Friday, April 30, 2010

It is a new day

Today is a new day. I am awake. I am breathing. I got paid. I have a fairly stress-free work load, steady -but no major fires to put out. I said what I had to say. I prayed for what I needed to pray for.
But still.. it lingers.

"If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you. " ~ Calvin Coolidge

I am breathing.
Today IS a new day. (I keep saying it.. waiting to believe it.)

I was once told by a "wise" friend that it is more important to count your blessings than to simmer in your worries. I was also told that to take each day one step at a time.

With that being said, perhaps I should count my blessings that I know can happen today (insha allah - as the egyptian always says.. means God Willing in Arabic.)

Blessings For Today:
1. Once I leave the house, I will drink a fabulous cup of coffee.
2. I get to organize my office (which it desparately needs, and I am ready for.)
3. I love driving my little VW bug, and my ipod is fully charged.
4. I think I will listen to Journey all the way to work.
5. It's casual day at work. JEANS!
6. I have one meeting that might get a little heated, but the facts are on my side.
7. It is beautiful today.
8. I have a fun weekend planned.
9. I will pick something wonderful for lunch.
10. I will buy the peacock bracelet I saw at world market.

Simple things, but good!

"Wise are they who have learned these truths:
Trouble is temporary. Time is tonic. Tribulation is a test tube. " ~William Arthur Ward

Until next time...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Are they Co-Dependent or just Plain Clingy??

I had an excellent conversation this morning with an old friend about codependence. Or is it just "clingy?"

That is what we were trying to figure out.

Clearly, I am not a therapist. But I do have a friend who is one! I technically could consult her, but I would rather come up with my own "theories." LOL

Got to love it.

So - no, this is in no way certifiable, but it IS something I am fascinated with.

What is the definition of co-dependence? Apparently, it is a tendency to behave in ways that negatively impact one's relationships and quality of life. This behavior may be characterized by denial, low self-esteem, compliance, and/or control patterns.

Okay... but I need it spelled out a little more for me. I consulted a few resources and I found some interesting things that put it into perspective.

Codependents Anonymous offers these patterns and characteristics as a tool to aid in self-evaluation:

Denial Patterns:
I have difficulty identifying what I am feeling.
I minimize, alter or deny how I truly feel.
I perceive myself as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well being of others.

Low Self Esteem Patterns:

I have difficulty making decisions.
I judge everything I think, say or do harshly, as never "good enough."
I am embarrassed to receive recognition and praise or gifts.
I do not ask others to meet my needs or desires.
I value others' approval of my thinking, feelings and behavior over my own.
I do not perceive myself as a lovable or worthwhile person.

Compliance Patterns:

I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or others' anger.
I am very sensitive to how others are feeling and feel the same.
I am extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
I value others' opinions and feelings more than my own and am afraid to express differing opinions and feelings of my own.
I put aside my own interests and hobbies in order to do what others want.
I accept sex when I want love.

Control Patterns:

I believe most other people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
I attempt to convince others of what they "should" think and how they "truly" feel.
I become resentful when others will not let me help them.
I freely offer others advice and directions without being asked.
I lavish gifts and favors on those I care about.
I use sex to gain approval and acceptance.
I have to be "needed" in order to have a relationship with others.

Ewww.. I definitely have a few "friends" that fall into that category. ;-) WOW. Sooo.. where does this come from, and how can people break free from the patterns?
(If you did identify wil LOTS of the above patterns/statements.. there is some help/hope. There are various recovery paths for individuals who struggle with codependency.
For example, some may choose behavioral psychotherapy, sometimes accompanied by chemical therapy for accompanying depression.

There also exist support groups for codependency, such as Celebrate Recovery a Christian, Bible-based group, Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) and Al-Anon/Alateen, Nar-Anon, and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA), which are based on the twelve-step program model of Alcoholics Anonymous. Although the term codependency originated outside of twelve-step groups, it is now a common concept in many of them.

Many self-help guides have been written on the subject of codependency. One of the first was Codependent No More by Melody Beattie, published in 1987. Beattie has since written several other books on the subject. Other authors include Pia Melody (Facing Co-dependence) and Shirley Smith (Set yourself Free).)

What I want to know is what causes this?? According to it’s widely believed we become codependent through living in systems (families) with rules that hinder development to some degree. The system (usually parents and relatives) has been developed in response to some problem such as alcoholism, mental illness or some other secret or problem.

General rules set-up within families that may cause codependency may include:
It’s not okay to talk about problems
Feelings should not be expressed openly; keep feelings to yourself Communication is best if indirect; one person acts as messenger between two others; known in therapy as triangulation
Be strong, good, right, perfect
Make us proud beyond realistic expectations
Don’t be selfish
Do as I say not as I do
It’s not okay to play or be playful
Don’t rock the boat.

Many families have one or more of these rules in place within the family. These kinds of rules can constrict and strain the free and healthy development of people’s self-esteem, and coping. As a result, children can develop non-helpful behavior characteristics, problems solving techniques, and reactions to situations in adult life.

One last thing - what if you are in a co-dependent relationship? I checked into that also. Web MD hooked me up with the following info:

Red Flags To Look For:

Red Flag No. 1: Do you become obsessed with fixing and rescuing needy people?

"Codependents are more oriented to other people's reality than their own," Cannon explains. "They can tell you what everybody else is feeling or needing but have no earthly idea what they want or need. They are the finder, fixer, and Mother Theresa. That is how they see themselves, and where they get their ego fix."

A person's motive for "doing good" indicates whether they are codependent or not, says Cannon. "Are you literally giving for fun and for free -- or to get some kind of payoff?" she asks. "If you're codependent, you're trying to be someone's savior to make yourself feel good. You give to them with an expectation of return. After all I've done for you, I get to tell you what to do with your life."

Red Flag No. 2: Are you easily absorbed in the pain and problems of other people?

"Codependent people can be obsessed with the pain and suffering of the other person," Cannon tells WebMD. "That allows them to sacrifice themselves. It's really learned self-defeating behavior."

It's why women in helping professions burn out, McKee adds. "They get super absorbed in the pain of others. They have trouble setting limits in taking in that pain. Some empathy is wonderful. But when you can feel the pain more than the person in pain feels it, it hurts you."

Red Flag No. 3: Are you trying to control someone? Is someone trying to control you?

Neediness is a hallmark of a codependent relationship. One person's happiness depends on having the other person right there -- right now. Not letting you hang out with friends, calling frequently to check up on you, having to be with you all the time -- these are controlling behaviors, says McKee.

"If you get close to someone else, it's very threatening to them," he explains. "They're calling you all the time when you're away: Do you still love me? Are you still there for me? It's a very unhappy way to live."

Red Flag No. 4: Do you do more than your share -- all of the time?

What's the difference between a hard worker and a workaholic? "Motive and consequences," says Cannon. "In those gray areas of addiction -- workaholism, housecleaning, perfectionism, religion, computer games -- those are the telling signs. Is your family suffering because of what you're doing? Are you suffering?"

"Many codependent people were the favorite child because they did more -- took care of the sick parent, got straight A's, cleaned the house," McKee adds. "Now, they feel like a martyr, victimized by doing it all. The martyr has a sense of gratification, but it's not a soul-satisfying gratification."

Red Flag No. 5: Are you always seeking approval and recognition?
Low-self esteem is a mark of codependence. "Shame is the core of the whole thing. Neglected children view themselves as dumb, stupid, worthless, and defective," says Cannon. "It's ingrained into the fabric of their character. It's because the message they got as children was -- I don't matter. I'm not important. I'm not worth taking care of."

As an adult, a codependent person judges themselves harshly, says McKee. "When they get recognition, they are embarrassed. They have difficulty asking others to meet their needs. They don't believe they are worthwhile."

There is no strong sense of self, McKee tells WebMD. "Ask them who they are, and men will give their job title. Women will say I'm a wife, partner, daughter, mother -- they define themselves in terms of relationships. A healthy person would say, 'I'm an independent and adventurous person.' There's nothing wrong with being proud of your job or relationships, but a healthy person should be able to identify characteristics beyond that."

Red Flag No. 6: Would you do anything to hold on to a relationship? Do you fear being abandoned?

During childhood, the codependent person felt abandoned by a parent, so they learn to fear it, McKee explains. "They are not really good at bonding. They don't know how to bond in a constructive way that has a healthy dependency between two independent people. They don't feel able to express their own feelings, express a difference in opinion, so bonding never quite works."

People who put up with abuse "are usually bright, attractive, intelligent women," he tells WebMD. "The abuse ranges from emotional to sexual and physical abuse. Why do they go back? Because they feel so terrible about themselves... that nobody else would want them."

Sooo.. There are Five Steps to ending the dysfuction:

Step 1 - Co-dependency is when a person acts against their own personal beliefs, wants, needs, and desires to please someone else.

The first step is realizing this is happening and when exactly it is occurring. If you've ever done something for someone and really didn't want to do it because you didn't want to upset the other person, you were acting in a co-dependent manner.

Step 2 - The second step of overcoming a co-dependent relationship after understanding that one is taking place, is to begin taking action.

Stop care taking, or taking care of other people. Your friends or significant others are fully capable of taking care of themselves. There is a huge difference between caring about someone (healthy) and caring for someone (unhealthy).

Children are an exception when they are very small, but even they have the ability to make their own choices and care for themselves to a large degree at a rather young age. Caring for someone actually lowers the other person's self-esteem as they can come to believe they are incapable of taking care of themselves.

Step 3 - When you begin taking action, the other person(s) in the co-dependent relationship will notice.

You now must learn to become assertive and stand up for yourself. This is not about being selfish and it is not about being aggressive about standing up for yourself. It is about expressing your feelings openly and letting others know how you feel about having to "take care of" others. You do this by stating your boundaries of what you feel is acceptable and what is not.

 You can only take care of yourself and your own personal happiness must come first. If you are not happy and healthy, how are you supposed to function in everyday life and all of your relationships? The short answer is you can't.

Step 4 - Once you begin being assertive about changing the unhealthy relationship and others take notice and begin to cooperate, show your appreciation for their efforts. Doing so is a positive reinforcement and will encourage the other person to continue to change for the better.

Step 5 - If the other person continues to violate your personal boundaries, restate what you feel is right and that you will not allow it to continue.

This does NOT necessarily mean ending the relationship, it means that you will not be a full participant in everything while it continues to go on. For example, if a fight ensues, you would state you are not going to be a part of it and you would remove yourself from the situation by going for a walk, drive, or even going out to catch a movie or cup of coffee. You can substitute any negative behavior that violates your boundaries with the fight in the example above. Let the other person know there are consequences to their actions and that you will not tolerate the behavior any longer.

There you have it - Co Dependency 101. I am sure we all have a friend or two in our life that is "clingy" and feels the need to take care of us. I can think of 2 or 3 off the top of my head. Come to think of it - some of that "drama" I was experiencing was coming from a co-dependent person. She sucked me into her need to burrow and "direct/produce/star" in my life.

Maybe your signifigant other has put you in a co-dependent relationship. Maybe YOU are the one who is co-dependent. Either way - it takes two. We have to remember that.

I hope this helps.. and, after my conversation with my other friend (who is clearly NOT codependent) .. interesting, don't you think? ;-)

Ohh.. the conversations I have with people before 9am.. lol.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Socially Responsible

If you have not guessed by now, I am a bit of a fantatic when it comes to social issues. I am BIG on social responsibility.

I want to clarify something. Because I believe my philosophy does not line up with many of my friends. I believe we should take care of one another. Including ourselves.

George Benard Shaw said it best - "I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live."

I could not agree more.

You may be wondering.. okay, okay,.. but what are your social causes?

I have several that I am super passionate about!

1. Amnesty International - I am a HUGE supporter. Both monetarily and by writing letters. They call us "Freedom Writers." There are several priorities Amnesty works toward:

Demand Dignity
Amnesty International's Demand Dignity Campaign works to end the human rights abuses that are a cause and a consequence of poverty. Poverty is not just a matter of lack of income – it is a matter of lack of security, inclusion and participation. These are human rights violations.

Individuals at Risk
For more than 45 years, Amnesty International has come to the aid of prisoners of conscience and other individuals at risk of serious human rights violations. Thanks to the actions of Amnesty supporters, countless individuals have been freed from prison, saved from torture and protected from death threats.

Counter Terror With Justice
The "war on terror" does not justify violations of international human rights law. The Counter Terror with Justice campaign works to stop torture; close Guantánamo; end illegal U.S. detentions; stop extraordinary rendition; restore fair trials and habeas corpus; and hold accountable all those who authorized and implemented these human rights abuses.

The Death Penalty
The death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights. By working toward the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, our Death Penalty Abolition campaign looks to end the cycle of violence created by a system riddled with economic and racial bias and tainted by human error.

Immigration Detention
Immigration is growing and increasingly visible. Immigrants and their families carry all their human rights with them when they move. But undocumented immigrants often live in the shadows and are at heightened risk of human rights violations. Amnesty International calls for immigration reform to ensure immigrants are treated with full respect for their human rights and human dignity.

Stop Violence Against Women
A campaign to stop violence against women. The Stop Violence Against Women campaign vows to break the silence around violence against women, and to create a world where women and girls are afforded their basic human rights.

Arms Trade
There is clear evidence that the international transfer of arms or the training of foreign security forces can provide repressive governments and abusive armed groups with the means to carry out or intensify gross human rights violations.

International Justice
Amnesty International is committed to create an international system of justice that complements and reinforces national justice systems. Such a system is essential to deter those contemplating human rights crimes, to enable survivors to obtain justice and redress, and to support post-conflict reconciliation.

LGBT Human Rights
Around the world, the human rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people are violated daily. Many of those who speak up for their rights are persecuted with impunity.

2. People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals- I support both monetarily and by using their "stickers" on all return letters.;-) I have these little "animal rights" stickers that I seal envelopes with. I also boycott (personally) any food establishment that they recommend. For example - KFC.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with more than 2 million members and supporters, is the largest animal rights organization in the world.

PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in laboratories, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry. We also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of beavers, birds and other "pests," and the abuse of backyard dogs.

PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.

3. Girl Scouts of the USA - I grew up in the Girl Scouts, I later volunteered for the Girl Scouts, and I even worked for the Girl Scouts. I truly believe in the character building that is offered through this organization.

Girl Scouts of the USA is the world’s preeminent organization dedicated solely to girls—all girls—where, in an accepting and nurturing environment, girls build character and skills for success in the real world. In partnership with committed adult volunteers, girls develop qualities that will serve them all their lives, like leadership, strong values, social conscience, and conviction about their own potential and self-worth.

4. The American Heart Association - Yes, I work for them, but YES - I truly believe in the mission. It has affected me personally. I do give back in our workplace giving program, and if I ever leave the AHA - I will definitely work as a volunteer.

The American Heart Association is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is: "Building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke."

The mission statement was updated by the American Heart Association during its Annual Meeting in April 2007. The mission statement undergoes a formal review process every third year.

The association's impact goal is to reduce coronary heart disease, stroke and risk by 25 percent by 2010. Progress toward the goal will be measured according to these indicators:

Reduce the death rate from coronary heart disease and stroke by 25 percent.

Reduce the prevalence of smoking, high blood cholesterol and physical inactivity by 25 percent.

Reduce the rate of uncontrolled high blood pressure by 25 percent.

Eliminate the growth of obesity and diabetes.

5. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association, Inc. - I suffer from PCOS and I find it to be one of the most confusing diseases a person can deal with or live with. I am learning more and more and I want to go further with this organization.

Formed in 1987, PCOSupport is an all-volunteer grass-roots organization that is operated by women with PCOS and those who support them. This organization is dedicated to serve the many women who struggle on a daily basis to deal with quality-of-life as well as life-threatening consequences of PCOS if untreated. We celebrate the many victories over the PCOS condition that have been achieved by working together and sharing information on the management of PCOS, not just at the symptomatic level but at its very core. We offer hope to those who feel alone and isolated, as PCOS is known to affect between 5 and 10% of the female population from puberty through the end of life.

6. Ovarian Cancer National Alliance - Many of my female family members have died from Ovarian Cancer.

The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance is the foremost advocate for women with ovarian cancer in the United States. To advance the interests of women with ovarian cancer, the organization advocates at a national level for increases in research funding for the development of an early detection test, improved health care practices, and life-saving treatment protocols. The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance educates health care professionals and raises public awareness of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

7. Voices of Meningitus -  I have suffered from Meningitus three times and it is a horrific virus. There is a group pushing to educate more people about meningitus.

School nurses have joined together as Voices of Meningitis to reach parents with an important message: although rare, meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial illness that includes meningitis (the inflammation of the protective layer surrounding the brain and spinal cord) and septicemia (blood poisoning) which can potentially cause death or disability of an otherwise healthy teen within just 1 day.

That's just a few of the national organizations I support. I am also a huge supporter of the arts, cultural activities and other local organizations. (Greater Birmingham Humane Society, Local Church charities.. etc.)

"In the end, poverty, putridity and pestilence; work, wealth and worry; health, happiness and hell, all simmer down into village problems." ~Martin H. Fischer

What groups do you support? How do you make this world a better place?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Forgive Daily

I am reading this book - again. The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris.

It basically involves a married, Presbyterian woman who decides to spend about 3 years living in a catholic, Benedictine monastery for inspiration for her poetry.

Weird, I know.

But it spoke to me.

If you did not know, one of my "gotta do some day" items was to spend a weekend on a retreat at a monastery. Which, BTW, I did last May. May 8th to be exact.

I did a little research on apparently Alabama is a "hot bed" of catholic goodies. I really was just looking for an experience. I found that a little town north of Birmingham has just what I was looking for. A Benedictine Monastery - St. Benard's Abbey.

I actually went. Seriously. I checked myself into a monastery just to experience what it is like to be "God focused" for an entire weekend.

I never really wrote about my experience. I talked it up before I went - but truly never shared what happened.

First of all, it totally threw me for a loop. I am not going to lie.

The grounds were simply magnificent. In a "english countryside" sort of way. It was quiet, the buildings old.. the wind was blowing just right - the entire "scene" of it all was perfect.

The rooms, as you can imagine are very sparse. You take a vow of poverty. I had a very uncomfortable bed with an old blanket and the world's biggest crucifix above my head. There was a simple folder on the bed with a schedule of prayer times, etc. No one greeted me upon arrival - my name was on a bulletin board with a room assignment. The door was unlocked.

Dinner was taken in silence with one monk reading from the bible. Breakfast in complete silence. Then lunch was more communal.

I went to mass every single time it was offered. I went hiking across the grounds. I went to the Ave Maria shrine (a trippy-mind experience all in and of itself.) I sat in a gazebo reading and actually ended up taking a nap. I went and pet the horses. I sat at the pond just contemplating life.

What I learned?? I am a social creature by nature. The Benedictine life is a HARD one to follow.

Most of the experience was emotional - and for me, I tend to state the facts. I am comfortable with sharing anger, but never much more. ;-)

Taking all of this back to the book I am reading - there is one line Kathleen mentioned. It's simple. I know it to be true, heard it a million times - but it was to "Forgive Daily."

That's a tough one. But you know what - it spoke to me.

I know the last two posts have been cryptic and I am clearly venting about someone or something. I appreciate your silence in responding to this. It was me venting, but not being able to lay it all out there on the line.

I woke up - and I forgive.

What I would like to leave you with is a few videos and pictures from my trip to the Abby. Perhaps you can pull some inspiration from the pictures and "feel" the silence. Visual images always speak volumes to me. Perhaps .. since I clearly am having trouble putting my thoughts into words (or rather the experience) - maybe I can tell the story and my feelings through the following items.

Many Blessings to you!

This one is not one of mine - but it shows the video of St. Benard's during mass! (I did not take video during mass - I thought it would be rude!)

Here is a video that someone put together of the Ave Maria Grotto.. better than what I had!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Moving On!

"Balance, peace, and joy are the fruit of a successful life. It starts with recognizing your talents and finding ways to serve others by using them."
Thomas Kinkade
The word of the week is going to be balance.
Finding balance will bring me peace. That is what is missing from my life - a sense of balance.
I have always prided myself on "going with the flow." I plan... when it comes down to it. But I have been more of a "whatever happens.. happens" type of girl for the past few years. This goes back to my previous post - I have to set some boundaries and work on me for a bit.
I will use today as an example. I have a HUGE work to-do list. My day is going to be very long. THEN I have to spend an hour or so at the gym with the personal trainer. Then I was invited to drop by someone's home - while she shows off her clothes and presents for a trip she is about to take. I need to go shopping for some basic cleaning supplies, plus I have tons of work I need to bring home.
To strike a balance, I will stick to work and cleaning. I am going to have to delay the gym by one day and said friend is going to have to wait. My life- real life- has a long long list and I need to strike a balance. Gym will be there tomorrow. Friend already has an audience for her "trip planning" and discussion. Done.
I found a great article on the web with 12 key steps to take to strike balance in your life:
Have a Mantra
A mantra is the main focus of meditation, a word or a phrase that you use to center your mind, bring calmness to the body, and assist with concentration. Use whatever word or phrase that bring you to meditation, and use it throughout the day to gain more control and feel calmer.
Maintain Rituals
A routine is something you do habitually, like drinking a cup of coffee in the morning or sit quietly in your favorite chair or writing in your journal. Ritual or routine keeps your emotions in check, and convey the balance on a regular basic.

Do One Thing At A Time
We become experts with multi-tasking these days. Try to do just one thing at a time. Carefully pay attention to what you are doing, and where you are at the moment. When you feel panic, ask yourself what one task has to be done first.

Just Say Thank You
Keep a gratitude journal will give you a better self-esteem, more energy, and felt more alert. Write down three things that you are grateful for every day, and make it a habit to say thank you to someone you admire, love, or has done you a favor.

Practice Acceptance
Acceptance means peace, and also means you are willing to face it without reacting or blaming, or getting angry. When you feel annoyed or irritated, try to connect with yourself, and then the other person. Practice acceptance to feel calmer, and use positive thinking to replace aggitation.

Do Something for Others
Kindness acts give us a deep feeling of purpose. When you do something nice for other, you have a sense of connecting to that person, and it does wonder for the mind.

Do Something for Yourself
You will not be able to take care of anyone or anything else in your life if you’re burned out or run down. Have at least 15 minutes every day to do something pleasurable just for yourself

Learn to Say No
It is challenging to say no on the spot. If you have a hard time saying no, then just tell them the famous phrase that we’ve heard all the time: “Let me get back to you.”

Tune into Nature
Spend time listening to the sounds of nature, bird singing, leaves rushing, rain drops, ocean waves, wind blowing to alter out the noises of modern life.

Visualize beauty
Let your mind goes, and visualize a beautiful picture you have seen, or been at. Concentrate on the beauty of the world to center your thoughts, and feelings.

Clean up your Surroundings
Simplify your desk, kitchen counters, or any other spot in the house that collect clutters. You will have more time to do what you love, less stress if you are not overwhelmed with your environment.

Learn Something New
There is so much to learn every day. Find something that is not familiar to you and learn about it. You never know what you might discover.

I see several tips I can incorporate immediately (or at least start with tomorrow.) I like the idea of taking time to meditate. I used to meditate all the time. I actually turned one of my extra bedrooms into a meditation room once.

The whole ritual piece is very enticing. I like having a little time to myself. For example - this blog. I take about 30 minutes out of each morning, and I attempt to write about something going on in my life.

Doing one thing at a time is something I will practice today. ;-) Let's see how that goes.

Finally saying no is going to have to be a priority today.

I hope everyone else is able to strike some balance on this Monday morning. What do you do to center yourself? Any tips would be great!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Dave Mustaine said it best, “Moving on, is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard.”

It is time to do a little spring cleaning. Since I am not the most domesticated person, I am referring to my life.. in general.

I have spent the past few weeks thinking about so many things. My future, my relationships, my home, my career, and my friendships.

I think traveling back home put so many things into perspective.

I have taken a good hard look at the past year - the sucessess and failures. I see so many things that could have been handled differently. I know what the solution is.. time to spring clean some relationships.

I do this from time to time. Take stock of my friendships. I think right now, I need to surround myself with like-minded individuals. It is time to surround myself with people who lift me higher. Also, I want to be a positive force in other's lives also.

There are a handful of people that rub me the wrong way. You know what I am talking about? You want to like them, they are technically decent people - but there is just something that does not "click" for you. Perhaps at one time you were good friends, and maybe you had some laughs. But then the relationship became a bit of a burden, or perhaps even (dare I say it) - a bit toxic.

No one is perfect. No one. No relationship or friendship is perfect. But sometimes it is time to do a little cleaning - or at least take a break from "said" person until the air is clear. It's kind of like that old rocking chair I had forever. I stored it away for a bit, and suddenly it made sense years later.

Some of my strongest friendships are like that. The really old, good ones. We take "friend/time spent" breaks, and yet we come back stronger. The really solid ones can withstand this.

I can also look at it in another way. I want to meet some new people. Some people with similar ideas and experiences. I want new friends that are intelligent, educated, settled in their lives and will not get "too involved."

I want people in my life who are willing to open up and share their lives, not be afraid of what others think. I need people who are not all about appearances, and are in touch with their reality.

That's a tall order, I know. But I have let a much younger, less experienced crowd into my life - people, I hate to admit - are not so much great friends, but more like opportunists. 

I have to admit, going home and spending time with people in my "age category" was refreshing. Between life experiences and basic understanding of how things work- there was something calming about it. Tonight I am looking forward to a dinner with a couple that are in that category. I am not saying that age is even a factor - no. Perhaps I need to rephrase and say, maturity.

I realize the past year or so, there has been a lot more drama than I have experienced in YEARS. Guess what - it involved people much younger/less mature and the things they chose to do without thinking about people involved. Why? Because it was self-serving.

Looking back over my life, I know that in my teens it was all about me, yet I was full of insecurities. I wanted so many things and could not wait to grow up. My friendships at the time were more superficial and more like the people on the show "Survivor." We were all holding on to try to "win" immunity - and used our social circle as our safety net.

In my 20s, it was definitely all about me. Just me - in general. Graduate from college. Get THE job. Get THE guy - marry, get a house.. etc. etc.

In my 30s, I have found life to be a little more easy to handle. I get what it is about, I know what I want in my life and what I do not. Unfortunately, I have let some things seep into my life that if I were more careful on who I "let in" - this would not have happened.

That's where I bring us back to center and say I am doing a little spring cleaning. I have allowed things to happen and events arise that never should have. People have entered and burrowed into my life that never should have gotten that close. In turn, friendships have dissolved and issues have arose.

What is critical is remembering that life is entirely too short to allow nonsense in. Sometimes people decide to come in and burrow. Sometimes they respectfully keep their distance. Sometimes they never give anything, sometimes they give too much. Sometimes I fall into these catgories for other people. But for now - I am concentrating on me. ;-)

I decided to consulte and see what they say about healthy relationships and boundaries.. and here is what the article said:

Growing Healthy Friendships
By Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP

What is a “friend”? Webster’s Third Dictionary even appears confused on the subject. The dictionary offers multiple definitions for friend, some of which are contradictory. To me, a friend is someone you hold in high regard, and with whom you share a mutual trust. A friend will be there for you, both in the best and the worst of times.
Everyone understands that growing a healthy garden doesn’t happen without proper soil, sunlight, fertilizing and weeding. The same principles apply to friendships. In order to thrive, they require care and maintenance. Aristotle said it simply and eloquently: “We should behave to our friends as we would wish our friends to behave to us.”
The following steps will make your friendships as hearty as your summer garden:

Find fertile soil. A friend should be someone you choose to have in your life because he or she enriches your experience. I frequently speak with women whom, out of a sense of obligation, hang onto friendships that are “barren” — where they get little in return for their efforts.

Rethink your friendships. Are you expending your energy in all the wrong places? Consider focusing your attention on a few sturdy friendships — those with strong roots and the potential for healthy, beautiful blooms!

Add sunlight. Make your friend a priority in your life. Even with hectic schedules you can get together to exercise or meet for a quick cup of coffee. Keep in touch by phone and e-mail.

Be positive and enthusiastic. No matter how good a friend he or she is, he or she will tire of constant negativity and complaints. Make your times together enjoyable and don’t forget to bring along a sense of humor.

Plant seeds. Establish a strong foundation by indicating in word and deed that you will be there for your friend, through thick and thin. Most important, make it safe for your friend to share innermost thoughts with you by always keeping confidences.

Fertilize. Don’t take the individual or your friendship for granted. Friendship is something you must earn each day — it is not an unconditional arrangement. Don’t push the limits of friendship by asking for unreasonable favors, or by taking advantage of the person’s good will. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “I do then with my friends as I do with my books. I would have them where I can find them, but I seldom use them.”

Water. Always be generous with praise and cautious with criticism. Applaud successes, and do your best to be a good listener.

Weed. When you have a disagreement, try to see things from your friend’s point of view. Choose your words carefully, as it is hard to take back things said in anger. If you are wrong, swallow your pride and apologize.

When to Let Go of a Friendship

The false notion that a friend is a friend forever, no matter what, has caused much heartache. All relationships experience ups and downs, and it is important to overlook occasional misunderstandings and differences of opinion. However, if a relationship brings you more pain than pleasure, it is time to reconsider whether or not it is a true friendship, and one that should endure.

The most important thing to remember is to treat your friends as you would like to be treated. If you do this, your friendships will remain strong and hearty despite pests, drought, wind and weather.

Finally I turned to another source and found the Top Ten Signs You have a Toxic Friendship:

1. Critical: She makes jokes, especially in front of others, at your expense.

2. Emotional manipulation: She'll stop talking to you (or not respond to texts, emails, IMs) when she doesn't get her way.

3. Disrespectful of boundaries: She may pick a fight or guilt-trip you if you say no to something small like not going out one night.

4. Self-absorbed: When you want to talk about a problem, she's busy; yet when she has a problem, you're expected to drop everything.

5. Breaks promises: Of course even the most well-intentioned friends have to break promises and plans occasionally, but if it's a pattern, then it's a problem.

6. Trash talker: If she's constantly talking about others, then she's probably talking about you.

7. Competitive: Sometimes competition is unavoidable, but if you feel like you're competing over everything — attention, grades, relationships — then it's probably not your imagination.

8. Emotionally high-maintenance: You're constantly catering to her emotions and planning for her reactions. You may even deny your own wants because it's not worth her drama.

9. Revolving door of friends: If she has issues and drama with multiple other friends (or previous ones), then it's probably not them.

10. You defend her: If you defend her with arguments like "I've known her forever" or "she's so nice," then you might want to take a closer look at her not-so-nice side.

Spring Cleaning is important. Do you spring clean relationships? If so, what do you look for in a good friend? What are you needs at this point? We are all at different levels and experiences....

Things I cannot live without

I got to thinking the other day about things/items that make my life a little brighter.

I am talking material things today.

There are several items in my home that truly make me smile or fulfills my everyday needs.

I thought I would share those with you this morning.

This is the crucifix that hung over my great grandmother's bed most of her life. When she died, I was given her crucifix. I hang a little plastic rosary over the cross. This rosary was blessed by Pope Jon Paul II. If my apartment suddenly caught on fire - this is the absolute first thing I would grab.

It hangs over my bed.

The next picture you see below is one of a painting that originated from a photo my friend Steven & Kathy took on their trip to Paris. I asked for one thing, I wanted a picture of the Eiffel Tower at Sunset - and voila! I had my mother (who is an artist) paint the pic for me.

It is one of my favorite paintings and hangs in bedroom. I like the size of it also. Whenever I move, it is such an interesting piece to put on a small space.
The next piece I have is of one of my favorite magnets on my refrigerator. I bought this little guy at the Birmingham Museum of Art my first week that I lived here. I thought it was a great reminder of how I needed to live my life. My favorite sentence is - Live with Intention.

 This is a magnet that hangs on my frig also - it is a voodoo doll that I purchased on my trip to New Orleans (one of the many trips to New Orleans.. beauty of living in the south, all of the cool cities are within a few hours drive.)

This little guy just makes me laugh. There are instructions on the little paper behind his head. Apparently you can take a piece of someone's hair and use the different color pin and attach the hair and different things will happen. *snicker*
 This is one of the gifts I received in Egypt. Gohary's family gave me the little Egyptian cat. Even before Egypt and all that entails entered my life, I always thought the cat was pretty darn cool. Well, this little guy is posed proudly in my living room.
 I love my little elephant box. Right now it has turned into our version of a candy dish. When you visit my home - this is the piece that holds all of the dark chocolate delights. ;-)
                              Here you see my favorite stool. I bought this little guy from the Georgia Children's Museum. I just love it. It makes me smile. That's all.
 Another favorite - my Eiffel Tower clock. (it now sits on my mantel - this is an older picture.) I got this for Christmas one year. I just like it!

 Here is a painting my mother did for me last Christmas. It was the replica from a postcard I got from one of my italian exchange students, Chiara. She had just returned from a trip to the Greek Isles and sent the gorgeous post card. I wanted it to be the first thing I saw when I awoke. Yes - it is across from my bed. (This is the point where I would love to scream at Blogger.. I can't seem to line my words up with the picture - please just bare with me.) The next pic is of a beautiful set of Sunflowers. I love the cheery-ness of the vase and colors together! The next section (again apologies for the running the sentences together.. blogger is acting weird at this point..) I love all of the pics and items from Egypt. I call this the Egyptian wall. My mom painted a picture of the seaside in Alexandria (where Yasser is from) and the items on the left of it are all items brought back from Egypt. The next pic you see is of my garden tub. Seriously - I cannot imagine living with a smaller tub ever again. I take a long hot bubble bath almost nightly and I always have one of my books in hand. THIS is luxury to me. Granted, it would be better with jacuzzi jets.. but I will live with this for now! Next you see is my little nook in my bed room. This is where I put on my makeup, where I write, where i just sit and stare out the window. LOVE my little space. Next is the little moon my sister made for me years ago. On the back is a really cool poem. I hang it in my bedroom still! The next photo is of my Mary figurine. She was handed painted in Columbia. I am catholic - so you know all good catholic houses have at least one figure of Mary! Next is my espresso machine. If it were not sacriliege I would set up candles in front of it. Since Blogger is acting the fool and not allowing me to type next to the pictures.. let's just say the rest of the items (if art - all done by family.) Even the photo was shot (the black and white piece) by my sister. The pillows and other "elephant' items are from Thailand (Thanks Pennapa) and a few other items are clearly middle eastern and you can guess where they came from. Once you glance at the items.. then jump to the bottom of the page where I am clearly able to resume typing!

Ahh - I can add here - the pic above is of a clay figure that hangs in my kitchen. She is from Turin, Italy - an item one of my Italian exchange students gave me.
That concludes my feeble attempt to share the items surrounding me that brings a little smile to my face!

What are some items that make you happy??? Are special.. mean something to you?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Better to have loved and lost..

Past relationships truly define how you deal with and treat a new love.

Learned behaviors can either make or break your current relationship.

I began thinking about my past 'loves' and how they shaped my idea of a healthy and happy relationship.

Not only past loves, but male influences in my life.

Where did I learn how to love? Why does my current love feel like "the one" - still?

Honesty, respect, attraction, stability, passion - these are all of the words that come to mind when I think about what a strong relationship should have.

My first "male influence" was my father. My dad is a sweet, quiet, intellectual man. He has been married to my mother for 37 years, and has stood by his wife through good times and bad. This is my father's second marriage - but he married for life. My father is a hard worker, never calls in sick unless he literally cannot get off the couch. He provides for his family, he does what is asked and he tries to keep the peace. I am blessed to have someone like him as the "rock" of our family.

Another major "male influence" in my family was my maternal grandfather. Papa was a charismatic man. Attractive, wicked sense of humor, and he spoiled me rotten. You can tell he was a bit of a "play boy" when he was younger - which always made me laugh when he told me his stories. My favorite story of him was when he was fighting in World War II, there was a period of time he was M.I.A. I even saw newspaper clippings of this. Lo and behold, he was off "partying" and to quote him.. "I do-si-doed to the bed with two fräuleins." Silly, crazy - but I was the apple of his eye.

I am blessed to have such a strong, constant influence with these two men. Two extremes, two hard working, dedicated men.

Looking back over the years, I have to admit - I never thought boys were "gross." Upon entering kindergarden, I had little "crushes" on some of the boys. In elementary school, there was one boy in particular that I thought was "soooo cute." However, I never had a boy friend through out those years.

By the time I made it to middle school, suddenly boys noticed me. I had a few "boyfriends." Those "relationships" lasted a total of 3 weeks - and back then, that was a loooong time. lol Sweet little boys, who you never got to be alone with, or go anywhere with. More of a "school" relationship.

In high school, things changed. This is where you begin learning more about how to handle yourself and interact with boys. I dated a few guys for a few months at a time. Nothing serious. We would see each other at school, maybe hang out at each other's homes, and talked on the phone. That's it. To be perfectly honest, I was what some would call a "good girl." I did not do anything in high school that was considered controversial with a boy.

There were two boys, in particular, that I dated for a long period of time in High School. Jason & Allen.

I first saw Jason in middle school and immediately "fell in love." Later - by 9th grade, we started dating. Jason was waaaaaaay too advanced in the world of relationships than I. Plus he was older. Needless to say - I learned at an early age that some boys would use a girl for some other things. Luckily, he left me - because I would not engage in certain activities. At the time - it broke it my heart. But looking back, I am one lucky girl.

Then my first "relationship"  was with a boy named Allen. He and I dated for two years in high school. Sweet boy, very smart, and very motivated when it came to his future goals. Allen was an excellent influence in my life. He taught me how to truly push to do better in school, and alot about loyalty and respect. We "broke up" about two weeks after my high school graduation. Why? To move on - and grow. I am proud to report - I heard he is doing quite well, married with a child.

In college, I had another very long relationship. Brad and I met my sophmore year and began dating all the way until about one month after graduation. Brad was very smart, creative, sensitive and a kindred spirit. We were truly best friends and went through so much together. Brad "broke up" with me a few weeks after we graduated from college, to move on. We were going in different directions - and I am happy to report he is married with children and doing well.

About a year or two later I met Chris. Funny, lovable, "good ol' boy"  Chris. He came from a great family, and was handy with automobiles, the garden - basically he could fix anything. He catered to all of my needs and basically wore me down - I finally decided to get married. We dated two years before we married. Unfortunately it did not last. We were at different levels of "maturity" and our interest were completely different. The reasons I married him were for stabilty and a more "normal" lifestyle. Unfortunately, I believe that he had a chemical dependancy and a wandering eye. I will stop there.

Needless to say - after 8 years of "together" we made the hardest decision to go our separate ways. We talked about divorce in July. Stuck it out. He asked for a divorce on New Year's Eve. I moved out in February. He moved to Mobile one week later. Were we divorced by March 17th, and he has since remarried and I believe he has a step child.

Then I met a wonderful man. If I could dream up my "perfect" guy - I swear to you - it is my egyptian. As a young girl, I was always attracted to the tall, dark and handsome. I love the "mediterranean" look. I was always a sucker for an accent. I love intelligent, creative men. I like a "strong" man - who will not let me run all over him (because I assure you - I tend to do that.) I wanted someone who had strong religious beliefs and appreciated art - travel - writing and had a strong desire to collect excellent works of literature. I needed someone who LOVED vampire movies, and appreciated decorating our home. I needed someone who cares about the way he looks, but is relaxed enough not to take himself too seriously.

Guess what? My egyptian fills all of those requirements. Silly stuff. But man - every thing - and let me say  one more time - EVERYTHING I ever looked for I found.

Sure, nothing is perfect. What I have to take into consideration is cultural and religious differences. Of course that is tough. But I like a challenge. Man - does my mind have to stay opened to just function!

To wrap this random ramble up - the male influences in my life have made all the difference. Yes, I loved a few times and yes I lost. But it all worked out in the end. Think about it - I did not meet my egyptian until I was 34. Love can come later, and yes.. all of the things I learned from the 'influential men' in my life have helped build this relationship.

Another thing I love about this relationship - we fell for each other at an equal pace. No one person liked the other first, or more. It is equal. In other relationships, one or the other seemed to love the other person more. I did not have a tumultuous beginning where there was the "wishing and hoping." It started out strong.. and has remained strong. Yes, we hit some hard, hard moments where you wonder if it is going to last. But the reasons were simple and the lessor of man could not handle the cultural adjustment.

Who has made a difference in your life? What are the truths of your relationships? Are you where you want to be? Are you preparing yourself for what may come?

I am glad I loved and lost. Because now.. I can just love.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Flowers and Rainbows.

It is a beautiful spring day!
That is a fact.

I am exhausted from having so much to do at work.
That is a fact.

I am emotionally drained when I think of the issues my egyptian is dealing with.
That, too, is a fact.

I spent last night thrust into a subculture that part of me feels is not educated on their rights - not as much as they should be.

Let me explain. I have a dear friend who is a lawyer. One of his specialities is same-sex couples estate planning. He wants to really propel his business and asked me about some ideas on how to really push his business.

For one - I asked whether or not he had a website up. He did not. So I got my sister to help out in that sense. Then I helped him develop a fact sheet, a FAQ sheet, and come up with a way to market to individual groups. All was accomplished. Then of course, I agreed to sit at his first BIG symposium at UAB last night. Help him encourage people to sign up for his services/consultations etc.

What I experienced was an interesting sub-culture that truly does not have any rights at all. I listened to five speakers. My friend discussed the need for a will/estate planning - since these couples cannot legally marry and their assets can be divided up by the state (if a proper will is not written.)

The next speaker discussed Power of Attorny. The examples of a same-sex couple sitting in a hospital room, and one of the two is not even allowed to help make decisions, and technically cannot be in the room.. that was pretty hard core.

Then the next guy talked about abuse within the same sex community. He touched on the rules of adoption (you can adopt a child if you are a gay couple, however you cannot foster a child.) The next speaker talked about how to control items after a BIG break up.. when both parties are not legally married.

The last speaker was the president elect for the LGBT community. He kindof pulled it all together and explained the laws in Alabama.

To break it down - if you are in a same-sex marriage - you essentially have no rights. You must protect yourself with items like a will, a power of attorny. Save receipts.. do your homework.

This post is not in favor of or disputing the right to be married if you are in a same-sex relationship. I am simply stating the facts.. according to what I heard last night.

I am friends with  probably a handful of gay or lesbian couples. Many are in committed, loving relationships. It is not my place to tell someone who they love is wrong or right. It is not my place to say anything of the sort. I believe that is something a person must take up with God. Simple as that. I am in no position to judge.

But I do believe in one thing STRONGLY - as a human being - you have every right to be treated fairly.

There was a time when a couple in America could not get certain rights due to the color of their skin. Later, laws were put in place to protect their rights.

Aren't the laws set up now to discriminate against same-sex couples?


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