Monday, December 24, 2012

A star to discover

"If as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so important that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long slow journey across the desert as did the Magi?

Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds?

Or ponder over the coming of the Child as did Mary?

For each of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover.

And a being within ourselves to bring to life." -Author Unknown

This Christmas and throughout the New Year, let His light shine in you like a bright star.  Light the way. Be The Change.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2013!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Do you need some rest?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Christians all over the world begin Advent season this week. It's a holy time of preparation that offers spiritual nourishment and another invitation to find rest in biblical truths.

Rest for me as a hard-working young farm girl was found by sneaking in some private rest time during my household chores. I'd stretch across the living room sofa and watch TV for a few precious stolen minutes. I loved those rest times and admit to a few burnt meals because of it!

Fast forward to years later and I’m on my own living room sofa seeking a different kind of rest; a healing rest from breast cancer and the kind of grief that scars the soul. Unlike the rest I enjoyed as a young girl, this one I resented because it came forcefully, without my choosing and stole more than simple moments of time.

I developed a love-hate relationship with rest. When I was younger I loved my secret rest times, but now older and no more secrets, I’ve had times of rest I hated. Why did rest have to change?

Rest is definitely not easily found in a world that boasts of faster the better, which makes finding rest even more challenging. I can recall seasons of kid's school events and multiple sports schedules, in addition to varied work schedules, that were years of limited rest. Prior to that were the baby years when four hours of uninterrupted sleep felt like a good nights rest. However, all that paled in comparison to when rare disease filled my days and rest was nowhere to be found.

No doubt, my relationship with rest has changed. Mainly due to a dramatic turn of events that left me with lessons learned and a unique perspective on rest. During my healing rest, I was taught about grace and how it increases when rest is accepted as it's offered. Rest didn't change; it remained available to me. What really changed was my attitude about it. Hate had to change back to a love for rest in order to maintain a healthy positive lifestyle.

During busy seasons and the busiest of times, especially during or after illness, we are inclined to turn down loving offers to help. Ones that might be a good partner to a need for rest. We give polite yet not always truthful responses like, "No thanks, we don't need any help". The next time an offer of help is extended to you, ask yourself if your response is accurate? Could others help you find rest?

When we admit our need for help and humbly receive it we share burdens, however big or small. We find rest in this fast world and in a life that’s impossible to do alone. The exchange not only blesses the giver, but also the receiver and both find rest from the free gift called grace.

I’m a work in progress but I definitely strive to be a better steward of the gift by making room for rest in my life again; like I did as a young girl. I encourage you to join me and take time to rest this Advent season. Even in the middle of busy choose to stretch out on the sofa and rest. Put it on your list of things to do and Be The Change!

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."  Matthew 11:29

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Where has summer gone?

The common filler phrase, “Where has the summer gone” is usually spoken as a rhetorical question. In blog retrospect, I want to reply to this typically unanswered question, with no exaggeration.

This is where my summer went...

Spring 2012 quickly moved into the summer fast lane in late May as I traveled the northern highway to my Godson’s high school graduation and later to his open house. In mid June I motored with my driver to Milwaukee, WI and witnessed the wedding of our daughter’s two college friends. Then on the last Saturday of June, in a Trellis garden wedding, my best friend’s daughter married her beloved. Truly, one of the best days of my life.

Early July, our rapid summer stride changed by the sudden death of my father-in-law, Myron. His spirit flowed from his favorite saying, “Ah-da-heck” and through a “life must go on” attitude as my family made tearful difficult decisions. Honoring those words, we altered calendar dates and made our annual summer cabin vacation on Lake Miltona still possible.

 A week later I packed a borrowed cowboy hat, my driver recalculated the GPS and I was on the road again to my first Country Jam experience in Eau Claire, WI. The blue bus shuttle provided excellent transportation as well as additional laughs and stories as I recalled school day memories. The hotel room was a welcome sight after a full day of country music in the Wisconsin great outdoors versus the bus view of tent camping.

During most Monday through Fridays of June - September I was employed by StayWell Health Management in St Paul.  StayWell has a long history with health management for large companies and their employees. It was a great opportunity to bring my healthcare experience into the health and wellness arena. Thanks to StayWell, I was able to learn much more about the delicate balance between healthcare and wellness in day to day application. I leaned on my real life patient-family healthcare past and brought the skills of previous lessons learned into a process improvement transition project for StayWell. That work just recently ended so I’m resting up for a new Be The Change opportunity! 

The crisp autumn mornings still have the radiance of an almost forgotten summer. Fall trips are planned and holiday conversations have started. From my perspective, each season seems to come and go more quickly especially as I travel a road paced soulfully by change. The events of the season, both happy and sad affect the pace and impact the direction of the path I travel next. So the real question might be; is it really the seasons that pass so quickly or is it the pace I choose? My choices, some more difficult than others, illustrate the answer.

Similar to the changes in life, a leaf once vibrant green changes into red, yellow, or hints of both and covers the color of yesterday’s season. It rests in the quiet of winter, trusts in the spring renew of tomorrow and prepares for another busy summer ahead.

Each one different yet collectively intertwined, divinely created and placed on a road to  Be The Change for someone.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I am able

The 2012 Michael Zimanske Memorial Golf Tournament held Monday, August 20th was another success! Again, we were graced with excellent weather and a group of people who demonstrated excellence.

Thank you to the staff at Eagle Trace Golf and Event Center in Clearwater MN. The staff was welcoming and very helpful, which made the day flow with ease.

Thank you Roll With It (RWI) for their hard work in organizing this sixth tournament. We sincerely appreciate your commitment to wheelchair and adaptive sports.

Thank you to family, friends and all who support this golf tournament! Whether you golfed, volunteered, donated or prayed for this tournament, it’s our humble privilege to receive your kindness in memory of our angel, Michael Zimanske.

I spoke some of the following words at the close of the tournament and would like to include them in this thank you blog:

As I thought about the golf tournament this year, the words, I am able kept coming to mind. Coincidentally, (probably not) I am able is what Michael taught us. Despite his changing circumstances and even when a wheelchair became his mainstay, he never backed away from things we thought he wasn’t able to do. Instead, he found another way to do them. Michael consistently saw himself able and demonstrated that to the world.

Now, pressing forward with Michael’s spirit within us, we display the words I am able by our actions. It’s what I see in all of you during the golf tournament. You are able and willing to give of yourselves for the good of others. You honor Michael’s spirit of I am able by giving to this fundraising tournament. Your efforts help others believe they are able too.

Thank you to Jan Larson, RWI Executive Director, Keith Schwichtenberg RWI President and the whole Schwichtenberg family, especially RWI Founder, Heidi Schwichtenberg for leading us and giving us opportunity to say, I am able. Their vision has planted seeds of hope and possibility for many by their response to the words I am able whispered in their souls.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to this circle of love. You organize, donate, golf, volunteer and surround us with prayer before, during and long after the golf clubs are put away. Simply put, we are grateful beyond these words. We feel your arms wrapped solid around us, in loving memory of our hero, Michael, which allows us to keep trusting I am able.

Each one of us is able despite our own personal circumstances or challenges. We are able, however big or small to do something that will make others able.

Say it loud, I am able; able to Be The Change!

Friday, June 1, 2012

I had to change

We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person. ~W. Somerset Maugham

Michael, my 1990’s shopping companion was about to destroy another display at Cub. With a firm tone and muted growl in my voice, I said, “Michael, don’t touch that.” . The three year old looked up at me with a smile as wide as his face and a can of peas in his hand. In that split second my frustration faded. Although I had spoke those four words to him at least a million times prior, this time I saw it was my response that had to change, not only his behavior.

That little boy couldn’t resist touching everything. It was the way he experienced the world and everything in it. In the grocery store aisle Michael showed me his style of learning and that it was beyond his grasp to do it a different way. In many ways I was trying to reshape his makeup to be more like mine, neat and orderly instead of accepting the way he was created.

From that day on Michael showed me new ways, which helped me learn something about myself and then accept others things that were also, definitely not. what I preferred. Situations that often got messy and extremely complicated, especially with his rare disease.

I had to change.

The skills that Michael taught me flowed through my soul as I coped with my own illness, his untimely death and then the enormous grief, which followed. I discovered another level of accepting the statement, “It is what it is,” along with the extremes of unconditional love and learning what I was created to be.

Again, I had to change.

When we look at others, hoping for a change in their behavior or habits it almost always requires a look in the mirror and first asking what do I need to change? Life is a string of changing seasons that connects parents, children, family members and friends together. It’s important to hold each other loose; allowing changes to be directed by the creator and shaped into a better relationship, which prepares for the next season ahead.

I always thought I would teach my children the ways of the world and instead it was them anointed to teach me how to be the change my family needed. We don’t always get to choose our teachers. Many reside among us in life’s classroom, ready and able to show us a new way.

Stepping forward, I know there are more changes ahead, for all of us. Even at Cub when you hear, "Clean up in aisle five."

Be The Change!

Friday, April 27, 2012

A long way home

Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly in search of the road that leads us home. Every day in some varied and subtle way we look for home.

During the day to day Monday through Friday work grind, we daydream of the highway that leads to the comfy couch in our home. On Sunday afternoon, we wish for the Friday night of yesterday, which holds the promise of two days at home. Even on vacation, we secretly wait for the first evening home to lay our head on the familiar pillow we missed.

It’s stepped out in love that’s found in the mother who waits for her student to step off the school bus and return to the securities of their home. In the late night pace of a father who waits for the sound of the garage door and his teenage driver to arrive home without a scratch. In the parents who anxiously wait for the summer return home of their college influenced young adult. Each in their own individual confines, family members look for a collective path home, even if it’s only shared in memories and stories.

As a young girl I would stare out the window from my upstairs bedroom and dream of a different home that was waiting for me beyond the dusty farm road. Now older, I wonder why I was so eager to leave the gravel lane of my home. Reflecting back, I’m able to return there. In my soul, I still live there. In retrospect, it was all part of the journey.

It’s not a cliché or just a line from an old movie. There really is no place like home.

I have lived in many homes over the years. All of them were beautiful, comfortable and served a purpose. But as the years fast forward and my home dynamics change, I realize I’m most at home with people I spend time with, not the house I reside in.

Home travels with us on uniquely planned paths we stroll through in our world. On roads that are more the same than different when they are viewed with eyes of gratitude. We are not our exterior. We reside in the sacred of our interior that will always lead us home.

What place do you call home? This Friday, after a long way home from your travels and before Monday’s in view, take stock of your own little corner of residence. Be The Change because of it!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I love Easter

Actually, I love every holiday because at the center is family. I have many brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, which translates into lots of family time. Just the way I like it!

In varied examples, different for each person, a term like family often extends out into friends who are like family, a spiritual family prayerful and faithfully connected or even a healthcare community formed by similar diagnosis can feel like family because of their shared experiences.

My family is rooted in tradition especially religious ones. That means many evenings during Holy Week are spent at church. Back in the day, retail business in our small town closed at 3:00pm on Good Friday, which gave everyone equal opportunity to attend their church services.

Although the years have faded many Easter holiday memories, there's a few vivid ones I hold dear: The sight of my Mom peeling potatoes at the kitchen table in preparation for our big family dinner. The colorful Easter basket filled with candy that me and my siblings shared. The Easter egg hunts at my husband’s family farm when our kids were young. These visions dance with others and are inspired by love; the very essence of Easter day.

Every family does a dance and the lessons are our experiences that turn into our memories. As a family we learn a melody of a song only each other knows and dance steps that go along with it. There are times when we’re all in tune and move along methodically. Other times, one or random few learn a new song and they become teachers of a new dance step the whole family can learn. A new rhythm can be complicated, confusing, and out of step. But love unites the family members and shows the way until everyone knows the tune again.

Our fondest memories are created in the experiences we share as a family. They are held together by invisible love strings that bind us with a purpose that requires more than a surface glance. I attended a workshop recently where it was said that when a healthcare provider sees a patient they should see the family too. That resonated in me, not just because of my medical experiences but because of the current Easter season with my family.

People see us as individuals, but they view parts of our family in us too. We represent each other not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually by our choices, decisions and actions. Each one of us, in the unique way we were created, are influenced and inspired by family. Not just our biological family but also by the additional family categories I mentioned earlier.

Whether it's a polka, gentle waltz, or even an occasional cha-cha slide, get familiar with the dance steps only your family knows. Treasure them and value each ones purpose. You never know when one of your dance partners, for one reason or another, has to sit out temporarily or maybe permanently.

The dance continues to move by lessons that teach the steps. Each one renews the other and creates experiences that might Be The Change!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March...In and Out

As the saying goes, March roars in like a lion… and goes out like a lamb so dear. These popular Lori Hill words are especially true for me.

Among the typical March occurrences like the return of the Robins, warm outdoor temperatures, and disappearing snow is the anticipation of my son Michael’s heaven day. A term we fondly use, which marks the day Michael left our Lakeville home to his eternal home in heaven.

Michael’s heaven day has occurred seven years and similar to the March saying, it comes in roaring like a lion and gracefully leaves softly, like a lamb. The anticipation of the day always seems to disturb its loving contents.

Preparing for the arrival of the date jogs all sorts of memories. A wider view makes me realize I’m not alone in this kind of solemn space. There are others who anticipate March in this way. Our friend Darby has a March heaven day. He rests with several who have this kind of March day and other family’s who might be familiar with the roar.

Just like spring, there is no plausible way to stop it or the flip of the calendar from February to March. In my spring excitement are the sleepless nights and loneliness so concrete it’s almost touchable. But when I press in and look beyond my circumstance, Michael’s spirit flows. I can recall the memories of a happy boy full of life; his charm, his smile, and the fun, which defined him. Not just in my thoughts but he is revealed through others in the stories they share, their smiles and joy in a life with Michael and now a continuance with us who remain.

I was reminded of that very thing at an organ donor follow up I attended recently with my sister Marilyn. The appointment coordinator asked us several questions about the circumstances that led up to this organ donation. She wanted to hear our story. I saw love in my sister’s smile and heard love in the words she spoke about Michael and her decision to be his kidney donor. What a gift!

Michael’s spirit lives in those who love him. People continue to know Michael through us. We honor his life, our love for him and the Creator, in the way we live our life. That is true for each one of us.

This spring, March 2012, we once again celebrate the life of Michael Zimanske. He roared like a lion, he left like a lamb and created a legacy called Be The Change!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

You won a trip

The caller said, "Is this Theresa Zimanske?" Hesitantly I replied, "Yes". The caller quickly announced, "You have won a trip to San Diego, compliments of Fox 9 Morning News." Silence; I didn’t know what to say.

I glanced at the front door unsure of what to expect next. Was there a group of people by the door with a balloon bouquet in hand? No-one was at the door. The caller persisted and ended my shocked silence when she said, "You do remember entering the contest, right?

Then my more typical chatter shifted into gear as I explained to the Fox 9 news marketing coordinator, that this type of thing never happens to us. We never win contests, especially something like this. She hears that often was her reply and I sensed a smile in her response.

Suspiciously, I waited for the stipulations and hidden costs to become a part of our discussion. But with every one of her answers to my questions, the suspicion was lessened. She assured me the prize included flight, hotel and rental car at no cost to us. I won a trip! Non-stop air travel to San Diego, CA. Five glorious days at a hotel resort on Mission Bay. What a huge blessing.

Recovery from illness and grief is a silent battle often fought while most others are unaware. A trip, whether long or short is a saving grace that provides the necessary respite for a weary soul. Sometimes I’m asked to suggest ways one can push through the kind of grief piled on by the loss of a child. I admit there’s no easy answer, but in my opinion, going on a trip is one answer to that complex question.

A trip, even for a day or two, gives me the opportunity to rest and ease my burdens in a remote, more relaxed environment. It calms the sea of accumulating emotions in a neutral safe zone. Lends ample time to read, write or have delicate conversation about confusing issues, unraveling their complexities.

Once home, I find myself more confident, ready to move forward again, and back into whatever waited that now needs attack. By no means do I leave it all behind. That's far from the truth. But a change of location complete with the rest and fun vacation provides, gives me a renewed perspective over the various things I war against. Loneliness, discouragement, and grief fatigue are a few, which dissipate on a sunny beach or an afternoon boat ride.

Whatever your burden is, seek what gives you rest. Whether your fight is illness, injury, loss of a loved one or other, consider taking a trip. Even a one day, coupon inspired excursion, away from daily ups and downs can offer a fresh and renewed approach.

Who knows, maybe you too will experience an unexpected call from someone who’s about to Be The Change when she says, "You won a trip!"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It's a birth date

A few of my healthcare experiences happened as I waited for the grand entrance of my first baby, scheduled to arrive late January 1988.

As a wife and soon to be new mother, it was the happiest of times. As a daughter it was challenging times because of a mother with cancer in its seventh year. Those years spent with Mom at oncology appointments, emergency room visits and hospitalizations definitely prepared me for the many healthcare obstacles I faced.

Due to my Mom’s declining health, I felt the limitations held inside joyful anticipation when multiple life altering situations are happening at once. The days my Mom prayed to live long enough to see me walk down the aisle were now being replaced by new prayers for another gifted opportunity. To hold another grandchild and see one more of her children have a child of their own. I understand her deep desires much better now.

My baby was born January 18, 1988 making that particular day a one of a kind, very special day. The pediatrician’s words of, “it’s going to be a couple weeks yet”, which he spoke to me a few days prior, made it an unexpected and welcomed early birth date miracle.

My birthing experience was dramatically altered by a nurse working the early evening shift on 1-18-88. My water had broke the day before and trickled without any contractions. I was admitted to the hospital that evening. In the morning with no sign of contractions, a medication drip was started. That produced immediate and intense labor contractions that continued for ten hours with only fifty percent progress.

When that evening nurse came on duty, discussions and preparations for a cesarean birth were already underway. I’ll never forget the moment she came face to face with me and said, “Theresa, you are not having a c-section”. Minute by minute she instructed me and provided laboring techniques that worked! At 10p.m., weighing 6 pounds 12 ounces, a princess was born - without surgery.

Unfortunately, I have never spoken to that nurse again. Her skill changed the whole experience. Not only on that birth date but in the days and months that followed. Her commitment and conviction impacted both my medical and human experience. If I had the chance, I would tell her without a cesarean birth, I had the energy to care for baby Jessica and for my seriously ill Mom. Both things equally important to me and were made possible by her outstanding labor and delivery expertise.

Those were extremely happy times, despite the challenging ones mixed in. I can recall the look of awe and wonder on my Mom’s face as she held baby Jessica for the first time. I hope I have that same look every time I see that baby’s face. Even now, twenty four years later.

Happy Birthday Jessica! Be The Change girl,
Be The Change