Voice Of Hope…


It was 20 years ago that I nearly lost my unborn son.

It was in the middle of the night.  Four and a half months into my second pregnancy, I woke up in a pool of blood.  And it became quickly obvious that I was miscarrying.  A call to my doctor confirmed my fears.  It was about 3am, so I was told I might as well rest a couple hours before coming in, and that I had a long day ahead of me.

Amidst the various bits of information over the phone, my husband and I were made aware that at this stage of pregnancy, there’s not much that can be done to save an unborn child.  That the main concern at this point was my own life and the rate of my bleeding.  I was told that I needed to go to the emergency room if my bleeding increased to filling a menstrual pad every two hours.  There was blood all over my bed, and I had no idea exactly how much I’d lost.  But an hour and a half later, my fresh pad was full.  I had no fear for my own life.  I didn’t feel weakened by the blood loss yet, but I knew I was going to lose my baby.  That I would experience what my own mother and grandmother had gone through before me.

I’m no stranger to trauma, so I did what came naturally to me.  I braced for the blow that I knew would come.  No fear about it really, just systematically getting ready to get through one more traumatic event that would shape my life as I knew it.

There was no doubt what was happening and there was no reason in my mind to see things any differently.  I was going to lose a baby.  Women have born this pain for ages.  I was not unique in this and there was no reason or time to whine.  It was just time to face it and get through.  I could fall apart later.

I had accepted that I was indeed losing a child.  And for many really good reasons.  My mother and grandmother and sister all had before me.  And I was readying myself for it.  But I had much more reason than most to so simply accept this fate.

Once upon a time, I couldn’t have children.  It was absolutely impossible.  I was baren. Until I had a full open surgery for endometriosis.  In fact, it wasn’t until after the surgery that I even found out.  Up until that point, I’d already had to embrace the understanding that women with endometriosis as bad as mine simply have a lot of trouble bringing pregnancies to term.  But I was only 23, with the scar tissue damage of someone more than twice my age.  It had begun to affect my other organs.  I was getting sicker and sicker and something had to be done.  Surgery was part of the answer.

However, it wasn’t until they went in that my surgeon discovered that my tubes were completely closed.  That meant something quite profound: it was impossible at that point for me to ever conceive.

And so he fixed me.

After the surgery, my surgeon told me that without having me open on the table, there was no way with just a scope they could have seen that my tubes were closed.

I would have tried my entire life to have kids, never knowing why I couldn’t.

That said, the surgery wasn’t 100% successful.  I still had problems with endometriosis.  But, I lived a much more normal life than before.

So as you can see, I wasn’t surprised to be losing a child.

And as I felt life flow from me, I lay there in the dark preparing myself for the emotional pain ahead, getting my head and heart ready – knowing that after so much already, I was strong enough to endure even this.

And then one of the most powerful things happened and broke me down. 

It still makes me bawl to remember it to this day.  In fact, my face is a soaking wet mess now as I type.

The experience was that powerful. 

Nothing fancy. It was simply this…
I heard a voice.  Clear as day.
And it said,
“Mommy, don’t give up on me.”

That’s all the voice said.

And it was then that I knew that my son was alive.

I don’t care what you think.  I really don’t.  Whether you believe my story, or think I’m lying or you think my mind created the experience because I couldn’t accept my reality or whatever.

Because I know better.  I know exactly where my head was.  And I didn’t even try to hope.

I spent that first day going through all the things they do in a situation like mine.  Doctors everywhere consoling me about what I was about to go through.

My bleeding slowed and days would pass.  My doctors would continue to check the heartbeat and have me come in to see them every day.  They would send me for ultrasounds to evaluate the new hole in my uterus that caused the whole situation.  Doctors continued to tell me that I needed to face the reality that I would lose my child.  That I was too calm and not processing the situation as I should.  This child was not destined to live. That I needed to get a grip and prepare myself for this impending loss.

But I wasn’t phased.  I knew.

It would be 9 weeks before we knew for certain that our son was going to make it. Nine weeks of doctors telling us that we should not hope too much because the odds were so far against us.  Until finally, they said one day, well… maybe he’ll be OK after all.

I continued to bleed throughout the rest of my pregnancy, though just a trickle.  And a month early gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

So there you are, little one.  Thank you for making mommy believe in you. 

For years it seemed we had an unexplainable connection.  Every time I woke up, he was soon awake.  Not crying, not upset or fussy, just awake and ready to be with mommy.  It was so prevalent that sometimes I’d wake up and lie there quietly and think to him, no-no-no honey please do not wake up.  Stay asleep.  But he usually woke up anyway.  Other times I’d wake up, and sneak a peek at him while he slept, only to find him awake and looking at me.  And I’d think to myself, You little stinker! Are you deliberately waking me up?  Or are you just being there for mommy?  It wasn’t every night, but this unexplainable connection continued well into his school years.

He is 20 now. And 19 months ago we found out he had a very rare form of kidney cancer unheard of in anyone under the age of 20, just 5 months after the death of his father.

I faced the mortality of losing my baby that night, more than 20 years ago. And an unexplainable voice gave me hope. Gave me faith.

I think about that miraculous experience from so long ago and wonder if I might hear it again.

Will a voice in the dark give me hope? Comfort my soul?

And then, my son comes home from his late-night college class.

And while I am working away on yet another project,

he hugs me and whispers,

“I love you, Mom.”


11-5-2019
Copyright © 2019 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

Motherhood

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Filed under Friends and Family, Grief, Inspiration, New Term Tuesday, Writing

‘Tis A Silly Place


TARDIS - Halloween 2019 - Aberrant Crochet setup

“It’s like you’re a Doctor Who evangelist.”

That paused me.

I measured my gaze.

“What do you mean?” I asked, looking over.

“Every group of kids who come to the door! You’re like, ‘Do you like my TARDIS? Do you know what a TARDIS is? It’s from Doctor Who! You should look that up on YouTube.”

My daughter’s wry smirk looks just like her father’s.

I smile.

She’s not wrong.

Halloween is a geek’s and cosplayer’s dream holiday.

Only for me, I haven’t been costuming up that much the last few years.

This year, I grabbed my handknit Doctor Who scarf, a brown “Indiana Jones” hat and one of my wool coats and called it good.

But what I really look forward to each year is dressing up my yard.

Right square in front of our door is a lifesize TARDIS that’s my pride and joy.

You have to walk through the TARDIS to enter my home. Literally.

I bought it in a charity auction 4 years ago, the October before John was diagnosed with brain cancer.

October is our birthday month and I knew this TARDIS was perfectly my birthday gift. I also found a killer deal on a BlendTec the same month, so I was doubly happy.

Little did I know how important that BlendTec would be for John in the coming months.

The TARDIS matched our house under the overhang, beautifully. And the kids and I crafted a garden of hand mines that year to go with it.

It was glorious.

And only the knowing had any idea what they were looking at.

We were only lacking in Weeping Angels at the time. A fact I rectified last year. There are now at least 13 in my yard, hidden everywhere.

I’m sure some delivery people believe we must be very Catholic. Or simply very into angels.

What they don’t know just might steal their future though!

And then there’s our annual spider infestation.

I was so pleased when I first heard that the newly introduced season of the 13th Doctor had an episode with mutant spiders in it. Though in truth, I was disappointed with how they concluded the episode. I’m a fan of spiders and that ending was frankly illogically cruel.

But from a yard decor point of view, my spider invasion combined with the TARDIS and Weeping Angels makes my yard a pretty authentic fan fiction of its own.

Finally, after all these years they wrote an episode just for me.

We’ve lost 3 trees since John died, but we still managed to put up a good infestation of spiders this year. I couldn’t find all my crochet spider webs that I’ve made over the years. Not sure where they got put, but the giant one went up and giant momma spider, the 10-foot spider we have, was hung on the web with care.

And the effect paid off as always, demonstrated by the audible gasps when people rounded our 200-300-year-old live oaks to step onto our front walk.

You have to have big old trees to display a 10-foot spider in the air.

“There are some fun decorations in the neighborhood,” one kid told me. “But nothing compares to this! Your house is the coolest. I was here last year!”

You can believe that boosted my ego.

Though in truth, the TARDIS and angels stay up year-round.

I only take down the spiders outside. And mostly inside.

But the eclectic inside of our family TARDIS is a story for another time.

“This house has chocolate! Omg, we can have more than one piece??? You are the nicest!”

I love the smiles on the kids’ faces. Even the dubiously older ones.

Here, take another KitKat.

John always believed in handing out only the good stuff for Halloween.

None of that generic crap. The kids get plenty of that from everyone else.

Chocolate. Every year we give out chocolate.

I heard of a family that gave out king-size Snickers bars to kids one year.

I think that’s cool, but I’ve never gone that big. I stick with fistfuls of smaller bits.

I used to have a bucket of shiny pennies that every child under the age of 6 could stick their hand in and grab a handful to take home.

I liked the idea of fostering a healthy experience with a money blessing.

To give little kids that magical feeling of receiving generosity, without measure, only that they must reach out, seize it and receive it.

Besides, there’s something so pretty about shiny copper.

I need to get back to doing that again. Giving change to little kids is not very expensive at all. Especially when you consider the cost of candy.

Halloween is an odd holiday for sure.

And while it does occur during The Day Of The Dead celebrations that we have here in Texas (which culminate on November 2nd), I’m not really speaking to that part today. Though there’s certainly an influence and a magic in that part, which I do obviously appreciate.

It’s something else about Halloween. I share my perspective as someone raised without the holiday, who later came into the participation of it, thoughtfully, as a mother.

No one thinks about it being a holiday of generosity.

Its American celebration may have started out with the goal of curtailing mischief, but today, it’s evolved into an opportunity to exercise our imagination, to dress up and play as adults, to face our fears, and to bless strangers.

How interesting is that.

STRANGERS.

Of all things.

Without guilt.

Without shoulds.

Without major expectations.

Without commandment.

I mean it’s simple. It’s candy.

And fun.

And we tell each other how cool our costumes are and find out our favorite superheroes, movies, legends, and puns.

Don’t forget the puns.

No family fights over obligations.

No tantrums for not getting the latest iPhone.

And it’s OK to buy yourself something, just because you thought it would be fun.

Or thought it would make someone laugh.

Not because it was practical or necessary or expected.

It’s an interesting holiday, with something to teach.

If we let it.

Hope yours was great.

Giant spider - Halloween 2019 - Aberrant Crochet

 

 

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Compliment…


My son asked me to please be there for a friend of his tonight.

Of course, I agreed.

Afterward, I thanked him for asking and trusting me to help his friends.

And he paid me the highest unexpected compliment I could ask for.

“You’re literally the wisest person on the planet I know Mom, how could I not?”

[tears]

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Ember…


The mountains are so pretty at sunset.

I gaze into the light.

Blinded above.

Blinded below.

Beautiful trees in my peripheral.

A warm wind swirls across my cheek and I disconnect from my body for a while.

I focus on the gift of sight.

Please God. I wanted him to see Montana.

It feels just like him. Rocky and beautiful.

Air flows around me, separating the barbs of my feathers.

I feel each loosen as I close my eyes.

Arms surround me from behind,

as a head of soft dark hair leans into my shoulder.

I loosen my soul to blend with his.

An eternal moment, destined to pass.

My skin crackles.

The fire burns so hot now.

I don’t want to go.

I don’t want you to go.

I don’t want to be reborn without you.

Please, hold my hand. Don’t leave me.

Knowing is a consuming crown.

Ashes smoke the air.

Desperately. Don’t. Want. This.

My fearless Force of Nature.

You kissed my tears and told me once that you would find me.

That nothing would stop you.

The Raptor I set free, returned but for a while.

Life without your comfort is unconscionable.

I try to calm the smolder.

Afraid to breathe on the embers of my own heart and soul.

Hold the space a little longer please.

“I’m burning up a sun, just to say goodbye.”

— July 31st, 2017 —
Copyright © 2017 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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All I Know…


In the grand scheme of things, what will matter in 20,000 years?

All I know is that we must spend our energy wisely to get the most out of this experience we call Life. And in doing that simple thing, on a personal level, we can actually effect positive change on a universal scale.

Things go awry when we get outside ourselves. And we miss things. Important things.

I am the center of my own universe.

Nothing is more powerful than I and God in my world.

If I am not attending to my center, then I am not in balance. And if I am getting caught up in the drama of others and things outside, no matter how “justified” the cause may or may not seem, then I am not where I need to be. If I cannot act cleanly, then there is muck to clear away and work through.

I learned a long time ago – I can make a great difference in this world with just about everything and anything I put my hand to.

Without doubt.

But if that thing takes my peace and balance away, and I cannot keep upright, then it is not where I’m supposed to be, or what I’m supposed to do.


2-1-2017
Copyright © 2017 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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I Will Find A Way…


It is difficult to minister to the spouses of the terminally ill.

But somebody has to reach a hand back into the darkness.

Somebody has to.

I cannot turn my back knowing what I know.

Caked in mud, blood and tears.

For now, it is my hand.

Someday, somehow, I will find a way to do more.

Helping hand

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Paradox…


How can my soul speak, when your language isn’t clear.

I flip through my collection of filters.

Each lens allows me to experience and express reality uniquely.

Colors, musical notes, equations, sound waves.

Geometric shapes, lights, patterns of stars and cells and DNA.

The mud, the bark, the rocks, the slime, the webs, the flowers.

Water, wood, metal, earth, fire and wind.

Each virtual reality filter at my fingertips.

My soul seeks, but the words are not there.

I cycle through like a ham.

Orchestrating a message of parts that even I cannot speak

And only raw flesh can comprehend.

I pull it all together into a ball and set it spinning.

A beacon, a light, pulsing with meaning.

A wolf scattered in space and time.

Casting my net into the void.

Searching for you.


11-30-2018
Copyright © 2018 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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Tonight I want to tell you a story about my husband John…


My name is Julia. My husband died from a terrifying brain cancer called glioblastoma. Tonight I want to tell you a story about my husband John…

John was my best friend in the world. I remember the first time he told me that I was his best friend. And I remember after years of marriage, still feeling bewildered. That John Chambers thought of me as his best friend. Because he was the toughest guy I knew. And he was cool as shit.

I asked him about his sister, and his best guy friends, all of whom he was very close to. Because I figured surely they were his best friends before I was.

And he said “That’s true, but it’s different with you. You’re my life, you’re my breath. I trust you implicitly with everything that I am. I trust you more than anyone else in the world.”

And I was humbled by this 6’5″ operatic giant, who was intelligent and tough, and who believed in always doing the right thing. That the strong should protect the weak. That the able had a responsibility to use their strengths for good. That those with knowledge should train others. And I was slightly terrified to be entrusted with so profound a thing.

John was a hero and a great leader to others. The guy who rescued people from an elevator during a power outage in a snowstorm, because it was the right thing to do. And he was the only one strong enough to open the doors to do it.

He was Super Man, and out of everyone, he cherished and trusted me most.

I was stunned at the beautiful confirmation that our souls spoke beyond words. He was my everything. Together we were empowered. Together we could do anything. Together, no one could stop us. Together we were both better individually and collectively.

How did I come to be the one to hold the precious jewels of his heart and trust. It was easy for me to see why I trusted him. Why I fell so hard for him. He was such a good, good man. Not to mention he had an enchanted singing voice. But for him to fall so hard for me, to so deeply trust me…. How did it come to be?

John told me a story about a lesson he learned from his widowed grandmother. One summer during college, he stayed with her, helping her paint and repair the home that his grandfather built. John loved great conversation and he cherished the time he spent with his grandparents. At some point during this summer, the subject of relationships came up, and John made some comment to his grandmother about the kind of (tall) woman he needed to find to marry. And she told him “You don’t marry a body, you marry a mind.”

Her words struck his core profoundly, and he never forgot. “You are gorgeous,” he said to all 5’1″ of me, “But more than that, your heart and mind are astonishingly beautiful. I love who you are inside. Others don’t see it, but I do.” It was a raw moment of love and joy. To be truly seen, soul to soul. A moment I couldn’t believe I was lucky to have.

John told me often during our 22 years together that it was his job to remind me how beautiful I was, inside and out. To set things right and make up for traumas of the past. To help me to see my beauty and believe in myself. To help me experience that life could be fun. John taught me that I had a right to safety and that it was OK to have healthy boundaries. And he told me, over and again, unto the last weeks of his life, that I was the reason that he was a better man. That without me, his life wouldn’t have been enriched and that because of me he wanted that much more to be a better man. That he wanted that much more to do good things, to help others and make a difference in the world.

And here I thought it was he who taught me more about real love than anyone I’d ever known.

As I stumble through the shards left of my reality after his death, I try to hang onto his words. I remind myself that one of the best souls I’ve ever known never stopped thinking that my mind was smart and beautiful. He even thought I gave good advice. I always counted on his, and boy could I use some of it right now.

I wrote before about the gift of holding our children’s beginnings. The part of life that later our kids cannot remember. The part of their beginning that no one else sees. No one else contains more of those moments than we parents. We hold our children’s first stories.

I did not expect the astonishing reality of holding my husband’s ending. It is a terrifying, yet precious gift. To hold him, his heart and soul. To walk his last walk with him and share his nightmare. To fight for him with every drop of my blood, every beat of my heart, every breath in my chest. To crack wide open and pull out every possible skill I could to save his life. To be the one to bear witness to every honorable and gritty detail. The one who contains his final story. The one to be entrusted with his death.

I am his horcrux.

I hold his story. Together he can never be defeated.

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Graph…


Life has always been a series of Stories.

Some more enjoyable than others.

There’s always a Path.

There’s always a Creative Lesson.

There’s always some Pain.

There’s always some Joy.

Some days are Zen.

Some are Hell.

Some are Kittens and Sunflowers.

Some are Simply Now.

Some days we’re Aligned.

Some days we’re Not.

Life is a Line Graph.

Up and down, back and forth.

Never in the same place twice.

Except when Lightning Strikes.

When the heartbeat of my line graph flat lines,
I have to ask myself these things…

What are my trigger points and why?
What needs have I neglected?
What boundaries do I need to repair?
What am I not giving voice to?
What message is my soul desperate for me to hear?
What nourishment am I starving for?
What circulation has been cut off?
What relationships need cultivation?
What is the urgency I feel in this moment?
What is aching to Move?
What actually Matters?
What actions will help me to slow down?
What does it take to Breathe?
What programs are running?
What flow is missing?
What routines need to Be?

My dear, dear Julia
What Sign do you Need?


11-28-2018
Copyright © 2018 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

Graph - By Aberrant Crochet

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Comfortable…


“Why do you keep doing? It seems like no one notices. Has anyone told you they cared? What value is there in continuing to give in ways that may never return to you?”

And I don’t know what to say to her.

I mean,

I have never…

known…

what to say

to reason.

I saw things differently as a child.

I see things differently as a mother.

I’ve been different all my life.

I’ve never focused on the “fairness” of giving without condition; of serving without thanks or feedback.

I see need and I scramble to salve it.

Because someone must.

The world is just mommy spit and kisses away from being lost.

I do not do

what I do

because I need

permission

from anyone

other than

myself.

“But you are giving everything away and nothing is coming back,” she tells me.

I still don’t know what to say.

Is that true, I wonder?

Is nothing coming back?

Am I hurting myself?

Considering how comfortable my conscience is,

I doubt the damage would be too much.


11-27-2018
Copyright © 2018 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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How: The Question Of Overwhelm…


Instead of asking, how can I make this easier?
Ask, what can I do to make this easier?

Instead of asking, how can I be happy?
Ask, what do I need right now to be happy?

Instead of asking, how are you going to do that?
Ask what steps will you take to carry out xyz?

Instead of asking, how are you doing?
Ask, what are you feeling?
What do you need? What is helpful?
What can I do that will make a difference?
What’s the most loving thing I can do for this person right now?

Instead of asking, how am I going to get everything done?
Ask, what can I cut out that will free up the most time?
What tasks can I rearrange to reduce the stress I feel?
What resources can help me win this?

Instead of asking, how is this going to work?
Ask, what is our plan? (Do we have a plan?)
What is our focus? What can we accomplish this week?

Instead of asking, how could they do this to me?
Ask, what boundaries have I not set?
What expectations do I have?
What needs have I not expressed?
What messages am I sending that I didn’t mean to?

Instead of asking, how was your day?
Ask, what was the most interesting part of today?
Or most entertaining? Or most terrifying? Whatever fits?

Instead of asking, how will I afford this?
Ask, what are our goals?
What do you need to meet our goals?
What actions are needed to make this happen?
What are some ways I can cut my expenses? Increase my income?

HOW is too often the nebulous, undefined question of stress, reaction and overwhelm.

For forward-motion, focused solutions and freedom, instead ask WHAT.

 

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The Waters Of Dragonfly Pond…


I’ve always loved the idea of having chickens, though I’m not actually sure on the follow through. I certainly enjoy buying eggs from friends who raise them.

When the kids were much younger, they took pottery and drawing lessons. The drawing lessons were especially helpful for my son, who had both dysgraphia and amblyopia.  The lessons were amazing, and came from an art studio based out of a beautiful little ranch/farm property north of town. It was called Dragonfly Pond.

The family who lived there and owned the studio didn’t really have an actual “farm” like some of their neighbors, but they did have chickens, peacocks, guineas, geese, and all sorts of other birds that freely roamed their entire property.

Did you know that peacocks will hunt snakes? Such beautiful birds, and very loud.

In the back of the art center, the owners built a little bubbling brook; a man-made fountain stream, running through the back “yard.” There were bushes and Texas holey rocks and flowers and bits of pottery projects all around.

A picnic table and tree swing was set up next to the little stream. Parents and students would wait on their lessons outside in the little garden brook area (and enjoy the scenery). It was beautiful and the farm birds roamed everywhere. There was plenty to enjoy even while waiting for lessons to begin or end.

I enjoyed some blessed little Zen moments waiting in that little garden stream area for my kids. Waiting for the moments when they would rush outside, “Mommy, mommy – look what I made!” Cheering them on. Picking up acorns, feathers and rock treasures and soaking up the fresh air.

Happy moments.

Though the art studio family had a fenced off coop for the birds at night, the chickens would literally lay eggs just about anywhere and everywhere. Eggs could be found in the rocks by the stream, by the parking area, even in the prickly pear cacti! Seeing eggs nestled up against the base of a cacti is one of those moments I wish I’d caught on film. I mean, just imagine…

Many of the chickens were very docile and there was one in particular that my daughter Jack would pick up and carry around. The little hen seemed to beg for her attention, follow her around. And once a year when the peacocks shed their tail feathers, the art studio would let each kid take home a feather.

Coming there every week was an amazing and healing experience for the kids and I both. Back in the days when John was deployed. The days when the kids first cried every night for their father.

And I always thought, you know – that’s the way to do it. It was obvious the birds were happy in this place. And it was such an organic experience for the kids and I both. If I were to have chickens, that would be the way to do it.

Sadly Dragonfly Pond has since closed and sold, years ago.  Volente bought the ranch land backing their property with the intention of putting in a water park. I’m not sure if the park will ever be built, but there was a big brew-ha-ha when the land was first bought. Several homes on the other side of the fence sold. Supposedly the water park was going to be like a Robinson Caruso theme park, with tree-house hotels. But nothing has yet ever been built. Sad.

I’m just glad someone introduced us to the studio and that we were enriched by it. And during a time we needed nurturing. I’m grateful that it became part of our treasured memories before it went away.

I’m not sure I’ll ever own chickens one day or not. But if I did, that would surely be the way.

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My Current Favorite Method For Instant Pot Roast Beef…


I joined the IP madness last year on Black Friday. Got a killer deal on a Duo Plus after researching them for a few months prior.

Ever since, I’ve been absolutely smitten by this little wonder pot.

I grew up with pressure cooking, but also never forgot the time my mom blew up a pressure cooker in our kitchen. Nor had I forgotten what a pain the pressure cooker pots were to clean. So I really kind of ignored the whole IP frenzy for a few years. After all, I had TWO pressure cookers in my cabinets that I just didn’t want to use, because I didn’t want something to go wrong or have to clean them up.

Enter the magical world of Instant Pot (IP)!

Now, I wish I’d never waited. It’s very portable and travels easily. I’ve used it to cook dinner in hotel rooms and to help out when I visit friends and family.

Instant Pot would have saved the day many times while John was sick. Not to mention all those times we’d look at each other around dinner time and ask each other – “Hey, did you pull the meat out of the freezer? “No, I thought you did….” “Sigh… Sh******!”

As long as it fits into the pot, it doesn’t matter what shape your frozen food is in – the Instant Pot (IP) will cook it in no time!

My current favorite recipe right now is this roast beef method on This Old Gal. This method is surprisingly quick and exceptional.

It’s been a big hit for our family, and our gatherings, but I tweak it this way…

I use Apothic Dark for the wine, skip the fish sauce, mustard and TOG seasoning. For the rub I use grape seed oil, Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, Fiesta fajita seasoning and salt/pepper instead. And 2 bay leaves added to the pot, not just one. Rub it all over with minced garlic too! This time I also sprinkled on smoked paprika. AND I let the roast rest at room temperature for a couple hours before putting into the pot. Resulting in this beautiful baby!

Instant Pot Roast Beef - Raw

For reference, this is a 2.45 lb eye of round beef roast. Ready to go into The Pot.

Instant Pot Roast - medium rare

Instant Pot (IP) Roast Beef – fresh from the pot! Slicing up thin.

Just like the recipe calls, I use the sauté setting to just barely brown the roast on all sides, then use the meat setting on high pressure for 4 minutes.

After it’s reached pressure, I let it natural pressure release (aka. NPR) for 25 minutes.

I didn’t use a thermometer on mine to gauge it. I just found that with this small of a roast, this got me where I wanted the doneness to be.

In this photo, though, the roast is a little more done than I wanted, because I accidentally let it NPR about 40 minutes instead of 25.

But still, not bad! And quite tasty!

Know what my 2nd most favorite part of making roast in the IP is?
Warming up leftovers!

Instant Pot Roast - warmed up -medium

Leftover Instant Pot Roast Beef warmed up on the STEAM function. 3 days later!

So here’s the thing. You can warm up your leftover roast (steaks and such too) in the Instant Pot – without over cooking it, without slicing it and packing it in ice and putting in the oven, and without a number of other often suggested ways that usually result in overdone meat and lots of time.

Instead, put your leftover roast into a Pyrex container on a rack inside your IP. Make sure there’s at least 1 cup of liquid in there. Put the pot on the STEAM setting for 13-15 minutes. Then NPR for at least 15 minutes.

And voilà! It may not still be medium rare, but it’ll be hot and medium!

Just look at my photo on the right! That’s the same roast, warmed up on the STEAM setting 3 days later!

And it tastes almost like I just made it today!

Let me know if you try it! 😁

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The World Needs More Love Letters…


Another good man is dying in great pain tonight, while his loyal wife loves by his side.

She’s reached out multiple times to our prayer text chat.

I don’t know her. She doesn’t know me. We’ve never met.

A friend of a friend, desperate to try to help me through the tasks set before me, asked if I’d like to receive encouraging bible verses.

She sends them via group text every morning. I said sure.

I know she spends time, prayer and meditation on what verses to share each day and I find them pleasant. And I deeply respect and appreciate her efforts to show comfort to others.

More recently there have been extra requests for prayers, as this man’s cancer battle is ending.

The texts are brief, but potent with pain.

It hits my heart and I soul-search on what I can say that isn’t trite, or cliché, or preachy, or meaningless? Or that doesn’t send me into a tailspin of anxiety myself.

After all, I know better than most what she’s going through.

I know she feels hopeless and I’m not sure I can give her any. But I’ve found more than anything, the gift of witness is something powerful.

I no longer need someone to tell me things are going to be ok. They aren’t. They won’t be. I’ve survived more than most people can imagine and I’m quite aware that life goes on, whether I want it to or not.

But acknowledgement. Compassion. Witness. Those are powerful supports when the worst has/is happening.

I can’t stop the raging sand storm, but someone please pull out your camera and acknowledge that the storm exists. That my hair is a fantastic wreck. I really did see Big Foot.

“Ah, this is nothing. You’re too strong to let this get you.”

This stranger isn’t the only one. At least 3 of John’s and my friends are fighting for their lives against terminal cancer right now.

I don’t know what’s happening to gen-x, but deep sadness pervades our circles.

Encouragement has been a lifeline for me, and I very much want to provide encouragement for others as well.

I know how life saving it can actually be.

I also understand how hard it can be for others to figure out what to say.

No one has been trained for these things with the modern eye and understanding. No one wants to hurt me. No one wants to be afraid or feel these things or contemplate the possibilities that they might ever endure something similar to what they see when they glance my way.

Even in understanding all these pieces, sometimes words fail me when I want to encourage others.

Perhaps because I’ve already processed too much data for the day, and my words don’t want to work anymore.

And sometimes I wish I could just reach out and hold somebody’s hand, or hug them, or cry with them to show them I care and they’re not alone. Our experiences may be different, but there’s a fraternal understanding of the nuances of trauma, grief, disease, tragedy and loss. Something I’ve come to recognize with honor.

We try too hard to do everything right, that we are willing to freeze our souls just so we don’t make a mistake. We feel compassion, but we’re afraid to show it, or speak. We’re afraid to risk, so we bury the talent we’ve been given, to make sure we don’t judge or cause harm to others.

But risk is in the very air we breathe. We cannot escape it.

Nothing which has changed the world for the better has ever come at less than the price of risk.

So much of the time we stop telling people the things we feel. Messages never said, thoughts never spoken. We should all write more “letters” in the world.

If we never held back on communicating the love and encouragement we feel, I wonder how would that change the world?

Maybe it doesn’t change the world. Maybe it only changes one moment. But even that solitary seed has to count, right?

I keep reminding myself that there is No Fear In Love.

Every small nudge of encouragement, even a simple “thinking of you” is helpful; like a palm at my elbow, helping me find balance when I’m dizzy. Like a whisper on the wind; God’s reassurance working through others.

But then there are the insightful and creative responses too. And they do more than steady me.

They sparkle.

They deliver a bit of Life essence, something I have given out so much of and need to replenish. If given in love and honesty, they’re more than whispers – they’re God breezes and life-saving Light.

I’m not the only person in the world to go through awful things. So I feel it’s only right to learn from these gifts and seed it back out to my world.

I realize it’s an assumption that others experience this as I do. But it feels like Truth. And I want to be better and more generous with my love and words.

I don’t understand God’s plan for us, but I’m convinced that if we’ll allow it, He’ll use us to transmute these things.

I have long thought of tribulations in Life as a series of Whys, that if we consciously work with the Divine, will turn into Wows.

I haven’t found my big wow yet, but I look forward to discovering it someday.

And I hope you find yours too.

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If Wishes Were Fishes…


I believe the only way to get through crisis is to focus on the right now, and the just next.

That and healthy boundaries.

Obviously there are some things that could have long-term impact on your family if they don’t get done, but…

I wish I’d spent less time handling paperwork while John was sick, less time letting people tell me what I needed to do with said paperwork, and spent more time just holding my love’s hand, giving him every kiss I could and snuggling every chance.

I wish I took more naps with John. Sat on the couch and watched TV with him more.

It’s not that we didn’t have those moments. We did. But we could have had more before he died.

I did a lot, yes, and in a weird way, it was our trips to Houston for cancer treatment that gave us more time together, than at home when all the stuff had to be done. When the mailbox screamed at us.

But even so, I still wish I’d forgone some of the papers and phone calls and spent more of that time/energy with John.

In the end, maybe it helped some that I was on top of papers, but it didn’t prevent issues completely, I’m still in paperwork hell. The mailbox is just as loud and off-key.

And right now, I don’t care. I just want those moments with John. Once more his arms around me.

Don’t take it for granted. Don’t let the world tell you to focus on anything else.

The little moments matter so much more than you know.

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NaBloPoMo Tribal Resources – Find Your People People!


If you are looking for ways to participate in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) this November and meet others as crazy as you for considering this challenge in the midst of Thanksgiving, or if you’re a NaBloPoMo wannabe-supportive-I-eat-blogs-for-breakfast-groupie, here are a few places where people and information are pooling this year:

2018 NanoPoblano Badge for NaBloPoMoThe challenge known as Nano Poblano has been around a while, hosted by the Cheer Peppers. If you want to join their ranks as a Cheer Pepper and share November posts, that’s done in their Facebook Group and on their website here. I joined them last year, so you’ll see me in the group if you join too. Check out the 2018 NaNoPoblano Team for some great reads from bloggers ranging from seasoned (spicy!) and new. You can find the badge here on the left and a list of blogging resources from the Cheer Peppers here.  Official Hashtags/blogtags: #NaBloPoMo #NanoPoblano2018 #TeamTinyPepper. You can even find an active team Instagram page: @teamtinypeppers

Aimie Clouse over at Blissful Lemon hosted a NaBloPoMo challenge list last year. For 2018 she’s proposing a #Create30 challenge, where you create something every day for 30 days, but the form is more flexible. It’s not just geared towards writers. If you found the pressure of NaBloPoMo to be a bit much, but you want to keep your creative juices flowing, then you might want to check out her challenge for November.

A NaBloPoMo Revival Group has been established on Facebook just in time for this year’s challenge as well. As their tag line suggests, it’s a group “for all of us dealing with the withdrawal.” Think I joined? Duh, yup. They’re singing my song. Well, I’ve asked to join anyway. I’m sure they’ll approve my request soon, right? You can join too -> here. There are some other groups listed on Facebook for NaBloPoMo, but some are expired BlogHer groups and honestly this is the only related public FB group that looks like it’s active or cares.

To help with the enabling, I’ve created a NaBloPoMo Roster event listing over on my Aberrant Crochet Facebook page where everyone can share their NaBloPoMo posts. I’ll monitor it, but please feel free to share and chat there if you like. Being on Facebook should make it easy for people to share their posts without crashing anyone’s website. You can find that event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/305018210336226

See Jane Write is also hosting a November blogging challenge called #BlogLikeCrazy. By all descriptions it seems identical to NaBloPoMo, just much younger and perhaps hosted differently. You can check out that November challenge and any connected communities here: https://seejanewritebham.com/bloglikecrazy.

Several bloggers are taking to social media to share their challenge posts on their own.

You can find all sorts of goodness from them at the following links:

https://twitter.com/hashtag/nablopomo

https://plus.google.com/s/nablopomo/top

https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/nablopomo

https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/nablopomo2018

Know More Places?

If you know of more communities and places where the collective heart of NaBloPoMo can be found this year, do share in the comments below! Help our fellow writers and creatives find each other and commune again.

Should make for some really interesting and wonderful food for thought during this month of Thanksgiving. Good luck to all!

Talk to you tomorrow!

 

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Reaping Thorns: The Only Lifeline Is Love…


Yesterday, March 7th, marked the 2 year anniversary of rushing John to the ER. The day we first learned about glioblastoma. The day his 18 month, 8 day, 8 hour fight for life began.

Today our son walks into MD Anderson for surgery to remove the tumor inside his kidney.

We’re a whirl of emotions that should not exist all at once. But this Oprah article about failing friends in grief was appreciated.

Nothing teaches you harder about the impact of well-meant but misplaced words than the death of a spouse (or child), and worse when it is prefaced by a long, traumatic and even horrific journey to get there. A patient/caregiver/lovers’ journey that appears quieter than its reality, because you cannot talk about most of the grit. Because it’s too raw for anyone to experience. And you cannot go there without knowing you’re safe to open that door. No matter how desperately you need it.

The yearning for meaningful witness reaps thorns with it too. The callousness of the world levies its attention. And as the thorns collect, you cannot help but fear, dear God, did I ever do this to someone myself?

At least with the anticipatory grief that comes with a terminal illness, John and I could hold each other and witness each our tears.

With widowhood, any coping equipment you had for dealing with trauma is taken from you. The one person in your world who you always counted on and shared with is no longer there. Not to mention your every reality is permanently changed by no choice of your own. You not only lose your spouse, but everything you know and have is either taken or threatened too. Your time is stolen and effectiveness reduced; responsibilities change and magnify.

Unless a safety net can be successfully cast, your fall will be permanently disabling. Perhaps this is in part why the ministry to widows and orphans is so compelled in the Bible and in other religious texts. The alteration of reality can be crippling.

You will never ever see your husband again. You will never again feel their touch. They will never earn an income or owe taxes again. They will never put their things away ever again. They will never share the rest of your memories in any way. My John will never physically see his grandchildren and they will never get to meet him, even in passing. My heart will never recover its missing pieces. The bonding that marriage is, when you succeed – is excruciating when it is severed in trauma. Love is valuable, but it comes at a cost in the face of trauma. And the possibilities of never are endless.

Widowhood is torturous on multiple levels. The loss alone is more than enough. Grief will have its way with you, regardless of how much you understand. Regardless of your power of will. Like cancer, it is no respecter of persons. That carnivore will alter your capability in life, augmented by the quality of your relationship. The deeper the bond, the deeper the fractures. Yet the world steals more than just its lump of flesh. The startling negative things people will say. The vulnerability in a society that is still male dominant. The opportunists who come out of the wood work. But we don’t have the protection of neighbors and communities today like we once did in our history.

Even our friends get weird. They expect us to be normal, to react normal, to think normal, to remember like a normal remembers. They cannot see we lost an entire soul that once was inside. We simply cannot perform the way we did, until we recover. And maybe not even then. Maybe we’re different forever.

And then there’s the impact of silence, and the secondary vacuums that friends disappear into, which augments the feeling of losing every thing you value, trusted and recognize about the way you live, move and operate in the world.

In grief you are often forced to alter your perspective on relationships – that you did not expect to have to – along with your sense of trust and safety with others. Imagine suddenly having to reevaluate the safety of every relationship you’ve ever had. As death brings out the strange in people.

Some say cancer/illness/death shows you who your friends really are. Because friends wouldn’t hurt or abandon you if they cared, right? Especially when the demands upon you have multiplied beyond what a normal human being can expect.

I don’t know if that’s necessarily quite accurate, or even completely fair. That blanket seems a bit big.

Even now, in the well I’ve fallen into, I think that perspective is largely thanks to the filter of trauma we cannot help but be altered by. The tunnel vision we rely on in trauma, as all that we are often able to see is just the step we’re executing just right now. Blindingly looking for something to lean on, but faltering to find, because life knocked us silly and it’s not always easy for others to recognize.

No one is trained for this.

Not me. Not my friends.

I do not even now entirely understand what I need.

Just that I do. Need.

I know I’m far too vulnerable when a furniture salesman almost gets an earful from me, because my voice has been dumb for too long.

Neither I nor my friends will learn this without going through it together. And they cannot learn it if I am silent too.

I’m being forced into a rebirth I desperately did not want.

Every aspect of life as I’ve known it, in every way possible has been forcefully altered. It is unlike anything imaginable. Anguish that cannot be fathomed without experience. Something I could never wish on another. And yet desperately need witness for if I’m to heal.

We are all afraid of being overwhelmed, especially by what we do not understand. Trusting in God is helpful, but it doesn’t erase the way we’re designed. Without regular compassion to offset the regular negative, it’s no wonder that the loss of social support leads to “excess mortality rates” after the death of a spouse in our society.

Loss is part of the way of Life in this world. We cannot escape loss as part of our molding. Our losses are matched by our ability to Love. Our overcoming matched by the growth we already have achieved.

Well-meant but misplaced words injure. Silence injures less, but still injures. Silence robs friends of the opportunity to offset injuries caused by others. Because the callousness of the world will be on the doorstep. Not to mention judgement, gossip and malice. These too exist.

Am I what you expected after all.

How do we surmount both the precipice and the mountain falling down around us, as the tornadoes roar and floods gather at our knees?

There is only one answer. Face what you fear. The physical is transient. And the only lifeline is Love.

“Embrace the suck.” It was John’s message when he trained his men.

John’s words, his love, the Love of my Creator, and the love of my children and friends prop me as I face our son’s surgery today.

—–
March 8th, 2018
8:15am
by Julia Meek Chambers
All rights reserved.

Trapped In The Well - by AberrantCrochet

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Filed under Glioblastoma, Widowhood, Writing

Dark Side Of The Moon…


For me the storm is not over.

Merely changing its color.

Noise still deafens.

Wind still rages.

My head still tucked,

Bracing against the force and hanging on.

Bleeding wounds still unattended,

My furious storm shifts gears.

Black Hole devoured my Trees,

Swallowed my Sun

And gave black ice.

Dark, blinding, cold.

Vacant spot beside.

I am no longer a shield.

I am solitaire.

Written 11-30-2017, 01:30am
Copyright © 2017 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

Alone in the Dark Side of the Storm

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Filed under Glioblastoma, NaBloPoMo, Poetry, Writing

Silence Is Broken…


I finally dreamed about John 3 nights ago.

I was at an old drive in movie place, but instead of parking for cars, there was a collection of remodeled vans, cargo trucks and buses in the movie lot – tiny house style.

Where the guts of the original vehicle are removed and the inside is remodeled like an apartment.

Only these were basically just rooms to hang out in.

All the wheels had been removed from the vehicles and they just sat on the ground.

I walk up to the back of a long, converted cargo van and open the doors.

All the seats and stuff inside had been cleared out of it, save a single white bench seat/couch positioned in the middle, facing the back doors where I stood.

A custom couch made to look like it belongs in an old car, but obviously way more comfortable.

The van definitely seems bigger to me on the inside.

And there was John sitting on the couch, in his jeans, t-shirt and ball cap.

He tells me, hey baby – why don’t you come in and spend some time with me?

I look around, noting the absence of anything else inside this van.

And I quip, “Well now… I guess you did clean everything up quite a bit!”

Cocking my head, I smile coyly and start to close the door and come sit with him.

And then I freeze, staring at him – suddenly realizing, dear god I’m dreaming about him.

Nine weeks since he died and I’m finally seeing him.

But as soon as I realized he was there, the vision broke and I woke up. 😦

I tried to go back to sleep and revisit that dream, but it didn’t work.

Still, it’s remarkably comforting.

After weeks of complete vacuum, without a good or even a bad dream about John or our fight again GBM, I finally saw my love.

I just hope I see him more.

dream-van

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I don’t have to agree with you to find value in what you have to say


You know, a common (perhaps even fear based) block occurred to me this morning.

It’s a prevalent misnomer to think we have to embrace or commit to another point of view in order to gain from it or find value in it – we don’t.

Listening, learning, considering other points of view does not somehow lock us down.

It does not place chains on us. If anything, it makes us free.

The value is in the exchange, testing and even the voicing of ideas.

The keeping of ideas is not as laudable as reasoning and consideration.

We don’t have to agree in order to both be right.

And when you are fearless enough to accept that truth, the value that cracks open from that geode is breathtaking really.

We are amazing, intelligent and creative creatures.

Even when we don’t agree.

 

 

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Drive…


I don’t have a lot of answers. But I do have a few.

Life is too short a game to stick with things you hate.

Anything that takes your peace away is not healthy for you long-term.

Sure, there’s risk in change.

But all things worth anything require risk.

Life is risk. Love is risk. Hate is risk. Health is risk.

Winning is risk. Losing is risk.

Just releasing your voice upon the ether is risk.

ART IS RISK.

You can do everything right and lose every thing.

But in risking everything, you actually risk nothing.

Because you can’t opt out.

RISK is in every breath already.

It’s what makes life – LIFE.

Regardless of what you choose to do,
one of two things will happen.

You will take the next breath, or you won’t.

There’s freedom in that fact.

Might as well see what this game can look like.

And therein lies the key.

So ok, you can’t quit that job you hate today.

Or drop that class. Or move your family.

It sucks.

But you can craft a plan and set things in motion to move in a direction you want.

What does that take?

How would you get more data to look at those ideas more closely?

What doors would need to open?

How do you find those doors?

Who are the people associated with those doors and where do you meet them?

Work the problem backwards and find yourself some steps to start with.

If nothing else, life won’t be boring if you pursue this exercise in free will.

And know this.

YOU are the most powerful thing in your entire universe.

Nothing is more powerful than you. Save God, but he gives you free will.

So be your own creator.

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, doesn’t matter.

Grab the handles of that motorcycle and drive that engine where you want to go.

Whatever you do – DON’T make a plan based on what you think the world wants.

Screw that.

What would you like to do? What does quality of life mean to you?

What would you like written on your gravestone?

Start with that.

But don’t wait around. Death is certain for us all.

I’m no one special, but I hope this helps.

Resolve to trust yourself a little more tomorrow than you do right now.

You won’t regret it.

“The trouble is, you think you have time.”
– Jack Kornfield, Buddha’s Little Instruction Book

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El Dorado…


It’s been a difficult few days.

Actually, a difficult few weeks and months.

Actually… 18 months of crisis fighting tooth and nail to be exact.
Difficult challenges around every corner.

Culminating up to a pinnacle, a colossus.

I suppose befitting the force of nature that I fiercely love. Who showers me and our children with his fierce love in return. Our love that was not simply stumbled upon in luck, but worked, created, earned and crafted between us over 22 years. #SeizeTheRide

John’s chariot came. He was stolen away this weekend, far too soon.

Neither he nor I did anything to deserve the pain and trials received through this journey, but we strove to create something better through them anyway. We chose to transmute and live consciously and as gracefully as possible. And do every damned thing we could to help others, every chance possible.

I’d like to think our lives were richer and more meaningful for it.

The love and support of others helped in every way.

To everyone who has followed and simply made a point of reaching out and holding our hands in this most terrible of storms – our utmost gratitude.

– ♡♡ –

#RaiseAwareness  #Glioblastoma #CureGBM #PrayersContinued

Here’s what I wrote for John’s FB page.  I don’t think I can write it again: https://www.facebook.com/303426583411423/photos/a.303554250065323.1073741831.303426583411423/368767613543986/?type=3&theater

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Filed under Friends and Family, Glioblastoma

The Reveal…


Elightened TreeThe din rises and surrounds me.

Complaints and feelings and judgements and hate.

Everyone hurts, at least a little.

And so I stretch and I climb.

Petty ideas and rigid mindsets
disassemble easily in the face of extremity.

Every thing someone wants me to invest into,
I can sling shot at that.

The true test of mettle.

You’ll never know how strong something is
until you push it to the breaking point.

This is true of ideas, things, ethos and people.

The Face of Extremity will undress anything.

My can crusher of Enlightenment.

Clatter beckons at my knee; I reach for limb and pull.

The noise has always bothered me; the annoyance and distraction.

I used to be impatient with it.

But right now it simply falls away.

My ears and eyes and heartbeat only have room for Now.

Purity, truth, honor, love.

The gap that swallowed me whole.

Right Now.

Right Now.

Just Now.

One heartbeat. And two.

Who knew faith required a plastic mind?

Written 03-18-2017, 02:48am
Copyright © 2017 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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Heartbeat In My Ears…


My true story. 

There’s a heartbeat sounding in my ears.

“See mom, these are the Hot Wheels I want to keep, because they have moving parts.”  The rest can go to the fundraiser.

Moving parts are always more interesting.

Thump-thump.

I hear the crashing sound of a demolition crew.

Wait….  That’s not right.  I’m sitting at a stop light.  At an intersection on the edge of town.  Nothing but trees and cacti on my right.  I turn to my left.

Heartbeat.

There’s an infinity in the space between moments.  Did I leave my body?

Heartbeat.  Silence.

My child!

If I left my body, it wasn’t for long.  But I’m frozen.

The pickup driver’s hair is blonde.

Flash…..

My earliest childhood memory takes place in my father’s arms at an amusement park.  My parents told me that I must have been about 18 months old when they took that trip.

I’m staring at a ride that looks something like a huge airplane propeller with rockets on each end.  It’s painted red, white and blue, with one end red, the other blue and a band of white at the axis.

The propeller spins and there is a boy in the blue rocket.  His shirt is yellow.  He’s screaming his head off and I can see a look in his eyes.

Flash…..

A black pickup is hanging in mid-air.  It twists and grows larger.

Fractured glass.

The driver’s hair is blonde.  There is a look in his eyes.

My hand flies out in front of my son.

Flash…..

It’s Friday before Spring Break 2005.  I’m going to see Grandma Dot and Grandpa Jack.  I packed the antique dishes Grandma Dot’s great-uncle gave her, that she passed on to me.  He was the US ambassador to Mexico once and he brought her back this set of white dishes.  I want to ask her for more details to complete the story about these dishes.  She always remembers the stories to everything.  But when I tried to ask over the phone, she wasn’t sure which set I was talking about.

They were last to load into the trunk.

“Darling, let me keep the kids.  I know you wonder if this might be the last time they’ll get to see the kids or not, but you’ll be stressed out trying to keep them away from the breakables at your grandparents.  I’ll keep the kids.  Just go, enjoy your time with your grandparents.”

My husband is wonderful.  Though guilt worries me.  What if this is the last time Grandpa is able to see his great-grandchildren?  But John’s right – Grandma’s house is not child-proof by any means.  I remove the car seats from the back seat, say goodbye to my children and leave them with John.

I always say prayers in the car when I go on a trip.

It’s Friday before spring break and Interstate 35 is filled with college students, excited for the break.  Mid-terms are over and I see kids hanging out of cars at 65 miles an hour whooping up the day.

It’s dangerous.  But I also remember college mid-terms and how delirious they make you feel.  Stress that only the young can take.  Why do we do that to them?

At mile marker 299:  The highway suddenly goes from three lanes to two, with no warning.

Some kids cut off a yellow moving truck; they’re trying to merge and going too fast.  The yellow truck practically stands on its brakes and every car around it suddenly fishes right or left to avoid collision.  There is a full shoulder on the left which only lasts for about one mile.  The young man in front of me and I quickly and successfully move to that left shoulder and safely get by.

Suddenly, there’s a force from behind me that is so great.

Can sounds blind you?

I look to my rear-view and see the demolition hitch.  It’s coming through my back window towards my head.  The white Ford F-350 doesn’t have a grill on the front.  There’s something else attached.  It looks like the front of a snow-plow.

The truck is so much higher than my silver Altima, that it never hits my bumper.  Unbounded, it plows through my back window and seat. The trunk of my car is center-punched down the middle.  Slammed, I collide into the car ahead of me.

For an instant, everything is black.

My hood blows.  Glass sprays like snow.  My shoulder hurts like hell.  My air-bag never deployed.

Just two weeks before this, I saw a little silver car smashed between the highway median wall and a semi truck on the way to the kids’ school.  I came home and told my husband, “I don’t want to drive a little silver car anymore.”

I guess I got my wish.

I start shaking uncontrollably and burst into tears.  I am going numb.

Flash…..

It’s just like a movie stunt, except without exciting music, and without a drumbeat.  Just my heart, ringing in my ears.

The little black truck is hanging high in the air – twisting, flying towards us.

I am frozen.  Caught between stories in time.

My stories.  My traumas.  My time-warp.  The words ring through me, “I just got a new home and now my child and I are going to die.”

And those aren’t spoken words.  There is no “hearing” of them.  They impress on the very soul, like a stamp.  Like a vice.  Punching through the heart and being.

My hand flies out in front of my son.  The truck slams to the ground on its nose and bounces, flipping towards us.

The driver’s hair is blonde.  I’m boxed in.  I can’t back up.

There’s nowhere to go.  I am frozen.

It is silent.


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Self-Employment Reflections of a Writer and Social Media Strategist…


Business ownership for me is a journey of evolution.

A form of spiritual awakening. A human revealing.

It is a Life tool that helps to push me to a higher ideal in reaching my greatest potential.

As I wade myself through Life,
navigating the hurdles and checkpoints,
I find value in what this path teaches me
and the invaluable self-discovery it leads me to.

Up there with parenthood, I believe business ownership to be one of the most compelling and empowering human experiences we can choose to take on.

An experience that will – without a doubt – force us to grow.
Force us to get to know ourselves.

Today, I’m working on my messenger response cheat sheets.

I want to have great responses for common questions ready to go. So I can respond quickly and fluidly over the holidays, during travel, the baking and Christmas cards and care packages I want to do, etc.. Maintaining my excellence service without a hitch.

I bust my butt to create them now so I can rely on them later.

Truth is, as a writer I craft and use cheat sheets and templates all the time. I’m also always looking for better, more effective words. Keeping a journal of vocabulary ideas.

Over the years I’ve found that cheat sheets, forms, journals, systems, and templates help a lot to streamline the work I do for my clients.

It helps me maintain consistent, accurate communication, even during less ideal times.

Times when my brain is tired. When my family is sick. When I have a migraine. When my left arm/hand goes numb from an old injury. When I’m working from the hospital waiting room.

I share this because I know that we all struggle with less than ideal circumstances in our self-employment.

It’s part of the game.

And sometimes it’s less than ideal circumstances that push us into this road of self-employment.

Adversity happens.

It’s absolutely inevitable in the human experience.

The question is – how prepared are you for that eventuality?

If your business is not big enough to hire out for help, then routines, systems, templates, and workflows are imperative to your survival. The “hacks” that will save your ass when the chips are down.

But more than that – it’s how you nurture your business to a place of thriving, not just surviving.

Systems and “self-programs” are the way we work more efficiently, replicate consistent results, save valuable time and resources.

If you’re self-employed, more than likely you came to this place of self-employment as a means of creating flexibility in your life.

It doesn’t necessarily result in less work in your life, but it can result in more freedom.

By rearranging your schedule on your own terms.

By rearranging your work in a way that’s best for you.

By accommodating:
additional goals,
a desire to volunteer in some meaningful way,
an illness,
that book you’re going to write,
a disability,
divorce,
caregiving,
introversion,
death of a loved one,
parenthood,
ageism,
anxiety and depression,
a special needs child,
overwhelming family circumstances.

As creators, we have everything we need to create a pathway to thriving success.

The perfect Brady Bunch story does not show up for us on a silver platter.
It never will.

But as leaders and creators of our own destiny, we don’t need it to.

We just need to put the work in,
to nurture
this path
that we say we want to take.

Like a soul-mate,
we must meet our business halfway,
making the commitment
to our flowering relationship
and the fruit it will bear
loving it as we love ourselves.

For our business, after all, is Us.

What systems are you putting into place to nurture the vehicle to the future you have claimed?


12-8-2019
Copyright © 2019 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.
Reflections of a Self-Employed Writer and Social Media Strategist...

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1001…


I admit it freely – I’m a tab abuser. I turn them up way past 11. When we talk about multitasking, I’m not normal.

Only thing is, I think tabs should be used in multitude. Why have tabs for your browsers at all if you don’t take advantage of the functionality? It better matches how my brain works. The closest thing to a mind map that internetwork can offer. The way I’ve evolved my work relies on the use of tabs as part of my system of processes, switching between task, after task.

When I mention to colleagues that I have multiple tabs open, they often jump in and agree. “I’m like that too! I must have 15 tabs open right now!”

I smile, but they do not understand. They really don’t. Fifteen is nothing. ‘Tis but a drop.

However, I know I have grown a monster that is difficult even for me to manage. And I’m looking for solutions. And you’ll probably ask something about why I haven’t stored them in groups, etc. And it’s because of the many times a browser update has drop-kicked all my tabs, all my collections, my presets, etc.. Been through it too many times.

So I have multiple tabs open and I reload them upon every startup. But the number is getting out of hand. In fact, even I’m surprised that my browser hasn’t crashed sooner.

Thus I’ve been looking for apps and programs that can best help me both manage and pair down the massive amount of data my computer is trying to process as well as how much I’m trying to consume as well. Because my brain handles a LOT of multitasking, but it also has limits and I need better systems and organization to do everything I must.

Sometimes you gotta clean house.

I’ve been looking and digging for months, trying to find something I like, that makes sense to my brain. So this morning, I downloaded Tab Manager Plus for Firefox.

I have no idea yet if it will finally be the one, my tabular soul mate. So many beaus before have tried and failed. I’ve been told I’m too demanding and high maintenance, but somewhere out there is a tab managing system that’s meant for me. One day that prince will come. Maybe it’s this one. We’ll see.

It did show me what kind of tab user I am though. 1001. That’s the number of tabs open in my Firefox alone. That doesn’t count Chrome, MS Edge, Safari, or Explorer. I have 88 open just on Chrome right now.

No, I don’t feel bad about it.

Oh, and this is just my laptop, not counting my desktop. Of course, Firefox has a special design to it that does not activate all open tabs at once, unlike Chrome. So my Firefox tabs are not stressing the system at 1001. Probably more like 101. Give or take.

Anyway, so I’m not sure if I’m the worst of tab users out there, but I think it’s safe to say that I rank pretty high. I’ll let you know how the new gear checks out.

Pics or it didn’t happen? Screenshot below!

1001 Browser Tabs Open Screenshot

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When You Think Of Donations, Please Consider This Mission For The Glioblastoma Community…


If you have been diagnosed with a Brain Tumor you are not alone.

Meet my friend Greg Cantwell. He is now a 16-year glioblastoma survivor (aka GBM, grade 4 brain cancer). He is also one of two Texas brain tumor advocates to the State. He created a 501C3 called Greg’s Mission for the sole purpose of helping other brain cancer patients – because he’s been there and he knows!

Greg is here to help other glioblastoma patients navigate the system so they can make educated and informed decisions on what’s best for them.

After all, it’s their life!

If you know someone with glioblastoma, or any form of brain tumor (remember, even benign brain tumors KILL) – get them in touch with Greg for support. His services are free to brain tumor patients and their families.

Brain cancer patients have a much lower survivability rate without an advocate. It’s just reality. And most small hospitals do not understand enough about GBM to act quickly enough to educate patients and their families fast enough. In many cases, the smaller local hospitals don’t understand anything about this rare disease at all.

Greg plays a very important role in the brain cancer community and helps patients and their families all around the US.

However, this mission needs financial support.

Brain cancer remains the least funded of all cancers. This is true for research, for financial aid and for cancer support systems that help families with the stress and aftermath of living with brain cancer.

As important as Greg’s services are, as much as brain cancer hospitals rely on and refer patients to Greg for coaching and support, due to insurance regulations and laws, his advocacy services are not considered insurance billable services.

And therefore, the only way Greg can continue this mission – to help glioblastoma patients navigate the system when they have the fastest moving cancer known (glioblastoma can double in size every 2-3 weeks) – is to rely on donations. And most glioblastoma patients cannot afford to donate themselves!

Please share this information and consider supporting Greg’s Mission.

Something as simple as registering Greg’s Mission through https://smile.amazon.com and letting your purchases benefit his 501C3 charity will go far to make a difference in the lives of brain cancer patients and families everywhere.

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Education From “The Funny Papers…”


When I was a kid, my grandfather had an expression he frequently used to refer to people with no sense in their heads. People who “get their education from the funny papers.”

I used to think it was such an odd expression. An odd phrase. I loved reading the “funny papers.” I think it even helped improve my reading skills.

“Blondie” was one of my favorites. Along with “Beetle Bailey” and others. I recently mentioned to my son when he made himself a giant sandwich that he’d created a nice looking Dagwood Sandwich. He froze and stared at me, then asked me what on earth was a Dagwood sandwich. It never occurred to me that he might not know.

I spent the day today working and then attended a local veteran’s festival event that supports vets and their families. Met some good people and organizations, which I’ll share about later.

However, it was emotional for me. I stood there, surrounded by soldiers and vets, in uniform and out. And I burst into tears. Ugh. I tried to keep it together, but really couldn’t quite. Still, it was a good event and I had some pleasant conversation by the time I left and everyone was taking down.

The afternoon of overwhelming emotion left me stripped though. And instead of getting right back to work, which I needed to do, I wanted nothing more than to run away, find a movie theater or binge watch Doctor Who or Good Omens on auto-replay. And I can’t.

So, I did the next best thing. My son and I sat down to eat dinner in front of cartoons tonight. And when my daughter came home from her classes, she joined in with us too.

We started with Phineas and Ferb and ended with Ducktales. Cartoons we used to watch together with John at one time or another.

And it was interesting how helpful it was. I mean, I almost never watch TV on my own. I watched TV with John. And since his death, I don’t watch much of it at all. (In fact, John bought “me” our first TV when we were dating. “Look honey, I have a surprise for you,” as I recall it went.) So it’s been weeks since I sat down to watch anything. And here it was just cartoons that I turned to for relief. Even the ridiculous commercials for kids between cartoon breaks were oddly comforting.

What really struck me though, especially as an entrepreneur, was the Ducktales episode. At the beginning of the episode, Louie approaches Scrooge for money to fund a new hair-brained business venture. And Scrooge tells him that if he wants to be in business, he needs to find a problem that needs solving and then provide a solution. That this was his key to success.

And I was struck by how awesome it was that this cartoon was teaching principles of business to kids. And how Scrooge, who had plenty of money to hand out (and was even at one point willing to give Louie a small loan, but not a huge one), offered advice instead. He encouraged Louie to be enterprising.

It was refreshing, as I try to grow my social media and writing business, now that I’m supporting my family all on my own. Refreshing to hear a solid business principle come out of a cartoon character’s mouth.

Huh, an education from today’s modern “funny papers.”

I wonder how many kids who watched this cartoon when it first aired way back when are now business owners today.

In the next scenes, Louie brainstorms with his siblings to find problems to solve and needs to fill.

He asks them – what does everyone need? And his sister pipes up and says “Crochet hand grenade holders!”

And with that, I just want to make one.

It cinched the deal because I was already thinking earlier this week that I need a Holy Hand Grenade Of Antioch. And that the Maker in me very much wants to make one for prominent display inside my family TARDIS.

And she’s right. I’m going to need a holder for it.

Amazon Affiliate Link - Crochet Holy Hand Grenade Of Antioch

(affiliate link)

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Find Your Wall…


People ask about my philosophy for finding my balance.

Especially with all that’s happened to my family, these last 3 years.

Life can be overwhelming.

It can drown you.

And it will without boundaries.

It will without a way to brace yourself.

Find where your wall is.

That place that when you’re against it, you daren’t go past.

That place that makes you face what you want to run from.

That place that you can hang onto when the world rages at you.

When I have trouble with my boundaries today, my wall is my son.

Some will say it should be God.

I don’t disagree, but sometimes it’s when our kids are at risk that we rise up when we otherwise didn’t have it in us.

Sometimes, it’s Unconditional Love, not our vision of a Creator, that makes us see more.

I have a son fighting cancer who needs me to stick to my boundaries.

I need to accomplish a certain number of things.

I need to hit a certain $$ number every year to make sure he has access to the care he needs.

Talk about being hungry enough – most people I know do not understand what hungry actually is.

I cannot hit the number I need if I’m not disciplined about my work and how I bill.

I share that as someone who knows this and still struggles sometimes, even after 20+ years of part-time self-employment.

I share this because my son is my motivation above all else at this time.

We handcrafters, we women, we caregivers, we the self-employed who fight imposter syndrome…

– We must value ourselves and we must reverse engineer how to supply our needs.

Find that thing for you that helps you stick to your boundaries and commitments.

Find Your Wall.

When you have that, you will often find clarity in what is healthiest for you, your family and your business.

Find Your Wall - Julia Meek Chambers - Aberrant Crochet - My philosophy of finding my balance in the face of uncertainty

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Bearing Witness…


In the last couple of weeks, two more of John’s and my friends from college have passed away from cancer, both leaving behind orphans and grieving spouses. That’s something like 11 people now that John and I went to college with, who have passed away from cancer in the last 3 years. All in their 40’s. All from a theology college of less than 2000 students. A college that closed its doors 3 years after I left and no longer exists, except in memory.

Our alumni community as a whole is shocked and grieving, as two of our best fought hard and died. And as my worries since John’s death have multiplied and as our wedding anniversary approaches just before Christmas, I would be lying if I said I am not struggling to survive every day. John and I would have celebrated 23 years together on the 23rd before Christmas. We got married on Christmas weekend to make it easier on our friends around the country to be able to attend. I struggle with a lack of luster and motivation now that I never knew possible, even during John’s fight. A lack of motivation that only comes from loss caused by death. I think perhaps my lack is more significant than expected in part because of how long and hard the fight was. If he’d passed away suddenly, there wouldn’t have been time to hope. He wouldn’t have worked his butt off, hoping doctors would learn as much as possible from him, only to feel like it meant nothing. At least during the fight we had hope. But in the end, I could not save John’s life. And either neither could, or would, God. Now, there is no hope in the physical life. There’s only hope in death. When you’ve lived a life of service and it’s all you know, such terrible losses and traumas are extremely hard to justify, or recover from. If what I do here on this plane does not make a difference, then where is the motivation in this life.

Megan Divine is an expert in extreme grief and loss. You can find her website at https://www.refugeingrief.com. She created a helpful video titled, How Do You Help A Grieving Friend?, which I’ve shared below.

In my struggle to find words, I’ve voiced much of what this video points out. It’s all true. Witnessing is the most powerful thing in the enduring and bearing of grief. Opportunity to speak and experiences to be heard are invaluable.

When half of you dies and life speeds on and everyone else goes back to living, we feel trapped in a madness no one else sees. Because it *is* a madness no one else knows without having experienced it. And the only way out is to give it voice with witnesses.

My experience with the trauma of glioblastoma and John’s death has made me think about my philosophies on parenthood even deeper. When my kids fell and got hurt, I didn’t interpret their pain for them (that must really hurt) nor did I deny it’s existence (aw, you’re not hurt) either. I held them as they cried, let them tell me about it while taking care of anything I knew needed attention and then figured out how to guide them in their emotions based on how they were processing them. I realized that there were times that my children felt trapped, waiting for someone to notice that something was wrong. For someone to stop them and give them the chance to speak. Part of my job was being a detective too and not just expecting that my kids knew they could talk to me, but proving it. They needed to process and they needed to feel safe with me to do it in a healthy and useful way. They needed a chance to evolve carefully emotionally. I didn’t need to tell them how they felt, they needed to voice it out and share with me and sort it verbally. I wanted my kids to know their own voice, so they could find it when they need it most. And I wanted them to know I would listen, in everything, little or big. As a result, my relationship with my kids is stronger, when they and I need it most. I listened to everything, so they’d never doubt if I could be trusted when the big things came up.

Grief is much the same way, just a large-scale experiment. It’s a two-way street, but when the grieved feel their hands being truly held, vs. slapped, denied or even a vacuum of no hand to find at all (silence is the worst), it makes a difference. Witnessing helps most of all. Tell me your story, the real one, not the pretend one. Hasn’t genuine friendship always been about that? Don’t real people, good people do that for each other?

Some really traumatic and horrible things happened that no one wants to acknowledge, not even I want it to be real. And yet if they’re never acknowledged, healing will never truly take place. It helps me when my friends will bring up and speak John’s name, when they acknowledge his fight and that it was hard, not easy, when they ask questions and are willing to hear the truth. It helps when friends let me be genuine and don’t expect me to put on a “good face.” It helps when my friends don’t seem to disappear into a black hole too, when they don’t avoid me so as to not experience my agony. It helps to know my friends are not afraid of me.

Thank you to those who will take the opportunity to learn with me and who will bear to witness.

As many of us come together as a community to support a variety of trials and losses and hard experiences, some very recent and painful in the loss of our alumni friends, and all the cancer fights in our circles, this is the introspection I have today.


This video is hosted on YouTube and is copyright Megan Devine and Refuge in Grief. It is shared here with permission. You can learn more about Megan and her work at https://www.refugeingrief.com.

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TARDIS…


I wish that I was bigger on the inside,
so that I could send out greater love.
My heart and prayers go out to everyone tonight,
hurting, sad, or not.

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Making Bone Broth: 19 Must Read Resources To Teach You Why And How…


Making bone broth is one of those recipes/activities that has become a staple in my kitchen. I don’t always get to have leftover turkey bones from Thanksgiving (if I’m not hosting, I’m not usually making the turkey), but turkey carcasses make the bestest of bone broths in my opinion. Usually, I’m making bone broth from an organic chicken carcass.

Bone broth may seem “new,” with the Primal, Paleo and Keto diet movements, et all, but it’s actually steeped in history. From the root word meaning “restore,” the first “restaurants” were places you could go to get restorative bone broth, for the ill or the weary with travel.

It’s not hard to make and it’s so, so very good for you. I think everyone should learn how. So I thought I’d provide my must read list of resources to help spread the madness.

In my opinion, the list of links below represent some of the best information available on bone broth. Not just instructions, but why’s and variations. I think nearly half of these links are from doctors, which is nice if you want to learn *how* bone broth can help the body heal. With loved ones in my family suffering from diverticulitis and Lyme disease, I was especially interested in how bone broth could be helpful in healing from those diseases. I was raised on nutritional thinking and natural healing, so digging into resources on managing diverticulitis or healing Lyme naturally was second nature to me. The Eater.com link below provides more on the history of bone broth. Comparative recipes and methods can be found via the other links.

The 7 day broth link, and a post from a chef that I couldn’t find again (sorry), are the resources that convinced me to cook my chicken bones for at least 5 days. In fact, I often crock pot my bones 7-10 days with no problems. Works great. I also use my Instant Pot when I want a quick fix just right now. It’s a good broth, but there’s something I prefer about a week-long simmering broth that I drink from and add herbs and vegetables to every day.

I’ve researched through far more than just these articles, but didn’t save everything I’ve read.  Hopefully this list will arm you with solid information and help get you started on your own.

Tell me how it goes!

http://chriskresser.com/how-to-prevent-diverticulitis-naturally

http://primaldocs.com/members-blog/commit-to-your-health-drink-bone-broth

http://www.amymyersmd.com/2014/05/roasted-chicken-gut-healing-bone-broth

http://terrywahls.com/homemade-bone-broth

http://draxe.com/diverticulitis-diet

http://draxe.com/natural-strategies-to-cure-lyme-disease

http://draxe.com/lyme-disease-natural-remedies

http://draxe.com/the-healing-power-of-bone-broth-for-digestion-arthritis-and-cellulite

http://draxe.com/recipe/beef-bone-broth

http://realfoodrn.com/7-day-bone-broth/

http://drhenriroca.com/2014/05/bone-broth-benefits

http://nourishedandnurtured.blogspot.com/2013/01/how-to-make-bone-broth-and-my-favorite.html

http://www.thepiggery.net/pigblog/bone-broth-recipe

http://paleoleap.com/making-fresh-bone-stock

http://wellnessmama.com/5888/how-to-make-bone-broth

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-bone-broth-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-215311

http://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/difference-stock-broth-bone-broth-article

http://www.eater.com/2015/2/12/8025027/what-is-bone-broth-and-why-is-everyone-talking-about-it

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/cooking-with-bones/#axzz3cVjrOSAd

Do you have other good bone broth links?

Please share them with me in the comments below!

soup-bones-bone-broth

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I Got People For That…


Community. Tribe. Team.

It’s what human beings are drawn to.

Even when we’re loners.

A network of friends and family and resources and colleagues.

My 10th level wizard on speed dial.

Outsourcing my spells.

Ideally united in the goal of making things better in the world.

It’s who we desire to serve, and what we desire to build.

Our hope for tomorrow.

As humans have never in history ever thrived alone.

I’m not infinite enough to learn and do it all.

So I appreciate the experts in my life.

The people who are willing to be experts in the things I can’t absorb too.

The friends willing to share the collective burden of tasks gathered in a single lifetime.

I selfishly hope my mechanic and chiropractor never, ever retire.

And in truth, I’ll help them however I can, should they need my skills.

I even already have.

Exchange of comparable value.

Expertise for expertise.

An ear for an ear.

Value for value.

The freedom to know that I don’t have to worry about “that thing” that I’m uncomfortable with.

Because, “I got people for that.”

Isn’t that a level of cooperation we all seek?

I appreciate the experts in my life who can focus on the things I cannot.

I want to be someone’s “people for that.”

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