MESS

I try hard to be clean, but I do have to admit, there are days when I am a complete mess.  Some days, I don’t take time to style my hair or put on makeup.  I never polish my nails, and I’m much more comfortable going most places in sweats.  I’m still waiting to see my picture pop up on the People of Wal-mart website.

But life is busy.  There are so many things to see and do.  I don’t want to worry about smearing my lipstick or mascara running under my eyes.  I don’t want my hands just to look pretty.  I want them to create.  I want my face to show expression regardless of wrinkles, and I want my feet to walk all corners of this earth through grass, mud, water, and dust.

I try to clean myself up when I go out to work or to social engagements, but I don’t always succeed.  For example, last Sunday, I was standing with my co-workers at our morning meeting, and I just happened to glance down at my feet.  Oh, my gosh, though I had showered and put on clean clothes that morning, I hadn’t realized that my Sketchers were still covered in mud!  When I had arrived home last night, I had rinsed my muddy shoes off in hot water in the bathroom sink.  When I thought they were clean, I had placed the shoes in the bathtub to dry.  I got up Sunday morning at 5 o’clock.  I quickly showered, dressed, and slipped on my still slightly damp shoes.  I didn’t even realize until I got to work that there was mud still caked on my Sketchers.

I was a little embarrassed, at first.  But then, I thought about how the mud had gotten onto my shoes in the first place.  The day before, Saturday, a friend, Chandra, and I decided to go to the Renaissance Festival in Kansas City, Kansas.  The festival is one of my favorite places.  I go at least once every year when I am in Kansas.  Chandra and I were lucky that we had picked Saturday to attend the fair.  Saturday was the only clear, dry day in a week’s time.  It had heavily rained in the Midwest for six days.  Even though the sun was lazily shining on Chandra and me, the ground was still heavily saturated with water from the heavy rainfalls from the numerous storms.  But Chandra and I didn’t really mind.  We sloshed through the deep mud as we laughed together, talked to the many characters, took pictures, shopped at the numerous stalls, watched the people, were awed by craftsmen plying their trades, and had interesting psychic readings.  Along the way, we slipped and slid through the mud as we walked along the many trails and paths that circled around the festival.  In some areas, the mud was so deep that our feet would actually sink into the ground with each step we took.  The mud would squish up over the top of our shoes.  But Chandra and I didn’t care, because after six dark cloudy days, the sun was finally shining, and we were having fun out in the fresh air and sunshine as golden leaves fell from the trees all around us.  So…what’s a little mud…

So Sunday morning….and for the rest of the day…whenever I looked down at my muddy self, I remembered the fun we had had on Saturday at the festival…and I just smiled and laughed….and I didn’t care what anyone else thought about the mud that clung to my shoes.  It honestly didn’t matter.  When life has been fun and good, I don’t care what negative thoughts and opinions other people may have of me.

And yes, I am very messy sometimes, maybe even downright dirty every now and then.  But I live my own life and value my own truth and I know what’s important to me…and that’s all that really matters.  So I let the mud remain on my shoes, and I let it naturally peel off a little more every day.  And instead of trying to hide my shoes, I wear these messy Sketchers proudly.  I smile, I remember, and I hope everybody notices the mud on my shoes.

 

 

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Connections

I glanced at my phone again and felt incredibly ridiculous.  What was I thinking?  How could I have been so delusional?  But for just one moment, one second in time, I had flipped back into the past.  I had slid out of the present moment and felt as if I was living ten or twelve or even twenty years before now.

I had actually just picked up my phone to call my mother.  Maybe I wanted to call my mother because I suddenly remembered that I still have her phone number programmed into my phone.  I know that I should probably delete it.  In fact, I should have erased it a long time ago.  But that action just seemed so final.

With all of my traveling and moving lately, I’ve lost or given away pictures, mementos, knick-knacks, and souvenirs.  Some of the items from the past have been packed away in places where I don’t have access to them every day.  So my mother’s phone number registered in my phone is my only constant reminder that she had been a part of this journey.

I haven’t dialed my mother’s number since the day she had moved to California from Kansas in August of 2009.  She spent the last nine months of her life with me in Palm Springs, so, of course, her phone had been disconnected the day she left Kansas.  Why did I keep the number even after she moved in with me?  Maybe I kept it because it was the same phone number that my family had when I was a child.  Maybe it is the number not only to my mother’s phone, but to my past as well.

I don’t know…Maybe it’s just laziness.  I don’t pay a lot of attention to my phone.  I don’t mess with it.  Maybe I just don’t worry about my phone because I just don’t care about technology.

But, for whatever reason, my mother’s number is still in my phone.

I wonder if the phone number has been recycled now.  I wonder who would answer if I suddenly got over my fear and anxiety and called my mother again.

I stared at my phone for a moment.  What if by some miracle, by some miraculous connection to heaven and by the pure grace of God, I would hear my mother’s voice again after the nine years she has been gone now?  If my mother answered the phone, what would I even say to her?  But, damn, wouldn’t that be amazing!

I stared at my phone again, so tempted to hit the call button.  But if I did how would I explain the reason I’m calling if someone other than my mother answered?

This is so hard…

Because, damn, I just really needed to talk to her today.

Mind/Body Connection

Our Shih Tzu, Starburst, has an underbite.  Whenever she smiles, her bottom teeth prominently show.  This is what the dog looks like when she is happy:

 

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It makes me laugh to see her smile because, sometimes, I worry that she suffers from depression and anxiety.  There are days when she is completely listless.  She won’t get out of her bed.  Some days, she becomes impatient, angry, and demanding; other days, she is very quiet and remains distant and aloof.

Lately, however, Starburst has been very happy.  She jumps around excitedly whenever I walk in the front door.  She runs around in circles and then stops right in front of me.  She smiles while her tail wags so hard and fast her little backside bounces off the floor.  Then she runs down the hallway and tumbles over with her bottom flipping up over her head.  She prances back into the living room and jumps excitedly up onto the couch and begs for attention until I rub behind her ears.  “Hey, little Fur Face,” I’ll tease her.  But she doesn’t mind my name calling.  She’ll roll over onto her back and wait for her belly to be rubbed.  I usually avoid doing this, though.  Starburst has a very sensitive spot on the right side of her body.  If I accidentally brush over this area, she’ll sit up with a shriek and nip at my hand.  I’ve learned the hard way not to be persuaded to rub her belly, even though she looks up at me with her big, brown puppy dog eyes.  I’ll just shake my head at her, walk into my bedroom, and close the door behind me.

Starburst isn’t finished playing, though.  Her favorite game is “Ding Dong Ditch.”  She likes to scratch at my door while I’m working.  I try to ignore her, but she keeps knocking until I finally get up from my chair and open the door.  I look down the hallway and see the dog’s furry backside bouncing up and down as she runs back to the living room.  I follow her only to find that she has jumped into her small, round bed and pretends to be asleep.

I go back into my bedroom and a few minutes later, the scratching begins again.  I open the door, and Starburst is once more running back to her bed.  She jumps onto the mattress and once more pretends to sleep.  “Stop now, Starburst,” I’ll tell her.  “Your not funny.”

But the situation happens again.  I hear scratching at my door.  I see a small dog racing down the hallway.  I see her little body jerk into bed.  She lays her head down and once more closes her eyes.  This time, however, I just laugh at her.  I walk over and  pick her up. I cuddle her close and carry her back into the bedroom with me where she will fall asleep on my lap while I work on my novel or my poetry book.  Sometimes, she’ll crawl underneath my bed where she snores and sniffs loudly as she enjoys her dreams.

There were some late nights when Starburst would visit my bedroom and become very agitated.  I don’t know what it was, but something inside my closet upset her.  She would stand stiff and straight in the middle of my room, staring intently and growling at something in the corner of my closet.  There were some nights that she really freaked me out, too.  Did she see…or sense…something that I couldn’t comprehend?

But last night, she was suddenly over her fear.  As soon as she entered my bedroom, she went over to the closet and climbed in through the open wooden door.  She then quickly created a small nest out of my shoes and promptly fell asleep.  There was no growling or barking, no fear or agitation.  She snored peacefully. And I slept much easier that night, too.

Starburst is also learning to have better manners and not be so impatient.  Before, whenever she was hungry or thirsty, she would stand in the kitchen with her bowl in her mouth.  She would fling the bowl, hitting me in the ankles with it, whenever I walked into the room.  Oh, yes, I got the message: she needed food or water!

Starburst no longer behaves this way now, though.  The other night, I walked into the kitchen to wash the dishes.  I didn’t notice that her bowl was empty.  Instead of throwing it at me, I suddenly heard a small cough.  Seriously, the dog just started to emit dainty, little coughs.  Ahha! Ahha!  She sounded just like Ben Stiller in Zoolander when he thought he had the black lung.  But she got my attention, and I filled her bowl.  She looked up at me with a grateful smile, sipped slowly, and then gracefully walked out of the kitchen with her tail held high.  She hadn’t been anxious or angry.  She was courteous and kind.  This made me very happy.

Starburst had had some health issues over the last few months.  She had been suffering from digestive illnesses, and her right eye had become infected making it difficult for her to see.  Mary, my sister-in-law, had taken Starburst to a series of vet appointments that include a few shots and several rounds of medication.  The loving efforts of my sister-in-law and the doctor really has made a difference.

Starburst is returning to good health, and her personality has been affected in very positive ways. She is a perfect example of the mind/body connection.  It is true for every living thing.  When we are in good health, we are loving and kind.  When we feel good about ourselves and practice love, our phsyical bodies heal.  I smile now as Starburst comes into my room.  And as she cuddles up on my lap and falls asleep, I wish good health and loving blessings on everyone of God’s precious creatures.  God Bless You and Good Health!

 

Dreams Never Die

My body suddenly grew warmer as I felt a wave of positive energy coming towards me.  I glanced up to see an elderly woman approaching my table at the mini-fair that the Psychic Research Society of Kansas City was presenting on Thursday, July 26, 2018.  The woman must have been in her late 70s or early 80s, I assumed, as she sat down in the chair opposite me and introduced herself as Kate.  I smiled and shook her hand as I gave her my name.  Then we began the session.  I offered Kate the card deck to shuffle, and then instructed her to intuitively pick three cards that she believed would best represent her current life and personality.  As I slowly turned over each card and gave my impressions, Kate responded with joyful insights, especially when I suggested that she should start keeping a journal.

“Oh,” Kate exclaimed, “I love to write.  Just last year, I finished writing a book.  It all just seemed to come to me in one rush.  Guess what it’s about, Jamie.  Guess what it’s about!”  But before I could even respond, she leaned towards me and said, “Space ships, Jamie.  I wrote about spaceships!”

“That’s wonderful, Kate,” I responded enthusiastically.

And then Kate excitedly told me, “And I’m finishing a poetry book now.  Yes, I’m writing a book of poetry.”

“That’s so wonderful for you, Kate,” I smiled.  “Even according to the cards you are very talented and have amazing insight.  This is a great time for you to be creative.”

“Yes,” Kate agreed, “my family told me I should try getting my writing published when I was 91-years-old, but I didn’t feel right about it.  Then, at 92, I said no again.  At 93, I started to think about it.  Now, several years later, I decided it was time.”

I stared at Kate for a moment and didn’t say a word.  I was absolutely stunned.  Did she honestly just say that it was now time…several years after she turned 93?  I wondered just how old this woman was but didn’t want to appear impolite by asking.  And besides, I suddenly realized that age didn’t make any difference anyway.

Okay…but I still have to admit, I was in total awe of this amazing woman with the incredibly bright, sparkly eyes.

After talking for a few more minutes, Kate gracefully stood up from the table and said, “I think this moment should end in a hug.”

“I definitely agree, Kate,” I answered as I got up and we shared a deep, loving hug.  Kate walked away from my table then, and I continued reading the cards for several more clients.

When the fair ended at nine o’clock, I was putting away my cards and cleaning up my table when I once more felt a wonderful sense of energy surrounding me.  I looked up to find Kate approaching me again.  “I think you and I really made the best and most solid connection tonight,” she said as she giggled happily.

This statement made me smile.  I was happy to know that this beautiful, awesome, ninety-something-year -old woman felt connected to me.  I put my arms around her, and we once more hugged closely before saying good night.

On the drive home, I thought about all of the amazing people I had read for over the last three years.  I have had people break down in tears in front of me.  I have connected them with family members.  I have heard their most intimate dreams.  I have tried to calm their deepest fears.  And they, too, have taught me how to love and how to feel more connected to souls, God, and the universe.

And now, lovely Kate had taught me to never stop dreaming, never stop setting goals, to always take each day as a true treasure, to always connect with others and love deeply, and to never ever give up on living.

To write poetry and publish your first book in your 90s…Wow…Just how cool is that…

 

Be Still

I am a natural born fidgeter.  I can’t help it.  I just can’t be still.  When standing up, I find myself mindlessly swaying from side to side.  When sitting down, I am tapping my foot or swinging my legs back and forth.  I can’t even sit still at the dinner table.  Even when I am out for meals with friends, I continue to slide the water glasses and salad plates around the table.  I twist plastic straws into impossible knots.  I spin the butter knives around in fast circles and build towers with the condiment bottles.  One night, as a friend and I were waiting for our food at PF Chang’s, I spun my chopsticks nimbly around my fingers before beating the wooden utensils against the table as if I was the drummer in a rock and roll band.  I only stopped my performance when our server offered me a wrapped set of chopsticks while saying, “You were having so much fun with those chopsticks I thought you would like to take some home with you.”

I have an extremely hard time relaxing my mind as well.  Anxiety, stress, and depression have been constant companions for years.  I wake up in the middle of the night with my mind spinning from events of the day.  I can’t even fall asleep most nights because my constant mind chatter refuses to quiet down.

My endless need to fidget is the main reason I started learning yoga poses and Tai Chi movements.  I couldn’t sit still in meditation, which was something I have wanted to do for years.  I yearned to meditate just so I could experience a sense of calmness, of peacefulness, that I always heard was a benefit of the practice.  I wanted to feel a connection to the universe that I believed meditation could provide.  I wanted to let my mind roam free.  I could feel moments of peace when I was in the mountains or by the ocean.  But I don’t always have the opportunity to be out in nature, so I truly wanted to train myself to sit in stillness and experience peace no matter where I might be.

About two weeks ago, I finally decided that if I truly wanted to practice meditation, I would just have to force myself into silence.  I had read several books on meditation, but reading doesn’t help if there’s no follow through.  I didn’t want to play at this anymore.  It was time to get serious or let it go.  I had developed more spiritually and I was slowly developing a new perspective on life over the last few years.  For some reason, I felt that this was my time.  I was ready to trust in the universe.

So, on June 25, I turned off my computer, put away my books, and set my timer.  I told myself to just remain as still as I possibly could for just ten minutes, which really isn’t a long time.  I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and began counting backwards from 100.  I was surprised how easily I suddenly felt my spirit slip away from my body and from all of the things of this world that had been holding me down.  I didn’t dwell on any thoughts that drifted through my mind.  I just let all emotions and thoughts pass right through me.  And I felt my spirit lifting, rising higher as my body surprisingly began to vibrate with energy.  I was surprised when I finally opened my eyes to find that I had drifted away from this world for over eight minutes!  Because this first session was such a positive experience, I decided to try again the next night.  Once more, I emerged from my meditation with the same sense of peace and bliss that I had experienced that first night.

I don’t want to  fall out of practice, so every night, at around 9 pm, I set my alarm for 10 minutes and let my spirit slip away.  The meditation becomes easier each time I practice.  To my surprise, I am able to block out all the mental chatter and clear my mind as I force my body to relax and sit still.

My biggest challenge to this new ritual, however, occurred on Independence Day, July 4th.  Once more, I set my timer for 10 minutes, took a deep breath…and suddenly popped my eyes back open when a loud firework exploded outside my window.  The noise caused our three dogs to bark and whine hysterically.  I opened my eyes to find that our little Shih Tzu, Starburst, had wandered into my room and was now jumping up on my legs as she whimpered pitifully.  I got up from my chair, shut my bedroom door, and then picked up the dog and placed her on my lap.  I reset my timer and took another deep breath, counting backwards on the exhale.

100….99…98…97…96…

Suddenly, another loud pop and crackle came from somewhere in the neighborhood.  The two dogs in the living room where jumping between the couches as they growled and barked.  Starburst shuddered and jerked as she dug her claws deeper into my right leg.  Oh, my gosh, this was just crazy.  I was trying to leave this world behind and float away into the universe while fireworks sizzled and popped outside, and three dogs whined, barked, and howled inside the house.

And there I was…in the middle of all of this chaos…laughing!

Instead of letting myself get annoyed and upset by all of the noise like I normally would, I couldn’t stop laughing over the situation.  And suddenly the feeling of peace and bliss that I had been experiencing the last few nights started to vibrate through my body.  And instead of getting distracted, I had the best meditation that night because I didn’t let myself get aggravated.  I just enjoyed the craziness of the moment and kept myself calm in the midst of all the commotion.

And suddenly, that’s when I understood the true importance of meditation!  I realized that I needed to keep meditating because it was teaching me that I didn’t have to give in to panic and stress.  I didn’t have to allow myself to become anxious or afraid or frustrated anymore.  I could remain calm even when everything around me was spinning in turmoil.  I can hold on to my inner strength, my inner focus.  After six minutes of meditation on July 4th, I opened my eyes and cuddled Starburst closer to me and kissed her on the head.  I felt love and gratefulness for everything I had and wanted to keep the feeling of happiness and peace going in my life.  I’ve continued to meditate every night and can already see a change after just two weeks.  I am learning to live in peace now without stress, anxiety, or depression.  Life will always be chaotic, difficult, and messy at times; that’s just what life is.  But meditation will always help me find my inner strength, my inner guidance, and will lead me back to God and his plan for my life.  God wants me to live in peace.  He wants me to be happy.  And I have discovered a way to honor God’s plan for me.

Be still and know that I am God.

Dear God, I am learning to be still….

 

Clouds and Miracles

“Mary!  Mary!”  I screamed eagerly as I pushed the front door open a little further and glanced into the living room.  The shrill sound of my voice caused my sister-in-law to run across the hardwood floor towards me.  My animated cries had disturbed her.  A look of anxiety began to crease her pretty face.  At first, I didn’t say anything more to her.  I wanted the moment to be a surprise, but I didn’t want Mary to worry.  So now, I smiled and said, “You have to see this!  Come on!”  I stepped back onto the porch as Mary followed me outside.  As she stood beside me, I started to babble eagerly.  “I just came outside to get something out of my car,” I told her as I gently pulled her over to the first step off the porch.  “And I stepped over here, looked up…”  I paused now for dramatic effect before I said, “And I saw that!”  I pointed down the street and up into the sky.

“Oh, my gosh,” Mary whispered as the anxious look on her face now transformed into a look of pure grace.

“I know,” I whispered.  “Isn’t it amazing?!”  And then we both stood quietly for a moment and contemplated the sight in front of us as we wrapped an arm around each other.

A few minutes earlier, when I had walked out of the house, I had stepped down off the porch, turned, and found myself staring at a large cloud.  That was it.  That’s all it was.  Just a cloud…and, of course, I have seen an endless number of clouds over all the years of my life.  But this one was very different.  This cloud was huge; it had to have been several hundred feet tall from the ground up.  Yes, from the ground up!  The cloud wasn’t up in the sky.  The base of it looked as if it was sitting down on the earth.  In fact, it appeared as if the cloud had come to rest at the end of our residential street and then fluffed up into the air like a giant mushroom.  The cloud was pure, new-snow white as it shined like candle wax against the dusky evening sky.  But there was another aspect about the natural wonder that had me intrigued.  At the very top of the cloud that soared up over the steeple of the small Lutheran church at the end of the street was an image of a heavenly being.  Within the fluffy folds of the cloud, I could see the full, feathery wings and the haloed head of an angel.

As my sister-in-law and I stared at the cloud, we both caught our breath as a golden light suddenly shined out from the cloud.  Though the dusky evening sky was clear, an electrical storm was taking place in the center of the cloud.  The sudden bright lightening contained within the cloud caused the angel to glow internally with a spiritual light.

After a few minutes, my sister-in-law walked back into the house.  I stayed outside on the steps for a few awhile as I stared at the cloud and watched the miraculous lightening strikes in quiet contemplation.  Over the next couple of minutes, the cloud slowly began to collapse and sink within itself.  But even though the cloud eventually dissolved into the darkening night sky I still continued to feel blessed and at peace.  I believed I had witnessed a heavenly phenomenon.  And I knew I would always carry within me the hope and glory of the golden angel cloud even when I am experiencing my own days of collapsing into darkness.

Rainbows

I have always been the type of person to answer, “Oh, I’m fine,” whenever anyone asked me about my overall well-being.  I have a confession to make, though.  I am not always fine.  Anxiety, depression, and insomnia are part of my family heritage, and I am continually fighting to overcome these behaviors.  I meditate and keep positive mantras circulating through my mind.  I surround myself with beautiful, colorful artwork and post inspiring images on my Facebook page.  I listen to music to turn off my constantly chattering mind.  I enjoy long drives and indulge in road trips just to clear my head.  I don’t watch violent movies and television shows.  I delete hateful Facebook posts and avoid reading depressing news reports and bullying “tweets.”  I avoid anything that inspires negative thinking.

But I have to admit that over the last few weeks, due to medical concerns and professional problems, I had allowed myself to slip into a depth of despair.  Honestly, for a while, it felt good to just let go and not be strong for a while.  The only problem was that once I let myself fall, I had a hard time getting back up again.  The more comfortable I became with my negative attitude, the further down into my misery I sank.  I stayed completely alone in my anguish for a few weeks until I finally grew bored and realized I needed to move on with my life.  But I didn’t have the energy.  Even simple pleasures like meditating, day trips, coffee with friends, listening to music, reading, writing, or just vegging out to old episodes of Survivor on Hulu didn’t bring me any kind of enjoyment.

Finally, last Monday, I felt something within me shift and I suddenly realized that I needed to do something to renew my spirit.  I told myself that I didn’t need to make any big moves.  I just needed to do one small thing today that would put me back on my life path again.  So that afternoon, I reached out to my brother and sister-in-law and offered to take them out to dinner.  It would be my treat wherever they wanted to go.  To be honest, there was a part of me that hoped they would tell me no.  I wanted them to say that they had other plans, or that they weren’t interested in seeing me.  But instead, they seemed happy and eager to get together.

So, even though I just wanted to stay in my room for the rest of the day, I got myself cleaned up and went out to dinner at a local barbeque restaurant with my family.  Luckily, I had opened up to my sister-in-law that afternoon, and told her about my concerns and worries.  That conversation had lightened my soul and given me the strength to face the rest of the evening.  Now, as I sat in a booth, enjoying a good meal, listening to music, and telling stupid jokes with my brother, I felt renewed.  I realized my biggest problem was that I had stayed to myself for far too long.

As we left the restaurant, I continued to feel joyful as we climbed into my brother’s car.  As we headed down 635 North, I glanced out the passenger window and stared in shock.  A large, beautiful rainbow was arching high up in the sky.  It hadn’t rained that day; there had been no storms and yet a colorful rainbow shined through a few of the low hanging clouds.  To me, it was a promise of a new start and better, brighter days ahead.  And then a thought suddenly occurred to me.  What if that rainbow had been there for the last several days, but I had been so caught up in my own head, that I just couldn’t see it>  I shook my head then and wondered what other amazing glories I had missed because I had let myself wallow in depression.

I can’t say that I will never be depressed or anxious again, but now I know, that no matter what, I always need to look for, and appreciate, the sudden rainbows, the simple pleasures, that always surround me.