Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Life is an Oprah Episode - On Faith

Faith isn't the ability to believe long and far into the misty future.
     It's  simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.
                                                                - Joni Erickson Tada


 Unless I am asked, I usually do not discuss religion or politics.  Many of my friends know where I stand on relevant social issues and I have very definitive political views.  By nature, I am not religious in the sense that I feel I need to preach my beliefs to another human being. For me, it's been private, and I'm just as comfortable with others speaking about their beliefs.  I was raised Roman Catholic, and I have no need to follow any other organized religion, in spite of recent scandalous events.  The atrocities committed by members of the church were human frailties   What I've discovered, using Catholicism as home base, is my spirituality. 

I believe in God; my relationship with Him is personal, and He is at the core of my faith.  Throughout good times, and less than good times, I have used prayer and my faith as a compass -- my true North.  There have been times when I have experienced raw emotional pain, so debilitating, so paralyzing, that although I've never been suicidal, fully understand how a person would do anything to make the pain stop.  I have drawn on my faith to sustain me through those times, and it has enabled me to be grateful for all the other areas of my life when I was too self-absorbed to be thankful.  

As the year winds down, I find myself, not unlike many others; reflective of the past, and perspective of the future.
My wish for myself is to have an open and empathic heart.  One of my favorite quotes is from the book Illusions by Richard Bach : " You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self.  Don't turn away from possible futures before you're certain you don't have anything to learn from them. You're always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past."   
At first,  I thought, well, you really can't have a different past.  But, what this really means is that you can change your attitude about what in your past has hurt you.  Because, the past really can not hurt you anymore....unless you dwell on it and it keeps you from moving forward.  Kinda like having cement shoes on. Been there; done that.

Now, I am looking forward to a New Year and although I long ago gave up making resolutions, I have set some goals for myself and with a little help from my faith, will see them to fruition. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Life is An Oprah Episode - It's in his kiss !

Okay, we call it love, but, scientists call it philematology.  And, its in the kiss.  And, like the Shoop, Shoop, Shoop song recorded by Cher, It's in his kiss.  No really. It is.  I've tested this numerous times over the years and it one of the things in life I am sure about.

So, how come?  “Kissing is a mechanism for mate choice and mate assessment,” says Helen Fisher, a Biological Anthropologist from Rutgers University..  Hmmm....I don't usually think about a mate choice when I'm being kissed, at least not at first.  But, I can tell you with great certainty, that if the kiss does not feel right (good), I'm outta there!  Mate assessment, I guess.

 The first boy I kissed was Peter Hill.  I don't think I was more the seven (7) and my friends watched as I got on top of him and planted one.  What I remember was pressing my mouth on his for about three (3) seconds and that was it.   By the age of twelve (12) I had my first real "make-out" session with Benny Cottiletto in the Tunnel of Love at an amusement park (actually it was called "Ye Olde Mill").  Again, just lips pressing together with no movement.  I wondered...is that all there is?   I tried not to panic.  What is all the fuss about kissing, and making out?  After all, I had played "spin the bottle" many times; still, no real satisfaction.  Finally, at the age of thirteen (13), and after my eight grade prom, Marty Dulin pulled me into the coat room upstairs and asked me out.  When I said yes, he pulled me close and kissed me with great passion -- well, as much as a thirteen year old can muster.  It was better than earlier kisses, but, still I wasn't crazy about it, so I broke off with him before another kiss took place. 

So what’s all the making out about?   It is about true love?  No, it really is just about chemistry.  The unexplainable ingredient which defines many relationships.  Aside from the earlier kissing experiences, by the time I was sixteen (16), I understood what real kissing was about.  I did not have a name for it then, but, it was chemistry.

My first real love was Ronnie Greene, and we started going out in the summer just before I started junior year in high school.  Even though I had other boyfriends before Ronnie, and I had made-out with most of them, no one kissed me in a way that kept me coming back for more.  There was tongue, and long, lingering mouth on mouth sessions.  Ronnie was a year older than me, and he had already had sexual experiences.  We were together for about two (2) years (off and on), and I don't think I kissed anyone more than Ronnie.  We almost had sex on New Year's Eve of my senior year, but, we were interrupted by his brother.  Back to kissing only for a while.  The prom held out promise, but, Ronnie was in the hospital with mononucleosis just two days earlier.  He had the kissing disease?  I was jinxed.  I finally did lose my virginity to Ronnie, and when he went into the Army, I found someone else to kiss.  They say you never forget your first love, and that may be true.  For me, I never forgot the first great kisser. After years of  relationships, it has been the same for me.  If the kiss isn't right, it doesn't work.

Several years ago, I was getting together with someone I had been friends with for many years.  He had been divorced for a while, and we had gone out many times while I was still living in NY...mostly lunches, dinners, tennis matches and other sporting events.  He had come down to Raleigh to visit me because he wanted to try "dating" me, and take our relationship to a new level.  I liked him a lot; we got along great, he had a lot to offer as he had a solid career, made a lot of money, was attractive and funny.  I picked him up at the airport and he gave me a quick hug and kiss on the cheek.  So far, so good.  I dropped him off at his hotel and went upstairs with him so he could change for dinner.  When we got into his room, he turned to me, grabbed me,  pulled me close, and kissed me.  Buzz kill.  I had better kisses from my cat.  Nothing. Nada.   I was in trauma.  Quickly, I told him I was starving and needed to be fed.  All through dinner I kept figuring out a way to not kiss him again.  I knew I was letting go someone special, but, the chemistry just wasn't there.  I let him down easy by saying I was still involved with someone else, and preferred to wait until I was free of the other person before pursuing another relationship.  As the scientists put it, saliva  is a chemical cocktail, and lots of hormones are in it.  He didn't have the right stuff.  Is that too shallow?  I needed the kiss to be great.

Anyone who says kissing isn't what it is all cracked up to be, is either lying, or just doesn't know any better. I won't be with anyone who doesn't get my juices flowing. (loose termination).  Is there a certain technique?  Do you know most people turn their heads to the right just before the kiss?  I like music in the background, soft lighting, or candles.  Who am I kidding?  I like it even with my back pressed up against a wall in bright daylight -- if the chemistry is there; being taken by surprise.   Yes, I like to be kissed.  And, I think it is a chick thing, because men have admitted to me that they would still have sex with a bad kisser.  I can't imagine making love without kissing.

Does he love me, I wanna know 
How can I tell if he loves me so?
  (Is it in his eyes) - Oh no, you'll be deceived
        (Is it in his eyes) - Oh no, he'll make believe
        If you wanna know if he loves you so
        It's in his kiss - (that's where it is), oh yeah
(the original Shoop Shoop Shoop song recorded by Betty Everett.
 Sorry, Ronnie...found another great kisser!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Life is An Oprah Episode - On Feminism, Gender Roles, Double Standards

Feminists.  I can only imagine that saying that conjures up images of women that hate men, don't wear makeup, have hairy armpits & legs and wear frumpy clothes. Well, I am a feminist, and let me assure you that I love men (every inch of them), I do wear makeup, and I shave my legs, armpits and get regular bikini waxes.  Feminism refers to movements aimed at establishing and defending equal political and social rights of women and also equal opportunities for women.  Most feminists I know are women, however, I also have some male friends that I consider to also be feminists.  They care about equal rights, not only for women, but, for any group that have been typically discriminated against -- gays/lesbians, blacks, hispanics among others.

When I was a very young child, growing up and playing street games in NYC, it never occurred to me that there were supposed to be gender roles.  I mean, I was playing all those games with all the boys -- games like stick ball, punch ball, handball, etc.  Even on Sundays, when I had to wear a dress all day, I still played with the boys.  I also collected baseball cards and used to "flip" them to win more.  Once while flipping cards in the school yard with Danny Caliente, a boy I had a crush on, I let him win, so he would still like me.  I realized then and there that girls would not be liked if they could beat a boy in a game.  Once I found out he liked someone else,  I challenged him to flip cards until I took away his favorite player -- Mickey Mantle.  Identifying gender roles would be on hold for me until later on, or, until I liked another boy.

When I was nineteen (19) I became engaged.  I have to admit that the first thing that crossed my mind immediately after the ring went on my finger was "wow, I am glad I got this out of the way", -- translation - finding a man and getting married.  The first weekend of the engagement,  my fiance and I went to his friend's house for Sunday dinner.  They were a very large Italian family who sat me down and began to quiz me about the wedding, where we were going to live, etc.  Then these women told me that as soon as I get married I must put my entire paycheck in savings so we can get used to living on one salary for when I had all the babies and stay home.  My head was spinning.  What !  I can not spend my money, that I earned if I want to?  I'm having babies? I can't go to work?  I'm only nineteen.  On the way home, I was hyperventilating and broke out in hives.  I knew for sure women were not treated as equals and future years would prove this time and again, most notably in the corporate world.

As for double standards, the most recognizable area that applies is  -- SEX.  You know, if she does, shes a Slut.  If he does, he's a Stud.  (there's a great book about double standards -  called . He's A Stud, She's a Slut, written by Jessica Valenti - a feminist I've known she the day she was born)...I have never understood that concept.  Look, I was afraid to have sex when I was a teenager, and "held out" until I was almost eighteen (18).  But, I wanted to, and spent those hormonal years  grinding and being groped so I would not go "all the way", afraid of becoming pregnant or being thought less than.  That was just crazy.  Plus, I found out that all my friends had already "done it".  That pissed me off!  Society is still hung up on it, and girls still get a bad rap.

What gets my blood boiling these days are Purity Balls.  Purity Balls promote virginity among teenage girls who are encouraged to sign a pledge that they will remain sexually abstinent until marriage.   The balls are attended with their fathers who pledge to protect their daughters purity of mind, body and soul.  The whole idea of this makes my skin crawl.  It's creepy.  First of all, these girls are typically pre-teen, about age 11 and 12.  They know nothing of their sexuality and how they feel about being a virgin.  It sets them up for failure, because statistically, less than 95% remain virgins, so now they have unrealistic expectations and pressure on them.  Why should their father make choices for them?  And, more importantly, why should these girls believe that they have a higher "value" on them if they remain a virgin?   Pure?  Why should having sex with anyone be considered a gift?  If a girl or boy chooses to wait until marriage to have sex, that is fine and it is their choice..  Just as choosing to have sex is their business.  The true gifts one should bestow on a partner is caring, sincerity, kindness and respect.  I do not think that very young girls (and boys) should be having sex, but, the reality is, teenagers are having sex.  What they need is to be educated about their bodies, and how to be safe.  The whole idea of teaching "abstinence only" is ludicrous.  I know that some reading my blog may not agree with me and that is okay.  These are my feelings; my opinions; my beliefs.  I believe in equality and hope someday we'll actually have it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Life is An Oprah Episode - Living in the Moment

When faced with challenging times, as I have recently experienced, I have found it a daily chore to maintain a positive attitude. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.  I know and understand, at an intellectual level, that worrying solves nothing....it will actually create many problems, emotional and physical.  But, to sync the heart and head seems impossible.  It usually comes back to fear -- fear of the unknown.  I know what you're thinking -- nothing profound or new there. There are hundreds of self-help books that address every issue we face and then some.  What to do?

I made a  choice a couple of weeks ago to subscribe to "living in the moment", or mindfulness.  I know, I know, very zen-like of me.  But, I had to try something.  So, I set out, daily, to live in the moment.
It sounds very prosaic, almost boring.  I have been attempting not to focus too much on the future, but, only in the present, and only use the past as a source of reference.  What I have found out, for sure, is that living in the moment takes a lot of practice.  You have to train for it as though it is a sport.  I start out in the morning by looking at my reflection in the mirror, and instead of saying that I need some serious eye cream, I say "today is a good day".  I stay in the present ...in the moment.  I've been practicing every day and try not to let the distractions -- distract me from my daily goal.  The odd thing is...is that is works.  And, at the end of the day, just before bed, I look at my reflection in the mirror again, and say " I forgive you".  I borrowed that line from Kitty Carlisle, who was a actress, singer, broadway star, etc, many years ago; I saw her being interviewed one time, and that line stuck with me.  It gives  a clean slate to wake up to in the morning.

The present reveals itself in every moment and often we are too busy to notice.  Now that it is the Christmas season, true craziness abounds.  I love Christmas, and if you have been reading earlier blogs, you know my current situation -- financially, which prevents me from participating in any gift buying.  I have long despised the commercialism of Christmas; I know many of you feel the same way.  At the same time, I love seeing expressions on faces of those I have purchased gifts for.  I have rarely asked what they want for Christmas, but, rather have always enjoyed exploring shops to find something that matches their spirit.  I'll miss that this year and still feel sad about it.  But ,being in true mindfulness form, I am no longer worrying about it - well, actrually, trying not to worry.  Would I like a small fortune to land on my doorstep, or someone to rescue me, at least in the short term?  Is that a trick question? Of course the answer is yes.

To live in the moment, one has to behave as though no one is watching.  While I draw the line at talking to myself out loud, I do smile or laugh when I am thinking of something that makes me do so wherever I happen to be.  I perform an act of kindness whenever I can, and try to lose track of time and only focus on what I am presently doing.  This comes in handy when I know I should be cleaning out a closet, but, instead writing this blog.  :)


Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Life is An Oprah Episode - Grand Child

"Katey's here."  That is what I said as I contacted family and friends to let them know that my granddaughter was born.  It was August 20, 2000, and about ten (10) years earlier than I had anticipated becoming a grandparent.  She weighed in at 9lbs 3oz, and I called her Bruno.  We were all surprised that Katey was so BIG, as my daughter, Heather, looked as though she had a large lunch the day before.  For me, it was love at first sight.

I had heard from many friends, that although you love your children, when you have a grandchild, it is like no other love.  Having my daughter taught me about what love really was; unconditional.  Meeting Katey filled me with emotion that was a little foreign to me.  Some of that came from the fact that my daughter was so young, and I was concerned about her parenting skills.  In time that would take care of itself.  I formed a very strong bond with Katey, named after me (my middle name - Katherine) before she even left the hospital.

When Katey was one week old,  I was walking with Heather as she was taking Katey back to her car. Katey began to smile and as I snapped a photo with my camera, she raised her middle finger.  It was so funny, but, I knew that very moment that Katey was giving us a sign that she was going to live her life on her own terms and not be concerned what anyone would think of her.

Katey has ADHD and with that comes a set of challenging situations.  Blessed with a very high IQ, Katey is very creative and expressive and says exactly what she thinks.  She knows how to figure things out -- it is sometimes intimidating to witness a child that can articulate the way an adult would.  Yet, emotionally, she is probably a few years behind her peer group.  It's hard to recognize that, often because, there is such a high expectation of her, given her intellect.  Inasmuch as her behavior can make me want to pull my hair out, her endearing qualities will overshadow my frustration with her.  She is delicious.  Katey sees the world in technicolor; she is interested in everything around her, and she is one of the most interesting people I know. And, I can hardly wait to see how she makes her mark on the world.

Granchild.  It's love.  On steroids.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Life is An Oprah Episode - On Favorite Things and Opinions

I'm opinionated...ask anyone who knows me.  Shouldn't we all be opinionated?  But, no matter how I feel about something, like or dislike it,  I believe everyone has the right to "own" their opinions as well.

One of the things about living in a different location than many of my family and friends, is that when we are in touch, conversations often revolve around how we feel about this or that,  often retreating far into the past to remind each other of what makes us tick.  While watching Oprah's Favorite Things show, I thought about my favorites -- not necessarily things I want to run out and buy -- but, rather things that bring a smile to my face, and information I want to share.

Cities.  I love cities and have favorites.  Since I was born and raised in New York City, it's a natural fit to be my favorite.  No matter how many times I am there, I discover something new.... a new restaurant, or shop, or a street with charm and character.  I love Central Park and consider it to be a second home to me; there's a couple of spots there that hold some of my secrets.  And, I think I channel some of my ancestors whenever I have been in London...I've always felt at home there as well.  When my sister Marge was living there, it was a dream to go visit and wander around for days, free to discover nooks and crannies around cobble stoned streets and alleys.  Rome.  I've been there three or four times and it has held my heart captive on more than one occasion.  Hmmmm....I had, what I refer to as "a lost weekend"there once,  where I fell in love, well, more like in lust....more on that another time.  Paris...Yummy, one of the greatest places to stay up all night!  Chicago energizes me like New York; I love the shopping and the neighborhoods, the ambiance and the great Jazz clubs -- in which one of them I had the greatest make out session with a boyfriend -- you know, dark and secluded, listening  to the sexiest music ever.  Does anyone ever do that anymore?  Definitely, one of my favorite things. :)  Cities. That's where I go to recharge my batteries.

Food.  I love good food and love to cook.  While I'm not the Barefoot Contessa or Rachel Ray, I can hold my own.  For me, I try not to put anything into my body that is not natural.  It's almost impossible to do that 100% of the time, but I try.  That means I read every label, and stay away from foods with preservatives or food dyes, buy meat/chicken/fish, without antibiotics or hormones in it.  It amazes me how people are so willing to put chemicals into their bodies, every day.  It takes longer for me to shop than most people, because of the reading thing, but, to me it is worth it.  And, like I said, it's not always 100%, but, pretty close.  So, if you come to my home for a meal, know that everything will be freshly prepared with love.

Clothes...oh, yeah, love clothes.  I love a well-dressed man.  Okay, it may be shallow, but, I love a man who cares about how they look.  And, how they smell.  There is something very alluring about someone wearing cologne that is subtle and soft.  One time, I was on the subway in NY,  standing next to a guy who smelled so good I wanted to bury my face in his neck!  Most men look great in a tuxedo, and a well-fitting suit, but, sometimes it is ruined by the wrong shirt color.  Not all men can wear certain shades of blue.  Jeans.  Oh, boy, here is where men screw it up.  Guys,  please stay away from relaxed fit Wranglers...not flattering.  Jeans should be fitted -- there are so many choices out there.  For me, one of the sexiest looks ever is a pair of jeans, long and lean, with a white, long-sleeved t-shirt. Or, a with a crisp, white button-down.  Uh, huh.

Music...love all kinds, but, I must admit, I love Motown from the 60s.  Dancing in the Street.  The Supremes. I really do listen to all different kinds of music -- from Classical/Opera to rap (well, very little rap) .  I think the greatest music to make love to is Chris Botti - playing the trumpet.  If you haven't listened to him yet, give a try. Mood.  I'm not sure that is was Justin Timberlake who brought Sexy Back....I think it was Chris Botti!

I love thoughtfulness and sincerity.  A friend of mine has been battling Breast Cancer, and about a year ago, or so, she posted an on line journal of her experience.  When I was reading remarks posted by her husband, I was so moved by the thoughtfulness of his words as he expressed how much he loved and supported her.  It reminded me of what is really important in a partner and I knew immediately that his words were not only sincere, but, a reflection of what their life was about.  I strive to be thoughtful as I go about my days; I do a good job of remembering birthdays and still send cards through the mail, whenever I can.  I do my best not to say anything I don't mean...and mean what I say.  Once words are said, they can not be taken back....that's a basic lesson for young kids to learn early on.

There's a lot more to dish out, and much more will be exposed in future blogs.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Life is an Oprah Episode - On Loss and Grief

Loss is an inevitable part of life.  The greatest of losses, I believe, is when someone we love dearly, dies.
Grief is a reaction to such loss.  Nothing really prepares us for it, even though we seem to be in training for it all our lives.  We learn in the early years, that everyone dies....everyone reaches the end, and that we must accept this human condition and move on .  Whenever I hear of someone's passing, I have been struck with how the grief expected, becomes a contest.  .....well, he/she was old and led a good life (less grief?), how sad it is to lose a child (greatest of grief?), the suffering has ended, they're in a better place....etc.   There is only grief, and the degree to which we feel the sorrow and pain becomes personal to us as our fingerprint.  And, during times of holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, our grief magnifies, partly because I think we feel guilty if we somehow feel happy without our loved ones near.

My father died seven weeks before my daughter was born, which robbed me of a certain amount of happiness I wanted to feel in preparing for her birth.  I was grieving and angry at the same time. To quote Dickens, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  Was the fact that because he was a heavy drinker and smoker hastened his death made me feel so angry?  Probably so.  But, I was so very sad that he would not meet my daughter, because I know he would have been crazy about the charming toddler who possesses some of his qualities....the sense of adventure and fun, and the smiling blue eyes.   I think our children are sometimes a "dumping" ground of our parents' spirit -- recognizable only after our parents' are gone.

For me the greatest grief I have experienced was with the passing of my sister Ann.  Annie lost her battle some years ago to a rare disease, Wegener's Granulomatosis, which is an autoimmune disease causing inflammation of blood vessels.  She had it for about seven years.  When we would talk about her having this disease, and search for any causes, she would simply say, it was having bad luck.  We always talked about her living with the disease, rather than succumbing to it, and when it seemed like she would lose her battle,  I wasn't prepared.

I was in Paris, and as was always the case when I traveled, had an agreement with my sister Marge, to always advise each other where we were, and if we needed to tell each other anything would leave messages on our work voice mail.  This trip was no different.  I checked my messages, and found one from Marge, advising that Ann had been hospitalized, in California, where she lived.  Ann's situation was stable, and when I returned home in a few days, was able to speak with her while she was in the hospital.  It was this time of year -- Thanksgiving, and she was out of the hospital and spending the day with family.  Because the disease had affected her gastric system, she wasn't able to eat much.  I spoke with her a few times, mostly about her recovery and the length of time it would take.  A few weeks later, she took a turn for the worse, and lost her battle.  My fondest memory of Annie is that of a sparkling, charming person, very artistic...was a fantastic dress maker and crafts woman, a Rolling Stones groupie,  Woodstock participant, in every sense, hippie, and later became the quintessential homemaker, ala Martha Stewart.  Her son Sean, was only ten (10) and that alone is cause for great heartache, and as her husband, Pete (Mr.Mom),  slowly put the pieces of their lives together, we were all left to grieve.  There is hardly a day that goes by when I do not think of Annie, and I want to pick up the phone so badly to speak with her, that I find myself not breathing for a few moments.

My mother had Alzheimer's and died having been spared the knowledge that Ann had passed.  And, because of the Alzheimer's, the grieving of losing my mother took place for the five years she had this dignity - robbing illness.  When she died,  it came with both relief and profound sadness.  Mothers are our connection to the world; the magic glue that binds our spirits and our souls.  A mother's love is instinctual, unconditional and forever.

I know there are several of you reading this blog that have suffered loss, and I want you all to know that my heart reaches out to you today, and everyday, as we all search for  the peace which comes beyond the grief.

                    Perhaps they are not stars,
                    but openings in the Heaven
                    where the love of our lost ones
                      pour through
                    and shines upon us
                    to let us know
                   they are happy.
                                                     - anonymous

Finally, know that there is no time limit on grieving.  Each of us finds the right moment when we place our loved one securely  into a pocket in our heart, and imprinted onto our souls, drawing strength from the love they gave us.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Life is an Oprah Episode - On Love, Dating and Fear

Love.  We all want it and we all need it.  Is there a better feeling than being in love?  In feeling loved in return?
Songs, movies, and books perpetually throw love in our faces.  And, in our hearts. And, in our daily thoughts and prayers.  There's different types of  love, but, the most prolific type of  love is the romantic variety.

We all know people who seem to meet the "right" person, fall in love, get married and stay married for life.
With the divorce rate at an all time high, I know the number of people this is happening to, is dwindling.
Are we meant to be with one person, to love only once?  Yes, if we 're penquins.

I've been in love more than once.  Pure, unabashed, raw emotion I have felt for another human being.  With the delight of middle of the day and middle of the night calls, long conversations, serious lovemaking, wild crazy sex,  fun times, future planning and simply living in the moment, I had love.   Then it ended.  And, I found someone else, or they found me.  If  I  believed there was only one person destined to be with me, I would have driven my car off of a cliff a long time ago, having thought there is only one chance at love.  Only one soul mate?.  No, I don't think so.  I am a seeker. A searcher. An explorer.  Love is out there.  There are many reasons why relationships don't always work out....I'll speak of some of that in future blogging.

I have recently thought about the dating scene.  Not just for myself, but, I've thought about many friends and acquaintances I have, some of them in their twenties and early thirties.  Imagine, if you will, trying to date today.  You head out on the weekend, looking and feeling great, you hang with the Glenwood South cowboys (for those not in Raleigh -- Glenwood South is where the bars/restaurants/nightlife is), hoping for a connection.  So, you meet someone.  Okay. And, with the technology today, you expect to hear from them via text, email, or cell phone, before you make it home.  I think the nurturing of a relationship is missing..  It all has become very disposable.  Look, I will not say that I have never had a one-night stand; I have.  But, that was a long time ago, and I don't even think it is wrong -- as long as both parties feel the same way.  If you are looking for a special connection, I do not think hooking up is the right avenue. Not for women, and not for men.  Love will remain elusive...because, like any project, it requires a beginning, a middle and an end.  Romance is not an exact science but, hooking up is merely the end.

I used to believe that having a love affair was dishonest.  Society is governed by codes and rules and our desires don't fit into those rules.  A love affair can and should be a beautiful thing.  Because, prior to having settled into our future, with a mate, isn't the love affair the beginning of that future? Or not. Recently, I flirted with the idea of having an affair with someone much younger than I,  and those thoughts made me smile.  This person is a friend and someone I've known for some years,  who on a couple of occasions said some things, and I in return said some things, where the demarcation line between friendship and something else, was crossed.  Full disclosure -- alcohol was involved.  Did that make the feelings less real?  Aren't drunken words sober thoughts?  Nothing happened, but, I had been willing to explore the opportunity, because I have come to know how short life is and we should all grab onto the possibility of sharing happiness.  And, I am glad we are still friends -- I would not want to lose that.

Finally, fear.  Fear is like wearing cement shoes.  It keeps us stuck from pursuing our dreams.  Especially when it comes to love.  We are all so afraid of being hurt, at failing, that we simply forget to be.  There is a much higher price we pay for doing nothing, than if we make a mistake.  Whenever my granddaughter, Katey, makes a mistake, I remind her the reason why erasers are on pencils.  We get to start over.  Every day, if we need to.   No matter how many times I have fallen down,  I know it only counts that I get up.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Life is an Oprah Episode - Bankruptcy

There are hundreds of thousands of Americans who are struggling financially, due to the state of the economy and job markets, and as a result of this, bankruptcy filings are at an all time high.  I can tell you, quite openly, that even with those numbers out there, when it happens to you -- you feel very alone.

When I lost my job with American Express after September 11, I was devastated.  But, I had a 401K and a pension, and thought I would be employed again, within months.  That did not happen.  So, after about six (6) months, I decided to open my own business, and by the first anniversary of my job loss, I was up and running.
The business was successful and I was once again making a good living.  Mind you, I was without a good salary for about two (2) years, and did go through the 401K and pension as needed to get the business up and running, and maintain my personal financial obligations.  When I sold the business after four (4) years, I was able to recoup the money that I had used from those retirement funds. That was 2006.  Because I had agreed to finance the new owner of the business, I was earning a monthly income and looking forward to a lump sum balloon payment in 2009.  I even took a job in 2008 to supplement my income and to provide me health coverage with a much lower cost than I was spending on my own. Things were great. The problem was that in August of 2008, the person who bought my business defaulted on her payments to me.  Fast forward to late 2009, what would have been a celebratory month -- having received a huge balloon payment -- was a disaster.  I had successfully sued her -- however, collecting any money is another story.  Her holdings were solidly protected, and I walked away with a small settlement.  I had to find a way to forgive her.  It has tested me in ways I never thought possible.
In January 2010, I had declared bankruptcy. I had no choice.  If you have ever been through this, you know the feeling.  For me, as I stood in the courtroom with about sixty (60) or so fellow citizens, I started to cry.  I just could not believe this was happening  to me.  It screams " loser".  I worked so hard for so many years, and yet here I was.  I never thought I would ever be in this position.  Reality sets in early on when you are faced, on a daily basis, with the knowledge that you can lose your home; reality stares in the face every day as I now live my financial life, pretty much hour by hour.  It's tough for me to wrap my mind around the fact that by Thursday or Friday of each and every week, I have about $25 left in my bank account to last until my unemployment check is deposited on Monday morning. There is no other money.  That hasn't happened to me since I was in my early 20's and spent each paycheck mostly on partying.  I feel as though I am living in some parallel universe and I will be beamed back to earth at any moment.  The truth is I am heartbroken.
What I miss about not having any money, is a knowing that I can take a trip whenever I want, or buy an expensive outfit, treat my daughter to a shopping spree,  go to great restaurants, theater outings, and attend sporting events, pay for my granddaughter's extra curricular activities. But, mostly I miss the easiness one has in feeling secure.  I do not like this uneasy feeling that pervades my life every day.  I am especially sad that I have no money for Christmas presents, and even though the spirit of Christmas is not about that, and my family and friends understand that, it's still devastating to me.
However, with all the doom and gloom let me just say that what I have always known, rings true.  That the true measure of success is not in what we acquire, not rooted in material worth, but, rather knowing that you always have a choice in how you react to dire circumstances.  I choose to get up every day and feel optimistic and blessed to have what I do have.  That is my health, my family and my friends.  I still have my home and will do whatever necessary to keep it.  And, when I feel sad, I let myself have those moments.  Because, they pass.  Because, I know on a spiritual level, I am going to be alright.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Life is an Oprah Episode - On Friendship

There's one thing I know how to do really well - be a friend.  I've heard it said many times that if you end up having only one good, true friend, you're doing really well and have a good life.  Well, truth be told, I feel blessed and fortunate to have many friends that I consider to have a very close, good, true relationships with.

Beginning in childhood, I've maintained friendships with several girls, now women, that I have grown up with; friendships that have endured more than fifty years.  As with many friendships, especially that have roots in childhood,  there are and were many common bonds that brought us together.  The neighborhood -- in this case, a housing project in NYC where we grew up;  our particular group all went to Catholic school together, and,  we're from mostly English/Scottish/Irish heritage. Our fathers all hung out in the bar together, our mothers were, for the most part, tough enough to deal with their husbands drinking, and at times, pretending none of it existed.  I mentioned in an earlier blog about social masks....no doubt, our mothers wore them as a way to cope with having to face the daily challenge of holding a family together.  As I look back and think about my friends -- Edie and Marguerite, and my sister, Marge,  mainly, we leaned on each other daily having been faced with the daily drama of having a family member -- in this case a parent -- have a drinking problem.
We all had a certain amount of chaos in our homes,  yet, we formed a bond, and had so much fun....every day.  Because we did not have the technology we have today, and all the trappings that go with that, we managed to creatively spend our days.  Wow, we did some crazy things.  Especially as teenagers....dare we forget the times we tried to get into the Beatles hotel  room?.....picking up sailors (harmless fun!), bringing home some British rock groups home to Edie's house, only to get thrown out by her sister.....at 3 am.....we were no more than 15.  And, laugh we did.  I know most people have fond memories of their youth and teen years;  my friends and I talk about these times whenever we get together.

We sustained times of great tragedy, also.  Edie's father died when she was only twelve.  That was very tough.  I remember being so afraid to go into the room at the funeral home -- not knowing what to expect.
But, the thing that strikes me even today, is how the four of us -- Edie, Marguerite, Marge and myself, stuck together.  There was also Carol and Patrice and others in our "crowd"  but, mainly the four of us were always together.

These paragraphs highlight the early friendships that still exist.  Throughout many other years, I've collected a diverse circle of good friends.  People I know I can call on no matter what is going on with me, who will not judge or criticize my choices; friends who just allowed me to be.  And, I think the common denominator for maintaining these friendships, is that I know how to be a really good friend.  My friends will tell you that they never question my loyalty or that I will be there for them --  no matter what.  Unconditional love.

I will write more about friendship in future blogs....more about who some of them are, and how they have impacted my life.  A friend is a present you give yourself.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Life is an Oprah Episode - Social Masks

To live your life authentically, one needs to remove the social masks.  A social mask is a persona that we put on when we interact with other people on a daily basis.  This could be at school, workplace, or social gatherings .Exactly when I first put on my mask is unclear; I hardly know a time when I did not wear one.  I don't feel that I've been deceiving  people on purpose; I made a conscious choice not to reveal who I was - a decision that has always been based on fear.  Fear of not being well-liked, fear of not being pretty enough, smart enough, athletic enough, and so many other things that have kept me "stuck".   Psychologists will say it was due to low self-esteem, most likely, and there is a lot of truth to that. The roots to that can be traced to early childhood, I am sure, and every thing else, all the events in later years, contributed to that assumption.  Even as I write those words, it seems so self-absorbed, so trite.  I don't like excuses, but, I've come to a point in my life where I can accept explanations.

Now comes a conscious choice to remove the mask, or at least, peek out from behind it.  Some people I have known have told me that when they first met me they felt I was hard to get to know.  While I always found that remark to be strange, upon reflection, I know that what they initially saw was one of my social masks, and when I felt comfortable with them, revealed more of who I was....revealed what I wanted them to see.  I'm really not a complicated person; I'm easy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Life changes

Okay, as for the comment about Dr. Phil, I believe what he actually said was there are actually ten (10) defining moments, seven (7) Critical Choices, and five (5) Pivotal people that shape our lives.  I tend to agree with that, except I probably have more that five Pivotal people in my life.  But, we'll go with that.

Getting Started

I don't know if I even like blogs....I do find them interesting, but, at first thought them to be a narcissistic approach to sharing one life and opinions.  But, as I felt the urge to write down so many things I've been thinking about over the years, blogging seems to be an avenue worth taking.

There have been many events in my life that have had lasting effects; I am not alone in that.  I believe it was Dr. Phil who said that there are about ten (10) major events that change a person's life.  (at least I think it was Dr. Phil--but, I could be wrong).  Major events can change a person's life, or at the very least, have a daily impact on how we go about our day.  When I think of a change in a person's life, it's more than just an address change, or a job change, or a relationship change, I think of it as being shaken to our core that we look at the world through a different lens.  How we see the world is how, I believe, we change.

Life's events include some obvious ones:  birth of a child, marriage/divorce, death of a loved one (family or friend), social injustice, traumatic experiences : rape, abuse, relationships that work, and some that do not, falling in and out of love, and the struggle to be happy.

Because this is my blog, and I equate my life to an episode of Oprah, I will share a little something of all of what I just mentioned above.  Some of you who choose to read this blog will not be surprised at my candor.
I do know that even my closest friends and family will be shocked at some of the content, and some may feel uncomfortable reading very personal accounts of some of the "events" in my life.

Let me just say that about three months ago, I woke up from, what I consider, a coma. I've been in one for the past twelve years or so....maybe on some level many more years than that.  As for what the trigger was that "awakened" me -- that I am not sure.  I just know it happened, and it has gotten me in touch with some of the demons (hey, we all have them) deep inside, and allowed me to have conversation with them, where they are not a threat to my being.

As the days move ahead, and as I feel like writing, I will tackle the many "episodes" or events that have shaped my life up to this point. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Life is an Oprah Episode

Since learning that Oprah is hosting her final year with the Oprah Winfrey show,  some of my friends and I have discussed which episode/topic struck a nerve with us, or somehow mirrored our lives.  Upon reflection, I surmised that there were too many topics that hit close to home for me.   No favorite, necessarily.  But, a strong identification with so many stories seemed to be a daily occurrence.  So, for me this blog is about those stories, and some that did not see any airtime.