Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gratitude, solitude and a new year

I have been remiss in my blogging duties, caught up I suppose in life- work, kids, holidays, dating and all of the wonderful things that I am supposed to be writing about. The dawning of new year and in fact a new decade seems like a good time to reflect, write and of course reinvent.

What have I learned in the past year and decade? More than I can even imagine if life experience is truly the best teacher. In the past ten years I became a mom for the second time, traveled to China again, managed some health challenges and surgery, survived the incredible pain of betrayal and divorce, mourned the loss of my father, moved, dated, worked, deepened friendships, made new friends and welcomed my sister into my home. I have cried, meditated, mothered, smiled, prayed, loved, laughed, written, read, and in the end celebrated my life..the good and the tough times. I love the concept of gratitude as a form of prayer. It is the ultimate thank you to God, the Creator, the Universe - whatever your beliefs tell you about a higher power or plan in our lives. Seems like a simple concept, but one that I must remind myself to do. Makes sense that if I want to open my life, heart and spirit to new joys, people and opportunities, I had better recognize what is all around me already.

For me that sometimes takes solitude..and getting quiet to drown out the noise of bills, kids, barking dogs, unfinished manuscripts, the ex-husband, late child support, bosses who want reports and numbers, and great guys I meet who don't seem to realize how fabulous I am (LOL) or who are not quite ready for a woman like me. My life is actually full of blessings that I see clearly when I open my eyes.

In 2010, I will find a way to give myself that solitude, quiet time for thinking, reflection, visualizing and dreaming. This is my year to manifest so much in my life- new love, a relationship, finished manuscripts, career growth or change, the completion of a half-marathon, a healthy and fit body... One of the reasons that I love walking/jogging vs. going to the gym is that it gives me a chance to be alone (a rarity in my life.) All of my dreams for the year are going to require that gift to myself of quiet time to connect with spirit and with myself. I have found meditation to be extremely helpful and soothing to my soul. Clearing my thoughts through mediation actually helps me get clarity about all the situations in my life -if of course I want clarity! Getting quiet will help me connect to write, to more clearly map out my career, to get aha moments of insight about ny kids and to recognize that special man when he shows up. It also results in me being a little kinder and more gentle with myself..

Happy New Year to all- I hope everyone finds peace, joy and your own sources of gratitude in the coming year.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bittersweet memories and agreements

December 11 - this has been a strange day for me. Ten years ago today I married my now ex-husband. Yes, this would have been my 10th wedding anniversary. However, almost 5 years ago at the end of January, 2005, my world felt like it was falling apart. I learned of my husband's infidelity and 9 month affair and by the summer of 2005, our marriage was officially and legally over. All of these years later, after the tears, prayer, meditation, counseling and ultimately forgiveness - of him and of myself, I find myself thinking about what this now long ended union brought into my life. I felt no anger or bitterness today...just a twinge of sadness of what might have been, not neccesarily with him, but with a man who really would have loved and cherished me as the vows ask one to do.

Top on the list of what I gained from my marriage is Dani - the amazing, beautiful young woman who became my stepdaughter and now is a 21 year old college junior. So hard to imagine that I met her when she was in the 5th grade which is the same age as my Lily. Ten plus years of having Dani in my life is well worth the pain of my marriage and divorce. She will always be my stepdaughter and in my heart.

I also learned so much about myself during that short lived marriage, through surviving betrayal and then divorce. I learned that I am stronger than I could have ever imagined, that time really does heal, that I can bite my tongue almost all the way off to stop myself from saying something that will hurt my kids and that forgiveness and healing from the worst pain imaginable is actually possible.

A dear friend of mine is reading the Four Agreements - a fabulous book by Don Miguel Ruiz. I read it a number of years ago while going through my divorce and his mention of it brought back its meaning to me.

The book is a fascinating way to look at life and find happiness based on the Toltec teachings. The agreements help you break other false agreements that you have made with yourself and with others that cause pain and needless suffering. They remind me of some of the messages of detachment that you find in Buddhist philosophy.

The Four Agreements are:
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don't Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don't Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

The agreements sound like basic common sense but are harder to live by than they might seem. Agreement number two in particular seems to apply to what this day signifies to me. Realizing that nothing that my ex-husband said, did or didn't do really had anything to do with me. It was all of his "stuff", his problems, his issues and lessons. I had my own lessons and stuff to deal with but learning not to take his actions and words personally was HARD but neccessary for my healing and ability to make it through the pain I was feeling at that time.

Funny how things can come full circle. The Four Agreements is really a book about living authentically- my biggest goal in my desire to reinvent my life.
Time to pull it off the bookshelf!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Vicky's secrets, lies, men, daughters and body image

I am a 46 year old woman.. and for at least 30 of those years, probably more, I hate to share the fact the a common theme and/or concern for me has been my body. Weight, body image, seeing myself as too fat, or believe it or not at times too thin (much more rare - early 20's when I was living on Dexatrim and didn't eat)..never good enough. Thinner was always better and meant pretty when I was growing up. I know that I share this issue with many women. Gorgeous, brilliant, successful and interestingly enough - often in women with wonderful figures. They (and I) always find our flaws. How can I have so much in life and still let a day be filled with concern because my hot, red, party dress for next week's bash may not fit exactly as I think it should.

I know I am not alone. I have a colleague- a drop dead gorgeous woman who works out regularly and literally has the perfect body. She was lamenting recently about the fact that she ate two or three slices of pound cake over the weekend. I would venture to guess than even the hot Victoria's Secret models worry over camera angles, cellulite and imagined body flaws.

It would be really convenient to blame men for all of this angst. You know, men - who love gorgeous thin women, adore and fantasize about centerfolds and porn stars. Isn't it their fault that we are trying to live up to some impossible image, some fantasy of the skinny stripper with big, fake boobs? After all, they like that stuff.. Except for the fact men seem to accept, desire and love women without the judgments that we often put on oursleves. I have been flirted with and asked out regularly over the past 30 years= actually more today than ever. Look around, women of all shapes and sizes often have adoring men at their sides. I think men respond to passionate, sexually confident (it really does get better for us over the years- subject of another post), and interested woman..period and when in the throes of passion are really not judging us or analyzing our cellulite levels. Thank God for men - you ROCK.

So if we can't blame men...lets blame the media. The Dove true beauty campaign was fascinating as it exposed all of the photoshopping and engineering that goes into a simple ad - neck thinned and stretched, cheekbones made more prominent, face thinned- you name it. I showed it to my 10 year old daughter who said "Nobody really looks like that then.." Truer words were never spoken. Factor in the very skinny models and actresses- and we do have a problem. Especially with young girls who don't yet know their worth and can't separate fantasy from reality. When I see the ultrathin models- maybe it is the mom in me, but all I can think about is that I really want to make them a sandwich! I do believe that media stereotypes are an issue and creating problems for our daughters. I will talk to my girls about those images and the expectations that they might create. But, really doesn't it come back to me in the end?

I am the one letting all of that nonsense in to my psyche. Nobody rents space in your head without your permission- I am still working on that. I am a smart, attractive, generous, sensuous, loving and successful woman. I am dating and men find me pretty and sexy. I am preparing to walk/jog a 1/2 marathon, eat healthy and remain committed to fitness. I take care of myself and feel better when I work out and eat right. Why isn't that enough for me.

So, this part of me is a work in progress, one that I will let my daughters in to see. I will celebrate the fact that men are pretty great. And I will have a heck of a time at my Holiday Bash in my hot, red party dress!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

seeds of destiny?

"Little ideas that tickle and nag and refuse to go away should never be ignored, for in them lie the seeds of destiny." From the movie, Babe.

Love this quote - stole it from a friend off of Facebook. Getting in touch with those "little ideas that tickle and nag and refuse to go away" and then taking action on them. Sounds simple enough... So why don't more of us - me in particular do it more often?

One of several writing projects buried in my brain and heart is a novel that I have been kicking around for years. Actually wrote the first few chapters and an outline on a computer that crashed...Grrr. Wish I could retrieve that data!

The story includes lives in both China in the late 1800s and today in the US and how the histories, destinies and very souls of the characters are intertwined. I have done research on China during that timeframe and particularly on footbinding which will be central to the story. The deep, amazing and sometimes tenuous bonds between mother and daughter over time are the crux of the story. As you might expect, adoption and our interconnectedness at all levels will be a theme below the surface. I have even developed a title- "When Earth Turns Over Heaven."

I have other writing ideas floating in my head as well. So why haven't I gotten it done? A wise friend told me yesterday that when I experience writer's block - it is not about the writing at all. He said it is about letting the ideas flow and getting back in touch with my spiritual connections. When I write and it just flows, I do feel connected with something greater than myself. When I struggle and can't even force words out on paper or a keyboard, I am disconnected with that source, with my imagination and ultimately with my ideas that tickle and nag and refuse to go away.

Time to reconnect with those ideas...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Have a little faith

Like so many other people at this time of year, I give thanks- especially for my amazing daughters. Their existence in my life marks not just the ability for me to experience the empowering joy of motherhood. It also reminds me, when I let it, how sometimes things work out in life if you just have a little faith.

Faith means different things to different people. I am not just talking about religious or spiritual faith here, but the faith of knowing. Knowing that things do work out in the end, the bad stuff that happens to us does have a purpose and people really do come into our lives for a reason. Heady stuff and important reminders when you set out to reinvent your life and deal with the inevitable bumps in the road and disappointments when things may not look like they will turn out as you hope.

My childrens' appearance in my life truly did seem like a miracle...I am sure all parents of both adopted and biological kids feel that way. When I re-read some of my writing about those times and remember the challenges that led us together, I can't help but remember with a new spirit of clarity.

I knew Lily was waiting for me in China when I began the adoption process toward single parenthood at the age of 35. Many people thought I was nuts, I had no idea how I was going to pay for it all much less raise a child by myself. I charged ahead anyway because I listened to my heart and my intuition that was alternately screaming and whispering at me to just do it. There was a reason and purpose behind this adoption. I knew I wanted to be a mom but it felt like more. It was something that I absolutely had to do and that gave me confidence that I was on the right road, one that would lead me to a hotel in Nanchang, China in November of 1999. Of course, now I cannot imagine my life without her- this strong-willed, brilliant, sassy, beautiful creature that I have the honor of parenting and watch her grow ever more enchanting daily.

Avery's entrance into our lives was a comedy of errors and wait times that I now know were for a that Avery would be the child that I got to call my own. By the time Avery came along, I was married (and would be for a few more years before my divorce- but that is a whole separate post!- geez, the lessons I learned with that one.) Adopting as a couple is actually more complicated than adopting alone. Two sets of everything- records, employment verfications. fingerprints, background checks..and on and on. The adoption journey with Avery actually began in Ecuador. We had unexplained infertility issues so we decided to adopt. At the time, China had a quota system in place and the wait would have been two years. We had a number of issues during the paperwork gathering process. The INS lost our fingerprint records and dossier, homestudy delays.. Enough to delay our process for months. Finally, documents were ready and sealed in a Fed Ex packet to be sent by our agency to the orphange in Ecuador. Before FedEx arrived that morning, the agency got a call that there were government changes in Ecuador and no more dossiers and requests for adoption were being accepted. All of that work for nothing?? We had two other choices at that time - programs that our agency worked with- Guatemala or get back in line for China. Then what I have to believe was a divine hand giving me a final push in the right direction, on the same day that week, Guatemala decided to review adoption processes to comply with the Hague treaty and stopped accepting requests to adopt. AND miracle of miracles - China lifted its quota and began accepting dossiers and matching parents with children in orphanages who were ready to be adopted. About 10 months later - I recieved a photo and info about Avery - my sweet little sprite. Interestingly enough, I was not as disappointed as you might think when Ecuador fell through since it had never felt quite "right." In the back of my mind, I was always wishing we were going back to China. My Avery is child of joy who literally radiates love. She is a silly goofball who makes me laugh every day and is creative, smart, affectionate and much stronger than even she realizes. I get the joy of being told "I love you Mommy" every single day by this amazing little girl.

So, 1.2 billion people and at at the time of my adoptions- an estimated 1 million babies and little girls in orphanges in China. And I am blessed with two children who fit me and one another perfectly. How did that happen? My children balance each other and a share a connection that is deep and wide. Sure they fight as sisters do but are bonded in ways that are far deeper than biology. We are bonded by spirit and purpose. There is a reason that we are all together. We have much to learn and teach one another. Sometimes I look at them and think that my role in building this family was to give them each other as much as it was to become a mom.

As I look at my life and the things that I would like it to include, it sure helps to glance over at my children and remember all of this. Yes, I took action to bring them into my life but it was action driven by purpose, intent and a source higher than myself. My career will move forward even in this economy-I would not have been given the gift of these children without a way to care for them. I will continue to write and will be successful if I do it based on instinct and intuition and tell the stories that I am supposed to tell. And that man who is supposed to be in my life? He will enter it if I am open and realize it may not fall into place exactly as I may have envisioned. I will keep my heart open, love willingly and wait for it to happen. It will happen. As long as I have a little faith.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Know Your Worth

One of my all time favorite movies is the Joy Luck Club based on the book by Amy Tan. It is one of my go to movies when I need the inspiration to write. A line in the movie that has stuck with me over the years is between mother and daughter and the mother admonishes her daughter to "know what you are worth." Seems that knowing that may be akin to and as important as knowing yourself.

My quest for reinvention revolves in large part around living authentically and being true to myself. After years of self-exploration, I have come to realize that selling myself short, settling for less than I might deserve in work and/or relationships is an issue with me. There is a very cool book by Caroline Myss, PhD called "The Sacred Contract" that details the historical archtypes - we all have a number of archtypes in ourselves and the one that reflects the situation that I just described is the "Prostitute." Now I am not calling myself a hooker here as it is not meant to be taken literally - but the essence is about selling yourself short, selling out, being taken advantage of..and I guess ultimately not being true to yourself.

My "aha" moment today was that living authentically means more than doing what I want and living for today, more than not playing games in the dating world and expressing myself honestly to others. That is a great start. But for me, living authentically means digging a little deeper. It means honoring my authentic self and knowing my worth even if it means a relationship morphs or ends, a man leaves, or expectations change. I know my worth and I am worth alot...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life is short and precious - live it to the fullest

Since I work for the American Cancer Society, I have frequent reminders of the fragility of life and how it can change on a dime. Interacting with cancer survivors and volunteers who have been impacted by the disease can drive that point home. Even with those reminders, it is still easy to fall into the trap of taking life for granted, getting caught up in the little things and on a bigger scale- standing in the way of your own dreams.

Last night, I spent some time with a dear friend who at the age of 45 has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. No family history- just wham - a hit out of the blue. She is seeing a surgeon today and is pretty terrified. Who knows what she will now deal with on her journey - surgery, chemo, radiation. In her words, "I don't care what they have to do, I just want to live." I listened and was glad to be able to share some resources from ACS with her. Her words have stayed in my mind all day.." I just want to live." This is a vibrant, loving and extremely generous woman, mother of two beautiful teenage girls. Her concerns extend to them as well. She needs to be here for them...are their chances of getting the disease increased? What does the future hold?

"I just want to live." Makes being concerned about bills, my commute, my job, meeting the right guy and the 15 lbs I want to lose seem pretty darn weak in comparison. Another reminder that life can change today or tomorrow without your consent. Another reminder NOT to let petty stuff or self imposed boundaries keep me down and prevent me from living life to the fullest while I am here on this planet.

Live, laugh and love to the fullest...After all, the opportunity to do just that is my hands right now. What am I waiting for?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun!

Reinvention and dating part two... I love the quote from Katharine Hepburn in the the title of this post. It sums up how I am approaching dating while on my reinvention journey. Had a fabulous date last night with L, even more fun than the last one. And yes, all of the "dating" rules have been thrown out the window.

In particular, L is freshly divorced. As anyone in the dating after divorce world knows, that is usually a red flag to future heartbreak as is it rare for relationship that springs right after divorce to last. I have been the "transition" person in another situation and it can be painful. But, frankly in this case I have to quote another famous person - Rhett Butler- "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." I like L, enjoy spending time with him and he appears to feel the same way and the chemistry is amazing. He is truly a nice guy in addition to being handsome and fun. So the "no dating a newly divorced man rule" gets thrown out. I am having too much fun and and am too attracted to this man to care.

So I am going to enjoy the ride, enjoy this experience for as long as it lasts. Will I start to care for him and want a relationship at some point that he is not ready for? Maybe or maybe not. Perhaps this will bloom into something wonderful and become a relationship in spite of the "rules" and conventional wisdom. Perhaps not and it will be a wonderful, more short term ride. In any case, I will be damned if I am going to miss the experience because I might get hurt or be disappointed. I have survived heartbreak and disappointment before and would not pass up the joy that came before the pain. Life is too short to obey all the rules and miss all the fun! So bring it L! I am ready.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A personal vision statement?

I was challenged today to develop a personal vision statement - a view of what I wanted in my life and how I wanted to live my life. This assignment came as part of my involvement in the National Leadership Development Program with the American Cancer Society. This has been a wonderful 18 month endeavour and we have tackled everything from increasing our organizational knowledge and skills to doing a ton of self assessments and inner work. This is one of our final attempts to tie together everything that we have learned and discovered about ourselves.

I had an a-ha moment and realized that I have already begun the process of developing this personal vision statement through capturing my thoughts when framing the purpose of this blog. Reinventing my life by living authentically and with integrity in all aspects of my life. Being confident enough in myself to live out loud and bring who I am to the scene and having enough faith that in doing so I will find my way and the right people will enter my world. Living with joy, passion, purpose, faith and in truth with myself- I will take that as a personal vision any day!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Doing what you are supposed to do??

Have you ever felt that vague sense of loss or disappointment and question whether or not you are doing what you are meant to do in life? Some days I feel as though I am not fully living up to my potential and wonder what else is out there. I have a fabulous career with a great organization and also care deeply about women and children's issues, global poverty and of course adoption support. So why do I feel stuck sometimes? Why haven't I written any articles lately about these issues? Maybe life is just busy...

A dear friend told me recently that I put too much pressure on myself sometimes...that I needed to sit back and let ideas just flow without expectations. Maybe that is the balance here - get quiet an be open to the possibilities, that is when things flow your way. A challenge for a type A, get things done kind of gal like me...

Hmmmm, patience, letting things flow in their own time. I am sensing a theme here.....

Reinvention! Dating?

Yes -I am reinventing my life! I have a pretty terrific one already but since things change - often without your consent..makes sense to me to make some changes on my own. At 46 years old, I have a good job, two amazing daughters whom I love with all my heart, fabulous friends, a great home and my health. I realize how lucky I am and am truly grateful for all of my blessings. What do I want - a life filled with purpose, passion, love and a deep spiritual connection. How much of that will happen on its own as part of a divine plan? How much do drive myself? I guess time will tell as I venture down my reinvention journey.

My goal is to remain authentic- be truly myself in all that I do- live out loud and in full color. One of the joys of being in your 40s is the knowledge that you really can do that! It truly does not matter what others think and in fact most of the time they are not paying attention to you anyway. Being true to who I am and putting myself out there without fear or hesitation may be most interesting when it comes to dating!

I have fully recovered from my painful divorce four years ago and have been in the dating scene for a while. Finally fully ready to meet someone special for a dating relationship. Open to what comes my way. Not out necessarily looking for a husband, but certainly in the market for a boyfriend. I am back in the scene and meeting interesting people - one in particular has caught my attention, lets call him L, and I hope to get to know him better. How do you stay true to yourself while navigating the dating game? Even at 46, the questions emerge- is he thinking of me, why hasn't he called...etc. Mix that in with all of the current "dating advice" about rules and men and women and your head will spin. Sooo, my approach will be different-no games, no nonsense, just me putting myself out there as I am. I have enough faith to know that there is a terrific guy out there for me. If L is as intrigued by me as I am by him - great, if not then I will have my answer and be open to another.

Maybe that is the balance when it comes to dating and reinventing my approach. Be open, honest, make an effort to meet folks and then rely on the knowledge- call it faith in the knowing that I am not meant to be alone- and just let life flow.