Holding Happiness/Facing Fears

Knowing what makes you happy is the foundation of your emotional health. Bringing joy into your life is the shelter that protects you from the storms. It gives you the strength to rise up when difficulties in life and your fears pull you down.

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So many times we try to hide our fears through excuses or the masks we wear. We pretend we are stronger than we may be or that nothing fazes us. Wearing those masks and that armor literally wears us down until we don’t know who we are. Facing your fear and the darkness actually keeps you on the positive path to joy. What would happen if you changed your perspective and looked at fear as something that challenged?. Perhaps your fear is actually your soul saying, “Hey, you need to try this, because then you will grow.”

What are your fears? If you could talk to your fear, what would you say or ask? Do you fear revealing who you truly are, going back to school, getting out of a relationship, moving away from home, trying something new? When your fear shows its horrid face, it’s begging you to listen to it. It’s like having a nightmare. That’s the only way for your subconscious to get your attention when you still aren’t listening.

I fear that I’m not enough, that I won’t be able to help others when they need it most. I’m afraid to let my inner light shine, because I may fail.

It feels yucky. My stomach gets upset, my chest tightens, my voice shrinks, and I’m that little girl who was told that my dreams were just meaningless dreams.

To get rid of that feeling I need to go through it. Pain brings us to joy, because we know what the bad feels like. We grow gratitude by knowing how life can be. So when we face what we fear and do it anyway, we feel the lightness and joy of a great burden being lifted from our shoulders. We are empowered to face the next fear. We know we are back on track.

When I fight through the grip of my fears, I find myself:

Teaching writing workshops, because I have something to offer.

Helping children and their families during a tragic time, because with my compassion and empathy I can support them through their pain.

Writing my truth, because it heals me and gives hope to those who are having a hard time grasping their own.

When I face my fears, I know that:

IAMENOUGH

Wake up your Soul

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Even as a baby, Moana knew her path.

Last night I forced my husband to watch the Disney movie, Moana, with me. I watched a professional soccer game with him after, but I think I probably had the better deal as I enjoyed both very much! Moana is about a young woman whose duty is to lead her people on an island that they can never leave. Even as her feet have led her toward the water as a baby, her father has gently steered her back to what he deems the ‘safe’ path. But she is continually drawn the sea, and in truth the sea has chosen her for a different, grander destiny. Even as a toddler, she knows this.

Moana fights the harder path until her grandmother dies and the island is unable to produce food. Sometimes it takes tragedy or extreme circumstances to wake us up to our soul’s purpose. But it’s also Moana’s gut feeling that there is more for her to do. She is confused and pulled in different directions.

moana on island disney

Using our intuition or that gut feeling to help us track the right path is a skill that has been diminished in our modern time. It’s easier to follow the path of least resistance, because it is comfortable. Moana could have accepted her position, but eventually her people would have run out of food and her soul, that calling, would have died. They all would have. So she is forced to fulfill her soul’s true purpose. By doing this she also helps Maui find his and saves her people and her island. Further, she blossoms into who she truly is meant to be.

Other people, our fears, doubts, and our blocks prevent us from fulling connecting to our purpose. If we remove that block and carry it beside us if we aren’t ready to let it go, at least we can see where we are heading. Sometimes identifying those blocks can be the hardest part.

Not everyone is meant to save the world or make colossal change. But when we don’t follow our path, fulfill those dreams that call to us every night, a little less light is shone on the world. We need everyone’s light, whether it’s to hold someone’s hand when they are afraid or someone to do the surgery on that hand.

Through tragedy, I was pushed to form a foundation. I could have let the opportunity go, but when I have seen what has come of it, I know it was the right path. Sometimes I am pulled toward two different paths. Where the foundation that helps children battle cancer is my mission, writing novels for all ages is my passion. It’s like a life pulse that increases as I do it. It’s like getting goose bumps or that bubbly feeling in your stomach that reminds you how alive you can feel.

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Moana basking in her light.

Both my mission and my passion bring hope and compassion to others, empathy and love. Writing and connecting with those in pain is my Moana.

What drives you, makes your pulse quicken, gives you goose bumps, and that feeling of bubbling happiness? What is your purpose, your calling? Where does your light shine? If you don’t know, then how do you want your light to shine? What blocks are stopping you?

Life is too short to stay rooted on your path or venture aimlessly down the one that doesn’t serve you. One step at a time you will find your light.

Power of Love

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Back stage meeting Huey Lewis in 1988. Doesn’t he looked thrilled?!

Since this week will be a huge focus on dreams and using them as guidance in my adult journaling workshop, I had to record and analyze my dream about Huey Lewis.

Title: Power of Love:

I’m walking by myself at night in a city. My cell phone battery keeps popping out. It looks more like an SD card, and I’m nervous that my phone will die and no one will know where I am. I go into a building and there is Huey Lewis, the lead singer of Huey Lewis and the News, a popular group back in the 80’s. I don’t freak out this time, not like the first time I saw him in concert. I walk up to the table. He is by himself and chilling before the concert.

I tell him about my phone, and he fixes it. Then we talk, and I ask him if he is writing any new music. He is, but doesn’t share. We make some more small talk, and then he asks if I’d like to go on stage and dance with him during his concert. Hell Yeah! I say, and he leaves to set it up.

While I’m having this wonderful conversation with my pal, Huey, one of his songs The Power of Love is playing in my head or from speakers, I’m not really sure. But I wake up to this song, and although the words are corny, they speak truth. You don’t need money, you don’t need fame, but the power of love ‘might just save your life.’

So I went through my lightning dream process:

Feeling: excited, safe, happy.

Reality: I have seen Huey Lewis twice in concert in college and met him. My phone is always to my ear and not having it as a source of communication, especially when I’m alone in a city is worrisome.

Future possibility: I could be somewhere and have a problem with my phone. Am I planning on going to a concert? Not until October, but will be in New Jersey with my girlfriends. I will make sure my phone is charged. maybe I’ll meet Bruno Mars!

? What do I want to know about this dream? What message is Huey trying to tell me?

If I was telling someone this dream, I would invite them to give me their thoughts from their point of view “If it were my dream, I think…”

I connect with the song, because more than anything love and hope are what have always gotten me through my hardest moments, and the love shown to me and the love I have for others has probably saved my life.

In yoga this morning, Jess had us lift our chins to the ceiling during proud pigeon pose to really open up our chest and throat. She literally said if you have something to say, then opening up in the pose will help you say it. I think my phone not working resonated with me not showing my love to certain people. I need to express my love more and bask in that power of love.

Action: Make sure my phone and my voice stays charged. Let people, especially my family and close friends know how much they mean to me. Also I will communicate when something is bothering me, because holding in fear, anger, or worry disrupts that power of love.

Catchphrase: Show my Love

Sometimes dreams are just a reminder on what you need to be doing or who needs some extra TLC.

What dreams did you have last night? Write them down and go through this process. See what comes up for you. Feel free to share with me in comments if you’d like another point of view!

Sometimes Beginning Again Sucks

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It’s a nasty Monday morning. I went to bed with the intention of getting up early, meditating, and getting back to my yoga mat and harmony in my life. I didn’t get to bed as early as I wanted, texts from my son kept me awake, and my belly is angry at me because of the food I ate this weekend. I haven’t been dedicated to my yoga recently and basically I’m cranky!

A big part of my yoga and journaling practice is the mantra ‘begin again.’ Yes if I eat Girl Scout cookies and my belly hurts, I know if I wait long enough that horrid feeling will go away and the next time I see cookies, I can say to myself, “Don’t Eat Them!” But sometimes I just want a cookie. But I know I shouldn’t eat them, because they upset my stomach. And when my stomach is upset, the possibility of having a soulful yoga class is completely out of the question, because my body feels like someone dropped me in a deep murky lake with a cement block tied to my feet, and I’m sinking fast.

For me, the idea of beginning again whether it’s the next day or the next minute of my day is about figuring out how to let those bad choices go. Yes I missed yoga for a week, because I’m concentrating on another goal and I have too much on my plate and I’m putting myself second. It happened, but today I’m going to yoga, and although I’ll suffer through the class because of my bad choices, I have made a great choice to be there. Hopefully that wonderful feeling will seep into every area of my life.

Beginning again is also about being able to find that space between the emotions that cause the need for the bad choice and the action that is caused by the emotion, the stress or whatever it is. For me it’s usually emotions and that sense of being overwhelmed.

So today I may not be very yogi-like. I may be pissed off and playing catch up, but I will forgive myself, go to yoga, and begin again. Sometimes that all I can do.

What are you going to begin again today?

 

Step Back Saturday–House of Truth

Last night I had a dream in my childhood home in Greenville. This dream made me think about the Greenville House, and how patterns and themes are developed from our dreams if we pay attention and record the details.

I have dreamt of the Greenville House many times. The first was when I was about 8 or 9 and living there. I dreamt that skeletons walked the house, and I was the only one living there. This was one of my strongest and reoccurring nightmares, and after my father died, the house did feel empty.

I often dreamt of my dad after he passed. My dad died when Stephen was two months old and Nick was two years old. When Nick was ill at age 12, I dreamt of my dad holding him in the living room of the Greenville House. I thought it meant Nick would be healed, but really my dad was bringing him home.

I met many people living and those who passed on in this house. It became a place where the truth, no matter how hard, was shown. I named it the Greenville House of Truth. What was dreamt there synchronized with my life or prepared me for what was to come.

I would never have noticed these patterns if I hadn’t tracked or titled my dreams and followed the Dream Lightning process that Robert Moss developed. Why is this important? Because when I dream about the Greenville House, it’s like a telegram or a FedEx envelope being delivered overnight. It’s urgent, and I need to take action now.

When my dad is in the house, I’m on high alert. I’m not sure what my dream from last night meant, but at least I’m paying attention and am open to the messages.

First and foremost, keep your journal by your bed and record your dreams as if you are describing a movie in the present tense. Title each dream. If you notice that many of your dreams are in a certain setting, then make a subtitle. For example, I’ll title a dream, Tsunami: Greenville House of Truth. This creates a pattern that I pay more attention to. Do you recognize this reoccurring setting? Is it in this reality or only in your dreamworld? Does it vary? Who shows up there?

Journal about the patterns and themes and what this place means to you as the places and people in our dreams can guide us in our everyday lives.

Slightly Off Center

Today my mom asked me to fix the back of her hair with a comb. She said it didn’t have to be perfect. I asked, “Do you remember who you asked to fix your hair?” She laughed, because I am the last person you want to fix something if you want it to be perfect.

On the weekend when we are doing chores or hanging around the house, Luke will ask if his hair is sticking up in the back. I’ll move his hair around and tell him it looks fine. He’ll grumble and say he’ll get his cap. It’s not that his hair looks bad. A few pieces may be out of line, but I like it.

Then there’s ironing. Again my son or husband will ask if a shirt needs to be ironed. I’ll take it, give it some firm whips through the air, and hand it back. It looks good, I’ll say. They will either get the iron or find something else. I will admit that if you want to torture me, then ask me to iron something.

It’s not that I’m lazy or don’t care about how my loved ones look. It’s that I really think it’s fine. I don’t need to have every hair in place. Have you seen my hair? It’s usually going in every direction, which is how it’s been since I was three years old. I think I am a product of my hair. I flourish in chaos. I enjoy looking at life off center and feel most balanced when everything else is off kilter.

Now for those of you who need everything perfectly placed, close your eyes, because the following picture will throw your day off completely!

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I took these photos. There are two more to the right. It’s the evolution of the sunflower. I actually hung them up by myself, and yes, they are always crooked. I have tried straightening them out, but they never stay. Quite frankly, it doesn’t bother me.

Should I be bothered that being off center doesn’t bother me? I’m not really sure, but I don’t think so. Sometimes it just is. As Popeye would say:

popeye

Are there parts of me that I wish were perfect or improved or different? Sure. Does it affect how I live my life? Sometimes. How can I get around those thoughts to live fully as I am and meant to be? Acceptance. Acceptance isn’t giving up, it’s letting go of those expectations that are sometimes impossible to meet. It’s loving myself as I am at this very moment.

Write about a part of you physically or personality wise that you are completely happy with or doesn’t bother you in the least. Why doesn’t it bother you? Why are you content?

Next, take a habit, a personality trait or perhaps something physical that you have never been happy about and ask yourself why this is so? Does everything have to be in its place all the time? Does it affect your mood if it’s not? Does it cause problems with other family members or with how you feel about yourself? What can you do to accept this part of you? Do you truly love yourself?

 

 

Volunteering–What do you stand for?

My life in volunteering started in middle school when I walked to my neighbors’ houses and asked them to buy a magazine for my school. This was a huge feat, since we only had a few houses on our road, and I basically needed a car to get anywhere else. Being a competitive person (nothing has changed), I convinced my mother to drive me around, ask friends, and basically harass everyone I knew so I could get the big prize. I don’t even remember what the prize was, but at the time that is what volunteering meant to me.

Fast forward 15 years or so and again I was encouraging people, but not to buy something, rather to walk for a cause. I really can’t remember if it was for the MS society or March of Dimes, but it was through my job and before I had children. At one point my parents, siblings, and some of their kids were involved. One time we met up at the Empire Plaza and made a whole day of walking around Albany for a good cause. It took almost all day, because in our enjoyment of the walk, we missed the turn and had to backtrack and find the route once again! It was all in fun and money was raised. We didn’t see where it was going, but we felt we made a difference or at least I did. Plus being together and having a good time mattered.

1998 Stephen and NIck with fire truck hats
Future fire fighters!
When I was 7 months pregnant with Nick, I helped begin the Friends of the Library in Clifton Park and served on the board in different capacities for the next 12 years.

It was important to me that my children learned to give back. Every year through our karate school, I would arrange for the kids and some adults to pack baskets for the elderly for Thanksgiving. Then we would go to a local apartment and pass the baskets out. This level of volunteering created a more personal and hands-on approach, where they could see and feel the impact they could have on another person. They may not have completely understood what they were doing or why people needed help, but they had a good feeling and that was a start.

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Malone’s Kenpo Karate School Annual Thanksgiving volunteering.
I continued to raise money for larger charities and combined my love of cycling with supporting the American Diabetes Association. I started with the 25 mile route, then Nick rode 10 miles once year. Then it grew until I had ridden, quite painfully, for 100 miles to raise money for a cause that personally affected my family. So there was that connection. Raising money and pushing myself for something I was emotionally connected to. I didn’t get back on my bike for a year after that century ride, but eventually I dragged my friends into it and continued for a couple more years after that riding 25 or 50 miles. It was that sense of a challenge and the camaraderie of riding with hundreds of other people and pushing one another when the ride became difficult.

Why do we give back? Sometimes, like when we are kids, we are forced to do it until we mature enough to understand the meaning behind it. But what has it been about giving back that has kept me involved in some form of volunteering my entire life?

family photo 2008
September 2008, Luke, Stephen, Nick, and Janine during Nick’s battle with cancer.
The answer became quite clear when my son, Nick, was diagnosed with leukemia, and we lost him at the tender age of 13. All my years of fighting for a cause I could relate to suddenly exploded into a mission toward something I never wanted anyone else to have to face. So when I think about what I stand for, I think about my son’s life being cut short and all the potential lost with him. I think about all the children and their siblings who struggle with a cancer diagnosis and how devastated family, friends, and those who tried to save them are after a child dies.

I see firsthand the positive benefits of what giving selflessly can do for others. It’s more than selling magazines to win a prize. Now the stakes have been raised to give people a better chance to live fulfilling lives, to have hope when they think all has been lost, and to feel empathy even though each situation is different.

I believe in the power of volunteering. I believe that giving back makes us better human beings. It’s a way to show love to those who are suffering and to connect to the essence of who we are and why we are here.

Should everyone volunteer? I think so, but for the right reasons. Right now I volunteer and run a foundation that is connected to my heart and soul. It’s a part of who I am. I’d love to do other work like help in a soup kitchen, make dinner at Ronald McDonald House Charities, help Make-a-Wish, and join Literacy Volunteers again. But helping kids fight cancer is what I stand for.

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Volunteering can make you feel like you are on top of a mountain!
What do you stand for? What are you emotionally connected to? Which organizations do you donate money to? It’s an important part of helping our foundations, but imagine if you could help someone face to face? What could it do for them? How would that make you feel? Do you want volunteering in your life and why?

When you figure out what you stand for, perhaps you will try giving back. Giving a little opens your heart and heals both you and those you have reached out to.

Journaling Chaos

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I’m in the Jo Piracci board room at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. I haven’t set up yet for my workshop that starts shortly. People begin coming in. Soon the table is full. There isn’t any room for my computer. I set it up on a different table and can move the cord for the projector. Soon there are more people than chairs. I ask everyone to sit down. There are a few people with their middle grade kids. This is an adult class, so not sure what to do.

I see Rose come in who came to last class. I don’t see Karen yet and hope she makes it. The security guard comes in and wants to know why so many people are coming to a journaling class.

Because it works, I tell him!

I forgot to make copies so leave the chaos, but realize I need color copies and wanted to update the page with photo prompt and photo collage.

A man and woman are in a corner on a couch reading. I ask if they are here for the workshop. No. They just want to read and maybe listen. I leave them alone.

Feeling: frazzled, but happy my class is full.

Reality: My workshop begins tonight. Rose was on the waiting list and I slipped her in even though class is full. Usually one or two people can’t make every class. Karen is also coming, so that is exciting.

? What do I need for a successful session?

Action Plan: Redo types of journaling sheet and print at home in color. Print my notes. Get there early to set up. Don’t forget my cord for my computer! Have fun!

Catch Phrase: Journaling is creative chaos

Shedding Winter, Sprouting Spring

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Photo by Alysia Thomas

Spring is finally here, but there still is snow on the ground! What a perfect time to shed the winter blues by clearing your house, body, and mind.

All winter, I’ve been slowly working on clearing my house. It’s turning out to be a long-term project, because some weekends are filled with other activities. But I use my journal to track what I have done (which makes me happy) and to see what else I need to do. I broke it down into rooms. For example:

My Bedroom:

Clear out clothes we don’t wear anymore.

Clean off my dresser and throw out all the socks that are missing their matching pair!

Organize the bags of gift bags and wrapping paper that I keep in my closet.

Get rid of outdated medications, organize linen closet, and clean our cabinets in bathroom.

Purchase new curtains, sheets, and comforter.

Get my husband to repair the ceiling from a leak and hire a painter for the walls.

Hang pictures on the wall.

I’ve done everything except the ceiling repair, painting, and purchase of curtains and bedspread. Now that my room is clear of clutter, I try hard to keep it that way. I feel a sense of accomplishment as I check all the finished items off in my journal. I have done this for each room in the house. The storage room, family room, dining room, library, and all the bathrooms are finished. I still have a lot to go, but it’s a process that I’m enjoying. I falter on a lot of the papers that I have stored and probably don’t need. The historian and hoarder in me holds on to everything.

Clearing my body is always an interesting spring project. I try to maintain a certain amount of exercise throughout the  year, although winter is the hardest. As the weather gets warmer, I naturally want to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and start my flower and vegetable gardens. As a sufferer of allergies, I really have to watch what I eat in the spring, so clean eating is essential.

I started an annual fruit cleanse last year during my yoga 40-day personal transformation program. It was a three-day cleanse where I could only eat fruits and veggies that had seeds. I made delicious avocado and tomato salads with olive oil. Drank Naked juices and as many fruits and veggies as I wanted. I felt full of energy, and my allergies were at an all time low. Combined with hot yoga, my body was renewed and sprouted back to life!

Clearing out my garden and prepping it grow my vegetables is a ritual that both my husband and I enjoy. It’s therapeutic to weed and enjoy the food that came from my planting.

Being in my garden clears my mind, which is a positive form of therapy. There is something about new life coming forth and enjoying the warm rays of sunshine while I relax in my back yard. Being outside and walking my dogs calms me and sparks my creativity. Finding stillness in meditation is the perfect way to clear all the clutter, negativity, and stress that I feel as I begin my day. I’d like to try it before I go to bed as well, but am working on that.

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Photo by Alysia Thomas

As I think about spring, I am hopeful that the new space I have opened in my home, my body, and mind will create new opportunities and relationships that empower me and my life purpose.

What are you ready to clear out of your life as you say goodbye to winter? What are you welcoming in to grow? What opportunities are opening as you create space? What rituals do you practice to welcome in spring?

 

Settle In Sunday-Easter Holiday Traditions

Yes the ground is covered with many inches of snow, but the spring sun is melting it quickly, so all the eggs can be hidden for Easter in about a month from now. I don’t hide the eggs anymore. I would if the teens and young adults were into it! But three years ago, they had to break it to me that they were too old. The youngest three were 15. I get it, but not really. I may have to bring in an adult Easter egg hunt this year.

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The last Easter the gang was all together.

Easter is at the top of my list for favorite holidays. It’s a time of new beginnings, growth, and hope. I’ve always hosted Easter, and I loved filling the plastic eggs with treats. I would literally have bags and bags of candy and hundreds of empty eggs surrounding me a couple nights before. As long as the weather permitted, the entire backyard would be the hunting area. The candy is always great, but the bonus was the clues found in certain eggs. Sometimes these would be a riddle that the kids would have to decipher in order to find out where the basket of goodies were hidden. The basket has been in the dryer, the car, shower, pretty much anywhere (even the neighbor’s house). I’ve done hidden word puzzles, trivia questions, a scavenger hunt, basically anything to drive the kids nuts and then hopefully be really excited at the end of their adventure.

Before the cousins came, I always had a separate hunt for my boys. The Easter bunny would leave white fur and remnants of the carrots we left out for him. Their eggs would be filled with coins and candy.

When I was a kid, the Easter eggs we colored were the ones hidden around the house. That usually worked out pretty well, unless an egg was forgotten or couldn’t be found. One year there was an awful stench in the living room. A stray hard-boiled egg was found months later in the couch. Yes, pretty nasty! We also dressed up in beautiful dresses, bonnets, and white gloves. We would go to church and then come home for the hunt. When my kids were younger, I tried dressing them up, but that didn’t last too long!

We always colored eggs one or two nights before Easter. It was usually a family event, and we would write family member’s names on the eggs to give to them when they visited.

2005 March Easter
The boys still loved coloring eggs at 10 and 8.

Food has always been a big deal at Easter. I usually make some Italian dish like spaghetti and meatballs or chicken parm, but my mom makes Pastichio, which is Greek macaroni. There is chopmeat at the bottom browned in butter and other ingredients and then tons of eggs and cheese baked with the ziti. It’s a seriously long process and quite a heavy dish, but fantastic.

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Momma’s Greek macaroni

My sister, Michele, is adventurous with recipes and last year made bread that my Yaya use to make, except Yaya would put quarters in the bread before baking. You really wanted to make sure that you checked it before taking a bite!

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2005 March Easter2
The Easter bunny was good to these boys!
1998 Easter
Nick and Marisa Easter 1998

Over the last couple years, it’s been harder and harder to get the family together as everyone’s own families grow. But the Easter celebration will always continue. Our friends come over for dessert, and we treasure any time with family and friends. Stephen will hopefully be able to come home or else Easter may just have to come to him.

Being flexible with tradition allows it to continue. Yes there are the staple traditions that keep holidays feeling like hot cocoa on a cold winter day. Soothing, comforting and filled with love. It’s what make coming home for any holiday so precious. Keeping it simple and realizing that being together is the reason for any season.