Category Archives: Healthy Living

Essence

I’m attempting to re-post (share with you) this article by another Lutheran pastor friend of mine from seminary days.  This spoke so strongly to me…  I think, in these hard days (new diagnosis: cystic macular edema – have lost some of my eyesight which will probably come back in a matter of months … so all reading is blurred which is maddening) her reminders are really meaningful.  1, damn, life can throw awful things at you, and losing your shine is very legitimate; and 2, if you are sharing the journey with someone who is hurting, “bring with you hope.” Especially in these days of waiting for God to come into the world in a new way, we look for hope, even when our eyes are glazed over.  Click on the link below and read words of reality and grace.

Essence.

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An unexpected welcome home…

Greetings, friends. Many friends, family, supporters, and just lots of people have heard

Smiles before surgery

Smiles before surgery

that I underwent surgery on Monday, 25th August, to remove a lump that a mammogram showed.  As recently as 13th August, life was going as usual – packing for our flight back to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.  Then one doctor’s appointment turned things around.  When the doctor reading the mammogram told me to sit down, I thought he was being hierarchical.  Turns out you give bad news to people only once they’ve sat down.  Fair enough.

Eric was already in Malaysia at that point.  One of our favorite songs, “What About Everything” by Carbonleaf, has the line “what about that midnight phone call – the one that wakes you from your peace?”  It was 2 a.m. his time when the phone rang, and it was a gift to be on the same page in making decisions.  Where would I want a biopsy, surgery, radiation?  Even having only a mammogram, our USA doctor said it was 90% likely to be malignant and told me to deal with it in “days, not weeks.”  

In that conversation with Eric (which ended up on Skype because his phone battery ran out! terrible timing!), we both realized how much Malaysia is home to us.  Our boys’ school is fabulous; the seminary is a wonderful place to live and work; we have friends and churches here.  Sudden news can throw things into stark relief; For us it became clear that Malaysia is where I needed to be.  I just had to survive a 14- and 6- hour flight with 2 young boys to get there!

In Malaysia, it’s hard to call a doctor’s office. The model is “show up and we’ll take care of you.” On Sunday, friends emailed me the name of a surgeon.  On Monday, I showed up and got an appointment with this Dr. Law.  On Tuesday, Dr. Law arranged an appointment with a breast surgeoun, Dr. Siti, who I saw in the afternoon.  She arranged surgery for the next Tuesday, and then was able to move the surgery up to Monday.  This is phenomenal to me – a bad mammogram on 13th August in the USA, and surgery on 24th August in Malaysia.  Kudos to these doctors!!!!

I am home from the hospital now and recovering.  The hospital was fine; they had me check in Sunday morning and rest all day Sunday.  Church, friends, and the seminary chaplain came to visit.  I met a million medical students.  The doctors and nurses gave me all the time I needed.  The doctors spoke English but the nurses mainly spoke Malay – they were delighted (as was I) that my ability to speak Bahasa Malaysia came back in force.  

The view from my 7th-floor window ... all the way to the beautiful South China sea!

The view from my 7th-floor window … all the way to the beautiful South China sea!

In all of this, I’ve surprised myself time and again.  Normally I joke about being “Anxiety Girl – able to leap to the worst possible conclusion in a single bound!”  Yet since that mammogram, I’ve been able to see the positive.  Early detection – because a) my employer required a clean bill of health, b) my doctor found a lump I’d missed and wrote on my paperwork “mammo required”, and c) my mom, who had breast cancer at age 55, was willing to make an appointment for me (I was avoiding it, for no good reason).  Maybe it was my mom’s cancer, so long ago (to me), that led to this early detection.  I wouldn’t put that past the hand of God – providence.  And so now, in lieu of my usual “worst case scenario” attitude, I see positives all around.  Kindnesses, people with the right skills & connections, people following through, science finding things…. all kinds of things working out for good.

I have a long wait now – 2-3 weeks – for lab results to come back.  But in these weeks we celebrate the boys’ first day of school, of getting them new uniforms because they outgrew their old ones, of seeing folks we haven’t seen in 2 months.  We are happy to be back – the fruits, the bicycles, our apartment, and hey – working internet!  We’re in a good place.

Your prayers are, of course, appreciated.  And if you are in Rockville, you can check on my mom, though apparently my brothers are smothering her with love.  (She’s used to love, just not daily visits!)  And, because I needed the reminder: if you’re female and have any risk factors, go get a mammogram.  If you want to do something, go exercise for 10 minutes, chop yourself some fresh fruit, or send a letter to your congressional reps reminding them to fund early detection programs like Planned Parenthood.  Helping you helps me, because in this web of caring, every good action matters.  

Thanks for your love, all!

 

Day 19 of 20 *Questions*: Are my thoughts hurting or healing?

Thoughts are important.  They can also feel as though they are beyond our control.  It’s hard, after all, to “make” yourself think something.  Thoughts also get bundled closely together with our feelings, so that the two become indistinguishable, especially in the heat of the moment (or as we re-live encounters when we can’t get to sleep….)

As I’ve learned to deal with the competing needs that happen in a relationships (family, household, or other), one of the things we’ve been practicing, in our goal of “slowing things down” (the Second Commandment for our family) is asking, “What was the thought before the feeling?”

With kids, when conflict arises, from whining to slugging, it does no good to ask what started the fight – that just starts a cycle of blame, and puts peace and solutions farther out of reach.  That probably describes how many adults approach a problem – by seeking blame/self-righteousness (win/lose), and by making peace less of an option.

Another option, in the midst of conflict, is to let people speak their feelings (without the words “he made me…”) AND then to ponder, what was the thought before that feeling?  Often the thought assumes blame so subtly that when the feeling is blame-centered, it feels like it came out of nowhere.  For instance, when I try to read with Dante, if he comes across a difficult word he immediately demands that I read it; if I suggest he try, then he shuts down and refuses to speak or read.  When I ask him for his feeling, it’s often anger at me, and sometimes that makes* me angry too. (remember how we’re not supposed to blame right away? Look what I just did… “that makes me mad”…)

But if I can hear his feelings and hold them carefully, we have time to ask, “What was the thought before the feeling?”  And then Dante can be honest, that he thinks I won’t help him when he really needs it.  A-ha.  He thought something that he didn’t have time to say, or that he was afraid of saying, and it got plowed into his feelings.  As Dante once explained, “The moment went by so quick!”

And that’s true for us as adults, too.  When we have a thought that we don’t know what to do with, we may think we’re burying it or hiding it, but in just a moment that thought wraps itself into a feeling, and we are left wondering why we reacted so strongly.

I think that we often do this with the people we love most, and we do it with God too.  Despite their past love and all of the reasons we have to trust them with our thoughts & feelings, yet when a moment arises, we think the worst of them – then hide that thought – then cry out because we feel unloved.

The question for today is “are my thoughts hurting or healing?”  When your feelings are hurting, especially when things feel out of control, see if you can ask yourself, “what was the thought before the feeling?”  Naming the thought lets you deal with the root of the feeling so that you can heal in body, mind, and spirit.  I saw the relief in Dante’s face when he could address the thought, and it helped he and I to heal our relationship from that point onward.  Today’s question gives us the opportunity to look at our thoughts courageously.

A = thinking
B = feeling
C = doing
Where are you most comfortable?
In general, the closer to the center of the diagram,
the healthier a person is (physically, mentally, & emotionally)

Day 18 of 20 *Questions*: So say I lived in that fabulous house in Tuscany, with untold wealth, a gorgeous, adoring mate, and a full staff of servants… then what?

So… now what?  The biggest discovery is: I’m still me.  The things that really challenged me over the past few years?  Still here.  Still a part of both my world and my core identity.  I still want to eat less sugar and get better abs; I still want to snap at my kids less; I still create arguments over little things; it still takes me 20 minutes to get out the door once I’ve got my keys in hand.

Now, living in paradise makes it easier to accept all of those things.  Living the dream life is great, and I really encourage you to write down your top 10 dreams, and see which ones call to you the loudest, and see what concrete things you can do for 10 minutes most days to reach out towards those dreams.  But don’t pretend that your dream life will make you any less yourself.  You have to love yourself, who you are, right now, because otherwise getting closer to your dreams won’t bring you joy or pleasure.  Start with loving the you that came up with big dreams, and then give that You what s/he needs to come alive.  That way, if the dreams don’t pan out, you will still have lived those days/months/years in love rather than in lusting after something that didn’t turn out to be yours.

I am definitely still me.  And I think, that is a blessing – that in meeting up with my dreams, I didn’t lose myself.

"Sand

Gallery

Going to the Markets

This gallery contains 7 photos.

 

Day 16 of 20 *Questions*: How can I keep myself absolutely safe?

I can’t (and of course, part of the answer there is “duh!”)  Let today’s question count, though, as a full category of Continuum Questions.  CQ’s, as we’ll call them, are questions that let us acknowledge that everything we do is far from absolute.  Everything falls on a continuum.

Take the safety question.  I was asking a mom here if we could carpool, and she asked if I had a carseat for each boy.  Well, we were told not to bother bringing carseats, and it’s true that they are used mostly by foreigners.  When I said, “nope, we don’t have carseats, we just use seatbelts.”  Her face fell.  It looked like, by her reaction, I was about as safe as the many parents here who let little kids ride in the front seat, unbuckled, with the window down and their head peering out.  Like there was no continuum – it was either extreme high-end safety, or nothing.  There was no step-down, no in-between.

I encountered the same thing while pregnant.  I wanted a doctor who wanted to avoid c-sections (in NJ the c-section rate was between 37-45% – the World Health Organization says anything over 15% is excessive and increases risks).  But to the OB I first saw, everything was a crisis, and she said to me, “If I see any sign of distress, or if labor slows too much, you *will* have a c-section.   Don’t you want the best for your baby?”  Again, an absolute – as though if I want to consider options, I don’t love my baby.  Honestly.

I talked before about target markets, and the developed world is a target market for FEAR!  Anything that seems dangerous is worth spending infinite amounts on.  There are no acceptable risks.  I think that to those in 2/3 nations, where really bad things happen all the time (how many families have lost someone to starvation or malaria, totally preventable deaths, just while I wrote this article?) – people face their fear in a different way.  Instead of being paralyzed, they try to get their kids to school, try to make a difference for their future – they try to inch over on their safety continuum.  They don’t pretend that life is all-or-nothing; they do their best with what they can.

This question is meant to free us from the paralysis that comes from demanding total safety.  And as a CQ, it invites us to look at other continuums in life – of health, of greatness, of learning, of hospitality, of so many things.  If you demand the tip-top of everything, you’ll exhaust yourself.  Accept that you’re on a continuum, and that what you do matters, but you’ll never get to the absolute.   That means that the world can still surprise you.  And that is the beginning of a whole other conversation… (the surprises of grace and mercy and hope and love.)

Day 15 of 20 *Questions*: Where could I work more and achieve less?

Shoot.  I actually mis-typed that.  But it’s all good.  We gotta roll with these things.

I read a suggestion that to learn better time-management, a first step is to have a day where you work at 60% of your potential.

Let that sink in for a moment.  60%.

I love it.

And why?  Because when we try to work at 110% every day, we lose track of what we’re doing right.  We’re too busy doing it all.  When we work at 110%, sure, everything might get done, but most likely priorities were not lived out, processes were not tended well for completing those tasks in the future, and the people most pleased are probably not the people in your life who most matter.  Working at 110% means we probably haven’t made the hard choices.  For me, when I have a reasoned list of top priorities and I’ve done them well enough, I give myself a 15-minute break.  It’s a reward, sure, but the effect is also that I catch my breath and can decide what direction I want/need to go in next.  Maybe it’s returning to the things done “well enough” to make them better; maybe it’s something new that came up during the day; maybe it’s going back to my to-do list to pick out one more thing that will really ice the cake for a productive day.

Working at 60% for a day would probably be hard for most of us.  We have jobs that matter, whether they matter because of their concrete impact or because they bring home a paycheck.  But the theory behind this is sound: one day at 60% will teach us that we won’t die if we do less than the 110% that’s killing us.  It’ll also teach us to choose priorities – we know that some % of what we do is fluff/padding/not essential/not urgent, but we usually don’t know how much.  So see what makes the cut in doing 60%.  Also, doing the 60% lets you look around, see what might really help your workplace but nobody has time to notice.  Maybe it’ll help you answer the original question for today:  “Where could I work less and achieve more?”

And under all of it, I bet if you have a day at 60%, you’ll have a hard time restraining yourself to do just that much, and you will give yourself credit for how much you are already doing and how hard you work.

The question is, do you tell your boss or co-workers that “today is 60% day for me”?  I’ll leave that answer up to you!!!

Day 14 of 20 *Questions*: What do I love to practice?

This question is another goodie.  If you answer it, you thereby admit to probably “should be doing more of it.”  For me, I’m teaching Dante guitar so we’re practicing together (he’s just building up his fingertip calluses), trying to run more than 15 minutes without wanting a walking break, and this blog series is practice daily writing.  And of course I try to practice my faith – mostly in prayer and listening to Christian music – which doubles as language practice when I listen to music in Bahasa Malaysia.

When Dante and I are feeling down, or just antsy, or frustrated, we each have a go-to list entitled “Things that I feel better after doing.”  We made the list when we were in a *good* mood.  And you know, the hardest thing when we’re down is mustering the strength to just look at the list.  Because we know if we look at it we will find things we want to do, and we won’t be down anymore, and we don’t think we have the energy for that.  It’s nonsensical, but very real.

Practicing is hard.  It means commitment, focus, energy, time management, and knowledge of self.  Practicing is really hard.  But this question reminds us that we are often doing what we love.  It takes the sting or the delay out of starting what we’re practicing.

It is said that in our world, where many people work at jobs that don’t create a finished project, we need to do something each day with a tangible outcome.  Woodworking, sketching, and cooking are options.  I also include things that are tangible if not lasting – giving a massage, playing an instrument, having a 30-second dance party.  Whatever lets you create something wonderful without demanding that that thing be perfect.  Find something that you love to practice, and know what you will feel better after doing.  Those are your “start” buttons.

Day 10 of 20 *Questions*: What’s so funny?

What’s brown & sticky?  (!!!kcits  A)  That’s my favourite joke.  I don’t know if it’s funny, but it makes me laugh, and we know that laughter does all kinds of good things for one’s spirit and body.  So yes – ask what’s funny, and enjoy!

But I want to explore another aspect of this question.  First – a story [some details changed].  While I was studying to become a pastor, I spent 10 weeks in a hospital as one of a group of 8 student chaplains.  We learned to care for others, but we also spent a lot of time examining ourselves – our histories, our fears, our assumptions about people.  While serving on a floor for people doing short-term stays to receive antibiotics, I met a lot of people who weren’t very sick, but who were very bored.  We had some good conversations.  One man was morbidly obese and was hospitalized because of an infection related to his diabetes, a disease that had caused the amputation of several toes.  He jokingly told me how his brothers had always called him “Piggy” and finished his story, laughing himself, and said, “My brothers sure are funny.”  I laughed along, but I was uncomfortable.  It wasn’t funny.

Back in my group, I shared the conversation as a case study.  It was there I got a wonderful piece of wisdom: play dumb, because it allows you to ask the obvious question.  In this case, the question was, “Why is it funny [that your brothers joke at your expense]?”  This fellow had been so brainwashed about his own worth that he couldn’t ask that question; but I was a newcomer to the situation, so I could have asked, “What’s so funny?” and given him permission to break out of a system that mocked him but didn’t help him.  His weight/diabetes was stealing his life, one body part at a time.  He needed support, not mean jokes – but by then, he didn’t know the jokes were mean.

In our world, we sometimes need to ask, “What’s so funny?”  When people use profanity all over the place, in the name of humor, we can ask, “is that actually funny?”  When bullies act as ringleaders, we can ask, “What’s so funny?  I don’t get it.”  When people tell racist jokes or jokes that put women down, we can resist by asking, “What’s so funny?”  Make people name it; make them spell it out; make them admit what they are really saying.

Play dumb.  You can get away with a lot of undermining when you ask the obvious question.

Day 9 of 20 *Questions*: How much junk could a chic chick chuck if a chic chick could chuck junk?

First off, that is really fun to say.  Second, this is one of the areas in which I feel I’ve grown most in my years, so I could say a million things about this.  Third – and proof of second –  I wrote a blog post on this way back in August  – you can find it at: https://flungforthanew.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/divesting/

Fourth, and I’ll stop counting here because I think I know the main thing I want to say:  junk is clutter, and clutter does not enhance life.  Often, clutter just sucks the energy right out of you , or me, or us.  For many people, we look around our house and there are little piles on each of the flat surfaces.  That’s visual clutter.  It’s also mental clutter – each of those things hangs on us in some way: the catalog I wanted to order something from, the toy that’s waiting to be glued, the medical bill that I have to call about, the picture my friend sent me, the plate that didn’t get back to the kitchen, the DVD that didn’t go back in its sleeve.  I have to be careful of each of these in some way (don’t lose the toy part, scrape the dvd, lose the bill).  And I don’t have a place to set anything else down without starting an avalanche – so I am less free, even in my own home.

Here is the take-home message for today’s question, and for me it was a game-changer.  “CLUTTER” is “A DECISION DEFERRED.”  Each and every piece of clutter is something that was in my hands, and I said, “I don’t know what to do with this.  I will deal with it later.”  And I set it down, and there it stays.  95% of the time, the decision is no easier later; in fact, it’s harder, because that item now has a story and a challenge and I’m unlikely to have the energy for those when “later” does or doesn’t come.

So here is what one does: say you’re holding a phone bill, and there’s an extra fee on it.  Yuck.  Get a post-it and write on it the steps to getting it fixed (1. Get phone # to call; 2. Call and write result on bill; 3. File and move post-it to front of that file to remember to check bill next month.)  WAIT.  Write down WHEN you will do these steps.  Stand up for yourself in getting to these tasks.  You deserve a life without little hooks and large piles of crap.

Tell yourself that you will only defer decisions if there is a legitimate reason to.  And if you’re facing junk like full closets, recognize that there are a lot of “deferred decisions” in there.  Take 15 minutes (set a timer) and start MAKING decisions: wear, donate, trash, repair (how & when?).  Being a chic chick means making decisions.  (And guys, you can be chic, too.)  The more you make, the better you get, and the less clutter will have power over you.

If you want to learn more about caring for the spaces you live in, I highly recommend www.FlyLady.net.  She has a system of what she calls “home blessing” and she teaches how to manageably clear out junk and make your home (office, car, etc) hospitable.  She emphasizes that you deserve to live with energy and joy – and she is right!