My World at Night

I’ve never been good at sleeping.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had trouble sleeping for one reason or another. Maybe it’s time to just admit I’m a lifelong insomniac. But whatever the cause, I often find myself awake at night when the rest of my immediate world is asleep.

I’d love to tell you something lovely and romantic like “I’m a writer; of course when I can’t sleep at night I get up and write all the things that swirl in my head.”

But that’s not true.

Well, sometimes it’s true. Sometimes I can’t sleep because I do have things swirling in my head that beg to be written down and won’t give me peace until I acquiesce to their urging. But other nights I can’t sleep because the words don’t come and I worry if they ever will.

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The Turning of the Page

I don’t necessarily believe in putting the past behind me.

I suppose I do to a point; there are simply some things upon which it is fruitless to dwell. We certainly cannot change the past, but for better or worse, our past remains forever a part of who and where we are today. At the same time, though, we need to turn the page and move on to the next part of our story. It is not progress to throw down the book and stop reading because the events of a particular chapter are not as we might like. If we do not continue to move forward, we will never find out what the next chapter brings.

Making the transition from past to future feels much like turning the pages of a book. Once we’ve moved beyond each paragraph, page, and chapter, the words we have read remain part of our experience. They affect us, change us, and help us make sense of the next thing we read. Likewise, the words we have yet to read lie before us waiting to be taken in, savored, and made part of our experience. The only thing that comprises our present is right now, the moment in which we turn the page and move from what has been to what is yet to be.

As we turn the page from 2016 into 2017, I find myself tremendously grateful. This has been a good year for me and for my family in so many ways. We are healthy. We are safe. We have enough of all the things we need to sustain us and then some. We are blessed with friends and family near and far who love us. We have grown as individuals and as a family. I could not be more thankful. And while my little brood has certainly had our share of challenges and disappointments, I know that we have soldiered through and made great strides toward accomplishing our goals.

I am painfully aware that there is much trouble and sorrow in the world right now. I am aware that many people have found 2016 to be a harrowing year in many respects. Too many are not healthy or safe. Too many are lonely and separated from loved ones by distance or other means. Too many live in fear and pain. I suppose knowing this makes me appreciate even more the good that we have felt this year after several years of challenges for all of us.

In 2016, I chose the words Calm and Control to guide me through my days. While I will very likely never call myself a calm person, I definitely think that I have found a better sense of both inner and outer calm this year. I also realize that it is nigh unto impossible to be in control of every (or really any) aspect of life, but I have found strategies to help me better manage what aspects I can. I am better for it. My family is better for it. Better is good.

I would not say that any of us is “finished.” Like Franklin and Thoreau and Emerson and so many others, I believe that living life as a work progress is a good thing. Rather than striving for a state of completion or finality, the human spirit thrives when striving always to better the Self. As I look back over the words I’ve chosen each year for the last several, I can see how each one continues to weave in and out of the ways I think and live. Focus. Focus. (Yes, I chose this one twice.) Progress. Calm and Control.  Like all else, while they may not be my primary tasks, they remain with me.

And now it is time to look and move forward. As I turn the page on this year and begin the next, I know my word for the year will be Balance. I find myself saying it often lately and so it must be on my mind, at least subconsciously.

Balance is necessary in all things and balance exists in all things. There is no darkness without light, no failure without success, no sadness without joy. We all worry about how to balance home and work life, kids and relationships, work and play, family time and alone time, eating well and enjoying a pizza…and so much more. As we move forward in a world filled with so many things to worry and frighten each of us, I know it is important to seek the good and the positive, to find the balance that absolutely exists.

To focus solely on what is terrible can only prove harmful, just as never turning the page of a book can only leave the end of the story unknown. I, for one, would rather keep reading. I want to know what happens. I want to know how the story ends. And then I want to read another…and another…

At this time of year it is easy to talk about starting over and making goals. But I believe that every month, every day, sometimes every hour is an opportunity for a fresh start and a new goal. If moving through life is like turning the pages of a book, then there is always another page to turn, another story to tell, another book to read.

There will be challenges ahead; I believe they are necessary to help us find the victories. And so I wish each of you a story filled with challenges that will ultimately bring you health, happiness, love, and (perhaps most of all) peace in the days ahead.

xo.

 

 

 

The Morning After

So. Here we are.

The election is over and you would have to live under a rock to be unaware of the climate this morning. Sure, about half of the people in the U.S. are mighty pleased with themselves this morning, but the other half are devastated.

I don’t do politics here on the blog. Or at all, really. While I have very strong feelings about such things, I have always held to the philosophy that politics, religion, and sex simply don’t belong laid out on the kitchen table. These topics create so much dissension and anger among people – even people who love one another fiercely – that sometimes it is better to simply refrain from discussions in certain public settings.

But today I cannot be silent.

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I cannot be silent when so many of my friends and people I love are hurt, scared, and angry. I cannot be silent when my daughter stands before me and cries at the results of this election because even at the tender age of eight, she understands that bullying and hate appear to have been rewarded. I cannot be silent when the new president-elect consistently spews hatred directed at so many groups of people in this country (and the world) – people who are simply different from him.

I understand that this nation has problems. It always has; every society does. I understand that people want change, and I don’t disagree that some change is in order. But I sat in front of the TV last night dumbfounded – dumbfounded – that this country just put a man in office who has behaved as this man does and who is so uniquely unqualified for the office in both temperament and experience.

How in the world did we get to a place where so many people are willing to tolerate this level of hate? In all sincerity, I want to ask someone who voted for him these questions.

I want to ask parents of daughters how they can back a man who has treated and spoken of women the way he has. My daughter is a woman. What does this presidency mean for her?

I want to ask people who know someone who is Jewish how they can back a man who delivers not-so-cloaked anti-Semitic rhetoric and is endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party?  My husband is Jewish. What does this presidency mean for him?

And the list goes on and on…

I have to say again that if you are unaware of all the insults and hate he has directed at African Americans, Latinos, Muslim and Jewish people, handicapped people,  the LGBTQ community, women, military personnel, and so many more, then you haven’t been paying attention. And if you are aware, why is that behavior acceptable?

Please don’t talk to me about deleted e-mails or pro-life topics or trade agreements or any of the other myriad reasons people cite as reason where this election is concerned. You’re going to have to come at me with something stronger than that. We can argue those points for the next four years and it won’t change the fact that above all, hate has somehow become tolerable. That is unacceptable.

This all reminds me of the movie The American President. Have you seen it? Watch it. Really. Set aside the love story angle and pay attention to the election angle between the incumbent President and the hopeful who is trying to unseat him. This guy spews hate at people, preys on their fear, and gets those who are dissatisfied with the status quo to buy into his attacks. One of the characters in the movie finally asks the sitting President, “How do you have patience for people who claim they love America, but clearly can’t stand Americans?”

 

I feel like that’s where we are. And it frightens me.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, forward. That’s the only place we can go. But I will not move forward with the kind of hate and anger that has characterized this election season and continues to characterize discussions this morning.

I choose to do what I have always believed is the way to go – live with a focus on love, on kindness, and on compassion. Am I perfect in that regard? Of course not. But I sure do make the effort to be mindful enough to learn from any mistakes I make and continue to improve.

I choose to hold fast to my faith and to my personal belief that all things have purpose, even tragedy. We may not always recognize that in the throes of a challenge, but it has been my experience that ultimately, there will be an answer. If you’ve read here for any length of time you know how strongly I believe that even in the darkest moments, there is always hope for light.

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If you need a reason, look into your children’s eyes. Think of the people you know who are part of groups that have been insulted and oppressed in this country. If you need to know what to do next, think about all the similar instances in history where people turned fear and hate and disappointment into action. Do something. Join us at 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. Be kind to people. Period. If you need something to remind you why we keep working and keep fighting and never quit, read Thomas Paine’s The Crisis, No. 1This is not the first time we’ve felt down and out and it probably won’t be the last.

Be sad and cry if you need to. Wear black or whatever helps. And then remember what President Obama said in the Rose Garden just a little while ago – the sun is going to come up again tomorrow. So get up and go forward.

And please…always remember that Love Wins. Even when that’s difficult to believe.

Peace.

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I’ve added this post to the Finish the Sentence Friday link-up hosted this week by  Kristi at Finding Ninee and Denise at Adventures of a Jayhawk Mommy.  

This week we’re talking about change and the unexpected.

The results of this election certainly qualify.

Building a Legacy – #10Thankful

Legacy.

So often, when we think of the word legacy, we end up at the definition about what property is left behind in a will or a particular online obituary site. Honestly, though, neither of those are where my mind goes first.

When I think of a legacy, I think of the more abstract, intangible gifts from our loved ones that stay with us long after they have left us. Rather than washing away like footprints on sand, though, there is something permanent that remains.

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I can think of many people who have passed from this life and what they have left behind. Most of these legacies are beautiful and positive; others less so. But in every case – whether positive or not – what remains is lasting and most definitely shapes the lives and the realities of those who follow after them.

When I think about all that I have collected from the ones before me, I think about how each of these gifts – each of these people – is part of me. I carry bits and pieces of my ancestors with me through every step of my life. And so I often wonder just what I will leave behind for my daughter and others who will follow me…

I have been given a legacy of great love several times over. I know what it means to be loved and cared for. I know that love is shown in many different ways. It is my hope that from these examples I have learned how to love and that I communicate that love to the people who need to know. I want my child to know she is loved and to know how to express her love for others.

I benefit so often from the gift of true wisdom, earned through lifetimes of trial and error, sadness and joy. I try to see all things in life as opportunities for learning and to perhaps gain some wisdom of my own from my personal experiences. I hope to pass on to my daughter any wisdom I might gain so that she may benefit from it as I have.

I have been passed a love for things like reading, music, and cooking by so many people. My interests, passions, and talents are my own, but I see them as a reflection of those same things in others who have gone before me. I am grateful to have been exposed to these things and share my love for them with my own child. I loved hearing stories read to me and I read to her so that one day she might read to her own children. I learned how to cook from my relatives and love having my daughter at my side in the kitchen learning how to do the same. I hear my mother’s instructions come from my own lips as I explain to my daughter what to put into tuna salad or how to prepare garlic bread.

I have also been left a legacy of uncertainty and doubt – one that is difficult to bear sometimes. Too often in life, there are words left unspoken and feelings left unexpressed, even if we might desire to do so. In some cases, we do run out of time and these situations are left unresolved. I endeavor to say what needs to be said to those I love now so they never have to wonder.

There are many more things I could list here, and there will still be many more to add as the years pass and loved ones move in and out of my life. I cannot possibly know what else will be gifted to me before my own days on earth are through. I am grateful for each and every piece of who I am that has been passed to me so far and for all those yet to come…

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But what I do know is that in each of my days, in every moment, I am building a legacy of my own to pass on. I do not yet know what it will include or whether it will be great. I suppose that is for those on the receiving end to determine.

I do know that whatever my legacy turns out to be, it will reside in those who come behind me just as the legacies left to me have been passed through generation after generation, growing into what I carry within me today. It is my hope and prayer that at the very least, those who follow me will say I left a legacy of living and loving well.

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In addition to being a Ten Things of Thankful entry, this week’s post is also a Finish the Sentence Friday post.

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This week’s sentence was “I want my legacy to be…”

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Hidden Richness – A Soup of the Week Post

I used to hate eggplant.

I think it has something to do with an overcooked eggplant Parmesan somewhere in my youth. But eggplant being much like anything else, once we have a bad experience, we tend to forever loathe and avoid the offending situation – or vegetable, as the case may be.

Since joining our local CSA a couple of years ago, I’ve rediscovered eggplant. When vegetables show up in the farm share each week, I feel morally obligated to like them, or at least find a way to live with them. And so I’ve experimented with ways to enjoy eggplant, most of them successful. I even made an eggplant Parm that wasn’t too bad.

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Last week, my husband brought home two aubergine beauties from the farm (not the ones in the photo – this week’s were much darker) and I immediately planned to make eggplant Parmesan for my mom. Life got in the way and it didn’t happen. If you know anything about eggplants, you know that you need to use those babies within a day or two or you end up with a very unattractive not-so-aubergine mass on your counter or in your fridge.

Since they were still perfectly edible but just this side of too soft for eggplant parm, I searched for another way to make that eggplant disappear. And I had to feed it to my Hub and Kidzilla – both professed non-eggplanters, despite many efforts to convert them.

Sigh.

As luck would have it, I found this recipe for Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup with Fresh Herbs over at Sumptuous Spoonfuls. (Via Pinterest, of course, because where else do you go to figure out what to do with soft eggplant?) The post promised the eggplant would disappear into the soup, leaving behind only a delightful buttery finish, not the taste of eggplant.

Sold!

And so I made it. And the Hub and Zilla ate it. Twice. They genuinely liked it. As I was dishing up the leftover soup the following night, I got to thinking about soup and life…because that’s what I do.

Sometimes life hands us the beautiful and everything goes as planned. We get the job we hoped for, complete the project, or lose that ten pounds. And other times we are left with slightly soft eggplant. It’s usable, but perhaps not desirable. Rather than toss those declining eggplants, perhaps we can find a way to repurpose and transform them into something delicious. (Can you tell I watched Chopped last night?)

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The eggplant did indeed disappear into the soup. You could tell it wasn’t straight-up conventional tomato soup, but it was delicious. It turned out sort of buttery and elegant, with a hidden richness that tomatoes alone would not provide.

Maybe life is like that, too – not quite what we expect or plan and not quite perfect, but with an underlying richness that comes from embracing all of the imperfections we encounter along the way.

Serve this soup with a fresh green salad and some rustic crusty bread for a light and satisfying dinner. And the next time life hands you some not-so-perfect eggplant, consider what richness you can create with what you have been given.

Mangiare bene vivere felici!

Eat well and live happy!

 

Listen to Your Mother 2016: A Reflection

Everyone has a story to tell.

Yet very often we keep those stories to ourselves, unready or unwilling to share them with the world.

One of my favorite movies is Steel Magnolias – for so many reasons. Early in the film Truvy (played by Dolly Parton) tries to find out more about her new employee, Annelle (Daryl Hannah).

“Well…tell me things about yourself,” Truvy begins, making it clear that she wants to know. Annelle says, “There’s nothing to tell…” and hesitantly provides a few vague details, fearful that her story is not suitable for public consumption.

 

As the scene continues, Truvy and the other women at her beauty shop encourage Annelle to share the details of her life. “Of course you can!” They tell her when she says she can’t talk about some of the more intimate and complicated bits of her story. While their initial interest is motivated by pure curiosity, the women quickly rally around her and provide support. And if you’ve seen the movie, you know that the bulk of the story is centered on that idea – a group of women supporting each other as their stories unfold.

Just over two weeks ago, I enjoyed the privilege of being part of the Lehigh Valley cast of the Listen to Your Mother show. The experience was one of the most unique of my life so far.

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Continue reading “Listen to Your Mother 2016: A Reflection”

#10Thankful – The Show is Over

Is it wrong that I’m in my pajamas at 8:00 PM?

Today has been an exciting and tiring day and honestly? I really kind of want to go to bed. Like now.

But first, I need to slip in a few items of thankfulness…

First, I am so grateful to have been part of the Listen to Your Mother show’s Lehigh Valley cast today. What a tremendous experience this has been in so many ways. I’m sure I’ll write more about it at some point, but for today I’m just going to say I’m glad to have added this to my list of awesome things I’ve done.

 

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These are wonderful people who shared wonderful stories and I’m thankful to have crossed paths with each of them.
Continue reading “#10Thankful – The Show is Over”

The Why Behind My Words

My Husband tells me I think in words.

Now you’re wondering, doesn’t everyone?  No, I don’t believe that is true.

 

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Some of us do think in words; we find sense and structure in our world via letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs. Others may think in pictures and see the world laid out in visual splendor before their eyes, or perhaps in ideas using concepts and theories to explain the circumstances of life. Still others think in music hearing secrets of the universe revealed in melodies and harmonies, or in numbers to explore the world’s mysteries in facts, equations, and balance sheets.

Continue reading “The Why Behind My Words”

What Makes Me Weak

No one likes to admit weakness.

We prefer to present ourselves as strong and capable, fearless and invincible, to the world and to ourselves.

But no one is without their Achilles’ heel, their own personal Kryptonite. It’s different for each of us, of course. But let’s talk about Achilles and Superman for just a minute…

 

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Achilles’ weakness was the one spot where his mother, Thetis, held him while dipping him into the river Styx to make him immortal and physically invulnerable – his heel. Similar to Achilles, Superman’s parents also wanted to protect him and so sent their infant son, Kal-El away from their doomed planet. Superman’s weakness came in the form of Kryptonite, radioactive remnants of his home planet, Krypton.

Of course there are many details to discuss in both cases (and the science behind Kryptonite is rather fascinating), but the commonality I noticed is that for both men, their vulnerability and weakness stemmed from someone or something close to them – something of home.

And that connection is what made me realize that my own greatest weakness is something close to me, of home.

My Kryptonite is me.

Continue reading “What Makes Me Weak”

TToT – Catching Up, Transitions, and Change

I can’t help but think lately that life is a constant string of transitions.

We spend most of our lives moving from one phase to another: from youth to adulthood, from school to work, from one relationship to another, from one job to another…our movement is constant and sure. That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy each phase as we live through it. But eventually, we have to pick up and move on. We cannot stay in one place forever – at least not if we intend to grow and develop as human beings. Standing water only becomes stagnant and the path not traveled is a lonely one indeed.

 

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These transitions often seem to crop up just when we’ve gotten comfortable where we are. But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s best if we don’t let life catch up to us for too long. Maybe it’s best if transition and change happen before we’re quite ready to move on. I have a mug here on my desk that tells me “Life begins outside your comfort zone.” Maybe it does. If we aren’t prompted to move along through life, it is much to easy to settle into the right now and see it as a final destination, rather than a stop along the journey.

And life really must be a journey.  Continue reading “TToT – Catching Up, Transitions, and Change”