Monday, December 31, 2012

Sooo, Whadja Learn this Year?

Ahhh, the End Of The Year! It comes every 365 (and a fourth) days but somehow always surprises me. Also, it has a built-in feature which causes me to look back and reflect and look forward with hope. I was talking with my yoga teacher recently about New Year's RESOLUTIONS. She and I dislike that word and its connotations- it seems to set us up for failure. I resolve to lose weight, do more yoga, eat less bread, eat more vegetables, meditate more, complain less, travel more, ...and the list goes on, ad infinitum.

So what my teacher and I discussed is her concept not of resolutions, but of evolutions! Brilliant, I say! This life I get to have is a journey, right? An evolutionary journey. We reflected on lessons learned in 2012 and also where we'd like to head in 2013. I've been thinking about this for a few days and decided I to review what I've learned in 2012. I should be journaling more meticulously so this would be easier to call forth, but as a dear friend and mentor often says to me, "Don't should on yourself." Journaling is going to be part of my 2013 evolution.

So, here are some things I learned in 2012, in no particular order.

1. I'm okay just the way I am.
2. I need to let you be free to be you.
3. Snapple Green Tea is really delicious and I'm happy that Snapple is cool again.
4. Everyone has some shit going on in their life at any moment.
5. Don't take everything so personally.
6. The Universe really will take care of things if I stay out of the way and do the next right thing.
7. The spicy dried mango from Trader Joe's tastes delicious when used in a marinade along with garlic, ginger, sesame oil, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Marinade some salmon in that and you will not be sorry.
8. It's none of my business what you think of me.
9. I'm allowed to have a bad day even though I have everything I could possibly need.
10. My mother is a treasure that I am so fortunate to have.
11. Building real friendships is fun, totally rewarding, and takes some work.
12. Fantasy Football is a lot of fun.
13. I need down time every day.
14. Eddie Bauer fleece is the warmest without being bulky.
15. I met a LOT of really cool people on Facebook this year and consider them friends even though I haven't met most of them in real life.
16. I can't stand the thought of my dog getting older.
17. Kayaking by the light of the full moon is magical.
18. After 5 years of sobriety, I'm getting used to not drinking alcohol at parties.
19. I am amazed at the change in my body from doing yoga regularly.
20. I need to better organize my garden.
21. Heated car seats rock.
22. Meditation and prayer are directly related to my outlook each day.
23. PMS after age 40 is a real mother f*cker.
24. Love and tolerance of others is not always easy but is an excellent mantra.
25. I enjoy a cup of tea in the evening.
26. I'm proud to be from New Jersey despite of what the rest of the country thinks of my home state. 
27. I can wear shorts and be comfortable doing so.
28. Communication really is the key to a successful relationship and can be very difficult for me.

And so the evolution continues. Where do I want to be mentally, physically, and spiritually during the next year? What do I want to learn? What is working in my life? What's not working? How can I change that in a positive manner?

What about you? What did you learn this year? Where ya heading?
Do tell! Please share your ideas! We're on this road together, people. :)

I really want to focus on compassion and love for the next year. So if I see you, I might just give you a hug and tell you that I love you. Because I do. Very much.

Happy 2013, my friends!

 Chris and I in Jamaica.

Beautiful birthday flowers!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Your Kids- and I Don't Mean Goats

I'm not a mom in the sense that I carried a baby in my uterus and gave birth to it. I guess it was a choice on my part, I just was never at the right place in my life to have children and then when I got there I was a little bit too old. For some reason, lately, this has been weighing on me. Maybe weighing is the wrong word. Lately it's been becoming more apparent to me? Lately it's been on my mind? Lately I oscillate between feelings of extreme gratitude that I'm not in charge of raising another human being and remorse for the same thing? I truly believe that there is a reason I don't have any children, that the universe has me placed exactly where I am supposed to be, but I still wonder about it- especially as I get older and wonder who will take care of me some day! Isn't that part of the reason we have children? So we can rely on them to help us in our old age? Trust me, I'm only half joking about that.

As you all know I have my dog, Sushi, and am most definitely a mom to her. I take care of her with all the love in my heart and tell her often about the first time I saw her and held her. I think people do that with their real children too, right? Anyway, Sushi is NOT going to be able to take care of me some day. First of all, she doesn't have thumbs- a necessity for care giving, secondly, I will most likely out-live her, and thirdly, she doesn't even have a job, therefore any money. Plus she sleeps a lot. I could fall and get hurt and she'd be snoozing away, oblivious!

However, I have these nephews, you see. Two amazing, kind, loving, funny, handsome, talented, athletic, artistic, smart and just plain fantastic human beings! They belong to my brother, Greg and his wife, Tammy, who are such great parents that I'm in awe watching them in action. When these boys were born, my brother and his wife made it perfectly clear that I was indeed part of this 'village' that exists to help raise these children. This message was also conveyed to my mother, sister, father, step-mother, and all of our extended family, actually.

I was fortunate, lucky, and honored to be present at the birth of my older nephew Austin. What an absolutely life-changing experience that was. Both my mother and I were the first to see his little face as it entered the world and took his first breath. I'm teary-eyed just writing this, as that moment has become more special to me through the years. I now watch this kid growing into such a good person and well-rounded soul who is a talented athlete and musician. He is, hands-down, one of the most clever and funny people I know, without being mean-spirited about it. He is cool without trying at all. When I see him now, at age 15, little moments of his life flash before me and it makes me smile. When he was little we spent a great deal of time together and  I called him my Stinky Monkey Boy- now I call him Stink, for short.

Austin getting the classic bath in the kitchen sink.

While I was not front and center for Anthony's birth, I held him just hours after he was born and can still remember looking at his perfect little face and whispering in his ear that he was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. It's true! Anthony is adorable and was truly one of the cutest babies ever born. People would stop us in public and say so, I swear! He is still so adorable, the spitting image of his father, a cuddle-bunny who will give me a kiss and a hug on demand ("Gimme a kiss, Ant!"). As a baby the poor little bugger had bad ears so he was almost constantly in pain and had to be held and rocked. It was the perfect opportunity to write and sing songs about him, one of which gave him the name Anftwon LaRue. Today we call him LaRue or LaRuesky. He's smart, also very funny, and quite a chef, an artist, an inventor and builder. He goes into the garage and invents, designs, and  builds things that work! He is a good boy and watching him grow up makes me all warm and fuzzy.

Anthony being the cutest baby in the world.

These boys are my boys. They are a huge part of my heart, soul and fabric. I was a hands-on part of their upbringing. I love them so much I can't stand it and when I see them I'm filled with joy. I love that they trust me, ask me questions, like to be with me, and love me back.

A few years ago, I posed a question to Austin, "Hey Stink- since I don't have any kids of my own, will you take care of me when I get old?"
His answer,"Sure, Aunt Aim."
Anthony chimed in an offer to take care of my sister, who also has no children of her own, so we're all set! I broke the news to them last weekend that I want this in writing, just to be sure.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I just kinda want to let the universe know that I'm here. Your kids? I'm looking out for them too. I'll do my best to be a good person and role model. I'll try to watch my cursing around them. I'll talk to them and play with them, and not in a creeper kind of way. I'll help them whenever I can. I'll share my experiences with them in an appropriate manner. I'll listen to them. 

It sounds like I'm trying to convince you that I'm a responsible adult, which for once in my life I am.

Your kids are also my kids. Except I don't want to babysit them.

The little monkeys.

Making friends at the airport in Jamaica.

LaRuesky and Aunt Amy

Stinky and Aunt Aim

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Master of Multitasking!

I take pride in my ability to multitask. At home I can do laundry, clean the house, cook dinner, play on Facebook, text my friends, take care of the dog, and much more all at once. I watch TV and talk on the phone while writing an email. At work it gets even crazier and there are even times when I run an Inn, a coffee shop, and my own household all at the same time. At the Inn, I take care of as many as 20 guests and three dogs plus day to day running of the business. At home I tend to my husband and dog plus the usual household duties. At the coffee shop I manage employees and customers (ha ha!) as well as the business. When doing all three jobs at once I become the queen of multitasking and handle all of it with ease. Well, mostly with ease.

Then comes the business of living in the present moment. One of the reasons I love yoga so well is that for the entire time I'm practicing I'm not thinking about anything other than what I'm doing right then and there. Same is true for any type of meditation, actually. When I'm out with Sushi playing ball, I'm right there with her, or when I'm kayaking or riding my bike, or gardening. My thoughts wander sometimes, of course, but mostly I'm soaking in what I'm doing right at that moment.

It never occurred to me that these things were related until I read a Facebook post recently by Augusten Burroughs. I love Augusten. I appreciate his wisdom and adore his wicked sense of humor. He wrote about his catastrophic thoughts and how those thoughts take him out of the present moment. By catastrophic thoughts he means that one little thing will send him into a forward spiral of doom. The loose towel bar in his bathroom ended up in a courtroom suing the contractor who did the installation because the bar fell on Augsten's dog, the dog died, and the contractor was at fault and had to be sued. This did not happen, of course, but that is where these catastrophic thoughts take him. He then reflected how the thoughts take him out of the present moment.

This got me thinking...I know, I know, dangerous, right? So here goes. When I'm a my multitasking best, running, doing, achieving...I'm completely out of the present moment. I'm thinking about what I need to do next, or what I have on my agenda tomorrow rather than focusing on the task at hand.The beauty and wonder of every moment is lost because I'm thinking about what's next. You may ask why that matters or really who cares and all I can say is that it does.  I can't tell you how many times I think, "Wow, that day just flew past!" Or "Where did that week go?" Time flies, yes, but I prefer to be more aware of its passing by taking note of the moments. 

When your actions and your thoughts are in the same room at the same time doing the exact same thing, you're 'living in the moment.'
BOING! That's why when I'm doing yoga, or playing with Sushi, or gardening I'm in the present moment and time becomes irrelevant. I live in a really beautiful place and am often snapped back into the moment by the vignettes that I regularly witness. A 20 minute drive to the nearest town sometimes takes a second because of the beauty surrounding me. That's living in the moment. 
I just read an article that stated that the one activity during which people tend to remain focused is sex. That's comforting! The subject of sex calls to mind my theory of multitasking and men. They are not very good at it. Men cannot multitask well at all, in fact!  Their tendency to focus on one thing at a time drives me crazy! I used to think it was an evolutionary defect but now I have to admit that maybe they are on to something. Those bastards are masters of living in the present moment! Crap. I hate admitting I could be wrong about them.
Winter morning, Rock Hall

Summer sunflowers

Jamaican beach

One of the marinas in Rock Hall
Some photos of the present moment.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Woman's Best Friend, Part I: The Beginning

It's no secret that I'm totally crazy about my dog, Sushi. Her full name is Sushi Louise Wasabi and she is a 90 lb Yellow Labrador Retriever. On December 15, she will be six years old- the equivalent to 42 in dog years (whatever the hell they are?!). I also will be 42 this December, so for a year we will be the same age. Twinsies. I keep telling her we will have a girls day out and get our nails done and have lunch together. She just gives me that same look she always does when I talk incessantly to her.

I remember the first time I laid eyes on her, she was only 6 weeks old and so incredibly cute I could barely stand it. I wanted to take her right then but had to wait at least two more weeks. I loved her from the moment I saw her.

The events leading me to getting her in the first place are not very pleasant. I was nearing the end of my active addiction to alcohol, so my drinking was far out of control. I was also living with a certified crazy person who was abusive. We'll leave it at that, for now. The crazy person physically hurt me one night and the next day, as an apology, told me he was going to get me a puppy. It was so cliche that I almost laughed out loud: man hits woman, man feels bad and says it will never happen again, man buys woman a gift. A Lifetime movie in the works, let me tell you.

Me and Sushi-girl in early 2007 at Aunt Carol's house.
So the two weeks passed and on a Sunday afternoon in February of 2007 I picked up my girl. She was  perfect and beautiful and the thought struck me: I can barely take care of myself right now, how am I going to take care of this helpless puppy? The answer is, I did. I did what I was supposed to do and took her to the vet, played with her, loved her and even taught her how to go to the bathroom outside. She was a quick learner and a fun girl who followed me everywhere and looked at me with adoring eyes. I had to shift my priorities to accommodate my dog. I could no longer stay out late or not come home at all- I had to take care of my Sushi-girl. Regardless of my condition, I needed to be there for her and I was.

A few months  after I got her, the crazy person and I got into yet another altercation and I decided to leave that situation for good. The events that followed lead to my going to rehab and getting sober. For the first time in a very long time I had free time on my hands due to the fact that I no longer drank every night! It just so happened that Sushi, being a Labrador, was by nature very high energy and needed to expend that energy. The result was that I took Sushi out every day and tried to tire her out. I threw a tennis ball to her, using a ball-launcher because I throw like a girl, about 1000 times a day.  I took her swimming at one of the many bodies of water nearby, and I walked her incessantly. Sometimes I did all of these things in one day. My goal every day was to tire her out and I did the best I could.

I always say that Sushi saved me, and she really did! I had to muster up enough responsibility to take care of her. She forced me to look beyond myself and to put her needs ahead of my own. That, as a friend recently pointed out, is the definition of love.

                                              Seriously, what's not to love about this face?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

'SUP, yo!

A few years ago I started practicing yoga. What happened to me both on and off the mat is best described as a transformation. This transformation actually began a few years prior with events that lead to me beginning my recovery from alcoholism and yoga is the next phase of this journey. Yoga has helped me learn to meditate, live in the present moment, lose weight and stay in shape. I learn acceptance for others as well as myself through yoga. I learn to "let go of the idea of right and wrong" through yoga. Along with the 12 steps, yoga helps me stay spiritually fit and grounded. Well at least it helps me TRY to stay that way.  In fact, I love that its called a yoga practice, because that is exactly what I do- practice yoga. I don't perfect yoga or totally screw-up yoga, I practice it.

I met a group of terrific women in my yoga classes and we formed a nice bond. There is no competition between us; we encourage each other and complement one another when we see fit to do so. It's lovely, actually and reminds me very much of my women friends in my recovery circle. These women emailed last month and asked me to join them doing stand up paddle board (SUP) yoga. WHAT, you ask?? I'm going to stand up on a surf board like thingie in a river, keep my BALANCE, and then try to do yoga!? Are ya crazy, or just plain stupid? 

So, I said yes! Saying yes in and of itself is sort of a miracle because as I previously mentioned, I like to be good at something from the get-go. I intuitively knew I would not be good at this from the start but if I want any kind of growth in my life I have to try, right?

The date for the SUP yoga was approaching and the weather had to be just right. Yesterday we had a real hum-dinger of a storm here and I thought for sure it would be cancelled. I sort of prayed it would be cancelled, actually. No such luck! This morning I woke up to one of the most beautiful days I've seen in awhile. The humidity is low and the sky is bright blue, sunny, with the puffy white clouds, and the temperature about 72. PERFECT weather, really just perfect. I drove over to meet the ladies and was greeted with this view.

Not too shabby, huh?

We got our paddle boards in the water and the instructor began by showing me how to stand up from a kneeling position. I was wobbly, but I did it. Before long, I was doing yoga on this board while slowly drifting around the cove in which we were practicing. We laughed, wobbled, and bumped into one another but we didn't fall off!  Forward bends, downward dog, lunges, and even twists- I did it. A whole sun salutation on the board, done! Savasana laying down on a floating surface was great too. The whole thing was amazing and I surprised myself with what I was able to do. I couldn't help but think that I almost said no to this experience out of fear. Now I can't wait to do it again.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thank you.

I love the ride from yoga class to my home and tonight was no exception. The sun was sinking in the sky, glowing pinkish-orange, and was absolutely breathtaking. The road is filled with some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever witnessed and it varies depending on the time of year.

As I was driving along, listening to my favorite playlist blaring through the stereo speakers, a wonderful feeling came over me. Surrounded by this beauty of scenery and music I was reminded that I have a truly wonderful life. I have a husband, dog, and family whom I adore and they adore me in return. I have a really fantastic group of friends both in person and online that fill me with such happiness, laughter, and joy that I laugh and smile like a fool throughout the day. I have a job that I really love and work for a couple whom I admire and respect very much. I have house and garden that I enjoy immensely and a new vehicle that is so much fun to drive! I have everything I could possibly need or want right now and there is an unbelievable feeling of peace and love in my heart.

Now, I am not naive enough to believe that this feeling will last forever but I am smart enough to know that when I do feel this way it's important to acknowledge it. This too shall pass! I remember there was a time in my life when I was empty inside and had nothing to give or receive. My good life does not go unnoticed by me and for that I am grateful. 

Or as my good friend, Lisa, would say: I'm grateful as shit.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Occasionally I feel like tofu. I don't mean I feel like eating it, I mean I like it and all, but I'm talking more about the concept of tofu. You've heard someone describe tofu by saying, "Oh it really doesn't taste like anything, it takes on the flavor of the dish." That is exactly what happens to me, I tend to take on the flavor of the dish, so to speak.

I'm a happy-go-lucky person, I truly am. I am gregarious, outgoing, love to laugh and have fun, and I think am pretty much what you see is what you get. I am usually upbeat and positive and see the bright side in most situations. I am a glass-is-half-full kind of gal. That being said, I sometimes get all tofu-y and start to take on the flavor of the dish. Husband not really in a good mood? Boss stressed and agitated? Tofu will take some of that on. Friends feeling down? Family in a funk? Good old tofu will have some of that flavor too. This doesn't always happen, thankfully, but when it does I find it disturbing.

Most of the time I can Keep Calm and Carey On. (wink!)  

So what is it?  My time of the month? A bout of insecurity? A pity party? Self-centeredness to the extreme? Full moon? Who knows! All I know is that it kills me a little bit each time it happens and I hate it. BUT, I am getting better at recognizing it and ending it before it goes to far. That's progress, baby.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What's in a name anyway?

I've started this blog in my head a million times and the main thing holding me back is lack of a cute name for the whole thing. Pathetic, right? Nope, that's par for this course. I wanted the title to be catchy and cute! When I start something, anything, whatever it is- I want to be good at it right away. No learning curve here, I want to pick up whatever it is and be good! So good in fact, that people will talk about how good I am and what a natural I am and how I should have done this long ago. I have an obvious ego/ pride issue which I'm sure will be discussed at length on many occasions.

Interestingly, over the past few years I have come to realize that learning to do new things is fun! I have a friend that tries to learn something new every year. She never claims to be an expert at any of these things, just learns then for the sake of learning. I have learned to listen to her and have been trying to do the same thing. I let go of that pride and fear and went back to school a few years ago and earned another degree. The following year I began to practice yoga, which has changed my life. Last year I was definitely going to learn how to sew and even got a sewing machine to prove it! But, alas, 'tis still in the box right now. I will learn how to sew, just not quite yet.

Back to the title of this blog. I have these friends, you see, who are creative and funny and smart and beautiful! And when I posed my dilemma they sprung into action and came up with the beginnings of the name. So I think the most important thing I have learned in the past few years which has been a life saver to me is to ask for help when I need it. Not rocket science, but for a girl like me it may have well been.