Inspiration

In Memorial

My cousin died yesterday. 

I got the news last night, as sketchy as it was, when my brother called.  When I saw his name on the caller I.D., I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be good.  When he asked, “Have you talked to Mom?”, my suspicions were confirmed.

Over the years, Mom has shared snippets of information about my cousin’s health challenges.  A life-long chain smoker, she had been battling cancer for many years in different ways and in different parts of her body. Apparently, enough was enough.  Sometime recently, she decided against more chemo.

I don’t blame her.

After several attempts in reaching K. were unsuccessful, and after receiving an random email from someone she didn’t know, Mom had a feeling something was wrong.  My mother and cousin shared regular phone calls – many in the middle of the night – as well as many many challenges over the course of their lives.  They were more like peers, even though K. called my Mom “Auntie”.   So when she didn’t receive any call backs, Mom reached out to one of my cousin’s friends, who hadn’t heard a thing either.  More calls were made and, unfortunately, the sad news was relayed.  K. passed away in a care facility up in Los Angeles somewhere at around 11:30 a.m.   She was 75.

I keep wondering if she was alone when she left this Earth, or if her husband or mom or my father were there to greet her.  Childless and a widow, we are some of her only blood family.  I’ll phone Mom later  to see how she is doing.  Personally, while my heart is heavy, I haven’t shed a tear…which is weird, I suppose.   Maybe I will psychoanalyze that later, but it won’t change anything.  I simply haven’t cried.  Yet.

My first memories of my cousin are of a young woman, fresh from a small town in Illinois, who came to California in the early 60’s to live with my family while she got settled.  Dixie (her birth name) was the only daughter of my father’s sister.  Dixie came to California with a dream in her heart and never a look back: she wanted to be a star! 

15 years apart, K. (a stage name she took and used religiously for the rest of her life) was everything I wanted to be.  Beautiful. Glamorous.  Brave. “IN”.

I can remember sitting on the toilet in our little bathroom with the pink and gray tile, fascinated as she applied makeup like an expert.  Sometimes she would swipe lipstick against my own little mouth, or brushed my eyelids with color. It made me feel beautiful, like her.  K. had a natural beauty only enhanced with color and contour, her most striking feature being her  blue “cat eyes” – a feature she would exploit to her best advantage with smoky artisanship throughout her life and career.

Because YES, as it turns out, her dream came true!  K. DID become an actress, playing many roles in movies and TV shows, as well as in live stage productions.  It was always exciting to go see her work, or to see her on a TV show.  Dynasty…Dallas….Happy Texas.  A sculptress as well, K. had an amazing voice that was at once classy, sexy and deep, with an infectious laugh.   Therefore, she was a perfect fit for the voice over work she also did. 

Over the years, K. and her husband B. (himself a famous stuntman/actor and one of the original cast of legendary TV show, “High Chaparral”) spent a lot of time with my family …. Birthdays, holidays, weddings.  B. and my father were contemporaries and loved to sit, share war stories and just “shoot the shit” over cigars and beer.  I have a collection of photos of us all together.  K. was the big sister I never had, B. and I  had birthdays 4 days apart, and while we lived very different lives, we all adored each other.

As often happens over time, we lost touch.  It began when my father died in January 2000.  Big Al was the glue that kept much of my family’s “togetherness” together, as it turns out.  After over 40 years of marriage, Mom was never the same after his passing, and family gatherings shifted to my home or my brothers …. the “next” generation taking over the traditions as happens with many families, I suppose. 

After a few more years, B. got very sick and passed away.  K. herself got sick, and, well, somehow the months turned in to years and the Christmas cards stop coming.

Life – and death – happened.  The last time we spoke was several years ago.

Turns out K. didn’t wish there to be any services, recluse that she had become.  That makes me sad, but I respect her decision.  I imagine that after a lifetime of making your living and your life around your “looks”, it would be extra difficult to face aging and illness – and to put that face in the public eye.  She was so very gorgeous, too.  This is how I will remember her.  img001

So as I go through family pictures, and talk with my mom, I will hold a little heart-shaped memorial by myself, in her honor.  Her passing has, once again, put the stark reality of my own mortality square in my sites.  None of us gets out of here alive.  Every day – every moment – is an important one, especially when you reach the age where the years left in front of you are, statistically, less than the years left behind.

Each moment is to be appreciated.  The sound of the rain falling.  The smell of baking cookies.  The laughter of a child.  These are the important things, the simple pleasures in life, that are to be valued.  We are given only so many days here on earth, and in the wink of an eye – like a wisp of smoke – they are gone.

My cousin, may she rest in eternal peace and beauty, reminds me of these things.  Her death compels me to make sure the people in my life know that I love them while I still have the chance.  I am encouraged to follow my own dreams (because even at 60, I still have some), and – most importantly – do everything I can to make the most of what a day brings.

Because it might be my last.

(Note:  I actually wrote this last Sunday the 11th.  Since then, I have cried – a lot and at unexpected and private moments.  Other than that, the rest remains the same.)

Daily Inspiration, Inspiration, Life, Love, Relationships, Spirituality, Women, Writing

Journaling – A Journey With Soul

Last week I was asked to write a guest post on journal writing by a wonderful woman who is an internationally known author, singer, and creative mentor who uses and teaches journal writing as a healing modality.  My post will be published on December 13th, but because it will be under my real name – and I write Anonymously here – I won’t be linking up.  However,  I can publish it here and now.  Because it had to be 600 words or less, I edited quite a bit out.  Maybe in the future I’ll expand on my own journal practice in future posts.

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20161129_054136_resizedIn 1969, for my 12th birthday, I received my first “Diary”.  A hard-bound book covered in daisies, it contained pages of blank lined paper and,  most importantly, a lock and tiny key.

Diaries! That place where your secrets were kept, secrets needing to be protected from the watchful eyes of parents and snoopy little brothers.  I can still see myself laying on the bed, my bedroom door closed, filling pages with big loopy lettering made in No. 2 pencil. I wrote about other girls, first periods and first bras.  I poured out my heart when I wasn’t invited to a party.  I chronicled my parents fights, and that night I accidentally discovered them naked in the pool.

I wrote about boys.  A LOT!

There was something exciting about each new diary started.  They whispered of POSSIBILITIES. NEW BEGINNINGS.  FRESH STARTS.

I’m not sure when diaries became ‘journals’.  Little hard-bound books were eventually replaced by steno pads and spiral notebooks.  It didn’t matter what they were called, though.   That FRESH START feeling didn’t change.

In the 70’s, I wrote out all the angst and longing of a teenager that didn’t feel like she fit in and so desperately wanted to.  In the 80’s, my journal absorbed the crazy-hot desire of a single 20something trying to make her way in the world, where I often waxed poetic.  Words poured out of me, filling empty hours and a deep-rooted need for self-expression.  I wrote about other girls, who was dating who and the heartbreak of not being invited to a party.  I chronicled the liberation of not living under my parents’ roof.

And I wrote about boys.  A LOT!

It was after my first child was born in 1986 that my “Morning Time” was also born.  Working full-time, I found it easier to stay awake after his 5 am feeding than to go back to bed for an hour.  It didn’t take long before I discovered the treasures to be found in the quiet solitude of Predawn.  I would sit at the dining table with my coffee and journal, gazing out the window while body and mind awoke.  I watched the changing seasons of my life reflected in the big Maple tree in our backyard, and I wrote and prayed.  Intentions were set for the new day, my head and my heart purged, and blessings counted.  During the brief periods when I didn’t practice it, I felt the difference – and not in a good way.

30 years later, I can still be found in the wee hours with my journal and coffee although, thanks to menopause, it’s more like 3 a.m.  (I wrote through THAT, too!).   While the hour and view has changed, my journaling journey hasn’t.  It’s still the best friend ready to listen without judgment, the husband who never zones out, the psychiatrist who doesn’t requirement payment or an appointment. And perhaps, most profoundly, it’s the Ear of God that’s always Present.

After nearly 50 years, I’ve journaled my way through marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and more sorrows and joys than I can count. Most recently I wrote my way through a breast cancer diagnosis and 18 months of treatment.  Frankly, I don’t know how I would’ve survived without it.  Writing is healing.  It’s cathartic.  It’s revelatory.  It’s doesn’t care if I’m happy or scared, strong or weak, or blonde, bald or gray (smiling).

A journal is unconditional in its acceptance of all the Flawesomeness of my life.  All I have to do is show up – authentically and faithfully – to reap it’s magic:

The Alchemy of my Soul.

Inspiration, Life, Love, Relationships, Spirituality, Women, Writing

Oooh, Child

It’s a cool drizzly morning here in So Cal.

Everyone is off to work and school.  There’s chicken in the oven for later, smelling up the house with yumminess, and all is quiet except for the sound of the sprinklers outside my window.  For the first time in almost 2 weeks, I have the day at home all to myself.  Even with all the chores I have to do, it is a much-needed oasis of solitude.

It’s been months since I’ve blogged.  Thank you to those that reached out to see how I was doing.  Up until, literally, the last couple of days – it’s been kinda crazy.  Over the Summer, while my girl still had her own apartment, I was taking care of my grandson one week a month, and some weekends in-between.  She got a great new job with the school district back in June, but it came at a price – specifically, a significant pay cut.  But she has a firm and reliable career path now, awesome benefits, and all kinds of perks that working for the district includes.  So for me to babysit one week a month to help keep financial life and limbs afloat (hers and ours) was a no-brainer.

School had just gotten back into session when, over the Labor Day weekend, we moved them in here with us.  Moves are hard and tiresome.  It took me a couple of weeks, but every room – every drawer, closet and corner – was thoroughly gone through and reorganized to make space.  However exhausting, the timing was Divinely Perfect as it coincided with the end of her lease and the end of my Unemployment Benefits.  Days before the move, I had another biopsy in my left breast after my first post-treatment 3D Mammogram showed “something” that needed to be looked at.  Jesus, I was scared…but I held on to the promises that I got way back when this all started – that the Lord had cured the incurable, and that I was healed.  I broke down and sobbed, falling to my knees, when I got the results. God showed up in a seriously miraculous way (maybe I’ll write about that another time), and the results of the biopsy were negative.

God be praised, Who is rich in mercy, strength and healing grace!

No sooner was that crossed off The List, my husband had a surgery he had been putting off for far too long because of all my shit.  The surgery was successful, but I was elbows deep in urinals and bed trays for a week while he recovered, sleeping on the couch for a couple weeks so as not to jostle him.  Eventually he was back to work and  I was just exhaling,  thankful that September was almost over when – just like clockwork – the third “THING” popped up.

A week ago this past Monday, my girl called me from the emergency room in serious distress and ended up staying in the hospital for the next 5 days.  It was awful, as they did test after test and couldn’t uncover the source of her pain.  I put in 12 hour days, getting my grandson ready and to school, driving the 40 minutes to drop him off, making my way to the hospital, then staying there with my baby until school was out.  Another trip to pick up our guy, back to the hospital to spend dinner time with Mommy, then home between 8 and 9 p.m. In between was a lifetime of prayer, staying all Mama Bear on the doctors and nurses trying to get her relief and some answers, and trying present calm and control for our little guy. While a firm diagnosis still hasn’t been made, the pain specialist is treating it as a nerve issue…a Myalgia of sorts.  It might even be a couple of things. But after a week of nerve specific medications, she is back to work just this morning, and I am so thankful.

Wow, I feel exhausted again just writing all of that. (Smile) Yet, here I am this morning, my heart full of gladness and a deep sense of God’s presence.  Things have been hard – in more ways than just physical – but here we all are, together.  The crises have passed.  The weather is cooler, the chicken smells delicious, the house is decorated so cute for Halloween and life is taking on more “normal” proportions as of 30 minutes ago.

Things are definitely looking brighter.

Inspiration, Life, Love, Spirituality, Women, Writing

I Can See Clearly Now

New HaircutIt’s funny how life can change in a moment.

One moment you’re minding your own business at work, and suddenly, Mr. Right offers to fix your car and you’re married within the year….

Or you’re all set to start the New Year with a diet and exercise routine, prepping for your son’s wedding, when you get a cancer diagnosis…..

Or you’re talking with your daughter, listening to her dreams about moving out of state, when you realize it’s the same location you and your husband were talking about moving to last year.

In ways both big and small, life is a series of changes.

I’m a planner by nature.  My husband teases me about it, but I don’t care. He benefits from it and he knows it (smiling).  Personal and professional “planning” is in my DNA – everything from what food to buy for meals all week to corporate parties for over 700 people.  Planning stuff is like a having a road map.  Without it, we end up ‘anywhere’.  With it, we tend to get to where we want to go.  In my world, anyway.

Back in February of ’15, I knew I had 18 months of treatments to undergo and “planning” my life pretty much took a hike.  I didn’t know who or how I’d be when I finished with those treatments.  I didn’t know what I would look like, how I would feel, or what I could or could not do, and it sucked.  BIG time.

I also didn’t know that my girl, 28 and a single mom, would be laid off twice in a year – the second time in March, just a week after I was “laid off”. Since the day we found out she was pregnant, I knew one of my biggest “purposes” in life was to partner with her in raising my grandson.  A big piece of that has been additional financial support.

Like many others in the Middle Class, particularly in SoCal where housing takes 50% of income and incomes have been flat, or moving backward, for almost a decade, being a single income family is nearly impossible. So it’s been a draining 18 months where money is concerned, as we’ve helped to support them as well as ourselves through these challenging times.

That being said, the funds we’ve needed have been there, and we haven’t had to tap our credit cards.  We all have a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our backs, and so much more to be grateful for.

Anyway, she landed a fabulous new job within her local school district a month ago, replete with all kinds of amazing benefits and opportunities for a life long career, should she choose.  The only “down side”, it included a significant cut in pay that made the already difficult task of living on her own impossible.  So, a week ago when she asked about moving in with us once her lease is up come September, we agreed.

Not only will having them live here significantly stop the financial bleeding, it will help all of us in different ways.  Having my 7 year old grandson around is like having a partner in crime….we make serious magic together.

It wasn’t an easy decision.  Big, life altering ones usually aren’t.  We’re all adults and all of us would like our own space – especially my girl.   She has her way of doing “house” and I have mine. But, like many MANY other families across America, we’re doing what we need to do to keep life and limb together and, I believe, actually get ahead.

And I’m good with that.  Because now….we got ourselves a plan.

OREGON

20150623_170311_resizedOregon! Last year, when I came back from my road trip up to Seattle, it was all I could talk about.  First, it’s gorgeous up there.  Rolling green hills, spectacular vistas, water filled rivers…..And we would be so much closer to my son and daughter-in-law, who begged me to move up that way so I would be closer to them when they start their own family in a year or so.  A 3 hour drive is MUCH better than an 18 hour one. (I don’t fly….)

And, as it turns out, my husband’s company has offices in Portland!  For years we’ve dreamed of owning our own home again, on a small piece of land in a place where there is space, natural beauty, safety, and a reasonable cost of living. We don’t need posh.  We’re simple people who enjoy simple comforts and could give a rat’s ass about impressing anyone with our “lifestyle”.

So when my daughter told me her own dream to move to Oregon, where she could afford a little house of her own and could put down roots for she and her son,  BOOM!  There it was!

Just like that, for the first time in a long time, I have a vision for the ‘future’.  I have something to point my prayers and intentions towards.  Something to work for.  I have…

A PLAN.

Sure, it’s all in the hands of the Divine.  Things might change as we go along.  And it will definitely take an Act of God to pull this all together.  A handful of Miracles, even.  But in THIS moment, I feel hope.  I feel more determined, more energized – more ALIVE – than I have in a long long LONG time.

OREGON.

Where the state motto is: Alis Volat Propriis, “She Flies With Her Own Wings”.

Sounds like my kinda place.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish”. – Proverbs 29:18

Daily Inspiration

In Rememberance of 9/11 – The Unsung Heros

Tumbling Woman”, by Eric Fischl. Officials at New York’s Rockefeller Center kept the sculpture from public display after complaints from onlookers who found the image disturbing.  Google image.

Having just dropped the kids off at school, something the guy on the radio said caught my attention.

It took a good 60 seconds before the words sunk in, and it was tone of his voice – the shock – that hit home first.  An airplane – no, TWO airplanes, had hit the World Trade Center Towers in NYC, and the top floors of the buildings were ablaze. My mind struggled to grasp words so surreal, I actually shook my head trying to get clear.

But even before the words sunk in, I could feel it.  Something bad was going down.  Something real bad.

Taking the driveway way too fast, I slammed the car in PARK, ran into the house, and yelled at my husband.  “Oh my God, come here!  Something horrible has happened!”  Together, standing barefoot in our jammies, we watched as the most horrific day in U.S. history unfolded on our TV screen in real time.  When a newscaster shouted, and the scene flashed to the Pentagon, I started to shake all over and I don’t think I stopped shaking for weeks.  The unthinkable had happened:

America was under attack.

Over the next month, I sat glued to the TV during every free moment and usually found myself weeping uncontrollably…deep gulping sobs of grief, fear and anger.  I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t want to leave the house, and I didn’t feel safe.  The sounds of a plane overhead was enough for my heart to leap through my chest, and I tried to tunnel what was going on inside of me by painting a huge “God Bless America” sign for the front yard, and participating in neighborhood vigils, and praying like I had never prayed before.

9/11 changed my life – just as it did 100s of 1000s of others lives – and changes it still.  Something deep within both my personal and our collective consciousness shifted.  My world…our world…tilted on its’ axis and has never been the same since.

It’s not my intent to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 with my strong opinions about what’s happened to the US as a result of the “War On Terror”.  Anyone within arms reach of me – either virtually or in real time – knows I’m Pro-Peace, and believe all of the wars we’ve engaged in are illegal, immoral, and a means of profit for those who run the Military Industrial Complex.  I support the troops by being vocal about ending these wars, and advocating for more services for our Wounded Warriors.

And don’t get me started on things like Homeland Security, TSA, NSA, the Patriot Act, and Executive Orders.  The only thing I’ll say is this: we are no “safer” now, nor is the world safer, as a result of them.

Back to 9/11. Of all of the images I watched from the morning of September 11, 2001, it was the ones of people falling – or jumping – in an attempt to escape the blazing infernos that remain on the forefront.  At first, as the TV cameras caught the images in real time, my mind shied away from acknowledging what I was seeing.  But eventually, the horrible truth pierced through.  Those falling – objects –  weren’t pieces of the buildings.  They were PEOPLE.  About 200 in all, as it turns out.  These people, seared into my psyche by the branding iron called horror and disbelief, will forever be a part of me.

In remember of those unsung heroes, please watch this video.  It is a documentary based on an article by Tom Junod (Esquire 2003) about a photograph (by Richard Drew) of a man falling from the World Trade Center.

We Will Not Forget