Follow by Email

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chains

I went to another funeral yesterday. 

He was killed by a drunk driver.  Ivan was a son, father, friend and brother, gone too soon like so many others.

During the traditional Catholic mass, there was not a dry eye in the house.  And more so, what was really amazing was the priest's compassion.  He knew Ivan and was connected to the family, he watched him grow up.

This priest gave one of the most honest and heartfelt sermons during the service, I truly felt like he understood and had deep sympathy for all those in attendance.  Rather than sit on the pulpit, spewing off words out of the bible, he stood directly in front of the family, spoke from his heart and embraced each one with genuine love and compassion.

There were about 400 people at this funeral, maybe more.  The church was packed and Ivan was a friend to each and every one of them.  I saw people I had not seen since high school over 20 years ago. 

It's times like these that we fondly remember the days of our youth and how quickly they pass.  We make proclamations to see one another again, "not under these circumstances," but yet we never seem to find the time...Until we meet again at someone else's funeral.

I am no stranger to loss.  It is a time to reach out to those that are still here.  It is a time to mourn, remember and reflect.  It is a time to feel deep sadness.  It is also an opportunity to grow. 

Clearly we know that life is short and can be taken from us any minute. And still we let the world hold us back, hold us down, from opening our hearts and following our dreams. But is it the world that holds us back or is it ourselves? 

 Maybe the the Eagles summed it up the best...

"So often times it happens, that we live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key..."

When I think about the people I've lost, people like Ivan, I think about how they lived.  Did they live their lives in chains?  What they would have done differently if they had the chance? 

While it may seem cliche, life really is about taking the bull by the horns and living, really LIVING.  We've still got the chance so we ought to try our best to do it with what's in our hearts and follow our dreams.  Carpe diem, as the saying goes.

When will you open your lock and seize the day?  It's the simple things in life like laughter and joy that we take for granted.  It's much easier to forgive and let go of anger, hatred and resentment than it is to walk around carrying those heavy chains.

Today take a little time to to remember the people we have loved and lost. Take time to daydream, forgive and practice gratitude.  Take time to reconnect with someone you've lost contact with.  Take some time to connect with your true self and open your heart.

It may seem daunting but if you start with a little searching and a lot of patience, and I am certain that you will find your key.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Grocery Shopping

Yesterday was just one of those days.  As I posted before, we started the morning off with a trip to Disneyland which was great.

As the afternoon progressed, my mood began to shift.  Blame it on hormones, at least I do anyway.

So I pick Gavin up from his buddies house and hit the grocery on our way home, needed to find some stuff for dinner.  Maybe a nice salad, some veggies and one of those roasted chickens (so I was cheating a little in terms of cooking, so sue me...)

As we approach the store, Piper decides she must sit in the new race car grocery cart.  After an intense disinfecting wipe down of the cart that would envy the likes of a Silkwood shower, I put her in the seat and we rolled on in to the deli counter.

On the way, Gav spotted fried chicken.  Well I am not a huge fan of the fried stuff and try to limit our intake, but I decided that he could get a few pieces of it from the deli and I would get a baked breast.  There was a big sign posted, something like "Buy 8 pieces of chicken for $5.99" or something of that nature. 

So I ask the man at the counter for "Four chicken legs and one breast, Please," to which he replies "Ok" in a voice so low and raspy that I'm not quite sure if he's agreed to it or told me to screw off.

As we wait for the chicken, Piper starts to get restless, wants out of the cart and throws a pretty sincere tantrum.  In what seems like hours later, we finally get the chicken.  The deli man hands me two bags, each with a separate label.  The contents of one: four tiny fried chicken legs for 5.99, the other one, a dehydrated breast for 1.99.

I accept the bags, wipe away Piper's tears with my sleeve and proceed with my shopping, all the while stewing about what now occurs to me is a total rip-off.

Gavin, Piper, the blue race car and I weaved through the aisles, collecting the rest of our staples.  By the time we reached the milk and OJ, I was about ready to throw my own tantrum.  I just could not accept that this chicken, this pathetic, overcooked, dry chicken was about to cost me nearly ten bucks!

I looked at Gavin and, no joke, said this: "Take your sister down to the fruits and vegetables. Get some bananas and I'll meet you down there. I don't want to embarrass you but I am NOT buying this chicken.  I have to take it back to the raspy voiced deli guy."

So he went one way and I the other.  In an act of defiance, I marched right up to the deli, put the two sad little bags on the counter and said "I'm not buying this!  I just can't pay eight dollars for five pieces of chicken, I'm sorry!"

The gal at the counter looked at me like I was a little bit of a psycho, and honestly I can't argue with her. 
At least I didn't hide it behind the Cheerios on the cereal aisle!

So while I may have embarrassed myself, I managed to spare my 12 year-old son's feelings and ultimately I was pleased that I stood up for myself against the deli bully.

I tell ya, I was this close to ripping open a bag of Carolina BBQ Lays right there on the chip aisle but thought nah, I wouldn't want to be one of those ladies...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Signs

Signs, they are everywhere. 

We just have to notice them.

I am not talking about the kinds of signs that surround us, you know like street signs and banners and that sort of thing.

I am talking about the signs we don't see.

The beauty in those signs is that they are everywhere in everything, a flickering light, a smell in the kitchen or even a T.V. commercial.

Today, I got just the sign I needed.  I was at the Magic Kingdom once again, along with thousands of other people.   We were headed toward the Winnie the Pooh ride and as my daughter Piper and I made our way through the crowds of tourists and locals, a country band of four set up shop in between the Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain. 

A small crowd began to gather around.  As the music started and the guy on the banjo began to strum,  I thought I recognized the song.  Maybe it was the Eagles or Steve Miller, or something like that.  I started smiling and then the guitarist started singing...

"I've been walkin' these streets so long,
Singin' the same old song,
I know every crack on these dirty sidewalks of Broadway..."

As soon as the first words came out, I knew it was my Dad saying hi and then I burst into tears.

That was our song...not your typical father/daughter song but we were not your typical father and daughter.

I remember when I was little, maybe four or five, Dad would pick me up on Saturday mornings to spend the weekend together.  I would climb into his big white Chevy truck.  He'd get into the driver's seat and I would stand next to him with my arm propped up on his shoulder.  He would turn the radio on and Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy" would start playing.  We would both sing together, horribly off-key,  tone deaf and happy. 

My Dad had quite a few other favorite songs but he was most known for changing lyrics to suit his moods...Some of his all-time favorites were "Stop in the neighborhood before you break my heart" and "On the comode again, just can't wait to get on the comode again..."

Now that he is gone, I know that I won't ever hear his rendition of these classics, but I know one thing for sure, as long as I am looking for them, the signs of his presence are everywhere.

And like the glimmering lights on the Rhinestone Cowboy, Dad's light will still stay shining on me...

So open your heart and your eyes.

And just when you need it most, there it will be...A sign.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Writer's Block

I love to write.
And as a result of that, here I sit…stumped.
Writer’s block, a good old-fashioned case.
My cat is perched above my shoulders doing a balancing act on the back of my leather chair.  Perhaps her constant purring (that’s her way of nagging) and jumping around me and the keyboard will provide some sort of profound idea that will allow me to run my fingers at lightning speed, spewing out words that can shape and mold the minds of others.  Nah, instead it just means I need to feed her.
So here I sit.
They say that in order to become an expert at something, well anything, one must spend at least 10,000 hours devoted to practice, then end result: EXPERTISE.     
Well I can assure you that I have probably spent double that writing and I wouldn’t call myself an expert by any means.  I would really like to know who “they” are and exactly how “they” came up with that number!
The fact of the matter is that I want to be a writer therefore I must write.  Even if it seems nonsensical and trivial, I will soldier on because that’s what the experts say on becoming an expert, right?
So here I sit.
I’ve just glanced at the clock and I see that it’s now 6:54 a.m.  One thing I am discovering, I am feeling my most inspired and creative in the early morning hours.  If I am able to get up ahead of the rest, I might actually begin to produce some quality work. 
Yesterday I was up at 5:30.  I started my book.  I will be interested to see how it takes shape, what direction it goes and where I will end up.  I suppose this means I will need to forfeit Seinfeld reruns at 10:00 and devote myself to an earlier bed time.  That’s ok, if I am going to take a stab at this writing thing, I am willing to make certain sacrifices, even if it means I don’t get to see the Soup Nazi on a Wednesday night.
The cat is still purring (nagging) and the troops will be up soon so I am signing off…
Well, would you look at that? 
Here I sat, and wrote.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I love books.
I love that they are solid and the pages vary in thickness. Some have hard glossy covers, some have muted grey covers and some have soft flimsy covers.
I love to have books on shelves, table tops and night stands.
More than that, I love the way books make me feel. Connected to myself, to the deepest layers of my innermost feelings.  That with each book I read, I feel like I’ve peeled back a sliver of my soul and exposed another part of my being.
I’m not going to lie, not all books generate such divine levels of enlightenment, but even a Dr. Suess book can provide deep memories and evoke feelings from my childhood.  At the same time, Dr. Suess can connect me to the present as I recite “Green Eggs and Ham,” for the thirteen thousandth time to my bright-eyed toddler.  As I read the story aloud, I can almost see her imagination swirling around as she ponders the various places to enjoy the delicacy with the company of “Sam-I-am.” I can reflect back on the days I read the story to my son, now an official “tween,” and know that on the purist level, we shared laughter and smiles that only a book can provide.  Those feelings and moments connect me two-fold, with myself and my children.
Sadly, there are some books that I don’t read past page three.  Then there are books that I’ve read portions of, dog-eared the page and put back on the shelf or in a drawer with full intentions of returning to…when I have the time.  Unfortunately, more often than not, they stay put, never to be picked up again.  Oh but I still can’t bear to part with them.  Because I know that some day, I will return to those books with this goal in mind: to finish reading each and every page.  It’s as though I can’t admit that not all books are created equal.  Hanging on to them is sort of an obsession, but I would not call it unhealthy… don’t go calling “Hoarders” on me.  I do admit that it might be strange that I am still holding on to some college texts. But, you never know when you might need that handy reference material and hey, maybe I really enjoyed that class on public speaking or human sexuality...
The truth is, a real page-turner, well I just can’t put it down.   I read with the fervor of a student cramming for an exam, almost to the point of exhaustion.  I’ve spent many a night up until midnight anxious to find out what happens next.  I feel so engaged and connected to the story that somehow I’ve weaved myself in…maybe as the quiet observer or the know-it-all sister but more often than not I identify with the heroin and can find eerie similarities to our personalities, almost as if this story has been written about me.  Am I really engaged or does that make me an narcissist?  God, I hope not!
Why not buy a “Kindle” or a “Nook” you might ask?  Well, the fact of the matter is that I am old-fashioned when it comes to books.  I genuinely like them and holding one in my hands, turning the pages and feeling the scratchy paper beneath my finger tips is one of the reasons I enjoy them so much.  Yes, the story is the entertaining part.  But…to me it’s like shopping for jeans.  You don’t just pick out  jeans off the rack; you have to try them on.  Sometimes the first pair is the one, a rare treat.  Sometimes you have to try at least 30 pair only to leave empty-handed.  The bottom line is you never know if they are going to fit until you’ve spent some time in the dressing room. 
Strolling through the book store, perusing through fiction or health and wellness (my two personal favorites) takes time and effort.  A flashy cover might get my attention at first, but once I open it and read through a page or two, I decide if that book is going home with me or will remain on the shelf alone until some other interested reader finds its pages intriguing. 
Through books, we discover that our potential is limitless.  Our imagination is free to run wild and there are no rules about which way the story goes within our mind.  We are directing the movie in our head and the boundaries of ordinary life no longer exist.  We can paint colorful backdrops and create unique characters.  The images we construct allow us to express our own ideas and connect to the story, the writer and to ourselves.
Have you ever heard a person argue that “the movie was much better than the book?”  Quite the contrary...a movie based on a book is someone else’s vision of the story and they’ve made it personal, their own interpretation.   Can we blame them?  If we all had access to creating films, wouldn’t we want to put our favorite stories on the silver screen to share the beauty and joy of our own vision? 
Reading is an adventure.  When we pick up a book and open its cover we begin a journey. We explore our consciousness and conjure up vivid portraits of people and places.  We imagine the people we might meet and places we might travel to some day.  We connect ourselves to these ideas and images and there is nothing more beautiful than the picture coming together in our mind. 
Books are so much more than bound paper and words. Books (and their authors) inspire us and give us hope.  They allow us to dream and to dream big.  They give us knowledge and power, power to change our lives and the world around us.  They teach us compassion and patience.  They allow us moments of escape and give us the opportunity to change our lives. 
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I love books.  Oh, and the writers ain't so bad either.