An Air Mattress, a Blessing’s Basket and a Bottle of Wine

A week ago yesterday I maneuvered my way through the Newark airport with a cat in a carrier, two full size suitcases and boarded a one-way, non-stop flight to Omaha Nebraska.

Moving is never a small task, especially when you’re relocating half-way across the country and the place you call home is a two bedroom apartment, not a three bedroom house. The idea of moving into an apartment instead of a house wasn’t easy for me to accept at first.

The End of an Era

As I’d been interviewing for jobs and visualizing my next living space, my heart had been set on moving into a three or four bedroom space with plenty of room for my kids to have a place to sleep when they visit and an area for me to set up an art studio instead of using my dining-room table.dining-room-art-studio

At first economics began to shift my outlook. Why pay an extra $300 to $400 a month in rent in order to have a spare room that will be used a few times a year? Why pay a few hundred dollars a year for lawn care and snow removal or worse yet, continue to take care of a yard and the shoveling myself?

Moving into a two bedroom apartment made sense, but I had no explanation for the weepy water-works that turned on every time I Googled apartments and tried to picture myself living in one. The aha moment came when I realized it wasn’t so much about the number of rooms, it turned out to be a bit of an identity crisis.

For the past 28 years, being a mom, home maker and provider for my family has been central to how I thought of my identity. Once I figured out that I was mourning the end of this phase of my life, my heart opened to the possibilities and unlimited potential waiting for me.

Getting Rid of the “Stuff”

The first major task associated with simplifying and moving to a smaller living space is sorting through all of your stuff and more importantly, how to get rid of it. Mia was less than impressed with the piles of material possessions blocking her favorite window sill.

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Just when I thought I had things all figured out, there was a major curve ball thrown my way. I’d arranged to have 1800Junk come to pick up and take away the things I can’t or don’t want to move with me to Omaha. Some things were hard to say goodbye to, other things – not so much.

Long story short, I sorta freaked out when I got the quote – let’s just say that when I looked up pricing, and it was based on volume, I was thinking full size moving truck – not a haul away small capacity truck.

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I’d calculated about $400 – $600 – the quote came in at $1,600 (minus my patio furniture – which I had failed to mention).

I started scrambling, and quickly.

Outside of six years of gathering “stuff,” plus the boxes of things like check registers from the 1990’s and potting soil that somehow made the trip from Omaha to PA – the major portion of the expense was centered around removing the trampoline and the giant television stand in the basement.

Between putting my stuff on the street and listing it on Craigslist.com for free – I was able to shave $600 off my bill (more likely $900, with the patio set).

All excess furniture items were gone within 72 hours. My favorite pick up of the week was the woman who claimed the very popular night stand and tried to load it into her Ford Focus. Suffice it to say that she came back the next day with a larger vehicle.

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The Last Two Days in PA

A gal from the moving company arrived promptly at 8 am the morning of October 7 to begin packing up the remaining belongings. In spite of the fact that her coworker called out sick at the last minute, she had a very upbeat attitude and didn’t utter a word of complaint as she moved from room to room.

It took her half the amount of time it would have taken me to wrap up all the breakables and pack them safely into boxes. All I can say is that if you’re going to move a long distance, leave the packing to the professionals!

That night, instead of spending the evening surrounded by boxes, I was embraced by laughter and love. This lovely circle of people helped me grow and expanded my world in more ways than I can describe in a few words.

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I had no idea just how much my life would be enriched by my move to Pennsylvania. It has not been without it’s bumps, hurdles and challenges – but, I not only worked my way through all of them, I am a better person because of the experiences I had and the people I came to know and love.

The moving truck arrived the next morning and by 3 o’clock, it was loaded and my belongings were on the way to Omaha.

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My last night in PA couldn’t have been more special. It was a son’s and mom’s night at an amazing restaurant in Philly. My youngest son treated me to dinner and set the perfect stage for a long hug and no tears before heading to the train station.

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The Start of a New Era

There’s so much that has led up to the day I boarded the plane in Newark and landed in Omaha. Over the past several months, I’ve interviewed with numerous companies and visualized myself living everywhere from Omaha to Boca Raton. There was a big part of me that thought it would be a great adventure to move someplace brand new and find my way around.

Moving someplace completely new might have been a fun adventure, but I’d have to say that it was beyond wonderful to be greeted with hugs at the airport and to be the recipient of an incredibly thoughtful care package as well as more than one set of helping hands to help me get settled into my new apartment.

After two nights in pet friendly hotels,

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Mia and I, with the help of friends, began the process of settling into our new home.

I felt like I had just graduated from college as I set up my air mattress

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and a make shift night stand (boxes can serve many purposes).

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The gift of a blessing’s basket

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and a bottle of wine and some fruit made me feel loved and special.

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I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my new chapter in life.

There’s so much more to share, but for now I need to keep unpacking and getting settled.

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Sigh, after all I gave away, I still have too much “stuff.”🙂

 

I Accept Guidance

I accept Guidance

Of all of the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years, this one has been the most difficult. Not so much from a standpoint of turning to others for guidance, but more about accepting help from others and paying attention to the voice inside of me that knows which direction is right for me.

It can be hard to trust that we’re going in the right direction when things don’t seem like they’re not going “according to plan.” Maybe the problem is that we’re following the wrong voice.

Becoming comfortable with the phrase, “I need help,” has been a challenge for me, being honest it still is. I equated the need to ask for help with an admittance of failure; failure to be able to “rise to the occasion” or that I’d had a lapse in judgment and made a mistake. I readily owned up to and learned from mistakes in my work life, but rarely in my personal life.

As a woman who wanted both a professional career and to be a mom, I fell into a huge superwoman syndrome and spent the better part of my adult life trying to “prove” I could do it all. I thought everyone around me had certain expectations and perceptions about who I was and what they thought success looked like for me. As the primary and often-times sole income earner I felt tremendous pressure to perform. My home life was unhappy, so I used work as an excuse to cover up my sadness.

It was a mixed up time in my life and I now realize that during those years I spent my time believing I was living up to expectations that I thought other people had of me, but really I was hiding from life and ignoring reality. I made a lot of poor choices during that time, some of which still affect my life today.

Back then, the mere thought of confessing even half of what was going on and taking responsibility for the poor choices and decisions I made nearly crippled me with anxiety.  My fears spanned the gambit and included everything from being yelled at and perceived as stupid to being rejected by everyone who knew me.

I was only fooling myself

The reality is – the person I was the most dishonest with was me.  I thought I could and should make things right on my own.  I lied to myself and pretended that there was a way out of the mess I was in and that no one would ever have to know the ugly truth.

Little did I know that my pain and struggling was obvious and everyone around me was praying that I would wake up and ask for help. We’ve all been there, watching someone we love struggle and at a loss for how to let them know that they do not have to bear their burdens alone and that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength and of trust.

What I know now is that three things were missing from my life during that time. One is that I was afraid to ask for help and I was unwilling to be honest about what was going on in my life. Two is that I wasn’t listening to my inner voice. Three is that I spent every day doubting the future and without faith that I was truly supported by the universe and everything I need is always provided.

We are Always Supported

Asking for help does sometimes mean admitting you’ve made a mistake and need some help to right the ship. But it also means you have enough confidence in yourself to ask, accept, be grateful for, and do the same in return.

Listening to the voice inside you, the one who really knows what’s right for you might be even more difficult than learning how to ask for help. It gets crowded out by the voice of societal expectations and our perceptions of what we think others expect from us.

Listening to, and following that voice, sometimes requires that we say no to opportunities that don’t “feel” right, even if it will bring in some extra cash or look good on a resume.

Accepting guidance is something that comes from inside us, believing we are on the right path, rolling with and adapting to change, having faith and asking for help when we need it.

 

I Accept My Talents

I embrace my talents

I wrote the following as a part of my “All is Well in My World” art and journaling project on July 7, almost exactly two years ago from today.

The project was inspired by the teachings of Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life.” She has an amazing story and her beliefs are very thought provoking.

She firmly believes that we can heal what ails us through the power of loving oneself and that aches and pains in each part of the body are associated with things like past experiences, negativity, fear, and a lack of self love. Based on personal and very real experiences, I believe there is a great deal of truth in what she teaches. I do believe that our “issues can get stuck in our tissues” and a lack of self love can hold us back by keeping us in a state of shame, fear and believing that we don’t deserve all of the abundance life has to offer.

I’ve recently come to realized that I have a recurring and ongoing fear of the future and money; it stems from a series of life events that began in my early 20’s and contributed to significant feelings of unworthiness and insecurity. I’ve processed, released, forgiven and moved on from many of these memories and as I do, my life becomes richer,I am more at peace and I have faith that the future holds wonderful outcomes for me.

The funny thing about letting go of doubt, anger, resentment, shame, fear and/or sadness that we associate with particular events in our lives, is that those same feelings can resurface when we least expect it. Sometimes they are intertwined with other past events that deepen the grove in our record that keeps us from moving forward, toward our greater good.

More than a few of those feelings emerged this morning, which prompted me to re-read and re-share the entry associated with this affirmation: “I stand tall and free. I love and approve of of me. My life gets better every day.” and “I move into my greater good. My good is everywhere, and I am secure and safe.” ~ Louise Hay

I Accept My Talents

07/7/2014

I embrace my talentsBooming thunder, flickering lights, and a brief power outage caught me off guard tonight. Just as I was settling in to write I could no longer see the keyboard.

Thankfully the power outage lasted only a short time, however the storm is raging on. In an odd way, the sudden squall provided the perfect inspiration for tonight’s thoughts.

Unlike many writers and artists, I wasn’t born with a passion to create, at least not that I was aware of.

When I was young, school systems and teachers considered reading, writing, and arithmetic to be important and subjects like art and creative writing were merely electives best suited to becoming a hobby. The focus of the education system, coupled with the fact that I moved 9 times before I turned 15, and the reality that there were no obvious clues that there was an artist hiding inside led my parents to guide me toward a practical path.

Truth to be told, I was better at math than I was at art and there were very few opportunities to explore writing that extended beyond my interpretations of novels by famous authors like Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allen Poe, and Henry David Thoreau. I excelled at math, but literature courses were what I enjoyed most.

One of my favorite memories was a weekend field trip to Red Cloud, Nebraska – the home of Willa Cather. I don’t remember any specifics outside visiting her tiny home and afterwards sitting around a campfire talking with my classmates and our AP American Lit teacher. Who knows what we talked about or how much sense we made, I’m sure we thought we were profound.

To be honest, I don’t remember whether or not I actually loved “My Antonia” or pretended to because I wanted to impress my instructor. I do know there was a part of me that dreamed of being the woman, from the middle of nowhere, who wrote a book that both entertained and inspired people to think.

My journey to understanding and accepting my talents began about five years ago, during one of the most difficult times of my life.

In a late night and tear-filled conversation, my best friend challenged me to find a creative outlet as an alternative to escalating patterns of self-destruction.  The next day a flyer for ed2go.com arrived in the mail. The brochure promoted online learning opportunities and the featured area of study was creative writing, an event that I can attribute to nothing other than serendipity.  I registered for a class to learn about how to write romance novels. (who knows  it may still come in handy someday.)

I posted my assignments to the classroom forum using the pseudonym “Lady.” I used the penname for over a year in various 6 week courses before I gained enough confidence to sign my own name to what I wrote. Today I write with confidence both personally and professionally.

In 2012 I dusted off my desire to draw, bought a sketch book, and took the bold step of registering for the Intermediate/Advanced level drawing class through a local organization, The Artists of Yardley.

I was petrified the first day of class.  My one and only “real” class took place twenty-two years prior to that, and I was positive that my place was in the beginner’s class, which had sold out. After conquering my first fear, which was to enter the classroom; I perched in front of the easel stiff and nearly paralyzed, staring at the sunflower we were supposed to reproduce.

Petals, stems, and leaves seemed to fly from the fingers of the other students and they all finished their unique and amazing sunflowers by the end of the three hour class. My pencil drawing took me nearly three months to complete. During each lesson that followed, my instructor encouraged me and helped me see my artwork through her eyes and not through the eyes of a perfectionist (me). Over the past 2 ½ years my comfort has grown and my style has begun to emerge.

It may sound strange, but sometimes when I read something I wrote it makes me cry, other times it makes me laugh. When I look at things I’ve written or drawn as though the creator is unknown, I think things like – “wow, that inspires me.”

Today, I no longer introduce myself as a “want-to-be-writer” or an “aspiring artist.” I own who I am.

Today, I accept, embrace, and am thankful for the talents and gifts I have been blessed with and can share.

Make Art and Share it With the World – The Sidewalk Chalk Project

Photo Credit: Jennifer Broderick

I grew up in the Midwest and there was nothing better than a warm Spring day to shake off the chill of winter and enjoy being outside. As the days heated up, the countdown for school letting out for summer began. My childhood memories of summer are full of things like sleeping in, chasing fire flies, swimming pools, games of kick the can and decorating the neighborhood with sidewalk chalk.

Not all children are as fortunate as I was, we certainly weren’t wealthy but I always had everything I needed and then some. Over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly aware of just how very fine and fragile the line is between those who have and those not.
I can’t say that I’ve experienced it first hand, but I would imagine that summer days are just as easily filled with boredom and feelings of hopelessness rather than joy and lightheartedness if your family is on the verge of poverty.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by what feels like a state of scarcity in our world and to convince ourselves that the problems are too big for us to influence or change.

The Power of One

My friend, Jennifer Broderick, an artist in Ohio is an amazing example of how “just one person” can make a difference. Earlier this spring, a neighborhood with sidewalks decorated with sidewalk chalk art caught her eye, as did the evidence of a lack of financial means. Over the course of a few weeks and more than a few walks, the sight of children playing outdoors and the smiles on their faces was the start of something big.

Toward the end of April, Jennifer posted some pictures of her driveway which was covered in big X’s and O’s; it turns out that she had started leaving packages of chalk and notes of encouragement outside her house to inspire the children in the neighborhood to continue to play outside. Her post motivated more than a few artists from across the country to contact her directly and offer to donate chalk and money to help her with this inspirational project.

Driveway covered in sidewalk chalk
Photo Credit: Jennifer Broderick

A few instant messages later, I placed an order for a package of big, fat pieces of sidewalk chalk in assorted colors and thanks to Amazon’s most excellent product recommendation engine, the order also included a gallon of Miracle Bubbles and a dozen wands. I thought that the bubbles would be a great extra surprise and something the kids would enjoy.

The image of kids playing with the bubbles was so delightful and distracting that I neglected to update the ship to address with Jennifer’s information and the order was on its way to Pennsylvania thanks to Amazon’s exceptionally fast fulfillment process.

Two days later the unopened box occupied the space next to my piano and my intention to send it to Jennifer was thwarted by news that caused an unwelcome turn of events in my own financial situation. In light of my change in circumstance, it seemed like spending money to ship the chalk and bubbles wouldn’t be prudent.

For the next couple of months, I enjoyed following the progress of Jennifer’s sidewalk chalk artists as their works of art transformed her neighborhood into an outdoor art show.

Sidewalk Chalk Heart and Circle Art
Photo Credit: Jennifer Broderick

Project Sidewalk Chalk had evolved from Jennifer leaving sidewalk chalk on her front stoop to a full-blown community outreach project. Throughout the summer, she is attending numerous events to hand out individual packages of chalk to over 300 children within the community. Each donation includes a warm personal note from Jennifer explaining a little about the project and to spread the message: “Remember to be safe, make art and share it with the world.”


In the meantime the sidewalk chalk I’d purchased was still taking up space in my living room and I continued to debate with myself over spending the money to ship it.

What was holding me back? The bubbles. I knew that the shipping cost for the chalk and the bubbles combined would be more than what I had paid for the entire order, it didn’t make sense to pay return shipping on the order for the same reason and so the box continued to take up space.

Last week I had an “aha” moment! The bubbles and the chalk did not have to stay together and if I just shipped the chalk it would be affordable and although my personal situation hadn’t changed it felt like the right way to spend a few dollars. I wrote Jennifer a note, drove to the local shipping store and sent the chalk to Ohio with a prayer of thanks and a smile.

The only thing left was to figure out what an empty nester was going to do with a gallon of Miracle Bubbles and a dozen bubble wands.

Facebook to the Rescue!

I took a picture of the bubbles and accessories and posted it in “Lower Makefield is a Great Place to Live,” the Facebook group for the community I live in.

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Almost immediately a woman from the area responded, “I’d be…I have granddaughters that love bubbles.” I sent her a friend request and an instant message to make arrangements, it quickly turned into an “It’s a small world” kind of moment.

She had been blowing bubbles with her grandchildren a couple of days before; they enjoyed it so much she used up an entire bubble wand and she was planning to buy more before they visited her again. Her youngest grandson is 15 months old and has Downs, she was also using the bubbles as a way to potentially help him to gain fine motor skills by reaching out to grab at them while one or more float in front of him.

As we made the pick up arrangements, we discovered that not only do we share the same zip code, our houses are less than 5 miles apart, her husband was a former patient of my chiropractor and she and her husband did some work with a lawyer who rented office space from my chiropractor when she owned the building. Crazy!

The bubbles are now in the loving hands of a grandmother and her grandchildren. 124 pieces of sidewalk chalk made it safely to Ohio.

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Jennifer privately shared a few pictures of children who had already received their gift; they were adorable! We want to keep them safe, so I can’t share the pics publicly – but I’m sure you can imagine the smiles that surrounded the “Thank You” sign as they posed with their sidewalk chalk for the camera.

Believe in Possibilities

beth & dad

Sometimes it can be tough to believe in positive outcomes, especially if you’re going through a stretch of “bad luck.” Like many people, there have been times in my life that have really tested my faith and my ability to be optimistic.

I’ve always considered myself to be a “cup half full” kind of person, however I’ve come to the realization that there is more to having a positive outlook on life giving lip service to the belief that “everything will be alright,” but letting the chatter in your head control your actions.

One of the many blessings in my life are my parents, they have lived through many difficult situations and have always maintained a positive outlook on life. My dad is a big believer in the power of a PMA, aka – positive mental attitude, and he lives it every day of his life. That’s not to say that there aren’t days that his optimism wavers, he’s human after all.

PMA could also stand for, perseverance means achievement; my dad faces every obstacle head on and somehow finds now to make the word No mean Next Opportunity.

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The drawing is from an art journal that I created as an outlet for my thoughts and emotions and to help me remain focused on the positive as I’ve been working my way through a recent set of challenges.

Near the beginning of this most recent “Adventure,” my friend Marilyn, gave me a beautiful postcard with this very meaningful quote from Art Mitchell – “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”

The message really reinforces the way my dad approaches life and never gives up.

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Father’s day seems like perfect time to share a personal story of perseverance and growth, with many thanks to my dad for his unwavering support and for being an amazing role model for all of us. I am deeply grateful for all he has done for me and I know he is a big part of the reason that I am the woman I am today.

A look into the past….

On a warm September day in 2008, I watched the movers load our belongings onto the truck with mixed emotions and a few tears on my face. My thoughts ping-ponged back and forth between sadness and joyful hope. It was difficult to be leaving friends, family, a beautiful home and everything that was familiar and safe.But it was exciting to think about the possibilities that our future in Pennsylvania held.

moving day_2008

When I accepted the job in Pennsylvania, it seemed like nothing could go wrong and the future held nothing but rainbows and unicorns. Maybe I wasn’t quite that optimistic (or unrealistic), but I was really confident that it was the best thing that could have happened for my family and myself both personally and professionally.

We put our house on the market and my seven month commute between Omaha, Nebraska and Philadelphia began. It was a rather grueling trek back and forth, but it offered the opportunity for my daughter to finish out her senior year of high school without moving.

My youngest son was 12, and although I knew it would be difficult for him to move and adjust to a new school, new and very different living arrangements – I was confident that he would be able to adapt and in the long run it would help him grow and develop in positive ways.

Our move to Pennsylvania has been full of new beginnings and life changing events, but not at all in the way I would have imagined them to unfold.

I had landed my “dream job” with a financially sound company, or so I thought. The job was great, but the financial health of the company was not; two months after my start date, they declared Chapter 11. I was scared, but because I was the primary income earner, we had no choice but to move and hope for the best.

The real estate market in Omaha was depressed, just like everywhere else in the country. In spite of St Joseph statues and wonderful real estate agents, we were unable to sell before we moved, which meant that our new home was going to be in an apartment.

moving in_2008

It certainly wasn’t the end of the world, but it was such a major change for all of us and it was not what I had hoped for. My unrealistic and unhealthy belief at the time was that we moved “because of me” so it was my responsibility to make everything perfect and as familiar as possible rather than asking for help and support.

After moving the challenges and obstacles seemed to gain momentum and magnitude.

In those days the voices in my head were working overtime.

I spent every minute of every day worrying. I hashed and rehashed the decision to move.  I beat myself up about the fact that the house back in Nebraska hadn’t sold and we were losing money every month. I speculated about the viability of the company I worked for and whether or not it would emerge from Chapter 11 and if I would be spared from any future layoffs.

I blamed myself for my husband’s unhappiness and deepening depression. I spent hours agonizing about my youngest son Christian and the fact that the ‘normal’ trials of being in eighth grade were amplified by a new school in a new state, being the only child left at home, and having to make new friends – something that is easier said than done when you’re the new kid from Nebraska and you started school almost three weeks late. I wondered if we’d be able to afford to fly my oldest kids, Jeff and Katie, out for occasional visits and I held myself accountable for it all, most of all, for the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to fix any of it.

There was no escaping the voices and daily I slipped further and further into a self-imposed state of emotional isolation. At work I found myself going through the motions and while I interacted with my direct reports, a handful of co-workers, and of course my boss. For the most part, I kept to myself and limited my contact with people to office hours only. I quit calling or even sending email updates to friends, and I talked to my parents and kids only when I thought I could fake a positive attitude.

I had no choice but to drag myself into work every day and do my best to appear upbeat and confident.  As the primary and now sole income earner I couldn’t afford to lose my job and it was the only escape I had from the dreary apartment and my relentless anxiety.  The voices took a back seat for a while every day while I managed my way through the work day. They were always there but just not as loud. By this point in time I’d had years of practice in compartmentalizing my personal life and my work life.  Lessons learned early in my career taught me to keep people at arm’s length and keep my personal life to myself.

Back then I didn’t realize or understand one of the underlying messages my dad lives,believes and had tried to communicate to me – worry doesn’t change tomorrow, it just takes the joy out of today.

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There were so many things I didn’t understand during that time in my life; concepts and practices that would have helped me maneuver more easily through a divorce, the financial strain and embarrassment that accompanied nearly foreclosing on my house and the challenges and blessings of being a single mom in a city half-way across the country from my family and closest friends.

I’ve not only made it through the majority of the initial challenges that came after my move; life is much richer because of them. It sounds strange to say, but I’m actually grateful for them because I’ve learned:

Self Love is the first step…

Self love is not the same as self indulgence or self acceptance. It means that we treat our bodies and our minds well, enjoy the person we are in the present, forgive and release the people and things from our past that hold us back and embrace our future with confidence.

I could write an entire book about the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years; lessons about being present and not dwelling on the past, tools for facing difficulties with positivity instead of catastrophizing and letting the negative chatter in my head control my actions.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned, and the most important one is that we only destroy our selves and sabotage our happiness when we hang on to regrets from the past, refuse to forgive ourselves for being human and compare ourselves to others as a way to measure success.

I suspect my dad finds the whole ‘self love’ thing to be a bit ‘woo woo,’ but I think that’s because he has an innate understanding of the importance of it.

Being Present is the next step…

I have never met two people who are as good at making the most of every experience as my parents. We moved a lot while I was growing up, and each time we moved they approached it as though it was the last place they would ever live and quickly made friends and became a part of the community.

My parents don’t “vacation,” they take trips. Earlier this year, I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Hawaii with them. The entire trip was amazing, but I think if I had to pick, I’d say Wednesday was my favorite day. The last thing I expected that morning was for my dad to announce that he wanted to go zip-lining. His exact words (or close to) were, “I’m going to be 80 this year, who knows when I’ll have another opportunity to go zip-lining, so let’s do it.”

Talk about being present in the moment and making the most of things! I know for a fact that there were plenty of things on his mind that were “worry worthy,” but instead of focusing on things outside of his control, he chose to embrace the moment and experience something new.

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He may sometimes get lost in his own thoughts, but he definitely knows how to live life to it’s fullest and doesn’t let challenges or obstacles weigh him down.

beth & dad

Believe in Possibilities….

Believing in possibilities is so much easier and rewarding than speculating about all of the possible negative outcomes that may (or most likely not) happen as a result of a current situation.

As Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

Many, many thanks to my dad for all he has taught me about the power of positive thinking and the importance of believing in possibilities.

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Happy Birthday to My Beautiful Mom

Easter 2016

There are many adjectives that come to my mind when I think about my mom; they include generous, intelligent, courageous, kind, thoughtful, positive and beautiful. She’s one of the people I admire most in the world and it would be impossible to describe the impact she’s had in my life and in the lives of countless others. But here’s an attempt to express it.

Lovely both inside and out. Her beauty is so much more than skin deep, it comes from within. Everything from knowing just how to add a special touch to a meal or how to create a stunning floral presentation with flowers from the grocery store to the way she touches the lives of people in her family and community. She works tirelessly to promote the arts and volunteers her time to help those who need a helping hand.

Intelligent and creative. My mom is the go to person for advice on how to solve a problem or to get feedback on the best way to approach a situation. She gives thoughtful consideration to every detail and has a unique ability to see under the surface of a situation. Her creativity is boundless and ranges from how to draft just the right message in an email to just ‘knowing’ what flavors will complement each other, and how to turn a home into a masterpiece.

Nurturing and caring. We have a diverse family to say the least. It’s actually very cool and my mom is one of the primary reasons we are all so open and comfortable with who we are. I honestly don’t know where I would be without having had her support throughout my life.She always seems to know just when I need a new outfit to perk up my spirits and she’s always been there to support me, fix my broken wings and celebrate my successes with me.

Determined and dedicated. I’ve never seen my mom give up or throw in the towel while facing challenges that would make most people run the other direction. When she sets her sights on something, there’s little question that there will be a positive outcome. She’s dedicated to her family and is the backbone of support during the difficult times and the good times.

Amazing and adventurous. I don’t know many people my age that can say they went zip-lining with their mom. My mom has a knack for discovering hidden gems while traveling and in how she lives her life every day. She has accomplished so many amazing things and humbly continues to devote herself to her family and community.

I am endlessly thankful for my mom and everything she does. I wouldn’t be the woman I am without her. I love you so much mom!

Happy Birthday!

Easter 2016

the whole family in paul bunyans lap

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The Miracle Comes Quietly and When We Least Expect It

The Miracle Comes Quietly

We’ve all heard the expression, “it’s darkest just before dawn,” or some variation of it. I didn’t realize until today that it’s actually a proverb, first committed to print by the English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller in his religious travelogue A Pisgah-Sight Of Palestine And The Confines Thereof, 1650, citing this view:”It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.”

It can be viewed as an annoying cliche’ or bromide that people use to offer comfort and hope to someone who is going through a tough time, or as a truism that really should offer us hope. For me, it’s a little of both and it’s right up there “it is what it is,” “everything happens for a reason,” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

I’ve come to believe that there’s something else that happens just before the metaphorical “dawn.” We become quiet and still and our needs are met in unexpected and often-times wonderful ways. We tend to think about how being still and asking for help apply only when it comes to major things happening in our life, but miracles small and large are happening all around us every day.

A few months ago I was traveling for business.  Normally I make my own travel arrangements, but in this case the company I was visiting took care of the planning and booking of airline tickets, limo transportation and the hotel. My area airport of choice is in Philadelphia, but because I was traveling the weekend the Pope was leaving NYC and headed to Philly, I flew out of Newark to avoid the crowds and potential travel delays. I made it to the airport without getting lost, boarded on time,
General Boarding

had a smooth flight, a ride in a limo and stayed in a beautiful hotel. The following day was filled with productive back to back meetings and conversations. Around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, my  much needed break was interrupted by news that my return flight to Newark had been cancelled but new arrangements had been made.

The updated travel plans meant cutting my day shorter than planned but it also meant I’d be home before midnight (or so I thought).

I said my farewells and was whisked away in the limo,

limo

rode in style to the airport and zipped through security with my TSA pre-check boarding passes in hand. Half-way through the first flight to Chicago I decided to check the boarding pass for my connecting flight into Newark.

Much to my dismay and borderline horror, my next flight was headed to JFK in New York City, not to Newark, New Jersey. How could this happen you ask? So did I! It never dawned on me to look at the flight details other than the times – after all why would someone book a return flight into a different city than the originating flight?

My best guess is that one of two things happened – one theory is that whoever made the original reservations said Newark really fast and the person who made the revised arrangements either heard New York or they’ve never heard of Newark. The other theory is that they looked and found that Newark is “only” thirty miles from JFK and it would be easy to get from one airport to the other.

My heart pounded against my chest and I wouldn’t want to know what my blood pressure was in that moment.

One thing I knew was clear, I had no choice but to board the plane in Chicago and figure things out from there.

In addition to highlights of the Pope’s visit to NYC, the news was also filled with updates about modified train schedules and street closings throughout the city so I knew my options could be limited. The first thought I wrote in my journal was, “If I can get a cab for less than $100, I’m going for it.”

The nice young man sitting next to me tried to help by pulling out his app with the NYC subway schedules, “You could take the X line to the Y line and then hop on the Z line and maybe make it to Penn Station before the last train leaves. Of course I don’t know for sure if they’re running on schedule because of the Pope’s visit.”

Thoughtful as he was trying to be, his assistance only conjured up images of myself spending the night at Penn Station with a colorful cast of characters from NYC nightlife.

I asked the flight attendants about cab fare. “You’re looking at a minimum of a $200 cab fare; your better option is to take the airport bus from JFK to Newark, it’ll cost you about $30.”

Hallelujah!

A $30 bus ride was totally reasonable and sounded like an easy solution to my dilemma. For the rest of the flight, my heart was still and the worries were put aside.

As explained, the booth to buy tickets for the bus between airports was at the bottom of the escalator. The sign said it closed at 10:30 pm, I looked at my watch – it was 10:32 pm. Not one to give up, I approached the man at the booth and asked if I could still buy a ticket to Newark.

“We can hold the bus for 5 more minutes, so you’ll have to decide fast.”

I pulled out my wallet to pay and asked, “Does the bus go directly from here to Newark?”

“No, normally you get on this bus and it goes to the Port Authority parking lot where you would get on another bus, but since the Pope is in town, that area is blocked off and so you’ll need to walk 12 blocks to meet up with the connecting bus that will take you to Newark.”

Schlepping my suitcase for 12 city blocks alone, at night, in NYC did not seem like a very appealing idea.

“Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation,” said the man who had arrived at the booth a few minutes before me. “I’m in the same situation, if I can find us a cab would you want to split the fare with my daughter and me?”

He didn’t need to ask me twice.

This kind stranger negotiated a fare that cost me $80 plus tip.

When we are facing a problem, sometimes a peace and quiet comes over us because we think the problem has been solved and we know what the solution is. Other times we become quiet and still because we “give up” and make a conscious choice to quit trying to chase after the solution and control the outcome.

In those moments of  quiet and letting go, miracles happen.

The Miracle Comes Quietly

Choosing Hope Over Fear and Worry

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A few weeks ago my youngest son and I watched the movie “A Bridge of Spies,” a modern day interpretation of actual events that happened during the time of the Cold War; it was a story of espionage, mistrust and eventually a reconciliation of sorts.

It’s the story of Rudolf Abel, a convicted Russian spy and a New York lawyer, James Donovan, who against all odds chooses to do the right thing and represent Rudolf with dignity and integrity. Throughout the story, it became clear that there was little hope for a positive outcome for Rudolf in the U.S. and minimal hope if he returned to his homeland.

He and James Donovan become friends in an odd sort of way.

The reason it came to my mind today is because of recent thoughts that have emerged as a result of reading yesterday’s entry in “Miracles Now.”   The second tool the author introduces as a way to lead a less stressful and more fulfilling life is to – “Clean Up Your Side of the Street.” Or in her words, face and let go of the fears that are holding you back.

I’ve come to believe that worry fuels fears and we need to let go of both.

In the movie, and perhaps in real life, James asked Rudolf one more than one occasion – “Aren’t you worried?”

Rudolf responds, “Would it make a difference?”

Ha! What a brilliant answer.

Clearly worrying has never made a difference in the outcome of any situation. Worrying is our way of trying to control the outcome when we feel overwhelmed and there seems to be no hope. What we don’t realize is that worry only serves to feed our fears because it affirms the worst case scenarios – in the end worrying serves no purpose in our lives.

Back to today, well rather yesterday’s message to “clean up my side of the street.”

Deep breath, I took the challenge of the exercise and wrote down my fears, 10 fears. Of them all, this one is the most looming.

I am afraid of not belonging.

We all want to feel that we are a part of something, that we belong.

My guess is that I’m not alone in my fear. At our core I think we all want to belong, be loved and accepted for who we are. I think it’s part of why we’re here, and I suspect there are more than a few people who feel the same way I do.

Throughout my life I’ve adapted to situations so that I could “fit in.” Over the past few years, I’ve been brave enough to let a few people meet and get to know me rather than  just trying to simply adapt to the situation. The rejection I anticipated  as a result of “letting people in” was unfounded and unrealized. In fact it’s been amazingly rewarding and fun!

All I needed to do was to be myself.

Wow!

So, in the spirit of “cleaning up my side of the street” and facing the things that hold me back, I choose hope over fear and will continue to work toward putting my fears and worries behind me.

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Happiness is a Choice I Make

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In 2011 I was gifted an opportunity to learn from Julia Cameron, author of “Walking in this World”  which led to a series of personal essays in which I did my best to share what I learned along the way about life and the art of “being.”

  • Savor life – live with humor, joy, and passion.  Use feelings as fuel for creativity and creation.
  • Make something of yourself – do something, be something, make something.  Be who you are and continue to strive to become who you were meant to be.  Don’t be afraid to try, don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to succeed.
  • Accept yourself– be yourself, trust yourself, be childlike, own and understand your relationships, be aware and follow your instincts, be accountable, and last but not least, be kind to yourself.
  • Have faith – ask for and accept help, be teachable, life is spiritual, art is spiritual and it is healing. Follow your dreams and treat them as real.
  • We commune through art – when we create from the heart and not from the ego we experience a clarity of purpose and feelings of joy.

In 2014 I discovered the teachings of Louise Hay through the movie adaptation of her book “You Can Heal Your Life.” Intrigued by her belief that much of the pain we experience in our bodies is a result of negative experiences and self-perceptions, I bought the book and embarked on another creative journey. One that involved 125 days of consecutive writing and visual art. As a result, I created my tiny but powerful journal entitled All is Well in My World.

All is Well in My World - Journal Cover

Looking back, I wish I had posted each entry on my blog instead of on Google Plus, but thankfully the entire series of mini essays, observations and illustrations is safe and saved in a word document. Who knows, I might actually do something with them some day.🙂

I have no idea if Julia Cameron and Louise Hay have ever met each other, but I do know that in my world, the two of them have and they both taught me to understand and believe that life is a gift.

life is a gift

Maybe more, or at least as importantly, their teachings helped me begin to understand that we have far more influence over what happens in our life than most of us believe we do.

Which brings me to my latest “project.” I recently purchased and am reading “Angels of Abundance” By Doreen Virtue and Grant Virtue – I don’t really know how to describe it other than to say it’s a spiritual guide, that if read with an open mind and heart teaches how each of us has the ability to manifest and co-create an abundant life through believing in a Higher Power and also in ourselves.

As often-times happens, one thing led to another and as I pursued the works cited in their book I kept coming back to one in particular – Miracles Now: 108 Life-Changing Tools for Less Stress, More Flow and Finding Your True Purpose” by Gabrielle Bernstein.

It arrived yesterday.

Coincidentally (or not), I recently replenished my supply of  Peerless Watercolor sheets and started a new art journal with no direction in mind other than I wanted it to be something positive. It’s all leading me toward another series of self expression through art and writing.

I created my first related journal entry today, the first tool in the Miracles Now book was the inspiration.

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Happiness is truly a choice. I can’t honestly say that I have always believed that, but I do now.

Choosing happiness isn’t about never feeling frustration, anger, sadness or fear – those are real emotions and they need to be experienced and felt. Choosing happiness means not letting those feelings rule our lives.

Happiness is now a choice I consciously make.