Thursday, January 29, 2015

Throw Your Fears Into The Fire!

This may easily be one of the longest blog posts I have written to date. Bear with me though and read through to the end. I think it will be well worth your time.

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Everyone has fears that they deal with. Perhaps yours is health or finance related or you fear never being able to fix something you regret. Do you ever wish you could just leave it behind and move forward?

We all go through different seasons in our lives - it's part of 'the journey'. I've had more seasons than would fit in a calendar year. My parents divorced many years ago leaving in the aftermath a young girl of 12 full of questions, uncertainties, insecurities, and yes ... even fears. Fears of what would happen to me, how would I grow up, and what would my future look like.

As an adult (at 42) I was a wife and mother of two when I was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer. I went through a lot of treatment, but I was lucky. I survived and am now 8 years cancer free! That doesn't mean that I didn't have my share of fears along the way; the fear of having surgery, the fear of the chemo not working, and the inevitable fear of the cancer coming back some day. I am blessed to say that since that time many fears have been erased ... gone ... history! My fears of not seeing my daughter graduate from high school ... gone. The fear of not seeing my son graduate from two colleges ... gone. The fear of not being there on my son's beautiful wedding day ... gone.

We tackle our fears head on. Sometimes we're successful and sometimes we're not. Sometimes it's coming across inspiring real life stories that gives us the extra push we need to get over our own hurdles.

This week I learned of an amazing woman, Heather Von St. James. Nine years ago when Heather was 36 she was diagnosed with mesothelioma; a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. She had been exposed to the asbestos as a child. Heather had just given birth to her daughter, and during the most exciting time in her and her husband's lives, she was given just 15 months to live. Heather's surgery was scheduled for just 2 days prior to her daughter turning six months old. After surgery to remove the affected lung, pleura (the lining around the lung where the cancer was), the left half of her diaphragm and lining of her heart, and her sixth rib Heather began her journey towards survival. Mesothelioma is by far one of the worst cancers to have to deal with and has a latency period, sometimes up to 35 years. That's just crazy! Part of every person's journey is learning how to create something positive in the aftermath of a devastation. Whether that be an illness, the loss of a loved one, or the uncertainty of whether or not you'll have a roof over your head or a next meal to eat.

Out of Heather's real-life journey came an event called Lung Leavin' Day. This year will be the 9th Lung Leavin' Day Celebration! Heather and her husband wanted to find a way to celebrate the day her lung left. As Heather said, "One doesn't usually celebrate a surgery, but being who we are, we decided we should. The main idea of writing fears on a plate and smashing them into a fire during Lung Leavin' Day came from my sister, who had done firewalking. In firewalking, you write your fears on a plank of wood, throw it in the fire, and walk across it -- very symbolic. But instead of wood, my husband and I came up with the idea of a plate. Plus, we figured not too many people really want to firewalk. From there the tradition was born."

The purpose of the holiday is to encourage others to face their fears. Each year they gather around a bonfire in their backyard in Minnesota with their friends and family. They write down their biggest fears on a plate and smash them into the fire. They celebrate for those no longer with us, for those who continue to fight, for those who are currently going through a tough time in their life, and most importantly, they celebrate life! Heather added, "The celebration is not just for cancer survivors or warriors, it's for everyone. Each individual has a fear to overcome. We even get the kids involved! We give paper plates to the little kids and let them write things they are afraid of too, so they can throw their plates and fears into the fire. My daughter Lily has a lot of great memories from past celebrations and looks forward to it every year as well."

Heather's journey hit a chord for me. While my cancer was completely different than hers I still felt a connection. My oncologist who got me through my entire treatment and 5-year post op was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the end of my 5 years. He was my age and within months he was gone, leaving behind a wife and family. My husband and I owe my life to him and my surgeon. We can't bring him back but we can celebrate him, his dedicated work to others, and his family. We can celebrate Heather and other people willing to fight and conquer their own fears.

Please join them in taking a moment on February 2nd to be thankful for the simple things, and all that life offers. Of course, not everyone can be at a bonfire, so they've made it easy for us. They've created an interactive page that further explains the full story of their special day.

If you've never shared one of my posts before I urge this to be the one.

For more information on Mesothelioma,
it's causes and her treatment check the links below ...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Where do you get your wisdom?

We gather our wisdom from going to school, from the books we read, from the people we hang out with, and from the conversations we partake in. Sometimes it's simply a matter of observing, actually being willing to listen, remembering, and not taking anything for granted. A nugget of wisdom can come from anywhere; from something a stranger once said in passing, from an inspiring Internet story, from a Sunday morning church service, or from the lyrics of a song we heard on the radio while driving to work.

I've hit (and surpassed the age 50 mark), have adult children, ailing parents, a full time job, and an ever-present desire to learn and grow. Who has the right to tell you you're too old to learn something new? Just last week I signed up for my first Instagram account (theflowermom). Feel free to follow me (lol). I know a man in his 90s who still drives and is on Facebook. I occasionally read a blog written by a local elderly man who does an AMAZING job of relating and answering current questions from readers of all ages using his experience from the past. No matter how much and how fast life progresses, some things never change. There will always be core values, integrity, honesty, humbleness, and compassion. Those are things that grow and progress, but don't need to be 'new and improved'.

I am always ready and willing to admit that I am a work in progress. I can admit that when I was very young I thought ALL parents, teachers, and neighbors were old and over the hill. I thought there wasn't a single adult who could possibly understand anything that I might be going through. On the other hand I didn't have many adult figures in my life willing to mentor or guide me. I thought I had to do it all on my own. I did o.k., but looking back I sincerely wish there had been that one older person I could talk to, listen to, and learn from. Growing up in a separated family, with no aunts or uncles or cousins or grandparents in the state made it difficult to find that person. I understand that I cannot go back and change the past, and if I did then I might not be the person that I am right now.

My hope for people today (of any age) is that they would be open-minded enough to listen, to observe, to appreciate, and to reciprocate. Be willing to talk to people, but more importantly - be willing to listen. Nuggets of wisdom don't just fall from the sky, they need to be sifted through so the good ones can come to the top of the pan gleaming with hope and promise. Be appreciative of those who have been there for you and equally important ... be that one person for someone else.
Growing up, or even today, do you have that one person you can go to?

Thursday, January 22, 2015


We all need a place where we can relax, recharge, and rejuvenate. As of late I've been working on a special project; I've been creating a space for myself where I can revitalize my mind  ... a retreat of sorts. We all face the pressures of everyday life. We are all unique and while our stresses and trigger points may be different, we share a common bond that we search out that 'special' place that allows us to regroup.

Sometimes that's all we need; a place that we find soothing where we can take 5 minutes and block everything else out. Not everything is bad, mind you, but at times clearly overwhelming. Perhaps your ride home in traffic was stressful, perhaps your dishwasher decided to take it's last breath, maybe the kids were way too loud and rambunctious today, or maybe you haven't been feeling up to par. Whatever you need a small break from look for that quiet place where you can just be.

If you don't have a special place yet, make one. Even if it just means closing the bedroom door for a few minutes to be alone or taking a walk outside. We can't always be about the GO and GO FASTER. Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to SLOW DOWN and TAKE A BREAK. It's o.k. Trust me, everything else will still be there when we decide to reopen the door. 

What's your retreat space look like? What helps you regain perspective after a long day?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What Crowd Are You Part Of?

Are you part of the 'IN' crowd? More important ... do you want to be?

Everywhere you look from the grade school playground to the halls of the high school to the lunchroom at the office you will find 'groups'. On the playground you'll find the boys on one side and the girls on the other. In the high school halls you'll find the students clustered about; the cheerleaders, the athletes, the band kids, the math/science kids, and the quiet ones. At the office you may find people having lunch together and chatting while others may stay in their offices and continue working. Even in church you'll see people gathered in very specific groups; some are welcoming and some not so much. Some will label their own groups while others will find themselves already labeled.

My question to you is where do you see yourself and why? Are you part of this group or that? Do you stand back and watch and long to be somewhere that you're not or are you content to mingle with everyone? Then there is the BIG question ... what gives anyone the right to label any one and then corral people into their preset groups? The even BIGGER question is 'why' do we let them? 

When my son was little The Berenstain Bears was one of his favorite book series'. That was 20+ years ago and even then the 'In-Crowd' was a subject to be talked about.

In the end it's important that we feel comfortable as the mom or the student or the techy. If there are going to be any labels at all they should come from us and apply only to us. It's a wonderful thing that no two people are alike, it makes life more interesting. We should never feel intimidated or more important or less of anything because of a label. Embrace your own gifts and talents and run with them. If others admire you or want to follow and be with you - awesome. If they don't - it's their loss.

Where do you see yourself fitting in?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Go Ahead ... Take The Picture!

It's normal to sometimes compare yourself to others; whether they be people that you actually know or just people you know of. Even the most confident person will have days when they think someone else does something better than they do. We'll doubt our abilities, our confidence will waver, and we'll secretly wonder if we can do it (whatever IT is).

There will always be someone I think bakes or cooks better than I do, prays better (out loud) than me, sings better, draws better, has more patience, has a better public speaking voice, and takes better pictures. Today I took a picture with my cell phone from the parking lot where I work of a perfect sunrise. I was in the moment. I don't have that natural ability to take the perfect picture like some people do, but today I took a chance. It was too good of an opportunity to not at least TRY.

Judge for yourself. I posted this photo to Facebook this morning and got 40+ Likes and plenty of comments that involved 'Oohs' and 'Ahhs'. Wow! Who knew I had it in me to take such an inspiring photo? The colors were vivid and the lighting was perfect.

The point is that we need to be willing to take a chance. We might surprise ourselves. We might take that perfect picture or bake the perfect pie or hit the spine-tingling high note. Nothing ventured, nothing lost. 

When's the last time you did something and surprised yourself with how well you did?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

What's Your Perspective?

This has been a rough week for many people. We're adjusting to life after the Christmas & New Year holiday. Many are adjusting to going back to work after some vacation time. Many children are back in school. And many are dealing with the effects that Old Man Winter has brought. Depending on where you live and what kind of weather you are experiencing could explain what is influencing your perspective. Many people are dealing with snow, many with bitterly cold temperatures, some cold/snow days for teachers and students, and many have to deal with a lack of heat.
I began my week by sending my daughter back to college and myself heading back to work; for me that meant packing my lunch, setting the alarm for an earlier time, and wearing thick socks and a warm sweater. The furnace that heats my office at work apparently decided it was still on vacation and didn't work for 2.5 days. I'll admit that I'm not used to being that cold. Where oh where are my hot flashes when I need them? I whined a bit and complained until I realized the back portion of the church where I work was 10-15 degrees colder than my office. That, in itself, helped me regain my perspective. It can always be worse. I have a job. I have thick socks and warm sweaters. I have a warm house to go back to. Many have it much worse.

Last night my husband jokingly said, 'Tomorrow's forecast is a high of 10 degrees and a low of 10 degrees.' I suppose that's when you have to consider whether your attitude will compare to a glass being half empty or half full. I chose the 'half full' approach and have tried to maintain it to the best of my ability. When I got to work the outside temperature was 3 degrees with a wind chill of -14. I complained to myself for about an hour until my son, who is a school teacher on the west side of the state, called to tell me he and his wife (also a teacher) had their 2nd consecutive snow day because their outside temperature was -7 with a wind chill of -29 AND they had snow and more on the way tonight.

The beauty about perspectives is that they are something we can control and something that can change in an instant if we decide we don't like them. Take the time to look at any situation and consider all of the possibilities and how things could be different; for better or worse. Consider your options and then consider what perspective would be most beneficial for you to take.
How are you dealing with the cold temperatures? If you're someplace warm right now try not brag to the rest of us, just send some warmth back in our direction.

Friday, January 2, 2015

What Do People See?

Christmas was about many meaningful things, lots of time for reflecting and making memories, and if you're like me ... watching as many Hallmark movies as possible. Sure, we all know they will have a predictable ending, but that's o.k. With all of the surprises and chaos life can sometimes throw at us a little predictability can be a good thing.

There was one movie that was about 2 young people competing for a job at a department store as window dressers (not sure if that's the appropriate professional term or not). Decorating store windows can be the deciding factor of whether someone enters a store or not. It's meant to grasp their attention. Holidays tend to make good themes ... spring & autumn, Easter & Christmas, back to school, etc. But trust me, it's not an easy job. You've got to have a high level of creativity and be able to think of and understand what strangers will like. Store windows are merely facades. If done well they will tell a story and entice the customer to go in to see what comes next.

Here's a little known fact that may or may not surprise you. When I was in high school I was offered a full 4-year free ride to a design school. You've probably guessed by now that I didn't take it. Why? Because when the school's rep came to see me I learned that it was in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. For someone like me who had never been north of Cheboygen I had no idea just what their winters were like. When I looked at the housing brochures I didn't understand about the snow tunnels and the need for exit doors on the second floors. When she explained the concept and the amount of snow they got in the winter I had to accept the fact that I was not up to the challenge of becoming a Yooper (no offense to anyone who has thicker blood than me).

Yes, I was of the creative type. I had dabbled in many art styles and was bound and determined to become a highly respected store window designer. Life challenges us and sometimes we just need to decide which route is best for us and how we want to tackle the challenge. I've done many things so far in my life. Have I dressed any big store windows? No, but I have done a enormous amount of successful, creative wall displays and bulletin boards for my children's teachers (just ask them). Instead I tell my stories through words. I've written newsletters and had articles published. I've written speeches and I write a blog. Some day I may even write and illustrate a children's book. We will have to wait and see.

When have you ever been presented with a challenge that seemed bigger than you and did you decide to take a different route to achieve it?