Friday, December 29, 2017

Reflections Are Like Diamonds In The Rough

As I reflect on 2017, there are many words to describe the feelings that I have - aware, grateful, transitional, connection, compassionate, joy-filled, content.  The list could go on, but I will take each descriptor and outline the months beginning with January of 2017.

In January of 2017, I was acutely aware of needing to make important decisions for my family's health and well-being, and that meant seriously looking into selling my home once again.  I was also very aware of the deep friendship and support from my dear friend Jamie, who started a Go Fund Me to assist with our family hardship.

February, March and April brought forth such gratitude to family, friends, colleagues and others committed to the process of having excellent health-care available that supported growth rather than being stifled by only a conventional process.

May and June were definitely transitional months.  I moved Ashley to Boulder and continued onto CA with Tammie.  It's interesting how this all came about at once.  I had been contemplating a move to support my own health, as well as to be in an environment that was more supportive of integrative medicine.  My dear colleague and mentor, Heather, assisted me with my astrological chart to hone in on areas that may support my healing and growth.  This all came at the same time - sale of my home, moving Ashley and myself.  While a busy time, it was the most cost-effective manner to accomplish this all.

July and August were about exploration and connection.  I have made wonderful friends, explored dance, met amazing artists and have truly felt a sense of peace living in beautiful Ojai.  This place is known for its healing energy and upon visiting Meditation Mount, I immediately felt the connection to Graymoor - a mountain in the Peekskills of NY and place that we frequented as a family.  These holy mounts erected Peace Poles in the same year - clear across the country.

In September and October, I chose to begin the process of digging deep into self-compassion - an area of my overall well-being that I had neglected over the years.  My focus had been on surviving, achieving and caring for my wonderful girls, but there was a nagging inside that informed me that in order to truly heal, I needed to begin this process.

In November, I met with a shaman/medicine woman - a wise woman who immediately connected me to my core - joy, pain and all!  Interestingly, my Mom had always been very proud of our Indian heritage and here I was, investigating this spiritual realm.

December came and I realized that my professional gifts were bringing me to Santa Barbara quite often, another beautiful, mid-coast city with similarities to Ojai, but with an expanded view of integrative medicine.  I thought that I would wait until May when my lease was up, but I was getting clear messages that I should look sooner. 

Not only did an ideal apartment show up, but professional interests have been percolating.  As has been my experience in the past, the landing was pretty rough.  There were massive wildfires in both cities, resulting in two evacuations.  This is where the diamonds are now seen - in the rough!  Not only have I witnessed care and concern, but I feel very content with how this year has come to a close.

I have washed off all the ashes, have placed most of my items away and am planning a holiday party tomorrow - gathering friends from my new home, 5000 miles away from home!

It is about being grateful and content with what we have and feeling the connectedness to all of humanity.

I wish you a very happy, healthy and peace-filled New Year!

Monday, December 25, 2017

"His Clothes Were All Tarnished With Ashes and Soot"

A long-standing tradition in our family has been to read Twas the Night Before Christmas and given that our family spreads from sea to sea this year, Ashley suggested we skype and face time to read the book. 

Traditions are a way to solidify bonds and to create a sense of belonging and familiarity.  This year was especially important for our family, as we have faced so many changes - all growth filled, yet not all were easy, nor the fruits to be seen in the moment.  We are all well and moving closer to where we want to be in life and what will bring about the greatest expression for our unique gifts  in this world.

For me, the past two weeks have been anything but peaceful, yet I felt an inner knowing that all was going to be okay.  Being new to CA, I experienced my first wild fires, two evacuations and a move that aligns with my personal mission and vision in life.  Santa Barbara has the largest per capita non-profit organizations and has ongoing research and movements about environmental concerns - sustainability, energy use, honoring the use of our land.

Holiday plans were changed for us all, yet we are so connected.  In fact, Lindsay and Scott move on January 1 to San Diego - now a 6 hour drive instead of a 6 hour flight!  And Ashley is comfortably settled in Boulder, just graduated and now working full-time at Pearle Vision.

Tammie has been a real trooper through fires, moves, motels and long car rides and she continues to remind me about the "bright side" of life.  Her unending devotion, love and puppy-like mannerisms can really bring me back to earth when I begin "spinning out" with the next steps.  I am reminded that we only have what is right in front of us - a beautiful life with opportunities to share love with others.

Let me close with the end of the story - "But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight - Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!"

Whether you celebrate Christmas or another tradition, I send you love and blessings on this day and always.

(Remember just a week ago, the skies were colored with orange smoke, but the resilience of nature brings us back to balance - time to do our part as well!)

Monday, December 18, 2017

Just What God Ordered

It's now two days after leaving the fires in Santa Barbara.  Tammie and I have been in clean air, blue skies and I say to myself, "What more could I want?"  I keep thinking of how fresh air feels like a birth-right and how in other areas of the world, it does not exist. 

Going down the rabbit-hole of thought, I begin to realize how we have opportunities right in front of our eyes, stating the obvious.  It is time to take care of the environment and while there are hundreds of thousands of acres lost to fire, this new ash will become a new beginning "IF" we choose to see it that way once the dust settles - no pun intended.

Out of my usual character, I decided to do a vacation-like activity yesterday and visited the Hearst Castle.  What a beautiful area, site and national park.  I was proud of myself for taking time to indulge in this activity - something that becomes difficult for me to keep in balance of my total health.

We all share in the commonality of having "blind spots" and one of mine happens to be not giving to me.  Sounds simple, but the legacy of self-sacrifice is so entrenched that while I've heard the words and have "gotten it" cognitively, but somehow, there has been a loss in the translation to feeling it and being worthy.

A little over a month ago, I restarted my shamanic journey and the main gift that has transpired is self-compassion.  Much like my folks and their respective families, stoicism has been a saving grace and while I agree, this attitude and behavior has surely done me well, I also now see and feel how it has also eroded at my total health.

A small move to go to a museum - things I enjoyed in the past when I had more time and money - but I was grinning ear to ear, both inside and out, as I pulled away from the castle.  This entry is two-pronged today:

Let us begin to band together as a human race, treating the earth and people with love, respect and care for the long-term AND treat yourself with love, respect and care.  It's all a balancing act!

With Love

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Breath of Fresh Air

As I've navigated two evacuations in the past two weeks, I continue to feel blessed, calm and keep tapping into what is truly important in life!  It's been me and Tammie (aka TT - my Dad named her Tammie Terror many years ago as a frisky pup) with a few belongings, jugs of water and a tank of gas.

As I drove away today, there were a few college students along the road handing out free water bottles.  At the grocery, assistants were smiling and asking if we needed help, and while waiting turns at four-way intersections, everyone took their turn graciously!  No honking of horns, no angry drivers, just folks gettin outta town like me!

What I've witnessed in this devastation is a bonding of humanity and kindness that truly warms the heart.  Being new to CA, I've downloaded the apps for alerts and have called the 211 update line and people on the other end have been so kind to assist me with further information since I do not know the districts and counties.

Today, I chose to leave before the increased mandatory evacuations because I started to have labored breathing.  Not a whimp, but being careful given my ongoing immune challenges.

Yesterday was my official move to Santa Barbara from Ojai and after three trips back and forth, I unloaded what I could by about 9pm.  During the days prior, I left boxes and furniture in the driveway.  Since my belongings are covered in ash, I've left them on the porch to clean each item before bringing it inside.

My new landlord was "angel number one"!  He allowed me to stay in the unfinished apartment while evacuated from Ojai, then he moved up my date for moving so that I could free up my apartment for another who lost their home.

"Angel number two" - the fellow who assisted my landlord with painting and prepping the unit, came today to help me haul up a few pieces of furniture to my porch.

And there are others in the mix as well.  My cousins up north who had Tammie and I stay last week; my friend who helped me pack and calls
daily to see how we are doing.

It's when stripped of all the veneer that one can truly see the gifts in life and to be happy in the moment!

Could not be stated better!

The path to enlightenment is not a path at all, Julie, it's actually a metaphor for the time it takes for you to allow yourself to be happy with who you already are, where you already are, and what you already have... no matter what.
Just do it, 
  The Universe
The first photo is as I am leaving home - awoke to seeing live fires on the mountains in the distance
 The second photo is a little north on route 101 heading north

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Twas Some Weeks Before Christmas

As I ponder this past week, it has been an experience of polar opposites - devastation  and destruction of homes, land, livestock paralleled by an outpouring of love, concern and connection.

I left my home exactly one week ago and hunkered down with Tammie in an unfinished apartment on a futon laid on plastic bags to protect it from the soot.  And yet, I felt grateful - grateful for having a safe place to stay without needing to be in an evacuation center.

As the days progressed, the fire and smoke moved north where we were and soon, the ashes were falling like snowflakes.  After four alarms in the middle of the night, I decided to head really north, staying with my cousins about 5-6 hours away.

Before leaving town, however, I attended a prayer service that felt so heartwarming and focused on the gifts of life and lessons learned in hardship.  After leaving, I went back to the shopping area where I left my vest the day before and the area was deserted.   While Christmas lights flickered in the store windows and music was piped in throughout the outdoor mall, no-one was in sight.  The only activity was the increasing shower of ashes coming down through the sky.  It felt like a sci-fi movie and we were the lone survivors of the end of civilization.

While an eerie feeling, I was not afraid.  Instead, I began the inquiry again.  Why am I here, in this place, now?   What is the lesson to be learned from it all?  I began to think of one of my favorite Christmas movies - Dr Seuss',  "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".  Why this story one might ask?

Empty stores, no-one shopping and in fact, no-one even around!  And yet, out there in the surrounding areas were firefighters, military, Red Cross volunteers, people checking in on others to make sure they are safe and settled.  It's not about the boxes and bows, nor the presents under the tree, but more about the true meaning of Christmas and of life itself.  We are here to love.  We are here to serve.  We are here to be in connection with one another.

I'm back home in Ojai - a city that is smoke-filled at this time.  I have friends who are safe and others who lost their homes.  I'm pilfering through a few extra blankets and towels to give to the next family who comes to live in my home at the end of the week.  I feel blessed in that I had begun the process of planning to move to Santa Barbara, 45 minutes away, due to work.  This move was to be at the end of December and I have been able to coordinate to move two weeks earlier in order to house a family who lost everything.  For me this is God's grace at work.

Look for the miracles - they appear every day if you look!


Friday, December 8, 2017

A Snowfall of Ash

It's been a month since updating on most social media sites - life has taken twists and turns that continue to always bring me back to a place of gratitude no matter what.  That has taken years of practice, patience, frustration and acceptance.

Today as I write this entry, I am sitting on my futon on the floor of an unfinished apartment with dust, and dirt and fresh smelling varnish.  Yet, I feel so very grateful to be here, alive, warm and sitting next to Tammie, who is now 14 years old!

Last week, Tammie was very ill with an acute bronchitis that caused a collapsed trachea.  We were back and forth to the animal hospital for a few days, xrays, medications and finally, the vet suggested acupuncture to support her trachea.  Tammie has responded well and I feel so lucky to have this "old girl" in my life!

Just three days ago, I was evacuated from my apartment in Ojai due to devastating fires that have claimed thousands of acres of land, houses, farms, businesses and very sadly, animals.  While unafraid, this is unlike anything I have witnessed in my life and now three days later, forty-five miles north of Ojai, we are being asked to stay in much of the time while ash falls from the sky and the air quality is very bad.  As I prayed and asked God what am I meant to be doing and being during this time, I received a clear message to serve.

Immediately, I called the local colleges and Red Cross to see how I may assist and surprisingly they were set.  I next reached out to friends and on the net about moving up ability to have my apartment ready sooner for someone who has lost their home.

Backing up just a bit, I made a decision earlier in November to consider relocating to Santa Barbara for business opportunities that are opening up and in the process, my soon to be landlord not only allowed me to bed down here, but is willing to move up my move-in date so that I can accommodate a person whose home burned to the ground. 

As I have stated so many times in the past, there are no coincidences in life.  My initiation of the move created an opportunity for me to be safely housed instead of being in a shelter and afforded me the ability to help another person in the process.

Divine intervention prevails yet again!