May 05, 2021
An Indentation is created by adding an empty space at the beginning of a line to signify the beginning of a new paragraph. My English teacher would reiterate to me “Don’t’ forget to ident”; I never imagined that I would not only apply that lesson to my writing but to my life. Going through a cancer diagnosis has stripped me of the person I was, forcing me to rise to the occasion and elevate my resilience, courage, humility and faith; pushing past any preconceived notions regarding the limitations of my strength. Pilgrimaging through the dense terrain and murky valleys of trauma and illness, often times peering into the ink stained unlighted coves, crevices and catacombs where fear resides. No longer does that relentless looming figure writhe over concave arches as I sit sheltered awaiting the brunt of the booming force it wields. Now having successfully walked 3.7 miles before dancing to the finish line at the steps for hope walk I celebrate the journey and rejoice for the future. I have battled, I have conquered, I have survived and have prepped and prepared as I now pivot to the next chapter of my life, I have titled it “Thriving”
January 21, 2021The Illusions that we manifest causes us to fall into a false state of safety. Seeing what we want to see, what we want it to be and what we make ourselves believe. Smoke and mirrors is the name of the game, don’t let them see the cracks in the armor, the weakness of vulnerabilities that linger beneath the breastplate; accompanied by the fear, insecurities and uncertainties. Casing up the imperfections; smothering make-up, cocooning on clothes all the while painting on a smile with red lip adhesive. The act of deception mastered, the fraudulent and insubstantial explanations and descriptions are ever changing. Pretend it’s not there and it doesn’t exist The skillful art form of attempting to fool the unsuspecting prospects that surrounds us, all the while getting wrapped inside the perfected truthful lie. Until the unsuspecting moment when someone bares through you seeking all the unspoken secrets you have kept close to the heart impenetrably incased. Flight, freeze or fight like hell; those are the options while devising an exit strategy. The heavy breathing slows down to a steady pace, tears trickling to a stop as clarity consumes the brain fog. The test is accepting and finding peace in the place that you reside in. solidifying our balance as we become aware of the multiple perspectives that hold truth and purpose and lessons. Pivoting us to the new chapters while learning to adapt on the beautiful treacherous journey toward growth: understanding that truth, happiness and peace are not interchangeable they have the innate ability to coexist in the same space as our narrative changes and the new normal grips us.
By: Amirah Latifah
September 09, 2020John Lennon Painting
By: Nancy O'Reilly
May 06, 2020
Congratulations to the 2020 graduating classes around the world. We are here to witness your new point in life. And this graduation, like life itself, things did not go as planned. Some, many, most, maybe all of you are experiencing some level of disappointment that the vision you had for your graduation is not realized. And you are not wrong or broken or weird because you feel a deep sense of loss and regret on a day you expected to only feel joy and exuberance. It is a very human response. Being unhappy happens. Staying unhappy is another story.
So, what will bring you happiness? At the most fundamental level, Maslow described the satisfaction of basic human needs (physiological and safety) as essential before moving on to the next level. We need a roof over our heads, food on our tables, and clothes on our bodies. Oh, and your parents added, employment …soon…to the list. The size or location of the house, the type of foods on the table, the labels on our clothing, and even our jobs will bring many moments of happiness, I’m not going to lie. But everything in our lives is fleeting, impermanent – the good and, thankfully, the not so good.
Humans have been seeking permanent states of happiness since they learned to stand upright. Perhaps standing upright was also once a source of unhappiness, or at least great debate.
To get a better understanding of the nature of the mind, I want to redirect your attention to a legend of unknown origin but attributed to the Cherokee people. For some of you, this is familiar. For others, it will be new. A grandfather is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other wolf is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” His grandfather simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Even if you have heard this wisdom teaching before, it serves as an important reminder of the power of the mind. It is easy to lose hope and happiness in the challenging circumstances in our lives. We want to make sense of the thought, “Why me?” going round and round in our heads. We want the bad things to stop; we seek to control uncontrollable situations.
The Buddha is quoted as saying, “A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” Hmmm… So, happiness is an inside job! But how do you make it happen? How do you reach inside your own head and create more happiness? Dr. Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and one of the authors of The Buddha’s Brain, tells us that when we do small things to alter our attitudes (a phrase he calls inclining the mind), we can experience big changes in the physiology and function of brain and these changes manifest in our life. But how?
Brene Brown, social worker, professor, and researcher at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social work studies shame. In one of her early books, The Gifts of Imperfection, she helps us start on this lifelong journey of inclining the mind and developing true inner peace and happiness using 10 guideposts. She offers us the opportunity to practice wholehearted living using the gifts of imperfection: courage, compassion, and connection. She encourages us to explore the power of love, belonging and being enough. She challenges us to feed the good wolf, to tend the flowers in our garden of life instead of the weeds by
1. Cultivating authenticity: letting go of what people think
2. Cultivating self-compassion: letting go of perfectionism
3. Cultivating a resilient spirit: letting go of numbing and powerlessness
4. Cultivating gratitude and joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark
5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith: letting go of the need for certainty
6. Cultivating creativity: letting go of comparison
7. Cultivating play and rest: letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as a measure of self-worth
8. Cultivating calm and stillness: letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle
9. Cultivating meaningful work: letting go of self-doubt and supposed to
Your undergraduate education ends today, but the graduate school of life continues. May your university education, combined with your lifelong education to cultivate the flowers in the garden of your mind, serve you well in creating a life better than the one you only dreamed of having. While the vision you had for your graduation event is very different from the one we are experiencing today, I invite you to activate guidepost 10. Cultivating laughter, song, and dance: letting go of being cool and always in control. Celebrate your achievements and incline the mind toward the best graduation ever!
By: Cheryl Houston
May 04, 2020When this journey of COVID 19 began, none of us dreamed that our entire planet would take a rest while efforts were made to slow this virus down. Many were disappointed at all the events that were interrupted. Weddings postponed, funerals unable to happen, sporting events canceled, and graduations not to be celebrated in the traditional fashion. No proms this year! This has definitely helped me to redefine my priorities. Life gives us many opportunities to grow and learn. All of us are in a constant transition mode. We go from elementary school to high school. From high school to college. From living with our parents to living on our own. We go from being single to being with a partner. We have a career then retire. We retire and then move into yet a new phase of life. It’s not over till its over. Through all this transition, most of us are moving very fast. Not even thinking about what our priorities are. But this sweet time of rest has given us so much. I heard someone say who has lived 36 years, that this is the first Spring she has ever noticed how beautiful this season is! It’s given us time to reinvent who we want to be. It’s given us time to think about what does our best life look like? It’s given us the opportunity to get to know ourselves better without distraction from others. I truly believe that the wisdom seekers of our world are going to come through this being better at being human. And as a result my hopes are that there will come to be more unity for our planet and less division. That we as a species will see the sameness in all.
By: Deborah Collier
April 09, 2020My first set of wheels
By: Sheryl DeLoach
April 08, 2020When I feel broken by Life Challenges,
By: Roz Marx
April 07, 2020
When I was about five a big red bike appeared in our basement. I don’t know where it came from, who bought it, or if it was even for me. All I know is that with my dad's help I started to ride it in the basement. There was just enough room to make a circle. Round and round we would go with him keeping me steady on the ride of a five year lifetime. On a bright sunny day, Dad pulled that old bike out of the basement and into the light. It was a hefty contraption, made to last a lifetime with solid rubber tires and a white stripe down the middle to hint at the speed this klunker could reach. In front of the house dad with a cigarette in hand said you're gonna ride. So I got on the bike, put my foot on the pedal. I didn't sit because I was just a bit too small. I balanced the jalopy with excitement in my heart. Put all my weight on the pedal and took off down the block trying to stay between the lines so as not to ruin anyone's grass. I heard Dad chuckle behind me so I stopped to see that he had let go. It was my first taste of independence, freedom to set my own pace and later took me on adventures in the neighbourhood and then beyond.
When the boss, my brother wasn’t using it. I would use every muscle I had to push it up the basement stairs, sometimes without success. By the time I was six, the tires were beat up, covered with silver duct tape to hold it together and fill in the holes, and I was the fastest rider around. We had a few bullies on the block, with new bikes and snotty attitudes who felt fine picking on littler kids. As small as I was, I learned early to defend myself with a smart mouth and a faster escape by bike.
I have no idea why my brother was around me that day, because he has never been my friend. Nevertheless, when this very forgettable kid with a new bike started messing with me, he was there. This skinny blond boy was a big kid to me, maybe around nine or ten years old and he began picking on me incessantly about my bike. Typically I would handle this just fine by myself, but this was the one and only time before and after, my brother ever stood up for me. His cloudy intentions were fine with me as I was always vying to win his affections. So when he spoke up to that kid and told him, “You think that bike makes you cool? I bet my little sister can beat you around the block.” There was more dialog but my surprise pulled me out of the discourse and I spaced out. My brother said, “Go Mickey go!”. So I startled into awareness and off I went. Slow at first, the weight of the bike against the power in my legs. I was unseated the whole time using every bit of strength to build speed. The kid passed me with some ugly comment. I kept my smart mouth shut, saving my breath and concentration for beating the brazen meanie. Halfway around the block we hit a mud patch and the big red didn't slide. I passed right through and gained the lead.
On the home stretch, I heard him behind me but never looked back. My brother's eyes were huge with laughter. He couldn’t wait for that kid who arrived about ten seconds later. My brother told me I was fast with admiration and for a moment we were friends. I will always remember how it felt to get along with him.
By: Michelle Wengler
April 03, 2020Everyday, at some point, I am completely knocked down.
By: Michelle Castro Wengler
April 01, 2020An expression we are hearing a lot lately is “essentials”. I think this virus is teaching us what are really the essentials in our world.I have never appreciated health care professionals, paramedics,teachers, grocery store clerks, like I do now. Not to down play the value of anyone who is not in those fields, however they may not be in the essential category. As we look outward to what is truly essential, could this be a time to examine our own lives for what is truly essential there. Could this be a time to root out all the nonessentials and embrace what we discover to be essential to us as individuals? I value like never before the relationships that I have. Relationships that without this time out so to speak , I may not have come to this same level of appreciation. My little nine year old granddaughter FaceTimes with me each afternoon to read to me. One of her homeschool assignments is that she read 20 minutes each day. So she is reading me from a Hans Christian Anderson collections of stories. What a blessing! As I reflect on what relationships I most cherish and find “essential, I must say its not just with family. Although some of my most beloved relationships are with family members. My sons wife who I affectionately refer to as my daughter in love, has a place in my heart that words can’t define. My own daughter is a woman of extraordinary strength that I admire beyond compare. I have a friend that has known me longer than anyone else on the planet. She has been my friend for 51 years! So much history we have together, some beautiful and some tragic. But we have always been there to cry or laugh with each other. I also have a relatively new friend. We met just a few years ago and have become very close. As I reflect on these relationships, I am realizing that each one of these people offer very different essentials for me. I don’t believe there is any one person that can satisfy all our needs. That is why I don’t just have one essential relationship. One thing I know for sure, is my life would not be the same without these beautiful essential women.
By: Deborah Collier
March 26, 2020Seeing how very fast our world climate is changing, makes me stop and ponder what responsibilities do each of us have? What can we do to promote well-being? Of course, sanitize and social distancing are obvious answers. I have made the decision to self-quarantine for I am not sure how long. There is so much we simply do not have control over. One thing I know I do have control over is my inner world. I can control what information I let into my consciousness and I do have control as to what my perception is about our new NORMAL. What if this would be an opportunity to unite our planet verses all the division we have seen grow and grow over the years? What if this virus teaches humans to embrace the humanness in each other? During my years of life, I have come to appreciate the value of my inner world. My inner world plays a huge part in my outer world. While I know it doesn’t control the outer world, I do believe it influences how my outer world manifests itself. Our inner anxiety for example plays itself out in very powerful ways. It has a ripple effect on everything around us. When I am anxious, I make anxious choices. These anxious choices create more anxious feelings for me, and it goes on and on. The domino effect is felt in so many different places in our lives and eventually reaches into others. Mass anxiety I am sure reaches as far as our news and social media and even into the economy. So, what I am taking on as my personal journey through this new normal is taking care of my inner world the best way I can. Being aware how I feel when I watch what the media is saying. Being aware of how I feel when I am communicating with others. I am taking charge of my mind! What if more and more start doing this? How much positive change could positive thinking actually accomplish?
By: Deborah Collier
March 18, 2020How is this new normal changed how you are living, making choices and reaching out to the people in your world?
By: Chris Filcoff
March 18, 2020What a wonderful gift our eyes give us. We can see the beautiful blue of the sky, the green of the grass, the deep purple of a lilac bush. We can look into the eyes of another and see a full spectrum of emotions. Sometimes we may even be able to see into the heart and soul of another through their eyes. Our eyes very often tell a story that is not being spoken with our lips. Things in our lives and on our planet are always changing. No matter where we are, no matter our age, whether we are man or woman, nothing stays the same for very long. As I count the time I have lived, I can see how I look at things has changed with me along the way. Yes my literal vision has changed with time, but so has how I see with my eyes. I recognize how I see the things going on around me is always my choice. I have been looking through eyes of anxiety for the past few days. Eyes that are seeing the panic in others. Yes things are inconvenient , yes things are chaotic, yes schools and restaurants are closing. Yes yes yes... but do you know what else is a yes? Yes to stillness, yes to slowing down, yes to spending more time meditating, yes to reading more, yes to perhaps spending more time with our loved ones. Yes to all the things we didn’t have time for before. Maybe the earth needs a rest, a rest from the pollution caused by factories and cars. Maybe the earth needs a rest from humans carelessly casting garbage in the ocean. Maybe, just maybe, the Earth is breathing a sigh of relief. I can visualize with the eyes of my mind the Earth saying finally, finally I have their attention.
By: Deborah Collier
February 19, 2020
As a nurse, I have always been interested in nutrition. I have represented various companies over the years and sold their products. Finally I decided to take good quality supplements myself and forget about trying to convince others to do the same.
My husband died of lung cancer on November 4, 2009, and I needed something to do that would fill the void created by this enormous loss, the love of my life. My brother had come across a company that had perfected the addition of nutrients to coffee. Healthy coffee? Why not? Everyone loves coffee. How hard could it be to sell coffee fortified with vitamins?
I began doing tastings at business networking groups with precious few sales, but everything takes time. To brew five pots of coffee I had to begin at 5:00 a.m., then transport them to my meeting by 6:30 a.m. so that everyone could fill their cup before the 7:00 a.m. starting time. It was a bit grueling but it definitely kept me busy.
During this time, I was introduced to a very nice, shy man who was also single, having been through a nasty divorce. Our mutual friends suggested that we could keep each other company during the difficult days following our tragedies of different sorts. We became closer over the years until he too was diagnosed with advanced cancer and died quite soon thereafter, in December of 2012. I was devastated by his rapid demise, but had little emotional support from my family as they were not ready for anyone to take the place of their father.
My wonderful college roommate offered to come for a short visit and I took her up on the offer, not knowing what was to transpire the week after she returned to Minnesota.
I was feeling out of sorts, not knowing why, but suspected that it was a combination of past events. However I checked my blood pressure and it was slightly high. I called my physician and he suggested that I go to the ER and have my cardiac enzymes checked because he couldn’t do them in the office. I was at my friend’s house for a meeting and her husband offered to drop me off at the hospital. I called my daughter and son and they met me there.
The EKG and blood work were done upon arrival. I was sure that I had overreacted so I was not surprised when the doctor entered my room and said, “Your heart is fine.” But his next words were not so comforting… “You’re not going home.”
The medical term he cited as the reason was “myeloproliferative disorder.” My daughter quickly googled it and various types of leukemias popped up. Not good. My head was spinning and I asked what was most alarming. He said that I had two million platelets when the normal range is up to one-hundred-thousand. Oops. I was a blood clot waiting to happen. I had been so absorbed with caring for my dear friend during his last months of life that I had not even considered having anything wrong with me, but this condition did not happen overnight. I probably had too many platelets for quite some time.
My daughters would not let me drive and insisted that I stay at their home until we sorted out our options. I had an appointment with the hematology/oncology physician who had visited me in the hospital. She did a bone marrow biopsy which confirmed that I had chronic myeloid leukemia. If it became acute, my chances of surviving were slim to none, as it is very aggressive and usually requires a speedy bone marrow transplant. I could now be treated with a variety of tyrosine kinase inhibitors, taken orally on a daily basis. But which one?
I felt as if my feet had been kicked out from under me. I was a ship without a rudder and I didn’t know where to turn for advice. I wanted a second opinion but who could I see on short notice? I was sitting on a time bomb and didn’t want my condition to worsen while I was trying to decide upon the best drug to take. The young oncologist wanted to prescribe the latest drug but it had the least track record and the most side effects. Miraculously I got an appointment with Dr. Camille Abboud, head of hematology/oncology at Siteman.
But I was still floundering. Suddenly I recalled a speaker who had come to the cancer support group that my husband and I had started at our church in Eureka, around 2007. She was from The Wellness Community. I found out that they had changed their name to the Cancer Support Community. I went there on a Friday morning where the New Members Group just happened to be meeting in the waiting room. I joined them for the tour and explanation of the many services they offered. The one that spoke to me was Open to Options, a session with a counselor that went through questions regarding one’s life, hopes for the future and critical questions to ask my physician. My appointment with Dr. Abboud was the following Monday so the counselor offered to meet me and my adult children on Saturday afternoon for the one-hour session. She typed up the results and emailed them to me on Sunday. I printed them off and took them to my appointment on Monday. He recommended the oldest drug which had been in use for the past twenty years. I had to choose, and ultimately followed his advice.
I felt like I was back in control again.
One of the questions asked about my hopes and dreams for the future. I mentioned that I had always wanted to write my memoirs. The counselor pointed out the Wise Women’s Writing Workshop offered at CSC. I signed up on the spot and have attended the class ever since. While not getting a book about my life written, I have compiled quite a few vignettes that could become a sort of legacy to pass on to my children. I may get more aggressive about filling in some of the gaps, but I am very satisfied to write on a weekly basis, if not more often.
My writing parallels my cancer treatment, each continuing for seven years since that February in 2013.
But what happened to the coffee business? That is another miracle that was unexpected but very timely indeed. It turned out that the coffee company merged with a huge health and nutrition company based in California. I could now sell quite a variety of nutritional products but many were unfamiliar to me. It turned out that the naturopathic physician who started the new company had quite a reputation for curing a variety of ailments. I searched the long list of their products and ordered anything that had a link to cancer treatment, even though they are not allowed to make claims for curing the dread disease. Stopping the mutation of cancer cells and boosting the immune system seemed like good choices to me.
I have taken my regimen alongside traditional chemotherapy with the aim of minimizing side effects and giving my body the means to continue fighting the mutations in my bone marrow. If I had not been involved with the healthy coffee company, I would never have been exposed to the myriad of products that I believe are keeping me alive and thriving. All I can say is that I have been blessed by God in ways that cannot be explained in human terms. You can call it intuition or good fortune, but I call it a God Wink!
By: Sandy Ghormley
February 19, 2020Life is a Teacher...Time is a Healer
By: Deborah Collier
February 13, 2020A Valentines Message to My Greatest Love of All.
By: Deborah Collier
February 12, 2020
I wish I could say that change happens to me in the gentlest ways – a whisper from my inner voice, a kiss from a breeze coming through the windows of my mind, a tug of yearning from the depths of my soul. In my experience, change happens when I am so shaken by the impact of no change that there are only two options: shift or lose something deeply meaningful to me.
The answers to what I seek can’t be found through a Google search, purchased on Amazon, or delivered by Instacart. It requires that I get quiet – really quiet – in order to see clearly and to get to the source within instead of focusing on outside symptoms. This means that in the quiet, I am willing to open the door, even if just a crack, to see what’s been itching to get out. And when the answer appears, it’s time to sit with it and cultivate the courage to not mask, shield or numb in the usual ways.
This type of change matters because it’s a wake-up call and a clear indication that I’ve been asleep at the wheel, mindlessly going about the activities of my life without pause – as usual, again, like always. It’s not that there were no signs along the way, but I couldn’t or wouldn’t acknowledge them. A quote by Pema Chodron immediately comes to mind. “Death is certain. Time of death is uncertain. What’s the most important thing?” It matters to all the people you will eventually leave behind. Like the tiniest pebble dropped into a pond, the ripples are far reaching. And I want my visit on this beautiful planet to be nourishing for those I loved and for those who took the chance to love me back.
By: Cheryl Houston
August 07, 2019Corners of the Universe
By: Nancy O’Reilly
April 10, 2019
My focus for so many years had been on being mom to four children. My role and therefor my identity as mom began very early in my life. All the ages and stages of each child is engraved in my heart. As time has raced by, these children have turned into adults with children of their own. Nothing brings me greater joy than to see my sons father their own beloved children. Somewhere in this process they seem to be the ones with the answers to life’s challenges. There are times when I feel my children view me as out dated. Maybe not as quick with technology as they are. I feel sometimes my words of what I perceive as wisdom are not taken well. Because how could I possibly understand the demands on their lives?? This is all part of the fabulous process of moving through time. Every generation will do it, if they are fortunate enough. What I could never make my children understand is I adore being me at this time of my life. I appreciate the me of yesterday and value the me of today. I read a quote recently that stated the beauty of being a woman of age, is that we have outlived our own judgements and can now harvest our failures.
By: Deborah Collier
March 17, 2019I have been on this planet living and learning for six and a half decades. All the ages and stages of life are stored in my heart. I have inside of me the child, the adolescent, the young woman falling in love. Stored away much like old photos, are the memories of my children. Watching them grow and cherishing the moments spent. I honor each experience that has molded my life, and created who I am today. If I had experienced different things, I would have different things to say.
By: Deborah Collier
March 13, 2019
This business of living life is the journey you make it. And its not always a piece of cake. After moving through time for nearly 7 decades I can honestly say THIS ISN’T WHAT I EXPECTED AT ALL!!! When I look back at my younger self, I am not sure what I expected. I think I thought I would be wiser than I feel at my age now. I read once that one mark of wisdom is the ability to distinguish between who we are educated to be, and who we really are. I have become very aware of who I really am . I never expected to have the heightened appreciation for living life that I now possess. I think wisdom takes on many faces and appears at times when unexpected. You are never too old to learn new and valuable lessons. To learn a new way of looking maybe at the same situation through different eyes. A sunset looks different to me today than it did when I had less years behind me. Have birds learned to sing their songs better or do I hear them differently? It’s never too late to develop appreciation for something new. It’s never too late to learn how to love in a whole different way than you ever thought.
As my body gets more and more used up, my soul keeps expanding to places I never would have recognized in my younger days. So my friend, Time, please keep on passing through, because I know its never too late to be a better me tomorrow than I was today.
By: Deborah Collier
February 28, 2019
Besides Kevin Costner being in this movie and making it one of my favorites I love the simple message embedded into the story. “If you build it, they will come.” Although this was a baseball field for real and imaginary players, it made me wonder if I continue to build a happy, peaceful, serene life…what might come of it?
It’s so easy to get bogged down in the not-so- pleasant, grouchy part of life. Life is messy, unpredictable and imperfect. Lucky us. When things don’t go our way, or the way we think they need to, we have the perfect opportunity to let ourselves shine. When we experience disappointment, frustration, sadness or anger, its okay to note what’s happening, deal with it and acknowledge- that’s part of human nature.
AND…. We can rise to the occasion. Decide what to do-let ourselves grow from the experience or get enmeshed in negativity. We all know both negativity and positive energy are contagious.
I choose positive energy. Time and again I choose my own field of dreams: optimism and joy.
Lately I’ve decided to heed my own words, make my own choices, and go my own way. Stand in my power. Recognize and celebrate being centered. This came at a great price-however; I would not be who I am today. And I’m even better than I ever was.
Its hard work and its careful thinking. And because I process my life via writing and storytelling, I have the chance to talk about what’s inside. What’s going on and how I work it out. It’s for me and apparently my writing seems to be inspiring others. What a gift this has been.
An interesting thing happened with all this honest story-telling this week. Since September I’ve had the honor of facilitating a writing group at the Cancer Support Community. As writers, we show up, write, process, and support and lend encouragement. Each week I am inspired by the thoughts and stories of courageously, brave people. It often brings me right back to choices about my life. Recently, I read a blog I had written and I realized as I was reading, I really am over myself. Yes, it feels good to put the truth out there and to look behind the curtain. As I read the blog, I realized: I’m kinda over myself. At least for a little while. Yes, I have the need to continue to tell stories, but I’m challenging myself for the next few weeks to focus on the positive, the happy, and the joy in my own field of dreams.
Realizing my life has changed tremendously, I know that as I’ve I built it…a happy, peaceful, playful, joyous, light-filled life emerges. Each and every time. IMAGINE this energy! It’s as if I can breathe again. I have a feeling my writing will change as I continue with this self-awareness. I can already feel it.
Surrounded by love and light by amazing Warrior Sisters, friends and new experiences my life is here in the now. I am okay. In this minute, I am okay. Life is moving forward…just as it should be. I just have to stop resisting it. Feeling happy and okay IS happy and okay. Lots of people live this way. I’m not saying there aren’t challenges, there are and will be. On the flip side, just like on a field of dreams, I can step up to the plate and hit the ball out of the park. I know it’s my choice. It’s an opportunity I am living.
Trusting me, trusting the Universe and mostly, trusting the love between those important people are part of my life now. Abundance thinking. Leading and living with love. Offering grace. There is so much love and happiness. We just have to OPEN our eyes…and see it. Recognize it. And so I’m challenging myself to do just that. Each and every day. And as a human, I’m going to give myself some slack as my Warrior Sister Laura reminded me.
Right now, today, I am in a better place, I’m a better person. I am free to live my live as I choose. And I choose to focus on the positive. As much as I possibly can. As my Warrior Sister Cathy texted, “You are allowed a cry, a pity party, a freak out, whatever you need but then get back on that white horse with positive thoughts and energy! Good things will come your way-they always do for great people! Keep looking up, that’s the secret of life!! As I told you before-you are a ray of sunshine and things GROW around sunshine! Love you girl!” this made me both smile and shed tears of pure love.
In her book, Women Rowing North Mary Pipher states, “Attitude trumps circumstance….we have the freedom to choose how we respond to events…we become who we believe we can be…” She also states there are many ways to keep things in perspective. For years I said, “Don’t borrow worry.” My friend Diane reminded me, “This can be fixed.” Pipher adds, “It’s not time to worry yet,” “Everyone makes mistakes,” and “Tomorrow is another day.” It’s all in how I look at it. How I use my energy. How I live. How I see myself and my life.
Here is my challenge-get over myself. Focus on the positive. Live in the light. Re-read my words. Focus on stepping up to the plate, and building a life of dreams. Because AS I BUILD it…the most exciting, joyful, happy life will continue to brighten the field. I already feel better…I’m gonna make it after all.
By: Pam Wilson, MSW, LCSW
February 13, 2019Amazing how powerful these three words can be. When I think of “lead with love,” I think of the agape love which shows no preference to race, creed, or religion. It’s love for everyone; there’s no enemy or stranger when you “lead with love.”
By: Pat Ross
January 30, 2019Listen closely because I won’t repeat myself,
By: Pat Ross
January 09, 2019
Have you ever noticed that no matter what time of day or where the sun is in the sky, a sunflower will be facing the direction of the light? They could be likened to spectators at an incredibly slow tennis match! Moving ever so slowly as the sun moves across the sky.
Gardening has been something I have enjoyed over the years. Seeing plants grow and become a thing of beauty is very rewarding. There was a time in my life we will refer to as the dark days, when it was a struggle to get out of bed in the morning. This was more than a quarter of a century ago, and when I look back on that time I can hardly believe it was me. Depression engulfed me like a relentless cloud cover from a looming storm. Treatment for depression was quite experimental back then, oh wait it still is! There is no scan that can clearly identify the cause for the depression or the label that should be attached to it. The medical treatment was at best trial and error with medications. After trying one medication after another only to feel worse and experiencing many unpleasant side effects, I decided to try something completely radical. I decided to follow the example of the Sunflower! I became very aware of my thoughts and realized they had a direct impact on how I felt. So more and more I began directing my thoughts toward the light. The power of thought became my friend because I was learning how to give it direction. Mostly I was changing my thoughts about myself. When I heard a love song, it was as if the song was from me, to me. I understand most depressed people have a very low opinion of self. So I began a new relationship with me. I read a quote recently from Cheryl Strayed that said “ Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again and again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.” I think she was speaking of the forgiveness you give yourself.
These words of Cheryl Strayed came to me many years after my healing from depression, but I was able to recognize the wisdom in her words. So when my healing began, it began with first of all forgiving myself. Forgiving myself for not always being the BEST, the best mom, or the best daughter or the best wife. I stated giving myself a break! I would not allow that darkness to be in m thoughts any longer! I would follow the light at all cost. I had given enough time to that insidious invasion of self-incrimination! The beauty of a Sunflower will always inspire in me a feeling of appreciation. An appreciation for all we can learn from nature. I give thanks for the design of that precious flower that taught me so very much about how I want to live my life! Alway, always facing the light!
By: Deborah Collier
January 09, 2019
I’m not really a New Year’s resolution-type-of-girl. I do buy into the idea, as Jennifer Cooper often reminds us, “You can re-start each day at any moment.” I believe that more than ever. If I don’t like how I handled a situation, I have the power to change that reaction going forward. I can process it, discuss AND then let it go. And then I can start my day over….(I have visions of Groundhog Day here…)
This journey that I’ve been on has made me who I am. I get to decide what to do with it, if I want to change, what I want to change as well as to say to myself, “You are enough.” And so as the end of the year approached, I had been thinking about pulling my thoughts together about life now. As luck would have it, an interesting idea presented itself.
In mid-December I had the honor of facilitating a writing group at the Cancer Support Community. The writing groups always blow me away with their truths, their honesty, and their authenticity. I’ve learned I’m always up for whatever messages present themselves, and mostly I keep quiet so that I can hear.
A lovely older gentleman who I had not met before participated in our writing group on this wintery day and when it was his turn, he wasn’t ready to share, still writing. We circled back to him, and as he read I could barely keep myself from crying. He spoke of his life and his energy, his enjoyment in hiking with his dog and somewhere in the middle of this writing he said, “I will not squander this day.”
I will not squander this day.
This thought has stayed with me day and night since I heard it. Each morning when I wake up I’m grateful for the day and hope for the best (sure, why not!) and I’ve added this thought, “I will not squander this day.” When the days are rough or the nights even tougher, I repeat to myself, “I will not squander this day.”
My friend Cathy came to lunch during this time. We’ve known each other long enough that if we aren’t laughing, we’re dug in way deep to life. Cathy LIVES in each moment, each smile, each hug. She is a gift for everyone who knows her. While we were enjoying lunch of salmon Greek salad and bourbon punch (it was Sunday and December) Cathy commented, “I’m so proud of you for creating this life. You are the friend I knew all those years ago, this is who you are supposed to be. Do you feel that too?”
My response was the same as it’s been for a few months, “Every day is a little better. There are good days and not good days.”
Intuitive as ever she asked, “Are the good days out-weighing the bad?”
I replied, “The days are mostly good. There is however, a ‘bad’ part in each day, a heart-breaking part of each and every day.” It goes so deep into a grief sometimes I can’t breathe. And yet, I have to “Remember my truths,” as my friend Anne texted. “There is no going back now, pushing through the pain is the only way forward, not an easy place to be…better times ahead. I promise.”
Going back is NOT an option. My daily intention is to keep moving forward, celebrating what I can in each day, BEING in each day. NOT squandering any day; instead, remembering the joy, the beauty, the love and the happy. Remembering and acknowledging that the end of an era is hard, regardless if it’s better for all parties involved. THIS is what I want to do, need to do. NOT squander any day, any opportunity, any sunshine, any chance for love and happiness. It’s time I move on from the past and really let myself see and FEEL the present and the future.
About this time on a FB page I read, “I believe we will make it to the other side stronger and happier.” The present is the way to the other side.
Here’s the other part I am working on in each 24 hours….the other shoe to drop. This bothers me, in fact, I really hate it. It seems to me that waiting…waiting and waiting only produces anxiety. And I’m not an anxious person. While I continue to remind myself, “do not squander this day”, I also continue to tell myself advice from another Warrior, “In this minute you are okay. You will deal with anything that comes up. You can. And you will.”
More than ever I know that moving forward, NOT squandering ANY time, ANY opportunities, ANY DAYS, and remembering my truths is how I want to start this day. Every day. Every year. When I say to myself, “I will not squander this day,” I feel lighter, as if the love and strength are shining through. That’s my daily intention…I will not squander this day. This gift. I AM living the life I want to and am supposed to. I…am happy in my new life. That’s my gift.
Anything is possible. Everything is possible.
I’m gonna make it after all.
By: Pam Wilson, MSW, LCSW
January 02, 2019
Intentions are set by us everyday. Some are atomic like eating breakfast. Some intentions are thought out and perused. 2018 had many changes for me. Loss, recovery, and finding my place in the world once again. On this beautiful path of recovery, I find great relief and freedom from the what outside circumstances can bring. I am seeking to look inward for my Peace. All the many years of walking various paths, I have discovered I no longer need to search for the right path, the right path will find me. My years of living have given me a heightened awareness that I have learned to trust.
So I am intending 2019 to be a year of growth. Growth in knowledge of who I am and what I desire for the remaining years of this life experience . I want to see the many faces of joy and embrace them all. I also know that sorrow is the sister to joy so I expect to meet her too. Feeling both joy and sorrow allow for the sweetness of knowing I am alive!
I also love the awareness that each day is a new beginning with new possibilities,new promises, and always renewed hope. So my intentions for 2019 I’m sure will evolve with time. They will become clearer as each day passes and each new experience presents itself. So welcome 2019, I will embrace each and every day of you!
By: Deborah Collier
January 02, 2019
A better me, that’s what I want!
Extra pounds, I must confront.
A body healthy, strong, and lean,
The new me, a water drinking machine.
Self control, to eliminate vices,
Excessive sugar, choosing spices.
Self improvement, expanding the brain,
Leaning from others is my gain.
Giving of self brings a thankful heart.
Sharing with others, wisdom to impart.
I choose accountability with my time and money,
And leaving spaces for things that are funny.
It’s 2019, a fresh new slate,
I better get started before it’s too late.
By: Sheryl DeLoach
December 27, 2018
My life hasn’t been perfect but its been perfect for me. Just like every other human engaging in the human experience, I have had ups, downs, unexpected twists, falls fallen so hard I didn’t think I had the ability or the drive to get up. Yet here I am, standing tall at 5’3. Yes I am an inch shorter than I was. A fabulous truth I have discovered for myself is I am in control of my life and how I experience it. Can I control what others do, no but the reaction I have to what others do is absolutely mine to determine. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine”. I know I have the ability to control where I stand.
What I really want to say is how much appreciation I have for all the experiences of my life. The ones that taught me how to jump for joy higher than I knew I could. Also for the the ones that brought me to my knees. I thank all you rascals of my life that caused momentary pain. You were my best teachers. You taught me about forgiveness. Forgiveness is what heals humanity. Forgiveness is what allows us to move forward. Forgiving is not forgetting, but its letting go of the hurt. And that my dear fellow humans is what allows us to move forward, and enjoy what time we have been given on earth.
There is much life behind me but much ahead of me as well. Another beautiful quote I love is “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forward.
By: Deborah Collier
December 12, 2018
Today, as the old year fades to a close, I find myself in a new place, shuttling between my old life and my new life. I find I’m enthused by the possibilities that lie ahead, but still dragged down by the sadness behind me.
My wife and I had been married one week shy of 53 years when she passed away in May of this year.
Looking ahead to next year: My most positive thought about next year is that this year will be over. It has been a year of losses on several levels, and I hold my breath until 12/31/2018.
Next year feels more promising as I adjust to The New Normal, an expression I became familiar with recently. The New Normal.
I have a quote posted on my office door at home that I say aloud each morning:
“I shall look upon this day as a gift,
not to be squandered.”
My plan for the new year is to squander no more days, no more hours, to be dragged back to the past as seldom as possible. I wish for the usual: good health, an on-going connection with family and friends, continued interest in the events and places that are out there within my grasp.
My plans are probably over-reaching, but workable, at least partially.
- Finish and publish a book of essays, blogs, columns.
- More discipline in my writing, in exercising, in involvement with others.
- A less cluttered life and house, with lots of “stuff” gotten rid of.
- Travel on a highly selective basis, beginning with New Orleans in April with my son and daughter for a French Quarter Blues Festival, and some time back in New York City.
- And finally, to learn to be more patient, and constantly remind myself to tell my friends how much they mean to me.
My hope for the new year is an absence of the dreaded “c” words: cancer, chemo, clinical trial, cardiac, coping and condolences.
I want to be able to look back on 12/31/2019 and realize I have changed in positive and uplifting ways, that I have taken significant strides towards my new life. That “The New Normal” has gradually become “Normal.”
By: Gerry Mandel
November 07, 2018
I’ve Been Through Some Stuff
(When is Enough – Enough?)
Life is definitely a roller coaster ride
Hitting the waves, wrestling the tides.
You’re up and down with emotional bliss
While coming quickly around the curve,
Is a sweet, juicy kiss;
Knocking you backwards against the wall
With lots of “I’m sorry’s” doesn’t say it all.
At some time you must take a stand
Which way to go – Who’s in command?
But what I truly love is:
He’s Yours and You’re His!
I’ve been through some good and bad times
With family, friends, and acquaintances of mine.
There’s a sister who’s chosen to dismiss me as a relative
She refuses to acknowledge the love I desire desperately to give.
“She’s ill”, I’m often told. “Don’t be upset.
Someday she’ll remember your love
And cuddle you like a pet.”
It makes me sad knowing she’s not the same sister I love so much.
Dementia hurts so badly sometimes, but I just can’t give up.
By: Pat Ross
November 07, 2018Keep me dear Lord. Keep me. Keep me yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Keep me from all harm, pain and sorrow. When I’m lost and can’t find my way, Keep me dear Lord. When I know not what to do or say – Keep me.
By: Pat Ross
October 17, 2018I read a quote from Lilly Thomlyn that read, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” What those words mean to me are the essence of the world I live in today. Six and a half decades are behind me and that has created a lot of past! So as I live in my world of now, I reflect at times on the past, sometimes with pleasure and sometimes with regrets. I have some control over my now, but absolutely no control over the past. Or could it be that I have more control than I think? If my perception of the past changes can I actually create a better past? Forgiveness for me means letting go of resentments. Resentment brings pain to the heart, forgiveness can be instrumental in releasing that pain. I think of forgiveness as a scissors. I use it to cut the strings of resentment that bind me to a past hurt and keeps me from being the best me I can be in me present world. The forgiveness I want to offer is not only to others that make up my past, but to my past self for not being perfect and displaying humanness. For making choices in my past world that would not be made in my world of today. The life that has been lived has served me well. The moon beams and sunshine have had an equal share with the thistles and thorns of life. Both molding me into the woman of today. A woman who is very aware that she can create the world she chooses to live in. Memories are the envelope to the past. I read once we have memories so we can have roses in December. How the past is perceived by us, has a direct bearing on how we are living and how much we are enjoying the world of today. Another beautiful quote is “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.” I would like to rearrange the words of Lily Thomlyn to read Forgiveness means having great hope for a better past. I enjoy roses in December even if its only in my mindful memory. They are as real to me there as they are in my garden in June! My world today has the meaning and depth that it does because I have been willing to look backwards and apply forgiveness.
By: Deborah Collier
September 26, 2018
I awakened early with the slight tossing of covers around me as I felt the presence of his body exiting the bed. He walked quietly to the bathroom, each step carefully leading to the next in the dim morning darkness, trying passionately not to disturb my soothing sleep.
I secretly smile as I realize how much we have synchronized our daily needs and actions as we grow older together. We seem to awaken at the same time, speak the same thoughts, and even decide to wear the same color clothing when we dress to begin our daily routines.
I have you Heavenly Father to thank for this “togetherness”. I am so fortunate not only to have you at my right hand from dawn to sunset to shake down any mountains of doubt or confusion that chooses to attack me, but I have him who has walked every step of my “new normal” with me during the unforeseen changes in my life. Together we have grown in peace, understanding, thoughtfulness, and of course LOVE.
As each new day unfolds challenges to celebrate life, I rejoice in the path of trust that the Heavenly Father and I will explore together. Where I am weak, He is strong. When my mind wanders to the land of forgetfulness, He gently strolls me back to reality. He’s never caught off guard because he’s busy guarding me from unseen dangers around every bend. When my heartbeat rushes frantically at each doctor’s visit wondering if everything inside me is going as well as it looks on the outside, He soothes me to inhale and exhale at his command and restores my confidence that “He’s got this” and together we shall overcome.
Togetherness with Christ in my life and my spouse at my side, there’s nothing I need to fear. I am grateful each day knowing these two “constants” are working together for my ultimate good. Tragedies will be trampled. Sorrows will be silenced. Joys will be rejoiced. Because life changes every day, its confident to know that “togetherness” will conquer all.
By: Pat Ross
September 26, 2018
Super Powers and Their Values
Our Super Powers come from our innate feelings of security. It’s what makes us happy, comfortable, enthusiastic, and somewhat competitive. It’s where we fit in and nestle among others with the same aura. It’s who molded us to choose our favorite activity, career, or talent that just seems to pull into gear whenever we’re faced with urgency to respond, assist, or comfort others. It’s when we come to that fork in the road when a decision must be made rapidly without hesitation and we arrive with unique solutions or antidotes to solve any problem or circumstance that even surprises us sometimes. It’s how we know we’ve done our best at the spur of the moment to satisfy ourselves and those around us.
The values of Super Powers are they make your world more peaceful and those around you enjoy being in your presence. Super Powers make you appreciate your talents and the joy they bring to others. Super Powers give you the freedom to be who you are, when you want to be, how you want to be, what you want to be, and where you want to be without fear or doubt because you are in control.
Being punctual is a value I honor dearly. It stems from my Super Power of Patience requiring me to allow time for others without neglecting my own needs. This allows me to appreciate getting to my destination without rushing in traffic, assignments, or appointments. Super Powers are valuable tools to carry around everyday. You never know when you may need to use them.
By: Pat Ross
September 23, 2018Adversity makes us stronger,
By: Sheryl DeLoach
September 19, 2018I am aware of Patience unfolding more frequently when I feel bombarded with a multitude of commitments occurring simultaneously. I somehow managed to overload my “Calendar of Events” on the same date. Usually before indulging in these commitments, I patiently ask the party involved to hesitate until I check my schedule. If nothing is conflicting I give a green flag. But somehow, all of a sudden, a multitude of commitments show up on the same date and I want to participate in ALL of them. The red flag has flown! I have to juggle something to make this work. PATIENCE WHERE ARE YOU?
By: Pat Ross
September 19, 2018We are all super hero’s with super powers whether we know it or not. Life is a timeless and essential drama for the purpose of growth. This business of being human is no easy task! As life moves forward it keeps dishing out plate fulls of beautifully prepared food and sometimes crap that no one wants to touch. How can we digest both?
By: Deborah Collier
September 13, 2018Courage is just dreams with shoes on! Dreams give life. Dreams belong to every vibrant, living being. Dreams define our past self and more importantly our future self. Dreams keep the spirit alive and strong. What is the secret to giving the mind the ability to dream? I have learned that whatever the age, 2 or 102, the ability to dream comes from the heart and should be nourished to stay alive. However, it takes courage to dream. It takes even more courage to run after that dream.
By: Deborah Collier
September 12, 2018Today my superpower is awareness.
By: Chris Filcoff
September 01, 2018
Life can take so many twists and turns. Like ideas, it seems. One idea morphs into another and gradually we find ourselves living our ideas as we live our life.
A few years ago I had this idea; it literally dropped into my head one morning on the beach, “Combine writing and social work-let people inspire others with their writing thereby inspiring themselves.” The program was called Write ON! and I was all in trying to figure out how to get this idea into the world.
I have no idea what made me think of the Cancer Support Community, but I did and sent my ideas to Renata. We met and she liked the idea and the concept enough to let me try implementing it as a volunteer. I was excited and nervous, and I knew that it was a good idea. My mission has always been to hear other’s voices. Now there was a place for this to happen.
This original group met three times and then I took it to other community groups, a middle school in the city and a home school all girls Writer’s Circle. If participants wanted to post their writing anonymously, I set up a Facebook page for this. As a writer, I love putting my ideas into the world and I wanted to offer this to anyone who wanted to try, who maybe didn’t know how or who wanted to remain anonymous.
Last May, WHEN I LEAST EXPECTED IT, I received an e-mail from Dannie inquiring if I was interested in talking about coming to CSC as a writing instructor.
It was a no brainer. I believe my e-mail read, “YES. YES. YES. YES!!!” Only I had more exclamation points.
Updating my resume with a high-school friend I realized that since the original program at CSC Write ON! had had a really good run. Different groups had been writing for almost two years and each and every writer inspired themselves and me in some way. I knew that a writing group at CSC could be inspiring and I wanted to be part of it. I also generated 34 ideas to bring to my meeting with Dannie which my very smart friend told me to bring 5-6!
Talking with Dannie was a good lesson and exercise in recognizing what I had been doing and learning and how I wanted to grow personally and professionally. I knew without a shadow of a doubt and every cell in my body that I wanted to be part of CSC. I also knew, in that way we know this would be full of twists and turns AND that I would be inspired in ways I had not imagined.
It was and is important to me to be ALL IN and to encourage and inspire others. Therefore, I was incredibly nervous how the classes would go. I have my own style and fortunately Dannie encouraged me from minute one to BE ME, use this style and to try anything and everything. She is a welcome unexpected twist in this adventure as well. Dannie and the staff support the instructors in such a kind, gentle way it enables me to support the energy of the writing group each week.
And energy there is!
This is My Super-Power is the first class I’m teaching as the Writing Instructor and I am humbled and grateful for these twists and turns. Our energy is supportive, easy, kind and fun. The group is relaxed and we encourage one another to think, write, share and write even more. The value of writing and sharing in a group gives our voices a space to live.
I hope that the writing classes continue to inspire and challenge us. To help us reach out to others and look inward with our writing. With each written and shared word we are empowering ourselves to find out voices. Recognize our voices. It’s living in the present and knowing our words are preserved for the future…full of things that we might not expect.
By: Pam Wilson, MSW, LCSW