Eyebrows on Dogs

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It started with a photo that my fifteen year old daughter posted on my Facebook page.  It was a ridiculous photo, but to some people (including myself) ridiculously, hysterically funny.  It was a picture of a Chihuahua with eyebrows drawn in with eyeliner.  I could not get the picture out of my head as my eyes constantly strayed to my two friends lying faithfully next to me, on the couch, snoring, as I worked on my next novel.  As the time passed, and as my grin got wider by the minute, I couldn’t resist temptation and ran for the eyeliner…(hypoallergenic mind you).  I started with Sedona first, mainly because she was the one that tolerated the nail trimmings, baths and vet visits.  Right away, she knew something was up as I knelt in front of her.  Eyeballing the “thing” in my hand, she preceded to stare me down as I applied the lines to her forehead, while I began to snicker, trying not to laugh out loud in front of her.  Her sidekick raced around on the couch in his spazy way, after sniffing her head, waiting for his turn.  Resting back on my heels, I checked out my masterpiece, as Sedona gave me another one of her “you are an idiot Human” looks.   Matrix quickly took her place on the coach looking from me to her to me again, panting happily, with tail wagging.  This was great fun to him and me.  I turned to her with my own look of “You, Sedona, are a joy killer.”  Ignoring the rolling of her eyes, I began focusing on his tiny face while carefully drawing eyebrows on him.  He sat beautifully, beaming with pride while Sedona stared him down before turning several times, then lying with her back to both of us while, I am convinced, thinking in her head - “You, also, are an idiot Matrix.”

Several seconds later, his eyebrows were in place and he looked comical.  Snapping a couple of pictures I texted a few and of course placed one on Face book.  I could not wait for my kids to get home from school.   I was not disappointed as I watched my thirteen-year-old son laugh aloud…. “Mom, that is so great!!!”  Grinning back, I beamed.

After picking up my oldest and youngest, I could not wait to show them the picture on my phone.  I did not get the same reaction from the youngest.  “Seriously, Mom - what is wrong with you?” 

“What?  Oh, come on, this is funny.”

Sitting stoically, with her arms crossed, my nine year old daughter obviously did not find it funny.  I knew she would change her mind, when she saw them face to face.  WRONG!

Walking into the house, they both greeted her with love exploding from them, as only dogs can do.  Bending down she picked up Matrix, holding his face staring at him frowning, before turning to me.  “Really Mom!  If God wanted eyebrows on dogs, he would have put them there.”

Turning she huffed into the kitchen still carrying Matrix, while Sedona followed close on her heels shooting me that doggy look of “I told you so” before disappearing around the corner.

Sitting back on the couch, duly chastised, I contemplated her opinion of the situation - having to admit, reluctantly, that maybe some of what she said might be true.  I tried to envision future thought provoking blog posts and their titles such as "Accepting Who We Are" or maybe "Stop Hiding Behind Things" , i.e., makeup  before shaking my head, mumbling "NOPE" as I grinned from ear to ear yelling out to her as she cleaned them off - “eyebrows on dogs is still funny.”

Source: http://malden.patch.com/blog_posts/eyebrow...

The Little Blue Suitcase

It was tiny, but to a small five-year-old girl, it was huge and the most beautiful thing she had ever seen in her life and the best part - it was hers.  Her mom even told her so.  Before today, she had not even known what a suitcase was.  Reaching out eagerly, she ran her hand along the silver band that wrapped around the edge, touching the latches that were firmly closed.  They were shiny and felt cool to the touch.  She wanted to see inside.  “Can I open it, Mommy?”   Not getting a response, her small face turned, surprised to see her mom crying.  Choked with emotion, unable to speak, the mother nodded her head, watching as the five year old eagerly opened the little blue suitcase.  The year was 1972.

Many of my childhood memories are faded and some completely gone, but I remember that day, forty years ago, as if it was yesterday.  It is strange how our mind does that, picking and choosing what we are to remember and see in our minds eye.  I recall watching curiously and, I have to admit, excitedly at the time, as my mother placed inside two pairs of pants, two shirts and underwear.  Every item was new.  I was the seventh child born out of ten.  I never had “new” before.  I could tell, but did not understand why, that beautiful suitcase was causing her so much sadness and pain.  Even when she sat my sister and I down on the bed, explaining that we would need to leave for a little while, but promising that she would get us back and that someday we would be a family again.  My five year old mind couldn’t comprehend or understand her words but I nodded my head as I stroked the soft blue box.  Leading us both outside she walked us halfway to the car, before turning to run back into the house.  A kind woman then took us and gently steered us to the waiting car.  We sat in the back with each of our suitcases propped up next to us, the silence broken by my older sister crying next to me.  I felt panic start to rise as comprehension finally dawned inside of me forcing me to face this new reality.  Scrambling to my knees, I looked out of the back window as we slowly drove away from the only home and family we had ever known.  I did not cry until I saw my brother, who was trying to run after us.  He looked so sad.  I wanted him to feel better, so I waved until I could no longer see him.

After driving for a very long time, we arrived in Jackman, Maine, at what would be for my sister and me, the firsts of four foster homes.   Hopping out, I grabbed my little blue suitcase, clutching it in my tiny hands as new people approached, the woman turned to the social worker asking where the “rest of the stuff” was before looking in horror at my tiny case when she was told that that was it.  I remember not liking the look on her face, and once where there was joy at my “new” items, I now felt a new emotion flood through me.  I felt shame.  This was all I had and it was obvious to me, even at five, it was not enough.

That little blue suitcase is the only thing I have from that time in my life.  From family to family, town to town, it has followed me, even through adulthood.   Ten years ago, I was packing to move, and I had spent the better part of the week complaining to who ever would listen, about how many useless items we had accumulated and no longer used over the years.  Deciding to tackle the basement, I shuddered at what could possibly be down there.  Opening a box that had not been touched since the last move, and was still taped shut, and marked MISC.-  I looked inside and caught the flash of a familiar blue.    Kneeling down on the concrete floor, I gently pulled it out allowing myself to feel every emotion that was literally tearing through me.  Snapping the clasps, the sound transported me back to my childhood and I felt again the pain, greeting it as if it were an old friend

I am not sure how long I sat there, holding the suitcase but there was a shift in me that I cannot even begin to describe. I realized in a flash, that I had unknowingly defined my life by that piece of luggage.  Jacob Marley had nothing on me, with all of his clashing and clanging chains, I had a 16”x12”x5” box, weighing me down and Lord, it was heavy.

That was my reality check. A stinking, little, blue, freaking suitcase caused me to stop, pause, and ask my self “is this all there is to life?”  Walking down to the basement before I had this moment, and walking back up from the basement after this moment, I had literally become a different person.  Just like Ebenezer Scrooge, seeing the ghost of Christmas past, my moment brought the realization crashing down on me, that I was a product of “never having quite enough stuff”.  I allowed someone else’s expectations and words dictate to me, who I was and who I was to become because that is how THEY perceived me.  In this case - I had nothing so I was nothing.  The worst part, I allowed this thought process to continue my whole life in almost every aspect of who I was to become, even my dreams of who I wanted to be.  Nothing was as glaringly poignant as my mind’s eye once again brought me back to that day in high school when a teacher (who I adored) wrote on one of my essays “this is good, but we know you will never become a writer.”  I believed what she wrote and I stopped writing.  After “finding” that suitcase again, I was so angry for so many months.  Angry at myself for what I considered “wasted years.”  Seriously?!?!   ENOUGH! 

So, at thirty five, I shifted my thought process and asked myself two questions as I held that, now empty, forty year old suitcase on my lap – What if none of it was true and what would I do, if I was not afraid of what other people thought.  My answer was easy, and before the fear could encase me in its sticky, confining, web again, I whispered aloud - “I would write.”

The funny thing about epiphanies is, when you know you need to change, you quickly realize - change is hard work and there are many people who do not want you to change.  It took me another eight years to sort out my life into some semblance of order by getting rid of toxic relationships, and figuring out this new me.  I stepped out of my box and I opened a store, (it failed and still paying a high price for that one.)   The difference being, that I would not allow that failure to define who I was as I had in the past.  I took the many lessons I learned and allowed them to make me stronger. 

Through my process of healing, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more.  I filled journals with poetry and short stories.  I wrote manuscripts.  Some of my work - absolute crap, but some of it I knew, in my heart, was really good. I did not care either way – it was mine! I wrote because I embraced who I was and I had finally given myself permission and allowed myself to be who I was. Every pent up word that had been clamoring to get out of my head that had been stifled for years, flowed out of me.

Through my writing and acknowledgement of my past - I have found a comforting peace I had never experienced before.  I started to tell my story and through every imperfection, through every moment of pain and dysfunction that makes up me -  I started to see a change happen in other people.  Not to everyone, but to some, and that is all the difference that matters.

Life is hard.  Life is complicated.  Life is terrifying. Life is a beautiful thing.


You Can Make A Difference

“To the world, you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

You may or may not have heard this story, but I wanted to share it for those that may not have:  One day a little boy and his grandfather were walking along a beach where thousands of sand dollars had washed a shore. Every once in a while the grandfather would bend over, pick up a sand dollar and throw it back into the ocean. In amazement the little boy said, “Grandfather, there are thousands of sand dollars, why are you wasting your time?” The grandfather replied, while picking up a another sand dollar and tossing it into the ocean, “to this one, it makes all the difference in the world!” – author unknown

It is no secret that Mother Theresa is one of my hero’s.  I am always humbled by reading of her work with the poor.  (Not just poor financially, but poor in spirit).  To me, she embodied all that was good inside of her, yet, for all of her good works and deeds, many times she felt that she was never doing enough even though through one person at a time her touch eventually reached thousands across the world.  Mother did not start out her mission by expecting to help thousands - only the one that was in front of her at the time.  To that one – it was enough.

Can it be so wrong to want more for others than ourselves? To become a better person than whom we were the day before takes courage to ignore the critics and the naysayers and make a difference.  It takes perseverance and it starts with one selfless act. It takes you.  We all were born with a special gift and have the capability and responsibility of making a difference in our small world with that gift.  If everyone, did one act of kindness just by using our gift, just think of the positive change we could all make collectively.

Inspiring People:

Mother Teresa – Lived a life of poverty, working tirelessly to help others.  Her compassion towards humanity inspired thousands she came in contact with.

Ryan Hrelijac – Starting at 6 years old he began by saving his allowance until he could raise enough money to build his first well at the Anglo School in northern Uganda.  Over 500 wells have been built through the foundation Ryan’s Wells.

Yacouba Sawadogo – “The Man who stopped the desert” A farmer who decided to stop the desert from spreading, by reviving an ancient farming technique called zai which led to the forest re-growing. 

Ava Lowery – Created flash animations protesting the Iraq War.  Now, 19, she runs website Peace Takes Courage, where she posts videos and blogs about ending violence.

Zach Bonner – an advocate for homeless youth has made and distributed over 6000 backpacks to homeless youth filled with food, hygiene kits and other items.  He created Little Red Wagon Foundation.

Leo McCarthy – After his 14-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver as she walked down the sidewalk - he started a foundation called ‘Mariah’s Challenge’ and began speaking to the youth about drinking and driving.

Nancy Brown, Kathy Cashton, Jessica Flaherty, Chris Judge, Inge Liias, Madeline Marino, Janice Sawyer and Evelyn Sibelle – Cooks for Christ  In 1980 St. Paul’s Parish, Malden, organized a pot luck supper for the church school families.  Two men walked into a supper looking for something to eat.  What became the St. Paul’s Wednesday Feeding Ministry grew into what is now Bread of Life Organization.  Bread of life is now a volunteer organization serving the hungry, homeless, needy and isolated that brings 35 churches, synagogues, high schools and community organizations from the north Boston area to offer free evening meals four nights a week, an emergency food pantry, free clothing and grocery delivery to senior citizens in public housing. (courtesy breadoflifeonline.org)

Dear Author - Should you read reviews of your work?

First, I must state that I am a self-published author (through Createspace, which I will blog on my experience later) who currently has two novels out on Amazon.com.  In Search of Grace (August 2012) and Dragan’s Redemption (November 2012).  I am very much a newbie to the publishing world yet I have already exceeded my personal expectations in sales and am extremely happy where I am  to date.  The genre I write is romance and paranormal romance.

I know that other self-published authors have made the decision to pay to have reviews written in an attempt to boost sales.  I personally chose not to go that route even though I find the idea intriguing from a marketing standpoint.

Should a published author read reviews?  My answer is yes and no.   For the yes side,  it is a chance to connect with what some of my readers are thinking, so I do read the reviews on my work.    In saying that my skin thickened really quickly after reading some of them.  There are readers out there that can be cruel just to be cruel.  One reviewer in fact had done many reviews and every book read was given no higher than 2 out of 5 stars.  Instead of taking it personally, I started to wonder about the person that did the reading and whether or not any book would meet that persons standard.   Then, there are the reviews I am grateful for.  They are the ones that like the storyline, and take into consideration that the author (such as myself) is doing it ALL, from editing to marketing to the actual writing.  They are honest yet their ratings are kind.  I like kind.

For the no side.  If you, as an author, are going to live or die by a review and you could possibly stop writing because of a bad one.....then STAY AWAY from the comment/review sections. 

Many of us write because it is as natural as breathing and to be without a pending story is a slow painful death into oblivion.

Peace

Kelly

I am in Love!!!

I am in love and I can't help but scream it loudly!  This love has consumed me for hours over the past several days.  Is it a man? Is it an animal?   Absolutely NOT!  It is a website.   May the sun shine and the clouds stay parted.......I have stumbled across Goodreads.com!

As a wannabe avid reader, having very few free minutes with three children two dogs and two cats, and being an author -  I have wanted for years to have a place where I could compile all of the books I have read and want to read somewhere .  *shivers* with excitement!  No more spreadsheets, no more pieces of paper.  I now have a place and it is called Goodreads....... :D

The great part is that they also have an author section.  I cannot wait to look at all of what they have to offer - (and please feel free to let me know what YOU think is the best part of Goodreads so that I can get to know every tiny corner of this wonderful webiste!!!)

Peace

Kelly

"I see you."

I found these three words, which had been written down on a tiny scrap of paper, hidden under items tossed on top of it.  I do not remember the time I wrote the words down, but there they were, in my own handwriting, written in pencil.  I am not sure who said them or why.  I write words down all of the time that strike me at particular moments in my day.  Sometimes, I hear someone say something on T.V. or read a quote or a line in a book and if it moves me I say the sentence over and over again in my head until I can find a pen or in this case a pencil.  Once it is written, I have no specific place I put it.  In this particular case, I obviously had placed it on my fireplace mantle.  I do know, it must have been a long time ago, because my mantle was a jumble of junk and had not been cleaned in many, many months. 

These words stood out to me today because, for whatever reason, I put quotes around them.   It did not say, I see you – it said, “I see you” as if someone or something was speaking to me directly.   In my quirky mind, it was serendipitous.  I had not started my day in a very good place mentally and seconds before had even felt alone, and quite honestly, a bit sorry for myself.   

“I see you” came at a time that I wanted – no - needed to be seen.  My original intention for the day was to work on completing my third novel, as the deadline looms closer and I am still a ways from being done.  Instead, because of my mental state, I had decided to clean my mantle.

“I see you.”

Three words, in my handwriting, gave me comfort.  Through that comfort, I was able to see past my own fears, and started to think of others around me.  Having been seen - I was able to see - and I did not feel quite as alone.

I see you as you struggle financially.  I know what it feels like to have that crushing panic deep in your chest, knowing that the mortgage, rent, water, electric, car, medical or whatever the bill is, needs to be paid (last week) and you can’t cover it.  You work your tail off everyday and it never seems to be enough.  “I see you” in your struggle.  I am there also.

Maybe you, your family member or someone you know has cancer or has had a debilitating illness.  You ride the wave of uncertainty, not sure which shore you or they will land on, hoping and praying that you land on sand, and not jagged rocks. 

Because we are human, you, like me, are overcome, at times, with feelings of aloneness and inadequacies - even as you are surrounded by people.

Maybe, you are going through a broken relationship, or a divorce.  Your whole world seems turned upside down, and you no longer can see your future the way you did yesterday.

These are such a tiny list of the crisis’s that surround us each and every day of our lives.  I certainly do not make light of any of the problems we face.  I do not know if things will get any better for any of us, but maybe that is the whole point of living – to learn through mistakes and try not to make the same ones again.  To stand strong doing moments, when you really do not think you have any strength left in you.   To accept the situations that come into your life, that you have zero control over.  To relax and follow the current, accepting the direction you are being taken, knowing that somewhere (or at least hoping), someone is in control and will guide you when the time is right.

What has given me a tiny bit of solace and of which I was able to be reminded of, is that we are not alone, you and I.  We are all connected to each other, and truly, walking the same path side by side.  

“I see you.”  You have value and merit and have so much you can give to life and other people.  You are no accident and are a far greater person than your problems, for your problems do not define who you are, how you react to those problems do.

David vs. Golaith - Miracle on Irving Street Part II

“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”  - Michael Jordan

Think back and try to remember one moment in your life, when there was that feeling of ‘something’ that you felt inside of you, because something was about to happen that you felt seemed impossible.  Remember that flash of hope, that feeling of “is this really going to happen”.  (If you have lived in the Boston area, the Red Sox finally winning the World Series, easily comes to my mind).  Now, imagine, being twelve or thirteen years old and not only having that feeling of hope but also realizing that that you are the only ones to determine the outcome of that dream.  I imagine that this is what David felt in meeting Goliath.

I am not going to lie to you, and as I write this, I am not going to pretend that I am unaffected.  I want this young team’s dream of having an undefeated season to be a reality.  I want it, not because I have a son that plays on the team.  That would be too easy of a want.  I want it for them, for the simple reason that the odds have been stacked against them.  They are and have been the underdogs, yet, they are still winning.  Collectively, the Cheverus team is made up of the most diverse players, culturally, in their league.  Just looking at their young faces, of many colors, you can see the hope, the expectation and if I were to be honest, a little bit of fear and trepidation.  As a team from Malden, sometimes they have been put down verbally; they have been called names that I refuse to put onto paper, but have heard with my own ears.  Maldonian’s may be different, we may be unique, but we are a proud group.  Underneath it all, we are no different from anyone else.  We are a city filled with good, hardworking, culturally diverse people. We are better than what many say we are.  Teams based in Malden have the potential to win, just like any other team.   What does set us apart at times is that collectively these Malden teams persevere through the good, bad and the ugly.  Even more importantly, the young athletes never give up.  Our children are not born with these qualities, but have learned over time from the positive role models and the people they have, in their lives, on a daily basis.

Where does this tiny Cheverus basketball team stand to date since I last wrote about them?  They have continued to win their games and last night (Thursday) they played against St. Patrick’s of Stoneham in Medford.  Once again, they won.  This tiny, scrappy team, still, is beating the odds and the Cheverus Cardinals have officially clinched the CYO league for the first time in school history.   The Cardinals have joined an elite group, as only two teams have been in this position in the past twenty years - St. Agnes of Arlington and Cathedral of Boston.

The Cheverus Cardinal’s have one more game to go.  Their final game of the season will be played at Cheverus School Monsignor Foley Hall, Monday night, February 11, 2013 at 7:00pm against the league champions of the last twenty years, Saint Agnes of Arlington.   These Cheverus boys, from this tiny patch of fabric that makes up a piece of the quilt we call Malden, needs your support and encouragement to help complete their journey that they started in November - to be 16-0.  I know, in the grand scheme of things, this may seem small to some people; may seem even unimportant in light of everything that has been happening around this beautiful city lately, but to a small group of boys, it means so much.  My wish is this; I would like to see as many people that can, show up in support of this valiant group of boys and coaches.  Monsignor Foley Hall is a small gym and I can not promise you that you will get a seat and more than likely the game will be standing room only, but I can promise you this - you will leave feeling better having witnessed, experienced and most importantly supported something pretty special in these young men’s lives.  If you are able to attend, I also ask, if possible, that you wear something purple, so that the boys know that you are there to support them.  That you know their story and understand what they are going through.  You are saying to them, win or lose you are saying loudly "I get it! and I want this for you also!"  Why purple?  From the beginning of the season, this young 7th and 8th grade basketball team has shown their support of Project Purple by wearing purple laces on their sneakers.  (Former Boston Celtic, Chris Herren launched Project Purple to bring awareness to the dangers of substance abuse.)

If you are not able to attend the game, but can write a small comment showing your support or pass along their story through Facebook, Twitter or email asking your friends to do the same – I believe all of that positive energy and well wishes will reach them and be felt.

I stated in my first article, I believe that this young team’s miracle has already happened, because they continually exhibit strength of character and perseverance both off and on the basketball court.  I still believe what I wrote - yet, right now, I am believing in a little bit more.

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Waking Up On The Wrong Side Of The Bed

Okay...I admit it.......I am tired.  No, scratch that and add BEYOND tired.   The bed is piled high with clean laundry; toys, books, magazines, clothes hangers and what ever else strewn around the room and I can sense the “stuff” hiding that my eyes cannot see.  My brain chose at that very moment to flash a memory of being told, by some great person of obviously a higher intelligence than mine (either that or it was some single person with no kids or pets) that going to sleep with stuff on your bed is not healthy for a persons chi.  Apparently, the clutter sends some sort of "bad energy" to your sleep pattern.  OH PLEASE!!!!  I can't even remember most nights turning the lights out, let alone worry about my freakin' sleep pattern, or what kind of tea I drink.   Take last night as an example.  I woke up at 3:00 am with my eye glasses still on, head resting on a hand (obviously in an attempt to watch TV before falling asleep) that had gone completely numb from being in that position for hours.  To add insult to injury, I then had to suffer through several minutes of pins and needles stabbing into my fingers that were finally being fed oxygen-filled blood.  I tried to be grateful that the fingers hadn’t fallen off, but was silently wondering if falling off would be less painful.....

I am the Queen of de-clutter, right?  The Martha Stewart of Malden, right?  Ahhhh NO! That is absolute crap - especially today.  Quite frankly, my cape is ripped, I can't fly and I would like to just dump all of the "stuff" into trash bags, hide it in a closet and forget about it until some other day when my cape has been re-sown.  Of course, I was the idiot yesterday that had decided first thing in the morning, to dump several laundry baskets filled with clothes on the bed.  Stating to "self" at the time, (and I am sure with a pompous arrogance), that I would have plenty of time through the course of my day to get it done.  ***starts to bang head on the coffee table while chanting idiot***

Ok, I breathe, as I head downstairs to make the coffee, today is Sunday.  A day of rest.  Mentally giving myself a pep talk, I actually start to feel better as I scoop the grinds into the pot, whilst the two dogs prance around at my feet.  Today could actually be a great day, I think to myself leaning against the refrigerator, while inhaling the delicious aroma and listening to the happy perking sounds of my saving grace, dribbling into the coffee pot.

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Oh No!  Dribbling!!!  I Eyes quickly scanning the kitchen I catch sight of the one with the lower intelligence, leg lifted, trying to look everywhere but at me.  Dammit, I forgot to take the dogs out. Clapping my hands in a ridiculous attempt at stopping the flow streaming from his tiny body, I ran to grab the vinegar bottle to clean up the golden puddle now spreading across my hardwood floor.  Glancing warily at the other one with the higher intelligence while trying to decide whether to clean up the now fast spreading urine or take her out to do her business.  As if she could speak, Sedona sat down, blinking at me with her bright brown eyes as if to say, “I can wait, Mom. You can clean up the idiots mess first.”  Oh, how I love her!

Going down on hands and knees, I start to scrub the puddle as the coffee pot hisses and sputters letting me know that the liquid gold, that lifesaving java, is ready for my consumption.

Dogs fed and walked.  Floor cleaned.  Coffee in hand, I plunk down on the couch as I stare at the pile of bills that I cannot pay. Sinking further into the quagmire of sleep depraved depression at my life.  Grabbing the “to do” list, I logically scratch off everything and write, “play lottery” just as my three bundles of joy walk into the room.  The middle boy, obviously not realizing Supermom’s cape was ripped, decided to speak first.  “Wow mom, you look really bad – what’s for breakfast.”

Shooting imaginary nerf daggers at him, I wondered at the cruel joke of creation that we not only give birth but we also have to feed them, minimum three times a day, seven days a week.  The two girls started yelling at the top of their lungs at the boy because of his insensitive comment regarding my looks, while proceeding to tell him I have looked worse.  Sighing deeply, I stood up, inadvertently knocking over my extremely large mug of preciousness.  My cup of renewed life.   A heavy silence hung over the room, as the children and dogs stared open mouthed while the liquid sank into the couch and splashed in places I knew I probably would never be able to clean.  Hesitantly my youngest spoke ….”Mom?  Your not going to cry are you. While her bottom lip started to quiver.”

Plastering the biggest, fakest smile on my face, I headed up the stairs and back to bed.  Superman you got nothing on me, cause I know when to quit!   Glaring at the same pile that started this all, I shoved everything aside and crawled back into bed.  Monday, my most dreaded day of the week, is looking pretty good to me right now.

 

Kindness? Really? (Part 2)

(January 2012)

Keep Smiling!

Four days into this week.  Trusty car has broken down again with a strange aliment (Which I found out later was the cable/pulley snapping from the steering column.)  I personally believe that it is the service departments fault when they fixed my suspension the previous Friday; yet they say "no, this was an anomaly".  Certainly NOT very reassuring.

Yet I smiled.  OK OK.  No I did not smile but I TRIED!   I remained calm though it all and thought of smiling.    Here is where my kindness test really kicked in.   

  1. This second breakdown happened on a Monday night as I was attempting to bring my twelve year old to basketball practice at 6:15 pm. 
  2. I immediately called the Volvo dealerships and told them I couldn't steer my car.  They asked me to call AAA and have it towed. (I calm down a bit and even crack a smile.  OK good.  I have AAA.
  3. AAA representative tells me I DO NOT have AAA but can get it reinstated for $110.00  (lose the smile)
  4. Call the father of my children to let him know I have no car in which he calls the dealership and tells them to get me a rental and that I cannot be without a car.  (I would also like to point out, I had done the very same thing with no results.)  (Three steps back for woman kind).

I stayed in kindness.  I smiled whenever I sensed my world crumbling around me through this mini crisis.  I began to fill my head with gratitude lists. 

  • I was not driving when the cable snapped
  • I have a rental car
  • I am still able to purchase the groceries and cook at the soup kitchen where I volunteer
  • I have friends that supported me and was there for me; drove my kids to school; listened to me vent.

Through my smiling and gratitude list - strange thing started to happen - I felt better.  My situations hadn't changed one bit, but you know what?   I really did feel better.

When my kids came out of school - I smiled at them even though I did not feel like it.  When I dropped my son off at the Malden Catholic basketball game, I smiled before he left the car.  When I went to my daughters Malden High School basketball game, I smiled at her from across the way.  I smiled and waved to people I knew.  I was exhausted mentally and physically and quite frankly it hurt to smile but doggone it, I persevered and SMILED.

And you know what? I was no longer  PRETENDING to feel better - I actually was better.

For kicks, I googled smiling and I liked this page the best on About.com  http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongbeauty/tp/smiling.htm    In particular #2 and #6:

2.  Smiling Changes Our Mood

Next time you are feeling down, try putting on a smile. There's a good chance you mood will change for the better. Smiling can trick the body into helping you change your mood.

6. Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure

When you smile, there is a measurable reduction in your blood pressure. Give it a try if you have a blood pressure monitor at home. Sit for a few minutes, take a reading. Then smile for a minute and take another reading while still smiling. Do you notice a difference?

Courtesy of www.about.com

What does this have to do with kindness?  Being in a foul mood is only going to make you and everyone around you more foul.  The situation is what it is.   Some of it completely out of your control.  So, make the decision to change what YOU can change and let the rest take care of itself.

Big Smile to YOU!!!

Kelly

Kindness? Really? (Part 1)

(From January 2012)

It has been a bad week all around with the car breaking down, money drained and the dog having the runs after snagging a fiber bar from the 14 year old's backpack *gagging while I am writing this at the memories*.    The kids seemed to suck up every negative energy cell from me; and then they began morphing into 3 balls of darkness as they started to plot each others deaths, as only children can, while asking me why they could not have been the only child.  After 48 hours of hearing them nit picking and screaming at each other, I found myself plotting their deaths also (and everyone else for that matte)r, around me while asking the question to myself "WHY did I have children?"

“WOW!!!” a good friend of mine stated as I glared at her during my rant and tales of woe over coffee.  “Aren’t you the person of kindness…the seer of seeing the light through the darkness?”  For a split second I wanted to dope slap her.  Even as my hand itched to do so, I had to admit that she was right.  What was happening to me?

Thus begins another week of trying to stay in Kindness.

Kelly

I will do it tomorrow.....

I will do it after the holidays.

I will do it when the kids get out of school.

I will do it when the homework is done.

I will do it after I finish cleaning.

I will do it when I lose some weight.

I will do it after I walk the dogs.

I will do it after the rain stops.

I will do it when it is raining.

I will do it when I have some free time.

I will do it when the kids are older.

I will do it when the kids are in school.

I will do it before we go on vacation.

I will do it when we get back from vacation.

No I am serious….

I will do it tomorrow.

Who have you fed?

A Scottish minister of a previous generation recounted a dream to his congregation. He dreamed he had died and came to the Pearly Gates. To his dismay, he was denied entrance until he presented his credentials. Proudly the pastor articulated the number of sermons preached and the prominent pulpits occupied. But Saint Peter said no one had heard them in heaven. The discouraged servant enumerated his community involvement. He was told they were not recorded. Sorrowfully, the pastor turned to leave, when Peter said, "Stay a moment, and tell me, are you the man who fed the sparrows?"
"Yes," the Scotsman replied, "but what does that have to do with it?"
"Come in," said Saint Peter, "the Master of the sparrows wants to thank you."
Here is the pertinent, though often overlooked, point: great and prominent positions indicate skill and capacity, but small services suggest the depth of one's consecration.

-- Jones, G. Curtis

"Never explain yourself: Your friends don't need it and your enemies won't believe it. "

Honestly, it seems to irritate some people when I speak of peace.  The calmness and tranquility that I speak of does not mean that I do not get aggravated or annoyed, or that nothing “bad” ever happens to me ,   In fact, with all the personal garbage and baggage that I am currently going through  and carrying around probably would set others into a sanity check mode.

 It is not what happens or what is said about me but how I react to the latter that seems to be the difference between myself and others.  In my teaching and public speaking, the question I get is “how can I achieve the same peace”?

 The answer is simple and this is what I do.  If the situation I am in is something that I have done or brought upon myself, and if it is a negative factor in my life than I deal with it.  BUT, if it is a situation brought on by others than I have some choices to make….do I allow their actions to affect me in a negative way or do I remove myself from it.

 This is where the “ya buts” come in. 

 "Ya But….they said this about me".

You cannot change what they say.  In fact, you will never be able to stop them from saying anything.  Ask yourself “Is what they said true?”.   If not, then the truth that you know is enough.    I do not need to involve myself in justifying what is being said about me. 

“NEVER explain yourself…..Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it”

This takes practice……but it is achievable!

Peace be with you.



“I am sorry, Malden, I think I may be partially to blame for the violence in this city.”

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by 'I was hungry and you gave me food to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.' Hungry not only for bread - but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing - but naked for human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks - but homeless because of rejection." Mother Teresa

As I heard, again, of another shooting in Malden, I eagerly scanned the news for any information I could find, wanting to ensure that it did not happen near the schools my children were in.  Whew!  They were safe; hence, my tiny world was perfect again.  As the day progressed and I finally had a few moments, I meandered over to the comments section of the Malden Patch.  I clucked and tisked like an old hen as I silently nodded my head in agreement at some of the people that were voicing their opinions in regards to that crime and previous crimes that have been committed against my beloved City of  Malden.   Some of the finger pointing made sense and the “City” is most assuredly to blame for all of this crime.  Right?

As the hours ticked by, I soon learned that Shawn Clark, a husband, a father, a son, a friend, had passed away from his wounds.  Slowly I watched as the proverbial finger slowly turned from others and towards me.  What did I do?  I was not involved. I did not do anything!  As if a brick dropped on my head, I understood in that one moment.  My face heated in embarrassment and shame as my internal voice agreed.  That is correct, Kelly.  You did nothing.

In that very moment I realized I needed to apologize to you all for many things.  So, to everyone in the City of Malden, I am sorry.   

I apologize for my indifference, as each crime took place.  Because it was not against “my family”, I did nothing.

I apologize for not taking the time to attend the meetings of the City officials in trying to get residents to come together and take some sort of action, because Lord only knows, I didn’t even try to come up with a plan of my own.   Again, I did nothing.

I apologize for my complacency, as a Malden resident and voter. I have a say in how this beloved city is run, yet I did nothing.

I apologize for walking down the street and not picking up the trash as I go, allowing my City streets to remain cluttered and filthy.  Instead of taking pride in where I live, I have chosen instead to blame others, walk by and do nothing.

I apologize for not setting a positive example to our youth, through my own actions, words and attitudes - choosing instead to do nothing.

I apologize to all of the small businesses in Malden, for not patronizing your establishments more and getting to know you better.  For you, I did nothing.

I apologize to everyone that I have passed walking down the streets in Malden, avoiding eye contact with you.   Making excuses and justifying my behavior because you are strangers to me, you look different or you did not look back; again, I did nothing.

I can’t fix the past but going forward, I promise to take responsibility and accountability for my actions.  Instead of judging or placing blame, I will look for the perfection in each of you and ask that you do the same with me. Then I will ask, “what can I do to help”, instead of asking or expecting others to do all of the work.

We all look to the outside world, and eagerly place blame on the senseless violence that is surrounding us.  Maybe, and this is just a thought, we need to first look within ourselves and our own families and ask, “are we doing enough to improve who we are and who our children are”……and if we work harder on ourselves, maybe that would be the first step in improving what is going on around us.

Miracle on Irving Street?

(This was first posted on MaldenPatch.com)

“When the world says ‘Give Up’, Hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.’”

Maybe you drive by it everyday, forgetting that it is there.  The brick structure, strong and resilient, continues to stand through the harsh New England climate.  It has stood for over one hundred years, like many of the buildings in Malden.  Yet that building is holding something pretty special inside right now.  It is holding hope.  Behind those walls, there is a small group of boys, supported by a strong coaching staff, that are doing what some thought would be next to impossible.  They are winning basketball games.

Some of the games have been heartstoppingly close, with some wins happening by coming from a deficit to win by one point.  Each game bringing them closer and closer to a miracle of sorts - an undefeated season.

Emergence of real and tangible hope began as this 7th and 8th grade team played in the 39th Annual Malden Catholic Brother Anthony Tournament over the Thanksgiving weekend.  This tournament brought in teams from Malden, Medford, Woburn,  Melrose, Arlington, Lynnfield, Waltham, Everett, and Lynn,   It was an intense weekend, stunning everyone, by not only the physicality of the tournament by all teams,  but by the sheer determination of the Cheverus team in particular.  They never gave up.

This little team, that refuses to allow being behind or listening to others telling them they can’t, for the first time in the history of the basketball program at the Cheverus School, won that Brother Anthony Tournament that weekend.   As other teams fell away one by one, you could see the difference in not only the players but the spectators.   Maybe this team is different because they have known what it is like to lose.  Maybe they stay strong because they know that they have each other, not only from the floor, but the players and coaches on the bench. 

Some say this team wins because of their big guy, 13 year old Nathaniel Ilebode, strong and athletic, who rises above everyone to stand at 6’3”.  This gentle giant, who was awarded the prestigious Brother Anthony award for sportsmanship that weekend, is constantly battered under the boards, fighting, as two and sometimes three opponents are told to surround him in an attempt to stop his game.  Yet, as adults we all know, a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link and one player does not make a team.  This team continues to rise, because of all the players, supporting each other not only on the basketball court but off.  Coach Charlie, Coach Mike, Coach Glenn and Coach Pierre, run the team as a family, reminding all players that the true character of a man is not determined by only winning but by supporting each other academically, socially and athletically.

So is this a miracle?   Many say yes.  I think differently.  This team, inarguably, has a strong starting five, but they also have a strong supporting bench.  This team works hard both off and on the court.  They listen to their coaches and not the outside world.  It is because of this, I believe, is why this team has won all their games to date, defeating even the defending State Champions St. Agnes Trojans of Fidelity House in Arlington, yet there are more games to play.

How far will they take this none of us know, but already they have won in the hearts and minds of many, including their opponents.  As Richard Bach once stated “Sooner or later those who win are those who think they can.”  As we all know, winners in life are not just determined by the score of a game.

So, as you drive by the Cheverus School on the corner of Main and Route 60, think about that small team, studying inside, hoping their miracle will happen for them this basketball season.  May that young team realize, that win or lose, their miracle has already happened, because they continually exhibiit strength of character and perserverance both off and on the basketball court.

Kelly Ilebode is a Malden resident and published author.  You can visit her personal site at http://kellyilebode.com/.

Adversity!

Adversity!

It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
- Theodore Roosevelt