The Truth About Love

God’s Love IS unconditional. The love of humans is the best they know! paradigm shift deepak chopra                        And, expectation (a preconceived notion of a future event, behavior, or outcome) of unconditional love is a detour into the cul-de-sac of ingratitude. Disappointment lies at that dead end. The solution: transmute expectation into belief.

How? Pretend.

Merriam-Webster defines “pretend: speak and act so as to make it appear that something is the case…..”

Encourage the little girl/boy inside you (your inner child) to imagine your hopes, dreams, desires: concord within our family; agreement with your spouse; success and contentment for your children, and children’s children; increase in your income. Be specific!

Make believe it’s already happened.

Envision it as your present reality. Now.

Do it on purpose. Purposely, and purposefully, include yourself.

Pretend. Love makes it happen!

***If you, or someone you love, have lost your way along life’s path and desire an upgrade, HOW TO BE THE BEST YOU  is for YOU!

For the proverbial “shot-in-the-arm” for encouragement and inspiration, my prescription is Views From My Chariot You can also click “My Books” page, above.


From thirteen to thirty (years of age), we gripe about our mothers. It seems that they question our whereabouts, harp about our choices, preach the benediction of their ways…nag. Hang onto her words. Their truth will come around…when you’re wise enough to understand. Photo Mother's Day lion

Mine isn’t around to tell her how I appreciate her 120-hour weeks, walking the floor when I missed curfew, teaching honesty, empathy, and compassion…just being there with her protective love. Make sure that yours knows.

To ALL Mothers everywhere: Happy Mother’s Day! There’s no other like you.

A Leisure Walk

This is a “feel good” article. Michael Gartner, president of NBC News, wrote it about his father, and his father’s philosophy on walking through life. It’s well worth the length!

“My father never drove a car. Well, that’s not quite right. I should say I never saw him drive a car. He quit driving in 1927, when he was 25 years old, and the last car he drove was a 1926 Whippet.

‘In those days,’ he told me when he was in his 90s, ‘to drive a car you had to do things with your hands, and do things with your feet, and look every which way, and I decided you could walk through life and enjoy it or drive through life and miss it.’ At which point my mother, a sometimes salty Irishwoman, chimed in: “Oh, bull shit!” she said. “He hit a horse.”

“Well,” my father said, “there was that, too.”

So my brother and I grew up in a household without a car. The neighbors all had cars — the Kollingses next door had a green 1941 Dodge, the VanLaninghams across the street a gray 1936 Plymouth, the Hopsons two doors down a black 1941 Ford — but we had none.

My father, a newspaperman in Des Moines, would take the streetcar to work and, often as not, walk the 3 miles home. If he took the streetcar home, my mother and brother and I would walk the three blocks to the streetcar stop, meet him and walk home together.PHOTO 1950 Chevy

My brother, David, was born in 1935, and I was born in 1938, and sometimes, at dinner, we’d ask how come all the neighbors had cars but we had none. “No one in the family drives,” my mother would explain, and that was that. But, sometimes, my father would say, “But as soon as one of you boys turns 16, we’ll get one.”

It was as if he wasn’t sure which one of us would turn 16 first. But, sure enough, my brother turned 16 before I did, so in 1951 my parents bought a used 1950 Chevrolet from a friend who ran the parts department at a Chevy dealership downtown. It was a four-door, white model, stick shift, fender skirts, loaded with everything, and, since my parents didn’t drive, it more or less became my brother’s car.

Having a car but not being able to drive didn’t bother my father, but it didn’t make sense to my mother. So in 1952, when she was 43 years old, she asked a friend to teach her to drive.

She learned in a nearby cemetery, the place where I learned to drive the following year and where, a generation later, I took my two sons to practice driving. The cemetery probably was my father’s idea. “Who can your mother hurt in the cemetery?” I remember him saying more than once.

For the next 45 years or so, until she was 90, my mother was the driver in the family. Neither she nor my father had any sense of direction, but he loaded up on maps—though they seldom left the city limits—and appointed himself navigator. It seemed to work…

Still, they both continued to walk a lot. My mother was a devout Catholic, and my father an equally devout agnostic, an arrangement that didn’t seem to bother either of them through their 75 years of marriage. (Yes, 75 years, and they were deeply in love the entire time.)

He retired when he was 70, and nearly every morning for the next 20 years or so, he would walk with her the mile to St. Augustin’s Church. She would walk down and sit in the front pew, and he would wait in the back until he saw which of the parish’s two priests was on duty that morning.

If it was the pastor, my father then would go out and take a 2-mile walk, meeting my mother at the end of the service and walking her home.

If it was the assistant pastor, he’d take just a 1-mile walk and then head back to the church. He called the priests “Father Fast” and “Father Slow.”

After he retired, my father almost always accompanied my mother whenever she drove anywhere, even if he had no reason to go along.

If she were going to the beauty parlor, he’d sit in the car and read, or go take a stroll or, if it was summer, have her keep the engine running so he could listen to the Cubs game on the radio. In the evening, then, when I’d stop by, he’d explain: “The Cubs lost again. The millionaire on second base made a bad throw to the millionaire on first base, so the multimillionaire on third base scored.”

If she were going to the grocery store, he would go along to carry the bags out—and to make sure she loaded up on ice cream. As I said, he was always the navigator, and once, when he was 95 and she was 88 and still driving, he said to me, “Do you want to know the secret of a long life?”

“I guess so,” I said, knowing it probably would be something bizarre.

“No left turns,” he said.

“What?” I asked

“No left turns,” he repeated. “Several years ago, your mother and I read an article that said most accidents that old people are in happen when they turn left in front of oncoming traffic…as you get older, your eyesight worsens, and you can lose your depth perception, it said. So your mother and I decided never again to make a left turn.”

“What?” I said again.

“No left turns,” he said. “Think about it…Three rights are the same as a left, and that’s a lot safer.  So we always make three rights.”

“You’re kidding!” I said, and I turned to my mother for support.

“No,” she said, “your father is right. We make three rights. It works.”  But then she added: “Except when your father loses count.”

I was driving at the time, and I almost drove off the road as I started laughing.

“Loses count?” I asked.

“Yes,” my father admitted, “that sometimes happens. But it’s not a problem. You just make seven rights, and you’re okay again.”

I couldn’t resist. “Do you ever go for 11?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it a bad day.  Besides, nothing in life is so important it can’t be put off another day or another week.”

My mother was never in an accident, but one evening she handed me her car keys and said she had decided to quit driving. That was in 1999, when she was 90.

She lived four more years, until 2003…my father died the next year, at 102.

They both died in the bungalow they had moved into in 1937 and bought a few years later for $3,000. (Sixty years later, my brother and I paid $8,000 to have a shower put in the tiny bathroom — the house had never had one. My father would have died then and there if he knew the shower cost nearly three times what he paid for the house.)

He continued to walk daily—he had me get him a treadmill when he was 101 because he was afraid he’d fall on the icy sidewalks but wanted to keep exercising — and he was of sound mind and sound body until the moment he died.

One September afternoon in 2004, he and my son went with me when I had to give a talk in a neighboring town, and it was clear to all three of us that he was wearing out, though we had the usual wide-ranging conversation about politics and newspapers and things in the news. A few weeks earlier, he had told my son, “You know, Mike, the first hundred years are a lot easier than the second hundred.”

At one point in our drive that Saturday, he said, “You know, I’m probably not going to live much longer.”

“You’re probably right,” I said.

“Why would you say that?” He countered, somewhat irritated.

“Because you’re 102 years old,” I said.

“Yes,” he said, “you’re right.”

He stayed in bed all the next day. That night, I suggested to my son and daughter that we sit up with him through the night.

He appreciated it, he said, though at one point, apparently seeing us look gloomy, he said:  “I would like to make an announcement. No one in this room is dead yet.”

An hour or so later, he spoke his last words:

“I want you to know,” he said, clearly and lucidly, “that I am in no pain. I am very comfortable. And I have had as happy a life as anyone on this earth could ever have.”

A short time later, he died.

I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot. I’ve wondered now and then how it was that my family and I were so lucky that he lived so long.

I can’t figure out if it was because he walked through life, or because he quit taking left turns.

Life is too short to wake up with regrets.  So love the people who treat you right.  Forget about the ones who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason.

If you get a chance, take it & if it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it.


“Cactus” and Bullwinkle

Getting ready for The Fourth?


No permit needed for this “firearm. It would’ve been perfect for my hunter Dad, “Cactus.” He and his hunting buddies bragged over strong Maker’s Mark. But, NO bragging, my dad was a reMARKable marksman!

“Cactus” is a legend in my neck-of-the-woods. Particularly, the part of his 2 daughters being photographed sitting in “Bullwinkle’s” palmates. (Anyone know of the pics’ whereabouts?) This guy is so-o-o big, it takes double loading doors to maneuver him indoors! The only place we could view him was at our local pool hall.

PHOTO Daddy's Bullwinkle.

Daddy taught me how to “lead” dove for an accurate shoot (and my bag limit); how to draw my bow, and aim my arrow, for a “bull’s eye.” But, what I inherited from my dad was a love of nature.

Despite his kill-it-and-eat-it testosterone, I was tuned in to Earth, God, the Universes, and human consciousness of ALL. I’m gratefully aware of my finite self, who is infinitely a part of I AM.

Are you?

You can be more impressed with my Daniel Boone-ish dad in the “That Was Then” chapter of Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity

A “Matrix” Thanksgiving

Every so often, I relate an article unrelated to SCI. Let me share with you one of this year’s favorite Thanksgiving memories. It’s about North Hope’s, my soon-to-be 7-year-old grandniece, enjoyment of her papa’s fried Thanksgiving turkey.

Normally, our traditional Thanksgiving spread is two turkeys, one fried and one smoked; three casseroles: a yellow squash and onion, a spinach with jalapeño, and a sweet potato with Wild Turkey; cornbread dressing with giblet gravy; cayenne turnips; an apple/orange/celery/pecan/cranberry congealed salad; pecan pie, and sometimes a pumpkin pie, as well.

Her papa (granddad Patrick) carved the fried turkey. Amidst conversations of anticipated enjoyment of our Thanksgiving smorgasbord, everyone began filling their plates while Papa walked around the table serving our chosen pieces.

North called for a leg that looked the size of her head. I wondered if she could pick it up.

The second the leg filled her plate, she effortlessly picked it up and bit through its charred crusty salt-seasoned skin. I wanted to turn away but was transfixed as the crunchy, yet gelatinous, skin took on a life of its own. It was like watching “The Matrix’s” Agent Smith morph into another form.

With a full mouth, she garbled, “I love the skin.”

I thought I would be sick. With each chew, it slipped off the leg, mercury-like, disappearing into her mouth.

Still holding the leg’s exposed naked meat for her next bite, but mentally ruminating its savor, she articulated her satisfaction: “I ate the skin.” then attacked the meat. Although I was laughing at my precious little carnivore’s descriptive narration, I was totally nauseated, holding back gags.

No one else was listening. She wasn’t talking to anyone. It was an innocent child’s monologue expressing her immense delight of fat-fried turkey skin.

How precious! How in-the-moment. How gross!

The moral: that we would live our truth, honestly, openly, and unapologetically.

SCI Wish List: Helping Hands

It’s my birthday. It’s my birthday! Today!

As the Girl Scout motto encourages, “Always be prepared.” I used to always prepare a written or mental wish list of suggested gifts for my birthday and Christmas. Although I love giving gifts, to a fault, at this point in my life, I prefer no gifts. After our family tended to my mother’s things after her death, it gave me a whole new perspective on stuff.

First of all, what we surround ourselves with are our own personal preferences. They aren’t necessarily another’s taste. Who will want them after we’re gone?

Secondly, I have acquired all that I need. It’s time to begin passing on those things that I know my loved ones like. Why wait? I’ve enjoyed them. It’s their turn.

Now, when asked what I would like, it’s a service that I request. Living with a SCI, it’s usually something I can’t do for myself, like: planting flowers that brighten my yard and light-up my days, arrange a bouquet from those that already bloom, pull dastardly weeds, make a favorite dish, a ‘drop in’ for a visit, or a transport and accompaniment to an appointment or errand.

Daily, life presents its demanding schedules and impromptu requirements. Expediency takes precedence in our busy-ness. Quality time is at a premium and my greatest treasure. For my birthday this year, with my deceased mother in mind, I requested some of her favorite food fare and helping hands from my sister and youngest niece.

For our lunch, (control your gag reflex, or your appalled, “WHAT!” response) I asked for Mother’s garlic sandwiches, her cottage cheese side dish, Zoe’s pimento cheese, and tea.

Because my sister knows how I love flowers, she picked Zenias from her neighbor’s prolific garden. (She says Jan can “spit” on a seed and it produces an orchard.)

For Mother’s garlic sandwich recipe, she rolled de-crusted whole wheat bread flat, spread a thin layer of softened butter and freshly pressed garlic on each slice then, rolled them into “shotgun slugs.” MY FAVORITE! Mother used to bring me a dozen or so to keep frozen until I needed one…or two.

For Mother’s cottage cheese side dish, she combined cottage cheese, onion, and cucumber with a generous portion of coarsely ground pepper. OMG!

On my “3-seeded” wheat bread, we spread Zoe’s cayenne pimento cheese, and sliced some plump, juicy vine-ripened tomatoes, also from Jan’s garden. YUM!

After lunch, Candace acted as my hands to help me place a very special symbolic collection of items into a shadowbox to hang in my bedroom. See!

Calling to my heart

Calling to my heart

Its contents are: a small Indian doll, I have kept since childhood, and an arrowhead. With hair braids, dressed in white leather, the doll represents my Native American Cherokee roots; an antique china picanniney baby with bushy hair plaits representing mixed children that I love and never got to adopt; a small map of Ethiopia, and a charcoal sketch of an Ethiopian woman sent to me from a ministry I support in Addis Ababa. I’ve had a heart for Ethiopia since my early teens after reading about Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; and a colorful silk embroidery of a Chinese woman dressed in the traditional Cheongsam, a piece of their currency, and a hand-carved wood elephant representing my love for Asia.

Happy Birthday, to me!

P.S. Don’t expect others to read your mind. When I told my sister what I wanted, she was totally surprised, but selflessly giving.

I hope your birthday is as special!

Satisfied-In Spite of Disability-Still

Okay. I’m feeling proud and want to toot my own horn. It’s been over a year since I began my blog/website dedicated to SCI, one of the most fulfilling of my adventures, and surprisingly cathartic.

I scrolled down memory lane of that novice writer and after reading the first few posts thought, “Darn, that was good!” So today, I’m reposting my first article from April 22, 2012, in case you missed it.

There are a myriad of things from which we can find peace and satisfaction. Living with a disability, illness, or disease does not prevent us from experiencing joy and happiness either. The heart attitude of ingratitude does that. One of the most important ways in finding peace AND satisfaction is assuring that our friends and loved ones know we love and appreciate them. I know mine do because I show them by how I treat them, and because I tell them every day.

I believe Jewel’s song, “Satisfied,” reveals an anointed insight into our heart’s deepest desire—to love and to be loved, despite its redemptive value. “Satisfied” encourages us to not be timid, afraid of, or hold back words of love, especially important for us with disabilities (we’re physically limited in the many other ways of demonstrating affection). She expresses that the sorrow of regret is worse than any fear of rejection. (“Google” it and give it a listen.)

Growing up, I don’t remember my parents ever telling me that they loved me. It wasn’t until my late twenties or early thirties that I began telling them that I loved them. (I was a late bloomer in learning to express my emotions.) Talk about awkward—very for me, but more so for them.

My intent was to make sure they knew I loved them, not to change their behavior; nor to hear them tell me. Although they did in time, in the beginning there were nervous laughs, bowed head “uh-hums,” and “Okay, then…” at our good-byes.

I could have lived my life without the expression of those three words, by me or from my parents. And, in a futile attempt to justify myself, I could have pointed my finger at them to divert attention away from my failing. But because of my disability, my eyes were opened to see the need in myself, my heart received a blessing.

How often are we found guilty of putting our best foot forward for mere acquaintances, church members, fellow employees, and our bosses, but are rude, inconsiderate, and disrespectful to members of our own families? Through my disability, I have realized how much I need others, especially my family. If I don’t tell them today how very special they are to me, I may not have another chance. I don’t want to live with that regret.

Every one of us drew the short straw for, at least, one admirable character quality. If you are clueless as to what one of your shortcomings might be, but truly want to be a better you, try this: Ask your closest friend to help. First, to tell you what quality they love the most about you; second, the most annoying. You will be blessed hearing what endears you to them and, in time, you will be a blessing to them by changing that character flaw.

Don’t expect yourself, or anyone else who may join in on this satisfaction search, to instantly change by just a twitch of the nose. Baby steps are slow, and there will be fall downs.

Get a good brush.

Dear Family,

I don’t have many disabled friends, although time and again, friends and friends-of-friends give me numbers to call of people adjusting to a disability, disease, or illness. In addition to living with a disability, my counseling experience seems the perfect fit. I can listen with an empathetic ear, answer personal questions, and offer practical solutions for daily living. Before moving away, one of these women became a dear friend.

She was a go-getter. Obstacles were met with determination. She thought of tomorrow as the result of what she made of today. She was, and I’m sure she still is, a trooper. We lost touch after she and her husband moved. It was fun with the both of us rolling around together in our homes. I hadn’t been in a room full of wheelchairs since rehab!

From all the conversations getting to know my comrades-on-wheels, with the exclusion of my friend Julie, this is what I’ve found: Most of them succumbed to disability.

Understandably, they were overwhelmed with the drastic lifestyle change. But, the added stress of dashed dreams, the uncertainty of tomorrow, and pressure to adjust before the impact of the new reality had sunk in, brought an emotional tailspin—depression. This is when family is needed the most, but it was their families that seemed to be the insurmountable barrier to their emotional freedom and physical independence.

Caustic remarks fueled emotional eruptions. Innuendos, hints, and sarcastic tones of unspoken resentments from care-giving family members were destructive to all; particularly, the ones with broken wings. They couldn’t fly away to safety, and healing. They were sentenced to flop around and be pecked to death.

The saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” is untrue. Words maim, as well.

Family should be a safe environment nurturing us back into a productive life. Even so, it’s difficult for you who love us to stand back and watch the struggle—dressing, feeding, wheeling ourselves—when you could easily do it for us. But, we need to be allowed the struggles. This not only increases our endurance but also our confidence toward independence.

We need to care for ourselves, apply make-up, or shave. We need time for our doubts and confusion to settle. We need time to gain confidence on the slippery slope of acceptance toward a healthy adjustment. We need to be encouraged to hope, to make plans for a new future. Because when the time comes, we need to know we will be okay on our own. After all, isn’t this true for anyone?

We don’t want to feel helpless. We don’t need to feel we’re a burden. Help us not to be either.

We are aware that it’s a difficult adjustment for you. We do know you’re suffering, as well. Your dreams for and with us have been altered. You miss the way we were. You feel guilty because you do. It’s natural. It’s okay. You have your own adjustment. Together, we can do it.

Once we gain emotional freedom, prove our independence, and begin to laugh again, you can push us around.  We’ll accept a freebie, any day.


Wheelchair Delights

Until you read my book, Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity, let me add a little more personal information, aside from the tidbits included in all my articles about my living with a disability.

I’ve been riding in my chariot, i.e., wheelchair for thirty-five+ years now, at break-neck speed—probably not funny because that’s what I did (broke my neck), but it made me giggle as I typed it.

In fact, I was making a phone call a while back checking on something, maybe accessibility, I can’t recall. My sister was at home with me. Midway through my conversation with whomever I was speaking, Candace reminded me—like a backseat driver—to offer that I was handicapped.

As I began to explain that I was disabled, my sister and I broke into hysterical laughter. The harder we tried to regain appropriate solemnity, the more boisterous we became. Finally, I just hung up. Neither of us could compose ourselves enough to explain. I’m sure they thought it was some sick prank—totally disrespectful of the disabled plight. What can I say? That’s how I roll.

Besides my sister, here are some of my favorite things: Nature’s cooperative communication—like a school of fish changing direction in a split-second (I used to scuba dive.), and a flight of birds swooping in a 180° turn in unison; expressive music (Carmen’s “Champion” is my favorite Easter song; for Christmas, Michael English’s “Mary, did you know?” and in general, the Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman”—a VERY old oldie.); cashmere sweaters, scarves, and barefoot sandals; breakfast, spicy Indian food, and mahimahi;  beets, turnips (boiled, roasted, and sautéed),and roasted garlic; the aroma of freshly baked bread, rosemary, and lemon verbena; the scents of gardenia, honeysuckle, and vanilla; azure skies, full moons, and shooting stars; the exuberance of orange, and the peacefulness of white; late winter daffodils, bright Gerber daisies, and red poppies;  ancient Asian peonies, graceful crepe myrtles, and their leaping lizards (which will make sense when you read my book); a tugboat’s baritone horn in the night, a train’s distant whistle, soothing wind chimes, and a child’s voice; movies, movies, and more movies; cats, cats, and cats (I have three, and I’ll be posting some of their antics.); a good book, and time to read it; oxymorons (Are you thinking I’m clearly confused?); a smart joke, a fun game with friends, and laughter; champagne, dry red wine, Maker’s Mark Whisky, Glenlivet Scotch, Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila (I’m fasting liquor. Can you tell?); coffee (coffee candy, coffee yogurt, Tiramisu, anything coffee), and espresso.

I have been tediously repetitious with things that I love, but I DO LOVE LIFE! If you think about it, all of the above are simple sensory delights available to the able and the disabled alike.

And now, like any of you, after my coffee’s adrenalin surge, I am exceedingly alert with dilated arteries and accelerated blood flow. I think I’ll go run it off.

Uh-oh, I can’t run.