Step Back Saturday 

Not much stepping back today. More like stepping it up. The day started with an intense 90 minutes Baptiste yoga class with my rocking instructor Jess.

It was a tough class and everyone’s energy seem to drag, but we made it through together and I at least felt much better for it.

I took a quick trip to my mom’s, then raced home to shower and get to a meeting at 1pm. My darling husband cooked me a spinach and eggwhite omelette with a gluten free muffin before he went with his friend to go check out Indian motorcycles.

Our wonderful teen librarian in Clifton Park, Ashleigh, is holding a teen essay contest and I am one of the judges. 82 entries. So one of the judges and I began the judging process.

From there I went food shopping, then raced to Michael’s to use my 50% off coupon to get a pull case for my writing classes. Those who have seen me carry bags and bags of supplies will appreciate this!


Finally I made it home, and again my amazing husband brought all the groceries in. We walked the overweight dogs before it rained. (For that story, check out www.diaryofzoeyshadow.wordpress.com.)

Then the cooking began. Stephen is home from school, so some of the family are coming over tomorrow for Pasta and Meatballs. Twelve hours and 70 meatballs later (I know, small batch), I have finally sat down to chill with my hubby.


How was your day?

Nurturing Ourselves

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Photo by Alysia Thomas

I’m a nurturer by nature. I like to help others, take their load off, and give back. I may have a ton of work to do, including housework, food shopping, bills, my jobs, but if a friend or my family need something, I’ll drop everything and be at their door. That’s a good thing. It’s a wonderful quality that was instilled in me by my parents, who were always there for  us as children.

I remember when I was five years old, and I broke my leg going down the pole on the monkey bars. I cried, because I couldn’t get up. My mother, all 4’11” of her dropped everything, picked me up, and took me to the doctor. She had a few choice words to the nurse who thought my mother was being dramatic. She didn’t think my leg was broken. It was and of course this was an emergency, but the point is, she nurtured others more than she nurtured herself.

I think all my siblings do the same as I do. We are on overdrive, because there is always something more to be done, we want to see our kids in their events and activities, and someday we won’t have that anymore. So we have to soak it all in now.

But our reserves aren’t endless. I usually go until my body says, “Enough!” and I get sick or need hours of quiet. I am good when it comes to taking care of myself as far as exercising and what I eat. I’m sure that helps as I push my body and mind to fatigue.

What we are often missing in our lives is some nurturing for ourselves. When was the last time you went to the spa, got your nails done, took a hike, read a book uninterrupted, or did anything that fed your soul and reenergized you?

When was the last time you did something for you, because you wanted to do it, and not because it’s expected or routine?

If you did something within the last week, wonderful. Here’s another question–did you do it without guilt or did you have to find a hundred reasons to justify it? Did you schedule and then cancel?

In January, I went for a massage, which is wonderful, but it’s more for maintenance from exercising. I have a gift certificate to the spa from my birthday in October, and I haven’t even considered making an appointment. I can’t even feel guilty about that, because it’s paid for! But I haven’t done anything about it.

What actually nurtures me? What revitalizes my mind, my body, my spirit? Yoga yes, but when I think about what would be a wonderful time to myself, I think about cozying up in my library, surrounded by my books, my dogs on the floor, the gas fire toasting up the room, a cup of Earl Grey tea, maybe something to nibble on, and a book that I can’t even take a bathroom break for. That’s how good it is.

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Dakota making sure the library is safe!

It’s really a very simple way to nurture and nourish myself. Most of us want simplicity, but bringing it into our lives feels complicated. It shouldn’t be, but we make it so.

I’m going to use my bullet journal to mark in Janine’s time for this weekend to do exactly what I wrote–even if it’s for an hour. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Now it’s your turn. How do you want to be nurtured? What or who reenergizes you? Write what you would do in detail, using your senses, describe it so that it almost feels like you already did it. Are you looking forward to it? If yes, then schedule it into your calendar and commit to it. Share with me or let someone else know so that you don’t cancel.

And the most important part is enjoy it! Don’t second guess yourself or feel guilty. Be present in that moment and absorb all the goodness that nurturing provides. It’ll help you help others.

 

It’s Never too Late

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Photo by Alysia Thomas

Both yesterday and today I have been reminded that it’s never too late to try something new, change what you have been doing, or begin again.

Last night I went to an in-home skin care class where we learned about products and what made this product more suitable to how I want to live. I have been using a skin care line for  the last 29 years. Although I think this product is safe and has served me well, I said that I felt it was too late to start something new that was completely clear of any chemicals. Everyone in the room said that it was never too late to change what I put on my skin, especially since everything is absorbed directly into my system.

So I have decided to make this small change for myself and my family so that I know that the products we are placing on our skin aren’t harming us. It’s something small to keep us and the environment healthy and reduce our carbon footprint. That is truly something that is never to late to start.

Then today in yoga, the topic came up again as we flowed through our poses and tried news ones that some of us may have never done. Even though we may have fallen over or out of a pose, the instructor encouraged us to let it go and begin again. Each time I step on my mat, I know that it’s never too late to change how I come to my practice or what I try. This goes with any form of exercise or challenge.

The questions that came up in my mind was why do we think that we can no longer do something when we reach a certain age? Or why do we think that it’s too late to change or try again. And what do I still want to do in my life that I feel like I can’t because so much of life has gone by or because I have changed?

When this goes through my mind, I think of regret. Sure there are some things in my life that I regret. And for some of those things, I can’t go back and change, but it’s not to late to change how I perceive them. I also need to accept some of them, but that doesn’t limit me in other areas of my life.

There is so much in my life that I still want and can do. It’s not too late for me to:

–learn another language

–take singing lessons

–train in another martial arts or yoga style

–ride across the country on my motorcycle, hopefully with my husband!

–go to Greece, Italy, Ireland, and Scotland

–visit every state

–have grandchildren and spoil them

–get a PhD

I think this will be a bullet page in my journal that I will keep adding to. Kind of like a bucket list, but not really. It’s more like an empowering tool to confirm that I have so much I still want to do. It’s a list that allows me to grow and gives me even more to look forward to!

What have you crossed off your list because you think it’s too late in your life to do it? Why do you think that? Without worrying about how it will happen, make a list in your journal of what you believe is not too late for you to do. Pick one item on it and make a decision to try it out. You never know where it will take you and what opportunities will open for you!

Words Matter

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Words Matter. It’s like a new slogan pounded into my heart this morning when I first heard it. Words, especially saying the right or wrong ones can make a huge difference for everyone who hears them.

It is extremely difficult to communicate sometimes. I know I have been afraid, worried, deterred from sharing what I have truly wanted to say. My journals hold my truths, because they aren’t judged and no one sees them. My journal is the holding space where I can let those words simmer, settle or dissipate the sparked emotions I’m feeling at that time.

Words can save relationships or they can destroy them. When words are spoken rashly, no matter how hard we try to take them back, they are already out there spreading like a plague often with no idea of how it started. Rashly spoken words are often ones dying to be released. They are words that feel defeated, not acknowledged, debased, and forgotten. Then once the words build up, they literally choke the holder and spew out like flash floods or spin out of control like a tornado, or burn everything in its path as a volcano does.

Using a journal to get a feel for how those words will land is vital to speaking your truth in a way that honors how you feel, but also honors the relationship you have with another person. I tell writers all the time to let your piece sit for a day, week or month then go back to it. When you read it again, you have created a distance that allows you to truly see what you have written. The same goes with journal writing. Let it simmer then cool and view it from a calmer frame of mind. You may or may not feel the same. Either way at least you have that chance to clearly state how you feel and why without the emotional  charge.

Do you notice how hard it can be to tell someone how you feel about them? It shouldn’t be so difficult to tell someone you love them. I tell my son most every time I say goodbye that I love him, because even though he knows it, I am grateful that I can speak those words to him, and he can say them back.

I’ve been quite nostalgic lately, and I think that’s causing me to express my feelings even more than I usually do. I want people to know that I care about them, and it not only feels wonderful to me that I have expressed myself, but it also sends positive energy their way. It doesn’t always have to be verbal. Texting, writing notes and placing them where someone will find them, or sending cards to those who live far away all create joy and love that is so needed in our world today.

Words Matter. At the end of my life, I want to know that I have told those I love how much they mean to me. I want to have stood up for the wrongs that I have seen in this world. I may not be able to take back harsh words spoken in the heat of anger or frustration, but I will make sure that I am complete with that person in that we have had a chance to express how we both feel and respect our differences.

It’s not easy to do all of this. It’s also not easy to find the words that can express the depths of our feelings, but we should at least try. Words can destroy, create wars, break up families, and kill. Yet, words have the power to heal, to offer hope, love, acceptance, and joy. Those are the words I choose. The words that let people know they matter.

If you are angry at someone or a situation or feel betrayed and hurt, write down what happened, how it made you feel, and what you would like to do about it. Then let it sit for at least a day. When you go back to it, does the situation still have the same level of emotion? Do you still feel the need to have a conversation with this person or group? If so, from this space of calm, write down what you would like to say. Does it convey the message and tone that you want to convey? If unsure, it may be helpful to ask a trusted friend.

Tell someone today how much they mean to you, whether in a note or face to face. Watch how it makes them feel. Do they light up, smile, and return the emotion? It can be anyone, spouse, parent, friend, family member. How did it make you feel? The more you express yourself, the easier it gets.

 

 

 

Step Back Saturday

As I look back at my week, I noticed the tremendous emotional ups and down, chaos and tranquility, sadness and hope. This is what life is all about — experiencing sadness, so we appreciate the joys and coming to every moment with an open heart and present mind. Sometimes that can be hard, and we need comfort.

Every since I started this daily writing prompt in January, I am continually thrust back to my childhood, to what comforted me, and to what brought me joy. After reviewing this week’s prompts, I have that strong urge to go back to the topic of Twizzlers.

Who doesn’t love Twizzlers? At a recent movie, I did find out that one of my close friends doesn’t like them, but I won’t break up our friendship spanning about 8 years because of it!

Twizzlers, licorice, and I go way back to my life in Long Island, my parents, siblings, movies, and vacations. I remember vacations to Lake George and Storytown, which is now Great Escape, when we would get the long strands of red licorice and black licorice bites. We braided the red strands and then ate them whole.

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Then there was Good & Plenty candy with the hard shell and the black licorice inside. Anything with that licorice flavor was well loved in our house.  Maybe we were given Ouzo, an anise flavored liquor, often as children to help with teething. What can I say? It was a part of our Greek heritage!

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I remember the first time I ate chocolate twists. It was at our home in Long Island on Braxton Street. We were watching the very first Planet of the Apes and in addition to our usual red and black Twizzlers, we tried the Hershey’s Chocolate Twists. They were delectable and became another favorite.

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I think that’s why I love Twizzlers so much. They remind of the goodness of family, the gatherings we always had, and the comfort and love I felt as a child. The joke now is that I always have Twizzlers around, and they are a staple for every trip to the movies.

Twizzlers = Family = Love.

What is a favorite childhood sweet or treat that brought you comfort and reminds you of your family? What images and feelings does it remind you of?

Everyone Needs a Tribe

When my son became ill, the first thing I did was gather my tribe. Everything else but the fact that my son had cancer was placed on the back burner. We gathered together even on July 4th when everyone already had plans.

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The immediate DeTillio, Cammarata, Thomas, Albin, and McCormick clan! 

 

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Janine, Michele, Stephanie, and Sal gather around our matriarch–Momma Rita!

I remember walking down to Clifton Commons where we always watched the fireworks with my siblings and many of my karate family. The rest of my tribe waited for me and my family on the sidewalks, on the fields, and back at our house offering love, hugs, and comfort.

We heal with love, but underneath that coziness was steel lined with determination. There is nothing more solid than a group of people who will do anything for you, who will pick you up without judgment, and hold you until you can find your feet again.

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Moms with a purpose and ready to fight for others. 
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Family by choice!

Throughout Nick’s illness, my tribe, especially including my group of ladies held us up by bringing us food, cleaning my house, taking Stephen when needed, visiting Nick, supporting me and Luke when we were away from each other so much, and emotionally kept us strong.

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When Nick passed, my tribe became the glue that kept me and my family together as we shattered apart.

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They let me grieve and do what I needed to do in order to make sense of this tragedy. Again no judgment. Only patience and love, even as they handled their own loss. That’s how it is with a tribe. The loss of one affects us all.

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My tribe has grown and our foundation has become stronger.

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It’s really hard to explain what we have together, but we appreciate the depths of our connections. When one of our tribe suffers, is wronged, or is ill, we feel it to our core. We have known terrible loss, but we have risen up from it to bring beauty, hope, and healing to our world. And whatever may come, we will always fight like the warriors we are.

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As our tribe continues to grow, know that once a part of the family, always a part of the family. No matter where you may be.

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Nick always a part of our tribe.

Who is your tribe? How do you support one another when you need it most? How can you let your tribe know that you are there for them? Write a note of thanks to each of them and how they positively impact your life. You don’t need a large tribe, just enough to get you through the tough times and celebrate in the good.

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day

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Luke and I met on December 22, 1988 on a blind date.  A friend that he went to karate class with knew me from high school and thought we would make a great match. We tried a couple times to get together, but weather thwarted our plans. Finally we were set to meet at TGI Fridays in Stuyvesant Plaza. The day before I fell up my stairs (anyone surprised?) and ended up on crutches.

He thought I was going to cancel, but I explained that he would recognize me better by the fact that I was limping. My friend, Lisa, and I got to the restaurant early and waited for him to arrive. Luke drove up in a red Toyota 4 Runner. He wore a long coat over a suit. So far so good.

My hair was curly and shoulder length at that time, and I wore a dark brown bomber jacket, casual top and jeans. I refused to use my crutches so it took a while to walk across the parking lot. It was worth it. When I opened the door, I saw Luke leaning against the wall. He had thick dark hair and a Maverick mustache. I fell immediately (in love that is!) and knew I would marry this man.

We had so much in common, and Luke’s dry sense of humor is one of the reasons I still love him. On our way out, he said, “Nice limp.” Ha! He didn’t know that he would spend a lifetime with a family of accident prone relatives and that it was contagious.

On our first Valentine’s Day, Luke gave me a little teddy bear that had a gold bracelet around his neck. It was such a romantic gesture. We were married two years later.  Through our 28 years together, he continues to surprise me.

Somewhere along the way he created this tradition of giving me Twizzlers on any holiday. Better than flowers that made me sneeze! I’ll write about Twizzlers a different day!

What does today mean to you? It may be just another day or you may want to write about the love of your life.

Back on Track

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Journaling is a practice. Just like any other practice or routine, it’s easy to fall off track. It’s much harder to get back on track. This past weekend I went to see my son at college. There wasn’t a lot of downtime and so I didn’t post for three days. I didn’t even journal for myself until late Sunday night. I felt badly, but instead of making myself feel guilty and not enjoy time with my son, I let it go.

Keeping a journal shouldn’t be a chore. When we overcomplicate the process or create expectations that are impossible to fulfill, we set ourselves up for disappointment. I love journaling because I feel better during and after I write. It simplifies what my priorities are and helps me connect the dots of my chaotic life. It confirms when I’m on my path and when I have ventured off. So imagine how I feel when I have not only ventured off my path and jumped track at the same time!

If you have fallen off the journaling track or haven’t even started, here are some tips to get you moving in the right direction:

  1. Schedule journal writing into your calendar. Decide how often you want to journal: once a week, every other day, or every day. It’s a guideline, you can journal as often as you like. You can choose a particular time each day. Perhaps in the morning so you can write down your dreams or set your intention for the day. Or in the evening if you like to write about your day and what you accomplished.
  2. Write for at least 10 minutes. You are building your journaling muscle just like when you are building your exercise training or practicing a language. It takes 21 days to form a habit and the longer you do it the stronger those muscles and techniques become.
  3. Jazz up your journal. Personalize it. Make it fancy or keep it simple, but make it yours so that you are excited to open it.
  4. Get a special pen or different color pens to separate topics.
  5. Bullet ideas of what you want to journal about. If you have broader topics that you are interested in discovering more about or digging into, it’s helpful to jot them down. Sometimes we can’t think of what to write about, so have this as a backup.
    1. Reviews of books that you have read.
    2. Your journey toward running a full marathon.
    3. Goals and dreams for the coming year.
    4. Favorite family recipes.
    5. Family stories
    6. Movies you want to watch.
  6. Have fun with it! You choose to write in your journal. It’s a pathway to healing and your road to a legacy of memories.

Oooh That Smell!

This title reminds me of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song, That Smell, and that my dad liked to sing it. It’s funny, because this post was going to be about free association of a scent or smell and what it reminds you of. Tangents are what makes journaling fantastic, so I’m going to go with it!

Yes, we were a Southern rock household, and I clearly remember slow dancing to Free Bird at a school dance even when the song kicked up.

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Oldie but goodie from my husband’s album collection!

My dad always sang around the house and when he was working. He had a soothing, deep gravelly voice and could hold a tune. He knew words to so many songs, but his favorites were the golden oldies of the 50’s.

One of my clearest memories of my dad singing and expressing his love of music was on the weekends. As a teen, I felt it was necessary to sleep until at least noon. We had an intercom system set up in every room, so music could pump through the house. My dad would blast songs like Good Golly Miss Molly, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, and Rockin’ Robin through the speakers. Somewhere in the depths of my dreams, I would hear the music, but I also ignored it.

That’s when Dad would kick it up a notch. Inspired by songs like Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On, he would turn the music up as high as possible and literally shake our beds! He’d lift the mattress and throw me off. Screams and tantrums meant nothing to him. After there was no possibility of going back to bed, he would saunter off singing and continuing his day.

My dad encouraged singing. Road trips included listening to Barbra Streisand (one of his favorites) and Neil Diamond (one of my mom’s). We could belt out the words right along with him. Whenever I hear any of these songs or the songs that my dad use to sing, powerful memories of love, family, and unity spark through me.

Journal from “oooh that smell…” Free associate with whatever comes up for you right now or from your childhood. If your mind wants to go on a tangent, let it fly! Let me know how it goes!

 

Nothing

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I feel like a dry well today. At last in the journal prompt department. I finally recalled details of my dreams last night and wrote them down. I think I’ve been too busy and with going to bed late, I’m not getting enough sleep.

The title Nothing initially meant that I had nothing to offer, or at least thought I didn’t today. Nothing was going through my mind, nothing mattered, but finding something to write about! But then it reminded me of a black t-shirt that Nick wore that simply read Nothing in white letters. I got it from a book conference, and Nick loved it.

I don’t know why he loved that shirt so much. It could have meant that nothing would ever stop him or nothing bothered him. Or maybe he wanted to do nothing.

Or the deeper meaning of Nothing could be when you ask someone what’s wrong, and they say, “Nothing,” but their body language says everything.

And what if you stare at nothing, isn’t it still something?

Then again maybe nothing is just nothing, and we add our dramas and stories to the mix, which makes it something we don’t need.

All I can say is write down Nothing and see what you get.