Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hold On Tight To Your Dream

"Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind" ~ Mick Jagger, Keith Richards - "Ruby Tuesday"
Author J. K. Rowling is quoted as saying, "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." This is profound insight from one of the most prolific and imaginative authors of our time. When I first read this while preparing for this chapter my first thought was she must be downplaying the power of dreams. When I reread the quotation I hoped she was allowing for dreams, perhaps just not the overly obsessive fixation on these to the extent that one would become catatonic and forget to keep moving.

Often as parents we are confronted with obstacles borne from our children's struggles. One doesn't have to be a parent of an addict to know this. Our children are our greatest treasures, the most significant gifts of our lives. As parents of addicts these obstacles can seem to move with us, a constant in-your-face reminder of the what might have beens before The Addiction planted itself firmly in the path of our babies' maturation.

It's like a hedgerow on rails, or more like an army defending its boundaries.

It can be disheartening at best, at worst, a relentlessly deflating dream crusher.

Our sons and daughters may in some subconscious way wish to be the absolute focus of our lives. We know, of course, it is The Addiction driving the need as it does with so many of our children's priorities. What they don't always realize is much of our attention is, and has been for months, years, or decades devoted to their disease. They just don't always see it  - except for those brief moment of clarity when The Addiction temporarily loses it grip on our babies.

What we don't see, always, is the loosening of our hold on our dreams, our hopes and wishes for ourselves. When we let go of our dreams to devote more than is necessary to fixing our children, rather than what is needed to show them our undying, unequivocal love for them, The Addiction has won, and our children get the message they are incapable - of anything.

When we hold on tight to our dreams and pursue those aspirations we may have put aside to concentrate on perhaps literally saving our children we become sherpas to our children's journeys. When we go for it, when we dig deep and look inside ourselves for those talents, drives and passions we have denied ourselves our lives open to extraordinary possibilities. It's modeling on a grand scale, a lighthouse beacon nobody can be blind to.

Write down what you have been denying yourself for too long. Find a book to set your course (mine was The Artists Way by Julia Cameron), try something you said you could NEVER  - an awful word to purge from our vocabularies - accomplish (mine was the marathon).  Take a pathway the Great Creator, the Universe is beckoning you to try. This may be the greatest adventure of your life. You will awaken a spirit within, continuing that journey to becoming that complete, REAL human being we all strive to be.

And ya' know what? It might just be fun!

"Things are only impossible until they're not." ~ Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard - Star Trek, The Next Generation
"When you get so down that you can't get up... When you're so downhearted and misunderstood ... Hold on tight to your dream." ~ Jeff Lynn - "Hold On Tight To Your Dream"

. . . keep coming back 

Monday, July 31, 2017

El Capitan of Our Children's Recoveries

"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory." ~ Ed Viesturs, No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks 
We are all on various stages of recovery, from the tar pits, cloud forests and primordial stews of our initial crawl out of ours and our loved ones' vortices, to views from peaks and plateaus of what our lives can be if we continue to SEEK and SEE our own true REAL. Our children too are traveling their own pathways, winding in and out of THE ADDICTION'S grasp, battling with it and their personal demons of self doubt, negativity and isolation.

For our children in recovery, for those who have come to the realization they cannot and will not continue to live lives dictated by THE ADDICTION, their journey may seem almost complete. They are, it would seem, on a path to those vistas we have hoped and prayed they would enjoy someday.

It's a nice thought to believe they're on their way. While I like to think of a parent's journey as one with many uphills, down hills, twists and turns with breathtaking flora and fauna along the way (kind of like a marathon), our children's recovery, once begun, is a shock to them.
"OK, I've made my decision to take back my life, so now what the hell do I do?"
I'm not a trail runner, rock or mountain climber. I do not have the inner ear, or maybe even the cojones for either. So when I was searching for ideas for this chapter I had to research the whole climbing experience from the top down. It was then I happened upon the quotation above:
"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory."
"That's it!" I thought. This encapsulates the journey of the recovering addict, or at least what I have seen from a parent's perspective.

Finally getting to that peak exhilaration of life out of the vortex' pull must be to the addict like the adrenaline rush of the mountain climber as he or she ascends to the top of a chosen summit.

But what goes up, must come down, the challenge isn't finished until it's finished. The mountain climber looks down, says, "OK, here I go," and begins the descent. There's no chopper awaiting to whisk him off the precipice, no wings to become grounded, safe and secure from et montem istum to terra firma.

It's daunting, terrifying. Looking down to the relief of solid ground and the steps, possible missteps, slips and unsecured finger and toe holds to get there, it's no wonder many of our children in recovery go clean, then stall, remain stagnant, and pause.

Sometimes they pause for a long time.

Moving down that mountain requires baby steps, a skill their recently drug-ravaged brains don't yet possess in their grey-matter arsenal. We can help with words of encouragement or even by offering a temporary place for encampment on the peak. But temporary is a relative term and can become just another roadblock on the pathway. It's just not safe up there, forever.

There's a storm coming for sure. Get off that mountain - NOW!

Have you seen the movie Everest?

We can step in by asking where they want to be in a year or six months and how they're going to get there. They know, they already have a plan in their heads on how to get down off that mountain peak. They're either waiting for that chopper that's never coming (parent rescue) or are convinced the descent must be immediate, a dangerous impossibility. The baby steps are the oxygen tanks they'll need along the way and the bivouacs for much needed respites on their journey.

They prepared their way during the ascent. It's all there awaiting them, the oxygen canisters, the outcroppings on the vertical cliffs.

It's just that first step that's a doozy, the commitment to value themselves above THE ADDICTION. What they don't realize is that once they begin the descent there's no turning back, and each step will build on the next in a cascade of increasing self worth and self love.

Now, where was that last toe hold?

. . . keep coming back

"Rob, you've gotta get moving. You've gotta come on down." ~ Jan Arnold to husband Rob Hall  - Everest The Movie

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Our Persian Flaws

"Perfection itself is imperfection." ~ Vladimir Horowitz
"Now I ain't saying that I'm perfect, 'cause I'm not. And I ain't gonna never be. None of us are. ~ Wood Harris as Julius Campbell in Remember the Titans
We parents of addicts and recovering addicts are not perfect - none of us. That my friends is a certainty, one of just a few certainties in life that can be counted on to to be testable, provable and repeatable. We have used the scientific method numerous times to test this hypothesis and proven it to be true and without knowing it, have countless time ignored the lab results (life) and pursued more testing to disprove the reality.

We have repeatedly attempted by striving for some sort of state of parental perfection to turn the momentum of oncoming Addiction tsunami.

Look where that got us.

Do you remember the muck and slime of the cloud forest?

Too many times we have pushed ourselves hard to attain some level of perfection as if this might avert continuation of our sons' and daughters' dance with The Addiction. We compared our parenting with others' methods as if there was a correlation between our best efforts as parents and our children's dive into their vortex.

How arrogant we were to think that we might ever become some sort of perfect human beings and by somehow accomplishing this impossibility, control and cure the disease of addiction.

The Persians had it right.

Centuries ago Persian rug makers became known for their beautifully intricate carpets which chronicled their lives, trials and tribulations. Even today this tradition, passed along through countless generations to retain a certain perfection in the weaving and dying processes, produces the beautiful wool masterpieces we can find in upscale boutiques and the most revered museums.

With all the intricacy of these seemingly flawless works of art the Persians believed only God or a higher power was perfect in all aspects. For this reason they would intentionally place flaws into the carpet as they wove.

These carpets would often take years to complete and would require the efforts of many community members. Only the rug makers, or those well versed in the process would know where the flaws resided, how many existed or if, in the minds of the creators, the mistakes diminished or amplified the beauty of their creation.

As far as I am concerned, these Persian Flaws, even unseen, become the true heroes of these carpets. The flaws represent a sense of the makers' awe of everything the Great Creator has bestowed upon all of us and a deep humility even in the face of their seeming perfect creations.

Why then do we believe we have the ability to weave perfection into our lives as we stumble through our own life recovery, or we can through some sort of flawless lifestyle lead our children out of their morass.

Just like the Persian rugs it is our imperfections that make us the beautiful human beings the Great Creator meant for us to be. It is through our imperfections that our true humanity shows through. We know the imperfections are there. Unlike the rug makers we do strive to become better human beings by making small, almost unnoticeable changes to better ourselves, yet many of those imperfections will remain. Couples fall in love with the little flaws in their mate's makeup. Our children struggling with their own feelings of low self worth look to us as beacons of hope for their eventual recovery as we live our lives to the fullest. The last image they need to see is one of some smug, arrogant self-proclaimed perfect being leading the way.

They do not need to see an unattainable goal as their recovery endgame.

They see us, with all our imperfections, living the best possible lives we can, striving to become REAL, and perhaps, never quite getting there.

As we progress along our recovery journeys we know our flaws are there. Surely, some we need to expunge, those knots in our lives that simply get in the way of living, those noticeable recurring, twisted life threads everyone, including us (eventually) can see. Yet as we continue our pilgrimage toward becoming the truest most REAL humans, parents, friends and lovers we can be, remember perfection is best left for the gods and their creations. The quest is the thing. As our children struggle they will notice our journey too includes encounters with our deepest demons. They will see us stubbornly persist, reaching plateaus even we thought unattainable.

They know our imperfections are there. Hell, they've know us all their lives. We can become an inspiration rather than self-righteous preachers of recovery. We are beautiful, flawed Human Beings. They'll see that in us, smile, or even laugh at our expense. And that's OK.

Perhaps then, they will give themselves a chance to feel the same about themselves, breathe, and take those next trepidatious steps toward their own, REAL lives.

Our flaws, like those in the Persian rugs, make us better human beings, more REAL - better, brighter beacons of hope.

So what shall we weave today?

. . . keep coming back

"Lighten up, Francis." ~ Platoon Leader Sgt. Hulka to Psycho, Stripes 1981

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Joy Trail Found

"The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience." ~ Emily Dickinson
By now many of you know I am a marathoner. It's something I am proud of as part of my recovery journey. For me, running and training for a goal race is fun and I will continue this as long as it remains enjoyable and as long as my arms and legs remain attached to the rest of my body.

So far, so good.

In February of 2017, I wrote about The Joy Trail. Today I wish to share my story of a joy trail found.

We're in between official training from our last marathon to the next. For most of us who run together our marathon training will resume in late June and finish anywhere from October through December depending on the race chosen. I selected the Memphis St. Jude marathon last year, an early December date involving a long, grueling 5 months of training that I believe left many of us overtrained, but that's not important - again, as I will from time time, I digress. This year wifey and I have chosen a race midway through the summer/fall marathon season, the November 4 Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis. It will be fun and certainly less hilly than the Cincinnati Flying Pig marathon I completed in May!

During this down time some of us continue to run, less often for most of us, less miles and certainly the runs are done less vigorously. We do this because it is fun for us and quite frankly for me at least, I don't want to show up at the marathon training kickoff meeting looking like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and I surely don't want my body to forget how to run long distances.

I can't imagine starting the marathon training journey all over again, wondering if I'm up for a long Saturday morning run. Now THAT would NOT be fun!

Running alone is okay but running with people who I've come to know and love through this marathon training thing is the best. Our training team has gotten through a lot and supported each other in victories and defeats, tears and jubilations. We are a tight-knit group of very slow but determined runners. Completing 26.2 miles has that effect on people.

A few weeks ago I began to send emails out to my fellow Lanterne Rouge teammates to schedule Saturday morning runs - if you're not a fan of cycling and don't know what Lanterne Rouge means Google it if you want a chuckle. This is totally out of my comfort zone but as with most everything I have done as part of my journey to burst through my inhibitions and past tendencies, these emails have been a blast. Plus, I've been able to do these Saturday runs with other crazy marathoners!

These are smaller group runs since many of our teammates stay close to home for their maintenance runs, don't necessarily want to start early in the morning as we do when in full-bore training, and many are on vacation.

On a recent 6 miler on Memorial Day morning I and a fellow Lanterne Rouger were completing mile 4 of a 6 mile loop when we approached a group of three walkers on the trail. As I do on these trails I made eye contact with one of the three  - the youngest in this case -  and said hello. My running partner and I were at that very moment signaled by our Garmin watches to begin a one-minute walk interval which we do when training, so we of course began talking to the three - or one of the three to be more precise.

I quickly ascertained the younger man was of Middle Eastern descent and asked the terribly politically incorrect question because that's who I am:

"Where are you from?"

"Iran," he answered. "These are my parents. They just came from Iran to visit me."

"Wow," I said. "Welcome."

"Yes, welcome," said my running partner.

Both of our messages were quickly translated from son to mother and father. Broad smiles followed.

And this would be the extent of our contact with three people from the other side of the world, from totally distinct cultures and ideologies. Our Garmins were chirping at us to resume running.

We explained the lunacy of interval training and bid a fond goodbye to our new-found friends - or so we thought.

As the two of us transitioned to running, we were astonished to see mother and son following stride for stride. We talked about the world, about how David, the son, had lived in numerous countries and states and cities and found our little Midwestern city his favorite. As if we were on a satellite feed we would say something to mom, would wait for David to translate to Farsi and then, receive her response translated to English. These two actually pushed us beyond our planned pace but that was just fine, The magic of this moment surpassed any maintenance training goals we might have had for that day.

At mile 6 we explained we needed to stop, parted company and turned to walk the half-mile to our cars. As we approached the parking lot we passed dad who flashed us a huge smile, something everybody everywhere does in the same way.

We left the park that day buoyed by this magical training run. I added this to the many "reasons why I run" and we agreed, if the world only operated the way this encounter of cultures transpired over the mile and half at this little park in St. Louis Missouri, we would all be better for it.

Privately, I also truly believe both of us were grateful to have allowed this miracle mile and one-half to transpire. On that day we ignored our shared tendency to fixate on the task at hand (training) and let go to let the moment happen. Miracles are happening all around us. They're happening at our workplace, the grocery, the cafe, at home - everywhere.

Take the time, the next time a miracle approaches, or you literally run into it, to recognize it, stop what you're doing and embrace the opportunity.

It' may only be less than a mile and a half out of your way.

. . . keep coming back

"If you smile at me I will understand, 'cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language." ~ Wooden Ships, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Paul Kantner

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

JuSt fOr FUn ... uNOfficially, SuMMeR, Though Not Yet Summer, Haiku

"The Earth has its music for those who will listen."  ~ George Santayana

Memorial Day
In multiple shades of tan
Khakis now allowed

When the rains subside
Chamber of Commerce days rule
Late spring in Midwest

The cooling breezes
Deceptive blue skies abound
The fooling low temps

Flowers reveling
Lawns lush, so clueless to the
Summer's heat approach

Peace in pre-summer
Belies its trues treachery
Storms will soon follow

Bluest azure skies
The Great Creator Beckons
Come to me, my loves

Your pathway awaits
Nature's best season welcomes
Take that chance and FLY!

. . . keep coming back

"Adopt the pace of Nature. Her secret is patience." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Fable of THE FEAR

"There's one thing that humans do better than any species we've met. When we're faced with a common threat, we put our differences aside and try to cooperate." Jonathan Archer, Star Trek, Enterprise, "United"
"So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inauguration Speech, March 4 1933
They knew it was coming. They saw it looming, or perhaps as so many would later admit, they should have. The town would soon be besieged, their peaceful existence would become a nightmare of darkness they had witnessed occur in so many neighboring communities.

Some had already been touched or besieged by the affliction. THE FEAR would soon overtake the seemingly tiny little hamlet. Although not an insignificant dot on the map - the town was actually a small city - it was large enough to be a target of the attack yet small enough that word would spread quickly as more and more of the population would be afflicted.

One by one the townspeople began to isolate. They isolated from each other, they isolated from the neighboring towns and villages and even began to withdraw from themselves, from their lives. They had been existing in a state of fear for so long many of them had forgotten what they were afraid of, exactly. They knew it was something terrible. It had to be.

It had all begun with a plague, or a similar menace. At first it afflicted the young adults, in equal measure among the boys and girls. There had been rumors about some of the youth coming back from traveling far off to unknown lands to experience something different from what they had known in their little city, only to be racked upon their return by something nobody in the town could explain.

They had been warned about venturing out to experience experiences, live lives and face their worst fears and demons the elders had told them would destroy them.

Others said it began with THEM, a group of outsiders bringing with them the NEW. They seemed to look different, talk differently, even dress differently. They tried to fit in and when the NEW realized the town was too full of THE FEAR the NEW became fearful. The NEW isolated from the townspeople who had already begun to retrench after noticing the effect the NEW was having on the youth. The youth were changing. The youth and even some of the elders were drifting away from everything the community held true and dear.

But it wasn't the NEW, it wasn't even the needs of youth to experience, to live life and sometimes in doing so to stumble desperately and despairingly into hellish vortices sometimes impossible to escape.

It wasn't actually any one thing that contributed to the crumbling of the town's culture and cohesion but once the divide began, THE FEAR saw an opportunity to pounce.

Many of them had forgotten what they were afraid of, exactly.

Now those who were directly affected saw the other townspeople moving away from them, friends would reach out but would soon grow tired of the drama THE FEAR brought with it. The families struck down were the first to feel the brunt of the effects of THE FEAR.

The rest of the city dwellers were committed to fighting the scourge. They decided they would begin an attack of everything unknown, anything odd and mostly things that would threaten what they would consider important to their values.

Even though many of them had forgotten what they were afraid of, exactly.

So they fought what they were perceiving. They began by increasing the commitment to isolation. They built walls - walls around the town, around their homes, businesses, schools. These were the walls of brick and mortar and of thought and mind and soul. And as the walls continued to rise these constructs fed THE FEAR.

Soon, on the coattails of all this, THE ANGER entered the small city and that moment, as many of the townspeople would later remember, marked the point of no return - or so they thought.

All the isolation led to disconnectedness, division, further divides and distrust among the dwellers. A dark cloud settled above the city and refused to leave. The sun never shone, the moon no longer blanketed the town with its ethereal comfort. Ideas were forgotten, imagination gave way to constant dread and consternation. The safe way became the only way - the status quo, maintaining one's current station was the only goal.

THE FEAR was winning. The townspeople became united in self interest.

This continued for months until one day one of the children of the small city began to cry. Nobody had cried since even before the dark cloud's arrival, nobody dared to. Crying meant that you cared. Crying would signal discontent regarding the current state of affairs. This would be anarchic and rebellious. Crying would signal a desire for something different than the current existence was allowing. Crying would signal a profound longing for something NEW.

Then, the crying of the child stopped. There was a silence upon the silence forced upon the city for many months, perhaps even years. This silence was one of those deafening stillnesses portending a momentous change. The wind even seemed to take a breath. The air stopped, chilled a bit. A small sliver of sunlight seemed to pierce the seemingly never-ending cloud canopy. Everyone in the town listened for what they knew would be a sign of a worsening of the darkness. They listened, and from the tallest bell tower in the town's center, they heard the words of the small child whose crying had stopped just hours before.

"I can't live like this anymore!" she called out in a low yet piercing voice that projected throughout the town.

The sight of this young soul and her courageous outpouring of a truth nobody had dared to voice began to have an effect on the people of the small city. Some too, began to cry. Some buckled in their tracks, both exhausted and relieved that someone had finally given voice to a truth most were afraid to even think about. Some smiled for the first time in many months, perhaps even years. The people of the town began to emerge from their homes, from their isolation. They began to wander, to enjoy the town's sites, the parks, beautiful still though in disrepair after the long neglect. Almost mindlessly they began to see each other for the first time in anyone's recent recollection. The NEW apprehensively peered out from their homes and saw the townspeople beckoning to join them.

You see, many of them had forgotten what they had been afraid of, exactly.

On that day there was a joining of souls for the soul purpose of living life, experiencing what is out there to be experienced, not to be avoided. The cloud lifted, and THE FEAR, with nobody engaged in devoting energy to hate, prejudice and intolerance, THE FEAR left the town.

Slowly, with not a little trepidation, the townspeople began to embrace THE NEW and a new life devoted to learning and yearning for the adventures that living life to its fullest brings. They began to trust that without depending on THE FEAR to control their lives they could survive, missteps and all. They took plunges into the unknown, leapt into new ventures and adventures, took chances, smiled, laughed and cried. They experienced victories, defeats, setbacks and breakthroughs.

They trusted in life and in each other, yet they knew THE FEAR could re-emerge at any time if they did not remain vigilant in their desire for joy, life and happiness.

In the town square stands to this day a statue commemorating the little girl who had the courage to cry out and declare she wanted more from life than any dark energy would allow. The Statue of the Crying Girl with the one tear descending her left cheek stands as a reminder for the townspeople to remain steadfast in their pursuit of both life's joys and desperations.

And with its new-found courage and commitment to embracing THE NEW, the unknown and unfamiliar, the small city never again witnessed THE FEAR enveloping their lives. The dark cloud never settled above the city and refused to leave. The daytime sun always shone with its comforting warmth and the nighttime moon forever blanketed the town with its ethereal, loving comfort.

. . . keep coming back

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less." ~ Madame Marie Curie 
"Although we have been made to believe that if we let go we will end up with nothing, life reveals just the opposite: that letting go is the real path to freedom." ~ Sogyal Rinpoche

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


"The Jews taught me this great word. "Schmuck." I was a schmuck, and now I'm not a schmuck." ~ Bill Murray as Frank Cross in Scrooged
We all change as we progress through what we believe to be a linear timeline, as we experience our lives on this wonderful blue ball circling a bright yellow dwarf star year after year. It doesn't require an astrophysicist to measure these transformations, nor does it require catastrophic life events to trigger them. Many of us progress from uptight to laid back, conservative to liberal and back, critical to accepting, closed minded to politically correct without any massive roadblocks thrown our way such as deaths in the family or other tragedies like addiction.

It's the maturation process that comes with living life. It is a natural progression we all endure in different ways base on life lessons learned or ignored. Normally this is a slow progression played out over decades.

Those of us who have experienced the blight of addiction in our lives and our families have learned this progression must be accelerated.

Keep moving, or die.

Like many of you I was a rager. Many people who know me now find this hard to believe. I fought The Addiction toe to toe, broadsword to broadsword until exhaustion would curtail the battle so the war could be continued at another time. Not realizing my energy expended to end the rule of The Addiction in my son's life only intensified its power over him I battled in our home and even on the streets in plain view of terrified onlookers. I disposed of paraphernalia and pot, physically forced drug tests on my addict son and engaged The Addiction in order to fix my son, all the while not knowing our baby was crying inside, overtaken by the vortex.

For the longest time I didn't know I had to change to live, even when this realization was placed directly ahead of me on my journey, I had no idea I was traveling on a pathway deeper and deeper into the abyss.  I chose to ignore this. The signposts were invisible in the fog and cloud forest of my creation. I was pushing my wife, my family, my life, away. I was so angry at my son for upsetting the family applecart and hurling it over the precipice, I began to fight everyone who might help me find a way out. I resisted every offer of assistance ignoring angels sent by the Universe. Fortunately for me, for all of us, The Universe doesn't give up easily. The Great Creator smiles on us as we struggle, knowing our time will come.

I had nowhere else to go. I gave up, stopped fighting The Addiction on its own terms and like the first collection of cells that crawled out of the primordial soup countless millennia ago I began a journey for which I had no direction, no goal. I just knew there was life out there for me if I only trusted what I couldn't understand.

Move or die.

Trust the unknown. Follow the signposts, believe in and listen to the angels you find along the way. Don't be afraid to accept the gifts that are there for the taking if you can only believe you are never alone in your journey. Accept that you can change. The transformation that awaits you is nothing short of a miracle. Actually, it IS a miracle.

It's a lot more fun than being a schmuck. Believe me, I know.

. . . keep coming back

"For that one fraction of a second you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping the stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknowable possibilities of existence."  ~ Q, to Picard, Star Trek The Next Generation, "All Good Things, Part II"
"The louder our world today is, the deeper God seems to remain in silence. Silence is the language of eternity. Noise passes." ~ Gertrud Von Le Fort

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Minutiae

"Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate." ~ Chuang Tzu
Spring brings with it the smallest of nuances, the most gradual changes and spectacularly slow transitions. It can be the most subtle of seasons. Spring teaches us to pay attention and if we don't, we'll miss it altogether and suddenly summer will be upon us.

We have many parks and trails where I live and on a most recent run I turned off the main pathway to a nature loop through a wooded area. When in its fullest majesty this detour can only be described as the U.S. Midwest's answer to a European medieval greenwood. The last time I had entered the loop I remember wondering to myself when the rebirth would begin. This time I was greeted to an explosion of emerald, hunter, sea, moss, shamrock and a million other sub-shades of green.

I am grateful to have been struck by the wonder of the renewal, that I was not so concerned with pace or how each of my muscles, tendons and ligaments were feeling that I totally missed the show. The next act will be the return of blooms of blue-purple across the expanse of green creeping foliage.

It will be a sight to see. I will make it a point to take in the eruptions of colors and sounds of life renewing.

I will make it a point to take in the minutiae of these moments. We can all share these with those on similar journeys, especially with our children who are trying their best to find any way out of the vortex of The Addiction.

This post was actually prompted by three helium balloons in a coffee shop - really! I am certain I had walked past this display dozens of times without noticing. We have become overcome and numbed by such marketing calls to action. This time I was struck by the oddly bizarre simplicity of this attention grab, three sealed vessels of acetate painted with retro blue, pink and yellow flowers and held aloft by lighter-than-air helium. This attempt to portray coffee as a harbinger of Spring provided an early morning chuckle, something we all need from time to time. I assume the designers of the display didn't have this result in mind but I am grateful for their efforts.

Sometimes our heads can be spinning with so many thoughts and worries and hurries, fears and forebodings we forget to look around to take in this crazy beautiful world manifested for us by the Great Creator. Our attention can be so wrapped up in the immediate, or what we believe to be of greatest concern we ignore the small gifts and oddities surrounding us.

Seeing the minutiae of the world, taking the time to dissect the cacophony of the sights and sounds all around allows us to see our world in entirely new ways. We learn then to wait with anticipation for the next surprise, miracle or gift to come our way. We learn to pay attention, to SEEK and SEE, to listen rather than speaking, to accept the immediacies the Universe is ready to bestow on us to take us to our next level, that new plateau, the progression we are meant to take to becoming more REAL than we ever thought we could be.

Here's to seeing what we see every day in multiple contexts, observing beyond the obvious and accepting the gifts in plain site and masterfully concealed as signposts along our way.

Those little blue flowers are just one rainfall, a bit of sunshine and a turn to some warmer weather away.

I can't wait. Can you?

. . . keep coming back
"Pay attention, don't let life go by you. Fall in love with the back of your cereal box." ~ Jerry Seinfeld

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Feeling The Sadnesses

"Sadness is but a wall between two gardens." ~ Khalil Gibran
We've just about had it about the sadnesses, haven't we? We've had enough of pain, suffering, the recollections of the might have beens, the if onlys. We've experienced in our lives as parents of addicts more pain and suffering than one person should in a lifetime, yet we have persevered and broken through the barriers, of our own creation, to happiness. Even so, we often look upon our children in the thrall of The Addiction or even our children in recovery and feel their pain, our pain, once again.
Etymological side note: Thrall is derived from the Old English thrœl, meaning "Slave."
It's our first inclination to push these sadnesses to the side, not in ignorance of them but to feel, briefly, the pain and immediately fahgetaboutit. Their pain is not our pain we have learned. We have learned to replace the pain and catatonic state The Addiction would have us wallow in with an undying love for our children and a constant motivation to keep moving, living our lives to our fullest potential.

The sadness never happened.

The pain won't get us anymore.

This, like our instinctive reaction to The Addiction's siren calls can become our go-to response to any of life's challenges or even minor, troubling interruptions in our normal routines.

This is NOT good. We're not Vulcans. One of our many wonderful characteristics that make us so marvelously human is our ability to feel emotion, truly absorb the effects and then ... learn, and move on. We know we have truly grown and taken those many steps to becoming REAL when we can experience pain, sadness, take it in, recognize its origin and in a way smile at our self realization and our priceless vulnerabilities.

Sometimes the sadnesses don't bring us to our knees or buckle us in our tracks as did the first realizations brought by The Addiction, but are simply felt as loving, emotional responses deep within our core being.

I experienced one of these sadnesses recently just prior to one of my marathon training, Saturday morning long-slow-distance runs (with 250 or so of my closest friends). My wife would be running a half marathon trail race the next day so she would not be joining me in this particular Saturday workout. As I pulled into the parking space I felt an emptiness. I missed my wifey being there. For some strange reason I was immediately grateful for this sadness and even more grateful I was able to feel it. The sadness was soon replaced by a joy born from all we had been through and how our love had prevailed - through it all. This sadness brought me to a higher plane, to a plateau from which I could view my life from a perspective of contentment.

I rocked the training run!

The sadnesses will come and go - give yourself the permission to feel them. You may find yourself confronted with sadnesses seemingly unrelated to your children who have succumbed to The Addiction. Or are they unrelated? It doesn't really matter.

Don't fear these sadnesses as they arrive - feel them without overthinking, embrace them, take them in. There are reasons the sadnesses find you.

You might be surprised where these little awarenesses will take you.

Enjoy the view!

. . . keep coming back

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures."  ~ Thornton Wilder

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Do You Believe In Miracles?

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." ~ Albert Einstein
A friend of mine recently FaceBook-shared the video of the last two minutes of the US Olympic hockey team victory over the Russian squad at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. This brief historical playback continues to send chills up and down my spine 37 years later. For those of us around the world who witnessed it, Al Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles?" call with three seconds left is an enduring part of our collective, global memory. The United States was firmly embedded in a crisis situation and needed a boost, something to lift our spirits and mend our collective soul.

The boost came from an unexpected source. The boost came from a bunch of college kids with attitude and an average age of 21, the youngest team in U.S. Olympic history and the youngest team in the Olympic tournament.

It was truly a Miracle on Ice.

No one saw this miracle coming. And that's just it about miracles. If we're not careful, if we're not aware, believing in them and SEEKING miracles, they can come and go without us ever noticing. Not every miracle has a world stage on which to play and a world-class announcer to interpret what we're witnessing, what we are living in a moment, as a miracle.

Parents of addicts don't often interpret what they are experiencing as the universal phenomenons meant to move us, miraculously, along our own recovery pathways. We are often embedded in crisis situations from which we desperately need a boost. We need our spirits lifted, our souls mended. We can become blinded to the miracle.

The discovery and acceptance by a parent of an addict's plunge into addiction is a miracle as much as the addict's sincere admission of "I just can't live like this anymore." Every stage along our pathway isn't always concomitant with joy and happiness, the daisies and butterflies or momentous moments we often associate with the miraculous. Miracles can be BIG instants in time or small and seemingly insignificant, or even totally unrelated to our journey - or so it may seem.

I remember after having missed so many miracles along my pathway a friend suggested I consider buying a book on writing. The miracle wasn't the friend's suggestion or the book. The miracle was that I, a life-long procrastinator and self diminisher would for some unknown reason immediately SEEK out this book and dive into a 12-week creativity course, changing my life forever.

So let's get back to the 1980 Winter Olympics and those crazy upstart Americans and their oppressively solemn coach Herb Brooks. It was certainly a miracle that Brooks was chosen as coach, that the players were able to endure his relentlessly endless practices - that gave them an insanely high third period scoring differential - without imploding. It was a miracle they beat a talented Russian team. These miracles were important, certainly, but had the journey ended the day that impossible victory was achieved those miracles would not have been so memorable.

The true miracle is they had to do it all over again the next day - and they did.

Miracles build on themselves. Miracles are not to be taken lightly or when experienced, to be considered a final reward for our attentiveness. Miracles are often accompanied by angels pointing us along our way and reminding us there are miracles beyond our limited realities, to look beyond the immediate. Miracles are a speedway to the next adventure, the next path along the journey. Miracles are that slingshot effect around whatever obstacle we may have been experiencing, whatever roadblock that had previously impeded our progress.

Miracles are are not a final destination but a gateway to our most exciting and beautiful NEXTS!

As Herb Brooks said, "Great moments are born from great opportunities."

We and our children all have great moments to create, great opportunities to embrace and miracles to fully experience, appreciate and utilize as The Universe wishes us to. It's our gold medal for the taking.

Take it. Then keep moving!

. . . keep coming back

"Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see." ~ C.S. Lewis

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Joy Trail

"For today, all you need is the grace to begin beginning." ~ Julia Cameron
It can be hard to be joyful. It can sometimes appear as if anger, vindictiveness, distrust and acrimony surround us with every headline, newscast and notification on social media. The world can amplify what we as parents of addicts and addicts in recovery have been experiencing for a long time.

It can be paralyzing.

There have been times like this we can recall, perhaps not in the world we are blessed to be part of but in our tiny little microcosms we call family where we were confronted with a "move or die" decision. We were many times given the choice to dive deeper into the vortex with The Addiction and our children or to look up, look ahead and through the muck, the shit and hedgerows addiction threw our way, to resume our journey to recovery.

"How did we ever pull this off?" we ask ourselves.

We decided to SEEK and SEE the possibilities. We didn't need to look far beyond our immediate surroundings to find dismay, misery or distractions away from the lives we were meant to lead as fully alive human beings. We wanted more than The Addiction could ever offer us if we drilled down into the abyss with our children. We wanted what was REAL. And we knew surrendering to The Addiction would reinforce our children's pessimistic and fatalistically defeatist attitudes toward life. We hoped by finding that next plateau or that next sunny meadow our children might see the glories that living life fully can bring, though remembering not to harbor any false illusions this would be an easy transformation to achieve for the addicts or even the ones in recovery.

We CHOSE to be alive. We chose to be happy, and eventually, we found the Joy trail.

It's like the muscle memory of a world-class athlete. We've done this before, we can do it again. It's the riding-the-bike or driving a stick shift thing - I haven't driven a stick in years but I believe I could remember the clutch-shift release choreography after a few stalls and grinds.

That might be just what is required. When we look to resume our pathways on the Joy Trail we might experience a few stalls, a few bumps in the road and reactions from onlookers as our attempts to become joyful human beings result in awkward fits and starts before our travels again become smooth and natural.

Being joyful does not equate with becoming the village idiot, the "don't worry be happy" buffoon with the constant smile on his or her face - though smiling does help, it clears away the brush, the fog that can obscure our next steps along our journeys.

Joy is a decision. Joy is a state of mind. Joy brings with it more joy and those unexplainable happy synchronicities delivered from The Universe to confirm we are on the right track.

Joy repels negativity. Remember how you got here. Remember where you're going. Be joyful, SEEK out the joy in life and watch the world's negativity bounce off your soul like sleet off a steel roof. Our kids are watching intently.

Who knows what might happen?
. . . keep coming back

"Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties." ~ Helen Keller

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Keeping the Plates Spinning, OR, When the Other Shoe Drops

"Once you're a parent, you're the ghost of your children's future." ~ Joe Cooper, Interstellar
Years ago there were programs on television called variety shows. These would showcase various talent from around the world - acrobats, comedians, opera singers, pop singers, Broadway stars, rock groups, animal acts - you never knew what you'd be treated to each week. The closest thing we have to the old variety shows is the Got Talent franchise. I am captivated when a novelty act progresses through to the late stages of these competitions. We are all witnesses to something special as these quirky artists pursue dreams against the longest of odds.

Growing up my favorite of these unconventional variety show performers were the plate spinners. Google this along with the song "Sabre Dance" which these men and women would often choose as accompaniment to their frenetic presentations. The goal was to spin as many plates or bowls as possible on long sticks while at some point also ending the act by gracefully catching each as they fell, moving from one stick after another, normally from right to left or left to right in order, miraculously, hopefully, without breaking anything. Often, to complicate things there would be plates spinning on tables and other kitchen-utensil-related perpetual motion distractions to make us think the hero of the insanity would take his or her eye off the ball, I mean ... plate.

Every now and then a plate would fall proving the person on stage was human after all. We would share in the victory of all or most plates spinning and gently being returned to a state of rest. We would breathe a collective sigh of relief that could be felt around the country.

Years have passed and we no longer see many of these intrepid overly-practiced entertainers. I have found YouTube videos of Chinese plate spinners including one who performs by standing (rolling) on what looks like an oversized fitness ball, as if keeping 6 to 8 plates spinning at one time isn't hard enough. Though the plate spinning act may be a thing of the past, the image remains burned in our collective national psyche and has even become part of our lexicon:
"I can't meet you for lunch today, I've got too many plates spinning."
As our children progress through the various stages of addiction and recovery we can have innumerable plates spinning at one time: the rehab plate, the walking on eggshells in your own house plate, the family budget plate, the detachment with anger plate, the detachment with love plate, the trust plate, the hope plate, the expectation plate - that's just 8 plates, and there's more.

Too often, some plates don't even make it to the stage much less to any part of our performance as parents of addicts or addicts in recovery. Boxed up or perhaps on deck for a spin when time permits, these plates are kept protected from possible damage, remaining in the perfect state as we remember them before The Addiction took over our lives.

Two of these plates are our relationship with our most significant others, and our responsibilities and connection to the siblings of the addict.

Let's focus today on those siblings whose lives were turned upside down by the entrance of The Addiction into our households.

With so many plates spinning we run the risk of taking our eyes off those who are indirectly impacted by The Addiction. We become so naturally and rightfully focused on our babies whose lives are at risk we wrongfully assume their brothers and sisters will see how falling into the addition vortex can ruin lives. We hold our other children to a higher standard nobody could ascend to, we project our addict's worst tendencies, past behaviors and first steps into addiction onto the brothers and sisters, or simply devote all our attention to the addict or recovering addict. We risk losing our other babies. At some point, the other shoe may drop, the sibling may rebel by acting out, or worse, following in the footsteps of the addict stumble into the same rabbit hole.

Or, the perceived pressure to succeed, to "not be another addicted kid," or "failure" may be too much for the brother or sister to bear.

We can remember our journey must remain focused on self actualization and as a part of this we can continue to love, trust (a BIG one) and listen to our children who feel betrayed by their heroes. We can fight our natural tendencies to overcompensate for our perceived failures (hopefully we've escaped Failure Island) and allow our children to know they WILL BE OK and if they fall, we will no more give up on them than we have on their addicted brother or sister. Remember, addiction is a family disease.

Trust, the BIG one, means taking the sibling or siblings out of the box where we have protected and isolated them to keep them in that perfect state of our recollections, and place them lovingly on one of our many life sticks we have become so masterful at maintaining. We've got this. We're practiced at this perhaps more than most.

Our babies may lose some of their pristine sheen, they may become chipped, cracked or even broken, temporarily, but that's all part of life isn't it? We will someday see the plates spinning, all of them different, yet equally cherished. It will be a sight to see.

And our children will remember how we helped them along their way while allowing them to figure life out on their own, chips, dings and all.

I'll be listening for the collective sigh of relief ... and joy.

. . . keep coming back
"People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed. Never throw out anyone." ~ Audrey Hepburn

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Twists and Turns - Life Lessons from Running My First Marathon - The St. Jude Memphis

"You must expect great things from yourself before you do them." ~ Michael Jordan
Nothing anyone tells you will prepare you for the grueling experience that is your first marathon. Nothing anyone tells you will prepare you for the elation you feel as you near, then cross the finish line of your first marathon. And yet, without the cautions, encouragements and support from friends, family and your running community the journey would not be as sweet, or even attainable in many cases.

The journey of anyone's first marathon begins in that instant when one dreams of accomplishing the impossible, of breaking through crazy unheard-of barriers, when a normally sane person embraces a childlike optimism born from a refusal to believe in impossibilities.

I am lucky enough to be part of one of those running communities mentioned above - Fleet Feet, St. Louis. There are kick-off meetings for these races, for the half marathon and marathon training seasons. The vibe in these meetings is electric, the people in the room ebullient with only possibilities.
"The optimism and positivity in this room is infectious," I thought to myself as I entered the venue where the most recent gathering was being held. "These people actually think they can run 26.2 miles!"
And many of them had broken the barrier, multiple times. For many of us, this would be our first foray into the unknown.

For me, the journey began halfway through our graduation run almost a year prior, a training experience for half-marathoners, a 12-mile get it in your head you can do this (13.1 miles) run from St. Louis Forest Park to the Gateway Arch and back. There we all were, my half-marathon training group at Broadway and Market Street in downtown St. Louis when one of the more childlike optimistic among us said, "Ya know, I think we can run a marathon!"

Remember, we were just north (or west) of 6 miles at that point. Suddenly my running partners turned into lemmings, jumping off the "we can do a marathon" cliff one by one in a mindless euphoric agreement to run 20 more miles than we had run that day, and 13 more miles than many of had ever run in our lifetimes.

My reaction was, "Wait a minute Baba Looey. I think it's the endorphins kicking in. We feel great because we've only run six miles which is 20 less than a marathon, plus another point-2. You might want to think about this."

Eventually, obviously, I was coerced into sipping, then drinking and soon during the next training session face down in the Kool-Aid I would become a marathoner-in-training.

This is not the time nor the place to discuss the training involved in attaining the only two goals for my journey - getting to the start line uninjured and making it, triumphantly, joyously (hopefully) to the finish line. I will tell you it was the longest training season of all my Fleet Feet compadres. The race itself took place on December 3rd. The training began in June. By the time I had arrived at my assigned starting corral for the Memphis St. Jude most of my training partners had run their races weeks or months before. Many of them, graciously, had continued a modified training schedule on our long Saturday runs to motivate the approximately ten of us who had chosen the last race of the season as our goal race. Which leads me to my first lesson learned.

You can do this marathon thing alone, I know people have done it, but I wouldn't advise or suggest it. You'll be missing a massive chunk of the magic.

Each Saturday morning I would gather with approximately 200 of my closest friends for the week's long, slow run. Teams would convene as designated according to experience, ability and goals after a thorough vetting via a questionnaire by the running club. The phrase we're all in this together is a poor descriptor of the vibe that develops within a collection of amateur athletes who start by running eight, then nine, then ten, then 12, 15 miles and more along with three or four training runs during the course of the week. We became truly a band of brothers and sisters, we happy few. One is seldom on his or her game each week, injuries come and go, you're either feeling it or you're not. It was the team, the community that kept me going each week. the encouragement from each feeding the ups and downs of the other. Negative thoughts were quickly squelched with humor ("Always with the negative waves Moriarty."), or a more direct quiet approach of ignoring the messenger and moving along to enjoy the day, the scenery, the camaraderie. Soon any negative-thinking Moriarty would get the message.

Running in packs also has its advantages of experience. Not all of us were running our first rodeo. Some of my team had run, two, three, ten, 25, even 35 marathons - there is a cadre of marathoners who are striving to run a marathon in each state. If, and only if you admit others just might know more than you about training, and if you learn from their experience, will you make it to the start line without your hips, knees and ankles feeling as though they had been massaged by a jackhammer.

Marathon training teaches humilité. We would often run "out and backs" when the course or trail we were traversing didn't allow us enough mileage to do the full ten, 15 or 21 miles without repeating some of the course. One morning as we approached the turn around I noticed the advanced, elite marathoners passing us, their sleek forms zipping by like trains passing on adjacent tracks.

As we proceeded I quipped, "We're getting closer to the half way point."

"How can you tell?" asked one of my running buddies.

"The runners are beginning to look more and more like me!"


The race, the marathon, is a microcosm of life.

Take the race one mile at a time is what I had been told. Don't look at what mile 22 might bring at mile 7. I didn't fully grasp what this meant exactly until I would feel each tweak, each twinge come and go, and realized I COULD go on. As I passed each of the thousands of the Memphians out on the course to cheer us along our way I realized there was a world of people who had my back, who felt what I was doing was important (The last I had heard this race raised almost $10 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.) Near mile 5 is the inspiration point for the Memphis St. Jude Marathon as we passed through the hospital complex, where as many of the doctors, nurses and administrators as the hospital could spare and as many of the families, and patients who were able and well enough to brave the piercing December cold and rain on this day were stationed. This jolt of hope and courage I knew would take me through the next ten or 5 or 10 miles (if the emotions I felt didn't drop me to my knees) but I would need to find something more to dig deep into to carry me through.

This I did by letting go of control. I just decided I couldn't do this alone. I decided to let the race take me, to embrace the journey.

During months of training I had learned to run my race, but also to draw upon the strength of my teammates and other runners. At mile 11 or so the marathon group parted company with those of our team who were there to run the half. They had already run their marathon, or marathons for some, that year. The 12 or so teammates had dwindled to 6. We from St. Louis were spread 1, 2, 3, 1, sometimes within sight of each other, sometimes not, the two consisting of me and my running partner who each of us had run our first half marathon together some 18 months before. During the course of the last 15 miles the conversations between us went something like this:
"You go ahead, I'm done."
"No, you go ahead."
"You got this. Go on."
Finally I said, "We're finishing this together Tom."

At some point during a marathon, even with teammates, friends, family members by your side you need a miracle to get you through. And you need to seek, see and embrace the miracles. This is as true in life as it is in marathons. The miracles can come at any stage along the way and you have to hold fast to these, let them carry you through the early, mid and late stages.

My first miracle came in the form of an angel from Alaska.

As we parted company from our half marathoners a woman named Mary joined Tom and me. She was exuberant, mildly talkative and pulled us as we pushed her through the last 15 miles. This woman from the great northland whom we had never met and and I may never see again kept us going and laughing. She would pull up "lame" with just a quarter mile to go.
"You're not quitting on us now!" I yelled at her as I grabbed her arm.
She would finish true to form a few steps ahead of us.

I've already mentioned the Memphians who braved a steady rain for hours - I had thought it was just a drizzle. These angels would appear on their lawns, outside their churches, out of nowhere in sparsely populated areas along the route. The citizens of Memphis embrace St. Jude, the race weekend, what the hospital does for the kids and what it means to the city. And on that day they were embracing me. [They also have a sick sense of humor. At around the 21-22 mile mark they started saying, "You're almost there." ... Very funny!!!!]

Angels manifested themselves in the form of our Fleet Feet half marathon teammates who had changed into dry clothes to cheer us on not once, but three times along the way. One of them would appear miraculously 6 or 7 times along the way. I lost count at some point.

But the true miracle happened at the mile 20 water station. I knew I had only 6.2 miles to go and was concentrating on "staying in" mile 20 and not even looking, yet, to mile 21. As I approached the volunteers to decide if I needed water, or Gatorade, or both, I couldn't believe my eyes.

"Katie!" I screamed. Through the mist I could see our daughter 100 yards ahead, holding a cup of water, beaming her beaming smile. She and her fiancé had travelled the 380 miles from Springfield Illinois just to be at that mile marker to cheer us on.

"I'm gonna cry," I said.

"Don't cry dad," she laughed. "Keep running!"
The next week she called me to make sure I knew I wasn't hallucinating, imagining her at mile 20, taking an imaginary cup of water from an imaginary person - the girl has her dad's sense of humor I am happy to say.
I would tell her that her appearance got me to mile 24. It actually had a lot to do with pulling through the entire way along the 26.2 .

Crossing the finish line was everything I thought it would be and more. Many of the runners did victory dances, jumps, even pirouettes. Me, my celebration was a simple, small double fist pump - I had accomplished what months before I thought to be impossible. I wasn't the first to finish, or even close to being at the the top of my age bracket, but I had left it all on the field. Tom and I had accomplished a goal of negative splits, which means getting a bit faster in pace as the day would progress. It took us a little under five and a half hours to finish.

The marathon became everything I had been told it would be, but nothing I could have been prepared for. I had to experience it for myself, live it and look back on each mile afterward in disbelief. Running 26.2 miles has become an integral, integrated part of my life journey to breathe, trust, laugh, seek, hope, love and see all that life has to offer.

I know it's a bit deep and weepy but for me, that five and one-half hours on the streets of Memphis Tennessee encapsulated every bit of what I believe life can be if optimism overcomes negativity, if what is possible becomes reality rather than an unrealized dream.

My spring training begins this weekend. My goal race for May is the Flying Pig marathon in Porkopolis - Cincinnati. I am now totally immersed in the Kool-Aid and couldn't be happier. Maybe I'll see you there.

And as we say on the road ... you got this!

. . . keep coming back
"Only when your consciousness is totally focused on the moment you are in can you receive whatever gift, lesson or delight that moment has to offer." ~ Barbara de Angelis