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February 2011

February 24 ~ Forest or Trees

Pixel Do you ever wonder why certain situations keep presenting themselves ?  Why you are confronting the same issues time after time?

I once read that we see in others what we need to see in ourselves.  Or, those around us mirror back to us what we can't recognize in ourselves.  We get what we give?   I'm willing to contemplate all of the above as long as I discover and learn the lesson, eventually.

So often, we act with pure intentions that are perceived in ways that we never considered.  Feelings are hurt and relationships altered and we are left reeling under the weight of it all.

It is in our nature as human beings to see the world through our individual and unique filters.  Remember that child's game gossip

I whisper "The blue cat was wearing yellow socks."  But by the time the "gossip" is whispered into six different ears, the last person hears, "The bucket swearing mellow box."  In the game, it's hilarious, not so much in our day to day interactions with people important to us.

If I run out one afternoon to pick up groceries, mail some letters and put gas in the car and the lady at Giant bags my groceries even though I'm in the 'Self Check' lane, everyone in line at the post office is patient and cordial and gas is under three dollars at WaWa, I'm feeling that 'all is right with the world' feeling.  Then, singing along with The Four Tenors at the stoplight, waiting for my turn to go, the gentleman behind me starts blowing his horn... and all of my easy goodwill flys out the window on a winter breeze.  I want to get out of the car and ask him what his problem is but think better of it.  My mellow is gone, my song is gone  and by the time I get home all Jules has to do is ask where the mail is and he is wishing I'd be gone !

Why is that?  Why does it seem that the one challenging moment can completely invalidate all of the pleasant ones?  I hate that about myself and consistently try to do better but some days it's almost impossible to find my rose colored glasses.

Yesterday I had a misunderstanding with my sister.  I love her.  I hate it when we both look at green and see pink and yellow.  And because I see pink so clearly, I can't understand why she keeps talking about yellow.  I realize all too often, that our world is sort of like the photo at the top of the page.  I know exactly what it is.  I put it there.  I see it clearly.  I understand it.  I appreciate its beauty.  But what do you see? 

Sometimes we are too close.  We have to take a deep breath and step back until the 'big picture' comes into focus.  We have to trust the people we love and find a way to appreciate how inconceivable it would be if ice cream only came in chocolate, everyone listened to Rock, we all lived in green ramblers and drove tan mini vans.  Our differences make us interesting and opinionated, volatile and receptive.  Our differences allow for the new box of Crayolas to hold 120 crayons including, 'Atomic Tangerine', Electric Lime,  Laser Lemon and Robin's Egg Blue.

What would Picasso or Van Gogh have done if the world could only embrace Rembrandt and Michaelangelo?

Sensitivity is a two edged sword.  One side allows us to feel empathy and compassion while the other keeps us wounded and weary. 

I'm sorry for the times that I've wallowed in the misery of unintended wounds.  But more than that, I'm sorry for the times I wounded unintentionally.

Flower I wish we were guaranteed forever.  I wish that we could always be assured of one more day, or another chance to set things right.  Maybe that's the ultimate lesson. 

Never burn bridges.  Don't let the really important things wait til tomorrow.  Don't be so certain that you are right that you forget to be happy, or kind, or generous.

Take a step back from the tedious details that are making you a little crazy and simply accept the gift of the moment.

They are precious and far too few, and when they are gone, oh how you miss them.


February 21

Perriwinkle Blue

As I was printing the final month from the 2010 blog, neatly placing the pages between the brightly colored green, blue, orange and yellow page dividers, a card fell from the inside pocket of this enormous white three ring binder, one of our 2005 Christmas cards.

I had written a tiny story about what makes us happy, what makes us sad, and how often neither is clearly defined. 

Periwinkle Blue

Bella loved to color.  Each day she excitedly opened her big box of crayons.  She loved the smell and feel and look of this perfect rainbow of delightful possibilities.  

Bella colored pictures of everything she loved, her warm yellow house, her cuddly brown puppy, the bright red leaves of autumn and the sparkling white snow of winter.

Spring green, apricot, salmon, cerulean and dandelion...

Bella loved every color, but her favorite was periwinkle blue and it was the first color on every page.  No picture was ever started or complete without the inclusion of this, her most cherished color.

Bella was completely happy.

One day, the unthinkable happened.  Bella opened the box of crayons - there was no periwinkle blue.  She searched everywhere, but it was simply gone.

With a very heavy heart she closed the box and put it away.  Without her favorite, the joy was gone.  She didn't know how to begin.  In her sadness all she felt...all she could see, was her loss.  Sorrow has a way of blinding the heart and Bella didn't notice the world around her fading, until she awoke one morning to find everything in shades of gray.

She ran outside and looked at the sky, the birds, the flowers, all shades of gray.  Overwhelmed, she sat on a warm patch of gray grass, put her little face in her hands and wept.  She allowed her sadness to fill and wash through her.

Then, like a whisper on a breeze, she sensed that she was not alone.  She looked up, and found, sitting silently, patiently on her bare toes was a butterfly.

As she blinked in amazement, its wings began to shimmer in the morning sunlight.  The grays began to come alive.  Iridescent pink and violet, yellow and blue... but not just any blue... Periwinkle Blue.

Bella's heart began to open and beat with excitement.  She began to see that her precious color was now everywhere.  Flecks of it danced in the grackle's wing, on the blades of grass, in the clouds and sky, and in each shadow and flower. 

What she loved best had not disappeared, it was now everywhere.  Bella could once again take her crayons from the shelf.  Now, she could see through the eyes of her heart that nothing we love is ever really lost. Bluebutterfly

 Once again, she was completely happy. 

Shannon is my periwinkle blue.  Always my favorite.  Forever and always.

In a world where sadness makes so many uncomfortable, I struggle everyday with balance.  It is especially challenging when I am taking a new path, that requires absolute honesty.  To write about losing Shannon in a way that is comfortable or easy would be a lie.  To pretend that I am fine and happy, that I have 'put that behind me' or 'moved on' would be a lie.  But on this side of sorrow there is a calm that is as difficult to describe as the agony.  There is a joy that flows through sad bones, that fills the void with a new way of being, and that too, is always evoloving and I'm thinking there may not be an adequate word for 'it', yet.

A lot of professional people, working to understand and heal the grieving, talk about a 'new normal'.  That's a start, I suppose.  But my 'new normal' is still difficult for some who would prefer that my 'new normal' more closely resemble the old one.  I worry about that sometimes...the fact that Shannon's clothes are still in her closet and dresser; that I felt compelled to take photos of her bookshelves and stuffed animals and dresser and desk, before I took everything off of them to dust, or that I had to keep two pairs of her shoes in her closet.  No, I don't think she'll be coming back to get them.  I'm sure she has all the shoes she needs in Heaven, but I like having them there.  I like having a photo of her in every room, except the bathrooms.  I like wearing her lapis necklace and her bulky blue sweater, even though some of the wooden buttons are cracking and it has a million little "pills" on it.  I still love the feel of that ratty blue sweater.

 The future is wee bit frightening.  I have no real idea of what I'm supposed to do there.  Perhaps that's why when we have something that is safe and comfortable or familiar, we hold on to it.  Keep it close so we can retreat to it or revel in it or build on it.  Life is overflowing with unknowns.  They're inevitable and fresh and promising but they're also a wee bit frightening.

I wear Chanel 5.  Bubble bath, body lotion, perfume... I love it and it doesn't give Jules a headache.  It's also the gift he doesn't have to stress over.  He knows I'll love it.  Even if everyone doesn't, they don't try to convince me that it's unhealthy to hold on to my favorite familiar fragrance.  No one brings me Opium or Joy or Beauty or Eternity because they think I need to "move on".  Now that's not to say that I won't experiment.  I don't shy away from the fragrance counters, although the bowl of coffee beans makes me a little nervous.  I mean, consider just how many fragrance junkies have had their little overwhelmed noses in there and you might just think twice too !  But at the end of the day,  a top note of ylang-ylang and neroli, with a heart of blended jasmine and rose, all above a woody base of sandalwood and vetiver, just make me happy !

So be forewarned once again, as I dive head first into the swirling emotions that embody how deeply we love, how agonizingly we mourn, how delightedly we remember and how arduously we try, I'll be thinking out loud not knowing who will be following along.  

I only hope, that somewhere along the way... we'll find ways to laugh when we want, cry when we need and know that no matter what we face or how we are feeling, we are never really alone. 


February 18 ~ Happy Birthday John

There are lots of people that Shannon loves, who didn't get top billing in the gratitude journal on their birthdays.  Mindy, Jules and Candy in May, Gram, Dee, Lizza, Ruthie and Jeanne in June, Andrew and Jane in July... but they would have.  And like those of us born in the months that Shannon did write her way through, we would have also been at the top of the list.

Like today...February 18, 1997 ~ "Thank you for John Matthew.  Thank you for such a nice weather day.  Thank you for times of peace and quiet.  Thank you for ancestry.  Thank you for every day that passes by."

Could it really be coincidence that it is again, today, February 18 ( the temperature  already at 70) "such a nice weather day"?  I'd rather think it's a gift to John on his 23rd birthday. 

I woke up at 4:12 this morning.  I looked at the clock and then closed my eyes pretending that I might drift back into another hour of sleep but by 4:30 the mental day planner was whizzing so loudly in my mind that sleep was out of the question.

Sansteps Email, bathroom, cats, stairs, coffee and then because it was so delightful outside I went out with Sam and sat on the porch.  There was a star... maybe a planet but it twinkles and shines... hanging low in the indigo sky. A quote from somewhere in my memory tapped me on the shoulder,

"Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love."
Rainer Maria Rilke

One year when Shannon was in her early teens, the Union at Verizon called a strike.  When I first started as an Installer with C & P Telephone (what it was back then), I joined the Union.  I believed that I had to.  I worked within an all male, all union crew and wanted desperately to be accepted.  It wasn't enough that I was willing to do whatever the job required, climbing, crawling, digging, sweating, freezing and aching, I was a woman in a man's job and I had to prove myself.  Time and time again.  Most of the fellows tolerated me, some even tried to help but those were the days of Equal Employment Opportunities and I was their token female, forced on this all male work force when my job as an operator came to an end, and most of them knew that I would probably stay long enough to waste their time training me and move on to something "better" (easier).  They didn't know me very well.

When the Union called the first work stoppage, I stayed out.  Respected the picket line.  Then I heard that another man whose wife was in the hospital, who had no other insurance or income, felt he had to return to work on the second day and at the end of the day, found the window broken out of his personal vehicle.  I waited for someone in the Union to step up.  I wanted someone to be accountable, to apologize or compensate.  All I heard were excuses and accusations and the blame placed on an individual who had chosen to protect his family. 

The next day I resigned from the Union and returned to work.  To say it was horrible would be an incredible understatement.  Over the next two weeks I was called every bad word you could think of.  I was followed and harassed and found dead animals in my truck.  I received obscene phone calls at home but when the company volunteered to put a 'trap' on the line so that I could " prosecute the offender ", I declined.  I knew that when the strike was over, these were the people I would be working with.  My decision to return to work, was not a popular decision.  I knew there would be repercussions.  I didn't make my decision lightly, but I could not in good conscience continue to financially support an organization that turned a blind eye to vandalism and intimidation.  I believed that my voice would only be heard if I found the courage to be accountable even if no one else would.

That was almost twenty five years ago.  There were people who still would not speak to me or work with me ten years later.  There were always illustrations on the inside of pedestals and junction boxes scribbled in indellible marker reminding anyone interested that I was a SCAB. 

After Shannon's death, they softened.  I pretended that that made it all okay.  It didn't.

But during that time, that awful frightening time, when I was going to and leaving work, to the jeers and taunts and name calling of my associates, Shannon gave me the soundtrack to Beauty and the Beast ~ Love and Poetry from the television series.  Ron Perlman read the poems to lilting musical scores and I listened to it every afternoon for weeks.  I talked to Shannon and to Jules about honoring the picket line.  I hated that the decision I made to work was allowing the ugliness into my home but they were my strength and encouragement and although they could do nothing to ease the challenges at work, they were always there when the day ended.

It makes me sad to think about those times.  We are all so certain of our convictions.  Everyone right regardless of who got hurt.  During the last few years before I retired there was still one gentleman who said that he would quit before he would work with me.  He was at Shannon's memorial service.  No one made him come, I didn't see him, but his signature is in the Guest book.  He's now in Heaven too.  Death is the inevitable and undeniable equalizer.  We can dodge it, ignore it, sidestep it, pretend it won't ever happen but as my very wise, very matter of fact daughter once told my sister, "You ARE going to DIE, you might as well talk  about it !!"Sandshan

This morning, while I was sitting on the porch, I realized that my mind, maybe yours too, is sometimes like a record, ( you remember those, 331/3, 45, 78, you know vinyl, turntables ) with a scratch.  We have a thought and it plays along, hits a scratch and gets stuck, playing the same thing over and over and over and over again and  again, or jumps and starts a new tune or phrase until it hits the scratch and jumps again and again and  again .  Eventually we spin our way beyond the scratch and relax into a tune, but the scratches are also, like death, inevitable.  So we jump from one thing to another, one thought, one task, one song, singing along while we can until we meet the scratch and then we frown, mumble a few unintelligible syllables, acknowledge the moment and then start singing again...sure it's a new tune, sure it requires flexiblity and resignation, but what the heck, it's all  music right?

February 17

It's hard to recognize OUR dream.  We move through life sometimes, the same way we move through sleep, then we wake and reach for the wispy remnants of the dream only to watch them disappear between our fingers.


Every morning I try to lay in bed for an extra moment to visualize the day.  I listen to Sammy purring softly while Helen warms my toes.  I see myself walking barefoot down the carpeted stairs.  I smell the coffee brewing.  I imagine the temperature hovering around forty, waiting for the sun to burst a February morning into spring.  I imagine feeling energetic and happy and resolved to be productive.  I envision a sparkling clean home, a manicured lawn, taxes complete, an elated smile as I step on the scales.  I try to experience the feeling of knowing that my words have relevance and meaning and that there are other hearts, lonely and broken, grieving and hopeless, that I can wrap my arms around through Shannon's story.  I rationalize that any money I have, sitting quietly earning .02% interest, would be happier and healthier,  invested in MY dream.  I see the cover of the new book, smell the fresh ink on the pages, feel Shannon beaming with pride and excitement, remembering how worried she was twelve years ago that her Mom would simply fold in on herself and give up on life.  I remind myself that we embark on no ventures in life alone and as long as I trust, and have faith in that belief, I can do anything.

Then I put my feet on the floor, pull the quilt over the white pillow cases, look out the window at the first stirrings of this new day, headlights on the highway, commuters heading into their comfortable routine, check to make sure the fountain is still bubbling in the goldfish pond, trip over a cat or two and head down the brown well worn carpeted stairs and squint, trying to focus on the dream.

I check my email, make the  coffee, watch Top Chef - recorded last night, then yesterday's Oprah, marvelling at how even Oprah has relationships that are communicative-ly challenged.  Sun comes up and I have a conversation first with my Mom then with Jules, and a second cup of coffee.  The thermometer is hovering around fifty, not so for the scale !!  Wipe the counters, ponder breakfast, look around at the less than sparkling house but vacuuming can wait until I run to the bank and try to find shamrock ribbon for Mom.  The blue jeans in a ball on the bathroom floor look okay for errands, I'll wash a load of clothes later.   Two mile walk with Shel and Payton, not so sure the leg weights were a good idea.   Too beautiful to stay inside so I clean flower beds and rake leaves and try to decide what time I should leave for the Photo Club meeting.

OH... the dream.  Somewhere between the morning coffee and the afternoon fatigue, self doubt has crept in.   I feel fear.  I detect the undeniable scent of self sabotage.  I hear the voice of the inner critic questioning whether or not I really have anything to say that anyone wants to hear. 

 I put away the rake and the mower and line the four enormous clear plastic bags of autumnleaves against the garage door and climb the well worn brown carpeted stairs to my "office".   If I start to print the pages that are already written...pages that I've filled with thoughts and imaginings and memories, pages that I've entrusted to readers both real and imagined, I can start to put together something tangible to remind myself of the possibilities.  Perhaps I can silence the critic with the sheer volume of printed words.

As I was printing I realized that September 4 is missing from the blog. 

"September 4, 1997     Thank you many times for autumn.  Thank you for awards shows, they're a riot.  Thank you for fatty foods.  Thank you for family and meals with them.  Thank you for only 13 to go. (S.K.)".

It's easier to remember who I am when Shannon reminds me of what really matters.  And it is as simple as fatty food and family.  It is as simple as having a dream and holding it close and believing in possibilities and promises.  Balboa Press is having a writing contest that required entering a snippet about the book you want to write.  A snippet on Twitter.

So I took a deep breath, tried to forget that I'm 56 (old dog, new tricks kind of thing) and found the courage to Tweet... "Shannon lived her whole life in 23 years but her legacy of inspiration and gratitude continue in all of My Angel's Whispers."

"Thank you for my Shannon.  Thank you for days that unfold at their own pace.  Thank you for a child who grew into a woman and taught me to love without condition or limit.  Thank you for the taste of peace and contentment.  Thank you for listening when I simply need to talk."    JJB

February 15

Do you ever wonder who's listening when  you whisper those silent wishes?  Is there a switchboard of Angels waiting to take your call and route you to the appropriate department?  Are our "Path Directors" sitting in wicker rockers on wide covered porches sipping sweet tea and munching on Salt and Vinegar Chips, with the Heavenly equivalent of an IPad on their laps, giggling and gasping as they watch our every move, hoping we find the clues they've planted or avoid the inevitable pitfalls?  Are they always on alert, prepared to jump if we need their assistance?

Funny Valentine_edited-1 

In the last several years I've listened to Tony Robbins enthusiastically expound on how to "Unleash the Power Within", I've read The Secret and tried to embrace the concept of Manifesting my Dreams, I've created a vision board and explored the power of positive thought, but deep inside I keep hearing that little voice screaming..."BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR!"

I suppose God and I are still working on trust, and maybe I'm just programmed to believe on some level that if I wish for something grand, someone else will do without.  The truth I'm trying to claim is that God is unlimited, there is more than enough for everyone and just because Oprah has billions, doesn't mean that the rest of us will just have to do without.  She's earned it.  Deserves it.  Celebrates it and openheartedly shares it.  But... I still worry about each and every wish.

About ten days ago, still on my quest to discover and recognize my lifes' new purpose, a friend suggested that I just give God another go.  Trust that fear is not part of the equation and as Emily Dickinson said so tenderly,    

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.

My dear friend suggested that I just give my struggle to God.  Let God dream those big dreams that you can't fathom for yourself and then just hold on.   Hope, and if you don't know the words... hum.  I knew she was right but I need most days to at least pretend that I have some control even though I know I whispered, "Okay, Here it is.  I give it to you.  But I'm going to need some pretty clear signs.  Please don't be obscure or subtle.  You know my heart, you know what I'm capable of and I know that I can do anything with your guidance.  So starting tomorrow, I'll be watching.  Oh, and tell Shannon I love her please."

The next morning I woke to an email from my brother.  I don't think he' mind if I share,

Hey, I have an idea for a book or a movie.  (Big Dreams Huh). Its called either "The Wish" or "The Visit".
It came to me in a dream last night. I have been struggling with a few things lately and I asked for some inspiration from heaven. You know we have alot of friends up there.
I think it would be a love story about anyone who has lost a loved one. The twist is we (those of us still stuck on earth) either visit heaven or heaven visit's us. Im not sure which happened, but it was very real. Lizza looked great and so did her friend Denise.
I think maybe we should write this together since we both have a connection. I will share more later.
Day two,I was talking with a relative stranger and during the conversation he asked, "Have you ever considered writing a book?"
Day three,  I received an email from a lovely lady who received some of Shannon's bookmarks five years ago.  She just felt prompted to say "Hello... and have you written your book?"
Day four I went in Border's to get a photography magazine.  I left with a book called "The Barn Dance: Somewhere between Heaven and Earth, there is a place where the magic never ends" .   It is published by Hay House. 
 Louise Hay published her first book "You Can Heal Your Life" after she turned fifty and I admire her tremendously.  As I was looking through "The Barn Dance", I decided that if I ever did write a book, I would like for Hay House to publish it.
Day five I received an email from Hay House announcing a Writer's Workshop in New York in May.  I talked with Jules and we decided that maybe this was the sign.  See how silly I am... THIS was the sign... missing completely days 1 thru 4.  
On Day six, I went back to look for the e mail from Hay House and it was gone.  Not in my spam folder, not in my recently deleted mail, not in the new mail and not in the old mail... not even in my saved mail.  If I hadn't printed the information I would have been convinced that I had dreamed the whole thing.
I looked at the cost of hotels in Time Square, the cost of plane fare and bus fare and meals and tips and cabs.  I thought about being in New York alone and decided maybe this wasn't really the message, and that's why the email disappeared.
On Day seven, my sweet friend who started this whole, "Turn it over to the Divine" called before eight a.m.  Now she is in California so I was concerned that something must be wrong.  To the contrary, she was up and well and happy and felt like chatting.  She also reminded me that the Writer's Workshop will also be in San Diego in April and the air fare is the same to California as it is to New York and she would provide transportation, company and housing.  Was this the sign?  Was I supposed to go to California? 
I promised to give it some thought and watch for another more explicit sign.  Well I watched, but I also stressed.  I really don't like being away from home... especially on Shannon's birthday.  I convinced myself that the money wasn't really the issue... there's always plastic, but there was still that nagging feeling that I didn't have it exactly right so I went back to the Hay House web site, to explore options.
What I discovered is that Louise Hay has created a second publishing company devoted to authors who choose to 'self publish'.  As I read through the various packages and services they offer, I started to feel lighter.  I started to hear that little feathered thing humming in my soul.  The packages at Balboa Press have wonderful names like, Empower, Discover, Inspire, Embark and Connect.  The cost of the first package was less than what I would have to spend to attend the workshop and I felt my whole self smile.
Over the last year, Shannon and I wrote our book together. Her 'thank you's and my memories and emotions and epiphanies.  I know it needs work.  Some days in 2010, I just bled on the page.  Other days I couldn't seem to put two words together in an intelligent way but it's there.  It needs ample editing, deleting, revising and condensing, but it's our book and I'm very hopeful.
So.... is this the answer to my prayer?  To that wish I whispered two weeks ago?  Are these signs and hints and nudges to finally get me to do what I've spent the last twelve years preparing for?  I'm not as confidant as I'd like to be but I think that if I listen with my heart to my Angel's Whispers, allow her to continue to guide and inspire me, I might just surprise myself, and we couldn't have done it without you !

February 10 ~ A Letter from Shannon

The de cluttering continues and I am totally amazed at the treasures that surface just when you need them most.  Tucked inside a navy blue leather looking photograph album I found a letter .  There are little pen and ink illustrations for "Team Building", little mice looking at an overwhelming obstacle, finally realizing they can be successful only by standing on one another's shoulders.  The letter is a series of quotations, some of Shannon's favorites.  I don't know when she recorded them but I'm once again so grateful that just when I need her most, when I'm tired, overwhelmed, wondering if I will ever find a place for everything... there she is.  Smiling from some distant place, reminding me once again of what really matters.

".... so here are

The Rules for being Human

When you were born, you didn't come with an owner's manual; these guidelines make life work better.

1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it's the only thing you are sure to keep for the rest of your life.

2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called "Life on Planet Earth". Every person or incident is the Universal Teacher.

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of experimentation. "Failures" are as much a part of the process as "success."

4. A lesson is repeated until learned. It is presented to you in various forms until you learn it -- then you can go on to the next lesson.

5. If you don't learn easy lessons, they get harder. External problems are a precise reflection of your internal state. When you clear inner obstructions, your outside world changes. Pain is how the universe gets your attention.

6. You will know you've learned a lesson when your actions change. Wisdom is practice. A little of something is better than a lot of nothing.

7. "There" is no better than "here". When your "there" becomes a "here" you will simply obtain another "there" that again looks better than "here."

8. Others are only mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another unless it reflects something you love or hate in yourself.

9. Your life is up to you. Life provides the canvas; you do the painting. Take charge of your life -- or someone else will.

10. You always get what you want. Your subconscious rightfully determines what energies, experiences, and people you attract -- therefore, the only foolproof way to know what you want is to see what you have. There are no victims, only students.

11. There is no right or wrong, but there are consequences. Moralizing doesn't help. Judgments only hold the patterns in place. Just do your best.

12. Your answers lie inside you. Children need guidance from others; as we mature, we trust our hearts, where the Laws of Spirit are written. You know more than you have heard or read or been told. All you need to do is to look, listen, and trust.

13. You will forget all this.

14. You can remember any time you wish. "

(From the book "If Life is a Game, These are the Rules" by Cherie Carter-Scott)

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping oneself."    Ralph Waldo Emerson

"There is a difference between interest and commitment.  When you're interested in something, you do it only when it is convenient.  When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results."  Art Turock

"Do not go where the path may lead.  Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."           Ralph Waldo Emerson

" A true commitment is a heartfelt promise to yourself from which you will not back down."     David McNally

"Too many people overvalue what they are not and under value what they are."                        Malcolm S. Forbes

"Discovery consists in looking at the same things as everyone else and thinking something different."    A.Szent-Gyorgy

" The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated."   William James

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."  Martin Luther King Jr.

"It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to get anything but the best, you very often get it."          W. Somerset Maugham

"Ideas won't keep.  Something must be done about them."     Alfred North Whitehead

"If you keep on saying things are going to be bad, you have a good chance of being a prophet."          Isaac Bashevis Singe

"To know what is possible tomorrow, we must be willing to step outside of what is possible today."    Author Unknown

"Faith is knowing that, when you reach the edge of all the light and the next step is into total darkness, you will either be on solid ground or be shown how to fly."     Edward Teller

"Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you."      Aldous Huxley

February 9 ~ Letter to Myself

Ananem Dear Self,

 I'm including this photo to remind you of how precious the simplest of moments truly are.  Tomorrow you will be rushing and thinking and moving at the speed of light once again, so I'm slowing long enough to give you the gift of this moment.

For a while today I stopped to remember the gifts of the last twelve years. 

The daisy on the floor of the gymnasium at Andrew's feet the day he returned to school after Shannon's memorial service.  Cousins shouldn't have to say good-bye so soon.  Shouldn't have to find a way at fifteen to understand death, to grasp the reality of forever and come to terms with losing your biggest fan in the blink of an eye.  But he did grasp the significance of the tiny white petalled flower on the dusty floor.  Shannon's favorite flower.... only for him.

Later in that same week, he was called on in Spanish class to translate a sentence from the text.  Of course he didn't care about the spanish classwork, of course he didn't care if he'd be embarrassed, of course he didn't know the answer.  All he knew was that Shannon was gone.  He would never see her again.  He walked to the front of the classroom and picked up a piece of chalk so that his classmates could help him complete the translation.

Veo a mis primos todo el tiempo.

Veo a   ~  I see 

mis primos  ~  my cousins

todo el tiempo ~ all the time.    I see my cousins all the time.   I SEE MY COUSINS ALL THE TIME!

Sometimes, when all we want is life the way we've always known it to be, it's almost impossible  to embrace life the way it has become, but we're never set adrift without a compass.

Today all of Shannon's Stuffies came off the shelves over her bed.  Pooh and Garfield, Beatrix and Eeyore, Kanga and Roo, Teddys and Bunnies and Mooses, the whole kit and kaboodle.  Thirteen years of accumulating dust... yep you heard right... thirteen years.  I just didn't want to disturb them, but a fifteen minute tumble in the dryer with Bounce and they are fresh and dust free and back in place and I can imagine that Shannon is grinning even though Jules and John Edward insist that such things have no relevance in Heaven.

This whole de cluttering doesn't work the way Peter Walsh would have you believe.  Unless of course you have twelve strong bodies, four big tents, an enormous yard, a dumpster and a "Got Junk" truck parked in the driveway.  I don't.

I "got Junk"... but it's in piles all over the floor and bed and dresser and desk in Shannon's bedroom.  For years, whenever I found something IMPORTANT on line, something that needed to be read but I didn't have time to devote to it at that moment... "Print".  Well, now I've got reams of paper that contain all of that IMPORTANT stuff and I can't for the life of me remember why. 

BUT... it has to be sorted before it can be tossed.

  I've even discovered that I've ordered the same books more than once.  CDs unopened.  Retirement folders.  Bill folders.  Receipt folders.  Photography folders.  Three three ring binders with all of my notes on Biology 101, Virginia History and Math for the Liberal Arts.  I graduated in 2008... do you think I'm really going to need those again???

I've been sorting since before Christmas.  My initial goal was to have it done by New Years.  Well now my ammended goal is to have it done by Valentine's Day but I've decided I might actually have ADD.  This morning I couldn't walk across the floor but instead of sorting and tossing, I decided to de dust Stuffies and wash curtains.  Then I couldn't put freshly ironed curtains on dirty windows but I couldn't leave a screen with bird poop on a clean window so now I have window screens drying in the bathtub, wet curtains on the counter because Raggedy Anne is in the drier and I can't dry the curtains until I'm ready to iron them and I can't iron them until I've replaced the screens which can't be replaced until they are dry.... and what am I doing?  Writing a letter to myself.

Of course it makes perfect sense.  Oh, and in the midst of all of that... I discovered that Jules and Shannon and I are on page 30 of  "The Gospel According to Oprah" published in 2005, and I'm trying to decide if I'm courageous enough to attend a writer's workshop in New York in May.

I'm worried that Sammy might have a health issue because he seems subdued.  How do you know if a critter that is content sleeping 16 hours a day is subdued?  A feeling.

So Self, these few random bits of today are safely recorded, freeing space in that internal hard drive for tomorrow's random bits.  Raggedy Ann is probably dry and if I hurry, I can get the screens back in the windows and the curtains dried in time for dinner.

Isn't it fun to know that more than likely we can do this all over again tomorrow and all the while feel immense gratitude for the gift of another ordinary day.

February 2

Today was glorious.  I think it reached sixty something with a bright blue sky and high, billowy clouds lazily moving through.  It's the kind of day that makes your heart sing in February and decide that you can take whatever winter has left as long as you get to savor this taste of spring.

As most of you know, Shannon's first car was a GTO convertible.  Not the typical car for a petite sixteen year old girl but as long as it had wheels she was delighted.  Jules and his friend Bill and Bill's sons, worked tirelessly to turn a black sad shell of a car into the shiny purring vehicle that seemed as big as a tank and equally as safe for our brand new driver.

Gto8 When Shannon graduated from High School and started college, we found a smaller car, pale blue, a Grand Am, newer, more economical, and her journal is full of entries extolling her gratitude for long drives with the windows down and safe trips and not having to drive in the rain... but what if she had been driving the GTO that day?  What if she had been in the van?  What if the car had been newer with air bags?  What if she had left earlier?  Or later?  What if they had fixed the road two years earlier instead of two years later?

The truth is... that day unfolded exactly as it was intended.  Shannon was with Gram.  She planned to leave early but then decided to stay for lunch.  She planned to leave right after lunch but had an allergy attack.  Planned to leave as soon as her nose stopped running but a thunder storm came up.  She left as soon as the thunder storm passed and then ran right into it ... right into the chaos of two other drivers who had driven right into it and off the road.  She wasn't speeding, although people who didn't have enough to do whispered that she was driving so fast that she hit the tree fifteen feet off the ground.  She wasn't eating or drinking or talking or texting ... she was buckled in and at that critical moment drove off of the highway to avoid the other accidents.  Wet pavement, muddy ditches, standing water, deeply rooted trees and my Shannon was gone.

But only in the ways that I was used to.  And she was determined to let me know that in Heaven there are no limits to the ways. 

The people who loved me wanted to protect me, and I wasn't up to fighting.   I didn't get to see the car, and I needed to.  So when I was assigned a splicing job at the car place... I'm not sure what you call them... the place where wrecked cars are taken and sold for parts... the morning after we had received Shannon's licence plates in mail, returned to us by that very business... I mustered the courage to ask if I could see the car.  I can't really explain it... it didn't seem morbid to me to want to see her car one last time.  But fate intervened, or perhaps Heaven.  After an incredibly long wait in a small office, a very kind man, who smelled like grease and oil, wore blue coveralls and a deeply apologetic expression, explained that the car had left that morning, purchased by someone in Western Virginia.

Maybe it was best.  Maybe it was just one of the countless synchronistic events that happened in those first few years that were more than mere coincidence.  Reminders of the power of love to extend itself and bridge Heaven and Earth.

I drove the GTO a lot that spring and summer.  Some afternoons when I left work, I'd put the top down and simply drive.  I loved the feel of the wind in my hair and sun on my face.  I was never really sure why it made me feel better... less alone... closer to Shannon but it did.  One of those afternoons I drove towards Culpeper.  I had no destination in mind but every now and then I just had to drive by the site of the accident.  I think on some level I half expected it to shift or change or that by some miracle I would drive by and discover that it was all a dream and by passing that spot at exactly the right moment... the spell would be broken. 

On one of those afternoons I was given an incredible gift.  As I rounded the blind curve, I heard Shannon say in a very calm voice, "Oh Shit!" and then I saw a bright light and an Angel extending a hand to her as she exited her body just before her car hit the tree.  I can't explain it logically.  And there's nothing you could think that I haven't thought, (imagination, wishful thinking, blooming loony) but the truth is that in that split second, I knew that Shannon hadn't been afraid, hadn't been alone and hadn't been in pain.  She flew home in the arms of the Angel who had been beside her from the moment of her first breath.  Perhaps she hovered around her body as rescue workers scooped her up and tried their very best to keep her on the planet.  Perhaps she watched in the hospital trying to reassure us.  I'm sure she was saying,   "Mom we were right!  It's beautiful and amazing and I can fly and there ARE Angels and the colors are so much more than we ever imagined. Please don't be sad.  Remember the honeysuckle and wild roses.  I'll be waiting.  It doesn't hurt.  I'm fine.  Damn it why can't you see me?  Isn't that what all that meditation was about?  Look at me !  See me !  I'm right here.  I won't leave you until I'm sure you're going to be okay.  I love you !"  And without a doubt... she was with Dorothy and Melissa, and Pete and Matthew as their lives changed and they got to share the miracle of Shannon with us.

Yesterday I was awake early and saw some of a movie "The Boys Are Back" with Clive Owen.  It's a sweet story about a man who loses his wife to cancer and they have a small son... maybe five.  As they struggle to find their way through their grief, the little boy, Artie asks Dad if they can buy a convertible.  When Dad asks why, Artie explains that he wants his Mum to be able to see him.  Later in the film, Mum appears to Dad and tells him to buy the car.  In the final scenes, they are happily driving along the coast in what looks a lot like my Jeep with no top. 

So I suppose... in 1998, in Shannon's GTO, and in 1999 when Jules bought my Jeep and every bright sun filled day for the last twelve years... I have wanted Shannon to be able to see me. NansGTO
I guess we can't always know why something makes our heart sing or allows the tears to flow freely, or the world to appear clearer or brighter or more vibrant.  We don't always know the destination when we set out or even remember how we got there when we arrive.  We never know which morning will unwrap a day that will change everything we've ever known and ask more of us than we thought we had to give... but we keep trying.

What I do know for sure, is that as often as life changes, one thing remains unchanged... those we love are never more than a breath away and everyone should have a convertible !

February 1

 " Buzzard The Turkey Vulture is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion. It finds its meals using its keen vision and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gasses produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals. In flight, it uses thermals to move through the air, flapping its wings infrequently. It roosts in large community groups. Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses. It nests in caves, hollow trees, or thickets. Each year it generally raises two chicks, which it feeds by regurgitation. It has very few natural predators. In the United States of America, the vulture receives legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. " (Wikepedia)

Okay, if I say nothing more, of interest or value I have, at least, shared some pretty amazing information about another being that we all know.  Another being that is often treated with disdain because it is misunderstood.

I took this photo at Spotsylvania Town Center.  I was on my way to Bath and Body Works with two Wall Flowers to exchange.  I had thought I would enjoy Spearmint and Eucalyptus, but I was wrong and decided to try Creamy Nutmeg instead.  Funny that my pursuit of the perfect home fragrance would land me smack dab in the company of beings who survive because of their sense of smell and their willing adaptability or perhaps evolutionary predisposition to the stinkiest of stinks.

There were two dumpsters in the back of the mall, where  the restaurants had apparently thrown their meaty remnants.   It was very cold and I couldn't see what they were investigating but I was enthralled by the sheer size of these birds up close.  I had my camera and pulled into a parking space that allowed me to snap off a few photos without disturbing them.

I had always felt an aversion to "Buzzards".  They were always the ultimate harbinger of death and decay.  Then one day as I was driving, watching a flock of vultures picking the bones of an unfortunate deer, I heard a small whisper, "Don't be sad, it's simply energy transforming itself."

There is something beautiful about life flowing, effortlessly,endlessly, one day a blade of grass, then a grazing deer only to take flight in the sustenance of a large brown bird with a red head and yellow eyes.  It comforts me to see nature affirming and reaffirming that energy never ceases to be.  I watched as they jumped and glided and lifted effortlessly to hover above me.  They only paid me a cursory glance or two with those bright yellow eyes and I thought about how life would be without them. 

Death happens.  We can't leave our houses or turn on the news or open a newspaper without the reminder of the certainty we all share.  But what would happen if these amazing birds didn't live by death?  I'm thinking we wouldn't be able to smell honeysuckle on a spring breeze.  We certainly wouldn't be able to drive down a country road with the windows down on a summer afternoon.  My appreciation for the people who pick up our trash, clean our septic fields and port-o-potties, scrub public bathrooms and mop floors, raise pigs and chickens and cattle for food, the people who have to kill and butcher those animals.... all of the amazing people who do the things that I don't want to, so that I don't have to, so that my life can smell fresh and beautiful and sanitary, continued to grow with every thought. 

I never see the folks who pick up my trash.  They arrive early.  But one day last summer when I was pulling weeds as the sun came up, the trash truck rolled down the cul-de-sac.  Of course the aromatics smacked me square between the eyes, but the young woman driving, waved out of the window as the young man hopped off the running board and added  my kitchen scraps and kitty litter and household trash to the rest of the neighborhood's, with an enormous smile and an engaging 'thumbs up'.

~    ~    ~    ~   ~    ~    ~    ~

For the last couple of days I've been pondering our favorite "social network" ~ Facebook.  I think that life was easier when we wrote letters and sent cards.  A letter arrives and you sit down with a cup of tea and devote an hour or so to hearing the news from friends.  You thoughtfully choose paper and ink, or pictures, or verse ... and respond.  You consider what news is worthy of sharing - joys, disappointments, questions about their lives and you answer the questions asked.  The exchange may take a week or ten days or depending on the pace of your life a month or more.

Today, we have email, facebook, twitter, land lines, cell phones, blackberries, i phones, instant messages and chat.  All of these new modes of communication are wonderful but they bring with them a new and overwhelming set of quandaries.  They are quick and abbreviated and encoded and brief and staccato and contain emoticons (?) and acronyms, most of which are not found in Webster's or Rogett's !

For instance... again, I'm old and my cell phone is always in the car... only for emergencies.  I don't answer when I'm driving and I don't text.  It's not that I'm stubborn or stuck in the past... I can't see the screen for goodness sake and I can't tell you how often I call the wrong person, dial the wrong number or lose my mind trying to figure out why the car is ringing!!  Blue tooth... one I forgot to mention. 

Okay... so I get an email.  Do I answer it immediately?  If so, does that pressure the recipient to also respond immediately?  Then do I respond immediately, like in a conversation when there is an uncomfortable silence?  You get the idea.  Again, over thinking and the need for way too many words... But....We appear to  be in a time loop continuum until someone takes a breath.  But if you don't respond right away, do they feel that you are being rude or perceive you to be too busy for them?  Will they think that you are not interested or avoiding them?  But if you respond right away do you seem desperate? Bothersome?  And if you send a 'Friend' invitation... are you accepted because someone is glad to include you in their life or do they feel cyber stalked?  And what if you are Un Friended?  I'm thinking that makes for an immediate and emergency call to the nearest Therapist !

If I see someone on Facebook Chat... I assume that they are engaged in a conversation.  I don't want to intrude... same with Instant message.  If someone posts a public message on Facebook and you respond with lots of other folks, do they ever see your comment, and if they do are they upset that you have said it publicly?  Private messages on Facebook ... how does someone know they've received one?  Do they feel compelled to respond right away?  Do they realize that you are just happy to see them and saying hello?  Where is Emily Post when you need her?  What is the new world etiquette?

Funny thing is... if I receive an email that is simply conversational and I have no new news... I save it, thinking something chat worthy is bound to happen and I can respond with worth in a day or two.  Conversely, if I send an email and days or weeks pass without a response, I worry that I've said something wrong or offensive or unintelligible.

I'm thinking it might be simpler to be like a buzzard.  You know what matters.  You aren't afraid to be a little stinky.  Your beauty is clearly defined and yet you won't find your face on the cover of many magazines...except maybe Field and Stream.  You fly with your friends and worry only about where your next meal is coming from, if you'll be able to find shelter before nightfall and whatever you have to say, you know they'll understand your grunts and hisses.

If you have found this whole line of thought as exhausting as I have in writing it... I'm really sorry.  But you have to know if you've managed to stick with me this far... that you are never a bother.  I am never avoiding.  If you send me an email that isn't answered right away... write again, because chances are I'm waiting for something  valuable to share. I don't respond to every 'comment' on Facebook because I'm still trying to figure out what is appropriate.  I do read them all though, and appreciate every one!  Just remember that I'm a little too old for texting, usually racing a train, possibly held captive by my ever increasing clutter and phobically afraid of saying the wrong thing. So know that I value you more than I can possibly say and regardless of my cyber faux pas ... I love knowing you're there, taking it all in with me, one moment at a time !