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How a “smoke break” can bust stress

This week we’re sharing “stress busters.”

I learned about a great way to clear my mind from the smokers at the office where I used to work. When they were frustrated with a project, they’d often roll their chair away from the desk and announce, “I’m taking a smoke break.”

One day, the injustice got to me and I muttered, “Why should smokers get a break when I don’t?” I realized there was no reason why I couldn’t take a break, too. So I went outside and instead of breathing in smoke, I got some fresh air into my lungs and walked around the block. I timed it and discovered that it took me less time to walk around the block than for a smoker to finish a cigarette, so I didn’t feel guilty.

I also discovered that a brief time away from my desk – moving my arms and legs, getting fresh air and seeing the scenery – helped me focus once I got back to my computer to write. Each work day, I usually take one or two “smoke breaks.” A young woman in our office actually worked here six months before she realized I am not and never have been a smoker.

Although these little treks around the neighborhood probably need a new name, this is a good habit I’m going to keep.

Susie-3994-EditPS 72~ Susan

8 minutes of the e-word

It’s not that I don’t like exercise. It’s that I hate exercise.

Really. I’d rather work than exercise. I do like that feeling afterwards and I know it’s good for me, but as for the actual exercise…. I don’t even like to say it.

So it’s pretty weird that my tip for getting the day off to a good start involves “the e word.” (God bless those people who bounce out of bed and go jogging at 5 a.m.!) Several years ago, I saw a segment on TV about a guy with a book called 8 Minutes In The Morning. The explanation made senses I reasoned that eight minutes equaled just one push of the snooze alarm, so I might be able to manage. After trying it, I discovered it really was doable and made me feel better

Observing a milestone birthday this fall motivated me to look again at my health. I remembered those morning exercises and pulled up this routine on the Internet. It was hard to get started, but now, doing two little exercises is part of my morning ritual. I won’t say I like it, but I don’t mind it and getting moving in the morning makes the rest of the day go better.

I think it’s no accident that for each day, there’s one exercise on the floor. Some mornings, just getting up off the floor four times is a workout in itself. Has the weight magically disappeared? Not exactly, but I can tell a difference.

Susie-3994-EditPS 72How do you feel about “the e word” in the morning or any other time of day?

~ Susan

Empty Chairs

2009-12-20 14.12.02

This past weekend, hubby and I celebrated our 55th anniversary with a short trip to Oklahoma City. One of the places we visited was the Oklahoma State Memorial–site of the Murrah building bombing in April of 1995.

Perhaps the most heart wrenching scene for me was the row upon row of empty chairs..memorials to those who died that day. We saw people standing, weeping, taking pictures, holding hands. And it was so very, very quiet, even with the crowd milling around.

This upcoming holiday time is a difficult time for so many. Even though they may be in a crowd with others, their tables laden with food, the empty chair that symbolizes a loved one tugs so deep on the memories and the hearts–and there is no time limit.

The chairs on the lawn of that memorial represented tiny ones who never had the chance to grow–and now, 18 years later, serve as a reminder to the parents and extended family how much they missed. To some it was a husband, father, brother, significant other–or wife, mother, sister and that someone very special.

The empty chairs on the lawn represented lives who were taken senselessly, tragically, hatefully. But there are many, many many empty chairs across the world representing loved ones who died protecting our freedoms, protecting our homes or the lives others. For some it was the result of a disease they have yet to find a cure for, or an anomaly that made their lives so fragile from birth. Some lived long full lives, some died in the womb.  Men and women, boys and girls, whose families still mourn whether it be a decade, a day or an hour since their passing.

We are celebrating Thanksgiving on this coming Sunday. With two firefighters, on different shifts, it was the only time we could all be together. Our oldest son and his wife host our Thanksgiving celebration–and this year we start out with a breakfast. Son #1 says “it will be a day to be remembered.” And so it will be. We will laugh and eat and hug and dread the time of parting, and yes–we will indeed remember and perhaps even smile, or cry, over some of those precious memories.

I am the last one of my immediate family. I was with both my parents and my brother when they died. I was with our oldest daughter when she went to Glory, and I was home alone when I took the phone call that our youngest daughter was with Jesus.

Empty chairs. Empty hearts–yet so full because of God’s never failing goodness.

My biggest question…what kind of empty chair will I leave behind? Oh, I pray it will be full of fun memories, silly stories. I would hope they would remember that even if I scolded, I also wept and prayed and loved them all unconditionally.

And no doubt the grands will be relieved to know I can’t creep on their face book accounts from heaven!!

road 2 we like!

How to help when your friend’s child is in hospital

Cherie and Joshua

Joshua is three months old here in a children’s hospital in London, Ontario. This was taken before Joshua had major surgery.

In the past couple months or so, three families I’m connected with had a child hospitalized for surgery. Reading the updates online brought back a flood of memories. My oldest son, Joshua, was born December 22, 2000 but didn’t come home until June 9, 2001. Since that time he’s returned for many shorter stays due to surgery or illness.

People often wonder how to help families in these situations. Before I give suggestions, it’s important to know that when you offer help be specific. Leaving messages that say “call me if you need anything” is just too general and to be honest, even trite. To show your sincerity, offer a few ways you could help. Don’t force on them what you think they need. Let them hear your offers and decide what is most helpful to them.

Here are some specific ways you can help:

  1. Pray. Let the family know that you are praying. It helps them not feel so alone.
  2. Visit. Even a short 15 minute visit can really make a difference in a long day.
  3. Bring beverages or snacks. Parents often can’t leave the room to get something, so bringing food to them can be a life saver. Try to bring food without strong odors and in a bag. Sometimes it’s hard to eat and drink in front of a kid who can’t so the parent may slip out of the room for a bite.
  4. Read/play/visit with the child. This provides the parents with caregiver relief, even if they don’t feel comfortable leaving the room.
  5. Take care of the family pet.
  6. Do laundry.
  7. Yard work.
  8. Listen without giving advice.
  9. Hugs.
  10. Give money. Parking, time off work, eating out, childcare for other kids at home, gas, hotel rooms—it all adds up.
  11. Messages. It’s so easy to send a message—text, Facebook, email, Twitter, etc… Just a short one line to say that you are thinking of the family can mean the world during a crisis.
  12. E-cards.
  13. Snail Mail. There are things called envelopes and stamps…
  14. Flowers.
  15. Non-latex balloon bouquets.
  16. Gift cards. For restaurants and massages (once the whole ordeal is over).
  17. Babysit other children.
  18. Stack the freezer. Just imagine returning from a hospital stay to find a week’s worth of frozen dinners in the freezer…
  19. Be patient. It’s an overwhelming time so parents may not return calls, messages or post new status updates on Facebook as quickly as you may wish them to. (Just because they don’t respond, don’t stop contacting them). Give grace if they are short or frustrated when you visit. Sleeping in a hospital cot is no picnic.

    Joshua and Grant

    Josh is about 10 months old here, watching his first hockey game. The long hospitalization was over, but the journey had just begun.

  20. When the child returns home, it doesn’t mean it’s all better. There is a shift in healthcare to send patients home as quickly as possible. Finances are part to blame, but people do recover more quickly in their own homes with a reduce risk of infection. Once a child is home, there still may be weeks before he/she is fully recovered. As a result, the parents are still working hard and are very tired. Support once the hospitalization is over is so very important.

If your child has been in hospital, what’s your best advice?

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

Five things not to say to someone who is grieving.

1. Call me if you need anything.

And I am thinking    “I have no idea what I need”

Or    “ I need so many things I know you wouldn’t ever be able to do them all”

Or    “I need my husband back, can you give me that?”

The reality is there are a lot of things, but rarely will I ask.  Right now, I’d just love it if you would take charge and say “I’ll be over tomorrow evening and we’ll tackle that thank you list together, ok?

2. Give it time, it will get better.

And I am thinking:  “How can you know that, you’ve never lost a husband.”

Or     “But it’s NOW and I am hurting. I don’t care about later.”

The reality is it probably will get easier in time.  The loss becomes less acute.  Time fills the space with other things, but the hole in your heart doesn’t go away. Better to say.  “This is hard. And I can’t know because I haven’t been through this yet, but I care about you and its ok with me if you cry.”

3.   God always takes home the ones he loves the most

And I’m thinking:  “Really! and where does it say THAT in the Bible”

Better to say: “I am glad to know that your husband was saved and that the Bible tells us he is in heaven with God right now. I know that doesn’t make you miss him less, though, and it’s ok if you are kind of mad at God right now for taking him. I think I would be too.

4. . I’m praying for you

Although this isn’t a bad thing to say, it may be much more comforting if you can focus on a specific thing that you will pray about and express that.  An example would be:  When I go to bed tonight I am going to pray and ask God to give you the ability to relax and sleep also.  In fact, I’ll just do that every night for a while.

5. Nothing

Most people say nothing because they either don’t know what to say or they are afraid that they will upset the person.  (They seem to be doing ok so let’s not upset them by mentioning it)

The reality is:        I never forget.  It hurts when I think you have.

Even if I cry, you will help me to heal if you acknowledge my loss.

Later, it will make me feel great when you remember my loved one and say so.

And the best thing to say that I have ever heard:  “I don’t know what to say and I don’t know what you need to hear.  But I am here.”

Has someone said something to you when you were hurting that really helped?  What was it? Will you share?



So many good blogs…how do you pick a favorite?

Thankfully, I don’t really have to. There’s a plethora of blogs to peruse on the internet, and it’d be difficult for me to pick just one favorite.  So, I’m going to highlight two writer blogs from which I glean a great deal.  I also want to share a different kind of blog I just found –a food blog.  Let’s get started…

Seekerville is a great blog for writers. It was founded by a group of writers who have all since become published authors.  They all have a heart to help other writers and they provide so much information. They teach, encourage, and make their faithful followers feel like part of the blog family. They also host many guest bloggers.  There’s always something new to be learned from Seekerville. And more often than not, you will find an amusing tidbit tucked in to make you smile, chuckle, sometimes laugh out loud, and if you’re me –snort!

The second is Kristen Lamb’s blog. She always has something to share worth reading. She’s a no-holds-barred, shoots-straight-from- the-hip kind of gal. She’s smart, witty, clever, a great writer, published author, and a social media expert.  I get her daily blog posts in my inbox so I don’t miss them.

There are other blogs out there that I enjoy visiting. Some of which apply to other areas of my life.  I’m on a quest to eat even healthier and searching for more recipes and ideas with total whole foods packed with nutrition. Oh, and easy.  Right now, I need easy.  Enter  Pepper Lynn, loving people through food.   I’ve just discovered this blog and I think that it’ll be a mainstay in my internet diet.

I’d love you to share what are some of your favorite blogs.

Have a blessed day!

Susan Hollaway

Fresh Starts – New notebooks and apps

Let the new year begin!

Let the new year begin

Don’t you love a fresh start?

That’s the theme on Pages From Stages this week. New Year’s is one of my favorite seasons for this very reason.

It means new notebooks and calendars! I have way too much fun picking out paper products to start the new year. I’ve got a train calendar over my desk at home and landscapes at the office. This year’s crop is especially promising and I’m already jotting little notes and long lists.

Some more technologically advanced features were introduced to my New Year’s fresh start in 2013. I’ve been a little slow to the “app” market to load new gizmos on my phone. But I knew I needed to rejuvenate my Bible reading and as they say, “There’s an app for that.”

I downloaded the You Version of the Bible, which actually has many, many translations of the Bible, along with lots of reading plans. I am reading the 35-day Soul Detox  plan.

Love it.

Each day, it sends a reminder with the daily Scripture, which I usually read out of my own Bible, but sometimes I read it on the screen to try a different translation.

Another app I’m playing with is the Daily Audio Bible. Listening to God’s word being spoken is quite different than silently reading it off the page and I’ve really enjoyed it. You can listen through the whole Bible in a year or like me, listen to a Psalms and Proverb each day.

My word this year is “inside;” I’ve been paying more attention to what I put “inside” both my heart and my body. An app called Lose It helps me track what I eat each day. It has made me more aware of what (and how much of it!) I eat. I had forgotten that snacks count – and they add up!

Susie-4028-EditPS 72Using these apps, I hope to have more of God’s word in my heart, and less of me on the scale. And I can write about it in my notebooks.

Do you have a favorite app or calendar?

Summertime can be a Lonely Time…

lonely benchSummer is around the corner! A time for vacations, pool parties, BBQs , play dates and picnics. But for families caring for children with disabilities, this can be a lonely time. Going out can be difficult and many times families opt to stay at home. Most would rather suffer than suggest how friends and family could help make the summer more enjoyable. So here are some insights from a mother who has a child with physical disabilities and another with Autism.

1. Ask. Simply ask the family if there is anything you can do to make the event easier for them. Even if they say ‘no’ most will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

2. People Before Ambiance. If a parent quietly asks if it would be possible to turn the music down, or temporarily shut off flashing lights, or blow out scented candles until the family leaves—consider accommodating that request. Minor adjustments on your part can make the difference whether a family stays or goes home. Aren’t relationships more important than candles?

3. Early Arrival Invitation. Be open to the family showing up early. Particularly in the winter, we will contact event hosts to ask if we could come a half hour sooner to visit with them. This allows us to still share in a small part of the night and avoid exposing our son, who has a delicate immune system, to a large crowd during cold and flu season.

4. Consider Before Planning. If a party is being hosted at your home, there is little you can do to suddenly make your home accessible if it’s not. However, if you are choosing an event location, take into consideration the needs of the person with the disability. That person is just as much a member of the family or social circle as anyone else. Why should they have to stay at home because you weren’t willing to find a place to suit everyone’s needs?

5. Reach Out. Often a parent will stick close to their child to help with social or daily living skills. If you see the parent sitting off in a corner with their child (and by default, supervising everyone else’s kids) – go to him/her. Better yet, ask if you could sit with their child for awhile, giving the parent a moment of reprieve or even a chance to eat. If the parent doesn’t feel comfortable letting someone else watch their son or daughter, offer to get a plate of food or a beverage.

6. Take The Time To Get to Know the Person with Disabilities. One can become too wrapped up in “the needs” and miss the person altogether. Everyone, regardless of abilities, brings gifts into the world. Take the time to know the person and see what gifts they bring to you.

7. Keep On Inviting. Sometimes families go through crisis periods when they have to shut down. During these times, the family may have to turn down your invitation, but keep inviting them. Don’t assume they can’t participate in future events, let them decide. Even if they say “no” four times, the fifth invite may just be the time they’d love to join you.

8. Try Your Best. There have been times when the people in our lives have done everything possible to accommodate our children, but it just didn’t work out. That’s life. We understand. But, the effort is greatly appreciated.

Some people balk at making accommodations for just one person, but remember the parable of the Good Shepherd. When he counted his sheep and found only 99 were gathered, he left them all to find the one that was lost. God cares about each individual, not just the majority. Shouldn’t we?

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

What are your thoughts on this?

What Happens Next? 24 hrs that can save your life

As I sit here thinking how to write this, memories  surface of  my 93 year old mother telling that when she was a little girl her mother wouldn’t even say the word “pregnant”. It just wasn’t proper. Times have changed. And yet there must be some old fashioned “propriety” left in me because it is still difficult to “talk about” my last 24 hrs.

Oh Well. All I can say is that “It’s for your own good”

Zooming along the highways and byways of life at age twenty, thirty, forty, even fifty, I didn’t think much about the things I could do to keep me healthy. At least not these things. Now don’t get me wrong! I’ve taken most all the YMCA had to offer in fitness classes and tried my fair share of tricks to hide the broccoli from my unsuspecting kiddo’s at the dinner table. I got on board with the sunscreen, bike helmet and seat belt mandates. (Well at least I am trying, with the help of my religiously consistent grand kids, that stupid beeper that won’t quit and the threat of being stopped by the highway patrol)

Now, I am older. And with bitter experience as a teacher, I have learned the importance of availing yourself to modern sciences’ advancements in early warning devices.

My “day” actually began yesterday. It consisted of fasting (a totally biblical activity perfectly appropriate for a Sunday don’t you think.) Followed by liquid “sweets” . . the bottled kind that you get at the pharmacy. ( If you are too young to know about those honey, don’t worry, you will when the time comes).

The remainder of the day and night drug on. I turned on the television. Every other ad sported the latest in unhealthy snacks. I got on the computer. Have you seen the things they put on pinterest these days . . . I believe chocolate peanut butter brownie cups won the prize for showing their ugly head most often. Finally resorting to my latest novel I am treated to the goings on of a couple of Amish sisters who just happen to run this amazingly popular pastry store. Even my faithful dog FUDGE could do nothing but beg for treats.
So went my day. And night. All while remaining faithfully close to that latest greatest invention of the 30’s , INDOOR PLUMBING.

Today was a breeze. Show up. Get in the bed. One little stick and thanks to this amazing person and his syringe full of heaven, I finally sleep! And then its over and I come home and I CAN EAT.

So what’s all this about? What’s the punch line? Today the Doctor removed a polyp in my colon. An innocent, benign, lone, not bothering anybody little polyp. An innocent little polyp that wasn’t there six years ago. An innocent little polyp that left alone could become cancerous in another six, eight or ten years. Today I know that the Lord will take me home one day, in His time, in His will. But it won’t be after I suffer the treatment, pain and loss of dignity caused by colon or rectal cancer.

Do you know the difference between 24 hrs of unpleasant prep and a 30 minute nap on the surgeon’s table , and loosing your loved one after three years of painful, expensive, life zapping , dignity robbing , TOTALLY PREVENTABLE, IF ONLY, colon or rectal cancer. I do. It was a hard lesson.

Are you 50? Have you had a colonoscopy? Is it just to uncomfortable or embarrassing to ask your doctor about? If so, reread my last paragraph. Slowly. Then take a deep breath and call. Its only 24 hrs but it can change what happens next.