Posted in Community, Empowerment

Your Tribe Will Get You Through the Unknown

If you follow my blog you know that I travel around the country for work, months at a time. I work long hours and in return my time off is really off. I’ve had the good fortune to visit some great cities and in each one I make sure and find my tribe. My tribe is anyone who engages in artistic endeavors, no matter the genre. In addition, I always make it a point to visit the local attractions such as museums and botanic gardens not to mention quilt shops and knitting shops.

My current work assignment is in Baltimore. My other blog is where I focus on stitching as meditation. I was looking for a particular yarn and found that a local art supply store happened to carry this gorgeous 100% wool yarn. I made it over to the shop, found the yarn, but they didn’t have enough for my project. Little did I know, until I got up to the register, that they have back stock that isn’t on the floor. I found five more skeins of yarn and proceeded to check out.

The staff inquired if I was affiliated with the Art Institute as a student or faculty member, to receive the discount. I explained that I’m visiting from out-of-state for a work contract. Once I divulged where I lived, the two employees proceeded to tell me about all the art spots that I had to see while in town. First they were focused on fiber art, since that’s my medium, but I explained I’m open to anything art related. They gave me a list of locations, exhibitions, and venues to visit before I leave town. They made me feel very welcomed and over the next few weeks will give me things to see and do while I’m far away from home.

So who is your tribe? What makes a tribe? I find that it’s about common passions. It doesn’t matter what you’re passionate about, these folks exist all around you. Another way that tribes are formed is by common experience. I’ve worked in outpatient drug and alcohol programs and the bonds that are formed are very strong. When I worked at The Wellness Community, serving cancer patients and their families, they created a tribe. The tribe can tell you the things you need to do, see, look for, and experience, as well as where the land mines are to avoid.

I was fortunate to attend a graduate school that had the ancient Wisdom Traditions as the foundation of the curriculum. I met amazing people who were on the same pilgrimage as me. We took classes together, worked on our dissertations together, and fortunately graduated together. The experience of traveling with other seekers was amazing. It eased much of the anxiety of the process and increased my level of devotion to the work. My tribe supported and nurtured me throughout my journey.

Where we got the notion that it’s better to go it alone I’m not sure. What I do know from personal and professional experience is that having a tribe makes me feel a part of something larger than me. It gives me the sense of expansion and possibility that exists beyond what I can see in my world today.

Who makes up your tribe? How have they created a safe haven on your personal journey? How have you benefited from being part of a tribe? Be conscious of these questions and I think you’ll be amazed at the connections that are all around you!

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Storytelling

Mickey Rooney’s Final Words

It’s amazing to think about what our last words on this earth may be because it’s the last time we’ll make a conscious decision about our action (on this plane). So what did Mickey Rooney leave as his epitaph? “I Tried!!!”

Can you think of anything more powerful in this world than being able to say you tried? Our lives are given meaning by our stories and not every story has a happy ending. However, every story has a beginning, middle, and end, and it’s up to us to utilize those stories as we move forward on our personal pilgrimages.

We have to be able to develop the character traits of perseverance and tenacity in our lives. If we try something and it doesn’t reach the ideal ending then giving up may mean it wasn’t that important to you, but simply a whim. I think a lot about this when I think about what our calling in life is and how it plays our in everything we do and create.

Personally I know I keep trying every time I write a post. I can’t think of anything more important or satisfying than sharing the lessons I learn along the way to living a positive life following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness, or other form of adversity. I get to keep my eyes and ears open for secrets that we can all use to propel us forward on our living story.

It’s important that we keep creating stories. Our stories are compilations of every experience we have, and every person we meet. They are derived from genetics, our environment, and the Universe. We get to create personal recipes for our lives that become amazing concoctions that we call life.

What have you been trying that needs tweaking? What have you learned about yourself and the process along the way? Are you able to say definitively and without hesitation, “I Tried!!!” If so, then you’re in good company, after all, look at the life Mickey Rooney led….not to shabby.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Life Motivation, living with chronic illness

If Zig Ziglar Said It: It Must Be True

Motivational speakers provide us with encouragement, challenge us, and give us tools to make life a little better.  Zig Ziglar has been in on the world stage for years.  After learning about his death I found a quote that made me sit up and pay attention.  Ziglar said, “Failure is not a dead end; it’s just a detour.”

It’s one thing when applying this philosophy to business and relationships, but does it apply to health and healing?  Could we take this thought and see how it reflects the consciousness of illness?

I believe that Ziglar’s quote is a universal.  How does it apply to being diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Anyone diagnosed with a health challenge knows that treatment isn’t always smooth sailing.  There may be times when something doesn’t work, or the body reverts to earlier stages of agitation creating a flare.  These are the times when we have to create a world of possibility and hope so we can move forward.

The world of possibility and hope may require a change in medication.  It could lead you to looking at complementary therapies.  You may be inspired to go deep within and cultivate the emotional and spiritual realms of your life.  Whatever choice you make just means that the destination may take a little longer.

I’m well aware that not everyone is cured.  However, creating a world that is engaging, envelopes you with love, and has meaning is at the center of a good life.  If every challenge were a dead end, following a diagnosis we’d simply wait for death.  Working with individuals with life-threatening illnesses for over twenty years I know that’s not the norm.  We’re used to detours in life.  It requires us to establish where we are, and create a new route.  It’s like when your GPS resets after you take a wrong turn.  You get to your destination; it just takes a little longer.

You need to understand that this detour doesn’t come without frustration.  It may leave you questioning life every day.  Your faith may be tested.  It’s your route to plan and execute

What does your detour look like?  How will you reset your internal GPS?  Send me your thoughts…either comment below or email me at


Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Overcoming Adversity; Lessons from a Yellow Jacket

My house built-in 2000 came with a gas fireplace.  They had changed the regulations on wood burning fireplaces a few years before to help the environment.  Since the fireplace runs on gas it’s required to have a vent to the outdoors.  Our vent is surrounded by mesh wire, I’m assuming so birds won’t fly in and build a nest.  There are these small holes that allow the fireplaces to vent.

I’ve had wasp nests and yellow jacket nests around the house before, but I noticed a steady stream of them hanging around the fireplace vent.  Lo and behold, the yellow jackets had entered the fireplace vent and seem to have built their own version of a housing sub-division.

I have a black lab that likes to attack yellow jackets, well not so much attack as try to eat them…not a good thing.  I figured I needed to try to displace the yellow jackets by creating a natural disaster, a wildfire.  I turned on the fireplace hoping that would eradicate the problem.  What do you know, the yellow jackets left for a while, but then returned.  Obviously like the homes consumed by the Colorado wildfires; they’re home did not burn to the ground.

My next venture was to take a skewer, poke it through a piece of paper creating a shield and trying to demolish the housing unit.  All I did is seem to agitate an entire community.  I guess it’s like the idea of eminent domain; the yellow jackets are going to fight for what they believe is rightfully theirs.  The only thing they were accomplishing, at least from my point of view, was pushing me to the brink and leading me to making the ultimate decision.

***Note: if you are against killing any living thing please look away or stop reading**

The last step in this process was to get the wasp spray and eradicate the yellow jackets and their abode.  Some of the yellow jackets fled for safety, a bit sick I’m sure, but looking for safety (ok maybe I’m projecting), and obviously the rest died.  At that time I was able to demolish their home.  The amazing thing is that the yellow jackets that had not been part of the air raid of toxicity kept returning to the nest, even trying to rebuild, but like Chernobyl the place was uninhabitable.

I know this wasn’t as eloquent as one of Aesop’s fables, but there is a lesson to be learned in this process.  If a creature with limited intelligence and reason skills can persevere against numerous attacks on their lives and their homes, what can we do to persevere when faced with a health challenge?  We have many more resources at our disposal so what will we do to insulate ourselves from the negative forces, and recruit more positive energy into our lives?

We live in a time when the options available to us for both traditional and complementary healing modalities are out our disposal.  There is a tremendous body of knowledge about mind-body medicine that dates back to the Middle Ages and is being resurrected as viable opportunities for healing.

Do you have the will to keep on your journey to health and healing?  What can you do today that reinforces your sense of determination and personifies your tenacious nature?  If you need a role model, think about the yellow jackets and their will to stake their claim and defend their property.  Are you willing to defend your sense of well-being?

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Stranger in a Strange Land

Ever watch those amazing folks that set up dominos and when they hit one it triggers this chain reaction that is amazing to watch?  I feel that way a lot of the time in my life.  I see something, read something, or experience something that triggers one thought after another…sometimes the ride is fun and sometimes it’s a bit bizarre.

I’m working in a different state from where I live and while I was driving, maybe because I felt a little lonely, I “really” noticed all the New York license plates on the cars (after all I am in New York).  Us out-of-state folks were truly not part of the mix.  That’s when the domino theory started and I felt even more like a stranger in a strange land.

I know this happens to many of you following your diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness.  You feel like you get plopped into another universe where the rules are different, the language is different, and truly the culture is different.  This can trigger that experience of loneliness, and feeling alone and/or isolated is not conducive to creating a health and healing environment for your body, mind, and spirit.

I’m not suggesting that you invite your doctor over for your weekly poker game (odds are good she won’t come) but to find a community of peers who you have a bond with or are at least willing to pick up enough key phrases or ideas so you can talk (kind of like getting ready to go on a trip and learning enough of the language to be able to eat and go to the bathroom).

I’ve watched many people over the years hint at an illness when talking to someone hoping they ask the right question…”Are you sick? Do you have?” instead of you being the one who has to spill the beans.  I find this to be especially true for me when I go out and don’t order alcohol.  I haven’t had any alcohol since 1992 because of the negative effects of alcohol on my liver as a result of the medications I take.  The “no alcohol” triggers a set of questions for them and I have a choice, I can either tell them about my auto-immune disease or tell them I’m an alcoholic because that’s almost always what they’re thinking.

Organizations that serve individuals and families with a particular illness often have support groups.  A support group is a great place to find partners-in-crime who you can discuss your experience with and create social ties so you reduce or eliminate your feelings of being isolated.  In my case I’ve had my disease most of my life and I’m not looking for support in that fashion, but I do find it from national  organizations that write newsletters and have fund-raising events for research; there I find the comfort in knowing I’m not a stranger in a strange land.

It can be a difficult transition finding that new tribe or even believing you need a new tribe.  The fact is your life circumstances are very different from many you know and it’s not that they dont’ want to understand, it’s that it may take them a long time because they aren’t having a personal experience; their exposure to your health challenge is through your eyes giving them your perspective.

Support is important so seek out those who can support you so you feel a part of the local community in body, mind and spirit.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

The Morning After

Whatever your religious or spiritual beliefs and inclinations I wish you a Happy Holiday Season.

It’s the day after Christmas and all through the house….remember that famous line?  I bet you have a 1001 ways to finish that poem.  The response would depend on whether or not you celebrate the holiday or simply think of it as another day.  I know that this morning there are many of you who may are venturing out to the stores to get those after holiday bargains.

The morning after is an interesting concept because it entails dealing with some degree of a let down.  You plan for months (at least some of you) and then in 10 minutes everyone opens their gifts and it’s done.   On the day of the holiday or spiritual celebration of your choice you may cook for hours and then you sit down at the table and in 20 minutes you’re finished. 

We have a tendency to build up events in our lives and take enormous amounts of energy to plan these events and celebrations and they’re over in a flash.  The question is, “did you enjoy the event/celebration/holiday?”  What will you cherish most about the day?  Following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness making memories are important because they are like making deposits to your emotional and spiritual bank account.

There may come times during the course of your illness that you may need to rely on the memories you created with family and friends to get you through the next leg of your journey to wellness. I’ll give you a good example that I saw on the news the other day.

Austin Williams, a typical 14-year-old had dreams of joining the army someday.  In April he was diagnosed with a myosarcoma, a very aggressive and smart tumor.  He was admitted to the hospital for a 54 week course of treatment (that’s a long time to spend in the hospital).  It was approaching week 30 and his family began to see signs that he was in the throes of giving up.  (As you I know, when facing a health challenge you have to keep forging ahead to maintain health and healing.)  His step-father was creative and called the local recruiting station and asked if a member of the army would be willing to come visit Austin in the hospital.  The army took it one step further and sent 6 soldiers.  The gave Austin a set of dog tags with his name on them and a plaque making him an honorary solider.

Watching Austin as he discussed the experience you could see something in his heart and soul re-ignited.  He was so surprised, as was his family, at the number of soldiers and grateful for the time they spent with him that it created a spark in him.  I have no doubt that the memory of that day will get him through the next 24 weeks of treatment.

When you hit that wall as many of just did the morning after the holiday; what memories will you refer back to as you venture forward on your journey to wellness.  I’d love to hear some of your stories.

For more information on health and healing check out the website at

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Always Mining for the Special Nugget

I feel like I’m always on the hunt.  What am I hunting for?  I’m hunting for those small nuggets of inspiration.  Those small words of wisdom that ring loud and clear in my head and that I say, “Others need to hear this too!”  These thoughts, ideas, and tools help us to make it over the hurdles that present themselves in our lives on a daily basis.  We all have hurdles, those of us who have been diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness just have a few more hurdles than the masses.

When watching television you see a movie trailer come on and then you turn to the person sitting next to you and say, “That was probably the best part of the movie.”  Yesterday I caught a glimpse, that special nugget that we wait for and when it arrives I hope you’re ready for it (I always have a pen and paper ready for just such occasions). 

The nugget comes from the new movie, How Do You Know, with Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, and Jack Nicholson.  The nugget comes from Paul Rudd’s character when he says, “We’re all one small adjustment from making our lives work.”  How can one small phrase catch the attention of what will be millions of people…thank you good writing!

So what’s the one small adjustment you need to make following your diagnosis to make your life work?  It can be anything because there are so many things that change following the diagnosis.  It may be an attitudinal shift, a spiritual shift, or even a physical shift.  It may be go back to Monday’s post about Naomi Judd, working to become invitational not confrontational.  Perhaps you will be invited to expand your social support network.  This type of shift promotes health and healing by releasing negative energy and punctuating the healing power of human connection.

I’ve mentioned in the past that my mother was diagnosed with diabetes about a year ago. Her small adjustment was shifting her diet (she’s like me…she loves carbs).  She was already exercising, but she increased her amount of exercise just a bit.  We’re not talking about becoming a raw food vegan, but small adjustments that will make big changes in how you handle your diagnosis.

We all know about the body-mind connection.  What if you decided to call an end to the pity party.  I’m not saying not to occasionally feel sad about the diagnosis, but to sit in the “woe is me” mentality will bring down your immune system just as quickly as biology. 

I’d love to know what your small adjustment is or will be that will make your life work better following your diagnosis.  Let’s share our adjustments so we can see it’s really possible!

For more information on health and healing check out  Lots of information at your finger tips!

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

The Ones We Leave Behind

I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions over the past week.   I just got back from spending over four months in San Antonio, Texas for work and got back to Denver last Tuesday.  It was an interesting four months because I learned new things and met new people.  I had some great experiences and delicious conversations about education, family, and the impact we have on each other’s lives.  When we make any kind of transition you’ll need time for adaptation.  Things aren’t the way they were when you left because you’re different.

If you’re diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness the adaptation is more pronounced.  If you’re a caregiver the adaptation may be that the patient’s abilities for self-care may have changed.  In other instances, someone in your life may have died after a prolonged illness, or maybe it was sudden like Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy to Afghanistan who died today after a severe tear in his aorta. 

It doesn’t matter what the transition is, you’ll notice a change.  Think about the people who you may have met in a support group.  For some, there comes a time when they leave the group as they either graduate to other groups; like a post-treatment group, or they decide that their time and energy is better spent somewhere else.  What’s left?  The memories of the time you spent with that person or the experiences you shared with that person.  Think about who made you feel welcome the first time you went to a support group.  That’s what I think about when I think about my time in San Antonio, those people who made me feel welcome.

Adaptation is never easy, we don’t like change and the truth is that people are not inter-changeable.  The people we meet along the way add something special to our lives.  They make us think or challenge our beliefs in a way that we are willing to expand our horizons.  People are how we get through the day whether you go to a new city for a few months, or you’ve been diagnosed with an illness and other’s share their story and their strength with you.

We don’t really ever leave anyone behind because there will always be reminders of your connection along the way.  There will be those moments when those who have left their mark on your heart emerge reminding you that the experience, the need to adapt has made you a stronger person and that’s a positive step on your journey to wellness.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Two Facts and One Big Question

There are certain things in life or habits that we pick up as a result of being around certain people for long periods of time.  When I got down to San Antonio in July I bought myself a little notebook.  It’s cheap and the pages are glued in to the binding.  I open and close this notebook a lot and some of the pages are coming out in clumps so I’ve taken to using tape to reattach the pages to the binding.  I stuff loose pieces of paper and post-it notes about things I find intriguing or questions I need answers to, and then this morning it hit me.  My grandmother had a little book that she used as both an address book and for some notes.  She had it for years and eventually took to using a rubber band to keep it together…mine isn’t quite that worn. (Thanks for allowing me to have my personal bi-centennial minute)

Anyway, I was going through my notebook and one sheet of paper fell out and it had two statements.  The statements are…”Everybody Dies” and “But note everyone lives”.   Here’s the big question…”Why?”   After I caught my breath, I began thinking about how powerful these statements are standing alone, but when you put them together into one, “Everyone dies, but not everyone lives”, the enormity of that statement is frightening.  It doesn’t really surprise me, but when you think about how many people are really “living”, but simply existing there’s a profound sense of sadness.

I guess that’s why it took me by surprise when I first started doing this work that so many of the clients/participants would talk about their diagnosis as a gift.  It wasn’t about the quantity of time left in their life, but the quality of the time left in their life.  It punctuated Tim McGraw’s song, “Live Like You Were Dying”.  What if we lived that way before we had a health challenge?  What would life be like for you now?  I’ve heard many people discuss their lives as black and white before the diagnosis and full of color following their diagnosis.  It’s kind of like the movie, “Pleasantville”, where everyone turned to color when they started “feeling”.

So are you living and not merely existing?  What are you doing and how are you feeling that lets you know you’re alive?  What gives you life?  I’m not merely speaking about health, but what brings you to life?  What excites you?  What part of you is infectious (and I don’t mean medically?) I hope you’ll share your journey with us!

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Everyone Loves a Party!

We’ve just come off the July 4th weekend and if your neighborhood was anything like mine it was filled with lots of barbeques, fun, and of course fireworks.  About a week before the big day I received an invitation to a 4th of July party across the street.  It was a no brainer so I RSVP’d a big fat YES and had a great time.  Then I began to think about all the invitations we get in the mail for weddings, holiday parties, and a host of other celebratory engagements and each time an RSVP is requested.  So my question for you is, “Are you waiting to be invited to your own life?”

Fortunately, once you’re born there is no invitation to your own life.  You either live your life or you don’t; that decision is yours and yours alone.  Following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness I know many people who sat around waiting for an invitation back into their life and unfortunately, they’re still waiting. 

What does this mean for you?  It means that you have to stay engaged and not only in the medical side of your life but all sides of your life.  It means staying connected even when you’re not at your best.  You don’t have to go out and be with people, but simple things like e-mails to people keeps them and you engaged in the relationship you’ve developed over time.  People want to be informed and this is one way to do it. 

Last week I read Jill Bolte Taylor’s, My Stroke of Insight, a brilliant pathography about her experience with a brain hemorrhage and the years it took for health and healing.  She shares about her mother putting all the cards she received all around her apartment so Taylor knew the magnitude of her reach and the love that was coming her way.  She punctuated the point that the people who were closest to her were there for her, not to make themselves feel better by showing up to see the “sick” person.  If you haven’t read this book, whether or not you’ve had a stroke, I encourage you to learnt he lessons Taylor learned over the course of her recovery.

She didn’t wait to be invited back to her life; she fought with every ounce of energy to regain what she lost.  She had the help of others who knew her potential and understood what health and healing meant and required.  If she had waited for the universe to invite her back to her own life she wouldn’t be walking, talking, or possibly even living today.  She knew deep in her heart that she was the host, the party giver, the person making the plans and she planned for recovery.

If you didn’t wait for an invitation to your own life what would you be doing today of your impetus?  How will your life change if you always RSVP YES to your own life?  How would others know this is the case?  I’d love to know what you’re thinking because if I can be of any assistance; I’d love to be invited to your party!!!