Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Twisted Halloween!

Ever wonder WHY we Trick or Treat?  WHY we dress up as someone else and run from house to house begging for candy?  WHY there is a monster vs. sexiest/hottest costume disparity?  WHEN it became ok to knock on the doors of strangers and expect a free handout?

As I understand it, the origin is from the Celts and their celebration of Samhain or their New Year. Also called all Hallows eve, it marks the end of their calendar year and the time of the harvest.  There are several versions as to where the costume tradition might have originated but they used to wear the skins of the animals that they killed or roam neighborhood dressed up scaring out spirits they believed to be released that day.

It's followed by All Souls Day or the Day of the Dead, where many cultures celebrate and honor their dead in ceremonies.  You can read more about it all here

It all somehow evolved into a "Hallmark" and retail holiday here that has commercialized the day and lost it's essence.  It's about who can get the most candy and have the best costume.  It's not about history, honoring the dead or preparing for winter.  Families are spending money they would be better off saving or spending on something they need, rather than on food that is horrible for you and the kids and costumes that end up ripped, dirty and in the trash unless you are lucky enough to be able to recycle them for another year or to another child.  Sure, the kids are cute as hell, but what are we teaching them?

It gave me pause as I reflected on my own childhood memories of Halloween.  They are mostly of enjoying the sound of leaves being rustled under my footsteps.  The smell of autumn.  The weather of the day - I remember 70 degree days, freezing cold days, snow and rain.  I remember wearing my mother's wedding dress the year I had a broken arm, the year I was a princess and wore blue eye shadow and the guy who always played the scary music!  It was fun to 'be' someone else.  Sure, getting the candy was fun, but it was really about the experience of dressing up and getting to go outside in the dark!  I think my parents just liked getting a glimpse into the neighbor's houses and trying to guess who was at the door!

I still like to play dress up! I'm all for socializing at a party.  It's the running around the neighborhood expecting something for nothing that rubs me the wrong way.

It's clear the tradition is slowly falling out of favor.  As I drove around this evening, fewer groups of kids were out trick or treating.  Fewer homes had their porch lights on.  Fewer people are willing to participate in the giving of treats.  Fewer kids are seeking treats.  I know our town has a parade and party a few days before as do many towns.  The big malls do trick or treat at the stores as well.  Lots of people have costume parties instead.  There is food and dress up but it's more controlled and not in the dark on a school night.  Or maybe fewer and fewer people are celebrating all together.  I'm not really sure.

With regards to the outdoor tradition, part of me wonders, have we lost our minds?  Out of one side of our mouths we tell our kids not to talk to strangers and try to get them to eat healthy and 'right'.  We teach them to be safe when outdoors.  We generally don't let them roam around after dark, especially alone or with people we don't or barely know.  We don't sugar them up just before bed time.  We supervise them.  Well, we should do these things.

Out of the other side of our mouths, just for this day, we tell them it's not only OK to talk to strangers but to go right up to them, even into their houses, and take food from them!  We don't enforce the usual 'safety' rules because we somehow think they are safe because it's Halloween.  Many parents throw caution to the wind and let their children roam about at night, alone (or in a group), in the dark, to the homes of people they don't or barely know.  Kids, in their excitement, run from house to house, not looking before they cross the street in poorly visible costumes, oblivious as to whether the scary guy who just jumped out from behind that tree is someone's dad trying to be funny or someone trying to abduct them!  The only sign of them coming to your door may be the screams and giggles of delight as they celebrate their sugary loot!  Do their parents know who their pre-teens or teens are with running about unsupervised?  Did the parents of any aged child check the local sex offender registry first?!  I won't even get into the 'tradition' of egging, toilet papering or otherwise destroying private property somehow being fun or acceptable if the house was not meeting the expectations of the probably way too old trick-or-treater!

Don't get me wrong.  I used to celebrate it too.  I am guilty of buying into the hype.  Of purchasing costumes for my infants and toddlers, who just cried because they were hot, itchy and knew they looked ridiculous!  Of buying the Harry Potter costume he HAD to have only to have him refuse to wear it because it wasn't cool anymore 5 days later!  Of creating the expectation and setting the bar by taking them knocking on strangers doors and expecting free food.  I accompanied them however very closely.  We only did our neighborhood of about 10 houses and only those who we knew.  One year, the entire neighborhood of parents also trick or treated with a shot glass!  Everyone wins!  I've even hosted Halloween parties and loved doing so, especially when my kids were younger and because there is an October birthday.

Over the years, I've come to change my view of the value of the holiday and what it teaches my children.  I've opted to celebrate in various different ways.  It started about 9 years ago, when my youngest were 2.  One of them had numerous food allergies, some life threatening.  He couldn't eat ANY candy.  It made me question the practice and find other alternatives.  We did a friends party and for a year or two, the immediate neighborhood only and a few select relatives homes for trick or treat.  They got 'safe' food from those who knew him.  The rest of the candy he traded in for safe treats, matchbox cars, stickers or some other trinket.  As he got older it was a new book or a stuffed cat instead of the candy.  To raise awareness, we asked for donations to FAAN (The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) instead of candy.  You could do the same to any reputable charity organization.  The Red Cross comes to mind in light of Sandy's devastation.  Now, at 11, he doesn't even want or particularly like candy!  There is no real expectation for it. He doesn't really understand why his friends still participate in neighborhood candy collecting.

For the past several years, we have gone out for a nice family dinner, costume optional, instead!  That's our new tradition.  This year we had a little extra special treat.  Our waitress was named Megan (My daughter was Meghan) and she was dressed as a cat.  My Meghan LOVED cats.  Think of it what you will.  My boys and I were very amused and happy for this 'sign'.  I don't make this stuff up!  It was better than any candy out there!

I think if one chooses to celebrate, one should also know and teach the history of the day and try to use it as a teachable moment.  We had a great discussion in the car on the way to dinner about this tonight.  We've gotten so good as a society as just doing what everyone else does without giving it much thought. We seem to have lost our ability to think independently at times or we are afraid to buck tradition and say no.  Change is good!  My kids know I'm a wee bit different...

WE are the parents.  We are responsible for teaching our kids values, respect and nurturing them to healthy and happy adulthood.  We should teach them to be independent minded and conscious citizens.  How we each choose to do that is of course, our own choice.  I respect yours, whatever it may be.

I do suggest considering a few alternatives.  Never lose sight of what's driving your decisions.  Never put safety on the back burner 'just because' it's a special occasion.  Do your homework!  Consider using the expectation of going door to door for the greater good by giving rather than expecting to receive or collecting an item for a food pantry or relief organization or charity.  Start a new tradition like our family dinner out or make pizza or fondue together.  Above all, have fun and be safe!

My personal preference is to celebrate November 1st - All Souls Day or the Day of the Dead instead!  Gee, I wonder what tomorrow's blog topic will be?

Monday, October 29, 2012

NaNoWriMo anyone? How about NaBloWriMo?

The Universe is screaming at me to write.  I know what I am *supposed* to write.  The problem is I need to be in the right time and place to get in the zone and actually write it.  That would mean holing myself up by the ocean for a solid month with no distractions.  Ahhhhhh.  That sounds so lovely.  

Sadly, it ain't gonna happen.  Not in the ideal way. That's for sure.

They say we all have at least one book in us.  I have a few.  They have been started but my writing practice is sporadic at best.  Cultivating a consistent, productive and enjoyable writing practice is no easy task.  Especially when you work full time and have children.  Just when you get into the meat of it, there is somewhere to go, someone needing mama or something to do.  The only other option is forsaking sleep.  I did that for long enough parenting twins.  I'm still trying to catch up!   

There are many tools out there that can help people get started and encourage them to continue.  I plan to attempt to use a few to kick my literary ass.

One I've learned about is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.
The challenge is to write an entire novel in a month. I know people who have done this! The Web site has tools to facilitate your creative endeavor and peer support as well.  I hear it's a great help and even fun.  You need only the desire and the time.  I have but one of those things.  Anyone else out there taking the challenge?  Or perhaps has in the past?  Tell me about it!

There is also a great writing tool called Scrivener  I played with the beta a few years back and just bought it for keeps.  I've not started with it yet, but am looking forward to doing so in the near future.  Check it out if you write for any medium.  It's fantastic. 

Since I have not the time to write a novel, I am not participating in NaNoWriMo, although it sure is fun to say!  I'd love to take the challenge some day.  Instead, I plan to attempt to have my own "KimBloWriMo"  or a generic "NaBloWriMo" (National Blog Writing Month).  I am going to challenge myself to write a blog entry every day for the entire month of November.  My ultimate goal is to cultivate a writing practice.  To establish a pattern.  To get my creative juices flowing.  It won't be my book in blog posts, however I do hope it will set the precedent for me to tackle it sooner rather than later.  It will, instead, probably be random thoughts and an interesting look into the workings of my heart and head on a daily basis instead of on a random ranty sort of basis.  The variety of topics will be vast.  It will also be an experiment of sorts.  I'll let you know how it goes at the end of November.  

Imagine if we had no warning...

Mother Nature is one powerful mama.  On your knees people!  Thank her for the warmth, sunshine and beautiful days.  Thank her for the rain.  Respect her when she's angry.  Show her some love and understanding.  She's trying to teach you.  Listen up!

If you live on the East Coast, you are probably feeling like an insolent child right now with her wrath fully upon you.  You may be wondering just what the hell you did to piss her off.  Perhaps you are lamenting "Why me?  Why us?  Why here?  Why now?"  The storm named Sandy, much like a hormonal teenager, that morphed into a hybrid larger than life and worthy of weather horror fame is hours from making landfall in NJ.  Her impact is felt from the Carolinas to the Canadian Border to Bermuda AT THE SAME TIME.  It's unprecedented.  It's the strongest storm in terms of low pressure ever recorded north of the Carolinas.  It's a big deal meteorlogically and a really big deal to those who are impacted by her fury.  There is rain, wind, snow and coastal flooding of epic proportions.  Some people will lose their 'stuff', some will lose their homes, some will lose their lives.  Many already have from her birth in the Caribbean.

The hard core meteorologists began 'talking up' the possibility of this very scenario a week ago.  They were clear to say it's too early to say exactly what will happen, but if the 'worst case' verifies, time was of the essence to prepare.  Some people took it to heart.  They made plans.  They did their shopping.  They stocked their emergency kits and obtained generators or made plans to evacuate somewhere safe if directly in harms way.  They didn't panic.  They didn't disregard the possibility.  They took heed.  Kudos to them!  I am a fan of informed decision making.  Preparation and planning prevents accidents or at least minimizes them and saves lives.

Many other people accused the media and the meteorologists (who are scientists) of 'hype' for ratings and of trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.  Before you dis them for getting paid to be 'wrong', I'd like to see you try to understand it and predict it accurately!  Those same people who accused them of hyping the storm may well be now surrounded by flood waters without electricity and unable to be rescued because they ignored their mandatory evacuation orders. The mountain turned out to be even larger than the meteorlogical world anticipated!

Weather is powerful.  It can be beautiful.  It can also be deadly.  Water kills more people than any other weather phenomena.  I've always been fascinated by the weather.  Both in it's beauty and it's force.  It is one that must be respected at all times.

I can't help but wonder what it must have been like when storms like this happened before there was the technology to predict it days in advance.  Can you imagine heading to work in the morning in Atlantic City and coming home to epic flooding in the entire city with no warning and your shore side home gone?!

We're so fortunate to have the wealth of technological instruments, computer models, historical data and the collective scientific intelligence to interpret it all and made surprisingly accurate forecasts given the fact they are dealing with the ATMOSPHERE and all of the influences on it at any given point.  We must remember they are not perfect.  They are models.

We're also fortunate to have TV, radio and now Twitter, Facebook and smartphones at our fingertips where we can literally instantly share information.  This not only helps keep the public informed but can also make for more accurate forecasts, and when it's over, the analysis can only  help improve their understanding of the science going forward.

We should be grateful for those who work tirelessly to keep the public informed and safe. Not only those who predict the weather, but those first responders and officials who are there in the horrible weather helping to keep people safe.  Even the ones who didn't take the threat seriously and found themselves in 'trouble'.  While countless others were enjoying a 'snow day' off of work, they pulled double shifts to clear debris, restore power and keep people informed and safe.  They will continue to do so for days and in some cases weeks, long after we, on the fringes, have gone back to our daily lives while some people are trying to figure out how to take another step because they've literally lost everything to the power of Mother Nature.

I wish there were more respect for everyone in the world.  That's a whole other rant.  For today, I hope you are thankful for your officials, media and first responders for the work they do today and every day.  Today there was little banter about who is a better candidate.  Today, it was as it should be.  Everyone with genuine concern for their fellow man and working together to share information and keep the public safe.

Here's to science and cooperation!

So many lessons to be learned from mothers, don't you think?

Monday, October 22, 2012

The secrets no one tells you about labor and birth

On the anniversary of my labor with the twins, I always re-live the day in snippets.  Yes, even now, 11 years later, it's vivid.  Remembering the journey.  It is one I am proud of.  It was not an easy journey.  Not by any means. I mean really.  Look at me in that picture!  It was the night before I was induced.

What made it all the more memorable was that I was totally in control of the experience.  It was one of the most amazingly empowering experiences I have ever had.  It changed me forever on so many levels.  

I enjoyed my labor!

Are you ok?  Yes.  I enjoyed it.  Have you ever heard anyone say that about their labor and birth before?  Especially a medically induced (pitocin), 21-hour long labor, un-medicated vaginal hypno-birth of twins at 39 weeks?!  Oh, with one a footling breech?

Everyone thought I was nuts.  Except the midwives and doulas of course.  :-)

Secret #1 -  Birth is empowering!

Women have the opportunity to embrace confidence, assertiveness, strength and power through their pregnancy, labor and birth experience.  They can realize the power of their womanhood.  They can bring forth new life!  It's a freaking miracle.  Growing and birthing that baby or babies, no matter who you are, is a miracle.  As women, we are gifted with the experience.  The gift of motherhood, no matter how much help we might have needed to arrive here, is nothing short of amazing.

Granted, I was well informed.  I was a type-A information whore of a birth doula, childbirth educator and health care professional.  Some would say I have a way of speaking my mind.  I'd birthed before and knew what I did and did not like about that experience.  I knew the potential risks of twins.  I knew my body, my physiology and the science behind the 'medicine'.  I knew what I wanted.

I wanted to give my babies the best chance at a healthy and happy full term birth.  That meant sacrifices by me. I had to do less and eat more.  I had to eat better.  I had to learn to listen to my body.  To let go of my anal retentive need to clean constantly.  When I had contractions all the time, I had to spend most of the time on house arrest.  It made me crazy.  I did it happily.  It wasn't about me, it was about these babies.  So much of parenthood is like that...

I did my research.  I asked questions.  Lots of questions.  I wanted an un-medicated birth.  As much because the pain was about me, not about what's best for the babies as it was about the fact my blood pressure is so low and my body so sensitive to narcotics that there was a good chance I'd risk myself into a more interventive birth if I opted for pain meds.  I didn't want to go there.  I wanted a Hypno-birth. I wanted non-pharmacological pain control.  A few hours of pain for me would be nothing if it meant my babies could have the lowest risks possible (not to mention to lower my risk as well).  I prepared for it religiously (and it worked like a charm!)   I also initially wanted a water birth in a birth center.  I wanted a home birth ideally, but got risked out of both with the twins.  My husband at the time was not comfortable with a home birth of one baby, let alone twins.  I had two kick-ass midwives and an OB practice that equally rocked in a hospital that was mother and baby friendly.  I picked my battles.

I made it to 38 weeks and 4 days.  Baby A was breech until it became clear she was really Baby B and he was head first.  Ultrasounds were showing signs that her umbilical cord and placenta were getting 'unhappy'. We had a long talk.  My gut told me it was time to induce. I agreed with the medical evidence presented and I researched it to my satisfaction   A Saturday ultrasound and membrane stripping and a scheduled pitocin induction on Monday if no spontaneous labor.  Contractions every 5-10  minutes all weekend, but no real labor, no change in my cervix.

I started pitocin at 9 am Monday am.  It was a party.  Awesome nurses.  Awesome midwives.  Awesome OB's.  I had my own personal 'dream team' for labor. I negotiated time off the monitor for good behavior and I walked with one hour heart rate checks.  I bounced on the ball.  I ate a turkey sandwich for lunch.  By afternoon I was feeling the contractions from the pit and needed a nap.  My doula got me in the zone with the Hypno-birthing and I dozed.  I felt no pain, only intermittent belly tension.  Hours felt like minutes.  7 pm rolled around.  Still no change in my cervix.  Talked with the midwives.  They were busy with many other laboring moms.  I was tired and disappointed progress was lacking.  Babies were happy.  We decided to call it a day and try again in the morning.  They turned off the pit.  I was still 2 cm where I'd been for weeks.  Damn cervix of steel...

By 8 pm my contractions were 3 min apart and by 9 pm I was 5 cm.  Another secret they don't tell you.

Secret # 2 - Pitocin can mess with your body's natural rhythm and if your body and baby are not ready, it probably won't work!

I had that lovely dilemma many women on pitocin do.  If they turn it up enough so you get strong contractions, they either last too long, are too close together or the baby heart rate drops.  If it's one level lower, it's not enough.  That and the fact if your body isn't ready, it probably won't work.  Eliminate the artificial override, and my body gladly took over.  I can't help but wonder what would've happened if we turned it off hours earlier.  Maybe I'd have had Libras instead of Scorpios!

I got in the tubby.  It was heavenly.  I dozed.  After an hour I was grunty I guess, so I got out.  8 cm!  Yay!  The OB was called at 11 pm.  Oh, it's the one who won't catch breech.  NO, thank you.  I refused him.  They knew I would if he were on call.

Secret #3 - you can say no!

The midwives called my favorite OB, who had gone off call at 7 pm and came back, expecting to catch my babies and go back home.  Instead, he slept in the call room all night, patiently waiting for my babies to decide they wanted to be born.  I changed position, I showered, I slept, I was massaged, I had popsicles and graham crackers, I threw up, repeatedly (I'm a transitional puker, not so much a secret, but yeah, lots of women are) I was in transition for a good 7 or 8 hours.  My doula and midwives kept me in the zone. I dozed through most of it feeling tightening but little pain.  I had no epidural.  I refused to talk to anesthesiology or sign the consent until I needed it.  I didn't plan on needing it.  The OB was convinced I had gotten the epidural I was so still and quiet.  I did not.

Around 4 am I agreed to breaking my water to try to speed things along.  It took forever.  Amniotic sac of steel too!  It didn't help much and it stressed baby B.  Classic risk.  I knew it going in.  Change of position and fluids helped a bit.

Secret #4 - PROTEIN WORKS!

Around 5 am Baby B (girl) was starting to show signs of being unhappy.  I was still 8 cm.  I agreed to turn the pitocin back on.  It only took a few contractions with the extra 'juice' and Baby A big head finally started to descend.  I remember the very bumpy ride to the OR (twins are birthed in the OR in hospitals even if vaginally just in case of the need for an emergent cesarean).  That ride sucks on a stretcher nearly fully dilated even with hypno-birthing!

Some of my battles were lost once there.  I was ok with it all.  I trusted my birth team.  They knew my wishes and desires and I knew if they could, they'd follow it, if they didn't, it was for a good reason. I was finally going to meet these babies!

Secret #5  - Memories are funny things

Here's what I remember of the next 20 minutes

  • the bright lights of the OR
  • Recognizing the eyes of the OB (all I could see)
  • How cold and uncomfortable the OR table was and how hard it was to scoot over to it while feeling pushy! 
  • How my pillow moved every time I picked up my head to push
  • I had no idea where my husband or doula were but my nurse and second midwife were right at my side and I could feel the love and grounding effect of their touch and presence
  • The anesthesiologist holding the induction mask in his hands as I looked back at him and I distinctly remember thinking "Oh, I don't think so" and I pushed my son out 
  • My yelp (and wondering who the hell made that noise, not realizing it was me!) as I tore a bit when he was born with the aid of a vacuum (more so because of his big not quite lined up right head and the urgency to get his sister out faster, her heart rate was low).  It was 6:00 am!
  • How much better I felt to have one baby out!  I could see my toes again!  I could breathe more easily.
  • The midwife reminding me I had another one to birth!
  • My son crying like a baby sheep (seriously, he sounded like a sheep)
  • The way the staff respected my wish for quiet during their births
  • Meg being born feet first, I hardly felt it.  Not hearing her cry right away.  It was 6:04 am!
  • My asking to see them and the staff parting like the red sea and holding my son up so I could see it was in fact him crying like a sheep and no, he did not look at all like a sheep.  
  • The staff peeking in the window of the OR, vaginal footling breech births are rare, especially in un-medicated twin sets
  • Thinking "Holy crap.  I did it!"
  • The shakes so many women get after giving birth.  I was my own earthquake!
  • The midwives counting placenta vessels and asking me how many I saw.  Looking at their placentas in wonder.  Hers was so much smaller. Yes, he had a 2 vessel cord.  
  • The nurse handing me my son.  Thinking no wonder I made that noise, his head is huge!
  • The midwife handing me my daughter moments later.  My DAUGHTER! She was so tiny!  She was wrapped like an Eskimo baby!  I swear my smile was brighter than the sun at that very moment.  One in each arm!
  • holding both of my babies as they wheeled me back to my room.
  • The look on our midwives face as she opened the OR doors for us.  I felt like a queen! 
  • Thinking, OMG, I have two babies!  And a three year old...and I'm hungry!!
  • The OB coming in later and apologizing to me for having to use the vacuum and for deviating from my birth plan but explaining why, joking he lost a few hairs on that one (he was bald) and asking if I had any questions.  I did not.  I trusted him.  I thanked him for everything.  THAT is why I chose him.  
Secret # 6

No matter how you birth, it's your story, it's your experience.  There is no right or wrong.  There is only right for you.  Trust your body, trust your baby, trust your caregivers and no matter what kind of birth day you have, it's yours and it's perfect.  You will remember it forever.  It will change you in ways you cannot fathom.  You.  Are.  Woman.  Roar momma, roar!  You rock!  

Grow the hell up people!

I think I'm losing hope in the human race.

Lately it seems not a day goes by where I don't think to myself several times a day, "What the f@ck is wrong with people?!"

As of late, it's the abundance of political related posts on social media sites such as Facebook and how profound an impact it is having on some people.  Not in the sense that it's stimulating intellectual discourse  either.  I can't help but wonder if those who post their opinions expected some of the reactions of their friends or friends of friends.  The rants and blatant nastiness is shocking!  Who raised these people?  Have they procreated?  I'm scared for our future if they did!

It seems to me it's been a great vehicle to unleash the 'dark' side of some people.  Perhaps it's in how they choose their words in a post or re-post or in how they reply to someone else's post.  It seems that somehow,  social media provides a level of perceived 'safety' and distance where people feel comfortable being downright nasty and disrespectful to someone they consider a 'friend'.  Or worse, to someone they don't even know who is a friend of their friend!  Would they have the vaginas (because balls are dangly and weak, vaginas are strong) to say the same thing to someone's face?  To engage in that conversation over dinner, at a party or in some other face to face social situation?

I suspect they'd be far less likely to stand on their very high and mighty soap box and dictate not only their personal beliefs, but be hurtful, hateful and disrespectful to someone else's equally personal beliefs and feelings to someone's face.  What he hell is wrong with people?

I'm all for discussion.  Differences of opinion and engaging in respectful dialogue about them provides us with tremendous opportunities to learn and grow.  It can also teach us the value of holding our tongue and how to be respectful, even when we disagree. It's the art of conversation.  Banter.  Friendly and respectful banter.  Who gave any of us the right to say we are right and everyone else who disagrees with us is wrong?  Are you Hitler?  No one likes a egomaniac dictator.

In our neighborhood and town, it's expanded to the stealing of political signs from private property.  By adults!  Seriously?  How will our kids every have a chance if the adults are behaving like this?!  We have a right to freedom of speech not to theft, defacement and slander.

Is the fact someone simply disagrees with us grounds for stealing/destroying their stuff or un-friending them?!  Is that really a solution?  Seems like bullying to me. It begs the question were they really a friend to begin with?  Because if I'm your friend, and you decide you don't want to be my friend anymore because I disagree with you about a political candidate, how to raise my kids or anything else for that matter, I really need to think about the definition of friend and choose more carefully...

Let's also consider why we are using social media sites like Facebook in the first place.  If someone says something you don't like or agree with, you have 3 choices.  Ignore it.  Reply, respectfully and engage in an open and informative discussion.  Or tear them apart, throwing respect and tolerance to the wind.  Remember the Golden Rule?  Do unto others...

If your feelings are that hurt that you need to un-friend someone (or take their stuff) because of their comments, opinion or lack thereof, I ask you, how is YOUR self-confidence?  What do YOU need to work on?  Because you are the only one in control of your reactions.  It's not them.  It's you.  Sure, maybe they were disrespectful.  Maybe they disagree with you.  But there is a high road and a low road.  We choose how we react.  Always.  No one to blame but ourselves for our behavior.  Stop and listen to yourself.  Watch yourself in the mirror.  Aren't you doing exactly what you dislike in the other person?  There is a word for you.  Bully.

Maybe un-friending someone is the answer.  Maybe it's not.  If it's all negative energy, sure, I can see the potential gain.  But have the vagina to tell them you are choosing to sever the 'relationship' and why.  Don't be a coward and do it on the sly and then smugly announce to your remaining friends how lucky they are you still like them!  How childish can adults be?  Apparently more so than most children I know!

Then there is the whole concept of 'hiding' people, their posts or having groups they post certain info to.  Really?  Maybe I'm in the minority, but I am who I am.  Either you like ALL of me or not.  The practice of secretly un-friending people boggles my mind.  Are we a nation of cowards?

Maybe if our 'friends' were really our friends these 'incidents' wouldn't happen because the dialogue would be respectful and without judgement.  Who the hell has 600+ REAL friends anyway?  I have maybe 10.  Many more friendly acquaintances, but that's different.

Granted, certain people are energy vampires.  They suck the life and energy out of you.  They thrive on conflict, on getting the last word on seeing other people get unraveled.  Only because you let them.  Simply refuse to stoop to that level.

I find Facebook is a nice place to keep in touch with friends and family.  Both those who are close and those who are more acquaintances   I have no 'friends' who I don't trust.  I use my privacy settings.  I don't post anything I wouldn't say to someone's face.  I know not everyone has interest in what I post.  I know many probably ignore much of what I post.  That's fine.  I don't read everyone else's every post either.  I see many things I have no interest in or disagree with.  I may or may not comment.  I think no less of  the person for having a different point of view.  We have free will.  All of us.  It's awesome!

That said, I do hope my friends actually read at least some of what I write and take an interest in it.  I don't expect everyone to.  I do think it's a great way to get to *really* know someone.  Both in what they post and how they respond, if at all.  Think about it.  What do you use Facebook, G+, Twitter or other social media platforms for?  Nonsense posts?  Do you complain all the time?  Are you bragging about yourself or your kids?  What's your profile picture of?  Yourself?  Your kid?  An avatar?  Something else?  Do you post info for a cause?  Are your posts only about one subject, say, political?  Do you simply forward other people's posts and pictures and never offer an original thought, explanation or consideration of how that person might feel about their photo or post being shared?  Do you post resources?  Something wonderful to share like a recipe, pearl of wisdom or educational link? Do you read what others write and comment or are you a habitual 'liker'.  Do you lurk but never comment?  Why?

What social media has taught me is that people seem to think it's OK to treat people in ways they likely never would to their face.  It's really a sad commentary on the direction our society is going in.  As a parent, I can't help but wonder how will we teach our kids the art of conversation AND social media etiquette when so many other parents don't know how?

While I'll be glad when this election is over, I'll be far more interested in society getting back to traditional values.  You know.  Reading.  Writing.  Arithmetic.  Social graces.  Respect.  Tolerance.  Coexistence.

We all share the same planet.  We are all human.  No one of us is better than another.  We're in it together.  If we can't learn to work and play together while respecting our differences, it's gonna bite us in the collective planetary ass eventually.  We are the beginning of our own end.

I hope we choose wisely.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A twin-less twin and his inner metro-sexual

Sometimes kids just crack you up.  It's part of the joy of being a parent.

I sprung small boy from school today for a surprise birthday lunch and some shopping.  It was in part a practicality.  He's outgrown his pants and sneakers.  He asked to go shopping.  Yes, the boy LOVES shopping.  Especially for clothes.  Purple is the color of choice this season.  Lots of purple, peppered with black.  He had a blast.  He is happier than can be about his take from the stores today.  His most prized possession?  A Shaun White faux leather bomber jacket.  I swear to the Heavens he'd sleep in it if he could.  He saw it and OMG, if you could have seen his face!  "Mooooom!"  As he slowly walked over to it and ran his hands seductively over it, "I've always wanted a leather jacket!  Can I try it on?"  Stifling a chuckle, I said "Really?  Always?  Sure, try it on."  He slowly put it on and a smile that lit up his face and deepened his sweet dimples slowly emerged.  He hugged himself, strutted his model walk and asked me with hopefulness, "Can I get it?  Please?"

Photo: Someone thinks he's cool in his new faux leather jacket!
As you can see, the answer was "Yes."

Why is he so freaking adorable?!

His desire to be fashionable is amusing.  He likes 'dressy' clothes.  He insists on his longish hair.  His glasses (which he keeps forgetting to wear) are quite modern and 'hip'.  Far from the classic blue wire frames he sported last year.  He spent an extraordinary amount of time determining which deodorant and body wash he wanted after smelling each one and reading the descriptions.  He has already picked out his clothes for picture day tomorrow.  His purple plaid button down and new black jeans.  I suspect he may be wearing the new jacket, too!  He, of course, requested I select the purple background, instead of the traditional blue.

He will be 11 next week.  A twin-less twin, for his sister left us 8 years ago.  Sometimes I wonder what it would be like shopping with her.  I felt robbed of the mother-daughter shopping experience. I mourned not being able to shop for sweet little girl things. Boys don't typically care about fashion or looking good.  Then I think, maybe I am experiencing shopping with her!  Perhaps she is trying to help him get in touch with his feminine side.  Or, maybe he's trying to connect with her somehow.  Whatever it is, he sure seems to be embracing his inner femininity!  His innate fashion sense is impressive.  He's well on his way to being an accomplished metro-sexual!  One thing is for sure. He's gonna look GOOD!

He's sweet as pie, too.  He said to me, without prompting, "Thank you mama for buying me all these cool clothes.  I know it's expensive.  I appreciate it.  I love you.  Can we snuggle when we get home?"

Back off girls (or boys).  He's mama's boy for a while longer!  :-)

WTF?! What the hell is wrong with the retail industry?

It's October 16th.  It's autumn.  The season of the harvest.  A season of change.  Gorgeous foliage.  Cool nights and warmer days.  Halloween!  A time for tricks, treats, costumes and parties.  I love dressing up!  Kids love dressing up!  The candy... eh.  We'd all be better off without the excuse and plethora of bad for you treats, but yeah, I get it, tradition.  It's no secret my drug of choice is chocolate!

So why the f@*k is it Christmas in the stores?!

I got a chuckle out of a friend's Facebook post yesterday.  She wanted to sneak into a store and take down the Christmas decorations.  She had a lot of support!  Who is in?  I am!

It got me thinking.  It didn't used to be this bad.  When I was a kid, the holidays and seasons were not rushed.  They were actually celebrated in order and timely!  We were allowed to enjoy the CURRENT season and holiday before having the next one shoved down our throats by the stores and media.  You could actually find a good selection of Halloween costumes the week before.  Now, if you haven't gotten it by early September, you are left paying a small fortune or having a meager selection.  Now, they are practically sold out and picked over and the Christmas trees and lights are overtaking the stores.

It's only October and by the time the snow starts to fly, it will be difficult to find winter clothes and boots!  If you are not a compulsive planner, it's nearly impossible to live in the moment.  We're being forced to live months in the future.  People don't enjoy the here and now.  The beauty of the day and season is lost because they are thinking about the next thing 3 months away.

OK.  Maybe 'forced' is a strong word.  Sure, we can choose to ignore it.  I try.  I am not a huge fan of shopping and I avoid the stores if I can from Halloween-Christmas.  I watch a local cable news channel and Dancing With the Stars and that's pretty much it, so I limit my media exposure and that of my children, significantly.  Still, if I want boots, I need to buy them now!  I don't want them now! I don't need them now!

It makes me wonder, what sort of values and expectations are we creating for our children?  Especially those who are exposed to the media blitz (don't even get me started on the inappropriateness of THAT) and are at stores all the time with shop-a-holic parents or those teens who are mall rats.  The history, meaning and tradition of the holidays is getting lost.  It's becoming all about the 'stuff'.  Everything is more costly.  It's about making money for the stores, having the best costume (that may cost a small fortune and they will outgrow in 2 weeks), throwing the best party and the shopping for the best deals.

Especially in this economy, the rushing of the seasons can be downright depressing.  It's not helping families living paycheck to paycheck, who are being lured by the 'sales' and 'deals'.  Retailers count on impulse buys and begging children to pad their bottom line.

What happened to families trick or treating together instead of mini-van drop offs?  What happened to Thanksgiving?!  Now it's Black Friday that gets all the press.  I remember Thanksgiving being the FIRST time we heard Christmas music on the radio or in our homes and I looked forward to it.  I remember it being about spending time with family.  Playing games.  Relaxing for the long weekend.  Not about running out the door for midnight sales!

I think we need to steer our families and our kids back in the direction of history and tradition.  Avoid getting caught up in the tsunami of retail rushing of the seasons.  We all need to take a step back and think about why we are doing what we are doing.  Remember why Halloween is celebrated.  Why Thanksgiving is not about shopping.  That the religious holidays of all faiths are about the stories of the time, not about the gifts!  It's about time with friends and family.  Reconnecting.  Celebrating together.  Not the shopping!!!

Life is too damn short to rush through it.  While we're so busy thinking about the next thing, we're missing what's happening right here, right now.  It may be all we have!  If someone in my family doesn't wake up tomorrow, I'm pretty sure I'd regret trying to get the best deal on a gift instead of spending quality time as a family TODAY.   We're creating stress, time management issues and teaching our children rushing everything is the best way to get it done.  It's not!

We have a huge responsibility to teach our children about the world.  How it's changed, how to navigate it and how to grow up to be functional humans with core values about doing the *right* thing.  We need to give them the skills to function in the here and now.  Sure, planning is important.  But living in the future serves no one.  Society (in this case, the retail industry) has a way of making our tasks as parents more daunting and complicated than it should be.

So, hey, HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Did you see the gorgeous sunrise yesterday?  Have you listened to the rustle of the leaves blowing in the wind?  Have you noticed the gorgeous foliage?  Have you seen a wooly bear caterpillar?!  I did!  I even poked it like Meg used to so it curled up in a ball and said "patter-pillar, patter-pillar"!  Have you noticed is smells like fall?

Go forth and be present in the moment today.  Use all of your senses.  Let me know how it goes.  :-)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's time to loosen up my buttons!

You are singing it, aren't you?  That Pussycat Dolls song.  Admit it.  You thought this post was about my long awaited strip tease!

OK.  Maybe not.  In fact, definitely not.  Sorry if I disappointed you.

It's about the emotional buttons.  You know.  Those 'hot buttons' we all have.  All it takes is a word, a look, an assumption or inference or even just a certain person or their reaction or lack thereof to set us off.  Instantly, our mood can turn on a dime.  The fight or flight response kicks in.

Ever wonder why?

History.  Wiring.  Expectations.  Ego.  Need for control.  Fear.

For whatever reason, the past few days I'm suddenly keenly aware of my buttons because they've been pushed quite a bit.  By many different people in many different circumstances.

Wait.  Let me re-phrase that.  They've been ALLOWED to be pushed by ME.  I chose to let myself react the way I did.  Habit?  Probably.  Hard-wiring because of past experience?  No doubt.  Changeable?  Hell yes.

What I've noticed is my reactions are always the same.  It's almost like I'm programmed.  Certain topics.  Certain people.  Certain situations.  My normally articulate and compassionate self gets all wound up, has word finding problems and ends up clamming up or sounding like a bumbling idiot.  I feel the tension in my body, my heart rate increase and my body gearing up for a 'battle'.  Or, I feel the wind sucked out of my sails, myself sink into quite submission and withdrawal.  Not willing or able to take it any further.

Today, I said out loud to myself in the car, while pondering this, WTF?!

I am in control of my buttons!  Instead of the big red stress inducing angry looking blinky one, I want purple, indigo and silver sparkly ones!  I want to choose to push the button that reminds me to have compassion, forgiveness, empathy and love. I want to choose with my heart center.  I want to embrace my intuition and let go of ego.  I can't control anything really.  I need to learn to be OK with wherever I am and whomever I'm with.  I can be me.  I can express my opinion without judgement, without anger, without letting past experience interfere with the here and now.  I don't need to let it create a negative emotion.  The past doesn't need to interfere with the now.  It got us to now, but it's now over.  Now is all that matters.  Like attracts like.

Epiphany!  Hooray!

Now, of course, to embrace it in practice.  First up, find some indigo, silver and purple sparklies!

What pushes your buttons and why?  Ever try to re-wire them?  What color would you make your buttons?  Maybe we should start a button renovation revolution!!  Who's in?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The delicate dance of darkness and light

It's October.  Autumn.  The season of the harvest. The time of the year when we travel from light toward darkness.  The sun slips away, or so it seems.  Taking with it it's warmth and it's light.  Driving us indoors away from the cold and darkness.  Forcing us to spend more time away from nature, fresh air and more time with each other, for better or for worse.

It's also a time of change.  Like all seasons.  Where spring is a time of new growth and life, autumn is a time of death and dormancy.  The beauty of the season is not lost.  The vibrant colors that abound in nature right now are nothing short of phenomenal.  Mother nature puts on a hell of a show before she blankets the land in cold, sometimes snowy darkness.  I've always found it rather bizarre that just before the leaves die and fall, they are at their most beautiful.  Not unlike us as spiritual beings.  Even after they fall, they paint a gorgeous landscape at the hand of Mother Nature, highlighting the beauty of the land and the season.

For me, it's long been my favorite season.  The crisp and cool nights and mornings that give way to a warmer day.  Skies often cobalt blue and devoid of clouds.  The smell of Halloween otherwise known as decaying leaves.  The crunch of dried leaves under your feet that call you to embrace your inner child and rake them all into a pile just so they can be jumped in gleefully!  The way the leaves blow around in the wind and the way the cat watches them as if they were birds.  These, are a few of my most favorite things.  Many of my happiest childhood as well as my adult memories involve the fall.

For the past 11 years, October has been a time of celebration.  Eleven years ago this month, I gave birth to full term twins.  Almost one year to the day after I miscarried at 15 weeks.  Yes.  I'd like applause.  Thank you.  It was no easy journey, but one of the most amazing of my life.  This is what I looked like about 11 years ago this day.
Yes.  That pumpkin is my 38 week pregnant with twins belly.  Painted by my 3 year old son and his almost 3 year old friend and his mother.  The stretch marks give it authenticity, don't you think?  This picture doesn't really give you an appreciation for how big my belly was.  Trust me.  I was D-O-N-E.

For the past 7 years, it's been bittersweet.  I've chosen to celebrate the birthday of my twins at the cemetery, where one of them is buried.  We have a cupcake picnic there every year now.  It's tradition. I both look forward to the celebration for the one still here and dread it because they are not together on this earth.  I only see one where two should be.  It hurts.  A lot.  I wouldn't miss dancing around her stone singing "Tinker Bell all the way" (those were the actual words, don't you know?) that day for the world.  It's just the way it is now.

About this time of the month, every October, almost like clockwork, I feel a weight descending upon me.  Subtle at first but becoming heavier and more noticeable as the days tick by.  The entire season from their birth day to Christmas is fraught with triggers.  The anticipation, no matter how prepared I think I am, no matter how much I try to integrate it, is there.  It makes me tired.  It makes me cranky.  It makes me sad.

It gets worse as we head toward Thanksgiving.  While I'm grateful for all that I have, I can't help but feel a swirl of emotions over the fact I've lost my daughter.  I thank no one for that.  I don't want to celebrate.  I hate pretending to be happy and seeing everyone else so gleeful.  I.  Hate.  It.  There.  I said it 'out loud'.  The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas suck.  Yep.  They do.  I used to love the holidays, now I dread them.  I count the days until December 26th, when I can put Christmas away.  Meg died December 18th.  We buried her December 22nd (the Winter Solstice, coincidence??? I say not.).  I feel it building already.  It happens every year.  I'm powerless to stop it.

I find myself wanting to turn inward.  To withdraw.  I go to bed earlier.  I sleep later.  I'm tired.  All the time. I avoid social situations.  I'm generally quieter and more introspective.  I say no to others.  I say yes to my family more often.  As I should, all the time.

In reality, I'm actually honoring my higher self.  My truth.  Connecting with spirit.  Actually listening to my inner wisdom.  Opening my third eye to see that which I often ignore.  Allowing myself the time to 'evolve', integrate and process my purpose here on this third rock away from the sun.

It's not necessarily a bad thing.  Small boy and I started watching Dancing With The Stars again!  It's been years since we've done that.  I'm as tickled as he is we're doing it again!  We tend to do more family things like watching movies and game night.  Comfort foods and family dinners happen more often.

I am also brought closer to my higher self and spirit.  I feel compelled to meditate.  To practice Reiki more, both for myself and others.  I am called back to the Divine.  To nurturing myself and paying attention to my needs and those of my family.  I tend to feel less stress or simply ignore it because something more profound moves into my conscious awareness.  I question everything.  Am I in the right place, with the right people, in the right job, doing the right things?  It tends to be a catalyst for change.

The acute awareness of the reality that life really is short.  You never know when it's 'your time'.  The every day crap is just that.  Crap.  Will it matter if I die tomorrow or if you do?  If not, then don't spin your wheels. Do only that which matters right now.  Live.  Love.  Truth.  I know.  If only it were that easy.

Pssst.  It is.  If we simply allow it to be so.

One of the greatest gifts of this season is that I feel driven to write again.  Not just random thoughts in this blog or a journal, but to really write.  You know.  That book that has been swimming around my head and my heart for the past nearly 8 years now.  It's starting to surface.  The Universe is sending me signs like you read about (no pun intended)!  In the Oracle cards I pull, the seemingly random e-mail I get or Facebook posts that show up in my feed.  In the words of random people who tell me, "You should write about that!"

As always, I think that's great, but in order to write, I need time.  Lots of uninterrupted time.  I work full time.  I have kids who play soccer.  I have a husband.  I have a house to clean.  I ballroom dance.  Yes.  All true.  Like all things in life, it's about choice.  When I choose to write that book, I know it will flow effortlessly from my fingertips.  Not unlike this blog post.  I'm feeling a strong calling.  One I've not felt in many years.  It's almost time!

Despite the anticipatory grief and all the negative emotions I feel, I also feel more connected with spirit.  I have an understanding about life, after life and beyond that was a gift from Meghan.  I celebrate her life and all that she taught me.  She taught me much.  The journey I walked before her death and the one I walk now have made me who I am. Or, more appropriately, helped me realize who I am supposed to be. I will never forget it.  There is a great message and many lessons in her life and in her death. For me.  For you.  For everyone who is ready to hear it.

Someday, I'll tell you, and the world, exactly what I know and how.  I will share the message and the lessons I've learned.  Just as from the decay of the leaves in the fall comes new life in the spring, so goes the circle of life.

You'll just have to wait for that book to learn more...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Relaxation makes me stupid. Oh, and I want a chef and housekeeper who makes towel animals please!

I used to think stress would kill me.  Then I had the most amazing experience.  It's called... a honeymoon cruise!  I actually relaxed!  Really!  Like really relaxed.  It was heavenly.

Now I worry, relaxation will kill me.  Turns out, relaxing makes me dumb as a post!  This could be dangerous, especially if on land!

There was the high of being a newlywed, of finally marrying the love of my life.  Of knowing with every fiber of my being all was right with my world.  We had an amazing wedding and reception, we were so happy.

There was the fact I'd been awake for 29 of the past 30 hours when we boarded the ship the day after the wedding and was so sleep deprived I probably couldn't have found my way if they were not so damn helpful and kind!

There was the fact that once we set foot on that ship, nothing else mattered but us and our happiness.  Everything was done for us.  Every need anticipated.  We could be as lazy or as active as we wanted to.  The ship was called Freedom of the Seas and was she ever freeing...I had a Pina Colada in my hand 15 minutes after boarding.  Welcome aboard indeed!  A quick lunch and then we were able to go to our stateroom.

The stress melted away and we passed out upon entering our stateroom.  We were woken a few hours later for the Muster Drill.  Impressive.  We wandered about soaking in the amazing floating city that was our home for the next 7 days, determined to stay awake until after dinner.  We experienced sailaway from our balcony.  It was like the Love Boat!  Everyone on shore waving to everyone on the ship.  Music on the pool deck for the party could be heard.  We were in a boat parade with the Disney Fantasy behind us and a Carnival Boat in front of us leaving port.  We were treated to a gorgeous sunset with drink in hand and cheese and wine gifted to us on our balcony as we sailed out of port into the Atlantic.  A beautiful beginning to our honeymoon!

We chose the 8 pm seating for dinner.  The dining was phenomenal.  Fantastic food.  Fantastic service.  Beautiful 3 story dining room.  We had a waiter, assistant waiter and bar attendant fondly referred to as 'booze man' or 'medicine man'.  Our table mates were other honeymooners and a couple our age on an anniversary trip.   We got on quite well and had lots of fun. By the third night, there was a chocolate martini at my table spot before I even arrived waiting for me!  The meals were out of this world.  I had my fill of seafood and it was all fantastic!  The menu changed every night with a few staples always available.  With nearly 4000 passengers to feed every day, it was impressive to say the least.

Food was abundant all day and night.  Room service tea and juice on the balcony every morning and breakfast or lunch anytime in several locations.  Eat as often and as much as you like.  I've never eaten so well in my life!  The view from the 11th deck Cafe was gorgeous as was the view from our balcony.  No windows in the main dining room, but it was opulent in itself.  Two formal nights were lots of fun! We met the captain and had some great photos taken!  Some of those ladies take their jewelry VERY seriously!  Holy cow!

We enjoyed excursions like snorkeling, parasailing, a jet ski tour and a sailboat cruise on CoCo Cay and St. Thomas.  We also enjoyed shopping and wandering about St. Maarten.

The ship had amazing amenities. 15 decks high! Dancing, parties, games, game shows, ice skating, rock climbing, a surfing simulator, mini golf, many lounges with a variety of music, karaoke, street parties and special events, comedy shows, Broadway caliber shows, and a magic show.  A full service spa and gym were also on the upper decks.  The talent was phenomenal!  There were 3 pools and several hot tubs.  Two cantilevered over the side of the ship and with an amazing view!  There was a jumbo-tron poolside for movies, football and deck parties.  We heard the kids program was great as well.

Our room was more spacious than we imagined and the balcony was a must!  Everything was wonderful!  We didn't want to leave and we're totally hooked on this cruise experience.  We can't wait to do it again!

Problem is, I really enjoyed the pampering.  I allowed myself to enjoy it.  I actually relaxed completely.  I'd forgotten what it was like to not be stressed.  Being disconnected from the internet was a joy!  By about day 3, I was far from the sharpest tool in the shed!  I had no idea what day it was or what time it was.  We discovered they actually have a carpet cut out in the elevators that changes every day and tells you what day it is!!!  Now I know why!  I was forgetting everything!  One time I was looking all over for my white bathing suit when Joe pointed out to me I was already wearing it!  Another time I had convinced myself I forgot the charger for my tablet after spending 15 minutes tearing apart the room looking for it when it was already plugged in!  I couldn't for the life of me remember which way was the front of the ship and which way was the back.  I did remember we were on the starboard side though!!

Relaxing made me stupid!  It was such a luxury to have everything taken care of for you.  To not have to be held to any schedule but your own.  To have it be all about you for once.  To have so many options available to you yet the choice was entirely yours.  We talked to many great people from all over the country and the world.  We enjoyed talking with the crew.  Everyone was friendly and eager to share information.  They were genuinely excited for us that it was our honeymoon and our first cruise.  And the towel animals were always a great after dinner surprise!

When I arrived home last night I was sad to see no martini waiting for me.  I was sad to get up this morning and not be able to go to the Windjammer for the buffet.  There will be no towel animal tonight.  Although I do still feel a bit of a subtle sway as if I'm still on the boat.  We're re-connected and back to the grind.  Thrown back into reality.  I am slowly feeling that carefree relaxation subsiding and the to do list looming in my subconscious.  The stress will creep back in.

I'm feeling smarter!

I will say this.  I don't want to wait another 3 years before I take a vacation.  The chance to re-charge, to re-connect with life, love and purpose was rejuvenating.  It was the most amazing honeymoon experience.  We were so fortunate in so many ways and blessed to share it with each other.  We savored every minute.  It was an absolute blast.

Oh, and we signed up for the frequent cruise plan.  We'll do it again.  Maybe we'll even bring the kids!  :-)

Serendipity? Destiny? Choice? Love...

~ note~

I originally wrote this a few days before I married.  Time got away from me and I didn't get a chance to post it.  Nothing about the sentiment has changed, except that some of these words were part of my vows and I didn't want to give them away!

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference"  - Robert Frost

My favorite quote ever.  It's in my high school yearbook.  I thought my life had challenges then.  Oh, sweet naivety... How little did I know then what it really meant.  How true those words would be...

Life is a journey.  It's a series of choices that determines what your path in life is.  Or is it?

Some people believe it's all pre-determined.  That they have been dealt a 'lot' in life, that they have 'bad' luck, or others have 'good' luck.  There is a reluctance to accept responsibility for our situation or our contributions to it or what WE can do to get out of it or to a situation that is better.  Some people believe everything is pre-determined.  Some people put all their faith in a Supreme Being of some nature.  Is this truth or is it the blame game?

I turn to the dictionary (Merriam-Webster):

Serendipity:  the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

Destiny: a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency

Fate:  the will or principle or determining cause by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do : destiny
a : an inevitable and often adverse outcome, condition, or end

Why am I pondering this?  Because the road I have walked, am walking and will walk in the future have been full of forks.  Hell, even very sharp knives!  We are all presented with countless choices in our lives and those choices bring consequences and more choices.  When faced with a challenge we always have two options.  Choose love and light or choose fear and victim consciousness.  We can be pro-active and take action to change it or we can blame someone or something else for our 'situation' and be stagnant. Neither are necessarily right or wrong, but they are very different and will influence all future choices.  

On September 22nd, I married my love.  I knew when I met him, he was 'the one'.  Not in the way you think.  It was so much deeper than that.  Truly a spiritual soul-level recognition.  I saw it in his eyes.  I felt it in my heart center. We already *knew* each other. A knowing that everything that had happened in our lives before that day had to happen to lead us to each other at the 'right' time.  

The work was not done there, it was in a way, just beginning.  We had to fight what was in our heads, release old and negative patterns of behavior and thinking, get our of our logical, thinking brain, ignore the 'warnings' of well-meaning friends and family and listen to our hearts.  Listen to our souls.  CHOOSE to walk the road together.   It would've been way easier to just walk away from the challenge and there were many opportunities to.  We did not. 

Was our instant connection serendipitous?  Was it destiny?  Was it fate?  Was it pre-determined in a previous lifetime?  Was it luck?  Or was it just a wedding where two people danced, were attracted to each other and chose to pursue a relationship eventually?  Maybe all of the above?  

As I prepared to marry again, it was not something I took lightly. It was a very well thought out choice and only after much work and introspection on both our parts to battle our demons and overcome our own obstacles to our happiness.

Initially, I didn't think it was a good idea to ever marry again.  The first one didn't go so well.  Although I believe my first marriage was not 'wrong', it was not meant to last a lifetime.  It was necessary to our individual growth as humans.  Did we 'contract' for it before we incarnated?  Maybe.  Maybe not. We both had lessons to learn from each other and about ourselves.  One of us outgrew the relationship.  It was not an easy relationship nor an easy choice to leave.  We created three beautiful children.  We buried one of them.  Our paths diverged, I chose the harder, less traveled one.  I knew it was time to leave the relationship.  It was hell.  It was right.  I knew that we both deserved a 'right' relationship someday and we were not 'it' for each other.  That our children would be better off seeing their parents in loving and healthy relationships with someone else rather than the contentious one ours had evolved into.  I am trying very hard to forgive him and myself for our wrongs still, to this day, nearly 7 years after I chose to leave that relationship.  To release the negative emotions and patterns, to fill it instead with love and light and peace.  It's my greatest challenge.  

The greatest hurdle to get over in my mind is the sense that had Meghan not died, this road might never have presented itself.  The 'window' might have been missed.  Now, if I subscribed to the destiny and fate philosophy, I should know eventually, Joe and I would've found our way to each other anyway.  I know even if she had not died, my relationship with her father would've ended, probably just not as quickly.  Do I wonder where I'd be in life had she not died?  Or had I chosen not to leave my first marriage?  I have, but I don't dwell on it.  I know, I really, truly know with all that I am, that I am in the right place, with the right person, right now.  There is no purpose to living in the past. It's gone.  Over.  Can't be changed.  

Yet, my brain is still having a hard time assimilating that the greatest pain I've ever known was a catalyst for me to find the courage to follow my heart.  To live my destiny, knowing at the time not where it would lead me, just knowing what I had to do in the moment.  In a way, the worst day of my life has lead to the happiest day of my life (next to the birth of my children, of course!)  Do I wonder if this was also her/our 'destiny'?  Sure, I wonder.  Do I know?  Don't take this the wrong way, for if I could get Meg back, or go back and change the outcome of that day I would, in a heartbeat, but her death taught me so much about life.  It taught me about what's really important.  What priorities should be.  About doing the *right* thing.  Living for the moment.  It opened my eyes to a spiritual world I had once known and buried and re-discovered with her guidance.  Her death brought me the greatest pain I've ever known and yet she gave me some tremendous gifts in her life and in her death.  I grew and changed in ways I might never have otherwise.

All of those things led to the day I stood at the crossroad with Joe.  When I chose that road less traveled by with him, because I knew... with all of my heart, with all of my soul, with all of my being, that it was right, despite the chatter in my head.  I knew it was not a paved and easy road.  It is a beautifully lined path, with sections of tremendous beauty, peace and serenity.  There are ups and downs, fraught with rocks, exposed roots and with slippery slopes.  When the rain comes, it gets muddy and treacherous, but we can hold each other's hand and offer support, help and unconditional love and respect.  We are stronger and better together than we are apart. I also know that the rain is necessary, for when the sun shines again, new growth happens.  The bond becomes stronger, the path a little easier, because we walk it together.  

So is our relationship and our path to marriage serendipitous?  Is it our destiny or fate?  Have we lived other lifetimes in some capacity together?  Was it simply a choice we made to be together for the rest of this lifetime?  Did our past experiences really have anything to do with our relationship and choice to marry each other?  

In the end, it doesn't really matter.  I believe it is a combination of all of these things.  Even when there is such a thing as 'destiny', one still has the capacity to choose.  We chose to live the rest of this lifetime with each other. What matters is that we love each other.  Unconditionally and wholly.  The connection was instantaneous and strong.  You can feel it.  You can see it.  It transcends the physical.  It's emotional, it's spiritual, it's transcendental.  It is love.  Pure and simple.  Bright and strong.  It's right.  It just is.  We don't have to explain it.  We know it.  The road we choose is one together.  We know not where it leads, but we know it's meant to be walked hand in hand. 

It's not the destination.  It's the journey.  That road, it turns out, it really does make all the difference...