Operation SPS: Squatty Potty Strategy

squatty-potty-unicorn-haiku

Credit Source: Lybio.net

Mission SPS: Squatty Potty™ Strategy
There was something oddly familiar about the gift I received from my sister this past Christmas. A Squatty Potty™, which is normally not something I would advertise; but in the current political clime, it seems selfish to not share my own self-care strategy.
Its familiarity resonated from the cute instructional video (you have to click on the link) about its proper use and scientifically supported value. Curiously, I suspected that My Little Pony’s™ Rainbow Dash was moonlighting, with the addition of a horn, to be the Squatty Potty™ mascot, a unicorn that can poo rainbow…, well you know.
While we in the Modern Age can add a device like the Squatty Potty™ to our bathrooms, it is amusing to cite another reason it was comfortingly familiar. This invention corrects the body’s anatomical stance when on a toilet, so that it can return to its evolutionary baseline, a squat. Ironically, before plumbing, humans were meant to squat over the earth, but in many countries this is the exact position one assumes when using a “traditional” toilet.
Funny how we forget that long established traditional cultures have ancient knowledge worthy of respect and study.
I believe that every American should have the good fortune to see other countries in the world—and not just on the tourist track—they should see and experience for a spell how people really live.
It has been one of my highest priorities as a parent to encourage this for my own children, and I believe it gives them true vision of the world outside the U.S.
Yet, why do I share this as critical self-care? Many people I have spoken with have expressed deep disturbance and anxiety over the social climate in the U.S. The barrage of articles, videos, protests, and interviews had resulted in one relative commenting that she wanted to vomit when she saw the current Counselor to the President of Donald Trump; and I’d noted several nights of restless sleep, which when analyzed were blamed on visions of an orange puss-faced character who made a lot of senseless noise.
Therefore, I credit my Squatty Potty™ with getting “it all out;” and with the benefit of lavender essential oil in an aromatherapy mister, as well as my discover of a “Name That Tune” type of game app called SongPop 2, and lastly a bedtime dose of magnesium citrate; now I sleep very well.
This is a long term strategy for self-preservation and wellness. Feel free to share how you are strategizing to keep health and stress in check in these days of chaos. Peace.

Our Rocky Mountain National Park Adventure

20160826_133932 Something about mountains has always attracted me. The chance of finding a $112 round trip fare from Chicago to Denver could not be resisted, and so I’d booked myself, husband, and son to escape for four wonderful days of adventure. Our destination, Rocky Mountain National Park!

Thinking I was so clever to not book accommodations until our arrival at night in Denver, I’d calculated that every hotel would clamor for us to reduce their occupancy rate. Ugh! I miscalculated! Our arrival was technically in the wee hours of the next day, Wednesday, and all I wanted was a few hours of sleep in a motel before heading to the mountains. My smartphone apps wouldn’t let me schedule a booking and still leave the same day; and if I did, they were primed for my arrival after 3:00 p.m., not 3:00 a.m. My chivalrous husband wandered among five hotels inquiring about vacancies where we didn’t want to pay $230 for just a few hours of sleep. Another miscalculation.

While I thought that we’d take advantage of the fact that many schools were now in session and that there would be empty rooms, I forgot that University of Colorado was starting and Colorado State began the week before. Suffice it to say, we found a deal and slept soundly after grousing through something of a pre-dawn breakfast at Denny’s.

The next day had us barreling through from Aurora to head northwest toward Westminster and Boulder. I’d heard so much about Boulder and found basically a college-town annexed to something like Naperville, IL. But we did not linger; instead we thought to not take a chance at sleeping with the bears, we headed to the area by Estes Park, very close to Rocky Mountain National. As we rubbernecked with joyful squeals and pointing fingers at the terrain, I managed to find mention of $109 rates for cabins and lodge rooms at the YMCA of the Rockies. We set our GPS and headed there while noting other prospects for lodging if we came up short.

The YMCA of the Rockies was impressive! Several buildings dotted the huge property at the foothills to the national park. We found our way to the Administration Building with the tall flagpole and Old Glory looking impressive against an unusually dark cerulean blue sky. The doorway featured a sign stating that we were at about 8000 feet altitude. Its deck was timbered, and I saw some tall, wooden hiking poles leaning against the exterior wall. Inside, was a rather large fireplace and decor that I’d describe as upper crust rustic. Behind the registration counter was a very pert young lady whom I approached and made my case. “Hi! We’re from Chicago, don’t know a thing, don’t have reservations, but here we are. Help!” Apparently, she was a recent hire (from New Jersey) and summoned her supervisor, a woman similar to my age and curiously very much resembling a former neighbor.

She greeted us, and I repeated our circumstances. The woman was a godsend. She took us under her wing, told us all the options, and didn’t blink when we emphasized the word “cheap.” With that, I also told her that she looked, sounded, and had the same mannerisms of my neighbor Lisa. She laughed and said that other people have told her she has a doppelganger, but that in fact her name was Lisa. Only Lisa was from Oregon. To that I gushed, “Oh, I have another friend from Salem, Oregon who now lives by me!” Crazy how us chicks can do that, right?

Anyway, Lisa set us up in a lodge room away from the ruckus of youthful campers. Blissfully quiet was the setting for our room with one queen and two bunks. We each had our own bed to give relief to what would soon become sore feet, joints, and muscles. And the room had a 3/4 bathroom. And breakfast! It overlooked green forest and hills with residences lucky enough to live so close to this paradise. Bookworm that I am, I’d quickly scanned all the literature that outlined the variety of activities available to us, most at no additional charge! There was volleyball, guided hikes, archery, tennis, mini-golf, arts & crafts, and other programs for outdoor education enthusiasts. Quickly, we snarfed down some snacks we’d picked up at Walmart along the way from Denver, and then we headed to the national park.

Just antecedent to the park’s admission fee hut, was the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center where I did the same, “Hi! We don’t know nuthin'” script. A helpful ranger took us under her wing and outlined a few detail maps which would give us guidance to hike trails that were adequate to tire our son who was eager to try his luck at a pre-Himalayan experience, but that would not result in coronary collapse on our behalf. Back in Chicago, we had been pretty active in biking and golfing in recent years, but we just have not been able to carve out enough time this year due to work. She suggested the Bear Lake Trail as a warm up and then to approach the nearby route to Emerald Lake. Also, as luck was truly on our side, she mentioned that the usual $20 entrance fee was only enforced this day, but that the next days’ fees were waived as a celebration of 100 years of the National Park Service coincided with our visit. Yaaas!

We paid our fee and drove to the parking lot of the Bear Lake Trailhead, took a few pics, and then started to search for the trail’s start. But my husband halted, looked somewhat uncomfortable, and told us that his heart was racing. I took off my Fitbit and put it on his wrist. He was about 100 beats per minute. Then I noted that I felt strained, but not overly so. We took deep breaths, and proceeded with caution as we each monitored our physiology. The trailhead ranger station had a sign posting the elevation at 9400-something feet. Our wonderment and curiosity of this new environment was mixed with some reserve lest our naivety cost us our lives.

Bear Lake was an easy, almost lateral traverse. Then it was time to do the Emerald Lake route, which would take us past Nymph Lake and Dream Lake, over 10,000 feet. Knowing our youngest would want to venture at his quicker pace relative to our’s, we suggested that he go on ahead. After we walked and paused, and walked and paused to breathe, it started to rain. I’d packed three umbrellas, but our son was out of sight. Fortunately, although it was chilly, we did not think it was threatening. However, walking with umbrellas through the trails and hearing a bit of rumbling thunder afar was making it a bit more exciting.

Nymph Lake was a pleasant surprise, as it was covered in lily pads. It reminded me of my Uncle Ben’s place  on Lake Osterhoot in Michigan. He’d had a summer place on the lake where we’d visit when I was a child. Dream Lake was long, narrow and, as is everything in the park, it was picturesque. We saw people of all ages, several well into their 70’s who were getting along just fine, as my husband and I tempted fate with our unconditioned, urban-dwelling, flatlander attempts at real mountain hiking. We were in surreal heaven, but it may have been oxygen deprivation. Finally, we saw our son approaching us on his descent; he’d seen Emerald Lake and encouraged us to continue the quest to witness the beauty of it. People along the way said it was worth it, so we persisted as three umbrella fortified pilgrims.

Just as we approached, the rain lightened up and we peered at the saddle between two crests where the sun was beaming white behind clouds and the rain could have been mistaken for snow. Emerald Lake was dark; but as the rain abated, we saw the hallmark color slowly reveal itself. Little gophers came scurrying out again to play by our feet, and other travelers posed for pictures to capture the memory of this beautiful sight. Once again, the rain picked up as the sun shone; and I craned my neck, pivoting to try to find a rainbow, but the mountain formed a screen which would not reveal one this day. We felt the chill of moisture plus altitude, and descended.

Later that night we explored nearby Estes Park and ravenously consumed whatever we could to re-energize our bodies. Back at the YMCA of the Rockies, I crawled into bed with a headache that persisted all night…altitude sickness had struck. The next morning, my husband went to breakfast and brought some back to our room. Upon his invitation to eat, nausea roiled my innards and I lost water and Propel, and even got the dry heaves. The guys went hiking and I went to bed. I just wanted to sleep and stop the misery I’d felt.

At peace with them on their merry way, I knew that my son wanted to attempt the summit of Flat Top Mountain (12,324 ft.), and before he left I rattled off all the mountaineering safety rules I could recall. After awhile, I startled when I heard thunder from my bed. I checked my weather app and saw a small thunderstorm with a red zone approaching where I thought he’d be then. Quickly, I’d texted my son and husband to take cover, get down out of the treeless alpine altitude, but there seemingly was no decent cell service from Sprint! I prayed, and I called my daughter who was on vacation with her husband at Mackinac Island to pray for his safety. I can’t tell you where my mind went…worry…intense worry. No contact with either guy.

I hobbled out of bed, dressed, tried to drink an ounce of water with some coffee powder, and the headache disappeared. Tried more, and I was feeling better about 3 p.m. Within minutes after that, the door flung open and there they were. My tears and emotion poured as they excitedly told me about their day. My son had taken numerous videos, even recording the whiteout that occurred on the summit. He did receive my text. That is when he also saw the little critters making a heck of a lot of noise and scampering toward safety. He took that as a sign and bounded out of there as fast as he could, and good thing he did. He conquered the mountain.

The next day, we headed out for more hiking, all of us. We did about twelve miles and ascended again to about 11,000 feet, but this time we had no problems. What beauty we found at Alberta Falls, and we explored a spur from the Flat Top Mountain trail toward Bierstadt Lake and beyond. Finally, we’d had enough and thought to exit toward Denver in order to catch our flight early the next day. But what a treat it was to find a deal at the Marriott in Broomsfield where we could enjoy the hot tub before our flight and the chance to reminisce about our adventure.

Next target: Glacier National Park!

 

 

 

Health is Wealth

Picture1 Plenty of olive oil, halal meat and poultry, gentle exercise, sleep, and I try to use organic produce. Joy of joys! I’m back from my annual physical with great news that my C-reactive protein (CRP), which indicates systemic inflammation, is the lowest the doctor had ever seen!

These results are a gift of good genes, but I also attribute them to my lifestyle. As I am self-employed, I have the ability to design my day. Not many people enjoy that luxury, but it certainly can be done with planning. I feel like Superwoman and am charged up!

Another mainstay of my habits is to indulge in quality organic coffee, served black, and I typically keep a filtered water bottle close by. And I share this with you so that you can check your own habits because although the body can compensate for some assaults in dietary choices, it is best not to drive it toward too much acidity. Now that the autumn clouds are rolling in and we are less likely to process vitamin D from sunshine, our immunity typically pulls back. Sweets, processed junk, and too much food take a heavier toll.

Let’s face it, life gets more stressful in these months too, but I have effectively mitigated that with prayer and reading Qur’an. Also, it is important to like what you do, for how you spend your days is how you spend your life. Make it grand! Learn, love, share, and remember the special people in your life.

For those near Chicago, Whipping Up An Income (for Entrepreneurial Women) may be for you. It will feature Yvonne Maffei of My Halal Kitchen and Susan Labadi of Genius School, Inc. It happens this weekend, so get your tickets now.

Goodbye September!

Bursts of Color! Goodbye September!
Each year I indulge to buy The September Issue in late August, and I consistently find that I do not get to enjoy it until October! September is typically packed with commitments and a flurry of activities I succumb to the whim to pursue, since the indoor-bound winter approaches. This year was exceptionally eventful, as I successfully tackled some of my long held Bucket List items.

√ The “M” designation for my driving license. I can now legally operate a motorcycle since passing a week-long course at the community college.
√ The dream of biking along the shoreline of Lake Michigan to enjoy the views of downtown Chicago as well as the beaches, boats, and beautiful part district facilities going towards Irving Park Road.
√ Learning to sail too, thanks to one of my sons who initiated the search on GroupOn for the experience to do it also on Lake Michigan. He is in love with water and nature in general, and our outing helped galvanize his career direction; or so we think, knowing how college students often shuffle their majors.

Along with packing in these activities were some personal and professional milestones and meet-ups which I anticipate will culminate in strengthening my entrepreneurial growth and finances.

True to my promise, I am surprisingly doing quite well so far in my Coursera MOOC, Introduction to Financial Accounting with Professor Brian Bushee of the Wharton School of Business. Another course, Introduction to Business Finance (Stanford) starts next week, and I’d better speed read through the Foundation Trilogy in order to accommodate juggling two courses while also planning for 3 educational events and prepare to emcee for the AMCC in mid-November.

My schedule typically runs in spurts. At a recent luncheon meeting with some of my favorite female entrepreneurs, we talked about how crazy busy we often are, but one of them said, “Sue, you make time for LIVING.” True, but it’s only because sometimes I bury myself deep in focused work, to the exclusion of my exercise, and that is why I’ve decided to take a walk in the sun, swing on a swing in the park (good core toner), and write today. I have two appointments scheduled later, but I know that the work will always be there, nice weather will not.

Besides, without a bit of self-care, the body feels miserable and blood pressure issues rise, literally. Health must be respected, and with it comes empowerment and the ability to conceive marvelous things. Many folks out there have job commitments that seem to torpedo their hope for fitness and balance; but take my advice and do get out of the building for fresh air and exercise. Do not plop into sitting at a restaurant that exacerbates the sedentary lifestyle many settle for. Take a walk, bike, swing, and dream. It’s a beautiful world out there, so make your plan to greet it to do something beneficial.

In this time of shifting economies and globalization, make yourself more valuable. There is always something new to learn and do, and MOOCs are a great way to take advantage of this. It was revealing for me to learn that in my accounting course, 33 percent of the enrollees were from the U.S., but 11 percent were signed in from India and 10 percent from China. The demographics indicated 104,000 people enrolled. They were mostly between the ages of 20 and 40, and most were working full-time jobs. With that knowledge, there is no excuse for anyone to stagnate. Even in regard to many who feel they are underemployed, the call is to level up higher because it is becoming increasingly apparent that single major subjects for college degrees are not sufficient for the highest paying jobs. That is the message I will deliver to high school counselors next week at Northwest Suburban College. They secured their accreditation, and now we hope to expedite enrollment of students in the fast-track basic science courses that also transition students toward potential MD degrees within 5 years.

In regard to college enrollment and international students, it should also be noted that the highest percentage of foreign students in U.S. colleges are from Korea, followed by China, and then Saudi Arabia. It would be interesting to explore the perceptions of U.S. schools at this time from the perspective of people from these countries. Write to me if you have first-hand knowledge of this as a native from outside the U.S., as many colleges are ready to welcome foreign students.

Agh! I hear a motorcycle, as I pause to find the next topic and relish the green grass and sunshine around the picnic table at this park, but it is time to hike back to my office, post this blog, pray, and get ready for my next two appointments.
–Goodbye September! You’ve been great!

Summer's Finale

Routing Out of the Rut

2014-06-20_21-14-17_949 Routing Out of the Rut

Routines have value, as they can protect good habits and their associated benefits. However, sometimes schedules get disrupted, and it is like battling ocean tides to pull effective practices back in line. This is what has happened since we’ve had two children graduate from college, another one is living at another campus, and our youngest is on summer break keeping busy with tennis and video games before summer school reins him into a schedule around mid-July.

Somehow, we just can’t seem to get back to a proper sleep-workout-dinner schedule, and the commencement of Ramadan this evening will certainly bring its own need for disciplined planning. However, I have no right to complain, as Muslims in the UK will only have 5 non-fasting hours to rehydrate, infuse their bodies with nutrition, manage to pray, and sleep within those few hours as well. We expect to begin fasting after a light suhoor about 3:30 a.m. and break the fast with iftar about 8:30 p.m., with about a minute shaved off each day until the end of it which is predicted to be July 28th.

Perplexed by inertia and a general lack of life’s energy, I found that my Chi igniting routines have fallen aside, and they have been displaced by chores and responsibilities that suck time without adequate payback. Granted, I have deliberately chosen to invest time in some things related to supporting my family bonds, but enough! That is why I greedily had to read about Olga Kotelko, the subject of What Makes Olga Run: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives by Bruce Grierson.

Apparently, Bruce was having his own issues with feeling crappy and losing vitality, and that prompted him to take a personal interest in the marvelous Olga. It this reading, I found familiar researcher John J. Ratey, author of Spark-The Revolutionary Science of Exercise and the Brain (and he has a new book Go Wild-Free Your Body and Mind From the Afflictions of Civilization), offering more tidbits of the bonus that exercise brings to the brain’s performance.

It seems that even if you exercise though at a very high level, your muscle mass will degenerate precipitously in your late 70’s, yet Olga seems to be still making progress in performance. The book shares current research and possible reasons, as Olga is examined from many perspectives.

The reader obviously assumes that Olga must have superior genes, and that is part of the formula, for most long-lived people have had long-lived parents. Yet, others do too, but they don’t all exhibit the same trends in performance. Olga has some advantage from some of her genes, but not in others. What she does possess though is a hallmark of most long-lived people, and that is a correlation between having experienced and survived life struggles and developed resilience.

One researcher commented that between late teens and early thirties, if one had not experienced such trials, then one might be weaker or disadvantaged when challenges arise again later. Olga and many people of advanced age have this in common.
Curiously, as my daughter is experiencing a post-grad adventure teaching English to children in Turkey, close to the Syrian border, she has had a few stressful encounters, but seemingly has found her inner strength. In discussing this with my youngest, whom we dispatched to live with relatives in Jordan for a couple months the year he was home-schooled for 8th grade, he recollected that he came to find how he “grew up” when he had to travel alone and switch planes on his own along the way. The fact that he was immersed in a significant amount of Arabic, which was relatively unknown to him previously, added to his sense of empowerment.

What is it about hardship that helps us? I imagine that through it we learn that we are psychologically strong, and we realize that we can dig deep if we have to in order to become resourceful. We grow a carapace of protection and may even utilize a support network to weather the storms of life. Therein lies the cliché “If is doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.”

Back to Ramadan; besides detoxification honing the efficiency of my metabolism, there should be the benefit of further refining self-discipline and mental fortitude. Calorie restriction and intermittent fasting have benefits too. My eldest son, who lives for building muscles in the gym, used to balk at fasting because he bought into the belief that more protein, calories, and lifting weights would build bulky muscles and make him resemble Wolverine from X-Men. The paradox is that calorie restriction actually forces the body toward efficiency. He found that fasting elicited a rebound in lean muscle mass, giving him the desirable “cut” physique.

The stress of cold may also discipline the body to suffer some shock then stabilize. Similar to the cycles of hardship and resuming homeostasis, or interval training that we’ll mention in a bit. Perhaps this is also why folks who live in northerly, colder climates have generally better longevity too.

Chronic stress though is another matter. It’s important to have a sense of control and some autonomy, and that is why research has indicated that managers fare better than workers. Olga, as a career school science teacher, rarely had a boss. She called the shots, tackled her life on her terms raising two children as a single parent, and it was not easy.

Body and mind seem to complement each other. Arthur Kramer, cognitive psychologist at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, studied Olga. He found that sedentary elders could be placed on an exercise protocol over 6 months, and they literally grew brains while improving their decision making 15-20 percent. Kramer changes the way he drives to work occasionally and even uses his left hand just to utilize different parts of his brain. Olga regularly challenges her brain with Suduko.

Analysis of Olga’s brain left observers awestruck. Between vigorous exercise, travel, and Suduko, her MRI revealed a marvel of preservation. Additionally, researchers have found other significant correlations that hail the benefits for college education, the teaching profession, the ultra-stimulating joy of world travel and studying foreign languages as having favorable effects on avoiding dementia and improved longevity. Contrast that with two factors known to erode life, namely sleep deprivation and poor diet.

Yet, between exercise and novel brain enriching experiences, exercise—using the body—keeps brain mass, plasticity, and processing speed. I know from my own biking excursions too that putting time and energy into fitness calms the mind, helps put all life’s chaos in order, and even new creative ideas bloom. It lifts mood and makes life’s difficulties seem less threatening.

Comparison between aerobic exercise and resistance training–like weight lifting–is revealing value in both. Even dancers are the focus of a current study at the Beckman Institute. Like Olga, who competes in eleven Olympic track and field sports, they move in a variety of planes, thereby utilizing more of their bodies than most.

This too reflects my observation that yoga and the movement in Muslim prayers yield mental and physical benefits. I’d heard that prayer to a Muslim is exercise, and the prostration position was suggested to me from my obstetrician years ago as a way to relieve pressure when I was pregnant. Even my mother mentioned that when I was a toddler, she knew I was not feeling well because I would go into that position intuitively. Furthermore, the motions inherent to yoga have benefits to circulate the lymph, and supposedly benefit the joints and connective tissue. A hospice worker, my husband met, expressed his commitment for yoga and cited that it has anti-cancer benefits.

Intensity in exercise and interval training challenge the body by throwing it into short-term stress, and then allowing the body and mind to recover. This seems to set up the capacity to handle this cycle repeatedly in life situations. Doing so actually increases the youth-enhancing human growth hormone (HGH), improves insulin responsiveness, and increases testosterone. Some say that one hour of exercise adds two hours to your life, and it’s a bit of a motivator to psych one’s self to push harder.

Reading how Olga has joie de vie helped me want to fight for the benefits it can deliver, because I hope to go long n’ strong to touch my dreams and fill my heart’s purpose.

Wishing you well this Ramadan!

The Year that Golf Wasn’t…

half flower The Year that Golf Wasn’t…  

Crimson and gold, with yet a sun drenched array of green in varying hues, I relish these days and try to capture the images. For as the temperatures begin to make my hands chap, the reality of winter approaches.

Before the inevitable gloom and shivers, I commit to go outside more or venture at least to the gym in order for me to strengthen, lengthen, and tone because this is the year that golf wasn’t…played, except for once, and only nine holes at that.

Sadly, the lot of us, my father, husband, and I simply could not afford the time between houseguests and my dad’s injury. In my father’s case, he could not physically recuperate quickly enough to meet his goal, which was to golf again in October following a necrotic foot infection that is only now on the verge of completely mending. The result of this, from a simple tumble in mid-May, physically deconditioned us all.

It is curious how we are connected; and although the collective lapse in golf and its benefit to our fitness was missed, I’m sure that it gives a bit of comfort to Dad that he didn’t miss the season alone. We three now need to belly up to the barbells and stick to a workout schedule. Dad started outpatient physical therapy two days ago, and to see his eyes light up, like a kid anxious for a carnival ride, was a joy. When my husband and I worked with various weights and gym equipment yesterday, it stirred up some soreness, but that brought some joy—in a quirky way—for us too.

It’s always hard to start up again after a hiatus from a workout routine, but quickly the endorphins kick in—similar to what happens when springtime turns us into weekend athletes—and we want to run and bike at midnight…until we see the thermometer reminding us that it is freezing.

Then we once again scheme on how to relocate our family to the sunny side of California. It’s nearly two years since we first aspired to it; and as we wait for our eldest kids to wrap up their undergrad degrees, we dream of year-round outdoor play and superb fitness.

Skinny jeans need strong legs, and it’s time to hit the trail so we’ll be ready for golf, hopefully next year.

Connecting Pieces of Life-When bad things can bring something good

Back in my childhood home, I have been caring for my father as he continues to recover from a fall he had two weeks back. He needs 24 hour care since his ambulation is not stable, and he has a very painful left foot resisting expectations for a more rapid healing. Dad and I have not shared a living space for about 30 years, when my mother, father, and siblings required my assistance for a few months before her passing away from ALS. Lately, threads of memories are surfacing, not to haunt, rather to complete a personal sense of myself.2013-05-30_14-07-27_334

As God writes the best of plans, my first job when I was 16 was as a Certified Nurses’ Aide (CNA) which trained me in providing range-of-motion exercise, patient lifting mechanics, personal hygiene care, and other useful skills and knowledge. Although my work with the elderly at St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, was just a Saturday job while I was in high school (earning $2.40 per hour), I enjoyed serving meals, assisting residents with their much awaited baths, curling their hair in the facility’s “beauty shop,” dispensing medications, and lots of listening. They used to call me “Sweet Sue.” There was Antoinette (AKA Frenchie) from Canada who used to chat with me in French. I was not fluent, but she engaged me to love the language. Someone had said that she had no visitors except one nun who also spoke her language, and so I was heart bound to her. Within a few months though, I’d learned that she was declining food, despondent to end her life. She did not acquiesce from my pleading to eat, and a couple weeks later I was crushed with grief when Frenchie had died.

Tragedy has a way of sharpening our focus and revealing character. Although only 16, I could not bring myself to continue working as a CNA; it hurt too much to know that I had no power to help “save” those in my care.

When Dad came home, all things we formerly took for granted were scrutinized, chair heights, bathroom configurations, and sleeping, medicine, and feeding schedules. A spare bed was brought down to the ground floor and an angel brother-in-law constructed risers for it as well as Dad’s recliner that made it a bit easier for him to get situated with a walker featuring wheels and tennis ball sliders.

It has been a labor of love, even getting my night owl schedule to synch with his 5 a.m. start, and although this does not feel like “home” any more—because I have my own filled with my husband and older children a 40 minute drive away—I can remember where everything is and have flashbacks of family that kind of glue the pieces of my life past to the present.

Also, as I am roughly 10 years older than the majority of my siblings, Dad’s challenges have revealed their characters as adults now. Interesting… There is a deep sense of gratitude for my husband’s understanding and support, and I have observed my children’s acceptance and willingness to also accommodate, taking on a greater share of independence and ownership of home duties. Here’s hoping that I don’t find a tornado zone upon my return!

Since my highest priority has been loving care of Dad and serving his needs the best I can, so far I found time mostly at night to do my professional work and had used the opportunity to see a rather long YouTube (1:16) presentation by Hakim Archuletta.

Wisdom is revealed throughout, identifying the nuances of ancient knowledge related to preserving health, but the last 25 minutes of the recording hits several tidbits of good measure that clue the viewer toward a vision that aligns with what intuitively matches my own. It is worth the time to explore, and I believe answers to the causes of some deep seated illness can be discovered. The concept of “connection” converged with events in my family circles, and I value what I perceive to be God’s hints to promote healing in many of them and their relationships.

Along this line of thinking I reminisced that by digitizing old video media and about 750 photos and slides I inadvertently healed rifts that formed amongst my brood, as there’s a lot of testosterone in my house, and sometimes ego clash. By seeing our kids, we realized some things that were never apparent before. One of the most comedic was to see birthday videos of our youngest at ages 2 and 3 where his older brother merely asked to cut the cake. As parents we probably just did not want to risk him using a knife or anticipated hassles, but we put him off with a solid, “No,” and really emphasized it when he balked. Ah, parent guilt! We promised ourselves that the next family party–a high school graduation–could relieve and deliver us from potential fixation if we finally let him, at 23 years, to finally cut the cake. I wonder if the video game I always saw him play, the one with guerilla combat and hunting knife, had anything to do with that!

In viewing themselves, the kids piped up, “We were such pests!” I saw exceedingly patient parenting, but the beauty of sharing the video memories is that we remembered some really great and harmonious family times, when they were still so cute and innocent. They were close, and seeing it that way again rekindled the bonds, which were perhaps taken for granted.

All in all, I now have current media, replicable technology, which can be passed down to connect us to future generations. Appreciation of togetherness, respect, just sharing meals, and taking time are immensely healing and should not be dismissed as insignificant while our society’s patterns are shredding these conventions apart.

When I was an assistant principal, my raison d’etre was to help people develop and discover their potential. In that capacity, I connected individuals in many ways: to other people, resources, and sometimes to their inner selves. This vocation permeates my self-concept of being a type of guardian angel to help, promote, develop and connect those who can benefit from knowledge, assistance, and by lending an ear. I have been granted blessings I deem worthy of sharing, and I wish to remind readers what Hakim Archuletta pleaded with followers to do. Make it a priority, make time to connect, breathe, and live.

—–Update: Dad is back in the hospital, another one. The medical system foibles have been revealed. Two hospitals, sets of doctors, home health care confusion, and a holiday weekend delay in having competent follow-up resulted in a very bad foot infection that causes immense pain. Thanks for Loyola Medical Center and their teams for bringing a quick admission, expertise, and relief. We hope to go back “home” tomorrow or the next day.

~God is the One who has created all of you originally weak. Then after your weakness, He brings about strength in you, Then after your strength, He brings about weakness in you and the gray hair of old age. He creates whatever He so wills. For He is the All-Knowing, the Almighty. Thus, the Day the Hour of Doom shall come, God will raise the dead, and the defiant unbelievers will swear that they had not remained in the world but for an hour. Even so, they were deluded about the truth of the Hereafter.

But those in life who were given revealed knowledge and who had faith will say to them: Very truly, you have remained in existence from the time of your creation until the Day of the Ultimate Rising–in accordance with the decree in the Book of God. Thus, this is the Day of  the Ultimate Rising. Yet you did not ever seek to know of it!

Then on that Day, those who did wrong by worshipping false gods shall not benefit from their justification for it. Nor shall they be allowed to propitiate the wrath of God for their ungodliness.

Now very truly, We have put forth for the good of all people in this Quran, something of every kind of illustration. Yet even if you were to bring them, O Prophet, a miraculous sign as proof from God, those who disbelieve would still, most surely say: You and the believers are nothing but progenitors of falsehood!

And so it is that God seals up the hearts of those who do not seek to know truth from fallacy.

Therefore, be patient, O Prophet. Indeed, the promise of victory from God is ever true. Thus do not let those who have no certainty in God and His judgment unsettle you. (30:54-60)