Today, I simply ask that you pray with all our community for miracles for my childhood friend Pete Sorini and his wife Stephanie, their children Mar, Bella, and Gia, and all their family. Thanks in advance. I rely on you and I love you.
About this thing called life today …
I have been taking a photo from my window every day, to get some perspective on my perspective. There is no photo of the view from my window today. I was at a funeral for a great Irish woman here in Butte and taking a photo would have just been too tacky. What I saw was a community gathered to honor, to share in laughter and grief, and to love. The depth of that love was palpable, leaving me wondering (as I have wondered before.) What will it take for us to express our care and concern for each other on any ordinary day?
It was a true honor to know the woman who died on Sunday and was buried today, next to her husband who had been buried 42 years ago. It was a blessing to talk with her, to play and tease her, to be included as one she knew.
i suspect it was so for most everyone gathered there today. And for the most part, I suspect it is that way for each of us, when we are willing to be completely honest, to be fully engaged with those around us, to be vulnerable in our humanity and to confess our love for those in our lives.
So in case you wondered ~ I love you. I will love you no matter what. If you need someone to sit with you while you cry, I will be there. When you want someone to listen to your jokes or to tell you a joke, I am your gal. I want to divide your sorrow by listening. I promise to double your joy when you share with me.
I want you to sleep tonight, knowing that in all the world, there is only and will ever be only one truly incredible passionate loving you ~ and that’s all there ever needs to be.
Sleep well. Love wins ~ and truly, Love is all there is.
This photo was taken from the bridge near my hotel in London, the setting the last week of September for The World is Your Stage Workshop. Even though I knew from others who had attended before me that it would be an amazing weekend, I was unprepared for the depth, breadth, and reach of the transformation available.
To describe the contents of the course would have little effect on your view of the workshop. What I want to share with you is the daily impact the course has had on me, the difference this has made in the lives of those around me, and the opportunities that have unfolded from my having participated.
My wardrobe is completely new. I’ve purchased new clothes that are a match for my commitments. Each day, I dress for every scene, each act, according to the character in that setting. Instead of avoiding choosing an outfit for the day, I look forward to creating. I have organized what I have so that I can make use of accessories and shoes that I had forgotten I owned, those items having been buried in the bottom of the closet. As a result, people have not recognized me at galas, been surprised by me at events, and commented that I must have lost weight. Yep. I’ve done that too.
A major accomplishment is the completion of a case that had been stagnant for nearly three years. As counsel for the past two years, I was committed to getting it done before the holidays. Through September, nothing from mediation to motions to judge’s threats resulted in any forward motion in the matter. After returning from London, I took on being awe-struck, vital and vulnerable and had conversations with my client, the other attorney, and the court about how the case could be resolved. The court finalized the matter ten days ago and today, the final papers were completed. This was not a foreseeable future. The families involved in the case are clearly more at ease, looking forward to the holidays rather than dreading them for another year.
With regard to my space (from the car to the office to the home to the closets and drawers in the home) I took on creating a stage worth playing. In the past seven weeks, I have cleared the filing piles at home and office, listed items for sale and given other items away, organized books, movies, and music. The organizing of music was a miracle in and of itself as I had given up that I would ever find some 500 CDs that I had stored in a box in 2008, separate from their jewel boxes. Just yesterday, I found the box and all the CDs. As I write, all the media is sorted, organized, and in place. I can now find what I am looking for and last night, I slept peacefully, no attention on the missing discs.
During the course, I saw how I walked through the display of my understudy. It was a true blessing to be able to see what others had seen; I have long been told that I walk like my dad did, and I did not know what that meant. What I saw was a bit disturbing, as I saw someone who came at others full force, ready to pounce. Since the weekend, I have been more aware of how I carry myself, what I intend by my approach to a room or a space, and who the others in that space are. I have become softer, more approachable, and embodied my intentions of being vulnerable and available. Today, I had a conversations with a client, court attorney, and opposing counsel in a somewhat contentious situation. Previously, the opposing counsel and I had a conflict between us which required a mediator to resolve. Today, I was greeted with a calm, patient, and open person willing to work through things to their completion. I was amazed ~ and inspired by what could happen in many domains of life.
An initiative I took on after returning from the workshop was to do something every day that scares me. I have had a fitting for bras, taken on a cleanse/detox, been in communication with others that I had been avoiding, fulfilled my commitment to each and every client, worn a two-piece swimsuit, made unreasonable requests for support, and invited criticism from my biggest critics ~ all inside a commitment to be available, awe-struck, and of service.
Clearly, the stages where I get to play, the characters I have the privilege of becoming, and the shifting and transforming my life is a process. The scripts are new. The set is novel. And this life? Incredible!
The character I am playing is now living and being awe-struck, available, vulnerable, vivid, and vital. This was, by far, one of the very best weekends of my life.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg …
Today was a truly remarkable day. Truly remarkable. It didn’t start out that way.
I was at the dentist’s office this morning, dealing with an abscess tooth. I was sore and nauseated.
As the day unfolded, all of that seemed to just be the groundwork for a truly remarkable day.
In 2008, I took nearly 500 CDS from their cases and packed them in a box to take to Kansas City with me. The thought was that I would be able to store them in my iTunes account and I would have time to do that.
I did not have time. I am fairly certain that I didn’t listen to more than five of them during my eleven month stay in KC. I brought them back to Butte, planning to return them to their jewel cases and store them in iTunes then.
I have moved twice since then, taking all those empty cases with me ~ and taking the box of CDS came along for the ride. In March of 2011, I hired an organizer who worked with me to get things managed and stored. One of the projects we identified was to get those CDS into their cases, sorted, and stored in iTunes. Within a month of that organizing, I lost the box of CDS.
So imagine. I have a box of +/-500 CDS and cannot find them. I have empty jewel cases for those CDS. And I am now sure I have lost those CDS and their music ~ saved over the previous twenty plus years. I often laid awake at night imagining the music, the money I had invested, and all the places the CDS could have gone. (At $10 per disc, that’s about $5,000, in case you were wondering.)
A couple weeks ago, a friend mentioned he needed work, and I hired him to work with me to get some projects complete. Today, he arrived at 2 pm to continue getting through the sorting. I figured we would end up tossing those cases, knowing the CDS were long gone.
Until this afternoon. Today, in the bottom of a 40-inch box, I found that shoebox filled with the CDS. And by 7 pm, we had sorted all the CDS, restoring the found discs to their cases. I was so excited, I started to cheer. I laughed. I danced a little. I celebrated. Completing this task brought completion, peace of mind, and integrity to what had been a mess for nearly four years.
And I wondered. What else have I lost that I can celebrate? What relationships have been put away in a box for safe keeping? What practices have I ended that would serve me? What is in the closet that would make a difference in someone else’s? Where can I take the extra fill-in-the-blank-stuff that will be a contribution to others? Where else are things a bit of a mess? To what else might I bring completion?
Today? Today was a truly remarkable day.
The thing that is most important to me in life is that all people have the access and opportunity to live their lives out loud, fully expressing what matters to them and being the difference they are committed to being.
It’s Saturday night, and I just climbed from an Epsom salt bath where I was sipping a hot cup of tea and reading “Clean Gut,” a book about how our bodies’ roots lie in our guts ~ the place we need to repair first if we want to achieve the ultimate health.
I had just started reading a passage in the book about the writer’s dilemma of his future and how he was confused about what he wanted to be and what he had prepared himself to be. At that moment, Bonnie Raitt and John Prine were singing “Angel from Montgomery” on American Roots, a PBS radio program. And I started to cry.
I am in the middle of a detox program designed to jump start my metabolism and give me an edge on fighting the cold and flu season which usually manages to sideline me from life every winter. One of the things my coach has warned me is that people on this program may become emotional. I scoffed at the suggestion, certain that my training, work on issues through various avenues, and my faith, humor, and resilient roots had allowed me to avoid those pesky emotional releases ~ hadn’t I released enough already?
Apparently not. When I read of the writer’s struggle, I was reminded of my passion and my commitment ~ to become a Landmark Forum Leader. I took on this commitment before I completed my own Forum in 1997. Within six weeks of that day, I had closed my law practice, packed my belongings in storage, and moved to Tulsa with only what I could carry in my car to begin the leadership training process to fulfill on my commitment.
Over the next year, I completed the initial programs, the leadership training, and became a staff member for Landmark. I spent nearly six years on staff in the Dallas Center where I led any and every program I could, worked in every position, succeeded and failed in varying degrees, and continued the path to my dream of leading the Forum.
When I got sick in 2004 (see my earlier post about this), my commitment, passion, and dream came to a crashing end. I was unable to function at all for so long that I wondered if I would ever be able to distinguish the fundamentals of transformation that I had been at work mastering.
And tonight, I cried about that loss. It was as if all the pores of my skin were crying for the lost future, the failed effort, the abandoned dream. To my surprise, that dream was still living in my cells. Looking through the past couple of years, I could see all the attempts to compensate for what I could not be ~ trying to practice law, becoming a laughter yoga teacher, writing a book, taking and selling photographs ~ all done in an effort to somehow fulfill on my commitment to be a difference maker. And even while some of those efforts have proven to be challenging, rewarding, and fun, they have not been satisfying and fulfilling for long.
I am committed that the release of the toxins from my cells tonight through the crying, the mourning for what might have been through acknowledging it, and the alignment of my spirit with my life as it now presents itself will lead to the shedding of more than just weight. (I have lost 10 pounds in 10 days on the detox!)
This one precious, crazy, inimitable life will be one that makes a difference ~ no matter where or how or what that might look like. And now, I have wide open space to create it
Three short years ago, a doctor said words I never expected to hear. “You have a clean bill of health.”
After more than seven years of dealing with doctors, labs, blood draws, medication, therapies, treatments, shots, IVs, patches, and other things that I have thankfully forgotten, I was free. I was free to live. I was free to create. I was free to thrive.
During the past 36 months. I have marveled at the resiliency of not just the human body, but of the human spirit. I made my first trip to the gym in April of 2011. At a fundraiser for a local junior high trip, I won a year’s membership and ten sessions with a trainer at Fuel Fitness. On my first visit to the gym, I met my trainer, Brian the Brave (not his true name) who quickly told me I needed to get some endurance with the machines before he could start working with me.
The gym is about 8 minutes’ drive from my home, and it was common for me to spend more time driving one way to the gym than I was able to spend exercising. I use the term “exercising” loosely, as it usually meant riding the recumbent bike for five minutes or doing a few reps on a couple of the band machines. On more than one occasion when I was pedaling the bike, the machine would read “Paused” even though I was pedaling as steadily and quickly as I was able. In retrospect, I can only imagine that it was a little entertaining to the staff to see me arrive and leave in less than fifteen minutes. And, I kept going. Every day, six days a week, I kept going. By the end of July, Brian and I agreed that I was ready to start working out with him. By then, I was spending at least twenty minutes doing some cardio (bike, treadmill, or elliptical.) With Brian, I added weight lifting. My thirty minutes training session would be paired with at least twenty minutes of cardio, each day, five days a week. It became my habit. I was reliable for getting there every day, doing the work, and taking nothing for granted.
Also in April of 2011, I started participating in the Landmark Wisdom Course. My friend Ann Peterson had arranged for me to participate in the course by Webex, as she knew I was unable to travel or to sustain the time and energy of being in the course in person. By participating from the comfort of my Lazy-Boy, I was able to be fully engaged and still get the full benefit and impact of the course.
In August, I had the privilege of attending a vacation course in Sonoma, California (See? I was traveling!) I had the opportunity to look at failures in my life and see the opportunity for transformation. During the first days of the course, I got to see that I was well, and experienced for myself that well-being is a function of participation. I considered myself well at that moment.
I learned a few important lessons.
ELIMINATE ANYTHING TOXIC IN YOUR LIFE. I started with the easy stuff ~ the toxins under the sink, the bad food, and the harmful chemicals in some of the soaps I may have been using. The tougher toxins involved relationships, choices, and incompletions I had tried to sweep under the figurative rug. By completing and resolving those toxic things with love and compassion, first for myself and then for those I have loved and cared for, I was able to ‘cleanse’ my space. I learned to eliminate anything toxic in my life.
ILLNESS BEGINS WITH I. WELLNESS BEGINS WITH WE. Only when I allowed myself to receive the contributions of others was I able to return to life. The social commons held exponential opportunities that I could never amass myself. In the words of Groucho Marx, great American philosopher. “Learn from the mistakes of others. You won’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” I was learning, through struggle and effort, that I could gain strength, healing, and power by sharing and receiving. This is a game changer for me. Illness begins with I. Wellness begins with we.
WHEN YOU CAN’T AND THEN YOU CAN, YOU NEVER WANT TO NOT AGAIN. Many times during those first months, I was asked why I kept going back to the gym. It did not appear that I was getting stronger, slimmer, or healthier. Some days, it probably looked like I was struggling. The truth is I did not know whether it would ultimately extend my life or improve my health. What I did know is that I was not too far removed from having to use a cane to walk, nor from being unable to walk more than three minutes without sitting down and resting for ten minutes. Up to that point, I had taken for granted walking, dancing, and functioning in any way physically. Once I was able to start moving again, I knew I could not take it for granted. I learned that every day is a gift, and to use the gift to its greatest and highest benefit, I needed to do whatever I could. I learned that when you can’t and then you can, you never want to not again.
You are the reason. You are the gift. You are the possibility of a life well lived. I thank you for sharing yours with me ~ and I look forward to what we create next. What shall it be?
In honor of the beauty of the fall and after returning from London where I participated in “The World is Your Stage” I knew I had to take on something great! October 2, 2014, I took on a new challenge. In keeping with this Eleanor Roosevelt quote, I am seeking something to do each day that scares me. So far, it has been fairly simple to find those things.
Making unusual requests of people covered the first couple days. On the third day, we held our Board Summit, a first in some time for our Kiwanis club, and I asked questions and invited feedback that scared me. And we all lived ~ thrived, in fact!
The next few days, I invited my mom (then my sisters, then my brothers) to attend the annual dinner for the Silver Bow Butte Kiwanis where I would be installed as president. Used to be that I would do things and then tell my family, somehow embarrassed to tell them what I was doing. Mom and my sister came, bringing my nephew Thommy, a sweetheart and hugger! My niece said yes and came to be with us. My brothers were busy ~ and I may have had something to do with them not being there. I always worry what they think and what they might say ~ we can be a tad sarcastic in the family.
Thursday, the day of the dinner, I took a leap of faith and had my hair and makeup done. Now, makeup is a big dang deal for me as I rarely do more than a cursory blush of makeup. The makeup involved something I have never done before ~ additional eyelashes. While it was awkward to sit quietly for so long, I was happy that I tool the risk.
The weekend brought a new and highly anticipated risk. I travelled to Missoula for a volleyball tourney, not really a risk, and clearly an unplanned excursion. On Saturday, I took another leap ~ getting a proper fitting for a bra. I have been talking about doing this for a few months and have been embarrassed ~ and concerned that I would make a fool of myself. I could not have been more wrong.
The fitting was easy ~ and even though the shop was packed with shoppers, I was so cared for by the staff, getting right into a dressing room, making comments, making changes, changing my mind, changing it back, and ending up at the counter with a collection of products. Then, as if to endorse the risk, I got discounts, bonuses, and even a voucher for my next purchase. To my pleasant surprise, I now have proper undergarments that need no adjusting after I put them on in the morning! (This will also be a relief for those who spend time with me during the days!)
Admitting mistakes publicly, acting even when I am unsure of my steps, and being willing to ask for support seem to be the underpinnings of my scary acts so far. Since I have some 80 days to go, I suspect I will learn much more about what scares me.
Perhaps you have a suggestion for something that may scare me. Perhaps I will take it on. Leave your suggestions here. Maybe it will bring me closer to you.
Who knows? Wanna play!?
This weekend, I participated for the first time ever as a vendor, offering photos for sale. These are photos I took because I thought something looked pretty cool, and apparently, others thought the same. So I was invited to participate as an artist. Really? Me, an artist? And so it was.
The venue was a brand new one, more geared to being a music and beer venue than an art venue. Each vendor made a few sales ~ even me! It was a two-day festival near Ennis, Montana, an area known for fishing and being a gateway to Yellowstone. It’s also known for being VERY windy, hot, and dry. The booths were set up on pavement, and the camping area was dry, rocky and filled with prickly burrs. Most of the vendors were in campers and RVs; some traveled home. I was camping the only way I know how ~ in a tent with a sleeping bag.
As this was my first outing, I really allowed myself to be a novice, in training, learning and open to whatever life threw at me. It was a strange place for me, as my usual modus operandi is to only do publicly those things which I already know I can do well.
For my equipment, I borrowed. I had a bamboo rug from Joe for the floor of the booth, a booth with sides from DG, easels from a fine establishment (which must remain nameless to protect the donor), a tent from Rob, and a lantern and pad from Lyndsay. I shopped locally for everything, from the tutorial on the use of Square for my sales to the tank dresses from Kalley’s Corner and the sandals from Miller’s; from the prints by Rose at InstyPrints to the framing by Shane at Buffalo Gallery. I was so honored to be asked and so excited to actually have something that people would want.
When I got the car packed up on Friday morning, I was ready to leave ten minutes ahead of schedule. I realized when I was getting my tea for the road that I had forgotten my business cards and my taller chair for the booth. So back home I went, putting me behind. When I took the exit at Belgrade to head to Four Corners to get the tent for the booth, I took a wrong turn and didn’t realize it until I was at a crossroads ten miles from the place I made the wrong turn. So backtracking I went, now even later. I drove Montana Highway 84 to Ennis, a breathtaking ride along the Madison River through a stunning canyon. In all my travels, I had never been on that road before. It was well worth the trip!
I arrived in Ennis and knew that I needed some lunch and to fill the five-gallon water jugs that I borrowed from Rob. Luckily for me, the bank had a hose and when I stopped to visit my cousin, Luanne, we had a good chat as I filled the jugs. I arrived at the Moods of the Madison and spent a couple hours getting set up, popping up the tent, attaching the sides, and securing it with the water jugs. I had a great spot, right across from the port-a-potties. My neighbors were setting up as well; to my left was an oil painter from Bozeman and to my right was Butte gal turned Harrison rancher, Nikki Edmundson with her Canty Boots. They were supportive, friendly, and compassionate, assisting with securing the tent and giving me pointers on vendor sales all weekend. I visited the Seasonal Montana booth, one removed to the right, for a grain fed fresh burger after set up then changed into my first tank dress and I was ready for the event!
The temperatures neared 95 with wind gusts that seemed to come from every direction at once. I did a lot of holding down and pressing back to keep the booth from collapsing~ which made me very grateful for the workouts I have been doing! Dinner was courtesy of Cousins Lori and Wally who had a booth from 20 Below Dining and the Longbranch ~ I wished it was 20 below a couple times. (Okay, maybe not quite that cold.) The sky at dusk was really cool and I found a heart in the sky and took a photo as it captured how open I felt my heart was that day!
The people who stopped by to see me admired the photos, asked questions, and wondered if I had painted them (which I took as a great compliment!) On Friday, one person purchased one of my photos and I put the money in my hat. (Gotta save the first sale, right?) The music was pretty great, with the night ending with Grand Funk Railroad! They played many tunes from my early teen days, from Locomotion to Some Kind of Wonderful to Walk Like a Man. They ended their set with We’re an American Band ~ and I was ready for bed!
The tent was not going to make it on the ‘camping’ ground so I placed it inside my booth and crawled inside for the night. Did I mention that I was directly across from the port-a-potties? Every time someone came out of one, the spring door slammed back to close, making a sound like a gunshot. Any thought of sleep would have to wait until that sound stopped. That happened at about 2 a.m.
I woke at 7 and took a trip into town for a little breakfast at the Ennis Cafe. After breakfast, I pulled off Main Street and took a photo of the fourth fish in town, behind the bank. When I got back to town, I changed into tank dress number two (the second time I have worn a dress in nearly ten years!) and relished a homemade cinnamon roll and an iced vanilla latte, compliments of Nikki!
Day two brought visits from several Butte friends, some Ennis family, and even some more sales. I flirted with Mike, a retired police officer from Anaheim, and we shared war stories about our work with the FBI. He took my number; I didn’t get his. But hey! I flirted! As my neighbor the oil painter was preparing to leave, she gave me a plein air painting she did during the day that included my Jeep. It was such a generous offering ~ I wish I would have had the presence of mind to offer one of my photos to her.
Tearing down the booth was almost as challenging as putting it up was. I had the help of Paul who had been having a few beverages during the day (okay, he had more than a few.) We got everything repacked and I loaded the Jeep and drove to Robin’s house where she had pulled out the couch bed for me. As I started to settle in, I remembered the oil painting which I had set on a nearby vehicle to dry. I dressed and drove back to the grounds and retrieved the painting, repeated my good byes and headed back to the quiet haven on the other side of town to sleep. After curling in again, I remembered that the tent stakes were left on the side of the road. I texted the numbers of the people I hoped were still there and sent them searching (in the dark) for the stakes. Cell phone coverage in Ennis is not the best, and I lost reception for the evening after sending the first pleas for help. So I went to sleep.
On Sunday morning, I returned to the booth site and looked for the stakes. They were nowhere to be found, so I made my way back through the Madison River Canyon to the studio at Four Corners to return the booth tent. And it was back to Butte the return the rest of the materials from the weekend. I made my traditional pit stop at Wheat Montana for a chocolate croissant, and I learned that the supplier for one of the ingredients for the chocolate went out of business and since they could not find a suitable replacement, they took the chocolate products off the menu. I ‘settled’ for a cherry turnover and made my way west on I-90 home.
Upon arriving, I returned the easels to their rightful home and headed to brother Rob’s house where everyone was converging. I was just in time for breakfast and Kristal (a GREAT cook) was preparing it. I spent some quality time with the three youngest of the family, had some breakfast, and learned of the death of a friend and the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer of a family member and a prediction of three months to live. The roller coaster of emotions was on and I am pretty sure that the sleep patterns, the heat, the sun and wind burns and the original feelings of angst about the vending experience combined to get my attention. In an instant, the context shifted from the failure to the opportunity. Instead of being disappointed about how things went, I was thrilled that I am alive to have the experience.
It was a good setup for the rest of the day. I took a long, cool shower and was grateful for the shower head from my old home on Quebec Street in Arlington (provided by Natalie many years ago!) because I could adjust the stream to be gentle on my sunburned back. I dressed for Geno’s 85th surprise birthday party and headed to Divide. Those same Ennis family were there, and they happily took all the photos I had of Ennis to put for sale at the Longbranch and 20 Below Dining IN Ennis! Happy dance! I loved seeing all the great people there to honor a great man and fine neighbor. He sang a couple songs in Italian ~ I ate a couple pasties ~ and in the midst of the party, I learned that MacKenzie and her team won the State Championship in softball! The emotional roller coaster was taking another spin!
We all packed up the place after the party and headed home to be there in time for the fire truck ride through town for the state champs. Seeing the huge smiles on all the faces of all the kids AND their parents was awesome, and even the little brothers and sisters got to pile on the truck for the cruise through town. Mom and I joined MacKenzie and her family for dinner and ended the weekend with a celebration at Mack River.
And today I collapsed. At the suggestion of my accountability buddy, I scheduled a massage and took the day off. I even logged off Facebook for the evening.
There are so many lessons to be learned; there are so many opportunities in every day, every moment, to celebrate life, to give and receive, to infuse love and life into the moment. And it can shift in a New York minute, leaving us with the choice to be thrilled and honored or annoyed and frustrated. We can choose love and passion for life; we can be present to what life is throwing at us and when we allow others to play, we extend the field, growing an exponentially magnificent world.
When I allow you to play, I get to be in a bigger game. When I can express glee AND sadness, I can have compassion for myself and for you. When I look for the best in every happening, I open myself to love. I become a clearing in which love can appear. And I am most fully alive ~ whether I am bolstering a tent against a 35 mph wind gust or getting a massage. And that’s the world I prefer to occupy.