Thoughts Become Reality

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One of my dear friends from childhood named Sue, someone with whom I can spend a total of 15 minutes with every five years and still have a perpetual connection with (thanks to Facebook and perhaps thanks to our spirits), often gives her friends daily spiritual vitamins upon which to reflect. Today it was something from Marianne Williamson:

On Meeting Limits with Unlimited Thought
Our power lies in meeting limited circumstances with unlimited thought. It is not what happens to us, but what we choose to think about what happens to us, that determines what will happen next.
If our circumstances tempt us to think thoughts such as, “I’m such a loser,” “I will never have another chance,” “It will take forever for this situation to right itself,” or “I hate whoever is to blame for this,” then miracles, though they are programmed into the nature of the universe, cannot make their way into our awareness. They’re in the computer, but we’re not choosing to download them. With every thought we think, we either summon or block a miracle.
It is not our circumstances, then, but rather our thoughts about our circumstances, that determine our power to transform them. We choose in life whether to live in victimization or in victory. We have power either way – power to use against ourselves, or power to use to free ourselves. The point is that we always have the choice, and it’s not always as simple as it appears.
- Marianne Williamson

This hits on several areas in my life. First of all, I think it is a miracle that I have such a great husband and these two lovely daughters who care and love me so much. I do not love myself as much as they do. I should. I need to work on that constantly.

Secondly, while it is such a gift to be a freelance writer and to write articles in my shady and private backyard office, it gets a little tough when the checks take a long time to come in. It’s not that stable. That’s why I am a substitute teacher (believe me, having the summer off with my family has been GREAT! School starts Friday. Yay!). So I’m happy to be writing, it helps me stay relevant as a journalist, and it keeps me in touch with my community and people who are important. But honestly, I feel like I need a miracle every month to stay solvent, which is why I still send out my resume. There must be a few hundred versions of it out there right now.

Finally, being a triathlete is crazy. As a kid I loved to swim, bike and run around. I didn’t have my children until I was past 40, so I could do all kinds of things for a long time before they were born. But after they were born, I got sluggish and fat and that also makes your self esteem and soul turn to mush. At 50 I started to do triathlons. Do I train to win? Of course I do! Do I win? No. Not unless everyone else is out of town doing full-blown Ironmans or other endurance events. I try really hard to do my best. During my last half Ironman, which was Honu in Kona a few months ago, I struggled during my ride and my run. The self talk was all about “never again.” Thank goodness I had friends along the course who interrupted me with their cheers and support. I would have happily fallen into a lava tube to die. When I finished just minutes before the clock wound down, it felt like a miracle. And it was, woven by the voices of friends, the unbearable heat that I wanted to get away from, the desire to be done with it.

Reprogramming myself to understand that my thoughts control the gate through which miracles arrive is difficult, but it makes sense. If I want to attract something wonderful and fulfilling or even a conversation with someone I want to spend time with, I have to appear ready, I have to be available, and I have to be receptive.

Thinking positively. Peace.

And From Death We Get Alone Time

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It’s been a week since Aunt Mary Lou died. It was early in the morning, in her home, as though she fell asleep for the last time.

When I heard the news, I hustled to book a flight, a rental car and a hotel room. I was airborne Thursday afternoon and touched down in Philly by 1130 Friday morning. I visited my sister at her salon and then joined my mother and Uncle Ralph, a new widower, for dinner Friday evening. Saturday was the viewing, funeral mass, burial and celebration at Taylor’s Sports Restaurant and Bar on the Black Horse Pike.

Aunt Mary Lou has 10 grandchildren, all in their 20s and 30s. They took the long center table at Taylor’s. I know these kids. Three of them lost their mother, our eldest cousin Maureen, in a motorcycle accident. We are incomplete because Maureen is gone, but you have to make do. Her three children have become adults without her guidance. It cannot be easy. And no matter how hard a man tries, it’s pretty tough to be both parents. My heart is heavy for them.

At the viewing I got to see my cousins for the first time in a couple of years. They stood in a reception line as Aunt Mary Lou’s friends and family came through to pay their respects. I observed my cousins as they spoke with people who came to them, sharing their memories and sharing tears. Every time someone came through, the reception line would be brought to tears again. It had to be exhausting, I hope it was cathartic. In an open casket was Aunt Mary Lou. She wore a scarf and her hands clutched a rosary of red crystals. She was my Godmother.

Because I have been away for so long, I have grown apart from my family. This trip to New Jersey really showed me how much I have changed. The most significant change is my lack of a lead foot when behind the wheel. Thank goodness I’m in a rental car with Florida plates because I’m pretty certain I frustrate the heck out of every driver on these roads. I would be driving along on a back-country road (Yes, South Jersey is loaded with them) at 35mph and see a sign that says the speed limit is 50 (as indicated by the headlights behind me).

As a family member, I’m an outsider. I am not here enough to know all the goings on, who is doing what, what children and grandchildren are up to, who needs a prescription, who needs new eyeglasses, who is vegan, who is vegetarian, who’s staying married, who’s getting divorced, who’s struggling with what.

Every time I show up is a good time, even now. When I visit, and this has always been the case for the 36 years I have not lived in New Jersey, we all get together and have fun. Barbecues, parties, out to dinner, to the beach, all kinds of excursions.

Life goes on when someone we love dies. While we have to drop everything to take care of the details of death, we (and I mean my cousins mostly) must resume as soon as possible the matters of life. This time there weren’t any get togethers after Saturday and Sunday. I would imagine everyone has to go back to work, catch up with laundry, and live life.

So I am alone in my hotel room. I have paid my respects, I have offered my support, I have arrived to give Aunt Mary Lou my farewell in person. My cousins were so appreciative of my being here because I had come so far. Each of them is worth the trip. It was what I needed to do.

Tonight friends met with me at Ott’s Tavern in Delran. I spread myself too thin. I didn’t get to talk to any one person enough. It was enough and it wasn’t enough. When we are kids we have no idea how valuable time is. Now that we are older, we should. It is nearly priceless.

This is my contemplation. Time is swift. I will soon be checking out of my hotel room, driving myself to the airport, and getting myself from here to Hawaii, traveling solo through Philadelphia, Houston, LAX and HNL, where my husband will take me home where I belong.

They say they miss me. It is a wonderful thing to know.

 

 

My Third Metric: Writing for You and Me.


Yesterday the automatic payment to renew my WordPress website was charged to my credit card. Lavagal.net is a blog that has yet to make any money. It wasn’t really designed to make any money, but I figured that it would generate the feel-good currency of followers, hits, comments and pitches. I believe this blog has value. The value increases every time I draw in a reader who finishes an entry to the end, gives my words some thought and takes a step toward being healthy, making something delicious to eat, or thinks about getting married.

As a free-lance writer, it’s important that my words provide a return on investment. So I hope my blog also will lead to writing assignments. My experience as a former newspaper reporter, business writer, and corporate writer helps, too. I am grateful.

As a free-lance writer, my income is sparse and scattered. I’ve learned to live with less. I am married so I do have a safety net.

As a free-lance writer, there is no choice. I’m forced to adjust my economic sails to embrace this thing called the Third Metric, where people are encouraged to put personal preservation above material goods, money and power. The Third Metric is a big deal on the Huffington Post website, but I find it ironic that people with money and power are telling the rest of us that focusing on money and power will destroy us, or something like that. Well, I’ll take money to pay for Kid1&2′s college bills in a few years, to complete some projects around the house and to take a trip once a year. Please don’t tell me I should embrace life with less money when money pours into your accounts at rates beyond my comprehension. Don’t.

So that’s why I’m a lonely voice in the Aloha State who thinks hitching my blog to HuffPostHawaii for no return on investment is a no-win situation. Obviously, I didn’t make the list for the big party the other night, and I had to get off social media so I wouldn’t have to see all my friends’ updates and Instagrams about the emperor’s new clothes.

This blog is awesome. When the HuffPostHawaii idea was first floated, I got in touch with the editor and she liked lavagal.net. But I’m not a college student, a beginner 20- or 30-something in communications, or a full-time public relations executive who can write her little blog on the side for free.

I have to respect my skill, my words, my work. I cannot give them away for free.

I understand that not all bloggers are journalists, traditionally. Not all bloggers went to journalism school like I did. Some bloggers stick to their interests such as anime, recipes, fashion, music and sports. Blogging is a way to journal about what’s going on. It may or not get hits.

But for me, blogging and writing professionally go hand-in-hand. I cannot help but reflect on current events, such as the time there was a shooting near Kalani High School on Kalanianaole Highway a few years ago.

I know that my blog entries connect with plenty of people in and out of Hawaii. This is real life. The flow of lavagal is decidedly different from the silly scratch-the-surface stuff you might find about Hawaii on some other big, shiny and pretty website. I hope you’ll agree.

Mahalo for reading.

Love, Me.

Comet’s Big Secret


Comet blended in well with the rocks in our yard.

Comet blended in well with the rocks in our yard.

This morning we made the very painful decision to euthanize Comet, whom many of you know as my furson and boy cat. Comet had developed a gallbladder blockage and jaundice. People can have their gallbladders removed. According to Dr. Sox at the Veterinary Emergency and Referral Center of Hawaii, cats don’t survive the surgical procedure very well. We tried antibiotics and prednisone (yes, I guess animals can be treated with steroids, too), but Comet didn’t improve. The gallbladder could burst at any given moment, so we made this decision based on what the outlook would be for Comet’s quality of life. Days and nights were spent under our bed, with trips to the water bowl and kitty litter box, and back. Minimal socialization. Kitty Girl hissed because Comet smelled “different.” 

Comet's first visit to the doctor.

Comet’s first visit to the doctor.

Three weeks ago when we took Comet in to see Dr. Sox we were informed that our Comet was a GIRL. Comet and her two sisters were born in our garage 10 years ago. I caught them in the have-a-heart trap one at a time, took them to the Humane Society and promised to take care of these feral kittens. In exchange they were spayed. Comet’s paperwork indicated she was a he and neutered. Go figure. Everyone makes a mistake with paperwork, right? It never occurred to me in all these years to part the fur and see for myself. And when cats are kittens it’s really hard to tell if there are fuzzy little balls or just a butt down there. 

Kitty Girl, the last of three Bender kitty siblings, aka, Chief of Security.

Kitty Girl, the last of three Bender kitty siblings, aka, Chief of Security.

It was quite a shock for us to receive this news. Not that we were disappointed, it’s just that Comet was such a boy in our eyes. Comet came with a frisky trot when called, could never pull off being aloof, and enjoyed sneaking up and pouncing on Kitty Girl whenever the opportunity presented itself. When tom cats would come into the garage and eat their food, Kitty Girl was the one who mixed it up with them. Maybe it was because she was in charge of security, but Comet rarely opened more than an eye when the toms came by. And I was pretty certain Comet was one of the guys, so to speak, as they’d hang out in the backyard together. Tom cats stink, so I always chased them away. 

So after Comet was outted as a she instead of a he, we adjusted our pronouns. We couldn’t care less. I just think we would have raised her differently had we known she was a chubby chick instead of a big guy. I always gave my boy cat extra brisk full body massages. Maybe I would have been gentler had I known Comet was a she. 

I’d lie if I didn’t say I cried all the way home. Losing Comet — this cat who stood on her hind legs to stroke her face along my hands, the cat who always gardened with me, hung out with me while I wrote on this computer (verklempt this very moment), and loved me unconditionally — has brought me to a very sad place today. 

Our world gives us gracious companions. When I rake the backyard the lizards watch as I stir up bugs for them to eat. When I walk into Kid2′s room, her betta fish swims excitedly just to get me to make duck lips at him. When I go out to harvest some of my vegetables from the garden, Kitty Girl inspects the pots and brushes up against the rosemary. When I swim, ride my bike, or run, I am always watching for the lovely creatures with which we share this planet. 

And I cannot help but be certain that their souls live on and that we shall meet again. Good-bye, sweet Comet. You were our gift. 

Waiting for the Right Fit


Relax. Enjoy this time off. How many times have I heard those words in the past few months? It has been amazing being off for the summer with the kids. I completed my first Ironman 70.3 on the Big Island. I have time to train for my next triathlon. I relax working in my garden right in my own yard. I do more home cooking than buying fast food. I sleep in. I sleep well. I am grateful. And the added bonus of getting to write at my out-door office next to the garden while enjoying the Hawaiian trade winds? Priceless.

But sometimes I get a little edgy, a little worried and a little freaked out. It makes it impossible to truly relax. Thank goodness for my triathlon training. I would probably be bonkers without it.

I have been given valuable advice in my search for the next great thing: Don’t settle. Find something enjoyable. Find an organization that appreciates your skills and perspective. Don’t underestimate your abilities and skills. Realize how unique and special you are.

As I enjoy this Independence Day and look forward to the fireworks over Maunalua Bay this evening, I give thanks to the radical liberals who stuck out their necks for the future of this great nation. I am always, always, ALWAYS in awe of our Founding Fathers and the foresight in which they created our Constitution. Human rights, freedom from oppression, and the checks and balances of our government keeps our nation somewhat balanced. I am so very grateful for my friends on FB who agree to pleasantly disagree with me politically and are so generous with their virtual hugs.

America: Love it, protect it, and be grateful. Where else would we fit? Peace!

Gold or Porcelain?


Thank goodness for my husband John because he has talked me off the ledge quite a bit these last few months. I have had my share of private dispair, and I hope that an uptick will soon occur for me. Fortunately, John will push me out the door to ride my bike, go for a pathetic run, or get back into the swim, either solo or with my TryFitness sisters, when all other aspects of life are fraught with landmines.

It makes a huge difference in life when people believe in you, and if I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t be writing this. Oh, and my writing! It is good. I know this because people tell me they like the way I write all the time. But you cannot put a round peg into a square hole and be happy. Sometimes I feel like comic sans in a Times New Roman world.

On Tuesday, February 12, I jumped on the Catholic-Give-Something-Up-For-Lent bandwagon (it’s a backslidin’ Catholic girl’s right) and gave up white flour. What happens when you give up white flour? You give up much more: No white flour snacks and desserts, no hamburger rolls, no side of mac salad, no katsu, etc. There is a lot you can eat though: rice, rice noodles, oatmeal, quinoa, barley, and whole-wheat products. I started making my own home-made, whole-wheat pasta and pizza crusts. I’ve been drinking a lot more water, and fresh fruit and vegetables. So a month later I’m down seven pounds. Not much, but, pretty good for me.

What has helped is the Honu Half-Ironman fitness regimen with my TryFitness sisters. We rest on Mondays, we work out together on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays; and we work out independently the other days. I’m doing nearly all of the independent workouts. I really don’t mind that I’m the slowest and quite possibly the oldest woman in the group, because I’m in it to make me better, and to be part of a bigger movement, the one where about 15 of us get together to bond and support each other.

This morning John and I went to the dentist and I had to have a molar prepped for a crown. Half my face was numbed and it was a very crappy 45 minutes with Steve Martin in my face. JOKE, of course. I’ll go back for a fitting in a few weeks and for my new crown in May. I’ve decided to go with gold because you won’t see it anyway, and they last longest.

I was very sad after that appointment. We were driving to my next appointment to have lab work done, and John said to me that this was all a part of getting old. I’m a little bit pissed about this. I’m not really ready to be a little old lady. There’s too much to do. The best is yet to come. Crooked smiles and all.

 

A Daily Top 10 List of Gratitude

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Luvs! Each morning I’m to write down 10 things I’m grateful for as part of my personal self-improvement program to adjust my outlook on life. I’m to say thank you for each of them three times. It’s supposed to set the tone for my day. Wake with gratitude, appreciate what you have, and keep that attitude going throughout the day. I won’t always post it here, but today I feel like it. Plus, well, you know, it’s my blog. I’ve read The Secret, so that’s what this is all about.

By Kid2: A mountain, a feather, a heart in an ocean, which is in a bigger ocean. Luv it!

By Kid2: A mountain, a feather, a heart in an ocean, which is in a bigger ocean. Luv it!

I do not wake up grateful every day. I do not go to bed thankful for all that happened throughout my day. Some days I feel like driving straight through the guard rail between Hanauma Bay and Lanai Lookout instead of taking that awesome curve with finesse. But you know what? I take the curve, and I do love driving along there. I love seeing the ocean, the deep blue sea kissing the light blue sky with Molokai, Maui, and sometimes Lanai in sight. I have a lot to live for, three people who endlessly love me, and many friends with whom I wish to discover more about. I also have a lot to give. A lot to give.

Today, February 14, 2013: Thank you times 30.

  • I’m grateful the best guy ever realized we were supposed to be a team, and gave me a huge bouquet of roses, popped open the bubbly, made Salad Niçoise ala Julia Child, and got down on one knee to propose way back in 1991. He could have handed me an Almond Joy.
  • I’m grateful I have two beautiful and brilliant daughters. What a hard road it was to become a mom.
  • I’m grateful for my home, garden, and kitties. It is the place where I can fully relax.
  • I’m grateful for this job. I love to write, I enjoy my colleagues, I struggle with some aspects, but I have the support of my management who are helping me obtain my goals.
  • I’m grateful for my health and the sense to realize that working out should be fun and enjoyed.
  • I’m grateful for my friends with whom I work and work out. I’m grateful for my friends on Facebook and Twitter. Some are old from small-kid time days, and others are new, many of whom I’ve never met. It is always, always, always a joy to connect with them (you!).
  • I’m grateful for the Internet and my iPhone with a camera that lets me capture moments to share with the universe. I love that I can frame something beautifully within a few bytes.
  • I’m grateful for my bicycles because every time I get on one (almost daily now that one is set up on a trainer at home), my body and mind are transported to that girl who rode her Schwinn Varsity 10-speed everywhere, all over Burlington County, New Jersey, exploring back roads and always returning home safely.
  • I’m grateful for the tough moments that mark my day and my life because of the introspection and growth they generate within. The life’s lessons shape us.
  • I’m grateful for having realized at this half-way point of my life that it’s important to be quiet, to hold back when I feel the need to shield someone, to instead write the things I have learned and hope that my words seep into hearts unknown forever.