Passover 2017

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Just coming off a whirlwind weekend visiting a college with my oldest, soon to be 18, my daughter.

We landed in Denver and I stopped to fill my water bottle at Root Down, my favorite stop at DIA.  After filling it, I screwed the cap on tight and turned, just in time to see a man being wheeled past, only a few feet from me, a swarm of paramedics administering CPR.  I could see his chest going down and up, an alarming amount of distance really, it was not natural, not at all.  They were pumping his chest with their hands.  He was wheeled down some hallway I’ve never noticed before – the whole thing happened in seconds.  “This is an emergency” I thought.  I sucked in my breath.  It did not look good.

Right there in terminal C a man was possibly dying.  Probably dying by the look of the whole scene.  I shut my eyes and felt the tears.  Heading down the escalator to the train, I wanted to stop and tell the people swarming from the doors, “There’s a man possibly dying up there!”   Life and death so close.

Of all the things I kept thinking about this weekend, “Life is Short” was one of the most prevalent thoughts.  Memories of my girl as a toddler, scenes of her as a youngster, bed time, reading her stories, singing to her.  Watching her struggle and falter and careen into some hard years.

Now a young woman, going to college.  Beautiful big eyed girl.  At ease (mostly) with herself and with life.  She’s ready.  I watch her from a distance.

Leaving the airport, we drive straight to her dad’s house.  It’s Passover and we are going to his “Bob Marley” Seder.   Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jews from slavery and people will play instruments and sing Bob Marley’s Redemption Song.

On the way, we stop and pick up my daughter’s boyfriend.  I hear her in the back of the car whispering to him, “You are part of this family”.  We arrive and the table is crowded with friends and relatives and exes and children.  We open the door for Elijah.  As usual, everyone is starving as we slog our way through the Haggadah – the book we read that tells us what Passover means and why we celebrate as we do.

On this night I sit between my son and my friend Starling.  There is laughter, and the usual chaos.  There are people complaining that they’re hungry, and children who would like to drink more wine, there’s raucous singing, and music breaks for more Bob Marley songs, there’s dancing, and food.  And more food!  Tsimmis (my favorite), and brisket, and smoked turkey with gravy, and matzah and charoset and soup and gefilte fish.  Everyone is stuffed.

I look around the table.  There is love.  There is forgiveness.  There is laughter and subtext.  History.  There have been heart-aches and illness and crises and hard times.  Tonight we celebrate Redemption – being saved from sin and error and gathering together to celebrate another year with love and grace.

I raise a glass and thank the cooks.  And I remember the people that can’t be with us; the people that can’t be here and the people that have passed before, and yet they feel so close tonight.  And I say a prayer for the man at the airport and his family.  We all drink.  L’Chaim.  To Life.  Life is short.  We are all part of this family.

I do the dishes.  The kids stay at their dad’s.  My heart is full with just a tinge of sadness.  The full April moon follows me on my ride, lighting up the mountains that wait silently for me to arrive, home.

 

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery

None but ourselves can free our minds

Have no fear for atomic energy

‘Cause none of them can stop the time

How long shall they kill our prophets

While we stand aside and look? Ooh

Some say it’s just a part of it

We’ve got to fulfill the Book

Won’t you help to sing

These songs of freedom?

‘Cause all I ever have

Redemption songs

Redemption songs

Redemption songs

-Bob Marley

This Story Continues…

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Photo by Anna Yarrow

Our two arms together say everything.  So different and yet similar.  Here she is at 16, tender skin with battle scars.  There I am, with my semi-colon tattoo I got when I didn’t know what else to do, how else to support my girl when she didn’t think she wanted to live. I just couldn’t believe the story was going to end this way!  Spoiler Alert:  The guy doesn’t get the girl in the end.  But I do.  Get the girl.  At least for now.  For a little more time.  And I’ll settle for that.

When I brought Lili home from the hospital at three days old, I knew then that I didn’t have a clue about parenting.  How was I going to keep this tiny human being alive?  I’m embarrassed when I see these photos of her first day home.  The first one is of me crying, looking like a child myself, holding her.  The second photo is me, back in my hospital gown (that’s right, I changed BACK into my hospital gown even though I was at HOME) and got right into bed.  I wished I could have stayed at the hospital, where the nurses knew what to do and I was supervised at all times.

  • From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I loved Lili.  That was the first thing I said when the doctor placed her on my chest: “I love her.”  I look back at the early years of raising her and I ache over the mistakes I made – some big, some smaller.  But there were also shining moments too, where my natural instincts to nurture and protect and supply entertainment were present.  Parenting has been a humbling experience to say the least.  One that has broken my heart open and brought me to my knees many times over.Lili was just three days into her 15th year when her dad and I made the impossible decision to sign custody of her over to strangers.  Before he signed on the dotted line, her dad looked up at me, hand shaking and asked “Are you sure we’re doing the right thing?”  All I could say was “I don’t know.”  But I knew that we couldn’t keep her safe anymore.  Lili was clinically depressed and anxious and her self-harming behavior had become extremely dangerous, and possibly life-threatening.

    The year leading up to this decision to send her away, and the first several months of her being gone, were the hardest time of my adult life.  I fell apart.  I would see friends at the grocery store and turned away to avoid conversation.  I sobbed when friends posted pictures on Facebook of their daughters dressed up for homecoming, celebrating “normal” milestones that we weren’t having.

    I couldn’t make sense of what was happening in my life and I certainly couldn’t control it, so I had to surrender.  I didn’t do it readily or gracefully.  In fact, I was a wee bit rebellious at first.  I was advised to “do my work” by the therapists at the program Lili was in and let her do hers.  I hated when they would say that!  I was sad.  I was grieving.  My daughter was gone.  I was angry.  I didn’t want to do any “work”.  And truth be told, I was fucking exhausted.  I needed a break.

    I spent 3 months in Santa Cruz on the beach.  I went to yoga, I spent time with my other kids, and I started to “do my work.”  Which meant excavating some old territory that I really would rather not have looked at, like my childhood and my marriage(s) and mistakes I made as a parent.  As a mom, I’ve had to sit in the fire of my own guilt and shame around choices I’ve made, even as I understand that I was doing the best I could.  Rough terrain.  Although there were many days of darkness, my mantra became:  “I trust the universe” because even though my life seemed tragic (to me), I wanted to believe, needed to believe, there was a greater reason for what was happening.

    While Lili was learning more about herself and getting honest, I was taking a long look at my life and noticing what was and wasn’t working in it.  She and I are both at turning points in our lives.  After 20 months of hard-ass work, Lili is graduating from her program and coming home and my marriage is ending.  My divorce is final next month.  I’ve done this as consciously and kindly as possible and I’m proud of how Andy and I have both shown up, with a few bumps along the way, but mostly, with open hearts, love and respect.

    When Anna Yarrow said she had some sessions open for her Spirit and Bone project, I was excited to have a photo representation of this potent time.  The words “Spirit” and “Bone” are strong – and sinewy and bloody – kind of like the past couple of years.  Gritty.  And Lion hearted.  The hero’s journey down into the abyss and back up again.  I have grieved what I thought I knew, who I thought I was, what I thought the future held.  I am more open to what actually IS now, and I look forward to welcoming my daughter home – who she has become, what she is showing up as and beginning this new chapter in my life as well.

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    Photo by Anna Yarrow

Magical Mystery Tour

This story is about love, all the good ones are.  And forgiveness.  Before there was that, an incredible amount of wrong-doing happened, because it seems we always hurt the ones we love most, don’t we?  As I type on this wintry night in Colorado, the coyotes howl right outside my back door, the sky darkest ink on this new moon.  The last few months have been a blur – a kaleidoscope of beautiful experiences colliding into one another and creating a smear of bright colors.  I haven’t had the time to stop and fully reflect on each moment and give them the time they deserve.  Each experience is worthy of its own chapter, so perhaps this post is just an outline for future writings, each experience building upon the next and setting the stage.  Here goes the continuous stream of miracles:

December 11th, my 50th birthday.  Friends gathered and a book was presented to me, with photos and writings from loved ones.  My god-daughter fanning me in the native american tradition with a hawk’s wing, her beautiful mother holding the smoldering cedar.  That night, on that birthday, for whatever reason, I was able to receive all the love directed my way and feel full.

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Early January,  Varanasi, India – under a full moon, on a sandbar in the Ganges, sitting with friends and strangers around a fire, I chant prayers for others, for my family, for myself, and make offerings with sweets, flowers and incense.  Of all my experiences in India, this remains one of the most generous and beautiful ones and I come back to it in my mind again and again.  I am not always given the gift of knowing how special something is in the moment, and this was one of those moments, one to remember and re-tell.

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Mid January, Rishikesh, India I dipped in the frigid waters of Mata Ganga (Mother Ganges) with my 80 year old mother.  The night before I had led our group through a Kundalini yoga kriya called the Hour of Your Death and the next morning I led us in a rebirthing.  Smiles were wide, hearts were light and my mother and I embraced in the yoga room as everyone danced to Here Comes The Sun by George Harrison.  My birth had not been an easy one 50 years prior and this day felt like a do-over for both of us.  We all took our newly born selves down to the water for a dip.  There was a chilly fog that made things look even more mystical than they already felt.  I felt like daughter and mother all in one, watching over my mother gripping the chain in the rushing water.  We submerged, coming up baptized.

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Early February, Boulder, Colorado.  My daughter came home for the first time in 10 months.  The breath I had been holding all this time, slowly exhaled as I felt her presence once again in my house, heard her voice, followed her trail of clothes.  She was home for a family occasion, the Bar Mitzvah of my son, her brother.  Family and friends came to witness this rite of passage.  My children’s father and I, divorced now for 11 years, put aside old quarrels and came together, united in our love for our children.  My husband (of almost 10 years) and I shyly presented ourselves at a family dinner where I would see friends and relatives that I hadn’t seen or spoken to since the divorce.  Both grandfathers have died in the past 11 years and they were honored and spoken of.  Both grandmothers are alive and well and graced us with their presence.  In front of the congregation and our community, I released my baby and blessed him into manhood.  Symbolic of course, but powerfully potent like all ritual can be.  I felt it.  He did too.

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Last weekend, family therapy at my daughter’s school.  My ex-husband, my husband, my daughter and son and me.  We all showed up with vulnerability and an unflinching commitment to do our work.  There were moments of despair, pain, tears and also such compassion and tenderness.  The weekend was deep and hard.  The weekend was light and  full of love.  Forgiveness was the oil that kept us all on track, even if sometimes we looked like the most sorry-assed jalopy on the lot.  On the last night, before I had to leave, I held my daughter for over an hour, stroking her hair and singing to her.  Rearranging my DNA.  Deeply comforting.  Another rebirth.  Our own ceremony.

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Love’s in Need of Love Today

And I say to myself, what a Wonderful World
And I say to myself, what a Wonderful World

Years ago, I read a story about Thich Nhat Hanh riding in a small boat. He was a passenger along with a man who had raped a young girl.  Thay was on this boat with the rapist and, by some cruel twist of fate, the young girl as well.  He shared that he was actively practicing compassion for everyone in the boat.  He couldn’t feel love for only the girl – one is not more deserving of love than another.  In the story, he wrote, that he could see himself in the rapist.  That he was both the rapist and the girl.   At the time, it was a struggle for me to understand what he was saying.  How could Thay identify with the rapist?  What did that mean exactly?  I was confused, but the story has stayed with me all these years.

If you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all.”  -Yogi Bhajan

I have been at a complete loss for words after hearing about a black man (any man, any human) getting choked to death by a white police officer.  I can’t watch the video.  It makes me sick.  I want to distance myself from the man who killed Eric Garner.  My heart breaks that I live in a world where humans kill each other.  There is a part of me that is ready to leave this planet.  Beam me up.  My bags are packed.  What the hell are we doing?  I want to point the finger.  Blame others.  I feel powerless and angry.  I am tired.  I don’t want to offer a hand, or a compassionate heart.

I want to open my throat and, with a lioness roar, make a sound so loud that all guns shatter into a million pieces.  I want my tears to replenish the oceans and rivers so there is no more drought.  I want to wrap my arms around the earth in a healing embrace. I want to personally apologize to each animal and plant that we are driving to extinction.  I want to lay my head down and go to sleep so I don’t have to hear about fracking and GMOs and human violence.

But instead, I look within and I know something about myself.  I am the police officer, so angry, in need of control, that I kill.  I am the human enjoying my white privilege in the United States.  I am the wounded soul that hurts others out of fear.  I need to recognize that in myself, so that I can heal it and seek to empathize with others, and be a better ally.  My silence comes from shame or confusion or sorrow, or all three.  Our silence doesn’t help the situation, it enables it to perpetuate.

I don’t know what (if anything) is going to turn us around as a human race.  But my heart tells me this:  Love is the answer.  At Stevie Wonder’s concert last week he asked all of us to keep trying to love one another.  A black man who is blind, Stevie keeps spreading his message of love and unity.  He says this of love:  “If it’s magic, why can’t we make it everlasting? There’s enough for everyone.”

When one suffers we all suffer.  We are ALL connected.  We can only evolve as much as the very last person in the evolutionary line.

This world was made for all men. All people, all babies, all children, all colors, all races, this world, my world, your world, our world, this world was made for all men”  -Stevie Wonder

Thank You

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It never fails to amaze me – the redemptive quality of families – of forgiveness, love, laughter – the messiness and imperfection, the prayers for patience and tolerance, the unexpected kindnesses, the tears as we go around the table saying what we’re thankful for.  I started the day out with a “raisin” heart – all small and shriveled, feeling protective and prickly and ended the day with a large, spongy heart = like those little pills you drop into water and they expand 10 xs their size into a giant snowman or pine tree.  That’s me.

Things that touched me yesterday: my mom home with the flu, alone.  Making the best of her day, knowing someone would deliver some delicious food to her later in the evening.  FaceTiming with my daughter and son and their father and laughing over the airwaves with them.  Spending the day at the beach with my husband, playing volleyball in the sunshine.  Sitting with my step-daughter at the dinner table and feeling how thankful I am for her in my life.  Ruby, my heart companion of a dog, almost drifting off to sea, as a wave came in – she doesn’t float!  Grateful that the wave subsided and she ran to shore (I would have saved her.)

Dear family & friends texting, messaging me, facebooking me, from all over the world = global village.  People posting on Facebook and inviting others to their table, recognizing that people can feel alone and sad on holidays.  Another friend, alone on Thanksgiving and feeling the freedom of that!  Skating at Rockefeller center, watching the parade and enjoying New York’s first snow fall of the season.  Light and dark.  Vulnerable and tenacious.  Hearts beating.  Breath catching.  Eyes watering.  Lips curling.  I felt it all yesterday.  It was beautiful.  Thank you.

If you only say one prayer in a day, make it “Thank You.”  -Rumi

 

 

Chakra Series – 5th Chakra

Throat Chakra - taken by my son
Throat Chakra – taken by my son

Vishuddha – Throat Chakra – Sound, Creative identity, (self-expression)

This is the chakra located at the throat and is related to communication and creativity.  When open, you are free to speak your mind, express yourself fluently, and feel as if you have a right to your voice.  I’ve been hesitant to write about the 5th chakra because I’ve been in a funky place of self-doubt, insecurity, and writer’s block.  The antithesis of a flowing 5th chakra.  But then I realized, I was waiting until I had something “good” to write, instead of just sharing what is living in my heart and speaking my mind.  That I can do.

This is the time of year I always, always begin my descent down into the underworld, to shed my layers and hang on Inanna’s meat hook.  I feel like my insides are exposed and I get protective, isolated.  Something about the holidays and my birthday approaching.  And an internal wisdom to hibernate and go within that bumps up against our society’s demand that we Celebrate!  with a capital ‘C’.

Yesterday was the Day of the Dead.  The veils are thin at this time of year.  I feel it.  The clocks have turned back this morning, and while I write this, the sky is putting on a show for me;  rose pink, lavender gray and pale orange behind inky trees.

November Sky
November Sky

Where does the time go?  I spent Halloween night quietly, not a lot of trick-or-treaters on our street.  I spoke to Andy, alone on Halloween just like me, in another state.  We texted each other using emoji’s = Modern Love.  We were walking down memory lane about past Halloweens with our kids.  I was looking at old pictures of parties we used to have.  I was feeling melancholy looking at the small fresh faces in all the photographs, dressed in their costumes.  Pirate cheerleader, angel, ghost.  “I know, those days are gone forever” texts my husband.  “Thanks for cheering me up!” I text and include a gun emoji pointed at my head.  (my sense of humor)

I had one tiny little girl who stared at me with wide eyes and, when prompted by her parents, whispered a hushed “twick or tweat”.  My heart ached with the purity of that age – her family’s future spreading out before them in an amalgam of hopes and dreams.  I’ve aged.  I’ve become cynical.  My heart is broken.  This is the first Halloween ever that I haven’t spoken to my daughter.  I can’t.  She’s not here.  She’s in a therapeutic boarding school.  This is our life right now.

Gazing upon my trick-or-treater’s face, I felt like Scrooge looking down on Tiny Tim and felt my heart crack with her innocence.  I ran upstairs and got my daughter’s fancy tea set all packed away in a wicker basket (I remember when I bought it at a fancy toy store in town that has since closed) and handed it to the girl’s mom.  “Enjoy it, use it” I said.  One more childhood token removed from the house.

It feels cliche for me to write about the “cycle of life” but it always comes up for me at this time of year:  birth, death, dreams, heart-ache, babies, teenagers, the truly egregious wounds that family can and does inflict, Spring, Fall, candycorn, rotting pumpkins, plump cheek, wrinkles, baby, crone, dropouts, honor roll, fresh air, meds, the redemptive power of LOVE in family = it all swirls inside my brain and my heart and collects in an aching lump, in my throat.  Glad I got it down in words today.

The story doesn’t end here…

 

"The semicolon is used when a sentence could have ended, but didn't"
“The semicolon is used when a sentence could have ended, but didn’t”

This is something I’ve wanted to write about for a long time and had no idea how to start. It’s about a subject that is sensitive and personal. It’s about Suicide. I personally know a lot of people who have chosen to end their lives.

Everyone had different circumstances and methods – some had Aids related dementia, some were chronically ill, others were clinically depressed (despairing in a darkness that no light could reach), some were a complete shock and some were unfortunately hinted at and worried about before the actual deed was carried out.

When my mother’s partner Fred was experiencing a soul crushing depression three years ago, I wrote to him and asked him to live for his son and grandchildren – telling him that suicide was not a legacy he would want to leave his grandsons.  Advice I gave from personal experience.

I was 25 when my maternal grandfather hung himself.   In his goodbye note he misspelled my mother’s name. He took his life on his wedding anniversary and his body was the first thing that my grandmother saw when she came downstairs to make breakfast. Every night after that, for months, I would wake up at 4am with heart palpitations – hyperventilating, unable to breathe.  Only a trip to the emergency room assured me that yes, my heart was strong and I wasn’t dying of a heart attack.  Just suffering from an overly sensitive nervous system.  I wish I had known then about grief and how it can manifest in the body and how we can experience the phantom symptoms of our loved one’s illness or death.

I have no wise insight into why people commit suicide or how I could have prevented anyone I knew from taking their own lives.  I do know that the people I knew were in a personal hell that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I also know that I can’t force anyone to want to live. It doesn’t work that way although I wish it did.

Fred hung himself from the garage rafters and my mother found him as she pressed the garage door opener, returning from church.  In his note he asked for her forgiveness.  He ended his story.

It’s been a tough year for me and I haven’t felt able to talk about it much.  Mostly because it didn’t feel like my story to tell.  My daughter has been struggling with anxiety and depression.  At times she’s struggled with wondering what the point of it all is.  This has rocked me to my core.  She is my heart.  My moon.  My love.  My life.  I’ve been stretched to my parenting limits and stretched some more.  The gifts that have come from these several months are still unfolding but already I am grateful to experience first-hand the tenderness of strangers, the circle of tribe, the ties of blood, the howling fierceness of mother love, the tempering of my will, and the sweet grace of surreneder.

The semi-colon movement was brought to my attention by my husband.  The movement is for anyone who has ever self-harmed or has tried to commit suicide.  On April 16 they are asking people to draw a semi-colon on their body in solidarity with them.  A writer uses a semicolon to continue a sentence and uses a period to finish one.  The semicolon is a sign of hope. The sentence doesn’t end here.

PS – the picture above is my new tattoo I got today.  Whenever it started to hurt, I thought of my girl and all the pain she’s been through and put all my love for her back into the ink.  The story doesn’t end here…

 

For Bill, Joe, Ives, John, Sarah, Frank, Stephen, Tim, Mary, Fred, and everyone everywhere who just couldn’t bear one more day and all those who loved them.

 

 

 

 

 

Under Construction

Wild Ride
Wild Ride

I am in heavy Family Time right now.  Me/Him/Mine/His (no “Ours” – I guess that would be the cats…and they’re not here with us right now.)  We’re on a Family Vacation.  I’m learning A LOT.  The first thing I have learned is that I suck (sometimes.)  I really do.  I am mean.  I am childish.  I am petty.  Wow.  No sugar coating this part.  It’s humbling.  The other thing about this is that when you are on a Family Vacation, and you Suck, your whole family sees…there’s no hiding it.  And…some of members of this family are made up of teenagers.  And guess what?  Teenagers notice this stuff.  No getting around it.

There is a certain terrible rhythm amidst all 5 of us.  At any given point, at least one of us is feeling fed up, sad, hurt or angry.  We’re being called to stretch ourselves and make room for all that we are – not just the nice persona we show the public.   I happen to be blessed by a family that forgives and truly wants to be in good relationship with each other, even if we are not always sure how to do that.   There’s a lot to be said for the power of apologizing and the grace of forgiveness.  I’ve been doing both.  A lot.

The other thing I am learning – and this is Monumental with a capital ‘M’ – is that LOVE is limitless.  It comes from source, so it never runs out.  I run out of patience and get frustrated, but when I am running on empty, I can remember to ask for help.  For Grace.  For some “more love please”.  And guess what?  It’s working.  I’ve never been so consciously aware of this before in my life.  It feels miraculous, truly.

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A dear friend gave me a ring a few weeks ago.  It has the letters ‘LIMI‘ on it.  They stand for Love Is My Intention.  They were created to promote more love on the planet.  Normally, my goal is to love more and to fear less (thank you Lance), but to have this reminder to breathe, to love, to recommit to my intention, on my finger helps me come back to this mantra again and again throughout the day.

LIMI = Love Is My Intention

 

On my own, I am a human being with a finite set of resources.  Sometimes I have a “raisin heart” – which means a little, dried up, Grinchy heart.  When I’m in this mode, nobody is happy, including myself.  Sometimes I indulge in shitty behavior, and like any addiction or bad habit, I don’t feel better afterwards.  Source (or Love, or God, or…) is Limitless and I can change from the “Me” channel to “Source” channel and that is magical.  mmmm.  Love.  Healing.  Grace.

To err, to apologize, to ask forgiveness, to love, to forgive…it’s one wild merry-go-round here and I am learning…growing…loving.  Grateful.

Escape to Reality

“Be melting snow.
Wash yourself of yourself.”
— Rumi

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Sometimes when a dream dies, it can feel like a death. A death of the self – an idea, a belief, or an identity…or all of the above.

Our family has had a series of big hits lately. To protect everyone’s privacy I won’t go into details, but I can share that there were a lot of surprises – the kind that make your mouth make a silent ‘o’ as you stop to catch your breath. The kind that make you wonder if you ever really knew a person like you thought you did. The kind that make you take a step back and wonder who you are. Heavy stuff.

Miraculously, Andy and I happened to have a trip to Mexico scheduled in April. One week in paradise at an all-inclusive. Nothing to do but lie in the sun, float in the bath water Caribbean, eat a ridiculous amount of food, make love, and share our broken and gentle hearts with each other.

When we arrived last Sunday, we brought only the hope that time would restore us. Neither of us are strangers to reinvention and we both know from experience that when one door closes, another opens. But this time, I will admit we were going on blind faith.

The lunar eclipse this week signified the end of an old way and new beginnings. On the day of the eclipse, Andy and I sat on the beach and took stock of our life – the cast of characters, our finances, our work goals for the year, our deepest desires.

I love this man for his ability to look at the big picture and stay in the field of possibilities with me. What emerged was a beautiful plan (I love a plan) that is based on reality – not fantasy – and it is quite amazing and enlivening. I won’t spoil it by detailing it, but let’s just say it involves a lot of travel and more beaches…feeding the soul while still actively parenting two teenagers and an 11 year old. Of course, more hospice work as well. Appreciating what IS vs. what we wish could be.

Thank you to the ocean for restoring me. Thank you to my sweet friends for loving me. Thank you to my children for grounding me. Thank you to my husband for your truth and vulnerability. Thank you life for all your gifts. I’m committed to staying present to all of it.

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