The Guardian Angel in the X-Ray Room

Dear Reader:

Yesterday was one of those days I had circled on my calendar in red…a day best wished for it to be over….kind of day. Yet, it turned out anything but…

Since losing my long-time friend and oncologist, Dr. Silgals, to retirement, I  just recently was scheduled for a CT scan (chest, stomach, pelvis)  so my new oncologist would have a baseline for future treatments. This was a new one for me.

I remembered having a PET-Scan initially and some x-rays for surgeries but not this particular type of x-ray. The term “computed tomography” (CT) is often used to refer to X-ray CT, because it is the most commonly known form.

To patients going through it like me…it means the x-ray where you have to drink that thick, pasty-tasting barium. I was more afraid of it than the x-ray itself….I was scared I wouldn’t be able to get it down and /or  keep it down long enough for the x-ray.

My first guardian angel came in the form of Gin-g Edwards who had just had this same x-ray done weeks before. She gave me all the best hints on how to get the stuff down without gagging it back out. She insisted I needed someone to go with me for this x-ray because the drink can make one feel queasy (she was right) and no need to risk  driving myself…she was taking me.

I came through like a champ getting the drink down because I had come down with a head cold following my flu shot and was congested enough to not taste or smell anything. (God works in mysterious ways.)

I will have to admit, though, my poor stomach was not very happy with it and I was nervous I was going to get in that machine in stomach crisis mode. But instead…another guardian angel opened the door to the CT Scan room with a big smile and told me to come on in. She pointed to another half-filled cup with the barium mix in it and I groaned…”Really? More?” 

“Just make it quick…you can do it” Sheila (as I later discovered her name) said. “This is the last worst part, I promise…once you get in the tube the whole procedure will only take about eight minutes.”

I picked up the glass and gulped it down in one swift gulp. “Wow…you are good Sheila said...I still have to hold my nose.”

“I would,” I admitted, “except I have a head cold and can’t taste or smell much of anything.” “Great timing” Sheila responded!

As Sheila prepared me for the CT scan I asked her how long she had worked there (11 years) and how she gotten interested in x-rays. She told me a story about working with a cancer patient when she had just started…how the elderly woman would bring fresh homemade cookies each time she came for an x-ray. One day she didn’t come and she discovered she had died in her sleep over the weekend.

Sheila told me that it hurt so much she decided not to work with cancer patients at the time but God was slowly leading her back…and eleven years earlier the Charleston Cancer Center decided to include their own CT Scan X-ray Lab. She was asked to head it up. She was ready now to work with cancer patients and told me she absolutely loves it! She was put right where she belongs.

The lab room was large, white, bright, with windows lining one whole wall…not like the old dark, claustrophobic rooms I remembered. There were fall leaves welcoming me into the “tunnel” and Sheila could hardly wait for Christmas to start decorating the waiting room and the x-ray room with lots of Christmas cheer.

When I finished she went over to a basket and pulled out two chocolate chip cookies, one for me and one for Gin-g…something she did for all her patients dating back to the sweet gift of the elderly lady years before.

 

Gin-g, Sheila, and I talked for several minutes after the procedure about Thanksgiving, cooking turkeys, etc. and we all left feeling better than before we arrived. Sheila, the CT Scan Angel had turned a red-circle day to a bright gold star day…a day to remember God sends us the right people at the right time to help us.

So until tomorrow…Let us all remember:

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

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Happiness…Starts with Purging

Dear Reader:

Yesterday when the blog on “Big Red” went out Cindy Ashley asked me if I had read the “Happiness Project” yet…I have not but I do remember it was an answer on the game show Jeopardy, no less.

Cindy said in the book the first chapter starts setting the path for happiness with ‘purging stuff.’ Exactly what I am doing. And to tell you the truth…it does make me happy…When I got up yesterday morning and walked in the computer room I started grinning from ear to ear….(This room was starting to torment me with guilt feelings for having so many books that should be used by educators, teachers, students, book lovers but instead the books were just collecting dust…

I thought about the Nuremberg Trials and remembered the first excuse many defendants were prepared to use to  excuse their conduct in the concentration camps was “I was just following orders.” Once that excuse was thrown out as a legal defense…it was pretty much over.

I decided that my lame excuse for not getting control over all my years and years of book collecting and workshop clutter was starting…it was so overwhelming…I didn’t know where to begin.

But then once I got going and had thrown out a few bags of stuff…I started purging with the best of’ ’em!

Purge: To rid, clear, or free.  Ridding the computer room of hundreds of copies of old worksheets, notebooks, coursework requirements, obsolete paperbacks and textbooks was just so liberating! Even though I was really tired after Monday…I knew that if I kept at it Tuesday I could finish this mammoth project and I kept picturing how happy this would make me feel. And it did!

Even yesterday…when I walked back into the computer room to work on this blog post…I found myself smiling again. Jumbled thoughts felt like they had been purged too…instead my thinking was clearer and lighter.

One thing ‘little c’  has taught me is not to waste time with negative people…they only bring us down. It is okay to choose the company we want to be surrounded with…people filled with humor, fun, charisma, perseverance, and hope…people who lift us up like an air balloon.

We all get sad and down sometimes…that is normal…the people I find myself purging from my daily life are the eternal complainers, whiners and gloomy nay-sayers…the people who never see good in any situation and always look for the worst in people.

That is why yesterday it was so wonderful to be surrounded with the Ya’s, Linda and Betsy…all women of courage, hope, and optimism….besides just being downright funny!

California Dreaming here we come! This has gotten to be our birthday gathering place for Jackson and Betsy…Nov 16 and 18. We always have such a good time, the food is delicious, and the company the best…laughter and more laughter. Together we lift everyone to a higher level of happiness when we gather.

No matter how many serious medical/health obstacles have found one or more of us during the previous year…the slate is wiped clean and we are all convinced that the new birthday year is going to be the best year ever! And you know what? As long as we can all still gather the next year at the same time and same place…life has been at its very best!

*Have you ever seen so many shades of blue…Betsy and Linda went black but it looks like the rest of us called each other (like middle-schoolers) and decided to all go “blue” in dress but “bright red, yellow, oranges” in atmosphere! Happy official birthday today Jackson!

So until tomorrow…Good health and happiness go together so let’s all be just as happy as we can be!

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

  • Look Anne what is hanging on this wall at Jackson’s home….your adorable painting of Jackson’s tractor when she was five years old!
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The Constant Love and Joy of “Big Red”

Dear Reader:

“Big Red” is starting to attract neighborhood attention. Vickie came over and took a picture over the weekend (the photo above) when I was in Mt. Pleasant (Vickie said the morning sun had just set it aglow) helping keep the grandchildren. Then Sunday afternoon I saw a car slow down and was about to go out on the porch to see if someone was stopping when I heard the driver telling the story of “Big Red”and how it had bloomed ever since I had come home from my first breast cancer surgery… almost a decade ago.

By the time I got out on the porch the car had driven off so I don’t know what neighbor was sharing the story but it sure made me happy to know that the story is being shared and passed around.

And now here it is Thanksgiving…and “Big Red” is in full bloom…healthy and happy. “Big Red” is my best health o’meter cheerleader and keeps me smiling at the determined red geranium… who will be ten years old this May. Wow!

The idea behind “Big Red’s” name came from the children’s book on the westward movement called Red Flower Goes West. I thought I had lost the book but Monday and Tuesday I tackled the last chaotic room in the house….my computer room and book shelves and found it.

In the children’s story the little boy traveling west with his family knows how much the red geranium means to his mom….her only vestige of life back east. Through droughts, floods, famine, etc. the red flower, with the help of the little boy, survives. Somehow he understands that  the family will only make it out west safe and sound if the red geranium survives so it can be planted on their new homestead.

*( That is the way I feel about “Big Red”…as long as the leaves are green and buds appear…I feel like “little c” is still in check and life goes on. )

At the end of the story….the grateful mother hugs her children and says:

After two days of throwing away bags, projects, and/or old notebooks and workbooks, clutter that has grown over time, setting more books aside for friends and colleagues to read…the computer room is de-cluttered!!!!!

My reward has been finding special books like Red Flower Goes West for all my hard work. Special stories are grouped together, spiritual stories are closest to the computer for easy access and ideas for stories tucked away in my brain…where it has finally become de-cluttered too.

What a delicious feeling of freedom and space to walk into my computer room and find organization again. The older I get the more I need de-cluttered spaces around me in order to think, imagine, and create.

So until tomorrow…Thank you God for “Big Red” in whom I see YOU each and every morning…letting me know we are still holding hands through this journey in life. Joy does come in the mornings!

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

*Gin-g….pumpkin bread and now chicken/pimento cheese croissants…I think I have my own personal “meal on wheels” in the form of Gin-g Edwards! Thank you friend so very much! Until our next adventure…

 

*Speaking of adventures…Brooke and I are heading to Columbia today for Jackson’s birthday…as well as…Betsy’s too. Love any opportunity for us to all get back together…even for only a few hours!

 

*So glad I will be gone tomorrow when the trash is picked up…my trash can feels like it weighs two tons and I could not have squeezed one more bag of stuff in it if I had tried.

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“Be Mindful of Other Folks”

Dear Reader:

 

One of my favorite local writers has always been the late-great avid sports writer, Ken Burger, who later branched out with his writings authoring my favorite book of his, Baptized in Sweet Tea.

I could and still can relate to so many of the southern expressions he heard growing up from his mother and other relatives. He mentions in the book that every time he left the house his mother yelled out at him “Be Sweet now, ya hear?”

I got a lot of “Be sweet’s” too from mother and grandmother whenever I was leaving to go somewhere, but actually the farewell “warnings” I remember best all started with “Mindful.” As in:

“Becky Lynn…be mindful of your manners or Becky Lynn be mindful of others, or Becky Lynn be mindful of your mouth and only say sweet things.”

The term “mindful” has made a big comeback in the last few years…going from a southern colloquial expression to a new age ideal…now more associated with words like meditation, yoga, self-awareness, living in the moment, etc.

There are hundreds of books, magazines and newspaper columns on the market these days talking about the term “mindful” or “mindfulness” and even more hundreds of institutes, camps, workshops, etc. available for anyone to attend.

My lovely daughter-in-law, Kaitlyn, just wrote her latest blog entry on this term and updated her mother-in-law to the new meanings of the term. She incorporates the term into her graduate class on legal ethics.

I really enjoyed the blog. I love Kaitlyn’s writing style- honest, clear and concise. So I asked her if I could share it with you today so we can all get updated and be “mindful” of our place in this old world…and our contribution to it.

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I’m in my third semester as an adjunct professor at the Charleston School of Law where I teach “Professional Responsibility” which is essentially legal ethics. My main purpose is to prepare students to take the Model Rules of Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) and teach them the professional rules of conduct governing attorneys. However, I see my role as much more. I want to teach them the skills necessary to be a resilient lawyer, and live a well-balanced life style.

When I was in law school, I constantly felt overwhelmed, stressed, and burdened. I often lacked perspective on the bigger picture of my life and could only focus on the crushing weight of school work and achievement. After encouragement from friends, including my now husband, I found yoga. In preparation for the bar exam I took a break and went to yoga every day. Yoga was for me and no one else.  It was a place where I could shut the door to the rest of the world and most importantly not think about school or becoming an attorney. I was living in the moment, if only for that one hour.

Yoga has been teaching me the practice of mindfulness for almost ten years now. Jon Kabat Zinn coined the phrase “mindfulness” in his book Full Catastrophe Living, defining it as “paying attention on purpose”. Mindfulness is my own personal superpower and a skill I work on every day (some more than others). It is this life altering experience of mindfulness that I seek to share with my students.

In an effort to pass on such a great and necessary skill to my students, I implemented a “mindfulness exercise” and wellness requirement. Every morning before class we all participate in a daily “exercise”. These exercises consist of a variety of techniques such as physical stretches or movements (such as simple yoga poses/stretches), meditation, writing exercises, gratitude practices, and even watching videos on meditation or concepts like shame by Brene Brown. All of these exercises offer an opportunity to experience the current moment or engage in a type of self discovery creating more self awareness. Initially, several students find the exercises awkward, uncomfortable, or embarrassing. These initial reactions are helpful and, in fact, part of the exercise.They offer an opportunity to move through discomfort and figure out how to exist in that space while teaching students to look past the superficial, egoist ideas our minds feed us to discourage anything perceived as “different”. As I’ve been constantly reminded by some of my great teachers, the mind is what is insecure – not the body – the body possesses no ego.

 “Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”

The wellness requirement is my method of getting students to engage in mindfulness outside of the classroom. It is also an effort to get students to start healthy habits before the struggle of work-life balance as attorney becomes more prohibitive.

The requirement, pulled directly from my syllabus, is below:

As part of living a well-rounded life, I want to make sure you are enjoying healthy activities outside these walls. Having a hobby or an outlet for anxiety is essential for everyone, but especially for life as a lawyer. Before the course is over I would like to you participate in three wellness activities of your choice and write a brief summary of your experience (so I know you did it). It might be interesting to try something you’ve never done. These activities do NOT require you to spend money. Here are some (but not an exclusive list) of ideas:

-Yoga, Walking the bridge, Spin Class, Meditation, Group Fitness, Bike ride, Surfing, Paddle Boarding-

The most exciting part of this exercise is seeing the unique approaches to mindfulness from my students. While I have offered this as a learning experience for them, as usual (the old adage), I often learn just as much from my students.

I have students who have found meditation in listening to jazz music and playing basketball with their children. There are students who are parents that choose to share a mindful living technique with their family by instituting a “no cell phone policy” during family evenings. Some find mental relief lifting weights in the gym while others enjoy a simple walk with a dog or a new friend. Waking up an hour early might create more space and decrease the anxiety of the morning rush. Developing morning and evening routines allows for a sense of regularity and comfort  in an otherwise chaotic schedule. For some it is as simple as allowing yourself to nap.

As you can see there is not a specific method for mindfulness. There is not just one way to meditate or be in the moment. Often the beauty in this practice is finding these simple forms of well-being in your every day life that you had not quite noticed before. Maybe it is  savoring the taste of your morning coffee and what it smells, and feels like as you take the liquid in for the first sip. You might not have noticed that the gentle whizz and swirl of the washing machine and dryer seems to offer a rhythm of which to set your breath and relax the body.

Can you look and find these beautiful moments of mindfulness in your life? Are there places where you find a “me moment”?

What does everyday mindfulness look like for you?

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So until tomorrow: Let us all be “mindful” of the fact that the things we take for granted someone else is praying for…

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

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Grateful for Family

Dear Reader:

Never have these words (Grateful for Family) rung truer than this past weekend…when the family split up forces/shifts to go in and keep Rutledge and Lachlan while Walsh and Mollie took one last weekend alone… until Eloise makes her appearance in late December and or early January.

Next month is also a benchmark birthday for Walsh so Mollie wanted to include a little birthday celebrating this past weekend, also, since Eloise could arrive on or around dad’s or Uncle Tommy’s birthdays. We will have a lot of “Kringle Dingles” around!

Friday night, the James Island Festival of Lights, had to be altered because John came down with some sort of “yuckiness” and had to turn around and drive back home. With Carrie’s help Mandy and I and the kids continued on with our plans of seeing Mandy’s school Christmas postcard, ride the train through the enchanted forest, drink hot cocoa (and believe me it was hot) and let the children ride the carousel. A beautiful night of wonder.

You enter the park through an enchanted bridge and forest.

The train trip through the enchanted forest is always the highlight of the visit.

Then on to hot sugar cookies and hot chocolate!

The carousel was calling the children (someone just passing by gave Mandy some tickets)…we couldn’t use them all…so we passed them on too!

And then finally we walked along the trail of the “Christmas with a Heart”…theme for the schools’s Christmas Postcard entries this year. We all loved Mandy’s students postcard….emphasizing that the heart of Charleston is the largest and most important piece of our city. *One entry had little gift doors that opened and one had a mirror in it…saying you are the heart of Charleston.

We all slept good Friday night and then Mandy, Eva Cate, and I headed over to Walsh and Mollie’s to start Shift One of the Dingle Weekend. It is with much gratitude that I thank you Mandy and Eva Cate for helping out Saturday morning, afternoon, and evening.

Eva Cate learned quickly you have to learn how to hang with the boys and Poogie the dog!

You learn quickly to keep the boys active for as long as you can so when they drop…they really drop. Both Lachlan and Rutledge fell asleep early…I did have a couple of  midnight and early morning “hiccups” from Lachlan but he managed to go back to sleep after each episode.

At six-thirty the boys were wide awake and ready to start the day Sunday.

Breakfast and then back out to play until re-enforcements arrived in the form of Tommy, Kaitlyn, Atticus and Pip. Go Team Two! Again, they went with the on-going theme….wear those little nephews out!

So there was lots of outdoor time and plenty of running and races before bath time and jammie time!

 

Tommy and Kaitlyn will drop the boys off at their pre-school this morning and then mommy and daddy will be there when they get home from school. I know they will be so excited.

So until tomorrow….

 

“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh

 

 

 

At 8:15 this morning I heard a ping and it was from Kaitlyn and Tommy…they had just finished dropping the boys off at pre-school…happy and safe. Mission accomplished! Way to go Team 2!

 

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Making Stepping Stones Out of Stumbling Blocks

Dear Reader:

I never tire of stories that remind us that self-perceived or self-imposed stumbling blocks in our eyes often turn into our most important personal stepping stones.

I have been gone since last Friday….I am helping keep Rutledge and Lachlan, along with other family members, for Walsh and Mollie to take one last weekend together before the baby comes and life changes again for the Dingle family.

Friday night I went to the James Island Festival of Lights with John, Mandy, Carrie and the children to see all the Christmas post cards the schools made this year for the art contest. The lights are beautiful and it is a great way to bring in the Christmas season.

Then Saturday Mandy and I let all the cousins play together at her house before taking the boys back for naps. Tommy and Kaitlyn are taking a shift too over the weekend so it really does take a “village to raise a child…two actually….soon to be three.”

When I came across this unknown story  it once again reminded me of how important it is to use  all the talents we have been given…even the ones we don’t consider assets to ourselves.

“A Stumbling Block Becomes a Stepping Stone”

Arturo Toscanini was one of those people who turned a handicap into a blessing. He was extremely near-sighted and, at nineteen, was playing cello in a small European orchestra. He couldn’t see the music on the stand in front of him, so he had to memorize it.

One day the orchestra leader became ill and young Toscanini was the only member of the orchestra who knew the score from memory. That evening, he conducted the entire program without referring to the music. His performance was flawless. The audience applauded enthusiastically. 

Other chances to conduct followed, and Toscanini was on his way. If he hadn’t been nearsighted, he might have continued playing cello instead of becoming one of the finest conductors in the world.

(Bits and Pieces August 16, 2000) 

*As I return home later today I will get fun photos of the sights and sounds of the weekend together to share with you. Always fun to be with the grandchildren and always fun to come back home to my Happy Home.

So until tomorrow: A teacher asked one of her pupils, “What is the national’s capital?”  The reply was, “Washington, D.C.”

When asked what the “DC” stood for, the pupil added: “Dot.com!”

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

Speaking of veterans….look at “Big Red” ….that geranium has lived almost a  decade to date and has battled freeze burn, insects, drought and floods…but still beams proudly, not with red poppies but bright red geraniums blooms. My hero! Love ya “Big Red.”

 

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Where’s Waldo on Veterans Day?

Dear Reader:

How many of you remember the “Where’s Waldo” books? They came out at just the right time for my children growing up…especially the boys. I would give Walsh and Tommy a book for their Christmas time birthdays and it would keep them occupied for hours searching for Waldo.

As time went by the books and pages shrunk and the search grew harder, the U.K. went to “Where’s Wally?” and several spin-offs emerged also…even, to the point, of having yours personalized while family and friends looked for you.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a game puzzle or book called “Where’s Jesus” and we got to pore through the Holy Land searching for him on page after page. Come to think about it…we do have such an experience.

I love this old story (I found in Bits & Pieces) dating back the year of the millennium. It was simply called “The Messiah is Among You.”

“A monastery fell upon hard times. Where it once was filled with monks and music of God’s praises; it now only housed a handful of old monks shuffling through the cloisters and praying quietly with heavy hearts. 

An old rabbi built a little hut near the monastery where he would go to pray. The monks welcomed him and considered themselves blessed by his presence. 

One day the abbot of the monastery visited the rabbi and poured our his heart to him. The rabbi listened and together they prayed. Then the rabbi spoke:

“You and your brothers are serving God with a heavy heart yet you should be joyous…for The Messiah is among you…he lives with you now.” He then made the abbot promise to tell this only one time to the other monks and never repeat it again.

With great excitement the abbot shared the good news with the other monks….exclaiming, “One of us is the Messiah.”

The monks were startled….what could this mean…Was it Brother John or Thomas…was it me?”

Time passed but this secret had a profound effect on the monastery. The monks began to treat each other with a special reverence. There was a gentle, wholehearted, human quality about them that was immediately noticed. 

Visitors found themselves moved by the life of joy and charity seen within the walls of the monastery. The number of people who came to see the enlightened monks grew stronger year after year. Joyous prayer and song rang out and echoed through its walls. 

No one ever saw the old rabbi again…he never returned but they always felt his presence.

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Wouldn’t our lives change drastically if we heard the Messiah lived in Summerville or anywhere else for that matter? Wouldn’t we all be looking for Jesus like “Searching for Waldo?” We would be on our best behavior not knowing if someone we bumped into might actually be the Messiah? Yes, the rabbi had spoken the truth. Christ in God does live among us…in fact so close to us we can hold His hand whenever we wish.

Today, on 11/11/11, the official date of Veterans Day...don’t we always feel sorrow at the gravestones and markers of men and women who never returned from a war? In our hearts don’t we still look for them among crowds, on buses, in cars or in grocery stores…thinking we see someone who looks just like our loved one for a split second?

Yet, some days we do see our loved one through the actions of a friend or stranger helping us or guiding us. We are all part of the spirit of God and as such we need to look deeper into each other on a daily basis. For God, indeed, does live among us.

Ben concludes his Vietnam story with these comments:

“I’m often asked, “So where is God in all of this?” My answer is the same… that God is where He has always been-right beside you. Should He be busy, He has lots of angels ready to do His bidding. I’ve bumped into a few of them along life’s journey. I also ran into a few of them in Vietnam.”

“I don’t see PTSD as some sort of disease. Rather, in my case, fighting PTSD has opened doors and avenues of personal development that would never have happened otherwise. It may seem like a big price to pay but I know that I’m better as a person because of what I have had to learn about myself and the mysterious way God works. Amen.”

So until tomorrow…”Amen.”

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

 

 

 

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