Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mirror, Mirror...

Have you seen the Facebook challenge where one woman nominates another to post a photo of herself devoid of makeup and hairstyling? The purpose of this exercise, if I understand it, is to celebrate the natural beauty of all women and to recognize that what’s on the inside is what makes a woman truly beautiful.

I started wearing makeup when I was two, the time I resourcefully pulled out Mom’s dresser drawers to form a ladder to its surface, where her Avon awaited. After a 12-year hiatus, I began using makeup again as a sophisticated eighth grader and never looked back. 

This puts me at a disadvantage on those rare occasions when I venture out in public without my Maybelline. People tend to look at me with concern. “Are you feeling all right? You look tired.”
I never know whether to milk it for the sympathy or to admit I’m fine, this is just my face. It makes me regret ever starting with the cosmetics. 

On the flip side, women who don’t wear makeup daily look especially awesome on those special occasions when they do. My beautiful daughter-in-law, Dara, is one of these smart ladies. My advice to young girls? Don’t start! The best cosmetic you can ever wear is a genuine smile.

Here’s the beauty challenge I’d like to propose, if I could have my wish: for every woman to hear the words “you’re beautiful” from someone she loves every day for one month and watch what happens. We’d see a lot more healthy women. Healthy women are happier women. Happy women make for happy homes. Happy homes make for happy communities, and happy communities make for a happy world.

Too simple? Of course. But what could it hurt to try?

The January, 2014 cover of People magazine featured Christy Brinkley, at 60, modeling a swimsuit. Someone left a copy in our coffee room at work and the conversation among my female co-workers and me sounded like:
“Well, she’s obviously had a lot of work done.”
“Maybe if I had a personal trainer…”
“The picture’s obviously air-brushed…”
“Maybe if I had her money…”
“She doesn’t have to work, she can exercise all day…”
“Maybe if I had my own private chef…”
“Maybe if I had my own private hair and makeup professional…”

It felt as if we were trying to convince ourselves that, given enough money, we’d all look just as good as Brinkley. I hate to break it to you, girls, but all the money in the world isn’t going to make any of us look that gorgeous. If seen next to Christie Brinkley, I would get asked if I were her mother, even though she’s five years my senior. I’d reply, “Actually, I’m her grandmother. Lookin’ pretty good for 105, eh?”

The magazine’s cover promised to reveal Brinkley’s diet and fitness tips. It didn’t mention her four divorces.

In her book, Do You Think I’m Beautiful?, AngelaThomas maintains this is the question attached to the soul of every woman; that inside each of us lives a skirt-twirling little girl who secretly aches for a fairy godmother to wave a wand and transform her into the princess she has always longed to be. To make her beautiful. Captivating. Adored.

I believe beauty and the appreciation of it were placed in us by our maker, that true beauty is an essence given to every woman at her creation. But, like so many gifts, this fallen world has distorted beauty into something so twisted people are willing to mutilate themselves in its pursuit. Meanwhile, our hearts cry out for a love that comes only from the one who made us. The one who first saw us as beautiful, and the one who always will.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lessons from a Saxophone

It’s been seventeen months since I first picked up a saxophone. I may not play well, but I play loud. I cannot, in fact, seem to get the hang of playing anything other than loud. My new motto is the first verse of the one hundredth Psalm. Look it up.

As a kid suffering my way through the interminable torment of piano practices, I didn’t detect the more subtle life lessons I’m discovering from my saxophone. I like to pretend that’s because I’m mature and insightful now. Maybe it’s only because I write a column now and need to churn out something mature and insightful-sounding every week. Here, for your own interminable torment, are some of my insights:

#1. Practice pays.                     
This may seem obvious, but by the time we’re in our fifties, most of us figure we’ve mastered whatever skills we’re going to master and everything else remains status-quo. When I first attempted the saxophone, practice times were torture because I was puffing, sweating, and squawking. But the worst of it was my lips. They just couldn’t hold up through an entire song.

But I’m tightfisted enough that if I’m going to cough up money for lessons, I’m going to make sure I get the most bang for my buck—which means a half hour every day with my sax. Lately I’ve noticed I can hit the high and low notes I couldn’t hit before, I’m not panting, and my lips don’t give out. How did that happen? Practice. What was true when we were kids still holds.

Think what might happen if we practiced relational skills with the same diligence.

#2. Everybody has their unique style.
It took a year for my teacher, Ritchard, and I to notice the uniqueness of our hands. He couldn’t understand why I had so much trouble “rolling” my thumb from the thumb rest onto the octave key and back, like he does. When I watched him do it, I pointed out that my thumbs don’t curl backwards the way a lot of thumbs do. Mine are the “one-way only” kind, and no amount of practice will change their tree-stumpiness.

“Would you look at that,” Ritchard said.  “I’ve never seen that before.”

It was a relief to know I’m a freak of nature. It provides a great excuse to develop my own way of compensating.

Think what might happen if we let others do things their way instead of insisting ours is the only one.

#3. Harmony makes everything better.
My favorite times in this journey are the last ten minutes of every lesson, when Ritchard tunes his sax to mine and we play duets. Oh, there are still plenty of errors. One of us tends to get the giggles, I won’t say who. But there’s something about playing in harmony with another that improves everything by more than the sum of its parts. Just like life.

Think what might happen if we could learn to live in harmony and in tune with each other.

#4. A deeper purpose means everything.
I spent the first several weeks playing ditties like Hot Cross Buns and Jingle Bells, and I was having fun. But when Ritchard set a book of worship songs on the stand and I heard myself playing the melody of I Love You, Lord, something shifted. Though no one sang along, the familiar words rang in my head and suddenly I felt so moved, I could hardly read the page for tears. “Take joy, my King, in what you hear, may it be a sweet sound in your ear…” 

How this can be true, I don’t fully understand, but the God of creation heard my frail but heartfelt attempts and took joy in them.

Think what might happen if we applied this to every action, every moment of our lives.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

When Life Hands You Lemons....

I no longer eat lemons. No lemon juice, lemonade, lemon pie, lemon bars, or lemon tea.
Or other citrus fruits.
Or tomatoes, soy, pickles, or chocolate. 

They caused me pain for over a year, and I didn’t know it. Oh, I knew I was in pain. I just didn’t know why and never imagined such delicious and nutritious things could be the culprits.

No, it’s not allergies.

I want to educate you today about a chronic condition called Interstitial Cystitis, or I.C. Don’t feel bad, I had never heard of it either. If you’ve ever suffered a urinary tract infection, you know how painful they can be. I.C. feels much the same, except no infection exists and the pain flares up and down on a daily basis without ever fully going away. I.C. is often misdiagnosed as repeated infection, yet no bacteria are present. In a nutshell, it means the lining of your bladder is damaged and when it comes into contact with acidic urine, it becomes inflamed and painful—much like pouring lemon juice onto an open cut. 

It’s one of those conditions that won’t kill you but sometimes you wish it would because it’s so horrible to live with. You don’t look sick, but sometimes you wish you did just for some sympathy. And it’s a lot more common than you’d think because, let’s face it, who wants to talk about their bladder? 

We greet each other with “how are you?” And the normal response is, “fine.” Occasionally, depending who’s asking or how much time we have, we might speak openly about whatever battle we’re fighting on any given day. It’s one thing to admit your arthritis is acting up or you have a headache or cold. But no one ever answers with “My pelvis hurts and I don’t know why.” At least not in my experience. 

So people suffer in silence, running from one health care provider to the next, when they could be receiving a lot of support from others who are learning to manage this supposedly incurable condition. It boils down to raising the pH level of your urine by eliminating acidic foods and swallowing baking soda in water.

I don’t advocate self-diagnosis and I am definitely not playing doctor. I don’t know for certain whether I have I.C. because I have yet to be tested and grew tired of waiting. Here’s what I do know: when I began treating myself for it, my pain went away. Judge me if you want.

I merely hope to spread the word that there is help, and much of it may be in your own kitchen. If it weren’t for a Facebook friend 2000 kilometers away having the courage to mention her own battle with I.C., it would have taken me even longer to realize I could do much for myself, even without a diagnosis. Prior to my connecting with her, it all sounded too complicated and overwhelming. I desperately wanted my problem to be something else, something with a simpler, permanent fix.

Many similar issues develop in our bodies and too often people suffer alone for years. Maybe we should be less afraid to speak up. If I can help one other person by writing about Interstitial Cystitis, it will be worth the effort it took to muster the guts to hit “publish” on this post.
You can learn more about I.C. HERE.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Happy Tonsillectomy to Me!

It was probably Marcus Welby, MD, or a similar type of show. Age eight or nine when I watched it, the memory is fuzzy. All I recall about the story is some kid stuck in the hospital for their birthday. The child’s family, along with a dozen hospital staff, surrounded the bed, presenting the birthday kid with helium balloons while singing “Happy Birthday.”  Everyone was smiling, including the not-very-sick-looking centre of attention.

So when told I would be getting my tonsils removed the day before my tenth birthday, it was not a difficult sell. My inner drama queen welcomed the adventure, the attention, the sympathy, the break from school, and the helium balloons I was sure to receive. Maybe I’d even get Dr. Welby’s autograph.

The day before my surgery, my parents drove the 60 miles from Amaranth and checked me into the Portage Hospital where I spent a rather enjoyable evening reading in bed. A nice young lady came around to give me a back rub. (Things were much different in 1969!)

The next morning, Dr. Collier yanked out my tonsils. I remember the surprise of waking in more pain than I’d ever experienced and wishing they’d let me go back to sleep. The rest of that day remains a blur, except for the frequent offerings of ice cream, sherbet, and Jello—all of which I stubbornly refused in order to avoid the pain of swallowing.

The following morning, I felt alert enough to know it was my birthday. I tried to share this information with the first adult who came around, but I could only whisper. My voice was gone and I couldn’t make her understand me. I was still in pain, I couldn’t talk, and I hadn’t seen my family since they left me there. What a relief when Dad arrived mid-afternoon to take me home! I’m sure some acknowledgement of my birthday awaited me there, but all I remember is I didn’t speak or eat for a week.

45 years and several surgeries later, this memory came back with my recent birthday and made me cry for that disappointed ten-year-old. Why it chose to surface now, I’m not certain. But something about elaborate children’s birthday parties has always bugged me—a fact which, in itself, bugged me. Why did I hold such a miserly attitude? Why couldn’t I fully engage and celebrate a child’s life with joy, instead of begrudgingly feeling kids don’t “deserve” showers of toys and attention merely for staying alive one more year? Could my mature, 55-year-old self seriously feel jealous of little kids?

Yep, I think she could. More precisely, the little girl inside her could.

Ignoring the hurts of childhood, big or small, does not make us better adults. But exploring them can. You may need help with the tougher ones, but don’t sweep them under the rug. It pays to take heed when you experience strong emotions over events that seem trivial, or when memories emerge. Time does not heal all wounds. God does. In time. When we invite him into the middle of them.

I think even Dr. Welby might agree.