Ouch, My Aching Back!!!

My lower back issues began in 1991 when two friends and I decided to skip Senior Prom and enjoy an adventure in northern Michigan. Unfortunately, my adventure ended with a horse back riding accident at the Caple’s Ranch. Ever since, I struggle with regular lower back issues, at times requiring over a week of bed rest. Over the years, I have tried many remedies, some helpful, some not so much. Below are a few regular treatments/life habits with which I found success:

A Relaxing Night’s Sleep: How many times have you started the day with a sore back? Is your bed the cause? 1/3 of your life is spent in bed. Make an investment in a supportive mattress and pillow. Sleeping with a pillow between the knees also takes pressure off the lower back.

Hourly Movement: Do you spend most of the day sitting? Does standing up cause pain? If so, commit to getting up every hour during the day and walking for a few minutes. We aren’t meant to sit all day (Yes, that includes sitting at home watching TV). Hourly movement can reduce soreness.

Acupuncture: I’ve received acupuncture for over 15 years. A traditional 45 minute treatment relaxes and refreshes the entire body. I also found relief in placebo needle placement. Several times, my acupuncturist inserted needles where I had pain, greatly relieving the tenderness.

Ice/Heat: 20 minutes of icing the lower back, immediately followed by 20 minutes on the heating pad works wonders.

Flexibility and Core Work: Commit several times per week to leg and back stretches and core strengthening. You may find this website a helpful start.

Donut Pillow: While a bit embarrassing at first, the donut pillow places extra pressure on the glutes, relieving lower back tension. I keep one in my car and at home. Here’s a more discreet covered pillow.

Massage: Massage can ease tight muscles. Request extra work on the IT Band. Many lower back issues can be linked to tight or weak hips.

Resistance Bands: Speaking of hip issues, utilizing resistance bands can calm the IT Band and strengthen the hips. An appointment with a physical therapist often includes resistance bands to take home and a set of hip strengthening exercises. Make those exercises part of your regular routine!

Remember to use caution and keep in contact with your health care provider when adding a new activity into your regimen.

Thanks for reading!


Turkey Day with a Side of Mercy

While it always hurts to come across hateful comments about my father on social media, last month, I started receiving such comments on my personal accounts. Anger has often been my initial response in such situations. Recently, I did something unexpected, I paused and remembered a song I was learning, a song about mercy and how we all could use it.

I changed my focus and quickly recognized both the hate and pain surging through this troubled individual. The prudent option here was to ignore what was not really an attack, but an individual in pain, lashing out; in addition, adjusting my thinking helped me deal with such posts. I wondered where else “mercy” was needed…

Every semester, I perform for the Music Appreciation class at the college. This time, in addition to the usual presentation about oral tradition and Appalachian folk music, I added a current song I was learning. While the song is still in need of a final polish (and an amp for the strumstick), it felt right to sing about mercy. This holiday season, in addition to thankfulness, where do you need to show mercy? Is there a rift from long ago in need of attention? Are you still avoiding family members with differing political views? Perhaps it’s time to “mend the bond.”

Thanks for reading and have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Time to stock up on Lip Balm!


The Journey Home


It seems like a lifetime has passed since December’s post. Early December brought pneumonia for me, and then after Christmas, life proceeded to worse. Chad suffered a serious fall and the next day, Patrick’s friend was killed in a car accident. Chad’s on the mend, and we are attempting to help our son through his loss. As a parent, the challenges of bridging this horrible passage never occurred.

Most generations remember losing and mourning a friend gone too young. I remember those friends lost in high school and college, the pain, questions, and numbness. As parents we sit by helplessly, attempting to ease the grief. While we can certainly be there for support, nothing helps more than letting our young grieve together. Perhaps this is part of letting go; our children need the chance to be with their peers to truly sort things out. As a woman, I also didn’t expect how certain difficult, manual activities provide closure for our men, my father-in-law building his granddaughter’s coffin twelve year’s ago or my son and his friends actually picking up shovels and burying their friend.

When dealing with death, I often think of J.R.R. Tolkien’s glimpse through Gandalf’s words in “The Lord of the Rings”:

“…The journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path…One that we all must take…The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass…and then you see it…White shores…and beyond. A far green country under a swift sunrise.”

I don’t begin to know or claim what’s to come, but I have often found solace in Tolkien’s words and prefer to follow my parents’ words of wisdom. “We all have a journey ahead, a topic worthy of reflection.” The following song, from the late 70s has often brought me peace. Also, after witnessing the visitation, bagpiper’s procession and funeral (and later, watching my husband’s stubbornness and strength to get back to work), I truly understand what Maureen O’Hara meant when she said, “We Irish are a fighting people.”

RIP  Jeremiah

wrestling Patrick and Jer



On Death, Dying…and Living


As many of you know, I lost my mom after a sudden, fast-moving illness. While attempting the return to normalcy, I thought perhaps a recollection (another list) might help start the healing. Here are a few words of wisdom from the past month:

  1. While one of the most difficult jobs I ever had to do, if you have the opportunity to be present with a parent and support his or her journey to the next life, make the effort to accept this bittersweet gift.
  2. Share your final wishes with loved ones, put it in writing or have that important conversation! We were blessed with clear guidelines to follow Mom’s wishes, including medical needs, funeral arrangements, and other final requests.  Sharing your wishes reduces the burden on loved ones, eliminating the second guessing and possible arguments.
  3. I was touched by the random acts of kindness in the hospital: The nurse who stole pillows from spare rooms for me, another nurse who spent extra time on her shift the morning we removed the vent, washing Mom’s hair, putting on fresh clothes, doing all she could to help in the difficult situation, and a friend with massage training, spending almost an hour massaging Mom’s hands, trying to relieve the severe edema.
  4. There were so many acts of kindness afterward: The random stranger who purchased my breakfast in Hillsdale, coffee mugs for all the kids from the woman who ran Mom’s favorite breakfast joint, the many visits, cards, phone calls, hugs…
  5. While I only teach part-time, I was touched by the helpful response and care from co-workers at the college. Working with individuals who treat you like family is a priceless perk!

June Roche was a kind, intelligent, and cheerful woman. She endured many trials throughout her life from growing up in poverty, having to delay her high school graduation for a year so she could help support her family, to enduring a national scandal. However, she also experienced a grand adventure through her hard work and dedication to her family and the college, earning her Bachelor’s Degree in only two years, traveling around the world, hosting world leaders, influencing young minds, and helping promote quality education in America.

Throughout this adventure, Mom also never thought herself above others. If she saw someone in need, she attempted to help. I will always remember the lessons modeled through Mom’s example: respect everyone, help those in need, and remember the power of kindness and grace when solving problems.

Thanks for reading!


He Married Mrs. Butterworth…


The end of 2012 has been tough. We witnessed the unthinkable and now have to move on. I thought the best way to start the new year was through the healing power of laughter. As I wrote this, I noticed most of the stories were about my son, George Donovan, so I decided to keep this post all about him. As a mom, I always try to keep things fair, so while writing this, I had a healthy case of “Mom guilt.” However, upon reflection, I did write about Mary Kate’s artistic talents, so don’t worry Patrick, I will find a way to embarrass you through this blog too. 😉 Here are a few stories from the Murphy Family where we laughed together and used the humor to bond.

I have so many funny stories to share about my kids, but ones that stick out are from my son, George. He has always been a big boy, just under 12 lbs at birth (a natural birth, I might add). G always has a positive attitude and hearty belly laugh to accompany life. He also has a healthy appetite. Following the Murphy weekly routine, Sunday pancakes are the norm. One of those many Sunday’s, G’s siblings decided to tease him about his love of pancakes. They teased that he would one day marry Mrs. Butterworth. Not missing a beat, G picked up the syrup container as if he were making a toast and proclaimed, “You may now drink the bride!”

As a young child, George called trailer hitches “hookers” because to his three year old mind, it was logical that you hook things on to them. George also thought it was really special that his dad had two hitches on his work truck. It was a family joke, until one day on a weekend trip up north, we stopped in Baldwin to eat. After we were seated at the table, George proudly smiled and announced to our server, “My dad has two hookers on his car!” After our initial embarrassment, we were able to laugh about the incident.

Finally, I can share what is now a fond memory of our first family camping trip. Our kids were 3, 2, and six weeks old. We had purchased our first camper and wanted to start small and camp close to home. We opted for a beautiful, rustic campground in Yankee Springs. After the challenge of setting up camp with three young children, Chad and I put the kids down for naps and put on some music (via car radio) and shared some wine around the campfire. Oblivious to the noise in the camper for some time, what finally caught our attention was the water leaking out. We ran inside and found George over the bathroom sink, trying to prevent the water from overflowing by filling Dixie cups and stacking/sloshing them on the sink and tub area. With five gallons of water left in the tank, we still managed to make it through the weekend with many trips to the community hand pump.

In our family, uncontrollable fits of laughter are common. Unfortunately, many of these incidents happen at the table and accompany projectile kernels of corn or Vitamin D milk. However, despite the occasional mess, belly aches, or laughter to the point of tears or other bodily exits, humor is what makes the Murphy home worthwhile.

Finding the Silver Lining among Dark Clouds: Lessons from 1999

Many of you know about the suicide of a loved one and public scrutiny our family faced in 1999. As I was preparing this month’s blog, I wanted to focus on thankfulness, and for some reason, these events came to mind. While I still struggle occasionally with what happened, now that I am many years removed, I can examine the events through fresh eyes. Even though recalling these memories is painful, I have learned and can now find thankfulness from those many lessons learned along the way.

When people are faced with public scrutiny, their social circle often drastically changes. It was quite painful at the time to see friends become distant or in some cases, cut off all contact. However, I learned empathy as people were unsure how to maintain friendships after such drastic circumstances. While I missed those people from my life, I accepted that those who withdrew are not bad people. We are all human. I hope that someday we can become friends again.

However, I was touched by the group of friends and family who came forward to support me in this difficult time. Their words, hugs, calls, jokes, offers to take the boys for an afternoon, or more aggressive friends who stopped by and demanded, “You are going for a walk, NOW!” lifted me from my sadness and helped me get through my third pregnancy safely. In hindsight, I am thankful for loyal and true friends.

In addition, after being under the media microscope, I learned to show empathy for those facing public scrutiny. Today, when I see a news story on TV, I remind myself that there is a family surrounding the headliner, and they are probably hurting and attempting to hold together. This experience also taught me the importance of first finding the facts and to use restraint before passing judgement. I am also thankful for the silence of acquaintances who really didn’t like Dad and could have easily added fuel to the “media fire.” Their restraint was comforting, knowing they cared for our family and wanted to shield us from further scrutiny.

Finally, I learned the importance of keeping my mouth shut (OK, I’m still working on that!). I thought that I had the power to help our family through honest, positive exchanges with the media. Boy, was I wrong! This experience taught me that in so many times in life, the best advice is to stay silent. While I had nothing to hide, I learned the value of discretion with the media as I lacked the power to create positive, effective change.

Why did I share this? I chose this topic because it was cathartic to view the events of 1999 with forgiveness and thankfulness. Furthermore, everyone faces painful trials in life. I hope that when these times come, people can learn from my story and discover that, with time, healing is realistic, and perhaps, with a bit of soul searching, pearls of wisdom can arise from those harsh lessons.

Something that has pulled me through is a song that my kids sang every year at concerts and graduation:  “If we hold on together, I know our dreams will never die.”  If you just hold on together as a family and give the storm a chance to pass and a new day to come, you can make it.  Family is worth fighting for.   God Bless!