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Archive for the ‘Storytelling’ Category

We Are All Painters

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

The last few months have either kept us home bound or out in the field as essential workers. Each has had its own pain and worry. Finding beauty has been a struggle. Finding beauty within even more a struggle. I look for my heart-centered practices to remind me that there is always beauty — even when I can’t find it, especially when I can’t find it.

I turn to meditation, reading, writing, bird-watching, and taking photos. All of these practices bring me back to stillness. Looking at the rising or setting sun reminds me to notice light, colors, and nature. I took a photo of a recent sunset that reminded me of a painting. As I told a friend, “The light made the photo look like a paintbrush touching the earth.” 

My meditation the next day included listening to the question:
What beauty am I painting in the world?

We are all painters using our lives as brushes to enhance (or not) the world and fill it with more beauty. What beauty are you painting?

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Baseball and Grief

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

I had tickets for today’s Opening Day Mets game at Citi Field with my brother-in-law. Given everything happening right now, this seems really trivial. But the Mets remind me of my family, especially my dad. He was a huge fan and raised his daughters to be as well. Every season my dad and I would talk about the Mets roster and line-up. You could always find a Mets game on his television at home and even in the hospital as he grew increasingly ill. After his passing, I placed three flowers on the field by third base on the last day of the 2018 season in his memory.

The Mets have provided a form of comfort and relief throughout my life. After my mom passed away in the summer of 2000, I would watch games on the weekends. It would be the most beautiful Sunday and all I wanted to do was lay on the couch and watch the Mets.

So missing Opening Day is more than just missing a baseball game — it’s about my connection to my family and missing my parents. It’s losing a place of joy and comfort and an outlet for grief. I really miss baseball.

And my hope is that we can all bring baseball back by staying home.

Please take time to notice where grief is showing up for you and know you are not alone. 

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The Things We Save

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

I recently participated in a 14-day writing project focusing on one word or phrase. The word “home” has been on my mind. My sisters and I have been going through our childhood home the past few months in order to clean it out. Most of our weekends have been spent packing and wrapping, tossing and filling boxes for donations. It’s been very emotional. As I come across various photos and old objects, I found myself laughing and crying. This is the home I grew up in. It’s the home my mom and dad raised their family in. And gathered with friends in. And welcomed strangers. So much of my mom and dad are still in this home. There are so many memories and collections of belongings that fill “289.” As my sisters and I go through closets and dressers, cabinets and clutter, it has been difficult discerning the treasures from the trash.  We often must look at some items a few times to decide what to keep or give away. We angst over things to toss or take.

I don’t always know the meaning of things my parents kept – some of it was just for sentimental reasons; some of it was passed on from their family; and some of it was saved as gifts to pass on to their daughters. As I look through the stuff in the house, I often feel like none of it belongs to me. And yet, I feel like my parents wanted us to feel their legacy through the things they saved. Every photo, every piece of Irish crystal, every teacup, every vinyl record is their way of passing down their stories, their dreams, and their hopes of a better life for their daughters. Perhaps we won’t have to struggle as much as they did.

This was more than a house my family lived in. This was a place full of love and loss. This was my home. And it always will be. I don’t always know the meaning of the things they saved. I only know the things they saved help me remember them. My heart is grateful for the things they saved.

Home is more than a place of arrival and departure. It’s a journey. It’s finding our home again and again. And it’s an outreached arm, saying, “Welcome Home.”

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Getting Lost and Being Here

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

I have no sense of direction. Turn me around and I get lost easily. Even with GPS on my phone, I can still get lost. I rely on the kindness of others to help me find my way.

On a recent trip to downtown Manhattan for a meeting, I got off at a subway stop that was apparently a good 10-minute walk to the place I needed to go. As I walked in circles trying to find my way, I finally asked someone walking their dog for directions. They pointed me in the right direction, and I headed off to my meeting. When the meeting was over, I was told there was an easier way for me to get back to mid-town. I began following their directions and found myself lost again. Frustrated by my lack of knowing how to get where I wanted to go, I paused to take a deep breath. I looked up and there was a huge sign, “Here.” That’s all I needed to know. That’s the place I needed to be – here.

Rather than rush to a subway, I stood at the corner taking in everything. I walked for a bit and came upon a café. I stopped and enjoyed some food and wandered some more. There was no place to rush to. All I needed was to be here.

All we have is this moment – here. While I will always rely on the kindness of others to help me find my way, I will rely on my ability to get lost, to be found, and to savor being here, wherever that may be.

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Welcome Home

Friday, April 12th, 2019

I stood along the third base side at Citi Field wearing my David Wright jersey on the last day of the 2018 season. I was there to both cheer on the Mets and honor my dad, who passed away in early September. I brought three orchids to represent each of his daughters and asked security after the game if I could leave them on the field. I had shared about my dad’s love of the Mets and his recent passing. Security allowed me to place the flowers on the field along the third base side. I released each flower with love and gratitude to my dad – a life-long Mets fan. It was a beautiful tribute and I cried the whole time.

When tickets came on sale for the 2019 season, I had to buy Opening Day tickets. I had to keep the Mets baseball traditions and memories alive. One of the rituals I had with my dad was talking about the Mets rosters, line-ups, and who we would have starting each game. So as April 4th rolled around, I could feel both the joy and sadness rise up in me. I felt the longing of missing my Mets conversations with my dad and the joy of cheering along with the sold-out crowd.

As the 7-train pulled into Mets-Willets Field Station, I felt my dad with me. I walked up to Citi Field with great pride. I looked up at the sky and winked and knew my dad was watching. He would have been thrilled I was at Opening Day and would have asked me, “How did you arrange getting those tickets?”

Inside the stadium, I took in the familiar views and sounds of Citi Field. I walked along the Field Level and saw Mr. Met. There was an area that fans could go to take pictures with him. I stood on line thinking it would be a cute photo to share. When my turn came, Mr. Met looked at me, opened his arms and gave me a big hug. I felt my dad was saying, “I’m here. Welcome home.” We stood together taking numerous photos.

I am sure there will be more reminders that my dad is always with me. And on Opening Day, I felt my dad’s presence and heard his booming voice, “Welcome Home.”

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Expired MetroCard? Expired Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

I found a MetroCard in my wallet last week and swiped it to see how much money was on it. The machine read, “Please see an attendant.” I walked over and asked the MTA attendant if she could check how much was on my card. After she swiped it and checked her computer she said, “Ma’am, this was a 30-day unlimited card that expired in March.” I thanked the lady and walked away with my expired card. After discarding it in the recycling bin, I realized that I had been carrying around an expired card.

Later, I looked through the rest of my wallet for other expired or outdated cards. As I finished reorganizing my wallet, I decided to check what else in my house had expired and could be thrown out. As I sat down feeling proud of getting rid of unnecessary items, I meditated on listening for thoughts and situations that had also expired and needed to be discarded. What else has expired in my life? What thoughts, beliefs, and feelings have expired that I am still carrying around? Could I let go of my disappointment and frustration? Am I carrying around anger that expired last month?

I invite you to check in and see if there is anything you are carrying (inside and out) that has expired. What has expired that is still living inside you?

Start with today. What are you still carrying around that you are willing to let go?

It’s time for a new 30-day pass.

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“Falling” – Lessons from My Cheer-leading Youth

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

I spent four years as a cheerleader – from 5th grade through 8th grade. It gave me the chance to use my big mouth and spend time with my best friend, Julie. We would have practices on Tuesday nights and then cheer the boy’s basketball games on Friday nights.

I wasn’t the most athletic or flexible. Some of the cheerleaders could do backflips all the way down the court. Others could flip from the top of our cheering pyramid. I was petite and strong. I loved learning the cheers and wearing my white saddle shoes. I wasn’t as crazy for the skirts and pigtails.

Given my height, I was usually found in the front of the cheering line. And keeping our lines straight and smiles on our face was an important part of being a cheerleader. We also entered tournaments, which included routines and loud cheers. Part of our routine was building a cheering pyramid. By creatively combining lifts, poses and dismounts, you end up with a sort of mega stunt that often impressed the judges. I was frequently at the bottom of the pyramid. I remember my hands and knees on the floor while another girl’s knee would lean into my back as we built a three-layer pyramid.

If anyone felt like they couldn’t hold the pyramid and needed help, they were to shout, “Falling.” During one tournament, as we started to build our pyramid, I felt uncomfortable. I could feel the pressure from another cheerleader’s knee digging into my back. I wanted to hold on and keep smiling. As we continued with building the pyramid, I couldn’t hold on any longer. I shouted, “Falling.” The other cheerleaders didn’t hear me. Perhaps my shout on the inside was a whisper on the outside. Suddenly, I went down bringing the pyramid with me. No one was hurt as everyone started to properly dismantle. I remember after the tournament the coach yelling at me for not shouting “falling” loud enough for our team to hear.

Looking back now, maybe I didn’t realize how much the cheerleaders were leaning on me (literally). Maybe I am still learning the lesson of leaning on people in my life. Maybe we all need a code word when we need support. Maybe when we feel ourselves collapsing, we can shout out, “Falling.”

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Tiny Steps

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

On a recent trip to Florida, I met up with my friend, Evonn. We walked around the beautiful Morikami Japanese Gardens. As we walked around the gardens, Evonn shared a story about slowing down. Evonn was helping her grandchildren get ready for school and wanted to be sure they caught their school bus on time. Her five year old grandson, Charlie, was in no rush as he wandered around the house at his own pace. Evonn was making sure his socks and shoes were on as they walked to the front door. Charlie came to a stop. He looked up at Evonn and said, “Tiny steps.” The pace slowed down and Evonn and Charlie walked to the door taking tiny steps. It was a lesson in being present and slowing down. In a time when everyone seems to be rushing around, a five year old child reminds us to stop and pay attention. Take tiny steps. Be present. Slow down. Be.

Evonn shared with Charlie over the holidays that she liked his “tiny steps.” Charlie responded, “Oh, I don’t do tiny steps anymore.” He had moved on into a new present movement. As my friend Evonn shared, “May we stay in the moment and move right on.”

We can learn a lot from taking tiny steps. And we can learn even more from a five year old.

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Losing My Voice and Choosing Quiet

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

I spent last week at home with a fever and sore throat. This meant I slept through most of the early part of the week. I had strange dreams and memories come and go. I had to rest. And be quiet. And rest some more. By mid-week, my fever broke and I lost my voice. I couldn’t speak. Everything felt strained. As my quietness deepened, I took an inventory of all the times I lost my voice.

When did my voice become a whisper?

What silences me?

Where is my voice in the world?

I had a lot of time to meditate. I took time to notice the places of not being heard. I listened for what rises up within me from silence.

Daily silent meditation brought a few insights:

I am curious about when my voice becomes a shout and when it is a voice of clarity.

I am still learning to sift through the noise and listen to the vibration of sounds.

I am open to hearing my own voice – quiet, clear, and full of love and peace.

I am attuned to moments when I choose quiet and when I feel silenced.

Now, more questions arise:

When do I lose my voice?

And what brings it back?

Are the whispers of my heart ready to be heard?

Maybe we all need to lose our voice to truly discover what need to be voiced.

 

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“Hey Irish”

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

My father-in-law, Don, had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to laugh. He would come up with funny names and phrases. I was no exception. My nickname from Don when he was calling me was, “Hey Irish.”

Don was an incredible photographer. He not only took wonderful pictures, but also kept detailed notes on the back of them. He always tracked who, where, and when the photos were taken. He had an amazing eye for taking pictures. Don had been a part-time wedding and newspaper photographer when his children were growing up.

In the late 90’s, Don realized how much of an interest I had in photography and he offered some advice on how to frame photos using various viewpoints. He taught me how to see with a new lens. It’s not easy – seeing with a new lens. He liked to show me how to breakdown the parts of a picture: the foreground, the main view and the background. See the whole thing. When he showed me how to capture an image or a person, he would often advise me to see the whole picture – take in the whole scene. Don wanted me to see more than the photograph I wanted to take. Rather, his advice was often about opening myself up to the larger view, the larger lens, and the larger frame.

I have taken many photos for the past 20 years with new eyes thanks to my father-in-law’s wisdom of seeing through new eyes and a new lens. And now when I photograph a moment using his technique of viewing, framing, and capturing, I always think of him. He was a good teacher.

I don’t think I ever got the chance to say thank you. Don, thank you – I see the world with a bigger lens because of you.
Love, Irish

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