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Not if, When

Affirmation:  I know life will present many challenges and
I have a tool box filled with lots of helpful equipment.

 
The
conversation was about the chaotic state of my home because of a
renovation.  Oh, I fully recognized the
blessing of being able to perform a renovation but the project had now been
going on for months and was running much longer than had been estimated.

I was
tired.  Way too much energy was being
expended on this, not to mention money and I wanted to put my home back in
order.  The homeowner I was speaking with
had just completed building a house, not on her own but she was responsible for
all of the decisions and it was a beautiful home, the most stunning home I
could ever remember being in.  She
explained to me that one shouldn’t be asking themselves about the
“ifs” one might experience during the building process but one should
recognize that there would be “whens” and the real question was how
was one going to deal with them?  What
did one need to do to be prepared when issues would come along?
 
I am an
optimist by choice.  When someone tells
me something is going to go well and work out, I choose to believe them.  It’s not always the truth.  Stuff still happens but I haven’t focused on
what might go wrong. I am that person who creates positive affirmations.  I am that person who expects things to go
right. 
 
The
Buddhists say one should imagine the glass broken.  The Christians refer to the “practice of
faith” and the yogi studies a Klesha called raga which refers to an attachment to pleasure.  Whatever faith you look at they all have one
very important feature in common; they recognize that life is not a bowl of
cherries.  Life has pits and we should be
aware of that teaching.
 
The
question that arises is how does one prepare oneself for the difficulties life
will present? Certainly going around waiting for the next shoe to drop or for
the clouds to appear is not a very joyful way to live one’s life but we all
know stuff will come along, little things and difficult things with which we
will have to deal.
 
I am
someone who is all about maintenance.  I
was a great Girl Scout.  I try to always
be prepared.  If there is some step I can
take to hopefully make life easier or smoother, I will usually take it.  I am that person who gets her flu shot every
year.  I take my vitamins, especially
that calcium and fish oil and now extra vitamin D.  I brush and floss my teeth twice a day.  God forbid they should rot away and fall
out.  I exercise daily to keep everything
in good working order and to hopefully avoid becoming immobile and decrepit. I
am the person who buys travel insurance. 
I’m not worried about any of these things.  I just feel like if I can take steps to
insure my life goes along smoothly, I should. 
I have many friends who do not think like me.  I have one friend who has never gotten a flu
shot and as of this writing, has never gotten the flu.  Thank heavens!  I also have a friend who never does any
maintenance on her home.  I am always
looking around my house and trying to spiff it up before something drastic
happens, like an exploding hot water heater or an ant infestation or, well you
can probably add your own stuff to that list.
 
I have a
huge red tool box.  I mean I need all
those different type of screw drivers just in case the screw is a Phillips or a
Flat-head or it’s big or very tiny.  I
know many of you completely understand but my friend, she never does anything
to her home until it becomes some sort of an issue for her.  She cannot for the life of her understand why
I am always doing my best to forestall something in the home from becoming a
major investment.  I believe that if I
take care of it now, it’ll be a little problem rather than a huge one.  We just don’t agree but that’s ok.  We love one another anyway.  Unfortunately, the results of my maintenance
approach to life really doesn’t seem to make my life that much easier than her
life is for her.  Things I never even dreamed
would occur, occur.  So, the question is,
“How can I best prepare for the whens of life?  What tools do I have in life’s tool box for
when a screw comes loose or falls out and everything it’s been holding
together, falls apart?”
 
Pray,
it’s my first defense.  I believe in
answered prayer.  I don’t understand how
it works but I fully trust that it does.

Journal,
I write. It centers me and helps me see things more clearly.  It makes me calmer.

Exercise,
it is known to increase endorphins and reduce stress.  It doesn’t matter if you go to your mat to do
yoga or take a walk or go play golf.  It
takes you out of your routine and helps calm you.

Talk to a
friend or find a counselor.  Pick up the
phone or go visit a friend.  Don’t try to
go it alone.  Most people like to be
helpful and most of us need help to get through life’s challenges, sometimes
even the little ones.

Watch
something funny, laugh.

Give or
get a hug or two and finally, remember to Breathe.  Take a few deep breaths every so often and
don’t hesitate to sigh them out.  Even if
you haven’t fixed the entire problem with that deep breath, you’ve at least
released it for that moment and life really is about living one moment at a
time. 

Blessings Recognized

Affirmation:  I recognize
the blessings I receive when I share my time, treasure and talent with those in
need.

On two occasions during this October, 2013, my husband, Sandy
Costa was invited to be the Master of Ceremonies for the Ronald McDonald House
of Durham, NC.  The events began at 7:45
AM and lasted an hour.  A full breakfast
was served along with some of the most heartwarming and heart rendering stories
I have ever heard.  For me, the stories
that revolve around the struggle to live are always both inspirational and in
many cases achingly sad.  This event
revolves around the challenges being faced by children, little tiny ones and
their families and the service, the hope and the comfort that this organization
provides for them regardless of who they are or how much they have.  The Ronald McDonald House had set up these
two breakfasts, among other events, to give others the opportunity to be of
service to their residents and future residents.  They are giving people the opportunity to
reach out and to make a difference in the lives of someone who is suffering,
someone they probably do not even know.

The first event of the month was at The Tobacco Warehouse in
Durham and about 400 people attended. 
Sandy didn’t really say much to me about his role and he’s often invited
to speak to groups, both large and small so I didn’t pay a lot of attention to
his project.  Sometimes he speaks for a
fee but many times he speaks to simply be of service.  This, of course was an example of the
later.  I was pleased for him that he was
asked and to be given the opportunity but I didn’t attend.  Actually, he didn’t invite me and I wrote it
off as simply another of his speaking engagements.  Wow, did I get that one wrong!

He invited me to the second event held in Raleigh at the NC State
McKimmon Center.  A friend and pet
therapy volunteer, Ann Henderson, asked me to sit with her group of
invitees.  I was delighted to be
included.  Ann brought Bailey, her
wonderful warm friendly doggie.  The two
of them also visit my mom once a week at my mom’s assisted living
apartment.  It is the highlight of my
mom’s week.  So I can imagine how much
joy Ann and Bailey bring to the residents of The Ronald McDonald House.  They raised an amazing $260,000 during the
one hour breakfast.  Why?

Sandy wasn’t the only host. 
He had a co-host, Sosa.  Sosa is
thirteen.  She had on a black dress with
silver sequins across the top.  She
walked to that podium like she did it every day.  I was once told the second greatest fear
after death is speaking into a microphone. 
It was obvious Sosa had already conquered her 1st fear.  You can watch her at: Watch Sosa  She then started by apologizing for not
wearing the red sneakers with the orange laces that she had been given, her
Ronald McDonald sneakers.  “They
really don’t go with my outfit” she said. 
Then she shared what it meant to her and her family to have a place, The
Ronald McDonald House, to stay at while she was receiving her second bone
marrow transplant.  Her mother had slept
in their car for two months until space became available at “The
House.”

During the breakfast there were four other speakers, three sets
of parents and Oie Osterkamp, the director of the Durham Ronald McDonald
House.  There was also a video which
showed the journey of another teenage girl. 
I cried on and off throughout the entire program.  Who wouldn’t? 
Who can be among families who have undergone so much in an effort to
make sure their child survives and not be emotionally moved?  Obviously, not many of us.  When Sandy finally made the plea for money
the audience responded with generosity and caring.  The pledge card was not just for money.  It also included a section for visits and
volunteers.  They accept any help they
can get.  I have friends who shop for,
purchase and cook one meal a month for the entire RMH in Greensboro, NC.  Time, treasure and talent were all greatly
appreciated.

My experience has taught me that whenever I think I’m being
magnanimous and generous to someone or to some cause, I discover that I am the
receiver more than the giver.  It’s a
gift to me when someone invites me into their lives and permits me to be of
service.  The book I’m now reading, Catching
Fire, Becoming Flame
says our first responsibility is to be of service to
those who are less fortunate than we. 
Discovering what our gifts are and how we can best help another is
actually a responsibility.  We are called
to service.  We are called to help and
support one another.

If you watch the news we are led to believe we are not a caring
species.  The media almost never reports
on something uplifting and positive.  But,
Sandy and I are involved in many different charities and we know people both of
our church and of no church, who lead lives which epitomize the phrase
“giving back.”  It seems to me
if we watch our fellow man and woman carefully we will see we are a caring,
generous, even loving species.  We like
to help others.  We like to make a
positive difference in the lives of those around us, both those we know and in
the case of these two breakfasts, in the lives of complete strangers.  We must be an amazing group of beings.  These two events, two one hour events raised
over $400,000 and I am sure generated a lot of interest for volunteer
opportunities.  Most people want to help
others.  Sometimes it simply takes being
presented with an opportunity.  These two
events were a perfect example of creating an opportunity for people to feel
good about themselves by sharing their bounty with others.  For me, the blessing was to be included in my
husband’s caring spirit.  Actually, one
of my greatest blessings is that I am an integral part of Sandy’s generous
loving heart.

Winds Of Change

Affirmation:  I may not be right all the time but sometimes
I have some really good ideas. 

Several
years ago I took a work shop at Duke Integrative Medicine with Sarah
Susanka.  It revolved around her book, The
Not So Big Life
.  Sarah is an
architect who was one of the first people to present the concept of living in
smaller, more efficient homes.  She
encouraged people to use all their space and not to have a bigger footprint
than necessary but not to give up those things that add to the quality of a
home.  In fact, in her first book, The
Not So Big House
, she recommends adding special features to make small
space even more inviting, like round windows and rich warm woods and moving
walls.  I loved her first book and when
our study group, The Seekers, were ready for a new study we chose her book
about The Not So Big Life.  It
took us a long time to go through it.  It
is chocked full of self-discovery questions. 
When the workshop presented itself, it seemed like a natural fit.  Two of us went for the weekend.  It was the worst run workshops and yet it was
one of the most insightful workshops I ever attended.

 

Sarah had
what appeared to be a very general outline. 
There were about 50 people there and it was obvious from the start that
her approach was to simply let the presentation evolve.  We never saw the book.  She never mentioned the book. 

There are
guidelines for group events.  You can ask
any therapist.  The first thing you do is
assure everyone that they are safe in this group.  You do that by asking everyone to hold in
confidence whatever is shared during the time together.  That wasn’t done.  In fact, there wasn’t one guideline
mentioned.  It was never suggested that
those who like to talk give some thought and space to those who are
quieter.  It wasn’t mentioned that a
participant should only talk about their own experience and not lecture the
group about their expertise. There were no guidelines whatsoever.  Well, there was sort of one.  Don’t run away.  Go towards that which you want to go away
from.  I was ready to leave after the
first hour.  I also almost didn’t return
for the last day but I kept that one suggestion from her in my mind and hung in
there.  It was good advice. 

At one
point in the session a list was distributed. 
You were to read the list and circle the comments you have ever said to
yourself.  Comments like, “Boy, am I
stupid” or “I am such a loser” or “I am so
unattractive.”  I’m sure you get the
picture.  It was all the negatives things
we sometimes say to ourselves.  It was
very sad.  The list took up two columns
on a full page.  I was doing pretty well
with the self-talk list.  I hadn’t
circled anything when I came to, “I know how to do it” and “I’m
right.”  Well, yes!  I find myself saying that a lot.  What’s wrong with that?  I mean I had just been thinking how maybe
Sarah needed someone to help her run her workshops, someone like me who knew
how to structure such an event. “I know how to do it.”  Was that a problem?  How did that interfere with my life and my
relationships?  Then the light went
on. 

Who wants
to be around someone who always thinks they know the best way?  Who wants to be around someone who is always
right?  No one, that’s who.  What I perceived as strength was also one of
my greatest weaknesses.  It was an
epiphany!  It was a personality shadow on
which a light had just been shone. 

Now, I
try harder to let people do it their way, not mine and not to judge it as right
or wrong.  It’s just different.  I try harder to listen to other people’s
concepts and ideas and once again accept that they aren’t seeing things the way
I do but that’s ok too. But, sometimes I still look around and think I could
help an organization or two run better than they are running, like the government.  So, when I received this hoax email recently
I found myself agreeing with most of the suggestions presented.  If I ran the government, this is what I would
want to see happen.  This seems
right.  Well, it’s my government so in a
way I am responsible for its operation. 
I am sad to admit that considering the terrible state it’s presently
in.  But, even though Warren Buffet never
said what is written below, I support these ideas.  I’m sure they are right.  Our government needs to change and since I
like to tell people how to improve their organizational skills, I am sharing
this latest group of suggestions with my readers with the hope that maybe
together we can help congress to finally get it right.

Warren Buffet is asking each addressee to forward this email
to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those
to do likewise. At least 20 if you
can. It has to stop somewhere!

*Congressional Reform Act of 2013

1. No Tenure / No Pension. 
 
A  Congressman/woman
collects a salary while in office and receives no
pay when they’re out of office.
 

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in
Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the
Social Security

system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social
Security system and Congress participates with the American people. It may not
be used for any other purpose.

 
3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as
all Americans do.

 
4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.
Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and
participates in the same health care system as the American people.

 
6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on
the American people.

 
7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women
are void effective 12/31/13.

 
The American people did not make this contract with
Congressmen/women.

Congressmen/women made all these contracts for themselves.
Serving in Congress is an honor not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned
citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back
to work.

 
If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it
will only take

three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the
message.

Don’t you think it’s time?

THIS IS HOW

YOU FIX CONGRESS!

What do
you think?  I agree.  Do you think I’m right and I know how to do
it?  Maybe it’s OK once in a while to
share what I think are some really good ideas.

 

 

 

 

And Then the Wind Chime Rang

Affirmation:  When I practice an attitude of gratitude, I
let go of regret and disappointment.

My energy
was really low.  The house was in the
middle of a renovation.  We were leaving
for a trip that morning and I had received three calls from family members the
day before, each regarding a different issue and each presenting a fairly
serious, if not life threatening problem. 
I’d had a terrible night’s sleep. 
It had taken a long time to fall asleep and by 4 AM I was wide
awake.  I’d lain there and said the
Rosary and all the memorized prayers I knew and I think I dozed on and off but
by 6 AM I was wide awake.  I silently
slipped out of bed because my husband was still resting peacefully, grabbed my
daily meditation book and my journal.  I
put on my slippers and a cover-up and made a cup of tea and headed downstairs
to the sun room but it looked like a beautiful warm morning and so I chose
instead to sit on the patio. 

At the
Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat the month before this particular day, we were led in a
guided mediation by TJ Martin, one of our dedicated founding yoga teachers. Our
intention for our yoga-off-the-mat was to help the participants find their
heart space, that place where they felt safe and calm.  Once they were able to visualize it they were
then encouraged to draw it and finally to paint it.  Irene Talton, our yoga-off-the-mat
facilitator and TJ Martin showed us how to use the water colors to achieve our
goals, or at least to come close to them for those of us who didn’t have a clue
how to paint.  The guided meditation led
me to my back yard patio.  It wasn’t the
first time I was stunned by the place mediation had taken me.

One time
many years ago I had been invited by a doctor friend to come to his home and to
do some “imaging.”  Once I was
in a relaxed state he too had me imagine a safe place.  Whoosh! 
There I was sitting on a bench in front of the Eseeola Lodge in
Linville, NC.  We had visited there many
times with very dear friends but I had never considered it a safe or sacred
place.  I was so surprised to
“be” there that I gave a small gasp. 
I can still remember that session with Dr. Telfer.  It was in 1999 but every time I recall it,
it’s as clear to me now as it was then.

 
Now I was
“on” my patio.  We had lived in
this particular house for a little over six years.  It isn’t my dream house but it’s a good
house.  It’s spacious and I’ve had it
painted lots of bright colors, yellow being the primary one.  We’ve spent a lot of time and treasure spiffing
it up and making it the way we’d like it to be but I still missed the house I
had left, my former dream home.  It was
not an attitude of gratitude and I knew it but I was still lacking in
thankfulness.  Now here I was at the
retreat visualizing my sacred space; it could be anywhere in the world or
anywhere in my imagination and where was I, I was on my patio!

As I sat
down this morning with my tea and my journal I felt blessed to actually be in
my sacred space.  It was coolish but I
had my hot tea and my cover-up so I was comfortable.  I opened the journal and began to write.  I noted I wasn’t well rested and then a stiff
breeze blew and the wind chime in the tree rang out.  The sound went right into my chest, my heart
and reverberated up and out all of my limbs. 
I was stunned by the feeling.  I
stopped writing and listened.  There’s a
small waterfall off to the side of the patio and it was rippling joyfully.  The birds were waking up and their chirping
was lyrical.  Then I heard the young
children who live behind me talking with their parents.  They were giggling.  Tears sprang to my eyes.  Thank you I wrote.  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

The day
before this epiphany I had walked the local lake with a neighbor friend.  I always wondered why she didn’t always
understand what I said to her.  I had
decided it was my NY accent and her foreign ears but this morning she shared
with me that she had been very ill as a young woman and had lost half of her
hearing.  It hadn’t slowed her down and
she went onto a very blessed life but as I sat there on my patio this morning,
I was even more aware of the gift of my hearing. I have continued the practice
of listing each morning three joys from the day before.  On this morning I listed the joys I had
discovered at sunrise.  The joy of waking
to a new day.  The joy of having a sacred
space I could actually walk onto.  The
joy of being married to a man who supports me and my dreams, no matter how
daunting they may seem.  The joy of
taking time in the morning to pray and write. 
The joy of being the person her family turns to when they need
support.  I know that’s more than three
joys.  Most mornings there are way more
than three.  This morning I also listed
the joy of the gift of my hearing.   My
attitude of gratitude had finally overtaken my thanklessness and that sound of
the wind chime had pierced not just my chest and my heart but it had pierced
and healed my soul.