Happy, blessed New Year to all of the world!

2020 is a new beginning - a new decade, a new year to start doing things neglected during the past year. Take stock of your life - what was good and something you want to continue in your life? What was negative and now it's your time to figure out how to diminish the pain from the negativity, or even better, find a way to thrust it out of your life? Why are we so resistant to change? When I think about it honestly, part of my reasoning is that I am simply lazy. It's far too easy to just remain the way I am, even if I want to change, it, just, well, it's just too much work. I'll settle for drama and what I'm used to. Change - the unknown - is a bit more difficult to interact with. How much energy do I have for change? What impetus is urging me forward with this change? One change I want to make is to control my emotions. I look to the book THE FOUR AGREEMENTS to remind me of how I can ensure happiness in my life and in those who surround me. But, dang, it's hard. I mean, everyone makes assumptions. Mostly everyone I know takes things personally. How can I stop? It won't be easy. It's a journey. I may fail. I will persevere, nevertheless.

What do you have to change in your life? What is one thing that if you changed it, you would feel happier? People would like to be around you more. You would be healthier spiritually and physically...What is IT? When you decide on what IT is, then you can create baby steps to eradicate this IT from your life. Or tame IT...

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Part 1. Searching for joy and the meaning of life....

Sounds like a cliche or something to write about in a philosophy class....but my entire life I've been struggling with the balance between concern over my life and its inextricable connection to my own demise and the attainment of pure joy somewhere in between.

How do we define pure joy then? Your definition of joy and mine may be different, but what I suspect I am looking for is a deep, internal satisfaction with myself, my relationships, and my commitment to my faith.

It has never been easy. I was formed in a family defined by drama. If you felt it, you expressed it. The end. No filters. And, for many years, I struggled within this paradigm. Little joy was to be found in our family life.

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Yes, through an intense search for meaning in life, I have come across one of the most easily-identificable traits that sums up what pure joy might look like - being in the moment. Worrying about the past increases pain and invites depression to the party. Thinking too much about the future adds another guest to the celebration - that is anxiety. Those were my best friends for a long while - depression and its ugly friend anxiety. I did not know how to decrease them in my life.

I read voraciously. I did an examination of counscience. I watched others. I almost gave up. I left my faith. I returned. Then I realized that pure joy - not that flitting, fleeting, floating-like feeling of exuberance, but pure joy, was deep and satisfying, much like the love I had when I married my husband almost 47 years ago. I did not have the giddy, excitement that almost threatened to make my heart explode kind of feeling; but I had a deep sense of peace, happiness, joy, whatever you may call it. He was someone I knew I could spend a lifetime with, and time has proven that assessment to be true.

So back to pure joy. It comes when you are satisfied that you are doing what you are meant to do. Your mission has been recognized and embraced. Living and dying become more meaningful. Your joy is inextricably coupled with the sublime - the spirit, and for some of us, that spirit is the spirit of our God.

Have you found that inner peace we may refer to as pure joy? What steps do you need to take in order to attain joy? Stay tuned as we explore our lives together. One step at a time. Today awareness. Assess your joy level. Are you satisfied you are doing what you were meant to do in life? Most of us would say not really, but think about what gives you peace. Think about what gives you joy. Next step will be an exploration of the opportunities available to you. Peace be with you. Pray with me.


In a world where you can be anything, be KIND!

Today as I sit in my home office, laden with a pounding headache, my defenses are low and my mind very active. I begin to think of an email I received from a colleague this morning and begin to tear it apart, reading between the lines and assuming many things, some of which sadden me. Then I realize that I am in charge of how I feel and that I need not surrender my power to others, even those who are unwitting contributors to my current state of mind. In other words, using the FOUR AGREMENTS as my guide and the ancient Toltec Indians as mentors, I will not make assumptions. I will not take things personally. That's half the game plan from this amazing book by Don Miguel Ruiz.Living The Four Agreements - Wisdom Of The Toltecs - Inspirational Framed Print featuring the painting Living The Four Agreements - Wisdom Of The Toltecs by Celestial Images

Secondly, as I begin not only to heal my body, I begin to heal my mind. My self talk this morning started out a bit negatively, so I revamped my thinking (you may have heard of redirecting negativity). Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, I defer to positive ones. My colleague may have been showing me great respect. He may have been trying to inform me fully. Whatever his intent, I should not begin to read into it at all.

We often do that in our lives. We read into what others say or do. Then we find it necessary to share it with someone, much as I am sharing my morning email with you. So, before we become hot and bothered, we need to stop and think. First of all, is what I am thinking true? Maybe? Then, if we aren't sure, stop thinking about it and stop sharing it. Secondly, is it necessary? Does everyone need to know I began to sink into the depths of negativity this morning as I read a colleague's email? Of course not. This is between that individual and myself. Thirdly, is this sharing nice? Well, sure it is. I just want sympathy and invite you to share your feelings as well. But 2 of the 3 tenets are not true, so it's probably best to move on to more healing conversation.
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We are certainly our own worst enemies. So, during this week, think of the graphic above: Is it true, helpful, inspiring, necesary, and kind? If so, share it. If not, think again why you are getting ready to post. Evaluate your motives and come in on the side of KINDNESS.

If we all begin to clean our own house and mind, perhaps this would be just a little bit better world. Hope so. Spend your week in gratitude, happiness, and purposeful positivity. You will notice a change in your life. Peace to you and yours!

Debuting our children....

Quinceanera....a beautiful occasion to present one's daughter to the world to be seen forevermore as a young woman. Today I had the auspicious privilege of speaking to thirteen young ladies and an assortment of their mothers, fathers, and grandmothers. Before my presentation time, I sat in fear - praying that I would deliver words that were meaningful. The first thing I did was to turn off the bright overhead lights. I surveyed the room, found, and opened up all six blinds to allow the sun to bathe the room in soft light. I then turned on a soft relaxing music piece from YouTube. I breathed deeply and slowly, counting the beats and exhaled just as slowly, allowing the cleansed air to purify my thoughts and body. They trickled in slowly. It was time....

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As a high school teacher of many Hispanic teens, I do know how difficult life is for today's high schoolers. Heck, it's stressful for me to teach 7 periods in a row. It's overload at best, and just plain wrong on another level. Imagine going to 7 different offices and having new rules in each one each hour. By the end of the day, any adult would be ready to scream. Yet we know it is wrong. We know research says teens should not have to go to school at 7 or 8, yet we do it. The almighty bus barn has power over us. We just continue serving what we serve despite research. Despite good sense. Despite human kindness.

Then imagine these kids who are Catholic, Mormon, Muslim. . . . their very religious beliefs are attacked in public. How can we expect these tender youth to stand up for what they believe in? Or maybe they are escorted to the dark side to not believe what their families and church do believe. It's a slippery slope out there and the one thing I can tell parents is that they need to communicate with their teens. They need to understand the stress these children are enduring. And they need to approach any decision, rule, moral, etc., with love. With patience and understanding....Perhaps then their children will continue the traditions forged by the family.

Love is the answer. It is the only reason we are  here on earth. If we fail to love, we have failed to live. If we believe in God and God is love, then aren't we being God-like when we love one another? It is time to put aside the hate. The anger. The meanness. Let's teach our children to dialog without negativity. We can agree. We can disagree, but we need to learn to do it with civility and respect. I am praying for our youth today. You are amazing. You are safe. You are good. You are loved.

Happy planning your Quinceanera, girls! You are amazing and it is my privilege to be a small part of your lives.

Angels Among Us

Angels Among Us
Image result for angelsIt is a little more than two weeks before Valentine's Day, a day which many people may find a bit stressful, but by the time one is well into their 60's or 70s, it becomes less so. We elders do not have to worry who will send us flowers, take us to dinner, or provide some chocolates demonstrating we are indeed loved. The theme of the day is love, but it is a time I like to think of others who are filled with love and those who make this a better world in which to live.

I would like to honor and share the extraordinary lives of four women whom I have had the privilege of knowing the past few years. They are not well known, paid well, or even acknowledged publicly for their endeavors, but their loving ways have not gone unnoticed. They are indeed the angels among us.

I woke up this morning with all four on my mind. I don't know how that happened. I haven't seen all of them in the past week, but I have felt their positive impact.

Let's call up the first amazing woman. She is Native American and filled with grace not only for her own family, but for other individuals who do not have the security of their own family. She embraces her children's friends and anyone else needing a place to be loved. She "adopted" an extraordinary young man and absolutely changed his life. She went out of her way to provide a celebration for an elder's 70th birthday. She gives and gives and gives with no thought of what she should get. This most selfless woman is the epitome of an angel among us. The world is a better place because of her. She is a very spiritual woman and I am grateful to call her friend.

The second woman who has made a deep impact on my life is a young woman who has had no children, but in her 40's, found a family that direly needed a mom. She has tirelessly adopted the role of mom to several teens and their dad. At first glance, one would think this woman has had lengthy experiences parenting teens. She is kind, loving, and patient - qualities one would only expect at such a level in angels. She goes above and beyond leading this family of lost souls. Her life is a model of what a mother should be. The family is beginning to thrive because of her tireless efforts. I am honored to know this young woman who is devoted to her church. She is indeed an angel among us.

Another woman is a neighbor with whom I've had a long and loving relationship. We may not see each other for months and, yet, if I needed her or she needed me, we could connect at the same level as before. This woman is a mother of ten, yet calls many more young adults her children. She is relentless in praising the Lord and inviting others into his kingdom. Her energy rivals that of the energizer bunny. She is constantly learning and spreading her positive message. Now she is even spreading her message of love through the air waves. She provides for people's temporal needs as well as their spiritual needs. It is a distinct honor to call her friend, another angel among us.

Lastly, but not least by any means, is a young Hispanic woman who is blessed with faith. Faith in her family. Faith in her church. Faith in the world. This young woman also extends her motherly bond to children not born to her. She encourages, praises, and disciplines others in order to help them begin to want success - education, spirituality, and not necessarily in that order. Her vibrant personality embraces the world and tries to make sense of it. She is passionate, sensitive, and hard working. I am proud to call this angel among us, friend as well.

All four of these women work so hard, not only at day jobs, but as leaders in their families. I really don't know the husbands well, but if I did, I would tell them to shower their ladies with love and appreciation. Tell them how proud you are to be their husband. I am so humbled by these women and grateful that they are part of the world and that I am a small part of their lives.

Happy Valentine's month to all of you. May you go out and find the good in others. May you inspire others with your gentleness and leadership. May you find serenity in all you do every waking  moment of your life. It would be appropriate for you to share thoughts of other angels among us in your comments....

Modern day shunning, shaming, and shouting....

The Lord speaks of peace
  to his people.

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

For those of you who are practicing Catholics, you will hear those words in this coming Sunday's gospel. It speaks to us today, just as it did centuries ago to the peoples of the earth.

We hear a lot of talk lately about bullying, particularly in the schools. Less discussed is the subject of painful interactions among adults. I'm not going to even go down the path of political hate speech and the depths of ignorance, spite, and hurt permeating the world political culture today, especially in the United States; however, I am going to zero in on to the most basic groups - families, churches, and workplaces. A growing trend is modern day shunning.

Yesterday a young woman told me that because she chose to marry outside her religion/culture, her own mother has been, in fact, shunning her. The good news is that this mom is slowly coming around to accepting her daughter's decision to pick her own husband. What exactly does shunning look like? Have you ever shunned someone or even been shunned?

The dictionary definition of shunning is to:
avoidevade, steer clear of, shy away from, keep one's distance fromhave nothing to do with; snub, give someone the cold shoulder, ignore, look right through; reject, rebuff, spurn, 


You'd better believe....

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For some time now, I've argued with my inner demon about the reality of a heaven and hell and a God above who created all this mess. As a cradle Catholic, this has been more than disconcerting. But, in my defense, I want to believe. I want to with all my heart, but evil resides within all of us, hopefully, in balance with goodness, but sometimes the evil seems the reality. 

As a therapist, I try to help others battle their inner demons - be it anxiety, depression, or some other mental crisis that prohibits that person from living a joyous life - or even one void of negativity. Enter family. Yes, family can present us with our greatest joy, as well as our deepest hurt. We must overcome. We must strive to treat our own flesh and blood as we would our clients, our patients, our students, our neighbors. In other words, most of us take our family for granted and bestow expectations on them that we would never think of laying on others.

Today was one of those inexplicable days when the Holy Spirit did her thing despite my frailties. When a new client failed to show up for our session, I began to explore my seldom-used laptop and found articles I'd written more than five years ago. I emailed my daughter-in-law one long lost article I wrote about my perception of daughter-in-laws - this was way before she entered our family.

Since I am privileged to use the meeting rooms at the Broadway Coffee House on the 2nd floor until I get a new office (that's another story for another time), a new group was waiting to come in. I asked what they did and their answer floored me. They said they met daily at 3 pm to PRAY for Portland. Living in Salem, I could understand that, but I mentioned that Salem needed prayers as well. We got to talking a bit and they asked if they could pray for me. Oh, my goodness! Of course. I will humbly accept the prayers of any and all. One lady got up, came over to me and began to hug me. Okay....The gentleman sitting near me grabbed my hand and began to pray. I got the impression they might be charismatic, as they weren't all praying the same words together. That's okay by me.

When they were finished, I was crying. Bob, the one holding my hand, handed me a book and I asked what I owed him and he said nothing. "Just read it and share with a friend." I was overwhelmed. I uttered words of thanks and left quickly. The book is Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge. Now I don't know Bob Sorge, but I like his style. I drove to Great Harvest, got some spendy bread and then on to Jamba Juice for a healthy cooler (each one was $8.99 - not an every day expense, mind you). Then I drove to my sister's house. She was low key and mildly uninterested. I tried to fuse my enthusiasm to her persona with little success. I came home and thought about sharing with you all. Perhaps my sister was touched. Maybe not. But I surely hope so. I just wanted to share that moment of complete love and peace with someone.

Evidently this Bob guy has been a pastor for twenty-some years and is not able to speak due to a vocal injury, so he writes books - many of them and has a ministry aptly called The Oasis. You go, Bob! Your followers are truly kind humans who love humanity. At least that is what I witnessed in a small upper room of a beautiful coffee shop on a beautiful summer afternoon in Oregon.
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