To Live Gratitude is to Touch Heaven (Gaertner)
October 30, 2009

It has been a long and strange week.  An odd assortment of happenings and circumstances have occurred and my emotions are all mixed up and jumbled.  Kenneth had a bleed this week – always sparking worry for me.  Not because of the medical issue – I have dealt with hemophilia and hemorrhages all my life.  I just never know how Kenneth is going to do with it.  He hates needles and doctors and doesn’t handle pain very well at all.  He actually cooperated quite well with keeping ice and an ace-wrap on it Monday night.  He was still sleeping when I left for work on Tuesday and I was a little stressed because I had a mandatory meeting in the middle of the day.  Of course, he calls me just as the meeting starts.  I texted and learned that his knee was worse and was going to need an infusion.  If you are not familiar with hemophilia, or what an infusion is – a quick overview.  His blood is missing a factor that causes it to clot when there has been trauma to the body.  So, where most of us might bump into something and maybe have a red mark or scrape, Kenneth will have a massive bruise.  The more serious the trauma to soft tissue or organs, the more significant the “bleed”.  A minor bleed can be treated with cold and compression.  Moderate to severe hemorrhages require Kenneth to have concentrated Factor IX infused intraveneously – usually once or twice a day for 1 – 4 days.  So, the kid is already in pain, then has to be jabbed, not just into his arm or soft tissue, but directly into his vein.  He happens to have the misfortune to have small, mobile veins.  So, if the nurse is not exceptionally skilled, he is hard to “hit”.  I once watched as a veteran nurse stick him 6 times and still was never able to succeed.

So, one can’t really blame him for doing everything in his power to avoid an infusion.  Luckily, over the last year he has matured, learned to trust the nurses at clinic, and been more responsible about managing his disorder.  So, even though I had to take off work and bring him to clinic, he was not only cooperative, but told me he drank 4 glasss of orange juice to help hydrate himself and make his veins an easier target.  It was a bit nerve wracking balancing work and clinic, preparing the concentrate, getting Kenneth in and out of the house on crutches in the rain.  Not the worse case scenario, and I was still very tired at the end of the day.

That evening, I received a phone call from my ex.  He wanted to let me know that the mother of a friend of ours had passed away.  I know, it seems a rather benign situation – yet it put me into a bit of an emotional tail-spin.  Having experienced the deaths of 3 siblings and both parents – I am highly empathetic to others’ losses.  It can also bring a lot of my own grief to the surface.  The thing that caught me off guard though, was a wave – no more of a surge – of emotions  surrounding the loss of friends that occurred after the divorce.  This friend in particular, and his wife, were people I would spend time with nearly every weekend and sometimes during the week.  We would gather for baseball games, Mizzou basketball games, political debates.  We had dinner and went to parties and movies together regularly.  They were with me during the illnesses and deaths of most of my family members.  My dad passed away on New Years Eve and this friend joined my family that night as we pulled together and toasted the passing of a complex man and a difficult year.  I believed I was as close to this person as friends could be.  Yes, I met him through my ex – and they had been friends for a long time before I met them.  I thought, though, that we had a friendship that extended beyond the confined of mine and my exes relationship.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not the only friendship and relationship I have lost in the chaos of divorce, death and raising 4 traumatized children.  It’s just this was probably the closest and the event of his mom passing away brought all of this crashing in on me.  I was overwhelmed by sadness for his loss, missing this friendship more than I had realized I did, and a high level of awareness of the many others that have disappeared from my life.  It is hard to say if these relationships have dissapated because of choosing which of us to stay with in the aftermath of the divorce, or because of the drastic change in lifestyle I under went when the kids came into my life.

This is by no means meant to place blame.  It just is.  And it happened to hit hard this week how much I miss some of these friends.

Wednesday was parent-teacher conferences with Megan’s teachers.  School is always a hot-button for all of my kids.  I have described in earlier posts how Kenneth has struggled with the authoritarian environment common to all schools.  The girls, also having Attachment Disorder, have issues as well.  They manifest a bit differently, but the end result is the same – unhappy kids, unhappy teachers, unhappy mom.  If Megan likes a teacher, or if there are minimal requirements (art, music) – she is typically a star performer.  Subjects that require her to put forth effort, do homework and pay attention – not so much.  She starts high school next year, and in order for her to get into one that is safe and will provide her with what she needs to go to college, she needs to really kick into gear.  So, I was absolutely dismayed to see that she had C’s and a D in most of her core subjects.  The good new is, so was she.  She actually teared up – where in the past she would just brush it off and make a joke about it.  She sat with me and participated in discussions with the teachers about what she can do to bring her grades up.  The teachers were great – reinforcing the difference they see in the effort she is puting forth and encouraging her that if she follows through with their suggestions she will easily be an A-B student.  So, another night of emotional ups and downs.  In the end, I felt good ab0ut the conferences and Megan’s performance.  And, I was exhausted when I got home.

Then, yesterday, after work, I brought my 18 year old cat to the vet to be put to sleep.  I have had her for 17 years – she was given to me by my ex when we first started dating.  I named her Shadow – as in Me and My Shadow – she used to follow me everywhere.  We had to put our dog down just a couple of months ago and every death dredges up the kids’ fears and unresolved issues.  Patsy, who has been on rocky emotional terrain already took it especially hard.  She wanted to be with Shadow when the procedure was administered.  Once Shad went to sleep, Pasty began howling and bawling.  Now mind you, she had not interacted with this cat for weeks, maybe months – and she was often mean to her.  I found myself feeling so angry and resentful toward Patsy that I could hardly bear it.

This morning I was so tired and emotionally drained that I considered taking the day off of work – but since the kids were off school I realized it would actually be less stressful to go to the office.  Luckily I had no meetings and it was a quiet day.  After work I finally made it to the gym – the first time all week.  Thankfully that did wonders for my state of mind – along with the fact that it is finally Friday and I now have the weekend to recuperate. 

I have been working to be aware of all of life as a gift and to live in gratitude.  It is an interesting exercise to open up to sadness, resentment, aggrevation and emotional fatigue AND do so in gratitude.  It feels counter-intuitive and contradictory.  I am sure it will feel more natural as I do it more often.  Even now, though, it is a much less desparaging experience than to lamblast myself with guilt, shame, and self reproach.

It is a new and wonderful experience to treat myself with the same compassion, patience and gentleness as I do with the kids.  I highly recommend everyone give it a try.

copyrighted 10/30/09

The Chaos Factor
October 26, 2009

One of the difficulties in raising kids with Attachment Disorder is that they crave chaos and instability.  It sounds bizarre and is irrational, but there is a certain logic to this drive.  When these children are very young they experience high levels of stress, frustration, and fear.  This causes their brain to be flooded with adrenalin.  They come to percieve this state as normal and safe.  It allows them to remain on “high alert” – ready for fight, flight, or freeze – as soon as their world becomes stressful and frightening – which they have come to believe always will, and likely sooner rather than later.

When there is more than one child in the family with AD, it creates an interesting group dynamic.  It may seem like one child in particular has more acting out behaviors and does the most to create chaos in the environment.  The other children likely have certain triggers, but have behaviors that tend to be expressed with less frequency and intensity.  That is, until the most disregulated child becomes calmer and more stable.  Then, the kids that you thought were pretty stable start melting down and you wonder what the heck happened!

In our family, Kenneth has been the kid that most actively communicated his fears and anger – not verbally or rationally, but through uncooperative, rude, aggressive, and sometimes bizarre behaviors.  When he was on a major tirade the girls would have a domino effect and the entire house would be in an uproar.  I hadn’t really noticed it until lately, but when he was engaging in his more typical, consistent, and persistent acts of attempting to be the one in control, the girls would actually be more mellow and want my attention and affection.  I at first interpreted this to mean that they were unsettled by his behavior and were looking for reassureance from me.  Apparently, not so much.  They were actually in their “comfort zone”.  They had their adrenalin rush and recognized the familiar levels of tension.  All was as it should be.

Because Kenneth was seemingly struggling more with his demons, the lion’s share of the work we were doing with the attachment therapist was directed toward him.  The girls were included, and had interventions as well, but not as intensely.  Over the past 2 years, a combination of maturity, attachment therapy, a more condusive learning environment, and my stubborn determination to love him has garnered pretty amazing results.  We have not had a physical altercation or aggressive verbal outburst for nearly 4 months.  Kenneth not only cooperates with doing his chores, he frequently offers help and engages in random acts of kindness.  He certainly is not a perfect kid and there are still some episodes of stomping up stairs,talking back under his breath and not following all of the rules.  And that is completely normal.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to sit back and appreciate this metamorphasis – because Patsy has deemed herself as Kenneth’s proxy.

I have had a much more difficult time dealing with Patsy in this role.  I’m still not entirely sure why – except maybe because I am resentful that we were so close to achieving a peaceful, stable household.  And maybe because she was typically a sweet, funny, affectionate little girl with a wise and knowing soul.  Of course she had her moments and could put Kenneth to shame when she was in full melt-down.  But it happened less frequently and she emerged from these tirades as a sad, scared, little girl. 

Now, however, she is nearly always in some kind of a funk or another.  She rarely smiles, constantly questions me and argues, and seems to intentionally target me and push my buttons – then screams at me for hating her.  It is as if she slaps me in the face, then blames me for being such a rotten mom, forcing her to punish me.  It is about the most difficult thing I have ever done, to not take this personally. 

In fact, as I write this, I can see that she is mirroring onto me what she feels about herself.  She may well be mad at me for Kenneth being so much calmer now.  She has to act out to keep her comfort zone in place.  She is compelled to keep the tension present and at a high level.  And she desperately wants Kenneth to take his role back, so she doesn’t have to be the one to keep the chaos going.  That is why she also targets him and pushes his buttons every chance she gets.

So, we are stepping up our focus on Patsy, while being sure to help keep Kenneth focused and on track and making sure Megan doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.  Patsy is seeing 2 therapists and we try to make sure she has at least one session a week.  Tom and I take turns doing “snuggle time” with her every night before she goes to bed.  We are intent on hugging all of them all throughout the day.  I also try to make sure I spend time laughing with each of them every day. 

I have been told VERY often in my life that I am stubborn, headstrong, obstinate and willful.  Many people in my life (especially work supvervisors!) have seen this as a terrible fault and a negative trait.  I see it as my saving grace – and possibly the best gift I can give my kids.  I refuse to ever give up on them and I will persist until they are all confident, happy, healthy individuals who know just how valuable and loved they are.

Copyrighted 10/26/09

Intention is 20/20 Vision
September 30, 2009

I made a vision board a few weeks ago.  For those who may not know, a vision board is a collage of pictures, phrases, symbols, or other images that respresent the life you envision.  It can include the things in your life now for which you are grateful or want to celebrate, as well as how your life will look when your hopes, dreams and intentions come to pass.  It can include material possessions, achievement of goals, and/or types of relationships.  The focus can be narrow – such as what your career/work life is like, or expansive and encompassing all aspects of life.  Mine was very broad and included home/family, career/work, relationships/community impacts, financial goals, and emotional/spiritual growth.

The vision board can be used in a number of ways.  It can be a focal point for visioning/meditation exercises, it can also be posted or placed somewhere that you see it frequently so that the images become familiar and are incorporated into your subconscious.  I sort of do both.  I keep it next to my bed.  I make take time for it each day when I wake up and before I go to sleep.  Sometimes I use images or words for meditation or visioning exercises, other times, I just gaze at it, but don’t specifically focus on it.

One important key to using a vision board is to avoid the term (and emotions associated with) “want”.  Wanting something insinuates that it is currently lacking.  When your thoughts and energy are focused on the absence of something, or the scarcity of it, that is what you continue to invite into your life.  You will notice in my first paragraph, I do not say that a vision board represents what you want, but how you envision your life.  It may feel like semantics, and it may seem at odds with your understanding of your current reality.  You may say – I don’t have a fulfilling job, so I want a fulfilling job, or I don’t have enough money, so I want more money.  The thing is, as long as your thoughts and energy are concentrated on your being unfulfilled, or experiencing a lack of money, that will be your perception of your reality.  It may be because we only see what we expect to see, or it may be that we are incredibly powerful, divine beings that create what we will.  I believe it is both.

One of the areas of my vision board addresses my kids.  It contains images, words and pictures that envision them as happy, healthy, and eager learners.  I included my wish for them to be at peace, to experience emotional safety, and to have their own dreams for achievement, love, and sense of purpose.  I have chosen to make this my first priority therefore this section is my primary area of focus when I do visioning and meditation.  In a matter of weeks, I am seeing these intentions coming to fruition.  Kenneth is attending work readiness training and will be enrolling in GED on Friday – he is well on his way to achieve his goals of having a job and attending a techical school to gain certification in computer software development and design.  Megan has the best grades ever, and is excited about visiting high schools.  Patsy receives good progress reports every week and is seeing herself as a smart and capable student.  The most unexpected result is that we are re-estabishing a loving, fun, positive relationship with Cristi.  She has been coming every other weekend to have Sunday dinner with us.  It is such a joy to have the entire famiy together sharing a meal, laughs and memories.

Is the vision board a magic tool for creating the life I envision?  Am I using the powers of the Universe to align the physical world to be in synchronicity with my intentions?  Am I just focusing on the positive, catching the kids in those moments and reinforcing the desired behavior?  Perhaps – yes, yes and yes.  I will leave you to come to your own conclusion.  I do urge anyone that believes there is a better, happier, more fulfilling, safer, wealthier, and/or healthier future out there to do a vision board.  If nothing else, it can give you hope and ideas for moving in your intended direction.  I would love to hear comments from anyone that decides to take me up on my challenge. 

May all your hopes, dreams and intentions come true!

copyrighted 9/30/09

Slug-A-Bug, Love Bug!
September 22, 2009

Have you ever played the driving game “Slug-a-bug”?  I remember playing it as a kid with my brothers and sister.  My kids and I love to play it whenever we are out and about in the car.  It is amazing, it can seem like there are hundreds of volkswagen beetles on the road.  In fact, we often see so many that we include the color of the particular “bug” we are slugging – “slug-a-bug, yellow bug!”  Sometimes we switch it up and play “Cruiser-bruiser” or “twin car” – finding other Chrysler Pacifica’s.  If you aren’t really looking, or paying attention, it just seems like the road is filled with lots of generic cars.  But when you pay attention, and start looking, it is amazing how many Bugs, PT Cruisers and/or Pacifica’s are out there.

I have come to believe that life is like that.  If we are focused on everything that is wrong with the world, or our family or ourselves – that is what we will see.  And we will point to overwhelming evidence that the world is a frightening, unloving, evil, place filled with cruel, unfeeling, narcissistic beings.  It can seem like even people who act in kind ways are only doing so for purely selfish reasons.  Interestingly, when I have found my perspective to be skewed in this direction, I have also been in a most selfish, egocentric, fearful, angry state.  I actually began taking on the characteristics and behaviors of the environment and people I judged as maliscious and wicked.  I was so fearful of the dark, that I refused to open my eyes to face it.  I got so used to the dark, that I adapted to it and to some extent became a part of the darkness.

I cannot pinpoint any one person, incident, or statement that lead to my metamorphasis – I believe a vast number of miracles, loving acts, and fateful experiences were involved.  What was amazing, is that when I did open my eyes, I realized that it was only the act of keeping them closed that kept me in the dark. 

When I began to look for the light, it was everywhere.  When I started focusing on the kindness, love and beauty in me, in my life and in the world, I noticed these things existed in an overwhelmingly higher proportion than any of the things of which I was afraid. 

Just like when we play “slug-a-bug”, it seems that these cute little cars appear on roads, streets and highways more frequently than any other make and model.

The real miracle here is that I now fully understand that I have complete control over whether I live in a fear-ridden, cruel, vile world; or a safe, loving, peaceful world.  I get to choose. 

When I choose to focus on love instead of fear, I actually create my reality.  I begin attracting peaceful environments to me.  I manifest devoted, passionate people into my life who further support my  joy and gratitude for life.

The gift I most want to give to my loved ones is this perspective of abundant love.  I have learned that this is a gift that cannot be given away.  The only way I could ever hope to pass it on is by holding it close to my heart and living it completely.  Then, my kids, family, friends, and the world at large have the opportunity to experience the safety and c0mfort they need to open their eyes and see.

copyrighted 9/22/09

September 9, 2009

I love dates that are number patterns – like today – 09/09/09, or in July – 7/8/9.  I don’t really know why.  It seems in general we are drawn to patterns and that we give great significance to certain numbers and patterns.  Deeming some lucky and some evil.  Like 6-6-6.  Was June 6, 2006 an evil day?  Is it bad luck if your lunch bill is $6.66?  Is 9-9-9 the opposite of evil, or evil to the 3rd power?

What if there is no evil?

It is interesting to me that people often react with more fear at that thought, than the thought that true evil exits.  I find that mind boggling.

I grew up Catholic – and it seems the religion I was taught was more about the struggle between good and evil than it was about the message that God is the all loving creator of all life.  There were many more hours spent teaching me about evil and punishment than ever dedicated to love and forgiveness.

I can remember as as small child being very confused by the two versions of God that were preached.  God is all loving, all forgiving, the father of all creation who granted us free will and who is omnipotent – and – God is vengeful, God punishes sin, God judges, and God only accepts into his heavenly kingdom those who obey his laws. 

First of all, if God is all powerful, how could there be a fallen angel or a devil at war with him?  Especially if he is also vengeful?  He would blast that evil soul out of existence.  If he created something, he can certainly uncreate it if he doesn’t like it.  A being is either all powerful or not all powerful.  I can’t imagine an all powerful being tolerating a demon running around harrassing his beloved creations.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.

And…if God granted us free will, why would he judge and punish us for using it??  That would be like me telling my kids “Sure, you can eat all the ice cream you want!”, then grounding them for life for doing so.  Again, I cannot find the logic in that.

I know lots of people will say that the bible tells us that God judges and punishes and has set out the rules for what is right and what is wrong.  It seems to me that since the bible was written by human beings it is likely that their own interpretations, life experiences, culture, and belief systems are intertwined with the enlightenment with which they were graced.  It is still man’s take on God’s word.

So, what if evil does not exist?  What if this war between good and evil is really our human experience of balancing our holy selves with our human selves; our spirit with our ego?  Every act I can think of that I have heard people define as evil seems to me to be directly connected to ego-centricity or even ego-mania.  Ego is of the physical world – it is concerned with self and self importance.  Spirit is of the metaphysical world and is concerned with the the whole of life experience.  When ego is in the power seat, it can drive one to act in ways that can be described as greedy, envious, prideful, and lustful.  When one is in touch with their spirit, they are more likely to act in ways defined as charitable, patient, kind, and full of humility.

Having my kids has driven this home for me more than any other experience I have encountered in my life.  I have come to understand that these kids live in mortal fear of being abandoned, abused and neglected.  They did not have the capacity to trust that anyone would be there to take care of them, keep them safe, and love them.  This excessive fear has caused them to act out in ways that on the surface look to be greedy, gluttonous, vengeful, and ungrateful.

They are not evil children, they are frightened children.  Fear is the fuel of Ego – the more fear, the greater the control ego has in ones life.

Initially I reacted to my kids the way I had learned to as a “good Catholic”.  Judge the behavior and punish it.  Meet fear with power.  Assert my ego over theirs.

But, when I let go of my fears of not being loved and appreciated, I understood.  I began to meet their fear with emapthy.  To soothe their fears, not face them down.  To bathe them in kindness, regardless of how they treated me.  To be vulnerable and let them see my vulnerability.  Yes, I still expect them to do what I ask, to follow the rules, to be responsible.  And I request it instead of demanding it.  I use humor, compassion and gentle words.

I am not perfect.  I still let my ego-driven pride interfere sometimes.  I still lose my temper on ocassion.  Not as often though.  And we all laugh more.  And hug more.  And our home is calmer and more peaceful.

And I wonder…wouldn’t an all loving, all powerful all forgiving God be more like what I am trying to be?  Wouldn’t it make sense that he is all Spirit and no ego?? 

I am pretty sure that he is at least as proud of us, his creations, for who we are as I am of my kids.

And if I’m wrong….

I think he will forgive me ^~^

copyrighted 9/9/09

In Praise of Obstacles
August 31, 2009

I read two statements this week that have stayed with me: from the Deepak Chopra website – “Obstacles are opportunities  in disguise.”, and from the Facebook application On This Day God Wants You to Know – “Prayer is when you talk to God. Meditation is when you become quiet and listen to God. You’ve learned how to talk and ask well. Time to learn how to listen and hear, because God has been answering you.”.

At first blush these two statements don’t seem connected.  What I have learned is that they are directly related.

It seems that for most of us, when we encounter an obstacle, or things aren’t playing out the way we want them to, we pray for the discomfort or unpleasantry to be removed or to cease.  What might happen if instead we meditated?  What if we thanked God for bringing the issue to our attention?  Then took time to ask what opportunity is being presented to us?

It is easy to be grateful for the “good” things.  For happy times.  How often are we appreciative to be “stuck” in traffic, delayed at the airport, or receive a speeding ticket?  A recent article by John Vanderbilt, In Praise of Traffic Tickets, indicates that a recent study in New York City found when speeding citation reduced by 11%, traffic fatalities increased by the exact same percentage.  How many of us, after having received a ticket, begin, at least for a while, to pay more attention to our speed and generally take traffic laws more seriously?  What if that extra degree of care and attention actually prevented us from a serious accident that we otherwise would have been in?  Just the possibility that this could be true is enough to make me rethink my reactions to circumstances and events that I typically consider to be obstacles.

Thinking about this has made me very aware of how I judge the world around me, as if on autopilot.  I get impatient as the person in front of me at the self-check out talks on the phone while she is scanning her purchases.  I snarl at the person who passes me on the shoulder in traffic.  I have let an obnixious remark from my15 year old spoil my mood for the entire day.

I been working to catch myself in these moments and ask where the opportunity might be in these obstacles.  Maybe if I had used the longer wait in the checkout line to review my list of needed items, I would have remembered to buy the dish detergent.  If I had been paying more attention to the driver behind me, I might have noticed he was in a hurry and I could have moved over to let him pass.  If I was looking for Gods gift in Kenneth’s response, I might have gone to give Kenneth a hug (that his resistance indicates he really needs) and we both would have felt loved, respected and grateful.

It will take vigilance to monitor my thoughts and to consciously decide how to react to the large and the small, the “good” and the “bad” life experiences that I am so blessed to be granted.  I think this may be the best way to hear Gods answers.  I believe that it will be worth the effort. 

copyrighted 8/31/09

Happy Anniversary, Mom
August 26, 2009

August 24th is mom’s anniversary.  I used to say that it was the anniversary of her death.  I used to mark the occasion by bringing flowers to the grave.  I always expected it to make me feel better.  But it didn’t really.  I just resulted in dead flowers at the site where her shell of a body is buried.  It usually just left me feeling more alone and empty.

Missing my mom hit an all-time high about 2 years ago when I shattered my ankle.  I had to have it surgically repaired with a metal plate and a total of 10 pins.  I was not able to bear weight on it for two and a half months.    For as long as I can remember I was “The Caretaker” – making sure others’ needs were met.  Suddenly, I  became totally dependent on others.  I could not transfer to or from the wheelchair without help.  I couldn’t bathe myself or wash my hair.  I even needed someone to bring me cups and water so I could brush my teeth.  Not a role I was use to having or that I accepted gracefully.  I was constantly frustrated and developed separation anxiety – sobbing everytime Tom had to leave to go to work and being furious at my mom for not being here to take care of me.  At first I could just use the pain killers to knock myself out thereby avoiding my emotions.  It was when I eliminated the pain killers that I started becoming depressed.

I berated myself for being weak, for wanting my mom, for being stupid enough to walk down a grassy hill in high-heeled sandals (ok, I admit, I deserve to be scolded for that).

After being in this dark and foul mood for 8 weeks, even I got sick of myself.  I was tired of being so unhappy.  One night, after taking 20 minutes to get upstairs to my bedroom by scooting on my bottom, I crawled into bed and cried.  But this time I didn’t just cry.  I prayed too.  I prayed for happiness – more than happiness – for joy.  I wanted to remember what joy felt like.  It had been so long since I felt that tingle in my heart, butterflies in my tummy, glee just for the sake of being alive.  I asked God to help me find joy in my life again.  To no longer live in the darkness I was in, to find light.

I woke the next morning to my phone ringing.  I was still in bed, snuggling tightly with Self Pity, and didn’t feel like talking to anyone, so I ignored the call.  Later that morning, I listened to the voicemail.  My friend Judy had called to invite me to a workshop she was going to attend.  I swear to you that this is the truth – the title of the workshop was Finding the Light in your Life. 

Of course, recognizing this as my prayer being answered, I signed up for the workshop.

My life changed that day.  The workshop was facilitated by Blair Knies.  One of the most radiant souls I have ever met.  I learned more because of that day spent with her and the other amazing people who attended than I could have imagned was possible.  There was one key concept, though, that lead to everything else I have come to learn in these last two years.  The concept is both simple and mind-blowing.

Joy is not “out there” – it is within.

In fact, joy is our pure essence.  It is the Spirit that is our true self.

Blair helped me to find my way back to Me.  I was able to glimpse my Joy that very day.  It took patience, practice and time and now I am fully engaged with and connected to my Joy, my Spirit.  There are still plenty of distractions, and times that I lose my focus – but I have not lost my way to the Light – I can’t because it is always and has always been within me.

One of the issues that was preventing me from fully connecting with my Light, with Joy, was my grief over the loved ones I had lost.  I missed them.  I missed them terribly. 

As continued my focus on finding Joy, I kept coming back to this grief.  After many conversations and much reading and reflecting I finally found the answer.  Just as my Spirit is my true self, so must theres be.  Whenever I tried to connect with them, I usually would focus in on their face.  But that is a part of them that belongs to the physical world.  That is not a part of what they are now.  If our Spirit is our true essence, then that is was remains when we leave the physical world.

I started by remembering each person’s energy – then I focused on that.  It didn’t take long to feel it.  It’s not a matter of if they are around, it is whether we are tuning into them.  I actually feel more connected to Mom, Dad, Jim, Jeff and Mary than I was when we all lived in the physical plane.

So, August 24th is not the anniversary of Mom’s death.  It is the anniversary of her transition.  Of her new life without physical limitations.  The day she left her shell and expanded into her Pure Joy.  And that is why I celebrate.

copyrighted 8/26/09

Ground Control to Major Tom…
August 21, 2009

Have you ever noticed that we have a tendency to live out our lives as if everything were life and death scenarios?  We seem compelled to control the world around us and to react with extreme alarm if even minor things don’t go the way we want them to.  A simple 15 second delay on the part of the driver in front of us in his response to the green light can cause a symphony of honking horns and a flock of “birds” flying out of car windows.  A web-page freezes up and the keyboard gets poked and jabbed and perhaps even bashed.  It seems even the simplest tasks have to be as orchestrated and well planned as a lunar landing.

I don’t understand Ego and its need to be in charge. 

I fall into Ego’s trap far too often.  If someone says the sky is purple – why do I feel obligated to insist that it is blue.  Who cares?  So what?!  How do I know what purple really looks like?  Why, just because I interpret the sky as blue does that mean it is absolute truth?

When I take a deep breath and think, well, that is interesting – I open up possibilities rather than shut them down.

The REAL kicker is when the difference in perspective is something more personal – when someone questions my values, knowledge, skills, lifestyle.  Ego soars into hyper-mach 10 drive then!  I immediately make judgements about this other person’s sanity, values, knowledge, skills, lifestyle – even their right to think differently.

I wonder what would happen if I took a deep breath and met their perspective with marvel and amazement- instead of resistance.  I actually wonder this alot – almost always after I have had a blazing reaction.

I really want to get better about meeting the world with astonishment and awe as my initial response.

I am going to set an intent to be thoughtful and conscious about this – taking time everyday to increase my awareness of my reactions.  It seems like it would be a much less stressful way to live.  I am going to redirect all of my energies who currently work for Ego at Ground Control – promoting them to Scouts, seeking out new frontiers.  I imagine I will see things in a whole new light.  Who knows, I might find a purple sky.

copyrighted 8/21/09

Calgon Take Me Away
August 19, 2009

Writing this blog has been therapeutic for me – helping me to gain some perspective, focus on the positive, and keep my ego in check.   I hope you are finding my posts to be entertaining, interesting and helpful. 

I have shared a few of the lessons I’ve learned and some of the stories of when I have done things right.  Last night, tho, it all went out the window.

The evening started off well enough – Kenneth started the casserole with little resistance, even remembering to remove the plastic wrap.  Everyone had their chores finished when I got home from work and the girls and I played around and were giving each other “fish kisses” – our cheeks sucked in and lips puckered up like a fish – kissing each other on the nose, chin, forehead.  It was very sweet and fun.  I was feeling particularly tired and was glad to be just chilling out on the sofa.  At bedtime, Patsy went willingly to brush her teeth and kissed everyone goodnight.

About fifteen minutes later she came downstairs, still in her school uniform.  Before I could ask her what was wrong, she started whining and wimpering, saying she was scared.  I asked her what she was scared of and she said she didn’t know.  I told her to try turning on her radio, sitting up in bed and reading.  She ran up the stairs wailing that no-one cares about her and she hates all of us.

Whoa!  Where the hell did that come from?? I am tired, and REALLY tired of her drama and all of the “fire-drills”.

So, I ignore her.

Which is certainly better than my first inclination which was to go into a tirade and tell her that she is acting like a spoiled brat and that if I didn’t care about her why did I give up my life as I knew it to take care of her and her siblings.  I could have gone on to describe how much better her life is now – she actually has a bedroom, a bed, nice clothes, regular meals, etc., etc., etc.  At least I didn’t do that.

And of course, she came back down the stairs a few minutes later with her drama dial turned up even more. My response was to tell her that she could turn on all of the lights, listen to some music and read a book to get her mind off whatever is scaring her. She yelled that no-one ever listens to her and there is no way she is going to bed and no-one could make her.  I placed my head in my hands and groaned.  I intentionally waited about 10 minutes, then announced I was going upstairs.  I wasn’t going to “let her win”, but knew if someone was upstairs she would probably chill out.

Just as I was straightening up the livingroom for the evening before I went up, Tom decided to take the laundry up.  Once he started up the front stairs, Patsy scurried up the back way.  That aggrevated me even more – and I’m still not even sure why.  When I got upstairs, Patsy came into mine and Tom’s room to take her meds.  Tom started talking to her about what was wrong.  I was too fed up to stay there and listen, so went to brush my teeth.  As I was finishing up, Patsy came in to apologize and say goodnight.  I said that I forgave her, even though I hadn’t yet.  I did recognize that I was over tired and in a nasty mood, so I decided to just go to bed.

Today I was reflecting back on the events of the previous evening.  Initially I was beating myself up for screwing up and not using the strategies and interventions I know that I “should”.  Then I started berating myself for letting Ego take hold of my inner conversation.  So, instead of staying mired in the past, I wondered what it would be like if I was as kind and gentle to myself as I am with the kids.  I took a few deep breaths and asked myself what was wrong and what I needed.

Here is what I learned:
1)  I’m tired
2) Getting back into the school-year schedule is a hard transition for me – I am WAY NOT a morning person
3) I have been doing a lot to focus on the kids’ needs – school enrollment, school shopping, counseling appointments, Dr. appointments… – and haven’t really done much for myself
4) I want to feel appreciated

What I decided I need is a day to relax and rejuvenate.

On Saturday I am going to do just that. I am going to get my nails done, have a hair appointment, and am thinking about taking myself on a shopping spree as well.  Just the thought of giving myself a day to take care of myself has made me feel less stressed and more calm.

I also had an interesting idea about how to feel more appreciated. First I decided that there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel appreciated.  What is wrong is when you don’t feel appreciated, you don’t say anything, and then get resentful.  So, I decided that I am going to talk to the kids about how I am feeling and ask for what I want.  I am going to ask the kids to choose from one of the following ideas:

1) Write a letter to me describing how I have touched your life
2) Write a poem to me, expressing how you feel
3) Give me a foot massage
4) Create a large, beautiful bouquet for me with flowers from our garden
5) Make a collage of all the ways I make a difference in your life using printer paper so I can frame it
6) Some activity or memento of your own creation and imagination that expresses how you feel

These are all things that will stay with me for a long time that will help me always remember why I made this choice.  And why it is so important for me to persistently insist that these kids deserve love, safety and happiness and know that someday they will believe it.

copyrighted 8/19/09

Hello world!
August 11, 2009

I would imagine that after the opening of Julie and Julia this weekend the number of blogs has sky-rocketed.  I, like many others I am sure, was inspired by the story and the powerful impact blogging made on Julie Powell’s life.  I started thinking that maybe I could blog about my life.  I have been doing a great deal of inner, spiritual work – especially in the last 2 years – and have signed up for several inspirational daily emails.  Today I had 2 that made either direct or indirect references to blogging and sharing life experiences.

So I have decided that I shall blog and today is the day I will begin.

First, a bit of a prologue for those readers who may not know me.

Six years ago my sister was in a fatal car accident.  She was the single parent of 4 children, whom she had only months earlier learned were being sexually, physically and emotionally abused by her husband.  At the time of her death she was not yet divorced – waiting for the final report substantiating the abuse so she could be sure that he would not get custody or unsupervised visitation.

My clearest memories of that day are 1) being so glad that my mom had died 11 months prior and would not have to be around to bury a 3rd child and 2) seeing my life flash before my eyes and knowing that every experience I had had prepared me for what I knew I was meant to do – raise my nieces and nephew.

The past six years have been filled with more love, frustration, joy, loss, tears, growing and learning than I had experienced in my entire previous 41 years.  I hope my stories of life with these amazing kids help you to find joy and meaning in the everyday relationships you share with the children in your life.

copyrighted 8/11/09