Gifts my Tumor gave me

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Two years ago today my 3 lb. tumor, we lovingly called Boomer, was removed and sent to Harvard for cancer testing.  (When told that, my husband sent a text message to our children stating “at least one of mom’s births went to an Ivy League school”  — geez)  For the three weeks, from its discovery to the end of my hospital stay, that crazy tumor was giving me gifts that I wouldn’t realize until now.

Boomer AnniversaryGift One:  Quit Worrying – During the days before surgery I prayed and made promises to God, my deceased parents, and deceased relatives and friends (all who could obviously put in a good word with the big Guy, for me).  I promised that I’d be a better person, a better parent and a better friend.  I’d do more to help others, stuff that really mattered, if only I lived through it.  I had so many things yet to do like cure cancer, end anger in the world, make nuclear fusion easy, or something on that magnitude.

And for nearly two years, after the healing and learning to breathe again, I worried about which of those major feats I would accomplish and why I hadn’t started on them.  Having only an associate’s degree in interior design, I was feeling a bit under-educated in the fields of medicine, nuclear science or world politics, so I continued to worry.

As its anniversary approached I became a little less critical of myself.  In the two years since my surgery we sold a house, bought a house, packed and unpacked, and did it again.  We made time to attend almost all my daughter’s soccer games and saw her graduate from college.  We celebrated with our son the purchase of his new home, visited with friends and family, and were able to help out friends that were really in need.  While it seemed as if I was standing still and not accomplishing anything, in reality I WAS doing something. I was working on becoming that ‘better’ person, learning to appreciate the gifts that were staring me right in the face.

In reflecting back, Boomer did leave me with quite a few gifts, like assessing what is really important, from what we perceive is important.  It heightened my ability to sense other people’s emotions – sadness, fear, anger – which aids me in what direction I can help.  It taught me to be more grateful for the things that ARE right in front of me, and it provided a venue that brought true friends to the surface and taught me how to say good-bye to the rest with love and grace.

So, on Boomer’s anniversary of departure I invite you to learn the lessons it left me, without having to get A LOT of stitches or use a bed pan.

Unfortunately, the curing of cancer or bombarding of atoms will just have to wait a little longer, since the “becoming that better person” is still a work in progress.

Thanks Boom…

Grateful for you,


Sadness is a Reminder

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Sunset It’s hidden, no one sees it.  It’s masked with smiles and laughter, but it still lingers…  Tunneled thoughts with no light at the end, with no turns available to keep from falling deeper and deeper into the dark, with no light, no light.  The walls are padded to dampen a sense of joy from entering or the light that emanates from those who perceive the image of happiness.  The mind is a crazy thing, creating ideas that have no substance or truth and it just keeps cranking out the negative, the sadness, and the hopelessness – Honoring a great artist, Robin Williams

What’s needed to shift those thoughts? Having never gone to medical school I’m clueless…  Perhaps meds  – because we weren’t given the correct combination of brain chemicals, counseling – because of traumas that occurred, or help  – to retrain the patterns that were imprinted early on?

I’ve been reading the Happiness Advantage, by Shaun Achor and in light of the sadness everyone feels about Robin Williams I wanted to share with you a few points he speaks about in his book on shifting the pattern of unhappiness to happiness.  If you’d like to hear Shaun speak about it I’ve included a link to his TED talk on Happiness.

1. Write down three new things you are grateful for each day into a blank word document or into the free app I Journal. Research shows this will significantly improve your optimism even 6 months later, and raises your success rates significantly.

2. Write for 2 minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours. This is a strategy to help transform you from a task-based thinker, to a meaning based thinker who scans the world for meaning instead of endless to-dos. This dramatically increases work happiness.

3. Exercise for 10 minutes a day. This trains your brain to believe your behavior matters, which causes a cascade of success throughout the rest of the day.

4. Meditate for 2 minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out. This will help you undo the negative effects of multitasking. Research shows you get multiple tasks done faster if you do them one at a time. It also decreases stress and raises happiness.

5. Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a member on your team. This significantly increases your feeling of social support, which in my study at Harvard was the largest predictor of happiness for the students. (Taken from 5 Ways to Turn Happiness Into An Advantage — Reversing the formula for happiness and success. Published on August 23, 2011 by Shawn Achor in The Happiness Advantage  )

I feel the sadness we’re all experiencing is a reminder of how fragile we are, mentally, emotionally and physically.  As stated so eloquently by Gandalf, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”  So…   Know there are no tunnels, there is help.  Know that you are loved, as witnessed by the outpouring these last few days for a valued artist.  Know you have been put here for a purpose and that is an “encouraging thought.”

Frodo:  I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf:  So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought. – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Grateful for you…


(Thank you, Shaun Achor, Psychology Today, J.R.R. Tolkien for helping out today.)

Thank your Angels

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Smiling Koala

Smiling Koala – dreaming furry Koala dreams…

Have you taken time to thank your angels lately…?  Yes, they could be the ones that hangout invisibly with you on a daily basis, but I’m talking about the flesh and bones ones.The angels who open doors for us, or make us a steaming cup of coffee while serving 100 other customers.  The ones who check in on us, drop us a note every once in a while or the angels in our family and those we consider family.  The cabbie, the mailman, the store clerk, the neighbor who watches our homes when we’re away – they’re all angels in one way or another because they’re doing something for us, whether they’re getting paid or not.  All of those people, doing something just for us, how special we must be!  So today I’d like to say a big thank you to my husband, an angel in disguise.

This past weekend we spent our 35th anniversary in San Diego.  We were married at the International Center on the campus of UCSD, by a Minister of Hunger (yep we might not actually be married).  After the reception, in which ‘we’ served our guests deli sandwiches, we celebrated by having friends up to our “honeymoon” suite for pizza, cocktails and present opening.  When they had all left, fireworks could be seen from our hotel room and I thanked my new husband for organizing such a special gift for our wedding!  Little did I know that SeaWorld did that every Saturday night… well it was the perception of the gift that counted.

From that day on we have shared births, deaths, houses, and a variety of jobs, cars, neighborhoods, and pets.  I have loved, liked, hated, liked, loved this guy like a roller coaster and he has been my best friend throughout it all.  He’s the one who fell asleep while I was in labor, the one who carried both our son and daughter to many emergency room visits and the artist who created wood-working masterpieces that turned out to be the most beautiful decks attached to each of our homes.  He was the one who kept a positive attitude when we once again moved to another state because of a job, when there seemed to be only loneliness and an endless amount of work ahead.  He’s the one who gave up beloved hobbies so the children could play soccer and took that final drive with our favorite pets to the vet, when I just couldn’t bear it.  And with fear in his eyes he’s the one who held my hand when we spoke to the doc about my tumor.

I have seen him cry a few times at the losses in his life, but he mainly chooses to see the bright side, even when it seems as if the sun will never shine again.  He can’t speak enough about his children, his sister’s and brother’s families and some of his happiest times are sipping tequila and smoking a cigar with his son on the patio and watching his daughter play college soccer.

For six years he drove 650 miles every other weekend to be greeted with a honey-do list, abbreviated time with the children and no time for visiting with friends.

So today I’d like to thank this angel who has put up with more than I’d like to admit for the last 35 years…

Don’t wait for a special occasion to thank the angels in your lives.  Shouldn’t they know how incredibly special they are….now?

Grateful for you…


(Smiling Koala courtesy of angel-husband)

Are you Kidding – Christmas Decorations Already?

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Glitter's Gift

Glitter’s Gift

Before you can lip the words “are you kidding”, hear me out…

Ok, I know its August 7th and there are 139 days until Christmas.  Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and National Peanut Day have not even entered our frontal lobes, but yet Christmas décor has snuck into the aisles of a store near you.  I know, I know it’s near 90⁰ out and how in the world can you be expected to think about a winter holiday especially as the memory of the 2013 snowstorms still linger in your minds.

But I’d like to offer some positive thoughts on the glitter found in the aisles this August.

  • This is the time of year designers shop for their clients when all the ‘great’ decorations are still available, you should go find some unique items and store them away!
  • If we start now to think of the perfect gifts for family and friends, we won’t pick the last things on the shelves two days before Christmas. You have time to find out what they’ve always wanted or observe what they really need.  Shopping now means we can spend less cash on more meaning…
  • During the holidays people are always nicer, kinder, more generous, and they smile more. So thinking about Christmas should make you smile – even in August.
  • If we calmly start planning for gifts, trips, parties, and visits with family and friends, we won’t lose our minds as we scramble* to squeeze everything into the four calendar weeks we are perceived to have after Thanksgiving.

*scram·ble — [ skrámb’l ] verb

1.a. to move with urgency or panic;

3.b. to get or gather something with difficulty or in irregular ways

  • If you start planning now you can eliminate the humiliation of being laughed at 3 weeks before Christmas as you call around to find that special hockey jersey, cabbage patch doll (dating myself) or Nintendo games, been there, done that.
  • Homemade gifts or creating on-line treasures are less rushed when starting 4 months ahead.
  • It’s fun to keep the secret of wrapped gifts in the house!

We are SO occupied with the shopping, decorating, planning, baking, worrying of the holidays it becomes almost IMPOSSIBLE to enjoy ANY of the magic of the season.  We set ourselves up for an anti-climactic hangover if we pack all the excitement into one day and don’t enjoy the journey to the actual celebration.

So as we walk through those aisles and whisper to ourselves ‘are you kidding’ when we see ornaments, lighting, wreaths and glitter, remember to SMILE!  Take those colorful reminders as a gift — that instead of 4 weeks to do all the things on your Christmas list, you’ve got 4 months!!!

Grateful for you (and Glitter)…