Last trip to Memphis for my granddaughter’s treatment for leukemia at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Rain is pelting the windshield, wipers fighting the force of water and wind then spots of no rain at all. It is a symbolic example of our three year journey coming to a close. We pull into the parking lot of the Tri-Delta House where we have a room reserved for us. We see new people and the familiar ones still fighting and hoping for a cure.
The next morning we arrive for the first of three MRI’s and labs, CAT scans and psychological testing that takes up the entire day. Tomorrow is full of appointments also. Humidity is heavy and it bears down on already stressed out emotions. Parents walk around downtrodden. Eyes vacant, trying to follow directions like good little boys and girls in hopes that a reward of a miracle of life will happen for their child. Robotic migrations from clinic to clinic carrying the all-important daily schedule that can change at any moment and invariably does. Waiting rooms are around every corner because that’s what you mainly do. They are filled with distractions for the child waiting for what they know will be the next painful procedure. Parents hate it too but there’s nothing left now except faith and hope and perseverance. It is an atmosphere of controlled chaos and a test of human endurance as to how many emotions you can shove down internally and keep from your frightened child moment by moment. Your own silent scream must remain that way until the end whatever that brings.
The lodgings are more than adequate. Living rooms, play and game rooms are adorned with beautiful furnishings, toys and up to date technology. Every wall has painted murals of landscape and animals that most of the children will not get to see, for real, for a long time. Some huge temporary houses like McDonald’s House have several big kitchens so you can make your own meals during the long term stays. The compound is gated and ran like a 4 star resort only what you are going to experience has nothing to do with pleasure and relaxation.
Staff does not build false hope even though it’s the only thread left in the fabric of your life to hold on too. You learn to build your own. This is a sub culture of desperation where everyone here belongs. The journey is like a train speeding toward a destination where every rider hopes they can eventually get off and get on with their lives. Some do but some are derailed along the way and never reach that station. This fact lives daily like a virus in each parent’s heart. None of this is St.Judes fault. They try very hard to accommodate but the situation is devastating and personal. It takes a very strong parent to endure and balance the medical control with their knowledge of what’s best for their individual child. Often you find yourself swinging from despair to anger.
We are grateful, relieved and blessed because we reached our train station as all the tests were negative and my granddaughter is cancer free. But, the fight continues there for so many. It is a journey that changes your Soul and lives within you forever. We believe in playing forward every life experience we learn from. My daughter met a grandmother this morning who has just arrived with her granddaughter and daughter. She is lost and she is desperate. My daughter gives her insights, navigation tools and when to take some advice with a grain of salt and which to pay attention too. She tells her the most important tool is research of everything, the drugs, procedures and advice. She has helped so many parents over these years cope during the worst journey of their lives.
My granddaughter started a website called “Freaking Out On Cancer” the first year of treatment. It is a place kids can talk about pain, victories, despair and joy. She intends to continue this website throughout her life. This journey into the valley of death was traumatic for our whole family but we made it through. Playing this experience forward is a way we can repay our incredible miracle. Each one teach one is the golden key of humanity.
I’ve thought a lot about change lately. Like they say it is the only constant. My life has been full to the brim of it as long as I can remember. So much so that I got to where I expected change, even looked forward to it like an old comfortable blanket. Although, I wasn’t always that way I just adapted to the ride. I was married young by today’s standards at 18 years old but was more than ready to settle down to a warm home with a picket fence with children and a smattering of dogs and cats. I yearned for stability because it felt safe and reassuring. However, it didn’t put demands on me to take risks or to explore who I really was underneath the persona of the perfect wife, mom, daughter etc. Then little changes began to happen like the first daughter and the second and the third. Then a tsunami of a change occurred in the form of a divorce.
This change brought me to my knees and forced me to reach way down into a place of strength and courage I did not know I possessed. But I found out I did possess this power and it was my first inkling of who I was and what I might be capable of. Change became a normal part of my life after that. Struggling, surviving, always looking for the light at the end of the tunnel taking every opportunity offered to create what I lost. We travelled like gypsies over more than a dozen states looking for stability but change was always right behind us as I was trying to run from my heart pain.
Then in Florida I got sick, really sick and almost died. The illness left me with many disabilities. My youngest daughter was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s during the time I was in a coma. We all made it through, lucky to be alive, trying to adjust to the biggest life change yet. There were five of us now with the addition of a beautiful son six years ago and I was in charge of their lives regardless of my new disabilities. By now I was a fighter and a survivor so I was determined to fulfill whatever mission God saved me for.
After a year learning to walk and drive again and my daughter was back home and in remission, the kids and I moved to the Midwest to be near my family. There I found what I was saved for when I took a job as a disability advocate for a civil rights organization. This was a perfect platform in which I could redirect my anger and survival skills to assist people with disabilities to thrive and become independent in a society bound and determined to warehouse them. These were my people and I instantly knew I had a responsibility to play it forward.
I just retired after 25 years and if that sounds like I finally found what I lost so long ago with the divorce you would be wrong. During those years the changes kept coming with challenges, deaths of loved ones, raising teenagers, moving residences constantly to adjust to new developments good and bad. I know now that what I forever tried to replace wasn’t mine anyway but rather a springboard for me to jump from in order to explore and use the essence of who I really am in this life.
I am now embarking on a new adventure with the same mission of reaching out to humanity only on my terms. It is a partnership with someone who is just as dedicated to change society’s perception of people with disabilities as I am. Change has become my friend and although I can finally relax with the children grown and a successful career put to rest I welcome change when it comes for the opportunity it is to grow spiritually and intellectually. Managing it becomes an expanding drill but the way we embrace, oh yes, the way we embrace it, defines our future and ourselves.
Like almost everything else we use in this world social media has its good points and bad. It is a tool and how you use it will produce the outcome. On the positive side it has worldwide connectivity that allows unlimited searching for relatives, long lost friends, an old teacher or even a pen pal from another country. The most well-known social networking communities are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Through these sites individuals can make new friends, build business connections or simply extend their personal base. It is a great way to share tips and ideas also. People can learn with ease and gather information about cooking, crafts, gardening and a variety of hobbies using Pinterest for example. There are also social network groups that act as a huge and diverse peer system sharing much needed information and resources for people with rare diseases, advice on toxic relationships, child care and caregiving for the elderly to mention a few.
However, when you are using any social media platform, take responsibility for your own safety and never join a group just because it is trendy or all your friends are doing it. In evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of social networking, it’s best to err on the side of caution and protect your privacy. Be careful with what you post and treat others as if you were in a face-to-face situation.
Some of the cons of social networking is in how we try to use the shortest words and sentences possible. It stymies our ability to express clearly our opinions. Being able set forth our own profound thoughts is paramount to being understood. Some networking site limit the characters to 140 creating a short hand version of what we intended.
We can over use social media to the point of forgetting to live in the moment. Constant updates whenever we do anything and taking hundreds of pictures of every event or moment for posting prevents us from savoring those memories we are attempting to preserve. Although we actually experienced them we are doomed to living them through the social media page. We need to start looking up and not down into our phones. I am just as guilty as everyone else wanting to share those celebrations but eventually the time get absorbed and we never felt the experience first-hand.
So, for all the potential risks in social networking it is still an informative resource for those who learn to balance their time using it. Like a gun it is not dangerous itself but rather a tool to use for good or evil. The user makes that call.
Christmas oh how I love thee. The sounds of beautiful music that flows like a river through my excited soul and fills my senses with smells of evergreen, fireplaces burning oak and cinnamon wafting from the kitchen. So many Christmases have I experienced through my long journey. Some I was poor, some rich, some in stressful times, some in celebrating times. But, Christmas is above all that. It is a concept and although personal it is also universal in its message. All the things it is, the gifts, the family joining, the food, the decorations remind me what that message is. It lifts me and makes me a better person because everything connected with it serves to make me remember the child within and the child who changed the world.
Yes, it’s marketing and yes for that reason it’s promoted early but you don’t have to buy gifts early or buy gifts at all. I like to wait until December but as a single mom there were years I so appreciated those early layaway options in early November. Not everyone can save early or have credit cards available. My little family sang Christmas songs earlier than anyone we knew and the gift discussions and anticipation was magical compared to the rest of the year of focusing on survival. They knew this holiday was a celebration of the birth of a savior and his message was to honor and love one another, to count your blessings and live with joy. He did not intend for us to just speak it but to do it. Gifts, even tiny ones, tells that person “you are loved, you are valued”.
Sometimes the only gift you have is a comforting hug and that could be the best gift of all. So I say to all the complainers out there that believe it’s too commercial that really, it’s all in the focus of what you want from it. And the answer to that lies within you.
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~Norman Vincent Peale
I have always been curious about subliminal messages and hypnosis. It seems like they would be the same thing but I found they are not. Both are subliminal messages that communicate with the subconscious mind but in different ways. The brain area activated by the subliminal messages is shown to be the primary visual cortex, a part that is one of the earliest to get information from the retina. Scientist say subliminal messages do leave a mark on the brain. Using brain scanners, they found we often record images we are not even aware of having seen. Marketers in the United States have been aware and used this to their advantage for decades. Subliminal advertising is banned in the U.K. but still legal in America. However it can be used successfully to retrain your thinking with positive results.
Hypnosis is a technique that is also used to communicate with the subconscious mind but it is more active than subliminal messages. You are aware of what is being said as well as your surroundings. Hypnosis places you in a state of deep relaxation making it easier for your subconscious mind to accept the suggestions. Hypnosis is a process by which someone becomes less aware of conscious thought and inhibition, and more open to suggestion. Changes in the brain’s neural activity can alter the subject’s perceptions and emotions, enabling them to focus their thoughts and filter out distractions. One key area involved in such altered states includes the frontal lobe, which accounts for a large portion of the brain’s mass and is responsible for a person’s personality, emotions and long-term memory. Changing the brain’s frontal lobe function in turn alters a person’s subjective experience of reality, cognitive processes shift and elective actions occur without conscious volition.
Other areas of the brain that are involved with altered states include: the parietal lobe, which can distort the subject’s perception of space and time; the thalamus, which can induce the feeling in a subject that they’re ‘in a world of their own’; and the reticular formation, which receives sensory information from the outside world and determines what is important and what’s not, so as to prevent us from suffering sensory overload. I found it interesting that people who have the ability to become completely engrossed in daydreams or music are more likely to respond to hypnosis than those who cannot. You can even practice self-hypnosis. There are several free websites with instructions. It’s basically visualization mixed with meditation or you can get CD’s from the library that will walk you through.
Both are incredible tools that help you achieve your goals, dreams, and utmost desires. It’s really a matter of preference. Subliminal audios can be listened to at any time or any place, whereas hypnosis audios really need to be listened to while in a safe location due to the fact that you become deeply relaxed. Both allow you to change your deepest thoughts and beliefs helping you to accomplish great success. They help you in making tremendous changes within yourself and your life and they don’t have to cost a thing.
More than 100 years ago it was discovered that if blue dye was injected into the bloodstream of an animal, that tissues of the whole body EXCEPT the brain and spinal cord would turn blue. To explain this, scientists thought that a “Blood-Brain-Barrier” (BBB) which prevents materials from the blood from entering the brain existed.
Because the blood–brain barrier prevents entry into the brain of most drugs from the blood it makes it very difficult to develop new treatments for brain diseases, or new radiopharmaceuticals for neuroimaging of brain. All of the products of biotechnology are large molecule drugs that do not cross the blood brain barrier. Currently, less than five per cent of drugs (made up of very small molecules) are able to cross the barrier.
I found one of the interesting facts about getting through the blood brain barrier with medication. It seems that essential oils can cross easily. It is because of their volatile nature (rapid evaporation) that many oils are able to help in deep healing of the cells and that some oils appear to cross the blood-brain barrier and affect the emotions and the brain. Although most of the components of an essential oil have the power to heal, it is often the lightest chemicals that are able to penetrate first to the cells. Some, like the monoterpenes, carry oxygen, while others such as phenols help improve the functioning of the cells by removing wastes. One of the most important implications of the light, volatile molecules in an essential oil is how it impacts the health of the brain. Most medications are unable to directly affect the brain: the blood-brain barrier filters almost all chemicals in the blood, blocking them from entering the brain. The light, small molecules in an essential oil are different. They are able to cross over the blood-brain barrier and are used therapeutically to help those with memory loss or other brain disorders, Alzheimer’s, depression, ADD/ADHD, heavy metal toxicity, and more.
For years I confused Essential Oils with Aroma Therapy but they are quite different. Aroma therapy are oils are inhaled into the lungs and offer both psychological and physical benefits, they can stimulate the brain and trigger reactions with naturally occurring chemicals. A common one most people use is eucalyptus for congestion.
Essential Oils that are intended to be applied to the skin and can be absorbed into the blood stream. These oils are powerful and concentrated so they are diluted with “carriers” like cold press oils, sweet almond and apricot kernel oil. For those looking for a safe and effective remedy they are worth looking into.
I’ve always been a list maker and a note taker. This practice was not because I was always an efficient person, far from it. I raised four children as a single mom and either worked two jobs or one and double shifts. Without lists and notes my life would have been more chaotic than it already was. There was business meetings, new policy’s to learn, teachers meetings, event dates, birthdays, grocery shopping and on and on.
After the kids grew up and moved out I still found myself making lists and taking notes. I just never considered doing it any other way. I’m a big believer in technology and use it all the time, however, when I attempted to use my phone or tablet memo app’s or my laptop software I lost control of my organization and had to keep looking back at the memos so I wouldn’t forget. Seemed like I couldn’t keep anything in my thoughts. That made me curious why and how memory works in the brain so I did some research and found some interesting facts. Our brain uses two different types of cognitive processing when doing typing and hand writing. When taking notes on your laptop you tend to type quickly and almost every word you hear without processing the meaning or prioritizing the points you want to remember. When you type it’s mainly mindless transcribing and doesn’t require much brain activity.
When you are hand writing notes and lists it’s too time consuming to write down every word. You listen then filter out the excess and keep the key points. This selection of information engages your brain to process and comprehend. Since you “listen” with a different part of your brain than you “write” with, digesting and evaluating what you hear and writing it by hand, builds a link between the different parts of your brain and reinforces memory. You are stimulating a collection of cells in the base of your brain called reticular activating system which is the brains filter for information for what you are focusing on. That’s why when you hand write a shopping list you can usually remember most all the items without looking at it until almost time to check out but if you transcribe it on your phone you’re constantly checking it. This “link” allows your brain to place the information in long term memory rather than short term.
These facts make sense as to why hand writing is still the best way to remember notes and lists because of the way the brain processes. I never knew that way back then, I just grabbed the first empty envelope or scrap of paper and organized my life as well as I could. I love technology and use it every day but sticky notes are still my best friend.