Monday, September 30, 2013

Cleaning Your Soul

I know this is going to sound very old school but I'm going to come out with it anyway: sometimes if I want to feel better, I pull out the cleaning supplies and take a room apart.

I fill a pan with hot soapy water, gather some rags and a few spray cleaners and I then I go for it!

Over the weekend, I did this to my kitchen because something about the change in seasons was in the air and I looked around and thought I would feel better if I could clean away some of the dirt and also toss out some unused or broken items taking up space.

My Healing Tools
Everybody has dirt in the place where they live whether they admit it or not.  It's just what happens while you are living life; especially in a room made for cooking and preparing food.

From the ceiling to the baseboards and all those little spaces in between where you don't see the dirt until you are on a stepladder and up close and personal with it, I felt productive.  Cleaning is physical work and exercise produces endorphins -- those natural chemicals in the brain that are responsible for creating good moods.

As I wiped down the kitchen walls and physically cleaned the knobs of the appliances and other things hanging on the walls, I lost myself in the motion of it and that was a good thing.  I could feel that I was getting rid of some of the stresses of the work week by wiping and vacuuming and squeezing out those rags in the water over and over again.

Rather than waiting for change in your life, you can be the agent of change!

The simple act of moving furniture around or cleaning your kitchen or reorganizing your closet can freshen your attitude.  Think of how much time you spend in your house and how much it means to you.  It's your haven.  Your comfort zone.

When you decide to change your environment, you make it different.  Let go of the way a room used to be arranged and try it the way you want.  Even if you clean a room and put everything back exactly where it was, it still looks different because it sparkles and feels fresher.

In cleaning, you are simplifying your space, getting rid of what you don't want.

You may think that cleaning is gross -- and it can be -- but it's also about changing up your living space, the special place where you and your inner spirit live.

Pushing Those Emotional Buttons

I have three sisters and two brothers who are younger than me.  Yes, I am the oldest of six children and we are very close in age.  Such a cast of loved ones has made, and continues to make for many great stories and many great memories.
I would say I talk to at least one of my sisters every day and sometimes I talk to all three of them during the coarse of one day.  That's a lot of yakking, right?  Not really because we also email and text each other.
In our own unique ways, each one of us has learned that life can be fabulous yet fragile.  Our conversations reflect those learning experiences and as such have become a lot more open and honest.  We have learned the hard way that even though you know what button you can push to get a reaction from a fellow sister, that it's not a good thing or even a kind thing to push it.  Pushing the button can sometimes instantly take away all the good feelings that we worked so hard to create and then you find yourself walking back a lot of what you said and doing that wastes a lot of time and a lot of energy.
Your emotional buttons will always be there but I have found that even if the button is pushed you have a responsibility to yourself and the other person not to react the way you did when you were younger.  In other words, just because something is said, it doesn't mean you have to take it personally or emotionally and go off the deep end.  Most of us find there is already enough drama in our daily contacts with strangers, we certainly don't need an extra dose in our personal lives.  I think you can acknowledge that you know the button's been pushed but then you can say something like, "Okay, I know that what you just said made you feel a hell of a lot better, but let's talk about what's really going on here."
Life is just too short to carry around a lot of emotional baggage every day.
You have to figure out when to let go of a behavior and change course.  Think of how much mental energy it takes for you to think about what happened to you, what was said to you, who said it, and then stir it all up until it becomes some kind of foaming emotional cocktail that you carry around with you every day with a big cherry on top.
I'm tired just thinking about it. 
Instead, I try to jump back from what happened, look at it, figure out what my foolish role was in it and learn something from it.  If an apology is needed, I apologize.  If the person is just venting, I ask if that is what is going on.  If I am annoyed, I go back to the person (not always right away) who got under my skin.  Like the other day, I caught myself.  I could feel that I just wanted to argue the old way of saying something sarcastic.  But I stopped myself, and put myself out there a bit and said, "I don't want to argue.  I just want to find a solution."
Take time to reflect on the negative things that happen to you because we can learn from them (ouch!) but don't make those things that annoy or hurt you the centerpieces of your life.  You are so much better than that.  At some point, you have to let go of it and toss it away.
Otherwise, the negativity will feed on itself, leaving little room for the great and good things that life will definitely bring your way.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dancing In September

Earth Wind & Fire's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Another work week grinds to an end and I say ba de ya, it's time for dancing in September!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Friday has arrived in all its glory, and not much feels better than when it is Friday night, you are hangin' with your friends and you have the whole weekend in from of you to relax and enjoy!!
I intend to do some of the usual cleaning and organizing this weekend but I also am going to see friends and have some fun.  When you work as hard as we all do, it's essential to take out some time for yourself to do any kind of activity that helps you lose yourself in what you are doing.  Get off schedule and decompress.
I was curious about the actual health effects of having fun and guess what?  Scientific studies  show that when people work on projects or hobbies that they enjoy, their blood chemistry changes almost immediately in a positive way.  When your blood chemistry is altered this way, it increases your body's resistance to infections and life-threatening disease.  A definite win-win.
Not that you needed a reason to go out and have a good time but just in case you did need one, now you have it!!
One of the things I like to do is dance and I totally lose track of time when I am doing it.  I could care less if I have a partner or not.  If there is a song playing that I love, I cannot sit still.  I will go out on the dance floor and dance by myself.  Of course, it's more fun with someone else but I can't let that keep me from going with beat of the music.

Earth Wind & Fire Performing
So as we glide out of the last Friday in September, click on the link below and let's listen up and groove out to the rockin' sounds of Earth Wind & Fire singing on their official video of "Dancing In September."  And don't forget to check out the band's funky costumes too!  Remember, the song came out in 1978:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Amazing You!

A significant and ongoing part of the grieving process is learning what to do with the confusing feelings you experience.
What am I supposed to do with the sad, angry, and surreal emotions I have inside me about the person who used to be in my life?  That person who was here yesterday, but is not here today, and won't ever be here for a lot more todays in the future.  How can I turn those sad, angry, surreal feelings into constructive feelings so that I can make a future for myself?

Acceptance of my new life and my new status is something I work on all the time.  Sometimes I push myself even when I'm not really sure where I am going because I know I have to challenge myself.  We all need to have something in our lives, something that we are passionate about, that makes us want to get out of bed in the morning and get dressed and go out in the world and interact with others.
In the beginning, getting out of bed was the last thing I wanted to do after my husband died.  Fortunately, my wonderful son needed to go to school and more importantly, needed to see that his only parent was functioning on some level as a regular human being.  I ignored my desire to pull the covers over my head and numb myself.  It was hard, very hard, and I felt as though I was walking through cotton candy, but I put one foot in front of the other every day and somehow managed to push forward to rebuild our lives.
I found that these confusing feelings were their most intense after my husband's death but even now, nine years later, I still can have a wave of sadness come out of nowhere and totally wash over me.  Last week it was a beautiful, sunny, picture perfect September day and I left my office for a walk down to the Whole Foods store near George Washington University.

Nothing in particular was on my mind so when a slide show of memories of me, my husband and our son started playing in my head I really felt down.  "I don't want to go backwards," I said to myself.  "If I do, I will only feel sad." I kept walking and breathing deeply and eventually got back to my office.
It takes a while to wrap your brain around the fact that someone you love very much has died and they won't be with you anymore to do the things that the two of you did over and over again and probably always thought you would do over and over again.
In a sense, it is as if some gigantic arm swept across the table of your life and wiped it clean, pushing everything away and laying it bare.  Your life as you know it has disappeared and all the routines you established with this person have collapsed.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Rennie
But there is still you.  Amazing you!
Don't count yourself out.  Ever.

You may feel broken into pieces right now but you are still beautiful and full of possibilities.  You just need to find some glue in the form of love and comfort from friends, family and even support groups.  You do have reserves of inner strength within you and as strange as it sounds, you'll find these reserves when you allow yourself to feel the pain of your loss.  You also find them when you do something by yourself that you never have done before.  I promise.

Naturally, no one wants to feel the pain or put themselves out there in a vulnerable way, but that's when you truly and authentically live life.  I have memories that are so painful that I have mentally put them in an imaginary box.  They are raw and scary feelings but experiencing them has made me live my life differently.

Don't be afraid to spend some quiet time; time thinking about what you have been through and where you may want to go in the future.  Eventually the pieces of your life will start to come together and slowly mend, forming a stronger person.

Let's go forward, for you and I are on new paths, and together we will accept and persevere.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dear Sugar. . . You Make It So Much Better!

Cheryl Strayed is one of my favorite authors.  I discovered her when I received her New York Times best seller, Wild, as a present this past Christmas.  From the first page, I was all in and couldn't stop reading and definitely didn't want her journey in Wild to end.

I was totally drawn into every aspect of her memoir and in reading Wild, came to respect the amount of introspection and hard work she put herself through to bring that compelling story out of herself.

No other writer that I know of delivers the goods about life and loss the way Strayed does.  Her writing is clean and honest, direct yet compassionate.

Cheryl Strayed

After I finished reading Wild, I went through some kind of Strayed withdrawl and had to go back and read various parts of Wild again because I really needed to feel I was in a "life is more" zone that she courageously created in Wild.

But then I found another book that Cheryl Strayed had written.  This one, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar, was written by Strayed before she wrote Wild.  Dear Sugar is an advice column that appears on the website, The Rumpus, and is not anything like Dear Abbey or any other advice column you may read.

Simply put, Dear Sugar is a million times better. 
But only if you are prepared for someone to give you the unvarnished truth.

Dear Sugar is a powerful book because the answers that Strayed gives to people's questions about what to do when they find themselves in troubling situations are the simple and direct truth but her guidance is also sprinkled with love and concern for the person seeking help.  Strayed takes from her own poignant and joyful life experiences and uses them as a place to begin a dialogue with the person seeking support with a problem.

It's not a "you should do this" kind of advice column but more of a "this is what happened to me, this is how I felt and this is what helped me feel better and maybe it will help you" kind of advice column.

Today I write about a letter that a young man who calls himself Bewildered wrote to Dear Sugar seeking advice on how to emotionally support his girlfriend whose mother died many years ago.  Since her mother's death, his girlfriend has moved forward to find and build a wonderful life for herself but naturally she sometimes she misses her mom and talks with him about the emotional hole left in her life because of her mother's death.  The boyfriend says he tries to empathize but "feels lame in the face of her grief" and just wants to know how he can be a better partner when it comes to handling grief.

I think that's something we all struggle with and need to know more about.  
Please listen below to this amazing Soundcloud link that features Cheryl Strayed reading the letter that Bewildered sent her and her amazing and insightful answer to Bewildered's timely question about handling another person's grief feelings:

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Pope of Hope

From Southern Maryland to Northern Virginia, everywhere I went this past weekend people were talking about Pope Francis and his  recent groundbreaking remarks about the state of the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis, you are a healing breath of fresh air and you arrived on the global scene just when we needed to listen your joyous and merciful outlook on life!!

It was amazing to me that people spontaneously brought it up in conversation no matter what else was previously being talked about.  I find religion is sometimes discussed at social events but not very often.  And in Washington, DC, rarely do I ever hear Washington Redskins and Pope Francis brought up in almost consecutive sentences but this weekend it happened and I think this it's due to the hopeful and honest nature of what Pope Francis said in an interview with an Italian Jesuit magazine that was published last week in Jesuits magazines around the world. 

At a party I attended yesterday, Catholics and non-Catholics enthusiastically discussed the subject of Pope Francis, saying how much they liked him, how exciting he was and how they wished they had some one like him in their particular faiths.
For most people, it was Pope Francis' comment about sinning that kicked the door open and got their attention.  In the interview Pope Francis was asked "Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?"  In a thoughtful manner Pope Francis replies: "I do not know what might be the most fitting description. . . I am a sinner.  This is the most accurate definition.  It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre.  I am a sinner."
Really and truly?
Okay Pope Francis that immediately bonds me to you because I am a sinner too.  But people are blown away because this is the first time most people have ever heard a Pope publicly tell others that he sins also.  Usually there is the distinct feeling that we are the sinners but the Pope does not commit sin.  This time, it is as though Pope Francis opens his arms and says to us, "I am just like you.  We are all the same in our humanity."
America Magazine Issue with Pope Francis Interview
You can read the full interview with Pope Francis on the website for America Magazine (, a national Catholic weekly magazine published by Jesuits in the United States.
Read for yourself the thoughtful and insightful way that Pope Francis discusses a wide range of subjects that touches all of our lives and issues that we all wrestle with.
For me, my Catholic faith is essential and goes to the core of my being but in the past decade or two I have turned a deaf ear to many things being said by the Catholic hierarchy.  That said, here are two other comments Pope Francis made in his interview that were particularly open and refreshing and signal to me a much needed change in the thinking of the Church:
--"I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity.  I see the church as a field hospital after battle.  It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars!  You have to heal the wounds.  Then we can talk about everything else.  Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. . . And you have to start from the from the ground up."
--"The woman is essential for the church.  Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity.  We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church.  We must work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman."

Friday, September 20, 2013

Can You Hug Too Much?

Hugs......They're so healing!

We hug when we see someone we really like and haven't seen in a while; we hug when it's time to say good-bye.

We hug to show we care; we hug to let the other person know we are on their team.

We hug to send a special message to another person that they are not alone.  They have a friend; someone who cares what happens to them.

We hug to comfort.  We hug to love.

We hug because we are human and part of a larger community.

We are here to hug.  Each other.  All the time.

I saw the below message on Facebook and I'm am not sure where it came from but thought it was a great idea to get people to think about hugging.

A hug always makes me feel better!  Give one first and see what happens!

Hugging is good medicine.

It transfers energy and gives the person hugged an emotional lift.

You need four hugs a day for survival,

Eight for maintenance,

And twelve for growth.

Scientists say that hugging is a form of communication because it can say things you don’t have words for.

And the nicest thing about a hug is that you usually can’t give one without getting one.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Never Look Away

When you consider the amount of emotional baggage we all carry around with us, it is amazing that we find love.
Wounded though our hearts may be, we cannot fight the attraction and pull of another person who catches our fancy.
Maybe you have been lucky and found love more than once.

I found love with a small l a few times, but found love with a capital L only once.  It's an amazing, powerful, crazy thing this love emotion that takes us over and keeps us going and truly defines our lives.  It is not to be treated lightly, as though it were something you can just toss away whenever you want and find something better when you want it.
Oh no.  It is not an emotion to played with.  It makes your fingers tingly and your mouth dry and when you find the one who is right for you, don't ever look away.   
Grab it and don't hesitate, for the one who loves you deeply, the one who heals your wounded heart, probably also inspires you, just as Denise inspires Kevin Kelly.
Please read this beautiful love story in the link below written by Kevin Kelly about his one and only Denise. 
It blew me away because it made me remember what romantic love is all about and I hope it does the same for you.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Your Green Zone

When I find myself getting close to sensory overload, I seek out quiet places to sit, to refresh and chill out.
After Monday's tragic shooting and killing of 13 people in the Washington Navy Yard, I truly needed a break from being bombarded with images and information.  Sitting in nature helps bring my focus back to what is important to me about the big picture of life.
As I notice and enjoy what is around me, I remind myself that I can't change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but I can change how I interpret and respond to these events.  You can develop being resilient.  Resilience involves maintaining flexibility and balance in your life as you deal with stressful circumstances and sometimes even traumatic events.
There is a beautiful park a few blocks from my office and I often find myself there in the middle of the day enjoying the beautiful flowers or listening to the cleansing sound of the small water fountain.  I don't stay there for very long but ten or fifteen minutes is long enough for me to reduce whatever stresses I may be feeling.
And when I go home, I don't sit in nature, but I do check in on my new green space: my lettuce garden.

My Lettuce Garden

It's not a very big container but I am proud of my little lettuce garden that I keep on my screened in porch.  My son gave me some packets of seeds for various kinds of lettuce this summer and it has been comforting and hopeful to nurture and grow my small plants.

Lettuce In A Box
Find your green zone; a place where you can calm down and pause to think about life's small, fleeting pleasures.  You'll be surprised what a little patch of green can do for your soul!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Washington DC Navy Yard Shootings

There was something about the first email news alert that came into my work computer yesterday morning at 9:01 a.m.

"Reports of an active shooter at Navy Yard area.  Avoid that area."

I don't know if it was the time of day, the location of the shooter or the fact that it was a Monday that made me stare at the email and think, "This is bad."  Unsure of what parts of the city my colleagues planned to go for meetings or appointments, I immediately forwarded the Navy Yard email to everyone in my office.
The "active shooter" the email reported was a former Navy man who had launched an attack yesterday morning inside a building at the Washington Navy Yard, spraying gunfire on office workers in the cafeteria and in the hallway, killing 13 people.  Parts of the city were in lockdown as the police and FBI searched the city by foot and by helicopters for two other shooting suspects seen by eyewitnesses. 

Washington Navy Yard
I think that my instincts told me it was bad because I knew the Washington Navy Yard is the Navy's central headquarters, protected by armed guards and metal detectors and employees have to show IDs to get in.  My Washington, DC office building is located in the northwest section of the city and the Navy Yard is located in the southeast section of the city.  Fortunately, I was not physically close to the action.  But that didn't mean I felt safe.
I am more than aware that the subject of gun responsibility is a hot button issue in which people feel passionately but when you live in a city where a mass shooting happens, you think only about how such a senseless tragedy could have been prevented.
I am tired of reading about people going to work, children going to school, people doing normal things, who then end up getting shot in cold blood and dying for no reason.  It's beyond sad and it's frightening and I wonder how many more times things like this have to happen before gun responsibility becomes something we all are committed to have happen as a nation.
When I finally got home after reading news alerts all day that progressively got sadder and sadder, I turned on the television to listen the evening news.  I knew it would be bad but I had not been near a television all day and I needed to hear and see what was going on.  The usual news stories were broadcast at the beginning of the 7 pm nightly news, explaining how the awful events had unfolded and identifying the gunman in the Navy Yard attack killed by police as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis of Texas.

Dr. Janis Orlowski
Chief Medical Officer
Medstar Washington Hospital Center
But then I watched  as a weary woman doctor appeared at a news conference.  She was identified as Dr. Janis Orlowski, Chief Medical Officer at Medstar Washington Hospital Center where most of the victims had been taken by ambulance. The day's tragedy was reflected in her face and demeanor.  She said the words I had been yearning to hear all day.

Here is a full text of Dr. Orlowski's poignant remarks:
"You know what, we see a lot of trauma. And you know, sometimes it's just, you know —accidents that occur that we get to help people with, because they're accidents. And then you see what I call senseless trauma. And there is — there's something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate.
I — I have to say, I may see this everyday, I may, you know, be the Chief Medical Officer of a very large trauma center. But there's something wrong here when we have these multiple shootings, these multiple injuries. There is something wrong. and the only thing that I can say is we have to work together to get rid of it.
I would like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots and not to be an expert on this. We are — we do it well. Very experienced surgeons. But, quite frankly, I would rather they were doing their surgery on other things.
 And you know, it's a great city. It's a great country. And we have to work together to get rid of this. Because we just cannot have, you know, one more shooting with, you know, so many people killed.
We've got to figure this out. We've got to be able to help each other. We're dealing right now with three innocent people.
But my prayers and my thoughts go out to those people who have died as a result of today. And, you know, their families and what they're going to have to go through. So I have to say, you know, it's a challenge to all of us. Let's get rid of this. This is not America. This is not Washington D.C. This is not good. So we have got to work to get rid of this."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Be More Awesome!

I'm usually pretty good at motivating myself but this morning I needed Kid President to give me a good kick in the butt to push me out the door.

Kid President.  Just looking at his cute little face makes me want to smile.

But he's more than a cute face. 

Kid President
Kid President says this video is for teachers and students but really it's for all of us. 

We all have it going on.  Brains.  Ideas.  Energy.  Emotions.  Work Ethic.  Sense of Humor.

We just need to believe it.  No matter what is going on today in your life, you are beautiful!!

So let's start the work week with a positive vibe.  Go out there and do what you do best.

Be more awesome!!

Put your A Game out there today and show the world just how awesome you are!!

This YouTube link below will take you to Kid President's sweet Pep Talk:

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Touching Moment at CVS

I was in the CVS near my office a few days, popping in to buy something for an officemate.

I was buying only one item so I stood in the self-checkout line.

But then the regular line opened up.  A young African American woman behind the cash register waved for me to come on over to her register so I did.

As she scanned my CVS discount card and my purchase, her eyes looked at the pearl necklace I had on.  Since her hands were full, she tilted her head in my direction.

"I like your pearl necklace."

"Thank you!  I found it at a fair that a local church was having."

"It reminds me of my mother.  She passed four months ago and she loved pearls."  Then she put down the scanner and gently touched her ears, pointing out the pierced pearl earrings she was wearing.  I knew exactly what she meant for we all have special things that we keep because they remind us of someone we cared for deeply or someone we miss more than we can express.

"My Mom gave these to me and now I see your necklace and I'm thinking of her."

"Ohhhhh," I said.  "I am so sorry."

Her eyes started to tear up and then she added, "Yes.  I miss her a lot."

My eyes were getting teary too.  I wanted to talk more to her but now others were waiting.

I looked directly at her and said, "I know she is with you."

"Thank you," she said quietly wiping her face.

We looked at each other and then I had to leave her line.

It only takes a minute, I thought to myself, not much time at all, to share in another person's journey.

All I have to do is stop and make time to listen.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

George Carlin's Observations

Every day is an opportunity, right?
I try to keep this simple but positive thought with me as much as possible even if I am having a really sh#*tty day.
I try to learn some useful lesson from the incredible number of mistakes I constantly make and then I push myself to move on to the next thing. 
That's why a new day is so great.  We all get to try and do it all over again and maybe this time even try it a different way.
A new day means I have the opportunity of 24 new hours in front me in which I can make a go at kicking an old habit, working a little harder to achieve a personal goal or making better food choices so that I can lead a healthier life.
That why I love this short piece below by George Carlin!!  One of my sisters recently emailed this insightful piece to me and I had to share it with you because it's amazing and in some ways so true about today's way of living.

Comedian George Carlin

By George Carlin
George Carlin's wife died early in 2008 and George followed her, dying in July 2008. It is ironic that George Carlin - a Grammy Award winning, stand-up comedian of the 70's and 80's known for his "Seven Dirty Words" routine  - could write something so timeless and so very appropriate

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints.
We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.  We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years.
We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.

A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.  Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Time Stands Still on Sept. 11

Time will stand still for me this morning around 8:45 a.m. when the clock will remind me that twelve years ago today, the first plane, a hijacked American Airlines jet flying out of Boston, crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, setting into motion national events and policies that permanently changed the way we as a nation live.

All I need to do is look at a picture of the Twin Towers and it all comes back to me.  Not only the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City, but also the terrorist attack on the Pentagon in the nation's capital and the downing of the fourth plane in Shanksville, PA.  Here in Washington, DC I remember a surreal and scary day that was filled with school lockdowns and the constant sound of low flying fighter jets.

Today my heart is with those who tragically lost friends, families and their futures.

People gather in Union Square to light candles and leave notes
 for those affected by September 11, 2001 attack(Magnum Photos)

September 11 also reminds me that it's healthy to allow your emotions to come to the surface in order to work through them because in blocking a grieving process you block the efforts used to try and rebuild your life and find new meaning in a life that you now must live without your loved one.

Let today be an opportunity for us to reflect and remember this sacred day and how far we have come in our own ways. 

For a guy in my office, it is a day for him to remember that he was scheduled to attend an early morning meeting in the financial district of New York City on September 11, 2001.

The meeting never happened.

He and two of his clients were in a building near the World Financial Center and heard the explosions of each of the planes separately hitting the towers of the World Trade Center.  Immediately they went outside to find the eerie site of a clear, crisp deep blue sky filled with ever increasing, billowing clouds of white and black smoke.

He says that at that point he didn't know that the explosions were caused by planes crashing into the building because you couldn't see the planes inside the buildings.  People stood on the streets frozen, staring at the burning buildings unable to process what had just happened.  Sirens filled the air.  People ran.  People cried.  Cellphones jammed.  Unbelievable amounts of paper floated from the buildings.

My colleague and his clients started slowly walking uptown through the chaos and away from the Twin Towers but didn't get very far.  Eventually, they found their way into a hotel where they went inside to get more information.  Their timing was incredible because they were lucky enough to be inside when both towers shockingly and incredibly collapsed.

As the cloud of debris from the collapse of the Twin Towers filled the air and roiled down the narrow streets of lower Manhattan, it reached their hotel.  He said some of the glass windows and doors blew out as the debris cloud passed by his block and afterwards everything stopped.  Grey and white dust covered everything and it looked as if it were night time.

No one went outside because you couldn't breath.  The dust in the air was that thick.  Hours later, the three went outside, covered their noses and mouths with cloth napkins, and walked their way to Chinatown, spending the night in a hotel room my colleague had checked into earlier on September 10.

His September 11th ritual includes a telephone call to the two people he spent the day with.  For the past twelve years, my colleague and his two clients reach out to each other on September 11, no matter what part of the world they are in, and take the time to stop and remember what happened that awful day and how fate put them together.

They catch up on each other's lives, talking about each other's families and share stories about the unique events that have happened in their lives since they last spoke.

They know that life is fragile and they remember how lucky and blessed each one was to wake up alive in New York City on September 12 and travel back home.

May we all connect with the special people in our lives today and continue to heal.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Turn Around Solitary Man

I felt very lucky and very blessed to be sitting in my worn and comfortable beach chair early yesterday morning, breathing in the soft air of Bethany Beach and watching the tide come in as the waves pounded the sand.
For me, sun, sand and ocean are the essential elements for getting rid of worrisome and stressful thoughts and filling my inner reserves with hope and gratitude.  It's a winning combination every time I need it.  The beach has never let me down.  Ever.
I was in Bethany Beach this past weekend to help a very good friend sell her beautiful handmade jewelry at an arts festival held annually on the town's boardwalk.   Even though it was after Labor Day, the beach was packed and booming as though it were summer.
But early Sunday morning, only a few people were scattered about the beach.
We beach people are a different breed.  At a moment's notice, I could go to the beach any time of the year and at any time of the day just to hear the cycle of the ocean's tides and feel the sand between my toes.
I watched yesterday roll out as the young families came first to set up their area for the day, carrying chairs, umbrellas, beach toys and coolers.  A horseshoe crab had washed up on the beach, stranded on it back, and some of the parents and children went down to investigate how to push it back to the surf.  Next a few older couples came walking by, some holding hands, some just enjoying a quiet conversation.
Then a solitary man came to my part of the beach wearing an orange t-shirt and black shorts.  He looked to be in his twenties and was wearing large earphones over his ears and in each hand he held metal poles with circles on the end that he waved back and forth over the sand.  I've seen these metal detectors before but I never seen someone waving two at the same time and never in the morning.  Usually the metal detector people have only one detector each and walk the beach in the evenings hoping that during the day someone lost a ring or a lot of coins.
As I watched Solitary Man, with his head down looking at the sand in search for buried treasure, searching for something expensive lost by another person, I wanted to suggest that he take his headphones off and enjoy the beauty of what surrounded him.
I wanted to tell him that instead of looking down at the sand, waving his dueling metal detectors, he could turn around and look out at the glorious Atlantic Ocean and watch the morning sun dance on the rolling waves and listen as the cold salt water swished the sand around his feet.
I wanted to say that the time spent looking for stuff in the sand that he thinks is going to make him happy, could instead be spent absorbing the wonders of Mother Nature, the same wonders that draw people to the beach to rejuvenate and refresh their spirits and souls.  After all, it is a known scientific fact that the sound of ocean waves actually alters the wave patterns in the human brain, soothing us into a deeply calm and relaxed state.
Happiness is right here Solitary Man, right here at the beach. 
And you don't need a metal detector to find it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Alicia Keys -- Listen To Your Heart

My new thing is to listen to Alicia Key's "Girl On Fire" CD on my way to work.
Alicia Keys is amazing!  I have loved her music from the first time I heard her groundbreaking song, "Fallin",  on the radio about 10 years ago.  I didn't know who she was but I googled and youtubed until I found out.  I have been lucky enough to see her perform live twice and that is the best!! 
Alicia Keys "Girl On Fire" CD
She has a beautiful, smooth, soulful voice, is an incredible songwriter and her music pulls you into some kind of a powerful healing zone.
Listening to all kinds of music brings about little miracles every day.  It brings people joy, empowers them to think positively, connects them to memories and can also offer relief from pain.
We are all on a journey, and as Alicia Keys says, there are people out there telling us what they think is right or what is wrong, but if we listen to our hearts we will know for ourselves which way to go.
Let's take the time to mellow out a bit on the last day of the work week. 
Please click on this link and listen to Alicia Keys sing song number four on her "Girl On Fire" CD, "Listen to Your Heart":

Thursday, September 5, 2013

It's All About Our Stuff

Earlier this week I wrote about finding my deceased husband's tweed jacket in the back of a guest room closet and what it felt like to discover it.
Now, unfortunately, it's time to say good-bye to his Irish wool jacket.  It doesn't fit my son and the jacket doesn't really hold any special meaning for him.  Even though it once belonged to my husband, I have arrived at that point in my life where I know I can't save everything that holds meaning for me.  Some things you just have to set free into the universe. 
In my head, I know that my husband was a lot more than his stuff.  A whole lot more.  His stuff did not define him.  I tell myself over and over that a loved one's possession is just that: a possession.

My heart knows that the memory I have of his possessions will always be strong and special and I won't forget it.  But that doesn't make getting rid of it any easier.

I know.  I know.  Eventually, I'm going to have to let it go.

I can take a picture of it.  I can digitalize it.  I can donate it to someone who will actually use it.

But then I won't be able to touch it or hold it or smell it.

There are no grief guidebooks out there which tell you exactly what you should do for every situation that you will need to confront upon a loved one's death because each life journey is unique.  We each must learn for ourselves how to cope and process our grief.
And going through a loved one's things after their death is part of processing your feelings.  It's amazing that I found the jacket in the back of the closet and even more amazing to look at the articles that were inside the jacket.  But there is a time for everything and I think the jacket had its time with my husband.  Now it's time for the jacket to find another man.
You may be in a similar situation right now and looking for ways to figure out what to do.  This article from The Minimalists has some helpful hints and a touching story about getting rid of a loved one's things and may help you define what's important and what's not important, what you should keep and what you should discard:

Good Luck!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Step Into Every Blessed Second of Life

I know today is Wednesday and that I have to go to work.

But other than that, I really don't know what the day has in store for me.

I'm sure I will talk to someone in my family and maybe also talk to one of my good friends, and I will work hard today to get some tasks accomplished in the office that need my attention.

Some of what happens today is up to me.

How will I react as I drive to work?
Will I keep a smart remark to myself or feel the need to blurt it out?
Will I smile when I don't really feel it?
Will I help another person in need of something from me?
Will I see something or read something that will inspire me?
Will I shake things up a bit and try something new?
I hope today is full of good things, even maybe great things for me -- and for you!!

I'm going to concentrate on staying in the moment today because every minute counts and should not be wished or pushed away because I am looking forward to something that I know will happen to me on another day, such as tomorrow or another day in the future.
Today is the day that counts.
Use it up.  Every single blessed second of it!!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Insight From Grey's Anatomy

I was clicking around on Pinterest (which is truly a guilty pleasure!!!) yesterday and found this insightful and timely quote on one of my niece's boards.

How true! Grief is unpredictable!  And that's why people don't like to talk about it, or acknowledge it, and hope, hope, hope, that it will go away all on its own. 

But Cry, Laugh, Heal is all about having an honest dialogue about grief and resilience and sharing what helped me after my husband sadly died nine years ago.  I have found that time and support from friends and family have helped me but I also have discovered that you have to face grief straight on and feel its pain before you can start to recover and get to a place where you feel you can begin to let it go.
And even then, even when you feel you are letting it go, grief and its sadness still has the uncanny power to boomerang back on you. 
In the interest of sharing and letting you know that you are never alone in your roller coaster feelings of loss, let me tell you about a personal experience that brought home how you really can't control grief or the conflicting feelings that travel with it. 
This past Labor Day weekend I decided to clean my guest room which has been a mess for a few months.  I keep throwing things in there and yesterday I finally decided to wade into the clothes, books, boxes and papers and start to get rid of some of this ridiculous stuff.  To make room in the closet, I started at the very back of it and brought out the first batch of hanging clothes.
What do I spy with my unsuspecting eye? An old tweed jacket that belonged to my husband.  I had no idea that jacket was back there, hiding like an unexploded emotional time bomb, and I just stared at it for what seemed like a good 30 minutes.  I'm not even sure I remembered to take a breath.  Then I smelled it to see if his scent was still on it, but of course it wasn't.
Next I put my hand into the pocket inside his jacket and I found his checkbook!  No handwriting was on it anywhere but it was weird to open it and read his name on the clean pale blue checks.  Then I put my hand into one of the outside pockets and I found a pair of his black framed reading glasses; the ones where one of the arms was bent.  Another episode of staring and remembering.
But then in the breast pocket of the jacket, I found two cards that were the size of business cards, which is what I thought they were when I first touched them. I pulled them out and one was a business card but the other was a reminder card from his doctor.  You know the kind I mean; those cards the doctor gives you with the patient's name written in along with the time and the date of the next appointment.
Only this card had my husband's name on it and the date of the appointment was November 10, 2003 and the appointment was written in for 11 am.  I stared at date.  My husband died on November 12, 2003.  I called my son's name out and showed him what I had found.  He stared at the card for a long time too and didn't say anything.  Then he handed it back to me and just said "Wow."
We both felt as though my husband, his father was there in the room with us.  I half expected to hear his voice or see him walk into the room. 
We think he was trying to tell us that it's okay to let go; but please do not ever forget him.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Newtown On Labor Day

Today is Labor Day and I have the day off from work.  YEAH!!! I hope you do too!

Maybe you are planning to go to a friend's house for a special holiday meal or you are going to cook for your family.  Or maybe you're just hangin' at your own house catching up on personal projects.  Or maybe you're going to go to an afternoon picnic or watch a community parade.
In Newtown, Connecticut today, there will be a parade.  A parade of love and community and healing.

It will be same parade that thousands of residents have watched and marched in since the town first held it's Labor Day parade in 1962.  But this year's parade is different.  There were doubts about going ahead with the parade given the deep tragedy that residents experienced on December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary when 20 first graders and six adults were massacred by a lone gunman. (
Many in Newtown didn't think it was appropriate to hold a Labor Day parade this year when so many in their community are still trying to process their loss and rebuild their lives.
It is difficult to know what to do next when a life is lost; especially in Newtown where their losses happened in such brutal and cold-hearted manner.  I have found that in the midst of mourning there comes a point when you experience what I call the push-pull of  the healing process.  You know life is different; that life will never be the same without your loved one, but you also begin to search for a way to move forward with your life.  
I think Beth Caldwell, head of the Newtown Parade Committee, explained it best when she told the Associated Press (in the story below) that Newtown, in planning this year's Labor Day parade, wanted to be "respectful of what happened and still offer an avenue of celebration" for the residents. 

Labor Day is traditionally the last weekend of summer, a last hurrah of sorts.  Labor Day is also seen as a time of transition from summer to fall, from vacation to school.

Please read below in the link to an Associated Press story in The Boston Globe about Newtown's touching transition on this Labor Day, as it slowly moves from a terrible tragedy to a new kind of healing that I hope will get stronger with the passage of time.