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Journeying Through Motherhood

Affirmation: Being a mother is my greatest joy.

 

Geese-2As we walked around the lake the geese couple were crossing the path and next to them was a gaggle of goslings. The female goose raised her head and stared right at us daring us to come closer. Behind us was another walker and her dog. The mother goose didn’t hesitate. She took off charging, squawking loudly at the dog. It had come too close to her babies. I’ve been a mother for over 40 years now. Now, I’m also the grandmother of four great people. I’m also very non-biased. My adult gym now offers toddler swim lessons on Saturday mornings. I feel a deep ache as I watch the parents interact with the children. I have an even stronger reaction when I see the fathers caring for the little ones, holding out their arms for them to jump into and holding their little hands as they lead them to and from the pool. I’m nostalgic for that time but I remember those lessons when I did them and I am just fine that now I’m simply an appreciative observer.

parents-2One day a young mother shared with a group of us that her 15 year old teenage daughter and husband had had their first terrible blow out. She was worried they would never have a trusting, loving relationship. The other mothers present assured her it was all normal growing pains and if it had taken this long for them to have this type of interaction, they were probably going to be just fine, probably even better than fine.

Many years ago the New York Times ran an article about the happiness level of parents. The researcher reported that in general the parents of teenagers were unhappier than parents at any other stage. I don’t remember being unhappy when my children were teenagers but I do know that now that they are adults, I thoroughly enjoy their company and that of their spouses. It’s pure joy when I have the opportunity to spend time with them. I think what we spend our money on reflects on that which we consider to be important and I’d rather spend my money on events that bring us all together than on anything else.

jeanDay1-2Today when I see a young family together I want to run up to them and tell them it’s a “short long journey.” I want to embrace them and shake them and make sure they know it and tell them to savor every moment of it. Motherhood is work. It’s painful and it’s challenging. It’s demanding and it’s tiring. It’s frustrating and it’s confusing. As a young mother I was never around extended family. Our first move was when my oldest was 6 weeks old. Our second move five years later was when my middle child was 18 months old and then ten years after that, we moved when Ellen was just three. I never had a support system. Every time we moved, I was completely on my own. I didn’t have a clue how very hard it was but looking back I can see how hard it was. Each time we moved, I had to create a new support system. It was easier sometimes than others. It was exciting to go to a new place but it was also lonely. Our last move brought us here to North Carolina over 25 years go. We began again. Now, I live close to most of my family.

My oldest girl, Melissa and her kind, loving husband, Larry and my four grandchildren live about 2 miles away. My son, Joey and his beautiful (inside and out) wife Belen also live close and I’m blessed to still have my husband of 45 years. My youngest and her sweet husband, Adam are in London but I’m optimistic about the future.

costafamily2My years of motherhood are not over. Once a mother, always a mother but this stage of being the mother of adult children is for me a rich blessing. While the children were growing, I was too busy with the cares of life and daily activities to savor all the precious moments they offered me but now, I can relish each moment. I can relax in their company. When I was doing my Master of Social Work I decided I would ask each of them, all adults at that time, how I did as a mother. Truly, this has been my life’s work. I wondered how they felt I did. When I look back I remember each of their births. I remember all the times they were sick and needed care. I remember all those miles in the car to different sporting events or classes. I remembered making dinner almost every night. I remember reading stories and grabbing hugs and kisses as often as possible. I remember helping with homework and visiting schools. I remember helping find colleges and going to ceremonies. I remember a home that I always hoped felt safe and secure. I welcomed their friends and eventually their spouses. I encouraged them to follow their dreams and listened when life went a different way. I hadn’t had any training and other than my wonderful husband, I hadn’t had any family around to guide me but it appeared I’d done alright. What did they think? I was curious and I was brave.

jeansandyYes, it’s been a “long short journey.” If I could do it again what would I change? If I were as wise at 20, 30 or 40 as I am now, what would I do differently? I’d not clean the house so often. Occasionally I’d have cereal for dinner instead of taking time to cook each evening. I’d read even more stories, hold hands even more often. I’d sit and just listen whenever they wanted to tell me something. I’d know this moment will soon be gone and I’d treasure it for the gift it was.

They were kind to me when they answered my question. That response alone was an answer in itself. I’d done ok. I must have done ok. Sandy, my hubby, and I must have done well. They’re still hanging out with us. In fact as I write this it’s almost Mother’s Day and the family and Sandy have gifted me with flowers, cards, a rice cooker and most importantly, time together. Yes, I might change the way I did some things, go slower, be more mindful but I wouldn’t change choosing to be a mother, especially to these three remarkable people. I’ve been blessed and at least now I can go slower and relish each and every moment I get to spend with them.

Happy Mothers Day!

Believing in Angels

Affirmation: I choose to believe in Angles.

 

angle-2Do you ever think about angles? Not the LA baseball team but the ones that appear in mythology and theology. They are a part of all the major religions. Do you believe in angels? Do you think they all have wings? Are they male and female or gender neutral? Do they ever appear in their true form or do they take on human characteristics? Do you think we really have guardian angels? What if you did believe, truly believe that there was a powerful spiritual presence hovering over you, advising you, and guiding you? How would that feel? Would it make you feel calmer? Would you become more conscious of your choices?

There have been many movies made about angles. My favorite is very old. It’s the black and white version of The Bishop’s Wife with Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young. There was the TV series that ran from 1994-2003 called Touched by an Angel and of course, Hallmark loves stories that have an angel theme. I’ve also read several books about angles. There are stories about people who see angles, talk to angels, and receive guidance from angels. One of the books I read many years ago offered a journaling process to help you “hear” the wisdom of the angles involved in your life. And, of course, there is the ultimate angel book, the Bible.

The whole salvation story begins with the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she is to be the mother of the Messiah. They go on to announce the birth of our Savior to the shepherds and then continue to guide and protect the Holy Family throughout the beginning of the New Testament. Was that it? Did they stop visiting after that?

angel-104-2For many years one of my affirmations has been, “I have a very active guardian angel.” I don’t know when I began to truly believe that she (yes, she) was actively looking after me but looking back on my life, I completely believe that someone very powerful was helping me make decisions that were to my benefit rather than my detriment. There has always been a greater force in my life planting thoughts and ideas that led me along a path that has resulted in the life I now relish, a force that was not recognizable, not tangible. I look back and I am in awe of how I’ve been guided. I mean let’s face it, we all have those moments when if we went left instead of right, we know without any doubt that our lives would have been much harder, maybe even shorter, had we gone in that perilous direction. I simply look back and feel blessed. I know it has been my Guardian Angel, Saranna.

I’d been talking to her, Saranna, for many years when my dear deceased friend and massage therapist, Valerie Kelly, one day announced that there was an angel in the room with us. She took a deep breath and seemed quite startled. I was not surprised. Then she asked me if I wanted to know her name. I had named my angel many years before. Someone told me it was a good idea. I had named her Anna. It seemed like a nice angel name. Valerie stopped and listened for a moment and then said, “Her name is Saranna.” And so she is.

I call on her guidance quite often. I invite her to lead the way or to pave the way. Sometimes, I request that she speak with her fiends who are my loved one’s angles and ask them to smooth the way or direct the way. I know if you are a realist and don’t believe in the spiritual world, you probably have stopped reading by now. I know if you’re a therapist without any faith in a power greater than us, you have diagnosed me as someone with a problem or at the very least an overactive imagination. I haven’t heard the angels and sadly I haven’t seen them, in their natural state but I know they are here. I simply know it.

My husband, Sandy, will not pass a homeless person without giving him or her money. He always tells me that they could be an angel in disguise. The weekend of April 25th, 2015 was the twenty first Angels Among Us Walk for the Preston Robert Tish Brain Tumor Center at Duke. They open the walk with the song, “Angels Among Us” and the survivors lead the way for several thousand walkers who are there to raise awareness and money for brain tumor research. This year they raised over $2,094,000. Two of the first patients treated with the new polio virus technique led the way. They are cancer free of glioblastomas, an unheard of accomplishment until the last couple of years. I didn’t “see” any angles that Saturday but I am sure there were many, many of them present.

JeanDuke2-2

Archangels-2In May my friend and massage therapist invited me to be part of a chain begun in 2000. She explained to me that I would be inviting the Archangels into my home for five days and when they left I would invite three other friends to host them. Why not? I followed the directions and set up the little welcome station that had a candle, a white flower, three slips of paper with a personal request, a family request and a community request and an apple to absorb the blessings of their presence. They arrived at 10:30 PM on the date I was told and as far as I was concerned they were using my home as their base for the next five days. Were there any unusual happenings? We’re there any miracles? Did I see or notice anything unusual? No, no and no but I felt difference. I had a sense of peace and comfort that was beyond my normal. Just the thought that they were blessing my home and family gave me comfort. They are “gone” now but I’ve decided since I’ve opened my home to them, I can now consider them to be close friends and when I have a pressing need, they will return.

I looked up the mythology revolving around the Archangels. It seems there are somewhere between three and seven. I don’t know how many were here during their visit. I know Michael, Rafael and Gabriel were here for sure. I attend St. Michael the Archangel Church. I live off of Rafael Drive and have several people in my life named Gabriel. It’s all a mystery, isn’t it? I am comfortable with mystery at this time in my life. I don’t have to understand everything that I believe. That’s what faith is all about, believing the unbelievable. I choose to believe in angels. I choose to believe there is a higher, compassionate, wise power that wants to lead us to a better, more fulfilling life and with that belief, for me, it brings peace and comfort and hope.

Choosing My Words

Affirmation: I carefully choose my words.

WTRCover_left-2The May/June 2015 Issue of Where to Retire had an article about things recommended to help oneself develop habits to improve the quality of one’s life. One of the suggestions was to “create affirmations.” The example they used revolved around the discipline of daily exercise. Now, everyone knows that a body needs to move in order to stay healthy. There are some that say exercise is “the fountain of youth” and others have said that if there were a way to bottle all the benefits and turn them into pill form, it would be like an “elixir of the gods.” Knowing and doing, however, are two very different things. What guidance could the article offer to get people more involved in exercise? I was pleased to see their approach was to reframe what one said to oneself about his or her activity. According to the article, if you tell yourself you’re a swimmer, runner, walker, tennis player, golfer, etc. you will be more likely to actively pursue that activity. Not only will you be telling yourself, you’ll probably use those same words to describe yourself to others. It’s the process of labeling ourselves and don’t we do that all the time, with or without intention and sometimes to our detriment, not to our benefit?

The sub-title of my book, Creating Positive Affirmations is, Living an Intentional Life. I believe with my whole heart and mind that what we choose to say to ourselves affects every aspect of our being, all the way to our cellular structure. When we choose those words and phrases that nurture and empower us, our whole being responds to them. It’s no different when we choose to degrade and demean ourselves. My husband, Sandy, is always reminding people to be compassionate with themselves. He reminds them that we are usually our own worst enemy. We can treat ourselves harder than we would treat even an enemy, no less a friend. We filet ourselves over something we did or said over and over whereas we have already forgiven and probably forgotten something someone else mistakenly did.

positivethinking-2I’m not speaking here of becoming narcissistic. We aren’t here to live lives of conceit and contempt. We are here to be powerful through humility and service. One way to achieve that balance is to carefully choose your language. Louise Hay has been guiding us to powerful words and phrases for decades. Norman Vincent Peale wrote about “positive thinking.” It’s no different than exercise. It’s a simple concept but it can be hard to put it into practice but once you do; once you start to see the amazing uplifting impact it has on your life, you won’t want to live any other way.

That’s why I began writing this blog. It was because I felt I had discovered the best “shoe store in the world.” These shoes were so good looking and you could wear them forever and they would never hurt and they were on sale!” That’s how I felt about discovering positive affirmations. My life shifted. My mood shifted. My health and my relationships became better. I felt I had an obligation to share this tool with others. I know not everyone is interested in what I have to say but I don’t really care. I’m so excited about how this skill has made me feel, I need to shout about it.

I have a dear friend who once told me she has “a healing body.” She’s had several serious ailments that she has overcome and she truly believes that her body likes to heal. Now, I know it can be foolish to not seek help when one is ill. I don’t believe in denial but I can tell you from experience that if you believe your body is supporting you in your efforts to heal, you will heal. You may not be cured of all that is affecting you but healing will definitely take place. I’ve watched many friends go into life threatening illnesses with attitudes of powerful warriors and been amazed by the outcome of their battle. Inspired would be a better word. So many have overcome and for those that didn’t, their strength and courage brought their world to a whole better place.

ScreenShot2015-04-24at11.27.08PMSixty Minutes did a special segment in March of 2015, on the latest successful research being done at the Robert Tish Brain Tumor Center at Duke Hospital. Dr. Mattias Gromeief has been modifying the polio vaccine and injecting it into tumors. He’s been working on it for over twenty-five years. The tumor dies. The center has been using the virus to successfully treat glioblastomas, an up until now always terminal brain tumor. Sandy and I know a lot about this since both his father, Joe Costa and my father, Frank Grolimund died from a “glio.” The TV special interviewed two people who were completely cured. It was a miracle! They also interviewed people who were part of the clinical study who died because of not yet knowing the correct dose of the virus to administer. They were all brave battle ready warriors. Their strength and courage lifted all in their story to new heights and hopes.

Words! What words do you choose to label yourself with? My daughter, Melissa, has given me several very meaningful gifts. She had a tote bag and a shirt made for me that said, “Happy is a habit” and this Christmas I received a teapot hand decorated with the phrase, “I am a bold adventuress.” I can as easily fall into, go down into those places of despair, sadness and self pity as the next person but I have discovered that I can also recognize what I’m doing, thinking and saying and with some effort and practice, I can turn those phrases around and choose to create not just sentences that sound cheery and upbeat but a life that is rich and meaningful and marvelous. And, who among us would not want to share those tools with others? Who does not want to help the world to a better place? Who doesn’t want a cheap pair of the nicest, most comfortable “shoes” ever?

JeanCostaTeapot

Treasuring the Earth

Affirmations: I treasure our planet Earth and recognize my responsibility to care for it.

 

51AzgOzdjuL._SY344_BO1204203200_Carolyn Tobin was the presenter at A Place for Women to Gather for the program titled, Sacred Time but the topic on which she spoke was broader and deeper than that of time. I didn’t think that was possible but I was wrong and I was immediately enamored with her subject. She was there to speak about saving the human race, saving the universe and saving ourselves. I’m ready! Tell me there’s a way to help in this most important work and I shall do my part, although I was very doubtful about what I, one little lady living in the comfort of North Carolina could possibly do that would help save man-kind or woman-kind. Once again, I was being challenged to rise up and exert whatever power I did have to make a difference in this frightening world
of ours. Is this my Lenten mission? This same topic of making a difference in the world had appeared numerous times over the last few weeks, actually over the last couple of years. I am being led to “do more” or at least to “do something.” What was Carolyn offering me that would enable me, no, empower me to heal the world?

This woman was a student of Thomas Berry and she had recently published a book about their conversations, Recovering a Sense of the Sacred. What philosophy was being promoted? Is it an approach in which I can be active? Is it an approach in which I can believe and adopt? Actually, it was even more than that; it was a life lesson for making a shift in my life with the added effect of changing the world. She and Thomas are calling us to reconnect with the earth, to reconnect with nature. I was being asked to embrace my roots. I was being directed to fully embrace our universe by taking the time to appreciate its gifts and to protect them and to reach out and share this approach with anyone and everyone within my life’s circle. So, here I am sharing this philosophy, maybe even better described as a theology, with all the people who read these missives.

conservatory-2Once again my lesson is coming to me in many different forms. The first was Carolyn’s lecture, then I read her delightful, insightful book and within the same week, I had the opportunity to visit the Conservatory in Washington, DC and marvel at the variety of plants our earth provides. The Conservatory takes you from the early 1800s when plants were first being collected until today and also from the mountain foliage to that of the jungle and tropical. The first plant we saw when we walked into the greenhouse was a cacao tree. It took my breath away. There were these huge yellow pods just hanging off the side of the tree. They were ready to be harvested and turned into cacao butter and chocolate. Each turn took us to another miracle: banana trees, fruit trees, ferns and cacti, lovely succulents and gorgeous orchids, every kind of tree and plant imaginable. I was more aware of the gifts in front of us because of the lecture I had recently attended.

embracenatureI’m not much of a gardener. I’m not even too good at houseplants. I have had gardens over the years, mostly vegetables but I’m a city girl raised on a very busy highway with about eight square feet of lawn in front of our house and a small strip of dirt in the back for the dog to relieve himself. We never grew anything. We tried planting watermelon seeds one spring but other than a massive vine, we didn’t get any fruit. As an adult, as the care of the inside of our homes became more demanding, I spent less and less time outside in the dirt. Now, I was being called to reconnect with the earth. After Carolyn led us in a guided mediation, she asked us what we believed we could do to make a difference. I had had a very clear message, “Jean Anne, go outside.” I have begun to work out a way to start and to nurture that process. Why? What is the message Carolyn is relaying from Thomas?

god-is-always-within-feel-god-working-in-your-heart-through-your-heart-and-as-your-heart-2The only way to save the earth and humankind is to embrace nature. We are being called not to simply see our world as a place to meet our needs but as a place for which we are responsible and which needs our care and nurturing. It is time for me to recognize that unless we embrace our universe and all its majesty and miracles, it will not continue to thrive and if it is depleted and not appreciated, our existence will be compromised, if we are not made extinct. Thomas Berry declared, “As we practice a presence to the natural world through our intuition we come to know ourselves, not simply as physical beings, but as spiritual beings. We humans are modes of the Divine presence who have forgotten our identity with creation. We are one earth community that lives or dies together. We depend on the earth to sustain us in body and soul. We come into relationship to it instead of establishing an identity over and against it.”

the_four_elements___wallpaper_by_bydgx-d6ukig2-2The rest of this week’s lesson came when we entered the Native American Museum in DC. We began our tour on the fourth floor where several of the larger tribes had been invited to display their heritage. There were stories about their costumes, their dances and songs and especially about their reverence for Mother Earth: for the plants, the animals, the stars and the wind. They honored all four of our elements: water, fire, wind and earth. They not only experienced nature, they treasured it. They don’t just consume it. Even more important is that their major concern is teaching these lessons to the next generation and letting them know that they were responsible for all their future generations. “How will this decisions affect my seventh generation?” was and is one of their key lessons.

My awareness of God’s miracles seen in nature and my responsibility to honor and treasure those gifts, have already begun to blossom. I am determined to “go outside” more often and to meditate on the stars as well as the weeds. I will tenderly hold a flower or attentively listen to the bird’s song. I may not be able to care for the whole planet but I am more than capable of caring for my small piece of it here in North Carolina and perhaps by heightening my awareness my tiny steps will make a difference in our universe. I believe that my efforts will have the added gift of not just appreciating our earth, but will lead me to a greater appreciation, perhaps a greater connection to the Divine and to my God. By learning to treasure the earth, I’ll be able to have hope that my seventh generation will not only still be here on this planet and not off living on Mars or a satellite but thriving right here on this amazing planet Earth.

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