Friday, December 31, 2010

Change is inevitable..... progress is optional - Jack Welch

I found this old journal entry cleaning out to make space for the new.  It's just Good Feng shui.    The message is clear.... don’t get too caught up in any particular moment... it will change and it has.... Praise God.... for the lessons, (I've learned a few), the progress, (self-awareness and acceptance), the freedom (from the anger, resentments, and self-pity) and a return to serenity (even in the midst of so much uncertainty)!  It's pretty personal, but its only through sharing that we resonate with the heart of another. If you are having "one of those days, or weeks, or years"  rest assured, it will change, and it does get better!  Happy New Year! 

Big smiles in Rome two years ago
Journal Entry Dated October 24, 2009
This has been going on about a week now; the butterflies beating against the lining of my stomach and a spirit so saturated with sadness, it’s heavy, and difficult to move it along the path of life.   There’s that, and the fact, that I know I have piled on at least 10 pounds during this past year of the drama... “Nightmare on Becky Street”.  It isn’t enough to watch my rapidly growing ass spread across the back of my lethargic, relatively immobile body, but to contemplate the need for  anti-depressant medication, a side affect being weight gain.... Ugh.  It may be the pharmaceutical feather duster I need in clearing the cobwebs long enough, while God works his magic in helping me uncover the joy that's still there... somewhere... buried way down deep. Seriously, I believe it’s going to take a back hoe to dig out the piles of manure others shoveled into my life for several years now.  I know my signature zest for living is there somewhere.  I look at pictures of me, hardly recognizable, from last summer, in Europe, and see glimpses of deep gratitude, serenity and joy memorialized in those Kodak moments. 
Let’s just keep it simple......GOD, PLEASE HELP ME!  
This depression is quite different than what I experienced before.  I don’t cry all the time or feel anxious and obsessed.  That could be because I am all dried up.  A desert of a human being, barren, and stripped of any emotion.  I do know that isn’t entirely true.  If I want to smile, I just need to stop by and visit three of the most fabulous, happy, authentic, little divas in the world... my granddaughters.  I spend the majority of my days seeking answers and trying to drench my soul in those little girls joy, memorizing wise quotes, reading insightful books, and meditation; if 5 seconds of respite from my monkey mind qualifies.    My bookshelves look like a psychiatrist’s office! So many attempts at piecing together this puzzle named My Life.  Or, maybe what I am really doing is using a bit of advice from a former boss who said to me, “If you throw enough shit up against a wall, some of it’s bound to stick.”  There's certainly plenty there to throw. Maybe that philosophy is at the core of my piss-poor ongoing life choices, too much shit sticking, because rather than stopping and getting still for awhile, getting acquainted with me, and just accepting and being, I am always throwing more up against the wall trying to find something to make me feel better...... And, the compost pile grows.    My personal library houses authors running the gamut of M. Scott Peck (I sure as hell feel like I am on The Road From Hell Less Traveled) to Sylvia Brown (C’mon my dearly departed husband, throw some crumbs from heaven for crying out loud). A wise friend said to me once when I used the crumbs from heaven line, “How about tossing yourself some crumbs?” I wanted to tell her, shut the #@%$ up, but I knew she was on to something.  Truly, I could start my own self-help colony here. It might behoove me, this time, to find some like minded people genuinely seeking enlightenment to hook up with, rather than picking the same dysfunction over and over again and expecting different results.  

Symbol courtesy of my friend and
phenomenal artist, Tim Gorka. He
posted it on a Holiday float entry
he created (Noel). Clever!
I saw it in a different light.
A sort of sign...  Perfect! 
I need to recognize when I see the "L" written clearly 
all over a face, it DOES NOT necessarily mean "Love".  My therapist actually chuckled at that "sic" joke. He's a good guy... He agrees.  He says, "No more scum bags".  I argued that slur with him in my typical nicey, nice, codependent manner.   I told him everyone has value and is just working through their own stuff. Ick.  Disgustingly martyr like of me.  Giving everyone, but myself, a break.   His response, 
" Maybe so, but if the bag fits my dear, let them wear it." His style of sarcasm, wit, and humor mirrors mine and somehow it makes me feel healthier to see that.  I tried to squelch it for awhile, to please others, believing it to be a serious flaw.  I've discovered, I kind of like my tarty tongue.  It serves me well in coping with how ludicrous life and folks (including myself) can be.   My shrink has this same twisted, humorous, confrontational style.   We get along well.  This great guy with the framed artwork verifying his knowledge and accomplishment decorating his walls, and those impressive PhD initials after his name, simply ended our last session saying, "F--- him... he is not even close to worthy of you."  That's why I love him.  He keeps it simple-gets right to the point, no fancy-smancy physcho-babel. 

It has just recently dawned on me that perhaps, my desert of the soul, can be turned into  a positive process. In Ann Lamott’s book Plan B, she talks of the beauty of the desert.  Many of her spiritual friends find stillness and refreshment there in its barren starkness.  To spend time there is an exercise in quietly searching for the cactus in bloom, despite the scorching sun and heat so intense it's difficult to breathe.   Maybe I need to just change my therapeutic mindset. Stop reading and seeking.  Endure the heat for awhile. Just be still, develop some gratitude for the black hole I’m feeling now, knowing it is really through spiritual emptiness that we can be filled.  Maybe in reality, I am doing what I always do, the perfect addict that I am – trying to cram all these feel good words from The Sages, down inside to make the pain go away.  Could it be through the pain, just by being still, I will come to move beyond this daily “joyless ride” and begin to see a certain beauty in the reptilian desert feelings?  And, maybe.... just maybe, someday, notice the small, brilliant flower nestled inside the thorns of that prickly, unapproachable cactus? Just observing non-judgmentally and accepting?  Perhaps I can begin to view those people who hurt me so deeply this year in that manner, God’s creations, cactus flowers... beautiful simply because they too are the essence of God.  To be observed and admired, from a distance; not worth the price of reaching out to touch only to be painfully pricked each time.   I do know that every time I touch, and  the cactus flower does, what cactus flowers do, there is another healing involved that seems more difficult than the last.  I am just human and our fragile bodies can only take so much suffering. After awhile things just don’t heal like they used to.  They scab over a bit, but the tiniest little bump produces howling new pain.  Eventually the scabs become scars, but they look hideous, and obvious, and scare others away.   
A segue here....I became a blonde again, sort of…  Another attempt at fixing the outside up in the belief that the inside will somehow improve. Ha! I think that somewhat lends to my melancholy today anyhow.  I was looking for something “different” rather than the same old pure, white blonde "hooker hair". So, I told my stylist to go at it and turn me into a ravishing new creature.  Well, lets be honest, you can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, and I have been feeling pretty “sow like” lately.  But, being the adventurous soul that I am, albeit a depressed explorer, I told her to do whatever she wanted to do.  She too, felt my Blondie look was  becoming a bit much, and so inserted swatches of color.  The swatches of color, she called “strawberry blonde” are really a gentle word for RED- American flag RED.   Imagine bold red streaks on my white blonde locks.  When she swiveled me around in the chair, my horrified expression was enough to make her say, “Give it a day or two and several washings and if you don’t like it, call me, and I'll do something different next week.”  Great, not only do I have an ugly aura of doom and gloom, and a bigger butt, but I now look like I am costuming as an old rock star; perhaps Lady Ga Ga at 60, for Trick or Treat.  All I need is a pointy bra and some fishnets. I could have cried. Reactions were mixed.  My son-in-law just said, “Hey, I rarely notice hair. I’m a guy.”  My three little angels said, “Oh, Mimi, you look rockin!”  Rockin? Red flag word (pun intended)....The final nail in this “new do’s” coffin came when the teenage cashiers at the video store stared, wide-mouthed at my hair and said, “Cool.  We like your hair!”  They were about 15ish.... maybe.  I’m sure they were in awe that someone as old as me could be such an adventurous (or stupid) old soul. Old Queenie Becky was a silly old soul, a silly old soul was she.  She called on her stylist, she got hot pink hair, which made everyone roar in glee!    I am sure it will come up in the middle school cafeteria next week.  “Hey, you should have seen this old lady that came in to rent a movie Friday night.  She had pink and white hair… really.  I didn't ask for her ID, but I'm pretty sure it was Grandma Strawberry Shortcake.” I am really not into any more controversy or further reductions to my self esteem these days. Foolishly handing my life over to the whims and dysfunction of others these past years has given me enough of a dose of  misery to last several lifetimes.   My health and immune system can’t take too many more of the Rum Raisin ice cream breakfasts not to mention the entire wheel of Brie cheese for lunch, and the candlelit Potato Chip (the large bag mind you) dinners. The more I try to stuff that gaping hole inside with instant gratification, the wider the gap on the zipper of my jeans. Way too much comfort food, falling down on its task to comfort.   And, in actuality, those kinds of fixes tend to stretch out the hole inside even more.  I've tried to fill it through the years with alcohol, drugs, work, men, compliments, exercise, and now crackers and cheese. Good God.  What's next?  Maybe stuffing it with prayer and a good God?  What?  You say He's already there?..... Time to try a lot more of this?  How?  The prayer.... simple.....just keep repeating this mantra- please help me, please help me, please help me....OOHHHMMMM...... His response.... Shush..please listen, please listen, please listen.
Time to head out on the adventure road
 in 2011 and LIVE my examined life!
Please note the dashboard... BYOTP!
(Bring your own toilet paper)
God bless us everyone.... Joy in 2011!  And, thanks so much to all of you who have supported me, my endeavors and my cathartic blog this past year! Many, many,blessings.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But, never again use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings." — Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)

I wasn’t planning on posting anything pre-Christmas, but an episode of The Today Show the other morning, featured a segment on the Loneliness Epidemic. Apparently, surveys show ten years ago, 20% of the 45-49 year old population, claim to  suffer from loneliness a good majority of the time.  Today, that number has increased to a shocking 35% suffering from Chronic Loneliness.  These figures do not include the demographic who are recently widowed, unemployed or divorced.... life events which could justifiably trigger loneliness.  The lonely appear to be people in relationships, with children, and great careers. What’s going on?  Folks have the mobility and opportunity for more engagement than ever before.  Our calendars are stuffed full and we  are busier than we’ve ever been. Combine that with the social networking capabilities and it hardly seems there would be a second of the day whereby we couldn’t have all the socialization and connection our little hearts seem to desire.  So, what’s the deal? 
This episode coincided with a party I was at recently and the question was posed, “Aren’t you lonely?”  It took me by surprise, and even more shocking was my immediate, thoughtful, response.  I said, “Sometimes...  Mostly not.  I am as busy as I want to be, and I am really comfortable with the stillness and my own company.”  Later, at home, alone, lying in bed, I thought about my statement and wondered if I was just convincing myself.  Most of my life I have crammed way too much work, activity and people into my overflowing days only to feel tired and sad a good percentage of the time.  Why now, when my life is so quiet and simple, and I am alone so much of the time, do I feel so satiated and content?
I remembered Elizabeth Gilbert talking about loneliness in her book Eat, Pray, Love and found the quote.  It’s a beautiful statement of acceptance, mindfulness, and growth.  None of us are exempt from the FEELING of loneliness, and, what really is so bad about experiencing the FEELING of loneliness?  It’s really no different than feeling sad, when we are sad, or content when we are content. They are just feelings and don’t define us.  In actuality, they are all meant to be felt in order to engage introspection, catharisism, or push us to towards acceptance or change. 
There have been many times in my life, I have felt incredibly lonely lying next to someone else, in a crowd at a party, and sitting in a facility bustling with people.  What causes the feelings of loneliness when we are surrounded by people, have a significant other, or chatting away on Facebook?  
The key is authentic intimacy.  We all want to connect with people who accept us, know us and really, really get us.  This kind of intimacy can only be achieved when relationships are functioning in a healthy way.  Facebook and all the technology gives us a false sense of connection that will never fill us,  because it’s all about illusion, the image we want others to see of us. The Today Show moderator related it to being on a diet and eating celery to fill us up, when in reality it creates more hunger.  Real intimacy is about experiencing the good, the bad and the ugly and still accepting the other’s humanness.  We can only achieve that by looking into the eyes of another, taking their hand, listening and really hearing them; providing a safe haven for them to be who they are, as they are.  Yet, if we are unable to do this with and for ourselves, how can we expect to have the capacity to do this for another?  
A light bulb went on.  I discovered why I am not lonely these days.  I have developed an intimate relationship with none other than myself!   I know this woman (me).  I know her defects (she has plenty).  I know her attributes (she has plenty).  I have spent quality time with her. I have looked her in the eye and been able to see her soul, the Godly part of her that has taught her to cut herself some slack, drop the goal of perfection, be herself, authentically feel what she is feeling, eliminate the shoulda-coulda-woulda’s,  be honest with herself and others, and have some fun- because she is fun.  I “get” me now.  I’m great company. And, that makes all the difference in the world.  
Elizabeth Gilbert states her desire to no longer use others bodies or emotions as a means to feel better. It’s only temporary.  For the first time in my life, I no longer feel the need to suck the energy from others in order to feel the rush of a false completeness.  I have found it by becoming best friends with the eyes in the mirror, and the holiness within.  Being alone may be a state of being from time to time, but loneliness is really just a state of mind, and the mind can be always be changed. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Discovering our Holiday wings.....

I love this time of year.  For me, even with the commercialism, stress, and bustle of an inordinate number of seasonal activities, it’s a mystical, holy time.  From a religious perspective, whether you’re Jewish, Christian, Buddhist or of other beliefs, historically, December is the month of hope, enlightenment, freedom and new beginnings. I tend to   put on my Bah-Hum Bug repellant and avoid those with an Ebenezer mentality. Even if you don’t like certain aspects of the holiday, there is an undeniable air of love, generosity, and beauty about it.  From a purely asthetic standpoint, it’s magical.  I was struck by this, today....early Sunday morning, sipping a frothy Starbucks Sumatra cappuccino, (YUM - made by me.. ahem) sitting at my kitchen table, watching the biggest snowflakes I have ever seen drifting down, quickly coating any traces of green in my backyard.  It was dusky and the neighbor’s Christmas lights were sparkling through the trees at the back of my lot. It looked like an invasion of a hundred tiny fairies, (or Christmas elves) decorating the landscape for the upcoming festivities. As the sky lightened up, set against the purity of the snow on a branch of a tree, were two of the reddest cardinals I have ever seen.  I was moved to tears by the stillness and surreal Christmas card beauty right outside my window. 
I’m a sap this time of year too, easily moved by the smallest things.  I cry at the televised version of A Charlie Brown Christmas and Santa’s arrival at the Thanksgiving parade. My eyes well up at stories of charitable acts, or watching my littlest granddaughter’s face as Santa enters a room.  I have been known to weep looking at the Nativity at my church, an older couple walking through the mall holding hands, and even a Christmas card the other day, from a very special family that I admire.  
And, the smells!  I toured our local historic gem,  Kingwood Center Manor last week. Evergreen wreaths tied with berries and cloves greeted us at the front door, and provided just a sampling of the aromas that awaited inside...Orange slice ornaments, cranberry strings, angel hair pods, and aromatic herbs hung on a tree decorated solely with God’s ornamentation. It was eye candy for sure, but, the best part was the pungent, spicy perfume that permeated the entire room.   My nose has been pleasured so much in the past week.  The odor of shortbread cookies browning in my oven, freshly made wassail in a silver punch bowl, and the hickory smell of a crackling fire in the fireplace... where the stockings are already hung with care.  A recent shopping expedition took me past the perfume counter in a department store.  Someone had just sprayed Chanel #5.  It stopped me in my tracks.  As I sniffed the air, the tears started to flow, right in the middle of Macy’s.  They were good tears.  I was transported back 50 years to the vision of my mother, white ball gown mushrooming out around her tiny ankles showing off the 3 inch silver heels.  I can still see her perfectly coifed black hair, bright red lips, slender neck encircled by a rhinestone choker.  The most memorable accessory to her holiday party attire, was the smell of Chanel #5 wafting over me as she bent to kiss me on the check and told me to be a good girl for the babysitter.  I can never smell Chanel #5 without remembering the enchantment of my mother’s snow princess appearance at Holiday time. 
The sounds of the holiday evoke the same sentimentality and move my heart to a peaceful, faith filled place. I look forward to the predicatability of the processional hymn on Christmas Eve, Joy to the World, reverberating from the pipes of the organ at church.  I have heard it many, many times but it always bring chills, and jubiliant hope inside my heart.  Carolers are a bittersweet reminder of a Christmas Eve many years ago, when a local family extended their voices and generosity, right on our front porch.  A perfect gift for my very ill husband who was unable to make it to Mass to revel in the beauty of the music.  A dreamy respite by my tree, with O’Holy Night playing in the background is a ritual and a profound reminder of my spiritual obligation to be thankful every day for the gift of Jesus and His presence in my life. 
The best sound of all to me, is the tinkle of bells.  Every time I hear them,  gratitude fills my heart and I am reminded, what really makes this holiday so special to me.  This time of year, I feel a bond with George Bailey, from It's a Wonderful Life.  There were some Christmas’ many years ago, that I found it difficult to see my value as well.   Several "Clarences" appeared and helped me to recognize just how much one person’s life can impact another.  At the time, I felt like George, and really didn’t think my angels looked like much, fallen angels with no wings.... Angels Second Class.  They have truly earned their wings, First Class status, as well as a special spot, forever in my heart. I am blessed to have had many more "Clarences" pop up through the years to remind me, my life is meaningful, I have much to offer, and no man/woman is a failure who has friends.  I toast them all, for I know, I am the richest woman in town!  The bells are also triggers to joyful Christmas’ past.  I like to think of  them as kisses from those who cannot be with me in person, reminders that they still think of me. 
I love this time of year.... every snowy day, coffee savoring  moment of it. The best Holiday entertainment of all  for me is the silent watching, smelling, listening, and remembering.   

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Never in a Million Years - A jog down memory lane to exercise my gratitude muscle....

Perusing the free lance writing opportunities the other day, I came across a contest for a magazine article that was topic driven.  The beginning sentence read,”I never in a million years thought I would........”  There’s that never say never decree, which I am trying to eliminate from my vocabulary these days!  Samples were cited to engage creativity. Like, I never in a million years thought I would get divorced; or, I never in a million years thought I would go back to school.   Hmmm.....Check mark.  Check mark. I have truly done so many things in my half a century on this earth; most people don’t get to experience them in several lifetimes.  How could I select a single experience, or just one life changing moment? Looking back, many of the changes that made a difference,  I entered into kicking and screaming, guided by an invisible set of hands shoving me in a direction I was either too scared to venture into, or, just flat out didn’t want to go.  I am not the best at selecting the path of what’s best for me. Quite frankly, I vacillate between charging ahead like a bull with my fingers in my ears, past the voice which screams "HALT".  Or more often,  ignoring the one that whispers, I know you’re scared and can’t see the benefit of this path, but take it anyway.  My second thought was, a million years is a really long time.  With so many lifetimes ahead of me, (God knows I need all of them for corrections to be made) I didn’t want to jinx my karmic bucket list and cherry pick my future! I’m sure the magazine was looking for the  transformational choices we make in our lives, but it still was impossible for me to choose just one, or ten, or even twenty.... So, I didn’t.  All of my “never in a million years” acts have helped to form the person I am today. 
 I can easily think of about a million tiny things (well, maybe hundreds) I never thought I would do.... like, eat escargot, bathe a deceased person,  cut my hair short, dance on a bar, wear a bikini again, date someone 17 years older, date someone 15 years younger, go a day without makeup,  wear ugly comfy shoes or elastic waist pants (horrors), selecting comfort over style. Getting naked in a spa in Europe was a big one as well as jumping out of an airplane.  As we age, and grow-up emotionally, we do tend to stretch our adventure wings more because our experiences have shown us that risk-taking and exploration are the best path to aliveness, freedom, and growth.  We learn through the process of success and failure that if something doesn’t kill us, it does indeed make us stronger, and braver.  
On a larger scale, I never in million years could imagine being able to forgive my parents for robbing me of my childhood, essentially abandoning my needs, and then later,  establishing loving relationships with both of them, growing to accept and appreciate their humanness before they died.  I never in a million years thought I would hear my mom’s wisdom coming from my lips, or mirror my dad’s work ethic and careful frugality. My God, I didn’t want to be like them at all.  I never in a million years thought I would have just one child.  I wanted a posse of kids.  My one child's spirit and nature became the biggest blessing in my life.  I never in a million years thought I could take such good care of myself and her as a single mom.  I never in a million years imagined I could get sober and live in freedom from the bondage of addiction, one day at a time, building to 23 years now.   I never in a million years thought I would have to bury my love, survive the grief of his death, and still be able to remain open to possibility of loving again. I never in a million years thought I could take so many risks, move beyond the numbing comfort zone of a steady financial dependability to pursue dreams or engage in some once in a lifetime opportunities that forced me to make the choice between security, or honoring my heart.  
 Looking back, so many mountains climbed, risks taken, sadness and joys experienced: moving  forward, no matter what, through the fear, metamorphosing into the unique woman my Higher Power asks that I be.  How is all of this possible?  I guess if I had to pick the one "never in a million years" I would  feel authentic writing about, it would be that I never in a million years, would have believed I could confidently relinquish control and have enough faith to know my life is playing out exactly as it should, no matter what.   When I turn my will over to my Higher Power, on a daily basis, the adventure begins.  The bottom line is,  it’s all about trust. That's the key that opens the door to limitless possibility. I'm like a toddler, wide-eyed with disbelief and wonder, taking its first stumbling, wobbly, steps towards a Higher Power who beckons me to just keep walking in His direction.  I just know He loves me enough to not let me fall any harder than on the padding of my bottom if need be.  Sometimes, we need to fall... to learn how to get back up,  step more carefully, or take a little break.  Trusting that anything can happen tomorrow, in six months, one year, or ten years. I CAN safely dream and believe my story is unfolding beautifully.  My predominant role is to stop, pray, hear, and step  forward  confidently in the direction of my God, who wants so much more for my life than I could ever in a million years, imagine.  

What's your never in a million years?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Shopping is a woman thing.  It's a contact sport like football.  Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase.  ~Erma Bombeck

Black Friday! The biggest shopping day of the year.  For me, it started a day early.  Post turkey feast, my daughter and I excused ourselves from the family gathering and scooted over to a store which decided to open its doors early and get a jump on the other retailers in grabbing consumer dollars. I decided the exercise would be excellent in combatting the 10,000 calories I consumed earlier in the day.  Unfortunately, it was all negated by the self- condemnation of partaking in an activity I said I would never, ever, do;  enter a store on a major holiday.  The guilt drove me to an extra piece of pumpkin crunch later that evening. Additionally, the caloric burden of having to eat my words, sent me into shame overload.  For years now, I've spouted my indignation at the retail establishments forcing their employees to work on Holidays for the few extra bucks it would add to their bottom line.   My rants about greed and a departure from family values were endured by my friends and loved ones.   I said, " Hey, nothing was open when I was a kid and we got by.  Holidays were sacred family time."  I should know better than to castigate others.  As we left the store in the pouring rain and drove away, I noted the tiny throng of poncho clad people, huddled under umbrellas outside the Toys R’Us,  due to open in six hours.  I heard the words.  They were emitted by my very own vocal chords....It was like viewing it in in slow motion.  My mind screamed....  Noooooooooo!  Stop! Don't say it!  Too late..... There they were.... those words, right in front of me.  I said, “That’s ridiculous. Nothing could entice me to endure that to save a few dollars. I will never do that. ” Horrified,  as I sputtered and tried desperately to shove them back down my throat, I could see it all so clearly.  I have yet to learn the karmic lesson of,  NEVER SAY NEVER.   Flash forward a few years.  There I am, shivering outside Best Buy on Christmas day....  blizzard conditions:  resorting to setting the post holiday ads on fire for a bit of warmth as I wait for hours for the doors to open so I can purchase the  bargain of the year.   When will I ever learn the lesson of non-judgment?
I do love to shop. I would make an incredible Personal Shopper.   Most of all,  I really enjoy the process of shopping; searching out the perfect gift for special people, something they love or wouldn’t buy for themselves.  A gift befitting their personalities, hobbies, or tastes. I’m not an underwear and socks kind of benefactor, unless of course, that’s your passion.  Often, I spend weeks just looking for the right thing.  So, in preparation for the 2010 gift giving season,  I have been all over the state this past month, experiencing the full spectrum of a variety of stores as well as perusing the Internet for just the right things.  My adventure has uncovered some gifts that have left me scratching my head.  Each to his own, something for everyone..... that’s one of the things that makes human interaction so awesome. In my shopping travelogue here are just a few of the items I have come across. I daresay, you probably will not (note: I did not say never)   find them under my tree. 
  • A chokeable Sarah Palin doll.  She comes complete with accessories;  tiny Pit Bull, lipstick, and rifle (deer head and banana clip for her hair sold separately).  Pull her string and hear the shrill, Pee Wee Hermanesque voice say, “Yip, Yip, Yip, You Betcha, Absolutely,” and best of all, “In what respect, Katie?” Buy her, get Todd free. Todd comes with just one saying, ‘Yes, dear.”  
  • How about Victoria’s Secret Bombshell Fantasy Bra.  3,000 brilliant cut Damiani diamonds, valued at 2 million dollars.   I mean seriously, wouldn’t we be able to feed the  entire population of Somalia with this over the shoulder bolder holder? The only breasts I could ever imagine worthy of this extravagance might be Mother Theresa’s.
  • Bacon of the Month Club... What?  How many pig gourmands could there possibly be out there?   Obviously much more popular in the Western world... certainly a niche market. Buy the two year subscription, receive a free thigh master. 
  • And of course, there’s the timeless classic, The Chia.  I actually received one of these once.  This year’s model, Obama Chia.  Within weeks of watering, just pluck bits of the President’s hair and toss it into your salad.  A real herbal treat and the kind of gift that just keeps on giving because, it keeps on growing! 
  • How about a black Christmas tree? Who puts one of these up? The Munsters maybe?  It looks like something Edward and Bella Cullen would construct  for baby’s first Christmas?  Can you imagine the ornamentation?!!  No angel hair on this tree... maybe a little werewolf hair... He, he, he.
  • I’m always on the look out for unique stocking stuffers, especially for the kids. I found a Rudolph candy dispenser!  Wind him up, he trots around expelling teeny little candies from his............ I decided the kids could live without it. 

  • For the holiday table.... Get a jump start on those  January 1st weight loss resolutions!  Buy a Tofurkey?  Seriously, I saw one at Trader Joe’s.  You know what they say about tofu picking up the flavor of whatever it's cooked with.... As my eyes glistened with the excitement of venturing into new culinary territory, my daughter glared menacingly at me and said, “Don’t even think about it, Mom.”  She is intensely traditional.   She’s in her comfort zone with holiday food and doesn't mind feeling “crapulous” post Christmas dinner.  It's just a necessary result of the celebration and indulgence of the day  for her.  Puffy bellied naps after eating, sprawled in front of the fire, are part of the holiday festivities.  In case you’re wondering, crapulous is indeed a word and seems very fitting for this day of holiday food orgy.  It's a suitable description of the aftershock of our Christmas  dinner and was my e-mailed "word of the day" awhile ago from Merriam Webster’s expand your vocabulary lessons.   It means, sick from excessive indulgence in eating and drinking revelry.  Yes! Yes! Yes! Send the Tofurkey to Big Lots in China. 

    Happy Shopping to all and to all a good buy! 

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    The real talent in the art of Gratitude is the ability to turn an adversity into a beautiful picture. 

     Snuggled down into my warm, comfortable bed, surrounded by mounds of pillows, I always pause and connect with my Creator.  Sometimes it's just a quick peck on His heavenly cheek, but most nights, before dozing off, I review my day. If my assessment reveals something negative, pre-slumber, I place it at the top of the "to-do" pile for morning.  My nighttime ritual is naming those things that I’m grateful for within the course of that specific 24 hour period.   In the past I would robotically tick off my thanks for the obvious; the roof over my head, food in the refrigerator, my health.   I don’t want to minimize my appreciation (and relief) for those things.  I recognize they aren’t “givens” and many people, are struggling with the necessities or health issues.  The purpose of this exercise was to expand my vision and understanding of how immensely blessed I am by just about everything that life hands me.   I think the only way its possible for us to adopt this philosophy of gratitude in tough times, or with unpleasant facts, is when we recognize that we are more than these fragile bodies designed for us to move around in, during our earthly existence. I like to think of this as earth school, preparing me for something greater. When you look at challenges as mid-terms, it makes  it easier to be grateful for the learning curve knowing the outcome, someday may be an "A", as in Ah-ha- I get what that was all about!    My thankfulness these days is a byproduct of those late night rendevzous’ with my God.  Identifying blessings in what appears to be negative circumstances also brought awareness to the bigger picture.  I simply am looking at things in a profoundly different light.  It is by non-judgementally viewing my life (the result of forgiving- myself and others) with its kaleidoscope of unique, and sometimes challenging opportunities, I have been able to truly comprehend gratitude and its power to change everything. I also began to see the truth of this quote by Frank A. Clark, “ If a fellow isn't thankful for what he's got, he isn't likely to be thankful for what he's going to get." With Thanksgiving just a day away, I’ve been really thinking about those things that months ago I viewed as negative life experiences, now miraculously seen by me, as gifts.

    Little Indian Maiden
    My biggest gift has been time.  In my freedom from regular employment, when I finally simmered down enough to stop feeding the panic and fear with daily doses of projection, predictions, and blame, (and this took many, many months) I heard the message, “BREATHE...  Be still and know I am God.... One day at a time please.”  That’s when the adventure began.  I’ve had the opportunity to cultivate and deepen my relationships with neighbors, friends, family, and most of all my grandchildren.  Not only have I enjoyed their unique personalities, they've gotten to know their Mimi better too.  I discovered this at a recent grandparents day luncheon when my middle granddaughter, Sydney Rebecca, presented me with a paper.  It was a little story about her grandmother.  In it she says, “My grandmother is special because she is always there for me. I like it when she takes us to her house and we spend the night.  My grandmother can do many things.  I think she is best at writing books.  My grandmother is as pretty as a model.  She is so smart too.  She even knows how to speak French!” Hmmm.... Guess my use of the word “Oooolala” has lead her to believe I am bilingual!  What a joy.  The littlest one, Cameron,  has discovered I am not very good at games, but she sure appreciates the fact I’m not a sore loser as she continues to gleefully pummel me at Go Fish, Buckaroo, and Candyland.   My oldest, Alex, now knows her grandmother is a trustworthy confidante and she's opened her heart to me often in the past few months.  I am so thankful my little ladies are getting to know me too.  I don't recall even knowing what my grandmothers' favorite color was, let alone anything about who they were.  
    Pre-School Thanksgiving Program
    Champion Mom - 2010
    My relationship with my daughter has always been close, but it too has evolved to a new level.  A mutual admiration society of two has emerged.  Because of the time we’ve spent together recently, I've been able to appreciate the enormity and responsibility of her jobs as a phenomenal wife, a community volunteer, a home-based business woman, and most important as mother/counselor/director/example to those three little girls.  I am often in awe.  She has come to appreciate a mother who despite disappointment, continues to get back up, brush off the seat of her pants, rethink the journey:  sometimes take a different path (which in itself is a great lesson) and continue moving forward, usually wiser but always more joyful.  She's getting to know a new mom who no longer feels the need to be perfect, or abandon herself in order to not feel abandoned.  Good stuff in breaking old family dysfunction and patterns.   She won’t need to try to makes sense of and discover who I was, after I am gone.  She knows. Another beautiful gift.   
    I’ve also been blessed with some new friendships.  I had the time to engage with several new groups, and the result has been exposure to enlightened folks who have set the bar higher for me, encouraging me to use this time to grow my spiritual life.  Meditation, mindfulness practice, and new teachings have been the by product of these admirable new mentors that have entered my life.  My open-mindedness and willingness to step out of  the box, experiment, and try some new things, has been the result of these angels who speak to me in wisdom, and dance with me in friendship. I am very thankful for their entrance in my life. 
    With money in shorter supply, I have once again found some of the simple pleasures I enjoyed so many years ago, as a young, broke adult! Cooking at home has become a soothing pleasure with yummy fruits to share.  Socializing and simple entertaining; DVD’s, games, coffee parties, community theatres, little day trips enjoying local scenic spots and picturesque people. These things have provided me with more pleasure than the extraveganza of world travel, dining, and big events in the company of all “the wrong people.” As trite as it sounds, these small pleasures have been some of my best, especially when indulged with loved ones or interesting, like-minded, souls. I feel the pull to continue to seek the simplicity. Downsizing is the buzz word these days and the politically correct thing to do and that also applies to my activities.   
    I am immensely thankful to my God for helping me rediscover a true love from my childhood, buried deep beneath layers of not enough time, insecurity, and old tapes that lied to me about my talent and its value.  Writing.  I loose track of my days as thoughts and words spill out onto paper.  It’s like having a brand new lover that I can’t get enough of... getting lost in the eyes of the moments, that slip too quickly by.  My mind is obsessed with ideas that seem to flow 24-7, and I can’t wait to sit down and be together again with my paintbrush and palette of words as often as possible. 
    Who would have thought I would end the year being thankful for a little weight gain!?  Amazing, but I am.  It's challenged me to think about the spiritual connection between my soul and my body. There seemed to be a short circuit there. Years of thinking my body belonged to everyone but me, and others opinions, desires, and needs were more important,  have finally ended.  I decide what I want it to look like.  I decide how it feels to me. I decide who I share it with.  It no longer must fit inside the circumference of society’s absurd standards, photo shopped perfection sneering at me everywhere I look.  I'm making a decision to make no more contributions to the mega wealthy diet industry.  My days will not be made (or broken) by the number on the scale, or the size of my pants. I refuse to allow an occasional bowl of cookie dough ice cream, guilt me into thinking less of myself. Or, think more of myself because my will power allowed me to starve myself into a slinky dress for an occassion or someone else.  And, I am really not all that  interested in hanging with people who view the blessing of delicious food as the enemy. I am done with diets, deprivation, starvation, medicating with food, eating away my emotions, or harming myself in any way.  I could go on and on, about this subject, but that’s a post for another day. These days I am simply trying to honor this earthly body that allows me to enjoy the gifts of being a human while ethically recognizing it also houses my Creator. It's respectful of me to take care of it in healthy ways, through moderation, sleep, exercise, and good nutrition. I believe by treating my body, and Him respectfully, diets and weight gain will never have to be a part of my world again. Most important, that seems to me to be a tangible way of reverently, thanking Him.  And, this awareness is indeed a huge gift! 
    This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for every moment of my life.  The setbacks, the rejections, the lessons, the stillness, the abundance, the evolution, the delight.... life itself on its terms rather than life defined by my ego.  So many things I never thought I could possibly be thankful for. The country song by Garth Brooks rings in my head, "Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers"........ I clearly don't always know what's best for me.   I’ve pieced together a whole lot of words to express it here.  This post could have been quite modest if I would have followed the wisdom of Meister Eckhart who said, “ If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice.  
    May you always locate your blessings, whether they be out in the open, or in hiding, waiting for you to find them!  I wish for you the kind of abundance that overflows in your life, and spills into others.  Happy Thanksgiving to all! 
    Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.  ~William Arthur Ward

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Signs, signs, everywhere are signs...... A dapper young man and a razor

    When my husband passed away I attended a grief support group.  Almost every session, emotional stories of signs from “the other side” were revealed  as grieving friends shared their special experiences; a butterfly landing on their windowsill, a shiny penny on a sidewalk, or even images of their loved ones appearing to them at times. While I knew I was in the right place, with people who completely understood me and the painful emotions that are just part of the grief package,  I also felt like something was lacking in me. Why wouldn’t my beloved husband want to send me a sign that he was watching over, lending some comfort and heavenly support? I was really rather ticked at him as well as the big Kahuna...God.  I must add, I often prayed in those early years of my grieving, for a sign.  Anything....some tangible evidence that love survives beyond the earthly body. Please, just one small sign I would beg. But........and I would then tick off my list of restrictions and the type of sign that just wouldn’t be acceptable.  No ghostly midnight visits; breathing on me from the side of the bed, no apparitions while traveling in my car, really nothing that would likely frighten me into messing my panties, or stopping my heart cold. I had quite the list of dont’s.  As years passed, when things would become difficult and I would feel sorry for myself, I would cry  out for JUST A MEASLY CRUMB.  Nothing. 
    The last few years, exercising more of my right brain, has made me much more aware of limitless possibility and the expansiveness of the Universe beyond our five senses.  A real faith in the eternal continuity of the human spirit,  and beginning to trust my intuition,  also began to emerge. The cynic in me appears to have left the building, making room for belief.  A few weeks ago, the message I have been seeking for so many years floated right into my Sunday afternoon.  It was so big and colorful, and, undeniable.  It rose up over my neighbor’s house and hoovered directly over my roof.  When I spied it, I knew how Dorothy must have felt when she opened the door of her wind battered home and set eyes on  Munchkin Land.  I heard the whooshing sounds, opened the blinds, and stared in disbelief. There it was, a massive hot air balloon.  Now, just the sight of a hot air balloon within a stones throw of anyone, is cause for open mouthed wonder, but the arrival of this hot air balloon on the afternoon of what would have been my 19th wedding anniversary, made it especially surreal.  After I caught my breath, I grabbed my camera and rushed outside to take pictures. I cannot even begin to describe the magnitude of this. It was so highly charged  and emotional.  When, I came back into the house, energy sucked dry by my awe,  I stretched out in the big chair in my den, right next to the spot where my husband took his last breath. I closed my eyes. I must have dozed off at some point.... or, I was transported.  I’m not sure, and it really doesn’t matter.  The hot air balloon that my husband teasingly threatened to whisk me away in if I  refused his proposal of marriage many years ago, had arrived, and brought with it an irrefutable message. 
    The balloon landed, and he held his hand out to me, helping me to climb inside.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He looked just like he did on our wedding day.  I felt my heart pounding in my chest as he grinned and asked me if this was the sign I was looking for.   I nodded my head and asked him, “Am I dead?”  He laughed for what seemed like minutes, his trademark,” Ha” laugh, tongue peeking out from the inside of his mouth.  He said, “Oh, no.  It’s not time. You got some things to get done yet.   For God’s, and my sake, just do them.  You know what they are. We've all given you so many messages and signs through these years.  I think you recognized them for a moment,  then let your mind get in the way of trusting yourself. You let others skepticism and judgements affect you and then question your value and destiny.  You talked yourself out of the certainty of your instincts,  and closed down that place inside of you, where we continually touch your soul, and guide your path. You asked us for crumbs.  We gave you the entire cake. I have to admit, Beck, I have been pretty overt in the last few years; signs that you had to know could only come from me. Remember at the cemetery, you stopped to vent your anguish over having to do everything on your own?  You kept yelling at me for leaving you and begged me to give you some sign that at least I heard you.  I did. The black walnut that bonked you on the top of the head?  That was me!  And, don’t think that wasn’t a tough one to pull off.  It did seem a few years ago, you were becoming more in tune with your sixth sense and less dependent on your eyes and ears. We all, your mom, dad and I,  thought perhaps you would shelve the skeptic, listen with your heart instead of your rationale, and allow the awareness of our presence and love for you into your consciousness.  My God, the psychic that read for you at White Lily Chapel, specifically detailed that your mom, your aunts and dad were present, using their names and describing the uniform your dad wore!  He told you he had never seen anyone so surrounded by spirit love. That should have been enough.  But, then my sweetheart, I even made an appearance. You know how much I despise that kind of voodoo magic and drama!   He told you there was a “dapper young man” dressed in a suit and red tie, standing behind everyone else.  How many “dapper young men” have you known?  Dapper, an outdated word but one Mr. Smith used to describe me in the sympathy card he sent you after I died!  When did you ever hear that word used  again until your reading at White Lily?   For the love of God, Becky, we didn’t mess around with butterflies, and pennies on the sidewalk!   I had to get pretty aggressive here because you scare us sometimes when you don’t recognize how loved you are, especially those times when you feel so lost and alone.  Do you remember the shower incident this spring?  Another particularly bad day when things seemed so hopeless for you. It breaks my heart. You were crying in the shower, asking for heavenly support... help, a sign of some kind.  You were talking to me.  I was there.  And, I must say, eleven years later,  looking pretty good sweetheart!  At least your shower voyeur husband thinks so.   I like the ruebensque roundness of your  little belly so stop being so hard on yourself and your body.  It's strong and healthy. You must always remember those whose health is challenged or fighting illness, and be grateful.   I was standing right there, chuckling as you shaved your legs.  Don’t you remember how much I used to tease you about convincing our investment club to buy stock in Gillette?  You would be retired in your little seaside cottage by now, writing away, to your heart's content.   Those perfectly smooth, incredible legs.  I was thoroughly enjoying the sight of them and was convinced you would know I was with you if I dropped the razor on the shower floor.... after you left the room.  You opened the shower and picked it up and put it back on the shower caddy without even blinking!  I even did it two more times!  Surely you would know, it had to be me.  You know our best talks always took place in the water. Remember, our heart-shaped bathtub in our first apartment?  What a conversation piece and great fun for newlyweds!  Our own signature love tub.  That was just a precursor to our hot tub days.  Those snowy nights, steam rising, ice encrusted hair, dreaming and planning.  Did you ever fully recognize the shower encounter was a very real manifestation and unique sign, just for you?
    So, today, I knew we had to bring out the BIG BALLOON... There can be no more questioning  No more rationalizing.  A hot air balloon for my girl; right outside her door, on the anniversary of our wedding day.  There is no way you can minimize this one away.   A part of me is always with you.  I am still support you-  encourage you - always love you.   I am just like the sun, just because you cannot see me in your dark hours, does not mean I don’t exist.  Keep your heart open, believe in the magic.  It IS real. Follow your instincts.  Trust them. We talk to you often through them.  I will be back someday to whisk you away in our beautiful balloon, when it’s time.  In the interim, follow your dream, have some adventures, raise a glass every day of your  life, laugh often; you wear that joy so well..... and most of all,  love again. You have the support of heaven, always.  What more could you possibly need?"
    He held me close, kissed me gently on the cheek and helped me out of the balloon onto solid ground; into the sunshine, into a new reality.  We just need to expect an answer, pay mindful attention and welcome, not question the sign;  Open our eyes and recognize the gifts presented all the time in simple, gentle ways, by those who have begun their new journey beyond our vision.  
    Amazingly, but believably now, when I walked back into my den, sitting on the edge of the far left side of the my bookshelves was a treasured book, a special gift from many years ago.  It’s name, Laugh, Thought I’d Die if I Didn’t (“Healing through Humor”).  I swear yesterday it was lined up in a row with other books in the middle section of the bookshelf. It doesn’t really matter. Opening it to the cover page, the hand scrawled inscription read, “Dearest Rebecca, You have brought so much laughter into my life.  I will love you forever.” Mark
    And, she lived happily ever after:  living, loving, laughing.......confidently, laughing.

    There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle.  - Richard Crashaw

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Random Act of Culture

    I'm convinced if we were exposed to more of this kind of spontaneous beauty, the impact on our society would be be so profound, we would begin to see a shift in random acts of kindness towards one another.  What a treat for the shoppers at this Macy's store in Philadelphia!  Such Joy! An ordinary shopping day turned into a memorable experience all because of a random expression of praise and love... Enjoy.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    Things I have learned in the past year while contemplating the moon...

    • Nothing lasts forever.....  Broken hearts mend, bad days turn into better days, ecstasy shifts to mundane.  Don’t settle into any particular feeling, or allow them to define you. The energy of life is constantly moving.   Become Gumby.  Bend, stretch and be flexible with the evolution of your moments. 
    • Some people will do despicable things and hurt us.  This is a fact of life and will happen as long as we’re breathing.  Evil exists.  Conversely, most  people can and will bring goodness, integrity, and joy to our days.  Don't focus on the evil; open your heart and welcome the good. 
    • You CAN forgive without forgetting.  Forgiveness allows us to move forward in freedom.  Remembering, from a position of a healed heart, keeps us aware and safe.  
    • Friendships and alliances change.  People change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not so much.  We don’t have to feel guilty about kindly moving on from those interactions that aren’t conducive to our greater good, no matter how many years we’ve invested in them.   It's our personal journey and up to us to keep the path clear for positive growth and enlightenment.  
    • There is so much more to life than what we experience through our five senses.
    • Everyone has their own little drama.  We can choose to become an actor in their production, or we can stay focused on our own corner of the theatre and pay attention to our monologue. 
    • It is not only acceptable, but holy to love ourselves. In doing so, we are honoring our Creator, the Higher part of us, our essence. 
    • Pay attention to the feelings and voice inside rather than the chatter box resting on our neck. If it feels icky, it probably is.  If it feels loving-kind, it probably is. 
    • If it can be bought, obtained, acquired, or held, it can and probably will eventually go away.  Treasure that which is experienced, learned, or loved.  This is what lasts forever.
    • Home has little to do with where we live. It has more to do with what we create, where we live.
    • If you want to learn how to live the good life, hang out with a three year old. 
    • Pleasure has less to do with what you are doing, and everything to do with who you are doing it with. 
    • Gratitude has the power to create more abundance than a winning lottery ticket. 
    • Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option. A newly learned behavior of the importance of reciprocity and parameters in all of our relationships.  My boundary- Mark Twain’s wisdom. 
    • Most of all, this past year, I’ve learned every thought, every act, every connection is purposeful and has meaning.  If it's unpleasant, look for the lesson, if it's pleasant,  share your blessing. 
    What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.
    Richard Bach