Seeing the best in life's challenges

Jumping off the Cliff

Have you ever known something to be true and right, with all your heart and soul, but been afraid to act on that knowledge?

I’m talking about the kind of situation where you are at a crossroads.  A decision that will likely change your life forever.  Maybe in a dramatic way, maybe not.  Maybe right away, maybe the change will take some time.  But you have no doubt that it is the right move for you, it feels like truth.  And that after you jump off that cliff, there will be no going back.

I’m talking about when you care about something more than you care about the consequences.  Choosing truth, despite that fact that this truth might not be well-received by others.

One way to avoid putting yourself in this kind of difficult position, is to not let yourself care about anything that much.  If you remain detached, keep up that protective shield around you, you can stay safe and not get yourself in a sticky situation.  Do only what you are supposed to do (whatever THAT is!?!) and you won’t have to make waves.

I’m talking about something that you do despite the fact that you are afraid and sure at the same time.

I’m guessing this is how Sarah McBride felt before coming out as transgender.

That first brave act of stepping out into the unknown is the most scary.  It feels like jumping off a cliff.  A leap of faith.

Have you done it?

After, you realize that the world didn’t end.  You might even be surprised that the same people that liked you before still like you, and the ones that didn’t, well, they still don’t like you.  But everybody now knows that you are brave.  Mostly, YOU now know that you are brave.  And that is when you start to feel empowered.

Sometimes a big step for me, will seem like a small step to you.  That’s ok.  This is personal for each individual.  Most of these brave decisions will not be in the spotlight, and hardly anyone will notice.  But the person making the decision will have moved one big step forward.

I’m thinking about this in the context of the various responses from our elected officials here in Delaware, in response to the topic of gay marriage.

I don’t think Joe Biden surprises any of us, anymore.  Joe is not afraid to say what’s on his mind.  We know that about him.  And he gets beat up for it.  I wonder if he is afraid of the fallout, or even worries about that ever.  I think, bottom line, that he is just being Joe.  I give him a lot of credit for that.

Then there is Chris Coons.  I know Chris well enough personally to know that he is thoughtful, caring, full of integrity, and is not afraid to stand up for what is right.  Chris is a man of Pure Intent.  A rock.  Fearless.  It is absolutely no mistake that Chris is where he is today.  No one who has watched his journey over the last couple of years would deny that.

In Chris’s own words:

“This is an important moment on the journey to equality: the first time a sitting president has endorsed the idea that every American, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to marry the person they love. Period. For some, the question of marriage equality is difficult to answer. I respect that everyone comes to a position in their own way and in their own time.

“President Obama is doing the right thing. By coming out for marriage equality today, he is sending a clear message: LGBT rights are human rights, and the right to marry the person you love is intrinsic to what it means to be an American.

“President Obama may be taking a huge political risk, but some risks are worth taking. That’s what leaders do.”

It’s totally OK with me that some people are not willing to take a stand.  I love how Chris says this in his statement.  It’s important to respect each individual’s right to make their own decision in their own time.

But at the same time, I want to celebrate those amazing individuals, like Sarah and like Chris, like Cory Booker, who are not afraid.  They inspire me.

Are you going to play it safe, or are you going to take that leap of faith off the cliff, too??

(I’ll tell you a little secret….. just like the baby bird…. when you are ready, and when you jump, you will find out that you can fly 🙂 . )


U.S. Sen. Chris Coons was the lone member of Delaware’s congressional delegation — all Democrats — to endorse the president’s statement favoring gay marriage.

“This is an important moment on the journey to equality: the first time a sitting president has endorsed the idea that every American, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to marry the person they love. Period,” Coons said.

Asked whether U.S. Rep. John C. Carney Jr. supports gay marriage, his spokesman James Allen said Carney “is proud to support Delaware’s civil unions law and he will continue working to ensure that same-sex couples receive the same legal rights and benefits as heterosexual couples.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper said he does not yet have a position on gay marriage or on proposals to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex couples.

“I respect the president’s announcement today and believe it will encourage more discussion,” he said. “As for me, I’ll continue to give this issue a great deal of thought.”


For the Love of my Dogs

I live with two Brittanys, sisters from the same litter.  I remember reading somewhere that the Brittany is like a highly intelligent, very active young child.  To me, the Brittany is the perfect dog, but they are not for everyone.  I wanted to write about why my girls mean so much to me.

Brittanys are spaniels, so they have those sweet faces, big floppy ears, and soft eyes.  But they also have lots of energy, and they need to be able to run — a lot.  We have a large, fenced back yard, their own private dog park.

Kona is liver and white, like her dad, Mike.  She is a soldier, the serious one.  She knows and follows the rules.  She is intense, always on alert.  She would have made an amazing field trial dog or even agility dog.   She can easily jump our five-foot fence, but she doesn’t, because she knows she’s not supposed to.  When I happen upon the scene of a crime, she will act guilty whether she committed the crime or not (and most likely she didn’t).  She’s always a little bit nervous, and she’s skinny. When she begs, she woos you with flirty eyes.  Kona is also the dominant one.  She’s not fixed, and definitely a pushy bitch.  She will steal her sister’s bone in a heartbeat.

But Tink doesn’t mind.  Tink goes with the flow.  She doesn’t much care about the rules.  She is always happy and has a great sense of humor.  Really, you can joke with Tink and she just wags her tail.  She gets this mischievous look in her eye and you can just tell she is laughing inside.  She’s silly and playful.  Tink is white and orange, like her mom, Angel.  She loves to eat (and one does wonder if this has to do with being spayed).  I tease her and tell her she’s a hefty dog.  It’s a good thing she can’t jump the fence, because she’d do it all the time.  When Tink begs, she stares at you very directly – she’s very clear and you know exactly what she wants.

Brittanys are bird dogs, pointers.   They usually hunt in pairs, and a really important thing they have to learn is to honor another dog’s point.  Kona and Tink do this naturally.  It is fascinating to watch them hunt. They routinely catch squirrels, but they have also caught two groundhogs, a raccoon, a couple of ‘possums, and many small rodents.  They can sit, perfectly still, for hours.  They are of one mind, instinctively knowing what the other will do even before they move.  They balance each other perfectly.

To me, they reflect the two sides of my personality – I have that serious side, sure, but I also have that playful side.  Watching Kona and Tink, and how they balance each other, has helped me to appreciate both ways of being, how we need both approaches to life.

People talk about how wonderful it is that dogs love their owners unconditionally.  But I think it is more interesting to observe how we owners love our dogs.  No matter what my dogs do, whether it is digging up the new landscaping or vegetables in the garden, destroying the stacked stone wall to get to the rodents living inside, dismantling the newly stacked woodpile into a heap of rubble, or scratching the paint off the back door, well, we might get mad at them for a minute, but that doesn’t last long.

We know that they are just being dogs.  We don’t take these things personally.  We accept them for what they are, and actually enjoy their antics and just laugh.  Just by being who they are, they allow US to love THEM unconditionally.


Empathy…Understand Me

Run your fingers through my soul.
For once, just once,
feel exactly what I feel,
believe what I believe, 
perceive as I perceive,
look, experience, examine, and for once, just once,

Someone posted this as a picture on Facebook.  I’m sorry I don’t know who wrote it.


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A Great Lesson — Fred Rogers

A newsletter I subscribe to included the following today.  I always have loved Mr. Rogers.



     One summer, midway through Seminary, I was on a weekend vacation in a little town in New England.  I decided on Sunday to go hear a visiting preacher in the little town’s chapel.  I heard the worst sermon I could have ever imagined.  I sat in the pew thinking, “He’s going against every rule they’re teaching us about preaching.  What a waste of time!”  That’s what I thought until the very end of the sermon when I happened to see the person beside me with tears in her eyes whispering, “He said exactly what I needed to hear.”  It was then that I knew something very important had happened in that service.  The woman beside me had come in need.  Somehow the words of that poorly crafted sermon had been translated into a message that spoke to her heart.  On the other hand, I had come in judgement, and I heard nothing but the faults.

It was a long time before I realized it, but that sermon’s effect on the person beside me turned out to be one of the great lessons of my life.  Thanks to that preacher and listener-in-need, I now know that the space between a person doing his or her best to deliver a message of good news and the needy listener is holy ground.  Recognizing that seems to have allowed me to forgive myself for being the accuser that day.  In fact, that New England Sunday experience has fueled my desire to be a better advocate, a better “neighbor,” wherever I am.

~ Mr. Rogers / Fred Rogers  ~


The World is our Playground

Let me tell you a little secret……when you get to the top of that mountain (see my very first post from November 2011) and you look down at all of it, what you are going to realize, is that the entire mountain was actually a playground.  An amusement park with the most amazing variety of rides – some scary, some thrilling, some kind of boring, rides of more kinds than you could ever imagine.  You may have missed some, but others who are looking down with you will be able to tell you about them.

“So, wait,” you might say, “then what is all this serious stuff you have been talking about, then?”

I think Zach Gill puts it best:


It’s a crazy, mixed-up world, full of contradictions,

And that’s why it hurts so bad sometimes

But that’s also why it’s fun.       –Plastic Bubble, ALO


Just another reason I love ALO – they combine seriousness with silliness, all wrapped up in love.  They are four of the nicest guys I have ever met.

We all need fun and silliness to balance the seriousness of life.



What’s more fun than a uke?



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The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino

The Greatest Miracle in the World, by Og Mandino, is a story of the friendship between the author and a wise old man.  It’s a rather short book, just over 100 pages.  My copy is yellowed, with red pen marks underlining the places that must have spoken to me 30 years ago.  I don’t remember how or why I got the book back then or exactly when I read it.  Reading it again today, I was amazed (ok, not really) at how consistent it is with where I am, still.

The wise man’s apartment contains stacks and stacks of books.  I love what he says about his collection:

“They are an accumulation from many years of pleasant hours in second-hand book stores.  Still they have a common theme which makes each volume very special.”


“Yes.  Each in its own way deals with and explains some aspect of the greatest miracle in the world and so I call them ‘hand of God’ books.”

“Hand of God?”

“It is difficult for me to put into words…yet I am positive that certain pieces of music, certain works of art, and certain books and plays were created, not by the composer, artist, author, or playwright but by God, and those whom we have acknowledged as the creators of these works were only the instruments employed by God to communicate with us…”

“You mean you believe that God still communicates with us as He did during the days of the ancient Jewish prophets?”

“I am positive.  For thousands of years this world witnessed a countless parade of prophets pronouncing and explaining the will of God:  Elijah, Amos, Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Samuel, and all the other marvelous messengers until Jesus and Paul.  And then…no more?  I cannot believe that.  No matter how many of His prophets were ridiculed, chastised, tortured, and even murdered, I cannot conceive that God finally gave up on us and turned His back on our needs, causing some of us to finally assume that He must be dead since we hadn’t heard from Him in so long a time.  Instead, I truly believe that He has sent, to every generation, special people, talented people, brilliant people…all bearing the same message in one form or another…that every human is capable of performing the greatest miracle in the world.  And, it is man’s most grievous fault that he has not comprehended the message, blinded as he is by the trivia of each succeeding civilization.”

This is a book well worth reading.  At the end, the wise old man shares with the author the wisdom that he has gleaned from all of his reading of these great works, in the succinct form of Four Laws of Happiness and Success.

They are simple, and worth finding.


Seeing the Pieces fit Together

I firmly believe there is A Plan.  Maybe a better way to say it, is that there is purpose to the things that happen in life.  You might not understand something at the time.  It doesn’t always have to be a life-changing event.  But those moments when the pieces fit, and you see it happening, well that’s just the coolest thing ever.

Yesterday’s blog post is something I had copied into a note on Facebook on Halloween 2011.  I don’t even remember where I found it, I just liked those “Twelve Rules for Being Human.”  I had no idea who Dan Millman was, I just made sure I put his name down to credit the writer.  Ok, fine.

On December 9, 2011, a Facebook friend sent me a message, saying that, based on the types of things I was posting, I should watch the movie Peaceful Warrior with Nick Nolte.  That has been in the back of my mind since then.  I’m not really the movie person in my household.  I had asked my husband the best way to watch it, and he said Netflix.  Finally, today, which is a quiet day with not much going on, I asked my daughter how to get on Netflix and she knew our password and helped me find the movie.

So I just watched the movie on the computer.

Took me a while until it clicked, like more than halfway through the film.  The movie is about Dan Millman.

Whoa.  I would be freaked out, except that I think that’s the most fun, hilarious “coincidence” ever.

When you start paying attention and listening, after you clear out the garbage in your head, you see this stuff ALL the time.

It’s an amazing, deep movie, by the way.

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Just One Reason I Love ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra)

Animal Liberation

(music by Lebowitz, Adams & Gill; lyrics by Gill)


The animal crouched in the corner

Teeth clenched, ready to kill

The child maintained his ground by the bed

Challenging the creature’s will

Suddenly they stopped

In a fog of blood and tears

Upon the revelation

That the one they fought was a mirror


Then the child got up

And the animal knew the time had come

For what was separated long ago

Must now be made into one

The image that binds us

Is a creation of our mind

Let it go and the rest will flow in time


And I knew you were hurt

Playin’ it off like you were tough

Cause I saw your spirit shrivel

When suddenly you thought

You weren’t good enough

And I think it’s sad, so sad

I think it’s bad for our health

To let hurtful words and thorny spurs keep us

From being ourselves

So at the end of the song

The message that comes through

Is you gotta be true to what grows on you

People gonna judge

People gonna always suck you in

Just remember what works for you

May not work for them


Everybody in the world today

Has an animal they need to liberate

Everybody, everyone

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A Birthday Card

I received this birthday card.  Reading it blew me away.  Brought tears to my eyes.


Today the age of Fifty will be redefined 

By someone who truly is One of a Kind…

Not “over the hill,” but “on top of the mountain” —

That kind of youth doesn’t come from a fountain,

But flows from a heart that is caring and giving,

Dreams that are dared, a passion for living —

From tears and laughter with no room for regrets…

And a smile that says, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”


I feel SO understood.  And so loved.

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Shining Like the Sun! by Tom Shadyac

The following is straight from  It is a blog post written by Tom Shadyac.

His film, I Am, is now On Demand….if you haven’t seen it, it’s AMAZING!



Everyday, we are assaulted with messages, images, slogans, and sound bites, that tell us of our inadequacies, the sad state of affairs that is you and me:  “With this product, you can lose weight, with this one, you can gain muscle; if your breasts sag, our bra lifts them up; if you have wrinkles, this cream irons them out; if you’re sad, we have a pill that will make you happy; if you’re too happy, we have a pill that will bring you down; if you’re not as much of a man as you used to be, this pill will straighten you out (literally!).  And everyone who’s anyone has itunes, the iphone, and the ipad, am iclear?

And we participate in this maddening chatter unaware, telling our kids that in order to succeed they have to get the best grades, get into the right school, and get the right job.  We tell them that one day they must stop all this horsing around and get serious with their lives; we ask them who they are going to be when they grow up, warning them that life is all down hill after 22, declaring college the best four years of their lives; and finally, if they are lucky, they just might make something of themselves in this dog eat dog world.  It’s enough to stress you out completely – but of course there’s a pill that can fix that, too.

Is this how life really is?  Is our identity simply conditional and fragile?  Is who we are really defined by the things we own, our job status, and the social circles we run in?

The mystics, those saints and sages who saw through to the inner workings of reality, proclaimed something very different.   A little background here:  The word “mystic” comes from the Latin word, “mysterium”, from which we also get the word, mystery.  Thus, a mystic is one who sees into the mystery.  So what exactly did the mystics see?  And what does their vision of reality reveal about who and what we are?

Here’s what Thomas Merton said, after decades of meditation and contemplation:  “As if the sorrows and stupidities of the world could overwhelm me now that I realize what we all are.  I wish everyone could realize this, but there is no way of telling people they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Shining like the sun.  That’s you.  He didn’t say, shining like the sun after you can afford the new electric Chevy Volt.  He didn’t say, shining like the sun after your bust gets lifted.  What he said was, right now, in this moment, with all of your imperfections, with all of your challenges in the temporal, with all of your worldly failures and successes, you are walking around shining like the sun!

Merton goes one step further with this concluding insight: “I am finally coming to the realization that my greatest ambition is to be what I already am.” Wait a minute.  What about worldly status and success and power?  Merton saw through all of that, and invites us to do the same.  Can you imagine?  What a lesson to embrace, to embody and even, to teach; to declare to our kids they don’t have to be someone, they already are someone.   Now the cynic will undoubtedly rise up and warn that this will poison our youth; they will be so inflated with their own identity, they will surely sit back and do nothing.  Quite the opposite is true.  This knowledge compels those it touches, Jesus, Gandhi, St. Francis, Mother Theresa, Rumi, and Hafiz, to walk with power, to use their talents for the good of all, without the drag of invented pressure to measure up to some arbitrary social standard.

You see, (and it is a matter of sight!), what we are telling ourselves, the command to succeed and be someone, is just a story; it’s a story based on expectations.   It’s temporal and finite.  It is not who you really are.  The Sufi mystic, Meera, wisely said:“You cannot play your role in time, until you know who you are in eternity.” And who you are is a drop in the ocean of divinity.  Inside you is starlight.  Inside you is the same infinite energy that created the universe.  As the modern mystic, Irwin Kula, knew, “Everything is god in drag.”

So the next time you’re told you need to be somebody, rest in the knowledge that you already are.  Hafiz implores us to wake up to this truth when he says: “I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.” Now what iphone or ipad, what present day pill or product can deliver that?

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