Peace Prayers

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6

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Peace, solitude, tranquility

Peace, solitude, tranquility, regardless what you call it, I believe the best way to offset any turbulence in life is to become a homing pigeon led to a space that may not necessarily be your physical home, but present an undisturbed place of respite.

Over these last thirty years, one of my refuges is Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Brookfield, Connecticut.

Whether I am in praise, joy, anguish, exhaustion or discourse, I come here to realign my thoughts and spirit and awaken my soul.I have never witnessed a burning bush experience, magically cured an ailment or miraculously transformed in some way. But I am always removed from the stressful boom of the secular. Humbled, I feel peace at my core, and I am ready to return my higher self to the world. That is, the selfless self that can stop ruminating about ME, turning the “M” into a “W” and forming the word “WE” and actually giving completely of myself to someone else.

Though the grotto is as solitary as its brick edifice, I have never come here without being overwhelmed by the sense of union that I feel as I kneel before the candles, religious statues and personal mementos that others have left, and I discover. This is another way that I get unstuck from my own navel gazing and feel part of a larger whole.

Oddly, over these many years, why others don’t flock here like they would a rock concert, I can’t figure out. Rarely, have I seen one other person visit the grotto while I was there.The grotto is off a busy road, buzzing with motorists that accelerate a good ten miles over the set speed limit. I always think how ironic that these motorists don’t see “it.”

Upon leaving, I always want to call to them.“Eureka!” I want to shout. “Look what’s here!”

But that is like asking a stranger to take a road without surface or form.That would be like something akin to faith.

That would be like saying to the passing motorists, “Come feel how small you are and how little true control you have.”

Most of them would likely rather attend a rock concert.

Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

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touched by an angel

Mind Confusion: Good for you?

dance_school-1280x1024 (2)Body confusion sounds bad but is good. As my yoga coach explained, when your exercise routine becomes routine, your muscles get bored and slack off. You can schedule the same exercise routine every week, but after awhile it becomes old hat, and your body does not benefit from the workout. In other words, you have to challenge—shuffle things around; in essence, confuse the body to keep it at its best. Challenges and new moves keep you in healthy grooves!

In this same vein, if the body slacks off, wouldn’t the mind do this also? Not to minimize the impact of a life crisis, but one thing it does do is shake you up and orbit you to unfamiliar places that may feel foreign and scary at the beginning, but later as the journey unfolds, recharges the imagination and ignites the creative problem-solving juices.

For instance, before our family’s personal crisis in 2010, I could have continued to hide under some fifty extra pounds of weight and allow myself to fade into the buttermilk color walls of my house, vaporizing behind my then husband’s emotional tailspins.

Instead, nearly four years later, “mind confusion” has kicked me into over drive. Tons of new challenges undertaken…daunting jobs, grubby courtrooms, and a longtime friend who threw me under the bus just when I was about to get my bearings! With the challenges, new joys have also unfolded…dating again since 1989, the last time I had a date; neighborhood kids who come to the door with shovels during a blizzard and a late-life love who surprises me with a kiss that transplanted me back to feel sixteen again when my high school’s gym class cheered me on as I did a tap dance atop the trampoline.

Thanks to the element of surprise, total mind confusion, I not only shed the pounds, okay, some of them, but I have also had a love affair—with my femininity, my individuality, my sometimes tragic, miserable, highly interesting, amazing life, and I learned that courage doesn’t come to me naturally, but that I have to have faith and work at it…not face danger and freak out and bolt, but face danger, freak out and stare it down—a little bit longer at each new perilous zone.

In the end, I still have “the bad” confusion in my life and I struggle as a single mom. It remains an everyday challenge to be stable and balanced, especially when the mortgage due date draws closer, every month, and my mind becomes a 24-hour melee in which I must battle it out with beasts that can and will flex their muscles to frightening proportions. Then there are those days when my body joints tell me I have been squeezed out of so much youth.

Through it all, I have learned to get my shine on and dance through life as if my experience on this earth has been a skip through a meadow of wildflowers and not a plunge into an abominable pit of hot coals, employing grace and dignity at all times when tears mar the vision, but faith carries me forward through the downpour.

Thank you angels

In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.  Job 12:10

Okay it’s been over a month. We are in the middle of Thanksgiving weekend. I can talk about it now. Our beloved French poodle Crouton who has been my anchor through these crisis-filled years, my number one (ok, number three after my kids) cheerleader, my coach, my shadow, my angel passed away peacefully at home on October 17, 2013.

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Instead of dwelling on Crouton’s passing, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I have been thinking about a few of the people, angels, who soared into my life and lifted me up at the times I was at my most pancake position. For instance, about a week before his death, I had informed the staff at Waggies, Crouton’s grooming salon at the time, that my doggie had a cancerous tumor. I almost did not call the salon because of his bloody wound, but I wanted my dog to look his astute best during the critical period.

The salon’s owner Ellen told me to come right down with Crouton. The minute we walked throug the door, Ellen and Lisa, my doggie’s groomer, showered us with empathy and consolation. Despite his open bloody tumor, without hesitation, Lisa washed him and clipped him gently and speedily. Two hours later, his spruced up look was just the boost I needed. Like a rite of passage, on his way through the doorway of death, the groomer kissed him on the middle, then the tip of the nose. In a very odd way, the time we spent together was like celebrating sadness.

The week after, feeling glum about Crouton’s deteriorating condition, exiting the supermarket in the middle of a torrential downpour, a man about my age made the mad dash to get his groceries into his car. Following behind, I started to pile my bags into the way back of my SUV when the man’s kindly face came into full view. He positioned the remainder of my groceries into my car, and even took my shopping carriage back to the front of the store. I knew God had sent his messenger to let me know he had not abandoned me.

Meanwhile, through Crouton’s death process, my friends, including Pat, Camille and Michelle, partook in the journey; probably helped prevent a few major falls as I did trip. A couple of weeks after his death, my dear friend Michelle arrived at my door with a homemade meal. It has been one of those days when the house felt particularly empty and big. MsBread

“It’s so quiet without Crouty,” my son had said when he came home from work.MsChickenSoup

The emptiness in our living space was instantly filled with the aroma of the chicken soup and bread that Michelle had walked in with that night. Her entrance and exit was brisk, but her appearance had not only given us the faith we needed at the moment, but had a lifelong effect on us, like so many others that I had encountered through the trying time. In the emptiness of our hearts and our home, God filled the barrenness with His love, manifested through the human touch.

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Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

Watching Crouton earn his new set of wings

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

MOM 004[1] (2)Crouton&ME1“You understand, your family is the worst possible choice for Crouton to go home with, you understand, don’t you?”

The animal shelter’s volunteer conveyed to me in confidence after my two children and I had been shown an apricot toy poodle at PAWS, “Pet Animal Welfare Society,” a nonprofit “no-kill” organization in Norwalk, CT, following my 8-year-old daughter’s discovery of him the night before on petfinder.com.

The memory is so branded on my mind that I still remember the woman’s name, Noreen. While my daughter and her brother waited in a separate room, I had nodded, but inwardly was relieved. At the time, we had two cats at home, and my then husband did not have the slightest notion that we were spending our day at the local shelter just looking.

Yes, of course, I understood, I told Noreen. The other two families, also in line with high hopes to bring a new two-year-old poodle home, were much better suited. One had only a twosome, a mom and her young daughter, and no pets at home. The other five-member family looked responsible enough.

I alone, I reasoned, would make a terrible dog owner. I always had cats. The only dog I had was a dachshund for a day. My older brother Paul had brought him home when I was eight years old as a surprise. Unfortunately, we had to bring him back to the shelter because my parents did not want to shoulder the burden of the extra responsibilities of an animal. After the dachshund’s return, my brother and his girlfriend at the time had bought me a banana split. I ate the whole thing, but my sorrow persisted along with a belly ache too. From then on, I vowed I would have a dog of my own one day and keep it forever.

Keep dreaming, that was my motto! When the kids were toddlers, one of our weekly visits was to a local pet shop where we would spend the time as speculators to some pretty fancy poodle cuts on some impressive show dogs by a groomer who rented space in the store. She herself owned five poodle show dogs. There, we learned everything there ever was about a poodle, and once you learn the innermost workings of a poodle, there is no other recourse but to fall in love; and so I was, head over heels, or tails, in this case, however, at a distance. Who, after all, was I, a mom/freelance writer with limited funds to own the most perfect dog that cost upwards to thousands upon thousands of dollars?

So, fast-forward from this point, and there I was at Paws with Noreen telling me that we were not suitable dog owners and—presto—a blue leash hit the palm of my hand like a surprise snake.

“What?” I asked, shocked as she let go of the leash.

“And even though you seem like the least likely family to adopt Crouton, I am giving you the dog, because your children were the ones who interacted with the dog the best.”

By now, I knew if I hadn’t manipulated or initiated a situation’s outcome, God was at his handiwork. So who was I to argue with the big honcho?

In hindsight, I always say give a rescue dog a 90-day trial before you make a final decision. You see, even though my husband did not bat an eye when we brought Crouton home, and the cats realized after a day with their “new master” who was in charge, it wasn’t until the 91th day that Crouton stopped piddling all over the couch and soiling the rug! In fact, if my then husband did not have a snag at work, we had decided that morning that he would come home in the afternoon on that 90th day of owning Crouton to bring him back to PAWS!

So call it another God thing, but that darn messy dog turned into an angel during his third month with us and as my son pointed out, became a part of our pack of which I was the top wolf. Although he was supposed to be my daughter’s dog, Velcro he was to me, and I learned about loyalty and the kind of unconditional love where if I really did jump off a bridge, guess who would shadow me in an instant?

Soon after those initial 90 days, the common denominator in my life was that “everyone made mistakes, but not “Crouty,” because he was perfect, an angel, my angel dog. Life without him did not and could not enter my thoughts…not for many years…..

Until  that awful morning when our groomer uncovered a growth on Crouton’s hind leg. After the biopsy a few days later, I received the word on August 16, 2013; our little angel dog had a tumor, an aggressive tumor. Without recapping the horrific details, our vet felt it was a reasonable decision on my part that I decided against surgery.

Basically, for the last six weeks, I have watched Crouton die with the latest vet run this past Monday.

During this time, I realized it is not just about the person or pet you are losing. It’s about our own death on a different scale and how each passing day will sooner or later change the face of things forever. I look back about ten years ago when we first brought Crouty home, and out of the many vivid memories, I picture my son, in the middle of a snowy winter, sliding Crouton down our cul-de-sac buckled into a “dog sled,” his genius invention for a fourth-grade project. I see my daughter in her young innocence sprinting with Crouton on an early spring day, who in his dog days, could run miles; my daughter’s blonde hair reminiscent of his ears flopping in the wind. I see him too in his Cujo alter ego, as the kid’s so often referenced, with him playing attack with our dear departed Rob, my son’s best friend; head to head, nose to nose, to the secret delight of us all.

One of my best memories was on a Sunday morning eavesdropping on Crouton, my then husband and two young kids roughhousing on our queen-sized bed, wanting to pinch myself because no greater could the joy have been than at that time at those moments.

The face of any death reminds us of the sunset of our youth; our children growing and going; it is about how temporary life is and how even in its most tormented moments, if looked at closely enough, how beauty still resonates if we have the grace to dive deep below the surface.

In 2010, with the dissolution of our family, when our world, the one we knew, collapsed, I took a downward plunge and sat in the playroom alone, seriously considering the unthinkable…plotting…over thinking…while seeing images of the car’s exhaust in a closed off garage. Immobilized, not knowing what to do, or not do, in this case, a pair of indigo eyes came at me.

“Damn dog,” I said out loud to him. “Damn, angel dog.”

I called my dearest friend Pat, 24/7 savior in our family, and said crying, “I can’t do anything drastic. Crouton would die if I did anything rash.” She, as always, was at my side in human form.

So, I made a promise to Crouton, I would survive. Ironically, a few weeks later, Crouton was savagely attacked by our neighbor’s German Sheppard. Pat, who was with Crouton at the time of the incident, rushed the mangled poodle to the vet.

When I found out, I cried, traumatized. I begged God to save him. Miracles of miracles, the Lord heard my prayer and the vet’s staff called my little angel “Brave Boy” throughout the ordeal.

A lot has happened since those first few crisis-filled autumn months of 2010. For the first time in my life, I took up jogging with Crouton. He was my inspiration behind every single run. We ran in the same pack, and after all that we had been through, we felt invincible.

In the spring of 2010, me, hairspray queen, started to open up the sunroof and all the windows in my BMW, allowing for the first time my hair to run savage wild, and bolted down our little town’s rural roads with Crouton in the passenger seat, listening to Johnny Cash.stoplights 018 stoplights 0111

“I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,

Yeah, I’m going to Jackson,

Look out Jackson town.”stoplights 012

Soon thereafter, I took an outside job, and Crouton, momma’s boy that he was, was not amused. In fact, he was pretty darn angry at me in the morning and would stall doing his morning business, but by the time I got home, I knew I was totally forgiven, since he could not stop jumping for glee the moment I pulled into the driveway.

Now, going into our third year of our “new normal,” I am able to let him go, slowly, gently, lovingly. Three years ago, I was too broken to lose him. I was gifted three more years of having him; my strength always.

The vow I made to myself so long ago, to have my own dog one day and to keep forever, I accomplished. You see, I have faith that long after Crouton’s final rest, he, like my other memories, will live in me forever until I cruise down that final country road, wind messing up my hair, where my angel dog and all the other angels will await to celebrate a party that has no end time, only operates on dog time.stairway_heaven

We rescued Crouty and he rescued us!

Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

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To Robert Smuniewski, heaven’s angel at 21

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. stairway-to-heaven-at-morning-time

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Unforgettable he was. He was my son’s best friend and like my own son. He didn’t do what was hip, cool, or mimic the latest media blitz. He didn’t do pop culture. He did “his” culture. He didn’t do what was appropriate; he did what was “Rob,” which meant he was filled with piss an’ vinegar. He possessed his own creative, unique style; a spontaneous jokester, who could impersonate most anyone or anything like, for example, our toy poodle. The minute Rob’s lanky figure, typically wearing well-worn sneakers crusty with mud, appeared at our door, both of them, dog and kid, were on all fours, lunging at each other in a barking match.

Sometimes he provoked me, but I couldn’t stay mad at him for long. He was so damn sincere. He had a quick wit, a mechanical, dare-devilish mind; a hellion on wheels. When Rob was around ten, for instance, after we had a new pedestal bowl-like sink installed in our remodeled bathroom, he persisted to turn the single-spout faucet on and off and kept fiddling underneath the contraption to try and comprehend how the pipes worked.

I’d hear the stream, or should I say geyser, of water coming from the bathroom. “Rob-bbbbb! Get out of there,” I’d shout.

“Awwwww. Ms. Max (that is what he called me), I’m just washing my hands….”

“Rob-bbbbb!”

One night, my now ex-husband and I went out for dinner. Upon returning home, I staggered when I heard what sounded like Niagara Falls on the other side of the bathroom door.

“Rob-bbbbb….”

After witnessing the scene of the crime, he swore to me again he was only washing his hands at the sink, which, laying on the floor, we could only shut off that night at the main water line. The next day, when the plumber came to repair the damage, we discovered that Rob wasn’t solely responsible for making the sink go pa-Boom. The bathroom floor did not lay straight and its uneven surface had contributed to the sink plunging on the floor…so we installed a more practical, Rob-proof sink.

Unblushing he was. If he came around, man, be prepared for 214 questions about a collector’s plate or funky light fixture or anything that was distinctive. While other kids were chatterboxes on a tailspin about the latest sneakers or video game crazes, Rob would be zeroing in on things like our antique toy tractor that we stored in our garage, asking a million and one questions like, ‘Is this the original blue color, man?’ Rob may not have been a book scholar, but he was a life scholar.

Unstoppable he was. And like a gassed up Chevy, he always took the highroad and never, ever stopped, no matter how jarring the bumps were, cruising through life. He innately knew life was for the living, and he was going to lap up every single iota. Wow, did he put those miles on the odometer! It made sense the kid loved cars—anything that moved—really. Without trying to schmooze anyone, he made the most skilled mechanic’s jaw drop at the fountain of his knowledge. Get him talking about a Ferrari, and his ecstasy was that of a natural kind variety!

Once, when the boys were shy of 15, I was driving home turning on our road with my son in the passenger seat, and spotted a familiar SUV in front of us.

“Isn’t that funny…looks like Mr. Smuniewski’s car…looks like…oh no, don’t tell me… Rob-bbbbbbbbbb. What are you doing driving your dad’s car? Do you know you can get arrested? Are you kidding me?”

There he was in my driveway, jumping out from behind the driver’s wheel of the SUV like a kid who just swallowed the natural happy pill.  He begged me not to tell his parents. Softy that I am, I died from worry, until I got the call that he had arrived home safely in the SUV.

Unblinking he was. Nothing would thwart his true, unique self and it shined no matter where he went or who he was with; whether he played golf with the high school golf club at the Redding (Connecticut) Country Club or was the only white kid in attendance at an all-black church service where he occasionally went with one of his best friends who was about 50 years older than he was or when he worked moving rocks for his employer/friend who owned a construction company. In other words, you couldn’t take him anywhere because he would never compromise his distinct voice, and you never knew what he would say or do, but, man, you wanted to take him everywhere because he had never lost his self-value. He had courage, spunk, a sense of humor that reached out infinitely to everyone, and I mean to everyone; compassion and an intuition too. In 2010, when things took a turn in my household, and I knew a divorce was imminent between myself and my husband, but dared not say too much, Rob phoned me out of the blue.

“Rob?” I asked a bit surprised since he did not ask to speak to my son.

“Yeah,” he answered, only for us to wait through a pregnant pause.

“What is it Rob?”

“Ms. Max…”

“Yeah…” totally bewildered, I probed.

“You okay?”

“Yeah, Rob, I am. Hey Rob…”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you.”

“Okay, Ms. Max. Gotta go!”

Unbelievable he was. Random acts of kindness were just an everyday occurrence to Rob. I always told him, “I can’t wait to watch you grow up Rob.”

Today, I imagine he would be on his way to owning an excavation empire; but far more important than that, he would have been on his unwavering mission to mend hearts, spread hope and make everyone he met believe that life was so worth whatever fare you had to pay for the trip!

Unspeakably, during a blizzard on January 8, 2011, close to his home, while pushing his disabled all-terrain vehicle on one of our main roads in our small town, Rob was struck and killed around midnight by a car.10874016-paradise-road-stair-leads-to-the-sky

Over the years, I have lost a brother, a father, and lots of good friends, but I never hollered and wailed on my knees when I heard the news. I certainly know I was not alone in my grief. None of us will ever be the same; certainly not his mom or his twin sister, celebrating her 21st birthday today also, or his older sister or friends; not our community or teachers or bus drivers or the many people from all walks of life that he befriended and inspired to go forward gallantly and without regret. We will be looking for him until our own last days.

And, today, on September 25, 2013, the day that would have marked his 21st birthday, ironically enough, my own dad’s birthday who is also in heaven, I salute you Rob. I salute you Rob with a glass of courage you can’t bottle and sell; the kind to die for that so many of us want and dream about, but so few of us acquire, so deep and far into our comfy little zones to reach out and grasp for.

I think, though, with his passing, among his sky’s-the-limit quantity of inspiration, his legacy consists in our realizing that we have to have faith and believe that we are so much more than cool, so much more than conforming and, instead, just us, foibles and all, unabridged, unpolished, unabashed, unwilling to accept the mundane, every day rigmarole, and always take the effort to wear our best dress attire as Rob did, and step into the day like it is not a dress rehearsal, but our moment of glory, always conscientious that the curtain could close at any random moment.

thCAH47HPZ

Robert Smuniewski

September 25, 1992 – January 8, 2011

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10-tips to help you cope with crisis

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Whether you have lost a loved one, a job or you find yourself trying to live through some other sudden unplanned event that has caused major turmoil in your life, here is a tip sheet highlighting 10 points that I hope will help you.

  1. On those days when you think you won’t make it through the day, tell yourself that all you have to do is make it—only for that very second that you have at that moment. Being mindful of the environment around you is helpful when getting through the tough days. For instance, when you are sweeping the floor, tell yourself: “I am now sweeping the floor. I am now grabbing the dustpan. The dustpan is silver.”
  2. Cut yourself slack. Buy yourself flowers or that new lawnmower you have been obsessing for months about. Sleep in…but….
  3. Force yourself to get out of bed and face the day ahead even though sometimes it can feel so unbearable. Don’t overdo unhealthy behavior like hiding in bed or over indulging on sweets and carbs. These kind of things may feel so good momentarily, but are no good in the long run. For example, eating ice cream is permissible, but after you devour the first gallon full, keep the lid on the next gallon and find something healthier to replace your impulse. For instance, get outdoors for a walk. If the weather is too hot or too cold or too rainy, the neighborhood mall is always an option for some strolling, jogging or people-watching, but leave the plastic at home; overspending can be another quick elixir that can nip you in the bud in the long run.
  4. It may be difficult to swallow, but even though you clearly did not create the hapless circumstances, and were not in charge of the circumstances, you ARE in charge of YOU. Referring back to #3, put the ice cream down. Try and keep the temper tantrums at bay. Steer away from the negative thoughts, the stinkin’ thinking.
  5. Surround yourself with positive people. In the darkest of times when you have had a power surge, borrow their light and get a good dose of recommended Vitamin D.
  6. Chart your own course of healing. Whether partaking in therapy, support groups, aromatherapy, attending church services or talking a walk in nature, only you know what will help heal YOUR wounds the best.
  7. Chart your own timeline. Likewise, even though there are documented “stages” of healing, you YOURSELF are the true navigator of your route to recovery—whether it takes days, months or years, don’t compromise your healing timetable for anyone. That would be like squeezing into someone else’s pair of pants. Find your natural and organic North.
  8. You alone are the writer of ACT II in your life, which, after you have experienced a crisis, will obviously be different from ACT I. If you can, try and not label your circumstances as negative occurrences, just as “different” situations. With this in mind, plot your ACT II with an overdose of creativity NOT macabre! Start the brainstorming and come up with a great future plan, whether signing up for classes, embarking on an exotic travel adventure or a simple reunion with an old-time friend for coffee.
  9. Realize no matter how scary it all feels, you are NOT alone! Most people have been through earth-shattering events—no matter how “sane” they may look! Don’t compare your outsides to someone’s insides.
  10. Have faith. Refer back to #5. Bask in someone else’s faith long enough until you risk living and loving again!

Until next time…faith forward!

A break for freedom

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1freedom

In the fall of 1984, I had hit bottom for the final of the final of the final time (but really final!) and unchained myself from all addiction, including, one year later, a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit. I don’t want this post to be about my alcohol/drug past, which reared its ugly head in adolescence.  I want it to be about freedom. Oddly, without a bit of pre-planning, this topic came to me on Independence Day, but to me, every day is Independence Day. The one thing that no one can ever take away from me is how hard I worked—and spent every last dime—to earn my freedom. It took me ten years—my debt paid in 1994—finally to finish paying my rehab center in New Hampshire. I also feel proudest of the fact that no one ever paid a dime towards my years, and I mean, years of therapy. Sad people view therapy as a taboo. (I have discovered that the more someone equates therapy with a dirty word, he or she is the one who needs it the most!) Anyway, much like a recommended yearly physical on the body, I think people should have a regularly scheduled look-see on the mind too. At this point in mid-life, I can say, no one, absolutely no one, knows themselves better than I do. I owe this not only to hours of therapy, but also support groups, retreats, seminars and everything, including the kitchen sink stuff that I have done to peel every stinkin’ layer (ouch!) off me and uncover myself. ME.

As a young child, the real ME never emerged. Like many, I was polluted by adults who tried to carve me in their own image. Their paddles of shame bludgeoned my God-given spirit and left me flat. Thus, I had an instant love affair with anything outside myself that lifted me up and allowed me to be my authentic self–or so I thought. Of course, these outside things ended up, ironically, enslaving me until I broke free.

Freedom comes not from fancy cars and good-smelling perfumes, it comes from being who you are and having at least one good friend who will accept you on the days you look like you rolled around a dumpster!thCAHCR5FDfreedom2

Three years ago I experienced crisis in my life.  I held onto my house with bloody fingernails. I attempted to hold onto my marriage. I held onto everything that I thought defined me, but the truth is, I was holding onto a world that enslaved me. Crisis stripped me of so much again, but, paradoxically, gave me back myself. I am far greater than a house. Far greater than the car I drive or the job I do. Sure, a lot of “friends” who opted out of a stressful situation, dropped me cold, but I have a total of two friends today that have been my glue; a wonderful boyfriend who accepts me as I am. I have been gifted by co-workers who sometimes prove to be my lifeline. I have my children who know me perhaps too well and whose presence has allowed me never to have a bucket list to meet, because the unconditional act of mothering, to me, supersedes everything else in life.

Bondage, whether to money, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, people, places or memories scares me and robs my faith. Lately, with a birthday looming over my head, I’ve had a hard time fighting the bondage of aging too. I’m afraid that my body will fail me.

God willing, if my body does not fail me, I may end up pushing around a shopping cart with my belongings on the streets one day when I am seventy, but I’ll tell you one thing, I’ll be free of mental anguish, which you can have regardless of what you do or where you live. It all started so many years ago in New Hampshire, walking down a very long hospital corridor towards the exit door, fearful of the life I knew I had to go back to and revisit so many demons outside those walls. Of course the official motto in New Hampshire is “Live free or die” and to me that means peeling off the chains, inching forward, breathing, first shallow, then with practice down to your diaphragm in a place where every last tad of you, down to the wart hidden in the nape of your neck, has found a peaceful home.thCAFTUKWWfeedom3

Until next time….Faith forward!

Believe, just believe

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. –Romans 12:2 

HumilitySince my divorce proceedings in 2010, I have been trying to save my house. Down to the wire, my former husband will not cooperate in the process. PERIOD. Finger pointing, to me, is part of politics; a total waste of productive time.

On my end, to work with a bank is like having a second job—one in which you do a lot of overtime! Then the process stalks you all day…deep into your nighttime dreams—or shall I say nightmares.

Wait a minutes. WTF…where’s the faith here? Okay, Lord, thank you for this opportunity. I get to pack up a household and leave the premises, not having the foggiest notion where I am going. Yet another good-bye that I am totally powerless over….Oh, that’s right, this is a temporary setback. So why does it feel like I am about to walk off the face of the moon?…the ride down is one-way, not picturesque and definite.

Oops, there I go again. Not Believing that God is watching out for me. I need to praise Him and thank Him for the memories….

Losing houses, marriages and the like, it’s not just about bare-bone statistics. Statistics are meaningless next to a heartbeat of a person. A house is as good as its people; it evokes the times that made you feel secure, alive and thriving—so removed from just surviving. It’s about baking “Welcome Home” cookies on the first day of nearly every year of grammar school. Remembering the times you stayed up until 2 a.m. preparing for the best Easter egg hunt on the block. Visualizing your six-year-old daughter dancing around the kitchen like a hula dancer in her Brownie uniform. Recalling your seven-year-old son frantically turning his closet upside down trying to find his neckerchief slide so he could properly complete his Cub Scout uniform–for the tenth billionth time! Memories that take you back to painting the bedroom with your now former spouse and your best friend and going beyond the tiredness, knowing the chosen color was perfect and would last for years…years…a stretch of time that felt so comfortably forever. It’s about sitting on the couch in the playroom long after the kids had gone to bed and sitting with your former spouse, crying, saying, “I’m sorry. I love you.”

I suppose beyond wanting stability for the kids, the pets, beyond it all, my house holds a piece of our innocence. Our youth. A hope of tomorrow. A joy knowing that love once existed here—and still does in another, wonderful, but very different way.

Late last night, in my melancholy of telling myself yet again that nothing stays the same (unless we are insane believing so!), I came upon a very healing post…one that tells me He is watching over me…when I have a hard time watching for Him. I thank a very gifted fellow blogger and photographer for writing this post. Let me take the liberty to share a little of it.

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“I’ve been learning that life is fleeting.  We often realize that as a result of tragedy…allow your sorrow to spur you, not to bitterness, but push through it to the lesson, which will make you stronger. I lived my life as a unbeliever for 33 years and during those years, try as I might, I could never figure out how to do that.  But with the Holy Spirit living inside of us, we can forgive, be healed of the loss, grasp the lesson, and move on. Everyone has pain…it is the privilege of the Believer to reap a great harvest from it. Life is fleeting, don’t miss it!”

90327119_bd17bf7c49As painful as it all has been these last few years, I’ve taken a front seat and haven’t missed out. When people say, “live life fully,” do they really mean to pick and choose? Would that even be possible? To me, I have to remember, life is an experience. Good. Bad. All the gray. To live life fully is to embrace it all. I recall the words, “Nothing absolutely nothing happens in God’s perfect world by mistake.”

At this point I can really say, what a roller coaster…and what a glorious, thrilling ride it has been…and is. I am so grateful that I have had a seat reserved especially for me! I can’t wait to witness what’s around the next bend. I do Believe…divinity will greet me.

Until next time….Faith forward!

My name is Stacy, and I am an Analysis Paralysis Junkie

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.

“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”Mark 11.22-24

486700646_5a6c7cb706I have another confession. I am an Analysis Paralysis junkie.

It is not so much a defense mechanism I use in order to procrastinate on things as it is to throw myself into a whirling dervish.

Go-to source Wikipedia provides a comprehensive description of the state.

A couple of weeks ago the state threw me into the throes of this zany mindset.

My thoughts fell loosely into the Personal Analysis category in which Wikipedia defines, “Casual analysis paralysis can occur during the process of trying to make personal decisions if the decision-maker overanalyzes the circumstance with which they are faced. When this happens, the sheer volume of analysis overwhelms the decision-maker, weighing him or her down so much they feel overwhelmed with the task and is thus unable to come to a rational conclusion.”

The only difference was that there was no decision to be made. I began over-analyzing a current state of affairs. Before you know it, I was in the “What if my job phases out?” “What if I lose the people I really care about?” stage.

Granted, a part of this obsessive, unhealthy thinking may stem from the fact that I am still teetering from some major setbacks.  Another part is because I am afraid. Afraid to lose what I have worked so hard to get/hold onto. Afraid that I’ll never shift out of crisis mode. You know, that old adage about “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

To make matters dire, someone reminded me that my thoughts manifest into my behavior that creates the reality around me. Although there is a lot of pop psych about this brand of positive thinking, it can be traced back to the bible as quoted above,” Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

So, back to a couple of weeks ago: I’m a whirling dervish, over analyzing, feeding on my Analysis Paralysis addiction and making myself and anyone with a listening ear CRAZED. The outcome amounted to nothing—nothing earth shattering happened. I still have a roof over my head. Food. Friends. A pretty nice Jersey Strong to lean on.

The thing I did lose, however, by allowing Analysis Paralysis to overtake my week was my physical and mental well-being. I was tired, drained; thus, I could not accomplish some of my routine chores, and I was by no means present to the ones I love in the manner I like to be. The result was that I had to cancel some pleasure time in order to play weekend catch-up.

The problem with Analysis Paralysis for me is that it kicks me to the abyss of a swampland. There I spend idyll time stuck, going under, sinking while the rest of the world moves on.

To have faith is to trust in the process of the good. Unlike a swamp-like, sinking environment, it is a positive forward movement, which nourishes our needs.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

This is a positive affirmation if I ever heard one. We don’t say things like “have a little faith” and mean that the barrel of a gun awaits!”

Of course when I pick up my Analysis Paralysis addiction, I pick up my imaginary gun; it may not be real, but it is still a hazard.

The best defense for me is a three-P approach:

Prayer…

Positive People

Actually…four, Patience.

I am currently in remission. Things are looking up. I hope.  I’m thinking…oops, that’s one of my downfalls.

I hate blogging and other true confessions

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.comAnd you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John—8:32

As much as I feel like penning these posts can be an intrusion on my life and my privacy, I seem to be motivated to write them each week. A dual dilemma it is for me. On one hand, I am a painfully private individual. Whether from my own choosing or making or not (still not sure about that!), my life has always reeled in front of me like a made-for-TV, sometimes blockbuster movie, and, I suppose, that under the heartbreak, the soil, the sadness, sorrow, and the pure adventure of it, anybody could discover a lot of gossip to skewer. Needless to say, I have fallen victim to the backlash of blabbermouths.100707lostinheaven

On the other hand, I have found that my life stuff has given me an overload of empathy for others. I am willing to tear down my walls, expose my soul, and share my authentic self for the pure motive of helping someone else. I mean, a few folks have done this for me, and because of their generosity of truth, I pass it on. So I feel an obligation with this blog to pass it on, despite what readers think or say.

As I mentioned before, my friend and co-worker Aileen O’Sullivan helped spearhead WTF, Where’s the Faith.

“Do it for me,” she had said at one point, which ended my more than two-year mental debate of whether I should make this blog a reality or not.

So, at least for now, as much as I hate blogging and confessing (especially from a public platform), I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. When I start creeping myself out (thinking too much about the critics around me and inside my mind), I promise I’ll just blog about my feelings and have a little faith in the process. After all, my mission for this blog is to help and inspire you to move through this critical time in your life. As I said previously, “If I can give a wee bit of hope to just one person, my mission is complete.”

What it boils down to is, no matter what I put out there, if I do it with humility, an open heart and soul, and have a little faith then why over think it—or think at all—it is a no-brainer, and my life, whether perceived as good or bad, no doubt supplies an abundance of fodder for a blogger’s think tank.

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