Friday, December 28, 2007

There's No Place Like Home...

We spent the past five days in Las Vegas, visiting friends and enjoying some family time. It is so good to be home!

I hope that everyone who observes Christmas had a beautiful celebration.

I will be writing more very soon, but until then, I wish you time with the people you love and many, many smiles.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Festival of Lights, or Chanukah as it is better known, ended about a week ago. Christmas is five days away. Tonight is the Winter Solstice, which means that we will be experiencing the darkest day of the year. During a period of so much darkness, it is important for us to be able to look towards the glimmers of light which help in leading us to brighter times. I think it is very interesting that all cultures and religions find ways to associate light with this time of year. We seem to have an innate need to brighten our darkest days. The holidays which fall at this time of the year provide us with so many ways to "turn on the lights", so to speak.

This time of year brings out both the very best and the very worst in people. It seems that the darkness that dominates our skies, also overwhelms the spirits of certain individuals who insist on rushing around, being rude and not caring for others who might get in their way. I have seen this in parking lots, grocery stores, and on the roads. The craziness tends to reach a crescendo as we get closer and closer to Christmas.

Thankfully, there are also individuals who are filled with light. They are helpful, calm and generous. They exemplify the brightness of the season through both their actions and their words. They are a pleasure to encounter, and they remind us that even the smallest gesture of kindness can be the light that brightens someone else's day.

Reflecting on the light and dark of this season, I felt the need to express my thanks to those of you who have consistently provided me with daily glimmers of luminosity, during even my blackest of days. Living with a chronic illness can be a very disempowering experience. I try to focus on the bright spots of life, but there are times when try as I might, I just cannot keep my mind from wandering into the darkness that overshadows the light. Distracting myself by reading your blogs, be it funny, touching, thought-provoking or just plain real, can sometimes provide the spark that I need to move myself out of the darkness, back into the light. The comments that you leave for me, here, in my little corner of the world, remind me that I am not alone. Your words of gratitude, encouragement and understanding allow me to remember that I am still strong, that I still have a voice, and that I can still give something back, even if it is in a different way than I am used to.

As we move through the twilight of the blackest day of the year, I wish for you, the flicker of radiance that can come from an act of kindness. I pray that you will see the reflection of joy that you bring to the hearts of others, mirrored back at you through their grateful eyes. And I hope that in times of darkness, you will always find even the smallest of lights with which to guide you back into the brightness of life.

Whatever your personal celebration is, during this time of year, may it be filled with light.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And the Winner is...

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the very first Four Angels Momma contest. Your heartfelt comments left me in awe of how deep the love is for our country and for our service men and women. You all make me proud to be a citizen of the greatest country in the world. Honoring people like Airman First Class CJ is my way of saying thank you for what they do, and what they sacrifice for our nation.

The photo at the top of this post is of my youngest angel baby and her sweet friend who is like one of my own angel daughters, doing the drawing. They humored me by writing all of the names that were left in my comment box, on slips of paper, and then drawing one out as the winner. They were all full of giggles and smiles as they shook the basket one last time, and carefully drew out one name. So, the winner is...Lizzy in the Burbs! Lizzy, I will be contacting you to find out what email address you would like me to send your $25.00 Amazon gift card to. Congratulations! I will also be sending both CJ and his younger brother, Conner, each a $25.00 gift card. I think that Conner should be recognized too, as he is sacrificing time with his big brother, in order for his brother to protect the freedoms of others. I will also be forwarding all of your wonderful comments to Hallie and John, CJ and Connor's mom and dad. I think that it will be helpful for them to know how many people truly care about and support them, during the rough spots of having a son in the Air Force.

I really appreciate each and every comment that was written to honor CJ and our other service men and women. There were so many great comments and stories about family members who serve our country. I loved reading each one and sharing them with my family. From Scarlett who talked about owning several bibles and who is grateful that she lives in a country where she isn't forced to hide them away, to Nicksafmom whose great response to the spitters out there is,"Next time,would you mind aiming for my boots? That'll help me look my best while I'm protecting the rights for you to have the freedom to speak out." Reading about KellyJean's grandfather who was a Cheif Petty Officer in the Navy during WWII, brought tears to my eyes. He was sent out on missions after battles took place to search for survivors and recover bodies. A "behind the scenes" hero, who brought other individuals home to their families. Grammie Hoffman in WA summed it up simply and beautifully by saying that "Fearless=Freedom", so true.

As I think about all of your wonderful thoughts and comments, tonight, I will also think about CJ, who is home on leave, reconnecting with his family. I will think about all of the brave service men and women who are sometimes taken for granted, but who continue to do their jobs whether we recognize them, or we don't. As Michelle said in the comments, the one thing that she loves about this country is , "freedom". I think that we would all second that.

May you take a moment to think about and send some good thoughts and prayers to the individuals who serve our country. May you take a moment to thank the next person you see, who is wearing a uniform, for protecting your right to be free.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Contest to Say Thank You Now Closed

Only a few more hours to enter into my drawing for a $25.00 Amazon gift card, so be sure to leave me a comment about why you love our country and our service men and women!

Have a wonderful afternoon!

10 PM Tuesday, December 18, 2007- Thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments! We will be placing all of the names of the people who entered into a basket. My daughter will then chose the name of the winner! There were so many inspirational comments that I decided this would be the best way to chose the winner. I will announce the name of the winner sometime tomorrow afternoon. Best of luck to all of you very special people! Hallie, I will need to get CJ's email address so that I can send him his gift card, and another email for Conner because he deserves to be recognized too!

Hugs to all!

Deb-Dub as I was just called!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Contest That Also Says Thank You

Today is a beautiful day. I am surrounded by the incredible bounty that my life as an American has enabled my family to obtain. I have a loving husband, four wonderful daughters, and a home that is filled with so much love, that it spills over to our furry and feathery family members. Looking into our nine year old dog, Becca's eyes, I can see all of the love and joy that life has provided, reflected back at me.

Last week, I was reading the blog of a blogging friend of mine. Hallie, from The Wonderful World of Wieners(you can find her link under my favorite places to visit). She has a son who just earned his position as an Airman First Class in our Air Force. CJ is a very smart and likable young man, who is using his life to serve our country. What sparked me to write this post about him, is that he was walking down the street with some of his Airman buddies, and somebody had the audacity to SPIT at them, and tell them that they should be dead! This happened on the streets of our country, by individuals who are being protected by the very same young men and women who this imbecile had the chutzpah to spit at! I was encouraged to read all of the enthusiastic posts that were left on Hallie's blog which honored CJ, her son, after she wrote about this incident. Apparently, there are many, many other people out there(including a ten year old girl who is making CJ one of her "projects"), who love and support our country. The love that they feel also spills over to the brave service men and women who use their own lives to protect our freedom. It is ironic how they also protect the rights of the SPITTERS to SPIT at them as they walk down the street minding their own business.

With my dear husband's help, I decided that I would like to do something to remind Airman First Class CJ, Hallie, her family, and others, how much people really do love this country. This is a win-win situation(Do you feel a contest coming on?) because everyone who leaves a comment on my blog citing one reason why they love this country AND our Service men and women, will be placed into a drawing to win a $25.00 Amazon gift card to purchase whatever little gift they would like for themselves. I will also be sending a $25.00 gift card to Airman First Class CJ in honor of his graduation from Flight school, and for being such a proud representation of what incredible young people our country produces! Hallie and John, you did good!

So, to wrap this little drawing announcement up: Post a comment as to why you LOVE this country, and our service men and women.

On the evening of Tuesday, December 18, I will chose a commenter who will then receive a $25.00 gift card for Amazon.

I will also forward all of the comments to The Wonderful World of Wieners.(Once you get there, you will see why my dog fit so nicely into this post.)

Sorry, only US residents will be able to win this contest, because, is your country. And no political banter, please. I only want to hear good things about this fine country and the individuals who serve. I am not interested in finding out if you believe in the war, or not. That has no bearing here.

May you look around and realize how damn lucky you are to be an American, and to live in the best country in the world.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Avoiding Toxicity, or How to Keep Your Wits About You

I have heard from so many others this week, that also have individuals in their lives who tend to complicate things. The world is definitely a smaller and less lonely place when you know that there are people out there who can identify with the situations which life presents. We are not responsible for the toxic family members who insist on trying to suck the life out of us. It is important to see them for who they are, and to deal with them on a level that is both comfortable and safe. At times, we must take a step back from these kinds of individuals. We must give ourselves time to heal and time to regroup. It has been my experience that these types of people need us much more than we need them. If we can keep this truth on the surface of our minds, it will be much easier to remain self-protective. It will be much easier for us to create the boundaries that are an absolute necessity in maintaining these sorts of relationships.

I am working very diligently to live by what I believe. I sometimes have to remind myself that I would not want my daughters to allow toxic people to stomp all over their boundaries. I should not want any less for myself. There are times in our lives when self-parenting becomes very important. Whether you have children or not, you must sometimes get to the point at which you should ask yourself if you would stand for the abuse that you are tolerating if the person being violated was somebody else who you care about. This is a question that should also apply to yourself. If you would not accept the behavior on behalf of somebody else, you should remember that you deserve that same amount of respect.

This is the time of year that can be both joyful and stressful. There are many individuals who are running around unaccompanied by a kind person, who will try very hard to add some extra aggravation to your day. Pay extra attention to your own needs, and how being around these people makes you feel. If you are tired, aggitated, hungry, or just plain overwhelmed, please, give yourself the time and attention that you need. Do not allow toxic individuals to suck the life-blood right out of your system. This includes family members and friends.

May you know your own breaking point, and put a stop to whatever is going on well before you find yourself there. May you be strong enough to limit your exposure to those who take too much out of your spirit.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Yesterday began as a fine day. It really did. I haven't been feeling well, but I had to leave my house to pick up our holiday cards, and so I decided to run a few errands. My mother left me several messages over the weekend, so thinking that she just wanted to "chat" I decided that I would return her call on my way home. Big mistake. BIG MISTAKE! In the twenty minutes that it took for me to drive home, she never once even took a breath. She was having a tirade about my step-brother and his wife, and since I am her daughter, she is supposed to be able to vent to me(at least that is what she says). Now, my illness is exasperated terribly by stress, so I really try to avoid it. My mother knows this, because my husband has told her many times, but she does not want to get it. I won't go into what her tear was about, but it was childish, ridiculous, and mean-spirited. When I pulled up to my home, my 17 year old daughter was sitting on the front steps. She was on the phone dealing with her own teenage angst, and she hung up when she saw me. She came over to the garage and I rolled my eyes at her in disgust. She asked me who was on the phone, and since my mother still had not taken a breath to see if I was still there, I handed the phone to my daughter. She listened for a few moments, and then without saying a word, she hung up the phone. Yes, she just pressed the off button, and handed the phone back to me! In disbelief, I asked her what she had just done. She told me to just tell my mother that I got disconnected. Are you nuts? You just hung up the phone on your grandmother! Honestly, it felt really, really good. I had listened to my mother go on and on for over twenty minutes, and now, it was over, just like that. daughter began to complain to me about her father, and how he would not allow her to go someplace. OY! That is when I realized that I wanted to escape from my life for a while. I told my husband that Mexico is only a couple of hours away, and that I could call him when I got there. That is when I decided that I needed to go upstairs to my bed, to crawl under the covers.

This morning when I woke up, I found something sticking through the crack in my door that made me remember why I would never run away. Something that made me realize that although I do not have the kind of relationship with my mother that I have always craved, I AM creating that relationship with my angels. As my heart melted(and I unpacked my bags for that trip to Mexico), here is what I found. A note from my youngest angel. Please allow me to share.

Dear Sunshine. Dear Mommy,

I know this time of year for you is very crazy. You and dad work so hard to get us our presents and make sure we're happy with what we get. But this year, I'm realizing how much effort & work you really do put into making us happy. With whatever gifts I get, I am going to appreciate every little part of it. Thinking of how much I ask for and how much I get, in a way upsets me because thinking of all of the kids who can't ask for anything and don't get anything. I have been feeling so so close to you the past couple of years, not saying that we weren't always close, but you understand me and I feel that I can talk to you about a lot more stuff. I love you beyond the moon and back.

Love always and forever,
Your Sunshine

Through the words of my thirteen year old angel, my heart was instantly mended. I was reminded right then and there, that the promise that I made to myself at around her age, to never be the kind of person that my mother was(is), was definitely not made in vain. I am not a perfect mother, but I am a good mother. That is something that is reflected back to me through the words, actions, and compassionate hearts of my daughters. I thank God that He provided me with a strong enough spirit to keep the promise that I made to myself all those years ago.

Sometimes, we have to be the change that we wish to have in our own lives. Like the great leader Ghandi once said, "We must be the change that we wish to see in the world." We might not have been born into the perfect families, have found the perfect mates or friends, or have the ideal lives that we had longed for. It is our job to improve upon the things that we are not satisfied with. It is our responsibility to be the change that we wish to have in our own lives. We have to begin someplace. Our own worlds are the only places to start, because once we begin there, the goodness tends to radiate outwards, like the ripples in a pond.

The photo at the top of this page shows the feet of my daughter. The one who wrote me this note. She was having a very bad day, and I found her buried underneath her covers, with the blanket covering her head. She does not have many bad days, but being her mom, I had to seize the opportunity to take a picture of her cute, little, albeit upset feet. She was less than amused, but I made her laugh, and she recovered fairly quickly. I am glad that I can make my angels laugh. I sometimes act like the world's biggest dork, just to get them to laugh at me. It makes me feel good that I can bring smiles to their faces at times when they really need it. It makes me grateful that they can do the same for me.

And so, as I contemplate what it is that I would wish for you, what comes to mind is something or someone who can reflect back to you validation. Validation that you are accomplishing the things that you set out to do within your own life. Validation that you CAN be the change, and validation that you are responsible for many, many smiles. May you be reminded of how truly important you are in this world, and may the feeling which that reminder generates, ripple outwards to remind others of the same thing.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


As I sat here recovering from the Chanukah celebration that I hosted in my home last night, I wondered out loud what I should write about. Jewish people around the world are in the midst of celebrating "The Festival of Light", and so my mind is somewhat focused on the concept of "light vs. dark" right now. Interestingly enough, my angel daughter number three was sitting here with me, on my bed, and when I asked the rhetorical question, "What should I write about?", she replied, "Write about me!" The reason that I find this interesting is because out of my four daughters, AD3 is the only one who has lighter hair, and very, very blue eyes. She is kind of like the "light" spot in our gene pool! All four of our daughters are bright spots in our lives, but angel daughter number three is a little bit different. So, here I sit contemplating how AD3 stands out amongst our girls, and in a moment of brightness, it struck me...She is the only one who did not come easily into our lives. She is a soul who came to us in her own time. A bit of a princess from even before conception.

Conceiving babies is something that came easily to my husband and I. It seems like the moment we decided to have our first baby, I became pregnant. It didn't stop there, daughter number two was also conceived with ease, and so when we decided that it was time to have a third, something happened that we were not prepared for. I knew that I was pregnant, because I could always sense when I conceived. I took an early pregnancy test when I felt AD3 take hold. The test turned positive and we were absolutely overjoyed. I knew that it was early, but I didn't really feel any need to worry. A few days later, I began to bleed, and I panicked. Although it was nighttime on a Sunday, my OB told me to meet him at the office for an ultrasound. I rushed over there, leaving my husband home with our two small daughters. I remember the office was dark. I remember that my doctor was wearing blue jeans. I remember looking at the ultrasound screen, and searching for a tiny heartbeat. And then, I remember my doctor's words,"I'm sorry.", and I knew that I was no longer carrying a baby. Although it was very early, the feeling of loss rushed over me. I cried all of the way home. I cried in the shower for the next couple of weeks. I had two healthy girls, but I wanted more children. What if I was not able to conceive again?

Joyfully, angel daughter number three was conceived a few weeks later. I must admit that the fear of what had occurred between my second and third pregnancies really stuck with me. I could not relax into the reality of this baby until at least the third month. She entered the world on the first day of Spring. A light in the darkness at the end of Winter. A fair-haired little angel with ice-blue eyes. She was one of the happiest babies I had ever seen. My gratitude for this baby was even greater than ever, because she had been conceived at a time in which I needed an answer which nobody else could give me. She was my answer.

We went on to have angel daughter number four, who also came to us in her own time. Unlike AD3, she decided to come to us a bit earlier than we might have planned, but absolutely celebrated, none the less.

When I asked, "What should I write about, today?", the answer was clearer than I even thought it would be. My angel daughter somehow knew that she was supposed to prompt me. During this season of light, AD3 reminded me to look at the brightness that shines through the dark. It was daylight when I began writing this, and now, it is night. The "light spot in my gene pool" is asking me what is for dinner, and when we are going to light the Chanukah candles. As I look into her ice-blue eyes, I am reminded of how she came as a radiant light into our lives. I think about light versus dark, day versus night, Winter versus Spring, and joy versus sadness. I remind myself that if I am feeling sad about something, that times will get better. There will always be a brighter day. Angel daughter three's middle name is Hope. How many more reminders can one person provide in order to prove to us that there will always be a better day?

May your life always provide reminders of light, even on the darkest and coldest of days. May you always remember that YOU are a bright spot in someone else's life.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

We Are Family...

These are my angels. When they were little, I dressed them all alike because I thought it was adorable, and frankly, it was much easier to keep my eye on them. I found that with four little girls running around, if I could just look for a hot pink flash going by, and then count to four, I always knew where my children were. After a while, I realized that there were some other benefits to having them all dress alike. It fostered a sense of cooperation by having them put their cute, little heads together to decide what outfit they would wear that day. It also created a solidarity that allowed them to feel confident in knowing that they were part of a "team". It created a sense of "us", and my girls always knew that they had each other's backs.

One of my goals as a parent, is to create a family unit that works together as a team. We support each other's growth and achievements. We attend as many of each other's events and competitions as possible. When one of my daughters has a game, or a play, or any type of competition, one or all of us are there in the stands cheering them on. I understand how important it is to look up into the crowd, and see the people who love you, supporting you, and encouraging you to do your very best. My girls all have very different talents and diverse interests. My husband and I have always supported them in their endeavors. We have taught them, through our example, to be there for each other, to serve as each other's safety nets.

Family should always serve as a soft place to fall, if things don't always go well. Family should be a place where you feel safe, and loved, and important. This is not something that I grew up knowing, so I created it for my girls, and in doing so, I also created it for myself. You see, we CAN have the families we always wanted, even if the one that we grew up in was not the ideal. Regardless of how small, or large your family is, it can be a team. It's not how big or small your cheering section is, it is how LOUD they cheer for you, that matters. It's the pats on the back, and the hugs that really mean something. It is knowing that there is ALWAYS somebody there to take your hand.

I am so grateful for my husband and for our girls, our angels. I feel absolutely connected to the greatest team that I could ever dream of. Although they no longer wear the same outfits(at the same time anyway), the spirit of our team runs through each one of them. I can see it in their laughter and their pride for one another. I can see it in my husband's eyes as he beams with joy for each of their accomplishments. I can feel it in my soul, the soul that each one of them owns a part of.

May you always have a team, however large or small, to back you up in life. May the support of your loved ones carry you through even the most challenging of days.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Don't Allow Your Physical Boundaries to Limit Your Creativity...

There is always room, in life, to think outside of the box. You are an unlimited, remarkable human being with resources beyond your own imagination. Close your eyes, and imagine what you would do if you could allow yourself to break out of that box! Oh the possibilities....

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The "Happy" Gene, and Saying Thank You

Angel daughter number four was born with what I would call, a joyful spirit.  She is the kind of child, or I should say, teenager now, who can walk into a room and make everybody smile. She exudes a kind of happiness that can only be described as genetic, because it is so natural and pure.  Yes, she is a teenager now, and yes, she does have her hormonal breakdowns and teenage alien fits that cause me to think, "Where has my sweet baby gone?"; but for the most part, she loves life.  Having a conversation with her is almost like speaking with an adult at times, because she is wise beyond her own years.  She appreciates being alive and her gratitude is contagious.  Even strangers find her very engaging.  She can brighten the dullest day with her smile.

This morning I was thinking about AD4, and contemplating what it is that I could learn from her.  This is something that I often do when it comes to the people who are in my life, but for some reason I was particularly zoned in on her this morning.  Maybe it is because I woke up with a lot of pain, and as I was scanning my body for particular points of tension, I needed something special to focus on.  Maybe it was because I was breathing my prayers into the Universe and something made me stop and contemplate AD4's approach to life.  Whatever it was, I came up with some things that I wanted to share.

We are all here for a purpose.  Regardless of someone's belief system, there is no denying that the gifts that we are given should be shared freely with others, because if they are not shared they are wasted.  Everyone, absolutely everyone who is, or ever has, breathed in life from this planet, has something important to contribute to the world.  There are times when we might feel like we want to isolate ourselves from others.  We all have those days in our lives when we feel like hiding under the covers and never coming out, and that is okay.  But we must always try to remind ourselves that no purposeful, joyous, fulfilled life can be lived aside from other people.  We must balance our need for solitude, with our need to be around others.  We must enjoy our unique abilities, while using those abilities to teach others that which we inherently understand.

As I thought about my daughter's happy spirit, I also began to think about other people who I know that are not quite as jubilant, and what it might take in order to cultivate a more joyous attitude.  Angel daughter four really appreciates life.  She is gracious and thankful much of the time.  So, I decided to isolate the gratitude trait, to see where that would lead.  This is what I came up with.

In order to be happier in our lives, I think it is very important to cultivate gratitude. Sometimes, I tend to take things for granted and I forget to be grateful.  So, I decided to do an exercise that I heard about someplace.  Tomorrow, I am going to say,"Thank you", each time something happens that makes me happy.  It could be something as simple as having another driver allow me to safely make a lane-change, or being able to open up my fully stocked refrigerator when I am hungry.  Things that I really do appreciate, but often take for granted.  

The next day, I am going to say, "Thank you", each time that something does not exactly go the way that I would like for it to.  Maybe not getting out of my house on time to make an appointment, or having somebody cut me off, causing me to miss a green light, and making me wait for another light cycle.  All of the little mishaps, and annoyances that occur each and every day.  You know, the ones that seem to effect our moods the most.  The ones that make us "perceive" that we are having a bad day.

I am going to continue this exercise for the next few days, gently reminding myself to show more gratitude for all of the events that happen throughout my days.  I am not exactly sure where all of this focus will take me.  I do know that when I expect a certain result when doing something, I often come up with something that was completely different from what I had expected.  I am going to write down my observations at the end of each day.  After I complete this exercise, I will write about the things that I learned here.  I would really enjoy hearing from anyone else who would also like to take this challenge along with me.  I would love it if you would share your experiences after doing this for a few days with me.  No pressure at all!

This is the time of the year when we are all feeling a bit more frazzled.  Our To-Do lists are longer than ever, and all of the crazies have been let out of their homes for the month.  Maybe doing an exercise like this one will turn out to be a gift that you can not only share with others, but something that you can give to yourself...something that will bring more joy into your life.

As I look at the picture of my Angel daughter number four, and our adorable Cornish Rex kitty, Callie, my heart swells with the joy of knowing that they both make the world a happier place. Even if we are not born with the "happy gene", I do think that it is something that we can cultivate over time.  There are so many things to be grateful for in our lives.  Sometimes, we just have to take a little time to remind ourselves to stop and notice all that is good.

Please remember to stop back, and let me know how this works out for you.  And may you always find SOMETHING to smile about, even on the hardest of days.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Husband, Our Oldest Angel, and Me

It has been a very long day, and I am at a loss for words!  I was rummaging through my pictures and came across this one, which made me smile and miss my oldest angel, all at the same time.  She is an actress and this photo was taken a few weeks ago after one of her performances.  She is such an incredible human being, and we are so very lucky to have her.

May you come across special things, at just the perfect times, that renew your spirit, and remind you to smile through your most exhausting moments.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Putting Yourself on Your Own List

There is not really a way to describe what it is like to live inside of a body that is never really quite right. Trying to describe what it feels like to know what it was like to be healthy, and to now live life with a chronic illness, is what I suppose it would be like for someone who is now blind, but once had sight. Difficult on some days, impossible on most. But, when people ask me, and I sense that they earnestly want to know, I describe the way that I feel as having the flu, all of the time.

When this illness came on several years ago for the second time, I fought like hell to deny it access into my consciousness. I told myself that I was still recovering from another virus, that I was run down, that I was exhausted from raising four small children. I lied and lied to myself until finally a doctor looked me in the eyes after six long months of battle, and said to me, "Debbie, you have Fibromyalgia and there's not a damn thing I can do about it." Deep down in my soul, I knew it had returned. The cellular memory of this illness is not something that the body soon forgets, even after a blessed remission of fifteen long years. My denial came from the fact that I was a busy, dedicated mother, wife, daughter, friend, volunteer, etc., and I did not have time to be sick. I had recently become certified to work as a Spiritual Care Volunteer at our local hospital, visiting patients as a Lay-Chaplain. My girls were all in school, and I read about the need for volunteers. It was never something that I had ever thought about doing, but when I read about the position, something inside of my heart spoke out and told me that I was supposed to do this. After three months of training, I was on my own. I went from room to room, visiting with very sick people, people who were often lonely and scared. I sat with them for as long as they needed me to, each individual requiring something different when I was with them. I spoke with their families, I listened to their stories, I laughed with them, I held their hands. Our visits would often end with my offering a non-sectarian prayer, and most accepted. Something that I learned during that time, is that if I could offer myself to be fully present for someone, totally and without any other distractions, that was when the absolutely purest form of human connection could take place. Often, when I held hands with someone and looked into their eyes while saying a healing prayer for them, their immediate reaction would be tears. Interestingly enough, if I was to cause someone to cry in most any other circumstance, I would feel terrible, but the tears of these sacred moments left me feeling fuller and unmistakably connected to each person, to the Universe, to God. I was lucky enough to be able to hold on to my position as Spiritual Care Volunteer for more than three years. I did this while my own body weakened, and fought me. I did it until I could not do it any more without putting my own health into more jeopardy.

For a very long time, I felt guilty for giving up on something that I loved doing so much. I told myself that I would go back to volunteer at the hospital as soon as I could. That was until I began to honor myself in the same way that I had honored and respected the needs of my patients. I knew then, as I know now, that there was no way that I would ever begin to feel better unless I started paying more attention to my own needs. Both physically and emotionally, I was allowing myself to deteriorate by paying closer attention to the needs of everyone else(including strangers), than I was to my own. I began to pare down my life into things that were absolutely necessary, and things that I could release. I continued to evaluate my obligations until I understood the things that were truly important. I put my daughters and my husband at the very top of my list, with myself as a close second. That was about three years ago. Now that my girls are getting older, the physical demands of being a full-time mother are becoming less. I am slowly, very slowly moving myself up to an even higher place on my list. As I do this, my family becomes a bit more independent. They start to view me as someone who also has needs, and who requires time to grow and heal. We are all growing up, together.

Thanksgiving just passed, and so our family traveled up to our Mountain home together. We had time to express our gratitude for each other, and for all of the other wonderful people and things in our lives. We spent time alone, together. This is something that I think keeps a family strong and vital, regardless of how large or how small that family might be. But yesterday, my sweet husband and my angel daughters gave mom what they knew she needed. They drove down the mountain, and left me to renew and refresh by myself. And so, I wanted to share the photo of the fireplace at the top of this page. My body is still physically ill, but my spirit is growing stronger. I am learning to advocate for myself, by admitting that I must have time alone, sometimes. I am taking the time to honor my own need for quiet and for stillness. I will be going back home tomorrow, but until then, I will sit quietly in front of this fireplace allowing myself the space that I need in order to be more for everyone else, including myself.

May you find a quiet corner in your life, where you can balance your own needs for stillness and connection. May you always give as much as you can, while remembering that there must always be something left for yourself.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Trust That You will Know Your Future when You Meet it

Twenty seven years ago, today, at the young age of eighteen, I met the man whom I would marry just four years later. We were both freshman at Syracuse University, and had acknowledged each other in passing many times before, but on this day, twenty seven years ago, I mustered up the courage to have a friend who knew him, SHOW me where his dorm room was. I emphasize the word "show", because she was only supposed to walk me past it. Nonchalantly, like we were just walking by. You know, kind of on the way to someplace else! Little Miss Cupid ended up knocking on his door, and before I could run for the elevator, there he was. He looked at me with a warm, boyish smile that I have since come to know quite well, and he invited us into his room. He was very handsome, in a youthful, athletic way. He had a friendly, outgoing personality which drew me to him, even more. I sat, shyly, on the edge of his bed, as he and my friend talked for a while. The entire time they were talking, he kept sneaking glances at me. I was smitten. Later that night, we went to a party together, and spent hours just talking. We spent the next few weeks getting to know each other, and the more that I knew about him, the more that I felt like I had known him for my entire life, and then some. I am not sure whether, when I gazed into his eyes, I saw my past or my future. I only knew that I never wanted to be away from him, again. We spent the next four years growing up together, and when we graduated from college, we married, packed the remnants of our college life into a Dodge Cube Van that had over 100,000 miles on it, and drove from New Jersey to California. Because we had another car, we were not able to drive together, and so we caravaned across the country carrying everything we owned, ourselves, and our four cats and our dog. We must have looked like The Beverly Hillbillies, but without the new found windfall of wealth. Looking back, I must admit that it was either a very brave, or very stupid thing to do, because we had no family in California, we had no friends there, and we knew nothing about where we wanted to settle. We just picked up, like the old-time settlers and headed West. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, as Mr. Charles Dickens once wrote. Our married life together, started out as an amazing adventure.

So here I sit, twenty seven years later, thanking God that I had the good sense(or youthful lack of it!) to follow my heart into the arms of the man who, to this day, can make me think that everything will always turn out just as it should. He is my constant, my safe place to hide, my forever love. Sometimes, even at the early age of eighteen years old, we know the exact moment, when our future appears before our eyes. And sometimes, if we are courageous enough to follow-up on that moment, our lives end up following a winding, adventurous path, that leads us to exactly where we are meant to be, twenty seven years later. With immense gratitude, on this eve before Thanksgiving, I am filled with nostalgia for our great beginning, an overflowing heart for our today, and an open place inside of my spirit for all that we have to anticipate. I know, that as long as I can find refuge in the arms of my man, that life will always turn out the way that it is supposed to.

May you remember the importance of your past, find comfort and lots of love in your present, and trust that the future will be everything that it is meant to be.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Trails!

As we set off for our Thanksgiving adventure, I had to take a moment to thank everyone who has read, commented on, and supported my blogging efforts, so far. Sometimes, jumping in and doing something that might scare us at first, turns out to be one of the most fulfilling experiences of our lives. I was truly a bit nervous about starting this blog. I am not computer savvy, I am somewhat private with my feelings, and well, I just was not sure. I am learning to let go. I am learning that it is safe to allow others to share in my life. I am re-learning that the world is mostly good, and that people are mostly good. My heart is healing, even if my body isn't ready to yet. Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who reside in the United States of America.

May this Thanksgiving bring you happy hearts, grateful spirits, and full, satisfied tummies! May you receive warm, heartfelt hugs from those who you love, and who love you...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It's a Dog's Life and What the Heck Does that Mean, Anyway?

Okay, first off I want to make it perfectly clear that the individual who is standing behind the dog in the basket is NOT MY HUSBAND. I swear my hubby would never dress up a dashshund, put it into his bicycle basket, and ride around a crowded city with it. I swear. And I am a very honest person.

The doxie in the basket, with the little hat on his head, is Wally. He is twelve years old and he has been skateboarding, yes, I did say skateboarding, since he was a puppy. The man on the bicycle in the background told me these things after I chased him down with my camera. My girls spotted them when we were on a recent family trip to Seattle, and nearly passed out when I told them that I was going to ask him if I could snap a picture. Of course they followed me into the store that I followed Wally and his Dad into, giggling at their Mother's audacity! I absolutely adore animals and it never ceases to amaze me as to the lengths that people will go to in order to humanize them. Funny, nutty, touching.

Anyway, I guess that Wally is somewhat "famous" up in the area of Pike's Market, Seattle, because when I was listening to the radio, later that night, a reporter for the news mentioned him in a little blurb. You wouldn't think that I would have to travel all the way to Seattle to meet someone "famous", but who knew?

So, just to make you smile, I am introducing you to Wally the Skateboarding Doxie. Kinda makes you wonder, hmmm...?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

With Wings to Fly

Today began with a lot of physical aches and pains. Of course, I could not stay in bed and nurse my wounds, for very long, because angel daughter number two has been fighting the flu, and I had to check in on her. Then I had to rush out the door to make it to my monthly Pain Specialist appointment. This is something that I am used to doing, as without my pain medication, there are days when I surely would not be able to rouse myself out of bed. When the Physicians Assistant came into the room, I apologized for being late, and then explained to her that I was having a rough day. She barely took a breath before she went on to tell me that she, too, was having one of those days because her washing machine, which is on a second floor, had sprung a minor leak. I had to think about where the conversation started, and when I remembered, I corrected her by saying that I wasn't having that kind of a day. I was having the kind of day where my muscles feel like putty and I must add an extra hour on to anything that I cared to accomplish. She sheepishly remembered that she was talking to a chronic pain patient(I can usually put on a fairly good face.), and she stopped herself from continuing. I went on to joke with her about broken washing machines, and all of the little mishaps that take place throughout our lives. Broken washing machines, inconvenient, very annoying, but definitely not enough to ruin a day for me.

I came home and found daughter number two still prone on the couch, where I had left her. I went outside to get the mail, and noticed that there was an envelope with her name on it, and so I came in and handed it to her. It was a FAT envelope from a college(fat is a very good sign when evaluating college response envelopes). I listened to her tear into it from the next room, and then I heard the cheer! Angel daughter number two got her first college acceptance letter! We all high-fived, and I did some victory dances around the kitchen, to which my daughter actually laughed! My husband and I sighed a breath of relief. Another angel is about to fly from the nest, and although we will miss her, it means that we have done an okay job in preparing her for the flight.

So, as I was trying to say in a round-about sort of way. Aches and pains aside, today was definitely a good day. Congratulations, my angel daughter! You may still be grounded because of this past weekends indiscretions, but that does not mean that you will always have to live with clipped wings!

May your spirit always have the energy to take flight, even on days when you are feeling grounded...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Queen of Hearts

My littlest angel dressed up as The Queen of Hearts for Halloween. After she did her make-up and fussed with her hair for about an hour, she reminded me that we still had to carve our pumpkins. She and I stood in the kitchen laughing, and carving, while we chatted about life. When my littlest angel drew the face on her pumpkin and began cutting, she decided that it was not turning out exactly the way that she wanted it to. I told her that sometimes, even when we plan things, the results might just turn out differently than what we had anticipated. Sometimes, we have our hearts so set on the "planning", that we then forget how to enjoy the ultimate outcome. We talked about finding joy both in the process and the final product. We discussed "letting go" , while being creative, because sometimes things turn out even better than what we originally had in mind.

When I stepped outside, this morning, I noticed that our little pumpkin had rotted into itself. It reminded me that another Halloween had come and gone. It reminded me that no matter how hard we try to control the outcome of things, we just can't. And so, I pulled out this picture of The Queen of Hearts and her pumpkin. It made me smile because I still had the memories of that day, and although the pumpkin may not have turned out exactly the way she had planned it would, it was perfect. Exactly what this pumpkin looked like is not something that will forever stick within our minds, but the joyful, relaxed time that we had while creating it, now that is something that will always remain. Once again The Queen of Hearts, stole my heart.

May you always remember to take pleasure in the journey, and never forget that it is not always the outcome that matters, but the moments that you enjoyed, while on your way.

Monday, November 12, 2007

When Your Heart Lives Outside of Your Body

It isn't as often as I would like, that I get to see this these days. My four daughters, walking ahead of me as a little unit. Together, yet separated from myself, my husband, and the rest of the world, by an invisible bond that ties them, and only them, together.

Growing up was a bit lonely for me. Yes, I had lots of friends. I had a family that even included a brother, but he was four years younger than me, and got more of a kick out of making me angry, than anything else.(I should never have taught you how to walk, Rob:)) He would hide under my bed, and when I sat down to put my shoes on, he would grab my ankle and as I had a heart-attack, he would laugh a devious laugh. My parents met when they were fourteen and sixteen, and married when my mother was nineteen. That might work for some people, but for my parents, it was a huge error in judgement. They fought from the moment that I was born, until well, until now, even twenty seven years after their divorce.

But, that isn't what this is about, this was about watching my heart residing outside of my body. I have always wanted a sister. Don't ask me why, maybe it's because it is the one relationship that I have never, nor will I ever be able to have. Sitting here thinking about it, that could be why I have always wanted one so badly. I still have the luxury of thinking that my relationship with my sister would be perfect. I look at women who have sisters as being extra lucky, twice blessed. I am fascinated by their sisterly stories. I feel like something is missing in my life. I know that my sister and I would always watch out for each other. We might disagree at times, but if anybody ever had the nerve to try and hurt either one of us, look out for the wrath of the other one! My grandmother who passed away at ninety-one, had a sister who was six years younger than she was. They spoke every single week until the day my grandma died. They were even born on the same birthday. Interestingly enough, my grandmother passed away on my birthday, two years ago. She and I were very close, too. So, when I think about sisters now, I look at my girls. They are very close in age: from two and a half years apart, all the way down to twenty-two months apart. I joke with them that they are part of an exclusive club that nobody else in the world can ever be a part of. The club of people who once lived inside of my body! They laugh, and say, "Oh ma", but really I think they get it. I can see it in their eyes when they are alone, together. I can see it in their confidence as they walk down the street ahead of me. I can hear it in the giggles of their private jokes. They are sisters. They are a unit. They are four times blessed, and so am I.

God may not have given me the sister who I thought I needed, but he gave me four daughters. Four extraordinary individuals who share something that nobody else ever can. They each lived inside of my body, and on the way out, each one of them, with a tiny hand, grabbed a part of my heart and took it with them. So now, as I watch my heart living outside of my body, I realize that I am no longer lonely for a sister, because I, too, am part of a very exclusive club. I am part of the bond that holds my daughters together, and therefore, my heart is where it is meant to be. Not with a sister, but with my daughters.

We may not always get what we think we need, but in time, we are given what we truly need.

May your heart be safely residing where it is meant to be, and may those who own a piece of it, always, always know that they are twice-blessed.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Juxtaposition or How to Live on a Lifeboat

(This post includes the two other pictures that are also on this page, dated Nov. 9, 2007)
If someone were to look at these pictures, they might think that they were looking at some sweet photos of cute children who are mugging for the camera. They might think that the babies in the pictures are just fortunate, well-loved little people who are out for dinner with their family, after which they will go home, have a bath, and get lovingly tucked into their beds by their adoring Mommy and Daddy. Well, the photos do tell half of the story, maybe temporarily a little more than half the story, as it stands now, anyway. The truth is, that the older children in all three pictures are my three oldest daughters.(I will post a picture of my youngest soon.) They have gone home every night, since their births, and have been lovingly cared for, adored and protected. Their lives have been charmed in so many ways. They have been viewed as gifts, blessings and very special, special people. The juxtaposition which makes these photos so incredibly bittersweet is that the three babies in the photos, were brought into this world by a drug-addicted woman, who abused, neglected and ultimately lost custody of them to "the system". She is the reason that these children, these babies, were forced to scramble for a lifeboat even before the oldest one was three years old. These babies were drowning in the shear neglect and dangerous lifestyle of a woman who could barely take care of herself, let alone three innocent babies.

Something moved my oldest, and dearest friend, D, to opt for becoming a foster care parent, about a year ago. D and her husband have three wonderful children of their own, ages 17-22, and had seen an advertisement that talked about the need for foster parents in their state. Being the loving parents that they were, they decided that they had room in their homes and in their hearts to share with children in need, and so they signed up to become foster parents. They didn't plan on taking three children. They wanted a younger child who they felt they could have some positive influence on, but never three. We all know what is said about the best laid plans, and so, they opened up their home to Michael, Marie, and baby Mark(names have been changed). I know that they did not expect all of the issues that laid ahead of them, but they were willing, open and ready to take on the challenge. D has a huge heart, and she was willing to open it to three babies who were left to begin life without a Mommy or Daddy. I won't go into all of the problems that this family has had to encounter throughout the past six months, but I do feel that I should share a little bit about what these babies have been exposed to in their short lives.

Michael, the oldest one, is a loving, sweet-hearted little boy. He loves to play with toy trains and has an affinity for making friends with most anyone he meets. On the day that these pictures were taken, he had adopted my husband as his buddy, and made sure that he stayed by his side for the entire day. If my husband left his sight, he would call his name and look for him until he was able to grab onto his hand again. Michael suffers from fetal-alcohol syndrome. He has learning disabilities, attachment problems, and ADHD. He loves to eat, presumably because his birth mother was generally too high to provide him with regular feedings. His birth mother taught him that food was something that would not always be available, and so he ate as much as he could, when he could. He also sees food as comfort.

Marie is a 22 month old princess, who talks constantly. She loves baby dolls, and staying tidy. She is a very independent little toddler who took to my 15 year old daughter, and stayed constantly by her side for the entire day. My girls wanted to bring her home. When we went into the Disney Store(we were at Disneyland for the day), so that the kids could pick out a stuffed animal to take home, Marie took every princess doll into her arms, and gleefully chimed, "Baby". She, too, has many problems that she will be able to thank her birth mother for someday. The therapists think that she was left in a playpen all day, in a room that had trash and junk piled floor to ceiling. They think that she was abused, as well as neglected. She sometimes has uncontrollable fits of rage. The only way to calm her down is to let her work it out by herself for a while.

Mark, the baby, was taken from birth mother in the hospital. He was born addicted to meth, alcohol, and spent the first five days of his life in intensive care. His birth mother, or BM, as I respectfully like to call her, never had the opportunity to take him home, thank God. It was after his birth, that her home was raided by the police, and all of the children were removed and placed into foster care. Because he has had only the loving influence of my friend D, her husband K, and their kids, he is a very happy, smiley, well-adjusted little baby. He thinks they are his Mommy and Daddy. He thinks that D's three other children are his siblings, too. Mark gets passed around from one set of arms to the next. He thinks that D is his Momma, and K is his Dada. D is the first person he looks for when he gets tired or cranky, and she lovingly cradles him in her arms, while he tries to eat her hair. In a way, he is the lifeboat that saved the lives of both his sister and brother.

Herein lies the absolutely unforgivable part of this story. Instead of giving these children up for adoption, and having her tubes tied so that she can go on to ruin nobody else's life but her own, she is going through the motions of trying to regain custody. Instead of doing one good thing in her life, BM, who has relapsed since D has taken custody of these babies, continues to insist that she wants these children. What in the world????? She admits to eight, count 'em, eight pregnancies. She is 26 years old and a third generation drug addict, but she thinks that she should be able to parent these children? This woman tore up her parenting card on the day that she chose drugs over her children! Of course, there is always all of the welfare money to consider in her choice to continue trying to regain custody. You can always park your babies in a crib for the day, but money, now that isn't something that shows up on the doorstep everyday.

My friend D is spending her days up to her ears in diapers. She is constantly juggling therapists, social workers and court appointments for these three little souls. Once a week, she must hand these children over so that they can have supervised visits with BM, so that BM can fulfill her court appointed duties. When BM decides to show up for these visits, if she shows up, she lies on the floor and naps as the babies run around wildly. When D gets them back, they are disoriented, confused, and harder to manage. D's days are spent trying to keep these children happy and fed, as well as trying to reverse some of the major damage that BM has caused them. She admitted to me that some days, she feels like she is a prisoner. Her daughter is a huge help, and loves these children dearly, but she is 20 years old and has her own life to think about. D is not sure what she will do if all three of these children are put up for adoption. She is 45 years old, and on the verge of becoming a grandmother, herself. Her own daughter got married in June. I do know that D could not put these children back into the system, nor could she hand the littlest one, Mark, over to anyone's arms other than those of another loving parent. I can see in her eyes, that she has taken on a world more than what she had expected. I can also see that she has given a huge chunk of her heart to these children. That is something that she will never take back, regardless of what the end of this story turns out to be.

Juxtaposition is the only word that I can think of when I look at the happy faces of all of the children in these photos. It is the difference between knowing that life is a wonderful thing, that it is safe and joyful, full of promise; and learning that life is something that is unpredictable, unsafe, and extremely hurtful. Interesting how it is said that a picture is worth a thousand true those words are here.

The prayer that I keep tucked deeply inside of my heart is that Michael, Marie and Mark are able to move from the lifeboat of D and K's family onto ground that is steady and safe and everlasting. I pray that the rockiness of the life that they lived before being rescued by D and her family, is NEVER allowed to be made part of their lives again. I pray that adoption becomes part of their future. And I pray that all of the other children who are out there living in the same horrible conditions in which these children were, just eight short months ago, are able to find someone who will provide them with a lifeboat. Someone who will bring them all to safer ground. Someone who will open their home and their heart to the littlest ones who don't even know yet, how to swim.

May you always find dry land to rest upon. Even if you need to use a lifeboat in order to get there...
My fifteen year old angel daughter, and adorable foster baby, Marie.

My oldest angel and sweet foster baby, Mark.

Skipping Right Past Gratitude

As I walked through our local shopping mall, yesterday, I began to feel an undeniable compulsion to head for the exit. I had not been to the mall for a while, nor had I left my home for several days, and so I thought that a bit of "retail therapy" might be good for me. As I began meandering through the shops, I noticed that my body was becoming increasingly more and more tense. I was not relaxing into a "browsing" mood, nor was I enjoying my time away from home. I could not quite pinpoint where this feeling was resonating from. Then I heard it...a gangly young man with a child who was about six years old sitting upon his shoulders, was YELLING, not singing but outright YELLING the song Jingle Bells at the top of his lungs. The girl who was perched high upon his shoulders was taking the lead from her adult counterpart, and at the appropriate moments, she too would yell, "HEY!". Their voices echoed throughout the mall and as I looked around to see how other shoppers were responding, I could tell that people were outrightly trying to ignore their little performance. It was not cute or touching. It was downright obnoxious, and this young man did not care. He went right on singing, as if everyone there had been waiting for his arrival. It was then that I looked around, and noticed all of the Christmas decorations that had already been carefully hung. Like the voices of this young man and his little partner, the fake Christmas greenery and shiny red and green balls, screamed loudly and echoed throughout the mall. It was a rueful display of "too much, too soon". I quickly purchased the things that I had gone to the mall for, and then hightailed it to my car. The hum of people's voices rang inside of my head, asking, "Why are there Christmas decorations covering every inch of the mall, and it is only November 8?" I sat in the quiet solitude of my car for quite some time, trying to figure out what the heck was going on, when a moment of clarity struck me. Somehow, some way, we were skipping right past gratitude, allowing the retailers, who make very little money off of Thanksgiving, to dictate that it was now time to start singing Jingle Bells. My heart sank to a new low.

Gratitude is something that should be celebrated for more than one, short day in November. There are studies that show that grateful individuals are more likely to maintain friendships and family connections. Those same studies show that it is psychologically impossible to be both stressed and thankful at the same time. Think about how wonderful it feels to be grateful. Think about what it feels like when someone shows their gratitude for you. Why then, is a holiday that is so important to our psychological well-being being skimmed over? I truly believe that Thanksgiving should not be a holiday that happens to be crammed in between Halloween and Christmas. It should be honored and respected because gratitude is something that we all believe in. Regardless of religious beliefs, Thanksgiving is a holiday that is celebrated by individuals of all faiths, in our country, and therefore deserves more than a momentary glance. November should be a month that is dedicated to counting our blessings, and not a month that should be filled with thoughts of what gifts we are going to give or receive in December.

And so, yesterday, I made a little promise to myself. In the name of sanity and out of respect for all of the people whom I have enormous amounts of gratitude for, in my own life, I will be staying as clear of shopping malls, and people yelling "Jingle Bells", as I possibly can in the next couple of months. As a matter of fact, I will do much of my holiday shopping online this year. I will take more time to love on all of the people who are important in my life. I will make sure that Thanksgiving, at our home, is given top billing throughout the month of November, and I will remind my daughter's to be thankful.

May you have much to be grateful for, and many who are grateful for you.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Thursday, November 1, 2007

For Those Who Longed to Find a Best Friend and Found it in Themselves.

I just began reading a novel called, The Book of Bright Ideas, by Sandra Kring. I picked it up, along with about four other books, on a recent trip to Target. As I was deciding which book to read first, something about this one called out to me, and so, I started reading. Books, for me, represent journeys to places that I might never visit, but they also connect me with lives that are not my own. For the period of time that I get to spend with them, it is like getting to know someone whom I've just met...fascinating, fresh, and mysterious. Almost everything that I read, leaves me feeling accomplished, more knowledgeable, and hungry. Hungry for the next book to enter my life, hungry for meaning through words, and well, hungry because I probably read through lunch, but I'll save that problem for another time. So back to, The Book of Bright Ideas. The dedication grabbed me immediately. It tugged at my heartstrings. The statement was simple, but also quite profound. It read, "For those who longed to find a best friend and found it in themselves." Before I knew it, I had been staring at those words for several minutes, until it occurred to me that there were tears forming in my eyes. Sentimental, yes, but also powerful enough to reverberate inside of my heart until my mind was able to absorb the full meaning.

I had to consider this statement for a while before I began to understand why it had struck such a chord with me. It is not a new idea. We have heard time and time again that it is "important to become our own best friend", but after hearing something like that so many times, it starts to sound like mumbo-jumbo. So why now, why this book? Why this particular arrangement of words? I think that it has to do with "timing". There were times in my life that I had so many friends that I took for granted that I always would. There were also times when I felt so strong and healthy, that I did not realize that many of those friends, were there because of what I could provide for them. The relationships were not reciprocal, but I could not see that at the time because my own needs were minimal, or so I thought. We all reach different points in our lives when things change for us. There are mountains that we are able to climb without much assistance, because our lives are in such balance,and our ropes are so long, that we do not feel a need for someone else's help. But a few years ago, my rope broke, and I had to humble myself by letting my friends know that I needed them to help me. I needed a return on the investment that I had made in the friendships that I tried so hard to cultivate and nurture. Nothing drastic, nothing that would take very much out of someone else's day, just some kindness, and an occasional "push" or "pull" up the mountain. Slowly, very slowly, I realized that when I turned around to look for some encouragement, my "friends" were scurrying back down the mountain without me. It almost seemed, at first, like they were even clawing harder at my fraying rope in order to keep me in my place. One day, I turned around and realized that the only people who were still standing there behind me, were my husband and my daughters. They were with me all along. Those "friends", some of whom had been in my life for as long as eighteen years, went scattering back down the mountain when they realized that I could no longer be the strong one, that I no longer had much of a rope to share. I was alone, battered by illness, frightened by loneliness, and I was in disbelief.

"For all those who longed to find a best friend and found it in themselves." I am getting to that point. I am learning that I may have invested way too much time and energy in people who would never have been able to stand up to the challenges of friendship. I am not jaded because of my experiences with those people. I just know now, that I must honor my loyalty to myself, first. I know now, that when I cultivate new friendships, I must make sure that the individuals who I choose have enough extra line to share, whether times are good or times or bad. I am learning, that in order to find a "best friend", or any friend at all, for that matter, I must not only share my rope, but make sure that they are willing to share theirs, as well. I am also learning that a friend's rope does not have to be very long or very sturdy, for that matter. It only has to be long enough for two small hands, so that if need be, there will always be enough to share. I will always be ready and willing to take one of my hands off of my rope in order to lend someone else a "push"or a "pull", and I know that there are others who are willing to do the same. I have spent the past several years cultivating a friendship with someone very I have learned a very valuable lesson and the words came together in the dedication of someone else's story. May you find the "best friend" in yourself.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Other Side of the Door

Oh how I have always adored Halloween! From the time that I was young, and I got to dress up for the day, to having my little girls and going through the excitement and creativity of watching them decide what they were going to be, it has always been one of my favorite days of the year.

When my girls were small, we always went to visit the Pumpkin Patch, each Fall. They would run around, their cheeks rosy with joy, and then they would each select a pumpkin to bring home. Now that they are all "older" (13-20), we have a lot of fun decorating the house, and although they still enjoy dressing up, the only one who has not yet outgrown trick-or-treating is my 13 year old. My husband commented to me, just the other day, that this would be the first year that we wouldn't have to take any of our girls trick-or-treating. I guess that it will be our turn, once again, to view Halloween from "the other side of the door". I don't really mind. I have always enjoyed seeing the tiny ones in their adorable costumes. I love watching their little faces as they choose from a basket full of large candy bars. Just the way that the candy melts in their little hands, my heart tends to melt with each "Thank you" that I have the pleasure of receiving.

I will surely miss chasing behind my own little "goblins" as they run from house to house giggling their heads off. I will miss their sweet little faces decked out in too much make-up, chocolate smudged around their lips, with bellies that are full of too much sugar. Yes, it can now be a bit of a challenge not wanting to let the neighborhoods new generation of little goblins run from my front door too quickly. I want to tell their mommies and daddies to cherish their time schlepping up and down hills, as their children run ahead. I want to tell them to allow their little ones the enjoyment of staying out a little bit later to conquer that one more street! I want them to know that sometimes our kids run so far ahead of us, that we are soon the parents who are at home, viewing Halloween from the other side of the door.

And so, on the night before Halloween, I am filled with the joyful anticipation that I get every year thinking about a holiday that is all about fun. As I kiss my big girls good-bye, seeing them off to Halloween get-togethers, I will turn on our porch lights, light the candles in our carved pumpkins, and wait for trick-or-treaters to run up the hill to our house. With each "Thank you", I will remember how much fun it is to celebrate Halloween from "this side of the door", until someday, when my girls have some little "goblins" of their own who I can, once again, chase up the hills.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The many faces of pain...

It sometimes amazes me when I think about how many ways the human body is able to manifest pain. Like animals, our bodies are able to warn us when something is physcally wrong by sending pain messages to our brains. This makes absoulte sense to me because it is life preserving, and therefore necessary for survival. The pain that I am not quite as sure about, and the one that is definitely much harder to bear, is spiritual or emotional pain. Maybe because I spend so much of my life in that physical sense of pain, it makes me less tolerant of the other kind of pain. The throb and burning of my illness is much easier to handle than the metaphorical tearing of my spirit.

Sometimes, I think that it would be easier if I could just hide out as one of my housecats!

Be well!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

There comes a point in life when you must decide if you are going to go for it, or just give it up...a moment, a flash, a spark that can either be ignited or extinguished. Sometimes, you must choose between what you would like to get to and what you essentially, must get to, but that isn't really what I am talking about here. I am talking about those times when there aren't any other excuses you can use in order to override the moment. It's pretty simple, really, either you are going to get up off of your butt, even though it is very hard to do, or you are going to sit there, forever cemented in self-pity, and marinate in a stew of regret.

I live a mostly full life when viewed from the outside. I have a wonderful, doting husband, whom I have been married to for almost 23 years. I have four very special, very unique daughters ages 13, 15, 17, and just turned 20. Together, we have created an almost idealic life, residing in a setting that many would consider to be "paradise". Heck, it is paradise in so many ways. We have a dog, five cats, and three birds, all of whom we consider to be family members, but not in that somewhat neurotic way in which people plop a pet in a baby stroller and parade it around for attention. We love each other deeply, and completely even though there are days and times when we bear a much closer resemblance to the Osbournes, than the Brady Family.(and I say that in the kindest of ways) With five women and one lone man in the same house, how could life be anything but interesting, emotional, chaotic, and dramatic?

I have been a stay-at-home mom for the past 20 years, and so, as each stage of my children's lives comes and goes, I feel a sense of having conquered something major. That is, until the next daughter reaches that stage, and I am once again stumped by my lack of parenting ability. Believe me when I say that teenagers are the first ones who will call you out, and let you know what a crappy parent you are, and a few minutes later, snuggle up to you for a hug, when the insecurities of being not yet adult, but no longer child, come sneaking up on their psyches like the Boogy-man himself!

So here is the glitch in my otherwise charmed life(other than my crazy extended family, but who doesn't have one of those?)...I carry with me, a chronic, painful, energy zapping illness that likes to ying when I want to yang. It resides in my body like a houseguest who was going to visit for three days, and then decided that they wanted to stay FOREVER. I have always been the type of person who looks for the lessons in experiences. I remind myself, that every situation has a spiritual component to it, and that if I am ever going to get past some of the rough stuff, then I'd better try to "get it". Well, I am trying very, very hard to figure out my illness. Not only do I try to understand the scientific and physiological reasons behind it, but the emotional and spiritual ones as well. I do a lot of this in my mind, which can lead to some "crazy-making" moments, and so, this is where that "getting off of my butt" spark comes in. I have always loved writing and working things out in words, yet when my girls were smaller and physically needier(say, under age 10), I could never find the time to focus on writing. Those were the days when I was running from morning til night with four little ones in tow. Those were the days when I had to choose to give writing up, or at least set it on the back-burner indefinitely. Those were the times in my life when something had to give and that give, was usually me.

Now this would be a perfect moment for me to go into the things that I had to give up in order to be the best possible mother to my daughters, but that isn't the point. I have never and will never begrudge them anything that I ever did or gave for them. I do understand that I may have given so much of myself that I neglected my own health, but this illness could have come on as a result of anything. What I am trying to get to here is the actual need that I have to finally get off my butt and write something. I have reached a moment in my life when I need to make a choice...start writing or just forget that it was ever important to me, and give it up. I couldn't live with the later choice, so I must begin moving, even if it is mostly in my furiously typing fingers.

This is the beginning of getting up off of my butt. The spark has been ignitied, the choice has been made and here I am, fumbling along as I learn to blog. Moving slowly beyond the world of full-time mommy, into a world of words and meaning. After all, isn't much of the job of parenting based on hearing ourselves talk...finding the right words, and putting them into the correct contexts so that the meanings are clear?

Thanks for listening!

Oh Happy Day

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