Monday, December 31, 2012

in pursuit of a life that matters



Random notes to myself

(instead of New Year’s resolutions) 

I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions.

Mostly because I’m wary of waking up under the guise of a new year and expecting myself to be instantly different, as in better. That mind-set feels uncomfortably close to the kind of black and white thinking that used to dominate my other life; the one I lived when I was an eating disorder therapist.

love breakfast via a well traveled woman via note to sarah tumblr1

Back then, the black and white thinking was with regards to food. If an anorexic took a bite out of something she considered “bad” (i.e. fattening) it could immediately send her into the gym for three hours. Or, a brief relapse with a bag of chips might cause a bulimic to fall into the “I blew it already so what’s the point” mind-set that leads to a frenzied eating binge, with the demoralizing purge and shame that follows. 

So I’m skittish on the ‘expectations’ part of setting New Year’s Resolutions…

because I’ve learned that Change doesn’t work very well when we expect clean-pointed endings and beginnings.



I absolutely love the act of creating resolutions in my head. Of asking myself questions that might lead me someplace new. And uncomfortable.

Note to self: Am I growing as a person?

For me, this is the joyful part; the luxurious, slowing-down of my mind while I sit inside a steamy, crowded coffee shop and doodle on my paper napkin.

I like to sit at old wooden tables that are etched with deep scratches because these are the secret language of other people’s thoughts. And when I look at old dates and pen marks carved into a table, it makes me curious about that person. And it reminds me of those long ago stories I used to hear inside the session room, with women who floored me with their courage.

I know I’m repeating myself, but I used to be a therapist in another life and it felt wonderfully purposeful.

And sometimes I miss that feeling.

Note to self: Am I taking risks?


Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that it takes amazing courage to seek answers for one’s inner confusion. To change things. To try to go deeper. To not be fooled by the glorification of perfection. And these women whose stories I once was a part of, made me silently swear that someday I’d honor them by writing with an authentic voice.

Only the other day I read THIS amazing post about being stuck in a rut. And the shame of it all.

And the raw honesty of her words and the beauty of her sentiments was staggering. Really.

And it made me wonder…

Am I challenging myself as a writer?


Because I still haven’t wrote about my own experience with shame. And Dr. Shinde. And the real meaning of “being curious” which would explain my blog’s tag-line.

And on Christmas Eve day, when I stumbled on THIS poignant blog post, I was left wondering why I hadn’t yet wrote about Jack, and those months of floundering sadness,

and those dark days that finally resulted in my meaningful “ah-ha” moment.

I wondered why I never mentioned my Mom’s recent tears over Grandma; it was her first Christmas without her. And I really had intended on writing a post about coping with loss over the holidays. Why didn’t I?

Because in the dead of winter I often think about the people who are depressed. I remember those emergency sessions I used to have during the holidays. Those sudden calls from patients who were dreading the loneliness or the toxic family dinners or those who were simply sad over the loss of someone they loved.

I have deep well of tenderness for someone struggling with depression. Because there are some things you never forget.

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via Catherine Robinson

"Its unfortunate and I really wish I wouldn't have to say this, but I really like human beings who have suffered. They're kinder." ~ Emma Thompson


And I think about those pages written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh that had given me so much comfort. Wise words about grief that I still have bookmarked. And I’m curious why I haven’t shared this in a post yet. Was I worried it might be too serious for the readers of those beautiful design blogs… the same ones I enjoy so much?

Note to self: listen to your inner voice



via pretty stuff tumblr

It’s not that I’m so wise. Or that I think I’m “all that

Or even that I think I have so much to say.

It’s just this blogging thing. There are days when I wonder why I’m doing this. Is anyone reading? Am I writing anything that really matters?




Living a life that matters, do you think about such things?

I realize that a life that matters might look different for each person, but for me, it includes risks to be real and authentic and unafraid. Right now. Not just in my life, but even in this blog.

Note to self: no masks allowed

I thought about this when I was asked to visit someone’s blog the other day and I stumbled on THIS particular post.  I could see the pain behind the words and it made me think of Janet and Gayle and all those women –old and young- who told me similar stories about hurtful nicknames that began in their family as ticklish jokes. Nicknames that ended up shaping their body image. And causing endless insecurity about their looks. And there are times when I read something like this that I want to immediately write.

I want to go to my keyboard and be driven by a sense of indignation on the behalf of females everywhere, who had to endure dumb nicknames about their body parts when they were kids. I want to say something helpful to parents so they won’t inadvertently wound the blooming self image of a young girl.

Because I believe there are some experiences that are quintessentially female. That there are certain kinds of experiences we’ve all brushed up against, as girls and women.

A scalding comment from a “mean girl.”

The hurtful realization that we’ve been excluded.

Comparing ourselves and feeling down

These are wounding experiences that can transform us into more empathic, stronger women, and leave us with something substantive to say. Because when it comes down to it, it’s our struggles that expose our deeper selves, and our imperfections that help us connect with others.

Here’s an experience I had that left a lasting impression. And taught me something important. It was really a brief, fleeting memory but it’s seared in my mind because it was a uniquely female experience. I had it because I was a woman therapist working with eating disorders (which are predominately women).

It goes like this.

  I’m inside the session room for what seemed like hours of anguish. I remember the person I was with, and the slow-motion pace of the words that were being whispered quietly in the room. And me, listening. Being right there, huddled close inside the dark, obsessive calorie-counting world of a very sick anorexic…minutes ticking away. While we examined her fears about getting fat.

And then it was over.

And I was walking outside into the brilliant sunshine

and almost immediately into a conversation with women friends. In a small group. Healthy, laughing women who seemed miles away from the dark hole of depression that was behind me. And here I was, now with ‘regular’ women who were talking. And also engrossed in a conversation about

…what else?

losing weight and working out. And talking about their diet. And calories.

So much so, that I shook my head and felt a dizzying sense of déjà vu. And afterwards, I was struck by the slippery slope that can take us from wanting to look better into a downright obsession. But most powerful about this experience was the realization that we are all really… not so different.

In fact, it’s downright humbling how quickly we can be brought to our knees.

Yes, there are so many moments that deserve reflection. And words. 

Words offer such amazing possibilities to inspire and help others grow.

With words, we can create something beautiful.

So with this in mind I ask myself, is my blog what I want it to be?

and the answer is,

not really


Note to self: it’s all about the journey.


Wishing you a happy and safe transition into 2013! 

It’s going to be an amazing year, I really think so.

Thank you for being here, my friend.

love and peace,




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Thursday, December 27, 2012

12 ways to add beauty and sparkle to your New Year’s Eve


Are you planning anything special for New Year’s Eve?

Right now, I should be removing ornaments from our tree since it’s looking pretty dry. It is the one drawback about fresh trees, you have to be ready to start breaking them down when those falling pine needles tell you so. But before I tackle our tree, I did want to get this quick post on New Years done because it’s right around the corner.

And just in case you’re hosting something big or small, I thought I’d share a few wonderful ideas from out in the bloggersphere. Some of these are DIY projects, so I’ve included the links whenever I could. And some of these photos are simply great visual inspiration.

Twelve ideas to get your creative juices going. And get you in the mood for a party.

So here they are in no special order…


via 100layercake

1. Use decorated straws…


via cupcakesandcashmere

and stir sticks.



2. Go crazy with balloons…

you can blow them to different sizes and tape them to the wall.



or tie white helium balloons with gold tinsel


via 100layercake

3. Drape silver tinsel from lighting fixtures

new-years-decor-2confetti system

via confetti system

or order something big and bold like these awesome decorations


4. Decorate with clocks



5. Tuck white feathers and glittery bulbs into your chandelier and garlands


via 100layercake

6. Add glitter to your candles…


7. Make DIY glitter votives for your table.



8.  Drape your tables with sheer or sparkly fabric.



9. Make these special  DIY New Year’s Party Poppers



10. Make Homemade glitter marshmallows


11. Offer your guests confetti party favors alongside their champagne.

and last but not least….

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via cocoandkelly

12. Please don’t forget to wear ..



your prettiest …

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dancing shoes!





I’m linking up at these fun places:



Monday, December 24, 2012

It’s all good. Every wonderfully imperfect moment.


Do you know the secret to a beautiful, laughter-filled Christmas?

Here it is. But don’t be shocked because it really does work. I’m learning how to do this.

Breathe. And let it go.

All of your well-intentioned visions for a “perfect” stress-free Christmas morning?  Let it go. Your hopes for a beautifully timed, perfectly cooked prime-rib? Let it go.

A spill-free designer-looking tablescape that stays perfect long enough so you can get your photo? Let it go.

Fascinating conversations with well-rested guests and appreciative kids who are dressed in the Christmas outfits you lovingly selected?

Let it go.

Instead, trade it for real life. Take a big breath and look around and be utterly amazed at what’s right in front of you. Because when you’re caught up trying to make that festive, warm-tingling experience happen?

You’re not really present.

So embrace that impromptu conversation that happens with your teenager. Your neighbor. Your husband. Right when you’re in the middle of something you’re trying-to-get-done.  Stop. Listen. Rejoice in the sharing.


Because in the end, all we have is THIS moment. This one right here. Which is pretty amazing if you think about it. Because this moment offers us the chance to choose our own happiness. To open our eyes and really see things as they are.

This moment offers us the exhilarating power to be grateful for all those tiny, simple Christmas blessings right in front of us


…the blessings that come alongside the kitchen sink messes that make me crazy. The sticky counters and dirty dishes that represent the abundance of food.

And that signify that someone has a full, happy stomach.

…the blessings that come along with the long, stressful shopping lines. The lines that take forever to move and remind us of the precious passing of Time. The crowded lines that thankfully slow us down enough to see that real people are waiting on us and that they have families at home, probably waiting for them. And that we have the blessing of not being at work while they are…working.

And that’s the moment we can choose to appreciate where we are and to even spread kindness in the world by caring about the other person. Asking how they’re holding up in these crazy crowds.

…and yes, even the blessings that come along with the grumpy protests about Church service. The ones that remind us that we’re a family of unique people. And that we each have our own spiritual journey we’re on, and someone else’s path may look different from our own.

So we breathe. And let it go.

Because when complaints and tired, grouchy moods are present it means thank goodness, that so is the person.

Which means we have the blessing of being together


and relishing our wonderfully, imperfect lives and our abundance of blessings.

 If you’re interested about this topic of happiness, I stumbled on this tiny article, The 10 Secrets of Happy Women.

In the meantime, thank you for stopping on such an amazing day.


Wishing you a Christmas overflowing with contentment and love!!





Saturday, December 22, 2012

my most precious Christmas gift ever…


One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received…



did not even come wrapped with a pretty bow.


It wasn’t expensive or sparkly or luxuriously fashionable.

I found it tucked inside my Christmas stocking one Christmas morning. Two pieces of white paper.


Because they had both asked me, “What do you want for Christmas, Mom?” And I had thought about it.

Long and hard.


And this is what I really wanted. I wanted a window into their heart. I wanted a mere peek down deep.

I wanted to know, who are you becoming?



And what have I taught you?


Only instead of asking…I wanted to see some hint, some small sign that we’ve been teaching

the deeper stuff

and that maybe, just maybe they’ve been hearing me say words

such as…

“People are more important than things…”


“Slow down.”

“ look and see the kindness and giving around you…”


But as parents, we never actually “know” what’s penetrating our children’s minds

and shaping their souls. We just look for the little signals.

And so this is what I asked for from my boys one Christmas. I wanted to see their list of things that they felt grateful for…I wanted to see what really mattered in their worlds and

to get a glimpse of their emerging values.

And I learned a lot.

Jack really mattered. Jack was a stray, half-blind, elderly dog that Patrick had brought home one summer night, after finding him on the street. And I eventually organized my entire life around keeping Jack alive. Of course, I didn’t know that until much later. And in the end, we had all wept together when Jack died.

Only I never really knew what the boys saw, if they realized how much time I gave to Jack. Until I read over Patrick’s list.


I learned that they love their dogs. And Buddy our bird. And there were little things that blew me away.

Right next to the big stuff.

And all those years of planning and sweat and crazy decorating I did behind-the-scenes for  those Halloween parties and caroling parties and birthday parties. It meant something. So did our ‘family nights’ that we’ve always prioritized. That have given us so many funny moments and precious time carved out for each other.


They noticed their Dad. And how hard he works

to send them to a good school. Christmas at Mimi and Papas. Family and friends. Things that I hoped would be seen by their eyes and felt in their hearts..were there.

Along with surprises.

via A positively beautiful blog_xl

And it left me feeling so very blessed.


Christmas is filled with such wonder when we slow down and take a deeper look.

It’s simply amazing what we can see. 

I hope you had a beautiful Christmas, my friend!

Blessings to you,




I’m linking up here at these merry places:


photos: loobooandshoes.blogspot. hollymathisinteriors, spaceforinspiration.blogspot

Thursday, December 20, 2012

the amazing power of hope


I had originally planned to write a post today about some of the Christmas traditions we do around our home.

Simone over at The Bottom of the Ironing Basket wrote a lovely post describing the special ways her family celebrates Christmas each year, and I’d been inspired to slow down and think about this topic myself. It was such a mindful act, I thought, I want to do that too.

Only I’m learning something about writing. You can have a perfectly good idea formulated inside your head but when you start to write, your heart can immediately intrude and start dictating words that lead you someplace quieter. And unexpected.

So here I am sharing my recent experience with hope.



I guess Aristotle would label it as a waking moment. But I call it a much needed drink for my parched soul.

Because I can’t deny that on some deeper level, I feel profoundly shaken by the loss of lives in Connecticut. Do you notice it too? Whatever your views about the instantaneous media feeds, it’s connected us in a national sadness. It’s made it possible to feel the heaviness of loss for children we never knew, but we can imagine in the faces of our own.

It’s a shadowy sensation I felt even as I strolled into the lighted school gymnasium the other night.

For several years now, our family meets at St. Philomene’s Church to serve Christmas dinner to those in the community who are struggling.



We volunteers, young and old, stand in a circle before dinner and hold hands while the kind judge who runs the program, reminds us that we’re serving dignity as much as food to our guests. The fact that our guests usually have bad teeth, dirty clothes and small children that break my heart are besides the point.


We’re all family on this cold night.

We began this tradition when my boys needed Christian service hours for their school and it seemed like such a wonderful thing to do with their Mimi and Papa.

We go to this place because my parents are part of the established, well-oiled volunteer crew that does this year-around. And they’re really the amazing ones, these volunteers who commit hours of their lives each week to make sure these meals are served.

Me?  I’m just one of the “annuals” as the old, curmudgeon priest from our Church used to say disparagingly from the pulpit. It was one of the most mind-boggling ironies I ever witnessed. A parish priest finally has pews that are jam-packed for Christmas service and he chooses to waste his precious sermon on a stern lecture about Church attendance. Spewing guilt on Christmas. I never understood that, but that’s another topic.

My point is, I never forgot that old priest’s judgment. It colored my own view about my service at Thanksgiving and Christmas, leading me to minimize my actions. And it made me overlook something powerful.

Don’t misunderstand, I love looking up and seeing my seventy-one year old parents in their red aprons busily tending to their “jobs,” and I always feel an indescribable joy whenever I spot my boys bending down and making small talk with children huddled at the long, cafeteria tables.

But this year was different. Patrick’s still in San Luis Obispo finishing classes and Michael had a conflict with Crew.

So this is what it’s like when your kids are growing up, I thought. And I expected less as I walked through the doors, with a mood that was more solemn than usual.

Only I was surprised.

Isn’t that how life happens?


Suddenly I began to notice people. People I’ve seen over the years now. I never knew Jason worked at HP and traveled all the way from Texas with his photography equipment each year. He was sitting at the table with another ‘tech’ guy checking the computer screen for the photographer. If the Santa photo was good there was a thumbs-up sign with a smile, and the kids could be on their way.

He comes every Christmas.

So does the attorney who was lifting the toddler on Santa’s lap for her family photo. When her tattered pink sock fell off he immediately bent down to slip it back on. I stood next to him the whole night stamping hands with the words, ‘Christmas Blessings,’ so we would know who got gifts. And I never knew his name, but I saw him last year too.

And the blonde woman again. The one who brings the girls that look like they just stepped out of a photo shoot for a teen magazine. They were in charge of the distribution of presents again. And they come once a year too. In fact, this year the twin sisters hand-crocheted caps and sold them on Facebook for twelve dollars each. And these girls made six hundred dollars that they donated for the gifts being given.

More dizzying bright light.

Waking me up.

And I saw the little girl lifting her baby brother up while I put her Christmas stocking into her hand. And noticed she only had two fingers. And excitement in her eyes.

Then I saw Brian and Ryan, friends that Patrick had grown up with who were back from college; they had stopped by to join the group of young people on the stage singing Christmas songs for our guests. Only when they came up to hug me, I couldn’t talk. My memory blinded me and I suddenly saw them as kindergarteners with goofy smiles again, and here they were, tall and handsome and amazing with their kindness.

And then in the midst of happy pandemonium there was Mr. Moss, appearing in front of me after one of his crazier work days. Joking with my parents and walking around offering desserts.


At the end of the night, as we went through the kitchen to get outside my Dad stopped me. He tapped the lady at the sink and the sweet old man who had a wet shirt from washing all the big pots and they looked up. He wanted to introduce me and he joked with them, “why these two want to be back here, I don’t know…”

And he was right. These two people were hidden back where no one could see them. Inside a cramped, steamy, wet kitchen away from any hint of Christmas music or any sign of a child’s smile. And where surely no appreciation would find them.

I realized I was staring at sheer selflessness.

But the old man simply beamed and said, “Oh, we’re all workin’ hard…”

And for one moment his smile lit up the whole world.


And it occurred to me.

This is what Hope looks like in real life.



*this post is dedicated to the children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School

blessings to you my reader,




I’m linking up here:



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