International Pay It Forward Day: Let’s Keep It Going!

Heather Jose photo.

Heather Jose

Here’s a challenge:

Let’s keep it going. International Pay It Forward Day came and went last week. (Dr. Wayne Baker wrote a whole series of stories about the importance of this idea.)

But please remember: The whole point of this “day” is to keep it going. The campaign seems to be working. Paying it forward has been gaining momentum over the years. I know of some friends who honor their mother’s birthday by paying it forward and encouraging others to do the same on that day. It’s a nice tribute for a woman who was very generous with her time and talents.

Card for Pay It Forward Day

Want the “official card” as a reminder? Click this snapshot to learn where to download and print one to carry in your pocket.

I had the opportunity to pay it forward (or backwards, depending how you view it), this week, in the drive thru while getting my morning coffee. I picked up the tab for the person behind me. Did the person appreciate it? Did he, in turn, and pay for the next car? I have no idea. I do know it made me feel good—and it made for a good start to my day. Hopefully it improved his day as well.

Why am I writing about this in our We Are Caregivers column? Because, as caregivers, we often are overburdened, stressed, and tired. Frankly, we’re helping so much—each and every day—that most people don’t expect caregivers to go an extra mile and do something like paying it forward.

I have a challenge for you. Sometime in the next week try to do something to pay it forward. Pay for a cup of coffee, ask someone to go in front of you in a long line, pick up trash or drop off some flowers (May Day is Thursday!). I promise you it will make you feel good.

When you pay it forward, tell friends on Facebook that you did it because we suggested it on, which is an easy-to-remember web address for this column.

Try it! Talk about it! Let’s keep it going!

Have a great week!

Oh the weather outside is frightful …

Heather Jose photo.

Heather Jose

Was it really news to any of us when the International Business Times reported, over the weekend, that this is one of the worst winters in recorded history for the northern U.S. states? This bitter, snowy season ranks up there with some truly dreadful winters in the 1870s, 1920s, 1940s and is close to that awful winter of 1995-96, according to the Times.

Headlines like that are popping up nationwide. A state official in Minnesota who is charged with tracking weather trends issues something called “The Misery Index” and, based on that Index, Minnesota is experiencing the most miserable winter in 30 years.

Snowy Winter DoldrumsBut we knew that, didn’t we? That is, the millions of us living north of the ever-shifting freeze lines in the U.S. knew it.

Don’t get me wrong. I love humming lines like: “Oh the weather outside is frightful …” But, only around Christmas.

By March, the appeal is gone. Here in Michigan we are setting records for cold and snowfall. It’s a struggle. I went grocery shopping yesterday and had to pull rather than push my cart to the car as it wouldn’t roll through the snow. By the time I got everything loaded my fingers were frozen.

I could have headlined this column: UGGGGH!

I try to stay positive, but it is easy to feel a little down in the dumps. Are you feeling that way too? What do you do to make yourself feel a little better?

There are a few things that I do to feel a little happier.

SUNLIGHT (real or artificial): Most mornings, I get up, sit in my chair, read my devotional, and turn on my sun light. I soak it up for 20 minutes. Ahhhh….

DARK SKY APP on my phone: Why? Because it gives the sunrise and sunset time for each day. And I can see that the days are getting longer.

I GET THE MAIL (once a week): I’m no fan of the mail. Our mailbox has been unreachable for months now so I pick it up at the post office. I’m considering it a gift that I only have to deal with it once a week instead of daily.

BUY FRUIT: Fresh fruit makes us all happier. It’s worth the cost.

WARM SOCKS: I hate cold feet. I want warmth. Good socks help.

For me, happiness really does spring from the little things. What are your little things? Will you share something that helps you get through? Add a comment here, or jump over to my Facebook page and drop me a note. I’d really like to hear about your favorite way to beat the winter doldrums.

From the Earth to the Moon: Look up! What do YOU see?

Big Moon photo by Jose Cabajar via Wikimedia Commons


We just passed through the full moon this weekend—and it’s still pretty big right now.

What do you see?

Heather Jose photo.

Heather Jose

I always dread a full moon. Not dread in the same way I dread taxes or being sick, but a general dislike all the same. I don’t sleep as well during a full moon, I’m sure of it. Having worked in schools and nursing homes I have heard many people swear that full moons affect behavior. I have said it myself.

So just for my own entertainment, with that great big full moon shining down on us, I decided to see what I could find out about full moons affecting behavior. When I looked it up on Google I found many articles but nothing that really substantiated my thought. Wikipedia itself serves up a very mixed bag of reports on lunar effects.

Then, I ran across Dr. Eric Chudler, who teaches at the University of Washington in Seattle and is the executive director of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering. His expertise is in psychology and he has collected a lot of data in a website he calls “Moonstruck!

We’re certainly going to be hearing a whole lot about the Moon over the coming year. In January, National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm hosted a program about space exploration, including a plan for developing property rights on the Moon by Bigelow Aerospace (a manufacturer of modules for survival in outer space). This summer is the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Next year is the 150th anniversary of the novel that touched off the modern era of space exploration: Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon.

TODAY, I’m inviting you—our readers, especially the caregivers among us—to comment below or to share your thoughts with me on my Facebook page.

Caregivers are on the front lines of human behavior. What have you seen?

Do you think there’s something to lunar effects? To the influence of the Full Moon?

Come on! LOOK UP! What do you see?

Earth and Sun from the Moon perspective

IMAGES TODAY: At top is a beautiful photo of the moon by photographer Jose B. Cabajar, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons. The second photo comes from the imagery created for the 1968 movie by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Pour a warm cup … and focus on Contentment

Photo today is by 'Cyclone Bill' shared for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Heather Jose photo.

Heather Jose

Pour a cuP.

I’ve told you, in earlier columns, that one of the simple pleasures in my daily life is drinking coffee from a real mug. You may be a tea drinker, or even a cocoa sipper in mid-winter. Whatever your comfort-beverage of choice—pour a cup.

My point today involves a simple, yet powerful, truth. I am usually someone who loves the New Year, setting new goals and resolving to make changes. But this year I am changing it up.

That’s partly because I’ve learned some hard lessons about this season. January has been rough. The last two years have started off with a loss in our family—my husband and I each have lost a parent. Though not entirely unexpected, these deaths still were hard. We certainly didn’t have a feeling of a new start to the new year.

Rather than make a list of goals with the bar set high, in the opening days of 2014, I am focusing on: Contentment.

This is the thing—I have a good life filled with big and small joys as well as challenges. I don’t want to change everything and strive for perfection. I want to live the life I have; I want to appreciate all that is in it. I want to take advantage of the moments that might be overlooked otherwise, spend a little more time without a device in front of me, and give myself a little leeway to just … be.

I want to work hard on my passions, be efficient in the daily tasks of life, and let go of the time suckers that do nothing more than take my time.

With this focus on contentment I expect great things will happen. As I clear my life and brain, fresh ideas come my way. I can finally hear, and respond to, the conversations that really matter. I stumble upon things that make me laugh out loud and moments that I will cherish forever. They happen in everyday life—if we see them.

As caregivers we are often very much involved in day-to-day moments. But as James Taylor sings, “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” Not all of the moments will be enjoyable, but certainly there are glimpses each day to hold on to.

So this year, my resolution is this. To enjoy the passage of time.

I’ve poured my cup, so please excuse me. I’m going to go sit for a while and look at the snow.

I’m content.

How about you?

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(Photo today is by ‘Cyclone Bill,’ shared for public use via Wikimedia Commons.)

Stuck in traffic? Have you thought about it like this …?

Photo of a traffic jam by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz. For public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of a traffic jam by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz. For public use via Wikimedia Commons.


WHEN YOU become a caregiver you learn to let go. It’s not necessarily something you want to do—you have to do it. You realize, pretty quickly, that you don’t have any control. That’s a difficult pill to swallow because we all want control. But, when your mother falls and breaks her hip the day before Thanksgiving, or you get a phone call from your brother telling you he has cancer, or your husband suffers a stroke, it hits you:

You have no control. You’re just along for the ride. And sometimes you get stuck in traffic.

This has been a year of change for my wife and me: new jobs, new cities, new friends. It also has been a year of renewed health for my wife, who started a new treatment with success. But there was a period of time after our move where we hadn’t found a new doctor for her, and she had missed a treatment, and we needed to take action quickly. As it would happen, our best option was to drive to Chicago, a six-hour trip, for a two-hour appointment.

I am telling you all of this because nothing ever goes according to plan, and caregivers know this better than anyone. Forty-five minutes into our trip and we were stuck in traffic. This wasn’t stop-and-go traffic, only a minute’s inconvenience. This was three hours of nothing. No movement. No go, just stop.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that when I am driving on the highway and I pass major traffic in the opposing lanes, I think: Thank God that isn’t me. That’d be terrible! We’ve all done this, at least privately: We see someone going through a difficult time, suffering the loss of a spouse or child, or grieving a diagnosis of cancer in the family, and we think: Thank God that isn’t me. That’d be terrible! Of course we don’t celebrate in their agony, but we’re relieved that, this time, we weren’t the ones being held up.

But the truth is: Life doesn’t come equipped with Cruise Control. Sometimes the traffic jams aren’t in someone else’s lane. And, sometimes we get stuck. Sometimes the person you love is diagnosed with something dire, and there’s nothing you can do. We wait. And we try to help. We look for any opportunity to turn around or take an alternative route. As a caregiver and husband, I keep looking for that perfect thing that will cure my wife: a new diet, a new treatment, a new thing that will solve all of her problems. I keep thinking: If only I had checked the directions before the trip, we could have avoided this!

Have you whispered something like that to yourself? It’s so frustrating: If only …

But here’s the real question: Can we grab hold of all that anxiety, frustration and anger—and refocus on …

Well, let me tell you more about our recent traffic jam. We were on our way to Chiago—with my wife’s health in question—sitting in our little Volkswagen Jetta that my wife has dubbed “Alejandro,” parked in miles and miles of traffic. Only 50 minutes from our home! Not moving!

So, I turned to my wife and grabbed her hand. “Sometimes you’re just stuck in traffic,” I said.

She nodded her head and I knew she understood what I meant.

“But I’ll tell you this,” I continued.

“What’s that?”

“I wouldn’t want to be stuck in traffic with anyone else but you.”


First, if you like this column by Paul Hile, please share it with friends via Facebook or Email. You’ll find icons with this column to help you with your sharing. Or use the “Print” button to print and share this with someone who needs to read it. If you’d like to read an earlier column by Paul, he also wrote “What We Talk about When We Talk about Entitlement.”

Young Caregivers: What We Talk About When We Talk About Entitlement

by Paul Hile

Each year, millions of men and women get life-altering news. We sit. We wait. We wonder: Why us? Why me?

Each year, millions of men and women get life-altering news. We sit. We wait. We wonder: Why us? Why me?

When my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer, I sat alone in a family room at the hospital and wondered aloud why this was happening to my family.

Why my mother? Why my family? Inevitably, I asked: Why me?

The same thing happened when my wife was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder while we were still dating. My young, athletic girlfriend became a dependent, tired woman who was forced to spend too many days on her family’s couch. I asked: Why her? Why did this happen to us? Why me?

Where do these questions come from? I mean, I must have heard someone else raise them. Maybe my folks said these things when my brother was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Or maybe I heard it on the television, or in a book. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately, especially as my wife’s health begins to mend and we’re afforded the time to look back and reflect on the last four years. Throughout her diagnosis and treatment, our family was struggling and, to be frank, angry.

Why were we angry? Well, yes, we were angry because she was now living with a terrible burden, one that was difficult to watch, let alone live with. But the honest to God truth was that she had this burden—whether we liked it or not. My mother had brain cancer. There was nothing we could do to change those realities.

It’s funny—I don’t ever remember being promised good health. I don’t remember ever being told that in my life. Neither does my wife, nor my mother. And that’s because we’ve never been given that promise.

So this question—Why me?—is really a matter of entitlement, right? I feel entitled to good health. I feel entitled to a life without struggle, without pain, without hardship because—well, it’s me. I shouldn’t have to deal with this. My wife shouldn’t have to deal with this. My mother and my family shouldn’t have to deal with this.

Next time you find yourself shouting—This wasn’t supposed to happen!—dare to ask: Says who?

And the answer is: No one. This is dangerous territory. For me, once I moved beyond—Why me?—I was left with just pain, with having to watch the women I love most struggle and suffer and carry a burden I cannot remove, no matter how hard I try. And believe me, I try.

That question—Why me?—let me put off the gravity of each situation. By focusing on the seeming injustice of the news, I was ignoring the reality. I was living somewhere between what once was—and what was to come. That felt more comfortable than asking: What’s next? I was delaying grief, which, in turn, delayed my ability to help my wife and mother.

Here’s the other danger: If I let myself remain there—sitting, wondering over our woes—then the next steps fall to someone else. I can so easily let someone else deal with it all. My wife and I should not have to deal with this, not now, not ever—so someone else should. Of course, I don’t believe that in my heart—but that’s the temptation of remaining lost in: Why me?

When I take my blinders off, when I open my eyes—I realize that we are not alone.

Think about this when you’re sitting in a hospital waiting room paralyzed by the news you’ve just received. There are hundreds—often thousands—of people dealing with the effects of cancer in that hospital alone. Look out the window: Millions of men and women are struggling out there.

The honest question is: Why shouldn’t we be part of the struggle with illness? My wife and mother aren’t entitled to good health. No one is.

I’ve been working on accepting that lately. I’ve been working on acknowledging the fact that my life is my life: My mother is a cancer thriver and deals with life-changing effects from a devastating treatment. My wife has a disorder in which some days really, truly suck. That is my life, and I have to learn to be okay with that.

In the end, here’s what matters: How we live and what we do with our time here on earth. In a world without sickness, my wife and I would still have sought a life of love and happiness, filled with friends and family, good coffee and service to others. The same is still true now. We just have to clear a few more hurdles to get there. We just have to take a few more breaks to let my wife’s body heal.

But we’ll get there, and when we do, we look forward to meeting you and hearing about your life—sickness and all.

When we stop asking—Why me?—we can start to asking: What can I do? How can we live in a way that is purposeful, fulfilling—and splendid?


One way you can respond is by adding a Comment, below. We also invite you to share this column with friends on Facebook by using the blue-“f” icon or via email by using the envelope-shaped icon.

Finally, it’s time to say: “Thank you.”

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Hard-Earned Lessons of a Cancer Thriver
A Note from Heather Jose: Here is the final column in this series by Kathy Macdonald. I hope you have been inspired. I hope you have shared these columns with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook icons or the envelope-shaped email icons. I will be returning next week.
One last time, here’s Kathy …


2013 Aug 12 Kathy Macdonald and her prayer quilt FUMC AA 03“Thank you.”

I said it on Sunday. Publicly. During Sunday services at my church, the First United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor. I was flanked by 50 children. Surrounded by several hundred friends lining the pews in front of us.

And, yes, I have to admit that my voice cracked once with the emotion I was feeling. But I made it. And, in the process, I told the children a story that maybe a few of them will remember. You see, our church—like many congregations across the country—sets aside a time with children during Sunday services. One of our pastors, the Rev. Nancy Lynn, was giving a sermon about thankfulness on Sunday, so I used my time with the kids to demonstrate that powerful principle.

Our Children’s Moments work best when the speaker employs a bit of Show ‘n’ Tell. So, I packed up the “prayer quilt” the congregation had made for me when I was in the depths of my struggle with cancer. Congregations have been making this kind of prayer quilt for more than 20 years, using a model pioneered by Prayers & Squares, a grassroots quilting network that coincidentally began in a United Methodist church in California. In this style of quilt, the fabric layers are held together by long strings that church members gather to tie with silent prayers offered while tying each knot. Then, during a pastoral visit that week, the quilt is delivered.

The children were wide-eyed as I spread out my quilt on Sunday morning. Some were so intrigued that they stood up and eventually helped to hold the entire quilt aloft. I explained: “You know, after they gave me this quilt, I carried it with me everywhere. I never went to sleep at night, not once, without this prayer quilt. This quilt was made by all those people out there.” And I directed the kids’ gaze to the parents and grandparents sitting in the pews.

“I guess you could say I slept with everybody in this church!” I said, which drew a roar of laughter from the adults.

This was funny because there I was—laughing along with all of them. They all had helped me to become a cancer thriver. All of us were a part of that story I was sharing in my few moments with the children.

The entire story took five or six minutes. But, my message on Sunday really was two words: “Thank you.”

I told the crowd surrounding me: “I wouldn’t be here today doing this—without all of you. Thank you.”

The day’s scripture reading? It was about Jesus healing a group of 10 desperately ill people—and then only one of them bothered to return and thank him. Professionally, I’m a business consultant and, believe me, I understand how that happens. We recover. We get back into the swing of things. Our caregivers must know how thankful we are, right!?! We get busy with life and—we forget.

As I’ve said throughout this four-week series of columns: I don’t want to forget.

I want to remember so that in many ways, I can say: Thanks.

And, now, in reading these stories, you have become a part of this journey, too.

So, dear readers: Thank you.


How about you? What are you thankful for? Please, add a comment below. And share this column with a friend. Perhaps add your own thanks to that friend as you share this column.