Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Good News.

Grief mounts as Russia grounds fleet of airplanes.
3 dead, 4 injured after car plows into trick-or-treaters.
Man fatally shoots and kills 3 people in Colorado town.
Top 9 saddest splits in celebrity history.

Those were the headlines I read when I signed on to receive my email this first Sunday in November. If those messages weren't enough to sink my tender, open heart, a pop-up warning appeared, uninvited, on my laptop screen.

Every 2 seconds someone new becomes a victim of identity theft. Don't be next.

Fear. Destruction. Chaos. Geez, Louise, the whole world has, indeed, gone mad.

I have a split second to respond to the toxicity of today's headlines, and so do you. Be honest, do you revel in the despair? Do you hunger for more, eagerly devouring the blow-by-blow details? You bristle at my implication. If you are giving extended attention to these headlines, you are participating in the darkness, the madness. News is a big industry; it can't exist without your participation.

I get it. Shit happens. Good people become victims of random violence, but do you really need to read about, and watch, another vehicle, in the same week, plow into innocent bystanders? Here's what I fervently believe. We invite, absorb, and become what we put our attention on, and every minute counts. Do not waste a single one of your life's precise moments focusing on negativity. Have you ever had a strand of hair land on an exposed layer of your skin? You can feel it, right? A thin, lightweight piece of hair. Imagine that. Imagine then what dark and negative thoughts can do to you at a cellular level. Food for thought. (Check out medical intuitive, Caroline Myss, if you don't believe me.) What images, messages, and thoughts do you want your body, your cells, to absorb?

Choose the newsmakers who are genuinely making a difference. shared these headlines this morning.

94-year-old gets ready to run NYC marathon.
When 83-year-old landscaper needed new truck, donations grew like weeds.
Farmer rescues 700 acres of California coast to Native American tribe.
Help the Monarch butterfly population by raising them yourselves.

These are some of the people and issues worthy of making headlines, and the more you focus on them, the more of them you will see. Dig deeper. Your body and world will thank you.

Friday, October 30, 2015

My Way.

My dad passed away peacefully in his sleep, in a nursing home, back in 2004.  Mr. Mossa's two favorite songs were "Sweet Caroline," by Neil Diamond, and "My Way," by Frank Sinatra. They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and I was my dad's daughter, through and through. I followed in his footsteps in oh, so many ways. Alcohol ravaged my father's early years and the missteps he made as a young man would haunt him into adulthood. As a child and young girl growing up in a dysfunctional home, I vowed I would never drink like my father. I didn't know what I didn't know, and in fact, my life mirrored my father's in myriad ways. The one difference, however, is that I found a solution. I discovered a spiritual remedy for what ailed me before it was too late. As a result, at nearly 61 years of age, an age when many people are contemplating retirement and are slowing down, I am just getting started. I found purpose and passion in work that I love. I have connected with like-minded individuals around the globe, and together we are making a difference though our creative energies. I may not have it all, but I have my freedom, and I wouldn't trade it for the house on the hill, the luxury car in the driveway, or a five-star hotel.

Regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Giving Thanks.

The windmill. That iconic reminder of a bygone era, America in the 1800s, ranches, farmers, livestock, hardscrabble lives and times. At least once during my stay here in Arizona, I have had to correct the steering wheel and redirect my Nissan back onto Route 82. I am smitten, mesmerized. Is it my love of Americana, the lure of a great picture, or does the fascination go deeper? I love old red barns, and the sight of an oversized American flag still delights me. I have conjured up the perfect photograph in my mind's eye countless times---one of these Aermotor mechanical towers, galvanized steel blades gleaming (more oft rusted out), in the foreground, with a dazzling blue southwestern sky, and the Whetstone or Mustang mountain ranges in the distance. I suspect, however, that for me, the fascination, the identification, goes deeper. Sidestepping the notion of a past-life connection (which, incidentally, I fervently believe in), I am simply drawn, at this juncture of my life, to things and processes that harken back to a more mindful existence. Some will argue, there is nothing glamorous, romantic, or time-saving about having to pump your own water, hang clothes out on a line, or travel long, winding, arduous miles for fellowship. For me, living out here in southeastern Arizona, where the nearest grocery store is a solid fifty-minute drive, and the border patrol's presence is keenly felt, I am grateful for every opportunity to slow down, rewind, remember, and fall in love with the natural landscape around me; to yield to deer, horses and burros; to marvel at the raptors' flight overhead; to welcome the grasshopper's presence. In my own small way, I pay homage to the pioneering men, women and children who so bravely covered this sacred ground before me.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Leading with Love.

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for." ~ John Lubbock

I use this Lubbock quote often, and I wholeheartedly believe it is at the root of all manifestation. (Law of Attraction 101, if you will.) What are you giving your attention to? Do you expect miracles, or do you assume they happen to everyone else, never you?

I seek love, not the romantic kind, rather the kind that is found in grocery store lines, on the highways, daily on Facebook and in social media. I do not watch the news, I do not seek out the gore and desperate tidings online or in the newspapers. I will scroll right past your post if you're whining again about your cheating husband. I do not fixate on the latest virus or plague sweeping the county. I am not blind either; I know such horrors exist. I simply choose to focus on the things, the experiences, the happenings, that I wish to see more of. Generosity. Abundance. Kindness. It's probably why Halloween is my least favorite holiday. Given the headlines, it's disconcerting to see youngsters, and even grown men and women, carrying knife props, fake blood smeared across themselves. And please don't tell me I lack a sense of humor. Are you kidding me?

I once dated (literally, once) a man who kept a machete under the seat on the passenger's side of his truck. I'd been groping around for my misplaced cellphone when I came upon it.

"Why do you have a machete in your truck?" I asked.
"Just in case," he answered.
"In case of what?" I pressed.
"In case someone tries to mess with me," he countered.

I had just returned from my first solo cross country road trip---9000 miles in 30 days---and not once did anyone mess with me, not at the pumps, not checking into my rooms for the night, not on the long, sometimes barren and desolate highways. I went out into the world expecting safety, seeking connection, deliriously in love with life, and not once did calamity visit me. Perhaps there are two types of people in the world: people who look for, and generally find, trouble, and people who have faith and hail mankind as benevolent.

Maybe one day, someone, something, will prove my theory wrong, but in the meantime, I'll go on believing in love because when I lead with that, all things are possible. Try it. If I'm wrong, I'll refund your misery.

Friday, October 23, 2015


My 90-year-old mom tells me that when I was a young girl, I attended creative writing classes after school. I have no recollection of such classes, instruction, or assignments. I do know that writing has always come second nature to me. Whether a term paper for school, a thesis for graduate school, a short story, poem, a marketing piece, if wordsmithing was involved, I was in my element. I became an English major in college because I liked to read and I could write, and I had no interest in nursing. Where I came from, those were the two career options most young women pursued. I was an art minor in college with a concentration in photography. I penned two books of informational nonfiction during the ten years I was not drinking alcohol (between 1989 and 1999), was a columnist for a national trade magazine for two years, earned a Masters of Fine Arts degree, and did all kinds of creative things. The minute I picked up a drink in 2000, I ceased to write another word, and the camera got buried behind some cardboard boxes in a closet under the stairs. It took five years, once I got sober, to recall, to remember that I was an artist, that I had God-given talents. I get to spend a month in Arizona this fall, in this blue chair, with the light streaming in, writing, crafting another book. I don't know many of you who are reading this today, but I will tell you one thing: I am not unique. You, too, have been given gifts, talents, skills that the world needs. What are they? What's holding you back from following your heart's desire? Fear? Of what? Failure? That you're not good enough? Trust me when I tell you, you are brilliance. You are a beacon. How dare you not to shine?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Best is Yet to Come.

Tomorrow, Saturday, October 22, 2016, marks what would have, perhaps could have been, my 27th wedding anniversary, but instead, more than 10 years have passed since my divorce from the man that helped me birth two, and raise three, beautiful children. I will be forever grateful for all their lives and love. I am not the same 35-year-old woman who stood beside the perennial garden of a historic New England post-and-beam Cape, on a windy autumn afternoon, in a Laura Ashley tea-length dress, and promised to love, honor, and obey. I was sober, yes, but painfully unaware that putting the drink down would not suffice. For the first ten years of that marriage, I would not drink; I would not recover either, and untreated alcoholism would eventually lead to the decay and eventual collapse of that marriage. We were both fine people, just completely and utterly unaware that anything less than a psychic change would spell failure. When that 16-year marriage finally dissolved, I found myself at a crossroads and knew, intuitively, it was time to go, or grow. With school-age children at home, going was not an option, so I dug in and did the work on self, so vital to a lasting and meaningful recovery. Those three children are now young adults, chasing down lives of their own. I am blessed to have them in my life. If I've taught them anything, I hope it's been about forgiveness, acceptance and self-love. Until I could forgive myself, accept and remedy my spiritual bankruptcy, and eventually love myself, I could not love another. Today, I am blessed to love and be loved by many, and know that the best is yet to come.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Sweet Smell of Simple.

There is no washer or dryer in my three-room cabin here in Elgin, Arizona where I am staying to work on my writing this month, and that is no hardship. I didn't bring many clothes because I knew I'd have little need for outfit changes here on the ranch. I did pick up a pair of black yoga pants at the Walmart in Sierra Vista the day I arrived, and I have actually laundered those in the kitchen's porcelain sink, and hung them, and some wet bath towels, to dry on the green nylon clothesline, strung between two aluminum posts out back. I love the smell of nature's perfume---mountains, forests, fields---in the fibers after clothes have been drying on the line all day. This practice reminds me that I don't have a clothesline back at my condominium in Rhode Island, and the neighbors would probably pitch a fit if I aired anything from my fire escape overlooking our parking lot. I do have a stacked electric washer/dryer unit tucked in a utility closet in the master bathroom that I rarely use because I'm not a clotheshorse back home either. I am a simple girl, at home in jeans, tee-shirts, and work-out clothes. I expect to make the transition from designer apartment mortgagor to van dweller with relative ease!

I'm not sure when I fell out of love, favor, and touch with fashion and material possessions. I have a sense that I simply turned my attention a few degrees left of center and fell in love instead with the natural world around me. The birds and beasts I encounter daily don't care what I am wearing when I open the door to greet them in the morning. When I was still drinking alcohol, I used to take my bottle of Merlot into my home office, shut the door, and order, indiscriminately, whole pages from the latest Talbots catalog. I know now, nearly a decade later, that I was suffering from a soul sickness that no bottle, no new outfit, could remedy. I needed, and blessedly discovered, a spiritual solution. That solution allows me, today, to show up here on the page, out there in the real world, and alone with myself, with an inside that matches my outside---simple, open, and eager to engage with you and others.


Suppose the end came suddenly.
No physical exam, diagnostics, therapies, alternatives.
No time to get affairs ordered.
You leave for work one morning, labels visible, or implied,
Not planning, or expecting, your stars to collide with that runaway tire.
And instead of, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”
It’s all over the evening news.
You know these run-ins with destiny happen, but not to you.
Hell, you hail from a long line of centenarians.
You have all the time in the world
To find your sacred self.
So you keep stuffing more stuff between you and you.
Those high definition boxed sets mesmerize you for nights on end.
You call it entertainment, but it’s just another device to keep you from examining the life you let others create for you.  
The distractions (the retro cocktails, the friends you hide behind, the immaterials) work until they don’t anymore.
The day is coming, or maybe it will be an evening,
And when it does,
Whose job will it be to empty
Your closets?

Monday, October 19, 2015


You all
Know each other
Out here.
I am the stranger. The new
I take up residence.
The cement, wood, walls, roof
Insinuate I am safe from
Elements, poisons, weather, but
I am raw. Open. Exposed. Unprotected.
This is your land. Your home.
I am a visitor here.
You will tolerate my noise,
My early morning footsteps on sacred ground.
My tapping, as if I have something important to say.
Truth is, you say it all
Without saying anything at all.

You don't know distraction.
You graze. Heads bowed. Single focused.
You dip, dive, carefree on currents.
I'm up. I'm down.
I eat when I'm not hungry.
You know things.
Teach me.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Joseph Campbell, the famous teacher of mythology, wrote, "We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." For me, the last year has been a year of releasing, a time of letting go of attachments to people, places, and things. Two solo cross country trips and several shorter ones have taught me valuable lessons about the essential components for a rich, creative, expansive life and spiritual journey. Some psychologists refer to the work on self as a peeling of an onion. I prefer to think of it as the casting off, the shedding, of skin. The snake, or serpent, is highly revered as a spiritual totem, and I can't think of a more fitting icon for the transformational work I have done over the last twelve months. I have witnessed and participated in a world once invisible, unavailable to me, and now that I have witnessed it, I can never return to my old way of thinking and being in the world. One of my teachers, Carolyn Myss, says, "We are reluctant to live outside tribal rules because we are afraid of getting kicked out of the tribe." I took the chance, and what I discovered was that my tribe grew. It expanded. There are others out here, who, like me, have also shed their skins, who are unwilling and unable to go back to their old self-limiting beliefs. Within the next several months, it is my deepest desire to sell off my real estate, all nonessential possessions, and lead a nomadic life that will bring me closer to my creator and to all of you, who, too, have either bravely risked thinking outside the box, or who are contemplating such changes. Namaste.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


Part of plugging myself back into my old life, now that I've returned from my two-month, cross country trip, has been to attend those events where my tribe routinely gathers. Today that place was a lovely picnic spot overlooking the East Bay in Rhode Island. I stopped at the Eastside Market, picked up a few dozen pieces of sushi to take along, and away I went. Alone. It never occurred to me to seek out another to go to the picnic with. However, while I was navigating the crowd, making small talk, answering questions about my trip, I overheard some women talking about being happy to have another to go with because left to their own devices, they never would have attended alone. I understand the need to show up with a friend in tow, someone to break the ice with, but take it from someone who has walked into plenty of rooms full of strangers alone in the last few months---it's a worthy pursuit. Cast aside your fear. Hold your head up and walk bravely into that gathering. Smile. Find a friendly person or group of people and walk up and put your hand out. Say your name. Listen when others give you theirs. Ask questions. Recognize that it's human nature to feel awkward, maybe even a little intimidated, but lots of folks feel that way initially. You are not alone.

I was listening to my favorite songwriter/musician, Jackson Browne, earlier. In For a Dancer, Browne sings, "Just do the steps that you've been shown, by everyone you've ever known, until the dance becomes your very own, no matter how close to yours another's step have grown. In the end there is one dance you'll do alone." Let's all stop hiding behind our partners, friends, family, and move bravely into the world. I can't get to know you if you're sitting home afraid to come out and play. Quite frankly, if I waited for a mate or a fellow traveler to experience life with, I'd be missing out on a whole lot of cool people, places, and things. I don't know about you, but life is way too short to sit this dance out. When I hear the music, the chorus, I am going to dance, with or without a partner in tow.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Life is short.

Returning from my two-month summer book tour, I put a visit to my 21-year-old son at the top of the list. Matthew is living and learning to be a grown-up in New Haven, Connecticut, and the last time I saw him was in late June. The connection I have with my son is one of tender understanding. His struggle, his life views, his spirit, all touch me in powerful ways. He is the youngest. He bore the brunt of our family's dark years. As we hugged and parted yesterday, and he turned to walk back to his apartment, my eyes filled up with tears as they always do. I longed for a simpler time. I ached for a return to the carefree days of his early years, the laughter, the promise. I lingered in my car a few minutes until I could safely reset my thinking, and actually drive. Truth is, I am grateful that my son is alive, he is safe, he is learning to live a clean, honest life. I am grateful that I can pick up the phone and call him, text him, tell him I love him. Some people I know can no longer do that because their children have died. Still, a pervasive longing took hold of my heart as I made the 30-minute trip to my 90-year-old mother's home in Southington, Connecticut. I love my mom. We have made our peace. I no longer allow her to push my buttons. I am wise enough to know she won't be on this earthly plane forever. But my initial response to going to visit her was the usual one, "Okay, I'll stay an hour or so, and head home." But something occurred to me (and this was God's grace)---my mother loves me, longs for connection with me, the same way I hunger for it with and from my son. I called my mom from New Haven to tell her I was on my way. My mom suggested I spend the night. When I said, "Actually, mom, I was planning on it, and hoped that would be okay," I could almost hear and feel her joy over the line.

This thing called life is cyclical. What goes around comes around. What I crave from others, they crave from me. Time. Connection. Love. Understanding. I owe people my presence, my wholehearted attention. Today, I vow to linger longer with those I love.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Coming Home

Summer is winding down, and in a couple of days, I will drive the final few hundred coastal miles up Interstate 95, towards the East Greenwich, Rhode Island exit. I will aim my Ford Transit wagon (with the well-worn green peace sign on the hood) towards the familiar Hill and Harbor district, the vibrant downtown with my favorite coffee shop at one end, and my home on the third floor of the historic brick Masonic building. I will park in my spot with the number 3 stencil, and begin unloading empty boxes, camping gear, office supplies, and one suitcase. Phase one of my Linger Longer book tour will be over.  I will come home. I will breath a sigh of relief. I will eagerly resume and pour myself into my old life. Truth be told, nothing I have done in the past two months, over 13,000 domestic miles scares me more than coming home.

I'm not bringing me home. I look the same. I talk and laugh the same. But if you look into my eyes, you will not find the old me. Don't be surprised if what you see instead is every cloud, star, wave, sun and moonbeam that held me tenderly. They filled me. They caused my heart to swell. My capacity for love expanded in ways I never knew possible or available. My ego took a backseat, and humility was forged, pure and simple, as I relied on the kindnesses of strangers to answer questions, maintain my vehicle, welcome me into their homes, buy my work, and share history lessons I never would have gotten in a book.

In the first few days and weeks, I will seek out and receive soft landings. I will bend down and wait for my sweet son to kiss me atop the head (our special greeting). I will pull into my mom's driveway and linger over a cup of coffee and some toast. I will hold my precious granddaughter and inhale her sweet smells. I will hug all three of my children tightly and hope they can feel the depth of my love and understand my longing. I will meet old friends for coffee and meals and we will laugh heartedly again. I will rejoin my early morning fellowship in Providence and let them welcome me back into their fold.

I will come home. I must. My only nephew will tie the knot in September. We will christen the baby in early October. I must appeal the Town of East Greenwich's sanction against participating in Airbnb's sharing economy, and take my condo association to task.

But like pages torn from a book, I'm not sure mine can ever be reassembled, made whole again in the same old way. Intuitively, I suspect that those chapters, that book, must be set aside now. I pray for the courage, knowledge, and sustenance to begin the next new volume.



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Practice Presence.

On a recent road trip, I swapped stories with six other sober women as we wound our way south, out of Rhode Island, to New Jersey for a regional service assembly. Some of us have known each other for years; some of us were getting acquainted for the first time. Invariably, the conversations turned to livelihood, life, and balance, and I was happy to share some details about my creative life (I don't call it work.) One friend has a pent-up desire to write; she is talented enough to be a participant in a locally respected writing program, but she can't seem to find the time to write. Time. How many essays, poems, novels, and memoirs have gone to the grave, stories untold, musical scores unorchestrated, canvases left blank, because the writer/composer/artist thought she lacked time? You have time. Trust me. All it takes is practice.

Before I leave my apartment every morning at 6:30, I sit and meditate for five minutes. Five minutes may not seem like a significant slice of time, but over time, my practice has deepened, and has had a profound effect on my ability to be, peacefully, in the world. 

I write everyday. Coined Morning Pages by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, I scribble three pages, longhand, on a pad. I don't worry about punctuation, spelling, or grammar. This writing is not for anyone else's eyes, but by laying down tracks everyday, I give writing a place of honor in my life.  Divinely given, who am I to deny it?

I save a few dollars every week. At the top of my home budget/spreadsheet, I have a line item for savings. Allocating funds is non-negotiable. My mortgage and utility bills get paid, and my savings account receives a percentage of my weekly earnings.  

Thus, I practice meditating. I practice writing. I practice saving money.

The upshot of showing up for my breath every morning, the benefit of showing up for the muse daily, the financial rewards for setting aside a little, is that by practicing, by becoming a better mediator, I am less judgmental. By practicing writing a weekly blog, I have become a more consistent writer. And by saving money, I am less fearful about my financial future.

Practice doesn't mean perfection, it means being fully present in the world.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Fall In Love.

I learned a lot about love last year. I learned that my love of self has to come first, that in order to find love, I have to give love. I learned that my love can't save anyone. No matter how much I love other sick and suffering people, I can't want their wellness more than they do.

I fell in love over and over again last year. I took a 30-day, solo, cross country trip around the country, and each time I checked in to a new room for the night, I fell in love. I fell in love with my hosts, their families; I fell in love with the people at meetings in halls, and church basements; I fell in love with the hills, valleys, mountains, oceans, lakes, and mesas of this great country.

And I fell even more deeply in love with myself, with my courage, my strength, my laugh, my heart, my mind, my God.

So, it matters little this year that I don't have one person in my life to love. I have hundreds of men and women all over the country to love, and they, blessedly, love me back. If you are in a relationship, love deeper. Dig in. Let go of your petty resentments. Something missing? Try providing it instead of waiting for it.

This Valentine's weekend, instead of sitting home, feeling sorry for myself that a relationship ended last year, and another one crashed and burned on take off earlier this year, I am picking up carnations, donated by a local grocer, signing dozens of my Earth's School of Love greeting cards, and joyously distributing all these to the residents of long-term care at a nursing home in town.

You taught me that to keep my sobriety, I have to give it away. It works the same way with love.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone ~ <3 ~

Monday, February 2, 2015

Live and Let Live

Over the years I have learned some valuable interpersonal skills. One of those tools, and the one I use the most is, "Don't pick up the rope." Another favorite encourages, "Restraint of pen and tongue." The goal for me, as a recovering woman, is to maintain emotional balance. I can't do that if I show up for every fight I'm invited to. Truth be told, I rarely get invited into other people's drama these days, and I am grateful that I surround myself with people who'd rather do the right thing the first time, than have to go back and make an amend later for misbehavior.

This morning, however, I came face-to-face, literally, with a bully, a retired woman who lives, with her husband, in my apartment building in Rhode Island. I like this woman. We have broken bread together. We have shared intimate facts about each other's lives. I believe she is a good woman and strives to lead a peaceful life. But this morning, she came out shooting bullets because I chose to leave my car parked in our lot rather than move it to a municipal lot up off of the perilously steep Church Street. Normally, I would have been long gone by 6:30 am, and well on my way to my home group in Providence, but due to the parking ban in the city, the meeting was cancelled.

When the private plow driver arrived, I offered to move my car into the first available plowed section of the lot. No problem. Within minutes, the young driver made a few efficient passes, gave me the thumbs up to slide my car over so he could finish his task, and story over. Not. My neighbor stomped out, finger-pointing, shouting, and commanded me to move my car to the municipal lot. I managed, for the next several minutes, to stand my ground, continue cleaning off my car, and patiently wait for her to blow off her steam. The last thing she said to me, after conferring for several minutes with the plow driver was, "We will send YOU the bill for the extra time this is taking." I wanted to say, "It was YOU who just bent this guy's ear for five minutes. I'm part of the solution, not the problem." I didn't. I minded my own business, and she finally went back inside.

It's raining now. What little snow we got, the thing that precipitated the whole episode in the first place, is becoming slushy. Plows are the only vehicles attempting to navigate the treacherous Church Street. At some point, in the days ahead, I will formulate a clear, level-headed response to the parking and snow removal matter out back. For today, however, I am grateful that recovery has given me valuable tools for consensus-building rather than bullying and forced compliance.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Saying "Yes."

Towards the end of my drinking, "No," was my standard response to invitations, opportunities, and life itself. Locked into my own dark and tormented world of spiritual decay, I was incapable of participating in the joy, the magic, the beauty around me. The outer vestiges of my life still looked good. The beds were made. The kids had clean clothes. Groceries got delivered (thanks, blessedly, to PeaPod). Luxury cars lined the driveway. We still took fancy vacations. A ceramic plaque hung above the hearth of our sprawling Colonial, "A mother's love is the heart of the home." Regrettably, this mother's heart had shut down years before. I went through enough motions to make you think everything was fine, but inside I was an empty shellServe the world? I'd throw money at a cause, but give of myself, my time, my energy? Never.

New England experienced a snowstorm this week, and while it never quite reached the epic proportions predicted, the Northeaster did drop at least a foot of snow and higher drifts. Scrolling through Facebook the day before the storm, I came upon a link for an organization, Serve Rhode Island. The headline read, "Hundreds of volunteers needed to shovel." Curious, I clicked on it, and decided to add my name to the list of volunteers willing to help the community's elderly and health-challenged residents. I graciously submitted to a background check, and by the end of the day, I received an email notifying me that I had been selected. I received my marching orders and drove enthusiastically out to Coventry not knowing what to expect. I discovered a disabled, arthritic woman, a cancer survivor, a woman perhaps younger than myself. When she came to the door to greet me, she looked past me and asked, "Do you have help?" I laughed out loud and pointed to my shovel. Half-way into the job, an entrepreneurial plow driver and his assistant stopped and offered to "finish the job for twenty dollars." When I explained that I was just a volunteer, doing it for free, they both looked at me quizzically, smiled, and went on their way.

My neighbor came to the door a half-dozen times, expressing concern for me, my safety, my heart, offering me water. When I was all finished, and pretty proud of the wide swath I had cleared for her to get her car out,  I thanked her. I explained that by asking for help, she gave me and countless other volunteers the chance to be useful, to provide a service. We exchanged phone numbers like good neighbors sometimes do.

I won't lie. The snow was light at first, and my movements were swift, but as I got closer to the curb where the plows had mounded several feet of wet, slushy snow, the work got tougher. By the time I got back to my car to await my next assignment, I was flushed, but grateful that at sixty years old, I am strong in body, mind, and spirit, and that I have learned to give an enthusiastic, "Yes," a hearty thumbs-up, to life.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fully Present

Hi, everybody. I am writing this blog post from the Wired Lounge at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Management, and presumably the majority of guests staying in the dormitories and private rooms here, frown on the use of portable electronic devices. For me, however, the retreat experience has less to do with yoga and Swami Kripalu than it does with meditation, contemplation, and the creative process that inherently springs forth from such mindfulness. Here I sit, with a few other kindred spirits, creating an experience that works for me. Part of the R & R experience this weekend, unlike a typical speaker program, has been to participate (or not) in certain group activities such as lectures, hikes, meals, and classes. I have done none of the above. My purpose in booking this last-minute retreat was to garner some reflective time in a safe, nurturing place without breaking the bank. Kripalu's guests are graced with a sauna, whirlpool, healing arts, great food, and expansive grounds. At 6:00 this morning, I signed up for a 9:30, two-hour, intermediate, roundtrip hike along Kripalu's extensive trail network. Within an hour of our departure time, snow was falling heavily and the fog had settled in around the base of the mountain. The weather didn't necessarily dissuade me, but the thought of trooping around with a group of hikers did, and I felt my enthusiasm waning. I'd promised myself I'd do a few things this weekend: I'd use the sauna and whirlpool, I'd consider getting a massage if the price was affordable, read, take some photographs, hike. The hike was the last promise, and I knew that if I blew it off,  I'd feel I cheated myself. It occurred to me that I could still go on a hike (this isn't my first time here), solo. I went back to my room, donned my long Johns, my flannel socks, ski pants, vest, hat, boots, and in a flash I was transported back to weekends I used to spend with my young family in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Dressing for a day on the slopes was an intense affair, one that involved layers of clothing, equipment, arguments, tears, and work. (At least my dry drunk self invariably viewed it as work.) Today, of course, I realize that I didn't know what I didn't know back then, and I squandered away some mighty fine opportunities. As I slipped effortlessly into all my winter gear this morning, I thought back to those winter weekends at Waterville Valley, those two youngsters who are all grown up and chasing lives of their own now, and I smiled, because even though I can't change the past, I am fully present for today.