And the Rain Reflects My Tears. . .

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copyright Karen UlvestadThe holiday season is filled with happiness, joy and wonderful memories. I remember decorating the Christmas tree with my mom, brother and sister. I cannot remember what my father was doing.

This was the weekend we would go pick-out the tree, bring it home, then decorate it.

Christmas was my mom’s favorite time of the year. We would have eggnog or hot chocolate, while decorating the tree. The lights, glass balls and garland.

There would be Christmas baking. I remember the cookies, fudge, pies and cheese cake. To this day, my mom made the best cheese cake. I cannot bring myself to bake holiday cookies.

The meals were feasts, with enough food to last a week or two after. As teenagers, we filled platters with food, and ate until we could eat nothing more. Memories. . .

Sitting here writing this, I find tears coming to my eyes, like the rain falling outside. She died 5 days before Christmas, and her wake was held on Christmas Eve. It was a few years ago, but I remember her every year. On December 20th, I will venture to the beach and light a single, white candle in her memory.

This year is harder, because another family member is dying too.

Last year, we spent a holiday weekend with them. We went to the tree farm, picked-out the tree, brought it to their house, and decorated it. As we wandered through the trees on the farm, it occurred to me that this might be the last Christmas with my father-in-law. I took pictures. . .memories. . .

He hasn’t passed yet, though it is a matter of time. . .

. . .and the rain reflects my tears. . .

Love & Light to All. . .Karen

 

 

Urban trails and for stress relief during the holidays

The holiday season is upon us, with Thanksgiving next week. Soon, the roads will fill with more cars, the malls will be packed, and the grocery store will have more people. It is important to take time to step away from the stress. This is part 1 of a series of local places to go to unwind. Please check it out, and hope you enjoy. . .

For the entire article and photo gallery, visit Urban trails and for stress relief during the holidays.

The Many Faces of Parkinson’s Disease

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copyright Karen UlvestadThere are many definitions of death, and they are probably all true.  It would depend on one’s values and perceptions.  Parkinson’s is a debilitating disease in many ways.  The first person it disables is the individual who suffers the symptoms of the disease.  The other people who it touches are those close to the affected person.

The disease slowly eats away at the person’s ability to use their muscles.  Some people develop Parkinson’s dementia in addition to the loss of motor control.  These people lose their memories, forget the people who love them and they love, and they slip into a place of confused ramblings.

My father-in-law is the later.  Currently, he is in Hospice, and suffers from Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s dementia.

We visited this weekend.  It was a great visit, yet it showed many things. . .

First, we watched a previously intelligent and active man struggle for words.  I think he recognized us most of the time, but there were moments that he didn’t know who we were.  Every time he needed to move, he had to be assisted, and told what to do.  When he closed his eyes, he seemed near death’s door, just waiting to go.

The second part of the disease is its effects on family and friends.

I am amazed by the strength of my mother-in-law.  She visits him almost everyday, and brings a positive attitude.  She is an incredible woman, with great faith.  I don’t know how she balances him, the farm (Welsh Ponies), her parents/family, and much, much more.

Love & Light to All. . .Karen

Choosing what is Important. . .

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copyright Karen UlvestadDeep thinking leads to insight and wisdom.  I am realizing that I made choices in the past 3-4 years that were made on the importance of family.  It’s also left me in a place that I’m going to need focus a lot of effort and work hard to grow my business.  Basically, I chose family over work.

We all make these choices everyday.  Every decision reflects our character and value of “things” outside ourselves.  Things could be people, situation, cars, possessions, or other.

I’m a professional photographer and writer.  I have chosen to keep my work close to home, or around my in-laws home.  My father-in-law has been sick for a number of years with Parkinson’s.

I chose to teach workshops for the local school district.  I write for venues that I can do from home or on the road.  I focus my energy on being able to travel to my in-laws, in case of need.  It all seems like a big blur right now.

I have had the opportunity to know these wonderful people.  My partner reconnected with his father.  My son got to know his grandfather, and ride ponies.  I got to take a lot of pictures, have down-time, have wonderful moments with my in-laws, and forged a great relationship with my mother-in-law.  We even witnessed a pony being born, which was incredible!

So, what did I give up?  I gave up the opportunity to teach a workshop in the Galapagos Islands (which has been a life-long dream), focusing on my stock photography, and taking photo assignments.

And, I DO NOT regret any of the it. . .it’s some of the BEST choices I’ve ever made!

I lived life in the moment.  I know that new opportunities will continue to come in.  The memories created in these past years make the impending passing of my father-in-law easier.

All of us are sad in our own ways, but are ok with him leaving.  I know there will be tears and sadness.  I know that we will all miss his humor and wisdom.  We got an opportunity to know the man he was, became through the disease, and know he is choosing his time to go.

Love & Light to All. . .Karen

Is there ever Enough Time?

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copyright Karen UlvestadIs there ever enough time?  We run through our lives with deadlines and errands.  We keep moving.  Then, life steps in.

How many good memories are enough before someone dies?

I think the answer is different for each person.  Once more, death is visiting my world, and once more I ponder.  I think about “things” deeply, and seek what is right for me.  This time, I have a 12-year-old son, who is touched by this passing.

The process is still happening.  The family member is now in hospice, and not doing well.  We will be traveling again this week, to create more positive memories.

We’ve known that it is going to happen, but not when.  I think it is easy to “put it off”, rather than live through the process.  There is a lot to be said for coming to terms with the dying person, before they pass.  It is good to create something positive and good, while they are still alive.

Death itself is merely a transition.  All religions and spiritual beliefs talk about a person having a soul or spirit.  Death merely releases this soul/spirit from the physical body, and it passes to another form.

I think that this transition will be good for the person, because their body is succumbing to Parkinson’s.  I feel deeply for his wife.  She has been through every step of the process, and it’s span several years.

It’s been hard for everyone involved to watch him slowly slip away, and become a “different” person.  He was a fit individual, who was very active and part of life.  The disease slowly stripped all of that away from him, and now he is bed-ridden.

So instead of avoiding the situation, we visited often, and made good memories.  Just four weeks ago, we had a UW Huskies football Tailgate party at his room.  We watched the game, cheered and ate great food.  He smiled, talked, ate, and cheered along with us, and I took pictures.

Often, we don’t know when death will be coming into our lives.  It reminds us to live in the moment, and enjoy life.  It shows us that it is important to be grateful, and cherish what we do have. . .life is precious. . .

Love & Light to All. . .Karen

Coming Out of a Blue Funk into Life. . .

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copyright Karen UlvestadI don’t get into a Blue Funk very often.  I’ve done a lot of work on myself, and developing new, healthy habits instead.  Even with all the work, life hands us events that upset our world at times.  Right now, my world is a bit up-ended.

I think that it happens when too many “things” start to happen all at once.  I’ve written about my father-in-law and his Parkinson’s.  He is deteriorating quickly at this point.  There is sadness that goes with this one.  My son is close to his grandfather, and it is hard for him.  It’s nothing that I or my family can control.  It just is. . .

Secondly, we are working on moving.  We want to buy a house, with a yard, and enough space for us.  We found the dream house unexpectedly.  We have been working with a mortgage broker to get a mortgage.  It sold right before we were able to make an offer.  So, this is major upset number two. . .

So how does one deal with all this major change?

I focus on the things I have control over.  I create, paint or write.  I choose not to fall completely into the over-whelming feelings of not being able to control the situation.  I let go of the issue, trusting/knowing that something better is about to happen (even though it does not feel like it at the time).

So, we are going to move to the Oregon coast.  It will be great for my business, my family, and a shorter drive to help-out my in-laws.  I didn’t have control over what happened to the house.  I do have control over how I respond.

This was my response – http://youtu.be/T1mDb-xAPe0

Hope you enjoy. . .

Love & Light to All. . .Karen

Rising from the Ashes. . .

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copyright Karen UlvestadOur lives go through cycles of stress, sadness, happiness, and joy.  There are multitudes of other emotions/feelings we experience everyday.

In the darkest hour of our lives, we find ourselves in the ashes of what was, with the possibilities of what could be.  It’s a time of choice.

It’s that moment where the realization surfaces that there is something more that exists. . .something that we cannot put our finger on. . .something bigger than us.

It is a shift in our consciousness. . .our awareness of our world.  Our perceptions sense something, and it’s something that is new.  It has not been defined by our previous understanding of our world.  It is an awakening of spirit.

The changes can be subtle to extreme.  The importance of physical items changes.  Goals shift to accommodate the changes of the spirit/heart.  Our dreams begin to become more important than the daily routine.  We ask “What if. . .”.

Unprepared, I asked “What if. . .” over 15 years ago.  I left the corporate world.  I stepped out on my own as a photographer.  I knew and believed that was my path.  Then, I crashed with health issues.

Looking back, I can say I did the right thing.  Through all the tears, fearful times and painful good byes, I did the right thing by following my dreams.  Thinking back, those were the dark times, filled with uncertainty and unknowing.  I traveled a path filled with doubt and torment, though through it all I found myself.

I’m in a better place on all levels, and I over-came the critics that kept screaming at me that I couldn’t do it.  I found that I needed to let go of a lot of people to find the good things in life.

My photography speaks for itself.  My writing is starting to earn me an income.  Life became simple, and fulfilling.  All it takes is courage, absolute belief and faith. . .

Love & Light to All. . .Karen