade of hell is over. I know from experience that there's no guarantee that my health issues won't surface again or worsen, but in an effort to attract positive things to my life, I chose to believe that better times are on the horizon. My soul feels more peaceful. There aren't dark clouds hovering over me every moment of the day. That's not to say it's sunny skies 24/7, but when a storm does blow through, I plan to embrace it as a temporary development, and to believe that whatever happens, it is part of my journey. There is a reason.

Living with a disability and multiple health issues doesn't mean that you can no longer have dreams and aspirations. In many instances, it just means you have to redefine them, come up with new ones that fill you with just as much excitement and passion as the ones that couldn't survive the storms.  My thirties were like a war I survived by the skin of my teeth. As I look ahead, I see another chance at life. A chance to make my redefined dreams come true. A chance to give back to those who are hurting and suffering as I once did (and sometimes still do.)

I'm proud of my survival. I'm rather in awe of it, in fact. Wherever I go from here, I will carry the strength from all my battles with me.  After the seventeen years of cutting and radiation and pharmaceutical dumping, it's going to take my personal ecosystem awhile to reset itself. Even then, it won't be normal, but it will be MY normal, MY life.  I'm in love with the idea of a new start, and that's what turning forty symbolizes to me. It's a chance to leave my footprints on a new beach and to celebrate this time I never thought I'd have. Life is SO good!



Sunday, May 8, 2016

For My Person on Mother's Day

I grasp for words to honor my mom on this Mother's Day. Perhaps only my love and respect for her could chase me out of the recent deep freeze of writer's block. This year seems especially meaningful, as recent events have immersed my mom into the depths of what she defines; nurturing and strength, empathy and selflessness, and foremost her unconditional love, She lights my world even in the darkness of my pain. Our connection strengthens me even when my body fights me from within, cutting me down through the many surgeries, symptoms and procedures.

It's been a very rocky few months with my health, and I've withdrawn from social media. I've been blessed with messages from friends checking in, been on the receiving end of so many prayers and kind thoughts. My mom has done her best to keep friends posted. I've been battling some of the most intense pain I've ever experienced. Many times, the one thing that has gotten me through the day was looking forward to my mom coming home after work. She works so hard, and then comes home and has to watch her daughter suffer. It hurts my heart to see the pain in her eyes, knowing she would take my pain away and combat it herself if she could. 

No matter how much I've cried or complained, she's never turned her back on me. Her love has been the blood in my veins. She lights my world with her endless faith, and her hopefulness has no end. She has been the life force in my world. Not to discredit anyone else's support or love during this time, but Mom, YOU have kept me going even when I felt I could not take another step.

Thank you! Thank you for helping me be brave! Thank you for showing me gentle care even when I'm unlovable in my momentary miseries.  On top of all my struggles, my heart is always heavy on Mother's Day thinking of my son, whose absence is like a hole in my spirit. Thank you for helping me go on even in my sadness, for reminding me I am a mommy to my precious angel child. Mom, your positive attitude parallels Nana's, your spirituality a reflection of hers. I look at you and see the same inner peace she exuded, and I often see the same twinkle in your eye.You remind me of her daily, and it helps fill the void of her absence. Our three-generation connection goes on.
 
While I never dreamt of still living with my mom at my age, I honestly could not imagine a better roommate. Between you and I and Zoe and Bella (the dogs), we resemble a bizarre version of "The Golden Girls". If we were to be monitored in our home, we'd likely both be committed for our antics, but even an asylum would be tolerable if I had you by my side. Somehow you help me find the humor in even my hardest moments. Laughter and love are the best medicine, and you surround me with them daily. Thank you for keeping my spirits up even as my body hurts!
 
I'm feeling lighter, happier times ahead. There are new adventures on the horizon! You are my soul sister and my best friend. Somehow, after all these years, you still manage to make me feel wrapped in your arms, up against your heart like in the picture below. My gratitude for you is topped only by my gratitude to God for gifting me this life as your daughter. Thank you for being my person!

The water runs on....

Happy Mother's Day!
 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

So Many Firsts...

Valentine's Day brings up so many feelings and memories. As a single woman, it can be a somber day if I focus on the fact that I haven't found that one true love I always imagined I would've found by now. It's a perplexing search, but one I know God will guide me on in his divine timing. Instead today, I'm embracing all the love I have in my life and remembering the precious moments that it fills me with. Gratitude is not an adequate word for what I feel, so I'd rather leave some written breadcrumbs on what it all means to me.
 
There's nothing so pure and precious as the love for a child, and my brother and his wife have blessed me with two nephews that have been beacons of light over the past eight plus years. Ethan and Eli may someday read these words their YaYa has written and laugh at how much credit I give them for keeping me afloat as I've faced some pretty challenging years of health challenges. Only those who've witnessed it can know that these boys have given me more than a reason to fight when I may otherwise have given up, and there's nothing I wouldn't do for them. 
 
As my first nephew, I had no preview to the immense power of his presence, but looking down at Ethan not long after he was born, I felt a jolt of love that sparked me out of a darkness that I once thought would have no end. I could not love him enough; the love just flowed and flowed. And then our little Eli arrived. He was in his carrier on our dining room table when I first saw him. I remember walking up to this perfect little nugget of wonderment and feeling a shower of peace fall over me. Where Ethan has always had more of an electricity to him, Eli has had a serenity. They are well-balanced forces of nature that changed my life forever.
 
Then there are the memories of romantic love. My sophomore year of college at Miami, a friend (with a spark) invited me to a grab-a-date. That night was filled with magnetic looks and sweet verbal exchanges, charged touches and charming smiles. And by the end of the evening, there was a kiss that ended all other kisses for the next few years. On and off, he and I would date throughout college and beyond. So many first trips to new cities and first emotions. And to this day he remains one of my best friends. This day will always remind me of him.
 
We are all blessed, in different ways, with all kinds of love. Some more than others, and I recognize how much God has blessed me. I could write forever about my dear friends and family. My parents, whose love was the reason for me and for the best gift they ever gave me; my brother, Keith. No matter the directions our lives have taken, they have always come together to support me and nurture me when I could barely care for myself. I was never lacking in unconditional love. It's the glue that keeps me together.
 
Probably the true first is the love of a mother and child. My mom, who is my best friend, soul sister...beyond words.... has never stopped nurturing me. Our powerful connection became even more powerful when I was blessed to carry my son, Gabriel. I couldn't have imagined loving something so much. I felt like a goddess endowed with this miraculous being that was going to change life as I knew it. BEING a mother alongside my mother was perhaps the most enchanting time of my life, even if my mothering was only within me.

Love knew now boundaries. It's with love THAT powerful that allows us to feel true heartache. When I lost Gabriel in my sixth month of pregnancy, my heart was broken. And it just kept breaking, like a boulder thrown into a calm pond that rippled times infinity. While that ripple has never stopped, neither has the ripple of love. In fact, both were more like tidal waves. On days like today, it's the love that washes over me.

My heartache over Gabriel has only drawn me closer to my mom. Sitting next to her as I write this, I'm overwhelmed with the tremendous blessing that SHE is. We have a relationship that has no end. The relationship between a mother and child is never-ending and transcendent.  Just yesterday, I learned that one of my college roommates lost her mom, who was just 64. I didn't know Mrs. Ott well, but I DID know how close Gretchen was to her. They were best friends, just like my mom and I, and learning of her death has rattled me. My heart breaks for her loss, for the loss of her family, and I dedicate this blog post with love and prayers to their healing.
 
That's another first for me. It's my first friend to lose a parent, and it's made me realize how precious each moment is with everyone I love. We never know when that last hug is going to be. So whether you're single or married, take a moment to think of ALL the love in your life and marinate yourself in it. Valentine's Day isn't just about romance. It's about the divine emotion that God has blessed us all with the capacity to feel if we just open our hearts. May your heart be wide open today and everyday. And even in loss, may God's love nurture your hearts even when they're broken.

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Muse

I must say, the life of a woman with chronic pain certainly keeps things interesting.
 
Many who suffer with chronic pain have lost a great deal of the life they had prior to becoming ill.  It's daunting to watch the jobs and relationships you worked so hard to cultivate crumble as survival becomes true to its name. Staying alive becomes your sole purpose, and it is a desperate roller coaster ride of surgeries, procedures, diagnostics and appointments with specialists, all the while trying to do so with some modicum of pain management with a dash of grace. What once felt like a foundation for my future has since become sand crumbling through my fingers.
 
 
My health issues can certainly make me feel as if I'm being followed by an ominous, stormy cloud. I deal with depression, anxiety and incredible stress, but those are things many people can relate to. While my health has kept me from working, I am capable of writing. It's like breathing for my soul. It's the way I process my experiences and pass along pieces of thoughts that may just help someone else. My writing is my greatest joy, and the sense of accomplishment I feel just from knowing others are reading my blog is tremendous.
 
 
 While I love to write and publish my blog posts, it is sometimes difficult to hear how others perceive me. I’ve been told that my writing is dark, sad or even “hard to read”. Reality can be hard to take. I’ve never really responded to those “reviews”, but I guess I will say this. If you find peace from reading my words, whether it be that you physically, emotionally or spiritually feel connected, YOU were meant to read my post.
 
 
Using your life experiences as inspiration does not a dark person make, even if said experiences aren't all butterflies and rainbows. I would rather be "dark" and touch the souls of others going through similar issues than be light and fluffy and make a much less resounding effect on my audience. I may not speak for the majority, but I feel that by writing about the truthful depth and despair of this aspect of my life, that a decent majority of those in a similar situation will find comfort in my words.
 
 
 I want to FEEL life, and express my experiences, even if that means feeling and writing about pain. As this sentence entered my brain, I had to take a quick mental vote before typing these words. I would rather FEEL pain than live a numb existence.  That's just me. I'd love not to have to choose between those options, but we don’t always have a choice. And even if we did, sometimes these obstacles we face make us stretch ourselves in ways we never would have otherwise. We have the opportunity to become greater versions of ourselves by enduring hardships. My day to day pain is intense. It cuts into my nerves, clear into my soul. I spend a lot of time immobilized by it. And it’s during those moments of intense suffering that my mind sometimes wanders to the “what if”.
 
 
 “What if” I had no pain? THAT would be amazing! But “what if”, in order to go from having horrible pain, I would have to go to having no FEELING at all? I have joked with my physicians about how great it would be if they could just give me a permanent epidural between my esophagus and pelvis. I came out of one of those appointments and almost immediately saw a quadriplegic being pushed in a wheelchair. That person probably wishes everyday that he could feel something. It was a reminder of the lesson I am constantly trying to learn, which is to be grateful for everything I have; the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s my life, and I am grateful for every breath, every ache.
 
 
For whatever reason, I was meant to have this journey with my health. When people compliment my writing, it gives me this warm glow inside. I was discussing a recent incident with my therapist, and I told her that there's a reason my writing ability and health issues were paired together. I was meant to write about my experiences, to help others who are going through similar issues.  It's almost as if my pain is my muse. There's not an aspect of my life it hasn't touched, and it effects not just WHAT I do, but also HOW I do it. And I'm not alone. 25 million adults in the U.S. cope with pain on a daily basis.
 
 
Somehow my beast has been my beauty, after all.
 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Will They Follow?

For those of you who have read my posts in the past, I have an affinity for wind chimes. It's actually a love that was handed down from my mom, both of us finding peace in a symphony of their songs. The more the merrier. On my Nana's deathbed, she promised my mom to speak to her, to us, in our wind chimes. She hasn't disappointed us. There have been times when I've been sitting at my desk writing with the window open, and despite the lack of wind, the chimes have sung. It's nothing short of magical. And while he never got the chance to say it in words, there have been times when it's clear that Nana isn't the only one who's talking.

I lost my son, Gabriel, just five months before Nana passed. I was in my sixth month of pregnancy when his heart just stopped beating. Losing the two of them so close together was a terrible blow to my heart and spirit. Although Gabriel's passing was considered a stillbirth, I didn't get the chance to hold him. While losing Nana was heartbreaking, she had lived a long, happy life. Gabriel didn't even have the chance to get started. I never got to nurture and cuddle him, never got to see him grow up. It's a wound to the heart that will never fully heal, but time has lessened its sting.

My mom and I are currently in the process of moving. The house we're in is the one my grandparents built in the mid 1960's. A week from today, we will be making our transition to a new home, and it will be the first time a Jorgensen hasn't lived here in over forty years. This house has been my residence on and off for more than 10 years, but I've been in it all my life. It will be bittersweet to say goodbye, as it has blessed us with so many great times, and yet it is time for us to move on.

With the move just a week away, my mom and I are up to our ears in packing. Today's goal was to pack up all the wind chimes and garden d├ęcor, including stepping stones and ceramic figurines. Mother Nature could not have given us a better, albeit abnormal, day to work in the garden in late December. After filling a whole box of wind chimes, I started gathering the stepping stones to hand off to my mom. Most of them were pretty easy to pull up, but I came upon several that were literally held to the Earth by ivy. No matter how much I manipulated it, the vines would not let it go.

"They must be meant to stay here," my mom said to me.

"Apparently so," I replied decisively. But my brain was far from settled.

As I glanced around our courtyard, I started to think about what is meant to stay behind in a house, and what is meant to move forward. Every home will contain some unpleasant memories and/or events, and when we move on, I believe we will spiritually be able to leave those memories behind. But on the same token, there are so many amazing things that happen in a house, not just the things we can pack into boxes, but that we carry in our hearts. All of those things will come with us next week as we settle into our new home.

I looked at the huge box full of wind chimes and the tote full of the ceramic garden pieces. They have a new yard and garden to bless with their physical beauty. While our wind chimes are all beautiful in their own rights, it's the songs they play that make them each special. And more importantly, at least for me, it's those very special songs they sing that are the most precious. Just as the Earth is holding tight some of our stones, I began to wonder if the spirits that have sung for us at this home might not want to leave, either. When we leave for the last time, will they follow?

After packing for several hours, my mom and I were each in need of a break. I went to my room and got lost in thought.
 
Several years ago, I was in the lobby of OSU Hospital after being discharged from a long stay. As I waited for my ride to arrive, I glanced over to the window of the gift shop, and something caught my eye. I saw the tips of angel wings. I saw chimes beneath them. I got out of my wheelchair and found my way into the store to the place where the wind chime was displayed. I literally had to crawl into the window display, as there was only one of that chime in stock. I was in love with it!  Nine years after he died, I finally found a chime that seemed perfect for Gabriel. 
 
I hung it as soon as I got home. These past few years, I've gotten such great joy from watching it dance in the courtyard, in both rain and shine. And while you may find it impossible to imagine, there have been occasions when I've been down or just missing my son more than usual, and that chime will be the one that sings. Somehow, my baby boy finds a way to talk to his mama from the place his spirit resides. Somehow...
 
Returning to the present, I started to think about God, and my relationship with Him. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, God finds me. I never have to go far, because He is alive within me. I can say the same about my Nana and my son; ESPECIALLY my son. My Nana lives on in everyone who loved her. When it comes to Gabriel, I carried him WITHIN me from the very start, so I will never have to seek him out. As for the wind chimes, our angels will sing for us in their new home. And that will make our new home feel like Home Sweet Home for my mom and I.
 
Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Host of Blessings

There are times in life when we get the opportunity to evaluate our blessings. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to do so, and I thought I'd share some of mine with you.
 
I'm grateful...
 
For these lungs that inhale and exhale with mightiness despite past trauma.  For the scars all over my belly that show how divinely created was my body in its capacity to heal. For more than my share of miracles. I awake each day knowing I'm lucky to be opening my eyes, no matter how much pain I'm in. 
 
For my four-legged child, the pink nosed, caramel colored chocolate lab, Zoe Isabella, who has seen me at my worst, yet continues to walk alongside me every day. There is an unspoken language between us. The moments when she looks me in straight in the eye are treasures.
 For my nephew, Ethan, who amazes me with his ingenuity and artistic ability far beyond his years. He dazzles me with his knowledge and melts me with his smile. I love him more than mango smoothies and clear blue skies.


For my nephew, Eli, who is tender and sweet. His empathy far exceeds his years, and his humor generates laughter from all ages. I love him more than peanut bars and rainbows.  
I never thought I'd get another chance to love someone or something with such intensity and heartrending magnificence, and here the Universe gave me TWO such opportunities.
For the angels of loved ones who have passed. From the unborn to the almost ancient, I have been blessed with protection and love; encircled with those who speak loudly in whispers. For Gabriel, Mommy misses you. You are with me every moment...
For my family whose support and love ground me. My parents for giving me life and love. My brother, Keith, for his strength, wisdom and friendship.  
For Keith and his wife, Sonja, who made me a YaYa.
 For my 91-year old grandmother, aka Mimi, who is the spunkiest "Old Polish Chick" around.
For my extended family who have all enriched my life and loved me unconditionally. And for the extended family I've come to know from Sonja's side. They are all precious, each and every one.
 
For my friends, who are family by choice. Each one enriches my life in his/her own unique way.
 
For Donna Jorgensen, my mom, best friend, roommate, soul sister, occasional nurse and overall partner in mischief. She knows my heart better than anyone. Thank you for being my person..
Most of all for the God! I can't imagine life without my faith being at its core. Everything above is because of the love and generosity of the Divine.
Life has its ups and downs, but it's all a gift in the end. Even our hard times, our tragedies, our heartbreaks have the capacity to teach and strengthen us. Over the years, I've tried to find the positive in my pain and have tried even harder to be grateful for it. 
Even in our often tragic, misguided world, there is so much beauty. Soak it up and store it in the recesses of your spirit like a chipmunk collects nuts and stores them for winter. When your pain comes, in whatever form(s) it does, nourish yourself with the splendor you have accrued until the sun shines upon you once again.
 
I have SO many blessings. I think of those who don't have homes on cold nights, food for hungry bellies, medicine for sickness, and most of all, LOVE! That is the greatest gift ever, and I'm grateful to be marinated in it.

 
I'm grateful for each one of you who are taking part of this written journey of mine. My wish is for you all to be marinated in love, too.
Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I cannot remember a time when I didn't write. It is as part of me as any body part. From the beginning, my Nana (maternal grandmother) was my mentor, my spiritual guide, my dear friend. She was a writer, although I don't recall her ever teaching me how to write. I believe you can teach people the fundamentals of grammar and the rules of writing, but creativity is part of the soul. Our writing is so different, yet similar at the same time, and I see so much wisdom in her words as I look back at them.

Last Friday, watching the terror unfold in Paris, I was paralyzed with sadness for the victims and their families. On a greater level, I was stricken with almost paranoid fear for the future of our World. Survivors reported hearing terrorists saying "Glory be to God"(in Arabic) as shots were fired at innocent civilians. I find no glory in bloodshed and murder, in killing and hatred. I cannot imagine a god, any god, seeking such horror in its honor. Especially not the God my Nana helped me discover; the God she so often honored in her own writing. It's at times like these that I'm thankful she's no longer living to see these atrocities.

Although it has no name, there is a war going on. It spans the globe, and its rooted in our hearts. Sweethearts, dark hearts, crazy hearts. We all bleed the same blood, but it's the robbery of blood that makes me ill. The lives that were taken so savagely and remorselessly belonged to people who breathed the same air as the killers. Both killers and victims came from a mother and father who came from a mother and father. For what is considered the First World, this is a barbaric display of inhumane disgrace.

When my Nana self-published her book, "A Potpourri of Love", she included several pieces written about the Vietnam War. My uncle, Denny, Nana's oldest child and my mom's big brother, flew helicopter gunships, and while she supported her son, she despised the war. She despised war period. When I was thinking of writing a post about Friday's atrocities, I found myself dialoguing with Nana in spirit. I wondered how she would have expressed her disillusionment with the recent brutality in France. Looking through her book, I found piece that expresses a lot of what's in my heart, so I am sharing it. While it has been almost half a century, her words span the decades.

 
A MOTHER'S CHALLENGE
 
I have two sons who are precious to me.
They're not at war, but they soon may be.
Would I have them defend this beloved land,
And all those things for which it stands?
Of course I would, there can be no doubt;
But IS 'defense' what war is all about?
I wonder: IS war the answer to our plight?
Does fighting and killing turn wrong to right?
If we've made such a miserable bed,
Must we lie in it 'til we're ALL dead?
Spanking may stop a naughty child,
But why is he naughty; why is he wild?
Aspirin may stop an ache or pain,
But correct the cause, or it comes again.
CAN we end the cause of war,
The harvest of misery we all abhor?
It seems we've been shown a better way
By one whose birthday is Christmas Day.
But whatever we believe about the virgin birth,
Who can deny this great one's worth?
Somehow we've failed to do THY will;
Ignored the command, "Thou shalt NOT kill."
We've been taught much that is surely true;
That we prove our faith by what we do;
That God loves the WORLD, not just a part;
That all walk in darkness who've hate in their heart;
That peace begins within you, and me;
That we choose to fight, or choose to be free;
By seeds we sow each day of our life;
Each moment we add to the peace, or the strife.
 
Remembering these things, I seem to recall
The times I didn't believe them at all,
Each time I said an unkind thing...
Was I helping the bells of freedom ring?
When I listened to gossip and suspected the worst,
Was I really putting 'Democracy' first?
If I judged a man by his color or creed
Was I serving the cause for which men bleed?
If I reserved smiles or words of praise
For those with status or pleasing ways,
Was I seeing that inner spark Divine
That lives in all men all of the time?
When I was sad, or gave in to despair,
Was I having faith in Our Father's care?
When I refused to swallow my pride
Was I being led by my "Inner Guide"?
When I thought I had done something good,
Was I directing the credit where I should?
 
All of these things, and so many more,
Challenge my soul, in the face of war!
For in every war-scarred face I see
My own dear sons looking at me.
Could I be failing these trusting young men
By resisting the challenge again and again?
Our money says, "In God we trust"!
But do we really? Can God trust us?
 
Tho I can't stop this terrible war,
With God's help I need to do more,
Not to keep my sons from going,
But to KEEP THE SEEDS OF HATE FROM GROWING
Perhaps more 'heart' will do the trick,
For isn't THIS what makes us tick?
 
This may seem like an abstract answer;
Like a miracle cure for a terminal cancer,
But if God is Love, and Love is of the heart,
Then Heart IS needed to illumine the dark.
Ending the war WITHIN MYSELF,
Taking thoughts of love down off the shelf,
Armed with kindness, instead of a gun
Is the only way 'my' war can be won.
Measuring each deed, each word I say,
With the Golden Rule, every day.
Only then can I feel free
When the face of misery looks at me.
 
~Mary Anzaletta Robinson Long (Nana)
  
I learned so much from my Nana. She truly believed that progress and peace began from within, and she led by example.  During the Vietnam War, she was tormented not just as the mother of a soldier, but as a citizen of the World.  But Nana was concerned on an even greater level. It was the cause of war, ANY war, that scared her. To her, hatred and intolerance were as lethal as the weapons that were fired from my uncle's helicopter. And she was absolutely right. Those two things greatly contributed to the attacks in Paris. Nana's been dead over a decade, but I could feel her tears that night. They wet my face as much as my own tears.
 
The global community is bleeding. There are so many wounds, it's hard to know where to begin. As a woman with chronic pain and illness, I get overwhelmed balancing all the doctors and surgeries, the medication and the appointments. Then I take a step back and look at all that's going on in the news. All the attacks and wars, the victims and attackers, weave a complex and heartbreaking reality that seems hopeless. How does our World heal?
 
There are no immediate answers. For my own sadness, I turn back and find the unconditional love my Nana left in word and spirit. No matter her emotional or physical pain, she taught me that peace began within. It wasn't something that could happen overnight, but rather it was something that took daily meditation and prayer. I remember many bedtime talks when she'd babysit my brother and I. She used to tell me that peace began with me. Looking back, I think she was brilliant. Peace does begin within each of us. And when you combine the peace within yourself with the peace within another person, and another, and another... then peace MIGHT have a fighting chance amidst all this madness.
 
I'll leave you with the bedtime prayer she taught me growing up. It's a spin off of a mainstream Christian bedtime prayer many of you probably know.
 
Now I lay me down to sleep
Into your arms,
Dear God I creep
Thank you for your love and care
And for your power that's everywhere
Make me shine God, just for you
In all I think and say and do
Amen
 
MAY GOD BLESS US ALL!