Tag: History

Anything Is Possible In A “How-To” World

Pretty sure we live in the “How To” era. It’s a virtual world of self-help everywhere we turn. How to feel – sleep – eat better, live longer, save money, fight fat – depression – chronic pain, change our DNA, our life, become happy, aware, creative, organized, joyful…or the biggy –  find peace.

Is it working? Maybe. Maybe not.

My kindred-spirited good friend told me she will never find that zen-like state of peace no matter how hard she tries. Why? Because of what she calls a History of Horribleness.

Yea, I get that. Kind of hard to feel the zen when we’ve endured a lot of crazy and it sometimes still surrounds us. Oh she’s happy, but the undercurrent of inner peace? Forget it.

And it’s not just dealing with whatever is going on inside our own life – family, job, health, finances – all our personal “stuff.” There’s crazy stuff happening in the world right outside our front door. Anybody else notice that the outside world is the same, pretty much every day?

We get so caught up in it – all of it. Why do they do this. What are they thinking. Why are they acting like this. What are they doing. When will they fill in the blank. Doesn’t matter who “they” even is.

Life’s intensity can often define the parameters, and it impacts us. We try to explain, understand, make excuses, deal with whatever is happening – from the world-view all the way down to our bird’s-eye view. But sometimes we can’t figure things out. Or know what is really going on. Or worse, change or fix it.

We can’t always choose the parameters. So, Zen is easily thwarted.

But life itself seems to be paradoxical. It’s the ultimate bliss and torture, beauty and heinousness. And we’re supposed to somehow both manage and accept the paradoxes to obtain a sense of peace. How do we choose the parameters?

From the unlimited supply of “how to’s.” And thank goodness there are plenty to choose from. Key word? Choose.

We can choose to see things differently, feel differently and act accordingly no matter who around us doesn’t. We can choose to flow through it all as if the horribleness is just part of it. We can choose to infuse moments of sucky reality with acceptance. We can stay focused on our personal intentions, hopes and dreams in spite of “them” or “it.”

We can “create” with whatever we “choose.” It takes some serious commitment, especially after a history of horribleness. But it’s true. Choosing changes everything. 

Loving that How To.

Locking Down Our Destiny Is Pretty Hard To Do

Do you ever wonder what on earth you are doing here at this particular point in time? Are we here to evolve our souls or make an impact, or do we just live for a while then turn to dust? Because however you look at it, we are here now, making and breaking history.

The movie Slum Dog Millionaire (love it) tries answer that with a multiple choice question ~ “Jamal Malik is one question away from winning 20 Million Rupees. How did he do it?”  A. He cheated  B. He’s lucky  C. He’s a genius  D. It is written.

I’m an answer D’er. We have our own destiny, it’s already written and we’re here to fulfill it. The bigger question is, what is it? For some it’s obvious, for the rest of us, not so much.

Until this year I never really questioned my place and time in history, I was always just happy to be an American at a time that life in our first-world country was pretty okay. So I just went about my business trying to fulfill my unknown-but-written destiny.

Turns out our path to destiny comes with challenges we have try to work through, hopefully learning as we go. Doesn’t matter what they are – health, job, people, life – I was feeling pretty happy recently to have finally overcome (or so I thought,) years and years of rollercoaster challenges, thereby rocking my destiny.

Then things started getting tricky. Trump tricky. And all of a sudden some of those challenges I thought I was done with – bullies, narcissists, abusers, sociopaths, dangerous, angry humans – is happening on a massive, grandiose scale beyond what most people really imagined. Doesn’t matter what side you’re on, historical chaos ensues.

So the other day when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by the state of national affairs, I asked myself, any idea why you are here at this particular point and time? Was this written? Did you pick this time to exist to experience this? Or are you just lucky? Because some might say experiencing hardship is good for the soul. Think about Moses and the Israelites. Or slaves. Or Jews in Nazi Germany. Syrian refugees. Was that good for them? Did they meet their destinies or their fates?

And now why, all of a sudden, do I feel like I need to re-examine my own destiny more closely? To dig deeper and lock it down? I thought I already did that. But thanks to our lifetime’s history-in-the-making, I get the opportunity to keep on keeping on my own path of destiny discovery.

Maybe that’s the whole point. Whether we are here to evolve, make a known impact, or simply turn to dust, wouldn’t we really like to know what on earth we’re doing here? I guess I shouldn’t work so hard at it. After all, I’m pretty sure it’s already written.

 

 

Easter’s Got A Story Beyond Bibles and Baskets – Who knew?

Myth or legend, truth or fiction, or maybe somewhere in between, come the stories of our national holidays. Easter weekend is upon us. For some that means baskets of candy and colorful eggs. For others, the faithful observation of religious beliefs.

As I perused the history of Easter to jot a relevant post while slurping a Cadbury egg, I came across some interesting information.

easter angelHold onto your Easter bonnets people – especially those who celebrate the Resurrection. Turns out that there isn’t really definitive “proof” of the observance of Easter in the Bible. Yes, I was shocked too. And since there are different versions of the Bible, the translations leave plenty of room for interpretation.

Like with any script, scripture, prose, or pondering, the meaning is in the eyes of the beholder. That’s not to say that what is sacredly celebrated isn’t real. I just found it surprising that one of the most recognized and celebrated Christian holidays is so loosely defined in the Good Book. When I really started digging, it was astounding how many “original” Easter stories there truly are – too many to even make sense of. But for the curious, here is the tip of the iceberg.

ostaraThe word Easter itself comes from roots going way, way back to the ancient pre-Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar, associated with fertility. There are other goddesses – Eastre or Eostre, a goddess as celebrated by medieval Christians during the spring equinox, and Ostara. Spring is a time of fertility in nature, and the cycles of crops supporting survival. The glory of spring after a desolate winter has been recognized since the beginning of time throughout the world.

As history unfolds, longstanding celebrations around the sunrise and change of seasons eventually (and allegedly) became the more traditional history we see of the Resurrection and what initiated the newer era of Jesus.

easter bunnyThe Easter bunny has its own place in this holiday’s history. First in pagan roots relating to the spring fertility and survival issue, then later by the Germans, who brought the hare to the United States in the 1700s much like Santa Claus, offering symbolic meaning for children. The eggs of course originally symbolized fertility and the egg celebration sprung from there.easter basekt

Easter, as a word and tradition, has shape-shifted through the ages, holding different meanings at different times in recorded history. While there are over two billion Christians in the world, one third in America, Easter is not globally celebrated on the same date.

And let’s not forget Passover – a sacred holiday celebration for Jews honoring when God and Moses took them out of slavery changing their lives and history forever. Although not related to Easter, it often coincides, depending on the calendar year.

This all certainly offers pause for thought, and shows there are many ways to view a national holiday. So I’ll leave you with a little poem as we embark on this enchanting time.

***

Twas the weekend of Easter and all through the house, I snuck some foil chocolates as quiet as a mouse. Although there were plenty in the baskets we had, I didn’t want my family to think I was bad. 

Raiding the stash of candy is fun, at any holiday not just one. Holidays are meant to be filled with joy, no matter what reasons we choose to employ. 

Easter is special for many I know, it goes beyond chocolate and colored-egg glow. For those who celebrate the occasion as such, we honor your faith’s personal touch. 

But whatever the reason you choose to engage, Happy Easter to all who read this whole page.

Basket filled with multi-coloured chocolate easter eggs.

When History Hits You In The Head, You Might Want to Pay Attention ~ A Little Story of Mystery and Meaning

I went innocently into our local pizza shop after school to get a slice for my son who was next door at the barber shop. It is newly remodeled and simplistic – barn beams, wooden floor, bright, natural light coming in the big windows reflecting off of the new-but-made-to-look-old metal Cola signs.

I noticed a woman whispering to her daughter as I approached the tin-type counter where racks of handmade gourmet pizza were ready for the choosing. She quickly turned away and in a hushed tone said, “Yes, that’s her,” when I flipped my sunglasses to the top of my head. Her daughter’s eyes immediately met mine then diverted as her back became my view.

Unsure and confused, my belly flopped, my heart fluttered, my teeth clenched and I felt my eyes asking “What? What did that mean?” Did she have me confused with someone else? I used to work in the village bookstore only a few storefronts down, if she meant that was me from there, why wouldn’t she have said hello? I should not have even cared or wondered, but the vibe in the shop felt surreal.

Like the thorns on a perfect rose, Sir Husband and I occasionally get pricked by PTSD, and never know when it will hit. If a whiff of chaos or drama even comes our way, our frayed nervous system and adrenaline ignites.

It’s not like Sir Husband and I are fugitives exiled to the rural frontier we call home, to live in seclusion and solitude. We opted to come here after a harrowing few years on the figurative front-end of a gun. Held hostage by an unknown majority for declaring our love and reinventing our lives to be happy, our story reeks a lot of The Scarlet Letter – a Nathaniel Hawthorne great.

Which reminds me of another story – and perhaps a valuable sidebar.

Growing up, my family travelled annually to New England, where we spent summers on the shores of Cape Cod and the islands, the cobblestone streets of Boston, and surrounding historical towns. There was something about the whole area that spoke to me, as if I were returning home. To this day I feel quite a connection there, from a former life I’m certain.

One summer we visited Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, where many literary greats, including Nathanial Hawthorne, eternally slumber. It was a gorgeous summer day, and our 1970’s station wagon was packed with our family and cousins. This was one stop on a long sight-seeing itinerary for our families.

As we turned in through the old iron gates, we slowly drove on the narrow road that twisted and turned and wove through the hilly, wooded 1800’s cemetery. The sun was shining, there was not a cloud in the sky. We had to see them all on what is known as “Author’s Ridge,” Louisa May Alcott, Henry Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and of course Nathaniel Hawthorne.

author's ridge

Excited to see this historical spot, we stopped the car, opened the doors and literally poured out in a cartoonish fashion, and began our walk through Author’s Ridge. The grass was thick and green, the landscape perfectly attended, and there was a large clearing without trees prominently displaying old, worn headstones.

hawthorne gravestone

 

As we approached the grave of Hawthorne, within seconds the sky turned instantly dark. Out of nowhere black, heavy clouds descended and the wind began to blow. It whipped up so strongly that it broke a limb off of a tree from somewhere, which literally flew across the ridge missing me by a few inches and knocking my father in the head – to the ground. True story, right at Hawthorne’s grave.

Obviously spooked, we gathered up my father, ran back to the car with his bleeding head in his hands, got in and left. As we neared the exit gate, the clouds disappeared, the wind stopped, and the sun shone brightly again. I’m not kidding.

Think there’s a message there? Years later my life resembles that of Hester Prynne, minus the illegitimate child. While it’s hard to believe in this day and age, public harassment, false accusations, and incessant vitriol does occur.

The irony of course is that Sir Husband and I are truly kind, caring and sensitive people, who don’t subscribe to vitriol. But our story of a beautiful love is classic – wrongly convicted for it and stuck with haters’ pain. Is it possible Hester Prynne was real? They say there’s some truth in all fiction, and history repeats itself.

We can detach from drama and chaos, but sometimes we can’t get away, for our own history lives inside of us, even to this day. I suppose a trip to the cemetery might answer some questions and such. Or maybe I’ll close the chapter for now because some days it’s just too much.

scarlet letter page

It’s OK to Rewrite Your Life Story

We all have a personal life story and we tend to live by it. It defines us. Question is, do we carry the story or does the story carry us? And more importantly, why?

What prompted this personal inquisition is simple. Frank Pepe of Pepe’s Pizza. It’s probably the best pizza in the world, or in New England anyway. The official name, Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana, opened in 1925 when a young Italian immigrant and his bride decided to use their baking skills to first open a bakery, then a pizzeria. What’s interesting is the man’s work ethic in spite of his illiteracy, and the iconic business he built just on his love of the “humble pie” he created – a little homemade sauce and grated cheese on homemade bread. His story is quite incredible.

Mine, not so much. Or maybe it is, depending on perspective. It’s easy for me to say my story is tough, after all, I have lived the pain. Our story is built day by day, as we walk through life, absorb it, and form an opinion about it. We start to walk the walk and talk the talk, and the story becomes ingrained, flowing through us like an essential life force.

The drawback though, is that as we turn each page we tend to keep each page before it, hanging on to each chapter, and before we know it we are lugging around an encyclopedia. It’s not only heavy, we refer to it over and over like an internal google search engine. It’s then this book of past experiences that keeps us going.

If we love our story, or even just like it, then great. Like Frank Pepe, we can live a happy and productive life. That’s not to say it’s easy, but it more often than not feels good.

For some of us though, the story doesn’t feel good, or is full of regret, because hindsight of course is the clearest lens. So do we adjust the lens or put the cap on and just keep going? Not sure it’s that simple. The essence of our story hangs over us like a permeable gas.

And it’s not just the story, it’s the characters. How do you change your story when so many of the woeful players remain unchangeable? Stories and lives intertwine, making the narrative that much more complicated. I’ve been trying to rewrite my story for years but am stuck with lasting congruencies.

Therein lies the lesson. Several words to rethink this come to mind – like forgive…let go…forget…ignore…but those all seem so hard. I tried acceptance for a while, but that just felt like defeat. I want to be in charge of my story, not the other way around.

Which brings me to the word acceptance. We can’t change the past, but we can accept it and acknowledge what it has taught us. The story is what it is, but we can stop telling an old version, then shift it however we choose. Acceptance is a powerful choice, in both in past experiences and future.

A while back I saw the phrase “love life and live it.” How about live life and love it? I bet that’s exactly what Frank Pepe did, and his story still lives to tell it.

 

normal_Pepe--storefront-copy

My Little Piece of Camelot

I hate politics, but I love the Kennedys. Oh sure, we adore the Camelot legend, although it’s more ironic than Jackie thought it would be when she referenced it, considering the reality of Camelot is not the fairy tale we idealize. I’m talking about The Kennedys. Because once upon a time I knew them.

If someone had told me that I would not just be working for, but living with the Kennedys at some point in my lifetime I would have thought they were crazy. That sounds odd I guess, because they are just people, a regular family with regular function and dysfunction, a lot of money, and yes, a lot of visibility. But it didn’t feel out of the ordinary when I was with them, although it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

I was the personal assistant to Vicki Kennedy, married to Michael, who died in a skiing accident in 1997, and was the son of Ethel and Bobby. Vicki is the daughter of Frank Gifford, from his first marriage. It was his recent death that opened the memory box. I got to thinking about it when I sent her an email this week with our condolences.

We lived a couple of miles away from them in a little ocean town in Massachusetts, about 30 miles south of Boston. I had just married Mr. Ex, and had the opportunity to nanny for a local family for quite a bit of money. I chose to do that instead of a regular 9-to-5 job, and I’m glad I did. Their daughter was friends with Vicki and Michael’s daughter, so I met Vicki one afternoon when I dropped off the girl for a playdate. She was lovely and we clicked instantly. She needed someone to stay at her home for a month with her three young children, and manage the household while she and Michael were in Greece. There was a tiny staff of two or three and a crew of people renovating the beautiful home on the ocean. I accepted the offer with gratitude, then spent the next couple of years by her side.

I won’t say it wasn’t interesting being on the inside of a Kennedy home. Inside a Kennedy home. Living there. Working there. Sleeping there. It was very special indeed.

I met many people from family to friends to actors to politicians. I saw hundreds of family photos, the ones you don’t see in the news. I saw letters and mail and invitations. I saw memorabilia passed down from generations, family memorabilia. I saw artifacts collected from around the world, things you would see in a museum. I saw and handled documents that just hung out in file cabinets that probably should have been in the Library of Congress.

And I saw something else. They were a normal family. Privileged perhaps, but they did not live in that mindset. They were kind, caring, generous, down-to-earth people. They ate regular meals at home. Kept regular schedules. Worked regular jobs. They had friends and social events really no different than others. They planned regular vacations and normal family gatherings and had a house filled with the chaos you would have in any house containing three young children and two dogs. There was sibling rivalry and sibling fighting, especially among the grown Kennedy brothers. The phone rang like any phone, but when you answered it you may get the secretary to the President. That’s all. Normal-ish.

I didn’t feel like my time there was unique, although I know it was. And I honored it. But what struck me the most was that Vicki was a lot like me. A kind person, and a good mom trying to raise her children in a sane and peaceful way. Only in her case, with a large extended family who just happen to be important.

But there was more, the layer that is hard to ignore. The stories we know from the history books are real, but in person I was able to truly feel. I saw a family whose lives have been touched by incredible tragedy, deep, deep loss, and pain. And a family whose bond and whose love is beyond measure because of it. It is wrought with drama as imagined, and an intensity that demands attention. Sure I know a few secrets, but they will go to my grave. Every family has them, and it’s important to just let them be.

In the end it’s not about the politics, or the history books, or even about the secrets. The destination is the same, as Frank Gifford reminds us this week. It’s just all about the ride. One I will never forget.

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