Thursday, September 23, 2010

The value of life

Last week, during one of my visits with Ms Betty*, she was telling me about her best friend from childhood. The focus of the conversation ended up being not on the friend's life or their friendship, but on the woman's oldest son. He wasn't like every other boy on the block. He had cerebral palsy, much like this beautiful young lady...

As I listened to his story, I was inspired. He was without the use of the majority of his body. Not many people could understand his speech if they were not accustomed to him. He was, by our standards, broken. But he would not let that deter him. In fact, when he finished high school, he decided that he wanted to go to college at LSU. It took a year for him to meet the special requirements they gave him for admission. His were requirements that we wouldn't even think of as applicable to a college admissions process, such as using the bathroom and bathing without help, brushing his own teeth, making it to class on his own.

But he did it. And he graduated. When he took his (st)roll across the stage for his diploma, he received a well-deserved standing ovation. But that wasn't enough for him. He became a successful business man, he wrote a book that somehow, by the way, was never published...I would like to know how an inspirational book written by this man never made it to a Barnes & Noble bookshelf. But I digress. Not only was he successful independently, but he was successful in love. He met a beautiful woman, fell in love, got married, and ended up outliving his wife. The only thing this many couldn't accomplish by shear power of his will was to have children...something Ms Betty believes he still regrets.

The interesting thing about the turn our conversation took this day was one of the news headlines of the day. It seems there was a man who got so angry about his daughter (who has cerebral palsy) being made fun of incessantly on her bus and in school, that he took matters into his own hands. What loving father wouldn't?

You can read the article and think about all that on your own, but the conclusion Ms. Betty drew for me in our time together that day is that (this is a paraphrase) everyone has gifts that should be realized. God did not create everyone to be the same. He made us different for a reason. Even diseased and handicapped (those effected by the natural messiness of our world) have gifts and abilities that God will use. God is bigger than their disability and his power to overcome can be seen in the determination of this man who made it across that LSU stage for his diploma...and in the ability of a 13 year old girl to go back to school, day after day, as she is mocked for something she has no power to control.

Life is valuable. All life. And we need to make sure we teach our children, our coworkers, our employees, our family and our friends to value each person who crosses our paths. We should teach it by example and by exposure. We should love as best we know how...always.

*name changed to protect privacy

For more information on Cerebral Palsy, please visit

Monday, September 20, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Yesterday, I picked up a book at LAX and was actually able to read a lot of it on the plane thanks to Bella's exhaustion from our 2 day trip to SoCal! Maybe you've heard of it...Animal Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

It's a bestseller and in the same vein as In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma. My husband has read the latter of the two, but I wasn't really interested. I picked up Kingsolver's book because it was not only about being healthy and eating naturally, but it's also the story of how her family of four picked up and actually DID IT (I'm a sucker for Memoirs). They moved from Tucson to a family farm in Virginia and actually made living off the land a family value. They raised chickens, planted and harvested seasonally, bought only local goods, and stuck it to the proverbial man.

I love Kingsolver's storytelling style. She's engaging while being incredibly informative and passionate. I was appalled at some of the facts I had to digest, not the least of which is the involvement of certain companies in producing, trademarking and regulating seed for the food we eat.

This book is becoming a call to action for me, much like The Omnivore's Dilemma was for Christopher. I am being challenged to only shop local and to do everything in my power to provide the most natural and seasonally appropriate food I can for my family.

If you're interested in learning more about this book or getting involved in the movement to reclaim our food, check out Barbara Kingsolver or Slow Food USA. And, of course, I'm happy to continue the conversation publicly or privately (

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Give that little girl lots of memories

There's nothing that will put life in perspective like looking into the kind eyes of a slow, imminent death.

Don't panic, it's not my death I'm talking about.

You may or may not know that my current get-me-through-with-some-kind-of-income job is as a non-medical caregiver. The latest client I've been assigned to is a wonderfully creative and kind-hearted 80-something year old woman who's been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. She went to the Doctor's office feeling pretty healthy, but left with the knowledge of aggressive form of cancer taking hold of her body. She's going to die. She knows she's going to die. She lives everyday knowing she will die.

From my first visit last Thursday when I asked her if there was anything I could do around the house, she looked at me with a peaceful, yet telling smile and said, "No, I think we'll let all that wait until later. Let's just spend some time getting to know each other." I knew it was a diplomatic way of saying, "None of that really matters anymore, you know? All that matters now is you and me. Not the laundry. Not the floors. Nothing but the time we have left to be friends."

Because everyone is her friend. She has a family who is always visiting and checking on her. A son and daughter who adore her and want nothing more than to protect her from the diseased cells filling up her esophagus.

Today she was telling me about her family, her children and her life. She talked about all the wonderful memories she has and commented that, "All life is is making memories. It's all memories." Then she turned from her audience in the air, leaned toward me, looked me straight in the eye and said, "You give that little girl of yours lots of memories, okay?"

Well, after a morning filled with complete emotional breakdown and sobbing prayers to God that he would give me a job and help us get more income, and of course a regular babysitter to watch Bella while we make money, the only thing I could do as tears began to well up in my eyes was to say, "Yes ma'am". I will.

And forget about the bills I can't pay. Forget about the time wasted worrying or being emotionally distant or unavailable. Forget about the trivial and remind myself everyday of the important. To love. To show kindness. To forgive. To pray. To laugh. To sing. To dance. To enjoy.

To make memories.

Because in the end, that's all I will have.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Let's Move

As a lover of this great city of New Orleans, and as someone who believes in the benefits of healthy living, I currently find myself engrossed in a developing vision of what it would look like to completely change the way New Orleans does health.

Louisiana is in the top 5 obese states in the nation, with a 31% obesity rate. And up to 65% of the state can be counted as either overweight or obese. New Orleans is absolutely reflective of these statistics and it's time to change something!

Michele Obama is on a quest to challenge the entire nation to reverse the trend in childhood obesity and she stopped in Slidell (a town neighboring New Orleans) this week. She wanted to encourage a school that has been doing health right...

I want her to be able to say these things to AnySchool, New Orleans. So the question becomes, how do we do this?

There are various national groups trying to motivate and make change, such as Play60 and Playworks, but there are countless opportunities that we (local citizens and business owners) miss by allowing these organizations to do all the work for us. I have a friend who is a disgruntled parent and personal trainer, wishing for a healthier school day for her kids. I have the ability to use my Beachbody business and our aspiring Community Center as a platform for doing good in the school system. Other fitness businesses in New Orleans could come together to encourage our children and families to get healthier by offering incentives for joining, getting out in the community to motivate, offering free or next to free public services, etc.

But who is moving? Who is leading this united community-wide charge against the cycle of obesity? I suppose if I'm the one with the dream, I should lead the charge. And I'm sure there are others like me who have already begun moving within their circles of influence. And if not, then maybe this will be their call to well as my own.

Let's Move, New Orleans!

And P.S. If you are reading this, and you are local and/or interested in what I'm saying, please contact me. Let's get this conversation started.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Holistic Evolution

As anyone who knows me knows, I am a believer in growing and changing in every manner of living. I have been reminded of this during my unexpected illness this last week.

I don't get sick. Ever. My husband gets sick. My daughter gets sick. I don't. When I get sick enough to need a Doctor or medication, there's usually an underlying reason that I needed to be laying in my bed with no energy nor opportunity to do anything but reflect on the direction of my life.

So that's what I've been doing over the past week. It took me until Monday (I started feeling sick on Wednesday night) to realize that perhaps I was missing something. Granted, I was sick over the 5 year anniversary weekend of Katrina, so reflecting really wasn't something I would have avoided altogether over those days. But the problem is that I can reflect without taking action. I can see things I'm not happy with and not take a turn to change them. Well, luckily, Monday, my body wasn't feeling any differently than it had been, and then I finally realized that maybe my body was stopping me in my tracks so I could finally DO SOMETHING to change my life instead of being disgruntled with what may or may not have happened in the past while using the present busyness to distract myself from dealing with that hurt or anger.

This all has also coincided with the loss of my iPhone.

Granted, I chose to give it up because, really, my lifestyle certainly does not mandate an iPhone. I have the internet at home...and I'm home at least half the time. I don't need to have everything in the palm of my hand and be constantly distracted from anything and everything happening around me. I'm sure it's my own issue with self-control or impulse managementl, but I was constantly looking at something on that screen. The other day I rode in the car for the first time since getting my iPhone with my feet on the dash, staring out the window, noticing the things around me instead of wondering what I was missing on Facebook or Craigslist or my inbox. It was nice.

And frankly, I'd rather give up my iPhone than give up the ability to see what's in front of me...or the joy of seeing new roads I could turn onto if only I wasn't looking down and on auto-pilot all the time.