Friday, July 19, 2013

I've learned that we have to make up our minds where we want to put our energy. No matter what happens, it's still a choice as to how we deal with our circumstances and how we live our lives. I try to make some kind of peace with things that aren't what I'd expected and soak up the things and people that bring me delight. Each one takes some purposeful thinking, because it's so easy to take good things for granted.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


XMAS.  I’ll write it this way if I want to.  Do not tell me to “Keep Christ in Christmas.”  Unless... you have the RIGHT to tell me.  And do you?  Do any of us?  You can blast me for writing “xmas” ONLY if you are willing to do the Christ-like thing during the Christmas season... and help ONLY the needy!

Christ would NOT buy lavish gifts for his family and friends, let alone spend hundreds of dollars on wrapping paper, bows, tags and boxes.  He would not put up a tree decorated with lights, bulbs, garlands and artificial snow.  He would not spend hundreds of dollars decorating the outside of the house with blow-up snowmen, twinkling lights and fancy wreaths.  He would not spend a minute agonizing over what to buy whom, what to serve for dinner, how to work in all the traveling, which party to attend and which to skip. 

He WOULD provide food for people who were hungry and unwrapped gifts to fill a need for children and grown-ups.  He’d marvel at the beauty of snow covered trees and stars twinkling in the sky.  He’d spend time with family, friends, and strangers listening to their stories.

So, unless you are willing to do as He would do, don’t tell me to keep Christ in Christmas.  I don’t know ANYONE who actually keeps Christ in Christmas anymore, including me.  I get “wrapped up” in all the glitter too.  It’s tough. 

Going to church for Christmas Eve services, saying we are giving gifts (to anyone who already has everything they need) because it is giving out of love, putting up a fancy tree to bring cheer to the house, decorating to make the house and neighborhood look pretty, wrapping gifts so a loved one can open them and be surprised... all these things and more are NICE, but they are NOT what Christ would do!   Serving dinners to the homeless in a soup kitchen on Christmas day is NICE too, but Christ wouldn’t do this and then go home to a family dinner around the dining room table in a warm cozy home decorated for the holiday.  Christ would not buy three gifts and donate them to ‘Toys for Tots’ or ‘Secret Santa,’ and then buy 10 more expensive gifts for each his “own” children. 

And by the way, since Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, why do we give gifts to other people?  In his honor?  Really?  As my daughter-in-law recently said, “Oh, the things we tell ourselves to justify what we do.”

Furthermore, Christ would not set aside a special day or season to do the right thing... Christ did the right things, the Christ-like things... every day.

My point is not that we shouldn't celebrate Christmas in what's become our traditional ways and do as many Christ-like things as we can.  It's that I personally can't preach "Keep Christ in Christmas" when I'm not doing it myself!  And I'll go so far as to say that no one else can either.  Except for Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama. :-)  Not one of us should think that refraining from using the "X word" is enough!  It's not.  Getting caught up in stupid details is just another excuse to ignore people around us who are suffering... and it’s very self-righteous to think that spelling out “Christmas” is sufficient to consider ourselves good Christians.

If keeping Christ in Christmas were as easy as not writing “XMAS”... then everyone, I mean EVERYONE, all over the world, would have all they need on Christmas and... every day. 

Merry Xmas and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

PNC Park

Sorry the Pirates didn’t win today, but was so glad to go to my first professional baseball game!  Love PNC Park and Pittsburgh!

Thanks to the panoramic feature on my little camera, this photo really captures the feeling of the whole day!

My friend, Carol Buxser, was right:  There’s nothing like actually being there vs watching on TV.  You don’t get the same excitement from TV.  Carol suggested I go more often.  And so we have!

The crack of the bat
Hot dogs, peanuts, Coke
Thousands cheer “Go Bucs!”

~Haiki by Ric Cochran

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Is That Weird?

My dear friend Pam posted on Facebook that she saw a van in a parking lot that reminded of her mother, who had died a few years before.  Upon seeing it, she went back in time and wondered for a moment if her mother was okay, and asked if that was weird?

Some friends who’ve lost loved ones posted that they too have similar experiences.

I hear my Dad’s voice sometimes just like he’s talking in my ear.  A first I respond to him.  Tthen I “catch” myself and remember he died almost 3 years ago.  And then I catch myself again... and say, “Next time I’m going to stay with the feeling... the knowing... that he IS here with me.”  I’m sure all those we love are right next to us whenever we call them, and sometimes they do drop by to say hi.  It’s not the same as the physical presence we know, but the people we love and those who’ve loved us are never far away.  And there’s that part of our brain that KNOWS IT!!!  Thank you, God.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Flying Fur Balls from Heaven

I walked for over an hour and a half this morning at the park with Bodhi.  After everyone left the park, for the first time, I let him walk off-leash.  And it was wonderful.  If he would get ahead of me on the track, he would periodically check back to see where I was and wait for me.  If he started to go into the woods, I said “come back,” and he did!  It was amazing.  We both felt free and laughed and giggled.  It was... blissful!  After I got home and we were sitting on the front porch, cooling off, I felt GOOFY, actually.  I was inspired to write poetry!

As I sit on the front porch and watch the soft little puffballs of dog hair
float from our door mat into the morning breeze
and land gently in the trees and on the neighbors’ flowers,
I am reminded of the myriad of ways God has of making me smile.

I use the “poetry” term loosely, of course.  But in reality, the wonderful morning did make me realize and remember, God is the inventor of giggles!  And I think we’re meant to giggle a lot... like little kids!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jumping in Puddles

I was walking Bodhi in the park and saw a little boy, who had apparently been told my his mother to go back and get his scooter.  I watched as he came in my direction.  He suddenly veered off the track to take a dozen or so jumps in a big puddle.  He tried to hump higher and higher so that the splashes would be bigger and bigger.  Then, just as suddenly, he left the puddle and went to retrieve his scooter.

That little guy was living in the moment! 

Sometimes I feel the desire to splash in a puddle, but dismiss the thought.

For example, when I was at the park, I wanted to just lay down in the grass and giggle and let Bodhi run and jump over me.  But I quickly wondered what others would think... and would I get grass stain on my clothes?  Sometimes I see a lonely old man eating alone in a restaurant and I want to talk to him and ask him questions.  But then I remember I have so much to do and I have to get going.

How different would my life be if I always lived in the moment?

What kind of people would we be if we all stopped to splash in the puddles?

I’m thinking we should give it a try!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm Still Here!

My friend Jack posted on Facebook:  “Woke to a cold house, checked the furnace and then called my dad and told him the symptoms.  He showed up with a spare igniter he already had and I had heat within the hour!  For those you lucky enough to still have their dad, or someone like him, remember to thank them for all the little things they do to help.  Peace and love.”

I am so grateful for Jack’s post.  When you write or say something good, one never knows how it will affect another person, so it’s always important to put good messages out there – these are the kinds of things that are meant to be shared.  What Jack wrote made me stop and realize that even though my dad passed away 2 years ago, he still “shows up”... not with an igniter for my furnace, but with one for my soul.  For instance...

When my daughter and granddaughters and I were walking in the Susan G. Komen Race, a pink balloon tied to the stroller suddenly came undone and took off up in the air.  I could clearly hear my dad say in his mischievous tone of voice, “This one’s for me!”  Ha!  Daddy was walking with us!  (Probably slowed down to walk with us, because he loved to RUN in races.) We watched the balloon go up, up, up, until we couldn’t see it anymore.  But we knew it was still there!  Daddy’s message to us:  “And even though you can’t SEE me anymore, I’m still here.”

When I was recently worried about Jill crossing the U.S./Mexican border, I heard my dad say, “Don’t worry, Jeanne.  I’m gonna be there with her.”

I’m sure my dad is still very close to me many times.  If I was less preoccupied, and spent more time in expectation of his presence, I would probably notice him more.  Thanks, Jack, for the impetus for a new way of thinking and being.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mmmmm... Mexico Musings


Happy signs?  I’m not talking about the street signs that are “tucked away” on the sides of buildings, sandwiched in between other information or decoration.  Although that does make me smile.  What amazes me is that the people are by and large poor, and yet their very lifestyle shows a multitude of “signs” that they are happy.  Even interacting with a gringa like me.  I see an older woman walking down the street on calloused feet, carrying a heavy bucket of corn to be ground, shoulders bent from years of this daily task... and in my broken Spanish I smile and say “Buenos Dias.”  Immediately her head raises and a broad smile crosses her face as she replies, “Buenas Tardes” (because I usually forget that the time of day has changed the appropriate greeting).



Mexicans celebrate everything!  Lots of holidays, birthdays, quinceañeras (a girl’s 15th birthday), weddings.  In the US we celebrate most of those as well, but the celebrations last for days in Mexico!  Although poor, when everybody gets together and shares what they have, there is an amazing abundance of food!  And there is decoration as well – brightly colored banners, tablecloths and servietas (cloth napkins), and flowers!  (I can’t help but think of Jesus feeding the 5,000.)

There are parades and processions going on all the time.  During the Independence Day Celebration, there was not only a parade downtown, there were big parades in each colony within the city!  Bands, floats, queens and their attendants (like my granddaughter Sophie), candy being thrown from the floats!  Confetti being thrown from and TO the floats.  One of the highlights of my day was when a bunch of confetti landed on me.  (Some fell in my purse, which will remain there forever.)  All throughout the day, we would see people with some confetti still in their hair, and we knew they too had been at a parade.  It rained later that evening and the confetti was washed down into the cracks of the cobblestone streets.  It was beautiful! 


I never did figure out the name of the kind of dance that we often watched during the Independence Celebration, but it was a kind of a mix of Irish dancing and Bollywood!  Again the colors of the flowing dresses swirling and twirling emitted utter joy and happiness.  The photo of the girl in yellow is my son-in-law’s sister, Kari.  And my granddaughter, Sophia, is in green. 

Markets & Bolsas

I loved going to the Mexican markets.  Talk about color!  Everywhere you look is color!  We walked under various colored tarps through the streets.  Under the tarps were neat stacks of colorful vegetables (which the people bring to the market everyday and set up their tarps and stack the vegetables, and tear it all down at the end of the day).  There are brightly colored plastic buckets, clothing, hats, handmade toys, hand-painted crosses, aprons, and more vegetables, fruits and seeds. 

For some reason, I was really drawn to the bolsas carried by the folks who were shopping.  These are sturdy, plastic, mostly plaid, bags of all sizes that folks carry to the market.  Most, if not all, are made by hand, and they will hold whatever you can fit in them, no matter what the weight!  There are so many color combinations.  In the U.S. we are getting better at taking our own bags to the store with us, but they’ve been doing this in Mexico for decades!  I loved watching the people go by with their brightly colored bolsas. I can’t explain my fascination over the bolsas, but I think my husband, Ric, hit it on the head.  He said that the bags are representative of core happiness among the Mexican people... if they were basically sad and distraught, their bags would be perhaps brown or a drab green... but no –  they use every color in the rainbow!  Only people who are basically happy and always reach for the joy in life, no matter their circumstances, would create a bag like the bolsa!

Kids & Dogs

The children are incredibly happy... not many have actual toys at all... rather they spend their days playing quite creatively.  Their giggles sound the same in the U.S. and Mexico... only the language is different.  There doesn’t seem to be much squabbling and sentences like “he took my (fill in the blank)” because they share easily and the “things” they play with are plentiful – they climb trees, play hide and seek, get fruit out of a tree, play one of the many playgrounds, etc.), but also because they do not OWN many things.  The niños are playing with EACH OTHER and not so much with things.
Heck, even the dogs seem happy!


Mexican Food... I'm talking food folks actually eat in Mexico  :-)

cecina (thinly sliced and seasoned beef)
chirizo & salsa (sausage)
chorros  (cinnamon bread sticks)
eggs & salchicha
elote (corn on the cob, sprinkled with lime juice, rolled in chili seasoning)
fish taco
horcheta (coconut drink)
hot dog (si!  even in Mexico!)
manzanita (apple soda)
nieves (ice cream)
nopales (cactus)
pan dulce (sweet breads)
pay (pineapple muffin)
picada (mi comido favorito)
pizza (si!  even in Mexico!)
pollo rosado (roasted chicken)
pollo y salsa rojo (chicken & red salsa)
polvarones (orange cookies)
queso fundido (ham, pineapple, cheese)
rice taco  (made with your own choice of ingredients - fish, chicken, veggies, etc.)
shrimp cocktail
sincronazada  (ham & cheese “sandwich”)
takis (highly addictive snack chips)
torta  (like a sandwich, but the bread used is amazing)

Día de Los Muertos  (November 1-2)

“Day of the Dead” – it may sound weird to our American ears, but this is a joyous and wonderful celebration of the lives of family and friends who’ve passed away.  A time to remember loved ones with fondness – by placing things on a homemade altar that remind us of the family member or friend – photographs, foods they liked, an object that represents something special to that person such as sports, music, a momento.  Lots of marigolds are used – the official flower of Día de Los Muertos – pots of them are placed in the shape of a cross in front of the altar, with marigold petals leading from the gate to the house. 

Best of all, the families gather together for 2 days* to share memories, food and time with each other. In 2010 my daughter and son-in-law hosted the Oferenda at their casa in Mexico.
*Although it may be called “Day” of the Dead or Independence “Day,” holidays are actually celebrated for more than merely one day in Mexico!  Of course!

Night Sounds in Mexico

All through the night church bells rang, roosters crowed, and dogs barked.  At first, these sounds kept me awake, and I thought I would not sleep for the entire two weeks of my visit.  But within a couple days, the sounds were actually soothing to me!  Although I still heard the “noises” in the night, they became sounds that let me know “all was well” outside... and reminded me that I was sleeping in another land.  Ah... an odd Symphony of Sound, and I loved slumbering to this strange harmony.

Just when I thought I was familiar with all the night and early morning sounds, I awoke to a man on a bicycle (obviously pulling a cart), riding thru the neighborhood calling out, “Tamaleeeeeeeeeeeees!”  Now that was the coolest wake-up call I’d ever heard.  I woke with a smile.

Kids at Play

In a nearby town where my daughter and son-in-law live in Mexico, a Tree Lighting Ceremony was held in the plaza.  Their little girls (my granddaughters) were playing in the plaza with 8-10 other little kids.  Jill writes, “Amazing how much fun kids can have running around in circles, 5 little girls sharing 1 Barbie doll, little boys playing with a soccer ball and a rubber ball, kids playing with a piece of string – all the time laughing, giggling and squealing with delight.  Life here doesn’t ask for much – kids here don’t ask for much – little things make people happy.”

I love what Ric posted on Facebook the next day... “Give a kid a cell phone and she will learn the limits of technology... give her a piece of rope, and she’ll imagine a beanstalk to other worlds.”

Monday, May 2, 2011


I long to have a room in my house like this one.  Yet I know darn well, after stepping inside it, I'd go back out and get a rug to bring in to sit on while I meditate.  Then perhaps one little plant for some greenery.  Maybe a few candles.  Why not some of my favorite books?  Oh, a good place to keep my dumbbells and yoga mat so I could work out in a nice place.  I'd need music, too!  CD player, guitar, music book.  Oh gosh, by now I'm gonna need some shelves...

My life is so busy, filled with so many things I have to do, responsibilities, errands to be run... that I often feel overwhelmed.  Even with only two of us in our home, things still pile up a bit and I can’t stand the clutter.  I feel better when I’m someplace peaceful... mainly in the woods... but also in a place where furnishings are sparse and accessories are few.  So, I’m trying to relieve my stress by living simpler.  It’s a difficult task, more so than I would have imagined.  I’m starting to do this with my physical surroundings.  Seems a little weird perhaps, but I know I will feel better to be living in an uncluttered environment.  A therapist once told me I have a need to create order out of chaos.  It was an “ah-ha” moment for me.  So, I’m going with that, and presume it will lead me to other more beneficial and spiritual ways to live simply and with less stress.

Recycling has caused me to realize how much stuff we can accumulate, so I also want to simplify by using less stuff in the first place.  When I feel I “need” something, instead of going out and buying it, I’m looking around me to see what I already have that will serve the purpose.

I’m also inspired to live with less after having been to Mexico twice (not as a tourist, but by visiting family).  There, folks have small homes, neatly organized, always clean, with minimal furnishings and appliances, yet warm, cozy and comfortable.  When I’m there, I always think, “This is just fine!  Why do I need so many rooms in my house?”  Ric and I recently went to Holly River State Park and stayed in a little cabin, along with a friend.  It was plenty of space.  We were peaceful and content, felt no stress, and had similar thoughts as I had when in Mexico.  I can’t really see myself getting down to two or three rooms, but who knows?  Anyway, I’m going to start with making the rooms I have more peaceful and uncluttered.

Another thing that’s currently driving this need is a book Ric handed me to read... one of the great classics... “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau.  It’s the story of the two years he spent living in the wood by Walden Pond in his one room cabin with the bare necessities.  He found an abundance of treasures communing with nature, reading, entertaining occasional visitors, and more.  My head spins as I read his work, and think about how complicated we make our lives!

Well, here was my first test.  It wasn’t much, but I gotta start somewhere in implementing what I’m beginning to believe.  We’re going to be selling our house in the near future and move to a smaller place... however, I will still need a little space for my art studio.  A great opportunity came up to rent a room in one of our old downtown buildings.  I had lots of cabinets, drawers and a closet in my in-house art studio... but my new one downtown was just one room, so I had the challenge of not buying too many things in order to store my equipment, art supplies, framing and matting tools, frames, finished work, etc.

Tables and one shelving unit, I already had, so no problem there.  I needed storage for things, so went first to the garage.  My Christmas decorations were stored in plastic bins on a big wire shelving unit.  They didn’t need to be on the shelves, so the wire unit went to the art studio.  I emptied some shoe boxes and used them in the studio to hold paint and supplies.  I took some cups and mugs from the kitchen cabinets to hold brushes, pencils and other things.  Grabbed a lamp from one room, a chair from another, a vase from the mantle... and moved them to the studio.  I loved that more than one purpose was being served – making my art studio workable and comfortable and clearing out a bit of space in our house... plus, I saved money by not buying new things to contain my stuff.  It wasn’t as easy as it sounds... as I realized something else I “needed,” I constantly had to ask myself questions like, “Do I really need this, or is it an unnecessary luxury?  Do I have to buy this thing, or do I already have something at home that will work just as well?” It felt good not to have added to my collection of belongings! 

What I did is no great deed or amazing contribution to the world!  For heaven’s sake, I was only moving stuff from one room to another.  But what was different for me was I didn’t go out and ADD to my current stuff.  It was a little thing in the whole scheme of things.  But isn’t starting with something little, the first step in making bigger changes?  Isn’t something better than nothing?  I hope so.  ‘Cause it not only felt good, it was fun!  Fun is better than stress anytime!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My Favs!

  • Color – Blue
  • Season – Spring
  • Movie – “With Honors”
  • TV Show – “American Idol” “So You Think You Can Dance” “Dog Whisperer”
  • Song – “Love Hurts” by Nazareth
  • Snack food – Pita chips
  • Lunch food – Tuna salad on whole grain bread
  • Drink – Diet Orange Sunkist
  • Restaurant – Mexican or Indian
  • Flower – Blue Hydrangeas
  • Tree - Hemlock Pine
  • Book – “Seat of the Soul” by Gary Zukav, “Where the Heart Is” by Billie Letts, “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson, and so many more!
  • Nursery Rhyme – “There was a little girl, who had a little curl...”
  • Hobbies – Painting, piano, guitar, jewelry making
  • Favorite way to spend free time – Doing any of the above, reading, walking/hiking in the woods, hanging out at a bookstore or café, going to movies, attending live music performances
  • Some things most people don’t know about me:  I am not a morning person.  I think I could eat a whole cheesecake.