Sunday, April 15, 2018

Wallflower

Copyright (c) 2018 Renee Alter

The informal definition of wallflower is: a person who has no one to dance with or who feels shy, awkward, or excluded at a party. 

I was such a wallflower. I felt invisible so when I DID get some attention, I was blind that the attention I was getting was from preditors... preditors who could sense vulnerable wallflowers... not just once, but way too many times. 

I find it interesting that the solo flower that bloomed on my peace lily reminded me of those years. I wondered... did this solo flower bloom solo on purpose?

Is it lonely without other flowers or happy in the company of all the leaves? Can I put myself in the flower's place and admire its beauty and determination to bloom? Can I be content that I had the company of numerous grains of sand on the beach when no one else was there as well as numerous blades of grass?

My perspective of being a wallflower has since changed. I am now in awe of what breaks through rock and cement determined to grow... like this...


Copyright (c) 2017 Renee Alter

I, too, have broken through rock and cement due to my spirit's determination to not only live, but to thrive. My rocks and cement were in the forms of hopelessness and despair believing I was stuck in the situations I found myself in. Without mentors, I couldn't see past my personal stone wall and I  lacked the tools to know how to break through them.

Finally the day came, when the stone wall began to crumble. It was terrifying and I felt like the stone was crushing me. Even the inexpensive apartment I got in 2009 had grey painted cinderblock walls that felt like a tomb, which reflected the state of mind I was in. Yes, I was indeed hopeless. I felt abandoned by my family and hadn't met anyone I could bond with. I imploded into my own mind and didn't know how to get out.

A LOT has happened since then. These days, the Universe sends me people who are feeling stuck in their own rocks and cement so I can finally appreciate my experience of being there. I can encourage them in their own personal journeys and teach them the concepts I have learned about limited thinking and cognitive distortions. I can teach them about validating and releasing their emotions so they don't manifest as physical symptoms.

When they express how hopeless their life is, I can tell them there is ALWAYS hope.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Building a Bypass

Building the 190 bypass over Copperas Cove required a detailed plan and took years to implement. It was finally finished and I drive over it almost every Friday to and from Toastmasters meetings. One morning, I woke up thinking about life's bypasses.

When you're in a situation you want to change so you can move forward, it is useful to create a detailed bypass-type plan and take one small step every day with a complete vision of the road or building in mind. Of course, when the road you are on drops out from under you (like a health crisis) you'll need to make a new plan.

Perhaps had I been a lot more patient with planning, instead of up and moving to new places so many times, and believed there was a divine plan always unfolding, I wouldn't have fallen into so many "ruts."

When I think of my past, I realize the "plan" that had worked for me post-crisis was education. The more I learned about nutrition, exercise, psychology, and Law of Attraction, the better my health became. "Travelers" in the form of new people I began to meet personally and on the internet (mostly Facebook) led to having a team of "engineers" who helped me create a new plan and begin building my new bypass.

Building a bypass for my life took a long time--much longer than it took for the physical 190 bypass to be built. When I drive over it, the view is breath-taking. But it hadn't always been that way. For years, it was an unsightly mess--just like my life was. Somehow, it transformed into a path of beauty.

I believe the astral travel experience I had when my father died in which I "floated" over green rolling hills was the 190 bypass that would take me to Toastmasters, showing me there would be a positive change in my life. Just like the college classes I used to take because I always loved going to school, Toastmasters provides me with additional education while I overcome many of my fears. It is a bypass for my life providing me with the means, support, and role models that continue to inspire hope for the years to come.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Prayer Hearts


I finished reading the book God is a Verb by Rabbi David Cooper. I had read it many years ago but decided to pick it up again. When I got to the part about raising Holy Sparks, I was inspired to write positive outcomes on little hearts and put them in my prayer box instead of letting the world's problems rest heavy on my heart. (The hearts in the photo are blank to protect the privacy of the individuals I pray for.)

Here's a snippet from the website Holy Sparks in Kabbalah

"Every particle in our physical universe, every structure and every being is a shell that contains sparks of holiness. Our task, according to Luria, is to release each spark from the shell and raise it up, ultimately to return it to its original state. The way these sparks are raised is through acts of loving kindness, of being in harmony with the universe, and through higher awareness.

"The ramifications of this teaching are enormous. In each moment of existence we have the potential to raise holy sparks. If we are unaware of this ability and are spiritually asleep, then we do not accomplish much, for the medium through which sparks are raised is consciousness itself.

"Our opportunities to raise sparks are boundless. The choices we make for our activities, the interactions we have with our family, friends, neighbors, business associates, and even strangers, the way we spend our leisure time, the books we read, the television we watch, the way we relate to food, everything in daily life presents sparks locked in husks awaiting release."

This weekend many people are observing Good Friday, Passover, and Easter Sunday. Even if you are not, I invite you to either draw hearts or cut some up like I did. Each time you see sad or catastrophic news (or experience a situation which is), write the outcome you desire on a heart.  If many more people do this, too, perhaps we can raise the vibration of love on our planet.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Falling & Lessons Learned

Do you have a FEAR of Falling?
Do you stay home and avoid being active?
Learn what YOU can DO to MANAGE your fear.

This is the header of the flyer for "A Matter of Balance."

Last year, I participated in an 8-week course presented by the Area Agency on Aging. Since I have a history of falling quite a few times -- and I fear falling -- as one incident could jar my lower spine and put me back in a wheelchair even though I've never broken anything, I was happy when this course came to my town. Topics covered: understanding your fears, staying active through easy exercises, learning to communicate with your family and healthcare team, making safety improvements at your home, delaying complications, and changing "Fall-ty" habits.

It is designed to teach seniors (and other people) about managing fears and fall prevention. We watched videos about the real causes of aging, especially inactivity. Included in the course were proven exercises shown to improve balance which would lower the likelihood of falling as well as surveying the layout of your home for safety and making necessary changes. I had been afraid of getting older and more fragile, but this course gave me peace of mind. I've been doing all the recommended exercises and then some. I've also strived to be MINDFUL of everything I do vs. "accident prone."

In the meantime, I had been following Phaedra Antioco who facilitated a Docu-Series titled Pain Treatments That Work. She had been in a horrific car accident and learned how what she told herself affected her ability to recover. She decided to become an occupational therapist -- one who also digs for the emotional and mental roots that keep people in pain. She even got to test what she learned on herself when she fell on the stairs and broke her back -- again -- describing her initial reaction and how she corrected her mindset and recovered.

On Wednesday, February 7, I stood up from the office chair I sit on to get something and wasn't being MINDFUL when I sat back down again. The chair rolled to the left and I went down on my right hip, jarring my right elbow and tapping the back of my head on the chair I keep behind me with additional projects on it that I am working on.

When I fell this time, I was immediately AWARE of the thoughts racing through my mind -- of fear, anger, and self-criticism.

  • Fear: OMG! Now I've done it! I've broken my hip!!! Just like my older sister did!
  • Anger: My reaction to falling. I was really MAD!
  • Self-Criticism: How could I have been so careless? How could I have been so stupid? I KNOW BETTER. I just took that class!

Then I heard Phaedra's voice: DON'T GIVE YOUR BRAIN A REASON TO TRIGGER THE FEAR RESPONSE which will trigger a cascade of chemical reactions which will incite a lot more pain than the injury calls for. DON'T LET YOUR BRAIN DECIDE THE PAIN IS DANGEROUS.

Now it was time to test these concepts on myself.

First and foremost, I took control and told my mind to STOP. I got up and began going through each and every exercise movement I learned in Matter of Balance and my local exercise programs. Everything still worked! (See? You panicked about nothing! You made up stories that included cognitive distortions that weren't true before you collected the evidence as to whether it was true or not.) I applied some essential oils to the hot spots knowing they would penetrate immediately to begin the healing process.

However, a headache came on that I had to troubleshoot. I was so focused on my hip (yes I bruised it), I had to retrace how I tapped the back of my head on the chair behind me and the little electrical current I felt travel down the right side of my neck. Could that little inconsequential tap have knocked something out of alignment? Nahhhh, I thought.

The headache (I wasn't about to claim it) wouldn't let up and continued through the following week. It got so intense I couldn't do much of anything (except my exercises). I used my swaying muscle testing technique (forward for yes, backward for no) asking questions such as is it from food I ate? No. Am I fighting off a virus? No. Is it discontinuation syndrome from getting off Mirtazapine? No. Is it allergies? No. Too much time on the computer? Yes. But then I asked did I knock a vertebra out of alignment? Yes. Axis? No. Atlas? Yes.

I hadn't seen my chiropractor in a year and made an appointment. Indeed, I had knocked my Atlas out of alignment. After all, the head weighs about 10 pounds. I got an "adjustment" to put it back where it belongs. I asked why he didn't adjust anything else... I usually need multiple places adjusted. He replied that nothing else was out of alignment. Really?

All the exercises I had been doing toned the muscles along my spine to keep them from slipping out so easily? Yup.

I also asked about an exercise I could do for my neck. It was very similar to one I learned from Bob and Brad (famous physical therapists on the internet) but my chiro added a resistance band to it and showed me how to do it slow and intentional.

The following day I was headache free and even when it returns it is mild compared to what it had been before.

As for the chiropractic visit... he asked when I was there last. I answered, can't remember. Check your records. It was exactly one year to the day since my last visit. And so I wondered... is there a divine plan in all of this? Involving multiple individual events that work together for the good of the whole?

Things that make me go Mmmmmm..... after all, I just wrote another post about Synchronicity in Discovering Resilience so synchronicity is on my mind...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Synchronicity of Discovering Resilience

Synchronicity! I love when I feel prompted to learn about something, the answers show up from multiple resources within a short amount of time. And I wonder if the recent series of events had anything to do with my recent experience of needing to go down to the police station to report someone (which took tremendous courage on my part as well as a flare of PTSD).

Because I had participated in a Women's Self-Defense program (rape prevention) in 2013 and had met and conversed with our female police chief, I finally learned what actions I needed to take should another incident occur. This time, I took action.

Within a short amount of time, a fellow tenant who is about 70 years old and is in my exercise program told me about his participation in the Citizen's Police Academy. I had seen posts about it on Facebook. He had also participated in the Active Shooter program and recommended I go to one. He said the information was valuable because it can happen anywhere. While I haven't seen when it will be offered again, I became interested in brushing up on the skills I learned in 2013.

If something more intense had unfolded with this individual, would I have remembered how to protect myself? Just when I was feeling 'safe' someone I never suspected turned out to be dangerous. A short time after I filed my complaint, he was arrested for assault with bodily injury of a family member... and it wasn't me... but could have been.

In the meantime, I received an email from Critical Bench (which I subscribe to) about Mike Gillette's self-defense program. I was curious after reading the description on this website in addition to being intrigued at the timing of receiving it and purchased the program with the promotion price. You can check it out here: Real Life Self Defense. The videos provide me with just what I wanted to know.

Also, in the meantime, I grew curious about the word resilience again. Talking to someone who is involved in Citizen's police raised questions about what makes firefighters and police officers resilient. (along with military personnel)

I last wrote a post about resilience in 2015. You can read it here. The Many Faces of Resilience When I first learned about Resilience, I was fascinated... because I realized I didn't have it. Each time something "traumatic" happened to me, I adopted the belief that I was powerless to do anything to protect myself.

I Googled "what makes firefighters and police officers resilient" and found two articles of interest. The first is Resilience among first responders

In this article, three elements were studied: Sense of Community, Collective Efficacy, and Self-efficacy.

"The results of this study outline the need of interventions aimed at the promotion of resilience factors rather than the treatment of negative health symptoms."

Mmmm. Negative health symptoms had been an issue most of my life. I must read more. I also had to look up the meaning of efficacy... "the ability to produce a desired or intended result"

"Stamm introduced the concept of Compassion satisfaction, defined as the benefits that individuals derive from working with traumatized or suffering persons. These benefits include positive feelings about helping others, finding meaning in one's effort and challenges, fulfilling one's potential, contributing to the work setting and even to the greater good of society, and the overall pleasure derived from being able to do one's work well." 

This includes all the ingredients I have developed over the last 4 years, explaining why my overall health has improved.

"Efficacy beliefs pertain to the individual beliefs in one's own capability to exercise some measure of control over in one's own functioning and environmental events." 

Yes, validating what I noted above from self-defense information.

"The results of this paper evidence the protective role of self-efficacy, collective efficacy and sense of community in emergency rescue work." "We discovered that efficacy beliefs and sense of community have an influence on work related health outcomes, especially compassion satisfaction."

Mmmm. Good information! It helped me to understand what was missing in my inability to develop resilience in my earlier years.

The second article I found is Five Ways to Promote Officer Resilience

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski, a 20-year law enforcement veteran and criminal justice professor at American Military University (AMU) wondered what I wondered:

“I’ve seen police suicides. I’ve seen stress ruin marriages and ruin officers’ lives,” he said. Still, there are many who manage to avoid such tragic outcomes, Sadulski noted. “I’ve also seen officers who are highly effective at managing stress and I’ve always wondered what the difference was.” He noted five factors.

1. Peer support through communication – Peer support allows officers to actively process their stress by talking to others who have had similar experiences.

(In another blog post I wrote about having a support structure in schools for students to get group support as well as continuous education. What we learn as children can make a huge difference.)

2. Experience – “I thought experience would be a stressor, but all participants mentioned that it actually helped build resilience,” said Sadulski. “It helped them put traumatic experiences in perspective.” Over time, experienced officers learn to develop conditioned responses to stress and are even able to view emergency calls as routine in nature. 

(Group exercises in school settings could provide a similar experience. I lived a very sheltered childhood which resulted in anxiety and powerlessness in many situations.)

3. Family Support – “Officers who are able to communicate with their spouses regarding what occurs out in the field reduces the long-term impact of stress,” said Sadulski. 

(Yes, family support makes a huge difference in growing up but unfortunately, it isn't available to many of today's families, especially when single parents or otherwise are too stressed and overwhelmed with their own lives to be a support to their children.)

4. Life and identity outside of policing – Maintaining a holistic identity separate from the badge allows officers to unwind when they’re not on the job. 

(While I worked with others for most of my adult life, I often felt left out and withdrawn, unable to relate or develop bonds with co-workers. This one shows me had I acquired "tribes" outside of my job I would have felt better about myself. Introverts will often have this issue. Moving around as much as I did meant leaving behind the few tribes I bonded with. For me, I also had to develop an identity separate from the pain and health challenges I dealt with. I had to figure out who I was outside of all that and stay in one place long enough to become comfortable with the many people I've met within the clubs I've joined.)

5. Police Training – “Stress management training should be established through the police academy and it should be a part of annual block training that is required for offices to maintain their certifications,” said Sadulski. 

(I've also written about getting stress management training while in school and I've seen the videos of teaching meditation to children who are in mainstream classes as well as the children who are sent to detention to teach them coping skills. Learning stress management skills much earlier in my life could have prevented my health from declining as quickly as it did.)

As for simulation training to prepare officers for traumatic incidents, I am watching simulation training on Mike Gillette's videos.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Death by Medicine

On March 5, I watched the documentary titled Death by Medicine. I am in shock and very grateful that I am as well as I am. I really wish I knew back then what I know now, that I could go back in time, and redo that part of my life drug-free. Yes, I had tried... Chinese Medicine and some other alternative solutions... but when I collapsed in 1998, I went to a Physiatrist (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) and trusted his protocol. Afterall, he set me up on permanent disability.

I can't believe I was so dumb to be a guinea pig to so many drugs (and vaccines)! I also can't believe I went to doctors who prescribed them! But I was in pain and it was all I knew. At least now I can understand what was going on with doctors and prescriptions after watching the film.

To sum up, students in medical school are taught by pharmaceutical companies which drugs to prescribe for which symptoms vs. finding the root causes. We trust our doctors to know what they are doing, but it is a guessing game when it comes to most drugs--which makes us guinea pigs. Many of the drugs were pushed through the FDA even though there was proven dangers to using them. Yikes! The sales reps and students acted (and still do) on blind trust. We don't have a healthcare system, we have a sick-care system--one that has an interest in making as much money as it can.

A lot of the drugs discussed in the film are ones I had been prescribed and took for many years. Ouch! I will just review in brief (I have a lot more detail in my memoir, Love, Life, & God: Getting Past the Pain.)

As a child, I was given Belladonna for intestinal cramps... but no one knew back then that I was allergic to milk. I have no memories of the cramps or whether the drug helped to relieve them. The doctor said it was nerves, and I could have also been reacting to the tension in the household.

When I was a teen, I was prescribed Darvon and Demerol for menstrual cramps which made me hallucinate in school. My head detached from my shoulders and I floated a foot above the stairs. The doctor then prescribed a combination of Motrin and Dexedrine. It turned out that I had polycystic ovarian disease. When I was 19, I was put on synthetic birth control pills.

When I was 18, I was given Elavil for depression. It's a good thing I didn't take it for long. I quit because it made me drowsy during the day even though I took it at bedtime and I had to go to work. I also had developed sore throats (later diagnosed as Mono) and I'm sure I had been given too many doses of antibiotics. I am grateful I didn't have the types of side effects discussed in the film.

When I was 21, I dozed at the wheel and opened my eyes just in time to see the car I was about to crash into. I began to take Valium for muscles spasms. They had a rebound effect in which every time I stopped taking them, the spasms returned.

The real problems began in 1998 which I mentioned in the first paragraph. I'm surprised I still have a brain, although I probably lost a good number of brain cells. By July 2010, I was prescribed 11 medications which I took every day.

Proton Pump Inhibitors

I had eroded my esophagus by swallowing three 200mg tablets of Motrin every 4 hours every day and the solution was antacids and PPI's. Every time I stopped taking them, the acid would come up and burn. Within the last few years, I began eating crystalized ginger which stopped the acid reflux. I also learned it is caused by not enough acid and enzymes in your stomach to digest protein. For more information on the dangers of taking these go to The Dangers of Proton Pump Inhibitors

Muscle Relaxers

Valium, Soma, then Flexeril, No wonder the muscle relaxers didn't help. They can trigger the very muscle spasms you are trying to alleviate. (Dr. John Bergman) Better are Somatic exercises to help your brain remember how to release spasms.

Opioids

I am so grateful I got off of them before the recent crisis hit and people are suddenly unable to get them after being dependent on them for YEARS. The Opioids started off with Vicodin, then a Fentanyl patch which I had an immediate reaction to. Then it was Norco. Vicodin and Norco are hydrocodone combined with acetaminophen but in different doses. Now they say acetaminophen can damage your liver. After someone suggested I Google Opioid induced hyperaglasia... which I did... I knew it was time to stop taking them.

Antipsychotics

Once again, it's a miracle I still have a brain. There was the cocktail of antidepressants and antiseizure drugs even though I wasn't having seizures. These included Ativan (the nightmare drug in the film), Klonopin, and Neurontin which was later changed to the generic Gabapentin. At some point, I was switched to Lyrica and gained 30 pounds in 2 months so I quit taking it, left to deal with a bloated body.

After being on each of the anti-depressants for 2-3 years, warnings would reach my doctor so he would switch me to a new one--in this order Serzone, Seroquel, Effexor 2x day following by extended release, and Cymbalta. Cymbalta was the last one I was on when I stopped taking everything cold turkey in 2010. When I crawled (literally) back to the doctor several months later, she began to prescribe new ones--Celexa followed by Cymbalta at which point I not only felt suicidal, but I disconnected and disassociated. I could no longer relate to any of the photos of my family members. I am very grateful I didn't end up in a psych ward like the ones in the film as they would have most likely pumped me up with additional ones.

I wouldn't try any more antidepressants for another year after exhausting my efforts to try the nutritional approach. (I didn't have enough information at the time.) When I did accept another one, my doctor prescribed Paxil which made me feel sick, and finally Remeron (Mirtazapine). Are you seeing the pattern of how it is a guessing game as to which drug will actually help? Anyway, at 1/2 the lowest dose, after a week, I began to notice the sun and the clouds again along with the sound of birds--things I had been unable to notice the previous year. However, the dose was continuously increased until I reached max.

Last July, I wanted to begin weaning off Mirtazapine (the last of all the drugs) after realizing grains (whole grains, too) were contributing to pain and inflammation. Besides, I really didn't like feeling drugged 20 minutes after swallowing a pill. I slowly reduced the dose to 7.5 mg and then began skipping 1 day, 2 days, and when I got to 3, the headaches, itching, and ADD-like symptoms would begin. See further down for "Bri Linney."

The Cocktail for Metabolic Syndrome

Among the many side effects of all the medications I was taking were high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and frozen shoulder. I was prescribed drugs for all of these, including the Metformin mentioned in the film. I don't recall Statin drugs being discussed in the film, but there is a lot on the internet about these. For the frozen shoulder, I was prescribed corticosteroids for 7 days which didn't do anything to alleviate it. Again, just a guessing game on the part of the doctor. (It was eventually sound therapy that did.)

Hormones

Premarin is discussed in the film. I took this for YEARS as well! Now they say bioidentical hormones are much safer.

Osteoporosis Medicines


First, it was Boniva, then it was changed to Fosamax. After taking these for years, I began to learn they keep old bone cells from dying (the natural cycle is old cells dying and new cells birthing) which makes your bones MORE brittle vs. stronger. Several dentists told me about it affecting their patients' jaws and women were fracturing their thighs.

I really do cringe at how much I put my body through!

I recently came across a Facebook page called Cymbalta Hurts Worse and found out how dangerous it is to get off this drug once you start along with information about half-life and what happens when you skip even one day. All the symptoms I dealt with for about 2 years after I quit taking them are noted on this site.

This inspired me to check on the half-life of Mirtazapine and found it to be much better than Cymbalta--it was OK to skip the days I was skipping. At the end of November, I began going to Bri Linney of Complete Chiropractic and Wellness Center with the hope she'd be able to help me get off this drug. She had started me on homeopathy for my hypothalamus followed by one for lymph drainage. I took the last Mirtazapine on February 23. Yay!!!

When you are prescribed an antidepressant, they don't tell you what will happen when you try to stop taking them. Once you start, you must take them for life. This is true for quite a few prescription drugs. Doctors are not informed.

I hope if you haven't already, seek other means of finding the cause of your symptoms. Serotonin is produced in your gut and there are other ways of treating the root causes of your symptoms. I've also been following posts by Amen Clinics and Brain MD, learning about the brain--and watched The Broken Brain.

I don't trust ANY drugs now--not even over the counter ones, nor do I trust what is in Vaccines. Take care of your health where it begins... with nutrition, exercise, the right amount of sleep, stress management, meaningful connections with others, and a sense of purpose. I'm sure if your life depends on it, there is a drug that can save you--side effects and all. And I suppose I'd still want anesthesia if I need surgery. (Have had it a few times.) As for tense muscles, headaches, allergies, anxiety, or an arthritis flare, I've got my doTERRA essential oils.

I can be sad that I lost so many years while "doped up" and sedated on prescription meds. In addition to being a "victim" to childhood experiences which led to all the adult ones I dealt with, I was a "victim" of the allopathic medicine and pharmaceutical industry. However, it's what I do now that matters. I became my own psychologist and wellness advocate and strive to inspire in others the possibility of natural solutions to all the types of issues I used to have, with a few lingering although milder.

Watch the film: Death by Medicine

Then tell me what you think!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

When Everything Turns Green

Copyright (c) 2018 Renee Alter

On March 1, everything began to turn GREEN. Overnight! The birds began celebrating with song and gathering nest material even though Spring doesn't officially arrive until March 20. I just hope this doesn't mean Summer will kick in early, too!

According to the 2018 Groundhog prediction:

"Bad news for warm-weather fans: beloved groundhog Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow, therefore predicting that winter will stick around for another six weeks in 2018." (Click on the underlined words to read more.)

The trees are bursting with new buds that will sprout into leaves. A squirrel in the tree outside my window was entertaining me with its acrobatic feats while feasting on these buds. (BTW, this is the same tree that has the broken branch I wrote about in a previous post.) 

Here's a photo of a large bush further down in the creek bed that is blooming WHITE.

Copyright (c) 2018 Renee Alter
Which do I believe? The Groundhog prediction or what is blooming in my backyard?

I always marvel at how Earth knows when it is time to reawaken after a long winter of hibernation... just like bears do... and sometimes just like we do. 

If you have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) you may have been hibernating all winter. Lack of sunshine means low Vitamin D which can lead to depression and people who are depressed tend to sleep a lot more than a person who isn't. I hibernate just because I don't like it when it is cold... and everything looks so dull. I've also hibernated during extended times of illness, depression, and fibromyalgia flares. 

In years past, I didn't realize it wasn't forever and often felt hopeless about never feeling better. With the help of untwisting twisted thinking (cognitive distortions), I realized my "conclusions" were false and with the "Law of Attraction" kept bringing more illness and pain vs. solutions. Then all kinds of solutions presented themselves in all kinds of surprising ways.

The downside of living in Central Texas is that it rarely snows. Now, I don't REALLY miss the snow... the shoveling... the effort it took to de-ice and clean off my car before I could go anywhere (like work or driving my son to school)... the danger of falling while on foot and skidding into things when driving... or someone else skidding into me... but I do have some pleasant memories of building snow forts in our driveway. My brother even built a huge snow dragon one year.

All winter (and I live right by a creek) everything looks so incredibly DULL. Everything looks very DEAD. The only nature I was interested in looking at was community cats, deer, and squirrels, that often provided a boost to all the dullness. I wonder if they even notice how dull it gets. (I have photos on my Renee's Photography Facebook page.)

Then you wake up one morning and it had all sprung to life GREEN. Hill Country becomes a place you can't get enough of. Soon all the wildflowers will be blooming everywhere and tourists will fill the area so they can take pictures of their loved ones in fields of these wild-flowers.

Here's the link to Texas Highways Wildflower Drives: Texas Highways

As for the broken branch, it will soon be covered over with leaves but a plastic bag that blew in the air got caught at the end of a branch and will linger. I wonder if I can find a really long pole to remove it with. Plastic is an entirely different matter and I cringe at how much I am still contributing to the landfills while some of it is ending up in the creek... in the lakes, rivers, and oceans... on the side of the roads... in the parks... and in the trees.

On the plus side, I want to give a shout out to a new Toastmaster member, Michelle Pace, who started her own business called The Green Plant, a residential and commercial composting service in Harker Heights. Hopefully, the concept will catch on and she'll be able to expand into more cities and rural communities. You can find her on Facebook at: The Green Plant

Sunday, February 25, 2018

What I'd Tell My Younger Self

When you wait long enough for harsh situations and circumstances to work themselves out, you may just find some extraordinary gifts in them.

From 2011-2012, I endured a very difficult year. It wasn't my first, but memorable. I had stopped taking 11 prescription drugs cold-turkey, endured withdrawal, had about a three-month adrenaline high, and then "crashed." The hardest part was still to come after I crawled back to my doctor to tell her what I had done. As a result of taking another anti-depressant drug, I became suicidal and refused to try anything else for another year.

It was during this time, that my sister Amie enrolled in the Quantum Success Coaching Academy and needed someone to practice homework assignments on. I was a perfect client. If I had been doing as well as I am doing now, she would have had to find another person to practice on.

What amazes me is the timing of it all. If I hadn't fallen into the abyss the year she decided to enroll as a Life Coach, I would have missed out on one of my greatest gifts of all time--her friendship. Plus, it turned out the method used in Life Coaching was superior to talk therapy at a psychologist's office, which I wasn't getting anyway. It's probably why she enrolled. While you are getting your education, you get access to coaching for yourself.

Amie and I weren't close as sisters. I was living my life while she was living hers. Both of us were experiencing all kinds of challenges in health and relationships but because we weren't close, we didn't know what was happening to the other or how much we had in common.

I thought Amie's life was quite perfect and that my blond-haired blue-eyed beautiful sibling had it all. Yes, I was jealous, especially when guys I was interested in or were already dating preferred blonds.

Before internet and email, I wrote letters to Mom. If Amie had read them, I wasn't aware, and I can't remember when I started to send emails to all my siblings. I wonder how much she knew about what was going on in my crazy chaotic life.

Since Amie didn't tell anyone what was going on in her life, I didn't have a clue. She wouldn't even tell anyone she had been in a car accident until after she had recovered--which she later told me was because she had seen how other family members had reacted negatively to my "complaining."

In toxic family relationships, other members say things to each other about you without your knowledge. But, I was the one who told (wrote) everybody everything, which is how I had so much material for my books. I even wrote a short book titled: "Miracles Between the Challenges" after making a list of all the miracles I experienced while dealing with those challenges.

Perhaps under different circumstances, Amie and I would have still had an opportunity to get closer. All I know is the divine timing of her enrolling and the two years I dealt with a compromised psychological state more severe than any other time in my life--and finding my best friend. Perhaps we each had to travel separate roads in order to meet where we did in 2011.

What would I tell my younger self? When you look back in time to the way things were and realize how far you've come, you'll be able to see the gifts in your life experiences as well as evidence that you were divinely guided and protected.

I feel truly transformed--the person I used to be seems like a stranger...

Sunday, February 18, 2018

What Could Have Made A Difference

I was one of many disadvantaged children, although not as disadvantaged as some. My father didn't have one of the better-paying jobs and we didn't have medical insurance. At least we always had a decent house to live in. My father had mental health issues, didn't earn much, and my mom stayed home to take care of us more so when my brother was born with a neural tube defect -- most likely due to poor nutrition while pregnant and insufficient folic acid.

Home life (and school) was all I knew with the exception of an occasional visit to the zoo or to visit cousins. I learned fear at an early age, was bullied in school, didn't have friends, didn't learn what was inappropriate behavior, nor did I know my rights as a living human being. What we all had to the advantage was genetic intelligence. But what good was being intelligent if you thought you were worthless and ugly? And who decides what is right for every person and every family?

What I believe would have made a difference in the early years:


Grade School

  • Introduce meditation. Make meditation the first thing you did in homeroom.
  • Screening for eyesight and hearing, then free glasses and hearing aids.
  • Screening for food allergies and sensitivities. (I had a lot of unidentified ones.)
  • Mental health screening tests vs. state proficiency tests.
  • Diffuse essential oils and introduce what they are and how to use them (to reduce stress, improve study abilities and energy, reduce air-borne pathogens, and improve mood).
  • Early education about healthy families with open sharing and discussion. (Not every child has access to a church or other religious programs which help with this and even if they do, usually it is bible study related vs. group support.) 
  • Communication classes to include how to express feelings with "I" statements.
  • Bully awareness, what makes them behave the way they do, and how to stand up to them.
  • Introduce compassion and encourage students to have empathy for the loners. (Hopefully, there would be a lot less bullying.)
  • Free instruments and art supplies for children in need.
  • Introduction to nutrition, a community garden, and if appropriate, a community farm.
  • Stop the use of tablets and cell phones in the classroom which affect student attention spans and the development of their young brains.
  • Group projects to promote teamwork vs. homework.*

Middle School

  • Ongoing "support groups" after mental health screening determines a need.
  • Additional classes in communication.
  • Healthy dating (not just sex education) and include education about sexual predators. Hopefully, if this educational path is followed as outlined, there wouldn't be any. Troubled humans who need money to survive will do horrific things to earn it. Hopefully, mental health screenings in grade school would have identified children at risk.
  • The importance of friendship and trust.
  • Nutrition--how to read labels. Community garden and nutrition projects. 
  • PE to include Tai Chi, Chi Gong, and self-defense.
  • Continue diffusing essential oils.
  • Limited use of electronics.
  • Hidden cameras and open reporting (w/video proof) of bullying and who starts the fights. Too many of the wrong kids get into trouble after being pushed into striking first and too many bullying incidents go unreported because those who are bullied are too afraid to say anything.
  • Introduction to various career options.
  • Bring back home economics, make home ec classes co-ed, and include growing your own food--community garden.
  • Model the Kealing Magnet School in Austin's educational program.
  • Group projects to promote teamwork vs. homework.*

High School

  • Continue classes in communication and relationships to inlude the difference between infatuation and love as well as how to resolve conflicts in healthy ways.
  • Mental health, depression, and positive psychology. (Support groups for those who need them.)
  • Nutrition--natural ways to improve health and immunity as well as care if we get sick. Stress sugar and the Standard American Diet causes Diabesity, Depression, and many other health issues. Community garden.
  • Sociology; more about bullying. Bullies exist in the workplace, too, as well as inappropriate sexual harassment. Teach strategies for self-protection.
  • Introduce community service projects. (Habit for Humanity vs. Shop, sewing for people in nursing homes, food prep for the homeless, etc.)
  • Bring in all types of speakers to represent all types of jobs (or show films about them). Include the police and fire department who can educate students on crime, human trafficking, and scams.
  • Continue Tai Chi, Chi Gong, and self-defense classes.
  • Increase the number of certification programs in the high schools so college is not a necessity to get a good paying job.
  • Finance: teach students the cost of credit as well as the stress of debt, balancing a checkbook, saving for a rainy day, and how to find a good quality used cars (and later home).
  • Basic auto mechanics for everyone.
  • Toastmasters programs (Gavel Clubs) to foster leadership, confidence, and speaking skills.
  • Group projects to promote teamwork vs. homework.*
* When I went to the University of Phoenix, it was the first type of education I did well in with the exception of the Business Major in High School. As a group, we each had skills the others didn't and by working as a team, we each contributed our strengths to the good of the whole. We all did well and felt good about the educational process. Most corporations require the ability to work in teams. The downside is UOP promised when we graduated, we'd get a promotion and a raise to cover the debt we incurred. This turned out not to be true and most of us fell for it, with student loan debt more than we could handle.

With many more children introduced to these programs at an early age, I believe we'd have a greater percentage of healthy functional adults who are less likely to succumb to addictions--and are empowered to influence our world for the better.


Post High School

  • Promote more low-cost or free community colleges for the first two years of post-high-school education. 
  • Provide ongoing job and college search services at the high school students graduate from.
  • Promote students who have graduated opportunities to teach and mentor the younger ones.
  • Require marriage license programs before you can get one which includes classes so you know what you're getting into with topics that include finance, parenting, communication, and conflict resolution (vs. arguments, fighting, abuse). 
  • Take out "to death do you part" of marriage contracts. A spouse should know its ok to leave under certain circumstances and have a place they can afford to go if they don't have friends or family to live with. 
  • Stress levels increase due to income limitations (inability to find a job or something that pays more than minimum wage), unplanned pregnancies, as well as dysfunctional relationships and marriages.
  • Build a LOT more affordable housing (based on income). The waiting list of existing housing is quite long.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Cupid

Downloaded from http://mariafresa.net/single/2082451.html

CUPID

Each time cupid struck me with an arrow,

I misunderstood her intentions.
Year after year, wound after wound,
I missed the wisdom of her revelations.

I wasn’t supposed to fall in love
and give away all my devotion--
I was supposed to fall in love with the best parts of me--
my own soul, feelings, and emotions.

I kept searching for the perfect other
who would make me feel complete.
Haven’t you? Can you relate?
After each encounter--feeling like a piece of meat?

Cupid, oh Cupid,
Along with all the fairies I’ve been collecting
To remind myself how much I am loved, cherished,
appreciated, and adored
By the Creator of my own reflection.

Copyright © 2018 Renee Alter
Written January 14, 2018

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Old Movies

Copyright (c) 2017 Renee Alter  Fort Groghan, Burnet, TX
I'm sure you have watched a lot of movies... romance, cowboys & Indians, old world wars, fairy tales, Walt Disney, Star Wars, murder mysteries, detectives, and more. Some left you feeling uplifted, some taxed your adrenaline surges, some left you sad and depressed.

Have you ever considered your past experiences as movies? When I began to do this, I gained a completely different perspective of them.

Imagine you are in the movie theatre. You have seen the trailer and decided you wanted to see it... based on about two minutes of previews. Then the movie starts.

The first scene is your childhood and you are the main character. You see your siblings if you have any, your parents, perhaps your grandparents or foster parents if they raised you. Or maybe you grew up in an orphanage. You see yourself in school. Perhaps you were popular or perhaps you were bullied. Perhaps you then came home to witness your parents shouting at each other so you hid in your room.

The next scene is you as an adult. Depending on how old you are now, the journey has been either short or a very long. It may have included illness, accidents, pain, depression, war, death, or a myriad of other possible scenarios.

But remember. You are in a movie theatre watching a movie. All movies end leaving you with the afterthoughts of what you have seen. Soon these memories fade away and are no longer in the forefront of your mind.

Your life has been a movie, too. This means, you can leave the theatre and if you didn't like what you saw or how it ended, you know it was JUST A MOVIE.

Two years ago, I met actor Randall Oliver. He co-wrote stories for children with my friend and fellow author Elaine Kelley about his horse named Nobody (which I published for them). Some of the movies Randy was in were Horror Movies--harsh, evil, and scary--so I wasn't interested in watching any of them, no matter how nice a man he is.

After having conversations with Randy about how he would get totally absorbed in the characters he portrayed, then have the ability to walk away from the set to re-acclimate back to his normal daily life, I came up with the idea of my life being a movie that I could walk away from.

I could pretend I was an actress and the characters in the movies I starred in (family, partners, etc.) were completely different people than the roles they portrayed, which provided me with a way to forgive.

I wonder what actors and actresses do with all the lines they had memorized, just as I had been ruminating about all the uncomfortable conversations I had.

One of the 10 cognitive distortions is discounting the positive. I discovered I had been 'afflicted' with all 10 cognitive distortions, but the one that relates to this post is how I had discounted all the GOOD things that I experienced while I dwelled on the sad, bad, and the ugly. It was as if I only had been collecting the bad movies in my movie box (my memories and subconscious) but didn't pay attention to the uplifting ones.

Consider your past a past filled with OLD MOVIES.

Your old movies can include previous marriages, the death of people and pets you loved, the traumas of the wars you fought while in the military, the traumas of the fires and natural disasters you were either a victim of or one of many rescuers, a horrific car accident you were in or witnessed, and more.

I realize there are many resilient people in the world who have the amazing ability to leave the 'theatre' of their experiences without holding onto the images of the 'movies.' But if you're not one of them...

You've now had plenty of experiences being on the set of those old movies playing various roles, and now imagine you have become a screenwriter and director.

What new screenplay will you write?

Who are the actors and actresses you want to play the parts?

How will you rewrite your life story?

Walk into a new movie!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Appreciation

In several previous posts, I've written about Gratitude. Appreciation is slightly different. Webster's definition of appreciation is: "a feeling or expression of admiration, approval, or gratitude." If you're like me, having the approval of others has been a major ingredient in your self-esteem. If someone didn't approve of you or your actions, it affected you deeply. Since then, I've learned the only approval anyone needs is from themselves.

Showing appreciation can make a huge difference in relationships between partners, siblings, parents, other relatives, friends, teachers, co-workers, employees, club members, and other associates. Google appreciation in relationships and you'll find a LOT of information. I found in an article by Huffington Post on 5 ways to show appreciation to your partner. I've modified the content to include everyone in your life. Here's the link to the full article if you'd like to read it:

5 Ways to Show Your Appreciation to Your Partner

1) Notice the little things. Show appreciation by saying "Thank You" even for things you may take for granted.

2) Notice the big things. Shower the person with compliments.

3) Support their passions. Offer to do something for them so they have time to pursue a passion as well as encourage them to do so. It's never too late and you're never too old (unless you are in hospice care or on life support). All it takes is consistent baby steps to make progress. Life is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the journey.

4) Compliment people who are in your life. Find something... anything... to compliment them on. You may have to build trust on this one if in the past, the only time you paid a compliment, it was because you wanted something from the other person.

5) Date your partner... or friend... or sibling... or parent. You get the idea. It means a lot to the other person, especially in a time of internet to actually set a date to meet with someone. If you live long distance, hand-written letters still matter, especially for those of us who save them in a special box. If the internet goes down and the power goes out, you can pass away the time by reading them again.

I subscribe to Katie & Gay Hendricks' emails and many of their content involves restoring relationships through appreciation. Here's their website:

Katie & Gay Hendricks -- Hearts in Harmony

I even go as far as appreciating things.

Try this for 'size': hold a piece of clothing up to your chest before you put it on and after you take it off and say, "I really appreciate you being in my life and keeping me warm" (or cool if it is summer). Admire your shoes and say the same things. If you don't feel this admiration for something you wear, consider donating it.

I've written about The Broken Branch after realizing I was focusing on the one thing (the one broken branch) that I was unhappy with... the spot on my face or the strands of my hair... missing out on the whole of me that made me human as well as the whole of earth that we all live on.

Spend a few minutes every so often looking at each item on your knick-knack shelves, walls, and bookcases. Tell each that you appreciate them coming into form so you can admire their beauty. Do the same for your furniture, plants, and everything else you own. Think about the cat who appreciates a simple shoe box and the toddler who appreciates the wrapping paper more than the gifts.

Image may contain: cat
Copyright (c) Renee Alter (Cisco)
Whenever you get in your car, tell the car you appreciate it for it transporting you to where you want to go (and sometimes where you don't really want to go). I often say thank you for starting on a frigid cold morning and thank you for keeping me safe. I tell it "you are beautiful" and a very special part of my life.

Yes, one day I learned that all matter is energy and a common thought pattern resulted in the manifestation of everything we have. It feels good to appreciate all that I have, even the silverware I eat with.

At one time, I got through the most difficult days by appreciating all the body parts that were functioning (and didn't hurt) instead of the parts that were 'struggling.' To reflect back on that time, I would have added to tell my body "thank you" for working so efficiently each time I succeeded in urinating, having a bowel movement, swallowing,  It is, after all, a miracle we even became a human being from the energy of a single cell. Thank you, heart, for pumping blood all through my body.

What can you appreciate today?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Divine Encounters


Image may contain: plant, sky, tree, outdoor and nature
Copyright (c) 2017 Renee Alter
It’s intriguing how seemingly random meetings
Can transform into divine encounters
When the result of setting an intention
Magnetically attracts people and announcers.

When I intended to improve my health
From a place of self-love vs. self-loathing,
New information appeared on the net and new people moved into town
To show me it was possible to balance what had been previously eroding.

I removed a little of this, added a little of that
And became aware I had been jumping to conclusions.
Learning curves are difficult for everyone--
I needed to let go of my self-imposed expectations and illusions.

The money comes, the money goes--it circulates like your blood.
I must have faith in its unlimited flow
As I acknowledge I have no memories of old paid off bills--
Only the amazing people I’ve gotten to know.

One day here, one day gone; seasons and years fly by, too.
Each morning when I put my feet on the floor;
Yesterday seems to fall into oblivion--it’s no more
Along with all the salty tears I left at the ocean shore.

Divine Encounters included sweet furry friends who chose me--
I hope I didn’t betray them when I had to leave them behind
And to this day, it seems the only tears I still cry
Are for the ones who silently and prematurely died.

Each day I am aware of Divine Encounters,
Surrounded by angels with and without wings.
I used to fear life more than I feared death
As I imagined heaven as eternal Spring.

I so look forward to each and every Divine Encounter--
The surprise of who I might meet and what they’d have to say,
Filling my memories with nourishing experiences
While I let the hurtful ones from the past fade away.

Copyright © 2018 Renee Alter

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Getting Older

Copyright (c) 2018 Renee Alter
GETTING OLDER


Getting older means I no longer worry
about flirting or being sexy.
I no longer bend like a pretzel trying to earn
love and acceptance.
I no longer care whether I find another
boyfriend or stay single.
I no longer worry whether I am being a
good enough parent or whether people like me or not.
On the other hand, getting older means
hoping my body parts stay strong and healthy enough.
while I hope my granddaughter will come visit me
when she’s old enough to travel on her own.
Hoping I am surrounded by people
I can call on should I get sick or need help.
Hoping people brag about my writing so I can sell more books
and have a little more income to pay my bills.
I’d also like to travel and see more of our beautiful planet.
Hoping the friends I’ve made are keepers.
Hoping time doesn’t race by too quickly so I have a chance
to smell all the roses that have been blooming in my life.
Hoping I stay nice and don’t get mean when
I am REALLY old because it seems the older you get
the more true to yourself you become.
What if I still harbor resentment that may
escape from my voice at random moments?
Getting older means I will outlive many of the people
I care about although I know we will always be spiritually connected.
When I feel them in my heart with love it is as though they are still here.
And after I die I want to be in others hearts so they will always
feel me there -- so I can live forever.

Copyright © August 2017 Renee Alter