Sunday, January 31, 2010

dreams are necessary to life...

i write sleepy, feeling a bit worn out tonight. i'm glad that january is at its point of exhaustion, february taking its place with a whole new set of days. for all the wonder that january was - heart stoppping moments, all the soul's emotions played out over 30 bone chilling days - the curtain closes. and yeah, the month's worthy of a standing ovation, but i'm ready for a new cast of days.

in the waning hours of this most memorable january, i've enjoyed blessed time with my grandbeans. spent precious hours with my dad. watched that silly tear jerker monkey movie, project x, with him but quickly headed out the door before the sad part at the end. and my babies - dancing in my kitchen with ella, spinning her, my princess buttercup, singing disney songs. the scent of gingerbread pancakes from breakfast lingering in the air. listening as my tyler bean navigates an imaginary race track, motoring his matchbox cars across invisible finish lines. gathering with my book club gals to catch up, my soul filled with the delight i find in their company.

a perfect send off for january, i'd say. and welcome to february. my goals for the month? to work even harder, commit myself even more so, to my physical health. get my ass to the gym and meet my five day weekly minimum goal. eat clean and honest. lend concentration to my good health. focus on love this month (you know, with valentines and all?). give a little more of myself to the ones i love. show myself some love by spending time doing what i love - writing, cooking. get back into working on my jewelry, stuff like that. dreamy, just the thought of it.

i wish you 28 days of life as you wish it, doing what you love to do and loving yourself for doing it. i sent my grandbeans to sleep last night saying, " close your eyes and think of all of the things you love. think hard now, picture it. there now, go to sleep, dream. and what you love will be there waiting for you. in your dreams." to you i say, close your eyes and picture what you love. your life over the course of the next month. dream over it. then open your eyes and follow where your dreams lead. that's what i'm going to do. dream, believe, and get ready to wake up and find that my dreams have come true.

buenos noches...
a dream is a wish your heart makes
when you're fast asleep
in dreams you lose your heartaches
whatever you wish for, you keep
have faith in your dreams and someday
your rainbow will come smiling thru
no matter how your heart is grieving
if you keep on believing
the dream that you wish will come true

(the song princess buttercup and i danced to - inspiration for my post tonight)

Friday, January 29, 2010

“In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire”

  • inspiration:

    stimulation to do creative work ~ stimulation for the human mind to creative thought or to the making of art

    somebody or something that inspires somebody to creative thought or to the making of art

    creativeness ~ a moment of inspiration

    good idea ~ a sudden brilliant idea

    breathing in ~ physiology – the drawing of air into the lungs

    fourteen straight days of moments, hundreds of them, where my mind has found inspiration. holding a loved one in the final moments of life. the shared witnessing of the divine presence revealed in a beige hospital room. the arms of my husband, his gentle voice – all reminding me of why i stay, why i remain committed. preparing a final celebration for a giving, loving life that truly mattered, for one loved beyond doubt. choosing the perfect rose, the most meaningful reading, food to nourish hearts seeking solace. sons gathered – three lives, full volumes each – love found, love lost, physical complaints faced with strength, bravery. family. friends. words of love, condolence, reconnection, reunion, life. my three kids – the picture of them seated together in church, the sun shining down on them through a stained glass window. the laughter of my grandbabies bouncing from one room to another throughout the day – their innocence insulating them from sorrow, protecting them from the sad (but happy too) reason for our gathering. bouncing off beds. swiping cookies off a platter as they dash around a corner, evidence of their presence leaving a cookie crumb trail. reconnecting with my maiden name self – who i was then, who i have become, where i’ll go from here.

    every blessed moment, and more with each breath i take. inspiration found everywhere. to write. to create. to imagine telling a story. among the many conversations i’ve had with family and friends over these past few days, one that remains with me is one i had with a cousin who i’ve not seen for years. one, i’ve learned, who also shares my passion for words and for writing. in trying to explain most accurately what i experience through writing, he explained it by saying that “as a writer and an artist, you find inspiration in everything, everywhere.” and he’s right...i see it all the time, it’s there. inspiration. in each conversation, in an embrace, in the color of the sky...everywhere. in seeing and in knowing that i am blessed with a heart that seeks it.

    wishing you moments that inspire...
    quotation - ralph waldo emerson
    advice from me - seek inspiration at every opportunity and follow your passion with bravado, without fear of what others might think

Saturday, January 23, 2010

reflecting, looking back and facing forward...

i'm really happy for the weekend. finally, sweet saturday and sunday, you're here. all 48 glorious hours of you. my weekend will center around my family, my home. this morning i'll join my sister at the church were my gram's funeral services will be said next week. cyndi and i are joining together to select music, choose readings and provide personal details and fond memories of our gram. after that we'll head for the florist to select flowers for the church. i'm picturing buckets of irish roses - red, of course.

these are happy times for my sister and i, our family. i live by faith and know exactly the place that gram calls home these days. heaven. who wouldn't take joy in the fact that someone they love has that as a forwarding address? and in the days that have ensued following her travel from earth to above our family has naturally been drawn closer together. i've reconnected with my uncle in DC and his wife, my very favorite aunt. i've been introduced and have come to adore my gram's niece who resides in savannah. she's coming to spend next week with us. i can't wait to meet her in person. and my dad, who suffers so from the vestiges of parkinson's disease, is having good days and is lighter in spirit in knowing the family is coming together and that my gram is in peace and at home. and the conversations between my mom and i - some easy, some not so much so - have been priceless. i believe we've come to a greater understanding of each other.

other weekend plans include a movie date with my husband tonight. i'm also trying to steal some time with my nephew mike who turned 15 last week. i'll be cleaning, straightening, getting my home ready to welcome family come monday. a grocery trip's in order because of course my sister and i can't simply order food for the luncheon - our love of cooking dictates the need to prepare dishes of comfort for our family and friends following the service. and i simply can't wait to cook for my uncle rick again. wish aunt ellen was coming too, but things are as they should be and i'll see her soon enough.

i will also too squeeze in precious time to write, for it is in doing so that i find peace. my challenge is to follow the advice of a friend and begin to create character sketches for writing fiction. a whole new world opens up to me with the simple thought of that.

to everything a season, as the verse goes,
a season for every activity under heaven.
may you find the blessing in whatever you do
and wherever you go this weekend.


photo caption - taken in bucktown last summer.
i love the reflection of the buildings and the patterns on the glass.
significant, i thought, considering where my thoughts are these days.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

colors of a day...

it started with black...the black of the sky at 4:30 this morning. my body clinging to the memory of sleep, wanting to revisit. my mind arguing and winning. time to get up. pour that coffee. get to the gym. early meeting this morning. things to do. time to get hopping.

navy, blue...deepening in hue, my shirt patch marked with sweat. the result of a good push at the gym. healthy heart. strong body. a scheduled "regular check up" with the cardiologist on the calendar early next week. must. do. good. quell stress. strengthen bones. defy statins. i'll work the cholesterol numbers on my own, thankyouverymuch.

grey...the skies, the road before me as i mapped my way to a meeting this morning with my library programming colleagues. raindrops and splatters on my windshield, light and dark greys dancing their way from top to bottom. a swish and they're gone. a soggy memory.

brown...brown brown brown. the voice spoken from one with rounded features, soft like butter. chirpy librarian voice, making a progrum out of a program. i had to say it quietly to myself. progrum. progrum. my voice silly at the sound of the word. excited brown, yes yes yes - sort of angela lansbury-esque. only brown. not blonde.

green...street signs. watching for the right ones. making my way towards my purpose this day, that being to retrieve...

white...the white box. everything that one life could hold. a life well lived. giving. caring. generous. daughter, sister, wife, mother. my grandmother. a lifetime of rich and wonderful living, all summed up in a white box. sitting on the seat next to me as i make my way home, tired now, feelings tumbling around my head like a child twirling on summer grass. dizzy, not quite sure which way i'm facing. seeking perspective.

purple...a touch of it in the cashmere wrap i wind around my neck, a gift received at christmas. a ready hug stitched into the plaid pattern. cocooned in warmth, i head out into the evening to gather with kindred spirits. lovers of words. brains like mine seeking words to tell the story that is life. a writer's support group, and i am a part. booyah - i'm blessed. if i weren't so tired, i'd dance. that's how happy i am, to be a part of this.

red...the color of my truck. i crawl back inside for the ride home. what a ride we've had today. here, there and everywhere, miles drawn out on a google map. a multiplicity of thought, common interests, bright ideas. perspective. and that white box. live your life while you have it. do everything you have to do and do it with everything you've got. your white box day will come all too soon.

back to old sweatshirt, providing comfort as i contemplate the day. a good day. mighty fine, in fact. i settle into its fleecy softness as my fingers dance over the keys of my laptop. retracing the steps of what i have hunch might prove to be one of the more significant days of my life (again, the white box).

black too, once again...night falls and i give thanks for the blessing of the last 18 hours of my life. and in giving thanks i lift my glass...

gold...or sort of, i guess. kim crawford in a bottle, a gift from my sister nans. to toast life. the writer's life. amateur. wanting. willing to take the chance.


The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say,
but what we are unable to say. ~Anaïs Nin

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Touched by an Angel...

There's a tear in your eye,
And I'm wondering why,
For it never should be there at all.
With such pow'r in your smile,
Sure a stone you'd beguile,
So there's never a teardrop should fall.
When your sweet lilting laughter's
Like some fairy song,
And your eyes twinkle bright as can be;
You should laugh all the while
And all other times smile,
And now, smile a smile for me.

When Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, 'tis like the morn in Spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing.
When Irish hearts are happy,
All the world seems bright and gay.
And when Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, they steal your heart away.

For your smile is a part
Of the love in your heart,
And it makes even sunshine more bright.
Like the linnet's sweet song,
Crooning all the day long,
Comes your laughter and light.
For the springtime of life
Is the sweetest of all
There is ne'er a real care or regret;
And while springtime is ours
Throughout all of youth's hours,
Let us smile each chance we get.

For my dear sweet Gram, an Irish Rose sure and true...
how lucky are the angels in heaven
to have in their presence such an Angel as you.

Elizabeth Shirley McCauley Milanich
January 9, 1921 - January 12, 2010

Cyndi, Caity, Michael and I just want to thank you Gram, just one more time.
In a moment, you changed our world.

With love forever,


Monday, January 11, 2010

That's what I like about you...

Last weekend I had lunch with my friend V. Finally a spot cleared in our busy schedules to sit back, break bread and catch up. V's one more precious friendship made through my job at the library. There are others besides me who consider her to be one of those "everyday angels;" caring, loving, giving.

V has been an incredible support to my husband in the past year as well. For the past nine months she has led the job networking group at my library; a group that has been of tremendous benefit to my husband and so many others who find themselves victims of the employment disaster. She has done this purely on a voluntary basis, giving her time and providing encouragement and support to the group. She's the real deal - a truly wonderful human being.

In conversation at lunch, there was something V said that really struck me - in a positive way. She said it a couple of times. As we sat and conversationally solved the problems of the planet, if not our own lives, in explaining herself V said, "That's one thing I like about myself..." and then she proceeded in conversation by mentioning a particular trait which she possessed. Positive traits, like striving to be non-judgemental, those kind of things. But those words, that phrase, "That's one thing I like about myself," that just really caught me.

My friend wasn't boastful, spoke with not a hint of conceit or self-absorption. She simply stated a few things that she particularly liked about herself. And this had me thinking, right away to be honest. How often do we admit to ourselves, or to anyone for that matter, the things that we like about ourselves? When was the last time (if ever) I made such a statement? I loved that V could just do this, very comfortably in fact. It was a lesson to me. Perhaps a lesson for all of us.

We spend so much time focusing on what we don't like about ourselves, and this we share with pretty much anyone who will listen. I hate my hair. I have a terrible singing voice. I dance like a fool. I wish I were more attractive. I wish I were thinner, fatter, taller, shorter, lighter, know the spiel. When was the last time you heard someone say "That's one thing I really like about myself..." and not just in an attempt to toot their horn? When was the last time YOU said it to YOURSELF?

Thinking positive, being positive and starting with our own selves...imagine that. And as I write this I think "what DO I really like about myself?" How many things can I come up with, these things that I like about myself? How about you? I think it's time to start thinking more along these lines, things I like about myself. Things I have to offer. Things I've been physically blessed with (thanks Mom for my blue eyes). The woman that I've become by navigating the twists and turns on the road that is my life. I like thinking like this.

One thing I really like about myself is that I seem to make friends easily. I don't know why, perhaps its because I really like people. I like that about myself too - that I really like people. All their different personalities. The way they are. What they do. How they look. God's divine creations, and I'm fascinated by them.

There, that's two things. Now what about you? Start a list...

photo - "I like you."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Arrived home tonight feeling a tad grumpy. January just does this to me...bright shiny holidays providing endless excitement, color and magic come to a screeching halt with a drop to the minus column on the thermometer. 31 days ahead of me - life in the Illinois tundra, colorless sans the blinding white. Sunny skies telling a bright shiny lie as the inside of my nose freezes shut while I tremble in shivers, the simple act of spilling gas into the car a painful chore. If I had a dollar for every time I cursed the month of January I'd be able to fly to Jamaica.

Isn't it kind of funny though how January provides us with what we need after the holiday mayhem? Dark falling early, though a minute or two of daylight bought for a chilly price gained with the passing of each frigid day. The season calls us to rest, stay in, hunker down. Our pace slowed by the weatherman's forecast.

This cold winter night finds me tucked in my home, snug as a bug. At the ring of 6 bells my work clothes were quickly traded for the warmth and comfort of my favorite flannie pants and a soft sweatshirt. Batches and batches of baking granola are scenting my kitchen with an oatmeal cookie note. The words of my latest audio book playing out through my little sony - and what a good story it is: Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue - a winter story for sure. I'm hanging off every word. For those in my book clubs, don't be surprised if you see this one on one of our reading lists somewhere along the line.

Long blustery story short, I find myself, as always, feeling pretty rich. Ridiculously blessed. For my warm home. For my Midwestern life. Summer will come soon enough and of course we'll all be grateful. But it's nights such as this, and days such as the one in the photo captured above (taken from my back window looking out into the yard), that keep me feeling fine. Watching the snow soften the lines of a cold winter night, my cat Tosca who hates to be held curled in a warm cat circle upon my lap...I am happy and in peace.

My fingers are crossed in wish and want for a snow day tomorrow...


Monday, January 4, 2010

hey sister, soul sister...

just hung up the phone after a good talk with my best friend nans. i love the sound of her voice. i even love when i call her cell and she doesn't answer and i get to hear her voicemail message "...hi! this is nancy's cell phone! Please leave a message..." and in that recording i picture the smile and hear the laugh of my soul sister.

she's been away for the holidays. sort of a pre-emptive "going away practice" for the real going away which happens bit by bit over the course of the next few months. nans is heading back to her home in phoenix -so far away - and we'll turn into friends with a long phone cord. friends with the cost of bi-annual plane tickets posted to our credit card statements. this time around, nans' being away for the holidays felt a tad strange, that four states away feeling sinking in sooner than i had expected. because of the holidays i sort of ignored the feeling, but in the months to come i don't quite know how i'll adjust, her not being here.

i think i may have taken for granted the ease in which i find myself in her company. book clubs, a quick lunch, a breakfast out...a quick phone call and we're there for each other in a shot. and wow, have we been there for each other. we were just speaking of the stress we've managed in our lives over the last couple of years, both of us balancing issues, the weight of which seemed just that much easier because we had each other to lean on. i know nancy, she knows me. and through the ties of friendship we've become so much more - sisters of the heart. that's how we refer to each other.

things will be different, our connection more of a challenge. but thank heavens for the conveniences of communication technology. thank heavens that i don't have little ones at home to worry about any longer, keeping me from taking off for a week with my soul sister. knowing nans and i, the simple fact that we ARE so far away from each other will probably have us eating up cell phone minutes by the ear full. life will still happen, i'll need her to be there, and of course i'll be here for her. and we will. be there for each other. friendships are made with love - this one with a love strong enough to defy distance.

it still scares me, the thought of her leaving. we still have not addressed the issue, neither one of us being able to speak of it in the other's company without the fear of crying our eyes out. this is the first friendship i've had (not counting my little sister, and the thought of her not being there...well, i can't even go there!) where i've felt this strong, sisterly love. in a few months, if and when i'm ever asked "does all of your family live in the area?" i'll answer no. no, i have a sister in phoenix...but we talk all the time.

aloha au ia`oe, nans

in the photo above i'm with nans and my other sister/friend, irene.
another dear friend, a story for another day.
we're enjoying our signature drinks - kettle one martinis, dirty with blue cheese olives
christmas 2009

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Becoming a better me, one day at a time...

Once or twice a year I'll scan the titles of books I've scavenged, added to my mounting collection of treasure un libre and select a few to donate to the used book sale at my local library (my home away from home - or is it the other way around?). Torrid romances I was sure I'd find the time to secretly indulge in. Treasured novels that are good to have on hand to pass off to a reader in need. Books to consider for future discussions - it's always handy to have my own copies of those. And of course, those books I mean to read, and know that somewhere along the way I'll grab the chance to do so.

But there's one book on my shelf that will always have a place. This book will never make it into the book sale donation box, although when I work the book sale each year I'm astounded at the number of copies - casted off, no longer a fad - that make it to the sale tables. The book I'm speaking of is Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach.

Years ago Oprah put her million dollar stamp of approval on this precious book. Blessed with the success her power of suggestion guarantees, those wishing for Oprah's promised "something more, road map to authenticity and a better you" flocked to the book stores for a copy. And for millions what started out as a true wish, a bonafide plan, and honest intention, quickly became a fad.

Each year at the book sale we find at least a half a dozen "no longer needed" copies in the donation boxes. This never fails to leave me feeling just a little bit saddened. I can't help but wonder, did this book help someone? Did she find the treasure, did she get it? Knowing I'd be busy once more with the sale last October, my daughter asked me to grab her a copy when I came across one, knowing that I always do. Like me, Stephanie realizes the treasure that is this book. She wanted a copy for her sister-in-law. I keep extra copies of Simple Abundance for just the same reason, with the wish that those I give it to will realize its value. Praying that the copies I share will find their way to a friend's heart, not a table at the used book sale. And I can't help but wonder, did Oprah keep her copy? I'll bet it's even signed by Sarah herself!

I've left Simple Abundance idle, sitting on my book shelf for far too long. I miss it. I need it. For me, this new year has me longing to become a better me. I know that Sarah's book offers the perfect plan. Chapters that inspire, quotes that find their way to index cards which rest on my desk at work or are taped above my coffee maker or my fridge.

This book is a befitting way to begin my blogging year. Sarah's path, her set of instructions, is where I'll look to find inspiration as I work to get to where I long to be. A better me. Authentic. Peaceful. Healthy. Creative. Many have used books as a source of inspiration and challenge in blogging, the most recent and wildly popular Julie and Julia providing an example. For me, this year I'll be spending it with Sarah. For the next 363 days, her wise words and wit will be my guide in creating a life that is an expression of my authentic self. I picked my book up in early December and have been reading along for the past few weeks. Call it coincidence, kismet, or whatever, but the timing couldn't have been better for me to find my way back to this book.

As the December days wound their way down, within the final pages of Simple Abundance I came across one of my favorite quotations, this one being spoken by Henry David Thoreau. I have this quote everywhere - my planner, my journal - it speaks directly to my soul. I'll end by sharing it with you. And I pray that this year you will find your way to the "you" that lies in wait deep inside, your authentic self - longing to live life as only you were meant to live.

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of (her) dreams, and endeavors to live the life which (she) has imagined, (she) will meet with a success unexpected in the common hours."

Care to share the journey?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Hello 2010...

My blog has consumed my thoughts for weeks on end. I've had so many ideas for posts, so many thoughts that have inspired me to write, but alas I neglected to set aside the time to just do it. That's one of the items on my list of resolutions, new practices, healthy habits for the New Year - write, write often, write confidently, write with reckless abandon.

The way I see it, if something's on my mind on a continual basis, many times throughout each and every day, then this "something" is in dire need of attention. That's how I feel about writing. I think about it ALL of the time. I go throughout my day wishing I could just sit and write, wishing I could write well, thinking about words to use. I long to write and to write well, AND to make it a habit - a daily habit. Even if 20 minutes a day is all that I can commit, commit I shall.

That said, and like so many others at this time of "fresh start, new beginnings, blank pages and bold resolutions," I cast my list of aspirations for 2010 to the page.

  • Develop the writer within. (I'm convinced she's there, laying in wait with a sharp pencil that's itching to scratch a page)
  • Commit to following a health sustaining lifestyle - whole foods, organic as much as possible (I'll be writing much on this in the days and weeks ahead)
  • Stick to the recently re-introduced practice of daily exercise (what a stress buster - I'd almost forgotten how much!)
  • Travel West (for real this time). I have a tentative trip to Sedona planned for April. I AM NOT cancelling this one!
And most important on my list this year...
  • Slow down and enjoy the scenery. I've been through a VERY challenging year - professionally and personally. I made it through the stress, but its effects scare me a little bit.
This is a big year for me. You too. I'd love to hear about your plans for 2010 - your resolutions, your dreams. I'm excited about a whole new calendar of days, all 365 of them. A new decade, fresh start, clean slate. I'm happy for you too, your plans for the coming year. Happy New Year to us...oh the places we'll go in 2010!

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
What kind of year will this be for you?

Committed to the promises I'm making to myself,
Photo...a path in the forest preserve. Appropriate, I thought, for this post.