Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hope is the thing with feathers...






I had read an article recently about a lady who had wished for her loved one in heaven to send her a sign she was still with her in the form of a feather. A week or so later, her feather unexpectedly crossed her path and she was overcome with emotion and accepted it as her loved one's presence.
Apparently, along with butterflies circling us, feathers have long been recognized as a sign of being in the presence of an angel at the moment they find us. A bittersweet and comforting reminder that on some other level, they are still with us and watching over us.
So, my question is this.....How much do we turn to hope, that optimistic feeling that gives us a healthier expectation of positive outcomes after events in our lives, rather than holding on to pain and negativity? You would think the answer should be a lot, but, it takes most people, like myself, a matter of time and many other emotions until we allow and accept hope as a better alternative than holding onto grief.
This past weekend marked the 2 year anniversary of my sister's death. I must admit after the initial and expected trauma my heart felt after her loss, I have held on to this lingering and painful anger as my strongest emotion in dealing with her passing.
So, after reading this article a couple of weeks ago and processing another person's perspective of death in which she was able to connect and comfort herself rather than detach and stay in perpetual hurt, I decided to take on this challenge as well.
I put down the magazine, cleared my mind of the potential silliness of it all, and I concentrated...."Michele, give me a feather. I could really use a feather from you. No, I need a feather from you. You see, I want hope and to feel hopeful again so I can release this anger and know that there is a place, a better place, where you have been and I will be."
Then, I waited. Not the 'I'm going to pretend I'm going about my day and stalk my surroundings looking for it' kind of waiting, but, the 'I put it out there and I am hopeful about this' kind of waiting.
The weeks passed and there was no feather which I was okay with. I had the right attitude about it and I had promised myself that it was to bring only hope and comfort not disappointment if it did or did not happen. So, I tucked the notion away into the back of my mind and went on with my life.
The day of her anniversary, we went to church, said prayers for her, and came home. I decided maybe it was a good day to take the Halloween decorations out and lose our thoughts in something else rather than focus on what today really was to us.
I pulled one of the biggest decorations out of the box and got ready to place it in the same place it had graced every year since we moved here, but, something inside of me said, "let's move it somewhere else! I think a change would be good!"
I walked over to the tree and I quickly decided right in front of it would be a great place. When I bent over to lay it on the spot I had chosen, a feather appeared into my sight. It was brown and white, speckled with perfectly round spots, and the ends were fluffy and gently glided in the air. I scooped it up and thought, "you have got be kidding me!" followed immediately by sweet and comforting thoughts that "it was truly the most beautiful feather I had ever seen."
I quickly tucked it behind the Halloween decoration and went back to helping the kids as I did not want to explain my reaction and I felt like I needed time to process what, if anything, had happened.
After we finished and I sent the kids back inside, I went to retrieve the feather so I could take a picture of it but it was gone. As unexpectedly as it was given to me, it had gone somewhere else.
However, I kept persistently searching around as I questioned my sanity, but, no feather to be found! Okay, so, this part wasn't in the article! Are you not allowed to keep angelic feathers!?!
I guess that is not the point. The point is, in that very moment of finding it, I changed my anger to hope. I allowed myself to feel all of the wonderful and glorious feelings that were wrapped in that feather and it made perfect sense to me that I was given it on her anniversary rather than the weeks prior to this day when I first asked for it. That hope is now perched in my soul leaving no room for anger anymore.
So, my wish for you, is not to ask for feathers, but you can if you want to. It is to try and allow hope if you are dealing with emotions or issues from negative events that you are struggling with. Open yourself to healing and help yourself to move forward ...."Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

From the Outside and the Inside

I sat on the ball field last night with a dear friend of mine. It was a nice surprise running into her. Then, it started feeling as less by chance and more as if it was meant to be.
Her son is battling Leukemia and mine is a head trauma survivor. From the outside, it looked as if we were just two baseball moms chatting as our boys practiced. From the inside, it was much much more. Two moms battling worries of germs and injuries, matching movements of snapping photos and cautious smiles as they batted and caught the balls. She told me about essential oils to help soothe side effects and I encouraged her that if her son could practice, he could play. Wisdom ,comfort, and encouragement. We give so much of that to our boys and it was so nice to be able to give it to each other.
I left with a sweet sense that both boys are right where they needed to be and a deepened awareness of how important it is to not let the battles they have faced define them. Then, we separated to scoop our boys up with praise and blend back in with the other parents.
No one looked at them as kids who have faced extraordinary circumstances or saw us as parents balancing normalcy with an underlying fear. To the outside, we were just two families joined to watch happy boys doing something they love. To the inside, a healthy and lovely dose of being with someone who gets it at the right moment.
So, was it chance, I ask you? I'm thinking not. Maybe your Bald Eagle flying over knew that too. ;>)


Monday, August 31, 2015

A Day To Remember

 "I've never tried to block out the memories of the past, even though some are painful. I don't understand people who hide from their past. Everything you live through helps to make you the person you are now." --Sophia Loren


Even though this past week had a lot of memorable moments; a transition to middle school, starting 3rd grade after being held back to repeat second, and a very happy 4 year old beginning his school adventure as he walked through the door on the very first day of preschool, it was another moment that swallowed me and froze me entirely as I watched it unfold. It was the first time my son had been able to play sports since the accident 13 months ago.
Many trips to the neurologist and rehabilitation doctors, many discussions (sometimes heated, always emotional) on whether or not he should be able to play again, countless hours researching head protection, battling faith versus reason, and padding him up the best way I could before he walked out on the field on Saturday to try out for baseball. Baseball, the only team sport we could all agree upon being the doctors, my son, and myself. The best helmet on the market, Kevlar inserts in his cap, and a strong will to try and move forward is what we had...and off he went. I'm sure most watching noticed he missed hitting every ball at home plate, he was slow running the bases, but he fielded pretty well. Okay, no Babe Ruth, but, let's face it, he is a late bloomer as other kids had a good 5-6 years of experience under their belt, and he has never played before so the more he does it, hopefully, the more comfortable and better he will get. However, NONE of that mattered. It was watching him step out on that field for the first time that will be forever embedded in my mind. The emotions only a mother could feel. The pride and the fear, the hope and the doubt, the holding on and letting go. I sat calmly but hid the battle going on inside me as I watched him. Now, I know it was the right thing to do. It broke the seal and let him feel normal and he made it through unscathed and eager to try again. I kept thinking though how you never know what battles people are facing around you.. Do you? No one besides us on the ball field that day knew the struggle and the sacrifice and the bravery and the dedication this kid has that got him to this moment and made this a day to remember. Not for the performance but for the courage. He doesn't block out the painful memories or hide from them. In turn, he has learned to respect them and even allowed them to help form the person he is now.
The one bravely standing at home plate.
The one with no experience but not afraid to try.
The one who didn't give up when he was told this was his only option.
The one who has not refused to wear bulky and hard plates inside his hat to protect himself.
The one who left feeling inspired and not discouraged.
The one who has taught us all to not let fear capture us and to believe that there are plenty of happy days ahead.

I couldn't be prouder of him and the step he has taken to move forward without compromising who he is and taking this 13 month break to listen, heal, and enhance himself into everything more wonderful he has become.
Life is not fair. It can turn tragic without warning, but, it does not have to scar you and your ability to move forward. There will be days, good days, to remember, and those moments will be so much sweeter. Sweeter than you ever believed was possible if you have the courage to allow yourself to feel it.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The New Normal




Image Credit: Golden Cosmos - Berlin based illustrating and designing duo: Daniel Dolz and Doris Freigofas.


The other day, I couldn't help but notice a couple as they entered the playground with their young daughter. She immediately took to the slides with the girl and he opted for a bench in the shade to surf through his cellphone. The child hesitantly climbed the platform with her mother's steady encouragement. However, she crumbled when she realized how high up she was. The mother called out to the husband wanting him to lift her down so she wouldn't have to balance her as she back climbed the steps. He ignored her. She called out again, this time with more force in her voice. He sighed, and fussed, "really!?!" out loud as he dragged himself over to them and flung the child down one handed. Then, he returned to his phone and his bench. She took the girl by the hand and approached him and I thought, surely, she is confronting him and this will not end well. Then, to my surprise, she just stared with no words. So, he broke the silence with "Are we done here? Let's go eat! I'm hungry!" and off they went.
Later that day, the news and social media lit up with the Supreme Court ruling by a 5-4 vote that the Constitution now guarantees a right to same sex marriage in our country. It was a heated and emotional day for parties on both sides filled with the joy and the right of equality and the threat and discontent of compromising the concept of traditional marriage. There was love and there was hate spread all over my Facebook page as people supported and embraced this ruling while others cried out and questioned what this country was coming to?
As I read their comments, opinions, and concerns, my mind wandered back to the couple at the playground that I had encountered earlier. How did she feel about the ruling today? Was her traditional concept of marriage the life she had imagined it would be? Surely, he saw the ruling as he was face down buried in his phone which seemed typical for him. What did he think or even say out loud about it to his wife and what was her reaction to his comments? If she disagreed, would she let it go rather than confront him?
Yes, there are plenty of happy and successful marriages and I can't compare what I witnessed as a fair representation of a man and woman bond. However, it got me thinking about if we had to fight for this right, would we be more passionate about our marriages and the successes of them? As with many issues in this country, is it possible that this generation takes way too much for granted because they are used to living in the land of the free and having so many rights already handed to them as their privilege of being an American citizen? Have we become so set in our beliefs, though, that there is no room or right for change?
Enter the new normal. Just like adapting to civil rights, this nation may either adapt or keep complaining, but, the definition of marriage has been officially changed and protected.
For me, I respect both sides. My catholic roots encouraged me to believe in and respect that marriage is between a man and a woman and that is what I chose in my own life. Furthermore, my adult life has exposed me to much more diversity and, as a result, I wholeheartedly believe love in all forms are always a better and sweeter option than hate.
Both sides have the right to choose and support their cause. It's their right as Americans and their privilege by living here to have freedom of speech. However, I just wish we could do it more respectfully than what I have witnessed lately. It seems like somewhere along the way, the words we choose to express our feelings to each other have lost their dignity and do not represent or respect the concept of marriage or the gift of freedom we are so privileged to have.  People also need to consider that our actions are being viewed by the next generation like the little girl stuck in the middle of her parents and the watchful eyes on Facebook.
It is okay to agree or to disagree as long as we do it politely but the lack of respect that I witnessed at the playground and on the Internet on the same day bothered me way more than the actual ruling.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

35 (plus one more) Life Lessons From Me To My Boys

A collection of my thoughts, beliefs, quotes, and inspirations that have kept me grounded....

1. Never look down on someone unless you are helping them up.
2. Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.
3. Terrible experiences don't make you stronger, but, they do show you how strong you can be when there is no other choice than to be strong.
4. As time goes by, you'll understand what lasts, lasts; what doesn't, doesn't. And what time can't solve, you will have to solve yourself. So, don't choose to live in an unresolved past. Make peace with it, leave it there, and move on.
5. Seek respect, not attention. It lasts longer.
6. Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.
7. Be an encourager. The world has enough critics.
8. The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply. Make sure you understand first before you reply.
9. The two hardest things in life are saying hello for the first time and goodbye for the last.
10. Never lie to someone that trusts you and never trust someone that has lied to you.
11. People inspire you or they drain you - choose wisely.
12. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
13. If something is important to you, you will find a way. If it isn't, you will find an excuse.
14. You don't have to attend every argument you are invited to.
15. Be careful with your words. Once they are said, they can only be forgiven but not forgotten.
16. Always show more kindness than seems necessary because the person receiving it may need it   more than you will ever know.
17. It's okay to be angry with God. He can take it.
18. Crying with someone is more healing than crying alone.
19. Everyone has a story. Make sure you listen to it before you judge.
20. Take a minute everyday to be still and listen. The Earth is always singing.
21. Your dreams don't have expiration dates. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind and try again.
22. Get rid of clutter. It weighs you down in many ways.
23. Life is a delicate balance of holding on and letting go. Figure out and accept when it is time to do both.
24. It's NEVER too late to be happy.
25. My personal favorite quote is "To see faith, you have to shut the eye of reason." Don't ever be too afraid or too bitter to believe in miracles. They do exist.
26. If laughter is the best medicine, then, silliness is the best therapy. Never be too serious or old to do both when you need it or the moment allows for it. You can't say the word,"bubbles" angry. Try it.
27. Your children will only have one childhood. Make sure you give them wings to fly, roots to find their way back, and reasons to stay.
28. Envy is a waste of time. Accept and cherish what you already have, not what you think you need.
29. It is much sweeter to grow old than to die young. Take care of yourself!
30. Everyone has baggage. You will know you are in love when you want to help them unpack it.
31. Travel is the only thing you buy that truly makes you richer.
32. With that said, remember no matter where you are, everyone smiles in the same language.
33. It feels better to be selfless than selfish. No matter how you feel, get up, get dressed, and show up. Don't let others down.
34. No, child. Life isn't fair but it is still pretty damn good. Always remember it isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift. Like Forest said, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You NEVER know what you are going to get." So, don't try and put it back. Eat it and deal with it the best way you can.
35. However, never forget that Life ALWAYS offers you a second chance. It's called tomorrow.

Plus one more:  And finally...Don't make promises you can't keep. Period. I can't promise you I will be here for the rest of your life, but I can promise you I will love you for the rest of mine.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I HEART U 2








Who knew a pack of sidewalk chalk could change my whole day!

I caught my middle child in the kitchen using a pair of scissors to open a new pack of sidewalk chalk. I helped him and off he disappeared to do what he does best. Immerse himself. He, like me, loves the blissful combination of creativity and solitude. So, I often find him alone buried in Lego's or doodling in a sketch pad or exploring in the yard.
Hours later, I ventured out to the backyard and found that he had used the entire pack of sidewalk chalk to transform our fence into many things....a stick figure on an adventure, random thoughts, even math problems but what immediately drew my attention was his affirmation of love for me. A simple "I HEART MOM" in neon yellow chalk sweetly floating in a collage of Dylan's imagination.
It's moments like this that stop you dead in your tracks and let you bask in the glory of everything right you have done with your life. Sure, there are many moments of my life that define me and my existence, but, motherhood, well that just puts you on another level like no other.
Through three pregnancies, three births, and three childhoods I have always felt a delicate balance of fear and triumph as I raise my three boys. The "am I doing a good job?" versus the "hell, yes, these boys are awesome!" attitudes with a lot of worry and validation in between.
Parenting is everything you thought it would be and everything people don't tell you. There are days when I am completely drained and questioning what I got myself into and days when I am completely fulfilled and couldn't imagine myself without them.  So, seeing this message on the fence and knowing for, whatever reason, I popped into his head as a burst of love while he was playing, means so much!
Today, after a hard rain, I went out to see if it was still there, and it was. Slightly washed away but still legible. I found a small nub of bright green chalk laying in the grass and I wrote "I HEART U 2" next to his "I HEART MOM." So, hopefully, he can feel the unexpected joy of being reminded how much he is loved too.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Wise Old Owl



A wise old owl sat on an oak; 
The more he saw the less he spoke;
The less he spoke the more he heard;
Why aren't we like that wise old bird? 




I admit I have been reclusive these past couple of months. It may sound like a bad thing but it honestly has been necessary and positive for me. I have been finding that my chosen solitude has given me a certain peaceful and beautiful tunnel I can slip into which has allowed me to step out of the bright and uncomfortable spotlight the accident had put on us and into the much needed privacy I have been craving so I can slow it down, take in more, and somehow find my way back to myself; the person I was and so desperately want to be again. 
So, why am I quoting about birds and drawing them, you ask!?! Well, simply said, I am the owl in the drawing  and the poem. That is who I am and what I need to be because wrapping myself in words and feeding my creativity makes my soul sing. As I have written before about my passion for Art, I know I  need poetry and I need to draw to keep myself centered and focused and why I took such a long hiatus from both is beyond me. 
However, like an old friend, nothing had changed and the comfort and familiarity I felt again has been so fulfilling to me. My pencil swept the page and the words flowed out just like they always did and will continue to do. 
And, so, my healing begins....I have spent months working diligently to heal my family and I painfully realized this bottomless and heavy pit I have been carrying around for months is because I have made no solid attempt to heal myself.
As the dust begins to clear and the lights begin to dim, you start to realize the undeniable depth of pain and uncertainty that an unexpected and tragic event leaves within you, and, let me tell ya, they are such deep and nasty wounds like no other! Now, the really tricky part in our situation, though, is that you can't see these wounds but you can certainly feel them and that is where we have been trapped as a family by not properly dealing with these wounds left by the accident and brain injuries. I have learned to call this damage the invisible disease. You can't see it but it is definitely in there causing havoc to its victims and their loved ones. Even though two of my family members were injured, it has left, what feels like sometimes, an irreversible damage, on all of us, The anger, even rage, impulsiveness, impatience, confusion, impairment, distance, isolation, and just plain overall destruction I have watched unfold has been heartbreaking but I have refused to let us give up. Instead of getting or letting anyone get consumed by it, I have learned to be the wise old owl. I sit on an oak and the more I have seen the less it has made me want to speak, hence the solitude.  Then, I, surprisingly, found a little clarity from the silence and it is amazing what you can hear when you don't speak, so to say. That cold silence has led me to a warmth of empathy, encouragement, and strength which has enabled me to continue to heal my family and myself. 
As a result, we have begun to talk more and the words are more constructive, we have begun to let go of the negativity whether it be someone or something that is preventing the healing, and we are still seeking to find our way back to whatever our normalcy will be but we are doing it now without setting unrealistic expectations or time lines on ourselves. There is music, chess, exercise, travel, books, and sketchpads easing its way softly back into us again and there is a feeling of a gentle guidance leading us back to peace as a family.
One day at a time is serving us well....For me, today, I will stay on the oak, and continue to listen and hear the words and fill the sketchpad and feed the soul and find my way....then, breathe deeply, and start again tomorrow with the same hopes and wonder why we aren't all like that wise old bird?

Credits:
Owl drawing - by Me :)
Owl quote by poet, Edward Hersey Richards