This senseless tragedy in Connecticut

There are many things in life that are incomprehensible. Times when the only words we can repeat read, “I don’t understand. I don’t understand. I don’t understand. I don’t understand.” There is no reason to be found. There is no comfort on that day. When we grieve there are no words that ease the pain. Nothing to be said that can help. There are only words no one ever wants to hear. From a situation no one should ever have to experience. When life, mortality, the frailty of us all comes crashing in, destroying lives, it leaves only love shrouded in the crutches of devastation. One of those times when love is cradled in tears. It’s wrapped in heartbreak. Astonished by loss. Trapped in anger and fear. All while not feeling able to feel anything at all. It is numb and crushing all at once. Heavy and inconceivable. And there’s no way to process all of that. My heart aches. My mind searches for answers. But I don’t understand. And we never will. It’s a stark reminder that when life is stripped down, there is nothing left but the love we feel for one another. The love we feel for those we don’t get to hold anymore. Hearts break open. Love pours out. And even though it doesn’t feel like anything, it is everything that we have inside of us. All that we have to give. Comfort is only found in that space that exists beyond the physical. It’s found in the presence of others, near and far, sending out their love. Sending their hope. Sending their sorrow. Sending all that there is that can be given in such a case. Because nothing can ever fix it. So we give what we have. We unite. Though we don’t understand. We cry. We pray. We love.

There are no words to express how saddening this day has been, to watch such a senseless tragedy unfold. The futures destroyed. The beds left empty. The lives shattered recklessly. My thoughts and prayers are sent to those in Connecticut. And as I lay by my son, who is sleeping beside me, I am crying steadily. What they are feeling is something no parent or family member should ever have to feel. I just don’t understand. My love to you all.

“I don’t know if you know who you are until you lose who you are.” Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift “I Knew You Were Trouble” via MTV.com

So I’m sitting on my porch right now determining if I should brave the cold to go outside and look for meteors. Who doesn’t like shooting stars, as long as they aren’t headed towards you? And I’ve only seen a few in my lifetime thus far. And it feels like something nice to do tonight. So if you guys sit outside right after I post this we can sit out together and watch for shooting stars. But I’m probably going to be a little mad when you see them and I don’t.

The quote in the title is at the end of the video for Taylor Swift’s new song, “I Knew You Were Trouble.” I like this song. I like this concept a lot. In life we tend to learn a lot by making mistakes. Taking the wrong roads is one of the ways we learn the most about ourselves. We learn about how we react, how far we will go in situations we often thought we’d never see ourselves in to begin with. Not getting lost takes an active effort to constantly be finding your way out. Ironically enough I think it was a shooting star that helped get me lost on a journey one night that lasted far longer than it ever should have. But on that night, he walked in the doorway, and in my head my only thought was, “God I hope he’s the reason we’re here tonight.” And it turned out he was. So we went for a walk along the beach, which at that time was still unlit, because a year prior the hurricane had knocked out the road, the power lines and the majority of the houses and businesses in the area. It started out cloudy, and as we got down by the water, the clouds opened up, and like magic I looked up and there was this stupid shooting star that I made a stupid wish on. And I spent nearly 4 years trying to figure out why and how to walk away for good. But I did know he was trouble when he walked in. I just didn’t know how to walk back out back then.

It’s strange to talk about , because it’s been about two years since I’ve felt much of any way about him, but as I look back,  I was singing along to a different song the other night wondering what it was that made me care so much for so long, or what it was that had made me so sad before (the song was “Sad”  by Maroon 5, so these were very appropriate thoughts) and it turned out the reason I was sad was because he chose not to love me. It’s not that he didn’t, or that he couldn’t, it’s that he made the choice not to. And that’s the choice that everyone gets to make. That’s what makes everything such a gamble. That’s why the stakes are so high. Because at any point at any time someone can choose to walk away. Family, friends, relationships have a habit of changing, and we have a habit of leaving people behind. But it’s when the stakes are high that we feel most alive. There’s something in there when you go all in that makes you want to believe. It lights you up. It’s explosive. It’s life-changing. And sometimes we really don’t know how to get back to who we were, because we never really knew who we were before. And maybe we can never really know who we are, because we are constantly changing and life is constantly pushing and pulling. But it’s those battles that in getting past everything so there’s a clearing out there and we can look back and see who we are at that moment in that time, and that’s how we can see who we want to be. Because if we don’t know where we are starting from, we have no way to know where to go. And sometimes the stars lead us astray because until we’re lost, we can’t be found.

Now let’s go look at the stars! (Unless it’s daylight where you are… in which case I hope it’s a beautiful day!)

And if you need a book to read while you’re waiting on the stars, or some Christmas shopping to finish up while you’re waiting, you know, buy this. 🙂

Where rises inspiration, rises hope, even if it is from a “silly, little show.”

This is the Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHuRusAlw-Y

So, while watching “The Voice” tonight one of the judges commented that this is a “silly, little show.” Not in a bad way, but in a “in the grand scheme of things this isn’t curing cancer kind of way”. And though the show may not showcase researchers in a medical lab, I’m going to very kindly disagree (sort of) with the notion.

The thing about talent, is that it inspires. And inspiration is an amazing thing. There is power in inspiration. Inspiration rarely happens absent of a connection. We connect with something, and suddenly things make sense. We feel what others are feeling. And that gives rise to hope.

One of the main ways many of us find inspiration is through the arts. Whether it’s drawings, paintings, sculptures, writings, readings, and music to name a few. What exists within these forms of expression are extensions of a person’s soul. We use the arts to tell others what lives inside of us. It tells others how we connect, and gives them that same chance. When we make that connection we feel alive in a way that we don’t normally feel without that inspiration. The talents that we have matter. Sharing the talents that we have matters. I love that there are now forums for people to constantly find sources of inspiration any time we want now. It’s an amazing thing. And the show, silly or not, truly does allow for those types of connections to be made. It has the capacity to inspire millions each week. That is an awesome power. It allows people to see that following our passion truly can lead us to somewhere amazing. Somewhere unthinkable. What exists within us, each of us, can truly change lives. It can give rise to inspiration, and give rise to hope. We can bring one another to higher heights by taking a chance and doing our best.

Music is my vice (one of them, writing is as well). I don’t know how to survive without it. When I need to escape, when I need to think, or when I need to just smile there’s a song for it. There are usually multiple songs for it. Music is diversified and designed to make us feel. Even without words, music can move us. I think the universe is inherently musical. It’s how it communicates with us and how we respond in kind. Every culture on earth has some form of music as a component in it. It’s one of the few universals out there.

When I was little the only shows I would watch on TV were ones that had people singing in them. So as you can imagine growing up in the 80s I watched a lot of Kids Incorporated and Jem (who truly amazed me). Billy Joel was my first concert. I was somewhere around the age of 2. And that was quickly followed by the Beach Boys. The music I remember most from when I was really young comes from that era… It was the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Billy Joel and Motown. People find it funny in conversations when the Temptations come on and my response is always that it brings me back to my childhood, because the songs were popularized 20 years before I was born. But that’s the great thing about great music. It lives on. That connection lives on. Great music touches lives forever. Even if it’s on a silly, little show. I’m sure “The Ed Sullivan Show” could be classified in a similar manner, but it had an unprecedented impact on people around the world simply because a band played a few songs on February 9, 1964. And the impact lasts to this day. So in short, Adam and I actually agree. Everything we do matters. Everything we do has the potential to change lives.

(PS guys I promise I’m going to stop writing about “the voice”…. and you know, buy my book. Seriously, it’s a worthwhile, cost-effective gift for any occasion, and everyone you forgot to put on your list this year!  🙂

Bursting the independence bubble

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You know how you grow up with an idea of what independence is? You know, especially as a teenager, that you will “grow up,” graduate high school and be independent. You will make your own decisions; you will do whatever you want to do. You will be on your own. And it seems like that is what true independence is. After talking with a lot of teens (you know, like) recently who (fine one of whom) asked my opinion on being independent (hey, the others asked my opinion on headphones!), I realized that I didn’t really have an easy answer or even any answer on the subject. At least not that was appropriate in the setting. So I think I stammered off something about the importance of decision-making skills in being independent. But I started thinking, as I have before on the subject.

Independence is viewed differently around the world. Here you turn 18 and move out! You have your own place, your own mode of transportation, your own stuff. It’s yours. You’re officially independent. Your happiness. Your choices. Your life. But around the world, particularly in collectivist cultures, you don’t move out. Not in that way. Families stay together. They live in the same homes or on the same property. They work together to raise the children and grandchildren. They gather often. They celebrate often. Independence is not created by a person’s ability to live on their own. Independence is, in many cases, considered to be when one can contribute to the family through work, through parenting, through assistance, even at a young age. It is responsibility that makes you independent. Because it gives you the ability to make choices.

And I think there is a lot of truth to that idea. That it is our ability to make choices that makes us independent. And whether or not we make good choices, choices that will grow us as individuals, grow us as families, and grow us as communities makes all the difference. Many times the quality of our choices determine whether or not we can remain independent by the definition we have when we are young. Can we live on our own? Not if we make poor choices. Is it in our best interest to live on our own? That is a deeper question, and of much more importance than if we can live on our own. Most of us here live on our own, but if something were to go wrong, an accident, a disaster, a lost job, any unexpected news then many of us wouldn’t be able to sustain ourselves. What makes independence great, is that when we have enough forethought we can truly go where we want to go. The understanding that independence does not necessarily mean functioning in singularity, but instead functioning in a manner that contributes to bettering, furthering ourselves and our passions makes all the difference in the world. That is the only place we can find true independence. And that independence gives us the grace to fall and to get back up, instead of falling without end.

 

(On a side note you should absolutely give my book to everyone you know this year. It’s cheap, life-changing, fun, smart, great, easy to read, and easy to order. You do it from home, no holiday crowds to deal with. And that’s always a plus! So why not knock those people you have no clue what to get off the list in one, pleasantly fell swoop??)

Thankful for Losing?

So, whilst watching “The Voice”… the only singing show I watch anymore, I thought about the different people who will be losing, because there are a whole lot of people with talent in the world who don’t win the competition. And I started thinking about what it means to lose. What difference does it make, as so very often it is the people who lose who end up persevering and rising to the top once the competition is over. So then I jumped to the things that I’ve lost in my life.

What difference does it make for us to lose? It seems like a bad thing. And at the time it’s devastating. But, like many things in life, the devastation (the hurt, or fear, or anger) has the capacity, if utilized to drive us. To push us forward. There are certain things in life that we can all taste. Things that are so close. They are tangibly elusive, and we are continuously driven keep working towards them. They are the things that make us feel alive. When we ignore them and suppress them or give in to the devastation, we find that everything gets harder. We become unsure of any goal. It’s confusing. But when we let those losses move us forward, and fill us with strength, desire, perseverance, we become filled with the things we need to survive and achieve. These are some of the most important tools any person can have if they are to ever truly succeed in achieving their goals. And a contest may be one goal, but it only lasts one night. The person we become, the person we choose to be lasts a lifetime and beyond. And THAT is why losing sometimes is something to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!!

This is an old post, and actually from my book, but it is perfect for today because it begins to embody what thanksgiving is supposed to be about. Truly being grateful for those things that we have, even the most minute details. The walls of the homes, the streetlights that light our way home at night, the sheets, the bed, the food, the trees, the people, the love, and the potential that exists within all of us. It’s all there, it’s all real, it all matters. So here’s the post:

One day when I was driving home with my son in the back of my car, he started to cry. I tried music. I tried talking to him. I tried getting out and giving him juice and snacks. I checked to make sure he didn’t need anything else. I tried everything I knew to convince him that it was going to be okay. I gave him everything he could need. As he continued crying we began again with just a few more blocks to our house. I remember sitting at the stop sign and saying to him, “If you could only see, my love, we’re just a few minutes from being there. Just a few more minutes. It’s almost over. You don’t have to worry. Everything will be just as you want it to be soon. ”

In that moment I began to realize just how similar that sweet little baby and I were. I thought to myself:

How many times do I sit there wondering, crying, ‘God why isn’t this happening yet? Why can’t I see what’s going on? Why isn’t it the way I want it to be? What can I do to make things different? I can’t use what I have, I don’t even want this stuff I’ve got. I want something different, something better. Why can’t you just give me what I really want? Why is it like this? Why can’t I see the way out?’ and all the while God is sitting there saying, ‘It’s okay. I’ve given you everything you can possibly need. It’s all right there. Everything is waiting for you to arrive. You’re so close. You don’t have to cry. You don’t have to worry. I promise it’s all right there. If you could only just believe me, it would all be okay. ’” 

 

I spent so much time worrying about why things weren’t right, that I failed to understand everything that was right with where I was. I didn’t appreciate it. I wasn’t thankful for it. I just threw it aside thinking I didn’t really need it. What’s the use in all of this stuff? I let myself get to a point where I couldn’t see past the hurt, the worry, the fear. It consumed me. And so it consumed everything I did for the most part, as well.

When we got home that day, I turned on Oprah, and there was a woman who had survived the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11. As I watched, she talked about all of the things she goes through each day just to get up and going. She had been burned over a large portion of her body. She could no longer hold her children. Up until recently, she couldn’t even open the peanut butter jar to make a sandwich for her children’s lunch. While watching, I realized all of the things that I had to be thankful for.

I can hold my son. I can touch his face. I can hug him. I can pick him up. I can see him smile. I can hear his laughter. I can play with him. I can drive him anywhere he needs to go. I can feel him breathe. I can run and jump with him. I can teach him to play sports. I have so many things to be thankful for, especially when it comes to him. He and my nephews make me smile every day. They fill my heart with joy every day. They let me love them every day, and I feel so honored to be able to do so. And I am so thankful to have the chance, all day every day to try again.

Even when I get things wrong, I have learned to be thankful that I have the chance to try again. And one of the ways I try to show my gratitude is by trying to make the right choice after I’ve made the wrong one. If it is something that can be undone, then I try to undo it. If the chance has passed, then I make sure to try not to make the same mistake again. With gratitude comes the possibility for change. If we recognize that it is possible for us at any moment to show that we are thankful, somehow, some way, we can seize the opportunity instead of allowing it to pass us by.

Day 17 – Movies and moving forward

Jack fell asleep unusually early tonight, and somehow I ended up watching Toy Story 3 alone, and not changing the channel. You can call me a sap, but everyone I know cried during the movie, so I’m comfortable with it. I normally don’t watch it, because it does make me sad. And today was a cleaning day so we were already cleaning up rooms and clearing out old toys and putting aside a few to save, so the movie came right on time.

Anyway, I was watching tonight, you know, 10 minutes ago at the end, and I started thinking about how hard it is to let go of those things that have meant so much to us. Whether it’s a toy or a trinket or something big, like a friendship or a relationship. We like to be connecting to things that make us feel happy. Things that give us a sense of knowing. We know who we are when we play with those toys… or with Jack I know who he was when I look at some of his old toys or outfits from the past few years. It serves as a reminder of something familiar. Something strong. Those things embody the things that we want to continue in our lives. And I think when I look back over today and I think of the toys I had when I was younger, I can remember my Cabbage Patch doll (I had a preemie newborn one, she had a crib and at Christmas time I would put her by the fireplace we used to have in my old house.) and I remember how happy I was. There was a lot of hopefulness for what would come. Even though there were lots of issues, the future seemed to hold a lot of possibility and that time when I played and entered into my own little world it was even better. I had an escape and I had a connection. And I think that’s what we hold onto. Those things that helped us escape or those things that hold the possibility for a future that we want. The things we were able to connect with in a way that gave us help and hope.

But the help and hope are always inside of us. And those things, even though they hold special memories are just things. Even when those things are friendships or relationships. Sometimes we really do just have to let them go and let them move on to a place where they can be more beneficial. Whether it’s donating toys or clothes or letting go of  someone in our life, we have to let those things evolve. Our roles in one another’s lives grow and change. And even though it can be sad, it’s good to let go. It’s the only way we can move forward. And moving forward is something to be thankful for. 🙂

Day 14 – Beautiful days and Invisibility Cloaks!

 

Today I’m thankful for this beautiful day. It’s truly stunning outside, even if it’s a little chilly for my taste. But I woke up really excited today to have the chance to wake up. I feel good and purposeful, which isn’t always the case, but is the way I try to make it. I like the thankfulness exercise, because it really is good to remember to be thankful for even the tiniest of things we have. And it creates a foundation of gratitude instead of a foundation of “I need.” And we all have so many things we do need to do every day and in our futures that the need can get to be overwhelming. And need is something that easily becomes skewed and lost in our quest to attend to need. It has a way of making us feel helpless while gratitude has a way of making us feel helpful. It reminds us that we have things, even tiny things that allow us the chance to move forward. We have the chance to grow and create and be who we are, and we are all someone with something to offer. Every day, even if we aren’t where we want to be, we have something to offer that can make both our day and someone else’s day a little bit brighter and bring us closer to who and where we want to be.

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As a side note, I’m again thankful (but a little scared by) technology. Did you guys see this? http://phys.org/news/2012-11-invisibility-cloak.html  This is a link to an article talking about how Duke University has created and “invisibility cloak.” You know, like in Harry Potter. Where they were able to effectively make a cylinder invisible by bending light around an object and doing, you know, other things that required mathematical formulas for mirroring light waves and working out copper’s reflective characteristics that we all hang out and do on a daily basis, so obviously I don’t need to explain any further. Which is good since I don’t really understand any of it. BUT this is really cool, and kind of scary. They made it disappear in a way that produced no reflected light, whereas previously done cloaks were “see through” but you could tell there was an object that you were “seeing through” because of the reflective properties of the cloak set up. Kind of like bubbles, I think? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what they said. Anyhow, you guys should read the article, because it kind of blows my mind that we can make things appear invisible through the use of technology and considering how all of that works what if you could make a whole country invisible? Or what if there are parts of the universe that are really close to Earth that are invisible and we just don’t know it? What if a previous group of Earth’s inhabitants figured this out and they walk around with us, but sometimes we see glimpses of their reflections but it’s too brief to know that’s what it is??  Or you know, what if it’s nothing. Points for the day: This cloak is cool (and not cloak like in the way I thought it would be) check it out. And being thankful is good. And buy my book 🙂

Day 10 – Anger management?

Tonight I am thankful, honestly thankful, that I did not punch the wall. I remembered that last time I punched a wall when I was a teenager… it hurt. And even though I really, really, really, really, really, really, really hate it when a quarterback, more specifically my team’s quarterback, throws an interception in the endzone and the other team goes more than 100 yards to score. And I’m thankful that when someone said, “there’s no reason to get so upset, just remember the things in your life that you are thankful for,” I didn’t punch that person either. So tonight, that’s two things that I successfully avoided allowing my anger to overcome me on. I did, however, yell and turn off the TV. But I feel that it was beyond warranted. FAR BEYOND WARRANTED. It’s all because I got my hopes up. Which in reality is a good thing. It’s good to have things we are passionate about. That we hope in. Etc, etc, etc… Yes, that’s as close as I can get to saying something worthwhile. I am only competitive when I care. I have drastically decreased the number of sporting events and other contests that I watch because, well, by competitive I meant extremely competitive and a terribly poor loser, so it was for my well-being that I stopped. So in conclusion, I didn’t punch anything at all today. (I’m pretty sure the wall that one time is the only thing I’ve ever really punched. I’m really good at not punching things, so that’s a plus.) And I’m thankful that I have that control. Because there are some people out there tonight in the ER because they punched a wall and broke their hand. I’m thankful I’m not one of them.

Day 9 – Holding hands

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I think back in May I might have posted an excerpt on being thankful from my book. I can’t remember if it included what I’m going to talk about today, so I’m going to say it again. Partly because I’m lazy and don’t want to look back through all of those, but mostly because it’s something that’s important and that I want to share again if I’ve already done so.  A few years back when I was watching Oprah there was a show on about a woman who had been burned. She had been so severely burned that she couldn’t hold her child. She couldn’t open a jar of peanut butter. She no longer had use of the faculties most of us have on any given day. She wore compression stockings all over her body to keep her blood flowing and keep clots from forming. And when I saw this show I remember thinking how thankful I was to have my health. I had use of all of my muscles. My fingers and toes, my feet and hands, legs and arms. My body functions as it’s supposed to. I can sit and stand without issue. I can run and jump. I can bend over. I can paint my walls. I can clean my floors. I can pick up my child when he cries. I can hold him on my heart whenever he’s scared. I can push him on the swings. I can slide down the slide with him.

Every day I wake up I try to remember to be thankful that I can. I am able. And it is my responsibility to work to ensure that I remain able. And to not take for granted the little things that I do have, that are significant things when removed. Like the ability to hold hands with my son as we go for a walk. To have the stamina to play with him outside, even if it’s not as much as he’d like (I swear I’m going to start using him as a personal trainer for people. He’s quite the motivator for staying moving!). I have hands to wash dishes. I have eyes to see the road. There is a world I get to experience with relative ease because I am healthy. And I am incredibly thankful for that. And I say prayers of healing and hope because there are many of us who do not have the same luxury.

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