Monday, November 19, 2012

I Danced

When I was young I remember thinking that I would be lucky if I lived to be 30. I don't know why I picked that age but it seemed so far away at the time that as a child I probably imagined that the world was going to end or that I would get sick and die.  I grew up both during the cold war and the beginning of the AIDS crisis.  There was not a lot of hope for me and other young people that the world and our lives would go on forever without some calamity ruining the whole thing. 

A few weeks ago I turned 45. I now can barely see 30 in my rear view mirror and yet I am still here. I don't reflect on age much as I try not to dwell too often on things over which I have no control.  Worrying about getting older to me is a lot like worrying about winter coming.  You can move to a warmer climate to escape winter just as you can make a visit to the plastic surgeon to calm the effects of age but that doesn't mean that winter isn't coming or that you have stopped getting older.  So I try to age quietly.  My hair is a little grey and sometimes I have to wait a few seconds for my left hip to decide it wants to join me on my walk but I'm doing alright.

What you realize more and more as you get older is that life really is kind of like a game.  You are constantly setting goals for yourself and often you achieve them and sometimes you don't.  When you are successful the game is fun and you keep playing. When you fail you think the game is stupid and you change it or change the rules.  Sometimes you give up for a while and let others play for you.  Regardless of how you play the game it continues to go on for you win or lose.  As you get older you realize that making the game fun is essentially up to you.  I have made the mistake often in my life (and still do) of thinking that my part in the game was greater than someone else's part or that winning the game was somehow possible.  The problem with that mindset is that even if you are winning you find it difficult for anyone to want to play with you. You find yourself alone challenging yourself and celebrating hollow victories at a table for one. 

A few months ago I was asked by a friend of mine to participate in "Dancing With The Canton Stars", a fundraiser for our local  Canton Palace Theatre.  She actually asked Brennis and me at the same time.  Brennis was silent.  I was silent for several seconds waiting for Brennis' voice and instead heard my own voice say "I'll do it."

I know why I did it.  I love The Canton Palace Theatre and I know what a huge undertaking it must be for the people who run and manage it to keep it going and productive more than 85 years after it opened.  The historic theatre had, as a matter of fact, not three decades before gone silent and its doors closed because of neglect and disinterest.  I wanted to be able to play a part in keeping it alive and thriving in our community.  If my position as a local business owner qualified me as a "star" for this purpose I was happy to do my part to help.

The point of "Dancing With The Canton Stars" was for each of the 13 "stars" to raise as much money as possible for the theater.  The person who raised the most money was the winner.  Oh yes.....and we had to dance on the Palace stage. Now I am all about raising money for worthwhile organizations or people who need help. God knows people were there for Brennis and me when we needed it.  The dancing, on the other hand was going  to be a bit of a challenge.  We had two and a half months to meet with the professional dancer we were teamed with and have them teach us the dance they had choreographed for us to perform.  Now even as someone who is not a dancer with enough practice anyone could learn to do a short dance with a personal instructor helping you out along the way.  That part, I knew, was possible. 

As time went on and the concept of the event was beginning to merge with the actual event I have to admit my heart began to beat a little faster.  What had begun as something that sounded like a fun challenge was now quickly becoming a very real public performance on a legitimate theatrical stage in front of more than a thousand people.  I sometimes find it difficult to speak to a group of twenty people about something about which I am very knowledgeable.....dancing in front of an audience of people who have paid to watch me was becoming very frightening. 

As the day approached I was more and more nervous.  I practiced my dance with my wonderful, patient partner and by myself whenever I had a free moment.  I knew that I was going to have to know this thing backwards and forwards in case a bout of stage fright threatened to erase my memory.   Everyone in my life had to listen to me kvetch about my upcoming performance like I was the only person on earth who had ever had to perform on a stage in front of people.  I fluctuated between anxiety and panic most of the time during the two weeks before the performance date and wanted so badly for it to be over that I began to lose sleep at night.

Then all at once it occurred to me.......this game could be fun if I simply let it be.  Why was I taking myself so seriously?  Nobody really cared in the end if I danced well or not.  This was not going to further my career.  This was supposed to be fun!  It was a fun game that I had turned into something else. I was once again taking myself too seriously and allowing my ego to ruin the fun.  So I started to play.  I understood immediately that what I had been given was a gift.  I was one of only a handful of people in the world that was going to be able to perform on a stage in front of a sold out audience of people cheering wildly for me!  They didn't care if I fell down or if I missed a step.  They were coming to have fun and support the people on the stage and to donate money for this glorious theater. 

So I changed the game.  It was no longer about everyone watching it was about me doing my very best to entertain the 1500 people who had paid to see me and the other twenty five stars and dancers who had come out that night to raise money for the Palace.  It was about having fun with my friends and some other really great people who all wanted the same thing.  At that point I knew that no matter what the outcome of my dance, whether I forgot it or fell down or stepped on my partner's toes it was going to be one of the most exciting things I had ever done in my life and I wanted to be able to experience that excitement, that joy without smothering it with self-doubt and fear.

The night of the show as I was standing backstage waiting for my cue to go on my heart began to beat faster and faster and I felt I was once again in danger becoming overcome with anxiety.  Then I heard a voice.  "You are blessed", it said.  I smiled. 

As I stood backstage I repeated that over and over to myself.  "You are are are blessed".  I looked to the side of me and saw the paint chipping off the wall of the 86 year old theater and held my hand to it as if to feel the heartbeat of this beautiful building that I had come to help.  "You are blessed," I repeated knowing how fortunate I was to now be able to be a part of this building's history. 

I stood and I breathed and I repeated my new mantra over and over again and I could feel my nervousness turn to excitement.  I looked over at the other end of the stage and saw my partner smiling the most beautiful smile as though she could hear the voice too.  Then  as I heard the emcee say my name the lights dimmed and the music started.  I was alive.  I was blessed.  I was having the time of my life......and I danced. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wide Open

 I've always thought of this blog as something I essentially do for myself.  It's my therapy.  It's something that I do because I love to write and because writing helps me to sort out things that are going on in my helps me to make sense of things in a world that doesn't often make a whole lot of sense.  The last several weeks I have been neglectful of that need.  It wasn't intentional really.  There were a lot of reasons I didn't write.  Some of them are genuine and some of them are only excuses.  Nevertheless I didn't write and here I am writing now so that's where I am.  It feels good to be back here.....talking to you and trying to make sense of a lot of things that have happened over the last several weeks.  So I guess we need to catch up.
     My last post about my friend dying really is what this blog is all about.  It is about me feeling something very deeply, not knowing what to do with all of those feelings and then sitting down and processing it the way I process it and then throwing it out there for others to see.  It's a kind of cry for help.  "God this doesn't make sense to me...and I feel alone....can someone help me?"
     Usually the process of writing is enough. Sometimes I get enrichment out of the realization that my words have touched another person.  Always I feel better for having done it.  My friend did die shortly after I posted that and in a very strange way I felt as though my words were my way of making peace with his physical departure.  I was able to say things and know that he would know them as he left the physical world.  Even though I was able to say them to him while he was in the nursing home it somehow felt better to have the words part of a larger consciousness....floating out there in cyberspace where they can be connected with you and with him and with countless other strangers who have read them, are reading them now and might read them 20 years from now.  It comforted me though it did not make his death any less sad.
     I write a lot about living in the moment.  I also understand how difficult it is to do.  It is something I need to remind myself of several times a day.  I have tried many ways to try to make it easier but it turns out you just have to do it.  There is no magic potion. 
     When I am mindful and living in the moment I am always rewarded in some way.  Several weeks ago I was on Facebook in the morning before work, mindlessly looking at my newsfeed trying to figure out who I was going to be that day, what I wanted to accomplish (or not accomplish) when a photograph of a leaf appeared before me on the screen and I clicked "like" as if I was taking part in a psychological assessment.  I stopped.  I woke up, became conscious and looked again.  It was more than just a picture of a leaf.  It was a photograph of a leaf that was mostly green but was just starting to change colors to a beautiful orange red.....changing just around the edges like it was on fire.  It's not that it was the most remarkable photograph I had ever seen (though it was beautiful) it was that the person who took the photograph saw something in that leaf that he needed to capture and he  wanted to share it with someone else. 
     Suddently I was awakened.  I was no longer just looking but I felt as though I was interacting with someone.  What he was doing was exactly what I try to do with this blog.  I see something and I try to share it.  I commented on the photograph.  "It's beautiful", I wrote.  Almost instantly he responded:  "Thanks Todd!".
     So we were communicating.  I decided I needed to continue.  I sent him a message letting him know how much I had enjoyed looking at the photographs he had shared over the previous several months.  I really had but I was never really conscious enough to realize it.  He had been communicating with me all this time and I wasn't even aware of it. 
     He wrote back.  Over the course of the next several weeks we learned a lot about each other.  I learned that he had been following this blog and liked it.  (I'll be honest I am never sure anyone is reading this aside from the few people who comment on it regularly). I was so flattered.  I learned that I was communicating with him and he learned that he was communicating with me even though we had never met before and had never exchanged a single word directly.  I felt like I now knew the reason that we had connected in the first place.  I had become conscious and I was living.
     We exchanged a lot of emails and he was so kind and I felt a kinship with him very quickly.  We began talking about how this blog and his photographs would go well together.  I started to research the possibility of self-publishing a book with posts from this blog and his photographs.  Over a few weeks we made it happen. The next thing I knew I had a book in my hand with my name on the cover and my words inside.  I was a writer!
     I have spent 30 years of my life wanting to be a writer.  When I opened myself up to actually doing it it took about two and a half weeks. 
     That's not to say that there wasn't a lot of work that went into creating the book beforehand.  I had several months of posts to choose from and Bryan sent me some of the most beautiful photographs he had taken over the years.  It was, however, as though we had been collecting these things for this purpose.  Now I had to believe that the book would mean something to someone else....someone who we might never meet.  Maybe it would fall into the hands of someone and they would be attracted to the photographs and read the words and it would change the way they looked at the world.  Maybe someone would see Bryan's photographs and decide that they wanted to become a photographer. There truly was no way of knowing what the book would mean but I had no doubt in my mind that it was significant. I knew it because I allowed myself to believe it just as I had allowed myself to believe that telling Bryan that day that I liked and appreciated his photograph was important.  I was conscious of living and suddenly became alive.
     So now part of this blog is a book.  I also have a new friend.  One simple action several weeks ago has sent my life in a direction I would never have imagined before that moment.  I wonder how many other moments I may have missed in the past because I wasn't listening.  I know now that that is not important.  What is important now is that I know to listen.  So I am quiet and I am present and I listen. 
     The world really can be that simple.  Too often we don't think we deserve the things we want or we don't tell people we appreciate them because we are afraid we might get hurt. 
     Speak.  Do. Create. Be.  There honestly is nothing stopping you but yourself.  Take a step and listen to what the world is telling you. You might get hurt.  You probably won't.  There are opportunities and people out there awaiting your arrival.  You can't see them now but they are there.  Make sure you get there.  Open your eyes and listen.  That, my friends, is being alive.

Acorn Squash Cookies


 I am huge fan of cooking and baking with fresh, in-season ingredients.  They taste better, are healthier and buying them encourages your grocery store to stock more fresh produce and less imported and genetically altered fruits and vegetables. 

     So now it's Autumn and the end caps at your favorite store are filled with those hard, oddly shaped gourds and squashes.  A few years ago I thought they were either to be used for table decoration or slathered with butter, brown sugar and marshmallows and served on Thanksgiving.  This year I am challenging myself to use these seasonal oddities to create some tasty new dishes. 

     This morning I managed to create something tasty and (relatively) healthy to satisfy both my sweet tooth and my desire to use the acorn squash that I had roasted last night.  This cookie recipe uses no eggs or oil and really lets the fall flavors of the acorn squash an cinnamon shine through.  These mini-cakes are incredibly easy to make and travel well!  Take a batch to your next holiday party or eat them with a cup of tea on a chilly fall morning.  I think you'll make them again!

Roasted Acorn Squash:

Cut medium acorn squash in half through the middle of the squash.  Scoop out seeds and place squash cut side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake until soft inside (about 30 to 40 minutes).  Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.  Scoop out the insides of the squash and discard the skins.  Refrigerate the squash until ready to use.

Acorn Squash Cookies:

In a small bowl combine 1/3 cup almond milk with the juice of 1/2 lemon.  Stir and let sit for a few minutes.

In a large mixing bowl combine:
1 cup roasted acorn squash
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Cup Turbinado (raw) Sugar (or you can use regular sugar if you wish)
1/2 tsp Cinnamon

Add milk mixture to dry mixture and mix until well combined.  Add in 1/2 cup raisins and mix until raisins are incorporated evenly in the batter.

Drop batter by tablespoons onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.

Makes 3 dozen cookies. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Butternut Squash Hummus

I know....I know....I haven't posted in a long time!  I promise to get back to it as soon as I am able to process everything in my head and make sense of it enough to write about it. 

In the meantime I made this delicious Butternut Squash Hummus and I wanted to share the recipe! 

It's the time of year when those squash are plentiful and I am making an effort to take advantage of them this year in any way I can. 

To roast the butternut squash, first peel and then halve the squash lengthwise. Remove the seeds (you can wash these seeds and dry them in the oven like you would pumpkin seeds so don't throw them away!).  Cut the seeded and peeled squash into 1" cubes.  You can drizzle the squash with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper but I just kept it plain.  If you use olive oil you should be able to spread the squash chunks onto a baking sheet.  Since I did not, I put a sheet of parchment paper onto my baking sheet to keep the squash from sticking.

Bake the squash in a 400 degree oven until tender (probably about 20 to 30 minutes....but keep an eye on it).

You won't use all of the squash for this hummus recipe but you can use it for other recipes.  I added some to mashed potatoes, topped a salad with a few more and chopped the rest up and threw it into  my spaghetti. 

Butternut Squash Hummus

3 cups (or two cans) of Chickpeas with about 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid from the chickpeas saved
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Cup Butternut Squash, cubed
3 cloves Garlic
1/2 Tbsp Falafel Spice (I get this at the Arabian Market and you may be able to find it in a specialty store.  You can substitute Seven Spice or make your own combination of spices to your taste.  If you just really want to try this without a trip to the market substitute 1 tsp Cumin, 1 tsp Corriander and 1/2 tsp onion powder)
4 Tbsp Sesame Seeds or 2 Tbsp Tahini (I use the sesame seeds to make this fat free)

Combine all ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth.  If you need more liquid add a little bit of olive oil or (for fat free) just a bit of water to smooth it out.

I served this with brown rice I had also seasoned with falafel spice but it would be delicious with raw or roasted vegetables or on bread or crackers!

I hope you enjoy!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Gift

I have a friend who is dying. Of course we are all dying but he is now at the point in his life where he knows what is going to take his life.  He knows that the place where he now lives is going to be the last place that he lives.  He knows there will be no more trips, no more dinners out, no more walks on the beach.  He doesn't know when it will could be today, it could be next month or it could be in a year but he knows that his time here on earth is dwindling away.  We who love him know it too and it breaks our hearts.

It breaks our hearts because we are going to miss him.  We've come to love and admire and respect this man and look forward to his arrival and anticipate his laugh.  We have come to rely on his advice and to expect his caring, compassionate nature.  Some of us, like me, have only known him for a very short time and others have known him almost their entire lives but no matter how long we have known him we have been touched by him and we are better people for having met him.

Years ago I had the privilege of being with my maternal Grandmother when she died.  She was in a nursing home and we were aware that she only had hours left to live.  I stayed in the room with my Mother and Aunt as we waited, quietly prayed and eventually witnessed her physical death.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced and I felt so privileged to be able to be with her at that moment.  If you have ever been with someone when they have died you will understand what I am talking about.  It is a profoundly moving and life-changing experience.  It taught me that the body is strong and that it wants to live in spite of what is causing it to fail.  It taught me that death is merely a transition and that this monumental event in matter how it really just as simple as a single breath or a single heartbeat.  There is no music....there are no trumpets.  It simply stops.  There is no more. 

To think that my friend will one day no longer be "here" makes me sad.  Even though I know and we all know that death is inevitable it still causes us anguish.  Even if we have a set of spiritual beliefs that there is a better world waiting for our loved ones on "The Other Side" we are still sad.  If there is such a place I know my friend will be there.  He has lived his life as he should.  He was given a gift, understood his gift and shared his gift with others.  That, my friends is our purpose in life and it was what he has spent over eighty years doing for the benefit of countless children, adults, friends, strangers and everyone else who crossed his path either physically or spiritually.  He understood his gift and he shared it with others.  It wasn't the kind of gift that gets people in the newspapers.  It wasn't the kind of gift that reaches tens of millions of people.  It was, however, the kind of gift that, when given, spreads outward and touches the lives of people who will never know him or know that he is part of the source for it.  It was and is his gift and because he gave it throughout his life it will continue to be given even after he has left us physically.

I know my friend loves me and he knows that I love him.  I will be sad when he leaves it is true.  I am sad thinking about it right now.  What I know, however, is that his passing is merely a reminder for me to use my honor his legacy by being present and being aware in my life that the gift I was given was given to me for a purpose and that even though I may not completely understand it, it is part of something much greater than myself.  When I use my gift I open myself to receive the gifts of others.  I have experienced many wonderful things in my life but my life only really started to become what I knew it was supposed to be when I started writing this blog.  I understand that this blog will not change the world.  I know that these simple words on your computer screen are only my small attempt to connect with you and share some of what I have learned.  I also know that being here and sharing this, my gift, with you is what I am supposed to be doing.  It is my purpose at this moment.  Through it I have been blessed with friendships I would not have had before and I have been given many gifts in return. 

One day soon my friend will be gone. I will probably not be with him when he goes but I know he will be surrounded by love when he does.  He will take a last breath as we all will and his heart will stop beating.  It will be the end of this part of who he is but it will certainly not be the end of him.

One of my fondest memories of my Grandmother was driving with her in her red Corvair through the streets of Lakewood, Ohio when I was growing up.  As I sit here writing these words a little red Corvair just passed my front door.  I feel her presence and I smile.  She is here with me now even though she left me years ago.  She is here.  She is peaceful and she is thankful that I am using my gift.   

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chickpea Salad Sandwich

Chickpea Salad Sandwich

I love sandwiches.  Especially for lunch.  There's just something very "Ozzy & Harriet" and simple about a sandwich for lunch that really appeals to me.  Meatloaf, Ham, Egg Salad, Turkey, Sloppy Joe....they were my favorites when I still ate meat and when I started weaning myself off of meat the trusted sandwich was the last thing to go. I've had tomato sandwiches before and I love them...but I needed to find other options for great tasting, easy to make sandwiches to bring to work for lunch.
I saw a lot of variations on this recipe but I'm not one to fuss over things.  I like simple....especially since I don't have a lot of time during the day to spend fussing over a sandwich.  This has the taste of ham salad or chicken salad.  Of course the texture is a little different but I like the difference. 
I used Nayonaise....a vegan mayonaise substitute that tastes a bit like miracle whip though it is less smooth than regular mayonaise.  I like the tase and it's got nothing in it that I don't want to put in my body.
1 Can Chickepas, drained & rinsed
3 Tbsp Nayonaise (or any healthy mayonaise substitute)
1 Tbsp Organic Pickle Relish
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Mash the chickpeas with a potato masher until mashed but still chunky.  This is something you can do to your preference.  I like it a bit chunky myself!
Mix the chickpeas with the remaining ingredients.  This makes enough for four or five sandwiches.  Super good, super cheap and super healthy!
I put mine on whole wheat bread with a huge slice of garden tomato and romaine lettuce.  That and a big bowl of fruit and lunch is on the table!

Monday, September 3, 2012


This morning on my Yahoo homepage there was a headline....something like "Air Show Tragedy Caught On Video" with an image of horrified spectators crying and holding each other for comfort.  I'll admit that for a second I was tempted to click on the link and watch the video.  The voyeur in me wanted to see what happened and try to make sense of the horror of the event.  I chose not to for a variety of reasons.

I've been trying to be more conscious of my choices lately.  I've not been terribly successful but I've been trying.  I have also been trying to re-capture what it felt like to be living in the moment like I was a year and two months ago while Brennis was in the hospital.  That is something that will take some time and some practice.

I haven't written on this blog for a long time and there have been many reasons.  I've been busy, it's true but I've also had several episodes of "falling off the wagon" where my "diet" is concerned.  It's not about being afraid of gaining weight.  It's about feeling good.  Truthfully I have only gained a pound or two through these episodes of poor eating but my body simply can't take being stuffed with junk anymore and it usually takes me a couple of days to recover from a bad day.  There are many reasons that I think this has happened but they're not really important.  What it really comes down to is a bad choice (or a series of bad choices over time). 

We all make bad choices.  We make them every day...maybe every hour.  The choices we make and how we feel about those choices are directly tied to how successfully we have made ourselves aware of the fact that we are indeed making a choice.  We have come to live our lives on autopilot.  We wake up each morning and essentially go through the same routine, go to work, come home, eat, go to bed, repeat.  A lot of times we aren't even aware that we are making choices or that there are even choices to make.  We do some things over and over the same way every time because some time in the past we experienced some pleasure in doing it that way.  We don't even allow ourselves to contemplate whether doing it that way continues to bring us pleasure or if doing it another way might bring us more pleasure.  We have done it this way for so long that we don't even allow ourselves to think about it. 

The truth of the matter is that every moment we are faced with an unimaginable number of choices.  At this moment for me, for instance, I could stop writing, delete everything I've already written, make a salad, go to the store, buy a pack of cigarettes, start smoking, mow the lawn, buy a plane ticket to Texas.....anything.  I could literally do anything within reason at this moment.  I choose to keep writing (actually I surfed the Internet a little in between but for your sake, essentially, I kept writing). 

Because I'm thinking about it right now I am currently making conscious choices about my actions.  I am right now thinking about the way my fingertips feel on the keyboard, how the heat in the room is enveloping me like a blanket, how the smell of roasting sweet potatoes is making me hungry.  Because I am thinking about my choices I am being conscious.  Because I am being conscious I am able to be aware of my choices.  The further away we are from being conscious of our actions the less we realize we are able to make choices.

This morning when I was faced with the headline on my computer screen I literally had to stop myself from reacting by simply clicking on the link to the story.  Because I stopped myself I was able to think about what clicking on the link meant.  I realized first of all that watching this event where someone died and their friends were captured on film trying to process the horror of that death was, to me, disrespectful to the people involved.  I've watched probably hundreds of things like this over the years (especially since technology has allowed for the sharing of such things so easily) and I certainly don't judge anyone else who chose to watch.  I just chose not to this time. 

I also realized that every time I click on a link like this I am sending a message to Yahoo (or whoever) that I want to see this.  The more I click, the more stories like this I will have the opportunity to see.  By not clicking on the story this morning I told them I didn't want to see it.  True, millions of people will click on it and my small gesture probably won't make much difference but it was the message I wanted to send and I sent it.  I will try to be conscious enough to send the same message the next time.

The same has been true lately of my choices concerning my diet.  I have obviously become more aware the last few years about the choices available to me with my diet but occasionally I still make poor choices.  Usually one poor choice leads to another poor choice and another and another.  It's alright.  It's not the end of the world....but it still happened.  I've come to realize through these episodes (because generally I am totally conscious while I am making the poor choices) that placing judgement on my choices is only important to me.  I have set the standards by which I live my life.  My success or failure in making the "right" choice is only important to me.  So I have stopped looking at these episodes as "failures" and started looking at them as lessons.  Because I was conscious when I made  the choice there must be something I am supposed to learn about why I made the choice I made.  If this choice takes me further away from the person I want to be why am I making this choice?  Am I trying to be someone I'm not or was it just a sign of natural weakness? 

I know....I know....This is all a bit much.  We simply can't stop and contemplate each choice we make every day and try to learn from it at the same time.  I don't think that that's the point.  I think what I have come to realize for myself is that my effort to try to return to a level of being conscious and aware in my daily life has become very important to me. Because I know that it is possible and that it is as close to a feeling of "wholeness" as I have ever experienced I feel the need to return to it.  Being aware of my choices at every moment is an exersize I use to bring myself back into that consciousness.  Whether it's what I eat for lunch, what I choose to read or how I choose to treat a friend it's all about bringing myself to a place where I am aware of my choices and how those choices affect me and the world around me. 

So this is the lesson I am learning right now.  It will probably be the lesson I will be learning for a long time.  There is no schedule.  I don't have to be perfect.  I simply have to be aware. 

Looking back I think of all of the things that I have missed by not allowing myself this gift.  I have missed beautiful sights, beautiful sounds and opportunities for lasting friendships.  Beyond making the choice for what I am going to have for dinner tonight, being aware allows me to discover the person I want to be and to actively pursue becoming that person.  It removes me from the routine of living and thrusts me directly into life face first.  With that responsibility means that there will be times when I fail.  I welcome that opportunity -- for failure in this instance only means that I have tried and fell short.....not that I have never tried.

So I move forward by being still.  I listen and I feel and I think.  Now starts now and am ready for it.