Monday, April 30, 2012

Crunch Time

As a single parent, I can feel myself entering that time of year every parent knows as "crunch time."

The end of the school year is upon us and that always means that something that should have been done earlier in the school year and was forgotten or postponed now suddenly has to be done.  Everyone knows exactly when the school year ends and is starting to count the days until they can be free of homework and enjoy summer.

Whether it's a term paper, an art project, extra credit to try and raise a grade or a presentation of some sort, all of these school demands are careening into each other and if you as the parent don't play traffic cop with these assignments, then they will all end up as messy as a five car crash with at least one of your children in the middle of it having a crying or yelling fit.

Throw into that mix a birthday party or two or a prom and your stress level is reaching new heights.

A lot of this is supposed to be fun and depending on the age of your child, a lot of this is also your child's responsibility.  But that doesn't help eliminate the tension between you and your child.  It may not be your school assignment, but you still know that something's due or at least that it needs to be worked on.

I am reaching the end of the school journey with my son graduating from college in May but I vividly remember the late nights and lost sleep because we were trying to fit everything in to the last weeks of the school year.

For all of you parents out there doing double duty, here are some stress busters:

-- Find Harmony.  It may be impossible to find a quiet room so you may have to go into the bathroom and just lock the door to temporarily escape the chaos for at least 10 minutes.  With your eyes partially closed, focus on your breathing and repeat the same word or phrase over and over again--like "um" or "one" or my favorite, "chocolate."  The process of repeating the same word will help clear your mind and relax your breathing and your inner parent.

--Get Moving.  Cortisol is a hormone released from the adrenal gland in times of stress such as when you are feeling anxiety or fear.  Guess what?  Exercise burns cortisol and makes you a happier and healthier Mom or Dad.  Walk or march in place as you are making those late night brownies that your child promised for their class' end-of-the-year picnic.

--Laugh It Off.  Crunch time can bring out everyone's dramatic side.  Laughing reduces anxiety tension and stress.  Try to find the lighter side as you are driving to a 24-hour CVS at midnight to buy CDs that have to be burned TONIGHT!  You can buy some M&Ms for yourself to eat in the car on the way back home so you don't fall asleep.  Remember, school will soon be over and months from now you won't be able to catch your breath when you tell the CVS story to your friends.


Friday, April 27, 2012

The Amazing Power of Music

What would our lives be like if we didn't have the amazing sounds of music? 

Listening to music can enhance a mood or change a mood.  It can calm our thoughts and center our inner personas.  Music enriches our lives on so many different levels and creates exciting connections no matter what our age. 

Our souls are thirsty for the melodies that spur our imaginations to take flight and go where our bodies can't.  Listening to a song, the years can melt away and we can be transported back to a first date, a family party, a special holiday or even a bittersweet relationship.

A friend posted this YouTube video on his Facebook page and I found it to be so incredibly touching!

I wondered as I watched -- what will be the music of my life that makes me tap my feet and clap my hands if I am blessed to reach this stage of my life?

Please meet Henry.  He is one amazing dude who loves music because it makes him feel loved!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shifting Gears

Hi There Faithful Readers:

I don't have much to say today because yesterday was one of those days when I swear I must have worked every gear possible to make it through the 24 hours that made up Wednesday.

Between being caught in incredible traffic backups caused by an accidents that involved cars and Metrobuses on the way to work and on the way home, I have come to truly believe that Washington, DC is a city full of incompetent, selfish and stupid drivers.  I know that's saying a lot but you try driving in this city and I think you'll agree.

That said, I am confident that today is going to be MUCH improved and that the next 24 hours will be full of efficiency and good manners.  I can always hope can't I?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

You Don't Say!?

I was eating my breakfast and watching the local news yesterday when I heard some good news: a new study says that talking to yourself is good for your brain.

Woot!  Woot! Woot!

What a relief!!!!!!  I'm not alone!!!!!!!

I constantly talk aloud to myself and I think it first started after my son was born.  It didn't matter that he couldn't answer me. I got used to thinking out loud.  While I was in the house taking care of my son as a newborn, and then later as a young child, I would constantly talk to him about what the weather was like, what I heard on television, who I just talked to, what we needed to do next or something that might be going on with him.

Of course, my son is a senior in college now and I still talk to myself all the time so what does that say about me?

What other kinds of conversations do I have with myself, you may ask?  Well, I can honestly say that almost every day I walk into rooms in my house or into places around my office and find myself saying out loud, "Why did I come in  here?"  "What was I looking for?" "I know it's here if I just keep looking." or "Damn, I know it's around here!"

I say other things too about annoying people, but I can't print those sentences here.

In any case, this new study just published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology  concludes that talking to yourself can actually help improve your thinking process and boost your perception of the world around you.

It gets better.

In the first experiment conducted by researchers from the Univeristy of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Pennsylvania, they presented the participants with 20 labels of various objects.  The volunteers were then asked to go and find the particular objects.  Some of them were directed with a label to look for that item and others were directed to look for the item while repeating the name of the item out loud to themselves.

The people who repeated the name of the item out loud were able to find it faster than those who didn't!  There is actual research and evidence showing that it's smart to talk to yourself out loud and I'm not wacky at all for doing it!

Now that I have proof that this self-talk works, I think I'll conduct an experiment myself :  repeatedly saying out loud, "Money."

Let's see what happens!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Laughing & Crying

Those who do not know how to weep with their whole heart
don't know how to laugh either”― Golda Meir

Have you ever laughed so hard you started to cry or cried so hard you started to laugh?

For me, I'm usually crying and then it somehow I'm laughing.  I've discovered there's a thin line between the two and no one can tell you where and when one side is going to spill over into the other.  You don't intend for this to happen but when it does, and it's happened to most of us, the two emotions melt together and God only knows where you are.  Getting a grip is truly elusive but it's also short lived.

The world can be one topsy turvy mess and when you're crying/laughing it's as if you inside a snow globe and somebody came along and gave it a couple of strong and unexpected shakes.  Everything feels free floating: memories, time and emotions.

But through our tears and smiles we have the resources to create meaning again in our lives.  Are we doing something wrong when we suffer a loss and find something funny?  Is it proper to joke about someone's death?  Should we feel guilty as we begin to enjoy our friends and family again?

According to veteran comedian Joan Rivers, the answer is no.

Rivers husband, Edgar Rosenberg, committed suicide in 1987.  He was found dead in a Philadelphia hotel room where Rosenberg overdosed on Valium and alcohol.  Rosenberg's suicide happened shortly after she had decided to leave Johnny Carson and The Tonight Show and become host of a rival late-night program on the Fox network.

Rivers has said in interviews that it was a troubling time for their daughter, Melissa, and herself.  She even had thoughts of suicide herself.  Rivers says there is much she doesn't understand about her husband's depression and his decision to end his life, however, she knew she couldn't spend the rest of her life fixated on sorrow. 

Rivers eventually turned her life around (I sometimes watch her sell her jewelry on QVC) and now she helps others cope with their losses by drawing on her own pain and talking about steps to take to help life improve.  In her book, "Overcoming Loss," Dr. Rita Freedman recounts how Joan Rivers speaks to theaters full of grieving people and loosens them up by first asking everyone to participate in a spontaneous exercise.  Each person has to turn to the person next to them and they all have to say the same words out loud: "I'm so very glad that..."

Then she waits for everyone to finish talking.  After a short pause, Joan Rivers completes the sentence for them ..."I'm not you!"  Everyone is always surprised by her choice of words but everyone always laughs!

Rivers is all too aware of the swings of emotions each person is feeling as she addresses them but doesn't let that stop her from motivating them to take a step and try to move forward.  Rivers tells them they are each entitled a "weekend of wallowing."  For two whole days each of them should list every terrible thing that has ever happened to them, and feel sorry for themselves.  But on Monday, Rivers says, they must start a new list of all the positive things in their life.

Rivers is a wise woman.  She knows that change is constant and life is full of joy and tragedy. 

You really have no idea what the future will bring.  It all comes down to being hopeful because as sure as the sun rises everymorning, slowly but surely you will feel stronger and more comfortable with your new life.

My wish for you is to have more smiling and laughing days than any other kind of days.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Taylor Swift -- Why Ya Gotta Be So Mean?

It's the beginning of a new work week and I'm going to be singing this Taylor Swift song to myself all day long.  There's something about this song that helps to keep me chugging along.  Instead of getting worked up and reacting to situations I can't do anything about, I'm going to be humming this song to myself and staying mentally cool, calm and collected.

At least that's the plan for now!  So Monday, bring it on and let's get goin':

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sleepy Time

I love the scent of lavender.  At the farmer's market near my office, a lavender farmer is one of the vendors and it is heavenly to smell the soaps, creams and oils he sells.  I knew you could cook with  lavender but I didn't know that it had secret sleeping powers.  Browsing around in one of my health books, I came upon some information that might help those of you who are struggling with getting a good night's sleep.

Grief can put your sleeping patterns into a netherworld of having an exhausted body but a restless mind that just won't slow down.  During this time, rest is elusive and you just want to sleep, sleep sleep.   Just when you need a restful sleep, you can't seem to get it.  Unfortunately, sleep deprivation produces a sharp decrease in seratonin levels, a key buffer against depression.

Maybe lavender can help.  Lavender is amazing because it is an herb with natural calming properties.  Some of you may already know this but I am just discovering that besides lavender's wonderful scent, it has long been used as a folk remedy to help people fall asleep  Researchers have found that lavender lengthens total sleep time, increases deep sleep and helps people feel refreshed. 

According to Dr. Alan Hirsch, neurological director at the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, lavender oil is a safe and effective remedy for insomnia sufferers.  Dr. Hirsch suggests the following:

               --place several drops of essential oil of lavender on a cloth and leave it on your nighstand, or fill an electric diffuser with oil to disperse fragrance throughout the room;

               --grow your own lavender and keep a basket of flowers at your bedside;

               --make an herbal pillow filled with fresh lavender leaves and refresh the leaves every three weeks;

               --massage lavender drops on your temples to soothe headaches or migraines.

Relaxation is the key to sleeping well all the way through the night, not just an hour ot two.  Perhaps the scent of lavender can help you close your eyes and take you there.

In this fast-paced, 24/7, non-stop world that we live in, we all deserve a restful night of sleep.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Step By Step

Time just slip slides away. 

You are trying to recover from a loss or a trauma and time seems to slip slide all over the place.  I feel this is when life needs to slow down a bit and be experienced in smaller increments.  Thinking about the future as one huge pulsing package of pain that will always feel bad is just too much and makes it too hard to go on.

Instead, try breaking it down.  Your days can be a series of steps that you set and you follow.  In other words, you set the pace of what you feel you can handle.  As in Step One: I will get out of bed today.  Step two: I will put my feet on the floor and make myself walk away from the bed.  Step Three:  I will eat nutritious food for breakfast instead of pizza or a cookie.  I felt like that a lot after my husband died and I had to constantly talk to myself about what to do next.

I find that breaking time down into small increments works when you are stressed to the max or trying to work through a particularly sad time in your life.  If you set it up right for yourself you can psyche yourself up to bear 10 minutes, then a half hour and sometimes an hour. 

And with each passing block of time, you realize that you got through it, you were temporarily able to think about something else and maybe, possibly, you can do it again, and then you can go about doing it.  Suddenly you find you have almost gotten through one day.

I remember trying to learn to accept my loss.  Your mind plays tricks on you and the passage of time doesn't seem quite right.  There were always those moments -- when you first wake up, when you are on the telephone, when you are working -- that you forget for a few minutes exactly what your reality is.  But-t-t-t-t then it comes back and knocks you in the tummy.

There's a hole in your life and there's no getting around it.  Ignoring it only makes your situation worse.  You can tamp it down as much as you want but it's still there.  Sitting in the back of your memory like a bomb tick tick ticking away, waiting to explode.  It's so much better when you take it, grab it and own it.  Why not  embrace it and absorb it and move right through it?  You can do it!  Put one foot in front of the other and keep going; keep moving forward.

Now congratulate yourself!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Small Things

My small thing today is to take good thoughts, good vibes, good prayers and anything else that's good and mix it with lots and lots of "great love" and send it directly to a very special woman who is going into surgery. 

She is a quiet fighter and I admire the way she has handled her journey so much!!


p.s.  Thanks Silver Pen for having the perfect thought!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Letting Go

Longer, warmer days are making me yearn for a simpler life.

Lighter clothes and lighter food are definitely the way to go.  There's something about the change in season that makes you want to lighten your material load here on earth and get about de-cluttering your nest.  This past weekend I was cleaning the house and I started pulling stuff out of my closet and making piles of "keep," "donate" or "give away."   

Getting  rid of things you never use or wear feels so great!  But de-cluttering isn't just about your material things.  You can de-clutter your thoughts or your attitude.  What a concept!  Here's a story I found on that got me going into throw away mode and I thought you might like it too:

April 16, 2012
Tips for Transformation

An Easy Way to Achieve Peace of Mind

Whether I'm working with a Hollywood celebrity, consulting with a spiritual leader, or speaking to congregants at Celebration Church in Portland, Oregon, I always encounter the same question: How does one achieve peace of mind?

I believe I am getting closer to the answer, and it begins with getting rid of excess "stuff" in one's life -- whether it's material things, unfulfilling activities and people, or useless information.

If you try to only fill your life with things, people, and activities that feed your spirit, there will be a lot less junk standing between you and peace of mind. Now I travel the country motivating and inspiring people to do this.

My own journey toward peace of mind began on April 3, 1998, at 3 am. It was possibly the best day of my life. My wife performed the miraculous that day: the act of giving birth. I made a solemn promise to that 8.3-pound boy the first time I laid eyes on him. I would never parent out of anger.
And, I must say, I have done well living up to my promise. Except on one day, possibly the worst day of my life, six years later.

The first thing I remember that morning is all the shampoos. Why so many bottles? What should I use? Maybe I could use a shower gel for my hair and body! Radical. And then came the hair gels, lotions, and toothbrushes (Which one is mine?).

Upon opening my closet door, I was overcome with a full-blown episode of “apparel-yzation,” which is the act of staring, immobile, into one's bulging closet shackled by the thought “What to wear?” Which is sometimes followed by the nutty notion, “I have nothing to wear.”

The encounters with chaos continued. There were pieces of mail and other random papers on the kitchen table and counters, enough cereal boxes to open my own Kellogg's outlet store, and my boys playing with the latest version of Xbox something or other while the outdated versions lay in heaps, half in, half out of drawers.

I tried to simultaneously pick up after them and get them ready for school.

It all came to a head when I opened the door to my son's room to see before me what looked like a testing ground for nuclear weapons. I was late for an appointment, and my son had already missed the bus. He was supposed to be in his room getting ready. “CJ, where are you?” There was no reply. This time I yelled, “CJ, WHERE ARE YOU?”

A squeak came from behind his closet door, “I’m in here, Daddy.” I opened the door to find him in a sitting fetal position, overwhelmed, surrounded by refuse from the ghost of Christmas past. He explained, “I’ve been looking everywhere, but I can't find my pants.” A tear rolled down his cheek.
But I couldn’t see it. I was blind, turning green like the Incredible Hulk as I yelled, “GET UP NOW, RIGHT NOW! I'M LATE BECAUSE YOU CAN'T FIND PANTS? GIVE ME A BREAK! THIS IS RIDICULOUS.”

We drove to his school in total silence. That had never happened before. The rest of the day I felt like a lowly worm at the bottom of a compost heap. What had happened? That was not me.

A few weeks later I shared my frustration with a good friend, Dr. Harold Bloomfield. I told him about all the stuff, from the shampoos to the floor of my son's room, and how it all seemed to pile up in my mind, creating an overload that turned me into a rageaholic monster. “What is it?” I said.
His reply changed my life. “Oh” he uttered, shaking his head, “you're talking about Chotchky.”

It’s an old Yiddish term. I’ve come to understand it as anything we have in excess that intrudes, clutters, or distracts us from our soul's highest purpose. Chotchky isn't just clutter. It can also be unsupportive people, too much technology, unhealthy food, unwanted gifts, and regrettable decisions, among them. But the junk in your house is the easiest kind of Chotchky to identify.

What my son and I were experiencing was the “Chotchky Effect.” Too much Chotchky can leave us stressed out, irritable, and confused. No one wants to be on the receiving end of the Chotchky Effect.
You see, I wasn't angry at my son. In fact, we are almost never angry for the reasons we think we are. There is usually something behind the anger. Often, if we’re willing to look close enough, we will recognize that “something” as some form of Chotchky.

The anger directed at my son started with an excess of shampoos and built from there. Besides, who bought him the Xbox’s, the toys, and all those clothes that overwhelmed him and me? Hmmm.

Think of your conscious mind as a sacred shelf. It can only hold so much before it starts to bend.

Everything we surround ourselves with, that we come into contact with, is placed on our sacred shelf.
One shampoo is enough. The other nine in the shower that day were Chotchky and they took up space on my sacred shelf. By the time I got to my son's room, the weight of the Chotchky Effect was taking its toll. My sacred shelf snapped.

Give yourself and the ones you love a blessed gift. Eliminate all the Chotchky in your life, one room at a time, and donate it, recycle it, or throw it away.

Doing so will lighten your load, unburden your soul, and give you peace of mind.

Barry Dennis is an internationally known inspirational speaker and spiritual teacher. His new book is The Chotchky Clallenge: Clear the Clutter from Your Home, Heart, and Mind…and Discover the True Treasure of Your Soul (Hay House, April 2012). Learn more at

Monday, April 16, 2012

Looking For Serenity

When building emotional resilience within yourself, I find it best to start in small ways.  In the beginning, and even now, almost every day, I work on looking at what happens to me and telling myself that I cannot control what happens to me but I can control my response to it.

When you constantly struggle with something, it can be stressful because you keep doing the same action over and over again yet you keep achieving the same end result.  It feels as if you are hitting your head against a brick wall.  I usually end up asking myself  "Why isn't anything changing?   "Why isn't this working?"  I have a talk with myself and really try to see what's going on.  This is not an overnight process; at least it isn't for me.

Whether an event is good or bad, happy or traumatic, I tell myself that there is always an opportunity to step back and teach myself something about problem solving rather than looking at a problem as something that overwhelms me. Problems are not always personal threats or personal attacks. Problems are just part of life.

There are many times that I just never figure out what is going on and I just have to make peace with whatever's going on.  But other times I find when I slowly change my response to a situation -- the way I talk to someone, the tone of voice I use, my body language -- then sometimes; sometimes mind you, not all the time; small changes do come about.

And then there are times when you just have to let something be.  It is what it is.

That's when I am reminded of Reinhold Niebuhr's famous serenity prayer:

 God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happiness Is A Choice

Dear Readers,

Today's post is a continution of yesterday's chat about life being easier to navigate when you embrace a positive attitude.  As the below story says, happiness is a choice, and you can practice it as much as you want!!

A very good friend sent me this story that was recently published in a British newspaper called The Guardian.  It gently addresses the thoughts of people who know they are at the end of their lives.  The story is timely because it gets right to the core of addressing how we live our lives verses how we wish we had lived our lives.  My friend said she found the story below to be "rather uplifting, because we might still have time to prevent some of our own regrets."  I agree!

True happiness comes from forgetting about yourself and doing something for someone else just because you want to, not because of what you're going to get in return.  You do it just because you know it makes the other person happy. 

I found this philosophy to be true even after my husband died.  Helping my son, a friend or someone at work freed up my mind and let me temporarily think about something else.  Sometimes it was a relief to get out of that heavy cloud of hurt and try to become part of something lighter. 

Focusing on the bad, the ugly and the negative, just puts you in a bad, ugly or negative frame of mind and it's hard to believe that anything constructive will come out of that.  I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did:

Top five regrets of the dying
By Susie Steiner
The Guardian
Wednesday 1 February, 2012

A nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and among the top ones is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'. What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?

The top five regrets of the dying
A palliative nurse has recorded the top five regrets of the dying. Photograph: Montgomery Martin/Alamy

There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again."

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

What's your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Being Positive

My son came home from college for a brief Easter break and happily it caused a shift in my outlook.

For me, the take away message of his visit is all about the importance of having a positive attitude.  Maybe it's young energy or maybe it's because he has a smaller plate of responsibilities than I do but my son has a wonderful tendency to find happiness in many things.  Just by being around him, I was reminded that being positive makes living a lot easier. 

You think that sounds obvious?  If being positive is so obvious then why am I not surrounded, enveloped and overwhelmed by it?  I wish being positive was obvious and pervasive and something that came naturally to everyone.

I am not a negative person but I am a realistic person.  I can also be an incredibly silly person; sometimes in situations when I shouldn't be.  When I am practicing my realism, it may sound as if I am purposely looking on the lesser side of a situation but that's not my goal.  I am usually drawing from my years of experience and that is hard to ignore.

But this past weekend, I let my son lead the way in some family situations and even though I didn't really want to do some of the things he suggested, I did them.  And I found out that by doing them it got me out of my usual way of looking at things and changed the way I divide my time.

I also found that if you look for the best, sometimes you find it!  Sometimes when you know you have to attend a gathering of some sort, you think you know what's going to happen.  But that's not always the case.  Being positive that it will turn out okay helps you going in to the event and can actually help you handle it in a lighter manner.

It was refreshing and I'm glad that it happened.  It's wonderful when you learn something from your child!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Playing With The Moon

Playing With The Moon
By Amir Jutt

You invited us into the world of science and made us love it as you did.  You taught us that writing simply and elegantly is not as easy as you made it look.  You passed on more to us than you will ever know.

For all of the stories you told before anyone else knew them, for all of the stories you wrestled out of other people's brains and for all of the stories that flowed from your ever constant fingers on the keyboard, this picture is for you on your special day.

If God is allowing anyone in heaven to play with the moon, I'm sure it's you.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Love Links

In my purse I carry a post card that my husband sent to one of his oldest friends many years ago when we were on one of our annual family vacations at Bethany Beach.  He wrote some silly note about the beach, the kind of message that someone writes when they know everyone at the post office will read it before it reaches the people it is addressed to.

The friend's wife gave the postcard back to me after my husbad died and for some reason, just having that post card in my purse makes me feel connected to him.  Or maybe it serves more as a touchstone, allowing me to remember a wonderful memory.  If I am stuck on the Metro or have to wait in line somewhere and I have forgotten to bring a book or a newspaper to read, sometimes I will briefly pull out the post card to read it and look at his handwriting.  It makes me smile.  It doesn't make me sad.  I think it's because the message he wrote reflected his wry sense of humor and his outlook on life.  It's just so him.

I have questioned whether it is a healthy thing for me to carry this postcard around.  Am I being weird by looking at it from time to time?  Is it obsessive? I don't think it is, but I'm not sure.  It doesn't feel weird.  I think it would be dysfunctional if I denied to myself that he was dead and read the postcard several times a day, every day without fail.  But I don't read it every day and sometimes I honestly forget it's in my purse because there's so much other stuff in there too.  The memory of my husband and those wonderful times at the beach are just that, memories, and they don't hold me back from living my life and going forward.

An article I read recently refers to momentos such as my postcard as "links" or "likages" to our loved ones.  These links can be small everyday items that the person used or it can also be a piece of jewelry that the person once wore that you now choose to wear.

I think the idea of keeping or wearing items that remind you of your loved one can be healing and sometimes help you move through your pain and back into your daily life.  In trying to find new opportunities, you can gain inner strength and recover from your loss.  Every day I feel that I am rebuilding a new life because I need to -- for myself and for my son.  I look at the postcard as a positive reminder of the time we had together; not a maudlin reminder of a loved one who is no longer with me.

What do you think of keeping a loved one's momentos?  What has been your experience?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Calgon, Take Me Away

The world around us can be dynamic and sometimes intense.

If channeled in a positive direction, being around people who are intense and dynamic or situations that are dynamic and intense can be a good thing; even a great thing.  It can be the fuel that gets the creative juices started and sometimes can bring about breakthroughs or solutions in otherwise stuck situations.

But if you are already feeling overloaded or overwhelmed by being the single parent (either widowed or divorced) who works full-time, takes care of the house, the children and the finances, then maybe for your own sake it's time to take a temporary break from the strong emotions and go far away from the madding crowd.

You can probably feel that you are getting close to blowing a gasket as in "if one more person comes to me with a problem, I think I will loose it." 

That "I've had enough" feeling reminds me of a popular commercial for bath salts that ran on television many, many years ago.  The commercial would show the average stressful day in a woman's life and then you would hear the tag line of "Calgon, take me away."  Next you would see a bath tub full of bubbles, inviting the viewer to run to the store and buy a box of Calgon for inner peace.

I think there's something to this drugstore remedy because the thing that you might really like to do to relax is either too expensive, illegal or maybe both.  It's important for single parents to make themselves a priority and take care of themselves just as well as they take care of others.  I think I can definitely spring for a box of Calgon and turn off the phone and the computer.

CVS, you better be open late tonight!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Happy Birthday Mommy!

Mother and Child
 By Pablo Picasso

Today is my Mom's 81st birthday and I truly hope she has a relaxing day.

I've always thought it was funny that my parents birthdays are a week apart.  We've never celebrated them together because my parents are Aries and their strong personalities need separate birthday celebrations.

My Mom did an incredible job of raising six children who were born close in age.  There is only seven years between me (the oldest) and the youngest child.  There is a set of twins in our family and one of my sisters and I were born in the same year so we are the same age for a month.  Think about taking care of six children all by yourself: the logistics, the time, the energy, the patience and the imagination.  You're tired just thinking about it, aren't you? 

My Mom is the ultimate mother.  I can honestly say that she loves all babies and she adores their spontaneity.  She was a hands-on Mom who would get down on the floor and play with us and think up games for us to play.  She showed us how children should be enjoyed and let us dance around or sing or tell stories to entertain the family.  There were many nights when my parents admit to turning off the television just to watch all six of us perform.

You paid your dues, Mom, and today I send you big birthday hugs and kisses!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris

Happy Birthday Emmylou Harris!!  The Grammy-winner turns 65 today and I thought it would be appropriate to share one of my favorite songs that she wrote with another Grammy-winner, Bill Danoff.

The song, Boulder to Birmingham, recounts her feelings of grief in the years following the death of country rock star and mentor Gram Parsons.  Danoff also recorded the song with his group, Starland Vocal Band, on their self-titled debut album.

It is a beautiful, haunting song.  I think we all can identify with that feeling of doing anything, even walking from Boulder to Birmingham, to see the face of a loved one just one more time.  Once you listen to it, and you can find it on YouTube, I think you'll agree that Boulder to Birmingham stays with you for along time:

Boulder to Birmingham

Lyrics By Emmylou Harris
Music By Bill Danoff

I don't want to hear a love song
I got on this airplane just to fly
And I know there's life below
But all that it can show me
Is the prairie and the sky

And I don't want to hear a sad story
Full of heartbreak and desire
The last time I felt like this
It was in the wilderness and the canyon was on fire
And I stood on the mountain in the night and I watched it burn
I watched it burn, I watched it burn.

I would rock my soul in the bosom of abraham
I would hold my life in his saving grace
I would walk all the way from boulder to birmingham
If I thought I could see, I could see your face.

Well you really got me this time
And the hardest part is knowing I'll survive.
I have come to listen for the sound
Of the trucks as they move down
Out on ninety five
And pretend that it's the ocean
Coming down to wash me clean, to wash me clean
Baby do you know what I mean

I would rock my soul in the bosom of abraham
I would hold my life in his saving grace
I would walk all the way from boulder to birmingham
If I thought I could see, I could see your face.