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Yes, I am a Mother

I was asked one question several times while I was traveling over the Mother’s Day weekend to see my best friend’s wedding – Are you a mother? I instinctively said no I don’t. I don’t have any children so this seemed like the most honest answer. Most smiled and wished me a happy Mother’s Day anyway.   Then one person asked me if I was a mother, and I said no, but I do have a sister and nephew who are living with me. She smiled and said, “Then make no mistake, you ARE a mother.”

And upon further consideration, I suppose I am. After all, sometimes being a mother has nothing to do with biology.  I am typing this after every one has gone to bed, after dinner has been cooked and cleaned, everyone has settled in for the night. Kitchen is cleaned, lunches are ready for the morning.

I make sure this house is a home, full of love and comfort, Make sure those I love have what they need, and most of what they want. I work hard, every day, to make sure they know they are loved and wanted.  I support them, all of them, in my home and their own households when they are not here. I plan the grocery list, check the locks at night, turn on the alarm, make sure the household is running smooth.

There are chores that are planned, who vacuums, cooks cleans and such. The snack plates and glasses are gathered from their rooms. There isn’t a time during the day that I do not think about them. They come before what I need most of the time. There are conversations about how their day went; hopes, dreams, thoughts and more. I brought up hot tea and cold beverages before setting in myself to write. This is a spring board, for them, I know.

Dating? Personal life? My family is my personal life. Between all the work that I am doing, all the writing, both contract and freelance, making sure my family is comfortable and has everything they need, I don’t have time to worry about men. And men like to come first. My family comes first, so that does not bode well for relationships. If a man wants to be with me, he will have to come after my family. And he will have to understand that my time is limited, valuable and make the most of it. He will have to keep up with me and the busy schedule that is my life at this time.

I give everything I can, all that I am, to my family, my writing and my home. I love hard, work hard and play hard.  There is fatigue when my head hits the pillow. There is pressure every day to do more, be better, than the day before, for them.

Sound like a mother? Yes, indeed I am. And I love it and am so blessed beyond words to have my home be their home too.

In Between

If you obey all of the rules, you miss all of the fun.– Katharine Hepburn

In between the blogs, the words typed and thoughts discovered, have been many events, smiles, laughter, fingernail painting, hopes, dreams, wishes and secrets. Indeed, life has been full, overflowing even. Jobs and contracts, handwritten notes and typed reports. I have flown, walked, driven, screamed, caught flowers, played jokes, broken rules, taken risks and won poker games. I have even felt a young man’s teeth on my thigh, as he slid a garter on my leg, then took the garter off, then put the garter back on, all with his teeth, at  my best friends wedding, all caught on tape.

There has been moving out, moving in and moving on. Many dinners, countless dirty dishes, some desserts and more glasses of wine. Family, friends, new chances, things gained, moments lost, seconds taken and actions pondered. I have cried in joy, frustration, fear and from missing someone. From missing you and your voice, and your touch.

The garage is full, closet packed, trunk empty, attic organized, grill bought, freezer stacked and shelves lovingly cleared. I have seen my best and longest friends married, seen one loose a friend, one get divorced. A close friend get a promotion, one loose a job, one pack to move and start over and one going back home.

Oh yes, in between the writing, there has been so much, of everything, to tide me over. And so many times, I feel as if I am about to pop if I don’t run and write it all down, saving, recording each moment, expressing each detail. But  that would require my absence in the moment, and I am too busy living, soaking it all in. All the while, my heart is full, Peace is at  my door and happiness through the clouds calls my name. And I answer.

So more to come, so much more, in between living life.

All in the Family

My house has been taken over by my family. And cats.  It’s like a whirlwind/tornado when my family comes to visit. It’s not like in the movies, where you open the doors and there are calm, sweet hugs and kisses. There are hugs and kisses yes, but then there is the unloading. The unloading of the van is like a race, it must be fun fast and furious, before anyone sits down or catches up. While this may not seem like anything substantial, it is quite the event because my parents pack for just in case – of a nuclear war, of a famine, of a mass communication outage or power failure.

There will be many coolers worth of food (they feel bad for making me cook and provide sustenance, so they bring a lot of their own). Meats, breads, cheeses, wine, filtered water, fruits, vegetables and a whole smorgasbord of home made, home cooked yummy goodness. Even fresh canned treasures from their own garden. There is more food than can possibly be imagined, and my mother immediately starts organize the treasure on the cupboard, refrigerator and freezer with such precision, talent and concentration, one can only stand back in awe and watch the master at work.

Next will be all of Dad’s electronics. My father is a professional engineer, and truly believes that having every gadget known to man-kind is a must. And so he travels with the Garmin, his laptop and several things I have no clue as to their purpose, but they have a lot of chords. And parts. And little lights. And sometimes they make noise. I try not to go near where ever his treasure of electronics are, as I am a clumsy disaster waiting to happen, especially after a few glasses of wine.

All the bedding is next. Blankets, sheets and more pillows than anyone should be legally allowed to own. There is no shortage of pillows at my house, however, they like their own and want to make sure they are comfortable sleeping. Don’t you hate it when you sleep at someone else’s house, and it’s not YOUR pillow? And you can’t get comfortable. And it smells different. And then you wake up the next day with a sore neck? Smart people travel with their own pillows.

My wonderful parents also always bring lots of things for me . And the house, or garden, the laundry, the garage, or just because you might find a way to use it, stuff. It’s like Christmas, but better because you didn’t have to spend any money on gifts. Or wondering what to get people who already have everything. (Monogrammed golf shirt? Dad doesn’t play golf. That new fangled, gotta have it, only available for a limited time, can’t find in stores, so call now and get free steak knives too, kitchen gadget? Mom already has it.  A nose hair trimmer? Now, that’s just tacky).

After all of this, two very small, almost dainty, overnight bags are unloaded, containing toiletries on clothes. NO matter how long they are gone, a weekend or a month, somehow everything they will use, wear or need fits in those little bags. I swear they have no bottom, like going to see David Copperfield and he pulls a 10 foot pole out of a two-inch hat? Yes, just like that. It really is amazing to see everything they fit into those bags.

After everything is unloaded, organized and put in the proper place, everyone sits down and starts to catch up. Coffee is poured (unless it’s after 5, then it’s wine). There is laughter and smiles, teasing and oh so much love. we talk, tell of our latest adventures, whether in the garden or across the world and have good family time. Yes, it’s good to have family come visit.

If You’re Comfortable, You May Be Doing Something Wrong

Let’s face it, life is hard. Being an adult? Sometimes not all it’s crack ed up to be. Aside from the fact that we get to eat dessert first, there are a lot of responsibilities of being an adult. There’s a lot of pressure. Just when when we survive adolescence, with all the awkwardness, body parts, hormones, zits, voice changes and growing spurts, we get a dose of reality called adulthood. Really, who was the genius who thought that up?

But we made it through being a teenager, and we can make it through being an adult too. What’s the secret? I don’t know, but I think that if you’re comfortable, you are probably doing something wrong.

That may sound counter-intuitive. Go ahead and read it again, I’ll wait…

What that means, at least to me, is that when you stay in your comfort zone, you are not learning, not growing. If you want to be successful, if you want to follow your dreams, get used to being uncomfortable. Because stepping out of your comfort zone, is by it’s very nature, uncomfortable. And it also means taking risks.

There is a saying that well behaved women never make history. Its very true, for men and women. You have to be a little bit of a rebel to be successful, you have to not be afraid of discomfort. It’s kind of like exercising: If you feel the burn, you know it’s working. You also can’t be afraid of anyone else opinion of you. People may call you crazy, silly, stupid, whatever. But as long as you have the vision, then you’re OK. Don;t worry about what “they” think. “They” don’t know anything.

Take a look at the most successful people in the world – Steve jobs, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, JK Roland, Richard Branson, even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson…they were all willing to stretch themselves, take risks, gamble a little and get out of there comfort zone. Now where they concerned about what other people thought.

Success isn’t just monetary, it could being a singer in a band, starting your own business, going back to school, making a career change, leaving your spouse, or whatever it is that would make you happy. Get uncomfortable. Nothing great ever happened to people who just sat watching TV wondering “what if.”

Those risks may require making sacrifices, and that may make you feel even more uncomfortable, but it’s worth it. It may mean taking that job that you really don’t want so you can save up enough money to take that trip, or start your own business. It may mean leaving everything you know, it may mean losing a bit of money and it will definably mean making a lot of mistakes. But so what? As long as you learn something, that’s what’s important.

And really what do you have to loose? You already haven’t accomplished whatever it is…so if you fail, so what? At least you tried. And you’ll learn something, meet new people, have some new experiences and maybe even a few new stories to tell along the way.

I have been blessed to be a successful writer. That meant being poor for quite a while. That meant leaving my comfy job to strike out on my own and do freelance work. That also meant taking many jobs I didn’t like in order to pay the bills. And it took a hellava lot of hard work. But here I am. And how do I know which writing projects to take on next? Which ever ones will make me the most uncomfortable, which ever ones make me a little scared and make me wonder if I can really do it.

Never stop growing, never stop learning, and always be willing to be uncomfortable. You’ll be amazed at how great it can be.

A Wedding

She and I met when we were in junior high school and fast became best friends. Shortly after 8th grade, her family was stationed in Germany, but we wrote faithfully to each other during those 3.5 years. We sent pictures, cards and shared almost every aspect of our lives. She event spent a few summers with my family and dated one of my other best friends I grew up with.

Senior year she was stationed back on our little town and we were beyond happy. best friends reunited for senior year of high school. And we got into so much trouble. There wasn’t a single adventure or mishap I had we lived in the same town that she was not a part of. From getting kicked out of the city library, to getting booked by the mobile bookmobile, to helping my high school sweat heart knock on my window one night, to rolling each others house, we were tied at the hip. Then there was the bet at prom night, and asking our dates to the prom. And then Spook Bridge, and breaking into her ex’s apartment to gain all of her CD’s back.

She has shared more embarrassing moments with me than I even care to admit. There have been fights along the way, tears, secrets,  hopes shared, dreams planned, a night were we almost drowned in a torrential rainstorm, a lost shoe and a suspicious tree, a dead strange smelling plant, workout tapes, miles run, laughter till our sides hurt, a tom of M&M eaten, shopping adventures, heartbreaks, celebrations, graduations, motivations and always love.

And then we both lived in the northeast; I in New York, she a few hours away in New Jersey. And we were constantly making trips to each others house. And venturing into the city. Seeing her parents (who were practically my parents too)or my then boyfriend, having adventures all over again. Long walks and talks with wine, misadventures, trips and smiles to last a lifetime. Jobs, boyfriends, careers, apartments, all come and gone. But our friendship has stayed for 28 years, and counting.

And here we are, so many years later. Still the same girls at heart, still keeping in touch, still hoping and routing for each other. And there is a wedding. She has fallen in love with a wonderful man (and if he ever hurts her I will break his legs). I just bought the plane tickets tonight. Another friend of 28 years and I are flying up. And I think about how lucky we are, how some friendships last forever, and how we girls would still do anything for each other.

And I celebrate her happiness, am excited for her new life with him and look forward to hearing all about it for years to come.

Thine Actions and Words to be True

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

This famous quote when Polonius speaks to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet is one of my all time favorites.  I have long grown up with the belief that actions speak louder than words. That a man is only as good as his word, so if his word is no good, than by default, neither is he. But this quote takes it many steps further and to me at least, is one of my personal creeds by which to live.

Some people think this quote means to be selfish and do as you wish as long as you get yours. I see it very differently. To first glean the true meaning of the phrase, you must first look at it’s origin. Hamlet’s Polonius also gave us the famous quote about “Never a borrower or lender be” and that indeed was part of the original meaning of being true to yourself as well. Polonius is instructing his son to take care of himself by being careful with his actions and words. To be an honest man true to his word but also be aware of what actions are in his best interest. Do not engage in activities which are disadvantageous or disingenuous.

This quote seems to mean that you must look after and take care of yourself if you want to be able to take care of anyone else.

Yes, Shakespeare was quite wise when picking out themes, as taking care of ones self and being honest are still two very relevant topics in this day and age.

When you are honest with yourself and follow what you know to be right, then you will lead an honest and authentic life. People who lie and cheat to get what they want from others are a dime a dozen. There is nothing special about them at all. But someone who follows a sense of integrity, even when it’s not popular? Even when it’s hard? That is someone special, that is someone who you want to have in your life.

Those people who lie and cheat, they know what they do is wrong. Why do they do it? Because they are not strong enough to do the right thing, to be true to themselves, and thus be not be false to others. Because if they haven’t the strength to look themselves in the mirror and be honest, how could they be honest with anyone else? They say charity begins at home, well so does honesty. And trust me, if they can’t even be true to themselves, you don’t want them. Run, run like the wind.

I am no saint. Let’s face it, we had to be judged by what we did in our 20’s, most of us wouldn’t leave the house. We have all done stupid things, made errors in judgment. I have done things for which I am ashamed. But in everything I have done, both good and bad, I have always been honest with myself. And I have never done anything just to be malicious. I have always been able to my head high, even when it was not easy, even when others were hurt and angry.

But if you live your life authentically, if you are true to yourself, then you will always be able to hold your head high. And you will always have respect. If you are selfish and you lie and hurt people? You will lose respect because word will get around. Just ask my last ex boyfriend, who, after he lied and cheated on this girl, found out just how much respect he would loose when his friends and family found out what he had done.

Take care with your actions and your words. Live a life of which you can be proud. And to thine own self be true. And besides, you never know just who might be driving the Karma bus…

What Real Means

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?””Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.”Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”  “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” – The Velveteen Rabbit

“What is real?” asked the Rabbit.  One of my favorite questions of one of my favorite stories.  And a very good question.  In this day and age of bigger is better, plastic rules and superficial is best…does Real exist?  Yes, At least I think so. To me to be real means our experiences have made us deep enough people to understand what is truly important in life.

The problem, I think, is that by the time we are real, we have lived, been loved, unloved, hurt and roughed up to the point where we are a bit shabby.  We’re not new and shiny any more.  Sometimes we feel that we have lost our worth – after all, how could anyone love a worn out little rabbit? And someone may have to look past all the roughness to see what Real really means.

I think it means that you have a real heart, you have been through enough to know, through experience, what is right, wrong and in between.  Living through those experiences teaches us compassion, empathy, how to love and so much more.  It makes us a better, deeper person.

What about the shabby parts?  Well, I guess that depends on your definition of shabby.  To me it’s nothing on the outside.  It’s a heart that is so closed it can no longer let love and light in.  Maybe we all get a little shabby…but just like the Skin Horse said, you can only be ugly to those who do not understand.

So, the key is to find someone who can see through our shabbyness, our weary-ness to see the beauty of our Realness.  Someone that can loves us anyway.  But being shabby and a little worn is ok. I have often said that it is our scars and flaws that make us our most human, most beautiful…and most Real.

Belly Dance Beauty

“Stop talking, start dancing. Soon you will know what you need to know.” -Anon

My sister and I went to belly dance class tonight and it was much fun. We are starting to really get comfortable with the moves, the shakes and the shimmies. It is a lot of fun.

The first class that I took they told me how the history of belly dance is that it was never meant to be seen by men, That the women are separated from the men and the dance started as a way for women to celebrate their bodies and what it means to be a woman, what it means to be feminine. And the dances are passed down from mothers to daughters.

There are no men allowed in the class and there are no observers allowed. So when you go in, it truly is a celebration of your body, learning extreme muscle control, learning to move in ways that you never thought your body could move. It is a great way to celebrate your body. To learn how to roll your stomach muscles, learned how to move your hips separate from your knees and stomach. It is fascinating and beautiful to learn and watch my hips move in these ways taught in the class, to watch my stomach, chest and arms, my legs and watch the movements of my whole body come together. Indeed, it makes me feel sexy and feminine.

And as I push my body past what I think it can do, as the sweat builds on my chest and face, first little beads, then slowly dripping down into dark places, as my breath catches because I am concentrating, I feel wonderful. Empowered. As I push past the pain and the fatigued muscles, I feel sensual and confident.

And when I walk into a room, I know a little secret…that I can move my hips in a way that others can’t. That I can move in a way that celebrates my body and femininity. Yes, it is wonderful to be a woman.

“Locked in this dance is a secret language that tells the story of women’s lives… their passions and their spirituality, their sacrifices, their joys, their intuitions, their emotional life drama.” —Delilah

The Friendhsip Contract

I Will hate the same people you hate, and re-like them as you do.

Unless it is some jerky boyfriend. Then I reserve the right to not like him, but pretend to like him for your sake. And I will secretly hope a piano falls on his head. I also reserve the right to make faces behind him when you are talking to him, or “accidently” kick him under the table.

I will always be honest about how you look.

I will never let you leave the house for work/date/social event if you do not look great. I will not ever be mean about it, but I will make sure you never leave the house in anything that makes you look fat. I will also always tell you if you have something stuck in your teeth or have something hanging out of your nose. I will also tell you if you have “that leak” around your time of the month.

I will always know your cycle

and have appropriate feminine products at my house and in my purse so you are never stranded without. I do reserve the right to make fun of you for still using maxi pads.

I will keep your secrets

and only joke about them when no one is around…or when no one will get the reference.

I will have your favorite snacks at my house

If there is a break up involved I will haul ass to the store to make sure I have your favorite ice cream, chocolate snacks and alcoholic beverage beverages.

Help clean your house when it is dirty.

When you are going through a rough time, are super busy. I will come and help clean your house. I will also help set up then clean up after parties.  I will also co-chair all of your parties/events with you. And if your house is not available for your events, my house will be open.

But I can always ditch you

if there is a chance for incredible, hot, amazing sex. Especially if it is with that hot guy that I have had a crush on forever. But I must make it up to you by telling him you are my best friend, that I love you dearly and I must give you appropriate details the next day.

I will help you pack and Move.

This is a big part of the friendship contract. Anytime you move, no matter how many times, I will be there to help pack and move it. I will help you move out of the boyfriends, out of the bad apartment with bugs, out of the bad roommate situation. I will hate it, especially if you have not packed much before I get there, but I will be there.

Buy candy that your kids sell for school.

And wrapping paper, and jewelry, and popcorn and…whatever. All of it, until I have a closet of useless stuff that your kids of sold. I will also take care of your kids if you die.

Drink with you.

I promise to be there with wine, beer or whatever adult beverage of your choice for whatever occasion is needed. I will also pay for your drinks and or dinner if you are broke.

I will watch your pets while you are on vacation,

No matter how strange, big, weird or unfriendly they are. I will come over and feed your dog, change your cats litter box, talk to your snake, make sure your hamster, goldfish, iguana, bird are all OK. But I can make fun of you for having such weird pets.

We borrow each others clothes.

All the time. And if I really like a sweater of yours, I can always keep it in my closet and you can come and visit it on occasion. And even though we still call it your sweater, you will understand that is really is mine now.

Hold you hair back when you get sick,

And put a cold rag on your forehead and help.you in and out of bed. Whether it’s the flu or a bad hang over, I will be there.

Listen to your problems, over and over and over.

And over. But I will give you a kick in the pants when you need it. You have the right to be shitty for a certain period of time. But beyond that, I will tell you when you need to get it together.

I will defend you to anyone who does not like you.

And I will refuse to like them. Ever.

Tell you to keep your Susie-Stalker crazy self in a box.

It’s Ok to be Susie-Stalker with your best friends, but not to that hot guy. Keep it in a box and stay in your lane.

Facebook stalk the guys you like with you.

And I will agree that they look hot and the things they “Like” are compatible with yours.

Check on your boyfriend after a fight for you.

When you have a bad fight and you want to check and make sure he is either at his house, his guy hang out bar, or the office, I will drive by his stomping ground and report back to you.

Pick you up at any time of the day or night

When you are too drunk to make it home, when you are sick, when your car dies in the middle of nowhere.

Not get mad at you for taking me for granted.

If you don’t say thank you, don’t call me back or disappear because you fell in love, I promise to pick things up right where they left off when you resurface. It would be nice if you did send a text or email every now and then just to touch base.

I will listen to you lament about your latest crush and/or broken heart.

I will help you plan drunk revenge schemes and promise to hide the bodies in the trunk until we bury them. In the words of the Dixie Chicks, Earl Had to Die.

To never let you leave with that hot guy, no matter how hot he is, in a bar.

I will hunt you down and take you from his car if I have to to make sure you do not end up a headline on the news. We girls have to watch out for each other.

Easter and Chainsaws

Easter with the family is always wonderful and this year was no different. We drove to the family compound this year. The weather was wonderful and it was a great break from the rainy cold we had been having prior tot he holiday in Atlanta.   It was the perfect weather for yard work, and our parents took full advantage that their young healthy children would be there for the weekend.

Spring in southern Georgia is a very special thing, so having to be outside was not a problem at all. I helped Dad with the yard work. We started off by trimming Mom’s many fruit trees. Dad got the little, what I call mini-chain saw. We worked well together, he chainsawing the limbs as i would hold and catch them as they fell (they were small trees). I would put the limbs in the back of the truck to haul off to the burn pile later. Those who have grown up in the south or in the country are very familiar with this practice.

Soon the limbs from all the trees were taller than the cab of the little work truck. This meant it was time for this 40 year old girl to revert back to childhood. This meant fun! I climbed into the back of the truck and started walking, even jumping on the large pile of limbs. I felt like I could shout “I’m the king of the castle and you’re the dirty rascal!”  You can take the girl out of the country…

Next it was time to cut down a few small dead fruit trees (something that doesn’t happen very often around my mother because she has more than a green thumb). I begged, begged, begged to finally be allowed to use the chain saw. After all, I am forty. My father agreed and we had a great father daughter moment as he showed me how to use it. He was proud of his little girl. A chain saw wielding red-headed klutz. Oh yes. Be afraid, be very afraid. Especially any ex boyfriends or anyone who eve cut me off in traffic (insert evil laugh here).

But before I could cut the trunks of the trees, all the grass and such needed to be cleared put. Dad offered me some gloves, but they would have just gotten in the way. Having my hands in the dirt makes me feel closer to God, as I feel the dirt on my hands and smell the earth. It’s a lot harder than it looks! But I felt triumphant the stump I was chainsawing became nothing more than a small piece of wood that could be pulled up later.

After the hard work with the chainsaw was done, it was time to sit and relax. By this time the weather had changed, and the clouds were rolling in. There was just enough time to pour a glass of wine and sit out on the back porch. Soon you could hear it; the sound of the rain hitting the lake.  The scent of the rain was heavy on the breeze, and finally when the sight of the rain caught up with the scent and sound, it was quite a site. Lighting lit up the sky, and the rain came down in heavy sheets that flooded the yard and made waves on the water. It was beautiful.

And that is the way it is in life – Sometimes a little rain must fall, even after a lot of hard work. But when the storm is over, everything is clean and clear, ripe and green. And if we look, we can see God’s hand in the changes that the storm creates. For change is often not easy, and the waves are far reaching. But every storm runs out of rain. So until then grab a seat and a glass of wine. And know, in your heart of hearts, that it will be ok.

This year Easter was a wonderful blessing. There was a lot of hard work, lot’s of love, laughter and family. Yes, life could not get much better (well, I could win the lottery, or George Clooney could fall madly in love with me…but I digress). Life is good and I am happy.

Easter Gifts

As so it is, this Easter, that life has a different landscape than before. As we rush around, getting this ready and that ready, as we make sure all is prepared, as the sun is shining and warmth is felt from the inside out. As smiles bubble into giggles and giggles erupt into laughter. As the gifts of Easter show themselves in the mystery of Faith…I am thankful.

Yes, there are many gifts to be celebrated in my life. It has been a long Lenten season with many lessons learned. But as those lessons come to an end, the gifts are there, as promised.  And as I look around my happy home, with family, friends, laughter, smiles, love, good food, good wine and happy hearts, I am very thankful.

May everyone have a wonderful happy Easter filled with Faith, Love, Hope and Smiles.

 

Photo Therapy

Lots of things wonderful things going on in my world. In the meantime, enjoy some recently taken photo!

Life Springs Eternal

Spring comes and life begins anew. We see it on the trees and the leaves, we hear it with the birds. We see the squirrels playing around. The weather is getting warmer, we leave the windows up in the house, roll them down in the car. There is a certain electricity in the air when it comes to this time of year.  Maybe because we have been couped up for the long cold winter. Maybe it’s just human nature to want to be outside when the weather is nice. But one thing is for sure, Spring seems to breath new life into people.

I am one of those people.  I started spring cleaning and cleaned out everything. Closets, drawers (even the junk drawer), shelves, everything. And it was incredibly cathartic. All of the sudden I felt light and better. Then I rearranged my bedroom and go tall the old ghosts out.  The result? I love my room now. It’s my favorite spot in the house. And I even have room for my own home office, which is great considering all the writing I am doing.

And what I have noticed is that along with Spring, my life is new. All of the bad is behind me. The bad drama of the last 18 months, the crazy ex boyfriend, the asshole boyfriend is now gone for good, a new job making great money (more money than I have ever made), I have a great healthy family and a wonderful relationship blooming as well. Finally, everything that I have been through, all the hard work that I have done, all the tears I have cried, all the pieces of my heart that have been broken, bruised or cracked, finally, all of it, is now behind me.

We all go through long cold winters in our life, seasonal and other wise. And we just have to remember that those winters are just temporary.  Soon spring will come, the ice of the hard times will thaw, and everything we want, everything that we have worked for, will be right there hanging k low from the vine of life.

And as I look at my nice clean house, with drawers, closets and shelves, I know that I have dome the same with my life. I have de-cluttered it from all the bad people, situations and things that did not serve me. I got rid of everything that brought negativity in my life. And what is amazing is how much lighter and freer I am now that all of the negativity is out. And it is amazing what getting rid of that asshole boyfriend has done not only for my mood, but my life and outlook in general. Don’t hang on to people if they don’t treat you right. Cut them off, get them out and move on.

Because when you de-clutter your life, you truly make room for everything that is good to come in. You unblock the open door. And just like hope, just like the seasons, life springs eternal.

Here is a confession: Things have not been easy of the last little while. While I have been extremely blessed, there have been many personal struggles. This blog is many tings – a journal, a place for writing, confessions, hopes, dreams, rants, thoughts and articles. Many have asked how I put such personal things in a blog. but the truth is that only a fraction of my life goes into these words and on this page.  You will never know everything, only what I write, only what you see. There are layers upon layers of me that are not for the public. That are only for close friends, time with family, or men that I love and with whom I share time.

And so partly because, mainly because, all because, of all that is not and about which will never be written, this is such a great time. A time of new, and hope and relief. And things have turned out so well from where they were that sometimes I just want to sit and cry. I am so thankful for who and what I have in my life. I am thankful that all the horrible people I have come across have now been expelled from my world. I am thankful.

And I look forward to walking through the grass barefooted, turning the radio up while driving with the windows down, I look forward to conversations and glasses of wine with my true friends, tea with my sister and roommate, visit with my parents and long, slow kisses at sunset. I look forward to this Spring.

And I look forward to Peace. Because what brings you Peace will bring you happiness.

 

 

The Belly Dance of Life

Tonight my sister and I went to belly dance classes. It’s a great, fun and sexy way to exercise and it is a very hard workout. Sweat pours off of you while you are barely moving because it is such extreme muscle isolation. You must drink a lot of water before, during and after the lesson. Now, put two women over the age of 40, who are not very coordinated to begin with…and you have quite an adventure. And as we bent down in our belly dance stance position, looking straight ahead in the mirrors to see what our bodies were doing, I noticed a trend. A trend not only with my body, but with others in the class as well.

I noticed the subtleties of what the instructor was doing with her hips, her arms, her legs, her chest as we danced. And I  noticed what we were all doing. And the two did not look the same at all. While the instructor’s movements were very contained, controlled and subtle, most students, including myself, had jerky overdone movements. Our movements were so very exaggerated from what they should have been, what the instructor’s were. But we are all learning in this class, getting the hang of the positions and movements. We have tired arms and burning legs. We need to rest sometimes, catch our breathe before the next movement.

And isn’t it the same in life? Sometimes, when we are first learning a new skill, our movements are unsure and uncoordinated, jerky. And while learning, we sometimes over do things to make sure we actually have the movement down. And then, in time and practice, we slowly become more sure of ourselves, our movements more fluid and our thoughts take over other areas, as it becomes natural. But in the meantime, we may overcompensate and miss the subtleties of certain situation which we are trying to master.

Indeed that is the case in my life. I try to handle things with Grace, and while my movements have become a bit more fluid, I still do have a bit more coordination to work on. It is easy to have grace when all is going well in life. It is harder when things do not go as planned, or when you are exceptionally angry at someone. And then I overcompensate, and go to the other direction of not having a spine in an attempt to have Grace. Having Grace still means having a spine. And somewhere, there is that balance.

When we over compensate and miss the subtleties in dance class, we miss the small beautiful movements that truly make it an art. We get off balance, our arms and legs flail around (or maybe that’s just me?), we loose our rhythm, we loose count, and we have to stop, take a breath and start back at square one. The we try again, and again, and again.

The same is true in life.

Sometimes, I over do things. Sometimes, out of insecurity, I go overboard. I am afraid that I will not be understood, so I say the same things over and over, to stress what is important. The result is driving people away, instead of drawing them closer. Or because I am so very hurt by someone, I lash out at them, hurting them worse, when all I wanted was for them to just understand.

And somewhere, there is my balance where I don’t fall when trying to do a hip shimmie.

Why do we over compensate in life? Why do we go overboard in our reactions or intentions sometimes? Why is that balance so hard to find, between where we are and were we want to be? Sometimes it seems as if we are wars apart from our goals. Maybe the secret is to just relax and stop trying so hard. Keep at it, as practice makes perfect, and know that with enough repetition and perseverance, we will indeed find our rhythm and Grace.

I guess I should pray for physical grace as well. And maybe, one day, with enough practice, I’ll get them both right.

Last Winter’s Night

It is that time of year where it is on the cusp of the seasons – winter to Spring. And indeed Spring is in the air, along with the ever so slight start of pollen. The days are getting longer and warmer, the nights cool but not cold. Look close and you will see the beginning of new life on the trees and in the bushes. Listen and you will hear the sound of a few birds, see the squirrels playing. In the last few weeks, winter has loosed up his grip so that Spring may enter the room.

The last few weeks have also been a whirlwind of activity, both personal and professional. I have been immersed in family as my parents visit for Dad’s chemo treatment and my sister moves in to start her new life. The last few weeks has seen the definate end of an old relationship, and the very new start of another. Work is sprouting in different directions, and friends have been everywhere too. Yes, I have felt like a vine growing in all different directions, stretching thin looking for the warmth of the sun. 

But tonight, it seems, is the last winter’s night. The weekend will be warm and full of spring air, pregnant with the promise of possibilities. The season of heavy coats will be past of this weekend. And so I put on my favorite coat and walking shoes, and walk around the neighborhood. And asa I walked around, looking at the stars, breathing the cool night air, seeing the few neighbors who came outside to retrieve things from their yard or car, I pondered the last few weeks.

Now with my sister here, I am learning how nice it is to not be alone, to have someone I know and trust around, to have interdependance, to be OK to cry in front of someone, to hear someone else around the house, and not need to grab a gun because someone broke in. It’s nice to come home and have someone happily cooking food, have the hosue smell great, and not have me doing all the cooking. It’s nice to have help folding the laudry and that I do not have to face Dad’s health by myself. It’s just so nice.

And there was a sense of peace that came over me, because now that have this, now that I know what it is and what it feels like, I know that I want to have this in my life – with my friends, continued with my family, and with my lovers. And this heart of mine warms up, from the inside out, and I know that this is the start of a new phase of my life. And it is indeed that last winter’s night.

Life is good and I am happy.

How to Learn to Let your Light Shine

“Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.” — Alain D. Button

 Swiss-born/British writer, philosopher, television presenter and entrepreneur, Alain D. Button was truly onto something we he said the above quote. If we are constantly developing and learning as human beings, when we look back at all we did not know in the past year, we will be struck by how ignorant we were. Conversely we should be proud of all we have learned in the past year, how we have developed and grown. As long are we are learning, we are growing. When we stop learning, or being open to learning new things about ourselves, others, the world world around us, then we become stagnant.

One of the thing I am most embarrassed about , is that I dimmed my light to encourage another to shine. This has taught me a valuable lesson.

As a human, I want to encourage others. I want to help others see their potential, raise self esteem and help build them up. And it’s not completely altruistic either, it makes me feel good as well. But what I started doing with my last ex boyfriend, was to dim my own light so that he felt better about himself.  This, in retrospect did not help either one of us.

For example, we went hiking at a local spot called Amicolola Falls and had a bet – whoever could hike the longest would win. He was 51, 12 years younger than I. We hiked up and down the stairs 3 times, and while both of us were tired, I knew I could go several more times. I was a healthy 39 year-old and a runner, so I was good. But his ego was very fragile, he had a big ego and I thought he might have trouble dealing with a girl who could beat him so badly. He was a very sore loser.

So when he suggested we race downhill, and the first one to the finish line would win I agreed. He was 5’11”, had long longs and a long stride that I knew would better handle the very steep down hill slope while running, than my short 5’2″ frame. He started off fill speed, while I lightly jogged down, letting him win. I knew it was important to him, so I pretended to be slower.

The result was pretty disastrous. It was not a great evening that I had after loosing the bet, and he was not kind. The whole time bragging how he beat me. He needed a weaker woman in order to feel more like a man. I never told him I let him win, and I should have. actually, I should not have let him win in the first place.

He was a math major in school, and prided himself on his mathematical prowess. I do math in my head, very quickly. But I found myself pretending not to know the answers in order to let him feel like he was superior to me. I pretended to be a lot dumber than I actually was, so as not too offend him. When I did correct him, he would get offended. I should never have dumbed myself down.

Why? Because what I have learned since is that if you have to pretend to be weaker, or not as smart, or less that you are for someone to like you, you should not be around them. Regardless if you are a man or a woman, regardless if the other party is a man of a woman, the people who care about you should celebrate your strengths, not be threatened by them.

It is not my ex’s fault, it is mine in that instance. I should never have pretended to be less than I was to boost his self esteem. While I do believe it is our responsibility to be kind. compassionate and build each other up, you should not do so at your own expense. Shine as bright as you can. Those who love you, will be proud of you, they will love you even more for how smart and capable you are. Don’t worry about those who don’t.

What happened to the ex? One of the many reasons he is an ex is because he could not handle a strong woman. He needed someone he could dominate, and indeed there are plenty of women out there who want or need to be dominated. I, however am not one of them. So he went off to find a more suitable partner, as did I.

But when I think back to that relationship, I am embarrassed about how dumb and weak I was willing to pretend to be. No wonder we did not work – I was not honest with him about who I was, and that wasted time for both of us. I was so busy trying to be his “ideal partner” that I forgot part of who I was – a smart capable strong women. And when I could not fit that mold any more, the real me came out, the relationship came to an abrupt halt, because he did not know who he was in the relationship with. He had the impression that I was a person he could walk all over.

So moving forward, I know that I am a very strong woman, and I need a very strong and secure man who can deal with me.

Lean from my mistakes, and never dim your light so another can outshine you. The result is neither one of you truly shine to your potential.

How to Respect Yourself in a Relationship

Madonna sang about it and made it famous. Respect Yourself. Go for what you want and need in a relationship and don’t settle. Pop songs can rarely be applied to real life, but maybe the singer was onto something. When you are in a relationship, how do you respect yourself enough to not loose yourself? How do you know where that line is that should not be crossed?

Aside from the obvious – no physical abuse, no criminal activity – sometimes defining just how to do this can be a bit tricky, even for a feisty red-head like me. And when you really care about someone, it can be easier said than done. But basically it comes down to this: Respect yourself.

If you don;t respect yourself, then why would anyone else. No one will respect you any more than you respect yourself. Have standards. Love should not hurt and someone who loves you will not do anything to hurt you intentionally. Have pride in yourself and walk away from anyone who tears you down, makes you feel bad for wanting to be treated well, or makes you think that you do not deserve to be respected. A person who loves you will not disrespect you.

If you are in a relationship, you are going to hurt each other at some point, that is par for the course and part of the deal. Respecting yourself though is not about the occasional spat or even cross word. It is not about who left whose dirty socks on the floor or squeezed the toothpaste tube in the middle. It has to do with being treated at a certain level – as a human being. Girls, if the man you are with lies about something (like when his divorce is final), he will lie to you about other things.Respect yourself enough to not allow him to lie to you this way. Hold him accountable for not only his actions but his words, and walk.  

Forget about second and third, and 100th chances. and ut’s not your job to try to understand them or why they are mistreating you. It’s not your place to make excuses for them. You are not the jerk whisperer. Nor would you ever want to be.

If he says he loves you, then you find out that he is seeing other women, he doesn’t love you. Respect yourself enough to know that you deserve better. Don’t settle. Walk out the door and know that nice people, normal people, do not treat others in such a cruel and damaging way. If he balks at the fact that you have called him out on his bad behavior, if he doesn’t like you knocking on the door when you catch him cheating when another car is in his driveway or you find messages on his phone or such, then walk. You deserve better and there are too many wonderful, kind and amazing men out there to settle for someone who is so uncaring that he would let others suffer.

And some people think that if you care about or love someone, that that gives them the right to mistreat you. No it does not. No matter how much I love someone, I will not let them mistreat me. Period. And if they try to mistreat me, they will quickly see this little red-headed girl put down the law in a matter of seconds.

So chin up, and respect yourself to know that you deserve someone who treats you with kindness and caring, someone who means it when they say I love you, someone who doesn’t cherishes you and makes you feel like you are the only girl in the room. And know that, just like Calvin says, normal people do not destroy other human beings.

So what does Madonna have in common with Calvin and Hobbs? Now you know.

Life In Time

As I turn off the alarm clock, early in the morning, I wonder who thought up this Spring Forward thing? Who thought it would be a good idea to loose a precious hours worth of sleep. And I just lie there, in the warm bed, under the covers. As most of us do, the first morning on Daylight Saving Time. we have lost an hour already, and yet we just lie there.

But then I get up and start moving. And the day is beautiful. The sun is shining, birds are out, the air is promising words of Spring. I look out, around the yard, open the windows to let all the fresh air inside, and head outside myself. I let the cats out, who know it’s spring as well. The run outside to enjoy the spring air and all the smells. They life their noses into the breeze, then playful jump in the flowers, lie in the grass and chase bugs. Yes, after I am out in the air, I start to appreciate Daylight Savings. We loose an hour, but yet, we gain an hour of sunlight.

Time. It is what life is, a matter of time. That finite commodity. And in time, in where life happens, even when we just lie there. Even when we are lost. Even when we are confused. Even when we are a mess, or our lives are a mess. It is all in time. And it takes time to work things out, to get all the kinks gone, to do the homework, and complete the process.

But one thing is for sure, time is life, so if you want to have the time of your life, you have to get up. You have to move, even when you are tired, or discouraged, or scared.  Time is our friend, always there for us when we need him. Father Time. Yes, so many people waste the time that they have been given on such trivial things. They become selfish or bitter in their treatment of others, out of insecurity or fear.

So what marks good use of Time? I don;t know, for sure. But I think it is has something to do with quality of life. and I don’t mean being surrounded by nice things and taking expensive vacations, though there is a time for those too. I mean, the quality of person that you are. Do you live the best life you can? Do you make decisions out of fear? Are you reacting emotionally out of ego and defensiveness? Are you honest and truthful? Do you handle others with compassion and Grace?

I am not perfect by any means and I have made decisions out of fear, and they have been the wrong decisions to make. Every time. I have acted out of defensiveness, and hurt others. I have been not been truthful in all instances, and have sometimes lacked compassion and certainly Grace. But I am committed to using the time I have to being better at these tings. Because when you live your life in a sincere manner, you will bring what is sincere back to you, in time.

And when you are sincere, your laughter, your tears, your happiness, your sadness, your joy, your LIFE, all come from a deeper space.

So don’t waste any more time, you have already lost an hour. Use this time to be the best you that can exist. Be sincere, honest, earnest and you will see the wrinkles in time smooth out. And that will certainly put a spring in your step as you walk with Father Time.

A Great Day for a Hike

When the weather is warm, for the first time since last summer, we all just want to get outside. We have spring fever from being cooped up so long and having cabin fever. it’s warm, it’s sunner, it’s time to get outside and start moving around agian. Breathing in the fresh air, hearing the birds start to chirp again, seeing the squirrels play around on the trees. Yes, spring is here, finally!

My sister and I, anxious to enjoy the warmer weather, headed up to the northern part of Georgia to a place called Amicalola Falls, Located just a little nmore than an hours drive, we knew it would be the perfect place to dive back into spring, into life. And indeed it was.

Now when traveling with my sister, one must be prepared, for her being prepared. This is no ordinary, or let’s just bring this for just in case, girl. No. I had to convince her to leave her 25lb purse home. But we still brought with us, because she beleives in having for whatever what-if’s come along, a large knife, a compass, a flashlight, two sets on binnoculars, our phones, her cameras, a poncho and several other things…and I felt as if we could take on the world. We were not just two city girls getrting away to the comforts of the country. We were nature people prepared for anything.

And on our way up, as we drove and passed strange sounding roads and lanes, as we followed the voice of the GPS telling us where to turn next, as we laughed and had a great drive, I came to a realization. I finally have intimacy in my life, at the young age of 40. Most people think of intimacy only in a romantic sense, but that is not the case. There are many types. I have lived alone and been on my own now for over 20 years. And living with my sister has been a wonderful expereince, as for the first time since I was a child, do I have someone around who I trust and am comfortable with no matter what.

I mean, who else will stand in the bathrrom with me and make sure my chin is free of those annoying hairs?  And who would I trust to pluck those little hairs out with no judgement? It is companionship. It is trust. It is familiarity and comfort. It is family. All this time I have been seeking it in a romantic relationship, when it was right their in my family relationships. And so, as I go forward, looking for a romantic relationship, I know the kind of comfort and intimacy that I want, because of the trust and comfort I have with my family.

This expereince has made my life more fullfilled and complete, so that when I look for a partner, I am a complete and happy person. And that, among many other things, it what I can bring to the table.

I was first overwhelmed at the idea of mysister an nephew living here, because I thought I can never do all of this alone. But my sister has made it so easy, because she has made sure that I am not alone. She, as my big sister, has made sure that WE have this. It is the first time in my adult life, that I have not shouldered everything myself. Life is truly easier when you share the load.

So we drove up and had great conversation, listened to music, and just had fun. When we arrived, it was time to hit the welcome center store for a few things, then head up the trail for a great hike.  We went up the most popular way. It was only a mile, but it has 604 steps before you reach the top, after hiking uphill for quite a while. not for the faint of heart. And as we huffed and puffed out way to the top, she pointed out things about the rocks, the terain, the plants, the water flow, the minerals arouond the area, and I was taught quite a bit.

My sister is brilliant, and has studied biology, chemistry and geology quite extensively. She taught me how to see the different years in the rocks, as she told me their age, she showed me the different minerals in the rocks, as she pointed out the different colors and hardness of each. I learned how to tell the age of the tress by just looking at them and how to tell where the water used to run, how big the waterfalls used to be, before they were dammed up and controlled. I was amazed, not only at the amount of rich geological history that I never noticed before, but that my sister knew of these things like they were every day things. She reminded me a bit of Temperance Brennan on the TV show bones, rattling off all of her superior knowledge to wide eyed people around.

We went up the 604 steps, stopping along the way to look at the trees, plant life, the way the water was dripping form the rocks and notice the different size and shapeds of the rocks. We did not, however, stop because we were tired or winded. no. Absolutley not.

We even did a bit of rock climbing, as any self respecting 40 something women would do. It is true our bomes creekd a bit more than they did when we were younger, but we still managed to get up the rocks, take our pictures, and awkwardly get back down. We still got up up there, we can still do it, we are women, hear us roar! 

And on our way down, we mused at life. We talked about how sad it was the my latest ex, who I last made this hikle with, never tried to steal a kiss or hold my hand while hiking (one of the many reasons why he is an ex maybe?). We talked of the different types of trees, of our childhood, of the views of the waterfalls and the mountains, and we got a lot of exercise. These two middle aged women are going to be very sore tomorrow morning.  And we will wonder what we were thinking, going up all those stairs, walking all those steps and climbing all those rocks? And then we will smile and say, we were living life. And then we will stumble to the medicine cabinet to get the Advil.

And so it is, this hike on a perfect day, with the perfect weather, with a great big sister, and a wonderful life.