Category Archives: work

Any Room At Your House?

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Tis the season of busyness and preparations for the holidays.  Presents bought and wrapped.  Baking.  A surprise visit and present from my son.  It is Dean and I’s heart to get these holiday greetings sent via postage mail long before Christmas week. Please know that you are in our hearts year round. Christmas joy has filled our home, peace with God and grace to all people despite any differences.  This snowy Christmas Eve is the slow-down to reflect on His Gift, Jesus, lessons from 2017 and what is hoped for 2018. The 4 Advent Sundays reminded us of this moment. Father Peter shared at Mass tonight the Christmas story, how there was no room for Joseph, Mother Mary, and the birth of baby Jesus.  A meager manger would be the chosen place of His birth. It was asked how many of us would say the same “no room at our house”? “What would you do if Joseph and Mary came knocking on your door tonight?  Do you have time to deal with this?  Can you make space in your house without resentment or casting judgment?  Would you empty the tool shed or a spot in the garage?  Would you charge high $$ to profit from this situation?  Or worst yet, steal their possessions, what little the guests have?  Scriptures tell us “What you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto Me.”

“Family” would summarize our year of 2017.  As a reminder, Dean and I have 6 children, 5 in-law children, 6 grandchildren, 3 parents, 5 siblings and their families, and we cannot forget our dog, Midnight and cat, Celine, the 7 grand dogs, and 3 grand cats.  Dean and I began 2017 in Key West, Florida with his parents and siblings, an 80th birthday celebration for Dean’s mother.  Such a while ago, but lovely memories of the beach breezes, discovering new sites, and time with family.  We still have our greeting card boxes that niece Amelia made each of us.  After the hurricanes there, I suppose the scenery is quite different.  In a couple of days warmth awaits us in San Antonio, where we will meet up with Dean’s son, AJ, Nancy, Elise, and  Nancy’s family there.  Spiced rum eggnog, homemade chicken soup, Christmas carols, and having each other will keep us warm tonight …

In February my daughter, 33-year old Elisabeth was diagnosed with 2 types of breast cancer, stage 1 and stage 2. Elisabeth went through a strict regimen of chemo treatments, hair loss, zapped energy and strength. She had a double mastectomy and reconstruction this summer. We are so very thankful to our Father as she has been given a cancer-free diagnosis in July.  Elisabeth is regaining her strength and hair while under hormone therapy and low-dose chemo.  Her husband, children, family, friends, and all the supportive, praying communities continue to surround her. Her bravery and fighter personality helped Elisabeth stay above.  I reached out for prayers by many women, visited church 1-block from my office to take part in many noontime prayer vigils, and Dean and I together continue to provide a quiet and calm home while she heals.

Refreshing spring brought us to the completion of our 2-room addition.  It took a whole year, but it is beautiful and has provided the much needed space to our home.  At this season of our lives we share our home with my daughter and her family.  More warmth with the woodwork, a set of barn doors matching the stained doors in the rest of the house as well as a high ceiling to heighten the spacious floor layout.  We use the 2 rooms as a family room/dining area and an extra bedroom that Elisabeth and Mark can rest their heads in. In May Dean and I spent almost a week in the Smoky Mountain region of our beautiful states.  Experienced the AirBnB hospitality for this vacation. We loved Gatlinburg, TN and Asheville, NC.  Antiques, the arts, and foodie places were our hangouts. Of course, a few walks in the woods. There was a sign warning us, and you know the saying “hindsight is 20/20”. Dean drove the Dragon’s Tail Highway with all its hairpin turns, not understanding what we were in for.  I was very close to losing lunch during that ride. We tried the glamper scene one night in the middle of nowhere land. And we stopped in Nashville for a night. Love the nightlife there with all the honky-tonks and country music.

Weekend trips to Lee’s Summit and Farmington keep us on the road at least once a month visiting with children, grandchildren, and Dean’s parents.  When we are home we read, write, catch a music venue or new foodie joint in St. Louis.  And there is always those weekend chores.  We garden and mow at the greenhouse site on Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance 7 or 8 months out of the year. This year’s gardening included a voluntary cherry tomato plant that literally took over the whole vegetable bed from July until the October frost killed it.  We dubbed this plant as “Audrey” from the play/movie Little Shoppe of Horror. We made a delicious green tomato marmalade from the abundance of fruit left after the killing frost.  Our perennials are inside now, and our bird of paradise is about to bloom again under the plant lights in the garage.  Autumn brought Dean and I a steal-away weekend to Pella, Iowa.  We loved this Dutch town so much, we are planning a Mother’s Day weekend there with our mothers.

My occupation as the employee wellness coordinator of St. Louis County is the work God called me to this season of my life.  We had our Billion Steps Challenge using Fitbits and a web portal called One Community.  With two 8-week walking challenges this spring and summer, we cleared the 1 billion steps goal and went well over 2 billion steps amongst 2800 participating employees and spouses.  I have been asked to speak along with a panel at the St. Louis area American Heart Association’s Wellness Forum in February discussing employer wellness budgets on a shoestring.  Personally, my biometric numbers were improved substantially with the walking challenges, and my primary care physician is thrilled.  The walking culture continues through winter.  Dean, Midnight, and I still take an evening constitutional almost every night.  At 20 degree temps, I declined tonight. Hives or worse a visit to the emergency room would not be good.  Dean’s occupation with the National Archives keeps him going, and work he was called to as well.  He loves the hunt for military records especially for his family and friends.

Our youngest granddaughter, Elise has captured her Grandpa Dean’s heart.  I think he counts the days until he can see her again.  This Father’s Day was a wonderful gathering of Dean’s children and their families with us at our home. The red children’s swing in our sweet gum tree remind us of that special weekend.  We had a Gall Family Thanksgiving  at Rainer and Erica’s newly bought house in St. Louis City, and a birthday gathering for Dean the following day at a local bakery cafe. Another day that weekend we celebrated my oldest grandchild, Hannah’s 16th birthday.  Church every Sunday and occasional birthday celebrations and plays keeps us in touch with my mother and family. While celebrations and victories punctuate our year, so does illness and death. Dean’s extended family lost a cousin recently. Cancer, this wicked stuff.  Keep Mike’s wife, Terri and 2 daughters in your prayers please.  Another extended family member is undergoing treatments ; please say a prayer for Marion, our son-in-law’s father.  My oldest daughter, Rachel has multiple medical conditions, her conditions declining, which cause severe pain.   In 2018 I plan to take more time off from work each month to help Rachel with the kids and house.  Please bathe Rachel in your prayers.

What room do you have in your heart, home, and life for the least of these My brothers?  What has God prepared you for this very night, or the 365 days in 2018?  Blessings to you this eve of Jesus Christ’s birth.  As the carols sing … “Christ was born to save!  Christ was born to save!”… “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders of His love.” Joy to the world!

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Ice Ice Baby

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“Ice ice baby, too cold.  Ice ice baby, too cold,” as the lyrics from singer Vanilla Ice go. We are under an ice storm warning here in Missouri.  Freezing drizzle.  Freezing rain.  Sleet.  Ice pellets.  Ice.  Whatever the frozen precipitation is called, it is slick.  No need to be out on the roads.  Stay indoors in the comfort and warmth of home, if at all possible.  Such a sharp contrast from last Friday.  I was in sunny Florida.  I welcome this surprise 4-day weekend winter hibernation as Dean and I’s government offices are closed today as most of Missouri is. Malls and shops closed mid-day.

Today it is 30 minutes of sweating to Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ To The Oldies, reading, blogging, caring for my indoor green friends, movie watching, and the homemade goodness of orange cranberry scones for breakfast, white chili for lunch, roasted root vegetables and sesame pork for dinner.  The weekend paperwork and housework will be tomorrow.

 

Oh, Mimosa, Mimosa

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What an incredibly stressful two weeks for Dean and I with work and family decisions to make.  Nothing earth-shattering. Just bang, bang, bang, constant pounding.  Questions to ask ourselves:  What do we want now?  Five, ten years from now?  What is the the best thing for us?  How does this decision effect others around?  Who might we offend with the decision?  How do I handle a class of whining employees that their favorite yoga instructor has been replaced by another fully certified yoga instructor?  Again, do not want to offend, but sometimes impossible. What educational program can be created to teach 4,000 employees about smart food vending choices?  Can I  get another flu vaccine clinic scheduled last minute for the new police department building?  What are some bariatric options for our employees and their dependents?  So on and so on.  With work, family, and life in general, you cannot please everyone.  Ultimately, the decision you make has to be one you can live with.  “Own it.  And then move on,” as one of our daughters told me this week. I like how role-reversal happens as your children get older.  It is listening to your own advise, is it not?

I found reprieve this work week, daily all 5 days.  I have decided to take my full lunch hour despite what telephone calls, emails, or projects I have waiting in my office.  With the milder temperatures I have been walking at least 6 blocks each day.  On my walk on Monday, I began to pass by the church 1-1/2 blocks from my building, and then stopped.  I decided to climb the stone stairway and go into the church to pray.  Lo and behold, there were at least 20 other people, some local residents and other business people like myself sitting in the pews and praying.  St. Joseph Catholic Church in Clayton has prayer everyday before the noon Mass.  My lunch hour cannot be adjusted to go to Mass, but I can join in prayer everyday.  Yes, an answer to my prayers for stress-relief during the work day, a prayer and meditation date at 11:30am.  I know I can, and I do pray anywhere and anytime.  God hears our heart without words even spoken.  But there is something oh so special when a group of believers come together to pray.   The church bells chime as I leave those stone steps each day.  Their echoes are heard as I continue on my walk before returning to the office, a reminder of the prayers I just prayed.

Dean and I’s budget is tight with regular bills, a room addition project, and retirement accounts to keep at.  But every now and then you have to treat yourself.  Simple pleasures.  Let me preference the following words with “I am not a lush”.  I drink a beer, glass of wine, or a spirit of some sort maybe one evening a week.  Today I indulged in an orange mimosa long before noon on this September Saturday.  A suppose well-deserved mimosa. A pitcher full would have been divine, but I refrained.  After running errands, my husband and I patronized one of our favorite local eateries, the Main Street Diner in old town St. Peters, Missouri.  Tables were taken, but the cafe bar was open.  We hopped onto a couple of the bar stools, placed our orders for Uncle John’s egg scramble and Cousin’s Jeff’s breakfast plate, and I began to watch the entertainment of the wait staff.  These 4 ladies gave each other the business the whole time, leaving a few jabs for their loyal clientele.  Dean noticed as well.  We laughed along with them.  We also noticed cocktails being served from time to time.  I had not known liquor was served on Saturday mornings at this eatery. Oh my, a mimosa was being prepared!  I love me a mimosa!  My sweetheart ordered me an orange mimosa!  By the time the delicious breakfast food was consumed, I was ready for that mimosa.  Dean watched as my cares went to the wayside.  He took full advantage of my relaxed state with a smooch right on the lips, and immediately afterwards received a smack on the arm and a “stop that PDA” by the “everybody’s mom” waitress.  Too funny!

I am definitely ready for a Saturday of cleaning and laundry while Dean works on the Jeep. And I think I am ready to tackle another week of decision-making with prayer and God’s guidance.  And 1 spirited drink!

Contrasts

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A week in the mountains away from suburban life, work day conflicts, time constraints, and society’s woes … God’s creation … His canvas …

colorful vignettes, the snow-capped peaks and vi-rid valleys, mountain streams, deep-rooted trees, fresh air, hummingbird shrills, delicate flowers abloom, the silvery paper coins of the aspen groves fluttering, and the simplicity of just being can settle anyone’s mind, heart , and soul.  What a difference a week can make.

Why are we as a people so fired up?  In fight mode, defensive?  Pause a moment. Take a deep breathe or two. Quiet the soul.  Chill, or sip some chamomile tea if you cannot get away to that quiet place on your own.  Think, but not too hard.  Meditate on goodness.  Selah from the heart.  Thank God.  Love unceasingly.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…”  1 Corinthians 13:4 -8 (NIV).

Where Do The Butterflies Go When It Rains?

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Coneflowers Life gets stagnant from time to time. Satiety, boredom, ennui sets in. Another time the demands of this person and that project adds up to a multitude of “have to” rather than “want to” chores. So what do you do to get out of that funk, evolve into a better mood for the day or status in your life? You spontaneously take a 24-hour breather, an overnight retreat somewhere neutral. Dean and I did just that. On Saturday into Sunday we drove the Missouri country highways in St. Charles, Warren, Franklin, Washington, St. Francois, Jefferson, and St. Louis Counties. Saturday afternoon we stopped at a local winery. By evening we found a state park to eat and finally lay our heads down.
Sunday morning, another overcast start to the new day. But silence resignated instead of the buzz of street traffic and urban noises. I gathered my sundress, dressed quietly to not wake my sweetheart. Stepped out the back door, leaving just a screen door between me and the quaint hideaway I slept in. I sat in a lawn chair situated on the deck overlooking the slopes of huge trees leading to the river valley. The cardinals and finches sang. Then a hush before the dark cloud rolled over with a hum of pitter-patter on the dense leaves. I heard the raindrops approach before they where atop the trees in front of me. A steady rain, gently watering the earth.
Butterfly In Rain Queen Anne’s lace, orange day lilies, and pink coneflower swayed with the breeze and occasional rain shower. Darker clouds rolled in with sheets of rain coming down as we dined at the state park cafe. We waited out the sudden outburst, and then made it to the jeep for a drive to the motel seated on a high ridge over the Meramec River. “Where do the butterflies go when it rains”, I thought aloud. Butterflies hide when it rains, like they do at night. They hide under the shelter of large leaves or a pile of leaves. Sometimes butterflies go under rocks or structures. But other butterflies just put their head down on the grass or bushes closing their wings tightly. If the rains are heavy, their wings are damaged and they never make another flight. Where do you hide when the weather gets rough?

The Gift Of Art

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My Saturday morning arrived on the sunny side of life. Awoke with plans to repot my 2-year-old plants into bigger pots. They are thriving in this rainy and mild spring into summer season. I did a few stretches while repotting and top-dressing my succulents and geraniums. Afterwards, I spent some time in the house, cleaning, laundry, and cooking for the upcoming week. By bedtime, I was sore. As I write I listen to a CD “Feather On The Breath Of God” a friend sent over my way at the office awhile ago. I suspect she herself listens to this same CD to calm her hectic lifestyle as a yoga instructor for yoga instructors as well as amateurs such as myself. The art form of yoga has been recommended to me for a few years by my physicians. Releases the tensions of the day with each pose and breathe. I am needing to keep this a daily practice. I have two colleagues reminding me each time they see me about this goal. So my achy body tells on me. Yoga every morning from here on out! The weekend warrior routine is not the way to go. Gardening, yoga, music, and writing … the gift of art. Calms my soul and keeps me healthy.

More Than A Spring Fling

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The plump blossoms are excuberant this spring. Must be the extra cold winter days that cause the colors to be so full and vibrant. Or maybe its the perspective of this blogger, who just relishes these spring days. My more-than-a-spring-fling lover, my hubby Dean captured some photos of our white dogwood contrasted with the Japanese maple. Easter Day was about an adorable puppy name Beatrice or “B”, our newest granddog. That digital camera came in handy to capture the moment when Beatrice greets for the first time my great-nephew, Felix. Another day last week while on a day outing with Dean and our grandkids Hannah, Ella, and Eli, we discovered one of the biggest American Beech trees while at a park in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. At our nephew’s springtime wedding last weekend, love and celebration was in the air. And today, this lovely spring day brought me to a dairy farm near Marshfield, Missouri while meeting with dairy inspectors employed with St. Louis County. We were graced with a Holstein calf, born just hours before. The newborn breathed life afresh, just as I am this spring season. Blossoms, babies, puppies, new life and love, is this not what spring is all about? I am thankful to God.

Critter Corral

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Some days the pets as well as neighborhood squirrels and birds watch us as if we are their entertainment. Most other days, it is the reverse. The household and outside critters are our entertainment. Our pets, Midnight, Celine, Jonas, and Pennylane will greet us at the front door after a long day at work. The dog with a wagging tail and panting smile, and the feline friends with purrs and nudges to be petted. The birds and squirrels gather at the dogwood tree to feed on seeds at the feeder or underneath where the seed remnants lie on the leaf-mulched earth.
When asked what my new year’s resolution is, the word is “repurpose”. Repurpose items already obtained. Rejuvenate, repair, renovate, recycle, all to mean the same as repurpose. Utilize an item for a purpose or meaning once again. To go with this year’s theme of “repurpose”, this weekend I had purposed to wash all the stuffed animals and characters that have residence in our home. We have quite the collection of teddies, rabbits, chicks, dolls, doggies, and even a Tazmanian devil from my children and grandchildren. These toys provded hours of entertainment and occupied a hammock hung in the back bedroom or sit on the bay window seat. One basket situated in the living room was bed to some favorites, ready at a moment’s notice to be gathered into the arms of a visiting child. Since my daughter moved in, more space is needed in the back bedroom. We placed these critters in plastic bags until after the holiday madness simmered down. To the local laudromat we went with 3 large plastic bags, filled 2 front loading machines. Dean and I watched as the soapy faces plastered against the door windows, as if they muttered “help!” from their foaming mouths. After the wash cycle we dried the freshly washed critters for just a few minutes in a gigantic-sized dryer. We brought home the damp stuffed animals, lined them on the trundle bed to air dry. Dean captured this photo of their greeting smiles. A bath always makes you feel better! Later we turned the critters on their heads, with their backsides up to air dry. We waited for our Labrador, Midnight to land himself atop the stuffed critters as the trundle bed is one of his favorite spots to nap. But the stuffed critters remained undisturbed. Critter Corral
Toy DonationMaybe there were too many of the critters, slightly overwhelming? We think so. Two of these toys date back to 32 years ago, my oldest daughter’s 1st Christmas teddy and 1st birthday Hush Puppy. The Care Bear with a band-aid on his leg was given to my oldest when she recovered from appendicitis at age 5. Another doggy belonged to my other daughter, and a teddy with a blue beret belonged to my artsy son. Others are a handmade rabbit and doll from a special grandmother. So the other purpose for the communal bath and animal reunion was to donate the less familar clean, germ-free critters to Goodwill. Some other children to love on their cuteness, softness. Tote to a tea party, wagon ride, or bedtime. We filled 2 bags to repurpose. And the other special animals and dolls sit in the living room inside the white wicker basket with a pink-gingham cloth lining. These await another child’s love, maybe more grandbabies?

Roller Coaster Ride

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Holiday greetings! Who knew what 2014 would bring? God, our Creator did. With Him and each other is how Dean & I held on during the wild roller coaster ride. I believe Dean & I experienced a miracle with our blended and extended families this year. After the joyous engagement announcements of last year, all 3 of Dean’s children chose to marry their sweethearts in this magical year of 2104. To fill you in, Dean & I have a blended family of 6 grown children, Rachel is 33 this week & married to Mick and have 3 children Hannah age 13, Ella age 8, & Eli age 4; Elisabeth is 30 married to Mark and have 2 children Libby age 10 & Brendan age 7; AJ just turned 30 & married Nancy in November; Elizabeth is 28 & just married Vince this month; Rainer is 25 & married Erica in July; and our youngest, Ben is 22. We welcome into our hearts and home the Compier, Rockford, and Rens families!
Dean & I averaged a 2 or 3-day trip (sometimes with our Labrador-flat coat retriever Midnight in tow) every 3rd weekend to the Missouri towns of Farmington, Lee’s Summit, Liberty, and Springfield as well as Leawood, KS to see our kids, grandkids, and Dean’s parents. Engagement parties and showers along with the grand finale celebrations kept us busy. Besides these beautiful weddings, we sought a reprieve of 10 warmer degrees (above freezing!) one extended weekend in February, and drove down to Paducah, KY. A lovely artisan town and my sanity! The coldest winter on record in the Midwest and with my allergy to the cold, I was in a constant swollen state until the thaw in May. This season, I am on a preventive antihistamine,taking it religiously until next May and hoping for a milder winter. No epie pins for me! Other events … Rainer’s master’s studies graduation in May, Dean’s male bonding Ohio trip with AJ & his father in July, this summer’s memorable One Direction concert Dean escorted my granddaughters and daughters to, and another sanity check with an extended weekend in New Harmony, IN in September, and Dean’s 35th high school reunion as well as his niece’s baptism this autumn. My mother and 2 children live nearby. We enjoyed visits with the Fait, Heuertz, and Christenson cousins. The deaths of my Uncle Lee, my cousin Sandra, my 99-year old Grandpa Earl, and Dean’s Aunt Rachel brought sorrow as well as the celebration of their lives. We said goodbye to two beloved grandpets, Jesse and Pixie and welcomed the bundle of energy named Bleu.
In 2014 Dean & I reduced our debts significantly, refinanced the house, and managed to stay above water with all the weddings. Our future plans are for a big family room. We viewed a few area houses this summer, and now entertain the thought of a room addition at present abode. There’s not much left on the mortgage, we like the central location, and know all the little quirks of this house I have lived in for 28 years, Dean the past 5 years. Paring down, repairs, and renovations will be for 2015’s weekends. Last spring we built a huge herb bed of organic marjoram, dill, sage, parsley, and 4 varieties of basil inside the screen house side of our 1400 sq-ft greenhouse. Vines of gourds grew on trellises, and bush beans produced a few green meals over summer. Next autumn we will build another bed for organic root vegetables as well as a cold frame for greens within the double protection of our experimental farm structure during the winter. I write this Word Press blog Deanna Greens And Garden Art, please read if you like to keep abreast. The practice of walking, gardening and eating greener may keep us healthier longer. We are a 3-generation home once again. My Elisabeth and clan (includes 2 more cats) have lived with us since September. They are making plans for the future within this present economy. Hearing Elisabeth sing to the kids every night, and tonight “You Are My Sunshine” warms my heart. Our Midnight and cat, Celine have adjusted to sharing their eating, napping and perching spots as Dean & I have.
Our full-time jobs, Dean with the National Archives and I with St. Louis County, have their perks as well as draw-backs. We love the Monday holidays, PTO banks, and good benefits. The draw-backs are the modest income, the ultimate politics, and security threats. Working in St. Louis County, MO has been a challenge at times since the historical August 9 shooting. By the grace of God despite the presence of protestors, media, FBI, National Guard, and extra police force, I came through with the mindset, “God is in control and I am placed here for such a time as this”. I pray for protection for our police officers and for peace that surpasses all understanding for those who feel victimized. I am taking an online course study towards a CEBS certification. Study, study, more study in 2015!
Blessings and wholeness to you! From this wordie, foodie, and wellness guru in St. Charles County, MO, love always! Anna

Melody and Pain

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Melodies from such as Norah Jones and Eva Cassidy soothe my wracked nerves and body. I hurt some days more than other days. This past weekend and this Monday has been rough. Not sure what causes my pain, but stress definitely adds to it. Its not the weather, as it has been gorgeously sunny 60 – 80’s this past week and more the same this week. Since the kidney and bladder infections in May and June, I have pain in my belly, pelvis, and back at random times. Recently, one specialist said my symptoms may be caused by a bladder disorder called interstitial cystitis, “IC”. I see another specialist in October for more tests. One theory of its roots are its to be an autoimmune response much like other weird disorders I have such as cold-induced angiodema,fibromyalgia, and apacia. After another stressful and dutiful day with employee benefits and a water pipe burst onto our floor, my body aches tonight. Much on my plate at work and home these past weeks. My Dean gave me a massage already, with another before sleep takes over. We will listen to soothing music, let the melody take over the pain. Meditate on this scripture. Alternative medication, holistic healing.