Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Captain D and the Doobie Brothers: A Story for Veterans Day

There it was. In the back corner of a jewelry box drawer, hidden under a ticket stub from a 1976 Doobie Brothers concert, I found the silver POW bracelet that I’d worn during my high school and college years. I’d spent a thousand hours staring at the name on the bracelet and wondering what was happening to the man it represented.

Back in those days, these bracelets were sold for a small fee to support the effort to locate and return U.S. prisoners of war from the Vietnam conflict. Once purchased, the owner vowed to wear the bracelet 24/7 until the fate of the soldier was known. I prayed for those returned, for those still missing, for those who served and made it home, for the families whose lives were forever changed. I prayed a lot. I didn’t know what else to do.

Prayers seemed to be answered one day when Captain D’s name appeared on the returned list that was printed in the newspaper. I was ecstatic! I felt connected to him in some way and was overjoyed he’d be returning to his family. I remember getting an official blue sticker with a white star and placed that next to Captain D’s name on the bracelet which signified his release. Since this was before the days of the internet, I never knew what became of “my” Captain D.

As the years progressed, I graduated, got married and started having kids. Every so often, the bracelet would surface in my jewelry box, still an important reminder of those years. Captain D, in bracelet form, moved with me nine times over 40 years around Virginia and was used as a “show and tell” item several times by my kids. When I moved the concert ticket and saw the bracelet, it was like finding an old friend.

But this time was different.

I decided to try and find Captain D and offer him the bracelet. A quick Google search led me to his February 2012 obituary detailing the life of this decorated war hero who continued a distinguished military career after he returned from Vietnam. I was suddenly sadder than I should have been, considering we’d never met. Perhaps I’d been triggered by the loss of my own dad only six months before. I wondered if the family might be interested in my treasure. I called the funeral home and explained my mission. A very pleasant woman told me they’d contact the family with my information. Within an hour I got a call from Steve in Nevada.

“That’s a weird number,” I thought as I answered my phone.

“Hi, my name is Steve and I’m the son of Captain D. The funeral home just called to say you had one of my dad’s POW bracelets and you’d like to give it to us?” My heart stopped and I felt my eyes start to well with tears. It was hard to speak but Steve was patient.

We started to talk and both became very emotional. We shared the pride we felt for our fathers, how we wished our children could have known them as we did and how we missed our dads being a steady presence in our lives. We shared like strangers do when they have no fear of judgment and speak freely from the heart.

“Why did you call the funeral home?” Steve asked. “I mean, why did you call today?”

“I was cleaning out a drawer and found it under an old Doobie Brothers concert ticket,” I explained. “What? You’re never going to believe this,” Steve said. “I’m driving to a doctor’s appointment and I had this craving to hear the Doobie Brothers. I’ve got it playing on my IPod right now!” We both laughed.

I got his address and told him I’d take a few days to compose a letter describing the bracelet’s journey the past 40 years and send it to him, which I did. In addition to those details, I wanted the family to know why this project had been so important to me. Here is a portion of what I shared with Steve:

My own father died several months ago and he was my hero. As a young soldier, he had been held for a time in a German POW camp during WWII and had nightmares about it until the day he died at age 88.  Although he ran a successful business for decades, was active in local politics and sat on many community boards, he was haunted by his war experiences. My mother’s brother was shot down over France in 1944 and my mom waited to find out what happened for nearly 30 years. Although I don’t presume to understand what you, your mother and family went through, I do know how war affected my family.

I bought this bracelet as a way to support POWs and their families and bring attention to their situation. I wore it everywhere and never took it off.   I remember scanning the newspaper every time “the lists” came out searching for your dad’s name.  I first scanned the returnee list, and when I didn’t find his name there, I’d check the deceased list hoping not to find him listed. I prayed for your dad and your family every day.  The day I saw Capt. D’s name on the returnee list, I was ecstatic and hoped he was returned unharmed.  I believe I remember wearing the bracelet for a couple years more to remember the other POWs and those who were still missing in action. I am so delighted your dad came home to you. I know you must have been a young boy at the time, but I hope it helps to know thousands of people were sending love and prayers to your dad and your entire family.
With my own dad’s passing, it’s been a comfort to hear stories from others about him, to find notes in his handwriting or long forgotten mementos buried in drawers. When I found this bracelet I felt compelled to give it to him, or a family member. I am sorry I didn’t find your dad before his death, but I’m happy to have found you. If this does end up with your son as you mentioned on the phone, please tell him his grandfather was admired and respected by those who sincerely appreciate his service to our country.  Please know how much I admire the sacrifices your mother made as a military wife.

I know this bracelet has now found its way home.

I sent the bracelet off to Nevada, happy to know the family would have this keepsake. Within a few days, I received a beautiful handwritten note from Steve. He said he was going to share my letter with his mom when she visited for Easter and planned to give the bracelet to his own son, now a proud member of the military who had just the week before asked about his grandfather’s career. My tears flowed again as I felt so grateful to be a small part of this family’s story.

It is just amazing to me the way life flows, bringing people and events together at just the right time. It’s funny…whenever I think of meeting Steve this way and the stories we shared, I hear “Listen to the Music” by the Doobie Brothers playing in the background. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Anika, Dad and the Zombie Princess

This week marks the second anniversary of my Dad's death. I decided I wanted to note the event, but from an upbeat perspective in this week's blog.

“What could I say?” I wondered…then I remembered the sweet gift I received from a gorgeous four year old named Anika and decided to share it with you (with permission from her mom, Anja).

After Dad’s passing, I was given the beautiful drawing you see with this blog along with the following letter:

Dear Diane,

I wanted to send something special to you and your family to let you know we care about you so much and you are in our hearts. I thought Anika could help with this by drawing you a picture of your father in in heaven. I explained that a dear friend of mine’s father did not die (because no one ever does), but he decided to leave his body. I wanted to send you an explanation of the picture and everything that’s in heaven, from a four-year old’s perspective. She shared in detail with me as she drew this picture, as she knew we would be sending it to you.

Bottom left:  your dad, you (Diane), your mom, Anika (she didn’t want to be left out), part of a person she had to start over with, and Kitty (her toy kitty she takes with her everywhere). Next to the kitty are some letters she learned to write in daycare (also above the others are some more letters).

Bottom right:  a rainbow, a flower and above the flower a “rainbow car” with wheels (she said it started as a dolphin but morphed into a car at the end).

Above your dad:  two hearts – a baby heart and a mommy heart. To the right of the hearts is a fairy (green), an angel (pink) and a zombie princess with pearls and string in her hair (because what heaven would be complete without a zombie princess!). To the right of the zombie princess is a ring (pink circle) and to the left are more hearts that got colored in.

Top right: the star shaped figures are a mommy and baby crown with skirts and feet. You also have a sun, blue sky and clouds.

I don’t know about you, but I think heaven is sounding pretty cool. 

Sending you and your family much love, 
– Anja & Anika

I miss my dad. When I'm feeling particularly sad, I look at this beautiful picture and see Dad in heaven with Mom, a pink angel, green fairy, rainbow car, crowns with skirts and feet....and a zombie princess.

It always makes me smile.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Love in Action

I’ve had a phrase running around my head for a while now and it’s “love in action.” What the heck does that mean? I decided it can take various forms for all of us.

You can:

Volunteer at a fundraising event.
Make dinner for a neighbor.
Give a donation to a cause you believe in.
Write a love note to your spouse.
Surprise a child with a special outing.
Take time to relax in a hot bath with healing oils.
Paint, write, sculpt, sing….create something from your soul that makes you happy.
Hold the door open for the person behind you as you leave a store.
Smile, make eye contact and say hello to a stranger.
Pick up trash in the park.
Patiently wait for an elderly person to safely cross the street in front of your car.
Donate to your community coat drive.
Share an inspiring story with a friend.
Send a private message to an old friend on Facebook just to “check in.”
Deliver gifts to a local animal shelter.
Share your unique talents with an organization that can use your expertise.
Donate books to your library.
Bring coffee or tea to an office mate.
Send a text to someone who’s grieving to let them know you care.
Spend a little extra time petting the cat.
Pray that we all find a way to live love, respect, kindness, truth and joy.
Shut your eyes and imagine a healthy planet. Hold that thought for several minutes.
Smile more.

While it’s tempting to think of this “love in action” as an exercise to help others, I think the real fun comes when we live our daily life from there.
Whoa. What would that look like?

Imagine paying bills, preparing dinner or delivering a talk for work all actions that are fueled by love. Grooming your dog, cutting the grass and yes – even laundry – could be examples of “love in action” if we looked at these actions not as chores, but as ways to consciously express love to ourselves, our families and the world. Think about that. I like it!

Love in action is simple. Fuel every action, deed and thought with love.

That’s my new intention. What about you? How could you live love in action?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Invest in Yourself!

I feel renewed. Energized. Fantastic! Why? I just invested in myself.

In late September, I traveled to Orlando to attend a signature event for Hay House Publishing called I CAN DO IT. The title says it all! In this three day event, many of the top Hay House authors host workshops on a variety of mind-body-spirit topics. An added perk for me was my book signing at the Balboa table, but my investment that weekend went well beyond any business opportunity.

I was not only introduced to new ideas I can immediately apply to my personal and professional life, but I also loved meeting people who share my interests and passion for learning! It’s invigorating.

I met total strangers who became new friends as we exchanged tips or recommended helpful books and blogs. We were all emotional at a star studded tribute to the recently deceased Dr. Wayne Dyer, who was a Hay House author for many years. We shared with each other in workshop exercises. Thousands of us meditated as a group. We danced with Dr. Robert Holden during his keynote speech. We had a blast.

We learned new ways to keep our body healthy, our mind clear and our spirit happy.

We invested time, money and focus on ourselves. It was glorious.

The experience reminded me just how important it is for each of us to invest in ourselves. I believe as we do so, we become happier, healthier and more creative benefitting everyone in our lives. It’s that important.

Yes, it’s smart to invest your money wisely, do those renovations on the house and buy a reliable car. You spend lots of time thinking about those investments. How much thought do you give to investing in your own mental, physical and spiritual health?

It may not always be possible to travel to an event. Bet there’s probably a few close to home you might enjoy. When’s the last time you checked? Have you ever tried an on-line class that interests you?

You could read a new book that stretches your understanding, explore a blog with a fresh perspective or have coffee with a friend and dig into an interesting topic. All great ways to invest in yourself!

You could walk in nature. Get a massage. Take a yoga class or follow along to a Tai Chi video on YouTube. Commit to a consistent meditation routine. Pick up the spiritual book you bought years ago and always meant to read. Take that relaxing bath you say you don’t have time for…do it.

When is the last time you invested in yourself? An even better question is, “what will you do now to invest in your mental, physical and spiritual health?”

I hope you answer this question and take action. Why? Because we all deserve to feel renewed, energized and fantastic!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

When You Talk the Talk, You Gotta Walk the Walk

I’ve been less than honest with someone. Me. I realize I’ve been fooling myself. I hate when that happens.

Let me explain. I’m working on my second book, “The Empowered Spiritual Path,” based on the three month coaching program I’ve been using with my clients for the last few years.

I was writing this weekend and quickly found myself deep into the work. I was really “on fire,” in my frenzy, and produced nearly 4,000 words of inspired text between numerous loads of laundry, grocery shopping and paying a few bills.

“This is so great,” I thought.

Until I read what I wrote.

The chapter describes the daily routine I have clients commit to at the very beginning of my program. The specific actions aren’t revolutionary, but when done consistently and in a specific sequence, the process has produced miraculous results. Clients have reported feeling less stress, improved sleep, better relationships, feeling more peaceful, happy and more easily able to handle problems. They say they feel more connected to Spirit. Some have even reported measurable improvements in medical conditions. It’s magical, and it works.

Here’s the problem.

It occurred to me while I was reading the protocol, that I’ve been more lax than I realized in adhering to my own program. Crap! A slap of reality pie, right in the face.

“I’ve been traveling,” I thought. “This summer’s been so busy.” I said out loud to the cat who was lounging on my desk.

I swear she looked at me with her little cat eyes as if to say, “Hmmm…look who’s not walking her talk.”

Put in my place by my own cat. And my own guilty conscious.

I remembered I hadn’t been as energetic as usual the last couple months. I hadn’t quite felt myself and had trouble sleeping. I suddenly realized that while thought I’d only occasionally skipped a couple steps of my routine, I’d been inconsistent. Even my meditations had often been shorter than usual. I’ve been meditating for more than 20 years and that seldom happens. But it had. $@!#*&!!

I’d gotten off track and I was truly shocked. I fooled myself by not paying attention. I realize I’d substituted “various forms of busy” for my sacred routine. And I’d been living the result.

The cat was right. I wasn’t living in line with my teachings. Ouch. Sometimes the truth does hurt.

I’m now back to my consistent practice that works. And I’ll be aware of my actions. I’ll be diligent with my daily routine. I have to walk my talk.

Want to know how I know I’ll stay on track? I don’t want that cat judging me again….

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Everyday JOY

Gazing into the face of your newborn, finding your soul mate, watching the sunrise from a beautiful beach or receiving an award from your peers can spark feelings of joy in all of us. But those things don’t happen every day.

I’m discovering joy is available to us even on those regular, run of the mill, “don’t seem too special” days. What do I mean by joy? According to Dictionary.com:

“Joy – Noun: The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.”

Now I’m no expert, but I’d add that joy is subjective and found in one’s unique awareness and appreciation of the “something” mentioned in the definition above. Here’s what I mean.

In the last week, I’ve found joy – true delight, happiness and elation – in the following situations that may seem mundane to you:

  • Lunch with one of my old Reiki Master students who recently graduated college.
  • Biting into a sweet, ripe watermelon on Labor Day.
  • Watching my husband’s delight as he located keys that had been lost for over a year.
  • Slipping between soft new white cotton sheets at bedtime.
  • Trying a new organic recipe and having it turn out perfectly.
  • Figuring out how to use an app on my phone.
  • Finally filing papers that have been in a pile in my office for months.
  • Discovering a Seinfeld episode I never saw – or had forgotten. Either way, it was new to me!

I think it’s fantastic when life surprises us with those big, beautiful post-to-Facebook kinds of moments. These are to be treasured and deeply appreciated. For most people, these are rare.

I believe we’re offered opportunities for joy every day while we go about the business of living our lives. All we have to do is be open and receptive. Look for joy today, wherever you are.

You may not find a “new” Seinfeld episode, but something cool will show up.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Touched by a Great Spirit

Image Source: drwaynedyer.com
“I express love and create harmony wherever I go” was the message on my Louise Hay calendar for Sunday, August 30th. Certainly a great message for any day, but especially that day. That was the day Dr. Wayne Dyer passed from this life to the next. He knew how to express love and create harmony. And he taught millions of us how to do the same.

I never personally met Dr. Dyer, but like many across the planet, his teachings have helped shape the person I am today. He was an awe-inspiring author and speaker who helped people find real solutions to everyday problems. His books helped me find my spiritual center and taught me to use that to improve every area of my life. Dyer is powerful on the page, but in person he was mesmerizing.

I saw him three times at various Hay House I CAN DO IT events in the last several years. No matter how far I sat from the stage, I could literally “feel” his presence and was riveted by the passion he brought to his talks. He was honest about his own challenges and failures. He was open about his own early resentments and how the power of forgiveness forever changed his life. He was a peaceful and powerful presence who seemed to exude love for all.

The most impressive to me, however, is how a self-help spiritual author and speaker positively and profoundly influenced the lives of so many people in our world. Not a politician, not an actor, not an athlete, but an author. What an incredible testament to the power of his work.

I am forever grateful there are people like Wayne Dyer who write, speak and live love. They remind us we are one, united by the same Divine energy that runs through us all. They point out that in any situation we can react from fear, or we can react from love. Thanks to Wayne Dyer’s teachings, millions are aware of this choice, and choose love.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Harry and the Peach Seed

Here’s a favorite blog I want to share again...

Harry is my dear friend and “adopted brother” who is a master storyteller. He has many tales of his beloved “Nannar,” his mother’s mother, who doted on him as her only grandchild. I especially love his peach seed story and I use it often with clients when I’m illustrating a point. It goes something like this…

One day when he was about eight years old, Harry was visiting Nannar in her rural Virginia home. As usual, visits to Nannar included time in her kitchen and on this day they were enjoying the juicy goodness of a fresh summer peach. As the seed started to emerge through the plump peach Harry was eating, he got an idea.

“Can we plant this peach seed?” young Harry asked.

“Of course,” Nannar replied. “We’ll plant it in the back yard where we can watch it grow through the kitchen window.”

A great plan Harry thought, so off they went to plant the seed. A suitable spot was found and under Nannar’s watchful gaze, Harry dug a hole, deposited the seed, covered it with dirt and added water. “Now we wait,” Nannar said.

Just a few days later, Harry asked his grandmother if they could dig the seed up and see how it was doing.

“You don’t want to do that,” Nannar cautioned.

“But why not?” Harry countered. He was an inquisitive lad and as an only child, was used to getting his requests quickly met.

“You planted the seed and watered it,” Nannar said. “Now you must wait and let it grow. It’s started to sprout under the dirt and when it’s ready, the plant will poke through the ground and you’ll see it grow into a beautiful tree. We’ll eat peaches from that tree one day,” she said.

“But I want to check on it now and make sure,” a stubborn Harry replied.

“OK, but if you disturb the seed, it’ll stop growing,” the wise Nannar said. “You have to trust the seed is doing what it needs to even if you can’t see the progress.”

“I want to dig it up,” Harry said.

“OK,” replied Nannar. They went into the back yard and she supervised as a determined Harry carefully dug up the seed to discover it had indeed sprouted.

“Look! It’s growing!” Harry said.

“It was,” his grandmother countered. “Now it has stopped growing,” she said.

“I’ll just put it back and it’ll be fine,” Harry said.

“You can put it back in the ground, but it’s too late for this seed to grow,” Nannar said. “When you plant a seed, you must be patient, wait and trust the seed is doing what it needs to even if you can’t see it.”

“It’ll be fine,” Harry said as he replanted the delicate sprout. “We’ll have a peach tree soon!”

For weeks afterwards, Harry would visit Nannar and run to the back yard to check on the progress of his peach tree. He’d water the spot if it looked dry.

Nannar would observe this ritual with a smile and say, “You have to trust the process Harry. You can’t dig up the seed and expect to grow a tree.”

Of course Nannar was right, and the seed never grew.

Harry told me that for years later, he would be sitting with his grandmother in the kitchen and she’d motion out the window into the back yard and say, “That’s where your tree would have been if you’d given the seed time to grow. That tree could have produced thousands of peaches by now and hundreds of new trees could have come from that single seed. When you plant something, Harry, you have to nurture it, be patient and trust in the natural process.”

WOW. Using a simple example from nature, Nannar beautifully explained a powerful life lesson. I love this story.

I’ve often wondered how many times in my own life I’ve planted a “seed” only to have been impatient with the process and “dug it up” before it had time to grow properly? I’ve done that with relationships, jobs and countless projects over my lifetime. Wish I’d had Nannar to advise me. But thanks to Harry, I do have her wisdom.

What “seed” have you planted lately? Do you know how to nurture it while you practice patience and trust it will grow?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Awake at 4 A.M.

4 A.M. Yep, that’s what the clock showed as I looked at it for the third time this morning. I was awake. Fully awake. The “I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of going back to sleep” kind of awake.

“I can beat this,” I thought as I adjusted my pillow and took a deep breath. My mind was buzzing. Thoughts whirled inside my brain like leaves on the winds of a hurricane.

I gave up around 5:30 A.M. and got up.

What had my mind racing, you wonder?

The idea of living a more joyful life. I don’t mean being super happy, but living from a place of real joy. I’d been thinking about this a lot lately when I found the perfect book to help in my quest. It wasn’t what I expected.

“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo isn’t the type of book I usually buy. But it had been recommended by a couple of my “metaphysical” friends who raved about the spiritual transformations possible by “tidying up” as Marie describes.

“I bet,” I thought sarcastically.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m a big fan of a clean, decluttered house. And while I always feel better in an organized space, I had my doubts that this method would greatly enhance my spiritual progress. I was wrong. It works.

I urge you to read this little book to learn the particulars, but the essence of Marie’s message is simple. In your personal environments, only surround yourself with items that “spark joy.”

The premise is brilliant. How could you help but feel grateful, abundant and productive when everywhere you look sparks joy? Not just nice, not just neat, but sparks joy? Wow. Guess that would qualify as life-changing and certainly transformational.

I’ve started the process and it’s nothing short of amazing. I feel lighter, happier and more peaceful. Incredible. We totally renovated our home last year, so I’d already donated or thrown out boxes of “stuff” and the remaining items had been carefully organized. This method goes even further. And now the bar has really been raised.

When considering a purchase of new clothes or household items, I take the time to ask myself, “does this spark joy?” If possible, I hold the item in my hand to see how it feels, or rather, how I feel about the item. It sounds crazy, even to me, but something’s working. I feel more joyful during the day. I’m dancing while I do the laundry. I feel grateful for the job each item has in my home and how it contributes to my life.

I know, it sounds nuts.

I’ve told my clients for years that “your external world reflects your internal world” and I believe it. While I wanted my external world to reflect joy, I never imagined I could have EVERYTHING in my personal environment do that. I’ve always had certain possessions that made me happy, but never a roomful. Thanks to Marie, I now understand how to do that. I even know how to tame the piles of paperwork that plague me. After I finish my tidying project, however, that won’t be an issue. How much more joy could I then experience?

That’s what I was wondering at 4 A.M. this morning.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My Angel Encounter

I’ve always love the striking images of beautiful angels found in Renaissance paintings. The detailed, graceful beings seem to exude love, peace and serenity. Ahhhh...I feel calm every time I see one. Those artistic images, and the angelic figurine that stood atop our Haworth family Christmas tree, were really all I knew about angels. Until I met one.

I became sick during my first pregnancy and delivered my baby girl 12 weeks early by emergency C-section. She weighed only two pounds. Her condition was serious and she struggled for life in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as I fought to recover from severe pre-eclampsia and aggressive infection.

When she was less than 48 hours old, I was resting in my hospital room when two stone faced young doctors came in. I’ll never forget the expression on their faces as they glanced at me, but stayed focused on the charts they held.

“Uh, oh. Why were two interns here? Why do they look like that? Why aren’t they looking at me?” I thought. I knew it was bad news, but how bad?

I was told my baby had experienced a "bleed in the head" and that this wasn’t uncommon with preemies born this early. They said everything could be fine. Or not. They explained she could be blind or severely brain damaged. They just didn't know. They mumbled “we’re sorry to disturb you” and hurried out of the room.

I’m not sure what was worse; the shock I felt, or the fear for my baby daughter. Since I’d been admitted, my then husband and family were in and out of my room all the time. But at this second, I was utterly alone and thoroughly terrified.

I began to sob uncontrollably when a lovely lady appeared at my door. She was a pretty brunette about 30ish, dressed in jeans and a top with a beautiful smile. She said she was from Roanoke and she'd seen me in the NICU when she was visiting her own premature baby boy. I'll never forget what happened next.

Never leaving my doorway, she said, "Don't worry, everything will be alright.” She smiled deeply, gazing into my eyes and continued, “Just take things day by day, and when that's too much, go hour by hour. When that seems like too much to bear, just take things minute by minute."

And she was gone.

I immediately felt a deep sense of peace that my baby would be fine. It’s hard to describe the ease that flowed through me when only seconds before, I’d been in a complete state of panic.

My husband returned to my room and after telling him about the visit, I asked him to take me to see our baby. I wanted thank the beautiful mother who had just given me the gift of peace. He quickly found a wheelchair, and off we went.

Guess what? Although I was on the NICU floor no later than 30 minutes after the young mother had seen me, I couldn't find her. None of the nurses knew who I was talking about and there was no baby boy there from Roanoke.

That’s when I knew.

I had been visited by an angel – the real kind. She had visited me to let me know all would be well and to teach me how to keep trusting. Over and over during the two months Stephanie was in the NICU, I found comfort in her words:

“Don’t worry. Everything will be alright. Just take things day by day, and when that's too much, go hour by hour. When that seems like too much to bear, just take things minute by minute."

Everything did turn out alright. Stephanie is now 30 and is a beautiful, loving soul with no physical issues. I still refer to her as my “miracle baby.”

When I’ve told this story over the years, it’s obvious not everyone thinks I saw a “real angel.” No matter. I’m forever grateful for the visit and words that gave me peace, strength and taught me to trust. That’s another miracle as far as I’m concerned.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Celebrating My Baby

My baby girl turns 30 this week. Thirty. I remember my mom telling me that time with your children flies by, but I didn’t believe her. She was right.

As I look at my beautiful, accomplished, loving daughter my heart overflows with gratitude. I’m grateful she chose me as her mother, I’m grateful for the adventures we’ve shared, and I’m forever grateful to be close and watch her as she continually grows and evolves.

We had a rocky start. I had issues with my pregnancy almost from the start. I developed severe pre-eclampsia and was admitted to an unfamiliar hospital an hour and a half away from home and was tended to by doctors I’d never met. My condition was critical and we both almost died. After six nerve racking days, my little Stephanie was born by emergency cesarean section. She weighed only two pounds and was 12 weeks early. My little preemie had an uphill battle to survive. She did more than that. She thrived.

That was my first indication of her spirit. She’s smart. She’s a fighter and a survivor.

Life has given her many challenges that people twice her age have never faced. She’s faced each hurdle, and come through stronger than before.

In the last few years, I’ve noticed something else. She’s becoming softer.

She married a wonderful man and through her marriage, I’ve seen her blossom into a loving wife, attentive hostess and thoughtful friend. All the while, she’s remained my beautiful baby girl.

As in any family relationship, it’s not all giggles and girl talk. Sometimes we “butt heads.” We’re both passionate in our beliefs and interests (although some family members interpret our passion as stubbornness). No matter. Regardless of the issue we’re working through, the underlying love is always there for me.

She’s taught me so much. I first understood unconditional love from holding her as a tiny baby in my arms. I marveled at her determination and spirit as she went through school and college. I admire her dedication to her family and her work as I now see her navigate the world as an adult. I’m looking forward to the day I see her as a new mother. I know she’ll be much better than I was. She’ll be awesome.

The next 30 years will be quite an adventure for our entire family. One thing’s for sure. I know it’ll be a great ride for my baby girl and me.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Messy Bits

I set my intention to live love. I really do. I want to be fair, loving, supportive and all things good and true. My life just doesn’t always work out that way.

I love to read British blogger Hollie Holden, who also strives to be an example of love as she raises her young children and runs a busy household. In “Hollie Holden’s Notes on Living and Loving” on Facebook, she not only gives her unique perspective on daily life, she does something very brave. She shares the “messy bits.” She shares the days her house is a wreck, describes sticky spills all over the kitchen floor, the days she’s too harsh with herself and even the massive crack in the wall that needs to be fixed. Regular life stuff. But the stuff we seldom post on social media amid our positive quotes and beautiful vacation photos. Recently, she did something radical.

She wrote, “Wouldn't Facebook be more interesting if it were called realbook? ‪ #‎lessphotosofkaleandmountaintopyogaposes ‪#‎morephotosofthemessybits #‎whatlifeactuallylookslike ‪#‎weareallinthistogether

WOW. She’s gutsy. I love how honest she is when describing the “ups” and “downs” of life. I find it refreshing and helpful. But could I do that? Could I share my messy bits? I’ve shared some, but I’m private and most of my messy bits stay deep under cover.

I decided to give it a go.

In the last month: I broke a tooth and got my first crown, had mild food poisoning, found a six foot black snake in my house (two feet from my face when I was on the floor looking under the couch), lived through an “unexpected appliance death” and had to buy a new washer and dryer, had my 25 year old son recuperating at our house for five days after having four impacted wisdom teeth removed, whined to my sister that I feel stuck and really don’t know what hell I’m doing, forgot to meditate a few days and was mad at myself for needing to wear my “fat jeans.”

There. I’ve said it.

Now I know how the Wizard of Oz felt when Toto pulled back the curtain.

I don’t like it.

I don’t like showing my vulnerable side. It’s not that I want to hide that I’m, um, human…it’s that when life gets crazy, I do my best to see past the messy bits. And that’s what I want to focus on.

I look to see what I have to be grateful for in each situation. I do my best to accept any lessons or new learning opportunities that are presented. I notice what my triggers are so I can move past them. I strive to allow love to guide my reactions. That’s my intent anyway.

OK, that didn’t work out too well with the snake thing. I screamed. A lot. My brave husband did catch the snake and return it unharmed to the woods outside our house. He did that out of love for me. And because he was afraid I was going to have a heart attack.

When I calmed down, guess what I discovered about seeing a snake? According to several spiritual texts, snakes are a symbol of rebirth, new beginnings and healing. Hmmm. Not a bad sign if it hadn’t been real and in my face. Maybe I need to spend a bit more time experiencing the messy bits, to fully understand what wisdom is there for me? Maybe by acknowledging and sitting in the mess, the real treasure of it is revealed. Thanks to people like Hollie, I’m a bit more comfortable exposing my messes.

I‘ve gained new perspectives from each of the little challenges I’ve shared here and for that, I am grateful. Even for the snake. DISCLAIMER: I’m still hard at work on being grateful for the fat jeans.

Here’s to celebrating all of life, every beautiful little messy bit.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How a Shark Taught Me to Control My Thoughts

If you know me, you know I love Discover Channel’s annual SHARK WEEK programming. In honor of these magnificent creatures, I’m offering this excerpt from my book, “How to Choose Love When You Just Want to Slap Somebody” that details my own shark encounter and the lesson I learned from it. Enjoy…

Consider this Buddha quote: “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” You are what you think. If you think your day will be a disaster, a disaster it is. If you think your day will be a happy one, you’ll be right again. Industrialist Henry Ford said it this way, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t - you’re right.” According to philosopher Soren Kierkegarrd, “Our life always expresses the result of our dominate thoughts.”

So if you think you’re a failure, you will live that truth. If you think you’re a kind person, you’ll demonstrate kindness. Are we doomed by our thoughts? Not at all. Norman Vincent Peale said, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” Award winning singer songwriter Willie Nelson is quoted as saying, “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” Willie gets it. All these people understood the power of the mind to create reality. And they understood everyone has the power to change their reality by changing their thoughts.

I know, I know – you’ve heard about the power of changing your thoughts to change the experience of your life and have probably read books demonstrating to consciously create your life with your thoughts. And you believe some of it. I believe all of it. I’ve seen countless times how the energy of my thoughts not only crafted my life experience, but absolutely affected those around me.

Several years ago I was learning to scuba dive in the Bahamas. On the second day out with my instructor, I was still awestruck by the beauty at the bottom of the ocean. The coral, the spectacular array of sea creatures, and the vastness of the sea - it was all just incredible. And I could see it all because I was breathing under water! It was unbelievable. I remembered my television hero, Jacques Cousteau, and could hear his powerful voice in my head eloquently describing the breathtaking underwater scene that enveloped me in his beautiful French accent.

We were diving near a large coral reef when a brightly colored school of fish silently glided by followed by a trio of six to eight foot reef sharks. I watched with amazement and noted the group was only about ten feet away from me. What? The sharks were only ten feet away from ME! In a flash the theme from JAWS started playing in my head as did each brutal bloody scene from every single shark movie I've ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot. The tempo of the song increased and as I became completely terrified, one shark broke away from the group and began circling me. I could see the shark's dead eyes staring through me and I became even more horrified. Quint’s famous line in JAWS flooded back to me, “You know the thing about a shark, he's got... lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eye.” It’s true.

As the shark got closer and closer I was forced to drop down on my belly between two coral shelves where I was trapped. I was breathing hard and using up oxygen fast when I realized there was at least 50 feet of ocean straight up between me and the boat. The more scared I was, the more aggressive the shark got. I remembered hearing that sharks could sense fear and were drawn to any creature that gave off "victim" vibes. Even in full panic, a small voice inside me realized I have to calm down. I forced myself to breathe deep and slow. I began to repeat "I am safe, I am safe, I am safe" over and over in my mind. As I felt my body start to relax, the shark began to lose interest and as I completely relaxed into the calm, it turned and swam away. The only thing that changed in this scenario was my thought pattern. You think I believe our thoughts matter? You bet I do!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

“Who am I?” The answer revealed!

“Who am I?” is a question that comes to my mind often whenever I think about developing a new business service, want to write a blog or even just spread my wings a bit.

I really do wonder.

Who am I to think someone’s interested in what I have to say? Who am I to stand up and teach anything to anybody? Who am I to write a book? Who am I to offer life advice when I don’t have my own life totally together?

My girlfriend and I met for lunch this week and in the midst of telling me about an exciting new venture she’s undertaking, her fear snuck in. She stopped talking for a minute. She shook her head gently side to side and looked straight into my eyes.

“Who do I think I am I to do this?” she said.

“There’s only one response to the question “Who am I?” I said meeting her eyes. “You are a Divine child of God. A child of God can do anything.”

The words just rolled off my tongue.

I have every confidence in my beautiful friend. She’s brilliant, has a huge capacity to see the truth in any situation and most of all, she’s a living example of someone who chooses to live a life of love. Of course she’s not perfect, but she is an inspiration to me and an example of the embodiment of love.

I absolutely believe what I said. Although the words came out of my mouth, they didn’t come from me. The words came through me.

The only true response to the question “Who am I?” is “a Divine child of God.” I know it’s true for my friend.

Now I just have to allow myself to believe it’s true of me too.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Life Is Eternal. Love Never Dies.

Life is eternal. Love never dies.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when my sister asked me to go with her to the Afterlife Conference this past weekend in Norfolk, Virginia. I didn’t know if we’d be chasing ghosts, listening to lectures on angels or what. But I went. She said, “This’ll be good…”

She was right.

For nearly four days we listened to traditional clergy, hospice doctors, paranormal researchers, psychologists, grief specialists, shamans and professional mediums all give unique views on death, dying and what lies beyond. We met parents who had lost their children, family members mourning a loved one lost to suicide and war vets struggling to understand massive wartime loss.

We attended speeches by researchers like Dr. Raymond Moody whose ground breaking 1975 book, “Life After Life,” detailed over a hundred clinical studies of patients who had experienced “clinical death” and had been subsequently revived. The work established him as an authority in near death experiences and helped change the world’s view of the afterlife. Remarkable.

Tears often weld up in my eyes when I listened to tender stories from a hospice chaplain who described patterns he’d observed as he waited with his patients during their last days.

I heard professional medium John Holland console a mother as he brought messages from her deceased child including specific and unique details no one but she knew.

I was amazed by a psychological technique that had been developed in the mid 1990’s by Dr. Allan Botkin in a Chicago Veteran Administration Hospital to help the most severely traumatized Vietnam vets find closure with their experiences. His work led to a revolutionary, effective – but non-traditional – method called “Induced After Death Communication.” Fascinating.

Throughout this remarkable conference, one theme repeated.

Life is eternal. Love never dies.

Whether we heard it from a rabbi, pastor or shaman the message was clear. Life is eternal. Love never dies. Doctors, critical care nurses and psychologists reported the same. Life is eternal. Love never dies. Over and over again, the mediums delivered the same message.

Life is eternal. Love never dies.

I don’t know if you believe in mediums, the paranormal or the validity of near death experiences. You may not believe in traditional western medicine. Whatever your beliefs, I hope you consider the consistent message we heard in our conference.

Life is eternal. Love never dies.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Workshop Surprise

This past weekend I attended an enneagram workshop held on the grounds of a Catholic retreat center. The workshop was amazing, but I got an unexpected education – and surprise - by observing a few of my fellow participants.

Our class consisted of mostly adult women, aged mid-twenties to nearly 80 years old. Four nuns were in our class and they taught me the most of all. They appeared to be two sets of friends, three well into their 70’s, and one probably in her late 60’s. They were absolutely remarkable.

Aging has been on my mind a lot lately. A LOT. Maybe that’s because of the birthday I just had, maybe it’s because my daughter will be 30 this year. I’ve been studying various sources detailing how an active, healthy brain can remain “functional” well into a person’s 90’s. I only hope aging researchers start to study these nuns!

What were they like? Feisty, fun, brilliant, intuitive, active, resilient, hysterical, curious, willing, passionate, open, adaptive, spiritual, grateful, humble - I’ve never been around such a fun group of women at any age! Growing up in a small Virginia town, I didn’t have much experience with nuns, but I certainly did have a few preconceived notions. I was wrong…at least about these women. I had the pleasure of working with a few of them during class exercises and was delighted, and enlightened, by their quick wit and keen insight. They were so much fun! It was a lovely surprise to witness them in action.

I was also wrong about how someone was doomed to age. Despite my research, I witnessed most of my family experience failing health and decreased mental acuity as they aged. While I’d read about “fully functioning” seniors, these nuns were proof!

I learned much about the enneagram during my workshop, but I learned far more about the long lasting effect of a positive, healthy outlook on life. I learned that the human spirit, intelligence and even our life essence certainly isn’t defined by the body that houses it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Oops! I Did It Again….

Recently I was in Denver attending the Hay House I CAN DO IT conference. It was beyond awesome! Three days of incredible workshops, thousands of like-minded participants and the excitement of a new city all added to the uplifting messages being delivered by some of the most experienced spiritual authors on the planet. Everyone felt loved, supported and encouraged to consciously create the life that would support their highest dreams. I spent the weekend floating on a cloud of love….until I got knocked down to reality.

It was early Saturday afternoon and I had just come from a workshop given by one of my favorites, Dr. Robert Holden. In his humorous style, Robert had reminded us that a key way to enjoy life is to be fully in it. And the way to be fully in it is to stay in the present moment. His message reiterated what I’d heard earlier from Dr. Wayne Dyer, Cheryl Richardson and Dr. Christiane Northrup. I knew they were right. I taught this principle to my coaching clients and even gave them instructions on how to do it.

Just when I thought, “I got this,” I remembered my mind had been wandering a bit during the conference. I was scheduled to do my first national book signing event later that day and I was a tad nervous. Maybe I was missing something? What if I wasn’t fully present to this entire experience and missed a tidbit critical to my spiritual development? My frantic mind was racing now.

“Pull yourself together, girl,” I thought as I left a break out session and headed to the main convention hall.

“Be present. Be present to it all!” I told myself as I walked the cavernous hallways toward my destination.

I began to walk deliberately, feeling the ground beneath my feet.

I looked into the smiling faces of the other participants, watching their expressions and seeing the true beauty reflected in each one. I looked at the colors that surrounded me in the art displayed in the center and in the clothes and jewelry worn by the people I passed.

I listened to the sounds of laughter and heard snippets of excited conversations as people shared stories with each other.

I smelled burgers, pizza and fresh juices offered by the on-site vendors.

I was determined to BE in the moment and experience everything. But I missed something.

I missed the sign that said “Men” as I mistakenly wandered into the men’s room. I had been very focused on feeling my feet at the time and being fully present to my body. Wish I’d been a bit more aware of where I was going.

I was looking down as I marched into the restroom and heard a weird splashing sound. I looked up to see the back of a gentleman hunched over a urinal. OMG!

In that moment, I was fully present! All my senses became hyper active as I quickly exited the area. I felt my cheeks getting red as I started to laugh at myself.

The refrain of the old Brittany Spears song played in my head, “Oops, I did it again.” My ego was so determined to be in the moment, that I failed to allow the Divine part of me to simply be and enjoy the experience.

The lesson wasn’t lost on me. Sometimes I’m just too much “in my head.” Back to allowing myself to be more like a little child. They don’t have to “be determined” to be in the present moment. They just are.