The Daughters: Spring Vacation Visit

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“A daughter may outgrow your lap,but she will never outgrow your heart.”

Just finished eight loads of laundry all towels and bed linen, but it was worth the extra effort.  The remaining four of my six houseguests, this past week, departed on an early morning flight returning to the cold of Wisconsin.

Since moving to Florida three years ago, the hubby and I look forward to spring school breaks and Christmas holidays.  Weeks and sometimes months in advance, preparation begins for our children and grandchildren’s bi-annual visits to our home.

During this visit, I am so grateful and thankful for the five days of relaxing face-to-face time spent with The Daughters.   Though we communicate, by telephone, at least two to three times a day; I treasure those times when we are in each other’s presence.

Hours and Hours of Quality Time with The Daughters Lounging on The Lanai

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Tasty Lunch with The Daughters at the Mall

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Diva Window Shopping Day with The Daughters at The Mall

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Picked Up a Strawberry Cheesecake to Share with Hubby and the Grands

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Expressing gratitude and appreciation to The Daughters who choose to spend their spring vacation with their Mom and Dad.

The Daughters and grandchildren arrived home safely.  Everything is quiet. The hubby and I have spent the day getting the house back in order, catching up on things that went undone including this week’s blog.

Reflections on The Daughters’Visit

As I grow older, the roles are reversing.  The Daughters are overprotective, watchful and uneasy when they perceive the slightest change in my physical, emotional or mental behavior.    Much like I was when they were children.  It was especially noticeable  during this visit, since I was experiencing a flareup with knee pain.  I grunted and limped, determined that pain was not going to stop me from spending quality time with The Daughters.    Despite my reassurances that the knee pain would taper off, The Daughters talked about a range of corrective measures including a cane, walker, brace or visit to an orthopaedic surgeon for a knee replacement.   I vetoed every suggestion.   But, realistically  if the pain is not resolved, I may have to look at suitable options.

Mama and Me

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A photo on my Facebook Newsfeed last week of a “vintage stove” took me back to early childhood and a Saturday night ritual, shared with my mother, that lasted until I was about 12-years-old.

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Saturday evenings were a special time reserved only for “mama and me.”   No, it was not baking cookies, cakes or a special family recipe on a stove similar to the one pictured.   To be honest, mama was not the typical homemaker of the 1950s.   Mama was the breadwinner and I was her only child.

For all practical purposes, she was a single mother and the sole provider of our shelter, food, and clothing.  Mama was able to do this by working six days a week and walking for eight hours around a long table collating pages at a bookbindery.  Most days, she came home, after sitting on a bus and train for one hour, worn out and exhausted.

But, a nourishing meal was always on the table for the two of us with the exception of Saturday.  This day was reserved for mama and me.”   She would cook either hot dogs or hamburgers along with fries; and, she never forgot to bring home our dessert of choice, butter pecan ice cream.

A “gourmet” cook she wasn’t, but growing up in rural Mississippi, my mama mastered the art of “pleasure loving” soul food cooking.   She never used a recipe; and, I am grateful she took the time to teach her Chicago-reared daughter the ins and outs of cooking southern style.

Loved the special meal mama cooked on Saturday nights.  Hated, her obsession with my hair.    Saturday mornings, she never failed, before leaving for work to wash and braid my long, thick, coarse hair in preparation for the “mama and me” time I hated.

See, in those times, no self-respecting mother would send her child to Sunday School with a “nappy” head.  So, Saturday night was dedicated to straightening my hair.  Looking back, it was a laborious task for both “mama and me.”   She placed a chair in front of the stove for me to sit on.  The hated straightening comb was pulled out and placed on the stove burner.

Mama would begin by taking down the first of my 6-8 braids.  She used a large tooth plastic comb to untangle that section of my hair.  Once untangled, she separated into even smaller sections of hair and lightly applied Royal Crown Hair Dressing. 

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Then, she would put a dab of saliva on her fingertip, lightly touch the straightening comb to make sure it was not too hot.  You see, a hot straightening comb could scorch the hair.   While, I don’t recall mama ever scorching my hair, I do remember burns on my ear, forehead, scalp and sometimes the neck.    On those rare occasions, mama would say, “I told you to keep your head straight. “  Yes, I often would fidget or nap during the 1 to 1½ hour process it took to straighten my hair..

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“Mama and me” Saturday nights are amongst my most treasured memories.   Who I am today is due to the lessons learned from “mama” on hair straightening nights.

My mama went to her final resting place on December 8, 1967, four months after undergoing surgery to correct a heart problem.   The heart surgery was successful, but she suffered irreversible brain damage due to anesthesia complications.   Mama was only 42-years-old.

Letter to Mama

I know you worried when I married.  After all, I was only 17-years-old, quickly had two children, and we struggled as a young couple.   Things worked out.  In our mid-twenties, JT and I enrolled in a top-ten university and earned our college degrees.  We are both retired; and April 11, we will celebrate our 53rd wedding anniversary.

Your three grandchildren, now middle aged, are running our family-owned medical practice and ambulatory surgery center.

  • grandson, KA, is responsible for marketing and referring physician relations.
  • granddaughter, PY, is an anesthesiologist and pain physician and serves as the medical director.
  • granddaughter, KO, who carries your name, is an attorney and serves as the administrator and legal counsel.

Mama, you also have five great-grandchildren:

  • EM, male, 22-years-old, senior in college;
  • CY, female, 21-years-old, sophomore in college;
  • GK, male, 17-years-old, junior in high school;
  • CJ, male, 13-years-old, seventh grader in middle school; and
  • AN, girl, 4-years-old, in pre-school.

Mama, thank you for creating the foundation that led to our building a strong family structure.   Rest In Peace.  All is well with us. 

“I thought that I would miss you so, and never find my way.  

And then I heard an angel say, “She’s with you everyday.    

The sun, the moon, the wind, the stars, will  forever be

around, reminding you of the love you shared and

the peace she’s finally found.” (unknown)

Yvonne: A Breast Cancer Story

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This week, I planned to write a post on “What’s In a Name.”    The selected name was a bit self-serving, since I chose to use my own – Yvonne.  I wanted to find out as much as I could about the name my mother gifted me with more than 70 years ago.   I began by entering a variety of  Yvonne questions in the Google and Yahoo search engines including “poems with the name Yvonne.”

I discarded the plan to write a post around my name when Google directed me to Finding Hope, www.findinghope.cbcf.org and this poem:

CANCER:  Yvonne’s Poem 

Cancer can you imagine a world without cancer putting you in bed

Anyone, anywhere, anytime is susceptible to cancer rearing its ugly head

No one should have to suffer the heartache & pain

Can you imagine not having chemo ever again

Everyone hopes & prays that one day that will happen for sure

Research surely after all these years will eventually find a cure

Written by Yvonne Thomas, November 1940 – July 2004

(Written with Hope:  Yvonne’s Poem – When looking through her mother’s things, Linda discovered this poem her mother, Yvonne, had written after she had been treated for breast cancer.  Unfortunately seven years later, Yvonne’s cancer returned”…)

I connected with the anxieties, frustrations, fears, hopes and wishes in Yvonne’s Poem.   And,  to my suprise, we not only shared the name, Yvonne, but the same:

Medical Diagnosis:                 Breast Cancer

Last Name:                                  Thomas

Birth Month                                November

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So moved by Yvonne’s Poem, I was driven to match the letters in CANCER to daily positive affirmations and biblical verses.

How I Cope with CANCER

Choose to stay in the fight

Appreciate and show your gratitude daily

Nourish your mind, body, and spirit

Create your own happiness

Encourage yourself and others with positive words

Reject negative thoughts

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My CANCER Bible Verses 

Come to me all that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you peace.” 

As I go forward, step by step, the way will be opened up unto me.”

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.”

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

 Encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

Renew a right spirit within me.”

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Yes, it is difficult to live life to its fullest with a “no cure” prognosis, but it can be done.  The “Quality of My Life Improved” after I was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago.  I will talk about this in an upcoming post.

I dedicate this post to the memory of Yvonne Thomas.  She lost the battle, but her message of “hope” and “prayer” remains.  The “fight for a cure” continues.

Warriors in Pink – Angel Wings

“Honor the angels who have

passed after their fight against breast cancer.

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Exciting New Adventure – Yoga Class!!!

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When I first signed up for an exercise program at the YMCA more than sixteen years ago, Yoga was my first exercise of choice.  But, I walked away.  Why?  I was . . .

  • Embarrassed about the inability to lift or lower my body to do the floor poses; and
  • Fearful to let others know about this physical limitation.

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Recently, this changed.  First, let me share my story.  Several months ago while perusing the Internet, I came across an article on Chair Yoga DVDs for the elderly and people with disabilities.   Immediately, I went to my favorite online source for DVDs, www.amazon.com, and ordered three — “Easy Yoga for Arthritis,” “Chair Yoga:  A Seated Practice,” and “Yoga for Us.”

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Looking to share my happiness, I e-mailed a friend who has practiced Yoga for a number of years.  She cautioned against trying to do this on my own.  Her advice, which I respect and value, was to find a Yoga instructor who could show me the proper way to do the poses and lessen the chance of getting an injury.

Following my friend’s suggestion, I discussed my dilemma with a personal trainer at the YMCA.  She urged me to attend one of the upcoming Yoga Issues classes.  Mind you, she said the Yoga Issues class was “low key” and designed to meet the special needs of people with “issues” that prevented them from taking a traditional Yoga class.

Imagine my surprise when I entered the class.   There were No Chairs.   Well, One Chair was in the middle of the room.   But, surrounding the One Chair were people sitting on a variety of vibrant and colorful Yoga floor mats.  All appeared quite comfortable in their Cross-Legged seated poses.  The ONE CHAIR, I assumed was for me.  So, I claimed it.   This “issues” group performed poses comparable to the ones I had observed while peeking through the window of the Yoga class at the YMCA in my former hometown years ago.

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In looking around the room, like me, there were,

  • elders in the class;
  • several people were overweight; and
  •  others may have had “invisible” disabling conditions.

But their “issues” did not seem to limit their abilities.

I sit in the CHAIR, fearful and embarrassed.  I watched the flexible and pliant bodies of people with supposed “issues” effortlessly bending, reaching, rising, lifting and twisting their bodies as they did the various Yoga poses.   Following the lead of others, I attempted, when possible, to do the poses in a sitting position.  I was embarrassed by my performance.

Disappointed, but not defeated, I returned to the class the following week.  Alone, in a far corner of the room, and leaning against the wall was the CHAIR.  I claimed the CHAIR.  Clearly, no one else in the class would ever need a CHAIR.   Naturally, I did not seek a spot in the center of the room.  The CHAIR and I went to the farthest corner in the rear of the studio.   I placed my Yoga mat in front of the CHAIR for the comfort of my feet.  Unlike the first class, I chose to do the standing poses without the assistance of the CHAIR.

Then, it was time to do the floor poses.  I sat down in my CHAIR.  After several poses, the CHAIR slowly started to lower toward the floor.  I prayed no one would notice.  But, the CHAIR kept moving down, down, down until my “buttocks” ever so lightly touched the floor.  Several people came to offer help.  Pride made me say NO.  I did not want people standing around trying to figure out how to get me up.  .

Instead, I remained on the floor.  To my surprise, with a bit of effort and a little pain, I got through the poses.  Independent, of any help, I brought my body to an upright standing position.

Now, I don’t want to oversell.  While I lifted, reached and twisted, this body did not always end up where it was supposed to go.  Touching my toes and sitting in a Cross-Legged pose are at the very top of my “Yoga Goal List.”

I am a little nervous about going to the next class.   But, FEAR and EMBARRASSMENT, are no longer problems.  After years of dreaming, I am grateful to finally have Yoga in my life.

Thank you CHAIR for breaking and gently guiding me to the right place.

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I Choose to Rise 

Better Late than Never

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Late Start

At 54 years of age, roughly 16 years ago, I chose to start exercising.   Chronic pain had literally controlled my life for more than three years.  I relied on prescribed medications for pain relief.  While the medications temporarily and sporadically reduced pain levels, I aspired to have a richer and fuller life.  Frequent, pain flare-ups prevented me from carrying out many day-to-day functional activities.  My body was under the control of either Ms. Fibro (Fibromyalgia-muscle pain) or Mr. Arthur (Rheumatoid Arthritis-joint pain).  While I FEARED the prospect of enduring the extra pain likely to come with exercising, the excruciating pain I was experiencing at the time left me with no other realistic choice.

In the Beginning

I exercised three days per week.  I could only endure six minutes on the treadmill and five minutes on the bicycle.  The body was so deconditioned and the muscles so atrophied, 11 minutes of low-impact exercise was all I could tolerate. Those first months were a struggle.  But, as the days, weeks and months passed – the FEAR disappeared — the pain lessened –the body strengthened.

Results

Over time, I have been able to add:

  • 49 minutes to exercise time (11 minutes to 60 minutes);
  • 2 days per week to exercise program (3 days to 5 days);
  • 3 new cardio machines to the treadmill and bicycle (Step, Elliptical, and PreCor); and
  • 10 circuit weight machines

Making the decision to start exercising was not easy.  But, I chose to TRY.

TODAY

Mr. Arthur and Ms. Fibro are no longer in control of my life:

“It is Better to Do Something Late than Not at All”