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Martin Luther King Jr. had a huge influence on me as a child. In fact, I was the one and only child who volunteered from my 3rd grade class in white suburbia to be bused in to “the black neighborhood” for my last three years of grade school. I was the only one in my family to make this decision. I did it in the name of Dr. King.

The timing of this and what’s happening this week is not lost on me. My father and I, along with our Victim’s Rights attorneys and advocates, are meeting with the Attorney General’s office this week related to Cindy’s murderer. It could be a game changer and I will write about it when I feel it’s appropriate.

For now, I just ask that you send us good energy this Friday Jan. 22 as our lives could significantly change in a positive direction related to this Hell we’ve lived in with the death penalty for 26 years.

I nod to you Dr. King as well with gratitude for your unending brilliance.

 

 

 

Holidays

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Hi! I know I’ve been way absent lately so taking this small moment I have at the airport in Philly to shoot off a holiday post and to say hello and hope you all are having a fantastic beginning to 2016!

I was supposed to be boarding this flight 2 nights ago but got to the airport and was having so much trouble breathing I decided to shift my flight one, then two more days and recover at the Doubletree Hotel (with its chocolate chip cookies) before heading back. It’s been a rough week for my lungs and I just didn’t feel confident with them until today.

I’m just going to, in the interest of time, throw a bunch of photos up of my holiday times then get back to writing once the dust settles a bit.

Hope you all out there are doing great! xxoo

There are a whole lot more than this but will post when I have more time. We had a great Christmas in Sedona, my brother had a fantastic weekend of concerts with his chorus again then we traveled back to Philly for NYE with our friends Kathy and Bob, had an interesting week in rural PA (where my lungs got , well, they just got not happy) where I made homemade sweet potato biscuits and soups then back to Philly for one more night with Kathy and Bob dining at Buddakan and staying at the beautiful Sofitel for a night.

Happy 2016 Everyone! More to come…

My Disagreement with the Four Agreements

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Some Things Are Personal
-my disagreement with one of the Four Agreements

I love Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, I really do. Like many of you reading, I’ve used them as a kind of template for living for over a decade. I think they truly encompass a roadmap of sound advice.

Yet, lately, I’m having trouble with one of them. My discomfort doesn’t stem from Ruiz’s intent of this 3rd Agreement which I believe is pure and I get it. Yet, like many sacred texts, over time, pure intentions tend to get misinterpreted and exploited in all kinds of directions.

“Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering…” Ruiz teaches.

I can’t imagine however that he instructs us to never be open to feedback or honest sharing from others who are offering it up for us to grow. Herein lies my glitch.

I was recently in a semi – heated sharing with an acquaintance who had stumbled all over herself, offending me deeply. I am currently in the middle of writing a memoir about my sister’s homicide so I explore this topic at times on my blog or on social media. This person wrote me out of the clear blue for the first time asking general questions about my writing then delivered a line that just about choked me “do you see a time when you will be able to let go of this and move toward stuff that is not about murder (I say this with love)” she wrote .

It was not only the insensitivity and timing of this question that stunned me but also the questioner herself: a person who leads workshops using the writing path for healing. I was utterly shocked that I was on the receiving end of this question.

Once I exhaled again, I got angry. This is a normal human response when someone invades our safe boundaries which is exactly what this question did for me. She, nearly a stranger, tiptoed in to my world then went for my jugular challenging the most sensitive area of my writing life. Her question was less an inquiry than a judgment and I felt it. It was personal and I responded like any person would when a dagger pierces the heart of your greatest wound.

Now is the point I wonder what Ruiz would say. I guess he would advise me to not take that personally– that her ignorance was about her and not me—ok I get that. Yet people walking around with highly sensitive life events get assaulted like this with ignorant questions regularly. I felt I needed to educate her., especially her of all people. She quickly apologized and exited the conversation as fast as she’d bulleted in to it. And that was the end of it. At least between us.

This retreat, this unwillingness to engage in a meaningful dialogue about this changed everything for me about this person. I never trusted her again. I looked at her with a lens of caution wondering if she was actually harming others attempting to open up and heal using their writing medium—people a lot more vulnerable than me. What if the opportunity for me in this offended reaction I had was to speak up? To confront it? Not just for myself but for all of this who have been dealt dark hands to play in a world of “love and light”.

Months later I continued feeling affected by this every time I saw a posting by this person as our exchange was never taken beyond that original hit and run. I felt the sting of her words as I witnessed her writing about her insecurities and finally about how to handle “triggers”. I wasn’t surprised when she fell back on Ruiz’s teaching (not crediting him) telling her readers about how someone else’s issues with you are “never about you—ever”.

But my feedback was about her. It was an opportunity for her to learn something and grow. Yet her position that my response must have been all about me and not some kind of growth opportunity for her led me frankly to believe she was dangerous out there in the world of healing.

I tried bringing it up again, albeit awkwardly on social media. Her response was to block me without ever communicating with me directly. This kind of arrogance scares the shit out of me. People are following others who seem to have all the right words but the proof to me is how we are all dealing with, not our easy platitudes, but our challenging moments.

If we are to take nothing personally and we stumble in our humanity and hurt someone—even unintentionally—and are given honest feedback then resort to immediately placing the conflict on the other person’s “triggers”, how are we to grow? It’s hard to feel that grit in the sphere of our fragile comfort zone sometimes yet it’s the very irritation needed to pull us to yet another level of understanding.

After the original awkward exchange with this self described “healer”, I began watching her. I observed essay after essay confronting her insecurities and difficulty with others’ opinions of her. Yet in each the remedy remained the same – realize it’s not ever about you, you are great just the way you are, put it back on that person and move on!

My observation though was that this position was not strengthening her but keeping her right where she was—stuck in a place of a constant battle with insecurity, questioning herself while trying to talk herself off the ledge of fear with positive affirmations. I don’t think it works that way.

I think opening sometimes to taking something deeply personal and allowing it to open something within is just the ticket we need to clean out  wounds so we can truly be free.

Otherwise we spend a lifetime shielding ourselves from the next bit of unwanted feedback innoculating ourselves with positive platitudes that really have no crack to penetrate in to. We are dolloping whipped cream on a shit sundae higher and higher and it’s making us weaker. It’s taking us further away from the toxin that still remains, unattended, festering.

I don’t know what Don Miguel Ruiz would have to say about all of this but I do think about it. Maybe I’m just playing in a world of semantics.  I do think there is a place for honest feedback and the receiving of it that brings us to a level of growth we’d never get if we dismissed it to “just their projection”.

On Thanksgiving Day this year my husband said something to me out of pure exhaustion that I took personally and pouted about for a few hours. When I finally had the guts to share with him how I was feeling, he pulled me in closer and explained what he was feeling and how his choice of words was not indicative of my perception and we both cried while discovering another layer of tenderness between us, both of us vowing to not let that happen again—his words or my pouting. He could have so easily dismissed my little pity party as my problem, my projection and having nothing to do with what he said, but he didn’t do that. He listened, I listened and we understood each other, dismissing our fears, accepting more love. Our ability to be honest and dare I say take personally what each was sharing, allowed us to go deeper in to ourselves and as a couple.

Sometimes I reflect on this world of “everyone is a life coach” and “positive affirmations” and think it’s breeding a new culture of spiritual arrogance where no one thinks they are allowed to step on any one else’s toes and grow from it.

Yes, I do think we are all made in perfection in a divine esoteric way yet we are also made to develop and that means humbling ourselves.

I’d say, before jumping to the safe zone of “this is all about them and nothing about me” the next time I’m given uncomfortable feedback, it might be more helpful to take a pause and ask if there is anything in that that feels honest, familiar, and something I can grow from. Become a better person. A stronger person. A clearer person.

So instead of shutting the person out with my spiritual arrogance of pointing out their projection while refusing to take it in, much less personally, I can sit with it awhile and just maybe, one day return to them and thank them for the key that helped me drop another layer of my defendedness against my true nature – taking me one more step toward that perfection underneath my foibles.

I am still writing about murder and will continue to as long as it’s the topic in my life demanding my attention. My sister’s murderer was just granted an appeal on ineffective counsel and I will be writing about how we are responding to that as a family. And of course my book. It’s my path and standing up to a judgmental question about it has made me stronger and more able to confront it. So, I suppose, for that I can thank that person for asking her ignorant question. For making me braver and able to write this very essay. Standing stronger in my brilliant life with all of its dark pockets, unapologetically mine.

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One year later….”he seems kinda funny”. lol

 

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Many of you out there who have been reading this blog for a period of time may recall a series of posts I made about a pretty terrifying situation that had befallen my family…again. A sociopath who was preying on my father for over a decade – financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc. I wrote about this here and here.

He caused me so much terror concern that in 2014 I confronted this scary individual, alerting him that I was aware of his exploitation, considered it nothing less than elder abuse and I put him on notice. He had been escalating. It was time to intervene after a decade of monitoring his manipulations and abuse.

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His response was so vile, so threatening that I obtained my own legal counsel, discussed restraining orders, consulted my father’s lawyers and money managers and even had a long discussion with an FBI agent about the interstate nature of the extortion possibly going on (he took it so seriously he spoke to me for over a half an hour interviewing me saying it didn’t meet the criteria for extortion but if certain things escalated to call him back).  It was a terrifying time and one I’ve never really felt fully out of of the woods from. As one attorney said to me “they said about Elvis, you can’t save someone from themselves”.

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I set about protecting our family estate for my brother and I as best I could yet lived with a slow hum of fear every day in the background. I knew this man was laying in wait and had invested so much for so long that he was going for a piece of the big pie– my father’s rather large estate. It’s been an entirely stressful two years with a written on the wall future. At one point he was attempting to get my father to change his Power of Attorney from me, to him– a person completely not integrated in to our social or family network.

I knew there would be a battle coming –  everyone did – either in my father’s life or death. This man had put a plan in motion and felt my father owed him. Very sick dynamics at play. It forced me over and over again to throw this to the realm of spiritual protection.

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I found out today that this pathological dangerous man was killed in a freak accident while vacationing in Mexico. He was electrocuted.

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It is not lost on me that the men who murdered my sister, also sociopaths, still sit on Death Row/ in prison and this second wave of sociopathy to land in our family received a form of execution.

It is also not lost on me that he received his sentence for his crimes on the birthday of my friend who was the person who broke the silence on his exploitation of my father about 10 years ago. There are so many elements to this story but I keep them silent to protect certain privacies.

There are times in life to feel relieved when a death has occured.

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This is one of them.

There is balance. There is protection. There is justice.

Now let the deep breaths of exhalation begin.

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55 in review

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Three days away from stepping out of year 55 and in to year 56 has gotten me reflecting on this incredible pivotal year.

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People usually associate year 50 with a big change and maybe that was the case for me but really it was a year of anguish and challenges. Yet I got through it alright and launched in to a new life of shining. Sometimes we gotta go through Hell to get to Heaven.

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Just thought I’d do a little retrospective of this year as it was filled with SO much and give it a nod and a bow of gratitude and thanks as 55 really was my year. In all my life, this one was the most remarkable I think.

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Spent my birthday last year back at Rancho La Puerta dreaming big once again. I made another prayer arrow and continued to blast in to the Universe my desire for a mate–not any mate of course–MY mate. That was always my wish…for the last 2 decades. Against all odds I kept wishing for it.

So…..

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I started out 2015 getting engaged. I should be able to remember the exact date and I think it was Jan 9 maybe? My honey put a ring on it and got down on two knees in the middle of nowhere PA on a cold snowy night. He stuck a box in his still decorated Christmas tree and surprised but didn’t surprise me. I returned from that whirlwind trip a woman betrothed (is that the right use of that word? I think so).

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Within days of returning from PA, I pivoted again. I closed up my business for a month, closed up my home, serviced and packed my car and drove off alone on a big adventure to the great Northwest where I lived for just shy of a month, writing. I completed 30 chapters of my memoir Middle Child holed up in a gorgeous studio with a fireplace and a view. I knew the moment it was time to put closure on that beginning of the book and put a pause on it. My wonderful fiance met me up there, we had a beautiful Valentine’s Day in Seattle and drove down California together on our first road trip. It was, as everything is with him, filled with fun and laughter and adventure.

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I learned on that drive just how much he knows about cars and trains (it’s really kind of crazy).

While in the Northwest we had our first fight (and the only really bad one–gotta know how to argue right?) and make up. And it’s where we started our ritual of drinking champagne. We pop open a bottle of bubbly every time we meet after time apart now. I love a ritual.

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I also planned my wedding there–nearly all of it! I found a designer to make my wedding dress, planned our stay/honeymoon in Niagara Falls and it was a welcome respite to the diving in to a homicide investigation/trial, autopsy reports and mental illness. Some days I just devoted to wedding stuff simply out of maintaining my mental balance.

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(my friend Kathy Winter threw me THE MOST AMAZING shower in April)

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I posted all about that here but remembering that trip brings a big smile as we had just a perfect wedding and trip and I wouldn’t ask for one thing to be different. I can’t wait to go back to Niagara–it is truly a wonder of the world!

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Although our cross country marriage is unconventional and curious to some, for us it’s absolutely perfect. We are both loners and introverts (I’m a social outgoing introvert which is totally confusing) and have been alone for a long time. This allows us to ease in to this marriage. He makes his money there and of course has his two adult children and darling 4 year old Lillian nearby. I make my money in AZ and have my dad and brother I need to be close to so this is how it works out for us. We are each other’s respite, at times relief, adventure outlet and safe haven. I love being married to this man and just like this.

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I’m sure in maybe the not too distant future we will have a different living arrangement but we decided to play the cards we were dealt and couldn’t be happier with it. It’s a life of movement and adventure and exploration. It’s really like the life I was already living but now with a partner. John understands me, my unique challenges and loves me unconditionally. For the first time in my life I know what it means to fully trust a man on every single level. That in itself is a miracle.

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About one month from returning from my wedding/honeymoon, crisis struck. I was hit in a parking lot by an 84 year old drunk driver. I was a pedestrian pushing my grocery cart and was flung head first in to another car at full acceleration as the driver’s foot slipped off the brake and on to the gas.

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What I’m left after going through all of that and the following rehab (which I’m still in) is that my life has new meaning now. The fact that I hit head first, unprotected, with such force and didn’t have a massive brain injury, fractured neck or worse surely has gotten my attention. No one working with me in therapy can believe I wasn’t more injured. Especially when they see a picture of my shopping cart, also hit with the same force–so hard that its momentum kicked a parked car out of its position in the parking lot. Amazing.

I have a renewed sense of purpose after that and am looking at my life in an entirely new way. I also learned about true love and support from a man. My husband was amazing taking care of me for an entire month.

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My life hasn’t changed all that much in terms of how I spend my time so I may be married but still have lots of individual time with old friends and cultivating new ones. I vowed not to become one of those “now that I’m part of a couple we only do couple things” type of people so I’m not. In fact I’m even more sensitive to my single gal friends making sure I don’t abandon them now that I’m married.

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How could I wait so long to mention my darling stepdaughter Lillian? She has been such a bonus addition that came with my beautiful husband! Who would have ever guessed, me, childless and feeling like I really missed out on something important in life, could at 55 meet a man with a 3 year old? Most people our age have grandkids that age. And honestly I could see a lot of women not being so ok with this situation but not me. I may be one of the few women on the planet who is absolutely ecstatic to welcome this darling beautiful little girl in to my life.

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We took Lillian in September on her first plane ride to Maine where we stayed for a week on the beach. It was gorgeous and incredible to have my own family like that, finally. Her mother was gracious enough to allow her to be with us on her 4th birthday–amazing. I absolutely adore Lillian and she feels the same for me. I am so in awe of how my life turned in this way and that I get to be involved with a little tiny girl growing up to a woman and all that comes with that. It’s almost hard for me to write about, this is that huge for me . It’s almost hard for me to take it all in sometimes.

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John’s two adults kids are great too–Alyssa and David–and we’ve spent quality time with both of them back in PA as well.

I bumped up my writing adventures this year and got several pieces published in an online magazine called Elephant Journal. I picked them to pitch to because I’d been reading them from inception and felt their publication really matched my sensibilities. Good thing they think so too. You can see my six pieces here. It’s honed my writing skills somewhat as I’m getting ready to dive, again, in to finishing my book next February. Again for a month in Edmonds–this time to finish it.

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John and I went back there this Fall to the writing conference where all of this writing started. We met a freelance writing coach/editor who both of us will work with. I’ve decided to pitch my book to some big publishing houses so she will help me with that process. My confidence in it really elevated this year so I’m gonna start big and see where I go. Either way, it will get published and I will finish it. It’s been cathartic and healing for me.

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I found a home across the parking lot from me for my Dad and brother to move to which also happened this summer/fall. It’s of course challenging having an aging parent and mentally ill brother yet rewarding as well. I was glad to move them out of the 872 square feet they were living with their 2 cats and in to something closer and larger. I helped my brother outfit his room with a beachy theme and am hoping they are settled in there by the end of the year. I learn patience every day with them (or don’t learn it sometimes).

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John (Alfonse) is still singing with the chorus and even went on an overnight weekend retreat with them out of town. This is major stuff considering where he’s been. He even got himself there and back all on his own! He’s up and down with symptoms but I always keep a close eye on him no matter where I am.

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John (hubby) comes tomorrow for our next adventure to Santa Fe for my birthday–another road trip! He’s been making arrangements and reservations. It’s so wonderful to be married to a giver–I’ve just never experienced anything quite like it. Well worth the wait!

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I’m sure there’s much more but that’s what’s flowing out this morning.

55 was an amazing year of new beginnings and transformation and LIFE!

I head in to 56 even more excited to see where it will take me. I’ve decided my theme word for next year is MOVEMENT. So get ready…things are gonna shake up.

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Thanks for being along for the ride all….love you all out there reading and caring. :)