Saturday, January 31, 2009

Giving Away Strength

Just a simple piece of cotton cloth. With strings and maybe a pocket. Colorful. Useful. Fashionable once upon a time. Holder of eggs, apples, new chicks. Wiper of hands, brows, tears. Covered in flour, blood, cinnamon. Potholder, dishtowel, dust cloth. Stain blocker, dress preserver, substitute lingerie.
Symbol of strength. Endurance. Compassion. Sustenance. Safety. Nurturing love.
Every one's grandmother wore one. Mine still does.
I collect them. And wear them. Mostly for cooking. Sometimes for fun. Always with respect for the strength of the women who have gone before me. The ones who had less than me and did more with less than my generation can fathom.
I want to share this strength with you. This symbol of the Goddess of hearth and home, the Goddess of bountiful feasts, the Goddess of dignity in trying circumstances, the Goddess of love.
How you ask?
Leave me a comment stirred with sweetness. Wait for February 6th. One lovely believer in strength will have her (or his?) name drawn from the pocket to receive a colorful, vintage apron from my collection and a 5x7 professionally printed copy of the apron picture above. Be daring. De-lurk. Raise your hand for a little strength.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Opalescent Breath

You are never alone. You are never without love. No matter your circumstances, your sorrows, your waning strength, I say to you, your soul is valued and held aloft. If you could only see the opalescent breath of the angels who surround you, you would never kneel down in your trench of despair.
They are there, right beside you, lighting candles to illuminate your thoughts, whispering love poems meant only for you. Their hands lay over your heart, warming and soothing that doorway to splendor realised and love fulfilled.
Angels surround you. Even as you breathe in this moment, they surround you. Cheering you on, wiping your eyes, creating pathways, standing guard. They surround you. Because you are never, ever to be alone. You are never, ever to be without love. Your worth is too great. Your soul matters too much. The light that is yours is meant to shine.
For Michael, Elke, Ahmed, Paula, Kasia, Sally and you.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Dear January,
In so many ways, you have become one of my favorite months. I love the permission you give to hibernate and drink gallons of hot tea and create soup. I love that your indoor fashion requirements include velour pants. I love the scarves you insist I wrap myself in. I love the silence of your snow.
What I am starting not to love, however, is the tendency to become inert under your watch. The inactive, dull and slow pace of my life; the disinclination to accomplish anything; this is starting to tarnish my love for you, January. Dullness is a slippery slope. It can melt into mild depression. And I certainly don't need that.
So, today, dear January, I will brave your ridiculously low temperatures, shed my velour skin and venture out to play. I need to make my own sunshine because you've been stingy with yours. I need to balance my brain with laughter and pleasant distraction, hot food and good company. I need to add some colors to my month before I become a singular shade of blue.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What's Your Pledge?

Watch this video. Then think about what you are going to do to help turn this country right side up again. Make a pledge. Make a promise. To yourself and everyone else. Be the change you have been waiting for by activating a cause or a calling that lives deep in your heart. Let your love light shine. Be the change. Make a pledge. Share your intentions with our world. It's a brand new day.
I pledge to express more love more often.
I pledge to light more candles in dark situations.
I pledge to use less water.
I pledge to take good care of myself so I may be of service to others.
What's your pledge? I'd love, love to hear it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Thank You For Your Support

Dear Graciel,
You are embarking on an Odyssey of the soul from which you will return to your home shores a permanently changed person. You are right to care for your spiritual center, because it is the compass that will guide you safely through the storms. Life took me on that journey six years ago. Let the tears flow when they must. Attend to the turning of the seasons, and watch for the coming of Spring. Nature teaches us everything we need to know.This experience will enrich your soul in ways you cannot imagine. Your mother is a lucky mom to have a daughter like you.
Love, Arnie
Dear Arnie,
You have no idea how much your words and wisdom have meant to me. Yes, this is an Odyssey, unplanned for, unwanted, but here nonetheless. I have yet to get used to waking each morning and shedding a few tears before rising. So much is shifting. So much seems out of order. Because my grandmother, at 89, is still thriving, driving and living on her own, my mother contracting a life-threatening illness was not on the radar. But here we are. Here I am, slowly realizing the landscape of my life is in the process of changing forever.
In my effort to support my mother, as well as my father on the front lines, I have found the Universe is supplying, in copious amounts, sweet and welcome support for me. If you've noticed, I have received lovely comments from lovely people. I have received emails and phone calls and hugs in person from good and gracious friends. Heidi gave me a cancer cookbook for the times, starting now, when taste buds are ruined but nutrition must be taken. Lynn gave me a pocket-full of my beloved Mary. And Don made a badge of courage for me to wear. I am wearing it right now.
I am sure you know, Arnie, how precious each and every offering can be. One small gesture can be the difference between breaking down and carrying on with what must be faced and accomplished. It is a round robin of support, with the ultimate goal being that we are each of us, the givers and receivers, nourished, loved and made to feel whole. Every difficult scenario is merely an opportunity to pull more love out of the often-closed chambers of our hearts.
So, thank you, Arnie for your experience-laden support. Thank you Heidi, Lynn and Don. Thank you to each of my friends-of-the-heart who took the time to write a comment, send an email, call me, hug me and say a prayer. Without shame, I will ask for more. Because, for God's work to be accomplished, for my mother to keep her faith and strength, for me to keep my thoughts to the positive and act courageously, for sweetness and joy to live in all our souls, love must flow.
Danke. Merci. Gracias. Thanks.
Love, Graciel

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Holy Time

There comes a holy and transparent time
when every touch of beauty
opens the heart to tears.
This is the time the Beloved of heaven
is brought tenderly on earth.
This is the time of the opening of the rose.

Hazrat Inayat Khan

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Recharging My Faith

Today, I interrupted my regularly scheduled life to recharge my faith. I sat tucked into one corner of my sofa for hours, Kleenex, green tea and warm cat at hand. I allowed myself to simply be. I varied between classical music and silence, warm cat in my arms and warm cat on my feet, waves of tears and waves of calm. Slowly, my sense of self rose to the surface. Stillness is such a swift path back to balance.
In the stillness and be-ness and me-ness, Wisdom whispered. She told me many things about loving myself, nurturing myself and being brave. She told me to live my life to the fullest so my Mother could leave in peace when ever it is she decides to go. She told me to use this opportunity to openly offer love to the world. She told me to be shiny.
But the most significant and resonant thing she told me was this: The greatest love I have yet to experience is coming. It already lives inside of me, but it is going to be drawn out by purposeful circumstances. I will be amazed at its curative strength. I will be amazed. Wisdom said to prepare myself. And to let it come.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Collective Effort

I sat, this morning, in the oncologist's office with my mother. The doctor explained the procedure for today's first experience with chemotherapy. "We'll do everything we can, but you must know this is incurable. We hope to give you 3 to 3 1/2 years", she said to my mother. That was the first time my mother or me had heard those words. I have been stalwart and positive since the news first broke of my mother's new dance with cancer. But, today, in that unadorned room with the teal-flecked carpet my lip started to quiver. Before I could bite the side of my tongue to distract myself from tears, a river fell out of my eyes. My mother saw me.
My first thought was, "No, don't you say that to my mother. Don't you fill her mind with doubt. Don't you speak in your powerful white-coat words of anything but hope and possibility and the power of positive attitudes". But the doctor did not. So I forced her to. Through sobs in my throat I said, "I want you to tell my mother about the patients you have seen whose cancer has been eradicated. Tell her about the ones who have survived." As it turns out, 2 of her patients with the same condition as my mother have beaten it. One is in her 10th year, one is in his 15th. Living normal lives.
Before the chemotherapy drip started, with my arms around my mother, I told her I believe with every fiber of my being she will pass through this journey with cancer and come out the other side. Alive. I told her words are so powerful in directing the course of one's life. We are only going to focus on the positives and the possibilities. 3 years is unacceptable. We are going to use the power of our collective minds to love you back to health. The medical profession, for all its vast good and needfulness, only focuses on the body. It is only one part of the equation of good health. Let the doctors do what they do, but we will take care of your mind and heart.
And so the clear liquid slid into my mother's veins while we cried some more and talked of flowers and vowed to keep focused on the positive. Call me stubborn. I am. Call me arrogant. At times. But do not call me uneducated in the ways and needs of the soul. I wear my own white coat, dear doctor. You do your part in the collective effort to walk my mother through the shadowed valley. I will do mine, and mine is no less needful than yours.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Orchid Place

The Orchid Place 2

I live a blessed life. I ask everyday to be blessed by my Higher Power, and you know, I get what I ask for. The more I remember to ask, the more I am given the opportunity to receive. The opportunity, I said. Meaning, it is up to me to reach out and take the blessings that are presented before me. I could also choose to let the blessings pass right on by and then complain how I never get a break. Or how unlucky I am. Or, poor me, how I'm always being overlooked.
But no. I ask to be blessed and then I keep my mind and eyes as open as possible. It takes practice to spot blessings disguised in opportunities. I'm getting good at it now. There's room for improvement, sure, but recently an opportunity came and I said "YES!" in big letters. Days later, I still feel the lovely, lingering effects of my blessed excursion to The Orchid Place.
The Orchid Place, in Ithaca , NY, is a greenhouse for phalaenopsis orchids. Being a newbie orchid lover, still feeling the blissful honeymoon effect of my romance with these plants, the greenhouse was a gateway to heaven. The rows and rows and rows of happy, blooming faces made me swoon. I swear I heard them singing. Or maybe that was me. In any case, the enchanting experience of wafting through thousands of my favorite blooming plant was a blessing. With a capital B.
So I plan to keep asking to be blessed. I plan to open my eyes and mind even wider. I plan to say "yes" to more opportunities than I ever did before. I plan to receive heaven as I live.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The ABC's Of Loving Yourself

Abandon doubt.
Be yourself in all situations.
Care for yourself first and foremost.
Do not criticize yourself.
Eat all things in moderation.
Forgive your imagined faults.
Give generously.
Honor your instincts.
Invite adventure into your life.
Just say "yes".
Kiss the back of your own hand.
Listen to your heart.
Make amends.
Never call yourself "stupid".
Open to new opportunities.
Question dogma.
Rise above negativity.
See the beauty within you clearly.
Tell the truth.
Understand your needs.
Value your own opinion.
Wield your power responsibly.
Xpress your talents.
Yield to softness.
Zip your lips before you start to gossip.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Art Of Talent

"Minutiae" 1954, by Robert Rauschenberg
Among the great passions of my life is Art. I love to read about it, love to look at it, love to feel its pulses dervishing my cells to higher vibrations. I also like to create it. But my ideas for expressing it, for the most part, remain tight in a bud. I have yet to harness the willpower, or turn off the infernal, internal editor, or allow the proper space and time to simply let the impulses~ the in-pulses~ take over and spill out. I have yet to let what is in my head and heart BLOOM.
This is the year, I pray, as per my one word edict, to let more of who I am rise to the surface and flower. To do that will require allowing myself to be imperfect in public. This is not on the German heritage list of approved behaviors. It's unsafe, you see. But I realize it's the path to letting the petals fall open.
Also on the path, not being afraid to be talented. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Not really. I hold myself down for fear of outshining those around me, for fear of losing the support of those who live small lives like myself. In a backwards way, I have felt I would be left alone if I expressed my talents too openly. People I care about may feel intimidated and back away from me.
In expressing my fears, my excuses for holding myself back, I have at the same time advice for my art-loving self and any who see themselves in me: the quest for perfection is suffocating. It masks who I really am. And who I am is always safe, IF I am true to myself.
And being afraid to be talented? Who am I NOT to be talented? Who am I NOT to shine? God has programmed Its essence into my very cells, into your very cells, to be manifested in a unique and purposeful way. The purpose is for God, through you and me, to shine Its great beauty and love over the expanse of the entire world. My talents, your talents, every one's personal talents are threads that weave the blanket of love meant to warm and sustain all creation.
So, no more excuses, I say to myself. In a troubling world filled with uncertainty, the time is now to let the impulses spill out. Just start throwing paint around. Just start gluing random things together and writing God-inspired words across those random things. Just create my thread of the blanket. Just let myself be free. Just bloom.
{Robert Rauschenberg, 1925-2008, is my favorite artist. His unconventional, avant-garde art, and the self-possessed freedom he expressed in life will be tools in my "just-let-it-out" kit.}

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Hello 2009

Hello, 2009. I'm happy to see you. I've enjoyed the first blush of getting to know you today. Sunshine, quiet contemplation, raspberries and contented cats. Keep this up, and we're going to get along famously.
I hope we do. Get along famously, that is. I have balanced hopes, as opposed to high hopes, we will make the most of our time together. I've been thinking carefully today about what I would like to glean from our relationship. Let's see, there is peace, more joy, more love, more compassion, creative verve, courage, strength of heart and mind, openness, adventure, more visibility, flight, great health, more prosperity, more laughter, a better car, a better camera, (because let's be practical), did I mention more prosperity(?), mental stability, discernment, freedom from fear, receptivity, boat-loads of fun. Etc.
In thinking carefully, I wanted to come up with a singular word to define my hopes for the coming year. An edict, of sorts, for our budding relationship. A word that encompasses everything I could possibly want for myself. And for you, of course. Since we're in this together.
So, my word, my singular sensation to light the path of our seasons together is BLOOM. Isn't that simple? Isn't that perfect? In everything I face, in every opportunity that crosses my path while we are together, I want for my soul to bloom. To grow more lovely and loving.
One more thing, 2009. I want you to be kind to my friends and family and readers, and oh, heck, everyone who aspires to use the light of their soul for goodness. I want you to give them all strength and courage to meet the challenges they will face. I want you to bless them with faith in themselves. I want you to give them respite. And laughter. And uplifting communion with each other. Most of all, 2009, I want you to open their hearts to more opportunities for love.
{If you, Dear Reader, have a one-word edict for your relationship with 2009, I would love, love to hear what it is...}
That little boy in black fur, who loves my word, is Remmington.