Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Trumpeter on the Beach

curling wave

After my (now ex) husband left our daughter and me in 1980, I spent a lot of time sitting on the beach. I was so lost, so betrayed, so filled with grief. How could the rest of the world continue on when I was hurting so much? How could people smile and laugh and go on as if my heart wasn’t shattered into pieces?

So I sat on the beach, watching the waves move in and out, trying to get my bearings again. The waves always came to shore and then always pulled back, ever constant. Watching the waves and seeing the world continue on was a salve to my broken spirit.

As I sat there crying one wintry day, a man walked slowly up the shoreline toward me, passed me and then stopped a few feet away. I noticed then that he held a trumpet in his hand. Putting it to his lips, he played that trumpet, the music carrying into the air, over the waves, into my soul. Listening to his music, my heart calmed, my spirit was washed and cleared and I felt a Divine sense of release. I felt my body relax as my eyes closed and I surrendered myself to the moment …a holy moment that shifted my soul and gave me peace. His song finished, the man continued his walk up the beach without a word or a glance at me.

I was in awe at what had just happened. I believe in angel visitations, which, to me, are either people who are divinely guided by their angel guides or who are actual angels manifesting on earth. I didn’t ponder too much over which one my trumpeter was, but I was thankful for his gift to me, a lonely girl crying on an empty beach.

All these years, I’ve remembered that day and the trumpeter on the beach. I always knew it was real, but was it a divinely guided person or an angel? And then I read this story earlier this week, about a man named Andrew Arnold, a body surfer who was known to play his trumpet at the beach where I sat that day in 1980. May your reward be great in heaven, Mr. Arnold. I’ve never forgotten you.,0,5652113.story

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Gramma’s Home Again

Saturday was All Souls Day. Saturday was the day that Gramma’s body died and she was released from her earthly bonds to return home again, just as she’s been wanting to for awhile. She was born on October 3, 1915, so at 98 years old, she has an awful lot of family and friends who were already there ready to greet her with open arms, loving kisses and cheers of joy.

I imagine there were a few “hallelujahs!” and amens in the mix, too. Gramma loved to go to a nearby Baptist church where the sermons were passionate and the congregation filled with joyful hallelujahs. When she couldn’t drive any longer, she had to switch to another church that she could walk to. She told me that it was nice but, leaning in conspiratorially, that it “wan’t as nice as the other one. They’re much quieter.” She preferred her church to be loud and boisterous!

Elizabeth Sears was a tiny little thing, with a head of red hair and sparkling blue eyes. She had a flirty, fun way about her; a twinkly, happy, we’re-all-gonna-have-a-great-time kind of way. If you met her, you loved her. She was utterly and profoundly irresistible. For the last two months as she was in hospice care at home, her neighbors all visited and asked about her. Everyone loved “Mrs. Sears.”

She was a farm girl and darned proud of it, too. She grew up in Kansas and had that hardy Midwestern attitude, never complaining but just moving through life’s challenges as they came up. If problems came up, she didn’t waste time on complaints; she simply worked on a solution.

When I visited the last few years, we’d have coffee and talk. She had such wonderful stories to share about her life, about being married four times, about leaving her first husband and taking her two daughters to California to make a new life. Gramma worked during the war as a “Rosie the Riveter.” She was very proud to be able to buy her house and said that she was finally home and would never leave it. She never did.
  100310 Grandma openings gifts 3
Her storytelling is legendary in the family. She was always smiling as she shared her memories. Gramma’s entire being would light up and she’d chuckle delightedly about funny little things that happened. I loved that part, her lighting up with delight. Her delight was utterly infectious and you found yourself drawn into her smile and personality and that light that she radiated, glowing with happiness around her, an aura of colorful vibrancy.

The last few years, when we’d talk, she’d tell me that she’d lived a very good, long life and she would be happy to go home to God any time. She’d tilt her head and shrug her shoulders and say that she didn’t know why God kept her here, but she’d smile and say that it’s up to Him and she was fine with that. Another time when I visited, she pulled down the neck of her turtleneck and showed me her neck, saying how she just didn’t like the wrinkles that she had there now. Then she simply pulled up her turtleneck again and kept on telling her stories. Another time, she showed me how her fingers on her right hand had curled due to arthritis, making it hard to grasp her garden clippers. Gramma told me that she found that she could uncurl them just enough with her other hand to put the clippers in her right hand and once she had them in her hand, she could clip away! She just never wasted any time feeling disappointed in anything in life.

I could tell Gramma stories all day. I loved her beyond and beyond. She was actually my ex-husband’s Gramma, but I loved her the instant I met her and she loved me. When my husband and I had our daughter Amber and made her a great-grandmother, she gained a new nickname: Great G. After I divorced, nothing changed between her and I; we were still family to one another. We corresponded, I visited, she always always sent gifts to my daughter (her great-granddaughter) for holidays and birthdays, I sent her pics of Amber growing up through the years. When my daughter had her daughters, I told her we had to go visit Great G so they could all meet since Great G was now a great-great grandmother.

And now Great G is dancing in heaven, just as she’s been wanting. I’m so happy for her joy and for the reward of heaven for her. I’m happy to have had her in my life and look forward to being reunited once again when I’m called home, too. I expect she’ll greet me with a hearty “hallelujah!” I love you, Gramma!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ebbs and flows …

090113 flowers for moms birthday cemeteryLife has its ebbs and flows, its highs and lows, its challenges and its joys. The calm, everyday times are often followed by times where we struggle a bit and grow through the learning of how to deal with those struggles.

It's been an emotional couple of weeks. Mom’s birthday was August 28 so I took flowers to the cemetery and I sat there quietly with my prayers and my memories. Her cute smile when she was up to something funny, her boundless energy, her enthusiasm and her endless encouragement. So much that we learned from her. Cooking wasn’t one of them on my part. My sweet Mom just had no patience when it came to teaching me how to cook and most tries would end up with her telling me to “go out in the yard and help your Dad.” So, I learned how to garden instead. Haha!

Gramma had surgery and hasn't been doing w082413 Gramma and meell since then (she'll be 98 on 10/3); her body's healing but she's talking to angels and saying she wants to go home. (I should clarify that she’s my ex’s Gramma but we remained family nonetheless and I love her as if she was my own blood.) Before the surgery, she lived on her own and did everything for herself. Now she's confined to a bed at home and hospice is helping. Before her surgery, I took a pic of us. I wish it showed how pretty her blue eyes are. She’s always entertained us with wonderful stories of her youth. She doesn’t tell us stories right now.

My dad's birthday was Wednesday; he still hasn't spoken to us in over a year. I sent him a box of See's chocolates, as I always do for holidays and special occasions with a card saying I love him and miss him. I tried calling him, knowing it was futile because they have caller ID and don’t answer the phone. I always let my cousins know when his birthday approaches so they can send him a birthday card if they’d like. I still do that. I still love the Dad that we used to have in our lives.

One of my best friends has been caring for her dad for the last six months (battling cancer); he passed away Wednesday night. Her loving selflessness in caring for him was such a tribute to the relationship they shared. She’d drive a couple of hours to spend several days with him, then drive back home for several days, repeating that routine week in and week out. He was a good man and she would do anything for him and did. He will be missed by many. My heart is so sad for my friend.

Sometimes you just have to sit down and have a good cry for the sorrow in the world and the grief that our loved ones have to bear. One of my mantras is “Receive what you are given.” When we have to receive sorrow, we have to accept it and deal with it. Find the lessons, cry a bit, feel the depth of the emotions that you feel and not shove any of it away. And then we re-balance and look up at the stars and give thanks for a roof over our head and food in the cupboard. Simple gratitude for the abundant blessings in life.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Our infinite, divine nature

I hope you’ll indulge me another post regarding my journey through this 21-day meditation challenge ( This is from yesterday’s meditation: ocean sunrise a beach cottage

In today’s meditation we will reflect on the beautiful truth that we are already whole. We were created by universal intelligence as a complete expression of love, wisdom, and happiness. If we feel like something is missing, it is because we are seeing through the eyes of our ego-mind, which has a limited perspective of our infinite, divine nature. 

With the realization that we already have everything we need and desire, we give up the exhausting search to find that person or situation or achievement to make us feel whole. We stop waiting for someone to complete us and open to the love that is right here, right now, in our own heart.  And, from that boundless well of spirit, we are free to share the deepest experience of love with the people in our lives.

Do you fully believe that we are already whole, that in our truest essence nothing is missing, nothing is wrong or in need or in need of fixing? Do you believe that you are a complete expression of love, wisdom and happiness? Through years of study, practice and learning, I do believe these things … most of the time. I believe in my wholeness and trust that I am loved as I am, unconditionally. I feel that my truest essence is love and that we are all interconnected at our truest essence, the Divine within.

Ah, but the ego-mind does sort of get in the way and say “Wait! You have to live in the ‘real’ world. Everything just isn’t hunky dory in the real world. People get sick, people suffer, the world is polluted. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows.” But is that the “real” world? Some think it’s just an illusion and our real world is the Love within us. The ego has its uses, but it doesn’t trust, it is suspicious, it is cautious and careful. How often have we worried and been anxious about something, only to have everything turn out well in the end, and usually not just well but better than expected? After a few times of being in a similar situation, we start to trust with our inner being: “Yes, I’ve been here before and it turned out well. I trust it will be well again.” That’s growth, that’s learning, that’s remembering the lessons we are given.

In today’s meditation, one phrase really stood out to me. It expresses our oneness, our reliance on all parts of the whole being well and expresses the Love within. It’s something that I can practice asking in my heart in my encounters with others:

How can I contribute to your peace and well-being?


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Remember that you are Love

A couple of my friends have messaged me on Facebook, concerned since I haven’t been posting. That was really nice and they were so understanding of my needing a break. It’s gotten easier with each day to not comment or post. I feel that I’m much more in control of what I’m consuming and being more selective.

Before this break, I was a glutton, consuming anything and everything that popped up on my page; when I was done with that, I’d go to the ticker and start consuming there, too. Shameful to admit, but true. I’d click a link to an article or video and start reading or watching, usually mindlessly until something in my head clicked and I realized that I wasn’t really interested in the content (too negative, too snarky, not an interest of mine, I didn’t know or care about the people in the post, etc.). I’ve always been this way about consuming content. I’ve always read magazines and catalogs from cover to cover, not flipping around through the pages, like others do. My brothers and I were constantly reading, whether it was the cereal box at breakfast, books under the covers with a flashlight at night, signs, posters, album liner notes, newspapers – if it had words, we were reading it.

This FB break coupled with the 21-day meditation challenge has helped me to acknowledge my gluttonous tendencies and has helped me to determine to be more selective. The themes of each day in the challenge have been very insightful, especially as I journal afterward.

A few days ago, the mantra of the day was “I see through the eyes of my soul.” To paraphrase, it focused on seeing everything through the eyes of love and seeing that we are all connected at the soul level, expressions of the Divine, who is Love. The ego easily gets caught up in the struggle for control and approval and the need to be right. But when we relate through eyes of love and with a heart of love, we experience the expansion of love, joy, compassion, and harmony.

Isn’t that beautiful to think of in that way? Instead of being aggressive or snarky or judgmental of one another, we can choose in each moment to see through the eyes of our souls, our souls that are divinely connected to one another and to all that is. Our bodies are temporary vessels only; our soul is where we should be living and remembering who we truly are. Namaste.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Switching Gears

HB pier beautiful dayI started another 21-day meditation challenge with the Chopra Meditation Center. I’ve done a couple of these before and really enjoy making them the start of my day. If you’ve wanted to try meditation, I think this is a good way to start. The format is simple: a centering thought is presented (today’s is “I am love. I am eternal. I am spirit.”), Deepak says a few words, we’re given a mantra to use to keep us focused during meditation and then some music plays while we meditate. Very simple.

As part of this 21-day challenge, I’ve also stopped commenting and posting on Facebook. I still read to keep up with friends, but that’s it. I'd found that too much FB was affecting me. I live alone and used FB to connect and share kind words, interesting articles and such, the kinds of things we’d share with spouses or family, neither of which I have with me on a daily basis. People seem to enjoy what I post and some have told me in person that their day has been lifted or they’ve learned something helpful. But I was finding that what I was reading in some posts and comments was disturbing me more and more, Too much bickering, name-calling, profanity. Too much negative energy and low-vibration comments. Too many people being taken advantage of with “Like bait” (posts with cuddly animals or wounded soldiers or “Like if you hate cancer” – posts that are designed to get well-intentioned people to click Like; scammers make money off these). Too many gullible people reposting hoaxes and generating outrage; too any “shocking video of … !!!”. I’ll admit to even being disappointed at the lack of people’s ability to put together simple sentences, use punctuation and spell. I’ve been more disappointed in people’s lack of critical thinking skills, falling for various scams, or commenting without thinking things through. Just a lot of negative energy that I was just really too tired to consume any longer. (Interesting observation: Those who comment on George Takei’s posts tend to be better thinkers and writers, folks who aren’t prone to writing with multiple exclamation marks like a squealing teenage girl.)

Besides all the negative energy, I was just wasting too much time on FB, time that I’d really rather spend riding my bike in the summer sunshine, playing my piano, taking walks, decorating my home. (I have a list of projects, Always do.) I found myself online, reading and refreshing the page multiple times to see if anything new had come in during the last few seconds. I wasn’t getting anything done and I knew I had to stop. 

In this article, UCLA’s Dr, Peter Whybrow says that “The computer is electronic cocaine for many people. Our brains are wired for finding immediate reward.” Novelty is the immediate reward, which is why we have trouble stopping.

The first few days of my FB hiatus, I found myself reflexively moving to comment. Throughout my day, when I’d find something interesting to share, I’d want to go to FB to post, but stopped myself. The world kept revolving without my pithy remarks on FB. I’ve found myself spending a lot more time doing more high-value activities (like finally posting on my blog and working more on a book that I’m editing for a client) and being less consumed with others’ negativity and low-vibration energy. I’ve been reading interesting articles on LinkedIn, reading more books. (I’m consumed with The Storyteller currently.) I actually started my hiatus a few days before the meditation challenge, but I plan to continue until the end of the 21-day challenge. It’s been pretty easy and I’m finding a lot of satisfaction in switching gears. I’m enjoying my summer more. I hope you’re enjoying yours, too.


PS. I saw Trevor’s mom on the 4th of July. She takes things day by day; some days better, some days worse. She gave her son the great gift of knowledge and courage during his fight.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

An Inspirational Hero: Trevor Roach

Amber Eliff Wesley

My daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters have a large and very close circle of friends. This group of families gathers together frequently: camping, celebrating birthdays, supporting and sharing life with one another; the kids have pretty much all grown up together as one large, extended family.

Trevor Roach is the 12-year-old son of one of these friends, a boy with the biggest smile you can imagine (well, you don’t have to imagine because you can see it above) and a heart to go with it. Skateboarding, riding dirt bikes, playing Legos – a kid filled with excitement and joy; all boy.

Trev was initially diagnosed with cancer (leukemia) on 12/29/10 when he was just 9 years old. He fought the cancer with courage and chemo, went into remission after 1 - 2 rounds and continued his treatment session. He was doing so well that he had the line removed in September 2011. Before Christmas 2011, his mom Belinda saw the signs that the cancer was back, but the blood tests said otherwise. On 1/11/12, his blood tests finally caught up with the signs his mom was seeing (a mother knows her child) and his cancer was back in full force. He was once again admitted to the hospital and the line was put back in.

Chemo was started immediately. His doctors suggested that a bone marrow transplant was his best hope for beating cancer for good. On 2/28/12, a donor was found who was an 8 out of 10 on the matching scale. On 4/27/12, Trev had his bone marrow transplant and was “re-born.”
Although his health improved after his transplant, his donor cells never fully took over his body. At the end of August, just 125 days after the transplant, Trevor’s cancer was back with a vengeance. This brave, young boy fought the cancer this 3rd round with every chemo drug known, even ones that haven’t been used in years; his doctors had to get FDA approvals to use some of the medications. Nothing worked to keep the cancer at bay. It aggressively took over his body.

He was able to go on a big family-and-friends camping trip for New Years 2013 and rode a quad with boyish joy from sunrise to sunset for three days straight. Then it was back to the hospital for platelets and more tests. Friday 1/4/13: young Trev was readmitted into the hospital—his body 93% cancer-ridden—and it was estimated he had a few weeks left. Another round of treatment helped to prolong his life for a few additional weeks. He was able to go home to spend good times with his loving family (mom, dad, older brother and younger sister). Trevor was readmitted on April 6 for the last time. The cancer spread to his spleen, then to his liver and on April 18, shortly after midnight, Trevor beat the cancer by leaving it behind in his body. It may have conquered his body, but it could never, ever conquer his courageous spirit.  

Trevor Roach had the hugest amount of fight in him and was always smiling, even on his bad days with fevers and sickness. He had the best time he could have on his good days, loving dirt bike riding, trains, remote control cars, boats and trucks and especially Legos. He was the Lego master!

Countless people were touched by his story and fighting spirit. He was visited in the hospital by sports celebrities and others, including Brian Deegan, Kyle Loza, LA Sheriff’s SWAT, Wheelz, a few members of the Ducks and many others.

In his last few weeks at CHOC, there were over 30 people a day from his extended circle of friends visiting Trevor, giving him their love and support. He loved it! He was surrounded by hundreds of family friends, teachers, nurses, children, sports figures and all who grew to love him and his strong spirit.

At the celebration of his life on April 28, the mortuary was packed to overflowing with hundreds of people whose lives were touched by this hero-child; the chapel was filled, the courtyard, the foyer and overflowing outside. The mother of a little girl who also had cancer and shared a hospital room with Trevor told of how this rough-and-tumble little boy would get on the hospital room floor with her daughter to play tea party; so kind-hearted and generous.

My daughter and her family weren’t here for Mother's Day today ... and for very good reason. In young Trev's last days, he asked his mom if they could go to Big Bear Lake one last time. As sick as he was, she had to tell him no, but “we’ll meet you there afterward” at the first opportunity. So, Trevor's family, my daughter's family and other close friends went camping in Big Bear this weekend to meet Trevor and celebrate him in the beautiful mountains he wanted to visit again.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Writing Matters – Business


In my first professional copywriter job, I wrote primarily product marketing copy for a direct mail marketing company. In the 30-odd years since then, I’ve had the opportunity to write nearly anything that has words: ads, brochures, marketing collateral, packaging, technical documentation, RFPs, press releases, web copy, business documentation and more. I’ve performed freelance copywriting/editing for over 30 years. In my current full-time position, much of my time is spent copyediting work submitted by company employees for internal or external publication.

Even if you’re not a professional copywriter/editor, it’s likely you’ll have to communicate something in writing, either to a co-worker, supervisor, customer or vendor at some point during your workday. Some people write easily; others have told me that they find the task torturous. Easy or not, writing matters. Customers’ perceptions about a company are affected by a company’s written communications, such as letters, emails, websites, etc. Incorrect orthography (grammar, spelling and punctuation) creates a perception that the company itself lacks polish and professionalism. And customers detest overly hyped, promotional boasts; “marketese” creates doubts about credibility.

Here are some tips to help make your business writing more readable and improve credibility:

  • Get to the point. Start with the most important content first. Don’t make the reader search for the point.
  • Be concise. Avoid filler words; make sure each word matters.
  • Use natural language to ensure clarity and understanding.
  • Use a strong, active voice; avoid a passive voice. (“Jim mailed the contract” vs. “The contract was mailed by Jim.”)
  • Be objective. Avoid loaded, emotional words or opinions that reflect a narrow viewpoint.
  • Check the orthography:
    • Spelling – Don’t rely solely on spellcheck. Proofread once or twice.
    • Grammar – Know the rules of that/which, there/they’re/their, its/it’s, your/you’re. (Contractions should be the easiest.) Also, “through to” is impossible; it’s either “through June 5” (to the end of June 5) or “to June 5” (to the end of June 4).
    • Punctuation –
      • Use commas correctly
      • Use apostrophes for possessives, but not plurals
      • Place periods within quotation marks, not outside
      • Use hyphens for compound modifiers. (“Man eating lion” and “man-eating lion” have different meanings. In the first one, “eating'” is  a verb; in the second, “man-eating” is a compound adjective to describe a lion.)
      • Use only one space after a period at the end of a sentence, never two. (Typewriters used monospaced fonts; today’s computers use proportional fonts, so only one space is needed because the program makes the adjustment automatically. Save yourself the extra work.)
    • Avoid random capitalization; only capitalize proper nouns. (A surprisingly common mistake.)
    • Have someone else review important documents; even professional writers use editors.
  • Avoid square blocks of text; they’re hard to read. Use white space, bulleted lists and bolded headings that include keywords of the content.
  • Don’t center or justify text. Eye-tracking studies show left alignment with a ragged right edge is easier on the eyes.

Conciseness, accuracy, a natural tone and easy-on-the-eyes layout help reduce the reader’s cognitive load, make information easier to process and improves customers’ perceptions about a company’s credibility and attention to quality. Just keep it simple and easy to read.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Joyous Spring! Flowers and Balboa Island

Happy spring! How I love it! You can almost feel the energy of new life vibrating and expanding, plants starting to burst with new life and birds happily singing and enjoying the skies. My orchids have been blooming like crazy, freesias bloomed weeks ago and are almost done, a random sweet pea popped up, geraniums are blooming (I love their beautiful red!) and the roses are leafing out and have buds. The time change always triggers a burst of excitement and energy for me as the days (finally) don’t get dark at 5:30 and daylight just seems to linger deliciously. Longer days equal more fun!

A friend and I went to a seminar last week at a local quality garden center. It was fun and interesting! They showed different plant types for 4 types of gardens: formal, drought-tolerant, shade and cottage. They stressed "easy" cottage because cottage gardens require the most work, with all the deadheading and maintenance required when you have a lot of flowers. We had a great time! It was very warm and sunny; I had sweat running down my back even though it was only 10:30 in the morning. I allowed myself to spend less than $10 and bought two sweet pea seedlings that I'll plant later this week. 


Pics of my garden right now:
This beautiful sweet pea just decided to pop up this year. (Probably reseeded itself from last year.) It’s so sturdy and so fragrant. Sweet peas have always been my favorite flower.

Another volunteer: a yellow freesia that decided to pop up from the 2nd row of the planter wall. (I didn’t plant freesias this year, either.)

Cymbidium orchid. I do nothing but water this very giving plant and it just blooms and blooms despite my benign neglect.

Kalanchoe (which really needs a bigger pot) with freesias hanging down in them. Next to it is a mix of red and white cyclamen that I planted for Christmas a few years ago. (It could probably use repotting as well.)


Can you spot the little green siskin on the side of the garden hook? He came to play and splash in the fountain. My fountain is old and worn, but has a top basin that’s perfect for the birds to bathe in.

032913 siskin on hook

Last year, I took my grands to Balboa Island on the first day of Easter vacation. We explored, had lunch, walked around the harbor area and checked out all the cute houses. And, of course, we decided we’d love to live there in cute little cottages, too. Bri decided that we should do a “Balboa Day” every year on the first Monday of Easter. Their family headed to Utah this morning, though, so we had to revise our plans and we went for a short visit last Friday. I picked up both girls after Jas got out of school and we headed down to stroll a bit and get Balboa Bars (delicious ice cream bars, famous on Balboa). We admired the cute cottages and spied an older couple sitting out on their tiny front porch, reading the newspaper in their Adirondack chairs and having a chat with friends who strolled by. Perfect scene of contentment. (Jas had to go for an MRI on her shoulder right after this; persistent problems made worse by water polo and swim team. We hope the issue can be resolved. It’s causing her a lot of pain.)

My beautiful grands!   

                      032913 clock balboa island

Lovely cottage border garden on the island.

If spring hasn’t come to your area yet, it will! I hope it’s a beautiful one for you, too!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

owning the journey

What should I do? you ask me
What do you think?
I’m unsure, uncertain …
I’m in need

I need you to help me

I’m unhappy
I’m not well
I’m hurting
I’m troubled

I need you to help me

I need you to solve my problems, I hear
I need you to stand for me
I need you to take care of this
I need you to tell me what to do

I need you to help me

I need to hand over my problems to you, you tell me
I can’t handle this any more
Give me the answers 
Carry my burdens for me

I need you to help me

I answer:
I will love you and support you
I will hold your hand
I will cry with you
I will be present for you

I will share my own experiences
I will be your companion on the journey
I will listen with my full attention
I will hold you

But I cannot own your journey
Your journey is yours alone
I don't have your answers
You have your own path to trod, as I have mine

I will accompany you
As you receive what you are given
In your own way
On your own terms

Just as I must stay on my own mat
Receiving what I’ve been given
In my own way
On my own terms

We each have our own way of being in the world
We each have our own journey to experience
Our own lessons to learn
Our own understandings to grow into

I cannot take your troubles,
Your heartache, your sorrow
I cannot take your burdens for you
They are yours to carry for this time

But I can stand witness
And be by your side
To catch you when you can’t stand another minute
To hold you when you need to be held

And I hope that you will do the same for me
As we each travel our own journeys
On our own mats
In our own way of being in the world


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Celebrating Mom and family

Mom young in coat

Today marks 23 years since my Mom separated from her body here. She was always a big, happy, fun presence, full of laughter, ready with a joke, always ready to move her feet and dance. As you can see in these pics, she was a beauty, too. It was super cold and windy when I went to the cemetery this morning to bring flowers and polish her headstone until it shone. I really love having a quiet,beautiful, special place where I can focus my thoughts and prayers on her without distraction. There are two vases; I always use the 2nd one because Dad used to use the first one and even though he doesn’t go there any longer, I still pull out both vases so the 1st one can still be pulled out. I fill the vase with water at the spigot, wet a rag for cleaning, trim the flower bouquet I brought (roses, ranunculus – really pretty today) and arrange it in the vase. Kneeling on a towel, I go to work on the headstone, clearing leaves, cleaning the stone, spraying it with marble/granite cleaner, wiping it and then buffing with a soft cloth for a high shine. All the while, I’m talking to Mom, feeling her presence, just the two of us, loving one another as always. I put my hands together in prayer and pray. Then I bend forward, kiss her name on the headstone and make the Sign of the Cross on her name.

Mom wedding day Mom Disneyland  rosie me mom carmen

I love the pic of mom on her wedding day. So young and beautiful and all that lace – wow! She visited Disneyland when it opened; we’ve figured she was probably pregnant with my brother Steve in this pic. In the 3rd pic are my cousins Rosie and Carmen (on the ends), with me and Mom.

022313 Tio Lolo 83rd birthday  022313 Shelly Ruben Me Tio Lolo Rosie Gloria 
1st pic: Tio Lolo; 2nd pic: Shelly S. (2nd cousin), Ruben O., me, Rosie A.(little girl in pic above), Gloria O.S.

Yesterday, I visited my Oropeza cousins in Oxnard to celebrate my Tio Lolo’s 83rd birthday.(Oropeza is Mom’s maiden name.) Tio Lolo is Mom’s youngest brother; she was next to the youngest in birth order in the Oropeza family of 10 children. They were all always very close and we grew up visiting at various tios’ homes nearly every weekend, all the cousins playing and growing up together. Family was the most important thing and our bond to one another was tight, almost like brothers and sisters. Being with cousins yesterday (and 2nd cousins and 3rd cousins) made me feel even closer to Mom. Being with them is like being with Mom: teasing, laughing, loving, talking endlessly, wanting more time together and not wanting to leave. Thank you, Mom, for our family, for my wonderful brothers and all of my beautiful, loving, crazy-fun extended family. I miss you but I see you alive still in all of us. I love you, Mom!

Monday, February 11, 2013

It’s Girl Scout Cookie Time


February 8 was National Girl Scout Cookie Day. Do you buy Girl Scout cookies? What’s your favorite? Samoas drizzled with chocolate? Thin Mints?  I don’t buy Girl Scout cookies, tempting as they are. Oh, I’d like to. I don’t like cake, but I do love cookies, especially good cookies.

But I don’t buy Girl Scout cookies. When I was in elementary school, a bunch of us signed up to join. I was so excited! Crafting, meetings, badges, camping – I could hardly wait. Actually, I did wait … and wait and wait. I found out later that the meetings had started … but only for the lighter-skinned girls. Those of us with darker skin (there were only a couple of us) weren’t called. We weren’t allowed to join the local Girl Scouts. I was just a little girl and I didn’t understand why. I didn’t know about prejudice or why some girls got to join but others weren’t. To me, we were all the same, just a bunch of little girls in elementary school.

It’s hard to believe that not so long ago, Girl Scout troops were segregated, with different troops for white girls, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians. At my school, there weren’t enough of us darker-skinned girls to be able to create a troop, so we were simply left out. I watched as the Girl Scouts wore their uniforms to school on meeting days, with their sashes and badges. I listened to them talk about their meetings and the things they’d learned or made. It made me sad. I didn’t know then why I couldn’t join. I felt left out and didn’t know why.

The social unrest of the 60s prompted the Girl Scouts to change their programs and the organization, but not yet in my area. There was prejudice in Orange County at that time. (When we moved into our new house, a neighbor came up to my mom and told her “I didn’t know they were going to let Mexicans move in here!” To which my dear mom replied “I didn’t know they were going to let poor white trash move in here.” You didn’t mess with my mom.) Thankfully, the Girl Scouts are a great organization and those types of prejudices are no longer. They do great work, building up young girls, teaching them a variety of skills, building confidence and inner strength, creating strong young women.

I so wanted to be part of that. I don’t buy Girl Scout cookies. I don’t buy them because of the little girls that they hurt so deeply years ago. I don’t buy them because of the little girl that I was, wondering why I was left out, not knowing why. It’s not that I hold a grudge; as I said, they’re a great organization and I encourage your support. It’s just that I want to honor and serve as witness for what once was, for the little-girl-me who just wanted to be part of a troop.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A little painting for my grand's 16th birthday

It's amazing that my baby grand, Jas, is now 16 years old. Oh, what a precious baby she was for me at a tough time in my life! She, her mom and her dad lived with me during Jasmine's first year. It was one of my great, quiet joys to wake up to her softly crying in the middle of the night, going into her room and taking her into the living room where I'd rock her, sing to her, maybe give her a bottle if she was hungry.

Holding my precious first granddaughter in my arms swelled my heart and began the difficult work of healing it in so many ways after it had been so badly injured. She still does that for me; my soul still connects, recognizes and knows her power in my life.

I saw a print on Pinterest recently and thought it would make a great painting for Jas. She's on her high school junior varsity water polo team and loves being in the pool or at the beach. I printed a copy (on the left) and then painted it on an 8x10 canvas. Just a bit of fun for my water baby girl (an Aquarian, like me) who loves the water!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

English is a beautiful language

you keep using that word
"Happy belated birthday!"
With a nod to Princess Bride and Inigo Montoya: You keep saying that phrase; I do not think it means what you think it means. There is no “belated birthday.” A birthday is a specific day, so no one can have a late birthday. If I miss someone’s birthday, the phrase is: “Belated happy birthday (wishes)!” because the wishes are belated, not the birthday.
English is a beautiful language and applying what we learned in elementary school helps us to communicate more clearly and promotes better understanding. (It also prevents expensive lawsuits, as people have gone to court when language is found to be misleading or incorrect.) The way a phrase is ordered (syntax) can alter the intended meaning. For example, this news headline:
Former Deputy Sentenced For Missing Wife's Murder
Maybe he was just busy that day and couldn’t be there for the murder?
Sometimes a typo is just a typo. I don’t think I want to be contacted by this associate:
I’ve been fortunate to be employed as a copywriter/editor/proofreader for many years and am pretty passionate about getting things right (in accordance with AP Stylebook and Merriam-Webster) before my work is published. I feel strongly that professional work should be correct. In various studies, polls and surveys, people have said that errors on business ads, websites, flyers, signs, etc., affect customer perceptions and impact the brand. Comments generally fall along the line of “If they can’t even get the spelling correct, what does that say about the quality of their other work?” Errors diminish perception about the quality of the business, they devalue the impact of the message. People have been known to lose confidence and to even quit doing business with companies because of the lack of quality in their published work.
That said, though, I’m not a “grammar Nazi” and, frankly, I find the term abhorrently insulting. If you make errors in your personal writing, it doesn’t matter to me one bit. (I do it all the time; I don’t check my personal writing with the same level of scrutiny that I do my professional work.) Sure, it helps to clarify meaning when the work is correct, but I’m usually able to figure out what you mean. I’m not a writing judge. And, by the way, why are mathematicians not called “math Nazis” or scientists not called “science Nazis?” If someone points out a math error, you thank them. But people are blasted for pointing out personal writing errors, so I just don’t do it unless someone asks for help. Even at work, if someone else makes an error on their published work, I don’t point it out unless someone specifically asks me to review their work for errors.
Some folks on Facebook have asked me to help them by posting examples of common errors so they can improve their communication. They’ve been very appreciative and find it helpful. I think people generally want to grow and evolve, to learn how to do things better, to improve themselves along life’s journey. I’m always learning new things about language usage. I’m passionate about information design—how we design information to be consumed by the user with understanding and clarity—and I feel that language is part of the discipline of information design.
I’ll end with a little nugget that, like the late birthday greeting, doesn’t mean what most people think it means:
In “ZIP code,” ZIP is an acronym for Zone Improvement Program and should always be capitalized per the United States Postal Service, which created the program. “Zip code” is incorrect. And now you’ve just learned something new!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kindness and acceptance–without labels

Photo: I wish everyone would repost this one!!  :)

When Sally Ride passed away last year, I remember reading a headline announcing that she had confirmed that she was gay shortly before her passing. Recently, there was a big to-do about Jody Foster at some awards show. (Sorry, I don’t watch them so I’m not sure which it was.)

I wish we were evolved enough as a civilization that we didn’t keep labeling people unnecessarily, whether by color, gender, race, sexual identity, handicap … whatever. Sure, there are times when a description is helpful, such as describing a bad guy: “He was about 6’, with jeans, gray shirt, ruddy skin tone and shaggy hair.” But we use labels when they aren’t necessary, such as the Sally Ride announcement. It seems that if she announced her preference, then, for equality’s sake, every other astronaut should announce theirs, too. Or imagine every entertainer, director, writer, etc., at awards shows going on stage and announcing their religion, race, preference, etc. Every time I hear the term “black president,” I cringe. He’s the American president of the American people, period. Let’s not separate him with a label. (Besides, he’s actually half-white and half-black, as if that makes any difference, either. He could just as easily be labeled a white president or bi-racial president; I don’t know why people label him as a black president … or use any label at all.)

All those labels don’t really matter. Does the person do a good job at what they do? Do they treat others well? Are they kind and thoughtful? These things matter, not the amount of pigment in their skin or who they love. (Love is a beautiful thing and should be celebrated.) I cringe when I read a news report where skin color is mentioned when it’s not relevant to the story. I cringed when an acquaintance wrote about her granddaughter being hassled by a schoolmate … and she felt compelled to mention his skin color.

If society pressures anyone to announce anything that labels and separates them, then they should require it of all. Can you imagine me introducing myself to you as a Spanish/French/German/Apache Catholic with Zen Buddhist leanings, some spinal issues that make movement difficult, blah, blah, blah? If you’re telling your story and including background information, that’s one thing, but for society to want people to make announcements … well, I sure do hope we evolve beyond that at some point and understand how irrelevant it really is.

I’ve felt very strongly about this for so many years, that I find that I often don’t notice the things that separate us. I try to look at who the person is—their Divine within—and I sometimes fail to note their physical appearance. Does Marsha have light skin? Are John’s eyes round or slanted? I fail to note these sometimes. Don’t know and don’t care, unless we’re talking about cultural issues that are pertinent to a discussion.

Buddhist teachings encourage us to observe, but not judge. Let us all simply be kind and accepting of one another. Let’s drop the unnecessary labels and just celebrate our shared oneness.