Weddings and Family and Lessons

As a young girl, I dreamed of the day I would walk down the aisle towards my soul mate. I planned for it, focused on it, obsessed even. I pictured myself sauntering slowly, moving in a sea of ivory and flowers past hundreds of smiling faces, all there to share in my joy, in our joy. Of course I had no idea who the other half of my “our” would be, but I prayed he would be someone wonderful. I spent a great deal of time visualizing, fretting even about my prince, “Would I know him when I saw him?” “What if I missed a cue and he rode off without me?” “What if my feet were swollen on the day he showed up with the slipper?”

At the forefront of my visions, always, was the wonder, “What would it feel like to be “picked” for good, for always? What must it be like to be chosen?”.It hurts my heart to think about how much of my girlhood was spent looking at marriage as a chance to be “picked” or chosen, as if another’s action would be the ultimate completion for my one half, instead of my one whole meeting someone else’s and our mutual choice to come together. Naive, I had no idea that marriage is not about a suitor’s validation, but actually about partnership and compromise, and about honoring that each already so utterly matters of their own volition before any proposal.

Today, I fully realize what this means. Ever so gratefully, I now live in the experience of coming together as two wholes, as partner to my husband.


I have only come to this understanding many, many dreams and visions after first walking down the aisle as a very young bride, but I do finally understand. I am well aware, having learned the hard way, that marriage is an opportunity for two individuals to inspire each other to be their best self. Each person gets to hold the mirror for the other to reflect beauty not flaws in a framework based on mutual respect. It is a place where both are able to risk being vulnerable and courageous at the same time.

Within the structure of our marriage, my husband and I will soon have pieces of both of our pasts coming together. These pieces will form our family’s future. My son and stepson are both getting married this year. They have each picked a special someone who (and here is the important part) picked them back and it is wonderful to watch from the sidelines.                                                                               engaged

As a mom to a future groom, I am thrilled, ecstatic even for my son to walk down the aisle next June. The woman who will be by his side loves him; he loves her back. She is beautiful, loyal and kind and I know she will honor my boy. I can see that they are truly happy already, even before they go down the aisle so that their vows will be merely a culmination of the partnership they already honor and share.


As a stepmom to a future groom, I am overjoyed for this young man to go down the aisle next March. His future bride is lovely and kind. They love one another and have found happiness already, even before the walk down the aisle, so that their vows will merely be a culmination of all they already know and share.

The part that makes it complicated, at least it feels a bit so, is that there are exes and steps and past and present and stuff, all the pieces that make up a blended family today. I know this just means that these two young men and their future wives have more people to love them, but in my heart sits a feeling of longing. The longing is a desire for a very sure sense of family somewhere in the midst of all of it. As I spend time now reviewing hotel and airfare reservations, working on logistics for extended family and shopping for attire and gifts, I wonder how we will all gel together. In the midst of this wonder, of doing these things, a sense of exhilaration overtakes me and I realize that I am blessed to be part of all of it.

How about a LIKE for YOU ;) ;)

Ladies, let’s face it. We rock! We rule! Strong and capable warriors wrapped up in nurturing caregiver packages, we get it done. We get it all done. We are amazing.

Now, if we could just remember this! Although realistically, “How could we?” Messages telling us we are somehow “not-enough” inundate us regularly. Constant communications bombard us to lose ten, freeze off our flab, flatten our tummies and augment ourselves in ways, well in ways too many to address, just to be OK let alone awesome.

In a world where media messages tell us to change who we are to matter, we can feel pressured to have a certain body shape or smoother looks. Striving constantly to uphold a standard of excellence and perfection that is next to impossible, we seem to have lost sight of who it is we are trying so hard to impress. Perhaps this is because of all the suggestions “out there” that we are somehow limited. “Change to conform,” they say. “Weigh less to be more.” “Alter your bodies to be more appealing.” “Tweak your looks to something better, but whatever you do change ladies change!”

These messages tell us, often all too subliminally, that our number one goal should be to kowtow to a societal ideal that is confusing. On one hand, dress size, there is a very small number attached, on the other, breast shape, a very large one. These numbers are actually nothing more than a set-up, but they are nevertheless in place, put there by some faceless, nameless rule-makers out in the world, imaginary rule-makers at that. Ones who cause havoc with our self-esteem and sense of security regularly. These rule-makers are not real. They do not exist. Do not buy in. You do not have to.

Collective standards teach us that we are in some way competing with one another as we follow dictates hypnotically. We may as well be walking off cliffs because we are not truly sure who is leading us, yet still we follow. We get behind the bandwagon with the most clicks or tweets or likes, often even before we have formed our own opinion. In doing so, we set up a model based on fluff and lacking substance, yet its templates are cookie cutter – Marketing 101. We blindly buy in to clever ploys designed to sell products and keep us buying.


Have you ever taken a moment to ask yourself what it is you are really getting when you do this “buying in?” Is it not actually more stress than relief that rings up with your sale? Stress to be … well, whatever it is they tell you is the right way to be for now. Do not get too comfortable with your purchase though people, because whatever it is will surely change fast. So much time gets wasted keeping up that it makes me wonder, “How can we even be who we are supposed to be? Who the heck has time when we are so busy figuring out how to look like everybody else?”

How might you feel if you simply relaxed into being yourself? If you really want to “buy in” to something amazing, buy every inch of you. In doing so, you will be heading towards a much deeper existence than “survival of the fittest.” Consider what it even means to be “fit.” Merriam Webster’s definition of the word includes the following:  “adapted to the environment as to be capable of surviving; acceptable from a particular viewpoint, put into a suitable state; adapted to an end of design; suitable by nature or art; sound physically and mentally.”

So considering key words in this definition, “fitting in” would seem to involve much more than your dress size, breast shape or the flatness of your tummy. If “surviving” involves being acceptable from “a particular viewpoint,” why not decide to start making that acceptable viewpoint your own? Opt to be suitable for you. When you make a decision to fit, to “adapt” into your own beautiful package, to feel “suitable” from your own “viewpoint,” a shift takes place, one of self-acceptance and self-love. Within that framework lies an opportunity to honor all that you already are, exactly as you are. The result:  healthy mind, healthy body, healthy spirit, healthy world and a life that can then be about so much more than just “fitting in” or “surviving,” but thriving.

How do you get there? It can be difficult to imagine if you have spent years beating yourselves up over what you see as your proprietary flaws, “I wish my body were different. I wish I looked like “her” or “her” or her.” How about putting down the “how you look” baseball bat today and deciding, “This is who I am. This is what I’ve got and as of right now, I am rocking it.” Why not, “Yay Me! I am the prize baby, and by the way, I am so much more than OK with it.”


Imagine the difference it would make in your life if right here, right now you began honoring your body as lovely. Think of how good it would feel to stand before the mirror and imagine yourself clicking “like” for you. Never mind how many times a day you click it for others. Try for an attitude of approval for yourself instead of dismay for what you perceive you are not. Consider the shift in your energy today, at this moment, if you accepted yourself, your very own self, the whole shebang, (love handles, tummy, stretch marks, wrinkles, blemishes, whatever, all of it) as being perfect. What would your day be like then? How would it be different if you went out to do your tasks being proud of the person you were in all of your “amazing-ness” instead of frustrated about not looking better while you tried?

I hope you will join in, will come together with all of the rest of us out here trying not to buy in. We need you. We really do. Will you please join us?


Your Soul Sisters

Cosmetics Department as Sandbox

I love cosmetics departments, absolutely love them. From the buzz of electricity around the latest and greatest product, to the makeup artists attitudes, to the smells (most of them anyway), to the mirrors and bright lights, I love them. I even love the product pushers and chuckle when they approach me these days (unlike years ago), because I have come to understand that “No” is a complete sentence. If they suck me in, it will only be on my terms. I think the main reason I love these arenas though, is that on my most recent visit to one I realized I am no longer the “what do you think and do you like it” woman I used to be.


My approach to cosmetics departments is positive today, because I fully understand them. Having worked as a Business Manager for one of the largest “beauty brands” in the world, I know the schpeel. I am privy to the quotas, sales goals and all the psychological nuances used to achieve them, so I know that it is all a game; a game won simply by not letting on that you are playing. Because of this, I get a real kick out of the opponents working to convince me that it isn’t one, especially those who in doing so, are utterly transparent.

Even though I know the tricks of the trade and may not fully “buy in” these days, I must admit that I still feel eager and hopeful every time my skin care sale is rung up. There is just something about what calls out to me from the jars of lotions and creams, img_2037

It’s the the promise of … well, just the promise. When I dabble in them before buying, (always using Q-tips of course to take out my dollop, unlike some people) I feel my long lost child coming out in me.

Back when I was a little girl, the feel of Playdoh and paper mache was too icky for me, but now as I warm skin care products between my palms and fingers before putting them on my face, I am more than OK with the squishy feeling in my hands. I realize this is my sandbox. It is where I play. It took me a long time to get here, to this place of truly letting my hair down, of sharing things and leaving them nicely for others to use and even of saying “No” confidently to bullies. So, now that I know how, I like to play often.

I love the gifts with purchase and deluxe samples from some of the higher end makeup counters. They are like the goody bags from long ago birthday parties. The beautiful boxes and the promises they hold within them, delight me in the same way wrapped presents from friends did when I was a kid. I feel giddy as my eyes pop open wider with a smidge of liner and bronze shimmer dusts my cheekbones, so much so that it makes me wonder why I never did fool around in mom’s makeup case the way most little girls do.

On a recent visit to one of the newer cosmetic stores around, I found myself incredibly disappointed with the others at play there. I watched as one woman grabbed tube after tube of lipstick, unwrapped the plastic seals to try them on then put each one back, used, because she didn’t like the way they looked on her. A girl nearby stuck her fingers into a jar, slathered cream on her face and then went back in for a dreaded double dip. All I could think of was, “Ewwww,” as I watched. Of course, there was a glass of plastic spatulas right next to her, but she ignored them.

After witnessing this, I began looking around me and paying even closer attention to the others in the store shopping alongside me. What I saw made me feel the way I used to when one of the kids flung sand in my face or was mean to someone else. I wanted to stand up on a chair (the ones I learned, as a trained skin care consultant, to get customers in to because they always buy more if they are comfortable) with a megaphone:  “Attention shoppers, what the bleep are you doing? Do you care about anyone but yourselves? What about the store owners who have to write off the products you just damaged? How about your sisters (and even some brothers too) who will not be able to afford to shop here after prices are raised because of your disrespect? Do we really want your GERMS? Why are you so selfish? Do you understand that the safety packaging, Q-tips, spatulas and alcohol are there for people’s health and safety?”   

Yuck, just yuck! That is how I felt. I wanted to stamp my feet and cry. When I got home, I sat down at the computer and posted on Facebook. I guess it was a bit of a rant, and that is not usually my Facebook style, but I figured it was OK. I mean, how else do we start to raise consciousness in today’s day and age? I am not saying that I lost sleep over my experience, but it did make me disappointed in consumers. It also made me realize how good it feels to be someone who actually tries to do the right thing, who uses store testers appropriately and who actually “shives a git” (mom used to say it like this) about others not only in cosmetics departments, but in other places as well. I am glad I know that “live” merchandise is “live” and not a sample the way some folks think it is and that using a salable item and then leaving it behind unpaid is stealing.

I find it truly ironic that women shopping to feel more beautiful, young and lady-like often do such immature and ugly things in their efforts to get what they need. They want to buy glamour in jars or tubes and have no conception that by being graceful and considerate as they shop for it, they will actually be “super-sizing” what they buy.

In a world with so many warped messages thrown at us about what beauty is, I just wish more “kids” playing alongside me in the sandbox would pay attention to trying to be lovely on the inside first and to be thoughtful of others. That attitude would certainly radiate from within and “Wow,” how gorgeous that would be!



Saying Goodbye…and Hello…


I said goodbye to New England over the past few weeks and it hit me hard. Although I moved away eight years ago, a friend’s guest room in Connecticut “had my name on it” and the welcome mat of my son’s Boston apartment regularly welcomed me, so I still had two great places to “hang my hat” whenever I was inclined to come up north for a visit. I realized with my Adios that I had only said Hasta la vista before now and over these weeks I have been digesting this while helping to pack up both of those cozy havens, filling boxes and bubble wrapping artwork for their next homes, one in Central Florida and the other in Southern California. Not until I got in the car to drive away from both these “second” homes, did I feel the full effects of their loss.

The house in Connecticut “closed” and the last box in Boston lay ready for the moving truck as I headed south to spend a little time in my hometown of Breezy Point, New York. Driving past the Copley exit on the Mass Pike, emotions gripped me, ones so guttural that I almost had to pull over. Thankful for leftover Starbucks napkins in my car’s console, I wiped the tears before they hit my lap and kept on keeping on along the highway. The salty drops wanting to fall were ones of love and joy, of sorrow and regret, of success and failure, laughter and grief. They represented feelings never felt and others addressed but clearly not fully processed until now. There were also tears of hope and promise as I thought of my son and his fiance, about to begin the next leg of their journey across the country as he focuses on a job promotion out west.

The sentiment surfacing as I watched the city disappear in the background was simultaneously gratitude and resentment. The two coupled might have confused me in their pairing but I understood that the latter was just an old habit trying to insist that I cave and turn it inward. “No thank you,” I have too much practice now in gratitude taking precedence over the tug of resentment around past choices. The feelings rising from deep inside me were overwhelming in their own right, but together with the breathtaking view quickly being relegated to the rear view mirror, they could have unnerved me if not for all that I have to look forward to back at home, the one my husband waits for me to get back to down south.

Still, tears pressed at my eyes until they were no longer containable by a few measly brown napkins. They were ones of grace, of holding on and letting go, forgiveness and understanding. Tears of loss for former homes and decorations left behind, for reminders of walks to work at 100 Federal Street, to coffees on Newbury Street, shopping on Greenwich Avenue and ice creams with friends at JP Licks. As I cried, finally unabashedly, it was for what I didn’t know when I lived up here that I wish I had and for what I did know that I sincerely wished I hadn’t. I cried for love covered in fear and fear covered in anger, for defenses, offenses, boundary lines and lack of each. For a devastating miscarriage, nine years ago while living here and for my healthy grown son who will always my little boy no matter where he lives, no matter what.

The tears spilled for all that took place in New England and for all that might have been so long ago. Wait, was it really a mere eight years ago when I left? It seems like forever.

This trip that I have been on, up here in New England, a journey a month in duration covering tracks back and forth and back and forth again Connecticut, Boston and lastly New York has been a lifetime in itself. All that transpired over these weeks, leads me to believe that the universe is conspiring to put things in place for me. In jest (I think) I was asked whether I was ill, because I was told that from the outside looking in it seemed as if I was getting my affairs in order. Situations crossed my path offering chances for amends, both mine and others, in such a way that God was clearly asking me to work at dotting and crossing some as yet un-dotted and uncrossed i’s and t’s in my life. During these weeks, had I been a witness, I would have watched myself right-sizing things before my eyes and although I was the main player, what was happening around me was absolutely orchestrated by the source I know as God and his universal actions.

The simultaneous letting go of both of my havens in New England was perhaps nothing short of divine intervention. Each brought with them opportunities to be of service and to say goodbye to the Northeast and hello to Florida on yet a deeper level. The serendipitous events happening so regularly during my recent stay made it so that all I could do was chuckle at God’s grace. Things like going to see my childhood home and witnessing it standing ready for a tear down felt like some sort of last hurrah moment and the smell of honeysuckle in the backyard took me back, so far back.


Impromptu conversations were filled with blasts from the past, as I bumped, literally, into old friends, a former beau and even my ex-husband (no joke). All of these occurrences seemed part of some divine plan for my future peace on an out of this world or other dimensional level. To top things off, I spent many hours with my very first mentor who is terminally ill and she so clearly said a graceful goodbye to me on our last visit, even before she leaves this earth, with her eyes and the squeezes of my hand.

The bicycle rides my cousin and I took some mornings were among the best parts of my time here. We covered turf I knew by heart as a child, turf that now looks different but still hosts so many memories. As we rode, I recognized that home has really been so many places for me. Getting to spend time visiting the town I grew up in, the one rebuilt and reborn after a hurricane named Sandy’s devastation a few years ago has helped me to come home in my heart. Within all the pieces and parts that took place over these past thirty days or so, I recognize that I am truly committed in my efforts to maintain a purposeful life no matter where my feet are or where they will be going forward.


I am on my way home today; headed south after packing and carrying, moving and cleaning. Heading back to where I happily live after spending time trying to be available to the friend with the guest room and to my son (and his fiance) who always stood at the doorways of their houses with open arms. The boxes we filled with fragile things will be trekked south and west across the country. Glasses wrapped tightly await wine and lemonade of future guests in new dining rooms and on new porches. Framed photos in tissue now, will soon be on new walls or old relocated bookshelves. They will say, “Remember me, this moment, this Kodak one, the one you captured in my smile when we were in that other place?”

As I drive away from Boston now, for good, or at least for now for good, I wonder if perhaps someday I will live here again with my husband, near to some of our future grandchildren. If so, however it will be several years away, so for now my son and future daughter-in-law head to California, my friends to the sunshine state and I … I drive towards home. I head home to my husband who never once asked me to come back before I was ready to during these eventful weeks. My husband who understood that I needed to pack every box I packed and to wrap every glass I wrapped in paper, even though they were not even my glasses, my boxes. I needed to touch everything I touched before it went onto a moving truck, not just the one that would be driving these things to their next destination, but the quasi-moving truck in my heart.

Yes, I am on my way home now thankfully, satiated in my heart in so many ways. This trip has been exhausting but I would not have changed a moment of it. The time I spent with my cousins, brothers, nieces, nephews, childhood friends and mentor could never be valued because they are priceless. Thank you that I got to say goodbye during two funerals that took place while I was here and may those help me to remember how fast it all goes. Thank you for so many things that have fallen into place in my life, these past few weeks and even before. Thank you for the order that has been availed in areas apparently needing order. Thank you that I am not sick, whew, but “oh so well” and oh so joyful. Thank you for readiness for the next chapter, the one I pray will be a healthy happy one for all of us travelers, wherever we are, wherever we go and wherever we come home to.



I am a word person, always have been, always will be. Words excite and inspire me. They give voice to what I think and feel, to what I hope for, to what I know and to what I want to know. They create the stories I have written and the quotes I have gathered in a collection started over forty years ago. Words form the expressions that soothe and comfort me, and the ones that give me regular inspiration.

As a nine-year-old girl, I often read the dictionary, “I know, I know, people don’t do that!” Well, I confess, I did and even though I know the meaning of many “big” words, I usually go with the simpler choice over the more complicated one. This, because I want my writing and speaking to be easily understood. I never want anyone to get lost in my words. That would be such a shame.

I have never played Words with Friends and although it seems so totally “up my alley,” my regular word game is the basic Jumble in the local newspaper. Typically, I unscramble all five words within my first sip of coffee, and although the only friends involved in the routine are the cartoon character ones in the final puzzle, this unscrambling somehow connects me. It gives me an early morning moment of simple accomplishment.

Words gather my thoughts. One such thought is, “I wonder what it would be like to come up with an original one? How cool would that be?

Okay, so, I may have one:

INTEGRITORIOUS – the act of living an amazingly openhearted, honest life in which you are willing to hold secrets sacred, value others, have your peeps backs and strive not only to be your best self, but to help those you love strive to be their very best as well; A decision to be courageous enough to be who you are meant to be and to honor others doing the same; An existence in which you pass hope back and forth regularly and you work faithfully towards gratitude in the present and for the future, not just for you but for those you encounter in your daily travels.

This word came up one day a while ago in the midst of a conversation with my good friend Jackie. It arose as we were summing up the type of women and friends we have decided to be. We came up with it together, but the thing about being INTEGRITORIOUS is that it is not even about who came up with it or gets the credit. The point is only that we put this word out there and get this style of living revolutionized!

Imagine having friendships where you are completely honest, where you tell each other the whole truth, not just the comfortable parts, because you trust in that friend. Does it not sound wonderful to be in relationships in which you talk about your feelings, what you really think, what you hope and what you fear? The kind of friendships that are less about what “Janie” did or what “Suzy” has or doesn’t have, and more about ideas and dreams for the future.

What a gift to decide to remind one another that the road ahead of each of us contains limitless growth and that our past lessons are there serving to help keep our hearts open to the lode of joy and potential that awaits us. How amazing to live in faith, trusting in an energy source that wants the best for each of us. Imagine tapping into that source every day together. Imagine being integritorious.

If you start where your feet are now, and decide to live in an integritorious way, you will learn to love in ways you never imagined were possible. You will not put down but instead build up – yourself, your foundation and those around you. You will shine and watch others sparkle too and all the while you do, you will realize how much more beautiful light is when it catches other light.

The principle Integritorious, this word that I hope catches fire at least in your heart if never in any dictionary, can serve as a compass. It can be a directional guide not of east, west, north or south, but of grace, light, brotherly love, service, strength and vulnerability. It will keep us on a course for living that serves and benefits and does not tear down or destroy.

I hope you will stand with us, with my friend and I and so many others, who are striving in our lives to do what is right, who are connecting each other to our other each other’s, because we have decided to believe that we can trust in outcomes. We are including and not excluding because this inclusion is the only way to go, to be.

Integritorious just might be the sexiest word I have ever heard. Imagine standing willing to be authentic enough to be, do and say exactly what is necessary to take care of yourself in a given moment, and to actually trust that you have staying power within the moment that follows the first given one? Holy crap! Holy crap! Holy crap! I am in. I am so totally in. I am ready to be integritorious and so utterly hope that you are too! xoxo


(Note: To the best of my ability integritorious is not currently a word found in any dictionary. I searched, after my friend and I had our light bulb moment,but if you know otherwise,”cool!” – Please feel free to respond to this post. Whether we are late to the party or not, I absolutely Love this word!)



What I “Think” is a Choice

It has been ages since I have written in this blog, so it feels as if I am meeting an old friend for coffee this morning. I really miss opening one of these blank templates to “have at it,” but I have been so busy with “work writing” that “play writing” and Grace Paid Forward have gone on a back burner. Being here now, as a relaxing creative process, before editing a chapter for work, I have absolutely no idea what words will come from this typing, but I know I have to take some time once in awhile for stream of consciousness writing…

Here goes…

I was invited to be part of a creative book group by some friends recently. As part of the commitment we each made to the group, we agreed to homework assignments between our meetings. One of these assignments was to pay attention to our thoughts, our “brain chatter,” over a two week period and make a note of what came up for us. It was amazing to see how often my response to what I found was, “Who knew?”

I spent many years believing that I was powerless over the thoughts that entered my head. For a long time I was unaware that I had a choice over whether to let them stay or make them go, so it was exhilarating with this “homework” to note how often, these days, I caught myself thinking beautiful, joyful thoughts. It seems so odd now, to remember how I used to live and how much I let whatever thought popped into my head stay there and dictate my mood. But, after many years of searching for ways to find Zen, today I live in the awareness that although I am relatively powerless over the first thought that comes to mind, I can certainly decide what the second one will be.

The more I have worked on running my automatic brain chatter through a quasi filter, cleaning up the first one so that the next is a little fresher/kinder/purer/more loving, the more my defaults have changed. It’s as if a tarmac marshal has moved into my head and is waving wands at my thoughts as they land on the runway of my brain, guiding them away from danger and re-directing them to safe parking. This re-routing is very effective, and although I have been practicing it for ages, I might not have noticed how well it was working in my life had I not done this book group exercise.

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Artwork by Rebecca Booth

Going to love and light, to gratitude and joy, is a habit that I live in. This habit has stemmed from years wherein I have made a choice consistently, over and over, day in and day out to think positive thoughts. It has resulted from my internal marshal’s consistent re-direction and it has required practice, lots and lots of practice. I am not suggesting that dark thoughts never present themselves automatically to me, but when they do, I remember that I can catch them after they initially land, use my figurative self illuminating wands and send them in another direction. As impossibly simple as it sounds, especially since I never knew I had a choice over what went on “upstairs,” what I think is now a decision. Period.

And my first thought after typing that last sentence is “How on earth could I have wasted so much time and energy thinking thoughts that did not serve me in the past?”. My second thought is, “Going forward, I think I will keep choosing amazing thoughts!”




From the moment I stepped out of the terminal at Dublin Airport, it was there. A feeling of connection and belonging so profound, I knew I had come home. I arrived in the country that holds my heritage and in spite of having no specific “where or when” information, my heart knew there had been stories and long ago secrets kept by family I would never meet.


I could feel the pull of these long ago tales in the air all around me. From the looks on the faces of the relatives traveling with me, they must have felt it too. Even after a sleepless night with far too little legroom, we immediately set out to explore our Motherland, stopping only for a drive-by at the hotel to drop our luggage. There would be plenty of time to sleep when we got back to the States.

Within an hour, we had a true Irish breakfast under our belts, belts thankfully with additional notches beyond the usual ones, as we definitely would be letting them out by the trips end. Hot buttered scones with jam, eggs, slabs of bacon, black and white pudding, huge mounds of toasted breads, fried tomato, salmon and crocks of oatmeal with raisins and heavy cream. Thank heavens for the caffeine from several pots of delicious tea which kicked in after this meal. When we were finished, we set out to see the place we knew held our roots, but which we knew little about.


Sure, we had all grown up with St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage, with Irish soda bread, Danny Boy and pints of Guinness. We had heard about kissing the Blarney Stone and even had photos somewhere of both mom and grandma doing so. I sported my Claddagh necklace and my son’s girlfriend wore her ring, and we all wore what we felt were appropriate plaid and woolen accessories. Yes, our group could surely claim Irish genetics, but prior to this trip, each of us remained unaware of how our lineage had unfolded or even what the countryside in Eire was truly like.

In fact, it was spectacular. The sheep-filled fields appeared to be the greenest of greens I had ever seen, broken up of course by the blankets of white fur that seemed to be everywhere. Colors at the shore were shades of everything imaginable: purples, blues, grays and rusts fused all together, yet remained separately boundaried all around us. I happily claimed a perfect heart-shaped purple rock as we walked on the beach and it sits on the desk in front of me now as paperweight.


I consistently tried to capture the views before me with my camera, but the colors got lost in translation as they sometimes do when you try to catch them by photo. None of the shots I reviewed after each day’s excursions did justice to what my eyes had seen earlier.

Taking it all in, as soon as my breaths exhaled, I wanted to take them back. This, because with each release of air it meant that time was passing and I knew there would not possibly be enough moments to see and do all that I wanted to while I was there. Every second I stood on that soil made me long for another. Even within the first hour of day one, I knew I would have to come back again. There was no doubt.

Above many of the doorways we entered hung placards with Cead Mille Failte, or “a thousand welcomes.” Above others were horseshoes, hung with their heels facing up to the heavens for good luck as well as to steer the devil clear from entering. I loved the significance of both, because they summed up how it felt to be there in this country of my ancestry, welcomed, blessed and safe.

Cead Mile Failte

We spent much of our time after exploring, in cozy pubs, not so much for beverages, but because the meals there were delicious. We found the local fare offered in these establishments to be excellent and luckily for me, hot tea was as much a staple in each one of them as whiskey, so each of us in the group were able to get our fill of whatever we chose. For me, it was gallons of yummy Irish tea.

On the second day, I found a woolen cap as a souvenir for my son. He wore it every day afterwards and it certainly suited the dark Irish looks he gets from his father’s Donegal relatives. Watching him take it all in, through the crystal blue eyes he gets from the O’Brien and Kiernan clans on my side,  I couldn’t help but wonder if someday his children might want me to tell them about their heritage, in the same way I always wanted my grandparents to share with me about theirs. I must make a point to talk to them about all I remember of their relatives as soon as they are born.

I had always hoped my mom and grandmother would have told me all their family stories before they died, but there always seemed to be tomorrow. Tomorrow and tomorrow would surely come, so we never stopped to pin it all down the way we talked about doing so many times. I never jotted down any of the funny tales they tried to tell me, although I certainly meant to take notes. Yes, I must remember to share the memory of this trip as well as everything I can recall about my mother, grandmother, dad and grandfather with my grandchildren someday.

Actually, I think maybe I will start doing it now, with my son, while there is still time.

December 26th – The Best Gifts Can’t be Wrapped

I woke up today with mixed emotions, feeling both blissful and crestfallen. I am immeasurably happy because of Christmas successes, yet slightly melancholy because the days unfolding in no way resembled what I had planned for it. This morning I am truly ecstatic over the gifts Santa left behind for me and the ones I watched others open with delight, but I am sorrowful over what I was unable to accomplish that I wanted to. Ah, the unwrapping of Christmas..

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Thinking back to 30 days ago, to the first yuletide thought I had, the one occurring directly after the turkey was put away on Thanksgiving, I have to chuckle at how December 25th this year was so unlike what I had planned for it. I remember taking out the bins of nutcrackers and other decorations and scattering them around the house on black Friday thinking, “Tis the season and this year it will be perfect.” After that, all I recall is putting one foot in front of the other until today.

The list I made for gift buying could never possibly accommodate all I would have liked it to because neither budget nor logistics allowed this year, but it held a few names of people to whom homage had to be paid because of the light and love they share with us all throughout the year.

Soon after the quest began for the right and perfect trinkets which would say, “You matter” on this most sacred holiday, I had to hide the packages from our crazy paper chewing cat so that he wouldn’t destroy the corners of all the boxes and gift bags. I have come to believe he does this to somehow be part of the holiday bustle that goes on in our household. Each time I added another package to the pile, I touched the others in hopeful excitement that it would be perceived with the same spirit it was wrapped in.

Today, the wrapping paper which was crinkled in delight yesterday, now fills our recycle bins to overflowing. Our bellies are substantially rounder, at least in this house, and the day is over. But my heart has a tad of unfinished processing still needing to happen, which is why I must write about it.

Christmas this year involved an effort of accommodation which made it awkward to know where we could be and how we would possibly do it all. In my efforts to appreciate all of my family, I made a choice to honor my husband’s hectic work schedule and so, postponed travel plans up north. My son and I agreed that a slightly later celebration together would be just as cool. I also decided to say, “W\e will be here whenever you come, don’t worry,” to my stepson who always makes the effort to see us. This statement of “whatever and whenever” quietly spoken to my husband in the midst of reshuffling our day was made with so much love that I now realize it became the best gift I could ever give anyone. I gave myself and my family the gift of being allowed to set aside expectations in our showing up for one another and to trust in our love this Christmas.

What is it about holiday expectation that creeps in and tries to wreak havoc? Why have I been compelled in the past to analyze the gestures of others and what they mean to my big picture? At what moment did I realize I needed to remove travel stress from my husband this year? How was I able to stay in the now yesterday and allow this Christmas to unfold the way it did? What grace do I experience in my relationship with my son that made it more than OK to postpone our gift giving slightly? How was I able to set plans aside to take pressure off my young stepson in a way he wouldn’t possibly understand until he has his own children? When did it become possible to trust that my friendships are intact enough to simply have to put my immediate family first yesterday?

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I have no explanation for any of it except to say that somewhere in the midst of all the Christmas planning and hoping, Christmas spirit took over and it became about simply being with the person that is my right and perfect Santa, the man who stands by my side always. It became about realizing what was truly best for our family.

Today, December 26th I am in awe of those who thought of me yesterday with calls, texts and presents. I am astonished at the kind invitations we received from people we love who love us back. Beyond that, I am filled beyond overflowing with gratitude for my family. Remembering all the hopes and dreams that came up for all of us over the twelve months past, the challenges we surmounted, the triumphs and accomplishments and the ways we have done our best to show our love, I am proud and blessed,

No, my Christmas did not go at all as I had planned it weeks ago. A few invitations could not be honored and a few others came out of the blue. Yet, it went perfectly. At about 11 PM I texted my son who was celebrating with his girlfriend’s family up in Connecticut. Within seconds his response came back, “To all a goodnight, I love you mom.” What a perfect way to end the day.

And all was right and good with the world as my head hit the pillow shortly after that text. And yet, when I reached over to hug my husband goodnight, the tears simply would not stop falling as he hugged me..




I Believe in the Magic of Christmas – and thank you Hallmark

So, what is it about the Hallmark Channel that comforts me so at holiday time? The families depicted in the movies are not without trials. There are widows and orphans, homeless folks, imposters, cranky scrooges, deadbeat dads, lost and weary travelers, business tyrants and the lot. So, what is it that draws me to these holiday movies?

Without a doubt, it is the happy-ending. The lost find their way. The wonderful family adopts the child. The dog finds a new owner. Neighbors rally and the star shines bright from the top of the tree every single time.


In this hectic world with all too much madness, with too many media stories of chaos and cruelty, I need to see this holiday delight. It is my oxygen.

I turn off the shootings and muggings, the terrorism and the bullying, the slandering political campaigns and the sadness, and I turn on the light.

In the hustle and bustle of searching for the right and perfect gift, in the line waiting and the all too quick last minute wrapping, I need a pull back to the reason for all of it. I have to find reminders of the magic of Christmas. I have to believe that there is good in the world, that people truly care, and that many others out there want the best for one another too. I have to hold on to hope that there are believers, more than just me, who are tired of all the ugliness and who want to focus on the beauty within us all.

photoI have to trust in Santa the way my mom encouraged me to, so long ago. The way my little boy did when he flew down the stairs on Christmas morning for years. The way he still does today when he opens his gifts, knowing they come from a place of love. I must insist that a far away St. Nick is leading a sleigh full of reindeers to some believers somewhere. Yes, I believe in Santa, absolutely. So, thank you Hallmark for reiterating why I do, and for helping to stay in that magic for a little while.

P.S. my husband sometimes watches it with me, although he will never admit it. 🙂

Not So Simple Abundance


What does it mean to live in abundance? To live in gratitude for what we have? And how could we ever, in this world of constant upgrading to newer, better, faster “stuff,” feel as if we have enough? How could we possibly honor that we are living an abundant life? How can we ever be grateful for what we have and stop needing more?

Merriam Webster defines ABUNDANCE as: marked by great plenty, amply supplied. It further defines AMPLY as: having or providing enough or more than enough of what is needed. These definitions spark a question: “What would it be like to live a life in which you always knew you had more than enough of what you needed?”

I used to wonder about this, until one day, in about my fourth decade, I realized that not only did I have much more than “enough” and certainly more than I needed, but actually always had.

I recently watched a re-run of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday in which she interviewed Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of “Simple Abundance – A Day Book of Comfort and Joy.” During the introduction, I pulled my own worn copy off the shelf. I’d received it in 1996 from a dear friend who’d begun her spiritual quest right around the same time as me and we’d both been excited about the books’ concept.

I opened to the foreword and read the quote by Margaret Young. “Often people … try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.” I took a moment to reflect on this, and then settled in to watch the interview.

What I found astonishing while doing so, were the twists the author’s life took after her books huge success. As she honestly answered Oprah’s questions, I found myself more than once staring at the television with mouth ajar.

As it turns out, after her book’s 100-plus week run on the New York Times Bestseller list and her resulting exorbitant wealth, Sarah Ban Breathnach wound up on her sister’s doorstep with no money left. It would seem that she neglected to practice what she’d written.

From the moment the book came “off” the list, it was downhill from there. Not for the published piece, but for its author. It appeared as if Sarah simply forgot what it means to live in Simple Abundance. She admitted to Oprah and those of us watching, that with her new found success and life of “Not so simple” abundance, her need for more became greater than her gratitude for what she had.

As I listened to her discussion of where she “got to,” I found myself gripped with anger. Out of nowhere, I was mad at this woman I’d never met, for not being grateful and for needing more, even when she’d had so, so much! I understand now of course, that I was projecting, but my thought was, “Really Sarah! I would be so, so, so grateful if only I’d get the chance to prove it!”

The irony in my judgment towards her was that the resentful thought stemmed from exactly what I was judging her for. I’d instantly gone to: “If only I had more, I would appreciate it.” Luckily I caught myself quickly before I ran with it. It’s not that my millions and millions of dollars aren’t enough for me, because my bank account doesn’t quite register the number of zeros hers did, but I DO have an abundant life, with everything I could ever need, yet sometimes I find myself wanting more.

Yes, my life is abundant in love and blessings, in friends and trusted confidantes. It is abundant in furnishings and clothing, in food and sustenance, in overwhelming admiration for my son and my husband. It is abundant in invitations and inclusions, in writing work and … well, just ABUNDANT!! But, being totally honest, I have to admit that I can sometimes forget how blessed I am. I can still get caught up in the idea of wanting more material things.

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So, as quickly as my flash of anger came, it dissipated, because I realized Sarah and I are both so human. So utterly human. And all I could think of was “Thank you Sarah,“ because when I am gifted with a reminder to be grateful, I can pause with grace and honestly wonder: “My goodness, how could I ever possibly think I need more than what I have?”

No, I don’t have a dozen pairs of Christian Louboutins in my closet as Sarah did after her first royalty check, but I do have one pair. One very fabulous red soled pair that I almost never wear because the heel is just too high for me these days.

After the program ended, I took my “red soled shoes” out and looked carefully at them. “When I wear these am I different? Do I matter more? Am I better?” And the answer across the board was “No. Absolutely No!” However, I do admit that I feel a bit more something. There is an attitude of confidence that comes with slipping them on that isn’t always present when I wear “non-Louboutins.”

Continuing to look at the unique shoe I asked myself, “What was it that compelled me to buy them?” In the instant my answer came to me, I understood absolutely why Sarah felt that having not just one pair but many would make her feel as if she’d somehow arrived. I also felt guilty for being angry at her, because I absolutely understand her quest for success and her confusion about what defined that success. And so, I couldn’t help but send love out through the universe to her.

As for a closet full of any shoes, I can honestly say today that if I couldn’t pay for them up front, I would hate them.

So, what was it about this interview that compelled me to write today? I wanted to validate the message my spirit took away from it. In doing so, I immediately created a Microsoft document titled: “What NOT to Do When My Next Book is Published.” I realized with delight that I never even thought of using the word “IF” over “When” in the title, and as I typed a few bullet points garnered from the interview I decided that this document was going to be an important one to keep.

After clicking “Save,” I immediately created another: “What TO Do When My Next Book is Published.” The first sentence I typed in bold letters under the heading was: BE GRATEFUL! ALWAYS REMEMBER that you already had much, much more than enough even long before you started.

Then I clicked “Save” and closed the laptop with a great big smile of gratitude on my face.

(photo credits: 1.) 2.