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Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Spirit of ChristmaHanuKwanzYule?

     I'm feeling rapt today. That's right, I said rapt, as is full of divine light and love. As in my humble heart is overflowing with the pure joy of living. It started at lunch when I was contemplating my apple. I had been frustrated and complaining about trivial things that have no real importance. Thinking about money while I mindlessly picked the crust off my rye bread. Then I took a bite of my apple; debatably, nature's most perfect food. It really is a beautiful thing, the apple. The ovary of the apple blossom, swollen with sugars to nurture the seeds of the apple tree. Each and every seed has the potential to grow into a tree that will bear thousands of new apples with thousands of seeds that have the potential to produce thousands more, that can produce thousands more, and thousands infinitum. And here I sit eating this fruit, tasting the sugar on my tongue while the sweet juice lingers on my lips, and I think of the sun. The cells of the leaves of the mother plant that created this most perfect food captured the energy of that sacred star without which we could not survive. The energy of the sun trapped in every bond attaching carbon atom to carbon atom. (I'm sorry....did you forget I teach science?....I didn't mean to be tangental...)
     As I was saying, the sun.....the giver of life, emanating pure energy. How can this not be divine? I don't know to whom you pray. It really doesn't matter to me if you love Jesus and Mary as I do, or if you just concede that there must be a higher intelligence that created us all. How do you not see divinity in such perfections of nature? The ancient cultures worshipped the sun. They saw its divine perfection, and celebrated its return at the Winter Solstice. They gave it many different names, but almost all of them acknowledged the importance of the solstice as the coming of the light. Today, we are in our orbit, the closest to this most heavenly body. Although the darkness will seem unbearable today, tomorrow will bring a tiny bit more light. Day after day, a bit more light.  It is no coincidence that we Christians celebrate the birth of our Savior during this ancient feast week. Jesus is the "Light of the World," the light of hope.
     Lots of people celebrate Christmas who don't believe in His divinity. And you hear lots and lots of people, regardless of their faith (or lack there of) talk about "The Spirit of the Season." Universally, it represents giving.....whether of time, or self or money or gifts. Some people speak of forgiveness as being the "Spirit" of the holiday. Others emphatically insist that you should only be celebrating if you are a believer. But the world is a very diverse place. And I think that God comes to each of us in His (or Her) own way. And so there is no right or wrong faith. Ultimately, most of us who believe in a God of some sort, come to the understanding that whoever your God is, GOD IS LOVE. And the way to a peaceful world is to open our hearts to give and receive that love unconditionally. On December 25, I celebrate the birth of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Yes, it is also Yule, the coming of the light, as well as (this year) part of the "Festival of Lights."And with what little I know of Kwanzaa, I do know that the principles basically acknowledge the importance of being humble and grateful for the gifts of the world in which we live. Isn't that all sort of the same thing?
    Many of you have become disillusioned with "The Holidays." You're frustrated with the materialism, lack of faith and/or hypocrisy of other people. But the way I see it, the "holiday spirit" has nothing to do with other people. The "holiday spirit"..... the Christmas Spirit..... is something I retain in MY heart. I am celebrating the life of my Lord and Savior. I am trying in my own humble way to exemplify His teachings and spread His light and love. But curiously, those other things that people who are not Christian refer to as "the holiday spirit" all fall within His teachings. And so, as far as I see it, His Light shines on everyone who shows compassion, generosity and forgiveness whether they are believers or not.
     I would never tell anyone else what they should believe. I only know what I know. And I can only do what I do. When I take nourishment from that apple, that divinely perfect food, I eventually toss away the seeds. Many of the seeds will not germinate. But if even one does, it has potential to bear fruit that will eventually come to seed, and grow and fruit, and reseed. That's the Christmas Spirit. The idea that when we act in the spirit of goodness and light we might inspire another to do the same, regardless of faith or religious persuasion. We are eating from the divine fruit of love and tossing away the seeds. Some will be inspired and the seed will germinate and bear fruit. Others may not. But all it takes is one seed of goodness and love to germinate with the potential to parent many many more fruits, all of which bear seeds that might be planted. And this is what I believe is the coming of the light. This growing movement of acceptance, compassion, respect and universal love. This is the Christmas Spirit, whether you want to call it that or not.

So Merry Christmas, my friends.  Happy Hanukkah. A Blessed Yule. And Happy Kwanzaa.

Whatever you are celebrating, do just that. Celebrate! Celebrate life and love and goodness and be rapt as you wrap!      

Monday, November 7, 2011

For The Grace of God

By the grace of God, i opened my eyes to the light of new day's dawn.
By the grace of God, i heard His sigh in the breath of my little one's yawn.

When i stepped in the warmth of liquid joy as i washed the sleep from my skin,
i felt His embrace as He cleansed my body and my heart and soul from within.

With each bite that i take, with each sip to my lips, i taste His abundant life.
And i know when i walk, with each step that i make he will carry me through any strife.

Sometimes when i look to my left and my right, i know that there's no one there.
But i'm never alone as i feel His peace fills me up with each breath of blessed air.

At night i kneel down before Him:
Please give me protection, show me direction, take my hand and lead the way.
Help me to serve You, for i do not deserve Your infinite love every day.

i look into darkness no longer with fear that i carried in younger years.
With each move that i make, with each breath that i take, i'm so humbled it brings me to tears.

So i thank You for Your love and light.  Forgive me for i'm so flawed.
Open my heart and show me the way, i promise You won't be ignored.

Behold Your handmaid.
                                i surrender my will.
                                                   For i'm Yours today and until....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Princessification of America: STOP THE MADNESS

     A couple of years ago, when my angel was 4, we took a family trip to Disney World. BEST VACATION EVER! I'm a Disney girl. I would go to Disney every year if I could afford to. So let me preface this by saying that I love everything Disney! And when we met the Disney Princesses, I was very impressed. They were kind and gentile and made each little girl feel like she had a personal relationship with her. It was beautiful. My favorite Disney Princess, however, is not a princess by any stretch of the imagination, but they group her in with them anyway. My favorite "princess" is Mulan. In case you don't have any Disney kids in your life, Mulan is the Chinese girl who's elderly father is called to war. She cuts her hair off and goes in his place risking death by both the Huns and her own people because the penalty for impersonating a man is execution. Mulan is the Disney heroine I want my girls to emulate. What did Cinderella do? Cry into a pumpkin because she couldn't go to a party? Wait for a fairy godmother to put some more diamonds in her tiara? Sorry Cindy, you're cute and sweet, but the last thing I want my kids to expect is that their godmother (or their daddy) is going to come along and dry every tear and fix every misfortune.

     And this is the problem with America. (Okay, so maybe it doesn't trump the budget deficit, but it makes me just as crazy.) I am so sick of listening to young girls whine about their lives. "FML" That phrase turns my stomach. Really? Is your life SO hard? You didn't get those designer boots you asked for. Or you only got to wear 1 gown at your Super Sweet 16. Or your daddy won't send you anymore money to spend on pot and beer at college. Get a friggin' job like I did!  How did American girls get like this? Surely we can't  just blame Disney's singing mice, but a girl doesn't just start acting like this.  It starts at a very young age. "Mommy, I want that!"  "It's not fair, she got presents and I didn't."

     Whatever happened to the word, "NO!"? Now I have 2 adorable little girls. They are both so cute that at some point in their short little lives, they have already realized that if they are sweet and cute and charming that they can get just about anything they want from most adults. This is dangerous! Mr. Jones will tell you I am the softy parent. I don't like to say, no. Sometimes it's really hard, but I do. I've gotten really good at ignoring the crying, stepping over the bodies wailing on my kitchen floor while I make dinner, and carrying a screaming child out of a toy store empty-handed. I just look at them and say, "I have an idea,  maybe you should cry about it." I am so afraid that my girls will grow up to think they are princesses, sometimes I just say no for the sake of saying no.
     I am NOT a princess! At first glance at work or in public, you might be fooled by my professional camouflage and think that I care who sewed the label into your pocketbook. I don't. You won't see a flash of red under my shoes. (I'm only wearing shoes because the health codes say I have to.)  As I told you before, my father raised me to "cowboy up." My mother let me scream in the toy store too. And somehow, in my group of girlfriends I was always "the muscle" (which is why I always get the job of carrying the heavy stuff at baby showers.) I've hiked up riverbeds in rainstorms with blisters covering my feet inside mud caked hiking boots. I've ridden mountain goat trails in hail storms and literally had get back on the horse after I've fallen off. I've mucked horse stalls, been thrown up on more times that I can remember, slept on the ground, showered for 5 weeks straight in cold water at dawn, not showered for days at a time because there wasn't any running water, and eaten whatever I was served because it was my only option. I don't really need much to be happy.  I chalk it all up to experience. You won't ever see a tiara on MY head. (Maybe a crown of flowers or a wreath of leaves....but NEVER a tiara.)
     When Will and Kate got married this year, the whole world watched. A real Princess! And I think the Duchess of Cambridge is a good example of a princess for the most part. She has grace and class and so far has been a positive role model for young girls in the way she conducts herself in public. The problem is that she is not the kind of princess American girls are aspiring to be. They want to a princess like Paris, or Lindsay,  or Kim. They want to be famous and rich and tell everyone what to do and have no consequence for their actions. I am so done with that. Women in popular culture have become rancid. They disgust me with their never ending materialism and vanity. All they are teaching our children is that it's what's on the surface that's important, Money = Happiness and that acquiring things and getting attention is more important than giving of oneself, sacrificing for love, and being grateful for whatever we do have.

They wear tiaras, but they are no princesses.

So, if you've ever wanted to smash the tiara off a 14 year old girl's head, join me in my princess revolution. Say no to your child. Turn off MTV, any show with "Housewives" in it, and stay away from stores that put their logo across your tween's backside. Put down the credit cards.  Teach your children to pray and be grateful for the many blessings in their lives. Be an example of humility and selflessness,  and if you feel so inclined, pass this on to anyone who will listen....or just click "like" or "share." That'll do.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Say What You Need to Say

     So for the past week or so, I've had  David Cassidy singing over and over again in my head, "Hey, I think I love you. So what am I so afraid of? I'm afraid that I'm not sure of, a love there is no cure for...." (Hoping this blog post will stifle him....not that I have anything against The Partridge Family.....but, come on, it's been like a week already!) There's a certain tragedy to this song. Aside from it's happy upbeat tempo, think about what he's saying. I really love you, but I can't tell you because I'm afraid of getting hurt. How often does this happen? That we have something we really want to say to someone, but we are so afraid of the consequences of our words that we suffer in silence by saying nothing. Unfortunately, this usually just makes the situation worse. I'm not just talking about proclaiming your love for someone, I'm talking about everything in life. We are so good at talking, but terrible at communicating.
     There's a difference, you know. Between talking and communicating. I'll spare you the Webster's definitions (that's so 11th grade English class).  I think you know what I mean when I say that someone can talk for hours, and never actually SAY anything.  And likewise, someone else can communicate so much without ever saying a word. These are two extremes. Most of the time we are somewhere between the two. We want to say something important, but only get some of it out because some things are just too hard to say out loud. And so we say nothing. Or we just try to hint at something. And we get nowhere.

     Most of the time we are too worried about the consequences of our words. I know I've put my foot in my mouth too many times to mention. If I had a dime for every time my sister has said to me, "I can't believe you said.... to..." Or how many times Mr. Jones gave me that look while listening to my conversation with someone else. The look that silently communicates, "Stop talking now.... do you even you hear the words coming out of your mouth?"  Then there's the looks of shock I gotten from certain other people in my life. The ones that say, "I can't believe you just said that out loud." I'm used to it now. I know how my feet taste. And I have spent more times apologizing for speaking the truth, or exposing the elephant in the room, or for just saying out loud what everyone else is afraid to, than you can possibly imagine. And while my intent is never to be hurtful. I have to say, after the immediate embarrassment, and subsequent apologies, I usually don't regret saying it in the end. I hate secrets. I hate euphemisms. I hate pretending that everything is fine when it isn't. I'm not good at pretending when it comes to feelings. An old friend once said to me, (when I was insisting that I was happy while involved in an emotionally abusive relationship) "Your eyes betray you. You can say one thing, but your eyes always tell the truth." So since I can't pretend, I don't.  I'd rather be familiar with the taste of my toes than waste time and energy lying to myself or anyone else.
   Life is short. We only have so much time to spend with the ones we love. Why spend that time in awkward silence or resentment? That's the consequence of NOT saying what you feel. The resentment builds inside. It wears on you and eventually bleeds into other areas of your life. Sometimes it even causes physical pain.  Just say it. Whatever it is. Tell her you love her and can't live without her. Tell he needs help. Explain to them why their actions (or non actions) hurt you so deeply. Why spend another minute of what's left of this life suffering? Once the words are spoken, then you can move on. Then you can heal. Then you can be happy. Don't let fear stand in the way of your happiness. You deserve more than that.

Hoping you will spread the love, as always. Be well, be happy and be honest.....with yourself and with everyone else. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember

I remember the day America was changed forever.

I remember the moment I heard. Our innocence as a people was ripped away. Bye Bye Miss American Pie. Nothing would ever be the same again.

I remember the disbelief. The horror. The anguish. The fear. The confusion.

I remember the frantic phone calls. The devastating news that lasted for days and weeks.

I remember.

I also remember the relief....when we heard that someone wasn't there that day. They called in sick or just went off shift.

I remember the elation in the first few days that there were actually survivors banging, banging, banging, desperate to be heard and found in the rubble. Found and reunited.

I remember the call within. Each and every American heard it that day. The call in our hearts to do something. To go. To donate. To help in some small way anything we could do.

I remember the flags. Red White and Blue blazing across the sky. Everywhere we turned. On cars, in windows, on people. Suddenly the words of our National Anthem rang true....."Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave...." Yes! Yes it does, and always will.

I remember understanding, for the first time in my life, what patriotism meant. I remember for the first time in my life really feeling proud of the land that I was born in.

I remember.

I remember the day Americans woke up and realized the world wasn't our oyster.

I remember the day that we came together as a people. United. One nation under God INDIVISIBLE.

Sometimes I want to forget the pain. I don't want to re-live the emotion of that horrific day. But I, like every other American will NEVER forget. Those who have given their lives for our freedom and safety will never be forgotten. We will never stop honoring them. We will never stop grieving. We will always pay tribute. We owe them everything.

I remember. I will always remember. Eternally grateful. Forever humbled. Forever changed. I and every other American will never be the same again.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

You Say You Want A Revolution.......We All Want To Change The World

     I believe the consciousness of the world is shifting. The world is changing. There is a growing movement of enlightened people who are sickened by the current state of affairs in this world and who are desperately seeking to make changes. The problem is that most of us walk around in neat little bubbles lined with TV screens that show us meaningless images of meaningless people doing meaningless things....and we emulate them. Lets take a look:
     This morning I was making a cheesecake with my girls in the kitchen. The TV was on in the living room. Mr. J was watching the Season Premiere of Jersey Shore. And my stomach is turning. I am listening to these simple arrogant self-centered self-serving idiots talk about what they expect to see and do when they go to Italy. And all I could think was, These f---- a---h---- are going to be the face of America to the whole world. They represent American popular culture! Hundreds of thousands of adolescents across the nation and world are watching......and emulating.....This is America? Is this what we have been reduced to? Self serving lushes with zero self respect whose only goal in life is to "get it in?" Really?! Sickening! Click...change the channel.
     I try to watch the news when my kids are sleeping. Murder, suicide, homicide, manslaughter (how many different words do we need for death) rape, molestation, gang violence, gang rape, famine, war lords, more soldiers dead for no reason, global climate change, pollution, and a giant mass of floating plastic in the middle of the Pacific ocean the size of Texas. Oh and did I mention death?  What about murder?  Did I mention murder?click
     CNN, CNBC, FoxNews...I try. I really try to focus and pay attention to the spinning and the spinning and the spinning of why my taxes are going up again, why my civil liberties are vanishing, why the rich keep getting richer and the middle class are losing their houses. Why are there so many repo shows on? (It seems they're the only ones making any money!) I'm so confused. And the career politicians.....spinning spinning spinning. Our Capitol Building sweats corruption as they line their pockets with with money stolen from American people to pay for their high end prostitutes and orgies. They go around and around convincing us that this is better than that for the American taxpayer as they sneak in deals for whichever lobbyist made the greatest contribution or which country has the most oil. I'm getting dizzy...and
   Gameshow. Cartoons. Pre-shool on TV. I'll take it. While my two year old watches Caillou for the 15,000th time, I can drift off into a fantasy world where everything is rainbows and daisies and none of this nonsense exists. And while that's fine for 25 minutes or so, reality eventually has to set in. This is the world I live in. This is the world my children live in. The all-mighty dollar reigns supreme. Sex is a commodity. Self respect is not.
     So what do we do? Do we allow this continue? Do we allow are daughters to become Snookis and JWOWWs? Do we allow our beautiful planet to continue to be raped by industry and consumerism? Do we allow our Lady Liberty to continue to be prostituted whilst our sons are being murdered senselessly on foreign soil? If we do nothing, if we just sit here in our electronic bubbles, we're just as responsible for the downfall of humankind as anyone else. But what can I do? I'm just a working mom who only gets time to think during the five minutes a day I get to lock myself in the bathroom when no one is hanging on me. I don't have any extra money or extra time. How can I make any difference at all?
A small shift in the direction of light when it enters a
 prism causes a beautiful rainbow. All it takes is a small shift!
     Well while the world needs big changes and people who do have time to speak out, run for office, rally and educate, that may not be you. But that doesn't mean you can't make changes for the betterment of humankind. Take a look at your life. What do you value? Who do you love? Whose life do you touch? You have power to make a change in the example of the life you lead. You can make positive decisions for the environment by doing simple things like recycling or composting or turning off lights or just consuming less. You can live a life of example. Your children are learning from your choices. They are emulating everything you do. So are your nieces and nephews, neighbors kids, and kids in the grocery store who don't even know you. If you're an educator, you have anywhere between 25 and 300 kids watching the way you treat other people, present yourself and live your life. You can make a difference just by living an example of what you want to see the world become. Live by the golden rule, the 10 commandments, the 13 virtues,  the middle path......whatever you believe is good and right. Stand up for your beliefs. Take action by changing your life. Some of us can make big changes. Some of us small. But we ALL need to make a change. As long as "we're all doing what we caaaan....." the world has got to get a little better. Person by person, choice by choice. Benjamin Franklin said, "Never confuse motion with action." Stop going through the motions of life and take action....any action. Even if it's just "liking" or sharing this post so that someone else might be inspired. I've been inspired. I want to be better. I want to do more. I'm tired of feeling sick and frustrated with the world. Together we can make a difference if we just get out of our bubbles and do something.

Ghandi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." That may be the least I can do, but at least it's something. And something is always better than nothing.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows Everywhere

Recently, I was at Costco grazing on free samples, when I came upon a sample of some vitamin drink promoted by Dr. Oz. The sample lady was going on about some enzyme that the body stops producing as we age. She says, "I know you don't have to worry about this yet, but when you get to be 30..." I laughed loudly and obnoxiously. She thought I was under 30?! AWESOME!!! My day went from good to great (I wasn't even wearing make-up!). And while people have always said that I look younger than I am, I don't think it has that much to do with my physical appearance. Sure, I drink lots of water, pile on the sunscreen and am completely repulsed by cigarette smoke, but I think it's more than that. I think I appear young because I love life like a 7 year old.
     Lets go back to when I was about 7. I always remember as a child being distinctly aware of how lucky I was to be a kid. I knew life was going to get hard and was really in no rush to grow up. I remember thinking about how I had to enjoy being a kid as long as I could. So my summers were spent underwater pretending to be a mermaid with the two best friends any girl could possibly have (and still are! xoxo) Afterschool, I remember laughing so hard that milk and brownies would always somehow manage to shoot out of my nose. If there was something to climb on, I was up it. If there was something slide down, I was there. If there was music on, I was singing and dancing. I was in perpetual motion, and the happiest kid you ever met. This continued right on through junior high. And while my innocence faded somewhere around my 16th birthday as I found myself  in the middle of a love triangle dealing with secrets and heartbreak and feelings that I was too young to be addressing, I would still secretly watch cartoons every Saturday morning. The best part about meeting Mr. Jones was that I finally had someone to play with. He had younger siblings who we would take to the park (YAY SLIDES!) and the zoo. I would braid the girls' hair and dress up their dolls and watch Blues Clues. Not too long after that, my godson was born and I was given the challenge of becoming the bestest most fun aunt in the world. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! He needed someone to crawl through the tubes with him at Chuck-E-Cheeses and take him down the big slide and make sure the ball pit wasn't too deep. 
     And now I have my own two little monkeys. And the best days of my life are the ones where I manage to totally engage myself in their world. Kids know how to have fun. Last week we were invited to a party at one of those bouncy places (SCORE!). Parents are encouraged to bounce with their kids. So I dove right in. At one point I looked around at the other parents sitting on the benches texting, watching the clock. I was vaguely aware that some of them were looking at me as I bounced in the Mickey Mouse house wishing I had done more kegals when I was pregnant. And I thought to myself, why don't they want to play? Don't they know how much fun they could be having?
     Most adults don't really remember how to have real fun. Sure, it's fun to have a couple of drinks once in a while and lose your inhibitions. But what if you were able to live your life without having inhibitions in the first place. What if you didn't worry about whether or not you're going to get dirty or look silly. I look silly all the time. And, I'm more fun sober. I'm not going to pretend that I am some super mom who is always totally focused on playing with her kids. I will never refer to myself as their friend. I set boundaries, keep them safe and love adult attention as much as anyone else. But the thing is that there has to be a balance.  If there's an opportunity to do something you know is fun, just do it. On Saturday, we're going to the beach. And I promise I will still be slathering on the sunscreen, packing tons of water and worrying about how fat my ass looks just like every other mom. Once I get there, and the kids need me to "watch" them in the water, and "show" them how to build a sandcastle or dig the biggest hole EVER, I'll forget about my fat ass, frizzy hair and sand that manages to find its way into everything. And a now cancer free Mr. Jones will be right there beside me making every effort to live what's left of this life to the fullest.  Living happily ever after is about LIVING.
I hope you will pass this on. Click like above, share on FB or Twitter below. I am so tired of the doom and gloom of everyone's lives. People need to know the secret. This is HOW you can be happy. Live like a 7 year old. Party like its 1985. Climb to the top of something and jump off. Find a 7 year old that you love, and let them show you a good time. I promise they won't disappoint!

Sending love, happiness and good times out to you all!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

If You Spell DOG Backwards

     Some of us are just animal people. When I was young I would always surround myself them. I actually wanted to be a vet. I remember in second grade we had to make a figure of ourselves grown up. Mine had big brown eyes, long brown hair in a ponytail, wore a white coat and as holding a rabbit. I loved all animals. Still do (...even spiders that make my skin crawl if they get too close), but especially dogs. As a child, if there was a dog present I was on the floor holding it, or cuddling it or kissing it. If I could've be surrounded by dogs all the time I would have been in my glory. They really are amazing creatures. They are social animals like humans, and although our ways of communicating are slightly different, our social rules and family/pack hierarchy are very similar. That's the scientific reason we have created this symbiotic mutualistic relationship. We care for them and they offer some sort of service to us. (i.e. we put them to work.) But do you think that's all it is? A mutualistic relationship where we each receive some sort of benefit? On paper it makes sense. But if you have ever had a relationship with a dog, you know its so much more profound than that. They are our companions in life. They are capable of true unconditional love, the likes of which many people never experience from another human. They are loyal, nonjudgmental, protective, helpful and compassionate. I actually believe that our dogs are sent to us by God. They choose us, find us and then they walk beside us through the challenges of our lives. And when we have learned the lessons we needed them to help us through, they leave us. When they leave us, our lives change. Not just because they are gone, I mean that our lives change in monumental ways. It's usually at that time when we meet our next animal companion sent to escort us through the next phase of our life's journey.
     When I was about 6, our family dog (Buffy) died. A few weeks after my 7th birthday, we went to get a new puppy. My parents found this woman who bred dogs in her home. There were two puppies left. A white one and a black one. They were not litter mates. The white pup's mother was there, but the black one's wasn't. My parents asked us which dog we wanted. I answered immediately, "The black one." I didn't want to take the white one from his mother. We named him Velvet because that's how soft he was. I know, it's a terrible name, but I was 7. Anyway, Velvet was an amazing dog. He was our family dog, but he was sent to me. We had this connection that was almost telepathic. We anticipated each other's needs. I went through a really tough time in high school. I was quite depressed and involved in an emotionally abusive relationship. I would cry and cry and cry. (I remember at one point I would mark on the calendar the days I was happy!) I would sit on my bed with my Velvet. He would lick the tears off my cheeks, curl up in my arms and somehow I got through it. 19 years later, he was a shadow of his former self. He was blind, incontinent, nearly deaf, and just a bag of bones. My parents wouldn't put him down without my ok. And I just couldn't do it. One morning, just weeks before my wedding I woke up and he was on the floor by my bed crying in pain. I called in my dad and said, "It's time." It just so happened that the week before, my sister's family had moved in temporarily while their new house was being built. We were all there. Everyone came up to say goodbye to him. I held him in my arms in my bed and when it was just the two of us left, he closed his eyes, his body shook and I felt his soul leave his body. And he was gone. My life was about to change for ever.
     As soon as Mr. Jones and I were married, I started itching for a dog. He told me he wanted to wait a little bit.We decided that we wanted to rescue a dog. Without telling me, he went to a vet to see two dogs that had been rescued and who were in need of new homes. When he got there, they told him that they couldn't show him one of them, but the other was still available. When they brought this giant 11 month old black lab into the room, she took one look at Mr. J., got up on her hind legs, wrapped her legs around his shoulders and licked his face. As if to say, "You're finally here, I've been waiting for you!" Mia was our first baby. We weren't planning on having children right away, but as I said, when God sends you an new animal, it means your life is about to change. 3 months later I was shocked to find out I was pregnant, and her job was to give us a crash course in parenting. Mia had medical problems from the get-go. Aside from being a training challenge (a very passively dominant female), she had 13 skin allergies (that we know about- she probably had  more undiagnosed). We tried food trials, allergy testing/desensitization, medication after medication. Mia was a lot of work. But she was our baby. And speaking of babies, she was always gentle and loving with our girls. We knew that with all her meds, her life would be shortened, but I wasn't prepared last week when Mr. J started drawing my attention to how sick she really was. She wasn't herself anymore. The poor thing just scratched day and night. She had become incontinent, lethargic, excessively thirsty and sometimes exhibited labored breathing. She was not finishing her food, and the doctor's opinion was that her kidney's were failing. So we made the appointment. At 4:30 today we walked her into her vet. Dr. H had been with her from the beginning. He was as devastated as we were. She was ready. She looked at Mr. J. nuzzled him, and then she turned and kissed my face. Then she got comfortable on the floor and fell into a trance-like state as we sat next to her and caressed her tormented body. I prayed quietly over her as "Amazing Grace" played over and over in my head and a snippet from Fontine's death scene in Les Miserables when Val Jean sings, "Be at peace. Be at peace evermore." The room felt swollen with spirits and lights kept turning off on their own. When Dr. H came in, she stood up, walked over to him and put her head into his lap. She looked up at him with her big beautiful eyes and I swear I heard "Thank you," in my head. He got her up on the table and she seemed a bit nervous all of a sudden. He gave her a sedative. I whispered to her, "I love you." I felt so at peace and serene. I knew she was going home to God. I prayed that she would find her way into His arms. When she was gone, the doctor left us with her to say goodbye. I felt like she was letting us go so we could move on to the next phase of our lives. (The chapter after cancer.) We did everything we could to prepare our 6 year old for the inevitable. She handled it well, I think. She cried in our arms. We held her and told her that everything she was feeling was normal and that it's good to cry. 
     I can't help but see the parallel that my animal loving angel will be 7 in a couple of weeks. We plan to get another dog, of course. None of us can imagine a life without one of God's special messengers. Not sure what breed...don't really care actually. I just know that when the time is right, he/she will find us, and we'll know. And our lives will change. And that's okay because we'll have our new family member to ease us through it. You know what they say about dogs don't you....if you spell DOG backwards...... ;-)
     As always I'm sending love and light out to all of you in cyberspace. I hope you will hold your companion animals a little closer tonight. My house will be a little quieter than usual, but I won't be surprised if the lights start flickering or if I see a black blur in the corner of my eye dart across the room. I don't believe my Mia's gone. She's waiting for us on "the other side." And when we meet again, I fully expect her to stand up and wrap her paws around our necks and plant big wet kisses all over us....that is, if she can get past my Velvet!
Rest In Peace My Mia-Bella
9-12-02     6-28-11

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fathers Be Good To your Daughters....Mine Was!

Me And My Dad on Top Of The World
     Do you know that song by John Mayer? "Fathers be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers. So mothers be good to your daughter's too." It's a beautiful song and very true. With Father's Day approaching, I have naturally been thinking a lot about the kind of Dad my father is and the kind of dad that Mr. Jones is to our girls. Unfortunately, in America, we don't really have too high of a standard for dads. Mothers are expected to feed, clothe, bathe, change, nurture, engage, teach and discipline their children. This is a given. Fathers on the other hand are not really expected to do much. In fact, in this day and age, they are praised just for showing up. So many men just check out of their kids lives. I can't tell you how many single moms I've met during my 11 years of teaching who refer to their child's father as "the sperm donor." It's a sad state of affairs when all we expect from our men is a child support check and a visit once a week.
     My husband is not like that because his dad isn't like that. In fact sometimes, I'm embarrassed when my girlfriends complain about the lack of help they get from their husbands because I cannot contribute to the conversation. Mr. Jones does everything from diaper changes, to laundry, to homework. He is insulted if someone says he's "babysitting" our children. He says "I'm not babysitting. I'm parenting." He does a hell of a lot more than just show up. He's the kind of dad that my dad was (and still is). When I was born, most men didn't change diapers or even feed their babies. They went to work, came home and drank a beer in front of the TV. My dad went to work and fell asleep in front of the TV too, but with my sister and I asleep on his chest. My dad set the bar pretty high. He was the over achiever of dads. He didn't have any sons, so I was the best he could do. He taught me to hit a baseball such that the boys in the outfield would back up when they saw me coming. (Yes, I said boys. We played in a boys league 'cause there weren't enough girls. He was the coach, of course.) Most dads teach their kids to ride a bike. Mine did too, after he taught me to ride a horse (western, of course, he wasn't going to raise a horse-snob). I learned to sit back into a canter, and "cowboy up" if I fell off.  If he had a hammer, I had a hammer. If he was working on the engine of our boat, I was right beside him. I was never very mechanical, but that didn't matter. He taught me how to navigate across the Long Island Sound using a compass and a chart (right-red-returning), and to pilot and dock our boat before I was old enough to learn how to drive....which he, of course, taught me to do as well. He taught me to shoot a mean game of nine ball. (Although I'm not sure if my success in the game had more to do with my skill at shooting or subtly leaning over the table at just the right moment when my male opponent was about to make his shot---that I learned from my mother!) My dad had a lot of interests. And I was interested in anything that he was. It didn't matter what we did, as long as he was with me. We would talk about everything in my life. As a teenager, he'd take me out to lunch to try some random restaurant that my mom and sister would never set foot in. We went alone on a pack trip (camping on horseback) through the Colorado Rockies when I graduated college. We'd head to the beach in March and just walk and talk about life. He was always interested in my perspective on things, and he always had the best advice (still does). Today, we don't get as much time alone together with my girls and my sister's kids occupying everyone's attention, but he's there for almost every one of his grandchildren's soccer games, field days, recitals, shows, and concerts. Not to mention that he'll drop everything in an instant if we need a quick babysitter. He really is an amazing man- an amazing father.
     I remember reading somewhere that studies show that fathers who spend a lot of time caring for and engaging their daughters as babies have better relationships with their children through adolescence and adulthood. This is because they don't have to make a connection with a teenager. They already have one from  birth. John Mayer hit the nail of the head with his song.
   Why did I choose Mr. Jones? Well, if you read Mr. Jones And Me, you remember how I saw him across a crowded room working with children with autism and I said, "That's the kind of guy I need to marry." I instantly saw in him the qualities that I knew would make a good companion- a good husband and a good father. I wasn't conscious of that at the time. I just knew there was something about him that made him special. And after I met my father-in-law, I realized that he was just living the example that learned from his father (another exceptional man who I love to death!).
     These are extraordinary men., but they are not alone. I know that there are a lot of dads out there that are doing a heck of a lot more than showing up. It's just that our society tends to focus on the negative... "the dead-beat dad." But I know some of my friends out there are exceptional dads just like my dad and Mr. Jones. I know you guys are stepping up with the diapers and the feeding and the changing and the laundry. And some of you are fighting to with every ounce of your being for custody or more rights to be a bigger part of your kids lives. So many of you are doing so much more than just showing up, and I think that that needs to be celebrated. If you are that kind of dad, I thank you for being an example to a generation of children who need so much guidance. (I hope my daughters meet one of your sons some day!) We need to celebrate the men who make this world a good happy secure place to live for our children. So this Father's day lets really celebrate the men who are being men and taking care of their own. Lets tell them that we love and appreciate them.

Mr. Jones, you make my life worth living, and our children are wonderful, happy and beautiful inside and out because you are their father.

And Daddy, I am everything I am because of the man you are and have always been. You taught me everything I said above, but most importantly, you taught me to love with an open heart and see with an open mind. There is nothing I would not do for you.

     I hope you will share this with the men in your life. As much as we girls have it all under control, the world is a better place because of the good men in our lives: our husbands and our fathers. They need to know we love and appreciate them because unfortunately, they are limited in supply!

Sending love out to you as always....especially to you boys!
 Happy Father's Day! 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Gift is My Blog, and ....This One's For You

     We use the word "gift" a lot, don't we? "She has a gift." "He's a gifted..." What does it even mean anyway? Mr. Jones and I use it when referring to my sister's children. These kids can sleep anywhere. I remember once being in the middle of a noisy restaurant on vacation and I looked over and there was my niece, sitting upright sound asleep in front of her chocolate cake- fork still in hand. Meanwhile my daughter's bouncing off the walls at 10 pm, "I don't want to go bed, Mommy. I'm not tired. Can we go play air hockey? Can I have some soda? What time does the show start? Can we go down to the disco?" And a weary Mr. Jones looks at me, then at my niece and then back at me and says, "Those kids have a gift." But really, who is the gift for? Is it a gift for the kid that she can sleep? Or a gift for my sister that her kids have an off switch?  That's what confuses me. Who is receiving said gifts?
     Supposedly, everyone has a gift of some sort. Everyone has something that makes him special. For most of my life, I had no idea what my gift was. I was never really good at anything. I never thought of myself as particularly pretty or funny like my BFF, Jennie, who boys just pined over, and who can even make a story about digging up dead bodies funny (It's not weird- she's a forensic scientist). I loved music, but wasn't very talented like my sister.  I wasn't a great dancer or exceptionally witty like my other BFF, Missy. I wasn't a great athlete like my cousin, Andrea. I was "the smart one". In fact, the school district even went so far as to call me "gifted" because I scored high on some test that means nothing. But I always knew that there were plenty of people who were way smarter than I was....especially when I got to college. So I don't really consider my level of intelligence as that much of a great gift. I'm really not an expert on anything. I'm not even a great scientist because I'm not organized enough. I'd like to think I'm a great teacher, but I know what some of my colleagues are doing and I pale in comparison. I have many interests, and things that I'm good at, but I'm really sort of a "jack-of all trades" and a master of none.
     Mr. Jones has a gift. He has this way about him. He's so humble. He presents himself with no bravado, no pretense and no nonsense. And people love him. (He's not even going to agree with that statement because that's how humble he is. Meanwhile, every nurse/volunteer in the cancer center who has ever treated him has stopped by his treatment today to see how he's doing and to tell him how wonderful he is.) He's a great dog trainer....and people trainer for that matter. He has this way of affecting people (and animals) so that they want to change their behavior....and often they do without even realizing it. That's his gift. But I wonder whose gift is it really? Is it a gift to him from God? Or is it his gift to the world from within? Or is he God's gift to us? Maybe some combination of all three?
     I really believe that everyone one of us does have a gift. Given to each of us to present to the world. It took me a long time. I spent most of my young life trying to camouflage my personality. I realized early on that most people didn't get me. If I had a dime for every time someone told me to think less.... I worked very hard to appear normal. I didn't want anyone to think that there was anything extra ordinary about me. I don't know when I finally stopped hiding. Some time after I hit 30 I realized that I like who I am even if it isn't ordinary. I have an uncanny ability to develop deep friendships with people, and I like that about me. I do have a gift after all. I have been given a gift from God to share with the world. My gift is the ability to make anyone I meet feel good about who they are. Like I said, I'm not exceptionally good at anything.  BUT maybe realizing how not good I am, and how talented other people are is my gift. I am extra-ordinary. I have the ability to love people without fear, accept people without judgement and find the redeeming qualities that make each and every person I know feel special about something. And that is why I have been called to write. We spend so much time cutting each other down to elevate our own egos. We judge out of envy and fear. We are so afraid that if someone else has a gift that it makes our value less. Well I am not a 4 year old child who can't handle seeing my sister open her birthday presents. I am proud my sister. I am not jealous that she is tall and thin and beautiful and an amazing singer and the kind of teacher who students adore to the point of stalking. She has a gift. You have a gift too. And you need to stop hiding behind your fears and insecurities and come out and share that gift. You need to be celebrated. None of us is ordinary. Paradoxically, each one of us is extraordinary. We need to stop tearing other people apart for they gifts we are envious of, be grateful for the gifts we have been given to share, and celebrate the gifts that we appreciate in others. Poorly scripted reality TV and the anonymity of technology has turned us into a culture of  mean girls. We just criticize and put down and make fun of. We cannot continue support this culture of negativity. This nation was founded on the idea that each one of us has a right to be who we are without fear. We have become our own worst enemies. So I beg of you, be authentic. Be yourself. Let your gifts shine through regardless of what the mean girls say. You are extra-ordinary, so be extraordinary.

.....As always, I hope you will pass this on. Someone out there needs to know that she is extraordinary too. Someone out there needs to stop being afraid to be himself. Click "like" at the top or the little "f" below to share the link on fb or the "T" to share to twitter. Or copy the http to email to someone whose gift you appreciate. (Be sure to tell them what you love about them!) Sending my love out to you always! <3

Friday, May 20, 2011

Feeding The Fire Burning In My Heart

     The world is bleeding. It breaks my heart. everywhere I turn if feel suffering. Everyone I speak to has a tragic story-needs a prayer. Do you have any idea how many people I hug everyday? I have spent the past 34 years teaching myself how to actively listen to people. This has been a challenge for me because it means I have to stop talking long enough to process what someone else is saying. And it means looking at the person speaking in the face and not being distracted by what color her shoes are or what song is playing in the background or is that cookies I smell? Listening for me has always been a challenge because I always have so much to say. But I have been actively working on this since I became an adult and I have to say, I've gotten pretty good at it. Maybe it's because I genuinely care about the speaker, or as my girlfriend Amina put it, I thrive on hearing people's stories, but whatever the reason, people tend to tell me everything. I know a lot of people's secrets. I know everyone's troubles, fears, birthdays, kids' names, favorite foods, religious beliefs, wifes' worries, husbands' shortcomings, parent's issues.....if you know me, I've probably shocked you by recalling some minute detail of your life that you told me in passing two years ago. And the thing is, Amina is right. I DO thrive on it. I love feeling connected to people. Bonded. 
     But lately, it seems like the world is bleeding. We're suffering. We're angry, depressed, abused, neglected, tormented, afraid, depressed, disatisfied, confused, frustrated, worried, troubled and downright sad. And all I do is worry. Funny thing is, I'm not worried for myself or Mr. Jones. We're doing just fine...cancer and all. People have said to me, "I'm so sorry to bother you with my problems. You are going through so much, and yet, when I read your blog, I can't believe how positive you are." That's when I began to understand the purpose of the blog. I have been called to write. I have been called to ease the suffering. I need to spread the love. I need to send it out through cyberspace. A message to the world that we can all get through it. With faith anything is possible. Yes, we are all suffering, but together we can hold each other up. We can carry each other through it. 
     Make no mistake. I have BAD days. The other morning I spent my drive to work fighting back tears and asking for strength to get through the day and rest of the longest dreariest week ever. That is until "Fat Bottom Girls" came on the radio and I had to rush through that last Hail Mary so I could "make the rockin' world go 'round." And while Freddy Mercury and Brian May did make me feel better for 3 minutes and 22 sec, the morning still dragged on. When I got to work I told my friend Heather how much the day was sucking and she threw her arms around me and gave me her strength. And somehow I found the drive to push forward through my first period class ,and then my second, and then my third, and before I knew it I was home on my couch with my little monkey and my angel-baby and everything was right with the world. And that's what I mean. Heather's got her own troubles and fears, but that day she gave me her strength. Another day she might need me to give her mine.
       This is what we need to do. Focus on reaching out to support each other. We can get through it all together. You know I believe in the power of love. And all I can do is open my heart and focus on sending it out. I'm sending you my strength. I'm sending you my love. In yoga practice we say Namaste at the beginning and end of practice. While it literally can be interpreted as, "I bow to you," it means so much more than that. The most beautiful way that I have ever heard it interpreted is as to mean, "When I am in this place, and you are in this place, we are one." Whoever you are- wherever you are- at this moment our lives are touching. We are one. I wish you strength. I wish you happiness. I wish you love. Reach out to someone. By helping others we help ourselves. I feel this burning in my soul to reach out and spread love. To give hope. And if you can feel it, I ask only one thing of you: Share my love, our love. Click "like" above. Click  "Share" below. Send this link in an email. Someone else needs to know you are thinking of them. Someone out there needs your strength. Lets support each other. Put your own troubles aside for a second and do something for someone less fortunate than you. As always, I wish you joy. I hope you find strength and faith to follow the path that has been laid before you. I know you can do it.We can do it. If I can, you can....Namaste! 

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, I Am My Mother After All...(I Hope!)

    The most challenging thing I've ever done was to become a mother. I don't remember the exact moment that it happened, but I'll never forget the day I found out. It was the last thing I expected to see, that little pink cross in the window. I took another test the next day because I was sure that the first one was wrong. Even though my biology background told me that there couldn't be a false negative, I was in such shock. I remember the terror. I just stood there in front of Mr. Jones. We stood there with tears in our eyes in disbelief. As the reality sunk in, I told him- and myself- that this was a good thing. We were married. We had health insurance. We both had jobs. There was no reason why we should worry. I thought of my sister. She had just given birth to her second son. She was (is) a great mom. She had a system for everything- I could just do whatever she did. And her boys (MY boys) were healthy and happy and developing into beautiful children. There is no reason why I couldn't do it. After all, I had her to ask for help.
     Slowly, over the next nine months I got used to idea of being Mommy instead of the favorite aunt. I went to birthing classes, practiced pre-natal yoga, read books on nursing...I was going to do it all the right way. My amazing family and friends bought me everything I needed. And then one day, in the bathroom of Macy's, my water broke.  And it really began. 12 hours later I was holding the most perfect, beautiful little angel God had ever created. I remember initially feeling like I was trapped in a Dali painting. How could this be real? Who is this little person? Shouldn't I feel like I know her? I was responsible for this tiny soul. Her life depended on me not screwing up. She could die if I did something wrong. Forget about the 12 hours of natural childbirth. That was the easy part. For the rest of my life I had to take care of this child and somehow not f--- her up. So I bought some books. Books that told me that everything I was feeling was normal. Books that told me how to be successful at nursing (something American culture makes very difficult). Books that told me when to worry, and when to call a doctor. And then there was the Internet. There is no shortage of information to teach you how to have a healthy baby. And day by day, week by week my Angel-baby and I became so emotionally connected that sometimes I wasn't sure where she began and I ended. Her every joy was my joy. Her every pain was my pain. I was no longer just Melissa any more. I was Angel-babie's mom. For the rest of my life I would be introducing myself with her name first..."It's so nice to meet you, I'm Angel's mom." I had joined the club. The mom club. Where everything in your life shifts. The focal point of the world's orbit shifted from Mr. Jones and me, to my Angel-baby. And I joined billions of other women who had all had the same experience and were travelling in orbits around their own angel-babies.
     At some point I remember marvelling at the love I felt for this perfect child. I remember thinking, Is this how my mother feels about me? All these years, I've always know she loves me, but I never realized how much because up until this point I was incapable of understanding. And suddenly it made sense. I understood how she could give up her career to take care of my sisters' and my children so that we could continue to eat. I understood how she could manage to work a full day and still make cupcakes at 11 pm becase I needed them for school. I understood how she could sacrifice buying things she wanted so that we could go to dancing school or acting classes. I understood why she was with me on every school trip, every class party, every single performance of every concert or show that my sister and I performed in. I understood why it devastated her that when I studied abroad I could only call once a week. She has given me everything. Everything I have, everything I am, I am because of the woman who she is. I felt so humbled. So lucky. So in love with my mother. I decided at that moment that there was nothing that I could ever do to repay her for her sacrifices. The only thing I could do was to never refuse her anything she needed from me. And I never do. Anything she needs, anything I can ever do for her, I do.
     It was with this revelation that I also realized how blessed I was to have her as a model. If I just did everything the way my mom did. If I am half as good as she is, my kids will be okay. I realized that it doesn't matter what the books say, I was going to model myself after the best mother I knew. Just like the generations of mothers before me. As humans this is how we learn. We don't even realize it, and unless we make a conscious effort to be different from our parents, we will have the same successes and the same failures. I think about this as a mother. I learned everything I know from my mother. I sing the same lullaby, tell the same bedtime stories, cook the same dinners. I can't tell you how many times I've said, "Don't you dare!" and I hear her voice echoing in my own. With this in mind, I realize, that like it or not, my little cherubs will someday echo me. If I speak with prejudice, they will speak with prejudice. If I act with violence, they will act with violence. If I abuse drugs or alcohol, I doom them to a life of abuse. And likewise, If I treat people kindly, they will learn kindness. If I pray, they will pray. And if I treat myself with respect-if I choose a healthy lifestyle-if I manage my stress-if I take care of myself as a woman, they will do the same as adults. And if I show gratitude and take care of my family when they need me, then they will someday do the same. As mothers, we are living models for our children. I was fortunate to have such a model whose example I can only pray that live up to. Motherhood is challenging. It comes with great responsibility. But when my 5 year old insists on hugging me until she counts to 100, or my 2 year old begs me for one more kiss goodnight, I know what is meant by the expresion "a labor of love."
      I hope you can find time this weekend to celebrate the love your mother gave you. Even if she wasn't perfect, she did the best she could. She may not have had a great model. If you are a mother, celebrate the life you've made for yourself and your family. In the end, all we can really do is our best to support out children and show them in every way possible that we love them and hope it's enough. That's all my mother did. And still does!

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bet Your Bottom Dollar That...

     Mr. Jones' FB post today was, "Round 2 here we goooo."  And here we are. Once again I am writing to you from the treatment center. He's reading a book on parenting, so I don't feel badly about ignoring him for a bit to get all this stuff crammed in my head out into cyberspace.

     I've been thinking about my friends. I feel so blessed to have SO MANY people I call friends. Not acquaintances, but real friends: people with whom I have connected with emotionally at one point or another. Some of you I see everyday.  Some of you, I wish I could see everyday. And there are those of you whom I see maybe once a year, but when we're together it's like no time has passed. I am truly lucky to have so many people to love. And whenever I encounter any one of these friends, I am immediately asked how Mr. J is doing. And then after I give the overview of his symptoms and how he's managing and happily explain that he's doing amazingly well, the next question is, "And how are YOU doing?" And I say, I'm fine as long as he's fine." And that's true, but I'm also unusually tense most of the time, irritable and worst of all impatient. All this is to be expected when one is under stress, and I am doing the very best I can to not let my mood swings become apparent to those I love and really don't want to lash out at. But I am finding it harder than usual to feel the endless compassion with which I usually pride myself. You see, the reason I have emotionally connected with so many people is that I have learned over the years to how to listen without judgement. I am fascinated by people and I love to feel connected. I feel like every time I share these moments with others that I am made richer and my heart swells and I feel a joy that can only come from loving another person. If you know me well, I have probably told you I love you...on many occasions. And the truth is that I really do. I love each and everyone of my friends with an open heart and would do just about anything for each one of you if I knew it would make you happy.
     The problem is that lately I am finding myself to be impatient and judgmental. The events of my life have me finding myself frustrated by people who are caught up in trivial frustrations of everyday life. I am finding it very hard to feel badly for someone who is crying to me over some great problem that amounts to an issue of vanity, or not getting what they want when they want it, or even worse when they created the problem themselves by doing something selfish or dishonest or immoral.
     Many of my friends are coping with real tragedy. I have several friends suffering from infertility and loss of pregnancy. I have one friend who recently had to send her college-age son to rehab due for his crystal-meth addiction. Another friend is in the middle of a messy divorce where her ex husband is abusing their children and trying to ruin her financially. Another is just hoping that his mother lives to see Easter. I know people who have lost their jobs or whose hours have been cut so dramatically, that they may not be able to pay their mortgage. I have friends who are struggling to buy milk and diapers. And did I mention that the man I love more than anything in whole world is undergoing treatment for cancer, had an allergic reaction to one of his meds and is losing his hair? So it's a bit hard for me to feel badly for someone who got a speeding ticket or someone who's pissing away their parents' money or anyone who is feeling sorry for themselves but not making any effort to affect change in their lives.  
      It's not that I don't care. I really do. Friedrich Nietzsche said that suffering is like a gas. It always fills you up. So to someone who has no worries at all a paper cut can be all consuming. I don't want to minimize anyone's suffering, but when I think of all the tragedy in the world, it's hard not to. Somewhere in Haiti, a mother is feeding her toddler a "cake" made of dirt and lard because there is nothing else to eat. Somewhere in Iraq, one of our boys is thinking about his baby girl whose birth he missed while he was dodging improvised bombs on the road wondering if he will ever meet his child. Somewhere in Japan a family has walked away from everything they own and may never see their home again. Somewhere "in the ghetto" a toddler just smoked pot for the first time because his uncle thought it would be funny. Somewhere nearby, a mother has just buried her baby. Down the block from you, a woman was beaten last night and is desperately trying to cover up her bruises. The world is full of real tragedy. I count my blessings everyday. And I wish you would too. I know how lucky I am to live in a free country. I know how fortunate I am to have two beautiful healthy children. The fact that I have luxury to need to LIMIT my food intake almost seems unjust. I am sitting here in chemo with my husband feeling grateful for modern medicine and the kindness of strangers. Not to mention, the luxury of 3 or 4 hours that we have to spend alone together. (That, my friends, is a commodity.)  I actually made chocolate covered strawberries and brought apple cider "champagne" to make the best of our time together. We brought a DVD to watch and I made a nice lunch to share. I wish you could all do that. I wish everyone could just take a step back and find something joyful. Find something to be happy about. Life is too short to worry about a paper cut.
    And for those of you for who are really suffering. For those of you who can find nothing joyful in today. There is always tomorrow. The beauty of the Earth is that it keeps turning. The sun will come out tomorrow. (Bet your bottom dollar that) Tomorrow, there'll be sun! And even if Mr. Jones does look like Daddy Warbucks, we will be playing in that sunshine celebrating spring with our girls by making flower crowns out of forsythia. At the end of of each terrible day, the sun will set and then rise again. Today's suffering will soon be yesterday's, then last week's, and then last month's, and before long, last year's. You will get through it. You will endure.....we all will! I implore you. Take a look at the clouds in your life and find that silver lining.  And now it's time to give my attention back to the one who needs it. My chocolate covered strawberries await!

Thursday, March 31, 2011


    So I'm sitting here in the cancer treatment center with Mr. Jones scrolling through everyone's FB posts. Lately I feel like my life has been inundated with other people's hardships. I find myself so worried about this one and praying for that one and feeling so bad for the other one. And here I sit watching the man for whom the sun in my life rises and sets face the most difficult thing he's ever had to, and the last person I'm feeling sorry for is MYself. "FML?" WTF?!.... Really? Maybe there's something wrong with ME. Maybe I'm delusional, but I just can't sit here and whine and complain that things are going the way I would want them to. I know I'm a freak. I'm not wired the way most people are; happy is my factory default setting. I wake up every morning feeling happy automatically. If there's something going on that makes me unhappy, it actually takes a few seconds after I wake up before I remember that my life at the moment is less than perfect. And even then, during the course of the day, I get caught up in my lesson or the of-color jokes of my colleagues or my 2 year old daughter saying "Are you kidding me?" and I forget for a minute or an hour or a 39 minute period that I'm supposed to be feeling depressed about my life. How can I?
     I teach biology. Every time I look around at the world in which we live, I am amazed at the perfection with which it was created. The more you understand about the intricate mechanics of life, the more amazing the world becomes. There is absolute perfection in the universe. The dynamic relationships of living and non living things. The way that certain flowers are specifically designed to be pollinated by a specific moth or butterfly. The way a single egg cell can become a beautiful child. The way that the a mother's body can create the most perfect food for her baby complete with specific antibodies tailor made for her perfect child. How we possibly can look at the intricate beauty of the universe and even for one second think that this complexity could be the result of a series of random accidents. Coincidence, "Are you kidding me?!"
     So at any given moment, I have to concede that universe was created with a plan far beyond my ability to comprehend. Where in this perfection do Mr. Jones and I fall?  Well it was no coincidence that I walked into that gym where he was sitting at that moment in his and my life. It was no coincidence in that night in 2003 when I took that 3 minute test that couldn't possibly be positive and found out my life was about to change forever. Nor is it a coincidence that I am sitting here watching Nurse Wendy push vincristine into the man I love's veins while he flashes his perfect smile and laughs about how "milk does a body good." We are all pawns in His master plan (And do I mean capital H-i-m). I actually feel excited sometimes with anticipation about where this is going to lead us. Cancer IS going to change both of our lives forever. We are meeting so many interesting and wonderful people. I wonder who else we will meet that will introduce us to someone who will show us something that will inspire us to...something. Something wonderful is at the end of this journey. Maybe it's a deeper faith. Maybe it's a closer marriage. Maybe it's a new appreciation for the simple things. Maybe it's just a better outlook on life. But make no mistake, my life is has already changed direction, and I am fully aware that I am not driving the bus. All I can do is open the window (so I don't get motion sickness) and enjoy the ride.
     Lately I have that Katy Perry song playing in my head over and over again, "BABY YOU'RE A FIREWORK..." (although, sometimes when I get to the "Boom Boom Boom" part the soundtrack changes to another song from 1987 with a very different message- but I digress.) I KNOW he will conquer this cancer, and I feel like I can conquer the world. And I WILL leave you all going AHH! AHH! AHH! You will NEVER see me post FML. Because my life is blessed. And maybe I AM a freak....but I'm a HAPPY freak. Don't you want to be a happy freak too?

      Hoping I made you smile and forget that you are unhappy....even if it is for just a minute. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to "go back to my room. So we can..." forget it, wrong song again.

Love, Joy and Happiness to you Always (....and foreverrrr each moment with yooouuuuu...I really need to stop..)


Saturday, March 19, 2011

March Madness: Am I tough enough?

I’ve been thinking a lot about inner strength. My life, as of late, has given new meaning to term “March Madness.” It used to mean how mad I get when my favorite TV shows have been replaced by a basketball game that I couldn't care less about, but in 2011 it describes a series of doctors visits, re-arranged schedules, last minute baby sitting requests, frenzied Google searches, mass text messages, and hour long commutes to spend hours in a waiting room. This is totally ignoring the fact that I have a full time job, two kids and a household to maintain. I keep looking for the fast-forward button of life. (I won’t tell you what my friend Jennie said she did with it.... apparently I’m not the only one who needs it.) And that’s just it, I’m NOT the only one who needs it.

I won’t keep you in suspense any more. For those of you wondering the results of Mr. Jone’s tests last month, the results came back cancerous. But its OK. It’s “only” lymphoma. In case you haven’t been told as many times as we have, “If you’re gonna get cancer, that’s the one you want!” That’s because it is considered “curable,” and treatments only last a few months. And that’s all well and good (you see that’s why I need that damn fast forward button), but it’s still cancer. He still has to endure being poked and prodded, undressed and felt up and then of course there is the chemotherapy which has not yet begun. Plus there’s the realization that he has cancer. I can’t really understand what he’s going through emotionally. I can only address my own feelings, and mostly I feel overwhelmed. I know in my heart of hearts that he will be fine. We will endure, and he will be well again. His hair should even be grown back by Christmas. Every night I pray for the strength to get through it. I pray for both of us.

I didn’t start this Blog to complain. Nor did I want to invite you to a pity party. My intention has always been and still is to inspire hope for a happy life. And in spite of all the insanity around me, I still feel happy. I still can’t help smiling. The two of us are sitting in the oncologist office laughing hysterically over rubber gloves. How can I still be happy? No, I’m not delusional. I am very aware of the challenges I am about to face. But it doesn’t change that fact that I have a beautiful family, a job I love, wonderful colleagues, amazing friends and a faith that is unshakeable. I have created a world in which I am surrounded by love. I don’t tolerate negativity; I disassociate myself from those people. I always find something to laugh about. I am fortunate enough to have friends who can make even the most awful things seem hysterical. (If I could only tell you what she said she did with that fast forward button!) Laughter really is key. Plus, I’m painfully aware that others around me and in other parts of the world suffer so greatly, and that it makes my issues seem less difficult to handle. We WILL endure.

Last week I had a moment of fear and weakness. I was talking with my friend John at work about it. This is a guy who has lived through great loss, a tour in Iraq, and more than his share of traumatic events. He said to me, “You’ll be all right. You’re tough.” I said, “Yeah, but I’m afraid I don’t know if I’m THAT tough.” He said, “Yeah, you are. I can tell.” A brief conversation. He probably doesn’t even remember it. But for some reason it replays in my head every day. I AM tough. I CAN do this. I can take care of Mr. Jones, and my girls, and my students, and my house, and it WILL all be over soon. WE WILL ENDURE!

And so will you. Whatever it is in your life that seems insurmountable. YOU can endure it. Find something to laugh about. Find someone to hold you. And in case you’re not lucky enough to have a good friend tell you.... YOU ARE TOUGH. YOU WILL ENDURE!

Sadly, I don’t think I ever will find that fast forward button. So I’ll leave you with a quote that one of my girlfriend’s recently gave us on a plaque. “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Be well! Be happy! Be strong!

We Can Do it!
My name might not be Rosie, but I can still be rivitting!