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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!

HAPPY BIIIIRRRRTTHHHDDDAAAYYY

GRACEFUL AGONY!!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!!

CAN YOU BELIEVE GRACEFUL AGONY IS ONE YEAR OLD TODAY??

365 days ago, I made the commitment to myself, and to whomever wanted to take this journey with me that I would share my life openly, honestly, and completely, in hopes that I could somehow make my ‘Chronic’ life purposeful.

I nervously wrote my first post, and published it… and waited… I didn’t know if my words would be heard by ANYONE…

I wrote my second post… and my third… and the craziest thing happened!  PEOPLE FOUND MY BLOG!!  People were actually reading my words!!!

I very quickly realized I wasn’t the only one sitting ‘alone’ with my pain… There were so MANY people feeling the things I felt, experiencing the things I did, and crying the same frustrated tears I cried.

I FINALLY found a place where I was completely understood.  And it was the most overwhelming feeling I have ever had.  I cry at this moment as I look back upon this past year and reflect on how quickly my ‘heart’ changed, how my perception of my pain has gone through a metamorphosis,  and how the courage of others inspired me to find my own strength….

Shortly after starting this blog, I also started a facebook-based support group… and I don’t honestly know HOW, but people started to join… 15 members… 20 members… 30 members… People started to open up and share openly about their OWN lives with Chronic Illness and pain… And I made heart-to-heart connections with strangers from across the world who were suffering the same way I had been for years.  Who KNEW that these ‘strangers’ would end up being my dearest friends, and an integral part of my every day life. You all know who you are, and my heartfelt appreciation, and my utmost respect goes out to all of you… Thank you for making our family what it has become this past year… it is ALL because of you!!

Much “LIFE” happened in between writing posts, making friends, and sharing experiences this past year….

Some of us experienced great loss and began personal journey’s of grief…

Some of us found love…

Some of us lost it…

Some of us found hope,

and others needed the hope and strength that only OUR friendship could bring…

But through all of it, the one thing I know for sure is that we all got to ‘know’ ourselves in a way we hadn’t, all of us played a ‘role’ in our own as well as some one else’s healing.. and we all made a difference in the lives of the people we love.  WE BECAME SISTERS… united in something much stronger than illness and pain.

365 days ago I started writing as a way to reach out to others, and the most miraculous thing happened…. I ended up reaching out to myself…. I started a journey of my own healing, found strength I never knew I had, and found happiness in a way I never knew was possible while living in agony.

Because, in sharing my life with others, I found love, hope, forgiveness, patience, and tolerance for so many other people, and those people mirrored myself… By seeing my reflection in all of you, I found me….

It has been one crazy ride, hasn’t it?

290 posts

21,600+ hits

210 support group members

Invaluable lessons,

and forever friends….

THAT is how I measure this past year…..

Take a minute to reflect on the last year for YOU… and all the blessings, wonders, lessons, and love it has brought into your life… THAT my friends, is THE REASON…

Thank you so very much for following my journey this past year…

Thank you for reaching out and becoming a part of my life…

Thank you for your friendship,

Your support,

Your encouragement,

Your tears,

And your love.

AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ALL OF YOU!!!

THIS IS YOUR CELEBRATION!!!!!!!

I hope the year ahead brings peace, healing, hope, and above all, a lot more love and friendship across the web, and in our homes and hearts.

NOW…….

LET’S PARTY!!!!!!

 

DOES ANYONE WANT CAKE??

QUICK, MAKE A WISH AS I BLOW OUT THE CANDLES!!!

XOXOXOXOXO

 

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Christmas tree in Bad Kissingen (2008)

Image via Wikipedia

The Christmas tree is trimmed…. Snow is on the ground…. The presents are wrapped (well most of them anyhow)… The Champagne and OJ are in the fridge…

And the Spirit of Christmas is beginning to fill my home…

My little dude is losing sleep over what EXACTLY is under the tree this year.  He keeps asking for clues, trying to get me to slip up and tell him “just one thing”.  He is wanting to open the Christmas crackers, and he wants to know if he is REALLY GOOD, can he open just ONE present on Christmas Eve…

His frenetic energy is tangible, I feel it in my gut, and I get goose bumps just thinking about watching him on Christmas Morn. THAT is my gift each and every year – Being able to experience the wonderment of the season through his eyes is the biggest present I could receive, wrapped up in love with a bow on the top.

My usual Christmas wish is for my son, and my family to have a holiday filled with joy, love, yummy food, and smiles… and each year I am never disappointed… each year my wish is granted.  What more could I ask for?

THIS YEAR my Christmas wish is a little different…. It is my wish for ALL of you, family included….

I wish for you to have ‘enough’… not excess, not too little, but just ‘enough’.

Enough hope to get you through the hard days…

Enough love to fill your heart…

Enough wisdom to help others…

Enough clarity to understand the difference you make in the lives of others…

Enough healing to restore quality of life…

Enough friendship to never feel alone…

Enough understanding to never judge…

Enough silence to reflect on blessings…

Enough patience to be gentle with yourself…

This holiday season I wish for all of you to have ‘Enough’.

 

Merry Christmas to all of my Graceful Agony family.  I will be carrying you all in my heart over this holiday season.

And thank you for the gifts you give to me each and every day.

 

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It is easy to get lost on the MS. Oosterdam if you aren’t paying attention… I honestly don’t know how people find their way around the HUGE Superships that are 4 times the size of our ship!

We made our way to the 4th Floor – The Upper Promenade Deck, and very happily found our cabins… 3 in a row on the Starboard side of the ship.

If you have ever been on a cruise ship, you’ll know that the cabins are cozy… There are 2 beds convertible to a queen-size bed, bath & shower, sitting area which has a hide-a-bed couch, private verandah, floor-to-ceiling windows.Approximately 254 square feet including verandah.  They aren’t huge by any means, but if they are organized correctly, they make a comfortable home away from home.

I had to share the next picture because it makes me LAUGH every time I see it!  This is Tim standing in the shower in the our bathroom.  When I say ‘cozy’, by my 5’3 standards it truly is.  For Tim, who is over a foot taller than I am, ‘cozy’ takes on a whole new meaning!  LOL!

 

Our luggage wasn’t in our cabin when we first arrived, but within minutes there was a knock on the door, and our suitcases showed up, one by one.  We buzzed about the 3 cabins, comparing them, and the boys went out on the balcony to sit in the sun while I started unpacking and organizing the closets…

I couldn’t WAIT to show Tim the rest of the ship, and explore every nook and cranny!  But before that, we had to take part in the Muster Drill.  It is a safety drill that by law you have to participate in at the beginning of every cruise.   We went and found our Lifeboat, #11, and then we were off and running!

Michelle, our wonderful travel agent, surprised us with a few extra goodies, including a special dinner to start off our cruise, in the Pinnacle Grill.  On a cruise you have different options for eating meals.  If you want a casual eat-anytime meal, you can go to the Lido deck and eat at the buffet, you can also eat in the dining room for more formal service, but the cream of the crop is the private restaurant known as The Pinnacle.  I REALLY wanted to experience eating there, so I was both pleasantly surprised AND excited that we would be eating our FIRST dinner there…. We cleaned ourselves up, went on deck to see the ship pull away from the terminal….

 

Bon Voyage!!

And then we headed down for dinner….

The Pinnacle is only something you can describe as opulent…. It has over-the-top decor, but it isn’t ‘tacky’.  It is very well done, down to the silver chairs and the artwork, it is something that would be considered ostentatious anywhere else…I thought it was beautiful.

I soon realized that I had NO self-control after looking at the Menu… It all sounded SO yummy!  It was so hard to decide!!

I started with an Amuse Bouche, a tasty morsel to wake up my taste buds!  It was a sea scallop with a pumpkin puree… unusual, but really good!! Next I had the lobster bisque… and I thought I had died and gone to heaven… it was SOOOOO good!  Tim agreed, as he ordered that too, but my little dude enjoyed a Prawn Cocktail, and the prawns were as big as my fist!!

 

Tim and I thought we would pace ourselves and SHARE an order of crab cakes, but we a bite in we wished we had ordered them for each of us.. they were decadent with a crispy panko breading, with sweet and rich crab inside, they were perfect!  Oh how I wish I was still on the ship… 😉

For dinner I had the “Land and Sea” – or in other words Steak and Shrimp.  I choose the creamed spinach and rice for my sides, but I had to try my sister’s Lobster Mac and Cheese… It was the richest dish on the table, much too rich for my tummy, but it was delicious!

Tim had the Steak Dianne, and it was so much fun to see it flambeed table-side!  I wish I had taken pictures!

And to end off a WONDERFUL MEAL, I chose the Baked Alaska with Cherry Garcia Ice Cream and Flambeed Cherry Sauce… SOOO SWEET… SOOOOO RICH… and TOOOO MUCH… I only ate half my dessert, and washed it all down with a decaf Cappuccino.

 

I did make a mental note that if I was lucky enough to go to the Pinnacle again, to order the Creme Brulee… Tim and my Dad both  had it, and it looked incredible..  It has a perfect sugary crust, and was served in 3 different flavors….Oh Lord… I resigned myself to taking home a few pounds extra…

All of us were really tired after a very long day, and we were all STUFFED.  We said Goodnight to my parents, and after a chilly walk on the lido deck, we also retired to our cabin.  The beds were turned down, chocolates were left on our pillow (like we needed any MORE calories), and with 2 days at sea, we knew we didn’t have to set a wake-up call…. ahhhhh…. I hoped to have a LONG and restful sleep.

I was so incredibly sore, but so very happy to share these memories with my family.

Buenos Noches everyone…..

 

To Be continued…

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!  Explore #118, Nove...

Image by Puzzler4879 via Flickr

First of all I REALLY want to apologize for taking such a long sabbatical since the Second Round of the Graceful Agony Blog Carnival went live…  It has been for a few reasons, and I am very sorry.  I hope y’all forgive me!  I have been working through a great deal in my head as of late, and I just completely lost my muse, hit the wall, suffered from a nasty case of writers block…  Thank you to EVERYONE who checked up on me… I appreciate all of you so very much, and I am grateful to have wonderful friends in this community….

Well that is a good segue into my Thanksgiving post isn’t it?  Gratitude….  This weekend (in Canada) is a time for stopping to reflect on the previous year, and to be thankful….. NOW, no eye-ball rolling or sighs allowed here…. for a lot of you reading, YOU have had to deal with pain and illness every day for the past year, years, some decades even.  I know how hard it is to stop and be grateful for ANYTHING let alone to celebrate and have a party!  Oh, trust me, I know how that feels…. If today was Christmas you would be saying ‘BAH HUMBUG and calling me Scrooge today.  I am NOT in a very thankful mood….

I have been in a 3 1/2 month flare,  my nerve pain is more intense than it usually is, I walked out of my last Doctor’s appointment not EVER wanting to go back, I am feeling isolated as of late (oh the joys of this illness), and rather poopy all around…. and that is BEFORE I even get to the migraine that has ensued this past week…. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!  Um… can you say sarcasm?  Me too…..

But that is not how I want to go into the holiday weekend…. I want to be able to enjoy this weekend, and spend good time with my family, enjoy a nice meal, and blow the dust of this closed off heart I have been carrying around as of late and try to figure out how I am going to change my perspective a little…..

I am trying to find room for gratitude…..

So let’s start at the beginning… the basics…. I am um, er, thankful for my unhealth.  No, I mean it – I honestly do.  I NEED to be thankful for my health because if I think I have it bad, all I have to do is take a look around… with open eyes… and then I realize that my illnesses are chronic, not terminal.  I might wake up with horrible pain every single day… but the fact is, I wake up.  And with each day comes an opportunity for change.

I am also thankful for my family…. oh lordy am I ever grateful for my family….  Maybe THAT should have been the first on my list.  I have a gorgeous son who loves me like no other…. I have my supportive and honorable man…. I have BOTH my Mom and Dad, and they are not just my parents, but my best friends… I have my sister, my niece, my furry babies…. I am blessed…

I also have my Graceful Agony family… that is one blessing that I didn’t have last year!  Can you believe that I started this blog just this past January?  I have only been at this for 10 months!!  I also have my family over on our facebook support group… 200 PEOPLE TO BE EXACT!!!  And I feel like I have made some life-long relationships here.  You all keep me going through rough spells…. You encourage and support me each and every day… You cry with me, share my load when it gets too heavy to carry on my own… YOU are more than just my friends, I consider you all my family as well.  I am forever grateful…

Sure, there are a lot of things I am NOT grateful for at the moment, I am not going to lie.  But as I write this I am finding more and more room for gratitude…

I have a roof over my head,

Food on my table,

Love in my heart,

a scooter to ride 😉

I have had the ability to enter your lives,

and you have not only come into mine,

but you have changed me… and I am grateful….

So for today, I am purposefully making room for all those blessings in my life… and I hope you will too…

What are you making room for today?

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“I am so cold” I remember saying, as I followed my Mom into her bedroom….. My teeth were chattering in the middle of July.  I was chilled to the bone and uncomfortably so, yet I needed to strip the navy blue suit off me.  The gold piping along my pockets seemed too garish for such an occasion.  “Take it off” my Mom said “I will give you something to put on”.  She handed me an old sweatshirt and sweatpants and I put them on and climbed onto my parent’s bed, covering up with a blanket… I didn’t think that icy feeling would ever go away…..

We had just come from my Brother’s funeral.

And I was empty.

My brother was gone.

And so was I, or at least it felt that way.

Dave passed away two weeks after my 25th birthday, and I was ill-prepared for such an all-encompassing sadness.  I remember running on auto-pilot the first few days after his death, but as the funeral came to an end, and life around me just went on… I lost my place in this world.  Life indeed went on without me.  My friends still went to work, and still went for drinks on a Friday night…. My Boss still expected that I come into work each day…. There were still bills to pay, food to cook, toilets to clean…. and I still had a wedding to attend… MY WEDDING… but I couldn’t do any of it.  I couldn’t even form a solid thought in my head… all I felt was EMPTY.

That day turned into 3, and I hadn’t yet taken off those sweatpants….  I cried all night long, and my days were filled with anything that would numb me out – I started watching soap operas… LOTS of soap operas…. and I began to knit LONG swatches of fabric, only to rip them out violently and start all over again.  Food meant nothing to me, having my hair done meant nothing to me…. time meant nothing to me….  I initially crawled into the rabbit’s hole to protect myself, but I kept creeping further into darkness until I couldn’t find my way out.

I pulled myself together long enough to walk down the aisle… I looked very put together that day – smiling, hugging, playing the quintessential hostess, but inside was a different matter entirely.

I pulled myself together long enough to go on my honeymoon, and come home with stories to tell…. and then I promptly fell apart.

I never went back to work.

My thoughts were no longer my own.

The darkness went from old friend to evil foe….

I admitted that I was on a runaway train headed for nowhere…

I admitted that I was powerless to my depression

I spent the next 8 months getting help.

I always looked back on that time as the most life-changing period of my life.  As time went on, and both medication and therapy helped me grieve over the loss of my brother, I began to find myself again.  It was hard for me to accept that the ME I was had been forever changed, but I learned to like the new ‘me’.  I eventually climbed out of that  hole, and into the land of the living again…  but part of me lived in fear that the darkness would eventually come back…

and it did…. 6 years later,

When I became ill.

Once you have been depressed, you never forget the feeling.  But it has a way of slowly sneaking up on you and ever so lightly putting its arm around you like a long-lost friend.  The isolation can be inviting when you are overwhelmed with life – the empty room lures you in, and then LOCKS you in…. It makes you thinks that the choice is yours, that you can come and go as you please…. and then it binds and gags you and renders you helpless. IT decides how long it will stay…

When depression first hit, I let it control my every breath… when it hit the second time I wasn’t that willing to hand over my life… I fought hard….

and it was ugly,

and it was vicious,

and it was all I could do to keep waking up each morning and fighting all over again…. but I did it.

And I keep doing it…just  because chronic pain and depression are friends with one another doesn’t mean they are friends of mine.

My pain would like me to end the fight.  My pain would like me to surrender.  My pain would like me to jump back into the rabbit’s hole…. but I won’t give it that kind of satisfaction.

Although I cannot control those feelings from entering my life, I DO have a say in how long they stay.

Pain has taken away a lot…. but I won’t let it take away my happiness.

You know what they say….

Living well is the best revenge…

and it is the way I choose to attack the darkness.

I am human, and still get depressed from time to time, but I know now that I don’t have to let it control my life.

Depression is a chronic illness, but it doesn’t have to be a terminal illness.

There will always be darkness, but it is up to me to let in the light.

I have been house-bound for the last 10 years, but I no longer watch soap operas… I have more useful things to do with my life…

And just so you know, I have thrown away those sweatpants my Mom gave me years ago…

I don’t need them anymore.

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