Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Every Day

Is love alive? I heard that line in a song on my drive back into town Thursday night. Thursday, the day of Thanksgiving celebration. A time to reflect on the year past, the blessings bestowed to us that we neglect to remember most days of the year, and a time to be surrounded by the love and comfort of family, friends, or complete strangers.

Thursday morning my dearest five year old climbed into bed with me around six a.m. We have an annual tradition of watching the Thanksgiving Day parades in our PJ’s, hustle to grab showers, and Thomas waits impatiently while I try on four different outfits. Then we hit the road for the hour long drive to visit his grandparents, and then make another two hour drive to my grandparents.

This year was a little different. We threw out the Thanksgiving Day parade watching and replaced it with the hustle and bustle of getting ready and out the door a little earlier for a volunteer shift at a local church. To keep true to my reputation, however, I signed up for the 10:30am shift, but made our way there around noon … I know, not the best thing to be late for! But it worked out in everyone’s favor. The kitchen had an abundance of volunteers until one that afternoon and then a skeleton crew for the remainder of the Thanksgiving feast. Thomas and I elected to be late for his family’s celebration and quickly updated our holiday attire with aprons and began the tasks at hand; delivering desserts, drinks, and clearing of the tables.

As I watched Thomas, so tedious in his tasks, and heard the whispers of “what a sweet, astounding young man” my heart was full of joy and skipped with delight on the true blessing it is to be his mother. He was diligent and serious with his duties; “Everyone must have a piece of dessert and a drink to wash it down Momma!” was his line of the day. The other was, “Please, leave me be, I’m working here.” He took me off drink duty quickly when he caught me red-handed enjoying a glass of lemonade. Being lectured by your five year old is not a particularly pleasant experience, just so you know …

With my duties relieved I spent the rest of the shift clearing plates and talking with those who sat alone. Small talk really; the lovely weather, the answering of the question of if that was my son at work, the delicious food being served, and the football games currently being played and what a blessing the Rams were not playing today as their horns would surely be handed to them … again …

Around two in the afternoon we gave back our aprons and something unexpected happened. Complete strangers until that day were embracing us with hugs, and praises of thanks. There was a lady in tears as she told me how amazed she was at a little five year old, and the heart he put into his work helping others. Of course, me being in the “lack of emotions” teared up with her. Seeing him through the eyes of others gave me an entirely different blessing I was not expecting. We came that day not for the praise, the pat on the back, the thank you’s never ending; we came there for the true spirit of the holiday – giving back. My time sitting with a man who had no one else to dine with on that holiday afternoon was worth every moment. When I spilled gravy on my white sweater, I found laughter instead of frustration that it was there because I served. When I watched Thomas, embracing the true foundation on what it means to help others who need it most, I knew there was no meal that could ever be plentiful enough to fill that place in my heart.

Afterwards we only went to his grandparents and warmed up our food as everyone had already eaten. I found myself silent most of the day, taking in the afternoon we gave to others. Taken in the afternoon that I would most gladly and incandescently give again. And again. And again.
Driving home late that night I listened to those lyrics…. “Is love alive?” … and undoubtedly it is. I heard it snoring in the backseat of my SUV, wrapped up in his blanket, snuggled with his puppy dog …. I saw it in the face of strangers … I felt it in a family that has taken me in as their own … I read it through the text messages and heard it through the phone calls from friends and family that day … I listened to the laughter of the moments, the smiles on faces, the gathering of those young and old for one solid purpose: Giving thanks.

This year has been a year of change, uncertainty, heartache and pain for many, for most. Some lost their jobs, others pay cuts. Setbacks, transitions, relocations, unfinished tasks, flashbacks of the past, uncertainty of the future. That uncertainty has been given more worth than it deserves.

Search around you. Look inside of you. Notice the things, immense and diminutive. I am certain there are more than an undersized number of things we each have that we are thankful for. Now hold tight to those thoughts, and take them with you well past this holiday week. Not just on Thanksgiving, but each and every day we need to be giving thanks to the highlights that engulf our days and warm our nights. Feeling the love around us doesn’t come from whose sitting at our table, it comes from inside and from the hand of God enriching our life with countless, endless, blessings. So pull up a chair and sit down. You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain from a solo conversation with small chitchat on what you truly have around you, and in store for you.

As the holiday season is officially in full swing, may your blessings you remember today extend into your tomorrows. May your journey be long, but your equipment be light. May the sun always shine, the rain wash away, and each day be yours to take in the moment and leave your mark behind. May love and laughter light your way, with faithful family and friends wherever your road leads. Mostly may you find the joy and peace that endures in your blessings, in your passion in life, and in those yet to be discovered.

To you and yours – Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Life's Creed, If You Will ...

JP sent me this today ... I find it almost exhilarating, like a creed to follow in the days ahead ... Print a copy, grab a highlighter and start placing sticky notes in strategic places for you to take in the true message and apply it to your stamp on the world around you, and most importantly on the pathway of your days ... even when they suck ... and especially when they do ....

How to be Positive ... When Things Suck

For those who enjoy the more visual realm, as irony would have it this was just delivered into my inbox. What you do today matters... you make a difference ... embrace, create, and leave a legacy to remember.

The Butterfly Effect

Go on .... make a wish. Its a seductive concept ... dream it and you can obtain it ... but that is where true beauty starts. Within a wish, within a dream, within a hope ... a prayer ... a leap of faith ... all that you can imagine in some way can come true.

The Power of Wishful Thinking

Where Will You Be?

An incredible friend and I have this weird and wonderful bond; we tend to be on the same roller coaster in life. When one of us is up, the other is up - when one down, the other... you guessed it... down. We do not plan this is some fashionably way to entertain life; somehow it just seems to play itself out naturally in cosmic twists and turns.

As my column this week mentioned, I am on a transitional adventure. As irony would have it, this dear friend of mine is my constant travel companion. We both hit road blocks at the same time, seem to get indistinguishable detour signs, even go through similar sleeping patterns when matters of existence reflect on our minds. We both have been damaged in relations to matters of the heart. We both used to be in a cynical, jaded place emotionally. Through hurt, pain, and despondency, we held tight to each other as the door to love closed. Throughout financial struggles, days that seem to never end, heartache that sneaks up – we each, without fail, have identical occurrences.

As we mirror each other, she and I talk through our current situations and each remind each other of the leaps and bounds we have grown and accomplished throughout the years. Saying goodbye, rekindling fires, not accepting failure as an option, persuading to continue trying, perseverance, determination …. Smiling even if the world is crashing down, and rejoicing in the yet to be resolute.

After this past year of monumental growth and transition, we are both still eradicating ourselves of the toxins of the past and freeing our minds to make the upcoming year our ‘Carpe Diem’. Exposing the wounds has not be a pleasant experience and we are still discovering the extent of the damage is in need of serious work and repair; but that sass and zest for life we both possess to the very fragments of our being allows us to beam at the opportunity to go through the pain in order to heal and transform. As if a caterpillar in a cocoon is about to be released and the brilliance of colors from the wings of a butterfly soon to appear, our transitional year is soon to come to a close and with it bring in the new days of achievement.

CK: Stop whatever you are doing and download Sister Hazel’s song - Champagne high ... and Honorary Title’s song - Far More ... the lyrics that really struck a chord with me were - Where will I be when I stop wondering why? … I watched a DVR taped One Tree hill this weekend. The episode when Lucas proposes to Lindsey and Peyton is devastated -- the title of it is "please please let me have what I want" ... she goes and sits at her mom's grave and cries... how do I let go? What do I do now? ... I am determined to let it go and move on ... I just don't know how ... any way , I know you appreciate music just as much as I do and as I sit here tonight, listening to the sound of soul and the raindrops fall down - I cannot help but ask "what do I do now?' ...

JP: I ask myself that very same question I think at least once a day. It seems like every day things get a little cloudier right now. I can't wait for the day when it's all clear and we know exactly what it is that we are supposed to do next and exactly what it is that is going to make us happy. Until then......"

CK: and isn't that beautiful part if we truly explore it? Each day we have these clouds, but one day there will come a time when all the clouds will dissipate and the sun will forever shine. Clarity comes with learning ... growing ... discovering ... healing ... and despite our days when the pain is more than we feel we can bare, we are on the right path to our sunshine!! We said it was our year and I still believe that – just instead of the ‘please please let me get what I want’, we were more than overdo for a transition. Sure it came with it leaps, challenges, bounds, and road blocks, but with the growing and healing we must encountered the demons and ghosts, heartache and emotional pain – probably some of the worst we have been through yet. Which leads me to think this exorbitant cleaning process is clearing the toxins … once removed it’s sure to be a fresh start.

In a matter of seven weeks, this year will be behind us. A year that more than once has stopped us dead in our tracks and forced us to think. Emotions are there for a reason, so are words and feelings, life events... you work through them ... grow from them. Some are worse than others, but that is a deeper lesson to be had. APPLICATION of those lessons will be the key. We need this. All of us. Not to say wait until the new year to make your change, but discover today the opportunity you have right before you … Detox this year in preparation of a rejuvenating, breathtaking, it’s our time … each and every … today … tomorrow … and the years ahead!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Easing into the Adventure, One Step at a Time

This year is what I am commonly referring to it as “my transitional adventure”. Since Auld Lang Syne was sung at the stroke of midnight on January 1st, the year has been fixated on necessary less than pleasant events. The unanswered questions of the yesterdays combined with the flashbacks and repressed memories equal a concoction of true heartache and pain. Going through such a transition was essential, and more than due, as this year has finally granted me the sound mindset to heal. I just did not know it would be a journey that would continue from one winter to the next …

I read once that in order to find bliss, it’s not what you do, it’s a feeling you embrace. The article went further on to suggest that you must remember a time in your life that gave you such feelings in which you wish to know again – feelings such as joy, peace of mind, uplifting grace, connection, harmony, contentment. Once you remember the time, try not to focus on the actual events, but what your feelings were in that time and space. You see, it’s not necessarily the people we are with, or the activity we are doing (although that is part of it!)– It’s more so the emotions we felt during those moments that we seek out again, and again. Example: Thrill seekers – it’s not the actual routine of jumping out of an airplane or the twists and turns of a rollercoaster – it’s the adrenaline rush they seek.

After I read this article I meditated on feelings I have been seeking. I tried to remember a time when I was content, carefree. A time where I felt peace, complete, and whole. A time where I was driven, focused, and enthusiastic. I searched for this moment and through grace I found it – a time when all of those feelings were felt was when I was a child and took horseback riding lessons. On a horse I was connected with the spiritual realm; my soul was calm, my harbored emotions of sadness were washed away. I took that memory and ran with it … literally! I called up a dear friend, packed my bag and set off … to spend a day in nature, riding a horse.

I thought it would be easy – like riding a bike right? You never forget … but oh how I was wrong! After the twenty minutes of stepping in horse droppings and slip sliding in the mud trying to catch the charger, I then found myself afraid to go near her. The questions kept spitting out of my mouth, not on how to ride, but how I could prevent from getting hurt!

“Will she bite? Has she ever bitten? What is her kicking ratio? What do you mean horses can kick to the side? What kind of crazy S$%t is that??! Stay close to block the blow you say? Are you crazy??!! Am I? What was I thinking …. Get in the saddle? Is there a local bar and hospital close? Any chance next door to one another??? Okay, fine, fine, on the horse I go …..”

You have to love the irony of it all: My transitional year involves me letting go of the past and moving forward – riding into the sunset, if you will. And yet, here I am, terrified to climb up and start the journey. Leaving me to wonder if riding a horse was symbolic in the sense that as much as I wanted to “ride” (let go) I was afraid to (move on). Riding a horse was meant to serve the purpose to gather that inner strength, grip tight to the “reigns” of life and allow them to direct me … but now I stood, silent, nervous … desperately wanting to ride but scared to get hurt … desperately wanting to let go of the past but scared to move on.

When you have not ridden in awhile, and to get used to your horse, they put you in a fenced in arena first so that you get acquainted with the horse and become comfortable riding. Once I was in the saddle, the arena was where I chose to stay – Fenced in and safe became my motto! … but as I tend to do, I became adventurous and thought, “this is not so bad, maybe taking a walk outside the arena grounds could be just as easy.”
Wrong.
Twenty minutes later, three close attempts of “unwillingly abandoning ship” and one major panic attack we were heading back to the safe zone. However, that walk outside did something for me – it gave me my sense of determination back. I fought back through the nerves and fear. I was to find that inner strength and empowerment, spiritual connection and peace, those horses gave me as a child – I was certain of it! I was determined to overcome the hurdles, the setbacks, and the loss of breath and ride.

I switched gears and whoooooa nellied the horse. We sat there, Girlfriend and me, and I spoke to her like I was speaking to an old friend. Explained to her why I was there - trying to get back to that place where I remember true bliss, true contentment, and it was when I was on a horse, in nature - clearing my mind, cleansing my soul. I begged her for help. Not just in how to ride again without the clinging of fear, but help on how I let go and move on – how I could cleanse the toxins and find my place. What I wanted from that day was more than an afternoon riding experience; it was a reconnection with myself.

And there it was. Clarity. Peace.

I do not fully understand, but that horse had heard every word I had spoken to her. Like a whisper I could almost hear her speak back to me – baby steps, just take baby steps. So the rest of the afternoon I spent the day on a horse, just riding in an arena and discovering my first step to letting go and moving on - its baby steps that you must take.

That night around 1am, I found the release I was desperately seeking since that champagne toast the night we rang in the New Year. Out of nowhere emotions and tears, bottled up for so long, fell ... out of shock they fell harder ... I sobbed to God ... what do I do now? Where do I go from here?

The next morning in church, a video clip was shown – through the inspirational music the words appeared:

"How do we walk out our God given purpose and destiny...?"

The the words slowly came on the screen ...

"One step at a time”

I took that as a sign. I have been riding every weekend since. I’m still sorting out the letting go and moving on … but at least now I have initiated the permission to allow myself to just trot at a slow and steady pace. It’s not a marathon and only you will know when you are ready to saddle up and ride. You cannot let fear prevent you or detour you. You have it in you; life is not meant to be lived in fear of your past or fear of the unexpected, or fear of the yet to come. It’s meant to be lived one step at a time, and at the pace you are comfortable with undertaking. It’s not easy, each day has its moments of impatience, but I try to remember that whisper …Baby steps … Baby steps … Eventually I am certain to ride into the sunset, letting the wind cover up the path in which I came from and finding a fresh conduit home. Until then, the arena will do just fine ...

Friday, November 6, 2009

What happened to Breezy and Free?

A few weeks back I did a small Friday afternoon piece on just odds and ends to think about, read, or meditate on going into the weekend. There was a lot of positive respond from that piece, so I am electing to send you into this sunshine filled, cannot help but get outside and soak it up weekend with some reflection and hopefully, motivation. Allow yourself to be breezy and free – throw caution and the agenda in the trash for that matter – and spend an hour or two or the entire day just being carefree … experiment with giving back to yourself and see how that feels for a change.

"Experimenting with [a] magnet brought the law of attraction to life for me... positives attract, and negatives repel. When people allow fear, worry, doubt, indecision and other forms of negative thinking to determine the direction of their mental attitude, they shut off the positive power of their magnets." —Paul J. Meyer

“Don’t Miss the Point” – Darren Hardy
An article from one of my new favorites, Seeds of Success, this commentary speaks of a man who ‘missed the point’; here he tries to convey the message to you that its family, not money, careers, fame, success, or luxuries, that is truly the road to a fulfilled life. As he points out, the majority when asked the question what matters most will answer their families. However, our calendars and agendas prove otherwise. Especially going into this weekend, with what I commonly know as Indian summer, I encourage you to prove this theory wrong and reconnect with those you value most. Don’t miss the point.

And because I cannot get enough of his writing (although if forced to choose between the writings I know you would choose mine, hands down, no question) here is another piece by Hardy:
“Rearview Mirror” – Darren Hardy
The tried tested and true: you are not your past. We cannot relive it, we can only take wisdom from it and leave the rest behind. Living in the past will prevent us from moving forward. Sure there are days where you will struggle more than others on how to let go, but as the article suggests, “Glory or defeat, when the clock struck midnight, that day was over.” Looking in our rear view mirrors we can see where we have been, but we cannot see where we are going. Look back for lessons, but do not focus there.

“Change is as inevitable as rain in the spring. Some of us just put on our raincoats and splash forward.”— Amy Bloom

“What if you are scared of Change” – Amy Bloom
I am absolutely head over heals in love with this piece. It’s as entertaining as it is wise. Ready to admit it or not, each one of us to a certain degree is afraid of change. We fear that in which we don’t know. I for one need Zanax when my favorite TV program switches nights … its human nature to fear the unknown. What we can do to combat change is to accept it into our lives – baby steps at first are recommended, but you can rip band aid off so to speak if your feeling Froggy– but once you are at peace with the fact that with or without your participation change is going to take place … then you can make the real change to deal and address rather than ignore or pretend.

“Becoming the Person You are Meant To Be” – Anne Lamott
Anne points out off the top that we begin to find ourselves when we realize we have already been found. Almost to the point of encouraging rebellious acts (in an etiquette sense only, streaking is frowned upon and not what I mean by carefree – however footloosing in the kitchen is encouraged!), this article speaks to the gypsy soul and persuades you to seek out, explore, break rules, embrace being a mess, your failures, your mistakes – find lessons and apply. Make a to do list of your thoughts, wants, desires, needs – and cross one off each day. Make them simplistic – make them extravagant – but MAKE THEM! Only once made, dreamt up, created can they be achieved!

“If you think on it long enough, you will just know – in fact, you already do” – TUT

Meditation Podcast by Marianne Williamson
I am growing deeper into meditation and the soothing affects it can provide to your mind, body, and soul. I have a restless nature and find it difficult to calm the mind and spirit; this podcast provides insight on how to achieve just that.

… I firmly believe in the passionate love affair that exists between us and life; the ups, the downs, the good, the bad, but until death do us part. You know the Greeks didn't write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: "Did he have passion?” Passion: a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything is what Webster states it to mean. So tell me dear readers, do you? Do you possess the breezy and carefree, glass is half full, achieve your dreams, life is what you make of it, when given lemons, throw in tequila and celebrate with enthusiasm and desire for life? I believe you do. I believe we all do. It’s just a fine line between believing and living it out. Cross yours today and every day … see the difference and don’t cross back.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The House that Built Me

You leave home, you move on, you do the best you can, but I got lost in this old world and forgot who I am – I thought if I could touch this place or feel it, this brokenness inside me might start healing – Out here it’s like I am someone else, I thought maybe I could find myself – If I could just walk around, I swear I’ll leave, I won’t take nothing but a memory from the house, the house that built me. – Miranda Lambert, “The House that Built Me”

I heard that song for the first time as irony would have it two days after visiting my childhood foundation – the property of my grandparents and my great-grandparents – side by side of each other on a corner in a little town called Pacific, Mo. I harbor no secret that as a kid I did not have the typical, healthy, caringly, stable childhood home. Rocky at times, violent, I spent most of my days worried, lost, and sad.

But on that property, I felt untouchable. Safe. Secure. Sheltered with warmth, love, and laughter. My grand and great grandparents had their houses right next door to each other, and we would walk between them, through the woods, passing a pond, skipping stones, barefoot and embarking in nature. I would sit for hours attentively listening to each of them tell stories of the past … and what they wanted for the future. My great grandma never spoke an ill word of anyone. My grandma encouraged me to pursue my education. My great grandfather would eat cheetos and drink beer and tell me tales of when he was a little boy. And my grandpa would always point out the different aspects of nature as we four-wheeled down to the train tracks and watched what a train wheel could do to a piece of Lincoln copper. I remember the porch where I would read … a living room where I learned to quilt … a basement where I played hide and seek … an attic filled with treasures … family dinners, holidays, joy, laughter … tears of growing … hugs when they were needed the most … the smell of a home cooked meal … my grandma’s perfume as it lingered on me after a hug bye … It was a place that completed me. I can still feel and smell each memory … memories that stay with us, long after we forget …

I visited this solitude of my youth a few weeks back, as a way to pass time before a baby shower was to begin down at the local church; I pulled into a driveway that was half gone. The property was sold the year I was pregnant with my son. I never said the traditional goodbye. It was my first time back since that final Christmas in 2003 … and now I stood there, almost six years later – visualizing what their houses may look like if they were still standing.

You see the developer who bought out the property ended up doing nothing with the land, let the houses be vandalized and condemned, and eventually torn down and leveled. My rationale for going back was in hopes to summon energy for this journey I seem to ceaselessly be on: this journey of healing. Of fixing the brokenness. Of finding myself. The consequence for standing there was a feeling of loss as what once was, no longer existed in tangible form.... where I would pick flowers from grandpa’s garden, was now a breeding ground of bushes and trees … the pond where I would watch frogs on Lilly pads, now couldn’t be seen from the formation of nature’s surroundings. Each building was gone … yet … I still could tell where each stood, where each foundation was laid.

Foundation. Once made, it can be shaken, it can crack, it can even fall apart – but the evidence of its existence remains. Leading me to the foundation of this column: In this life I don’t know the answers. As I travel, I am lost, searching to find my way, my place, still healing from the past in order to move forward. At times I go back, to face demons of the precedent, healing, progressing, continuing to press onward, determined to find myself. Although years have passed since I traveled to my salvation of childhood, I swear my car could have driven on autopilot as the drive was so innate.

For that place, those people, those collections of warmth … helped build me. Each taught me that through God all is possible. Through learning we grow. Through education we develop. Through family we endure. Through love we conquer. Through heartache we learn. Through pain, eventually we will heal. Through expectations we can be let down, but through belief we can achieve. I needed to go back to be reminded of all that I took with me, in mental snapshots, in collections of remembrance, in collaboration of memories. For from the house that built me I have begun to build my own foundation, my own place in the world – although a few cracks, its there, nonetheless, it’s just a work in progress. Standing in what once was showed me the value insurmountable in price. Using the pieces of my old, intertwined with the knowledge of today, fueled by the potential for tomorrow, I am building a place in this world that will never be torn down, or sold, or overgrown by vines and weeds. For me, the house that built me will forever stand … and forever will I be skipping rocks, walking barefoot through the woods, feeling the serenity as I catch fireflies at night and hear my Grandma call me to the house, the house that built me …