Sex on the Beach


Up until yesterday. I thought sex on the beach was a boozy concoction one downed in a single gulp to catch a buzz.

Forever more, those words will take on an entirely different meaning.

I woke early yesterday determined to straighten out the mixup with the Nickelodeon hotel.  I ventured to the lobby darting around the pelting rain. 

Few people were up at 5:30 am on a rainy Sunday, and I wish I were one of them. Instead I was waiting for the hotel Starbucks to open and the concierge to appear.

Jacked up on a venti espresso roast, I practically jumped on the concierge when he arrived for the early morning shift.

I told him my Sponge Bob saga and he obliged me, dialing up Delta, so I could explain the tragic mistake of my Mexican Nickelodeon misadventure. I was hopeful for an agent who could free us from cartoon character hell and transfer us to a resort with adult beverages and men to match.

While I waited on hold for hours ( literally) a  life- sized Sponge Bob and his buddy, the enormous pink starfish, Patrick greeted me.  I snapped pictures. a bit star struck  by being greeted by famous television stars, or more appropriately, a famous television  starfish.  


Back in the room, Lisa slept soundly and why wouldn’t she? The sound of the steadily pouring rain most certainly was a melodic, lazy rhythm lulling her to rest. 

I worried about the boisterously loud claps of thunder, as thick, dark clouds collided in the humid air. But Lisa had slept right through the crying babies and the thunder paled in comparison.

Hours went by,  phone calls were made and blaming fingers were pointed in every direction. Nothing was resolved and I lost both hours and patience.

When Lisa appeared in the lobby, she noted the large Starbucks cup. I told her I drank two venti cups of coffee darker the black sky outside. She looked concerned.  I’d been up for hours recounting the mistaken hotel to a myriad of unconcerned ” hospitality” and “customer service” agents. I was a bit strung out.

I’m done! I declared. The saga was insane. 

About the time I waved a white flag of surrender, Patrick and Sponge Bob made another round through the lobby.  Spying hot Lisa, they wrapped her up in a cartoon sandwich, while I captured the moment in my iPhone.


Dollars to donuts there were a couple of horny little guys hiding under those costumes.

The idea of spending the weekend in a kid fantasy land, started growing on me. But given the choice, I’d have opted for Super Hero Hotel instead. Bring on some Superman and serve up some Thor.  Those were characters we could sleep with for sure.

But Lisa and I resigned  ourselves to make the most of the hotel happenstance. Attitude is everything.

After breakfast, we decided to take a walk. The rain had subsided from a raging storm to a gentle mist.

We passed by a private home on the beach that we were certain was owned by a bad hombre Mexican drug lord. Made for good conjecture and conversation as we walked the beach in the rain.

In the distance a woman was lounging in a cabana. 

“Lisa, does that woman have any clothes on?” I literally rubbed my eyes to see if they deceived me.

“No sister,”  Lisa replies slowly, ” she’s definitely naked.”

And like the cartoon characters we did not connect at first,  it began to come into focus.

A man with his privates swinging with the wind and a woman with exposed breasts baking in the sun passed us by.

I tried hard not to stare.

We glanced at the beach cabanas and to our horror and humor, a naked woman was riding her lover with abandon, bouncing up and down on him like she was riding bareback on a wild stallion. 

I fear I will never be able to  erase from my mind the sight of  sex on the beach or of the size of the man’s gigantic  balls bouncing in rhythm to the woman straddling him.

Lisa and I burst out laughing, drawing the attention of the naked volley ball players. People sneered at us for giggling and shot nasty glares when I held my phone up to capture the freak show.


We were quickly reprimanded for any photos, as if there is protocol or etiquette among people baring their breasts and balls and having sex on the beach. Really?

Fornication 50 feet from Sponge Bob was a bit incomprehensible. Lisa remarked she felt as if she were in a freak show twilight zone. I agreed.

I think I’ve seen it all.

Today, I turn another year older and I’ve seen plenty of shocking things.  Bit the nudist hotel next to the Nickelodeon resort was a strange juxtaposition of child and adult fantasy. People perv up fast.

It’s hard to say if it would have been worse mistakenly ending up at a nudist hotel rather than a cartoon one. They were both scary in their own ways.

But I have a suggestion about the wall Trump wants to build in Mexico. Perhaps he can build it between the two hotel properties. Because I’d hate for any tiny tykes to run into those pairs of  gigantic gonads.   It’s a trauma from which they may never recover. 

Of this I know first hand.

Embrace Your Inner Cartoon Character


I believe we should all go for the gusto in life. Create a bucket list and go for it. Life is short.  It’s generally not the things we do that we regret the most, it’s the things we don’t do.

Swimming with whale sharks has been on my bucket list for a few years.  As a birthday present to myself, I planned a trip to Mexico. From June through September, the  biggest fish in the sea congregate, feeding off the plankton-rich waters.  I plan to plunge into the deep water and swim alongside these giant sea creatures.

Check that one complete. What’s next? Blue-footed birds in the Galapagos are intriguing.

My girlfriend, Lisa, decided to come along with me to the normally sun-baked sandy shores of Playa del Carmen.  Lisa is an adventurous, extremely attractive single woman.  A long weekend in Mexico? Hell yes!

The flight from Atlanta to Cancun was the rowdiest and drunkest first-class experience ever. I sat stoic and sober while everyone else was exhausting the poor flight attendant as she filled never-ending glasses with free booze. 

The over-served man next to me bathed me in his gin and tonic, and I spent the flight feeling like a baby in a wet diaper, which was a harbinger of things to come.

When we landed, I fled the fuselage of drunkenness, only to discover I left my phone on the plane.  After lengthy  siestas by several airport officials, my phone was finally returned. The only sense of urgency in the ordeal was mine.

A friendly driver drove us to the resort in pelting rain-not hard rain-Biblical hurricane rain. 

There was nothing for us to do on a rainy beach day but eat and drink,  so we did, greedily.   Lisa ignored the media reports about tainted alcohol, sipping “especial” cocktails made just  for pretty women.

On the way to the restaurant, we walked by a Sponge Bob ice cream parlor. Then we noticed the larger-than-life Nija Turtles at war in a courtyard. Patrick the starfish was reposing at the pool situated outside our room.

Sadly none of the cornucopia of cartoon characters registered.

In hindsight, the clues where everywhere. The menus were chock full of chicken fingers and the cacophony of crying babies was ear splitting.   

In our defense, we did notice the lack of other singles and even couples. The place just has tons of families not practicing birth control. 

Hot guys? Hardly.

Being that there was little to do before we headed to the spa at 6:30, we napped, or at least tried to, but the sounds of tired tots protesting being pent up in their rooms surrounded us in a symphony of baby sorrow.

I went to the front desk to inform the hotel about the terrible mistake of two single women being placed in the “kid section” of the property.

Hard to tell which one of us was more dumbfounded. The lovely man informed me that we were at a “Nickelodeon property.”

After breath-sucking, side-splitting, laughter, I said to Lisa…

“The saddest part is we had to be told.”

Sometimes we overlook signs that are everywhere.

The silver lining?

Lisa is very fond of the chocolate sprinkles at the Sponge Bob ice cream bar.  Me? even though I’ll be a year older tomorrow, I’m still just a kid at heart! 

Guess I am in exactly the right place.

Writing the Story of Our Lives

The other day I received word that I wasn’t a good fit for a position as Corporate Storyteller.  It struck me as odd, as that’s what I have done for 30 years.  Actually, if you ask my siblings, I’ve been telling stories since I could open my big mouth.  In fact, I’ve got my own infamous “fish story.”  It’s my tall tale, greatly exaggerated (which in this case is a euphemism for a big fat lie), fish story.  It’s a whale of a tale.

I caught 17  fish, I record on a cassette tape for my father, who was way on military duty  in Korea.   We used to send him tapes ( yes, cassette tapes, because Skype and cell phones were not even contemplated back then), of his talented little darlings to entertain him.   My whale of a tale isn’t over.  I  go on to disappoint my father more.  One of the fish is a 17 pounder ( I seem to be fixated on 17 although I am about nine at the time of my personal Pinocchio tale),  I continue, through an exaggerated and newly-acquired Cape Cod accent. Poor Dad, I wonder if he laughed at my proclivity to tell a story or cried at the thought of raising a fibber.  Just the same, my family can validate that I am very qualified to be a storyteller.

When I experience rejection now, I am  okay with it.  It’s not because I am accustomed to it  as much as I accept that it’s not part of my path.  Everything happens for a reason.  Closed doors always end up leading to the ones you are supposed to knock on or open.  Always. It’s a gentle nudge to put us on the right path.

I am taking a huge leap of faith following my heart’s desire to become an author and somehow make a decent living doing what I love.  Serenity finally came to me when I  no longer insisted upon my own will.  I now pray for God’s.   Because if there is one thing I am sure of, He always wants what’s best for us.  I’ve learned to be extremely careful about what I pray for, because my prayers have been answered with many things that I didn’t need  or shouldn’t have.  This latest rejection is merely a course correction; I am good with it.

Every so often I think I need to stop the foolhardy notion that I can create a living as an author.  Then I think about going back to Corporate America for security, but remember how insecure it really was. I’ve worked with companies that have gone into bankruptcy, entered into bad mergers and marriages, or took nosed dives on the stock market with bad acquisitions and horrendous management.  Each time in the game of  management musical chairs, I took a package rather than the boot.  I may have told a tale or two,  but I am no dummy. Rejection is a clear sign that Corporate America is no longer my rodeo.

Veering off the course of convenience or straying from comfortable to follow the scary calling of your heart can be terrifying. Do it anyway.  Destiny waits patiently for us just outside our comfort zone.

Did you know that I am an internationally best-selling author?   Not yet, but yet is always the operative word.   I believe it and I see it and I know thoughts are things, so I  am careful to choose the good ones.   Anyway, that’s the story I tell myself so that the story of my life will have a happily- ever-after ending.

It’s better to die with dreams, I think, than to live without them.

We  all are the authors of our own  lives.  We are the creators of  our life’s story.   So,  what’s your story going to be?    Think big, believe in the best and create your very own whale of a wonderful tale!

 

The Other Woman is My Friend

 

If anyone told me a year ago that the “Other Woman” would become my most featured Facebook friend, I’d have laughed really, really hard.  But fact is stranger than fiction and even if I tried, I could not make up a story with so many twists, turns,  drama and deception.

But here we are, the two of us more startled than anyone by the crazy circumstances that has bonded us as friends.  There seems always to be a silver lining, even in the worst of circumstances!

He described her as a ball busting, take-no-prisoners type of ruthless business woman who simply would not take no for an answer.  The truth is she’s sweet, smart, beautiful, funny, successful, kind, generous and feisty as hell.  I can see why he fell for her and why he wouldn’t make her go away.  He didn’t want her  to and that explains a great deal.

I knew something was amiss in the quiet knowing that we so often dismiss. We seek a different, softer truth.   My intuition and friends tried to tell me something was not right.   I chose to ignore them and believe in a fairytale that quickly turned into a nightmare. Prince Charming is more like the Prince of Darkness.

The Other Woman and I have a lot in common.  We had the same boyfriend and we were both the love of his life!  Call me  crazy (which he did),  or maybe overly technical, but aren’t you supposed to have only one love of your life?   Maybe the duplicitous among us, those that lead deceitful double lives, get one love for each of their two faces. But I suspect there are more.  There always are. Cheaters cheat, and liars lie.

He dated her before me, the rebound mistake he was unable to shake.  But there she was, constantly waiting in the wings, hoping that he would come to his senses.  This passive, wimpy, love-struck behavior hardly matched the shrewd business woman he depicted.

I may not know much about how other women operate, but as soon as I understand a man is involved and “in love,” he’s untouchable.   Maybe that’s not so with other women, but I believe in helping a sister out and I believe in karma.   I take your man? Someone’s going to return the favor.  Men who are married, involved, in love or have ever dated a friend, are off-limits.

There should be  honor and integrity among women even when competing in the  shallow pool of available and desirable men.

As it turns out, she knew nothing about me and when she finally did, my press was as bad as hers. I was crazy criminal with drinking and drug problems. If it weren’t such an incredibly deranged way to describe the anthesis of a human being, it would be comical.  After the initial shock and indignation, I actually did find the humor.   How can a man standing 6 feet 2 inches, stoop so low?    I mostly laugh at the insanity of it all, and I reassured the Other Woman that she will too.

The difference between tragedy and comedy  is merely a question of  time.  I’ve had a bit more time than she to find perspective.  But we’ve both shed tears of heartache and betrayal as well as tears of laughter.

We got punked.  Pure and simple.  We both took the bait, hook, line and sinker.  But in our defense he’s good. He’s really, really good at being bad.

He is charming, handsome, intelligent, funny, romantic and wealthy.   We did the research, but Google only reveals what’s on the surface, not what lacking or lurking inside. He had an impressive resume and online profile.  But dishonesty, duplicity and darkness are in his DNA and that was not revealed in any online search.  Eventually people show you their true nature and character. When they do, believe them the first time.

When I finally listened to my inner warning, the revelations I could not ignore, I reached out to the Other Woman.  Manipulators are artful and cunning and this guy is a master.  He explained me away as a crazy sore loser and she was disloyal to believe anything I say.

It took almost a year for her to reach back out to me.  No surprise that she told me that the cycle of deception and duplicity was repeated.  There was another, Other Woman. 

The stories she recounted and the notes we compared were mind-blowing,  Friday Dateline kind of stuff and definitely worthy of a book or screenplay.   We’re still mulling that option over.

Unfortunately, “The Other Woman” – a movie about a handsome, successful, charming man devoted to his wife and two girlfriends has already been made.  It was entertaining, but barely believable, up until now.  As it turns out  it doesn’t just happen, it happens all the time.

The Other Woman and I are finding it funny now and are having some genuine belly laughs – at his expense. Unlike the victims in the movie, we’re not planning any revenge. We’re fully expecting karma to take care of that.  We’ll just take care of ourselves and the best revenge is always to do well.

The moral of this story?  Beware of bad guys and trust your gut and your friends when they try to tell you something like the truth.   And even when your trust is betrayed and your heart is broken, there’s  always another woman who knows exactly how you feel.   And maybe that other woman might even be the “Other Woman.”

The way I look at it?  I lost a really, really bad man and gained a really great friend.  Maybe in this crazy tale, there is a happily ever after… after all.

The Other Woman and I found humor and maybe some hope that the lessons we have learned are simply the pathway to finding better men and a much better sense of ourselves.    

Remembering the Valiant

Memorial-Day-Thank-You.png“Happy Memorial Day” is a phrase that conflicts me.  This American holiday is a day of remembering  our nation’s men and women who died in service to our country.  I can’t be happy about any loss of life or the thought that war always seems to be the answer, and loss of innocent life is the result.

My father fought in two wars in service to this great nation.  The fact that he survived the Battle of the Bulge and a fierce hand-to-hand combat in Korea, astounds me. The terrifying ordeal of fighting in a foreign land strewn with the carnage of his comrades and friends, is a horror I cannot fathom.  This is the fate of the fortunate soldier;  millions of others  have perished in these agonizing battles. They are who we honor and remember today.

Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.

My father now rests among the endless rows of alabaster tombstones of our nation’s heroes, in the hallowed ground of Arlington National cemetery.  But the remains of many of those who have perished in battle have never made it home.

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Across the ocean, on the  now peaceful shores of Normandy, once strewn with the bodies of young Americans, there is a somber and hallowed graveyard.  The French have graciously granted this place in perpetuity for the remains of soldiers who fought in a foreign land for a people they never met.

The horrors of wars and the loss of American heroes – our fathers, sons and daughters, husbands, brothers and sisters – is our nation’s heartache.  It should be a constant reminder that there is an ultimate price paid for freedom. “Freedom is never free.”

Memorial Day will be happy when war is no longer the solution to the disagreements between countries and people.  Until such a glorious day of awakening among citizens and world leaders,  I remember our nation’s fallen with gratitude for their selfless service and ultimate sacrifice.

I join a grateful nation today praying for  heavenly repose for our dead brave and for peace in the hearts of those who mourn them.  And I will continue to pray for peace and to hold onto my hope for humanity.

 

 

 

 

Laughing Through Life- Happy Birthday, Kay!

 

A1F0D3CD-ED43-469D-8D7A-E12BB7709D95.JPGAunt Kay is 92 today and she’s an inspiration.  She’s a testament to inner strength and the adage that attitude is everything.  Kay’s still drinking from a half full glass and, sometimes, that glass has wine in it.  She’s not always had the easiest times, but she lives in a state of gratitude and that’s been a recipe for her happiness and probably even her longevity. She’s still remarkably beautiful and, although diminutive in size, she’s got a heart the size of the ocean.

Kay is Mom’s sister-in-law and close friend. They both dislike words like “cute,” “spunky” and “spry” because those words have implied meanings of old age.  “Who calls a young person, spry?”   “Oh don’t you hate it when they call you, ‘cute’, Ginny?”  They have a point.  Regardless, it’s no baloney that like fine wine, in many ways, Kay gets better with age.

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Surrounded by Strength

She’s physically not what she used to be and she knows it.  But instead of bemoaning, she’s laughing at her physical ailments and deteriorating functioning and cracking me up. too.  We’re hanging out together the other night and she refrains from smoking like a train because she knows it bothers me.  “I know I shouldn’t,” she tells me once, as she takes a long drag,  “But I am 92 and it’s not shortening my life.”  Even I can’t argue with that.

Kay’s eyesight is nearly gone and she reads through a magnifying glass. She tells me I look like I am 38, and I am preening like a peacock until I remember that she’s blind as a bat.  Paradoxically, she can always seem to spot a hot guy. When my friend William spent a Thanksgiving with us a few years ago, Kay  walks in the house with her daughter, takes one look at William, and whispers to me as she sashays past me, “Nice job. Next year bring three more.” Kay uses the word “delicious” for a handsome man.  I like it.

Kay and I spent an evening together this week that I will never forget.  My sides were splitting from the aging dialogue.   I was laughing at Kay, which was her intention.  My aunt is telling me about the many indignities of aging.  “Your mother is complaining about wrinkles,” she tells me. You can tell she thinks  Mom is an aging amateur if this is her complaint.   “Every night I take out my teeth and boob and I can’t see a damn thing.” Your boob? I ask.  And right then and there, Kay reaches into her blouse and whips out a prosthetic breast.

“I lost the damn thing once,”  she tells me.  ” I couldn’t  find it anywhere.”  She tells her daughter about the missing boob. Meg, like the rest of us, is wondering how anyone can lose a boob.   “Meg says to me, who would take a boob?  Kay explains. ”  I’ll tell you who,” she shoots back at me, ” Bubba!”   Bubba is their dog.  They found Kay’s missing boob in Bubba’s crate.

“Thank God, I still have it up here,” Kay says, pointing to her head.  She’s got that right; Kay’s as sharp as a tact. She doesn’t miss a thing. She’s probably mentally sharper than I and has better recall.   I’m telling her a story the other night and I start veering off the path rather seriously.  In fact, I am so far off, I am lost and have no idea where I started. Kay’s regarding me seriously yet softly.  She’s trying to help me retrace the breadcrumbs back to my starting point.  It can’t be done. There is zero recall. I am unsure who is more concerned at this point, Kay or me.  She’s got an expression on her face that I read  to mean- “For God’s sake, I am the one who should be forgetful!”   But I can also tell Kay’s rooting for me as I meander back through my thoughts, trying to remember my original point. I draw a blank and dismiss it.  (except it’s bugging me).

I share with Kay that the mind is a computer and the subconscious mind will always keep trying to retrieve any missing data. That explains random recall, when suddenly the missing information seems to magically appear and we blurt out things like “Burt Bacharach!  Daffodils, not tulips,  Daisy Buchanan!”  These are important bits of information only because they validate that we’re not, in fact, losing our minds. Being unable to recall unimportant facts only becomes important when they appear to be signs of memory failure.

“I’ll think of it tomorrow,”  I reassure Kay.   You can tell Kay’s  a bit bothered for me.   I really believe she’d rather be the one  addled minded rather than me.  Kay escorts me to the back sliding glass door, moving slowly with the walker she depends on more these days. I tell her I love her, because I do, but she’s can’t possibly understand how much. She always replies the same, “I love you more.”

I’m not even to the car when the answer appears and I begin to laugh out loud and run back to the door.  Kay’s still fiddling with the locks and when she sees me, she shouts through the glass, “You remembered!”   We’re cracking up, and I and I tell her that when I come to make her breakfast in the morning, I’ll tell her the story about the number 932. Kay’s visibly happy for my memory victory and I am laughing all the way home.

The next morning I call Kay to tell her I’ll be over to make her coconut pancakes.  Kay answers the phone, “932.” We both laugh.  “See, I am not so old.”

Laughter is the best medicine for any of life’s ailments and Kay and Mom are the best examples of that fact.

Happy Birthday, beautiful Kay.  You delight me, inspire me, amaze me and crack me up. 

A Mother’s Love and Lessons

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When people ask me what’s the best thing that ever happened to me, they are always shocked by my response.  “That’s easy,”  I tell them truthfully, “my daughter almost died.”  The faces are always palpably stunned, some look even mortified.  I explain.  “Almost being the operative word.”  This resonates a bit, but they are due an explanation.

My first words when the doctor told me I had just given birth to a girl. “Meagan, I knew it was you.  I love you so much.”  The obstetrician had a tape recorder in the delivery room; I would not allow a videotape (this I felt would be traumatizing to a child later in life. No need to ever see how the sausage is made or where babies come from).  The words were needlessly on the slim cassette because I would not ever forget that moment or the feeling of exquisite love.

When Meagan was born, there was a birth in me of a love so powerful, so selfless, so fearless, so unwavering,  I felt as if I had never really known love before.

When Meagan was still very young, I  wrote her a letter. As a single mother, my work demanded that I travel and, in the event that anything should happen to me, I wanted her to grow up knowing that my love for her changed my life. Although I had little spiritual basis at the time despite my years of Catholic upbringing, I came to believe that my child was not truly mine.  Meagan was too precious, too beautiful, too serene to have come from me.  She was a gift, and I was to love and care for her for the time that I had her in this life.

Motherhood is both incredibly satisfying and, at times, terrifying.  Children are sponges, observing, imitating and sometimes rebelling from the example they see.  It came as a great surprise to me that my daughter turned out to be an individual rather than a clone. Despite all my efforts to create a mini-me, she became a uniquely her.

For Meagan’s sixth birthday,  I decided that it was time for her to move from toddler to little girl, and had a grand scheme to change her room while she spent the weekend away with her father.  I bought a new bedroom set, replacing her twin bed covered with a bright quilt of Sesame Street characters, with a full-sized canopy bed.  I covered the pale blue walls of her bedroom with coats of blush pink paint and placed a striped pale pink and white quilt trimmed with white eyelet lace on her new bed.  The matching white dresser, bedside table and bookshelf were painted with a single small delicate bouquet of flowers. It was perfect.  It was the bedroom set I never had.

The unveiling of the magnificent new bedroom was a total disaster.  At the tender age of six, Meagan was sensitive to others, but instead of the joy I thought this makeover would bring, she was unable to disguise her feelings. She did not want new or pink or change. Meagan wanted familiar and comfortable. Instead of wrapping her up in luxury, I stripped her of security and took away her identity.  At the time, I did not see the lesson in this. I only felt our mutual disappointment.

“I don’t know what her problem is,” I joked later.  “I gave Meagan everything I always wanted.”

Oh right, this is not my life to live again, not  my chance for do overs or to avoid mistakes.  This is simply my chance to demonstrate unconditional love and teach by good example.. I learned that I cannot impose my will, but I can impart any wisdom. 

When my daughter became ill, it rocked me to my core and brought me to my knees.  For the first time in my life, I understood what it felt like to be totally and utterly powerless.  I remember literally falling to my knees and shouting to the heavens in anguish. “God, help me,” I cried through painful tears.

The feeling of peace that overcame me cannot be explained except to say that when I rose to my feet, I did so as a different human being.

Meagan’s illness turned out to be the greatest blessing in my life. It is the amazing gift that re-calibrated my life.  It gave me perspective that I never would otherwise have had. It made me focus on what matters most and filled me with hope, determination and new strength.  All the frivolous things that once consumed me, suddenly became unimportant.  I faced death and darkness and, in doing so, I found  light.

The small stuff?  I don’t sweat it anymore.  I place so much less emphasis on things and much more importance on the people in my life. Self-pity has been replaced by gratitude.  I count my blessings today and focus on what I have rather than what I don’t.  I’ve learned to forgive people and to forgive myself. I don’t regret  the many mistakes including taking my daughter’s identity and security when I whisked Elmo and Ernie away.  Mistakes have been my greatest lessons.

When I reflect my journey, I realize that while I may be the mother, Meagan has always been my greatest teacher. She taught me how to love and that is the greatest gift of my life.

For all you mothers out there who know the depths of maternal love and perhaps the pain of seeing a child suffer, I send love, prayers and hope.   There is no calling as enriching and rewarding as being a mother.  And there is nothing as beautiful or life-affirming as a mother’s love.

Happy Mother’s Day with my love and admiration for the grit and grace it takes to be a mother. And as my dear, devoted mother has taught me from her loving and living example,  “keep on keeping on” with all the love in your hearts.

Firewalking Over Fear

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The smell of smoke is carried all around me by the heavy gusts of ocean breezes.  Before I see the fire, I feel the heat of the flaming coals that glow with crimson fire.  This is no longer just a concept of walking on fire. This is the fire I am to walk on.  The thought of walking across the 17 feet of burning embers seems less like a test of will and more like a test of sanity now.  Before I can be consumed by any flames, I am consumed by fear.

It’s impossible to walk across 1000 degrees of piping hot coals I tell myself.   The bravado and self-confidence are gone, carried off like the great puffs of black smoke.  All that is left is doubt and rationalization.  What’s the big deal, and what I am trying to prove anyway?  The inner struggle begins.  The real test won’t be walking across the scalding flames; it will be walking through my fear. That’s really the point, isn’t it? To prove I can do anything if I put my mind to it? Then why is it necessary to put my bare feet through it?   Wasn’t enough to shatter the arrow and bend the rod of steel?  What more proof is needed?

Before we work our way up to the firewalking, our instructor, Peggy Dylan,  hands us a wooden arrow with a steel tip. It’s the real deal type of arrow that I have only seen in an old cowboy western. Then she passes out Sharpie pens. She tells us to write our fears on the arrow. It’s impossible; there is not enough room on the narrow circumference to hold my laundry list of scary thoughts.  Fear of failure and success, fear of never finding romantic love and fear of finding it and losing it, fear of the future, fear of not having what I want and fear of losing what I have…  Now the fire seems like the more gentle form of consumption.  My thoughts are torture.

The arrow is quickly covered in thick, black indelible ink. My fears are out of my head now. I am holding them in my hand.  Peggy stands on stage opposite her husband who holds a square piece of wood chest high.  She places the arrow at the base of her neck, at the hallow of her throat that is soft and vulnerable.  The sharp, metal point of the arrow rests on the block of wood that her husband holds. I shudder at the thought of what is about to happen.

The audience is instructed to raise our energy and I am wondering if energy manifests as sweat and rapid pulse and heart rate.  Peggy is leaning into the board in the direction of her husband. She takes a few deep breaths and thrusts herself at him! The arrow breaks in half and she is unscathed.

The sweat of my hands loosens my grip on the arrow.  The slender cylinder is hard and, although I just witnessed the woman break it, I am skeptical.  Peggy instructs us to come onto the stage and break our arrow of fears.  I scan the room for exit doors.

One by one, I watch as people place the end of the arrow on the supple hallow of their throats.  Men, women and children imitate the instructor, breaking the  arrows. It’s my turn and I am determined. If they can do it, so can I.  With all the positive, fear-obliterating energy I can muster, I throw the weight of my body into the arrow. It does not break. It shatters into tiny splinters of wood. It practically explodes.  My fears are indiscernible among the wooden carnage. I am not hurt. I am stunned.

Next, we are handed a six-foot long piece of steel that I am told is rebar. Normally, it is the steel used to reinforce concrete.  For our purposes, it is the steel that is used to prove a point.  Instead of the arrow, the husband and wife team place the ends of the rebar at the hallow of their throats. They breathe and flap their arms slowly like a mighty eagle about to take flight.  The duo begins to walk toward each other until the steel is bent in the shape of a U. The goal is to walk close enough so they can hug, and they are on stage embracing with the bent steel smashed between them. Come on…

It’s my turn and I choke literally and figuratively as I try to walk to my partner for a hug. The steel bar pushes at my throat making me gag.   It can’t be done, except people all around me are hugging each other with bent bars between them. My thoughts change and then so does the outcome.  Soon I  am hugging a total stranger, laughing at the mind and rebar-bending magic.

The fire is different though.  It’s far scarier and my mind starts racing with objections. Third degree burns! Painful skin grafts, long rehabilitation and embarrassing explanations.

Walk through your fears.  Mind over matter.  If they can do it, so can I.  

Seventeen feet of eternal flames stands before me. I walk, focusing on the end and I feel nothing but adrenaline rushing through my body.  I am amazed and then, for a split second, I think this is impossible and I feel the intense heat on my foot.

Now I know there is no trick to this. It is  fire and it really burns.  I must walk over the coals again because now real fear exits.

There are two more times that I walk over the glowing red coals. There is no explanation and even though I have done this, I am still somewhat unbelieving.

Peggy stands nearby and I approach her with my astonishment.

“How is it possible to walk on fire?”    She answers quickly,  “Because you believed you could.”

The small container of ashes from the fire still sits on my desk.  It’s a reminder that when my mind begins to create limiting and crippling thoughts, I know how to conquer them.

After all,  I am a firewalker. All we have to do is believe, do and then walk right over fear to reach any goal.

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An Epiphany about Love

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It was if the hand of God came down and smacked the selfish stupidity right out of me.   How could I have lived half a lifetime and have been so blind?  The endless search for romantic love that so many of us find elusive, is generally right in front of our face or maybe even in the mirror we face.

He talked so lovingly about his wife.  With each tender word he speaks, a tear wells up in my eyes, the lump in my throat gets a bit bigger, and the longing in my heart aches more.

His wife no longer recognizes him he says.  The debilitating disease is worsening, slowly claiming her memory and disconnecting her from reality.  But he is there for her, devoted, loving, caring and selfless.   Alzheimer is a thief, robbing them both of precious memories. But her disease is harder on him, I am sure.

The woman he loves is still somewhere inside an emptying shell.  He loves her more than the day they met, he tells us.  His smile is warm and his eyes glisten,  maybe moistening with a bit of his own tears.  He looks happy despite his pain, he feels gratitude for what he has rather than anger for what he is losing. She no longer knows who I am, he tells us, but he feels blessed that he can care for her now when she needs him the most.

He has just come from visiting his wife in a nursing facility.  She no doubt was ambivalent to the company of this stranger, but his love endures.  There are remnants of her and, although the disease is  slowly destroying her mind, it could never destroy his love. The room was silent as we listened to him speak. It was almost incomprehensible to me, this selfless love of which he speaks.

Why can’t someone love me this way I think.  What is the secret to this infallible connection that endures all things?

I begin to cry deep, silent sobs of empathy, regret and perhaps some envy.  This inescapable and intoxicating love.  The painful and unquenchable longing of my heart that will not be quieted. It will not relent; it will not be sated.

There is, of course,  deep love for my family, devoted love for my friends, unconditional love for my child, abiding love for my God. But there is a deep desire for romantic love – for a life partner and soul mate.

The old man is across the room, and I make my way over to him. I wipe away the tears still streaming from my eyes.  He  greets me with a warm smile and I begin the sentimental dribble. ” I was so touched by your story…  I am sorry to hear about your wife… She’s so lucky to have a husband like you!”  The old man smiles politely.

“I wish someone would love me that much,” I say, consumed and blinded by self-pity. There is an odd expression on his face. He says nothing. He places his lips to my forehead and gives me a gentle kiss.

I am not a mile away from where I waved goodbye to the old man, when I am struck with a revelation like a bolt of lightning. I am hit with a life-changing, eye-opening, mind-blowing epiphany.  This realization makes me feel both foolish and enlightened.   I am ashamed at the way I gushed with the old man and am humbled by his gentle patience with me.   What must he think?  Will there be a chance for redemption?

Two weeks go by before I see him again.   He’s standing in the church annex by himself and smiles when he sees me coming his way.

I am sheepish but determined.  “I got it wrong, didn’t I?”  He knows what I am talking about, and his face illuminates as he allows me to continue.  “It’s not about being loved that much.”   The old man knows wisdom has been revealed. “You’re the lucky one.”  Bingo! Our eyes connect and his expression softens.

Love is no longer a puzzle or a mystery that I cannot explain. “You are the lucky one to love someone so much.”   Now it is his turn to cry, and he does.

“I knew you’d get it,” he says as he plants another comforting kiss on my forehead.

I’ve always known that love was the most powerful force in the universe, but now I understand why.

 

In Giving We Receive

The prayer of Saint Francis has always struck a chord with me.  It’s essentially a prayer to be the good in the world. To bring forgiveness to injury, to conquer hate with love, to bring light to darkness,  faith to doubt, hope to despair and joy to sadness. Can you imagine a world where that sort of prayer was in the hearts and minds of every person? But St. Francis does not end his petitions there, sainted man that he is.  He asks that he seek more to understand, love and console than to be loved, understood or consoled.  It is the most selfless prayer I have ever come across, and it’s an aspiration in my life.  But there is something in this prayer that is an astounding revelation. If you pray to be so selfless, you will be the one pardoned, the one to receive and the one to be brought to eternal life.  Paradoxical? Seemingly. True? Absolutely.

Though there have been countless stories of the benefits of giving and even studies that prove more benefit to a benefactor than a recipient, I have been given the gift of firsthand experience.  We all know how good it feels to give a gift.  We all know how richly rewarding it is to bring a smile to a sad face or a ray of hope to someone in despair.  Giving creates an emotional high, but apparently it also provides a physical high.  The Cleveland Clinic reveals that giving has all kinds of health benefits – giving guarantees a healthier, happier and longer life!  Who knew? ( besides St. Francis).

A year or so ago,  I was walking out of a drugstore. An elderly black man was standing outside and asked me if I had any spare change.  Refusing to help anyone in need is not in my DNA, so I fished in my purse for my wallet, only to discover that all I had was change. There was not one single bill in my wallet.  Maybe I should be the one asking, “Brother can you spare a dime?”  The man gratefully accepted the many coins I placed in his hands and blessed me profusely  for my generosity.

Now I feel bad.  What I offered probably couldn’t buy him a coffee at the Starbucks next door.  I can do better.

An ATM stood at the far end of the parking lot and I ask my friend to stop so I can get some cash. Of course, when it was dispensed, I got a handful of twenty-dollar bills.  My friend  sees this and hands me three ones and we drive back to the man.  He’s still standing on the curb when we pull up and offer him the three dollars.   “See how God works!” he declares into the blue sky.  “This is a good woman,” he tells my friend.  “This is kindhearted woman and you are blessed to be with her.” Now I am somewhat embarrassed, humbled and ashamed that, in exchange for my offering of three measly bucks, I am high-fived all over heaven.  This poor man can buy a cup of coffee now, but he won’t be  getting any latte or frappuccino, let alone anything to nourish his skeletal body.

Oh Lord, there is tug of the conscience so strong I cannot ignore it. I have to do better.

The man blessed me for eternity when I gave him one of the newly dispensed, twenty-dollar bills.  My friend was dubious and admonishes me for the generosity.  “That’s why you don’t have any money, Mayo,” he scolds.  He can’t take away my helpers high or the buzz I got from the blessing.

Goodness is headed my way, because that’s just the way it works. It’s an inescapable karmic and universal law. Even if the only reward I received was a quieted conscience and good feelings, that’s more precious than money.  “Somehow, some way that twenty dollars is going to come back to me ten times!” I proclaimed with faithful certainty.  This friend has known me long enough not to argue. He’s not going to change my belief  that I have to help those less fortunate even when I’m close to being in need myself.

He deposits me at my house and I am practically skipping up the steps fueled on helpers high. The mailbox is full and I grab the letters – most of it junk – and I indifferently  flip through each envelope.  One is addressed from my bank, and I am sure it is another credit card offer or worse, a bill of some sort.   I’m tempted to tear it up but I open it instead.  I’m stunned. Perhaps a bit scared even.  It’s a check for a little over two thousand dollars for an escrow payment overage.

Coincidence?  Hardly think so. The exact multiple of 20?  Of course.   I said I would somehow receive 10 times what I gave, but I am always underestimating the Power in the Universe.  It was 100 times what I gave.  Just didn’t expect it so soon.

Helping someone in need?  Fabulous.  Getting reimbursed in multiples? Miraculous. The emotional, spiritual and physical benefits of giving?  Absolutely priceless.

Oh, the bit about dying in order to be born to eternal life in St Francis’ prayer?  Doubtful it means a literal death of the flesh. My take on it is that it’s about the death of ego and selfishness and a rebirth into a meaningful life of spirit that cares more about others. Deep down, I think most of us already know that it is in giving that we receive.

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