Fireworks From My Balcony!

This week marks the one year anniversary of living in my cozy, downtown condo overlooking Main Street and across the freeway, the beautiful, Pacific ocean. As I sit here typing, looking out towards the view, my eye stops at the balcony.  Ah, the balcony. Sometime last summer, while the condo was still in escrow, my realtor and I met here to look over a few things. We surprised the owner who was cleaning the balcony on her hands and knees. How grateful I was and how happy to meet the kind lady who’d agreed to sell her rental unit to me. Well, it’s been a year, and I guess things kind of got away with me and somehow, I’d failed to emulate the former owner. I watched as the tiles on the balcony got dirtier and dirtier, and still somehow I managed to avoid going outside and using soap and water to clean them. And now we’re in a drought.

Fortunately,  my upstairs neighbor came indirectly to the rescue. I noticed last week that she’d put out a bunch of plants and pots if anyone wanted them. I did. But I’d run out of soil and needed to drive over to Lowes to pick up a bag of soil which I did on my day off today. While I was there, directly across from the soil, were dwarf Myer lemon trees. For only $23.98. And I had a free pot waiting for me at home! I couldn’t resist. I’d wanted one since the day I’d moved in.

So there I am, late this afternoon as the fog rolled in to keep me cool, transplanting my new lemon tree and several other plants which my neighbor had donated. Well, of course, I spilt some of the soil and made an all over mess of the place WHICH I HAD TO SWEEP UP! The act of sweeping led me to see how dirty the tiles really were underneath all that dust and soil, and well, I didn’t get on my hands and knees, and I did my best to conserve water but I have to say, the patio looks a heck of a lot better!

So here I sit, counting my blessings. When my boyfriend and I moved in last August, the County Fair was in its final two days. I remember well how I was drifting off to sleep after a day of moving in when I heard a loud boom. My boyfriend came running into the bedrooom, opened the blinds, and dragged me over to the sliding glass door to watch the fireworks. It was worth getting out of bed for. The next night we repeated the ritual.

This year we waited in excitement for the first night of the Fair. Sure enough, at 10:00 p.m., BOOM! I jumped out of bed and ran into the livingroom to watch from the bigger window. Obviously I had more energy this year! The fireworks were enchanting, and my boyfriend’s shoulder massage enhanced my joy. The second night, the five minute show seemed to drag on a bit. My boyfriend’s massaging helped but I wondered if I could do this for ten night’s straight. Welll, God must have been listening for on the third night, the fog rolled in JUST as the fireworks began, and all we could see were the edges of the colorful explosions. We had a good laugh at God’s sense of humor.

So I apologize, God. I look forward to the next seven nights of a beautiful show of color over the ocean from my very own (clean) plant filled balcony. I think of my mother who loved both plants and the ocean, and who dragged herself out of the house every Fourth of July to take her seven children to watch fireworks. What she would have given to have watched the show from her very own balcony!

Magical Moments! The Finale!

My niece’s wedding! The first of my mother’s seventeen grandchildren to be married. A moving and momentous ocassion! Where to possibly begin? Ah, yes, of course! The mani-pedi’s! All six of my sisters and I, along with the bride and two of her cousins, practically took over the nail salon. When the last of my sisters arrived a bit late, having gotten caught in traffic, one of the staff smiled and proudly announced, “I can tell! You are one of the seven sisters!” It’s no small feat for all seven of us to be in one place at the same time, and it was both sweet and fun for all of us to hang out together, help one another pick out nail polish colors, and ooh and ahh with one another over the finished products. It was also fun to include the younger generation and realize what good memories we were creating for them. Although I doubt my mom ever got her nails done professionally, I am certain she was smiling down upon us, seeing us all so happy together.

The day of the wedding was sunny and clear. The night before, we’d gathered at the hotel–my sisters, cousins and families along with dear friends who’d come from near and far–and caught up with one another over a simple buffet. We stood in groups and took pictures. The seven sisters. The seven sisters with the bride-to-be. The seven sisters with their families and bride-to-be until everyone in the room was squished together into one frame. Who would take the picture? The friendly caterer got the job. Reluctant to leave when the meal was over, we headed down to the lobby and continued to talk until it was time to get some shut eye before we started all over again. Which we did the following morning after running first from room to room–one sister had forgotten her mascara while another had the other’s shoes. But we all seemed to make it over in time for the big event.

The wedding site was picture perfect–the ceremony held in a large, airy gazebo with chairs extending back in rows for the guests. Two of my mom’s dear friends joined us, both looking beautiful with their chiseled cheeks and white hair, one using a walker, the other at ninety the picture of health. Having named my daughter after this close family friend, I made sure to take a picture of her sitting next to my daughter. The last picture I had of them together was at my mom’s funeral four years earlier.

Several of us quietly moved our chairs into the shade as the ceremony began. The rabbi was a close friend of the family and was officiating at the wedding despite being on sabbatical. His love of the family was evident by the warm and personal words he spoke. Once again, I’m certain my mother was listening with a smile from ear to ear. I wish I’d been braver when the bride and groom spoke their vows for without a microphone, their words got blown into the wind. Fortunately, they repeated them at the ceremony for all to hear. Perhaps saying them twice reflects the strength of their meaning!

After everyone in the wedding party had marched back up the aisle to where the yummy appetizers were waiting, a second niece of mine and her fiance rushed over to me. “We have something important to ask you,” her fiance said. I racked my brain. They couldn’t be asking me to be their child’s godparent as they had no children yet. What could it be?

“We wondered if you’d be the one to marry us?” he asked. I was delighted, and despite an initial burst of fear–aack, I’d have to be my most confident self and step into the limelight–I knew I could do it! Even the online process of registering with the state to be able to officiate. That would be the easy part!

“Yes! I’d love to,” I answered, hugging each of them. The date was still not set but the venue was. After much looking around, they’d decided to keep it simple, and have it at my sister’s home where she’d had potlucks for all six of her children’s Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. I’d loved those and knew this would be perfect.

But for this day, this venue was perfect. The food following the ceremony was elaborate and tasty enough to be the meal. I remember filling my plate with grilled veggies and pineapple. I’m sure there was more that I ate but I was focused on watching the antics between three of my nephews who sat at my table. Part of the joy of this trip was being with my nieces and nephews, and I was reveling in that.

After awhile, we drifted into the room where the party would be held, another beautiful site with large windows and natural light. There were lots of moving toasts, great music for us to dance to, and of course, more pictures. My favorite was the one in which the photographer had us seven sisters and the bride in a chorus line, with the groom jumping behind us. He told me later that he had to jump quite high to be seen despite our short statures.

At some point, I drifted out of the reception room toward some comfortable chairs and couches where it was also quieter. I continued to visit with friends and family until the wedding was over, and even then, with the place being cleaned up around us, we gathered on the patio for another hour, enjoying the fading sunshine and one another’s company.

That night, I couldn’t move. Others went to the hottub and diningroom for a late bite to eat, while I lay quietly in my bed, knowing I had to get up early to catch a flight. I thought over the day before drifting off to sleep. I was extremely happy for my sister and brother-in-law whose daughter was off to a great start in life. I was happy for my niece and her new husband who’d found one another and celebrated in grand style. And I was happy for me, having such a warm and loving family around me that my parents had blessed me with.

 

 

 

Magical Moments! Part 3

As hard as it was to part from Sis #5, it was delicious to meet up with my daughter by the well known clock in Grand Central Station! Today is the one year anniversary of my daughter’s move two short weeks after her graduation from UCSC to NYC–and here she was, showing her mom (who is a native New Yorker) around town. I have no memory of having ever looked up at the beautiful ceiling of Grand Central Station before my daughter pointed it out to me.

From there we walked a few blocks over to the Union of Reform Judaism where my Sister #4 (back to her) works as their librarian. It was fun to surprise her and fortunately, she had time to sit and chat with us for a bit before we hit the pavement again. On to the main branch of the NY Public Library (you can see I love libraries) where there was an exhibit about children’s books that was very sweet for us to tour together, having read some of those same books during both of our childhoods.

Our last stop for the day was a trip up to Washington Heights to roam a small branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art called The Cloisters, “showcasing medieval art in a French monastery overlooking the Hudson”. I couldn’t have said it better myself! It was relaxing to walk around the quiet, cool rooms enjoying the art as well as to stroll in the gardens and look out over the river.

We did a lot of walking that day–with a quick stop to meet up with a fellow my mom had been fond of and who my daughter now feels the same toward. He and his twin eight year old daughters had been living in my cousin’s home in Washington Heights last summer when my daughter first moved to New York and used their place as a crash pad. I was delighted to meet the fellow who’d been so kind to my daughter! Because it was getting late, we were soon on our way to my daughter’s home…in Brooklyn!

That, too, was very sweet, having been the birthplace of both of my parents. As I walked around the neighborhood over the next few days, I saw both the current version of the old buildings as well as what they might have looked like a century ago. My daughter lives on the fourth floor, and we got our exercise each day just returning home. I met her three lovely roommates that first night and had the pleasure of taking them out for a super Cajun meal the next. When the waiter brought out our five main courses and three side dishes, I was certain we’d ordered way too much but by the end of the meal, every bite was eaten! Ahh, the appetite of youth…

My daughter and I spent the earlier part of that day mostly relaxing in her apartment. It was drizzly outside and we both needed a rest after all the activity 0f the previous days–she’d worked five days in a row in order to have the next five days off. I got to see where my precious daughter does her laundry (yes, she did a few loads), and where she buys her groceries (just around the corner), and how far the subway is from her place (a few minutes walk that she often talks to me on as she heads to work. Now I can picture her as she does…)

On Thursday, our third and final day alone together, we started out by walking the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the oldest suspension bridges, taking us from Brooklyn to the lower tip of Manhattan, blocks from where my daughter works. Again, this was another one of those adventures which I had somehow missed that my daughter introduced me to. The views of the city as we walked over the East River were wonderful but by the time we reached the city, I needed to sit down. All the noise and jostling of pedestrians going in both directions and staying out of the way of the bicyclists was more than I was used to. We found a quiet park bench and sat and talked for a bit.

Soon enough, we were ready to continue on our way. Shake Shack, USA. The place my daughter works was way more upscale than I’d realized, serving up a tasty looking menu of burgers, shakes and fries along with wine and other goodies to a yuppie looking crowd. There was a group of teenagers as well taking over a large table on the patio outside the restaurant. My daughter and I stood near the customers who were picking up their orders as she proceeded to wave and call over every possible co-worker of hers for me to meet. Everyone said the same thing. “We love your daughter!” “Can we get you anything to eat?” “We love your daughter!” Sorry, I wish I could offer more variety but…everyone loved my daughter!

There was more color than I was used to seeing, and having raised my daughter in a fairly white suburb, it was exhilarating to see her expanding her horizons, and once again mine. Ditto for her neighborhood. I missed her world when I returned home–her lovely, peaceful and comfy apartment where she and her three roommates hung out and played games together; her colorful neighborhood full of folks hanging out and talking with one another or striding purposefully somewhere; her easy commute into Manhattan where she gets to participate in all kinds of fun activities with her New York family and new friends (who love her! Have I forgotten to mention that?) Perhaps I wished I could just pick up and move into her world with her. What a great life she’s made for herself in one short year! And I might just be welcome, after all, when I left, one of her roommates hugged me and said, “Come back anytime! It’s nice having a mom around the place.”

 

 

Magical Moments! Part 2

On the Saturday before Memorial Day, I got myself out of Sister #4′s house bright and early, and onto the LIRR to head into Manhattan. I would be spending the next three days with Sis #5 in her cozy, one bedroom apartment on the upper East Side–if I’ve got that right! I was a bit disoriented while I was there, constantly confused as to whether I was on the East or West side of Manhattan. I could look it up on a map before I continue writing but I might as well tell it like it is! The area was charming with a branch of her local library nearby, as well as thrift stores, frozen yogurt places and coffee shops lining the streets. Just my kind of neighborhood!  We had our first lunch together in a tiny but ultra modern Thai restaurant a few blocks away. The food was excellent! A great way to kick off our time together.  Two other amazing features were the food carts on the sidewalks loaded with fruit–we stocked up before heading home for dinner that evening–as well as  Central Park a few blocks over. Hmmm, the walk to the park alongside the beautiful, old brownstones makes me think we might have been on the West Side… Do I have it right this time, sis?

I grew fond of her cats, especially Lucy, who was front and center during my visit. When I lay my yoga mat out on the floor, there she’d be, curled up on one end next to me. Leonora was more shy and kept out of sight most of the time. Their presence, along with the many plants lining the window sill, brought back sweet memories of my mother.

Mom would have also loved the gym upstairs. I remember now that my sis told me Mom once visited and swam in the pool which has an amazing view of the city! I took a yoga class with my sister. I liked the teacher’s style and felt right at home. Afterward, a young woman came over to us and began chatting. I liked her right away, too, and it turns out that she is an acupuncturist! Right up my alley! I wished there was some way I could see her again when I visited NYC, and was delighted when my sister told me–upon my return to CA– that this woman asked if I’d consider tapping with her over the phone! Yay! Wish fulfilled!

We walked around the Metropolitan Museum of Art one afternoon where I bought one of my niece’s a beautiful watch for her H.S. graduation. (Shout out to Rach who got to shake Michelle Obama’s hand this morning after receiving the Presidential Award for being one of the nation’s highest ranking students! Whoa! Mom’d be so proud!) Back at the Met, one of my favorite pieces was a giant picture of Buddha but as I approached, I saw that it was made up of graffiti art. Very cool!

We ate some delicious Korean food that day–I got to feast on kimchi and pickled veggies along with homemade tofu in my soup. Yum! Speaking of which, one of the highlights of my time with Sis #5 was learning how to make miso soup from scratch–a tradition which I carry on to this day, three weeks later! Seriously, it couldn’t be easier or tastier and is filling and wholesome. Check it out!

Sunday eve, I had the pleasure of strolling across town with my sister, through Central Park to the other side of the city (whichever that may be) where we had dessert at an outdoor cafe with our niece and her fiance. It was my first time meeting him, and warmed my heart to see such a sweet young couple who were obviously so well matched. I felt very lucky to have stolen a few precious hours of their time one week before the big day.

If I’m leaving anything out, please forgive me, dear sister! You were such a great hostess–and I can see why my daughter always feels so well taken care of whenever she visits. I hope that couch is waiting for me next time I visit NYC. Until then, XOXO!

More still to come! Stay posted…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magical Moments! Part 1

My mother had seventeen grandchildren, the first of whom got married on Sunday, June 1st, 2014, on Long Island,  New York.  I decided to visit my sister in Manhattan for Memorial Day Weekend and then my daughter in Brooklyn before the weekend of the wedding.  I had my anxieties leading up to the trip. Would my travels flow smoothly? I would be staying in five different places during the ten nights I would be on the East Coast… Would I manage to stay comfortable in my body–find wholesome foods, stay hydrated and well rested? And would I be able to center myself with enough time to meditate and be quiet in order to enjoy the busy, noisy experience?

I spent the months beforehand preparing for the trip, addressing my anxieties and making plans. One of the things I did was go on Travelocity and book a flight for myself. I love JetBlue and easily found a non-stop roundtrip for $400 that was just what I wanted. When my son was ready to make his flight arrangements, although he was joining me in New York a week after I arrived, he managed to book himself on the same early morning flight back to LAX as mine. That turned out to be a godsend for on the night before my flight back home, I felt woefully sad to be separating from my daughter and all my sisters, nieces and nephews that I’d been immersed in for the past ten days. Knowing that I’d be close to my son allowed me to sleep well and return home without too much sorrow…

The flight I’d booked to fly to New York was to leave LAX at 1:40 p.m., a very respectable hour that left time for meditation and yoga first, and would still allow me to arrive in New York at 10:13 p.m. But somehow, the week before I was set to travel, I got the idea that I might want to move myself up to the earlier flight, leaving LAX at 11:00 a.m. and arriving at the lovely hour of 7:30 p.m., early enough to enjoy the evening with the sister I’d be staying with the first night out on Long Island. I called the airline and there were seven seats still available on the earlier flight. It would cost a bit to change my flight but with so many seats still open, it was likely I could just show up for the 9:40 a.m. flight and hop aboard. And if they’d sold out, I could always wait and go on the 1:40 p.m. flight.

Oh, and by the way, if I wanted to ensure a seat for only $50.00, I could call anytime after midnight and do that.

I debated. Spend $50.00 when I might not need to and ensure a seat or gamble and maybe lose my chance on the earlier flight? I hated to go earlier and then have to spend more hours in the airport if the flight had sold out but I also hated to spend $50.00 that I might not need to… I asked my boyfriend his opinion. Spend the $50.00. I didn’t like his answer so I asked my Angel Therapy friend hers. She agreed! That was my cue. I went to bed early the night before my flight, planning to get up and catch the 6:30 a.m. shuttle to the airport. I got up to pee during the night and looked at the clock. It was 1:00 a.m. Time to call the airline. Guess what? Well, this is a post entitled, “Magical Moments”, so that might just give the answer away…

There was one seat left! Boy, was I glad I’d called. And so for $50.00, I was ensured a seat on the earlier flight. I went back to sleep and awoke three hours later, feeling rested and ready to get up. I meditated and did my yoga. By 6:30 a.m., I was on the shuttle on the way to the airport. I meant to close my eyes and rest but the view along the ocean was so stupendous that all I could do was relax and enjoy. And hold in my pee. Note to self:  Do NOT hydrate before a two hour ride to LAX. There is NO bathroom on the bus as previously imagined…

Additional note: when I was walking around the airport, waiting to board the aircraft, I was drawn to a young woman wearing just the comfy but stylish yoga clothing I might have worn at an earlier age. I went and parked my carry-on next to her, and she noticed my Om necklace, and commented on it. We began chatting, and it turned out that she’d missed her flight set to leave at 6:30 a.m. and that not only was the 9:40 a.m. flight booked solid but the 1:40 p.m. flight had gotten delayed until 3:00 p.m. and was not due to arrive at JFK until 1:00 a.m. Was I glad I’d listened to my angels and booked the earlier flight!

Postscript: The mother of the bride, (Sister #2), was kind enough to swing by the airport and pick me up, which turned out to be the only alone time I had with her that week. And Sister #4, who had a bed all ready for me, had a scrumptious dinner waiting for me first…

More to follow…

 

Relax and Receive!

A few posts back, I wrote about how much I love chia seeds, and one of my readers wrote back, “What about chia seeds?” Oops! Chia is an edible seed grown in Mexico dating back to the Mayan and Aztec culture. “Chia” means strength, and these seeds are indeed chock full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, antioxidants and calcium while low in carbohydrates. The only caution I have is: be careful and close the bag all the way to avoid spilling and cleaning up after them as I did recently! Haha!

Speaking of health, there is a mother and daughter team that own a little shop chock full of herbs in a storefront up a few steps from Main Street in town. One day several months ago, my boyfriend suggested we stop in as we walked by. I’d been curious about it since we’d moved to Ventura but it never seemed to be open when we’d walked by. This time it was! I was surprised my boyfriend had any interest in a shop that sold herbs, and he wandered outside shortly after we arrived as if to prove my point. I settled into the nice, comfy chair where one of the women pressed various reflexology points in each of my feet, and prescribed various herbal teas for me based upon when I winced. I’m joking a bit but that’s what it felt like! I ended up going back twice more over the next two months when I’d gone through the wholesome, nurturing bags of tea I’d bought to replenish my supply.

What struck me most, though, was a comment that each of the women made to me on two separate visits, completely unaware of what the other had said. “You are way too stressed!” Me, stressed? Didn’t they know who they were talking to? I’m a therapist! I tap and talk with others for a living to calm them down! How could I be “way too stressed” without my even knowing it?! But their words resonated with me! I was running out of the house by 8:00 in the mornings, dressed for my day with all my food in a little ice chest before starting my work day in order to go to my 8:30 a.m. yoga class way across town in order to relax! Hmmm, something was wrong with this picture.

The first decision I made–along with drinking my calming tea–was to quit my gym and do my morning yoga practice  in the peace and quiet of my own bedroom with a view of the ocean and palm trees in front of me. It doesn’t get much better than that. The second was to use the hills and streets nearby to get my walking in, and the third was to build an hour and a half lunch break into my long, full day in order to come home to eat, relax and enjoy the view! What a difference this has made in the quality of my life.

Back in January, my dear, beloved new yoga teacher suggested we each choose a word or phrase for the year. I decided after a day or so of reflection that mine would be, “Relax and Receive”. How woefully I’d been falling short. Well, I turned that around in three short months and am starting off the Spring with renewed energy and a zest for life. I tell all of my clients now that the most important thing we can do in order to live a happy life is to first  calm down and relax. So I wish you the same along with the delicate cherry blossoms of the season.

 

Tapping For Weight Loss and Well Being!

I have a new development in my personal and professional life to share. One of the things I do in my spare time, such as when I am eating breakfast or packing lunch, is listen to hayhouseradio.com, “The most positive place on the Internet”! Last year, I was particularly enchanted with the “tapping” hour led by Nick Ortner. When I received an e-mail in my inbox that his book, The Tapping Solution, had been published, I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle. For those of you who are new to the Emotional Freedom Technique, tapping on the endpoints of the body’s acupuncture meridians has been shown to calm the amygdala. This reduces the fight-or-flight response which blocks an individual from processing trauma and other pain or fear. I dutifully read the book and tapped along with every script he presented throughout, and experienced amazing results. One was that my sleep improved overnight. I brought less stress with me to bed, slept more soundly, and awoke more easily.

Inspired, I began to suggest tapping to clients when they were discussing an issue that I thought might be relieved more quickly with the aid of this new tool. They, too, experienced success and I began using this form of energy work more and more in my practice. Then I received another e-mail in my inbox. This one was for an online course given by Nick Ortner called, “7 Weeks to Financial Success & Personal Fulfillment”.  I was hooked, ready to address any blocks I might have to reaching my full potential.

They made it easy to sign up, with a payment plan of $36 a month for 11 months. My eldest sister made it even easier. I’d signed up one morning when she was visiting in December. I’d woken up a bit earlier than she had, and gone online. When I told her what I’d done later that morning, she took $400 out of her purse, and handed it to me. My first financial success!

A couple of weeks later, partway through the course, I heard my angels instruct me to start two tapping groups in my practice, both on Saturday afternoons, one at 1:30 and the other at 3:00. They were to be for “Weight Loss and Well Being”. That sounded great…and scary. Me? Start groups? Who would come? What if I wasn’t good enough? I put the idea away until that weekend when my son was visiting, and ran the idea by him. As I did so, it still sounded good to me, and this time, supported by his enthusiasm, I tapped on my fear until it subsided. Then I contacted my former-billing-lady-turned-friend and asked her to help me get a flyer going. What a beauty she came up with. I also shared the idea with my clients and colleagues, and immediately had takers. The group was an instant hit! At least the 1:30 group was–everyone wanted to tap on weight loss. I began to wonder if both groups should be for weight loss…

Then last week, I was speaking with my dear Reiki friend from up north, and she suggested I chose a niche for my practice. Seemingly randomly, she added, “Such as weight loss.” Once again, I was hooked! I loved the idea and realized that the angels had been preparing me to utilize all the info I had been gathering on healthy gut and well being, and roll them into one, not two separate groups. So both the 1:30 and 3:00 groups are now “Tapping for Weight Loss and Well Being”. And that is what I am going to shift the book I am writing, Recipe for Happiness, to as well:  Recipe for Weight Loss and Well Being. It’s going to be an instant success! If I can only get myself writing…guess I have more tapping to do!

Happy 2014!!!

Greetings! I have two updates to share that I am excited about and hope you will be, too! I found an amazing website recently called CulturedFoodLife.com by Donna Schwenk. On her site she talks about all the foods that add probiotics to our gut and how central to our wellbeing–physical, mental and emotional–the health of our gut is. I have been searching for answers to my questions in this regard for two years now, and everything I have done has gotten me a little closer to my goal. Now I know I have arrived!

I drove across town yesterday after staying up late the night before reading every entry in her blog I could stay awake for, and picked up nine 16 ounce bottles of kombucha and a quart of kefir. I’d certainly heard about these items before but been too afraid to add them into my diet. Donna quelled all my fears and got me excited. Her story of healing and the many testimonials on her site–including about pets as well–got me as jazzed as the actual kombucha did when I began drinking it.

Donna recommends starting slowly as the body needs to get used to all this good bacteria. I felt so good, though, that I let myself have the recommended 1/4 cup to begin with…three times! Haha! And all I did was feel better. Yay, yay, yay! I’m doing cartwheels and handstands with all this energy and joy! What’s funny, too, is that these foods are familiar from my childhood. One in particular is the gallon size jars of sauerkraut we would buy from the Lower East Side of Manhatten. I’d come home after school and serve myself…a bowl of sauerkraut! Once you taste really good sauerkraut, you’ll understand why! So it is my hope and prayer that you, too, will log onto her website and get excited about all the good foods you may be missing out on–and the health and wellness I am confident is sure to follow!

The second piece of good news has to do with my writing. A month or so ago, I was listening to a client speak about her fears of writing a book. As I listened, I realized I could relate to everything she was saying–that she might run out of ideas, that what she’d write might not be good enough to get published, that her friends might be jealous if she did. And as I quelled some of her fears, I quelled some of my own! Shortly afterwards, I mentioned to my Angel Therapy friend that I was wondering if the time was right for me to start writing that book I’ve been meaning to write for oh so long. She let me know that my angels were telling her yes, and that the title had the word “recipe” in it. After mulling it over for a bit, I realized that I could write a book called, Recipe for Happiness. After all, that is what I do all day long, six days a week–sit with clients in my office and in the schools, and help guide them toward a happier existence. She also heard them telling me to use the words, “Essential Ingredients”. At first, I thought I’d pick eight essential ingredients to focus on but after speaking to one of my sisters about it recently, I came up with an outline of ALL the essential ingredients that have gone into MY journey. Proper sleep, a healthy diet, Reiki, tapping, yoga…the list goes on. This same sister was the very one two years ago when I first began this blog and was scared I’d run out of things to say who assured me, “You always have a lot to say!” Or was it a kinder, gentler, “You’LL always have enough to say”? Either way, we had a good laugh about it, and sure enough, I’m guessing you’ll agree. After two years, it only keeps getting better.

Set An Intention!

So I had an amazing experience in Grief Group yesterday. I went in with a little plan in my head. Nine students were crowded around our small table. Surprisingly, there were six boys and three girls, the opposite of the usual male/female ratio. I noticed that the boys were all at one end of the table, and the girls at the other. This was not as surprising… After we finished passing around the attendance sheet, I asked the students to close their eyes. I closed mine, too, and began to speak. The students had been telling me for weeks that they dreaded the upcoming holidays without their loved ones present. I wanted to ease their dread somehow. I asked them to breathe in, and as they did, to breathe in their sorrow. I told them that they were carrying this pain around anyway, to acknowledge it and fully breathe it in. Then I asked them to breathe out, and as they did, to breathe out love and gratitude toward their missing loved ones. I repeated this process twice more, and then asked the students to scan their bodies and release any tension they noticed. Several breaths later, we opened our eyes.

At that point, I passed around a simple, blank holiday card to each student. I asked them to chose someone to write a holiday greeting to. It could be their grandmother or mother who’d had a terminal illness, their good friend or sister who was no longer at their side, their father or uncle who had been shot or overdosed. Or it could be someone who had helped them through the difficult journey they had just been through. The students began to write. One student finished quickly and began fiddling with his pen. The others kept writing. The boys all finished well before the girls. Two of the girls wrote and wrote, and the boys sat quietly and respectfully while they did. I was blown away.

When the last girl put down her pen, she said that it was so relaxing to be able to pour out her feelings on paper rather than share them in front of the group. I was grateful to learn that this had hit the spot for her. The other students went around the table and shared how much more relaxed they, too, felt after the brief meditation and writing exercise. One girl asked if she could go last when it was her turn. I said, “Certainly. You can have whatever you want.”

At the end, I turned to her, and she shared with the group that the one year anniversary of her grandmother’s passing was approaching, and that she felt surprisingly at peace. She wondered if she might pray for the others. I had watched this student over the course of the last year go up and down in her moods and feelings of self-worth. I knew it was tremendous progress for her to feel at peace. I love prayer and was moved she wanted to pray for the other students. I also was unsure what the protocol in a school was concerning prayer. Before I could think what to say, the other eight students all eagerly nodded their heads. They had frequently talked about going to Mass to pray for their loved ones or missing church now that their grandmother no longer got everyone to .go. I knew they were all open to prayer, and so I allowed the process to unfold. Everyone bowed their heads and closed their eyes. The girl spoke for quite a while. I let her words wash over me as I peeked at the students, watching to see how they responded. When the prayer was over, several sat a bit longer with their eyes closed. I assumed they were soaking up the good feeling they had gotten.

Suddenly I remembered an article I had received from my yoga teacher earlier in the week, and read just that morning called, “8 Things Cancer Taught Me About Christmas” by a former student of hers named Kathryn E. Livingston (Haha! I work for Livingston Memorial!) You can google the article in huffpost.com. I pulled out my cellphone and went to the article. Slowly, I read it aloud to the students who all listened closely. I enjoyed reading it even more than I had the first time. I paused and looked at each student as I came to a part that related to them, such as surrounding yourself with fun loving and funny people. When I nudged the jokester sitting next to me on that one, he said, “Who me?” By the time I was finished, we had only minutes left in class.

I looked around and thought of my yoga teacher one more time. She has us set an intention each week when we begin our class. I like this practice, and borrowed from it. I asked the students to set an intention for the holiday season. I was amazed and impressed by what they said. “Appreciate the little things,” “Smile and spread holiday cheer,” “Relax and enjoy myself.” Remember, this was from a group of students who only one short hour ago were tense and unsmiling.

I left the group feeling happy and fulfilled. If they can do it, so can you! Happy Holidays to all!

My New Best Friend!

“Fiber is my new best friend,” I announced to my boyfriend the other day, having recently discovered the healing benefits of chia seeds. He just laughed. I said something similar this morning to the new yoga teacher at my gym. I also mentioned my blog for some reason, and she suggested I write a post about chia. The thought had crossed my mind…

I had just attended a two hour class at the yoga studio near my home the day before, and had thought about skipping this morning’s class but I wanted to meet the new teacher. I was the first to show up and she’d come over to ask if I had any injuries she should know about.

I mentioned my elbow. I told her that two years or so ago, it had begun bothering me. I had modified my workout since then but the pain had migrated up to my forearm. She nodded and replied that she’d watch for it during our class. Which she did!

She began our class by talking about miracles! She spoke of the miraculous way that four years ago the love of her life–the perfect dog–had come into her life. She’d been standing in front of her yoga studio one night–a time she was never otherwise there–when this little fellow (part chow, part lab) came up and sat at her feet. His owner was right behind. He was looking for someone who lived on a farm–which she did at the time–to take in this pup. A new family was born!

The new teacher encouraged us to be open to the small but still amazing miracles in our life, and wove that theme into our time together as she uplifted the level of the class from the body to the heart. Throughout the hour, she walked around from person to person, and placed a hand gently but firmly on a hip to turn it out a bit, or place a blanket under a neck that needed more support. I loved her style and breathed a sigh of relief that I had shown up, and met this new and wonderful lady. But more was yet to come.

After the class, she told me that she thought the pain in my forearm might be related to tension that I am holding in my shoulder. She worked on my shoulder for a moment, and sure enough, when she drew my awareness to the area, I realized how tightly I hold myself there. She showed me some stretches I could do using the wall to work out the knot in the shoulder blade, and suggested I also use a tennis ball as well as ask my boyfriend to massage the area. (I like that idea!)

I told her that I’d been asking for help for this problem, and that I felt like she was the answer to my prayers! I also gave her my card so that she could read my blog and found out that she’d been thinking about starting a Dharma Blog! That sounds great! We seem to be on similar spiritual paths and I believe she may have been placed in my life for more than just answers to my physical pain. Perhaps having met her, fiber will be bumped out of place as my new best friend…