Birds, Words and Green Trees

Every time I spend a few days away from home in a house surrounded by green trees, I get the urge to write. I’m not sure if it’s the clean air, the amazing views or the lack of distractions that prompts my literary desire to share my thoughts with you but here I go.

It could be the fact that I’m staying in a charming AirBnB in Prescott, AZ with my husband Steve and the owners from France have an amazing collection of books. Our bibliophile hosts feel like family to me as I view the many family photos on the white walls. I can feel the love and joy they get from cooking and sharing meals with their children and their friends.

As a recent and neophyte author, I have an immense appreciation for prolific and complex writers like Tom Clancy, Dan Brown and Michael Crichton. The main wall in the master bedroom has a large bookcase filled with pages of an adventure and intrigue. I could feel the emotion emanating from the titles on the spines.

So what is my story to share with you? Why would you be interested in my thoughts and experiences as I type these words from a wooden deck over looking the city of Prescott?

A large hawk just landed on top of a telephone pole about 50 meters from me. He hung our and watched me for a while and then flew off. Sometimes I wish I could be weightless and fly.

The morning air is clean and cool and crisp. My hands are getting cold as I type so I just grabbed my large, white ceramic mug of hot green tea and took a healthy sip. I look up again at the baby blue sky, the green and brown mountain horizon and feel a sense of serenity and gratitude. I feel happy to be able to share my thoughts and photos of this lovely place.

I feel connected with the trees and the birds and it brings me comfort and relief. I feel connected to the warm family that owns this home and as a result my own family in New Jersey is close in my heart and mind. I miss them dearly and look forward to my trip to see them in a few weeks.

The elevation of this property is 5,790 ft and I’m a facing due west at 270 degrees. My mind and senses are open to new input and information and I’m happy to chronicle my journey and share it with you.

I hope you have enjoyed my short and simple story of birds, words and green trees from Arizona.

The Best Medicine

It’s so good to be sitting on the porch of a cute, cozy cabin and reflect on what is important in life. Health, family and friends top the list of most valued gifts.

Spending time in the greenery of nature is soothing to my soul and my morning walk did me good. This fun sign below caught my eye and got me thinking. What do I want and how do I plan to get it? Where should I go and why? So many questions are swirling in my mind.

The cabin I’m staying in is small and quaint. There is no Wi-Fi or Internet and uploading the photo above took over 5 minutes. During the time I waited, I thought more about what I wanted to share here with you. It slowed me down even more to reflect and creatively choose my words.

Here are some of my answers to the questions:

Who: Me

What: Calm my mind and heal my shoulder

When: Now

Where: In the woods of Arizona

Why: Life is short and I want to alleviate the pain

How: Appreciating the beauty of the verdant trees and the sounds of the birds.

Getting away from the day-to-day grind of work and chores is a wonderful treat. Strong and simple – just the way I like it!

So many of us are hurting right now, physically and emotionally, and my wish is that you can take a moment for yourself and ask- Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

The honest answers may be your best sign post to get you moving in the right direction.

Letting Go to Unfreeze my Shoulder

It’s 102 degrees today in Phoenix, Arizona and my left shoulder is still frozen.  It all started six months ago when I noticed that it hurt to move or lift my left arm.  I chronicled my experience and action plan in my last blog titled:  Frozen Shoulder, Autoimmune Diseases and COVID-19 Vaccines.

In the last two months I’ve made some progress toward healing my arm and shoulder and am happy to report that the stabbing pains are mostly gone and I can put on my shirt with relative ease.  My range of motion, however, is not much better than it was four weeks ago. 

I am not a patient person by nature and it’s been very hard for me to slow down and accept the fact that my left arm can’t move or function like it used to.

Five years ago this summer, I wrote an article titled Mighty Gumby and the Importance of Flexible Strength where I reiterated some great advice I received in my Austin yoga class : “Flexibility needs to be supported by strength and stability”. 

As I look back on the 2017 photo of my back, shoulder and arms, I can’t help but feel a bit sad and dejected at my current state in 2022.  At this point, I can barely raise my left arm to be parallel to the ground much less flex my bicep. 

Me in June 2022
Me in July 2017

My friend and Yoga Therapist, Nancy Martch recently asked me,  “What is your arm injury telling you?”.  In my mind I rephrased the question to – What have I learned from this painful and physically limiting condition?

Here are my thoughts about recovering from an illness or injury:

  1. Be patient with your body.
  2. Slow down and appreciate the small, micro-improvements you see or feel.
  3. Be flexible and adaptable with what you can and cannot do.
  4. Be accepting of the situation and have gratitude for the strong and healthy parts of your body.  (I have new respect and appreciation for my legs and back).
  5. Do not compare the injured area or side of your body to its healthy counterpart (in my case my left arm to my right arm). 
  6. Do not compare yourself to anyone else.
  7. Let go of any expectations.
  8. Continually observe, analysis, research and explore new possibilities for healing and recovery.
  9. Listen closely to your body for it will tell you what it needs.
  10. Be kind to yourself.

These past six months have been a humbling experience for me as I come to accept that my recovery could take over a year.  I am doing all that I can to keep moving and positively support my body’s immune system.  The systems, habits and actions I employ include:

  • Yoga therapy
  • Physical therapy and weight lifting
  • Swimming
  • Massage
  • Anti-Inflammatory diet

A slow healing process is never easy but I’m optimistic that I will be able to lift my left over my head some day.  I have put the Mighty Gumby back on my desk so I can be reminded of the importance of flexibility and a positive attitude.

Here’s to Letting Go and healing my frozen shoulder!

Frozen Shoulder, Autoimmune Diseases and the COVID-19 Vaccine

In December of 2020 I wrote an article titled “Risk and Reward: Why I Will Take the COVID-19 Vaccine”.  I even published it in the Health and Science chapter of my book Strong Words and Simple Truths.

I took my first Moderna mRNA vaccine in March of 2021 and had my booster administered at the end of December 2021.

I had done a large amount of reading and research on the safety and efficacy of the new mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 in late 2020 and made what I thought was the best decision for my family and me at the time.   Knowing what I know now in June 2022, I don’t think I would make the same decisions.  For one thing, I definitely would NOT get the flu shot and the booster shot in the same arm on the same day.  I’m not sure that the vaccines were cause of my current medical condition but it may have been the trigger.  Allow me to explain what has happened to me in the last five months.

In April 2022, four months after getting my booster shot, I was diagnosed with Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis).  I had never heard of this painful condition before and have since learned that people with thyroid autoimmune disease have a higher risk for getting it.  Autoimmune disease happens when the body’s natural defense system can’t tell the difference between your own cells and foreign cells, causing the body to mistakenly attack normal cells.   Frozen Shoulder is an inflammatory disease that takes many months to recover from.

My symptoms include severely limited movement of my left arm and shoulder and sharp, stabbing pains in my upper arm (due to nerve impingement).    These issues started a few weeks after the double injections in the same arm and progressively worsened over three months.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Over the last two months, I have taken extremely deliberate actions to try to lessen my pain and heal the underlying issue that is causing this illness.   

Here is what I have done or am doing:

  1. Got an MRI of my upper arm.  Consulted with Orthopedic Doctor who diagnosed the Adhesive Capsulitis. He prescribed an NSAID that I take daily.
  2. Visited Chiropractor, Peter Nemanic, who has helped release some of the main trigger points in my upper back and shoulder muscles.
  3. Received numerous therapeutic massages on back, arms and neck.
  4. Completed a 21-day purification and cleansing dietary program  (Standard Process products).
  5. Seeing Physical Therapist, Christine Anderson, who is helping to release the nerve impingement in my back and improve my range of motion.
  6. Working with Naturopathic Doctor, Todd Winton, who put me on a treatment protocol to decrease my inflammation and stabilize my immune system.
  7. Seeing Yoga Therapist, Nancy Martch, to increase body awareness and mindful movement in order to create more ease in the body and more efficient postural and movement patterns—all with the intention of alleviating pain and creating better health.
  8. Participating in Stretch Fit training classes at Mountainside Fitness gym.  This is for lower body flexibility.
  9. Daily stretching exercises for my arm and shoulder.  These are supported, passive movements since the shoulder joint is still restricted.
  10. Drinking more water and significantly limiting alcohol intake.
  11. Daily supplements:  Vitamin D3, Zinc, Fish Oil and Vitamin B Complex.
  12. Walking and/or easy jogging 4-5 times a week.
  13.  Keeping detailed logs and journals of my symptoms and treatment progress.
  14. Eating a healthier diet with less sugar, dairy and grains.

It is my hope that I can regain full range of motion of my left arm in the coming weeks and that my body’s immune system will reset and stabilize since taking the Moderna COVID-19 booster shot.

I strongly believe that it is important that we each understand our own risk factors and medical conditions that may impact our immune systems’ response to vaccines.   Our unique health profiles and risks should be well understood prior to taking any new medications.

With so many Americans having autoimmune diseases (an estimated 25 million), I feel it is critical to research and consider the risks versus rewards during our new age of COVID-19.

NOTE:  I am not a medical doctor and you should consult your own physician for medical advice on these issues.

Photo by Steve Smull

A Book Is Born!

I did it!

I published my first book, Strong Words and Simple Truths: The Courage to Communicate, on Amazon today.

To those who have been following and reading my blog over the past 8 years, I thank you for your interest and support of my thoughts, ideas and stories.

Words can not express the joy and elation I am feeling today. This is my baby. My legacy. My tribute to my family, friends, fellow veterans, and Toastmasters.

Over the last few months I have created new content and stories to weave the last 8 years of articles together. The book has 8 Chapters (Epics/Themes) where I grouped the over 80 blogs.

The chapters are: Communications, Toastmasters, Creativity, Veterans, Gratitude, the 1980s, Agile, and Science/Health.

What is the book about?

  • Courage, Communication and the American Spirit
  • Strength, Tolerance and Respect
  • Balance, Perspective and Change
  • Science, Health and History
  • Gratitude, Remembrance and Joy
  • Truth and Common Sense
  • Heroes, Adventure and Fun
  • Veterans, Poppies and Honor
  • Creativity, Toastmasters and the 1980s

An amazingly talented young woman illustrated the book with a fun circus theme that my mascot Ernie the Hedgehog endorses. Kudos to Alex Delit Garcia for her great work.

I don’t know what is next but boy am I excited and energized to share this news with you.

If you would like to purchase this fun compilation with a new, creative adventure throughout, please click on the image below for your very own copy. Here’s the book’s website.

Thank you!

Ernie the Hedgehog Makes Waves and Brings Smiles

Ernie came to our family in 2016 while we were visiting Estes Park, CO. He’s a 2 and a half-inch bundle of joy and mischievous antics. He is a great photography model and always brings a smile to the waitresses at the restaurants we frequent.

Ernie is an internationally renowned Facebook Group leader and has been spreading happiness and cheer since starting the Ernie’s Fake News group in early 2017. Back when you could still joke about the election, the craziness of politicians,and the new media, we had a laugh poking fun at the insanity of the process. He specializes in satire and slapstick humor when though they are out of favor on most social media platforms now.

For hundreds of people around the world, Ernie’s page is a stress-relieving sanctuary where all are encouraged to think like a 2.5 year old, apolitical hedgehog who loves cookies and playing jokes on his parents. He is also an enterprising entrepreneur who starts a new job 2-3 times a day. While his fear of water is subsiding, we are always sharing zany photos of his new hydrophobia therapists who are rarely human.

This extraordinary Facebook group has had a number of different names over the years including: Ernie’s Fake News, Ernie’s Sandbox, Ernie’s Emporium , Ernie’s Oasis and most recently, Ernie’s Last Stand.

When I asked the FB group members to comment on what they loved most about Ernie’s group, they replied:

“ I love having a place where I can be honest.”  – Candy Lanning Holmgren

“ Where to start, ma ‘am?  I think Ernie’s stoic leadership in the face of constant threat of bans for thinking too much…. “  – Steed Owe

“Ernie for President…”-  Mike Hill

“Ernie gets my silly memes.” – Calliope Novak

“Ernie is never mean.” – Billie Batek

“Ernie’s taste in subversion is second to none.” – Eric Edelman

“Ernie loves cookies!”- Biggi Wimmer

“Ernie’s got a great wheel to follow on flowing but chunky single-track.” – Jeff Meyer

“Ernie lets me read his fan mail.” – Steve Smull

The Facebook Group’s Requested Style Guide simply states:

Think like a 2 ½ year old, 2 ½ inch tall apolitical hedgehog who is allergic to political bias and likes to keep the bar at least an inch off the floor.

The magic of this group is that it is a safe and happy playgroup where Ernie invites us to live, laugh and eat many cookies.  The small community of followers feels like an extended family who are helping to raise our impetuous young hedgehog.  

Word Phobia Kills Creativity

Words have power. 

As a public speaker in Toastmaster clubs for over 25 years, I understand and appreciate the impact of a well-crafted phrase.   Words have the immense power to inspire, educate, persuade and entertain.

Now certain ideas, phrases and books are deemed inappropriate and unacceptable.   Entertainment in the form of humor and satire is slowly being extinguished.   The creative spark of many minds is being snuffed out.

In the name of “compliance” and “correctness” we have limited and constrained our ability to share and discuss ideas.  Only the government-approved ideas are allowed on the most powerful and prolific platforms.  Those in power control the narrative and are now limiting the free exchange and expression of thought.

Like the lockdowns of the past year, this is not a healthy trend.  The impact of the current silencing is devastatingly sad. 

Some say that laughter is the best medicine.  Entertainment and light-hearted comedy can help heal our lonely and wounded souls. 

Humor is a uniquely human superpower that is being taken away when we need it most.

Photo by Steve Smull

I do not condone angry, hurtful speech but the recent crack down on “violations of community standards” is a bit harsh and extreme in my view.  

Why do some powerful entities want to keep everyone so sad, anxious and upset?  Do they want people do remain lonely, isolated and frustrated?

More and more I am witnessing creative creators being suppressed.  These creators have been a shining light of entertaining wordplay and comic relief through out this year of dark fear and despair.  These fun and joyful voices are now stifled and suppressed. 

The fear of the virus is now being replaced with the fear of words.   The wide, rich and expressive vocabulary of the English language is being brutally pruned by oppressive control freaks.  

At the rate things are going, I soon won’t be able to write or speak the words “oppressive control freaks” without being banned or punished.

As I continue on my creative journey of expression, I hope that my courage and resolve remain steady and strong in the face of increasing pressure to conform and be quiet.

Word phobia is a sad new condition that I hope will be treated by an infusion of ingenious humor and reasonable common sense.

As the world begins to heal and open up, freedom will beget happiness.  Happiness is sustained by fun entertainment.  

Words have the power to entertain, let’s not take that potential away.

The Silence of the Lambs is a thrilling book, but I don’t want a world of the Quieting of the Sheep.

Photo by Steve Smull

Ways to Connect

There are many ways to get your message to others.

Written words, spoken words, gestures, music, songs, drawings, photos, smoke signals, flags and sign language are methods to communicate with others.

Today, I’m experimenting with a new way to connect.

Click below for my first 30 second emoji video.

More thoughts, ideas and messages to come in this short, fun format. There are so many cool animals and avatars to choose from.

Ernie our hedgehog is ready for Spring

Below is Ernie playing shuffleboard at a VFW post in Leander, Texas.

A Marvelous Facebook Universe

Step right up! Don’t be shy!  

Dare to venture into the wonderful world of social distortion, um, I mean media. 

Ah yes, social media, the place where healthy and productive conversations go to die.

If you are tired, frustrated and/or annoyed with your Facebook newsfeed, I have some good news for you.

I welcome you to join me as we enter Steve’s Emporium of Internet Delights.  My best friend and husband, Steve, has been the driving force behind what I’m about to share with you and I have been a behind-the-scenes contributor and co-administrator to these shenanigans.

Steve Smull, Creative Word Master

To revitalize your Facebook experience, I encourage you to check out the Groups.  

The well run, upbeat Facebook groups are where it’s at if you are looking for a positive, entertaining and creative place to let loose. 

Steve has created six lively Facebook groups that are cheerful, happy islands for people around the world. These communities are relatively small and have active, spirited participation.  Though the groups are lightly moderated with minimal rules from the admins, rude, intolerant or aggressive behavior is rarely, if ever, seen.

Below are the six zany groups that we shepherd:

  • Ernie’s Oasis– Started in 2016 as Ernie’s Fake News, this group is my all-time favorite and features the ongoing antics and silly stories of our adorable hedgehog Ernie (see photo above).  This humorous site is truly a happy-place getaway for many people. 
  • Dysfunctional Communicators– This newly formed group takes satire, sarcasm and word play to a new level.  Here the admins leverage their Toastmaster experience to assist with communication challenges.
  • Lame-0’s– A cross between Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Beavis and Butthead. Serious adults need not apply.
  • We Are Not Aliens From Outer Space– Out of this world photos and discussions of other galaxies.
  • Run Away and Join the Circus– A free-wheeling group with escapist themes.
  • The Reasons Why We Are Leaving This Group– A never ending list of reasons why people are exiting stage right.

If you are craving light-hearted banter, productive dialogues, satire, unusual angles, great photos and fun stories with witty wordplay in a tolerant, supportive environment, these Facebook groups and others like them are the place for you.

Come have a marvelous time in the positive Facebook universe where you get some relief from the stress and strife of tedious newsfeeds.  

 Ernie is waiting for you with a big cookie and a smile!

There are also various animals to help you be a better communicator.

Now More Then Ever- The Importance of the American Legion’s Mission

In this time of Covid-19, the mission of the American Legion is more critical than ever. As the nation’s largest veterans service organization, the wide reaching programs should be increasingly mobilized to meet the members’ needs.

Two pillars of the American Legion’s mission statement stand out to me as being the most important during these challenging times:

  • Devotion to fellow service members and veterans
  • Advocating patriotism and honor

In this time of lockdowns, loneliness and isolation, we need the continued devotion to our fellow members to keep everyone’s spirits up. The health and wellbeing of millions of veterans is the focus and our selfless service to others will keep our communities strong. 

Photo by Matthias Zomer on Pexels.com

In this time of disunion and polarization, we need to be advocating positive patriotism and honor.  By rallying around a common objective we can strengthen America in its battle against the coronavirus.

Now is the time to unite around our shared values and binding symbols, the stars and stripes of the US flag. Now is the time to set aside political differences and take care of each other.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

The headwinds we face as a nation are great but I remain confident that we will overcome and rise to the occasion.   The United States has faced countless challenges in our 245-year history and the patriotic, generous and giving spirit of Americans won’t be shaken.

I’ll leave you with words from Johnny Cash’s song “Ragged Old Flag”

“In her own good land here she’s been abused 
She’s been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused

And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land

And she’s getting threadbare and wearing thin
But she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in

‘Cause she’s been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more

So we raise her up every morning
We take her down every night
We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right

On second thought, I do like to brag
‘Cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag.”

Photo by Steve Smull