Mercy’s video

For Positive Living shows a short film by Tim Bedingfield about artist Heidi Yssennagger’s work creating “Mercy” for OstomyAid.

I was moved by the quiet grace of this art project, along with the story about woman suffering globally. Using appliance materials, an artist with a stoma has created a piece in response to her research about women with stomas in Africa. Creativity has helped me to cope and this video shows how we can do more for one another. Like with any illness or medical setback, people relate to the personal and emotional struggles unique to our challenge. Helping others has always made me feel a little better. Let’s see what we can do together. Start by watching Mercy\’s video.

Stall Walls

Bathroom stall walls. Stared at a lot of them over the years. This image was from the walls of a stall that was decoupaged with Asian newspapers and I found it wonderfully appealing. For people who have suffered bowel disease, any little distraction is appreciated whilst spending so much time in the loo. I took a picture and thought about all the hours I spent in stalls before I had my ostomy. Terrible times. I remember laying on my side on the floor in the restroom during a dinner out, trying to allow some relief from gas pains. Each time someone would enter, I would jump up, only to lay prone again in agony. When your colon is inflamed, ulcerated and bleeding, even excess gas can be terrible. It’s all miserable and tough to manage. These pleasing distractions would have helped me back then, their faces are pleasing and empathetic.

A new door opens

Today I opened a new door when I spoke before a group of nursing students about living with an ostomy.  Because of my fondness for those in health care, I immediately felt a sense of safety and comfort.  After I shared my story, I answered questions ranging from diet to intimacy,  to my wardrobe and outlook on life. I felt their compassion and acceptance, and was eager to help them understand  how important their role is for the ostomy patient.

Nurses are the first to touch the lives of people post surgery and when the doors of your hospital room close, the relationship with your nurse can feel like a lifeline. It can be a very emotional time viewing your adjusted body, and in those first few days, a difficult and lonely place. You share intimately with the nurse who cares for your stoma, checks your output  and tends to your incision. When you lay exposed and vulnerable, the caring hands of your nurse and confident touch can have a profound impact.

Become who you wish to be


Start the new year with an artful reminder of what’s most important – being yourself. Become who you wish to be this year. Find this print and other whimsical inspiration art at Etsy

Mood Lifters


Feeling down today? Here are some tips that may help:

Make some strides: Walking is a mood lifter and a change of scenery is enough of a shift to take your mind off heavier issues. Plus it’s good for you and can help work off some of that Halloween candy.
Hit the sack earlier: Get some shut eye. Everyone is better off. I know I head to cranky-cranksville and everything seems tougher when I’m tired. Pillow lumpy? Room stuffy? Fresh air and a new pillow do wonders for a good night’s sleep.
Clean up your act: De-clutter the spaces around you. Piles of paper and life’s bits and pieces are reminders of all you need to do. Keep a notepad handy to get thoughts out of your head and consolidate your to-do lists. Clear the mind!

Tune in to some music to elevate your mood. It’s amazing how my mind wanders to softer thoughts as music plays in the background. Everything is better with music in my opinion. Songs send me to memories or allow me to drift away from the chores at hand. Linger in the lyrics and enjoy.
In scent-ify your home. With all the aromatherapy options out there, anyone can find a scent that relaxes, energizes or improves the surroundings. Lavender is my favorite for relaxation, and lemony fragrances boost my energy. Vanilla is a wonderful scent too. Create a spa scented feeling in your home with diffusers or candles.

Rain Check


Some days even when the sun’s out, we need a little extra protection to weather the day. I tend to hibernate this time of year and call it “going underground”. When I do get up and out though, I always feel better.

Take a walk today even if it’s just into your backyard or down the block. Focus on your breathing and notice how other thoughts vanish, if only for a moment. I’ve missed some wonderful days due to illness or surgery, so I understand needing the rain check.  Sometimes, it all feels like too much. Treat yourself gently if you can’t get motivated, but consider a little fresh air. Opening the door is a good start, just take a deep breath and see where it leads you.

Ask for help


Fall is here in the Northwest and as my winter pots got re-potted by some loving friends recently, I was reminded of all of the gifts in my life. It would have been easy for me to wallow in depression, I had plenty to feel low about after spending 6 days in the hospital for having a serious obstruction. After having an ostomy for so long, I feel pretty sure I know what to eat, but now and then, I’ll get thrown for a loop when my remaining intestine get kinked and refuse to allow passage. Rest, pain meds and lots of visits from my friends and family and I am home on the mend.

Ask For Help if you need it. The people in your life will feel helpless but want to reach out to nurture you. Stay close to home and allow them to tend to some chores to beautify your surroundings. After mentioning my dying summer porch plants, my dear friends arrived with warm drinks to sip as I bundled up on my deck and they winterized my plants for fall. Now when I open my front door I have a fresh outlook, more than just the flowers in my pots.



Notes from fabulous Etsy Artist jessica gonacha: vibrant artwork to brighten your life:

Need a positive reminder that everything always works out exactly as it’s supposed to? Snap up one of these gocco prints to do just that! Frame it and hang it in your bedroom, hang it next to your bathroom mirror, put it up in your office for a daily reminder that all is well…

The prints measure approximately 4×4″ on 5×7″ thick, archival Canson paper. You will love them in person!!

Find the Light

Sometimes things happen in life that we are simply not prepared for. We fall, we fail, or we collapse into illness. When I am met with an unexpected challenge, I try to “be true to the down times” and have a good private cry  – or lean on someone who loves me enough to just listen. It seems that if you don’t allow the tears, they’ll just bubble up when you least expect them anyway. 

Once I’ve wrung out some tears, I remember the words of my grandmother who told me, “Life’s tough, so toughen up. At some point you just have to put your lipstick on and head out anyway”.  She’s a painter, a breast cancer survivor and has endured more heartache through loss that anyone I am close to. She is my inspiration to get out and find the light in the day.

Once you’re outside, you’re reminded of all the life around you. All the beauty and business. All the other people with challenges. Some far greater than any I hope to ever face, and some who will never know the sorrow and challenges of having an ostomy.

Recently I was unexpected hospitalized and found myself in my regular cycle of disbelief, frustration that my life was to be put on hold again, hibernation, isolating to tears and need for privacy. Then once I allowed that process, I started accepting care from loved ones, getting lots of rest, and then was ready to step outside to find the light.

It works every time. A few small moves that shift everything to a better reality: Breath, accept support, rest and then get outside and find the light.

Everything is going to be all WRITE


Allowing my feelings to flow through my pen has always been my therapy. My hospital journals often have unfinished sentences as I drifted off to sleep under the blanket of pain meds. But always, they are a place where I can spill unfiltered and later reflect when I am well. During a therapeutic weekend of de-cluttering, I pulled out my journal pile and re-read some of my hospital prose. For those of you who are still in that place, it may help to know that I am not there anymore, but I do understand it deeply. Here is one I wrote while under the recovery sheets.


There’s a hole there that could swallow me up if I let it.

  If I looked

I am not whole anymore,

  my energy leaks like a cold sweep of wind.

I am exposed there,

  no one I can express this to but these pages.

Pen dips into my rages and sooths my limitless ache.

Not arms and legs gone, but part of myself.

Forever bandaged, never to see sunshine and light, and air.

Wisps of motion, tenderly folded and tucked,

  I am displayed under white sheets amidst shudders of pain.

Coming and going, they contend for my side,

My insides are layed out and leaking,

  I wonder what they want.

Streams of visitors,

  dumbfounded and waiting for me to make them comfortable, even laugh.

Silence and sunshine are mine when no one is here.

I am alone with my pain and new wardrobe.

I am encased and submissive, swallowed up my by insecurity

Shivering with this boastful, smiling courage as I falsely move on.

The songs are silent now and I wonder how many more of my parts will go

  can be taken

My legs will carry me and my arms will reach up,

  my voice will sound the same.

My essence is contained within this body’s shield,

  inside this gasoline shimmering shell

A matchstick could ignite my fury, my sorrow,

  my aching longing to sun my belly just one more time.