What was it I needed to do?

Photo credit: pni / Source / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: pni / Source / CC BY-NC-SA

Have you ever gone into a room and forgotten what you went in there to find? Ever forget someone’s name? Ever spend time looking for something because you couldn’t remember where you put it?

These are normal events for most people. At my age, however, they are becoming more worrisome. Some days I worry about losing my memory.

My dad has Parkinson’s and dementia and it saddens me to watch him struggle. I am reading books about dementia and memory loss diseases to learn how to help him, support those who do his care-giving, and understand some of his challenges.

I am also learning how to prevent or at least diminish the potential for my own memory loss. This past week, I read a great biography about a daughter caring for her dementia-affected mom: Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter’s Memoir. Besides communicating honesty, empathy and encouragement, the author, Martha Stettinius, offers great appendices of resources – one contains suggested antidotes for dementia.

This is a summary of what she writes:

Exercise

Studies show that thirty minutes of daily physical activity (housework, walking, weight training, etc) may be our strongest weapon against Alzheimer’s and other memory loss diseases. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain and stimulates growth of new brain cells.

Mental Stimulation

Add social community and mental stimulation to exercise and you have a great combination. Work, join a club, volunteer, travel, play games – especially crosswords or puzzles, learn to speak another language or play an instrument. Do these things in relationship with others and your brain continues to make connections too.

Eat Right

Nothing new here right? A good diet helps with a lot of things! Eating dark veggies and fruits, cold water fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) and nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts) also decreases the risk for memory loss. Vitamins E, C, and B12 may also help. Cut back on sugars and carbs wherever you can.

In addition, Stettinius suggests that you get checked if you have vision problems, sleep apnea or an infection that damages neurons. Researchers consider each of these as possible catalysts for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

This all seems pretty basic and these are health tips I have heard before. I am just a bit more motivated to take them seriously each time I hear about someone else caring for a loved one who suffers memory loss… and that is often. There are 35.6 million people with dementia worldwide today and analysts expect that amount to almost double by 2030 to around 66 million and double again by 2050 to approximately 115 million.

I am going to do what I can so that I do not add to that number.

How about you? Do you need to change some habits? Or did I already ask you that?

on the (bike) path of life

Reflecting on a ride…

It was a warm very hot, sunny day in Orlando. We were ready for a new adventure, energized and enthusiastic… and a little unsure of how it would turn out in the end. We had done our homework: asking questions of the “experts”, researching on Internet, and preparing our equipment. We had a trail recommendation, map directions, snacks and water in our bags, and air in our tires.

IMG_0552Preparation is wise and helpful,
but it does not guarantee ease or success.

Off we went. The sights were beautiful – shade trees, flowers, benches and wooden bridges. We followed the path signs, passed lakes and luxury homes, schools and parks; we crossed streets and highways.

Life isn’t usually a 1/4 mile round track.
It is a cross-country journey;
for each one – different, unique, valuable in its own way.

We rode along mostly side by IMG_0507side, as is our preference. Sometimes one of us rode out it front, setting the pace. On some stretches, we passed others who walked, jogged, or rode more slowly. At other places, we were the ones who ceded to riders who passed us by.IMG_0608 IMG_0382

Life is a journey of ebb and flow, rhythms, and sharing the road together.

Some folks called out “good morning” or “hello”; others were quiet or distracted with their own thoughts, music, or life situation. Some rode with children; some walked with friends, others walked with pets. A rich community.

Life isn’t meant to be lived alone.
Whether we have a few special friends or many important relationships,
we need company along the way.

There were flat parts and then hills to climb. There were almost-out-of-control downhill inclines, sharp curves, and IMG_0609bumps. One short stretch was “off-road”, rocky, washed out and rutted.

Life has many experiences along the trail, breaking the monotony,
adding variety, mixing times of challenge and rest.

At the end of the ride, we were worn out and tired – but IMG_0376accomplished. I see this in my mom’s life as she is nearing the end of her journey. So much energy and enthusiasm at the start; wearniness now with a sense of completion and satisfaction, and peace.

Where are you on your life path? How are you doing on your ride?

the whole package

open boxI’ve had some physical challenges lately, and as a result…some emotional challenges, and as a result… some relationship challenges.

It appears that I am entering a new stage of life… and I do not like it a whole lot.

I have always been a high energy and a high performance person. I have a good quantity of self confidence and intelligence, and ability to set my mind to something and make it happen. Or so I like to think.

In my deep inner being, I know I am not really in control of much of anything in my life. I just like to act like I am. Until…things begin to happen in my life that I – very obviously – cannot control. Today it is health related, but other times it can be people related, or work, or money, or any other issue.

And, I don’t like it.

When I cannot control something or someone like I want to, it exposes the “real” me… to myself and to others. It exposes my impatience, my critical spirit, my frustration, and my irritation levels that I would prefer to keep carefully guarded and hidden from the public eye.

I like to appear “all together”. I like to be optimistic and always with a desire to help out a friend… not moody, grumpy, tired, and pretty much disinterested in others’ problems like I feel these days.

I am sure this stage will pass eventually, and I will feel like “myself” again. However, it has been a good reminder that my true self is actually a mixture of many facets – positive and negative, good and bad, pretty and pretty ugly. Those who know me well already know that truth about me. Sometimes, others unexpectedly get a glimpse of my not-so-well-hidden self.

This life stage has also been a good reminder that my friends, co-workers, and family are also a mixed up mess of moods and attitudes and energy levels. I get them on good days and bad days. Ups and downs. Fun and not so fun. The whole package. The parts I love, the parts I tolerate, and the parts I would rather not experience.

Just as they do with me. We are a whole package. We have much to offer some days. We have a lot of needs on other days. We are made to live in community in a rhythm of giving and recieving. May God help me to embrace the whole package and give others the same acceptance and grace and love that I have been receiving these days.

What do you do when you do not feel like your best you? How do you respond to others on their difficult days/weeks/months/years?

a place of community

Grandpa's cabin - courtesy of Sarah Joelle PhotographyI have just been blessed with a few days of family vacation time in the gorgeous Colorado mountains. My dad has a rustic cabin next to the Conejos River, and for many years the extended family (and some special friends) meet there to relax, fish, play games, and eat WAY TOO MUCH. It is a special time and provides sweet memories that last for the rest of the year.

Family get-togethers help me practice being grateful for varieties of talents and differences of opinions! Although we get along amazingly well even with the diversity represented at these gatherings, our personal preferences definitely surface…

  • Some like to talk while others want to sleep in the hammock
  • Some want to fish; others want to read on the porch
  • Some sing; others play games or do puzzles
  • Some enjoy “olympics” competitions; other a talent show 
  • Some shoot; others hike; some run trails
  • Some tell jokes; others laugh ’til they cry
  • Some sleep in late; others go to bed early
  • Some cook; others just eat… and eat… and eat

There is a lot of freedom at the cabin – not much judgement or criticism when we choose to do our own thing. There are usually plenty of people around for any activity, and there is plenty of space to find solitude too. Experts teach how to play guitar or fish or build something; those who think they are experts have a captive audience for their lectures.

We work hard to accommodate each other; bigger families get the bigger rooms, and showers get shortened (except by the teenagers) to save hot water. There is no agenda or schedule or routine. We share groceries, dinner prep, and clean up. We watch out for each other’s children and dogs – with only minimal complaining. It is a place of real community… and love.

Reflecting on that special time, I wonder why I don’t act like that more often… more at rest with time and more at peace with the people around me. Why can’t I judge less what others choose and enjoy more fully what I am doing? Why can’t I give up my space, comfort, and expectations without a negative attitude?

I am hoping this year that I don’t just remember the fun activities, but also the heart attitudes and the shared service that made it so much fun. I hope I can apply those principles not only to vacation, but to everyday life also.

What does your family enjoy together? What do you learn from those times?

life is a story

maskEvery life is a story… Comedy. Drama. Action. Horror. Newscast.

My favorite part of our meetings this year is when each person took a few minutes to tell (a very brief version of) their life journey. Many made us laugh. Others made us cry. Some left us with our mouths open in disbelief. Each story was unique.

Some used pictures. Others told stories. Some communicated with confidence and creative presentations. Others simply read from their notes. Some were so nervous that their voice cracked and their knees literally trembled as they spoke… but they did it, and it was powerful.

I could relate to some of the stories; others were very, very different from my reality. Either way, I felt more connected to each one as I came to know them just a little bit better. Through our vulnerability, we were building community.

Pain permeated many of the stories; loneliness, illness, rejection, death. Some told of shame or fear, lost dreams or broken hearts. For a few the pain was fresh and raw; a story being told for the first time. For others, the sting is gone now, and they are living a new life. I often heard a thread of grace, redemption, and hope.

Although I have always been a “people person” and have enjoyed meeting many different types of people, I feel like this year I have come to appreciate each person’s unique story more than ever. I have especially treasured those people who are open and real with me, allowing me to see their brokenness and their imperfections… and those who have invited me to share their new adventures and their joys.

It is sometimes more comfortable and natural for us to compare, or hide, and isolate ourselves from others, but I recognize each life is valuable and lived to be told. In a safe place, with a commitment to growth, our lives are a priceless gift when shared with others. As our lives intersect, they are like the threads in a beautiful tapestry… not to be hidden, but to bring warmth and beauty and richness to our world.

Do you share your (real) life with others? Are you a safe place for others to share their story?

chocolate, character and community

I love chocolate. Chocolate cake, chocolate cookies, chocolate pie, chocolate brownies, chocolate candy (especially with nuts). I can easily pass on most sweets… but not chocolate. Over the years, my tastes have drawn me to dark chocolate. That is now my unquestionable favorite.

yum webWhen I was recently in Birmingham in the UK, we had the opportunity to tour the Cadbury factory. What a treat! I have always enjoyed learning about how things are made, but chocolate… the best of all worlds! It was a chilly day for walking around… but so worth it! Our first stop included a sample of warm, melted chocolate over our choice of toppings. It was amazingly delicious – as you can tell!

better conditions webWe then moved on to displays that demonstrated a bit of the history and processes. A friend had encouraged us to look for the Human Resource connections in the company foundations, and we were not disappointed. George and Richard Cadbury were men of great character. They obviously cared for people as well as profit… and did not sacrifice quality or integrity to accomplish both goals. There were numerous testimonies and historical evidences of the Cadbury’s commitment to their employees and their families. The Cadbury brothers provided out-of-the-norm housing and education opportunities, dental and medical care, recreation and vacation possibilities for their workers. I have often sensed the tension between people and production, but these men have proven that both can flourish together.

greatest gift horizontal webGeorge and Richard took care of their people by providing community. In 1879, the Cadburys expanded their facilities… and their contributions to Birmingham. The factory, called Bournville, was known as a “factory in a garden” because of the stream, green areas, and gardens all throughout. It is still a very attractive place today. The brothers built homes, schools, hospitals, reading rooms, and gardens for what became known as Bournville village. George and Richard understood that as they invested in individuals, they ensured a society change ROI also. Their example was inspiring to me as I dream about the positive impact that my actions can have in a scope much larger than my own life.

I’ve included a few references below if you’d like to read more about the Cadbury legacy. I suggest that you accompany your study with a Cadbury Milk bar or a Cadbury Egg – for maximum educational benefit!

IMGP0120

Have you experienced leaders who are able to combine care for their people and profit/success?

__________

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/REcadbury.htm
http://www.cadbury.com.au/about-cadbury/the-story-of-cadbury.aspx
http://candyhalloffame.org/CHoF/inductees/2005/richard-george-cadbury.shtml

upside down life

squirrel webSquirrels do best in or around trees. Running free. Outdoors.

This little guy found his life turned around when he got stuck inside the screened porch of the club house of our apartment complex. Not a good place for a squirrel. Scary. Unexpected. Life-changing.

My life changed this Christmas too. A few days ago, my mom had emergency surgery to remove a tumor, and the doctors declared it terminal cancer. Treatments options are ugly and time is uncertain. Her life has been turned upside down… the same for her husband, her sisters, her children, her friends. I had already written a post anticipating a different Christmas this year; I just didn’t expect this kind of different.

To be honest, my head and my heart are in a sort of fog right now. It is hard to process the emotions and still live in the midst of Christmas festivities – now with an added urgency and importance.

How do I live this new upside down life? I am learning day by day… about cancer, about my mom, about my family, about myself. There will be many more lessons as we go, but I have a few in mind now that I thought I would share with you…

Lean on community 

I don’t know what we would do without the support of our family and friends. Prayers, calls, notes, offers of practical help are all invaluable and give strength to our souls. It is not easy for any of us to ask for help, but we cannot “Lone Ranger” this one without leaning on others. This is not time to let our pride get in the way.

Work at communication

The stress of an unexpected surgery and a horrible diagnosis is causing tension between family members who each try to help in their own way. Exhaustion, emotions and different personalities, opinions, and availability cause misunderstandings and conflict. My family is trying very hard to believe the best, clarify doubts, give grace, and respect the interests and needs of each one. It is not easy, but we don’t want to lose our relationship in the process.

Grow in compassion

I don’t think my family has ever had a Christmas disrupted by a tragedy like this… but others certainly have. We usually go about our merry way buying gifts, preparing meals, and playing games without a thought for those who are spending the holidays in the hospital or at the funeral home. This year, I know what it’s like to feel little interest in parties, gifts, or food as emotional upheaval dulls my senses. I have empathy for those who are hurting now, and I hope that I will be more aware and thoughtful in the future that while some celebrate, others are suffering or struggling. 

During this scary, unexpected, life-changing time, I treasure the deeper moments with faith and family. I am grateful for our network of friends and support. I am learning and growing because of this upside down life.

I appreciate your prayers for my mom and my family. Please share any lessons you have learned when your life was upside down…

be part of a movement!

My organization believes strongly in movements, but I rarely meet anyone who has ever actually seen one or been a part of one. I have had the privilege of being a part of two – one as a key player, in the other more of a mentor/coach. Those experiences were exciting, invigorating, fun, messy, fulfilling and a lot of hard work! They were dreams come true… and I’d love to help with many more. As I was doing reading for my MA, I read a chapter on movements in The Courage to Teach, by Parker J. Palmer.  It outlined four stages of movements that I recognized right away. I think understanding them might help us see many more movements in the years ahead.

Stage 1 – No more divided life

Movements start when someone decides, “I can’t take it anymore. I can’t live a life externally that is so different from my heart convictions.” In ministry that means I will follow God’s heart and do whatever,  go wherever, it takes to win ______ (fill in the blank: women, students, professionals, students, athletes…) to Christ… because that is what He has called me to do. However that might look in my circumstance and with my gifting, I won’t let discouragement, fear, busyness, small children, organizational disinterest or criticism by others get in my way. I will not blame anyone else nor the organization for my lack – I will be true to myself! We will never see God build more spiritual movements, if we don’t individually get to this place in our heart.

Stage 2 – Support in community

The next step is to take our mustard seed of faith and conviction and share it with someone else; admit to another that I want to be and do something new. It is too easy for our enthusiasm to die away without encouragement from others. Community could be our family, our team, a few friends – any other like-minded cohorts. Our community gives us mutual reassurance (“No, you’re not crazy.”), a common vocabulary for our vision, and often skills and training necessary to make the dream a reality. Working together in a healthy, dynamic team is one of the most synergistic parts of a movement.

Stage 3 – Go public

A true movement doesn’t hide behind closed doors and manipulate its people in secret. A true movement shares its vision and resources with others, seeking feedback for improvement and partnership for impact. Sometimes it seems it would be easier to stay small and private, but then we would miss the opportunity to challenge and influence others, and we would miss the blessing of working with and learning from others. Receiving  feedback from others helps us to avoid self-righteousness, self-centeredness, self-sufficiency… and helps us become more Kingdom focused.

Stage 4 – There is nothing better

Once we actually begin to experience the fruit of spiritual movement, there is nothing more inspiring! The out-of-control multiplication, the true life transformation in our disciples, the character growth in ourselves – all bring a sense of satisfaction that says, “It is so worth it! There is no price I paid that was too great, no prize you can offer that would be worth more.”  I don’t want to invest in anything less.

Have you been a part of a movement? Please tell me about it! I’d love to learn from you…