Jean Anne Costa
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Life is a Banquet

Affirmation:  “The world is an amazing place and the more I learn about it and its inhabitants, the more I learn about myself.”

If you’ve ever been to Disney Land or Disney World you’ve probably been to the Small World ride that plays the song “It’s a Small World After All”, over and over and over.  My children always seemed to enjoy the ride but after going on it just once, I found the song to be very disturbing.

While traveling out of the country I began to think about living in a small world.  I had a tour guide hand me extra passes to the Pope’s Wednesday morning audience and say “You never know who you’ll meet.  It’s a small world, especially in Rome.”  In this instance, even with a million people there I didn’t meet anyone I knew.  I must admit I have been very far from home when I’ve been stunned to meet someone from my local area. But, for the most part, I rarely meet an acquaintance when traveling.  Mind you I meet a lot of new acquaintances, just not a lot of old ones.  And, isn’t that one of the reasons to travel? 

I traveled with Owen, my thirteen year old grandson to London to visit with my adult daughter Ellen and her fiancé, Adam.  Then Ellen, Owen and I headed to Rome.  Two years ago I took the same trip with my granddaughter, Isabelle.  She too was thirteen at the time.  After visiting London on that trip we then headed to Paris.  Yes, I feel blessed to be able to share the world with them.  I feel blessed that they want to come with me.  As Isabelle and I deplaned in Raleigh and were heading towards customs, she asked me where we were going next.  “We need to go through customs, Honey.”  “Oh no, Grandma, that’s not what I meant.”  And she smiled.  Throughout this trip, Owen has suggested I adopt a “travel buddy.”  He has suggested himself. 

When Ellen, Owen and I were in Rome, the tour guide mentioned in passing that one corner shop had “the best gelato in Rome” and that “the line for the gelato is sometimes longer than the line to enter the Vatican.”  When we finished our Vatican tour I was ready to find our way back to our hotel and rest for a while but that wasn’t Ellen’s plan.  She whipped out her trusty iPhone and located that shop.  We walked this way and that way and what did we find, the best gelato shop in Rome. So there we stood in line with a group of nuns from Albania who had also discovered the shop.  When they told us where they were from, Ellen surprised them by announcing she’d been to Albania.  The nun told her to come visit the next time she had a reason to go there.  We would have missed out on that whole experience if it wasn’t for her desire to experience it all and to have the “the best gelato in Rome.”

I have friends who have traveled all over the world.  They aren’t the least bit concerned with safety or even worse, Montezuma’s revenge and if they are concerned, well too bad, the adventure is more important than the worry.  I think of them as having a huge appetite for life.  They want to experience it all.  They don’t care if they encounter challenges along the way.  In fact, they relish the challenges.  Remember the movie Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell? She says, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”  I don’t want to starve to death.  I too want feast from the banquet of life.

What happens when one travels?  Your world becomes larger.  It’s true, life is a banquet.  There is such diversity, so many delightful flavors.  I think that’s why the Amazing Race is one of my favorite TV shows.  In it a dozen or more people travel around the world engaging in the local traditions and customs of the country they are visiting. What is of the greatest interest is not what they see or do and I certainly don’t recommend racing through any worthwhile experience.  What is of the greatest interest is what happens to one’s thinking when one steps outside of their box.  It’s what happens inside us that’s so amazing.
We get to choose whether or not we want to live inside a tiny little box, the known world or expand the box.  The world can be a scary place but at some point we will no longer be a part of it.  While we are here we should embrace the concept of living in a big space, of learning about our planet and its people and therefore, about ourselves.  It’s too easy to stay safe and comfortable and to let our world shrink to our size.  Maybe one doesn’t really need to hop a plane or a train in order to stay green and growing.  I see how small our world can become every time I visit an assisted living facility.  We get to choose if we want to eat from a buffet or have the same food over and over.  If travel is beyond your means, go to the library, go to the theatre, and borrow some travel videos.  There is no reason in this day and age to miss out on all that’s available in the world that can nourish our minds, hearts and our souls and help us to live a life of abundance and adventure, even if we’re confined physically by old age, illness or finances.

Because of Ellen’s sense of adventure we got to meet Albanian nuns.  How many people outside of Albania can claim that?  Because of my sense of adventure we got to go to Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and view the Pieta and see Pope Francis.  Owen’s interests took us to see some of Banksy’s London street art.  Each of us journeyed to a new place.  We discovered new people, new visions, and new appreciations and therefore, we discovered more about both our outer and most important, about our inner worlds.  I’m pleased my grandchildren and I have had the opportunity to travel together.  This trip certainly wasn’t the first but the trip to Europe was the farthest, not however, the longest. The longest journey is the one we take to know ourselves better, the one within and by spending time together, especially in a foreign location, we learned a great deal about each other and about ourselves.  We not only created some amazing shared memories but we ate from the banquet of life and it was great!

Seeking a Better Life

For four nights
during the week before Holy Week, Father Jim Sichko from Texas spoke to over
1000 people in my church of St. Michael the Archangel in Cary, NC.  We have a very large parish, over 16,000
people. The church has daily mass, Saturday evening mass and five masses every
Sunday.  Our services are blessed with
the gift of an amazing music minister, Wayne Cushner and a very dedicated group
of choir members.  I love going to mass. I’ve
gone my whole life and I love the ritual. 
I find it comforting.  I am also
grateful for the gift of the Eucharist. 
I’ve seen my church’s faults and I’ve chosen to stay and work at change
from the inside out. I’m blessed to feel this way. I know not everyone can
understand. I am one of the lucky ones. I was born into this faith in which I
feel so at home.  

Mass is an
obligation for Catholics.  We are told
that if we miss Mass without a legitimate reason, we have sinned.  Father Sichko began his introduction to the
parishioners by telling them they were welcome to leave if they were at the
Mass because of obligation and not because they wanted to attend.  I’m not sure if he had the church’s blessing
on that direction but I understood what he was saying; don’t show up without an
attitude of gratitude, embrace the gift, embrace the mystery.

How many times in
our lives have we simply shown up physically to some event but didn’t commit
emotionally?  What we invest in our
experience is directly proportional to what we receive from it.  How about school for an example to which we
can all relate?  Everyone knows the
amount of time and effort one puts into their education directly affects what
one learns.  Yes it is easier for some
than for others but that isn’t the point. 
If we aren’t fully invested in the process we miss out regardless of
whether or not the learning comes easily. 
We may not only miss out on how much and what we learn from the classes
but from our teachers, peers and the environment.

Catholic Mass is
not an entertainment form.  Regardless of
the music or the priest’s personality, it is a very traditional ritual.  We stand, sit, and kneel, over and over.  I’ve heard it called “Catholic
aerobics.” The readings change and the hymns are different weekly but the
words are always the same.  I can go to
Mass anywhere in the world, and I have, and regardless of the language, I know
most of what the priest is saying.  I
tell you this because I understand how other, more contemporary fun services
can attract people.  I can understand why
some people come to mass out of obligation and not out of want and it is
obvious when a church is filled with people who really would like to be
somewhere else.  Many won’t be singing,
they vie for seats in the back of the church; they don’t bother to say the
prayers and they leave as soon as Communion is distributed.  I understand why Father Sichko gave
permission to those unappreciative Catholics to leave. 

The people
attending the mission were there because they wanted to be.  How could I tell?  People came early.  A half hour before the mission began, the
church was almost full.  Everyone sang,
they were still singing after Father Sichko had walked out of the service.  It was an awesome sound.  I stopped singing for a short time to just
listen.  It was like the Mormon
Tabernacle Choir!  All those people
singing a joyful sound.  Why, I wondered
did so many people choose to spend four evenings here in this church?  What was of such value that they made an
effort to attend?  Certainly, this is not
the first event of its type.

I’ve never
attended a traveling preacher’s event. 
Even living here in the heart of the Bible Belt, I’ve never gone to hear
Billy Graham speak or Joel Osteen who regularly visits our area.  My only revival experience is from watching
the movie Elmer Gantry with Burt Lancaster a “hundred” years
ago.  I would hope that’s not a good
representation.  From the little I
remember he was not a very upright person. 
But, I can understand how one can get caught up in the experience.  I guess it is like the Super Bowl of
faith.  It’s exciting, all these people
gathered in one place with a similar outlook, rooting for the same team.  My question is why are they here?  What is everyone looking for?  What do they hope to gain? People seem to be
seeking something most of us cannot seem to find alone.

 

My mother was a
great fan of Robert Schuler and the Crystal Cathedral.  Thousands of people attended his services and
millions watched every Sunday.  Joel
Osteen is very popular now.  His church is
a former basketball stadium and holds over 18,000 people.  It is full every week and millions more watch
his service from home.  You don’t have to
look to the media for popular preachers or venues.  Here in Cary alone we have other churches
that attract large throngs of people each week. 
It’s the same throughout the rest of the country.  They represent every denomination:
Protestant, Mormon, Jewish, Non-denominational, Muslim, etc.  Why? 
Why are people coming together? 
Is it simply for community or are they looking for something else?  And, why do they continue to return week
after week, year after year?  Why did
over 1000 people come to St. Michael the Archangel every night for four nights
the week before Holy Week?   Was it
because it was free?  Maybe they had
nothing better to do?  No, I believe it
was because we are all looking for something beyond ourselves, beyond our
understanding, beyond our wildest imagination. 
We are looking for that which will complete us.  We are looking for God. 

People came
hoping.  They were hoping they would hear
something that would inspire them to lead richer, fuller lives.  They wanted to know more about their faith
with the hope that that would lead them to lives of more value.  They wanted to know what knowledge their
faith has gathered over the last 2000 years that would bless them and their
loved ones today and in the future.  Did
they get that?  Did they enrich their
lives and their faith?  Father Sichko had
a very direct message, a simple one but not an easy one.  He told us to “live the
gospel.”  Have you read the
gospels?  Have you read the words of
Jesus Christ?  His lessons are very
clear; care for the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the suffering of this
world.  Love at all costs, all the
time.  Don’t be attached to your material
possessions and trust that God is always here to care for you.  Simple, but challenging mandates.  Father Sichko repeated these directives.  He was able to weave them around some very
entertaining stories, some very humbling stories and at the end of the fourth
night, he received a standing ovation. 
His message seemed to reach everyone there.  It was a very inspirational experience.  The energy in the church was palpable.  It was exciting! I knew I was in a holy place
with others who chose to be there.  No
one I believed was there because of an obligation but solely because they
wanted to be there. 

One of my newer
affirmations is “I read something inspirational every night and
motivational every morning.”  For
the four nights of Father’s presentation I was inspired.  Listening to him was even better than doing
my reading.  It was the difference
between looking at a photo of a bowl of my favorite ice cream and actually
being able to eat it.  I came looking for
a way to enrich my life and to add to the blessings of my family and friends
and perhaps some part of the world and I found it.  I found it in Father’s reminder to “go
live the gospel.”  I know I’ll need
reminding.  I’m sure to find a reminder
in my daily evening reading of the New Testament.  That, along with Father Sichko’s lessons will
sustain me, I hope for quite a while to come. 
I only wish, and hope that some of those non-appreciative Catholics did
show up on a night or two and they too were inspired, inspired to the point
where they find themselves wanting to come to mass, not just showing up because
they think they need to in order to escape the everlasting fires of hell but
because something magical happened, something mystical and the veil that had
hidden the blessings of their faith from them was pulled back and they can
finally see the beauty, the gift of the Mass and especially of the
Eucharist.

Is God is a Feminist?

Affirmation: I
believe that when the gifts of women are recognized and honored, the world is a
better place. 

This week, the
second week of March, 2013 the Catholic Church elected a new pope, Cardinal
Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis. 
It didn’t seem to matter if you were a Catholic or not, the event
dominated the headlines around the world. 
World headlines are normally dominated by some dreadful disaster or
horrible tragedy.  I found this focus on
the election of a new the pope to be more uplifting and inspirational. The
election only took two days and five votes before white smoke, the symbol
announcing a new pope, rose above the Sistine Chapel.  Tens of thousands were there waiting in the
rain for the news.  Curiosity was
abundant.  There had been much
speculation about who the new pope would be and now, we were to finally find
out.  The questions were about whether or
not he would be a Vatican “insider.” 
Would he be from Europe as were most of the former popes or would he be
from another continent?  Would he be
younger than popes of the past?  Would he
possess a conservative or a more liberal theological perspective?  The questions and speculation were endless
and went on for weeks.  There was only
one question no one was asking.  Would
the new pope be a man?

This same week of
March there were at least two specials, one on 60 Minutes and one on Good
Morning America about a new book that had just been released by the COO of
Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.  When asked if she was trying to reignite the
feminist movement she said “yes.” 
She gave the statistic that only 4% of the Fortune 500 companies were
led by women and that women still only made 70 cents to the dollar that men
make.  “The woman’s movement has
stalled.” she said.

This year is also
the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, her
book being the reason many attribute to the beginning of the woman’s
movement. 

Whether or not you
consider yourself a feminist you cannot deny that the role of women here in the
United States and in many civilized parts of the world, has changed.  Many would argue it has not been for the
better.  Many would argue women have only
begun to make inroads into being the dynamic influential presence they need to
be in order to bring more balance and compassion into our universe.  It seems to be a topic with many emotional
ties and not a simple one.  Women’s roles
in the Catholic Church have always been a topic of discussion and
controversy.  Change comes very slowly to
my church but with the election of Pope Francis, I have renewed hope. 

In the short time
he has been pope, the one word that is repeated most often is
“humility.”  His first act
after being elected was to ask the throngs waiting in the rain to see him and
to hear him was to ask for their prayers. 
Stories abound about his association with the poor, not just in name but
in deed.  He cares deeply about his
people, us the church.  His theology is
conservative. There will not be any
changes made to the church’s stand on the sacredness of life from the womb to
the tomb.  I can guarantee that.  But, perhaps with his humility he will be
more encompassing of the role of women in our church and see them as not just
holding a place of service but also deserving a place of leadership. I once
heard someone say that Jesus Christ was one of the earliest feminists.  He promoted the ethical treatment of all
people without regard to their status, race or sex. 

My thirteen year
old grandson asked his mom if I was a feminist. 
The word feminist was said with a tone of derision.  “Why” she asked. He told her it had
been explained to him that feminists hate men. 
Thank heavens for the wisdom of my daughter.  “Yes” she answered, “grandma
is a feminist.  I am a feminist.  Your step-father and your grandfather are
feminists.”  She went on to explain
that a feminist doesn’t hate men.  A
feminist promotes the well being of all people regardless of their gender.

I received the message
at an early age that I needed to be responsible for myself.  I needed to be independent.  It was before the feminist movement but it
was clear to me that I needed to find a way to care for myself. A married life,
if I married, of total domesticity would tie me to the success or failure of
another and of that relationship.  Many
women have suffered devastating losses because they did not take any steps to
create a life whereby they could care not only for themselves but perhaps for
others that might come to depend on
them. 

I clearly
remember reading The Feminine Mystique. 
It was a time before the Internet, before Oprah Winfrey and Doctor Phil.
I had just had a baby and quit my teaching job (not in that order) when we
moved to Norwich, NY, a town of 7000 people. 
I knew no one and I was lonely. I was lonely and I couldn’t figure out
why I was struggling.  I had, I believed,
everything I needed.  The baby was
healthy, I was healthy.  My husband was
kind and generous and we were beginning a whole new life.  Help! 
I think if I had already read Ms. Friedan’s book, I would have wondered
if my sense of frustration was created because of it but I had not.  When I read it, I knew she had written some
of it just for me.  I was not alone.  It gave me some comfort and a sense of
hope. 

I read that most
men today want their wives to work.  They
want them to bring in another income. 
The days of Leave it to Beaver, Dick VanDyke or even the more recent,
Raymond are gone.  The main issue however
is that women are still the main caregivers for the children and the home.  It’s a heavy load and I don’t have any easy
answers for how to lighten the burden other than to choose a partner who will
willingly do their share.  I am in awe of
any single parent who manages not only to balance all their responsibilities
but guides their children to successful, productive lives. 

I know there are
young women out there who never think about the opportunities they now have as
being hard won by women and men before them but they were hard won.  If it weren’t for their efforts, we wouldn’t
have women physicians, scientists, politicians, and attorneys.  It needs to be remembered there are women in
third world countries who are very aware of the opportunities available to
women in other parts of the world and they can only dream about them.   

Sheryl Sandberg’s
book and Betty Friedan’s book lead women to believe they can have it all.  I hope that’s true.  I hope it’s true too that with the
installation of Pope Francis my church, the Catholic Church will finally
recognize what it has been missing all these centuries.  They haven’t uplifted at least half of their
population, the women of their church so many of whom are keeping the faith
alive and vibrant.  Yes, I am a
feminist.  I’d like to see women
priests.  Id like to see a woman
pope.  I’d like to see women being
treated with respect and dignity and women having the same opportunities as
anyone else.  Who knows, if my wishes are
granted maybe I’ll even get to one day see a woman become president of the
United States.

Savoring Joy

Affirmation: I savor all the joyful experiences of my
life.

I have read that
most people remember their negative or sad experiences better than they
remember their positive, happy experiences. According to the article we have a
tendency to dwell on the negative and sad and to barely notice the joyful
experiences therefore, not fully absorbing them. The advice given was that we
take more notice of the uplifting events; that we let them soak into our
cellular structure by savoring them, not letting them slip by unvalued.

Recently, I
adopted the tool of each morning writing out three joys experienced the day
before.  The practice is helping me pay
closer attention to what enhances the quality of my life.  I notice those things that make me smile and
make a mental note.  Then by writing them
out the next day  I’m recording them
not only on paper but in my heart. 

My mother-in-law
turned 92 this year. Have you ever wondered what you’d be like in your
old age, or if you’ll
even have an old age? (That’s
a whole other topic.) My mom, Margaret is 90 this year.

My
mother-in-law is named Yolanda. They both live independently and are lucky
enough to live in adult communities that offer not only a myriad of services
but easy access to community. They are also in very good health.  I visit my mom regularly.  Getting old is not for the faint of
heart.  It can be a very difficult time
of life.  I often wonder what that will
be like for me.  I’ve been taking note of
how different people approach what appears to be the same situation.  I’m taking notes with the hope that I will
learn how to maintain my sense of joy and adventure.  Is it a deep abiding faith?  Is it cellular, once an optimist, always an
optimist?  Is it being able to review
your life and value, truly value, all you’ve accomplished?

My husband and I
usually travel to see Yolanda for her birthday. I spend the time soaking in the
joy that Yolanda eludes. She counts her birthday cards and reads each one to us
and tells us about the people who sent them, if we don’t already know them. If
we do know them, she tells us about them anyway. She tells us how wonderful
they all are. How kind and talented and smart they are. It’s such fun to
listen to her take pleasure in her family and friends. She’s one of the most
non-judgmental, unconditionally loving people I have ever met. I’ve been blessed by
having her for a mentor and a friend. I’ve
learned so much from this woman who readily accepted me as her daughter simply
because her son loved me.

We moved away from
the New York area very soon after her first granddaughter was born. Melissa was
six weeks old and we moved to a farm town five hours away. They must have been
so unsettled by our decision. But, they never let on, neither she nor Sandy’s dad, Joe. They
simply showed up any chance they got bringing home cooked meals and gifts
galore. I was young. I was a little defensive about keeping my own space, my
own house and I didn’t
fully appreciate what a gift I was being given. 
Now, a grandmother myself I fully appreciate all she and Sandy’s father
did for us.

She now lives in
Savannah. She moved there right before her 90th birthday. We drove
her to the airport; she got on a plane and began a whole new life. I was in
awe. I can only hope that when I’m
90 I will have the gumption to make a lifestyle change.

There are so many
lessons to learn about life from Yolanda. She has a deep abiding faith.  She loves people; they are usually good and
kind and generous, according to her. 
She’s lived a rich life caring for her family and pursuing a
career.  Her whole view of life is
flavored with love: love of God, love of family and friends, love of memories,
love of being alive each and every day. 
I’m
sure you have people in your life from whom you too have learned a lot. But,
one of the lessons I took away from
sharing Yolanda’s celebrations with her was how important it is to savor the
joys of our lives and to absorb them. I believe it will color our attitude, our
health, our quality of life not only now but for the rest of our lives and then
maybe we too can be 90 or 92 or 100+ and giggle and enjoy all the wonderful
moments and celebrations of our lives.

Let Go of Worry

Affirmation:  I let go of worry.
She just announced she’s going to Cuba.  It’s not her first trip.  She’s gone there before.  My first thought is “She is so brave.”  My second thought is “I hope she has a safe trip.”  My third thought goes to my greatest fear, “I hope she’s not abducted by a band of rebel guerrillas and made to traipse through the jungle where she gets all wrinkled and dies ugly.”  Worry.  I’m already worrying about her safety and for that matter, my safety and I’m not even going.  

My mediation reading this morning was about worry.  It said worrying about something was akin to having a headache and banging your head against a wall to get rid of it.  I can be an active headbanger but I have decided to stop worrying.  I have decided to give up worry for Lent. Do you think that’s possible?  

The famous comedienne George Burns once did a whole routine about worry.  He said he gave up worry when he realized how futile it was.  “It serves no purpose to worry about something you can’t do anything about and if you’re worried about something you can do something about, well just go do it!”  

My paternal grandmother developed Alzheimer’s at a very young age.  She died at the age of 72.  I believe they first started to notice a change in behavior at the age of 55.  I now bring communion for my church to an Alzheimer’s unit.  Most of the residents are women.  I began worrying about getting Alzheimer’s when I first heard it could be hereditary.  I was in my early 30’s.  I even considered getting some sort of long term care health insurance.  I shared my concern with my young teenage daughter.  Her response, “Oh, Mom, that’s so silly.  By the time your that age, they’ll have a cure for it.”  I stopped worrying.  She was wrong, but it didn’t matter.  I was able to let it go.

Worry can permeate our lives like a cancer, slowly growing without our ever recognizing the detrimental affect it is having.  Not only does it undermine our sense of peace but physically it causes the body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol. It is natural to be concerned about our lives but there is a difference between concern and obsession.  Once we become obsessed with a concern we are in a place that won’t allow us to clearly view our situation, we become muddled.  It truly is a useless exercise, waisting so much of our precious energy. Sometimes, however, all the positive thinking in the world will not decrease your anxiety.  There is a condition known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder and it is treatable with medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.  It’s not always just in our mind, sometimes it’s chemical and in order to turn things around, one may need some additional assistance.  

 

Last week a meteor, the size of a school bus, 10,000 tons with the power of an atomic bomb, landed in Russia.  A number of people died. There were numerous videos of it streaking across the early morning skies.  It appears all the cars in Russia have cameras on them to record any accident that takes place.  The cameras are designed to act as a third, impartial witness.  I couldn’t help wonder how many people that day were worrying about an asteroid landing on them? In my husband’s book, Humanity at Work, he tells the story of the fish and the pelican. There’s the fish swimming along watching out for the barracuda or some other predator when along comes a pelican and swoops it up, a creature from another universe totally foreign to the fish’s world.  We have no idea what life is going to present us with, a meteor or perhaps a pelican. I felt like a meteor landed on my life when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999.  I know I speak for many when I say that many of the physical diagnosis we receive come as total shocks.  Sometimes they are conditions we have never even heard about.  We may not even be able to pronounce them or perhaps we have heard about them but never considered they would affect us.  Truly, if we really wanted to worry all the time, I’m sure we could make up lots of stuff.  Actually, most of our worries are fantasy driven because we can never know what the future will bring, we can only guess. Let go of your concerns for the future, focus on the now.  

This is one of the wonderful side effects of prayer and mediation.  When we have a practice that brings us back to the present, we can use it in times of concern to recognize we have jumped off into the unknown and to bring ourselves back to the here and now.  Prayer and the belief in a benevolent God can bring great peace.

In Conversation with God, Father Francis Fernandez addresses the passage from Matt 6:34, Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. He goes on to say, “What matters is today. Worry magnifies the difficulties and diminishes our ability to fulfill the duty of the present moment. We can live only in the present. Anxieties almost always arise because we fail to put all our effort into the here and now.” If we believe we will be given the graces we need in order to contend with anything that crops up. We will be victorious! 

Perhaps with continued practice, I will let go of worry.  Perhaps I will even be able to celebrate in my friend’s trip to Cuba and instead of feeling anxious about it, send her along with heartfelt blessings and a vision of a wonderful adventure.   

Rising with Christ

Affirmation: I know by meditating on Jesus throughout
my day, I am in union with the Divine, miracles are created and without
struggle my life is transformed in ways beyond my imagination.

Lent is upon us. As I write this Ash Wednesday has passed. Lent is
one of my favorite times of the year.  In
the Catholic tradition, ashes are smeared on one’s forehead in the sign of a
cross with the words, “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt
return.” Genesis 3:19.   It is a
reminder of our mortality and of the promises of Christ of our life to come.
Lent in the Catholic faith is the time to prepare for the death and most
importantly, the miraculous resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Wow!
What a story! And, we are called to travel with Him on His journey. We are
called to stay present to the time, the season, the death and the rebirth. It’s
a time that takes many of us out of the depths of “winter” and into the
fullness of “spring.”

One of the challenges offered to us during Lent is to make it a
time of sacrifice. We are encouraged to deny ourselves and to do works of
mercy. Oh, I don’t think it has to be any great effort but we are called to do
something so that we are more aware of the 46 days; so we stay more present to
the Lenten season. It’s a gift we give ourselves.
 

If you grew up with this concept of Lent, you know the first
question most people are asked about their Lenten practice is, “What are you
giving up for Lent?” While I understand it is a season of fasting and
abstinence, it’s also a time to rest in the Lord, to take time to listen to
God’s voice, to the voices of our Angels and Guides. It’s a time to share those
things that are truly precious to me; my time, talent and treasure. It’s a time
to plant some seeds and to tend to them so they may produce the flowers and
fruits of love and joy. Now, that is something that takes quite a bit of
guidance. What needs to do be done to create such a bountiful harvest?

Several years ago, Father Emmanuel from Africa gave the Ash
Wednesday homily. He had a very eastern approach to Lent. He said he had
watched our American culture take on more, do more and struggle more during
Lent and he wondered if maybe we shouldn’t consider “doing less.” Doing less!!
Oh my, now that’s a self-discipline I might find very difficult to embrace. I
like to “do.” I like to be busy, busy, busy. I like to think I’m making a
difference in the world. I’m contributing; I’m making the world a better place
to live. And now, I am being challenged to do less.  At another time another visiting African
priest also presented the concept of doing with less.  This time he suggested we fast not only from
food but from the internet, the TV, radio and newspapers.  Instead of focusing on worldly events, he
suggested we use all that free time to connect to God.

How can denial and service be a gift we give ourselves? Well, it
takes 40 days to develop a habit and this type of exercise can be seen as an
opportunity. I know many people who use the Lenten sacrifice as a time to diet.
I can’t count the number of people who have shared with me that they give up
chocolate or sugar. Maybe that’s worked well for them. Perhaps every time they
have that craving, they find themselves more present to Christ and his
sacrifice. But, besides a restrictive diet, we need to take up the badge of
service, find something we can do for another. There are so many in such dire
straits right now. How can I be of more service than I already am? Maybe I need
to go through the house and give up a few coats and other items of clothing.
One of my dear friends is always reminding me that someone else could be using
the items I have left untouched for months and in some cases, years. Perhaps,
it’s a time for me to be a prayer warrior. How can I add more prayer to my daily
practice especially for those most in need? Maybe I can send a note or make a
call once or twice a week to friends I haven’t touched base with in a while? I
can pray for them, offer up a day for them, and send them a visible sign of my
love, like a note or a card, even an email might work. I’m sure you can think
of many other ways to give back.
 

And, what can I give up? What new habit can I develop over the
Lenten season that won’t simply reduce my waistline but will add to the quality
of my life, my life and hopefully the lives of all those I touch? I decided to
give up ingratitude. Ingratitude is defined in the dictionary as “forgetfulness
or poor return for kindness received.” A synonym is “thanklessness.”

I live a life full of abundant blessings. I am a very lucky woman.
I am loved by my family and have many wonderful friends. I need and want
nothing. I am beyond lucky and extremely grateful. I am safe, secure, and
healthy. But, every so often envy slips into my psyche. I’m admitting it. I can
still find myself listening to or watching others and wonder what I did wrong.
Why didn’t I make that choice; why didn’t I travel that path; why do their
lives appear so easy, so full? Sometimes it’s little things that I find myself
dwelling on and other times, it’s some major issue. But, that doesn’t serve me
or anyone else. Whether I give credit to God, to fate or to my own hard work
for the life I now live, being ungrateful is plain wrong. By giving up
ingratitude I found myself noticing when I undermine my own happiness and I
stop and let it go. Perhaps by letting go of ingratitude for 46 days, I’ll
develop a new habit. Maybe by the end of Lent, I will rise too, to a new
awareness, a new way of thinking about my life; a way that brings me and those
in my life, a sense of greater peace and joy.

I have accepted the challenges presented to me for this season and
have decided that with my “free” time, I will pray more and I will listen
harder. I believe that with these steps in practice, I  open myself to God’s grace and move forward
in whatever direction I am led. I’ve decided not to be in charge but am hoping
that by focusing on my faith, on my relationship with Christ, I will be led to
that place where it’s not up to me how I use my time, treasure and talent, but
up to God and that with the guidance of my Angels and Guides in those quiet
moments, I will be used as their instrument.

This is my Lenten practice.

Nurturing Relationships

Affirmation: My friends bless my life, I accept them as
they are and treasure their relationships with me.

I like people. When I’ve taken the Meyers Briggs Personality Test,
I come out evenly between the introvert and the extrovert. The test doesn’t
tell you how well you relate to people, but whether or not you get energy from
being with people or being alone. The goal is to find a middle ground. For me,
I need some of both and the challenge can be finding that balance.
 
 
I remember when I was in graduate school getting my Masters in
Social Work. My very first course was taught by a dynamite young woman. She was
so energetic and knowledgeable. It was a fun and interesting course. She came
in one day and it was immediately noticeable to me that she was not her usual
self. She went on to teach the class. It was a three hour class. As the class
progressed, she seemed to be feeling better. Her energy level seemed to be
rising and she seemed to be enjoying the process more and more. When the class
ended, I took the time to chat with her and I asked her how she was feeling.
She told me she felt great but that when she had first arrived for the class,
she had a migraine headache. Teaching the class had helped her eliminate the
headache.
 
I, too, am a migraine sufferer. I’ve had a few “doozies.” I can
tell you, standing in front of a classroom for three hours and teaching would
not be the way for me to eradicate a headache. I need medication and a dark,
quiet room. I decided there and then, this woman was getting her energy in a
very different way than I was. She’s probably a high level extrovert.
 
I work very hard at staying connected to my family and friends. I
know how important it is for my psychological and physical well-being. It’s
easier sometimes than others. I seem to be able to putter around the house
forever. I love a day when I have nothing scheduled and I get to go about town
doing my errands and perhaps stopping somewhere fun for a quiet lunch and an
opportunity to people watch.
 
Sometimes I fall into the trap of finding fault with my family and
my friends. But, how does that improve the quality of my life? If I’m finding
fault with them, what are they thinking about me, if they’re thinking anything
at all? I want to simply enjoy my relationships, even those casual ones that
come from interacting with people who are working to help me with all my
different projects and errands. I want to like and to appreciate everyone. I
know that isn’t feasible but I can make an effort.
 
When I heard the story about an elderly woman’s funeral who had
kept a Prayer Pouch, I was intrigued.  It
appears she had only lived in her new community a short while but was very
involved in the lives of all those with whom she interacted.  When people shared a concern, she would write
it out and put it in her Prayer Pouch. She then made an effort to reconnect
with the person to see how they were doing. Her funeral, I was told, had people
from every phase of her life; they were from the grocery store, the deli, the
church and the restaurants she frequented. 
She was described to me as a saint because of her positive effect on the
world.  She was a missionary in her own
part of the world.  She cared and so
people cared about her.
 
Relationships can be a tricky thing. I think most of our problems
and issues relate to our relationships. There have certainly been a million
books about them and how to improve them or deal with them, or understand them.
Some of the most famous TV shows revolved around relationships: Seinfeld, All
in the Family, Raymond and my favorite, The Golden Girls.  How do you do with your relationships? Are
you more at ease with strangers or in your family circle? 
 
I’ve been married a long time, almost 43 years at this writing.
Every so often, my husband, Sandy, speaks about his “good friend” and then he
gives me a name. I cannot tell you how many times I have not had a clue who the
person is that he has mentioned. One day, I asked him how come he thought of so
many people as being his “good friend.” He told me, he chose to think of them
that way. He chose to think about and refer to many of his acquaintances as
good friends. Sandy is an unusual man in many ways but one quality he has which
I have been told by friends that their husbands do not have, is he has a huge
range of friends and he does a remarkable job of keeping in touch with most of
them. I loved the idea that he also claimed them as his good friends. Why not?
How we think about others is very often how they think about us. I believe it
must be very unusual to have someone in our lives that we dislike that likes
us.
 

I’ve had my struggles. I try hard to get along with everyone but I
find some to be easier than others. I have a friend who refers to herself as a
“low maintenance” friend. It’s the truth isn’t it? Some people we simply flow
along with, others are often trying to pull us upstream. In Conversation with God, the author talks about
“affability.” He says it’s not a trait most pay attention to but when it’s
missing, it’s always noticeable.  It’s
defined as the ability to be kind, pleasant and gracious. I have found one way
to appreciate people is to simply accept them for the way they are, not to
judge. I value the people in my life and along with valuing them, offer up
prayers for their well-being and for that of their loved ones. If I choose to
believe my friends bless my life, they will. If I choose to believe they are
draining my energy and causing me angst that too will be true. Once again, it
depends on me and the way I choose to think. I want to be affable to all the
people in my life and I hope they will respond in kind.

http://www.santocosta.com/

Embracing Adventure

Affirmation:  I am a bold adventuress.

This is a
very clear example of creating an affirmation to change the way I want to
think.   I want to believe with all my
heart that I am not afraid of most things, especially an “adventure.”  There are all types of adventures some we
choose and some which are chosen for us. 
I don’t care; I want to embrace every one of them.  I want to embrace every aspect of life and I
think most of life is that which happens between our plans and usually that
requires a sense of adventure.  Perhaps
being a daring adventurer requires all those skills I’ve worked on over the
years and have in my “tool box?”

It seems
to me an adventurer or adventuress needs to be flexible. My husband and I were
on our way to a vacation and it required us to fly there.  We were meeting our daughter and future
son-in-law in the Caribbean.  I’ve come
to believe anytime flying is involved, some sort of adventure will present
itself and all the survival skills I’ve been practicing over the years will be
needed to finish the journey.  On this
particular occasion I was right.  It
seemed anything that could delay a flight, delayed our flight from a malfunctioning de-icer to a sick passenger, to mechanical difficulties.  There we sat going nowhere.  After a three hour delay, we took off.  If there were a miracle we would make our next
flight.  There might have been one but we
weren’t aware of it.  We missed the next
flight by 20 minutes. All of the flights the next day were full.  They could send us through Puerto Rico and
then onto our final destination.  We’d
arrive, hopefully, 12 hours after our original time.

The
greatest loss I experienced with cancer was the loss of my intuition.  I always trusted I knew, without reason, what
was going to happen.  I had had many life
experiences when I knew ahead of time how things were going to work out even
when no one else could see it.  When the
word “cancer” was first mentioned to me, it didn’t register.  I had no forewarning.  I couldn’t imagine what they were talking
about.  I didn’t believe them.  The poor physician who first uttered
“breast cancer” to me, I just about attacked him.  What did he know?  That was ridiculous!  I knew he was wrong.  They weren’t wrong and there I was going on
an adventure I hadn’t chosen and of which I’d never even dreamed. 

I’d
always worked hard to be healthy.  I
exercised, I gave up smoking, I only drank alcohol periodically and I really
did try to eat healthily.  After the
cancer treatments were discontinued I began to look at more modalities I could
enlist to stay healthy. I’ve spoken with many people who go searching for those
things that will keep disease at bay.  It
doesn’t have to be cancer.  It can be
heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure.  The list is long.  Sometimes I hear about ailments that only a
tiny portion of the population ever experience and hope that I never have to
deal with something so rare but rare or not, there’s always that tiny,
sometimes not so tiny, voice that is questioning what is going on inside my
body that I have no knowledge of and of which I have no control over.  Oh, I’m trying to control it.  That’s what all those extra measures for
staying healthy are all about, vegan eating, no alcohol, exercise every day,
take my vitamins and have my yearly screenings. 
It’s my attempt to keep illness at bay, to trick myself into believing I
have control over what’s going on but I don’t really, do I?  Certainly, I can do all within my ability but
after that, who really knows?

My
husband handed me a short story about a young man who was so anxious about his
health that he had stopped living.  It
revolved around an older professor and his assistant.  After the professor listened to his young
friend’s concerns, he went to tell him about his great-grandfather.  His great grandfather had had all sorts of
health ailments, including losing an arm in one of the wars but he wasn’t as
concerned with disease and death as he was with living.  He had a zest for life and it couldn’t be
dimmed.  He wasn’t going to go quietly
into the night and if he did, he was going to go with the vast, colorful
memories of a life well lived. 

Balance
is another skill I’ve worked on over the years. 
In yoga you normally have one or two balance poses you practice in every
session.  There is a balance between
living recklessly and living so small that you might as well already be
dead.  That’s where being an adventurer
or adventuress comes in.  It’s deciding
to embrace the experience whatever it is or whenever it presents itself.  

As we
boarded the second plane to Puerto Rico a petite blonde women came and sat in
the window seat next to me.  I don’t
remember how the conversant started, probably with just a nod and a hello, like
so many casual meetings.  We exchanged a few
niceties about where we were going and why. 
I on vacation with my family, she returning to one of her two homes, one
in Majorca and one in Antigua.   She
lived on a ship.  It was being restored
in English Harbor, Antigua.  It was a
classic and she invited me to come see it. 
The name?  The Adventuress. 

We took
one day from the delights of the resort and headed out to see some of the
island.  We finally reached English
Harbor.  I guess I wasn’t really thinking
about how to find her ship, I thought I’d just ask.  There were hundreds of ships in the
harbor.  After a while and a few
questions a delightful young man offered us a ride in his Zodiac.  He thought the ship at the very end of the
other side of the harbor might be the one we were looking for.  Off we went. 
Yes, it was her ship, The Adventuress. 
No, she was nowhere to be found but with the mention of her name, we
were invited aboard for a short tour.  It
was stunning and certainly something far removed from my realm of
experience.  I’ve not been on a lot of
sailing ships.  In fact the person who
gave us the tour was the “sail master.”  I didn’t even know there was such a title. 

I kept
thinking about my intention to be grateful for all things at all times.  If we hadn’t missed our flight, I never would
have met the owner of The Adventuress. 
Once again I was faced with the belief that if I’d just relax, trust and
rest in God’s infinite care, I’d be so much happier, so much calmer.  Perhaps I’d even begin to trust my instinct
again.  Perhaps I’d be able to see the
adventure thrust on me with the onset of breast cancer.  Maybe if I could embrace that aspect of the
diagnosis, the one that lets me see all of life as an adventure, maybe then I
could finally fully claim the intention I’ve had for so very long, “I am a
bold adventuress.”  I’m not afraid
to fully live life and with that, perhaps, like the old man in the story, I’ll
go to my death with the vast colorful memories of a well lived life. 

You Can Change the World

Affirmation:  All
things are possible through God.

Forty
women were present at the weekend retreat. 

The
command was “Women of God, you are called to change the world.”  I panicked. 
Maybe now would be a good time for me to run out of the room.

I’m
working hard enough trying to be the best me possible or somedays I’m working
on simply accepting myself just as I am. 
I really couldn’t imagine being responsible for the entire world.  I’ve felt responsible for my entire world for
years, my family, friends and community. 
It’s a daunting exercise and now here I am being told, not asked, but
told I am being called to take on the entire world. 

Yes, I
believe the world needs help.  I believes
it needs to change.  It doesn’t take much
awareness to know our world is very troubled and sad.  I pray daily for wisdom for our world
leaders, a prayer introduced to me by a friend of long ago and I pray daily for
world peace.  Can you imagine how
different life would be were we all at peace with one another?  At the least maybe they’d take away the
security lines at the airport and we could leave on our shoes, belts and
watches. 

“Let
there be peace and earth and let it begin with me.  Let there be peace on earth a peace that was
meant to be.” We sing this song often in church, The Prayer of Saint
Francis.  My dear friend and guide,
Valerie Kelly, use to emphasize the need for more feminine energy in the world
and how much better off the world would be with a stronger female
presence.  I would hope that if we have
not moved too far away from our feminine selves, women running the world would
lead to a kinder, more nurturing place and people.  I believe most women are very protective of
the greatest product of their lives and would do all in their power to prevent
sending their children off to suffer war and perhaps to die. 

At the Not
So Big Life Workshop
, Sarah Susanka encouraged us to “run towards
those things” of which we are afraid. 
She suggested some of our greatest learning experiences would come from
not retreating from that which repels us. 
I took a deep breath and decided to continue with the church program for
which I had registered.  After eight
weeks of study, a weekend retreat was being presented and I decided to go all
the way and see what other life lessons might come my way. 

The
number of women who had taken the time and made the effort to attend this
event, made me realize how much need there is for women to spiritually feed
ourselves and to join forces.  I had
decided not to worry about the command to “save the world” but
instead to allow the richness of the rest of the program’s material and the
power of the women’s spirit to empower and nurture me.  Our first speaker was Theresa Davis. 

There she
stood a tiny woman perhaps in her late 70’s or early 80’s ready to share with
us the secret of leading a rich, powerful life. 
She had been with the lay ministry Madonna House for fifty seven years
and as she spoke, I felt the walls around my heart fall.  Her manner of sharing did not cause me to
erect any protective barriers. I had no resistance to her.  I just wanted to absorb all she had to
share.  It was a very unusual response
for me.  I must confess to being quite a
skeptic, always questioning but not this morning.  This morning when Theresa’s time was up, the
whole group moaned, “no, let her continue.”  She too was calling us, the women of God, to
change the world but not by ourselves, together and by allowing God to work in
and through each of us.  “Yes”
I thought, “all things are possible with God.” 

Theresa
went on to say that we are all being called to become saints.  Oh, no! 
I was just getting my head around “saving the world” and now,
I need to also become a saint!  Being a
cradle Catholic I’m somewhat familiar with many of the saints and I am here to
tell you, they did not have an easy time of it. 
The saints of old were tortured and killed.  Many appeared just plain crazy, hearing the
voice of God and going off to do really weird stuff.  Our most recent saint, Mother Teresa had a
very difficult life.  The women and men
of her order only posses a few worldly items: a sari, a bucket and a thin
mattress.  Certainly, she made the world
a better place and I am in awe of her and her works but I like the comforts of
home.  I like bathing in a tub or shower
and not using a bucket and I really like my bed, and my clothes.  No, sainthood is not something I’d ever had
on my radar.  But, Theresa Davis was not
going to let me off so easily.  Her words
and her tone had already drawn me to her and now she was going to give me a few
tools to help lead me down a holier path. 
The first tool was being present to “the duty of the
moment.”  So simple, so very
difficult. 

The call
of every spiritual discipline I have ever studied or read about is, “be
present to the moment.”  Live
consciously!  Theresa shared that
“God is only present in the moment.” 
Then came the second step towards sainthood. She echoed Mother Teresa’s
famous saying, “Do little things with great love.”  Again, so simple and yet so very
difficult.  Finally, she extolled us to
live more simply.  The question was,
“What’s holding you back? What is the baggage you are lugging
around?”  I immediately thought this
was going in the direction of the sari, bucket and thin mattress but no, it was
way harder than that. Our “baggage” Theresa said, was our: anger,
resentments, pride, self-deceit, envy and greed.  I immediately wanted to grab that bucket and
just go with that.  This was way more
difficult.  Yes, difficult but certainly
well worth working towards.  Certainly a
project which I’m sure God would like to be involved. 

My faith
teaches that once we die and enter into heaven, we all become saints.  I think this is a good thing because while I
want to do my part to “save the world” and I’m willing to accept that
I’m being called to be a “saint,” the probability of my achieving
these feats even with God’s help seems to me quite slim.  So, on days when I’m simply trying to accept
myself as I am, I’ll know there’s great hope for me, for all of us, in the
future, in the afterlife. 

Finding Your Joy

Affirmation:  I intentionally choose those things that bring me joy.

As I write this it’s the beginning of January.  My friend, Ann Baucom, a wise and gifted woman, once told me January was her favorite time of the year.  She loved the opportunity to slow down and stay in because she could look at the long range view of the months in front of her and plan her life.  She was very deliberate about what was important to her and what brought her peace and joy and she took the cold, dreary month of January to envision all those opportunities that she could create to nurture herself.  She presented to me a very different view of the long dark month than I had previously experienced.  Certainly, I had used the opportunity of a new year to make plans and to set intentions but I hadn’t really embraced sitting with my dreams for the upcoming year and appreciated the month as a time of gestation for those dreams to grow.  

I love to rise before the sun.  In Clyde Edgerton’s book Walking Across Egypt he writes about how Matti Rigsbee rises before dawn and sits outside as the blackness becomes gray and then light.  He describes how this is her favorite time of day.  She relishes the new day and awaits the gifts it will bring with it.  It’s one of my favorite passages.  I could feel her peace and joy as she waited for the light of day to seep through the darkness and wash away the night.  I once had the opportunity to go to one of Clyde’s readings and was delighted to hear him read the very same passage I so loved.   That description completely changed my perception of how I perceived the beginning of a perfect day, rise before the sun, make a cup of tea, light a candle or in the colder months, a fire.  Sit quietly, pray, write, breathe and go gently, softly into the day.  The way I choose to begin my day flavors the way I live that day. The way I begin my year, flavors the way I live that year.  It’s not very different, a dark morning opening into light of day or a dark month opening into a new year.

If we begin something, a day, a year, a job, a marriage, a project with an sense of excitement and joyous expectation does that make a difference in how that something proceeds?  In the book The Joy of Appreciative Living, Jacqueline Kelm recommends 3 steps that can be implemented in order to increase one’s sense of joy.  The first step is to write daily three gratitudes.  The second step is to think of one thing every day that will bring you joy and the third step is to take fifteen minutes once a week to imagine your ideal life.  The premise of the book is that if you do these exercises for 28 days, your level of happiness will increase and even if you then stop doing the exercises, your will maintain a higher level of joy than when you began the process.  After beginning the program I was driving home one evening right at sunset and the sky was breathtakingly beautiful.  “One gratitude to write tomorrow.” I told myself.  I would have appreciated it even if I wasn’t in the process of increasing my joy but I wouldn’t have made a mental note to remember it.  It was the difference between capturing the image and just noticing it in passing.  I realized I had begun to look for moments of joy to record and that simple process was making me happier. 

Shaun Achor has a short TED video on You Tube about using this process for your job.  It was originally sent to a dear special-education teacher friend of mine by her principal.  She told me looking for three gratitudes each day had the same effect on her as it did on me.  Certainly, looking for joy has got to be a better approach to improving the quality of one’s life the looking for sadness or worse.  One need not only look forward for joy.  You get to choose what you focus on in the past.  As part of a healing process my chiropractor, Joanne Noel in Chapel Hill, NC had me “reframe” an upsetting memory which she felt had twisted my body in ways I knew hurt but didn’t fully recognize.  “Why choose to focus on a painful memory.” she said, “Let’s change it or better yet, delete it like an unwanted, useless email.”  

Then there’s step two and three from The Joy of Appreciative Living.  For many years I’ve kept a small Hallmark Calendar in my daily journal.  Each morning i record one thing that brought me joy and one thing that I did to help another.  This concept of planning it was new to me.  it reminded me of being on a successful diet. I’ve read where one step is to write down everything you eat but an even more powerful step is to plan what you’re going to eat.  With step two of The Joy of Appreciative Living I plan what I’m going to feed my spirit.
  

I love my life, however, I still have dreams and once again I am reminded of God’s bounty and of the truth that I cannot fathom the riches that can be found once we connect to the Divine.  Why wouldn’t I institute a practice that might raise my level of joy?  When I feel positive, joyful and happy I carry those emotions out into the world and while some may find them to be disarming, most seem to need and appreciate a smile, a warm greeting and even sometimes, a hug.  My ideal life always includes optimal health and I work hard to maintain that state.  I eat as well as I know how, I exercise daily, I take my vitamins and I don’t smoke or abuse my body.  I’m invested in “dying healthy.”  But, good health and an ideal life require more than care for the body, the body will cease to exist one day no matter how well I care for it.  I need to focus on the spirit too.  As in past “planning” January months I carefully considered what my ideal life would include.  I didn’t take on any resolutions but carefully crafted ten intentions.  

Pray Unceasingly
Forgive Continually
Accept and Give Love Freely
Hug Whenever Possible
Learn Constantly
Dance Often
Eat Mindfully
Recognize the Shadows
Smile Early, Laugh Daily
Be Grateful, Always and for All Things

I share them here with you so that you too may take the time to write down your ideal life.  So you too may craft some intentions that will bring more light and joy into your life and into the lives of all those you love and the lives of all those your life touches.