Saturday, May 12, 2018

To the Strongest Woman I've Ever Known on Mother's Day

"Love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark...to have been loved so deeply...will give us some protection forever." --J.K. Rowling
There are many "best moms in the whole world", but let me tell you why my mother is the best mom. Mom didn't have it easy with me. First of all, I came along seven years after my three older siblings. She was free and clear from raising yet another baby. But I surprised her and thankfully, she accepted me. I was a breech baby -- my foot came out as my dad was driving toward the hospital while my mother was in labor. She kept quiet, not wanting to stress out my father more than he already was. The birthing was the most painful and excruciating thing my mother had ever gone through. They had to turn me around while still in the womb. The umbilical cord twisted me in ten million ways, leaving me with clicking hips and a squished nose. We both were not supposed to make it out of that birthing alive. But, we made it. She had no epidural or any pain meds to relieve her from the excruciating pain that she endured. So thank you for going through hell and back for me. You're the strongest woman I know.

Mom worked so hard, taking care of all four of us and of course, taking care of Dad too. From cleaning every single room in the house from top to bottom, to doing all of our laundry and having a new meal on the table every single night.  Since I was too young for school and too young to play with my older sisters, Mom would keep me company and play with me for hours upon hours. She was my best friend. I was never out of her sight. She took me to the grocery stores and lugged me around everywhere she went. I never had a sitter, unless she went out to dinner with my dad, to which my grandmother would then help out.

One winter day, Mom took me out to the department store to buy me new ice-skates. She was nervous because I was only around 6 years old, but I wanted to ice-skate so badly like my other friends did. We went to the large pond in the middle of our town where everyone gathered to skate and play ice hockey. I put my new skates on and hobbled over to the edge of the pond with my mother holding my hand.

"You can let go now!"
"No, you'll fall and hurt yourself -- hold my hand and I'll walk along the edge with you."
"Ma, just let go," I said, trying to do it on my own.

She let go and I glided toward the middle of the pond without falling. Even though the ice had quite a few bumps along the way, I made it through like a champ. When I returned back to where Mom was standing, she smiled and said, "I can't believe how well you skate!" When we left the pond, we went to a Polynesian restaurant and ordered a Pu Pu platter which used to be my favorite thing. I looked over at Mom and said, "This was the best day of my life!" And it was.

That's how it was like growing up with Mom -- she always supported me with anything I wanted to do, even if she had to let go a little. She always stood at the edge of the 'pond' waiting for me to return, in case I needed her. If I hit a bump or two in the ice, I'd look back at my mother and would know that without a doubt, she was right there to help and support me with whatever I was going through. Her unconditional love was the one thing I could count on in life, and it still is till this day.

She's been through so much these past few years. She also stood at the edge of the pond for my father when he was ill. She took such good care of him, letting him feel reassured that if there was a bump on that icy path, that she'd be there to hold his hand. I watched how strong she tried to remain for him, while holding his hand on the edge of his hospital bed. Dad didn't like to see anybody cry, because that meant something bad was happening.

But it was that moment, when Mom said something I thought I'd never hear come out of her mouth.

While holding Dad's hand, she said very softly, "You can let go now..."

It was then I knew that without a doubt, Mom was the strongest woman I've ever known. And even while dealing with her own health issues and extreme pain, she still managed to hold all of our hands, making sure we didn't fall or hurt ourselves.
After three long torturous years battling with cancer, I stood next to her at her bed, holding her hand, caressing the side of her head, hoping somehow, she would hear the next thing I'd say to her. She wasn't supposed to make it through the night. It was my last time I would ever say goodbye to her...it was my first time I ever said to my mother,

"You can let go now, Ma...I love you."

She was my best friend, my superwoman. She was the most loving, most selfless and compassionate woman I know. I wish I was more like her, and maybe one day I will be.

So today I just want to say, thank you Mom for being our superwoman. Thank you for always being on the edge holding all of our hands. Thank you for all the support, encouragement and unconditional love you have given to each and every one of us. You're the real deal -- and without a doubt, the best mom in the world.

I love you. I'll always love you.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Memories, Prayers & Healing

If you suffer with anxiety or depression and/or experiencing grief and loss, you already know that feeling -- like a sense of impending doom -- or a heavy sense of dread that seems to overtake you. Sometimes, it's all you can do to get out of bed, while other times, you have a little bit of fight left in you. And that's all you need. I got a phone call at 8am the other morning asking for Rosalie...my mother. I'm no longer being super polite, muttering out, "I'm sorry, she's deceased. How can I help you?' These days, I just say two words: "She's dead," just so I can hear the awkward silence on the other end of the phone. I'm just fed up with the amount of calls I get asking for her -- mostly from scammers trying to prey on the elderly. Then there are the calls about our ancestral home, which kind of tugs at my heart a little. I thought we'd be in a better place financially, so that we could pay off the reverse mortgage my father took out on the home, but unfortunately, it looks like we'll either run the course of our stay to save money or just rent an apartment or buy a townhouse somewhere. The uncertainty of my living arrangement sometimes scares me. But honestly, I'm grateful for any home I end up with (unless it's some weird money pit.) I have had so many people slip into my mailbox these letters asking if they can buy my home. They usually lowball you because they already know what's owed on the house.

What's more unsettling is waking up without making coffee, bacon and eggs for Mom. She liked her toast to have melted butter on it and cut into little triangles. She preferred Coffee-mate, this powdery creamer that tastes like crap. No sugar. Whenever we'd go shopping, she would use a cart whether she knew she was buying things or not. She grabbed a cart only because it was hard for her to walk without one. She would curse you off if you even mentioned using a walker. When she put her carts away, I would lock arms with her so she could walk back over to the car that was parked nearby. She couldn't stand the fact that she was getting sick. She didn't want anyone to know she was sick for that matter. She didn't even want me to know the extent of her illness. Her last couple of years here, she preferred going to smaller supermarkets. She used to love Shoprite -- but it was too overwhelming for her. She used to get excited when I used to bring her to this Korean farm market down the road. Even though they're like ten times more expensive than a regular supermarket, it was small and she found most produce and fish that she needed. Little by little, her world became smaller. I started ordering Shoprite home delivery service. Although she hated the idea of it, because she needed to feel and squeeze every single thing she bought -- she realized how convenient this all was. Till this day, I still get Shoprite's home delivery service. For an extra $16 bucks, someone shops for you and brings it right into your kitchen. Sold.

A typical day included doing some work in the morning, taking care of Mom and then cleaning. Sometimes I'd make her a special dinner. We have two kitchens -- one upstairs and one downstairs. She'd always say, "Oh cook downstairs! I feel better knowing you're here and smelling the good food." So I always did, unless she was with my sisters or didn't want to eat, then I'd cook upstairs. She'd lay down on the sofa watching Grey's Anatomy in her big comfy blanket. When 5:30 hit -- we'd both make a drink together while dinner was simmering and if she was feeling well enough, we'd sit outside. She'd come alive after a few sips of her vodka and club. We'd talk about her childhood and all the things she and her sister used to do -- couple of troublemakers. Her entire face would light up talking about the good ol days. I used to make her talk about her past all the time for a couple of reasons. 1. It sharpens her memory and 2. It was fricken funny and interesting! I've never heard such stories coming from someone who was about to turn 80 years old! My mom lived quite a life -- a wild one at that. But when she settled down, she kept her fun sense of self, even while caring for a large family and a demanding (and loving) husband. During my childhood, the only nights she didn't cook was Fridays. It was takeout night. When people say, "Oh you're turning into your mother," ----GOOD! I'm glad! That's a huge compliment, because I would love to just be a fraction of the woman she was.

I feel pretty lucky to have spent over 43 years with this amazing woman. Some people don't even get that much time. Another thing that I am so grateful for is, I got to say goodbye to both my parents -- even before they knew they were dying. I had these strange moments with each parent. With my dad, we held hands when he was sick and he looked over at me and said, "I love you, Debbie," as I said it back. He thanked me for coming back home when I found out he was sick. My mother said her goodbyes to me on the final night she left home to stay at the hospital for good. She hugged me so tightly -- didn't know she had that much strength! Then she said, "I love you, Debbie," and I said it back. Then she said, "I'm so worried about you," as I said, "I'm worried about me too, Ma," and we both laughed and kept hugging for a long time. It was as if her spirit knew she was leaving me for good. As much as I 'wish her back' --- I could never go through watching her suffer again. Sometimes, it was all she could do to finish her dinner at the table. She'd get angry, punching the table saying, "No! I'm enjoying this! No," when her pain kicked in. I told her to sit on the sofa, take the medication and I would bring the dinner over to her. She said, "NO! I want to eat at the table!" Eventually, her face would end up in the mashed potatoes and I would have to sometimes carry her back inside her bedroom....defeated. I never want to see that again. If I ever had the chance to get her back again, it would be the healthy, happy-go-lucky mom who loved to laugh and stay up for coffee outside on the patio as the sun went down. That's what I choose to remember.

Last week, I sought out a new therapist from this group of social workers who dealt with grief, anxiety and depression -- all sorts of mental health related symptoms. I needed help coping with my grief.  First they called me up and said, "Well, I think that maybe you're better suited with this counselor instead of the one you chose." I chose one who dealt with anxiety, depression and grief, so I'm not sure how I went wrong there. Anyway, they set me up with another counselor who was also a female. As I walked inside, she greeted me with a cold fish handshake. I'm big on introductions, especially the handshake. It tells me how confident you are about what you're doing. She looked to be 18 years old -- I am not even exaggerating. Upon first sight, she looked and reminded me of my niece. How is my niece going to help me? I decided to give it a shot, but any time she would speak, she sounded exactly like that Asian girl, Lilly Onakuramara from Pitch Perfect. And if you haven't seen the movies, she speaks so low that you can barely make out one word she's saying. To me, that's another sign of, "I don't know what the hell I'm doing." I walked out of there disappointed. She looked dazed and confused, like an 8 year old waiting to get out of class. I found myself venturing off to my favorite restaurant alone to sit at the bar to receive better therapy and medication (wine.)

So going back to what I was saying in my first paragraph -- I woke up this morning with this sense of dread. I had nightmares all night and barely slept a wink in 3 days. I got up, made some strong coffee and a little breakfast, and then went into my prayer room -- "The Deb Cave." I prayed my gratitude prayer, brought my petitions before the Lord and laid out all my burdens. It's the only thing that takes away that fearfulness -- the dread -- the anxiety. I also wasn't feeling so well. My stomach was off all night. So I do this prayer with anointing oil, and I swear by this -- it truly works. Even though I have ups and downs, I've been having more ups than anything. But I have to be consistent with my prayers, and be consistent with the daily maintenance of meditating on God alone -- giving Him at least a couple of hours out of the day. Sometimes, I find that talk therapy makes things worse. It makes you relive things in a way that makes you take two steps back. Some find that healing, while I find it disturbing. Writing it all out sometimes helps me, as I'm doing right now -- but the talk therapy for some reason makes me feel infuriated. So now, I just bring all my burdens to God, instead of a therapist. I have one psychiatrist who helps me once a month, but that's about it. But as far as talk therapy and rehashing events over and over -- I'm done with it. Especially with this last therapist, how can someone 20 years younger have the same experiences as I have? I realize everyone has their own crosses to bear, but how could her manager set me up with someone who could be my own child?

This week I'm not watching any TV. I can't stand the ads for Mother's Day. Last year, I knew that it would be Mom's last Mother's Day, and I tried to make it as magical as possible. We brought her to a beach house and had a huge BBQ on a beautiful 80 degree day right on the shore. Most of our family were there to celebrate it with her. It's the one day I will never forget. She said to me, "This is the best Mother's Day of my entire life!" It was one of the best days I ever had actually. She even hung out later that night to watch the sunset over the bay. I'm so happy she was "okay" enough to have went with us, because she was really beginning to become weak, and she had already received her approximate "expiration date" by her doctor. The next month following that vacation, she passed away. Maybe this is a trigger month for me, because we knew what we were heading in for, or thought we knew. Even if you're prepared to see a loved one cross over, you're never truly ready for it. I'm still not ready, but I'm forced to be.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes! Feel free to watch Deb's live broadcasts over on Periscope as well! 

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Deb's Home Remedies & Medicinal Advice -- Proceed With Caution

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, nor play one on the internet. This information is based upon my own experience, as well as intense research on the web. Can't trust everything you read on the web. If you're reading this article and need emergency medical attention, CALL 911 AND GO TO THE ER!!! Please proceed with caution. I'm only someone who suffers with aggravating ailments like anybody else who has found some pretty cool solutions. Cheers! And please let me know if any of these remedies worked for you!

A few of my viewers over on Periscope Live had asked me to write an article based on a broadcast I had done a few months ago about my home remedies and experience with medicines. Yes, this is a bit unconventional, but everything I have experienced and researched has saved me---literally. I couldn't believe how many people came in just to hear about what I've experienced. Maybe I'm a bit over-zealous about medication and that it's just my anxiety that makes hesitant about taking certain meds....but that's just me. I can't help it. Some would say I suffer from hypochondria. Others may say that I'm obsessed with reading the side effects of any medication. But my question is: why aren't people concerned of what they put into their bodies? Doctors and nurses are baffled whenever I'm in extreme pain or in the ER, and even after my hysterectomy when I specifically said, "NO pain medication other than Toradol," -- they double dosed me on Morphine and Dilaudid. See, Toradol is just a super-duper anti-inflammatory that just. takes. away. the. pain... that's it. It doesn't make you high or anything. I always hear, "You don't want the Percocet?" No. I ended up taking Percocet a long time ago when I had back pain. Weeks after the pain was managed mostly by ice packs and Advils, I found myself saying, "Hmm, I have a headache, maybe I should take a Percocet just in case..." That's when it starts in -- the addictive nature of the beast. Sometimes, when the pain was really bad, I would pop one and have a glass of wine. I started to realize my behavior and immediately stopped. Sooner or later, the pills stop working, so either you need to take more, or grab a glass of wine with it, or you could just realize that this stuff is legal heroin. The biggest drug dealers are doctors. I went into the ER for chest pain after hearing that my mother wasn't doing well -- the day I was told she wouldn't be coming home and that she would most likely pass that evening. As I was getting tested for heart related issues, I started crying hysterically after I heard the news that my mom was leaving us for good. All of the sudden, the nurses all gathered around my bed and said, "You want Percocet? Dilaudid? Fentanyl?" I just stared at them and just said no.

Let's get down to smaller stuff, like Tylenol and Advil, also things that mix with natural remedies, especially turmeric. Everyone is looking for a quick fix as well as more natural ways to alleviate symptoms. So from my own research and experience, I will let you in on a few things, if you don't already know them.

Sshh, They Don't Want You To Know This! 
Did you know, that if you take a blood thinner of any kind along with turmeric, that you will increase your risk of internal bleeding? This also goes for vitamin E. If you take an aspirin every day for your heart, do not take turmeric, or you can take it every other day. Also, doctors will not tell you this, but taking vitamin E daily reduces your chances of having a blood clot (DVT). Has the same effects of the blood thinners they prescribe, but big pharma doesn't want you to know that. A very unpopular remedy is drinking a couple of glasses of wine per night. It's also a blood thinner. Only take ONE of these remedies to ward off any 'concerns.'

Did you know that acetaminophen can be lethal if taken around the clock, and/or if you have more than 3 drinks per day? It rips apart your liver. And remember, any Percocet or Codeine (oxycodone, hydrocodone) can contain "APAP" which is acetaminophen (Tylenol).

The Dangers of Ibuprofen
Did you know that ibuprofen can cause a heart attack only in individuals who have kidney problems or high blood pressure? Ibuprofen is known to wreak havoc on your kidneys, so if you have high blood pressure of kidney issues, speak to your doctor about it. It is not dangerous if you don't have these issues. But good to know, right?  I'm sure you already know that ibuprofen can cause stomach bleeding and ulcers. It strips away the natural mucus lining of your stomach, so when you eat acidy foods or let your stress hormones kick in, it's not the ibuprofen that makes the hole in your tummy, it just opens the flood gates and lets the evil acid eat away at your lining.

Pass the Mustard!
Did you know that if you have leg pain at night, that having one large tablespoon of good ol' yellow mustard can take the pain away? Athletes use this method a lot. It also helps with indigestion, due to having turmeric and vinegar in it.

The Benefits of Magnesium 
Another great source of relief from insomnia, muscle pain, leg twitching at night as well as constipation is magnesium. But be careful! Not ever source is the right one. I take Natural Calm, which is in a powder form. You put a half a teaspoon in a 6 oz mug or glass of warm or hot water and drink up before bedtime. Don't overtake this magic potion because you will be living your life in the bathroom. Trust that. Taking too much magnesium can lead to diarrhea. Also, taking the WRONG kind of magnesium can cause you to get sick as well. Everything in moderation. I wouldn't take this during the day, unless you plan on taking a nap. It makes you feel so relaxed -- not like Benadryl drowsiness, but a nice, tranquil kind of feeling --- and the best thing about it is, it's natural! The raspberry and lemon flavor sounds bad, but it's my favorite because it somehow reminds me of chamomile tea. It tastes sooooo good, especially in hot water in a cozy mug before bedtime.

Oooh That Smell!
Did you know that cutting up a large white onion and placing it onto your night stand can ward off flu and cold viruses, and even help with your respiratory system? It absorbs the toxins and viruses in the air. It also helps when ingested, but easy does it!  It was a medieval cure for the plague. When the doctor visited all of the people dying of the plague, he walked into another family's home who all appeared as healthy. The one thing he noticed was that they all had chopped up onions in every room. This is still thought to be a myth, but from MY OWN experience --- this really works! I had the flu really bad, and it shortened it greatly. It even got rid of my wheezing within one night. Amazing stuff. You just have to bear the smell of onions in your room, but at that point, you probably can't smell anything anyway.

Sometimes, Carbs Are Your Friend 
Foods can be healing. Sometimes food can be medicine. Most Chinese remedies have been proven to work better than traditional medicine. I remember when I was doing the Paleo diet, and I was on the keto plan, which means NO carbs whatsoever. I had insomnia for so long, I was starting to hallucinate! Finally, I decided that it was this diet wreaking havoc on my system. So as bad as this sounds --- for dinner one night, I had pasta. I slept for 8 hours. Sometimes, having a bit of carbohydrates can increase serotonin levels and make you sleepy. My body was on overdrive and couldn't fall into a deep sleep at all.

Stress Relief 
Last week, I was rushed into the ER for lower right quadrant pain. It was a mixture of calcification on my appendix, as well as a slight hernia, which needed no operation. The appendix wasn't inflamed so I am just leaving that alone for now. Anyway, while one of the nurses was hooking me up to the monitors, I noticed she smelled really nice. My blood pressure was higher, since I was in excruciating pain, and so was my heart rate. As soon as I smelled her, my heart rate and bp went down. I said, "You smell really good, what are you wearing?" She said to me, "And your vitals went back down to normal. It's working. I'm wearing 'Stress Relief' by Bath & Body Works. Many patients have told me that their pain lessened, and I know because their vitals always go back down to normal again." So needless to say, I bought a bottle of this and it has a smell of eucalyptus with a hint of patchouli. It's strange, because I've been wearing a perfume that has a hint of patchouli in it since I was 16 yrs old. It always calmed me down. It won't make you smell like a hippy --- it'll just give you a hint of deliciousness and a huge dose of calmness. I think aromatherapy does a lot because it can sometimes have nostalgic effects on us. So when I smell eucalyptus, I think of my childhood and when I smell patchouli, I think of calming meditation or getting a massage. There are other scents if you prefer. This one totally does the trick for me. Many people love the smell of lavender, which promotes relaxation and sleep.  

COFFEE!!!
I get so frustrated with the news. Coffee is bad for you...coffee is good for you...now it's bad for you...blah blah blah. Fugeddaboudid! Coffee is GOOD GOOD GOOD. I say this because of a couple of reasons. First of all, there've been studies done that showed people who drank coffee than those who didn't were less likely to have suicidal thoughts. Those who never had coffee or never drink it are more likely to be depressed or they have had suicidal thoughts. Google it. It has also helped me when I didn't have a rescue inhaler available for my asthma. One cup of strong black coffee works just as good as an inhaler. Big pharma won't tell you that. It also works like an allergy pill, which is why they say to drink coffee if you have a cold. It dries up your sinuses and works like a Claritin. Anytime I had a wheeze from an allergen or from my asthma, black coffee always took it away. It's a natural remedy. It also helps with pain relief, in addition to an anti-inflammatory. They put caffeine in pain relievers such as Excedrin. Coffee is also known to prevent certain types of cancer. Recent studies have said that previous claims of coffee dehydrating your body are not found that it actually hydrates you due to the water in it. Kind of makes sense, but remember, yellow---no good. Clear---thumbs up. That's just a little factoid you should all know.

Medicine Cabinet or Liquor Cabinet? 
Oh nobody likes to bring these wonderful remedies up, but what on God's green earth did people do back in the day before medicine became popular? Now, don't get me wrong, if you have a problem stopping at one or two drinks, stop reading this paragraph...now. Still reading? Ok, but I'm not responsible for your massive hangover tomorrow morning. Moving on... My mother, my best friend, the love of my life who is in heaven was a funny little lady with a whole lotta' spunk! I learned a lot about alcohol from her. She would "hush" me right now, but I'm still gonna carry on with this. People used hard booze for pain relief back in the day. I remember my grandmother always putting scotch on her toothache, as well as downing a shot or two for pain relief. (Or recreation possibly.) My mom always suggested that blackberry brandy was the cure for menstrual cramps. One night while screaming my head off, doubled over in pain, she said, "Here Deb," as she handed me a very large shot of blackberry brandy. She said, "Down it fast!" (Great role models, love you Ma!) So I did. Voila, the pain was GONE. This was in addition to the 800mg of ibuprofen I had taken. I had dysmenorrhea -- which is a debilitating type of pain some women get with their menstrual cycle. This is also why I had a hysterectomy. It killed my quality of life every month. It was my saving grace.

Vodka works differently. With my debilitating back pain due to the degenerative disc disease they had diagnosed me with, vodka on the rocks with some lemon took the pain away immediately. So it was vodka on the rocks, and also, my back on the rocks. Ice on everything! It worked better than Percocets. I kid you not. One glass usually does the trick. Try not to exceed that.

White wine has a special place in my heart, preferably Pinot Grigio. This is my drink of choice. It also has healing properties to it, like antioxidants, cancer prevention and lung disease, among others. If you have a sore throat, try drinking a healthy pour of white wine. It kills the bacteria that is associated with throat related viruses. It's also a cough suppressant. It works better than Robitussin. Again, big pharma will never let you know that. You can Google this info too. It works every time. I swear by this one! In fact, I swear by all of them through experience.

Having chest pain? Feel like you're having a heart attack? CALL 911 AND GO TO THE ER! But if you're stubborn like my dad was, all he used do was take a couple of shots of cherry heering. It's some type of liqueur that somehow, takes away angina pain, associated with heart problems. After he had a couple of shots, he was like, "Ok, I'm fine! Don't call 911!" And he was always fine. So, if you're in a place where there is NO possibility of going to the hospital or 911 getting to you, try this trick. Otherwise, GO TO THE ER YOU FOOL! I used to get really angry with him because he never wanted to see doctors ---ever. But, this worked well.

Still having chest pain, but it's sort of sharp and stabby? It feels like someone poking you under the rib somehow? CALL 911 AND GO TO THE ER!!! Or you can drink a beer. Usually, when the pain is felt like a sharp little pin poking you, or a bubbly type of discomfort under your left or right rib -- it's usually a big ball of gas. Blame this method on my mom! I remember a time I came downstairs and I was holding my chest and said, "I have to see a doctor mom! I'm having chest pain." She asked where it was and then said, "Drink a beer, Deb!" Lovely. She convinced me it was gas, and after chugging one beer down, I let out the most obnoxious belch -- it nearly shook the glasses in the cabinets. Pain gone.

My beautiful mother. RIP
Feeling cold? Drink red wine. It's also good for your heart and promotes antioxidants from the grape seed. It's probably the healthiest types of alcohol out there. I'm not much for red wine, but when I'm freezing from being outside too long or it's just a cold winter night, red wine is my go-to.

Acid Reflux/Ugh Muy GERD!
"Don't eat this, don't eat that, that's too acidy, that's too spicy." From my own experience from suffering with acid reflux and GERD is this: your food isn't the problem, unless you're eating total junk food. Healthy foods, like fruit, veggies, garlic, onions and spices -- even hot spices are not the culprit for your heartburn. I've gone to get two endoscopies so far, all to tell me that I had "gastritis." I had one incident where there was significant stomach bleeding that was leading to an ulcer and had to stay in the hospital for three days having nothing but a liquid diet. Looking back, I had back issues and was debilitated for three entire months. My go-to round-the-clock meds were NSAIDS -- ibuprofen, mainly Advil. I popped them like Pez. Again, like I said above, NSAIDS will tear apart the mucus lining of your stomach, making food your 'so called' enemy. Keep in mind, it's not only NSAIDS that will irritate your stomach lining. Medications like antidepressants, and yes -- all of them -- are irritants to the stomach just like NSAIDS. Read the warnings on the label. Everyone says, "Stop reading the side effects!" Well, maybe the side effects include STOMACH BLEEDING! So please, always read up on your medication labels, even if it's a CYA warning, you still know what you're getting into. I always thought my dad was crazy for telling me to drink apple cider vinegar for heartburn and stomach bleeding. I'm like, "That's like putting salt on a wound! Get outta' here with that!" UNTIL I tried it. Ever since I've been putting two tablespoons of Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother -- I have no idea what that means ha) --- my heartburn is next to none. Reflux is nearly gone. I don't get that gnawing pain in the pit of my belly. It also gives me incredibly energy! Limiting my NSAID intake, I can now eat spicy foods and squeeze lime in my drinks and dishes again!

Where Will You Be When Your Tummy Wreaks Havoc? 
Sometimes we run into tummy problems, like food poisoning or stress related incidents that stem from IBS. Other times, we create our own tummy problems by drinking way too much the night before. This puts in the bad bacteria, leaving our gut screaming for help, which leaves us living in our bathrooms. If you're planning to go out and have a beer or ten, make sure you pop a probiotic with 2 billion live cultures. Acidophilus is my go-to, but others work just as well. It replaces the good bacteria so your stomach will stop having a war. When I used to drink too much in the past, this was my plan. I always would take it before, but sometimes, you just never know when those drinks would sneak up later that evening, so taking it afterwards wouldn't hurt either. Either way, it's all GOOD.

I hope this info helped you. This info is based purely on experience as well as my own research and "secrets" from doctor friends. If you truly need medical attention, please disregard this article and go straight for medical help. I am NOT a doctor nor claim to be one. I'm just someone who suffers with pain and ailments like the rest of you. I'm just sharing what worked for me.

If you're on here because you either have chest pain, lower right abdominal pain or any other type of medical emergency, CALL 911 AND GO TO THE EMERGENCY FOOL! GET OFF THE INTERNET! With love...

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes! Feel free to watch Deb's live broadcasts over on Periscope as well! 

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Why Does Anxiety Keep Us Awake All Night?

Why has sleep become one of the hardest things we can do? Millions of people suffer from insomnia, waking up every hour, or falling asleep to wake up and then to only stay up. In my case, I suffer from what's called, "myoclonic hypnic jerks and seizures." This is purely from anxiety. I have been a couple of sleep studies to show that nothing medically is wrong with me. In a strange way, I wish they did find something wrong with me so that I can at least address it. The thing is, with this unknown "mystery diagnosis" that stems from anxiety, it is the hardest thing to fix. It's like a doctor telling you "it's just a spider bite." They basically just labeled "anxiety" onto my chart and sent me off with a prescription of Klonopin that I never filled out. I don't have sleep apnea, nor any other type of sleeping disorders. So why is it so hard for us to fall asleep or to even stay asleep? Whether people admit to this or not, anxiety has been one of the biggest reasons for our lack of slumber. We're over thinkers, or worry warts that run around fussing about every little thing in our lives. Someone asked me, "Deb, whatever you're worrying about, will this matter next week? A month from now? A year from now?" It made sense. No answer was needed to make her point.

I read an article from AWA that explained why some people have trouble sleeping, as well as why many suffer from what I have: hypnic jerks or what's called sleep starts. In a way, it's sort of comical, as well as fascinating that our own genetic code still has somewhat of a memory.

Despite our predominantly urban existence we still feel great connectedness and strong emotional bonds towards trees. It has been suggested that this positive emotional response is, in part, hard-wired. Millions of years of evolution have left us with a partly genetic predisposition to respond positively to trees. Interestingly, this connection to our arboreal origins can still be demonstrated today, as we fall asleep, in what is termed ‘hypnic jerks’. Hypnic jerks are phenomenon most of us have experienced at least a few times, often when very tired or exhausted. As we lay down to sleep, a part of the brain called the reticular formation sends a signal down the spine that causes muscles to relax, and we quickly fall into a deep slumber – only to be suddenly awoken with a jump and slight muscle twitch – often immediately preceded by a brief sensation of falling. They are a common and generally harmless experience, occurring in all sexes and ages to about 70% of the population.

What has this got to do with our relationship with trees? Well, hypnic jerks have been explained as an ancient reflex to the relaxation of muscles during the onset of sleep for tree dwelling primates – the brain essentially misinterprets the sudden relaxation as a sign that the sleeping primate is falling out of a tree and so causes the muscles to quickly react and to awaken. The hypnic jerk reflex is likely to have had selective value by having the sleeper readjust their sleeping position in a nest or on a branch, in order to assure that a fall did not occur. Chimpanzees and bonobos, our nearest relatives, sleep in trees, and it’s easy to see why falling too deeply into slumber when in a tree may not be wise.

Our early human ancestors also probably slept in trees. All the early hominids were bipedal, but all also retained features of a climbing anatomy (robust fore limbs and long arms relative to femur length). This climbing anatomy is linked to living and sleeping in trees, and there is no evidence to suggest that our early ancestors had given up on this sleeping arrangement. The switch from arboreal to ground sleep, what’s termed the ‘tree-to-ground sleep transition‘, did not begin until the arrival of Homo erectus, about two million years ago. Falling out of a tree was an event that our early ancestors did not easily forget, and we still haven’t. Without being consciously aware of it, as we doze too deeply, in the safety of our modern beds, hypnic jerks provide us with a sudden reminder of our earlier, more ape-like way of life. ---read more here.

Here's a good example of how our genetics can actually "remember" our past fears... My dog Lola has an issue with food. (Many dogs do.) And what I mean is -- she will pretend to bury her food, as if she is digging up dirt with her nose and plopping it onto her bowl as if she's hiding it. She has become a "dog in the wild" as she feasts on some good grub in a comfortable home safely. Why does she still think she's in the wild and why would she think that there is dirt on the floor? (Minus my lack of cleaning skills.) Even though there is NO dirt, she is making as if there IS dirt, and "pretending" to cover it. This is a form of genetic memory.

So why do we really fear sleep? Let's face it -- that's what it is. Or is it the fear of dying in one's sleep? Our vulnerability while sleeping somehow puts us at a greater risk. We initially feared the dark. More predators were able to find us and we became extremely vulnerable to those dangers. In today's society, that's kinda malarky b.s. types of assumptions, because we sit in bed and overanalyze what our day's gonna be like, or even dread the next day to come. Sometimes we worry about an intruder (normal type of fear) and sometimes, we have no idea why we're having a panic attack after midnight. We can't pinpoint why we're freaking out over nothing. When the night becomes silent, our minds become louder. During the day, we're busy with people, work, focusing on other things besides TRYING to fall asleep. And the more you TRY to fall asleep, the more sleep eludes you. Some people are afraid they'll die in their sleep because of their hypnic jerks. I know I do sometimes. I'll be in the midst of 'falling' asleep, when all of the sudden, I jolt up and can't catch my breath, gasping for air and my heart racing 200 bpm. It's scary! After that kind of episode, I'm usually awake until 4am. My other half is snoring away, or she is concerned because I'm totally freaking out thinking that I just had some sort of stroke or heart attack.

I wrote an article over on this page, where I discuss my issues of sleeping, and even did revisions and edits at the bottom to show you which coping mechanisms worked for me. The only thing that works for me as of now is prayer. I meditate on the Word of God and His promises through biblical scriptures.

Here's a couple that have made me feel calm and safe...

"If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet." ~Proverbs 3:24

"I lay down to sleep. I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me." -Psalm 3:5

Also be aware that God may be calling you to take some 'time out' from your slumber in order to talk with Him. When you do this, even if you get 3 hours of sleep, He will give you this unexplainable energy during the day -- as if you slept a full 8 hours. Whenever you are unable to sleep, go into another room and pray to God. Open your Bible and let Him guide you to certain passages that He may need you to read. The other night I couldn't sleep because my surgical scar seemed to have gotten infected and inflamed. So I went into the other room and did a healing prayer, as well as placed anointing oil on it, and within hours, the infection and inflammation was COMPLETELY gone. I even had to show Maddie, because she was going to take me to Urgent Care to have it checked out. She was shocked, but knew it could only be from God. Doctors tried to say it was a hernia and that it was probably my appendix -- but God said something differently, and I trusted Him instead of freaking out and getting an unnecessary surgery done.

A good friend of mine always says, "God wants us in peace, not in pieces!"

Anxiety is a tricky beast. Once you find some way to cope with the anxiety, it's as if the anxiety beast finds out and demolishes it altogether. So you have to constantly find new ways to cope with the anxiety. One of my favorite (besides prayer -- which is #1) -- is grounding techniques. Even though we may think we're not overthinking, sometimes we are, or fretting about the to-do list for the morning.

Grounding

1. Sit upright with your bare feet flat on the floor. Connect with the earth as best as you can.
2. Name 5 objects in the room you are sitting in.
3. Name 5 things you can feel or touch.
4. Name 5 sounds whether inside your home or outside.
5. Name 5 scents that are available where you are, if not, just count as many as you can.

I have a go-to video on Youtube that I put on whenever I am in PANIC-MODE! I mean, this is when my heart is racing, my breath is shallow and I just cannot pull it together. Click here to listen to this amazing 30 minute affirmation video. Within 15 minutes, my anxiety is totally calm, so finishing the entire 30 minutes will leave me sleepy. Try it. What else are ya gonna do -- stare at the ceiling all night?

Here's a video on "grounding" also called, "earthing." Click here if you are not able to view the video below this text. The video has somewhat of a robotic voice, but the info on it is insane! You're not gonna believe how much lack of grounding affects us on a daily basis.

Feel free to let me know how things worked out for you. You can comment over on Facebook.com/DPasquella and explain how you coped with your insomnia or anxiety for that evening. Anxiety may never let up, but we can always use our coping skills! Good luck!

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes! Feel free to watch Deb's live broadcasts over on Periscope as well! 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Isolation & Grief: Choosing to Trust God

Your mind can be your worst enemy, if you let it. I'm big on telling other people, "Stop with the what ifs," and then days later, mutter out, "But what if this doesn't work out?" I realized that it's coming from a place of fear and anxiety, and usually, if I'm in a good mindset, I can push away from that. If I am not spiritually in tune, then everything goes haywire. Before my mom passed away, my mind used to constantly ask, "What if she dies from this cancer? What if she doesn't make it?" I couldn't imagine my life without her -- my best friend, the only person I told my deepest soul wounds to. We had a connection like no other, and I doubt I will ever find that kind of connection ever again. And that's OK. See, I believe that we're in a spiritual warfare. Without constant communication and prayer time with God, we sort of lose that hedge of protection that only God can provide, even if it means a sense of safety. At times, I'm okay with living in this large house alone -- and I mean alone in the sense that I am here for about 10 hours alone. Most of it is working from home, and with that, came the uneasiness of isolation. I used to be such a social butterfly years ago. Not so much anymore. What I realized is -- I consciously chose this. No one forced me to isolate myself, nor did they say work from home. It was all based on my decisions in life. These days, I'd rather spurts of socializing in moderation. Although my personality is still bubbly and seemingly outgoing, I would definitely consider myself an introvert of sorts.

There's a social stigma on isolation. But nobody ever looks into the conscious choice of being isolated. They only say that it's very unhealthy not to have constant interaction with other people. But what isolation has done for me has been much different. I've gotten to study the Bible more, I also became much closer with God, realizing my true self and turn off all electronics and social media, if I want to. Even though my work calls for being online for a certain amount of time, I can 'go off the grid' for as long as I'd like to. They say that if you don't like your own company, then who do you think will? There's a lot to be said for that. During my days, I sometimes sit outside with a cup of coffee before I start working. I look over at the beautiful mountains, as the turkey hawks sore above me. I go into my prayer room and meditate on God's Word, pray and write down any messages I get from it all. My prayer and meditation time usually lasts about 2 entire hours, sometimes longer if my day isn't filled with deadlines or errands. Choosing to live a life of partial isolation is quite healthy if you DECIDE to do it for either spirituality, creativity or to calm your mind from the busyness of the world. RESISTANCE to it, is what makes it unhealthy. Resisting any circumstance in life creates suffering.

I used to resist it. In fact, when Mom died, I had my partner and her sister here for a couple of months. Madelene had taken FMLA (Family Leave of Absence) from her job and we just grieved together, but most of all, it was more healing than anything. Once Madelene had to go back to work, I was sort of lost. I felt almost abandoned on my own accord.  I didn't know what to do. I wasn't planning on returning to my work yet. I took a long time off. My mind was just blank -- as if it shut down of all creativity. However, my mind did work overtime with worry. "What if I'm all alone here and I die and nobody finds out till hours later? What if my alone time makes me crazy? What if my alone time gives me worsened depression? What if, what if, what if?" It drove me crazy. And I admit, sometimes at the end of the week, I start to get a little antsy. (Side note: when typing out "antsy" it corrected it to "nasty" and I started laughing uncontrollably. I DO get nasty if I get antsy! Ha!) So where was I? ... I then started to get panic attacks at home because I was resisting being alone. Mom wasn't here. I had no one to care for. I had no one to talk to. My purpose felt deleted in a sense. I had no one to eat dinner with. Even though our living quarters were quite a distance apart, I felt safer with her here, even though she was unable to save me from some kind of bear attack or burglary. As I worked from home, the illusion of a "safety net" brought my mind spiraling into a different place. And after her passing, the house became different. I still feel her around me, but if I'm alone in the living room where we used to hang out, I'll feel that sense of loneliness and isolation, which ultimately turns into resistance. And then I suffer. If other people are with me, like family -- that living space becomes alive again. My thoughts don't wander off into a dark corner.

My Discovery.
Ever since Mom's passing, and especially when Madelene had to go back to her long hours at work, I found peace with God. I found a place where it drew me closer to God, without interference, without worrying. I recently learned, that my resistance to my situation was creating a living hell for me. THAT in itself is unhealthy. But choosing to be alone -- choosing to work from home regardless of the lack of interaction with other people in person has given me a sense of freedom. Not only did I learn more about the Bible, even memorizing more scriptures, but it has enabled me to start my second book and to concentrate more, without the cluster mob of 'what ifs' in my mind.  I found myself changing in various ways. My TV is never on during the day. If I do have some entertainment, it's classical or praise and worship music. My entertainment are Christian sermons to encourage and uplift me while I'm working around the house. At night, I may watch a Netflix movie, but that's about it. For the most part, I prefer reading actual books -- no online ebooks ever. In fact, my Bibles will always be in paper. I will never rely on electronic Bibles or even online scriptures for that matter.  I discovered that this bitter trial in my life, losing both my parents, has made me stronger in many ways. It's made me realize that I CAN make it and that my worst fear of losing both my parents has come into fruition. I made it. I'm here. I honestly thought I would die, but I didn't. I also realized that in my weakness, God is strong. He gives me the strength to get through what I may deem impossible.

"What is impossible from the human perspective is possible with God. --Luke 18:27"

Overall Thoughts
Whatever you cannot change -- try changing your mind about it -- try looking at your situation differently. I love the serenity prayer: "Lord grant me the serenity to ACCEPT the things I cannot change, COURAGE to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen."  Remember, suffering's root cause is the resistance of what is -- it's the resistance to your circumstances. I'm still learning this myself as I travel on this strange path -- a path without my beautiful parents, a path that's pretty much unpredictable, which is why I'm choosing to trust God.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes! Feel free to watch Deb's live broadcasts over on Periscope as well! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

To Handle the Loss of a Mother

Losing Mom was the worst fear of my life. Nobody will truly understand what you're going through, even if they've been through it many years ago, they're just at a different level of their loss and grief. Losing a mother is probably second to losing a child, as "they say." I'm not sure who "they" are, but I've heard of that and somehow believe it. But what if you don't have children, like myself? What if your child turned out to be your mother? "They" also say that as we grow older, we change roles with our parents. Our parents become our children, as we start to parent and care for our parents. It's an interesting turn of events, a sad, yet loving one. We return the love and care that we received all of our lives. Many have never experienced a loving relationship with their own parents, so I am sorry if this hits you right in the heart. I'm mainly speaking about my experiences right now, so that others may relate in some way. The day we decided to move back home to care for my father who was diagnosed with bladder cancer, we were also there for my mother who needed help caring for him. Witnessing Dad suffering from the excruciating pain, as well as seeing Mom watch him slowly die, it left a scar on my heart forever. I remember the day we were waiting for hospice to pick him up for his final resting quarters. My entire family surrounded Dad as he was unable to muster up any words at this time. He had already stopped eating and couldn't get much fluid down as well. I remember my mother holding his lifeless hand, as she laid beside him, sobbing, yet trying to keep it together for her daughters. I got the opportunity to say my goodbyes to him, as well as making him laugh through his semi-consciousness. We always joked around. Bittersweet chuckles made its way out of his mouth. It would be the last time I would ever see him smile again.

My Biggest Fear Came True
Mom knew she was dying, but chose to not tell me. Even when Madelene and I took her on vacation, one month before she died, she knew this would be our last getaway together. We always took Mom whenever she was able to go. She had the best Mother's Day she ever had overlooking the ocean and eating her favorite food with her family. She loved the ocean, especially when storms came rolling in. She'd rather a stormy day at the ocean than a sunny one. I loved her for that. A month later, I remember getting a call from her asking me to come down because she had called an ambulance. Mom never calls an ambulance. She grabbed me and hugged me so tight. I said, "Ma, you're gonna be alright -- you just need a tune up!" But I saw it in her eyes, she wasn't going to come back home. She hugged me tighter and then said, "I love you, Debbie. I'm so worried about you." I told her I loved her too, and yes -- I was worried about me too. We both laughed and I went into her bedroom to get her clothes together. Strange, because she made her bed so perfectly. Even the remote controls for her TV were placed strategically, almost OCD-ish diagonally hotel-style. As she stood overlooking her beautiful made bed, she was patting down the top layer blanket, making sure it was perfectly even. I knew what she was thinking... "This is the last time I'm going to see my bed again."

As I tried to casually shuffle her nightgowns and underwear into her bag, I kept trying to convince myself this was just one of those routine visits. Eh, she'll probably be in there maybe 2-3 days to get a tune up and she'll be back home. But God had different plans. As I saw the EMTs carry her out on the gurney that sat high up, so they could roll her into the ambulance easily, the way she was laying -- the way she was closing her eyes -- it was almost as if she was accepting her destination...her true destination. I looked over at Madelene and said, "Did you see how she was lying on the gurney?"

"Yeah."

The hospital visits were fine. She was joking around with the nurses, asking me to take her home and just being the normal mama we all knew and loved. She was eating a lot too. For some reason, she seemed to really love their hospital grub. As it got later, I told her to call me tomorrow and let me know when the nurses would discharge her.  Later on that evening, Mom called me up.

"Deb? Whadja' have for dinner?" That was the number one question even before "how are you." She kept saying, "Oh, I can't wait to come home and we can sit outside and BBQ again!" I had been taking her outside more so she could get some sunlight. It was difficult for her to sit in the chairs due to her pain, but she managed to do it once her pain meds kicked in. I told her I'd be up tomorrow morning to pick her up. She gave me a list of things to bring of course. Then she said, "Okay, mommy," (she always calls her daughters "mommy") and then said, "Love you, love you!"

"Love you love you too, ma!"

That was our thing.

The next morning, I made some coffee and waited an hour to call her. I didn't want to call too early, because I knew the nurses would take longer than expected with the discharge papers. So at 10am, I called Mom. It sounded like someone had picked up the phone and handed it to my mother. I heard a mumble or something...

"Ma?" I said, not knowing what was happening.
"Oh Deb! Ohhhhhhhhhhh! IT'S TERRIBLE!!!!!!!!" She cried out.
"What happened? What's wrong?"

I never heard my mother in this type of distress ---ever.

"I'm coming up now!"

Then I got a phone call from my friend as I was having a panic attack. She was trying to calm me down but there wasn't anything I could do to help. I started getting chest pain, and had to hang up. I was escorted to the hospital in an ambulance to check out my own health. The ER was super crowded, so they slid me on the side of the nurses's station, among the other crammed in patients waiting to be helped. They took blood tests and EKGs and then I was sitting there by myself not knowing what was going on. About 30 minutes into my stay, my sister Cathy calls me on my cell phone.

"How's mom doing? Is she okay? What happened?"

And then the words I cannot get out of my head were spoken...

"Deb? She's not coming home."

"Wait -- is she staying longer, or are you talking about hospice?"

"No, Deb. She's not supposed to make it through the night."

The cry that came out of my mouth wasn't even a cry. It was one of those 'mouth-opened-wide-silent-cries' that when it was over, the loudest soul-crushing type of wailing came out. It felt like my soul slipped out of my body and was reaching for the skies. Every scream that came out, somehow made me blackout a little. Then it went into a hyperventilation type of crying that made my cries sound like a home burglary alarm. I remember a few things when this happened. I noticed an older woman, maybe in her late 50's lying in a room on her bed pointing at me with such distress on her face -- as if she was telling someone to check on me. I saw a patient being rolled in with the look of extreme empathy on his face -- even though he had no clue what was happening to me. Then I saw the nurses all gather around my bed near their station, one asking if I wanted a percocet or maybe some fentanyl for the pain. Some of my cries were going back into the 'tears flowing-wide opened mouth cries' again. When I finally caught my breath, I told them, "M-m-m-my m-m-mother is dying upstairrrrrrrrrrsss!" Sure enough, all tests that were taken came back right away as negative. Clean bill of health. When Madelene came to get me, they unhooked me from the monitors and said, "Go to her! God bless you!"

As we walked through the corridors, tears still streaming down my face, I saw people staring at me, doing double takes and even some of them whispering. Even the elevator ride upstairs was awkward. I had to be silent, sniffling with uncontrollable tears. When we got to her room, the door was slightly ajar. I pushed it open slowly, and saw my sisters and their other halves all sitting around my mother who was now unconscious. She was wearing a yellow hospital gown. Her face looked as though she may have had a stroke. They found out she kept her pain a secret by taking more pain meds than prescribed. When they gave her the prescribed amount, that's when her pain reared its ugly head. She also had a pulmonary embolism in her lungs. There was nothing to save her at all, except the machine that was pumping out morphine just to give her a painless passing. We all sat around her, and at this point, I felt numb. The doctor said maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow or the next day...

Four days later, she was still alive. Her morphine dosage went up significantly. I know some believe it's a beautiful thing to see a loved one pass over, but for me, I personally could not witness this for myself. I couldn't watch my favorite person in the world leave me. I accept it, but I had to say my goodbyes while she was still in her little shell of a body. It was only Madelene and my sister Dawn there at this time. I held Mom's hand, without her squeezing my hand back as she always did. I remembered our drives to restaurants, to fun events, family parties, doctor's visits -- anywhere we went, with her holding my hand as we drove. It was cute. She would always grab my hand when we drove. Now, I was grabbing her hand, the same hand that used to reach for me while driving. I kissed her forehead and said, "Ma, it's okay to let go.... I'm going to be okay." She was so worried about me. Anytime she would mutter, "When I'm gone..." -- and she would say this even before the cancer struck, I would freak out! I would finish her sentence: "When you're gone, so am I!" And I meant it. Without her, I couldn't live. But I made a promise to her that it was okay to go, and if she did, I would be okay. It was the hardest promise I ever had to keep.

That very night, or should I say morning, around 2am, she passed away peacefully. Madelene and her sister cried with me, holding hands and praying for her peaceful transition. We stayed up, had some tea together, lit some candles and just accepted what is...what was...and what's to come. After crying for hours, I fell asleep for a few hours and woke up to pouring rain. My mother and I loved when there was a good long thunderstorm. As the morning progressed into the afternoon, still raining like crazy, we sat outside under the canopy to stay dry. When the sun made its way out, the most beautiful rainbow appeared. It must've stayed for almost an hour or so. I even put it up on Periscope so people could view it live, and of course, many of my friends came on to send their condolences. There were doves everywhere too. It was the most tragic, beautiful day I have ever experienced. It felt like heaven had a welcoming party as Mom made her way into her new home. She climbed up that beautiful rainbow to meet Jesus. It was her way of telling me she was okay. That was the beginning of my faith growing into something even larger than expected. I knew God took her. I knew that without a doubt, God was taking care of me too.

When I was around 10 years old, I had this terrible nightmare. I dreamt of my mother's funeral. I saw all of our family friends gather around her large mahogany casket, wrapped up with the most beautiful flowers. Her service was a bit different from my dream, but till this day, that dream is still so vivid. It was vivid because it was the most awful nightmare I ever had. When I woke up, I ran out of my room to find my mother. And thank God she was there! She was in the kitchen making coffee. "Ugh, just a nightmare, thank God!" And now, I just wish I could wake up and run downstairs to see my mom making coffee after this awful nightmare of watching her suffer from cancer and dying from it. Why can't that happen? I wish God could just wake me up and say, "Ah, just a dream my child. Carry on as usual." But this is life, and we are meant to see our loved ones die. It's completely normal, although we dare to entertain the thought of them leaving us. This IS life. This IS death. This IS how it all works out. It IS what it IS and as much as I hate that saying, it sadly applies.

The truth is, if there's anything I've learned throughout this entire ordeal of losing my very best friend, it's that GOD is REAL. Right now as I'm typing this -- a cardinal just landed right on my balcony, staring inside looking at me. You can't make this stuff up. I never get birds landing on my balcony -- not ever since my chihuahua took charge of the deck. My sister asked me, "How come I don't get signs like you do?" I can't really answer that. I can only make a guess that maybe you have to be completely opened up enough, without the inner static, without the anger toward God about Him taking away his favorite angel. She's stated this to me on many occasions, even flirting with the idea of not believing in God altogether because of her loss. But God knows her heart --- He knows that she is just angry at Him. He still sees her faith, even if it's as small as a mustard seed. Many nonbelievers tell me that all of my "signs" are all but coincidences. Believe what you want to believe, but these occurrences give me peace. It lets me know that God hears my prayers, and that He's here with me right now.

I know I have written about my signs before, but I'm going to list them all out right now, in case you're a new reader of this blog. This is why my faith strengthened.

Special Signs & 'Hellos' From Mom

My mother and I had a love for owls. We collected them, and have owl statues and other things resembling owls all over the house. She gave me my first owl at the age of 8 and said it was good luck. A month before she died, she said, "What do you want me to come back as if I die?" I hated the thought of that, but I said an owl. And the same went for me if I should die first... The night before she passed away, an owl came right near my window at 4:17 am -- 4/17 is my mom's birthday. He "hoo'd" so loudly, it woke me up and the first thing I saw was my clock reminding me of my mother. That was how I knew she was going to pass away. It was our messenger. It was her telling me goodbye. Now, I see owls everywhere!

The day of her passing, a thunderstorm and a rainbow were there to comfort me in my time of grief.

The day I went up to the hospital to say my goodbyes, this song played. Madelene and I both cried, knowing it was my Mom sending me this song.

One night I had bad insomnia, so I was up at 3am reading an article online. Out of the blue, I heard my mom's voice call out, "Deb--bie?" Almost in a sing-song kind of way. She sounded incredibly happy and excited to have gotten through the veil, but I got a little scared and ran into my bedroom to just sleep it off.

I found two post-its on her nightstand. She wrote one that seemed so old, it looked as if it was written in the early 80's and one by me from 2003, when I worked at my old company. It was the same exact scripture. "Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!" -- 1 Chronicles 4:10
Why would we write this on two separate occasions?

One winter evening, as Madelene and I were preparing dinner, we decided to make martinis. We hadn't had them in quite some time. My mother loved martinis. So after I poured mine, I lifted it up and said, "Cheers, Mom!" And all of a sudden, a little piece of ice slid down my window. It was heart-shaped. Of course you can say it was a coincidence that it "seemed" to have looked like a heart, or you can be open to the many signs that our loved ones share with us. Even if it gives us some sort of peace here on earth, why would anyone try to take that away from anyone? During that evening, every song that played for my mother's memorial came on. It didn't make me sad, it made me feel loved -- it made me feel okay with everything. I think it's sad when somebody has a sign right in front of their face and they choose not to acknowledge it, or they chuck it up to just a silly coincidence, and maybe even chuckle how crazy it would seem if they did think it would be from a deceased loved one. I'm not saying to 'talk to the dead,' but rather, be aware of their "hellos."

This may sound crazy, but I can hear her sometimes. It's not in the audible sense of hearing -- more like an impression, but nonetheless, her calm little voice emenating within my own mind. I was prepping for a big "1st birthday in heaven" party with my sisters. Instead of us all being alone and said on mom's first birthday without her, I invited all of my sisters over to enjoy mom's favorite food. So as I was prepping the table area, I heard Mom's voice. "Oh get rid of those placemats -- they're too big!" I laughed and just blew it off. But it came in even louder. "Put my tablecloth on there, it'll look nicer." I entertained her voice and said, "I don't have a tablecloth, Ma." And as vivid and clear as day, I heard her say, "Go into my bedroom and look to the left. It's in new packaging!" And wouldn't you know, there it was, in brand new packaging that has never been opened before. It looked beautiful. I'm not a big fan of table clothes -- maybe a runner -- but table cloths were a thing old Italians believed in. But this looked really nice, I have to say. (Thanks, Ma!)

During vacation last October, Madelene was fumbling around looking for the coffee carafe. She was getting frustrated and after 45 minutes, she ran back upstairs of the beach house and said, "We can't make coffee, 'Deb." She sounded defeated. Whenever Mom came with us on vacation, she was always in charge of the coffee since she got up before any of us. I walked downstairs and said, "OK Ma, do your magic," half believing it would work and half not. As I'm on the other side of this large kitchen, I hear, "Oh c'mon! It's right in the dish washer all set and ready to go!" And voila -- there it was, in a matter of 3 minutes.

One night, while Mom was still alive, I had a dream that we were driving on this road in an old vintage convertible through fields and fields of sunflowers. I looked over and Mom looked to be around 40 or so, smiling and so happy. I said, "Ma! You're driving! You look great!" She was so incredibly happy. We ran through the sunflower field, weightless and carefree. I cupped a bumblebee in my hand and said, "Look, I'm not scared of it!" (I have a fear of bees.) And she said, "They won't sting you and there is no pain here." We reached an area where there was an opening up near a beautiful tree. My dad was there along with all of my other relatives, enjoying a little bonfire, sitting on lawn chairs enjoying a beverage of some sort. Dad said that the sun keeps going back and forth, so it's never truly night time. When I woke up, Mom had a similar dream (this always happened with us.) So she wanted me to plant sunflowers all along the property, but a week later, she passed away. Now I see sunflowers wherever I go, and it's a reminder that she's in a much better place. This summer, I plan on covering the outer yard with sunflowers as she requested. Also, the hospital gown she died in was yellow with little yellow sunflowers on it.

Isolation & Grief
No matter if your loved one passed from a sudden death or a long struggle with some kind of illness, you're never truly prepared to say goodbye. I don't even believe my mom believed she was dying, even if her oncologist gave her only 3 more months to live. She had such hope and strength. I truly thought she'd make it. Now all I can do is sit and hope that I'll make it through these unbearable waves of grief. Some people like to talk amongst themselves, worrying over my periods of isolation and depressive episodes, but is it really that strange that I go through these things? Even while caring for Mom at home, I would rarely go out because I didn't want to leave her all by herself. Even though she was a very capable woman, my outings were limited, only by a few treks to the grocery store or maybe even a quick dinner out with my other half. I always felt guilty for going out. Whether I was at a neighbor's house or down the road at our favorite restaurant that's literally 2 minutes away, I always got a call from my sister asking, "Where are you?" I was the one responsible for making sure Mom ate. I cooked meals all the time, made her breakfast when she was up for it and even took her out to the park on some days so she could get some sunlight. There were days we went shopping at the local market together when she felt good, and some days driven to the doctor. My sister took care of the doctor visits, but each of them had the ability to go home and unwind with a glass of wine. They had their own lives to deal with. Every night, I ate dinner with Mom, watching her face literally sink into her plate. Sometimes, I would have to carry her away from the table, placing her gently on the sofa, until her pain meds kicked in. Soon enough, I pulled away from my friends. I stopped inviting my friends over for dinner, no more parties around the fire pit until midnight, no more guitar sessions with other musician friends. It was okay though. Mom's comfort was more important than my leisure activities. And hey, trust me -- I still tipped the wine bottle! And on good days, when Mom was feeling okay, she would have a glass of wine with me and we would talk for hours. Bittersweet moments that I will never forget.

The isolation though... It surely made a path to where I am right now. Between the weight gain, isolation, the loneliness during the day -- my work has suffered greatly because of it. My social life has suffered as you can imagine. It's almost as if I'm living in a new area trying to make friends all over again. I feel so estranged -- so awkward and misplaced. My grief is a bit different than the typical person who didn't live with their mother kind of grief. When you live with someone, whether a spouse or a relative of some kind, their mere absence reminds you every single moment of your life that they're gone. They're no longer here. It'll haunt you for months to come. I can't call Mom asking her if she wants some eggs and bacon. There's no more breaks from work to watch Millionaire or Grey's Anatomy with her while her meds kick in. Many times, I would bring my little dog Lola who she loved to pieces, and we would all lay in the bed together watching movies. Mom and Lola would play fight on the bed, Lola knowing to be gentle. Sometimes, I'd see her and Lola sleeping together.

Sometimes, I'll find Lola waiting at "Nana's" door, hoping she'll open it up and play with her again. I can't tell you what it feels like to go through this, but I can say that during the entire course of my life, I knew that if my mom were to ever die, I would surely die too. Some parts of me actually did die. I'm praying that God heals me even more so that I can get back to living life, loving those who are still with me today, and to make the best of each day. I realize many people don't know how to console someone or they may feel awkward around someone who is still grieving -- but I'm the same ol' person you used to know, only difference is, I have more faith in God and more realistic expectations for the journey ahead. I've learned a lot through this experience, and I'm still trying to reach that point of freedom, to where I'm out of the isolation cell and into the world of the living. Baby steps for now. I'm hoping those who love me will be patient with me as I take each step slowly and at my own pace. I'm not saying that my grief is worse than another's -- I'm just saying that mine is just different. Fact is, I truly don't know how to handle the loss of my mother.

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