Home is Where the Heart is

You can only lose what you cling to.
— Buddha

The image of my beautiful three story colonial was blurred in the rear-view mirror, as we pulled out of the driveway while returning the farewell waves and neighborhood wishes of “Good luck in Pennsylvania, we’ll miss you!” with a chorus of “We’ll miss you too, stay in touch!”

colonial-house

Now I’m back in the city I left nine years ago. It’s full of memories and opportunities to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. I didn’t expect it, but the most difficult part of the move has been in letting go of my attachment to what, in my mind, has defined both home and personal success. I could write an entire book about the circumstances that led me to Pennsylvania and back to Nebraska, but for now let’s just say that things haven’t exactly turned out the way I imagined they would.

That beautiful colonial home now belongs to someone else, a family who bought it for a song, after my 401K was emptied and my savings account dipped below zero trying to keep from going into foreclosure.

The marriage I hoped would be salvaged by the move fell apart faster than anyone could have imagined, and the job opportunity that drew me there turned into lessons in how to survive when a company files Chapter Eleven. I learned the hard way that being a Freelancer isn’t as easy as the self-help books make it sound.

In an unexpected way, the path back to a career in Ecommerce and back to Omaha was paved, one experience at a time over the past nine years. Wheels set in motion; I began to search for the right next opportunity.

My heart was set on moving into a space that wouldn’t require anyone to sleep on an air mattress and would have plenty of room for an art studio. In other words, I wanted a four bedroom house. Economically it didn’t make sense, but I wanted it.

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. I was clinging to the notion of home and success being equivalent to house and more rooms than I need 361 days out of the year.

There was an air mattress involved in the holiday sleeping arrangements and I don’t have space dedicated to an art studio, but the attachments to old definitions of home and success are disappearing.

My youngest son put it into perspective when he said, “Mom, it doesn’t matter where you live or what you have. What matters is that we always feel welcomed and loved.”

After the holidays, the walls of my apartment reverberated with memories of laughter and love.

The silent air is filled with the sounds of playful bickering over the rules of a game, of philosophical conversations that are “to be continued” and of memories that extend way beyond the past two weeks.

Home is where you make it.

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Silence Has a Sound

Tonight the walls of my apartment reverberated with memories of laughter and love.

The silent air is filled with the sounds of playful bickering over the rules of a game, of philosophical conversations that are “to be continued” and of memories that extend way beyond the past two weeks.

The sound that greeted me tonight was different than a few weeks ago.

Tonight, the quiet wasn’t so lonely – the sound of silence felt like home.

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2017 – The Year of Feeling Grateful

It may be a bit early to start talking about New Year’s Resolutions, or is it?

For whatever reason, when one year draws to a close and a new year is about to begin, we reflect on what is “wrong” with our lives and make a promise to “do better.” We declare a commitment to spending more time with family, losing the weight and getting in shape, taking a cooking class or finally sitting down to write the book we’ve been talking about.

As I’ve been doing my own reflecting and making promises to myself, I couldn’t help but think about how different my life is from what I imagined it would be at this point in life. And it’s dawned on me, that the most important promise I can make to myself and the people in my life – is to focus on feeling grateful for where life has taken me and who I am because of it.

Life is never perfect, but there is always something to be grateful for.

2017 – The Year of Feeling Grateful

I’m

Grateful for my body

Grateful for my mind

Grateful for life’s challenges,

and for the discoveries they help me find.

Grateful for my family

and for my friends

Grateful for the Universe

full of love that never ends.

Grateful is a state of mind,

it overcomes self-pity and hate

it empowers us to be kind.

Grateful is a place of being

that gives us peace of mind.

Be grateful, be happy, be kind.


May 2017 bring you happiness, gratitude and peace.

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Thoughts from my Echo Chamber

Like many people in the U.S., I’m caught up in the aftermath of the 2016 election results. Normally, I write about my observations about life from an every day, non-controversial point of view. This is the first time in almost six years that I have felt compelled to share my thoughts about any topic surrounded by a polarizing minefield of thoughts and opinions – the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election.

I don’t know that there’s ever been an election in my country that has affected so many people on such a deeply personal level. As I’ve been trying to understand my own reaction to the outcome, it’s occurred to me, that in many ways it’s as much about business as it is about political agendas.

I could be wrong, but I believe that one of the reasons PET won the election was his ability to ignite the fear and promise hope within the hearts of working class Americans who are struggling to put food on the table. Although I don’t, and never have held a blue color job, my story has more than a few parallels than one might expect. Our political and business landscape has adversely affected more than the grass roots laborers of the country, and it’s been happening for a long time.

Thoughts from My Echo-Chamber

I know it’s dangerous to form opinions from within our own personal bubble, but we all do it to one degree or another. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that my own personal experiences have had a very common thread; it’s upon this common thread that I base my opinions and share my thoughts.

I deeply care about our environment, education and human rights. I’m far more liberal than I am conservative – but at the end of the day, if I’m not able to put food on my table or provide for my family, the larger issues move into second place. That doesn’t make me selfish, uncaring or uninformed, it just makes me human.

The “American Dream”

Here’s the thing, the “American Dream” of providing a better life for future generations started dying on the vine a long time ago. As a point of reference,  I began my career during the Reagan administration and at that time, I was already part of the first generation who would never make more than their parents.

It wasn’t easy, but I eventually landed a good job with a small, family owned printing company in Omaha Nebraska. They paid me a fair and equitable salary, offered training opportunities that to this day are unparalleled in my experience, as well as the way they invested in their employees and advancing technology on a regular basis. That was until, they were acquired by a British holding holding company.

Raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.” Morale plummeted, growth slowed and the only people who were experiencing financial prosperity were the board members of the holding company.

History Repeats Itself

Eventually my loyalty to the original owner of the company ran out. After a couple of years without a raise, increasing demands to work longer hours and the  realization that I was missing out on my children’s lives, I moved on.

My next job was also with a local, family owned business. I found balance, an opportunity to learn and grow, my pay increased at a rapid pace and I found myself trapped in the land of “golden handcuffs.” Earning more than what my position was worth was a huge conundrum, and one that I knew would catch up with me eventually.

It did, we were acquired by a U.S. based holding company. After the announcement and the obligatory, “nothing will change,” comments, people were still nervous. They sought me out for counsel because I’d been through it before. I assured them, and I believed, that life would go on as normal.

“My last experience was with a British holding company, this is a U.S. one, so I’m sure it will be a much different, they really sounded like they care about employees and customers.”

Ha! And my apologies to my friends in the U.K.

Shortly after new “leadership” took over, raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.” Sound familiar? In addition, we started to experience the loveliness of “right-sizing, “salary aligning” and “process transformation.”

Translation – people who had been there a long time were laid off, “salary aligned,” and outsourced. Holy buckets, when I think about all of the consulting fees that were paid out to make those changes happen….

The Writing was on the Wall

I’m no dummy, I saw it coming so I started looking for a new job long before the actual mass layoffs began. I was thrilled to land a position with a company in PA. There was some hesitation on my part, because they were owned by a private holding company, but took the risk because of assurances that they were financially stable. Two months after I started, they filed for Chapter 11. So once again, raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.”

In spite of the Chapter 11, I put my house in Omaha on the market and moved my family to PA – in 2008, toward the end of the housing bubble. Long story short, I ended up losing both my house and all of my savings trying to avoid going into foreclosure.

As I do, I tried to make the best of things, but after four years of no raises, no bonuses and a less than ideal working environment, I took the route that many have tried before me; I started my own business.

It’s Not as Easy as it Sounds

To be honest, starting my own business wasn’t my first choice, it was my only choice. I didn’t want to uproot my youngest son and there were no jobs available in the area. There’s so much that I could share about this topic, but I’ll save that for another time.

In October of 2014 I thought the best of two worlds had collided and I accepted a full-time position with a company in California. I was able to work remotely and maintain my steady freelance work in order to make ends meet.

Health insurance and other benefits were among the multiple reasons the position was appealing. I’ll be honest, insurance through the marketplace isn’t exactly cheap if you are making a “decent” income as a self-employed individual.

Here’s where the common thread continues, the company was owned by a private holding firm. Based on my experience, I should have known better. Soon after I started, new “leadership” was brought in, and raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.”

On April 29th, 2016 I received Fed Ex delivery which contained a check for two weeks severance pay and the notification that my position had been eliminated in order to provide better customer service. Truth is, my position was outsourced – not overseas, but to an agency.

Health insurance you ask?

The company was very “generous” and extended me the opportunity to continue my health insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). They had to. The cost to me was $950 a month.

Thank goodness for the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

It’s not just Politics, it’s Life and Livelihood

I’ve been through more than a few ups and downs in my life, we all have.

My guess is that Donald Trump, nor any of the individuals that he’s nominated to lead key government agencies, have ever experienced the shame associated with the realization that your child is wearing shoes with holes in them  – simply because they don’t want to add to your financial burden, and “it’s not that cold out.”

I’d be surprised if any of their children witnessed their mother being served papers by a Sheriff because she had to proceed down the path of foreclosure on their beautiful home.

I also doubt that any of them have experienced the absolute humiliation of being interviewed for private insurance, only to be denied. Let me share a glimpse of what it’s like.

If you want private insurance, outside of the health care marketplace, you must meet certain criteria. So, a stranger from an insurance company calls and grills you about every aspect of your health history.

My experience went something like this:

An hour (yes an hour) into the interview, I was asked, “what was the last reason you went to the doctor?”

A reasonable question, to which I replied, “I had a couple of warts removed from my leg.”

“So, you have a history of genital warts?”

“No! The warts were on my leg, specifically my calf.”

This spun off into a line of questioning that was too invasive and humiliating to write about.

My denial of coverage letter included some nonsense about being predisposed to genital warts in addition to just the normal life/health conditions that come along with being a woman over the age of 45.

Thank goodness for the affordable health care act.

I Understand Why Trump Won the Election

He promised people he would “fix it.”

So, to that end, he’s assembling the richest administration in history and putting the future of the working class into the hands of people who have never come close to experiencing their pain?

I don’t get how anyone can think this is a good thing.

As I watch the deck stack in favor of the business models that led to the housing crisis and in my mind are behind the widening gap between the elite and the struggling, I’m disheartened beyond words.

I do believe we can join together as human beings to address many issues around the environment and human rights, in spite of PET – I’m not so sure we can have the same influence when it comes to business and our ability to earn a living and maintain affordable health care.

I hope we do, I’m just not sure how to go about influencing change in that arena.

We’re on the Same Side

Let’s not forget, that we’re all on the same side. We love our families and we want the best for them.

I don’t know how this is all going to turn out, but as an eternal optimist, I look at this time in history as an opportunity for good outcomes in the end. As a realist, I can’t help but think it will be a painful journey.

Let’s all join together, in whatever way we can to move forward in a positive fashion. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of all the shouting.

Thanks for listening, after getting this off my chest,  maybe now I can get back to regular programming.

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.

mia-is-suspicious

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.

circle-of-friends

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.” 🙂

 

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

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.

Letting Go of “Why” and “How”

Serendipity is one of my favorite words – it means a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”. Lately though, I’ve been thinking more and more about the role faith and the power of conscious intention play in the delivery of “serendipitous outcomes.”

Speaking for myself, it’s easy to say we have faith when things are going well, it’s a different story when things aren’t going our way. During times of smooth sailing, we tend to sit back and just enjoy the ride. We don’t question why things are going well and we don’t try and “fix” things.

But, when the waters get rough, all of the sudden our egos step in and trounce all over faith. Some of us begin to worry relentlessly; we ask, “why is this happening to me?” and begin to plot and plan desperately about the “how” we’re going to make it better rather than asking for help. We forget about all of the times in our past that we were certain there was no hope and seemingly out of nowhere came a serendipitous solution.

One of my favorite personal stories related to this topic is how I came to live in my current house and the series of events that have unfolded as a result.

My youngest son and I were living in an apartment and for a variety of reasons it was really important for us to find a new place to live; we both wanted to find a house to rent. Sounds easy, right? As it turned out, the process took several months and was fraught with many disappointments and a lot of tears.

At the time, the bigger question for me was, “why hasn’t my house in Omaha sold?” It had been over a year since we moved to Pennsylvania and the house we owned was still occupied by renters and I was in no position to buy real estate on the East Coast. I also had a whole lot of “how” questions,  the most pressing were:

  • How am I going to furnish a house? (we sold and/or donated most our furniture before we moved)
  • How will I afford a higher rent?
  • How can I avoid moving for the next 3 years until my son graduates from high school?

I’d have to admit that I was both bitter and angry about the situation at the time. Now I’m sincerely grateful for it.

After more than a few false starts, I received an unexpected text message from my realtor that quite literally changed my life; it said “I believe I have found the perfect house, can you meet with the owner tomorrow morning?”

My landlord is an artist (I’ll get to that in a minute), she not only rented me a nearly fully furnished house – there was just the right amount of space left for my own personal pieces of furniture and everything melded together in perfect harmony. The night after we first met, we negotiated a monthly rent I could afford and I signed a 3 year lease.

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The more interesting part of the story is how meeting her and moving into this house has been a catalyst for my artistic endeavors and profound changes in the way I think. By this time, I’d discovered that I have an ability to write but I had yet to tap into the potential of my visual artistry and I was struggling desperately with the notion of self-acceptance.

The summer I turned 50, my landlord, Jeanne Marie, introduced me to the work of Julia Cameron through the book Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity. As a result, I began to understand that it’s OK to be vulnerable and ask for help – people will still love and accept you.

I began to take chances in new ways like registering for a drawing class and sharing my progress with other people. One drawing class led to another and my style continues to develop and emerge.

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I could go on and on about all of the wonderful experiences I’d have missed if my house in Omaha had sold and I hadn’t moved into the house I’m renting now.

It’s amazing to me that my 3 big “how” questions were answered, and it certainly wasn’t a result of all of my “what iffing” and trying to control the outcome. It also strikes me that somewhere in the deep recesses of my subconscious I must have been hoping and praying for the opportunity to discover my creativity and to find a way to accept and love myself.

Over the past few years, I’ve become much more aware of the peace that comes with letting go of the “why” and the “how.” I’m learning that when we focus on the outcomes we desire rather than the methods by which we think we can achieve them, life is easier and more rewarding.

A few things I’ve come to believe.

  • Asking for help from God, the Universe or from other people is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength and it’s one of the ways that we connect with each other and and it’s one of the only ways that we can hope to receive and/or achieve abundance and fulfill our life’s purpose.
  • We have free will and so do others, perhaps there are times where things in life don’t work out quite the way we think or hope they will and it’s a result of someone else exercising their free will – it happens, we need to accept it and move on. The “why” doesn’t really matter.
  • We think and “pray for” what we “know” is best for us, but we rarely know what we actually need and trying to control the “how” let alone the outcome only serves to limit us.
  • We think a whole lot smaller than we should. Lots of reasons for this, fear of criticism and failure – fear of rejection and ridicule. Truth is our life’s purpose is a lot bigger than we can possibly imagine it to be, if we are open to letting it happen.

The “how” really isn’t up to us and the “why” doesn’t matter.

Aloha and Mahalo, My Trip to Hawaii

Aloha,

Several months ago my parents called and asked me if I’d like to accompany them on a trip to Hawaii in February of 2016. As you can imagine, it took me less than a nanosecond to say, “Yes!”

I’m a toes in the sand kind, warm weather, sun and water loving kind of girl, so a trip to Hawaii was like a dream come true – especially during the month of February when there’s not a lot of sunshine and it’s cold in the state of Pennsylvania. As happens when you’re anticipating a big event, from the time we made the reservations through the end of the year it seemed like February would never get here, then all of the sudden I was boarding the first of three flights – final stop the Kona airport.

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After picking up the rental car, the first order of business was to find the local Walmart and stock up on breakfast, lunch and snack food; we didn’t want to hassle with going out for breakfast in the mornings and it also seemed smart to reserve our eating out dollars for dinner. The second order of business was to check into a beautiful two-bedroom condo at the Wyndham Resort in Kona while my dad looked into the possibility of booking an excursion to the peak of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano and the highest point in Hawaii.

The expeida.com girl remained cheerful, but carefully calibrated our expectations by explaining that this particular expedition is usually filled within weeks if not months of the available dates. She called to make the inquiry and her smile broadened as she said, “there was a cancellation for three people on Monday?!”

My dad didn’t waste any time, “That’s amazing, let’s book it.”

It was the first of many serendipitous moments throughout the upcoming week.

My parents are not exactly what you would call planners when it comes to traveling; they like to take more of a “figure it out along the way” kind of approach so on Sunday we gathered information about the various excursions and booked a Volcano Tour and a luau in addition to stargazing on Mauna Kea. The remaining days were left open for exploring the island on our own.

In order to keep the roadside views uncluttered and natural, there are very strict signage rules on the island, so it’s not uncommon to receive an answer like this when asking for directions:

“Oh, you want to visit the coffee and nut man? Ok, here’s how you get there – go out of the driveway to the right and at the first stop sign, go right to the top of the hill, Lunapule Rd. Then go to the top of the hill and turn right at the stop sign, that’s Walua Rd. 

At the intersection, go to the yield sign and turn right on Kuakini Hwy; this will merfe into Hwy 11 Southbound. Keep going until you reach the 5th stop light, Halekiki St, and turn right – there’s a gas station on the right side. Now go down the hill to the second fire hydrant on the right.

You’ll see a driveway and a sign that says “Captain Cook Trading Place”, pull into the driveway. The coffee and nut guy is next to the granite and tile warehouse on your left – you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see boxes piled up to the ceiling.”

Thank goodness the directions were also written down!

Between counting stop signs and fire hydrants, trying to find the coffee and nut guy was a lot like being on a scavenger hunt. I have to confess that we ended up using a bit of modern technology to find him, but only after we tried and missed the destination more than once.

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The coffee man was nowhere in site (apparently he works his own and very elusive hours) so we opted to have lunch at the local eatery next door to the Captain Cook Trading Company.

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When the first bite of my crab-cake melted in my mouth, I would have sworn that I was dining at 5 star restaurant rather than sitting on a folding chair and sharing the equivalent of a card table with strangers.

As luck would have it, another serendipitous moment occurred and the coffee man arrived and opened for business just as we finished our lunch.

Surrounded by boxes of coffee beans and macadamia nuts, Emmerich (aka the coffee and nut man), shared his wealth of knowledge about the island and the process of roasting coffee beans to perfection. I didn’t get a chance to sample the coffee, but if it’s half as tasty as the macadamia nuts, it’s wonderful.

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Each one of our excursions deserves it’s own narrative, so for now I’ll just share a few of the highlights.

Monday we headed to Buns in the Sun, a local bakery and the meet up place for the trip to the peak of Mauna Kea. I’, not sure which was more amazing to be “walking in the clouds” at 9,000 feet above sea level or seeing the galaxy just beyond the Milky Way first hand.

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On Tuesday we set off with no particular destination in mind other than to visit a small artist’s community on the northeast coast of the island. Our adventure led us to the edge of the island and one of the most spectacular views of waves from the Pacific Ocean rolling onto a sheltered black sand beach.

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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.”

The drive there was almost as exciting as the actual zip-lining experience, but that’s a story for another day. The tour guides were awesome – two young guys who had just the right combination of personalities to be encouraging without being condescending and enthusiastic without being annoying.  I never imagined I’d see a waterfall in Hawaii, let alone while I was zipping across a valley going 50 miles per hour.

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Thursday, where to begin? There’s no way I can capture the day in only a few words. To sum it up, we had a private tour of parts of the island and the National Volcano Park. Yep, as it turned out, the other six people who had made reservations for the same day as us cancelled at the last minute and we ended up with a personalized adventure.

We saw sea turtles sunning on a black sand beach, walked through a lava tube had lunch on coffee plantation and learned about the rich history of Hawaii from our guide and companion for the day, Jim Carey (not the actor in case you’re wondering). Thanks to him, it was an incredible and unforgettable day.IMG_2706

Last, but certainly not least, on Friday we had a free day; I hung out by the pool and my parents spent more time gallivanting around the island, in the evening we attended a Luau – apparently it’s “state law.” 🙂

The dancers were mesmerizing, the food was delicious and the setting was spectacular.

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Some days it still seems like the trip was just a dream, but the pictures prove it wasn’t.  Words cannot begin to describe how absolutely magical this trip was. I will never forget it and will always treasure the memories.

Mahalo (many thanks) to my parents for this amazing experience, I’d have to say that I think I have the coolest parents on the planet!

Raking Leaves and a Lesson in Gratitude

I live in one of the most beautiful areas of the country, especially during the fall. I consider myself to be luckier than most because I am within walking distance of the towpath along the Delaware Canal. The weather this fall has been spectacular and the colors have seemed more vibrant than ever before.

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There is a small price to be paid for living in an area with so many beautiful trees, and that price comes in the form of leaf blowing and raking – honestly not two of my favorite chores. I’d much rather walk along the towpath and admire the brilliant colors than round them up into large piles on the side of the street.

However, it’s a task that must be done and this year it was up to me to complete it on my own.

In spite of the beautiful weather, I can’t say that I approached my first round of leaf blowing and raking with enthusiasm. If anything, I found my mood darkening with passing moment and I let myself slip into the dangerous and unproductive “woe is me” frame of mind.

Somehow the piles of leaves started to represent unfulfilled dreams and insurmountable challenges.

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Just as I was thinking about how I wished my life was easier and that I shouldn’t have to spend my time blowing leaves, I made eye contact with a man with a profound limp passing by my house.

He waved to me with the stump of a hand and a smile.

I waved back, feeling selfish and spoiled.

I’d have to guess that he would have given anything to be in my shoes and here I was feeling sorry for myself. My state of mind shifted and my thoughts became focused on being grateful for being physically able to rake, for the beautiful home I live in and for my wonderful circle of family and friends.

It’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important in life and sometimes we need to be reminded. I’ve never seen this man before and it’s unlikely I’ll see him again, but he made a lasting impression and taught me a valuable lesson in gratitude and keeping things in perspective.