The Accidental Staycation

When you do contract work, you have a lot of flexibility.  If you need time off, have an appointment, if you need to work later or get off earlier..typically as long as your works gets done, most places give you as much flexibility as you need. However, it swings both ways and it that regard, you are at the mercy of those for whom you are working. I was told earlier this week that the team with which I work would be pretty much off this week.  It is holiday week, summer and most are out of the office.  Therefor, I would have off too.

The short notice did not allow for any trips to be taken, and I am happy with that.  How many times have I thought to myself “wish I had a week to get my house in oder…or to play in the garden, or to relax and catch up on movies, or reading, or writing…or all of the above?

And so it goes.  I will have my first official staycation of the year.  A few days of sleeping later because trying to gt used to going to bed earlier, and rising in time to enjoy cool summer mornings on the back deck, with coffee. There will be cleaning, and organizing, and unpacking and planning.  And exercising. There will be hiking and visiting a Buddist center. There will be wine and laughter and friends. And a lot of wonderful.

I am so excited about this unexpected  time off that I am about to pop.  Tickled pink and planning all kinds of thing for the next 9 days. Life is what you make it, my friend. SO make it good, and make it happy.

Make it Count

Anniversaries often make us contemplate all that has happened in the last year, both the good and bad.  You examine both he good and the bad that has happened.

I was a mess last year at this time. I just lost Dad, so the first anniversary of losing Mom was especially hard. But this year, I am doing rather well. I have settled in quite nicely into the new life, though it was not easy at first. And I have changed quite a bit in two years, changed quite a bit in the last 12 months.  I am not as tolerant as I used to be, but I am more compassionate.  That statement might seem quite contradictory, but it isn’t.  I am not tolerant of people or things that disturb my peace of mind.  But going through the past two years has taught me much about compassion and empathy. The past two years has also taught me a lot about strength. You are often much stronger than you ever thought, and you can handle more than you ever thought you could.

I know that I am much stronger than I thought be or even wanted to be.  I never thought that I could take care of Mom or Dad by myself. never thought that I could make those kinds of decisions myself. But I did. And I honored them. Never thought that could I do what needed to be done.  But God gives you the strength you need.

I have learned that my family is not blood family. My blood family is gone. My family now are my friends. And I can count on those friends no matter what.  They are better than blood because you cannot help who your family is, but you can choose who you your friends. The people in my life are loyal, honest, smart, have loads of common sense and are very low drama.

I have also to be very careful about where you grow your roots – make sure it is good, fertile, solid ground. And if it’s not, move and replant. You are not a tree, you can move if you don’t like where you are.

I have learned that life is so very fragile and short, and so take advantage of every second.I have also learned the value of being still.  I have my roots planted firmly with my friends. And now those roots are growing deep, establishing the foundation of my life. And that takes time.  Beautiful, wonderful, amazing time.

And so I know my wonderful mother would be proud of me.  She knows how hard I have tried, how hard I have worked.  She and God know. And so with her 2nd anniversary approaching, I know that my heart is free as I move forward.

There are still things to handle and accomplishments to make.  I need to be better at housekeeping, and those last 20lbs are still lurking on my hips. I need to organize my closet and clear out the junk drawer.  But life is good.  There are fireflies to watch at night.  There are good friends to talk to. There is wine to drink. There are sunsets and sunrises – and coffee to be able to watch those sunrises. There are soft blankets and good movies. The are comfy couches and kitties that needs pets. And there is much to celebrate this anniversary. Because life is what matters. And we are only given this one, tiny life. Make it count. Make it happy.

Toxic Shock

“Regardless of how anyone treats you, you stand to benefit. While some people teach you who you do want to be, others teach you who you don’t want to be. And it’s the people who teach you who you don’t want to be that provide some of the most lasting and memorable lessons on social graces, human dignity, and the importance of acting with integrity.”

There is an illness called toxic shock syndrome that is a physical illness.  But I think that it could be applied to toxic people as well. Have you ever been around someone who is so toxic that you just feel terrible and exhausted when you are around them?  I think that is because these people are so horrible that they are a shock tour system – thus what I call Toxic Shock Syndrome.

These days I am very happy, even joyful.  It was not that long ago that I was unhappy and miserable, mainly because of grief.  But I have come out on the other side and have learned quite a bit through the journey.  One of those lessons is that happiness is a lot of work, but so very worth it.

“The moment you feel like you have to prove your worth to someone is the moment to absolutely and utterly walk away.” – Alysia Harris

Because I have learned who to keep keep in my life, and from whom to walk away.  This is a very powerful lesson to learn, no matter what age or place in life. When you are grieving, or going through a hard time, you have very little energy.  So what little bit of energy you do have must be spent wisely.  There is no time for unnecessary drama. The people who cause chaos in your life are emotionally abusive and will suck every bit of life, energy and air right out of the room. That is why it is so important that once you identify who these people are, you get them out and keep them out.

“Know when to leave the table when respect is no longer being served.”

Sometimes these people are friends or associates, sometimes a boss, sometimes a coworker. And because of that they can be hard to get away from.  Even if you cannot extract them from your life, you can choose to limit your time with them. And results are worth it.

But what about when these toxic people are family?  That is unfortunate, but if it happens then you need to walk away from them too. Especially if they are family. Because family knows how to get to you, they know your buttons and how to make it hurt. Because our families know us so well, we are extremely vulnerable to them.  So if they are the kind of people who are abusive and manipulative, they will have no problem hurting you to get what they want.

Unfortunately, this is something many people can relate to, including myself. My closest sister in age and location is extremely abusive and toxic.  Flinging around hurtful accusations, causing drama, refusing to help with anything.  She refused to be there when Mom died, she refused to help take care of Dad, has refused to help take care of the family compound and has so far refused to help pay for any upkeep of the property as well (even though she makes almost 6 figures more than I). Maybe that is why she has time to accuse me of things like keeping her from seeing Dad for 2 years before his death (Odd, because her kids remember her spending time with him on his birthday, her birthday and Christmas). Also accusing me of plotting to take all of her kids’ inheritance away (something I have no power to do, even if I wanted to, which I don’t). She seems to forget that the executor of a will has no power and can only do what is specified in a will.

The result has been a permanent divide.  I cannot have that kind of drama and discord in my life, caused by such hurtful and emotionally abusive accusations. Being in contact with her is extremely detrimental to my mental and emotional health.  So I choose to leave the table.  To stay would teach her that what she is doing is not only OK, but acceptable as well.  Which it is not.  While this kind of treatment is very normal in her world, it is not in mine.

“Sometimes walking away has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with strength. We walk away not because we want others to realize our worth and value, but because we finally realize our own.” –   Robert Tew

We teach people how to treat us.  If we let them think it is OK, then they will continue. So, if you tell them that whatever they are doing is not OK, and they continue, then they have shown- through their own actions – that they do not care. And if they do not care enough about you to treat you in a way that is kind and not hurtful, then why should you care enough to have them in your life? Know your worth. Know you have the right to be treated with kindness and love and have the right to walk away when someone is abusive to you or toxic to your life.

Why do nasty, toxic people insist on causing drama and pain for others?  I don’t know.  Maybe they are so miserable that they cannot stand to see others happy and feel the need to make others miserable as well.  Maybe they are truly so selfish that they are oblivious to the rest of the world past their nose.  Maybe they have been abused themselves, and think that their behavior is normal.  Maybe it is a combination of these and many other reasons. But you cannot concern yourself with why they are the way they are, only whether you are willing to accept the havoc they wreak on your life and emotions.

And when we get these life sucking vampires out of our lives, it is a weight lifted.  There is peace, there is calm, there is room for good things. That is because dealing with these people takes so much energy, time and emotion, that we may not even realize how much until they are gone.  And when all of that energy is not being taken up by their ridiculous drama, there is room for positive interactions with positive people.

Live is too short to have toxic people in your life.  Cut them out, leave them behind and let them make someone else miserable.

“Knowing when to walk away, is Wisdom. Being able to, is Courage. Walking away with Grace, and your held head high, is Dignity.” – Ritu Ghatourey

The Honor of the Strength

It is often said that life is what you make of it, and that our view is what we make of it as well.  So much of life depends on our attitude and optimism or negativity. And indeed, it is. There is a reason the saying “Change your attitude and change your world.”  No matter who we are, where we are in life, what we are doing or where we want to be, it is never too late to change direction. And part of that is changing your attitude.  I have also written quite extensively on how we are the authors of our lives.  We have the power to make our lives the amazing epic novel it was always meant to be.

If you don’t like where you are, move.  You are not a tree.

And so, it is in this spirit that I move forward. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, they can all hold a certain amount of pain for those who have lost precious family members.  Grief is a many legged thing. I have decided to change my  attitude toward and relationship with grief.

This was the second Father’s Day since Dad’s death, and Mom’s second anniversary will be next month.  I was a mess for both last year. I had lost 5 people I loved dearly in 8 months. I would lose another 3 in the four months that followed, making it a grand total of 8 people in a 12-month period. I was grief stricken for most of last year.

As I was sitting in the steak house last night waiting for my friend, I was sad when I saw all the others there with their fathers.  It was a painful reminder that mine was no longer with me. And then I watched them all, laughing and smiling and felt thankful that I had my Dad with me for so many years. And then I thought of how far I have come in those short 12 months.

A decision was made in that moment, a shift of attitude. This year, I will celebrate how far I have come, how much strength they gave me, and how resilient they taught me to be.  I will honor them by being as strong as they taught me to be. I will honor them by being ever hopeful and seeing the beauty in this world.  They taught me to see the sunrise, the flowers, the wonder of this world. They taught me that your life is bigger than any one thing, or any one moment, or any one person. And they taught me to pick yourself up and get on with it.

I love them and miss them every day and always will.  But there is a difference in living with grief and living in it. I will always live with the grief of losing them.  You never stop missing your loved ones. In that respect you never stop grieving.  But you do not have to actively love in grief forever.  Your loved ones would not want you to be sad forever, they would want you to live and be happy and learn to navigate this new normal.

There is no specific timeline for grief, everyone goes through it in their own time.  And this is my time, right now, to make this decision to shift my attitude.  Grief and I have become very well acquainted.  And if she is going to be my friend and stay in my life, she better hold on tight. Because my life, and honoring the strength my wonderful parents gave me, is going to be a fun ride.

Happy Father’s Day Dad

Hi Dad, it’s me.  I love and miss you eery single day. More than I can every express, I miss you.  And I think about all the things you taught me, from fishing, to how to fix my car, to how to know how a man should treat me, by how you would treat Mom.

Miss you voice, your hands, your advice, your smile your funny one-liners, your gentle advice.  I miss eating hot dogs with you at lunch, and sharing an N/A beer with you at dinner.  I miss sharing boiled peanuts with you, and watching the news with you too. I miss so many things about you. I just miss you.

Thank you for being the best father in the world to me.  Please hug Mom for me too.  And please visit me in my dreams.

I publish this every year in honor of my father:

My Dad is like one of those men from the old movies. The hero. A man of few words rides into town, stands up for what he believes in, and touches everyone around him.

He leads by example: Loyalty, honesty and spirituality. Always keep your word. Hold family close and God Closer.

My Dad has worked very hard to make a business and a reputation many would envy. He’s worked hard to give his family the kind of life and opportunities where we would want for nothing. He has integrity and honor, and those are not easy qualities to find these days.

He has been a wonderful example of a man, a father and a human being. From quietly asking mom about our dates to sharing boiled peanuts and beer, to watching thunderstorms and lighting with us. To teaching me how to sing silly songs, teaching me why it’s important to watch the news and be aware of the world in which you live.

He has taught me so many things about life, just by example. And he is the best father a girl could ever hope to have. I have so many wonderful memories of him growing up, and as an adult. Like him, try to read fairy tails to me and mispronouncing the names – like “Ra-pun-zel”, or reciting the bedtime story of “Once upon a time, a deer drank wine…” To holding me while I sobbed when I thought my mother was dying, to our first father daughter dinner when I was a teenager.

Then the is “Piddles Jumping Spunker” and Chief Beer Fetcher in Charge (CBFC), can’t forget being the Cowstail, or all the lessons on the bottom shelf.  There were all the times he, as a typical protective father, scared any young man who came to the door to pick his daughter up for a date.  There was the one time he tried to teach me how to drive, and both of us returned scared and barely speaking.

There is the time I ran over the water pump with the riding lawn mower and he had to fix it (the pump not the mower) and all the things I accidentally busted, broke r short circuited around the house. To all the conversations we may have on the phone now, however short, whatever the topic, are always treasured.

There is hearing all the stories of his youth, and when he blew up the river bed with dynamite, and how he hid an alarm clock taped to one of his teachers desks at school.  To his trips at Oscars Br in NYC, to all the slides and stories of when he would dive and was a dive master.  To all the amazing things he has designed in his career, and last year, I went to the Smithsonian and finally saw, up close, the missiles he designed.

He taught me how to change the oil in my car, how to rotate my own tires, change the break pads and calipers, check the spark plugs (when cars actually had spark plugs). I remember going out to dinner with him, and how he opened my doors for me, pulled out my chair, found out what I wanted to eat and ordered for me. Always wanting to make sure that I was happy.

I will always love his voice, his hands, the way he smells and his little smile. Yes, I will always love my Daddy. The first man to make me feel safe and secure, the man who has always been the example of how a man should treat a woman, and how I should expect a man to treat me.

And he gave me the best Christmas present I have ever been given. One he hand made a wonderful case for my Barbie Dolls, complete with a little mirror for them, a place to hang all their little clothes, and he even hand made these little wire hangers for all their clothes to hang. I still have it and it is one of my most cherished possessions.

For these and so many reasons, too many to list, I am proud to call Jim Burch my Dad. If I could have looked out and chosen who my father would be, I would have chosen you.

Love you Dad. Happy Father’s Day.

Let the Fierce within you sleep

Though she be but little, she is fierce. –  Shakespeare

It has been said by many that you must be fierce in order to survive in this day and age.  Indeed, with internet trolls, bullying, rude people, and those who just don’t care, it’s a tough world out there. And indeed, I have had to be fierce as well.  Especially after the passing of my parents.  Dealing with estate issues, family issues, legal issues and financial issues, I was all issued out.  And I had to be assertive to make sure that everything was done correctly, on time and by the right people.

But being fierce will also wear you out.  Because you must constantly be on the lookout, always aware, always “on.” You cannot be fierce all the time, you must be able to relax and enjoy life too. You must be able to be vulnerable, to laugh and smile and have fun as well. You must be able to have compassion and empathy and kindness and grace. The fact of the matter is that there is a season for everything in life, and fierceness cannot last.

With God, you are stronger than your struggles and more fierce than your fears.

And so it is with me.  This is the season, this summer, of relaxing.  Of having fun. Of enjoying fireflies and putting my bare feet up on the dash board while singing at the top of my lungs. It is planting 130+ day lilies from my mother’s garden.  It is enjoying the smell of the honey suckle and watching the humming birds at the feeder. It is spending time with sick friends, talking softly over fears and memories. It is walking in the woods, being in nature and breathing deeply.  It is live music, and many concerts that I will be attending this summer.

The mountains, the forest, and the sea, render men savage; they develop the fierce, but yet do not destroy the human. – Victor Hugo

When you are strong, you do not need to wear that strength and fierceness on your sleeve, you do not need to advertise it or make sure that others see it.  It is there, when you need it.  And whether or not it is seen is not your concern. Your concern is to be happy, and to love life. You concern is to live the life you intended, the life you will be happy with in your last moments, will as few regrets as possible.  Your concern is to smile at the sun and howl at the moon, to run with the starts and sing with the wind.

I don’t always feel fierce and fearless, but I do feel like I’m a rock star at being human. – Tracee Ellis Ross

And I will let the fierce within me sleep.  I have fought to have everything in order, I have fought to put myself back together, one heartbeat at a time.  I have fought to have only those who deserve to be at my table, and I have fought to drive out those who are not worthy. My soul needs the rest and my mind needs to fun. My lips need to smile and my heart needs to laugh.

And so goes.

The interval between the decay of the old and the formation and establishment of the new constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism.  – John C. Calhoun

Steak and Honor

This Sunday is Father’s Day, a day to celebrate and honor fathers everywhere.  This day can be bittersweet for those who no longer have a Dad on this earth, but I will celebrate it with Joy.

Dad loved a good steak.  Especially on a Sunday.  For many years, we had family steak dinner night on Sunday, with Mom at the grill and Dad anxiously waiting with his fork.  And so this Father’s Day, I will sit down to a delicious steak dinner and have a toast for my father.

The last Father’s Day he was here was probably the best one he had ever had.  He was happier than I had ever seen him.  All of his children were with him, at the same time, in the same room.  That had not happened before, and he just kept smiling and saying he never thought is would happen, never thought is was possible. Having ever one there was the best gift that could have been given to him.  I am so glad you had that experience.

So this year it is about celebrating him, and being thankful that out of all the Dad’s in the world, he was mine. My Dad was my hero. And steak dinners are delicious.

Honor Thy Mother

Everyone loves anniversaries it seems.  And indeed, we as humans seem to keep track f how long since this event, or that.  We celebrate, reflect, drink or just quietly remember.  And we have anniversaries for everything – how long married or divorced, how long sober, how long dating, how long since we have seen someone…we celebrate anniversaries for just about everything.  Even death. Many honor their loved ones who have passed on that anniversary.  I have a shot of Makers Mark every year to mark the passing of a good friend. We honor them in a thousand ways.

In July it will be two years since Mom passed. And I was wondering how I will honor her this year.  Last year I was sad and cried a lot, drank wine and had a good dinner. But this year I will honor her by…going skydiving.

My mother was very daring and adventurous.  She was the first of her family to leave her tiny town in Tennessee.  She was in the Air Force and had special training, which was rare for a woman in the late 1950s, early 1960s.  She carried a huge .45 on her hip during some of her assignments.  Then she worked in the Pentagon, as a cryptanalyst/cryptographer, which again was very rare for a woman in that time.  She had the most secret clearances, because of the sensitive and classified information she handled.  She had to have roommates that would report her if she talked in her sleep.  And she talked about how she had to go through so many personality tests by the government so that they could find out how much torture she could endure before giving up national secrets.

She had certain medical procedures that are common now, but very experimental during that time. She traveled by herself, flew over the Bermuda Triangle, lived in Washington DC and was engaged seven time (yes, 7) before she married my father.

And she gave it all up to be with my father, who was the love of her life. She was an amazing mother and wife.  She took care of not only her children, but 65 foster children as well, not afraid to go toe to toe with judges if she was fighting for what she felt was the best for the child. She was loyal, and stubborn, and determined, and kind and cull of Grace. And now she is free.

So, to honor her free, generous and adventurous spirit, I will go skydiving. She wasn’t afraid of anything and no one intimidated her. I think it is the perfect day not only to honor her, but to take the opportunity to do something new and scary. To broaden my own horizons and celebrate the amazing woman she was, and who she taught me to be. And I cannot wait…

How to Know You Have Arrived

There many lists out there telling us when we have arrived, or when we know we have accomplished our to do list. There are books about it.  But really, how do you know?  To b=me it is rather simple.  You know because you are in a happy and calm place.

I don’t mean what you present to the outside world, I mean what is there on the inside.  What the inner conversations you have are saying. When it is quiet and dark and still at night, and there is no place to hide…what do those moments feel like?  And in this world of bigger, faster and richer is always better, how can we quiet our inner world enough to tell?

When, in those still moments, where the heart meets the soul. you feel at peace, then you have arrived.  You have lived and accomplished what you needed to do.  And this is where I am.  I am at peace with life, at peace with all the past, and at peace with who and what I am.  And it feels good.

So I may not write as much as I usually do.  Because I am enjoying life.  Because I am laughing and loving and smiling.  And that is how you know you have arrived. That is how you know you are where you are supposed to be. because someone will always be richer, more accomplished, skinnier, or better looking than you. And that is OK.  Knowing who you are and being comfortable in your own skin means you are in competition with no one. And that is priceless.

When Your Past Catches up with you

Many times we are surprised when the things we have done in the past are suddenly brought to the present.  No matter what we do, or who we are, our past eventually catches up to us.  And that was the case this week.

It was several years ago that I got a call from a fellow acting friend.  they needed someone for a shoot the next day and he wanted to know f I could do it.  I said yes.  It was for a re-enactment on the show It’s Supernatural about a man who had cancer but was healed by God.  This topic was very personal to me at the time, because the same thing had happened to my mother.  Her stage 4 ovarian cancer had been in remission for several years.

It was nothing big, just a small part on the show, but it was a lot of fun.  The crew was wonderful and professional. The whole experience was wonderful.  Everyone was so kind and enjoyed what they did.  Everyone on that shoot was happy. The crew loved shooting the show an hearing about all the miracles.  There was laughter and good food and good stories.

I never watched the episode.  Soon the experience became a fond memory and good story.  Until a few nights ago when it was brought to my attention that I was in the show during an interview with the man who was the subject of that episode.

I was blessed to be a part of that episode, blessed to be a part of the production and blessed for the miracle that I have seen. And what a wonderful reminder of a great day.

Here is the link for the interview.  I can be seen a little after the 7 minute mark, with short hair.  Your past catching up with you doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Live life in a way that it is a good visit when either the past or Karma come back around.

Here is the episode: