Inspired

Happy Monday, folks. Between the two blogs and the normal day-to-day (with the extra life throws in as one goes), I’ll most likely be alternating my posting schedule. Thank you for your continued kind support.

These past few weeks, I’ve had varied reasons to reflect on drive: that inner something that propels one through the challenges life brings; keeping one’s focus on the prize despite obstacles (external and internal). For some reason, my mind jet-setted to a lady patient I had in my first, in-patient rehab setting.

This lovely lady will go by Margaret (not her real name). Margaret was about 65 when she came to me. She was much disfigured and disabled by a long-standing history of rheumatoid arthritis. Diabetes had also taken its typical (associated) toll on her vision and circulation: she was legally blind and had been admitted to rehab due to a below-the-knee amputation of one of her legs.

Margaret couldn’t really turn her head b/c of the arthritic changes. Her fingers were thick little sausages that couldn’t open wide enough to really hold on to a walker. And her hips and knees were already fairly contracted into flexed positions.

Little by little, Margaret shared pieces of her story. Sometimes, more than I wanted to know, on a highly-detailed and personal level. She had many a reason to be bitter and resentful of her past, but was one of the kindest, quietest patients ever.

Because of her multiple deformities and weakened state, no one expected much of this tiny, hunched lady. She was fitted with a prosthesis anyway. The physical therapist most likely adapted her walker so she could hold on to it, and Margaret found a way. She was able to walk short distances with her very-devoted daughter nearby, enough to manage in her living space.

For some reason, she wasn’t able to return home right away and wound up on an ‘alternate level of care’ at our sister facility. Unfortunately, ‘alternate level’ wasn’t good. Long story short, Margaret wound up with an amputation of the other leg, ABOVE the knee.

Anyone who has worked with prosthetic patients knows that walking with two below-the-knee prostheses takes less energy than getting around with one above-the-knee.

To this day I don’t know how she did it, but Margaret pulled it off. There was no way she should have accomplished what she did, but I’m thinking her drive, spirit and motivation made the difference. So did her daughter’s support.

Who am I to make excuses when I remember that?

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Post-A-Day Inspired–Handmade Gifts

Happy Wednesday and week before Thanksgiving, reader-friends. This year, the holiday is so late, the season will be right up our heels in no time at all.

Very special thanks to my new followers–I am humbled, grateful and truly appreciative of all of you! And to those of you who have been around a while and always faithful and kind enough to leave those comments–well, you know. (Hugs.)

This post is in response to WordPress editor Ben Huberman’s Post-A-Day.

The prompt: What’s the best present you’ve ever received that was handmade by the giver, not store bought?

Coincidentally enough, this prompt originally aired on November 14, which just happens to be the EIGHTEENTH anniversary of Older Son’s birth, and ties into the homemade gift referred to here.

Long story short: At the baby shower my mom hosted when Older Son had yet to make his debut, I received a blue-and-white crocheted, zigzag pattern blanket. (Hubby, who somehow had managed to keep from me the results of my ultrasound, shared his knowledge with everyone else he knew. That, however, is beside the point.)

The blanket, given to me by Hubby’s stepmother, gave away that “secret.”

About ten (?) years later, Hubby’s stepmom asked us to pick up something from her cousin, a shut-in who lived alone less than a mile from my home, in a senior housing building.

At that time, we were busy working, caring for two young boys, keeping up with their sports schedules—you know: typical parent stuff. We didn’t mind doing Hubby’s stepmother a favor, but Hubby voiced some initial concerns about ‘getting involved’ and ‘winding up’ caregivers to this woman. Due to a horrid car (?) accident that had occurred a long while before we met, she was blind in one eye and lived with a colostomy. She also had fairly severe arthritis. Her support system consisted of a few friends and a brother she often complained about. She couldn’t drive, and her ability to walk was limited to her tiny, two-room apartment, and only with a walker for support.

Over the next few years, this lovely lady and I developed a strong friendship. She, who had every reason to be depressed, angry and/or bitter about how life had treated her and the confinement of her days, was always upbeat. Physically impaired as she was, she often cared for her health-aide’s 10-year-old daughter, with whom she shared a very strong bond. This woman offered to sit with my boys so that I could have time to myself. And when I felt down, or overwhelmed or frustrated beyond reason, I called her. She never failed to put things in perspective and remind me how “the good Lord this” or “the good Lord that.” I always hung up the phone inspired.

Among the ways she kept herself busy, she crocheted, mostly zigzag-pattern afghans of varied sizes. Gifts of love she gave to those who asked, or to whom she offered. She offered to make each of my boys one for their beds. She made a green-and-white lap-sized/crib-sized one, which I treasure.

afghan--Barb G

For some reason, I remembered the blue-and-white one I received at my baby shower. (It’s in the garage, in a container of baby things.) The connections came together in my head, and I realized she had crafted that one too, for Hubby’s stepmom to give as her gift.

That wonderful woman wound up with a severe infection that took her life about five years ago. I still miss her and wish I could call her. I’m teary-eyed as I draft this post. But I am ridiculously grateful to know that her handmade gifts will be part of us always, and that my sons have a connection to her too through those blankets. (Younger Son gets the green-and-white one someday.)

So…I now ask you Ben Huberman’s question: What’s the best present you’ve ever received that was handmade by the giver, not store bought?

Thanks to all of you for your time! Have a great day.

Joanna

The Cover Collection–Stop By for Inspiration!

Hi all! Hope you fared a relaxing and/or productive weekend and got to do something special. I was thrilled to have found a nearby tennis court clear of snow, ice and puddles, where I played a couple of sets. Of course I lost (that’s just the way of it). Definitely had a rusty day (haven’t been out there since the fall), but I do find happiness in the spring-like weather swinging away at a little green ball.

Rowsy   Rowsy kittens

These photos are for Tess. On the left is my Rowsy, who lived at least 22 years. Under the tabby gray was evidence of calico mix. It certainly showed in her kitties. 

Special welcome to Robbie! She found me via a pingback at NYTBSA Bob Mayer’s blog (How cool is THAT?!) to a guest-post I wrote a while back for author Babette James, when indie publishing was starting to really make its mark.

Promise to work really hard to keep the rest of this quick. (The other writing-related/workshop projects are lined up and waiting patiently. And hubby is looking forward to the egg-wrap I normally make for him on the weekends. )

A couple of posts ago I talked about some inspiring articles at author Joe Bunting’s blog, The Write Practice. Recently, guest blogger, author Carlos Cooper, talked about how perusing pre-made cover art for ideas and inspiration led him to buying a cover that caught his interest and inspired a book to go with it. Since I’ve done well so far with applying some of what I’ve read at Joe’s excellent stop-on-the-web for writers, I figured I’d go for it.

Like Carlos, I did a search. Landed at UK-based The Cover Collection and immediately fell in love with a cover under the Romance tab. Lined up to pay the ridiculously reasonable costs—via PayPal—for ebook and CreateSpace covers for the follow up to my debut novel. BTW, the latter is a print-book front-only option TCC offers to help authors save $$. Older Son is savvy enough to do spine and back cover work.

Virtually met and began interacting with Debbie. She has been utterly WONDERFUL helping me customize the stunning cover I bought. (I promise the images appear to breathe.) She is very generous with her time, open to suggestions and somehow, totally “gets” what moves me visually. One of the versions she made for the sequel—based on my requests—resulted in big-time pay dirt: perfect theme/story-related cover art for my debut, No Matter Why!

So, two lovely covers-in-the-works later, I am taking steps in the direction I’ve wanted to go all along. No cover reveals today; we’re still working on them. (Yes, very patient Debbie is kind enough to put up with me. ;).

So I suppose this is short enough a post for me. (Please feel welcome to differ and say so, lol. No offense taken, pinky swear!) I know, there were a lot of links here. (That’s what happens when you drop in at Jami Gold’s virtual-web stop.) For those of you daring enough to check out each one and somehow wind up back here—you far more focused than I.

Hope this has been as inspiring for you as for me. Thanks for indulging me.

Have a great week,

Joanna

Vinca Beats the Odds

Happy week of Thanksgiving, everyone. If you’re celebrating (and get to do the cooking), hope your fridge is already housing the bird and all the trimmings. Every year I swear I ain’t messin’ with the fine china, but when else will I use it? (Besides, Christmas, that is. I do really love it and–hey, there is no school and no cooking the day after the holiday, so what the heck, right?)

So maybe I’m a geek or a Pollyanna or a ridiculously positive person (RR is shaking his head yes to all three, I’m quite sure), but I am inspired by things that someone else might not even pay attention to.

Every year, I do some flower gardening. (Hubby is the veggie man.) Every year I try to add one more perennial (i.e., type of plant that comes back with little or no help from me), but there’s always room for an annual or two.  This year though, I hit Lowe’s at the end of the season and came back with a bunch of little flowering plants, but none of the impatiens or vinca I normally add.

IDK, I know annuals come from seeds, lol, but the plant is not supposed to come back, correct? Well, I started the season noticing tiny marigold seedlings mixed into the weeds I call grass on the side of the house. Found at least eleven. Transplanted every one where I normally plant them every year. Got a full spread. Every seedling made it to full growth and blooms. Cleared them out a few weekends ago.

We won’t discuss the sunflowers. Haven’t planted those annuals for at least three years now. Go figure.photo (1) That wall behind me gets crazier every year. That’s last summer’s photo. Don’t you love how I hide the hips and thighs behind the poster?

Sunflowers These are now the norm. I promise I planted a few seeds several years back.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I thought I saw a vinca sprout peeking from the edge of a little flower bed under a tree on the side of my house. Not sure if it popped up during a few very warm fall days, but uh, that thing was not supposed to grow at all (even though I did have them there last summer, 2012). Not only should that li’l fighter not have been there in the first place, it should have had full sun. (It was hidden under the crazy mums that come back every year. Found it when I cut back the mums killed by the deeper frosts.) And, the li’l bugger should NEVER have bloomed in early November, AFTER several frosts, a couple of which hit the mid-20s. (Hardy plant or inspiration that, given the right combination of circumstances, pretty much anything can get past the odds?)

vinca in Nov 2013  Crazy!

You know me. I am inspired.

Is it just me? Or have others run into similar experiences?

May you all feel gratitude, Thursday and every day–I know it keeps me peaceful!

Joanna

Working on Consistency (and Inspired Some More :)

Hi everyone. Hope everyone is having a great week and not overdoing any leftover Halloween candy. I’m always scrounging out the Mounds and Almond Joys. They’re few and far between, but M & Ms work too—anyone try the candy corn ones? Those are definitely different, in an addictive, not-sure-I-like-them kind of way. ;)) What are your favorites?

Life keeps handing me these highly convenient “coinkidinks,” as my boys’ kindergarten teacher used to say. And y’all know, when I’m feeling inspired, I like to tell you about it! (If nothing else, it’s a reason for me to write up a blog post, lol.)

So…

Recently, I took my mom’s car for inspection. She failed emissions and we finally got it to a place to check it out. She wasn’t thrilled with the repair-price tune of near-$500, so we took it elsewhere. The second guy said the quote we got was fair. Hubby wasn’t all that thrilled with the second guy, so a couple of days later, I took mom’s car back to the first shop.

No one was at the desk in the office. I waited a few minutes, and the door opened behind me. The younger guy who normally mans the computer came in.

“Is anybody helping you?”

I shrugged. “Not yet. Aren’t you the important guy?”

“I’m off,” he said, but headed into the garage. He came back with the older guy, who has to be 80-something.

I reminded them they’d diagnosed my mom’s car, but I was clueless about what I’d done with the printout, which listed the work that needed to be done. “I figured you have it in your computer and can pull it up, right?”

Older guy’s mouth gapped a bit while he offered a slight, negative shake of his head. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

Younger guy stepped in, tapped a few keys and out came my printout. More customers came in. “You want the car tomorrow?”

I smiled, nodded and pulled open the door. “Get out now,” I said in a loud whisper, before I exited.

Now tell me younger guy just happened to come in on his day off exactly when I needed him to be there.

Life changing?

Nah.

Inspiring?

Always.

Hey, I’m always up to stories of the like. How about sharing yours? And maybe this post with some of your friends, via one of the share buttons below?

Many thanks!

Be inspired, and have a great day, friends!

Joanna

God, a Keurig and Working My Way Back

Hi all! So glad to be back (and having a little fun with the blog-theme, in honor of Halloween later this week)! So sorry for going off radar since July of this year. Hope all is well with all of you. Special thanks to my newest follower, the awesome PJ Reece, whose rockin-insightful writing-related posts never fail to inspire me. I am humbled. If you are so inclined, please check out his wonderful website and blog! His Story Structure to Die For is an EXCELLENT reference and a quick, fun and enlightening read, too.

Geez! One paragraph in and off-topic already. Please indulge me in the thoughts that follow.  Please note, I enjoy sharing stories of moments in life that inspire me. What you take from that is entirely up to you! 🙂

Having said that…

I do not consider myself religious, at least not anymore. I was raised in the Catholic church; my firm belief in its tenets at that time was among the reasons I managed to make choices that helped keep me out of trouble as a teen and as a young adult. By my mid-twenties, however, I began more of a spiritual journey.

Today I consider myself more spiritual than religious. I choose to name the guiding force in my life God. My faith is stronger than it has ever been, but not necessarily tied to the teachings of any particular religion. (“The closer I get to God, the further I get from religion,” Bono of U2 fame has said on more than one occasion. That statement has stuck with me since the first time I heard my birthday buddy say it, well over a decade ago. Yep, U2 and I, we’ve been around a while, lol. And Bono and I just happen to have been born the same day, same year–you know ;).)

Anyway, I had one heck of summer, friends. First one ever I didn’t mind seeing come to an end, even with the return to the school day on a weekly basis. For once, I looked forward to the routine a regular schedule would bring.

As I stated in another post, a family matter took up a slew of my time and energy. For too many days and then weeks in a row, I woke up feeling depressed, overwhelmed and wondering how to handle a situation and somehow maintain balance in my—and my family’s—day to day.

One Saturday morning in particular, I was feeling pretty blue. Hubby came up to let me know he’d had to brew a second pot of coffee; for some reason, the coffee seeped out somewhere from the bottom of the coffee maker and all over the counter. Since that’s pretty much what happened with the last one (same brand, different model), I figured it might be time to break down and get the Keurig, a move I’d been avoiding. (I’m not crazy for the single cup coffee maker, not to mention the price for one is typically in the triple digits, or at the higher end of the double digits.)

That morning’s weather happened to be perfect. I went out for my walk and met up with some friends. I shared my main concerns and put out a general request for help relative to the family situation, willing to take any suggestions and/or offers. Two ladies approached me with very viable possibilities. Another told me she was living a similar situation. She gave me her phone number, to call or text any time, “just to talk” should I feel the need.

My walk home had me feeling deeply grateful, humbled and in awe of how I believe God had shown up, proof that He was working in my life that day. My older son was calling me, too, wanting to know when I’d be home. He had a “surprise” he was convinced I was going to love.

My thoughts shifted to my boys and how blessed I feel with how they’re turning out so far. At just about 17 and 15, I can’t ask for better. (Well, maybe the younger one—sometimes—but overall he’s much improved, lol.) More proof that God was present, and that all would work out with my family situation.

Soon as I got home I was hit hard with another reminder of God’s action. Funny how, on some days, divine intervention shows a direct line.

On my counter sat a boxed Keurig coffee maker.

Huh????

My older son had just bought it a yard sale, at the low double-digit price I’d paid for the coffee maker that leaked earlier that morning.

If that ain’t divine intervention folks, I don’t know what is. (Just sayin’. )

photo (46) (Here they rest, side by side. The kid was so excited, hubby and I didn’t have the heart to tell him he wasn’t keeping a second coffee maker on the counter. At least he uses it daily–sometimes more. :))

Anything like that ever happen to you? Do you see it as coincidence, or something bigger than you or me stepping in? Take a moment and inspire me some more, please.

And just sayin’, have a great day!

Thanks for stopping in, and for your time and support.

Hugs,

Joanna

Newsflash: Blog-Hopping Can Result in Inspiration!

How Screwball (aka Kitty) helps hubby puts away the laundry 🙂

A post I read earlier this week at Riley Quinn’s blog spoke to me big-time. Riley very candidly and bravely discussed putting herself out there and being accountable for her weight. I’m pear-shaped and, since childhood, have struggled with the yo-yo thing, too. My pattern includes losing weight and keeping it off until some inciting incident comes along that throws my routine off completely (i.e, my father getting sick, getting pregnant, a small house fire that led to 10 weeks of hotel living and eating out almost every night). Next thing I know, I’m well beyond where I started out. Age doesn’t help (even if I, just like my favorite Fran Fine–The Nanny–can’t seem to age past 29 :)), and every time it’s that much harder to start on the road to loss AGAIN.

So there I am leaving a comment at Riley’s blog. Of course, I got long-winded—me?—and realized I had a post of my own on hand. And since the subject matter ties in nicely with my last post, I figured, why not share what’s been working for me—barring any inciting incidents—ptooey, ptooey! Far from here! The best part is, my current mindset is part of a process that started as a coincidence.

Y’all know I like to get up early and of my obsession with tennis and my current favorite, Rafa Nadal (currently the world’s Number One, thank you very much). Well, last January (2009), I happened on early morning coverage of the Australian Open. Being the restless, multi-tasking sort that I am, I exercised as I watched and continued to do so as the next program started, Kiana Tom’s Flex Appeal.

What do you know? Kiana teaches easy weight-lifting/exercise routines targeted at being done home w/a minimum of equipment. I began watching at least three times/week and incorporating her moves into a routine of my own. I also made sure to include lunges—so incredibly effective when done right—and some abdominal work. With two sets of hand weights (3- and 4-lb each), four 1-lb wrist/ankle weights, an inclined surfaced (old aerobic stepper propped up at one end with 3-inch-high garden bricks) and regular walking (up to 4x/week, up and down hills while wearing shape-up type shoes) I have changed my body proportions enough to have created much more of a balance between my shoulders and my hips (i.e., I’ve the former are a bit bigger and the latter somewhat smaller). As I stated before, I’ll never be thin, but guess what? Those little efforts and short workouts added up! I’m still shy of my goal weight but  figure I’m at least twenty pounds closer than I was before Kiana and I hooked up.

Let’s get one more confession out there: exercise is NOT my favorite thing. When I’m in the groove I don’t mind it and even enjoy it (among the reasons I try very hard to keep the routine). Having a background in anatomy helps; visualizing exactly how a given muscle works increases the effectiveness of the movement. I also look forward to a monthly five-day break, though I often think of female athletes and having to play regardless of where they are in their cycles. Another HUGE plus I recently realized (nothing new or earth-shattering to those who body-build or work out regularly): more muscle mass equals better metabolism equals I can eat those no-no foods (in moderation) more often and not worry about it (overmuch).

How do I stay (or get) motivated on any given day? Most of the time, I’m doomed if I don’t get my exercise out of the way first thing. Once the family is up or it’s time for kids to get ready for school, I get distracted and there goes that window of time, especially on a school day when I get to go to work for pay. I have found ways around that. Since I’m too restless anyway, if it’s during my favorite Dancing with the Stars season, I’ll work out while watching the show.  (I’ll save my filing for that time too—aren’t I great at relaxing?)

I’ve also broken up my workout into shorter segments and spread them over two mornings instead of one. (A plus to that is getting your metabolism moving more often.) Last January I started out with about twenty minutes. As strength and endurance improved, I started adding some different moves to my routine but ended up doubling the amount of time I needed. Breaking up the workout has worked well so far.

I’ve had to find a way around setbacks. A recent fall has literally grounded me from my weight routine for close to three weeks now. (Those darn shape-up shoes can catch the concrete when one doesn’t lift the foot high enough to clear the ground—think I bruised a rib and even had trouble breathing for a week.) I consider that an ‘inciting incident’ that can mess with my dearly-protected routine. I’ve chosen to forego the weights until the pain is completely gone, but try to do two walks a day—even shorter ones—to compensate. (Hey! There’s that metabolism part again!)

Today’s final thought: everyone struggles with something. At some totally unexpected point though, expect to hear something that will stick with you and either get (or keep) you on your way.

Two quick point illustrations: my husband the heart patient smoked for most of his life, including close to six years after a six-bypass open-heart surgery and at least four follow-up procedures since then. The morning of his most recent procedure (March of this year), someone from the quit-smoking department showed. His line to hubby worked a miracle: “You’ve smoked every cigarette you’ve been allotted in your lifetime.” Don’t ask me why that worked. August 25 marks his FIFTH smoke-free month :)!

My magic line came outside the school doors while chatting with another mom, a runner. Her husband had to be out the door and off to work by 6:30 AM. “I put my sneakers next to the bed at night. My feet were in my shoes before my eyes were open.” Five years ago I heard that. I can still hear her say it and it still works! (Thanks, MC!)

Anyway, I have more to share but I’ll leave it at this for now and post the rest tomorrow. (See what you started, Riley?)

Thanks for reading my ramblings. What motivates or works for you? Open up a discussion of your own and we’ll pick it up tomorrow!

Have a great day,

Joanna