Saturday, December 18, 2010

Plowing the Road to Happy Destiny

Whenever one thinks of this journey we call life, one may always call to mind a reference to a road. After all we travel from destination to destination following paths laid down by people who came before us. We have all used this road metaphor. Seneca said, "It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness."  Agree, although paving might be an easy solution. Someone else once said that the road to happiness was paved with good intentions and The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck has just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Even Dan Quayle tried to use the road metaphor, unsuccessfully, when he said, "My friends, no matter how rough the road may be, we can and we will, never, never surrender to what is right." Charles de Lint stated, "When all's said and done, all roads lead to the same end. So it's not so much which road you take, as how you take it." So life is a journey, you can bushwack or take the well traveled path, or the road less traveled or just skip the journey and have seat, eat an ice cream sundae and wait for folks to come to you. However I digress. An anonymous friend of mine wrote that he wanted his friends to join him as he trudged the road to happy destiny. I think I will, although first I see my road needs a good plow. Cleaning my side of the street might not be enough, I need a large state vehicle with extra long plow and studded snow tires. Because my mind is running, 24 hours a day and keeps dumping crap in the way. "I'm not good enough." Or, "life is hard, and scary." Sometimes even, "I can't do this anymore." I spent an entire day wallowing in the fact that I forgot to turn an assignment in, which made me an impossible failure. Where do I find a snow plow in these parts? Unfair question in New England I suppose, but instinct tells me I can find it in God, in prayer and meditation. I can find it by sharing my feelings with another so that I know I am not alone. Yogi Berra said, "If you arrive at a fork in the road take it." I say, "But plow it first."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Writer's Doubt

Move over writer's block, you I can handle, what is kicking my butt today is writer's doubt, that little nagging sense in my brain that says: "are you sure you can do this?" I opened a much anticipated email the other day, only to read the words: "Although you were among many talented applicants, I am unable to fit you into the class. You are being placed on  the waiting list." To me this actually says, you suck, but if one of the brilliant students that got into the class drops it there will be a place for you. I was struck by a huge case of Writer's Doubt, with all the symptoms, tears, self pity, and a drive to McDonalds for an employment application. Yes I know that it is just one part of being a writer, learning to accept rejection. I'm just not very good at it (learning to accept rejection that is) although those days when writer's doubt manifests I believe that I can't write either. I sit here, tapping away at the keys, writing a post for this blog and wonder who exactly will read these words, besides my mother (hey mom are you out there?) What is the purpose of writing if no one reads your words? Is it like the tree in the woods, falling? Does it create a sound if no one is there? Therein lies the problem. My problem. Not only am I afflicted with writer's doubt, I have also forgotten that I believe in a Higher Power that loves me, that is always there, no matter what. I need to return to my basic need for words, because I need them as much as I need air, food and sunlight. I need to write because my soul craves it, because it allows me to become a better person, it enables me to purge the fear and the doubt, to place them on the page, so that when I enter the world what is left is love and wacky hair. So I guess the cure for writer's doubt is God, plain and simple, whatever that vision of God looks like. Today if I remember that I am never alone, that my Universe is here with me right now, reading over my shoulder, the tears and the fears and the doubt disappear. Is there anybody out there?  Yes.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"The Power of Intention"

Recently Hay House sent "Daily Grace" a copy of The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way by Wayne Dyer. This edition of the 2004 book is beautifully illustrated by Jui Ishida. The website states, "Dr. Wayne W. Dyer has researched intention as a force in the universe that allows the act of creation to take place. This book explores intention—not as something you do—but as an energy you’re a part of. We’re all intended here through the invisible power of intention. This is the first book to look at intention as a field of energy that you can access to begin co-creating your life with the power of intention." Having been a fan of Dr. Dyer's for years, the words on the pages were familiar and inspirational. What impressed me  however, was the artwork and design of this edition. I remembered buying my first copy of You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay with its gorgeous pages. Before this starts to sound like an ad for my beloved authors I wish to point out the power of the printed word. Books are special, growing up I collected books, carefully signing my name on the cover before inserting a library card into the back for stamping with its due date. Books engage the senses, sight, touch, and smell. Walk into a used bookstore and you will know of what I speak. I bought a copy of Wordsworth's poetry at an antiquarian bookstore that was published in 1904. The cover was decorated with gold and mauve details, the paper was high quality, the book was printed with care. Picking up a beautiful book is like enjoying a cup of coffee in Italy. The quality is present and the experience of drinking is as important as the product. For me, it is the same with books. I like to have a tactile experience with books, I want to feel the paper, and feast my eyes on the words as I turn the pages. I watch as booksellers are beginning to push digital books and feel a sense of loss. Yes, technology will take over the book world, but at what cost? Reading is an experience, and with certain books it is a special experience. I can read online, yes, but give me a book, a roaring fire and comfy chair and you have given me heaven. So back to intention. Dyer explains how to use the power of intention to create a fulfilling life. He said, "Intention is a force in the Universe, and everything and everyone is connected to this invisible force." What I put out, I receive. This I am constantly learning, my recent exam experience (see previous post) confirms this. Dr. Dyer's book, along with many others, shows me ways to continue working with intention. Back to reading.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Just Do It

I traveled to Brookline Massachusetts Sunday, 270 miles round trip to see one of my favorite speakers, Mike Dooley, author of Notes from the Universe. It was well worth the drive and Christ's Church Unity welcomed me into their fold and made me feel part of the family. As I am not a big fan of organized religion, I was surprised to enjoy the service which included a meditation, song and readings from scripture. One of the points that Mike stressed after the service in his talk, was gratitude. As we open ourselves to gratitude, instead of focusing on the lack in life, the floodgates of the Universe open and possibilities gush right in. You'll have to explore the book, Manifesting Change: It Couldn't Be Easier if you want to know more about manifesting, but I have been toying with his teachings for years, and can say without a doubt that if I practice radical gratitude, my life changes. No buts, no ifs, it changes. I also become a nicer gal in the process. I had an exam to take the day after the lecture, and as I found out, it is very hard to study in the car on the turnpike while driving near Boston. I know, kind of stupid, but it was a major exam and I made the choice to see Mike (and get my book signed, yippee) so was a little behind in my schoolwork. The day of the exam I let my God take over and instead of bemoaning the fact that I would fail because I didn't have enough time to study, I told everyone around me that I was going to rock the exam. I did, the material on the exam was material I knew and enjoyed writing about. I was happy to take it. No, Pollyanna didn't overtake my body, I just experienced what it feels like to live a full, meaningful life that is graced with gratitude and a positive attitude. How do I allow God into my life? How do I practice gratitude when I don't want to? How do I allow magnificence in? Nike knows the answer. Just do it. And if you don't, quit complaining. And remind me next time I forget.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Life is just a big ole water balloon

It is the middle of the semester, the research projects are piling up and the creatures that come out at night have decided to mess up my house. Well, maybe I just haven't cleaned in a few days, or rather months. As this is my fifth semester at my present school, I have had a wee bit of time to practice the overworked college student juggling act. There are areas that I have improved (dishes and cat box are done in the morning right after caffeine injection) and areas that have seen a decline (just look at the date for my last post.) My life seems like a balloon, pinch one area and the other blows up. In the midst of juggling and mixing metaphors I have managed to create peace in certain areas of my life (mainly the sink and cat box) whilst allowing havoc to enter through the back door. So this is what I know to be true today. My body needs to be cared for spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically while taking 20 credits and commuting almost 3 hours a day and raising a child. I need prayer and meditation, therapy and relationships, exercise, healthy meals and sleep. I also need to write a research paper and read a 250 page novel. How to juggle? I have taken to waking early to clean the dishes as to decrease the chaos, yet that merely decreases my nightly rest, resulting in an elevated intake of caffeine, that leaches calcium from my bones. Squeeze one end the other end blows up, and bursts leaving me drenched. The solution to this? This is not a problem for a mere mortal like myself, I need to ask for help. I need to up my spiritual connection, make contact, go where no woman has gone before, don a cape and tights and fly off to save the Universe with my super powers. Hopefully at this point the reader realizes that the woman typing is operating Windows on five hours of sleep, not exactly legal. So what to do? God, Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change (my inability to juggle and balance, especially my checkbook) the courage to change the things I can (as in turn off the computer and go to sleep) and the wisdom to know the difference. All I need to do today is to stay away from my addictions, and ask God to do the rest. Then I need to get out the way, listen and do what She says.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Calm Sea is Full of Shoes

The day is crisp, a gentle breeze blows from the north, or south. The
house is quiet, for once my animal friends are snoozing. I am serene, my life is running smoothly, things are falling into place. Why do I want so bad to splash? Not just a little, oops sorry I got you splash. I want to create waves, I want to start a fight, to mix things up a bit. It is hard to sit in peace with oneself. I find that I am closest to my God when I can calm the chatter in my head and just sit in peace, in prayer and meditation. There is something scary about sitting in peace and quiet, alone with myself. What dragon will sneak up behind me and yell "boo" in my ear? I think that it is more than just waiting for the other shoe to drop (yes size 9-1/2, pumps please). Part of having an addictive personality is that I just love chaos. I love the drama, the adrenaline that shoots through my veins when I have 18 million projects to do and not enough time to do them. I love feeling excited when I have new projects, new shoes, and new adventures planned. My enemy is silence, is stillness, is treading water. Give me bigger, better, more, more, more until I collapse in a heap and what? Sit in silence maybe? For today I will write a paper, I will allow myself a few minutes of quiet with myself. I will refrain from entering a shoe store. I will keep my mouth shut and not start a fight. I will be a grown up. Now there, that wasn't so bad was it. Row, row, row the boat...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ode to a Great Blue Heron

It is foliage season in New England, the leaves are turning their brilliant or not so brilliant colors before dropping to the ground to be come recycled material. It always sneaks up on me, one day I will be standing in the woods and they are awash in color, the next day, or so it seems all that's left are branches. The variances in between are imperceptible. We become accustomed to our surroundings so don't notice the beauty until it is too late. I said good bye to the Great Blue Heron that lives nearby, a bird that somehow, in some way I see almost every day, either flying overhead at dusk, or sitting on the edge of the pond, waiting for his dinner to pop up. Soon he will be leaving for warmer climates, along with the Canadian geese and hummingbirds. But it is this smokey gray bird that I will miss the most as snow starts to blanket my backyard. I live in an area with four seasons, each having its draw points. Autumn with the brilliant colors, fresh apples, pumpkins and breezy bright clear days. Winter has soft white snow, fires in the hearth, hot chocolate and...and what? Shorter days that allow for cozy naps, and (insert your own winter wonder here.) So yes, I may be a little bitter about the end to warmer temperatures and my favorite bird, but I have become accustomed to my surroundings so much that I have failed to accept every season, including the one that is hard on the wallet and snow shovel. Winter is also the season to bundle up, become quiet and go within. The blanket of snow muffles most of the outside activity. Spring's dramatic burst, and autumn's color spectacular make way for a time of solitude and silence. I don't work well with peace and quiet. As November approaches I want to be cognoscente of my internal dramatic self that longs for a little chaos and excitement, a roller coaster ride or two. I can feel her yawn and stretch, to start daydreaming about possible ways to create trouble, to pick a fight or bring a little color to the silence. This winter I want to sit in the silence and learn how to enjoy it, beyond acceptance. The silence is where I find my God, my connection with the vastness that is there.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Juggling in a Sea of...

I will now embark on a journey of mixed metaphors and sharp right hand turns. Some writers keep journals, I happen to keep little slips of paper. Not the most organized way to keep all of one's thoughts in proper order, but they sit in a neat pile on my desk, waiting to be looked at, and ultimately brought to fruition. One such slip of paper fell out of my pocket today. A friend of mine said a few weeks ago (possibly more, possibly less), "If I put twelve balls into the air and four fall, then I am responsible for putting them up there to begin with." Ugh. I seem to have a little, minor, petite, tiny, minuscule problem with workaholism / doaholism/ whatever other ism derives from the fact that I just love to be busy, to be juggling, to have that adrenaline (or other bodily chemicals) shooting through my veins when I am in the groove, going going going... But, as my wise friend so aptly put, when I put all of those balls up there, and some fall, then I need to take responsibility, which is really a dirty word when you think about it. I am a full time commuting student, taking one more class than recommended with a teenager embarking on his own college path (read - we are visiting schools, filling out applications etc). I also realized that I should be taking the GREs and applying for grad school. So when the car payment comes due, the water in the well is contaminated and the thermostat doesn't work, (and yes I decided to become a single mom) balls ultimately fall. And they fall with a resounding crash, along with my positive attitude and energy level. I turn into a heap, a mess that needs to be scraped up off the floor. Not a pretty picture, and, forgetting the wise words of my wise friend, my default setting upon this floor is to lash out, to pick a fight or to create some other chaotic episode. This is where I was last week, and stayed until I remembered to ask the Universe for a little bit of help. Help came. Small miracles. I was sitting in the library when a stranger came up and congratulated me on my book. The gentleman who works at the turnpike informed me that I am well liked at that exit because I always have kind words and smiles for all. Small miracles, but grand enough to relieve me of the bondage of my funk. Today I have the opposite problem, the sea is completely calm...but that metaphor can wait for the next post.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Connection

Today a replica of my car drove by on the turnpike, same color, same make and model. I ended up by chance following the car on my journey home after a grueling day of classes and rushing and errands galore. We were 2 very blue cars driving in the rush hour traffic, but when he finally turned to follow his own route he waved out the window right as I was waving to him. A seemingly insignificant moment tucked into a day jam packed with many insignificant moments, but the connection I had with an unknown driver (we both after all have great taste and are environmentally and economically conscious) made my day. It was the smallest of connections, something my primate brain needs throughout the day. If I choose to look for them I can find a connection with almost everyone I meet as I go through my day. The mail carrier could have a love for large dogs, maybe even be a husky owner. The receptionist at the dentist's office could be a vegetarian. The cashier at Price Chopper could be training for a marathon. We are connected with our human family whether we like it or not. Even a mass murderer has a mother who gave birth to him or her. Even the Republican down the road just wants to support their family. We all just want to connect in some shape or form. Today I choose to remember the moment between me and mystery Yaris man, because for that brief second I wasn't driving alone in my car at the end of a long grueling day. I was connecting with another human being on his respective journey.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Running

I posted a one liner on Facebook a few months ago, "May you always run downhill." This revelation had come after I had completed a five mile run with a few difficult hills followed by the blessing of a downhill sprint. I love running downhill, the wind in my hair, the quickened pace, the joy. But if I am always running down, I never receive the benefits of the climb, number one being stronger legs and being able to squeeze into my jeans post washing. I also don't get the exhilaration when I finally make it to the top, the challenge having been met. Yesterday I ran Blue Hill Road, a one mile incline, an endless incline where at every corner the hill gets steeper. I ran, I didn't stop, and at the top I felt elation, I had done it, I had spanked that hill. If I can do Blue Hill, what else can I do in life? Maybe ask for help when it is scary, or publish a book and actually hand it to someone and say, "here, read this, these are my words that I received while in meditation or prayer. These are my intimate moments with God, put down on paper." Maybe I could just do that. Maybe I could do anything that scares me, because I was able to make it up that hill, me - ex smoker, ex gym class reject. So today my perspective has changed. "May you run downhill after you have had the opportunity to run up."

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Carnival is Coming, or The Carnival is Here

Recently I have been likening my head to a carnival, not my haircut, although it has been humid today and the poodle act needs to be filled, but the thoughts that incessantly race all day long.
The Hall of Mirrors: Ok, I really am not as fat as I think I am, or stupid, lazy, slow, etc. I view myself in a distorted way, so it is important to rely on a trusted group of friends to tell me the truth. Yes Laura, the 18 gallons of ice cream you ate last week did add to your heft, or no Laura, you actually did a good job there.
Games: I or rather, my head, loves to play games, not board or sport, but what-if games, and games of strategy. If I say this to that person will this this person do that? And, the famous, he loves me, he loves me not game that we learn as teens.
Concession stands: Food, fill er up with high calorie, high fat foot that will deplete all the energy from your body. Eat some fried dough, bloomin' onion, french fries, ribs and follow it up with a little ice cream. Then puke, and feel like crap the next day. Sometimes my head likes to run off into these heavy, calorie-laden negative thoughts, and when I go there, when I sit on that pity pot and stew, I feel lethargic, tired and nauseous. Fill my head with gratitude however and I am light as a bird, my entire body chemistry changes.
Rides: Up and down, around and around, this is just what my head is like everyday. How many times can I hold an argument with the cashier from Stop and Shop, the same thing, the same lines, over and over? Get over it, it is done, move on, get off the #$%^ ride and do some yoga already.
Petting Zoo: If it were possible to tape record the thoughts that run through my head on a given day, I would hear a lot of this: baaaabaaa, mooo, cluck cluck cluck. Ok, give a nice pat, say hi and walk away. How many thoughts does a human have in a day? Thousands? And how many thoughts are forced upon us through advertising? Countless. Time to leave the carnival and attempt to spend a few minutes with prayer and meditation. The carnival is great a few times a year, but overindulgence leads to sickness. Although I am having a hunkering for a little cotton candy. Hmmm

Monday, August 30, 2010

Good Fences Make What?

Good tomatoes? "Boundary," it's a dirty word, I know. It is also something that I don't know how to make or keep, especially in intimate relationships. I either push people away, or attach myself so completely that I smother them, thus pushing them away. I know that I have a hard time being in a healthy relationship, it is a daily struggle to remain open to love and acceptance. I have been swinging to the extremes lately, I either set someone up to fall short of my high standards or expectations so I can say, "see, they don't love me, here they forgot I existed," or I base my emotional security on how they act. This way, I never truly am responsible for the way I feel. I have known friends that try to help me, yet I take their words of wisdom and somehow mutate them so that it sounds as if I am not worthy. The longer I follow this spiritual path, the trickier my character defects become and they have been sneaking in the back door recently. "Don't worry about that," doesn't mean, "I don't want you in my life." It means, "don't worry about that." I was thinking about boundaries today on my run. As it was the first mile or so I was still stewing over some perceived slight. I passed a porcupine, the expert on boundaries. Yes I can protect myself, but I also need to have an exposed side, a side that allows love in. Porcupines don't shoot quills, but if you get too close when they feel threatened you'll feel it. Creating boundaries is about having protection, but also knowing when there is an actual threat. Knowing that comes from having a little bit of trust, and the first one I should trust is God. I don't have to erect a fence, but I do need to know when I am threatened and when someone is acting out of love. And to know that I need to be vulnerable and listen to God, not build a fence or shoot (barbs) before asking.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Am I Prejudiced?

I was at the dog park this morning with the "kids," listening in on a conversation between some of the other "parents." One asked another, (both had second homes in the area) whether they had experienced any prejudice toward out of towners from the locals. Apparently this gentleman had been accused of being "one of those 212ers," another way of saying a rich New Yorker. When I think of prejudice I think of someone who hates minorities. But there are many sneaky forms of prejudice out there, many of which I have to admit to being guilty of. One just could be toward those "rich New Yorkers." Having lived in this beautiful rural area my whole life, I have been witness to the influx of second home owners, and loss of local wild spaces as "McMansions" are built, large hideous structures lived in for 3 months out of the year. But not all second homeowners buy into the sprawl that greedy companies have cashed in on (yes you Mr. begins with an 'A'). My attitude toward these people, people I know and like, is plain and simple prejudice, and the energy I create when feeling it disturbs my serenity. Not only am I blocking relationships with others, I am cutting myself off from the abundance this world has to offer. If I have a thing against rich people how is the Universe going to come in and say, "hey Laura, I think you've lived in poverty long enough, let's give you a little influx of cash." It just ain't happening. So I need to look at my attitude toward "others," including folks who drive behemoth gas-guzzling vehicles. What am I getting from this self righteous behavior? Perhaps a feeling of superiority? Am I overcompensating for a lack of self esteem, or am I just plain scared? It is probably fear, I am afraid of getting fat, smoking, single handedly destroying the environment and while we are at it, afraid of succeeding. Am I prejudiced? Maybe. Most likely though, I am just scared out of my mind. God help me with my attitude today, help me to find compassion within, so that I can spread it outside.

Monday, August 23, 2010

In Defense of my God, Round 1

I enjoy debating every once in a while, it gets the juices flowing and helps me to practice formulating my thoughts in a dignified manner. Living in Massachusetts, it is rare to come across a Republican, so I tend to discuss matters with like minded people. For the past week or so I have been having a debate with someone I respect, but with whose views I completely disagree with. It is agree to disagree time, as there is no way that I can believe the bible to be 100 percent accurate and true and evolution to be false. What I do need to explore today however, is my strong reactions to some of the debate points. Must I defend my spirituality to another being, aside from God? No. So my need to defend it must be masking an underlying emotion. My first guess would be fear. Am I playing the Mother Bear, defending her cub who was an atheist for a time, now agnostic? Probably, but what is the irrational need to answer and explain my spiritual practice? Am I scared that my God will spite me like the God in the bible does, or am I still in the fragile "first dates" time in my relationship with Divine? Am I afraid that my spirituality won't be able to evolve? I was always a little different from the rest of the children on the playground, the one who just didn't fit in. Now my understanding of the Divine and Sacred is unique, that doesn't make it wrong, and it doesn't make it right for others. Saint Francis wanted us to love rather than be loved. I can practice this with people who don't agree with my views. It doesn't make either of us wrong, it just makes us different. Is different really such a bad place to be? I think not. Today, I will cease fighting, I will allow others to have opinions and I will value my own, as being exactly the way it needs to be at this point in time. But for further reading this book was recommended by another dear friend! God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Perfect Spot

Maybe the beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts isn’t considered a global escapade, but it has its cultural rituals to observe. The natives build temporary structures on the shore, each mapping out a territory. When choosing one’s territory, careful planning must be carried out. First one must find an empty piece of beach, suitable in size and smooth in texture. Nothing is worse than sitting on a piece of driftwood or pile of rotting seaweed. But size and texture are not the only criteria to be considered. Do the neighbors have, a. screaming children, b. blasting music, c. marital problems. While listening to a couple discuss how they live separate lives now, can be great materiel for a novel one is writing, it can also be a big downer. Once the perfect spot (not near the chattering lifeguards) has been found and claimed it is time to make camp. The blanket must be smooth, the chairs placed at strategic angles, as to discourage others from moving into the two foot by two foot square left next to you. The cooler must be placed in the shade and all reading materials laid out within reach. Once this is all achieved, the day at the beach begins. On occasion you may find that the couple next to you thinks it is funny to feed the seagulls, and has attracted a huge crowd of the vultures to your neck of the shore, but for the most part, if you have planned and prepared, your day should run smoothly. In Cape Cod, as well as other beaches on the eastern coast, the view from above must be spectacular, colored umbrellas, tents, and blankets, all creating a wild pattern on the sandy shore. In comparison, the beaches in Italy were all preplanned. Beach chairs with coordinating umbrellas were lined up in rows, one section of blue, one section of red, one section of green, and on and on down the shore. Simple, form, function and comfort. You are given what you need for your stay sulla spiaggia. In the US, it is a race for the spot, planning, and a hodgepodge of contraptions, coolers and beach tents. What does this all mean? Nothing, really, just another day, ruminating and packing for the beach. As long as I don’t forget my Cosmo Italia this time.

Yes, I Am Evolving, I’m Just a Little Slow

I woke up this morning, my brain was ready to go, the committee in my head was already in session. According to certain religions, if I don’t believe in a certain human that died for my sins, then I am automatically going to hell. This doesn’t sit right with me, and today I am acting as if my entire belief system were under attack. Which is only in my head, my system is still intact. I have a unique spiritual path, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Just as DNA has dictated that my eyes are hazel, my hair is, well, who remembers, today it is brown, that I am 5 foot 5 inches tall (gave myself an extra half an inch there!), traits that are all me, I have a set of beliefs that are mine. I am a unique human, and as a unique human I have individual views and a way of seeing the world which was molded by my past as well as my present circumstances. A little genetics, a little culture, a little salt and pepper. Some people might be concerned that because I do not believe in the resurrection (along with millions of other people) that I will not be going to heaven. I believe that I am already in heaven and that the purpose of life is to live, to experience all the joys this world has to offer. So why I am I defending my spiritual beliefs? My relationship with Spirit is relatively new, the last four or five years we have been going steady, so to speak. Maybe I am overreacting because any relationship is fragile and must be treated with respect. Maybe because many people that I love are agnostic, atheist or Jewish. Maybe it is because I don’t like to be told what I should think, believe, or do, I have a mind of my own and it is in working order. Whatever the reason, this issue has been living in my head, rent free. Someone said the other day, I have to have good content to be content. I have to be loving and useful in order to be serene and content with my life. I have a feeling that if I were to love rather than be loved, to forgive rather than be forgiven, this group of folks that have been taking up space in my head might just decide to pack and leave. So yes, I believe in evolution, and yes I believe in God. Yes I believe that Jesus existed, but no, I don’t have to worship him in order to get to heaven. Heaven exists here on earth. Look around, herons flying overhead, butterflies, flowers, and the beach on which I sat today. Maybe God did create all of this, but maybe just maybe she created the ball of volcanoes, which happened to produce a water molecule. I think that God could have had a great time, just sitting back to see what that volcano produced, and voila, water and life. A little algae here, a little coral there and eventually us. That is called thinking ahead, 2.4 billion years ahead. And when I get out of my own head, my day will go smoother. So here’s to algae, trilobites, God and red, I mean brown hair. What a long strange trip it’s been.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Practicing Acceptance

I am a control freak (except when it comes to my house!) and the practice of acceptance is one of the more difficult spiritual goals I have set for myself. To accept the things I cannot change is fine as long as I am oblivious to what cannot be changed. The other day I was heading toward Boston and passed an anti-evolution billboard that screamed at me (or maybe that was my imagination). The 20-foot structure made of metal and paper was telling me that what I believe is false, what I have spent years studying, what I find fascinating, is just not true. I reacted with anger. How dare they tell me how to think? I spent an excessive period of time arguing with the billboard, with the people who paid for it and shoved it down my throat, or my eyes. I still feel self righteous indignation over this trampling, this invasion. I know I am overreacting. That is obvious. The question is why would that one billboard evoke such a strong feeling while others, informing all that one phone company is superior to another, doesn't even grab my attention? Maybe because I can choose which company to use, while I cannot change others. There will be a group of people out there that believe that man and dinosaurs co-existed, that believe that there is no way that we could be related to chimpanzees (they are so much hairier and definitely far more intelligent than man). Was I upset over the ego that was jumping out at me, or was I feeling a lack of control? I cannot change anyone's mind or belief system, just as I wish my own belief system to be left alone. I do not want anyone telling me what or who to believe in, my spirituality is sacred and unique to me. Maybe I felt threatened, that I was accused of being "wrong" or somehow defective because of my beliefs. What I do know today, is that acceptance is the answer, I am disturbed and it is up to me to pinpoint what part of me feels threatened. When I find that area I take back control. I have the ability to shift my feelings at any moment of the day. I have the choice to remain in the negativity and anger or to send love and light to the people I may not agree with as well as myself for my strong reaction. Life would be boring if everyone thought the same way, if everyone was a Red Sox fan or everyone a Democrat. There would be no dynamic, no change, and no evolution. So I will pass my sedimentary rock formations and smile and know that my loving God has been creating for billions of years, that snowballs and slushballs are just theories, that Pangy Day does have special meaning, and that yes, I, egotistical human that I am, did come from a speck of algae that the Universe created, and that millions of years from now, if I cannot reign in my anger over a billboard, I just might return to one.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy

Birthday to my beautiful partner, 8/10/10, and no, it's not Herbert Hoover...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lessons From the Wheel Part 2: Centering

Have we skipped a step, gathering clay perhaps, and preparing it to make a vessel? Is that what the Creator does when we are born? Free will is then given to us and we are then in turn responsible for our own lives. Nevertheless, centering is hard, both on the wheel and off. The clay is placed firmly within a carved circle on the wheel, but still can be off centered so it has to be worked into the center with a forward motion of the hands. Moving forward to center. So often I find myself out of balance, either spiritually, physically or emotionally. Sitting still will not allow centering to occur, there has to be a forward motion, in pottery, it is with the hands pushing the clay. In life, I have to make the effort to either pray, eat a healthier lunch, take a run, connect with friends or send out a few emails. There has to be movement though. I just woke from a three hour nap, although refreshing it has to be followed with movement. So I chose to sit here at the computer and write, because every word that comes through my fingers brings me a step closer to my truth and my God. Once centered I can return to my day.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I Am

Today I felt the fear infiltrating as I rifled through my change jar for gas money. I found seven dollars in quarters, landed at pump seven and the fear dissipated. Intellectually I know that my god carries me through day by day. But sometimes, or maybe often, the fear just seeps back in. I am heading toward my senior year at a top notch university, one that doesn't allow me time for a job, so I have been relying on god and Sallie Mae for the past two years for support. And when the funds trickle down and I have a few months until my next visit from Sallie, I get scared. And when I get scared my attitude changes. I am no longer a strong independent woman, I am a failure who just can't seem to support her family. But I have been catching myself when the fear based voice creeps in. I need to conquer the voice, and writing a daily gratitude list is one way. I was thinking that as a writer I might like to write out the life I wish to have as well, in a story format, and begin this daily practice of physical visualization (see any of Wayne Dyer's books for more on this topic,such as: You'll See It When You Believe It: The Way to Your Personal Transformation)with I am statements.
Today I am:
Healthy, wealthy, wise, independent, strong and loving.
Even when I don't feel that way, even when I want to quit before the miracle happens. Because I am enough, I know it as a child of god.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Life Lessons from the Wheel: Part 1

I have been taking a pottery class this past month, learning how to use the wheel to create different vessels. Many of the steps involved in the creating of one of these vessels (aka crooked cups or bowls) remind me of the lessons I have been learning lately in this class called Living 101. Clay is prepared, molded, dried, baked and decorated before it's used as a receptacle for Grandma's keys or licorice candy. The next few mini essays will cover the steps in creating a vessel / creative life. As mine so far have been a little lumpy and bumpy, I expect the following entries will be filled with air pockets or fingerprints.

Step One: Prepare the Clay, or maybe even, Decide to Create a Vessel
Would you wish to make a mug, a bowl, plate or pitcher? How complex is this piece that you are trying to create? Depending on the size of the piece, a different amount of clay will be used. What direction do I wish to take today? If I decide to go back to school after a hiatus, I will need a greater amount of clay, the process will take a little more effort than deciding to have French vanilla over hazelnut (I do know that is a difficult choice, I feel your pain). The lump of clay is then wedged, or kneaded, to get out remaining air bubbles. Without this preparation you will pay further down the road when the gift for your mom explodes in the kiln. Just as applying blindly to a school can wreak havoc when you are admitted to an all female school, having the name Alex, short for Alexander. The preparation is not my favorite stage, I am always eager to dive right into the creating. But slowing down to make sure all the details have been mulled over is always a time/money saver in the end.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Crash

On Wednesday my computer crashed, and my files, my writing, my photographs and music all went with it. I didn't handle the situation with grace. My initial reaction was to give up everything, my last year of school, my writing, and apply at McDonalds. When that didn't appeal my second reaction was to break up with my boyfriend, for no reason, just to make life worse. I spent a lot of time drivng back and forth to fix my computer and make the dreaded trip to Best Buy to browse. After many failed attempts at loading vista, I finally asked for extra help. It was scary but the answer Ireceived from the computer expert solved my problem. What did this teach me? I still have default settings, reactions that automatically rear their ugly heads when stress occurs. One is to leave, to give up, to take off, to stir up trouble. It was during this time that I needed a trusted friend to pull my head out of the sludge and look at things in a different way. Yes I ended up recovering many of the documents, including the novel I was writing (minus some pages). Yes I am in a healthy relationship with someone who truly loves me. Yes I have all I need right now to continue on my path. Gratitude kicks the ass of my unhealthy default setting. Today I will slow down, accept that I lost time, that I recovered my computer, that maybe just maybe I should look at attachments to earthy things, the attachments that cause me great distress when lost. Am I making a computer a power greater than myself? Does it act as a vehicle to numb myself, much as drugs or alcohol may have done in the past? I don't know.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Right to be Right

What is self-righteousness? I know the answer, I just don't want to admit that I indulge in it at times, or maybe frequently. Is it a human need to be right, to have the upper hand, or maybe to feel a tiny bit superior to his fellow man? I fooled around with the word "right" this morning as I was daydreaming. We can be righteous, or "morally right or justifiable" as the dictionary puts it. We can have a right (possibly access to healthcare!,) be right (you know I am,) right a wrong (white out please) or vote for the religious right (never.) We can turn right (some states on red,) turn the article in right now, you have the deadline right, right? By the end of my daydream I was thoroughly confused and the word appeared to be spelled wrong after writing (get it?) it so many times. All smoke and mirrors, because if you remember, I began with the word self-righteous, a deadly little personality trait that I wish to rid myself of. It rears its ugly head at inopportune moments and creates havoc with my serenity. After all I am not the center of the universe, and if someone cuts me off in traffic it is not personal. If Guidos charges 3$ more a pound for my tofu salad during tourist season it is not personal. Life has a way of evening the score (yes Mr. Guido you are wrong for price gauging, but I will refrain from posting it on facebook.) Again I must turn to the prayer of Saint Francis, in which the goal is to love rather than be loved. I must right my way of thinking if I am to have serenity, because I am not always write, I mean right. I am human, I make mistakes, I am not a mistake. Right?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Prayer of Saint Francis

Twenty minutes ago I was composing a post on responsibility. When is a person responsible for actions done to them? As I was writing blogger decided to erase, and I got the hint. I am not ready to give my opinion on a topic I clearly haven't a clue about. Yes, I took responsibility for my house, and for my happiness after leaving my marriage. But I still blame others for my emotional well being. And I was writing about someone who I felt didn't take responsibility for their own life. I do have a lot to learn. So for now I think I need to return to the prayer of Saint Francis for guidance.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

In Italiano:
Signore, fa di me
uno strumento della Tua Pace:

Dove è odio, fa ch'io porti l'Amore,
Dove è offesa, ch'io porti il Perdono,
Dove è discordia, ch'io porti l'Unione,
Dove è dubbio, ch'io porti la Fede,
Dove è errore, ch'io porti la Verità,
Dove è disperazione, ch'io porti la Speranza,
Dove è tristezza, ch'io porti la Gioia,
Dove sono le tenebre, ch'io porti la Luce.

Maestro, fa che io non cerchi tanto
Ad esser consolato, quanto a consolare;
Ad essere compreso, quanto a comprendere;
Ad essere amato, quanto ad amare.

Poiché, così è:
Dando, che si riceve;
Perdonando, che si è perdonati;
Morendo, che si risuscita a Vita Eterna.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Woman Cleans House: Country amazed

House Cleaning. Not my favorite way to pass the day, but I got to a point the other morning where I felt my life was truly unmanageable. Boxes were so precariously stacked in my storage area, a staircase leading to my neighbor’s apartment, that when the cat jumped upon the leaning tower of boxes, all came tumbling down, computer, care fresh pet bedding and Christmas ornaments which broke upon impact. I am not a fan of Christmas in July. I went through and purged, filling contractor bags with stuff I never knew I had, or never used and packing away the mementos, in an order (example: winter clothes where I can find them in the winter!). I still have areas to attend to, but the order, the space, the lack of crap scattered across the floor has brought me peace. I know that I need to do a spiritual housecleaning, taking an inventory of resentments and unsavory behavior and purging what doesn't bring me peace, but the physical housecleaning brought with it a sense of order, cleaning up the excess so that the next step will be more visible.

Yesterday, I stopped fighting the house. My cat has been punishing me for leaving on vacation by peeing all over the house (furniture, wood pile etc). I have been pulling hair trying to keep it cleaned amidst the loads of dust and dog hair. But instead of fighting with him (he would win) I bought outdoor furniture and placed a litter box filled with pine litter where the wood pile was. For a few moments I am jumping into the river and allowing myself to be carried downstream instead of trying to paddle upstream. And it feels really good, plus I have a clean house for approximately 24 hours. Anyone want to come over this afternoon!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Instrument of Thy Peace

The Saint Francis prayer, a favorite of mine, begins:
"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace." For many years now, whenever I have heard the word instrument, I have thought of technical instruments, such as a compass or navigational equipment. The other day, someone spoke of an instrument as a musical instrument. I love the idea of becoming a musical instrument for my Creator's use. More than purely functional, an instrument is a thing of beauty, which with practice and hard work by the player can present us with melodious music. To become an instrument of peace is to come into harmony with God, to allow oneself to be played, yet be part of the process. When I allow God into my life I do more than just sit around and wait for miracles to happen. I take daily steps, I do the footwork, and God just pulls it all together into a tune. The Italians have at least two words for play, giocare, to play a sport or game, and suonare, to play an instrument. In English, there is one word but many meanings. Most involve another person to accomplish. It is the same when becoming an instrument of peace. In order to play, there has to be another, in my case I look toward my Creator as companion. I have learned from experience that when I allow God to make me into an instrument, the music turns out to be sweeter than if I had muddled through on my own. Now if I could only remember this next time I wake up in fear.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Spiritual Chemistry 101

There are a few things I know for sure.

1. Fear is the driving force behind many of my decisions and reactions.
2. When I surrender and allow God to take over, miracles occur.
3. The space in between the fear and the surrender is painful, uncomfortable and unnecessary.
4. All feelings pass when I do not numb them with chemicals, and or any other addictive substances / distractions.

Hypothesis:

The fear will pass and miracles will occur without unnecessary discomfort if I surrender situations immediately to God. If God (GoD) and gratitude (G2) is added to fear (F4) the chemical reaction and the end result, miracles and peace, is speeded up. The goal is to add the God and gratitude to the fear in a timely fashion in order to achieve the end product. F4 + (GoD + G2) = Serenity.

A word on miracles. Miracles are not burning bushes, diet coke turning to Coke classic or tofu and vegetables multiplying. A miracle is when one receives a phone call from someone looking for some extra help for cash after the electric company decides to shut off your power, or when a deer crosses the road, slowing you down so the officer has no excuse to pull you over in Egremont. I am noticing that the shorter the period of time that I spend trying to figure out how to make life work, and the longer I spend listening to God and taking the next right action, the less time I spend in Fear. Fear and Faith really cannot exist at the exact same time. It's just a little fact of chemistry.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Power of Words

There is just something powerful about words, written and spoken. While in Italy, at the Basilica of Saint Francis, I attended a mass, the prayers spoken in Italian. Even though I am not a religious person, and didn't know what was even being said, I felt the power of the words as first the priest spoke, then the congregation. Closer to home I am reminded of the power of three important words, "please" and "thank you," as I work with children and feel the result of the absence of those words. A friend of mine printed up prayer cards, the "Third Step Prayer," which reads:

God, I offer myself to Thee -to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always.

On the back of that prayer card I wrote a few little areas I needed help with. The first was fear. Writing that four letter word onto the back of the prayer card felt right. I felt as if, by writing what I was experiencing on the back of the words to a prayer that ultimately asks for help, made my request "official." The words, mine and another's, came together.

What is it about words, the sound, the beauty, the meaning that attracts me so? A toddler that first learns the word "no," a speech by Martin Luther King Junior, prayer, insults, or utterings of love. How can words, when read 40 years after spoken, still move us to tears? As I write this I am looking through scraps of paper with notes I scribble throughout the day, single words, words that will hopefully grow into essays, and hopefully those essays will be written with love and respect. Today I am in awe of the power of words.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mean Girl Part 1

Someone shared a story the other day about how he would allow pedestrians to cross in the crosswalk, but he couldn't allow them if they weren't between those magic lines. Something about this anecdote  jarred me into an aha moment, or a realization about myself, a very uncomfortable, painful realization. I can be a meanie sometimes. Sure I have been working very hard over the last ten years to become a better person, a woman of dignity, honor and grace. But there is still a mean girl stuck inside, and she not only jabs others, but herself as well. I have been working as a teacher's aide this past week, to see if it is a field I should even be considering as I head into my senior year of college, 20 years late mind you, but better than never. One of the students wasn't focusing on her project after repeated reminders. I thought she should find out the hard way what happens to little ones who go off into never never land, she would learn the hard way. The teacher, however, came up with a different solution, to move her seat so she wouldn't get distracted. The teacher's solution was the way of compassion. I tend to have this attitude, let em learn the hard way, and today I know that it is only because I myself had to learn the hard way. It is the only way I know. Baby at 19, divorce at 30, school at 35, I have worked my ass off to get to this point in my life, a point where I feel comfortable in my own skin. But not everyone needs to experience life that way. I don't have to experience life that way. Now my baby is going into his senior year of high school, maybe just maybe that is part of the plan. I will be "free" of child rearing responsibilities (read that lightly) by the time I am 40. I will be able to travel, take courses, get married, who knows what else, and do it all while still young, or at least before I enter a nursing home. I haven't had a drink or drug since August of 2000, and yes, it took a lot of work, but maybe that work was just a little mental exercise to prepare me for a full and exciting life. Who but God knows? What I know right now is that I have a mean streak and something needs to be done about it. That is what part 2 will bring!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Just Pay Attention Already

Last week I was sitting on a rock abutting the sea, having a little one on one time with God. It took me a while to realize that the other rocks, near were my feet were dangling, were teeming with crabs, large and babies. They blended into the background and my senses didn't register them until I had spent sufficient time in the same spot. Now, back in the states I have slipped into my hustle and bustle life ad wonder exactly what I miss by being in constant motion. What I know I need, and what I wonder if I will allow myself, is quiet prayer and contemplation time, to ease back into life. I question what the next step is but I don't sit back to allow an answer to come. Today's goal is to pay attention, just for a few minutes, to notice some of the details that I normally overlook. Because the answers to all of my ponderings are there. I just can't see them.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Coming Home


Usually when I am out of town I hit a point where I am ready to go home. This was not the case this time around. Yes I missed my friends, my family, my dogs and my boyfriend, but I was also beginning to become attached to a new landscape, a new language and the history that is Italy. Is it because one of my grandparents came from Milano? After all I am also attracted to Celtic art and believe I have some Irish blood in me as well. It has taken this week to become reaclimated to my home, the time difference, the different pace of living, the accents. I longed to say "grazie" to the store clerk at Cumberland Farms, and "scusi" came out of my mouth more than once. Italy is made up of music, the language, the stories, the harmony of the artwork, the opera. I was born in the U.S., love the trees, the lakes, the critters of the Berkshires, but also feel a connection to a new place now. This past semester I wrote a final paper on the concept of "home." Where is one's home? I wrote, "Home is a place of connection, of beauty, and of simplicity, the place where the birds flock to eat up all of the safflower seed before the bear decides he needs a snack. Home is what is left after the walls burn and the relationships die. Home today is the edge of Barbieri Pond." Now I don't know. Do we have a permanent place that we can call home or is the concept an ever changing idea? Non lo so.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Be sure to

check out Girl Goes Global, my travel blog at: http://www.gratefulgirlgoesglobal.blogspot.com/
Coming soon, my first book of poetry, Spring's Third Day, available in July, published by Planet Media.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Italian Prayer

I needed to pray.


So first I went to the two churches in town, and then I went to the sea.

In the churches I found silence but for the voices, murmurs of people filtering in and out. I found art, sometimes over 500 year old art, gazed upon by many awed worshipers, recognizing beauty and passion. I found a pew to sit on and rest, to allow myself to be supported.

And I asked.

I am here, and a piece of me is here. The door is open. Now where do I go from here? What is the next step? Practicality tells me to finish my degree, apply to grad school, write, write and write. My heart and tears tell me to stay here. So the two sides need to come together. I will go home to the people I love. I will finish my degree, and I will return here. I will write, write and write. Because it’s not always all or nothing. Sometimes it’s both. Sometimes the answer is, be with what you love. And what ties everything together is God. So whether I am in this home or that home, I am home – with God. So I first went to where we pray, where we find God sometimes. I then went straight to God – to the edge of the sea, and the two places balanced. A bit of silence, strength, creativity and power. So now, the water is coming into shore, it will then return to open sea, only to return again. Today is only the beginning, my first time ashore. I feel that home isn’t a set point in space, but rather where I put my feet. Wherever that is, there I find God.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ain't No Mountain High Enough


Q: How many paths up the mountain?
A: Just how big is the mountain?
The size of an anthill? Maybe one or two. The size of Kilimanjaro? Well, if you say one, I will just have to politely disagree. A couple of dear friends of mine are ultra conservative Christians and I just finished an email back and forth about that very subject. Some folks believe that there is only one way to salvation and God's Grace, and that is through the belief in Jesus Christ. Having just read an essay on atheism by my son, dating an atheist, having been married to a Jewish man, grown up in an Episcopal household and converting to Unitarianism when I turned 30, I believe that there are many paths up the mountain. The god I believe in is much larger than a single pathed system based on a book that was transcribed by a group of men 2000 years ago. Now I am not saying that the bible doesn't hold numerous golden nuggets, designs for living and beautifully written stories with morals. I enjoy many of the passages. But it also holds much violence, hatred and judgment. Today I choose to walk the path with a loving God that does not frown upon me because I didn't wear a hat to church, or ban me from her kingdom if I decide to love a woman instead of a man. My mountain holds many paths, crisscrossing their way up to unfathomable heights. Each day I try to love a person who I find not so loveable (yes you in the Ford pickup truck that tailgated me today). Each day I wake up with a heart filled with gratitude for all the gifts that have been given me. And no, I don't believe that Jesus is the way to salvation, but if that means I am going to hell, that's fine with me, it'll save me a lot of cash when the price of oil skyrockets this winter.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Flight, Just Go Already


A friend of mine has a video camera mounted near a birds nest and for the last weeks we have watched a family of five babies grow up. Today when we checked the screen however there were only four. As they are not due to fledge until Monday, we were concerned.  A few hours later the fifth was spotted about twenty feet from the nest, nestled in the grass attempting to fly. I know how baby number five feels though; the nest was getting small and overwhelming. I too have a default mode of flight and whenever overwhelming emotions hit, my first reaction is to leave. Get a little stressed at school, just go home. Get a little upset at someone at home, leave. They say our initial reaction is usually fight or flight. I have heard freeze is an alternate, something I do frequently, you know, the old deer in headlights reaction. Today I have a choice, I can take off or I can stay and experience my emotions, emotions that I do not want to feel. Experience tells me that if I just sit here, let it be, type a few words out, at some point the feelings will change. Baby number five is back in the nest, we did intervene. Sometimes we just need a little help from our friends.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On the Dead, Dr. Seuss and Corn Pops

When I was seventeen I withdrew my college tuition money and bought a plane ticket to California to see the Grateful Dead for New Years Eve. We actually saw three shows that trip. Yes, I know, it was a long strange trip, but now I will be turning thirty - seven in a few weeks, and yesterday, almost twenty years later, I have finally forgiven myself for diverting and taking a different road. A beautiful friend of mine was telling a story the other day, I don't even remember what story, but something clicked for me. I am no longer the girl I was when I was seventeen. I have been building a new road, instead of merely following one. Today I am in college, and a mighty fine one at that, and have an amazing life. But would I have known exactly how amazing had I not experienced hardship? It took me years to realize that, although my mom only bought us healthy low sugar cereal, I could as an adult, purchase a box of Corn Pops, no questions asked. Often as I travel through my day I take the well traveled road; it is safe, well lit, and paved. Sometimes however I just need to take a detour and fumble along a dirt path, fall over, get a few scrapes and eventually make it back to the main road. But the woman who has taken the tumbles is better equipped when a pothole turns up.


With that metaphor completely overused I turn to my cat, Chaucer, or Chompers as my son has named him. Eleven pounds of naughtiness wrapped up in fuzzy orange fur. Last night he ran through the house, a winter hat in his mouth, jumped up onto my lap, and deposited the "gift." This was the second gift of the day, the first, his toy mouse left on my pillow. I had buried the real one earlier in the evening. If this cat can take time out of his busy day to present me with gifts, acts of love on his part, then maybe just maybe I am worthy of those gifts. And maybe just maybe it is ok that I took the dirt road for a few twenty or so years. And maybe just maybe I am ok. It has been a long strange trip. Sometimes it just takes me longer to realize that everything is exactly the way it is supposed to me. So for now, I'll keep truckin'.

 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

100


On May 26, 2009 I wrote the first post for Daily Grace. Now, almost a year later I am writing the 100th post. Much has changed since the first, much has not. The act of writing though for me is part spiritual practice and part survival. Writing is a way of experiencing life, either through re-experiencing one's own life, or experiencing it through the eyes of a character. Since the composing of that first post I have completed my first novella, a YA story, finished a book of poetry, which will be published in summer 2010, and lived the life of numerous other characters having vastly different experiences in the pages of numerous short stories. I thought that for the 100th post of this blog I should have a brilliant diatribe, complete with bells and whistles laid out on the screen. Alas, that will not happen. But I have learned this year that I am a writer, that the sound of the tapping of the keyboard, the scratching of pen to paper, pages filling up, soothes me like nothing else has ever done. On May 26, 2010 I will be preparing to head to another country, to study the language, the words of one of the world's most beautiful tongue, Italian. My computer will be accompanying me, as well as my notebook and purple pen. I will write on the beach, I will write in my room, I will write on the train. I will write because it is what I do, it is where I meet God, it is where meet myself. I will write because it is just crazy not to.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. Before I had a baby myself, when I was still a wee little one, I would joke about how they should have a day of celebration for the children as well, complete with cards and presents. After almost 20 hours of labor and 17 years of child rearing, I understand the importance of this one day. The first Mother's Day celebration was organized in 1870, by Julia Ward Howe, who hoped to bring mothers together for a peaceful day protesting the Civil War. Today's holiday is much different. In a typical American style it has been overtaken by consumerism. Yet I can tell you, that the best Mother's Day present I received wasn't a card or bouquet of roses. It was walking into the kitchen to see my then 16 year old, scrubbing the sink, clean dishes stacked neatly in the drain, without being asked.


Tomorrow I will honor my own mother, who is always there, lurking in the shadows, ready to give her support and love when I need it. I could quote from a corny poem about the importance of mothers, but most have one very important quality, they give because they love. The mothers that came together in 1870, came together because they wanted their children to stay alive to live full lives. Today's mothers, the ones that we honor with pansies and poetry, want the best for their children. So for my mom and all of you who are moms, Happy Mother's Day. I hope you receive the same love, peace, and joy that you have so freely given us children. And to you children, here's a hint, actions speak louder than flowers, although the flowers just might do it too. (In the picture, my mom is in pink!)


Ode to Mothers
by Kristin F. McKendell

Mothers cannot do it all

But surely do they try.
Mothers hear the angel's call,
To comfort all who cry.
Mothers for themselves may fall,
For others they will fly.
Mother's bear the weight of all,
For their children, they would die.
A Mother's gift extends beyond
All bounds of time and space.
Her lovingness and nurturing
Make Earth a peaceful place.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Self Righteous Woman

Her costume has "S" across the front, her cape is long and flowing, she can cut someone to shreds with her thoughts and tongue. She is Self Righteous Woman, able to harness a resentment in a single moment. Driving down the road I transformed into SRW with the super human capabilities of thrashing and dicing. The driver of the Volvo tailgating me was almost the victim of this Superhero. I was driving the speed limit, and the driver dared to pass me in a town known for its speed traps. I hoped for the materialization of the cop, who always parked in hidden places along the country roads. What happened to loving everyone? I had in fact asked my Higher Power to help me become a more patient, loving gal. SRWdoes not love, holds no empathy and displays no compassion. She is right, she is righteous, she is Self Righteous Woman. Maybe the cop did nab my Volvo friend, maybe they got to where they were going. I do know how it feels to be late when a slow driver pulls out in front of me. Maybe next time I could remember that feeling as they violently pull around my car. Maybe.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Dance

Two steps forward, one step back, pause; turn to face your partner, bow, and spin, return to the beginning. Repeat. Each of my daily interactions is a series of steps, choreographed, sometimes a misstep here and there, but I always return to the sequence. I see this in myself in the act of raising a child. Ask child to do dishes, forward step, get upset when they are not done, sweep left foot, ask child again, do-si-do, throw a temper tantrum, final bow. What would happen if I changed my moves? I know it would feel uncomfortable, after all I know the sequence, and I have been practicing for years. My partner may trip, get angry, but eventually catch on to the new moves and fall into place. The question is: How do I learn new moves? I think that is where God enters the picture, God as choreographer. The performance might be better, after all, we are dealing with a professional instead of the amateur that I appear to be. Divine Spirit may also have a few steps that I would never have dreamed of, in unique combinations. It would be the difference between a middle school dance recital and Jacob's Pillow. The first step in obtaining guidance from Divine choreographer is to first admit that one needs the assistance. Then comes the asking. In my limited experience, once I ask, I have the help, or the resources I need to change my steps. I have to practice, but eventually I envision a sink full of clean dishes.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Change That Song

It is March; the semester is beginning to overwhelm me. I caught myself this morning lamenting on what I lack in life. Which isn't much, my gratitude cup runneth over. Yet I can see where I need help. On a few occasions I have asked for that help and received it. But the fact does remain that I am a single mom, commuting to school, raising a teen and juggling schoolwork with the details of everyday living. About this time of year, the weather teases us with bouts of beautiful weather followed by snow, the professors start piling extra assignments on, taxes are due, financial aid is due, summer employment must be procured and realization hits that I haven’t gotten to the grocery store since January. It is at these times when my ego takes over and starts to sing the “poor me song.” It is really rather sappy, melancholy notes followed by choruses of wailing. But what about meeeee? This song will not win any awards, and I will still have an exam to study for and an appointment with the accountant scheduled for when I should be studying. I will still have to write that essay instead of sleeping like I so wanted to do. But I am alone I wail into the microphone. I don't live with a man, blah blah blah. I just need to read these words to come to the conclusion that I need to just get over it. And I am not alone. I have God, and really when it comes down to it, my Higher Power usually plans out my day with more Grace than I could ever imagine. And I have a fabulous life. Yes, my garbage is threatening to take over, I am behind in assignments and my teen is wondering if I will ever go to the grocery store again. But when I make a point to align my day with gratitude, remembering that my jumbo sized cup does indeed runneth over, do I have the strength to get up and change the song.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Meditation Rock

Spring break. My days have slowed down. I have now been coming to my meditation rock for the past three days. I sit and shift uncomfortably every few minutes, adjusting my posture, but ultimately succeeding in quieting my mind for brief stretches of time. The to-do list waits at home while I fill my spirit with fuel. Quiet, the only sounds are the birds, breeze and dried grass rustling. Monument Mountain is in the distance. This boulder is a chunk of history. How long has it sat here, on the edge of this pond? How long has it been on this earth? It is covered in lichen and the tiny insects that feed upon that lichen. The sun shines on this rock all afternoon; the shade from nearby pines recedes as noon arrives. My to-do list beckons, but I need this time with God. I need quiet moments when my mind stills and I feel the energy, the vibration of total attention to the present moment. I hold onto this peace until the list and the mind return. I can see the bottom of the pond today, dead leaves decomposing, grass, twigs, a pine cone appear after the ice has melted, it is in the process of receding, thinning each day. The surface of the ice picks up the sunlight and millions of specks of light gleam. A few months ago I skied across this pond and a month from now, my dogs will swim in its depths. Soon the heron will return, dragonflies will hover over cattails and tiny fish will surface to feed on insects. But today I sit here, in peace with God.

After sitting in silence the world that surrounds me fills with sound. The rustling grass is louder, the ice cracks, a leaf skips across the surface of the ice, scraping its edges until it plunges into the water along the shore. Each crow, depending on the distance from where I sit has a different call and the wind blows louder across my ear. Perhaps the first frog, neighbors from across the way, an occasional car, all take on a different quality. Eyes closed, bright orange from the sun which is reflected on the water. After each car passes I feel the urge to retreat further into silence, to go deeper into the woods, to leave behind any human noise. But today I am sitting here, on this meditation rock, in between the "silence" of the world and the voices of us. Each passing car pulls me closer to the list, the homework assignments that await. It seems so mundane after my time with the sparkling ice, the dried grasses and crows. But it calls and my God reminds me, gently through the song of the towhee, that this spot is always here. This rock, which has sat here for thousands of years will be here tomorrow.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Radical Self Care


Spring break has arrived and it is time to rest, relax and rejuvenate. That seems an impossible task for me to accomplish as I have a "to do" list a few feet long. Everything that has been left undone since the beginning of the semester is fighting for attention, the taxes, the cleaning, the trip to the dump, and of course getting caught up with school work and spending time with my family and friends. What is left after everything is done is exactly 30 seconds for relaxation, rest and play. Today however I practiced radical (for me anyways) self care. I went and got a massage. Now I know that self care is extremely important. We all read about putting the oxygen mask on ourselves before our babies, but first I must prioritize myself. I must accept the fact that if I practice self care I will be a much nicer human being. Today's massage proved it. I left the office feeling renewed, happy and calm. The world is a much safer place because I took an hour out of my busy week of relaxing to actually slow down and recharge. I am now watching my two Siberian huskies lounging on their dog beds. They know the art of relaxation, they know how to play, to let go and to live in the moment. Gracie, my white girl, knows the feeling of abandoning herself to mud, of delighting in the world and what it has to offer. Tonight maybe I will follow their lead, I will stretch out, relax, and enjoy some moments of peace before my life speeds up again and I surrender to the chaos.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Can We Pick Up the Pace?

As a current student I have a Physical Education requirement to fulfill for graduation. Today’s gift is that my options include Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, and Walking Fido. I decided on Tai Chi this semester, to flesh out my daily meditation practice and bring some peace to my busy day. The class opens with a ten minute relaxation meditation. I chose well. I have gotten to the point where I crave meditation. Last week, a student asked if we could speed up the routine which is meant to be done deliberately, slowly and mindfully. I had to chuckle to myself, because I remember being right where this student was in my early practice, and many times today. It took me months to detox from a busy three job life and get to the point where I could sit with myself in silence. For me, being present was boring (it still can be.) Being present with myself in silence is being in communion with God. Being present with God brings peace. And sometimes peace is just not all that comfortable. In this technological age we are bombarded with advertising, video games, and cell phones. My teenage son reads a book while watching TV and surfing the internet. So I found humor in this young woman's request, and then remembered how I close my heart every time a student walks into the room late and disrupts "my" meditation time. Hopefully someday I will be able to laugh with a student who requests the doors be padlocked shut once class begins.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Treadmill: you all know where this one is going

It has been snowing / raining for a week here in the beautiful Berkshires. This has had a huge effect on part of my daily spiritual practice, running. The even rhythm of feet on pavement, the time alone with Spirit, and breathing in fresh air seems to keep me sane during any life situation. There are many people out there who haven't encountered my wrath solely because I take the time to run in the morning. This week it had been a few days, the snow, the streets filled with gushing water and careening cars kept me from my normal routine (it does seem to take a lot to keep me on an even keel.) So I decided to go to the gym and log in my miles on the treadmill. I really had good intentions. However I started to feel trapped around mile 3, and by the 4th I was counting down the tenths, feeling my anxiety level raise. This does not usually happen when I run. The treadmill for me was similar to my life before sobriety and entrance into a semi spiritual lifestyle. Ten years ago I was running to get somewhere but never actually arriving at a destination. I was trapped by an unhealthy lifestyle, thinking that I would actually get somewhere, and then experiencing despair when I didn't. Today, despite the incredible load of work I have heaped in my bowl, I am extremely grateful for the life that I am living. I have an amazing family, network of friends, home and education. The snow sits on the trees creating a magical kingdom that glistens. I have a coffee, a few free minutes and this laptop on which to write. I am no longer on the treadmill.




Saturday, February 13, 2010

This Camel's Cooked


The semester is underway and I find myself being overwhelmed with too much work and not enough time to accomplish this work. Life details are beginning to seem like immense hurdles to leap over. The sink full of dishes becomes a mountain, the trip to the bank to get a money order for rent seems like a four hour trip. Life starts to spin out of control. Well, it seems to become out of control. I had tickets for a lecture this past Wednesday. When I got to the lecture hall, the tickets weren't in my purse where I placed them. This was the proverbial straw. The camel was out of commission and life turned catastrophic. Well, it seemed catastrophic. What I realize today, after time has passed, is that the problem isn't the chaos. The problem is my attitude and my choices. I chose to take on five classes against better judgment. I also chose to "figure it out" without the guidance of my Creator. I turn the big stuff over on a daily basis, those things which I cannot control, death, divorce, fire, and illness. I forget that God is not going to laugh at me or ignore my request for help with time management skills, or a little inspiration for a short story, or even help with the dishes (I do have a teen living with me.) Today I will ask my God for a little assistance with my homework, with my attitude and with the sink full of dishes that awaits me at home.