Paradise is Sharing...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Snow Angel....

Snow Angel 
When I moved out of my marital home and into my own apartment five years ago, it was November.  I drove a Volkswagon Beetle.  My ex kept the brand new Ford F250 with heated leather seats with a 8' plow, and a $550 monthly payment.  That year, we got the most snow I had seen since the seventies.  It seemed like every morning, I would wake up to another foot of snow.  Trudging through the snow with shovel in tow, while Destiny bounded through the snowbanks, I would dig out my car again and again.  Thank goodness my landlord has six kids, because it took at least four of them to push me out of the driveway each day, so I could make the treacherous slide to work in my poorly equipped car that was meant to be a summer vehicle. 

Destiny - My Snow Angel
Up until then, snow meant the world stopping for the day.  My ex-husband and I worked for a lawn care company - our only downtime was in the winter.  At the sight of first flakes, we would be outside - shoveling the walkways together, throwing snowballs at the dog, and when we were done, falling into the snowbanks to make snow angels while Destiny danced around us nipping at our mittens.  We had all the toys - snowmobiles, skiis, and snowshoes.  A snowy Friday night meant home-made pizza, and a bunch of friends gathering to go out for a "mid-night ski" where we would ski in the moonlight - moonlight so bright there was no need for flashlights.  My fondest memories were of Destiny hooked up with her harness, purposefully pulling me as we silently swooshed through the darkness, through the pine trees that looked like cupcakes thickly frosted with icing.

During that first winter on my own, the winter nights seemed darker.  Each snowflake weighed on me like a stone.  No one came around to eat pizza or go for a midnight ski, and I wasn't able to get out and meet up with people because my really cute, but really dumb car wouldn't get me anywhere but stuck in a snowbank.  Nope, instead I was alone, shoveling my walkway - alone.  Mid-shovel I looked up and saw my ridiculous dog Destiny on her back, wriggling and rolling, joyfully making her version of doggie snow angels.  I felt like my days of fun in the snow were long gone.  Destiny can make the snow angels alone - I have a car to dig out.

 I know that we humans are like rest of the natural world and that sadness, fear, frustration, or any troubling feeling cannot last. Nature doesn’t create a storm that never ends. Within misfortune, good fortune hides. ~ Dr Wayne Dyer

Spring came, the snow melted away... and life went on.  Destiny passed away the following winter... and I regretted not putting down my shovel, getting out of my own sorrows for a while, to flop down in the snow to make snow angels with her the winter before.  Each flake that fell was a reminder of the love and joy she had for snow.  Nipping at mittens, barking as we shoveled... rolling on her back in pure bliss.  I smiled as the snow fell, remembering my Snow Angel.  That winter, MyHoney, Derby and I got out to play in the snow every chance we had. I bravely battled winter driving in my trusty Subaru.  Moments, joyful moments can melt away .... and with the melting snow, a new season begins. 

In the last four days, we have had two winter storms that brought in over 18" of snow.  I woke up this morning to see another 4" on the ground.  I opened the door to investigate and Lexi bounded out, leaping through the new powder like a white snowshoe rabbit.  Up until this morning, I thought my little diva wasn't fond of snow... she seemed more of a couch potato than a snow bunny.... but this morning, she bounced and jumped, leaped and frolicked, and then flopped onto her back, feet to the sky and rolled joyously....  and there it was - Lexi's first snow angel.  Hold on Lexi - Let me grab my snow suit - I'm comin' out to join you!

Paradise is here, Paradise is now.... Paradise is making snow angels.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Mother's Bucket List...

Victoria Mansion, Portland ME
"Let's go to lunch on Sunday, then we can go to the Victoria Mansion, and then we can walk around the Old Port and look at the Christmas lights..."  The suggestion surprised my mother, and shocked the hell out of me.  I couldn't believe the words came out of my mouth. 

Again, I have to preface every post about my parents with "I love them dearly, I do...." but there have been times when I wasn't the best daughter to them, and they weren't the best parents to me.  But now that I am getting closer and closer to 40, and they are getting further and further away from 40, we have softened towards each other - and we are able to keep alot more of the awkward tension at bay.  Now that they don't have the stress of raising me, and I have lowered the expectations of pleasing them, we can just get down to the business of being friends.

Victoria Mansion, Portland ME
She squealed "OH! That's on my bucket list!"... I had no idea a simple suggestion like lunch, touring an old mansion and looking at Christmas lights was a life long wish of my mom's... but it was. 

So, Sunday afternoon, as fat snowflakes drifted down a city fit for a postcard, the three of us - My mother, my future mother-in-law, and I sat and dined at Silly's Restaurant.  We giggled at the silly names of the entrees, we chatted about Christmas plans, and we just enjoyed each others company.  This is fun I thought to myself, and allowed myself to enjoy the mother-daughter moments without worrying about tension - past, present or future.  I soaked in my mother's giggles, admired her sparkling blue eyes, and pushed down the mournful feeling that we hadn't had more moments like these before. 

After lunch, I chauffeured the "Moms" to the Victorian Mansion.  I thought Mom was going to jump out of the car before I parked it.  She chattered all the way down the side walk about the decorations, the history, and the advertisements she had heard about the Holiday Decor Event that we were about to see.  She was downright giddy.  I don't think she felt the biting wind on her face or the snowflakes on her eyelashes....

As we pushed open the grand wooden doors to the entrance way, Mom gasped.  I had to push her through the entry way so we wouldn't block the doors.... she was in a trance like a child seeing Santa for the first time - she made me smile. 

Throughout each room, she ooh'd and ahh'd, admiring each decoration, each flower, each tree, each piece of furniture, each mantle place, each sconce, and each chandelier.  What my mother considered beautiful were the simplest things... "OH, look at the pine cones"  ..... there were gold angels and painted masterpieces, but my mom admired the pine cones.  My heart smiled.

We walked through the rooms, some of them twice, and we each chose favorites.  We exited the Mansion via the gift shop, and we commented about the admission price  .... my mom glowed "OH, it was worth it!"

Yes, it was.... it certainly was.

I wonder what else is on that bucket list of hers....

Paradise is Here, Paradise is Now... Paradise is seeing your mom admire pinecones, and cross something off her bucket list...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Turn Up The Heat....

I pressed my index fingers to my thumbs and inhaled deeply.  A thought flashed through my consciousness like a wayward firefly - "I'm having a hard time staying inward."  Being a novice at the practice of meditation, I accepted the struggle and tried to quiet my mind.  While I have chosen to avoid the news and media, a television broadcast could be heard from the kitchen downstairs where MyHoney's mother busied herself with getting ready for the day.  The words "children, teachers, shooter, tragedy, and mourning" drifted into my ears.  I wished I was more experienced in blocking out external distractions.  I breathed deeper.  Another thought floated by "Why is there such evil in the world?  Where was Paradise on Friday?"
Determined to at least attempt meditating this morning, I closed my eyes, drew in a breath, then shivered, realizing the heat was still down low.  I reached over, pulled a blanket over my shoulders and continued to draw in.  I closed my eyes again... the blaring television interupted my Zen as a reporter interviewed a woman making the argument that stricter gun control laws were the only way to stop these madmen ....  and I exhaled.  My shoulders felt warm from the blanket, and the heat of my body radiated from me, but the blanket held the warmth close.  Even though the room was chilled, I was warm.  My distracted mind reminded me I should turn up the heat when I am done "meditating."

One last deep breath in ... one long exhale out.  Shivering, I pulled the blanket closer around me and became annoyed by the lack of heat in the room.  Another firefly thought flickered through my mind "Does cold actually exist, or is cold merely the absence of heat?"   I was fascinated by the thought that cold may not even be real.  We could walk around and say "Do you feel lack of heat?"   Another thought flittered by... "Evil is merely the absence of good"  I held my breath for longer than I should have, startled by my own revolution that evil isn't real either.... it is simply the absence of good.  I know what I have to do to rid the room of the chill this morning - I have to turn up the heat.  It would only make sense then, to rid the world of evil, we need to turn up the good.

We all are asking how God allowed such an evil act to happen?  He may simply be saying to us "Kids, if you are cold - turn up the heat!"   If you are feeling the world is too evil for your own comfort, turn up the good! 

My blanket was enough to warm my own body this morning, but not enough to rid the room of it's chill.  It was a good start.  Once I felt warm enough, I was able to finish meditating, get up and walk over to the thermostat and turn it up.  This is how we must start.  Start with your families.  Teach your children to be kind and loving to all living things.  Be kind to yourself.  Be good to your pets.  Be honest.  Be gentle. Be kind.  When you feel conflicted, frustrated or angry - turn up the good by loving harder.  Stoke up that fire. 

Once your home is warm - radiate out to your neighbors.  Practice random acts of kindness.  Shovel their driveway.  Bring them cookies.  Wave and smile at them as you drive by.  Give them a log for their fire - and pretty soon, they will be radiating heat too. 

And turning  up the good doesn't just require what we DO.... our actions are great kindling to get the fire to catch, but more importantly, it's what we THINK.  In my humble opinion, we have turned the thermostat way down low by even entertaining the thought that the world may end on December 21st and dwelling about the "fiscal cliff" that we are facing on January 1st.  Turn the heat back up by believing we are prosperous, we are abundant and we are resilient.

Turn up the heat with every thought you think.  Every thought.  Even towards people who make you feel cold - it's even more important to crank your furnace in their presence.  If your thermostat is set high enough, you won't feel the effects of their chill.  You may even unthaw them too.  Crank it up.

Then go catch the world on fire. It only takes a spark, to get a fire going....

  Paradise is Here, Paradise is Now..... Paradise is a WARM place to be.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Taking the Sting Out of Tragedy....

photo credit:
 "Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life." John Muir

Running and giggling, we chased and darted after our dog Daisy who had managed to abscond our wiffle ball once again.  My brother who was five years older than me couldn't catch her, so I knew I never would.  It looks like our ball game is over.... so we decided to take off and find a new adventure.  Wiffle ball bat in his hand, my brother started a new game, he is now the Lone Ranger, and I am Tonto (I was always Tonto - he always got to be the Lone Ranger)... and we galloped around using our bats as horses whinying and neighing.... until that game faded away into a new one.  Now we were sword fighters, dueling to defend our family honor... my brother drew his wiffle ball bat sword and took a ferocious swing.. and hit the beehive that was behind him.  The hive toppled over off its platform and split open like a cracked egg. 

photo credit:
A black cloud of angry bees swarmed out like a pissed off genie.  Their world had been shaken, and they had to lash out and punish the perpetrators.  My brother took off in a full run.  Daisy, knowing that we had done something to get us in trouble, put her ears down, tucked her tail, and slinked deftly to the barn.  But I was too slow to escape. The bees were relentless, coming after me with bitter venom.   Hot stingers flew into my neck, and as I swatted they caught my arms and hands like fiery fish hooks.  By the time I made it to the house, I was a welted mess.  My brother had escaped unscathed.  I was distraught by the injustice of it all.

In my six year old mind, this was the epitome of all that is unfair in the world.  I sat on my mothers lap and wailed... "But I didn't DO anything! Why did the bees sting ME?!?"  She rocked me back and forth, unable to answer my pitful sobs... "Because you were there, and they were angry and scared."  ..... "They were scared Momma?"  I remember being puzzled that fear can result in anger.  Those bees seemed angry to me - I was the one who was afraid.  But as I've grown older, I have witnessed that yes, indeed, when people's worlds are shaken, our fear can manifest as anger, and we lash out and sting anyone who is around.

Photo Credit:
Yesterday, a gunman walked in  to a school, slayed his mother and gunned down her classroom of elementary children.  Our world has been shaken.  Just like the six year old who was comforted in my mothers arms, I am distraught with the injustice of it all.  But unlike the child I once was, I experienced an explosion of anger.  How could this happen? What kind of world do we live in? 

 I logged onto Facebook and saw others felt the same way - angry.  Venomous posts were flying around about gun control, school policies and politicians.  Then there were posts from other parents that dripped with fear.  They were hugging their children tighter tonight.  They were fearful of letting their children go to school tomorrow.   And of course, there were posts of just deep, sorrowful, heartwrenching grief.   Instead of buying Christmas gifts for their children, they are buying tiny coffins and headstones.  Why is this happening, they didn't do anything - they were innocent children.   My anger evaporated into the mist of sorrow I felt like the six year old sobbing in my mothers arms all over again.  This is truly the epitome of injustice.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons
Just like Daisy, I put my ears down and slunk away.  I shut off the electronic devices, Facebook, and the news...  and retreated to the arms of MyHoney.  I need to get away from the toppled beehive.  

We as humans naturally want answers.  There is injustice in the world - we believe if we can pinpoint how and why the world is unjust, we can do something to remedy it.  We want to fix it.  We just want to DO something. 
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”  ~ Buddha

We turn to our television sets and newspapers looking for answers.  We chat on social media boards trying to find out what other people think.  We take action by signing petitions, protesting, and persecuting.  While some of these actions may bring results.... they will not bring you peace.

To take the sting out of tragedy  - to find peace this chaotic messy world, don't turn towards your televisions,  your electronics, Facebook, social media, or the news.  You will not find peace there.  

To find peace - turn toward your family.  Spend some time with them "unplugged".... play board games, go ice skating, enjoy each others company. 

Turn toward Humanity - do something kind for someone.  Practice random acts of Kindness.  Reach out to someone in need.  Send love letters.  Donate blood, food or money.  Give of yourself.

Photo Credit: Sakis Koukouvis
Turn toward your Higher PowerPray for the families who were affected by the tragedy.  Pray for humanity, and pray their fears subside.  Pray for acceptance. Pray for peace for yourself.  Give thanks for your wellbeing, family, friends and neighbors.

Turn toward your Inner Wisdom.  Sit still.... reflect... just BE.   Take some quiet time and reflect on all your blessings.  Burn a candle.  Practice Metta Bhavana - the meditation of Loving Kindness.   

Are there ways you have taken the sting out of a tragedy you would like to share?  

Paradise is Here, Paradise is Now.... Paradise is taking the sting out of tragedy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mixing Memories ...

Paradise is Decking the Halls....
This morning I woke up before dawn, padded over to the Christmas Tree and snapped on the lights.  I crept down the spiral stairs now adorned with garland and white lights, and made myself a cup of coffee, and retreated back up stairs to my perch in front of the tree to quietly gaze at our first tree together at MyHoney's house.  While we have been together for five years, up until now, we have kept most of our traditions separate.  We participated as boyfriend or girlfriend in each others family traditions. 

MyHoney would go with my family as we trudged through acres of Christmas trees looking for the most perfectly flawed trees that would fit in our perfectly flawed houses.  My mother wanted a tall skinny tree because of her narrow farm house doors and small parlor area.  I wanted a small short tree because of my tiny one bedroom apartment.  My sister wanted a hearty tree that would take the abuse of two kids, two dogs, and a cat.  MyHoney would hold the trees as we chopped them down and dramatically yelled "TIMBER!" as if we were cutting down the Rockerfeller Center Tree.  He would laugh and joke with my family as we hauled our green treasures back to the farm and drink hot chocolate and comment what perfect trees we had found that year.

He would help me take my tree to my apartment and help me decorate the tree.  Although, sometimes the best help was to sit back and watch because I have a system of putting the lights on a certain way.  Then each decoration has to go on in sequence of importance - the first one to go on the tree each year is Destiny's ornament, then Lexi's, then my snowmen.  The order in which I decorated my tree was just as much a tradition to me as eggnog and mistletoe.  MyHoney would listen to me tell him stories about each precious ornament - where I was when I got it, who gave it to me, what meaning it signified. Sometimes I would tear up and have to take a moment to regain myself before pulling another treasure from the box.  Meanwhile, he sat and took it all in, happy to be part of my new story, and creating a new memory.

I would attend Mass with MyHoney's family on Christmas Eve, I would help him set up the manger scene, leaving out the Wise Men and baby Jesus until their proper arrival according to the Christmas story.  I would sip Annisette and listen to stories of Christmases past in Olean and I would watch as he and his mother gently put the baby Jesus in the manger Christmas Morning

But this year, we decided because we are getting married in the Spring of 2014, we would mix our memories, and mingle our traditions.  This year, we participated in the annual Christmas Tree Hunt, but not for my tree... but for OUR tree.  We needed a tall, skinny tree to fit in the landing above the stairs.  MyHoney took the saw and cut at the base of our perfectly imperfect tree, and I yelled "TIMBER!" as if we were lumberjacks.  Proudly, we carried our tree to the car, and went back to the farm, drank cocoa and chatted about what great trees we found this year.

 We set the tree up and unpacked the decorations from my apartment, ones I have collected for the past 20 years.... and he and his mother unpacked multiple boxes from his childhood, his mothers childhood, and years going back to the Christmases in Olean.  For the first time ever, I decorated a tree with ornaments that held no memories for me, and I didn't care what order they went on the tree.   After this Christmas, they will hold the dear memory of being on our first Christmas tree, the one we decorated together, as a family, in our new tradition.  

When two people come together, they bring to the relationship so much more than themselves.  They bring their heritage, their traditions, their quirky families, their loopy rituals, and their stories.  As I sip my coffee, admiring the twinkling lights, the shimmering decorations and the quietness of the morning, I realize perhaps only on a Christmas tree you will see two peoples lives, two peoples childhoods, their keepsakes and treasures so beautifully mixed together. 

Paradise is Here, Paradise is Now... Paradise is Mixing Memories ....

What traditions have you mixed???