It’s World Mental Health Day!

World Mental Health Day!

I hope in commemoration we all take a moment to remember “mental health” is a lot of different things that varies for each individual!

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It’s also something that needs to be talked about, taught about and focused on with as much diligence as visiting a dentist or watching what you eat!

Having mental health issues, from mild to devastating is NOT something to be ignored, ashamed of, hidden or ridiculed for. It does NOT make you weak, unintelligent, less masculine, too feminine or undeserving of love!

It’s also not something those who suffer can will or wish away. It’s not something they can simply “get over” or not “think about”. It is an illness, just like any other. Deserving of support, empathy and available, affordable treatment by professionals.

In addition, mental illness can cause and make worse physical illness. Untreated it can lead to addictions, horrific life choices and needless death.

Be aware and open about mental health issues, starting with young children, all the way through the twilight years.

Take care of the mind as much, if not more, than the body!

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Instead of more love, let’s focus on more empathy!

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Love is a word tossed around like confetti at a party. With its cavalier usage, we lose the true meaning… by definition, Love is: “strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties”

Though loving everyone is a lovely intention, it is also a lofty goal, that most of us mere mortals cannot attain. To actually love someone, staying true to the defined emotion, we need at least to know something about them, and even those we know inside and out, are not always easy to love.  To that end, perhaps preaching and insisting that loving each other will eradicate the worlds issues, has created a no-win, no gray in the middle counter-productive situation, leading us to an extreme of choosing between loving or hating those we don’t see eye to eye with, or in some cases complete, apathetically doing nothing.

Rather, I prefer we stop trying to love so much and in its place, we seek a deeper desire for feeling and sharing empathy

When we empathize with our fellow humans, we neither need to love or hate them. Heck, we don’t even need to like them or actually know them. Nor do we need to feel pity or sympathy, which is quite a different emotion. If I may borrow a Native American quote to clarify my point, “walk a mile in his moccasins”… when we do this, we make the effort to understand where the other person is coming from. By employing empathy, we don’t need to agree with someone, we don’t need to change our own beliefs or opinions, we don’t need to feel any deep emotion, or argue or defend ourselves. We simply need to stop for a beat and use our energy to view matters through their perspective. Yes, it takes a bit of energy, but so does angrily flying off the handle in defense of our position. Additionally, hate, anger, hostility is emotionally and physically draining. Feeling empathy isn’t.

Remember for a second the last time a petty annoyance got under your skin. An example; the teenage fast-food server mixed up your order. You might have become irate, shouting at the kid and demanding to speak to a manager. Or internally you might have been seething, “how stupid is that damn kid, can’t get a simple order right?” Even after the error was corrected, how did you feel? Were you able to peacefully enjoy your meal or did you feel all flustered inside? Now entertain the idea of instead of becoming instantly vexed, externally or internally, you thought for a minute about what might have led to the mixup… step into the kids shoes… maybe the teen is new on the job, maybe he’s got an important exam after the shift, maybe she just found out she’s pregnant, maybe just being human caused the error, we all make them… the possibilities are endless. When you empathetically evaluate the situation, you can reasonably, if need be

Now entertain the idea to instead of becoming instantly vexed, externally or internally, you thought for a minute about what might have led to the mixup… step into the kids shoes… maybe the teen is new on the job, maybe he’s got an important exam after the shift, maybe she just found out she’s pregnant, maybe just being human caused the error, we all make them… the possibilities are endless. When you empathetically evaluate the situation, you can reasonably, if need be firmly, still state and get what you want, without the hostility.

We all witness anger… about everything, locally, nationally and globally… in social media comments and posts, in day to day in-person encounters with strangers, friends and even colleagues. Habitually, referring to people and situations, we don’t know, like, love or even understand, in derogatory, hostile terms.

If, even, our current US president would say some of the inappropriate and mind-blowing things that spew from his mouth, with some empathy, it wouldn’t make him right, but it would at least soften how we process it.

Looking back to my late mother, even before we were conscious of “political correctness” and as much mindfulness about other peoples feelings, I remember she was, empathetic! She always made an effort to view both sides of a story. Probably explains why I’m the way I am – or in my fragile, sometimes failed human attempts – try to be.

I often speak of empathy to friends; mentioning the times the attribute has served me well. Some look at me like I’ve grown a second head. Or react as if I’m asking they give up their personal rights and beliefs in deference to another’s. Some say “well you’re just trying too hard to be nice, I can’t-do that!”. I wonder, is that they “can’t” or won’t. I ponder is it that they just don’t care enough to even try? Or, is their comfort zone within anger and hostility? If they’re empathetic now, will they need to address other times from the past when they could have been?

The world right now is a scary mess.  We need to collectively try to do something that will make a difference and lead us to some semblance of peace. If all-out love isn’t happening. And we know hate makes things worse. How about we give empathy a try.

It might help… it sure can’t hurt!

Could you leave all your material possessions behind!

With horrible natural disasters all around us and constant warnings to people to gather their families and pets and evacuate as quickly as possible, one can’t help but wonder, what would I do?

It’s easy to say, “well, of course, I’d leave my stuff in favor of saving our lives”. However, for some people it’s not that simple. Worst case scenario, are those who suffer from hoarding. For them, leaving stuff might be as mentally terrorizing as facing the loss of life. For others, not as extreme, material things are emotionally important, so important that losing it all could break their hearts and even override their gratitude for being alive.

I’ve done a lot of soul searching on the subject. I know for fact, it’s not even a question, I’d be on the road with my kids, the cat and the lizard in a heartbeat. If I had time to prepare, essentials and some clothes aside, I’d grab a few photos, some special teddy bears, and a few mementos – mostly things my kids have either made or gifted me with. All together it all fits in a plastic storage bin. Because material stuff does not matter one iota to me.

Perhaps I wasn’t always like I am now; a down to earth minimalist who finds little value in things. Perhaps I’m this way because I’ve experienced losing everything once, leaving everything once and witnessing how destructive attachments to stuff can be to relationships.

Losing Everything!

You might be wondering “so how did you lose everything?” In a nut shell when we moved from New York to Connecticut, it took two huge moving trucks to haul our stuff. It all needed to be stored at the company’s facility since our house closings didn’t coincide. Four weeks later, when it was finally time to move our stuff in (during which time I’d given birth to our second son), only one truck pulled up, with only about five percent of our stuff inside it. Little did we know the storage place (according to them) had been robbed. Everything we owned was GONE! In hindsight, we then realized why the owner of the place had talked us out of purchasing insurance. We’d eventually learn that four other families faced the same fate, the place was ultimately burned down and the owners went missing. We got nothing, nada, zilch!

I was upset, of course, the cost of reestablishing our home was mind numbing. All of my oldest sons (he was five) toys and valuables were gone. All of our keepsakes, gone. The few things I had left from my deceased parents, gone (except for the crucifix they’d received as a wedding gift, that was among the five percent left).  Funny thing is, with a new healthy baby in my arms, and my other perfect son at my side, none of the missing stuff really mattered. In the grand scheme of things, we had everything! Eventually, we re-established a lovely, comfortable home.

Leaving Everything!

Years later, when I left our twenty-five-hundred square foot home to pursue the new life I desperately needed across the country, I filled my minivan with two of my three sons (the oldest was away at college), the few things that were special to them, a minimal amount of clothing, a few keepsakes (yes that crucifix came along) and some essentials. I thought at the time, my husband would eventually join us; moving the rest of the stuff with him. That never happened. And so, then a single mom on a tight budget, I rebuilt a comfortable home, again,; slowly but surely, with things from here and there, hand-me-downs and thrift store finds and dollar stores and even some dumpster dives. And life, happily went on, because we had all that mattered, each other.

Things Over People!

And how can an attachment to things be detrimental? When I’d asked my then husband about joining us in California, one of the first things he said was “it would cost a fortune to move all my things!” In that statement, all I heard was, my stuff is more important than you or our family! He’s still across the country, alone, with his stuff!

My dad, who was a bit of a hoarder I guess, now that the habit has a name, kept a four bedroom house up and running for years after his father, the sole inhabitant of the house, passed away because he couldn’t face getting rid of the stuff that had accumulated. In the meantime, he, I and my mom lived meagerly in a small one bedroom apartment, which created stress and discourse between my parents!

When my dad passed away, it took us months of sweat and tears and money to get rid of his stuff.

I’ve heard, we’ve all heard, arguments amongst family members over who’ll get moms this or dads that. Their sadness seems to be more about the stuff than the loss of their parents!

So yes, faced with an evacuation I could easily leave it all. The financial burden certainly would take a toll, but the emotional burden of losing my stuff would mean absolutely nothing. As long as I have my kids and my life, I have everything I want or need.  And they can rest assured when my time on earth is done – hopefully, I still have many decades left here – they won’t need to fight over who gets what, there will be enough teddy bears and Barry Manilow cd’s, and high heels to go around. 🙂

 

A kiss is not just a kiss!

lipstick-kisses_23-2147504316In this post I’m not talking about kisses that include your child, a parent or a loved one, that isn’t already or you’re sure will be a significant other. Here, I’m talking about romantic kisses, between two people who are attracted to each another.

To me a kiss is something intimate, special, not to be taken lightly. It’s the same opinion I have about anything to do with intimacy; absolutely not something I do with spur-of-the-moment-casualness! Kissing is important and when done right can lead to more; done wrong it’s going to be an abrupt halt.

A lot of things on my list need a positive check before I allow someone’s mouth to mingle with mine. Obviously, there has to be an attraction, but that attraction needs to go beyond physical. If a dude is gorgeous, but can’t carry on some semblance of a conversation, there won’t be any tonsil hockey. If his breath (or any part of his being) is abhorrently stinky, nope, please stay back. If he seems to be mean, nasty, arrogant or too happy to be him, yeah no, not wasting lips on him. Am I picky? You betcha. Am I honest from the get-go in not leading anyone on, absolutely!

I thought back to my “first kiss”, that happened long before I had a check list or even knew what I wanted out of life. I was about thirteen, paired up with a kid the same age, who was the son of a friend of my parents. He, I and another couple our age were visiting landmarks in Chicago within a specific close-mile radius our parents allowed us to journey to while they attended a convention.  The Sears Tower was among the sights, the elevator ride to the top that the four of us took, would become a moment I’d never forget. Out of the blue, that boy made his move. Looking back it was indeed somewhat sweet and very innocent, but at the time, it was the grossest encounter of my brief life!

Out of the blue, that boy made his move. Looking back it was indeed somewhat sweet and very innocent, but at the time, it was the grossest encounter of my brief life! I’d been blindsided by the awkward on-set of babyish lips, a peach-fuzz face, and a slobbery tongue shoved into my mouth.  Fortunately, I didn’t gag; instead, I managed to dump my handbag on the floor as an excuse to end the hideousness. I remember telling my mom later that day about the great horror I endured. I also remember her stifling a grin while cajoling me. From then on I swore off ever allowing a guy to kiss me without my permission. It was also then I decided if or when the time came for me to be in a relationship, it would have to be with an older dude; no mushy lips or peach-fuzz!

Life went on and there were much more kissing encounters with and without prior permission, which, for the most part, I got to be okay with. The kisses were nice, but none were perfect (not even the ones shared with the man I married). I often wondered if there really is such a thing as a “perfect” kiss? One that changes everything, that conveys a message without words, that has meaning beyond the action itself? Or is that a notion brought to us by romantic fairy tales that only happen in films and literature?

Alas, not that long ago, I happily received the answer to my question when I discovered, first hand, a perfect kiss honestly does exist! The kind that curls your toes, sends shivers down your spine, flips your stomach, makes time stand still, and obliterates everything around you. This perfection happened on three different occasions. Though for many reasons the relationship with the kisser wasn’t meant to last a lifetime, the memories of those perfect kisses will last forever. The kisses changed me. Made me aware of what I want, who I want and how I deserve to feel when a set of lips touch mine. At this point in life, I won’t settle for less in the romance department. If I want a companion, I have friends. If I want a romantic relationship, my spine needs to tingle!

I wish I knew why Teddybear is homeless!

A few weeks ago, I saw this poor teddy sitting under a tree, baking in the hot desert sun, all alone. Because I love teddy bears, I felt sorry for him; all fat and fluffy, awaiting who knows what fate. I didn’t feel sorry enough to take him home – thoughts of bugs and worse filled my wildly imaginative brain.  But, that same imaginative brain also weaved three scenarios about why he sat alone which in turn has become three short stories. The first of which I share below.

Lost Teddy

 

He broke your heart and then you broke mine! 

When he gave me to you,  on that sunny February day, you hugged me tight as you told him you loved him, You said I was the best present you’d ever received. You said you’d never part with me. The three of us spent that day and night together, and more days and nights just like them, for a long time.

Me, always perched on your favorite purple chair, the one that’s too fragile for humans sit on. The two of you snuggling on the couch, laughing, watching movies and doing things people in love do. It was a happy time for you, for him and me.

Then one day I wished I could talk. I wish I could have told you the things he said to the someone that was listening on the other end of his phone. I wanted to warn you. Protect your heart from hurting.  I would have told you there was someone else. Your happy days with him would soon be over.

When he told you himself, he said he needed to go. He said he needed a fresh start. He hugged you one last time. He said you’d understand and that someone new would find you. He turned his back and walked away. He broke your heart into a million pieces.

I watched you cry. I was your pillow to sob into when you were sad, and then punch when you were angry. I listened patiently as you screamed hate-filled words about him. The ones that made your face flush with anger. And then to the ones filled with love that stole your breath while you sobbed again. I didn’t mind all those times when the ice cream you said made you feel better melted and dripped on my fuzzy head.

The weeks went on, just you and me, until one day you came home smiling, humming a tune and bustling about tidying up our home. You picked me up by the ear and tossed me on your bed, you didn’t notice your aim was off and I landed on the floor, upside down, my feet in the air. It was ok, I didn’t mind, I was happy to hear you laughing with someone in the other room. I couldn’t wait to meet the new him that gave you back your smile.

But… you never did pick me up off the floor, or place me back on my purple chair, or use me as a pillow to fall asleep upon at night. I never did meet him. You pushed me to a corner of your room. Then into a closet. And now onto the curb.

You told me I needed to go. You needed a fresh start. You hugged me one last time. You said I’d understand. You plopped me on the ground up against a tree. You said someone new would find me. You turned your back and walked away. You broke my heart into a million pieces.

 

When life gives you tiny bread, make tiny sandwiches!

The adage states “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Yesterday, I gave it a new spin.

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Rushing to prepare a quick lunch, between Skype meetings and other need-to-do-now assignments from my home office, I scampered to the kitchen, reached into the fridge for a pack of deli turkey and a jar of mayo – I mean, what’s a sandwich without mayo! Turning to grab the loaf of bread from its usual hangout, it dawned on me… In lieu of a boring loaf of bread wrapped in a plastic bag, I’d chosen cute little baguette slices to devour with a wedge of my beloved brie cheese. No time to go to a store, I had a choice… eat something else, or get (a little) creative. The photo explains which path I took…

Inspired by the bread, I grew more creative, adding a bit of the Brie and a light spread of yummy basil pesto to each tiny sandwich. What began as ingesting a needed sustenance, took on a momentary feeling of posh indulgence, albeit it cost no more than what I was already about to eat; a treat to savor instead of mindless scarfing. In turn, I relaxed, read a magazine and allowed work and obligation stress drift for at least the time it took me to eat.

The moral of the story is not to boast about my creative, culinary skills –  of which I am first to say I am sorely lacking. Rather it’s to remind me and you that almost every situation has two alternatives. A good one and a bad one, depending on how we choose to absorb it.  We can become frustrated, disappointed, stressed over the minor mishaps that invade our everyday life, or we can figure out a way around them and save being disgruntled for the big stuff.

Yes, the reminder to “not sweat the small stuff” is obvious and constantly shared, however, we still forget to apply it to our daily life. So many, too many, of us create internal and external discontent because we can’t get past petty nonsense by either finding an alternative solution and more times than not, the humor of the situation.

For the purpose of example to conclude my post, not being able to afford bread is huge. Not having bread you want is a minor inconvenience. When we acknowledge the difference, life gets a lot more livable.

So next time, life gives you lemons or tiny bread, make something wonderful from it… hmmm, wonder if I have any of those fixin’s left? 🙂

 

The Magic of Disney never ends!

There is nothing I don’t love about all things Disney parks! The music, the food, the rides (the calm ones I go on, the wilder ones my kids go on while I people watch). Most of all, I love the magic, the whimsical feeling that takes over the second I enter the park – truth be known, as I enter the parking lot. That, coupled with spending time with my kids at the parks, in a word is pure, unaltered bliss. A place far from the stress, strain and worrisome reality beyond the gates. A place where we’re together, my favorite time to be.

I think this sign, hung above a tunnel walkway says it all. Walt Disney was brilliant in creating these parks and the legacy that will remain for generations to come.

 

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My photos aren’t the greatest, but I choose to share them, because they’re a reminder of our latest lovely visit.

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Oh Donald, you quack me up.:)

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Two of my boys and I. Two of my favorite people on earth.

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We were fortunate to be there for the second day after the re-opening of Fantasmic. It’s a gorgeous production; alone it’s worth the price of admission.

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My absolute favorite, Beauty and the Beast. I seriously have a mad crush on Beast. 😍

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The park at closing. Another glorious day… even twelve hours wasn’t enough. No visit is ever enough. As we drove away, plans were being made for our next time.

“See ya real soon”!