Health

The Ways I'm Happy to Be Like Mom

As the last of four children (next oldest sibling 7 years older), and after my parents divorced after 27 years of marriage when I was 13, I lived with my mother - just the two of us - as she re-discovered her independence and life goals. Our relationship was a bit cool because she was ready for an empty nest and I felt ready to get away from both my parents. Not because they were mean or abusive, to be clear. I had a positive and mostly trouble-free childhood. 

Except the trouble I sought and found all on my own, which was measurable. 

Until I was in my 30s, I didn't think my mother and I had much in common. As I blossomed at the same time mom was late-blooming, I saw how wrong I was.

And how incredibly talented and creative she was.

Be both loved setting up spaces so they felt more comforting and inspiring. Our tastes were totally different: her = grays, black, and white, me= orange, red, purple, and yellow.

Be both loved - and had a knack for - writing. During that last years of mom's life, we went on yearly mother/daughter trips to writer's conferences. She was 9/10ths of the way done with her memoir called, Place Settings in Time, when she died. I finished it for her based on her notes and our conversations. Below is a picture of the front and back of her book.

We both hated cooking and weren't very good at it (but had notable specialities).

She was a loner and had one best friend. A loner mom can come across a bit icy, but this behavior may not tell us how she feels or how much she loves. I didn't understand this distinction as a child but do now. I'm the same way and might even surpass her natural inclination to withdraw or disconnect from others. And yet I love deeply like she did.

And my mom loved to learn. I'm happy I inherited/picked up that preference from her. My dad was also a life-long learner, but in a different way. He = MacGiver explorations, she = earned her bachelors and masters degrees in her fifties. I enjoy both types of experimentation and growth, which is cool.

Our relationship was the strongest just before she died. I suppose that's better than the reverse situation. We were registered to attend the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference, but that never happened after she suffered a stroke and then died from it. I on a plane heading to see her when she died. I never got to say goodbye.

Being the expert-emotion-compartmentalizer that I am, I usually slide right by Mother's Day without saying much. This year, I want to share and remember many of the things that I miss about her.

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My Mother's Death Changed Everything: Maybe Covid Will, Too.

My mother died from complications of a stroke when I was forty-three-years-old. Her passing hit me like a ton of bricks and catalyzed a need within me to manifest a carpe diem life. We never know how many days we’ll have. On the plane ride home from my mother’s funeral, I decided to get a motorcycle. I selected a Honda 1500cc cruiser motorcycle I named Hazel, short for Purple Haze, on account of her purple flame gas tank.

Hazelinshadeblog

My first motorcycle didn’t have a name, but it would’ve been The Vibrator on account of its wobbling wheels and rusty, old body. I was a cash-strapped college student at the time, living in Tampa and working as a server at TGI Fridays. My tips paid for tuition, rent, and my addiction to disco bars, so there wasn’t much left for transportation.

What? Those are the correct order of priorities, right?

It was the 80s, and tube tops, wide pants, and big hair were the fashion. All three were problematic when on a motorcycle. I groaned when I bought my first hair-crushing helmet. The Vibrator, a 250cc Honda that had seen better days, was parked in a neighbor’s yard with a sign that read $125. I paid one hundred bucks and then taught myself how to drive it. This was before Google and You Tube, so I relied on my mechanical instincts to figure it out.

This is probably the right time to tell you I have no mechanical instincts.

I only crashed a few times.

Decades passed before I got Hazel, motorcycle #2. Although she wasn’t a fancy bike, Hazel fit my sassy mojo and was comfortable enough, especially after I added a custom Corbin seat and upgraded the suspension. After getting my riding legs and eyes back (where you look when driving a motorcycle is very important), I wanted more. Having and riding a motorcycle wasn’t enough carpe diem for me, so I asked my husband Bill an unexpected request.

I want to do a solo ride with Hazel around the country to promote one of my books.

Never mind that Hazel, a cruiser, was not designed for touring. Never mind that the farthest I’d been on a motorcycle was fifty miles around the Puget Sound when the ferries weren’t operating. I asked my Bill to support the crazy idea that I’d take forty days and go 9,400 miles through thirty-eight states.

Map of trip

Bill came back with a request of his own and went on a research trek in the Himalayan Mountains with other geologists at the same time as my motorcycle trip. There were ten days where we were unreachable to each other, but our separate adventures transformed us both. Carpe diem on steroids.

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I'm sharing this wee ditty to help me remember that sometimes the worst of times - like my mother's passing - catalyze the best and most interesting of times. I'm feel like this past year was a tipping point that I'd like to use as a springboard for my next big adventure. 


Progress and Momentum: Broken Windows Theory - Applied to Ourselves

The Broken Windows Theory is, in summary, the notion that small visible "broken" things, like windows, may lead to other/additional broken things (say, peeling paint), and can create downward momentum (the neighborhood in decline). Also, that replacing or fixing small visible features can create positive momentum. Basically, it's the Butterfly Effect as applied to how our environment looks and makes us feel. Cluttered desk, cluttered mind, and all that jazz.

What if this applies to us - our individual physical selves?

  • Broken windows could be - stopped wearing makeup, unkept hair, wearing unflattering clothing, not using a moisturizer/wrinkle cream, an untrimmed mustache/beard, cracked nails.
  • Fixed windows could be - the opposite of the above

I think it does, and I'm experimenting with reversing the downward momentum with the positive. To be clear, this is not intended to be a commentary about how to define beauty - like that everyone OUGHT to _______ (wear makeup, have neat appearance). It's more about bringing out your best - whatever that is.

  • The quirky artist
  • The elegant book lover
  • The sporty sportsperson
  • The anti-trend good neighbor
  • The natural looking best friend

Whatever is uniquely and authentically YOU is the unbroken version.

Speaking personally, since the stay-at-home pandemic started, I've stopped: getting my hair cut and colored (rightly so!), wearing any makeup (I never wore much), using moisturizer (why????), wearing earrings, using the "good stuff" face cleaner (makes no sense), and I haven't updated my eyeglass prescription in 3 years (perhaps understandable during the pandemic). In total, this adds up to a lot of broken windows and a general malaise about myself.

For the last week I've been using my good face cleaner and wrinkle cream again. Didn't have to purchase anything because I already had it. And I've made an appointment to get a fresh haircut and color (in 5 weeks), and will be getting an eye exam next week. This momentum feels good and I think will lead to other small and positive changes that might also reverberate.

It's OK and understandable that a yearlong pandemic has had an impact. And I'm happy to be reclaiming a bit of myself in spite of it still being a challenging time. Fewer broken windows seems like a good thing!


"Kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick" - Life in slow-sucking quicksand

As I watched a story on the CBS Sunday Morning show about Suleika Jaouad's challenge to move forward from leukemia, a Susan Sontag quote she shared stuck with me. Here's the quote:

“Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.” Susan Sontag

While I've felt challenged for several years, the last two have been particularly difficult and this quote gives me a bit of insight about why.

I have serious chronic health issues - medullary thyroid cancer (stage 4b), non-symptomatic multiple sclerosis, obesity, and osteoarthritis. Solidly in the kingdom of the sick.

And I have, in spite of this, interests, abilities, and what looks like a relatively normal day-to-day life that resides in the kingdom of the well.

It's hard to stay in a place of sickness. And it's hard to live like you're in both kingdoms at the same time.

  • We rise to the occasion, determined to fight, but when the fight is slow and constant, it's easy to let our commitment slip. I think this is one reason the covid-19 crisis has been so difficult for many - it has endured longer than our emergency coping strategies were designed to perform. This rings true regarding several of my chronic challenges.
  • I'm not built for this brand of steadiness. Chronic anything goes against my nature and strengths. I'm a starter. I'm an adventurer. I'm an innovator. I'm not an ultra-marathoner. I'm not a patient person.
  • Although my day-today life looks fairly normal and well, I struggle to improve my situation or heal my chronic maladies. I want to believe that many things are possible if I think and act in alignment but have discovered that this is often not the case. 

What can I learn from this observation? How might I help myself live solidly in both kingdoms and thrive?

My nature tells me I need to try something different. To attempt to generate a breakthrough. It is tiresome, however, to do this repeatedly with no meaningful results to show for my efforts. But this is my skillset and I don't know how else to be. 

What can I learn from this observation?


Life in the Neutral Zone - An Opportunity to Create

Haneberg_StiffLizard_Ebook smallI've not blogged much the last two weeks because I'm channeling my writing energy into FINALLY finishing my 4th mystery, STIFF LIZARD. It was supposed to come out earlier this year. Here's the cover.

 - I delayed the book because I was going to have to have surgery.

 - Then my surgery was delayed by the covid pandemic.

 - And then I fell into a covid-fear-haze and didn't feel like writing.

 - And then I had surgery.

 - And now I'm back to finishing the book (while straddling the continued covid-fear-haze).

It's a quirky mystery set on Galveston Island, TX. The pub date 2021 Stiff Lizard will be a different book than the pub date 2020 one would've been. I've added a few things, subtracted a few things, and amped up the plot and quirk. I'm a different person, and my story will reflect this.

The 2021 version will have the benefit of my neutral zone creativity. The neutral zone (from Bridge's Transition Model) is that fuzzy in-between time when the new reality is emerging but not yet understood. Ambiguity shows up in many ways. Along with being draining and frustrating, the neutral zone is a great place from which to create.

Why? Think about what KEEPS us from creating. Our automatic and rutted routines act like a magnetic tractor pull that can prevent us from coloring outside the lines or conceiving of something new. But when we're living in the neutral zone, we're delightfully lacking in routine and comfortableness. 

So while I am fatigued and frustrated and afraid of every living person I encounter (Are you going to kill me with your breath?), I'm also feeling a bit more adventurous and open.

Being in transition is enabling me to write a better story because I'm less sure and secure. Funny how that works. I've promised my editor the book by Dec. 14th, so I'll not be blogging as much until I've turned in the manuscript.

And then, LOOK OUT. Hehehe.


Talkin' to Disease

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Bob was a bit anxious about going to a shrink but promised Sandy he'd try a session in hopes it would help him cope with his diagnosis. His mind swirled and stomach churned as he waited for Dr. Bono.

A nurse opened the door to the lobby. “Mr. Devine?"

“Yes, I’m Bob.”

"Dr. Bono asked that I take you to the exam room."

Exam? I thought this was going to be a conversation. "Great, thanks."

"Can I get you something to drink while you wait?"

"How about a scotch?"

The nurse smiled and left the room. Bob sat and looked around trying to decipher how Dr. Bono might operate his practice. Lots of art. Lots of books. A telescope but no windows. A tambourine hung on the wall.

A tall man in a white coat entered the room. "Mr. Devine? I hope you weren't waiting long."

"No," Bob replied.

"I'm Dr. Bono." The men shook hands and then sat in comfortable armchairs across from each other. "What brings you to see me?"

"My wife suggested it. I was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and I'm struggling with it. I don't know how to think about the future. I worry if there is a future. I don't know how much to share with people and I don't want people's pity. It's overwhelming."

"I'm sorry you have to deal with this," the doctor said. "May I ask what your oncologist has told you is your prognosis?"

"They're not sure. I've more tests and maybe surgery. So far, the indications aren't good."

"Okay." The doctor paused and was quiet. "Hmmm...I feel the vibe of the cancer in the room. Did you know that disease has a vibe?"

"No." Bob looked around as if vibes were visible.

"They do. Cancer, heart problems, diabetes. Each disease emits an aura and a smell." The doctor stood and pulled from the air and smelled his invisible catch. "I'm getting a good sense of it. Are you in pain?"

Bob felt strange about the doctor smelling his cancer.  "A little. I've been told the pain will increase as things progress."

The doctor stood still for several moments with his eyes closed. He took big loud breaths in and out. "I can smell your cancer and feel its presence. You want to know how to cope with this, right?"

Bob eked out a slight nod. "The next several months are going to be tough."

"Based on the smell, I'd say the cancer is laughing at you."

"Laughing?"

"Disease has a personality. Would you like me to talk to your cancer and ask it to behave?'

Bob leaned to the side and put his elbow on the armrest. He cocked his head to the left. "Talk to it?"

"In the right language, of course." Dr. Bono turned his hands in a circular motion and looked at the ceiling.

"Language?" Bob placed the side of his head in his hand.

The doctor walked around the room in a circle, flapping his arms. "Yaaa, yaaa, baa, na, ony, nana."

"Doctor...uh...I think there might be a mistake."

"Mani, na, ba, yaaa. Havi ah wani ka"

Bob stood up. "Doctor...I don't think this is what I need."

The doctor stopped, walked toward Bob and glared. "Mistake? Need? Are you questioning my expertise? You came to me remember? You asked for my help, remember? This is a very complicated situation that requires a high level of focus and concentration. If you don't respect it or me, I won't be able to convince your cancer to behave. So what will it be?"

Bob's mouth hung open. "I don't know what to say."

"That's why I am talking to the cancer, not you. So sit down, be quiet, and let me do my job."

Bob sat and waited while the doctor flapped and chanted for over thirty minutes. He wondered how he'd describe his therapy session to Sandy and caught himself smiling; something he'd not done in weeks.

Lisa's note: This little ditty came to me after I contemplated whether to seek therapy to make sense of my cancer diagnosis. I'm not making fun of therapists or the diagnosed but am highlighting the importance of smiles, from wherever you can get them.


The Human Body is a System

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I had few health challenges until I was 35. Then the chaos-theory-reverberation-making-proverbial-shit-hit-the-fan. But this is not a woe is me post. It's a reflection on the circuitous path we have to walk/run/dance/jump when trying to investigate what ails us.

Wait, Lisa. Isn't that what doctors are for?

If I could hire a private investigator with a medical degree, sure. But our healthcare delivery system is fragmented and focused. And my primary care physician - theoretically the overseer of my care - is so overburdened that she is forced to farm out anything requiring more than ten minutes to resolve to specialists. 

I have a lot of "ologists" on my medical team. They're super smart about a few things. They've studied a small number of health problems in depth so they can get really good at treating them.

The problem with this is everything is connected. Human bodies are chaotic systems. Interesting fact: It was in the context of the body that Ludwig Von Bertalanffy, the Father of Systems Thinking, fathered systems thinking

"As long as we single out individual phenomena, we do not discover any fundamental difference between the living and the non-living." Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Problems of Life: An evolution of modern biological thought

"In order to understand an organized whole, we must know both the parts and the relations between them." Ludwig von Bertalanffy, The History and Status of General Systems Theory

Having specialists looking at their assigned piece of me is helpful but insufficient. My oncologist doesn't know about diet or metabolism. My endocrinologist doesn't know about cancer or the heart. My cardiologist doesn't know about the digestive tract. My neurologist doesn't know about arthritis or strength. My personal trainer (not an ologist, but on the team) doesn't know about medications and blood test results. But my cancer affects my digestion. And the oral chemo I take affects my heart. And my metabolism affects my thinking and movement. And my diet affects everything. 

My job is to discover how things are connected, make meaning, and fill in gaps. To do this, I listen to my ologists and do a lot of research using reliable sources. Maybe I go back to my ologists with my findings. Sometimes I'm on my own.

It's a lot of work and my most important job. And when I figure something out, it's sweet like cherry pie.


Silly in Serious Times

2020 has ushered in some heavy shit. We had a lot going on before - global warming, healthcare, inequities, high chocolate prices - and now we've lomped on a global pandemic, high unemployment, and a divisive election. And murder hornets. And a record number of wildfires, floods, and hurricanes. None of these problems have been resolved. They keep going on and on and on. 

It's a dilemma for me, because I prefer to be silly and write about silly things. Baby goats jumping around in pajamas, home haircuts gone way wrong, and humorous books, movies, and anything.

Seems a tad insensitive to focus on cat hair sculptures when the world is falling apart.

Cat hair

Image Source: Ryo Yamazaki

Or this...(wow).

But then again, I'm not an epidemiologist or climate scientist or on the select team of biologists searching for murder hornets in Washington State. My super power is being silly. And while my unique capability doesn't come with a cape, and can't prevent someone from getting covid-19, it's all mine. 

Perhaps I'm not giving my small but mighty legion of readers enough credit. Surely they know that while I write goofy stuff, I'm also aching inside for those affected by whatever crap 2020 is handing them. And maybe, a moment of levity is just what some people need to help make Mondays less mondayish. Although a good scream can often help as well.


Further on BHAAGs - Big Hairy Audacious Agile Goals

GumbyPic credit gumbyworld.com

In the last post, I offered a modification to the popular BHAG - a BHAAG, adding AGILE with a nod to our current times. The major idea being that we should not wait to plan until things return to normal, that goals can be motivating and helpful as long as they're flexible.

Agile like a warmed up Gumby doll. Do you remember Gumby? He (was it a he?) had his own show and best-selling toys. When we're Gumby agile, we're able to progress forward during chaos (in satisfying and circuitous ways). 

Agility is our capacity to be consistently adaptable without having to change. It is the efficiency with which we can respond to nonstop change.

Let’s break down this definition.

Consistently adaptable. When we are consistently adaptable, we can modify how, when, and where something is completed with the same confidence and efficiency that we use to make coffee in the morning. Zigging and zagging is second nature, and being adaptable does not cause great stress or worry.

Without having to change. What would this look like in action? Imagine a professional tennis player named Bjorn. In between tournaments, Bjorn practices dozens of shots with a variety of practice partners on hard, grass, and clay courts. Each tennis match is unique, but he will be better able to respond to each new challenge because he has trained himself to adapt quickly. We can train in the same way and increase our ability to respond to new situations without having to change our overall approach.

Personal example: Goal is to improve health and fitness.

Being consistently adaptable means that I've learned how to do my strength training exercises in any room, using proper or improvised weights, in longer or short bursts. 

Without having to change means that I've got several different tools I can use to get to my goal. I can walk outside, ride my bike, use the Waterrower, try standing calisthenics, or practices yoga. I can switch tools to my situation and stay on track.

The need to be agile applies to accountability and motivation, too. I need to be able to keep my promises in all conditions and have a variety of accountability tools and practices in play.

If your plans are too rigid or narrow, you might be setting yourself up for setbacks or failure because life throws curveballs. Olympic athletes are improvising their training for next year's games. They have to be agile in order to be prepared and competitive. It's the same for us. 

The key to using BHAAGs to maintain progress during these uncertain times is agility. I know this is true for my crazy life and invite you to explore the possibilities.

Be agile like Gumby.

Eddie Murphy played Gumby on SNL. Funny stuff


Update: Fitness Misadventures

ABQ

Several weeks ago I wrote about how I needed to focus on getting stronger and lighter and that this effort would be a big potential misadventure that would enable me to live a more misadventurous life. Here's an update.

My plan. I have a new virtual personal trainer, and she's awesome. The format suits my style and needs. She created a plan for me and then we did a couple of live sessions where she showed me how to properly do the strength training exercises. We have a private Facebook group where I post what I do each day, and include any proof (like screen shots from the Fitbit app). The result is that I have accountability, independence, and flexibility. The plan will be updated as needed with additional one-on-one sessions to learn new strength exercises.

My activities include:

  • Strength training twice per week using routines my trainer designed.
  • WaterRower and Peloton bike twice each per week.
  • Easy and light yoga once per week.
  • Dog walks (were already doing these).

To augment my home gym, I've purchased 3,5, and 10 pound dumbbell pairs, a set of resistance bands, a thick yoga mat, and ankle weights. I already had the WaterRower (15 years old still my favorite piece of exercise equipment) and the Peloton bike.

I'm in the middle of my third week! I'm getting stronger...slowly...which I know is all that this 56-year-old immunocompromised body can manage. I feel the usual hey-you-worked-out muscle pain the day after, and the next, and next...

I'm feeling optimistic about the "get stronger" part of my goal. The "get lighter" intention will be a tougher challenge because my diet is fairly plugged in (90% while food plant based) and my metabolism runs like a sloth on quaaludes. 

Although I could've researched and created my own plan, having a virtual personal trainer helps me stick to a schedule because I've promised to post my activity in our FB group.

I could fib, but it would be obvious because the post would lack the detail or proof of my truthful checkins.

And lying would be wrong, of course. I meant to say that first. I'm not religious, but it seems plausible that I could be struck down for such shenanigans. Bad juju, or something.

I'd surely get caught and suffer greatly EVEN in spite of my considerable prowess for creating far-fetched fiction...I'm not doing it. (I know adverbs are bad but are they bad juju? I don't think so.) 

Why so much energy about fibbing to your personal trainer, Lisa? 

Let's just say I experienced a moment of truth the first day I fell short of the assigned activities. I'm proud to admit that I did not lie. I requested and was granted a mulligan.

Today is my "Pull" day of strength training. I'm getting psyched up for it right now. This set includes 8 exercises that I'll do 2-3 times, each for 12-15 reps. I'll do some stretching, too. 

Progress. I'm progressing in wee bits. Therefore, and in usual Lisa form (delusion), I'm imagining walking a 1/2 marathon in Albuquerque in March and then biking 50 miles or so through the rolling hills of the Bluegrass next summer. Plus hiking for 2 weeks in New Mexico's High Desert (or Sedona), and kayaking a lot.

Some of these aspirations might be a stretch but the thing in March is for real. Such a lovely time of year in New Mexico. The picture above is of Sandia Mountain (means watermelon in Spanish because of how the mountain looks at sunset) in Albuquerque. Lovely, eh? Oh, and I'm going to hike all the way from the bottom to the top of Sandia. And eat lots of chile (that's not misspelled).

Focus. I should probably start with finishing a 5k around my neighborhood without having my knees file for desertion. Or divorce. Whichever applies to abused joints seeking another body or arrangement.