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Fire-Up 2015 – Simple Technique to Ignite the Light

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“What you appreciate - appreciates. Lynne Twist

Asking for help is humbling for me. But I’m trying to tear my old DIY badge off my t-shirt. So last week, I reached out for advice from a fabulous blogger, mamapreneur and writing teacher, Suzi Banks Baum at Laundry Line Divine. By allowing that relief, I’d no clue just how quickly the universe would be on the job.

Suzi listened lovingly to my woes about finding balance between home, biz and self-care. She gave me two suggestions. I also wear a badge of practicality so I’m all about homework. But. What seemed like slightly impractical ideas had my resistance popping up like a nervous prairie dog.

Her first suggestion, to feed my inner hunger, was to get together with a buddy and do art. Fun art, not “for sale” art. My shoulders slumped – I love creativity but I’ve no clue who this “buddy” would be…? Her second suggestion was to do something a little different, something new, everyday. It didn’t have to take long. And post it on FB for accountability’s sake. Okay – not sure what this will do, but I’m game.

Day One of “Do The New” ~ An old friend starts to chat on FB and suggests, out of the blue, that we should get together and make mandalas and artsy vision boards. Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit. I feel the “New” creative powah winging in like a boomerang. THAT fast and I didn’t even try. Whoa.

Later that night more newness arrives as I’m staring sadly at our now crispy Christmas tree. I hate saying goodbye. The smell is one of my all time faves. Like camp fires, lilacs and butter in the frying pan. Then it hits me. Make a bag of pine-pourri! My spirits are immediately lifted. Now, anytime I need a pine-fix, I crush this big baggie of needles and snnnnniiiff in the goodness.

pine pourri

Day Two of “Do the Noob” ~ I set out to play with watercolors without needing to “produce” something “good.” (This is very new…) I go for rainbows, even though they are so unicorny. I hear my messy BS (Belief Systems) yammering, “you’re wasting time and expensive watercolor paper,” but I don’t listen. The exercise is a perfect foil for my lack-consciousness Bolshevik.

As I relax and let go, I create this meme about our powerful inner light. It makes me smile.

Whatever your past or your future, within you right now is a powerful light.Julie Bond Genovese

Out of the blue, I’m invited to be a guest at a book signing in NYC with Paul Williams (“The Rainbow Connection” song writer,) for his book Gratitude and Trust. The hubster and I have a new type of date!

Have a blind date with your infinite unknown self.Sara Deutsch

Day 3 – is a busy blur with my boys.

Day 4 – I take my big tub of marvelous markers & begin decorating my “Create Your Shining Year In Biz + Life workbook” from the magical Leonie Dawson. I generally resist a stodgy “year-end review.” My last blog post will give you the skinny. Finances make me fidget.

BUT.

As I doodle on the pages of my workbook, I easy-pease my way into the tougher questions, and I find I’ve done a lot more this year than I’d realized! I was so focused on “what did NOT work” I could not see ALL that DID work. Old BS can sneak up kind of ninja-like – I didn’t even notice I’d ditched my rose colored glasses.

I’m feeling a new freedom creeping in.

“Where Attention goes Energy flows. James Redfield

Without realizing it, by putting my attention on simple joys, I’ve taken my attention OFF my trouble-spots. I, the health nut, eat dessert for dinner. A big hot fudge sundae with caramel, too. I suffer no ill effects. My boys love it. Out of the blue, two new coaching clients sign up for more sessions.

Day 5 – I dive back into my “Create Your Shining Year Workbook.” As I’m blessing my belly-flops from 2014, I remember I haven’t done a “Burning Bowl of BS (Belief Systems)” to let go of 2014. So yay! I write out my BS fears and darkness, and find many fun ways to say GOODBYE (toodle-lou, peace out, so-long-sucka, take care panda bear etc,) which immediately makes me snicker!

burning bowl of BS

Lightheartedness, a sure sign of being in the moment, is THE place of powerful creation. As the BS burns, I take a picture to share with Suzi. Then I notice the note which had said, “Good riddance perfectionism and not being good enough,” had one word left in red – DANCE.

burning bowl ceremony

Let’s rumba!

Day 6 – Driving my boys to their co-op, I decide my newbie d’jour will be to strike up a deeper conversation rather than just chit-chat. Whatdaya know, the yoga teacher is just leaving as I sit down and several of us get talking about the mind-body connection. Plus one of the co-op organizers asks about my motivational talk for the teens in the spring and boing! a New idea for it bounces in like a baby bunny.

Day 7 – We go to Paul Williams’ book signing ….and I give Paul a copy of my own memoir (I’m normally not so bold…) The hubster and I haven’t had a cool date in a long awhile.

Paul Williams

Holy Obi-Wan Kenobi. I put ‘New’ on my radar and my Reticular Activating System is manifesting ‘New’ like a Star Trek replicater. When we consciously shift our focus, the universe synchronizes to whatever we choose. It’s a magic mirror that, without judgment, shows how our thoughts, feelings and FOCUS are co-creative powerhouses.

Here are some of the fun synchronicities from my week…

1.) I couldn’t find my perfect “Word for 2015” to carry through the year. Then a wondrous woman named Zhi Bell, emailed and thanked me for the “BraveHeartisty” in my memoir. My new WORD!

2.) Hubster doesn’t necessarily relate to my deep need for creative-solitude. Then out of the blue (instead of out-of-oblivion, as Abraham Hicks says,) he suggests that we take 10 feet in the garage, wall it off and make an art/writing studio – just for moi. Shut the front door.

Goodies appearing “out of the blue” are just our thoughts, visions and joys catching up to us. They’ve come to meet their maker.



3) My last blog post was about keeping the heart open. I took this photo of the crystal bear with the rainbows it casts on the wall behind it. A green sparkly light appeared at the bear’s heart center. Aw!

4.) I asked for a sign from Mother Mary (a statue, a book – anything) that she is working behind the scenes with me and my boys. Today my son shows me a temporary tattoo he’d like on his wrist. He asks what it is, and I realize it’s a fleur-de-lis. My heart skips a beat. It’s Mary’s symbol. High five.

This has been a most excellent and heart-opening exercise! The best part is that it illustrates, to we recovering control freaks, that we do NOT have to force, bribe, manhandle or continually focus on “what we desire.” If you’re like me, you’ve already ASKED for certain dreams to manifest (like, a hundred times.) It’s time to chill and rest assured that Source is on it.

Go find something fun to do in the meantime. Focus on the New. Jump into Joy.

In that space of openness, our co-creative workshop is in full bloom, year round. Just plant a little joy at a time and watch ‘em all sprout up.

Joy for its own sake. What a concept.

Fab copy

My continued assignment for this week is “Find Your Fab!” Put this on YOUR daily ta-dah list and find an accountability partner. Or tag me on Facebook. With a “simple” shift in focus, watch how the universe will line up the fun and surprising brave-heartistry just for YOU.

Banzai!

w/love and rose colored spectacles,

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Post Holiday Blues, Mindfulness and Keeping the Heart Open

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“Smile, Breathe and go slowly. Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s usually sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Eve that my heart starts to close. As I unknowingly disconnect from home base, my BS upstairs tends to throw an embarrassing fiesta.

I barely notice the mindless partiers, at first. But as the holiday busy-ness winds down, I start tripping over their wicked heavy baggage. I feel sufficiently indignant, Grinchy and miffed, which only causes them to snuggle in closer.

There are good times, of course, but the holidays are also decked out in not-enough solitude, self-care or creative-time. This leaves the welcome mat wide open for past disappointments, high expectations and my BS (Belief Systems) to wipe their snowy feet.

Quietly ready to pop out from behind curtain #1 is the familiar BS – “I’m not enough” – and the scary feeling that my humanness is quite unsightly. “I didn’t give enough, spend enough, care enough or do enough.”

I do eat enough, however.

The goodies soothe the not-enoughness for exactly the same amount of time it takes to enjoy them. Someone called it filling “the God-sized hole.” (By the way, if you want a great book on emotional eating, I love Geneen Roth’s, Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything.)

I often blog about the not-enough-crew, I speak about them, I invite them in for hot cocoa and cookies… but I still don’t want to accept that they are me… and that life can get confusing and dark in here sometimes. So I’m just not gonna be a happy joy machine, 24/7. Got it.

Until.

I’m lulled by the unrealistic picture perfect Christmas ….or a New Year of “All Your Dreams Come True!” ~ it’s in the media, magazines and the restless hum of more, more, more. I’ve let those promises give me hunger pangs for years. I dangle the fairytale out beyond my reach instead of truly loving what is right in front of my red nose.

By New Year’s Eve, I tend to be secretly pouting. Growing up, we always had a rousing celebration with our family friends – 16 of us at least. We’d play Charades, Pictionary, and cards, we’d sing around the piano and eat deli sandwiches with pickles and potato chips til 2am. We’d wake up in the morning to scrambled eggs and buttered toast and maybe go skating on the lake nearby. It was remarkable.

In stark contrast, my hubster and I tend to have a quiet evening at home with our two boys. It’s like any other night….except that we watch a big ball drop and a throng of folks freezing their buns off in Times Square. We mumble things like, “why on earth would anyone GO there? How do they get out of the city afterward? Aren’t they feeling claustrophobic? Crowd-aphobic?” But suddenly I find myself wishing we HAD made New Year’s Eve plans…

I heard Christmas music playing in Staples yesterday. And that pine-scented BS in me started to whine. Where’s the magic now? The presents? The happily ever after? Why does the wonder fade?

“You suffer because of the thoughts you believe. Byron Katie

Cue up BS #2 – “The happy times from childhood are gone, sister.” I fear that I’ll never be able to create a rockstar childhood for my boys, but that I should. (Note the “I’m not enough” wiggling back in here.) And, BS #3, “I must suck at mothering.” Right now I resent it (eek) and I wanna build a couch fort and retire from the whole parenting thing. Could someone else just step in and arrange a blissful, easy life for my boys, hubby and me? Oh and a long vacation in the Caribbean. Or Disney.

Next I feel inundated with New Year’s newsletters about resolutions, goal-setting and “Your best year yet!” and it makes my butt twitch. What about the stuff I didn’t make happen this past year? Do I put it on my list, again? Trust again? Just to disappoint myself again? Is a bliss-filled life unrealistic BS?

My drama queen chimes in with BS #4 – “It’s now or never, all or nothing.” When I’m feeling joyful and grand, I tend to believe that I will never, ever close my heart again. All will be merry and bright. Always. When I’m feeling down, though, I tell myself that I never really felt all that great in the first place. I’ve finally seen my true yucky nature and it isn’t princess material.

When I believe “I’m not enough,” I try to do more and be more. But when I do more, I feel overwhelmed and disconnected, and I feel like “I’m not enough,” and then I try to do more and…

You get the cycle.

Best solution? Extreme self care. When my messy mind gets a death grip on the wheel (tell-tale signs are hopelessness, blaming, eye-poking, candy-grabbing…) my heart needs to gently pry the grubby fingers off. For me that requires uninterrupted solitude. Lots of it. I need to breathe. Write. Draw. De-clutter. Lighten Up. Read. Meditate. Feel.

Slow down.

Eat simply.

Open.

Be.

So while Bill was home on vacay, I slept in and stayed in my polka dot pajamas for as long as possible. I didn’t shower, blow dry my hair or put on a bra or make-up for days. I closed and locked my door. Ignored the phone and email.

It. Was. Unprecedented. Heaven.

It was a permission slip to go away. And return to myself.

Wild applause please!

My attitude shifted like tectonic plates. Oh the epic relief!

“You’ve seen my descent. Now watch my rising.Rumi

My BS will insist I’m selfish, spoiled, guilty, greedy, and I’m not living up to my potential. With a bit of quiet time, I can smile at my little girl fears. I know she’ll pull out of this. She’ll forgive my imperfections and humanness. She’ll re-remember that harsh judgment just sends me chasing my sorry tail. She’ll believe, once again, that she belongs. That the world is safe for her. That I’m her champion. Even though things didn’t work out before, there is still enough time, energy and love to make it so.

It’s safe to keep dreaming.

Suddenly when I’m loving myself again, I realize that my holiday blues (or any sadness for that matter) visits when my gratitude is in the can. The hubster that I ached for, and didn’t believe I deserved, and the boys I wasn’t sure my body could ever have, are right outside my door. That’s phenomenal! And some fab friends from childhood are still by my side. Whahoo! And two fur friends on the bed nearby. Aw! And this rawkin computer that lets me reach YOU in 50 different countries (50!) Totally cosmic!

I could go on and on. And so could you. We have endless bounty going into 2015. We get to wake up to powerful gifts every day – that hot shower, food in the frig, trees in the yard, things to do, pets to hug, people to love. And I find that when I appreciate what I already have, and I let it be “enough,” it tends to grow three sizes that day.

Even though bank accounts can’t record these many, many intangible treasures, we are still rich. The goodness of a lifetime, the love, hopes and joys, are real and lasting. They are the foundation for daily magic.

We all face heartbreak, uncertainty, loss… but the world is experiencing a major metaphysical makeover. We’ve got a lot to live for! We’ve got so much to give and express and enjoy and love and believe in. We have a beautiful world to explore, inspiring people to meet, adventures to create.

Instead of bashing ourselves over the noggin every time we forget this truth, let’s just welcome the wondrous remembering. Yin and yang gives life it’s punch and aliveness.

The years we were asleep bring us more wonder when we wake up. The ways we deviated from our hearts make for an indescribable reunion with our truth. The long dark nights of the soul, make the recovery of the light even brighter. The blessings we forgot to count, inundate us when we finally remember. The times we follow fear and negativity makes learning to follow our own starlight a major WOW today.

And the BS? It’s unbeBLEEPable. It’s born of fear. Under despair, anger or numbness are the BS thoughts (not the circumstances) that are wreaking havoc. Any thought that frightens us isn’t coming from our soul. Fear doesn’t protect us – awareness does.

Michael Singer, in his beautiful book, The Untethered Soul, says it this way: “You can learn to keep your energy centers open. You do this by just relaxing and releasing. You do this by not buying into the concept that there is anything worth closing over. Remember if you love life, nothing is worth closing over. Nothing, ever, is worth closing your heart over.

Not even our losses, mistakes, failures, our inner nastiness, dreams that didn’t come true, someone else’s dreams that DID, our critics, our past, our partner or lack of one, kids, bad habits, finances, fears and flaws. Believing the BS closes our heart. Letting it all be, re-opens the flow. It takes mindfulness and courage to open. Sometimes, a donut seems quicker.

When you discover any BS driving your school bus, no need to slam on the brakes and screech at your students (we’re all life-long-learners, after all.) Just make the next legal u-turn. Gigglesnort with the passengers. They’ll probably be riding with you again, next month. Slow to a safe stop and go do what makes you smile (even if the closest you can get is in your imagination. It’s a powerful place to engage.)

Your life is beautiful. Even when a deep ache keeps you awake at night. Even as your partner walks away. Even as the bank takes your house. You have something much more radiant inside you, behind you, and ahead of you, waiting to be reborn.

You have air in your lungs and sun on your skin (or snow in your face.) You have a lot of living to keep on loving.

Whatever the question, you’re still the glorious answer.

“Who you are in not an option. You are love. Byron Katie

That amazing heart beating in your chest is willing to believe in you, again and again. That’s not foolish, that’s fabulous. That’s the joyful creator inside you who knows how to pull her head out of the sandbox, dust herself off, breathe in the present moment and enjoy the path through this luminous playground.

Here’s a wonderful poem by Rumi, to leave you with~

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi “I was in an abusive relationship once, and I found a way out. That relationship was with myself. Byron Katie

with much love, wholehearted living and chocolate
truffles,

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Transforming Self-betrayal in the Mirror of our Relationships

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Beauty is not in the way we look, but in the way we love.JulieBondGenovese

Bill fills me in on a recent fight between Ky, our 10 year-old, and Carlito, Ky’s best friend. Ky told Bill… that Carlito told Ky… that I was ugly. 

Bill stops for just a split second. But when I appear unfazed, he continues nonchalantly. Little does he know, an old sad story has scurried out from behind my eyes. And my mad attempt to squelch it, is about to backfire. On both of us.

While my rational adult-self assumes that Carlito used the comment to get back at Ky (who probably said something rude to Carlito,) my younger-self, remembering a childhood of insults and labels, feels a fearful sting.

What is ugly about me? My differences? My face? My skin? My stumpy bod? Is it when I don’t wear make-up? Or blow-dry my hair? Am I just weird and unappealing?

I’m too mortified to admit any of this. So I slam on the cone of shame. You’re being childish and ridiculous. You should be over this insecure s#**! Do NOT let anyone KNOW!

Ever told yourself these doozies?

I wait for Bill to sooth my embarrassing fears…without my having to voice them. But when he doesn’t shower me with compliments, kisses and Krispy Kreams, the smack-down begins. Ugly is no longer the issue. Bill is now on the chopping block.

BS begins to bubble and spit. If Bill, the one who knows me best, doesn’t truly understand about my pain, no one ever will. I’ll always feel very alone.

Cool smokescreen, huh? Note how skillfully BS (Belief Systems) can make the argument about something else, entirely.

It can happen in the blink of a blind eye.

Shame zips me over to the dark side. I see Bill there. Growing horns. He’s stepping into my BS minefield. I’ve already been blown to smithereens. He’s next. And he’s toast.

Funny thing about old negative BS is that, since it isn’t true or kind, it desperately scrambles to be right.

I’m sinking fast as I grab for the old defenses. Blame. Anger. Victimhood. I think these puppies can lessen the hurt by casting the problem off me. By sharing the cesspool of BS.

I’m judging myself, but I need to prove that it’s Bill doing it. Ay caramba.

Is Bill ignoring my sadness (just as I’m doing) and abandoning me in my fears (ditto again.) I replay my old story and it’s frightening ending; he doesn’t really love me (aka I’m just not that lovable.) Woe is me.

Although I’m a former Oscar nominee for hiding feelings, I expect my hero hubster should see right through my charade and save me. He should recognize what I deny. Reveal what I hide. Be effing sensitive to my old wounds.

With rapid fire, I tell Bill how he should show his love for me (since I’m not doing it) and inform him of what he should have said and done differently (guilty again.) The “shoulds” have BS written all over them.

This never ends well.

It was me who wasn’t loving me! I was guilty of every one of my charges against him. I stopped loving me the moment I judged my feelings as weak, childish, stupid. I projected my judgment onto Bill. I didn’t recognize my self-betrayal in the mirror, which was begging for my acceptance.

No problem.

When I deny my feelings, it will seem as if my pain is outside me, crawling all over someone else.

How convenient.

We can’t run from their reflection because, on a soul level, we are One with them.

Bill goes to bed, angry and confused. I sit in a slump trying to prove that he was wrong. Then I hear myself saying, “he always…” and I feel the pixie-dust tickling my toes. What I claim about him is true about me. So what is it that I always do?

Um, I always think he should be able to read my mind and heart (which I’m hiding) and take responsibility for my happiness (which I’m not doing, at the moment.)

Repeat arguments and complaints are a rawkin’ festival of Biblical-sized BS.

I pull out my notebook to do some Byron Katie exercises called, “The Work.” Arguments are an opportunity to reclaim the peace I’ve lost. The brawl I take up with “them,” is raging within moi. I want to get out of this lonely, dark place where I’m believing things that my soul would never believe about me. Or Bill. It’s a scary spot to visit because the spirit and strength of me isn’t there.

The lights are on, but the feelings aren’t allowed home.

Like children, our emotions will clamor for attention, respect, validation and love, in the most annoying ways…and people. They’ll go viral in the movie all around us – in the characters who look at us sideways. Criticize us. Call us fat. Say goodbye.

What are your ongoing complaints about others?

With accusations and denial, we inadvertently step away from our soul’s wise influence. We’re “beside ourselves” because we’re not lined up with our soul’s stream of energy.

Fortunately, our emotions are a mayday call from the soul that we’re out of synch. We’re suffering because of what we choose to believe. We need to feng shui our feelings and shift our thinking.

We can find the truth about ourselves by looking at where our fingers are pointing. Can we take the advice we hoist on others? Bless the mirror that calls us names? Make amends with our own self-cruelty?

Allow your war-torn fears to come back home.

Our greatest awesomeness is fearlessly guiding us. She has full view of the meaning behind the BS mess. She beams and calls us to the highroad. She’s unshaken by whatever ugliness we barrel into. We’re swept back into her arms when we stop battling ourselves. We plug in and power-back-on when we forgive our forgetfulness.

Beauty is not in the way we look, but in the way we love.

Take a deep breathe. Draw a quiet lavender bath. Settle your soul. Whisper sweet nothings to the Love you cast out. Your own. Woo and romance her humanness back toward the light. She will melt into tears each time you honor her broken, flawed wholeness.

When I welcome myself with open arms, I become a beautiful sight.

 

 

Wishing you soft & tender love bombs,

xo

Julie

Magnet 47

Soul to Soul Conversations: Repairing Relationships with Ex’s, Enemies and Gnarly Earthlings

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When my hubby, Bill, had told his ex, Ann, that I was pregnant with our first son, she’d said, “That woman should not be passing on her bad genetics to another generation.”

Criminy.

I’d imagined folks who’d felt that way about my dwarfism, but she was the first broad to blurt it out.

It was ten years down the line, after their divorce, and Ann was still railing against Bill. Any phone call turned into a dump fest. She hadn’t let their daughter come to our wedding. She made visitations difficult. She blamed and badgered. It was infuriating to watch.

Occasionally she threw some ridonkulous zingers at me. After I’d gnaw on them awhile, I’d let ‘em go. As Anne Lamott would say, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” Thankfully, Ann lived across country – I never had to face the rat.

Until.

My step-daughter was getting married. We’d be flying out west, straight into Ann’s nest. She’d have the hostile home-field advantage. Gulp.

Suddenly, the old grudges I thought I’d “let go,” were squawking. I’d had a hidden addendum: “let it go, except in cases of possible attack. Then haul out the poison to defend yourself!” I started rehashing the past; Ann pulled this and that crap…she’s critical, defensive and needs to be RIGHT. She tells herself she’s better than I am. Will she make a scene at the wedding? 

When ex’s or painful relationships are involved, all self-help tools and techniques tend to be toast. Hoo boy.

What was it about Ann that I was fighting in myself? Where could I find common ground for the sake of my step-daughter? For the sake of peace? It’s ten years down the line and I am still critical, defensive and needing to be RIGHT. I tell myself I’m better than her.

Rings a bell.

I decided to have regular (imaginary) soul-to-soul conversations with Ann every night before bed. It would be an ongoing prayer in hopes of bridging our differences. I’d try, for once, to visualize Ann as a friend. A sister. Underneath the hairy heartaches, I believe we’re one human family. We’re mirrors of each other’s unresolved pain. Here was an opportunity to test my mettle.

Bill had told me a bit about Ann’s tough childhood. She and I had probably shared similar humiliation, rejection, loneliness. Who hadn’t? In our soul-to-soul, I told her I understood. That she was lovable, anyway. She was stronger than she thought. I saw her shoulders and defenses drop. Our eyes teared up. In the end, we hugged like sisters. Laughed over our pettiness.

And she’d apologize.

The next night, I started our silent ‘conversation’ with motherhood. I’d quietly criticized her parenting, a LOT. Now that I had my boys, I told her, I could better understand why she’d been a royal pain in the patootie. She’d been a protective mama bear. We commiserated about the demands and confusion of raising kids. I imagined the mayhem  of being a single mom. I said I admired her. I was rooting for her. We ended up hugging and laughing.

Our ‘conversations’ went on for several weeks. Often, I still regressed into finger pointing over some past insult. It was embarrassing how much I’d held onto, just like her. It wasn’t easy to let it go, but I’d be sure to end the visualization with us hugging and laughing.

And she’d apologize.

As the wedding drew closer, I was feeling…better. Whether or not my prayers reached Ann was no longer the point. Whatever happened, I could step back and see her soul. Without the old defenses within me, I could remember the beauty within her. I hoped.

Our family flew out for the wedding. The first meet-up with Ann would be at the reception venue where friends were helping to decorate. As we pulled into the parking lot, Bill said in shock, “There’s Ann.”

Huh? Oh no. Ambush?

I tried to shake off the nerves and put on a smile. I slammed the car door and, with determination, headed for Ann. But in my intense focus, I somehow missed seeing the tiny curb ahead. I’d built up enough momentum that when my clog caught the lip, suddenly I became a speed-walking projectile, careening straight toward Ann. Oh help.

My replacement hips and knees have little flexibility, so by the time I reached her, I was practically horizontal. As I felt myself going down, panic erupted.

But wouldn’t you know. The demon (er, darling) . . . actually caught me. Yup. I landed in her arms. She didn’t let me fall – she lifted me up. She straightened what had gone crooked.

The beauty of the metaphor was lost on me. I felt like a clumsy idiot at the feet of my old foe. But somehow, together, we ended up . . . hugging. And laughing.

And I apologized.

The weekend went shockingly well. Ann was a kind hostess; she asked if my boys needed snacks; she offered me a quiet place to rock my youngest to sleep; she complimented Bill on his toast to the beautiful bride. Shut the front door.

As we fly back home, I scratch my oversized noggin in awe. My soul-to-souls had soothed their toughest target. Me. Who knows if Ann, too, had been praying for help. For healing. For the love of her only daughter. For her past and her ex. For soulful understanding across the great divide. 

All I know for sure is that at the wedding table that day, as I dined on humble pie, a sweet peace was gratefully served up, too.

With love and understanding,

Julie

The Tender Power of Love Bombs, Mindfulness and Prayerful Intentions

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People mill about the magazine rack near my cozy chair at Barnes and Noble. In between chapters, I send them silent love bombs. I hope, somehow, their day is brightened. That they feel unexpected relief. I especially focus on the grumpier sorts, or the two loud women, or the dude who’s a bouquet of cigarette smoke, or the crying child and angry mum (my personal fave).

On the other side of the rack, a scrawny pair of corduroy legs with a metal cane catches my eye. I feel . . . a bond. For years, I was convinced that my dwarfed, arthritic body could only bring me rejection and pain. Eventually, I’d realized I’d adopted those practices toward myself. Ouch. I wonder if the tired corduroys have done the same. 

Silently, I begin the Prayer of Thy Healing Angels from Lorna Byrne. I started this habit a while ago when I realized how disconnected I felt from the world. I’d reserved my energy for a small circle of friends and family. But there was suffering all around and I felt powerless to help. I was not particularly philanthropic. Activists made me squirm. 

Years of soul-searching, though, left me with a deeper compassion for myself and so a growing empathy for others. Even the chowderheads. The very least I could do was send them light.  

I’d thought my love bombs would be altruistic. Then a weird thing happened. It was helping me. Comforting me

Wait. 

I was trying to be selfless, darn it. Making up for lost time. So I added more ‘tangible’ random acts of kindness. I paid for people’s car tolls. I bought little kid’s “art” at craft fairs. I waved cars out in front of my car. I let people go ahead of me in grocery store lines (especially moms with kids). It all felt awesome. For me. Hm. 

When family or friends would ask me to keep a certain person in my prayers, I’d always believed it was to help them. It took me awhile to realize that when I reached out with positive thoughts, I was likewise feeling calmed, cherished, elevated. 

Sweet. 

This is good news for the insecure, self-serving, distracted parts of us that don’t want to give unless it’s reciprocal. It turns out that it is always reciprocal. Fire at will.  

The man uneasily squats down in front of the magazines. I feel a familiar rush – envy and amazement. My whole life, I’ve ached to do deep knee bends. At night, sometimes I dream I can hug my knees to my chest, kneel, straighten my arms, tie my own shoes, or some other Olympian feat. Such indescribable joys! Then I wake up. 

A sadness follows me for a while. It takes time to adjust my antenna back to what I can do. 

Sir Corduroy rises out of his Herculean squat. As he steadies his wobbliness, I quietly cheer. Those legs aren’t as nifty as some, but they’re doing the best they can. I bless his regal body. Then I realize, with surprise, I’m appreciating my own. 

I’ve come to love this cherub bod far more than I ever thought possible. Wow. She won’t win any beauty contests or marathons. She won’t be dazzling any runways or airbrushed on the pages of Vogue. She’s a broken down vehicle in a showroom of BMWs. She turns heads for all the hard reasons. But she’s my bombshell anyway. She’s gone the whole freakin’ distance with me and for me. She’s beautiful for all the right reasons. 

My dear body has been a relentless teacher. She’s a megaphone for what matters and she’s a barometer for when I forget. She’s my home on this earthly adventure my spirit longed to explore. She lets me take a crack at loving the ‘unlovable.’ She asks for compassion in the midst of pain, surgery and lifelong scars. 

Sometimes, I sulk over an old wound. I freak about the future. There are days when my knee swells up or my shoulders hurt from typing, painting or sleeping. Then I remember the simple practice. It’s free and painless – I take my mind off my problems by praying for friends and strangers. Taking a vacation from my noisy complaints, fears, and impending doom heals the distance between us. It summons the soul.

In my periphery, as I watch cane and corduroys limp away, my eyes tear. I feel a new tenderness for myself, through him. I remember how far I’ve come. Life has bombed me back.

So when loss knocks at my door, a health issue barges in, the government divides, a friend walks away, a relationship ends, money is scarce, hope dies or my dinner burns, I lean into the light. I shift my incendiary BS (belief system) away from “I’m separate and alone” and remember my dreams are interwoven with yours. 

Whatever we give, we get to keep. 

Whether you pass a car accident or you’re stuck in traffic – whether you have to see the doctor, lawyer, or your ex – whether you’re in pain or you’re being a pain, load up on love bombs. Go nuclear. It will bless your own burns.

Begin with the next person you see or think of. Nail ‘em with light. Then open your catcher’s mitt. It’s coming back home, brighter than before. 

Bombs away people.

with lotsa love & ginormous joy,

~Julie

Remembering Our Spirit: Big Life Questions & Video Game Answers

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“If I was in spirit before I was born,” my ten-year-old asks, “and I’m gonna go there when I die, why don’t I remember?”

 I look into the rear view mirror at his questioning eyes. I think it’s the meditative hum of the road that invites these conversations.   

“That’s a really good question,” I say, thinking about my reply. “Maybe, if we remembered our true selves and we knew that our souls were eternal energy, and no harm could ever come to them, it wouldn’t be much of a challenge to be here. Life would be way too easy.” 

I look back at him to see if he’s buying. As he gazes out the window, his wheels are cranking.

“It’s kinda like my video games,” he says finally. “The first time I play a new one, it’s really hard. It’s so frustrating not knowing where I’m going or what’s ahead. I have to do a lot of the same things over and over.”

“Yeah, you’re just figuring it all out,” I say, marveling at his metaphor.

 “The second time through is still cool because I’m better at it,” he says. “I know where some of the prizes are and stuff. The times after that are pretty good too.”

I like where he is going with this. Although I think I know what his answer will be, I ask anyway. “So which time is the most fun?” 

He turns to look at me in the mirror and says without a hitch, “Oh the first. I don’t know the ending and it’s the hardest. But it’s the most fun.”

 The road smiles along with me as I nod in agreement. “Pin the Tail on the Donkey would be nothing without the blindfold,” I add. “Marco Polo would be really easy if you didn’t keep your eyes closed.” 

For years, being a dwarf felt like a curse. The early arthritis added insult to injury. Somewhere along the way, I decided one thing; rather than treat my circumstances as a misfortune, I’d see them as sacred choices made by my soul. Nothing was quite the same after that. 

What if our souls, with complete amnesia, dared to step into a fleshy earth costume, a full-body blindfold, and take a swing at the treasure? We knew we’d have to grasp along in the bitter blackness, half-asleep, trying to recall a distant, dazzling light. There would be endless distractions, lies and losses. But there would be a godzillion more laughs and loves. 

It’s a glorious underdog tale. A heroine’s journey. The mother of all Olympics. Our life challenges are the stuff that great movies are made of.

And if we knew the ending, it would kinda spoil the show. 

It takes a lot of faith when the going gets tough. Three years ago, I started a new career at age 47. My memoir turned into a business – the business of speaking, leading workshops and trying to figure out what I offer this world and what to charge for it. It’s been mind-boggling and heart-hammering.

I have two boys at home who need plenty of attention, time and love. And I’ve got a reluctant body with arthritis to work around. When I add in the promotion, marketing and sales, well, somedays I feel like a goner. Incapable. Not enough. Never as good (that old story…)

 But any gargantuan adversity is not here by chance. It’s a mayday call from spirit that there’s more to be unraveled. It keeps us on our toes, awake and aware. We’re capable of much more than we imagine.    

Whatever challenges you’re facing right now are meant to bring you back to your true self. Back to the strength you’ve always had. Back to your radiance.  

I like to believe that we signed onto this life from a place of deep courage. From an unbreakable Love and an unstoppable soul. Our Light shines in every direction we turn. We’re here to remember the Love we were born to forget.

 So grab hold. Own the obstacles. Accept the assignment and commit to the challenge. Open your eyes wide and shake off the amnesia, and remember; there’s no where in spirit where you can get this kind of up-close, gripping, on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of drama.

This is the exact adventure you came for: to find out for yourself that you had the power all along. 

 Tomorrow you’ll forget all this. No problem. It’s part of an amazingly soul-filled video game that you were born to win.

with love and ginormous joy,
Julie

 

Lessons in Letting Go: a Lost Brother and a Missing Caravaggio

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It’s been eighteen years since I last saw my big brother. Although we’d been growing apart for awhile, it was when I wrote him the news, that the door really shut. 

I had been thrilled to be moving in with my boyfriend, a divorced Catholic, but I knew that my brother Dan, a devout Catholic, would be scandalized. Dan had replied that if Bill and I ever married, he would not acknowledge it and not attend. His children would never be allowed to see us. Holy guacamole. It was an electrifying shock. 

Bill and I got married in 1997 and Dan kept his word. Over the years I’ve tried to forgive and forge ahead. But recently I woke up thinking about a Christmas at Mom and Dad’s, back in the days when Dan and I were so close. Eight years my senior, he was my sun and moon. 

That holiday, Dan had found one of my old paintings in the basement and pulled Her from the pack with wide appreciative eyes. 

“Jule, this one is amazing!” Dan crowed. “Man! When did you do it?”

“Oh wow. That was…um…my senior year at Hamilton,” I said, surprised to see Her, my old canvas-friend from college. “We were supposed to copy a portion of an oil painting from one of the Masters.” I babbled on about the details, including the offbeat art teacher who’d believed in me. 

I’d rarely had much confidence in my art; it was never good enough and always needed more effort, more talent, more blah blah blah. A sad self assessment. My dwarfism had left me drowning in perfectionism, the killer of creativity.

But now I was feeling something quite unexpected. It was…(gasp)…admiration.  

“Are you doing anything with it?” Dan said, breaking my reverie. “Do you think I could have it? I mean, look at all these paintings stored away doing nothing.” 

I looked back at Her, biting my lip. I actually….liked this one. Oh dear. I didn’t want to let Her go, even for the love of my brother. 

Dan could feel my hesitation. “How about this? Since you’re not using it, would you mind if I hang it at my house and when you want it back, I’ll whisk it right to you. I promise.” My eyes lowered at the feet of my hero.

“Sure, okay, you can have it.” 

“Thanks Jule!” he exclaimed, with a hug and a love that left me breathless. 

Little did I know, that religion was about to trump our time. There would be no meeting at the crossroads. No hand-off of the canvas. Dan would never dance at my wedding. Our children would be strangers. 

Time passed. Life deepened and flourished. A year after I’d written my memoir, Nothing Short of Joy, the busy-ness and bustle became too much. I decided I had to decompress. De-clutter. Delete.

Out of no where, I feel that painting calling. I swear. I’ve no idea why, but I need to see Her. I remember there was an angel and an old dude. Who was the artist again? 

Two weeks pass as the painting raps at my heals. Was it Rembrandt? Vermeer? My memory is mush. I google French, Italian and Angelic Masters. No sign of Her. Gone. Stolen. Damn it. I feel the resentment burn. Why did Dan have to leave me? 

Meanwhile, emails are busting out my inbox, and I hastily decide to unsubscribe from every newsletter. I scroll down my first victim, whizzing to the bitter end of one I never read and… BAM! My breath shudders. There. She. Is! Oh my glory! NO WAY. The man. The angel. The deep darkness. The feathery light. I am in awe! 

With my brain buzzing, fingers aflutter, I click on the photo and land at Amazon. She is a CD cover? I search for more clues. But there’s no name. No info. The treasure hunt intensifies. I lunge back at google. I shall find you! 

Zippo turns up.  

I run to tell Bill about the super synchronicity. As I reheat some leftovers for the boys, my beloved hubby disappears for awhile, then returns with a cheshire grin. He hands me a slip of paper that reads, “St. Matthew and the Angel, by Italian Master, Caravaggio.” What!? You FOUND HER! Oh thank you Hon! Feeling girlish and giddy, I run to the computer to read Her full history. I’m in a strange rapture. My husband and boys. My sweet lifetime. My healing angels. Something breaks open and I sob for the beautiful mystery of it all. 

What are the odds of me finding that photo? It was the first time I actually glanced at that newsletter, the one I’ve ALWAYS deleted. Even on overload, in confusion, our hands are somehow guided. Our spirits, safe. 

I smile at St. Matthew, perched at his desk, pen poised. He’s a writer. Holy crap. I painted this twenty years before I had an inkling that writing would heal my heart. No wonder I had chosen an author and an angel. But it was Dan who had needed Her too; they spoke the same foreign tongue, of saints and sermons that would separate us one day. I study the painting, the face of my past. I miss my brother. But even as the tears roll out once more, I feel the Love and connection that will never leave.

I take a deep breath as the bigger picture settles my soul. As for my brother and I, I don’t know the story’s end. But for now, my painting is at peace in me, and She is at home with him. 

 caravaggio31

 

A Gift to Myself, a Gift to My Family — Write On

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Without pretense or masks, they had held the clear vision for me all along. Love. Fun. Freedom. At four and eight-years-old, they stood so firmly in their truth that I couldn’t help but remember mine. So how did I manage to frequently sidestep their system of joy? They need too many band aids, they call my name ten times in sixty seconds, they race past, knocking each other to the floor, bonking heads and crying fowl. I’d neglected me somewhere in the wild whirling circle of their childhood. While life was curling around their tie-dyed colors, I was sometimes lost in the gray.

Two years ago, as I lay on my bed at the B&B, my eight year-old’s voice sprang through my cell phone. As Spence listed the memories of his day with Kyler and Daddy, I pushed off my socks and found sticky rice smashed on the sole. Earlier I’d peeled off an old Scooby-Doo band aid from the inside of my shirt. My husband had once come home from work with a teensy white baby sock clinging to his pant leg. Our children left their mark on every step we took. Every single day. Thank goodness.

Although I was enjoying Spencer’s gabbing, as I lay there dreamily, the night was tugging at my eyelids. It’d been an exhilarating day of writing, communing, and sharing with my sister writers. Then Spence suddenly asked, “So, Mommy, are you having fun?” “Well, yes I sure am,” I said in utter surprise. He was wondering about me. That was about as new as I felt. My boys didn’t normally ask, “What would you like for lunch, Mom? Can I get you some lemonade? Do you like that book you barely get to read?” They hadn’t asked questions until then. Until I’d said Uncle.

It all started when I’d signed up for my first Women Writer’s Weekend Retreat at the NJ shore. I’d plunked down my wad of money (eek) and then questioned my judgment. Who am I to take a long weekend at a lovely bed and breakfast? By the beach. Alone.

But drained and depleted, I was no good to anyone. My family needed my strength, my soul’s fire. So did I. Taking care of my own needs was, in fact, a gift to my loved ones. Until I’d stepped away, I’d almost forgotten that my family deserved the whole me. Not just the one chasing dust-bunny dreams. Not the one spread thin between fluffernutter and bread. Not the waiter, the maid, the chauffeur and the healer. They needed the one who ached to march down the Champs-Elysees, the fierce Amazon warrior who lived off the land, the Anastasi spirit perched up in the rocky sky. The gal who just wanted to finish a book.

After two days at the retreat, I was feeling reconnected to the pulse of life — I breathed in the sacred lineage. I felt, all at once, the oneness. The legacy. I was poised at the water’s edge on an primeval shore. I was deep in the fossil of a pregnant mastodon, in her breath alive on an ancient wind. I was a part of all that had come before me and would flow past. Man, I felt sappy.

There far away, at the beach, I’d come clean. I realized I could marry the magic to the mundane as long as I gave my solemn promise. When I return home tomorrow, I told myself, and I’m settling an argument about who gets the bigger cookie, I will remember that I am all of it. I am both the grain of rice stuck to the bottom of my sock and the power and majesty of a mastodon.

Where True Control Really Lies

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I used to think if I could just learn to micromanage my circumstances, my body, other people — I could avoid further pain. Or defeat. I could make life behave. Right. Recently I had a teensy ah-ha moment with my son, and some crickets — a gentle reminder of where true control really lies.

While Zack, my godson, is on vacation, our family is taking care of his spotted gecko. (I know, I’d never heard of having a pet gecko either…) But I was sure that my two boys would enjoy the lizard so she’s here, living in my office. Her name is Yoshi. At only eight inches long, she moves with the spirit of a venomous Komodo dragon. Being extra small myself, I gotta respect that.

After I said yes to Zack, he says Yoshi needs to be fed crickets. Live crickets. I am kind of a Buddhist about these things so this news is slightly disturbing. But how hard can it be? Zack demonstrates how to first season the plastic bag of crickets with a white nutritional powder so we have confectioner-sugared-crickets. Lovely. Then Zack uses tweezers to extract two jumpy morsels from the baggie and feed them to Yoshi, who quickly pounces and gulps. The boys cheer. I bite my lip.

The following day, my older son is way too eager to feed Yoshi. He wants me to grab the crickets and then hand the tweezers to him. Hm. This hand-off worries me, but I concede because my son is all aglow. I open the baggie and try to catch a cricket. But they’re awfully fast.

After five aggravating minutes, with my son growing impatient, I finally manage to tweeze a leg…and then the leg pops off. Oh yuk. So I start to look through the baggie to find the legless cricket not wanting to leave him in that different-abled condition (even though he is about to be lizard lunch.) I cannot find the amputee, so I go for another. Finally I get one and hand it off to my son saying, “hold it tight so the cricket doesn’t get away.” My son does as he is told, drops the cricket in front of Yoshi, and the cricket lays stone cold. With no movement, Yoshi doesn’t see the over-tweezed cricket.

Meanwhile, in my thrill of actually capturing a cricket, I’ve left the bag open. Two bugs have made a break for it, liberating themselves onto my desk. I quickly pounce on one and throw it in the cage, feeling weirded-out by the tickley thing in my fingers. “But Mommy I wanted to feed her!” my son whines, as my heart pounds while trying to nab the other jail-breaker. “Sorry honey but I’ve gotta move quickly or we’ll have crickets running rampant.” I catch the other and throw it in. Phew. Done for one day.

The next morning, I wonder how to improve on our clearly flawed approach. I decide instead of trying to catch a cricket, I will somehow pour them into Yoshi’s cage. My son is not happy about this. But I’m in control, right? I open the baggie, season with snow, and gently lean the bag over the cage, hoping not to release so many crickets that Yoshi will choke. Strangely enough, two little confectioner-sugared crickets march to the edge of the bag and volunteer themselves overboard into the lizard’s den. Wow.

As both my son’s are enjoying the pounce and gulp session, I feel the ah-ha come over me. When I pushed and tried to control the situation, it didn’t work. When I relaxed and allowed the solution to present itself, even the crickets jumped into the flow. Voila. As some wise soul once said, “We can resign as general manager of the universe.” Resistance is futile. Alleluia.

Welcome

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Welcome to the blog for Nothing Short of Joy. Please check back soon for updates.