Itsuko Suzuki

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Had to share these adorable water color paintings from artist Itsuko Suzuki today! If you love dogs as much as I do, I can imagine you will fall in love with these! There is something so simplistic and sweet about them yet they really do capture each breed!

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and one more that is a bit different.  I love it also!

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What I learned about death and dying

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I have always had an interest in death.  Ever since I was little.  My little cousin, Vickie, tragically, unexpectedly died at the age of 2 when I was very young.  It was my first experience with human death. I remember not really feeling sad, not understanding what was really going on… but starting to cry because everyone around me was crying.  They were so unbelievably sad.  I felt their pain more than my own.  I didn’t know it back then but have come to understand that I feel what other people feel.  Even when they don’t know what they are feeling, I feel it.  Even when they fake it or try to hide what they are feeling, I feel it.  Some people call this empathy or would call me an “Empath.”  I don’t know if that’s what I am or not. I just know how I feel. At a tender young age I felt the deep sadness of so many people at once. It was the most pain I had ever been in, in my young life.  I still recall it today.

I recall going to the funeral.  I  saw my cousin Vickie wave at me. I saw her hand waving as clear as day.  I wasn’t afraid at all.  I went to my father and sat on his lap.  My dad is a strong man.  I’m not sure how else to describe him.  He is not one to cry.  He is strict and stubborn.  He was not very affectionate, in the typical sense, as I was growing up.  But that day, he was soft. I sat on his lap and cuddled up to him.  I asked him why Vickie was waving to me- because Mom said it was like she was sleeping but she wouldn’t wake up anymore.  It didn’t make sense to me because she was awake, and waving.  Dad said “Maybe she is waving goodbye.”  I’m pretty sure that was one of those pivotal moments in my life. You know, those moments that you know will stay with you, and maybe are a sign to lead you to where you need to be?  But maybe I just feel that too?

Many years later I became a wife and mom.  More years passed and I became a nurse.  Fast forward about 10 more years and I ended up in hospice. That’s where I have been for the past 8 years. I am pursuing other career options but in my heart of hearts I will alway be a hospice nurse.

Between the day Vickie died and today I have had many experiences with death. Some were personal to me  (family members) while most were with someone else’s family member.

I have many wonderful moments and stories that I keep dear to my heart from those experiences.  One thing I wanted to share with anyone who may be going through the hospice experience, whether it is a family member or friend who is passing, is this…

No matter what someone’s race, religion, occupation, status in life is, rich or poor, mean or kind, everyone experiences death the same…true, some deaths are quick and tragic while some linger on.  Some folks seem to linger and tend to struggle (or get complicated for one reason or another) while others are more accepting of the dying process from the start.  But basically, it is the same.  Kind of like birth- each one is unique but the process is “basically” the same. Death is as natural as birth.  The body knows what to do.

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Once death becomes inevitable, layers start falling away. This goes fast or slow, depending on the person.  People start letting go of things.  Their job, their co-workers and aquaintences, their money, their house and belongings, their friends and eventually family.  It’s like they go inward.

So many people want to “do” something for their loved ones who are dying.  I have often had to ask the dying person to allow their family to do what they want because it is more for them then the dying person.

If you want to do something for your loved one who is dying, forgive them for any mistakes they may have made, ask for forgiveness if you’ve hurt them, love them, allow them to be the one driving the bus. This is their journey. Don’t put your own beliefs or assumptions about death on them. Continue to talk to them. Open the curtains and make the room pleasant. Keep it soft and light in their room. Don’t bring your baggage into their space. Sit with them. Just being there is nice. If you have a partner that you fall asleep with in bed at night, you will understand this next bit. Or if you are a parent. You know how you sleep better when your partner is lying beside you? Or when you know the whole family is home? Even though you’re asleep you can feel that they are there? I am sure that’s what it is like for someone who is unconscious. The presence is felt. And that’s comforting for some. And when I say that the dying person is driving the bus, I mean for everything. Sometimes they need to be left alone too. Don’t hover. Don’t bombard them with too much stimulation. I know everyone wants to say their goodbyes but, again, don’t allow everyone in there at once bringing their own baggage. That’s not comforting. Go in pairs and bring your positive, loving thoughts. At least do your best to try that. You’re better off not going if that’s all it is going to do is cause pain for you and that person. If you can’t forgive then don’t go see them. Because what’s done is done and they can’t do anything else about it now. Now it is about them.

I am all about pain relief and I understand that some people have a lot of pain that needs to be managed. But when the moment of death comes, 99.99999% of the time, the comfort medications are more for the family than the person who is dying.  What appears to be struggling is not struggling when the person is unconscious.

I had an experience myself (twice) when I lost consciousness due to car accidents.  One was a major car accident in which I almost went through a windshield and required plastic surgery twice. I was 15 years old.  It wasn’t a near death experience in which my heart stopped.  I didn’t see a light or anything like that (though I’ve heard many stories and have witnessed, in my career, people seeing and speaking to people who are not visible to anyone but them as they approached death). But what I experienced is this:

When the car accident happened I was awake but in shock.  I saw the truck approaching us head on and coming fast. I knew we would be hit.  I wasn’t afraid.  The next thing I remember is coming to consciousness while lying on the road.   I was told I crawled out but don’t remember that part.  I remember my lip feeling funny (it was swollen and torn off at one end) and liquid going down my throat which was choking me since I was on my back (blood).  I remember trying to pull my lip off (not knowing what it was- it just felt like it was in the way and the cause of the fluid).  There were people looking down on me saying “Don’t move her. Don’t touch her.”  I remember the paramedic telling the ambulance driver to hurry to the hospital. He seemed panicked. I remember that he held my hand. While at the hospital I was still in a daze. Nothing hurt.  I did not care whether I lived or died.  Nothing mattered.  They transferred me, were taking x-rays, cutting off my clothes, talking to each other and making a plan. The first of my relatives to arrive was my brother. When he saw me he started to cry- a lot.  He was saying “Oh my God” and “I love you, Chrissie.”  I could tell then that I didn’t look too well. It wasn’t until later that I learned my face was full of glass chips from the windshield that shattered, my lip and nose were torn off on one side and my face was swollen and full of blood. That was another pivotal point.  It was then that I realized that what we see (when a person is dying for example) is not necessarily what the person is experiencing. I have often told family members that story in hospice and it seems to help a lot of people. Inside, I was at peace. Truly. I had no pain until the following day, after surgery.

So when all those layers slip away, what is left?  A deep knowing that this life is ending.  A slipping away from all of our possessions and our relationships too. I believe there is contentment.  Peace.  A final closing of the eyes as if in sleep. When we go to sleep each night, we don’t worry about whether we are going to wake up or not.  I think that’s how it is.  People just go to sleep.  Like my mom said a long time ago. The body goes to sleep but just doesn’t wake up anymore.  I think right before a person dies they feel tired. Like they are just ready to close their eyes down. It is my opinion that when we shed our bodies, we truly wake up. Refreshed from this long life which was but a dream.

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May you be happy and well and have many more days and years ahead.  May you accept what comes your way holding on only to the thought that you have done you’re very best this lifetime. May you be able to let go when the time comes and thank this life for what it was.

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Kicking the habit- cold turkey

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People can be addicted to lots of things.  For me, it’s sugar. But I am finally kicking sugar to the curb. After all, what has it done for me lately? Nada!  (Besides make me fat and crave more of it).

Here’s how it goes for me…”Well, that looks tasty but unhealthy” (when I am bombarded with beautiful images of donuts, cakes, muffins and cookies every time I am on the internet). Then I continue to scroll. But I see another image. This time I get a little hungry. By the 3rd image my mouth is watering but I tell myself it’s not healthy, I don’t need that etc.

Then those thoughts of sweet savory croissants and gooey fresh-out-of-the- oven chocolate chip cookies somehow stay with me. Tucked a way. I start craving the stuff but fight it off….until it’s in front of me. At that point I gotta have it.

We’ve been keeping sweets out of the house but places like restaurants and grocery stores are just too much.  It’s like putting drugs on a menu for a drug addict. The urge is too strong to resist.

Then the typical thing happens. I justify the sweets in some way then feel guilty afterwards. Only that sweet dessert just triggered the craving for another one.

Awful, I know.  But I also know I am not alone.

My husband and I are finally kicking the habit. FOR GOOD.  Processed sugar is too powerful and nasty. 

Our strategy:

1. We are making sure we don’t go to the store hungry.
2. Taking a list to the grocery store and sticking to it.
3. Making shopping for groceries a quick task.  No lingering and checking things out.
4.  If we want restaurant food we will do a take out (for now).
5.  No sweets in the house. 

On top of it we are cutting out gluten. 

We decided to make the switch by going cold turkey.  We got rid of anything on the naughty list straight away (whereas in the past we “didn’t want to waste the food we already purchased”).

Weaning doesn’t work for us.

I have been gluten and sugar free for two weeks so far.   I am allowing myself Stevia occasionally and up to 1 Tablespoon of honey per day.

No white sugar.  No white flour (or anything with gluten in it). No other fake sugars like Splenda.

How’s it going, you ask?
I’ve lost a few pounds. But I am craving a vegan version of a hostess cupcake that is to die for from Watercourse Foods here in Denver.

This is hard.  But I am stronger. I am treating this like the addiction it is.  I know myself. I know how one leads to another then it’s back to the drawing board.  I’m not praying this works.  I am MAKING this work.  Through sheer determination and dedication. 

The GOOD news is that I am starting to taste the natural sweetness of vegetables.   Who knew they were called sweet peppers because they are actually a little sweet?!

I honestly believe this will be a lifelong challenge.   In ANY office there will be sweets.  At ANY social gathering there will be sweets. And I will want them.  When I scroll through the internet I will see them. People will offer them to me.

My one strargey for that is:
1. Be prepared!

I will need to pack healthy snacks, not go hungry, be aware ahead of time that there will be temptation and prepare my mind and body for that.

I’ve also stopped following certain blogs on social media who post such temptations.  Instead I am following health blogs. 

“Rewards” will not come in the form of snacks now..  Having guests will not involve spending $30.00 on cakes and cookies either. I will buy ingredients for healthier versions and cook ahead of time.  If they want snacks they can have them elsewhere.  It’s how it’s gotta be for now.

Anyone else kick the sugar habit? Did you fall off the wagon? How did you get back on?  Would love to hear any strategies that were helpful to you!

Peanut

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It is so hard to get a good picture of Peanut. I took this one the other day and thought it was super cute.  She is a toy poodle. I found her completely matted with ticks. She was behind a dumpster.  Some kids were luring her out with Kix cereal which worked.  She didn’t have any tags or a chip so I kept her.  She was clearly homeless for a while. She had a puppy with her and was still nursing but someone took the puppy and left her which I thought was sad. Peanut had to have almost all of her teeth removed because they were loose and full of tarter. She has done very well with just two teeth and still likes to chew bones with those two toofers!

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She is Mama’s baby. I love her so much.  We think she is about 10 years old.  I sure hope to have her for many years.  She is spoiled rotten and we know it.  I can’t help but to give her everything she wants.  I don’t know what I would do without her.

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May you be happy and well,

FeeFee

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Introspective work is hard.

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I’ve been doing a lot of inner soul work. Working on self-care and self-actualization. 

It is hard work. It takes time,  energy and a whole lot of patience. Everyone will achieve their own results based on how much time,  energy and determination they have in cultivating their own mind.

I am starting to see results but have been working on it for over 2 years now (Since something traumatic and painful happened in my life). Sometimes I hit it hard and other times I get caught up in this world,  the daily grind,  and don’t spend the amount of time I should on it.

I wanted to share some things I’ve learned. Not necessarily about myself,  because that wouldn’t mean anything to anyone reading this,  but about the process. And maybe a few ways I’ve benefitted,  generally speaking. 

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1. Cultivating the mind takes a lot of time. Something most of us don’t feel we have enough of these days. And even if we do,  quite frankly,  there may be more exciting things to do that result in faster gratification.  Those other things,  whatever they may be,  won’t bring long term,  life-changing results though.

2. Cultivating the mind takes an extreme amount of patience.  You won’t see results immeditaley.  Sometimes it feels like there is no benefit at all and that’s all you are doing is dragging up old memories. Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to just keep pushing those memories aside. But that doesn’t really ever get us anywhere. We can’t advance past them if we can’t even look at them. Then,  those memories come up anyway, when we least expect it. And they do affect us. They affect our well-being,  happiness and overall health. They shape decisions we make and who we are as people. Have you ever heard of people putting up walls?  Or not being able to trust again?  That stems from not addressing the true issues. That’s not a happy or healthy way to live. 

3. Cultivating the mind is painful.  We are looking at ourselves in a totally different way. Asking ourselves why we react the way we do. Not just blaming someone else for our misery,  sadness or anger but really asking ourselves “What is it about me that brought about that reaction? ” Remember,  no one else is responsible for our happiness except us.  No one can “make” us react or behave a certain way unless we allow it.

4. Practice makes perfect.  In order to keep going with this inner mind/soul work,  it is important to remember that there is a goal. If it takes so much time,  the results are slow and it is painful – why do it? Well, after the tears, hours of meditation and investigation of what brought up certain thoughts,  reactions or feelings,  there is a sense of peace that cannot come any other way. It might only be for a moment but it is wonderful. There are insights,  little ones and big ones,  that we gain from this kind of work that can’t be learned any other way. The Buddha said that we alone must walk our path. No one can and no one may walk it for us. Only we can,  through this kind of work,  dig deep within ourselves, to learn about our nature and begin to change it for the better. Self reflection is so beneficial and rewarding. I used to think that looking at past hurts or digging into our childhood was psych-mumbo-jumbo.  It’s not.

One general thing I learned recently is this:  We can forgive someone for hurting us in the past,  even if they were truly wrong and cruel.   If we dig deep within and work on it,  it can be done.  However,  even when we get to that point of truly forgiving them 100% and even wishing them well,  it doesn’t stop the memories of what happened and how they hurt us. That part sucks. So here is where the insights come in.  This is how we can bring what we’ve learned through that introspective work into real life.  We consciously remember that we have forgiven them. We realize that this is just a memory,  painful as it may be,  and we choose to not relive it. We choose to not let that anger us or make us sad. The more and more we do this we begin to let it go and see it for what it is. It is a memory. That’s all. It is done. We have moved on. We have forgiven. We aren’t there anymore and do not need to relive it over and over again.  We don’t need to drag those heavy memories around with us for the rest of our lives.  That is us doing that. Not that person who originally caused us pain.

In Buddhism that’s called Double Dukkha. Someone hurt you which is the first dukkha (dukkha means suffering) but then we relive it. That’s the second dukkha. And guess what? Over time we relive it,  that’s another dukkha in top of it. Yikes.  Think of all the times we have caused our own suffering!

It is foolish for us to hold onto those old feelings.  The Buddha also said that a fool is one who doesn’t ask forgiveness for something they’ve done which is wrong.  A fool is also someone who,  when asked for forgiveness,  doesn’t give it.

So to me that means this:  Even if that person who has hurt us has not asked us for forgiveness,  that is on them. They are the fool. And we are not to associate with fools. If they have asked us for forgiveness, it is our duty to do so. Or we are the fool.  So there is no reason to NOT forgive them.  It is never right to hold a grudge. It is never right to continue to recreate the pain we originally went through over and over again. However,  we need to get to the point of forgiving and ultimately ketting go,  is worth spending the time on.

I hope that this has helped someone in some way.

In this blog,  I am going to give examples of my personal self-care practices and ideas in case you don’t know where to start.

Oftentimes,  we hear people say,  “Just let it go” or “Forgive and forget. ”  I believe there is something in us all that wants to do that. Maybe there is someone out there who can read those words,  have them click snd automatically be able to do that. I doubt it but I guess it is possible.  Most of us need more than those words.  We need to know HOW. That’s what I would like to share.  I’m not a psychologist. I am not a psychiatrist.  I’m not a counselor. I am not a spiritual adviser.  I am just a person who is getting through it myself.  I am a work in progress also. 

If something resonates with you and you can relate and wish to try any one of my methods,  go for it. If not,  that’s ok too. It is working for me though. If you have your own methods that work and you’d like to share,  that would be wonderful also!

May you be happy and well.

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Mini Meditation: Breath

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I have decided to make some mini meditations to share! We all need to take more breaks just for us.  I am starting with this one and will see if anyone likes these or not.  Please feel free to save to your desktop or in a file.  More will be coming.  Feel free to share also. Enjoy.  XO, FeeFee (my nickname)

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