Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holy Cow, It's Easter! A Tribute to My Late Aunt Susie

Easter is always a time of year I think of my late aunt Susie. I remember one Easter in particular as a youngster in Arlington, TX, in particular, and my mom and I were spending time with my dad's youngest sister. I recall doing the age-old holiday egg dying at her small kitchen table as dogs scattered past, a feature of my life in my 20s. Minus the egg dunking. My small kitchen with green cabinets much like the ones you see on the Parenthood set & my dogs running about or napping one on top of the other keeping warm in the Idaho spring weather, the snow doing its best to melt before May. I kept a pot belly stove warm nearby but that wasn't enough for a pair of labs, one chocolate and one "vanilla," as I liked to say. Sierra seemed to enjoy the snuggle a tad more than my man, Bridger. 

Back to Texas and my aunt Susie who was beloved by the family for her personality, quirkiness, charm, and downright sweet nature. When I was little, I remember Susie at every holiday occasion in Arlington, especially Christmas holidays. She would be the first with a margarita drink in her hand
and all the other adults quickly behind. A lot of her high school friends stopped by to see her on Christmas Eves at her childhood home, a modest three-bedroom that - during the growing up years - housed seven children and two parents. When I was old enough to grasp the idea, I still could not possibly believe that the girls were in the front room, the boys in the middle, and the parents in the back in that small of a space! Every time I stayed there after my years waiting for Santa Claus I shook my head in wonder, How on earth did Daddy, Susie, and the rest of his siblings do THAT? Not to mention there was only one bathroom for five girls and two boys! That's a lot of patience. 

Susie's friends were everyone's friends. They hugged me every time they came by, exchanged hellos with my parents, and my other aunts and uncles. Susie always seemed to have a smile. Grinning ear to ear, she sang her kind of carols for the December holiday. These didn't involve Rudolph, Santa, or a sleigh of packages. It was more like a great big sleigh of songs from Texas troubadours Guy Clark & Jerry Jeff Walker.

The family sang Texas Cookin', Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother, and Pissin' in the Wind... YEAH, there was no Silent Night, for sure. And it was all off key. {Wink!} Poor neighbors. But everyone had fun. I was probably put to sleep before the real fun started. I so desperately wanted to be an adult back then and experience the shrill laughter, the stories, and more. I will never forget my two aunts, Susie and Nancy, kicking up their heels with drinks in their hands; I don't know if their eyes or grins were wider. 

An even quirkier side of Susie was that she loved to collect: cows. Not out in the field exactly... Memorabilia.  Cow ANYTHING! MOO-OVER, it's for Susie. This gal, my aunt, had cow kitchen towels, cow coffee mugs, a cow nightshirt,funny cow slippers,a cow refrigerator magnet collection, and the list goes on..

For Christmas one year, I found the perfect gift: a 12 oz. cream-colored mug with large black splotches all over it.  Of course, she loved it. I don't think I ever asked her why she loved cows so much. I wished I did. 

You know, it's funny looking back I don't remember actually talking a lot to Susie come to think of it. It was probably small chats here and there. I spent time watching Susie interact with family and friends. As an impressionable elementary school student, I wanted to soak up who she was as a person as best I could. Her traits were so likable. I wanted to be just like her. Little did I know then, we shared a trait already, a genetic one. 

On a Good Friday, one I will never forget, Mom, Susie and I went to The Stations of the Cross at a Catholic Church in North Texas.
Easter memories
For those of you not familiar, Stations of the Cross follow the story of Jesus carrying the cross to his moment of crucifixion. There are places around the church, plaques or artistic reliefs, that document each moment of Jesus' journey.*

Susie had to endure her own fateful journey, a battle of disease, of surgery, of personal struggle, of saying good-bye. I wasn't there but I am told she was a fighter until the very end. It doesn't surprise me at all.

When things get bad in my own chronic pain realm, I try to think of her bright smile, laughter, and great view of life. The genetic trait I mentioned earlier was Neurofibromatosis or NF1. It was a complicated road of surgeries, hope, the latests drugs, more hope, but in the end it was not to be. It more than cringes me to think she couldn't be with me today.

I have Neurofibromatosis or NF3, Schwannomatosis.* She was in her late 20s when cancer claimed her life. Yet, it didn't claim her spirit, memory, or sparkling attitude. I am still *always* recalling that trio of magnificent emblems, if you will. These will cradle me to my lasting day on this earth. 

What are your emblems? Is there someone in your life you hold dear? What are their sparkling qualities that you see? Write 'em down and let them know. What are lessons you have learned by way of them regarding  LIFE? 

Even though I didn't know her a long time, the time I did have with her was rich, full of lessons. Here's just a few I learned:
1) Always have another margarita! 
2) Party with friends and family! She loved being with both!
3) Go for the romance! She went to Kalamazoo to be with her boyfriend, Jerry. They later married and I was the flower girl! 
4) Animals are a great gift! Treat them with kindness, care, and cuddles. She always had 'em around -- all sizes! 
5) Music can lift up your mood! For Susie, Texas folk music could cure about anything! Here's Guy Clark's Texas Cookin'  for you to try!
6) Start a collection. Anything. Ladybugs.Antiques. I collected frogs at one point. Not real ones. Well, there were the handful of aquatic ones in the fish tank. Another time. Next. It tells something about your personality, maybe too much! Giggle. 
7) Sweet w/ a tad of spice - I think having a sweeter disposition can get you farther in this world than the harsh, hard-as-nails approach. Although, sometimes you do have to speak your mind. Susie did on occasion. A gal has to do what a gal has to do. 
8) Keep up with friends! Get an address book at the dollar store to keep tabs on all your favorite people. Your precious electronic phone needs a backup anyway. Put phone numbers, birthdays, addresses, and names of friends' and family's little ones. Your set. Then, have a margarita! Celebrate! Job well done.
9) Simple: Enjoy life. We are not here forever. Hug that husband. Remember why you went on the first date with him. Cuddle those kids. Call your parents. Sit back and take a deep breath. Take the dog for a walk. Play with the kitten. Exercise. Hear yourself breath. Too much? Meditation. Read a good book.Sit on the back porch and listen to spring... if it's arrived yet! Just ENJOY!

 Ahhh... Something smells good. It's LIFE! 
Or a slice of homemade pie w/ a fresh cup* of coffee

 ©The Healing Redhead

*The photo is provided by Facebook pal/high school friend Nathan Wolf. 
*The tradition as chapel devotion began with St. Francis of Assisi and extended throughout the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period. It is observed in Lutheranism and within the Anglo-Catholic wing of Anglicanism. The Stations of the Cross may be done at any time, but is most commonly done during the Season of Lent, especially on Good Friday and on Friday evenings during Lent.
*Learn more about Schwannomatosis here
*The cup may or may not be cream and have black spots on it! {wink} 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Get Distracted & Help Your Pain Tips from The Healing Redhead

Dealing with the trials of chronic pain can get old ... FAST! Those of us dealing with the effects of tumor pain, migraines, arthritis, fibromyalgia and other types of chronic pain can lead difficult lives. No doubt about that!

Stop a minute, right where you are. Relax your shoulders, shake your head and spine like a dog shaking off cold water. Tell that imperious voice in your head to be still.  
--Barbara Kingsolver
@Modern Dog Magazine via Pinterest

(Remember when you see a * GO to the bottom of the blog for more text/added details. The Healing Redhead: Sorry about the text, y'all. I think an evil gremlin lives under there. I tried every trick I know... except getting off Blogger. :( It wasn't intentional.) 

When your pain is on HIGH and your patience is finally on "E," you need ways to work the mind & body so that it feels even more energized when the pills kick in! If you don't take pills, distractions are even MORE IMPORTANT!  There's gotta be unusual, different and fun ways to distract yourself from the pain and we don't all have airline tickets to beautiful islands like every star and reality star on the planet! I've come up with The Healing Redhead's List of Distractions! But first, a quick interlude...below. 

A story. 

With our pain it's not like a cold or flu somebody gets once or twice a year. This is a continual cycle on-and-off through the week or it rides an unknowable flare schedule month to month or it's all about Al as in Roker & his weather patterns! I'm serious! 

A cold front came in last night and this morning I was contorted in my bed, heating pad on warm, and tried not to scare my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy cuddled next to me. My body, like so many times before, felt like metal, not muscle. My hands, especially my left, felt as though they were burning, metal bending into different shapes. An early morning art installation and the artist is Pain.

 My knee, an entire other formation, was a raging fire. Where's a handsome fireman when you need one? Wait, he would have to be especially skilled to get that fire out! Maybe a hot neurosurgeon/firefighter... Do those exist? LOL! I should look that up! {wink!} 

My ears hurt and have for months and months. I still don't understand their language.  Consider the ears the teenagers of this unit, this mysterious unit of my aging body. Misbehaving, lawless. Oh, don't even get me started. 

Luckily, most everything got under control by mid-morning that day. Except the ears. It's all day-long, all night-long trying to understand what is wrong. Just when I think I got it -- like that elusive mathematics problem - another eruption, problem begins. Talk about perseverance. Ears don't quit. 

Days later I'm editing & they're hurting and not a 1 or 2 on the pain scale. A four at least. Then when I think I have a break from it all, calm and even not a bark or snore from the pooches, the symphony of aggravation erupts: tinnitus. I guess it is too much to ask to be the conductor of my own body.


Sometimes when we have pain and/or when we are waiting for pills to work, we need a distraction. Or 10. A little something to take our mind off the sizzling pain, the grueling headache, or the numbing body aches, right? It might help. Why not try, right? 

If we have something say, in the vault, ready to go, then when this happens tomorrow, the next day, or even next week you AND I will be ready. 

(Sidebar: This won't take away the pain itself. It merely distracts you while the pain pill(s) work(s) or the pain itself subsides. I am not a doctor, I am a suggestor-logist! Keep that in mind. I make suggestions to help my readers, that's it.*)

OK, are you ready?

Lip service
Next time you are at the store, indulge. Get a fun gloss or a retro-fun one, i.e. Bonnie Bell. Think about getting a nourishing body lotion, too. When the pain strikes do a mini makeover. Add gloss & lotion. Be easy on yourself. Add slowly, perhaps close your eyes, and say comforting healing thoughts/mantras: "It feels good to be well." "Beauty starts on the inside." "Wellness is an act of love." Perhaps you can follow up with a glass of water. Sip slowly. Add gloss when complete.

Sports fever
For guys & gals who love the action-packed field, there are plenty of live and best-loved games of the past ESPN plays and don't forget sports-related movies are always worth the popcorn and couch-potato time even when just hanging out and pain is level. What about: Hoosiers, Rudy, The Natural & The Sandlot, huh? Have a few queued on your phone or TV when The Pain hits. Coaches and players have great inspirational books, too.

After-school Special
I'm a TV child of the '80s-'90s and I spent many fun-filled hours watching clever, often silly shows like Punky Brewster, Cheers, Family Matters & Mel's Diner. Anyone, remember these oldies, but goodies? HA! OK, OK they're not THAT old! It's interesting to watch the childhood shows from an adult context and see if these oldies but goodies could make it today given scripts and jokes. Are they timeless or tacky or just plain wacky? Given the number of cable channels, YouTube, Netflix,, etc. there's no reason not to check out M.A.S.H., Magnum P.I., The Mary Tyler Moore Show or Ally McBeal.* Saved By the Bell is still syndicated on some channels...But of course I haven't watched in... awhile! Nervous giggle. No really. It has been awhile. Oldie shows not only makes you smile but they bring back memories from a lighter, sillier time. Oh, youth. How I miss thee. Grab it back in 30-minute segments. The pain may or may not go away but you got a guaranteed blast from the past!*

Focus on Flowers 
My mom was sweet to surprise me with Valentine's Day/Birthday flowers. I am a February baby. I just loved looking at the bouquet. It sounds cheesy to say but the tulips were like a burst of cheeriness. Since I am unable to get out much this blast of color and vibrancy just filled me up each time I passed 'em. Ideas: You can post a photo of wildflowers on your computer, treat yourself to a potted plant or small bouquet, or think about gardening plans for spring and summer. Get this... I ended up buying a small bouquet of purple flowers after my birthday that have nearly lasted two weeks. I go near the flowers to get my pills AKA pain control. I try to remind myself to take a deep breath and soak in the view of the flowers. Each time I can remember this is like a mini-meditation. 

Be a Kid Again 
It can be as easy as rolling a few dice, spinning a plastic wheel or choosing a few playing cards. Sometimes distractions do involve a little effort but in the end the winner may be you! You can play Words with Friends on your iPad. You also can watch Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and/or Family Feud and get a fun bet going among those watching nearby. If you have the energy and pain is not too much, Dominoes and Checkers are worth a round. Both were popular during my childhood and still fun today. I have fabulous memories playing those games. There's always GoFish and yet another goodie, the always fun, always exciting... MASH!* Gals, come on! You know it was "Mansion Apartment Shack House!" I know that will get a laugh!

Other Options

Dark chocolate Mmm... Sinful dark chocolate! Why NOT?
Walkin' - YOU better know how the song goes... or you better get off my blog! HA! Just kidding! A slow walk in the neighborhood or at a park might spark a funny story or let you be able to reflect in nature. It might certainly get your mind off PAIN!
CALM ohm... Tunes - Put some smooth tunes on your iPod or whatever current playlist technology you use. Sometimes it might not be calm tunes that allow you ease and comfort! Maybe it's rowdy '70s tunes or loud heavy-metal bands because it reflects how you feel on the inside. Whatever it is, cue it up for your next flare up and see if it helps!

What Would YOU PUT Here? Please keep it G/PG, PLEASE. Thank you. 

 ©The Healing Redhead

*Please read my "Disclaimer." There's a tab directly above this post.
*Even episodes of Punky are available online and at stores! ;)
*OMG, remember Charles in Charge? Ha! That theme song! 
*You  thought I was going to say Old Maid. I wouldn't... DARE. Not at my age & predicament! ;) Ha!