A few months back, I went hiking on trails around Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee. It’s the 3rd highest area on the east coast. If you ever get the opportunity to visit the Great Smoky Mountains, I’m telling you right now; you should go!
It’s not about the food or the shopping. It’s not even about the multitude of moonshine tasting.
It’s about the stillness that is to be found there in the crisp, clean mountain air. Air so fresh and gorgeous that no pricey aromatherapy oils could even come close to imitating.
In the middle of all that beautiful balsam is priceless silence.
There are no sounds of cars. No chatter of people. Nothing but silence.
It’s in that silence and pure air that I took greater notice of the trees around me.
Those intense, tall trees reach up to the sky with roots that grow deep in the rich unpolluted soil.
My feet were implanted on the ground beside these fantastic trees. In our stillness, each of us stood in silent watch of the madness reigning on everyday life below.
Somehow, my seemingly ever-present fear of being in a place unknown to me, along with my fear of heights, had dissolved into the crisp air. I felt a sense of peace and connection to the world around me.
I’ve read that trees communicate underground through their roots.
Some trees are part of an immense system connected by their underground roots.
When a tree falls ill, it signals to the other trees for help, which arrives.
We don’t see that connection, but it’s there.
People are very similar, maintaining a connection that all too often goes unnoticed. When one of us falls ill, few physically run to the aid of that person, but most will, in whatever language they use, pray for that person.
Did you ever wonder why?
Why would someone in California pray for the safety of someone in New York?
Because like trees, we are all connected with unseen roots that run more deeply than we can ever fathom.
When one of us rages, we all feel that rage. We all are affected.
This connection creates a need to journey towards mental, physical, and spiritual health, so collectively, we can get better – feel better – be better.
Without fear, I sat on the ledge securely fastened to the earth by the trees around me and looked out over the mountains covered in trees. Beautiful, fabulous, trees.
Eventually, I had to leave the pure-aired silence, but I haven’t left the awareness of the deep-rooted connection I have to that spot on the rock on a trail off of Clingman’s Dome, and the connection I have to the world around me. The connection we all have.
As my Dad lay dying a few weeks ago, I began to see his body as a house.
His transition from this life to the next was not the first time I witnessed the passing of a loved one. I’ve seen it with my grandparents, my husband’s grandparents, my husband’s parents, and a brother-in-law.
Unless something catastrophic happens, our bodies take time to die. The process can leave the people sitting by the bedside watching in agony as a loved one’s body shuts down.
As I sat holding my Dad’s hand, I thought about how important it was for him to have these last moments of life on his own terms to do whatever it was he needed to do.
He needed to go through his earthly house – the place that housed his spirit – and prepare for his leaving.
Closing Down the House
I imagined him beginning at his front door, and locking it, then turning off the front porch lights.
With his family surrounding his bedside, slowly and methodically, Dad went room by room, making sure the windows were secured, the rooms were tidy, and then turning off the light of each room of his earthly house.
The hospice nurses told us to try and keep the environment calm and peaceful. We were told that if someone were to yell for him to come back, he would try and wake back up from his slumber. Because he was in the process of dying, that could cause him great agitation and possibly pain.
I would look at his peaceful face and imagine that when people by his bedside began to speak enthusiastically to him, he would leave the room he was closing up. He would turn the hall lights back on, walk to the front door, turn the front porch lights on again, and unlock the front door. Then, his eyes would pop open, and my Dad would struggle to speak to the person by his side.
After a short while, his eyes would close once more, and he would go back to work, closing down his house, light by light, room by room.
Dad held on for several days beyond what was expected. The hospice nurse would say, “Did everyone say goodbye? Did he get to talk to everyone?”
To which my sister and I would say, “Yes.”
As I sat by his side, I mentioned my shutting down the house metaphor to the family members gathered around his bedside. Dad responded with a subtle nod of his head and a gentle smile.
It was important to give him time to go room by room, mentally and spiritually closing each room of his earthly house.
Room by Room.
Lights turned off.
Room by room.
I was the last of my family members to leave my Dad’s home, flying back after extending my flight to be by his side a little while longer. My Mom and sister live in the same home as my Dad, so he was not alone, but I was out of place.
When my plane touched down, my Dad took his last breath. It was as if he had taken his time in my room and would not turn the light off and close the door until I was home safely.
With his house in order, my Dad left this world. The last light in his earthly body darkened as the light of his spirit traveled to a new home.
There is so much anger, fear, and confusion wreaking havoc on even the most sensible. The world is suffering from a pandemic in which no one seems to have a clear direction, and the masses are panicking, or are so disillusioned by the authority they refuse to listen and might be putting large populations at risk of infection.
Or might not.
We don’t know.
In the middle of everyone doing their best to remain healthy and keep breathing a horrific act of violence is shown to the world as a man is killed as a police officer kneels on his neck. The victim cries out for mercy, saying he can’t breathe and dies in front of our eyes.
The anger, fear, and confusion become tangible in that moment, and we can all see, hear, and emotionally touch the agony.
More lives shatter as businesses feverishly burn to the ground without discrimination.
The ugly face of racism rises like a pimple on faces for all to see.
The virus that began in an open-air market in China 8 months ago has mutated into a limitless rage of the human spirit.
Politics, race, sexual identity are weaponized as more of the masses fall ill.
The anger, fear, and confusion grow as people take sides (having lost) while losing their focus and becoming reactive to this infection of the human condition.
We’ve lost our ability to think in a time when we need to collectively critically think.
The virus rages on, and I am reminded of an important lesson I learned while watching the passing of people I love.
That lesson is that we die as we live.
During my grandfather’s last moments, he laughed. He always sought out joy.
In my grandmother’s last moments, she said, “I love you” over and over again until she could speak no more. She was all about love.
My father wanted to be remembered in his last moments. He was a fiery spirit who never met a stranger.
As the funnel cloud of our pandemic picks up more speed and debris, think about how you want your last moments on this earth to be and make your life all about that direction now. I am not implying any of you may die anytime soon, but why not set your intentions NOW for how you want your life to be in the end.
I’m going to focus on love, peace, and laughter. Lots of laughter.
Flu season is in full swing right now. Either you’re sick, or your kids are sick, or your neighbors’ kids are sick.
The cashier at the grocery store is sniffling.
When you recently went shopping at Target, every time you heard a sneeze or a cough, didn’t you twitch ever so slightly?
Today, I sit down with Massage Therapist Kendra McLean, and she provides some excellent wellness insight.
To be honest, I don’t sit, I lie down on Kendra’s massage table and ask her some questions.
She has some great words of wisdom to offer on the journey to wellness.
As I stare up at the ceiling, covered in a warm comfy sheet, Kendra starts working on a problem I have been experiencing with my left leg.
I take a deep breath and start complaining about how everybody is sick right now.
She responds, saying, “preventing illness starts with caring for yourself.”
“You can’t snap your fingers and have a great immune system.”
Of course, I hear, “snap fingers for a great immune system,” so, I’m really glad she wrote her responses down in an email after my massage!
Kendra goes on to say, “It often takes six months to build a good immune system if it is indeed in a poor state.”
Oh great, so I’ll be in wonderful shape by August!
Kendra shares, “we should all start now to build our immunities for the next flu season.”
But, how does one do that, I question as she finds knot after knot on my left leg.
Have you ever had your quad worked on? It’s a tad painful, just saying.
In her lovely calm voice, Kendra tells me, “eat a well-balanced diet that include a lot of vitamin C.”
“Turmeric helps to maintain healthy muscle, joint, or cartilage function as well as copaiba and black pepper oil.”
I have heard about turmeric, but I have never heard of copaiba oil, which also reduces inflammation. I didn’t know that black pepper oil is good for tendons and supports immune systems.
Heck, I just thought black pepper was for cooking.
As I lie there, I realize that we have so much at our fingertips to empower us towards wellness.
Kendra continues, “not all oils are safe to ingest. Young Living, a company that sells essential oils, has a vitality line that is FDA approved to ingest.”
Kendra uses Young Living essential oils in her practice and at home on her family and herself, so it must be good.
Not only should we focus on essential oils, but Kendra mentions that we should also take probiotics daily.
Working Out the Knots
“A good healthy digestive track aids in a good immune system,” she tells me as she finds yet another knot on my leg, but this time it is on my sartorius, which is on the outside of my quad.
Truth be known, I didn’t even know I had a sartorius, nor did I know it was possible for the sartorius to become irritable and cause knee pain.
I work on breathing while she works on the knots in my irritable sartorius. Kendra puts in a word of caution about using hand sanitizers. “Don’t overuse hand sanitizers. Better yet, avoid using it when possible. A good old fashion handwashing is the better choice.”
I have heard about the dangers of hand sanitizers before; although it is a good reminder, I’m not surprised by it.
I ask Kendra, once I’m sick, what can I do?
“You need to drink water, listen to your body and rest. Get a lot of rest.”
Our Complicated Bodies
I lie there on the table, arms by my side, taking big breaths while she finds knots on my abductor magnus because my muscle to the right of my quad must have felt left out. I work out with interval training three times a week and teach and practice yoga nearly every day.
Sometimes, when my body begins to get stronger, old issues flare up. For today, weak hips lead to a sore knee caused by my sartorius and abductor magnus pulling on my knee.
One issue leads to another.
It would be nice to think that my body was easy to fix, as in:
My knee hurts
I’ll get it fixed
My knee doesn’t hurt anymore
That’s not how anyone’s body works, though.
When I was in a car wreck a few years back, I had a headache after the incident that lasted what seemed like forever. I had to get physical therapy and massage therapy on my neck to stop the headaches.
Wellness is the same way.
We can’t just drink a shot of orange juice and be on our way.
We have to incorporate different modalities to help fix what ails us.
Luckily, there is a lot that we can do to help us move towards wellness.
She asks me to relax and breathe as she works on my ankles and my other leg. It’s so easy to tense up and hold my breath when I’m getting a massage, but that’s not going to help direct me towards wellness.
I take a deep breath, and she continues, ”Young Living essential oils make a product called Thieves, which is an overall good immune boosting agent. The type of oil you use depends on the kind of sickness you have.”
“Your feet have the biggest pores, so applying essential oils to your feet will help the oils absorb into your system faster.”
“A good hot foot soak will help open the pores making the healing properties of the oils work even faster.”
Kendra asks me to roll over on my stomach. I place my face on the soft ring and stare down at the floor as she continues to talk working on my neck and back muscles.
“I use eucalyptus on my feet and chest to open up my airways and suport a healthy respiratory system.”
“Oregano is great to help support the body’s natural defenses and strengthen the immune system. When you use oregano oil, I suggest upping probiotics because oregano can kill all bacteria in the gut, bad and good, so it is important to replace the good bacteria that was killed off.”
“It’s also good to reduce the use of chemicals in your life.”
“Young Living has a cleaning line, or you can make your own cleaning products.”
While I was back on the table, Kendra tells me, “I use Young Living oils on my family of six and have had wonderful results. I recently used the oils to put a halt to a stomach bug one of my children had. Another child came down with a virus, and by using Young Living oils, her symptoms lasted a ¼ of the average longevity of the virus. I’ve also had great outcomes using the oils to heal wounds with no scar left behind.”
I am happy that my back isn’t as jacked up as my left leg. My neck is often an issue, but Kendra focuses more on my back to help settle me down from all the tensing I just did while she worked on my leg.
While I begin to relax, I asked her if the oils interfere with antibiotics from a doctor.
She replies, “If you are on an antibiotic, you should talk to your doctor prior to using essential oils. Most of the time, it’s safe, but you should never assume.”
Kendra asks me to turn back over while she works on my shoulders and scalp. I stare up at the ceiling and ask, “What do you believe are the three top things we can do for overall health?”
? massage ? yoga ? meditation ? exercise ? and a good night’s sleep
Basically, live a balanced life!
2. Practice healthy eating habits
3. Use essential oils when at all possible before reaching for medications or even before using household cleaners that are full of chemicals
Since Kendra is a Massage Therapist, I ask her how her profession helps with overall health?
Regular massage helps with
Detoxification of the body
Kendra tells me our session for the day is over, and she quietly leaves the room. I slowly get up from the massage table and get dressed. My knee feels better, I’m breathing calmly, and I have an overall feeling of wellness. I glance in the mirror on my way out of the room and my hair is a poofy mess from the scalp massage and oil, but I don’t care because it’s all about the journey to wellness.
Kendra McLean is a Massage Therapist with a focus in pre and postnatal massage, raindrop technique, sports massage, trigger point therapy, and deep tissue massage.
She works with Sara Toogood for Bodywork Connections which exclusively uses all Young Living oils customized and tailored to the needs of clients.
I was on the rowing machine the other day, and the guy next to me started coughing. I tried to wipe the look of horror off my face as I thought, “Oh my God, I now have the flu!”
Is it just me, or do others have the same fears?
As if that wasn’t bad enough, a person working out at the gym next to me today started sneezing, and I winced and thought, “Sweet Baby Jesus, I’ve been exposed.”
Am I the only one that thinks these thoughts?
I got the flu shot this year, as I do every year…except that one year I didn’t and ended up getting the flu. Boy was that awful!
Then there was also that year I got the flu even though I got a flu shot.
Honestly, I don’t want to ever have the flu again. I bet you don’t want to get the flu either this year or any year for that matter.
Let’s face it. Germs are everywhere. Here’s the thing, we can sit in agony every time a sneeze crosses our path. We can ball our fists, roll our eyes, and hold our breath each time a cough occurs near us. We can keep holding our breath in angst until flu season passes, wishing hazmat suits were in style, or we can breathe and be proactive.
Since I’m not really that great at holding my breath, and I don’t think I would look good in a hazmat suit (They are not very slimming.). I like to be proactive and prepare for the big win against the flu during the season of germs!
Here are 7 easy steps in preparing for the big fight.
1. Get Your Flu Shot
Please get your flu shot. You can get the mist instead if you don’t want to get the shot.
Now I know I just told you that one year I got the flu after getting the flu shot, but here’s the thing. I was much less sick than I was when I got the flu several years back without getting the flu shot.
It’s the responsible thing to do. You might not care whether you get the flu or not, but if you have the flu and go out of the house while you are contagious, which happens, then you could be exposing someone to the flu who has an immune system that can’t fight off the flu. You could be doing great harm to a weaker person by being near them when you are sick, so be responsible and get your flu shot.
2. Keep Your Food Supplies Stocked
During flu season, make sure you have plenty of frozen dinners on hand. Now, you might be saying, “Frozen dinners? What? That doesn’t sound healthy. How am I suppose to fight the flu with unhealthy food?”
Here’s the thing, if your child, or husband, or you are sick, you don’t have time to cook, and you won’t feel like cooking, trust me! But, hey, your family still needs to eat. Make sure you have some great tasting and as healthy as possible dinners stored away in the freezer for those days sickness has hit your house.
Stack up on instant meals like soup or macaroni and cheese. Simple meals that nearly anyone in your household can cook in a microwave will help you get through those days when illness prevails.
Buy extra boxes of healthy snacks like oranges, protein bars or dried fruit. Make sure you keep a protein bar in your purse during flu season. We all know what it’s like to be in a doctor’s office waiting room. You’re stressed out enough, and you don’t want to add “hangry” to the list of symptoms.
3. Have a Large Supply of Your Essentials
Go ahead and buy that large pack of toothbrushes. Now, I know it seems excessive, but when someone in your household is sick, you have to get rid of that germ carrying weapon. Changing out the toothbrushes more frequently during cold and flu season is a smart investment. While you are at it, pick up several new tubes of toothpaste.
Of course, you will want to buy a few jars of hand sanitizers. Buy one to place by the door. Buy a travel-sized one for your purse and car.
Make sure that you purchase enough soap to get you through the season. You’ll be washing your hands more frequently.
Your hands may begin to get dry and chapped from all the handwashing, so make sure you have hand lotion sitting right beside your soap.
Keep extra tissue boxes on hand, and make sure they are the soft kind. Trying to blow your nose on a lovely thick paper towel, or walking around the house with a toilet paper roll tucked under your arm is not the way to go. Have many boxes of soft tissues strategically placed around your home so you can catch that runny nose.
Buy extra paper towels, and place a roll in each bathroom to help reduce the spread of germs. During flu season, I’m not a fan of drying my hands on a damp hand towel in the bathroom. I’m guessing you aren’t a fan of that either.
Stock on up laundry detergent because you will be doing laundry more often than usual, especially if your house gets hit by the dreaded stomach flu. Changing sheets more regularly becomes a must during flu season.
4. Maintain Your Pharmacy Supplies
Take vitamin C and Zinc daily when you start to feel ill, and make sure you have enough for the family to last through the season of sickness. Black Elderberry is a great supplement to take during the winter. If you aren’t familiar with it, you can check out information on Black Elderberry here.
Go through your medicine cabinet BEFORE you or your family member gets sick and throw out any medicines that have past their expiration date.
If you are low on the staples (like ibuprofen, Tylenol, Immodium, antihistamine, cough syrup), then make sure you replenish your supply to prevent that 2 a.m. run to the store. As always, if you have children in your home, make certain that your medicines are out of reach. A padlocked tackle box is a great place to store medicines when youngsters are in the home.
Check Your Thermometer
Make sure your oral thermometer is working well. There’s nothing worse than struggling with the on/off switch of a thermometer that is not working during the wee hours of the morning when your child is sick.
5. Keep Your Phone Contacts Updated
Make sure you have an updated list of your family doctors’ names and contact information as well. There may be a time when you or your loved one will need a specialist during flu season. You may find yourself on a trip to the hospital, which may require your physician’s name and contact number. It’s best to keep that information on hand.
Is your pharmacy’s number listed in your contacts? If not, make sure to add that. You don’t want to have to carry a prescription to the pharmacy and wait when your doctor’s office can easily call it in. Proving the office with the pharmacy contact information will prevent you from standing at the pharmacy waiting for your prescription to be filled.
6. Check Your Wallet
Health Insurance cards should live in your wallet, that way you will never have to mentally struggle over where you put the darn card while you are feeling miserably sick.
Many times, your insurance will provide you with a separate prescription card. Make sure that card resides next to your health insurance card in your wallet.
7. Keep a Charger in Your Car
Keep an extra phone charger in your car. A quick trip to the doctor’s office or hospital is unheard of, especially during flu season. There is nothing quick when flu season is upon us. If you must spend hours in a waiting room, you want to be able to charge your phone if you need to so you can let the rest of your family members know what’s going on. If you keep the extra phone charger in your car, or in your purse, you can find an outlet in the waiting room and charge your phone. That will be one less thing you need to worry about while you wait.
Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be well armed to fight through flu season. Good luck, and (Did you just sneeze?) God bless you.
It’s hurricane season, and there is already another hurricane barreling towards us when most are still picking up the pieces from the last hurricane.
That’s life, though. Life presents one storm after another, whether it is in the form of a hurricane, personal illness, family trauma, and the list can go on and on.
We have to learn to live our best life now and not wait for the storm to pass.
Pampering is an essential part of living your best life. You HAVE to take care of yourself.
I used to live in Connecticut years ago. I loved living in Connecticut. It was such a beautiful place to live.
I made many new friends while I lived there. One of my new friends had immense wealth.
One day, I was at her humongous home, and our daughters were playing somewhere in the house, and my new friend was giving me a tour of her home.
I remember her showing me her bathroom, which was fantastic.
Floor to ceiling windows.
Beautiful sunken tub surrounded by ferns.
“I really love this tub, but I have never used it,” she commented to me.
“Why not?” I asked.
“I just don’t have the time?”
While we walked on to the next room, I was stunned over what she had just said.
How can you not have enough time for a bath?
In a tub you love?
How can life be so hectic that you can’t find 10 minutes for a soak?
Living in the idyllic backdrop of New England, I too kept myself busy; although I didn’t have the grand tub to ignore, I did ignore taking time for myself.
Then, I had a miscarriage at 15 weeks, which devastated my mind, body, and spirit.
Six months later, I had another miscarriage at 8 weeks, which further weakened me.
You’ll never guess what happened six months after that – I caught Lyme’s disease.
I felt like I was in a boxing ring getting punched in the face and gut over and over again by a prizefighter.
It’s just life, though. I am no different than anyone else.
Life can be one hurricane after another.
After it took months to climb out of the deep hole of lethargy that Lyme’s disease threw me into, I began to rethink the whole “No time for the tub” agenda, and I am hoping if that is your mindset, you will reconsider that too.
If you walk by your tub and think, boy I could use a soak, then take ten minutes out and soak.
Who is it going to hurt?
No one is going to care that you took time out for yourself.
If you have always wanted to take a gardening class, go do it NOW.
Don’t wait until the stars align or someone with higher rank gives you permission.
Go take the class NOW.
If you have always wanted to take yoga or exercise class, or meet your friend out for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, go do it NOW!
The excuses you make to not pamper yourself mean nothing.
When you take your last breath on this earth, I promise you, you will not think, “I lived a good decent life. I’m so glad I didn’t soak in my bathtub for ten minutes.”
You may very well say while at the end of your life, “What the hell was I thinking? My life is nearly over, and I never got a chance to live my best life.”
Taking time out for yourself helps you to live your very best life.
When you make that extra time in your day for yourself, go do what you need to pamper yourself.
None of us have that much time in life to pass up opportunities to be kind to ourselves.
Pamper yourself now because that next hurricane is already on its way.
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