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.

Zoe – Serendipity!

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

ZOE (SERENDIPITY)

Zoe was a six-month old golden retriever that came into my life when I was pregnant with my daughter, Sydnee.  She was sweet, beautiful, loving, quiet, and most importantly, fully trained.  I wasn’t looking for a dog because I was having a baby, and I didn’t want the responsibility of a dog and a baby at the same time.  My sister-in-law couldn’t keep her though, and something in me told me to take her anyways-she was so cute!

I am incredibly grateful that Zoe came into my life because shortly thereafter Sydnee passed away, and Zoe was my constant companion.  She stuck by my side day in and day out.  Her unwavering, ooshy gooshy love helped me get through one of the most difficult times of my life. She sat by me while I cried and journaled, walked with me everyday and kept me company all day and night. I don’t know how I would have gotten through the loss of my daughter without her.

Zoe coming into my life was no accident; she was right there on the road map just exactly where she was supposed to be, and she stayed there until the summer I had to move out of my house and into a condo that didn’t allow pets.  She passed away just two weeks before I moved.  She was a very intuitive dog and one of my greatest teacher.

Zoe taught me how to be unconditionally loving before I became a parent and had to learn “on the job”.  She taught me to listen without the need to make the conversation all about me.  She taught me to be loyal and to stick by people even when they aren’t at their best.  And most of all, Zoe reminded me that the universe brings us everything we need and right on time.

Isn’t she the sweetest!!!  Miss you!  xoxo  zoe

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.

Jonah’s Open Heart #21

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

 

Jonah’s Open Heart

When they say I would rather take the pain myself then watch my child go through it, they aren’t kidding. When my son Jonah was three years old a doctor noticed that he had a heart murmur. She sent us to a pediatric heart specialist, and lo and behold, Jonah had a sub aortic stenosis; simply put, a blockage below the aorta where blood flows out. It was small and something the doctors watched year after year to be sure that it didn’t get to the point where surgery would be necessary. We visited the heart doctor every year fearing the worst. Each year they told us that it was steady or growing slowly and to come back the following year.

Just before Jonah’s eleventh birthday, in 2011, he started slowing down, unable to run as far and as fast as he had in the past. Jonah was always a very energetic kid who loved to run and jump and flip as often as possible. Nothing slowed him down until that year. He even complained that he wasn’t feeling like himself. We all knew it was time.

We made an appointment with the heart doctor and they agreed. It was time. Imagine having to listen to a doctor tell your child that they needed open-heart surgery. This was one of the most difficult days of my life. The look on his face was gut-wrenching. If there was anything I could have done to trade places with him, I would have, to spare him the fear and pain he would have to endure.

To hear Jonah tell it, the hardest part was 1) all the needles, believe it or not, 2) waking up and not being able to breathe because of the tube down his throat and the machine that was breathing for him and 3) getting all of the tubes out, one after the other as the days went on. For me, it was the mental anguish of watching my child go through the scariest time of his life.

It was a life changing moment for him, and one that showed him how strong he was and what he could overcome. It turned a free spirited, in-the-moment child, into a more serious young man. It showed him just how strong he really was, and it showed him just how real life can get really quickly.

As a mom, I cannot tell you how proud I am having watched my son go through this with grace and fearlessness. He taught me so much, in fact, that I would call upon those memories two years later when I was faced with my own scary diagnosis. His response when I told him I needed surgery was “Mom, I’m not worried, my surgery was way worse than yours.” He was right.

During this experience I learned to be honest with my kids because their imagination is always worse than the truth. I learned that kids can handle far more than we give them credit for. I also learned that kids can really teach us adults a thing or two about life. They live in the moment rather than the future and what might happen, and I’m guessing that’s what keeps the level of pain at a minimum for them because they only experience what is actually happening in that moment, rather than the pain from all the future they anticipate.

Just two short weeks after open-heart surgery, Jonah was trying to negotiate with me to let him throw the football “gently” to his brother. If you know my boys, you know there is no such speed as “gentle”. Kids really do live in the moment and they are so resilient. They are such great teachers!

We had been going to a pediatric heart specialist for eight years, and about a year before Jonah’s surgery, on a whim, I decided to go on a dating website. The one man I went out with from that website was a pediatric heart surgeon from the same hospital, and coincidentally, he was the heart surgeon who was scheduled to do Jonah’s surgery. The universe was at work setting things up long before Jonah’s surgery, and it gave me a renewed faith that somebody up there was looking out for us.  A coincidence? I think not.

Thanks Doc! xo

Uncle Sam, not to be Confused with Papa Sam (although equally delicious and loving) #8

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

 

Uncle Sam, not to be Confused with Papa Sam (although equally delicious and loving)

Uncle Sam was one of the kindest, most selfless people I have ever met. He would give you the shirt off his back and never give it another thought. He had bubble gum in the trunk of his car at all times to give to the kids in the neighborhood. He never expected a thank you. He was simply a giver in the truest sense. In fact, when I am in a situation that I am not sure how to handle I will often think to myself, “What would Uncle Sam do?”

Uncle Sam was an electrician. When he would help friends and family with electrical problems they would ask him, “What do I owe you?”. Sam’s response was always “Give me a dime.” He collected those dimes for as long as I can remember.

Sadly, Uncle Sam died years ago, and to this day we all find dimes at the most unusual times. His granddaughter was in a minor car accident and when she got out of the car she looked on her seat and there sat a dime. My aunt, his wife, is now with another really great guy and even he finds dimes – my uncle’s way of telling him to take good care of my aunt, I’m guessing. Even from beyond, this man who was always a giver, has found a way to keep giving to those he loves. I’m grateful to have known him and to be among those he loved.

Uncle Sam taught me to believe in miracles because I find dimes whenever I need them, whether it’s when I’m not sure about a decision I’m trying to make, if I’m yelling at my kids too much or at moments when I need a little extra reassurance. He also taught me to be giving by nature. He knew the truth – that there is enough abundance in the world for every one of us so there is no reason not to be generous.

He was incredibly loving and protective of his family. He taught me what a strong man who loves his family looks like, something I wasn’t able to learn from my own father. Decisions I make about men are strongly rooted in whether Sam would approve or not. He wasn’t judgmental, he would just give you that look and you knew it wasn’t in your best interest. To this day, Uncle Sam continues to help me live in my integrity, helping me to be clear about how I want to spend my days and with whom I wish to spend them.