Wednesday, November 20, 2013

THANK YOU for your support of Wind to Wildfire



To all of you who read the excerpt from my new memoir Wind To Wildfire (posted for the 24 hour period on the anniversary of the fire) I thank you, thank you, thank you.

Words are insufficient to express my gratitude for your encouragement and support. I am warmed that so many of you were moved by it. My heart is overwhelmed.

I've now taken the post down and continue to send the manuscript out - hoping it will find it's way to publication.

If it weren't for all of this outpouring of love I probably would have been more bummed out this morning when I got another rejection from a publisher, who said that the book was in the "inspirational" vein, a vein that had been tapped out. In said publisher's opinion, inspiration is a one-dimensional subject that has been done to death. What more could I possibly add to the subject? And why would anyone want to read it?

Hmmmm....

Because we're human?

Anyway, I love you all and thank you for the MANY ways you have held me up through my life journeys, from the Stitch trial, to losing and finding my grandson again, and now to this book.  Your words have given me more strength than you can imagine. I will persevere until Wind To Wildfire finds its way out to all of you.

I will never lose hope in this world because there are so many beautiful people - and you, YOU who are reading this, you are my proof.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The 21-Day Meditation Challenge

"When your actions are inspired by love, you can do less and accomplish more because all of nature is held together by the nature of love."
 -Deepak Chopra


What do you think? True or not?

I'm willing to give it a try.

I signed up for Deepak Chopra's free 21-day meditation, along with several of my friends. Although I'm not new to meditation, I decided to take this challenge and journal about the changes I see in my life. I'm experimenting, approaching it like a scientist. Today was day 3,  and so far it feels great. I feel centered, calmer, and more at peace with everything that is swirling around me. This is a major bonus for me as I have to deliver a speech tomorrow at the Women's Leadership Legacy Conference. I am told it's sold out, and they are expecting 600 people. No pressure.

Let's see how meditating gets me through this, and through the everyday pressures of a 3 and 8 year old, my job with Moms Demand Action, and my writing and singing gigs. I've got a lot to balance right now, so I'm hoping if I keep myself heart-centered I'll glide through with less stress and struggle.

Most stress and struggle is in my head anyway- I do know that. I wrote about releasing struggle in "What I'm Giving Up."

If you want to try the meditation challenge, sign up for free. It's not too late to start. And if you miss a day, no worries. Just do what you can.
Chopra Center Meditation

Here is an excerpt from the thought for today:
"The Spiritual Law of Least Effort tells us that we can do less and accomplish more, an idea that seems at odds with what many of us have been taught throughout our lives. We’ve been told that success is the result of hard work, struggle, and sacrifice. Today we will tap into the ever present flow of natural ease that is available within, as we plant the seeds to live our destiny each and every day.

The universe has infinite organizing power, and as conscious beings, we have ready access to this realm simply by spending time in stillness and silence. The same consciousness that orchestrates the myriad rhythms of the whole world dwells within each of us. As we cultivate present moment awareness and remain open to the many opportunities life offers, we open to the power within us to realize all our dreams with effortless ease."


Wishing you all an effortless, love-centered day.

Monday, November 11, 2013

On Veteran's Day


This is a photo of my grandfather Ben - a young man heading off to war. After World War II, Ben became an alcoholic, prone to fits of rage and violence that destroyed his family. Ben had always wanted to be a writer, but his life turned out very differently. Sometimes I think it's part of my inheritance that I pick up the loose threads and carry on -  maybe that's why I feel compelled to write.

Here is a poem Ben wrote in his later years:

ON LITTLE BOYS

When he's small and he's sad, and he wants to cry,
He's told, "Stop! You mustn't do it!"
And whenever he asks for reasons why,
"You're a boy! That's all there is to it!"

So he hides it inside him where no one can see,
Cries in secret whenever he can,
For his parents have shouted, "Don't you dare shame me!"
"Stand up! Don't be soft! Be a man!"

Then he's told to follow that horrible star
Brutish God of gross barbarism
"Take up your weapons and be off to war!"
For scheming and false patriotism.

Those frightened young boys who march away
To send other young boys to their grave,
Who go off to kill or be killed in the fray,
For they're boys and must always be brave

Will justify their meaningless death
to themselves by being so brave,
As they senselessly die, give up their last breath,
the most precious of gifts that God gave.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Picture Perfect

Yesterday I posted this photo on facebook for #throwbackthursday. This is mini-me with my grandma Helen, my mother is center, and my Aunt Laura in yellow. I think my mother was 19 or 20, and my aunt was still in high school.

The photo got a lot of happy comments. So beautiful! Precious! Love it! Things of that sort.

It's one of those picture-perfect photos. But what no one knew is that my grandmother, just years later, would die of cancer. That my grandfather was a violent alcoholic who used to beat her. That my father, at this time, had just gone to prison. That there was incest, violence, alcoholism and drug abuse in this family. That years later the family would be shattered. That to this day we are estranged.

These are the characters in my first memoir which I will most likely never publish. 

For those of you who are writers, this is a great writing prompt. Look at a family photo, and write (imagine) the story. I guarantee you it is ten times deeper than what you see.

On the lighter side, I am grateful for my life. Everything I have experienced has grown my soul, and helped me to have empathy for others. I love my crazy, damaged family even though I don't see them.

Just a reminder that every person you see walking down the street has a rich and complicated story.  We are so much more than what we appear to be.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

How to Push Through Resistance

 
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To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Remember that from science class? And so it is that in every positive action you take, you are sure to encounter resistance in some form.

Resistance with a Capital R
Stephen Pressman, bestselling author of novels like Bagger Vance, says in his book The War of Art that resistance, like gravity,  is a natural force in the Universe. You will meet it all throughout your life. He says that you will especially find it when you are taking a big step in a positive direction. The pursuing of any creative dream, social activism, new relationships -  all will fall prey to the big R at some point. The point is to not be deterred by it. Here was the huge lesson for me. I have encountered resistance in the Universe every time I have tried to create positive change in the world. I’m certainly finding it, big time, in my activism for gun reform. I experienced huge resistance with my nonprofit programs for at-risk youth (lost funding, the flailing foster care system, difficult people who blocked our progress, etc.). I took it all very personally. After 8 years of fighting resistance I sort of felt the Universe was punishing me. I eventually gave up.

But now I think I get it. Every success is at some point met with failure. Think of every successful person you know. They are sure to have overcome a huge obstacle to get to where they are. We don’t take it personally that we are tethered to the ground by gravity. Nor should we be set back by resistance.

But resistance is not always an outside force. Often, Pressman says, resistance comes from ourselves in the form of the ego. But here’s where it all shifts for me. He says those resistant voices in your head that say You can’t do it.  You’re crazy. You’re not good enough, smart enough, educated, talented, tall, short whatever it is you’re not enough…none of that is you.

Huh?

That’s right. He says that voice is just resistance, that natural force in the universe. Resistance is not you. YOU are a pure, creative, loving spirit. Anything that is not pure, creative and loving is not the real you. How do you like that? So the next time that negative voice starts yammering away in your head, you don’t have to listen to it. It’s not you! Tune it out.

So what do we do when we meet with resistance? Pressman says we acknowledge it for the harmless natural force it is. We don’t take it personally or get upset. We persevere, and we push through it. Success and happiness are on the other side. Keep your eye on the prize.

Or to quote Pressman, "Put your ass where your heart is."

Check out this interview with Oprah and Pressman on Super Soul Sunday:

Why Oprah Had Trouble Writing Her Harvard Commencement Speech
Author Steven Pressfield says that in order to find your calling, you must put your "a** where your heart wants to be." The one thing that keeps us from sitting down, he says, is resistance. Watch as he helps Oprah work through why she procrastinated on writing her Harvard commencement speech. Plus, learn why every dream encounters resistance along the way.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Yes Is the Word



Years ago, my husband Troy (a professional musician/composer) took a comedy improv class. For him, it was like bungee jumping-- saying yes to something that scared him. He ended up staying in the program and performing every Friday night for over a year, and sees it as one of the best things he ever did.

In improv, you always say yes to the scene. If your scene partner puts a leash on you and begins to parade you around the stage, then yes, you are a prize pooch in the Westminster Dog Show. Of course much of this is fun and games, but on a larger scale Troy learned how to say yes to life, rather than resist the “scenes” that were handed us. For instance, when we were in our forties with our daughter in college and son in high school, I sat Troy down and told him I was pregnant. He didn’t freak out (though it would have been justified). He said yes to that scene. All through my pregnancy with Evan, I attended Troy’s Friday night comedy performances. I loved it, and I too learned the importance of saying yes. A few years later when our son Taylor sat us down in the living room and told us his Japanese exchange-student girlfriend was pregnant, we said yes to that scene, too. And to many more scenes since…

One of my favorite comedies was “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey. In the film he is sort of a pessimistic curmudgeon who is challenged by a motivational speaker to say yes to every opportunity that comes his way. He begins to say yes to danger, risk, love and adventure. Of course a few things go haywire because he has no boundaries and doesn’t say no to the things he should. But by saying yes to opportunities he once hid from, his life opens up. He finds love. His career takes off. His friendships deepen. The deepest desires of his heart, ones he had not allowed himself to feel, begin to take root

This word yes is popping up for me a lot lately, and I am paying attention. Last week on Super Soul Sunday, Oprah was interviewing pastor Rob Bell (author of Love Wins).
“How do you define prayer?” she asked
“One word,” he said, “Yes.”  Bell says we should wake up every day and approach our lives with wonder. Greet the morning with, “Yes, I’m open. What’s next?”

Author Steven Pressman (The War of Art) also believes in the power of yes. He says that we all have two lives; the life we are living, and the unlived life. The only reason we have an unlived life is because we haven’t said yes to it.

Our friends Julie and Mary set a fine example. They have an engraved brass plaque on their front door which reads, “The House of Yes.” And these are two women who are definitely living the life of their dreams.

This morning in my meditation, I said yes. Yes. I’m open. What’s next? It feels both scary and exhilarating, but I am ready to step into the fullness of who I am, who I can be. I’m ready to stretch my limits and explore my potential. I am ready for new experiences and adventures. I am ready to approach my life with love and wonder.

YES.