Milk and Honey

It started the moment I saw the sign for Itasca State Park.  Memories came rushing back.  Sweet, happy memories of the time Dad and I pulled our little camper up to Itasca State Park for a week of fishing, playing on the beach, exploring the big forest, and tippy toeing across the trickling Headwaters of the great Mississippi River.  I was about 12 then.  Haircut from hell.  Long gangly legs.  Putting worms on hooks.  Picking gooseberries on the trails.  Swatting the bears away from camp with the broom.  Evolving into a hard core outdoorsperson at Dads side.   He would take me on our small Alumina Craft boat at night, Muskie fishing.  We would troll for Northern and Walleye during the day.  We would sit on the shore and cast for Sunfish.  Make pancakes on the Coleman Stove.  Oh, I was such a Daddy’s Girl.

Still am.  Always will be.

Dad was the kindest, most gentle, supportive, hardworking and funny man to ever live.  Everyone loved him.  His simple, calm, unassuming nature was infectious.   He was a man of integrity and honor.  He was a giving, caring, God fearing, blue collar, Union, working man who gave his all to provide for my mom and I.  He was my biggest role model.  Although he has been gone for 19 years, right now, I cannot stop thinking about my father.  It’s all fresh in my mind lately.  An awakening of melancholy emotions and thoughts.  I am consumed.

Dad, I miss you so much!

Dads parents

Dads parents

He never wanted to talk about his past, especially his time in the service.  He didn’t like to talk about the war.  But he did talk about his early days as a boy, in Ukraine, in “The Land of Milk and Honey”.  He had a dozen or so brothers and sisters.  His parents were farmers, and their family lived a simple, peasant farming life.  They worked hard in their fields.  But the soil was rich and they could grow almost anything!  Wheat, corn, potatoes, beets. There were cows, pigs and goats and it was a beautiful, lush countryside.

Dad and some of the family

Dad and some of the family

It was a peaceful, happy existence.  But then, in 1932 came the most volatile, terrible time for Ukrainians. They became controlled and murdered by the thousands, oppressed and starved by Soviet rule.  Many tried to flee the country.  While not many of his siblings were willing to leave, some were, including him.  Dad, with a heavy heart, escaped at age16 or so, and came to the United States,  enlisted, and fought in two wars.

He wouldn’t talk about those days, so I had to learn about it from others.  The most devastating piece of historical literature I’d ever been given as a young girl was a thin red paperback written in 1953, called The Golgotha of Ukraine.  The land rich with farming, “The Land of Milk and Honey”, became littered with malnourished bodies of Ukrainian peasants who were forced to turn over their crops to the “government”, eventually going hungry, starving, and dying of starvation.  Some of the people even became cannibalistic.  And the outcry during and after the horrific famine slaughter was; “why didn’t the USA step in and help?”

I pulled out my little red book today, and paged through the eyewitness accounts of Soviet reality, wondering how in the world it could have happened.

Excerpt from page 5:

“This was a time when Litvinov (1930’s Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs) succeeded in persuading our American government that it was possible to do business with Stalin.  Our press in those days one recalls, was full of glowing anticipations on how many billions of dollars of profits America could make in trading with Russia.  Naturally these anticipations were based on empty promises being made by the Soviets in order to gain American recognition of the Soviet Union.

This was the time too, when such a well-known  American newspaperman as Walter Duranty of the New York Times reported from Moscow, upon his return from a trip through famine-ravaged Ukraine, that he saw no cases of starvation in Ukraine, ‘only some cases of malnutrition’!

Page 45

Page 45

Excerpt from page 6:

“The fault for this deplorable situation lies squarely on the shoulders of those liberal “liberals” of those “experts” who then had considerable influence on public opinion concerning “Russia”. Even today, some of them still consider themselves as “experts” and do everything in their power to prevent the American people from knowing the truth about the Soviet Russian reality, about the traditional Russian Imperialism clad currently in Soviet garb.”  Dr. Luke Myshuha.

But that was all many, many years and generations ago.  Most people today probably don’t even recall anything about what happened overseas in the beautiful Land of Milk and Honey in the 30’s. At least we seem to have a much clearer picture of Russia’s “culture and capabilities” today.

Let’s hope.

Yet, now, here Ukraine is again, in another violent upheaval.  I wonder if Dad knows?  Does he hover over his nieces and nephews–my cousins—trying to protect them in spirit?

Suddenly, despite not having connections with my overseas family, I am scared.  Scared for them.   Wondering how this could be happening.   I am so sorry Dad, that more conflict and chaos has been dropped across the Land of Milk and Honey.  Thank God that you are not here to see it happening– the worry and concern would surely be the thing to take your life.  Thank God that you didn’t wake up one day when I was a kid and say to mom and me; “hey, I miss my family, let’s go live in Ukraine!”  Oh, thank God that didn’t ever happen!

If I stop and allow myself to think about it, lord my head spins, unable to rationalize any of the violence and separatism.  I won’t even begin to say I understand what is going on over there, or stand behind any of it, or wish to become a part of it, because I don’t.  But I do have to wonder if any of the people of Ukraine ever saw this little red book I’ve got in my hands.

Excerpt from page 7:

“Perhaps this brochure will be of aid to Americans of Ukrainian birth or descent in their endeavors to make their fellow Americans and the American Government itself truly realize the menace of Russian Imperialism, in whatever garb it may appear, not only to Ukraine and other Soviet Russian enslaved nations, but to the free world and America as well.”  Dr. Luke Myshuha.

Well, what about the people actually living in Ukraine?  Do any of them remember how things were back in the 30’s, under Soviet rule?  The shallow ditches and wooden carts, heaping full of bodies?  I am guessing not.  Otherwise, how could this dividing of an otherwise peaceful people even happen?  With the oppression, censorship and simple freedoms that whole part of the world has been deprived of so many years, their perspective must be skewed and far from accurate.  They learn a very different history than what we do in the United States.

Truthfully, it is also frightening to realize how far removed our own Countries’ thinking has strayed of late.  Perhaps we are not that far away from our own undoing.

I am so grateful for my dad, and the many brave men and women over the course of my life and even before, that

Dad in the United States Army.

Dad in the United States Army.

have stood and fought to protect our freedoms as Americans, as well as assisted in protecting and securing liberty for others.   Perhaps that experience is what shaped him into being the compassionate and caring father I cherished.

My heart breaks, knowing I could still have family in Ukraine.

My heart breaks, realizing I may no longer have family Ukraine.

My heart breaks, missing my dad.

Tomorrow would have been your birthday.  Happy 95th Birthday, Dad.  I know you are walking the fields of a far better Land of Milk and Honey.

Tree In The Breeze

“Spread your toes wide.  Feel your left foot become weightless, as it rises up to rest on your inner thigh.  Hands held to heart center.  Now breathe……focus your breath on one tiny spot, as you grow your branches tall, taller, reaching to the sky, you are the tree…..breathe….. “

My Practice has become an addiction.  Somehow, I cannot go without Yoga.  It’s just stretching, right?  Oh, so wrong!  Yoga is far more than stretching.  It is a celebration of, or an affirmation of, respect for self.  My time on the mat.  Yoga is time that I have consciously chosen to dedicate to my own wellbeing.  Time that all else takes a back seat to.  I empty my mind, and breathe.  Aches and pains go away.  Irritating issues and people go away.  It all disappears in one, mindful hour of Yoga Practice.

Who’da thunk?

After several months of daily group Yoga hours, I am able to confidently continue my Practice solo, at home, or virtually anywhere.  Now that I am spending time up north on the lake, a new favorite place to practice is on the dock at sunrise. YogaRise1

Oh, what a quasi-cosmic-religious-spiritual experience!

Typically, sunrise is a hauntingly calm time on the water.  The lake is almost like glass as the pink and orange horizontal sliver of light slowly evolves into a band, and rises into a hot yellow globe. Above me lingers a beautiful crescent moon, shining bright against the morning sky. To dedicate time to, and witness this glorious beginning of a new day practicing Yoga, somehow fills my being with a sense of empowerment, wholeness and revitalized appreciation of life.

“We’re here now. In the moment. On the dock.”

It is a peaceful, wondrous morning, with Coyote Oldman’s Thunderchord playing in the background, and traveling softly across the lake.  There is a light intermittent breeze, just enough to enhance the refreshed feeling throughout several Sun Salutations.  An ever so gentle breeze, barely moving the waters.  “Halfway lift, exhale and fold, hands on the mat, and downward… facing… dog.”

Warrior Two stance; a position of strength and power.  I celebrate the morning like a warrior, ready to deal with whatever comes my way.  I have dedicated this practice to my dog, wishing him strength and peace as he deals with cancer.  I, too, find peace and strength, on the mat.  “Windmill arms to the ground, high to low plank, little cobra, and downward….facing….dog.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Step to the top of the mat, slowly rise, and position for Tree pose.”

I feel my left foot become weightless, as it rises up to rest on my inner thigh.  Hands held to heart center, I breathe……focus my breath on one tiny spot as I grow my branches tall, taller, reaching to the sky, I am the tree…..I am the willow tree…..breathe…..in the moment….we are here now…..

The gust of wind blasted the dock hard, quick and without warning.

Whoaaaaaa, tipping… tipping… trying to hold balance, pull it together as the dock sways hard, and I am tipping…….tipping over, lost balance, tripping over….ooooooooooooooooover and

SPLASH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I fall sideways into the lake.  This tree has crashed.

Cool waters shock me into a new present moment, as I am flailing, thrashing, trying to determine which way is up.  Calm down, relax, you know how to swim.  This is nothing.  I focus on the fact that I am not breathing, and that’s ok, and exhale all of the air from my chest, feeling my body begin to sink, feet first.

My knee bumps something hard.

I realize I am in waist high water.  I stand and look down.

Namaste, fishes.

 

 

Beyond Special

It’s been a tough couple of months. It’s been a time of unexpected, tough day to day choices, struggling with problems, priorities, business, even my residence. But mostly, it’s been tough to see my hunting partner slowly declining, becoming weaker and weaker, trying so hard to cope with unfixable damn Osteo Sarcoma. BeyondSpecial4 It breaks my heart, watching him all day every day, knowing there is nothing I can do to stop it.  It certainly doesn’t help that everything in our house is up or down a flight of stairs.  It absolutely pains me to see him limp around.  I just can’t bear it.  But like a champ, he gimps on up those stairs.  Or down.  And then he sleeps.  Life seems to be all about just trying to get through a day with minimal strain on my poor boy.

Thank the Gods for the many friends that are here for me.  How comforting to know I matter to them on good days, and bad days. How wonderful to share good times and laughter, hard times and tears, always feel cared about. They are so thoughtful, and I so appreciate their genuine touching exchanges with Buddy. I am so lucky to have the caring friends I do.  And he is one spoiled dog…which is as it should be.

Just when I thought my circle couldn’t possibly be more abundent, I was given the most amazing gift for my birthday ever.

Actually, the amazing gift appeared just after the last traumatizing event in my life:  March of 2013, when I received the news about Mike Strandlunds unexpected death in the Philippines.  As I sat in a frenzy of panic attack grief at the end of the driveway of the home he and I shared for 10 years, a hard, sharp pain in the heart suddenly struck me and the next thing I knew, I was in the driveway of a most cherished friend I’d been estranged from for many years.

I promise it’s true what they say that true friendship, true bonds last forever no matter what.  No judging, no questions, no “WTF”…that girl took me into her arms and comforted me in my horrific sobbing grief as though we’d never been apart.

BeyondSpecial1Now, here I am, over a year later, simply overwhelmed by her incredible act of generosity on my birthday.  Buddy, the girls and I will be spending much of the remainder of the summer “on the lake”.   She and I just pulled my Toy Hauler up to her lake property.  It still seems to be to be somewhat of a dream.BeyondSpecial2

It’s been a hard day of work, weed whipping, analyzing, backing, and leveling. And of course, what would an adventure be without something going wrong with my Toy Hauler?  So yes—I will have to tow it to Bemidji Monday to see why the fridge doesn’t work after just 16 months.

But it’s been a great birthday.  We made some dinner, enjoyed a few adult beverages, BeyondSpecial3took Buddy for a very short walk, and now I am sitting here, cradling my good boy, looking out at the big waters of Leech Lake, so grateful for this special opportunity.  He lifts his head high, smelling the woods, the water, the grouse, then lays back down falling into deep, dog dream sleep. What a grand, glamorous way for our outdoors family to spend the remainder of his time together.  What an appropriate place to grieve for him after he is gone.

Throughout life, people pass through our worlds, touching us in different ways.  Some connect and stay, some simply pause, play for a while, and go.  There are people who, despite being present, actually were never there.  And then, once in a great while, if a person’s lucky, they may be graced with some who are beyond special.

Clearly I have been graced.  The depth and strength of unconditional love and friendship is astounding to experience.  Once again, the recipient of heartfelt selfless giving beyond my wildest dreams, realizing and reinforcing, how much I have to be thankful for in this life.

 

 

Something To Say

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far away (well it seems like it now, anyway) I crossed one of my many “rules of relationships” lines back then, and became “more than friends” with a business acquaintance I had known for years.  We sailed through the 3 month “honeymoon phase” like champions.  Toothbrushes were involved.  His kids were involved.  We clicked like magic.  We were quite the perfectly happy tribe.  Then on the first day of the 4th month—he was gone.

Abandoned.  Angry.  Perplexed.  Confused. Used.  Betrayed.  Violated.  Disregarded…and… DUMPED are just a few of the descriptive words I would choose to articulate how I felt that day.  And the next day.  And the next….

There was no phone call.  No “last talk”.  No “thanks for the memories” or “things have changed.”  No nothing.  Just gone.  Of course, I couldn’t let things go without doing something, and this was all I could think of to do at the time, way back??????????????????????????????? when.

 

Dear ??????

Although it seems you can coast through life without bringing closure to situations and circumstances, I can’t, and I have something to say……

I think it is terrible of you to not at least offer an explanation to me of what changed for you, and why you’ve up and left.  It devastates me to learn that you apparently feel so little for me that you are willing to throw everything away, including any chance of remaining friends.

What changed? I have no idea what has happened between us.  I sure would like to know.  Was everything you said to me a complete lie?  Was our entire relationship all just some game for you?  Was I a complete fool to believe in you?  I thought we had something real; something special.  Silly me.

How could you say all those things you said, worked so hard to convince me how you felt, and then betray it all, my faith and trust in you and my feelings for you this way?  How dare you take advantage of me like that!  Why ??? Why?  Are you ever going to come forward and tell me?  Or just take the easy immature way out and not ever communicate the truth?  How could you do this?  Why? And why did you pick ME?

I don’t understand.  I want to understand.  You have not been fair.  As angry and hurt as I am, I cannot bring myself to hate you.  I simply feel sorry for you.  I feel so sorry for you.  I hope you someday figure out what it is you are looking for.  And, I’d really appreciate you at least giving me a clue what went wrong.

Wherever life leads you next,  ?????   , please try to learn this one simple phrase…

Respect for Self

Respect for Others

Responsibility for All Actions

 

Some People

They pick. They push. They meddle. They demand. They expect. They complain. They badger. They argue. They judge. They obsess.

They aren’t happy with anything around them. They pounce on the slightest opportunity to cause others angst.  They act on the most petty, inconsequential circumstance to call out a grievance with their co-worker or neighbor, or complete stranger.  They look for ways to stir the pot.  They look for reasons to draw a line in the sand.  They are not interested in working and playing well together with others.  No, not at all. They have determined their mission in life is to be the festering wound that will never heal.  The agitation that never goes away.  They pride themselves on being malevolent.

Why?

Have you ever encountered someone like this?  What was it like? How did it make you feel?  How did you deal with the situation?  I’ve heard many stories. Crazy, senseless struggles between co-workers, neighbors, and even family members.  Each tale leaving me with deeper appreciation that it hasn’t ever happened to me.

Recently I was at an outdoor community function on a less than perfect day.  Because the rains refused to hold off, the volunteers quickly moved the “free doughnut” table up under the handicap canopy walkway to keep everything from getting soaked the last hour of the event.  Within moments, a wheel chair visitor approached the walkway to also get out of the rain.  A woman behind her began bellowing “you can’t have those things there—there are ordinances—you need to clear that path!”, as the woman on wheels effortlessly rolled past it all.  And after she was gone, that bellowing woman was still complaining about ordinances and that doughnut table.

Why be the one to be that way?

Another woman shared her story about a negative work mate ‘across the cubes’.  Luckily their jobs required very little communication, most of their work was done on computers.  She had no problem keeping up with her responsibilities, and was a good employee.  But her co-worker was always picking at her for something; the style of her shoes, when she left to use the restroom, where she hung her coat…anything she could find to complain about. She began reporting her for taking phone calls—something that had no bearing on either of their abilities to do their jobs. This co-worker couldn’t hear any of the conversations, but knew calls were being taken.  Turns out, the woman’s family was going through a very difficult time for a few weeks, requiring her to take some important calls–she was trying to be discreet.  But bringing the situation to their superior’s attention almost cost the woman her job, even though her performance was not suffering, simply because a complaint was made and they had to follow policy.

Why, why, why be that way?

A story from a man who was given a rescue dog to keep him company after barely surviving a DogSigntraumatic accident—now wheelchair bound for life. He started taking the pooch to a nearby fenced in ball park when no one would be around, just to be able to let his furry friend run and fetch a ball more than 5 feet away for a few minutes.  The dog was thrilled with this new game!  He was extremely obedient and well behaved—always retrieving the ball and bringing it right back to the man.  The dog never once did his business in that park, either. A resident whose home faced that park watched the man and the dog for several days. Then one day, the man was met by local Police at the park, and told they received a complaint. He couldn’t let his dog run free again or he would be fined.  Days later, a sign went up stating no dogs allowed in the park.

Why in the world take away that man and that dogs simple 10 minutes of daily joy? Really? Why be the one?

Then there’s the story of the family of five.  Both parents laid off within 6 months of each other, barely scraping by to make ends meet.  He had an opportunity for a new and better job, but would need transportation. They got a deal on a second vehicle but it needed work.  Their other car was equipped for their special needs child, and was the wife’s main transportation. The husband could do the work, but needed money for parts, which was taking time to earn. She just started a part time job. Their neighbors half ways down the block didn’t like the looks of that family or the vehicles in the driveway, so they reported them over and over for the 2nd car being parked there, how it was parked, being loud, questioning if it was licensed, and on and on. The money they were forced to spend on several fines could have been spent on getting those car parts, not to mention getting food for their 3 kids.  It only took one complainer to keep them set back, and make their life hell for months.

Seriously, what causes a person to be that way?  Why be the one?

Sure there are rules.  Sure there are ordinances.  Sure there is a need to maintain a certain level of control over ‘the masses’ to keep the sanity of our workplaces and world in check.  But come on, people, pick and choose those battles!  There are also a million and one reasons to turn the other way, find some levity, mind your own business, and show some community and grace.  Why be the one to hide in the shadows and drop that negativity bomb?

Why be the one?

Imagine the energy it must take to muster up enough effort to be the thorn in the world’s side.  Wow.  Now there’s something to be proud of.  Not!  What ever happened to “live and let live”?  What happened to co-workers getting along, helping your neighbor instead of filing complaints, and random acts of kindness? You never know what the other guy is going through.  What you do or don’t do, could be the one pivotal action that makes or breaks his/her entire day—or world for that matter.  How selfish to not consider or respect that. How insensitive, how petty.

Ahhh, but I’ll bet their response would go something like “yeah, well what about me and how I feel about it?”  Oh get over yourself.

Perhaps there is such a gaping hole of emptiness in some peoples’ lives that they just don’t know how to heal it, and are lashing out at the rest of the world.  Perhaps they are so full of themselves that they feel entitled—or that everyone should live like them.  Or maybe they truly never learned what it means to be kind or compassionate.  Maybe they themselves have been so badly hurt that this is their way of screaming out for attention…or, or….or?  Speculation is about as good as hind sight, and in this case, a sure energy waster.  One thing that is true regardless is: being that way is a choice. What a sad choice.

Thank goodness these malevolent people seem to be the exception, and not the rule, or so we hope.

Although right this minute, and for the first time in my life I do find myself being put to the test of enduring a case of “some people”. I swear to God I will never become one of those ornery haters that feels the need to be so downright nasty. Unfortunately, I am just as vulnerable to reacting in a ‘fight or flight’ mode as anyone, but no matter how hard I may be pushed, I will not succumb, nor will I ever condone that behavior.  At least that’s my aspiration at the moment.

In fact, I challenge all of those “some people” out there to accomplish one simple thing:

I dare them to let it go and not be the one.

Complacent

People ask me how I can be so uComplacent1pbeat and strong, so centered, so independent and positive and go go go all the time.  Trust me, it wasn’t always that way.  We all have our ups and downs throughout life. The following is an excerpt from my personal journal.  I wrote volumes over a period of about 7years—it was a dark time in my life. This particular day became the pivotal turning point in my heart and soul, the catalyst that eventually changed my life for the better. 

 

February 20th 2010

Complacent. That’s what I’ve become. It’s so easy to just not make the effort.  Let it go.

Whatever “It” is….the chore, the purchase, the person, the responsibility.

I never thought I would become complacent.  But here I am.  Another weekend, and not doing anything useful with it.  So what?  Sitting by the computer, hoping someone finds me on this stupid dating website.  No one responds to my profile. They want a “pic” before they decide I’m worth talking to. It isn’t going to happen.  If one more person tells me I should have a line of guys at my door and down the block I may go postal.  Hell, they’re all complacent too.  Oh, there’s a shocker.  Not sure what the answer is, or if there is one. Maybe if I tried to be demure and helpless—ha! It isn’t going to happen.  Or, I could just go get dressed and go to the store before the rain freezes.

I should.

But I’m so damn complacent. Hell with it. I’m good right here.

I’ve sat here all day staring at TV doing nothing.  I don’t even recall what’s been on.  And part of this routine is to feel depressed at my situation.  Oh, yeah, I’m depressed all right. Depressed at the sad state of my life.  Who would of thought this is where I’d be today?  Holed up in a basement I rent from a guy in a small town, because I’m too tired at the end of the week to make the 90 minute drive to my own home.  And why would I go there anyway?  It’s not like anyone is missing me.  I could die right here, right now.  Who would notice?  Well, maybe the guy upstairs.  It would eventually smell bad.  Wait. What would he do with my dogs?  Send them to the pound, no doubt.  That would be horrible. I could never let that happen. I would haunt his ass for eternity.

But overall, this is a perfect place to hide from the entire known world. I like this basement.   I did make coffee.  That was something.  Whoop dee do.

In the last 48 hours I spoke with 5 people that were not work related conversations.  I guess that is something too.  Not everyone has 5 people to talk to.  Wow, I guess I do.  And one new email acquaintance.  Perhaps she will turn into a friend?  Let’s document the list….Jack, Vicki, Becca, Alice.  Maybe Liz?  But what if they find out I’m sitting here in this basement? Oh, like I care.  I pay to be here.

I called them all.  No one was free.  “Some other time.”  Sure.  That will happen.

I’m struggling fiercely with feeling alone.  So alone.  Alone.  Alone on the island.  So very alone.  But, really I’m not alone.  Just in some ways.  Ron came to the rescue when my truck broke down and I was almost two hours away from home—that was a Godsend.  Scottie called me on Christmas Eve to wish me a happy holiday.  Scottie called me!  How kind! What a great colleague!  He was the only human I heard from besides Ed.

Ed.

What a disappointment.  Two outdoors-people.  So compatible.  So complacent.  What did he really want with me?  He so easily let me slip away.  No questions, no attempt to challenge my behavior or give me a little nudge….after all, it had been a long time since I’d been on any resemblance of a date.  I don’t know how to date.  I don’t want to know how to date.  Dating sucks.  Who needs it?

So damn complacent.

He’s probably like all the other guys, thinking there are so many options.  Younger, thinner, prettier options I suppose. Go gettum, dude.  Like Dave, only Dave was so much worse.  At least Ed hasn’t called me “too fat”.  How do we go from daily talks to zero in a matter of a moment?   And do I feel like telling him off?  Or telling him anything?

Heck no.  That would take effort.  What a waste.

Just like getting dressed up, or made up, or spruced up.  Who needs it?

So he just melts into the atmosphere, never seen or heard from again.  Gone.  I’ve reached the conclusion that nothing is worth the effort.  Everything is replaceable, disposable, forgettable.  I cannot imagine trying to hang onto something that is clearly not right—hang on like Sarah with her Jeff….how crazy to try to stay immersed in a situation completely wrong for you, just to avoid being alone.

And I am, indeed, so alone.

What’s wrong with alone?  I severed the ties with virtually everyone in my life all at once years ago, yet here I am, still alive. Lone survivor, that’s me. It’s better to be alone than to be in something hurtful and wrong.

I am so alone. Holy shit, is everything hurtful and wrong?

I hear pins drop all the time.  I hear the echo of silence.  I am painfully alone.

If Ed truly wanted me, he’d be back for me.  As would any of them.  No one, not one, has reached out to me.  No “are you ok?” or “I miss you can we talk?” They would if I mattered to them.  I totally believe that.  Why, why, why does everything always have to be up to me to start, or keep going?  I’m done.  It takes two.

Life is much less complicated now.

I hear the sound of the clock upstairs ticking, ticking, ticking….alone.  And my landlord is up there.  I hear him walking around.  He hates women.  What does that make me?

Nose to the wind, I push forward, and embrace alone.  That’s me.  Nothing will hurt me again.  Nothing will surprise me, nothing will penetrate my walls, nothing will matter outside of my closely guarded personal space. No more hoping for anything.

Life.

It’s here until it’s not.  I wonder if this is how Dad felt after mom passed?  Another day, just get through it, nose to the wind.

Oh, how I miss you, Dad.

Looking back at the new year, I’ve worked, worked, worked, and worked, and then spent some time feeling dreadfully tired, and very, very let down.  I have this routine so I can get through my day, my week, my month.  I’ve lost my sense of pride to a lonely routine.  My body hurts from shouldering the loneliness, the sadness, the despair.  Where do I find places to draw on happy feelings from?  I don’t recall having a place. Did I ever have a place? When a customer or colleague truly appreciates something I’ve done for them?  Yes, that does bring tears of gratitude to my eyes. When my babies rush to me licking, dancing and wagging tails.  Yes, their unconditional love fills me with gratitude.  That’s about it.

Pretty sad existence.3beggars

Or is it?

Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge.  What I have is far more than what a lot of people have.  I have my health-sort of.  I have a great job.  A roof over my head and food in the fridge.   I have stuff.  I have 3 sweet baby dogs that love me unconditionally and make me smile no matter what.  And at least 5 people to talk to about things not work related.

I have what matters.

Buddy is staring at me intently.  Then his gaze travels to his ball.  Then to me.  Then the  ball.  Then me

I have what matters.  Yeah, hell yeah, I can convince myself I have what matters.

Yeah.  I can choose to be grateful for these things that matter.

And right now,  I do choose.

I choose to feel gratitude for all that I have.  I choose to respect the gifts I’ve been given. I choose to make the best with what I’ve been given.

Buddy successfully engages me in a round of fetch.  He knows how to work it.  His euphoria unfolds with the toss and retrieve of a ball, and I smile.

My euphoria could unfold with something as simple as the toss and retrieve of a ball.  It’s a start.  Nothing to be sad for here.  Today, I live for these loving dogs who count on me. I am blessed!

Time to get dressed and get to the store.

And stop being complacent.

Maybe I’ll apply a little lipstick, too…

Pour Some Sugar On…..

Your legs.  Your brows. Your bikini line. Your under arms. Your upper lip. Your  back, your chest, your butt….wait… your….butt?

Whhhat?

That’s right, we’re talking about body waxing.  Do you look forward to your next wax appointment?  If you’re like most, it doesn’t seem to matter how many times you have it done, waxing is never a “feel good” experience, but more like a necessary evil. The hot dripping goo being pressed into your skin with sheets of fabric, then ripped off with the speed of light and strength of an arm wrestler. It sure is painful to maintain that clean fresh look by getting waxed.  Wax on, wax off!  The skin turns red, becomes irritated and swells.  But you suck it up every 6 weeks, because, well, beauty takes pains, right?  You tough it out, then wait for that new growth to pop out and be long enough to yank away again.  And again.  And again.

Have you ever thought about what waxing actually does to the skin? Waxing pulls off layers of live skin if not properly administered.  The unhealthier your skin is (meaning having dead skin layers) the “safer” it will be for you to wax.  That just doesn’t seem right, now does it?  Don’t we want our skin to be able to breathe?  But, if you go in for a wax after you’ve exfoliated, you will be in for a world of hurt. Imagine that hot wax being dropped onto your freshly opened pores.  In fact, waxing is the exact opposite of the idea of healthy exfoliation, it leaves a residue that clogs the pores.  If some of the hairs don’t pull out in a particular section of waxing, you’re really not supposed to re-wax over that spot because of potential skin damage.  So, if you look at the big picture, you have to let your skin become clogged up with layers of dead skin to wax.  Then you have to endure the painful process, which may or may not be completely thorough, followed by swelled red skin for a period of time. Waxing isn’t capable of keeping up with a normal healthy skin schedule—plus you have to wait between treatments.

Well what if there was a way to lose that unwanted hair completely and have the process be pain free?

There is, it’s called Sugaring.  A new technology born from an ancient Egyptian process. Sugaring is a natural, and healthy alternative to traditional waxing.  The ingredients are simple; mainly sugar and water.  The product is applied by hand at room temperature, and not with a spatula.  No strips are used to remove the product, it is removed by hand as well.  The sugar can be left on the skin without worry.  It can be removed from unintended areas simply by wetting.  And it’s not a hot mess of hurtful, sticky, hardening goo.sugar1

Ladies and Gents, Sugaring can remove any body hair at any length, any time.  What that means is you don’t have to wait for a retouch.  If you schedule a sugaring every few weeks, you will have continuously clean ‘hair free’ skin that is also exfoliated and healthy.  An added bonus to consider–the treated areas will require less and less attention over time, slowly becoming permanently hair free. Permanently loose the uni-brow or stash? OH my!

The key is to have your Sugaring done by a licensed, qualified professional.  They will be equipped with an entire skin care product line and extremely precise manufacturing process.  They follow a strict protocol to ensure your treatment is safe and sanitary and you have a positive experience. They are highly skilled in skincare, and are experts in technique, modalities, and identifying ideal candidates for the process.

So go ahead and pour some sugar on YOU!

The Cork

Just a small object in a plastic baggie.  That’s all she handed me.

“I saw this at the Farmers Market and thought you’d like it.” she said with a bashful smile. I opened the baggie and pulled the contents out.

A wine cork.

A ceramic wine cork.  An intricately designed ceramic wine cork.

So beautiful.

So thoughtful.

So useful, as I was opening a bottle of wine for us to share.

So lucky I am, to have this great friend.

“It is beautiful!” I exclaim.

She shouldn’t be buying me this.  But that’s how she is.  So giving.  Corks1I glance at her sometimes with wonder and admiration.  So unassuming.  So hardworking.  So kindhearted.  So darn smart! What a beautiful soul.  She dreams of comfort, of love, of health, of a car that doesn’t break down, of fashion, beautiful art, and having her own home.  She deserves all the best.  Her life is anything but easy, yet she plugs along each day fueled by an inner strength, a positive attitude, and with her head held high.  She is always doing her best, taking care of everyone around her, and noticing intricate wine corks.

So lucky I am, to have this great friend.

Friends and family are her strength and foundation.  Her kids are the direct lifeline and core of her heart.  Her pride and joy, and she has been a true survivor raising them on her own.  She is always there for them.  She’s always there for everyone in her “circle” and she has a very big circle.  I wonder how many of them reciprocate.  They damn well better reciprocate!

She and I, we share the good times.  We share some not so good times.  We share quiet times, and sometimes, we just share thoughts about life and love and how we could change the world if only we could.  If only I could do more to make things right for her, I surely would.

She has this amazing gift of being able to rise above the bad things that occasionally happen in her life, turn the other cheek, look at the most bleak situations from a positive perspective, and find something good to say no matter what.  Even when she is struggling with her own health issues they are almost transparent, as she is a gentle fighter.  How she can maintain that level of grace, I’ll never understand.  I glance at her sometimes with wonder and admiration.

And after an hour, or a day, or a week of life’s struggles taking their toll on her, there she is in a moments notice, talking me up with the pride of a mother. Without judgment, or jealousy, or expectation, she is there for me.  Even when I am at my worst. We can laugh, and laugh, and laugh…..or cry.  Or analyze the problems with men for hours and hours.  What I ever did to earn this woman’s kinship is beyond me.

Perhaps it’s my selection of wine on the rack.  That would explain the cork.

My beautiful, intricate cork.

So lucky I am to have this great friend.

Take A Breath

“Let your worries drop by the wayside.  Feeeeeel the stress fall away with each exhale.  Inhale, now reeeeeach a little further, keeping your core aligned, exhale, now reeeeeach……reeeach…..”

The soft melodic voice tries to soothe me as I struggle in a tangled pretzel mess of a position they call the Eagle.  I call it the ‘Abused Pretzel’.

Give me Plow pose all day long.    Ohhhh oh no….I’m tipping over….. “thud.”

And that’s Yoga.

Everything is sore.  It’s been months of three times a week of discovering new things about me.  I hurt in places I didn’t even know I had.  New places every time. They say this practice is supposed to calm you.  Somehow, I seem to always be sweating, swearing, grunting and gasping for air and surely turning blue on some of those poses and am anything but calm.  Exhausted?  Yes.  But calm?  It’s impossible to defy the laws of physics.  How everyone else in the class is able to stick their big toe into their ear is beyond me.  Seriously?  Yoga is without a doubt a practice of excruciating pain and embarrassment.  My body just doesn’t bend in those ways.

But someday, yes, someday it will.  It will because I keep going back for more.  More punishment.  More, give me more Down Dog!  More Warrior 1, more planks, and don’t forget to throw in a backbend or two or three!  Eventually I will improve my practice enough to be able to take a breath.  Until then, there will continue to be an occasional “thud” in the back of the room.  That would be me.  What the heck, the floor is a good place to be.  Solid.  Very solid.  I’m just stretching….

But it’s not all moan and groan.  There is one redeeming element of Yoga.  A surprisingly easy feat to master, too.  The practice of Alternate Nostril Breathing, or “Pranayama”.  This one simple activity can actually be life changing.  And the good news is, you don’t have to be quadruple jointed to pull it off!  It only requires you to sit comfortably, and take a breath.  I can do that!

According to the ancient ways of the Kundalini Yoga gurus, there are two energies called Ida and Pingala  that run up the sides of the human spine, intertwining like a grapevine gone wild.  They unite to form the Sushmana, or, the central channel.   In scientific terms, they are referred to as the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic system, or Pingala on the right side, is your danger alert system that engages the fight or flight mode.  The parasympathetic system, Ida, on the left side, is more of the regulatory system, and focuses on keeping your day to day bodily functions operating well.  Just think if either is not operating at full capacity.

“Left handed people are the only ones in their right minds.”   Or vice versa.

The “calm, creative, feeling” hemisphere of your brain (the right side) becomes engaged by breathing through your left nostril. The “thinking” hemisphere of your brain (the left side) becomes engaged by breathing through your right nostril.  By alternating your breath between either nostril, you are able to activate and engage your whole brain.  Practicing regular Alternate Nostril Breathing presents an array of health benefits.  In fact, here are 5 good reasons to consider incorporating it into your daily routine:

 

First and foremost, it is a profoundly calming ritual. 

It brings you back to center.  A place of wholeness and well being.  Alternate nostril breathing will break away pent up stress being held in the body and the mind.  This is a critical tool for coping with things that turn our world upside down.  cloudsYou can feel the clenched fist inside of you melting away almost immediately.  Before you respond to a difficult situation that’s got your blood boiling, that unreasonable boss, colleague, neighbor or significant other, take a breath and purge the stress away.

 

Second, it improves the ability of your brain function at peak performance.

Let’s go back to the right and left hemispheres of the brain and what they represent. Our bodies need oxygen to live. Often throughout the day as we stress and work and run, our breathing quickens, shortens, becomes restricted, and we basically starve our minds from much needed nourishment.  Feeling less creative than normal, less sharp, not as attentive, or a little sluggish are all signs of being at less than peak.  Focused, one nostril breathing feeds and restores the imbalances in your brain, and increases your calm, clarity and ability to execute critical thinking.

 

Third, it promotes whole body housekeeping. 

Calming your nervous system helps your inner workings to regulate and cleanse.  Deliberate, focused breathing oxygenates your blood, and has been known to clear out impurities from the lungs, and decrease respiratory and circulation problems.   By focusing on one nostril breathing and deepening it, you “dial up” and engage the parasympathetic nervous system to move from a stressed state, into a relaxed state.  You can effectively manage many ailments and pain by feeding and taking care of your nervous system, the lifeline that feeds the whole body.

 

IMG_1140Fourth it aids with insomnia and overall better sleep. 

A ‘must-do ritual if you’ve found yourself staring at the ceiling more than once, or waking up repeatedly throughout the night.  Calming your nervous system automatically calms your emotional state, and washes away the tension and anxiety that goes with it.  De-stressing at bedtime with focused breathing not only relaxes the body to a state of rest, but slows the heart rate to promote a deeper, more restful sleep.

 

Fifth, and lastly, it will boost your energy.

Consciously pulling oxygen through your nose cleanses, nourishes and energizes your whole system. Just a few minutes of focused breathing is better than a power nap if you are starting to lose steam throughout the day.  It will kick start your body into a refreshed and renewed state of strength, calm and clarity.

 

You can practice Alternate Nostril Breathing virtually ANYWHERE!  In the privacy of your home, your office or “cube”, your car, the bus, on the subway, or anywhere that allows you to sit comfortably and safely for a few minutes.

  • Need a “pick me up” in the middle of your day? Try 5 minutes of Right Nostril Breathing.
  • Simply want to boost your overall energy, prepare to ace a test or get your game on? Try 5 minutes of Alternate Nostril Breathing.
  • Need to calm down, get better rest or just be able to relax enough to fall asleep? Try 5 minutes of Left Nostril Breathing.

 

Eight Easy ‘Get Started’ Steps for Alternate Nostril Breathing

  1. Close your eyes and sit comfortably on a chair or on the floor, with relaxed shoulders and nice straight aligned spine.
  2. Rest your left hand palm up on your left knee.
  3. With your right hand, anchor your middle finger between your eyebrows, float your ring finger on your left nostril, and your thumb on your right nostril.
  4. Gently hold your thumb down to close the right nostril and exhale through the left. Count to 4. Take care to not force your breath.
  5. Inhale in from the left nostril to the count of 4, hold for 4, then close the left nostril gently with the ring finger.
  6. Let go the right thumb from the right nostril, exhale out from the right, counting to 4.
  7. Inhale from the right nostril to the count of 4, hold for 4, close with thumb, and exhale from the left to the count of 4.  Round one is completed.
  8. Repeat these steps 7 – 10 more times.  Pay attention to how your breathing will slow and deepen with each round.  With continued practice, your breathing pattern will become smoother, deeper and longer.

Dedicated Right or Left Nostril Breathing is just that…follow steps 1 – 5 repeating only on the one side.

IMG_0910

The Yoga Pretzel Poses may come eventually, but Alternate Nostril Breathing can be mastered today!  So go ahead and give it a try.  Empower yourself with a feeling of fresh, renewed, calm and energy.

Take a breath!

 

Contact PR Brady AdVentures for individual and group gatherings focused on health, wellness, and taking care of YOU!

Goin’ My Way?

As a pet owner, I sometimes feel compelled to stop for stranded, or abandoned creatures that look like they need help.  Sometimes, I feel compelled to reach out to other people in need.

Although it isn’t always easy.  There certainly are enough reasons to proceed with caution in any circumstance of intervention.  Scooting a parade of ducklings, or a handicapped person  across a busy street is one thing.  But beyond those little random acts of kindness onto bigger ordeals–you never know if the animal is a biter.  You never know if the person is….!  And often enough, what appears as an innocent situation, could in fact become a dangerous entanglement with no good outcome.

And then there is the imagination running wild, reasoning, rationale, and taking a leap of faith.

One day, my friend Rick and I are on our way home from Duluth.  How can anyone go to or come from Duluth without making that famous pit stop to Tobies for their sinfully delicious caramel rolls?  We pull into the always crowded parking lot and head to the main doors with a flurry of other patrons.  The sky is overcast and there are storms off in the distance from the east, south and west.  The wind is picking up.  No one seems to notice anything unusual outside of Tobies as we all dash into the building.

Rick and I are seated in a booth at the windows, looking out the store front.  As we pour over the menu for a quick lunch, our conversation drifts to talk of the great day we had.  Our big adventure.  What our next adventure might be.  Finding ways to afford adventures.  Listing our top ten wish list adventures….

“Look at that girl out there.”

“What?”  I turn around and strain to see what he is looking at.

“I think she’s in trouble.”

“Huh?”  I still don’t know what he is talking about.

I shift and turn around in my seat, lean over to get a better view out the window, and there, plain as day, is a tall, skinny spindly girl with a carrot top head, clad in royal purple leggings, a huge, apple green headscarf tied around that short spikey cut mess of orange hair, several thin layers of tank tops, and some sort of super thin long sleeved black sweater falling down to her elbows, and big black boots with silver metal latches.

We had brushed right past her on the way into the building.

Her skin is pitch white.  As she is pulling her sweater back up about her shoulders, she turns her head.  Her cheeks are flushed red.  Her face is long.  Her features, big, sad green eyes and protruding lower lip, are pronounced.  She has a silver stud through her eyebrow, another through her nose.  Her ears are laced with metal, and her lobes are sporting at least ¼ inch holes.  How could she even lift a foot in those boots?  She does not seem happy as she continues to hoist her sweater back up around her scrawny body, looking side to side, side to side…side to side…..kind of peculiar….is she nervous?  Is she waiting for someone?  Is she even from around here?

We don’t think so.

I turn back around.  My friend shifts to face me squarely in the booth, his hands stretched across the table to me.  “We have to help her.”

“What?  What makes you think she needs help?  Maybe she is waiting for someone.” I could already see the writing on the wall.

“I have a daughter.  I would not want my daughter to be left out here all alone.”

“Come on, you’re over reacting.  For all we know, she’s waiting for her boyfriend or mom.”  I look out at her again.  There is a backpack at her feet.  It looks stuffed to the max.  She looks cold.  She looks hungry.  She looks about 21 years old.

My friend is staring me down.  He has that look, that big puppy dog eyed look that says, I want to be a hero today.  “Let’s just bring her in here and buy her a meal.  I’ll pay.”

And then the sign drops away from her back pack.

“SOUTH.”

“We’re going south.  Let’s give her a meal and a ride.”  He begs.

“What if she is not lost or in trouble or stuck at all?  What if she is actually an axe murderer, or carrying a bomb, or illegal drugs or something, just hoping some sappy people like us will fall for it and take her in?”  I, of course, feel compelled to play devil’s advocate with him.

My friend continues staring me down with that look; that big puppy dog eyed look that says, ‘oh come on, you know that’s not what’s going on’.   I cannot resist that look, actually.  And he knows it.

Before I realize I’ve done it, I’m up, out the door, and standing in the cold wind, talking with this shadow of a girl.

“Hi, hey, how long have you been standing out here?”

“Um, I don’t know.  A while?”  She answers, and pulls her thin sweater tight across her chest.

“Awhile.”  I am not sure about the direction we are about to go. “Are you hungry?”

“Yes, a little.”  She shyly admits.

“Where are you going?”

“South?  I’m going south?”  She looks straight at me with those big green eyes, and answers as though asking me.  It is then that I realize her accent. She is not from here.

“Yes, south is a big place.  South where?”

“New Ulm?”

Oh my.

“Okay.  Let’s go inside and get you something to eat, and we’ll talk about New Ulm with my friend. Would that be alright with you?”  I am imagining driving to New Ulm….oh man, that would be a long haul out of our way, but I know he will want to do it…

“Yes, thank you?”

She picks up her sign and backpack, and follows me back into the restaurant.

Soon our new friend Nicole is feasting on a sandwich, telling us about her brave adventure.  She is visiting from Germany.  She had been staying with her host family in New Ulm where she spent a year as a Foreign Exchange Student years ago.  Her host family began experiencing some awkward problems so she decided to take a short trip up to Canada and back to give them some space.  She has “caught rides” all the way to the border, but Canada would not let her into the country, so she is now on her way back.

“Why wouldn’t they let you in?”

“I don’t know?  They say I don’t have enough money? Even I just want to go there to see it for the day for lunch?”

Rick and I look at each other.  I got nothin.  No idea how Canada decides who doesn’t get to come in.

“Aren’t you concerned about traveling alone and hitching rides with strangers?”  Rick asks.

She looks down at the remains of her fries, “No?  This is what we do.”

“So, who did you ride with?”

“A nice family.  Yes, a family, and a truck driver, and him.”  And she thrusts a crumpled paper onto the table.  It’s an advertisement for an alternative rock concert in the metro, with ‘Joe’ scribbled on it.  “He told me if I come back to town look him up.”  Her eyes now show a slight sparkle.

“So, do you want to go to New Ulm, or to this concert?”  I ask as I look at the promotion.  It’s just a couple miles from our own destination.

“I guess he would be so surprise for me to get there!”  She beams.

Rick and I look at each other.  I got nothin.  No idea what to think.  But I suspect we’re going to be taking this German girl to the rock concert.  We continue with chatty small talk for a while. We talk about Tobies being so busy and famous, and the ominous clouds and weather all around us. Rick is maintaining “that look”.

“Okay, Nicole, we can take you to this address if that’s where you want to go.  Does that sound good?”

“Oh, yes, thank you.”  We have reached the decision to all trust each other. The three of us finish grazing on our meals, Rick pays the bill, and we head for the parking lot.

Just to keep things somewhat under control, I ask Rick to take the back seat with her back pack, and invite Nicole to sit up front as I drive.  The next two hours are full of conversation about Germany, traveling, her aspirations to become a Counselor once she completes college in Germany, and music. She is amazed at my selection of music.  I pull out my Bushido CD.  Yes, this is very dirty German rap music.  These guys are from Berlin. Nicole blushes.  I pull out my Turkish CD.  Very nice.  Much better.   We converse in German.  We converse in English.  Rick talks about when he was in Germany.  We laugh at bad jokes. Those two hours went by in just a few minutes.

As we approach the city limits, Nicole is noticeably excited.  We reach our exit, turn down the frontage road, then arrive to the concert hall. According to the promotion, the concert starts in an hour.

Nicole sits up, craning to look across the parking lot.  “There.  There is his car.  I recognize it!  There!” She is excited.  I pull up to the building entrance and stop.

“Are you positive this is where you want to be dropped off?”   I ask in my most serious and concerned voice.

“Yes.  Yes please!  He is here!”  She responds as she adjusts her scarf around her spikey orange hair.

“Okay then.”

She opens her door, Rick exits from the back seat and pulls out her backpack. We feel the gratitude pouring out from her sad eyes as her face becomes engulfed with a huge smile.  We say our goodbyes.  Nicole runs into the building with sheer glee.

Rick jumps in the front passenger seat and we drive away in silence.

“Axe murderer.”  He murmurs.

“Did you notice anything suspicious about her pack?”

“Nothing except the bomb and the baggie of white powder.”

We look at each other and bust a laugh.

“Thanks for doing that.”  He says.

“Thanks for asking me to.” I reply.

I just love spending time with my friend Rick.  We head back down the highway, smiling. What an unexpected nice surprise to meet Miss Nicole today.   What a brave and adventurous young woman.  Hopefully she takes care during the remainder of her travels.

Next time you see someone sitting alone in the cold with a back pack and a sign, think twice before just continuing on.

Maybe it’s time to defy your imagination, reasoning, and rationale, and take a leap of faith?