Hippie Academy – Freedom Gone too Far!

I was in the third grade at Middlebelt Elementary School, a public school, when my father apparently had a disagreement with the principal, and the principal told him he was crazy. This was not the first time somebody called my dad crazy, by the way, but this time the situation got heated and my father told the principal that he would be removing his children from school. So, what is a hippie dad to do – take his kids to “the Free School”, of course.

bus 2The Free School was a school that basically didn’t have any teachers, per se, but definitely had a few adults roaming around keeping an eye on things. There was also no teaching going on, there was just this honor system type style of “teaching”. They gave us a math book and told us to complete the pages when we felt moved to do so and then we were to place a check mark on the board when it was complete. Thank goodness for the check marks because the inner pleaser in me had to know that somebody knew I was doing the right thing.

I don’t recall any art or music classes, but we did swim once a week in the city pool and watch movies.  And then there was that one “naked massage” class where two naked hippies walked into the room with a massage table and told us they were going to “teach” us how to do massage – now they decide to teach us something! They asked for volunteers and my siblings and I, with wide-eyes, declined.

I have to laugh imagining this going on today.  Helicopters would be flying above the school and the police would have them on the ground, in handcuffs, before they even had the chance to ask for volunteers.  It was the 70’s though, and it was sort of an anything goes kind of era, at least where I grew up.

I don’t recall why we left the Free School, but I am fairly certain it had nothing to do with the naked massage lesson. Looking back, I don’t think we even told our parents, we just wanted to forget it ever happened. We went back to public school, and we were understandably behind and a little embarrassed, but like every experience in life there was a gift.

There was a really nice mix of kids from various backgrounds at the Free School, and that showed me early on that there are all types of people living in all types of situations, and one is not better than the next, just different. This lesson prepared me for having to attend ten different schools after the Free School with a generous mix of cultures in each.

I quickly learned to trust my instincts too when I was asked to volunteer in the massage class. This was one of my first memorable experiences of feeling my instincts deep down inside my gut and trusting them.  That’s a feeling I will never forget, it has served me well.

Finally, I learned self-reliance while taking it upon myself to learn math, even though I did it to please others (another lesson I learned over and over later in life). I needed to know how to rely upon myself just two years later when my father passed away, and so the Free School was simply the practice I needed for “the Big Show”.

We often have experiences that come into our lives quickly and move out just as fast, leaving us with memorable and meaningful lessons.  They are short and sweet. I’m grateful that in the three short months I attended the Free School, I learned many valuable lessons, aside from math, that have stayed with me throughout my life.

A+ Student, not so much #13

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

A+ STUDENT, NOT SO MUCH

As long as I can remember, I thought of myself as the person in my family who had the good grades, the first to go to college and so on. I prided myself on this story, until recently when I had to request my high school transcripts and was shocked to find that I bombed several classes in 9th and 10th grade. As if that wasn’t enough, they were the classes I thought I excelled in, math and English. It’s ironic that I eventually chose to become a writer when I literally failed English in 9th grade and managed to raise my grade to a whopping D the second time I took it in 10th grade. It just goes to show you that a high school transcript is not necessarily a picture of one’s future.

I’ve always seen myself as a numbers geek too, I still do today. I find things related to numbers interesting, like investigating and tracking financial accounts to determine the trail of funds, for example. My memory of math in school was that it came very easily to me, and that I got straight A’s. And yet, I did not do well in math my first two years of high school. Hmmm…perhaps the brownies and cookies I gave to my teachers didn’t work as well as I remembered.

The good news is I eventually woke up and improved each semester until I graduated 34th in my class of 350 students (I’m not even sure how I know that). It may or may not be a coincidence that my grades improved significantly after we moved in 11th grade, and again in 12th grade.  I am certain all of the drugs I did in 9th and 10th grade had nothing to do with the D’s and E’s either.  But, because I have chosen to be completely honest, I have to admit I got into drugs starting in 7th grade and this continuing on through the end of high school. It obviously showed in my grades, and evidently effected my memory of my grades too!

The thing about honesty though, is that we all have a very different perception of the truth depending on our vantage point and our experiences. In this case, since my mother never yelled at me about homework or my grades like she did my siblings, and since I spent many of my days high on one thing or another during those years, the part I played in my movie was one of a straight A student. The truth was a very different story. If you had asked me prior to seeing the grades in black and white, I would have sworn to you that I was a straight A student. mymovieWe all see life through different lenses. Some people see the glass as half empty, some see it half full. Some people see life through rose-colored glasses, some with dark shades. Some folks bury their heads in the sand or sweep things under the rug, but each of us sees life through our own viewfinder which is continually changing throughout our lives based on everything we see and experience.  If we were to witness an event at age 20 and then witness that same event at age 40, we would have very different stories to report. Similarly, when several people are witnessing the same event, you’ll hear them tell different stories of how the events unfolded, and they will defend their individual positions vehemently. The truth is, they are all right, because they all saw it happen through their viewfinder. It’s their truth.

So the next time you find yourself defending your position, just breathe, and consider that maybe being right isn’t all that practical, and maybe it isn’t all that important either. Maybe having peace in your relationships is far more important than being right.

Syndee – Big Loss #10

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

SYDNEE – BIG LOSS

Okay, I promised that even the most horrific events in our lives can bring unexpected gifts, so here goes.

It was 1996 and Eric, my kids’ father, and I decided to start our family. I was ready. I was 33 years old and most of my friends already had babies, the clock was ticking! We needed to get busy!!! It didn’t take long before I was pregnant; I was due in May of the following year.

As much as I wanted to be a mom, though, I wasn’t all that excited about pregnancy. I wasn’t one of those beautiful, glowing, adorable pregnant women who did yoga up to their last month. It was quite the contrary; I ate everything in sight and didn’t really appreciate the miracle that was happening inside my belly.  It was more of a means to an end, actually.

May rolled around and I started to notice my stomach contracting, but no pain.  Hmmm, “that’s strange”, I thought. But, two nights’ prior the baby was rolling around like crazy, so being a new mom, I assumed she was getting ready to come out. I called my doctor and he told me to meet him at the hospital.

While we waited for our doctor to arrive, a nurse and the on-call doctor put a heart monitor on my belly. She looked at me with the coldest eyes I’ve ever seen, and said, with a matter-of-factness that still makes me shake my head today, “There’s no heartbeat.” I couldn’t even comprehend what she was saying because it was just so horrible. At that moment, my world slowed down like I was moving through big fluffy white clouds, unable to fully concentrate, and not really sure what was going on. It all felt very surreal.

Over the next few days, we named our baby, Sydnee, held her in our arms, planned her funeral and was faced with finding a way to go on with life. My whole life’s plan revolved around being a mom; I quit my job, planned our futures and had no idea what to do with my life anymore. This was without a doubt one of the most difficult times in my life. And yet, the greatest gifts in my life came out of this loss. It took me a while to realize these gifts, but once I did, it became clear to me that everything that comes our way brings with it some unexpected gifts.

You see, at this particular point in my life, I was a very angry, resentful, self-righteous, bitchy young lady. I blamed my (former) husband for everything. I took no responsibility for anything in my life, it was easier to blame him and anybody else who walked across my path. I was mad at the world! It never even dawned on me that there was a better way to live life. I figure it was just my lot in life. But then Sydnee died and I had a lot of time alone to think about life.

I didn’t work for a year. I spent my days walking and journaling with my sweet, loving pooch, Zoe by my side. I did a lot of reading and exploring and eventually realized that there was a better way to live. Losing Sydnee brought me to a crossroads that I didn’t even know existed. For the first time in my life I had a choice between continuing on as an angry, bitchy girl or figuring out what the hell I was so bitchy about. I am happy to say I chose door number two, and since then I have been on a road that has led me to yoga, meditation and self-responsibility, without the need to blame anybody for anything. I no longer need to be right all the time either, and life has gotten a hell of a lot better! This was an enormous gift Sydnee gave to me. She was here for a short time to teach me how to love myself and others again. She took me down a road that I otherwise may never have found. I am so incredibly grateful she came into my life!

The two most incredible gifts she gave me were my two sons who came after her. I cannot imagine a world without these two incredible young men in it. They fit me perfectly, they get me and my quirky sense of humor, they love me unconditionally and they make me so incredibly proud to be in their lives. If Sydnee had lived I would not have had them in my life. Also, I wasn’t particularly aware of how fortunate I was to be a mom when I was pregnant with Syndee, I took it all for granted. And since I was so angry at that point in my life, I don’t know that I would have truly appreciated her as much as I should have if she had survived. I can say with certainty that Sydnee has made me acutely aware of just how fortunate I am to be a mom and what a miracle childbirth really is. I am so grateful she came into my life, even though it was for such a short time. She was a great teacher.

Life is gonna suck sometimes, no doubt. But I promise, if you look closely and keep your mind open, you’ll see that some pretty frickin’ amazing things can come out of all the suckiness.

Papa Sam #2

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

 

Papa Sam

Papa Sam had a very distinct teaching style. I think Nike’s “just do it” sums it up. When I learned to ride a bike, Papa Sam held on to the back of my bike running with me, for about three seconds, and then he pushed my down the hill. Trust me when I tell you I learned how to ride a bike right then and there. The same thing took place when I learned to swim and dive. He picked me up at three years old, threw me in the pool and somehow knew I would survive. No fear.

There was nothing but faith in my Papa Sam’s eyes – he knew that I would succeed. While I wouldn’t take this approach in teaching my own children, I value the beauty in his methods. He taught me to relentlessly face my fears. This came rushing back to me as I was at the top of a ropes course having to jump from one plank to another in mid-air while grabbing a rope 100 feet or more off the ground to get to the other side. It was scary as hell, but somewhere deep down I was prepared for that day because of my Papa.

He also taught me to allow my children to face their fears while letting go and allowing them to experience their lives. This is amazing because I have a son who loves to jump and flip and fly through the air as often as possible, just like I used to.

Despite Papa Sam’s unorthodox style of teaching, I felt nothing but love and a sense of comfort from him. He was an extraordinarily loving man, who thankfully did not pass fear on to me.

The Age of Aquarius #1

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

 

The Age of Aquarius

Born in the 60’s to two beautiful, free-thinking hippies, life was anything but “normal”. Our jet-setting parents, who resembled movie stars, had big parties, big hair, took us on fancy vacations and exposed us to a fast-paced way of life. Not your typical hippies, I suppose.

We regularly attended public school – except that one time which you will learn about later. Oy veh.  We performed dance routines on the lawn for our parents with the neighbor kids, we rode our bikes all day until dusk, and we spent our days doing what most typical kids did back in the 60’s and 70’s. Looking back, it’s pretty clear that our lives were “different” than most of the kids on our block.

Believe me when I tell you I had plenty to be potentially embarrassed about growing up. I could have walked around in shame because my family looked and acted differently, but over time I was able to see the blessings that came with being raised by hippies. I learned to see my life through eyes of appreciation, freeing myself of shame – a very harmful substance to store in one’s body.

This “peace/love” world taught me to be open-minded and accepting of all types of people and circumstances without much effort. “Live and let live” was the mantra of their generation and in our house. Imagine a world where everybody accepted everybody else for who they are and with love for their neighbor. The world would be a very different place today. I’m proud of this gift I was given at a young age, and to this day strangers regularly approach me and tell me their stories effortlessly as if they have known me forever. I feel truly blessed that people feel safe to share their lives with me.

Having been raised by two parents who were “otherwise focused” taught me to be low maintenance and independent, too. I see how hard people work to keep up appearances and how they rely so heavily on others, and I am grateful to have learned to take care of myself without needing material objects to make me happy. This made things much easier when I lost my job later in life and had to downsize my life considerably.

Our parents teach us in many ways, and some of their best lessons are in the form of what not to do. I learned that a life of partying and drugs was not the life for me by watching others using drugs in excess. I may have had a completely different experience in another family, but I cherish my past and all of its dysfunction…I have no regrets.

A Mama’s Gotta take a Breath…#12

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

A Mama’s Gotta take a Breath…

Becoming a mom is unquestionably the best decision I’ve ever made.  I know, with certainty, that I was meant to be a mom.  In fact, sometimes my teenagers still tease me, asking me if I want to put sunscreen on them and bubble wrap around them before they leave the house.  I may be a little overprotective, but I love the “cubs”, as I call them, more than I could ever imagine loving anybody, so sometimes I overdo it. Having said all that, parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever committed to doing.

IMG_2187 (1)When you’re thinking about having kids nobody tells you just exactly what’s involved, and even if they did you wouldn’t listen.  Before you have kids, you think “that looks easy, why don’t they just make that screaming kid be quiet. I would never let my child get away with that.”  It isn’t until you’re in the thick of it, and you’ve survived night after night with just two hours of sleep, and somehow you are still madly in love with that little punk who caused all those sleepless nights, that you know you were meant to be a parent.

There’s no question parenting is challenging.  Today, for example, I planned to write, and I had a video conference call scheduled. My whole day was planned out and I was motivated! And then, it dawned on me that it was a half day at school and the kids would be home at 12:00. So I rescheduled my conference call to an earlier time.  And then, my son decided he wasn’t feeling well and wanted to stay home from school. So he stayed home and promised to stay in his room during my conference call.  The conference call came in 45 minutes early, and my son came out of his room in his underwear, and the person on the other end of the video asked about the kid in his underwear.  He went to the kitchen to make something to eat and the noise made it hard to concentrate for both me and the person on the other end of the call that I had been waiting for all week. He eventually went back into his bedroom, and my other son rang the buzzer, he was home from school!  Shortly after, my nephew came over.  Let’s just say, it wasn’t the quiet, productive day I had envisioned.

So what’s a girl to do when things don’t go exactly as planned; breathe, of course.  While all of this was going on, I have to admit, I did more yelling then breathing.  But the kids went out for a little while and it gave me time to meditate. By the time they got home I was sane again and we had a nice peaceful night. Had I not taken the time to breathe, I may have still been frustrated when they got home, and the night may have gone a very differently, but I don’t like to waste precious time being angry with the people I love.IMG_2196 (1)

I was reminded today that if I had taken the time to ‘just breathe’ while all of this was going on, I would have had a second to remember that everything happens exactly as it’s supposed to.  My perspective would have shifted right away, and my meeting would have gone better because I would have been more present.

Kids are our best teachers; they are our mirrors, showing us exactly what we need to see in ourselves. By being noisy, my kids showed me that I am paying too much attention to the noise in my head. By being disruptive, they were showing me that I have been procrastinating and letting things get in the way of the plans I have for myself. By getting in my space, they showed me that I have to tighten up my boundaries.

Of course, my kids weren’t innocent in all of this, but ultimately everything that comes into our lives is ours even if it appears that somebody else is causing it.  We can either choose to learn from it or we can be the victim of it. The good news is we have a choice, and I still adore the cubs, even though sometimes they make me crazy.

My Cinderella Story Gone Wrong

Cinderella is one of the leading causes of divorce. If you don’t believe me, read on…

Most women grow up with Disney’s version of a storybook romance fueling their desire to fall in love, get married, have children and live happily ever after. Once we are a little older we continue on our path with movies like Sleepless in Seattle, Pretty Woman and The Holiday keeping our fantasies alive. We almost have no chance; we are pumped with romance not only in movies, but in novels, magazines and of course societal pressure to get married before we become old maids. What’s a girl to do? 

We finally meet a guy that seems worthy of our love and we get married. We plan a big wedding and get lost in the excitement of it all. Unfortunately, nobody really tells you that marriage takes a lot of work and dedication, they simply congratulate you.

I was no different. I bought into the whole handsome prince taking me away on his white horse nonsense and I liked it. It’s exciting to think about actually. I met my prince and he was a good guy. I had a ball planning my wedding. I got so busy planning my wedding that I forgot to pay attention to my relationship.

Several years and a few kids into my marriage I decided I wasn’t happy because my ex wasn’t the prince I thought he was going to be. In other words, he didn’t sweep me off my feet each day, tell me how beautiful I was and how much he loved me, buy me lots of big expensive gifts, fly me all over the world showing me all that life had to offer and oh yea, he didn’t help me with all of the extensive details required in running a household and raising little kids. Most of all, he didn’t “make me happy” like the prince is supposed to do.  Or so I thought…Looking back he was a great prince and he did buy me nice things, take me away on nice vacations and buy me a very  nice home to raise out kids in.  I didn’t see it though because I was so buried in my story that I couldn’t see my reality.

I saw those princesses dancing around and singing when they thought about the man they loved and I wasn’t singing or dancing. In fact, I was kind of depressed. I built up years of resentment that made matters even worse.

What I didn’t realize until a year or two after I got divorced was that I was the one who was supposed to “make me happy.” Go figure. All those years I blamed him for not making me happy and it wasn’t even his job. This is a common misconception in relationships on both sides, actually. We so often look outside of ourselves for happiness and in reality; the only person who can make us happy is ourselves. Unfortunately, it is often after the divorce that many people learn this lesson, if ever.

The man in cases like these is often shocked and surprised by the fact that his wife is going to leave him. He thought everything was going along fine. The house was clean, dinner was on the table and he had the house, the wife, the dog and 2.3 kids. He had no idea he was even playing the role of the prince, let alone what the job requirements were. How was he supposed to do the right thing when he didn’t know what that meant? He went off to work each day, working hard to provide for his family like every young man is taught to do. He is told by the men in his life that if he worked hard to get ahead and provide for his family everything would be great.

While I was married I lost my identity and my individuality. I got so busy trying to be the perfect wife and mother that I forgot to take care of me. I forgot what I stood for and what made me who I was. I spent the last 5 years figuring out what makes me happy and becoming the responsible party for making me happy. I urge you to take time after your divorce to “find yourself.” Figure out what makes you happy. Many women lose themselves in relationships and forget what is important to them. Do some exploring and figure out what you really want in a relationship before you get into another one? There is no point in getting into another relationship and making the same mistakes you made in the first one. What’s the hurry? Take some time for yourself and get to know yourself again. I’m willing to bet that you will like the person you find. The time it takes will be worth it because it will shape your future-don’t repeat the past.