Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I went to Kindergarten with Pema Chodron's nephew.....

No...seriously...I really did! How cool is that??? I did not know it until this year and of course kindergarten was a few years back but I just found it amazing that I could know someone for so long and then find something out that was always true but I never knew it. I think about that in terms of things that are good and true about myself that I don't really know or accept fully. All the things that friends or family compliment me on but I can't really take it in. Does that come from being told 'don't let your head get too big' or 'nobody likes a braggart'.....It's funny, because I feel like I am at a point in my life where if I don't let in what it is that others are saying....and finally, finally, finally realize that it is inside of me and always has been then why even bother to get out of bed anymore.

I stumbled upon this little tidbit from Pema tonight and I think it's time to eat my own strawberry. How about you? Can you just let the tigers do their thing and eat the damn strawberry anyway?

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”
Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of No Escape: How to love yourself and your world

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Beautiful Things

I love the color orange....and these pumpkins are so beautiful.

I love this girl.....she is so beautiful.
Inside and out.
Everyday I am amazed at this blessing that was bestowed upon us.

Look at that sun shining itself towards my driveway.

A photo of Belle's last year as Guardian of the Christmas Tree.
I remember this night....it was Christmas Eve......
it was so quiet and snowing and had a magical quality about it.
It was just Belle and I.
The rest of the house was sleeping soundly.
I knew in my heart this was her last Christmas.
It was precious and beautiful.

Just four days before Belle passed away our vet was at the house doing the annual checkups on the dogs and giving rabies shots. She felt Belle was better off not having the shot because of her age and declining health. We discussed the decision that would have to be made at some point.
It was her feeling that Belle was still happy to see us when we got home.
                                    She still ate her food and did not seem to be in any pain.
She felt that Belle still had joy in her life and I agreed with her.
Belle seemed to overhear us and decided to impart the message that today
she was still fully ALIVE and planned to stay that way.
During this discussion Belle took off down the driveway.
This was more exercise than she had in one year.
After her little jaunt she promptly got inside Lilly's frog tent and went to sleep.
She slept there for four hours.
The sun was shining down and it was that wonderful fall sun that never feels too hot but just soaks up into your bones. She stretched a few times and stood up only to turn around and change her position.
She seemed so contented and happy. She had just had a bath and all was well with her world.
Then four days later she had several strokes in the early morning hours and had to be put to sleep.
It has been nine days and our house still feels so empty without her.
Fifteen years is a very long time.
I have a feeling that I will miss her forever.
This pain is a sign that I am alive and I have known the joy of having a companion like Belle.
My children will never think of their childhood and not think of Belle.
I forget she is gone for a couple of hours and then I remember.
I feel the loss again.
There is even something beautiful about the way my heart aches for her.

My heart overflows with gratitude tonight.
For so many things...but here is the list for this one precious day.

Orange pumpkins bursting with all their pumpkiness
that just 4 months ago were teeny tiny seeds.

Our precious Lilly.

The setting sun reminding us that we have had the privilege to
live one more day on this incredible planet.

Memories of our best Christmas tree so far in the history of our family.
Seriously....I LOVED that tree.
A magical Christmas Eve with my family tucked in and safe all under one roof
with my sweet, sweet Belle making it all the more precious.
The little voice inside of me that said 'cherish this night, she won't be with you next Christmas'.
And cherish it I did.

Veternarians that come to your house and show compassion and love and
 tenderness and help you say goodbye.

And frog tents.

And the beautiful ache.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why, God, WHY?

I know, I know....we aren't supposed to ask that question
but today I am asking it.
Stay with me. Fix some tea. This is going to take some time.

I will be all over the map but I will get back to the Why, God, WHY?

I went to the chiropractor today.
 I love my chiropractor.
I collect favorite people and he is now on my list. I always feel better when I leave. Except for today. According to doctorman, I have the wrong pillow and maybe I talked on the phone too much this week. Maybe. Either way....my neck was miserable. VERY cranky. My left shoulder was even crankier. He has this fancy little gun thingamajig and he shoots me with it. I kinda like it in an 'ouch, that really hurts but don't stop' kinda way. But today was another story.....I almost swore at him and had he been standing in front of me instead of behind me I might have punched him.
It hurt.
All of a sudden I started to sweat and had the urge to throw up. He was still shooting me and I was wondering where the garbage can was. Sometimes I marvel at how long it takes me to speak up for my discomfort. Finally, the urge was stronger than my deeply embedded need/desire to be polite. I told him I felt sick. He wanted me to stand up and stretch my neck and see if I felt better. He was standing in front of the door. I am not sure exactly what I said but he quickly moved and I hurried to the bathroom and then headed outside for some fresh air. It turns out that he
 stimulated my parasympathetic nervous system.
 I would not suggest this.
 It gave me a whole host of symptoms that I would prefer not to have. I am feeling better now but it was a pretty crappy afternoon. If that wasn't bad enough I had to hook up a new printer today. For those who don't know me well this is about the last thing I want to do. I hate manuals and detailed instructions. I am one of those people who loves the convenience of cars and computers and printers and cell phones but I really have no patience for trying to understand how these things work. I managed to get through it without incident because the pressure was on.
Now, remember...I said stay with me.....this is where it seems to get off track.... 
My 20 year old son signed with the Army in March.
It turned my world upside down.
 I was scared.
 The life I spent two decades trying to protect might be in harm's way....like in a war??? Too much for my tender mama heart. I just couldn't bear it but I had to. I had to wrap my mind around this new stage of parenting. The one where they actually grow up and leave you. The stage where you are the LAST person they want advice from. It is painful to go from superhero to nobody overnight.
Trust me.
So, for many months we have had to wrap our minds around our precious child leaving, not being with us on Christmas, people yelling in his face at boot camp, getting stationed and then maybe going into an unknown country with war and death and violence all around him.
Then............last Thursday he changed his mind.
Just like that.
 He signed off and decided to not go. I had actually started to warm to the idea of the discipline he would learn and the opportunities that could come his way. I was still scared but more accepting. I had started to see that this was the job we have been trying to do all along.
Raise little people to be big people.
To go out in the world and live their OWN life.
Not the one I dream for them or the one I think is better.
Are you starting to wonder what the printer has to do with this crazy story?
Leave it to me to go from chiropractor's to throw up to printers to the army and back to printers again.

Now that Joshua has decided to stay here he is faced with a future that he doesn't have a vision for. The bank has a vision though...like 'you need to make your truck payment'. So does the insurance company. He has to have a job, even just a stepping stone job. I am the resident resume' maker in our family and so far my words have scored jobs for 3 friends and one cute husband (mine). The resume' was easy enough but damn....I realized part way through I would have to get that new printer out of the box and set it up by myself. It had to be done and I had to do it.
 I am pleased to say that handsome boy rolled out of here in his truck freshly showered with resume' in hand. He came home with an interview for Monday morning. The bank will be pleased.
But me?
 I still feel scared for his future.
 My biggest joy for my children is that they would be happy. That a Tuesday morning would mean leaving for a job that they love and they would not dread Mondays and wait for Fridays like a child waits for the ice cream truck on a hot summer day.
NO, not my children.
 I want them to follow their dreams.
I want them to make money doing something they feel passionate about.
I don't want them to trade their life for a paycheck.
 Life is so precious and so fleeting.
 Even a long life is a short one.
 I want them to be happy and so I fear for my son.
I fear for him to get trapped.
Caught up with obligations and love and babies and have to do something he hates for a family he loves. This is where my husband finds himself at 43 and it is truly heartbreaking to be a witness to. Yes, we are young but still....43 is the middle part of life and we all know it.
Pretty soon there will be more yesterdays than tomorrows.
 It's just a fact.
 So as my heart was heavy with these thoughts, and my parasympathetic nervous system was trying to recover I took myself to the comfiest chair we have and put the laptop where it belongs...in my lap.
I found myself hopping from blog to blog and somehow I clicked myself all the way to here.
And this is the part where I look at my son sitting on the couch with an uncertain future and I say thankyou GOD that he has a future but
WHY did you take sweet Jack from his family?
He looks so much like my precious son did at that tender age of 12.
 Still a sparkle in his eye....
still a boy with only dreams of being a young man.
Just a few days ago he started 7th grade, pencils sharpened,
new clothes on his back and then just like that he was swept away in a flood.
Leaving his mom and his dad without a son
and his little sister without a big brother.
My heart is aching and suddenly every single worry that I have in this moment seems to fade away as I imagine this family that I do not know staring at an empty chair at their dinner table.

They will remain in my prayers.
Do you think you could keep them in yours too?
At least for awhile while they try to face their new normal.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Are you feeling grateful?

Yesterday I took a trip to the tower.
Have you ever been there?
Tower is code for freak out, melt down, panic attack.
What I realize now is that my grief over the loss of my precious dog morphed from tears, to melancholy to irriation to every single fricking thing is wrong in my life.
That, my friends is the tower.
It's not pretty there.
I don't recommend visiting there very often but thanks to my friend Lisa who was having a normal and rational sorta day because she was able to gently talk me down from the edge one kind and loving word at a time. She has done this for me on more than one occasion. I have done the same for her.
It's how we roll and thank God and all that is holy we have never been in the tower at the same time.
After hanging up the phone and maybe not feeling  alot better but at least becoming aware that I was taking a trip to crazy town made it possible for me to proceed with the evening.
I made dinner, ate dinner, watched a little TV, brushed my teeth, helped Lilly brush her teeth and read several stories to her and then picked up a book of my own and read my way back to the love and gratitude I had been seeking earlier in the day.
Thank you Rhonda Byrne. I am so grateful for you.
A few months ago I purchased the book The Power.
This is Rhonda's second book after her groundbreaking book and movie "The Secret".
I read about half the book and for some reason I set it down and didn't pick it up again.
Until last night.....
and I read page after page about love and gratitude. I read that Albert Einstein thanked 100 people everyday as he went about his work. I read the story of a man who turned his whole life around after focusing on gratitude for just 120 days. His job, his finances, his love life....everything was transformed through his decision to focus on what he already had to be grateful for.
Yes, very.
She talks about falling in love with life...the same way you would fall in love with a person.
Looking for things to love everywhere.

Yes, there are things to love everywhere.

I felt as I read her words that a lightbulb was going on upstairs.
I live for these moments.
So many authors say the same thing but they don't say it the same way and sometimes just the right combination of words makes all the difference.
So, I decided to really follow her words of wisdom and guess what?
My day has been better than lots of days that came before this one.
I mentally listed the reasons I am grateful for my children.
Specific things about each of them.
My husband.
The vice president of our bank who is our friend and saved our ass a couple years ago.
And by ass I really mean house.
Then I got busy. I did that laundry, those dishes.again. but I said thankyou to the soap and the water and the washing machine. I said thank you to my dog for being such wonderful companion for 15 years. I listed some furniture on craigslist that I have been wanting to do for 3 months. yes, three.
I thanked the internet, the dude who created craigslist. I thanked my legs for supporting me and allowing me to walk anywhere I choose anytime I choose. I thanked my tea kettle and my husband for buying it, his employer for giving him the money to be able to buy it, the maker of the tea pot....
sound a little over the top?
I don't think so.
I think this is what Abraham means by going on a rampage of appreciation and guess what?


I highly recommend it.
Well, you have nothing to lose and EVERYTHING to gain.
Try it for just one day and then let me know the miracles that start to rush your way.

"A hundred times every day I remind myself that
my inner and outer life depend on the labors of
 other men living and dead, and that I must exert
myself in order to give in the same measure as
I have received and am still receiving."
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Monday, September 19, 2011

What the world needs now...

 is love, sweet love.....
it's the only thing that there's just too little of.....

This song is playing in my ear now....
Can you hear it?

I love this song about love.
And I agree with the songwriter.
 The world needs more love.

Where could you be more loving today?

I will tell you that I could be more loving pretty much everywhere. My sweet dog of 15 years had several strokes early Friday morning and was slipping into a coma as our vet helped her cross over very peacefully. She was at home, in her own bed. She was snuggled up with hot water bottles and covered with blankets. She was surrounded by her family. I sat on the floor with Lilly and we rested our hands gently on our precious friend as her spirit slipped away from her body. 
Everyone was home except for our oldest son.
Fifteen years ago Belle had been a birthday present
for Joshua when he turned 5.
I have to wonder if Belle spared him that agony on purpose. Josh had just left for a fishing trip a few hours before she passed. Dogs tune in to their humans in ways we will never fully understand.
It amazes me.

 Her name was Belle and she was absolutely the sweetest dog you could ever ask for. She deserves a post all her own and I will write that as soon as my heart is able.
My point for today is the love....I have witnessed the grief in our family start to morph into irriation and grumpiness. Each person has their own way that they express their heartache and I work at respecting and honoring that both in myself and others. It has been challenging though to watch the grief escape in harsh words or express itself in stony silence.

I don't like it.
Belle wouldn't like it either.
She was all about love.
All for it.
The ONLY day in 15 years that she did not wag her tail was the very last day of her life.
She was a walking, wagging, joyful expression of love.
I miss her.
Join me today in giving the world more of what it needs in honor of my sweet Belle.

12.21.96 - 9.16.11

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Storm Before the Calm

This is my dining room table....kind of hard to tell, huh?
I want to keep this blog a place of truth....and the truth is we are in the middle of making our dining room a happier place. The truth is life is sometimes messy before it's cleaned up.
We live in a new house that is about 75% complete. This means I have no 'real' flooring. Of course I do have a floor but it is the sub floor
and it makes Mama cranky.
When I get cranky about my house not being done it lasts anywhere from a few minutes to a full day but at some point I start thinking about how incredibly blessed I am and how amazing it is to live in your dream house. I think about people who don't even dream a dream this big. I think about our little sponsor daughter Fate in Ethiopia and how she sometimes doesn't have enough food and how her father just up and left her and her mother. I think about people who live 30 miles from us and just lost everything they owned in a flood. I think about any number of scenarios that help me to switch over to gratitude and drop the 'woe is me' routine. That whole thing is just so ridiculous.

Tonight I am tired. I had to go to a football game and I hate football.
I'm cold and I hate being cold.
We have to put our precious dog to sleep.
When all I really want to do is push rewind on our precious companion.
My oldest son leaves for the Army in 4 weeks.
I love my country but not so much I want to sign up the life I have spent two decades trying to protect.
Especially in such uncertain times.
My oldest daughter is applying to a college in NYC
and plans to leave in January.
I fear that I am not really a grown up but just playing pretend.
I want to let my hair go gray but afraid that I will look like Lilly's Grandmother.
Plus, my husband says he doesn't think he would be attracted to me anymore.
At first I was crushed then I realized it rattles his sense of how old he thinks we are.
They say gray is the new blonde. I'm not convinced.
The jury is still out for now.

I thought you might like a little serving of truth today and to see the current state of affairs in the dining room so you can anticipate the 'after' pictures.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Signs, Non-Negotiables and Self Love

I look for signs.
Do you?
 It's funny how it works....there are so many things that could be potential signs based on what we are going through at any given moment. Not everything stands out that way to us but it seems when we really need a message we know it is meant for us.
We see the right billboard, we buy the paper (even though we never buy the paper) and we read the perfect article that helps us make a decision we have been pondering, we bump into just the right person.....it's amazing really. I have had this happen countless times and I feel it has something to do with listening to the whispers of our hearts. I have often wished that God spoke to me with some fireworks and a marching band but I have found the opposite to be true. I have to get very, very quiet to hear these whispers.


Through walking in the woods, praying, meditating, journaling, reading.


 If I don't spend this quiet time each day then I get caught up in the needs of the moment and quickly lose sight of my goals for the day/week/month/ year.....which means I lose sight of my dreams which means my days become an endless series of tasks and household chores. 
I have a husband, four children, 3 dogs, 4 cats and one sweet gray bunny
named Prince Hairy Harry (will explain in another post).
All of these beings need love and attention. On top of that they want to eat and have clean laundry. The nerve, right?
 Well, anyway...the point is that I often get caught up in these needs and daily tasks and let them run my life. I sometimes feel like I am a firefighter.....the biggest fire at the moment is where my attention goes.....the dog needs a flea bath, the dryer is buzzing, the bunny needs water, the phone is ringing, the porch needs sweeping, dinner needs preparing and before I know it I have met the needs of any given moment and the day is over.

Please don't get me wrong.

 I really love being a mother and a wife. Family life is where it's at for me. I love sharing day to day life with other people. But each little fire that gets put out sometimes means the fire in me does not get tended to. By this I mean my own personal fire....my passion....the things that make me ME. I notice when I practice what I refer to as my non-negotiables (exercise, prayer, meditation, showering, journaling my goals and making a daily list) AND I complete them before 8am (preferably 7am...but 8 works fine) it changes my day. This time spent tending to my mind, body and spirit makes all the difference in my own life and of those that live with me. I have been diligent with this practice for quite some time until about a month ago. Who knows why we stop doing the things that are so good for us but the other day I remembered that I had coined these rituals as my 'non-negotiables' which indeed makes them NON-NEGOTIABLE. Which means I HAVE to do them, which means rainy weather, tiredness, grumpiness, too many phone calls, general malaise........NONE of those are reasons to negotiate myself out of doing what is best for me. What about that second pot of tea on a rainy day and warm biscuits in the oven......all that sounds delightful.....AFTER I take care of me. These things may sound simple and many of you may already take exquiste care of yourself but I have a feeling that I am in good company. I am sure by the look I see on the mother's faces at the grocery store that they forgot to do anything for themselves that morning, they have no idea what their dreams are and they can't remember the last time they took 1 hour just for themselves.

Let me break it down into the nitty gritty details of how I accomplish these Non-Negotiables
Here is what I do:
I wake up before every other person in my house.
I put on my sneakers and yoga/hiking pants and a t-shirt.
 I brush my teeth and have a few sips of water.
 I put the non-elderly dog on his leash and head out.
 I walk 2 miles in the woods alone with my dog.
 No matter what my state of mind is when I leave the house 
I am amazed at the natural beauty
I marvel at how every part of nature is just going along without input from me or anyone. No matter the season the trees stand witness without judgement or complaint. The birds sing their songs and the wildflowers burst into bloom or the snow weighs heavy on the branches.
There is no good or bad or right or wrong .......
there just is what is.
I come back home renewed, a little sweaty, a cleared mind, a more grateful heart.
 I take my sneakers off and grab my ice water and my meditation CD.
Sadly, I do not have an ipod so I am forced to live in the dark ages with an old fashioned portable CD player. Mine is special though because my daughter Lilly has plastered the entire thing
with Dora stickers. It makes me feel loved.
So then I meditate with a guided meditation by Esther and Gerry Hicks who I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. It takes 15 minutes and then I spend about 5ish minutes sitting in silence.
 Then I take a shower and get ready for the day. Alot of thoughts will come to me when water is running so I prefer to do my journaling after my shower. Sometimes I am writing about ideas that I have, places I want to go or feelings I am struggling with.
 I just write.
Natalie Goldberg would be so proud.
I then read something uplifting/inspirational/spiritual for about 15 minutes.
If I fix a cup of tea the 15 minutes becomes an hour.
So, there you have it.
After I have done these things I feel ready to meet the needs of my home and family. I actually want to do these things but I remember a time where I felt resentful over the very same chores. I do not want to feel thay way. I like tidying up the kitchen and knowing this is where my family is nourished. I like washing and putting away the laundry (well....I like the washing part....the putting away...not so much) but I do like thinking about how this is the cloth that rests against the precious skin of people that I love dearly. I like making the living room welcoming so that we can relax together at the end of the day. I like to know beds are made so that when we are tired we have a
clean, cozy place to rest our weary bodies and renew our minds.
I have discovered that it is not easy to take such good care of me and of my family. In some ways it is easier to just take care of them. It takes dedication and commitment to love myself this way.
And in the end I think that is what all of this boils down to.....
do I love myself enough to take care of myself?
Stay tuned for how I plan to apply this non-negotiable idea to my creativity and the mark I dream of leaving on this world. It's gonna be good. I heard Tony Robbins say that we are defined by our rituals and I truly believe that so I wrote it down on an index card and taped it to my nightstand. It is the first thing that I see when I roll over and open my eyes each morning. It really helps.
What rituals are you defined by?
 Do you think you could benefit from creating some non-negotiables in your own life?
Please tell me about your plans to love yourself.
Start today.

Monday, September 5, 2011

How Bad Do You Want It?

How bad do you want it?
 That is the real question. It is easy to dream....easy to want.
I think so many of us stay stuck in the wanting and the dreaming because the action required to make our dreams manifest is not something we are willing to do. We might have to give up something. We might be really uncomfortable for awhile. We want to sleep, eat junk food or go to that party more than we want success.. Those things come first and our dreams take a backseat. We must want to succeed as much as we want to breathe.
 So, I ask you........