Now.

Every single one of us.
Has something to say.
It’s not just a story.
It’s their story.
It’s your story.
It’s your time to tell it.
It’s your time to write it.
To draw it.
To sing it.
To be it.
Will you?
Or.
Will you let it remain.
In your mind.
In your soul.
As a thought.
As a desire.
As a dream.
Let’s make it so.
And be.
Who we have been.
Dreaming ourselves to be.

#taingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Taking It Down a Notch

You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please everyone all of the time. —John Lydgate

One day, when I was very young, I went over to a friend’s house after school. We were playing outside when two sisters from the apartment next door came over to play, too. They were more her friends then mine, but when I met them once or twice before, we all got along fine. On this particular day though, I still don’t know what exactly happened, but all of a sudden, there were whispers behind cupped hands, and the sisters were looking me up and down. Pretty soon, words were exchanged and adding to my confusion, the friend I was originally playing with, turned against me and joined them as they made fun of me and now mocked me outright. Confused, shocked, hurt, and in tears, I rode my bicycle home and in between sobs told my mother what happened. I can still remember what she told me: “Honey, it’s not nice, and it’s not fair, but there will always be someone who doesn’t like you.”

Unfortunately, such behavior is not regulated to the whims of children and playgrounds. Even as adults, I’ve seen how you don’t even have to do anything for someone to find a problem with you. It can be the color of your skin, the style of clothes that you wear, even the kind of dog you have. You could be breathing too hard, laughing too loud, scraping the fork too loudly against a plate (yes, I’ve actually heard these).

As a basic tenet of decent humanity, we are asked to hold our fellow beings in love and light. We can all do that on our best days, but can we also do that on our worst days? It’s easy to find the goodness in people and situations when life is going your way, but what happens on those days when things aren’t going so smoothly or there’s always something in the way of you doing what you need to? Suddenly that deep love toward your neighbor has turned into shallow, ego-driven, back-biting judgement:

The cashier yesterday who was so sweet to ask about your sister’s illness, today is a busy body who can’t mind her own business.

The bank teller who was so efficient and succinct is now cold and unfriendly.

The gas station attendant who was full of jokes last week and humorous observations, now just talks too much and doesn’t know when to shut up.

Why does she have to wear that?
Why does he have to walk like that?
Why are they in our neighborhood?
She shouldn’t; he should but no, not them; they shouldn’t be doing…

It’s amazing how we have become a society of tearing apart our own fabric of being by micro-moralizing and pitting our individual preferences and beliefs onto the person or group next to us. I’m afraid that this level of dislike and distrust has become so ingrained in our psyche that our judgements against friends and strangers, alike, is now rooted in our subconscious to the point that we don’t even realize we are doing it anymore.

We criticize and judge groups and organizations for finding fault with everyone that is not of part of them, but what we don’t see are how we are those groups when we judge those in our own circles. We’re becoming numb to the lack of respect in the differences that make up all that we are as individuals and societies. I personally know that there are pockets of people who hold spaces of unconditional love, peace, and grace and are working toward unification and healing rather than tearing apart and destroying each other, and in this, I take great hope and inspiration from them. But it’s not enough. We need more than just pockets.

I also believe that it’s the media’s perpetuation of granting attention to these squeaky wheels that has helped facilitate the hate, disdain, and repugnancy of differences into a level of micro-moralizing that has reached epic proportions. Taking it deeper and looking back through history, there have always been separatists whose actions were, and are, rooted in fear and ego. As long as humans have existed with each other there has always been fighting and warring, but there has also been peace and amiability and fairness. I think that at this time in our history, human beings have tipped the scales of acceptance versus dissension and not in a good way. Everyone is screaming for their right to individuality and there’s nothing wrong with that but I think it’s gone too far.

We need to find ways to bring out the best in each other not the worst. It’s not too late. Yet.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus— “I was JUST thinking of you!”

Is there someone you’ve been thinking about and haven’t heard from in a while? They might be thinking the same of you. Reach out and reconnect by giving that someone a call, email, or a simple, “Hey!” FB message.  You’ll both be glad you did!

Have a great weekend!
Keeping it light and singing LiLoLa [Live, Love, Laugh] all the way…

 

 

 

 

Friday’s Focus—Balance

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And Jane a frazzled mom. And Steve a stressed out commuter. And Becky an exhausted caretaker.

It’s a tough thing these days to keep our lives in balance with so many responsibilities, and though the intention is there, the follow-through can be hard. It’s easy to become so focused on keeping our heads down and marching one foot in front of the other just to survive the day, that we tend to lose balance by losing ourselves in working too hard to keep everything (and everyone else) together.

Take some time out today and this weekend to do something to bring some balance back into your life and your daily routine. Even if it’s  a start with 5 minutes of stopping and looking out the window or closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths.

Have a great weekend!

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

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…

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Another morning and another blank page.

Another night I didn’t sleep well, with snatches of cat-nap dreams toying with my mind. Where does the dream and my conscious thought begin and end?

I think back to this time last year and I can’t help but feel haunted by the then, as-yet-year-filled challenges of doctors, estate disbursement from my father-in-law’s death, and family phone calls of drama and neediness on top of the normal hustle of just life.

To say I’m a little gun shy is an understatement as my husband is still not feeling well despite a clean bill of health. But chemicals are still chemicals and the re-introducement of them into his system from the preventative treatment drips has created an undercurrent of constant feelings of unwellness and in his words, feeling poisoned.

As the date of my husband’s first chemo anniversary approaches fast, I am facing my own health situation, the results of which I should know in another week or two. Looking at the possibility of a whole new round of health issues this Winter is weighing more heavily on me right now than I care to admit—or deal with. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One way or another, I am confident that things will work out fine and these are just the ramblings of someone who needs to find the space to be the caregiver to the caregiver, whatever the results may be.

—  — —

I gaze at the stars and wish upon each one.

I watch the smoke rise from the fire and imagine that my prayers reach the ears of not just my God, but all that there is in the Highest Good.

I watch you sleep and I feel my heart swell with so much love I think it’s going to burst. I wanted to take away your pain, but I know that this is your road that you need to travel. This is your story to tell.

My road and my story are still being built and I can feel the pen on the paper and the bricks being laid one by one. I can’t see around the bend right now or what’s on the next page, so I sit in stillness and bide my time until the words and the landscape reveal themselves to me.

Friday’s Focus—Keeping It Real Beyond the Holidays

The holidays of 2014 are in full swing with less than 2 weeks to Thanksgiving, 5 weeks until Hanukkah begins, then Christmas the week after, and finally New Year’s coming in with a blink of an eye only a week after that. Whew!

Barring natural disasters, there is no other time of the year that so much attention is given to the importance of family, friends, and loved ones and extending helping hands and kindness to strangers and those in need than during the holidays of November and December.

Volunteering suddenly goes up; donations to food kitchens rise; coat drives pop up; angel cards appear in town centers stapled to green-painted plywood trees, each denoting the age, sex and suggested gift for a child or senior in a shelter or a home; Toys for Tots bins sit ready and waiting in any given location throughout the city.

This is all wonderful and great and endearing, and it’s exactly these types of acts that help make the holidays feel special—showing and experiencing the kindness and generosity of the human heart and spirit; The way we should be with each other all year long and not just in November and December.

Let’s break through the amnesia that comes in January and continue to do something nice and thoughtful for the next person after the holidays. The calendar should not dictate when we need to offer a helping hand. Needing help doesn’t end after December and being nice, thoughtful, and considerate of the next person shouldn’t either.

Let the generosity of your spirit and depth of kindness for each other continue all year round. Coats may not be needed in June but food still is and basic necessities. Soup kitchens and shelters don’t close after April. Offering help and acts of kindness can take many forms regardless of the time of year.

Let’s take 2015 and make it the year of keeping it real. Keeping the real feelings of love, patience, tolerance, and kindness that we make such an effort to show during the Holiday Season and extend it to wherever it’s needed, to whomever it’s needed, regardless of the time of year.

Have a good weekend!

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

Making It Work and Making It Worth It–My Top 10 Best Relationship Tips

There is no shortage of articles on how to have a successful relationship or ways to save your marriage so with my husband and I celebrating 20 years together this past June, and an 18 year wedding anniversary in December, there’s a few things I’ve learned along the way that I feel can’t be repeated often enough and I’d like to share them here.

We all want to be loved and accepted, and we all want someone we can call home. Relationships are tough enough to navigate and some people need the rawness of experience to really understand these bumps in the road, regardless of how many relationship articles are written about them!

I can’t take away those experiences from people, nor would I want to deprive them of such a growth opportunity, but here are some steps I’ve learned along the way that that I’ve found to have made the road a little easier to navigate.

My Top 10 Best Relationship Tips:

1. Relationships are rarely, if ever, an equal 50/50 split for long and the rare moment it is, know that it is fleeting and won’t stay that way for long. Relationships are fluid; they are a living thing and need constant feeding to keep it alive. It takes two to stoke it so when your relationship turns to a 60/40 or 70/30 shift of balance, see it for what it is in the moment. The key is to make sure it doesn’t stay in that tilt for long, and then bringing it back into a more even flow. This is best done by being aware of your relationship and what’s happening. One of the worst things you can do is to keep score. It’s underhanded and not fair. Relationships are an everyday give and take the balance is always changing.

2. Talk, talk, talk, talk. Crystal balls tend to be in the shop a lot getting fixed and no one is a mind reader. Well, there are some people who may be, but don’t assume your partner/spouse is one of them unless they have this crazy hidden talent they didn’t tell you about. If something bothers you that is happening with the other person or in the relationship, talk about it. And when I saw talk, I mean have a conversation—don’t accuse or point fingers. Good conversation starters are “I feel that,” or “It seems to me that….”. No one can judge you for how you feel or tell you that what you’re feeling is wrong.

3. Don’t assume. If you don’t talk about what you’re feeling, don’t assume that the other person will be able to navigate your moods based on your sighs or eye rolls or door slams.

4. At least try to see the other person’s point of view. It’s said if you truly want to understand someone,walk a mile in their shoes. While you don’t need to walk a mile in your partner’s shoes to understand whatever is happening, you should at least try to be in their shoes for the situation at hand. You might be surprised by what you learn.

5. Be friends. Unless your relationship has been based on pure sex, there is something in there that got you two together in the first place. Sometimes, liking someone and being friends with them is just as important, if not more so, than loving them. While love is important, it’s that underlying friendship that I’ve found to be the core of every successful relationship and the respect for each other that is the bind. If a relationship blip becomes too hot, it’s that core friendship that can allow a work-through of whatever is going on.

6. Listen. And I mean really listen. Don’t listen for the other person to stop talking so you can add your point of view. Listen to what is being said and also, what is not being said. Some people don’t know how to articulate their feelings or are uncomfortable stating how they feel so they’ll tend to imply what they’re feeling. If you don’t understand, ask the person to clarify.

7. Allow the other person to be just that—their own person. Give them room to breathe. You may not always understand why they do something but each of us is on our own path and must learn to live our own lives, which includes making our own mistakes. Support them, don’t judge them, and don’t get together with someone because you think you can change them. Relationships are not pet projects. If you really feel the need to change the other person, you need to look to yourself instead or else, you shouldn’t be with them in the first place.

8. It really is the littlest things that mean the most and help keep things fresh. A cup of tea when it’s not asked for, a random chore done for the other, and even notes left for each other to find. My husband and I leave notes for each other all the time, saying anything from I love you to Have a great Day! We leave them all over the house or in places we know the other person will be looking in.

9. Tell the other person how you feel about them every day. Let them know that you’re thinking about them or just wanted to say hi, instead of using the call or text to remind them about some errand that has to be done or to vent about the kids.

10. Forgive. Whatever it is, forgive. As hokey as that may sound, I’m a big believer especially having been on the receiving end of forgiveness more often than I should have been! Unless you can say with utmost certainty that you would never do whatever it is they did wrong, or you really don’t want to be with the person anymore and don’t feel that your relationship is worth fighting for, then forgive. You can get mad and you don’t have to like or agree with whatever was done, but the only way to get past the inevitable relationship bumps and grinds, and move on and grow is to forgive.

Relationships can bring you to the heights of ecstasy and drop you to the depths of despair. They can be the bane of our existence or the only existence we want to live for and ultimately, a mirror of ourselves. I hope that my experiences here have given you pause, and will help enrich wherever you may be in whatever relationship you’re in and help you take things deeper.

As Only Mom Can Do

I woke up this morning with a memory of my mom from at last 20 years ago when she was still cleaning offices twice a week (plus working full-time for my dad in the family business and keeping up the household chores of cooking, shopping, and cleaning). This particular memory I woke up to, was a scene from one of the many times she had called me to ask for help in her office cleaning. She used to clean multiple doctor offices within a local two-story office building and she would go from one office to another, locking herself in to each office for safety’s sake.

She tirelessly hauled the vacuum, bucket and mop, and bags of rags and cleaning supplies from the one office to the next—chiropractor, gynecologist, dentist, podiatrist—it didn’t matter. They were all the same. They all had garbage cans, sinks, desks, and toilets that needed to be cleaned. Only the tools of the doctor’s trades made any difference as to what was behind those doors.

In my dream memory, I arrived at the office building, with a coffee and cheese Danish from 7-11 for her in hand as a treat. I reached for the front door, feeling relieved that it was unlocked, which meant one of the doctors was having office hours. Some days, if she knew she was going to be alone in the building she would lock it up tight and if I was coming to help her, I would have to bang on the glass doors or find an open window, a good indicator of which office she was in, and yell “Anya!” from the parking lot (that’s “mom” in Hungarian). Sort of like a Hungarian version of Marlon Brando yelling “Stella!!”

There was nothing striking or particular about this memory and why it popped into my head but I went with it, like I was watching an early morning movie. It was a scene that had repeated itself many times in my life and helping my mother clean offices is one of the core parts of my childhood. This random memory also held my attention because of its vividness and how it held me as I lay there still half-asleep but seeing all the details as closely and clearly as if I crossed a dimension and was standing right in between us that day.

In this memory, I walked into the first floor of the office building and I assume because she heard the front door, out she popped from the utility closet where she had been filling a bucket with water. Her mass of curly black hair only mildly kept in place by the headbands she favored. Her face was flushed and peppered with beads of sweat on her forehead, but when she saw me she broke into a big smile. “Hey!!!” We came together to kiss each other hello, and I wiped her sweat off my lips. “Hi honey,” she added. In the memory, I watched us take a quick coffee break so could have her Danish and she’d bring me up to speed with what and where she’d cleaned already and what still needed to be done (vacuuming always being a part of my job to help save her back). After we discussed the reassignment of the cleaning, we’d always spend a few more minutes catching up on other personal details of each others’ lives.

For as long as I could remember, my mother had a whirling dervish type of energy and it was palpable in my dream memory. It’s been so long since I’ve felt that level of energy from her I forgot what it was like and it was startling to feel it again. She stopped cleaning many years ago but still works a full-time job and makes her way through the day, her energy down to around 25 mph from her old 150 mph. Going back again in my mind and remembering her lifting the pails of water, vacuum, and scrubbing on her hands and knees, I can see the origin of all of her current aches and cramps. It’s so clear to me now how my mother’s constant pain and discomfort are a legacy from those days.

My mom is one of the smartest women I know and I’m incredibly proud of her. It’s been so hard to see her get caught up in the mental loop and sometime obsession of things that become bigger than life for people in their older years. I see changes in her confusion and thought processes and sometimes when she can’t remember something, I find myself trying to discern whether this is a normal forgetting or a another sign.

Sometimes when I explain recent mom-events to my brother I realize that I sound as though I’m on a Witch Hunt looking for signs of trouble or decline, but in my heart I’m not. In keeping her as independent as long as possible, I listen and I try to gauge whether her latest “You won’t believe what happened to me” story is another line that’s crossed or mom just being mom and the victim of circumstances.

The memory of her this morning, showed me in aching detail how fast the years have passed and how acutely things have changed with my taking care of her now as she increasingly looks to me for guidance and guardianship, especially being the closest to her physically.

I’m not fighting my role now as much as I did. I still get angry and frustrated, and there are days she’ll catch me off-guard, but I feel that I am finally coming to terms with the fact that this is the way she is now. My husband always said that I get angry because I fight the situation and he’s right. Instead of living in the memory of the way she used to be and missing being in the moment with who she is now, I think it’s more important to work on creating new memories with her and recognizing that sometimes it’s her fears that drive some of her reactions and not just her being stubborn (though there is still a lot of that!).

As it happens with many older people, there are aspects of her personality that have become exacerbated as she got older, which can be infuriating such as her obstinacy, selfishness, and manipulation. At the same time, however, it is exactly these qualities that she needed to cultivate and make bigger than life for her to have as a child, survived poverty; bombs; and soldiers holding her family at gunpoint, as they searched each household for traitors during the War, and then finally as an adult, escaping Yugoslavia with the clothes on her back.

Her story of survival is a remarkable one and I plan to tell it one day. But for now, this is the story of a mother / daughter flowing and reconciling into a relationship of caregiving and waiting for the next phone that will open up with “You won’t believe what happened to me”. Taking things deeper….

Blogging From A to Z: Welcome!

W

Dear Renata,

The Universe here, dropping off a quick note. Yeah, THAT Universe, as in the big U. Just wanted to stop by and bring you a note to say WELCOME to your new life.

I know things have been difficult and challenging lately, but I’ve been sending some people and good books your way to help you keep your sanity and to brighten your day. I’ve also brought about some new situations that I see you’ve taken advantage of to showcase your writing and art. You’re welcome.

I’ve been noticing that you’re still having some trouble despite my help though, and so I thought it best to contact you directly and send you an official letter welcoming you to this next phase of your life. The neighborhoods are the same—job, health, home, family, friends, and I’m sure you’ve already noticed that some of them have been changing with new neighbors and others that have moved out. More changes are coming and you will be exploring those neighborhoods soon enough, but today I decided to use the “W” in Blogging A to Z to welcome you to the new neighborhood that deals with taking care of your mom.

As you are well aware, she’s been having some additional health issues lately, and I’m sorry dear, but I want to strongly suggest for you to stop fighting the change. She’s not as young as she used to be and definitely not the mother that is living in your memory. So, in a sense, you have an updated version of your mother—the latest model so to speak. She still dances to the beat of her own drummer but the station has changed and there’s a new song playing. You’re the only relative close by whom she can call so instead of fighting the truth and the inevitable and feeling like your drowning with these new responsibilities, give it up and do the backstroke instead. You’re a good swimmer and strong, and take it from me, drowning people struggle in their panic so much it does more harm then good.

I don’t believe in writing instruction manuals but there are a lot of people in the same boat as you and the world is a wonderful reference library. Since I would never leave you high and dry and alone in your new neighborhood, I want to remind you that you still have God, Karma, and some pretty fun guardian angels on your side ready to help you in a pinch.

That’s about it for now. I used to do Welcome Wagons a long time ago complete with a basket of muffins and coupons for local dry cleaning, but too many people have food allergies to the muffins and everyone is so conscious with the environment now that I tend to leave notes like this when creating situations and opportunities aren’t enough. Take care of yourself and take care of mom. She needs you and I need you and the world needs you to be another volume in its reference library for the next person moving into their new neighborhood.

Love always,

The Universe