You Must Remember This…

The kiss originated when the first male reptile licked the first female reptile, implying in a subtle, complimentary way that she was as succulent as the small reptile he had for dinner the night before. (The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald)   There are all kinds of kisses. In The Godfather trilogy, mob boss Michael Corleone bestows … Read more…

To Forgive…Divine

20161216_101854_resized“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”   (Nelson Mandela)

In Buddha Is As Buddha Does: The Ten Original Practices for Enlightened Living (2007), Lama Surya Das
describes three kinds of generosity that he learned from Buddhist teachings. The first kind is giving away material things, such as food, clothes, medicine, and money. A level higher is the giving of gifts of the spirit, such as encouragement, inspiration, love, protection, or hope. Above that is helping others to help themselves. At this level of generosity, you share yourself, build relationships, walk the talk, and serve as an example.

I believe that the highest form of generosity is being able to forgive. So often, ego, misunderstanding, pain, blame, and anger get in the way.  Years may pass, and old hurts deepen and take root in our hearts and minds. Overcoming these very human emotions to get to a place of letting go, of releasing yourself and the other person(s), is not easy. But to anyone following a spiritual path, it’s vital for the soul’s growth to forgive.

When I was 14, my mother broke my trust in a profound way. The repercussions from a decision she made affected me for years. I know my mother loved me, and I can thank her for many gifts she gave me: a love of the ocean, cats, travel and books. But for years, I could not forgive her. I once explained her behavior to a therapist by saying, “I know she did the best that she could.” (That’s the standard line we use in an attempt to excuse the wrong.) To my surprise, she said, “No, she didn’t.”  NO, SHE DIDN’T. Wow. That doesn’t mean she hurt me on purpose, but it does mean that she made a choice and the choice was harmful to me, and she could have chosen differently.

My mother died when I was 20, so the issue was never resolved between us. In my family, we didn’t really discuss emotional issues. (Even when she was dying of cancer, no one talked about it.) There were several obvious signs that I was traumatized, one of which was that I didn’t let myself be vunerable to my mother ever again. I was kind; I helped care for her during her illness; and I was a “good” daughter, who didn’t act out or rebel openly. But she had lost me emotionally. My father told me years later that she regretted what happened, but she never told me this.

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Rapture, Romp, Romance


“I’ve met the most wonderful man. Of course, he’s fiction–
but you can’t have everything.”

Mia Farrow in The Purple Rose of Cairo

After falling in love with Wuthering Heights when I was 13, I was hooked on British romance novels (Jane Eyre, Far From the Madding Crowd, Pride and Prejudice, Rebecca, A Room with a View, etc.) Full of melodrama, Byronic heroes, conflict, mystery, and passion, I devoured these books; it was a form of escapism, but also an outlet for my teen angst and longing for love. By my mid-20s and a bit more skeptical of finding True Love, I came upon the perfect book for my somewhat jaded 20160930_220558_resizedheart.

In 1984, Rosemary Cartwheel (a nom de plume, I’m sure) wrote Love’s Reckless Rash, a parody of romance novels. Lady Vanessa Sherwin-Williams, a “colorful” figure of stunning beauty, spies the figure of a man across a ballroom, and she can’t take her eyes off him. He is dressed as a buccaneer. She can also tell he is a rogue “by the careless pose of his hips and the slight curl of his lip.”

Instinctively, she also knows that he is “kind, forbearing, a good dancer, excellent with children…but at the same time [is] noble and manly, well-mannered and tall, very tall.” And he is her One True Love. Yes, it is Anthony Ardent, the Duke of Earl. They said nothing to each other, but spoke only with their eyes, in “a language understood only by lovers and optometrists.”

“As they kissed, she was transported through Time Eternal to another plain of Being.”

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To Thine Own Self Be True

loa 002Freud: The great question…which I have not been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is, “What does a woman want?”

Sarah Ban Breathnach: 
A nap, Dr. Freud. A nap.

Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy is a book of 365 short meditations/lessons, one for each day of the year. The first daybook entry begins on January 1 (“This is the month to dream, to look forward to the year ahead and the journey within.”). In each entry, she celebrates simple pleasures, quiet joys, everyday beauty, exploration of self, and inner peace, all with the goal of finding our “authentic selves.”

I read this book 22 years ago and left notes in the margins, which now are bittersweet to read. At that time, my father was in great health; I had two cats; I was working in a very unhappy library; I went on several blind dates, all disappointing; a cousin committed suicide; a friend just had a baby (he’s in college now); and I weighed almost 400 lbs. Even with all life’s ups and downs, I also wrote in those margins that I was grateful for my home, money, friends, family, and work. I even listed small pleasures that I appreciated, such as hot baths, hugs, laughter, sleeping kitties, and my father’s voice. This book made me reflect on my life and played a part in inspiring the changes that were to come (weight loss surgery, finding love, being able to retire and do only work I love, etc.).

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For Auld Lang Syne

canstockphoto17893842“My New Year’s resolution usually starts with the desire to lose between ten and three thousand pounds.” Nia Vardalos

I love new beginnings. The start of the new year is also the start of a new birth year for me (a Dec. 29th baby), so I celebrate both. In Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, Sarah Ban Breathnach reminds us that …”time is the New Year’s bountiful blessing: three hundred sixty-five bright mornings and starlit evenings; fifty-two promising weeks; twelve transformative months full of beautiful possibilities, and four splendid seasons. A simply abundant year to be savored.”

I’ve made New Year resolutions since I was at least 10 years old. I used to list all my “faults” and resolve to correct them all, and then I would surely live happily ever after. When I grew older, I still made resolutions (sometimes they lasted; I was a vegetarian for 6 years.) but I still put pressure on myself to change, so I would be a better version of myself.

Now, I more often do monthly goals. Much more doable, less stressful. In fact, I’ve taken all the stress out of resolutions. I can’t “fail” at them; they are just a reminder of actions that would make me happier if I implemented them. I’m already happy, so they can only add to my life. And I only make goals that will bring me joy. They are not there to punish the “bad” parts of me so I will gain the world’s approval.

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Let Them Eat Turkey (or, It’s All About That Baste)

canstockphoto5170188“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.” Erma Bombeck

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was a big deal. Favorite foods, no school, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, football games, aunts and uncles and cousins visiting, more food, naps, cornucopias, jumping in piles of leaves, and did I mention dessert? When I grew up and moved away, I created my own “family” of friends. Since I went home for Christmas but stayed here in town in November, at Thanksgiving I started what I called an  “Orphans’ Dinner,” until someone took me literally, assuming I invited parentless children to my house for a meal. No, the “orphans” were me and my friends, and anyone who didn’t have family around or who just didn’t want to spend holidays with them, my “kin in other skin.”

In addition to the traditional turkey, I always make dressing. Yes, in the South, that’s what it’s called, not stuffing. Southern writer (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Rick Bragg says that stuffing is what goes in sofas, teddy bears, and baseballs, not in turkeys, unless you count his Aunt Jo, who “shove[d] a whole stick of margarine in there.” Some of his family members wouldn’t even discuss it. His Aunt Gracie Juanita’s only comment:Stick your hand up the back end of a raw turkey? That is not natural.” 

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Home Sweet Home

20160223_205348If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.  
(Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)


How many times have you moved in your life? How many different cities have you lived in? What was special about each one? Is there a place where you’ve felt most at home? Do you have to live by the ocean or in the mountains to be happy? What makes us move to a new city and what makes us stay?

In This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live, journalist Melody Warnick explores the idea of “place20161110_212246_resized attachment,” the deep sense of connection we feel about where we live. Warnick moved from Austin, Texas to Blacksburg, Virginia when her husband accepted a teaching position at Virginia Tech. They had moved before, and each time she would feel that This is the place! But over time, she started to feel geographic FOMO, the fear of missing out, a feeling that she’d be happier somewhere else. The grass is always greener…

Warnick decided that what she loved about a new place was “the thrill of possibility.” But the day her family arrived in the small southwestern town, the possibilities looked bleak. That day it started to rain and didn’t stop for a week. She found out the town’s nickname is Bleaksburg. She had trouble understanding some of the Appalachian accents; the surrounding mountains made her claustrophobic; she missed the restaurants and big city life of Austin. She didn’t know a soul; she went from “being known to being no one.”

I lived in South Carolina for the first 22 years of my life—18 years in my childhood home and 4 years in college. When I graduated, there were no French teaching jobs available, so I went to a job interview on campus for Virginia Beach Schools. I had no idea where this was; I just went to practice going to interviews. I got the job and moved 400 miles from home.

I was 22 and alone. It was a huge city (really, 7 cities) compared to what I’d known. The tunnels and bridges and tolls and traffic were scary, but being near the ocean made up for any shortcomings. I lived 10 minutes from the sea (and still do). But that first year, I just wanted to go back home. I ran up exorbitant phone bills talking to my best friend every night.  I remember coming down with flu-like symptoms and thinking, I could just die in this apartment and no one would know…There’s no one to bring me orange juice and soup…I guess they’ll find the body when I don’t show up at work. 

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Do Not Go Gently…

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work…
I want to achieve it by not dying.” Woody Allen


How do you know you’re getting older? It’s different for each of us. I’ve been subscribing to People magazine for 30 years, but I only know about half the people in it now. I have 6 pairs of reading glasses. I have my grandmother’s bat wing arms.

My friends know not to call me during my nap time. I sometimes wear Birkenstocks with socks. I still use AOL. I dye my hair. I still say “hang up” the phone and I call a shopping cart a “buggy,” but that may be a Southern thing. And sometimes it takes me two tries to get up off the couch.

It could be worse. When commenting on aging, one online writer says at least he hasn’t increased his font size to Billboard yet. Another said that he can still refer to his knees as right and left instead of good and bad. And my favorite is the guy who says, “You know you’re old when you can cough, fart, sneeze, and pee at the same time.” I know. TMI.

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Look! Shiny Thing!

canstockphoto1358110“We are all meant to be wild and independent and free,
our hearts filled with a ferocious passion for life.”

Sounds great, but how do we do it? What keeps us from attaining our dreams and pursuing our passions?

When I was 10 years old, I wrote a list of resolutions in my diary, which included: lose weight (I weighed 110 pounds, but the “ideal” was 70); weigh every day (what a mistake); be nicer (to my family, because I was an angel at school); make good grades (I did); be quiet (I’m sure that was my brother’s wish); and stop biting my fingernails (understandable, since I was dealing with body shaming issues, thought I wasn’t “good” enough, and was too loud because I didn’t suppress my emotions like I was supposed to).

If I could rewrite those resolutions for my 10-year-old self, I would say: Get healthier (you’re lovable at any weight, but this will make you img_newfeel better); don’t take things personally (you’re already nice); make good grades (but don’t stress too much over it); and speak your truth (sometimes being loud means you’re not being heard or maybe you’re just joyfully exuberant); and stop biting your fingernails (learn to handle stress other than with food and nail-biting). (Not sure if I am 10 in this photo, but you get the point. I was already fat.)

What makes us keep or discard a goal, resolution, or dream? We think it’s because we’re not inspired or motivated enough, that we lack self-discipline, but is that true? Even when we get a spark of motivation, it doesn’t last. How many New Year resolutions are discarded by February? Why don’t we honor the promises we make to ourselves? Aren’t they (or we) important enough?

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