Paradise is Sharing...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Snow Angel....

Snow Angel 
When I moved out of my marital home and into my own apartment five years ago, it was November.  I drove a Volkswagon Beetle.  My ex kept the brand new Ford F250 with heated leather seats with a 8' plow, and a $550 monthly payment.  That year, we got the most snow I had seen since the seventies.  It seemed like every morning, I would wake up to another foot of snow.  Trudging through the snow with shovel in tow, while Destiny bounded through the snowbanks, I would dig out my car again and again.  Thank goodness my landlord has six kids, because it took at least four of them to push me out of the driveway each day, so I could make the treacherous slide to work in my poorly equipped car that was meant to be a summer vehicle. 

Destiny - My Snow Angel
Up until then, snow meant the world stopping for the day.  My ex-husband and I worked for a lawn care company - our only downtime was in the winter.  At the sight of first flakes, we would be outside - shoveling the walkways together, throwing snowballs at the dog, and when we were done, falling into the snowbanks to make snow angels while Destiny danced around us nipping at our mittens.  We had all the toys - snowmobiles, skiis, and snowshoes.  A snowy Friday night meant home-made pizza, and a bunch of friends gathering to go out for a "mid-night ski" where we would ski in the moonlight - moonlight so bright there was no need for flashlights.  My fondest memories were of Destiny hooked up with her harness, purposefully pulling me as we silently swooshed through the darkness, through the pine trees that looked like cupcakes thickly frosted with icing.

During that first winter on my own, the winter nights seemed darker.  Each snowflake weighed on me like a stone.  No one came around to eat pizza or go for a midnight ski, and I wasn't able to get out and meet up with people because my really cute, but really dumb car wouldn't get me anywhere but stuck in a snowbank.  Nope, instead I was alone, shoveling my walkway - alone.  Mid-shovel I looked up and saw my ridiculous dog Destiny on her back, wriggling and rolling, joyfully making her version of doggie snow angels.  I felt like my days of fun in the snow were long gone.  Destiny can make the snow angels alone - I have a car to dig out.

 I know that we humans are like rest of the natural world and that sadness, fear, frustration, or any troubling feeling cannot last. Nature doesn’t create a storm that never ends. Within misfortune, good fortune hides. ~ Dr Wayne Dyer

Spring came, the snow melted away... and life went on.  Destiny passed away the following winter... and I regretted not putting down my shovel, getting out of my own sorrows for a while, to flop down in the snow to make snow angels with her the winter before.  Each flake that fell was a reminder of the love and joy she had for snow.  Nipping at mittens, barking as we shoveled... rolling on her back in pure bliss.  I smiled as the snow fell, remembering my Snow Angel.  That winter, MyHoney, Derby and I got out to play in the snow every chance we had. I bravely battled winter driving in my trusty Subaru.  Moments, joyful moments can melt away .... and with the melting snow, a new season begins. 

In the last four days, we have had two winter storms that brought in over 18" of snow.  I woke up this morning to see another 4" on the ground.  I opened the door to investigate and Lexi bounded out, leaping through the new powder like a white snowshoe rabbit.  Up until this morning, I thought my little diva wasn't fond of snow... she seemed more of a couch potato than a snow bunny.... but this morning, she bounced and jumped, leaped and frolicked, and then flopped onto her back, feet to the sky and rolled joyously....  and there it was - Lexi's first snow angel.  Hold on Lexi - Let me grab my snow suit - I'm comin' out to join you!

Paradise is here, Paradise is now.... Paradise is making snow angels.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Mother's Bucket List...

Victoria Mansion, Portland ME
"Let's go to lunch on Sunday, then we can go to the Victoria Mansion, and then we can walk around the Old Port and look at the Christmas lights..."  The suggestion surprised my mother, and shocked the hell out of me.  I couldn't believe the words came out of my mouth. 

Again, I have to preface every post about my parents with "I love them dearly, I do...." but there have been times when I wasn't the best daughter to them, and they weren't the best parents to me.  But now that I am getting closer and closer to 40, and they are getting further and further away from 40, we have softened towards each other - and we are able to keep alot more of the awkward tension at bay.  Now that they don't have the stress of raising me, and I have lowered the expectations of pleasing them, we can just get down to the business of being friends.

Victoria Mansion, Portland ME
She squealed "OH! That's on my bucket list!"... I had no idea a simple suggestion like lunch, touring an old mansion and looking at Christmas lights was a life long wish of my mom's... but it was. 

So, Sunday afternoon, as fat snowflakes drifted down a city fit for a postcard, the three of us - My mother, my future mother-in-law, and I sat and dined at Silly's Restaurant.  We giggled at the silly names of the entrees, we chatted about Christmas plans, and we just enjoyed each others company.  This is fun I thought to myself, and allowed myself to enjoy the mother-daughter moments without worrying about tension - past, present or future.  I soaked in my mother's giggles, admired her sparkling blue eyes, and pushed down the mournful feeling that we hadn't had more moments like these before. 

After lunch, I chauffeured the "Moms" to the Victorian Mansion.  I thought Mom was going to jump out of the car before I parked it.  She chattered all the way down the side walk about the decorations, the history, and the advertisements she had heard about the Holiday Decor Event that we were about to see.  She was downright giddy.  I don't think she felt the biting wind on her face or the snowflakes on her eyelashes....

As we pushed open the grand wooden doors to the entrance way, Mom gasped.  I had to push her through the entry way so we wouldn't block the doors.... she was in a trance like a child seeing Santa for the first time - she made me smile. 

Throughout each room, she ooh'd and ahh'd, admiring each decoration, each flower, each tree, each piece of furniture, each mantle place, each sconce, and each chandelier.  What my mother considered beautiful were the simplest things... "OH, look at the pine cones"  ..... there were gold angels and painted masterpieces, but my mom admired the pine cones.  My heart smiled.

We walked through the rooms, some of them twice, and we each chose favorites.  We exited the Mansion via the gift shop, and we commented about the admission price  .... my mom glowed "OH, it was worth it!"

Yes, it was.... it certainly was.

I wonder what else is on that bucket list of hers....

Paradise is Here, Paradise is Now... Paradise is seeing your mom admire pinecones, and cross something off her bucket list...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Turn Up The Heat....

I pressed my index fingers to my thumbs and inhaled deeply.  A thought flashed through my consciousness like a wayward firefly - "I'm having a hard time staying inward."  Being a novice at the practice of meditation, I accepted the struggle and tried to quiet my mind.  While I have chosen to avoid the news and media, a television broadcast could be heard from the kitchen downstairs where MyHoney's mother busied herself with getting ready for the day.  The words "children, teachers, shooter, tragedy, and mourning" drifted into my ears.  I wished I was more experienced in blocking out external distractions.  I breathed deeper.  Another thought floated by "Why is there such evil in the world?  Where was Paradise on Friday?"
Determined to at least attempt meditating this morning, I closed my eyes, drew in a breath, then shivered, realizing the heat was still down low.  I reached over, pulled a blanket over my shoulders and continued to draw in.  I closed my eyes again... the blaring television interupted my Zen as a reporter interviewed a woman making the argument that stricter gun control laws were the only way to stop these madmen ....  and I exhaled.  My shoulders felt warm from the blanket, and the heat of my body radiated from me, but the blanket held the warmth close.  Even though the room was chilled, I was warm.  My distracted mind reminded me I should turn up the heat when I am done "meditating."

One last deep breath in ... one long exhale out.  Shivering, I pulled the blanket closer around me and became annoyed by the lack of heat in the room.  Another firefly thought flickered through my mind "Does cold actually exist, or is cold merely the absence of heat?"   I was fascinated by the thought that cold may not even be real.  We could walk around and say "Do you feel lack of heat?"   Another thought flittered by... "Evil is merely the absence of good"  I held my breath for longer than I should have, startled by my own revolution that evil isn't real either.... it is simply the absence of good.  I know what I have to do to rid the room of the chill this morning - I have to turn up the heat.  It would only make sense then, to rid the world of evil, we need to turn up the good.

We all are asking how God allowed such an evil act to happen?  He may simply be saying to us "Kids, if you are cold - turn up the heat!"   If you are feeling the world is too evil for your own comfort, turn up the good! 

My blanket was enough to warm my own body this morning, but not enough to rid the room of it's chill.  It was a good start.  Once I felt warm enough, I was able to finish meditating, get up and walk over to the thermostat and turn it up.  This is how we must start.  Start with your families.  Teach your children to be kind and loving to all living things.  Be kind to yourself.  Be good to your pets.  Be honest.  Be gentle. Be kind.  When you feel conflicted, frustrated or angry - turn up the good by loving harder.  Stoke up that fire. 

Once your home is warm - radiate out to your neighbors.  Practice random acts of kindness.  Shovel their driveway.  Bring them cookies.  Wave and smile at them as you drive by.  Give them a log for their fire - and pretty soon, they will be radiating heat too. 

And turning  up the good doesn't just require what we DO.... our actions are great kindling to get the fire to catch, but more importantly, it's what we THINK.  In my humble opinion, we have turned the thermostat way down low by even entertaining the thought that the world may end on December 21st and dwelling about the "fiscal cliff" that we are facing on January 1st.  Turn the heat back up by believing we are prosperous, we are abundant and we are resilient.

Turn up the heat with every thought you think.  Every thought.  Even towards people who make you feel cold - it's even more important to crank your furnace in their presence.  If your thermostat is set high enough, you won't feel the effects of their chill.  You may even unthaw them too.  Crank it up.

Then go catch the world on fire. It only takes a spark, to get a fire going....

  Paradise is Here, Paradise is Now..... Paradise is a WARM place to be.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Taking the Sting Out of Tragedy....

photo credit:
 "Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life." John Muir

Running and giggling, we chased and darted after our dog Daisy who had managed to abscond our wiffle ball once again.  My brother who was five years older than me couldn't catch her, so I knew I never would.  It looks like our ball game is over.... so we decided to take off and find a new adventure.  Wiffle ball bat in his hand, my brother started a new game, he is now the Lone Ranger, and I am Tonto (I was always Tonto - he always got to be the Lone Ranger)... and we galloped around using our bats as horses whinying and neighing.... until that game faded away into a new one.  Now we were sword fighters, dueling to defend our family honor... my brother drew his wiffle ball bat sword and took a ferocious swing.. and hit the beehive that was behind him.  The hive toppled over off its platform and split open like a cracked egg. 

photo credit:
A black cloud of angry bees swarmed out like a pissed off genie.  Their world had been shaken, and they had to lash out and punish the perpetrators.  My brother took off in a full run.  Daisy, knowing that we had done something to get us in trouble, put her ears down, tucked her tail, and slinked deftly to the barn.  But I was too slow to escape. The bees were relentless, coming after me with bitter venom.   Hot stingers flew into my neck, and as I swatted they caught my arms and hands like fiery fish hooks.  By the time I made it to the house, I was a welted mess.  My brother had escaped unscathed.  I was distraught by the injustice of it all.

In my six year old mind, this was the epitome of all that is unfair in the world.  I sat on my mothers lap and wailed... "But I didn't DO anything! Why did the bees sting ME?!?"  She rocked me back and forth, unable to answer my pitful sobs... "Because you were there, and they were angry and scared."  ..... "They were scared Momma?"  I remember being puzzled that fear can result in anger.  Those bees seemed angry to me - I was the one who was afraid.  But as I've grown older, I have witnessed that yes, indeed, when people's worlds are shaken, our fear can manifest as anger, and we lash out and sting anyone who is around.

Photo Credit:
Yesterday, a gunman walked in  to a school, slayed his mother and gunned down her classroom of elementary children.  Our world has been shaken.  Just like the six year old who was comforted in my mothers arms, I am distraught with the injustice of it all.  But unlike the child I once was, I experienced an explosion of anger.  How could this happen? What kind of world do we live in? 

 I logged onto Facebook and saw others felt the same way - angry.  Venomous posts were flying around about gun control, school policies and politicians.  Then there were posts from other parents that dripped with fear.  They were hugging their children tighter tonight.  They were fearful of letting their children go to school tomorrow.   And of course, there were posts of just deep, sorrowful, heartwrenching grief.   Instead of buying Christmas gifts for their children, they are buying tiny coffins and headstones.  Why is this happening, they didn't do anything - they were innocent children.   My anger evaporated into the mist of sorrow I felt like the six year old sobbing in my mothers arms all over again.  This is truly the epitome of injustice.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons
Just like Daisy, I put my ears down and slunk away.  I shut off the electronic devices, Facebook, and the news...  and retreated to the arms of MyHoney.  I need to get away from the toppled beehive.  

We as humans naturally want answers.  There is injustice in the world - we believe if we can pinpoint how and why the world is unjust, we can do something to remedy it.  We want to fix it.  We just want to DO something. 
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”  ~ Buddha

We turn to our television sets and newspapers looking for answers.  We chat on social media boards trying to find out what other people think.  We take action by signing petitions, protesting, and persecuting.  While some of these actions may bring results.... they will not bring you peace.

To take the sting out of tragedy  - to find peace this chaotic messy world, don't turn towards your televisions,  your electronics, Facebook, social media, or the news.  You will not find peace there.  

To find peace - turn toward your family.  Spend some time with them "unplugged".... play board games, go ice skating, enjoy each others company. 

Turn toward Humanity - do something kind for someone.  Practice random acts of Kindness.  Reach out to someone in need.  Send love letters.  Donate blood, food or money.  Give of yourself.

Photo Credit: Sakis Koukouvis
Turn toward your Higher PowerPray for the families who were affected by the tragedy.  Pray for humanity, and pray their fears subside.  Pray for acceptance. Pray for peace for yourself.  Give thanks for your wellbeing, family, friends and neighbors.

Turn toward your Inner Wisdom.  Sit still.... reflect... just BE.   Take some quiet time and reflect on all your blessings.  Burn a candle.  Practice Metta Bhavana - the meditation of Loving Kindness.   

Are there ways you have taken the sting out of a tragedy you would like to share?  

Paradise is Here, Paradise is Now.... Paradise is taking the sting out of tragedy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mixing Memories ...

Paradise is Decking the Halls....
This morning I woke up before dawn, padded over to the Christmas Tree and snapped on the lights.  I crept down the spiral stairs now adorned with garland and white lights, and made myself a cup of coffee, and retreated back up stairs to my perch in front of the tree to quietly gaze at our first tree together at MyHoney's house.  While we have been together for five years, up until now, we have kept most of our traditions separate.  We participated as boyfriend or girlfriend in each others family traditions. 

MyHoney would go with my family as we trudged through acres of Christmas trees looking for the most perfectly flawed trees that would fit in our perfectly flawed houses.  My mother wanted a tall skinny tree because of her narrow farm house doors and small parlor area.  I wanted a small short tree because of my tiny one bedroom apartment.  My sister wanted a hearty tree that would take the abuse of two kids, two dogs, and a cat.  MyHoney would hold the trees as we chopped them down and dramatically yelled "TIMBER!" as if we were cutting down the Rockerfeller Center Tree.  He would laugh and joke with my family as we hauled our green treasures back to the farm and drink hot chocolate and comment what perfect trees we had found that year.

He would help me take my tree to my apartment and help me decorate the tree.  Although, sometimes the best help was to sit back and watch because I have a system of putting the lights on a certain way.  Then each decoration has to go on in sequence of importance - the first one to go on the tree each year is Destiny's ornament, then Lexi's, then my snowmen.  The order in which I decorated my tree was just as much a tradition to me as eggnog and mistletoe.  MyHoney would listen to me tell him stories about each precious ornament - where I was when I got it, who gave it to me, what meaning it signified. Sometimes I would tear up and have to take a moment to regain myself before pulling another treasure from the box.  Meanwhile, he sat and took it all in, happy to be part of my new story, and creating a new memory.

I would attend Mass with MyHoney's family on Christmas Eve, I would help him set up the manger scene, leaving out the Wise Men and baby Jesus until their proper arrival according to the Christmas story.  I would sip Annisette and listen to stories of Christmases past in Olean and I would watch as he and his mother gently put the baby Jesus in the manger Christmas Morning

But this year, we decided because we are getting married in the Spring of 2014, we would mix our memories, and mingle our traditions.  This year, we participated in the annual Christmas Tree Hunt, but not for my tree... but for OUR tree.  We needed a tall, skinny tree to fit in the landing above the stairs.  MyHoney took the saw and cut at the base of our perfectly imperfect tree, and I yelled "TIMBER!" as if we were lumberjacks.  Proudly, we carried our tree to the car, and went back to the farm, drank cocoa and chatted about what great trees we found this year.

 We set the tree up and unpacked the decorations from my apartment, ones I have collected for the past 20 years.... and he and his mother unpacked multiple boxes from his childhood, his mothers childhood, and years going back to the Christmases in Olean.  For the first time ever, I decorated a tree with ornaments that held no memories for me, and I didn't care what order they went on the tree.   After this Christmas, they will hold the dear memory of being on our first Christmas tree, the one we decorated together, as a family, in our new tradition.  

When two people come together, they bring to the relationship so much more than themselves.  They bring their heritage, their traditions, their quirky families, their loopy rituals, and their stories.  As I sip my coffee, admiring the twinkling lights, the shimmering decorations and the quietness of the morning, I realize perhaps only on a Christmas tree you will see two peoples lives, two peoples childhoods, their keepsakes and treasures so beautifully mixed together. 

Paradise is Here, Paradise is Now... Paradise is Mixing Memories ....

What traditions have you mixed???

Friday, November 30, 2012

Taking off your skates ...

As a child, I was fortunate enough to have a pond in my back yard.  On the winters when the cold air arrived early, and the snow arrived late, it was a skaters paradise.  My brother, sister, parents and a bunch of neighborhood kids would make a day of playing hockey, "crack the whip" and zooming around on our skates pretending to be Dorothy Hamill and Scott Hamilton.  We would only stop to warm ourselves by the fire, drink some cocoa, and rest our feet.  The sun would set low in the sky, and we would finally sit on the banks of the pond and remove our skates.  I will always remember the sensation that followed - because I had been wearing my skates for so long, even after I had taken them off, it still felt like they were on my feet. The unmoving, non-slippery surface of the ground felt foreign.  Even though I was standing perfectly still, in my head I was still gliding.  I would shuffle along awkwardly back to the farm where more cocoa and cookies awaited. Depending on how long I had worn my skates, determined how long that sensation would last.  Skates are great fun to wear while you are on ice, but don't serve you when you have to start walking.  You need solid footing to walk home.

This past week, a classmate of mine lost her husband unexpectedly.  It's shocking to think that at our age, she is now a widow.  She and her husband remained in our hometown, and he was a pillar of the community. 

The events that have followed have touched me in an unexpected way.  My classmates have rallied on Facebook - created a group to coordinate donations, food, and other needs the family may have.  The ones who can attend the service have decided to arrive early so our class of 1991 can be a "united front of support" for our classmate.  As I posted on Facebook "What is touching to me is that even as awkward teenagers trying to find our way in the world, we managed to build a strong community we can count on as adults"

I now have a new story about the community I grew up in and the classmates who journeyed with me during my formative years.  But I carried my old story of being bullied, tormented and shunned for so long, that even though I can take that story off, I still feel the sensation of my past.  After all, who am I without that story?  Quite frankly, I like my new story of coming from a supportive community that offered top notch education and opportunities FAR better than my old story of being a lonely, overweight teenager who was bullied into thinking she was inferior.  I know the more I wear my new story, the sensation of having worn my old story for so long will eventually wear off.   I might shuffle along and feel awkward for a while, but soon my footing will feel more solid, and my steps will be made with more confidence.

"People have a hard time letting go of their suffering.
Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar."
~Thich Nhat Hanh~ 
As I am reflecting on old stories, I realize how many other pairs of skates I wore for way too long.  My relationship with my parents has often been strained and tense over the years... but in the last few years, we have been reconciled, they have been supportive, and I can actually say, I enjoy their company.  I have been able to take off the old story of not getting along with my parents, and put on a new story of being good friends with my parents.  But, for some reason, I still feel the old skates on my feet every time I am with them - old tension rises in my chest, I wait for someone to say the wrong thing, I walk on thin ice.... but, every time, as I am driving home, I am pleasantly surprised how well our visit went.  Why am I surprised?  Because I still feel like I am wearing my old skates.  The sensation of my old story remains with me.  But, the more I wear my new story, the less I feel the effects of my old one.

"I don't let go of concepts - I meet them with understanding.
Then they let go of me."
~Byron Katie~

Have you taken off your skates yet still feel wobbly on your feet? 

Paradise is here, Paradise is now .... Paradise is taking off your skates and feeling the ground beneath your feet.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Holiday Spirit...

Paradise is in a martini glass...
Digging my spoon into my creme brulee, and taking a sip from my amazing peanut butter martini, I sat at the Bar of Chocolate, flirting unashamedly with MyHoney as he savored his chocolate torte. 

Not wanting this evening to end, I decided I would extend the invitation ... "Wanna walk around after and see the Holiday decorations?" I asked in hopeful anticipation that he would say yes.   With whipped cream on his lip, he agreed that my suggestion was positively the most awesome idea he had ever heard and I was sheer genius for thinking of it.  My my .... touche MyDear... you are most definitely on your flirtatious game as well sir. Well played... well played.

Full of chocolate and spirits, we strolled out onto the streets of the Old Port, and walked hand-in-hand down the cobble stone sidewalks to Monument Square to check out this year's Yule Tree.  The air was crisp, cold and clean, and the moon gleamed with Jupiter shining like a diamond drop.  The holiday lights of the Old Port sparkled, the shop windows gleamed with their winter scenes, and the city was quiet.  Thomas Kinkade, eat your heart out.

Holiday Tree, Monument Square
Wasn't I just muttering just a few hours before that I wasn't in the Holiday Spirit?  Wasn't I just bemoaning about having to get all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping and holiday festivities done like a chore list?  The Scrooge really had nothing on me and my attitude earlier that day, so how is it I am walking though the streets of our beloved city, snapping pictures of holiday lights, and excitedly chatting with MyHoney about our Holiday plans?  Maybe I wasn't in the Holiday Spirit, because I wasn't supposed to be.  You don't get in the spirit, the spirit is in YOU.

I didn't have to get in the Holiday Spirit... the Holiday Spirit is in ME.

It's not like at the end of the Holidays we take off our Holiday Spirits like our winter coats and store it away for the Spring.  No... instead it simply lies dormant until we rekindle it with a memory, an awareness, or a childlike wonder ...  and then it springs forth like a burning inferno.
Paradise is Holiday Lights, Old Port, Maine

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.  ~Charles Dickens

How about you?  What rekindles your Holiday Spirit?  Looking at holiday lights?  Decorating the tree?  Playing Holiday music?  Let your Spirit shine.

Paradise is Here, Paradise is Now..... Paradise is Holiday Spirit .... 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

End the War on Obesity.... Declare Peace.

Sitting down with my coffee this morning, I read through my blogs, scanned the headlines, and sadly my eyes turned to the phrase "War on Obesity".... followed by an article chastising Americans for tipping the scales, and pictures of headless overweight people to exemplify how our waistlines and butts are expanding to astronomical sizes.  All I could think of is I would be horrified if I saw my headless body on the pages of Yahoo News waddling down the streets on an otherwise ordinary day. 

While I understand that America is getting larger and larger, and very real diseases are consequences of our hefty appetites, I still feel the words "war" are harsh, especially when you take the glorified news headlines and whittle them down to the specific individuals they have set their sights on.  That individual is me.  I am in medical terms - obese.  I may not be the image that comes to mind when you hear the word - after all, I am an active, productive member of society.  I hike, kayak, bike, walk.  I eat things like kale, quinoa and tofu.   I am happy and for the most part - healthy.   So why is there a war waged on me?  What crimes against society have I committed?

When I hear people talk about their weight in war terms "Battling my weight, struggling with my weight, wrestling with my weight"  ... I cringe.  Then there are the Boot Camps that treat the overweight like insignificant underlings that need to be punished for being fat slackers and slobs of society.  It makes me angry.... and eventually, the anger subsides to deep sadness.  Sad for the teenage girl that I once was that I constantly battled with.  The personal battle I waged against myself at such a young age nearly conquered me.  As I grew into my twenties - the battle raged on - the battlefield was my dinner plate, base camp was the gym, and the Commander in Chief was whomever I had deemed the expert that day - whether it be Richard Simmons, Jane Fonda, or Susan Powter.  I often went AWOL - binging on bags of chips, bags of cookies, quarts of ice cream, loaves of bread.  Punishment was full on battles at the gym, or worse, head in the toilet to purge myself of all my sins.

The war waged on into my thirties.... this seemingly never ending battle took its toll on my self esteem, relationships and productivity.  It consumed everything I did, every decision I made, and every event to which I was invited.  I had to strategize and make "battle plans" to divide and conquer buffet tables at family events.  I planned and plotted the days leading up to going out with friends - starving myself for days so I could participate "normally" with my comrades.  Surprises such as my husband wanting to take me out to dinner, or being presented with a gift of chocolates, cakes or baked goods were sneak attacks of friendly fire- and I would have to retreat from the battle lines to re-arm. 

If you are thinking to yourself  "that sounds exhausting".... it was.  I trudged myself to the gym, and through my workouts.  There was no joy - it was all militant and with purpose.  I measured my progress of inflitrating the battle lines with tape measures and scales. I lived on rations of diet shakes, pills, powders and supplements. I suffered battle scars and wounds.  Some friendships became collateral damage.  But I was a soldier - I had to win this battle of the bulge.  I even went as far as to become a Weight Watchers leader so I could lead other soldiers into battle. 

Battle weary, I sat down at my computer - meaning to strategize a new battle plan to combat my binging attacks, I stumbled upon a group that met on the Weight Watchers chat boards.... but they were not discussing WW - quite the opposite, they were talking about being victims of war - the war they had declared on themselves, and they had found peace.  The peace treaty they signed was a pledge to themselves to never diet again.  I read the materials they suggested, the books they recommended, and their stories of victory.  I waved my white flag - I surrendered.  I will never diet again.  I entered peace time for the first time in my adult life.  The war was over, I was allowed to come home.

Since then, I no longer fight with myself.  Instead, I have peaceful negotiations on eating consciously, being active and enjoying my life.  Peace time has consisted of enjoying meals, looking forward to dining out with friends and family, and not being stressed out when presented with tokens of love or gratitude in the form of food.  Walking my dogs has become an activity of love and joy, taking note of my surroundings, nature, and enjoying the fact my body can power me up mountains. I still have scars of old battles such as stretch marks, sagging skin, cellulite and age marks, but I look at them as medals of honor. 

So have a  A very merry Christmas, And a happy New Year ~ Let's hope it's a good one, Without any fear.  War is over over ~ If you want it ~ War is over ... now....

Click to purchase

I encourage anyone who is struggling with weight issues to surrender.  This doesn't mean give in, sit on the couch and eat chips.  This means give up the war - declare peace.  Peace equals love, war equals hate... you will never be healthy, fit and vibrant if you hate yourself.  End the war. Do it now. 

I highly recommend reading Geneen Roth's book - Breaking Free from Emotional Eating.  If you would like some coaching to get through the book and end the war, contact me... I'd love to hear from you.

Paradise is here, Paradise is now .... Paradise is being at Peace with Yourself....

Friday, November 23, 2012

Harvesting Memories...

There's a black-top road, a faded yellow centerline
It can take you back to the place, but it can't take you back in time ~ Wynonna Judd

I could drive there in my sleep.... but I point out old landmarks to MyHoney as I steer my Subaru down the road, taking the last long corner where the wooded lane opens up to rolling fields, and on the right, up on a hill... sits the farm. 

I pull slowly into the long driveway, hearing the gravel crunch under the tires, and see the barn come into view despite the heavy cloak of fog lingering over the meadows.  We pull into the door yard, and I take a deep breath as we prepare for a day with my family - at the farm.

I love my parents - I do.  But to fully understand my family dynamic, you would have had to work in the wind, rain and weather -as we all picked together, as we all picked together side by side...(Rutabaga! Rutabaga! Rutabaga! or at least that is how the "Rutabaga Song" goes... the pride song my father made up for us all to sing as we froze our fingers to the bone, pulling the stubborn root vegetables from their deeply mired places in the mud, and cut the roots and leaves off to plunk them in a row.  When you work with family, you become more than just family.  Your father becomes dependent on you.  As a child, the responsibility can be weighty and confusing.  I worked beside my father during "bumper crops" and disappointing crop failures.  I saw worry, stress, and fatigue in my fathers eyes.  I also saw immense pride, joy, and satisfaction.  I was more than just a daughter to my father - I was part of the farm.  Getting out of the car, and walking into the house, I immediately inhaled the scents of being home at the farm.

Pumpkin bread, apple pies, and carrot cake.  As we enter the kitchen, we are greeted heartily by my father and his booming welcome "WWWWEELLLLLLLLLL!!!"  As mom buzzes around the kitchen pulling hot whipped potatoes, carrots and rutabaga souffle out of the oven, Dad offers us beverages and we sit at the table ready to feast on the bounty of this years harvest.  Dad beams with pride - and even though it's obvious, he says "All the vegetables came out of Mom's garden"  Truly, It is Thanksgiving at the farm.

Gratitude feels different when it's hand-picked... 

My friends used to look at the hundred acres I called home, and exclaim "It must be so much FUN to live here!"  At the time, I wouldn't call it fun.  On hot summer days when my friends were at the local swimming hole, I was in the fields laboring stacking hay bales.  We spent days on end with the sun beating on our backs weeding the crops on our hands and knees.  During school days, as my friends participated in after school sports and activities, I had to hurry home to work in the fields and bring in the harvest.  The work was both back breaking, and at times could break your spirit. As a child and teenager tensions ran high as we tried to create our own boundaries and become our own people - people who didn't want to work on the farm, the lifeline, pride and joy of my father.  My father took our resignations personally, as a rejection of him, not of the work.  There was friction.  It was hard - I won't lie, and some of the friction and tension spilled over into our adulthood.  We were born and raised to work as a team, and that didn't always translate into loving like a family.   For many years I resented the farm.

"OK, let's say Grace."  My father folded his gigantic rough hands, and my mother, brother, MyHoney and I bowed our heads.  "Dear Jesus, Thank you for this day and this food that Jean made.  Thank you for letting us all be here together, in your name we pray Amen".... Amen we all repeat, and for the next hour we pass serving dishes around the table, chat about current events, tell old stories and laugh... like old friends.  Once the dinner dishes are cleared, my Dad coaxes my Mom to bring out the pies and cakes - once again repeating the fact the pumpkin and carrots came from the fields of the farm.

As I polished off a generous hunk of my mothers famous carrot cake, I thought about the pride of the finished product my Dad presented to us today.  As a business owner myself now, I realized the accomplishment he must feel.  He's made it - all the work, sweat, blood and tears resulted in feeding his family.  He has raised children and grandchildren.  It all came from the earth, from his hands, and more importantly - it was all made possible because he had a family who through all the wind and weather, we all picked together, we all picked together side by side.... at home, on the farm.

Paradise is Here, Paradise is Now, Paradise will turnip on the farm....

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Believing My Kite Will Take Flight...

"Run! Run! Keep the string tight"  My friend and I would crane our necks to the sky, the dazzling sun making our eyes squint as we peered into the crystal sky watching the fate of our flying kites at the end of our strings.  Not to sound all "back in the day".... but back in our day, we made our own kites with what ever we could find laying around - duct tape, trash bags, wax paper, tin foil, dowels and string.  We would spend hours, sometimes days, creating the newest contraption, excitedly designing the next flying masterpiece, and run out to the fields as wildly as the Wright Brothers with less knowledge in physics, but just as much heart. 

We would launch our vessels to the wind, watch them dart and shimmy as the wind beat and battered them.  The kites would curtsy and bow - flutter and flirt with the breeze, and eventually would spiral violently and nose dive into the ground.  We would look at each other - laugh like crazy, exclaiming how awesome it was when the kite was airborne for the few brief moments before it's catastrophic fate.  We would run over to the crash site, gather up the crumpled pieces and walk back to the house, chattering about how we would make it better next time. 

Kites at Bug Light, South Portland ME
Glue sticks, glitter, streamers and a few hours later, we would be back at it for another attempt.

Kites at Bug Light, South Portland, ME
Kites at Bug Light, South Portland, ME
Never once do I remember feeling defeated or dismayed when my creation took a nose dive.  It was part of the thrill and fun to see how long we could get our masterpieces airborne.  I loved the creativity and the challenge of it all.  I schemed, designed, and wittingly created the most beautiful kites that were as flight worthy as an ostrich.  It was awesome.

So why do I sit here, in tears and frustrated, ready to call defeat when seeing my latest creation take a dive? Why is it so hard as an adult to pick up the pieces, spackle on some glitter and duct tape and try again?  Where did that sense of adventure and pure joy of seeing my masterpieces fly, even if just for a short time, before they spiral and hit the ground?  Where did the enthusiasm of rebuilding go? 

Remembering how kites challenge the winds of my childhood reminds me that the masterpieces I am working on will take flight, and there is joy to be had in creating them.  Just the excitement of the launch, running like crazy with all the hope and anticipation in the world is exhilarating.   I need to hold on to that string - I need to keep running.  My kite will take flight -I just need to believe.... and a little glitter and duct tape might do the trick. 

Paradise is here, Paradise is now .... Paradise is taking flight....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I am a river...

Wooded Stream, Douglas Mountain
I don't have the money.  I don't have the resources.  I don't have the time.  I don't know how.  I could never pull it off.  I'm too fat, I'm too lazy, I don't have enough energy, I can't keep up.  I'm unsure, I'm not smart enough, I will never fit in.  They won't like me, they won't accept me, I should just give up.

I can make a million excuses to stay mired in mud.  And, if I really want to wallow in self pity - I will believe all the excuses.  But watching MyHoney recover from what could have put many people in the ultimate mud pit has reminded me - "where there is a will, there is a way."  He has had obstacles put in his way, but he flows around them.  He is determined to not remain stagnant - he knows he is strong, powerful and swift, even at first if his recovery starts off as just a trickle.

MyHoney, finding his way around obstacles in his way...
I woke up this morning feeling stuck and stagnant.  Seems like the same old problems keep following me around.  I wanted to call defeat.  I wanted to sit in the mud and wallow in self pity.... While sipping my coffee I kept thinking to myself "I need to get out of this mindset - I need to get unstuck"  I know from coaching, I needed to shift my focus from what I couldn't do, to what I could do.... from what I don't want, to what I do want.  I don't want to be stuck.  I don't want to be mired in the mud - I want to be like a river.

 Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river. ~  Lao Tzu

Swift River, Coos Canyon - Byron M
"I am a river.... " I said to myself.  "I am a river - I go with the flow.  When obstacles get in my way, I find a way around - I find a way up, over and across.  I may start as a trickle ... I may churn and get turbulent, but I am always flowing.  I can wear down the boulders in my way..... I am a river ... I go with the flow.... at first as a trickle, then as I gain momentum, I gain strength." 

Whether you are recovering from surgery, illness, financial set backs, or if you seem to be in a holding pattern of not moving forward, you need to remember you are not a mud puddle - you are not stagnant and mired - you are a river.  When you go with the flow, you can find ways around obstacles.  With enough persistence, you can even cut through the boulders that get in your way.

Swift River, Township E
Everything that we want is downstream...  And you don't have even have to turn the boat and paddle downstream, just let go of the oars, the current will carry you. ~Esther Hicks

Once I finished my mantra, I wrote a list of all the things I can do - things that are within my control, that can get me through this obstacle I am facing.  I kept in mind that I may need to start as a trickle, and once I gain momentum, I can take on more.  With the list of things I can do to change the shape of my landscape in front of me, I felt amazingly unstuck - I will go with the flow.  I am a river.

Paradise is here, Paradise is now ~ Paradise is being in the flow.....

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Second Agreement...

The Four Agreements ~ Don Miguel Ruiz
"Dogs wearing clothes is just WRONG! If you want to have a baby, have a baby. Let the dog be a dog."  

My jaw dropped and my face flushed when I read the comment on my Facebook wall resulting from the pictures I posted of our Autumn walk.  I was blown away that a woman I barely knew would say something so insensitive.  I sat on my fingers and waited for my head to cool before typing a response.
We live in Maine, and we share the woods with sportsmen of all kinds - 4-wheelers, snowmobilers, fishermen, hikers - and most importantly, from mid-October until the end of November, we share our woods with hunters.

I have always respected hunters.  They help thin our deer herd, keeping down population and disease, and responsible hunters use the deer meat to stock their freezers.  The challenge is sharing the woods with people who are in hot pursuit of big game, who are carrying big guns.  I would say (if I had to guess) 95% of Maine hunters are responsible.  They follow the rule books.  They identify their targets before they shoot, and they pay attention to no-hunting zoning and houses.  But its the ones who aren't as responsible that you have to trust your life with... and the life of my dogs.  Even if you are walking in a "no hunting zone" all it takes is one wayward hunter to take you down.  To take personal responsibility for my safety, and the safety of my dogs, we wear blaze orange from day one of hunting season until hunting season is over.  I've had hunters walking on the trail thank me for wearing blaze.  It's common sense to protect the safety of everyone so we can all enjoy the beauty of the Maine woods. 

So, when we discovered we couldn't find our dogs vests from the year before, we decided to go buy new ones.  Unfortunately, everyone had the same idea we did because the dog safety vest shelves at Pet Quarters were empty.  A trip to the pet department at Walmart turned out to be a bust as well.  Getting disappointed that we weren't going to be able to take the dogs out that day, MyHoney suggested small kids t-shirts.  For $7.00 each, we walked out with an extra small toddlers shirt for Lexi, and a small for Derby.  I had my doubts whether they would fit, or the dogs would want to wear them, but we went for it.  Turned out, they loved their shirts - and oddly enough, were the best behaved I've ever seen them on a walk.

 Just four short weeks ago, MyHoney was still in the hospital.  Four weeks ago, a walk like this one - out in the glorious sun, out with our two dogs, out holding each others hands as leaves drifted down from the trees, would not have been possible.  Because of the bargain at Walmart, and our dogs willingness to participate, we could safely share the woods with the hunters on a glorious Saturday in October.

So, when I read the comment from my "friend" about how ridiculous she thought it was to put clothes on a dog, and how I should just have a baby if I wanted to dress something up so badly ... it hurt.  I took it personally.  I got upset.  I got defensive about my choice to stay childfree, and angered that she didn't even know I had a choice.  What if I couldn't have children?  Her insensitive comment would have cut to the core.  After a while, I was not only angry how her comment effected me, but I was angry about how her comment effected every woman I knew.  I have close friends who are desperately trying to have a baby, only to have their dreams crushed each month. 

Then I got upset for my dogs.  Of course I love my dogs.  I dote on them -they are my joy.  They lift me up, they are by my side, they are my constant companions.  And you know what? Even if I had kids, I would still love and dote on my dogs.  There is enough love in my heart for every member of my family.

I spent so much time and energy chewing on this comment (that may have been written in jest, or as an attempt to be funny) I realized that I wasn't doing myself any favors.  I was creating drama and needless suffering over something someone said - I was taking it personally.  I sat for a few minutes this morning - practiced the Metta Bhavana, and blessed her for teaching me this lesson.    I then sat in gratitude for my life, gratitude for my choices and decisions, gratitude for MyHoney, my dogs, our life.  Gratitude for our lovely walk on a beautiful Autumn day.  I closed my eyes and imagined holding his hand, feeling the joy in my heart, and hearing his laughter as our dogs joyfully bounded through the trees.

Paradise is here, Paradise is now.... Paradise is not taking anything personally.