Monday, December 31, 2012

Time Travel Tuesday- Play Therapy

Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.
Louisa May Alcott

For this Time Travel Tuesday, I played in the sandbox. Literally. The sandbox was located in the office of a local play therapist. Lisa Schweitzer, MS, LMHC, NCC counsels children and the adults who love them. Her office is nestled in a big old house with moss covered oaks perfect for swinging and a wrap around front porch that begs for a rocking chair. Lisa answered the door barefoot. I followed her into an office that looks more like a cool mom’s living room, functional but lived- in with toys stacked in every available corner. She sat cross legged and explained to me a little bit about play therapy.

Just as adults talk through their problems, children play.” The mom and licensed counselor said.

Lisa says she uses reflective listening and allows children the space to freely express themselves as they play. Whether it is puppets or story telling or art, children use play to explore emotions, than learn to manage those feelings through more play. When working with families, Lisa breaks out the games. 

"When the families play games, that is the therapy. It allows them to relate to each other in a new and fun way instead of focusing on any "problem". When people enjoy each other and themselves, old behaviors of relating to one another change naturally," Lisa says. 

I had never heard of “play therapy”  before a few weeks ago. But the concept is not new. Freud was the first doctor documented to employ play as a means to diagnose and treat an emotional issue. Freud may have borrowed the idea from Plato (429 B.C.) who said “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation.” Or maybe Freud read The Education of Man whose author Friedrich Frobel said “play is the highest development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child’s soul...children’s play is not mere sport. It is full of meaning and import.”

Yes, yes. Obviously, play is an important part of childhood. But what about adults? Can adults benefit from play therapy? Lisa has seen it work wonders on clients dealing with everything from addiction to divorce. I am not going through any trauma, but I figured if something can heal pain and suffering, maybe a dose of it on a regular basis can have a preventative effect. At least that is the whole theory behind this blog experiment to Be More Childlike and Time Travel Tuesday play dates.

I did not feel bad when I walked in to Lisa’s office, but I did feel better when I walked out. I enjoyed talking as I dug into a box of figurines and placed them in groupings in the sand. I didn’t know what I was looking for or why exactly I was going for the lion and shell but passing over the brick wall and people. But somehow, when it was done, I liked what I had created. The arrangement in the sandbox told a story. It actually made sense.

Lisa’s parting advice was “Play with your kids or just play!” For more information about Lisa  Schweitzer and play therapy, please visit her website at

When is the last time you really played?

For "Sky's the Limit" on what you can learn- a little bit about the holiday. Did you know January is named after the Roman God of beginnings and endings  named Janus. Janus had two faces- one reflecting on the past and one looking toward the future. Roman emperor Julius Caesar declared January 1st the date of the New Year in 46 B.C.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Someone to Watch Over Me

We should pray to the angels, for they are given to us as guardians.
-Saint Ambrose

I just finished Sophy Burnham’s A Book of Angels.  It is a masterful blend of Burnham’s personal experiences, other people’s stories of lives saved and messages received. The New York Times bestseller includes exhaustive research that shows angels have been a part of every culture’s written history since before Christ was born. Dante’s Divine Comedy to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, William Blake to William Shakespeare, they all have drawn inspiration from other worldly guides or guardians. Burnham references mystics, scholars, painters, poets and religious leaders throughout this beautifully written classic. 

When A Book of Angels was first published in 1990, it sparked a renewed obsession with these beings. But as with all things, interest faded. People forget. At least I did. As I read the book, I remembered several divine interventions that I had not thought about in years. There was the time in high school, it was the first snow in Chicago and I was joy riding with a carload of kids around dinner time. We lost control on the Dan Ryan and spun in seemingly endless donut circles. More than 300,000 vehicles use that expressway everyday. But when our car came safely to a stop, there was not another vehicle anywhere in sight. There was the time I lost a sentimental diamond earring at a motorcycle rally in Daytona Beach. It was at night and there were a half million bikers in town. We drove back for two miles on the dark and busy road when I spotted a sparkle on the pavement that belonged to me! There was that little voice urging me to stop even though I was running late and I had the right of way. The car to my right kept going and t-boned a car turning left on the yellow light. It was a bad wreck, but not fatal. If I had kept going, the heavy TV news truck I was driving would have hit the compact car’s rear passenger side where a baby was strapped in a carseat. I shudder to think- what if. 

Any one of those experiences should be enough to make me a believer for life. But somehow I kept forgetting. I kept stumbling through life thinking I was alone. Shouldn’t I be rejoicing that someone up above thought that I was essential enough to keep around, instead of fearfully questioning my purpose? If a police officer saved me from a car wreck, would I feel a lifelong bond to them? At least, send a thank you card?

Burnham’s book inspired me to write down every event I could remember where there is no tangible explanation for what happened. I only wrote down events where the synchronicity was nothing short of miraculous. I recalled no less than thirteen life and death saves, one instance of much needed help, five messages, two warnings, three answered prayers and one whisper of an idea that I believe was a request being made of me. That is just what I was aware of. Just think about the lost keys that kept me from getting in the car or the countless “gut” decisions that steered me in one direction instead of another? If I knew, what would my list really look like? The numbers on my list showed a distinct pattern. Most of those life and death saves happened when I was young and acting recklessly. There were only three prayers answered I think because I don’t traditionally pray for specific requests. But these were big, inspired prayers. Sincere, want-with-all-my-heart prayers and they were answered! What would happen if I started asking for more? What if I trusted that voice that told me to stop at the yellow light every day instead of once in a while?

Do you want to feel truly blessed? Write down the unexplained experiences in your life.

For today's "Sky's the Limit" on what you can learn- the word Akashic keeps popping up. What does it mean? The akashic records are described as a  universal supercomputer, a library containing all knowledge of human experience and the history of the cosmos or the all knowing mind of God. The concept comes from Hindu beliefs and was popularized in Western culture through the Theosophical movement and by such writers as Edgar Cayce and Rudolph Steiner.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Judging a Book By It's Title

Judgements prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.
-Wayne Dyer

I just finished two more books with childlike faith in the title. One was a children’s book called Toddler Theology, written by a Sunday school teacher for her grandchildren. The other is a devotional book called Wow Faith: Bringing the Childlike Heart Back to Faith by Marilyn Hickey. Hickey is a Christian televangelist who built a mega church in Denver with her minister husband. At 81, Hickey is still active in her ministry, co-hosting a show with her daughter, who now runs the church.

I bought the books because of the titles and knew nothing about the authors. The children’s book may be read again to the kids. The Wow book was tough to finish. Not necessarily because it wasn’t well researched or even written from the heart. It just wasn’t my language. All the references to God being your Daddy and Father knows best really threw me. Hickey talks about meditation. Choosing faith over fear. All things I believe in. But I found myself drifting to sleep every time I opened the book, as if being forced to do an unwanted homework assignment. Still, I learned something about myself from this book. I learned I am not as open minded as I like to think. Why is it so easy for me to accept angel sightings or be tolerant of different faiths like Buddhism or Judaism, but so discerning when it comes to my own Christianity? I think maybe it is the same reason teens become self conscious of their parents. Maybe it is because we really know them, flaws and all. Just maybe it was the imperfect practice of the religion by the imperfect people that influenced my religious education. I don’t really truly know anybody who is not Christian. For me, it's not as easy to judge people I don't know.

So if I were to be an objective book reviewer, I would say this is a well organized how-to book on being more prayerful, especially if you relate to sermons with multiple bible passages and literal interpretations of scripture.

One thing that Hickey said on the book cover made the most sense to me:

“Faith is not complicated. God pleasing faith is simple faith without al the extras, additives and options we so often tack onto it. God designed faith to be so simple that a child can understand it.”

Are you open minded about religion?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

He Who Seeks Finds

Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift.
-Albert Einstein
I feel like someone pointed  a human remote control on me  and kept their finger on the fast forward button for the past three days, walking super fast with my voice in that high pitch garble.  All that shopping, cooking and wrapping was deconstructed in a matter of minutes. It makes me wish myself back to my son’s first Christmas that he actually understood what was going on. He would wake up every day for weeks and ask if it was Christmas yet. When the morning finally came, I was perplexed at why he didn’t want to open all his presents. My wise beyond his years 3-year old said “let’s save them”. He wanted to savor the moment and keep something to look forward to. Just because Christmas is over doesn’t mean the anticipation of something magical has to end. People are making amazing discoveries every day. Here are a few that I learned about this week.
World’s largest mirror- There is a salt flatland in Bolivia that is more than 4,000 square miles. Imagine the ground being 10 feet deep in pure salt and dry 363 days a year. Now imagine what happens when it rains in those precious 48 hours once a year. A thin layer of water turns the flatland into the world’s largest mirror. Beyond spectacular. This is now at the top of my bucket list for places to see. 
A story waiting to be told- Hans Christian Anderson, the Danish writer who made fairy tales a literary genre in the 1800’s, still has new stories to tell. You may know him for the Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina or The Emperor’s New Clothes. His masterful writing has inspired movies, ballets, cartoons and become immortalized in children’s literature. Despite his fame, there is still more to discover about him. This month, Danish officials verified that a story recently found  in a stack of papers in a family’s suitcase is one of Anderson’s first fairy tales. The Tallow Candle is about a lonely candle longing to be lit. The 700 word tale was written in the 1820’s while Anderson attended boarding school, only to be discovered in 2012. 
Lost Davinci- Art historians believe they have found a Leonardo Davinci painting hidden behind a brick wall of another renaissance artist’s masterpiece in the Palazzo Vecchio. The words “He Who Seeks Finds” is painted next to a soldier in the 1563 fresco. Researchers thought it might be a clue to something else. They began testing last spring. In March 2012, historians drilled a hole into the painting and sent a probe in only to discover another painting behind the wall. The black pigments match the same paint used in the Mona Lisa, leading some to speculate that someone hid Davinci’s unfinished Battle of Anghiari of 1504.
Maybe it won’t be a treasured piece of art of literature, but you can discover a new natural wonder simply by looking up. The sky changes from moment to moment. No two clouds will look the same as they do in the light of the present. I know it sounds cliche’, but isn’t today a gift just waiting to be opened?
What will you discover today?
For today’s Sky’s the Limit (on what you can learn), thanks to my neighbor Frank for pointing out something about that wonderful sound champagne makes when you open it. While nothing says celebration like the distinctive “Pop”, champagne is actually not supposed to make that sound if properly opened. Apparently, if it pops, it is not cold enough. A well chilled bottle will sound more like a whisper and won’t fizz over either. For more on how to properly uncork champagne, here is a great article from Wall Street Journal.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Everyday Santa

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home.
-Charles Dickens

For this month’s focus on childlike faith, I bought every book on Amazon that had childlike faith in the title. Obvious is not always the best approach in finding thoughtful reading material. The Red Suit Diaries: A Real Life Santa on Hopes, Dreams and Childlike Faith was more of a memoir of a mall santa than a guide to cultivating faith. Still, there were some interesting stories from Ed Butchart, who keeps his white beard groomed and his heart filled year round.

When asking one child if they have been good, the boy thought long and hard than answered “he had a good August.” In thirteen years of sitting on the “throne” at malls and parks and events through out Atlanta, Butchart has been hit on by Santa groupie moms, witnessed child abuse and made wishes come true for families in immediate need. He talks about the logistics of getting Santa from the parking lot to the photo area without spoiling the magic and best leg positions for exceptionally large children sitting on your lap. He talks about diversion tactics when facing skeptical kids. He talks a lot about his belief in God and how his involvement in Church led him to his gig as Santa.  Butchart does a good job of reconciling the co-existence of Santa in this consumer driven holiday and the other Big Man celebrating his son’s birthday.

As much joy as I have hearing people profess belief in the red suit and all it embodies. I hope more for belief in the source of all these things. I hope for mercy and the humility to accept it. I hope for Christmas to come to every heart and for the faith to keep Christmas every day. I hope for God’s gift to be opened and passed along because, as a give of gifts and a recipient too- I’ve seen this truth. There are wonders in his love.” Butchart concludes in this 220 page quick read.

When the married father of five is not dressing up in his red suit, he runs a ministry that he founded to refurbish wheelchairs and medical equipment for people with physical disabilities. 

Do you remember back to a time when you didn't question?

For today's "Sky's the Limit" on what you can learn- Who is the real Santa? Check out this website St Nicholas Center. It tells the history of Saint Nicholas, the protector and patron saint of children. Nicholas was born in what was than Greece in what is now considered part of Turkey. Orphaned at a young age, Nicholas gave his inheritance away to help the poor and devoted his life to the church. In the fourth century, the Roman emperor persecuted Christians. Nicholas never waivered from his faith even though he suffered imprisonment and persecution. When he died, an unexplained liquid formed on his grave that was believed to have healing power. For many years after his death, stories of his spirit saving children and providing gifts of gold became legend. St Nicholas Day was proclaimed originally on December 6th or December 19th depending on the calendar.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Time Travel Tuesday- Nothing To Do

One's action ought to come out of an achieved stillness: not to be mere rushing on.
-D.H. Lawrence

This past week, there were plenty of events that I thought would qualify as play dates to write about for Time Travel Tuesday.  Tea with an old friend at an amazing new restaurant, shopping, cookie exchanges, making ginger bread houses, hosting parties, attending parties, the list goes on and on. I wanted to write about baking with my 13-year old son. The first thing he said as we broke out the flour was “Why don’t we do this more often?”. He also quoted a story from the first time we ever baked together. He was three and when it came time to crack the eggs, he suddenly became very concerned that he was breaking baby bird eggs. I asked him if he remembered saying that or if he remembered me telling him the story. It was the latter. Like when he was three, my son started very enthusiastically, but after licking the bowl- he was done. Baking can still only hold his interest for about 15 minutes. I ended up churning out 9 dozen cookies, by myself. 

So yesterday, with a pile of presents waiting to be wrapped, a stack of dirty dishes from our cookie exchange in the sink, a still incomplete list requiring yet another trip to the mall and three parties that I would not have time to attend, I laid in bed and did nothing. Finally, a true play date. I bought a movie on demand and vegged out. Not just any movie, a totally mindless, inappropriate movie. Ted with Mark Wahlberg starts out talking about humans losing touch with magic and not being able to see the world through childlike eyes. Sounded right up my alley. The story line is about a child’s Christmas wish for his teddy bear to come to life and be his best friend forever. Still, seems like a holiday classic for the whole family to enjoy.  It is, in fact, a well deserved rated R thanks to scenes like Mark Wahlberg getting spanked and his teddy bear bagging a clerk in a grocery store break room. Somewhere between the list of slutty chick names and the Flash Gordon references and the random cameo appearances from Ryan Reynolds and Tom Skerritt, I laughed out loud. Maybe, it was the trash talking about Philly girls or the behind the scenes interview with Ted Danson about Cheers or maybe it was the pet duck named James Franco. I howled. 

When is the last time you set aside all the things that are supposed to be fun and did nothing?

For today's installment of Sky's The Limit (on what you can learn), I learned how to roast chestnuts on an open fire. Thanks to my neighbor Ellen, who puts Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, Rachel Ray and every host on every DIY show to shame, I now know the secret to roasting chestnuts on an open fire. The trick is scoring them with a sharp knife in the shape of an X so they don't explode. We are headed to Ellen's on Christmas Day to roast a few nuts and let Jack Frost nip at our nose. For a more detailed description including tips on how to pick the best chestnuts, what kind of roaster to cook them on, how long to cook and what the finished nut should look like, check out this great post from the blog The Art of Manliness

Friday, December 21, 2012

Still Here

The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.
-Fyodor Dostoyevsky

My son was born in 1999 a couple of months before Y2K. I remember waking up early to watch the first sunrise of the new millennia break over the Atlantic ocean with him in my arms. In his first thirteen years of life, he has experienced a 1/1/1, 2/2/2, 3/3/3...all the way up to today’s momentous day on the calendar. I never brought up the Mayans to him. I didn’t have to. Between the movie 2012, the Internet and that reality show, Doomsday Preppers, he is well versed in fear. He was born into it. This week, my 13-year old son, who is supposed to feel invincible at this age, urged me to stock up at the store as if we were expecting a hurricane. While baking Christmas cookies for his teachers, he disappeared into the garage, to take an inventory of things we could use if the worst happened.

The sun is rising again as I write this.  Some people are relieved. Others are grateful. Facebook is full of  silly comments like Ha-Ha I’m still here. Take that, Mayans. What if we all could capture that urgent sense of an imminent end as a way to cherish each day as a new beginning? Isn’t that what today is? A new dawn.  Another chance. A fresh start. Think about all the worlds that came to an end in Connecticut last week. Not just for those who lost their lives, but for the families who are left to endure. Maybe all the people who experienced an end to life as they know it through car accidents, divorce or job loss. Is not experiencing a life altering ending enough reason to count your blessings? Can we get to a point in time on this new calendar when our children view change as inevitable? Perhaps a place, where my son isn’t focused on endings because he is looking forward to the possibility and promise of tomorrow. 

Have you asked yourself why your still here?

For today’s Sky’s the Limit (on what you can learn), I wanted to know more about the Winter Solstice.  Did you know Stonehenge in England is aligned with a sight line pointing to the Winter Solstice sunset? There is a less famous, but similar structure in Ireland that aligns with the winter solstice sunrise. 

A cold front blew in for dramatic effect here in Florida to mark the first day of Winter. So what exactly is the winter solstice? It is when the sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude in your hemisphere, making it the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The solstice itself is just a moment in time, not even the whole day.  Mid winter rituals and celebrations that have come from the Winter Solstice range from Christmas (the birth of the son of God) to Beiwe (the coming of the Sun Goddess) to Brumalia, Chamos, Deygon, Dongzhi, Goru, Hogmanay, Hannukah and 22 other celebrations that are honored this next week. Many traditions involve feasts because it was the last slaughter of fresh meat and fresh grains  before the long cold winter sat in.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Conversation About Angels with Sophy Burnham

The soul at it's highest is found like God, but an angel gives a closer idea of Him. That is all an angel is: an idea of God.
-Meister Eckhart
As a child, Sophy Burnham longed to write words that would be immortal, like those of the ancient Greeks. With thirteen published works, including three New York Times Bestsellers, she is well on her way to manifesting her wish. If you are familiar with Burnham’s books, you know that in recent years they all deal in some way with spiritual matters or mysticism. In the 1990s her A Book of Angels ignited a cultural obsession flooding the market with books and films about angels.  Her latest book, The Art of Intuition: Cultivating Your Inner Wisdom, concerns how to reach your full potential. Twenty years ago, my mom gave me another Sophy Burnham book called Angel Letters. Last week, that long-lost book resurfaced on my book shelf right around the time that all sorts of sweet little coincidences were taking place in our home. Naturally, I wanted to reach out to the author to say Thank You. Her book makes me feel a little less crazy for believing in the power of angels and synchronicity. Her words make me feel a little less alone, knowing that others like me have caught a glimpse of something completely unexplainable “out there.”
The playwright, novelist, doting grandmother, horse enthusiast, cat lover and former journalist is a sought-after speaker on angels, forgiveness, intuition and other topics.  Sophy was kind enough to agree to an interview for this blog. We made plans last week for this interview, before the massacre in Connecticut. On Monday, when we finally talked, the tragedy overshadowed our conversation, so that we kept returning to the theological and practical implications of that horrible event.

Sophy Burnham: It seems that finally this (school massacre) is so awful that Congress might actually this time do something about our culture of violence. We have to realize we all have a dog in this fight, that we, the silent ones, need to speak out. To do something. You know you can’t have an experience with angels, with the Divine, without pondering questions.  I have often wondered why angels come sometimes and not others. Why were they not saving those children? Angels can help you find your keys, protect you when your car breaks down, warm, comfort, guide, protect, create a perfect coincidence. They can change all the physical laws of the universe, but they can’t interfere with our Free Will. They can’t stop the killer from pulling the trigger.  They can deflect the bullet perhaps, or guide the surgeon’s hand, but we have Free Will to make war, do violence. It’s up to us to say Enough!   Angels do not have bodies.  We do.  We humans have been given the gift of embodiment. We have hearts to feel compassion and feet to move. We can make a difference. Maybe that is the answer to the deaths of these twenty little babes.  We’re supposed to be the hands of God.

You know, when you see an angel (and this is true for everyone), the first thing you ask is “Why me?”.  Well, “Why not me?”  This was my moment. I saw into spiritual dimensions with my own eyes, and it was magnificent. But that’s not enough.  What now?  What is my responsibility? What is my purpose? What do I want to leave behind when I go back home in death?  How can I carry forward what I’ve seen?

Tracey Locke: I noticed that you host workshops and speaking engagements on the topic of forgiveness. What does forgiveness have to do with angels or intuition?

Sophy Burnham: It fits in, but I have to take a running leap to the jump. It has everything to do with angels.  It’s not so apparent with the idea of intuition, except in broad way I define that word – which is, as a brush with an angel’s wing. Everything from our psychic experiences to animal communication, remote viewing, feeling into the future. . . . We are supposed to have and use these aspects of our own divinity. I believe we humans are spirits who have taken on the gift of embodiment. We have, within us, the spark of the Divine, though most people don’t know we have it or don’t know how to develop it. 

But in order to use these divine gifts, we have to be utterly free. If we are constrained by resentments, hatred, self-doubt, envy, anger, fear—we are not able to access that inner light of clairvoyance and intuition. Instead, we are reliving again and again and again this story of being a victim. To forgive is one of the ways we can become free, break out of the prison of our heart, and live again like little children, filled with awe and wonder and delight and joy and openhearted gratitude—the place where angels come.  I read recently of a blind man, who was in the French Resistance of the 1940s, fighting the Nazis, who discovered there was a light inside of him. If he was angry or upset, the light vanished. When he was balanced and at peace, he could “see” everything around him (people, furniture, rocks) even though physically he was blind.

We all need to learn how to get out of the way of our own story. Instead of saying, for example, “This happened to me”, we have to reframe the story:  “This happened.”  That in itself, absolute acceptance and absolute self-forgiving, will change your life, your attitude. I think of my life as one big novel. I don’t know what is going to happen next as I turn the page. There are no bad or good events. Things just are, and I’m living the adventure of the story.

Tracey Locke: Are angels more mainstream now than when you first started writing about them?

Sophy Burnham: It think it is more respectable to admit to believing now. Earlier, people were afraid of being mocked. But throughout history, people everywhere have always understood—felt as if they had someone by their side. Call it a playmate or a Familiar or a guardian or an angel, and some few could see them.

Tracey Locke Why do you write about angels and mystical experiences? Did you have an experience that started you on this path?

Sophy Burnham. Yes. I describe it in my book The Ecstatic Journey: Walking the Mystical Path in Everyday Life.  That experience changed me. On a cellular level. There was light pouring off my hands—but also off every living thing: grass, dogs, people, trees—haloes in light. Once you have a mountaintop epiphany like that, you can’t go back to seeing the world as before. The way poets and artists and mystics see the world is just different. I’m only writing what I see.

Tracey Locke You say you must be like a little child to see the angels.  Any advice for being more childlike?

Sophy Burnham We should all live in constant gratitude. Understanding what a privilege it is to be born a human on this planet in this moment—in this moment of suffering and incredible beauty. Life is very short. Treasure it. Be delighted by it all.

For more information about Sophy Burnham and her wonderful books, please visit her website at

Thanks to Sophy, here is something new I learned today for this addition of "Sky's The Limit" in what you can learn.

Did you know Familiar with a capital "F" is an ancient word for angel or messenger or guardian. You do now!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Gift

What we are is God's gift to us.
Who we become is our gift to God.
-saying on a Christmas ornament

This quote came from a dear friend who inspires people for a living. It came off of her favorite ornament. Thanks Yvonne!

Do you have childlike faith?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Big Idea Monday- Sky's the Limit

You want the moon? Just say the word and I will throw a lasso around it and pull it down.
-George Bailey

Talk about a hot property. Did you know that a woman in Spain staked a legal claim of ownership over the sun? She Owns The Sun Apparently, any one of us could have done it, but Angeles Duran thought of it first. She got it for steal. Simply the cost to notarize the paperwork. Now, Duran wants to harness the earning potential of our most famous star by charging everyone on the planet for using it’s light. Duran is still trying to figure out how to collect. 

Sometimes it pays to be the first to take action on a great idea. I learned about the Celestial transaction on a website called Learn Something Everyday. You see, for this Big Idea Monday, I had this brilliant idea for a blog/book to learn something new everyday and challenge readers to do the same.   Alas, a  book called Learn Something Everyday was already published in November 2011.  There is even an app that will send you fast facts and multiple blogs dedicated to lifelong learning. Check out Now I Know!

I took solace in the fact that I may not be the first to come up with the big idea for learning something new, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still pursue it. Hey, even Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb. He only improved upon it! So from now on, as part of my blog posts, I plan on adding something new that I learned that day. I will call it The Sky's the Limit (on what you can learn.)

Here is what I learned today:
Building on the discovery of the sun for sale, I wanted to know if there is any other space in space still up for grabs . A quick Wikipedia search revealed that people have been claiming ownership of outer space since the 1700’s. More recently, an American businessman named Dennis Hope has not only claimed ownership of the moon and all the planets in our solar system, he has created his own sovereign nation. Lunar Embassy World Headquarters, located in Nevada, claims to be the official founders and leaders in the extraterrestrial real estate market. More than 3 million people have already bought property. I found a lovely one acre parcel on the dark side of the moon in my price range- $19.99. If I order now, they guarantee delivery of my deed by Christmas. For larger parcels, the  financing is available!

Did you learn something new today? It is never too late!


We owe owe our children- the most vulnerable citizens in any society- a life free from violence and fear.
-Nelson Mandela

I was a television reporter for 13 years. 13 years of tragedy and terror summed up in a minute thirty for the five p.m. newscast, day in and day out. Occasionally there was something fun, something inspiring to report. But usually not. Usually, there was a quote that came up again and again in my work. This is the worst thing ever.

I have carefully avoided the radio, TV and newspapers this weekend. Partially to shield my children from the frightening stories, but mostly for me. I just don’t want to listen to it. I don’t want to read any thoughtful Facebook posts about gun control or parental involvement. I don't need any experts talking about more effective mental health solutions. I don’t want to speculate on motivation and I don’t want to try to write anything to put it perspective. Mostly, I don’t want to feel the pain of those parents. I don’t want to wander if that could ever happen again, or happen near me. I already know the answer. 

I didn’t want to listen to our minister’s inadequate way of addressing it in connection with the spirit of Christmas today at church. This is the same church that we pulled our daughter out of last Spring because we were confronted by a mentally ill woman having a breakdown too close to the wide open doors of the church pre-school. Eventually, we overcame our fear and returned.  The church is next to a park where the majority of our city’s destitute sleep. A church is supposed to feed the hungry, shepherd the lost.  I get it. So today when a homeless man came up to me as if he was an old friend and wanted a hug, I obliged. Dirty with ill fitting clothes, he wanted to talk to me about what happened on Friday. He wanted to talk about the shooter.  “What happened to him to cause his pain?” The man wandered out loud. “It’s too bad he got a hold of a gun,” he continued. I have seen this guy around before. He is hard to forget with his slightly crossed eyes and wild hair. He told me how hard the news of this event has been on him because he is also mentally ill. He went on to say that he is trying to surround himself with peaceful people right now. Was that why he was talking to me? Was he saying that he feared that he was capable of something equally unspeakable? If so, is there anything I can even do about it?

Sometimes, I think it takes faith just to venture out of the house, to put one foot in front of the other and move forward, knowing our vulnerability.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Faith: The Absence of Fear

If fear is cultivated it will become stronger, if faith is cultivated it will achieve mastery.
-John Paul Jones

The last time I wrote about fear,Hello Fear I wrote about opening night of Cirque Du Soleil and a writing workshop that I attended that focused on imagination. Circus + imagination= fear? Didn’t seem like a natural fit, but it was. A month later on 12-12-12 I found myself at an all day TED conference on creativity that happened to be hosted at Ringling Museum (headquarters for the circus). Than later that night, I had  tickets again to the same Cirque Du Soleil performance, this time with my children. Circus + Creativity + More Circus= Fear? There it is was again, the same theme- fear. Except instead of happening while studying chidlike imagination, I was studying childlike faith. 

One TED speaker after another repeated almost an identical message on the topic of faith and fear.  A motivational trainer for professional athletes said: If you have faith, there is no room for fear.  A monastic nun who built a multi-million dollar church with no construction experience and no money said: Fear is the opposite of faith. A mom who swears a hula hoop changed her life said:  If you are fearful, you need more faith.

I never thought of it that way. Faith by definition is believing in something. Fear isn’t listed in any of the antonyms for faith. Same with the definition of fear. But it makes sense. If athletes fear they will choke, there is a lack of confidence, a lack of faith in their abilities. The nun had faith that a higher power would attract donors and skilled craftsman to complete the lofty project. If she allowed the reality of the situation( no money and no skill) to weigh on her, she would have been paralyzed by fear. If the overweight mom feared being made fun of, she never would have started exercising in public much less exercising on a stage in front of large audiences. She has faith that her imperfect quest to be healthier will inspire others to get moving. 

Later that night at Cirque Du Soleil, a beautiful ballerina came out before the show, put an oversized tutu on my 4-year old and led her on stage. My daughter mimicked the dancer by twirling and bowing with grace. I didn’t see a ballerina in any of the acts during the show. On opening night, they didn’t bring anyone up on stage before the performance. So it was a wonderful surprise. It never occurred to my daughter to be self conscious. She was just herself and either trusted the enchanted lady holding her hand or trusted that people would like her. It didn’t matter that she doesn’t know how to dance. She stole the show. The audience cheered in awe.

When I wrote about fear last month, I discovered that your imagination is home to most fears that never come true. As for how fear related to the opening night of Cirque Du Soleil, I spoke about contortionists and tight rope walkers and acrobats who tested the limits of the human body and defied safe boundaries. I didn’t even think about stage fright.  I knew from seeing the show once before that they would pick some poor sucker out of the audience in a humiliating skit. When they came in search of a victim, I tried to shrink and make myself invisible. They grabbed the guy behind me. While clowns gave him wedgies, unzipped his fly and humped his leg, I kept thinking how I would rather endure just about anything except being laughed at like that. So here was the same show, with a totally new take on fear. My daughter demonstrated what childlike faith looks like. The red faced guy behind me didn’t have faith. But even he played a role in the lesson for the day, he suffered the most humiliating public ridicule and still survived.

My friend just recommended a book called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway that is on my reading list.

Have you ever feared something and did it anyway? How did it turn out? Looking back, did it require faith?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Philosophy on a Bar Napkin

Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise makes it bloom, discouragement often nips it in the bud. Any of us put out more and better ideas, if our efforts are truly appreciated.
-Alex Osborne

Have you ever wondered where the term brainstorming ca me from? It came from Buffalo, New York, of course, where all things creative come from. .Actually, it came from a guy named Alex Osborn who is from Buffalo. Osborn climbed the ranks of a big New York City ad agency in the 1940’s. He got his  team to come up with successful ad campaigns for Chrysler, General Electric , Dupont and Royal Cola. The agency credited their success to how Osborn conducted meetings. The “brainstorming” concept worked so well in the ad agency that Osborn eventually left the business to devote his time to being an author. His books include: “How to Think Up”, “Your Creative Power”, “Wake Up Your Mind” and “The Goldmine Between Your Ears”. Osborn also founded the Creative Education Foundation, which is going strong today with a mission to engage and develop the next generation of creative thinkers and innovators. They call themselves experts in “applied imagination”. From a standardized creative problem solving process to the world’s longest running international creativity conference, Osborn’s fingerprints are on all of it. Did you know Buffalo State University is the only college to offer a masters degree in creativity through a division called the Center for International Studies of Creativity . Yep, that is Osborn too!

On this Big Idea Monday, let’s take a moment to celebrate the contribution one person can make. Brainstorming is built on a foundational idea that there is no room for criticism in the creative process. It is about quantity, not quality when your trying to find solutions. Throw it out there. See what sticks. Trial and Error. Free Associate. So here is my Big Idea for BIM. Don’t pick on it. I was out this weekend and my drink happened to make a happy face water mark on my cocktail napkin. How about a line of glasses to be sold to bars and restaurants that leave different unique marks on the napkin. I think the trick is to not sell all the same kind. There should be a randomness to it. A surprise that sparks conversation.

How do you brainstorm?

Believe and You Will See

Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on it's truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing. Wager than without hesitation that He exists.
-Blaise Pascal.

Scientists call is "embodied cognition". In a study published in psychological science, researchers tried to answer the question, "do we see reality as it is or is what we see based on pre-conceptions?"  The study proved the latter. I am coming to a similar conclusion about my faith. The more I entertain the notion that angels exist- the more proof I am finding. Week one of childlike faith has been nothing short of magical.

1. a feather appeared next to a toothpaste stain that looks suspiciously like a winged angel on my mirror.
2. Dandelion blooms have been snowing down on me from the strangest places. When I looked up the meaning, it means angels or messengers are carrying your dreams to where they need to go to manifest.
3. I wrote a blog post called "see a penny, pick it up" about seizing opportunities and going into partnership with my son. Later that same day, my son found a crumpled $100 lying on the ground next to our garbage can. No one was missing a $100 and the hall closet where we keep the trash had been cleared out the day before but no one noticed it.
4. I wrote a blogpost about the spiritual significance of flowers and their meanings. My mom told me her new favorite flower is the peonie. The same day, I  walked into an antique store selling peonies. There were no other fresh cut flowers for sale. Turns out peonies have the energetic property to help send love to family from afar. An ability my mother needs right now.
5. I was researching books about childlike faith. Came across a book by Sophie Burnham called Angel Letters published in 1991. Found a copy of the same book on my shelf that I had not opened in 20 years. A pressed rose (sign of an angel) and a beautiful heartfelt prayer from my mother was written inside. A message perhaps that I was not ready to receive when she wrote it twenty years ago.
6. I went out for a rare date night with my husband, who has been out of town for a week. We have been like two ships for much longer than that. My glass made this happy face water stain on my napkin.
7. As I write this, I just noticed red colored shadows dancing past my feet. As best as I can tell, it may be caused by the morning light and how the wind is hitting the christmas ornament just right outside our front door. But I have never noticed it before now.

 A friend asked me yesterday what I think it all means. I said that they are happy reminders that we are not alone. God, angels, higher power, divine intelligence or whatever you call it wants us to be happy, to ask for help, to believe, to trust. I don't care which came first, believing or seeing. To me, it is all real and wonderful.

Are you a "seeing is believing" kind of person or the other way around?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Missive Reminder

The feather, whence the pen
Was shaped that traced the lives of these good men
Dropped from an angel's wing.
-William Wordsworth

Last week I found a little brown  feather in my bathroom. Easily explained as something that was tracked in on a shoe perhaps. Maybe it came from a pillow or a Christmas ornament? But I don't think so. It appeared next to that strange toothpaste stain on my medicine cabinet mirror. Sightings The one that I wrote about last month that looks like a girl with wings. The stain that my daughter insisted was a fairy's shadow that she left behind while visiting in our dreams.  My 4-year old went on to say that my mirror is the fairy's door so she can go back and forth to see her sister. I am not saying I believed my daughter, but I didn't not believe her either. I love my daughter's imagination. I love the idea so much that I have not cleaned the mirror for a month since the stain appeared.

So last week when the feather appeared, I showed it to my daughter and we placed it in the crack of the stained mirror for safe keeping. I was already researching angels for this month's focus on childlike faith when I came across an Amazon listing for Angel Letters by Sophie Burnham. The book was published in 1991. It sounded familiar. I thought maybe I had read it a long time ago. In fact, I went looking through my old books and there it was-untouched for 20 years. When I opened it, a pressed rose fell out and I found a beautiful inscription from my mom. Her prayer especially for me. That explains why I kept the book all these years. But finding it just one day after the feather? The timing seemed almost divine.

The book is filled with stories from adults who either remembered unexplained encounters from their childhood or admitted to a mystical experience when they were too old to believe in such things. Many of the stories were shared anonymously. People were miraculously healed. Desperate prayers answered. Comfort came just when it was needed most. Lost things were found. Help appeared out of no where.  Sometimes people heard sweet voices. Others felt a warm presence. A few had encounters with angelic looking strangers. One person swears a guy dressed in white changed her flat tire. There was a whole category of letters from ordinary people who simply saw something that made them believe that they are not alone in this world.

I put my feather and stain in that last category. It makes me feel okay with the fact that we don't need to have an explanation for everything. That there is likely more going on than what we can see. I am thankful to Sophie Burnham for creating an opportunity for people to share their stories with out feeling crazy or they are the only ones or that you have to be a naive child to believe. I sat in the dog park and cried as I read the letters. Beautiful, heartfelt letters.

Do you believe in angels?

Here is an excerpt from Sophie Burnham's introduction that feels like she wrote it just for me and my recent experiences.

Since finishing A Book of Angels, I have come to a personal belief that we live surrounded by ghosts, by spirits, not only in our imagination, as metaphors of our past, but also our reality-our departed loved ones watching us. And we are all surrounded by superior beings of great light and magnificence, manifestations of the divine, who want for us poor humans better things than we can possibly imagine. And I believe if we leave them alone and present ourselves like children, in total trust and love and humble gratitude, than they will pour their blessings on us overwhelmingly. They play with us. They look after us. They heal us, touch us, comfort us with invisible warm hands and always they try to give us what we want.

Scientifically they can not be seen. But neither can a black hole in space. But still their presence is known. And perhaps the letters in this volume will serve to remind you of moments when you too have felt an angel's touch or heard a whisper of a wing or received the missive invisibly floating past, to say "We're here" and "Don't forget".

-Sophie Burnham
 Angel Letters 1991

It's Complicated

I love you mostess-more
-my mother's family saying

My mom and I frequently don’t agree. The one thing we probably can agree on is an adjective that best describes our relationship- complicated. Not to say she isn’t wonderful. Just about everybody that meets my mom, loves her instantly. She is so fun! Your mom cracks me up! I want to party with her!  It’s just we see things so differently. We do things so differently. We have lived in the safe distance of different states since I was 15 years old.  This winter, my mom officially became a Florida snowbird and set up camp 10 minutes from my house. That’s a a care ride- (nail bite), instead of a- (gulp) plane ride- (nervous twitch)- away.

It is taking some time to appreciate each other’s differences. I have come to recognize that her closets are always neat and orderly so I asked her to organize my kitchen as my Christmas gift. In the past, I would not have exposed myself to her white glove scrutiny. We planned what I thought would be a one day job for when my husband was out of town. It turned into a five day job with reinforcement handymen and cleaning crews brought in. Let me just say I don’t have a large kitchen and I don’t think I would qualify as a hoarder. But there was a lot of useless stuff taking up space. Five dozen wine glasses. Guilt. Three giant jars of sesame seeds. Judgement. An entire storage bin of mismatched paper plates and napkins. Blame. Grill accessories, but no grill. Regret.

The upheaval inspired me to get on my hands and knees and scrub my entire house, kids closets, sock drawers, dusty window sills and all. My husband came home after his weeklong business trip and had no idea what went on in his absence. There are no pictures, because really, who wants evidence of that? It is not possible for him to fully understand what makes my relationship with my mom so complicated any more than he can comprehend how we had an entire dumpster full of stuff removed from our house. It is a great mystery, like how they squeeze all those clowns into a tiny car at the circus, even to me- and I was there.

I have a shelf just for coffee now. An entire cabinet for my baking supplies, too. And I have a deeper appreciation for how much my mom loves me. I felt this way once many years ago.  It was a weekend of shopping to get me set up in my first post college apartment for my first job. A lot of things moved with me over the years since that first apartment. Things I no longer need.

Is there a relationship you can simplify by allowing room for the other person into your life?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Time Travel Tuesday- Taking Time to Smell the Roses

Flower in the crannied wall. I pluck you out in the crannies. I hold you here root and all in my hand little flower- but if I could understand what you are root and all and all in all, I should know what God and man is.
-Alfred Lord Tennyson
Typical Balinese Offering at Restaurant

On a trip to Bali two years ago, I was struck by the reverence people had for flowers. It is said the Balinese grow flowers first and than food.  The flowers are used in daily offerings to God in their homes, businesses and places of social gatherings. You will find fresh flowers on the ground near the entrance of communities. Travelers take it upon themselves each day to place fresh flowers from their gardens at busy intersections to thank God for keeping the road safe.

Since I began this journey in Being More Childlike, the spiritual significance of flowers keeps popping up again and again in colorful ways in my studies. In the Eckhart Tolle book, A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life's Purpose. Tolle tells the story how Jesus instructed his followers to contemplate flowers to learn how to live. Buddha delivered a "silent sermon" where he did nothing but stand quietly in front of monks and studied a flower. That realization of the meaning of that sermon is the basis for Zen. The mystic Basho describes Zen as recognizing the uniqueness and beauty in the the weed-like"nazunia" flower growing by the thousands on the side of the road.

The Indian mystic Osho likens intelligent people to flowers because they are enlightened beings. Osho also describes intuition like a mystic rose that can only open when you stop relying on intellect. In a remote village in the Sonoran desert of Mexico, there is a native tribe that speak an endangered language called Seri. The Seris have an expression that means "everyone has a flower inside them and that flower is their word". Even 19th century English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson tried to understand the essence of his own flowering word.

On that same trip to Bali, the Hindu medicine man made famous in Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Love, Pray book tried to describe my flower. Ketut Lyer claimed our flowers are sometimes visible on our back and mark the entrance to our souls.  Before that trip, I always thought flowers were just pretty things you sent on special occasions or splurged on to spruce up the house when you are entertaining. I have never discussed how flowers have inspired religious teachings, art and poetry with my children. But somehow, they already instinctively knew.

Looking back, when my son was 3, he used to pick a flower every day from our bushes and give to me on our way to school. He was quite disappointed when I tore out the hedge in a landscaping project because he had no source anymore. Two months ago, my daughter described a dream to me and said she saw me drinking honey from roses and flying with bumble bees. A lovely thought, but I didn't read much into it. Than a few weeks ago, there was some discord on our home. I was down. Out of the blue, my daughter insisted that we buy sunflowers. She reminded me again at the grocery store. Again, I didn't think much of it. Until this week, when I came across a special book.

 I was researching angels for this month's blog focus on faith. There is an author named Doreen Virtue, who is considered a leading expert on the topic of angels.  Among her many books, Reeves co-wrote a book called Flower Therapy, Welcome the Angels of Nature Into Your Life. Reeves has researched the energetic properties of dozens of varieties of flowers. Magnolias can clear pollutants. Lotus' bring wisdom. Lavender soothes nerves. Here is some of what the book says about sunflowers:

Sunflowers exude joy.  The dark center and colorful petals represent bringing the light out of the darkness. Recognize the beauty in the sunflower and remember how wonderful it feels to be happy. The sunflower will help you enjoy each day to the fullest and be happy with yourself and come to terms with every aspect of who you are.

Come to think of it, sunflowers are one of those rare plants that actually move each day to follow the Sun. The definition makes sense. If you follow your own light the way a sunflower follows the sun, you will find joy.  If you have ever wondered why you are drawn to certain flowers or want to learn more about the meaning of giving certain flowers, Flower Therapy is a great resource with  an extensive directory.

For this week's Time Travel Tuesday, we planted flowers. candy cane striped petunias, which bring joy and laughter to your home. We also planted poinsettias, which guide you on your path. Poinsettas are supposed to be enjoyed at the end of the year to re-center yourself before beginning a new year and embracing new opportunities. On the way to the nursery and through out the day, I kept noticing dandelion blooms floating by in odd places. According to the book, the snowball white dandelion seeds are known for making dreams come true. The seeds floating through the air are angels carrying your wishes to exactly where they need to go to take root and manifest.

What do flowers mean to you?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Faith is

Angel Joseph: You know sir he has the IQ of a rabbit.
Senior Angel. Yes, but he has the faith of a child. Simple. Joseph, Send for Clarence.
Clarence: You sent for me, sir?
Senior Angel: Yes, a man down on Earth needs our help.
Clarence: Is he sick?
Senior Angel: Worse. He is discouraged.
-It's a Wonderful Life

December’s focus is childlike faith. The first day of the month started with a visit to Santa and coming home to see “It’s a Wonderful Life” on TV. While the more common definition of faith is belief, trust and loyalty to God. There are so many facets to this beautiful word. Seeing my daughter on Santa’s lap reminds me of a time when I unquestioningly believed in magic. A time when I was encouraged to trust that wishes come true. Not just come true, they will be hand delivered with love and care and a big red bow.

In my favorite movie, George Bailey had been a loyal husband, son, father and friend, but he had lost faith in himself. He wished he had never been born. As everyone who has seen the movie knows, a second class angel named Clarence grants his wish. Only by viewing what the world was like without him, could George see what an essential role he played. Unfortunately, wishes like that only come true in movies. To me, faith is defined by believing in everything important that we can’t see. That includes God, magic, the power of your dreams, a promise or simply your extraordinary contribution to what is good and right in the world.

Finish the sentence: Faith is......

Big Idea Monday- See a Penny, Pick it Up.

See a penny pick it up. All the day you have good luck. See a penny let it lay, let your day waste away.
-Frank C. Brown

The theme today is seizing opportunities. Today’s post was inspired by three people. First, a film maker who told me his first rule is “If there is money on the ground, pick it up.” The second source of inspiration came from a lovely newspaper article by Pultizer Prize winning local writer Lane DeGregory about her teen getting his driver’s license and her regret that she didn’t savor those alone moments in the car with him more. Rear View Mirror. Finally, thanks to my friend Jacqueline, who reminded me about the Awesome Foundation. They are the innovators who are “forwarding the interest of awesome in the universe, $1,000 at a time.” A mural in Portland, Oregon. Recycling bins in science centers in Ulaanbaatar. Bringing books and mentors to inner city boys in Detroit, Michigan. A documentary in Sydney, Australia. The people who came up with these ideas received $1,000 in seed money, no strings attached. The Awesome Foundation was created in 2009 by a group of “micro-trustees” in Boston. Together they have pooled $354,000 to grant 354 awesome ideas around the world. They are not investors. This is not a loan. They simply offer micro-genius grants for flashes of micro-brilliance.  Their mission: to conserve, sustain and support the worldwide ecosystem of awesomeness has spurred the creation of independent awesome chapters, who are giving even more money away for your good ideas. Guess what? Where I live doesn’t have one chapter, it has two! Guess what again? If there isn’t a chapter in your neighborhood, you can either go straight to the source of the main foundation or start your own chapter.

So for this Big Idea Monday, here is mine. I am going into partnership with my son. It is time to put our ideas on the table for a brainstorming session and pick one. Than do it. I don’t want to be that mom in the newspaper story who was tearfully looking back in the rear view mirror. One of my greatest regrets is not writing down all the amazing questions and truly awesome ideas my son has floated over the years. Instead of answering I don’t know to his what if questions, I want to say let’s find out together. Instead of seeing one of his dismissed childlike ideas sitting on a store shelf or on the Internet a year after he mentioned it I want to be the first to make it happen. At the very least, I want to learn and at the same time teach what "making it happen" really means.

 I have forwarded him a standard partnership agreement for his review. We have discussed terms like “due diligence” and “limited liability” and “share holder”. For our brainstorming session this week, my goal is to list all the benefits to the ideas on the table first. No hole- poking allowed. There will be plenty of time and other people for that later. First, I want to bask in the awesomeness of new ideas.

Post Script- within hours of posting this, my son found a $100 bill crumpled in the hall closet next to our garbage can. We were not missing $100. An unexplained find that of course he picked up!

Do you have a big idea? Will you leave it on the ground or pick it up?
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