Video: Strength and Compassion in the Worst of Times by da-AL

In the worst situations, strength and compassion shine brightest. Terrible times strip away everything but what’s essential, leaving bare the best in us and those we encounter during our trials. 

The first time I learned the depth of this truth was when I co-produced a video for the Leukemia Society of America (nowadays Leukemia and Lymphoma Society). They’d hired my business partner, David Hunt (who has written for HBT here and here), and me (our non-profit company was called, Vista Educational Media) to encourage therapists, as well as people struggling with leukemia to get involved in the agency’s support groups. Executive Producer was Maureen Nunn. We videotaped at Wellness Community South Bay Cities, which is now Cancer Support Community Redondo Beach. The Los Angeles Times wrote of participant Roger Kahl’s valiant life here.

The way David and I worked was always to let subjects speak their truths, then we’d do our best to edit and narrate accurately. For each project, David and I would alternate who would be in charge and who would assist.

Thank goodness for this one David conducted the interviews, wrote, edited, and narrated. It took all I had not to sob while I stood to videotape behind the tripod. Reviewing it all these many years later, I still cry at the incredible bravery of the interviewees and David’s outstanding storytelling.

On David’s site, he details his experience with this project. Here’s his preliminary description for my site here…

“By the 1990s health educators understood that video-assisted storytelling was an effective way to engage patients and get them involved in their own health care. But many of the nation’s top health organizations, including the Leukemia Society, used actors as stand-ins for actual patients in their health education videos. In 1992 I was part of a documentary team that convinced the organization to trust people with leukemia to share their own stories.”

Linear Amplitude: I’m in an art installation! by da-AL

da-AL modeling for Connie DK Lane's Linear Amplitude art installation
Here I am, modeling for my friend’s upcoming show.

Yeah! My friend, artist Connie DK Lane, is having another show (this was an earlier show — and this is another I performed in). Please join us. Below are her official info and description…

Info for Connie DK Lane's Linear Amplitude art installation

“Connie DK Lane’s work is born of her emigration from Hong Kong and evolved from contemplations on belonging, memory, and being. By combining aspects of lived experience and creative imagination, Lane’s art beckons viewers to meditate on their own complexities. Artist reception March 23, 2 to 5 p.m. with a performance at 3 p.m. The show runs through April 29.”

What’s the last art show you attended?…

Learning from Cancer by da-AL

Photo of daisy wearing glassesPhoto: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

Years before I was diagnosed with cancer, an agency that facilitated emotional support groups for people with cancer hired me to produce a video for them.

The morning my partner and I gathered our camera equipment, I braced myself for an emotionally trying day. Listening to the stories of those battling to live, I did my best not to cry as I stood behind the lens.

By the end of the videotaping session, I felt uplifted by their strength — and mystified! How could many of them speak of cancer as a blessing?

In 2007, I too was diagnosed with cancer. At first, I was angry, sad, frustrated, and terrorized. It took time for cancer to reveal its lessons to me.

Photo of a group of mallard ducks walking Photo: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

Learning that happiness is worth fighting for has changed me profoundly. Early on, a sage cancer warrior recounted how a friend of hers dreaded when his cancer would kill him, yet he outlives many loved ones. The wise woman told me, “No one can predict how long they’ll live. We’re lucky for every day.”

Day and night, as I endured my illness being categorized, quantified, and treated, I obsessed over how I might have contracted it…how to get rid of it…how to never get it again…how it would hurt my loved ones…and on and on…

When I tried was hot yoga, the laser focus it demanded quieted my mind. The full length mirrors reflected how, if I dwell on what hurts and what I fear, then my yoga suffers. They showed me how, when I physically and mentally resonate words like ‘happy,’ ‘healthy,’ ‘joy,’ and ‘love,’ possibility becomes reachable.

Photo of bee at purple flowers Photo: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

It’s a wonder that my worrying didn’t kill me. Often I wondered if someone as ordinary as me deserved to live. Eventually, I figured that I’ve got as much of a right to breath as do cockroaches and fleas. And that I’ve got something to say, which is how this blog started (as did the two novels I’m writing!)…

Life is always a gift, and that includes all of our experiences.

Has illness taught you any lessons?

Guest Blog Post: “Whisper: I Slept With My Bully” by Kally

Photo of a woman on a bed, her back to us

This tragic story, retold by blogger Kally, is all the sadder because the young woman to whom it happened blames herself for what isn’t her fault. To heal, she bravely recounts it to us so that the same thing doesn’t happen to others…

MiddleMe

love your column Whisper and I hope by sharing my story, perhaps some young girl out there will learn from my mistakes and maybe save herself from evil.

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Now We Are 2 (only): Sweet Lola is Sorely Missed by da-AL

Lola our black Labrador mix dog at the beach.
Lola our black Labrador mix dog at the beach.

Our home is too quiet, too empty without our dear Lola. Last Wednesday, she joined her twin brother, Pierre.

Lola our black Labrador mix dog when she was only a few months old.
Lola our black Labrador mix dog when she was only a few months old.

We were privileged to have her. Like Pierre, she was loyal in every way to the end. The two were trusting, kind, obedient, and fun loving.

Lola our black Labrador mix dog, to the right of her brother, Pierre.
Lola our black Labrador mix dog, to the right of her brother, Pierre.

Second in her heart only to her human family was her adored brother who passed away a few months ago. Hopefully, now they’re together, forever safe and happy.

Lola, our black Labrador mix dog, is sorely missed.
Lola, our black Labrador mix dog, is sorely missed.

A kind fellow blogger said that losing a dear pet never gets easier. Indeed it doesn’t…

Guest Blog Post: Don’t by Born in Providence

When nowhere seems safe, blogger Born in Providence invites us to find shelter on her Island of Sanctuary…

Born in Providence

Don’t show them your drawing

They’ll find the mistakes, compare it to what’s already on the fridge or that Picasso we saw on the field trip last year. Third grade is no excuse; third degree.

Don’t ask them how you look

They’ll find the bump in your pony, the hole in your sock which is already inside your shoe, which are too tight and have a scuff. They’ll see that too. You look tired. Did you even brush your teeth?

Don’t tell them you’re hungry or full

They’ll decide you’re too big, small, selfish, greedy, a bottomless pit, picky. Comparing your plate to everyone with more or less deserving than you, making it impossible to taste or swallow past the lump in your throat.

Don’t offer your opinion even when they ask

They’ll decide their ideas, experiences, thoughts and preferences are superior while simultaneously highlighting why everything that comes out…

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Guest Blog Post: The Little Guy Who Stole Our Hearts by Debbie Centeno

Live long enough, and we’re bound to encounter challenges. With the help of a friend, Debbie Centeno (who runs this blog and this blog) uses her grief to help others…

Chewy

I never knew how much a person could grow to love their pet. I wasn’t raised with pets, other than fish in a tank. And, there’s no way you can take them out of the tank to play, pet or cuddle. I just loved my aquarium but in a materialistic way. As an adult, I didn’t think about getting a pet since I was quite busy with three children. But, after my oldest son passed away, and my two other children were no longer small kids, my daughter convinced me to get a dog. So we opted for a rescue.

Chewy as a puppy

I made a few calls to see what dogs were available to adopt. We found a place that had a mama dog who had recently given birth to seven puppies – six female and one male. The male was the runt and was rejected by his mama, but I wanted a female. That was until we met the little guy, of course. All puppies were side by side sleeping on their tummies, except the little runt who was sleeping on his back almost on top of his sisters. He was much smaller than the others. When I saw him – well, I don’t know what I felt, but I just had to have him, so the volunteer picked him up and placed him in my arms, and that was it. I was in love. I handed him to my husband, and he felt the same way. So off we were with a 5-week old 2-pound Chihuahua/Dachshund mix. We named him Chewy, and it suits him well.

Chewy buckled up in a car

Chewy is now 6-years old and 20 lbs. I can’t imagine life without him and don’t regret having followed my daughter’s advice. He is the most loving, spoiled brat ever who stole our hearts. I know he’s not human, but for me, he’s my baby.

Debbie Centaro

Debbie Centeno is a wife, a grieving mom, an accountant, and a travel blogger. Learn more about her here and here.