Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Lights...


Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Lights...



I went to see the Northern Lights. I never thought I would type or say that in my life. I just got back from an incredible journey with my Maman and my brother, Eric. We went to visit Reykjavik, Iceland, for a long weekend. Who says that?! I never thought in my wildest dreams, it would be me. And yet, I just said it and now I'm reading it in print. It really happened!

My only other lifetime reference to Northern Lights was when anchorman Steve Smith from KHOU Channel 11 did an editorial after hearing me read the Passion on Palm Sunday in 1985, when I was hugely pregnant with our twin daughters. He said that I read the Passion with the "glow of the Northern Lights" and he couldn't decide if it was from the word or the eminent new life I was carrying within me. I never knew he did the editorial until long after it was aired, when the church called to tell me. I was so touched by his comments, but had no idea of the meaning of his description until I stood in the parking lot of a national park mesmerized by they beauty I was beholding before me. WOW. 

Wow, in fact, is how it all started...the journey to the Lights that is. My brother called one night as I was walking into my MWC Meeting, hands full of my meeting gear, laptop and pulling a crate, surrounded by other fellow members helping me get set up at the church for our meeting. My bro rarely calls, so when I saw it was him, I answered. "I am going to take Maman (our French mother) to see the Northern Lights in Iceland - Do you wanna go?" I should have just said "YES!"  I learned that lesson later. But instead I said, "Can I call you after our meeting?", which cost me an additional $250. Wow Airlines, Yes WOW Airlines, was opening a hub in LA, offering promotional fares, and we could fly to Reykjavik for $500 round trip ($750 in my case because I waited and didn't say "yes" right away).


Reykjavik, Iceland at Sunset

So months later, after I lost my job at Stewart, and was unemployed, off we went to see the Northern Lights and visit Iceland. We really did it! It was an amazing journey. The colors, the geography,the culture, the people, everything was wonderful, and colorful and breathtaking.  We loved every second of our trip. It was truly a trip of a lifetime.

When I was standing in the Lights, I was overwhelmed by glory. His glory mostly, but also how my camera and my mind couldn't really even begin to fathom what I was seeing and feeling. It was so bright, so colorful, so purple, so green. The stars were so bright and we were so small. And yet, there we were, in the middle of the night, standing way out in the Icelandic countryside beholding of an amazing site. We were His chosen ones that day. The ones He had chosen to be there at that very instant to see those amazing lights. I stood there speechless, inept with my camera, wishing I had spent months trying to capture what I was taking in, but I could not. I couldn't begin to explain, much less capture the true beauty of the Northern sky. It was, well, it was "WOW".

I thought so much about lights and love that night. All the million of little things that had happened in my life to allow me to be standing in His presence on that very day in His Light. In fact, of the three nights we were in Iceland, it was the only night that the lights even showed up. The tour we were on was cancelled the following two nights. It made me realize that I was so blessed, and so delighted to be among the chosen ones for this Epiphany of color and light.

It moved me. It changed me. It grew me. It made me realize that everything I am belongs to such a bigger thing. This thing we call life, and family and friends and our earth. I'm a part of it. A very minuet part of it I might add, but part of it none the less. It made me realize  we do indeed have light in darkness. We are never alone. And all this, all we are, where we are and what we are doing, is divinely orchestrated. We just have to show up and be there. He's waiting on us.

It also confirmed what I knew all along, in this widow's walk, that I want to live. I want to love. I want to give. I want to share. And I want to enjoy every single second we are given to the MAX! I want to live my life outloud. I want to care, and to cry and to carry on. I don't want to waste another single minute wondering what my purpose is or who I am; because I am all I need to be right now. Right here. In this place. He brought me here and He will lead me there. Wherever it is, I'm ready to go and He is already there. In the lights, in the sky, in a church, over a waterfall. He is with me, beside me, leading me every single step of the way, every single day of my life. I know it and I felt it and I saw it...In the Northern Lights that night in the dark. I felt it, overlooking the Gullfoss waterfall and I heard him, inside the Hallgrimskirkja cathedral. He surrounds us. He is with us always.  Just look around you. I'm sure you'll find Him. 

     Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral


John 1:5

The light shines in the darkness, 

and the darkness has not overcome it.

Friday, September 16, 2016



Some 5’s to share…


Five is the equivalent to the sum of two and three; one more than four, or half of ten; 5


For our 5th wedding anniversary, Kevin and I went to Lavaca Bay for a beautiful dinner--He was so dashingly handsome, and I  wore a lovely, strapless red dress. He gave me a diamond drop. I still have it. But now, he’s gone.


Today is the 5th angelversary of Kevin’s passing. 5 years feels like a bit milestone and I want to honor it. Here’s a summary of some of  the things I have learned in my widow’s walk:


  1. Love lasts forever. But it changes. He’s not coming home. For a long time, after Kevin died, I would turn on the TV to watch football (which I hate) after church and make a dip with chips--for no one! Eventually, I figured out that even if I did all this every Sunday, he still wouldn’t come back home. He's gone. Forever. He's never coming back. Ever.
  2. I’m becoming a new person. I’m not who I would be if Kevin were still here. I can’t be. I have to evolve into who I’m supposed to be now. I’m not sure what that looks like. I wonder if he would even recognize me. But I have to change to survive and I’m excited about all the things I’m finding out about me in the rediscovery process of who I am...
    1. I love museums! It had been years since I went to a museum and a friend invited me to join her. As I stood in the lobby of MFAH, I twirled around thinking “I have not been here in years...but I love museums!” I had forgotten. It has been lovely to begin again and rediscover all the things that I like!
    2. I don’t like football or star trek or star wars and I don’t have to watch them. Yea! I can read or listen to music. I can vacuum at 6am if I want to. I never really lived alone, as I married at 21 and went from one home to the other...I have honestly loved some alone time...but it can get very lonely. Very, Very Lonely! I have learned a great deal in the quiet. You have to take time to pray, meditate, and study. Learn who you are and find out what interests you, and motivates you and absorb it.
    3. I’m single, not married. This lesson took FOREVER. Seriously, 1.5 years after Kevin died, I was running errands on a Saturday morning and I realized, all of the sudden...I’M SINGLE! Oh my… I had no idea that I was Single… I knew I was a widow, but not that I was single. I thought I was still married and alone. But I'm not. I'm single, not married.
    4. I don’t want to be alone for the rest of my life. I’m not sure what that means. I don’t think I want to remarry, but I’m pretty sure I would love to have some male companionship. Dinner and a movie!? But really in your 50s at least, that is really now how it goes. I have had one fairly serious relationship, which taught me that I can care for someone else. It was thrilling and it felt good to care for someone else. I enjoyed caring for someone again. Luckily for me, he was so very different from Kevin, they didn’t compete in my head. Kevin was a cowboy with a huge pickup truck; an avid hunter -fisherman type. The new guy was a professor from NY with a PhD and drives a Mazda Miata It didn’t work out, but I learned a great deal about myself, all the same. This is in no way saying that you have to date, but it does say you have to ask yourself some tough questions. My mother lost her husband, my father, at the age of 53- the exact same age I lost Kevin,  and she told me that I don’t want to be alone for the next 30 years. I think she is right…
    5. I love the new me. I’m not finished, not by a long shot, but I am a work in progress and I like what I see so far! We are the potter’s clay and we are becoming...
  3. My changes affect those around me. I have three grown children, two young grandchildren and I help my Maman and Kevin’s parents and I have a dog named Sadie. I have found that my choices affect all of them. But I have to move forward. I can’t be who I was or even who they think I should be. I have to be the best “new me” I can be and they will have to love me despite of that. Overall, they are very very very supportive. Sometimes they do question me, but I just explain how I got here and they give me room to breathe. I’m so lucky in that regard. My family has been so accepting of my continuous evolution, but I know that many of you have not had the same results. I’m so grateful to have my family and dear friends to help me through the transition from cocoon to butterfly! I'm getting ready to FLY!
  4. I have to build a brave new world. I lost my soul mate. I lost my job. My children are living their lives and their dreams. I need to find, define and measure mine. What are they? How will I get there? How will I know when I arrive there? I keep working on it. Every day, moving forward.
  5. I am learning to enjoy my new life!  I’m beginning to live out loud...There are days that I truly think on who I am now, five years later, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. I have come a long way for sure, but I know not far enough. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m excited to see what it brings for me. The brand new me in this brave new world!

Five, five, FIVE, FIVE, Five. 5 years. Five is the equivalent to the sum of two and three; one more than four, or half of ten; 5.  Sometimes I can barely breathe, but we had a great love that will help carry me forward. It will last us a lifetime. I feel Kevin all around me all the time. I find him when I see pennies in remarkable, unlikely places. I see him in rainbows, and clouds. I can feel his kiss on my cheek when I drive in the sunlight. Sometimes, I sense him reaching down from Heaven to hold me in his arms. I hear him in my children’s laughter and I can see him in my grandchildrens’ eyes. He is with us always. We carry him, We carry him in our hearts. We honor him and we move forward… We move forward into a bright, new future we have yet to fully understand.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Connections...

                               Chihuly Gardens - Seattle, WA

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people 

when they feel seen, heard, and valued; 

when they can give and receive without judgment; 

and when they derive sustenance and strength 

from the relationship.”

                                                                                  ― BrenĂ© Brown


I'm been pondering connections of late; all kinds of connections including human connections, spiritual connections, glass connections, biological connections like plants and stars and how they all interact. My favorite banner ever hangs over the alter in the Cathedral of Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, NM which reads "Love each other constantly." It has been my personal mantra since Kevin and I saw it almost 20 years ago now. It is so simple; Love. Just love. Love each other...Love each other no matter what. Love each other no matter where. Just love each other. Always. Love each other...Love each other Constantly. Not just today. Not just tomorrow. Not if you want to. Not because you have to. Just do it. Constantly. Always. We are Connected. Together. Forever. Always. Love each other constantly. It's pretty clear and fairly simple. To me, this commandment is what Christ's entire life embodied with his connections to His disciples, to His people and for all of us. Just to love each other constantly and always. Forever.

I have been researching what I call "Gumption" Why do some have so much Resilience. What is it that makes some people stronger than others. They run faster, swim further, move faster, grow greater, and adapt quicker than others. I have read several great books to understand this better. On of my favorites has been Brene Brown's Rising Strong and Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance  by Angela Duckworth which focuses on the West Point cadets that survive their basic training and those that don't. I want to understand Why. Why some do and why some don't. I see it in my members at Modern Widows Club. They are resilient. They are Leaning INTO Life again. They are beginning again to become all they were born to be after enduring the greatest grief of all; lose of a loved one; their spouse; their soulmate and their life as they had always imagined it - vanished in a second. And yet, the stand up and start again...

I think it has to do with Decision. It has to do with Choice. It becomes your Grit, your Gumption. You have to Make the Choice to Take a Chance and Make a Change. 

And to me, that all circles around connections. Connections to your God. Connections to each other. Connections to life - human and planet life; all kinds of life. Who are your connections? How do you relate to them? Who's your go to? Your "person"? Now?! We had someone but we lost them. They will be in our hearts forever, but can't be in our daily life now. So what's next? How do we make that first move? Take that first step? You have to make a decision. You have to make a choice to take a chance to make a change. You have to make a connection.

As many of you know, my garden is often my sanctuary. I call it "Church of the Great Outdoors"! I love to be outside. It makes me happy - I love to walk, to hike, to bike and to piddle in the dirt. My mother taught me long ago the healing art of planting. I love seeing all the amazing flowers. Many of you that follow my FaceBook pages see my love of plant life in all my photos of flowers - I just got back from Oregon and I feel as though I have really studied hydrangeas. I love the multicolored flowers and how they petals overlap and touch: they are connected. 

I was so grateful to be able to attend the Modern Widows Chapter Leadership Retreat in Seattle, WA in June. I serve as Chapter Leader for Houston. I traveled with my Co-Leader, Nyla and we were both amazed and intrigued by the power and "gumption" of these other leaders; the chapter leaders and board members and all the speakers were just amazing. We connected. They inspired us. They encouraged us. They gave us knowledge and ideas and courage.  We gained laughter and love and hope and vulnerability. We took the chance and made a choice to change and to grow from the connections we made with each other. It was life changing.  

While we were there, Nyla and I had the chance to visit the Chiluly Gardens in Seattle. If you are not familiar, Chiluly is an amazing artist that works with glass. His "connections" with glass is what helped me link all my rambling thoughts and research into one place. As all the varied pieces of glass touched each other they came together as a powerful, joyful connection of light and colors too extraordinary to imagine. So pleasing to the eye, good for the heart and encouraging to the soul. His art gave me hope. It spoke to me... no it sang to me. It sang to me out loud... We are all one. We are connected. We are never alone. And we were born in the image of Christ to Love Each Other Constantly. 


Friday, May 27, 2016

A BRAND new YOU!


A Brand new YOU!
Orange Roses = HOPE


I had the honor and privilege of meeting Jolean Olson - an Emmy award winning producer who spoke on the importance of storytelling l

She made several good points and shared some amazing videos.
I.                    What is the story you want to tell?
II.                  Who is your audience and how will they hear it best?
III.                How will you tell the story?

She confirmed what we know; that it is important to be authentic, direct and honest and to find that single “moment of magic” that makes all the dots connect to tell the story. The science of storytelling is that our brain is much more engaged when we hear a story… as opposed to hearing “boring strategic corporate write” – she demonstrated this my reading out loud a description for “a strategic corporate initiative” contrasted with two paragraphs out of John Grisham’s “The Firm”; a scene where the phone rings and the main character wakes up to answer his wife calling…Amazing how different your brain responds! I had to laugh… So it does prove my adage in true “Every word serves a purpose”!

She also shared several GREAT video clips – I’m adding a few here:


She really made me think about the "Brand New ME!" 
Who is she?  
What is my 5 word Brand Message? 
What's my personal "elevator" Speech... 
What do I (the Brand new ME) want to do when I grow up?!
Who am I - almost 5 years as a widow, recent Mother of the Bride, current post wife, mother of grown adult children who are successful, new Ama - grandmother, in between careers trying to find myself "ME"? 

I need to create a BRAND NEW Me...for Work... For Love... For Life! Who is She!? I need to "create" Her - to Celebrate Her. To become comfortable in Her new skin...

We need to embrace the opportunity for this "Do Over" and enjoy the process of moving out of our cocoons into the Bold, BRAVE, Bright new Butterfly that will fly forward to new adventures in a life full of hope and opportunity; A Brand new YOU +  a BRAND new ME! 


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

#2016=DO!

#2016=DO!

Fiji...


What will you do with your year...

The Three Stonecutters...
Once upon a time, there was a traveler who came upon three individuals working with stone. Curious as to what the workers were doing with the stones, the traveler approached the first worker and asked, “What are you doing with these stones?” Grumpily and without hesitation the worker quickly responded, “I am a stonecutter and I am cutting stones.”
Not satisfied with this answer, the traveler approached the second worker and asked, “What are you doing with these stones?” The second worker paused for a moment, sighed, but smiled a little and then explained, “I am a stonecutter and I am trying to make enough money to support my family.”
Having two different answers to the same question, the traveler made his way to the third worker and asked, “What are you doing with these stones?” The third worker stopped what he was doing, bringing his chisel to his side. He looked at the traveler with a beaming smile on his face and declared, “I am a stonecutter and ...“I am building a cathedral.”

I can hardly believe it is already March! I can't believe how fast the year is moving forward. How are you doing with your Goals?! Are they SMART goals...Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed!? It's time to make some decisions and step forward into your Brave New World! You have a cathedral to build!

I'm tired of hearing phrases like 

"I don't care"
"It doesn't Matter" 
I'm indifferent" 
"It's just OK"
Even Clark Gable's "I don't give a damn, my dear" is unacceptable!

They sound ungrateful, mediocre and unenthusiastic. Life is meant to be lived out loud, and enjoyed every second. As widows, we learn all too soon what is like to lose your soulmate, your best friend, your life long partner with whom you  have dreamed big and made plans - now all cancelled and gone forever. And yet we move forward...It's important to have goals. You must set goals and work hard to keep your goals alive by measuring them often.  I saw Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a true story about a reporter's work in Afghanistan during the war --I won't spoil the plot for you, but one of the soldiers tells the reporter that you must learn to "Hug the 'suck' and then move the 'f...' forward." I laughed out loud! It is soooo true. 


Whatever you are going though, know that suffering brings healing --It brings us closer to God. This is a sad fact which is true.  You will not truly be the person you were meant to be until you live your life fully...sometimes we suffer but we always learn during those times and then we take a step, tiny as it may be, and move on. 

Forward, Up, Over, Through, Just move!! #2016=DO!

I have been threatening to take a spin class for years. My twin daughters and I hold each other very accountable for good healthy living - including working out and eating well - I was talking with Claire and I mentioned the spin class again. She said "Madre, you've  been taking about spin for years... just do it already! - Make a commitment to take a class this week!" And so I did. I can't stand a dare and so i took the next spin class. My goal -- no matter how hard... was to stay ON THE BIKE FOR ONE HOUR! I didn't have to pedal or go fast, just hold on tight and stay on! My butt hurt. It was hard. You have to get up and down several times. I couldn't get the seat and handlebars right... blah blah blah... but I stayed on! Now, two months in, I love it! I'm addicted! I get up at 4:30am in the morning to walk Miss Sadie and go to spin! I'm not the best, but I'm not the worst either. I just do it. 
Quite complaining and pick ONE THING FOR YOU TODAY. Don't Wait. #2016=DO!

I have learned recently that not making a decision is indeed making a decision. Don't settle for mediocre - Not in a job, or a relationship, or a flower pot. Work on getting to Fabulous... Fabulous is better: It's about living,  it's about being passionate, it's about laughing, singing, crying, loving, falling down, standing up and doing it all over again. 

We know that today could be your last day.. LIVE IT... LIVE IT UP! Enjoy ever second. Just DO IT! Do it for you and for me and for widows and women and children and pets everywhere. Do it for you, for your family, for your friends, for your coworkers...Be a good, healthy example of all that life can be. It is not what we have, it is what we are made of. I'm asking you to Get your GUMPTION on! Live your life to the very fullest... 
Make it FABULOUS because YOU deserve it! #2016=DO!

“The longer I love, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church....a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.” Charles R. Swindoll 

I love you!

#2016=DO!