AH-HA MOMENTS

Last week I bought this sign for my kitchen.

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Today, that sign played out in my life as an all-too-rare “Ah-Ha Moment” and for that I am grateful.

It all started with a beautiful sunrise this morning which morphed into a cool afternoon devoid of rain. I decided to take a hike on one of the numerous trails that surround my home. It was a beautiful fall-like day with crisp-clean air, sweet dew laden grassy smells and wildlife galore.

 

After visiting “The Point” my son, Paul, and I started back up the trail. As we turned the corner near the visitors center where a few houses sit back of the path; I heard a Swoosh- followed by a rather loud SPLAT. Looking up I saw two 10-year-old boys lobbing lemons in my direction.

My first reaction was, “those little assholes. Why haven’t their parents taught them better.” That was obviously not the thoughts of the 70+ yo ladies who were heading up the path while I was going down.

“What was that?” the woman asked.

“Lemons,” I answered.

The woman looked over at the young lads and exclaimed loudly, “LEMONS!!!! I JUST LOVE LEMONS!!! CAN YOU THROW SOME MORE MY WAY?”

The boys looked at one another with a total look of surprise on their faces. Then they smiled and gently tossed more of the yellow fruit to the two old ladies who picked them up from the ground with the delight of 10 yo girls playing baseball on a summer’s afternoon.

AH-HA MOMENT…the sign…when life gives you lemons make something sweet…or funny… lighthearted and enjoyable. Why, I wondered, do I use the lemons life throws my way to leave a sour taste in my mouth instead of finding the sweet that is embedded in the moment? Why go to negative first instead of finding and embracing the positive? Why not ask, “Can you throw some more my way?” and be pleased to have them land at your feet?  Yes, I could definitely infuse many parts of my life with more sweet and less sour.

I thought about this as I walked home…tired but enlightened. And later, as I was munching on some of the best lemon bars I have ever made, I was grateful to realize that making something sweet was much more satisfying than being an old sourpuss.

 

…AND THAT’S OKAY…WORDS THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

If you are like me, being non-judgmental towards yourself has probably been next to impossible for most of your life. If you are like me, I suspect you were often unable to rid yourself of those pesky “transgressions” that go unnoticed by others but somehow managed to become a spotlight on your “perceived” flaws…all 1,137 of them!

In the past, it didn’t seem to matter how full my day was, somehow I would find that the one thing I didn’t accomplish and it would rise to the top of my “why I am such a loser” list.. and once discovered…I would hang it out on the line for the world to see and judge. Unfortunately, for many of us, we fail to be kind and cut ourselves just a little slack.

So that’s why, when I saw this idea online, I swooned. Finally, a way out of my self-imposed “SHOULD’S” and onto a more carefree way of thinking.

It is my hope that you benefit from this wonderful phrase as much as I have. It might even be my next tattoo.

Empathy and Tattoos

 

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Scattered Thoughts On Older Age And Sex

Things are going fairly well at this end of the earth. We have re-settled after we evacuated from the Camp Fire and the Amaryllis has bloomed for the holidays.

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The past few weeks I’ve been painting and wrapped more presents than I care to remember.

The new “Happy Holiday” 2 seater hot tub came. Getting that tub up the back stairs was a bit daunting but now our backs are loving the warm water and our muscles thank us everyday. Of course, falling down said stairs did make the hot tub a mandatory requirement at least until the bruises disappear.

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Funny thing about that 2 seater…it reminds me of the first indication that B was beginning to have a mid-life crisis…a two seater sports car that mysteriously appeared in our garage. From there it progressed to the affair. I think I will make the lock downs on the hot tub so tight that only I can open them…a chastity belt for the hot tub.

Today I went to the doctor and found out I am a walking heart attack waiting to happen. My cholesterol is a whopping 303 and the bad is steady 224. I think it is time to have DNR tattooed to my chest. The doc is putting me on meds and suggests I go vegan. Oh and there was also that…” let’s get a thumb wrap for that appendage, let’s up the thyroid meds and maybe you should start running…you are going to need a new knee soon anyway so why don’t you just blow out the one that you have got!”

Years ago I was a vegetarian. I baked my own bread twice a week and grew my own food. My hippie years were healthy and carefree…getting old is a bitch. I wish I could say I walked 30+ years ago in a pot induced haze but I can’t… I opted for the love-ins instead. I think I may have gotten it wrong.. that too much sex and too little drugs thing… because at this point in my life it has reversed and frankly doctor induced “old age” drugs are a lot more concerning than a joint. I think the more sex and less drugs of my younger years was a much better option than what is available to me today. Now I am left to only dream of those good times…when I can remember them at all.

One of my adult children is urging me to try cannabis gummies to mellow me out in my old age. I have to admit that I have considered it but I am afraid that I might never get off the sofa if I did. Also, I have never been one for marijuana…it always made me paranoid and after B’s affair and feeling like I was crazy for those three years I am not sure that being anything less than fully present would be a good thing for me. There is nothing enduring about paranoid.

Yesterday as I was returning home I listened to a podcast which encouraged each person listening to celebrate and create for themselves a designated Day Of Compassion. This means waking up with intension of showing compassion and helping others whenever the opportunity presents itself or creating those opportunities throughout the day yourself. Doing things like thanking the woman who cleans the restrooms and telling her how much it means to you to know that when you use the bathroom you can always count on it being clean and fresh thanks to her hard work. Buying a McDonald’s food card for the person on the street so you know that they have something warm in their stomach. Noticing and commenting to your husband and kids when they help you or others. Just being there for someone in need no matter how big and small.  So I have decided to schedule my Compassion Day for January 3. I will let you know what discoveries I make and what opportunities presented themselves.

 

Autism and College

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We have worked hard for this moment.  All of us. When your child has autism the old adage is really true…it does takes a village.

Our family has spent years going to therapists, doing nightly neuro-therapy, hippo therapy, social skills classes, ABA therapy, special autism programs and attending IEP’s galore.

And then one day it happens…it all pays off.

Today, Andre received his first acceptance letter into college. Frankly, it feels like a miracle. All the sacrifice. All the sleepless nights. All the arguments about taking pride in what you do. All the school calls about his behaviors and going there, not to bring him home, but to force him to clean up the school yard if he wouldn’t cooperate and listen to the teacher. No rewarding bad behavior here!

Admittedly, there were days we weren’t sure if we would make it….all of us…parents, kid, and teachers. For Andre, an uncovered classroom window meant watching the birds instead of listening to instructions. His life consisted of figit boxes, weighted vests, and mechanical pencils of a particular type or he could not concentrate in order to do his work. Autism combined with ADD makes sitting still incredibly hard, listening very difficult, and organizing darn near impossible. His narrow list of interests and the thought he shouldn’t have to learn what he didn’t deem important made his teachers want to pull their hair out. But still he persevered and so did they.

Four years ago he received Boy Scouts highest award…The Medal of Honor…for saving an  elderly ladies life. Last year he became an Eagle Scout and immediately stopped going. Most of the time he stays in his room drawing characters for the novels he has been writing for the past several years. And not because I am his mom, but because it is the truth, his books are really good.

I don’t know if Andre will go off to school come fall. He might delay leaving home for another year so that he can finish his Associates Degree that he started working on in high school and allow himself the time to mature another year. Sometimes I think he might be ready. Lots of time…not…especially when I realized he has not showered for a week, brushed his teeth for days, changed his underwear since he last showered or remembered to take his medicines since I last reminded him. Frankly, he is several years behind his peers maturity-wise so he has some catching up to do but then again sometimes the birds that soar are the ones that are kicked out of the nest missing a few feathers.

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As I look back over the years the times of despair were many. The worry was great. The uncertainty was sometimes crippling. Sleep was lacking. But Autism didn’t defeat us then and it won’t in the future. The village has got this but more and more it’s up to Andre now. And you know what…he can do it. For autism no longer defines Andre… he defines it. With a little help and understanding my son will reach his full potential. It may be a life that is different from what I envision or what I would want for myself but it will have meaning for him, purpose and joy. And that is what really matters anyway.

 

 

The Importance of Taking Action

Sometimes showing up just the way you are in the moment is freeing. Other times it is difficult and scary. But ultimately if we want to experience life in a different manner and see ourselves in a different way; we have to do things differently… which means we have to be willing to take action.

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It is easy to show up, accept yourself, and get on with life when you are feeling: curious, happy, and have no expectations of how something you are engaged in will turn out.  When we try something new IF we allow our minds to stay open and curious, we often find there is a full-range of possibilities available to us; especially if we just accept ourselves and strive for being immersed in the momentary experience instead of seeking perfection our first time out of the box.

Let’s face it…it is harder to show up just the way we are when we are feeling: anxious, have ruminating negative thoughts, are sad, worried, afraid, ashamed and angry. But sometimes we must do it anyway.

When our lives have fallen apart one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is take simple action. It may be as easy as trying something that we have always wanted to do… like… going to a new restaurant and experiencing a new food. It may involve learning something new by taking a class of some sort or even attending a lecture on a topic that we have always been interested in. Or it may involve going to one of those social mixers that sends our guts into spasm just thinking about it or making that phone call we have been putting off for weeks

In order to stretch ourselves it helps to remember that we don’t have to be fearless… experiencing uncertainty is just a normal part of life. For if we allow ourselves to consider that every time we take a chance to reveal ourselves further, there is less to be hidden and fearful of in the future; then taking action provides a much needed sense of purpose to our lives. When we give up hiding parts of ourselves in the shadows, it gives us the opportunity to show up as our true and wondrous selves. And it is indeed a glorious day when we finally realize that even if we fail to catch the fly-ball, sing off-key, or spill the paint, there is nothing inherently bad with whatever happens even if it involves perceived “failure.”  Just showing up and putting ourselves out there will give us  the useful information  that we need (I like this…I don’t like that) to take us further down the path that we want to end up on.

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So today…Take Action! Take A Chance! Today just might just be the day that changes the rest your life!

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And…The First Fire-Related Lawsuit Is Filed. Compassion Is Needed.

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Tonight six more individuals were added to the list one never wants to be on…deceased. Dead due to a fast burning out of control wildfire. This brings the number killed to 48 with hundreds still missing. It is a sad day for our state but especially for the towns of Paradise and Concow where most of the victims resided.

Paradise is not a compact city. There were many folks living down miles and miles of long country roads. People spread out far and wide surrounded by tinder dry forests. As I read over the list of the missing I couldn’t help but notice that about 90% of them were over 70 years-old. Grandparents who couldn’t run fast enough, couldn’t drive, or maybe even hear any warnings that might have come their way.

Tonight it was also announced that the very first lawsuit was filed in court with the fire still raging and fault not yet determined by fire investigators.  The defendant in the lawsuit is PG&E, the local electrical utility. Right before the fire became an inferno, the utility emailed an individual requesting access to their property as the PG&E’s transmission wire was sparking. This is most likely just the beginning of a long list of suits that will surely follow.

While I realize that many will want to see someone held responsible for the deadliest fire in California history; I am hoping people will not turn on those who did their best during a chaotic situation…the first responders. Having lived through several emergencies, I can only believe that everyone did their best to save lives while a fire was swallowing up land the size of 8 football fields every minute. With hot embers flying through the air driven by radically changing winds which were being pushed faster than a person can drive, it seems to me that to try to point fingers is a game in futility and one that degrades our collective humanity. Yes, looking back we always find things that could have been done better and faster but when calamity strikes we all do what we can and  we do what we can to the best of our ability and with the knowledge we have at the time.

Unfortunately, we all have noble ideas of how we THINK we would react in certain situations, often playing those scenarios out in our minds at different points in our lives. But life isn’t that simple. We often find in an emergency that our previously good ideas no longer work. Trees fall, lines are long, folks stay behind for one last thing, we fail to heed the warnings soon enough or we don’t have enough gas in our car.

Unfortunately, I suspect that there will many people who will go to their graves second guessing themselves for failing to act in ways that were impossible to implement when there are so many lives to save in a cataclysmic event. It is truly one of those moments that you can never totally prepare for. The notions and ideas that survivors had about themselves and how they would react in life changing events can often snare them. Then the “if only’s” may begin to slowly eat away at them until they are but shells of their former selves.

I hope this does not happen. I hope people will look at one another and not point fingers but will show compassion and understanding. Perhaps one of the greatest things folks can do for themselves and others in this type of situation  is to stop, breathe, and say:

“I know you are suffering. That is why I am here for you.”

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The “end” of an emergency is really just the “beginning” of a new normal. It isn’t easy. Anger appears out of nowhere and despair can rob us of moments we formally enjoyed. Yet, compassion and forgiveness (a blame free environment) can go a long way towards bringing a community back together and re-building it in such a way that it creates a long-lasting atmosphere of vibrancy, restoration, and love. May everyone impacted by this fire remember that blame creates suffering which only causes further suffering for ourselves. And may those involved look for the best in each and every person and not assume the worst; so that seeds of compassion planted now will flourish in the future creating Paradise once again in this amazing mountain town.

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View of the area around my home

 

 

Who Are You And What Do You Stand For?

I could write something profound and meaningful about the question of who are you and what do you stand for. Always an important question in my book but one I will leave for others to debate. Today, I want to ask you the questions in regards to art. Precisely, designing your own coat of arms.

Several weeks ago I wrote about how my therapist has been encouraging me to paint. I am not good at it but I am finding that it is getting those “after his affair/almost divorce” feelings exposed in a way that is finally helping me to examine them and let them go. Who knew?

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This week I decided to take on a new project. I am designing my own coat of arms. I was inspired to do so, believe it or not, because of Meghan Markel and her now husband, Prince Harry. Seems that when they married they needed to have a coat of arms designed for their household. A big task to say the least. It is said that Meghan took great pains to make sure that emblem represented who she is and where she came from. As such, California figured predominately. First, she incorporated the state’s flower, the California poppy. In addition, the blue background on the shield represents the Pacific Ocean and the yellow rays across it come from “The Sunshine State” logo.  She also acknowledged her own power of communication through the open beak of the song bird and the quill.

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In designing my own pennon, I have looked hard at myself. Who am I? What do I believe? What do I love? What represents my authentic self? And for the past week I have been designing my crest.  I am not ready to share yet but I will share with you some of the symbolism that I have incorporated.

  1. The first thing you would notice on my coat of arms is the Phoenix rising which signifies that I have arisen from the flames a winner having beaten life’s challenges and defeating the hard times. It is a concrete symbol of my rebirth as a person, female, wife and mother. Around the neck of the Phoenix is a heart with a number in the center which is meaningful to me.
  2. Instead of a traditional crest I have used an open book with symbols of what I believe contained within the pages. This works because I am an open book and share openly and freely. I also love to read and write.
  3. Within the pages of the book is the earth meaning I am a traveler and a person who sees all people as being in and on this planet together. There is also a musical note…self explanatory. The scale of justice sits high upon the crest because of my believe that we are the same and therefore the scales should be balanced for all equally. A pen representing my writing career also has its place. A symbol of Korea is also represented since the country has played such a major role in my life. And there is a very large ? showing that I am a seeker as well as a person who questions everything.

Needless to say, designing this coat of arms has been an interesting process. It has helped me clarify some things and made me look hard at what I value. Further, I have tried to approach this design as my 26th Grandfather must have approached his. Seven hundred years later his crest still stands embedded within the doorway outside of his castle reminding all that enter what his life stood for. I want my coat of arms to be the same… a testament to my great-grandchildren of just who I was and what I stood for.

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My 26th Great Grandfather’s Coat Of Arms At Craigmillar Castle

A Little Art Therapy

About a month ago my very bossy therapist (LMAO)  encouraged me to start painting. She wanted to see what emotions would emerge on paper, the colors I used, and the feelings I could name for what I drew.

“HOLD ON THERE, ” I thought. “I can’t even draw stick figures.” And so, like most things my therapist suggests, I resisted. I mean, writing comes easily but drawing….NEVER. And if I was going to invest in something; I wanted to do something I would excel at. The truth was if I couldn’t be Rembrandt I wanted no part of it. Yet, since my therapist is Miss All-Knowing, I decided to take her cue and give it a try.

Frankly, I was surprised what emerged from my hand onto the paper. The first pictures screamed in rage but as I drew I found that anger lessening with each picture. Those pictures that I was unable to express the images I felt … I found them, copied them, and then added to them to make them my own. They are rough, scary, beautiful…all of what my heart and soul has experienced during the past three  traumatic years.

And here is the funny thing. When I first started drawing I found I could not leave the words out of the pictures. Since I write professionally, I guess it should come as no surprise that words gave me comfort and a sense of familiarity that was hard to walk away from. But Miss All-Knowing insisted that I take the words out so I could no longer hide behind those words. What a struggle that turned out to be!

As much as I hate to admit it, doing all this artwork is producing a change in myself. I feel more at peace and my anger/pain has diminished.  Although I will never be a great artist there are several things that I have learned about the similarities between art and life in these few short weeks as I have explored this unused side of me and what I have discovered is this:

  1. The fewer words you use; the less explaining you have to do.
  2. Getting “stuck” in life or in art curtails the creative process. Just keep on forging ahead even though nothing fruitful appears to be emerging..
  3. Art, like life, is meant to be fun. Don’t take it all so seriously.
  4. Chances are, the more you try to fix, something the bigger mess you will end up with.
  5. Almost nothing turns out the way you expected when you first started your masterpiece.
  6. If you go with the flow and just let the colors end up where they are supposed to you will cut down considerably on your stress.
  7. Life, like paint, is meant to be free flowing, not stagnant.
  8. Leave your painting/emotions alone and come back to them later. Often you will see things in a different light later on.
  9. Less is often better in painting and in life.
  10. Trying to control all aspects of your life and your creation will often result in untold and needless suffering.
  11. Do anything enough and you will get better at it whether it be artwork or improved communication.
  12. Shut up and let your actions/work speak for themselves.
  13. Trying too hard is just as detrimental as not trying hard enough.
  14. In life as in art; have no expectations about the results.

Funny thing. While I am still not crazy about drawing and the like I have developed enough of an interest that I have found the need to learn a few of the “how to’s” of painting..  And so this weekend I attended my first water color class. While I am unsure whether this turn of events is due to the curiosity factor or my foolish need for “perfection” I am unsure; but either way I find I am enriching myself and growing beyond the artificial borders that I once set for myself… and what more could you ask of yourself?

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Self-Improvement

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Several weeks ago an older woman walked up to me and told me that she really liked how I talked to my son. I was shocked because I did not feel that I had done a good enough job to merit that type of praise. In fact, as I often do, I felt as though I had “kind-of-sort-of failed” in my response.

Later as I reflected on the moment I thought, ” Why, if a stranger can be so kind to me, then why is it so difficult for me to be kind to myself? Why do I seem to negate recognizing the good that I do each day? Why is it I always feel the need to do better?”

As I have contemplated this the last several weeks I have realized that I often end my day examining those things that I feel I have failed or done a less than spectacular job at according to some invisible standards I hold for myself. And so, I have been contemplating and asking myself: where did these standards even come from and what makes me give them the validation that they so often don’t deserve?

In response to this, I have begun a nightly ritual in an effort to change this part of my life. Upon laying down in bed at night, I hug myself tight, and make a mental list of all the things I did right that day and if I am in doubt about one of them I give myself a win anyway. At the end of this recap I am write down the improvements I have seen in myself as a way to encourage myself as I take this journey through life. I give myself the chance to see the positive through a lens of critical assessment that I have lived with for a very long time. At times, It has been difficult to see positive change because I am so used to being harsh with myself, but little by little, even though I may fall short of my “invisible standards;” I am finding instances in which I deserve my own pat on the back even though I have not behaved perfectly. And I find, that when I wake in the morning I seem to be much more optimistic than I had previously been.

Often newly married couples are given the advice not to go to bed mad at each other because it leaves a sour taste in your mouth the next morning. The same could be said of ourselves. Going to bed with negative thoughts begets negativity in the morning. So try noticing your good points and successes throughout the day and run through the list before retiring for the night. You might just find you sleep sounder and wake up feeling refreshed.

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