Shop Small Business Fashion Art

My Photography is Now Available as Fashion Art

A few months back I was contacted by a San Francisco, California based company, Vida. They asked to use my photography for a number of custom-made fashion items and accessories. By agreeing to this, I can now offer  followers, friends and family my photography on custom-made items. Today, accent pillows, tops, scarves, pocket squares, wraps, and totes are available for purchase at “Linda’s Store” on this website.

Vida often gives me discount codes and coupons to pass on to you. Watch for these on my Facebook page and on the “Linda’s Store” tab on this website. Note each one has an expiration date and time. Items are hand-made. Read the description to see expected delivery date. Sizes are also described on each item.

Shop Small Business

Remember, with a purchase you are not only supporting my small business but buying a custom-made piece of art. Know how deeply I appreciate your support of both-my photography and my small business.

Share a Photo of You

When you purchase, share a photo of you wearing your fashion or showing your tote or pillow. I’d love to see it and share it with others.

Here is a sample of photographs customers have shared to date. Let me add yours!

Remember, if you see a photo that you’d like made into a top, scarf, tote bag, square or oblong pillow, wrap, or pocket square, contact me. I have complete design control over the photographic images.

Enjoy “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison while shopping and looking at the photographs customers have shared.

 

Donna looking great in her cashmere Mt. Rainier modal scarf
Donna looking great in her Cashmere Mt. Rainier Modal Scarf
Diane's Beatrice Flowers Tote is perfect for a day of errands.
Diane’s Beatrice Flowers Tote is perfect for a day of errands.
Peach Rose Cashmere Modal looks stunning on Brenda.
Peach Rose Cashmere Modal Scarf looks stunning on Brenda.
kathy-collection
Kathy wearing her North Dakota Sky Modern Tee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonnie modeling her Coffee Cashmere Modal Scarf.
Bonnie modeling her Coffee Cashmere Modal Scarf

©Copyright November 2016 Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Domestic Violence Happens to 1 in 4: You?

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 out of 4 women and 1 out of 7 men will experience intimate partner violence annually.

(One in Four Women) 1:00 minute

Being in an abusive relationship can be scary and confusing.  You may feel isolated, guilty and ashamed.

If you are being abused, please seek help. Call 911, the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799–SAFE (7233), a local Crisis Hotline or your church office.

There is HOPE. You do not need to remain in an abusive situation. Hear from women who have reclaimed their lives. You too can be someone who gets her life back. Reach out today.

It’s a Sign of Abuse if a Partner…

Courtesy USCCB Publishing Washington, D.C.

  • Calls names, insults and constantly criticizes or humiliates
  • Isolates her from family and friends
  • Monitors where she goes and how she spends her time
  • Controls finances, refuses to share money, or gives her an allowance
  • Threatens to have her deported or to report her to a welfare agency
  • Threatens to take her children away
  • Threatens to kill or hurt her, the children, other family members, or pets
  • Threatens her with a weapon
  • Destroys property, such as household furnishings
  • Pushes, slaps, hits, bites, kicks, or chokes her
  • Forces her to have sex or to perform sexual acts

(Warning Signs) 2:37 minutes

Make Your Safety & the Safety of Your Children a Priority

 No one has the right to hurt you or your children.

Did you know that 3-4 million children between the ages of 3-17 are at risk of exposure to domestic violence each year? U.S. government statistics say that 95% of domestic violence cases involve women victims of male partners. The children of these women often witness the domestic violence.

children_churchWhether or not children are physically abused, they often suffer emotional and psychological trauma from living in homes where their fathers abuse their mothers. Children whose mothers are abused are denied the kind of home life that fosters healthy development.

Children who grow up observing their mothers being abused, especially by their fathers, grow up with a role model of intimate relationships in which one person uses intimidation and violence over the other person to get their way.

Stop the cycle of abuse. Reach out for help. Call 911, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799–SAFE (7233).

Are you a victim of domestic violence?

  • Trust your instincts
  • Know it is not your fault
  • Don’t be afraid to call for help
  • Value your freedom to choose, learn and grow

Helpful Numbers to Call:

1.800.799. SAFE (7233) National Domestic Violence Hotline

 1.866.331.9474 National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline

 911

Share with anyone you suspect may be domestically abused. You may be saving a life.

©Copyright. October 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Faith Tested by Birthing Trauma

boyBirth announcements bring joy and smiles to most. Families high five and hug, celebrating the newest addition. Almost instantly social media announces the good news. Well-deserved “congratulations” pour in.

Labor and delivery is a medical procedure, yet to most families it’s also a celebration.

However, not everyone experiences a healthy pregnancy or a normal delivery. Some barely make it out of the birthing process alive.

Kristin fought for survival during and after childbirth and now shares her remarkable story of trauma and faith. Be forewarned. It’s emotion-provoking.

Early Pregnancy Days

Kristin and husband Mitch decided to leave their family planning up to God who blessed them with a pregnancy within a month of trying. Their decision was not unusual, considering she’s the daughter of a pastor, so faith was always part of her life.

24 weeksKristin was scared when she learned she was pregnant. The fear of the unknown was quite real. But once the first 9 weeks of nausea, fatigue and morning sickness passed, she felt the excitement of growing their family and the anticipation of joining the world of motherhood. Fortunately, she had a completely normal pregnancy with no concerns. She used this time to read pregnancy and parenting books, completely understanding that there is no way to really plan for the way one’s life changes when a baby comes into your world. She and Mitch also attended labor and delivery classes to get information on the birth experience and what to expect when bringing their baby home. But no book, blog or class could’ve ever prepared them for what they experienced at week 33 and beyond.

Abdominal Pain & Ambulance Ride

Kristin went to the emergency room (ER) at 33 weeks with extreme abdominal pain.   After several tests, she was told she was experiencing pre-labor contractions and given a steroid to help the baby’s lung development, should he arrive early. After a night in the hospital, Kristin went home on modified bed rest and took Nifedipine, a high blood pressure medication.

The pain reappeared exactly one week later. This time though she also was lightheaded and faint; pain radiated up her chest and into her right shoulder. She knew something wasn’t right as she dozed on and off throughout the night. At dawn she awakened Mitch and asked for help to the restroom. When he saw her colorless face and that she could barely move, he immediately dialed 911.

Rushed to Operating Room

What happened next felt like an out-of-body experience to Kristin. “Like I was on the outside looking in.” She recalls being poked and prodded and hearing EMS workers discussing difficulty finding a vein or a pulse. She remembers the blaring firetruck and ambulance siren sounds as they made their way to the hospital. And, she remembers praying, “Dear God, please just let this baby be healthy.” Today she still recalls the look on Mitch’s face as the door of the cramped ambulance closed. He was scared.

A team of nurses greeted the ambulance and rushed Kristin inside desperately trying to find the baby’s heartbeat. She saw the fearful look on their faces and knew something was terribly wrong. After painfully rolling around on the exam table multiple times so the nurses could get a heartbeat, it was found beating at 30 beats per minute (bpm)-well below a normal baby’s heart rate of 100+ bpm.

The doctor, who’d taken good care of her in the ER the previous week and whom she trusted, rushed in and immediately directed the nurses to prep her for an emergency C-section. Again, Kristin felt like she was in a movie. “This wasn’t really happening to me, was it? This wasn’t in our birth plan! Where is Mitch? I can’t do this alone; I need him by my side to protect me.”

Kristin saw Mitch out of the corner of her eye being told to put on surgical scrubs. She grabbed for his hand while hurriedly being wheeled into the operating room (OR). Code Pink was paged overhead, meaning an emergency concerning an infant, including a medical complication or abduction, was happening. Mitch knew it was for them, and he was now forbidden from the OR.

Not Breathing

Their baby boy was born not breathing at 6:09 am on Sunday, March 4, 2012, weighing 4 pounds and 12 ounces and measuring 21 inches long. He was greeted by the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) staff and given CPR and a shot of epinephrine to get his heart going. His APGAR score was zero.

Kristin’s first memory after delivery was being surrounded by a team of fetal medicine doctors explaining to family what had happened and what HELLP syndrome was. She heard them say that her abdomen was full of blood when they took the baby out. Unable to find the source of blood, another incision was made up to her belly button where they found her ruptured liver-the source of her upper right quadrant pain. The only cure for HELLP syndrome is delivering the baby.

post birth mitchMom Holds Son-10 Days Later

Kristin spent 9 days in the hospital, two in ICU because of a risk of seizures. She was given several blood transfusions and there was concern her liver would rupture again. On day three she was transferred to another hospital better equipped to provide surgical services, if needed. Her baby remained in the NICU where he was born for 10 days on oxygen and with a feeding tube. The doctors were amazed at his speedy recovery and nicknamed him ‘Superman’. Later, he officially was named Owen William.

Because her body had gone through a tremendous amount of trauma, it was extremely difficult for Kristin to care for Owen. She was under medical care herself and unable to be physically present in the same room as her newborn, making breast-feeding impossible. She felt guilty about not being able to provide for her baby as originally hoped.

A great deal of scar tissue resulted from the emergency C-section and from digging around her abdomen trying to locate the source of her bleeding. Three months after Owen’s birth she was hospitalized again for small bowel obstruction. After a week’s hospitalization where the medical team hoped her body would heal itself, she had surgery again. “I remember holding Owen in the moments just before surgery and feeling scared I might not make it through.” She remained hospitalized another two weeks post-surgery. “I was devastated to be separated again from my then 3-month old son.”

The years of abdominal pain and bloating, fatigue and other physical ailments post birth don’t compare to the emotional toll the experience had on Kristin. “Being separated from Owen during the first hours and days of his life was devastating. When I switched hospitals, I remember feeling so anxious and worried about not bonding with him because I wasn’t able to hold him or even be in the same room as him. It was heartbreaking to me that others were able to hold and feed him before I did the first time at 10 days old.”

PTSD

Kristin exhibits symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Certain triggers cause flashbacks to Owen’s birth. Driving by his birthplace or hearing ambulance sirens cause a racing heart and emotional breakdown. Owen’s birthday, which should be reason for great joy and celebration, triggers flashbacks. Even the weeks before cause considerable anxiety. While she craves more detail about the moments leading up to Owen’s birth and the weeks thereafter, Mitch has repressed the memories. “In my mind, it was the hours and days I lived through that I don’t remember, and it’s difficult having those unknowns and questions.”

Because hers wasn’t a normal birth experience, Kristin often feels isolated and finds it hard to relate to other moms. Joining a group for stay-at-home moms was less than fulfilling. Mom talk about pregnancy, breast-feeding and  more children was hard to hear. When she shared her birthing journey, there was often dead silence in the room, making her feel awkward because no one knew how to react to a story they found super depressing, only causing her to feel more isolated. Being around pregnant women, baby showers, birth announcements and newborns is a struggle.

She saw a counselor post trauma and found it beneficial but still feels isolated when random triggers hit her. “I wouldn’t expect anyone to understand my thoughts or feelings when they haven’t gone through what I did.”

1 and Done, But Wait…

Kristin and Mitch will never experience pregnancy again. Blood tests after delivery discovered several blood clotting disorders, which automatically put her at a higher risk for miscarriage or birthing complications. All medical professionals have warned against another pregnancy, though it’s absolutely possible. “There is no way we would risk that now that we have Owen. The thought of him growing up without a mom makes me sick.”

Their early marriage family plan was disrupted but Spring 2016 finds them in the adoption process, which brings all great joy and hope.

Message to Pregnant Women & Obstetricians (OBs)

Kristin admits that even though she was academically prepared for pregnancy and childbirth, she was unprepared for their reality. Before pregnancy she was unaware of any type of clotting factors in her genetics. In fact, she was the healthiest she’d been in her entire life when she became pregnant. She tells pregnant women that no matter how much you plan; it may not go as planned. Additionally, she asks them to trust their bodies. If something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out. “If I had to do it over, I’d have listened to my body and gone to the ER sooner. But when it’s your first pregnancy and everything is new, you don’t know what is “normal” and what’s not.”

She advises OBs who have patients with HELLP syndrome to run a complete blood workup on them looking for blood clotting factors such as Factor V Leiden, MTHFR, or Lupus anticoagulant, which is what she has. She adds that patients with rare blood clotting disorders should be followed by a hematologist.

Faith & Family

This experience tested the faith of every member of Kristin and Mitch’s families, including them. In her unstable condition, Kristin “prayed without ceasing” and trusted that the God who allowed this to happen to her and their son would be the same God who would reveal His healing powers and get her out of it. Understandably, when she was re-hospitalized, she was angry at God. “For any Christ follower who’s gone through tough times, it’s a normal progression to question God and His goodness. For me, this was a necessary step to work through to get me to the place I am at today.”

Kristin hopes that their story will be used to bring others to know God. “Because the God that I serve is the same God who didn’t let me die; He kept me around for a reason.” Admittedly, Kristin doesn’t know the reason yet, but today she’s focused on finding that out and sharing her testimony with others. She counts herself in the group of people who need to “hit rock bottom” or be on the “brink of death” to let go of control and give it over to God.

family photo Mitch
Leah B Photography

Owen Today

Though there was concern about brain damage or developmental delays because he was without oxygen and not breathing at the time of birth, today Owen is a completely typical boy. He has one speed and that’s ‘full on’- always physically moving with a mind going a million miles a second. “We joke that it’s because of the steroid and epinephrine shot he received when he was born.”  No one would want him any other way.

Kristin & Mitch Today

They live differently today than before this birthing experience. Their faith was made real. Neither takes life for granted and each avoids fretting over little things. “Stupid arguments are just that-stupid.”

Kristin knows she’s a different mom than she may have been had she not had gone through all this. She owns her over-protectiveness of Owen and still struggles with feelings of guilt about her body putting him at risk. They’re both doing their finest to be the best parents they can be and to enjoy every moment while Owen still wants to “hang out with them.”

And, they cannot wait to see how God will use Owen.

Neither can we!

Click here for more information on  HELLP Syndrome.

  • H(Hemolysis, which is the breaking down of red blood cells)
  • EL (Elevated liver enzymes)
  • LP (Low platelet count)

How did you react to Kristin’s story and faith journey? When has your faith gotten real?

Leave your comments below.

SHARE with others.

WOWT TV Story Aired May 31, 2016 in Omaha, NE

 

©Copyright. April 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Farm Girl to Fortune 200 Leader

cyndy picCyndy retired from Aflac in 2015 after 24 years. She began her career as an associate and left as the Nebraska Market Director, having also served in district and regional leadership roles.

During this time she amassed numerous awards and recognition for her outstanding work, including three President Club qualifications and a nomination for the Amos Award. Her most treasured professional memory is meeting former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, but the wonderful memories and ongoing accomplishments of the coordinators and associates she recruited to Aflac are truly her greatest reward.

Cyndy’s journey from rural North Dakota (ND) to leadership within a Fortune 200 corporation provides an example for all that with hard work, sacrifice and determination, you can overcome obstacles and reach the goals you’ve set for yourself. You can start over and begin a new journey in life, at any age.

Here’s Cyndy’s story.

Rural Values

I was born and raised on an eastern North Dakota farm, which I contribute to my success. That foundation provided me with many attributes as well as challenges to overcome. My “I can do anything” attitude was encouraged by my parents who didn’t see gender as a defining reason to keep one from pursuing their dreams. I don’t know if I have done the best with work-life balance, but I can say I’ve always done the best  I could possibly do in placing my family first. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been sacrifices. There have been meetings and events where I wished I could’ve been at two places at once. I believe it is unrealistic to expect you can always be everywhere and do everything. You have to learn to prioritize what is the most important and also learn how to say no.

College Dropout

I was a rebel growing up and while the Vietnam War was just winding down when I was in junior high school, I believe that had a significant influence on my determination as well as my desire to think outside the box. College was intriguing for me as I knew it was my ticket off the farm, and at the age of 18 the farm was definitely NOT where I wanted to be. UND-formerly known as the Fighting Sioux-was where I enrolled and had my first true taste of independence without chaperones. What better place than Grand Forks, ND to experience life.
Well, what I learned was that while high school was relatively easy for me, college classes were a different story and, of course, to excel you really should show up from time to time!. After one semester I made the choice (along with some encouragement from Mom and Dad) to leave school and get a job.

Non-Traditional Jobs

I had no interest in pursuing what was considered, at that time, a typical “girls” job. Cummins Diesel in Fargo had an opening for an inventory control clerk and it sounded like something more to my liking. With my farm background I thought nothing of applying for the position and on December 31, 1975 I was offered my first real full-time job. Over the next 15 years I held several positions in the heavy-duty trucking industry. I was transferred to Cummins Diesel in Grand Forks and then promoted to Parts Manager there at the age of 19. Yes, it’s even hard for me to believe when I think back on those years. From Grand Forks I relocated to Valley City, my home town, got married, worked in the parts department at a Thomas Bus dealer as well as got my feet wet in the home fireplace and wood burning stove business. I still have part numbers in my brain and, when necessary, can recall how to measure for a triple wall insulated chimney for installing a fireplace. Some things just stick with you.

Divorce & Death

My parts department experience didn’t end in Valley City. My husband and I moved to Bismarck, where I was employed at a Freightliner Truck dealership. He drove truck and, yes, I tried that as well! Our marriage didn’t last and I had the painful experience of going through a divorce. While divorce is more common today, it wasn’t back in the 80’s. I share that experience, as well as his traumatic death by suicide, not for pity but for encouragement. I do believe that through challenge we become stronger and more determined to succeed.

A New Beginning

In 1990 I married a wonderful man with whom I’ve just celebrated 25 years of marriage. I won’t say wedded bliss, as every relationship has it’s challenges. We built a custom home the summer before our marriage and not even a year after our marriage I announced I was going to look for a different job. I knew I didn’t want to learn anything more about diesel engines, transmissions or brake shoes. I wanted a professional job where I could dress like a woman and even have my nails done, since my work uniform for the previous 15+  years was blue jeans. My Mother was thrilled as she always thought I should have a “girl” job.

A Career

Researching jobs in the newspapers, I found an ad for American Family Life Assurance Company from Columbus, Georgia (now known as Aflac). I had no idea what an insurance career involved but thought I should check it out. I interviewed with the regional manager and then was called for a second interview, which back then was done in the home. I was excited and inspired… and also scared to death… as was my husband. We had just built this beautiful home and now I wanted to quit my real “secure” job and do what? Sell insurance for commission only!! The thought that kept recurring in my head was “I can do this.. I have to try, or I will never know. I want to live my life without regret”.

Life Verse
I have to share my life verse….scripture
I kept this on my desk (the dashboard of my car) and recited it every time I would make that scary cold call in person or on the phone. Insurance was hard work-harder than anything I could’ve imagined. My customers didn’t come to me. I had to go to them. It wasn’t easy and the first year was the absolute toughest. Had it not been for the people who believed in me and mentored me, I wouldn’t have ever made it. Nor could I have done it without digging in and having the desire to learn it all. Of course you never will learn it all, but I feel you must have that deep desire and that passion to want to be successful. Not only was I learning, I was helping customers make important decisions that would help them in the future.

Who Will Succeed?

My success is not MY success. I had the great privilege of leading teams with the passion to WIN and to show others in the nation exactly what could be accomplished in small town USA.
I took this opportunity and ran with. I didn’t know until I got more involved what a great company Aflac was – and still is. Since 1991, I have interviewed and hired numerous sales associates for Aflac. I wouldn’t be able to tell you at the first interview who would or would not be successful, but I will tell you that I have honestly never seen anyone fail because of not having the resources or product to allow them to succeed. Seriously… who would have bet on me to succeed back then? Country girl, raised on a farm, high school diploma with some college credits.

Gratitude and Belief

I thank the Lord every day for giving me the faith and belief in myself to succeed. I recently turned 59 years old and have now retired from Aflac. How cool is that? Never underestimate your ability, your worth, your calling. Take that “Leap of Faith” and believe that YOU can do ALL things!

So, where you are raised, the barriers you’ve had to overcome, the failures you’ve had and the people who’ve tried to hold you back, do not determine your success. You do. Pure and simple. You are the creator of your own destiny. At any day, any moment…you can decide to change the course of your life. Is it today?

Share this post with anyone trying to discover her purpose and place in life or anyone wishing to explore a new path or career.

Everyone deserves a do-over or fresh start, at any age.

Have a question or comment for Cyndy, leave it below.

©Copyright. February 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

Check Under the Hood

I bought a 4-door silver Plymouth Fury in 1979. I bought after being without wheels as a college freshman and relying on others for rides. Dad decided I needed to learn how to change a tire, open the hood and “check under the hood.” To this day I’m not exactly sure what I was checking for other than if there was enough oil and if it was clear. I went through the motions to make him feel better about sending me on the highway, praying I’d never have to really use the lessons he was teaching. Luckily, I’ve only been stranded once hoodand it wasn’t for anything under the hood. It was a flat tire fixed by a kind farmer on North Dakota’s Interstate 94.

“Check under the hood” has stuck with me but the meaning isn’t as literal as the initial lesson taught that hot August afternoon on the farm’s gravel driveway. Instead it’s come to mean maintenance and protecting one’s investment. And as I age, holy smokes, I’m doing a lot of “checking under the hood.” So much so that some days I’d like to invest in a new model, one with fewer maintenance issues. And, I’m not talking about the vehicle either. Rather my body. Relate?

Today my annual physical is much like a 100,000 mile vehicle check. It takes a whole day and involves looking at everything from front to back to top to bottom. What needs further testing? What needs repair? What needs replacement? Question the recommendation. Get a second opinion. Make another appointment. See a specialist. Extract a part. Import a part. Sticker shock! Yikes! You get it.

Despite all this, I keep “checking under the hood.” I drive my vehicles until the wheels fall off-that’s a whole ‘nother story. Warren Buffet and I share that in common-if it ain’t broke-why replace it? Begrudgingly I schedule annual physicals, dental appointments and other wellness exams each time hoping to leave doing my best impersonation of a smiling Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat jubilantly in the air celebrating life and all its glory.mtmoore

“You’re gonna make it after all”…just keep “checking under the hood.”

Copyright. October 2015. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

A Week in Solitary

I vowed to spend the week in solitary when my husband left for business.  I spent a week by myself not a week in silence. Baby steps here. A week alone with complete silence seems insurmountable.

Solitary has never been my thing. How can it be? I was raised in a family of 11 with hundreds of cousins. I lived in dorms. I worked in offices and on Capitol Hill. There was always noise and movement around me. I thrived in these settings, or at least I thought I did as a social creature.

As the week in solitary progressed and my “to-do” list rapidly dwindled, I grew somewhat contemplative. I thought about those devoted to monastic silence by choice and those placed in solitary confinement in prisons. Monks seeking calm, serenity and peace of mind conflicted with prisoners in confined spaces filled with angst, rage and contempt. Such contrasting routes and approaches to solitude.

Little noise and distraction unlocked solitary moments warehoused in my memory. I relived my wedding day before driving downtown Charleston, SC to get dressed for the ceremony. The calmness I felt as I lazily completed piddly tasks alone around my house came back. I recalled sitting on the porch marveling how I was living my last minutes as a single woman while feeling the excitement of our forthcoming ceremony and reception. Insisting I be alone that morning was the right decision. It kept me focused and in the moment. Solitude prepared me for commitment.

Later I recalled overnight feedings of our infant son. Holding him in the crook of my left arm propped up with a pillow while rocking him in the night’s darkness: the intimacy of those silent irreplaceable moments. In the stillness I listened to him, though he could not yet speak. Solitude naturally bonded mother and son.

Not all unlocked memories of solitude were blissful. Sometimes being all alone in thought and presence is scary. I shivered recalling how solitude paralyzed me as I sat next to a friend dying of AIDS. Though together, I felt completely alone. The room was eerily quiet, except for the surrounding machines and medical staff moving in and out of the room. None made eye contact. An unspoken understanding existed that these were our last moments together. I grasped his limp hand and didn’t dare cry, trumping his pain with mine. Crying would ruin the silence needed for his ending. Solitude readied me for grieving.

As I worked through one memory after another, testifying that I’d previously not only endured but sometimes thrived in solitary, it became clear that a very distinct difference exists between loneliness and solitude. One is painful, the other meditative. While I advocate for meditation and solitude, I understand that many are lonely and suffer deeply from disconnection and loneliness. Loneliness feels like punishment while voluntarily placing oneself in solitary is a priceless gift.

And when the garage door opened signaling my husband’s return, my week in solitary ended. My unlocked memories remained as did faith in myself that I could endure and appreciate future weeks in solitary.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or confused by the busyness of daily life, force yourself to a period of solitary. Be quiet. Recall the past. Relive the joy. Understand the pain. Appreciate the moment. A week in solitary is worth the initial discomfort. It offers perspective. It adds depth to your life.

“We need to find God. And he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature-trees, flowers, grass grows in silence. See the starts, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.- Mother Teresa-

Retreat Centers:

Cloisters on the Platte in Nebraska http://www.cloistersontheplatte.com

Benedictine Peace Center in Yankton, SD http://yanktonbenedictines.org

Creighton University Retreat Center in Griswold, Iowa http://creighton.edu/ministry/retreatcenter

St. Benedict Center in Schuyler Nebraska http://www.stbenedictcenter.com

Website of Retreat Centers http://www.retreatfinder.com

Have you been on a silent retreat or forced yourself into a week of solitary? Comment. How did the experience work for  you?

Copyright. October 2015. Linda Leier Thomason.

All Rights Reserved.

Aging Parents: Six Daily Reminders

By guest contributor -Karen (Dutt) Horan.

“I’ve become a burden,” sighed my 87-year-old father Jack from his Fargo, North Dakota hospital bed. “You’re missing work and being with your family.” He was right. I’d missed 4 days of work, sitting beside him after he was airlifted from Bismarck. And my daughter and grandson, who’d flown to Bismarck for an extended weekend, were waiting for us to get back home. But Dad was wrong about being a burden. To our family Dad always has been a shining example of how to live one’s life.
He is one of those guys from the “greatest generation” who’s always been fiercely independent Uncle Jackand responsible. He spent his life being a good son, brother, husband, dad, grandpa and great-grandpa. He was the neighbor who minded his own business, but was always  there to help. He was a loyal employee, showing up every day and working hard to provide well for his family. He continues to work part-time for the local school system, managing sporting event parking lots and taking tickets at games because he loves the energy of the student athletes and spectators. He lives independently, drives, gardens, cleans, cooks, pays his bills and, until three weeks ago, avoided going to the doctor like the plague.
In an instant an episode of dizziness and a frantic phone call changed everything. It brought me face-to-face with a father depending on me for health care assistance and decisions.

Now we’re traveling a new road, balancing dignity with care. I know more about Dad’s health than he’s comfortable with. I’m trying to help him understand medical information, procedures, plans and options, while continuing to respect him as the man who raised me. Dad doesn’t feel the need to know his blood pressure is high, but I freak out because of my Mom’s history of strokes. Dad doesn’t want to hear the arterial bleed he has can cause him to bleed out or stroke out, but I need to remind him why he can’t lift or strain in any way. Dad doesn’t want to give himself shots in the stomach, so I do it and tease him that he fusses like a girl. I don’t want to remind and check up on whether or not he’s taken his medicine twice a day, but I can’t relax until I know it’s been done. He doesn’t want to call and report to me when he’s going somewhere, but I need to know he’s safe.

To navigate this new frontier with Dad, I’ve created a list of 6 reminders for myself.

These 6 Reminders Are:

  • Allow Dad to experience his life and comfortable routines. His current medical situation shouldn’t change his life any more than absolutely necessary.
  •  Slow down and process information and situations at Dad’s pace, not mine.
  •  Include Dad in all decisions. As an only child there is no one else to include. Even if there was, he should be included.
  •  Preserve Dad’s privacy and modesty in all situations.
  •  Reinforce who the patient is when medical personnel talk about Dad as if he isn’t present.
  •  Allow myself to be imperfect. Dad and Mom didn’t get everything right when they raised me and I’m not likely to get everything right in this matter with Dad’s health. Always keeping the love I have for him first, I know things will be all right.

May his soul rest in peace. (Deceased 12.17.18.)

Reis Girls July 2014 129 - CopyKaren (Dutt) Horan (Mike) is an energetic Bismarck, ND professional. She is the mother of two and grandmother of two, with another grandchild expected in 2015. She is the daughter of Jack and the former Teresa (Reis) Dutt. Karen is an avid reader who enjoys gardening and spending time on the Missouri River aboard her pontoon. The most  precious hours of her day are the ones she spends with her family. Karen has discovered that respect and love are the guiding forces for dealing with an aging parent’s health.

If you would like to be considered a guest blogger, contact me below.

If you have a message for Karen or her Dad, leave a comment below. Thanks!

Copyright. September 2015. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Endings Are Also Beginnings

I’m at an age where endings are more common, though none less painful: Divorce. Death. Abandonment.

That’s why I picked up the non-fiction book Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman and read it. If you have lost a loved one through death, divorce or abandonment, I encourage you to read it.

The author was kicked out of a grief support group and created her own to take the next steps with her after loss-six young widows. All agreed to allow her to tape their monthly gatherings and not edit their words. Though there was little in common between the women except for their loss, the group bonded over the year and even traveled as a team.

The truth of grief was vivid and the struggles of new beginnings graphic.

The predominant message was that grief is a process of finding comfort in one’s life again and that requires going outside of oneself through action. Not easy but clearly doable as shown through the words and behavior of this group.

Sometimes we make choices in our lives but sometimes our lives make choices for us-leaving us in a state of grief. Make a choice-read the book. Connect and bond with a group that doesn’t wallow in sorrow but yearns for new beginnings. Assume responsibility for your new beginning.

Taken from Psalm 42: Why are you so desolate, my soul? Why weighed down in despair? Trust in God; He will save you; You will sing to Him with great joy.

Peace be with you.

Copyright. September 2015. Linda Leier Thomason.

Outfox the Fox

Let me be clear-I’ve never hunted in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, other than a water gun, I’ve never held a gun in my hand. Indeed, I’m rather confused and ambivalent about the whole topic of hunting. I get the need to control certain species populations and I also understand how those with a deep affection for animals find the sport repulsive.

And yet, now in Omaha, NE, I’m hunting and it isn’t going very well. I’m hunting for a place to call “home” and I swear it has to be easier to hunt big game in Africa than it is to find a house. We’ve done all of the pre-hunting tasks: We’ve mapped out the area; we’ve secured the right tools-the bests agents in the area- and we’ve baited the city by asking other agents and residents for ideal listings to see. Yet, we sit in corporate housing. I relate to how hunters return home with heads hung low with less gait after investing so many resources into the “big get.” It’s a bit deflating, yet the desire for the prize remains.

Today as I go back out into the market for another day of house hunting, I’ve decided  to employ the strategy of outfoxing the fox. I’ve gotten real clear about the features we need in a house, the investment we wish to make and the location we desire. I’m gonna get this thing. This old fox is going to outfox the fox and come back with a contract in hand.

Wish me happy hunting!

Copyright. June 2015. Linda Leier Thomason.

The Fine Art of Moving

Ken & I at Vermillion, SD truck stop on May 2015 moving day
Ken & I at Vermillion, SD truck stop on May 2015 moving day

Decades ago while dating I recall being told the best way to determine long-term compatibility is to take a trip together. Ken and I traveled often and are celebrating 23 years of marriage in June 2015. I’d say that was timeless, sage advice.

Now I feel it’s my turn to offer some words of wisdom. If one wants to find out what character his/her partner is made of…MOVE. Move often. Who each is prior to sorting, selling, boxing, loading, driving and then unloading and unboxing remains through the entire process. I know this. We’ve moved seven times during our married life and each time the roles we play remain the same…in other words…we do not change much, despite our changing surroundings.

I am the planner, producer, facilitator and director. You get it…the boss…the leader. Ken, my husband, to use a good ole’ Southern phrase, “God bless his soul,” abides by my directives and does the heavy lifting and stacking. He hires the truck and labor. Apparently, time has taught him not to question or second guess my prep work and research. Alex, our son, the college dude, seeks to refine my directives with the precision of a logistics engineer, completely finding unnecessary my need for sentiment and time to pause and recall memories associated with items he considers ‘things.’

Sentimental item kept-my baby shoes.
Sentimental item kept-my baby shoes.

His goal is to get to the location and unpack, touching each item once while packing, once while loading and once while unloading. He fusses and hurries me along as I share legends of items stored away in cedar chests and cardboard boxes. I wonder if he thoughtfully considers his response when I ask, “Will you use or appreciate this one day?”

There is a fine art to moving. I equate it to a great symphony piece. First, I gather items by theme-kitchen cookware, flatware, linens, decorative items, etc. and sort. It sounds so cerebral, but in reality, it never gets easier, though with each move we downsize. What goes to a consignment shop? What will I attempt to sell? What is donated? What do I want to pass on to Alex? What can’t I part with just yet?

Fine art of moving-starts out messy.
Fine art of moving-starts out messy.

Actions ensue. I box and cart items to each destination. Ahhh. The house feels lighter. I feel good. I gather empty boxes we’ve saved from previous moves and do my best to pack alike items in a logical fashion. I bubble wrap breakables and touch each saved item with care, recalling how it came into our lives. I like doing this in solitude without the rush of deadlines and the push toward the end goal–boxing and moving on. I’m goal oriented, but not without nostalgia.

I call charitable organizations and schedule pick up times. During the recent move, we donated to the Furniture Mission in Sioux Falls, SD. They were gracious and expedient in their pick up. I watched them load items once considered valuable possessions but knew would not last through yet another move. I felt a loss of the material goods but joy at helping another family furnish a house. After they clear the garage, the items that escaped another cut and were boxed are moved to the garage awaiting the moving truck and the loaders. If these items had feelings, they’d be celebrating. They made the cut! They are prized and belong to the family.

Made the cut-boxed and in the garage awaiting truck.
Made the cut-boxed and in the garage awaiting truck.

I hesitantly sell items through the Internet, but never unless Alex or Ken is there with me when a potential buyer arrives. I’m 100 percent in my sales. Perhaps I missed my calling. I sell at list price and often the buyer leaves with more items than he came to get. Am I that good, or does the sentiment attached to the items I’m hawking come through so loudly that the buyer is purchasing that intangible as well? Either way. Ca..ching. Another item gone. One less thing to load on the moving truck.

All these actions happen virtually at the same time-list, respond to inquiries, arrange visits to see the items, greet potential buyers, sell, pull more items out of cupboards and cabinets, decide what goes and what stays, bubble wrap, touch each item, recall its’ origin, cart off to a donation site, wait on charitable organizations to arrive, box, move boxes to garage, on and on and on. If done well, the symphony of moving results in a feeling of relief, joy and peacefulness. If not, it’s utter chaos with shrieking and leaving in protest.

We’ve moved seven times. We each understand our role in the process and play our part. It requires practice but our individual character remains. As with musicians, each of us has learned a specialization in the process and sticks to it to make the overall piece and process flow smoothly and flawlessly.

We sorted. We donated. We sold. We packed. We loaded. We moved. We arrived safely. We can each say we enjoyed the fine art of moving in May 2015. We remember moving is like a symphony-each has a specific role to play for it to be a memorable production.

Sonata!

Jubilant moving producer arrives at destination.
Jubilant moving producer arrives at destination.

Copyright. June 2015. Linda Leier Thomason