Why do I make this so haaarrrrd???

Why do I make this so haaarrrrd???

Pardon me for whinging but seriously….why do I make things so hard? When faced with a decision, it’s as if there is only ONE right answer, and disaster lies behind the wrong choice.

Hardly.

Life is a brilliant stream of non-stop decisions, every hour of every day. Certainly some deserve more debate than others. What I’m having for dinner doesn’t demand as much thought as where I’ll live next.

Yet I find myself consumed to the point of distraction over things that really won’t matter one bit by tomorrow. Why?

After changing my t-shirt for the fourth time (don’t ask) I decided I needed to figure out what was really behind my unease. It wasn’t really about what I was wearing, but a larger, more unsettled dis-ease with my current situation. And because I couldn’t answer the big, life-changing questions in the moment, I transferred my uncertainty into things I could answer…like what I was wearing. So, that was weird realizing this. And enlightening.

The waiting game is always a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be a gut-wrencher. I just need to remember the words of 10 Little Rules for Your Creative Soul author Rita Long in mind: “If it’s not a HELL YES – then it’s a no.”

Until I get that HELL YES there’s no point in making the small stuff so big.

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The Traveling Circus

The Traveling Circus

Sit back, friends, it is story time.

Finding ourselves completely burnt out, the Hubs and I decided that we needed a vacation. It had been years since we had gotten away and we needed to do it again. We decided to travel down to North Carolina to visit with my mother-in-law and do all of the fun things along the way. Mammoth Caves. Check. Gatlinburg. Check. Driving over the Smoky Mountains. Check. Spending time in Cherokee (my favorite place, ever). Check. Then over to the coast for ocean living. Bliss. I am a planner and I am cheap, so I took a calendar and literally wrote out all of our destinations and reserved motel rooms and hotel rooms in advance and cost shopped around. Folks, right here is where your English teacher would be pointing out the foreshadowing. Right. Here.

I already knew that we needed to get creative in order to make it out alive. In a large tote, I packed a ton of food that was Hank-Safe for the occasions when we might not be able to find food that he could have. In that tote, I also packed the cups that he uses to drink his medical food and the accessories need to wash them. I packed a large cooler with his rice milk and his refrigerated medications. Then, the clothing. Little dude needs to have many changes of clothing, as the resident puker of the family, I had to make sure that he could be clothed at all times and that meant a lot of clothes and a bottle of laundry detergent.

Cooling off

Now, right here, I know that you are thinking, ‘Good Feta, woman! There are stores all over the country that carry rice milk, that carry laundry detergent, that carry food!’ But I am a planner and I was worried that it would be late and I would need something and I wouldn’t be able to leave to get what was needed.

Day one into the trip was lovely. We stopped at rest areas and ate packed lunches from the magical food tote. We ran around play areas and did yoga in the grass to stretch our legs and backs. We drove to our first hotel. We planned the first stop to land us near the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky. If you are ever in that area, you need to do yourself a solid and visit. It was here, in a parking lot, I realized that you shouldn’t leave your parking ticket on a magnet. Paid for a whole day instead of the 3 hours. A little salty, I was.

Day two, was Mammoth Caves! Oh it was glorious. The stalactites, the formations, the crying kids, the seized back muscles the Hubs got. Wait. What? Yeah. Something that I didn’t count on is how scary this wonder of the world would be on young kids. In their fear, they needed special hand holding and coddling. Twenty steps down into the cave, found the hubs, walking down, leaning forward and holding a kid’s hand. Forty steps down, he was able to stand up. His back, however, was not able.

We did not mean to spend more than two nights in that area, and therefore, I had booked the campiest motel that I could. It didn’t have a playground, working air conditioning or a pool – but that was ok, the next hotel we were scheduled to stay at was a super nice place with a massive pool. But now, I had a Hubs in the ER for the night and two kids with NOTHING to do. We were to hike around the caves for a few days, but they “noped” that activity after the first five steps into the cave. We checked out of the motel and checked into a hotel with a pool. Canceled the following night’s hotel in Gatlinburg. I could totally see the lost money flying out of my purse.

Day three, we swam. We waited. We went to the drug store and bought Pokémon cards. We finally got the Hubs back.

Day four, I drove Over the Mountains while the Hubs slept with his muscle relaxer.

Days Five, Six and Seven, we realized something that was golden and a simple internet search would have told me this, but did you know that the South is sort of famous for their BBQ?

This is where the ‘Laugh’ sign gets lit for the audience.

I wish that I had thought to research all the BBQ restaurants that were on the route of where we were going. If nothing else, this kid can and will survive on pulled pork. Even more, whereas a BBQ chef won’t tell me what is in his secret family rub, he will tell you if your allergens are in it. The relief was so strong, that I thought about leaving the very bulky food tote in a motel and driving off. I didn’t.

The rest of the vacation was uneventful and full of relaxation and bliss. We did find all of the local BBQ joints, we ate our way through the south, and we ended up coming home with a nearly full food tote.

Mining For Gold in Cherokee, NC

What did I learn for from all of this? I can’t plan everything out. It just won’t happen that smoothly. I learned that the one family member that I was most worried about was the least trouble. I learned that the world has options that we can use.  I learned that planning the vacation to stay inexpensive is like poking the proverbial bear.

Oh, and Cherokee is where I ended up spending my birthday. At the base of the mountains, with the scent of flowers and green in the air, I spent the twilight of my 38th drinking a water on a shared motel balcony with a motorcycle club. 12/10 would do again.

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What’s for Dinner?

What’s for Dinner?

Let’s talk menu planning! It’s so fun and exciting! You remember when I said that we have boring times, too, right? This is one of them. But seriously, menu planning is a lifesaver. A while back, I messaged a very large group of my friends and asked them what their dinner staples were. We were getting to the point where we were eating the same foods over and over again:

I got some interesting feedback from my friends. Many of them seemed to have weeks like mine, but a few of them had menus that they followed and rotated through. I wanted to be like those people.

One night, over dinner of Hank-safe chicken nuggets (see recipe here), I took out a notebook and as a family, we wrote down everything that we eat for dinner that we like. The list was short, about 10 items. So we started another list, foods that we had not tried before as a family but wanted to. This was the first step and we all felt super good about it.

The next step was to make a list of the days of the week and what we were doing for meals. Then came the list of the ingredients needed and what of that we already had in our larder or freezer. I know that this all feels very basic, but again and in our defense, we weren’t the only family living life this way. We were basically learning how to effectively feed ourselves. We’re adulting on a C- grade level here, folks.

Our list has slowly been increasing. From 10 staples to 24 in about six months. This is not a bad start. Someday, we hope to have a list that allows the love of food to come out a little more in all of us. Not to mention enough options that those of us without allergies won’t get bored of and therefore stop wanting to cook (it’s me, I’m talking about me).

I spend many hours searching for new recipes that I can Frankenstein into Hank-safe dinners. I have a Pinterest board labeled “Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom” and another named, plainly “Instant Pot.” I can’t do it all, but I’ll try, even if the final taste is nothing like what the original chef intended.

Starting menu planning also has another awesome outcome: Saving Money. Yes, I used everything in my basic Word Doc arsenal so that it would look fancy. We have about 5 restaurants that we can safely eat at and two of them, Hank is forced plain rice. So, really – three. But a dinner for the four of us, with Hank’s being a series of sides and specialty cooked items, gets very expensive. $40 – $70 an evening seriously adds up. Not to mention that occasionally, we have to remove a restaurant as they change safe recipes or plate an allergen. It all becomes too much.

So, with extra money in our pockets and food made from our kitchen, we’re adulting near a B+ grade level.

Leave your favorite make at home dinners in the comments below, maybe together we can all be menu planners!

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Catholics and Other Creatures

Catholics and Other Creatures

Get to source.

It’s the first in my list of 10 little rules for a blissy life, the guiding mantra that underpins the rest of the philosophy.

And still, I forget.

I was raised Roman Catholic, in an Irish-German family that put tradition and duty above personal fulfillment or enlightenment. Not that there wasn’t love; it was just that this love seemed to me to be highly dependent on “doing the right things.”

In church, I would see parishioners who seemed so devout, so in touch with their God, and I’d wonder why I didn’t feel that. In fact, I struggled to feel it, longed for it.

When I married my first husband, a non-believer, it was easy to back away from the Church and its teachings, giving up on ever finding that connection. This was during a time when the magnitude of abuse by Catholic priests was first coming to light, so there was even a solid basis for a certain amount of moral “rightness” in my decision not to believe.

Still, I was married in the church, baptized my daughters as Catholics, proudly sat by as they were confirmed, and now watch proudly as they make their own spiritual decisions – one remains Catholic while another is a youth pastor in another denomination. Both choices are fine by me – as long as they are finding their source, from wherever theirs springs, I’m at peace with what they choose.

For me, I began to finally feel connected to my Source several years ago when I began to meditate. I realized that this is simply another way to describe what I was raised to believe was prayer – with one key difference. Instead of speaking to some separate entity, petitioning the saints and the holy ones for intercessions, in meditation I connect with most internal being. Semantics, to a large degree, this idea of connecting with source.

When I found this connection, my life altered in ways that could be defined as miraculous in religious terms. And that power to alter circumstances by altering my perceptions continues.

So why is it so easy to forget to do this? What explains my tendency to wait until the wheels fall off in some way before I reconnect with my innermost nature? That’s the million dollar question.

Last week was a challenge. I spent several days in New York with my parents at their senior living community. It was good to see them and have this length of time with them, but being with them is difficult on a lot of levels.

For one, they are both struggling with some debilitating cognitive issues, so conversation and everyday tasks demand an incredible amount of patience and focus. And my dad has some physical limitations that slow normal life down to a mind-numbingly slow pace. Still, we had some laughs, met some of their friends, and I found a stronger compassion for them than previous. And when Mom wandered off in Target, leaving Dad in his scooter on the verge of panic, I was able to breathe, focus and deal with the situation calmly and easily.

Where does getting to source come into all of this? Frankly, if I hadn’t been meditation and doing yoga during my visit, I would have lost patience, gotten angry, escalated the potential minefields into explosions, and basically made everyone – self most of all – miserable.

At the end of the week, they were supposed to fly down south with me for a week on the beach. The idea was too much for them, and it became quite apparent the night before the flight that it wasn’t going to happen. So I flew down on my own, where John was waiting for me at the airport.

I was so sad. Sad that they couldn’t enjoy the beach, sad that their traveling days are clearly over, missing the people they were just a few years ago, when they flew to Hawaii for an island cruise and had a level of independence they’ll never experience again.

Having intentionally gotten closer to source through the week, I was able to feel that sadness for what it was – a reflection of the love I had for these people, and my wishes for their happiness. It didn’t take me under or make me miserable. I was able to truly feel that sadness and still know it wasn’t going to take me down.

When we are connected with source – whether that’s in meditation, prayer, a long walk on the beach, however that shows up for us – we can feel those emotions and know they aren’t bottomless. We can be sad, happy, anxious, scared, elated – and feel them, recognized them, and choose how to act on them.

The work of being human begins with recognizing that we aren’t just human at all, that there is an inescapable spiritual side to every one of us. Connecting to that realization is the ultimate source of peace.

 

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Whispers and Creativity

Whispers and Creativity

It was a long, long time ago.  I still remember it as sharply as a sunny summer day.  The advice was heartfelt and genuine and I bought it without question.  It took me decades to discover that although delivered “in my best interest,”  it was not the truth for me.  And now, in retrospect, the only thing that matters is that I did not know enough then to listen to my own whispers.  Where do you hear your whispers?

I was always an artist in my own mind, as a child.  Yet it never entered my mind that I actually could be an artist.  When the nuns told me not to take math classes in middle school, and instead try Home Economics, well … I just did what I was told.  So today, math is not my thing. Go figure.

What is important is that I heard those whispers way back then.  The whispers spoke to me even if I did not recognize them as creativity, a calling,  inspiration, or a call to action.

I believe we all have whispers that are screaming to get our attention.  And the sooner we listen to them, with respect and playfulness, the sooner we arrive where we truly want to be…doing what we truly want to do.

Where do you hear your whispers?    Most likely it’s while you are in silence or when you feel your own brand of yummy giggles.  Both are places of honor and are not to be taken lightly or given away.

Rule #1 in “10 Little Rules for your Creative Soul” is Thou Shalt Not Steal.  Do not steal from yourself the holy sound of silence where your whispers will be heard loud and clear.  Do not steal from yourself when you experience moments of pure bliss and pass it off as silly.  Do not steal from yourself the opportunity to hear your own whispers.  If you ignore the whispers, the cosmic 2 x 4 will arrive to somehow get your attention.  That, my friends, is not fun.

Give yourself the gift of silence.  Honor yourself and open yourself to what you are trying to express.

Be Original.

Rita

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School, the Germ Factory

School, the Germ Factory

So, it is common knowledge that schools have kids in them (seriously! They do!) And I think that we all know that kids have germs. Put those two things together and suddenly, you have mass produced illnesses. But, for these illnesses to take hold, you need something to carry it around. THE KIDS! It is a vicious cycle, folks.

Sending Hank to school was a scary prospect for us. We had seen his brother come home with everything under the sun during the first year and, in turn, infect us like he was being paid to do it. And he was healthy! Hank’s compromised immune system has seen him more sick than healthy this year. We had never had the croup in the house until this year and now we’re up to three times. The flu once, and cold after cold after cold. Right now, we have – what we think – is the stomach flu. Sleepless night and nothing staying in (and I stopped drinking caffeine?!? What is wrong with me?) coupled with being warm and floppy means another few days of sitting on the couch with the puke bucket.

Nesting with the Flu

Yes, I said it, the puke bucket. A trusty friend to flare ups, colds and whatever we are currently dealing with. I saw once, on one of my social media support group boards, that one common theme was the puke bucket. Nearly everyone had one. And I thought that we were so clever.

It is a glamorous life, the mother of an allergy kid. I would say an EOE kid, but, hey I think that everyone could use a puke bucket in their lives. OK, that was mean.

How do you avoid bringing these germs into the haven that is your home? This is what we do:

  • We enjoy a multitude of soaps at every sink. Take your pick! We have antibacterial liquid and foams, fancy homemade bar soaps and even a few tiny hotel styles from the Husband’s many adventures. I have noticed that sometimes a kid won’t wash their hands after the bathroom if you just have a plain container or a plain boring bar. Seriously. We’re finding fun here through the buffet of soaps.
  • We also utilize a complete housekeeping service here in our household. They come every day and focus on the entire house. Ok, it is me. I clean daily. When I first left my job, I experimented with making my own cleaning products. But now, I fall back on the convenient and premade manufactured brands that jam enough bleach into every wipe that they eliminate everything. I hate to think of all the illnesses that we are not getting because I walk around wiping everything down a few times a week.
  • Changing out furnace filters monthly is a basic household necessity, but it also allows for better air flow which help eliminate mold and dust.
  • Vacuuming everything. I hate this chore. HATE it. I hate lugging the vacuum through the house, but that feeling when I dump the canister is one breeching on victory.
  • Oh dear. Laundry. It is a never-ending cycle, but staying on top of sheets, shirts and those rando socks all over the house helps keep germs and sickness at bay.

Seriously, I am chuckling to myself right now. I am talking about all the cleaning and care that we do just to avoid illness when we have SOMETHING almost weekly.

Honestly, the best way to make it through the illnesses is to invest in a quality thermometer, many “trash” towels to clean up the never-ending puke and a beverage that helps rehydrate your sickos. For recipes on making your own, head over to Pinterest and see what you can find. For us, we’re lucky to be able to use Gatorade.

Do you have any suggestions that I haven’t thought of? Please, share them! Remember, you are a part of the family now.

 

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Coffee & Creativity

Coffee & Creativity

Picture me carrying my coffee, walking into my studio and painting on this cold, sunny March day in Michigan.  Just that customary practice of taking my coffee into my sanctuary starts to stir things up inside me.  Good things.  Creative things.  I only drink one cup of coffee a day, so it’s not the caffeine. But it got me to thinking about how rituals and clarity can work for us in our attempts to be creative.  Can we “create” creativity?  Hmmm … or are we either creative or not creative?

We don’t need anything to become inspired. Rather, we need to take our attention away from what we see and move into the miraculous world of creativity, where joy and bliss awaits us!  We are talking all kinds of crazy creativity – your garden, how you prepare a meal, what you paint, how you dress – the list goes on and on and on.

If we feel joy and bliss we are “in the flow,” “in the zone,” “living in yummy giggles.”  It’s all about the feelings. What we do willingly is never a burden.  How could it be if we are feeling joy and bliss?  Even in difficult times we will do the difficult tasks if it gets us to that place of joy and bliss doing something we love or being with someone we love.

And that’s enough to start.  Just do something you love to do and brings you joy and bliss.  You can start big or small, whatever you decide…the point of power is in the present moment.   Doing one little thing that feels like inspiration or creativity will kick-start your journey.

Be Original.  Be You.  As you become the director of your own life, be sure to cast yourself as the star!

Excuse me while I continue off to my studio!  Be Original.  Buy Original.  Rita

 

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Scopes and Other Uses for Nail Polish

Scopes and Other Uses for Nail Polish

On the day that my oldest son started kindergarten, me, the husband, and Hank took him to school and snapped his picture as he stood in front of his classroom door, looking tall and proud. Once the building had him for the day, the three of us switched modes and scurried to an outpatient surgical center for Hank’s first endoscopy. We didn’t even have time to freak out that our first born was now a man of the world, taking on the educational system. We were now in the medical zone. That first scope was awful. I was overly freaking out that we were going to get a horrible diagnosis, it was going to change our lives and it was going to be awful. Well, we did, it did … and it isn’t always awful, but it is always trying.

Small and afraid to eat, he just didn’t care.

For endoscopies, the patient can’t have liquids or solids after midnight the night before. This was more of an issue for me. I thought that I would invoke solidarity with my small son. But, he didn’t care. Small and afraid to eat, he just didn’t care. We sat and waited for him to be called back. We played with flashcards and toys that the nurses had on hand and waited. As it became time to have him go back, we were accosted by the head of Anesthesiology. He was awful. Why were we forcing him to have this procedure, who would have ordered it, why couldn’t we just avoid his allergens? My husband and I were so taken aback that we were shaking. When facing that, we’ve learned it is best to repeat who your doctor is and he can go and talk to him.

Hank’s First Scope

For the first two scopes, we were allowed to go back into the room with Hank. This is a bad idea. It took several people to hold down this tiny little thing of a kid. We have learned that discussing the procedure and age has made this transition down the corridor much easier. For his last scope, Hank walked down to the room, hand in hand with his doctor. He was ready. I was ready. His esophagus was not.

Hank walked down to the room, hand in hand with his doctor.

The time when your child is back with a camera down his throat is an interesting time. The first time, I was fidgety and nervous. The second time, I cried. The last time, I sat in the waiting room, a lone mother bear, drinking hot and burnt coffee while watching other people and their support systems. I glared openly at the mother who was eating, with a spoon, out of a peanut butter tub. Like, seriously, a 55 gallon drum of allergens. In a hospital. There was the poor middle age man who had to bring his mother and she was clearly hamming it up for the others in the room. I knew my time at the zoo was coming to an end when I could hear my child waking up from anesthesia. Guess what? It’s painful and disorienting and freaky to be a small child, hooked up to a drip line without a parent nearby. So the best way to handle it is to be as loud as possible. It also acts as a beacon for your parent to easily find you.

Within a few minutes, I can collect my child, but first, like any fun ride at the amusement park, there are photos! Though ours always turn out like a weird pink and white tunnel of acid, saliva and white cells. It’s a numbers game after that. How high or low is the eosinophil count and where were they found? Hank tends to hoard these in the esophagus, though some patients have them spread out through their whole GI track.

Hank and I paint his toe nails before his procedure.

There are a few things that we do to make this whole process more … I want to say fun, but that is just mean. Bearable? That might be a better word. Hank and I paint his toe nails before his procedure. It makes the nursing staff giggle, makes him feel better and it is a fun release. As he is getting older, at the ripe old age of 6, we’re nearing the end of this tradition. He has become more self-aware and more opinionated. So, we need to think of something else.

Hank’s Last Scope

Since Hank’s GI shares the same common name of a ferocious animal, we found leggings from LuLaRoe in his size, with that animal on them. He proudly showed his doctor and again, made the nurses giggle. Being silly in a non-silly time is ok.

Right? Right.

And for those still following along? David’s first day of kindergarten was possibly his favorite day of his whole life.

Dave’s First Day of School

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