Posted by: sistermom1 | November 16, 2015

A Pre-Holiday Apology

Difficult to believe that the holidays are upon us. I am definitely looking forward to getting together with friends and family over the next few weeks — from now to the end of the year. it has been a great year — very significant and quite enjoyable.

This year my husband and I went to FNCC (a Buddhist retreat in Florida), we celebrated my 58th birthday (and my husband’s 59th!). This year I splurged on season tickets to Arena Stage, spent more time with my (86-year old) mother, participated in a monthly Movie Club, helped coordinate a local-area family reunion, learned much more about expanding my life through prayer (, and started seeing a new functional medicine doctor….among many other things.
Also, our children had great accomplishments this year, including our daughter’s first performance in a school musical, having an 11-1 tennis season, and being invited to join the National Honor Society. Our son completed a great freshman year in college and launched a successful sophomore year as a College Park Scholar. As for my husband, he remains gainfully and happily employed, and his loving smile greets me every morning, as he takes care of our family.

But enough about this – here is my apology:

I apologize in advance to everyone who will be bringing food to our celebrations this holiday season. My journey to health this year has included a strict shift to a paleo diet. In a nutshell, this means that I must avoid consuming wheat, corn, wheat flour, sugar, most fruit, and dairy. This is not a choice for me to be “in”, or to get on the hot new trend bandwagon. This is a choice for me to try to manage MS in my life. When I do not eat the wonderful food that you bring, please do not take it personally, feel badly, or encourage me to eat.

This decision has truly been difficult for me to implement — I LOVE mac and cheese, pasta, cake, cookies and ice cream. (I’ll still have a VERY little taste of these things over the holidays – only when I make that choice.)  I have been working on this nutrition plan for most of this year, and I already can feel the difference. My doctor said that it will take a while for the healing to really show itself, but already many of you have told me how clear my skin is, how I have lost weight, and how my feet are less swollen. I have more energy every day, and it feels great!  Thank you all so much for your support. Please keep it up over the holidays. PLEASE go ahead and enjoy the great food — I will be enjoying my meals, knowing that good health is coming my way with every bite that I take!!!!!!

Happy Holidays!

Posted by: sistermom1 | November 15, 2015

The Power of a Text

I had an experience today that I am still processing.

As you may recall, I am a married mother of two. Our son is a college sophomore, who is having a very positive experience. I am truly grateful for that, especially at this challenging time of our lives as Black Americans in this country.

I usually text my son when my worry for him outweighs my trust for his safety (and trust in his developing common sense!)
My text messages to him are often filled with directives – “Don’t forget this”, “Remember to do that”, “Call home” type of messages. He has quick one-word responses, which irritate me, but I grudgingly acknowledge.

This week, I made a conscious decision to send him a positive text – one that did not tell/advise him to do anything. I texted him “Hey Robby, Enjoy this beautiful day today. Love you, Mom”
He did not reply immediately.

In fact, 2 days passed before he texted me back.

I resisted my usual response and chose not to think about it, or worry that something was wrong or had happened (despite the overwhelming newscasts these days involving racism at many colleges, Black Lives Matter, and such — this was before the events in Paris)

When I got his text I was inspired and encouraged. It read “Mom, got an A on my Accounting exam. I also got accepted into the Leadershape program training program”
What an unexpected, fabulous message — I happily shared the news (my husband, daughter and mother — not posting on Facebook – until now!) It was comforting – he seemed happy about his positive news – how amazing!

Was this simply a matter of timing? I guess I will never know, but it absolutely has changed the way I plan to communicate with our children. It was a great experiment. The decision to send him a positive text – and leave it alone – ended up leaving me (and him?) positive and happy – rather than hanging on waiting for a response to a to-do list. I think I’ll try it again next time.

Posted by: sistermom1 | August 16, 2015

Illuminating the world from a wheelchair?

This week I have been pushing myself not to be overcome by my physical challenges. I am still in a wheelchair, and this past week has been extremely difficult. It is very hot here (it is August in DC after all!) and MS and heat do not play well together. My legs are in a lot of pain, I continue on this strict diet plan, and for the past month have been coordinating weekly teleconferences planning a family reunion (no stress THERE!:-) I did eat sugar yesterday for the first time in 3 months — a slice of pound cake and a scoop of banana pudding, and that has had an impact, but everything went well and it was a great success!

Experiencing the event from my chair – especially seeing folks that knew me when, but who have not seen me in the past few years – made me pause. In the past, I was the one who coordinated many things, the one who walked around helping, the one who was called on to handle confusion, come early, stay late — you know, THAT relative. Don’t get me wrong, there are many good cooks and organizers in my family. This time I had to rely on them – and they completely handled it. We had a great time yesterday – lots of smiling faces, great food, old pictures and wonderful memories. Some drama too, but it was a real success thanks to so many people.

Still it made me wonder about how to value the contribution that I can make to the success of any team I am on. I have to change the way I view things like this. I have realized that I can help make things happen from a chair, I just need to open up my thinking, and be flexible about how I do it. So many of the things I have been reading point me towards a new way to accept my current reality — not only accept, but push through it and enjoy my life — no matter where I’m sitting.

Posted by: sistermom1 | July 28, 2015

Listening to That Inner Voice (Not the Good One!)

I recently had a strong realization — I have been listening to the wrong inner voice.

For the past 2 months I have been adapting my diet to being more supportive of my healing.  This new plan has been very challenging.  There are a lot of No’s: No sugar, no gluten, no eggs, no beans, not much fruit, no chocolate.  Lots of vegetables and lean meats…. Despite these limits, I did eat a fabulous piece of chocolate cake last week — I really wanted it, and was determined to eat it, no matter what.  Unfortunately, I did have a major reaction afterwards — my muscles tightened, my head hurt and my legs completely froze – much more than usual.  This completely confirmed what the staff at my functional medicine doctor told me 2 months ago — “Once you start you cannot cheat – not even a little…”

I  spoke with my therapist about how difficult it is for me to focus so strongly on myself and my diet in my attempt to improve my MS.  I shared that I often feel that doing that detracts from my focus on my family and that I should keep quiet about my own needs — that I should not have these needs in the first place – that they take me away from my husband and family — and what if after all of these changes they don’t even work?  I remembered that over the past 10 years, this nutritional approach to dealing with MS has come up at least 4 other times, but I discounted it in the past, feeling that it would be too hard, and what if it didn’t work?

She calmly told me that if my children needed me to do something this challenging, I would do it with no hesitation.  She asked me why would it be ok for me to do it for them but not for myself?  She talked about how the mind works — that when you make a strong determination to accomplish a goal, it often activates an internal  voice that will try to keep you safe by convincing you that you can’t do it – that it will be too hard – to take it easy and remain the same.

I was reminded of a book that I have read before — The Untethered Soul : The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer.  In it, he writes that “There is nothing more important than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it.”  He refers to that voice as a “roommate in your head” that narrates everything that happens to you, and among other things, argues against any thought that moves you towards changing the status quo.

My session helped me see more clearly how that voice has been operating in my life – especially lately as I work harder to solve this MS challenge. I have been paying too much attention to this voice lately, and that’s not a good thing. It’s creating (exacerbating?) a real impasse in my thinking, which is leading to a greater impasse in my actions, which is making improvement of my health very difficult. Paying attention to this voice is problematic, and I really have to change. How? Well, going back to Michael Singer, “The natural ups and downs of life can either generate personal growth or create personal fears. Which of these dominates is completely dependent upon how we view change. Change can be viewed as either exciting or frightening, but regardless of how we view it, we must all face the fact that change is the very nature of life.” I realize that have been afraid to change, afraid to do things dramatically differently on this search for improvement in my health. But no more following that voice! I am determined to pay attention instead to the quieter, more gentle voice that nudges me forward on this detour in a more positive, hopeful direction. See you along this pathway!

Posted by: sistermom1 | July 5, 2015

Our problems have a purpose

I have been doing more thinking and more reading about many things — the nature of life – and why we have the experiences we do have. Why do I have a loving marriage while many of my friends do not? Why do we have two children who are both safe and doing well in this environment where so many African American children are not? Why am I a member of SGI-USA while so many other people practice different religions? Why do I have MS?

According to my Buddhist practice, in the long-distant past, we each agreed to tackle the particular set of circumstances we have encountered in this lifetime in order to demonstrate the power of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. I often joke that I must have been either sleeping or partying when the challenges were distributed and I was left to select from a limited list of options. My mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, often encourages us about handling difficulties. In one writing he shares, “Reality is harsh. It can be cruel and ugly. Yet no matter how much we grieve over our environment and circumstances nothing will change. What is important is not to be defeated, to forge ahead bravely. If we do this, a path will open before us.”

In a past blog entry, I shared my father’s advice about difficulties – “Defeat only occurs when you accept it as a reality and stop trying.” I am very fortunate to have both him and Daisaku Ikeda in my life to inspire me when things get tough. When I am in a good space, my experience of MS has kept me focused on moving forward, and working to encourage others. Lately, the input from my new functional medicine doctor continues to be positive, and my nutrition journey continues (3 months and counting!).

Recently I have had a major realization about my challenges/problems. Like a bolt of lightening, it occurred to me that my problems are the door through which I must walk to have the experiences/lessons that I need to learn/have in this life. My challenges DO have a purpose, and I am determined to face everything with hope-filled courage, and to remember that challenging MS (one of my problems in this lifetime!) is one way that I can encourage and inspire myself and others too.

Posted by: sistermom1 | June 29, 2015

The Book of Mormon

Last night, my husband, daughter and I went to the Kennedy Center for a show.  We all really enjoyed it – laughed a lot and enjoyed the amazingly  talented, diverse cast.  What made it fun for me (besides the hilarious production!) is how the Kennedy Center handled handicapped patrons.  The seating was incredible — orchestra seats in the middle of the row of very comfortable chairs that could easily be moved to accommodate my wheelchair.  We also saw “Wicked” in this theatre last year, and it was very comfortable then too.

Another stand-out was the attention of the usher in our section.  During intermission she approached us to see if we needed a bathroom.  I did, and it was conveniently located — a private, easily accessible family restroom that was separate from the larger public bathroom.  (A woman who was not obviously physically handicapped was using the bathroom, and we had to wait for her to leave — she apologized profusely when she exited….My daughter swallowed her response, but mentioned it later…)  The usher also was prepared to help guide us out at the end of the performance, which we did not need, but was much appreciated.

It was a wonderful experience.  It was great having the caring attention of an experienced usher.  We thoroughly enjoyed the show — and I felt very welcome and comfortable, which is unusual for me. Thanks to the Kennedy Center for their thoughtfulness and for being such a welcoming place.  My experience as a differently-abled patron was one of the best I have had in 10 years of being in a wheelchair.  Riding through town with my family reminded me of what I used to do BW (Before Wheelchair), and was very enjoyable.  After having such a great experience, I started researching ways to get back in town to see the monuments and the museums. It has been awhile, and I have realized how limited my activities have become.

Keep you posted!!!!

Posted by: sistermom1 | June 19, 2015

Feeling Handicapped

There was a terrible act of terrorism yesterday at a church in Charleston, SC.  My heart is heavy and my soul is deeply aching for the 9 people who were killed, their families, and even for the suffering man who pulled the trigger, whose life has been changed forever.  Some would say that at least he is still living and breathing – something that his act denied to 9 other people.

What can any of us do now?  How to create value from such a crazy, hateful, ignorant act?  How to not allow myself to be filled with hatred for this young man, for his father who bought him a gun for his birthday, for the people leading the meetings he participated in that portrayed African Americans as a threat — even for those who would rather make this an issue of mental health rather than the terrorist act that I believe it is.

I am praying for everyone involved in this — for their peace and happiness, and for them to fulfill their missions in this life and the next.  When I think about what has happened, I truly feel the definition of “handicapped”.  I feel powerless and weak in the face of this horrible act, and really don’t know what to do, but I am determined to help bring us through this to another way of being — a way that respects difference, values all lives, and encourages dialogue — even from my wheelchair….

Posted by: sistermom1 | June 14, 2015

Our children continue to be exquisite beings

Not because of what they have accomplished in their lives (they have done so much already and there is more to come!) but because of who they are.  It is a great realization for me as we go through this life together.  This weekend has been a bit stressful – Our daughter mistakenly ate something with nuts in it and had a major allergic reaction.  She and my husband rushed to the hospital where they spent about 9 hours getting her treatment.  At the same time, I got  a call from my brother that my 86-year young mother had fallen in the mall, took herself to the doctor (after purchasing her shoes !) and has been diagnosed with a fractured wrist.

Not being able to get there to be with either of them is a constant in my life. I am learning the immense power of prayer to surround those I care about with loving energy – especially when I can be there to do it in person. That however is not what this post is about!

After all of this news, our college sophomore son made it home after kayaking with a group of friends (which I am glad I didn’t know about while he was doing it! Otherwise I would have been beside myself with worry — these dramatic events tend to come in threes!) I told him what was happening — His eyes got so wide that I almost couldn’t see the rest of his face.  The total empathy and concern that he showed for both of them truly amazed me.

I heard him later talking to a friend about what happened to his Grandmother, and he laughingly shared how tough his grandmother and his sister are, how they both were doing and about how concerned he is about both of them.  He also talked mentioned how calm I was during the whole thing (he didn’t see me being emotional, chanting and crying before he got home!)

I woke up this morning to see that my daughter is happy, smiling and feeling much better. She is very tough, and is focused on resting today and doing what she needs to do as we move forward (taking time to read ingredient labels, if something looks suspicious, just don’t eat it regardless of what your friends recommend, keep an epipen on you at all times…). My mother is good – has an appointment for a hard cast tomorrow, and is already trying to manage our next steps with Lindsey (no matter how old I get, and even in a wheelchair, my mother really believes that she is in charge…) As for our son, his first words when he came downstairs were “How are Gummie and Lindsey doing?” Of course once he got the answer, he became completely self-involved….

And as for that thing about happening in threes?….well a friend had something dramatic happen in her family tonight — sending her prayers of love and support, while appreciating that our drama was not more severe….

Posted by: sistermom1 | June 4, 2015

10 Years and Still Moving Forward…

For the first time since I was diagnosed with MS, I left a doctor’s office with a hopeful attitude.  This is a functional medicine doctor (yes, he has a M.D.!) who has recently joined my healthcare team.  His approach looks beyond my diagnosis of MS, and examines what else is going on in my body.  For the last 3 months I have had everything analyzed – my poop, saliva, blood and urine.  All of the testing has revealed a lot about what’s going on in my body in addition to the MS.  I have a major yeast problem and my digestive system is really affecting how my internal systems interact.  I have to clean it out, which means an entirely new eating program. I did go gluten-free 2 months ago in an effort to clear out my digestive tract, but I have to go further….which to be honest is freaking me out.  No fruit of any kind except berries — along with no bread, pasta, rice, beans, or sugar.  Also lots of vitamins, and essential oils.  This is because yeast loves these things and thrives and grows on them.  Since our goal is to kill the yeast, which negatively affects the rest of my body, that is what I can’t consume.  So what’s left to eat?  I can have many vegetables, and many nuts (except peanuts and cashews), and lots of water.

So why am I encouraged?  Because at the end of our appointment, the doctor looked at me and said, “We are going to get you out of that wheelchair.  Do this for 6 months and we will at least get you on a walker!”  This was the first time in the last 10 years that a medical professional has ever painted such a positive and hopeful picture for me.

I am still learning what I can eat, and will keep you posted as we go along — any advice is much appreciated!!!!!

So here’s to a new leg of the detour….

Posted by: sistermom1 | March 15, 2015

My Book is Coming!!!!

I am excited to share that my new book is slated to be released this Spring!  Title: Diva on a Detour: Ten Years Along my Journey Through Marriage, Motherhood and MS.  I will keep you posted!!!!!

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