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Emotional Weekend

March 23, 2015

This weekend I participated in a residential retreat with the sangha I belong to for meditating and practicing Zen Buddhism in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. Just in case you are wondering, I consider myself a Christian Buddhist. Christianity is a religion, Buddhism is a practice.

At any rate, the past two full days and two half days were remarkable and ran the gamut of emotions for myself as well as the others that were in attendance. This was a residential retreat, so that meant noble silence (yes, me, silent as I could be), eating mindfully (not fast as usual) and listening to thought provoking dharma talks by Dharmacharya Michael Ciborski.

When one learns age old lessons brought to the present by venerable teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh and Michael Ciborski, it is striking at how simple life can be.  Yet we make our lives so difficult by so many different ways. Why do we permit negative circumstances to open our door and enter? You know what? It really is difficult to not open that door or to just say no unless you have the right tools. Old habit energies take a great deal of work to rid yourself of. I have learned to use the tools that help me look at circumstances with understanding the situation. Those tools have truly helped me overcome the negativity that made an attempt to enter that door. It still was not easy but each time, the feeling was liberating.

raining tears

The past four months have been a roller coaster for me after Paul died. I realized this weekend I have a great deal more tears to shed. This retreat was one that Paul and I had planned to attend together; we were looking forward to it. I was nervous to show up, but overcame my fear because I was looking forward to the retreat. In the long run, the teachings I listened to and others I listened to in discussion groups opened up my heart in ways I had no yet found until now. At one point, I went in to the zendo room and picked up a framed photo of Paul that we had at our “ancestor” table. As I sat down, I held it and wept silently to the point of almost falling over. I had not cried like that in months.

Where I am going with this? For one thing, this retreat was just like medicine for me. I acknowledged that I do need my sangha community for my practice and for their brotherhood and sisterhood. I have been in a shell in my space and not really, truly come out as of late. I need to practice my readings because they give me joy and peace, and that is Buddhist teachings as well as Christian teachings. They both hold comfort for me at the present.

Grief cannot be put in a box and defined. But I sure can tell you that it takes a village, a community, your family and friends to help you heal. Open the door to those folks. Close the door on those that do not give back. I will take those long, loving hugs any day of any week.

#grief #learning #healing

I See Opportunities

March 16, 2015

It occurred to me that I have been in circumstances that seemed to be not so much out of control but in nobody’s control. Each time this happened, I gave it a great deal of thought and found a solution that worked for me. Believe me, some of these situations seemed dismal. By working through these, I learned life lessons. Opportunities in learning!IMG_2589

When Paul died, you can say that I suffered the trauma of being the first responder, then the trauma of witnessing his death, then the trauma of being treated cruelly by a family member. I was truly living in a bad movie. Somehow I managed to pick myself up and ask for help.  Through the help I received, I learned to understand perspective of the situation. I have to say, it was not easy and some of what was presented to me I did not want to hear. However, the lesson was that the understanding led to the path of forgiveness, which I thought was not possible. I was able to free myself of the anger I had inside that I needed to shed. Opportunity in healing.

Last month at a fundraiser I was responsible for, it seemed that most of the guests arrived all at once. Typical, right? The line was long at the check-in point. I took the opportunity to walk along the line and greet my friends, introduce myself to those I did not know, and thank everyone for supporting us. I was grateful friends were present, met others I wanted to get to know and use my wit to get a few smiles. It was fun for me! Opportunity in networking for a cause.

I think by now you get the point. When confronted by a situation you find troubling, ask yourself, “is there an opportunity?”

#lifelesson #opportunity #solution

Easy as 1-2-3 or Roast It Why Don’t You!

March 9, 2015

Being in a kitchen, any kitchen is one of my favorite places to be. Music must be playing in the background for added creativity! I thought I would share some of my simple dishes with you, just because I do like to share. After all, our gardens are now being planned., seeds started. Dreams of meals with fresh ingredients are always the best….roasted veggies

Roasted Asparagus – I snap the ends first and gently rinse. Blot dry and arrange your stalks on a baking sheet. Spray lightly with olive oil and garden herb salt. Roast at 400° until slightly browned. Serve on platter with sprinkled parmesan or pecorino cheese.

Roasted Cauliflower – cut into small flowerets.  In gallon Ziploc bag, toss cauliflower with 1 beaten egg, Dredge in ¼ cup flour and ¼ cup finely grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, 1 tsp Italian blend spices, 1 tsp cayenne pepper optional. Roast at 400° until slightly browned. Serve immediately and use your favorite dip!

Cabbage Salad – I finely slice ½ head of green and purple cabbages. Add chopped green onions, whatever amount you feel like. Add chopped cilantro to taste. Toss in lemon tahini dressing and serve.

Tacos!!! Roasted Vegetable Tacos!!! See photo above: dice yellow and green squash, red bell pepper, sweet yellow onion, carrot, even a few very small broccoli flowerets. Think COLOR. Toss with scant amount of olive oil and roast at 400° until slightly browned. Serve with your favorite tortillas warmed, grated cheese, chopped cilantro and fresh salsa.

TIP 1: instead of frying those tortillas for tacos, lightly spray them with canola oil and broil in your oven, turning as they get to a point where they are still soft but browning.  No frying in oil anymore!

Here is a super easy salsa recipe that you can use with your fresh tomatoes vs. canned: quick & easy blender salsa . If you use fresh tomatoes, I recommend peeling the skin and removing as many seeds as you can under running water. But the Rotel and lime juice are key ingredients.

TIP 2: when roasting vegetables, use less olive oil than you think. Otherwise your vegetables will be too soft.

Bon Appétit!

#recipes #healthy #cooking

Dear Paul,

March 2, 2015

Today, Sunday, is the first day since you have been gone that I took nap midday, read a book, and had no plans whatsoever.  I wish I could say I am bored but that is not the case at all!Dear Paul

First of all, my fundraising event for Expedition Inspiration is behind me now. We put on one heck of a party, raising money for breast cancer research and exceeding our goals. I gave a meaningful but short speech. I met a number of breast cancer survivors that were gracious and appreciative of our purpose and mission. I introduced myself to a number of area physicians that I would love to have on our Board.  Most of all, I did not faint on the stage from nerves. {just kidding}

My days are almost the same as when you were alive. I hike daily with Zeke, different trails lately, too. We went up Pierce Park last week and the views were stunning. Spring is here in the Treasure Valley rather early. The fat, green leaves of bulb flowers are poking out of the ground. It seems as if tiny strands of green grass are sprouting everywhere. The trees outside are all budding, teasing me that Spring is really on its way. Not only are the robins back but so are the warblers.

It occurred to me today that life does go on and you notice it first when the phone stops ringing as often. Everyone has a life of their own, I get that. When I think of someone, I call them to reach out. I listen as they tell me their woes of what is going on in their lives. Being a good listener is also beneficial for me. I am finding ways to help others and I feel as if I can give back now, especially to those friends who were right there by my side when I was so lost after you died.

I am also realizing I can now say that you died. Before it was that you “passed away”. Weird, huh? It is so difficult to realize that you are not coming home but reality is that the home is gone now, too. I miss you cooking me breakfast and me cooking you dinner. I miss hanging out with you. I just simply miss you.

Thank you for visiting me in a dream this morning. I woke up with a smile and I am now going to sleep with a smile.

You know what? Life is good, alright. Life is good when you appreciate what you have.

#grief #listen #loss #missingyou #lifegoeson #breastcancerEI

Sometimes I Get Frustrated

February 23, 2015

Have you ever noticed how long it takes to purchase a vehicle? How about a new cell phone? I swear signing a contract to submit an offer on a home is much easier!need my space

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are looking for a home. You ask around and get a referral for a Realtor® that your friends liked working with. (me) You meet with this Realtor® and definitely decide, yes, she will be perfect! (me) She sends you a number of listings to your email, you get together and take a look at a few homes, and voila! You have found your new nest, thanks to that Realtor® (me) You use the line that you have been waiting to use for years, “let’s write an offer!” and you say this with glee. You go to where you are now living and start packing, while your Realtor® (me) goes to the office, types up the contract, emails it to you and you e-sign. That Realtor® (me) made this entire experience delightful.

My iPhone went black on me on Friday. And by black, I mean it would not even beep at me, let alone pretend that all it needed was a charge. We are all at the point in our lives that our electronic devices are akin to a limb. So, off to the Verizon store I go, but this also means I have to drive to – eegads! – Mall Land. But I have to tell you, the Verizon store on Milwaukee rocks. The staff there knows their stuff. I walk in with an iPhone a friend gave me, hoping and wishing that phone will work to activate. No, it is an AT&T phone, won’t work. Rats. I was sent to a nearby store that will exchange it and sell me a nice refurbished phone. I head over (thank goodness it was walking distance) and wait and wait. I get a credit for the phone I walked in with and get a newer phone. Now I have to go back to Verizon. This time my wait is not so long but in the process I grow a few new grey hairs. The phone restarts itself twice. Back to the other store to check the battery and get a new one or whatever they did. Time lapse: 2.75 hours of my day.

The last time I was involved in a car purchase was with Paul. We even had the car picked out. But, no lie, that purchase took more than two hours. Never mind the drive there and the drive back because we went to Mountain Home.

Sometimes I wish people would just cut to the chase. Maybe I am in a frame of mind right now that the added BS is intolerable. If I seem frustrated sometimes, please do forgive me. I am still at a loss over my loss.

I have learned a few things about myself in the months that have followed Paul’s death. I need my friends but I need my space. I am more comfortable hiking by myself but if I run in to you on the trail, I welcome the company. Sometimes I just want to run away, sometimes I want to be in the crowd.  I am more at ease in silence these days.

Someday soon I will have music on again.

#cuttothechase #loss #grieving #grief

Miracles Really Do Happen

February 16, 2015

Last week was one of those I-cannot-believe-it weeks. I had a lesson to learn, and it was humbling, to say the least.

miracles happen

I had a mega cry on Friday night a week ago, and I have no idea what set it off. It doesn’t really matter because in grief you are okay one minute and not okay the next. It is so weird but you do get used to it. You welcome the tears because they bring relief. So, my grand idea at the end of this mega cry was to just run away. Get the heck out of town for the weekend, yes! I packed a bag and called a few friends in McCall. I had not yet been up to Valley County since Paul passed away and I needed the beauty of McCall, the water, the scenery, and my friends up there that I had not yet connected with.

On Saturday, I set sail, sort to speak. I love the drive to Valley County. I used to joke I could drive that in my sleep. I always know at one certain turn I will enter the Long Valley and just breathe differently. A sigh and sign of relief that I am home again, home in the mountains.

My first stop was at Pam’s in Lake Fork. I was looking forward to hanging out and telling her all that had happened to me, sharing with her how I felt, and talking about how I was dealing with it all. I can now share my story and not be upset or angry. Big step, folks. Big step for me. As the early evening passed, I decided to stay the night at Pam’s rather than head in to McCall to Ellen and Matt’s. I sent Ellen a text that I was staying in Lake Fork; Ellen replied “have a great time”. I did and I let that sign of relief take over. I shared my story with Pam and we laughed and cried. An early night led to an early morning.

I made my way in to McCall the next day and stopped at the Shore Lodge to have lunch with another friend, Deb, and talk with her. After that, I walked in to town to a few businesses to get auction items for my upcoming fundraiser. I arrived at Ellen and Matt’s to find them both kicking back from the long week of Winter Carnival activities. And, then….Ellen told me a crazy story about the night before. The last Saturday night of the McCall Winter Carnival features fireworks at the conclusion. That Saturday was rainy and miserable. People sought cover where they could and naturally, cover at their brew pub overlooking the marina. Ellen told me that at one point she looked over to Matt and he was pointing his finger but she could not figure out what he meant.

Then, a woman, soaking wet from the rain, walked up to her. This woman asked Ellen, “Do you know of a place that has a warm bed for the night?” Ellen exclaimed, “Well as a matter of fact, we do, we have a friend who cancelled staying with us, so stay with us!”

Now at this point, I interrupted Ellen and put my two cents of judgment in the conversation. Last Fall Paul and I allowed a stranger to stay the night and the experience was, well let’s say it was not great. I quickly stopped myself and told Ellen I am sorry, please finish your story. It dawned on me that she and Matt were very generous and took at chance to help a complete stranger. This stranger told them she had a head injury from a terrible car accident, her difficulties since then and her current situation. But she just wanted “to see the ice sculptures at the Winter Carnival”. This woman probably hitchhiked to McCall due to her circumstances. Just to get away, just like me.

On my drive home, all I could think of was, shoot, why did I interrupt Ellen? Just because I had a bad experience doesn’t mean someone else will. Ellen and Matt were generous, giving, and compassionate. I was being judgmental. That is not how I want to be. I realized my lesson took a few facets: one, I was in a worse mood than I thought; two, I was not listening mindfully and three, I was quick to assume and/or judge. I felt my lesson was to breathe a few more breaths and listen better. My lesson was to appreciate the goodness of the situation. My lesson was to remember to listen more mindfully. Lesson learned.

Or so I thought. But not quite…..

Two days later, I decided to walk from my downtown office to the Boise Co-Op for a healthy lunch. On my way back, just passing St Joe’s School, a woman stepped out of the shadows and mumbled something. I did not hear what she said and I asked her to repeat it. “Can you spare a few dollars? I need help right now. I had a head injury and I cannot work” At that point, I thought NO WAY!! I stopped her and asked, “Were you in McCall last weekend?”

Can you even believe it! She said, yes. And, I told her I was the reason she had a warm bed, a warm shower and a roof over your head on Saturday night. And, to myself, I thought, no way!! No way!

What are the odds that I would really meet this woman? What the heck! I had a twenty and a five in my wallet. I gave her the five and we walked a few blocks together. When we parted, I gave her the twenty. Heck, it was only a twenty! Big deal. In the grand scheme of things, I did not need it as much as she did. As much as Bess did. Her name is Bess.

Bess crossed the street and when I looked back, she had disappeared as fast as she had come out of the shadows. I cannot tell you how struck I was, but what I did know immediately was that I needed her to step out of those shadows to soften my heart and finish that lesson.

Can you even believe it? I still can’t but I am so very grateful I met Bess. Thank you, God. Thank you, Universe. Amazing.

#grief #universeteachinglesson #dontjudge #beopen #lessonlearned

Stains on Clothes are Memories

February 9, 2015

How does it happen anyway? Every single time I wear a light color, I inevitably spill something, That something is usually salsa, coffee or salad dressing, the three major sources of stains on my clothes. I used to get a bit irritated when this happened. Rats! Another blouse or shirt ruined! Until one fine day, I realized that stains on clothes are memories.

Stanley Lake, Idaho Paul with dogs

Stanley Lake, Idaho
Paul with dogs

My favorite fleece zip up top, white no less, stained with greasy salad dressing. Not that the salad dressing was overly greasy but olive oil and balsamic vinegar with Dijon just happened to have that stain effect. This happened camping with Paul the first time we spent time in Lower Stanley. Stanley, Idaho was one of his very favorite places to find peace that was close to home and easily accessible. We actually rented a six person tent just so we could accommodate ourselves and our three dogs. Don’t laugh! It worked perfectly! One thing we laughed about after our trip was that no matter what, every time we got back to camp, a downpour followed. We always had the safety of cover and during the longest storm, we took a lovely nap. It was a long holiday weekend that will always have amazing memories.

Then there is that brand new dress I wore when we went out to celebrate the closing on his house in the Lower Highlands. I treated him for dinner, too. A girl gets the best ever compliments when she treats her man. For one thing, a guy is not used to their gal picking up the tab, at least not in my age group. He beamed that night, so much so that I can’t even remember what the food group the stain is from.

A brand new, button down blouse. I was attempting to be more business-like so I decided button down blouses would be the way to achieve that look. I went to Sierra Trading Post and purchase a number of gorgeous blouses in incredible colors. All with one of those crazy discount coupons that STP emails.  Kerplat! Salsa at dinner at an unnamed restaurant to keep my secret, favorite restaurant under cover. Totally worth it because they have the best, ever carne asada. Red tomato salsa as bright as a neon light.

That is the dinner that I taught Paul that stains on clothes are memories. From that point forward, we always looked at stains to determine their origin. Laughter always followed. My memories with Paul are filled with laughter and joy. Grief can come in waves but my memories are always there.

May laughter follow then next time you find yourself with a stain on your clothes. I guarantee you will find joy.joy

#joy #stainsonclothes #laughter #grief

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