Simplicity

In today’s world, it’s easy to get lost in the complexity of our society. Our life can become a whirling mass of chores, things, people, responsibilities and places, leaving us feeling lost and joyless.

When that happens, take some time to make yourself a top priority. Decide what really matters to you…your well-being and peaceful existence. Eliminate as many of the “shoulds” as possible, and let go of unnecessary things and people. Take some time to do what makes you happy and clears your mind. Relax and go with the flow of life; don’t complicate it with overthinking. When you return to what you absolutely have to do, you will approach it more lovingly because you’ve found time to nurture yourself and relax back into yourself.

My favorite go-to place locally is without a doubt, Cape May, NJ. The beauty of the ocean and rhythm of the waves relaxes me and helps to clear my head. The same is true to some extent for writing and genealogy although those activities can at times be bittersweet. 🙂

Do you have a special place or activity that allows you to relax and free yourself from your routine?

A Love Poem for Valentine’s Day

I wrote this several years ago…thought it was worth a reblog. Happy Valentines’s Day to everyone!

Sweet Thoughts…Precious Memories…Undying Love  How  many of you have ever felt this way?

You have been mine before;

I remember the taste of your tender kisses,

The warmth of your welcoming embrace,

A smile that lit up my lonely world;

That playful way you stirred my passion,

Feeling lost forever, lying in your arms,

Somewhere long ago.

You’re the one I want to be with;

I love you with all that I am.

You are the precious air I breathe,

A character in every dream I cherish,

That missing part of me that I see,

Looking deeply into your eyes.

Along the Delaware Bay

I love to stare at waves rolling onto a sandy beach. The motion and soft sounds usually lull me into a state of deep relaxation. Here are two videos I took earlier in June this year in the area of Cape May, NJ. Perhaps you’d like to share a peaceful moment with me now…

The above video was take at Sunset Beach in Cape May Point. If you look closely you will see a sunken concrete ship, the S.S. Atlantus, at the end of the video. You can read more about the ship HERE.

This video is taken at the more rural Higbee Beach in North Cape May. The morning was cloudy and windy, but the waves and slight howling of the wind still did the trick for me. Here is a LINK to the colorful history of this beach.

A few more looks at waves…

Sunset Beach
Higbee Beach
Higbee Beach

The First Day I Went to Jail

Six months after I graduated from Rutgers with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, I began my first “real” job as a social worker for New Jersey’s Bureau of Children’s Services.

“I want you to visit this seventeen-year old in the jail up the street,” said my supervisor.  “Her father signed an incorrigibility complaint—again.”

“Sure,” I said  as I tried to dismiss the thought that I’d accepted the wrong job. Coming from a conservative middle-class background, I had never seen the inside of a jail, let alone visited an inmate.

It has been more than forty years, so I don’t remember many of the details. What I do recall is being startled by the deep voice that came out of nowhere when I first entered the building, asking me why I was there. He buzzed me in after I responded, and I was led back to a room where I spoke with Janet (not her real name, of course).

This tall, dirty-blond young woman was amused by the fact that I was only a few years older and promptly called me “Granny.” I didn’t mind the nickname and as she talked about her life, I came to see a free-spirited girl who had been toughened by her experiences but who still managed to be kind and funny despite her dysfunctional family. I genuinely liked her and admired her compassion for others.

Over the next few months, we spent a few more times discussing her problems. It wasn’t long, however, before Janet turned eighteen and aged out of the agency system. I felt relieved of my responsibility to her, but at the same time concerned about a future with unsavory friends and no high school diploma. I never saw her again.

A couple of years later, a news article came to my attention. Janet’s murdered body had been found on the township dump—a young life tossed aside like a piece of trash. I wondered  if I could have helped her in some way avoid this ending, but came to realize that a few sessions with a young social worker could not have had a profound effect on twenty years of living in an environment of neglect, poverty and ignorance.

I can only hope that our times together helped in some way. Perhaps she made a couple of better decisions, or perhaps not. One thing I do know is that the experience of learning about a life so different from my own left a lasting imprint on mine.

What Are You Grateful For Today?

There’s always something to appreciate if you think about it. Even on dark, gloomy mornings, the fact that you woke up to see it, is a blessing. Life is something to be thankful for, and as tough as it may seem now, things change and the road levels off.

I find my own life goes more smoothly if I focus on gratitude at least once a day. Before going to bed is an excellent time to be reflective of the day just lived. I know, some days you’d like to forget. We all have those days. Bad things often happen to make room for new opportunities and growth.

If you can’t find the silver lining in that day, then look around at the people in your life. No doubt many of them love you more than you will ever realize. Love is always something to be grateful for. If there are no friends or loved-ones there, it’s an invitation to step outside your comfort zone—join a group or get involved in a charity or church group. Reach out to a neighbor, co-worker or a stranger who needs help. There are plenty of them around.

Some people keep a gratitude journal. While that doesn’t work for all (me included), it’s easy enough to say outloud five things (events, people, objects, feelings, etc.) you are grateful for each day. Be sure to actually feel the gratitude as you think about each one. Can’t do five? Start with three.

We frequently take people and things for granted. Remember to search for the joy in whatever and whoever is in your life. As the saying goes, tomorrow is promised to no one. Make the best of each day and remember that the more you appreciate your life and the people in it, the easier it will be for more good things to come your way.

Yikes! Retrograde Mercury

This is an updated reprint of an article I wrote seven years ago…

It’s the uh-oh time of the year, astrologically speaking that is. Three or four times every year the planet Mercury slows down in its journey around the Sun and appears from the Earth to be moving backward. Actually, it still is moving forward, but this three-week change in motion can create a bit of havoc with life on Earth.

Mercury rules mental processes and communications. You may find that appointments get cancelled at the last minute or you forget that you have one. Letters may get lost in the mail or you may finally receive one that was mailed to you three months ago. Cars and other equipment break down more easily or old problems may resurface.

The bottom line is that things are more likely to go wrong or get confused. Naturally, life goes on and you can’t avoid living through these aggravating periods. However, if you can, avoid planning a trip because something may come up that prevents you from taking it. Try not to buy anything new, especially a car, because the odds are increased that you will later regret your purchase. Don’t sign a contract, but if you must, make sure you or your attorney examine it thoroughly.

On the positive side, it is a great time to finish up something from the past. Clean out that closet you dug into a while back or finish writing those letters or emails you left uncompleted. It’s fun when you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while or when an old friend contacts you to get together. It’s also a favorable time for writers because the mental processes are affected in a way that enhances creativity.

We are currently in one of these retrograde Mercury periods. The good news is that the current one which began February 17th is over on March 10, 2020. Other periods to watch out for during 2020 are: June 18-July 12 and October 14-November 3.

For several years, I worked as a professional astrologer. Although I encountered some persons who were skeptical, once they began following these cycles of Mercury, there were few left to deny the mischievous effects of retrograde Mercury.

So how about you? Have any of you found the last week stressful because of mixed communications or things breaking down? Or perhaps, something lost or delayed returned from the past? So far for me, I was delighted to finally receive an email list of like-minded women I met last July at a writing workshop.

Martha’s Words

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He kept them in a night table drawer—a treasure of poems carefully hand-written in a composition book by his mother fifty years before. One of the poems, “My Boy,” was about him. How it must have warmed my Dad’s heart when he read it. Reece Wilmer Press, Jr. looked a lot like his mother and had inherited her stocky body build splattered with freckles, as I did.

I wasn’t particularly interested in the poems back then. It wasn’t until 1972, when he gave them to me, that I remembered they even existed. Martha Walton Press had died nine years before my birth. I am truly sorry that I never had the chance to know her. Dad didn’t talk much about his early family life, but I had the impression that it was a bit troubled. My mother mentioned to me that he had to quit school at age 16 to help support the family when his parents split up. (Ten years later, though, he graduated with a diploma in civil engineering from Drexel University).

The poems, written between 1899 and 1911, survived the five moves to date in my life. During this time, the writing has faded and the pages have become slightly torn and dog-eared. A few years ago when I took up genealogy, I read the poems several times, searching her words and studying the stylish handwriting in an attempt to know her better.

When I began self-publishing, it became apparent that these poems should be preserved in print. The themes of love, friendship, death and life are timeless. The words are cumbersome by today’s standards but their simplicity conveys a richness of emotion and nostalgia. Moreover, my grandmother was a feisty, creative, intelligent woman who played piano by ear, sewed clothing that she saw on a model and ran her own beauty shop. From the little I know about her, she seemed ahead of her time. When she became divorced, she married her younger brother-in-law, a bit unusual for the 1920s. She deserves to be remembered, and I can’t think of a better way to honor her memory.

As I continue in my writing journey, I feel that Martha’s spirit watches me, cheering me on. I sometimes wonder if she would have done more with her writing if life hadn’t gotten in the way. The luxury of retirement was not available to her; at the age of 57 she passed away from colon cancer.

I published her twelve poems in a short book entitled, “Martha’s Words,” in 2015. Here is the first poem—I hope you like it and will want to read more of her work.

A Lesson

A rose lies withered in my hand,
And one by one, its petals fall.
My thoughts oft turn to a better land
Where no flowers will fall at all.

It reminds me too of an aimless past,
Ah, full of regrets I now see.
Yes, one by one, hopes all fall fast;
There’s naught sure but eternity.

‘Tis sweet to live just day to day
For hope fadeth with the morrow.
And the prize we seek in a worldly way
Is only a false hope we borrow.

I often pray that God, to me, may gift
A life like the pure simple flower,
Content to take his sunshine to live
And scatter his blessings each hour.

Martha Walton (July 27, 1899)

Coping with the C-Word

    Feel free to reblog or share this article in its entirety.

Coping with the C-Word

             Shirley P. Sorbello, MSW

“The biopsy results showed cancer cells,” Dr. Wilson said to me matter-of-factly.   I glazed over upon hearing those words, that took me to a level of reality where I had never ventured.

“Oh, no,” I said, thinking at the same time this couldn’t be happening to me. No one ever believes it could happen to them.  People think that somehow it’s everyone else who gets cancer.

At least one in three people in the United States will hear this diagnosis at some time in their lives. Even though advances in early detection and treatment have lessened cancer’s effect as a death sentence, a diagnosis of cancer can still rock anyone’s world as it did mine.

Here are some tips that might help you or a loved-one cope more effectively.

Share Your Diagnosis with Those People Closest to You:  It’s normal to feel shock, numbness and denial at first. While you are trying to get your bearings, you need to share some information with people who love you.  It’s important for you to feel their love and support as you begin to navigate through this crisis.

Although it can be extremely helpful to talk about your feelings, be cautious about sharing this information with everyone.  You may get some unwanted advice and hear horror stories as well.  Be aware that not everyone will react to your news in a similar way.  If it’s not the reaction you were expecting or hoping for, it probably says more about their hang-ups than how they feel about you.  Don’t be hurt or discouraged by it. You will find that most people will offer a listening ear and physical support.  You may even be lucky enough to have a friend who went through what you are going through.  His or her input can be extremely reassuring. If you have any serious questions or concerns, don’t ask your friends, ask your doctor.

Remember, however, that while interacting with others can be helpful, you are your own strongest support. If you can’t talk about it, perhaps you can write about your thoughts or feelings in a notebook or journal.

Make Necessary Appointments:  Whether you need to see an oncologist, surgeon, radiologist, or need more testing, don’t wait to do it.  Sometimes it takes a while to get an appointment.  Procrastination can increase your anxiety. Looking back, you will be glad you didn’t delay. Follow your gut feelings when it comes to getting a second opinion or making decisions about treatment.  Something inside of you knows what is best for you.

Take someone with you when you first go to a surgeon or oncologist. That way, you won’t feel as alone as I did when a bald patient came out of the office shaking her head. I could only imagine the scary news she must have received, and then I worried more about what I was going to hear about myself.

Be Kind to Yourself:  It’s important to nurture and take care of yourself at this time. Do the things that make you feel happy.  Go for that massage you’ve been wanting, see a movie you’ve been thinking about, or buy a new purse or book that will perk up your spirits.  Get your sleep, eat healthy and spend more time with people you enjoy being with.  Remember it’s your turn now to put yourself first.

Continue with Your Normal Routine:   Doing normal things keeps you from obsessing or worrying about what’s ahead for you.  As much as possible, adhere to your regular schedule or go ahead with any special plans you have.  I had been looking forward to a short trip before I was diagnosed.  I choose to go through with it even though it meant I didn’t return until the day before my surgery.  Looking back, I am glad that I went, as it helped to occupy my time with enjoyable moments.  I undoubtedly went into surgery with a more relaxed, positive attitude than I would have if I had been sitting at home worrying.

Stay in the Present Moment:  As much as possible, refrain from “what if’s.”  Take one day at a time.  Tomorrow is promised to no one. Worrying about things that may never happen is useless and will stress you out.

Seek Spiritual Comfort:  If you are religiously or spiritually inclined, you may find comfort in speaking with your priest, pastor or a friend who shares your spiritual perspective.  If your present spiritual perspective does not seem to be serving you adequately, perhaps it’s time to explore some new avenues.  Visit your local bookstore and see what attracts your attention.

Both meditation and guided imagery are spiritually-related practices that are excellent for your health.  If you’ve never meditated before, this is probably not the time to begin as it does require practice and concentration.  If you have meditated before, then you might benefit from returning to a regular practice.  With guided imagery, you need only to sit back, relax and listen to a calming voice on a CD or the internet that leads you on a healing journey of images and positive feelings.  I found that listening to guided healing imagery on the internet prior to my surgery helped me stay calmer and more centered than I would have otherwise been.

It’s Okay to be Afraid: It is normal to feel some degree of fear or anxiety when facing a diagnosis of cancer.  It’s okay to cry.  Acknowledge your feelings, for they are genuinely your own, but don’t neglect to look for that pillar of strength that resides inside of you.  You’ve been through tough times in the past.  What sustained you then?  It’s still there.  Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and you will feel your strength deep inside.  I promise you it’s there.

Think Positive Thoughts: People with the most positive outlooks generally do better with cancer treatment and recovery.  Think about your life.  What are you thankful for?  Perhaps it’s a relationship, your children or your career.  Being thankful for the good things in your life has been shown to decrease depression and elevate mood. Make a habit of thinking of everything you are thankful for and feeling a sense of appreciation about it at least once a day.

Affirmations can be helpful too.  They are positive statements about “what is.” Look into your mirror in the morning and at nighttime, and say a few times out loud something positive like, “I am radiantly healthy and cancer free.”   Or, make up something that is meaningful to you.  The important thing to remember is to speak as if it is already happening now, not as a future event.

Creative visualization is another useful tool.  Sit down, relax and take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes and picture yourself healthy and doing well in life.  Imagine a neighbor saying to you, “You look well,” and you replying with a smile, “I feel great.”  Picture a visit to your doctor.  He is saying, “You are doing really well.  I am really pleased with your test results.  Keep up the good work.”  Feel the joy!

Most importantly, use this whole experience to look at where you are in your life.  What matters to you?  What is working and not working?  What is it time to let go of?  What haven’t you done, that you’ve wanted to do?  This glimpse of your own mortality can lead you to a richer, more fulfilling life…one that you truly value and love.

www.shirleysorbello.com

Kindness: a Rare Commodity?

We aren’t as nice as we used to be—or so it seems. The anonymity of the internet has made it easier to judge, and to hate. Stress levels in today’s world frequently push the buttons of violence.

Hurting or bullying someone else may may heal a wounded ego for a moment, but this action for the perpetrator reveals judgment of self…of the insecurities, fears or feelings of powerlessness that lie beneath the action. Sadly, for the victim, the results can be everlasting.

The need to be right, or retaliate, may lead to violence. Violence never stops violence, nor proves anything without consequences…what we do to another, we do to ourselves. We are all in this together…we are all one.

Why is it that tragedies or disasters often draw out the best in people? Is this God’s or the Universe’s way of bringing us back to the wisdom of the innocent child who entered this world, loving himself or herself, as well as everyone around them?

Kindness needs no words, nor translation. A smile or simple gesture goes a long way to creating a loving society where we can all flourish. It only takes a second to be kind…but the results can be amazing.