Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Gift

"A grandchild fill a space in your heart that you never knew was empty."
Author: Unknown

I was never going to be one of “those” grandparents.  You know the type.  They carry enough pictures for a photo gallery; they have bumper stickers that insist that you ask them about their grandbaby, and are firmly convinced that no other child that has ever existed is as beautiful, clever or adorable as their grandchild.  Nope, that was definitely not me!

Until November 13th, 1994.  I was only 39, so maybe I can use that as my excuse.  I had been ready to head to Fort Carson Army Base all day November 12th.  My son called and told me that his wife was in labor so I loaded my car.  He called me back and told me they sent her home, so I unpacked my car.  I had clients that I needed to see if it was a false alarm.  He called two more times to tell me she was in the hospital and two more times telling me they were false alarms.  Since I had false labor with my own first born, I knew it could be another week.

At 6:30 a.m. on the 13th, the phone rang.  “Are you heading back in?” I asked sleepily.  “He’s here!” my son answered in a voice I’ve never heard before or since.  “He can’t be here!  I’m not there!”

I began to cry…more like sobbing, really.  There was something so emotional to suddenly feel immortal.  No matter what, a little part of me goes on.  I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it is an emotional thing.  I flew to Colorado Springs on grandmother wings.  I made it in twelve hours flat. 

I rushed into the hospital room and my son handed me the baby, Michael Jonathan Philbeck.  I looked at him and he studied me and that was it.  I was sucked into the obnoxious grandmother vortex, from which no one has even been known to return. When you see your own child for the first time, you love them, it’s natural, but when you see your grandchild for the first time, you fall in love with them.  All the nonsense you believed and practiced with your children…all the things your ego insisted your children would never do…all those unreasonable expectations just melt away. 

If my grandbaby wants to pretend to be a choo choo train or a dinosaur (pronounced, dinofore) in public…so be it!  Who cares what people think?  If we need to watch Bambi or Dumbo 1,000 times because it’s Monday, crank up the VCR. 

My grandson came to live with me when he was two years old.  He is a gift that I didn’t even realize I needed.  Not every moment was fun, but every moment has been filled with love and I am forever grateful!

By the way, in case you were wondering, he’s a straight A, Honor Society, Debate winning, guitar playing, sweet, kind and extremely handsome young man.  I knew you wanted to ask, but I misplaced that silly bumper sticker!

Happy 17th Birthday, Michael Jonathan!  Your Punkin loves you more than life!

"A mother becomes a true grandmother the day she stops noticing the terrible things her children do because she is so enchanted with the wonderful things her grandchildren do."

Author: Lois Wyse

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Driving Lessons

"When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane." --unknown

As my grandson gets ready to drive, I try to lend him all my brilliant techniques, you know, the ones that can’t be found in the Driver’s Manual, because I suspect they are written by men.

First: And most important, try to plan out each trip in a circular pattern.  If you always go in circles, you don’t have to cross traffic.  All my trips are circular and if they can’t be, I know the nearest light.  I have been known to only choose stores that fit into my hamster wheel of easy driving.

Second: If you have to cross four lanes of traffic, you might have to spend the rest of your life sitting there.  Turn in the direction of the traffic and then turn in somewhere and turn around.  Then you’ll be going the right direction and you have the illusion that you were moving the whole time.  Cuts down on frustration and possibly the horrible effects of road rage…well, it’s possible!

Third: The highways in Tulsa had names before they had numbers.  I don’t know their numbers, it seems impersonal to me.  We have the Skelly Bypass, the Okmulgee Beeline, the Crosstown…which turns into the Keystone Expressway if you’re going west, there’s the Broken Arrow and the Turnpike.  When people start telling me to go on Highway 44 to 75, etc., I have no idea what they’re talking about.  I do know 169 because it never had a name…sad.

Fourth: Ask for directions!  I seem to have the best luck with foreign men giving me directions.  I now look for exotic looking men and hope they’re not Americans for all my directions. 

Fifth: Follow your instincts.  I drove to Philly one year, and I don’t believe in maps.  I saw the harbor and decided, that had to be where the old town would be.  I took the exit and got right where I wanted to go.  When it was time to leave, a lovely man with a great accent told me the three turns to take to get back on the highway.  My sister called from outside Philly the next year.  She and her husband, with their maps and electronics got completely lost.

Sixth: If you know you’re going to get off at a certain exit, don’t wait until you are right on the exit to start scooting over.  I know several people, who may or may not be related to me by marriage, that love nothing more than driving as far from the exit as possible and then being very upset when they can’t just shoot off the highway because of all the traffic…duh!   

Seventh: When you’re traveling with your (grand)children, make as many happy memories as you can.  Make up songs, have a certain hotel that you can’t live without, let soda cans implode in your car at least once, take sandwich stuff, point out every silly thing that nobody else notices, and if you happen to run into a trash can that’s chained to a post in Virginia…just call the green scratch a souvenir (in fact all dents that occur on trips are souvenirs).   Laughter is like taking a permanent snapshot that one word can pull back into memory. 

Happy Trails

I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder."--

Saturday, October 29, 2011


"It is the habit of faith, when she is praying, to use pleas. Mere prayer sayers, who do not pray at all, forget to argue with God; but those who prevail bring forth their reasons and their strong arguments" 
Charles H. Spurgeon

This week I’ve heard a lot about prayer.  I have heard people say they were praying and later learned that there was a lot more gossip going on than prayer. 

How much good does double minded prayer actually do?  How much harm does it do? 

My prayers are probably a lot different than most people.  I go to a quiet place inside myself.  I sit there, stilling my mind, listening…not with my ears, but with my heart.  Once I hear the still small voice in my heart, there’s no deviation. 

Before I go to the quiet place, I prepare by writing my gratitude list and my goals list. I read my vision statement.  This helps quiet my mind of any anxiety that’s floating around up there.

I find it interesting how trivialized prayer has become, how impersonal and how many people hedge their bets so they can take credit if there’s a positive outcome and distance themselves from anything less.  Ball teams pray to win, rappers praise God that their filthy lyrics are now number one on the charts, and Christians pray without the faith of even a mustard seed…and it seems the less faith, the louder and more words are used. 

I have been accused of being a “private” person.  Many people seem to feel that this is a bad thing…mostly because they like to be in my business.  I admit freely that I am a private person, although I am part of a huge community of wonderful people that I love with all my heart.  The part of myself, that part that listens with the heart and cannot be dissuaded, will always be private. The minute I share that part and others begin their commentary, it loses its power.  Mary kept secrets in her heart until it was time to reveal them…so do I. 

I believe that our lives and our words are prayers as powerful as those spoken in church.  One word can shake someone’s faith.  I would rather meet with silence than negativity or double mindedness.
In the meantime, I’ll be in my quiet place, listening and knowing!  

"Only those who see the invisible can attempt the impossible."
Dick Eastman

"Prayer requires more of the heart than the tongue."
Adam Clarke –

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Choosing Love

“God is LOVE.”
I John4:8

This has been a bad week.  Being in pain, listening to my grandson cough twenty out of twenty-four hours of the day, trying to get ahold of elusive doctors and missing normalcy all led to a plethora of feelings.

Feelings like despair, helplessness, frustration, anger, sadness and fear enveloped me like a second layer of skin this week.  I am so happy to be reminded that there are really only two authentic emotions in the world.  All feelings are secondary to either LOVE or FEAR.  This week was all about fear. 

Love is a difficult concept because so many times we plant our love seeds in fear soil.  The love I’m talking about is so much more than ego and needs.  I am talking about real authentic love with no agenda.  I’m speaking of the kind of love that we dive into without hesitation.  It is passionate and compassionate.  It looks like faith and it looks like God.  It acts like faith and it acts like God.  It is the place where judgment ceases to exist.  When we are lost in this kind of love, we see it in the face of every person, the petals of every flower.

Since we are all connected, refusing to love someone is like throwing rocks at the mirror.  We really are only hurling fear at ourselves.  The things we love in others are usually the things we love about ourselves and the things we fear in others are the things we fear about ourselves, although we rarely call it fear.  Our fear of others comes out as frustration, helplessness, dislike or hate.  When we realize that all those feelings come from fear, it can take us to a new perspective on the world.

Because of my keen sense of irony and observation, I can be the queen of commentary.  I can usually do this without any feelings attached to it, just enjoying the way life plays out.  I know that the commentary has gone off track when the fear settles in.  I have been off track this week with misdiagnosing doctors and the ones that don’t understand my sense of urgency.  So I must stop, take a deep breath, and step back into love.

There was a study done on rabbits at Harvard.  The rabbits were being fed high cholesterol food to study the effect on the heart.  Everything was turning out as expected except with one group of rabbits.  Heart disease was running rampant in the other rabbits, but it seemed this one group was like super bunnies.  The scientists doing this study were perplexed so they investigated.  When they looked closely at the situation, they realized that the caregivers of all the rabbits simply fed the rabbits and walked away, but the super bunny group had a person that happened to love rabbits.  As he fed them, he would stroke them and talk to them, even sing to them.  Because he loved them, the rabbits did not develop heart disease in spite of their horrible diet. 

What can love do for us?

“Love is a choice you make from moment to moment.” 
~ Barbara De Angelis

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Healing Responses

“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.”

I almost fell into an old, deadly pattern this week.  People Pleasing.  I’m not sure if people-pleasing comes from being a Midwesterner, a woman, an Applegate, or if my mother’s breast milk was just particularly rich in the people-pleasing vitamin, but it is my first response in almost every situation. 

What I have learned is that while fighting a life threatening disease, people-pleasing is as nourishing and empowering as drinking toxic waste. People come from a well-meaning, loving place.  They want to alleviate their own feelings of helplessness, so they come up with well-intended, well-meaning, well-constructed ideas that make perfect sense to them and offer them as gifts that shouldn’t be refused.

For the wonderful people who are part of the support system of a friend with a life threatening disease, I say this with more love and gratitude than you can know, this process is not about you.  You have to deal with your own feelings and thoughts in your own way, but don’t expect the person who is healing to have the energy to take care of you.  Don’t expect the person who is healing to go along with your wishes.  Don’t think that the person that is fighting for their life is being oppositional because they don’t see things the same way you do.  Believe me when I tell you there are different vistas and plateaus from which we each view the world at different times in our lives. 

One of the characteristics found to have profound positive effects on the immune system is AUTHENTICITY.  If a person facing a life threatening illness can’t be authentic with you for fear of hurting your feelings, or upsetting you, then you cease to be a support.

I believe there are no shortages of miracles.  We are all terminal, no matter how much we fight the idea; none of us are getting out of here alive, so let’s live well in our time frame, being present for one another and allowing each other the gift of authenticity and diversity.

In order to become an extraordinary patient you need many things, and a support system tops the list, but an ACTIVE STRUGGLE RESPONSE is equally important.  An active struggle response means that you are willing to take a stand with your doctors, your health care providers and even your friends, stating what makes you comfortable or uncomfortable and asserting your wants and needs…just the opposite of people-pleasing.

To truly support a person in crisis: support their active struggle response, let them know that they are not a statistic, affirm that the healing person can still contribute and have a voice, allow them to express negative feelings because it can be healing when those thoughts are no longer draining energy.  Listen and respect the wishes of the person going through this transformation without judgment or reprisals.  Do what adds to the energy and life spirit of the one healing.

As for me, it is easiest to make sure everyone else is okay.  When I say no, I fret and worry that I’ve hurt someone’s feelings and second guess myself and worry about what people might think of me and what’s being said about me and how that’s being interpreted, etc.  It’s a pattern that’s as old as my DNA.  BUT, I am in for the fight of my life, so what a wonderful opportunity to change that old pattern!  I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?  Healing doesn’t always mean curing.

Sending huge hugs and gratitude to my supporters and prayer warriors.   Please keep sending that life affirming love and energy.  Hoping in my case that healing does mean a cure. 

I would love to hear your stories.

Don’t forget to check out The Wednesday Boy on Kindle and the November edition of Sasee Magazine for my new article.  Cheers!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Now That's Entertainment!

"In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins- not through strength but by perseverance."
~H. Jackson Brown~

I just spent an interesting week in the hospital with a cast of characters that were fun and fascinating!

The most delightful people I have ever been privileged to know, in a healthcare setting, are my “girl power” doctors.  I haven’t been given permission to name them, but in real life I talk about them all the time and sing their praises to the heavens.  Keeping in mind that I am the patient that makes everyone shake their heads because I always have difficult health issues, they still leap to my defense and never give up trying to figure out what’s going on.

Nurses are an interesting group.  Just like in the school system, where I work most of the time, I see nurses that do just enough to get by, could really care less and parrot policies instead of forming relationships.  Some nurses are quite cautious with their patients…and who can blame them?!  Again, when I would stand up for my body and rights, I would get the look of shame and the policy speech, but since I don’t get angry about it or act ugly, just hold my ground, they decide to become friends in the end.  And then there are the nurses who walk into your room with warmth and kindness.  You know they are really there for you.  They actually listen, thinking you might know something about your own body. 

The aids work so hard, but always have a smile on their faces…especially when they wake you up in the middle of the night to get your blood pressure.  Most people never know that they have babies at home or parents who are ill or marital difficulties because few people actually listen to them.  I happen to be a listener by profession and nature and I admired each one of them more and more as I got to know them.

The most fun, of course, are the male doctors!  The week before my surgery I met with a young surgeon who I had never laid eyes on before.  In his youthful exuberance and the pride that goes with being a cardio-pulmonary surgeon, he completely forgot that he was not my oncologist!  He decided he needed to give me the worst news he possibly could.  Now, we must forgive him since he has the god delusion that most surgeons are either born with or develop over time.  I shook his hand and politely told him that I don’t always believe what doctors have to say and he patted my hand, letting me know that denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

I came home and called my girl power oncologist, who flipped!  Needless to say, we fired Young Dr. God Complex and hired one of his office mates.  This turned out to be pretty awkward since my new surgeon was immediately leaving town after my surgery, leaving me in the care of….of course.  Just so you know, my surgeon was awesome…except for that timing thing.

The first day after surgery no surgeon even checked on me…hmmm. The second day after surgery no surgeon had been in by five or six in the evening, and then my superhero girl power doctor arrived and magically made the third partner come all the way to the hospital, in spite of not being on call, to check on me.  Dr. F. can also leap tall buildings in a single bound.  The next night I was honored to see Dr. G. Complex for one minute and ten seconds so he could let me know that he wouldn’t be pulling my chest tube or letting me go home.  I was very nice to him and it threw him completely off his game.  He showed up one more time, the next night for less than fifteen seconds to repeat his sentence.  In twenty-five years he’s going to be a great doctor…or maybe sooner, by the time he gets to know me!

My fabulous surgeon returned, friendly, jovial and positive.  He pulled out the chest tube (which I’m working on forgiving him for, since it hurt like crazy).  I’ll give him the honorary girl power doctor tee shirt!

My oncologist, who also has superhero powers, is working feverishly to find a primary source of this cancer so we can get on with treatment and I have complete confidence in her.

I have a plan.  Because I’m an educator at heart and because Dr. G. Complex doesn’t know that he should NEVER underestimate me (or any of his patients)…really, never!  As a teaching tool, I intend to send him a card every year with a picture of me alive and well, doing something AMAZING! 

And just as an omen of good things yet to come, when I got home from the hospital, an email was waiting for me telling me that Sasee Magazine out of South Carolina is publishing my article in their November issue.  I guess I’d better get the camera out and buy stock in Hallmark!

"Somehow I can't believe that there are any heights that can't be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable."
~Walt Disney~

Saturday, October 1, 2011

And the Dance Goes On

“And now I'm glad I didn't know 
The way it all would end the way it all would go 
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain 
But I'd of had to miss the dance 
Yes my life is better left to chance 
I could have missed the pain but I'd of had to miss the dance..” 
The Dance by Garth Brooks

I have always loved Garth’s song.  I’ve often thought about so many aspects of my life and wondered if I would have danced so fast or furiously forward if I’d known what was to come. 

Life is a dance.  Somehow we humans associate dancing with only pleasure, but ask any dancer how many risks and how much pain is involved in the process and they’ll be happy to tell you.  Most of us want to dance when we’re joyful and sit out the rest of the time, but we must make all of life a dance.  We memorize our little steps and dance them religiously, instead of allowing spontaneity to lift us up…which is, in essence, missing The Dance.

How boring would the ballet be if they only danced to the happy tunes?  Swan Lake would have a pretty boring ending. 

Dance is the universal language, like love.  The way we dance our lives, shouts who we are.  A life that’s well danced will invite others to join in.  People watch us live with joy and authenticity and soon their feet are tapping in time just before they jump up and join in.  Getting people to their feet is all they usually need to create their own music and steps.

As we dance through our life or as we dance with death, we simply must decide who will lead!

Take the lead.

Enjoy every second and make the music your own right to the end of your dance!

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced for the scribe & the pharisee
But they would not dance & they wouldn't follow me
I danced for fishermen, for James & John
They came with me & the Dance went on:

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)
[ Lyrics from: ]
I danced on the Sabbath & I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped & they stripped & they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body & they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance & I still go on!

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that'll never, never die!
I'll live in you if you'll live in Me -
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!

The Lord of the Dance by Sydney Carter