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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Power of Prayer

The Power of Prayer

During a hospital visit to see my mother today, I met a lady I had not seen before and we started to talk. This lady, a good ten or fifteen years younger than I am, was denouncing the power of medical doctors and insisting that we don't really need modern medicine when we have the power of prayer. She was upset with her siblings for not allowing her mother to "suffer through God's will" in her own home without the prying eyes or needles of the medical professional. She needed someone to listen to her and give her some kind of encouragement to continue on with her battle to get her mother back home away from the hospital environment.

My faith is strong, it has always been strong, even during the darkest hours of my life but I cannot say that we should forego medical treatment and rely solely on the power of prayer. I also believe that we often pray for miracles that are not meant to happen and are not a part of the greater plan. For instance, my mother is eighty-six years old and in very fragile health. To pray for a total healing and restoration of her youth is not logical nor meant to happen. Praying for her to pass from this life comfortably without extensive suffering makes more sense to me, along with a prayer for strength and understanding for myself in the days following such a great loss.

Prayer is meant, in my opinion, to help us reach a glorious and promised destination when this life is over. It is not meant to help us win the lottery or acquire success without putting forth any effort. At times I have prayed for others to find success and for all of us to better our lives. I have always found an inner peace that comes from trusting God.

If you trust God with your health, you know that he has given man the knowledge to understand the complexity of the human body in order to help us help ourselves. The lady I met today caused many thoughts to jump from hidden places in my mind into a bubbling cauldron of possibility and life experiences I have stored away like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter. I examined and reexamined my thoughts on medicine versus prayer. Must God be mythical and mystic to be believable? I think not.

Before I left the brief conversation today, I had come to this conclusion; God is mighty, he gave man knowledge and endurance, faith and precision. The power of prayer brings us closer to God. Maybe instead of choosing a side we should pray for God to hold the surgeon's hand as he wields a scalpel and pray for any of our doctor's to be rich in faith and patience. I think the power of prayer and the power of medicine work together as a team. I'm not sure the lady I was talking with appreciated my thoughts but she did not turn away in a huff. I have to think she at least considered my view of prayer and medicine as a joint treatment.

Tonight as I close my eyes I will be praying for God to guide my mother's physician's and to give us the strength to face the days ahead. I will praying for her to pass from my arms to God's arms without fear or guilt at leaving her family behind. I will not pray that she be made as healthy as she was at the age of fifty but I will pray that any time we might have left together be spent peacefully and in her own home.

Prayer is not a replacement for medicine, it is an equal partner in the course of treatment and accepting the consequences of living.

© Dianna Doles Petry


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Treasuring My Life

Treasuring My Life

My life has been hectic for a few years now. Lately, with my mother’s health declining on a daily basis and me being her full time caregiver, the days have felt unbearable at times. I have recently learned to breathe in slowly and breathe out even slower to calm myself and help me to appreciate the blessings I have in my life. It does not totally alleviate the stress but it does help me to relax.

I do these deep breathing exercises at the end of the evening when I want to sit at my computer and ease my weary soul by tapping away at the keyboard until my thoughts and feelings are neatly bundled into a journal entry or an essay. It is at that moment, when a sense of accomplishment envelopes me, that I feel thankful for being safe, warm, and capable.

As I look back at my day I can almost always find a few moments that make me smile, some that make me think about my past, and still others that make me wonder what the future might hold. A special moment from today was my mother telling me that her father had been in the living room praying with the sailor on the wall. My grandfather passed away thirty-six years ago and the sailor on the wall is my late father who passed away twenty-one years ago. Still, my mother was adamant about their presence in our living room and she described the scene in great detail. It brought her comfort and peace. Who am I to tell her that it is beyond possibility? I listened quietly and smiled at her when she was done talking.

I have been complaining about having cabin fever but tonight I feel no negativity in my heart or mind. I am grateful for the home that is warm and sturdy as the snow continues to pile up on the lawn. I am grateful for the love of my children, family, and friends. I appreciate each and every blessing that comes to me including being able to care for my mother during her fragile days. While life has given me many challenges and a lot of heartbreak I have also been given many small joys in everyday life.

Over the last few days I have cried over deaths, I rejoiced for a birth, and I have prayed for people all over the world who have been through upheavals and devastating natural disasters. The blessing I find in this is being able to pray for them. I am living to see these events unfold and I am able to reach out to others in some small way to make a difference. I am here to see the outpouring of love and faith that is given to people in need without regard to location, race, or beliefs. I am blessed to finally understand that we are all the same no matter where we live, how much or how little money we make, and no matter what color our skin might be. We can band together. We can work together. We can make a difference in the world together.

I don’t know what tomorrow might bring. It could bring a storm that unleashes the Heavens in a way no one has ever seen or it could bring a rainbow with colors so magnificent people will take photographs of the rainbow until it dissipates. No matter what tomorrow brings, I will be grateful just to be a part of it and have the chance to record the journey as I travel toward my final destination.

I think we all have miracles in our lives but we don’t always see them. My mother has an open mind now. Her interactions with life are not limited by her fears or her beliefs. She sees things the rest of us are unable to see. This is her miracle. This is her blessing. I think I was blessed to share a small part of that miracle with her today. It was one more reason for me to treasure my life.

© Dianna Doles-Petry 2/16/2010

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Healthy Heart Day

A Healthy Heart Day

Heart disease runs in my family. I have a faulty valve in my heart. My mother is dealing with the consequences of congestive heart failure. Her mother suffered a heart attack at the age of fifty-two and lived until the age of eighty-six by carrying a small brown bottle of nitroglycerin tablets at all times. My great grandfather, her father, died from a massive heart attack while riding a bus in his 55th year of life.

With heart disease being the #1 killer of American women and my family having such a strong history of cardiac disease, I know that I must make life changes if I want to keep on living. My parents, and their parents before them, kept lean and fit by working hard and playing very little. They had chores to do that people of my generation just don’t understand. Clothes were hand washed on a scrub board or washed in a wringer washer that had to be filled with water manually. Lawns were mowed with a manual set of turning blades and hand held scythe. Berries were picked, vegetables were fresh from the garden, and swimming, walking, ball games, and other physical activities were a part of everyday life. Today we have modern appliances and conveniences that don’t give us much cause for exerting our bodies any more than we choose to exert them.

Today I am wearing red to remind people of the heart disease that claims the lives of one out of every four women. I’ve checked my blood pressure today and have already started to keep a journal of the readings I take at least three times a week. I plan to do some additional research on cholesterol and omega 3’s so I can have a better understanding of how my heart works and what signs of heart disease to be aware of as I age.

I have become sedentary in my role as a caretaker but starting today I am making changes, no matter how small, to get myself moving more. I am looking for a good used tread mill, I am cranking up my stereo, and I am going to dance as if my life depends on it because it does. I may not be able to walk for miles enjoying the scenery but I can walk right here in the house and enjoy my music or even watch a video. I can lighten my mood and reduce the size of my thighs by dancing.

I’ve already made a lot of changes in my diet. I eat a lot of white meat these days. I choose salmon over a steak and I can’t tell you when I last had a French fry. My preference is a baked potato loaded with broccoli or stir fried vegetables. I eat more fruit, drink more water, and think about my food choices far more than I did just six months ago. I complete my healthy eating choices by taking a multivitamin every day as well as a calcium supplement.

We all want to live a longer healthier life. I personally hope to see grandchildren born, a novel completed, and changes that improve our environment and our economy before my days are done. The last thing I’ve changed and still intend to improve further is my stress level. Everyone has stress but chronic stress can cause heart attack and stroke. I’m slowly learning to say “No” when someone asks an impossible task of me and I no longer feel guilty about saying it. I’m learning to pace myself and not expect the house to be perfect every minute of every day. I’m also learning deep breathing techniques that allow me to focus and relax.

Today I am wearing red to remind myself that I’m alive and want to stay that way!

© Dianna Doles-Petry


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thoughts on Lying

A couple of weeks ago I opened my email to find a challenge from a dear friend of mine. Her challenge for those of us in her writing circle was to start a blog and post at least three entries a month. I’ve started a few blogs before but they never seemed to take off or offer me inspiration. This one, however, has been different. This gesture to please my friend and widen our circle of writing acquaintances has started a journey down a road that is paved with self-reflection and introspection.

I’ve written about my need to write, the perils I’m facing as I age, and how stereotyping people can be painful and destructive. Tonight I am writing about lying and how I feel about it. I guess I have learned to lie, (with only the best of intentions), but I get very irritated when someone, (namely my teenager), lies to me.

I’m not an expert on this matter but I would bet that we all lie to some degree when we’re with our friends or our family. Most of us refer to these lies as “little white lies.” I remember a day in the late 1970’s when I had taken my niece on a shopping excursion. She is only five years younger than I am and I always enjoyed her company. I was an old married woman of twenty years-old and that placed her at the age of fifteen years-old. We giggled, tried on clothes in store after store, and walked through the mall until blisters were forming on our feet.

My niece wanted to grab a snack before we headed back to the vehicle so we headed to the food court of the mall. Just as we were sitting down I heard my niece speak to someone. I turned just as she said to the lady, in a very loud voice, “Gee, do you think you could find an uglier blouse?” I was in shock and people around us were laughing. The middle-aged lady left the table without saying a word as she pulled her sweater closed and walked away without looking back. I scolded my niece for being rude and her argument was, “But I was only telling the truth.”

Sometimes the truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. For instance, many people think Andy Warhol’s art is creative genius while others think he was probably poking fun at the people who pay huge sums of money for art. I must admit, I have a copy of one of his famous pieces, a soup can, hanging in my upstairs hallway.

Anyway, do you really need to say anything to someone that will cause them to be embarrassed for the sake of honesty? Is dancing around the truth the same thing as telling a lie? Is it better to make up an excuse for declining an invitation instead of just saying, “I just don’t want to see that horrid movie or have dinner at that cheap restaurant?”

I tend to tell peace keeping lies at times. I see no need to have anyone irritated or arguing if I can keep trouble down. For instance, my telephone has caller ID and voicemail so I know if a call comes through whether I am here to answer it or not. Just yesterday my brother was here spending some time helping me with my mother. His ex-wife, whom he still dates, had called several times and my brother had not picked up the phone. He has excellent hearing too. When his ex showed up here at in the early evening hours and demanded to know why he hadn’t answered the phone, his response, without batting an eye, was “I never heard it ring and it didn’t show up on the phone.” It wasn’t on the main phone because he had deleted the entries but they were still listed on my office phone. I felt guilty knowing that he told her a lie yet I did not challenge him because I knew it would cause a fight between them. In my eyes, I told the lie myself because by not saying anything I backed up his lie.

I lie to my mother about the state of her health at times. I never tell her that she’s young and strong or that she will soon be running a marathon but I don’t tell her that only a miracle will keep her heart beating indefinitely. I dance around the truth to protect her because she trusts me, she relies on me, and because I can’t stand to see her frightened or worried if I can prevent it.

I’m not claiming to know what’s best for anyone else, I’m not God. I only follow my heart and trust my instincts to help me do the right thing. But is lying ever right?

Then there are the lies meant to manipulate and control, the lies teenagers often tell and some never outgrow. They come in late and weave a tale of events that kept them out the extra twenty-five minutes past curfew or they can’t account for money they’ve spent and tell you they ate six burgers, three fries, and two milkshakes from McDonalds. When you ask how they got there since they are not supposed to be in any vehicle with another teenager without prior permission, they tell you that somebody’s mother picked up all this food and brought it to them…even though her child wasn’t there and she had no way of knowing how many people were there and she works a minimum wage job to keep her own children fed. Sigh…

Lies, I have come to believe, fit some people like a second skin. They are good at lying, most of the time they don’t get caught, and they don’t feel a single pang of remorse after they tell a lie. For most of these people, if they get caught lying, they just tell another lie, usually one that gains sympathy or understanding, to cover up the first lie.

My final thought is that some people actually start to believe the lies they tell and without those lies, their lives would unravel. My palms get sweaty if I even hear that someone else did something wrong so there is no way I could tell a lie and believe what I’m telling. I’m sure most people are the same way. They don’t lie because while someone else might buy the line of bull, they don’t accept it themselves.

Do you lie?

© Dianna Doles-Petry