Project Forgive

I’m supporting this project.

Because I believe forgiveness is the most important thing we can do on this planet. When we look at another who bothers us and know without a doubt, that if we’d lived their life experiences, we might act the same way they are acting right now, or worse. That’s forgiveness.

It isn’t a pious act. It’s not, “Let me forgive you, lesser person, beneath me. Let me be so magnanimous.”

NO.

Forgiveness does not mean we have to hang out with someone who hurts us or continues to hurt us. It does not mean we have to trust them. It means knowing we aren’t “better” than them.

It isn’t about accepting apologies. Those are nice, but often they don’t come.

For me, sometimes the most petty of so called offenses are the hardest to forgive.

Like, the chick at yoga who was picking her toes and leaving skin on the floor? I’m having a really hard time with her. Somehow, the big ones seem more important, because so much is at stake if you hold on to that big hurt, the big hate. But the little ones will nip you to death.

Forgiveness is a muscle. You have to keep at it. There have been times when I have felt complete forgiveness, and then a new memory will arise, and emotions come up and I have to work on it again. It’s an ongoing process. It’s part of being human. Sometimes I have to forgive myself for not feeling forgiveness.

What would you do if someone dear to you lost their most precious loved ones as a result of a drunk driver? What would you do if you then found out the drunk driver was also someone dear to you? If you are film director Shawne Duperon, and you experienced the above scenario, you make a film about forgiveness.

I think this movie is going to change the world.

Mr. O’Rourke, on Perfectionism

The guy in the yellow is Mr. O’Rourke, my friend Ann’s dad.

Ann and I were roomies in college. We grew up near each other but didn’t know each other prior to being roommates. She is nice, and she has red hair, and she married a nice guy and he has red hair, and they have three nice beautiful children with green hair. Kidding. The children actually have red hair too.

Anyway, Ann’s dad decided it would be great fun to jump out of an airplane when he turned 85 last summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ann is one of four siblings and after their sweet mom died several years back, the question was where should he live? It was a tough decision, because everyone wanted him at their house. Ann got him. He lives with the red heads.

It occurs to me I have absolutely no idea what Ann’s dad’s profession was/is? I do know he has lived a good life. His family loves him. I know he’s a success.

On Facebook the other day, Ann posted this quote from her dad:

“Don’t try to be a perfectionist. Even Mary and Joseph lost the kid for three days.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love it. And I’ll try to keep that in mind. Thanks Mr. O’Rourke.

The Golden Hat

I simply couldn’t conceive of how devastating it would be not to be able to hear my childrens’ voices. Not to be able to communicate with one’s children, to hear them learn, grow, and express themselves verbally.

– Kate Winslet

 

 

 

 

When Simon & Schuster contacted me to ask if I would review The Golden Hat, I said yes, immediately. The book is Kate Winslet’s baby. The profits will go to support those with autism. I love Kate Winslet. I think she is one of the finest actors of our time. She does not have a child affected with autism, but became close to one while doing the voice over for a documentary called, A Mother’s Courage, aka The Sunshine Boy. As her friendship with Margaret, (the mother of a child with autism and the woman who made the film) progressed, an amazing thing happened. Margaret’s ten year old son Keli, who was non-verbal and profoundly affected by autism began to speak on an augmentative communication device. His first words,

I am real.

He was in there. He was aware. He was listening to everything. A physician had told the family to assume he had the cognition of a toddler. That doctor was dead wrong.

At ten years old, this mother finally “met” her child.

It also turned out that many other things they assumed about Keli were wrong. His preferences, his interests. All wrong. And guess what? He’s a poet. One of his poems is titled The Golden Hat, thus the title of the book and the foundation they have formed to help secure communities for those with autism to live in when they mature into adulthood. Any parent with a child on the spectrum has that nagging fear…what will become of my child after I am gone? The Golden Hat Foundation is working on that.

Kate Winslet schmoozed a whole bunch of celebrities into taking self-portraits with her own fedora in the shot. And that hat got around! Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Daniel Radcliff, Angelina Jolie, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Leonardo DiCaprio (of course), Rosie, Christina Aguilera, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Gwenyth Paltrow, Michael Caine, Hugh Jackman….this list is seriously just skimming the surface. There are so many celebrities in this book. She even got Steven Spielberg to take a shot of himself in the hat!  What’s great about the photos is they are not fancied up. They are taken with Kate’s digital camera. Accompanying the photos are quotes from the celebrities. They were asked to think about being trapped inside a body, unable to speak, what would they be wanting to say?

Some of the celebs clearly didn’t understand the assignment, their quotes don’t make sense. A couple didn’t offer a quote (Angelina), but most of them did. Many of the celebs used the hat to hide behind. I thought that was interesting.

When the book came in the mail it felt like a present, which I guess it was. I didn’t have to pay for it. It’s a gorgeous coffee table type book.  I sat out on the deck with a nice glass of lemon water. There was a balmy breeze as it’s been an unseasonably warm March. I let my own kids play on their iPods and spent the afternoon pouring over the stories and the photos and Keli’s poems and I couldn’t help but think of my mama friends whose kids are non-verbal. Betsy, Kathi, Jeneil, Kim, and so many others. All with different takes on autism. All with different ways of coping. All with so much love for their kids.

I closed my eyes and just sat there, holding all parents who are on this road in my heart.

Real familes. Real mothers. Real children, just like Keli.

They are real. 

I am Intelligent from Amothers courage on Vimeo.


*Proceeds from the book support The Golden Hat Foundation. I was not paid to write this review but as noted in my post, I did receive a free copy of the book.

Take Nine

My friend Cindy Washabaugh is part of a poetry group here in Cleveland. They call themselves Take Nine. They have been together for over a dozen years. There are nine members, thus the name. All of them are seriously talented.

When I go to one of their readings, I feel filled up. Inspired. More. Glad to live where I do. There is such a creative wellspring here in Cleveland. It’s the same feeling I get following an afternoon at an art museum (without kids). It’s the same feeling I get when I see Sweet Honey in the Rock, live. Something sacred is going on there. Women gathering, sharing, honing their gifts and generously delivering them back to the world.

 

Beauty in joy. Beauty in sorrow. They get it all in.

Cindy read a gorgeous poem (which had me in tears),  about a poignant moment she had during a phone conversation with her aging father. She somehow kept it together reading it. It’s about love, and memory and slowing down to appreciate him.

Here she is reading another poem, on aging:


Another amazing poet in Take Nine is Katie Daley. In the following poem, she speaks of finding love, finally.

The other seven are every bit as talented, but I didn’t get permission to record them so you won’t see them here. I met Cindy and Katie at a writing workshop I hosted here a few years back. Cindy’s life was very full. Almost too full. She didn’t need any more friends at the time, but she couldn’t resist me, so she kept me. LOL.

I’m so glad she did.

Have you read poetry lately? Gone to any readings? Where do you get inspiration?

*Take Nine members include Gail Bellamy, Meredith Holmes, Bonnie Jacobson, Cindy Washabaugh, Kathleen Cerveney, Darlene Montonaro, Linda Robiner, Rita Grabowski, & Katie Daley

Dolphin Therapy Retreat in Cozumel, Sept. 2012


Today I am re-posting an entry I wrote last year about the wonderful Dolphin therapy experience we had in Cozumel, Mexico. Macy, the director of Living from the Heart is organizing another retreat for this coming September, and I wanted to get the word out to as many people as possible. I am not paid to promote the program, I just want to support it.

As you might remember if you read it when I orginally posted, my “afraid of the deep end” daughter (who has Asperger’s) rode a dolphin across the pool while we were there, with water splashing on her face the whole time. Water in the face was always a huge trigger for her. Since coming back, she has begun to shower independently, something she could never do before, due to fear of water in her face. This is a huge thing for us, for her to have that independence.

Living From the Heart is way more than a touristy quick dip with the dolphins. It’s a retreat. It’s a family bonding experience. It’s wonderful to be in a place where special needs are understood and not an issue, but it isn’t only for special needs. All are welcome.

So below is the post I wrote back in November. This is my family, high on dolphin:

The main reason we chose Mexico for our trip was for the dolphin therapy. My friend Betsy already had a dolphin trip planned for her family and somehow it fell into place for us to go at the same time. Our vacations were separate, but our stays overlapped, so that we shared our second day at the dolphin center with them. It was perfection to share such a special experience with such a dear friend! Betsy’s son is 18 and profoundly affected by autism. Her husband is an MD who specializes in overall wellness and also autism. They do good work.

This is us on the first day, getting acquainted with the dolphins. The woman with us is Macy Jozsef, Director of  The Dolphin Experience, Living from the Heart Dolphin Therapy. She is awesome. Riley took to her and trusted her immediately. We’d walk down the streets of Cozumel with Riley holding her hand, leaning all over her. It’s an energy thing. Riley responds to love.

Riley was excited to see and interact with the dolphins, but still quite tentative in the water. She absolutely did not want to swim in the deeper section and was content to stand on the shallow landing. This dolphin’s name is Amizcle (Uh-MEEZ-Clay). He is huge. About 600 lbs. He eats 75 pounds of fish per day.  Riley said many times throughout our time with him that he reminded her of her service dog Jingle. Again, it’s about energy and both animals are sweet, playful, helpful (and she liked that they both have pink on their noses).

We had three sessions our first day. In between sessions we were allowed to go to a tiny private beach on the Dolphinaris property. It was there Riley found her own bouyancy for the first time in her life. She had a breakthrough earlier this year, and was finally able to put her face in the water but had not yet gotten the buoyancy concept in her body. We kept the life jackets on, and I carried her out onto the soft waves. She straddled my waist, like a much littler kid, and we bounced and floated, and twirled. Looking up into the blue sky, I couldn’t help thinking, “This is what I wanted for you when you were tiny.” We missed this developmental stage. Her nervous system was so very jangled at the time. She had always been so anxiety filled in the water, she was not light or bouyant at all. She was certain she would sink, and she would have, all contracted like that.

In and out of the water all day. She played in the sand. Laughed and played with Seth. Ate PB & J. More dolphins. Back in the water, holding my hand she finally, truly, got the feel of floating. She was sitting back, relaxing, bobbing along in her life jacket. Holding my hand, but basically doing it herself.

During dolphin therapy, there is a lot of time to socialize with the dolphins, interspersed with moments of receiving sonar. Hear, Amizcle is offering sonar directly to Riley’s head. Sonar is similar to an ultrasound. If you’ve ever had ultrasound used on a sore muscle, it’s kind of like that. It immediately relaxes the body. Sonar would be for a minute or two, and then more playing and fun. Todd and I tried it and both of us felt like wet noodles coming out of the water. It puts you in a total zen state. Beuno cool.

Our next session with the dolphins, we all swam out to the middle of the pool, with Riley clinging to mine and Macy’s hands. We were proud of her for stepping off the landing and coming into the deeper water. I held the back of her life jacket to stabalize her as the dolphins swam past so she could reach out and pet them with one hand.

The third session, we did the same, only this time, she deliberately let go of my hand. There was Riley, floating in 13 foot deep water, reaching out and petting humongous dolphins which slowly kept weaving their way around us.

And then…she surprised us all by agreeing to do this:

Seth did it first and his bravery surely inspired his sister. Todd and I both took a couple of dolphin rides too. They are so strong! Their bodies are pure muscle, and they go super fast, although Riley’s went a bit slower with her, thank goodness. It was a smaller female dolphin that she rode. The dolphin trainers were very intuitive and respectful about what the kids needed. They didn’t push, but at the moment they felt there might be receptivity, Riley was on that dolphin before she could even think about it. And she was so proud!

Seth recieved many sonar session too. We hoped it might help his PANDAS and at the very least, anything that relaxes the body is going to have a positive effect. They even did some sessions together, head to head or feet to feet.

This next photo is one of my very favorite photos from the trip. I just love the tiny boy juxtaposed against the enormous dolphin. Such a gentle majestic, beautiful creature Amizcle is. And any time I can see Seth without his hat, I love it.

Here is HT, getting a smooch from a sweet girl dolphin.

Here I am, loving my good, good kids.

Macy joined us for dinner a couple of times. Her story is interesting. She survived breast cancer decades ago, and felt a strong pull toward dolphins as part of her healing process. She continues to use meditation fueled with dolphin imagary to maintain her vibrant health. This was particularly poignant to me since my friend Clarissa, who made the trip possible, died of the very same disease.

Is there anything more beautiful to a parent than the sight of your children sleeping peacefully? Especially with sun kissed cheeks? I think not. Dream, dream, little ones. Dream of dolphins and floating, and blue water and sky.

Tomorrow, we hit Cancun.

All I Wanted Was a Dishwasher

This is what it looks like when you tear out a wall oven that’s been there for decades

Our house is about fifty, sixty years old. Solid bones, but lots of outdated areas. We’ve done a lot in the four years we’ve lived here but there is still plenty to do. The kitchen is a galley, with an L shape that wraps around to an eat-in area. There was nowhere in this kitchen to put a dishwasher. So, we had to reconfigure the existing cabinets. The first contractor who was here said it could not be done.

Never listen to people who say it can’t be done.

The second contractor said the first contractor probably was trying to sell us a whole new kitchen. But I didn’t want a whole new kitchen. We have really great solid cabinets. No need to replace them (though I would like to refinish them and add new hardware, maybe next year).

Like most renovation projects it is adding up to more than we expected. We needed to cut the counter top and cabinets, so we of course would replace the old severely outdated counter tops. But the new counter tops we chose do not go with our current back splash. So we either had to rip out the existing tile/drywall and start over, or paint the current tiles. I chose paint. It’s a cheap alternative to a $1500 new drywall overhall. I’m having fun with it. Chocolate back splash. Cappuccino walls. And green accent. The color scheme will be something like this, but with the beige being the walls and the chocolate being the smaller backsplash.

My back splash looks like a giant Hershey bar. And the walls will look like a cup of coffee (with cream) next to it. And the counter tops will be a light, brownish granite. I hope it all works.

Reconfiguring the cabinets allows us to fit a dishwasher, and also mount the microwave on the wall. So I am somehow ending up with more counter space than I had. We previously had a wall oven and a separate cook top, which took up a lot of counter space. My galley now has more room to move in since I can get rid of the stand I had the microwave on which jutted out a few inches into the galley. The kitchen already feels more spacious. 

The counters have been cut. The dishwasher is in, but not mounted to anything yet so we can’t use it. Our house is a total wreck. All of the kitchen stuff is displaced into the dining room. I’m in the middle of painting the tile. It will be a couple of weeks before the counter tops are here. It’s a little unnerving to have everything everywhere for such an extended period of time. But soon, this phase of kitchen renovation will be done.

Bye-bye salmon counter tops with the metalic piping. I’m sure in your day, you were mighty purty. Bye-bye butane lighter needed for igniting the gas burner on our cook top stove. Bye-bye old tile. You’re chocolate now.

Change is good.

40 Days to Personal Revolution

Tomorrow we have a final meeting/celebration to mark the end of the 40 Days program I’ve been participating in at Cleveland Yoga. We were buddied up with a partner on our first day, and my partner was Rachel. She’s cool. Like, Burning Man cool(she goes every year). She runs her own super creative branding company.

She decided to write a list of “40 Reasons to Continue the 40 Day Lifestyle.”

Rachel’s list inspired me to write my own list about what I have accomplished over the last 40 days. Turns out, I’ve been busy.

1) Got my hair cut.

2) Got all new bras and underwear.

3) Meditated every day, usually twice.

4) Got the kitchen re-did. I finally have a dishwasher, and new counter tops are on the way.

5) Ate nothing but fruit for five days. It was supposed to be three days, but I got sick in the middle and started over.

6) Practiced yoga six days a week.

7) Saw the doctor for my lady parts (had not been in years).

8) Started seeing a naturopath.

9) Scheduled a mammogram for tomorrow (have not been in years).

10) Started ballroom dance class with Hot Toddy.

11) Cleaned my office.

12) Cleaned the home school shelves.

13) Researched school possiblities for the kids.

14) Updated my resume and submitted it for a possible per diem writing job.

15) Figured out a way to fit writing two hours a day into my schedule (without having to wake up at 5AM to do it).

16) Continued to study for my nursing boards.

17) Rejoiced over my daughter having a very successful experience at her friend’s slumber party.

18) Ate almost no processed foods.

19) Refused to weigh myself because this is not about weight.

20) Am able now to keep up with a 90 minute hot yoga class.

21) Have done many head stands.

22) Made a new buddy.

23) Ate at least one yoga meal almost every day.

24) Grew to really love yoga and commit to a more regular practice long term.

25) Still got together for a glass of wine on most Wednesday evenings with friends.

26) Saw a big reduction in Seth’s tics. Then a slight increase. Then less again, I think.

27) Thought of a possible nursing niche I can be down with. Not sure if it exists yet.

29) Got an abdominal massage and started the process of healing the trauma associated with my kids’ births.

30) Journaled each week.

31) Did not have caffeine.

32) Became wheat free.

33) Decided on white appliances with the notion stainless is trendy and will become outdated. Saved money rationalizing this way, whether it’s true or not.

34) Hurt my kids’ feelings when one overheard me venting that I never wanted to be a  home schooler.

35) Got through it. Talked it out with the kids. Changed some things to help make it work for me.

36) After beating myself up hard for a couple of days, forgave myself. I’ve  been incredibly giving and devoted to my children, and no one is perfect.

38) Went through every dresser drawer and packed up all the outgrown clothes or stuff we don’t wear. Gave it to the Veterans. They pick up right at your door!

39) Breathed more.

40) Valued myself.

I think it would be a good idea to do the 40 Days thing each year. To reset, and evaluate how my life is going. A lot of energy shifted during this time. I’m feeling really unstuck.

If you are interested in doing the 40 Days program, the book is titled 40 Days to Personal Revolution by Baron Baptiste. I recommend doing it with a buddy. Even an e-mail buddy. Someone to process with and hold some accountability to. It was a very worthwhile experience.

Namaste.

In My Mind We’re Fred and Ginger

Did I mention Hot Toddy and I are taking ballroom dance lessons?

For one hour on Wednesday evenings, we meet in the cafeteria of a local high school. Our instructor is Mitzi. She’s a senior citizen. She’s about five foot. She’s got an eastern European accent. She wears her hair in a bun at the top of her head, and a floral wreath encircles the bun. She often wears blue eye shadow. She wears sweat shirts and running shoes. She’s in better shape than any of the couples there. When Mitzi pulls you out of the group to demonstrate something, you discover she’s strong as an ox. When she leads, she leads. I adore her.

So far she’s taught us the basics to The Fox Trot, the Rumba (in which she complimented HT on his hip action…he beamed), The Cha Cha Cha, Swing, and The Waltz.

Since the class is in a cafeteria, and there are tables, and it’s only an hour, we bring the kids and let them sit at a table and play on their iPods.

I love dancing with Todd. We have so much fun. We have a long way to go before we aren’t looking down at our feet, or missing steps, or getting it wrong, but we are laughing. He doesn’t know this, but deep in concentration while we’re dancing, he presses his lips together and tilts his head. It’s cute. He’s discovered the secret of leading, which has a lot to do with a firm signal from his right hand on the back of my ribs. And oh…how I need someone to lead something. Someone, just tell me what to do, and don’t make me think, okay? I love it.

Every now and again, I look over Todd’s shoulder at the kids, and they are watching us. Riley smiles, Seth will give me a wink. On the ride home, they are still on their iPods and they are replaying “us” dancing. They weren’t playing games, they were recording. They’ve added special effects. They speed it up, and slow it down, and make us different colors, and they giggle. And I feel good about this family. I feel good about kids watching their parents dance. And mess up. And laugh. And love.

Standing on my head

I have about a week left on my 40 Days journey. I thought I’d be writing about it like crazy, but it’s strange. I’ve felt very “inward.” I put up one post the other day, found it boring and took it down. I really have no interest in diets, or what people are eating, and it was the three day fruit cleanse, and just….well….I don’t know.  I ate a lot of avocados. I survived eating nothing but fruit. Who cares?

It isn’t as challenging as I thought it would be to practice yoga six days a week. I love it. My body feels really expansive as far as flexibility. Yesterday, I was practicing my yoga at home, in my office, and I went into the pose which is the preparation for “head stand.” I always do the prep, never the head stand. I just assume I can’t do a head stand. And while I was there, I had a memory. I could do head stands as a kid, easily. And before I could even think about it, I was doing a headstand, and I stood there in my office, on my mat, on my head, for about ten seconds before remembering I am a 43 year old woman who can’t do a head stand.

Last night while he was brushing his teeth, I stood on my head in the hallway and called Todd. He stepped out of the bathroom and was surprised to find me standing on my head. This morning I did the same party trick for the kids. They were shocked to come around the corner from their bedrooms and find their mother standing on her head in the hall. I might I say, they were thrilled and totally impressed.

I don’t really know what my point is, other than our own thoughts are usually the thing stopping us.  I don’t have to look very far in my life to see other places where a change in my limited beliefs would do me a world of good.

IT’S READ AN EBOOK WEEK!

Do you read books in ebook form yet? I have to admit, I didn’t until I was putting my own book up on Smashwords. I was a book-in-hand kind of girl. I didn’t want to change. But I had to see what my own book was looking like, so I ordered the ebook and read it on-line on my computer screen.

Then, in November we went to Mexico and HT got me a Kindle for the occasion. I fell in love hard and fast. No sore shoulder from carrying a bag of books during my travels. I got the cheapo Kindle, and I love it. It’s all I need. It’s a miracle. You can want a book, then “one-click” and twenty seconds later, you are reading it.

I’ve since read lots of ebooks on my Kindle. I have a nice little library building.

Anyway, in honor of READ AN EBOOK WEEK, the ebook version of Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar is on sale on Smashwords for just $1.50. Coupon code is YA74A.

Also, I want to tell you about another ebook I’ve been enjoying. It’s Awesome Your Life, by Carolyn Elliott and it is along the lines of Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” I have not finished it yet, so far I am finding it to be filled with lots of inspiring exercises. One is called “Joy Gifting” where you take three people in your life. One you are ambivalent about, one you love, and one you can’t stand. What you do is envision each of these people living at their very highest and happiest. It’s a very powerful visualization.

The everyday price for Awesome Your Life is just $0.99 but it looks like the author is offering it for free here. I say, throw her the buck and buy it on Amazon, but that’s just me.

If you have not dabbled in ebooks yet, maybe try it once on your computer and see what you think. It’s really easy. Think about all the trees you’ll save. But don’t forget about your local Indie book stores. They need love too.

*Belcastro Agency

Wishing you many, many books!