Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Open Letter To Spirit

Dear Spirit:
On this last day of the year, I'm sending my regards for another year of growth. For opportunities to expand my notion of who I am and what I know. To learn from others. To learn from myself. To learn about being a Human Being. To learn that I am more than I think myself to be...on most days.

Along with the growth, there have been tears of frustration, of anger, of pain. Tears from fears. Fears that I can identify, and bigger fears that I can't yet name. Fear. Why I am I still so fearful? Help me in this new year to begin to name the unnamed. For, I have learned that when I can call it, and stare at it, its power evaporates and I can be free of it. That is, until the next fear comes along and the work begins again!

Along with fear, there have been moments of bliss. In large things. And, bliss that exists in the unexpected. Those moments of grace when I can sense the rightness of it all. When I feel connected with the truth of me. And, connected with the beauty of this world. Moments like- feeling the comfort of my dogs curled next to me. Like the luxury of a nap on a gray afternoon. The warmth of a cup of tea held in my hands. The crisp cool of an autumn day. The uncomplicated delight in a sandwich when I'm hungry. The mystery of the beauty contained in a rose.

Along with bliss, there have been moments of joy. From welcoming a new baby to Earth. Or, that of a child discovering something new. Joy at the start of a new venture or relationship. Laughter that makes my sides hurt from the hysterical comments that fly when friends get together. From watching the antics of a pet; the birds at the feeders or from a chipmunk who lives in the garden wall.

Along with joy, there have been moments of sadness. Profound sadness. Over the loss of friends and loved ones. For, even though we faithful understand that they are not really gone, as Humans our senses are fragile. And, we are unable to see them. To hear them. To feel their touch. To know, easily, that they are there. It takes time to realize that those who have gone before are still with us and we with them. There's also the sadness in the loss of things that keep us intact, like jobs, homes, our possessions. Sadness for health that is lost and physical abilities that have diminished. Sadness in the ending of relationships that we hoped would last. Sadness in things loved and lost. Sadness in hearts that have been broken open.

Along with sadness there have been moments of hope. In the hope that today well-lived is the best I can do. In the hope that tomorrow will be better when today has disappointed. In the hope that, so long as I have courage to believe, all things are possible. In the hope that we hold for our country and its leaders, for our friends and family. In the tiny hopes we hold for ourselves. In our huge hopes for this world.

While I'm at it, I want to thank you. For walking with me each day of this year, even in those moments when I felt as if I was walking alone. Thank you for giving me the space I need to try things on my own and for assisting when I asked. Thank you for your continual belief in me even when I don't believe in you, or myself, for that matter! Thank you for allowing me to witness your face in the loving eyes of others. Thank you for it all.

For all, in 2009, I wish-
Moments of joy and bliss found in simple things, like the smell of freshly mown grass.

Faith that all of it has meaning and purpose, especially in incomprehensible moments.

Trust that life is good and worth our efforts, even when times are hard.

Knowledge that when one thing is lost, another is found.

Liberation that comes from the willingness to say, "I'm sorry," along with, "I forgive you."

Decernment of what is needed and what is simply wanted; along with flexibility to change when needed.

A sense of purpose coupled with the constant awareness that we are created in your image and likeness.

Courage to live as a peaceful warrior doing the best that can be done in each day.

Love returned ten-fold, but most importantly, the love of Self which is the most lasting love of all.

Peace that exists when living this moment only and not leaping ahead into the unknown that we call Tomorrow.

Gratitude for all that we have, are, and will bring into being.

Grace, to accept things as they are while working toward goals.

Thank you for listening Spirit. Thank you for my life. Even the parts that I cannot easily comprehend. Oh, and if you'll keep us laughing while we discover 2009, that would be wonderful!

Namasate' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Forgiveness- Part of Letting Go

Today, as part of the emotional clean-out I talked about yesterday, I'm going to take some time to look over the hard parts of my life. The parts that were delivered to me at the hands of another. And, I'm going to sit in the hard place of reliving the event.

I'm going to deliberately sit in the shadows for awhile today. I won't like sitting there. It will make me feel anxious. And, angry, even. But, it needs to be done. This is the kind of cleaning when you really take a look at the far corners of the basement. You know there are spider webs and other icky things there. You also know that if you really want to make a clean sweep of everything, you have to take a deep breath and dive in so it can be swept out. Otherwise, even though you gave it a good attempt, your basement won't really be clean.

I want my emotional basement, attic, closet, crawl-space clean and ready for the new year. Not just surface clean. I want the deep, satisfying sensation you get after you've tackled a job that seemed daunting; when you worked really hard and at the end of it, you have that wonderful sense of accomplishment. Don't you feel proud of your work?

It's almost like you reclaim part of your space when you toil through a spot that has gone untouched for so long. I always feel like I should plant a flag in it, like you see those explorers doing at the top of mountains...

Forgiveness is the elbow grease that's required in today's clean-up. It's the flag that I want to plant on the top of the emotional mountain. And, it's just as hard to accomplish as if I took the trek up a mountain or through the darkest jungle.

It would be easy to forgive if I could forget. Actually, it wouldn't be required at all. If I never remembered who hurt me and how, I'd live my life with relative ease. And, I think that's what confuses most of us when it comes to forgiveness. We get frustrated because we think, "Okay, I said I forgive her, but honestly, every time I think of what she did, I get so hurt." If we truly forgive, doesn't it mean that we'll eventually forget?


You'll never forget. And, that's why forgiveness is a miracle with which you bless another. It's something that you probably will give repeatedly to a situation, a part of your past, every time your memory drops you back into the dark place. Forgiveness must be given repeatedly.

That's not to say you should continue with a person who always does things to harm you. That would be crazy. Learn to let go of situations and people who never do anything more than wound you. Walk away. Run, even.

But, to those who have brought you life experiences that hurt, while helping you know more about being a Human Being... Those are the ones that you must forgive. Even though you will most likely never forget. Forgiveness given is a miracle that blesses both people. You for giving it. Them for getting it.

We're not supposed to forget. I think that having a memory is the vehicle that allows us to practice forgiveness. Forgiveness for allowing ourselves to get hurt. Forgiveness of the one who did the hurting.

If you need me, I'll be in the basement. Wish me luck!

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Monday, December 29, 2008

Making Space For The New Year

It'll be here soon, now. The New Year. With lots of expectations and hopes attached to it. Maybe more expectations and hopes than it can handle. Perhaps there are many jaded souls who won't even give it a chance. Perhaps there are those who will simply refuse to get their hopes up. Why be disappointed?

True, there could be disappointment and unmet expectations; more of the same. On the other hand, if you don't cast your net wide for hopes and dreams, I can guarantee you'll get nothing new. You have to invest in order to achieve. So, don't be a nay-sayer. Trust. Hope. Believe. Dream. Stay open. Be ready. Expect miracles. Be courageous and let go of your fear and worry. Fear limits you and makes life small. And, the new year beckons you to live with bigger notions of your life!

There's something you must also do; something that very few talk about when it comes to the new year. Before you begin dreaming and resolving, you must clear the way. Make a space. Make room. Get rid of thinking that doesn't fit you anymore. If your life is cluttered with thoughts and ideas that wound you or keep you from living authentically, these remaining days of the old year are the best time to dump them. Out with the trash. Time to clear out your emotional closet! Time to take inventory of your thoughts. Time to let go of ideas that limit you or hold you back.

The following is, in my opinion, one of the best writings about emotional and mental clean-up. With your permission, I'll share it here. How about joining me in a couple of days of tidying up? Some emotional reorganization. Let's make room in our hearts, minds, and feelings so that we can meet 2009 with all the hope and expectations we deserve:

Let It Go...
By: T. D. Jakes

There are people who walk away from you. And, hear me when I tell you this- When people walk away from you… let them walk. I don't want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. I mean- hang up the phone.

When people walk away from you, let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left. The bible said, “they came out from us that it might be made manifest that they were not for us. For had they been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us.” [1 John 2:19] People leave you because they are not joined to you. And, if they are not joined to you, you can't make them stay. Let them go. It doesn't mean that they are a bad person- it just means that their part in the story is over. You've got to know when people's part in your story is over so that you don't keep trying to raise the dead. You've got to know when it's dead.

You've got to know when it's over. Let me tell you something- I’ve got the gift of good-bye; it’s the tenth spiritual gift. I believe in good-bye. It's not that I'm hateful, it's that I'm faithful, and I know whatever God means for me to have, He'll give it to me.

And if it takes too much sweat I don't need it. Stop begging people to stay. Let them go! If you are holding on to something that doesn't belong to you and was never intended for your life, then you need to…. LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to past hurts and pains. . . LET IT GO!!!

If someone can't treat you right, love you back, and see your worth... LET IT GO!!!

If someone has angered you. . . LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to some thoughts of evil and revenge. . . LET IT GO!!!

If you are involved in a wrong relationship or addiction. . .LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to a job that no longer meets your needs or talents. . . LET IT GO!!!

If you have a bad attitude. . . LET IT GO!!!

If you keep judging others to make yourself feel better. . . LET IT GO!!!

If you're stuck in the past and God is trying to take you to a new level in Him. . . LET IT GO!!!

If you are struggling with the healing of a broken relationship . . .LET IT GO!!!

If you keep trying to help someone who won't even try to help themselves. . . LET IT GO!!!

If you're feeling depressed and stressed. . . LET IT GO!!!

If there is a particular situation that you are so used to handling yourself and God is saying "take your hands off of it," then you need to. . . LET IT GO!!!

Let the past be the past....Forget the former things that made you feel bad about yourself . . . LET IT GO!!!

God is doing a new thing for you!!! . . . LET IT GO!!!

Get Right or Get Left . . .think about it and then. . . LET IT GO!!!

I hope Jakes' words speak to you as much as they did to me. I admit, I have to remind myself regularly to let things go. It's an act of will sometimes! But, by letting go I demonstrate that I am faithful that all good things meant for me will come to me even though my timeframe and the Divine's is often quite different.

And, I know that I manifest into my life what I constantly look at, so I need to stay positive and centered. Like you, I get nervous at times and loose faith. I need to stay diligent and move back into the light when shadows hem me in. I'm looking forward to the clean up and decluttering. Join me in feeling the exhilaration of letting go of wounds and hurts. And, the incredible lightness of being when opening up space for miracles!

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Voice In The Modern Wilderness

I received an email last night from my first Greensburg friend, Eileen, who was the across-the-street neighbor when Michael and I moved here. Not knowing anything of the area and what to be looking for, we considered several rentals that allowed dogs. Meggie and Yoki were 15 and 16 at that time. In good health, but you can imagine, not all that active. Not much chance of them eating a house or digging up a yard. Still, not many places would allow us to have pets.

We the settled on the quaint, Cape Cod because it is in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood with lawns and character. And, mostly because it reminded me of my beloved home in The Long Green Valley. The necessary backyard was what closed the deal. A couple of days after moving in, and yes, I was crying, wondering what the hell I'd done by moving away from 'home'- a knock came on the front door. I opened it to a smiling lady holding flowers, "Hi, I'm Eileen and I live just across from you. Welcome to the neighborhood. These are from my yard." How nice was that?

Eileen and I became neighbor/friends. I met hubby, Joel, and daughter, Jean. Joel and Eileen are avid gardeners and love to share the wealth of produce they squeeze out of a small plot in the corner of their backyard. It's amazing how much great tasting stuff they get from their diligence. And, I was very happy to have everything that came across the street to my kitchen.

Hosta and day-lilies are part of Eileen's gardening delights. She was very excited when I told her how much I loved them and how sad I was to have left my favorites back in my Maryland gardens. When we moved to Eton Drive, Eileen shared many wonderful plants from her garden to help me get started here. Every time I'm out working in them, I feel Eileen close. She's a major part of my, 'Friends Garden' where I have placed all the plants that have been shared with me.

She suggested stores, physicians, other services in the area. Eileen tuned me on to the best place to buy artist's supplies. She shared her vast collection of stamps and paper; she is a fabulous card maker! And, she sparked my interest once again for card fabrication. I joined her for card making classes every now and again. These classes are Eileen's treat to herself and give her a night out on a regular basis.

Eileen and Joel are dedicated parents to Jean who has special needs. Jean is 30ish and has the most rich, luxuriant, sable hair. She has pretty eyes and when she smiles, her whole face lights up. She adores her mom and dad who make her world. She likes to volunteer with Eileen and help at a couple of sites where they are a dynamic team doing good works.

Jean is very possessive of Joel and Eileen which is understandable. She's also not very comfortable with new people so it took awhile until she was used to me visiting or talking with Eileen. Some days she was fine with it, some days not.

Jean is an adolescent in an adult's body. I wonder that she doesn't become frustrated because she is a woman but will never be treated as such. She is generally overlooked or misunderstood by most, who treat her like a child without a brain in her head. That's a huge mistake because Jean is quite smart. How does she not become completely annoyed with people who don't recognize that? She doesn't lack intelligence! It's that she can't always express what's going on in that bright brain of hers. I wish people would treat her with respect instead of condescension.

Jean says some remarkable things...she truly acts as Spirit's messenger on many occasions. With no disrespect to Jean, the only phrase I can think of is, "Out of the mouths of babes..." For, when Jean says these things, they are simple, concise, and absolutely awesome in their impact.

Eileen shared that, while reading the blog, she was reminded of something Jean said as they were walking to the car from church services. Jean was quiet which Eileen has come to recognize happens when she is puzzling with a thought. Following the quiet, Jean said, "You know Mom, you can’t feel or touch love but you know when it is there,"... a few more silent steps... "You can’t buy love because stores don’t sell it. It is not for sale.”

You can't feel or touch love...but you know when it's there. How incredibly true is that? It cuts to the heart of things in its simplicity making us remember. I think of Jean as a prophet- a voice that slashes through the noise to the essence of living authentically. Because she is so physically compromised, her words have all the more impact. Because she is dismissed or under-valued, you are slammed into amazement by her pronouncements.

Jean who is so underestimated can certainly tell when love is there and when it isn't. We, all of us, can tell that. We need to remember so we bring love to every encounter despite what we think we know of a person. Despite how our eyes might deceive us.

I'm sure most don't recognize Jean as Spirit's loved servant and tool. But, then again, I doubt that any prophet, in their own time, was ever recognized as such. Her parents recognize Jean for the gift that she is; I can't say for certain that it was done with intent, for how could Eileen have known when deciding on a name, how very special her baby would be? But, in French, John is spelled, Jean- as in Jean The Baptist, the the prophet whose voice rang out from the wilderness telling us to make way in our hearts for the love of Spirit... the love that is not sold in stores. The love that is not for sale.

Eileen and Jean; a wonderful team of mother and daughter. I am honored to count Eileen as a friend, and humbled by Jean's bright spirit in our midst.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On This Eve

Michael and I head out shortly to journey east. Wow, we sound like Wise Men, don't we? Except, the culmination of my journey will be back to what and who are most familiar to me. And, I will be glad to have the time with them.

During the festivities, I will be thinking of my Boy-chic who is far from home and all that is familiar. Celebrating his Christmas birthday in a new fashion. Or, perhaps, not at all. I'm sure he won't be telling anyone at basic training that his birthday is also Christmas Day. Still, we know, and we care. So, Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Evan.

I wish my girl, Melissa a blessed and merry Christmas, too; along with, "I love you, Sweetie." She will be spending her day with her friends and probably Jeannie who will insist on a carrot and probably extra hay. After all, it is Christmas,especially at the barn. Nanny said that on midnight, just as the clocks are chiming in Christmas Day, the animals all around the world can speak in Human languages. If you are there with them, you might hear them speaking. It's the Christ Child's gift to them for being so generous with their manger and for keeping Him warm on the night of His birth. I used to love listening to her tell me that story. I still love that story.

To my readers, thank you for the gift of your time each visit here! You have made writing this blog so worth my creative effort. Keep me honest and on track by sending your comments and giving me ideas. I look forward to exploring the new year with you.

I take a moment to acknowledge that I am blessed and happy for so many things. Even though, this year there will be less 'stuff' for most of us to unwrap. Perhaps that's not a bad thing. In the absence of the 'stuff', we'll find ourselves concentrating on the truth of the holidays. We'll spend it, truly enjoying the comforting presence of our friends, family, and those we care about. We'll rejoice for our gifts and blessings and have time to remember those who are not as fortunate. For, it is in giving that we truly receive.

If you are journeying as we are over the next few days, please be careful and allow time to get there and home again safely. Try not to rush because you miss moments that way. No matter where you find yourself, or with whom you are surrounded; whether you find yourself solitary and quietly on your own or in the middle of a gay crowd of people, enjoy yourself and find the gift that is waiting in this sacred holiday. The true gift- The Spirit of Christmas.

God rest ye merry gentle people. Let nothing you dismay. May you have a joyous and comforting Christmas Day. And, keep a candle aglow in the windows of your hearts. The light will help us all find our way Home For The Holidays.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Pink & Pale Blue

Out my window, the dawn is attempting to come into day. Still dark, but in the east, the line of light on the mountain ridge grows. My new day is on its way. Slowly, the line turns pink; now some orange creeps in. The inky sky beginning to turn watery pale blue. I notice the tufts of pinky cloudlets hanging in the smokey blue part now.

Here in Western PA, where gray days outnumber the sunny ones, the common occurrence of the dawn becomes a miracle. So often, it is the only sunny spot in another overcast day. We have a brief glimpse of longed for sunlight as it breaks over the horizon before the cloud cover blankets us once more.

The row of towering ancient pines that stand as sentinels in the back yard look like pen and ink sketches in front of the ribbon of pink and blue. A slight dusting of frost and snow makes the wintry scene complete.

It is quiet and peaceful. Only the click of the keyboard as I write to you. Now the rush of the heat coming through the vents adds to the symphony of life in the early morning.

The recent Winter Solstice is a celebration of light. The light returning to the world. We have safely passed the shortest day of the year. Now, imperceptibly, the days will inch lighter longer toward spring.

Yuletide starts and we make merry knowing that the darkness has lost its power and hold. Life will come again and we are merry and bright over that gift.

Now the sky is more pink than blue. The dawn sky sharing beauty one can only see when willing to leave the comfort and certainty of a warm bed. I suppose it's the same in life. In order to be rewarded with awe and something out of the ordinary, we have to stretch out of our comfort zones. Like Evan is doing now in his new venture. As Michael did four years ago when moving here for professional aspirations. As I did to be with the man I love so very much. As countless others do when they trade what they know for what they hope to achieve.

In this season of miracles and lights, my wish for you this dawn is that you find what you seek. Be as the Wise Men who journeyed unknowing for years with only a new, bright star in the eastern sky to guide them. There are times when your only compass will be faith- faith that something wonderful and true is out there for you. Hold on to your dreams and be willing to listen to that small voice inside that whispers of your new dawn.

I wish you peace and the continuous beauty of your dreams and hopes. I wish you a blessed Yuletide on which to build your bank of warm memories and love. I wish you the certainty that the sun is still there even when you can't see it. I wish you pink and pale blue dawns to remind you of the uncommon beauty of your life.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Monday, December 22, 2008

Going Downtown

As a youngster on 27th Street, the way to the shops was via the Number 10 bus that stopped right in front of Nanny's house before turning the corner onto Howard Street. I'll write about the trials and tribulations of having a city bus stop just outside your front door another day. Just know, it's not generally a good thing...

I loved riding the bus. Since they ran on a pretty tight schedule, it wasn't unusual to know the bus driver. And, having the chance to say hello to a familiar person, made it seem almost as though you had your own driver.

Going Downtown was not a casual event. When shopping in the large department stores, you had to dress for the occasion. For Nanny, The World's Meanest Woman, that meant a black pillbox hat with a slight bit of veiling in the front. A hat pin was necessary to spear it to the bun of silver hair. Her good dress-but-sturdy, black shoes tied with little bows. Slight heels making her an inch taller, but still well under 5'. White or black gloves, depending on the season, completed the ensemble.

If it was cold, she wore her black wool coat with the collar of fox pelts whose little heads had hinged mouths to bite the next piece until a completed circle was secured about her shoulders. I was fascinated by that bit of fur. Who made those little fox heads? And how did they think to use the onyx beads as eyes so they'd shine so brightly? Creepy but interesting and incredibly soft.

We'd head to Howard & Lexington where the huge, and I do mean huge, department stores awaited. They were staffed by individuals who thought of themselves as privileged professionals. All said, "Good day," when you caught their eye. If they happened to know you as a regular customer, you would hear, "Mrs. Dietor, so nice to see you again, is there something I may help you find?" I always felt important being with Nanny, especially at Hutzler Brothers, because they all seemed to know her there. She was treated with equal deference at Stewart's, Hecht's, and Hochschild Kohn's.

After her selection, the question was, "And, will you be taking you purchase with you today, Mrs. Dietor, or shall I have it sent?" If it was something for me, I'd say, "I can carry it on the bus, Nanny," because what child can wait to get something new home? Often Nanny would direct, "No, just send it." The package then went to Baltimore Parcel Service, a courier for the large stores. Sometimes if you were lucky, the package would arrive later the very same day-no charge!

While she shopped, with her permission I'd go to the notions department where the most beautiful things awaited examination. Gold compacts with bright mirrors tucked inside. Cigarette cases with decorations on top. Jeweled hat pins. Sewing boxes with matching pin cushions. Nail filing kits. But, my favorite? The sparkling tiaras resting on velvet pillows simply begging to be placed on my head. I thought those tiaras where the most exquisite things that Hutzler's could sell! Even in those days I must have recognized that I am the Queen of The Universe. I still lust for a tiara, but I never purchased one. Probably just as well...what would the UPS man say if I opened the door wearing my regalia?

The massive fronts of all of these stores occupying the four corners of Howard & Lexington were entered through revolving doors. Some had uniformed doormen to help you when arms were loaded with packages. The elevators had uniformed operators. The lead attendant stood at the elevator banks scanning up and down to note which car was full enough to leave. Once identified, she used her 'clicker' and a nod of her head. With that, the doors clanked closed and you took the ride, hearing, "Second floor, men's wear; Third floor, ladies and lingerie...," and so on till you reached your destination. I thought that must be the hardest job of all, remembering where all the stuff was kept.

The stores invested mighty sums of money to decorate the sales floors and windows at Christmas. I'm sure they must have been in friendly competition, attempting to outshine each other and capture the most business. The decorations had themes and changed each year; not like now when you see the same things hanging in the mall for years. Automatons, lights, puppets, huge Santas. One year much to my amazement, in Stewart's front windows, Santa- the real, live one, dressed in gorgeous red velvet, sat on a gold throne all day waving to everyone rushing by! All displays beautifully rendered. Nothing cheap or tacky. Now, the only chance you're likely to see window displays like them, will be in New York City. I'd highly recommend that you do before you leave this earth. Truly amazing and beautiful.

When I was old enough to ride the bus alone, and by that I mean nine or ten since we lived in a kinder, gentler time when you could let a kid go safely Downtown on her own, I'd take my saved-up money, augmented by Dad's infusion of $20, to shop for Christmas gifts. Starting at Hutzler's, I'd walk to the counters with which I was most familiar. The clerks all greeted me and offered help. I'll never forget the one who said, "Well, hello little Miss Dietor! Is there something I may help you find today?" I thought I was the most special girl in the entire world. She walked with me making suggestions. And, even though I probably spent about $5, she wrapped it and treated me just as professionally as she did the society women she would wait on that day.

The gentleman who waited on me in Men's was the same. He helped me pick out the perfect handkerchiefs with a blue embroidered J for Dad, along with very expensive Gold Toe Socks. I remember him saying, "I am sure he will be delighted, Miss."

With my remaining money, I went to Reed's Drug Store to buy chocolate covered cherries for Dad and Nan. And, since Dad had given me money for lunch, I sat at the counter where waitresses dashed about wearing aqua colored aprons and matching waitress-points in their hair. A smile, "What can I get for you today, Hon?" My usual downtown lunch, "Grilled Cheese sandwich with a Coke, please." I still like grilled cheese sandwiches. But, none that I've ever had since taste as good as the ones while shopping on Howard & Lexington streets.

Shopping complete, tired, I'd wait with all the people at the bus stop; pigeons bobbing around pecking at the sidewalks. Adults generally made sure I got safely on the bus, first. I'd say hello to the driver as I dropped my 15 cents into the coin box. And, sit just behind him as directed by my father. He'd chat with me about my day in between calling out the upcoming stops, and 20 minutes later, I'd be dropped off at home.

Shopping in Downtown. Christmas on Howard & Lexington. Who could beat it and who doesn't miss it now that it's all gone? Merry Christmas, Baltimore. Merry Christmas.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lift Up Your Voices

Last night, Michael and I enjoyed a night of symphony music and songs at the Palace Theatre here in Greensburg. It's a great old theater with murals painted in the style of Maxfield Parrish and burgundy brocade on the walls. Ancient box seats and an intimate stage space harken back to a more lavish age.

The seats, maroon plush, are quite small; also an indicator of life in a by-gone era. People were smaller then. Diminutive in fact, compared to us. And, I'm not talking about the unfortunate trend in our becoming a nation of Super-sized people thanks to fast food and other poor eating habits. People were simply smaller.

The smaller people of long ago looked forward to concerts and the symphony. These were part of the Social Season as it was often called in high society. It was a time to see and be seen as much as it was to take in the content of the event. A time for the community to come together and connect.

In a world that didn't know the hum of electronics, you had to be in the presence of musicians if you wanted to hear music. Changed forever now thanks to iPods, radios, televisions, Sirius Satellite, oh name get my idea. All these gizmos mean that you can listen to what you want, anytime you want, wherever you want. But, music is meant to be enjoyed with others as well as a singular activity. Now, we're pretty much singular in most of our activities. Sadly, dwindling attendance at the symphony and other events reflects our growing trend toward isolationism.

However, last night the hall was pretty full, the audience mostly proud parents and relatives of the All Star Choir. Proud, to the point of bursting their buttons, these attendants watched for their particular 'star' in the choir comprised of 18 Westmoreland County schools. Several members of each choral group were selected to represent their high school. What an achievement!

There they stood, crammed on risers, a rainbow of brightly colored choir robes. Quite a sight. And, sing they did. Well, in fact. Enjoyably well. They received thundering applause at the conclusion of the concert along with the Westmoreland Symphony who did a lovely job of entertaining us. I hope the applause rings in the kids' ears for a long time.

The concert was called, Home For The Holidays. Sweet and reminiscent of the hopes we all have. The guest conductor, who lives is Cambridge Mass and works at Harvard was, very much, home for the holidays. Channing Yu, grew up Monroeville and was in the Westmoreland Youth Symphony. Last night, he happily stood at the podium, baton in hand, as the conductor. Fabulous! His family was beaming as proudly as the families of the high school kids.

In an age when we too often hear the bad things that kids get involved in; the damage they can cause; the pain their actions and choices can create, I want to remember those standing there in colorful robes with their families in the audience. It takes energy and effort to live justly in an unjust world. I believe there are more youngsters like them than we know. We only hear about the ones who have lost their way; I prefer to concentrate on the ones who are on their way to good things and becoming solid members of our community.

Congratulations to all of them for making positive choices and to the families who should be proud of their investment in their children. And, to all the Symphony members, Mr. Yu, and the choir, thanks for bringing the gift for music to Greensburg last night.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Card Acquaintances

I'm sure you have them too, the people you like very much but seldom see, maybe even never see. The ones that you simply must send a Christmas card to, despite the fact that your last contact with them was the same time last year.

They probably think of you fondly the same. When they see your writing on the envelope, they open it with a smile and think, "Gee, it's nice to hear from them again. Wonder how they're doing?" And, in all probability, they've sent a card to you because you're on their Christmas Card Acquaintance list.

Don't we meet so many wonderful people in passing, as it were? You go on vacation and connect with the couple who shared beach space with you. You meet someone at a conference and you really think so much alike that it's a pleasure to sit with them and talk. You go to a party where you meet the host's friends. Chatting with them, the night flew and the laughter rolled.

And, you hope that you'll have opportunities to be in each other's company more often, but you know realistically, that won't happen. So, during special times of the year, most particularly the holidays, you make an effort to remind them that you still think of them and hope they are well and happy.

Michael and I just got a call from one of those folks. We met Bobbi and Gary at a conference a couple of years back. Although they are older, we really enjoyed being with them. Except for an occasional email from Gary, we just make sure to send cards at Christmas.

Bobbi says that in October, Gary died. And, when my card arrived addressed to both of them, she knew she had to let us know. What a hard call for her to make. Even though she's heart broken, she was gracious enough to take the time and call. And, that's the kind of good people who become Christmas Card Acquaintances.

We'll miss Gary. He was a great guy and the idea that we won't have the chance to meet again is sad. Make sure to take the time to think of your Christmas Card Acquaintances, even if you don't actually send a card. Though the moments in each other's presence are few, the impact they've had to your life is probably significant and your memories of them are good ones.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

With Apologies To Marcy

Lorraine Avenue was around the corner from our house on 27th street. The part I knew was only a city block long. There is another part, but as it happens in cities, the road gets bifurcated by streets that cross it. If it's not the part closest to you, the rest is non-existent so far as you're concerned.

Lorraine was the best place because that's where the majority of kids in the neighborhood lived. On the porch fronted row homes that were wide and welcoming, people sat out in the evening and talked over low railings to their neighbors. They'd watch us kids as we raced about and yelled and carried on.

What I remember the most about Lorraine Avenue was its huge sycamore trees that leaned across the narrow street to entwine with its partner on the other side, creating a tunnel. In the summer, the trees kept us shaded and about ten degrees cooler than anywhere else. Wonderful! But, even then, the mighty trees were dying from smog and what was probably the beginnings of Dutch Elm Disease. "When the trees go, there goes the neighborhood," Dad said quietly as we watched the city workers bring one down.

His point being, as all the green and beauty of nature evaporated, so did the energy and interest of the inhabitants to keep it looking good. We aren't meant to live separate from nature; it takes a toll on the psyche'. If you look at inner-city neighborhoods barren of trees and the crumbling state of most, you'll have to agree that he was certainly on the mark. Very sad.

I always hoped to play with the kids on Lorraine. I say hoped, because I wasn't always 'allowed' to play with them. "Go home, Holly. You're not allowed to play with us today. We don't want you on the team." Or, I'd hear, "You can be on my side today. We're going to play hop-scotch. You can go last."

Kids in their own element can be so bossy. And, I'm a rules girl. So, I'd play when 'allowed,'; I went home when I wasn't. Once, I went to the Arduin's house to see if Karen would play. When Mrs. Arduin answered the door, I could hear all the Lorraine girls inside playing dress up. She looked at me with a bit of discomfort mixed with sadness, "I'm sorry, Holly. The girls don't want to play with you today." That day, as I walked home, I remember crying. These are the moments that begin to form a little person and they're necessary. Painful, but necessary.

When I started school at SS.P.J. I got to know girls from the neighboring streets. That's how Marcy and I met. She lived in the really large row homes on Maryland Avenue. Architecturally, it was a lot cooler than our house with a fire place, stained glass over the front door and a huge bay window. It was close to Wyman Park and Seton High School. A very pretty those days.

Marcy had a loud, really messy, loving family. They weren't wealthy. Her Dad drove a Tastykake truck; there was always day old cupcakes, Tandykakes, you name it, to be had! Yum! How fabulous was that? The house always looked like a bomb had gone off in it. Stuff everywhere. Books, paper, crayons, jackets, skates, records, piano music, unidentified objects. There was always room for me at the dinner table. Most often when I called to ask if I could stay, Daddy would say, "It's time to come home, now." Mrs. Jones would jump on the phone and say, "Really, Mr. Dietor, it's no trouble. The kids will walk her home after."

Marcy was round and pleasant. She wore her chestnut hair in two long braids. Her skin was milky white and she had a moon face with pretty brown eyes. She laughed easily. We spent hours together. She had an older sister who 'was the boss of us,' and found us absolutely annoying. A brother, Johnny, who I very rarely saw because he was always out in the alley with his friends doing what boys do. We weren't welcome, thank you very much. Her littlest brother, Jimmy, didn't make a difference at all. He ignored us girls, and we sure didn't have time for him.

Mrs. Jones was kept busiest taking care of Casey who had Cerebral Palsy. At first Casey made me uncomfortable because of his special chair and his spastic movements. He used to bang on the piano and make a racket. On days when his nerves cooperated with him, he could actually pick out a simple tune. It made me squirm when he'd speak to me because I couldn't understand him. He never seemed troubled by someone in the family interpreting for him, though. He'd just wait and smile as they did.

Over time, I got used to the sounds Casey made and one day I realized I understood him as well as anyone I spoke with. Besides Marcy, I liked Casey the best of all of the Jones kids. He was always pleasant and sunny. He loved music and loved to sing; he'd listen and sing along with Puff The Magic Dragon repeatedly for hours. He always wanted a hug when you came in the door. But, he was so severely handicapped, poor Mrs. Jones had no time to herself what with all of them and managing Casey night and day.

While I was dealing with the snotty behaviors of the Lorraine Avenue gang, Marcy suffered the same trials in our classroom. There's always one kid who seems to bare the brunt of everyone's bad behavior, and for whatever unspecified reason, Marcy was that for our class. I'd try to defend her. When that didn't work, I'd simply stand next to her on the playground or try to make it known through my actions that Marcy was my friend. I didn't have much influence over the situation.

Some days Marcy was invited to play. Some days she wasn't 'allowed.' Most days I'd decline to play if my friend wasn't included. But, sad to say, there were times when I left her standing there as I ran to join the others.

We grew, interests changed, friendships fell away, new alliances formed. The one with whom you are tight one week, becomes the one you simply can't stand the next. God, kids are like weathervanes!

I'm not proud to admit this, but at a certain point, it became easier to not like Marcy, too. As I write this, I know that I felt that at the time, but I don't know why. In part it was because we started to like different things. But, mostly, it was because the rest of the class just didn't like her. I found myself, one day, making fun of her. Wow. How did that change and why? Survival, I guess.

I should have known better and acted better. I mean, after all, I didn't like how the brats on Lorraine Avenue treated me. It really hurt my feelings and made me cry. I knew what it was like to be ostracized and treated badly. So, why was I okay with doing it to Marcy? Shame on me. But, I was just a kid and most of us don't learn about feelings until we've pulled the wings off of a few unfortunate flies.

Marcy and I never were friends again even though we both went on to Seton High. When we saw each other, we'd chat and be pleasant but cool. I was all right with my choice to stop being friends, but there was a twinge of regret for what was lost. She went her way and I went mine. I'm sure she's fine. Still, I want to go on record, "Marcy, I'm sorry if I ever made you feel like the mean kids made me feel. I wasn't very nice to you at the end. You deserved better. You were a good friend and I loved being with your family in your big house on Maryland Avenue. I wish you well."

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On Your Mother's Side

Early this morning, I went to have standard medical tests done, no biggy. Readers, if you have ta-tas, make sure that you do the right thing and have the 'girls' tested regularly. Men, make sure your women do.

At any rate, while completing the usual history questions, the tech asked, "And, how about on your mother's side?" I never, never have an answer to that one. I'm sure the blank look on my face would make them wonder. Good thing they're generally too wrapped up in their paper work to see my struggle to answer that simple question, "on your mother's side..."

The facts are these: I could have been hatched for all I know. I never met my mother so far as I can tell. Wouldn't have known her if we passed on the street. Couldn't tell you what her voice was like; what color her eyes may have been. Except for a few random photos that survived the purge, I wouldn't be able to tell you what she looked like. Not sure much about her at all. Norma left when I was 18 months old. I desperately hoped, until she died when I was about 17, but I never got a card, a call, a letter, a visit. Nothing.

Norma had three children- one from each marriage. Glenn and I are very close; there's a younger half-sister somewhere. I've never met her. At this point, the fact that I haven't doesn't make a difference. As her middle child, I'm the kid that Norma forgot. My brother had the opportunity to know her some and the youngest was living with her when mom died. Me? Nothing is there for me.

Neither did I know my mother's side of the family. When she left, that part evaporated with her. Or, perhaps it was how my father controlled things in the wake of damage done. I did get to know my grandmother very briefly before she died. But, I was too young and not open to trying.

I went through most of life not trusting women because of this lack of a key relationship. Thankfully, I began meeting wonderful women who, through their acts of generosity and love, taught me the value and necessity of feminine energy. Through them, I've learned to embrace the glorious parts of being a woman. To all, I owe a debt of gratitude.

When I began trusting women, I also began to sense a change in my stand on Norma and her lack of ability to be a mother. I used to be dark and moody when I thought of her. The phrase, "I've known cats who were better mothers," easily came to mind. When I considered her at all, which I attempted to hold to a minimum, it would race from tears to, 'Screw you, Norma! If you don't want me, I sure the hell don't need you!!!"

I'm not sure what happened; one day, I realized that the only one who was hurting was me. Why was I missing someone I didn't even know? She's dead! There's no hope for anything now- she's got no worries and not feeling badly about her decisions as they relate to me. Just me feeling bad alone didn't seem to make much sense. So, I shifted over time into a neutral space when it came to mother. A live and let live sort of thing.

As I deepened my quest to know Spirit and who I am as a spiritual being, feelings about Norma kept bubbling up to be healed. Now I am able to see her as the troubled individual she was. I am able to feel compassion, if not love. I'm astounded by how young she was when she was married, with two children, to a very crippled man. Even more alarming, she was a teenager when married the first time to Glenn's father.

I consider the creativity she possessed. The wild nature that couldn't be tamed. The artist spark. The crazed woman who self-medicated with alcohol. The stunningly pretty woman whose sad eyes I share. The one who spent her life lost and searching so hard for something she could not name.

I also know now, with a bit of life experience, that there are always two sides to every story. And, the truth lies some place in between. You know how much I respect my father; I still maintain his view of the experience of being married for less than two years to Norma is accurate. I admire him for not sharing the horror stories or deliberately attempting to sway my opinion until I was old enough to hear some of it.

When you live with one who has saved you, it's natural to see life from their perspective. But, now without feeling disloyal I ponder, how much might Dad have prevented Norma from contacting me? How far will a parent go to protect or insulate their child from emotional hurt? I'll never know. And, without knowing, I can't be certain how my mother felt about leaving me or if she felt the loss of me. Without knowing, I find I cannot judge her- anymore.

I no longer accept, without question, the saga of Norma through Dad's view. I have to form my own opinion of it all. And, my opinion is that Norma was not a good mother or wife. Norma was a confused spirit who hurt the ones who tried to love her as she smashed through life. Along with all of that, she was also my portal of entry into life. I owe her respect and thanks, if nothing more.

I can't say I will ever understand feeling love for a mother; I know I'll never experience the gift of a mother's love for me. At least, not in this life time. Still, I can't say why- perhaps it's the time of year when the beauty of the story of one particular Mother & Child is so often brought to my awareness. For whatever reason, at this time of year more than any other, I'm able to say without being pained, "Sleep in heavenly peace, Norma...Sleep in heavenly peace, Mom."

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Norma's Daughter

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

San Antonio Awaits

Yesterday, I shared how I'm feeling about Evan's departure. And, that's not changed too much since. Except, this morning, I'm more convinced that this is absolutely the right thing. I'm at peace with it all. I'm only human, though, and I feel a void.

When I got home in the afternoon, as I was tearing up because the house seemed too quiet, the dogs suddenly galloped upstairs. Watching them, for just a second, I thought or hoped I might hear his usual greeting, "Hey. Whaz up?" They say that dogs can't reason; I'd debate that. I know the pups are looking for Evan, trying to figure it out. It'll take a little time till they stop hunting him. But, they'll never stop being on the look-out for his return to our pack.

Boy-chic was hoping that he'd get an indicator of the rightness of his choice. Yesterday it was close to 70 degrees here. Today, there's a fresh blanket of snow making things look like a Christmas card. Considering he hates the cold and he's winging his way from Western PA to the warmth and sun of San Antonio later today, I'd say he got his wish.

Life is about the here and the 'what nexts', and we aren't always lucky enough to easily sense the comparisons between our choices. I'm glad that today, which I know is causing understandably nervous jitters, Evan gets to see the differences in his current life from what he'll be experiencing starting by the end of the day. To quote the old standard, "What A Difference A Day Makes!"

We know his next two months in basic training won't be a holiday or fun. But, absolutely worth his effort. An opportunity to take the measure of his character. More to the point, it will be worthy of his talents. They'll deny it while he's in basic, but the Air Force will definitely be better for having Evan on their team. We all know that it's not easy to answer a call. In this case, we'll all be better every day he serves because he had the courage to say, "Yes!"

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wild Blue Yonder

I am surprisingly sad. I mean, really, really sad. Start-thinking-and-tears-start-sad. Crazy. We've only known each other four years and it hasn't even been a solid block of time. We're extremely different about likes and dislikes. Can't stand each other's choices in music. And, let's not even talk about how he lives in a house vs. the way I want things. So, why the hell would I cry because he is finally leaving today? Just crazy...

I cry because I never thought I'd have a 'son'. The first Michael and I never had children and by the time this Michael and I found each other, we were way past the notion of them. Besides, he already had two great kids that were well on their way to being outstanding adults. So, with Michael came my longed for and instant children. No mixing required; simply add love!

Only, nothing important is ever instant and it took time and effort for us to gel as a family unit. I'm more friend than step-mom but that role seems best suited to my natural abilities. When Evan decided to relocate here, it gave us the opportunity to have daily interaction and we have become close. I admire his wit and intelligence, and his work ethic, and his knowledge of cars and anything mechanical, and his ability to fix things, and his honorable nature, and his willingness to help, and, and, and. You catch my drift.

I not only like him, though, I love him.

Now, as he leaves to start his life in the Air Force, I realize that I've grown to depend on his being here. He's been another family member to talk to and whine to at times. While I've been struggling to find my way in this new place, he has been doing the same and well, I guess it was easy for us to commiserate. Now, in a few hours, I will leave for my job, and he will be leaving for his new job of creating his truly independent life.

It never occurred to me that I would have the blessing of being sad over the notion of a child leaving my address as their home address for the final time. And, I am completely caught off-guard by my mixed emotions. I am so very proud of Evan for taking up the warrior's call for all of our sakes. I am happy that he has finally found the starting point of what, I am positive, is going to be a wonderful life.

I am feeling heart-sore for Michael who, as a great father, is watching his youngest leave his immediate circle of influence. As a former 'Zoomie', Michael is simply beaming to have Evan continue the Frock tradition. I'm feeling a girlfriend's tears and fears as Melissa anxiously watches her baby brother take off far from home and us. And, I am feeling overwhelmingly emotional because my Boy-chic is leaving. What will Rory & Fiona do without Evan's comings and goings to help regulate their day? Today is going to be emotionally challenging for all of us...

They say home is where the heart is, and I believe it is so very true. So Evan, my Boy-chic, as you take off into your wild blue yonder today, know that so long as I have a heart, you have a home. I love you and wish you bright blessings as you go. You make us proud. In our hearts, there is no great distance between us; we are not far. And, we'll be overjoyed when you return.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Wicca'd Step Mom

Sunday, December 14, 2008

No Entry From Me Today

As a Reiki Master Teacher I am often directed by Spirit to deliver a message. It doesn't happen during every Reiki session, but it does happen often. At first, I didn't understand; I thought that the 'ideas' or flashes of insight were generated from inside me. I would hold back thinking, "I don't have the right to say something that personal. I don't want to make them uncomfortable or to think I'm weird! What if I'm wrong??" But, when I didn't share, I'd get subsequent confirmation that 'the thought,' was actually information that would have proved very helpful.

Over time, I began to recognize the difference between a message from Spirit and my own thoughts. The only way to describe it is that, when Spirit is speaking, there's a moment of calm and then it seems as if I'm listening to the radio instead of hearing the stream of internal thoughts that we all have minute to minute.

Often, what I am directed to share makes no sense to me but does to the person. That's because the message is not for me, it's for another's benefit. I always start by explaining, "If what I share doesn't seem to hold any meaning, let it go. If you sense it does but you're not sure how, then file it away." Generally, when I give the message, I can see the immediate recognition of its truth in the eyes. I am still not always comfortable with being Spirit's voice, but I accept the responsibility and, as a Reiki practitioner, I serve as I can.

As I was thinking about posting an entry today and not sure what to write, I got the momentary calm and heard Spirit. This time, dear reader, I have no way of even knowing who this message is for, much less the context, but I trust that you are there and in need, and so does Spirit. So, this entry is courtesy of Spirit, who says:

"Trust & follow your heart."

If this resonates with you, or perhaps several of you, I am honored to be Spirit's writer as you work toward clarity in making your decision.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Building Community

I had a marvelous time at the holiday dinner. Nothing so remarkable about an event like that. It is, after all, the holidays. But, this one was unique, at least for this day and age. There were 50 or so of us at the tables. Laughing, enjoying fellowship, and talking up a storm. All ages. It was very festive.

The thing that makes this holiday party so special is that it was comprised of neighbors. All neighbors. More accurate, Friend-Neighbors. Not that everyone was at the dinner, but everyone was invited and a great many decided to share time with each other.

This neighborhood is only a few years old. And, it's remarkable that most of us who built here came with the notion of being more than just inhabitants of a house. What most of us were hoping to do is build community. I'd say we're well on our way.

The thing is, our goal of being friends as well as neighbors can be tricky in an intimate development like ours. There are only about 100 houses. The space between us is not that great. In fact, most of us live in what is fashionably referred to as Paired Villas. Don't we sound just too, too?

If you grew up in row homes as I did in Baltimore, you'd know there's an art to living in a tight environment and sharing space without over-stepping your bounds and becoming nebbie. The trick is to, as the Japanese say, "Not see." We all seem to have the knack of it here in Kingsbrooke. For the most part, we are neighbors who care but are not all up in your grill. It's really quite nice.

Not that all who live here want to share in the socialization. That's fine. Some people simply wave as they drive by. Some don't even go that far. We respect their privacy. They're always included but not pressured to participate. As one neighbor said, "I don't feel like I need to draw my curtains to have privacy. I like that my neighbors watch out for me, but I never feel as though I'm being watched." A pretty good description, I think.

When I was adjusting to life on my own, I got fretful thinking that if something happened to me, it could be days before anyone missed me or wondered where I was. It was a very bad feeling. I happened to share that with my mailman, Tom, when he stopped to deliver a package. He said, "Holly, you don't ever have to worry about that. I know everyone on my route. And, I know their patterns. For instance, I know that you get your mail out of the box every day. Some of my customers don't. So, if you went two days without getting your mail and you hadn't told me you were going away, you best believe I'd be knocking on this door to make sure things here were all right."

I can't begin to tell you how much relief that gave me. Just knowing that someone who was in the neighborhood regularly and aware of me was enough to give me courage to keep on moving on. Tom was never intrusive, but he was always attentive. I'll always be grateful for that. And, the attentive but not intrusive mind-set is the one I have adopted as a neighbor. I think most of us here feel the same.

If you don't live with us, I suppose there's nothing all that fascinating about this entry. Except that, in our rushed world where everyone seems to wish to remain anonymous and uninvolved, it is fascinating to live with diverse and interesting people who find joy in spending time with their neighbors. People who share the common bond of working to build community, helping each other and furthering the quality of our lives in the process.

Kingsbrooke Estates where houses become homes and neighbors become friends. If you're in the neighborhood, please stop by and say hello. We'll be happy to meet you.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rainy Days

It never got past twilight today. It never moved beyond steel gray this rainy day. Wet. Soggy. Drippy. Depressing.

As my father tells it, when I was a toddler and it was raining when he came to get me up and dressed, I would clap my hands saying, "Oh goody! It's waining!" He always found it fascinating that a little one could find such excitement in a day that caused most the blues. It was also a moment for him to give thanks because as a crippled man, he felt blessed that his child could stay still for hours instead of a very active child with whom he couldn't have kept pace.

After we worked to get me dressed, which took awhile since he couldn't bend to help and little fingers don't work that well, I'd hop down from the bed and go to kneel in the window seat of Dad's bedroom. I don't remember the getting dressed part, but I do have a shadow of a memory of sitting in that window seat and watching out the window onto the busy streets of Baltimore. Our apartment over the restaurant was a great vantage point to look down on the world. I still love that metal smell that blooms at the very start of a rainstorm.

The rain would blip against the window and splash on the ledge. I'd watch raindrops race down the glass. What I remember is the heat coming up from the window seat as it was actually the cover to a radiator. Toasty. I'd curl my legs under and watch as the asphalt morphed into black glass. The shine of brake lights making momentary red patches on the wet streets was magical.

I enjoyed the Number 10 bus trundling around the corner and making a quick fountain of the water standing in the gutters. I loved the rooster tails of water that followed cars racing to beat the red light. The swishing sound that each made when traveling by. And, it was always fascinating to watch what pieces of flotsam the rushing waters pulled into the storm drains. I saw a pinky ball disappear down the drain in a storm once...very, very sad! Those cost a whole ten cents!

On my long ago rainy days, people walked with galoshes on. Kids wore yellow slickers with brass clasps that snapped closed and matching hats making them look like miniature fishermen. Most couldn't resist stamping in the puddles occasionally. Large black umbrellas bobbed along. Proper gentlemen always wore hats and those helped to keep faces relatively dry. On really rainy days, you could watch water stream off the hats much like you see in cowboy movies....

There was always a lot to see on the corners of Howard & 27th Streets where I grew up. And, I consider how far I've come from that spot in Baltimore. I also wonder how far I've come in life to arrive at a point where it's harder now to find enthusiasm for a rainy day. Is it the process of growing older? Or, do I simply need to dig deeper to uncover my ability to find joy in the simple things? How do I find my way back to the place of, "Oh goody, it's raining!"?

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

More About Lids & Pots

As a writer, I can never be certain what will raise a response from a reader. With A Lid For Every Pot, I must have really hit a nerve with some and struck chords with others. Based on things you've shared, let's continue:

First, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Especially, Lindsey, who invested time getting her feelings out. Others have contacted me different ways. Yesterday, a reader wrote something that perked in my brain over night.

The reader says that while they basically agree with my premise, if they were to follow my thinking, they might be alone their entire life. Reader does not think it's right or natural for the average Human to spend life alone. I agree. However, ask any person who is in a less than optimal relationship how alone, or not, they feel. You can be desperately alone when in a relationship as much as, if not profoundly more than, when you are alone on your own terms.

There is a huge difference between being alone vs. on your own. Men do not confuse these two states but women generally do. I can't say if it's genetically hardwired, but most women feel they are incomplete unless they are satisfactorily paired. Men, on the other hand, feel complete as solo entities and submit to being partnered only when they are ready to experience differently. Must be the differences in the hunter, generally a singular activity, vs. the gatherer, who is more successful if there are many to help find what is needed to survive. We can discuss the emotional underpinnings of that anthropological theory another time...

Again, there is a huge difference between the state of being alone vs. on your own. Can you sense the difference? All of us will be alone at points in our lives. There will be times when you are lonely. Others when you are on your own. The emotional states are different- the first means that someone has gone and there is no one presently close, causing temporary sadness or anxiety. The second- you are feeling vulnerable and lessened as if you are missing something important in your life and yearning for something to correct that. The third state- being on your own, is an empowered place. Your life is moving freely, you are emotionally powerful, conscious that you are the designer of your life. You live in the moment with hope, curiosity and contentment.

You can't easily distinguish between these three places and the emotional states until you've successfully lived through all of them. It is normal to want to avoid being lonely but, it's hard to do. You can be at crowded party and still feel lonely! However, when you are at peace with your life and happy with who you are, loneliness is non-existent. You can be without another soul in your space and know all is well. What's the difference? It's you. You and how you are feeling about life.

When we believe that the external world determines how alone or connected we feel, we give away our personal power. How alone you feel, how lonely you believe yourself to be, is strictly dependent on you. Those feelings come from the inside and move out; they do not come from the outside and seep into you. Most of us believe that it's the other way around until we discover the power of our spirit.

It's easy to confuse that truth. It's very real to believe that we won't survive without people as that's what our senses confirm. We do need others; I'm not suggesting otherwise. We do need to feel special and worthy and loved. We do need to feel part of something and someone.

Feeling worthy, special, loved- while validated by what someone else says and demonstrates, is only real when you can truly feel these things for yourself. As a Spiritual Being, you are on earth to confirm these things for yourself, about yourself. We attempt to feel loved by giving those feelings to someone before we learn the importance of giving them, first, to ourselves.

You cannot give to others what you do not possess. A dry well produces no refreshment. Is your emotional well full of spiritually rich waters? Are you able to easily refill and refresh your waters? Can you fill your own cup?

If you think that another's feelings for you are the measure of your worth, you risk being destroyed if that one leaves. Why? Because you wrongly believe that only they give meaning and substance to your life. Do not give your power to others! They do not want it and will eventually pull away. They don't want the responsibility. You must be the keeper of your power and share it with others; you cannot turn it over to others for safe keeping.

Lindsey talked about 'needing' to feel more special than others in the great guy's life. She wrote that she is afraid that she'll waste time and not get what she wants in the end. And, miss Mr. Right while she wastes time...

Being emotionally needy is the kiss of death. Being fearful is a strangle hold on your spirit. These two feelings are not about love and possibility. If you sense these things in you, that's SPIRIT telling you to look at yourself and how you can spiritually grow.

Relationships, those successful and those that turn out singeing you, are all valuable. You learn more about self in a wrong relationship; in a right relationship, you learn more about being part of the Human Experience. Both are necessary to grow emotionally and spiritually.

Stop worrying about whether you get it right...more to the point, stop worrying that you'll get it wrong. Spirit, who loves you in all ways and who sees much further than you can see is right there. Stop categorizing things as pluses and minuses- they are what they are. Let your decision to get involved rest on your intention of becoming a complete Human Being. Ask, "Will I learn more about myself if I get involved with this experience and person?" If so, go for it.

The only way to learn is by being like Goldilocks. Go sample all the chairs; try not to break them. Go eat the different porridges; leave some for others. Go explore. But, start looking at explorations in terms of what each teaches you about yourself instead of looking at each as the potential conclusion of your quest. Therein rests the quality of your life.

Stop stressing about biological clocks and wasting time on the wrong person. There are no wrong persons and wrong experiences when you know they're part of your learning. If you're living instead of fixating, you'll know if it's time to move on or change. However, let's be clear; I am not saying, that you won't feel hurt or sorrow. Along with happiness and laughter, you can't become real without scorch marks and tears.

The reward for your investment in Self development is that your spirit will give clear acknowledgment when the right one arrives. There will be a resonance. You will feel calm and serene. No drama, no angst. Only certainty. You will be able to recognize the same reflected in the eyes of The One. When you believe that you are all you need but with them, want to share everything about you without fear and reservation, you'll know you've arrived at your, "And, this one feels just right."

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Lack of Lights

Michael and I have been driving around in the evenings to see the Christmas lights. It's always interesting to see each home's approach to the whole decorating event. Some are meticulously designed and placed. You can imagine the home owner using a gauge marking exact spaces between each light. Next door, you're likely to see a home where, your fairly certain, mice were the decorators. Lumps of lights in odd sizes just hanging about. Just perfect for little critters to curl up in and nest through the cold. I'm sure that's not the intention or effect they were going for but...

You see the home that has only one light string to spare...what do you do with that anyway? Oh, just string it close to the door. And, the quiet homes where elderly folk might live. No going up and down ladders for them and so no lights...only a nice wreath on the front door to usher in the season.

Then there are the homes that either have children running the show, or it's one that hopes to attract children much like the witch was hoping to attract Hansel and Gretel! Lights small and large blinking in random order. Reindeer jumping. Those blow-up things everywhere. Nodding and blowing. Fake snow in plastic snow globes swirling about like it's an Arctic snowstorm. The worst part is seeing them in the morning, Santas, Reindeer, Snowmen deflated, puddled on the ground. Very disturbing sight.

What we are noticing this year on our light tours is a true lack of lights. So many homes this year, without even a wreath on the door to welcome the holidays. Dark. Nothing. What has caused the lack of feeling and anticipation? Is the pace of life too hectic and crazed so that spare minutes to decorate can't be found? Or, has life become so hard for those within those darkened doors that even the notion of putting a candle in the window is too much to manage?

Sad. And, so I'll be saying my prayers for those within the dark walls. I'll hope that the spirit of the holidays can find a crack to enter. A crack in the front doors and a crack in some hearts and minds so that it can enter and bring comfort, if not joy. And, I'll pray that if nothing can be done to salvage this season for those darkened homes, that next year this time, things will be better and the lack of light will be less. God Bless us, Everyone.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Toilet Paper Test

While sitting upon the throne, not the one that exists so clearly in my mind, but the porcelain one in the bathroom, I reigned supreme and thought large thoughts. What else should I do? How many times can one read the same issue of Real Simple? Note to self: change reading material in the library...

At any rate, when I finished pondering and, through my large thoughts, had solved the world's issues I reached for the toilet paper. Alas, only the paper skin remained on the tube to meet my imperious gaze. Not enough there to do more than aggravate me. Verily, We are not amused. Luckily, I easily located the necessary papers and the kingdom was returned to peace in short order.

Seems to me that the diabolical lack of toilet paper when it is urgently required is an excellently clear, concise illustration of 'needs' vs. 'wants.' The next time you're getting ready to flip open your wallet or swipe (no pun intended,) the card, get an image of that roll of toilet paper sans paper when you're expecting it to be there. Sitting all alone without a soul likely to show up to rescue you...

You'll know clearly what it feels like to really, really need something vs. simply wanting it so you feel better. Apply the toilet paper test to every encounter going forward and you'll most likely surround yourself only with what is needful. Well, all right, treat yourself every now and again to what you want; it's good for the soul. And, so say all of Us.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
The Queen, a.k.a. Holly

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Holiday Greeting Card Trap

It’s that time of year again- time to spend a nice afternoon in the card store. I simply love walking up and down the aisles of those shops full of small treasures and row upon row of greeting cards waiting for that special someone. I look at all the beautiful artwork and illustrations; I pour over the verses of sentiment. I laugh at some of the funny ones. So much to pick from, so fun to buy and send. I think this one would be perfect for her. This other one says exactly what I feel for him. Oh, wait, what about this one?

As cards begin to mount up in my basket, I turn them over to peek at the price hidden below that gold crown and, more often than not these days, I get sticker shock! How can something so perfect come at such a steep price? “Holy crappola! It’s just paper and ink,” I think. It occurs to me, then, that lots of things in life that seem perfect do come with a heavy price attached. I reconsider my pile. I start to calculate if these brightly colored, perfect holiday greetings are worth the cost.

Some of us have small families and some have large ones. Many of us have friends and neighbors that we think of as our family. I’m not sure about yours, but my friends and family sure are interesting. They are, also, far from perfect.

We have the usual intrigue of who is angry with whom, and which one slighted the other unintentionally or by direct attempt. We have the one that everyone goes to with problems, not because they have the solutions, but simply because they always listen with complete attention as we pour out our woes. We have the one who makes us howl with laughter at their jokes and stories. We have the one who just makes us bristle merely by entering the room. And, one who gives absolutely the most exceptional hugs and pats on the back.

At any other time of the year, I accept that these differences are simply the way we are and I’m okay with that. That is, until the holidays roll around; then I wish that I had that greeting-card-perfect group. I also want my house to look like a magazine spread, the food I make, the presents I give, the events I plan, to look and feel perfect like Martha Stewart and Hallmark all rolled into one. I begin to stress and fuss. I get frazzled as I pick at this bow, or re-wrap that gift, or re-do the envelope to this card because it wasn’t completely perfect. I fall into my chair in the evening desperately grumpy, in need of a time-out, and an attitude adjustment. Twelve days of Christmas? Are you kidding me?!

If I keep this up, all I'll get for Christmas is coal in my stocking. Because, I'm pretty sure strangling someone with a string of lights constitutes a permanent place at the top of Santa's Naughty List.

Perfection comes at a really steep price. Why do we do it to ourselves? What makes many of us take such a glorious time of the year and turn it into a marathon of emotional melt-down and exhaustion? It’s a greeting card conspiracy…it’s the holiday specials…it’s the commercials. It’s a trap! Without realizing it, we are brain-washed as we sing the songs or watch the images on television. It all looks so easy and alluring.

We forget that Martha Stewart couldn’t be the Maven of Holiday Perfection without her hundreds of minion who make all the magic happen. We even forget that Santa wouldn’t be Santa without all those elves making the toys and managing all the decorating and baking. We fall victim to the campaign of, “When you care enough to send the very best!” Well, who among us doesn’t care to give the very best to those we love? To prove it, we push, and we rush and struggle on until the holidays become the holidaze!

I can’t say what’s happening at your house, but in my home, I promise that there’s not an elf in the place to do my bidding. And, Martha has yet to send a production crew to get all the cooking, baking, and decorating done so I can sit back, relax, and look fabulous. All I have is me, my family, my home, my hopes, and my desire to make each holiday the best I can. When I review that list, I luckily have most of the ingredients for holiday magic. The critical one that is missing, however, is having a more realistic expectation of me!

So, I’ve decided to give myself a gift this year- I’m giving myself the Gift of Permission. Permission to not bake every cookie recipe ever created and decorate every inch of the house. Permission to keep it simple. Permission to attend only those functions that are meaningful and fill me with a joyful spirit and the beauty of the season. Permission to shop less so my credit cards don’t melt and I can meet the New Year with hope instead of dread. Permission to accept that my world is imperfect and enjoy it instead of attempting to mend it! How about joining me?

Depending on what has occurred, some years the holidays feel better than others. But even when they’re not all that I hope, I don’t want to trade away a single chance to have a holiday season. When you consider that even the longest living of us gets only a small, finite number of them in a lifespan, it seems a true shame to waste even one more on the crazy notion of making it perfect.

Give it up. Just do what feels right for you! Find ways to have fun. Slow down and share yourself with others. You become the gift when doing something as simple as taking time to share a cup of tea and a store-bought cookie with someone. Give the present of your presence.

The best gift does not come in a box or bag; most of us have enough stuff. What we yearn for is the comfort of company and time together. That’s what creates the perfect memory of any holiday. Be the glad tidings of comfort and joy to those who mean the most to you.

By the way, I’ve decided not to go to the card store. This year, I’m going to make my cards, (since I gave myself permission to pare down the huge list, I can do this!) Trust me, they won’t be perfect by any means, but because I am spending my time on them, it shows that I truly do care enough to send the very best. With each one that I make, I’m sending me with lots of fun, love and hope for an imperfect, but perfectly unique, holiday season.

Bright blessings for a warm and memorable holiday that is filled with the truly extraordinary gift of You. If you stop all the doing and just be present to those who love and care about you, in response you’re likely to hear, “It’s just what I wanted, and I love it! It’s absolutely perfect!”

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Matter of Trust

We come to this earthly plain in order to grow and integrate our spirit. Being a Human Being gives us the opportunity to use our five senses in relationship to other Humans and experiences. Whatever needs to be grown, developed, or healed will encounter the opportunity to do so. Think of life as the ultimate Learning Lab.

Most of us have trust issues. Abandonment issues. Fear. Those are part of the common thread that binds us in our humanity. We come with these issues and spend the first part of life slowly recognizing that we have them. Beginning to wonder, do we need them? Becoming frustrated that they never seem to go away and life keeps confirming our instincts to remain skeptical and wary.

We spend the remaining part of our brief time here learning that life isn't handing you confirmation that it's wise to dis-trust; it's providing opportunities to begin the work of seeing it differently. Learning the differences between living and simple survival. Chances to examine and work through feelings and beliefs. To arrive at a different and integrated conclusion. To shed what is untrue, unworthy. To become blessedly whole and at peace.

It's not enough to say, "I just don't trust women and my experiences have more than confirmed that you can't." It's not enough to hold the view, "I don't trust men. You can only count on women to be there for you." That's the proposition you've come with but, it's not the truth. In order to be whole and healthy, you must continue in your quest to gain the understanding that both male & female qualities reside within you. And, even though we arrive here naturally biased to one, both need to be equally developed.

Both sides of the coin are you. You can only get the most of your spirit's legal tender when you have worked to make both halves equal and as valuable in your eyes. You are the coin of the realm.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Lid For Every Pot

Lindsey and I met when she was a student, a good one, in my classes at Towson University. We've stayed friendly over the years since. She often asks for my perspective on things, mostly the sort of stuff that girls share.

Linds is newly involved with a great guy. She finds herself in the position of really, really liking this man. Wouldn't be hard to do, he is a- great guy. But, lately, based on things he's said, she wonders if he is looking at the relationship and its potential in the same light as she views it. She's thinking she is way more into him than he is into her. Her female internal warning device is beginning to sound the alarm. She's in a bit of an emotional knot. She turns to me, "What to do?" I can't tell her.

I'm fairly certain she doesn't really want me to tell her; the mere fact that she has questions means that things aren't the way she wants them to be. She doesn't want me to confirm that. And, since I'm not standing in the middle of the emotional quick-sand, I see it in black and white terms. She, on the other hand, is seeing through the kaleidoscope of emotions. Way different perspective. Besides, if she were to say out loud what her gut's already warning, well...what then? Our conversation got me thinking about the entire Looking For Mr/Ms Right thing. But, this entry isn't about Lindsey and her current situation; it's about what I've learned via my time on the circuit.

Here's what I know to be true about the quest for the correct relationship:

Close enough/good enough are never close or good enough when it comes to relationships. And, when I hear someone passionately say, "I want him/her so very badly," I always think, "Great, because that's how you're likely to get him/her, badly." When you say things like that, it points to being emotionally needy. And, being needy is the kiss of death to a relationship. You can't be healthy and needy. So, which are you?

It's critically important to learn to live with yourself, like yourself, be content and satisfied with your own company. Until you do that emotional heavy lifting, you end up desperately wanting something...anxiously hoping for someone. You justify lie to yourself making all sorts of rationalizations as to why they behave this way or that. You cling to less than satisfying relationships like a bat to the wall of a dark cave.

We women yammer for hours and days in demented detail about the disappointments delivered by the not-quite-right guy we're currently obsessed with. We cry, sigh, bemoan. But, by damn, we'll continue to hang in there on the misguided notion that love conquers all! One day, he'll just wake up out of his walking coma and realize how wonderful you are. Through your powerful magic of love and belief in him, he'll change into the prince you know him to be! You'll get your happily ever after. Music up. Birds and furry creatures scamper happily about while you waltz into the sunset. Fade to black. The end.

Do I need to go any further here? Okay, look- here's how it really works. Happily ever after is the end of a fable. You're not looking for an ending; you should be looking for a life! The goal here is for you to turn into your own bit of royalty, not try to love someone into the shape you want them. It's not about them; it's most certainly about you!

It's all about you. Who you are...what you hope to be...your goals...your aspirations...what you want out of do you define success and happiness? If your partner doesn't share the same sorts of notions and help you in your quest to be the best you can be...she/he's not the one! Close enough isn't when it comes to a critically important issue like a mate.

In the years I was on my own, I'd get really weary and frustrated. A friend trying to be comforting said, "Don't worry, Holly. He's out there. There's a lid for every pot, you know." She squeezed my hand and smiled. While not necessarily digging the mental image of resembling a cooking utensil, I took her meaning and the gesture of support. Years later, I know my friend was right.

But, let me let you in on a secret...the bit my friend didn't share about the whole lid/pot thing. While it is true that there is a lid, if you don't know what shape and size pot you are, you can't find the lid that's perfect for you! Your partner is out there. However, if you don't truthfully know who you are, you'll never find him/her.

Quit being a martyr for love! It isn't noble to sacrifice yourself for a relationship. To make yourself less than you know you can be and should be. To snip off bits of your dreams/hopes/desires to fit into what you think will suite him/her best. Love doesn't ask that of anything or anybody. True love expands and builds; it does not diminish dreams and lives!

It's Human to want a mate and partner; someone who completes you. So, you'll seriously consider almost every lid that comes your way. You'll make some real doozy mistakes because mostly, we rationalize- "oh, this one could be the one if we work on things together." "I can't have everything...I need to be reasonable. He makes me happy most of the time." "She's pretty great even though we don't have any of the same interests."

No! Instead of obsessing about them and how it could be made right if you or they would just change, focus on falling in love with yourself and getting to know you in intimate detail. Learn that you're complete just as you are! It's not about changing into anything. Take off the love goggles and look at things the way they are. Stop over-laying the current less-than situation with the notion that it can be changed if you just hang on long enough, or work on it hard enough.

If the one you're with doesn't make you love yourself more each day, it's time to vote with your feet! There are millions of people in the world. Millions! And, while I believe it is miraculous that in all of those, two people who are meant to be together do find each other, you can't have The One if you decide to jam up your life with close enough- Mr. Good Enough; Ms. Mostly I'm Happy With.

One of the things that drives women crazy about men is how most seem able to easily walk away from relationships that don't work for them. As soon as they determine it's not what they're looking for, they're gone. Not so much when they've committed to a long-term thing, but in the dating phase, guys can cut things off pretty quickly with surgical precision. Men don't question this. They simply believe that they have the right to continue hunting until they find exactly what they are searching for.

They don't waste time after they've crossed something off their list. They don't retro-fit. They don't keep working on it. They don't negotiate. They don't stress about what-ifs. They let go and walk on. We hate that about them. But, on some level, aren't we a bit envious of their ability to walk and keep looking? Come on, admit it! You'd love to be able to act the same way, wouldn't you?

Well, you can. Nothing's stopping you except fear. Fear that Mr. Right may never find you so better hold onto Mr. Close Enough. Let go! Let go of fear. Let go of Mr. Close Enough. Let go of all angst and drama. Grow your life and be excited about your choices. Be brave! Own your life. Be intrepid. Trust. Experiment. Get to know yourself. Be honest. Live for yourself! Fall in love- with yourself, first!

Once you do, you'll know clearly what sort of vessel you are and you'll be proud of your pot-ness! And, Mr/Ms. Fits Just Right Lid will be much more easy to recognize when walking into your life. Go forth and begin to own how wonderful you are and how grand your life plan is! Do not settle. Now you're cooking!!

Namaste' Till Next Time,

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