Thank you! May I have another

new-years-eve-ballDecember is a magical month. Not only because of the warm and generous spirit that descends upon us, but also because a number we have mostly ignored and referenced only by its last two digits is transformed to something like a person. It’s like 2012 is the new neighbor we had our doubts about in the beginning but we have gotten to know and now that we really like him, he is moving out.  For as long as I can remember, New Year’s eve has felt like a long sad goodbye to that old family friend whose time has come. As I join the countdown to the new year, and observe all of the partying, there is always a lump in my throat and a bit of sadness in my heart.

I think it’s all of the reminiscing that gets me. All of the lists of the top 25 most memorable moments, or the 25 biggest surprises, or the list of celebrities that died, it all sinks in and reminds me that life is short and every second counts.  10, 9, 8…and as those finals seconds threaten to unleash a pandemonium of celebrations around the world, I think of the all of the people I love and wish I could hold all of them close.

I pray that 2012 was a great year for you. I am so grateful for all the good things it brought to me and my family, and I hope that you can say the same. Even the challenges we faced in 2012, they gave us strength, confidence and renewed faith. I am grateful to all of you who read all, some or even just one of my blogs. Your comments and readership are a treasure to me. Thank you and I wish for all of us, that 2013 will bring more hope, more love, more heath, more prosperity and more opportunities to realize our life’s purpose.

Much Love and Happy New Year!

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The Mayans Blew It

Mayan sculptureSo here we still are. The world did not end. Obviously, the Mayans’ calendar was way off. Their entire reputation is shot to hell and my their super abilities in mathematics are now called into question. Thanks a lot ancestors! Really? Was it too much to ask? You could have just left us with your beautiful carvings, pyramids and the mystery of your disappearance to confound the archeologists and the scientists for all time. But no! You had to put out a (bunny ears gesture) – deadline. Someone’s ego in the astronomy department just got too big. I hope that somewhere in the Mayan afterworld someone is getting a good talking to.

On 12/21/2012 I went about my day as normal. But, just in case the end of the world were to come with a big announcement, akin to “attention shoppers”, I was a teensy bit more aware of strange sounds or smells that day (don’t ask). That morning when I heard a distant hum in the distance grow louder, I thought, “Could this be it?” It was just a Korean Air airplane descending into Dulles Airport. On the metro, when a strange smell overwhelmed me and caused me to become nauseated, I thought, “Oh, this could be the end.” It was just the metro car’s musty aroma mixing with the stench of 100 burnt tires in the station. All normal.

The day continued and ended just as it started. But, as midnight approached and I realized the uniqueness of the date, I went to my window to look at the sky. At 11:59 p.m., I looked at how bright the moon was, and how it lit my cul-de-sac even though it was only a half-moon. The clouds were flying in front of it as if they were late to an appointment. It was strangely peaceful, like at the end of something. It was the end of a special date that will not ever repeat in human history. It was a day of deaths and births, joys and pains, triumphs and failures, beginnings and ends. It was life on a small, unique and wonderful blue planet in a vast and boundless universe. And I felt immensely grateful to be part of this day and this time, and to share the earth with the people who are in it. I heard myself say “thank you.”

My FIOS box struck midnight, and the day was gone. I wondered how many more people in the world were looking at the sky at that moment and feeling what I was feeling. How many of us were influenced by 12-21-12 to think of ourselves in the context of a much larger picture and to be aware of how small we truly are. I appreciated having this perspective but don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it. Time will teach me, but I am thankful to be filled with gratitude.

I would like to publicly apologize to my Mayan ancestors for the comments I made earlier. I am sure that some Mayan spell checker or American archeologist is to blame for the error. Maybe it was just a typo and the date is really 12-21-2112. Actually, doesn’t that make more sense? Remember, you read it here first.

Much Love,

Making Sense of the Senseless

Photo credit: www.abc.com (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Photo credit: http://www.abc.com (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Don’t let the title fool you. There are no words that can soothe, or comfort us, and no answers to the inexplicable massacre that killed 26 of our fellow human beings on Friday, 20 of them innocent babies. I don’t like to write about tragedies like this because I don’t feel words are enough to heal. And, there are way too many words spoken and not enough action.

My writing will be brief but what I want to say is that I feel that our country is under constant siege and we don’t recognize it. It was less than two years ago when we felt the same horror, shock and disbelief. The death of six innocent people and of the serious injuries sustained by U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, AZ was incomprehensible.  Then, in July of this year, 12 people lost their lives and 58 were injured in another mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. More grief, pain and disbelief. Now, Middletown, CT joins the list of communities that have suffered the types of mass shootings that are slowly but surely killing our society. After each horrible shooting, we mourn, we send flowers, teddy bears, money, we cry for the victims, but nothing changes. Are we becoming desensitized? The pundents fill the air waves with comments about the need for stricter gun laws and, on the opposite side, the need to keep good people armed to stop the criminals. But, as soon as the next big news story hits, we go back to what we were doing and nothing changes. Like the killings, the fact that we are not addressing this issue just doesn’t make any sense. In my opinion, the real enemy of our American way of life and of our values is right here within our own borders. I don’t know what to call it – apathy, short-attention span, selective memory, inertia, feelings of powerlessness, failure to launch – why doesn’t our emotional outpouring translate to a call for action? Why aren’t we pushing on congress for better gun controls? Isn’t this the country that roots for the the little guys? Don’t we cheer when the underdog comes from behind and beats the big goliath? What is it going to take for us to say enough and demand change for stricter gun laws and ban assault weapons?

Guns/assault weapons are the visible protagonist. But, unfortunately behind each weapon that has taken innocent lives has been a lost human being. It’s difficult to feel compassion for the people who committed such unspeakable acts. But, before they were killers they were people who got left behind, pushed to the back, and whose silent screams for help were ignored. They were dead before they even got there. How could we have helped them so that the loss of lives could have been prevented? Why aren’t we raising money for more research, education and supportive services for the mentally ill and their families. How can we better educate people about depression? What are we doing to protect kids and adulsts from bullying? How can we as a society be better informed so that we can recognize those silent screams for help? If we don’t demand change now, it is possible that all of us will experience a mass shooting in our lifetime.

Change happens slowly, but it can happen if we start and if we are relentless in its pursuit. If we have to call, write to or visit our local and national representatives every day that is what we should do. We should question every politician asking for our vote about what he or she will do to prevent mass shootings in our communities, and then hold them accountable. We will have relinquished our power as a people if we wait to see what politicians do. We have to be engaged and push for a solution. If you have ideas about how we make this terrible tragedy a call to action to, once and for all, change our gun and mental health laws and policies, please share them with your reply to this post.

Much Love,

When Your Rainy Day Comes

SingingintherainMy rainy day came. And, boy did it pour. It wasn’t hurricane Sandy that struck us. It was our water bill. It was four times our usual cost! A plumber came to inspect our systems and gave us the real bad news. We had a major underground leak somewhere between our house and the meter on the curb. That is a distance of about 25 feet.  The plumbing company had a specialist come out that same evening to measure and assess the best approach to install a new line in our front yard. My gut told me it was going to be a seriously big and costly deal. It was. You are never quite mentally ready to receive a big unexpected bill. And most of the time, we are not financially ready either.  As the specialist described the steps to install a new service line, I started thinking about how this was the worst possible time for this to happen. The holidays are here and it is the time of year when we go a little bit off budget to buy presents, food, and take advantage of the sales.

The digging began that following Monday. I went to work and came home to a yard that looked like three large zombies had dugged themselves out of their graves. The next day I had a chance to talk to one of the guys as he was waist-deep in one of the holes. Mike (not his real name) was a nice young man with sky-blue eyes. Mike shared with me that he was on blood thinners because on Thanksgiving day he was rushed to the hospital with severe pain in his leg. The doctors discovered he had three blood clots in his right leg. When I told him I thought this was dangerous work for someone with his condition he said he had no choice. He needed the money because his little girl is turning one in a couple of weeks and he needs to buy Christmas presents. He was grateful to be alive and be able to work. Wow. I realized that my unfortunate and poorly-timed leak was a fortunate and timely source of income for Mike. My big bill, I saw, had a higher purpose. Later, when another guy told me that they were going to work until dark due to a delay I said I was sorry that they were going to have to work late. His response was, “M’am, it’s good to have job.” Dan had run his own plumbing company for many years but when the economy went down, he had to lay off 27 people, including himself.  Now, he is grateful to be employed. He and the other men were going to earn overtime at this job site.

In the days that lagged between our learning of our major leak and the repair, I shuddered at the waste of two precious resources: our water and our hard-earned money. But, my despair about this unexpected expense soon evaporated and took on a new aura. Now that it’s over I feel incredibly blessed and grateful for the entire experience. I am grateful to my husband for being so insistent about saving for emergencies; grateful that we have jobs that provide financial security; grateful that the leak did not cause damage to our house or the neighbor’s property; grateful that we are healthy and able to work in the things that we enjoy; grateful to the guys who did the hard work to install our new service line; and grateful that in some way, our leak provided a job and an income to those men. My leak, I realize, was not poorly timed at all. It was the perfect time for Mike and Dan, and us. If this had happened when neither my husband nor I was working, we would have had to incur credit card debt and pay more with the interest. Fortunately, we had savings for a rainy day.

Rainy days always come, and no one is exempt from them. No matter how much or how little we earn, it is important to have savings to cover rainy day expenses such as major repairs to a home or a car, medical bills, etc. Budgeting, tracking expenses, and paying yourself first by putting money in savings (and your 401K) are the actions you can take to create a financial safety net for the future. It takes hard-core discipline to save because we are continuously being tempted to spend. Cutting back on eating out or paying for things with cash are two small steps that can have a real impact in how much we save each month. Try it and you’ll see. Aim to have at least three months of living expenses in your emergency fund. When that rainy day comes, you’ll be so happy you saved, you may even start singing.

Happy Saving!

Much Love,

5 Signs That You Might Be Settling

signs of settling

We don’t fear our choices, we fear managing the consequences of them by ourselves.”    –  Caroline Myss (www.myss.com)

Ladies, how many times have you heard, “don’t settle”? If you had a dollar for every time you heard that, you would never need the ATM! No one wants to settle for less than they deserve. But, when we feel pressured we might make choices with what is available and end up with what we don’t want.

 

When I was a young college graduate starting my career, I heard “don’t settle” from employers, advisors, family members, and even from people I had just met. I had so much potential, I was told. But, as I got older, and remained single, and not quite sure if I was on the right career path, the advice began to change. The implied message was to do something quickly because time was running out and I was being too picky. People would give me a worried look, and sometimes be bold enough to utter the rude phrase, “you’re not getting any younger.” At first, I would shrug it off and think they were just being melodramatic. But, as I turned 28, then 29, 30, my angst began to match theirs. I was in a relationship that was rocky at best, and in a job that was giving me a steady paycheck, but not much else. The external pressure to be on the path to marriage and career was mounting, and at times it felt like I was cradling a ticking bomb and those around me were freaking out about the precariousness of my situation. I began to panic.

 

What happened next was not pretty. I tried to make Mr. Wrong into Mr. Right, rather Mr. This Is The Best I Can Do. I accepted the dysfunction of our relationship by augmenting his good qualities while trying to fix his bad ones. Those were unhappy years. The harder I tried to make it work, the more I was spiraling down a dark tunnel of pain. In hindsight, I can see why I chose that relationship.  I was afraid of being alone and remaining single for the rest of my life. Similarly, I continued at my job even though I wanted more growth opportunities. In that scenario, I feared failing and losing my independence.

 

Good friends helped me confront my fears. Once I did, I was able to see other options and make better choices. I had invested a lot of time into the wrong choices. Unfortunately, when we have invested so much of ourselves into something, it is difficult to walk away, I think partly because we don’t want to accept that we were wrong.  It takes time to realize that we didn’t fail but learned an important life lesson that prepares us for better things. Fear makes us believe that there is nothing better for us in the future, which could not be farther from the truth. Only a couple of years after walking away from my failed relationship, I found love and married my husband. I also found a career that was thoroughly fulfilling, once I conquered my fear to leave that job.

 

Mounting external pressure to be on the “right path” can provoke fear and insecurity and drive us to make choices that are not ideal. Ideal does not mean that it is perfect or fits someone else’s standards; ideal means that it feels like it was custom-made for you. When you make the right choice it fits like a glove. The right choice makes you feel complete – whether it’s a career path, a relationship, or a graduate program. It just feels good.

 

If you are doubtful about the relationship you’re in, or a choice you have made, here are five signs that might indicate that you are settling:

 

  1. You feel fearful all the time. You want to be perfect and don’t want anything to upset the volatile equilibrium you work so hard to maintain with this choice. This fear may have motivated you to make this choice, and will continue to be a dynamic in your relationship.
  2. You find yourself making things sound better than they are. When you talk to friends about your choice, you exaggerate the good things and make it sound like this is the best thing that has ever happened to you.
  3. You feel it takes all of your energy and you don’t have the energy left for much else. Your friends may see you less, and you become absorbed in anticipating the next issue or problem. This is hard work.
  4. You don’t feel happy. Though you may pretend to be happy, deep down you feel heavy and stressed. This may be difficult to admit because you are spending so much energy on this choice that you want to believe it’s worth it. Yet, something deep down does not feel right.
  5. You are not yourself. You do things you thought you would never do. You might miss important family events because you are so consumed by the fear of losing what you are working so hard to maintain.

I pray that this is helpful to those who need to read it and can count on good friends to help you move forward.

 

Much Love,