Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Archive for the ‘life lessons’ Category

How Do You Define Home?

Moving Box

Our family recently moved. We had eleven days between saying goodbye to our old house and getting the keys to our new place in a different city.

Front Old House

Both of these homes are close to the coast in the western part of the United States.

By pure luck, we found a great last-minute cruise departing from a nearby city.

Cruise Ship Carnival Inspiration

This cruise was less expensive than it would have been to live out of a hotel during the days we were in limbo between addresses.

After the cruise, we did spend some time at a hotel. When we finally accepted our new keys, we spent that morning in an empty house with laminate flooring, carpet, and freshly painted white walls.

Front of new house

What I found interesting was how we, so effortlessly, altered the term “home” during each phase of this move. The first afternoon we were trying not to get lost on the cruise ship we repeatedly referred to our cabin as home. We would alter between telling our girls to “be back here before supper” and “be home right after the kids’ club event”. They never corrected our choice of words. Both terms were fitting. When we stayed at the hotel and talked about our schedule, we would say, “What time will you be home from work?” The day after we received our keys, we stared at the intimidating stack of boxes. We went out for a bit, and I thought, “It’s time to get home and unpack.”

As a military family, we had long ago built our family’s transitions around the concept of…

Maybe having moved so many times for my husband’s career is what makes our family’s concept of home so fluid. Maybe this is the reason….. Yet, I hope not. I don’t want our home to be linked to a career move or a new address with freshly painted walls. I prefer to believe our home is a place centered on people who care about each other and a community waiting to be explored.

    How do you define home?

Value Found in Purchasing Property

This summer, I spent hot afternoons and long weekends rejoicing with my family in the unexpected value we joyfully placed in money. We worked ferociously towards creating more wealth than the other did. I didn’t fret about taking others down as I attempted to buy up as much real estate as possible. I held nothing back as I practiced and modeled cut-throat negotiations to purchase and barter the right property, so I could put up as many hotels and houses as possible. I am very, very competitive when it comes to playing Monopoly.
You see, I was lucky in that I foresaw my children were not going to like watching cooking shows with me forever on Friday nights. I knew the stage of sitting on the swing and rolling hula hoops to see whose would roll the furthest would be a short-lived phase. One thing I did hope would last was their love for board games. So far it has. Unfortunately, my oldest is slowly moving on from wanting to play as often with us–her friends are becoming the priority now. My youngest, though, is still not only grateful but excited when we claim a spot in the living room and pull out Monopoly for a week-long real estate battle. I value time with my children however and whenever I can get it. We scowl and then laugh at how competitive I am playing games, but then again, so is she. We both rarely take a Monopoly deal the other suggests yet remain in good spirits. We talk, and we laugh. We spend time together.

What people value in life –what they declare important- always evolves. It tells so much about where we are with our wants and needs. I learned the hard way how fast things can be taken from us. I was taught how adversity can sneak up and steal things away regardless of our age and place in life. I learned how quickly one’s current value system can crumble and be built back up into something completely different.
Time flies by. The dollars building in our bank accounts or being held in our wallets, clothes with the designer labels, fancy houses in the perfect zip code, and the impressive cars we drive probably will not matter someday. It is the people you impact that will carry your spirit beyond this fleeting moment. Little things which offer selfless joy and teach the gift of giving will add up to make your big impact on the world.
As for me, I maintain the greatest value is time I get to spend with my family. I prefer a game of spades, rummy, or Monopoly where I can try to bankrupt my family. Then –after they bankrupt me- we will laugh together. I am grateful for the hard life lessons I was taught. I think I have learned these lessons quite well and put them into practice in my own life. My children will have fleeting hobbies and desires. It is up to me to invest time and efforts in getting involved with these evolving experiences. It is up to me to reach out my hand and grab on to their fast spinning lives. For now, my values are right where I want them to be. I have my value locked on hope and happiness paving my way into our promising future…Even if that pavement does include me brutally taking possession of Boardwalk and Park Place.

When No Pictures Remain

June 25, 2003 I woke up having had a stroke.  I lost my eyesight.  A very kind hospital volunteer sat on my bed early on during my recovery.  She described in great detailed the picture hanging on the wall.  She taught me a life changing lessons: You do not have to see images to realize the beauty which fills the world around us.  She also allowed me to understand there is a large difference between having eyesight and having vision.  Images can be discovered in different ways and vision has more to do with the hope for our future rather than what our eyes see in briefly passing moments.

Getting back the eyesight I now have was a long, gradual process.  Half my world is still completely black.  I have hemianopia and can no longer see anything using my left peripheral  from both eyes.  Click here to see a picture I showed on a previous post which demonstrates how a street looks now when I walk out of a building.

Though I did regain fifty percent of what I can see, my visual memory never returned.  The stroke permanently destroyed that piece of my brain.  When I close my eyes and try to remember what something looks like, I can no longer create pictures within my mind.  Whether I am trying to remember what a sunset looks like, trying to picture a glass of water or trying to imagine what a tree looks like, I cannot create any image or color within my mind.  The visual memory loss took away my ability to see anything when I have my eyes closed.


Picture I see when I close my eyes

Picture I see when I close my eyes



Yet, as I said, I did regain half my eyesight.  At first, I could not see anything with my eyes open, and I was unable to see anything when I tried to remember what I had seen previously.  For too long, my world was too dark.  The world seen through my mind was always completely black.

Yet, through this experience, I have been able to learn an important lesson.  I hope you can take something away from this, too.  What is in front of you right now?  What you see when you look out into the world today, treasure it.  Don’t take that streak of lightning, the smile from a stranger or images you may see every day for granted.  One day this image may be erased from your memory forever.  Regardless of how long or how often I am given to experience any sight, I try to treasure it. 


Agave in the sunset

Agave in the sunset



I try to notice all the images and colors which fill my world. 


Succulent garden with a sunset

Succulent garden with a sunset



I try noticing minute details such as how a ripple of water can dance with the fading light.


Sunset over the pond

Sunset over the pond



These are images I see nightly from my backyard.  For three years, I have enjoyed watching the beautiful night sky where I live.  I realize at times I am fortunate to still have so much eyesight missing from each eye.  You see, every second of every day I have this reminder to never take for granted the beautiful world in which I live.  I always remember that early lesson I was taught – just because I can’t see something or memories do not remain does not mean the pictures surrounding me are not filled with beauty.  I celebrate and treasure what I see, even if it is only for a fleeting moment.


The view from our backyard

The view from our backyard



“Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?”   G.K. Chesterton

Keeping It Real

bruised but not broken

           Ten years after my stroke and I still fall down.  In this picture, you can see I even get hurt sometimes.  I average about one major fall every six months or so.  These stumbles are common for me.  I either do not see something or my left leg suddenly does not work to help keep me moving forward.

            Walking occasionally still causes problems but so does not recognizing faces.  I walk into a crowded room where I know I should recognize some familiar faces.  Because of prosopagnosia, I sometimes do get lonely.  Even in a room of friends I can feel as if I am all alone surrounded by strangers I don’t recognize.

            Life is not always pretty.  I won’t try to paint an unrealistic picture of only hope and perfection.  There are still times I have to face the hard reality of stroke recovery and the repercussions that come with a brain injury.  I’ve come to accept in this survivor’s journey there are bound to be intermittent setbacks.

            But, I will make sure you always know this:  I fall; I make a choice to get back up.  I get discouraged sometimes during a long day.  I am realistic in my remaining shortcomings.  Yet, each night when my head hits the pillow, I know I have completely succeeded in one more day of living a life well lived.  After family prayers were said the night of this latest injury, I continued on my own, “Thank you.  Thank you for such a wonderful life.”

            I fall down.  I will always get back up.


“You learn you can do your best even when it’s hard, even when you’re tired and maybe hurting a little bit.  It feels good to show some courage.”  Joe Namath

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