Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Basket Full of Everything

Through the last two Masters classes I've taken, I have cultivated and refined some of my writing by attempting genres from which I previously steered clear. I made some small leaps over the course of my studies but I don't know that I will ever be finished learning. I will never be a complete writer. I will never be satisfied and I may never consider myself truly... a writer. But the last eight weeks have reminded me how much I love to write and what a big part of my life writing has been. This time focused on writing rekindled the flame between writing and me.

One of my final projects included a poem. Here it is:

The weaver maps the pattern 
The strips perfectly in place 
Evenly adjusting every single piece 
Row, space, row, space, row, space

Upsetting the outside spokes 
The edges are neatly bent 
Disjointing the perfection 
With planning and intent

Carefully threading in and out
Each corner soon turns round 
Packing down to close the gaps 
And make the structure sound

The top is trimmed and tucked 
The rim is put in place
A handle for the carrying 
Of the beautiful new base

Now the maker fills it up 
With future seeds to sow 
And a heritage of pride 
Gifts and treasures overflow

The native gift of music 
English wit and Irish fire
A bit of German stubbornness 
With perseverant heart’s desire

Placed in the woven vessel 
Much to offer, much to bring
A perfect blend of my two families 
I am a basket full of everything 

What Are Big Girls Made Of?

I have begun a love affair with poetry. As of now, this might be one of my favorites. It is called What Are Big Girls Made Of and it's creator is Marge Piercy. Enjoy!

The construction of a woman:
a woman is not made of flesh 
of bone and sinew 
belly and breasts, elbows and liver and toe. 
She is manufactured like a sports sedan. 
She is retooled, refitted and redesigned 
every decade. 
Cecile had been seduction itself in college. 
She wriggled through bars like a satin eel, 
her hips and ass promising, her mouth pursed 
in the dark red lipstick of desire. 

She visited in '68 still wearing skirts 
tight to the knees, dark red lipstick, 
while I danced through Manhattan in mini skirt, 
lipstick pale as apricot milk, 
hair loose as a horse's mane. Oh dear, 
I thought in my superiority of the moment, 
whatever has happened to poor Cecile? 
She was out of fashion, out of the game, 
disqualified, disdained, dis- 
membered from the club of desire. 

Look at pictures in French fashion 
magazines of the 18th century: 
century of the ultimate lady 
fantasy wrought of silk and corseting. 
Paniers bring her hips out three feet 
each way, while the waist is pinched 
and the belly flattened under wood. 
The breasts are stuffed up and out 
offered like apples in a bowl. 
The tiny foot is encased in a slipper 
never meant for walking. 
On top is a grandiose headache: 
hair like a museum piece, daily 
ornamented with ribbons, vases, 
grottoes, mountains, frigates in full 
sail, balloons, baboons, the fancy 
of a hairdresser turned loose. 
The hats were rococo wedding cakes 
that would dim the Las Vegas strip. 
Here is a woman forced into shape 
rigid exoskeleton torturing flesh: 
a woman made of pain. 

How superior we are now: see the modern woman 
thin as a blade of scissors. 
She runs on a treadmill every morning, 
fits herself into machines of weights 
and pulleys to heave and grunt, 
an image in her mind she can never 
approximate, a body of rosy 
glass that never wrinkles, 
never grows, never fades. She 
sits at the table closing her eyes to food 
hungry, always hungry: 
a woman made of pain. 

A cat or dog approaches another, 
they sniff noses. They sniff asses. 
They bristle or lick. They fall 
in love as often as we do, 
as passionately. But they fall 
in love or lust with furry flesh, 
not hoop skirts or push up bras 
rib removal or liposuction. 
It is not for male or female dogs 
that poodles are clipped 
to topiary hedges. 

If only we could like each other raw. 
If only we could love ourselves 
like healthy babies burbling in our arms. 
If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed 
to need what is sold us. 
Why should we want to live inside ads? 
Why should we want to scourge our softness 
to straight lines like a Mondrian painting? 
Why should we punish each other with scorn 
as if to have a large ass
were worse than being greedy or mean?

When will women not be compelled
to view their bodies as science projects,
gardens to be weeded,
dogs to be trained?
When will a woman cease
to be made of pain?

To Trust

It must be my mission in life to figure out this thing called TRUST.
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
― Ernest Hemingway
“I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
― Maya Angelou
“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.”
― George MacDonald
“Trust starts with truth and ends with truth.”
― Santosh KalwarQuote Me Everyday
“For there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first.”
― Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The End is Near

They say the world is ending on December 21st which I think is total crap. Why can't it wait until after Christmas at least? Give us one more tree. One more round of carols and baked ham with cranberry sauce at my mom's. That would be a great way to go out. But no. Four days before Christmas, they say it's going to just be over.

I wonder how it will happen. Will we know the world is ending or will it happen while we are all asleep? I wonder if my dog will sense it first like she does when she can feel a storm coming hours before it actually hits. I'll have to pay attention to her.

I suppose if the world does end, there's no point in preparing anything. But I might try to wear my favorite black sweater a few more times as well as my black cowboy boots. In fact, I might put that stuff on the day before so I can go out wearing my favorite outfit, just in case it happens early.

They say the world is ending on December 21st which I think is total crap.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Pretending to feel ill, I would call my mother into my room, peer through half-open eyelids, and whine with a deep, throaty moan. Promptly, she would stand up and rip the covers off of my bed, demanding that I get up and get ready for school. I was a faker.

As an adult, I pretend to be well. Muddling through a fever or a cough or an overall feeling of ick, I pull on clothes, slap on makeup and head to the office. Unless I am stricken with the influenza. It holds me captive for it's traditional 24-48 hours. I am powerless.

The only cure is waiting. Waiting for the fever to break. Waiting for the upheaval to cease. Waiting to feel normal enough to do simple things like sit up in a chair. When the worst of it ceases, crackers calm the stomach and flat soda washes down the crackers. And then it seems that almost instantly, good feelings return and influenza is gone. At least for another year.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Patience. It's not my strong suit. You would not know it because I have always believed if you act like you have something long enough you will eventually have it. But I struggle in the process.

I struggle on the road when the cars up ahead will not clear a path to my destination when I am running late again. I struggle at the store when I'm caught behind a shopper with a cart full items that were neglected by the clerk who was in charge of tagging prices. I struggle as I sit in class and listen to the seemingly endless stories of my fellow students. I struggle as I listen to my mother tell the same story for the third time in an hour. 

I pretend to let pushy, relentless cars into the line during the hour-long wait on the highway costumed as a parking lot. I pretend to engage in joyful conversation with the grocery gatherers who surround me in the checkout lane. I pretend to listen earnestly in class. I pretend to hear every repeat story for the first time. I pretend my way through the struggle.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Change isn’t always easy but in most cases, it is necessary. -me
“In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” -Warren Buffett
“By changing nothing, nothing changes.” -Tony Robbins
“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” –Jim Rohn
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” -George Bernard Shaw
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” –Michael Jordan
“As soon as anyone starts telling you to be “realistic,” cross that person off your invitation list.” –John Eliot
“All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.” –Walt Disney

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

God Bless America

Today, Shiloh came home from the groomer with an American flag bandana wrapped around her neck. I didn't need the reminder of what an important day it was in our country. Shortly after I picked her up, I voted in the election for the next president of the United States. Unless I am in the company of like-minded thinkers, I tend to keep my political beliefs to myself. I don't need to add politics into the conversation mix. I am fully capable of angering folks without it. But I will say this...

I wish the campaigning had not been so hateful this time around. And I wish the supporters of various candidates hadn't been so hateful. I think there is a fine line between staunch support and hatefulness. I think we need a new rule. If you wouldn't say it (whatever "it" is) about your mother or or grandmother or the person most near and dear to your heart, you shouldn't say it.

I do hope that everyone got out and cast a ballot today though. No matter who that ballot supported. What a patriotic effort! What a great day to be an American! God Bless America.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Ah Chava's

Scooping pools
of melted white cheese
into my mouth
with crunchy tortilla chips

I savor the flavors
I wash the tasty goodness down
with a gulp of frozen mango margarita
from a glass rimmed with sugar

When the bowl of tortilla chips is empty
I feast on soft tortillas stuffed
with grilled white fish
dressed in pico de gallo
with rice and beans on the side

Finally, cheesecake
dipped in batter
and deep fried
Ah Chava's

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Rest & Relaxation

Sit still.
Calm down.
That can wait until tomorrow.
Just do what you can do.
Ask for help.
Let it go.
Lie around on the couch all day long.
Watch a movie.
Close your laptop.
Turn off the phone.
Take a long stroll.

But I need to catchup.
I have so many emails to read.
There are meetings to set up.
The floors need mopping.
When was the last time somebody dusted that lamp?
The dog smells like wet dog. She needs a bath.
Make the bed.
I have been painting that back room for two months.
Someday, I'll buy furniture for the dining room.
I should call my mom.
I should visit my aunt.

Sit still.
Calm down.
That can wait until tomorrow.
Just do what you can do.
Ask for help.
Let it go.
Lie around on the couch all day long.
Watch a movie.
Close your laptop.
Turn off the phone.
Take a long stroll.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Trick or Treat

On Halloween night, a teenage girl in Michigan carried a bucket door to door collecting candy for a 10 year old boy in Missouri. A boy whom she did not know and may never meet.

Due to our extended trip to New York, my nephew missed Halloween. Amongst the horrors and painful stories that came out of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey and all along the east coast, a night of trick or treating did not seem important or even appropriate. But it would have created a welcome diversion from the panic and the daily efforts to get home.

As we chronicled the extra days online, our friends shared our nervousness. They sent encouraging messages and offered thoughtful prayers for a safe return. And one friend, sent a note offering to Trick or Treat in honor of Kirk. It touched us deeply. Something small and simple can have a profound effect on someone.

While my nephew will never forget the trip to New York or Hurricane Sandy, he will also never forget the box of candy that arrived in the mail when he got home. The box that came from a family he did not  know and may never meet.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Breaking Out

Early this morning, before day break,  I whisked my family from the hotel and piled them in the black of a sleek black lincoln town car. Our driver, Tony, carted us through the newly opened Lincoln tunnel into freedom which is also known as New Jersey. Our weekend in New York grew to a week and while there were wonderful times and great experiences, boarding the plane that would carry us home was a welcome event.

I hope that in the coming days we will only remember the good parts, the parts before our lives became a constant cycle of trying to break out, to break free from the storm ravaged states by which we were surrounded.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Our Hurricane Experience

The day after Sandy hit New York and New Jersey, it's business as usual in Midtown Manhattan. While nationally known stores like Starbucks and McDonald's are closed and the Disney store in Times Square is even boarded up, local businesses are open and packed to the gills with patrons. The small grocery stores and delis are running out of items to sell and the shelves are slowly emptying but they seem to be well stocked with toiletries and the places that makes fresh sandwiches to order seem to have a constant stream of customers.

Taxis have taken to the streets after a very short 12 hour hiatus and those streets are lined with tourists and New Yorkers alike. Rumor has it that bus service may start up again tomorrow but the subways and tunnels are closed indefinitely.

There are many areas in New York and New Jersey that aren't as lucky as Midtown Manhattan. Over the weekend, we visited the Empire State building, the site of the World Trade Center, and Battery Park, all of which are under water now. Almost one million people are without power and tonight, temperatures are predicted to drop down to the upper 40s and many are displaced and staying in shelters.

We are among the blessed. My sister Denise, my nephew Kirk and I are set up in a hotel with a giant king-sized bed and full-sized futon, full power, a microwave and a refrigerator. We are safe and sound and feeling guilty about how good we have it. Granted the road to get here was trying and difficult but we couldn't have asked for a better outcome.

The aftermath of the hurricane is similar to that of a war zone in many areas of New York but the reality is that there is a pocket that remains untouched by the storm. And we are in that pocket, shielded from the destruction.

In All Things, Give Thanks

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

This weekend we met Sandy. And we wish we never had. Before she showed up, we were having a glorious time. But we are thankful for the days we had leading up to Sandy's arrival. We are incredibly grateful. We had so much fun. As my nephew said, "It was good and I liked New York. My favorite part was being in Times Square surrounded by the lights and all the awesome stores."

We were so blessed to have three days packed with nearly every tourist adventure imaginable. On the first day in Manhattan, we strolled to Rockefeller Plaza where we watched ice skaters in the rink and browsed through the Lego Store. We shopped in Times Square and spent a fortune at the M&M's store. 

Then we hopped a bus to the 9-11 memorial site where we met Harry, a wonderful older man with a toothless grin who pulled us aside and shared the World Trade Center's history with us. He taught us about the seven buildings on the site which coincided with the seven points on the Statue of Liberty's crown which stood for the seven seas over which people traveled from the seven continents to find a freedom represented by a flag with seven red stripes. We explored the neighborhood around that site, visited wall street, took a photo with the bull and walked down to the harbor where we saw the Statue of Liberty in the distance. We resisted the temptation to buy Rolex watches and bags and sunglasses from men who sidled up beside us and whispered great deals in our direction. 

Then we ended our day with dinner and drinks at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square where we waited an hour to destroy a platter of loaded nachos and where we left with souvenir glasses in tow.

On day two we slept late and it was good. Then we passed through Magnolia's bakery to pick up muffins and cupcakes and what is now Kirk's favorite milk before heading to NBC for a tour. We walked the halls of NBC like we owned the place. We made brief stops in the studios of Brian Williams and Dr. Oz and Jimmy Fallon before Kirk took a seat behind the news desk and shared the day's news with our tour group. He was a star! 

Next we jumped in a pedicab for a tour of Central Park. Our driver, a young man who emigrated from Kazakhstan, peddled our rickshaw to various stops in the park like the Bethesda fountain and Strawberry fields. We watched a young couple get engaged near the John Lennon memorial and saw the building where Yoko Ono still lives.

Finally, we rode out to China Town where we walked through the markets and ended up in Little Italy where we ate the best pizza ever.

On the third day, we went to church at St. Patrick's Cathedral, at breakfast at the Majestic Delicatessen, ferried out to Lady Liberty, looked up our ancestors on Ellis Island and ended up at the Newsies, a Disney musical on Broadway. We finished up the day with burgers and salad at the most expensive Friday's on the face of the earth and a shopping spree at the grocery store in preparation for Sandy.

Even though the last couple of days have been stressful and trying, we are thankful. What an amazing trip this has been! That is what we will choose to remember.

Monday, October 29, 2012


I do not consider myself to be a brave person. But I supposed it is true that I am good in a crisis. Truthfully, the only way I survive in moments of uncertainty is by communicating constantly. Talking through the situation at hand helps me keep perspective, helps me stay grounded, and helps me reassure myself while reassuring others that everything is going to be alright.

Hurricane Sandy has landed in New York and seems determined to do as much damage as possible. In the midst of her destruction, our only connections to home are our cell phones and Facebook. Thank God for Facebook.

The following entries represent day two of being trapped in New York thanks to Sandy:

"it's finally raining. NYC is a ghost town. We are packing up to switch hotels. I'd be lying if I said I am not scared. But I'm keeping a brave face/voice for Kirk & my parents who are scared to death at home."

"The rain has arrived. There are something like 200 Starbucks in Manhattan & every one we've seen is closed. McDonalds too. But we found a deli with a Chinese buffet, a salad bar & some lovely Latino men making sandwiches so we stocked up and came back to the hotel. Tomorrows flights are now canceled too so... Kirk's teacher sent homework. Please say some prayers for my uncle Donald & aunt Eleanor who are riding out the storm at a trucks top in jersey. More later! WE MISS YOU STL!"

"Watch KSDK tonight. Just got interviewed by Casey Nolen..."

"Seems the flooding around us is getting really bad but we have no evidence of that here. Jersey has it the worst. Again, it just looks like a rainy night in Midtown. The lights flickered a bit but for now, we still have power. I'm taking comfort in being in a hotel right next door to the fire department. 

If we don't answer texts right away, it's because we are preserving the battery for calls to

 our parents & Ed. Kirk now has a stomach bug. Poor kid has been throwing up all night. I think it's half nerves & half crappy chinese from the back of a turkish deli (or something like that).

Thanks for the prayer & the calls & the texts. And thank God for Facebook making our world seem smaller right now & St. Louis feel a little closer.

Love you all!


the deli across the street is still open but the streets are pretty bare."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Calm Before the Storm

My sister, my nephew and I were in New York for a long weekend and suddenly found ourselves with no way home. Every year, my nephew Kirk and I travel somewhere for his birthday. For months in advance of his July celebration, we discuss where we might like to go together and how we might like to get there. A plethora of ideas are laid on the table and they almost always include London and Los Angeles because those are the home towns of Kirk's favorite actress. We have traveled by car, train, and airplane. We have traveled near and far. This year, we agreed upon New York as our destination.

Kirk also agreed to allow his mom (my sister) to join us on this trip as well since the chosen location was so grand. We booked out trip for October because autumn in New York is so beautiful. The anticipation of our trip built over the course of the three months between Kirk's actual birthday and our departure date. Finally, last Friday, we boarded a plane and just over three hours later, we were walking the streets of Manhattan. 

I love New York. And now so does Kirk. But after a tour of Central Park via pedicab, visits to the top of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, shopping in Times Square, and taking in a Broadway show, the weather shifted dramatically. Hurricane Sandy was suddenly pounding at the doors of Manhattan Island. Instantly, our experience shifted from fun and exciting to frightful and nerve-racking. 

I moved up our flights, hoping to escape New York before the storm hit bu our flights were canceled anyway. We rebooked them. Then we booked a rental car, just in case... We thought driving 16 hours wouldn't be terrible and at least we would be home. Within hours, however, the mayor of New York announced the city was shutting down. Our second round of flights was canceled and we realized that we would soon be without transportation and without a hotel room.

Finally, I booked a new hotel, we packed our bags and we walked 7 blocks to our new temporary home with bags in tow. 

Facebook provided a a way to keep those at home updated. Here are the posts from the first day of the storm:

"flights out of NY are canceled. we have no hotel after tomorrow at noon. we do have a car but can't pick it up til tomorrow. at Laguardia... and there is no mass transit or cab service tomorrow due to the state of emergency. the rain that was supposed to start at 8 AM has not started so that's the silver lining I suppose."

"longest day ever... we are staying in NYC until at least late Tuesday. Flights rebooked, found a hotel, bought provisions at the grocery store b/c the city has literally shut down. they're even sandbagging in Times Square & there are cops everywhere. (i mean more than usual.) the mayor ordered everyone to stay home tomorrow. still no rain. just a little windy. that said Jim Cantore is here in battery park so I guess it's gonna get real!"

We are safe. We are together. We are waiting out the storm.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Six Seconds

Research shows that great hugs take six seconds for the participants to experience the full benefits. It has been said that hugs are the cure-all for our ills. It has been my experience that most people don't really hug any more. But I urge you to hug someone today. Hug with your whole being and your whole heart. It does a body good. And a spirit too...

"Everybody needs a hug. It boosts your metabolism." ~Leo Buscaglia

"You can't wrap love in a box. But you can wrap a person in a hug." ~unknown

"A hug is a handshake from the heart." ~unknown

"That's what people do who love you... They put their arms around you and love you even when you're not lovable." ~Deb Caletti

"Men greet each other with a sock in the arm. Women greet each other with a hug, and the hug wears better in the long run." ~Edward Hoagland

Friday, October 26, 2012

New York, New York

The fist time I heard Bette Midler’s story, I wished I had packed a bag at 18 at headed to the Big Apple. Bette was braver than I. She moved to New York, lived in a closet-sized apartment and waited tables while enduring the painstaking process of making her dream of being a performer come true. While I had known since I was six years old that I wanted to be a singer and I loved the idea of Broadway, I never mustered the courage to follow in Bette’s footsteps. 

In sixth grade, my class went to camp for a week. I don’t remember the point of the trip. That is to say, I don’t know why our school chose to send sixth graders there year after year. I am sure there was some educational basis and while I despised the social element of it, I did learn a lot. We cared for and rode horses, learned about composting, slept under the stars and awoke covered in cool morning dew and we repelled down a really tall wall. At every point int he experience, I remember asking what was going to happen before participating. I discovered that I loved repelling even though I was terrified to try it at first. Thank God for a hot counselor whom everyone called “Dude” who provided plenty of motivation for this chubby, four-eyed girl from the city. 

It wasn’t fear of getting hurt or even death, however, that caused my hesitation  to repel down the wall in the woods or that prevented me from moving to New York after high school graduation. Fearlessness was my strong suit. The thought that something bad might happen to me never crossed my mind and caused my parents countless hours of worry. It was fear of failure. What if I wasn’t good at it? Whatever it was... What if I failed miserably and others made fun of me? What if I put myself out there and I became a laughing stock?

One day, the same year I went to camp, a neighbor boy followed me home from school and mocked my singing every step of the way. I remember him saying, “If you think you’re so good, why don’t you...” He went on and on. I acted tough but I was dying inside. That feeling stayed with me for so long. Too long, in fact. Even today, when someone attacks my ability or my talent, I feel it in the pit of my stomach and the thought crosses my mind, “what if I am not good at it? Oh my gosh, what if I am one of those people you see on American Idol auditions who really believe they can sing but they can’t!

Of course I recover from the negativity much quicker now than I did when I was a kid but it is so evident to me now how critical our growing up years are and how impactful negativity can be. And as I walk through the streets of New York, I wish I would have known better as a kid. I wish I would have never doubted myself. I wish I would have been more like Bette.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


One by one, he carefully scooped us up and carried us to the car, laid us in the back seat, and covered us with blankets and baby dolls. As the sun rose and peeked through the windows of our cream-colored Chevy station wagon, my younger sister and I would slowly sit up and rub the sleep from our eyes. Suddenly, excitement would build from our toes to the tips of our head... VACATION! It started the same way every year. Dad packed the car in the middle of the night, loaded us in the car and headed out so he could get most of the drive out of the way before we woke up.

No matter the distance or the location, vacation was always a treat. Most years, we would spend time at Table Rock Lake where we fished off the green astro turf-covered dock and swam until our hearts were content. And often, my parents would bring a cousin or three along or a friend so there would be someone to be the tie breaker in arguments between my sister and me. On the odd occasion we traveled further than the lake, driving across as many states as possible en route to our final destination. We cruised the border between the United States and Canada, shot across the country on an Amtrak train and flew to Disney World.

My parents sparked my interest in travel at a very young age. They shattered the boundaries of our city and opened the doors of possibility for me, my sister, and many others. Vacation still makes me giddy and even causes me to lose sleep. I try to venture out of St. Louis at least three times each year. I take one trip with my immediate family, one with my nephew for his birthday, and one with my friends.

This year, my travel bill was booked solid with trips to California, Nevada, Florida, Georgia, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, Alabama and, up next, New York. If I am lucky there will be at least one more jaunt slightly west for a friends birthday in November. And before my lifetime draws complete, I'd like to see the continents I haven't visited yet. Who's with me?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's Like Riding a Bike

In 2011, for the forty days leading up to my 40th birthday, I blogged every day. What a tremendous challenge! Committing myself to stop for a moment every day and write down my thoughts, while seemingly self-indulgent proved incredibly difficult.

Some days, a topic presented itself willingly and the blog practically wrote itself. Those are the good blogs. On other days, I fought tooth and nail to force words from my brain and through my fingertips.
But in the end, it was so much fun and looking back at the blog now, I realize it was an intense period of self-discovery.

As I near the end of my masters program at Webster University, I am taking a creative writing class and the first assignment involves journaling. For the next eight weeks, I will repeat my 40th birthday exercise by blogging every day. I am looking forward to the stories that might unfold and if there are topics you'd like me to cover, please leave a comment here or send me a note.

In the meantime, I thought it might be fun to go back and explore that 40 Days til 40 blog. You can find it here: http://michele-40daystil40.blogspot.com/ 

Enjoy! And get ready! The adventures in journaling start now!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Adventures in Journaling

Starting tomorrow and continuing for the next eight weeks, I will be blogging every day for a masters class I am taking at Webster University. Consequently, I will be reading more and cutting out weeknight television as well.

While I am not typically short on topics, I would love to hear from my readers about topics you would like me to cover.

Do you have a question? Do you want my opinion on a particular subject? Do you need advice? Bring it on! Leave a comment here or send an email my way and let me know what you think I should write about next!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Paradise

Paradise can be any "place or state of bliss, felicity, or delight" according to Merriam-Webster. This week my paradise came in the form of a real vacation which M-W describes as "a scheduled period during which activity is suspended" or "a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation."

It has been years since I have truly had a vacation during which I had no work or responsibilities and making a deliberate effort to do so proved difficult but when accomplished... it was incredibly rewarding.

My friends and I spent our days reading, swimming, walking the beach and enjoying our surroundings. I don't think that we, as Americans maybe, or just as a people value time for rejuvenation enough. We all work so hard and push to complete to do lists and projects on our homes. We overbook our calendars to the point that we drive like maniacs and have cell phones attached to our ears all day long because we never have enough hours in the day. And I think the real reason we can't accomplish all that we need to or want to is that we are all running on empty. We don't take the time to refuel and refresh ourselves. We forget that sometimes our bodies, our minds and our lives require a period of rebuilding so that we can keep going. Taking the time to replenish our life reserves not only prevents us from burning out but it allow us to be the best people we can be. 

I cannot say it enough... You cannot give what you do not get. You cannot withdraw what you never deposit. You cannot drive a car without fueling up first. You cannot feed people without gathering food first. You cannot even use that iPhone without charging it up first.

Take a break! Charge up! And then get back at it.

Farewell paradise! I will see you soon.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Write Your Sorrow in the Sand

Sometimes we receive messages from unexpected places, if we are open to them. Today, while shopping in a quaint little store in Orange Beach, AL, I stumbled upon a small, oval stone with a cross that said, "Write your sorrows in the sand and etch your blessings in stone." Brilliant. Something worth remembering.

Later in the evening, as the sun set slowly in the west, my friends and I carried three beach chairs down to the edge of the Gulf of Mexico and planted them firmly in the sand. We settled in for a nighttime view of the clear waters and schools of jumping manta rays as they passed. The waves crashed against the sand, sometimes quietly and gently and sometimes loudly and unforgiving. And as the evening wore on, the water flowed further inland, rushing over our feet and under our chairs.

Then I considered the message on the stone in the store earlier in the day. This isn't the first time I've heard the idea of ridding life of sorrows through some physical act. Releasing pain or disappointment or sadness in a tangible way can make it easier to let go of and can make it more real. I have heard you should write letters to those you are having trouble reaching face-to-face for whatever reason or who have caused you hurt or pain in the past and then burn the letters. It is a way to set your feelings free or to release them into the universe. I've heard others say you should pray and cast your cares on Jesus because He's there for you. So why not write your sorrows or sadness or the things that burden your heart in the sand and watch as the water washes them away.

So I grabbed a stick and started to write. Loneliness, sadness, the loss of my child... and more. One by one, I scratched them into the surface of the wet sand and waited for the tide to roll in and wipe the words away. And, one by one, the words that represented my sorrows disappeared, carried out into the vastness of the gulf.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Do Good Because You Should

The world does not lack opportunities to do good. Grasping hold of those opportunities feeds the soul, revives the spirit and helps others in the process. Over the last ten years or so, I have embraced volunteerism, broadening the horizons of my giving. Helping others is fuel for life for me.

Life often demands a tiring and relentless pace, causing us to put forth our all without taking the time to redeposit our physical energy or mental and spiritual reserve. So we get to a place where we have nothing left to give. Stresses grow seemingly heavier and problems often seem bigger. The day-to-day becomes kind of a drag. It has been my experience that when we hit that wall, the best way to pull ourselves up is to do something for someone else. We should do good because it's just what we should to but also because it's good for us.

Often times, when I have fulfilled a chance to help someone, others respond with "oh that's so nice of you" or something of the sort. But the truth is I don't do it to be nice. If someone has a need that can be satisfied by time or effort, the cost is minimal and my response, more often than not, is "yes, I will help." If the need is monetary, it requires greater consideration. But spending my time or expending effort on behalf of others is a no brainer. And the return on investment is so great. The deposit into my life through the gratefulness of others or the smile I receive helps me to reengage. Helping others feels like second nature but it's also a little bit of selfish nature too. I help and, in return, I am helped. I am helped by the happiness or the feeling of relief that the recipient of my good deed experiences.

Helping or doing good almost always comes back to the giver. Do good because you should but also do good because it will impact your life beyond measure.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Home Alone

I don't know what it's like to leave a child with a babysitter for the first time or to drop a child off at school on the first day. But today, I left my dog home alone, uncrated and free to roam through half of my house.

As a good dog mom, I feel it's almost my duty to over-worry. From the moment I descended the 22 steps from my second floor abode and walked out the front door, I worried. My fears ranged from small and easy to dismiss to insanely irrational and cause to return home immediately.

What if she got into the blanket basket? Well what's the worst thing that could happen? She could drag blankets all over the house. Or she could get tangled in all of those blankets and suffocate.

What if she spends the entire day sitting in the window sill barking at passers by? That might drive my neighbors a little crazy, I guess. But what if she jumps out the window? My dog has no sense that we're on the second floor and I know dogs who have escaped through a simple window screen.

What if she pulls the plants down to the floor or chews up the carpet or gets on the kitchen table? What if she catches her collar on something and hangs herself? OH MY GOD, I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN HER COLLAR OFF.

At the end of the work day, I sped home through traffic, certain I would pull up to the front of my house and find a busted window screen or, at the very least, dog poop all over the place. Hurriedly, I slammed my car door and rushed up to the house. Cautiously, I opened the door and walked upstairs.

"Where's my puppy?" I said cheerfully.

Lazily, my puppy looked up at me from the couch. She stood up, stretched from tip to toes and sauntered up to me. My house was intact and my dog was well rested.

Tomorrow, I am sure that I will be as much of a nervous wreck as I was today. I mean, what if she chews through a cord or gets up on the kitchen counter and knocks over the jars or somehow gets into the cleaning closet?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Season of Reminiscing

Bleacher girls at Paddy O's
Twelve years of game watching in the bleachers at Busch stadium has afforded me many experiences, some of which have been life-changing. Early on, the faction of folks who made up the bleacher faithful became not only my friends but also my family. We have shared the milestones of life while sharing our love for Cardinal baseball: marriages, divorces, new babies, 21st birthdays, graduations and even death. The Cardinal family has been more to us than the people who make up the formal organization. It has been the people who have cheered with us and booed with us and heckled right fielders with us.

Leigha & Don in section 509 at old Busch
Today, June 17th, the St. Louis Cardinals remember two great men who served among the ranks of the organization but departed this world ten years ago. Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck died after a lengthy illness just one week before the unexpected loss of Darryl Kile Cardinals starting pitcher from 2000-2002.

My memories of Jack Buck are seemingly endless as he served as the first voice of Cardinal baseball for me. In 1999, Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL booked me to sing the national anthem for the opening game of Spring Training. A parade of Hall of Famers walked onto the field and Jack Buck approached me where I waited to sing and introduced himself. We shook hands and I laughed nervously. I was floored by his kindness and willingness to take a moment to greet me.

Hanging with Skip & Toni
Darryl Kile offered a different kind of memory. My interactions with him were in passing but his sincerity in the dealings with his fans never went unnoticed. As a fan, I adored him, admired him and respected him.

The deaths of Buck and Kile unified our bleacher family. We came together to support one another in the losses. And the determination of the team flowed into the stands. It was contagious.

Jim, me & Phil Williams at old Busch
This season has been a season of reminiscing for those of us in the bleachers so remembering Buck and Kile on the 10th anniversary of their deaths has come to pass appropriately. We have spent much of the season "remembering when" because this is the first season that many of our family members relinquished their season tickets. We have a skeleton crew left in section 505.

We have recalled our road trips to Milwaukee and Cincinnati and beyond. We have relived World Series wins and losses. We have enjoyed stories of wild nights in the old Busch, friends who frequently got tossed from the games, the best fights and meeting players for the first time.  Many of our shared stories include those who have passed on, like Buck and Kile. Since their passing, the bleacher squad has lost a couple of mates as well. In 2005, Paula Weinmann died. I last saw her under the tent at Paddy O's. And in 2008, Phil Williams left us after nine years of entertaining me with his unique taunting abilities and constant laughter.

As we remember Buck and Kile and think back on the last ten years, let us remember Paula and Phil too. Let's cherish and live in the moment because it could be a life-long memory in the making. And let's keep reminiscing and telling the stories of the Cardinal family.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tough Crowd

According to social media quizzes, I am a social maniac. I participate in various forms of social media and I enjoy it. Connecting with others is critical to my survival. Social media helps keep me close to family and friends but also introduces me to others with similar interests.

The downfall, I believe, of all of social media is the compartmentalization of people. We categorize our friends and family and acquaintances by how much information we want them to know or the aspect of our lives into which they fit best. And for someone who has regularly brought all of her worlds together into one space, this division creates a challenge.

I am not allowed to be my work self and my ethnic self and my sports loving self in the same space. The audience that has connected with me online based on my interest in baseball doesn't want to hear my rants about the advertising industry. The group of people who love me for my musical affinity doesn't want to read retweets about Native American news. And the inability to fit into one category hinders connections that might otherwise flourish.

The reality of social media is... y'all are one tough crowd. The purpose is supposed to be to connect an unite but all too often it is isolating and divisive.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sad, Lonely & Doubtful

I struggle to reconcile loving my life with the desperation I feel some days. It's a desperation that I am convinced would be resolved if I just had someone other than this dog to greet me at the door everyday.

Shocking, huh? This strong, capable, successful woman who constantly preaches that women should not depend on others for happiness is now saying that there are days when she'd be happier if she had others to depend on. This satisfied single gal is admitting that some days she wishes that she wasn't single.

Sadly this is not my only sin. I hope my loyal readers won't hold it against me when I say that there are days when I doubt myself too. It doesn't seem possible that I could live what I've lived and still doubt myself but I do. I sit here and wonder if I can really do everything I have planned for my future. And I wonder and I doubt because of the days like today when I wish there was someone waiting for me at home. (And just to be clear... Because I know I have to be careful what I put out there... When I say I wish someone was waiting at home for me, I mean someone with whom I am in a relationship, not a stalker or a trespasser or any kind.)

A coworker calls my experience "the grass is always greener." We see the experiences of others and in times of sadness or loneliness or self-doubt, we project what others have onto our problems and see an instant solution. For example, I might think if I had a two-income family, I wouldn't be buried financially. When the reality is that if I stopped wasting money on a gym membership I haven't used in months and online dating sites that produce nothing but frightful experiences, I wouldn't be buried financially. The reality might also be that if I had a man with a job, money wouldn't be so tight but that is not necessarily the case. I don't know if that makes sense. I guess my point is that problems are compounded when I am sad or lonely or doubting myself. And what others have always seems like the route I should have taken.

I just know that some days it would be nice to have a sounding board. Or a hug. And if that makes me weak or less capable... well... then I guess it just does. And if it's a grass is always greener moment, then it just is. And if it's not meant to be then I will do what I have always done: I will get through it and I will carry on until I'm no longer sad and lonely and doubtful.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A New Season

Procrastination is my worst enemy. There are days when I have 5 or 6 ideas for new blogs but I wait to write them thinking I will do so when I have more time to flush out the idea. A consequence of that has been blank pages on this blog for far too long. So let's catch up. And let's agree to meet here more often.

A couple of months ago, I closed out my 40th year with a sputter. Looking back, preparing to turn 40 by writing a blog for the 40 days leading up to my birthday was the best thing I could have done. I mapped out the expectations of my year and they were grand and exciting. My 40th year fulfilled every expectation. I could not have asked for a better year. Everything I hoped for came to pass.

Self-fulling prophecy? Well... let's just say it was. How does that affect how I proceed in life. If I have the ability to plan for greatness and great things happen, why not do that all the time? Why reserve it for the 40th year of my life?

My 41st birthday seemed less important because it wasn't one of those milestone birthdays that typically receive a lot of fanfare. So I didn't plan for it or prepare for it or set outrageous and amazing goals for it. In fact, when it rolled around, I was depressed. I felt lonely and spent a lot of time alone. Hmm... maybe there is something to this idea of self-fulfilling prophecies after all.

The good news is that its never too late to turn things around. I have entered a new decade in my life. There are often days when I wish I could go back 20 years, carrying with me just a smidgen of the knowledge I have today, and live life differently. Instead, I am going to start from today and move forward. (It's the only real option anyway.)

In my 41st year, I hope to witness greater happiness for the people around me. I will sing more. I will laugh more (if that's possible). I will share in the joys of new beginnings. I will make dreams come true. I will continue to add people to my life who edify me and remove those who tear me down. I will LIVE LIFE instead of watching it pass me by. I will build up my frequent flyer miles! I will eat more fruit. I will have more love in my life than any year previous. I will forgive myself. And I will forgive the ones I blame for holding my back. I will look back on my 41st year and think "Ah, what a year!"

Monday, February 20, 2012

Being 40: I'm a Mom

Many people do not subscribe to the idea that pets are members of the family. I am not one of those people.  Yesterday, I became a dog mom. I had hoped to be a mom before my 40th year ended and, although I didn't anticipate I would achieve that by adopting a dog, I consider the mission accomplished.

The adorable Labrador Retriever/Beagle mixed pup has a shiny, silky black coat and beautiful brown eyes. Adopting her gained me a membership in an exclusive club. It's called The Black Dog Club. The following is taken from the information I received about the Black Dog Club. If you are considering adopting, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for all of the black dogs awaiting adoption.

"Did you know that black dogs are often overlooked at animal shelters?

Most animal shelters find it difficult to place large black dogs into forever homes. Black dogs, especially large ones like Labrador Retriever mixes are overlooked in favor of lighter colored dogs.

Some shelter staff think black dogs are more difficult to see insider their kennels making it hard to connect with the dog. Others think it's hard to see facial features on black dogs and therefore hard to gauge their emotions.

There is absolutely no evidence that color has any bearing on temperament, behavior, or health, regardless of breed."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Being 40: Happy Tuesday

I don't hate Valentine's Day. I hate that everyone else thinks I should.
I don't have a problem with love. I love a lot of people. More than I can count, in fact... I have a problem with being told that I should be sad and angry and depressed because it is Valentine's Day.
I don't resent this holiday. I resent the people who try to make me feel like I should.

The idea that being single is some kind of punishment or prison sentence or some sad relegation for people who are not hot enough or good enough or lovable enough is not only antiquated thinking but it is also, quite frankly, an insult. We are not all longing for love or waiting for Prince Charming to ride in on his white horse to save the day.

The idea of being in a relationship is nice. And if the right guy came along, even if he wasn't on a white horse or wearing shining armor, I would be open to the possibilities. (Note to all the single men reading this: it's probably better if you don't show up dressed as the Tin Man on the back of your strong and noble steed.) But the notion that I am waiting at the window or by the phone or just waiting in life in general for romantic love to o complete me is a misconception. All single people aren't like princesses in a Disney movie. We aren't all sitting around depressed or sad or held hostage by the projected inadequacies of our singleness.

This may come as a shock to all of you conveniently or comfortably or even happily married folks but... some single people are genuinely happy.

So to those of you who have earmarked this day not only for love and affection and romantic dinners and chocolate and flowers but also for reminding your single friends that they are all alone and should feel lonely, I say to you...

Happy Tuesday.

And to my parents, my sister, my nephew and all the other members of my extended family as well as my wonderful friends, I say, Happy Valentine's Day. I love you!