Live Better Through Childhood

Some of my friends and family have called me a “Pollyanna,” a naive girl who always sees the positive. (An old Disney movie for those of you too young to know who Pollyanna is.)

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I can go an entire day without speaking to a single person if I want to be left alone. I bite my tongue when confronted with rude people in public, I snap at my kids when they are sassy and I sweat and worry over money and how to pay the bills. I spend my share of time grieving over my health and the life I am missing when forced to withdraw from the world due to pain or fatigue.

However, I feel I have a choice, I can be miserable and make everyone else around me miserable, which would eventually have people shying away from me. Or I can take care of my own pain, body and moods and be pleasant and uplifting to those around me. (Even I have to admit this plan only works about 90% of the time, we all have days when we are just crusty, tired and impatient, just like all humans.)

I also cling to one good friend who listens when I need it, takes my side whether I am right or wrong and supports me. That outlet for my emotion is vital. We can tell each other anything and often work out our problems together.

Being a “Pollyanna” isn’t something that comes naturally. I work hard to recognize my moods and find ways to deflect them. I try to actively engage in silly activities from earlier times. Those times when our biggest worries were getting a new box of crayons or being late for dinner. When I am ready to scream, I revert to the joys of my youth, the things that quickly help me forget my troubles, give me a much-needed boost or some quiet reflection time. Sometimes just breaking the routine is enough to change your day.

My list of favorite things to do on crappy days are:

1) Buy a coloring book and crayons. One crappy day a few weeks back I was stuck in line at the local drug store. I spotted a display of jumbo coloring books and before I knew it I threw one in the cart, then ran over to get the 96 count box of Crayolas with the built-in sharpener. (Nothing smells like a brand new box of crayons!) An unexpected eighty-degree day in March was all the excuse I needed to head out back to my sitting area with some music and my new crayons. I lost an entire hour as I colored just like the old days. I found myself relaxing despite myself.

2) Don’t ignore an impulse on the basis people may feel you are nuts or immature. My latest impulse resulted in my bringing home a new box of peep’s, explaining to the family I heard it was cool to nuke them in the micro. So…we all gathered round and watched them swell and morph beyond recognition. We had a blast.

3) Swing! I found myself dropping off a group of girls at the park after a zero to sixty day filled with doctors and teachers. Spotting the swings I parked the car and spent fifteen minutes on the swing, letting the breeze wash over my face as I watched the clouds and birds. Swinging was so fun, why do we give it up as adults?

4) Climb a tree. I know this isn’t for everyone. Aging can take its toll on joints, but if possible, give it a shot. I climb a tree in the woods behind my house now and then, just to listen to the sounds of the neighborhood, marvel at nature and gaze at surprised squirrels when they notice me on a branch.

5) Put your feet in the water. If I am near a pond, lake, pool or fountain, the impulse to take off my shoes is strong. Give in now and then! Abandon your shoes, sit down and dangle your feet in the water.

6) Watch a cartoon, if you don’t like the new ones out today, a quick trip to youtube will provide you with cartoons from any era. Revel in the simplicity and try to relax.

Be silly let go of your routine now and then, revel in life as you did as a child. Sing out loud, dance and let others worry about what they think about you. (Unless you happen to be in the office at the time.)

This is a short list of what takes me outside myself. I would love to hear what others do to feed both their inner child, and their soul.

c2012 Jane Kohler


Rats! My Bad Day Melted Away.

I had one of those days we can all relate to. The alarm malfunctioned causing a late start for everyone in the house. Then came the stress of meeting our schedule while half-asleep. The front tire on my truck was low, making the hurried trip a white-knuckle experience. After that nothing went right. Spilled drinks, dogs throwing up on the floor, broken cups, spilled soup, lost shoes etc. Nothing about the morning was pleasant.

Then I finally got an hour to myself. The minute I entered my art studio the day changed. My four fancy rats, who have the run of the room during the day ran over looking for a chin scratch and cuddling. I plunked down on my chair with a soda and they climbed my legs to assemble on my lap. They took turns pushing and shoving for a coveted massage. The youngest, just three months old climbed up to his favorite perch, the back of my neck near my ear as the others licked my hands, nose and lips.

In between the love-ins there was a lot of posturing for position and play. I plied them all with carrots, yogurt covered fruit and hay then watched as they tended to the serious business of grooming themselves and each other before settling into nap time.

I felt the stress of the morning melt away, I even surprised myself with an occasional chuckle. One of the greatest stress-relieving techniques are my rats. They are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love my boys. If you don’t like brightly colored, affectionate, clean and highly trainable rats, I suggest you find a pet, any pet that can take you out of yourself. Relax, let the outside world go and be the whole world to your tiny friend. They give more than they take.

c2012 Jane Kohler

Fringe, Beads and Hair – A Childhood Revisited

Today I let go of my temporary poverty status, my aches, pains and pity party. Instead I found my mind being sucked into the psychedelic vortex of my youth. In a flash I was surrounded by fringed and beaded suede vests, striped pants, garish paisley shirts and, gasp, long hair on boys! Televised concerts on T.V. were full of flashing lights and wild sets. When it was time to watch one of these events my father would flee to the garage and mom would make popcorn and join me on the couch, she never lost her love of new, excited things, music most of all. Pretty free thinking for a mom raised during WWII and Big Band Music.

My time travel ended in 1966, the day the Monkees took over Monday nights at 7:30 pm. I was only eight years old, but I knew what I liked and Mom always encouraged me to experience new things. I was a gonner! I could barely eat dinner on Monday’s, I watched the clock, fearing 7:30 would never appear. At 6:30 Mom would head to the kitchen to make some popcorn while I turned on the T.V. to warm it up. (Yes, there was no instant on, you turned it on early, let the tubes warm up and tweaked the tuning buttons and rabbit ears until you had the perfect picture.) Settled on the couch we said “see ya later” to my fathers retreating back and got ready for thirty minutes of music and fun.

Opening credits rolled as I shoved popcorn in my mouth, washing it down with the rare bottle of Pepsi I was allowed on special occassions. Then suddenly, there they were! Mickey Dolenz, Davey Jones, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith! Their antics as they tried to make a name for themselves kept us laughing, but I lived for the musical numbers. Most of my friends were gaga over Davey, but my main man was Mike Nesmith. I loved everything from his knit hat to his faded denim and southern accent.

One day I came home from school to find a brand new copy of the Monkees first album waiting for me. I ate dinner and locked myself in my room, playing it over and over and over…. I was in heaven.

By todays standards, the show was silly, corny even. But back then it was a rare glimpse into the fashion of the 60’s I didn’t see in my home town. It was the boys going out of their way to do the right thing, to help someone. It was scads of girls falling for Davey and him respecting them and letting them down gently.

I dug out my old vinyl this weekend and put my Monkees on the turntable, my kids looked at me like I was nuts. I pulled up a few episodes of their show to share, not caring if the kids thought it was hokey. It was my youth, it was a common bond I had with my mother and despite the critics, there was some darn good music on those discs.

R.I.P. Davey Jones. Thank you for invading my youth, giving me special time with my mom and later in life, a fun walk down a psychedelic path.

c2012 Jane Kohler

Blowing Bubbles

I exhaled, producing shimmering bubbles that rode my breath to the sky. I gazed in wonder as they twirled in the sunshine, their surfaces glistening with color. Now and then I tried to catch one, only to have it dissipate as it made contact with my trembling finger.

I knew not why the bubbles came, what they meant or what their destination was, I only knew that the bubbles were welcome. Each one took a small part of my pain as it left my body. Sensation returned to my limbs and the rest of my body sagged in relief as they drifted out of sight. Pain slowly slipped from my neck and all points south as a wave of relief washed over my soul.

Left with a sense of wonderment, I asked how a few bubbles could take all the pain my medications and doctors were unable to tame. I was not to get an answer. Instead I went for a walk, made a phone call to get my job back and found my family to share my good news. I was CURED! No more pain, no more sleepless nights, missed work or canceled plans. I couldn’t believe the answer had been so simple. I needed to share this secret with others like me.

Then the alarm sounded and I groaned as I forced an arm to find the button to silence it. Ah…at least I was pain-free and functional for a short time, even if it was in my dream. I hope this dream will come true someday so everyone living with FM, CMP, CFS, IBS, Chrones and more can return to their productive life. It was nice while it lasted.

I did decide I need to blow more bubbles and relax a bit more. Don’t give up, help just may us some day.

The unlikely, perfect gift.

Have you ever thought about passing on a treasured relic to a friend or new addition to your family, only to hesitate, feeling they will find the gift lame and devoid of imagination. Or worse yet, that you don’t care, or know enough about them to find a perfect gift? I mean, what kind of smuck gives someone a used item?

I used to feel this way. My kid doesn’t want the watch I have treasured since the death of their grandparent, right? You would never give an old, used item to a new son or daughter-in-law, they may see you in a bad light. That was how I felt before I was given the best, old, used gift I could have received.

It was 1986. I had been in a relationship with a man I met at work for three years. As a divorced woman with two children I feared his family viewed me a someone looking for a meal ticket, despite the fact that I held down a job in hospital management. A meal ticket can mean more than money, it can mean medical insurance, better homes, cars, food and free babysitting. I truly loved this man, wanting nothing more than time together. I loved his parents also, they were the most down to earth, kindest people I had met in a long time. However I never had a handle on their feelings for me.

That changed Christmas day, 1986. I must explain that I collect Santa Claus’s, all types, all sizes. Our blended family was gathered at our house. We ate, talked, laughed and played with the children. After dinner we retired to the living room to exchange gifts. My future mother-in-law pointed to a gift under the tree she wanted me to open. I tried to whisk it off the floor but hesitated when it proved to be much too heavy to lift with one hand. Once the package was wrestled into place I swallowed as I tore open the paper. I felt my jaw fall south when I realized the box contained a cast iron, Santa cake mold I had seen displayed in my future mom-in-laws home. She told me that it had been her mothers, and then hers and she wanted me to have it in the home I was building for her son and her grandchildren. Double whammy! She not only thought enough of me to hand down this mold, she called my kids, from a previous marriage, her “grand kids!” That simple, used gift gave me more than an object, it gave me love and acceptance.

Years later, I received an odd gift from my own mother, it was a large, brass key, one I recognized as being the sole key to the door of the farmhouse I grew up in. A new lock had been added to the door but that large key still turned the ancient tumblers nestled in the door. She told me she wanted to make sure I “always” felt that I was able to return home, no matter what, I also had a copy of the key to open the new lock. It wasn’t a new Ipod, or piece of expensive clothing, but I cherished it more than any other gift that year.

Fast forward to 2011. My son has been in a long-term relationship with a woman we adore. They have two children together but are unable to marry as they would lose medical insurance for the children. It took a long time for his gal to warm up to us, at times I wondered if we could find ways to bond. As time ticked by I learned more about her likes and dislikes. I love her parenting style, she oozes loves for her children and does whatever necessary for their well-being. She looks out for, and worries over my son.

Recently, long after the tree has been taken down, the tinsel tossed and gift wrap cleaned up, she sent her oldest son in the house with a bag, whispering to him to give it to me. It is piece of statuary in the shape of a snowman that sports the logo of my football team. I was touched, it wasn’t an expensive gift, at this time of year it may have been in a discount bin, but it mattered. She tied in my love of the holidays and my favorite team. She had gotten to know me in her own way, even though she didn’t vocalize it. This simple snowman gave me, once again, the gift of acceptance. The fact that she thought enough about me to not only choose this item, but decorate it in tissue and put it in a fancy bag filled me with love. I see great things ahead for me and my daughter-in-law.

So don’t hesitate to give a loved one a treasured bowl, vase, book or anything else that is important to you. It will make them feel valued, trusted and accepted. Gifts you can’t buy in a store, but ones that will build a strong family.