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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sometimes You Just Have to Venture Into the Neutral Zone Without Your Shields Up

     Last week, I went to church. At our church, there is a point in the service where everyone in the congregation says a prayer out-loud holding hands. A beautiful notion, right? A hundred-something people joined together to pray as a unified group. Except that if you look around, people only hold the hands with the people in their respective parties. They stand next to strangers with their hands up as if they are going to hold hands, but they don't actually touch each other. I looked over at the choir. The two ladies who run it, who are apparently friends and very active in the church, were standing next to each other with their hands up, not touching. I find this very interesting. Why aren't they holding hands? What are they afraid of? Germs? (Don't even get me started on the futility of worrying about germs in public places.) There are more germs on the Misselette than on the lady standing next to you.  A minute after this, they are going to shake hands anyway and say, "Peace be with you," but they won't make eye-contact. In church aren't we all supposed to be family? But we can't touch or look at each other, can we?
     What has happened to us as a culture? We live in such fear of other people. Fear of what? What they might think or say about us? Are we really so weak? We have become so cold and distant. We walk through life with an invisible force field around us. Don't make eye contact, someone might look back at you. We talk on our phones in public: connected to someone miles away and disconnected from everyone around us. We text or just play with our phones. We hide inside our technology. At dance class or swimming lessons we don't talk to the other parents, we all just stare through the window at our own kids and maybe chat with a parent we already knew. We might commute on a train or bus everyday with the same people and never say a word. Or run on a treadmill next to the same woman every Tuesday night at the gym, and not so much as smile at her in the locker room. Why are we so isolated? What are we so afraid of? These are not thugs in a dark alley-way. They are just other moms or other dads usually in the same the position we are. They are usually the people we are most like. People who are sharing the same experience as we are. But we'll never connect if we pretend we can't see them.
     I too walk around in this bubble sometimes. It has become the default setting for most of us. But I am trying not to do this anymore. I'm tired of living in fear of nothing... of what? Another person's judgement? Sticks and stones, my friends... The connections we can make with others when we drop our force field are far too precious and exciting for me.  When I walk by strangers, I look at them and smile. When I see another mom struggling with her 2 year old at McDonald's, I laugh with her when her son sticks his french fry up his nose and my daughter shoves her apples in ketchup. I've made some of my best friends by introducing myself as "the-one-with-the-Shirley-Temple-hair's mom." I'd be the one to tell the woman on the tread-mill that she's starting to really tone-up. I used to think it was so weird and embarrassing when I would be out with my Ya-Ya in a store and she'd strike up some random conversation with a stranger. Now I laugh to myself when I find myself doing the same thing.
     Recently, I have begun taking the hand of the person next to me at church regardless of who it is. Yes, I AM that weirdo! What are they going to say about me really? "OMG! Some weird woman took my hand in church today and prayed!" "How awful that must have been for you! Who does that?!"
     In 2011, I wish for you to reach across the 6 inches of space between you and the stanger next to you at church.  Make new friends. People are interesting... and insightful.... and beautiful.....and sometimes lonely. A small connection could mean nothing to them, or it could be life-changing. It could be the beginning of a life-long friendship. You'll never know with your shields up and cloaking device on.

Be well, be happy and give love....May your new year be full of joyful moments and precious memories!

Live long and prosper...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why I Love Christmas From A-Z

 A special post dedicated to my
mother and sister.
A is for  Advent Calendars. They are so much fun to open...especially if they have chocolate in them!
B is for Birthday...mine that is. And yes, I DO love having my birthday on Christmas Day. It's the happiest day of the year! Sure most people forget to say happy birthday to me, but I love the fact that its not about me. And I get to see my entire family AND eat all day!
C is for Cookie, or should I say mother makes like 14 different types, and I can't walk past the tray without eating one...or two...or six.
D, E, F is for Decorate Every-Freakin-thing. In my family we have decorations for everything. I have all the obligatory decorations, of course. I also have Christmas china, Christmas mugs and goblets. All of my everyday knick-knacks and most of my picture frames have been replaces with their Christmassy cousins. Even my toilet is wearing it's Christmas best!
G and H are for Gingerbread Houses. This is a relatively new tradition in our family, but it's a great time. We head over to my Mom's for dinner, and each adult takes a kid and decorates a house. Everyone goes home covered in frosting with a tummy-ache. 
is for Infant, as in the Infant Jesus. The reason for the season. We celebrate the birth the man Who would change the world. Even those who do not believe in His divinity cannot deny that His teachings and way of life are inspiring and worth celebrating.
J is for Jingle Bells,the ultimate sound of Christmas.
K is for Kindness. I am humbled by the spirit of giving that dominates all of December and most of November. Food drives, coat drives, giving trees, Secret's all so inspiring.  
L is for Love. This is what really makes the season so special, surrounding yourself with people who you love.
M is for Mistletoe, after which I was named. XXXXX
N is for Needlepoint Stockings. The ones that would be "hung by the chimney with care" if I had a chimney. (Instead they are hung on the staircase.) All of our stockings are hand made needle-point by my Nanny (my paternal grandmother). She just finished the baby's, and my collection is complete. She turned 87 this year. I cherish them.
O is for Ornaments. I love decorating my tree. As I take out each ornament, I remember when I got each one. Some of them are from my childhood. Some are from former students. Some are my children's. All are special, and I cherish the memories that come flooding back to me as I unwrap each one. 
P is for pajamas. Every Christmas eve my mother gives us each two gifts: an ornament that symbolizes the events of the year, and a set of Christmas pajamas....which my neighbors can tell you, I wear all year 'round!
Q is for Quietly sneeking around the house after bedtime, hoping not to wake up the kids. Santa won't come if they're not sleeping.
R is for Reading. Every Christmas eve as a child my mother would read Twas the Night Before Chistmas to my sister and me before bedtime. We would then say a prayer and un-wrap the Baby Jesus. After that we would lay in bed and listen for the jingle of Santa's bells while "visions of sugarplums danced in (our) heads." We still practice this tradition on Christmas eve, except now it's before we head out to mass and our children take our place in our mother's lap.
S is for Singing. Nothing is more timeless than Christmas music, nor is any music more fun to sing. From "Sleighride" to "Santa Baby" it never gets old....until December 26th, that is.

T is for Traditions. There is so much comfort and joy  to be found in rituals that families repeat year after year. This is what Christmas is really about. Bringing families closer together, sharing experiences in love.
U is for Un-birthday. December 26. Boxing Day? Maybe, but for me it's my un-birthday. When I married Mr. Jones, it upset him that he would never have me all to himself on my birthday, so we began to celebrate my un-birthday on the 26th. We go out to dinner and spend the day together with our kids.
V is for Visiting Santa. Every year, on the first weekend of December (since I was a baby) we go into Macy's at Herald Square to visit with the real Santa. (He comes in for a week on Thanksgiving and makes a special appearance at Macy's Santaland.) My parents, my sister and her husband and kids, and my family and I go in together. We then take a walk to see "The Tree" and have a nice dinner all together. It is my favorite day of the whole year (maybe even more than Christmas itself).  
W is for Winter Solstice. It's no coincidence that Christmas falls during the Winter Solstice. Jesus was most likely born in the spring, but the solstice is the "coming of the light," as the days begin to get longer. The Romans chose to celebrate Jesus' birth at this time because the symbolism of light defeating darkness represents "The Light of the World" defeating the darkness of evil. 
X is for X-mas. It used to bother me that people would use this abbreviation because they took Christ out of it. But the more that I think about it, I realize that a lot of non-Christians celebrate the holiday. Not the birth of the Lord, just the spirit of giving. And that's okay! All Jesus ever really wanted was for us to be kind to each other. And the spirit of giving seems to transcend our religious differences. 
Y is for my Ya-Ya. (My maternal grandmother) She loved the whole Christmas season. I cherish all of the decorations and ornaments that she either passed on to me, made or bought for me. Especially the snowmen. She LOVED snowmen.
Z is for Zzzzzzzzzzzz. When it's all over, my head hits my tempurpedic pillow it's all Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzs.

I could go on...I really could. This time of year is just so magical. A lot of people complain about it. They lose sight of what it's all about. Love, Family, Faith, and Kindness. I hope you are all celebrating with your families. As crazy as I'm sure they are, they are yours. Love them and hold on to your memories and traditions. Because in the end, that's all we really have.

Merry Christmas, My Friends! 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mr. Jones And Me

     Did you ever meet someone and know you were meant to know them? Even if they are only a part of your life for a short time. I've felt that way. On an ordinary afternoon in September of '98, I was standing in the gym at my job where I worked with children with developmental disabilities. I was feeling frustrated as I reflected on the "boys" I had been wasting my time with. My sister had just gotten married. When was I going to find someone who wouldn't think I was too smart or tell me that I think too much? I said to myself. That's it, I'm done with  self-centered jerks. I looked across the room, and there he was. Sitting on the heater, laughing with one of his students. I had seen him around, but I had always thought he seemed "too nice." Suddenly I saw him differently. A man who clearly loves these kids. A man who can love and give of himself. And I said to myself, that's the kind of guy I should marry. And on June 29, 2003 I did. Somewhere in between, though, I had a revelation. I remember the moment it happened. We had be dating a couple of weeks, but had been friends for months. He kissed me. I opened my eyes and looked into his. I saw myself staring back at me. And I knew. This was THE man I had been waiting for. I already knew him. I had always known him. Our souls had been connected for eternity, and would be connected for the rest of it. I can recall only two other times when this has happened. When I saw my own reflection in the eyes of another, that is. Both times I was looking into the beautiful brown eyes of an infant who I knew was sent from heaven to be mine. My life had been changed forever. My destiny was directly linked to who these children would become. I believe that the four of us are eternally connected to each other.
     Mr. Jones and my mini-mes are not the only ones I feel this soul connection with, although they are certainly the ones with whom I feel it most strongly. My parents and sister, of course, but I don't  remember meeting them. I do, however, remember meeting my brother-in-law on the phone. He called to speak to my sister. Immediate connection. I also remember the moment at the bus stop on the corner of Wilken Lane (I was 3) when I met "Tracie's little sister" as well as a year later on the playground at Loretta Park Elementary School when I finally met "the other Melissa" and the three of us became BFFE's. A bond beyond friendship that I know transcends this lifetime. And most recently, I remember the moment I introduced myself  to "Alysia's mom," and the first conversation I had with "Mia's mom." I remember these moments because they stand out in my mind as days when my life changed. When I felt the Great Plan coming together as these people who were destined to shape my life came into it.
      I am amazed at how intertwined our lives can be with other people's. I can't help but wonder when I meet new people how our lives will become linked. Why were they sent to me? Why was I sent to them? What do they have to offer me in terms of their wisdom or experience?  I already told you that I don't believe in coincidence. It's exciting isn't it? To think that your whole life could change in a moment when you meet someone who was destined to become a part of it forever. It could be a monumental event like the birth of a child. Or it could be something so mundane as seeing your new neighbor walking down the block and realizing that she has a child the same age as yours....instant connection. This, my friends, is the essence of HOPE. Knowing that your life has a plan and accepting that you can't see the details of the future. Realizing that tomorrow could be the day when you look across the room and see the man of your dreams. The woman you bumped into yesterday at the Book Fair could someday become your daughter's mother-in-law. You never never can tell....but you can have faith that there is a plan beyond your understanding....and if you have faith, you can always have hope

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want, But If You Try Sometimes, You Learn to Let It Be

     I don't believe in coincidence. Not at all. I really believe that everything that happens to us is part of a greater plan that we cannot understand or even conceive. I know. I'm a science teacher. I'm supposed to subscribe to the notion of randomness in the universe and have no faith in a higher power. Well, I'm not your typical science teacher. It's actually my scientific appreciation that leads me to this conclusion. The universe is so vast. The world is so complex, and the relationships between living things are so intricate and perfectly balanced and organized that there has to be an order to it all. We are so small as a species and our minds are so limited, how could we be so presumptuous  to think we could figure it all out. I accept that there are things that I can never and will never understand.
     I believe that everything really DOES happen for a reason. I know.  It's such a cliche. And when things are really sucking in your life, there is no comfort in that phrase. If anything, it just makes you feel angry. Why do I have to suffer this? Why did God let this happen? What have I done to earn such bad karma? Was it Tennyson who said, "Ours is not to wonder why, ours is but to do and die"? (Well I know Colonel Mustard said it, and then I think Mrs. Peacock yells, "DIE!" But I digress...) I subscribe to the belief that humans are spiritual beings trapped in a physical existence. We are here to experience human life with all its joys and tragedies. We are here with a plan and a lesson to learn. (Check out last week's post You Don't Have to Eat a Bacon Flavored Cricket.... ) Eventually we all die and return to our true spiritual existence bringing that knowledge with us. This is all fine and well, but it doesn't help me feel any less pain. Exactly, because you are SUPPOSED to feel that pain. It won't last forever. You will survive it, and if you don't it's because your time here is over. If you do survive, though, there is a lesson to be learned. There is always a lesson when we look back. Hind-sight is always 20/20.

     I can think of so many examples, but perhaps I will share one of my own. When my oldest daughter was two, I decided I wanted another child. I was going to get pregnant. I checked my ovulation; I counted the days; I even did a fertility ritual in the expectation that I would get pregnant. And I did. Immediately. And 10 weeks later, my baby died. I was devastated, but I was going to get passed it. I grieved and I prayed, and with the help of my family, I accepted the loss. And the I started over. As soon as the doctor said it was safe,  I checked my ovulation; I counted the days, and again, I got pregnant. 6 weeks later, I found out that my baby had died.  And I asked, Why?  I thought I was done. I learned my lesson that I need to be patient. Why are You doing this to me again? I remember coming to consciousness after my D and C hearing Paul singing, "I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, Let it be." I had to accept that there was something I wasn't seeing. That there was a larger plan. And I gave up.  I felt compelled in the height of my grief to pray the Rosary. And I prayed and prayed and prayed. But not for a baby. I prayed for the strength to get through my grief and to accept my path.  At some point in my confusion and pain I realized that I had to give in.  I knew in my heart that there was a soul who was destined to be my child. She was a specific soul who was coming into this world when her time was here. It was not my choice. When it was her time to come, the right egg and sperm would fuse and she would begin her life. And in June of 2008, she did, and my life was forever changed.

     This was my journey. On it I felt great joy and great anguish. I grew closer to my husband. I developed a depth of faith like I had never known. And through all of the medical testing I underwent, I found out that I have two medical issues that needed attention.  At some point, I gave in to the greater plan. I let go. And I found peace knowing that I would get through whatever was sent my way. This was the lesson I was supposed to learn. One that I could never have learned if I had never experienced great loss.  On your journey, you too will experience great joys and great anguish. And it is no coincidence that you were brought here at this moment to read my words. Nor is it one that I was brought here to type them. We cannot possibly know the lessons we are supposed to learn. If  we did, we wouldn't need to learn them. You can't always get what you want. But according to Kieth and Mick, "if you try sometimes, you get what you need."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Are You Hungry? Too Many of Us Are. Come On Over...

     I live on Long Island, in New York state. Maybe you've heard of it. It's shaped like a fish and sticks out of the corner where NY and NJ meet. Two of our counties are considered among the richest in the nation. You've heard of it, haven't you? The Hamptons...Wine Country....mansions on the North Shore. Yeah, that's us, and no, I don't live in any of those areas. In fact, as rich as Long Islanders are supposed to be, I recently learned that over 300,000 families are considered "food insecure." (That's the PC way to say hungry.) Meaning that they have to make a choice each week to buy food or pay the mortgage/rent or go to the doctor without health insurance, or fill up the gas tank in their car so they can earn that next pay check. Yet, if you look around, even in the poorest of areas, everyone is still wearing designer sneakers that match their designer bag (which is probably an illegal knock off anyway, but still). Everyone is trying to maintain this image that THEY are not one of those 300,000. But as a teacher in a middle class school district, I can tell you it's all for show. Long Islanders are hungry. Americans are hungry. Humans are hungry. All over the world, people are hungry. What are we feeding ourselves? This is the problem.

    One of the most inspirational women in the history of the world is Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa fed the hungry. And, I don't mean that she donated a can of lima beans to a local food drive once a year before Thanksgiving. (Although, she would never have looked down upon that, she did say "If you can't feed a hundred people, feed just one.") Mother Teresa physically fed people. She turned no one down from any race, creed or religion. And she made real change in this world. Interestingly enough, she spoke a lot about the hungry, but not just the food insecure. She said:
 "The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.
The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love..." (A Simple Path: Mother Teresa)

     This is the type of hunger we can all do something about. Look around you. Pay attention to the people in your family, those with whom you work, or see on a daily basis in some other capacity. Do they hunger? Are they empty? Is there anything you can do? Sometimes people just need someone to listen. Sometimes a child just needs to know there is one adult around him he can trust. Maybe your elderly neighbor just wants someone to share a cup of tea. Love is like a virus, it spreads. When people receive love, they are less afraid to give love. When people see an example of goodness, they are inspired to be an example of goodness.

     Maybe you are the hungry one. Maybe you are looking for an ounce of goodness in what seems to be a heartless world. May you have lost all faith in humankind. I remember when I first read Mother Teresa's book, No Greater Love. I was struck by a passage where she described the generosity of the truly destitute. She spoke of a mother to whom she gave a bag of rice. That mother did not just use the rice to feed her own children. She fed her neighbors too. She gave away something that was so precious to her family. True generosity hurts because it involves sacrifice. Don't misunderstand. I am not telling you to give away your livelihood. But sometimes a small sacrifice to you, going a little bit out of your way for someone else, can mean so much to someone who hungers.

     The world is a place with A LOT of problems, and so often we feel helpless to affect change. I'm just one person. But think about it, if one person reaches out to two people. And each of those two people reach out to two people. And those 4 people reach out to 2 people. And then those 8 people reach out to two people. Before long a thousand people are reaching out to two thousand people. And two thousand people are reaching out to four thousand people. Do the get the picture. You CAN make a difference. You CAN affect change in small ways every day. And when you give love, you will feel it growing inside of you. You will begin to satiate your own hunger. One last quote from the soon to be Saint:

 "May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us."

Love and happiness to you always....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You Don't Have To Eat A Bacon Flavored Cricket, But If You Never Do, You'll Never Know How Awful It Tastes

Have you ever eaten a cricket? 
What about chocolate covered bacon?
Have you ever eaten a meal made entirely out of corn products?
Have you ever had an animal you've cared for die in your arms?
Have you ever smelled sulfur gas as you looked into the crater of a volcano?
Jumped off of a waterfall?
Climbed to the top of a Mayan temple?
Grown a person  inside of you then pushed her out without any pain killers?
Fed a baby from your own body?
Climbed to the crown of the Statue of Liberty?
Rode the legendary Cyclone at Coney Island?
Walked across the Brooklyn Bridge?
Hugged Mickey Mouse? 
Rode a horse through a hail storm at the top of a Rocky Mountain?
Ridden a camel?
Touched the wall inside of a gold mine?
Eaten a crepe on the quais outside Notre Dame de Paris?
Breathed in the mist of a Central American cloud forest?

     I have. I have done all of these things. Some are extraordinary. Some not so much. Some of these experiences were amazing. Some I don't ever need to have again (eating a cricket being top of that list). Still I cherish these moments. Every one of them was an amazing experience. And that's all life really is, isn't it? A string of amazing experiences loosely connected by routine day to day dramas.

     Some people spend their entire life wondering what the meaning of it all is. Why are we here? What is our purpose. I believe that we come into this life with the sole purpose of experiencing humanity. Then we die and leave it all behind. Whatever your belief in an afterlife is, one thing is certain. We all live for a while as humans, and then die. We are only here for a short time. So why not make the most of it? I have a list that I wrote in 1996. I was 19. It's my "Things to do before I die list" Some things are checked off. Some were crossed off. Some need to be added. I have so much I still need to do. I want to live this life to its fullest. I want to experience everything I possibly can before I die. I want to sky dive. I want to set foot on every continent and in every ocean. I want to taste everything. I want to give till I'm empty. Love till it hurts. I want to dance, and sing and laugh. And then dance and sing and laugh some more.  Sometimes I feel like I have this fire inside of me. And some days it smolders while I change diapers, and wash dishes and make lunches for school. Other days it burns so hot that I just want to jump out of my skin and fly. Those are the days when you pass my classroom and I'm loudly singing and making a fool of myself in front of 25 11 year olds. Those are days when I eat chocolate cake slowly, and slide down my neighbor's zip-line, and let my husband dare me to eat a bacon flavored cricket.

I hope you have those days. Lots of them. I hope you are tasting and singing and dancing and laughing. I hope you are loving, and playing and capturing as many moments as you can. GO! Go do something extraordinary. If not extraordinary, at least fun! And now I will take my own advice and do the same...ciao!

Monday, November 1, 2010

All You Need Is Love!

     I don't like to talk too much about religion publicly. It's so easy to offend people of different faiths, and you know the last thing I ever want to do is offend people. I do, however, think that there are some universal truths that people of all faiths can agree on. Like love, for example. I think we can all agree that love is a good thing. One of the most powerful things in the universe. I call it a thing because I have no doubt of its existence. Scientifically speaking, what is love? To exist, something must be matter or energy. We can define love as a combination of thoughts and feelings directed towards another individual. Our thoughts can be measured as firing neurons in our brains and quantified by machines as electrical impulses, or moving energy. Thereby, I think it's safe to define love as energy.  There is so much that we still don't understand of the human body and mind, but we DO know that our bodies give off and receive energy. If love is an energy, then it is possible for our bodies to radiate love. (One could carry this further spiritually to define this love energy  as God's light, The Holy Spirit, Qi, Chi, Kundalini, Buddah, White Light, Goddess energy, etc....whatever you the confines of one's faith allow. But to keep it universal, I will from this point on refer to it as "Love Energy.")  

     Anyway, I think that it's plausible to say that we as humans emit Love Energy. Clearly, some people "light-up a room" and mysteriously capture the attention of everyone in it because they seem to radiate love. Some people just energize us by being close to us or by the slightest physical contact. Those people are truly special, and we are fortunate if we have them in our lives, but I think we all have the ability to send out Love Energy to others. All we really have to do is think about it. The thought itself is the energy. I believe that when I think about someone and wish them well, that love is sent out into the universe. We can certainly focus this energy by focusing our thoughts in meditation or prayer. This can be VERY powerful, but all too often we find our busy lives cause us to make excuses not to meditate or pray. Maybe this is you. I know that it's all too often me. But we don't always have to engage in some sort of ritual to see the power of Love Energy. If every loving thought sends out Love Energy, all we have to do to make a difference in the world is to think loving thoughts about other people. Every loving thought adds a drop in the proverbial bucket that is the universe.

     With that in mind, words become even more powerful. When we say something loving out loud, we send out the thought energy and then create sound energy. When we write out thoughts down, they become something tangible that exist in space and time in addition to invisible Love Energy. What I'm saying is that thoughts have power. Words have power. Our thoughts and words travel away from us into the world. Think of the difference YOU can make by simply engaging in a few positive loving thoughts and words every day. Ghandi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." I don't know about you, but the changes I want to see in the world can be made possible if there was just a little more love. Okay, a lot more love.

So I am sending Love Energy out to you through cyberspace.
May everyone who reads this experience the  love with which it was intended!     
Be well. Be Happy. Give Love!

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Get A Little "Horny".....Witch Costume Do You Choose?

I love the change of seasons. As I drove home today, I was so distracted by the beauty of the trees lining the highway. I kept thinking how amazing the colors are. We only get to see them in the fall, but they are actually there all the time. They are called secondary pigments. In the spring and summer they are covered up by the green chlorophyll, but they are always there. I can't help but see the parallel to the celebration of Halloween. I don't know where you live, but around here it's kind of a big deal.  Costumes, candy, much fun!
I love having an excuse to dress up for Halloween, but I haven't bought and adult costume in about 11 or 12 years. Every year I put on my horns that I bought at a Renaissance Faire in 1999. They are real horns. I dig  them out of my drawer and slip them under my hair so they look like they are actually growing out of my head. I always wear my pentacle necklace (along with my cross and Blessed Mother Medal) and this year I added orange and black striped tights. My students always ask me what I'm supposed to be. A devil? No. A cat? No. I usually don't answer them. It's too complicated to explain to them, and my unusual religious beliefs are certainly not an appropriate discussion for public school. But I don't care that they don't get it. I feel magickal and energized and excited by the energy in the air. Did I mention that I love Halloween?
Anyway, I find it interesting to see what costumes people choose for themselves. I Think this gives us some insight into who we are. These are our fantasies. An expression of the person we really are inside, but repress because of the social pressures of our job, family, or religion. I have a student who I adore. He's smart and funny and  has mostly female friends. He's only 11, so I don't think he's ready yet to accept his sexual orientation. He's planning to be Lady GaGa for Halloween. No surprise to me....(wonder how his dad feel about it.) My muscular 6 year old gymnast who thinks she's invincible and who seems to want so badly to fly is going as Wonder Woman. And my best friend who spends her days in a fancy smancy office in Manhattan is obsessed with dressing up as Snooki from the Jersey Shore.  Halloween is a day when we can live our fantasy for a minute without any judgement or repercussion. For a moment in time everyone is free to show their real inner self without fear or insecurity. The restrictions of conformity fade away like the green chlorophyll in the trees, revealing the beautiful colors that make us unique and different. I believe that God created us all with the same beauty and splendor and diversity that He (or She) created those spectacularly colored trees. And I love having the opportunity to see that splendor revealed.  That's why I love Halloween.....well that and the Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why Women Rock From A to Z

A is for Ask your mom...she always has all the answers.
B is for Breasts. We have them. For feeding or fondling... they are fabulous!
C  is for Creativity. Have you ever visited an elementary school? The teachers are predominately women. These are some of the most creative people in the world.
D E F G is for Doing Everything For oo-Gots.(this is poorly spelled NY Italian American slang....roughly translated ... we do everything for everyone and get nothing....but balls.
H  is for Healers, because we can cure any ailment with our magic kisses!
I...there is no I in woman.
J is for Judge Judy, because she is the type of woman our children should aspire to be.
K is for Kitchen. We have worked so hard to get out of it... and yet we still spend half of our lives cleaning it.
L is for Learning because we never stop. Studies show that when a woman becomes a mother she creates thousands of new synapses in her brain...we actually get smarter!
M is for Motherhood, of course. The curse of Eve is God's greatest gift to mankind.
N O P is for No One's Princess: never have been, never will be.
Q is for Queens. Women are so magnificent that there is a whole sub-culture of the opposite sex who emulate us.
R is for Reason. Because we always have to be the voice of.
S is for Sisters. If you are blessed enough to have them, you will NEVER be alone in this cruel heartless world.
T is for Teachers. Some of us teach for a living, some of us teach by living.
U is for Uterus. Come on.... WE CAN GROW PEOPLE!!!
V is for Voluptuous. Because there is nothing more beautiful than the curves of a woman's body.
W is for Witches. The name given to wise old women in "the old country" who used natural remedies to heal the people in their villages. The word originates from the word Wicca which means wise. The men who ran the world decided they were a threat. We were hanged and burned.
XXX It's not the most lucrative industry in the world because of the handsome male actors....(not that I've ever seen it). 
Y is for Youth. When we have it we don't want it, and then we spend the rest of our lives trying to re-live it....But that can be fun!
Z is for Zebra. Prints are very in this season, and they are fabulous... just like we are.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Not So Great Expectations

      They call it the "Golden Rule." I actually think its Biblical in origin, but everyone, regardless of creed, seems to spout it even if they don't live by it. I think they teach you this when they hand out crayons in nursery school. It sounds good in theory, but essentially its flawed. Or slightly tarnished at best.... and since gold is highly un-reactive I think we should call it the "Gold-Plated Rule."  You see, I have always been overly sensitive to other people's emotions. Empathic actually. So much so that I become obsessive if I sense I have hurt or even insulted someone. So I do unto others as I would have done unto myself.  The problem arises when I do unto others with the EXPECTATION that they will do the same unto me. This is when people disappoint. My husband and I try to go out of our way for the people we love. We call. We go. We invite. We listen. We buy. We donate. We do. Just ask; we're there. Don't ask; we'll still be there. We give and give and give. We really try to be the best friends, children, siblings, and parents that we could possibly be.  And often we look at each other and say. "What the hell is wrong with us?" "Why do we give give give and So-and-so doesn't seem to even give us a second thought." He'll say, "I'm tired of being the only one to call. The phone works both ways." I'll say, "I always worry about her and she doesn't even give me a second thought." And we become disillusioned. We feel like an after-thought. And the reality is that we often ARE the afterthought for many of the people we love so dearly.  

Why so cynical you ask? That's not like you, Meliss! Where are your rose-colored glasses today? Did someone make your glass half empty? 

     I'm not being cynical. This is the reality of life. One of the toughest lessons that I've learned over the years is that you can only account for your own behavior. I cannot always expect to get the same level of love and commitment back from other people that I offer. And the reason for this is that not everyone is capable of making the sacrifices that we make. Some people are, and I am always humbled when they reach out and show their love for me. When friends call or visit or go out of their way for us, I am so moved and give thanks for the blessing of their friendship. But I have come to have low expectations of people. These days I take what I can get when it comes to love. Some people I know have never experienced the level of love we are willing to give them. They do not reciprocate because they are simply not emotionally equipped to do so. Does that mean they love me less than I love them? No. People learn what they live. If they haven't been shown real unconditional love, how can you expect them to show it? You can only expect people to give what they are comfortable with and nothing more. I have come to a point in my life where I have not so great expectations. I do unto others with NO expectation that they will do the same unto me. I do what I do simply because I do. I know what's right, and I know what sacrifices I am capable of. So I give the most I can in whatever way I can. With no expectations. In the end I know when I did the right thing, and ultimately I believe that it all comes back to me (three-fold actually). So maybe sometimes I make myself the door-mat....or maybe I make myself the example. Either way, I have to believe that the love I send out is not being lost or wasted. And sometimes it's really hard to swallow my pride and let go of my giant ego. But if I have less than great expectations, I never can  be disappointed..... in myself or you.
 Sending love out to you.....always!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Take a Moment to Enjoy Your Tea. (BTW a moment is exactly a minute and a case you were wondering)

La vie est trop is too short. That's what it says on the frame around my license plate. Maybe you've wondered. It's French. I love all things French. Yes, even the people. Funny thing about French people, they can sit at a cafe for hours sipping the same cup of coffee. The French have a certain joie de vivre: joy of life. They relax and enjoy the fresh air while they sip their coffee. They chat with friends and really enjoy their time at that cafe. I find this inspiring. As an American, I don't have time to do this. We never have time for anything do we? To read a book, cook a healthy dinner, call our friends, exercise....the list goes on and on. We just don't have time. How come the French have the time, but we don't? Don't they have children and schedules and meetings? We need to learn how to stop and sip our coffee. To smell the aroma before we take a sip. Hold it in our mouths. Let the flavors linger over our taste buds. Take a moment to think about where that coffee came from. Lets say it's free trade, shade grown organic coffee. Imagine the little coffee plants, absorbing the energy from the sun to make the sugars that allow its flowers to grow and bloom. Imagine the beautiful butterflies that drink the nectar of its tiny white flowers carrying the pollen to fertilize the plant. Imagine the fertilized flower shriveling up and giving way to the beans that will soon be harvested and ground up to make the flavorful mixture that is currently dancing over your taste buds. Imagine how the water that is absorbed through the roots has been cycled around by nature for the 4+ billion years of Earth's existence. You could go on to think about where the cream and sugar originated. Think about how you came to be at this moment with all the elements and people around you. Take stock and be grateful. Take a deep breathe. Inhale the aroma again. Hold it. Release all the tension of your body as your exhale.  THIS... C'est la joie de vivre.

I don't drink coffee. That's a lie actually. I will drink it if it has enough sugar, milk and flavoring to drown out the taste of the coffee. I prefer tea. All kinds of tea. I'm not talking about infusions like peppermint and chamomile. They have their place, but I LOVE real tea: green tea, white tea, or black tea. So instead of sipping coffee, I sip tea. After my kids go to bed, I sit on my worn out couch with my amazing husband. I feel a calm come over me. I let the tea take over and the tension of the day melts away. Granted, I don't spend hours sipping. Not sure how the French get past the fact that hot beverages get cold. And I need to get to bed by 10 if I am going to of any use to anyone the next day. But these are the moments of joy that give life color. Taking time to really be in the moment, revelling in the pleasure of a simple gift of nature. This is the secret to happiness. It's the accumulation of joyful moments that make a person's life fulfilling. It's up to you to find the simple pleasures and take advantage of them. Life IS short, but if we can grab hold of a moment here and there, it can be short but full.

Friday, October 22, 2010

No Tolerance for Intolerance: Differences Enrich Our Lives

My mother always told me I was special....still does actually. I think I am special. We're all special. I know it sounds like a spot on Sesame Street or Barney, but it's true. Every person I meet contributes to the experience of my life. Whether I meet you for a minute or I know you for years, I can learn from you. Even that guy on the expressway today... the one picking his nose. He taught me to be conscious of how I appear in public because you never know who's watching. Kind of makes me re-think the outfit I wore to work the other day- it was 80's day. Hair was big; make-up was heavy! Wonder how I looked to passing cars. But I digress.
 My point is that you never know what other people can teach you. Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to the creepy IT guy at work. (The one who kind-of looks like a serial killer.) We were discussing the frustration that comes when technology breaks down. I mentioned my frustration with the film industry's depiction of post-apocalyptic America. (30 years later, no one has veered from the paradigm created by Mad Max.) He proceeds to tell me that he loves that stuff and that's why our fore-fathers created the second amendment.... This is usually where I exit-stage-left, but for some reason I stayed. I found out that he is training to become a blacksmith (truly a dying craft) and that he is into survival training. You know, what Bear Grylls pretends to do. Anyway I found this fascinating, and I learned from our conversation how to make a Dakota fire hole, a small campfire that the Native Americans used. Who knew?  Now it is not likely in my life that I will ever actually MAKE this sort of fire, but prior to this conversation, I didn't even know that such a thing existed. There's a whole culture of people who practice survival skills. He's not a person with whom I would regularly socialize, and I KNOW we have some very differing political views, but that's okay. In fact that's what life is all about. Meeting people who are different from you. Hearing their stories, learning from the wisdom of their experiences that you will never have yourself.

I get so angry when people are intolerant of others. A facebook friend of mine posted a warning yesterday that in 7 months the world is going to end. Yes, really. Apparently there are people out there who believe that May 21, 2011 is exactly 7000 years since Noah's flood. Google it, they claim some evidence in the Bible that that is when a giant earthquake will begin the Apocalypse. Not exactly my cup of tea. At first I was angered by what I feel is her ignorance. Then I thought about it. Why do I care? So what if her faith is predicting a doomsday in 7 months. It doesn't affect me at all. Those are her beliefs. I have to respect that. Her faith is hers; my faith is mine. I really don't understand why people waste their energy hating or judging others because they have different beliefs, or cultural mores, or sexual orientation, or genetic make-up. "Live and Let live" or in the wisdom of the Jersey Shore geniuses, "You do you, I'll do me!"

Some people collect stamps or coins, I collect friends. Not Internet friends, nothing so creepy or narcissistic. Real friends. People to get to know and love. Differences and all. We are all special and different and beautiful in some way. It is a gift to make a new friend and learn from her experience. Even if she does think the world is going to end in 7 months. Hey, maybe she's right. Maybe I should be nicer to that IT guy. If civilization as we know it comes to an end, he'd be a good friend to have!