Artist, Believe, Cartoon, Creativity, Drawing, Inspiration, Life

I Am An Artist

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

~ Pablo Picasso

Throughout grade school and junior high school, I had a passion for art, and it followed me into high school, but then other things captured my interest and I moved away from dabbling in my own creativity. Years later, while married, I expressed an interest and desire to get back into drawing and it was immediately discouraged by my then husband (thank God he is gone). Feeling very insecure by his thoughts and comments, I suppressed that desire for many years.

I always knew I possessed some form of creativity whether it be with cooking or interior design, but it was not until my fourth grandchild was born that I discovered my true passion for cartoon drawing. Back in 2017, the artist pad and pencils came back into my life and I began to explore my artistic creativity. I started with Disney cartoon characters, then moved into cartoon dinosaurs to the Marvel Avenger characters and recently, Star Wars.

Some are better than others, but I think what surprised me more than my family was my ability to look at a picture and recreate it, free form, by eye, with the stroke of a pencil. I find that in those moments of drawing a sense of peace just takes over my being and it completely relaxes me. It takes be to a place way below the noise of the world and when I go deep below the surface, more often than not, the reward of the final etching is greater than what I had originally anticipated.

My work may never be discovered, or it may never be on display in a museum or art gallery, and I may never create a Picasso, but this I know for sure; the greatest reward is hearing a six-year-old tell you, “Nana you are an artist.”

So, I am an artist.

Simply Deborah ❤️

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Hope, Life, Love, Moments, Relationships

Happy Valentine’s Day

It has been a long time since there has been a true Valentine in my life and this morning’s Sunday Paper, by Maria Shriver, hit all the notes, sentiments and thoughts that I am sure many of us are feeling and I thought I would share her piece on love.

Rest In Love

By Maria Shriver

Does hearing that make you smile, or does it make you weep? Are you looking forward to today, or are you mad that you aren’t where you want to be when it comes to love? If your answer is the latter, let’s take a walk (not a real one, of course, although I’d love that). Let’s take a moment to simply connect and be.

After all, that’s what love is really all about. It’s about being wholly yourself with another human and feeling loved for who you are. It’s not about a fancy dinner, a piece of jewelry, flowers, sex, or chocolates. Don’t get me wrong, those things are great, but they don’t define love on their own.

Love is deep. It’s varied. It’s complex and yet also simple. It’s romantic but also platonic. It can fill your heart up, and it can break it into a thousand little pieces.

I’ve learned a lot about love over the years—what it is and isn’t—and much of what I’ve learned has come from a painful place. That said, it’s all helped me get to a more loving space in my life.

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

Love is about acceptance. It’s not about changing someone to fit your needs.

Love is about feeling fully seen and understood. It’s also about loving yourself deeply and wholly first. Don’t try to alter yourself to gain love. It doesn’t work.

I wish I’d known about all the different love languages (they are really important and useful). I wish I’d known that every single person speaks love differently and needs something different from you. Challenge yourself to learn the love language of the people in your life.

I wish I’d known the importance of clearing up and cleaning up your attachment issues before you unconsciously throw them onto someone who has no idea what they are responsible for.

I wish I’d known that love can go slow. It doesn’t have to be fast, exciting, or on the edge. As a friend once said to me, contentment is underrated.

I wish I’d known that some people simply want to rest in love. They just want to be, not do. Be courageous enough to rest with love.

I wish I’d known that a deep friendship and a deep love can go together. I wish I’d known that conflict was inevitable in love, and that learning how to argue effectively is an art form that can actually bring people together.

I wish I’d known that everyone has triggers, and everyone has trauma. Be informed about both, otherwise you are going to keep tripping on land mines.

To be good at love you have to be courageous enough to apologize. Ask for forgiveness. You have to make your relationship a priority. Get good at continuing to make it so.

And, if you come to find yourself feeling less than, gaslit, or scared, know that is not love. Value yourself enough to get up and go even if you don’t know where you are going. And if you are scared to leave for any reason, seek help.

I wish I’d been better prepared for the ups and downs of love and life. Actually, it turns out I was prepared. I just didn’t know it.

When it comes to love, I feel like I’ve learned a lot and like I’ve also learned nothing at alI. I feel like I’m really good at it, even though I’ve made mistakes. Today, my eyes are wide open to love. I see love in me that I never saw before. That makes me happy.

I also see it in people and places I never even noticed before. That makes me grateful. My heart, though bruised, is also wide open. Leonard Cohen wrote that the cracks are what allow the light to get in. I would add that the cracks are what allows the love to get in as well.

Not too long ago, I had a dream that had a profound impact on me. I was out in The Open Field. I was very much alive, and music was playing. I was happy. I was dressed like I was in high school, which is to say like a flower child. I was surrounded by people who have loved me, and even those who have broken my heart. I went to each person and thanked them for being there. I thanked them for loving me, supporting me, and teaching me what I needed to learn. I told them how grateful I was for the love and the lessons. To me, the fact that they were in my dream signaled that the love we shared was still there. It signaled that love had endured even though I didn’t think that it had.

I also took a moment to apologize to those who loved me that I couldn’t love back. I was struck by that; sometimes you can’t love someone who loves you, and sometimes someone you love can’t love you back. It’s usually for a whole bunch of reasons that have nothing to do with you. Remember that.

I’m sharing this with you now just in case you find yourself alone today. Just in case you find yourself dealing with a broken heart today. Just in case you don’t have a date tonight. (I don’t either, lol.)

You see, I believe that everyone who ever loved me, and who ever loved you, still does. That’s true regardless of whether they are still around or not. Their love lives on in you.

That’s the thing about love. The person who loved you may no longer be here. They may have broken your heart, ghosted you, or passed away. But the memory of how you felt when it was good, when your heart felt full, that’s yours. They can’t take that away. You can bring that forth any time you want. You can make your heart feel full even if they are no longer looking into your eyes.

And if you find yourself today still in the midst of a relationship that is challenging or traumatic, then give yourself extra love. If you want to leave, know that you have the strength to do so. Dig deep. You can find it. I know that when things are bad, it can be hard to see the way out. But get quiet and ask yourself what you need. Maybe it’s the courage to speak up, or maybe it’s help from someone else. Believe that you can get there. You can.

So on this day when the world is celebrating what feels like one kind of love, go easy and know that love doesn’t only come in one shape or size. If you don’t have a valentine, don’t despair. Be open today to other gestures of love. Let them in. If someone tells you today that you have made them feel loved—a friend, a child, whomever—let it land. That’s love too.

And if you are in love, if you have your person, count your blessings. Celebrate what you have and be gentle with it because love is so very fragile. It’s the greatest gift of all, and nothing else compares. That’s the truth.

Today, also be mindful of what you say to yourself. Be kind, be loving, and focus on filling your heart up. That’s not someone else’s job. It’s your own. Don’t worry about the cracks. Those that love the best have lots of cracks. Those that love the best have told me there’s no one big secret to enduring love. It’s just lots of little decisions and choices along the way that keep you in conversation, in connection, in commitment, in forgiveness, and in acceptance.

Know that you are worthy of being loved fully, wholly, and completely until the end of God’s time. Believe me, it’s true. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Love,

Maria

So, this Valentine’s Day, I am grateful for every love that has passed through my life and I remain hopeful that the best is still yet to come in my life. And I hope we all find the courage to let love shine through the cracks of our lives.

Simply Deborah ❤️

Cooking, Flavors, Food, Italian Traditions

A Chicken Cacciatore Sunday

With all of the sadness, noise and anxiety around the world, I thought it would be a good day to silence the world and to get back to my passion of being in the kitchen. Cooking has always been an outlet for me, and a place where I find myself to be the most relaxed, and at peace. I turn on the music, today, it was Frank Sinatra, and maybe I will even pour myself a glass of wine, and I get busy with just being creative.

This past week someone asked me for my Chicken Cacciatore recipe, and I found myself craving the dish. Growing up, it was a staple dish in our house, and after having it so often, over the years, I lost my taste for it. Coming from a multi-cultural family, with an Italian mother, who really did not like to cook, I know, unheard of but it is the truth, and a Puerto Rican father, who loved to cook, but no matter what the dish was it always seemed to lean towards the flavors of Puerto Rico. And Chicken Cacciatore was not any different, it was made with a Latin flare, which included a sofrito base, adobo, Sazón, onions, and Spanish olives, capers and it was always served over rice.

But over the years, I have learned to perfect the recipe, and reintroduced it to my Italian heritage of taste and flavor. The taste of the dish will always have a variation, depending on the brand and type of tomatoes to the types of peppers, and other ingredients, including how much garlic is used, which are all a personal preference, and the choices are many. I have always believed that you should not be afraid to experiment with flavor but when it comes to canned tomatoes, I will always air on the side of using good quality tomatoes, and it depends on what is available in your region.

This dish is so easy. All in one pot and simmered on low heat for two hours. Serve it with your favorite pasta or a creamy polenta and of course, some good, warm, crusty Italian bread to soak up all of that the delicious sauce. The best part of the dish, it can feed a Sunday crowd.

My preference is skinless, bone-in chicken thighs. The bones bring a bit more flavor to the dish, and when the meat just falls off the bone, well, who doesn’t just love that. Boneless thighs work just as well and again, it is a personal preference. For me, using chicken breasts tends to be too dry to my liking and the sauce has a completely different taste.

While adding the wine, listen for that sound and it is a sound that I love.
Don’t be afraid to use your hands to crush the tomatoes.

This is a good, rustic and hearty Italian dish, which is served family style. The variation of the dish is large and wide. From including carrots, onions, garlic, yellow and red peppers, assorted mushrooms, olives, capers, spices, herbs, tomatoes and wine. It can made with a whole chicken, cut up in pieces, with the breast cut in half, you can add chicken broth or white wine and if you are a fan of spicy, you can always add a few long hot peppers.

Mine version is simple. Chicken thighs, extra virgin olive oil, red, green and yellow peppers, onions, salt, pepper, a touch of oregano, garlic, basil, whole and crushed canned tomatoes, red wine and when slow cooked and reduced makes the most delicious sauce to soak into your chicken. The simplicity of this dish does not compromise the flavor. The flavor is bold, and the key is in the laying of flavors and the added bonus, it tastes even better the next day.

And just let it simmer, on low heat, for two hours.

Mangiamo! Buon appetito!

Simply Deborah ❤️

Chicken Cacciatore

Ingredients

  • 8 – 10 bone-in or boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 of each, green, red and yellow, thinly sliced
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup good, red wine
  • 1 35 oz. can whole tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • Fresh basil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, and oregano

Instructions

  • Season chicken, on both sides, with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of oregano.
  • Heat a heavy deep pot, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
  • Place chicken into hot pan and do not move it until it reaches a deep golden brown and it is easy to turn. Brown other side for a few minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.
  • Add peppers, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, to taste. Sauté for 5 minutes.
  • Place the chicken back into the pot.
  • Add wine to pan, listen for the sizzle and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Crush the whole tomatoes, with your hands over the chicken and vegetables. Add juice of the whole tomatoes and a can of crushed tomatoes. Add half a can of water or chicken broth.
  • Add salt and pepper, to taste. Add a handful of fresh basil.
  • Simmer on low heat, for 2 hours or until chicken falls off the bone. Uncovered.
  • Garnish with fresh chopped basil.
  • Serve with your favorite pasta, creamy polenta or warm crusty bread and of course, compliment the dish with a great bottle of wine.
Faith, Family, Hope, Legacy, Life, Love, Moments, Truth

A Legacy Filled With Truth and Hope

Today is the big day…65 and officially, a senior citizen and a Medicare recipient. It is a birthday where I had totally different thoughts on how I would celebrate it and my life. I had visions and dreams of an all-out disco birthday bash (DJ, big hair, ‘70’s attire and all) to eating, drinking, wandering, and maybe even falling in love, all while exploring every inch of Italy. But here I am, smack in the middle of a pandemic, with the rest of the world, and I find myself struggling with the number because the reality is, I most certainly have less time left here, than I have lived. And along with questioning, I also find myself reflecting on my legacy, and wondering what it may sound and look like, from the inside out.

They say everyone leaves behind a legacy after they die but only a few leave behind one worth talking about. No matter who you are, leaving behind a legacy is important. It is not a monetary one but one that is harder to define, and it certainly is far more important. I have thought long, and hard about my own legacy, and what it would really sound like, look like and feel like. What were some of the things I did, the places I went, my accomplishments, my failures, and my lasting words? Is my legacy filled with a lifetime of relationships, truths, values, and will they live on in the lives that I have touched? What mark did I leave that would help people in making decisions, and life choices on what to do and not do? What were some of my positive and selfless acts? What example have I been to behave in a good way, and to avoid making the mistakes I had made?

For me, I am even more driven by the urgent desire to find a larger meaning to my life. I find myself struggling, reflecting, reviewing, and thinking about ways of giving back. I also find myself assessing, and sorting through my past, and the contributions I have made, and the memories I will leave behind, and I still question, was it all enough? It is so easy to remember all of our mistakes and the less than desirable moments in our lives, and I am not sure I will ever know if my life was enough or if it left a lasting impression on the lives I did touch, but these are the truths I know for sure, along with my hopes.

I know I have loved hard and unconditionally. I know I made many mistakes, some twice and maybe even three times but I have learned something from each one of them. I know there have been many people, who have passed through my life for a reason, a season, and some for a lifetime. I am grateful for each one of them and what they may have taught me or what they have brought to my life. I learned that determination could chart your own course, it paves your own way, and there is nothing wrong with going it alone. I have learned in those times when you do feel all alone, it is important to recognize you have so much help around you, and all you have to do is ask for it. I have learned you can survive all of the cracks, struggles, and flaws of life with a strong faith and belief.

I hope that the good values instilled in me were profound enough that they have trickled down to the generations after me. I hope my work ethic was visible enough that it left a lasting impression. I hope my commitment, and determination was prevalent to the lives I have touched. I hope that my message that life can be so simple, and most of the time we complicate it has been heard, and always remembered. I hope I am remembered for knowing the importance of taking a pause, taking a breath, and being in the moment. I hope my example that you are never too old to learn is one that encourages others. I hope that my life story has taught the lives that I have touched that no matter how many times life knocks you to the ground, there is always hope, and another chance to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and to just keep moving. I hope that I have taught many that we all have choices, and the importance of taking responsibility for those choices.

I hope that my children and grandchildren will always know they were my life, and I hope that they each know how they were individually loved. I hope that they have learned and know that their individual uniqueness was something so powerful in my life. I hope that they learned that it is okay to stumble, and when you lose your footing, trust in yourself, and whatever outside force you believe in. I trust they will know God was mine. I hope they know I did the best I could financially when the going was good, and I did even better in the worst of times. I hope they know I would have gone to the end of the earth for each one of them. I hope they know that they had a voice in me, and one they could trust, and a face they could turn to in their time of need. I hope they know that they could always count on me. More importantly, I hope they know how grateful I am for their tolerance of my own flaws.

I hope they know that they were each a beautiful gift to my life. Raising them and watching them grow had its tough moments, and I hope they know the joyous moments, by far, outweigh the tough ones. I hope they know I did my best to dream for them. My dream has always been for each of them to see the world, and that they discover their purpose in life. My hope is that they never settle for anything less than the best version of themselves. I hope they remember me as the kind of mother and Nana, who would lift cars, and fight bears to keep them safe. I hope they always know exactly who they are, and as life marches on, I hope they know some dreams will change, and some will go away but I hope they know I will never stop dreaming for them. And no matter what happens, I hope they know I will love them forever.

I hope my vanity and high maintenance obsessions were not inflicted upon others but remembered as ones that were more about the importance of self-care, health, well-being, and feeling good about yourself…mentally, physically and emotionally. I hope I have taught others the importance of being kind to your body and to learn to love it, take care of it and that the body keeps score and it always wins. I hope my very real obsession with lipstick is remembered with a lot of laughter, and the true understanding, power and relationship behind lipstick and its possibilities. Those who really know me will fully understand this.

Life has taught me many things, and I hope I have passed on some knowledge that hard work, diligence, perseverance, persistence, tenacity and a commitment are all ingredients for the making of a successful career. I hope my message was clear, to all who knew me, that you will know when it is time to move on, and part ways, and to never take anything personal when it comes to business. I hope they know that while corporate America was good to me, I was even better to it.

I hope I have been an example of how to believe in your own abilities and to never be afraid to fall. I hope I have been an example that your best usually comes out when you are facing the worst. I hope I have shown many that amazing things can happen when you turn things over. I hope they remember that I had to learn patience, and tolerance, and I hope my example has taught those close to me that life is only as difficult as you allow it to be.

I hope that my passion for cooking, and food is one that has touched many, and more importantly their palates and bellies. I hope that my legacy and belief that presentation is everything, along with taste is one that is carried on for many generations to come. I hope that the stories, and the experience of being in the kitchen with me and sitting at my table are ones that will be remembered with a heart full of love, laughter, and one that makes every mouth salivate. I hope that I have taught many that following your passion and your dreams are always attainable, and achievable when you have a commitment to the passion and the dream.

I hope my passion for creativity, whether it is writing, designing, dancing, drawing or gardening encourages many to always follow their heart. I hope I have taught many to never let the negativity of others get in their creative space or any part of their life. I hope I have taught many that being a free spirit can have its magical moments. I hope I have taught many that even when you fail, you should always stay humble. I hope I have taught many that you can speak your mind but to always be respectful. I hope I have taught many to be mindful of personal boundaries that should never be crossed.

I hope I leave a lasting memory of knowing it is okay to sometimes be silly, and that believing in your creative abilities, dinosaurs, dragons, singing and dancing in the rain, playing in the dirt, laughing at yourself, eating a meal with the people you love, and the gift of your imagination are just some of the simple things that will bring your life everlasting love, and years of amazing memories. I hope my love of Manhattan, and the days spent exploring the city, its museums, Broadway, the food experiences, Central Park, shopping on Fifth Ave and Rockefeller Center Christmas’ are memories that are fondly remembered, and I hope those memories have been contagious enough to live on in others for years to come.

As Springsteen said “age brings a perspective and a fine clarity. It has a way of teaching you many things, and one day, it dawns on you rather quickly that there is only so much time left. There are only so many star-filled nights, snowfalls, brisk fall afternoons and rainy mid-summer days.” I have learned that it is always the smaller things in life that remind us of what truly matters. From the leap of a grandchild into your arms and they wrap their little arms around your neck to a Facetime call from your grandson that you thought would be a five minute call and it turns into nearly a two hour call to a hand reaching to hold yours to being recognized for a lifetime achievement to someone’s warm embrace and whispering in your ear that they love you to a gentle kiss on your forehead. You see, some things have a way of imprinting themselves on your life and they never let go. They are a life sentence of some bad, many good and an enormous number of great memories. That is your reward. Being here to witness and feel it all.

As I celebrate a 65-year legacy (so far, that is) …it is one that reminds me I am lucky to be alive. Lucky to be breathing in this world of beauty, and hope. Because this is what I am presented with each day, a chance. A chance in a world where I am lucky to love, and to be loved. I hope I continue to dance through life, and more importantly, I still remain hopeful that the best is yet to come for me and my soul’s purpose.

Simply Deborah ❤️

Awareness, Courage, Forgiveness, Hope, Inspiration, Life Experiences, Love, Shame, Thoughts, Voice

Your Voice

“Use your voice for kindness, your ears for compassion, your hands for charity, your mind for truth, and your heart for love.”
~ Anonymous

First my disclaimer, I published this piece over a week ago, then I took it down. I edited it. I published it a second time, and I took it down, yet again. Fear of exposing myself and wondering if my story would be met with ridicule and judgment took over my decision. Then this quote by Marcel Proust crossed my path, “We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” This story is very personal, and it is a journey that no one could ever take from me. If this past year, and actually, my entire life, has taught me anything, it is that I need to get better at surrendering and accepting God’s will. So, I took the advice of someone I admire, and I closed my eyes. I put my hand over my tender and broken heart. I breathed in and out. I recalled all my life’s teachers, even the ones that hurt me because hurt teaches you something too. I looked at them one by one and I thanked them for the life lessons they taught me, and I thought maybe it is God’s will for me to share my wisdom, my voice and my story.

So, who is this person I admire? Maria Shriver but she is in a cast of many writers who I admire. She captured my attention, many years ago, and there have been times, her voice has made me pause, and reflect on my own thoughts, my own life, and my own words. Quite often, her voice has given me hope. She has been that person who has inspired me to write, to own my story, to find my voice, and to attempt to feel heard. Then, there have been moments, after I have read her thoughts, that I truly know, and believe, I am exactly where I am supposed to be in life.

She once wrote…” sometimes it might feel like you’re speaking to just a few people, or maybe no one at all, but if you don’t write or use your voice, then you will never know how it feels.” Years later, I am still writing, and if I reach one person, that is a good thing, and at the same time, it does not really matter because I still own my story, and I am doing exactly what I want to do, and that is finding my own voice.

During a year that has already been filled with so much pain, suffering, and confusion for anyone to absorb, comprehend or digest, someone shared their personal story of pain with me. It was about how they feel as though they are constantly verbally shamed with extremely hurtful and scaring words. I listened very carefully, and some parts of their story caused me great pain, as it did them. I was not sure how to respond or if they were even asking for my advice because more often than not, people just want to be heard. In that moment, I could hear how deep their pain was and how they were searching for the answers to the “why”. While I hung onto every word of their story, I felt a maternal responsibility to encourage them to try and find the courage, and strength to rise above the hurtful words, to always stand true to themselves, and to always know that I am here for them. I felt a deep disappointment that someone that close to them thought it was completely within their right to hurt someone that badly, so unnecessarily, and over something that had no real importance.

Their story reminded me of an interview I had once heard with Dr. Robin Smith. She said that shaming never changes anyone, but we certainly live in a shaming culture. We are raising our children to be shamed, and that it is totally acceptable for them to shame others. Many of us, were often raised by shaming. Generation after generation, believe shaming a child in front of friends or family will teach them next time not to do whatever wrong you believe they may have done. It might but trust this, it will not change the inside of a child. It actually will start to shave away at their spirit and confidence. Shame is most certainly a spirit killer, and we all do it, we all use it, and it was probably used against many of us, including myself. Shaming is not exclusive to children. Bearing witness to an adult, who is being shamed and ridiculed, openly and publicly, is just as hard to watch. As with a child, it also kills their spirit and confidence. It diminishes who they are as a person, spouse, parent, grandparent or sibling.

The shaming story is one that I am only too familiar with, and it dredged up old ghosts from my past. I grew up with a father, who thought shaming and ruling with an iron hand was the only way to discipline. His disciplinary ways, and his inability to handle, calmly and rationally, unplanned and unexpected life events, forced me to leave my home, to find comfort, compassion, and shelter with family, and eventually, married at a young age. It took me many years to completely forgive my father, but it was after his death that I gained a better understanding of who he was, and why he disciplined the way he did. It was a different time growing up during the 60’s and 70’s, and he was not equipped with the knowledge or resources to guide him with understanding and adjusting to the changing world. I like to believe, I was the rebel, who eventually changed him, and it gave my sisters a better life during the remainder of time that they lived at home. The real turning point in our relationship were the times, over the course of many years, where he verbally, acknowledged and recognized his faults, his mistakes and apologized for all the hurt and pain he had caused. This I know for sure, he loved me, unconditionally, and his ultimate goal was to always protect me, and he only wanted the best for me that life had to offer.

I went from a shaming father to marrying a man, who shamed me nearly every day that we were together. His words cut like a knife and hurt more than the physical abuse. His harshest words imaginable, left internal scars that took years to heal, and overcome. With every opportunity where he felt his power and control over me were being threatened, he used the most degrading words to diminish me as a person, a woman, a wife, and a mother. He too was ill equipped with the knowledge, and the resources for change, and he did not have the ability, the courage nor the will to recognize, and change, who he really was as a man and as a husband. With being a mother, the territory sometimes comes with making difficult choices, for yourself and your children. Nearly 36 years ago, I walked away from that life, and while I forgave him, internally, the scars, deeply remain. Forgiveness is a process, and it is one that may have to be repeated several times. But each time you do, you become more and more free. Letting go and moving on from your first true love is never easy, and it was a difficult and a painful decision, I was making for my children to be without a father in their home. But my choice with ending the marriage came with knowing, I needed to end the cycle of verbal and physical abuse against myself. It was destroying me as a person, and I knew it was affecting my children on many levels, and I walked away, confidently knowing, the cycle of witnessing, learning, and believing this was the way people were supposed to be treated had ended. It was not easy, it took a lot of courage, and it took years for me to find peace with walking away from that marriage, with never having one ounce of regret. I eventually found comfort in knowing that I never had to go home to him or that pain ever again.

The hardest shaming words to forget or get past are from the people we think would never utter such hurtful words. The words said out of anger, and in the heat of the moment. The words you try to move past but remain deep rooted in your soul. How do you heal that? I believe we all are dealing with some type of internal struggle and maybe we should stop trying to skip the struggle because that is where character is built. Maybe we should embrace it, learn from it and grow because of it. Each day I strive to become a better version of myself and becoming that version is all about character. It is said that the building block of character is virtue. Becoming a better version of yourself is about being more patient, more generous, more compassionate and having more empathy for people who may be suffering. If sharing my story, helps one-person move past the hurt and heal the forever scars, then I have used my voice for a good cause and maybe it is helping me get closer to a better version of myself.

Shaming is huge, particularly in this country’s current state of mind. Maybe we all need to get a better sense of our shame self-awareness and check our own shame barometer that we live with. I live with it. You live with it. We all live with it. We all need to become more aware of how often we use shame to manipulate people, to control people, and to silence them.

As a parent, we all slip from time to time, but it is our responsibility to keep ourselves, and the people around us in check, and to address all shameful attacks on our children and ourselves, no matter who they are coming from. We would not tolerate it from a teacher or school principal. We would not tolerate it from a coach or co-worker. Why would we tolerate it in our own homes, under our own roof, with the people we call family. When we do not address them, they embolden our children, and others to continue to be cruel, and disrespectful to each other.

So, here is my thought, I wonder what kind of content we are feeding our heart, mind and soul, that allows us to believe it is perfectly acceptable to harshly shame others, openly and publicly. I wonder if we realize that our own cruel voices can cut like a knife, and they can leave scars that last a lifetime. How you conduct yourself matters. Your behavior matters. Your character matters. Your words matter. How you treat your friends, your family and your lover matters.

Maybe it is time that we all improve our own self-awareness on how various things impact our character, our emotions, our joy, our anxiety, and the people around us. Maybe it is time to reevaluate how we use our own voice. Maybe it is time for all of us to find our kind, respectful, and compassionate voice. Maybe it is time to stop using our own voice to shame, demean, judge or ridicule others. Better yet, maybe it is time to use our own voice to encourage, to be compassionate, to support truth, to help those in need, to inspire the people around us and to promote a real need for change, in and outside our homes, with respect, and with an open mind and heart.

This piece took a long time for me to write. It is personal and it took me to places that are deep rooted in the core of my being. So much of what has happened this past year has shown us the cracks in our lives. We got to know ourselves in new and different ways, and that was scary for many of us. As I sit here, fully exposed, I genuinely believe in Matthew Kelly’s words, “Our lives change when our habits change, and who we become is infinitely more important than what we do, or what we have, and the measure of your life will be the measure of your courage.” And this I know for sure; it took a lot of courage, strength, and character to move past a life that was hurting me, and one that was killing my spirit but more importantly, it took more courage to write about it. I hope that by sharing my story, you too, can find the courage, strength, and character to rise above, any and all, hurtful attempts of shame, and to use your voice to express your unwillingness to accept and tolerate a behavior that may be killing your spirit.

As we say goodbye or maybe even good riddance to 2020, I hope we all take a moment to find our own voice and to be thankful for those we recognize as having a significant presence in our life, or for their tremendous support, encouragement, and guidance in our life, or just thankful for their generous, and unconditional love.

As Matthew says, “sometimes life requires us to sort through our hearts, minds, and souls to recognize what truly is part of who we are and what baggage and burdens have been heaped upon us by others along the way. Spring cleaning our hearts, minds, and souls is a process that takes time, it needs to be revisited regularly, and it’s always worth it.” I hope we all take time during 2021 to check our connections with ourselves, with God and with the people that truly matter to our lives, and sort through our hearts, minds, and souls, and rid our souls of the baggage and burdens. I hope the many blessings of the New Year and life fill our hearts and homes with love, kindness, compassion, unity, peace and renewed hope.

Happy New Year and may we all choose to flourish, and grow in unimaginable ways.

Simply Deborah ❤️

Life

Sing Something That Really Matters

I read this story, a while back and with today being Alzheimer’s Day and with thoughts of my mom, I share it with you. While most of you won’t get past the first few sentences, which really doesn’t matter to me but if by chance you get to the end, maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize what song in life really matters to you.

I Was Thinking

By Stan Buckley

In an interview, Amy Grant said that several years ago she was on her way to get on a tour bus when she went by to see her mother who had Alzheimer’s disease. As she was leaving, Amy said, “I’ve got to go sing, mom.” Her mother said, “You sing?” Amy said, “Yes. I sing and I write songs.” Her mom asked about the kinds of songs she sings and if she would sing for her.

Then, as Amy was walking out the door, her mom called after her. “Hey, would you do me a favor?” Amy said, “Yes, what?” And her mom said “When you walk out on that stage, sing something that matters.”

It seems that Amy Grants mom, though not in her right mind, was on to something. If you’re going to sing, sing something that matters. I have been thinking a lot about that statement and it has struck me that life is a vapor and we all have a very limited amount of time on this planet. So it seems that while we are here, we might as well make it count.

If you’re going to preach, preach something that matters.

If you’re going to teach, teach something that matters.

If you’re going to write, write something that matters.

If you’re going to work, do some work that matters.

How many people are just following a winding course, aimlessly through life, wasting precious time, and doing nothing that really matters. All the while, there is a great big world out there with incredible opportunities for someone who is willing to invest the time and effort to do something that really matters.

Continue reading “Sing Something That Really Matters”
Life

Life Is A Dance

Life is full of moments and when you are consciously aware of them, along with their truths and the messages they may hold, you should embrace them like they are your favorite dance partner and dance with them consciously, thoughtfully, authentically and gracefully because life is truly a dance.

Recently, someone sent me a message, which simply said “I hope you’re doing well and stay strong by choice”. Hmmm, stay strong by choice. I thought about those words for days and probably even more so during this pause that many of us are taking from our normal lives, whatever that they may look or feel like. I found myself reflecting on my life’s dance with strength and I wondered about the people, who surround my life or who have passed through it, and if any of them have either drawn from or learned from my strength or how many of them may have found my strength to be annoying, irritating or maybe even intimidating. And if I have annoyed or irritated anyone of them, I wondered, how annoying or irritating I would be to them after I have danced my last dance.

This I know for sure; life can be a complicated dance and it takes balance, persistence, curiosity and passion to navigate and perfect it is dance steps. I have made many mistakes along the beaten path of this dance and I have survived some unimaginable hardships, but my history is also rich with people, who have paved the way for me with learning how to be strong, no matter what dance steps I may have stumbled with. It may have taken most of my lifetime to understand and learn from their messages and examples but today, I recognize that they taught me how to stand up every time I was knocked down. They taught me how to face resistance with courage and how, at times, it would be important to glide through the dance of life with grace. They taught me that honesty is a virtue. They taught me a strong integrity will follow you through life. They taught me that real love is unconditional. They taught me that giving is always more life rewarding than receiving. They taught me that kindness and compassion should always be forefront in your thoughts and words. They taught me not to confuse strength and weakness with opinions and how vulnerability is a sign of the greatest strength you will ever embrace, and it will be your greatest dance partner. No, I am not perfect, and my dance has not been perfected but I try every day to be mindful with making it a better version of yesterday’s dance.

For me, no matter what anyone may think of me, my choice will always be to find that strength within myself and to be grateful for every moment that I get another day to dance. With age, came more of an understanding and acceptance about myself and I learned to like me and honestly, the last thing anyone needs is to be reminded of their dance mistakes or who they believe you may or may not be. I own everything about my life’s dance moves, the good, the bad and the ugly and I know them all, oh, so well and better than anyone else so really there is no need to remind me of my past missteps.

Some people may not always like me or the things I do or the things I say or my honesty or my intolerance and I am okay with that. And trust this, at the end of each day, I reflect on the moments of each day where I could have done better or said things differently or how I was not heard, and more importantly, the moments I am so grateful for. The moments that I will always take issue with are the unkind and disrespectful attack with words or the moments of being consciously or unconsciously ignored and not heard. I have danced with more arguments in my lifetime then I care to remember or care to admit to and some have been downright ugly. I have learned from those moments and it is when the disagreement takes on an ugly dance of its own and where it comes to the point that you have lost the ability to hear or listen to each other’s voice respectfully or the ability to be open minded or reasonable, that is where I find the best retreat, for me, is to just walk away. A disagreement with a goal of proving yourself right is never one that is done consciously or one you will win but if you listen to the whisper, “rise above it”, you learn walking away gracefully is the most peaceful, alternative dance move.

The truth is we are so deeply immersed in the noise of contemporary life and we are very quick with remembering and reminding others of the bad dance moves they may have made in their lifetime and yet, we seem to struggle with celebrating the best dance moves of our lives or of others. The questions I find myself asking quite often is how did we become a world that believes it is openly acceptable to disagree in the most abusive, disrespectful, arrogant and cynical manner? When did we become a world so tolerant and acceptant of such bad behavior?

I remind myself, quite often, that I have less time left in this dance, then I have already danced, and I want to dance the rest of my life honestly, consciously, lovingly, authentically, unapologetically and more importantly, I want to live a life surrounded by people that I do not have to hide from. I know that I am not done with this dance and I have so much more to do, so much more to give, so much more to teach, so much more to share and so much more of a dance to dance so why would I want to waste it on the unimportant things that matter the least to my life’s dance. My only hope is that when I have danced my last dance, it is the good and the great stories of my life’s dance that I am remembered for and that they are shared and honored for many years to come.

Life is a dance. I hope you learn to embrace the moments that give you the greatest strength, love, courage, compassion, authenticity and grace. I hope with every rhythm of the beat that you feel in your heart and soul and with every step of life that you get the chance to dance, I hope you dance, and I hope you stay strong doing all of it…by choice.

In this video, I may have stumbled and I may have made a few dance move mistakes along the way but I rose to the occasion, I stayed strong and I will always celebrate this moment of my life because life is truly a dance.

Awareness, Believe, Compassion, Easter, Faith, Giving, God, Goodness, Grace, Hope, Inspiration, Life, Life Lessons, Love, Mindful, Moments, Real, Spiritual, Thoughts, Truth

Moments, Truths and Promises

 

 

Another year, another forty-day journey and after these forty days, yet again, life has taught me even more about myself, people and the world. As I came off this journey, I found myself reflecting on what my initial intentions were, what had I learned and the realization that the journey never ends. This year, I wanted to understand more about moments. Holy Moments, that is. So here goes my story on how I got to my moment that was filled with truths and promises.

There are some things that I read or hear that just hit home and Day 8 of my journey began with listening to Matthew Kelly talk about the state of our current world and how it is filled with many blurred lines. He says that for most, it is much easier to live in the gray than it is to admit there is a black and a white. He went on to say, there is not anyone who likes being lied to and yet in today’s culture, many have an increasingly casual relationship with the truth. But here was my moment, there is a connection between truth and happiness and as our relationship with the truth becomes more casual, more slippery, as we continue to cross that line, for whatever reasons and whatever excuses we make for ourselves or justifications, not only are we erasing the line between the truth and lies, but we are also actually erasing the line between happiness and misery. Let that sink in for a bit, along with an honest and real look at the current state of the world. There certainly is a direct connection between truth and lies and happiness and misery but it was the questions he asked that really made me think. What role are we willing to give truth in our lives? Do we want to put truth on a throne in our lives when it is convenient and throw truth in the closet when it is inconvenient? It reminds us of the importance of living in truth, especially when it comes to our happiness.

For me, it took a life changing moment where my personal relationship with the truth became something that eventually would define me. It became something I am consciously aware of and sometimes consumed by it. Some say, at times, I can be brutally honest and other times, mute and maybe there is some truth in both. Sometimes I will call you out on the lie and then there are times I will not give the lie any life and I just walk away, silently. A casual relationship with the truth does not have a place in my life. Maybe it did once but not anymore. For me, when it comes to the truth, there is no gray, it is simply just black and white. To some, it may seem harsh, but I just like keeping it real. I like living life in that space and fake or being untruthful just does not work for me. But here is the thing, it was the thin line between happiness and misery that made me think even more…if you are living a life of misery, does that mean you are living a life of lies? Hmmm…

Then in the middle of my journey, something unexpected happened to someone that not only matters to me but to a lot of other people. There were moments of some chaos, a lot of concern, a little panic and a bit of confusion. There were moments where I felt challenged and I thought I was being called upon to show my strength, courage, leadership and capabilities. There were moments where the people that surrounded me showed the true colors of their character. There were moments where some showed that they cared and were supportive. There were moments where some showed how selfless they were and just rolled up their sleeves and stepped up and stepped in.

Unfortunately, there were many who fell into the category of the selfish and the self-centered. You know, the group we call, “it’s all about me”. There were moments where I felt they were waiting for me to fail. There were moments where they tested my patience. However, it was in those moments of pure silence, where I knew this was not about me, it was about taking care of business for someone else. Each day I would sit quietly with my thoughts and I would ask Him to please give me the strength and guidance towards what was right. I felt he was telling me I had to rise above it all. I had to stay focused. I had to push myself to get through it all. I had to dig in and take control. I just knew I could not fail someone, who never failed me, but I found myself wondering, am I being tested? Would this be considered a Holy Moment?

It was during Holy Week where I found myself reflecting, quite often, about people and still not fully understanding what a true Holy Moment was. And there it was, in just the right moment and in black and white, a story about how Holy Moments have an incredible power. It said the definition of a Holy Moment is where you set aside your self-interest, where you set aside what you feel like doing and you have a conversation with God and you say, “Alright, God, what do you want me to do in this moment?” And then you do exactly what you feel God is calling you to do in that moment. That is a Holy moment. And they tend to be filled with kindness and love and generosity and patience and thoughtfulness and courage. Holy Moments are filled with all of these things and they are so incredibly attractive. It is when you keep doing this over and over again that people realize…” Wow, this is a part of who this person really is.”

When I read those words, I recognized that not only did I have a few Holy Moments over those days and weeks, I also had many over my lifetime but still I felt this moment was not about me. Here is the thing, those words described and reminded me of a few people who have touched my life in many ways. From where I sit, those few, touch everyone’s life with nothing but good and greatness and most certainly, they do it unconditionally. I am forever grateful for their kindness, generosity, patience and more importantly, their presence in my life. I can only hope that from where they sit, they see me and my life in the same light.

Needless to say, I survived those days and weeks and, in the end, when you receive a simple card of thanks that says, “For some people comfort is just a word, for you, it’s a way of life. Thank you for all that you are and all that you do. You make life warmer and more meaningful in so many ways. There will always be a warm spot in my heart for what you did for me and my family in our hour of need.” It is in that moment that you realize this is a moment…a Holy Moment.

Today, this I know for sure, even during life’s most challenging moments, we can all find the strength to rise above the blurred lines, to move past our casual relationship with the truth and strive towards being more kind, loving, caring, generous, patient and courageous towards all of humanity. It is in that place that you will find that Holy Moments happen more often and trust this, when you surround yourself with the people who genuinely care about you and they grace your life with nothing but kindness, love and unconditional support, be grateful for each and every one of them. They are a gift of promise to bring good to your life and it is when you just silently stand still, grace with find you. Promise.

Awareness, Believe, Faith, God, Grace, Hope, Inspiration, Life, Love, Mindful, Moments, Peace, Relationships, Self Care, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Holding Patterns

“I am choosing to show up and nurture every part of me that needs love, healing and support.” ~ Alex Elle

I have always been a firm believer in the poem Reason, Season or A Lifetime and it was the Daily Encourager email about Holding Patterns, which ironically, I received on my birthday, that only reaffirmed my belief that things, circumstances or people often come into our lives for a reason, maybe for a season and sometimes for a lifetime. I now begin each day by reading the passage and saying the prayer at the end. I share it with you and may we all journey wisely and never lose our faith when we encounter a holding pattern season.

Namasté.

Holding Patterns

Many times, God will allow a painful situation or a painful circumstance in our life to “swallow us up.” This season in our spiritual growth is a “holding pattern”. We can’t move to the left or the right. All we can do is sit, like Jonah sat in the belly of that great fish, so God can have our undivided attention and speak to us.

God put Jonah in a “holding pattern” because He needed to speak to his heart. Jonah was all alone. There were no friends to call, no colleagues to drop by, no books to read, no food to eat, no interferences, and no interruptions. He had plenty of time to sit, think, meditate, and pray.

When we’re deep down in the midst of a difficult situation, God can talk to us. When He has our undivided attention, He can show us things about ourselves that we might not otherwise have seen.

A few of God’s holding patterns:

• When you are sick in your physical body and you have prayed but you are not yet healed, you are in a holding pattern.

• When you are having problems with your children and you have put them on the altar, but God has not delivered them yet, you are in a holding pattern.

• When you have been praying for a loved one to return to God, and they have not come back yet, you are in a holding pattern.

• When you are in a broken relationship and you have given it over to God, but it has not been restored yet, you are in a holding pattern.

• When the doors slam shut before you can even knock on them, you are in a holding pattern.

When we are deep in the belly of a difficult situation, there are no interruptions. God has our undivided attention. All we can do is sit, think, meditate, and pray. Like Jonah, we cannot run from God, because there are no mountains that are high enough, valleys that are low enough, rivers that are wide enough, rooms that are dark enough, or places that are hidden from Him.

We must remember to praise Him while we’re waiting, remember three things:

• The pattern has a purpose.

• The pattern has a plan.

• The pattern has a process.

So stop struggling and start listening, praying and trusting. He’ll keep you right where you are until you can clearly hear Him say, “I love you.”

Suggested Prayer: Father, forgive my unbelief. I know you love me and I will come to see the benefit of everything in my life, even this holding pattern, and the manifestation of my Good is assured through You. You have planned nothing for me but victories and I am ready to receive them regardless of how difficult the path.

“When you follow your heart, you follow God, and you’ll find your own path to your own deepest peace and happiness.”

– R Hauser

Awareness, Faith, Family, Fulfillment, Genuine, Giving, God, Goodness, Inspiration, Life, Love, Mindful, Peace, Real, Relationships, Self Care, Thoughts, Truth, Uncategorized

Walking Away

“If you want more in your life, more connection, more meaning, more fulfillment, you have to shift your attention to something deeper and truer. It will be from that pure and sacred place that you can attract more goodness in your life.”

~ Oprah

It is incredibly sad when the people we want to feel the closest to are separate from us. There are times that the image of extended family sitting or standing around for any type of gathering is portrayed to be an ideal scenario, but it can be a nightmare for many. You can feel trapped in a box of others fixed opinions, reactions and judgments.

For some time now, I have been on this journey of trying, with every ounce of my being, to create peace in my life and this I know for sure, if people or environments do not feel welcoming, comfortable, no longer familiar or more importantly, like home, I am extremely comfortable with walking away and trust this, there are no hard feelings. I have become comfortable enough with who I am and the choices that feel right for me. At this stage of my life, I owe nothing to anyone, except myself. I have learned to always follow my gut and my heart, along with seeing and hearing with the eyes and ears that God has gifted me. They all allow me to feel and see the genuine and real in myself and the people around me.

I have learned to listen to God’s whisper, and it will always be His silent voice that will direct me as to when it is time to walk away. That is what you do when the negative forces of others attempt to invade your space. It is what you do when you have had enough with being taken advantage of or disrespected or drained not only physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You walk away and you focus on what is meaningful to your life. It is called self-care. It brings so much more meaning to your life.

As I walk away, it will always be with forgiveness in my heart, along with silently wishing you peace but before I walk away, I offer these words of wisdom to the unconscious. Know this, you are not entitled. Stop expecting. Stop assuming. Stop being defensive. Stop complaining. Stop judging. Stop taking people for granted. Mind your business. If it is not your story to share, do not share it. You also may want to consider waking up because you are missing out on the beauty of the world, a good life, the people that genuinely love you and above all, always say thank you for another day and the blessing, along with the opportunity to be consciously alive.

Be grateful. Be humble. Be loving. Be considerate. Be kind. Be hopeful. Rise above it all. Build each other up. Be unique. Be bold. Be truer. Embrace each other. Life is too short to attract, want or expect anything less than goodness in our lives.

As always, just continuing to keep it real in 2019 and shifting my attention, along with my intentions to all things that bring goodness to my life.

Happy New Year!

Awareness, Believe, Easter, Faith, Family, Giving, God, Hope, Life, Love, Thoughts, Truth, Uncategorized

A Forty Day Journey

“Time directs, heals, teaches and leads hearts to love. Be patient with yourself and with others.”

~ Matthew Kelly

For the last few years, I have participated in Matthew Kelly’s, The Best Lent Ever. Forty days of absolute awareness, being present and working towards becoming the best version of yourself and learning how to be perfectly yourself. To be honest, some days were more challenging than others and there were days where I failed miserably at becoming a better version of myself and I have not quite found my perfect self. It is not perfection that I am looking to attain, it is being perfectly happy with being who I am and not how anyone else wants or expects or wishes me to be. The last week was probably the most challenging and yet eye opening and extremely telling. It was Holy Week and it started off with the passing of my 94-year-old aunt (my mother’s sister), who went home peacefully to the Lord and her husband on Palm Sunday and the week ended with her burial and a celebration of her life on Holy Friday. It was a week of reflection, along with constantly reminding myself of the importance of being in the present moment, shutting out the chatter and being fully aware of my surroundings. I believe the readings at her mass, at the luncheon and in a booklet her children put together truly summed up who Aunt Josie was as a person, a sister, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a grandmother and great-grandmother and as a friend but more importantly, a devoted child of God and the church. The piece that struck me the most was talking about how non-judgmental she was. She lived a life without any judgment of anyone and she would extend her hand of kindness, love and support to anyone and everyone who crossed her path.

I sat at her funeral luncheon thinking about all of the opportunities where we never take advantage of telling the people we love, while they are alive, how thankful we are for all the guidance, love and support they have added to our lives. Aunt Josie is one person, I am not sure I ever properly thanked for all of her love, support and non-judgment of me. She was there for me many times, guiding me with her kindness and her unconditional love. My heart tells me she just knew how I felt but I did take the opportunity that day, to sit with my Aunt Jean to talk about our family and some questions I had about the past. We also talked about how over time, the dynamics of our family has changed and the realistic reasons as to why change is just a natural progression of life. The conversation at one point became emotional but I knew I could not walk away from her without taking a moment to thank her for her role in my life. She was yet another person who never let judgment be a part of her words, feelings and thoughts, especially about those she loved. She is from the generation of those that understood family loyalty, respect, trust and unconditional love. They believed being there for those that you love was just a given and something that was never questioned. I call them “the just do” generation. They understood boundaries and truths. More importantly, they understood the meaning of being a true confidant and if it was not their story to tell, it was never to be repeated. I walked away from our conversation maybe not getting all the answers to my questions but with a new-found respect and admiration for my aunt and the code that she continues to honor…it is called family loyalty. Maybe some things in life should never be questioned and maybe there are no real answers and maybe you just need to respect, honor and accept what was in the past and hearing anything different, really would not change a thing.

Then this morning, while reading my favorite Sunday Paper blog by Maria Shriver, there it was, yet another reminder talking about how we should honor people while they are alive and letting the people, we love, know they are enough. The article asked questions that made me think…why do people in life rarely see themselves as others see them? Why are they rarely recognized for their powerful legacies while they are still alive? Why are they rarely told how much they are genuinely loved? Then there was Matthew Kelly’s final video, from The Best Lent Ever, he spoke about resurrection and some of his thought provoking questions and thoughts. What part of your life needs resurrection? What part of your life needs to be resurrected? Because we all have one, every year. You might have the same one three years in a row. You might have the same one ten years in a row. You might have the same one twenty years in a row. He goes on to say, some of our biggest challenges, some of our biggest problems, some of our biggest crises, some of our biggest obstacles – they take more than a year to solve, to change, to heal. The real question is: Do you believe? Do you believe that it is possible? Do you believe that whatever mess you have got yourself into or however bad the situation is in your life or whatever tragedy or challenge it is that needs to be resurrected in your life…do you believe that God is willing and able to resurrect it? Whew, a lot more to think about beyond these forty-days.

My original plan for this forty-day journey was to make time each day to be still, silent and in solitude. I wanted to use the time to reflect on my life…one moment at a time. Each day, I walked away from those moments with a word or a thought. Something that had personal meaning or reflected something about me or life in general. I knew I wanted to take those words and thoughts and do something with them. Something simplistic and not complicated and out of that came the video below…My Forty Day Journey.

Today and every day, I hope you take a moment to reflect on the real meaning of life. I hope you get the opportunity to thank someone who has had a significant impact on your life and to tell them how grateful you are that they have graced your life with their presence, their love and their understanding. I also hope you come to believe and know that you are enough and celebrate life every day…your own life and the life of those that you love and who truly matter the most to you.

Happy Easter and as Matthew says, if you are to find lasting happiness in this ever-changing world, it will be as your own wonderful self…the best version of perfectly you.

Believe, Faith, Hope, Life, Love, Relationships, Thoughts, Truth

The Gifts From The Love I Lost

Who knew nearly a decade later, the love you lost could possibly be your last sweet love and yet today, it is still one that is so difficult to talk about without getting emotional, without your voice cracking and without stumbling over your words. Who knew the person, who some questioned as you possibly selling yourself short, would turn into that love you find yourself, regrettably, thinking you should have worked harder at mending and one you should have never walked away from. It is in those quiet moments that the memories of that kind of love show up unannounced and there are times those memories come back with a haunting vengeance. There is no clear history button and there is no shutting the emotion out. You start to pointlessly replay events in your head, ceaselessly analyzing, obsessively scrutinizing your actions and wallowing in some regret.

While I utterly understand, I only have the power to change the present moment, I often think incessantly about the past and start wondering if I only had the awareness of being in the present moment back then, would it have turned out differently? It took me years to learn and I am still learning the importance of being present to receive love, and to feel appreciation and gratitude. In those moments of reflection, I now realize so many opportunities were lost because I was not living in the moment. I have learned that being present is about getting real and continually digging out the buried wounds that are hidden under layers of a very protective shell. With every life encounter, I am learning how to become still long enough to take a pause, to breathe and to ask myself an important question, “What is this life experience here to show me or to teach me?”

While I still have a lot to learn and a fair amount of life left to experience, today, this is what I know for sure, maybe it is after a good cry and when you stop feeling sad that you are able to see clearly as to what that relationship revealed to you and what it taught you. You are able to see the relationship for what it was and as you walk away, you choose to remember the gifts the love you lost gave you. It is the gifts of their good qualities, their good character and their vulnerable side that no one else knows or has had the privilege to witness or experience. It is the gift of knowing you will love them always. It is the gift of the positive influence and memory that they have left behind with those that you love. It is those gifts that you choose to hold near and dear to your heart. It is those gifts that you will always cherish with gratitude. It is those gifts that keep you in that place of hope with believing that one day you will get to feel that love, again and it is those gifts that you have learned from. But the true gift is knowing that “once love” gave you the ultimate gift of words,” you deserved better.”

So, you see, it is not about the love you lost, it is about the love you shared and always be grateful for that love. And it is that gift that I choose to always remember and cherish, we loved each other. ❤️

I wish you joy, peace, health, love and hope in 2018. Happy New Year!

Simply Deborah

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhtFzdpudOk&feature=share

Believe, Christmas, Compassion, Faith, Family, Giving, God, Hope, Life, Life Experiences, Life Lessons, Love, Relationships, Thoughts, Truth

We All Forget

Outside there is a fresh blanket of the first snow of the season and inside, I am embraced by the warmth of my pajamas, a hot cup of coffee and my Sunday morning reading. I am reading stories about what you need to do to prepare the way to what is really coming during this season by Matthew Kelly to getting your priorities in check by Maria Shriver, but it was the one-minute video by Tony Robbins regarding “what really living is” that caused me to pause and remain still as I absorbed his words and thoughts. While all of their words were not anything that I had not thought about before, it was when I pulled all three of their thoughts together that really made me pause and reflect on the where, the what, the was, the is and what is coming with my own life and I share with you some of their telling words.

Matthew talks about the season and the preparing and somewhere in the midst of all of this, the true meaning of what is really coming has gotten lost or maybe even forgotten. There are weeks of preparing, along with the menu planning, getting the house ready, straightening everything up and making sure everything is right for everyone who is coming. The questions I read are the ones that were so thought provoking. What do you need to do to prepare for the coming season? What in your life needs to be made straight? Are there habits you need to begin or maybe end? Are there some relationships that need a little cleaning up? Do you need to look at how you use your time or how you use your money? Maybe, just maybe, now is the time to take a step back and reflect on what is really meaningful during this season and focus more on spending time with those that are really important to your life.

While reading my next piece, Maria reminded me of all of the people who lost everything during this year’s hurricanes and wildfires. She wrote about the many people who lost everything they own. Everything they worked their whole lives for. In a moment, they lost it all. In a moment, everything can be gone, and everything can change. A moment can make all the difference. She wrote about prioritizing in those moments and it made me think about what my priorities would be. What would I grab first and who would I call? Do I know what I would say if I only had a moment? For me, this was probably the biggest question, do I have someone who will check on me and be there for me? I would like to think and hope that I know who they are and that they would be there for me in a moment’s notice. I know what I value, and I know what I would grab first. For me too, it would be the things that have the most meaning to my heart. It would be the things that remind me of my family, love and hope. Her words just reinforced in me that life is a series of moments and we should never wait for those devastating moments to remind us of who and what is important to our lives. Do not wait for those moments to say the things you need to say. Do not spend a lot of moments accumulating a lot of stuff because in those moments, they really are not going to matter.

And lastly there were Tony’s words, “When do people really start to live? The answer…when they face death.” He goes on to say it is only then that all of a sudden everything in your life gets reprioritized. You start thinking about who you would call. What would you say? What truth would you tell? What would you share with someone that you never shared before? What kind of gratitude would you have for one more day? How would you treat people? What would you cherish the most if it were the last week of your life? The most eye opening and yet simplistic statement he made, “We all forget that there is something coming for all of us…it’s called death. And rather than thinking of it as gruesome, maybe it can be a counselor.” Wow!

Their words hit something deep within me and reminded me of one of my favorite Oprah lines, “I have less time left here on this earth than I have lived.” Those profound words have taught me I have no time left to waste on people nonsense or chatter that is none of my business. I have lost a lot over the years and at the same time, I have gained a tremendous amount too. I have gotten to a place in my life where I know and believe that God has something more in store for me and I am curious and excited to find out what that is. When I think about how much of my life has been spent on the not so important stuff, it is time lost that I will never recover. I cannot change any of the mistakes I have made and this I know for sure, even with the many mistakes, I know who I was yesterday, and I am good with who I am today. In the last few years, I have spent quite a bit of time in the classroom of silence with myself and God. At first it was uncomfortable because it forced me to confront both myself and the pain head on. But it has been through that solitude that I have been able to find hope in the little moments and I am able to see hope in the bigger pieces of my life.

I find myself asking quite often, why anyone would what to live life any other way than with a heart filled with gratitude, peace, love, grace and hope. Maybe, just maybe, more than ever before, we all need to make that call of gratitude, hope and love. Because life is too short, and we never know when it is going to end. That is what I am thinking about on this beautiful, snowy Sunday morning. And before we all forget, it is the season of giving, of love and of hope.

Peace

Simply Deborah

Believe, Christmas, Dreams, Forgiveness, Giving, God, Hope, Life, Life Experiences, Love, Relationships, Thoughts, Truth

Hope, Dreams and Love

This past week, I found myself surrounded by some disagreements, the spitting of hurtful words that included disgust, annoyance and hate, along with many stories about violence, sexual harassment, death and a lot of lying. The thing that really throws me off balance are the avoidable hurtful words and actions that come from the people you love and care about the most. You find yourself struggling to find answers and peace within yourself. I am not sure about you but for me when I am off my game it effects every part of my being and it is hard to hide and move past the hurt.

It is only in the quietness and the stillness that I able to find the answers and forgiveness that work for me and this Sunday morning is no different than any other Sunday morning. It is about reflection. It is about stillness. It is about being present. It is about hope. It is about dreams. It is about love. It is about the season. Sometimes life happens and sometimes it is tricky to navigate the unexpected and sometimes we forget everything we do have in our life to be grateful for.

This I know for sure, in a world that sometimes feels like it is filled with such hopelessness and in the midst of life’s many ups and downs, be kind to one another. Be aware of the importance to pause, breathe and understand boundaries. Be respectful of one another. Be loving to each another. Be mindful that it is in those trickier life moments when the unexpected can take away those precious moments to be all that we can be to each other. We were all given the gift and ability to hope, dream and love. Maybe, just maybe we need to plant them deeper in our hearts, in our thoughts and in our words.

That is what I am reading and thinking about this Sunday morning. Hope, dreams and love are the greatest gifts God gave each of us. Spread and give of them, freely and generously. After all, it is the season of hope, dreams and love.

Awareness, Compassion, Life Experiences, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Thoughts, Truth

It’s Just Wrong. Period.

I find myself struggling with how sexual assault or physical or verbal abuse of any kind or at any level have become normalized or are attempted to be justified or considered acceptable behavior or are being defended in many ways, shape or form and in some circles, thought to be humorous. For me, it will always be absolutely unacceptable behavior, disgraceful, despicable, appalling, dangerous, shameful and it ultimately diminishes who we all are as people when we become so accepting and tolerant of such inappropriate behavior.

Here is a thought, maybe, just maybe we should be embracing, applauding and supporting every woman or man, who have found the courage to finally come forward and speak their silence, truth and pain. And maybe, just maybe we should consider being grateful and thankful that it is not our son or daughter or ourselves that have lived with the pain, the shame, the manipulation, the lies and the silence for so many years. Or maybe it is, and they just have not found their own strength or voice or courage to speak their own story.

In this place we call life, I have learned that there is a story behind every face. A story that if you listen closely, carefully, compassionately and without judgment, their story may break your heart (myself included). I have also learned that before you judge or speak, you need to pause, take a breath and take a moment to think about what it would feel like to walk in their shoes for a day or two or even years. It just might wake us all up from our own unconsciousness.

This I know for sure, if I have only one purpose in this life, it has always been to teach my children and grandchildren that it is never acceptable to allow anyone to treat you badly, inappropriately or make you feel uncomfortable or shame you, under any and all circumstances and vice versa. While the conversations may seem uncomfortable, they need to happen on every level. They need to be had at home, in the workplace, in the entertainment industry and in all branches and at all levels of government. No exceptions and the message should be strong and clear across the board, zero tolerance with any and all acts of inappropriate behavior.

When we have a choice, I hope we all choose kindness, respect, love and grace. God knows, the world that surrounds us all, needs a lot more love, compassion, respect, consciousness, understanding and more people just doing right.

Period.

Awareness, Diverticulitis, Diverticulosis, Eating Clean, Eating Heathly, Food, Lessons Learned, Life, Relationships, Thoughts

Food Relationships

“Prayer leads us to catch a glimpse of the-best-version-of-ourselves and it helps us to develop the virtue necessary to celebrate our best selves.” ~ Matthew Kelly

Every Sunday morning, I look forward to reading Maria Shriva’s words because I just love the way she writes and how she keeps everything real. Last night, after getting hit with another flare up from diverticulitis, this morning, on so many levels, her words just hit home…”I used to think that I could eat whatever I wanted, for however long I wanted. I was wrong. Bad choices catch up to you. Before you know it, you could be that one that cancer decides to knockout. You could be the person that Alzheimer’s decides to take hold of. Make your health (especially your brain health) a priority. And, while you are at it, get to the bottom of your relationship with food. Cookies are not a substitute for real love. They don’t love you back. Trust me. Candy, cake and Swedish fish don’t either. Rest is critical to your mental and physical well-being, so make time for it. No one else is going to give it to you.”

For me, it has been a six month learning experience with getting to the bottom of the things that aggravate my relationship with food and for a person who has a love relationship with cooking great and delicious food, this has been a challenge. But this I know for sure, I can no longer eat whatever I want and we are given one life and one body…so why abuse it? And there’s no reason why healthy food choices can’t taste delicious, savory and decadent. Trust me, you just have to be consistent, a little adventurous and very creative with making and finding the right food choices.

As my food research and experimenting journey continues and while I am savoring over a liquid diet for the next few days (not!), I share with you just some of the foods that don’t irritate or aggravate my digestive system. I have learned that finding the right foods is not a one size fits all. It’s individualize and your body dictates what your own right choices should be. The real challenge will be in rethinking and adjusting my Christmas Eve menu. Well, at least my own Christmas Eve food choices…that is. In the meantime, it’s back to eating clean and eating healthy and with no exceptions…making my health a priority. That’s what I am thinking about on this rainy, yet beautiful Sunday morning. ❤️

Stuffed Peppers with Turkey, Rice and Black Beans

Organic Cottage Cheese with Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Grilled Organic Chicken and Eggplant on Whole Grain Bread

Grilled Organic Chicken Tenders with Lemon and Cilantro with Grilled Eggplant and Broccolini

Sautéed Organic Tofu with Garlic, Lime, Cilantro and Green Beans

Organic Greek Yogurt Egg Salad Baguette with Arugula and Baby Cucumbers

Panko Crusted Baked Organic Chicken Tenders Wrap

Broiled Citrus and Garlic Wild-Caught Salmon over Organic Baby Spinach

Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Lettuce Wraps

Mediterranean Farro Salad

Quinoa with Grilled Organic Chicken, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Eggplant

Egg White Omelet with Garden Tomatoes and Hot Peppers

Roasted Organic Acorn Squash stuffed with Organic Turkey Chili

Creamy Bacon Mushroom Organic Chicken Thighs with Thyme

Organic Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins Cod Fish Tacos with Crema, Guacamole, Spicy Red Cabbage Slaw and Pickled Red Onions

Aging, Believe, Faith, Lessons Learned, Life, Sixty, Uncategorized

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”

~ Audrey Hepburn

For the last few months, I have been mentally preparing myself for my quickly approaching 60th birthday, which is now only days away and I just keep asking myself, “How the hell did that happen?” For whatever reason, as I approach this milestone birthday, it just seems like it should be a big deal and yet, I just cannot seem to completely wrap my arms around it and embrace it. But there is a part of me with a small plan to celebrate me, along with my life and to make it last for the next ten years.

For quite some time now, I have been on a personal journey of self-awareness and self-discovery and while it has always been hard for me to celebrate myself, this birthday, I am trying extremely hard to push myself outside of my safe zone and celebrate the last sixty years with complete awareness, truths, applause, failures, successes, along with a lot of dancing, a lot of cake, a lot of wine and a lot of candles. After all, I do believe living sixty years of my life is a celebration in of itself. My journey has been guided with the help of friends, family and other friends, who are not personally known to me. Every day, I listen or read something from the likes of Brené, Elizabeth, Deepak, Wayne, Maria, Maya and of course, God. I have found each of them to be helpful with guiding me along this journey to be a better person with myself and with the people who surround me.

I have been trying to focus on all of the gifts in my life and to be in the moment with all the knowledge from the life lessons I have learned. I am trying extremely hard to embrace this next chapter of my life and while I do not have a master plan, it’s really okay because I have learned that even with the best plans, life can be interrupted. I am trying to be accepting of every fine-line wrinkle on my face with knowing that I earned each and every one of them and they each come with their own story. I am trying to accept the fact that with every passing year, body gravity is inevitable, and everything eventually goes south. Not unless of course, you have help from a little nip and tuck or a little beep, bop and boop to plump things up or a large wallet to purchase some $500 creams. At this stage of my life, I am going in fully knowing that the six-pack ab days may be long gone, and my focus needs to turn to eating healthy, endurance, strength, balance and stretching.

I do not think of myself as an expert in any one area of life but one thing I know for sure life is most certainly a mystery. People will come and go throughout your life. Some will enhance your being. Some you will be able to count on. Some you will love. Some will suddenly leave you for no reason or sadly because of the inevitable. You can end up disappointing yourself and others. People you counted on may not come through but at any given moment, a total stranger can show up unexpectedly and take you to places you never dreamed possible. You can have wealth or enough to live a comfortable life and then with a snap of a finger you can be left with nothing and on the brink of poverty or practically homeless. For me, this is for certain, I have learned time and time again, when you fall, you peel yourself up off the floor, you dust yourself off, you learn, you move on and just know you will survive. Life is indeed a mystery filled with many moments of truths and realities and somewhere in the midst of those truths and realities life can be so magical.

I thought I would share with you some of the lessons I have learned along my six-decade life journey. Some are borrowed, some are new, and some are old, but they are all lessons learned. I share them with the hope that they may help some of you on your own journey to live more genuinely, to live more consciously, with more gratitude and with less judgment of yourself and others. They are some of the best lessons I have learned, and my hope is that we take every one of our life lessons learned as an opportunity to be better than we already are and to always celebrate the life we have. I am certain there could and should be more than sixty but in honor of this milestone birthday, I will leave it at sixty and I know that somewhere over the rainbow in the next decade of my life there will surely be more life lessons learned.

  1. Nothing in life is for certain and the sooner you embrace the concept, the less disappointed in life you will be.
  2. Find every excuse and opportunity to celebrate your life.
  3. Love the age you are.
  4. Stop worrying about what others are saying. At the end of the day, it is a waste of time and who cares.
  5. Have faith that God’s love never fails and that He is always there listening. Find hope in your faith.
  6. Be grateful for everyone who has loved you. Do not regret a love that once felt right.
  7. Know there will be times when life will break you and when you think you will not be able to handle it, know that you will.
  8. Always be kind to your body. You only have one. Learn to love it, take care of it and know that the body keeps score and it always wins.
  9. Know and understand that diets are a lifestyle and not a temporary restriction on what you can eat.
  10. Know that you are the only one responsible for the life you live.
  11. Know that laughter and a good night sleep are sometimes the best cures.
  12. When it comes to parenting, always trust your gut and heart.
  13. Make friends with your children’s friends. They will make you laugh, and they will always give you valuable information. Pay attention.
  14. Know that physical and verbal abuse are equally wrong. Know that we teach people how to treat us.
  15. Hug your mother, father, children and grandchildren. Tell them you love them with every chance you get. Never take a moment of time with them for granted.
  16. Get smart about money early in life. Be diligent and consistent with saving some.
  17. Know that marriage and parenting are the toughest relationships to master.
  18. Be curious about your emotions and others.
  19. Know that every day is a gift. Be thankful for each day you get to witness another one.
  20. Stay out of other people’s business.
  21. Always choose kindness instead of being right.
  22. Do not engage in gossiping. Know that it hurts the people you are talking about and will eventually come back to haunt you. When someone shares something very personal with you, always choose to be a trusted confidant and know it is not your story to tell or share with others.
  23. Know that life is impossible without believing in something.
  24. Choose self-acceptance. Believing you are enough gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect.
  25. Spend time alone. Do not be afraid of it. Know that you will be okay with being alone and some days you will prefer it.
  26. Always say please and thank you. Look for opportunities to be a better person.
  27. Look people in the eye when you are talking to them. Trust that you will learn something every time you do.
  28. Sit down to dinner every night with your family. Put the cell phones away. Turn the television off. Talk to each other. Listen to each other.
  29. Play with your kids. Read to them every night. Make great lasting memories with them. Always make them feel safe and secure.
  30. Celebrate and praise your children. Teach them to feel valued. Teach them to treat others respectfully and with kindness.
  31. Always have an open table and an open mind.
  32. Be available to those in need.
  33. Pay attention to your partner, the one you love. If you do not, know that someone else will.
  34. Do not ever believe someone is better than you or you are better than anyone else.
  35. Know that disciplining a child teaches them the difference between right and wrong and taking accountability for themselves. Know that when you do not follow through on the punishment, your word loses all credibility.
  36. Learn how to turn off your critical and judgmental voice.
  37. Learn the difference between compromise and selling yourself short or settling for less.
  38. Listen to your gut. It knows more than anyone else you are asking for advice.
  39. Practice prayer and meditation. It will keep you in check with yourself.
  40. Never make your work more important than your family.
  41. After years of putting everyone else first, know it is okay to pamper yourself.
  42. Do not allow anyone to shame you or diminish you as a person. Set boundaries upfront.
  43. Get good at forgiveness. Do not wait for someone to die to forgive. Know that you will need to practice forgiveness throughout your life.
  44. Know that control does not equal happiness.
  45. With every chance you get…dance.
  46. Get good at letting go. It is good for your soul and your overall well-being.
  47. Relax your expectations of others. Do not expect people to be perfect. No one is.
  48. Learn how to communicate in your own home. Do not let hostility become the only way you know how to communicate.
  49. Know that therapy is not a waste of time nor a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.
  50. Know that it is okay to distance yourself from toxic people, even if they are family.
  51. If your marriage comes to an end, do not let anyone tell you, you have failed. Be grateful for the love you shared, the memories you made and the lessons you learned.
  52. If you have a pity party, make it short, turn the page and then move on. Do not see yourself as a victim. See yourself as someone brave.
  53. Do not let fear stop you from living your passion. Know you can rebuild yourself and your life at any age.
  54. Be brave enough to write your own story and always know it is never too late to rewrite it.
  55. Be brave enough to try love after your heart has been broken.
  56. Spend time outdoors. Breathe, take it all in and let it calm your mind.
  57. Spend time around people who see you, who celebrate you and who want the best for you.
  58. Know that trust and loyalty are the most important things in a family relationship. Stay connected to that family trust and loyalty and never let anyone or anything come between it.
  59. Take care of your parents when they age. There is not anyone more loving and caring to do the job. Remember the sacrifices they made for you.
  60. Always believe and have faith that the best is yet to come. Always believe and know that you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Baking, Bucket List, Christmas, Christmas Eve, Cookies, Dreams, Feast of the Seven Fishes, Foodporn, Italian Cookies, Italian Traditions, Puerto Rican Heritage, Self-publishing, Uncategorized

Another Bucket List Checkmark…✓

 “She believed she could, so she did.” C.S. Lewis

Like so many of us, I have a bucket list too and while I don’t live and die by it, there is this feeling of excitement that comes over you when you can place a checkmark next to something on your life list of desires, dreams and goals. There is also this sense of accomplishment that comes with that checkmark. Actually, mine is not a written list but a mental one and I’ve been fortunate enough to mentally check off a few list items from a dream trip to Paris, to a desire of owning a BMW. Wait, this one should be on the nightmare list. The two best days of owning this car were the day I bought it and the day I sold it. Sorry, I digressed. Back to the list…to dancing on stage in front of an audience of 750 to an event planner to a personal chef…just to name a few.

A big one on that list was writing a book. Well, last year, I finally did it and I was published! After many long hours, along with many days and nights of editing and re-editing, my Christmas cookbooks are done, published and just in time for the holidays.

My original thoughts about writing and publishing a book weren’t really about writing cookbooks but more about my life story. Right now, my memoir is on the back burner but one day it will be written because I am a dreamer. It could possibly be written on the heels of my exit from this life or as I approach 60…ahhh, a new decade of life begins in 2016.

A dreamer I am but honestly, very much a realist at heart. I am well aware of the fact that my books will more than likely never make the NY Times bestseller list but it’s nice to believe, to dream and to always remain hopeful. Even with all my very own personal truths, I still feel accomplished and I can confidently say I tried, I did and I was published. It was more about self-satisfaction, self-accomplishments and responding to the many requests from friends and family, who were asking for my recipes. I also thought why not include a little bit of family history because we all know everybody loves a story.

In my first cookbook, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies, I share a collection of my family’s traditional and non-traditional Italian Christmas baking recipes that have been passed down for many generations. I also take you on a personal journey of the history behind each recipe and I have included the precise details behind preparing and baking each one of these delectable Christmas treats.

BookCoverPreviewFinal

 

http://www.amazon.com/Twelve-Days-Christmas-Cookies-Delectables/dp/1490581308/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450033828&sr=8-1&keywords=twelve+days+of+christmas+cookies

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twelve-days-of-christmas-cookies-deborah-dematteis/1120806633?ean=9781490581309

In my second cookbook, not only do I take you on another journey of telling the stories behind my family’s Italian-American and Puerto Rican heritage, I also share with you some of the most cherished memories from my childhood Christmas’ and Sunday traditions, along with many of my family’s Italian and Puerto Rican recipes.

BookCoverPreview2II

http://www.amazon.com/Feast-Seven-Fishes-Christmas-Delectables/dp/1502498189/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450033660&sr=1-3&keywords=feast+of+the+seven+fishes

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/feast-of-the-seven-fishes-deborah-lugo-dematteis/1120919738?ean=9781502498182

Self-publishing is not an easy task and it took a small army of supporters to bring it all together. I can’t thank each of them enough for their support, contribution, commitment, guidance and encouragement. A lot of learnings came from this experience and while I am pleased with the end result, along with the reviews and the sales to date, it’s the learnings and the entire experience in of itself that I embrace and know that I will continue to personally learn and grow from.

If you are interested in purchasing one or both, my holiday cookbooks are still available online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Thank you in advance with any and all considerations of making a purchase.

From my home to yours…this Christmas may your home and hearts be filled with the smells, the joy and the miracles of the season.

 Buon Natale

Believe, Compassion, Faith, Giving, Life, Life Experiences, Life Lessons, Relationships, Spiritual, Truth

Someone Like You

“Three things will last forever – faith, hope and love…and the greatest of these is love.” Corinthians 13:13

With my morning coffee, I read this short, yet meaningful, article about finding the Path to a Life of Love. The article challenges the scientific theory of love (the brain) versus the spiritual side of love (the soul). Of course, in reality…the brain is responsible for giving love its physical expression, and ultimately, love comes from the deepest part of our souls. It also references the old pop song, “Love the One You’re With” and while many of us follow a path outside ourselves to find love, the person we should give our love to and who, in return, we should return that love, clearly, is the person we are with every minute of the day, ourselves. Ahhhaa!

While the article guides you on a simplistic version of a suggested five step path…my thought, more than likely this would be difficult for most to do as we are not of a culture who is openly at ease with discussing matters of the deepest part of our heart and soul, especially when it comes to matters of love and life experiences. The steps lead you down a path from believing in love to not limiting love to a few and denying it to others to making the search for love an inward search to seeking people who value love as much as you do to believing that love is a powerful force.

My moment was in step four…seeking people who value love as much as you do. There is this old saying, “if you want to be wise, seek the company of wise people.” The writer states, maybe we should do the same when it comes to love and life…if we want to know about real human experiences, we should seek out those who have walked the path of real life and love experiences and who are willing to share them. He also states that in our society, most are embarrassed to talk personally about truth, compassion, faith and love and this inhibition is part of our own insecurities. Perhaps it is time to allow our spirit to begin a journey that follows a path which leads us to finding that one person who is wise in ways of love, human experiences and who knows how to live life at a deeper level.

Maybe there is this repressed and deeper person inside many of us, who is just waiting to bust out and just maybe we have not allowed or believed in the deepest love of ourselves to be completely present, available and in the moment. Maybe when we do, we will be ready for that someone who is emotionally and spiritually available and someone who knows how to live life with a deeper understanding, with the ability to express themselves fully and someone who values all that life and love has to offer…someone like you…a deeper, loving person.

So, on this beautiful Spring morning, while listening to one of my old favorites by Van Morrison…I open the windows to allow the warmth of the sun and the cool breeze cleanse the inside air and my soul, along with my spirit and as always…I remain hopeful and maybe the best is yet to come.

Namasté

Family, Life, Life Experiences, New York City, September 11th, Thoughts, World Trade Center

September 11th…My Story

9-11

For 14 years now, whenever I have told the story of my September 11th experience, I am always asked if I have written or documented it. I had shared my story with a client, and she told me she never quite heard the details of that day, described or expressed the way I spoke about it. She asked if I was ever interviewed for a story. I do not consider my story to be unique, it is just one of the thousands of stories from that day. Over 2,700 innocent people, which included many heroes of the New York City Fire and Police Departments, along with the Port Authority Police, lost their lives on a day none of us will ever forget.

I only share my story today for a few reasons, I felt it was important to document it somewhere for my grandchildren to read someday and for whatever reason, at this juncture of my life, I found it to be therapeutic to write about it. My disclaimer for this story, for privacy reasons, I did not use any of my friends or colleagues’ names but if any of them ever have the opportunity to read this, I am sure they will recognize themselves, along with the unforgettable and horrific events of a day that we shared. With that said, here is my story…

It was like any other normal workday; I was awoken by the alarm at the ungodly hour of 5am and my normal routine morning regiment began. I was leading a focus group at 10am and I decided to dress a little more corporate than my normal attire of business casual. It was a beautiful day, sunny and clear blue skies. Just a picture-perfect day with a slight hint of fall in air. As I walked out the door at 6:45am, I grabbed a sweater, and I started my route to the train station. My normal morning routine continued with my first stop at the local convenience store, to buy a newspaper and a cup a coffee. The usual morning customers of the convenience store were standing out front with their coffee and this morning was no different than any other, where one of the regulars would pass a flirtatious remark. I caught the 7:15am train, out of the Springdale station and I was off to my office located in the Financial District of Manhattan.

On the train ride in, I reviewed my notes in preparation of the focus group. Part of me felt unprepared but I knew I would have plenty of time to finish any last-minute preparation once I arrived at my office. Strangely and oddly, for whatever reason, I appeared and felt, more than usual, extremely observant of my surroundings. Once the train pulled into Grand Central it was the normal rush through the crowds of people to catch the express train down to Wall Street. It was the normal hustle and bustle of the rush hour commuters and no one paid attention to anyone, only focusing on their final destination. As much as I loved my position as a Project Manager, I was not a fan of the NYC subway system, especially in the hot summer but I loved the excitement, the vitality and the vibrancy you felt being in the midst of it all. It was an adrenaline rush every day. It was my 5-year anniversary mark of working in Manhattan and even with 5 years under my belt, with every subway ride, I still counted the stops…#1-Union Square, #2-Brooklyn Bridge, #3-Fulton St and #4-Wall St… off!

Maybe if it were not for the focus group, I would not have had my “A” game face on and I would have been just like everyone else, oblivious to my surroundings and just as robotic as the rest of the rush hour commuters. The entire subway ride I felt anxious and I kept watching the time. It felt like it was taking forever to get to my end destination. When we finally pulled into Wall St, the stairwell was crowded with people and as my foot hit the first step, I looked at my watch and it was 8:45am. I remember thinking, you have plenty of time to finish preparing. When I reached the street, I saw what appeared to be paper falling from the sky. My immediate first thought was…is there a ticker tape parade, today? People were running everywhere, and many were crying. Many were trying to use their cell phones and I stopped a gentleman and asked him what was going on. He said, “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.” I thought…how is that possible? It is a beautiful, clear, picture perfect day. I would normally walk-up Broadway towards the World Trade Center and turn down the block towards my building. Today, I thought differently and turned down the street walking towards the New York Stock Exchange.

As I walked, stunned with the thought of a plane crashing into a tower, charred paper and debris kept hitting the ground of my path. I immediately thought, my God, this is paper from someone’s desk. Someone, most certainly, was sitting at their desk when the plane hit. A horrifying feeling came over me as I continued to watch the paper and debris fall to the ground. I walked as quickly as possible to my office at Chase Plaza. All I wanted was to get off the streets. When I arrived at the plaza, it was filled with people watching the burning tower. I was not a spectator and my only focus was to get to my desk, to call my daughter, who I knew would be home with my 18-month-old granddaughter. I knew she watched the Today Show, every morning and possibly, she could fill me in as to what had happened.

My daughter could not tell me much, as the media was not yet clear as to what was happening, however, the firemen, police and the port authority police were frantically working their way towards and into the building to begin rescue efforts. While my office was only on the 3rd floor of my building, we had a clear view of the towers. My building had glass windows, which were nearly from the floor to the ceiling. Many of my colleagues were gathered by the windows watching the burning building. I walked to the windows and my eyes saw everything and nothing. There was so much to take in and the movement of my eyes was rapid but what I saw, will forever be a vivid memory etched in my mind. A huge gaping hole in the tower, with massive flames and smoke pouring out of it. I heard one of my colleagues scream, “Oh, my God!”, as he saw someone jump from the building. It was enough to confirm, yet again, I was not a spectator, nor did I want to be one.

I returned to my desk and sat there stunned. Everything, till this day, appeared as if it were happening in slow motion. I made frantic calls to everyone scheduled to attend the focus group, to cancel the meeting and to tell them to not come anywhere near the building. Next, I heard a huge explosive sound, and it was the South Tower that was hit by a second plane. I was surrounded by frantic mayhem and as I walked the floor of my office, many people were watching live footage on their computers. I just went back to my desk and I had several messages from many family and friends checking on me. By this time, officials began closing all New York City bridges and tunnels, along with mass transit being shut down. The FAA stops, for the first time ever, nationwide, all flights from taking off.

It is now 9:37am and a third plane crashes into the Pentagon and it is confirmed the United States is under attack. The emotions that ran through my body and mind, went from shock to fear and still not fully understanding what the hell was going on nor the magnitude of it all. As I continued to sit at my desk, a friend called, who worked on Broadway. She told me to stay at my desk, she was coming to get me, and we were getting the hell out of here. I sat like an obedient child, with my back straight, sitting tall, with my bag over my shoulder and I waited. I knew my friend, undeniably, knew how to navigate her way through Manhattan so much better than myself. I sat there and assured myself, she was going to get us out of here.

Suddenly, what sounded like a stampede of cattle, my colleagues who were watching at the windows, were screaming and running down the corridors. I could hear the voice of a gentlemen on our management team screaming, “Get down on the floor and away from the windows!” The building began to tremble and there was this rumbling, loud sound and vibration. It was so powerful; it threw me down to my knees. Scared, frantic and overwhelmed with fear, I stayed on the floor and hid under my desk. I was frozen and I had no clue as to what was happening. Was our building hit? Was it going to crumble with me in it? As I quivered under my desk, with a million thoughts running through my mind, I could see out the windows and something was happening outside. Again, it felt like life was in slow motion, as I watched what appeared to be an enormous cloud of billowing, grayish black smoke and enveloped inside of it were particles of debris. I watch this massive cloud of smoke, move slowly around the entire building and embrace it. You could not see anything outside, not the perfect blue sky or the buildings surrounding the plaza. It felt like the world stopped and I was somewhere in the middle of it all, frozen under my desk.

Things went quiet and not a sound could be heard for a moment or two. Until someone yelled, “Get out of the building.” Still not knowing what happened, I grabbed my bag and like everyone else, I ran for the stairwell and this is where I learned that the South Tower had collapsed. It was in the stairwell that I met another dear friend, we locked arms and proceeded to quickly walk down the flights of stairs, heading for the lobby. The stairwell was jammed with people coming from the higher floors. Suddenly, I remembered my friend, who was coming to get me was out on the streets when the tower collapsed, and I got weak in the knees and began crying. My dear friend, who I was latched arm and arm with, tried to reassure me that she would be alright. When we finally reached the lobby, as people in the stairwell were trying to pull the door open to get out, there were people on the other side trying to push their way in to get away from the smoke and flying debris, which overcame the building’s lobby. Security instructed all of us to go back up to our floors and the building was immediately placed into lockdown.

My floor was the first floor of offices up from the lobby and quickly it was filled with many employees from the higher floors. My first instinct was to go to my desk and call my children. Till today, I can still hear my daughter’s screams and cries through the telephone, “Mom, please get out of there!” For the first time ever, I knew I had absolutely no control over my life or what the outcome of the day would be for me or the people in my building. I returned messages, to family and friends to let them know that at the moment I was okay, and I could finally breath when I learned my friend, who was coming to get me was safe and fortunately, her manager stopped her from leaving her building prior to the tower collapsing.

The group of people that were on the plaza level when the tower collapsed, who pushed their way into the stairwell for safety, were completely covered in ash, they were unrecognizable and all you could see were their blood shot eyes. They were in shock and began to babble about the sights they witnessed and of people jumping from the blazing building. I could not sit there and listen, and I began to walk the floor in disbelief and observed so many things and people that will be etched in my memory for years to come. A former manager was sitting, silently, on the floor outside his office, holding his legs close to his chest, in deep thought and rocking back and forth. There were several different groups of men and women sitting in circles, on the floor, in prayer and holding each other’s hands.

I sat in a small hallway, which separated one side of the floor from the other, with my dear friend and we just sat silently, holding each other’s hand. There was a young lady, who had just relocated to New York from Texas that sat with us and we attempted to comfort her. She was worried about her husband, who worked for the FBI and she lost all communication with him. Then again, without warning the building began to tremble, vibrate and there was that roaring sound and as I squeezed my friends hand tighter, she softly whispered to me that it was the second tower coming down and she attempted to reassure me, yet again, that everything would be alright.

Another colleague stood vigil at the window overlooking the plaza, which faced the direction of the World Trade Center. She was beyond worried, fearful and she was frantically trying to focus and search through the thick smoke and debris for her son. Her last communication with him was that he was coming to get her. Another moment and thought that is etched in my memory, how was she ever going see or find him through the thickness of the smoke? I could not imagine the thoughts that were going through her mind about her son being out on the streets. What happened next, I can only explain it as being nothing short of a miracle and a mother’s determination to find her child. It was as if the smoke parted just enough for her to see him on the plaza and she screamed, “I see him!” She ran through the crowd of people on our floor and there was not one person, who was going to stop her from getting out of the building or getting to her son and we learned later that morning that they found each other and they were safe.

As time passed, the heavy smoke that surrounded the building and filled the lobby of the building was finding its way up to the upper floors through the elevator shafts and stairwells. Yet, another moment etched in my memory is of the Senior Executive, who walked the floor with a bullhorn, advising everyone that they should consider moving to a higher floor as the air quality of the 3rd floor was not good. Not one person moved. Not one person would even consider going to a higher floor. Colleagues from the marketing group, ripped promotional t-shirts, dampened them with water and passed them around for people to wrap and tie around their mouth and nose. Again, there was silence and we just sat and waited for hours.

It was noon before a decision was made to begin the evacuation of our building. We formed ourselves into groups according to where everyone lived and exchanged home telephones numbers. Now, with barely any communication to the outside world, a decision needed to be made as to whether we would take the stairwell or elevator down. I was beyond frightened to get into the elevator, but a colleague convinced me it was the fastest way down to the basement level of the building, which was the only exist being used for the evacuation. I reluctantly got into the elevator but when we reached the basement level and those doors opened, there was a sigh of relief until I stepped out and witnessed what I saw next.

There was a bank branch on the ground level, which had an atrium glass fountain, in the center of the branch that went up to the plaza level. The branch was completely empty of people. Debris was everywhere. The glass of the fountain window was shattered and there was blood. It looked like a war zone. No one was talking and we walked silently as we were led out the back doors. When we got outside the building, again, it was with complete disbelief as to what I was witnessing. The ground was completely covered with ash and debris. It was so deep; it came up to my calves. Military were everywhere, armed and standing guard. Military vehicles were everywhere. We were directed to walk towards Water Street.

As I walked, halfway down the block, I turned and looked back at what would have been the World Trade Center Plaza from afar and all I could see was thick, black smoke. As I shuffled through the debris and passed more and more military, I thought to myself this just does not happen in the United States. This is what you see on the news, in other countries or in movies. As we approached Water Street and turned to walk up the East Side of Manhattan towards Grand Central, the streets were empty of noise, moving cars, buses and taxi cabs. The streets were filled with thousands of people walking and for the first time ever, in New York City, the streets were silent, and it felt like you could have heard a pin drop.

Across the crowded street, I caught a glimpse of a visiting Texas colleague. We caught each other’s eye and while they welled up with tears, we just gave each other a half of a smile, as an acknowledgement of each other. As we ascended onto the neighborhood near the Manhattan Bridge, again, military were everywhere, and a military tank was in the middle of the large intersection. Suddenly, there was this roar of sound up in the sky and we all knew that air traffic was shut down. People screamed and dropped to the ground for cover. It was a fleet of F16 flying over Manhattan. At this point, the crowd started to disband into several different directions with many either going towards Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, Grand Central and New Jersey.

We walked and we walked for hours. So many of us had little to no cell phone service but we all were so anxious to let our families know we were alright, and we were attempting to make our way home. At some point, along the long journey and not having the proper shoes on, the straps of my shoes began to cut into my feet, which started to bleed. There was not a store, or a street vendor opened or to be found. Unheard of on any given normal day in New York City but this was not a normal day. At some point, I just took the shoes off and walked barefoot the rest of the way to Grand Central Terminal.

It took over two hours to get to Grand Central and when we finally arrived, it was somewhere around 2:30pm. The outside of Grand Central was completely guarded by armed military. Inside, every track gate and door were closed and guarded by military personnel. I frantically searched the schedule boards looking to see when the next train to Stamford was. My former manager and a dear friend’s, husband was part of my group and they lived in Scarsdale, which was a different train line than Connecticut. The next train to Stamford was at 4pm and his train for Scarsdale was at 3pm. Needless to say, he said, “You’re coming home with me. We are getting out of here, together and I will drive you home to Stamford.” We stood in front of the gates for the Scarsdale bound train, anxiously waiting for them to open. We were one of the first to arrive on the platform waiting for the train to pull in and when it did, it filled up so quickly, the doors closed quickly, and we were on our way out of the tunnel. Again, no one was really speaking, and I held my breath until we got completely out of the tunnel. A huge sense of relief came over my entire being when I could see the light of day and I was finally on my way home.

Another one of my colleagues, who was on the Scarsdale bound train, sat quietly and kept to himself for most of the train ride. He was overcome with grief when he learned from his wife that a dear friend of theirs, who worked in one of the towers had not been heard from since that morning. We tried to comfort him but in our hearts we all knew this was just a piece of the bigger picture yet to be discovered and faced by many. The train pulled into Scarsdale and we drove to my friend’s house, where we were greeted by his wife, my former manager and dear friend with hugs, tears and sobs on their front lawn. We cleaned ourselves up somewhat, we sat, we talked, and we had a drink. As emotionally drained and as exhausted as we were, my friend drove me to get my car at the train station.

When I arrived home, it was well after 6pm and after letting my family and friends know that I was home safely, I took a shower. I felt like I needed to get the day off of my skin. The biggest mistake I made was turning on the television. When I saw the news footage that captured so much of the horrific events of the day, which was repeated over and over again, I just collapsed on my bed and cried. Even though I was horrified by what I was watching, I just could not turn it off. The telephone never stopped ringing that night and at some point, the day just ended and turned into the next morning.

My first call of the morning came from my mother-in-law and I just broke on the phone with her. I packed a bag after that call, got in my car and drove to my daughter’s house. I needed to see her and my granddaughter. When we saw each other, we hugged, and we cried. My daughter took me to a doctor that day, to make sure my eyes and lungs were clear. She was worried that I may have taken in too much of the smoke and debris. I checked out okay but was suffering from post-traumatic stress and was treated for it for many months to come.

Throughout the entire day of September 11, 2001, there were many times I thought I would never see my children, granddaughter or family again. Life changed for many of us after that day and mine was with no exception. Fear consumed me and I gave up my dream position as a Project Manager, which required me to travel to Texas several times a month. Back then, I just could not get myself on a plane nor could I ride the train or the subway. I went back to Chase Plaza once after that day and it took my manager to personally escort me there, to meet and hand off my outstanding projects to the new Project Manager and to pack up my desk. I have not returned since, but I know one day I will…it is just not today.

I was one of the fortunate people of that day. I saw. I witnessed. I survived and I will always remember.

God Bless America