It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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How Our Loved Ones Communicate With Us After Their Death

The older we get, most of us have suffered the loss of a loved one. This can be hard even if you do believe in life after death. Keep reading and discover how our loved ones communicate with us after their death, and how you can communicate with them.

My schedule was packed full. I was taking off for a long weekend trip to Alaska for a wedding. My very talented hair stylist reached out and needed to change our appointment. The new schedule was perfect; but then she had to change it again because of an unexpected event.

In order for the new schedule to work we met on Sunday. The studio was empty except for the two of us. I can’t remember how the subject came up, but we began talking about death and life after death.

Our conversation was very candid and would not have been so deep, if other people were around. There was a little magic that happened to create a private setting. My hair stylist, Lisa, was just exploring the possibilities of life after death.

I began picking up on an older gentleman around her, like a grandfather. I saw light colored denim. He was also showing me flowers, lots of flowers. He also showed me he was very persistent.

Her grandfather had passed, and had worn light denim overalls. His wife, still living, has lots of flowers. We talked a little more about him and his wife. I mentioned again the flowers and how persistent he is!

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How to Create Waves of Happiness

Something happened recently that I find super hilarious, while also incredibly encouraging and hopeful. The other day, I was running around doing my crazy morning errands. The kids wanted sushi in their lunches so I ended up going to WholeFoods to grab some for them. We ended up getting Dunkin Donuts too, which I know sounds obnoxious together, but it made my kids giggle!

And that reminded me of something: by making other people happy, causing them to giggle, and helping them do things they thoroughly enjoy, it makes me happy. Through this pattern, I can create a wave of happiness.

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Children Are In Charge

It may not
Look like it

But the children
are in charge

Their world
is not
collapsing

This is
The only world
They know

They are bringing
The infinite of their being
Now
Their love is mature
Fully grown

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Upside Down Love 

I fall in love
With your essence 

And then unwrap
The story
That reveals
All your beauty

I love who you are
But I also appreciate
The life that made you

I only need to know
Enough
To love you
Which isn’t very much
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The Spirit of Hope and Expectancy

The spirit of hope and expectancy is very much alive during this season; which is often called the most wonderful time of the year. This season is a time when many faith traditions and religions are celebrating the magic of high holy days. There is Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, just to name a few and so many more celebrations. Most, if not all have stories that are about the miracle of life and hope. These stories have unexplained or miraculous phenomenal occurrences articulated to help inspire people and give them a sense of hope.

Many of these stories are based on mystical or magical journeys. I personally believe these stories are not just for the time period beginning with Thanksgiving at the end of November through January 1st each year. If we are willing to commit ourselves to carrying the stories’ spirit of hope and expectancy, we can experience their meaning through every day of our lives. We can experience wonder, possibility, and hope as our new normal.

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We’ll Be Home for the Holidays—and That’s Okay!

I drove around my neighborhood the other day and noticed several houses already decorated for the holidays. Seeing the colorful twinkling lights around the windows and giant inflatable Santa Clauses waving from front lawns puts me in the holiday spirit.

But this year, as we all know ... things are different. A nasty Grinch called Covid-19 is trying to steal Christmas from us. With more lockdowns in place and more cases prohibiting us to cross borders and visiting our loved ones, the classic holiday song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is literally coming true for 2020.

I wanted to share some interesting parallels I learned about this popular song and our challenging year fighting the pandemic.

People were singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” when we were involved in another tough battle—World War II. The lyrics were written in the voice of a soldier serving overseas who is reminiscing about the holidays—surrounded by family and friends. This soldier looks forward to coming home and asks specifically for things that represent the holidays: Please have snow and mistletoe, and presents by the tree. The song, however, ends on a melancholy note with the soldier saying: “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”

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Finding Holiday Joy Despite the Pandemic

Across America, people are wondering what the holidays will be like as pandemic-related restrictions on traveling and gathering drag on. Mental health experts worry about how adults and children will cope when normal ways of celebrating are curtailed.

About two-thirds of American parents are worried about the pandemic impacting the mental health of their children, according to a recent survey from Nationwide Children’s Hospital. 

The holidays are already a time when many people struggle to feel happy and joyful amid the festivities going on around them. This year many families and individuals are coping with feelings of grief after losing a loved one to the pandemic or other causes.

It’s always hard to face the first holiday without a beloved family member or friend. It will be even more challenging this year as many people choose to stay home and gather only with those in their households, especially for those who live alone.

Even during the best of times, the holidays can be stressful and disruptive to your body, your emotions, and your routines. So how can we manage feelings of stress, isolation, and loneliness this year during holidays marred by a global crisis?

This year, it’s more important than ever to take steps to guard your emotional, mental, and physical health. Here are a few ideas to help make your holidays joyful in spite of the pandemic:

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Homeward Once More

After two and a half years in Florida, my partner Anne and I are moving back to Massachusetts. It is a decision of the heart. We are choosing to be closer to family and old friends and to remembered places that fill us with great love and appreciation. We are returning home. A few weeks ago, as I was on hold while buying our airline tickets to Boston, Simon and Garfunkel’s song “Homeward Bound” began playing in my ear. The synchronicity was unmistakable. I burst into tears.

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Is There Proof Love Exists?

I have great joy in being with thousands of kids every year. Some might define me as a children’s musician but I prefer the job description of, Greatness Amplifier, Engagement Specialist, Experience Generator. I like this description for how perfect it is for what I do performing music with kids, while at the same time it’s not limited to any specific skills or career.

Is there proof love exists?

Children can prove
Love is not based on commitment
It is captured in a moment

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Kids Have Plenty To Say

As a full-time kid’s musician since 1990, I have the blessing of being with thousands of kids every year.

Kids have never said to me directly
“Teach me something”

But they ALWAYS
Have something urgent
To tell me

Maybe one of the best methods of teaching
Is listening

Acknowledging
What kids have to say.
Seeing them
and their ideas as valuable
Interesting
and inspired

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Revival

I have been daydreaming about a lovely family vacation in Hawaii with my children and husband. I have also been wanting some easy travel in a hippy van with my husband and dogs. I imagine us sitting outside under the stars. Both sound really good right now! In the past, if I found myself needing a break from daily life, I would plan a trip. Maybe I would go, or I would not, but it was always an option. Currently, the thing I would like to get away from the most will join me wherever I am. The pandemic has created a shadow over the state of mind for many people and places. This is not all bad.

One of the blessings of our global health concern is a reminder of wherever you go, there you are. The only way to escape the feeling of crisis is to get comfortable with who you are and your relationship with everything. You can’t escape you or the Universe!

This outbreak could be the catalyst for us becoming a mindful and evolved species.

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How Has Your Animal Helped You?

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.

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A Season of Giving

I've Been Thinking...

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.

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The Gift of Caring

“It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.” — Mother Teresa


I've Been Thinking...

November kicks off National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness and National 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 the Women'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 event Move 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.

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A Meaningful Conversations Moment

I've Been Thinking...

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.

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Ringo and a Lesson in Grief

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.

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Pizza Girl’s Dad Gets His Wish

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?’”

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Rewriting Your Own Narrative

“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” – Deepak Chopra


Dear Friend, 

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.”

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Living Life in Full Bloom

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.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: In Our Nature

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.

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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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