Sunday, December 26, 2010

Control -vs- In-Charge

I'm Suzi, and I'm co-dependent.

I have been going to 12-step meetings for a little more than a year now.  It took me almost 10 months before I bought a book to work through the 12 steps.  It has taken me another 4 to get to the point that I am willing to start working through the questions in it!  Here I am, looking straight into the eyes of 2011, and wanting to dive a little deeper into me, so I opened my work book, and decided that (most) every Sunday I would write about one question in the workbook, in order, from beginning to end, and without skipping any of them!

Step 1: We admit that we are powerless over others - that our lives had become unmanageable.

Question 1: Am I controlling? How?

I am far less controlling than I was when my children were young! Back then I had to make sure things were under control, otherwise I did not feel like we were safe. Controlling what the kids were doing, and how they were doing it kept us safe, in my mind. I could control what their dad was doing to some degree, and that kept us safe.  So many things were out of control, and so unmanageable! I felt so powerless, but if I knew what to expect from the pattern of behavior, then I could know what to do to keep everyone safe.

I just got off the phone with my daughter.  I told her I was writing on this question today. She said that yes, I am controlling, but that I want to control those things and situations that directly impact me, and my household. She told me that even when she was little, I did not try to control other people, except my kids, and that was my job. That she saw that I was not trying to control what her dad was doing, that that I was trying to control the situation that was out of control, that I was trying to bring order to the chaos.

I HATE chaos! I must have calm, and peace and order in my world.  If I cannot have it in general, I would have it in what ever corner was mine to control. Sometimes that was simply my desk/office space at home, or my laundry room, or my dresser.  When my life and finances and family was falling apart around me, I sought solace in cleaning and organizing my closets.

I do not have to be in control of things, but things but be under control!  My body reacts with tension in my neck and shoulders when chaos reigns.  I need for there to be a plan. A rhyme, a reason, a rhythm. There is a scripture in the bible that says to do all things decently, and in order, and that has been so true for me.

When my home is tidy, I can rest.  When I understand how things work, I can roll with change.  When I pack all the different outfits, I can be spontaneous with my boyfriend! But gee, what if he wants to take me out dancing, and I only have my dirty work jeans, and hiking boots!  So I pack snuggle clothes, and going out clothes, and working in the yard clothes, and wandering around town clothes, and visiting the family and friends clothes ... now I can say YES! to anything he suggests we do! That is control, for me.

So, as I look at this question ... Am I controlling?  It really is a question that requires a yes, or no, answer ... I feel like I can say, No, I am not CONTROLLING.  I am in control, I am in charge.

I am in charge of my life. I am in charge of my household. I am in charge of my responsibilities.  I don't expect anyone else to make my decisions, and I don't try to make decisions for people that I am not responsible for, and as my children grow and launch from my household, I don't try to decide for them.  I offer suggestions, and counsel, and not always when they ask, and sometimes when they don't, but I offer my input, and can walk away knowing full well that they are intelligent young adults that I have trained well, and they can make their own decisions. And they can carry the responsibility for them.

I have control by knowing the ground rules, and functioning inside them. I have enough to do to keep myself safe and happy and warm and well, without trying to manipulate other people. If they do not see the wisdom that I offer, that is their own choosing, and I can rest well knowing that!

Peace and love to you all as we walk together in this quest to
Live Well!
Love SuziQ

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Some Assembly Required; The Story of Crochet Afghan Pattern

I don't think I have mentioned that I love to crochet! I started when I was about 6 years old.  My friend Jodi taught me to do a chain, and then to single crochet.  My grandma taught me to double crochet, and the rest I self taught, either by reading books, or by trying things out.  Over the years my interest grew into a passion, and a productive creative outlet!  I have done charity work, making hats for cancer survivors, and blankets for new born, afghans for soldiers, and afghans for their family members when they have been in need of comfort.  I assembled 3 afghans made from squares sent to me from all over Washington state to send to the family members of Michael Anderson, one of the astronauts killed in the Challenger explosion.

I have had several of my designs published in magazines.  I continue to design, and have a collection of patterns that a couple of my friends think I ought to publish in a book!!

I like my crochet work to be simple and useful.  I am very picky about my fibers and my colors too!  There is a lot of work that goes into creating an item, and to to have my designs become treasured and used for generations is my goal! In fact, that is the the idea behind the slogan I wrote on my business cards, "Carefully worked by Loving hands, to last generations. New Heirlooms, by Suzi Alcorn"

A couple of years ago I made a huge blue and black, soft fluffy afghan, for my boyfriend for Christmas.  It took me a long time in between work, and date nights to finish it, and I was very proud to present it to him on Christmas morning.  It has since become a staple for cuddle time, and spends a lot of time with someone under it!  That warms my heart as much as it warms my body!  My boyfriend's son, who is now 10, seems to spend the most time with that blanket, which always makes me smile! One day I was teasing him about stealing his dad's afghan, and he told me that if he had his own, then he would not have to take his dad's!  When asked what color he envisioned this afghan being, if he had his own, he promptly said, "Red!"

And so begins the life of the Riley's Red Afghan!  After looking at the limited stores in my area for purchasing yarn, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to use.  I went online to Smile's Yarns and compared prices and brands and colors, until I found what I wanted!  Lion Brand Color Waves in Sunset Red, and Red Heart Light and Lofty in Red Grape Multi.  After some calculations, I decided to order 6 skeins of each.  It was so much cheaper than buying it at the store, but each order must be at least $50, so I had to buy some more yarn ... I bought 10 skeins of a very YUMMY camel colored alpaca yarn to make a cardigan for myself someday!  Even with shipping charges, the total was still less than what the 12 skeins would have cost me at a local retailer!  Now, I do have to say that for the most part, I do support my local merchants! I DO prefer to "Shop Local, Think Local, Be Local", as per our town motto, but I also have a banking balance that must be considered!!

So, here is how the afghan goes .... 

Size P hook, starting with the Light and Lofty, I made a chain as long as my arm span ... ya, i know, that really is not that long but it was a good starting point! Your chain length ought to be 5-6 feet long.  Sc in the second chain from hook, ch1, skip one ch, ch1 in the next ch, ch1.  Repeat across, making sure that the you work a sc in the last ch, even if that means 2 sc next to each other ... this helps to ensure an even edge.

Ch1, turn. Sc in the end sc.  If the next stitch is a ch1 space, then sc in it. If the next stitch is a sc, then ch1, skip the sc, and sc in the next ch1 space!  Repeat! OK, that's it ... I worked 2 rows with the light and lofty, then 4 rows with color waves because the color waves has more yardage per skein weight than the light and lofty, and this (I envisioned) was going to help make sure that at the end I was going to have a balance, and I was pretty close.

I HATE weaving in ends, so when I am working color rows, I DO NOT finish off with each color!  When I get to the last stitch at the end of the row, I pull up with the next color to complete the stitch, and carry the yarn up gently.  This does mean that when working the edge, one must be careful to work over those lops, so they are secure!!

I also hate it when the skein runs out in the middle of the row!! But years ago, I discovered and old rope tying technique that my dad used applied to yarn!! I use this Russian Joining technique all of the time now!  With this yarn being SO bulky, I do not weave back into the strand as these directions show, but just make a loop and secure by working 1ch and sc, then passing the other yarn through the opening.  I may have to make that another post with pictures one of these days!

Any way. I kept up this pattern until I had a nicely shaped rectangle, and about 2 skeins of each color left.  The last 2 rows were the light and lofty.  This time I "finished off".

Using the Color waves, I joined at a corner working down the ends of the rows. Same pattern ... 1sc, ch1 ... just had to try it, and pull it out a few times until I felt like it was laying smoothly.  The general rule of on stitch in the end or each row does not work because of the difference in the weight and texture of the 2 different yarns. I worked down that one side, ch1, turn and worked back, then turned and worked back again, making 3 rows on that side. At the end of the 3rd row, I worked sc, ch1, sc in the corner, and worked the pattern down the end, corner at the corner, and then repeated the 3 row passes on the other side, and across the other end, then finished off.  Repeat with the other yarn.

After that, I simply went round and round, granny square style with each color until I ran out of it!!  My older son, who is 20 years old now, saw it, and is wanting one in green =)

Because this pattern is so easy, the key is in choosing fibers and colors that are enhanced by the simplicity.  Choose colors that have longevity.  Gallagher did a routine with a bit about the colors that only come in yarn, but I cannot find it to share it with you here!  Chose fibers that will hold up well, and remind any recipient that top loading washing machines eat knit and crocheted items for lunch, so use a delicate cycle, and dry on a low temp so it does not get all fuzzy! Those agitating posts catch on the stitches and pull and tear them (I love my front loader!!!)

OK ... get out there, and make someone cozy!

Love to you!
Live well my friends

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Peach-Mango Chicken Chili

I have really been using my crock pot a lot lately!

When my kids were little, I used to cook everything from scratch, and I cooked every day, but over the last couple of years, I cook less and less, but am recently finding that I miss it a lot! I like making delicious food that uses a few simple and inexpensive ingredients, especially if it makes good left overs!

Today, I was inspired by a tub of peach-mango salsa and some clearance-bin boneless chicken breasts to "invent" peach-mango chicken chili!

*2 boneless chicken breasts, cut in bite size pieces
*2 small (or 1 large) onion chopped
*1 whole bulb of garlic, pealed, and chopped
*2 cans pinto beans, drained (I would have preferred the little white navy beans, but I did not have any at home, and was not going back shopping)
*1 large can of diced tomatoes (you could use the ones that have chili peppers diced in them already!)
*1 one pound tub of peach mango salsa
*1 teaspoon cumin
*1 teaspoon chili powder
*A sprinkle of ground peppers
*A pinch cayenne pepper
*1/2 cup frozen peach slices chopped (only because I had some in the freezer, and I wanted a little more fruit chunks)

While the meat, onions, and garlic where browning in a frying pan, I put all the rest of the ingredients in the crock pot. When the meat was cooked, and the onions were soft, I added the meat mixture to the crock pot as well, and let it all simmer gently until the flavors blended together!  Notice that I added no additional salt!

Served with corn bread and sour cream, this was a very filling and delicious dinner!  More tasty than I had expected! I will be having left overs for my lunch tomorrow, and the next day too I'm sure!

Beauty (a poem I wrote)

Walks gently
The delicious scent of the forest.
The drops of pearl that blossomed
Guarded by the majesty of the mountain itself
In the comforting shelter of the trees.
Very still and very quiet
To move, for the dream might end.
To speak, for the sound would shatter the serine and beautiful silence.
To exhale for the movement of air is enough to scatter the birds from the trees.
The dawn unfold in glowing brilliance
In awe and wonder, so as not to disrupt the magic.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chicken Veggie Soup

 I have so much on my agenda this week ahead that I am really looking forward to!  Tomorrow evening, I begin rehearsing with my town community choir to perform Handel's Messiah!  This is a huge event put on every other year, and I am very excited to be part of it for the second time!  And later in the week, I get to babysit a totally adorable little girl who, along with her parents, has crawled right up in my heart!  All of this must include a very busy work schedule Tuesday, and Wednesday; a couple of trips to the gym, and some general house hold chores!

In order for me to really be able to enjoy all of the activities on my schedule, I have to take care of me, and plan ahead!  I have been feeling very domestic recently, and enjoying my time in the kitchen, and working on some crochet projects.  I went each Wednesday evening through the month of October to a wonderful lecture series on Abraham Lincoln; and I am taking an all day photography class this next Saturday!  I am also strongly feeling the need to nurture the people in my life.  I have been feeling so very safe and cozy in my heart, and I want to share that with my loved ones.  I can truly thank my most wonderful boyfriend for nurturing that feeling in me!  Consequently, cooking has not just been a necessity, it is once again a pleasure.

I like the healthy way that I feel when I eat healthy food, and that helps me to work on getting these last ten pounds off my tummy and thighs! LOL!!  I am also cheap, so I like to make foods that use inexpensive ingredients, go far, and nourish well!  I am really trying to make an effort to watch the amount of salt that I eat.  I don't add much salt to anything when I cook, but my blood pressure has been a little high lately, and there doesn't seem to be many medical reasons for it!  My cholesterol levels are, according to my doctor, impressive, as was my entire lab work up!  But I do have a tendency to really be fond of crunchy salty foods.  Consequently, I am trying to be extra super careful about where I might be consuming extra salt, so I can make some modifications.  The recipe that I made today has no added salt, though a couple of ingredients are low salt.

Today, I am making good use of my crock pot again ... in a wonderfully simple dish! It is just so pretty, and it is starting to smell so good! I wish I could publish the way it smells for you!  But since I cannot, you are going to have to make some for yourself, and try it out!

I have a family size crock pot, as I used to have 5 mouths to feed ... now there are just 2 of us, and I still use that huge thing! But with it, I can cook once or twice a week, and eat wonderful leftovers!  Its a great time and money saver in my wonderfully busy life!  I work only one mile from my home, so most often I come home for lunch, and to be able to heat up a bowl of something yummy really gives me something to look forward to!

This recipe is so easy, you can have your kids help make it!  I put a whole chicken in a big stock pot, poured in 2 cans of low salt chicken broth (cause that is what was in the cupboard!), and added a little more water until it was just covered.  I put that to boil on the stove while I went to work filling the crock pot with veggies!

Half a head of cabbage
8 small potatoes (I used red, but you can use whatever you have)
3 small onions (you could use scallions too!)
4 large carrots
4 stalks of celery
Half each of a red, yellow and green bell pepper (you could use different amounts and colors, this is just something that was left in the fridge after making another dish!)
2 Roma tomatoes
1 whole bulb of garlic, pealed, and minced

Everything is cleaned, and chopped into bite size pieces, and put in the crock. I lifted the chicken out of the broth, and set it aside to cool, and dumped the broth into the crock over the veggies.  I also added a can of Progresso Hearty Tomato Soup, also because it was in the cupboard, and looked like a great ingredient!

When it was cool enough to handle, I boned the chicken, and added the meat to the crock, stir gently .... I have to because the crock is so full it will make a huge mess if I am not gentle!

This will simmer all afternoon, and I will have it for dinner with perhaps a dollop of plain non-fat Greek yogurt (I prefer it over sour cream anymore! It is lower in calories, and higher in protein!), and some fresh french bread from the bakery at my local market! YES! I shop at a small town, local market!  I also shop at a couple of locally placed mega chain stores too.  Each as it's own necessity, and specialty!

I feel pretty confident that much like the Borscht I made last weekend, I will be eating this Chicken Veggie Soup for lunch and dinner all week! YUM!  It's easy.  It's inexpensive.  It's delicious.  It's good for my body.  It is a wonderful way to enjoy my fall dinners with beautiful food, and relax!

Now I have time to make sure my scrubs are all clean a put away for the week ahead, and plan out some fun crochet projects ... which I will share with you soon!

Much Nurturing Love to you!
Live WELL!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Embrace the Shadows of the Past

There are so many times that grief comes into our lives. So many ways. I am often amazed at how a particular grief can revisit repeatedly. I have recently been very much missing my grandmas.  I have been thinking of the many very practical lessons I learned from my paternal grandma about being resourceful, and not wasting anything. I have a coat of hers, and I have been wearing it a lot with the fall weather arriving, and it helps me feel her near me.  I think almost every day of my maternal grandma, and the many wise and thoughtful things she taught me about life, and living with the decisions we have made.  The way she still makes me laugh with her sayings!  I have some baking dishes that were hers, and love using them to remember her, and feel in some way that those dishes make her part of the meal I'm creating.

Memories can be very powerful, they can overwhelm us, and flood our hearts with emotions we might have thought long tucked away.  Recently I learned that my daughter, who lives in another state, was expecting! I cried with joy! I'm going to be a grandma! A short time later, we learned that she miscarried. The grief came to visit again, and brought with it the memories of my own experience.  My daughter, much like her mother during her own loss, does not want to talk about it, ever again.  I understand and respect that.  It has been 20 years, and I am only now beginning to open up and share my loss with other people.  I do not feel the judgment that I once thought I might, if I shared my secret.  I have been learning over the last couple of years to release my skeletons from their closet, better that than having them escape!

I could not say that I was devastated with my miscarriage, but very deeply saddened.  In many ways, I felt that God had taken this baby from me for good reason, and I could not blame Him in any way for His decision.  Whether it ought to or not, it felt a just and right payment for the life that I had taken several years before, when I chose to terminate a pregnancy.  In a strange way, the miscarriage helped me to get past the horrific guilt I carried in my heart, due to the termination.

Until my daughter's experience, I just never talked about it, and it became so normal for me not to say anything that I continued to not say anything.  Now, I am more comfortable with sharing.  The shame is gone.  I no longer feel judged, or pitied.  In my heart, I see those two precious souls, a brother and a sister, Tim and Victoria.  They are hanging out in Heaven with family members that have gone before me, waiting for the rest of the family to get there. I envision them at the play ground, on the swings, playing in the green grass, laughing, and running.  And when I get there, to hold them for the first time, they will laugh, and kiss my cheek and say "What took you so long?"

Embrace your past. The good. The bad. The ugly. These are the fires that refine us. These are the cutting tools that chip away the parts of us that are rough, and expose the faucets that make each of us a sparkling jewel in the Master's Crown!  By coming to grips with the experiences that have made us who we are, we are better able to help those around us to also deal with the shadows and skeletons in their lives. This in turn allows us to live fully, as we were intended to do!

Live Fully. Live Well!
Love Suzi~Q

Monday, October 18, 2010

Stuffed Pork Roast

 A co-worker told me about a stuffed pork tenderloin she made a couple of weeks ago, and I was totally inspired! I used to cook a lot when my kids were young, and when I have the time, I actually like cooking. 

I like the way it feels to provide yummy and nourishing food for the people that I love!

I love to work food with my bare hands, as I believe that is how the love gets in! 

I told the love of my life that I was going to make him a nice dinner on Saturday ... a stuffed pork roast! His reply ... "Yum! Apple Crisp goes really good with pork roast!"  LOL ... 

So I planned that menu item as well, just 'cause he's so darn cute!  He is a good sport, and lets me mess up his kitchen, and is a willing taste tester to my re-emergence into the cooking realm!

Eating well does not have to cost a lot of money!  I raised 3 children on $300, or less a month in groceries!  For this menu, I happen to have found pork roast on sale a the local grocery store for $1.69 per pound, so my roast cost about $5.

I used a box of instant stuffing mix, which is less than $2. I found asparagus on sale for $1.98 per pound. Ok, on a side note, I'm an asparagus snob, and if it is fatter than a pencil, it is no good to me, but I went out on a limb and decided for this project, that if the asparagus as was too fat for my regular taste, I could slice it lengthwise and make it work!! Which I did, and it worked quite nicely!

I froze the roast a couple of days before, and then the day of cooking set in on the counter to thaw a little. Slightly frozen meat is easier to cut.  I took a very sharp knife, and gently started cutting, as if I was slicing off a 1 inch thick slab, but I stopped about an inch from the bottom of the roast, and folded it open like a book.  Then, cutting from the "hinge" out, I cut another slab, almost off, and folded it open. I continued in this spiral sort of manner until the roast was a 1 inch thick piece of meat on the board. I massaged light seasonings on the raw meat: sage, pepper, garlic powder, and let it stand for about 10 minutes while I prepared the stuffing.

 I cooked up a box of instant stuffing mix and let it cool.  Now, a person could really have some fun here, and add minced onion, and celery, and mushrooms, but I did not this time.  I spread the stuffing out on the meat, pressing and patting it into place. Then I laid the asparagus stalks across the narrow width, and proceeded to roll it all up like a jelly roll, and tied it snuggly with cotton string.  I sprinkled the entire exterior with a little bit of lemon pepper, and wrapped the whole thing in foil, and set it in a baking dish. 

I baked it at 325 degrees for about 1 hour, then opened the foil, and turned the temp to 350 for another hour until it was cooked through, and gently golden on top.

Sliced, and served with grilled veggies, and homemade bread (that was very painful and not as successful as I was hoping, and another story to share in another post!). 

Followed later that evening with very yummy homemade apple crisp,which made up for the failed bread.

The way to a man's heart at times IS through his tummy!!  My very deserving man had a very happy tummy, and some wonderful left overs!

Give it a try, and tell me what you think!
Eat Well! Love well! Live Well!

Love SuziQue

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Gift of Life

I have been donating blood for several years now.  I recently received my 2 gallon pin!  I go just about every 90 days, and the only gap in my donation cycles have been when I was on a medication that prohibited my donating.

Donating blood is an amazing experience to be sure!  One truly direct way you can literally give of your self!  I always feel so good after I have donated!  I know that the pint of blood that I have given will be used to save lives!  I know that my body will beautifully make more!

In my region, Puget Sound Blood Center is the premier collection organization.  They have been doing research and providing blood to area hospitals for 65 years.

OK, YES!  I HATE having that needle in my arm for the 10 or so minutes it takes to donate a full pint!  I am not afraid of needles, I am just very sensitive to the way any foreign object feels in my skin!  HOWEVER, the benefit to my community far out-weighs my discomfort.

To prepare my body for this process, I make an extra concerted effort to hydrate during the 24 hours prior to my appointment.  I make sure I have a bit more protein than usual.  I have a cup of coffee about an hour before. I like to make sure I am really warm too.  These things work for me ... the warmth, and caffeine elevate my blood pressure a little, which makes the donation go faster. Of course being hydrated is critical to the donation process, as well as the post donation recovery.

Leave a comment, and share your positive blood donation experience!

Live Well, and be healthy ... and donate blood if you can!  It helps others to Live Well too!
Love Suzi~Q

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Quality of Life

For so many years I have heard arguments on what Quality of Life means.  The arguments and debates are often focused on the socially-considered "less that perfect" abilities of the elderly and disabled.  Those abilities are not limited to the ability to reason, think, make decisions, ambulate, speak, care for ones-self, work, earn a living, pay taxes ... And do, what most of us call, LIVE.

But my life experience has shown me sides to the quality of life discussion that really are often overlooked!  I see, everyday, standing on street corners, and sleeping in doorways, people with bodies that function the way they ought to, for the most part, medically speaking.  I see people that do not take care of the healthy bodies that they were given, and are now amongst the severely ill, and disabled.  I see those that have made decisions to drink, use drugs, hurt themselves, hate them selves.  They are angry at the world.  They are angry at their family and friends.  They feel that someone else ought to have done something different to make their life better.  They take no responsibility for who and where they are in their life. There is such a sense of self loathing in these behaviors, that saddens me.  This how low quality of life certainly is in my opinion, self-inflicted!  Now, I will accept that there are occasions when one might argue that the initial incident that began the down hill slide may have been the fault of another, but at some point, one must stop, and take control and responsibility for what happens after that.

I have worked with children, with bodies and minds bent and twisted with Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Brain Tumors, developmental delays, and other illnesses and conditions.  Some have argued that these children have poor quality of life!  But I say NAY!  The children that I have worked with have had happy dispositions, they have not felt the victim of anything that God or the universe have given them.  They have drive and determination to be happy, and productive.  They have families and friends that surround them in a cocoon of love and acceptance.  And they thrive, despite what the world at large would consider their disability.  They give love so unconditional, and so freely.  This is to me is a glowing and desirable quality of life.

Separation from the nucleus of family, in my belief, is where quality of life is altered toward the negative, and diminished.  Whether that separation is literal, or emotional, makes no difference, the process of loss begins.  Some years ago, a lovely young woman made some detrimental choices about how she would live her life, choosing a life of drugs, and mostly estranging herself from a family that is open and loving.  I never had the chance to meet her, and some how felt a little bit of loss for that connection.  She is now free of that reduced quality of life that she chose, and rests forever, as her family begins a new part of their grieving process.  In my early adult life, someone made decisions of low quality, that caused a great deal of pain, grief and sadness that it will last in myself and my children for the balance of our lives. I think we have all witnessed some such almost purposeful decision that alters a quality of life.

The sadness and separation, in loosing a loved one their choices is heart wrenching, and causes the grieving process to begin and last for so many years, and seems to begin again when (or if) the situation finally ends in death.  In some ways the separation is almost more tragic than the death, because we often see it as a very slow death, that starts with the emotional heart, and slowly eats away at the very life and existence of that person, and often those who might long to be closest.  The death brings about some closure that the separation never truly allows.

Everyone will go through the grief process, in their own time, and in their own way.  However the process order is generally recognized in something like this: SHOCK & DENIAL; PAIN & GUILT; ANGER & BARGAINING; "DEPRESSION", REFLECTION & LONELINESS; THE UPWARD TURN; RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH; ACCEPTANCE & HOPE.  There are many resources available on line, and in your local community that can bring you the comfort that is most specific to your needs and situation.  Please, seek them out, and understand your own personal grief process.

This evolution looks somewhat different for everyone.  Grief is a very personal and and private ritual, that each human being, even dealing with the same situation, will move through differently.  It is important that if you are beginning to feel "stuck" in any of the steps listed above, that you consider professional or lay counseling, so that you do not end up repeating the cycle of inflicting a low quality of life on those around you.

It is my desire to encourage you to be whole and healthy, in your body, mind and spirit, so that you and those around you can, to the best of your ability,
Live Well!
Love, Suzi~Q

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I'm Suzi and I'm Co-Dependent

I have for eight or ten years been seeking and trying various counseling, self help, and support groups in an effort to find the right path to my recovery.

Each one of those experiences has brought me some measure of healing and understanding of myself.  I can honestly say that no matter how brief the experience, each one has played an important part in my healing process.

Recovery from what? you might ask, if you do not know me, let me introduce myself ... Hi, I'm Suzi, and I am the victim of domestic violence, I have a mild clinical anxiety disorder, an inferiority complex, fear intimacy, and what I have discovered in the last year, at the heart of all of this, I am a co-dependent.  And what, exactly is that?  What does that mean, co-dependent?  I had heard the term before, and being married to a drug addict, I attributed its meaning to me being an enabler.  I did not research further into it for many many years.  I am discovering that the difficult thing, really, is that co-dependent means different thing for different people.  It has more to do with our personal, deep, motivation for doing the things that we do.

One evening, my boyfriend lovingly commented to me that I seem to have some co-dependent behaviors I was still dealing with.  I pulled my hand away from him, and felt the hot tears welling up in my eyes.  I felt my stomach turn over.  I could not look at him.  The chink in my armor had been spotted.  I decided that if it was that obvious, I had better consider looking into that more seriously.

It took me about a year to get brave enough to dive into discovering this next level of "what was wrong with me".  Then one during the fall of 2009, I just started searching the web for different words and phrases that popped into my head about how I was feeling, and what I was afraid of.  I started reading various blogs, and counseling web sites, until I came across the CoDA web site . I read the opening welcome page, and then clicked on the link that said "Am I Codependant?" ; a list of behavior patterns and tenancies popped up.  I could not stop reading as the color drained out of my face, and I felt a pit in my stomach ... this list was about me!!  I had discovered the missing piece of my heartache puzzle!

Over my adult life, I have come to discover that for myself that the first half of my recovery from any condition, be it medical, mental, or emotional, is in knowing and understanding what that condition really and truly is!  Right from the moment that I read that list, I felt relief!  There was a name for what was wrong with me!  And if there is a name for it, then there is a path of healing.

Next I started reading on the site ... what is the cure?  There isn't one ... it is a healing process.  A process of essentially behavior modification.  So, what do I do now?  OK ... find a local support group ... and I did.  And just my luck, there is a Women's Focus Group about 20 minutes from my home. I emailed to verifyu it was still active, and get directions to the location.  I have been attending most every Wednesday evening for the last 8 months.

From the moment I walked in the door, I felt like I had found what was missing in my recovery process.  I felt safe to talk about my struggles.  I felt encouraged to explore my previously bottled and ignored up feelings.  I felt no judgment.  I felt accepted for me, just the way I am.  This was a huge hurdle for me in that it was a group of all women.  Not my usual venue.  I have not often had a lot of female friends, and had let myself call very few women friends during most of my life.

Perhaps, when I am feeling a little more confident in this part of my recovery process, I will be ready to face the issues I apparently have had with accepting women as friends.  But for now, this enough to keep me moving on a forward and healing path.  I was thinking the other day that I would like to start writing about my "work" through the 12 steps or recovery, and sharing them with you here ... I'm not sure that will happen, but I am thinking that being willing to think about sharing that is certainly a step in the right direction ... Recovery!

Consider the areas  you might need to seek healing, and
Live Well
Love Suzi~Q

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Being Open to Opportunities

I am being offered an opportunity by God and the universe to challenge my preferences.  To reach for what I want as much as for what I deserve.  To accept what is before me without forsaking the deepest desire.  My heart is being stretched to a greater capacity than I had previously known.

If you have been following me, you know that I recently graduated from my medical assisting program, allowing me to return to an industry that I left in 2002.  My heart is there, and my soul so longs to provide much needed to care to my fellow human beings.  I am excited to be using the vast array of skills that my life and training have provided me with.

I was offered a job today.  I rejoice!  It's a job, and in this economy, that is a big deal!  It is with a company that has a good history, and a mission of serving the under served, which very much is a part of my personal mission (there is a post about that!)!  It is a small clinic, and feels like the kind of place where I can be part of a team of people that want to be doing what they are doing.  It will be good to be part of a group of people that work well together as a cohesive team!  I love working as part of a team that becomes synergistic!  I have no idea yet where all of this will take me, but I am sure that more doors will be open.

I have my sights already setting on the next level ...  have a friend who is an RN and has just returned from another medical missions trip, this time to the Dominican Republic.  I sat and cried like a baby as I looked through the pictures she shared.  When she went to Hatti last year, I cried after looking at those pictures, and my heart started to be open.  I have always had a heart for service oriented mission work, and am really feeling a strong calling to go, and utilize my talents and skills to make a real difference in someones life ... To impact to world.  I have been further inspired to help by another friend that has a small business helping non profit organizations with their data collection so they can better provide food and medical services in impoverished countries.  While there is much need for me right near home, I am truly feeling the call to places off this continent.  To explore, and connect,and bring home the stories.  To help those at home to see how blessed we are here.  I see, in my heart the unique and individual human souls that are looking at me through those pictures, and I long to connect with them, and make as much of an impression in their lives, and they have already made in my heart.

To get to that place, I will begin by working with what is laid before me, and keep seeking connections and opening my heart and life to all of the possibilities that God and the universe see fit to provide me with.

It helps me to live well!!
Love Suzi

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Letter to a Soldier

This is the printed version of the letter that I wrote in support of the partnership between The Zac Brown Band and Dodge Ram, Letters for Lyrics Promotion . Check out the link, and help provide some support and encouragement for our military personnel!! You can borrow from my letter if you wish! But take a minute and let a soldier know you care!

Dear Soldier;

I live in a small town in northwestern Washington, and the photo on the cover of this card I took last summer of a family friend’s barn near my home. To me, it is a little bit of poetry for the eyes. This barn is close to 150 years old, and is recently on the local historical registry, though I do not know its story. What always takes my breath away, is the way that the shape of the barn mimics the shape of the mountain when photographed from this angle! I have taken many pictures of it during all of the seasons, and it never ceases to bring me joy with its rustic and sturdy lines. I just wanted to share a little bit of where I am from with you today!

“Thank you” feels to be a very inadequate way to describe how I feel regarding all that our American soldiers do for this country. I respect and admire the courage that it took for you to leave your home and native soil, in an extreme that such an elite few ever can. I have the utmost respect for the courage and the dedication that it takes for you to do what you do. Without so many generations of amazingly brave young men and women, such as yourself, this country would not be what it is today.

It is my belief that the tumultuous times we live in serve several purposes. One is to test our courage and faith; both of which are not as exercised in times of ease. Both of which are necessary for such times as this. Some of the most important things in life we learn through triumphs and failures in troublesome times. I am sure that you are more than aware how tragedy is something that comes into all of our lives, at one time or another. May you ever be victorious in whatever is set before you.

I have no doubt you, and your entire unit, have shown great courage and grace during this time in your life. My family, as well as your family I’m quite sure, are proud and blessed for the sacrifices that you have made for this nation, though it does seem a small return for such a weighty investment. Nonetheless, you have the love, gratitude of my family and myself for your service and commitment.

I believe that difficult situations and experiences come into our lives, to allow us an opportunity to provide love and encouragement to others. It is an honor and a privilege to bear the burdens of another in prayer. It is my desire to do just that for you. I lift you, though I know not who you are, in prayer. I pray for you to have a calm peace in your heart and mind, and to be steady in hand while at your tasks, no matter what they may be. I pray for your family at home, and thank them for their sacrifice, in supporting you as you serve this great nation.

I cannot wrap my arms around you and hug you, but maybe through this little letter, you will know that I wish I could. Again, it seems such an inadequate way to thank you for all that you and your fellow soldiers and your family have done for us as a nation.

Live Well!
Love Suzi~Q

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Change is Good

Time for a little face lift!  I decided to change the look of my blog.  I really wanted to put one of my own photos up for the back ground but have not figured out how to to that here.

Change is good, as long as it brings forward movement and growth!  Sometimes just a little change, of our choice, can help open our hearts and willingness for other, more challenging growth opportunities!

Sometimes change is forced, but can still be accepted with an open heart!  For example, last summer when I was let go from my job!  That certainly was not a change that I was openly seeking, but I was ready to embrace it ... well I was ready after I cried for the rest of the day from a combination of relief, frustration, and fear of the unknown!! But the next morning, I was excited to start figuring out what was next on the agenda of my life.  Some how I just knew that it was going to be a return to health-care!  I had always promised myself that if I ever left aerospace, it would be to return to health-care!  (Just to clarify, I did not start crying when they let me go ... in fact, I just asked for a box to put my personal belongings in, quietly packed, and left without saying a word to anyone, not even one of my longest and dearest friends who was working in the next building.)

Even though I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, I did not know what that was specifically going to look like, or how I was going to make it happen.  But I just could not help but have faith, and trust in the God that Saved me!  And as I went about my searching, it was wonderful how the pieces fell into place.  I looked at the various nursing programs at a couple of the local community colleges, but a minimum 2 years was too long for me to be out of work!  Then out of the blue, I got a call from a friend of mine that she had found a local technical college that offered an eight month, super intense, medical assisting program! I immediately knew that was the right thing for me, and I went in the next day and registered and started at the next class opening.

Never give up on your dreams ... granted sometimes we have to set them aside for a time, perhaps to raise children, or deal with health or financial situations; but here I am, 42 years old, and just beginning my childhood dream of being a nurse!  I am starting as a medical assistant, and will go back to school and start taking classes toward my LPN, then onto my RN, and maybe even ARNP!!  The possibilities are endless!

Openness to change is the key in this case, to living well!!
Love Suzi~Q

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing: Dealing with Food Addiction

I am an over-eater, and this is something that I can honestly say I hate about myself.  I have not come to terms with this behavior.  I do not understand this behavior, as it relates to me.  I even recognize when I'm doing it, but cannot seem to stop myself.  I hate this because it makes me feel out of control, and undisciplined.

It happens when I'm bored, angry, distracted, and other "down" emotional times.  It happens less often when i am feeling active, and happy, and sexy, so I try to keep myself in activities that help me focus on those positive feelings, and stay busy ... too busy to eat.  I am noticing more of these patterns right now, as i am done with school and homework, and not working yet, so the boredom come easier right now!  Keeping my life active and busy, and in a routine sure helps a lot!

I feel slightly fortunate that I mostly choose reasonable foods to over eat; I am not going to eat a whole bag of chips, or a cake, or an entire valentine box of chocolates.  But I will eat more garlic bread than I should!  One time I hate carrot sticks until I feel like I had to go sleep it off!  I like food! I really like wholesome, beautiful, food!  I love food with wonderful colors, and textures.  Foods that have deep aromas that you can taste even before the food gets in your mouth!  I like the way things crunch! I like the taste of butter and salt, and olive oil.  I love the taste of meat, almost any kind, but beef and fish are primary favorites!  Apparently, I like that too-full feeling!  I drink unsweetened tea, A LOT, to try to trick my tummy into thinking it is so full, and a good portion of the time it works.

Portion control is helpful ... because I'm a member of the clean plate club!  Putting the left overs away right away so they cannot be picked at helps.  Eating off a smaller plate helps sometimes.  When my Sweetheart dishes my plate, he does a good job of providing the right portions, and then I don't go back for more.  If we eat out, I always as for a to-go-box when my meal is served, and put half in the box before I even get started.  I don't keep a lot of food in the house, and what I bring home is healthy, so that way, if I do get the urge to over-eat, at least my options will not be detrimental.

My weight has been a life long challenge for me.  I lost 50 pounds and have kept it off for five years now, and intend to keep it off forever!  So understanding this need to eat is still a challenge for me.  I am more fit and healthy now at 42 than I have been in my entire life!  I am loving this new journey, and I am excited to keep growing in it!  Every day I am stronger in my body and my spirit. Everyday I am working toward the goal ... sometimes it is just tiny little baby steps, and sometimes I manage a bound or two! But always forward progress as I learn about me, and the things that make my body healthy or not so healthy.

Living Well is a process or discovery; of trial and error.  I stop living well when I stop trying!
Love to you

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Creativity Released from Captivity

There is a lot going on up there, in my mind.  All of the time there are thoughts and ideas milling around, and bumping into each other, and trying to find a way out.  All too often, the busyness of life takes priority, takes over, and squelches all of those lovely creative energies.

What do we do about that.  It really is a shame to have our creative energies rejected.  Like so many of our energies, when squelched and rejected over and over, they loose their will to live, and they slowly die off.  Creativity is a use it or loose it part of our human-ness,  and I can feel when I am not honoring mine!

At first it chatters endlessly inside my head, so excited about the amazing new idea!  Like a small child, it is begging to try, and create, and explore, and give life to the new endeavor!  And then the attempting to be supportive grown-up voice says, "That's a wonderful idea!  We really should do that! But first we need to (fill in the blank)". And slowly, the excited creative voice quiets.  And over time, the creative voice offers ideas less and less often, and grows quiet more quickly with each rejection.  The creative juices only flow, when they are allowed to flow.  When kept bottled up, they get stagnate, like water that is not allowed to reach and move beyond it's containment!

So what can do we do to help open up our lives to our own creativeness?  Start!!  I laugh as I write this, because it really is the only thing to do, and it really is the most challenging!  I started keeping a small note book and pen with me all of the time, so when I have an idea, I write it down.  I don't know about you, but great ideas often come at the most inopportune moments, like when I'm driving on the freeway.  So, the other thing I do is utilize the technology that I already have.  Most cell phones have audio features, and I know how to quickly set mine to record a one minute voice clip, and can quickly talk to myself and record that idea before it slips away.  I can then go back later that day, or even the next day, listen to my voice note, and write in down, then begin writing about what I want to do with it, expanding on it, and listing steps, and building it in my mind.

For me, writing things down helps to make them real.  I feel as if I have now made a contract with God when committing it to paper.  He gave me the thought or idea in the first place, so if I write it down, and see it with my eyes, and commit to seeing it through, then he will help provide the further ideas, and the resources to make it happen.

This works for my creative ideas, as well as my emotional recovery process.  As I work through the pains of my past, I am learning to journal them.  I did not used to.  I would try ... starting as a young girl, remember the old "Dear Diary, today was ... " and pouring our your heart in the small book of blank pages closed with a little hasp and lock?  Then hoping that your little brother or mother did not find it and read your deep dark heartfelt words!?  I did that.  Off and on through my growing up, but I just could not stick with it.  I tried again as a young mother. But I was inconsistent at best, sometimes a year would go by between entries.  When those half filled books were re-discovered so many years later, and I skimmed through some of the entries, I cried as I started to discover why writing about my heart was so difficult.  It was painful stuff. It was ugly stuff. I did not want to be that person.  I also discovered that the things that I wrote about had, or were, resolving!  The things I had not written about were still part of my life!  An epiphany!  Writing about it gets it, whatever it is, OUT of my body!

I had a ceremonial fire, and burned those old journals, releasing those words, through the smoke, back to God.  He had helped me discover a path of healing.  I have now taken up the habit of journaling again.  This time, it is healing.  This time it opens my heart to self discovery.  This time it is helping me to build and nurture my creative forces.  This time, they are words for my wonderful future.  This time, I am open to sharing some of those words, to perhaps help others.  This time, I am not burning them.

This time, the words are helping me to Live Well!!
Love and Blessings to you today!
Love Suzi~Q

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Personal Mission Statement

We were given and assignment to write our personal mission statement. I have done this before, but it has been a very long time since I have updated it, so it was a very healing thing for me to look at and decide which things needed to be the same and which had matured.

Below is the final version that I turned in ... which will continue to change and mature as I do ... the core of it never has changed, but the semantics and the application does at times.

It is my desire that I express the abundance of forgiving and unconditional love that God has shown me and filled me with, through my music and other arts, through my nurturing efforts, and through the sharing of my life experiences (good and bad). I desire that through these actions of openly giving of myself, people will feel genuinely loved and cared for, and come away from their time with me, no matter it’s duration, a better person for having known me.

True character is not build out of ease, and I believe that the hard times I have experienced, whether of my own creation or another’s, have tempered and refined me. All of the positive elements in my life continue to cut and chisel the surfaces that expose the many faucets that make me a rare and precious jewel in my Master’s Crown.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Your Breast Health

          Eighty percent of the lumps in breast tissue are benign; however, they ought to be examined by a health care professional.  They can be fibrocystic growths, simple cysts, fibro adenomas, intraductal papillomas, or traumatic fat necrosis.  They might appear as firm or hard lumps, or rubbery nodules that can be moved around in the breast tissue.  They can be very painful, especially around the time of a woman’s period, and can cause a clear or slightly cloudy discharge from the nipple.  While these conditions are most often not cancerous, they can increase a woman’s chance of developing cancer later in life.  Inflammatory breast cancer in its early stages is often miss-diagnosed as an infection. 
          During a regular self-exam, Sally noticed a lump under her nipple, with thick bloody discharge, and went to the doctor right away.  A mammogram revealed a complex cyst, and a mammary duct that appeared full of blood.  Her breast surgeon told her that “clear discharge is never cancerous, 1% of bloody nipple discharge is cancerous, but 100% of cancerous discharges have blood”.  A lumpectomy was scheduled right away.  All of the suspicious matter was removed, and the pathology report showed fibrocyctic changes with stromal fibrosis, sclerosing adenosis, intraductal hyperplasia, and microcalcifications, all negative for carcinoma. 
          The American Cancer Society tells us that ductal carcinoma in situ is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer; this type of breast cancer is found only in the mammary ducts, and not spreading into the tissue of the rest of the breast.  Nearly all women with cancer at this stage can be cured.  Often the best way to find DCIS early is with a mammogram. If there are areas of dead or dying cancer cells (tumor necrosis) within a biopsy sample the tumor is likely to grow quickly and be more aggressive.  The American Cancer Society's most recent estimates for breast cancer in the United States are for 2009: 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer: 40,170 deaths from breast cancer. 
          Mary’s family has a history of breast cancer, so she was not surprised to find a pea sized rubbery lump in her breast during a regular self-exam.  Her mammogram showed micro-calcifications, and she was sent for a core-biopsy, which came back Comedoform DCIS.  The lump was removed, and pathology came back as IBC, Stage I, ER/PR-, Her2Neu-.   Triple Negative Breast Cancer.  Mary received 8 weeks of daily radiation and opted out of chemo.  Her hormone receptors came back negative - so all the great new drugs were of no use to her.  Despite a couple of setbacks, Mary has been cancer free from over 4 years now. 
          In order for tumors to grow and multiply, they must have a nutrition source and blood supply.  Thermography is a Digital Infrared Imaging method that can detect increased heat produced by the production and growth of new blood vessels concentrated in a particular area, often before the carcinoma can be detected.  Teamed with mammograms, breast self-exams, physician exams, and ultrasound, the rate of accurate early breast cancer detection increases greatly, and therefore hugely increases the chances of patient survival.  In addition, multiple diagnosis disciplines helps to reduce the large number of over, or miss, diagnosed cases each year. 
          Jennifer was diagnosed with “abnormal breast tissue” after a thermography in April 2009.  With this information, she was able to connect this to the concaving she had seen around one nipple during her regular self-examination, and had attributed to the natural aging process and having nursed four children!  Many alternative medicine doctors regard cancer as a systemic disease, the tumor being the byproduct, or symptom.  Jennifer and her doctors approached the process to address the underlying condition; they believed to be related to toxicity of some kind.  She began an immediate naturopathic life style change that began with a total body cleanse and detoxification.  Changing her diet to a completely organic, no acid/high alkaline, vegan lifestyle was a challenge, especially with four children and a husband to feed as well.  She also went through a five-stage system detoxification process that she does two times a year.  This includes: 1) Colon cleanse 2) Parasite cleanse 3) Kidney/bladder cleanse 4) Liver/gall bladder cleanse 5) Blood cleanse.  A follow up scan in October 2009 showed dramatic reduction in the reacting areas, and she will be watched and followed until her scans report clear breast tissue, or that more aggressive action is required.

          The moral of the story is that breast self exams are critically important, and ought to be performed on a monthly basis, and you can learn about how how to do that on the American Cancer Society web site.