A MARGARITA IS SO MUCH MORE ON CINCO DE MAYO

 

margarita

Cinco actually marks victory in the Battle of La Puebla.

So, I celebrate by contemplating

La Margarita Perfecta,

con mucho tequila,

y jugo de limon fresca

para hacerme tranquila.

(recipe below)

Cinco de Mayo makes me miss these perfect cocktails

and so many other things associated with my native San Antonio:

Volver Volver,

Cuando Caliente El Sol,

hablando espanol,

bailando la polka,

la comida, la comida, la comida!

Fiesta,

$4 enchiladas (if you know where to go),

homemade tortillas,

The Battle of Flowers Parade,

But, most of all, La Cultura Mexicana,

that held and surrounded me

como familia.

The translation, for those who cannot bear my barely passable Spanish, is this: a Margarita is so much more. it represents my origin. I’m not Hispanic, but thanks to where I grew up, I have a history that is rich, and full and beautiful, and I never felt like I didn’t belong.

 By the way, the recipe for the Margarita is as follows:

1/3 Tequila, 1/3 fresh lime juice or Rosie’s Lime Juice

and 1/3 Triple Sec, or Grand Marnier if you are going high- brow.

 This very recipe

mysteriously caused my neighbor’s swimming

pool and back yard to be submerged in drifts

of bubbles 5 feet high– like Estee Lauder scented snow.

It started in their hot- tub

and spread like Ebola, and was one heck of a fiesta.

Let the Fiesta begin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOUR WINTER IS OVER!

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I spent the better part of Easter Weekend digging in the dirt with my kids. It was glorious! We made the spring pilgrimage to Home Depot and Lowes and bought a cart full of vibrant blooms. One child graduated college in December, and the other is a sophomore in nursing school, so it had probably been a decade since we enjoyed this family pastime. Long enough for the soil to go completely fallow, for all of our ” curb appeal” shrubs and potted plants to have gone to the Great Nursery In the Sky. We had all been so busy with our lives; we didn’t notice how dead things were. So we raked, hoed, dug and brought in healthy soil. It came back to us, as if no time had passed. We were really working our bodies hard— quite joyfully we discovered, together. It was, in its way, a very holy celebration. We were ridding ourselves of all remnants of winter, and death, and planting the seeds of spring and summer. The very act of planting the seeds and blooms was an expression of faith in the future. mountainlaurels

 

We are all seed planters in some way, aren’t we?

In an interview with Meet The Press, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said, “God is The God of Spring, renewal, birth, and growth– not winter and death.” While so much is complicated, that is a theological concept easy for me to focus upon.

So often, we don’t know what our next step should be. There is so much that is difficult, trying and confusing. But, we can help keep it simple.

All we can do is the next task that seems to present itself to our attention, having faith that it is, indeed, where we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing.

Dig, plant, water, and grow. It’s your time to bloom! Winter is over!

 

I FOUND JESUS AT THE JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER

Clean your finger before you point out my spots.

Benjamin Franklin

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I’m bearing witness to how I can trick myself out of miracles by imposing rules or limits on my Higher Power to appear “appropriate “or holy, not being flippant or disrespectful.  If I have free will, doesn’t God? Won’t he show up where and when it suits him best?

I spent years in an Old Testament box awaiting punishment, because I put God in a box, and refused to believe he was big or limber enough to find me outside of that box. I wanted everything about my faith and my relationship to God to be intellectual and complicated. If it is important, it should be complicated and difficult, right?

If there is one thing on which those of us who believe in a Higher Power can agree it is this: whatever we choose to call this divine being, it is omnipotent, infinite, omniscient, and omnipresent. For grammatical simplicity, I choose to use the pronoun, “he”.

His holy presence is everywhere and cannot be labeled or limited in any way. A host of amazing things follow from this:

Miracles are possible anywhere, anytime.

Sanctuary is too, because it isn’t a building. It is the presence of grace.

Spiritual community can happen anywhere, because true community is about joy and the freedom from fear and shame.

I used to think that thinking was the highest function of humanity. Now I know that loving is our supreme function, because it can transform both those who receive it and those who give it.

Through love, my faith has become about freedom, not labels and limits. Through the eyes of freedom, life becomes a simple adventure: I ask for help, blessings, and even miracles, and then just let them fall on me like summer rain. They happen when and how God wants them too. They don’t and can’t look the way I forecast them in my head, because my imagination is too small.

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Lift up your eyes all around, and see;

they all gather together, they come to you…

Then you shall see and be radiant;

your heart shall thrill and exult,

because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you.

Isaiah 60:4-8

So, why wouldn’t I be able to find my God at the Jewish Community Center, regardless of whether or not I am Jewish? There is such warm and loving acceptance of individual beauty there, such a beautiful spiritual atmosphere that is spacious and has room for me; I am immediately receptive to divine guidance, love and presence.

I swim laps outside, and, more often than not this winter, I have literally been swimming through clouds. Tell me, that isn’t 3 steps from Heaven! The warm water carries me and I don’t have to struggle or fight or try. It’s literally a communion between nature, spirit and body. That sounds like sanctuary and spiritual community to me.

Don’t I believe that God loves me enough to reveal himself to me in a way that I can see and understand? You bet I do! I’m not going to cheat myself out of another miracle.

This blog was partially excerpted from my book, Undamned, My Escape from the Old Testament, which just happens to be 61% off March 7-10th. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/s/ref=is_s_ss_i_0_6?ie=UTF8&k=undamned&sprefix=Undamn

Happy Spring:)

 

 

 

4 REASONS THEY SHOULDN’T FIRE BRIAN WILLIAMS

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Please hear me out. This may be controversial or not. But, it isn’t political. I know he lied. I know that is the cardinal sin of journalism. Here’s the thing: I don’t think he’s the real problem, and if he isn’t the real problem, firing him is putting a Band-Aid on Ebola. It looks like we are doing something, but it’s not something useful. It’s closing the pasture gate after the herd has already escaped. I think the herd escaped a decade ago. Here’s why:

  •  Truth is a much larger concept than the literal accuracy of remarks made during a network news broadcast, or anywhere else. Part of living in truth is acknowledging the realities of the world in which we live today. Brian Williams’ comments are merely a symptom of a long- standing epidemic, and the causes and effects of this disease are myriad, including his own network, which is fleeing from him as if from leprosy. NBC, of course, did not know that the now infamous war story wasn’t true. But, they did know that part of the reason Williams had such big ratings was that he straddled the line between straight journalism and entertainment and did it very well. He had huge name recognition. He was a regular on the talk show circuit. I started watching the evening news on his channel because I saw him being hilarious somewhere else. That is the truth.The truth is that the words investigative and journalism no longer appear in the same sentence with any regularity.

The truth is I am technically a registered Republican, but I was and am a loyal Jon Stewart fan because he refuses to let guests cling to their talking points, and yet he manages to question them congenially, without all the vitriol. He maintains respectful friendships with those he criticizes most. That shouldn’t be a rare art, but the truth is that today it is indeed rare.

  • The truth is we can see falsity packaged as “ truthiness” on TV news at any time. “Truthiness” can be literally true in the specific words that are said, and still missing key relevant facts, depending on who is telling the story. Reporting some facts while omitting others: is that completely honest? Blending news and entertainment to produce the mutation called Infotainment: is that truth in journalism? Is it journalism?

Just at random, I decided to watch Good Morning America last week for it’s content. It was an entertaining blend of weather, celebrity news, vine videos and reports on ISIS. I made the same notes on the network evening news: one third weather, one-third ISIS, and the rest was “news.” Into this mix, entered Brain Williams. He had huge viewership partially because he was also a personality; we knew him and liked him. Now, his employer is acting like he didn’t enter this arena with their permission and encouragement. BS. It’s about both ratings and truth, as long as there is competition for viewers and advertising dollars.

 

  • There is a beautiful gift in this set of circumstances because of what it reveals: We want the news to be real, fact based, investigative, journalism again. We didn’t know it until now, but we really, really miss it.

Let’s revel in this moment because it points to the solution, and there is one.

 

  • The cure invites action on all of our parts. We can actively seek out and support our true independent news sources, whatever our political persuasions, wherever they may be. We can each become advocates of the truth. There are independent, investigative journalists out there working for newspapers, online periodicals, and other venues. They rely on donors, like us. They are independent because they do not rely on advertising revenue from big corporate sponsors. We don’t live in a world where there is a single source for news delivered to us as we sit at our dinner tables anymore.                                    ~

Here’s the thing: he lied. I am in no way excusing that fact, but can we all tell the truth? Omitting news is also being dishonest. Telling part of the story is lying. Pandering to the powerful isn’t completely honest. We live in a topsy-turvy world where a whole generation gets their news from a fake news show and is mourning the loss of its host. I recently had the opportunity to very briefly meet Lizz Winstead, the co- creator of The Daily Show, and she schooled me a little bit, as I needed to be. I was lamenting the loss of Stewart, and she reminded me that he isn’t the only place to go where stories and facts are investigated, questioned and verified. It just might require a little more effort on my part now, and not be as funny.

Let’s forgive Williams, and if he does it again, he’s gone. Meanwhile, let’s take this opportunity to become more actively engaged in the search for and reporting of the truth.

Whatever our political beliefs, we can find independent sources of truth, balance, and accuracy in journalism and support them financially, read them, watch them and talk about them, so they can live to report another day.

LOVE AND QUICKSAND

heart

 

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle

 

What else would I talk about this week, but love? As the quote would indicate, love is a practice, not a gooey feeling. But, what kind of love are we practicing? What is excellence in love?

 

Love can be a super- power, because it can erase fear, and not much else can.

Love can be freedom, because it can create an expansion in our spirit and open us to a whole new perspective on the world and a host of unexplored possibilities.

Love and intelligence combined can result in wisdom.

But love without detachment, can be quicksand for the giver and the recipient. Love that is not detached from judgment is entirely conditional, and can make the giver a puppeteer and the recipient resentful. Love not detached from the fact that we are not anyone’s saviors can ruin our health, take us off of our own path and ultimately take our loved one off of theirs. We can’t save anyone from all pain or consequences, even our children. Any and all efforts to do so only result in the erasure of us.

Love with detachment, gives us the ability to be compassionate and forgive. It allows us to love from the appropriate distance, so we don’t get stepped on for putting ourselves between someone else and their destiny.

Love is an attitude, an intention practiced daily, or even more often, to see others as a gift, a blessing, and a lesson for who they are right now at this instant.

 

 

7 WAYS TO TAKE FLIGHT IN YOUR OWN LIFE

flyingbirds

 

 Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…

Lift up your eyes all around, and see

and be radiant;

your heart shall thrill and exult.

Isaiah 60

 

Image supplied with permission by David Eyestone

 

Thank God my friends don’t treat me like I treat myself!

My friends somehow see the me I don’t see.

Why do so many of us find it so difficult to have compassion for ourselves?

Where do we get the idea that driving ourselves relentlessly towards perfection and flogging ourselves for our failings is the best way to go?

I had to finally break wide open to finally let up on myself and discover that gentleness works. The above quotation is the beginning of the cure for this spiritual malady because it stands in stark contrast to the lie at the root of it all: I AM NOT ENOUGH.

Here are some tools to take the weight off your wings:

 

1) Let yourself take off and soar and realize that the belief that it is wrong to do so, is lie #2. If a loving God created you, then hobbling yourself is denigrating something that God made and loves. Quit judging yourself. It isn’t your job. Fire your inner critic and run him or her out of town.

2) If it is true that nothing can separate us from our loving creator, it must also be true that there is no mistake I can make that will separate me from Him or the flight plan he has set out for me, and if that is true, then a host of wonderful things follow:

  1. a) There is no such thing as too late. There is no such thing as too old. There is no such thing as technologically obsolete. There is no such thing as too young or inexperienced. These things do not apply to your Plan. You can be what God wants you to be, because you already are. He doesn’t make mistakes.
  2. b) God loves me unconditionally and he made me. If that is true, then he has compassion on me. If that is true, then I am deserving of compassion and gentleness from everyone including myself. This concept was so alien to me; I had to teach myself how to do it, with the following exercise. This may seem ridiculous, but this daily practice has transformed me by teaching me compassion and love for myself: I face myself in the mirror every day, look myself directly in the eyes and say, Baby girl, God loves you and so do I. I see you. I hear you, and I will never let you down again.

In other words, I treat myself as a loving Higher Power would. If I was created by something divine, I have a purpose, and am worthy of love and affection and joy right now- not when I finally have mastered Everything.

3) Dare to suck and forge ahead. Redefine success as daily progress, not perfection. I haven’t seen Shakespeare’s first poem, but I bet it probably sucked. Those on their deathbeds regret the things they never dared to say or do, not the things not performed perfectly.

Remember the 10, 000 hour rule. I read a book recently that pointed out that behind each and every singular, supposedly unique success story like Bill Gates or Steve jobs was a common trait: each of these geniuses and stellar successes had spent 10,000 hours practicing and honing their craft before they reached critical mass. None was truly an overnight success story.

So keep going, keep practicing, keep singing, playing, writing or programming. It is impossible to fail as long as you are still learning, growing and trying.

Embrace joy instead of perfectionism. The two are almost mutually exclusive. Leave perfection for living saints, dead martyrs and maybe Martha Stewart. Psychotherapy is expensive and treating yourself like a machine will eventually require a major tune up.

4) Ask God instead of beating yourself up. Even if you don’t believe, ask God to change you, instead of using willpower to try and change yourself. In any event, it takes the fear out of your head, and puts it someplace where you can forget it, pause, and shift your attention to what is great in the present moment.

5) Want to be popular and well loved? The kindest thing you can do for your fellow man is be gentle with yourself. If we are rigid and unforgiving of ourselves, imagine how we might judge others. In any case, the constant ” I am an undeserving worm ” recitations are a pain to be around and, as the philosopher, Dr. Phil says, you teach people how to treat you.

6) The past is just a story we tell ourselves (from the movie, Her) The fact that you weren’t perfect in the past doesn’t mean that you aren’t exactly where you are supposed to be right now. Regret is premature. We don’t know how everything is going to work out. Miracles are the things that happen outside of your carefully prepared plan. Take a forensic look back on your life, looking for God’s breadcrumbs. How many “ mistakes’ and detours turned out to be blessed course-corrections?

7) If God never wastes a hurt, as I was told when I was in a great deal of pain, then maybe C.S. Lewis was right. Pain is the megaphone of God. Might as well ask, what is the gift or the lesson in this situation?

I will never be old enough to stop making mistakes, and if I look back with objectivity, those ” mistakes ” were the catalysts to growth, and a necessary change in direction. Labeling myself unkindly is libeling myself, because it isn’t true. Clipping my own wings, hurts me, doesn’t help anyone else and doesn’t glorify my Creator.

 

 

5 EASY WAYS TO BE YOUNGER INSTANTLY

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Tina Turner of aging: It’s’ just a number. Bring it on!

 

1) Don’t associate with people who insist on knowing your age. It is an artificial limit and there is no need to even acknowledge it in any way. It may be their limitation, but it isn’t yours. You can do anything at any time, period.

 

2) Realize that the reason you feel insulted when people say, you look great for your age is because it is an insult. Shake it or them off.  It is someone putting his or her own limitations on you, even if unintentionally. Beauty is ageless, timeless and radiates outward from the soul. Don’t let anyone else diminish it. You are beautiful without qualification.

3) Limit your mirror time. The amount of time we spend looking in the mirror is inversely proportional to contentment and confidence. The brain is programmed to find what it is searching for. If we search our mirrors for flaws we will find them, no matter our age.

4) Exercise for 30 minutes. It makes you feel powerful, capable and strong and radiant.  Of course, if you feel flush with endorphins, you will look fantastic. Exercise also rushes oxygenated blood to the connective tissue that supports your skin, and keeps it from sagging.

5) If you can’t view every image you see in magazines, videos or the Internet as a highly produced and edited work of art, stay away or limit your time consuming them. Almost no picture we see isn’t filtered, photo-shopped or edited. That isn’t a standard: it’s a fantasy. Be in your own beautiful skin here and now, own it, and maybe strut just a little! You were created to be a blessing and that is beautiful.

 

SHOPPING MALLS. ENTRY HALL TO HELL?

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I found this little rhyme I did many years ago:

 

Hell’s Entry Hall

must be a shopping mall.

Vendors try to take from me

my most precious commodities!–

money and time,

while I wander

like a listless lab rat fed too much soda

in an IQ measuring labyrinth ,

the piped -in Christmas music-like sounds of singing slot machines of Vegas quickening my pulse,

urging me to hurry, hurry “ save 50%”

of nothing I would want to buy.

Is there an exit, not blocked with perfume-spraying trolls?

Kudos to those with mall- mastery.

It is above my pay grade, and brings only misery.

If I wake up after death, strolling in a mall,

it means God had no faith in my choices at all.

~~~~~~

I don’t feel this way because I’m virtuous, but because I am completely tasteless.

Right now, I am wearing super low- rise jeans that were in style two years ago. Because of weight loss, they fall in the wrong place and look like the SNL sketch about the repairman unknowingly displaying his butt crack. All that is missing is the tool belt. I don’t care.

I still have sweaters from my college days, which were an official eon ago. I once had an employee tell me I looked like a homeless person, and take me shopping, because to be seen with me embarrassed her. I don’t care.

I will probably always be a little out of date, or as I prefer to call it “ classic”, because the time I don’t spend looking for ways to spend money is time I can spend, writing, creating or making music or spending time with those who do.

Someone said that wealth is discretionary time. To me this is true .It is also freedom. It’s freedom to do what I love to do, measured in minutes hours or days. It’s not how much I can buy or even how much I can buy on sale. I save money in other ways: I tend not to spend it at all. Christmas is the exception and the Wild Card. It is fun shopping for other people, but I’m not going to take out another mortgage on my house on the 50 percent chance the gift I buy is what they really, really want.

For me, biology creates destiny: I am a woman born without the shopping gene. My mom and grandmother were born without it too. Childhood shopping trips usually resulted in tears all around.

Hey, Mall Mastery is an adventure and a challenge. I prefer walking a different type of tightrope– the life of the artist– gathering my creations, going through the painful process of self- editing, assimilating them in some semblance of order or perfect disorder, and standing there naked, daring someone to react. That means, if I do get paid, it is rarely and not much.

The less I buy, the more time I have to engage in this process, and the less pressure I have to put on myself to be a product instead of producing one. I still do, but not as much. So, if you see me on occasion wearing my clothes backwards, kindly tell me:)

 

THANKSGIVING DAY REBELLION?

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Thanksgiving Day is everywhere, but it isn’t.

I know this is a frantic time of year, and Commerce is King. But, can it not be king for this one day? Can we have one unadulterated, unaltered holiday? Can retail workers be re- assured of their humanity and value for this one day? They already work through the Christmas Holidays, every holiday, and every weekend. Can that be enough?

We all know it has gotten way out of hand. Forget the 12 days of Christmas! We now have the 60 days of Prozac. There is a daily Holiday Sale, beginning with Halloween.

Christmas ads and merchandise appear simultaneously with the Halloween costumes and candy and we become frantic at that moment without knowing why. None of us are happy to see this Holiday Creep, but it strikes us like a virulent virus, spreading from us to those we are in contact with. The hysteria lasts until every gift is bought and the Christmas turkey is nothing but a picked-clean carcass. During this period, Thanksgiving isn’t even mentioned except in conjunction with Christmas shopping.

Thanksgiving was the holiday that offended no one, except turkeys. Every person could understand the desirability of a day of reflection and Thanksgiving and participate. But, it has been watered- down beyond recognition. We need this one day, for family, food, football and the absence of a frantic frame of mind, to get ourselves ready for the holidays to come.

Can Thanksgiving Day please retain at least some of its original meaning; a day to pause, reflect on our blessings, enjoy our families and give Thanks? Can retailers not dictate the content and timetable for this one day?

~

Here is the thing: True Thanksgiving cannot be achieved while running full tilt. Hurry and competition is the enemy to an attitude of Thanksgiving, which requires calmness and reflection. I for one am sick of it.

Bravo to the brave retailers who are allowing their often underpaid employees to be with their families this one day.

Can we just be content with massive sloth, gluttony, family and football—the things I remember from my childhood Thanksgivings– without feeling compelled to engage in hand – to – hand combat with our neighbors to get Frozen Barbie?

.

I never have nor ever will set foot in a retail establishment on Thanksgiving Day. I may not have many absolute limits, but this is one. I do not for one minute believe that closing for this one day is going to put any retailer in jeopardy, especially, with Black Friday coming the next day. I believe that giving us all – employees, and customers, a day off can only produce blessings. I understand not everyone feels this way. If you care to, join me in the rebellion.

LET GO OR BE DRAGGED

 

( Why and How to Meditate, If You Can’t Sit Still)

 

All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quiet in a room alone.

Blaise Pascal

 clenched fist

Having the attention span of a gnat, I find traditional meditation practices impossible.

This writing attempts to give a practical real world answer to the two questions most of us with short attentions spans would ask:

1) why should we attempt to martial our million –mile- an- hour- thoughts for even the briefest of time, and 2) how on earth is it even possible?

The answer to question 1 of this conundrum came from a bit of very popular culture, my favorite TV show, Scandal. I heard this sentence and it really got my attention. One of the characters said,

“ True power hides in plain sight. It is subtle and doesn’t’ swagger.”

An arguably evil fictional character spoke these words, but it started me thinking of how true they really are.

Real personal power cannot be acquired by sheer force of will or intellect. In fact, if we are in a mess and don’t seem to be able to get ourselves out, it is our best thinking that landed us here.

True power comes from the Source of all power, and that is never ourselves.

My thoughts can race out of control like a quarter horse on speed, circling around and obsessing about a problem, a goal, an anything, until I’ve made it worse.

It’s time to let go, or I will be dragged. The harder I clench down on a problem and focus solely on it, the more I will be dragged away from any possible solution.

The reason and the method are one in the same:

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us, and the power to carry it out.

 xenia and palm

It doesn’t say we have to do this perfectly. It says we have to improve. We have to try. It also doesn’t say we have to be a cleric or a mystic to do this. We have to only seek the God of our understanding. He will do the rest.

The simple answer to the question of why is so we can let go of this world just long enough to link up with the divine world and remind ourselves that it and He is there, waiting for us to ask for help. Improve conscious contact….

 

The answer to how? Seek to improve conscious contact. Seek him.

All we have to do is let go of turmoil and questions, unclench, and seek our higher power for a few minutes, long enough to open ourselves to our power source and receive his infinite power, infinite love, wisdom, discernment and everything else that is good.

I have such admiration for those who can place themselves in a meditative trance for an hour, who have prayer closets that they visit regularly, or who write in their journals every day.

But, we don’t have to do that. I can’t do that.

For me, it is enough to go outside, sit in the sunshine, and listen to the wind chimes on my front porch for a few minutes. If the weather is bad, I have a meditation playlist on my iPhone that contains popular songs that inspire me. Some are worship songs. Some are not. It isn’t important what anyone else thinks about what they mean. I get what God is trying to impart to me. By letting go and listening periodically, I can keep his word and his will in my heart.

It is NOT easy, but it is simple and it is worth it. Anything can be a meditation or a prayer. A walk, a song, a journal, a wind chime. They key is finding one that works for you.