Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

From Chaos to Grace

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

photo 1

 “Hope is the leavened sustenance of our souls carrying us from one day to the next, no matter what comes our way. It is what remained at the bottom of Pandora’s Box after the `chaos escaped into the world. It is what lifts our eyes from the prisons that separate us from one another and toward a better, more just future.”
~ Karen Hering

Someone once told me, “Deanne, you are hoping for a miracle.” It was true. I wanted a certain thing to happen. I believed it could happen. And, I believed if it happened everything would be okay. I would be okay. I would be happy. But this particular miracle that I wanted required another person to change.

So, I tried to change him. I begged, pleaded, and cried. I made deals and compromised. I blamed, threatened, worried, obsessed, attached and detached, lovingly and not so lovingly. But the more I tried the more I failed. It seemed nothing I did or did not do worked. I felt helpless and terrified. Terrified for the relationship to end. Terrified for the relationship to continue. Foolishly believing that if I was smart enough, worked hard enough, believed strong enough, and loved long enough, I could fix him. I could fix us. And he would be saved. I would be saved.

But the more I tried to save him, the more I needed saving. My life had become completely and utterly unmanageable. I was spiraling into a crazy dark abyss secretly wishing a knight in shining armor would knock down my door and scrape me off the floor. Deep down inside, however, I knew only I could do that. Only I could rescue myself. I would have to be my own shining knight. I just was not ready to put on the chain mail yet.

Apparently, I had to be smacked around a bit before I would be ready. I had to lose at life before I could win. And, I did lose. Not so surprisingly, the more I lost the more I hoped for a miracle. And the more I hoped for a miracle, the more I asked for the impossible, to change him. A miracle by definition is in some sense the impossible. It is typically contrary to natural law, something extraordinary and unusual. Not until I understood I was expecting something extraordinary, some divine intervention since my intervention did no good, did I understand the impossibility of my cause. I cannot tell you the exact time I comprehended this concept. I am not even sure there was an exact time. It was more like an unfolding, gradual, even leisurely at times. But when it did unfold, I could finally see that it is impossible to change another human being. Even more impossible, is expecting someone else to make me happy. Only I can do that.

The only power we have is over our own lives. It is such a simple idea but yet one of the hardest lessons I have ever had to learn. I cannot control another person. No one can! I could not change him, no matter how much I loved him or how much he loved me. But, guess what? There is someone I could change. I could change me! Change doesn’t simply happen, you have to make it happen not “hope” it to happen. Hope without the footwork is like wanting to win the lottery without buying a ticket. You can’t win if you don’t play.

So I began the footwork. I cleaned up my side of the street, stopped blaming his problems for my own, and took the attention off of him so I could focus on myself. Free of my obsession, no longer directing all my thinking towards him, I was able to let go of the suffocating feelings of guilt, thinking his problems were something I did or did not do. I let go of the resentment (resentments are a killer) I felt towards him when I understood that nothing he did had anything to do with me. They were his issues not mine. I let go of self-pity when I took ownership of my own life and began to love myself fully. I let go of fear and anxiety when I knew I could take care of myself. I let go of control when I let go of outcomes. And, I was no longer in denial when I could finally be honest with him and myself. In other words, I learned to live and let live. I was free!

Sometimes things have to fall apart so you can put them back together. As I began to put my life back together, I slowly got better. And as I got better, a miraculous thing happened, he got better too. It is amazing what happens when you stop expecting the other person to change and change yourself instead. It becomes contagious. People want what you’ve got. It takes some courage I might add. You have to stand up for yourself. You have to have enough self-respect to believe you deserve it and enough self-love to know you are worth it. And then, you must trust. You must trust that things will turn out no matter what happens. It may not turn out the way you planned, but it will turn out.

I will not go into the details of Kevin’s life. That is his story. I will tell you, however, he is an inspiration to everyone that knows him, especially me. A couple of months ago, Kevin had a stroke. It was located in the cerebellum part of his brain. He is very lucky to be alive and doing amazingly well. The kids and I are more grateful than words could ever describe.

photo 2

Today, Kevin and I have decided to re-invest in our marriage. We are back together, committed to each other, our family, our health, and our future. And, I am excited to share with all of you that I have been accepted into the Goddard College Master of Arts Program in Psychology and Counseling in Plainfield, Vermont. No I’m not moving, but I will be spending eight days each semester living on campus in a dorm in an intensive study program. The remaining weeks will be spent doing independent work here in California. My goal is to get my counseling license so I can help people through recovery. Recovery from trauma, loss, addiction, and health issues. What better way to make good use of the chaos I have experienced in my life but to turn it into grace.

Miracles do come true my friends. Most are disguised, however. What actually seems like a crisis, may actually be an opportunity. But only if you choose it to be. You can wallow in self-pity, stay safe, and get mired in lack of imagination and motivation or you can get off your keister and do something about it. Yes, it takes a bit of bravery, but I know you are brave. It also takes an incredible amount of patience. More patience than you believe you can muster at times. But, miracles may take years to reveal themselves requiring living in difficult and uncertain times. Eight years to be exact. But, for those of you that can live in this extended state of ambiguity, great things can happen, even the impossible. It is the ultimate “Yes!”

Love you all!

The End or shall I say The Beginning!

What to Expect

Monday, May 18th, 2015
hudphoto

Panel of Experts

This blog is dedicated to learning no matter how young or old.

It is coauthored by some awesome students in my Human Development Class; Patrick, Makaila, Alexis and Joel as we worked together in a group Project, “What to Expect.”

Our assignment: present information aimed at parents using some form of media to help them understand what to expect from their child/children during their first three years of life.

 

The first word my son, Riley learned was “Wow!” It wasn’t “mama” or “dada” like most children. It was “wow.” And, he said it as if he had just seen a double rainbow, “Woooooow!” He w9940c-firstwordas about ten months old at the time and I was convinced he was a genius and would be heading off to Harvard by the time he was five. But, as I have since learned, most parents believe their kid is a genius at this time in life. Why? Because this stage of development is a time of explosive growth and change. And according to, Child, “never again will a person grow so quickly or change so rapidly,” except maybe at mid-life, but that is for another blog.

The average baby says his first words between 10 and 14 months. So, Riley was doing what babies are supposed to do at that age, learning to communicate. Experts call it language acquisition in which the human child begins to use verbal expression to convey meaning. Not only does this ability separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom it allows us as human beings to reflect on and communicate our needs, feelings, and ideas to govern our own lives and bond with others. As comedian and social activist George Carlin expressed so brilliantly, “Because we do think in language…the quality of our thoughts and ideas can only be as good as the quality of our language.”

Since language development in the first three years of life determines future development, and because it is through language that we connect to people, and connection and bonding to others has proven to extend one’s life, Patrick, Makaila, Alexis, Joel and I decided to focus exclusively on language for this project. We have put together some information of what to expect from your child in the first three years of language development. We broke it down into three categories: biological, cognitive and social since most developmental scientists today believe acquiring language is an intricate interweaving of all three domains. We not only hope to enlighten parents and caregivers all over the world contributing to the health and well-being of children and society, we hope to get a good grade.

To begin we must first look at two different schools of thought.

 language5

Nature vs Nurture

Screenshot (1)

Biological

 

Because babies have an inherent inborn capacity to acquire language, babies learn language easily without formal teaching.

Because of this inborn capacity, babies can make their needs known before they can use words. How? They cry. Crying is a newborns first form of communication. Babies actually have different distinct cries from both hunger and pain. The more they need assistance from a parent or caregiver, the higher the frequency the cry.

Infants can tell the difference between sounds of any language. This makes learning a second language in the first six months easy and natural. But, babies eventually lose this capability to discriminate between sounds making learning a second language more difficult as they get older.language4

Before babies can speak, they use gestures. It is a perfect time to teach them sign language to communicate which in turn actually helps them to learn to talk.

Babies around the age of 9 to 10 months actually deliberately imitate sounds even it they don’t understand them. This is a key to early language development. Check it out in action in the video below:

As infants imitate sounds they can begin to connect these sounds to meanings. For example, babies recognize their name usually way before they can say it themselves.

Talk to your babies. Read to your babies. They have an inherent ability to understand more than you think.

 

 

Cognitive

 

brain

 

Speech has a very intimate connection with cognitive development in and it has been shown that the tremendous amount of brain development in the child’s early years is closely linked with language development.

As babies become familiar with the sounds of words and phrases, they will start to apply meaning.

Stubabytalk.headdies show that children hear and learn from the sounds of speech even while they are still in the womb! When children are born, they come out with a subtle understanding of sounds specific to their native language. This is because they have been listening to outside sources of sounds of speech for  months, such as the mother and father conversing. As we already discussed, newborns seem to be preset to distinguish basic linguistic sounds.

From birth to about nine months, a baby is taking in speech sounds and categorizing them based on similarities. During this time, your child is building upon their sound vocabulary in attempts to put together words. A mother and father can expect basic vowel sounds such as “ahhh” or “oooo.” These sounds are often referred to as cooing. This ability to produce language is essential and perhaps the foundation for learning new things.

Around ten months, parents can expect their precious child to say their first word. Most often, a child’s first word describes something. For instance, a child might point to a dog and say, “Dog!” During this time though, a child usually overextends the use of their words. They might be heard calling cats or maybe even dad’s beard a “Dog.” See, this is because as a child is learning language they are also developing the concepts behind the words.

During your child’s second year of life is when they will begin to increase vocabulary. They begin to develop actual concepts behind words in order to assign words to things such as the “dog.” Similarly, they also begin to assign symbolic meaning to gestures. For instance a child might blow on something to express that it is hot. We can see here that the use of more words helps a child develop concepts behind actual words. This is a big way in which cognitive development is a function of language development.

In thlanguagee third year of your child’s life, they will begin to decrease gestures and increase speech. They have learned how to put words together and will begin to do just that. At this time, your child wants to talk. They begin to put sentences together. By sentences here, we mean only about two or three words max. They begin to learn new words every day and develop their vocabulary.

Cognitive development skyrockets towards about thirty five to thirty six months. At this point your child knows around one thousand words and is quite intelligible. They are able to think about a sentence and speak with very few mistakes in syntax.

 

Social

 

HUD play

 

Language is a social activity. It is necessary to not only have the biological factors and cognitive abilities, but it is essential to interact with others.

It is apparent in every civilization that talking at an early age is important. Those who have a grasp on language or even simple sounds at a young age are going to successfully develop language skills. The social aspects of talking are very important.

Talking is the reason we are humans, children should be talked to from birth and in many cases they are talked to before birth, they begin listening. This helps provide them with some sounds and an idea of how to form words by watching and feeling for the movement of the mouth.

A lot of toys encourage children to make sounds and talk with them, so children who are under the age of three have a huge opportunity to use these toys that focus on repetition and song.

The repetition of a parent repeating the sounds of the child also helps to encourage them to continue to babble and make sounds.HUD play2

Play helps increase their vocabulary exponentially as well. Ask them questions about the toy or things around it to aid in their understanding. 

Read to them. Reading to them when they are babies helps prepare them for literacy later.

During the first three years, talking with the child is very important to help reinforce and build the foundation for language acquisition.

Correcting the child when they are learning new words also helps reinforce the words learned.

Television cannot replace a parent or caregiver. They do not learn the same way as they do with an actual human being.

Social learning through exploration of language will help increase the child’s abilities to develop a good base for language in the future.   

Fuck Yes!

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Fuck Yes

Why do we do things we do not want to do? Now, I’m not talking about things we have to do like working to earn money for food and a roof over our head, paying taxes, or going to school (actually we don’t have to go to school but that is for another blog). I am talking about volunteering to chair a fundraising event, working a booth at the state fair, staying late at work, giving your lazy ass pot smoking forty year old son that still lives at home money, or coaching a kid’s soccer team because no one else will do it. I’m talking about going out to dinner with our spouse’s co-workers friend of a friend when we really wanted to stay home and watch The Walking Dead. I am talking about having sex when we’d rather not.

My point is that many of us agree to do things we really do not want to do. We say yes when we want to say no. Because the feelings of guilt, responsibility or simply the lack of courage to say no win out, we go to dinner when we are not hungry, take that position we have no time for, or have sex with that guy we really are not that into. Women are especially prone to this type of behavior and/or selfless martyrdom. Many of us were raised to give in, be nice, and make sacrifices even at our own expense. But to our own detriment, we have become people pleasers, feeling it is our responsibility to make other’s happy. And, if we are really honest with ourselves, somewhere deep down inside we are terrified that we will not be liked or accepted or even loved if we say no.

I’m here to tell you this is not true. In fact, it is quite the opposite. When we say no to something we do not want to do, it actually puts us in a correct relationship with ourselves. People will respect us and we will respect us. It’s a win win. So for those of you that struggle with this, it is time to say no. Take back your respect and your power and say no to those things you truly do not want to do, to those things that do not serve you, the ones that do not sit well in your soul. Because when we say no to someone else, we are actually saying yes to ourselves. And, perhaps when we have the courage to say no, when we are being true to ourselves, we will inspire others to do the same and our daughters and daughter’s daughters will be free of this insidious unhealthy pattern.

I would also like to point out that “no” is a complete sentence. There is no need to explain yourself. You do not need a reason or an excuse.

I heard a woman say the other day that the word “no” is way too harsh of a word for her to use so she chooses to say, “I’d rather not.” That works too.

And to all of you Mother Teresa’s out there, I promise that saying no is not selfish. I have said this before but I will say it again because I also need reminded at times. It is not selfish to take care of ourselves and make our happiness a priority. It is necessary. That does not mean that we should not be “in service” to others. It means we have to take care of ourselves in order to be in service to others.

We may even find a tremendous burden has been lifted when we say no. Why? Because many of us say yes too often, over commit ourselves, become scattered, and our lives become unmanageable. We end up with no time or energy to focus on our own lives. But when we say no the burden is lifted, opening up space and time for ourselves. Yes, we may disappoint someone but again, we are not responsible for other people’s happiness. The only power we have is over our own lives.

Now, as you know, I am a huge advocate for saying yes to life and new opportunities. I believe in taking risks and putting ourselves out there. Like Helen Keller reminds us, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.” So, go ahead and say yes but be choosy about your yesses and once you say yes, make sure you mean it. Entrepreneur Derek Sivers wrote, “If I’m not saying “Hell Yeah!” to something than I say no.” Amen Mr. Silvers, I love this but I think it should be more like “Fuck Yeah!” And, I am not the only one.

Mark Manson wrote in his blog about relationships, “If it’s not “Fuck Yes,” its no.” He was referring to that gray area that relationships can fall into; that uncomfortable confusing space, when you wonder why she flirts with you but tells you she is not interested, or why it takes him days to call you back or return a text. Manson explains that if you have to ask whether someone is into you or not, if you are analyzing every little thing about the “relationship,” you are in that grey area, and you have already lost. He or she is simply not that into you. Yes, it may be painful to accept but why, he asks, would you ever choose to be with someone who is not excited to be with you? It is either a “Fuck Yes” or it is no.

Love love love this.

He then goes on to explain his Law of “Fuck Yes or no” as he calls it. The law states that when we want to get involved with someone new, in whatever capacity, they must inspire us to say “Fuck Yes” in order for us to proceed with them. It also states that “they” must respond to us with a “Fuck Yes” as well in order to proceed.

So, my dear Kevin, “Fuck Yes!” I Love you!

The Walking Dead

Thursday, April 9th, 2015
20714_10206212788386698_5902235581739727859_n

Camp Brown – Anza Borrego

 

Driving back to civilization after spending five days in the desert with friends and family I feel out of place as I walk into Starbucks. Riley and Maggie order a drink, Jaron and I head straight to the bathrooms. Dirt under our fingernails, hair that has not been washed for days, sun burnt skin, chapped lips and clothes covered in campfire ash and desert grit, we look like the Walking Dead. But the thing is, we are not dead. In fact, we feel more alive than ever. It is the rest of the patrons that look dead to us.

I always find it difficult to return to civilization after our annual camping trip to Anza Borrego. Thirty five of us make this yearly springtime trip to the desert together. All of us, once homeschoolers, and like extended family, spend our days hiking to the oasis, devouring delicious pot-lucks, singing, sharing stories around the campfire and sleeping under the stars. It has become almost ceremonial. Although, this year it was more like sleeping in our cars due to the cold and crazy 55 mph gusts of wind we endured. The kids braved it out, however, and stuffed themselves into one tent (once it was found after blowing away) to keep warm.

10995531_10206212787746682_2019227967270285394_n

From left top to right bottom: Benny, Chloe, Rachel, Maggie, Lexi, Lauren, Thor, Hailey, Casey Indigo, Brenna, Nick, Riley, Ray, Jaron, Reed, Madeline, Trevor, Zach and Max

 

But even in the midst of a wind advisory and sun burnt skin I want to go back. I like living off the grid; phones off, disconnected from Facebook and the problems of the world. I like getting dirty, communing with nature and others. I like living simply and modestly, sharing meals, ideas and dreams. I like belonging to something bigger than myself. It makes me feel small. In a good way.

11138158_10206212756105891_6141092928986963348_n

The Moms and The Serpent: Stephanie, Diana, Carolyn, Amy, Debi, Angela and me

 

 

11148512_10206189579366487_484896192468424969_n (1)

Riley and Jaron saving Maggie from the claws of Ricardo Breceda’s Scorpion

 

Back in Santa Ana, confined by drywall and schedules, where feeling small no longer feels good, I find it way too easy to slip back into myself, losing touch with nature, others and the divine. Getting too comfortable at home is not always a good thing for me. I find it to be the perfect breeding ground for an egocentric way of life, more self-centered and even self-obsessive at times, where I tend to live more from my own perspective instead of others in an attempt to feel big. It’s like living from the inside out and I don’t really care for it. Camping in the desert surrounded by friends, open sky, purple mountains, sunsets and sunrises, however, makes it much easier to get out of my own head, connect with others, nature and a power higher than myself. It keeps the focus off of me and on the simple joys in life. It is living from the outside in and it is my preference.

But since I can’t live in a commune in the dessert right now, I am going to keep some of that dirt I gathered under my nails and take it with me to the grocery store today. And, when I am cooking tonight, I will make sure to taste the desert grit in my mouth and smell the campfire in my hair. And when I sit down to write my psychology paper, I will look at my sun and wind burnt hands with high regard and smile. I will smile the same way I smile at the barista with my chapped lips next time I order a drink at Starbucks reminding me of how small I really am. In a good way.

11149510_10206212758265945_4490189884348847129_n

Font’s Point Maggie, Trevor, Rachel, Thor, Jaron, Lexi, Brenna, Chloe and Benny

 

 

Can’t Get Rid of Me Yet

Friday, January 30th, 2015

image

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

:)

It has been way too long since I have written a blog. I apologize to those of you that have been waiting. Let me explain. My life has been pretty topsy turvy this last year as most of you know. I moved yet again, retired from homeschooling, separated from my husband, and now live on my own with three kids in a city that is completely new to me; a city where I can hear the roar of the freeway, see Disneyland’s fireworks late at night, smell the sweet scent of Jacaranda trees wafting in the air, feel the ground rumble beneath my feet from the nearby train, and walk to get fresh homemade tortillas. But it is not the cities fault I haven’t posted anything new on my blog recently.

At first, I stopped posting because I was busy writing for other publications. Then, when I was done writing for other publications, I couldn’t decide what to write for my own blog. When I finally decided what to write about, I couldn’t decide how much to reveal so I didn’t write at all. As time passed, I no longer felt like writing especially after getting a rejection letter from The New York Times Modern Love Column. Although I know all the greatest have been rejected at one time or another, rejection is no fun. Then, the holiday’s hit hard and I got crazy busy. When the holidays were finally over and I began to get that inkling to write again, I was worried that maybe my readers had forgotten me or lost interest. In fact, as I let the months pass, I actually considered closing down my blog to start a new one. I even considered closing down my Yes Mom page of Facebook. I thought maybe it was time for a new chapter. Although I still haven’t completely rejected this last option, I finally find myself sitting down at my computer to write this blog.

And I have some readers to thank for that. At a women’s gathering last weekend in my backyard, hosted by Daisy UnChained, I had the privilege to meet one of my readers. She told me she looks forward to my Yes Mom Facebook posts every day. I had another reader who suffers from depression tell me that my posts inspire him and help him get through some really rough days. And my aunt told me she has printed every one of my blog posts and has gathered the pages into a book. Then, a friend of mine sent me a text reaching out to see if I was “okay” since I haven’t posted anything in a while. It seems I have not been forgotten.

So, it got me thinking. Actually, I have been thinking about it for some time now but I was dragging my ass. No more ass dragging. It is time to turn my blog into a book. I want a hard copy of The Yes Mom; something I can pass down to my children, my children’s children and my children’s children’s children. Like a photo album without pictures.

You see I am not one to hold on to keepsakes. I lose everything and I suck at organizing things, especially pictures for a photo album. Although I did attempt to put together some photo albums when the kids were young, the only thing I have to show for it is one album for Riley and one for Casey reflecting just one year of their life; and nothing, absolutely nothing for Maggie except pictures in an old shoe box under my bed.

So, in lieu of photo albums, I plan to leave a legacy of words instead. And, just in case the Battle of Armageddon brings human “rulership” to an end, or WWIII annihilates the earth as we know it or the Arctic melts and we end up back in Paleolithic times where the internet no longer exists, I want a real book. Something you can touch and smell and hold close to your heart. I want something you can put on a shelf or pack in a box with all of your other beloved items for safe keeping. And, if my book ends up sitting on some shelf collecting dust or becomes mildewed in a box in a far corner of my children’s garage or great grandchildren’s cave over the years, I am okay with that. Because I am sure that someday, some distant relative, friend of a friend, garage sale patron or WWIII survivor will find it, read it, and feel better as a result of it before burning it to keep warm. That is what I want. I want to keep people warm. I want to make them feel better.

Maybe that is why I am going back to school to get my Masters in Counseling; to make people feel better. I have applied to Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Long Beach. I won’t find out if I have been accepted for a few months. With only a 15% acceptance rate I am a bit apprehensive. I am proceeding forward, however, as if I have already been accepted. This plan of action worked when we moved here, to a cute little house in Santa Ana, only five minutes from the high school Maggie now attends. Not knowing whether Maggie would get into OCSA we moved here anyway. Six months later, she auditioned and got in. Not knowing if I will get in, I start two prerequisite classes in a week; Psychology and Human Development. If you build it, they will come. I am a firm believer in this.

I am pretty sure, however that it will not be my grades that get me in. I was an average student. But, the good news, I have had more than an average life. If I were the admissions officer I would accept me. The woman at the admissions office explained that for someone like me, someone that has been out of school for 25 years, (a polite way of saying older than the average student) it is all about my story. I was happy to hear this because boy, do I have a story. Combine my story, all my experiences, my compassion and insight and intuitive understanding I have gained throughout my life with the skills and tools I will learn in a Masters Program and the world is going to get one kick ass professional licensed counselor.

So here I go again, a new adventure awaits me. Oh…and there is an added bonus, I plan to carpool with my son Riley. Riley has recently been accepted to Cal State Fullerton. He just can’t get rid of me. But I don’t think he wants to. And, I don’t think I want to get rid of The Yes Mom just quite yet.

Inside Out and Upside Down

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

It will be four years this November since I was first diagnosed with breast cancer.  Four years, damn.  I can hardly believe it.  The journey has not been easy, lots of swimming without a raft.  But, I swam.  And, I swam, until my arms ached making decisions I did not want to make.  Lumpectomy or a mastectomy?  Radiation or no radiation?  Chemo or not to chemo?  Then there was the decision to take meds I did not want to take.  Taxtere! Carboplatinum!  Herceptin!  Tomaxifin!   And, then the meltdowns that could fill a lake.  Like my four AM crash after reading about a women that had to tape her fingernails on to keep them from falling off.  Or, my drive to my 18th Herceptin treatment, singing along to Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, black tears rolling down my cheeks, while just spilling green goddess juice on my clean white shirt.

It wasn’t all meltdowns.  Sometimes I simply just wanted to throw up.  Like the first time I saw my breast after my mastectomy.  Both miracle and mutilated masterpiece.  I was in complete awe.  Whole and not whole, flesh and not flesh, breast and not breast, molded with silicone gel, sculpted from soft pink areola, secured with cadaver skin and surgically stitched up like a Raggedy Ann Doll.

But, during the process, I learned to take a sucky situation and turn it inside out and upside down.  Like when big clumps of my hair began to fall out after my first round of chemo.  We were at band practice.  I wore a hat hoping to keep my hair in place.  It didn’t help.  Tufts of hair caught in my fingers, rings and guitar.  I just stood there in complete dismay until my girlfriend Debi suggested we take my air outside and let it blow in the wind for the birds to retrieve and make their nests.  Inside out and upside down.

And, then there was the time I watched my hair fall to the ground in a heap while having my head shaved.  I was at an upscale salon in Newport Beach, a glass of wine waiting for me.  The owner, not giving me a chance to change my mind, ran her clippers over my head as if she were mowing the lawn.  She then presented me with my three thousand dollar cranial prosthetic (wig) on a pillow like a ring bearer.  It was beautiful.  But, I hated it.  I felt like I was hiding.  So, the moment I left the building, I ripped the wig off, snapped a picture and sent it to all of you.  That wig ended up sitting on my shelf next to a hot platinum blonde the duration of my chemo.  Again, inside out and upside down.

So, when I see pink ribbons and empowering commercials in honor of women battling cancer or those that lost their battle, I get it.  It can be very powerful.  However, I am disgusted with companies using breast cancer to promote their products, like oil giant Baker Hughes and his pink drill bits for fracking and Five Hour Energy Pink Lemonade Shots highly popular amongst sleep deprived college students; practices and products that actually may play a hand in causing cancer.  This is completely insane!

I am also disappointed in organizations like Susan G. Komen for supporting these companies and for using their survivors to make money.  There was a time in the past that the pink movement was necessary, a time when newspapers would not let you print the word breast.  They referred to breast cancer as “female cancer.”  We have come a long way, thank god.  But I am afraid we have gone too far.  The pink movement has cheapened breast cancer, diminished its deadly power, and devalued it like gold, as if it is less than other cancers.  It is “just breast cancer,” I heard someone say.  This is like saying she is just a woman, as Simone de Beauvoir points out in her book the “The Second Sex.”  There is no such thing as just a woman and there is no such thing as just cancer!

So, please think twice when purchasing these products, supporting these companies and giving to these organizations.  I know that I have supported Komen in the past and I am thankful for all of you that also supported them through me.  I admit, Komen has done some good work, but they have lost their way.  So, no more!  Time to make some changes and move on.  Inside out and upside down, my friends!

Things That Matter Most #2

Friday, October 10th, 2014

These are the things I wished I learned instead of algebra.  Things I wished my parents told me but I wouldn’t have listened if they did.  Things I know I can’t teach my kids but I will try anyway.  These are the things that matter most #2.  This is MY second list.  I do not assume that what matters most to me matters most to you.  But I have a feeling that we are not all that different from each other.  I know this list is not complete.  This is “Part Two” of many.  Take what you want from it, leave the rest.  Love you!

You are worthy!  Do not attach your worth to your accomplishments.  Do not wait until you are thin, successful, or more confident before you feel worthy.  Worthiness is not what you do, it is who you are.

You belong! You are here for a reason.

You are capable!  Actually, you are more than capable.  “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”  Thomas Edison

Astound yourself!

You are you!  Be real…authentic…yourself.  When you are being you, when the mask is off and the persona gone, you create space for others to be real too.

You are lovable!

To be lovable is to be vulnerable.  To be vulnerable is to be lovable.

Be vulnerable!

Vulnerability is not weakness.  It takes an exorbitant amount of courage, strength, nerve, guts and bravery.  In fact, “…it’s the bravest thing you will ever do.”  Brene Brown

Courage does not just happen.  It’s a choice!  And, we all have a choice.

Live your life with guts from your gut!

Live with intention.  Live with vision.  “Vision without guts is fantasy.”  Toba Beta

Dare Greatly.  Do not stand on the side lines of life.  Jump in with feet, hands, head and heart.  “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Get sweaty, get bloody.

Get honest.  Yes, you will open yourself up to criticism, judgment and disapproval.  That’s what honesty does.  It puts you at risk, leaving you exposed and susceptible to emotional and even physical harm.  “Be honest and transparent anyway.”  Mother Theresa

It does not matter what others think.  It does not matter what you think of others.  It’s just a story.

Everyone has a story.  Do not hog it.  Share it!  It just may help someone else with theirs.

And, do not fall victim to your story.  If you don’t like it, change it.

We all smile in the same language.

Life is a game.  Play it.  If you lose, learn from it and play again.

Do not be afraid of change.  Rock that boat, buck convention and defy stereotypes!  It will open doors and windows and worlds you did not know exist.

Step outside of yourself.  Change your perspective.  Broaden your view and you will broaden your understanding.

Live on the edge.  This is where all new growth occurs.  “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  Neale Donald Walsch

Get uncomfortable.

Yes, it’s scary.  But remember, fear and anxiety mean growth; depression, regression.

Do not be afraid to go to hell.  Emotional and physical breakdowns are akin to a spiritual awakening. Ugly times, painful moments and visits to the “swamp lands of your soul” will lead you to insight and understanding.  Do not run from the swamp lands my friends.  Do not resist.  What you resist; persists.  Go through; all the way to the bottom if you must, but go.  You cannot understand heaven, if you have not been to hell.

Life is amazing.  Embrace it.  All of it.  Every second of it.  Not a woeful acquiescence but a full joyful embrace.

True meaning is found in the ecstasy of experience; an experience of feeling alive.  So, do things that make you feel alive.  Eat more chocolate.  Walk on the beach barefoot.  Crawl into clean sheets at the end of a long day.  Make love on those same clean sheets.  Play with abandon.  “Dance like there’s nobody watching.”  William W. Purkey

Life is so delicious.  You are delicious.

And, you are loved.

Dare to dream.  Dream to dare.

Do not wait for success to come to you.  Go to it!

Take action now!  Get out of your own way.  Step out of your shadow.

Live consciously.  Wake up, and turn on your light.

You are pure light.  Bright, beautiful, luminous and numinous!  Live your own truth.  Be in touch with your own divine nature.

Love consciously, deliberately, willfully.  Love!  Love! Love!  Love as if today is your last day.

We need each other.

But, do not lose yourself to another.  Love thrives when each person commits to total union and total creative expression as an individual at the same time.  Complete fusion with another is the ultimate obliteration of yourself.

Do not obliterate yourself.  Do not give yourself up.  Do not sacrifice your wants and desires by putting others first!  “You can’t just sit there and put everyone’s life ahead of yours and call that love.”  The Perks of Being a Wallflower

It is not selfish to take care of yourself first.  It only becomes selfish when it is at other people’s expense. That does not mean that we should not be “in service” to others.  It means we have to take care of ourselves in order to be in service to others.

 

Express yourself fully!

Express yourself creatively!

Express yourself without apology.  Self expression is highly correlated to joy.  It is a means to freedom, connection to ourselves and to others, and the reason we are all on this planet as one; to bring a little bit of our quirky little selves to the cacophony of other quirky little selves, resulting in the most amazing of harmonies.

So go ahead all of you gorgeous human beings.  Show up.  Let yourself be seen.  Sing it!  Write it!  Paint it!  Perform it!  Build it!  Design it!  Wear it!  Sculpt it!  Show it!  Say it loud and proud!   Do not be afraid.  We are all in this together my loves, each and every one of us.

Your life matters!  You matter.  Now go and live!

 

Mud Cake

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Glen Ivy Hot Springs

My plan for my birthday to fly off to St. Louis to see one of my favorite bands, Cake perform at the LouFest didn’t quite go as planned.  But that’s life.  And I have learned to roll with the punches these days.  So, I simply switched gears and opted for plan B; a hike to Holy Jim Falls with Riley (although it was only a trickle), hanging out with my friends back back back stage at the Dave Matthews concert (in other words the parking lot), and then rolling in mud at Glen Ivy Hot Springs.  Not sure if it was the endorphins from the hike, Dave’s lyrics or the therapeutic qualities of the red clay from the Temescal Valley mixed with water from the mineral springs, but I was transformed yet again.  It has been a decade of transformations.

As I covered myself from head to toe, baptized in thick dark red Mother Earth, I let the hot sun bake the mud into a thick delicious crust.  I was one big mud cake.  My skin tingling as the healing powers of the red clay worked its magic.  I felt alive!  Awake!  Delicious!  Free!  Once the mud was completely dried, I began to rub the hardened layers off one by one, as if wiping off the last few years of my life.  The dirt fell to the ground, and the remaining mud, washed away in the showers, spiraled down the drain.  But not all of it!

Later that evening, I found remnants of mud in my hair, ears and other, “uh-um”, body parts.  But I did not wash it off.  I left it there as a reminder.  A reminder of what it feels like to be alive.

Dave Matthews Concert

For those of you that know me, understand that I am a very analytical person, always reading books, watching TED talks, writing, meditating, and conversing with friends about life and all of its challenges.  I have spent a lot of time searching for meaning.  But I realize I never needed to search very far.  It’s been right in front of me all along.  Actually, it has been within me all along.  True meaning is found in the ecstasy of the experience; an experience of feeling alive.  Because when I feel truly alive, I am in touch with my own divine nature.  I am conscious of my own light, fully awake, living my truth.  It’s like seeing life through Waterford crystal instead of rose colored glasses. And it is brilliant!

Joseph Campbell explains it like this:

 “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life.  I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

So, feel the rapture my friends!  Go ahead and smear mud all over your body, get up before dawn and watch the sunrise, take a road trip, swim in the ocean, dance like nobody is watching, do something you did not think you could do, do something others did not think you could do, drive with the windows down and the music blaring, sing on stage, go to a concert, write a blog, take a yoga class, pay it forward, create something out of nothing, conquer a fear, do something spontaneous, run in the rain, connect with a friend, tell someone you love them, volunteer, learn something new, hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, walk around the block, make love, read a good book, go to a museum, eat chocolate, get naked, visit an old friend, call your mom, hug your kiddos, watch Lord of the Rings, walk barefoot in the sand, crawl into clean sheets at the end of a long day, breathe…

Because you never know when you will take your last breath.

Carpe Diem!

Learning to Walk Again

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

When I come home, my daughter will run to the door and give me a big hug, and everything that’s happened that day just melts away.  Hugh Jackman

 

I just dropped Maggie off at her first day of high school. I already miss her.  That adorable way she rolls her eyes at me, interrupts me when I am writing, and makes me turn down my music in the car, “Mom, she says, you are going to blow the speakers!”

I can’t see the screen through my tears as I write this. I am both happy and sad.  It is the end of an era, the beginning of a new chapter. I can’t decide if I should crawl into bed or throw a party.  So I will write instead.

This day did not come to me as a surprise.  It’s been in the works for a long time.  Maggie was hell bent on getting into Orange County School of the Arts two years ago after a lifetime of homeschooling.  She began working on her portfolio; a short story, some poems and a novel.  We sat for hours editing her work, preparing for her audition and making up her transcripts.  I gave her all A’s.  We even moved into a cute little house 5 minutes from the school believing wholeheartedly that she would get in.  In April, her dream came true.  She was accepted into the Creative Writing Conservatory.

Once she got the news, Maggie went full speed ahead getting ready for today.  She spent hours on Pinterest looking for creative lunch ideas, cute outfits and desk designs.  She organized her room, made special compartments in her desk out of cereal boxes to hold all her school supplies, found the perfect lunchbox, planned out her new wardrobe and even decided to complete what I never did, her immunizations.  This is the day she had been waiting for and she was prepared.

But, I guess I wasn’t as prepared as she was.  And, boy did it come out yesterday while doing some last minute back to school shopping.  I had a meltdown.  At the time, I thought it was a combination of the heat, a crowded outside mall, my hormones and the fact that I had to pee really really bad and there wasn’t a bathroom in site.  But looking back, I realize it was more than that.  I was grieving.

I typically act like a grown up, but yesterday, not so much.  Once we got to the mall (I hate malls) I went off on a rant complaining about the parking structure’s poor design, the lack of bathrooms, and the horrible landscape planning, “Why are there not more trees at an outside mall?  I protested.  “Is there only one bathroom in this entire place for god sake?  And, WHERE THE HELL IS HOLLISTERS?  IS THERE NOT A MAP ON THE PREMISES?”

Maggie stayed beautifully calm.  She found the bathroom, Hollisters, and a chair for me so I could sit and pout while she tried on some jeans.  As I sat and watched an entire store full of young girls Maggie’s age, looking for that perfect outfit, excited for their first day of school, I knew I was being unreasonable.  I just couldn’t help myself.

Maggie found two pair of size zero jeans in the shade she wanted, not an easy feat for a girl with a tiny waist and extra long legs.  She was happy.  And, I was happy, because it meant we could go now.

When we finally found the Suburban in the maze they called a parking garage, I was hot, sweaty, hungry and totally exhausted.  It took everything I had to keep my tears back.  Buckled in and backing out, a small ray of light entered my world; one of my favorite songs came on, “Walk” by the Foo Fighters.  God, I love that song.  I play it every time I am feeling low.  It picks me up like no other.  As Dave sang his brilliant words, I began to slowly breathe again.

“I think I lost my way

Getting good at starting over

Every time that I return

I’m learning to walk again

I believe I’ve waited long enough

Where do I begin?

 

After the Foo Fighters, another one of my favorite songs came on, the Cake version of “I Will Survive.”

 

“At first I was afraid.

I was petrified.

I kept thinking I could never live

Without you by my side.

But then I spent so many nights

Just thinking how you’d done me wrong.

I grew strong.

I learned how to get along.”

 

Then, Incubus, “Dig,”

“We all have something that digs at us,

At least we dig each other

So when weakness turns my ego up

I know you’ll count on the me from yesterday

If I turn into another

Dig me up from under what is covering

The better part of me”

 

Turning up the volume, I sang along.  Maggie didn’t complain.  Not, one little bit.  Not even a roll of the eyes.  Nothing.  I realized then that she had intentionally chosen every one of my favorite songs for me.  I love that girl.  She saved me.  And, this is not the first time.

She is my saving Maggie Grace!

I looked over at her, smiled and said “Thank you!”

I knew then that everything was right with the world.  She is exactly where she is meant to be and so am I.

Bucket of Dreams

Monday, August 4th, 2014

“Perfectionism is not the path that leads us to our gifts and sense of purpose, its’ the hazardous detour.”  Brene Brown

I feel like time is running out as my bucket list overfloweth.  I am 47 years old and I want to drink it all up before I can’t tie my own shoe laces.  I want to hike Patagonia, The Camino de Santiago and Pacific Crest Trails. Travel to Ireland and kiss the Blarney Stone.  Sail to Greece and have a love affair on San Torini.  Walk the beaches of Costa Rica.  Spend a week at Burning Man.  See Cake play in Missouri on my birthday.  Take Maggie to see the Foo Fighters and meet Dave Grohl.  Zip line across the Amazon.  Dance in a flash mob.  Finish my book, get it published and travel the world on a book tour.  Play at the House of Blues.  Hit 10,000 likes on the Yes Mom.  Buy an R.V. and drive across all 48 contiguous states right after I return from my cruise to Alaska.  I want to do it all and I want to do it NOW!

But there are obstacles.  I still have three kids living at home, commitments to keep and responsibilities to fulfill.  Amid all of these barriers, however, I know deep down in my core my biggest obstacle is me.

You see, I am a perfectionist. And at times, it can keep me from my bucket of dreams.

Typically, people that are perfectionists attach their self worth to their accomplishments.  According to Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, “Most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule following, people pleasing, appearance, sports).  Somewhere along the way, they adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system, “I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please.  Perform.  Perfect.”

I so get this.  I went to an all girl Catholic High School.  Need I say more?

I had this crazy belief that if I look perfect and act perfect my life will turn out perfect.  Ha!  This is the biggest deception of our so called American Dream endorsed not only by the media, but by our schools, our churches and even our own families.  And I fell for it.

The truth is perfectionism is destructive.  It’s a highly addictive coping mechanism, a shield we use to put up our defenses.  It’s as if we are wearing a full body cast.  A cast that not only paralyzes us but keeps us from taking action, resulting in missed opportunities and blocking our growth.  Because perfectionism is a result of gaining approval, it thwarts our efforts to be real, to be seen and to be vulnerable.

How does perfectionism do all that you ask?  Because, there is no such thing as being perfect.  It is impossible to achieve even though many die trying.  And then there are those that don’t try at all, giving up before they ever got started, not able to live up to such high standards and expectations.

We all fall somewhere on this perfectionism spectrum.  For some, it may be we do not feel particularly worthy or feel that we deserve a trip around the world.  For others, it may be more like an addiction; compulsive, habitual, and chronic.  We think it will protect us from judgment.  But it won’t.

“Regardless of where we are on this continuum,” says Brene Brown, “if we want freedom from perfectionism, we have to make the long journey from “What will people think?” to “I am enough.”

Interestingly, I do care about what others think but I care more about what I think of myself.  I am my toughest critic.  We perfectionists are like that.  We are very hard on ourselves.  We have high expectations and high standards of living.  According to an article in Psychology Today, 5 Steps to Taming Perfectionism, “Perfectionists often have a harsh inner voice that castigates them as lazy or losers when they fail to measure up to their unrealistic expectations. This internal critic is always on the lookout for flaws.”

So true.  One of my biggest fears is that I will not measure up to my own measuring stick.  I am afraid I will fall short of my aspirations; that I will not finish my bucket list and the Camino de Santiago, my book, Burning Man, the Blarney Stone and The House of Blues will become pipe dreams.

When I begin to feel overwhelmed and besieged by the enormity of my dreams, the next thing I know, I am cleaning the house, stalking people on Facebook or watching three episodes of Breaking Bad in a row.  I become counterproductive

This is not a surprise according to the article.  When we have unrealistic expectations we tend to procrastinate which can cause a whirlwind of problems and get us into trouble. There is a way out, says Psychology Today, by shifting our goals and making them a bit more realistic. “When people pursue realistic goals, their anxiety tends to be manageable and might actually increase their motivation and concentration”

WHAT???????

Is Psychology Today suggesting we lower our expectations?  Tame our dreams?  Compromise?  What happened to Dream Bigger?  What happened to the belief that if our dreams don’t scare the shit out of us then they aren’t big enough?  I am always toting depression is regression; anxiety means you are moving forward.  Am I wrong?  What if Steve Jobs, Janis Joplin, Michelangelo or J.K. Rowling decided to be more realistic?  The iphone, Bobby McGee, The Sistine Chapel, Harry.  Hello…

My friend Graham wants to compete in a triathlon.  As you probably already know, a triathlon includes running, cycling and swimming in the ocean.  There is just one problem.  Graham can’t swim.  But, that is not going to stop him.  He plans to take swimming lessons.  I am so glad nobody told him to be a bit more realistic.  Or, maybe they did but he chose not to listen.

I’m not going to listen either.  I am going after my dreams.  Yes, they are big.  Yes, some may even say unrealistic.  But I don’t care.  They are my dreams.  I am worthy of each and every one of them.  And, so are you!  So, no more procrastinating people!  Let’s turn off our phones, log out of Facebook and let Walter and Jesse cook meth without us.  The clock is ticking.  My daughter starts high school in exactly two weeks after a lifetime of homeschooling.  My boys will be in college and working.  For the very first time in what seems like a millennium I will finally have time to dive into my book.  I will start then.