Road Trippin' Babe - A Peek Behind the Curtain

Since returning from my September road trip to California I have been itching to get back on the road. I’m getting better at packing my car and having what I need at the ready. I love stopping at Welcome Centers, always friendly and offering coffee, and rest stops–some well built and well lit, others a little scary and remote–my writer’s brain comes up with some gruesome scenarios for the restrooms, yikes!

This time is different, I’m packing for five months rather than one. My usual modus operandi is to hit the trail early morning. It took most of the morning to load my car and it was looking more like a noon departure. It was in the high eighties in South Florida and I was hot and sweaty but excited to GO.

The last things to pack in the front passenger seat are items I need access to like my Brita filter water pitcher and my little red bucket of toiletries, lotion, lip balm, eye drops. Said red bucket sat perched on a basket of books and journals and, when I opened the door to add a bag of snacks, it slid in slow motion and landed upside down in the driveway. Aarrgghhh!

After cleaning up the glass, lotion and oil I thought I should pull my car forward a little just to make sure I got it all–POP, uh oh. I ran over my bottle of purple nail polish. Did you know that acetone doesn’t work on concrete? I carefully checked the tires, took a deep breath and hit the road. I made it to Georgia and called it a day.

Day 2–a calmer start, easy drive, uneventful–now we’re talking! This is fun, liberating and adventurous. I stop in Tupelo, Mississippi and settle in to read and chill. Great sleep and early start for Day 3. Lest you’re feeling envious of my glamorous life, read on.

I drove through Mississippi, a whisper of Tennessee–OMG the trees smell amazing–and Arkansas, Did you know there’s a Memphis City in Arkansas? That screwed me up for about a half an hour. As I entered Oklahoma there was a beeping alert on my phone “Severe tornado warning, take shelter immediately.” Serious Uh Oh–what to do? The sky was ominously gray and the wind picked up. I am used to storms in Florida, but the torrential rains were so heavy I couldn’t see five feet in front of me. Trucks zooming by bumping my little Prius with their wake. I felt so small.

White knuckled, hunched over the wheel, concentrating hard to stay in my lane, I drove on for over an hour and then–the sky cleared and there was that ethereal opening in the clouds where the sun beams come through–I heard the angels sing, maybe even trumpets. Relief flooded through me, I almost cried.

The sunset following the storm was mind blowing, purple, pink and orange. When I pulled in to a gas station to fill up I grabbed the squeegee to clean off my front bumper to keep up on the bug spackle. It was clean and shiny–free car wash! It was dark by the time I made it to Wichita, Kansas. I made a drink and went to bed early–worn out.

The La Quinta Inn in Wichita had a tropical, heated indoor pool. I only had a seven hour drive to Denver so I took my time. Made my green juice, took a dip in the pool, made a salad for the road and headed out at 11 am. About 90 miles out I blew a tire in Salina, Kansas. Well, really I shredded a tire. I pulled to the side of the windy highway to assess the damage. An SUV with two elderly ladies pulled over to make sure I was okay. So sweet!

Shout out to Jim of the Kansas Highway Patrol. He roams the highways of the Heartland looking for stranded motorists. He offered to change my tire and I let him. Except I had to unload my fully packed car. There I stood with all my stuff, while he put on the donut spare. Seems it was a good thing I shredded that tire, otherwise it would not have fit in the space for the spare and there was absolutely NO room for it anywhere else in my little car. He directed me to a nearby Toyota dealership.

I once again unloaded all my stuff so that they could go about putting on a new tire. A mechanic walked in, looked at the situation and asked “You moving in?” We all laughed. They were kind, accommodating and quick. I was back on the road in just over an hour. I try to look on the bright side, I found my laptop charger and repacked my car in a much better fashion. I didn’t make it to Denver until the next day. I think the adrenaline sapped my strength. My friend Claire welcomed me with open arms the next morning. I get to spend the weekend with her in her cozy home, aahhhh.

I am declaring to the Universe that, while I love adventure, I’ve had enough challenges for this trip. I made it through unscathed, but it tarnished my warm and fuzzy feeling of being in the flow. That is the lesson though, isn’t it? To keep your inner peace and happiness amidst chaos and obstacles. On the other hand, it reconfirmed my faith in humanity. People really are kind if you let them be.

Reclaiming My Joy

I scattered her ashes yesterday, finally. The sun was setting and storm clouds were moving in on the lake. I took the box from the closet and carefully opened it. Inside was a black plastic box, inside that was a clear plastic bag twist tied with a coin stamped with her cremation number. I poured a small bottle of Drambuie over ice, it was the closest thing to Scotch I had, and headed down to the dock. I talked to her like I never could when she was alive. I told her that she really let me down, many times. I told her that I would forgive her, but first I had to say it out loud. I told her I could imagine how hard it was to be a single mom, twenty five and hot, with a five year old.

“I felt your resentment and I tried so hard to be good and not bother you too much. I knew how much you hated having to ask your mother to watch me because she disapproved of your divorce and made no attempt to hide it. What were you thinking getting me my own apartment at sixteen because your boyfriend didn’t like kids?” There was more, but that’s private for now. I cried and opened the bag. Afterward I toasted her, took a sip and poured the drink into the water. She loved her Scotch.

A long time coming, but I finally sold the house. I feel a bit traumatized by the whole experience. It’s not something I want to go through again any time soon. Lots of memories, good and bad–it was her house. She died way too young from cancer in that house. I took care of her, even when she could barely look at me because she didn’t want me there. I kept hoping for a breakthrough, an epiphany, a healing. It didn’t happen.

After she died I had lots of roommates, and I wasn’t good at screening them. It was a great party house, big open floor plan, covered patio, pool, hot tub and a breathtaking view of Lake Wellington, due west so amazing sunsets. It was the only place my mom was truly happy. She loved the tropics. We had a lot of good times there, dinner parties, birthdays, poker nights, a wedding shower, a wake and lots of mixers. But it was too much house for me. Plus, it was my mom’s dream, not mine. The maintenance, taxes and insurance were crazy expensive and I was stressed out most of the last three years.

There were some shady aspects to the sale by both the buyer and my realtor. I’ve decided to stop telling the story and giving it life and let it go. I realized I’ve been putting a lot of energy into the retelling, wringing my hands and gnashing my teeth. Fact is the house is no longer mine and it’s not my responsibility anymore. End of story. I didn’t really know the weight of it until it was gone…phew and sheesh.

Along with the house I sold or gave away all the furniture and most of my belongings. I still have a lot to purge, but I’m making headway. From a five bedroom house I’m down to fifteen bins or boxes and my clothes. Watch out if you head down this path…getting rid of stuff is addicting! It feels so liberating and changes everything.

I turned 55 on April 5, 2015…which also happened to be Easter and the second day of Passover. I had been anticipating the rebirth, renewal, relief…but all I felt was numb. I decided to get quiet and see what came up. I had been living in lack for so long that I forgot how to feel free, open, joyful. It took awhile to get back in touch with her, she’s still in here, but hasn’t been running the ship. With the real me back at the helm I booked a writing retreat for September in Carmel and planned a month long road trip to California.

When I hit the road at the end of August I knew I had a place to stay through October. I’m house sitting for a neighbor in Florida. I chose, on purpose, to leave it up in the air, to set an intention and request the best possible outcome for my life. I stopped in Colorado to see a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in years, it was like no time had passed–don’t you just love those friendships? Driving through the Sierras was magic, seeing Lake Tahoe again energized me and filled me up. San Francisco for Sunday brunch, Thai food in Berkeley and a surprise overnight with friends the night before the retreat started.

I grew up in the Monterey Bay Area, so driving in to Carmel for the retreat was familiar, but different. I had held a lot of negative energy and resentment, my own and my mom’s, toward this lovely place. In this quest to get my joy back I looked upon the trees, mountains, beaches and Pacific Ocean with new eyes. I declared out loud that this place was much too beautiful to hate! I vowed to heal the bad juju and embrace my roots. I drove down Highway 1 toward Big Sur, found the address and drove up the serpentine, narrow driveway in the Carmel Highlands. Holy sh*t! The house was all wood and windows nestled in the trees with a view of the ocean to knock your socks off.

I climbed the slate steps and was greeted by Merry, a soulful little white poodle, and her mom Linda our host. We hugged and I felt welcome and excited for the adventure. While sitting on a little brick wall with our bare feet in the dirt waiting for the others to arrive I looked up and noticed a dragonfly struggling in a spider web. I have dragonflies around me all the time, like little messengers visiting me, they make me smile. We jumped up, ran up the steps and opened the window nearest the action. I grabbed a back scratcher and (sorry spider) freed the creature, ruining the web. Linda and I looked at each other like “What the hell just happened?” and laughed. It felt like a good omen. The other women arrived, we all hugged (lots of hugging here!), toured the house and picked our sleeping arrangements. We drove into enchanting downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea for dinner.

I have never been on a retreat before. I also have not shared my writing much, joined a writing group or taken classes. I have, in order to survive, built up a wall and held people at arms length. Another coping mechanism of victims. I shunned and loathed the victim mentality, the needy blaming your parents BS I associated with weak people. I chose the martyr instead. “I’m fine, I don’t need anyone. I’m just better alone.” Although they respect my independence, those who know me would be surprised at this because I am quite social and seem to have it all together. The love and support, vulnerability and sharing at that dinner table was unexpected. Tears flowed and bonds were made in an instant.

The women I met and really saw at this retreat are my soul sisters. We will be friends forever, in a way that transcends my other friendships. That is not meant to lessen the importance and love in those friendships, it’s just different. We shared a life changing experience, I liken it to veterans in the same unit. We dug deep, opened out hearts and lifted each other up. It was singularly the very best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

After our week in Carmel came to a close, more hugs (!), exchanging of info and well wishes, I headed to nearby Pacific Grove to see my aunt Susie. She’s only four years older than me and we grew up more like sisters. She has forever invited me to Thanksgiving and Christmas, hoping to make me feel part of the family. My mom’s mother was her mother. Different dad and sixteen years apart. There’s an ancestral, generational thread of “unmothering” in our family. I broke the cycle by not having kids. Susie broke it by having kids and doing it exceptionally well. When I arrived at her house she had prepared a room for me that was so welcoming it made me catch my breath. The bedspread and pillows were yellow, my favorite color, and the windows were sparkly…it was lovely and inviting. It was clear she had gone to great lengths to make it just right. I told her “I feel so at home, so welcome.” She said “Cin, you’ve always been welcome here.” I just wasn’t ready to receive it until now. <<Sob

So here I am, unencumbered, open to collecting experiences rather than things and getting back on the road in November from Florida to California, to freedom, to shedding my armor and opening my heart, which is clenched like a fist, in that safe place which is family. So the rebirth, renewal and relief that I was hoping for, anticipating, is happening…once again as it should rather than when I expect it to. Trust is another thing I’m working on, it’s a work in progress.

Cindy Allen

#cindysfreedomquest

Happy Hour

Almost everyone I know is awake from 3 am to 5 am. Maybe nature calls and then your brain starts talking. For me things seem more serious in the middle of the night. Eliminating the minutia is not as hard as you might think, you have the power to decide and choose your thoughts. I read a quote today from Chad Prather (uplifting, truth telling, funny Texan on Facebook) “Stop listening to yourself and start talking to yourself”.

I’ve been meditating, focusing on breathing in and breathing out, adding a word sometimes; breathe in Peace…breathe out Love. There are times when I can and more often times when I’m impatient and quit. I’ve been practicing approaching everything with Love. I find this liberating and eye opening. When my ingrained tendency to Judge pops up I simply notice, laugh and tell my brain No. This is most difficult when applied to self, but I am making headway.

I decided to try an experiment. When I am awake and the chatter in my brain starts I think of something Happy, make a mental list of things for which I’m grateful. I’ve declared the time between 3 am and 5 am Happy Hour. It changes the atmosphere from being annoyed to being enjoyable plus it seems to relax me so I can fall back to sleep.

My last post was June 18th and the one before that was March 3rd. I’ve been asked why so much time between posts. I’m getting better…this time just a little over a month rather than 3 months!! I deemed this summer to be a time for introspection, self love and digging deep to address my reactions, patterns and habits. This work is best done in solitude, at least for me. I will be more vigilant about coming out of my cave and communicating more often.

Love, Cindy

Waste

I recently watched a video that just floored me. It’s about food waste in our country. It reminded me of my friend Delfina from Argentina. She stayed with me for a few weeks last year. It’s eye opening when someone from another country points things out to you that you have done for years out of habit and good marketing (!) She opened the drawer, you know that drawer with all the food storage stuff; foil, plastic wrap, wax paper, ziploc bags etc.

She picked up the snack size, sandwich size, quart size,and gallon size zippies in both hands and said “Really Cin?” I had to laugh. Point taken…I have pared down to just one size now. Sheesh! She also ate the whole strawberry, cut butternut squash in rounds to bake it instead of trying to peel the damn thing and added wilted lettuce to stir fry. I learned a lot from her and I’m much more aware now of what I buy and what I eat.

It’s our fault that the grocery stores and farmers throw away so much food. We don’t buy the marred, less than perfect produce. We also are quick to toss something that’s broken rather than try to fix it. We have become a throw away society on many levels. I believe it started with “convenience”. Packaged food, prepared food, frozen food. People used to grow their own food or buy local. People ate seasonally. Nope, sorry, you can’t have raspberries in January. Oh wait, sure you can…from New Zealand! I’m not sure how we got to this place where here in Florida “The Sunshine State” our grocery stores are stocked with California Oranges. Really? What’s the carbon footprint involved with getting them here, 3000 miles away? My avocado is from Peru. Cucumbers from Mexico. It’s just wrong.

I’m looking at labels, buying regional produce and doing without if I feel too much time, fuel, energy and emissions were wasted to get it here. The progress we’ve made since I was born 50 plus years ago has come at an astronomical price. Plastic, styrofoam, synthetic packing material, convenience food, artificial sweeteners…I just read that they’re detecting fake sugar in drinking water and in the ocean from our sewer systems and people’s, ahem…waste. Eewww! The landfills are producing more methane than the animals in our food supply, which is a whole other rant.

I only know a little bit but my curiosity is piqued. There is some good news. They’ve finally determined (admitted) that Round Up is poison. Trans fats are being banned. People are saying NO to Franken-foods. There are lots of good young people into sustainable housing, food, permaculture and organic farming (in my own family!) I think it’s crucial to educate ourselves about our food. Does it really make sense to allow corporations who’s purpose is profit to decide what we eat?

I am still learning how to use Word Press and couldn’t figure out how to embed or attach the video here. So please go to page on Facebook and watch the clip, it may change your life. https://www.facebook.com/MyDeadReckoning

Let It Go

This is my mantra for 2015. The year started off great! I was juicing, eating healthy, working out, doing yoga and feeling grateful and excited about life. Then about the third week of January life blasted me off track. I lost a beautiful friendship. No details, but it rocked my world in the worst way. I lost my mojo. It took about a month for the endless loop of conversations in my head to stop. Then I hurt my neck doing a shoulder stand in yoga on the first day I joined my local gym. I had done them before, so not sure why, but OUCH. I have SO much empathy for people in pain now.

I have resurfaced and am now looking for the lesson, there’s always a lesson. Personal growth and integrity are my priorities. Lest I sound too serious and crunchy I also love vodka, dark chocolate and fun! So in order to heal myself I have realized I need to Let It Go. So when I meditate in the morning I breathe in JOY and breathe out LET IT GO. It’s starting to work. I have to remind myself, a lot.

I’m also getting outside, writing, cooking and packing. My house is on the market and I’ve got a couple of good prospects, so I’m making room for what’s headed my way. It’s easy to get caught up in all the self help, spiritual path, green juice advice out there. Also, beware of false prophets.

Once my house sells I will be house sitting for the summer and taking lots of road trips, now that sounds like fun! Thank you for reading my blog and I vow to write more often, even when it hurts.

Claiming Your Power

I had an Epiphany yesterday. Introspection, meditation and solitude yield some really good stuff. I have been working on Forgiveness, Love and Prosperity. Three areas in which I have felt lack. I started saying out loud “Thank you Mom for giving me life, for doing your best”. I started approaching challenging situations with Love…it simply diffuses the bad energy. I started really believing Everything is OK, I have everything I need. I really believe that What You Feed Grows. So I know intellectually that to focus on lack, to worry about money is not the path to abundance. But it’s really hard to have faith when it’s time to pay bills and your checking account has dwindled.

When you come from a dysfunctional childhood ie: broken home, alcoholism, neglect or worse you tend to develop a victim mentality. It can rear it’s ugly head in addiction (drama, sex, alcohol, food, gambling) or in stoic martyrdom (I don’t need anyone, I am fine) or over-achievement, perfectionism and myriad others. Even as you work your way through your issues, whether through books, therapy, reflection you perpetuate the story if you keep telling it…to yourself and others.

So, as enlightened as I think I am, as much progress as I have made, my Epiphany came gently and made me smile. I have been living my life as a child. I have been carrying the wounds around as some symbol of what? Strength, excuses, rationale, justification…I read a quote recently “Don’t be a Museum of Grief”. Light bulb!! I want, I choose to live my life as a woman, as my own person!

I have always been an advocate of taking responsibility for your own life, not blaming your parents for your patterns, tendencies and  troubles. But I didn’t realize until yesterday that I was outwardly TOGETHER, but inwardly a VICTIM. I intend to shed the crap, let go of the past and embrace the now. I take full responsibility for my life…now that is powerful!

Feelings

I’ve been working with The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. It’s a deceptively simple process for finding your Core Desire Feelings (CDFs), asking yourself “How do I want to feel today?” The idea for the book was born after doing a vision board on New Year’s Eve with her husband. No stranger to goal setting, she had an empty feeling as she looked at what they had created. “Take a yoga class”, “lose ten pounds” “save for vacation”. Something was missing. Then it dawned on her (I’m paraphrasing…I wasn’t there!) She had an epiphany, an AHA moment…what if it’s not the GOAL you want to achieve, but the FEELING you get when you accomplish/reach your goals? After years of being told to use my head not my heart this resonated so strongly with me that I immediately bought the book.

It’s a beautiful work, down to the feel of the cover, silky, vibrant and full of promise. I dove right in. At first I came up with about 20 words. FREE, PLAYFUL, MAGNETIC, ABUNDANT, AUTHENTIC, STRONG, PEACEFUL etc. Then I tried on EASE. Last week I declared my wish for EASE throughout my day, first thing when I woke up. When I noticed I was rushing through something, stressing myself out I stopped, took a breath and focused on EASE. Smiling I continued on at a slower pace and guess what? It all gets done, in a better more present way…less mistakes, more fun…me likey! Then I spoke the words aloud before going to sleep. I started having wonderful, happy, technicolor dreams. I’ve been struggling with trying to see how it will feel when I sell my house. I’ve learned not to count my chickens before they’re hatched. I dreamed I sold the house, I dreamed I could fly (swoon!) and I’m feeling like it really is all going to be ok.

My next word to try on is LIGHT. I tend to get a little dark, serious, bogged down. Today I broke up with WORRY and JUDGEMENT. I said it out loud in my car “Hey WORRY…I’m breaking up with you! I’m done.” It felt really good! Then I said “And JUDGEMENT…I’m done with you, too.” I have a dear friend who has done a lot of inner work, read so many books, taken workshops and led workshops. I gifted her The Desire Map for her birthday. She had an observation and an objection. “We can’t control our feelings. We feel what we feel.” I have to disagree. The powers that be these days are forever reminding us to control out thoughts. No more “stinkin’ thinkin'”. Retrain your brain to focus on the positive. Create your own reality. I think you can do that with your feelings, too. It’s working for me already. It’s as subtle and powerful as setting an intention for the day, the task, the date, the interview, the meeting, the audition, the leap of faith.

Imagine if you asked yourself, your partner, your child, your friend “How do you want to feel today”. Instead of “What did you do in school today?” you asked “How did you feel in school today?” I think it’s a gateway to deepening relationships, really connecting in our techno-heavy world, finding out sooner if something is wrong with a loved one, especially a child. How much heartache, bullying, loneliness, sadness, misunderstanding could be prevented or helped if we truly asked the question? Rather than everyone just having to fend for themselves, let’s take a moment and really SEE the people we interact with this week. Just try it for a week. Maybe we’ll start a wave, a revolution of caring, mindful encounters.

P.S. Here’s the link to order The Desire Map…great gift idea!! http://bit.ly/10d6Hma

Community

Yesterday I attended a seminar about cancer called “Cancer Killers” with my friend Robyn. It was held in the ballroom of a Golf & Country Club. It was very informative, interesting and fun…for awhile. We got there early and the room was freezing. By the time all of the eighty or so seats were filled it was stuffy and too warm. The speakers were enthusiastic, interesting and knowledgeable. The presentation was professional, but as the morning turned to noon I became increasingly uncomfortable and irritable. So much so that I had to fight my inclination to flee.The heat of the room triggered my cough (I’ve been fighting a chest cold) and at first I thought that was the cause of my discomfort. Plus the push to buy things was amped up as the day progressed. I get tired of people always trying to sell me something. It felt a little cult-ish.

Upon reflection I realized that crowds, community, church and family are not my happy places. Pretty radical, right? These are the places that people are supposed to feel safe in (except for crowds, I guess). I grew up an only child with a single mom. She worked long hours and I spent a lot of time alone. I stayed at my grandparents and was very close with my aunt Suzy who was only four years older than me. My mom was sixteen when Suzy was born, married at nineteen and divorced at twenty four. To say her relationship with  my grandmother was strained would be an understatement. Plus my grandmother had an ulcer, so we had to tip toe around, not make too much noise and especially not interrupt her soap operas. My grandfather was the kindest, sweetest man I have ever known, but he was at work most of the time. When my mom would pick me up there would almost always be some kind of argument and we would leave in a hurry. My mom would drive very fast to get away from there. Message = Family is not a safe place.

In junior high school my first boyfriend Anthony Riso was so cute I couldn’t believe he liked ME! This first love was intense and really the first time I ever felt cherished. He was Catholic and I went to Mass (are you supposed to capitalize it?) with his family a few times. I could tell his parents didn’t approve…I’m not Italian. I didn’t know how to act in church, didn’t know the rituals. So I followed along, kneeling and closing my eyes pretending to pray feeling like such a fake. His mother kept staring at me. Church did not provide me a feeling of comfort.

In high school I started feeling like I belonged. I made the cheer leading squad and Anthony was the quarterback. Halfway through my sophomore year he broke up with me and started dating my best friend Leslie. Ouch. I quit cheer leading and started cutting classes. Then during the summer this really popular super cute guy (named Guy) asked me out. He and Celeste had been a couple and I said no way. He told me they had broken up. I had so much fun with him that summer! Feeling good again when school started. They had not broken up. Celeste had spent the summer in Europe. Every single day she or one of her friends would open the door to my class and shout “Cindy Allen is a slut!”. I acted like I didn’t care. I really hated high school.

This all sounds so sad, but it’s not. It’s life. Adversity builds character, it shapes you. My happy place is solitude. I am social and like to go out, but in small doses. I’d rather read a book, write, ride my bike, go for a walk. In a way I feel lucky. Some people can’t be alone. A neighbor friend a few years back comes to mind. She was newly divorced, having raised four children, and living alone. She hated it. I couldn’t understand until she put it this way “How would you feel if five people moved in with you right now?” I replied “I would hate that!”. She said “Exactly”. I’m feeling very introspective lately, can you tell?

I have never like parades or big community events. I saw other people just delighted to participate and wondered why I was different. Now that I’ve had this epiphany, I’m giving myself permission to say No to things that make me uncomfortable. I do believe in stepping out of your comfort zone, but for me that’s more about trying new things.This summer I flew through the air with the greatest of ease. Yep, I took an Aerial Trapeze class. I also want to learn to surf and build a tiny house. I want to go back to Italy, travel the US, write a book, try stand up paddle board, grow my own food. I want to forge my own path and I don’t want to be part of a community. At least not right now.

Optimism

I knew I was an optimist at age 10. My Mom and I used to go to Garage Sales on Saturdays. When I was little it was fun to get a “new” toy or book. I still love Dumpster Diving and Garage Sales. Even now when I’m downsizing and decluttering I am drawn to old bookcases, tables, picture frames and such at the end of someone’s driveway on garbage day. I have to make myself not slow down for a closer look.

It was a foggy Saturday morning in June in Monterey 1970. I was picking through some knick-knacks in baskets at a family Garage Sale when I found it. A scroll, handpainted on white fabric with bamboo at each end so you could hang it on the wall. “When Life Gives You Lemons…Make Lemonade!” in a funky Calligraphy stroke with a drawing of 3 bright yellow (my favorite color) lemons. For a dollar it was mine. It made me so happy to look at it. I found the perfect place to hang it so I saw it every time I walked into my bedroom.

My love of words was just starting. I loved reading and still liked being read to by my Mom. We were reading “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis. It is the second book in “The Chronicles of Narnia” a wonderful, magical series that I have reread a number of times. I felt like Lucy, the youngest girl in the book. Always exploring and talking to strangers. Earlier, when I was 5 or 6, I identified with Shirley Temple. I wanted to BE her. I would wake up early on Saturday mornings and make a fort in the living room with couch cushions and a blanket. I would pour my cereal and milk and lay on my tummy with a small opening in my “tent” to watch her movies.

“Harriet the Spy”, “The Mixed Up Files of Mrs.Basil T.Rathbone”, “James and the Giant Peach”, “The Phantom Tollbooth” all told tales of adventure and possibility. It was my favorite thing to do as an only child. My parents divorced when I was 5, so my Mom worked a lot. Up until I was 8, I would go to my Grandmother’s after school. In third grade I was old enough to walk home alone. It was not as scary back then to be a “latch-key” kid. I’d watch Gilligan’s Island and do my homework. Then I would read in bed, propped up by pillows, and wait to hear my Mom’s car in the driveway.

When I heard her car I would start the bathtub. Then I’d go into the kitchen, open the fridge and take out the gallon of Gallo Red Mountain wine. If it wasn’t too full I would stand on a step stool and pour her a glass. When she got in the tub, I would sit on the toilet lid and tell her about my day. We moved a lot, every time the lease was up really. I changed schools a few times in Elementary School, so words and reading were my constant friends. I started collecting phrases after that find at the Garage Sale.

I spied “Leap and the Net Will Appear” in someone’s apartment window when I was walking to the bus in San Francisco in my twenties. I adopted it. There were many along the way, but the common thread is Hope, Joy, Happiness. We all get beaten up by life, but I feel lucky to have managed to keep being an optimist in the face of unpleasant, even scary circumstances. Most recently this is the one that speaks to me  “Feel the Fear…Then Do It Anyway” . Yep, I’m feeling it and doing it anyway.

Untethered - Lost or Free?

I used this word Untethered to describe how I was feeling almost 9 years ago when I was in a dark place and felt like I was blowing in the wind. Living is south Florida for 7 years by then I had lucked out and not experienced a hurricane. Plenty of Tropical Storms, some major threats that ended up becoming disorganized (weakened in hurricane-speak) but no big whoop. Then in 2005 we got hit with 3 storms back to back I was without power for 2 weeks and my screened in room and fence were destroyed as well as some roof damage. It felt like a sign, because that’s the way I roll you know…and I felt pretty much done with Florida. I was devastated from a break up which also resulted in having to quit my job. My relationship with my Mom was contentious, I was drinking too much and was just miserable.

So I decided to sell my house “as-is” including all the furniture. Loaded up my Hyundai Accent and headed home to Monterey in Northern California. I rented a cottage on Cannery Row which just happened to be on McClellan St. where I had lived when I was 8 years old…another sign? I took lots of long walks, visited with my Grandmother almost every day doing crossword puzzles and looking at her meticulously kept photo albums…a family history really. Reconnected with My Aunt Susan (more like a sister!) and her amazing husband John and their kids (when they were around). But I didn’t feel better. Then my Mom got sick. I came back to Florida before I was really ready.

Fast forward to today and that word Untethered takes on a whole new meaning. My Mom died in the summer of 2006 from an aggressive form of lung cancer. It was awful and sad and much too soon. She left me this beautiful home on Lake Wellington. It’s way too much house for me and I have been feeling overwhelmed for awhile now. I started reading this book called The Desire Map (highly recommend!) which guides you to make Goals with Soul by digging deep into how you want to FEEL. So I identified my Core Desired Feelings VIBRANT ~ FEMININE ~ STRONG ~ JOY ~ PLAYFUL and had an “aha” moment.

So once again I’m selling my house “as-is” and everything in it. But this time I’m not running away. I’m making room for new…ideas, people, feelings, adventures..I’m feeling Free and Excited and Alive. I’ll be blogging about my travels, so stay tuned. Wave to me as I come through your town!

Allowing vs. Forcing

I’m a bit of a procrastinator…there I said it. This has created some guilt in my life, defensiveness too. As I get older and reflect on my patterns, tendencies and habits I’m gentler on myself than I used to be. I’m learning to trust my instincts and adjust my view of certain things. Coming from a non judgemental place I’m truly seeing things differently.

Creating an atmosphere of allowing (with an occasional nudge) tends to spark my creativity much better than trying to force myself to start or finish something. I used to think this was lazy, unproductive and my childish way of rationalizing my rebellion to deadlines. What if there is wisdom in procrastination? The project isn’t quite ready to be born yet. While you seemingly do nothing, the ideas are ruminating in your subconscious..sorting, discarding, saving information and messages and ideas.

This “aha” moment came to me as I was juicing the other day. I juice roughly the same ingredients/amounts each time. I realized when I stuffed the receptacle full of fruits and veggies and pushed there was resistance. When I instead let go of the food pusher and ALLOWED the juicer to do it’s thing gently it yielded more beautiful, nourishing green juice.

So, in this age of the busier the better I say step away from the computer, the project, the tablet, phone…take a walk, pet the dog, take your kid for an ice cream cone, go to a matinee, read a book. I believe it’s really important to enjoy life, not just work your tail off until you’re too exhausted for much else or are just getting through until the weekend.

I was discussing being a procrastinator with a friend a few years ago…we were comparing and competing to see who was worse. She told me that she saw an article on Procrastination and she put it aside to read later. She won. 

Better Choices

Ever feel overwhelmed by all the choices you have to make every day?  Coffee or tea. Sugar or honey or stevia or truvia or agave nectar. Regular or diet. Butter, butter substitute, olive oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil. To juice or not to juice and IF I juice, should I juice veggies only or is fruit ok? Brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, chia seeds…it’s MIND BOGGLING!  But it doesn’t have to be. Use the KISS method “Keep it simple, uh…silly!”

If you love coffee, then have coffee…just limit yourself to 2-3 cups a day. I like real sugar in my coffee, so I only have really good French Roast once or twice a week as a treat and guess what? I don’t miss it on those days when I juice instead, but on the Yes to Coffee days…YUM…it tastes better than ever. Honey is always better than sugar substitutes, especially local honey (it helps with allergies).

Speaking of juicing…I know it’s awesome to have a Vitamix in order to get all the fiber and nutrients, but truth is…I can’t afford one yet, so…I use my Phillips juicer that I bought on E-Bay 5 years ago for $12 and my blender. If you have any fruit that’s past it’s peak, cut it into little pieces and freeze in a ziploc bag. I put some frozen fruit (1/2 cup) in the blender with some Almond Milk (1/4 cup) and half an avocado or a banana. Meanwhile, I assemble my stuff to juice: cup or so of spinach or romaine lettuce, leaf or so of kale (broken up into little pieces), handful of cilantro, 1/4 lemon, nob of ginger (go easy at first until you’re used to it!), 1/2 a green apple, 1/2 a cucumber and the core of a pineapple (the edible part is just too delish to juice…eat it!). Add a couple of stalks of celery or a small beet for variety. I use the cucumber and apple pieces to help the greens through the juicer. Once it’s all juiced, then add to blender and puree. It will be green and a little thick, but it tastes really good…I swear! Plus you will feel energized and nourished.

I always choose regular over diet…just watch portion size, diet stuff has additives like sodium, sugar and aspartame which is worse for you than the real McCoy, ditto butter…although I love the oils listed above…I was using Earth Balance butter substitute and thought I was ok because it’s vegan and dairy free, but it’s not something the body recognizes which creates free radicals that wreak havoc on your system. So really the key is Real Food…the less processed the better. Buy local, know where your food comes from…why on earth do we have California oranges in Florida? Rhetorical question, I am aware of the economics of this policy, but it doesn’t make sense! Eat seasonally, sorry NO you can’t have raspberries in December (unless they’re from New Zealand…consider the cost of that, in dollars & carbon footprint!). Making a few good choices here and there soon becomes habit. Don’t forget to treat yourself sometimes, a bit of dark chocolate, a few bites of ice cream whatever you LOVE.

I don’t want to sound preachy, but PLEASE read the labels. Processed foods are convenient, but at the cost of your health and vitality. Once you start eating clean your preferences change! You will naturally be drawn to fresh rather than canned, boxed or frozen. Start a little herb garden, it’s easy, fun and provides instant gratification.  BONUS: once you start making a few better choices it spills out into the other aspects of your life, nice!

Why Me?

When life throws you a curve ball…flat tire, stuck in traffic making you late, not getting the job or the promotion, an uh-oh spot on the xray…it’s tempting to ask “Why Me?” Society tells us not to play the victim, suck it up and play the cards you’re dealt. While I agree with this school of thought to a degree I also thinks it’s prudent, even crucial to ask the question.

Not as in boo hoo “Why Me?”, although you’re certainly entitled to a little pity party! (I’m paraphrasing here)…Just don’t unpack and live there.  Ask the deliberate question…Why has this happened to me? What is the lesson, the message? Or as my dear friend Robyn says What is the Gift?

I choose to believe that if I’m stuck in traffic my Guardian Angels are saving me from getting into an accident or witnessing something unpleasant. It’s a subtle shift in thinking and with practice it becomes second nature. So rather than thinking “Oh great, I got in the wrong line at the grocery store…again!” choose instead to be open to the real Why…strike up a conversation with the person next to you in line, just become more aware of your surroundings. Something may catch your eye that you otherwise would not have noticed. Maybe had you dashed out of the store more quickly you would have stepped in front of a car.

We all have busy lives and it feels like everyone is rushing to get somewhere…in traffic, at the post office, the gas station, the store. To me life is richer when you slow down and appreciate the little things. The smell of freshly cut grass, the beauty and majesty of the blue sky and white clouds, the power and life force of trees, even the way our bodies heal themselves…it amazes me how a cut heals, a bruise fades.

Next time something unexpected occurs, take a second and really as the question “Why Me?” The answer just may surprise you.

Dead Reckoning

Definitions of the term Dead Reckoning or Deduced Reckoning vary by source, in maritime navigation it was referred to as “reckoning or reasoning one’s position relative to something stationary or dead in the water” (ded. reckoning in ship journals). In aviation it’s a formula of distance, speed and drift. “The crew flew solely using dead reckoning through the dense fog”. Educated Guesswork. As the old timers used to say “You’re dead if you don’t reckon right”.

Even in this day of Satellites and GPS it is necessary in Inertial Navigation Systems when a device cannot access a satellite such as parking garages and certain buildings or when near lots of trees. Something about the phrase really resonates with me, it feels like the way I have gone through life. To me it means trusting your instincts, calculating your next move based on past experience and observation of your current situation and circumstances.

I’m reminded of high school Algebra. The newer calculators had a “graphing” function. I never trusted it! What if I entered something wrong? Also, wasn’t the whole point to learn “Critical Thinking”? I would ALWAYS check and recheck my work…that method I trusted. Look at the cash registers almost everywhere now. People don’t count back change, they rely on the machine to calculate the transaction. That’s all well and good until you’re busy and you make a mistake. The poor cashier stands there dumbfounded, calls over the manager to void the transaction and everyone’s time is wasted.

Don’t get me wrong, I like technology…don’t know how I ever lived without my smartphone. But I feel like we’re headed down a dangerous road, especially younger people who have grown up with all these advances. While you can reach thousands instantly on Facebook and Twitter there’s less real engagement, less conversation, less eye contact. It’s acceptable now to answer a text or phone call during meetings, dinner…even at the beach! We’ve all seen the pictures of a party of 6 at the dinner table all looking in their laps. It’s silly really.

There’s even a term now for putting down your phone, taking off your shoes and walking in the grass…it’s called “Earthing” and people are touting it’s benefits….duh. So here’s a challenge I’m throwing down…smile at the people you encounter today, strike up a conversation, grab a friend and go for a walk, hold the door open for someone, you know…random acts of kindness. It’s not a big deal, but it will make a big impact on all of us.