Thank You is the Only Prayer We Need

Meister Eckhart once said if the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.

Today I am celebrating some of those things for which I am grateful. Right now. That’s all. No big philosophical insights to share. Just a whole lot of appreciation for The Divine and the life I have and the people I love and a few unusual days. So here is the list for now.

An early day that turned into a trip to the emergency department and a two day hospital stay. Where I experienced the best of caregivers. How could I be so fortunate to be affiliated with one of the best health systems in the country? Heck, the world? Safe and sound and surrounded by people whose mission is to make me well and comfortable.

Two really super bosses (you know who you are, Jim and Bill,) who each helped facilitate my recovery.

A surprise visit from my dear sister who came to help at a stressful time with her quick laugh, great hugs, delicious food and warm feet when it was us, curled up in the bed together talking and laughing – just like the old days.

A walk around the block with my dear husband and funny dog – both of the humans recovering from being under the weather, the dog doing its job leaving pee-mail on every post possible, having missed four days of regular walking and communication.

A dear friend who just happens to be one of the smartest people I know in the profession needed most at this very minute.

Flowers and delicious bakery treats from caring friends.

Diet Cokes and Nabs (if you have to ask, they are the orange crackers with peanut butter and the best ones are made by Lance – sorry Nabisco but you all make other good things) delivered by co-workers who just wanted to help.

Knowing that, truly, all I have to do is reach out and there is someone there to return my touch, to be there when I need it.

So much more I could say. But tonight I am just saying thanks. Because that is the best prayer I can offer to the Great Divine who never fails to show up precisely and exactly when needed.

Haley’s Halo and The Love of Other Dogs I Have Known

“One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” Pope Francis

Haley went to Heaven last night.

She was the beloved dog of two of our dearest friends. Her life was not an easy life in the beginning. Years and years of being bred again and again in a horrible puppy mill, Haley was sick and abused, patches of beautiful West Highland Terrier sweet hair missing and afraid of other dogs (especially male) and most people (especially female).

Found by our friends by caring folks who rescued Westies, Haley spent the last three years of her life being loved like nobody’s business.

Her hair grew back. As much as possible, her health returned. She started trusting people again. She went on long walks, had the best of love and care and lived in a beautiful and comfortable home.

She had great treats, good food and a safe and warm place to snuggle down each night. She went on many long walks and one day, she even wore a pink ballerina skirt and went dancing with aspiring stars.

Haley was a star as a matter of fact. As have been all of the dogs I have known and loved, Dolly, Kelly, Holly and right now, our sweet little Finlay.

I am not a Catholic, but I love the new Pope and I loved what he said recently about Paradise being open to all God’s creatures.

I think he is right about that. And I think, actually, if you have or have had a dog in your life, you have pretty much experienced Paradise on Earth.

Who could love you more? Trust you with their lives? (Don’t abuse this please). Who is  more completely unconditional about their love for you than a dog?

Haley got her halo last night and a well-deserved one at that. I am going to miss you, Haley, but as someone once said, death is a comma, not a period and I am so very happy that you found peace and joy in the later years of your life and that you are continuing that happiness today.

The Woes of Christmas

“We can’t keep learning the same lessons over again. We just keep learning the same lessons over again.” Ha Ha Tonka

Many of my followers may not agree with my thoughts on Christmas.  But another has passed us by. And I learn more and more each time.

For those who disagree with what I say,  I love you still and wish for long evenings by firesides drinking hot chocolate and pursuing witty, curious and intelligent debates about this topic and you might give me something to think about.  But for now without that lovely and insightful debate, I commence to share my deepest thoughts on the one day of each year that has caused so much heartache in my life and in so many others.

For so long, anxiety and worry about this holiday has stormed furiously in my life – taunting and teasing me with the refrain – you should, you ought, you must and especially gloating on its usual admonition – you must do what everyone else tells you to do on this day.

This drama has increased dramatically of late and the fretting begins in early Spring and lasts until which time, it gears up ready to destroy  the next holiday season. For this, I blame no one but myself. I realize that no one but me is in control of my life and guilt is something I allow and I can overcome it. However, because I have read so much and heard so much similar despair from so many others, I thought I would invite you to go with me as I work through the outrageous drama that is called Christmas in my hurting head.

Since this is my place to record feelings, some difficult, others exceeding
painful, I will speak my truth in love – taking full responsibility for my part in the saga. For me Christmas has long been been a breeding ground for relationship destruction in my world. It seems to be to be a child’s gift and we, as adults, perpetuate an effort to ensure that small, innocent children remember a dream of a Rockwell painting that is filled with gifts, sparkling lights and tons of presents laying in wait for tiny hands to become paper shredders in haste to discover hidden treasures.

This is how it begins and why now as adults try to recreate that same perfect day for our children.

As we get older, however,we are faced with the facts that as adults, we try to conceal that day – unbearable grief, financial issues and relationship issues that are sometimes sharply quiet moments of sarcasm Some even chastising with anger or envy that someone did not show up because they had other plans.  How dare they do this?

Having said that, I am perfectly willing to participate in the celebrations of those extraordinary lives such as  the Christ, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. To this every day. most humans try to utilize the messages from the greats – the Golden Rule and the lessons of selflessness, giving, truth, respect, understanding, gratitude and kindness.

We endeavor to love ourselves and others. We understand that manipulation is prone to failure and resentment and the eventual demolition of relationships. That love and acceptance are the essential elements of grace. That violence, both physical and emotional, only exacerbates the likelihood of an imploding an broken heart so deep, it will take long stretches of time to wipe the slate clean no matter how hard we pray, how much we try and how hard we fight to force the anger away so that it will not escalate into an ugly old wort of grudge that hurts no one but ourselves. Or worse, we declare we have forgiven but will never forget, which I completely cannot understand to any degree whatsoever. But then again I have failed enough to know that we all make personal mistakes.

So to the advice.

1. Start your own traditions with your significant others.

2. State your intention and offer other days and ways to celebrate if you cannot make Christmas Day itself.  (This year I have actually had five Christmas celebrations with different people on different days.  And I have one more to go.) The day is not important. The time together is.

3. Look after yourself. (Trust me. No one else is going to do it). Take some time alone.

4. Remember that guilt is the gift that keeps on giving so let that little package remain unopened and drag it to the street with the used up Christmas tree.

5. And remember the season and its reason. For those whom you love that are far away, reach out with a call. And if you get one, please take the time to answer it.

6. Also remember if you have not spent several years with different family members, next year may just be the time to fix that. In fact, it is what I plan to do.

7. Set boundaries. And stick with them.

8. And just love with peace.


Finding Our True Selves

When I was seven, a friend called me “bubbly.” I was frankly a little defensive being immediately reminded of the pink, plastic jar filled with bubble suds and a tiny wand that provided my sister, Wendy and me, with hours of fun in the backyard on a slow, summer day.

Folks thought this was a fine thing indeed and my sister had no comment, an equal amount of interest and no concern about why this word was not used to describe her. In fact, she seemed to have quickly removed herself from any sort of moniker that might follow her to therapy after childhood.

Which is exactly where if followed me (along with a great amount of other life luggage) in my early 40’s at the doorstep of my therapist, the esteemed Dr. Matthews, for about 30 months. That word spoken that day stuck to me like a lichen and shadowed me like the cloud of dust that wafted around the precious, little blanket that belonged to the dusty and minute Linus, the philosopher friend of the comic star Charlie Brown.

I researched the word “bubbly” online at and found all sorts of synonyms – sparkling, vivacious, full of life, perky, vibrant – even gassy and fizzy. Effervescent was listed, too, and I felt somehow hopeful about that adjective and quickly clicked to its synonyms where I found animated, buoyant, irrepressible, vital, and, oh, yes, zingy. I decided for own self-confidence it was best not to read the definition of that word.

But what I found even more disturbing were the antonyms of the word bubbly. All of them gave me pause and made me wonder if the antonyms don’t beg the question – Are we endowed with one attribute and not the other?  For example, must one be bubbly in order to avoid being flat, stale, unenthusiastic, dull and listless? Or maybe could one just be serious and sober and somehow even out the territory between perky and dull?

I have thought about how quickly that words was bestowed by someone I did not know well and how after that, I somehow embraced that trait as a good thing and spent years cultivating that quality in myself – being extroverted and outgoing.

But I became bubbly – I sunk into it just like a hot, bubbly bath at the end of a long day. I became enveloped by it and lived it fully every single day – for years. Bubbly was I at work, at school, in the community. It manifested itself in numerous dinner parties at my home, many leadership positions, in the acquisition of friends galore and in my nearly insatiable social network ladder climbing – especially when it complimented my work as a fundraiser at our local hospital.

Actually, the Buddhists talk about this whole idea of self-identification a lot. I love the works of author Jack Kornfield. In his work, The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology, he makes it easy to understand with his concept of RAIN (Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation and Non-Identification). He writes about using these four principles for mindful transformation.   First, you recognize something in your life. (Hey, she called me bubbly. This is a different experience.) Secondly, you accept the situation. (“Acceptance,” Kornfield writes, “is a willing movement of the heart to include what is before it.” Okay. Hmmm…This is someone’s judgment call – their adjective for me. Bubbly.) Third, you investigate. (Using our body, feelings, mind, etc., we “investigate whether we are clinging to it, resisting it or letting it be…and we notice how much we identify with it.)” And finally, non-identification, where “we stop taking the experience as ‘me’ or ‘mine.’ We see how our identification creates dependence, anxiety or inauthenticity. In practicing non-identification, we inquire of every state, experience and story, ‘Is this who I really am?’…Then we are free to let go and rest in awareness itself.”

If, as a child of seven, I had Jack Kornfield to call upon, my whole life may have been quite different. I skipped two of the most important steps. I did, of course, recognize and accept the adjective, but I failed to really investigate and instead of not identifying with it, I dove right in and accepted it like a new best friend.

One day Bubbly came crashing to an end fairly permanently end around the time of marriage loss, leaving a job, everything changing.

Now truly bubbly is a distant memory that shows up at a party every once in a long time. I feel much happier and stronger now and I doubt in this new town where I reside that not a single one would use that word to describe me. I am usually the first to leave a party, gravitate to those I know and I am happiest when I don’t have to leave the house, when I can stay home and work in my home and garden, read, write and just piddle around my home.

So did I actually change?

The world will often rush to tell us who we are. We are free to grab the first thing as if nothing else will come along.

But that happens at the expense of us taking our time. Instead, we must remain the inventor of our very short life. We must plan our days. Quietly turn aside from the people who tell us how to spend our minutes, our hours, our holidays, our free time – no matter how well meaning they might be. Today I know that I can at times I can be bubbly.

But bubbly is not me. I am serious by nature. I am a continuous seeker for the Divine. And will never be still until I find just who it is that I am supposed to be.

Let me be clear. I love bubbly. I love bubbly people. Thank you to all of you who lift our days. I try to preserve that part of myself – from long ago – that looks the cashier in the eye and smiles with love and happiness and says thank you.

But my quest remains. It may take years before I can sum myself up in that exact right word. But this is part of life – to find out who we really are.

On Paying Attention

Several years ago, I dreamt that I found a basement in my home. One that I had never known existed. It was an expansive space and half of it sat above the ground and the other half below.

This facilitated a curious mixture of light and dark and I wandered around this newly found space in a daze of awe. Intricate crystal chandeliers hung in multitudes and sparkled from a ceiling that was at times unexpectedly low and other times towering high above my head exposing a vast array of works of art.

Extravagantly decorated, the room bore a resemblance to those found at such places as the Versailles Palace in France.

Ornate, woven, expensive fabrics adorned the windows with heavy beautiful drapes – drawn to splash against the play of light and shadows. The rugs were of the finest quality – woven carefully, intricately, filled with many shapes and colors – obviously delicately, painstakingly created by masters of the finest training.

Laden on the its many shelves were handcrafted golden balls, bells, bears, angels, trumpets, birds and beyond. I soon realized it would take days to see it all.
The aroma was of cookies and trees and sweet smelling dogs I have known and of love and warmth and understanding.

How did I not know this was in my very own home? And from where did these precious artifacts come?

Then I noticed a long, thick, antique table also filled with treasures, including three distinctly mechanical, soldier-like, holiday nutcrackers standing at least four feet high. They were busily stepping in unison, intent and focused on the task at hand – left, right, left, right, moving in tireless repetition.

I was fascinated. How long had they been marching in place oblivious to the world around them? How did they persist, not missing a beat, with their eyes fixed straight ahead?
The dream has stayed with me for years as many of my dreams do and is recorded carefully in a journal. All kinds of important Jungian thoughts and interpretations come to mind as I think of this but enough of that for now.

At this reflective time of the end and beginning of two years, I like to revisit this strange reverie to simply remind myself of the riches of my own life (those I have discovered and those yet to be realized) that I do not take time to appreciate.

Choosing instead, to move forward like a monotonous, high stepping nutcracker getting another day done and thus, often missing all that I have to be grateful for in my life– friends, family, loved ones, special moments, a wonderful job, an incredible husband, a funny and happy dog, a warm bed and food in my tummy (just to name a few).
Most of it comes to down to this.


So as the year winds up, I hope to stop the madness of mechanically checking off all the things to do on my list and collapsing exhausted at the end of the day. And instead take the time to explore what surrounds me, waiting patiently just to be noticed, if I can just simply stop and take heed of the abundance that quietly beckons my attention.

Strong Winds Possible

The sign appeared more than once as we traveled from Hilton Head Island to Beaufort, SC.  But almost always on long bridges across the waterway.  Strong winds possible.


Finally, I had to call the question.  So, I said, to my husband.   What does it mean?  Strong winds possible.

He shrugged, perplexed (a usual state I thrust him into).  Strong winds possible?  So, it means, “Strong winds possible.”

But, of course, it seemed incredibly redundant and unnecessary.  Anything is possible.  Why don’t they put these signs everywhere if they put them anywhere?

And then, just 40 minutes later.  There we were. Walking across the middle of the street in Beaufort, SC, chatting and sightseeing when the silver car pulled up beside us and a voice yelled from within, “Crissy and Trey?”  And there from four hours up north, following a dinner speech where she received a well-deserved honor for her tremendous work in the promotion of diversity, was our beautiful, “adopted” daughter, Kinneil.  And we smiled and hugged and took a picture for our Facebooks and later I thought about all the history that it took to get us three together at that exact same moment in time.

Beginning, not with where we grew up, and where we went to school and how we first came together in the first place – us souls who became like family.  But just how it happened that we were in Beaufort, crossing the street, with Kinneil driving by at that exact moment in time that could have easily not have happened if one stop light had turned green or red, someone had slept in or gotten up early, one extra moment at the convenience store had happened or one car ahead was going a little too slow or fast, or just one little teeny tiny, itsy bitsy change in schedule and we would have missed the whole chance encounter. Or in the bigger picture, one of those seemingly small and insignificant things had occurred and we had never met at all.

Strong winds are probable.  Not just possible.  Never believe they are not blowing you exactly where you should be.  We just have to be paying attention all the time and trusting those winds – great or small.

Returning Back to Writing

Tonight I am saying very little.  Except it is time to return to seeking the Divine.  There is so little time left because life goes very quickly and because each encounter we make is so very important.  It is so important to pay attention.  All the time.

Every moment we have is a gift.  So I am coming back to talk briefly about what I am learning is the days that are passing me by.  But mostly in the words of a great philosopher, if all the praying we ever do is simply saying thank you, that will be enough.  Thank you, Meister Eckhart or whatever soul it was that delivered that masterful message that is true, true, so true. Amen.

Serendipity and The Turtle Stuck Between A Rock and A Hard Place

My husband, an Eagle Scout, and still a boy at heart when it comes to skipping stones across water, could not resist the chance to hone his skills on a recent walk with friends on the beautiful campus of Furman University.

Having found the perfect stone, he detoured from the walking trail to the lakeside with our friend, Chad. As his stone skipped joyously ONE big time before it met its watery demise into its new residence at the bottom of the lake, Chad discovered something far more interesting.

Our reason for being there.

Although Chad spends his workdays in selfless service to others as a fireman and has seen his fair share of emergencies and life threatening situations, he did not expect to find one at the water’s edge. But there he found a turtle wedged securely between two rocks in a race against time for his life.

Clearly, he had been there for a while. His shell was dry and seemed to be on the verge of cracking in the hot sun. Desperately kicking his tiny feet, still he could not budge. He was going nowhere. Disaster seemed imminent and the likelihood of a Good Samaritan finding him was dismal.

But that was exactly what happened.

Carefully, Chad dislodged the turtle and we watched him swim away – to rejoin his family and friends and his stature in life in the lake.

In the scheme of things, it seems to be a rather trivial event – except if you are seeking the Divine all the time. Then the synchronicity of events in everyday life is unmistakable.

Later my husband and I begin to play one of our games that remind us again and again of how important it is to be conscious and pay attention to the incredible connectivity of all our lives – human, animal, reptile and otherwise. That particular South Carolinian turtle was saved by four friends who did not all know each other two years ago.

Four people who began their lives somewhere between 67 and 33 years ago – one in Ohio, one in North Carolina, one in Mississippi and one in Virginia. Yet through the Divine, somehow all our lives intersected, we became friends and the turtle was the beneficiary of our Spring walk.

The whole incident could have passed us by without even a remembrance. But when we are conscious and when we pay attention, The Divine and the The Divine Spark within us all can be celebrated at moments like these. Recognized and feted with consciousness. With love.

With deep gratitude for those who show up unexpectedly and right in the nick of time to free us from somewhere between a rock and a hard place.

Make Haste to be Kind!

Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind. – Henri Frederic Amiel

Someone I love once gave me a white sparkly door knob hanger with the word “Peace” scripted upon it. I think it enjoys its place of privilege hanging out on the cabinet above my refrigerator. A loving reminder of how I wish my days to be.  It helps me consider the ways I can bring peace to my small part of the world.

I think if we pay attention, we happen upon numerous times every day to spread a bit of peace in a world that seems to be too full of strife and worry.

For example, someone once told me that I do not have to attend every altercation to which I am invited. Interesting challenge.  How to begin? Maybe by graciously stepping aside without a word when someone jumps ahead of me in a long, grocery line. Or more challenging still, when a driver cuts me off on an interstate causing me to slam on brakes to avoid an accident.

This was recently brought home when I left a glorious yoga class all Zen-like only to find two minutes later that I was honking my horn at a car who pulled out in front of me.  Not only did I lose my Zen, I spent too long stewing on it.  Now, who did that benefit?  Certainly, not me.

These days I work harder to let these types of destructive opportunities pass by the wayside.

Another lesson I’ve learned that works really well is simply “not to play.”  When a cross word is uttererd, an angry gesture is made,  when the hurtful past (which cannot be changed) comes up for another round of debate or blame, when conversation moves to what ought to have been done, could have been done, why wasn’t it done –  we can simply choose not to play.  A simple word of peace – of self-forgiveness and forgiveness of another – of acknowledging, that yes, you could have done better and are sorry you did not can suffice and can keep the unchangeable past where it should be – in the past.

Thus, freeing us up, to move into the present moment with love and without bitterness.

My current job lands me in many airport waiting areas with other tired business travelers (like myself), weary children and angry passengers whose flights are delayed.  I often think of the stress airlines employees experience when they deliver news of cancelled or delayed flights. So when I am disappointed by a long delay, I try to muster the fortitude to look them in the eye and thank them for their attempts to facilitate our journeys.

Once I had a wise and wonderful teacher who taught about random acts of kindness and I was stuck one day by a tiny act he does for housekeepers at his hotel.  Instead, he said, of leaving a bunch of dirty towels on the bathroom floor or in the bottom of the bathtub, he suggested we fold them nicely and lay them on the vanity.  That way the housekeeper does not have to bend down to retrieve them.  She has such a physical job anyway.  It’s just a little way of helping her do her job more easily.

Can we overlook a slight? Sometimes this is a hard thing.   When your boss once again takes the credit and does not mention your name at the staff meeting.  When you are not included in an invitation that you expected to receive.  When someone begins to take you for granted a little too often.  Can we accept that lack of recognition with a little grace and humility and simply let it go? I’m not talking about being a door mat – but just about being gracious.

I’m not saying I am good at these things.  I am saying that I wish to make myself more amenable to walking away when that is what is best.  When it is a small thing that can be cured with a smile or a simple return gesture of love or a gift of forgiveness you give to someone who does not even know you granted it to him.  (Think about the hurried driver who pulls out in front of you and you decide not to cause further disruption in the world by laying your hand down hard on the car horn.)

Every moment filled with angst is a moment of peace we have lost.

Every time we choose to say a kind word, in the face of stress or strife, we have a chance to thwart harm and to spread peace.

Make haste to be kind – and do it creatively!  There are so many ways to do good!