Animals are miraculous gifts to us. The power of an animal’s love, intuition and wisdom is greatly underestimated—whether it’s an ape that not only understands but also responds to sign language or a special cat that made the news by instinctively knowing when its nursing-home residents were about to leave this world. Then there’s the dog that helps its therapist owner detect abnormalities in her patients’ bodies and the story of the amazingly brave elephants that impulsively knew they had to save themselves by moving to higher ground when a devastating tsunami hit the west coast of Sumatra.
Animals have been our spiritual companions since the dawn of time. Humans have honored them throughout history, as can be seen in those early drawings on the walls of caves—man and dog hunting side by side. Egyptians have treated cats like gods, American Indians have honored many different animals on totem poles, and the elders in the tribe would teach the children about the importance of each living thing.
I’ve been looking forward to Thanksgiving all year. In fact, I’ve been counting down to it every day since it happened last year. Why? Well, as anyone close to me knows, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
I love the days leading up to it. I love the atmosphere surrounding it. I love that it’s a holiday all about gathering around with family and friends for food, football, and faith. I love that it means my house is full of laughter, and that my table is full of people expressing gratitude for this moment in their lives. I love that friends find comfort and a sense of belonging and home at my family table on Thanksgiving each year.
I also love that Thanksgiving isn’t about going out and buying gifts (which I’ve come to realize just stresses everyone out, anyway). No, Thanksgiving is about celebrating the gifts that are within us. It’s a holiday that’s about honoring the gift of friendship. It’s about recognizing the gift of family. It’s about opening your heart and your mind to the larger picture of family. It’s about reaching out to those who might not have a family or a place to go and inviting them to the table.
I’ve written many times before about our collective need to belong, and how we all feel a need to be invited and included. Thanksgiving is an opportunity for all of us to recognize not just our own internal need for those things, but the need that our loved ones and neighbors have for it as well.
“It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.” — Mother Teresa
I've Been Thinking...
November kicks offNational Alzheimer's Disease AwarenessandNational Family Caregivers Month. For us here at The Sunday Paper, it's an opportunity to focus on the huge issue of caregiving (in all its forms), as well as on the value and importance of care.
My mission is to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and I’m relentless in my pursuit of it. That's why you often see curated news from theWomen's Alzheimer's Movement(WAM)featured in this newsletter. My father passed away from the disease in 2011, so I know first-hand what a toll it can take on families. That's why I'm determined to do everything I can to stop it from happening to others.
Yesterday, WAM held its big annual eventMove for Minds, which works to educate and empower you with the information you need to care for your brain health and prevent or delay Alzheimer’s. It’s also a chance to raise funds for much needed women-based research, and to honor the work of those caregiving for someone with this mind-blowing disease.
Caring for another human being is God's work, and how one cares for another person tells you a lot about them. It tells you whether or not they value the concept of care.
Care can be exhibited in so many ways, but what I know to be true is this: when a person feels cared for, the world suddenly feels a little less scary and a lot more OK. When you feel cared for, you feel soothed. You feel secure. You feel safe. And trust me, feeling safe is huge.
At the Democratic debate last Tuesday night, the final question posed to the candidates was one about friendship.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked each of them to describe a friendship they’ve had with someone who has different beliefs than them. The question came in light of what I wrote about last week, which was the uproar over comedian Ellen DeGeneres sitting next to former President George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game. Lots of people seemed to be upset by the debate question, but I found it revelatory in terms of how the candidates answered it and how they didn’t.
Having the question come up in a presidential debate at all tells us that there is a prevailing feeling of fear in our country. There is a fear that people don’t want to be, or are too scared to be, friends with people who have different beliefs than them.
I was raised with cows, horses, goats, dogs and a couple other species of animals.These creatures and our very large garden, taught me at a young age, about the time and energy involved in animal and garden care.I love plants, but choose to not commit the time to growing them.For many years that’s how I viewed animals.I love animals. I even eat a plant based diet because of my spiritual beliefs that acknowledges the sanctity of animals.Still I didn’t have the time needed to properly care for an animal.
When my children were no longer babies I finally decided I had the energy and resources required to care for a family dog.This is after years of our oldest child asking for a puppy.
My husband was shocked when my stance of no, no, never..changed to, “ lets get a poodle.”
That is how Ringo came into our lives.We bought him from someone out of state.She claimed her poodles had service dog dispositions.Ringo was born in December and he came to us in April.We picked him up at the airport in the evening.When we opened the crate he was all legs.He looked more like a young horse then a dog.He quickly became part of our life.For the first few years our oldest was the person that slept with and helped care for him.
Growing up half Italian and eating my mom’s cooking, I’m always up for a good pizza. One night, I met some friends, and we found the perfect spot for the “best pizza in town.” I think we all drooled with expectation as our lovely waitress came to take our order.
As she came back with a full tray of drinks, she looked directly at me.“Oh my God! It’s you! I have to tell you what happened when you gave me a message. Would you mind if I talk to you when you’re finished eating?”After my friends and I said our goodbyes, I headed to the kitchen to find my rather nervous waitress Sandy.“Some years ago, I was at the bookstore and heard you were going to speak that evening,”she explained.“I was lucky enough to get one of the few remaining tickets."
“You pointed straight at me and said, ‘This is for the young woman in the back row. I have your father here and he’s asking for forgiveness from you. Do you understand that?’”
“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” – Deepak Chopra
How are you? I hope that you were able to take some time away this summer to rest, reflect, and recharge.
My August break abruptly began with a death in my family. It was sudden and heartbreaking, and it stopped everyone and everything in its tracks.
As I flew back to LA after the funeral that was held for my cousin’s 22-year-old-daughter, I thought a lot about the fragility of life. I thought about the suddenness of death, and how it upends us in different ways.
When I got home, I looked at my calendar and, for the first time all year, it was clear. I breathed into the emptiness and didn’t allow it to make me feel empty, invisible, or irrelevant.
Before my August break, people asked me, “Maria, aren’t you worried about losing your momentum on social media, with your Sunday Paper, and with NBC?”
“Yes and no,” I replied. “I’m sure I’ll lose some momentum, but I’m certain that what I’ll gain in return will be more meaningful and more profound.”
I love finding symbolism in life while honoring practices. Both of these actions have helped me experience peace in times of grief, stress and loneliness.
About 16 years ago my husband and I were trying to complete our family with a third child. My other two pregnancies were moderately smooth, so I was shocked when I suffered a loss. This miscarriage kicked off a couple of very stressful and grief filled years. I remember after one of the three failed pregnancies, sitting on the kitchen floor crying. I felt completely lost, even shattered. I tried to keep it together for our two daughters.
My life became filled with blood tests, doctor’s appointments, hope and stress. It was also during this time that each Fall I would plant some flower bulbs. This is truly out of character. While planting the blue Iris bulbs I found a little symbolism. The bulbs go thru a very long, dark and cold winter and magically in the Spring new life shows up. If you are lucky, that new life will be in full bloom in the early Summer.
As skin will stretch and mend a cut, kindness will heal all our divisions in time. Just as something cellular and internal causes trees to grow and fish to develop fins, something equally cellular and internal causes the heart to open. This openness is what releases the enzyme we know as kindness. And while being vulnerable opens the heart, that earned tenderness yields a wholeheartedness that reveals all forms of kinship. It’s how Grandma Minnie made her way from Russia as a girl and became a strong weed growing in Brooklyn. I will never forget her broken-English dignity, sitting proudly on her stoop, no matter what came her way. She was always ready to weather the next storm with kindness, ready to welcome the needy and to speak up against cruelty. I don’t think she thought of this as brave or altruistic. It was just part of her nature, part of our nature as living beings. Her innate kindness helped her endure. It is the strength of our kindness that roots life in the world. It is our initiation through kindness that lets us grow from I to we. I only know that every time I give, I receive more. Every time I give, the act illuminates my soul and I am enlarged out of hiding, the way an orchid opens to arrive as itself. So, when in doubt, give. When dark and confused, give. For your doubt and darkness and confusion are cuts that reaching out with heart will mend.
Success is no accident, it takes hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.
For parents, success is something that children should be encouraged to achieve. However, in order for children to be successful, they must first be given the tools and habits that they need to benefit from the advice and words of wisdom from their parents.
Here are fiveparenting tipsthat will give you the guidance that you need to help your children be more successful in their current and future endeavors and it can improve your relationship with your child.
“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
This week’s reading brought two goddesses together that inspired me to talk about how the stories of the past inform what we manifest in the future. I was going to wait a bit but when the Greek goddess of memory and the past and the Norse goddess of the future showed up in the reading side by side, they revealed to me that perhaps the time to share is now.
I took a DNA test that rocked my world. Forgive me in advance for not giving you the full details just yet as I have some more digging to do and intimate conversations to have with family first. Suffice to say that my results were not what I expected and has led me to question so much. I’m still digesting and integrating the information. But here is the gist of it.
The core elements of the story that defined my mother’s life, her deepest fears, traumas, guilt and identity and consequently what has defined my identity and the story I’ve come to believe, tell, and act from is something very different than what she believed and I was told. I know that sentence is a mouthful. But if what I have discovered is the real truth than much of the story that has defined me is not a true story.
Have you ever considered or even questioned your history? I am doing that right now and it’s astounding to consider that many of our choices may be based on false information.
As a tribute to all mothers, whether they are here or watching over us from the Other-Side, I’d like to share a special story for Mother’s Day, just over a week ago!
A few years ago, I was in Seattle, Washington for an event and took a stroll along the city’s famous landmark, Pike Place Market. As I passed by a floral shop, a certain bouquet of sunflowers drew my attention. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I knew I wasn’t about to purchase them just to take home on the plane the next day! Still, I felt this overwhelming urge to buy them. It was a clear signal.
Over the years, I’ve learned it’s best to just go with my gut at times like these. Of course, I purchased the sunflowers right away. At the conference center, I asked the organizer to have them put on the stage with me.
When I walked onto the stage, I launched into my introductory lecture and explanation of how I work. All the while, I was aware of the mass of yellow sunflowers on the table beside me. I had barely finished my lecture when I felt the presence of those on the Other-Side draw close. Today, they were lining up as though waiting for a Black Friday sale! It was going to be a busy afternoon.
The holiday season is upon us- and no matter what and how you celebrate you’re likely going to face some family stuff! And, while this time of year is meant to be full of joy and excitement, for many of us it’s also the harbinger of family tension, stress, weight gain, and emotional upheaval. So much gets triggered at this time of year, especially for those of us who are empaths and feel all the subtle forms of energy around us, and the obvious not so subtle energy as everyone behaves in extremes.
Over the past week, it seems everyone I’ve talked with is on edge about the holidays. So, I’m going to share how you can create a better experience for yourself this holiday season, and any other stressful time for that matter. First, let’s talk about the joys of family gatherings.
I hope your holiday season has gotten off to a beautiful start. For me, the holidays are my favorite time of year. I love the lights, traditions, celebrating with family and friends, and, of course, all the new Hallmark Christmas movies! Although we all know how the movies will end, there is something so heart-warming about being invited into these charming and magically decorated small towns where families sit around the kitchen table decorating Christmas cookies, helping their one unwed daughter who has come home from the big city mend her past heartbreak, so she can open up to finding love with her old flame, who just happens to be the boy next door.
Always being a person who had a desire for my life to look like a Norman Rockwell painting, there is a part of me that has always craved Hallmark’s picture of family. Even after I got divorced, I still had an idyllic picture of what I wanted my future family to look like. I imagined myself and my partner sitting connected on the couch as our blended families excitedly rushed in and out, sharing about their day and easily interacting with us and each other.
“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” — Ernest Hemingway
There are some weeks when I wait until the very end to write my “I’ve Been Thinking…” essay for The Sunday Paper. That’s because I like to have time to really reflect upon what I’ve experienced, what I’ve felt, and what has stayed with me over the past week.
There is so much coming at us these days that it is often helpful to pause, catch your breath and ask yourself, “What really mattered to me this week? What will I remember most? What was most meaningful to me, and why?”
This week, one thing that was really meaningful to me was that I got to attend the World Dementia Council Summit in London. This was a gathering of world leaders who came together to discuss what we can do to wipe out Alzheimer’s in our lifetime.
I attended the event so that I could speak about the global impact of Alzheimer’s on women. As I’ve said before, women are at an increased risk for this disease and they are also the ones who do most of the caregiving around the world. I see this as the ultimate women’s empowerment issue, and I’m glad I got to bring this important message to the global stage.
I was so inspired by all the scientists, researchers, politicians and advocates who gathered to discuss how we can better collaborate, innovate and speed up our goal of finding a treatment or a cure. I’m grateful and humbled that our work atThe Women’s Alzheimer’s Movementwas included in this important discussion and that it was recognized for its game-changing work on behalf of women.
While I was honored to be a part of this global gathering in London this week, I also know that back home our nation was mourning the loss of former President George H.W. Bush and remembering his legacy. As I flew home on Thursday, I found myself returning over and over to former President George W. Bush’s poignant speech about his father at the funeral.
I stepped into the shower, noticing a glass bottle of vinegar that someone had used on their hair. Once again I made a mental note to not leave glass in our stone shower.
While enjoying the warm water I was thinking about my day. I put conditioner on my hair enjoying the luscious smell. An ominous sound entered my awareness. I then began to feel the shower move underneath my feet. We were experiencing an earthquake, a big earthquake.
No time to turn off the water, I grabbed a towel and bolted. My son, the dogs and I ran down the stairs and out the door. Before the power went out I noticed art work on the ground or hanging precariously on the walls. It was like looking at everything in slow motion. I could hear the sounds of shaking and falling. I could see the destruction. Time stopped.
Once outside I stood barefoot in the snow hugging our son. Our dogs were completely confused, one ran away. I don’t remember even feeling cold. I had practically nothing on, wet, in 20 degree temperatures. I regrouped and took a deep breath.
As I hugged Finn, I reminded him we are always protected. We will be OK. As the Earth beneath our feet calmed down, we went back inside. There was no power and the sun was not up yet. I returned to the shower to rinse my hair. The after-shocks continued.
Finn looked for the run-away dog. I walked through our home. It could have been much worse. Only glass objects were broken, no structural damage was apparent. I touched base with my husband and other family members. We were all in semi shock, but doing fine.
As I cleaned up pieces of glass I thought about protection. What is this protection I promise myself and our children? Today called for me to dig deeper into my spiritual beliefs and reckoning on protection.
My son and I touched down in Anchorage at 3:30 in the morning. I was relieved to see the streets clear of snow; it was an easy drive home. I was looking forward to the feeling of being settled. At home, I lit some candles, exhaled and experienced peace.
The last few days I had noticed some feelings of stress. The holiday season had arrived. Thanksgiving was just a few days away. I could also feel the pressure of every day matters. I had emails, appointments and family obligations that had piled up over the last week.
This historically has been a personal struggle of mine. Is it possible to stay connected to peace during the holiday season? This is the time of year that is often depicted as magical. It can be amazingly wonderful; but it can also difficult to stay connected to the most important aspect; love and peace.
The next morning before I started my meditation I recognized how much I enjoy our home. It is filled with good feelings. The energy from our prayers and meditations fill my favorite rooms. The mountains are visible thru the windows. The trees behind me share the energy of protection. I easily slipped into a deep meditation.
My awareness shifted. I was greeted by love, a version of each of us. The veil evaporated. Everything fell away except the feelings of love, peace and protection. I was home again. There are no limitations of time, size, or quantity. It is simply recognizing heart and soul. This is where our true self is.
I say simply... because it is with the gentle shift of awareness that we all fall into peace.
My morning meditation reminded me of my personal need to bring the holiday season back to my heart, my center. It is here that I am able to bring love into my actions that create each day.
To experience the holidays with joy; I keep my energy focused on my heart. I keep it simple. When I begin to feel scattered or spread too thin, I bring my awareness back to my heart. This is where I need to be, to pull the magic into my holiday experience.
A song written and recorded in 1944 that was popular with my parents’ generation had the refrain: “Accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative.” Those who lived through the Great Depression and World War II often developed one of two responses to life: fear or hope, or perhaps a mix of both. You can see hope in songs like this one. And I definitely saw it in my mother when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. Without fail, she always looked for the positive in any situation, person, or event. If someone behaved in an unpleasant manner, my mother’s response was inevitably, “She means well.” And then she would find something nice to say about the person.
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