Prison Break

My son and I were sitting outside together, talking on the back deck of our home and he asked me an interesting question.

He said, “What would you do if you were put in prison for life with no chance of getting out? Would you try to escape?”

I replied, “I don’t think I would try to physically escape, I would try to be free in my mind, like Nelson Mandela or Gandhi did when they were imprisoned. But, would you visit me if I went to prison for life?”

“No, since you wouldn’t try to escape, I would come break you out of there,” he said.

I laughed at what Nathan said, and then I felt good knowing he would not want to live without me. As Nathan gets older and more independent it is harder to tell he likes me.

Instead of reaching for my hand, as he did when he was little, to hold it while we walk across a parking lot, he now, as a middle schooler tells me, “You just talked too loud and that man over there is making a face at you like you’re weird.”

If I try to hold his hand in public, he pulls his hand away.

But, he also puts himself to bed most nights and brushes his teeth without reminding. He makes his own snacks and fills his water bottle. He showers without being forced and has hobbies, like soccer, and an insatiable desire to learn all he can about fancy cars (from him, I now know enough about a Bugatti that if you are in the market for one, I’m your girl for answering questions).

Nathan has, from the time he could talk, been an adult in a child’s body. Most kids have something teachers comment on when talking to a mom about her child. Nathan’s comment from every teacher he had from the time he started school at four was, “he’s very well-spoken.”

Once, I said to the pre-K teacher, “I get that a lot – he is well-spoken.”

She said, “Yeah, but I’m thinking about asking him over for coffee.”

That summed it up well. He’s been the kind of child from the get-go that you would have over for a cup of coffee and a good conversation.

Even now, he loves to have a good talk with someone. He asks questions, like, if you went to prison for life, would you try and escape since you are going to be there forever anyway?

And now that I know he would come break me out, I can’t help but believe I would go with him, even if it was for just one day until “they” put me back in prison. His question made me meditate on how it would feel to be imprisoned and never be allowed to hold him again, or see his daily facial expressions, or be aware that I can’t tell how much he’s changed because I see him so often. When family members haven’t seen him in a while they comment on his rapid growth, but to me he looks like the Nathan I saw just yesterday, my baby boy.

Feeling this way reminds me that he will one day be grown and I might not see him daily. I won’t have him there to interrupt me, beg me for something ridiculous, like a drone with a 4-D camera or some pricey shoes that he will outgrow in a month. I won’t pick him up from school, or take him to ice cream, or soccer practice, or just lay with him and watch him breathe (when he doesn’t know, because he would tell me to stop looking at him if he knew it).

Nathan’s question was light hearted, but I know my answer deeply. Yes, Nathan, if you come break me out of prison, I’ll go with you gladly.

Today, I breathe in this time with my children. I thank you, my open heart, for the moments I sit with my son, present to his insightful questions and in tune with his love for me. I am grateful for the love of my family.

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A Message From a Tree

There’s a tree that I talk to on the path where I walk my dogs every morning. The tree doesn’t look like much. It’s skinny, and shorter than the other trees surrounding it. I don’t even know what kind of tree it is. It’s just a tree, with leaves that look like nothing unordinary. The special part of the tree is its trunk. I’m not sure how trees get uneven growth to the trunk, but this tree has a heart in its trunk. It’s like someone dug out part of the trunk and created a heart divot. And not only does it have a heart, within the heart it looks like there’s a face. It’s not a smiling face, but it is a face.

The heart is cool, but it’s not why I love the tree. I was given the tree as a gift from Archangel Michael, the archangel who slays negativity and obstacles from my path and helps guide me to be my highest and best self. He has large wings and a huge sword in his hand, ready to slay away anything around me that isn’t helping elevate me higher in my mission on earth. I often see in my mind’s eye this angel wearing armor, ready to do battle for me when I can’t fight for myself.

There are other Archangels, many of them, and they are not relegated to one religion – you’ll find them in Christianity and Judaism, as well as other religions. Archangels are “chief angels” and each has a specific role to help us. For example, Gabriel helps with communication between the earthly realm and the heavens. Raphael is the guardian of healing, both physical and mental. Uriel is the miracle worker, problem solving and change – when all is out of control, Uriel will come and transform thoughts and give inspiration to help stabilize and calm the storm. There are more Archangels, and they do much more than I am going into here. Don Simmons has an Archangel guided meditation I love. (You can find it here: http://donreedsimmons.com/cds-and-downloads/ )

Of all the Archangels, Michael has always been the one I see clearest. He’s the one I feel protected by and healed by the most. So, when Yvonne O’brien, a psychic medium, announced she was leading a class where Archangel Michael would give guidance on a career path, I signed up and paid in advance.

I went with low expectations of getting something out of it career-wise. Since getting out of advertising after having my kids, I have been a serial entrepreneur, trying much, but sticking to little. If I could get some guidance on something I could stick with, I would take it.

Most of the class consisted of short meditations, guided visualizations, to get us in touch with Archangel Michael and his guidance. I felt touched and close to Michael in a way I had not been before. Much of my career path seemed centered on writing (how shocking!).

The class was long – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a break for lunch. We meditated, we wrote and then the unexpected was expected. We were asked to give psychic readings to each other.

Gasp! I’m not psychic. Or am I?

This wasn’t my first time being in a class and asked to give a reading on someone. I once attended a class by a man named John Mulkey called, “Writing Your Way to Enlightenment.” (I’m sure you can see why the title grabbed me.) When we got there, we each went around the circle and introduced ourselves and why we were there. Being that the title of the class was writing, each person gave a reason they were there that had to do with writing.

The class wasn’t exactly a writing class, but it was fascinating none-the-less. It was similar to the Archangel Michael class in that we did many guided, visualization meditations to get in touch with our writing selves. At the end of class, John asked us to give a reading for a person we were partnered with.

I was partnered with a woman who was probably a few years older than me, with an open heart and easy-to-be-with personality. She was friendly and calm and I liked her immediately. But that didn’t mean I could give her a psychic reading! I was nervous.

John put on Native American music, with drumming in it. That music can be entrancing, so it wasn’t hard to get into a meditative state. As I closed my eyes and cleared all thought from my mind, I heard someone talking to me, in my mind, just like it was a thought. For me, it’s hard to tell the difference between thinking and being given a psychic message. What I heard was, Ask her if she likes to cook. Tell her that if she wants to bottle something to sell and manufacture, it would sell well. She should do it. Tell her if she wants to be a better writer, she needs to treat her writing the way she treats her cooking – use colors to inspire her writing.

It was a little more than that, but that’s most of it. The music stopped and John asked us to give our messages to our partner. In the pit of my stomach I was afraid I was going to look foolish. But, I only had what I had, and why not just give it to her?

I said, “Do you like to cook?”

“Yes,” she replied.

So, I relayed the message I was given. When I was done, she said, “Would you like to know what that means?”

“Please!” I said.

“I am a chef for a living. I am thinking of bottling something, a sauce. I do use color in the kitchen… color is very important to me.” She went on and on, but I was too in shock to hear it all. I actually gave a reading to someone!

And now, in Yvonne’s class, I was being asked to do it again, this time to give advice on a career path. Even with one success under my belt, I was scared.

I was paired with a girl, younger than me. I knew nothing about her, as when we introduced ourselves for Yvonne’s class we didn’t give the career path we were on, assuming we were all there to find a career path.

I closed my eyes and began to meditate and I saw, as a thought, trees. Trees were everywhere. I heard, landscaping, but it’s not with plants, it’s with trees. I saw the girl in the woods, walking.

When we were asked to give the readings, I said, “I see you in landscaping, but not in the traditional sense. I see you with trees everywhere.”

She said, “I’m in school and studying forestry.”

Once again, I shocked myself. But, Yvonne wasn’t done. We had to read others. I saw a man in a corporate environment giving seminars. He was already doing that and was happy that I saw him continuing on that path. Then Yvonne asked us to give a person a reading that included a sign that they would see in the next few days that would ensure Archangel Michael had heard their prayers and was with us in the class this day.

I was with another woman, this one closer to my age. I closed my eyes and I heard, there’s a tree. It has a heart in it and possibly a face.

I opened my eyes and told her what I heard.

It was the next week when I was walking my dogs and my dog stopped to go to the bathroom that I looked straight ahead of me and saw it. The tree, which had been here for two years of walking dogs, but I never noticed it. That tree with a heart in it, and yep, a face, staring at me.

Telling this story, I have been asked, “Don’t you think it could have been subconscious that you have seen the tree?”

I say, maybe, but I cried when I saw it. If I noticed it subconsciously, it was buried deep and maybe waiting until the right time to show itself. I also thought I was giving the sign to the lady, not myself. I felt awful that I had told her about her tree-sign and then I found it. My hope is that there was another tree on her path that at least had a heart, if not a face.

I had not seen that tree before, much less talked to it! I do talk to it now. I ask Archangel Michael to slay away all of my negative thoughts and actions and help me shine. I have since being in that class found a much more narrow path on the career front. I’ve gone down a lot of different paths, lucky that I’m in a position to try everything that interests me. But, one route I have never deterred from no matter what I do is writing. Today, I am also leading meditations and I see that as long as opportunities continue to come my way, I will continue that path because I love it as I love writing.

It was a gift to receive the tree as a tangible reminder that we are all psychic and there are angels watching over us, if only we will see with something other than our eyes. All it takes is heart energy and a willingness to believe that there is more to life than what we experience on the earthly realm. Angels are part of the connection we all share that makes us One, because angels don’t discriminate. They help us all.

Today, I am grateful for nature, for angels, for all that is beyond my understanding, but that which I know in my soul exists.

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One of Those Days

Today feels like one of those days. I call it a “static-y” day. It means my energy feels out of whack and no matter how many metaphysical, energetic-correcting tools I pull out of my box, nothing seems to work. I have breathed deeply and made-up a ditty to sing in my head entitled “I surrender,” and sung it over and over (it goes like this: I surrender these feelings of stress, I surrender and know I can rest, I surrender all the stress I feel, I surrender and know that I am healed). I have left the present moment a thousand times to be in my angry head and come back to the present moment still mad as a hornet for no good reason. I’ve watched kitten and puppy videos, which temporarily made me happy, and sat on my covered porch listening peacefully to the rain. As soon as I gain a little calm, I’m pissy again.

And, I can’t seem to shake it.

I know partially why I’m in a dither. Today is the first day we are home for summer “break,” we meaning the kids and me. They are doing the normal things they do when it’s raining and boredom strikes. My son has his big red kickball and has been throwing it at the walls in the house, trying to play a multi-player game called four-square alone. Then he’s squeaking his shoes on the floor and asking me to “name that tune” to his squeak. My daughter is complaining her iPad won’t charge and letting me know that one friend called another friend, “messed up” for one daring the other to drink toilet water. (I plugged my ears when she told me if one of those kids actually drank the toilet water and read her the riot act about how she best not do that, ever). Every time I sit down to try and collect myself to change my attitude, one of the kids asks me for something or has another story to share, or my husband calls asking me for or about something.

I had the day planned where I would wake early, go to the grocery store, come home and exercise, get Jessie to an appointment at 10, work on getting caught up from the holiday (we went to Florida and just returned yesterday), and I had a real estate class to go to at 1:30, which is going on now and I’m not there because somehow I haven’t even showered yet, much less exercised.

I’m trying to practice acceptance, but no matter what I tell myself, I can’t seem to change the anger and stress I feel today.

I recently finished reading a book called, Chop Wood, Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf. One of the chapters in the book is called Principles Instead of Feelings. Because I tend to wear my heart on the outside, not able to hide my feelings well, this was a revelation for me – a real ah-ha moment.

Feelings come and go, but if I live by my principles I don’t have to be ruled by my feelings. In other words, it’s been hard not to go off on my kids or be unkind to anyone else crossing my path at every turn today. I can’t say I have been perfect either. The kids definitely know mom is a tad grouchy.

But, I have been studying The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. The first agreement, Be Impeccable with Your Word, gives me a new way of living where if I’m feeling “static-y” I can at least be way more conscious of what I say to others, especially my kids.

Today, I don’t feel like being nice to anyone, but my living principles give me a good reason to try harder to be conscious of my choices and to do my best (The Fourth Agreement in The Four Agreements).

My principles tell me that I reap what I sow. I want to be impeccable with my word. I am aware I have the ability to pause before I say something and determine if I am, in fact, being impeccable with my word.

I also put up a couple of boundaries for my sanity, to help me be a better mom. I’m writing now. I told the kids I was going on the porch to meditate. Not that they haven’t interrupted. My daughter is now sitting on the porch with me, but she knows I am not going to be chatting this moment. The older my kids get, the easier I find it is to set these boundaries than it was when they were younger (I wish I would have known this when they were younger!).

Another principle that helps me today is, don’t take anything personally. Once my day morphed into something unrecognizable from what I envisioned in my head, I took it personal. I started to blame everyone in sight, including myself.

Living life from principles instead of feelings makes my life easier. I see it takes awareness to live this way. First of all, it takes knowing what my principles are. Right now I love The Four Agreements. They are sound and easy to understand. They are:

  • Be Impeccable with Your Word
  • Take Nothing Personal (my personal hardest!)
  • Don’t Make Assumptions
  • Always Do Your Best

When I use these statements as a guiding force in my life, I don’t have to work nearly as hard to figure out what kind of person I want to be.

The four agreements

Motherhood isn’t for the weary. The days are never the same and rarely go “as planned.”

Most of the time I’m a “go with the flow” kind of person. I don’t sweat the small stuff and all that good stuff. But I’m human. I have days like today where the small stuff feels big and the big stuff seems even bigger. Some days I’m sad and can’t seem to “snap out of it.” But, those are feelings that come and go, like my thoughts come and go in meditation, or like the tide of thoughts roll through my mind all day long.

Principles give me a place to go. A shelter. For this I am grateful. I still feel “static-y” today. That’s not changing until it changes. What’s changed, for the better, is how I handle those feelings after determining that I want to live from principles instead of feelings.

Today, I live my life from principles instead of feelings. I appreciate that feelings, like the weather, change often, but principles are a foundation I can build my emotional home upon.

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Gentle Is As Gentle Does

 

Last night I went to meditation at the bookstore around the corner from my house. I was lucky enough to go to meditation twice in one week. With summer break just four days away for my kids, I need all the meditation I can get.

Monday was women’s meditation. In that one, the guide chooses a card from Doreen Virtue’s Goddess card deck and uses the message as the theme for the meditation. Just before we started, I was speaking with one of the other women. Of course, with summer being so close the conversation turned to when the kids get out of school.

I find nearly everyone asks, “Are you excited for the year to end? For the break?”

Being that I wear my heart on sleeve, I find it hard to lie. The lie would be a hardy, “Oh yes!” But, like I said, I’m not good at lying. So, I told the truth, which is that I enjoy the break in routine and we usually take a little trip the day school gets out, so I’m looking forward to that, but after about three weeks, I could use a break myself from the summer “break” because my sanity starts to crack.

As I closed my eyes for meditation and began to float away into the moment, my mind wandered to one word – “gentle.” And what floated by like a cloud was the message, “Try and be gentle with your kids, and kind. And be gentle with yourself as well.”

Kisha, the meditation guide, drew her card and began to read the meaning. The card was “Damara, Guiding Children.” Damara is a Celtic fertility goddess and her name means, “gentle.” The meaning was about children who need you, keeping a harmonious household and being a youthful spirit yourself. I smiled knowing that I was, in fact, being guided to reflect deeply on being gentle with those around me, including myself and my own “inner child.”

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Tonight (Saturday), I was lucky enough to go back to meditation for a second time this week. It used to happen much more often that I went more than once a week, but these days I find it harder to get away. I see that when I make it happen it does, and when I concede that “it’s not a good time to leave,” I allow myself to be pulled away from the place I love, my meditation retreat just down the street.

Don led us and his theme for the evening was Gratitude. As he guided us he asked a question, “What part of your life do you feel happy about?” My kids came to mind. I saw myself smiling and being with them in a happy moment. Then he said, “What in your life makes you feel anxious?” I almost laughed out loud – I saw myself again with my kids!

That’s the duality of motherhood. Those two little people give me plenty of happiness and in the next moment give me a heaping helping of anxiety pie.

But I’m grateful for both. I was able to say “Thank You,” to both the happy and the anxious, because both help me evolve into who I am in my soul. I know that when I am able to laugh with my kids, my own inner child is freed. And, when I am able to face an anxious situation with mindfulness, rather than reaction, my soul is freed. The latter is the one I struggle the most with. Being mindful when I’m anxious is very hard for me, but I am working on it.

I’ve been reading the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The first agreement is, Be impeccable with your word.

Being impeccable with our word is not just “say what we mean, mean what we say.” It is that, but it also means not saying everything that comes to mind. It’s being aware that the spoken word has meaning and can be used as good energy or as poisonous energy. I wish I could say I always use my word for good. But I can’t. Don Miguel says the first agreement is the hardest because we have been trained from childhood to use our words to gossip and to control, as we were controlled by words when we were children.

My children are my greatest lesson in being impeccable with my word because they are the people in my life with the least amount of filters. They are so used to me that they give it to me straight in all instances and situations. They are kids and kids are free, non-domesticated people, until they grow into the domestication (belief system) that we and all of the other people in their lives (teachers, preachers and other kids) give them to graduate into adulthood with.

But for now, they are giving me their version of me with all they know how, mostly by arguing with everything I say! They are nine and 11 years old and both have a will as strong as I did, and maybe more in my son’s case, at that age. They don’t mind telling me exactly what they think of everything I do and say. I find myself arguing back and becoming a child myself, or saying things very parent-like. Not that any of this is not “right.” But it is not real.

What’s real is love. I have immense love for them. I want so badly to be impeccable with my word where they are concerned. So now, after studying what Don Miguel says, I am more aware of what I say. Even when I don’t say what I think was best for all involved, I leave a situation and ask myself what I could have said to make this a better interaction. And sometimes I am aware that saying nothing at all would have been the better choice. Just being quiet can say more than words when the words are getting nowhere!

I’m grateful. I’m grateful for all of the happy times I have with my kids and for the challenging times where I get to use awareness to be a better person. And when all seems chaotic and anxious, I am so very grateful for meditations that are close to my home with meditation guides who seem to know just the right topic at just the right time.

Today, I will be grateful and I will be aware. I will use my words wisely and impeccably or not at all.

 

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When the Past Catches Up to the Present

When Jessie was three I put her in a pre-k program at a private school. She had an August birthday, so she was the youngest in the class. I sent her to “school” because of my two children she was my “social” child. I assumed she would love it.

My son was on his second year at this same school, and he was making the adjustment to being a little student. It was a school that went from pre-k to 12th grade, so not just a daycare.

When I signed Jessie up there were two things I had not counted on. One, the teacher Nathan had when I put him in the three-year program was retired, so Jessie had a different teacher. And two, Jessie might have been social, but she liked that social time to include me. I didn’t count on her having awful separation anxiety.

I had already been through Nathan’s separation anxiety which was to the max, and that’s an understatement. The first weeks I dropped him off at pre-k he pulled my ponytail and had to be pried off of me. He chased me from the room and out of the building and had a line of teachers running after him. He cried, he carried on, and he was really upset with me. But I felt it was the best thing for him because he had to learn to be away from me and he was about to turn four (he has a November birthday so he is the oldest in his class).

He eventually got used to it, but every day when I walked him into the classroom his teacher would say, “Hello my special friend. Come sit next to me.” And Nathan would go sit by her. Throughout the day, if she moved her chair an inch, Nathan moved his an inch too. He also did this in the four-year class the following year with the next teacher. Both of those women are in my book as, “Teachers I Will Remember and Love for Life.”

So, when I put Jessie in “school” I assumed everything would work out. She was my social child! She loved people and playing with other kids.

It didn’t happen quite the way I thought. She cried so hard that the teachers asked me to sit in the classroom when I dropped her off, assuming that she would get used to it and I could leave. But every time I left, I got the call to come back and get her. This went on for three weeks.

One day, I decided to try and just drop her off. We were late and her class was on the playground, so I thought she would play and not notice me being gone. She loved the playground.

When I left, I started walking towards the exit, but the classroom next door called to me. It was empty because the school had not replaced Nathan’s now-retired teacher. I watched through the windows at the back of the room where I could see the playground and Jessie’s two teachers, who sat on a metal bench painted green, while Jessie stood sobbing in front of them. Jessie is loud, so she was wailing and snot was running down her nose.

One of the teachers, whose ears probably hurt from Jessie’s boisterous cries, took Jessie by the hand and led her to the back door to the classroom. I heard her say to Jessie, “You sit right here until you decide to stop crying.”

My heart broke into a million pieces.

I left my perch in the empty classroom and went to the room next door where my baby was crying in the doorway, now hysterically heaving cries from being punished and left by her mom, and I told her to get her stuff and let’s go home.

The teachers saw me come in and I told them I was taking Jessie home for the day. They looked relieved.

I was upset. How was I ever going to get her to love these women when they just ignored her while she cried and even worse, they punished her for being sad and anxious about my leaving?

Nathan’s teacher the previous year gave Nathan something that taught me what Jessie required and wasn’t getting – a transfer of love. She needed them to be “second mommy,” a source of love, in order to let go of my hand and take their hands for those three and a half hours a day.

I was at my wits end and about to call it quits on the whole school thing after that day. But I wasn’t going without at least telling the principal and those teachers what I was witnessing. I wrote a letter expressing my view that my daughter needed a hug. She needed to get to know them. Maybe some of the kids didn’t care who handled them, but my daughter did. She needed to know they saw her, heard her and most of all, loved her.

The next day, the principal asked me to give them another chance with Jessie. While the rest of the class went to Spanish in another classroom, the main teacher stayed behind and had one-on-one time with Jessie. She hugged Jessie and played with her and talked to her.

We never had a problem again. After that day, I dropped Jessie off at 8 and picked her up at 11:30. She didn’t cry, and I never got another call to come get her because she was too upset to stay at school without me.

I was my daughter’s advocate, but I never gave it much thought. I had a good teacher in Nathan’s previous teachers who showed me that an anxious child can overcome the fear of separation – by seeing what they did, I knew what Jessie was not getting.

Fast forward to last night.

Jessie is now 9, almost 10. She has been having me read her stories from my book, Mom’s Soul Café, at bedtime. I read her a story called Heart Strings Sing, which talks about me dropping Nathan off at school and letting him know I was with him all day because our heart strings were connected and would never be broken.

After the reading, Jessie said, “Did you tell me that too, when I went to school?”

“Yes, I imagine I did tell you the same thing,” I said.

Then she said, “I remember the teacher making me sit in the door because I missed you and was crying and you came in.”

“I did do that,” I said.

“I think you took me home that day,” she said.

“I did take you home,” I said.

“I was scared when they put me in the doorway and I was happy you came in to get me,” she said.

As a parent, I never know if I’m doing the right thing. I could have let her cry. I could have trusted those teachers know better than me and let her sit in that door, punished for her anxiety and love of me, but getting used to the fact that we must separate at some point. But, I couldn’t. Every fiber told me that I needed to get her and hug her and let her know that I would always come back.

To this day, I’m not sure why I went into the classroom next door instead of leaving. I often left and let them call me if they could not get her to calm down. But this day… this day, I stayed.

And I see now that she remembers it. She remembers that I cared, that I came for her in her time of need.

I’m so glad I trusted myself that day, and other days too. There’s information everywhere telling moms what to do, how to do it – a lot of “shoulds” if we listen too much. Motherhood can be confusing.

After my conversation with Jessie last night, I found myself trusting myself more today. I know I make mistakes, but that day I listened to my gut, and today, after my talk with Jessie last night, I’m so glad I did.

Jessie gave me a gift last night with her memory and I’m grateful.

Today, I trust myself to listen to my heart when I make decisions – for my children and for myself.

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Opening Doors to Compassion

I love compassion and this morning I was given a gift.

For starters, I went to my favorite coffee shop for my mocha. Anyone who knows me knows that I used to be at Caribou every morning – rain or shine and holidays – even the biggies like Thanksgiving or Easter. The only day I can think of Caribou being closed was Christmas day. Christmas was a hard one for me.

I went to Caribou pretty much every day. I wrote from there, I took the real estate course online there, I studied for my Orton Gillingham classes there, and I had what I called my “coffee shop buddies,” who were the people, mostly men in their 50s and 60s, who also went to Caribou daily. To me, it wasn’t just a coffee shop; Caribou was a representation of what I thought of as “community.”

So you can imagine my dismay when I went to Florida to visit my mom for a long weekend during Thanksgiving break in 2015 and I came home, went into Caribou that Tuesday and one of my buddies, Kevin, said, “Have you heard?”

“Heard what?”

“Caribou is closing on December 6.”

That was less than a month away. I had about three weeks of my community haven to enjoy and it was done.

The Sunday, the day before they closed, I wrote this on Facebook: “Today’s the day… for years on Sundays my routine is to get up early, walk my dogs and sneak off to the coffee shop. I just ordered my last Sunday dark chocolate, almond milk, 2-scoop, no whip mocha. I’m in the big leather chair by the fireplace and I have my book in my lap to read after I post this. I am so grateful for the space and the light I have been offered here. Trying not to cry in my coffee or make this a sad time so I can enjoy it and say good-bye. Tomorrow I’ll start the journey of finding another happy place. The gym?” (Sad, blue face with a tear falling emoticon.)

After this day, I tried three different Starbucks locations near my house, but none offered me comfortable chairs and the comradery with people like I found at Caribou. The mochas there are just okay, not anything I would label “heaven in a cup.” Eventually, I started to experiment making my mochas at home. I bought two cushiony outdoor chairs from Costco for a great price and put them on my deck.

 

new-coffee-shop

My new coffee shop

 

That’s where I spent every morning this past summer while the kids were out of school. I got up, walked the dogs, made my mocha on the stovetop and went straight to my deck. I watched the sun rise on the trees. I listened to the birds. I read metaphysical books, and I meditated using tracks from my phone – Don Simmons from Phoenix and Dragon makes meditation CDs and I have just about everything he’s ever made. He’s even on iTunes.

I really miss Caribou near my house and going there every day. Fortunately, there is another Caribou. It’s a little far for daily visits though. A few of the old Caribou gang migrated over to the “other” Caribou, so when I go, I still get to see familiar faces.

So, today, it’s a Sunday. I walked my dogs this morning in the cold – too cold for a porch sit. It was an easy decision to sneak out and drive the distance to the “other” Caribou. Besides, I needed more ground espresso for my espresso machine and I buy it there (a $20 Mr. Coffee espresso maker).

Once I got to Caribou, I ordered my coffee then flipped the switch on the fireplace (I may not be a regular, but I know how to act like one), and curled up in the leather chair beside the fireplace. It’s not as cozy as “my” Caribou, but I felt at home. I breathed in the smell of my mocha, a.k.a., heaven in a cup, sighed in what felt like relief, and took my first sip. Ahhhh.

I began reading my Mom’s Soul Café book that I am in final edits for (coming soon to an Amazon near you!). I also started to people watch. Each time the door opened, I looked up. I couldn’t help it.

I saw this couple in the parking lot. It was hard not to see them. The woman was “normal” looking enough. She was wearing Ugg Boots, jeans and a long sleeved tan thermal shirt with small pretty flowers covering it. She had long, straight hair parted in the middle. Her man was another story. Think Bon Jovi. His hair was almost wig-like, he had on cargo shorts and a long sleeved t-shirt, nothing too weird, but his hair and face were disheveled, in a hip way. He had earrings on. His face was a little older, but his look was that of a young musician with poufy Bon Jovi hair. I would not label this guy a gentleman by his looks.

I was curled in the big chair and after they got their coffee they sat at a table directly in front of me. They were by the window. I was still reading when the man got up. I watched him walk to the door. That’s when I got my big, wonderful dose of human compassion for the day.

The man had jumped up to open the door for an elderly lady who was struggling just to walk. There was no indication she would have a hard time with the door, but the man anticipated her hardship and decided to help her even if the door was not a problem for her.

You may not think this is a big deal, but I do. Oprah says, after all of her interviews over the years, from Beyoncé to the murderer behind bars, there is just one common thread weaving through us all, and it is this: everyone wants to be seen and heard and to know that they matter.

That’s it. That’s humanity in a nutshell and why compassion is so very important in this world. Seeing that man jump up and open the door for that woman told her loud and clear: I see you. I see your struggle and I am going to help you. Not because I have to, but because I want to.

The elder lady could have been a younger woman pushing a stroller, or a beggar on the corner. She could have been someone being mean because she’s had a life of feeling unloved. She could have been anyone anywhere. Today, it was a woman struggling to walk and a man who saw her need and got up from his seat and helped.

With all of the news lately, the discord we all feel over our beliefs, it was really lovely to see a man get up without considering if they agree on issues and if they are of the same ilk, and just be nice.

I probably won’t be back in the Caribou for a while. I’m happy on my deck with the birds and the trees, but I’m glad that on the day I did make the drive, I got to see kindness in action. It filled my heart and made my soul happy.

Today, I will carry compassion in my heart and look for ways to help others.

 

Mocha on the Stovetop

Make two shots of espresso or 2/3 cup of coffee.

In a saucepan on the stove, put 10 oz. of milk. I use almond milk. Now, put in 3 tablespoons of chocolate chips (I use dark chocolate).

Heat the milk and chocolate over medium high heat. Wisk the two together. Do not boil! But get it hot to your taste.

Put the two shots of espresso in a large coffee mug. Pour chocolate and milk mixture in. Stir. Enjoy.

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What’s in a Label?

I cried this morning in the Starbucks. I had to get up and get a napkin to make sure my mascara wasn’t running down my face. I cried because I read yet another article about Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner. This time, I read about a man named Terry Coffey who was pissed off at the use of the words “brave” and “hero” when Caitlyn is being referred to. Terry didn’t like those terms.

He chose a war picture to post on Facebook which went viral. Men fighting a war is what courage, bravery and a hero looks like to this man. But when he researched the photo further to give the person credit, his trail led to a man who had used the picture as part of coping therapy, which is now becoming a documentary on WWII. The therapy was because the man had been beaten by five men to the point of being in a coma for nine days and had to learn to walk again – for cross dressing.

war pict

I love it when life gives a dose of serendipity pie. Terry wrote and updated his previous position and didn’t think it was an accident he chose the picture he chose. Not that his 600,000 new friends agreed. They seem to love his original post more.

It made me cry.

It would be nice if we could just drop the damned labels all around or find a way to accept that one definition of one word will never fit the seven billion people trying to walk a meaningful path in this life.

When I watch Caitlyn unfold in the public eye, I do use the word brave. I see a man who was scared. Scared but willing to stand in his truth, let come what may.

That’s the thing about a person standing in truth, it’s scary because it changes everything. Every-thing. And that takes courage.

When a person decides to tell the world they are different than most of the population, they are standing up for everyone in line behind them that has been kicked down and literally beaten (in many cases to death).

I am writing a book about my grandmother’s life. My grandmother was beaten and verbally abused by my grandfather. She had to rise up, learn to drive, get a job, and make changes for herself. She had to escape the fear and live her life, and so did my mom and my aunts. They all had to overcome being torn down mentally and beaten physically. And it was BRAVE. And it took COURAGE. And they are my HEROES for being the kind of women who could do that.

And they worked hard so that I could grow up with FREEDOM from fears like those they had to endure.

When I write about the generations before me, I see them all standing behind me, lined up and cheering me on to the finish.

So what’s Caitlyn’s finish? Who is standing behind her? Maybe a line most people will never see, but there is a line. And I believe she’s brave. I think what she’s done takes courage. And I’m willing to bet she’s taking plenty of metaphorical punches for many people today and those yet to come. Based on the words I’ve read, she is fighting a war – a war on standing in a truth where the outcome is freedom to be truthful to one’s self.

Every label out there has more than one meaning, and that is what those words are (even the kindest words are) – labels. And labels are interchangeable and meaningless and meaningful all at the same time. It all depends on who you ask.

Eckhart Tolle says, “Thoughts and concepts create an artificial barrier, a separation between human beings. Your interactions are then not rooted in Being, but become mind-based. Without the conceptual barriers, love is naturally present in all human interactions.”

Today, I strive to let go of the labels I have put on myself and those in my life, and even those of the world. If I do label something or someone, I know that they are just that, labels; that the name I decide to give someone might feel different to me, look different and actually be different, but under the labels we are all the same, one kind, one person connected by one truth that has no label but is called LOVE.

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