Friday’s Focus—Hyacinths in Bloom

The sounds of the neighborhood waking up with its barking dogs and chirping birds and the ticking of the living room clock keep me company on this rainy morning as I write this. I noticed yesterday that the Hyacinths are starting to come up. They always reminded me of Spring, Easter, and my mom. They were one of her favorite flowers and I always brought her some for Easter. Seeing them start to bloom is bittersweet. It reminds me that it’s been nearly 3 months since she passed away. I don’t know where the time has gone and though I’ve been making peace with her passing there are still some days that are harder than others and I’ve found that a stranger’s condolences and a momentary kindness can still bring me to tears.

The medical bills are arriving and with each one, I’ve needed to make a phone call to verify submission to insurance or to get some clarity on the services charged but not explained. Conversions begin business as usual: name, date of birth, account number, relationship to patient; rote questions coming over the phone from a faceless office worker probably counting the days to Friday like I do.

To help explain why I’m calling about a bill 2 months overdue and that it’s not a shirking of responsibility on our part, I explain that it’s just been forwarded to me from the facilities and that my mom had passed away in December. Suddenly, the numb drone becomes a human being and with a soft intake of breath comes, “Oh, I’m so sorry. Please accept my condolences.” It’s a kind sentiment that’s appreciated and something that still makes me twitch when I hear it, but it’s the personal stories that follow are what brings the feelings of loss fresh all over again.

I can’t begin to say how much it annoys me to have to make these calls to follow-up with doctor offices and agencies, but by the end of the calls, my attitude has completely changed. What starts as a business as usual call ends up with me tearing up listening to sage advice and deep personal experiences that the other person has gone through with the loss of their mother or other loved one.

One woman, now in her late fifties, lost her mother when she was 14. She told me about how she still misses her and the memories they never got a chance to make. She shared with me what she’s learned over time and ended the call with a blessing. I honestly felt that God takes moments and people like this to make direct connections to remind me, all of us, that we are not alone.  

None of us will ever know what can come out of our experiences and how it can help others. There are certain levelers in life that will happen regardless of age, sex, and status, and this is where the human heart comes in if we let it. Those people didn’t have to share their personal stories, but they did, and I was completely changed from each, small conversation. I cried because it was suddenly one grief acknowledging another but I also smiled at the sincerity of the connection. It’s so easy to feel alone because of a death or an illness in the family. 

It’s also easy to feel alone when sometimes the day or recent events have just been difficult, challenging, and going in directions you never imagined. Connecting with a stranger or a friend by one small conversation, one sliver of a share of memory, or genuine good wishes can make the world of difference. It won’t solve our problems or be a miracle cure but when you share your heart, that’s a healing in of itself and a moment you will never forget or regret.

I hope today’s Focus inspires you to keep your eyes open and your heart open wider. You never know what today’s conversations could bring. The birds are still chirping but the rain has stopped. I just looked out the back window and a ray of sun is shining directly on the Hyacinth buds. I think I’m going to go out back and spend some time with the flowers and remember how much she loved them.

#takingitdeeper

IMG_1476

Friday’s Focus—Our Dash

Changes changes
The planets are aligning
Our stars are falling,
The winter full moon
shines a light for the storm coming home.

Passages and endings make way for new beginnings, yes, but couldn’t there yet, just be one more day? For some, a death is expected while for others, it’s not. Either way, it’s a part of the bigger cycle but who cares about the bigger cycle when all you want is that one more day?

It makes us stop and snaps us out of where we are. I’ve written before about how a death can make us take stock of where we are in our living, and where we think we’ve been, but I’ve found that with each passing, the snap is fresh and the restocking feels brand-new. When my mother passed away, my life shifted in ways I could never have foreseen except by first-hand experience. It’s still so new to me and I keep sifting through my mental attic and basement; shuffling, sorting, tagging, boxing, and working through old habits, memories, thoughts, and baggage that don’t serve me any more and so I don’t want them around. It’s a process, for sure, and one with a capital “P”.

Then came news of the deaths of several musicians and actors. All well-known, all larger than life, suddenly a headline with a new date added to the end of a dash. It was shock after shock for many people. The papers reported most of the causes were from long-term illnesses so it’s safe to say that their passing was more of a surprise for us than for them, but no less devastating. Grief doesn’t care how famous you are.

David Bowie and Glenn Frey’s deaths hit me the hardest. I felt sucker punched. They were the soundtrack to anyone growing up in the Seventies. Pick any song by either of them and guaranteed there is a memory curled and wrapped around it. It was the theme to boyfriends, first loves, summer nights, great friends and days filled with the innocence of blue jeans, long hair and the freedom of a full tank of gas in that first car you bought with your own money. It was about taking the world by the balls and we were innocent and hopeful enough to think we could. No matter what, it was all going to be alright. Their voices, their music was inspired and inspiring.

“People don’t run out of dreams, they just run out of time” sang Frey in “River of Dreams.” It really is all about that dash in the middle and what you do with it. The death of loved ones and creative giants like those we’ve recently lost grabs us and shakes us and challenges us to look at ourselves and our dashes. Their music and movies are a reminder of our younger selves and who we wanted to be, who we could be. Not like them necessarily, but the best of us.

“What will be left of all the fearing and wanting associated with your problematic life situation that every day takes up most of your attention? A dash, one or two inches long, between the date of birth and date of death on your gravestone.” ― Eckhart Tolle

Last night I stood outside under the light of the moon, and stared, in awe, at the alignment of the planets and I couldn’t help but feel the smallness of my humanity under God’s dome.  I will do this again tonight, and then, when the snowflakes begin to fall ushering in this Winter’s first fury, I will come inside, sit by the fire, hug my loved one, and pay attention to my dash.

Will you?

#takingitdeeper
IMG_0482

Friday’s Focus—Not Just for Today

Last night, I sat in the dark with nothing but a candle lit and the Christmas tree lights on.

I squinted and the lights looked like colored stars that might otherwise have shined out into the night.

Each ornament a memory, a celebration of a time and a place. Christmas cards with holiday greetings and blessings of the new year hang nearby, a reminder of friends near and far.

The smell of the pine mixed with the scent of the candle filled my senses, and I could hear the carols from a radio in another room. I felt surrounded by the spirit of Christmas and the true celebration of its tidings of peace and joy.

This year, the greatest gift I could have gotten was seeing the generosity, compassion, love, and appreciation in people as my mother’s health declined and finally ended.

To witness genuine nurturing between two people whose only thing in common is that they are sharing the same space under one roof for a few hours, was a testament, to me, of how much you can love and take care of a stranger. Eye color, skin color, religion, and ethnicity gets stripped away until all that is left are the two hearts, which beat the same.

I think it was especially poignant this year because my mother’s passing was on the eve of Christmas eve, and my focus was simply on caring for her. No holiday department store sale could touch me.

My Christmas gift from God, if you will, was seeing and being reminded of our deep capacity to love and care for one another, with no attachments, no “What’s in it for me,” kind of thing.

I plan to take this gift and do my best to share it with friends and family and strangers alike, throughout the coming year, and not let it stop at Christmas or with my mother’s passing.

The ultimate pay it forward, if you will.

Won’t you share it with me?

#takingitdeeper

12366176_10207998847637890_4933762966894922425_o

 

Friday’s Focus—Remembering Memorial Day

It doesn’t matter what side of the political fence you’re on or what your views on war are. The fact is, there is not one generation that hasn’t been touched by war either through personal contact or images on the Internet of soldiers and combat. Even video game battles are as common as photos of a sunrise.

To many, Memorial Day is the traditional kick-off to summer but before there were barbecues and department store sales, Memorial Day was a day borne as a time to remember the men and women who died in service to the U.S.

So as we spend time with our families and friends this weekend and maybe watch the local parade before hauling out the potato salads and burgers, I’d like to take today’s Focus and suggest that we offer a moment during our day and say thanks—say it skyward to those who have passed; say it to the eyes of someone you see in Uniform; and say it by displaying the red paper poppy you received from the Veteran sitting in front of that supermarket door for your donation.

Thanks for their service, their dedication, and for many, too many…their lives.

I know I will.

Have a great weekend!

Friday’s Focus—Today, and Today, and Today

Earlier this week, I learned of the sudden passing of someone I’ve known for many years. She was a beautiful young woman who always had a kind word and a smile for everyone she met. Many are still in disbelief over this unexpected loss and as those who knew her mourn her and the family she left behind, I can’t help but take stock.  It shouldn’t take someone’s death to shock the rest of us into living, and yet it does.

And so with that, today’s focus is a reminder to tell our loved ones how we feel each day and to put your energy into today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Today.

It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture as we go about our lives, but we are all connected and the world needs each one of us to show up and maybe for some of us, to step up.

What are you waiting for? I’m not.

Keeping it light and singing LiLoLa [Live, Love, Laugh] all the way…

It’s Never Too Late

It’s that time of year when we all wax poetic and look over the past 12 months, taking stock of what we did or rather didn’t do and draw up yet a brand-new list with a January 1 headline and the subject is Resolutions.

New Year’s resolutions are the grande dame of the To-Do List, and too often we hold ourselves dutifully accountable until either our enthusiasm runs out or things get in the way and the exuberance of the YES! I WILL becomes, TOMORROW! I WILL and on it goes in its decent toward NEXT Week I will,  Next month I will, next year I will.… and before we know it, it’s Happy Birthday, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year (again) and we start over.

Why not let each day be a New Year and go forward to start (or finish) whatever that something is? It’s never too late. Let what you want to do go beyond New Year’s resolutions and don’t let the calendar dictate the absolute end date for accomplishing what you set out to do. Yes, it’s good to have goals (which is what resolutions really are) set within a timeframe but it is so easy to become discouraged and give up if we don’t meet the goals we set for ourselves by the particular date we think we should have.

This doesn’t mean you should let things go until whenever, either, but if you find things are getting in the way of accomplishing what you want whether it’s life happenings or your own procrastination, break down that capital “G” Goal into smaller, lowercase “g” goals. This can help in making them more attainable and easier to meet. It will also give you a sense of accomplishment, which may make your original end Goal easier to see and reach.

Envision it. See it. You don’t have to know how you’ll get there only that you will.  Let your resolutions be the beginning to something you’ve always wanted to do; be; experience, but instead of treating it like a chore of something you feel you should do (losing weight, give up smoking, spend less time at the office, eat better, etc.)  put things on that list that you’ve always wanted to do and up until now didn’t. Even go so far as thinking back to when you were a kid—what did you want to be when you grew up? What did you like to do? Why not pick those things up again? You’re never too old and it’s never too late.

Setting New Year’s resolutions are a great place to start and reboot yourself to the place you may have always wanted to be mentally, physically, and emotionally and when June rolls around and you find yourself with that list still untouched, no one can say you can’t reboot and re-start your resolution then. You’re in control.  Too often we procrastinate by saying One Day, so why not let that “One Day” start this January 1 and if need be, then February 1, March 1 and so on. No matter what you want to do, don’t believe it’s too late—in the calendar or in your life. Your dreams and resolutions may have changed as you got older, I know mine have, but I don’t believe that dreams and goals have an expiration date just because they weren’t fulfilled by a certain age or time.

May each day of this new year inspire you instead of it being the tick-tock of things undone and goals unmet.

Blogging From A to Z: Vulnerable

V

A newly hatched bird;
A flower bud;
The first one to say I love you;
Asking your girlfriend to marry you;
Being told you have a disease and there’s nothing more that can be done;
A newborn baby;
An elderly person’s first night in a nursing home;
A bride on her wedding night;
A teenager who just found out she was pregnant;
Openely stating your sexual orientation for the first time;
Writing your first poem, story, post and hitting the “Publish” or “Send” button;
The first public exhibit of your paintings or photographs;
Being interviewed for a much needed job;
Being laid-off;
Burying your loved one;
The first day on your own at college after all the families have gone home;
The first night alone in new a apartment;
All of us in our deepest hour.

Being vulnerable is like standing on the threshold of what was and what will be.

Some of us dance over it, some crawl, some step over it one toe at a time, and some eagerly jump over the threshold with both feet. Being exposed in vulnerability is actually a powerful place to be. Vulnerability is fragility wrapped in hopefulness, hopelessness, security, doubt, wonder, joy, and sadness, all at once.

Are you on the threshold with something that is making you feel vulnerable? Have you made the jump today? Take my hand and let’s walk over that threshold together taking vulnerability and what it means to us deeper.

 

 

Blogging From A to Z: On Being Ordinary and Having an Ordinary Life

O

As a teenager, I wanted so badly to be different than who I was. I didn’t want to be ordinary me. I didn’t want to have this ordinary life. How boring! I wanted to be a star! In what? No clue. I wanted to travel anywhere and everywhere. I just wanted to be extraordinary and live an extraordinary life.

Well, life went on, and as I grew older, learning the ropes of college, first jobs, a corporate career, and a starter marriage overshadowed my concerns of being ordinary. Heck, I was too busy learning about myself and how to be in my various roles to figure out how to be extraordinary on top of all that!

It really wasn’t until I reached the “O” letter in my Blogging From A to Z journey that I thought about the word “ordinary” and what it meant to me. Now, when I think of being ordinary, I feel at ease with the concept and it’s associations. Maybe it is just a matter of getting older and wiser and learning to accept the skin I’m in. I’ve come to see that there’s something to be said about being ordinary and living an ordinary life.

A strong backbone to this realization has been the chaos that has been my life for the past 6 months: issues surrounding broken water pipes and frozen furnace pipes at my home; the passing of my father-in law; my husband’s cancer diagnosis and accompanying him to his chemotherapy treatments; bronchitis that came on just in time for our flight to Michigan for my stepdaughter’s wedding (she was so beautiful!); constant threats of layoffs at my job and then having to say good-bye every few months to some wonderful people I’ve known for years; more house issues; snow/ice storms; panic phone calls from my mother for everything from her feet being swollen and she couldn’t walk to getting lost while driving home from the doctor’s office. There was something every day, and in fact, there’s more, but I think you get the gist.

Events have finally slowed down and paled a bit, letting me catch my breath here and there. I know that life can be messy and that there will always be something, but I just felt blindsided by having it crunched into such a short timespan and the enormity of the challenges.

I think my takeaway is my newfound appreciation for the ordinariness of a calm, uneventful day. I look in the mirror in the morning and though I may be a rock star to my husband, I see an ordinary woman staring back who is doing the best that she can and realizing that there is definitely something extraordinary about being ordinary. An ordinary person, on an ordinary day, drinking her ordinary cup of coffee.

Learning to take things deeper…