Lest We Forget

A year ago today, I watched in horror as the Capitol Building of the United States of America was stormed by American citizens. Let us never forget this tragic moment in history when those among us resorted to violence to solve a perceived injustice.

Hate and violence are not solutions to our country’s problems. Greater communication, tolerance, respect, honesty, truth, compromise and love are the qualities that will allow our democracy (republic) to thrive as our founding fathers intended.

Freedom and the spirit of democracy are never guaranteed…they need to be treasured and nurtured every bit as much as do our relationships with each other.

Photo credit: https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/03/politics/gallery/january-6-capitol-insurrection/index.html

Where the Heart Goes

I’m happy to announce that my novella, Where the Heart Goes, is now available on Amazon for purchase as a Kindle or paperback! The book is a western about a young woman who moves from Philadelphia to Texas in the 1800s on a journey of self-discovery where the events and people in her life bring her to a greater understanding of love. Those of you who liked my short stores from a few years ago will delight in this extended and more detailed story of Becky’s life! (link below)

Breaking the Rules

One morning, I was meditating and afterwards this short piece below came to me… a good reminder that sometimes we just have to do things our own way!

“Learn what you need to know and then break the rules – the ones you want to.

Don’t try to fit into the mold and lose yourself by beating the same drum everyone else does.

The world thirsts for innovation…new ways of thinking, doing and being to make sense of its complexities.

You will never be like everyone else. Celebrate your uniqueness and revel in your power to control it!”

I hope you find something meaningful for yourself in these words.

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?

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.

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.

Change

     The necessity of change is difficult for many of us to accept. There is no doubt that sudden unexpected change such as the death of a loved one is devastating. Some are able to integrate loving memories of their dear one into a life that moves ahead. Others lead limited lives by failing to accept the unwanted change in circumstances.

     It’s often easier to accept less tragic, more gradual change, especially if you are younger. If you’ve lived more than a few decades you’ve seen numerous shifts in culture, ways of thinking and lifestyles. When we are young it seems easier to flow with these changes. As we age, however, flowing with change tends to become more difficult. When we get older, we sometimes nurture a desire to return to the safety or “sanity” of the childhood years, or the beauty and agility of our younger glory days. Too many past thoughts blind us to the present, and we fail to see and appreciate all that’s worthwhile right in front of us.

     A fully lived life necessitates a reasonable degree of adaptability. Accept the idea that nothing stays the same. It’s the only thing that’s certain in life. Learn to accept what you can’t change. If you have no control over the circumstances, there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t change other people, only the way you react to them. Moreover, if you are unhappy, take the necessary steps to make the changes you can control. Don’t allow anxiety and fear to dominate your actions.

     If you seek more peace and fulfillment in your life, remember to live in the present moment. Every second is precious; don’t waste time reliving the past or dreaming too much about the future. Being grateful for all the good things in your life presently, will bring you even more reasons to be grateful down the road. Flow through the rough spots and live each day fully. You can’t move ahead, or live your best life, with your head stuck in the past.

Creativity: The Doorway to the Soul

Do you have a hobby, or better yet, a profession, that you can joyfully lose yourself in for hours? The keyword here is “joyful,” as in follow your bliss. Something you enjoy that takes you out of your left brain, conscious mind and puts you in contact with the right brain, unconscious mind, invites soul communication.

The soul speaks to us through dreams, strong emotions, gut feelings, music, beauty in all forms, intuition and symbols. When we disengage, even partially, from our conscious mind, it allows us to open the channel to the soul as we put the right brain to work, occupying our time with an activity we love or are inspired by.

It doesn’t matter whether it is art, music, photography, or poetry. The road to the soul is one that stimulates the imagination and takes you out of your logical, left brain. Watching a colorful sunset, sitting in a wooded forest next to a babbling brook or even reading great fiction while it paints pictures in your mind are all soulful activities.

Why is communicating with the soul important? The more you tune into what your soul wants to share, the sooner your life experience changes from back and white into shades of color. You are utilizing both sides of your brain for a richer life experience. Your soul knows what’s best for you and so will you.

Getting It Back

This is an article that I wrote as a guest blogger for Gilda Evans in April 2014. In today’s busy world, it is easy to lose oneself…to get so caught up in daily activites or the lives of others, that we forget what is most important – ourselves! A strong sense of self will guide you down life’s pathway to your goals and give you the strength and resilience to be available to others in a loving, healthy way.

The relationship with yourself is the most important one you’ll ever have. At birth, we know nothing other than to be our true selves and have little awareness of our surroundings as we begin to bond with those who care for us. Soon, however, we slowly begin to learn that we are not the center of the universe—that all of our actions are not acceptable and that not all of our desires get fulfilled.

Our self-image is gradually molded during our formative years. In childhood, parental demands and expectations begin to chip away at our self-concept. When we become teenagers, the desire to fit in often supersedes our desire and ability to be our true self. Some of us spend a lifetime trying to reclaim this birthright—the ability to be genuinely ourselves and to feel good about it.

Getting it back means taking a good look at yourself, pros and cons, and fully accepting “you” exactly the way you are. Recognize that you don’t need anyone or anything else to make you whole. Of course, this is easier said than done because we do need to have relationships with others. Too often, however, these relationships take too much away from us, and we lose more even of ourselves.

A healthy relationship is one in which two individuals, who are whole and complete in themselves, come together to delight and share in each other’s lives. These relationships are honest, supportive and loving whether they be friendship or romance. The fact is that you cannot be in this type of relationship fully with another until you first have it with yourself.

For those who need a little help, here are some tips to get you there:

1. Buy a journal or notebook and begin to write about your hopes and dreams, your feelings, your experiences during the day, etc. This is an excellent way to get to know and understand yourself better. You might even try writing a few love notes to yourself.

2. Make a list of your pros and cons without judging. Accept that this is the way you are and begin to love yourself unconditionally. Everyone else has their own pros and cons—no one is perfect. Stop comparing yourself to others; no one is better or less than another, just different.

3. Take note of what makes you unique and different from others you know. This is the treasure that you are meant to give to the world. Focus on developing and sharing more of your special qualities.

4. Take five minutes a day to look at yourself in the mirror and say positive affirmations such as, “I love and accept myself just the way I am.”

5. Remember to treat yourself as kindly and lovingly as you do the person whom you love the most. Take time out to be good to yourself. Make a date with yourself to do or buy something special.