blessings

Good Mornings

Before the cars start zipping by at such a pace and before the sound of people walking the street outside my window and chatting hurriedly about what I’m sure are important things fills my ears, there is the sound of birds.

My eyes open and through the glass door I see darkness, but not real darkness, because the light is just beginning to touch the edges of the deep purple, slumbering, predawn sky. I see patches of it through the trees. Little scattered spots of light that begin to form deep blue then gray then light blue if I wait long enough, while the leaves of the trees turn from near-black-brown to greens.

The birds, the brightening sky, along with an occasional car, say good morning to me. They greet me and wake me quietly and gently.

Twitter, tweet, twitter, song trill, whoosh (a car).
Good morning, have you seen this day yet, it’s going to be briiiiiiiiillllliiiiant, whoosh (a car).

I haven’t been much of a morning person for the majority of my life but I find in my forties, it’s one of my favorite parts of the day and I sometimes fall asleep not only looking forward to my coffee but to the sounds and lights of my wake-up invitation. Joe will almost always already be awake somewhere in the house and many times he knows just when to poke his head in the door and quietly check to see if my eyes are open yet. That’s really the best part because he will then come over and place a series of light, feathery kisses on my face to help me wake up.

With a beautiful beginning like that, it’s no wonder I have so much joy in my heart that I catch my self in rear-view mirrors and find myself smiling. I’m getting the hang of this joy thing.

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Wishing you all peace, joy and a lovely day. <3

Life Textures

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It would be easy to say as things get older they automatically go towards entropy like moths to a flame in the witching hour.

But the truth is, the easy answer isn’t always the true answer and where entropy is falling a little closer towards chaos and disorder every moment, we actually keep following along the perfect arc towards the inevitable, sure, but it isn’t chaos. It’s exactly what’s supposed to happen next.

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If I had to narrow down and categorize all the things I’ve done in the past three years that have made a huge difference in my life and just pick one to share with you, one thing that literally shifted my life into healing, it would be this: Positive Energy.

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Part of that is accepting life as it comes, in all its myriad layers and textures and believing that on some level, this too is for my good, whatever it is. Embracing the next thing that comes, choosing to see it as an exciting challenge instead of an attack on the fabric of my soul.

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It can be scary at first and it’s still hard from time to time, but I take that opportunity to look at myself in the mirror, smile, and say, “I love you! You are doing so great!” even if it’s a smile through tears, because that weeping smile is no less real and valid than a smile done in pure joy. I really and truly am doing great, the very best I can do at any given moment. And so are you.

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I’m getting older, no question. New wrinkles. Thighs of cellulite. Gray hairs to beat the band. And along with that a whole new way of perceiving my life. Maybe a little bit of wisdom? Do I dare call it that? I tread lightly here because the past has shown me that on the occasion I think I know something, I might not really know that something and soon may fall flat on my face in a sea of faulty expectations.

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But on this particular day, yes, I am so bold. Living in a more positive light, choosing to see life as trying to provide me with the very best it has to offer me, looking for the good, allowing others in my life to make mistakes and knowing they are doing their very best as well – this has made my life sweeter and more satisfying than any other change.

Next time you’re in front of a mirror, pause and smile. Tell you that you love you. 15 seconds of fake smiling triggers the same endorphins of a real smile, and a real smile hits your pleasure center the same as thousands in cash or bars and bars of chocolate. Pretty valuable smiles.

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Marci and Delaney

I had the good fortune to spend the afternoon with Marci and her two lovely daughters plus a group of the nicest women you’ve ever met a few weeks back. (Fun fact – I actually realized I knew some of them from years ago and it was so nice to see them again!)

Marci’s friends threw her a Girl Shower, all about how great it is to be a girl. Everything was pink and floral and the weather was perfect. It was such a lovely day.

This is my favorite shot from all 600+ shots I took. (I know! So many! But little girls are pretty and fun and everything was, as I think I mentioned earlier, lovely. I couldn’t stop taking photos.)

Just look at that joy.

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You can hire me for a photo shoot here.

Birthday Blue Orchids

Turning 43 has just helped reinforce what I felt when I turned 42 – I’m so happy in my 40s. I love it here! My brain works well, my physical body has never been healthier and I no longer worry so much about what other people think about me. That has been a long time coming.

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For my birthday this year, my daughter, her fiance, my son and my husband all put on a game night in my building’s rec center. Some of my friends and extended family showed up and we hung out and played games. It was completely low-key and perfect. I may have made about 10-gallons of Mac-and-Cheese for everyone.

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Alex picked these blue orchids for some of the table decorations. I can’t stop staring at them. There is something very silky and sultry and full of passion about them.

They are totally and uniquely themselves. They embrace their variations of vibrant color and show it off with pride. And in the recesses, way in the centers, you can see the deep, still wisdom that lies there.

I suppose that’s what I’m going to be aspiring to this year.

5/12/11

Today was a low day. A very low day.

In another life, today would have been the day I decided things were too hard to bear and so bleak I’d never see the blue skies again.

I would have left my OBGYN results appointment (from the same woman who raked me internally) knowing she wants me to get my uterus biopsied because she thinks it’s precancerous and knowing she wants me to get on birth-control pills and remembering how she called me a liar just moments before when I showed her my daily food logs and exercise chart, because I’m fat, so I must not be telling her the truth. And how she rolled her eyes at me when I explained how painful the fibroids in my breasts make a mammogram.

I would have placed those thoughts next to the ones from the two rheumatologists who tell me I have lupus and need to take antimalarial drugs and noninflammatory drugs and muscle relaxers and it doesn’t matter what I eat or what drugs I take, my life is going to be painful, however long it lasts.

And then I would have added the words from my psychiatrist who told me I need to up my dose of some things and add other things and that fibromyaligia is mostly all in my head. Because I have bipolar, along with other things.

With those things lined up next to each other to look at, I would have added my guilt at not earning money to pay for all these doctors and tests and how uncomfortable I feel calling my health My Full-time Job right now. And how shameful I feel thinking about applying for disability in case I never have reliable healthcare. And how ashamed I feel that I have such a need for it.

I would have really honed in on that shame and guilt and despair and frustration at my inability to change things to be easier.

Then I would have gone to bed. Maybe fantasized about selfharm. Maybe begun the journey toward the romantic notion of ending it all, because surely that would be better for my family who has to watch and feel helpless and uncomfortable at my flailing. Who must surely feel I am such a burden.

And then the darkness would have been fully descended. Over my eyes, and ears and mouth. Over my brain that couldn’t think straight anymore. And it could have been months before I resurfaced to try again if I hadn’t been successful at terminating my life and never tried again at all.

As I sat in my car, outside the hospital, dizzy with so many thoughts and feelings, I decided to breath. I made a small choice. A very small choice, to open my lungs and take in a breath, and then expel the air with a little force, listening to the sound in my throat. And then I did it again.

I thought of Grandma Jean, who just left us days ago. She fought her way back from a debilitating stroke and learned to live her life again when most people just die who experience that same stroke, it’s so damaging. I thought of her smile and quick laugh, even as her body failed her these past weeks. How she thanked me every time I did anything for her and told me she loved me even when she couldn’t recall who I was, because she knew I loved her.

Grandma had her brushes with depression and contemplating her own death. She didn’t have the knowledge or support I have with managing those symptoms. And she survived for years, decades, from sheer determination. And I’m better for knowing her. I’m so thankful I didn’t miss out on knowing her like I did. Thank you, Grandma Jean, for what you suffered in this life so I could know you.

Then I thought of Phyllis, my mother-in-law, who passed last October. The cancer never won. It was just her time to go. And she was ready. She told me so every day, but it was always with a smile and expectation of meeting her God, not sadness, fear or regret.

I watched her barely able to carry the groceries, mop the floor or move the vacuum, but refusing help because it was her sincere joy to do it. She loved her work. She delighted in doing what she could to care for others. As she told me many times, she loved the work because she loved the people she did it for, and her face would shine when she said it and I knew it was true.

As the cancer grew in her body and ate her alive, she refused to get down or be afraid. She prayed and read and worked at the soup kitchen when she could. She found new recipes and showed me how to cook them. She laughed. She was beautiful always, but when she laughed, her countenance beamed. She laughed all the time and her smile was so genuine and sincere it made you smile and laugh, too. She was a great beauty even as breath left her.

Phyllis was careful what she said and how she said it and said nothing to hurt others. I knew I was safe with her because I never heard her say an unkind thing about anyone else. She taught me so much just by being herself. The year I spent as her companion was so precious. Thank you, Phyllis, for teaching me so much about how to live as you prepared to pass. Thank you for your unconditional love even as I carried my shortcomings around on my back and brought them out to show you on occasion. Thank you for showing me how to love others with the fierce fire of love I also carry in my chest. And thank you most of all for giving birth to and raising a beautiful, caring son who has become my partner and champion. Because even with his few shortcomings and my many, we somehow make a perfect fit and support for each other.

At 3pm today I went to yoga. My Yogini welcomed me and listened while I poured out my heart in a rush and never hurried me when I paused, choking on my words and tears. She placed my body in poses while I cried and she used her own breath to show me how to better breathe out my pain. She soothed my shoulders and neck and witnessed my entire body in sorrow. Her kind and loving touch calmed my fears and sadness and in time, I felt calm and strength in my chest instead of tightness and daggers. With each breath’s inhale and exhale, my body released the old and filled with new strength.

With my eyes closed, breathing deeply, I thought of the women in my life. My daughter. My mother. My friends. My sisters and aunts and grandmas, some of them here with me now and some carried in my heart. I drew on the power of Mother Earth and felt connected to everything and everyone.

The things that are hard in my life didn’t seem so overwhelming in that moment. It felt shared, like a thousand shoulders were carrying my pain and I even felt room on my own shoulders to help carry another’s hurts, should they want or need that.

And I felt a bit of joy in the journey. It was just a bit, but large enough that I think I might find it again.

Fin 2010

This past year has turned out to be quite something, no?

Here is the family on Thanksgiving Day.

Joe’s wonderful mom Phyllis made a graceful adieu in October. You could not have asked for a better mother-in-law or friend. We spent much of 2010 initially getting to know each other and eventually sharing inside jokes. Having never been a morning show person, I was amused sometime during the summer when I realized that watching Regis and Kelly and then Hoda and Kathie Lee with Phyllis were the best hours of the morning. Actually, I guess watching her watch them was the fun part. Phyllis got a kick out of everything. Her joy and happiness were almost always right at the surface ready to bubble out. For a quick look into the kind of person she was, read what she wrote for a book I was working on. You can see so much about her through her wonderful smile.

I’ve taken a big step back from the internetty way of life. I’ve downsized. I’m working on a much more local level and relearning how to be happy. I went in the mental hospital, came out on more medication than you could shake a stick at. I went to intensive out-therapies for months and changed meds around. Still in progress. My brain is frequently on fire then ice.

Music plays a huge part of my day. It soothes my soul, heals my heart and cleanses my chakras. You can view my fav 2010 songs – Leahpeah 2010 Fasty Mix and Leahpeah 2010 Slowy Mix.

I realize this update is not what some of you have been waiting for and I’m sorry for that. Let me add that to the tip of my 2010 regrets pile before I sweep them out the door, never to obsess over again. I have to keep my front porch clean and open to new possibilities, you see.

My father-in-law Jim, a doctor, has just prescribed a treatment of 2 rice krispies treats to be taken over the next 4 hours and I need to get on that. If I don’t see you around for awhile, take good care of yourself.
xoxo
Leah

Humongous Thank You

Friends,

I can’t express how much your notes, emails, texts, messages, love, support and prayers have meant to me this past week. Joe printed everything out and brought them to me in the hospital. Every night it was like a surge of encouragement to work hard and keep going.

My meds are still being fine-tuned. I’m a little up and down. I occasionally get a wave of hopelessness that dissipates in a few minutes, but the lithium is definitely making a difference.

I’m not quite ready to jump back into regular life, but I am sticking a few toes in.

I would be dead if it wasn’t for Joe. He saved my life and continues to do so. He’s gentle and sincere and kind and loving and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have him as a partner in life.

I’m still processing everything that’s happened. I’ll write more next week.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Short Update

We went to San Diego for a vacation. We have family and good friends there along with beaches and so many things we love. It was a wonderful trip. Everything went smashingly. We were lazy and slept and read and relaxed and drank gin and beer and ate wonderful food. I’m almost afraid to talk about it in case it changes the past. Or something.

And then we came home to Virginia and it was good to be in my own bed and watch the fireflies dancing. My mother-in-law put catnip in Bas’ bed and he is now mostly crazy and very, very happy. We had great baked potatoes, good white fish and not great green beans for dinner. Joe has a bowl of Nibs sitting on the couch between us.

I can’t complain.

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“I’ll be back at Thanksgiving and I know it’s Dad’s holiday but I’ll come see you, too!” She spritzes herself with girl smells, maybe something fruity?, and checks her lip gloss in the visor mirror, then snaps it shut, shoves it back in place and turns her 100 watt smile at me. “Don’t worry!” she says, and grabs her iPod.

Traffic is light and the weather has been perfect for a quick road trip to Grandma’s. The premise is that my mom has a Bosch and a Kitchen Aid sitting in the basement and I get to borrow them for an indefinite amount of time. The reality is that I’m soaking up every last second of alone time I can before she leaves in August and becomes someone new again.

It’s one of those moments when the feeling in my chest becomes almost too big to hold and I’m bursting with emotion, a mix of happiness at who she is becoming and pride at her learning to love and accept her body as it is and worry that the world will take her emerging confidence and slap her down and love at everything she is and everything she was and everything she will be.

We talk about relationships and what the guys might be like at college. She tells me how she’s grown to love and appreciate her step-dad and that she can’t believe she was once so cold to him. She talks about her brothers and how she didn’t know she could love them so much and how she’s going to miss them. About how she’s been trying to spend time with everyone at home before she goes because when she comes back, everything will be different and it might never feel like home again. I know she’s right and that coming back home as a person with time experienced elsewhere with new friends and new places and new learning experiences that no one at home knows about changes you and you never feel like you quite fit in again until you make your own home. And it makes me sad and a few tears slip down my cheeks but I don’t stop smiling or singing along with her to Beyonce’s If I Were a Boy because really I’m so happy for her. And I cry.

“Mom!” she says. “Did I tell you what happened with T.? No? Oh my gosh, you have to hear this.” And she begins a tale of this boy and that girl and the beach and Los Angeles and New York and while she talks she uses her hands to text three friends back and forth and never pauses in the story, a few smiles on her lips when someone texts her something cute or flirty. And when she’s done with that story she seamlessly launches into a new one and although I don’t always understand everything that is happening or her reactions to some parts of what happened, I listen and listen and shake my head in agreement because it’s so fun to watch her animated gestures and listen to her dramatic voice. She’s on a stage and I’m her audience. But then she asks for my advice and suddenly, I find I do have something to say. And she accepts it, just like that. Mostly, I think, because it’s exactly what she already knew.

I watched her sing a few weeks ago at her graduation ceremony in front of the entire town.

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Thousands of people. And she did it with confidence and sounded great. People whispered behind me that she sounded wonderful and I smiled a tiny smile, knowing she was my daughter. I imagine she could do that on a stage professionally someday. I wouldn’t be surprised. But I would probably be on pins and needles until she finished each performance, just like I was that day.

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Suddenly, the mood changes in her and she searches her iPod for something upbeat and loud. She finds Avril’s Runaway and sings at the top of her lungs and her infectious energy fills the cabin and creates a glowing halo around the car that surely, everyone must be seeing. She’s practically hovering over her seat. She grabs the camera and begins to shoot random shots.

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Then she decides to turn the camera in a circle and see what comes out, all the while singing and laughing.

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Then she declares that shots taken of a rounding corner of the road are the prettiest.

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Her mood elevates even more into a slap-happy stage where she makes silly jokes and funny faces at me until I’m laughing. And crying. But mostly laughing.

At Grandma’s she doesn’t go off to a corner and read a book or spend time sighing in obvious boredom as a teen is sometimes wont to do. Instead she sits by Grandma, who is showing me some new stitches, and asks if she could learn how to embroider, too. My mom whips out a dishcloth and sets her up with some thread and a needle, molding her amateur fingers into the most advantageous position. And my daughter sits at the table for a long time, learning how to keep the needle on top and how to make a pretty leaf and flower petal, only taking out her phone for texts a few times, smiling that small private smile. And I know she’ll remember this moment as one of the last before she grew into a full-fledged adult. She mentions to my mom that she wants to learn how to sew and had there been time, I’m sure she would have come home with a skirt made with her own hands and much coaching from Grandma.

I talk to my brother and his wife and for a moment, look up and find she’s gone. I look in the backyard and there she is, swinging on the small swings where many years ago she used to pose for me and ask me to take her picture, her blond streaked hair in ringlets being blown in the wind and her small mouth and tiny teeth and one leg posed this way and one arm posed that way. “Take one this way.” she’d say with a little lisp. She’s going higher and higher and looks up to the sky and her eyes tell the story of someone trying to capture a moment long ago and put it in a bottle for later, when she needs a pick-me-up. And I remember her at sixteen and fourteen and wonder what twenty will look like.

Back in the car on the way home and she’s somewhat serious. She’s contemplating how a good relationship works and where and what she wants to be in the future. She asks me if I know what she’s talking about and yes, I do. She wants me to share back with her some things that are hard for me. So, I do. And I tell her things I wouldn’t normally mention but it feels right right now, at this moment. And she comforts me and gives me advice and I’m amazed by her depth and wisdom at such a young age. And I realize most of it is the same advice I gave her yesterday and I’m glad she’s said it because now I know she knows it. And that’s a comfort.

Then out comes the sunshine on her face and she’s ready for some Kelly Clarkson. We sing together at the top of our lungs, complete with hand gestures and mannerisms in a choreography we created five or six years ago, often looking at each other and trying not to laugh when I sing a bad note. And I know that this is the moment I’ll tuck away in my heart in a tiny pocket that is reserved for when I miss her. This memory will get me through some days when I long to hold her and whiff her hair and smell that girl smell, fruity, and watch her telling me about this guy or that girl and what happened next. And I’ll take it out and remember her on that day and cry a little. And be happy.

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Now Shhhh

“Now shhhhhhhh,” she says, “you’ve said it all once and now you’re repeating yourself. It’s time to listen to someone with some age on her bones.”

I tried to stop the pointless murmuring coming from my lips and tune into her voice. The phone was slippery against my wet cheek and I pushed it closer to block out the sound of my brain.

“Now, you listen to me. Life is hard. It’s hard for everyone and if it wasn’t this it would be something else. The trick is to be thankful for your own set of troubles because believe you me, you don’t want someone else’. Yes, you’ve got it hard and I know it. Your mother knows it. And I get so mad when I think of all the things we need answers for that we don’t have here on this earth.”

“But, Gramma, how come you can call me on the phone? You aren’t alive.” I held my breath and waited for her answer.

“Don’t worry about that. The important thing is that you can hear me. So, listen up. Now, I know God has a plan and He loves you very much. You are a strong and beautiful person and a treasure to me, Grandpa, your parents, your family – even those that have gone on before.”

“But, Gramma, I don’t believe in all that church stuff. I don’t believe there is some plan. I have no idea what happens when we die but I don’t think it’s that churchy stuff.”

“You can go on thinking whatever you want. And I’ll keep telling you what the truth is. Now, here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to look in the mirror and tell yourself that your Grandma loves you more than you’ll ever know. Next you’ll tell yourself that your Grandma knows you can do whatever it is you have to do. And that you’re strong. And special. I know! You don’t believe it about yourself but you DO believe that your Grandma does. So, you just keep repeating that. Your Grandma knows and she loves you. And I can’t touch you right now but you better believe that if I could I’d be squeezing the stuffing out of you. And that will have to do.”

And then I woke up.

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