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Modeling Care

“A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” -Dorothy Canfield Fisher

This photo by the lake feels real to me: my eyes are closed and I’m clutching my phone, yet my boys are happy by my side and my heart knows that I am standing right where I should be.

Taking the time to rest models healthy behaviors and nurtures the peace in our hearts. Finding that peace alongside those we love can be one of life’s greatest blessings. I try my best to nourish and protect my own energy because I cherish the responsibility I’ve been given to care for those I love.

Directions Wellness began as a desire to provide a space of safe, practical, natural, energy-based support to “care for the caregiver.”

Why?

Within hours of entering the world of pediatric brain cancer, I wished that there was a handbook -a set of “directions” to help me push past the terror and desperation clouding my judgement and choose what was best for our family.

As time went on, I saw the need for an integrative approach to healthcare, and felt at home bridging the gap between the conventional treatment our child desperately needed to save his life with the support that can come from a variety of natural healing modalities.

For many, healthy options can be difficult to find and implement. Finding ways to feel well despite mounting obstacles became my mission. Over the last five years, that mission evolved into vocation, and the emerging platform became Directions Wellness.

Oftentimes, those who by choice or by circumstance are responsible for the wellbeing of others can lose sight of their own self care. I share my knowledge and experience as a behavioral health educator and functional practitioner as a means to help others discover, personalize, and examine their health options -no matter how seemingly vast or limited the time and resources.

This week, I took my own self-care advice and recharged with family by Lake Michigan. As a result, my body is rested and gratitude fills my heart as I humbly offer my best self to those around me.

Peace, love, practice, and hope…

Positive Attitude In Negative Situations (P.A.I.N.S.)

You know Abe’s had more than a couple surgeries when the anesthesiologist asks, “Which flavor mask would you like?” And he looks her pointedly in the eye like DeNiro ordering a cocktail,

“Mixed. One tiny drop strawberry first. THEN, the rest bubblegum.”

Also, Abram said to Dr. Chin as the team wheeled him in to Surgery yesterday, “Doctor, I’m so tired after last night, you’re not even going to NEED those anesthetics.”

Ever the definitive comedian:)

(Chemo Groucho. Chicago, 2015)

Peace, love, and happiness…

Protection Forever

“It is the nature of grace always to fill spaces that have been empty.”

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I miss my mother every single day. At scary times when I try to conjure a sense of security around me as “Brave Mom,” I miss my mother extra.

Those who follow our story know how Abraham can sometimes make tough days seem like holidays. Today was one of those days.

Surgery was scheduled for 8:00 a.m., and we’d come up to Chicago a day early to enjoy the city.

Although the hotel was a comforting luxury, we both had a rough night sleeping so near Navy Pier. Fireworks were a thrilling bedtime story, but the continued pulse of hot rods, motorcycles, and 3:00 a.m. rogue fireworks (with a quick follow up of sirens that chased away said rogues) made our 6:15 hospital arrival a bit robotic. Luckily, Aunt Marg is a great driver and RoboMom is incredibly efficient; consequently, we arrived early.

We definitely weren’t robots for long. Every single worker we met from the minute we arrived at Lurie Children’s Hospital lifted us up today: smiling receptionists at the ready; security guards comfortingly on duty; an anesthesiologist who kinda looked like me and definitely shared my sense of humor; a successful on-time surgery; and a smooth recovery without complication.

I snapped a quick pre-surgery shot just as he was ready to roll…

I also shared the following update on Facebook as we waited for the anesthesia to wear off:

“Got it done! Apparently, Abraham was cracking jokes with the surgeon on the way in, and although he’s still a bit anesthesia-loopy, he has the sweet nurse smiling and feeding him a red popsicle. Plus, the hospital has new, improved, Looney Toons band-aids:)… Love and big gratitude, all 💛✨”

As soon as we were ready to leave, two candy-striper-age volunteers found a wheelchair quickly (no small feat) and easily escorted us downstairs -engaging Abraham with a true, sweet tale of his beloved neurosurgeon, Dr. DiPatri having been on “Cake Boss”. We can totally picture it!

Add in our 70-mile transit time plus a huge Rosatti’s carry-out order, and we were still safely home by noon!

So, everyone who sent us the happy feels today, we got them. Your energy wrapped us in a protective, loving grace and carried us through our day.

“Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves it’s own mark. To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”

J.K. Rowling

I am forever grateful.

Peace and love…

Daily Duties and Daily Bread

The best things in life are nearest ones: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. 

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Today I give thanks for the path of right before me.

Abraham was examined by three doctors and four nurses; poked twice (port access, blood draw, and a shot); tested for three hours on his cognitive, emotional, and general processing skills; scanned; surveyed; high-fived and hugged warmly. 

Our daily duties are done.

We have given thanks. 

Sunlight is shining down on us as we head south on Lake Shore Drive.

And, our breath can expand a little deeper as the well-being of our precious boy, according to his dear army of a medical team, remains stable on all fronts.

Today, we feel richer than kings.

Peace and thanks…

Growing Up Grateful

When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind. -Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind 

Abraham was excited to go to school today because he gets to be the stop watch keeper in PE. Never a complaint materializes about his legs or his balance or his inability to participate in a scooter relay race. He’d rather focus on the positive.

One Year Ago Today, only two rows remained on his proton treatment chart. This photo illustrates how in his seven years, Abram had already left bits of his childhood behind to battle for his health. His chart stickers say sweet little boy, but his eyes say wise old man. 

Responsibilities make adulthood harsh. Still, the need to plan for tomorrow is legitimate; otherwise, we could end up homeless, hungry and desperate. What is sometimes forgotten is that unless we ARE homeless or hungry or desperate, there are plenty of joys surrounding us: our home, a good meal, laughter…


If we confuse a loss of innocence with a loss of worth we make a self-deprecating error. We mistake what we went through for who we are.  In reality, living through harsh times doesn’t make our lives ugly or inferior – it makes them gutsy and purposeful.

Peace, hope, and strength…

Puppy Imagery

Guided imagery focuses and directs the imagination in proactive, positive ways. It can be just as simple as an athlete’s 10-second reverie, just before leaping off the diving board, imagining how a perfect dive feels when slicing through the water. Or it can be as complex as imagining the busy, focused buzz of thousands of loyal immune cells, scooting out of the thymus gland on a search and destroy mission to wipe out unsuspecting cancer cells. –Belleruth Naparstek

Some may simply call it “visualization,” but it goes beyond pictures in our head. Most of us have probably experimented on some level with its effectiveness on our own creativity, performance or anxiety.

More recently, research findings have demonstrated its positive impact on blood pressure, short-term immune cell activity, headaches, anxiety, nausea and fatigue- some of the all too common struggles faced during cancer treatment. Most find benefit by as little as 10 minutes of guided practice.

Guided imagery is considered a form of meditation, but requires minimal time and skill. This gentle yet effective technique can be tailored to the “genius of each person’s unique imagination” (Naparstek 1994).

Abram used his own personalized guided imagery on me last night. He was finishing his bath, and I was rushing around getting his towel and clothes ready.

For some reason, I was bent on finding “the” towel I had washed earlier that day. I’m not sure if I was tired, or if the towel actually has magically superior fibers, but when I found it crumpled and damp near the dirty-clothes basket, my shoulders tensed and I let out an exaggerated exhale through my nose. As I walked back to the linen closet, I felt I had to “settle” for a smaller, less plush towel. How ridiculous is that?

With bubbles on his semi-bald head, Abraham busted me out for acting rammy and flustered. He stopped me and ended my ridiculous huff by saying,

“Close your eyes.”

So, of course, I did.

From the tub, he instructs me, “Think about a super-soft kitten that doesn’t scratch curled by your neck, purring. It is all gray with one white paw and a bright pink nose. And there’s puppies in your lap.”

“What color should the puppies be, Mom?”

“All different shades of black and brown,” I replied. And then I added, “with floppy ears and that sweet puppy-paw scent.”

I didn’t peek, but I could tell he was pleased with my reply.

He continued to create my happy picture with images of Woodstock and Tweety Bird perched on my head.

“Do that for ten seconds or so.”

And, I did.

My young wiseman concluded our session with, “Use those thoughts when you’re stressed out, Mom, like with taxes.”

🙂

And just like that, I shifted my mood and my energy from frenetic and forward to calm and current. I had helped Abram use this meditative practice in the hospital before, but this was the first time he’d guided me to peace through a soothing “imaginary pet massage” (as he likes to call it).

I try to live in the now, but at certain times, I lose myself and spiral into a frenzy. When my mind calms and I realize that the moment I am in is the only one I am guaranteed, I regain my perspective. And luckily, when I forget to check myself, I have a Zen child who reels me back in.

Any of us can overreact or feel disappointed, but with a shot of awareness and a measure of practice, it’s possible to find peace at the same time.

Our bodies cannot escape the busy necessities of the world, but the quiet of our mind is ours to protect. No one, nor act, nor task should guide our thoughts without our permission. And when the noise creeps back in, there is always guided puppy (or kitty or birdy) imagery to quiet our thoughts and soothe our soul.

Peace and happiness…