It is the practice or quality of being kind, considerate, or helpful, without expecting anything in return. It is a friendly behavior, showing compassion and mercy. Simply put, it is a state of being or lifestyle.
I was taught as a child that being kind was always the right thing to do. Back in those days (that seem so long ago), it was a common attribute of general society to be polite and considerate of others, and to be helpful.
It didn’t mean that I had to agree with everyone about everything. But even in differences of opinion, respect and civility could still be shown, and that is a kindness in itself.
Luke 6:31AMP says, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you”. That was considered the Golden rule. Other phrases such as, “what goes around, comes around”, and “reap what one sows” also come to mind.
But it’s really not about being rewarded in return for an act of kindness.
I have lived in loneliness, darkness, even despair. And I have experienced first-hand the impact that one simple act of kindness can give to a broken heart. There was no demand, nothing asked in return for the hand of hope, a kind word, a smile, a simple gesture. But the life that was breathed back into my soul was and is, an unfathomable treasure.
I’ve also learned that a kindness doesn’t have to be directed at me specifically to have an impact on me. Think of the stories and videos going viral that tell of how someone’s actions made a difference in the life of another, like rescues of a puppy or kitten, or buying a car for someone in need. It may be on a grand scale, like donating a kidney, or may be in a simple small way, like sending cards to a little girl in the hospital. But it makes a difference in my heart when I hear of these acts.
Today is called World Kindness Day, which should really be every day.
As I flipped through the world news this morning, I couldn’t help but notice the anger and animosity being spewed in the headlines. I noticed that some of the people doing the loudest screaming actually do have good ideas and intentions. But while appealing to the emotions of anger will always gain attention, it also creates more division and hatred, which never leads to any lasting good.
I remember once, someone was yelling at me, demanding that I conform to their wishes. My response was, “If you want me to do something, ask or discuss it in a congenial manner, and I will most likely do it, even if I don’t particularly want to. But if you scream at me in a harsh or threatening manner, I most definitely will not go along with you”. Being forced to comply with something is simply a form of slavery.
On the other hand, soft words and leading by example can have a ripple effect that reaches far, creating change based on a desire of heart.
For example, when I was a firefighter back in the 90’s, we were working on mopping up a wildfire just off the Kenai River. During our lunchtime the first day, I decided to take a walk along the river to enjoy the view. I noticed there were a lot of fishing lines, beer bottles, and other types of garbage all along the riverbanks. So, I took out a plastic bag from my backpack and began picking up the debris. Soon, another firefighter came over and joined me in the clean-up. Within about 5 minutes, all 16 people on our crew had joined in the effort. We didn’t scream and yell at the tourists passing by, demanding that they join us. But several of them did join us, including one man that provided his truck to haul the garbage off to the dump, which he paid the fee for. No one asked us to do it, and we weren’t getting paid to do it. We didn’t stand around waving signs, pointing fingers, or blaming anyone. We just did it because we believed it needed doing, and even after our crew had to return to the fire, there were still people cleaning up along the river.
My small act by itself barely made a dent in the amount of garbage there. But the act had a ripple effect that did make a difference. It is also one of the things that friends of my son Christian remember so fondly about him. He was always stopping to pick up garbage wherever he went and jumping in to help wherever he could.
That is how kindness works. It grows inside your heart and moves on to influence the hearts of others, sometimes in ways that you never even know about.
“Kindness, like grain, increases by sowing”. – H.G. Bohn
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”. – Margaret Meade
It all starts with a choice, to be kind, or not. What will you choose?
Love to all. Now go out and Make A Difference. – Amber
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it”. The saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns, and it has been the story of my life for the past month.
After launching my book, The Chosen Ones, back in September, I announced that book #2 was scheduled to be released in early December. I knew I would be under pressure to write the book while still doing promotions for #1, but I was optimistic and felt sure that I could do it.
I am a planner, perhaps even a bit of a control-freak. I create a step-by-step blueprint of how I am going to achieve my goals, and then I endeavor to follow this plan each day until the task or project is completed.
However, life has a way of throwing a wrench into the most perfectly lined out plans.
In this past month, my dog Frodo, started having idiopathic epileptic seizures. He has had 4 to date, each of the grand mal (full-blown seizure) type. As of yet, I have been unable to detect any signs or warnings preceding an attack, though the last 2 occurred 12 hours apart and after a particularly stressful period. Afterwards, he becomes confused and unsettled, and clings to me like a shadow. My heart breaks, not being able to explain it to him, though I do my best to comfort and reassure him. The vet I talked to suggested using CBD oil and changing his diet to a raw natural one as the first course of treatment. If the seizures become worse or more frequent, then medications such as phenobarbital or potassium bromide may become necessary.
By his own nature, Frodo is rather protective of me and not exactly the friendliest dog. He is also somewhat stubborn in regard to obeying commands at this point, (something I am still working on), so I usually choose not to take him with me out in public. But since the seizures started, I don’t want to leave him alone. So, my self-imposed restrictions have prevented a major portion of my promotions, and in turn missed sales.
I have consoled myself of this setback with knowing that as my canine companion and friend, Frodo is worth doing what I have to in order to help him. I know there are those that would not agree with my sentiment here, and that is fine. It is just a part of who I am and will always be. We will work through this together.
One of my closest friends described me as, “independent, stubborn, stoic, and determined”. For the most part, I consider these to be good character traits. I grew up with the mindset that, if something needs doing, I just do it. I don’t believe in putting my responsibilities off onto someone else, and I’ve never been great at asking for help when I need it. I have managed to improvise when necessary, finding creative ways of doing things on my own, instead of bothering others to do things for me.
However, with age (and pain), some wisdom has been gained.
A few years ago, I began having minor issues with chest pains and irregular heartbeat, though not enough to seek medical help. A combination of mistrust and fear of doctors tends to make me avoid them (no offense intended to the medical professionals out there). So, I waited.
Since then, the issues became more pronounced, and I realized there was something wrong. So, I finally faced the dragon and made an appointment.
With symptoms of pain in my chest, heart palpitations and a murmur, extreme fatigue, dizziness, and high blood pressure, the doctor ordered blood tests and an EKG. She then ordered an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart.
Last Thursday I went to the cardiologist for the consultation of the results. I expected a 15 to 20 minute visit to discuss the results, and being told to lose weight and change my diet, and maybe some medication and a few other lifestyle changes.
Instead, I was told that I had apparently already had at least 1 heart attack, and there was damage to the wall between the chambers of my heart, and that I have aortic stenosis, a condition where the main valve that pushes the blood out through the body does not work properly. The doctor said that he also heard a sound in my neck that shouldn’t be there.
He said there may be some blockages in my heart, and he wanted to do a heart catheterization to get a better look, and that if there were blockages, he would insert stents or that open heart surgery may be necessary.
After agreeing to the procedure, I waited for my prescriptions and started thinking about preparations and plans, making sure my critters were taken care of, and getting my legal papers in order and such.
Past experience led me to believe it would be at least a week before the procedure would be scheduled. So, I was a bit alarmed when the doctor returned and said he had rearranged his schedule and would be performing the procedure the following morning.
Between the discussion, prescriptions, another EKG, and blood tests, it was 3 ½ hours before I was on my way home, scrambling to get everything taken care of, not exactly how I had planned to spend my day. But I stayed focused and accomplished what I needed to do.
The doctor’s 1st choice for the procedure was to go through my right wrist, saying that would be the easiest. I was wide awake throughout the process, as the sedatives had very little effect on me, so I was able to watch and ask questions. At one point, my heart had some palpitations which could be clearly heard on the monitor. The doctor said, “Wow, that’s weird”, to which I replied, “That’s not what the lady on the table wants to hear from the doc”. He proceeded to say, “Well, you’re off rhythm now and we’re trying to get a good beat going”, while snapping his fingers.
I like the fact that the doctor has a good sense of humor, as it put me more at ease during the ordeal, having a more calming effect than the sedative did.
At last, the news that there were no blockages found was welcomed, though now it means further tests to find the cause of pain and other symptoms.
What was not welcomed was the instructions of aftercare that stated I was not to use my right hand at all for at least a week and not being allowed to lift anything over 5 pounds or any strenuous activity.
Have you ever tried to open a cheese wrapper with only 1 hand? Try opening a can of soup, or lifting logs and putting them in the woodstove one-handed. Even simple things like brushing my hair or getting dressed proved to be impossible for me. And don’t get me started on opening those child-proof pill bottles! I have a hard time with those using both hands.
I honestly tried very hard to follow the doctor’s instructions, but after 1 day, I had to cheat, at least a little. I found out that I am very right-handed, with little coordination in my left hand, plus my left shoulder is a bit out of whack and moving it is painful most of the time.
I did watch closely for any signs of bleeding or unusual pain and swelling, and I’m happy to report there have been none. The bruising and swelling have gone down, and the throbbing has almost stopped. I am taking it a bit easier and resting as much as I can, though it is a battle.
I have a follow-up appointment scheduled later this week which I’m not looking forward to, as I’m sure the doctor will probably fuss about me using my hand. But in all fairness, if I had been warned beforehand of the details of aftercare, I would have asked that he use an alternate means of access instead of my right wrist.
“Doesn’t follow directions well” will probably be my epitaph, although I am earnestly trying to do better. But it’s not easy being told I can’t do something, especially when it’s something I’ve been doing for years, and even more so when it’s an essential part of living.
But because of the events of this past week, it’s made me take a closer look at some of the things I have been neglecting or taking for granted.
What stands out the most to me stemmed from the fact that I had so little time to let anyone know what was going on. I managed to call a few people, to make arrangements for my animals and house, but there were several calls that I didn’t get to make.
You hear about regrets people have of not sharing their thoughts and feelings when someone close to them dies. But seldom do we think about our own death and leaving things unsaid to those we leave behind.
That is what was on my mind going into the hospital. I questioned whether or not my loved ones really knew how precious they are to me, but at that point, I could only hope they did. I had managed to write a couple of short letters to my son and my sister, just in case, but the words I put on paper were so very inadequate.
I prayed hard that morning, that I would be given more time to share with my loved ones, to make sure they know how much I love them and appreciate them. And that prayer was answered.
I realized that I have been pushing so hard to succeed in my writing career and remodeling my home, and so many other little details, that I had been neglecting my most valuable possession…my heart. Not just the blood pump, but the spiritual one, the one that feeds my relationships.
I am resolved in taking better care of both.
So, while my writing is still important to me, and there are other aspects that have to be dealt with, my family and friends are my priority above all else, except God. He must remain #1 in my life, and living by His commandment to love others is exactly what I will be focusing my time and attention on.
At this point, not knowing how things will work out with more tests to find out what’s going on with my heart, I don’t know if I can give a deadline for when I will be able to release book #2. I am already behind the original schedule. But I will continue to work on it and give updates and perhaps excerpts as I can. If God be willing, I could still have it ready in time for Christmas, though I don’t want to make that a promise yet.
I apologize for the inconsistency in posting lately, and I hope you can understand. It was not intentional.
I will be changing my posting to Wednesdays only for a while, in order to allow more time in other matters.
Please bear with me, as I go through these changes. It was difficult hearing that I’ve already had a heart attack and didn’t know it. I guess I thought it would hurt more, or maybe I’ve just been too stoic and stubborn to pay attention. But I think I would like to stick around a bit longer to enjoy the folks (and critters) that I love so much.
As always, I appreciate your comments, and especially your prayers.
Love to all. – Amber
I began experiencing migraine auras about 4 years ago, though I’ve suffered the migraine headaches since childhood.
The headaches are always intense, very painful, and debilitating. Most often, I become nauseous and weak from the attacks.
When I experienced my 1st migraine aura, I had no idea what was happening. I was watching a movie, when I began to notice that I couldn’t see part of the screen. When I closed my eyes, I could see bright, squiggly zig zags of color, vibrating, and feeling intense pressure in my eyes and head. Then the colored lights expanded, covering my entire field of vision, leaving me temporarily blind.
My doctor was of little help, stating that it was probably just eye strain. So after the 3rd episode, I made an appointment with the eye doctor.
As I described my symptoms, he knew right away what it was, relieving me of the fear that it might be a tumor or some unknown eye disease. He also said that folks that experience these auras are generally of high intelligence, though I’m not sure there is any scientific proof of that. But it still made me feel less anxious.
As a writer, these auras make my job very challenging at times. Since I lose my vision for a time, I am forced to take unwanted breaks. And not knowing what the duration will be makes scheduling tasks a little tricky too. I’ve had them last for 10 minutes to over an hour.
It also is a factor in my ability to drive. (Thankfully, it’s only happened twice when I was driving.) Since I can feel an oncoming episode, I have between 5 to 10 minutes to pull over and park. From there, I just have to wait it out until the episode passes. Once I am sure it is over, then I can proceed as normal.
What is a migraine aura?
Scientists believe an aura is a visual arc of scintillating, shining spots or shapes which begin in a small area of your central vision and gradually expands across the entire field of vision. This movement across the visual field is attributed to a cortical spreading depression (CSD), a wave of electrically excitable neurons and their surrounding cells depolarizing. The cells which are normally negatively charged become positively charged. Neuroimaging studies show some evidence that suggest CSD leads to a temporary decrease in blood supply to certain areas in the brain. The lack of blood supply and the electrical disruptions may account for the wide and varied range of symptoms.
The episodes generally last from 5 to 60 minutes, with varying degrees of intensity. For those who experience migraine aura, it often signals an unmistakable warning of an impending migraine attack.
4 types of migraine with aura:
The types I experience are primarily typical aura, though I have also experienced brainstem aura as well. My symptoms of the aura phase have included:
The Most Dangerous Aspect
Migraine aura is perhaps the most dangerous part of a migraine attack for two reasons.
#1 – The restriction of blood supply to brain cells can potentially lead to the damage or death of these cells. Reports indicate nonspecific white matter lesions in the scans of those with migraine with aura are common. Those with migraine with aura have a higher likelihood of stroke than the general population. (When damage or death does occur to brain tissue due to reduced blood flow it is called an ischaemic stroke.)
#2 – A mini-stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) can be mistaken by someone with migraine as “just another aura”.
Symptoms of TIA are similar:
A TIA is a dangerous precursor to a full-blown stroke, a life-threatening event which can lead to permanent disability or death.
The key difference is the ‘slow march’ of spreading symptoms which is characteristic of a migraine aura, along with clearing up within the hour. With stroke it tends to be sudden and intense, almost immediate.
Triggers for migraine with aura are similar to other classifications of migraine. Triggers vary widely amongst individuals. Common triggers include:
Acute symptoms for migraine headaches can sometimes be managed effectively with over-the-counter medications like aspirin or ibuprofen when taken at the onset of migraine symptoms.
There are a few specific “migraine” pain relievers available that contain a mixture of aspirin, acetaminophen, and a small amount of caffeine, such as Vanquish and Excedrin Migraine, as well as several new prescription medications.
There are also natural remedies that have proven successful. These include:
In addition, there are complementary treatments options, such as:
Migraines are a painful experience that can range from mild to extreme. While there is no one-size-fits-all cure, working with your doctor and trying various therapies should be able to provide some relief.
My own therapy consists of: 800 mg ibuprofen, ice pack, heat, and massage, which usually brings relief within about 90 minutes, provided that I begin treatment at the first sign of a migraine.
As for the aura part, while they are annoying and sometimes painful, at least they give me warning of an oncoming migraine attack, and (according to my eye doctor) indicates that I am highly intelligent. (Although I would gladly give up a few IQ points to be rid of the pain.)