GO, EAT, CONNECT

When I feel overwhelmed with emotion, I know it’s time to write.  From the moment I found out about Anthony Bourdain’s death by suicide, I have been unable to shake him from my mind.  I can’t stop watching his interviews or reading his quotes on facebook and Instagram.  I can’t stop thinking about the pain that was obviously so deep and unyielding that he felt entirely hopeless.  I don’t know him.  Obviously.  But I do know depression and mental illness - I’ve seen it in many I love and it is the scariest, hardest to understand, overwhelming disease ever.  It happens regardless of circumstance.  In my mind, Anthony Bourdain had the best job in the world.  He had a partner who loved him.  He had friends.  He was authentically himself.  But the darkness was more powerful than all of this; his internal demons too real.  I won’t even try to understand, because I don’t.  I certainly won’t judge…what the hell do I know? What I do know is the impact he had on so many.  What I do know is that he had a powerful need to connect with humanity.  He seemed to have great empathy and understanding for the similarities and differences in people.  This I do understand.  He had an overwhelming need to travel the world, to TASTE the cultures, to meet the people,  and to write about it.  He has inspired me on so many levels. I have read countless quotes and stories about him in the 24 hours since I learned of his death, and the one that resonates the most with me is 

If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move, as far as you can.  As much as you can.  Across the Ocean.  Or simply across the river.  Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food.  It’s a plus for everybody.” 

It’s no secret that I love to travel; I think I spend every spare penny (and probably more pennies than I actually have) on travel.  I find the most joy in the people and the food in the places I travel; and I try to capture every last detail and nuance while there and then regurgitate it into my computer so I won’t forget.  In the moment it seems I will never forget, but oftentimes when I record an experience and then go back and read it later, I have already forgotten the details! That’s where you find the love, after all, in the details.  You find the love in the thinly sliced truffle, in the beautiful presentation of a gorgeous meal, in the apt descriptive terms on a menu, in the brilliant crimson red of an edible flower adorning a cheese plate, in the smokiness or saltiness or bitterness or creaminess of a dish prepared with love.  You find the love in a spontaneous conversation with a driver, or a stranger sitting next to you at a community table, or in the people sharing the delight with you.  I love to travel with friends and loved ones, and I love to travel alone; completely different experiences.  “Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life”.  So very true.  I am reminded of the savory mushroom and gruyere crepe from a street vendor when I was alone in Paris, ceviche so fresh I could taste the ocean in Mexico, truffles so delicate and full of earth I can feel them melt in my mouth just thinking about them, pasta made from bright yellow eggs that is perfectly el dente, cheese that is all at once salty and creamy and delightful in Italy.  Fruit so exotic and bright in Hawaii.  The charcuterie boards made by my talented son - both food and art combined with love.  I could make a list miles long.  And with these memories of the food, I remember the PLACE.  THE PEOPLE.  THE EXPERIENCE.  Anthony Bourdain was a master at describing these experiences, at creating these experiences, and at connecting with people and cultures through their food.  His life cut short inspires me to live mine to the fullest, to embrace the people and places and cultures I am fortunate enough to intersect with in this short life I’ve been given.  Each time I travel and eat and experience new people and cultures I will take his advice and embrace it.  CONNECT.  The power of connection through food traverses all politics, cultures,  and lifestyles.  I will be even MORE inspired to write about these experiences from my heart in an authentic eyes wide open way.  Anthony Bourdain, may you rest in peace.  You made the world seem small and approachable, yet exotic and vast all at the same time, you made the similarities and differences between people palpable.  You made me want to GO, EAT, CONNECT, and WRITE.  

As I was writing this, I received an email from Laura at Fattoria di Fugnano.  In my last post, I wrote about my beautiful experience at her vineyard with my friends for my birthday.  It’s one of those places that takes your breath away with its natural beauty, a simple yet elegant vineyard and home,  and the love that goes into the winemaking and farming.  While I was there, I had this fantasy - a vision really - of Zach spending his summer there working in the fields, in the kitchen, with the wine….and somehow, magically, with the power of the universe behind my vision…he is there.  He is having the experience of a lifetime; that intersection of food and place and work.  He is creative and talented and one of the hardest working young adults I have ever met.  In the past couple of years he has grown into this creative culinary talent through various kitchen experiences, and just has that GIFT of creating beautiful food that tastes amazing.  Anyway, Laura sent me a photo of Zach - all dressed up at a wedding in Sicily, and I literally burst into tears; the happiest of tears because he just looks so damn happy.  I never imagined how wonderful it would be to see your children grown, happy, and living out their dreams.  I am so grateful to Laura and Jennifer (the two women who essentially made this happen for Zach), and I can’t wait to see them all next month when I return to Italy for a few days to visit him.   

There is so much world out there to see, so many things to taste and experience, so many connections to be made! 

 I will close with a line from a Brian Andreas poem - “She said she cried at least once each day not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful & life so short”. GO, EAT, CONNECT.  

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Letter to my High School Self

I was on Pinterest this morning and came across a pin for “journal prompts”.  One was- write a letter to your high school self.  Wow.  As I thought about that, and thought about how far I had come, I knew I needed to do this.  My high school self.  She was scared.  She was lonely.  She was afraid of the future and not terribly confident in herself.  Here’s what I would write to her......

Use your voice.  YOU are powerful beyond your beliefs.  You are smart and kind and funny and it does not matter that you are poor.  It doesn’t matter that your mom is mentally ill and struggles with life so much; it's silly to be embarrassed by this.  Everyone is embarrassed by their parents at some point.  Do what you can to love her and others just right where they are in this moment.  

 You don’t need to put on a show.  You don’t need to be anything other than what you are.  Live in your strength.  (Lao Tzu).  I wish I had known about the Tao then.  I wish I had been more well read and more enlightened.  But this is all a part of your path.  The hard work you are learning to do now will pay off in so many ways.  You will find that this work ethic you are developing will take you far and wide.  Get out!  Get out of this small town, out of this state, yet appreciate the grounding it has given you.  Appreciate your wonderful family - the aunts and uncles and cousins, and even your crazy yet lovable mom.  She has given much for you.  

As you look around at your friends or acquaintances, don’t compare yourself to them.  You are walking your own path, they are walking theirs; neither is better or worse or easier or more difficult.  We are all fighting hard battles.  Love everyone in your path.  Accept the differences; no, not accept - WELCOME the differences.  Embrace it all.  You will learn from your mistakes.  You will learn from the differences.  You will encounter situations you can’t even believe.  You will be asked to make decisions with little information, but if you believe in yourself, it will be the right decision.  Even if it hurts. Even if it feels wrong in the moment; it’s your path, it can’t be wrong.

Let go of the boyfriend - he is a crutch.  Meet new people, expand your horizons, don’t be afraid.  I see so many of the decisions you made during that time were fear based - jump hard off that cliff; let the fear surround you and then disappear as you face it head on.  

Don’t be afraid to say what you think and to form your own opinions.  Use YOUR voice, not the voice of others, and don’t take on other’s beliefs as your own.  At the same time, know that other people will believe differently than you.  Accept it.  It’s what makes the world go round.  It’s what makes life interesting.  

OH - and life will be soooooo damn interesting.  Take the chance.  TRAVEL.  Travel big.  Travel a lot.  Travel to the point that people say - wow, how do you travel so much?  Are you ever home?  And on these travels (some solo - some with friends)….meet people.  Ask questions.  Dig deep into what makes other people tick and discover what they feel.  Through understanding and acceptance comes love.  On your travels, take photos, but enjoy the moments.  don’t be so wrapped up in capturing the moment that you miss the moment.  Know that all of these experiences are fleeting yet are building the foundation for who you are.  

Work hard in school.  Learn everything that you can. Listen in class. Take good notes.  Absorb. Try to always look at the big picture…how what you are learning fits into your reality.  Take your grades seriously and reach for the stars.  Don’t settle for what is easy; reach for what is hard.  

Ask for help.  All of the time, ask for help. Don’t be afraid to look dumb.  Don’t think you need to know everything; you should know very little right now, yet be open to learning from those with more experience and wisdom.  Roll ideas around on your tongue and in your brain.  Keep what you like, throw away the rest.  

You are going to grow and change and you will not be the same person next year.  Or the year after.  Or in a decade.  Thank goodness.  So know that whatever you see as truth in this moment WILL change.  

You will love so many people!  But none will be real unless you love YOU first.  You must accept your light and your dark and know that you are fallible and wonderful and kind and mean and beautiful and ugly and just plain human.  You are better than no one, you are worse than no one.  Don’t judge.  Accept.  Mostly accept yourself.  

Make sure when you love, that they are worthy of your love.  Don’t love to just say you’ve been in love.  Love because it’s real.  Love because you see in the other person things that make you feel strong and good. Love because you’re better when you’re loving.  Love should never make you feel insecure or question your own mind and heart.  It shouldn’t feel angry or jealous.  It shouldn’t be scary or painful.  It should feel like calm excitement.  It should feel like you can be YOU.  It should feel like you can shine as bright as you are.   You can show it all.  And when it ends, as it will, you will still be you.  You will still love you.  You won’t be defined by the love or the loss of that love.  But it will have imprinted your soul.   It will be with you always.  It will guide you in the future.  It will set a benchmark of what you want and don’t want, need and don’t need.

Be YOU.  Don’t be what other people want you to be or tell you to be.  Embrace that powerful, wonderful you that is.  Listen to your heart; it will never steer you in the wrong direction.  Your mind, on the other hand, often will steer you wrong.  Overthinking is a killer of the heart.  

Aim big…always.  Do not make yourself small. Do not be afraid to say what you think.  Do not be afraid of your own spirit.  

Keep your mind and your heart OPEN.  Open to every new experience that comes your way.  

Whatever you think you know NOW…will change.  Know that bad feelings are fleeting - don’t be afraid that a sad or bad moment will last forever.   Without these bad moments, you cannot appreciate the love and the good moments.  Ying and Yang.  Many a bad decision based upon a feeling in the moment could be avoided by knowing that the feeling will pass.  But it’s ok - the bad decisions, the good decisions, all of it.  They make up YOU.  They will make up your life experience and make you whole.  Hug yourself every morning.  Tell everyone around you that you love them if you do.  Don’t be afraid to show your emotions. Don’t protect your heart; the protection will hurt it far more than FEELING anything will.  After pain comes healing.  

It will all be ok.  No matter what.  That’s the best advice to my high school self and my current day self.  You will have a life of love and pain and love and friendship and love ahead of you.  People will come and go from your life and have a profound impact upon you.  Every last one of them.  Every person that comes and goes from your life will change you.  Notice them.  The people.  All of them.  Know that even the ones that cause you pain are there to teach you a lesson.  About yourself. About life. About love. About how to live better.   How to love more.  It’s what it’s all about.

March on

January 21, 2017 was an epic day for women.  It was a day when all around the world, people (mostly women, but also the very strong men that support them) walked and talked democracy; the right to peacefully protest. I get goosebumps as I reflect upon the experience.  As I scroll through my camera roll and the pictures of others from all over the world, I am inspired.  I am moved by the coming together of people to make their voices heard;  to unite against the forces of darkness and oppression.  THIS is what democracy looks like.  That was a chant that resonated with me as I marched the streets of Washington, DC with my family and friends and strangers from all over the world.  THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.  It is beautiful to have the freedom to march, to speak our truth, and to come together in unity.  

The issues dividing us into a two party system have always been the same - big vs small government, corporate power vs the working man/woman, defense spending vs welfare spending - there is no doubt we have all debated these issues at one time or another.  We all have been raised or have experienced life in such a way that we feel aligned with a particular “side” with regard to these policies/ideologies.  What I experienced in Washington was something different.  It wasn’t about policies or laws, it was about something much bigger.  It was about screaming as loudly as our voices could be heard - THIS DOES NOT FEEL RIGHT.  THIS DOES NOT REPRESENT ME. THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANT FOR OUR COUNTRY.  When I think about the America I love, it is a nation of acceptance - it is a nation that opens its doors and welcomes people of all races and religions and colors - it is a nation that welcomes with open arms the tired, the hungry, the downtrodden, the poor.  We are ALL the children of immigrants.  Immigrants are what make our beautiful nation what it IS.  We are not about EXclusion, we are about INclusion.  We are a country of the people, by the people, for the people.  

Never before have people (women especially) felt so marginalized by the President of the United States.  I realize this is my opinion, but there are obviously many many women who feel this way (hence the marches all over the world).  Never before have people felt the need to board planes and trains and cars to meet in a city center to make their voices heard.  This was history in the making.  This was women saying - we are mortified that in the year 2017 we STILL have to protest against inequality. We still have to hear the phrase “grab em by the pussy” NOT from just any man (we’ve been dealing with this our whole lives), but from our LEADER.  I can’t understand why anyone with a heart or a brain does not understand the outrage we feel.  

My first experience in business involved men acting like women were theirs for the taking.  This was in the year 1992.  I worked for a company that later lost the largest sexual harassment lawsuit in the history of sexual harassment lawsuits. The company made the cover of Business Week for these practices. I can tell you, as a 24 year old girl from Kansas at that time, I was in shock.  I can remember being at dinners where the president of the company would grab a woman casually as she walked by, would invite women to private “cocktail parties” before the event, and would act as if any woman there was his for the taking.  There were tales of trips to brothels on the awards trips, there were no women in upper management, and there was just a pervasive vibe of white male dominance.  THIS was my first experience in the working world.  I’d like to say things have improved dramatically in my 25 years of working, and there has certainly been movement in the right direction; but not without a fight - not without women standing up and saying “I deserve to be treated equally”.   But I, and I think all the people that showed up yesterday to march, realize that we haven’t come very far.  The fact that a man like Donald Trump can say the things he has said and still get elected is beyond belief.  

I didn’t intend for this to be any type of political post as I sat down to write, but it’s impossible to ignore the sexist, racist, misogynistic overtones that caused us to rally and march together yesterday.  What I want to write about even more, however, is the beautiful, peaceful spirit that I felt during this march, IN SPITE OF the frustration and anger that we, as women, often feel.  As I set out to DC, I had people ask me if I was scared or worried about riots, etc.  My answer was a resounding no.  While none of us knew what to expect in terms of crowds or logistics or organization, I knew on some level that there was nothing to fear.  Why did I feel this way?  Because it was a rally of hundreds of thousands of WOMEN.  Had this been a rally of hundreds of thousands of MEN, I would have been terrified.  That, in and of itself, says something.  I could guarantee that in a group of that many men, I and every woman there, would have been assaulted with words or hands.  THIS is why we march.  We march to make the statement that my body is mine, that my brain is more important than my breast size, and that I am tired of being defined by my sex rather than my character as a human being or what I have to offer to the world.  I’m not trying to be a man basher either; I love men.  I love my sons, and I have had some wonderful men in my life.  I don’t want this to sound inflammatory to the men I respect, so I asked a few men for their opinions on this subject.  There was a resounding answer that half a million men are far more intimidating than half a million women.  The women that came together for this march were LOUD, but were LOUD with LOVE and the hope that we can make things better for all of us.  

I was lucky enough to attend this march with some of my very favorite women and my daughter and my son.  I think we would all agree that the overwhelming theme of the march was LOVE.  Women and men coming together in the name of inclusion, in the name of equality, in the name of protecting the rights we have fought for in the past and in the name of the ones we feel may be threatened moving forward.  There was laughter and tears, there were jokes and smiles and hugs as women interacted with one another.  There was a knowing, an understanding, that we are all in this together and we will continue to move toward equality for all.  There were signs that expressed hope and anger and fear and humor - and I loved reading them.  

I stayed at my friend’s house for this experience.  Thank you Christy and Mark for the amazing hospitality.  I was fortunate to meet Christy’s dad during this experience - her dad is a life long republican, a political theory expert, and served in the Reagan administration.  HE and his wife marched in the march.  I have friends who have said “what was that march even about?”, and “I don’t feel like I’ve lost any rights”.   Christy’s dad, who has lived longer than we have, who has seen administrations come and go, and who has spent his life studying political theory, made the beautiful point - “you don’t march AFTER you’ve lost the rights; you stand up when you feel your rights are being threatened”.  Five million people around the world recognized that what we are hearing from the current administration is threatening.  The potential fallout from some of the policies can and will be devastating not just to our country but to the world if they come to fruition.  I cannot stand behind someone who builds walls andthreatens women’s and minorities’ rights and speaks in tweets and “grabs em by the pussy”.  This is why I marched.  

I’ve never before considered myself a feminist.  This election has forced me to be one.  The America I want to see and be a part of requires me to stand up and say what I believe.  If nothing else, this election has awoken us all to the fact that our freedoms are not free and that it is our job to fight to maintain them.    In the words of Maya Angelou - “Each time a woman stands up for herself  - without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”   

Spontaneous Joy

 

 

Tulum, Mexico….the magic of the Mayan heritage, the turquoise water, the mango and papaya, the limey ceviche, the salt, the sand, the clear cool cenotes, the mojitos, the sunrise…..all things I expected on this trip.  I think I’m going to dream about that ceviche every day until I’m back here again.  

When my friend Jenny proposed the idea of Tulum for a few days before Christmas, I jumped at the chance.  2016 was a challenging year, and I had decided I was going to make it better by traveling as often as I could.  Shared custody of my sweet Wilson around Christmas makes me sad when I don’t have him those days leading up to Christmas, so it seemed an ideal time to have a little getaway.   We only had a few days to spend away…we commenced to finding a good spot to stay.  I typically stay in air Bnb rental houses or apartments - an amazing local experience, but this time a “retreat” of sorts seemed in order.  After perusing the internet (how DID people travel before the internet) for hours on end, we came up with what seemed like an ideal spot… Amansala Eco Chic Resort…. beachfront, a bit rustic, and lots of yoga and meditation and all those groovy things one likes to do in a place like Tulum.  

We arrived into a bustling Cancun airport, made our way to our prepaid transport and began the 80 minute ride to Tulum.  Mexico is such an interesting place; all at once messy and dirty and gorgeous and warm and friendly.  The Mexican people are some of the loveliest funniest kindest people I have ever met. The car ride was the last air conditioning we would experience for a few days, although it wasn’t really necessary as Tulum is blessed with strong ocean breezes that provide relief from the hot sun.  

We were greeted at the door by two old yellow labs and a tiny dog named Noodles.  I had never really seen “beach dogs” before, but their antics provided great entertainment as they would burrow their bodies into the cool sand for relief from the heat.  We were escorted to our rooms- mine on the 2nd floor, Jenny’s on the 3rd…with thatched roof balconies overlooking the ever changing colorful surf.  I love that feeling of arriving in a new place and wanting to do everything immediately; not wanting to waste a second, yet also wanting to get into that deep place of relaxation away from the hustle and chaos and stimulation of the real world.  I had an easier time than usual of “disconnecting” because my cell service was spotty at best.  Thank you AT&T.

Amansala is hard to desribe; it’s rustic yet luxurious all at once.  The rooms are dimly lit, mosquito nets covering the bed, stucco walls and floors, open air shower, complete simplicity.  There is no phone or tv….why would you need it?  If you needed anything from the front desk, you simply wrote your request on a sheet of paper in the main restaurant/ spa reception area.  There is coffee waiting at 6 am…there is sunrise at 7.  Meditation at 7, yoga at 8:30.  My spirit is rejuvenated in ways I couldn’t imagine.  The package I bought included two massages - one a Mayan healing rejuvenateion treatment….this was an experience I can barely wrap words around.  

When we booked the package, there were several options; one was “bikini bootcamp” (single men should make the trek here for this one…….) it lasted a week, so it wasn’t an option for us.  We only had four days.  The program consists of several hours a day of workouts, both gentle and tough, yoga, meditation, nutrition advice, healthy meals and excursions to some of the local attractions like the Mayan ruins and the grand cenote.  We didn’t have to do all the grueling exercise…we could pick and choose what we wanted in an “ala carte” fashion and balance it with mojitos and gentle walks on the beach.  So - bikini bootcamp - I was picturing twenty somethings with rock hard bodies juxtaposed with my nearly 50 year old mildly chubby self….fortunately, this wasn’t the case.  This was a group of badass women, traveling alone, all ages, all shapes and sizes, from all over the world.  There was one guy (smart man!), Craig, who quickly became “one of the girls” and probably heard more than he wanted to about the inner workings of the female mind.  I am again amazed at the strength and beauty and courage of women.  Women of our mother’s generation wouldn’t have dreamed of setting out on a trip alone - one girl coined it her yearly “alone moon”.  I love that.  These women were mostly single, no children, careers of all types.  But there were some of us previously married, divorced, kids, etc.   - all confident in the fact they we are enough.  We are “enough” to go on an adventure alone.  I had this experience in Paris earlier this year, and I think I will perpetually take solo vacations moving forward.  I love traveling with friends and loved ones, but there is something almost spiritual about going on a journey by yourself.  

There are so many things I could write about this trip, but there were at least two experiences (maybe three) that were magical.  The first involved a sweat lodge.  You hear the stories of people in the desert dying in sweat lodges, but I was pretty sure this would be safe given the fact that one of our hosts at Amansala said it was the best experience of all that they offer to their guests.  We wore our bathing suits, as instructed….and later (AFTER the experience), Jenny mentioned that my bathing suit bottoms were on inside out the entire time; lol; this is so typical of me.  I’m just not always quite put together right.  I digress.  We entered the small stone hut with a fire pit in the center.  There was a Mayan woman around 60 years old leading the group, and Goyo, a sturdy Mexican man, hauling in the flaming red hot stones to lay in the fire pit one by one.  Every time he entered with one, we welcomed it with a chant that sounded like “aho”.  We went around the room one by one saying why we were there, and the ceremony began.  As the room gradually heated up, we were walked through a series of chants in Spanish and songs in Spanish (or maybe even Mayan).  She would sing them, we would repeat them. I’m pretty sure I only got one of seventeen words right, but it seemed more about the sound than the meaning.   Sometimes she would translate them.  She would take a long reed, dip it in a bucket of water and throw it on the hot stones to transform the room into a sweaty steamy experience.  She then passed a pot of gooey honey around the room and told us to rub it all over our entire bodies.  Honey plus steam equals delightfully soft skin. ( Honey on your bathing suit left on your floor in your room equals ants.  Just sayin’. )

She told us we would be asked to sing a song alone; a scary prospect for a non singer like myself.  I mean, REALLY a non singer.  I would love to be a singer, but my voice just doesn’t seem to follow through for me.  A couple of the people made up songs, and I wracked my brain to come up with a song; harder than you think in the spur of the moment.  Silent Night crossed my mind, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” came to mind, but the only word I could think of was - you guessed it - hallelujah; didn’t seem like enough.  The Beatles’ song Blackbird is what ultimately sprang forth and even though it was off tune and shaky, it felt kind of good to just belt it out.  The acoustics in the stone hut were amazing.  There was a small beautiful woman that began to sing and it was like an angel was in the room.  I was confident she must be a professional singer; I mean, she sounded like Whitney Houston meets Norah Jones.  Spectacularly beautiful.  I think that was my first experience with the spontaneous joy - letting my own voice loose, followed by hers literally shaking the stone walls.  The sweating and chanting and singing brought about a deep relaxation, and we left feeling grateful and connected.  

This was followed by some lovely white wine and delicious simple Mexican tacos and an early night in bed.  The next morning I had committed to a yoga class.  Many of the “boot campers” had decided not to do the yoga that day as Darlene, the teacher, had announced she was doing a special type of class which consisted of 108 Sun Salutations.  The Sun Salutation is a series of several moves done without stopping, a “flow”.  Honestly, three or four of them feel like enough.  So, the thought of 108 in a row without stopping did seem rather challenging.  I love a good challenge, however, and she assured us that the process and the end result would be amazing.  She wasn’t kidding.  First, the room was upstairs in the main building of Amansala with panoramic windows overlooking the gorgeous turquoise sea with the sun on the horizon.  The windows were all open, the sound of the ocean was loud and peaceful and the breeze strong.  It was a warm morning, and I could feel myself start to sweat (which, according to what I learned at the sweat lodge, means you are praying….sweat is a form of prayer). Being the sweaty person that I am, I took comfort in this; I’m pretty much constantly praying!

She started her playlist for the series, and I knew immediately that I would love it.  Some of the most beautiful music ever.  It’s on my Spotify playlist if anyone wants to follow it - Saturday Sunset Session.  There were only four of us taking the class, and as we began to move through the poses, I could feel my body and mind fighting with me that I would never make it through 108.  We did 8 sets of 12 - each set focused on a different chakra and concentration on this chakra.  There was something about the repetitive moves coupled with thesweating and music….it all just flowed effortlessly at some point.  About halfway through I had to turn my mat over; so much sweat that my hands couldn’t connect with the mat anymore - slip sliding away.  I began to let go, my body took over and went through the motions with less effort and certainly less thought.  As one song transitioned to the next, my mind also let go.  I stopped thinking.  I was just in the moment (how often does THAT happen anymore?), moving, sweating, and letting go.  I began to feel a swelling in my heart, I felt a connection to the others in the room, and something I can’t call anything other than spontaneous joy.  My mouth just started smiling.  I took in the view, felt the power of my breath and my body, and was so grateful to be in that place at that moment.  Darlene was right - a transformative experience.  We all talked about it afterward - we all felt it.  As we went downstairs for that beautiful breakfast of papaya and yogurt and homemade granola and chilaquiles, I couldn’t stop talking about it to the others.  I imagine they thought I was drunk or stoned or something - my smile just wouldn’t stop.  In my mind, I committed to doing this series on a regular basis at home, and I will.  Spontaneous Joy.  It is a feeling I will never forget.  

The third experience involved massages two days in a row.  Such luxury.  (it was part of the package)  A Mayan healing treatment involving abdominal massage and full body massage by a Mayan “shaman”…whatever that means.  The guy, Israel, definitely had a spiritual vibe to him.  His English was broken…continually asking me “how you feel”?.  Lol.  I felt pretty good.  He worked wonders on my neck, which, since my surgery, has been my favorite area of focus in a massage.  He seemed to radiate joy too - you know how sometimes you can just feel another person’s spirit?  It was like that.  He was obviously a healer, and I felt healed after he worked his magic.  I felt light and happy and laughed easily afterwards.  Again.  Spontaneous Joy.  As I walked back to outdoor bar area on the beach at Amansala, I just couldn’t stop giggling.  

There were beach walks and ocean swims and delicious food (ceviche and guacamole every meal!)  and laughter with friends old and new.  There was the staff holiday party where we watched the Mexican children swat at a large Piñata while singing and laughing.  There was the smell and sound of the surf from my screen door every night.  There was exploration of the surrounding area, a rainy run on my last morning where I saw so many more things I wanted to do, but had run out of time.  There were lush green palms and plants and sand and beauty everywhere I looked - in the natural world and in the people.  There were Facebook accounts and phone numbers exchanged; connections made and photos exchanged.  

I returned to Atlanta the next day feeling rejuvenated and relaxed and peaceful; ready to take on the busy holiday season and end of year work demands.  I’ve taken several “long weekend” trips this year -I highly recommend them.  Sometimes it seems like too much work or effort, but I swear these trips have just made me better - made me better at my job, at my life, and with coping with all of the change that 2016 brought.  I don’t know if I will ever have another year like this one (with regard to travel), but I am extremely grateful for the ability to travel; the ability to grow and learn more every day about what I want and need from this one short life that I’ve been given.  I know one thing for sure - I will always choose travel over material possessions; the travel experience stays forever and leaves a permanent mark on your soul.  

Connection

I worked a big convention a couple of weeks ago in San Diego - the American Society of Hematology (ASH).  It’s an opportunity for me to connect with my customers, meet new people, hang out with my colleagues, and educate people on an ultra rare disease.  I get to meet physicians, other people who work in my industry, and this time, was fortunate enough to sit down and talk to a patient (and leader of a patient group) with a rare blood disorder.  He did not have the disease that I work with, but a different one.  I don’t know what led him to sit down and talk to me.  I wasn’t really supposed to be sitting, but my feet were hurting, so I briefly took a seat on a high stool.  This man, I will call John, sat down at the table with me to enjoy his coffee.  We struck up a conversation.   I typically speak with physicians at the booth; this guy wasn’t a physician, but he was obviously well versed in medicine which became apparent as soon as he started talking.  He was a smallish man, thin - a runner, I later found out.  

I don’t know why people open up to me, but they do….I’ve been called the “people whisperer”.  I've been working on a book (at least in my mind) about the stories people tell me on airplanes.  I don't know why people open up to me, but I'm grateful for it because I learn a LOT.  This man proceeded to introduce himself to me; we were the only two people at the small high top table.  I quickly learned he was not a physician (although he spoke and looked like one); it turns out he’s an attorney (environmental) and has polycythemia vera which is a condition in the bone marrow where the body produces too many red blood cells (and often too many white blood cells and platelets as well).  He explained the disease to me in detail, which, to most people, may not have been interesting, but I’m a geek like that and love to learn about the body and its craziness.  I read so much about strange diseases that I often wonder to myself how any of us are alive. This disease is treated at least in the early stages by simply donating blood (phlebotomy);  if you have too many red blood cells - you just get rid of them by physically taking them out of your body.  The disease itself makes your blood thick and can make you more likely to have blood clots, a stroke, or a heart attack.  It can also lead to other types of blood cancers over time.  It's mostly manageable and treatable, but still a scary thing to face as a patient.  

He explained all of this in great detail to me and said that while he looks healthy, which he did, he doesn’t always feel strong.  He is a runner and said he knew something was up when he just had a very hard time even getting TO the runs let alone running them.  His doctor was initially not at all concerned; someone not having the energy to complete a long run doesn’t seem abnormal to non runners.  Those of us who have been running all of our lives know what that feels like; we know when something is “off” because we are in tune with our bodies in a different way.  We, like this man, don’t always pay attention to those signals initially, but we KNOW.  He eventually did show up at the doctor and after a few visits, was  diagnosed.  

He’s been managing the disease for quite some time; he told me he hasn’t had a real shower in a very long time because the water causes uncontrollable overwhelming itching all over the body - one of the biggest problems in quality of life with this form of cancer.  I thought about how much I love to take a shower and how awful all of this must be for him.  Just recently, he had a small stroke and wound up in the hospital, signaling that he needed to do something different.  His physician had been wanting him to start on a new drug, a JAK2 inhibitor (this is the pathway in the body that is problematic in this patients).  He had been reluctant; no one wants to expose oneself to potential side effects, etc.  But this recent health crisis pushed him over the edge and he agreed.  As of our discussion, he had been on the drug for one week.  He thought he was feeling a bit better and no real side effects yet.  The real test was to be the shower; would he be able to take one without the extreme itching?  He was going to give it a few more days and try it.  

I’ve condensed this story into a few paragraphs, but our conversation was probably at least thirty minutes at this point.  The booth traffic was slow and there were lots of us there; I was enjoying learning more about this disease and I think it was good for him to talk to someone uninvolved.  Patient advocacy has always interested me.  I’ve learned through my years in this industry just how important it is to advocate for yourself; to do all the research you can to learn every last detail about your disease and potential therapies.  Doctors are amazing, but they can’t possibly know everything about everything, and only the patient really knows exactly how he is feeling.  This guy not only did his own research, but he also heads up a patient group.  Patient groups are amazing and instrumental in making people feel not alone and in providing support to patients and families faced with health crises and the ensuing decision making that comes with these disorders.  

Somehow after we finished discussing his polycythemia vera, we moved on to his law practice and his family, and he proceeded to share that his family came from Germany (I studied in Germany in college, so have an interest obviously).  As I began to listen to him, I started doing the math in my head; he had told me at some point in the conversation that he was Jewish.  I quickly realized that his family must have been in Germany in WWII, and sure enough he told me his grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and his grandfather had died in the Holocaust.  I had the thought that I would not be having this discussion right now had his parents not made it out (as children they were transported out of the country in time to save their lives.)  He said his grandmother talked about it, but not in great detail.   The story of his grandfather was a sad one.  At the end of the war, just before the concentration camps were liberated, the Germans made a last ditch effort to march the “workers” (aka concentration camp prisoners) to another country (I can’t remember which he told me) where Hitler planned to move these near death prisoners to start over in new camps.  During this march, many of them died or were shot.  His grandfather was one of these.   

Sometime after the war, a pastor in this small town took it upon himself to properly bury and identify those who were killed in this death march.  John’s family was notified that his grandfather had been identified.  There had been some letters and other information passed down through other people that had pointed toward this as being the grandfather’s fate, but here was the proof that the family needed to really KNOW what had happened.  This was a tragic story, a tragic family history.  He took a deep breath at the end of his story and looked at me and said, “I don’t know what your political beliefs are, I don’t know what you feel about our current world situation….but I do know that Hitler was elected by the people.  He was elected by the disenchanted, disenfranchised electorate; by the people who wanted a “change” from the status quo.  I assured him we were of the same political leanings, and I haven’t stopped thinking about our conversation since.

 I guess because of my time in Germany, I have always been drawn to learning more about this dark time in our world’s history.   I still can’t wrap my head around how, in the 20th century, this could happen.  I do know that people must learn from mistakes; that we must examine what the underlying cause of such hatred might be; that we explore “how did we get to that point” and “why did no one stop it”?   In my mind, the underlying cause of all of it was the feeling of being “separate” and “different” and needing to label and undermine that which is different from us.  We still do it; I see it (and probably do it) all the time - men and women, black and white, Muslim and Christian, poor and rich, Hillary and Trump supporters.  

At the end of the day, we are all human beings.  We all have a body and a mind and a soul (that, if we are lucky, are working and healthy).  We all have red blood cells and white blood cells and platelets.  We all have parents and children and friends.  We all want the same thing; to love and to be loved.  It all starts with us.  As I think upon the story this man shared with me and I think upon my role in this world, I realize that we all, as individuals, have just one job and that is to NOT make ourselves separate.  We need to realize that each of us plays a part; each of us has the ability to touch another life or even just to listen to another human being’s story.  We are all in this together and it is our job to bridge the gaps and reach out to those who seem, on the surface, different from us.  

I may not change global politics, but I am able to listen to someone else.  I am able to listen with my heart and put away stereotypes and connect with another human being.  I am able to reach out to someone of a different religion or race or sex and recognize that we are all part of the same whole, embracing our differences and knowing that it is this type of melting pot of humanity that is the foundation of our country.  It is only through love and the acceptance of differences that we can all coexist and THRIVE.   As I was thinking of how to end my little story, I distracted myself by scrolling through Facebook briefly.  The very first thing that popped up was a holiday card that someone had posted.  It is a cute picture of a husband and a wife and a baby and said in big red letters in all caps….. THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON WE WOULD LIKE TO REMIND EVERYONE THAT JESUS WAS A MIDDLE EASTERN REFUGEE.   I am a hodgepodge of Irish and English and German and Kansan and female and have had no money and have had some money and have been married and divorced and work for the pharmaceutical industry but am liberal and was once conservative and I'm a mom and a friend and a proud United States of American citizen..... we are all many many many things, but mostly we are all human beings.  

I think that says it all.  We are all connected. 

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I woke up this morning thinking about the experience I had last night with Emily and Wilson.  There’s a tiny venue in Grant Park that is known through a word of mouth/Facebook group of people - it’s called Grocery on Home.  The guy that runs it brings in musicians to give intimate performances to a small audience of music lovers.  I’ve been to a couple of shows there, and had long heard about Lonnie Holley through my Facebook connection with Grocery On Home.  

Lonnie Holley is a 66 year old African American musician and artist from Birmingham, AL.  Wikipedia has this to say about him:

Lonnie Bradley Holley, sometimes known as The Sand Man, is an African-American artist and art educator. He was born the 7th of 27 children, and claims to have been traded for a bottle of whiskey when he was four.  Follow this link to a great story about him in the NY Times.

We walked in early to the Grocery, wanting to get a good comfortable seat on one of the cozy couches facing the stage (knowing that the 9 year old might not be awake for long!), and we were able to shake hands and receive a warm greeting from Mr. Holley himself.  His big black hands embraced Wilson’s tiny freckled ones in a powerful grip.  Later Wilson commented - “did you see how big his hands were??”  I had noticed and thought about the experiences those hands and that man must have had thus far in his life.  

Bill and Matt Arnett, who have been instrumental in promoting and developing Lonnie Holley’s unique music and art, spoke about Mr. Holley for a few minutes before the show.  Their love and respect for this man are obvious, and his artwork and music are like nothing I have ever experienced.  Bill Arnett, in the aforementioned NY Times article, is quoted as saying, 

“He was actually the catalyst that started me on a much deeper search,” Arnett says, adding bluntly that “if Lonnie had been living in the East Village 30 years ago and been white, he’d be famous by now.”

In terms of his music, I texted a friend after the show and describe it as “spoken word meets music meets otherworld-like keyboards meets a 65 year old deep south African American man” .  

The NY Times article describes Mr. Holley's musical performance as:

“In terms of genre, Holley’s music is largely unclassifiable: haunting vocals accompanied by rudimentary keyboard effects, progressing without any traditional song structure — no choruses, chord changes or consistent melody whatsoever.”

The NY Times probably described it best, but what both of our descriptions left out was just the palpable spirit of this man. As we listened to his unique blend of improvisational music (I got the feeling he was making it up as it came across his lips; Matt had said at the beginning that he never sang the same song twice…I could see that in this performance), I thought about his life.  I thought about the life of a man born 7th of 27th children.  I thought about the bravery and inspiration it must have taken to do what he has done with his music and art.  They say that if you are meant to make music or art or write - you just can’t stop it.  It has to come out. I can see this in him.  I thought of the battles he has fought, the mountains he has climbed to be here - making music and art and reminding us of what is good in this world.  

On this Thanksgiving morning, in the wake of much angst in our world, I am grateful that there is art and music and creativity, and that no one can ever take this away.  Laws can be passed, opinions can be spewed out like venom, sides can be taken, lines in the sand can be drawn.   The human spirit is so resilient, and it is the beauty of art in all its forms that will prevail.  In the face of art and music, hatred cannot survive; only love. 

I’m no music or art connoisseur, but I do connect with people in an intuitive way and I could feel Lonnie Holley’s huge spirit.  I could feel the impact he had on his audience.  I honestly couldn’t even say I “loved” his music - it’s different, it’s unexpected…but it did touch me.  The man himself touched me.  Wilson, in all of his nine year old wisdom, summed it up perfectly.  He said, “he seems like a man that relies upon God”.  I woke up meditating on that thought this morning.  Emily and I laughed when Wilson said that - not because we thought it was funny, but because it was not what you expect to come out of a nine year old’s mouth.   We were taken aback because he was SPOT ON.  That is exactly the feeling I had.  We are not a particularly religious family, we don’t even talk about God that often, but I have always said that through my trials and tribulations and joys in life, I have always known God is right there with me.  I rely upon God.  I’m pretty sure Lonnie Holley relies upon God.  Our Gods may be different - but there are millions of people in our world looking to their God for comfort and security.  Through art and music and the written or spoken word, God is there.

I have so much to be thankful for - Lonnie Holley exemplifies the spirit that results in the creation of art and music - two things that are at the top of my gratitude list today.   What can we do to make this world a better, more loving place?  Create something beautiful - a song, a painting, a tune, a story, a cookie! Create it with love and that spirit will prevail in our world.  

 

He seems like a man that relies upon God.  Out of the mouths of babes.  

Just 4 Days in Paris

 

I will never be the same after this trip; my first solo journey anywhere. This was a trip with no agenda - just an answer to the wanderlust I had been feeling so strongly.  I debated multiple places to go and recalled a conversation I had had at a bar with a stranger recently.  As I sat there waiting for my friend to join me, this guy struck up a conversation with me and asked me what my “perfect date” would be….I laughed and said…well, either a picnic in a beautiful park on a spectacular day, or a surprise trip to Paris.  I think my answer even surprised me.  I hadn’t realized just how much I was longing for Paris.  It had been many many years since I’d been there, and subconsciously, that beautiful city was calling my name.  

I had a five day period where I could travel - I considered San Francisco (always a wonderful choice), but the friend I would like to see there had other plans out of town AND I had JUST been there.  I started looking at other destinations - Costa Rica, Hawaii, Spain….and I just kept coming back to Paris.  I realized I needed desperately to take myself on my dream date to Paris.   Why on earth would I wait around for someone else to take me?  I am perfectly capable of going alone and experiencing Paris on my own terms.  I’ve realized just how wonderfully empowering that is; I can set my own agenda.  I’ve been married or in a relationship and a mom for most of my adult life; which is wonderful.  It also means that most of the time I have set aside my own needs for those of others and have made a lot of compromises.  I suddenly found myself in a position to just GO.  How liberating! 

So, I perused airbnb for days on end until I found JUST the perfect apartment in just the right location.  I thought of one of my running partners who has fantasies of just having her own apartment (she adores her husband and kids) to sit in a read and do whatever she wants.  She has gone so far as to describe just what it would be like; the soft lighting, the cozy space.  THIS is exactly what I found.  The apartment was even better in person; exposed stone walls with wooden beams on the ceiling, yet modern comfortable furniture and a comfortable bed with soft linens.   It was a tiny place with tall windows that overlooked the quintessential French neighborhood.  I could hear the street traffic and the sounds of Paris below.  The apartment building had a large blue front door and a secret little courtyard filled with light and plants inside.  The curved staircase up to the 2nd floor was made of beautiful wood and stone.  I write this because I want to remember every little detail of this place.  I smiled every time I put the key in the lock.  I filled the place with Parisian cafe music, light jazz, or one of my favorite spotify playlists.  I wrote and read and drank coffee or wine depending on the time of day.  I stretched out on the sofa and plotted my day/night ahead.  There are so many wonderful things to do in Paris.  I had a million recommendations from friends as to restaurants and museums, etc.  But I mostly wandered.  I walked the streets for miles.  I ran to the Eiffel Tower, climbed to the top, and walked back.  Then a nap.  I ducked into cozy restaurants (never making it to the reservations I had made…..the problem with that is the rest of your day needs to be timed around that).  I wanted to just BE.  I had amazing food and wine and met new friends at every stop.  My favorite meal was a delicious crepe and a little stand in La Marais (what an adorable area!) - a savory crepe filled with ham and mushrooms and olives and the most delicious cheese I’ve ever eaten.  I think I was starving at that point.  The time change had me on a strange eating clock; and it was well beyond time for food.  The finest restaurant in Paris couldn’t have made me happier at that moment.  

There were a couple of planned events.  Air BnB (I may sound like a commercial for them I like the experience so much) is in the process of launching a new “brand” - air BnB “experiences”.  Because I use them so much when I travel, I was invited to participate in this before it was officially launched to the public.  The basic premise is, you visit a new city, you rent an apartment or home or room, and you can sign up for “experiences” with locals - cooking classes, street art tours, wine tastings, hikes, etc……all put on by local people in their homes or places of business or whatever.  It is an incredible concept.  I had planned my trip so last minute that nearly all of them were full, but I was able to get into one - Annie’s Cooking - to learn how to shop and prepare a simple French dish.  I couldn’t have asked for a better experience!  The others in the class all worked for airBnb and were LOVELY people.  I so enjoyed them all.  Annie is French, obviously, has written numerous cookbooks and is famous for her “frites”.  Her apartment is small and perfect and has a secret rooftop deck with a tremendous view to Sacre Couer - my favorite place in Paris!  I couldn’t believe my luck.  Well, actually I could, because I often say I am the luckiest person in the world.  I believe this with all my heart; amazing experiences and people seem to enter my life as if planned; orchestrated by a higher power trying to give me the most amazing life.  I am so grateful for this.  

After the cooking class, I walked up to Sacre Couer in Montmartre.  There was live music at the base of the steps,  the man singing would invite people from the audience to join him.  It was off tune and on tune and beautiful.  There were people of every race and color and religion and ethnicity singing “Stand By Me” and “Wish You Were Here”.  It was if all of humanity was gathered in front of this grand cathedral under a piercing blue sky and a bright sun to remind us we are one;  to remind us that we all love music and art and architecture and bright sun and a chilly breeze and a warm scarf.  

I could not imagine what was waiting for me at the top of Sacre Couer.  As I climbed the tight curving staircase to the top - a long climb; I was grateful I wasn’t temporarily “paralyzed” like I was last year in Berlin - I felt strong and good.  I felt an immense feeling of gratitude for that strength.   The view from the top was enormous.  The view was spectacular.  The weather was changing by the moment, the sun was starting to set, and as I worked my way around to the side from which I could see the Eiffel Tower, the sun came through the clouds and covered it in a glorious gold and orange light.  I snapped picture after picture, alternating between my phone and my real camera.  A kind man fixed the settings on my camera which I had somehow messed up (I should learn how to use that thing!)  I had strangers take my photo so I could remember just how I felt at this moment.  I stayed there for a very long time watching the sun descend and the rain move in.  I could hear the music gently playing below and then the church bells started ringing.  The mass I had walked through earlier to get to the top was now over.  I had sat briefly in the sanctuary before my climb listening to the beautiful French service, catching bits and pieces.  I’m not Catholic, but love the new pope and I have a great respect for the formality and beauty of a Catholic service.  I remember being touched by it as a 20 something in the south of France on my journeys a million years ago.  Being inside this sanctuary felt warm and welcoming; I could feel the presence of God and humanity all around me.  

There are little and big moments to remember.   The Donavan Frankenreiter concert at Cafe de la Danse; a perfect tiny little Parisian venue was better than I could have imagined.  The night was rainy, I had been walking around in rain for hours, hadn’t eaten much, had a few glasses of my favorite earthy, “tastes like dirt and smells like a bandaid” red wine, and throughly enjoyed the music and the company of strangers.  I was fortunate to meet Donavan backstage afterwards - there weren’t many people there from the US, so they let me back for a photo and a brief conversation.  I will certainly see him perform again when I have the opportunity.  He had two children about Wilson’s age come on stage to sing with him which was adorable.  “If it don’t matter to you, it don’t matter to me” was an amazing tune and the whole audience was singing and clapping.  There’s just nothing like the live music experience.  

On my last morning in Paris, I forced myself out of bed early enough to go for a run.  The rest of the time I had still been on US time - going to sleep around 4 am, sleeping until 10 or 11 (totally not my style).  I put on warm clothes (about 46 degrees) and headed off toward the Eiffel Tower - about 4 miles away.  I ran along the Seine, I crossed the bridge covered in locks symbolizing the commitment and dreams of lovers who had been there before me, and the glorious blue sky shimmered above me.  I thanked God for the strength of my legs; I am just NOW feeling strong and capable of running any distance post surgery (11 months ago!).  I felt the strength of my lungs and the pounding of my heart and took in the scenery and the people.  The women in Paris are so beautiful!  The art and sculpture and architecture are like nowhere else in the world!   The smell of the street vendors - the chestnuts, the crepes, the coffee were so pleasing to my senses.   I crossed a large road race and realized it was “Ekiden” - the marathon relay.  I ran with them awhile and then went my own way, only to realize by the time I reached the Eiffel Tower, that was the finish line for the race.  I was sweating and the chill in the air as I climbed the stairs to the top of the tower made me shiver.  As I reached the highest point to which I could climb I could see the runners finishing the race, I could see Sacre Couer in the distance, I could hear the beautiful French language all around me, and I could see for miles and miles - the beautiful changing leaves, the parks, the buildings, the people.  I was exhilarated and simultaneously exhausted from the run and walk up so many stairs.  I headed back down and back toward my apartment for the hot shower I was craving.  My legs were a fabulous kind of tired, my heart full.  

The rest of my journey was filled with small moments like the delicious taste of chocolate croissants and brightly colored French Macarons.  French onion soup, beautiful street performers in the subway and in small alley ways, street art, and pleasant interactions with people who took pity on my French as I made the “international hand signal” for whatever it was I was looking for…..I really need to learn French.  

I am lucky.  I am so grateful.  I saw many immigrant families on the street as I wandered the streets of Paris.  I gave away many 20 euro bills and wished I could do more.  Why is my life, simply because I was born where I was, comparatively so easy?  I want to be grateful every. single. day.  I want the next President, who will be elected today, to be open to immigration, not to building a wall.  I want more people to have the opportunities I have had.  I want the inequality to be less.  I want our world to be a reflection of the time I had in Paris - the city of light and love.  I don’t want this to be a political musing, but I do want to make note of the fact that I am aware of and grateful for the advantages I have.   Paris - I miss you already and will return soon…..

LIVE

I had an early morning appointment the other day; I work in medical sales and had to educate a group of nurses on the rare disease I work with at 7:30 am.  The meeting was in a suburb about 45 minutes away.  I’m a morning person, so I don’t mind the early appointments, but the traffic was thick , I felt sleepy , and I was dragging a bit from staying up too late the night before.

I arrived in plenty of time, parked, carried all of my materials inside,  and wished I was wearing more comfortable shoes.  The disease I work with isn’t cancer, but cancer specialists are the MDs that treat it, so my meeting was in a large community cancer clinic.  I was a bit early, so the conference room was still locked.  As I waited by the door, I had a little lesson in humanity, and a big reminder to be grateful EVERY SECOND for feeling good and healthy.  

As we are inundated by political posts, by negativity and nastiness and name calling (the N words are never good), as we wring our hands over the future of our nation, as we dramatize emails and hairstyles and the ridiculous reality show that has become our presidential election of 2016, there are people just trying to SURVIVE.  They are just trying to make it from the parking garage to the doctor’s office.  They are just trying to have a day where they get up and feel well enough to hug their kids and maybe keep their breakfast down.  

We get so wrapped up in the details of our own little lives - the soccer practices, the school curriculum debates, the household chores, our worries about paying too much in taxes, the issues at work or in our neighborhoods,  that sometimes we forget to look around.  Sometimes we forget that everyone IS fighting a hard battle.  

I watched as a woman in her mid 50’s slowly walked to the elevator (the elevators don’t open until 7:45); when she reached the elevator, only to realize it wasn’t working yet, I saw her face crumple in despair.  Her words were - “I just can’t go any more steps”.  Two men standing nearby rushed to her side (I am reminded of Mr Rogers - “look for the helpers”) and helped her into a wheelchair.  You could see the fatigue in her face, in her body language.  We take our strength for granted until it is absent.  

Just a minute later I witnessed an elderly man and wife shuffling down the same hallway.  I overheard his words of comfort to her that “it was going to be ok”.  I saw a man who looked totally ashen express that he had just gotten some bad news and was here for a second opinion.  I saw a young vibrant nurse gently take the arm of a young person as he navigated the long hallway toward the chemo room.  

I had my meeting, I thought about the lives that healthcare workers impact every day, and I thought about how fortunate we are to be healthy and alive and to live in a place where we can get good healthcare and where there are treatments for devastating diseases.  There aren’t treatments for all of them though.  There are people suffering all around us; fighting a battle we know nothing about. I don’t even really know the point of what I’m writing about other than the importance of being aware.  I want to be conscious of the suffering of others, I want to be present for people who need help or love, and I want to be grateful for every day that I feel good and strong and capable.  

As I was leaving my meeting, I was sitting on a bench inputting some information in my computer.  I was just finishing up when a Muslim couple entered and looked around for somewhere to sit.  The husband was obviously ill and the wife was softly speaking to him as they looked around the room with anxiety.  I jumped up from my seat so they could sit and he said “oh no no no - you sit, you sit”.  I insisted I was finishing up and just leaving and to please, take my seat.  I watched him lower himself onto the bench and let out a big breath.  It was obvious he needed to sit, it was obvious he was in pain, and it was obvious he was scared.  I said a little prayer for him and his wife as I left. I thought about the questions, the anxiety, the decisions, the fear that people face when they are ill.  I thought about the fact that the people I've been describing were old and young and white and black and brown and Christian and Muslim and who knows what else.  None of that matters, does it?  We all get one body, we all get a genetic code that may go haywire, we all are susceptible to diseases and pain.  We are all the same.  We all just want to live and love and be loved.  

I thought about just how much we all take for granted each and every day.  It made me remember to be conscious.  It made me remember that life is fleeting, health can be fleeting; we are all fighting hard battles - some of them harder than others.  Give thanks today if you feel good; there are many who don’t.  Revel in your strength - use it to help someone, use it to hug someone, use it to live like today could be your last.  Life can be brutal, life can be beautiful….embrace it every step of the way.  Don’t forget to LIVE.   

We all Need Each Other

I love the morning time.  The 5:30 am time when no one is awake.  When I can sit outside on the porch with my soft hanging lights and candles glowing and drink my coffee and ponder life.  The time when I can read or pray or write and no one interrupts.  The time where I can think about the day to come and plan a course of action.  The time when I can just stop.  And listen to the crickets and cicadas and other strange creature noises.  There’s not enough of this time in our ever busy world full of schedules and alarms and reminders and meetings and to do lists.  I love the feel of a deep belly breath.  The breath is so powerful when we take time to come back to it.

Damn I am grateful.  I’m grateful for my independence.  I’m grateful for my health.  I’m grateful for so many wonderful people in my world.  I’m grateful for what lies ahead.  I’m grateful I can open my house to friends needing an oasis from the storm.  I’m grateful people feel comfortable to show up at my front door with a bottle of wine and a story to tell.  I’m grateful for options in life.  I’m grateful for hot coffee.  I’m grateful for people who help me with things I can’t do on my own (like change the water filter in my refrigerator or look for squirrels in my attic!)   I’m grateful for hugs from my dog; she’s a lean in sort of girl.  I’m grateful I can do what I want, go where I want, see who I want.  I’m grateful for my strength.  And my softness.  I’m grateful my heart is still gentle after being damaged.  I’m grateful the universe continues to take care of me.  I’m grateful for new people entering my life every day; everyone has something to add.  I’m grateful I am embracing my life just as it is.  In this moment.  Right now.    

In every day lies an opportunity to connect, to love, to embrace, to empower someone else.  Which, in turn, empowers me.  I feel abundantly loved at this point in time; and just a few weeks ago I felt abandoned and angry and alone.  It all changed when my mindset changed.  When i let go and stopped trying to “manage” things.  Everything happens exactly as it is supposed to.  It’s hard to remember this in the throes of anxiety or disappointment or grief.  Control really is an illusion.  Resistance really is futile.  Life really is full of ups and downs and mostly goodness.  How fortunate I am to be able to say this!  In spite of setbacks I may have encountered, I am fortunate beyond measure.   

I have so many really incredible people in my life.  I think of the love and support I have gotten from them, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  I think of the stories and laughter and tears that have been shared with my people over the years.  Where would I be without them? I sometimes beat myself up over not being able to sustain a successful marriage. But then I think of all the wonderful relationships/friendships I HAVE been able to sustain….and I am at peace with it all.  We all need each other. (Leo Buscaglia)  It’s one of my favorite cookielove quotes.  

 

STARS

It’s been awhile since I’ve written in cookielove.  There’s been a lot going on, I guess.  I feel like I’m much more inspired to write when I’m happy, so it’s a good sign that I’m here.  The last few months have been a roller coaster of emotion.  I’m not going to write all the details because much of what has impacted me during this time was caused by another’s actions.   Suffice it to say I have felt a combination of betrayal and anger and surprise and worry and fury and sadness…..all things I never thought I would feel as a result of this person’s actions.  You never think the person you love the most can cause you such pain…but in reality, who else really could?  

I, however, am responsible for my OWN feelings and reactions….and I did not handle all of this with the best part of me - the part that is full of grace and love.  Who knows how you will react to really really bad news?  I know that as I have sat with it and have gone through the life changes that resulted from it, I’ve realized some important things about love.  I’ve realized just how DAMN important it is to love yourself.  Without that love, a relationship cannot exist; it will not stand the test of time and hardship.  I’ve gotten much better about loving myself over the years; in fact, it was my partner that helped me to get there.  For that I am grateful.  But it takes BOTH people loving themselves, knowing themselves, and practicing good self care to maintain both a sense of self and a sense of partnership.  

I had a close friend send me the above diagram on the stages of grief.   

 

 

 

We’ve all heard of the 5 stages of grief, but this is a more descriptive and definitive curve of what goes on when we are hurting and healing.  The one thing I have learned is that you have to FEEL it.  ALL of it.  You can’t stuff it down, numb it, or just skip it.  We have to feel all the feels.  The ugly ones, the bitter ones, the sad ones…all of the above.  I can look at that graph and know right where I was during all of those stages.  I’ve experienced every one of the left side over the last six months, and am slowly coming up the right side just now; hence the ability to write I guess.

I think it might actually be the first time I’ve ever suffered real heartbreak.  I have certainly had heartbreak in my life, but it was often my own actions or decisions that caused it.  It’s a whole different ballgame when it’s caused by another’s actions or decisions.  It’s been a powerful lesson in empathy.  It’s made me soften to those I’ve hurt in the past.  It’s made me take a deep breath and wonder if I’ve been available enough to my friends who have suffered heartbreak.  If I haven’t in the past, I sure will be now.  I’ve also learned that one of the kindest things anyone can ask during this is - “what do you need”?.  Simple, yet so very compassionate.  Because there are moments I’ve needed to scream about it.  There are moments I’ve needed to just cry for hours on end, and there’s moments I have just wanted to be still and be grateful my friends are there even if there is not a damn thing they can do in that moment to fix it.  I created a new playlist on spotify called “healing tunes” - the first song added is one of my favorite Mumford and Sons songs - Timshel.  Some of the best lines - Death is at your doorstep (heartbreak feels a big like death); it will steal your innocence, but it will not steal your substance.  (it has not).  You are not alone in this, you are not alone in this…as brothers (sisters) we will stand and we’ll hold your hand.  Hold your hand.  You are the mother earth..the mother of your baby child, the one to whom you gave life. (the best thing I’ve ever done…motherhood)  You have your choices.  And these are what make man great; his ladder to the STARS.  You are not alone in this.  You are not alone in this.  

 It’s been a powerful lesson to understand the real definition of heartbreak…..a broken open heart.   As I’ve meditated on this and created a visual picture in my mind of what a broken open heart looks like, it’s interesting to note that anything that is OPEN (whether BROKEN open or just opened on its own) is ready to be filled.  It is soft and fragile and tender…but still OPEN.  It’s so easy to retreat into hard heartedness or anger and to close everyone out, but it’s not healing to do so.    My heart has been filled with love by all of my friends and family - everyone around me who has understood my suffering.  I am so very grateful for the outpouring.  I’m grateful for a trip to Sonoma with two of my very best friends RIGHT when I needed it.  (and the support of the third who unfortunately couldn’t make the trip at the last minute I’m but has been SO there for me nonetheless), grateful for making new friends in the process that have reminded me of who I am.  I’m grateful for the gentle “nudge” from a friend while I was in Sonoma to go outside and look at the stars; it reminded me to look at the very big picture.  As I lay on the ground and looked up at the brilliance of the universe, I was comforted.  My heart became open, in that moment, to the fact that I have a million different potential ways that my life can go.  I realized that the universe is totally on my side.  A favorite Rumi quote - “Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor”.  Everything is rigged in my favor; it always has been.  Even in the midst of darkness, there is a brilliant light guiding me in the right direction.  

 

Twelve of a Kind

I have to admit when my friend Christy invited me to her birthday getaway weekend in Puerto Rico with a mutual friend and TEN women I had never met, I was a little concerned. First, I'm an introverted extrovert and value some good time to myself along with hanging with people. I was a little worried that my four day trip to paradise might end up like some weird episode of the Bachelor with 12 different personalities/wants/needs/etc fighting to be in charge. I mean, this is a group of bad ass women- superstars in their chosen careers, incredible moms, multitasking ninja warriors, just all-around bad asses. No other descriptor is adequate. Often with this subset of extraordinary women comes a strange vibe, a jockey for being the center of attention, a mass of insecurities that boil to the top and rear their ugly heads in the form of passive aggressive yuck. There was no " bless her heart", no middle school cattiness, no negativity at all. Magic happens in that environment; the magic of women supporting each other, helping each other, listening, talking, laughing, and accepting each other for just who that individual is in that moment. 

I am truly grateful to have many wonderful friends. Sometimes I feel like my life is too full for any more people; the life of a salesperson is so full of PEOPLE.   This trip proved that silly theory wrong. There is always space for more love, joy, compassion, wonder and awe. I feel like I've been given an amazing gift. I'm a keen observer of people and rely far more on my intuition than on any other resource when sizing up a situation or event or person. My intuition immediately screamed - wow. These women are real. These women are extraordinary. I'm excited about my next four days! My intuition (as usual - if I allow myself to listen to it) did not betray me. As the weekend unfolded and I had great group experiences and a little one on one with most of them, I was able to see our similarities and differences and find joy in all of it. I was able to see the love of children and husbands and friends and family in each of their eyes. I saw the vulnerability when stories of divorce and troubled children and FUCKING CANCER in young beautiful vibrant women were shared. I saw the angst and strength surrounding these women working their asses off for equality in what is mostly still a man's world in making career choices. I saw questions of - am I doing the right thing? Setting the right priorities? Am I handling my dysfunctional family members appropriately? Responding to the boss appropriately? Setting a good example? Living my life to its fullest potential? Walking the tightrope of "doing it all" without falling on my face?And through all of this....grace. Grace in understanding we each have our own path. Grace in realizing there are so many ways to live a life. There is no wrong decision. Only learnings. We each have trials and tribulations and health crises and family crises. But through it all, we have each other.  One of the girls brought me a plate of breakfast the other morning; without me asking, without me having to say anything. Women are just so damn good at serving other people and it felt so good when I realized someone was taking care of ME!  The thing about women -  they have enough love inside that they can give more of themselves than they ever thought possible. Real women are so damn strong that the fictional character of Wonder Woman looks like a weakling. 

As the " senior" member of this crowd, I saw myself in so many life stages and found myself more than anything wishing that everyone can realize the importance of the NOW. The importance of wiping those snotty noses and poopy butts, saying yes to yet another game of Legos or cars , but at the same time setting aside time to be that amazing WOMAN that you are - funny and kind and full of laughter and wisdom - and worthy of a few days away to recharge. I want each of these beautiful (inside AND out) women to keep on saying YES to things that will bring her joy. Like this trip. The work and juggling it took to get 12 women with jobs and kids and husbands and debt and an insanely full calendar to actually make this journey is staggering in its enormity. I'm pretty sure I speak for all of us when I say it was worth every second of it. 

Gratitude is a repeated theme in my posts, and my eyes literally well up with tears when I think of the level of gratitude I have for the ability to travel to a beautiful place and spend time with beautiful souls. I learned so much from each person on this journey ( more than just how to do a body shot or drink my weight in tequila although these ARE important skills). 

For Christy, Kristen, Kristina, Rebecca, Rebecca, Melissa, Jen, Jen, April, Kim, and Mia - thank you for sharing your lives and hearts with me. I can't wait until the next trip! 

And for Kristina - can't wait to see you post surgery and cancer free and healthy and pain free and those beautiful eyes shining with radiant joy! You are a marvel. 

Much love and peace on your journeys home and in the upcoming weeks. If you're ever having an overwhelmed moment ... Think about the laughter. Think about LaFactoria, think about guava mimosas and all you can eat breakfast buffets and palm trees and ocean breezes. Most important thought - CHEESE BALLS with coconut butter. And Sangria. And Mojitos. And Martinis. And love and friendship. If that doesn't make you smile, you can call me and I will remind you of a few unpublishable giggle worthy moments. 

A few compliments for each of you  (not enough compliments in this world)....

Christy - you are beautiful and smart and kind and funny and just say shit LIKE IT IS. And you have very cool friends. And a heart of gold under all of that. 

Kristen - you are a wide open ball of love and a badass simultaneously - not an easy combo to balance. Plus you packed extra for me. I wore more of your clothes than my own. Thank you. 

Kristina - you are brave and strong and open and joyful and a force of nature and a design Goddess and just pure authenticity. You are a healing warrior and a true blessing to everyone you meet. YOU will save another woman from pain and anguish by sharing your experience. Your children (including Hadi and his mother) are blessed beyond BELIEF to have your kind generous heart taking care of them. AND you are so funny I could pee my pants from laughter. 

Rebecca B - funny. funny. funny. Be careful with the beads. Amazing mom. Amazing friend. Obvious huge heart AND brain and an authenticity that is palpable. Plus you have red hair.  That says it all.  Love me a redhead. 

Rebecca F. - seriously I wanted to hate you because you are young and thin and blonde and perfect but damn I just couldn't because you are smart and funny and kind and that one eyebrow thing leaves me in stitches. You just seem to get it and I love how you love your babies and your husband and I wish I had been as smart as you at 35. 

Melissa - your strength and smarts and care taking capabilities ooze from your pores. Your 6th grade vulnerable little bad haircut self made me want to hug the you of then and applaud the you of now. You are gorgeous and strong and will climb any hurdle life puts in front of you. 

Jen R. your obvious ability to parent that daughter of yours alone in a firm yet loving way is commendable. Your success as a single mother doing it all while holding down a high responsibility job and still having that beautiful sparkling laugh through it all shows your true resilient life affirming spirit. One of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen. 

Jen S. Can I please have your figure? ( not the faux pregnant post 24 cheese ball one, but that regular work your ass off one) ? The strength you had through your own health issues and your daughter's near death experience show your depth of character and resilience. I loved getting to know you. 

April - I loved seeing the dollar bill story reenacted for our benefit. You've come a long way baby. I have been that freaked out - " where am I and what am I doing? " person I know you felt in that moment and I love that strength of character in you. You are so smart and your kids and husband are so lucky to have you to take care if then to a level those of us who work outside the home always fall short of. Your math skills are killer and you made me feel beautiful when you curled my hair! 

Kim - your heart is huge for your son. He is lucky to have you as his wonderful mom who loves and cares for him enough to meet him right where he is. This is all while juggling a high stress career and doing it so well. Your openness and vulnerability will serve you well in every aspect of your life, even if it doesn't always come easy. Did I mention you are hot?  I wish for you love and and strong shoulder to lean on when you  - oh person of great strength - really need it. 

Mia - I totally see why Christy loves you- you are so helpful and kind and full of great people/therapy wisdom. And you haven't aged a bit since college! I need to understand how you have accomplished this. (!) Are you one of those Rodan and Fields junkies or are you like Rebecca and shine brilliantly without even washing your face? Your sly humor crept up on me a couple of times and I loved it! 

I see in each of you a little bit of me and I'm reminded how connected we all are - and that's what love is.  That connection, that spirit of sharing and caring and acceptance.  All I know is I couldn't have asked for a better group. I look forward to many future adventures. When I look at the photos from the trip, I see utter beauty. When I look at your hearts with my super intuitive uber sensitive X-ray vision I see a depth and grace and love for life and a passion for family and friends and life. Christy thank you for sharing your people. You are now my people and I've never felt more gratitude. 

Carry on my beautiful twelve pack....when you least expect it, some Cookielove will arrive on your doorstep. 

XO 

Write here...

Loss of Control

Cookielove didn’t have it’s normal abundant season of cookie production and gifting this year. There’s been no writing and very little baking.  It was a long December - a rough month on so many fronts.  I could write about the various heart wrenching, soul sucking, physically challenging events of the month, but I’d rather write about making it to the other side and coming up for air.  

I didn’t come up for air on my own though, and that is really the topic of this post.  Damn, we need each other.  We need friends, family, neighbors, doctors, lawyers, spiritual gurus, random Uber drivers and complete strangers to help us breathe that fresh air.  We also need art and music and poetry and books to remind us we are alive and not alone.  We need silence and meditation to still our minds and soften our hearts to the cruelty that can be our world.  We need each other.  

I’ve watched my son’s friends rally around him during his tough times.  I’ve seen what the support of good medical professionals can do to help all of us.  I’ve felt the love and warmth and care from my support system when I needed it most.  I don’t do well with helpless.  I usually handle things on my own - multitask, hyper speed, efficient, marathon distance, GET IT DONE mentality.  Control - December was my month of not being in control.  This manifested itself in so many ways I couldn’t begin to list them.  Let’s just say the universe conspired to teach me a big fat lesson in loss of control.  Universe -“you think you’ve got shit figured out….I’ll show you!”.  

The reality is, I’m a tiny bit of a control freak.  I try NOT to be.  I recognize the futility of it, but it is just how I am wired.  We are all wired differently.  I got extra “control” wires in the human being assembly line.  I’m hoping maybe a few of those were removed (as a side effect) during my neck/spine surgery last month.  

I took a great trip to Germany over the Thanksgiving holiday.  This is a trip I had been thinking about taking for many years, and was so excited about it.  Upon arrival into Munich, I realized my right hand and leg weren’t working with their normal capability.  I couldn’t hold a pen, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t dry my hair, and each time I encountered stairs, my leg rebelled.  My leg still moved, but just not with it’s usual strength and agility.  I had recently seen a doctor for some neck pain I had been having - thinking it was a pinched nerve or that I slept wrong on a bad hotel pillow.  I wondered if it was all related, but it seemed a stretch that a pain in my neck could impact my WALKING.  So, out came google…”neuro muscular disorders”…”Multiple sclerosis”…”ALS”….Because I work in ultra rare disease, the mind goes to the strangest of places, and in my search I discovered MANY potential causes for my strange neuromuscular issues.  I knew nerves were involved because there was weird tingling sensations in addition to the weakness.  I refused to let it ruin my trip - it had been 30 years since I’d studied in Germany and 30 years since I’d been back to this place I love so much.  I tried to live in the moment and ignore the pain and fear I was experiencing.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes I was in tears.  I realized I wasn’t in control of this, and I just had to ride the wave until I got some answers when I got hom

Upon my return to the US, my physician friends rallied around me - got me the tests I needed, got me quickly to the appropriate surgeon, and I was on my way to regaining my strength.  I look at the years I have spent working with medical professionals, learning the ins and outs of the system, and I am grateful for these connections that helped me get quick and efficient care.  I had two discs compressing my spinal cord - I awoke from surgery (ACDF…google it if you can stand it) and everything worked.  I was so happy to be alive (it’s scary when someone is operating on your NECK…when you toss the word “neurosurgeon” in, it’s even scarier), not paralyzed, and 12 weeks away from (hopefully) complete recovery.  

It’s taken me a couple of months to write this.  I started in December, it’s now February and I’m 8 weeks post surgery.  I feel relatively great. Modern medicine is incredible. I’m headed out for a nice long walk now, and I look forward to running again soon.  

My takeaway from this whole experience is that I had so many people helping me…so many people bringing meals and checking on me and loving me and taking care of me.   I am so thankful for all of the people in my life.  Sometimes losing control and letting others take over is a wonderful thing.  I’m trying to implement it more and more in my every day life.  The universe has been so good to me on so many levels, but definitely on the "connection with people" level.  As I sat in a bar last night with a good friend and fellow control freak having deep belly laughs over the absurdity of life, I was reminded again of the importance of people in our lives - lots of people, different people, bold and shy and sensitive and crazy and wonderful and unique people. I am so very thankful for my people.  

 

The Gift of Giving

I watched a video on facebook today that moved me.   Moved me to tears.  Moved me to smile.  Moved me to share it.  But most importantly, moved me to ACTION.  I love facebook.  My family makes fun of me – is a middle aged woman supposed to love facebook?  There are so many reasons to love it - 

I can see what the people I care about are up to – the cool places they go, the pictures they take

I can read motivational, uplifting messages (it’s all about what/who you are following)

I can get to know people better; people share what they believe in or are passionate about

I can see photos of all the children of my friends and my distant family - babies I might never see in person

I can learn about cool stuff going on in the neighborhood

I can take the quiz “who is your soulmate” and giggle that the answer is my daughter

I can share things I’ve read with other people – things about health or running or cooking or travel

There’s a lot of great stuff on facebook.  It beats watching depressing news.  I can scroll right on by things I don’t feel like reading.  I can “unfollow” negativity and ugliness.  I can create a feed of things that make my day better.  It’s scientifically proven (or at least I read it on facebook) that you become what you surround yourself with; if you are constantly reading bad news or drama, your outlook is dark.  If you read about the good going on in the world, that becomes your reality.  Some might call this “rose colored glasses”; I call it focusing on the good.   I like to put my time and energy into things that will make me grateful and healthy.  

So, back to my ACTION.  This video that made me laugh and cry and want to DO something was about a very wealthy man who took 100,000 dollars in 100 bills and spread it amongst some Kansas City policemen.  He then asked the policeman to randomly pull over cars and, rather than giving a citation, give them $100.  Cash.  On the spot.  The police officers looked for the beat up cars, the tired looking single moms, the people who looked like $100 might make a real difference.   The people receiving this gift wept and laughed and were so grateful…. I mean, imagine.  You’re getting pulled over, it’s a long week, you’re tired, you’re broke, and now – a potential TICKET.  For the love of God, you can’t take one more thing.  We have all been there; at least all of the people I know.  

I grew up in a world where one unexpected bill could turn your household upside down.  One unexpected bill could mean less food on the table, some other bill that wasn’t going to get paid, and a whole lot of worry.  I still have times when I feel short on cash, or have too many bills, but I have been extremely fortunate to have a great job and a great partner to help financially, and I don’t have those same kinds of worries anymore.  But I know a lot of people still do.  A lot of people don’t know how they are going to get their next meal or pay their gas bill in the winter.  They don’t know how they are going to pay for their kid’s dental bill or buy school supplies.      

I feel extraordinarily grateful that I have more than I need.  I don’t have a spare 100K lying around like the wealthy guy in Kansas City, but I do have some extra cash – I just got some bonus money I wasn’t expecting.  I started an experiment today with that extra money – giving it away.  I got some cash from the ATM and have just started handing it out.  5 people so far today.  I’m giving money to my kids, too – not to spend, but to give away.  The one thing I found particularly powerful about this video was that joy that the GIVING gave to these policemen; even if it wasn’t their money to give away.  They give bad news all day long; how WONDERFUL is it to give someone some good news?  To experience the sheer joy and gratitude from someone who genuinely needed help must have been a life changing experience.  It just feels like double giving.  It’s about giving someone the gift of giving, and giving someone a small gift that might make a difference to them that day.   I have to say, I am confident that I have benefitted from this at least as much as the recipients of my small gifts.  I can’t wait to give some more away.  I can’t wait to see how my kids feel when they do it.    

I debated writing this blog post because I don’t want it to be about ME giving something away or patting myself on the back for being generous.  I want everyone to realize how MUCH we all have and how we can all share; how we can all operate from a place of abundance rather than lack.  I seriously don’t feel all that generous – I feel like it’s giving myself a wonderful gift.  It’s giving myself the gift of touching another human’s life in a small way, and I feel so LUCKY that I have the ability to do it.  I’m secretly hoping, too, that someone might read this and feel moved to action – to help others, to make someone’s day a little brighter, to buy someone a meal or a tank of gas, and to receive the gift of GIVING in the process.   

Here's the link to the facebook video I watched.  Enjoy. 

https://www.facebook.com/CBSEveningNews/videos/10153003404704073/

Die Schmetterlinge

That random German word popped into my mind yesterday as I watched the monarch migration at Hilton Head Island.  Die Schmetterlinge - the butterflies.  It was incredible to see this miracle of nature - thousands and thousands of monarchs making their way south to Mexico.  I might have never seen it had I not been at Hilton Head on THIS day.  Just one day.  I went back to the beach this morning - no sign of them.  They are probably approaching Florida about now.   I feel somehow honored to have experienced this beautiful event.  I know there’s a lesson in it; a lesson in being present, honoring where you are, noticing life’s miracles.  Miracles truly are all around you - big miracles, little miracles.  The only rule - your eyes have to be open to them

I played a game this week.  Robb read a new book that talked about a BINGO game.  This wasn’t an ordinary bingo game, however.  It’s a bingo game where you make your own BINGO card.  On this card, you make predictions about good things that could happen this week.  It’s not a “to do list” (who needs one more of those?).  Rather, it is a list of miracles….a list of things that you predict COULD happen in the upcoming week.  There are 25 squares on a BINGO card.  I have to admit it was challenging coming up with 25  positive things that could happen in a week.  Some were big, some were small, some were serious, some were silly, some related to work, some personal stuff.   But as I sit here at the beach thinking about my BINGO card, I realize that just about EVERY square has happened.  Did I make this happen with my predictions?  Did I put it out to the universe and the universe responded?  Is it luck?  Or do things always happen like that and we just don’t NOTICE?  

I will give you a couple of examples of items on my card - 

    Receive random unexpected money. (ha! this is a good one, huh?)

 However, I was refinancing my mortgage and had expected to have to come to the closing table with a little cash.  Instead, I got some back!! Miracle. 

BINGO.

    Say yes to someone who needs help

I was working at Emory hospital and a man came up and asked if I would give him some money for food.  

BINGO. I gave him a crisp 20 dollar bill I had just pulled from the ATM. 

      Receive an email or message from an old friend

BINGO. I heard from someone I hadn’t talked to in years on Facebook.            

    See a beautiful sunrise at the beach later in the week

BINGO. See Facebook photos - simply stunning.  

     Be positively impacted by a stranger

BINGO.  Different day at work - I met an old African American man in an elevator.  He had the most beautiful giant smile I had ever seen.  He told me to have a beautiful day - so I did.

I’ve watched that card fill up with check marks all week.  I still have a couple of days left; not sure they will ALL happen, but wow - most of them have! 

I can’t decide if this is an exercise in making things happen or in noticing the things that happen.   Die Schmetterlinge make me think the latter.  There are miracles everywhere if we are present and observant of them.  It definitely makes me feel part of a miracle.   It makes me realize my thoughts are powerful.  My intentions are powerful.  Life is powerful and miraculous.  

Make your own BINGO card this week……watch the miracles unfold right before your eyes.  

Here’s a link to a “do it yourself” BINGO card.  Enjoy the miraculous.  

http://www.teach-nology.com/web_tools/materias/bingo/5/

7 Million Ways

7 MILLION PEOPLE are experiencing today in a different way.  I was on a walk in the rain with my favorite 8 year old a few days ago and I saw this posted.  I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  Thinking about all of the “opinions” and “facts” we all state as if they are gospel.  It’s a problem I’ve always had with any fundamentalist group (religious or otherwise) that claims that they have THE answer.  How can there be one answer?  7 million people -  all with different backgrounds, experiences, lifestyles, cultures, customs and daily routines. 

You take ten people doing the same job - they all have their own unique technique at whatever it is they are doing.   Ten people given the same subject and told to write about it - all different stories.  Ten artists with the same color paint - completely different creations.  It’s mind boggling to me to think about this and then think about putting people in boxes; deciding how people “should” dress and eat and live and BE.  I catch myself doing it - I’m not throwing stones.   When I really think about the person I want to be, however, that bigger bolder loving gracious accepting person, I realize that, as always, love is the answer.  Loving people’s differences, loving people’s quirks, loving the spectrum of humanity.  It’s so easy to slip into that fear of anything different - it’s the middle school curse of the safety of sameness.  There is safety in being the same, right?  Because we all question if we are doing things right…and if others go before us doing thing one way….it must be the RIGHT way, right? 

I’ve had a revelation in my life that there is no ONE right way.  There is so much to learn from ALL of the ways.  

The same day I saw this sign, I took Wilson to see the movie “Inside Out”. Wow. This movie is a beautiful PIXAR depiction of all of the ways we are the SAME - our emotions - joy, sadness, fear, disgust, anger.  Each of these emotions play a critical role in our core personalities, and at any given time, one of them is in control.  I think I will forever envision the little PIXAR characters depicting these emotions when I am feeling one way or another.

So, you take the 7 million people.  You take the myriad of emotions circulating through each of them in their individual settings.  You take their life experiences.  Obviously everyone should act and think the same. I watch my mind take in different people, size them up, judge them on some level. 

I felt hurt recently by a friend who I felt was passing judgement on my life’s path. It’s been bumpy, rocky, up, down, joyful, sad, lovely, heartbreaking…..but it’s my LIFE.  I love my life, and it's the ONE I get.  We all make choices every day and we all have a different path.  I’m learning to accept people’s differences,  learning to accept them for what they are - the unique mosaic pattern that makes up humanity.  

The LOML’s son, Jordan, posted this on facebook recently (as I was writing this post)

"This is the essence of Separation: If I were in the totality of your circumstances, I would do differently from you."  -- Charles Eisenstein

We can never BE in the totality of anyone else’s circumstances.  Live and let live. Suspend judgement.  Love people right where they are AS they are. 

Shine On

Having a moment of thinking about the people who have shed light on my life.  Wayne Dyer died yesterday and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  I halfway attended his writing seminar this summer(the lure of mother Maui kept me from attending the WHOLE thing) and his words have always spoken loudly to my soul.  I keep thinking about all of the lives he has touched, the hearts he has helped to mend, the eyes he has turned toward the light and away from the darkness. He truly had a gift of bringing all back to what is real.  I’m part of the Facebook group “Wayne Dyer Fan Club” and therefore my facebook feed has been full of his wisdom - one admirer after another posting his words of wisdom as reminders of goodness and truth and love.  Because really that’s what it’s all about - LOVE.  Simple.  Honest. Brutal. Painful. Joyful. Abundant. Universal.  LOVE.  

On Thursday he posted - “I have a suit in my closet with the pocket cut out.  It’s a reminder to me that I won’t be taking anything with me.  The last I wear won’t need any pockets. “

 What a wonderful reminder.  I wonder if he felt his impending death when he wrote this.  I wonder if he knew his days on earth would soon be over and his light would shine on the world from a bigger and brighter place.  

I’m not sure why but I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately.  I told Robb that for whatever reason I have heard so many stories about death recently - stories of young, vibrant people or older, wiser, much loved people leaving their loved ones behind.  We don’t talk about death much in our culture despite the fact that it’s what we are all working toward, one day at a time. But, in the same way that you can’t understand true joy without sadness, we can’t embrace the beauty, power, and shortness of our lives without thinking about death.  

I had a day last week where I really struggled - I mean really struggled with the voices in my monkey mind - telling me I’m not good enough, can’t do enough, can’t be enough.  I was dealing with a feeling of overwhelm and hopelessness in the face of just normal life. My feelings were real and powerful - but they were just that - feelings.  Feelings pass.  Love remains.  

“Don’t equate your self-worth with how well you do things in life.  You aren’t what you do.  If you are what you do, then when you don’t…you aren’t.  Powerful Wayne Dyer words.  It’s not about doing - it’s about being.  You are light.  You are love.  This day is a gift.  I’m going to shine a little cookie love light on some people today in honor of Wayne Dyer.  I’m going to work on giving and loving and sharing.  Let your love shine today. 

Bored senseless

Yesterday was an odd day.  Both Robb and I felt BORED and out of sorts and restless.  I felt like the kids in the Cat in the Hat - we needed Thing One and Thing Two to shake things up a bit.  It was one of those days where we just didn’t WANT to do anything.  We had all day, no small kids to take care of, no agenda, and we just didn’t know what to do with it.  The concept of boredom is completely foreign to me.  I don’t remember being bored since I was about 9 years old.  We went through the motions of the day; a trip to the farmers market, house cleaning, Robb attempting to paint…. and yet, nothing seemed to satisfy.  What’s funny about this scenario is there are so many days when I have so many things to do I am completely overwhelmed and I LONG for the potential of boredom.  It seemed really odd that we both were feeling this way - probably some planetary thing; mercury in retrograde or that whole blue moon thing.  Whatever the cause, we were both experiencing this overwhelming feeling of complete and utter boredom. 

 

We discussed the scarcity principle.  There is something to having limited resources, be it time or money or space.  You are forced to work within set parameters and prioritize and organize.  Too much time and space and choice seems to create an environment of paralysis - or at least it did for us yesterday.   

 

We decided to just get in the car and GO.  We drove around all the familiar haunts, checking out new developments in the hood (traffic already going nuts around Ponce City Market), people watching, looking at various options of things to do.  At one point I looked at Robb and said, “How DARE we be bored!!”.  And I meant it.  I felt guilt over being bored.  I should be volunteering or saving the world or…or….something.  I should at least be embracing the ability to do ANYTHING I WANTED.  Well, we don’t have a private jet, so Paris was out of the question.  Where was that list of all the things I want to do in Atlanta but I don’t because of kids, job, responsibilities, etc., etc?  We laughed at the fact that at least we were bored together.  We are fortunate to truly just enjoy each other’s company in the face of activity or non activity.  It was nearly 6 pm, so we pulled into a favorite wine spot, ordered up a couple of glasses of wine and some bread and pimento cheese (dinner of champions).  We told our waitress we were bored.  She laughed and thought that seemed pretty normal on occasion.  I informed her it was ABSOLUTELY not our norm, and we just didn’t know what to do with it.  She brought our wine and our cheese and we giggled to each other at the absurdity of it.  Our life is so damn good it’s boring.  We are never at a loss for words with each other luckily and Robb is never short on stories, so we relaxed into our evening and started to embrace the boredom.  We started talking about the many many things we are grateful for in our lives - the big, the small- and somehow we got back on track.   I’m not sure if it was the wine or the gratitude, but either way, we started feeling like ourselves again.  Gratitude is powerful.  Wine helps too.  

Resistance

Resistance. It’s futile.  We’ve all heard it - none of us live it.  Life goes along smoothly - meaning in line with our demands, our ego, our wants.  Then, wham - something happens - an annoyance, a worry, a demand, a disaster, an unmet expectation, a catastrophe, and all serenity goes out the window.  We decided to play the “resistance game” on our way to the beach.  I’m always in favor of good clinical trial.  

You heard me right - on our way to the beach again. :) I admit, I have a beach problem.  I love the beach.  I really should live closer to the beach, and I will someday.  After our fabulous trip to Hawaii, I knew I had to plan a beach trip with the kids.  It was tough to find another time in our short summer (school starts August 5!) to schedule, so 4th of July weekend it had to be.  Two vacations in a row is never a problem, right?  

So, back to the resistance game.  Robb and I often discuss the fact that it is so easy to RESIST things.  I wrote a previous post on the power of “letting go”.  If only we could “let go” more often than we resist, life would be much easier and we would be much more relaxed.  We decided that every time one of us resists (either self policed or called out by the other), we owe the other person a dollar.  For example, when someone cuts me off in traffic during the 6 hour drive to the beach, if I make a disparaging comment about that driver (hypothetical of course), I owe Robb a dollar.  If he, hypothetically, is a backseat driver and tells me to go this way or that way in opposition to what I have chosen to do, the dollar comes my way.  And so on.  Let’s just say many many dollars have been exchanged so far, and at last count, Robb’s down a buck.  I’m not saying he’s more resistant than I am……he just has greater expectations.  Expectations are a killer.  Ego is a killer.  The end result - resistance.  What IF we just went with everything that came our way?  What IF, with every disappointment or frustration, we just let it go?  Is it possible? Is it at least possible to ASPIRE to this? 

Last night - finally loaded up in the car, knowing the decision about picking a dinner spot could be a challenge given the varying tastes of the humans in the car with me, we head out with a “let’s just find something” attitude.  We pass a place or two, then Robb says - let’s go with the flow.  I see a restaurant immediately on our right and turn in.  We were looking for a place we could sit outside, watch the soccer game, have a glass of wine and a decent meal.  We had found just that.  In addition, we got a wonderful breeze, great live music, and a good conversation with the musician who happened to be an artist.  His art is beautiful, and I’m going to buy one of his pieces.  We knew we needed to go to the grocery store, but the beach was beckoning.  It was dusk, the light was low, and as we crested the dunes to the beach, the full moon was aglow in the sky.  The reflection on the turquoise water was magical.  We all gasped at its beauty and proceeded to the water’s edge feeling the warm silky sand between our toes.  THIS is what it’s about.  Listen to what is beckoning….go in that direction.  Stop resisting.  

It was raining when I walked outside our condo this morning.  WHAT? I have THREE DAYS at the beach and it’s RAINING? Resistance.  Instead….ahhh.  It’s raining.  Wilson can create something with the Bendaroo toys he brought.  I can WRITE (this post).  Acceptance of what is is a beautiful thing. Robb is grumpy (again - expectations) this morning.  I can either resist or I can take a deep breath and keep on writing.  It will be fun to watch him realize it and come out of it.  How many hundreds of times will we all resist, then realize it, then accept it?  Whatever IT is.  We have no control.  The painting I’m going to buy is entitled - Rain Rain It aint No Thing.  Truer words have never been spoken.