web analytics

C’est La Vie Paris

Moments that make you marvel, wonder, pinch yourself- how many have you had?

Make a list and that’s your dowry, your hope chest, your gifts to give your great great grandchildren, the handsome face across the table or your mom when she questions if she did a good job.

It may be due to my love of Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Pepé Le Pew, and being a mass consumer of Turner Movie Classics but my first time overseas was captured in the glimpse of Paris’ most infamous eyesore.

I had to catch my breath as the train pulled into The City of Lights at 1pm in June and the Eiffel Tower was no longer on a screen or a still photograph, it was rolling into focus all the while I dangled on the edge of seventeen.

http://www.lifeplus1.me/home/2015/3/top-3-spots-to-view-the-eiffel-tower

126 years ago today, March 31, 2015, this industrial pipeline for the sky was made public and nearly tore Paris apart.

It’s strange to think now how much hatred ensued for an emblem that didn’t match the taste of such a fashion defining metropolis. And how many fridge magnets exist today despite such a fuss. Maybe that’s a poor argument, it’s the masses that love crap. Oops!

Oh well, despite the controversy, the Eiffel Tower was the symbol of freedom and culture to my ponytail, blue jean baby queen wearing American teenage self. I listened to Billie Holiday on my discman, smoked cigarettes and drank chablis with the fattest cheshire grin to be seen under the rigging of 1889 World Fair’s lasting icon. I loved Paris and that moment and will, forever more.

 

Can you count three visions/moments you’ve had thus far that took your breath away? C’est la vie!

 

In honor of April to begin tomorrow (along with budding promises of adventure and awe, ahem make that past or future wish list)…

Stop Giving People Discounts

worth

No more hanging out under the table hoping for scraps… be done with that!

The Whistler

All of a sudden she began to whistle. By all of a sudden
I mean that for more than thirty years she had not
whistled. It was thrilling. At first I wondered, who was
in the house, what stranger? I was upstairs reading, and
she was downstairs. As from the throat of a wild and
cheerful bird, not caught but visiting, the sounds war-
bled and slid and doubled back and larked and soared.

Finally I said, Is that you? Is that you whistling? Yes, she
said. I used to whistle, a long time ago. Now I see I can
still whistle. And cadence after cadence she strolled
through the house, whistling.

I know her so well, I think. I thought. Elbow and an-
kle. Mood and desire. Anguish and frolic. Anger too.
And the devotions. And for all that, do we even begin
to know each other? Who is this I’ve been living with
for thirty years?

This clear, dark, lovely whistler?

-Mary Oliver

Inside the library at Steepletop, the home of the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, late 1950s (Photograph: Molly Malone Cook)

Inside the library at Steepletop, the home of the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, late 1950s (Photograph: Molly Malone Cook)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loved this as much as I did? Check out more on the poem’s author, Mary Oliver, by clicking here.

Knowing Surrender: A Practice

It’s no secret I haven’t been writing this year. Since getting my first diary in 1989, I’ve not written this little.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.19.07 PM

It’s humbling to watch someone you love decline and them be equally aware of how hard it is to believe what’s happening. What’s happening? Shaky hands, forgetting who is around and what’s physically possible like standing, dressing yourself, body not communicating with spirit and the dance of humility and grace. My step-mama will stop mid-task and look up at me to say, “isn’t this weird?”

Navigating a wheel chair, learning when to step back, being patient and restraining yourself from “helping” was what this week looked like.

After midnight is when she decides to assert her independence the most and takes inventory of what’s in the fridge and freezer. She can’t be alone because she may fall in her attempts to stand. She knows it’s hard to not step in and thanks me for it. I let her do her thing for anywhere close to an hour so my dad can rest and then put her to bed which takes another 30 minutes or so. Everything takes longer than you plan. Taking a shower is a luxury for everyone, especially a long hot one. It’s like having a newborn, a toddler, a fire to put out and all changing minute to minute.

Having kept things on hold after my mom was given less than a year to live, when we reached 16 months I was given a hard push to get back to living my life.

I evaluated my goals with work, my academic goals for my own personal means and more than anything found myself declining invites to attend births, dinners, parties, concerts and traveling. I just didn’t know what to plan for and what my family needed. Would she survive? Would my dad need me to move in for awhile?

This month, we were told she may have only three weeks to live and it will be three weeks this Tuesday.
Trying to decide how much time to take off of work now to be with her or to help with the funeral is the strangest conversation in my head. It’s just unclear what the timeline is.

When expecting parents are given a due date, the birth team knows to be available three weeks before and after. You’re on call, you’re fully engaged and willing to throw all plans out the window for what’s best each moment, then you’re changing diapers, you’re up all hours and again, you throw out all plans for what’s pressing, for a nap or taking a phone call to the advice nurse. It’s the same coming into this world as it is going out it seems.

There are random moments of quiet to reflect, things are left half done and with the delusions it’s hard to swallow the shouts and confusion. When I catch my breath I yearn to know the difference between giving up and giving in, between letting go and surrendering.

Today my parents finally met with hospice and talk about the reality of what’s going on after a week of no sleep and really bad days.

It’s not lost on me that do this with and for a lawyer who used to run a home health care business is surreal.

Luckily, today was a good day for my stepmom but that meant that there was more of a fight to not give up and ask for help.
Note to self from Self: Preparing is not giving up. Acknowledging the decline is not being negative, it’s being wisely proactive.

Can you imagine being 47 years old and having little to no motor function after being an Iron Man athlete? My mom is stubborn, never gives up and always presents a solution if addressing a problem. The only towel she throws is a terrible one when the Steelers win points.

What does it look like to be positive, believe anything is possible with a good attitude when you have an inoperable brain tumor and things are getting bleak?

-2

With little sleep, little time and lots of love, I can say this- the difference between giving up and letting go is patience, kindness and compassion for yourself and those around you.

There can be peace or fear in realizing that we don’t have control ultimately, and what we do have control over (being able to get up, speech, behavior, our bodily functions, thoughts, choices, beliefs) is subject to change. Babies don’t see poop or having to be carried as bad, they don’t judge these things nor themselves. Pride and grace are what we fight for as we leave our body and the awkward slow dance of requesting assistance is a massive part of the process.

Being a participant in what’s happening rather than fighting it is key. Fighting for yourself can look like fighting the world and reality but giving your best has a different quality, surrender is the ingredient.
I believe there is no blanketed clause or cure-all approach. Every person, situation and moment is unique which makes it even more complex to know what’s right.

What worked this afternoon in the kitchen didn’t work at 3am on the bathroom floor last night. Surrendering to each moment keeps me sane, knowing all things must pass and knowing I’m supported to do what’s right, to be here now is The Serenity Prayer in action.

Be Here NOW is not simply the title of a book or something to put on a t-shirt but a practice.

What I love about right now is that in Liza’s delusions she hasn’t lost her humor. What I love about right now is that when you need to cry you can be left alone. What I love about right now is if they need me, I’m here. What I love about right now is practicing being here right now and that everything I’ve learned as a doula, a yogi, a friend, a business woman, a student, a teacher, a daughter is serving me today, tonight and tomorrow.

In honor of my stepmom’s favorite album of all time…

Love At First Sight

Happy Valentines Day to you all and to all a good sight for the look of love is in your eye…

Eye of the beholder, what is first sight?
Here’s a present for you in honor of love and heart…

Irreplaceable

In college, I remember holding one of my besties while she sobbed that her boyfriend called her “replaceable” and asked me to pour her another cup of wine.
At the time, I thought it was an incredibly cruel thing to say and this phrase stitched itself into a lot of heartbreak hotel sleepovers.

Now, thanks to copious cups of pinot noir, filled journals, tear-filled pillows, crazy expensive international phone calls pre-skype and hours of meditation, I  understand that we receive what we believe and things only stick if they go uninvestigated one and two, ultimately nothing is permanent and nothing is “replaceable”.

You can never control someone’s roaming eye, our fate, another person’s definition and relationship to integrity, others’ actions and you can’t safeguard yourself against a breakup.  If it’s not meant to be, it’s not and better for it to our free will to take action (not reaction).

The whole people are in a life for a season, reason or lifetime bit is helpful to keep in mind.

 

“If a train doesn’t stop at your station, then it’s not your train.”

- Marianne Williamson

frederick-and-elizabeth-shake-elbows-just-before-the-train-leaves-for-transylvania-1

 

Enter Ralph Valentine giving…

i_choo-choo-choose_you-748156

Tis the season eh?  No, but seriously, being chosen or not, at the end of the day shouldn’t be your narrative evaluation report card people.  Boo on that, choose yourself always and if someone gets you or not, winning!

Someone choosing something other than you, in hindsight is always a gift (even if you can’t see it initially).

Which brings me to something I NEVER thought I would EVER say about all this: THANK YOU.

Thank you to every woman or man who came in towards the end of a relationship that originally threatened me and freaked me out.  You helped me understand my partner’s character better and ultimately, opened the door for me to leave a situation that was no longer working and have a harder time returning to a broken record that didn’t need to be on repeat.

New lovers don’t replace us, they just keep our past beds warm and therefore keep us out.  At first glance, we may feel out in the cold but really, we’re out in the world and we’re free.
The bookmark pillow talk “replacement” person hopefully will stay long enough for you to break the habit of looking back and wondering what if.  Thank you to every person in my life who started something and became my launchpad and litmus test beaker despite my protests.

Truly, thank you.

Neat-o factoid: This doesn’t just apply to a break up with a lover either, this is life – life IS your relationships (work, academic programs, friendships, apartments, your work-out, yoga, meditation, your budget, everything). Re-re-re-re-petition will continue to occur until we learn from our past and make better choices.  It’s all good, you’ve got plenty more opportunities to do better and accept yourself more for the next round.  As my dear and oh-so wise little French neighbor says in broken English over black coffee, “Sweetie, the only competition that’s worth having is with yourself, just do better next time.”

Don’t fear “the competition” because YOU ARE IRREPLACEABLE, period.

To the left, to the left,

Ella

What to do with “Little Troubles”

The Art Of Positive Thinking by Swami Jyotirmayananda  (Chapter: The Development of Will Power)

The Art Of Positive Thinking by Swami Jyotirmayananda
(Chapter: The Development of Will Power)

New Year’s Gate

Happy New Year’s Gate…

I happily thumbed through Baba Ram Dass’ ever-present Be Here Now to a “random” page this morn while sipping on tea…

Hail the goer on this journey that is the destination.

hail the goer

I spent my final hours of 2013 writing a list of 100 things I’m grateful for and at around 60, I was stumped. Then my hand just kept blurring through to get to 100 without thinking, I listed things like “sleep” and “elephants” in addition to my long line of incredible people, experiences and what I’ve learned.  I was a little challenged to stop once I hit 100.  And you know what’s funny?  All night, all morning, I can’t stop with the appreciation notes that float next to my head like a cartoon text bubble.

I invite you spend your first day of this new year, new beginning, old ending being present to what you’re grateful for.  There’s no better way to be present and enjoy this beautiful life.

Happy New Year’s Gate my loves,

 

Ella

 

Beauty of Witnessing

So I’ve come clean and have often prided myself upon being comfortable within the uncomfortable but lately I’ve been seeing that I’m not so patient just sitting with it for myself by myself about my self.

Pain, agitation, discomfort can be like a hot cinder on your lap that you immediately go to pat out and extinguish, perhaps its even a hot poker right on your arse.  I’d venture to say most people jump when they get burned or feel like something is on fire, right?
Well, what about your emotional self or more correctly, the egoic self?

fire-w-magnifying-glass-spacepleb1

When we bring our attention and witness the ego, the emotions, the tendency to react/fix/attack/not react we become the magnifying glass and the sun on an ant instead of the ant.  By witnessing, a little bit longer than we are used to, we move beyond the itch and scratch to something new.  When we magnify the watching instead of the acting (even if its well intended non-reacting) and we go beyond our pattern, that’s when we get the bigger picture perspective and take things less personally which allows grace, presence and peace to take hold.

I had a profound conversation with a friend this evening where they reflected how thick and dense my stories are, like most of us. Who doesn’t love a colorful background, character development and detailed setting when it comes to telling a good story, especially our own?  However if you come at life with a book full to the brim with no room to write or color in, there isn’t much room for creation, let alone participation.  And so my friend shared that their first reaction to my story back in the day was to relate, pity or take action to help.  Then it came to just listening and finally after setting that standard, we both felt ready to listen and I was able to hear that by being so in my story at times, so in the me of it, taking shit so personally and feeling everything I would dance between the all and nothing but never sitting long enough to see past that tango.

I didn’t stand still long enough to see the dance floor, I often only saw two steps forward and one step back.

two steps
And the thing about stopping to look at our feet while dancing is we often fall out of rhythm, it ain’t pretty and it’s more often than not, a smidge embarrassing.
Reality check- we’re in a human experience to learn and feel freer to be our true selves and that comes easier by witnessing that which isn’t.  Witnessing others, othering and then ultimately realizing that there is no other, is quite a trip to the moon and back.  We learn more by stopping instead of mindlessly to and fro-ing no?

To take my point here a little further- a star doesn’t know it is beauty or beautiful, it is the witness of that star that deems it so and therefore perspective gives us the freedom to define and expand our understanding of pretty much, well, everything.

 

0190138789850699076abe0f428e2daa

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest–a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

By experiencing our Self separately we free ourselves and remember peace by being in that greater awareness.  The drug of humanity is connection and being “understood” so if we give it to ourselves, pulling our nose out long enough from our own autobiography we may just have enough to remember we can rewrite just about any trauma, woe or suffering.  Thank you K.S. for the listening.

In awe of beauty and feeling like listening to this song again (thank you time and space of 1997)…

Starlight, star bright,

Ella

Timing and Three Months Late Birthday Cake

clock
Falling in love with timing really lets you let up on life and let it treat you better than you’d imagine.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- expectations and attachment to the way things should be is a surefire start to a drop into the boo hoo blues.

I can’t tell you how many times a day I sing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” to myself.

Bless the Rolling Stones forever for that sanity reminder.  But when DO you try and what does it look like to get what you need?

Friends, lovers, family this year have had their moments with me where they’ve wondered – where did Ella go?
We’ve all been somewhere we’ve not wanted to be out of sheer duty or obligation, right?  Well, if in the first ten minutes of arriving that doesn’t change ’tis a sign that something does need to do just that.  So I do my best to honor what feels right (not always comfortable) and check with what is ultimately in alignment with who I want to be. Sometimes I miss the mark, sometimes I disappoint folks by not being available but I do my best.
Case in point, sometimes what you want doesn’t happen when and how you want it to and this is actually a GOOD thing.

That brings us back to time being on our side and yet another favorite Rolling Stone’s song but I digress…

Sometimes what you need is birthday cake three months late.

As most of you may know, my family has been really going through it this year keeping their hopes up that the FDA will grant access to my stepmother so she has a chance at life.  Well, the week my dad and step-mom moved to Palm Desert and her brain tumor symptoms became aggressive and severe was also my birthday time.  With all the shifts and concern, they forgot my birthday which was totally understandable and I canceled dinner and outing plans with friends to help my family at a crucial decision making time (to radiate or not to radiate, never a fun question).
I never said anything because my birthday at that point really wasn’t important.  In my mind, I’ve had a lot of celebrations over the years and what was more important was to be with them, take care of them and treat myself that way.  In my past, I’d always looked forward to birthdays so I could have a little extra cash and stay out of the red or get a new something.  Well, instead of needing a check or new iPhone, what I really needed was snuggles with my family which I got in spades.

sixteen-candles
It was a great feeling to not need and to really let go, putting what really mattered first and get over my Sixteen Candles self that I’d been in the past. I was in a place in my life that I could afford to treat them to every meal and take one less worry off their list.

Last week I went to see my parents for a little post-Thanksgiving family time and my stepmother had requested I stay out of the kitchen.  Her new “thing” is cooking since she’s now “retired”, has dietary restrictions to offset the tumor growth and the kitchen is small enough for her to weeble wobble out of without too much strain.  She asked me to patiently wait at the table for her to present her culinary efforts after a long day.

“It may take me awhile to set it up as I’m moving slow but don’t you open your eyes and ruin the surprise!”

When I was granted permission to take a peek at the table, I found a cake before me along with a whole bunch of birthday paraphernalia.

“Happy Birthday, oops we forgot” was sung and we cut into Liza’s first-ever homemade birthday cake.

I cried.

“We can’t believe we forgot you birthday and you never said a word. I’ve been celebrating you for half your life and I didn’t want to miss out this year.”

bday card

It was a strange experience to have a wave of joy and sorrow all at once.  I kept saying “I didn’t need you to remember, I don’t need anything.” And they just kept bringing out more stuff the more I said not to.  I’ve definitely said “no thank you” due to good manners but to fully receive at a time least expected was overwhelming.  It made me realize how much pressure we put on making certain days special when in fact, it’s the thought that counts and letting go of how or when we’re inspired to do things for each other, makes the gift ever sweeter.

So here’s to birthday cake at Christmas time and getting what we really need.

May your deepest wishes be granted by unexpected and timely deliveries.
Timing isn’t always appearing to be on our side but it will find a way to give us what we need when we most need it.

Love and birthday candle light,

Ella

 

P.S. To support my family’s efforts to save Liza’s life, check out the interview on CBS here and sign our petition.  Many blessings of good health and gratitude to you and yours.  <3