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.