One photograph ~

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We have recently moved & with that comes the task of unpacking.  I find I have a considerable amount of boxes with 2 things that are most telling about what I value in life – pictures of my family & books.  And it isn’t just a matter of unpacking them – they must all go in the right place, where they can be present as an outward reflection of what I cherish.  This takes time as I linger over each memory, each story so significant.

Like my penchant for book collecting I LOVE having framed photographs throughout my home.  They tell the story of different chapters of my families life & experiences.  Some from so long ago like the ones of relatives several generations passed & those of this generation remembered as if it was just yesterday.

We’ve heard it said that each picture is a thousand words.  Words of what? Words that tell a story – the story my families life, of my life, of your life.    There is something so very validating, for me anyway, in the freeze framing of a moment in time.

There are chapters that have ended – photographs of family members that are no longer around on this earth.  I hug them & at times long for them to hug me back.

There are chapters that are full of hope & promise – the ones of my children as toddlers next to the ones of them as young adults.

There are chapters that are filled with friends who have become like family & I would be remiss to not include them.

Then there are the chapters just beginning – with new faces as my children marry & of the new friends & family memories we are making in our new home.

Those are the stories in the book titled “Family & Friends”.

I also have the pictures of my own life that remind me of where I have come from & my personal experiences.  Those are the story of “Me”.  As I am going through this season of being an empty nester, I have found my own chapters of childhood, young adulthood, & motherhood, to be honest, surprising.  It’s not as though my book was written for me to read prior to my living – it is being written as I live it.  So to go back & revisit the chapters I have completed I find myself sometimes proud of me, frustrated with me, rooting for me &,most presently, still discovering me.

For this post I will share one photograph.  Over time I will undoubtedly share more.

Here is a picture that now sits on my desk:

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It is of me & my grandfather who passed away when I was 5yrs old.  It reminds me that even when someone is in your life a very short time they can leave an indelible mark on your heart.  He loved me so much & always made me feel special.  That’s how I feel when I look at this picture – loved & special.  I personally crave that reminder.

Do you feel the same way about pictures taken in your life?  If so, do you have one that reminds you that you are special & loved?

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One Truth ~

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Relationships are at our base the most necessary component of our lives.  They are part of our nurture process.  We grow upright & able with healthy physical attention.  When words of validation are spoken to us we drink them in for sustenance.   With genuine care we are led to see a world full of color & are able to experience what it has to offer with hopeful expectations of a significant life.

But alas most of us do not fully know of this life & what is possible.  We shy or even cringe from forming relationships.  The moments meant for nurture were strained.  Leaving our growth frayed & fragile at best.  We are bent by the yearning for someone to notice & tell us we are good & even to just give us a hug or a gentle hand put upon our shoulder.  We become often times mute or full of anger & unable to not only validate another but conceive we ourselves have reason to live.  Our words used to burn & leave scars.  Parched by our lack of attention by those closest to us.  The world is grey.  Our eyes at times stunned for a moment as we see a rainbow splayed before us.  They quickly shutter what we have just seen and we carry on.  Just as we did the moment before the brief revelation that the world does indeed have hope, we step back into the dark comfort of what has been known as safety.  The quiet, desolate, dying life of isolation.

Who  wounded you?

We live in a fallen world.  Most everyone will agree to at least acknowledge this & yet will avoid calling it a fact.   We continue to perpetuate this broken cycle.  We run from the admission we have been hurt.  We cover it up & convince ourselves no one can tell.  And at the very least it is none of their business.  We lick our wounds & hold fast to who we are as a result of our past relationships & we declare with all the bravado we can muster – this is who I have become – this is who I am.

Who are you?

This question & the answer have been made so complicated as we reach for our definition.  The measure of our existence as it pertains to the world is never satisfying.  We are like the starved person – never really knowing what it means to be full or satisfied.  We struggle against how we see ourselves in a world full of people each coping to just get through the day & maybe the next.  Some will say – well at least I am better than…, or my life is worse than….  The connection we so crave gets drowned out by the voices in us that compare instead.

Can you identify?

I learned something recently that I found may bring clarity to you too.  Often times in my life I have made very valiant attempts to reconcile my challenges in relationships.  I have made very concerted efforts to change myself or the other person.  In both cases I would come up short, frustrated & commit what I will now refer to as “Relationship Suicide”.  I do not use either term lightly.  Both incredibly huge words in my own life.  Having lived with 2 brothers who have completed suicide, I understand the gulf of loss & emotion that that experience entails.  In my search for resolution around that & my own introspection I have come to also see how we commit suicide, if you will, in our relationships.  Why?  Because we expect change & when we do not see it or experience it we are inundated with a gambit of emotions most of which boil down to a deep frustration that eats at our core & then this in turn impedes other relationships & ultimately our growth & ability to feel significant in this life.  We see no hope. So we end it.  Completely.

What is the alternative?

Ahhh…If you have stuck with me this long I hope you will find what is helpful to you too.  For me it is still a life in progress however it is a truth that is universally substantiated.  I have found that the truth is I am broken, I live in a fallen world, I am made for relationships of which I fail at everyday, I am not satisfied by what I have experienced in the world & there is no changing I can ever really do to make it be any different.  It is only by transformation that my life will take on a new wholeness.  My one relationship that I found to transcend all this hurt, pain, & confusion is one most firmly rooted with God, my Abba Father.  Not everyone is ready to receive this as their truth, I get that.  I wasn’t at one time & then one day I was & it was a life impacted type of experience.

I was a single mother, on drugs, thinking “I got this” – even though I knew deep down I was scared everyday.  I had a man come through my drive through window where I was working.  He ordered one large Coke.  When he pulled up to receive his drink he handed me a pocket cross & a piece of paper with a prayer on it.  He told me he saw that I was a bright light & God loved me so very very much.  No one had ever said that to me – at least not that I heard.  I remember soaking those words in… basking in the moment & then putting the cross & prayer in my pocket as I watched his old battered truck pull away.  For 3 days I would pull out the cross & prayer & put it in my pants for the next day.  Each day fingering the cross & thinking “he has no idea who I am & what I have been through”.  Something in me was ready to no longer reject that I was in fact loveable – scars & all, and finally let go.  Now how is it that a stranger would be the one person to say those words that would pierce my soul, I do not know,  only that God used him that day to speak the most healing truth I had ever heard.  At the end of that 3rd day I went home from work, knelt at my coffee table & read that prayer that was now on a tattered worn pierce of paper.

This is what I prayed:

“Oh God in Heaven, I believe with all of my heart that Jesus has been raised from the dead. I receive your Word, and I repent of sin. I renounce the past. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. I receive my forgiveness. I receive the new birth, cleansed and washed in the Word and in the precious blood of Jesus. Fill me with Your Spirit, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

There is no way for me to convince you that this will work for you but it most definitely radically transformed my life.  This was back in 1988 & I have not used any drugs since that date.  My life has not been any where near perfect – especially if I compare myself to others but the one truth that has stood the test of the last 25 yrs is that I know that I know that I know I am a life that has hope even when it’s darkest.  My brothers were both needing this hope.  In fact there is no doubt they were desperate for it.  I look at relationships that are dying within families & committing “relationship suicide” – their desperate hope fading or actually already faded.

If this prayer spoke to you today I am here to celebrate with you!!  If not I know that you will sooner than later if you feel the tug on your heart to let go & receive the hope that your life is most certainly valuable.

thetreeandtherainbowAs I said I am still a work in progress but I am wholly, uniquely, a child of a Father who continues to hold my hand, teach me about His unconditional love, shows me everyday that He will never leave me or forsake me & has filled the broken places in my life with His healing word of my significance.

May you be healed & know His peace & have hope today.

One Bird ~ About Time!

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This makes such a strong point & yet it is simply stated! I have used the phrase time & again: when the student is ready the teacher appears.  You have no doubt heard & even used that one yourself.  A new twist on it occurred this weekend for me & when I saw this picture it literally screamed at me.

I have looked so many times for teachers out in the world.  I love love love to learn!

My hindsight lessons – the ones that my own personal life have taught me, are all I need as I look ahead.  There really are plenty of these lessons where I have picked myself up, put my big girls pants on & forged through to carry on with this thing called life.  Yet I have dismissed them easily enough by thinking I need to be someone else.  Someone who doesn’t have my dysfunctional stories or experiences.  Someone who is so good at life that their successes will over shadow the failure I think I am.  So I kept looking for teachers to show me the way.

Well I found a lot of teachers.  As I stated I am a veracious learner.  In my fumbling search I was blinded by the dichotomy of how I was responding to my teachers & their lessons.  What I have ended up with is being grateful for the teachers who in essence taught me what not to do.  Like: Do not compare myself,  Do not be an imitation, Do not be afraid…the Do not list is long to be sure.  There were also teachers who taught me what to do.  Like: Believe in yourself, Use your own voice, Have faith & be of good courage…and this list is longer still.  But I have not been able to hear those lessons as clearly.  I was only wading through the Don’t lessons & found myself consistently treading to keep my head above water. Because in truth – I was comparing myself, I wanted to be that other woman who looked all put together, I was seriously afraid of people judging me & finding me unworthy of their time & friendship.  I have been frustrated as I wrestled with these issues & rightfully so because I was doing exactly what I was being taught not to do & rejecting what I was to do.   All of them in essence telling me I was uniquely & wonderfully made.  However, none of them could teach me what I was seeking.  It is a tall order to begin with.  Till the other day…when the student was ready…and I could hear the one message from the one teacher that mattered most…myself.

What I have dismissed easily is that I can learn from myself.  That as the Holy Spirit has/is tugging in my soul this student has not readily listened or been able to hear the Holy Spirit’s personal teachings of encouragement & direction for me.  I in turn have often invalidated my own unique gifts as I look to find the better answers out in the world.  I question my own truths so much so that I drown out the voice that knows me best.

I don’t know if what I have written here makes sense to you but I can be pretty sure the picture says it way more simply & you get what I mean.  It is about time to step out & up – embrace the passions to be a creative.  Be uniquely you & share your gifts with others.

Are you ready to listen to your inner voice?  What is causing you to dismiss what you already know deep down?  Is the student ready…?

One question – “WHY?” ~

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Music is an amazing soul touching medium!!  There are songs that make me feel courageous & songs that make me feel completely spent like this one from Rascal Flatts.  As you now know if you have been following my once in a while blogging,  I have had 2 brothers leave in the middle of their song. I have to work everyday to make peace with never knowing “why?”. What I do know is I have a song in me to sing & finish. My song now also carries the melodies of their lives. Their music will always be part of the harmony – the underlying tones – of my life.

Can you relate to the feeling of being stunned & having to put life on pause for a few minutes by the words & the instruments of a song?  I think most everyone can at one time or another say “yes”.

This song “WHY” which I have heard before has taken on an even deeper meaning as I understand how my brother’s lives are, as I said earlier in this post, part of my songs harmony now.  When my brother Thomas died, 24 yrs ago,  I stood at his coffin & asked his lifeless body “WHY??”.  His voice  quietly spoke “Do not keep asking why.  For that is what I did.”  I have wrestled with this exchange year after year as I made brave attempts to put the matter of “why” to rest.  Thomas was a “why this”, “why that” kind of person & got lost in the maze of answers none of which satisfied his thirst for the answer to his ultimate question “why do I live?”.  I know this since he too was a writer & kept a journal up to the day he took his life.

Most times a deep well of emotion stops my writing.  I am a person who has no trouble experiencing her emotions.  In fact I think I got an extra measure of emotion expressiveness when they were being handed out in Heaven just prior to my birth.  My husband has actually referred to my reaction to a situation recently as wailing & gnashing of teeth.  I was a little embarrassed to be honest but truth be told…he was telling it like it is.  Maybe it is that I am all Italian and we are known to be loud & demonstrative – I mean no disrespect to my lineage at all as I love my people!!  But it is also more than my nationality.

The other day I met with a new friend who had shared some of his story & that he had contemplated suicide.  He did not know my story.  I am most often easily moved, be it by a movie, a song or someone’s story – especially where suicide is even remotely mentioned.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I thanked him for sharing this intimate confession about his life & that I was so glad he chose life.  He is a fellow writer & is encouraging me to write publicly about my own story.  I told him I had no idea what I could offer if I did & that when I write I am but a puddle of emotion when I am done.  He challenged me to consider that I carried a message of hope for those who are scared & scarred in this life.  My life experiences have cut a groove deep in my soul where the waters of life & death have flowed from a very early age.  Where I have learned that the value of a life is never to be underestimated.

I could ask myself “why me?”, “why now?” but I will heed my brother’s message & not ask.  Instead I chose to live a life of faith that I will not have all the answers to my “whys” this side of Heaven.  There is freedom in this revelation for me – it un-tethers me from a life lived looking backwards & leads me to push forward.

What song has moved you lately?

Returning ~ One Decision

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I have labored over many many things in my life.  To the point of starting & stopping all to often.  Today I wrestled a few demons who I have given power to, who have successfully halted my writing or have they…

The following picture invoked a very powerful emotion for me.  I have been moved by the truth that I am one of six birds.  The whole bird connection has helped me put some pieces of my life back together.  See my last name Passaro means bird in italian of which I am 100%.  In 2011 a 2nd brother committed suicide.  The loss from my 1st brother’s suicide still impacts me daily & that was 24 years ago.  In my fragile attempt to make my life whole again I embraced my roots & claimed the fact that even while now 2 are gone, there will ALWAYS be 6 of us.  We were a very close tribe as children & even closer yet after my 1st brother’s death.  To be stung by the enormous grief once again…well I still stumble over it quite a bit.  Most likely always will.

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Life has handed me a number of blows & blessings as I am sure you can relate.

Today I am being very intentional & moving forward.  I made a decision to return to what I started here.

Fly with me if you will ~

One kiss ~

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Have a Happy Valentines Day!

How did it happen that their lips came together?  How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill?  A kiss, and all was said.  ~Victor Hugo

Give me a kisse, and to that kisse a score;
Then to that twenty, adde a hundred more;
A thousand to that hundred; so kisse on,
To make that thousand up a million;
Treble that million, and when that is done,
Let’s kisse afresh, as when we first begun.
~Robert Herrick, “To Anthea (III)”

A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous. (Ingrid Bergman)

kisses are a better fate than wisdom. ~e.e. cummings

If you have only one smile in you give it to the people you love. (Maya Angelou)

one of six birds ~

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“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.”(Leo Tolstoy)

This quote pretty much sums up my challenge to myself this year.  Last year was one of the most emotional roller coasters in 365 days I have ever experienced.  It started with the high of my oldest getting engaged.  How exciting it was to get the news that she was now going to get married.  My daughter is a beautiful, strong, creative, calm & an extraordinary person – if I do say so myself.  The planning of the happy event promptly began in early January.  By the end of the month the dates, venues, photographers, photo booth & cakes were decided.  Yes, you read right, these ended in “s” as she was determined to have her brother attend which meant taking the wedding ceremony to California where he is serving in the Marines AND having a reception in our home state of Minnesota.

My brother, who just retired from the Marines, also lived in California.  He & his wife were enlisted to help with the planning there. In spite of the miles between us we have spent a number of holidays & vacations together amongst our family who is spread out all over the US & we were all excited to be getting together once again.   But my brother did the unthinkable, the hard to mentionable, the most desperate & for so many reasons the unfathomable – he committed suicide.  This was the 1st week of February.  Needless to say this 2nd month of the year was quite an emotional plummet from the joy of January.  This would cast a shadow over the rest of the year for me.  You see the year I became engaged & married to my husband now (1989)  was also the same year another brother of mine committed suicide.  Unfortunately this was not the road less traveled now for me or my family.  For that reason my siblings & I had forged further our bond all those years ago.  We evaluated our relationships to each other, made promises to share everything, reach out always, & bear all things together.

I am one of six, hence my moniker here, & my young brother’s presence exists in our lives like a phantom limb – never to be forgotten.  When you’ve know this gut wrenching loss & work day by day & year by year to move forward, replacing the sadness with joy, you just do not think it could happen again.  But happen it did.  To a “mighty oak” as someone had described my brother that most recently end his life.  And now there are four of us, re-evaluating our relationships together & individually.

My daughter’s wedding & reception saw her vision manifested.  They were both beautiful affairs & perfect for remembering in the years to come.  It gave my family the blessing of coming together for a second time in a one year span, knitting together all the joys & sorrows to leave us with seeing not just another person missing but with a new addition to the family – my loving son-in-law.  He has known our family for sometime now & it was a balm to my soul to see him hold my daughter up during our families loss as my husband did before him for me all those years ago & still today.

2012 was ushered in with a new engagement – that of my youngest son, the Marine.  Life continues it’s march forward & I find I have to be very intentional to not miss the moments.  All of them, day by day, are bound together to create our each individually unique stories.  And how important it is to tell your stories, the good & the bad, for life is all of that.  It is how you live while living & live on when no longer here.  Life is a priceless currency – some days seeming as insignificant as a penny & some days feeling like a million dollars – all of it has value.

Stop, look around you & savor the moments.

“Although time seems to fly, it never travels faster than one day at a time. Each day is a new opportunity to live your life to the fullest. In each waking day, you will find scores of blessings and opportunities for positive change. Do not let your TODAY be stolen by the unchangeable past or the indefinite future! Today is a new day!”(Steve Maraboli)

One life ~

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One year ago today…

One day, one moment, one second, one action, one life forever changed the lives of many.  Mike lived life fully.  While he lived he was generous, courageous, an encourager, a servant, a leader, a protector,  a hero, not a superhero with special powers but human, a son, a husband, a father, my brother, my friend.  He gave of himself in all circumstances all the while harboring his own sense of unworthiness.  He struggled with his own imperfections & feeling of being someone of value.  He saw his own struggles as weakness, tried to laugh them off & cover them up by his easy going demeanor.  Maybe some of it was pride, for he did not want anyone to worry about him so he appeared to have it all together.  Maybe it was a result of the PTSD he was diagnosed with after serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom & other battles during his 23 yrs. as a proud Marine. Maybe his life was changing & it was a mid-life crisis.   Maybe it was all the maybes put together or something else entirely but we will never know.  My brother, my friend committed suicide one year ago today.  No note, no signs, one day he was taking pictures, joking around & posting them on facebook & then one day after that he ended his life.  Just like that.  If I could be transported back to that moment & promised one second with him, I would hug him so hard he’d maybe change his mind.  Maybe not.  But I have certainly learned that one person can make so much of an impact on people, be loved by his family & not really know it in is core how valuable he is & in the case of my brother now – was.  I have found the need to re-evaluate my own life & am hoping time will heal this terrible ache in my heart.  I am counting on it to.  So I am working on being intentional about adding value where I can &  taking it one day, one moment, one second, one action, & one life at a time.

RIP Mike (1of6birds(3)) – You will live forever in my heart ❤

One minute ~

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60 Seconds

Dr. Archibald Hart is a psychologist who specializes in the stress affects of excess adrenaline. He suggests “a 60 second sabbatical” every hour, taking at least one minute for ourselves.

During this quick respite, we breathe deeply and allow the mind to wander to pleasant thoughts. Then, 60 seconds later, we feel more relaxed and invigorated.

Anyone who tries Dr. Hart’s suggestion quickly appreciates its wisdom. And if taking a minute an hour makes sense, what about other intervals for ourselves? Are they a good practice also? Yes, and here are some suggestions.

Treat Yourself to 60 Seconds, 60 Minutes, 60 Hours, and 600 Days: 60 Seconds Dr. Archibald Hart is a psychologist who specializes in the stress affects

via Define Your Goals. (*right click to open in new tab or window)

Here is one video I like: Breathe, Relax, Enjoy ~

Uploaded by on Oct 25, 2011

Quotes for today ~

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The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.  ~Abraham Maslow

Rejoice in the things that are present; all else is beyond thee.  ~Montaigne

We do not remember days; we remember moments.  ~Cesare Pavese, The Burning Brand

The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.  ~Henry Miller

Guard well your spare moments.  They are like uncut diamonds.  Discard them and their value will never be known.  Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson