Wednesday, May 29, 2013

From the Heart, My Tornado Volunteer Experience

Oklahoma experienced the most destructive tornado in its history on May 20, 2013.   My family and I were blessed; but, my friends, my coworkers and my community suffered greatly due to the massive destruction caused by the tornado. 
Moore Tornado Devastation 
A week later I am still struggling to find the peace that existed before this horrific event.  In an effort to reestablish some sense of harmony I was compelled to help those around me.  I was blessed that I hadn’t lost anyone or anything; I couldn’t sit idly by and simply watch as others suffered.
 Tornado Damage Moore
Typically Memorial Day weekend is spent with family and friends cooking out or going to the lake.  This year I spent it helping my friends sort through what was left of their home.  I had visited their home many times before so it was difficult to see their home ripped open and their lives stripped bare by such a destructive force.   My eyes wept for what they had lost, yet my heart celebrated their survival.  

Wreckage of Moore Tornado
Wet insulation covers their belongings, settling into the crevices the same way dust creeps onto every uncovered surface.  Glass shards from imploded windows cling to fabric like lint.     Rain soaked all  the soft surfaces leaving a musky scent throughout their home.  My steps took on an odd splash of rain mixed with a eerie crunch from the glass.

Homes lost in the Moore tornado.
At some point I am overcome with a sense of confusion.  What things do you attempt to save?  How does one assign a value to memories?  How do you mentally shift an item with emotional ties to piece of trash destroyed by nature? To where did the pieces of this delightful home get blown?  How does one begin picking up the pieces?  

Home damaged by tornado
What was once a welcoming family neighborhood had suddenly become a scene from a war documentary.  Through the destruction, neighbor began helping neighbor.  A community suddenly devastated discovered the beauty of humankind.   Within hours donations poured in and supply stations just appeared.

Tornado relief station

The shell shocked victims began sifting through the rubble, while a silent army of volunteers began boarding up windows, sawing down limbs, covering rafters and raking debris.   If you needed help moving something magically people would just show up, lend a hand and leave without expecting a thank you.  Every few hours some friendly soul would show up to offer a hot meal and a warm smile. 
Neighborhood ravaged by tornado
Lives changed by the fury of Mother Nature became lives touched by bounty of kindness.  My faith in mankind is replenished with every offer we received.  Although, some lost all of their belongings they gained a wealth of blessings and grace.  Love abounds amidst the destruction.  Hope rises up from the wreckage as we help each other.
Hope prevails over tornado
The carnage left in this neighborhood will not define these good people.  They are resilient and remain hopeful for a brighter tomorrow.   Their will to regain their sense of stability and community is greater than their fear.   The desire to remain grounded to home pushes them onward toward the future.
Tornado devastation
Emotions swirl as I watch a house being razed.  The home had been full of love and laughter.  It had once stood tall and proud; yet made of wood and brick, it had become weak.   Watching it fall made me ache for the memories past and thankful for the shelter it gave to save two beautiful lives.  They live on to show their gratitude by creating new memories in a home full of love and laughter.
Home before being razed 
The wreckage I see when I step out of what is left of my friend’s home reminds me of the fragility of life.  It’s simply not possible to feel anything other than small when faced with the enormity of the power this tornado held.  Once again, I am reminded that the only thing of true value is our relationships, our faith and our hopes.  If those could be ripped away, we would truly be left with nothing.
Homes leveled by tornado
Even though the ferocity of the tornado stripped our lots of their homes and stripped our homes of their contents, it couldn’t tear the hope from our community.   We will eventually forget the small items we’ve lost, but we will always remember the outpouring of generosity we’ve received.  Our tears of anguish are being replaced by tears of thankfulness. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What is the Oklahoma Standard?

This post was featured on the SheSpeaks website. 

The ‘Oklahoma Standard’ was born from the aftermath of the April 19, 1995 Murrah bombing like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.  Oklahoma was blindsided by the horrific tragedy that happened in our front yard.  But we stood together, shoulder to shoulder, doing everything we could to ease the pain.  We kept helping and giving until the wounds started to heal leaving scars which still remind us of the innocence and the loved ones we lost that day. We exemplified the standard again during the May 3, 1999 tornado, another tragedy that deftly left its mark on the land I hold so dear.  The enormous monster stripped bare the places that held so many wonderful memories from my childhood and left us grieving again for those we lost.  Once again Oklahoma stood proud helping our brothers and sisters rebuild our ravaged cities. 

The Oklahoma Standard is easy to define, it is simply helping those in need regardless of the cost.  However, it’s impossible to evoke the emotions created by experiencing it.  After all, the barrage of emotions felt by my community are the most gut wrenching in nature.  Once again, we are showing our fierce dedication to the Oklahoma Standard as we cope with the devastating tornado that struck May 20, 2013. We wail for those lost, embrace those found, and hold vigil for those missing.  Our lives will forever remain changed.  
The tornado on Monday brought forth the Phoenix once again.  This horrific monster which churned my city to bits, gave rise again to the Oklahoma Standard.   It was visible in the first minutes after the tornado when a farmer could be found clearing the debris from the road with his farm tractor.  It can be seen when we open our homes, businesses or storm shelters to anyone passing by needing refuge.  It could be found in the hearts of the teachers that shielded their students as tornadoes shredded their schools.  It could be seen when neighbor helped pull neighbor from rubble where houses once stood.  We are a  community of heroes.  They aren’t just police, firefighters, and paramedics, they are our teachers, our employers, our neighbors, our volunteers, and our friends.  We call on each other during times of crisis and the call is always answered. 

Oklahoma first responders put aside their personal lives to race toward those in need.  They are the glue that holds the standard together.  They work tirelessly and selflessly until every victim is found.  They tightly hold our babies until the are placed back into their mother’s arms.  They soothe our grandparents during the chaos and confusion.  They even comfort our pets and return them to safety.  Our news media becomes an integral part of the standard, as well.  They help inform the loved ones of the injured at which hospitals they can be located.  They advise parents to where their students had been moved.   The Oklahoma Standard can be seen all over social media as we share pictures of lost family members, loved ones and, even, pets.  We share links offering resources to those in need,  places to donate for those with plenty and programs organizing volunteers for those with time.  We become fiercely protective of those who have been affected. 
Personally, our friends and coworkers have lost their homes and their belongings; but, they are safe and all have found shelter.  They are grateful.  They shed tears not for what they have lost but for what they have received in the outpouring of kindness.  
Our community is again crying for those we have lost.  Once again we find ourselves mourning the deaths of the innocent.  It’s an emptiness that shreds our hearts for those they left behind. There aren’t enough words to fill this void that exists.  So we offer our love and our prayers to cradle them while they grieve.  It’s in their honor and memory that we will pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, dust ourselves off and show the world the truest meaning of the ‘Oklahoma Standard.’


Monday, May 20, 2013

The Tragedy of Tornadoes

Today a large tornado roared through Oklahoma just a few miles from where I live.  My son was just one mile from this very large tornado. 
This is one of the many videos from this brutal tornado.
Video Source: Basehunters Chasing

I rode out the storm alone in my parent’s storm shelter as I worried about my family and friends. My son is fine as is his home.  All of my family is safe and sound tonight.  But my heart is breaking as I know several people that were deeply affected by this tornado.
The Moore Oklahoma Tornado Information Facebook Page has an excellent resources and information available for those who need it.
Here is a list of how to help Oklahoma tornado victims or you can text the following words to the following numbers to donate via your cell phone:
text: REDCROSS       to: 90999      donates: $10        to: Redcross Disaster Relief Fund
text: STORM              to: 80888      donates: $10        to: Salvation Army
text: FOOD                 to: 32333      donates: $10        to: KWTV 9 (local tv station)
text: AID                      to: 50555      donates: $10        to: Operation USA
The death toll for this EF4 tornado currently stands at 51 (20 are children) but will likely rise as many are still missing. My heart is breaking for my friends and neighbors. 

The City of Moore has set up a recovery site if you need assistance, want to give assistance or even want to volunteer
Fourteen years ago there was a tragic tornado that did less damage than this tornado did today.  Here is a map of the path of the 1999 in green and today’s tornado is in red.

Just in case this post hasn’t impressed upon you the dire circumstances of the situation:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dear Graduate

It's graduation season in America.  This year we attended the high school graduation of our youngest American niece. Graduation brings her to a crossroads to a new beginning.  The same beginning I found myself at over twenty years ago.  I wish I had listened more closely to the words of advice that had been given to me back then.  So with that being said, I think I will pen my words of advice to her and all the other graduates, here on the vast expanse of the world wide web.

Dear Graduate, 

Welcome to the beginning of your adult life.  The decisions you make from this point forward will be the foundation for rest of your life.  Right now you have the choice to make a life full of purpose or a life full of excuses.  The choice is yours.  Here are some tips to inspire you to take control of the rest of your life. 

Naivete Served You Well - Naivete has been your silent, invisible friend that you never knew existed.  Your parents have shielded you from some of the difficulties life can offer.  It's probable that you have not worried about you rent, your next meal, your utilities and other such mundane necessities.   If you are reading this then you obviously have access to modern technology, let that remind you that you are one of the lucky ones.  True poverty exists.  The struggle for survival in some places is more heart wrenching than you can imagine.  Please acknowledge this fact.  Stop whining about your lack of the latest fashions, newest version of the iphone, or how hard you've had it.  Appreciate what you own because you earned none or very little of the things in your possession.  Think about the fact that childhood offers a certain simplicity that many spend years hoping to recapture.  

Absolve Your Past - You might believe that the decisions your parents made caused you some grief throughout your childhood.  Maybe they divorced, maybe you have an absentee parent, maybe they were overseas working to provide for you, maybe they have participated in hurtful behavior or maybe they were just too harsh.  It could also be possible that they have given you too much stuff, too much freedom and taught you too little about the real world. They are human and they are fallible. Stop blaming them and start making your own decisions for your future.  The circumstances of your upbringing do not dictate your success or failure in this world.  Your dedication and perseverance do.  So stop using their failures as your excuses.  Put in the time and effort to earn your own excuses. 

Remember Your Past Fondly - Whether your childhood was effortless or wrought with challenges, it brought you to where you are today.  It has taught you plenty of lessons and has given you some ideas of what you hope to accomplish in life.  Embrace the laughter and freedom that filled your childhood.  Use the challenges to inspire you to provide something better for your children.   Take the time to appreciate everyone who helped you get to where you are today. Those that laughed with you added color to your world, those that cried with you gave you support when you needed it, those that pushed you to do better care about where you go in life, and those that love you appreciate the beauty of this transition in your life.  Life is changing and all too quickly these opportunities are gone.  Remember the best of what was and move on to build the best for your future.

Suffering Builds Character -  If you have ever spent time with an elder who was telling an engaging story, then you understand that creatively overcoming adversity creates for an adventurous life.  Right now, you are on the verge of what could be one of the most difficult periods in your life.  You will struggle, you will suffer, you will be challenged, you will be lost and you will overcome!  These trials help you discover who you are at the very core of your being.  If you would like to become wise, then allow these experiences to hurt and let them inspire you to achieve your goals.  There are some things that just suck! Learning how to handle those things will determine how likely you are to bring your dreams to fruition. 

Design Your Own Destiny - Highly successful people don't just happen.  Opportunities do not come knocking and leaders come from all walks of life.  There are thousands of cases where underprivileged and over challenged children have grown up to become powerful and influential through dedication and hard work.  They did not complain about the opportunities they were not given.  Instead, they keep persevering; effectively, creating their own opportunities.   If you plan on hitting the lottery, hoping for a promotion, waiting for a rich relative to die, praying for a lucky break or thinking that something will come along, you will grow old, bitter and become disenchanted with life.   Please do yourself a favor and understand that your future is now your own.  Do something that brings you joy and provides for many years to come

Never Stop Setting Goals -  Set a career goal for yourself within two years of graduating from high school. Otherwise, you will become the perpetual student hoping to discover what inspires you or end up endlessly searching for ways to get by.  Even when you are actively working towards a career goal, you should set smaller goals so that you are able to become familiar with the taste of success.  You must be highly familiar with the process of how to achieve success in order to learn to be dedicated enough to keep plugging away towards a long term goal.  We all know that the only way to get to Carnegie Hall is to "Practice, Practice, Practice."  Truthfully, that's the key to any goal.  Constantly challenge yourself by adding new and innovative goals frequently.

Now is the time to put yourself first. Take the time to find out who you are, what your capable of, what inspires you and stay committed to yourself.  You have the rest of your life ahead of you, don't rush into anything.  Remember life is harder than you know.  So take your time and enjoy being young and carefree.  I am proud of you and your accomplishments. Always remember, you should never stop learning and growing.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

5 Steps to Happiness after Receiving a Diagnosis of Chronic Illness

I have always had Chiari symptoms for as long as I can remember; but, before my diagnosis I had this wonderful, blessed sense of naivety.  Maybe it was a sense of invincibility or simply oblivion.  The best way I can explain it is that life seemed limitless. I believed my future could be anything I wanted it to be.  Then I received a diagnosis of a lifelong, chronic illness that changed my perspective.  Suddenly, my 'bucket list' had been cut in half and I struggled with the meaning of life. Not all life. Just my life. Could a life with such limitations still be as great?  The only way to find out was to open myself up to the lessons that only chronic illness can teach.  First, I had to understand my condition and establish a relationship with it as a key player in my life.  Then, I had to realize that while it changed my expectations of life, it didn't have to change the level of joy in my life. Now, I would like to share the beauty of these lessons with you.
1. Reimagine Happiness - Chronic illness stripped the freedom from my life in an instant.  The entire globe was mine to conquer.  I had a passport, an unquenchable sense of adventure and a burning desire to see it all. My path to happiness was simple and clear, to crisscross the globe and bask in its wonders.  Then one simple MRI brought my lifelong adventure to a complete standstill.  I may never cruise the Yangtze, journey to the Western Wall, or visit Red Square; but, my life is richer than I ever dreamed.  Once I quit taking tally of what I couldn't do and started envisioning what I could, life opened up and became more beautiful than I ever imagined.  My relationships are more meaningful, my heart is bigger, my love is richer and my life is deeper than I knew was humanly possible.


 2. Reestablish Goals - We often define success as a culmination of our dreams coming to fruition.  I ask you to reexamine your goals.  After 16 years, I had built a very successful and much loved career managing travel agencies on military installations.  None of my goals included brain surgery or a full time career as my own personal health care specialist.  My condition forced me to give up my career and the ideals that I wrongly assumed was my path to happiness.  After a civil war of ideals within myself, I established new goals, redefined success and adjusted my expectations.  I adjusted  my dream of touching the native soil of all seven continents and replaced it with a new dream of touching the innermost souls of those around me.  I choose to see beauty everywhere rather than being myopically determined to measure success by such narrow standards.

3. Adopt Compassion - I easily found compassion for my Mom when she recovering from two open heart surgeries after a tough battle with breast cancer.  She showed me the artistry of listening to the demands of her body in order to aid healing.  I marveled at her will and lack of self pity when it came to getting enough rest to combat lethargy.  Yet, I discovered that I applied a different set of standards to my own illness.  I scolded myself for needing to spend one day a week in bed.  I felt like a worthless burden for needing more rest than others. Luckily, my Mom's wisdom eventually found its way back to me.  My worth does not diminish based on the demands of my illness.  Instead, I have found creative ways to feel productive on my down days, I blog!

4. Redefine Ordinary - Let's be honest, ordinary is subjective. When Boyet and I visit family in the Philippines, it's ordinary to have rice for breakfast.  Whereas eggs are ordinary in America.  It doesn't mean that either is right or wrong, it's just different.  For my husband, pain and fatigue could be indicators that he's coming down with something.  For me, they are indicators that I am still alive and well.  Once I admitted that my life will always include pain and fatigue, I began to realize that I could selectively choose which symptoms I want to treat or medicate.  This realization ended the power struggle between Chiari and myself.  I no longer feel that every day is a losing battle, it's a choice. It's my choice to select which treatments I will utilize to keep my life moving forward at steady, albeit slightly slower than average, pace.

5. Reexamine Blessings - We all have this mental list of what blessings are. This list would include such things as a healthy new baby, being declared cancer free after treatment, having a great friend to rely on in our time of need, escaping an unexpected tragedy or many other things.  I now see being diagnosed with Chiari as one of the great blessings in my life.  It was difficult for me to change this from a curse to blessing; but my Chiari is a blessing!  I have learned so much more about myself as a result of my diagnosis.  I know what it means to be strong.  I can now give unconditionally because I have learned to receive graciously.  I now understand the truest meaning of  Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God." I have found that I can communicate more clearly with God when I am quiet than when I am busy in prayer. Without my diagnosis I would still be running 90 miles an hour and wouldn't know who I truly am.

These lessons were extremely hard to learn and even harder to implement; but, they have made such a difference in my life.  I am happier than I have ever been, I have found the love of my life, I have deeper relationships with my family and I have fewer worries. Yes, I live my life with limitations, I always will; truthfully, everyone does to some extent.  I just no longer choose to let those limitations limit my happiness.  I no longer live in fear that others will perceive me as damaged or fragile.  I speak openly and unapologetically about Chiari; it is simply a reality in my life.  This is my life.  It is a great life. I am proud to call it mine.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ipsy, Is It Worth It? May 2013

The May 2013 ‘Spring Fling’ Ipsy bag is loaded with great products this month.  In the event you don’t know, Ipsy is a monthly subscription service that is delivered to your mailbox for only $10 each month.  Each month there are different beauty products delivered in your Ipsy bag which are selected by team of stylists led by Michelle Phan.  Ipsy doesn’t scrimp!  All products are either full sized or deluxe sample size.  You won’t find any single use samples here!!

Let me begin our ‘Spring Fling’ with this adorable bag. These colors are perfect for supporting my Oklahoma City Thunder in their playoff endeavors, even if the blue isn’t quite the right shade.  This bag is simply the perfect bag for May’s Spring Fling as I love the chevron print in bright bold colors.  I love that the bag is fully lined and the material both inside and out can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.  
The first product  is the St. Tropez Instant Glow Body Lotion. “This lightweight cream simply smoothes on to give you an instant, even, beautifully golden tan that will wash off whenever you choose.”  I am excited to try this one as I am extremely fair and cannot tan.  My skin will simply not hold color. I usually don’t even use self tanner as it takes entirely too much effort to achieve the slightest hint of color. The full 100ml bottle sells for $18.00; therefore the 50ml bottle I received holds a value of $9.00. This almost pays for the bag all by itself!
The Mirabella Perfecting Powder is a translucent silica loose powder which increases foundation wear while perfecting skin appearance.  This super silky powder glides on to extend the wear of your foundation.  Now, silica powders aren’t for everyone but they don’t irritate my skin.  I am thoroughly delighted with this powder. This is the only other deluxe size product in my bag.  The full size .8oz powder sells for $30. Therefore, this generously sized .045oz sample is valued at $1.69. 
Next is the Yaby Cosmetics Concealer Refill in buff which is an excellent shade for my MAC NC15 extremely fair skin.  This concealer is very creamy but has a powdery finish.  I am really impressed!! As it offers good coverage and wears well.  It comes in a mind blowing selection of 24 shades including white, salmon, green, blue and more! This sample is  full sized at 3.5 grams and sells for only $4.85.  
Next full sized product is the Juice Beauty Reflecting Gloss in Fig which sells for $15.00 in the new .28 ounce packaging.  This color is gorgeous and it is impossible for a photograph to do this shade justice. It layers beautifully over most lipsticks.  Today I wore it over Milani’s Nude Crème and it was amazing!  The sesame seed oil formula heals, while a combination of antioxidant-rich berries, minerals and sweet agave nourishes.   It has a citrus sweet smell yet does not taste sweet. It tastes like most other non-flavored lip glosses to me.
And for the finale, we have Zoya Piaf from the Lovely Collection.  It’s a flattering, cheerful yellow with flecks of gold and silver micro glitter.  This is beautiful, opaque shade of metallic yellow is perfectly suited for my pale skin and is great color for spring and summer. I am completely enamored with this shade and all ten nails will soon be sporting this pastel yellow gold. This full size .5 fluid ounce bottle retails for $8.00. 
In short YES, Ipsy is worth it. It’s a bargain at only $10.00 per month. With three full size and two deluxe size samples, May’s ‘Spring Fling’ Ipsy bag was like sunshine in my mailbox.  I am loving all the products and don’t think there is a bum product in the bunch.  This month’s bag is valued at a whopping $38.54 which is by far the highest value of the three bags I have received so far.  This is definitely my favorite bag to date as I can see myself enjoying all five of these products to the fullest. If you are interested here are my reviews of April 2013 and March 2013
These products were purchased by myself with the intend to enjoy them. Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your daily dose of positivity.

Ipsy, Is It Worth It? May 2013
Ipsy, Is It Worth It? Apr 2013
Ipsy, Is It Worth It? Mar 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Power of Words

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a Mother’s Day Brunch at the church of my dear friend, Michele.  The speaker at the brunch gave a very eloquent speech about how her childhood was colored by nicknames that she was called as a child.  The next few days held several conversations with a variety of different people regarding the power of words.  This set me on this metaphorical path to seeking some of the most powerful phrases that I have either spoken or have heard.
• I believe you – There are so many instances where these three words can give someone validation which, in turn, can open someone up to healing.  For me, finding a doctor that believed my symptoms were real and debilitating, helped me to realize that there is hope.  Chiari, the chronic neurological condition, from which I suffer is not curable; but I understand now that I have the power to choose which symptoms I will treat.  Healing any ailment can only begin after it has first been validated; sometimes we need to hear it from an outside source before we can give ourselves permission to seek help.
• You are not alone – No matter what situation you are currently facing, there will always be someone else who has faced a similar situation.  My life, like every other life, is full of triumphs and heartbreaks. Everyone has experienced that feeling of being helpless, hopeless and alone.  As long as there are humans on this Earth there will be feelings of despair.  Finding the courage to seek solace can remind you that resilience is born of necessity and courage can always be found in the bleakest of circumstances.
• Growth is never easy – Learning the realities of life is difficult.  Unjust things happen to good people, justice is never swift, life is unfair, prejudices exist and love can be very painful.   We sometimes outgrow our friendships. We realize that our parents weren’t always right.  Being an adult is more challenging than we believed it would be.   Success doesn’t always come with hard work; it comes only with persistence.  The lessons that are the most painful tend to be the most beneficial.
• You are special – You are!  Every child of God is special.  Everyone has specific talents, gifts and blessings that should be shared with the world.  We should remember that just because we cannot see others’ gifts doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  We should all work harder to cultivate those talents in each other rather than focusing on the faults.
• I understand – Sometimes having a friend or a loved one to talk to when things are difficult can help us cope with difficult situations.  Life is constantly changing.  Those that truly love you will be the ones that understand and stick by you when life gives you difficulties that can seem overwhelming.
We can get through this – Like I said before sometimes really bad things happen to good people.  When these devastating events happen, they  can cause us to question our limitations, our faith, our sanity and our abilities.  A friend or loved one can be our strength through the darkest parts and can remind us that the light will once again shine upon us.  Often, we just need time to adjust to the new circumstances before we can visual our lives within those new circumstances.
Thank you – Being appreciative of those that help us can inspire them.  No, we shouldn’t do good deeds for the thanks; but, we should remember that we can never truly give from the heart until we are able to receive from a place of gratitude.  Asking for help takes courage and faith.  For many, giving is way of paying back the gifts received during times of need.  Never forget to express your thanks and gratitude.    

Often we choose our words wisely around youngsters but we often forget that words can hurt people of any age.  I also believe that sometimes people choose to make themselves feel better by pointing out the inferiority of others.  So when I find myself on the receiving end of harsh words, I allow myself the opportunity to feel the pain.  I wear all of the emotions associated with such negativity if only for a moment.  Eventually, I come to realize that their negativity cannot alter the beauty that is my life.  Their misunderstanding of the world I live in cannot change my eternal truth.  I wish I had the ability to show them the peace that I have found for I know who I am at my very core, I know the depths of my faith, I know the breadths of my love.  I will let those things speak for me; after all, there is power in words.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pennington Smart Feed Sprayer System

PSFS01I recently received the Pennington Smart Feed Sprayer System for free for the purpose of review.  Let me remind you that I have a chronic illness and even though I enjoy playing in the dirt my limitations sometimes get the best of me.  Therefore, I choose to stick to easier tasks when it comes to gardening and yard work. I must admit that this Smart Feed Sprayer System with Smart Feed Fertilizer Tablets is perfect for me! It doesn’t get any simpler than this.  There is no mixing, no measuring and no mess!


  Simply twist the green handle open. 


                                                            Take a blue fertilizer tablet or two.

Load them into the clear holding chamber.


Attach it to your garden hose.


Select one of four different sprayer settings and squeeze the trigger.

The water soluble fertilizer tablets dispense through the hose attachment and disperse as you water your plants.  Each pre-measured Smart Feed tablet fertilizes up to 300 square feet of outdoor space. The clear chamber allows you to see when the tablets have fully dissolved so you know when the jobs done!
We have two flower beds in front of our house that need some love this spring.  Winter has been particularly long this year and we are glad that the warm temperatures are finally here to stay.  This smaller bed to the right holds two rose bushes which were quite glad to get some nutrients.  The Flowers & Blooms Tablet Refills is perfectly formulated for flowerbeds and potted plants.

This longer bed to the left holds some irises but for the most part is empty. We will be planting some annuals here since the weather is finally nice enough to do so.  The Pennington Smart Feed Sprayer system came at the right time! I am looking forward to adding some additional color to this bed!

My Father is an avid Iris gardener.  His back yard boasts ten beds and over 150 different varieties of irises. These are a couple of the irises he has propagated and shared. Thanks Dad! This lovely lavender lady below is my Father’s prize winning Persian Berry. They have just begun blooming and are quite delighted with the new Pennington Smart Feed. 

The Pennington Smart Feed Sprayer System is available at Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe’s with a suggested retail price of $12.99.  The sprayer system comes with 2 free All Purpose Fertilizer Tablets.  The refills come in sleeves of 4 tablets with a suggested retail price of $9.99 and come in 3 varieties: All Purpose, Flowers & Blooms, and Tomato & Vegetable. 

I received the Pennington Smart Feed Sprayer System and Flowers & Blooms Tablet Refills for free for the purpose of review from BzzAgent.  My BzzAgent review can be found here.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Chronic Chiari, Why Me?

After having decompression surgery, I was released from my neurosurgeon who informed me that I was basically “cured” of all my symptoms.  It didn’t take me long to realize that he was quite wrong.  Without a clear cut path of treatment, I requested referrals to several different specialists.  I was determined to to become as healthy as I possibly could in spite of this crazy condition.  I was blessed to discover my new doctors believed that my symptoms existed and they were determined to help me live as symptom free as possible.  Most of them, also, embraced non-traditional, non-western therapies in addition to medications.

In order to determine the best treatments available for my symptoms we needed to discover the origin of my symptoms.  I went through more tests than I knew existed EMG, NCV, EEG, EKG, MRI, Cat Scan, VOR, ENG, VEMP, CDP, Audiometry, Tympanometry, Polysomnogram,
MSLT, MWT and many others that I probably can’t remember.  Within a year after my decompression surgery I had been through balance and vestibular rehab at the geriatric center, physical therapy, non-laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, acupuncture, biofeedback, psychoanalysis, cardiologic testing, group and individual therapy.  I had a general practitioner, a neurologist, a pain management physician, a therapist, a psychiatrist, a cardiologist, a physical therapist, a vestibular therapist, and an acupuncturist.  I had been diagnosed with more conditions than I can remember, needed a personal secretary for medical appointments, had a pirate’s chest full of medication and a CPAP machine.   At which point I sat down and asked myself, “Why me?”  I felt like I had become a pawn in life’s cruel game. I even questioned if God were throwing medical darts at me just to get my attention.

How could life be worth living when it was nothing more than a series of appointments, medications, therapies and treatments?  I had lost my self confidence, my sense of self, my friends, my career, my humor, my faith and my hope while I gained nothing more than weight, a rolodex full of specialists, a stack of medical reports, panic attacks, and sheer misery.  Luckily, I found myself in a group of women all suffering from long term medical conditions and chronic pain.  I found acceptance.  I discovered that even a life full of pain can still be worth living.  I learned to wean myself off of most of my pain medication in spite of serious withdrawals.  I eventually weaned myself off of anti-depressants. I practiced yoga, meditation, prayer, journaling, writing, poetry, and photography. I learned that feeling emotions is easier than hiding them, the best treatment for pain is relaxation, exercise is a great antidepressant, being alone with myself is a gift not a curse and that peace is highly underrated in America.  I stopped asked, “Why me?” and began asking “Why not me?” which is a question I can find great answers to.

So let me share my answers “Why not me?”  I am not so special that I am immune from having a body that fails me.  After all, eventually, all of our bodies will fail us.  We are all destined to teach others, just as we learn things from everyone around us.  Some of us have to teach medical professionals more about the human body and I am one of the lucky ones chosen for that task.  I am convinced that I would have learned very little or even nothing from a common medical condition.  I am stubborn, self centered, overly opinionated and highly outspoken. It was going to take something extraordinary to stop me cold, leave me speechless and lost without a clear path back to normal.  Then and only then did I learn that normal doesn’t exist.  It’s just a string of ideals placed into our heads by the things we think we value.  Only when all of those ideals had been stripped from my head did I learn that I have a gift for sparking positivity in others.  My words can help others find a reason to seek the truth in the face of adversity.  I have learned so many lessons since being diagnosed that I am certain I would not have learned otherwise.  I have been to the depths of my soul seeking answers.  Luckily, I learned that there are no answers.  The real truth is that the journey set forth by merely asking the question is the only answer.  Learning to search for beauty and love is the purpose of life.   The only value to living is found in the relationships we form with God, others and most importantly with ourselves. 
I have been called a hero for remaining strong through my continued battle with Chiari and other conditions.  I am not a hero.  I am not an inspiration.  I am not a miracle.  I am just a simple girl living in a complicated body who is looking for love and happiness.  Before my diagnosis, I believed that love and happiness came from having a certain lifestyle.  There was this predetermined set of quota for achieving happiness.  Since my diagnosis, I learned to see the beauty of life everywhere.  It’s in my husband’s eyes when he looks at me, it’s in my son’s wicked sense of humor, it’s in my stepdaughters’ proud smiles as they receive their school achievements, it’s in my parents familiar fussing over the little things, it’s in my sister’s support during those middle of the night panic attacks, it’s in my friends’ understanding when I cancel at the last minute. This list could go on for days and it will go on until my dying day.  No matter when that day comes, I will not have any regrets because I spend every day speaking my love for others, seeing the beauty in life, feeling the sun on my face, making others smile and knowing that I have made a difference in someone else’s life. .