The Culture of Fear…Us vs. Them

What if our religion was each other? If our practice was our life? If prayer was our words? What if the temple was the Earth? If forests were our church? If holy water- the rivers, lakes and oceans? What if meditation was out relationships? If the Teacher was life? If wisdom was self-knowledge? If love was the center of our being?” Ganga White

Oh to live in this world and in that way! Guess what though, darlings? We can if we choose to!

Love is a way of life. Pure and simple. And when we stray from that, most likely, we’ll find ourselves operating from a place of fear. Fear divides, separates, isolates and harms. 

On this 20th anniversary of 9/11, I find myself thinking about the “culture of fear” that took hold in the aftermath of 9/11.  A culture of fear that has permeated every area of life, society, politics  and humanity. A culture of fear that we saw at the onset of war 20 years ago all the way up to the insurrection this past January and everything in between, and we continue to see…. despite different presidents, administrations and policies and the downside of social media.

The questions  that continue to resurface for me time and time again are:

“How have you shown up in the past 20 years?”

“How do you want to show up in the next 5, 10, 15 or 20 years?

“What is your relationship with fear?”

“Do you operate from a place of fear or a place of love?”

“Are you able to look at others who are different from you from a place of love?”

“How do you feel when you encounter someone who looks different than you? Of a different race, religion, color, or culture than you?

“How have you bought into the culture of fear?”

“In what areas of your life do you operate from fear?”

“Are you able to “ignore the story and see the soul” as one of my beloved teachers and author of  Revolution Within, Seane Corn, encourages us to do?

The greatest poets, mystics, spiritual and religious teachers have taught us and continue to teach us that separation, division and fear separate us from our truest essence and connection to the Divine- that which is pure love- God’s only religion (and when I say God I mean the God of your own understanding be it a higher power, the Holy Mother, Mother Earth, the cosmos, the universe, etc). 

Fear separates us. Fear makes us do  crazy things. Fear makes us operate from a place of scarcity. Fear gets us into wars. Fear kills, maims, ostracizes, isolates, and destroys everything in its wake. Fear is the great divide. Fear divides us into two clearly distinct camps- us vs. them. 

In my humble opinion, It is in the wake of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 that we all should be doing some MAJOR self analysis, self-inquiry and inner investigation (just a few of my favorite things) because our future, our world  and our legacy depend on it. I found some inspiration, as well as a deep sense of grief, in the words of Kerri Kelly, founder of @ctznwell, author, podcaster and speaker:

“I had thought 9/11 was the worst of it- the most unimaginable and devastating loss- but it was just the beginning for so many. Since then, people of Arab and South Asian descent have been intimidated, surveilled, incarcerated and killed in exponentially increasing numbers. Military service members have given and taken their lives. Families have been torn apart through brutal immigration policies and mass incarceration. Millions of Americans have been surveilled and harassed. Black and brown communities have been targeted by racist militarism turned inward through law enforcement. And too many of us have given into a culture of fear, distrust and division.”

Her words alone give us much to reflect on, investigate, question, and even grieve. In one of her recent posts, where the words above come from, Kerri Kelly poses the following questions

What did we learn from the past 20 years?

Where has violence and militarism gotten us?

How do we repair the harm at home and around the world?

How do we create the conditions for true safety and care for all people?

How do we be good ancestors to those we lost?

How do we shift the legacy of 9/11 from one war to one of collective care?

I was fortunate to catch an interview with Kerri Kelly and Valerie Kaur on the anniversary of 9/11 and found myself lost in thought and thinking about this entire event with a different set of lenses. I don’t know about you, but I know I was a totally different person on so many levels 20 years ago. However, the one thing that has been a constant for me though has been love and following my heart. So… it’s not surprising that I was drawn to Ms. Kaur. I learned of Valerie Kaur a couple of years ago when I saw an interview about her work and her book  and, since it all revolves around my favorite topic, love, I was instantly drawn to her and started following her work.

Valerie Kaur is a civil rights leader and founder of The Revolutionary Love Project. She is also the author of See No Stranger. The Revolutionary Love Project “envisions a world where love is public ethic and shared practice in our lives and politics.” They generate stories, tools and thought leadership to equip people to practice the ethic of love in the fight for social justice. The Revolutionary Love Project inspires people to build beloved communities where they are. They teach core practices of revolutionary love backed by research and infused with ancestral wisdom. In addition to educational tools, they produce training,  courses, artwork, film, music and mass mobilization that center the voices of BIPOC communities. It is their belief that we can “birth a world where we see no stranger.” 

For the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Valerie Kaur recently re-released the film, Divided We Fall – Americans in the Aftermath, that was made in 2006 and is just as relevant today. You can see the film for free  and access the Educator’s Guide to the film as well as the Screening and Dialogue Guide at valeriekaur.com. The film apparently toured hundreds of US cities, won international awards and became known as the “go-to documentary on post 9/11 hate crimes.”

Darlings, the tools are out there for those of us who want to be part of re-imagining and birthing a new world. It takes work, a lot of self-study, blood, sweat and tears, but wouldn’t it be worth it if we could play a small part in birthing this new world? What a way to honor and pay homage to our ancestors, those who lost their lives in past wars, on 9/11 and its aftermath!!!  Imagine the world we could create for future generations? And speaking of future generations, what world would you like for them to inherit? What legacy do you want to leave behind? 

It is my hope that this blog has made you pause, think and reflect. Perhaps some of my questions resonated for you? Perhaps you feel inspired by Kerri’s words, feel motivated to read See No Stranger or interested in looking into The Revolutionary Love Project? 

Remember…when faced with a choice, always choose Love over Fear…Love can be a way of life…pure and simple!

May you always lead from the heart…right from the start, JTC

She Ready…

“Let choice whisper in your ear and love murmur in your heart. Be ready. Here comes life.” Maya Angelou

She ready…not to be confused with the Netflix comedy by the same name. When I say “She,” I mean Me.

Ready for what you may ask? Well… I mean ready for life. The quality of life that comes when you finally make the decision to have your knee replaced after four, long, agonizing years of pain, being able to do less and less, being limited to the activities you do, how much time you spend on your feet, how far you walk, and being kept from truly savoring and enjoying the juicy life you are used to living.

You see, having a high tolerance for pain can be a double edge sword. I’ve been so used to body pain since I’m 15 years old that, with each orthopedic surgery, I’ve become accustomed to tolerating excruciating pain- unbeknownst to others because I’m not the type to bitch and moan. This is not to say that you may not be aware I’m in pain, but most people in my world have no idea the level of pain I’ve tolerated since I needed my first orthopedic surgery at 15….I am now a young 62 and resilient AF!

The decision to undergo a 6th orthopedic surgery did not come easily. However, when I look back at 2020 and everything that brought me to the decision to have surgery, I can connect the dots and see how, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was prepping my nervous system for the assault, beating and trauma my body will take. As I stated earlier though…She Ready!

Since the beginning of the pandemic/lock down, I’ve spent a lot of time studying, learning and expanding my knowledge on trauma and resilience, It has included all kinds of trauma and the effects of it on the body and on the nervous system. It all started with a trauma informed yoga training I did which deepened my understanding on the numerous types of trauma that imprint themselves in the body, how the body keeps score and our responses to trauma. I’m not going to get into all of that because I’ve written blogs in the past of how our issues are in the tissues, and have even included some resources, etc. etc. Remember, sharing is caring!

Needless to say, my thirst to understand all kinds of trauma and causes of trauma; especially raced-based trauma, generational trauma, inherited trauma, cumulative trauma, developmental trauma, shock trauma, the vagus system, and responses to trauma was heightened. I’ve taken a deep dive into all kinds of books, stories, podcasts, webinars and summits solely centered around the personal experiences of black bodies of culture. With the exception of a handful of books written by white authors, all the books I’ve been reading since last year have been written by black and brown people of color. That was, and continues to be, an intentional decision on my part.

So what does all this have to do with making the decision to have surgery yet again? Well, my studies have also had me very focused on the effects of trauma on one’s nervous system- and regulating my own nervous system- especially in light of the collective trauma we have been experiencing as a global family. In addition to deeply resting, which is a practice in and of itself (more on that in my next blog), I have utilized all my tools and practices daily, without fail, and that has kept me deeply rooted, grounded, resourced, relaxed, rested, non-reactive and connected to Source…the whisper in my ear, the love in my heart and the spiritual GPS at the core of my being.

There’s no place for fear here: Faith/Love over Fear…always and in all ways!

Learning to listen to your body is a practice. I’ve learned to drop into my body, its sensations and what this intelligence is telling me. This inner-knowingness, this faith, conviction and connection to the divine never steers me wrong. On the contrary, when I haven’t listened to that whisper, things go awry. Like Lady O says, “First comes the whisper, then the nudge, then the rock, then the brick and then the brick wall.”

Darlings, we cannot ignore our connection, guidance and direction to that which is greater than us. I totally realize that what works for me may not work for you. But that’s where boundaries and discernment come into play and fear mongers are kept at bay.That’s where focus comes into play and allow it to guide your way. What we choose to focus on greatly influences and determines the quality of our lives, the quality of our decision-making and, ultimately, our peace of mind. Personally, I do not make decisions from a place of fear. Been there, done that and nothing good has ever come of it!

It was that connection to Source that awakened me in the wee hours one morning and clearly directed me to cancel a much-needed R&R trip to Florida (aka my beloved Hollywood Riviera) and move up my surgery. I was truly looking forward to lounging and soaking up sun, swimming everyday, spending time with my cousins and close friends, getting a little pet therapy and even attending a wedding. However, the message I received was loud and clear! It also echoed what I already knew and what some of my closest peeps had already articulated to me.

You see, I’m the first one to always tell everyone that we must take care of our Self FIRST. That we are no good to anyone else if we don’t put ourselves first. That quality of life needs to inform our decisions. That we must always listen to our bodies. Well…..I guess you can say that I was fed a hefty dose of my own medicine…wink, wink.

As of this writing, I am 8 days away from having my knee replaced- and fortunately it’s not on the same side that has already endured five surgeries and all the trauma and long-term effects they’ve had on me. I am actually looking forward to being on the other side of this, You see, when you’re bone-on-bone, no amount of PT, anti-inflamatory, injections, exercise, massage, CBD, etc., will alleviate the pain. The pain will continue to worsen-as it has. The beauty with surgery is that surgical pain has a beginning and an END date!

Pain robs a person of so many things including their motivation and inspiration. I’d like to say that my studies have kept me from blogging, that I want to be intentional with what I blog about, that I’ve been enjoying spending time on the Jersey Shore, or that I’ve been very engaged celebrating life. While there is some semblance of truth to all of that, I believe that the primary reason I have not blogged in months is attributed to finding out in January that I needed surgery- as well as the escalating pain which, to some degree, also zapped me of my own motivation and inspiration. I was stuck in that pain vortex which zaps your spirit and your energy.

But now…She Ready…more than ready!

My choice is to let love guide the way….always and in all ways!

She Ready…Ready to reclaim my life, my power, my purpose and my joy!!!

Lead from the heart…Right from the start! JTC

PS. Here’s an affirmation from yesterday’s Wayne Dyer calendar: “I’m here on purpose, I can accomplish anything I desire, and I do it by being in harmony with the all pervading creative force in the universe “

Sharing Love

“The chance to love and be loved exist wherever you are.”

So does the opportunity to share the love others put out there. And that is precisely what I’ve chosen to do on this Valentine’s Day 2021. As I read Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper just now, I realized that all the sentiments she expressed resonated for me. I could not have written it any better!

So… in the spirit of caring, sharing and loving on this Valentine’s Day 2021, I’ve decided to share Maria Shriver’s essay, titled “Rest in Love.” I realize some of you may already subscribe to The Sunday Paper. In that case, read no further. Just know I’m sending you BIG love from my heart to yours.

I hope Maria’s essay lands just where it needs to land on this day…. right smack in your heart space. I invite you to have a journal or something to write on so that you can reflect on the essay and write about the feelings, emotions, experiences, memories, dreams, hopes, sensations and intentions that may have arisen as you read. Here goes….

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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.

Mirror, Mirror

“Imagine a country whose citizens-maybe even its leaders- are brave, calm, and open towards each other; A country whose people realize that all human beings belong together as one family and must act accordingly; a country guided by common sense.” BR. David Steindl- Rast

Today is Election Day here in the U.S., and I wanted to take a moment to commemorate this moment in history that I (and everyone who I reading this) am blessed with being alive to experience. We are all part of history in the making.

I’m not attached to any election outcome. Non-attachment is a Buddhist mindset I’ve learned to cultivate over the years because of the simple fact the attachments lead to suffering. Nonattachment is a practice, and I’m a firm believer that whatever happens is happening for a reason and that life happens FOR us not to us.

I believe the past four years- and especially the past eight months since the pandemic- have held up a mirror to all of us. A mirror to look at the divide and brokenness within ourselves, our own internal biases, prejudices, anger, trauma and see where we can be more compassionate, loving, and accepting. This, of course, is a practice as well.

During these times of uncertainty, the one certainty is that what is occurring in our nation is a direct reflection of the heart and soul of each and every one of us.

As one of my teachers and mentors often reminds us, the times we’ve been living have been challenging us to step fully into all of it: our fear, anxiety, division, and transform that to empathy, compassion, and a deep love of self and of others.

The mirror that is being held up to us is there to truly and deeply examine our own lives, challenges, attachments, privileges, thoughts, actions, entitlements, speech, choices, relationships, beliefs, biases, and the role we are each playing in the healing of humanity and of our planet. I believe the mirror is there for us to deeply examine our own personal integrity and values.

Regardless of the outcome of today’s election, what will be revealed is the true nature and soul of our country… of its people.

Weeks ago, I came across a post that my neighbor borrowed from a friend- who probably borrowed from a friend, etc., etc. It’s a piece that was written by a President Trump supporter and one that really spoke to me. It speaks to the times we’re living and experiencing- individually and collectively- it speaks to the failure to communicate, to our humanity, integrity, dignity, values, disappointment, reverence for life and the fracture of relationships, friendships and society. I’ve shared it with many friends since having read it, and I’ve come back to it again and again. It’s both haunting and sobering.

So on this Election Day, I will leave you with that post. I don’t know who wrote it or where it originated. All I know is that whomever has shared it has “borrowed it from a friend.”

“I know you think I’m preoccupied with this President; that he is the reason I’m so angry and bitter and frustrated these days—but you’re wrong. This isn’t about Donald Trump.

It’s never been about him.

It wasn’t about him during the campaign or on Election Day.

It wasn’t about him when recordings of him boasting about sexual assaults surfaced.

It wasn’t about him when he said protestors at campaign rallies should be roughed up.

It wasn’t about him when he left refugee families stranded at the airport.

It wasn’t about him when he attacked the press.

It wasn’t about him when he sabotaged the Affordable Care Act.

It wasn’t about him when he blamed racial violence on “both sides.”

And it isn’t about him today: it’s about us.

This is about me and it’s about you.

It’s about my grief at the ugliness you feel emboldened to post on social media now, the nastiness you seem newly capable of, the disgusting words you now so easily toss out around the dinner table.

It’s about my disbelief at your sudden tolerance for his infidelity, his cruelty, his intellectual ignorance, his immorality, his disrespect for the rule of law, his alliances with dictators — things you once claimed you could never abide in a leader.

It’s about my incredulity at your surprising resentment for marginalized people; for your inability to muster any compassion for those who are hurting or frightened or threatened.

It’s about my disappointment at your easily manipulated nationalistic fervor; how the God and Guns, America First, Love it or Leave it rhetoric, so easily took root in your heart — how hostile to outsiders and foreigners you’ve become.

It’s about my amazement at your capacity to make your faith so pliable, that you could amen a compulsive liar, a serial adulterer, a fear-mongering bully; a man in nearly every way antithetical to the Jesus you’ve always said was so dear to you.

It’s about my sickness seeing you excuse away his coddling of racists, his public attacks on the FBI, his impulsive firings of Cabinet members, his Tweet rants against individual citizens and American companies.

It’s about my grief seeing you respond to his near-hourly display of recklessness and overreach, with a shrug of your shoulders or a turning away from it all.

It’s about me watching you ignore in him and even celebrate in him, the very things you claimed made Hillary Clinton the ‘greater of two evils’ when you voted: blatant corruption, financial impropriety, pathological lies, lack of morality.

It’s about my sadness at seeing you make a million tiny concessions—and how easy it now is for you to consent to actions, that only three years ago you’d have told me fully disgusted you.

Most of all, it’s about me realizing that when all this is over—we are still going to have to deal with all of this. Our fractures are going to outlive this Presidency.

You see, I really don’t give a damn about Donald Trump.

He doesn’t matter to me. He never has.

He’s a three-time married, C-level reality TV celebrity, with a long and well-documented resume of sexual misconduct, financial disasters, and moral filth.

He’s a professional predator who’s spent his life exploiting people for personal gain. That’s who he was before and who he will be when he leaves office.

Donald Trump, the President will be gone one day, and his disastrous Presidency will be well preserved.

History will have documented his every lie, every misdeed, every abuse of power, every treasonous betrayal — and he will be fully revealed as the monster that many of us are fully aware that he is.

That’s not why I am so disgusted and so filled with sadness these days.

I don’t care about Donald Trump because I don’t know or live alongside or love or respect Donald Trump.

I know and live alongside and love and respect you — or at least I once did, and I’m going to have to try and do that again.

Our relationship and our family and our church and our neighborhood and our nation are going to be trying to clean up the messes long after this President is gone.

When this is all over, the divides and the fractures and the wounds between us are going to remain.

This is why I’m angry and bitter and frustrated; not because of Donald Trump — but because of me — and because of you.”

Borrowed from a friend.

Darlings, regardless of the outcome of today’s election, our lives will go on and we all will be faced with letting go, moving on and stepping into our place in our human family, community, and the world with love, peace, intention and purpose. Showing up any other way would be a disservice to humanity. We’ve had many an opportunity for healing ourselves and healing humanity and, if we don’t get this right, this magical universe will continue giving us opportunities to do just that. Let’s work on ourselves, my darlings. Let’s leave the world a better place for future generations. Let’s honor our ancestors and continue the work they started!

Regardless of the outcome of this election, the work to heal the individual and collective fractured divide will continue…. what role will you be playing?

Be well, stay safe and God bless us all!

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

Birthday Reflections

“ Scorpio is the one sign that can give you sensitivity, moodiness, dominance, stubbornness, advice, laughter, harshness, love… and a headache all in a matter of minutes.”

Yep, that sounds like me and a lot like my fellow Scorpions out there! I saw this posted on my neighbor’s social media, and it got me thinking!

As I look back on my life, the younger me, the older me, and all the different versions of me in between, I see how all of these traits associated with a Scorpio has both helped and hindered me along my path. Would I change any of it? Absolutely and unequivocally not!

The sensitivity has allowed me to feel emotions; moodiness has gifted me with retreating and going within; dominance has allowed me to take charge when no one else does; stubbornness has allowed me to stand up for what I feel is the right thing to do in my heart of hearts; advice is something I give freely to those who come to me for some wisdom; laughter is my go-to medicine for the soul; harshness has allowed me to be critical- especially of myself and holding myself accountable-and has gotten me out of my own way-and, lastly, love has always guided my way- even in the most uncertain of times. Oh, and headaches serve as a reminder I shouldn’t drink red wine. Not all that bad, if you ask me!

As I reflect on my all too quick 62 rotations around the sun, the privilege that I’ve had is something I do not take for granted. The more I learn about White Privilege and this system of White Supremacy we live in, White Feminism, Caste, and how it’s all woven into every single aspect of our life, culture and society, the angrier I get at not having been taught these things in school. It’s like I’ve been living in an alternate reality in more ways than I can describe. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that I’ve taken learning to another level. The person I was going into this quarantine and the one who is emerging is different and is determining the direction of the next leg of my journey.

I’m very grateful for my parents seeing the communist handwriting on the wall before Castro came into power in Cuba. As a result, they, along with the majority of their siblings, came to the US for a better life, to have more children in some cases, and to give their children more opportunities than they were ever afforded.

My ancestors found their way to Cuba via Portugal and Spain. I only wish I could have met some of them and had the opportunity to take a deep dive into their lives, their traumas, their lived experiences, their wisdom… all things that live in my body and course through my blood.

I’m certain none of them could have imagined this upside down world we are living in. But I do know they, like all of our elders and ancestors, had dreams, aspirations, and things left to do and say when they left this world.

I realize I am the product of their unfulfilled wishes, the dreams they didn’t get to live out, the voice they were unable or not allowed to use, the product of privilege they didn’t have given the times they lived in and the embodiment of a heart overflowing with gratitude each step of the way, each and every day. My attitude of gratitude is what has brought me overwhelming joy, love, and abundance throughout my life…. especially during those dark nights of the soul.

I took a moment this morning to reflect on 62 years of life. I feel very loved, seen and appreciated. For some reason, birthdays get more and more meaningful as the number climbs. The cards I received, the sentiments expressed, and the heartfelt words inscribed have really touched my heart year after year.

This is my 12th birthday without my Mama, and to say that I miss her more each day is an understatement. I realize how lucky I was to have her for almost 50 years of my life. I was an unexpected surprise, and I am grateful that she chose life.

So…..on this day where I find myself reflecting on privileges of all kinds, I am going to share with you yet another handout from the White Conversations class that I took. It’s an activity called Privilege for Sale. It’s an activity that is also a big eye-opener for people who do not understand some of the things that White Privilege affords you, or how you walk through life, if you are white or passing as white.

If you are doing this with a very small group, you may want to each do this activity individually. Obviously, the more people involved, the better able you are to break up into smaller groups and have better conversations and different perspectives.

Before starting the activity, you must put yourself in a mindset of someone having zero privileges whatsoever. Each privilege costs $10 to purchase. As a group, or individual, you will purchase as many privileges as the money you’ve been given allows. It’s up to the facilitator to assign varying budgets- starting with $10- to each group (or individual).

Please note that the phrase “an aspect of your identity “refers to identities including race, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity/expression. Identities and privileges represented on this list or by no means exhaustive.

Ready? Here we go…..

  1. Not being subjected to additional scrutiny at school or in your job based on an aspect of your identity.  
  2. Adopting your children. 
  3. Being able to discuss and have access to multiple family planning options. 
  4. Raising children without worrying about state intervention. 
  5. Being accepted by your neighbors, classmates, colleagues, and/or new friends.. 
  6. Going shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that you will not be followed or harassed. 
  7. Walking around campus, turning on the television, or opening to the front page of the paper and seeing people like you widely represented. 
  8. Being sure that you or your children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their experience. 
  9. Going into a supermarket and finding the staple foods which fit with your cultural traditions.
  10. Not having to educate your children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection. 
  11. Using public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest
  12. Strangers don’t assume they can ask you what your genitals look like and how you have sex.
  13. Having the ability to walk through the world and generally blend-in, not being constantly stared or gawked at, whispered about, pointed at, or laughed at because of some aspect of your identity.
  14. Your identity is not considered a mental pathology by the psychological and medical establishments.
  15. Freely being able to discuss your relationship with others. 
  16. If you are assaulted or murdered, an aspect of your identity will not be used as a justification for the crime nor as a reason to coddle the perpetrators.
  17. Having your gender as an option on a form.
  18. Not fearing interactions with police officers due to an aspect of your identity.
  19. Not facing the everyday fear of deportation.  
  20. Expecting to have any/easy access to public transportation, building, parks, and restaurants.  
  21. Being able to plan your day without having to consider health or pain concerns.  
  22. Receiving validation from your religious community. 
  23. If you should need to move, being pretty sure that you will be able to rent or purchase a home in an area which you can afford and in which you would want to live. 
  24. Being able to go to a doctor visit and have him or her understand your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. 
  25. Whether using checks, credit cards or cash, you can count on your skin color not working against the appearance of financial reliability. 

Adapted from The Safe Zone Project, http://thesafezoneproject.com/

To say this is a powerful activity is an understatement and would be a disservice to the individual(s) who created it. While there are only 25 privileges listed here, the list can be expanded even more so given the reality of what being born in a body that was not born into a dominant Caste or Race goes through day in and day out of their entire existence.

One thing I know for sure that I will continue learning, especially from BIPOC leaders and teachers, until the moment I take my last breath. My entire life thus far has been around learning, growing, expanding, transforming, loving, inspiring, serving and reflecting…why should it be any different at this age? Our lust for knowledge is something that should only die when we die.

So there you have it…. my birthday reflections. I hope you feel inspired to keep learning, unlearning, becoming and unbecoming. My birthday wish is that you give the White Privilege activity a try and feel compelled to share it with others. It will definitely make for good conversation and inspired action!

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

Your Mother Is Always With You

“She’s the whisper in the leaves as you walk down the street, the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick, the fragrance of life itself. She’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well, she’s your breath in the air on a cold. winter’s day. She’s the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow, she is Christmas morning. Your mother lives inside your laughter. She’s the place you came from, your first home, and she’s the map you follow with every step you take. She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on Earth can separate you. Not time, not space…not even death.”

Mother”s Day is always a tough one for those of us who’ve lost our mothers. Several  of my friends lost their moms this year as well as over the last couple of years. And speaking from someone who lost hers 12 years ago, it never gets any easier. I often say that we simply learn how do deal with it, but  we never truly get over that vacant hole on our hearts.

Mother-daughter relationships are tricky. Some are stable while others are volatile. Some fluctuate and others are solid. Some are toxic while others are healing. Some are the things dreams are made of while others are a nightmare. Some are non-existent and others overbearing. Some seem to be “perfect” and others are perfectly imperfect.

There is no cookie-cutter recipe to what makes for a “perfect” mother-daughter relationship. And despite the range and types of mother-daughter relationships out there, mothers always fill a huge part of our hearts for better or worse…in life and in death.

Mother’s Day is tricky to navigate for us whether we like to admit it or not. Some of us don’t like to show our feelings, much less talk about them. Or we have shame around it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling your feelings -all of them- especially when you no longer have a mom around.

We live in a culture that is not comfortable talking about death, much less expressing our feelings around how much we may miss someone who is no longer alive. The love we feel for someone never dies along with that person, If anything, sometimes that love gets   even deeper and more expansive over the years. Yet, there is a preconceived notion some people have that they are expected to “get over” their grief in a certain time period. There is no timeline to grief, no magic recipe, and not one path that is better than another. We all grieve differently because we are all wired differently. As we’ve all experienced, grief just comes out of nowhere sometimes and it shows up differently for each of us. Oftentimes, it’s that unwelcome guest at our heart’s door that we need to allow in.

And when we open our heart’s door, and when we allow ourselves to flow with whatever arises, we are sometimes  unexpectedly surprised. Memories suddenly show up, or something that was so insignificant now holds deeper meaning and significance. Sometimes we struggle to remember something to no avail, but instead we are gifted with a precious memory that was long forgotten…perhaps even painful at the time but, with the passing of time, we look at it through a different lens.

Coming from a generation where our mothers tended to never speak about “family” situations, what I advise anyone who still has a mom around, is to ask them questions…all kinds of questions: about their childhood, growing up, experiences, traumas, ancestors, romances, challenges, successes, relationships, wishes fulfilled and dreams unfulfilled…you get the idea. Record videos and take lots of pictures of them. Interview them, have them interview you and record these interviews. Be silly, go deep and don’t leave any stone unturned. These will be some of the things that will comfort you and make you laugh when you are longing for their presence -even if it’s for one more day.

I’m a person who values rituals and enjoys celebrating a person’s life. So, on Mother’s Day, my day starts with a gratitude filled meditation and yoga practice. I usually have my customary white roses and my Mama’s journal that I write in twice a year.  Some years, I look back at what I wrote in years past. I like this quiet time to reflect . It also allows me to see how, with the passing of time, I am growing into being more and more like my mother. And I am owning it. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry. It’s all good though…I embrace it all!

My mama was all about love, generosity and service. She loved to dance, celebrate and laugh. She always ended her conversations with “Te quiero” and was very loved by all who knew her. Mama had a huge heart. As I look back, I can see how she felt all her feelings… maybe too much.  I have no doubt that she was an empath. She was compassionate, loving and kind to everyone. Don’t get me wrong, she could have a temper – that Cuban mother temper- but most times she’d end up getting over it- and herself- very quickly. Sometimes she’d even be concealing laughter while in the midst of an outburst. I just don’t think she had a mean bone in her body…it was all theatrics.

All I know for sure is that my mother is always with me. This morning I took out a box of old family pictures ,and l really took the time to look at them, look at the body language, the smiles, the joy and the sadness too. I even found myself looking at pictures of me when I was a baby and a young child and talking out loud to the little girl I was holding in my hands. Talk about powerful stuff! I also read through letters and cards that teachers had their students write and draw for my mom a few months before she passed.

As if by divine intervention, as I sit here finishing this blog, a friend of mine who  lost her mom a couple of months ago sent me a picture of a card she received. The front of the card was almost the same as the title of this blog, Your Mother Will Always Be With You. Go figure! Is that a coincidence, or what?

So….in honor of all of us who’ve lost our moms-whether physically, emotionally or mentally- especially if this is your first Mother’s Day without your mom, I will leave you with the beautiful sentiment expressed in the card my friend received:

“You’ll never forget her face, her voice, her love for you. You’ll never forget the traditions she handed down, the things she stood for… They are her gift and your legacy. You honor her every day in the way you live and the person you are.”

Sending you all much love and many blessings,  from my heart to yours!

Lead from the heart…always and in all ways, JTC

 

Planting New Seeds: Inspiration for Tumultuous Times

“We alive at this time are the luckiest people who have ever lived –and the ones facing the wildest, most terrifying challenges. This is not just a deep paradox, it is an existential invitation to keep waking up, right now.“ Terry Patten for Grateful Word of the Day

Greetings, my darlings!

The title of this blog is actually the title of a piece one of my beloved yoga teachers, Laura Wootton, posted and one you will read a little later on.

I haven’t blogged all that much lately and, with all that is swirling around us these days, I’ve done what I usually do when faced with challenging times: I tend to unplug, go within, journal, be still, practice some silence, color, listen to music and guided meditations and read a whole lot. Taking the time to be introspective fills me up.

This time has also allowed me to be very mindful and selective of what I choose to post and/or share. I don’t want to add to the hysteria and anxiety that is out there. On the contrary- I want to be the calm in the chaos. This is a mindset I’ve subscribed to for many years now.

Our words hold the capability to either ignite fear or inspire love. I choose the latter. Our words, thoughts and our self-care practices help us to self regulate and calm our nervous system. Fear puts us in fight or flight mode, spiking cortisol levels and causing more dis-ease in the body… not an ideal situation for those with an already compromised immune system. I do not want to add to that, so I’ve been uber-cautious.

When I read Laura’s post, I realized her words were what we all need to hear right now. These are the times, as Laura writes , for planting new seeds. So…. I will leave you with her inspiring words for tumultuous times:

The world is shifting in big ways. Our systems and belief systems are being tested and reassessed. Although this time is tumultuous, it is creating space for needed changes.

The feeling of what is happening comes to me as this image… imagine an area of firmly packed dirt. It has been in its place for years, untouched. It is so packed that new seeds can’t penetrate its surface. The process we are undergoing right now is like taking a shovel to this packed dirt… breaking up all that is stuck in it, excavating it, discovering things that have been lodged in the dirt for years. As we break up the packed dirt, we create space for new life. Now seeds can be planted and nurtured in this space again.

Our structural systems and belief systems are being excavated like the packed dirt. It feels tumultuous, but this process is creating space for new experience and more authentically-aligned life paths.

This is a time to:

  • Look at your life and the way you’ve been living it… are there any ways that you have not been living authentically? How can you create space for more joy and creativity in your life?
  • Enjoy quality time with loved ones while you’re all at home… call loved ones who are far away. We are being offered an opportunity to connect deeply with each other.
  • Ponder the dreams that you have kept “on the shelf” for years because there’s “no time” to pursue them.
  • Contemplate the “seeds” you’d like to plant in your life… visualize what you’d like your life to look life if you’re given a fresh start.

Some affirmations that could be helpful in this time:

I am grounded and stable.
I am worthy of love and joy.
I trust the unfolding of my life.
I create space for joy in my life.
I value myself and my relationships.
I am always Divinely Aligned.
I am guided to my most authentic Self-expression.
I love unconditionally, and I am loved unconditionally.
I receive what I need, and I release what I do not need.
Love and hugs to everyone ❤️🤗❤️

Thank you, “Lovely Laura,” for sharing your wise words and for being such a beacon of light during these times. Your inspiration is deeply appreciated. And thank you for being someone who is helping to move humanity forward!

Here’s to each and every one of us planting new seeds AND choosing/finding inspiring words for tumultuous times!

Lead from the heart… always and in all ways, JTC

Lovin’ on YOU

“The most desired human emotion, love, is the energy of the heart and soul that brings balance, harmony, and healing.” David Elliot

Greetings darlings, and Happy Valentine’s Day to all! I’m such a love and gratitude junkie that this week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. It’s not that I need a particular holiday to celebrate love and be loving. That’s an everyday activity in my book!

Living with a heart wide open and loving wildly, fiercely and passionately is, in my book, a non-negotiable. As David Elliot writes in his book, Healing, love expands and uplifts you when felt and expressed. When you feel love you feel connected to all things through your heart. Isn’t that the truth?

Yet, there are many out there who do not approach life and love from this vantage point. People are disconnected from their hearts, minds are fearful and closed off, and emotions are locked away somewhere deep down inside. I was recently listening to a meditation that stated the biggest journey we will ever take is the journey within. Now that is the absolute truth!

It is only when we journey within that we start to peel away the layers of feelings and emotions that have kept us stuck, sick and block us from truly living with a heart wide open. This journey to the self is one of self love. It’s sweet and painful. Revolutionary and transforming. Poignant and profound.

Darlings, the most important relationship we will ever have is that with our Self. It may sound cliche-ish to some, but it’s radically true. Just think about it for a moment- if we do not love ourselves, how can we love another??? And I mean truly love- the kind that is unconditional and one where we’re connected by our values, integrity, differences, and similarities just the same. And not just in a romantic sense either.

If there’s one thing I’m a big proponent of, and advocate for, is radical self love (and self-care).

What does radical self love look like to you?

How do you love yourself?

In what ways are you unloving to yourself ?

These questions can start you on “lovin’ on YOU” in more ways than you can imagine. Once we crack that door and let the light seep in, we’ve taken the first step towards spiritual, physical, emotional and mental well-being. After all, we are the guardians of our soul and our one precious life in this lifetime. Loving yourself is our responsibility. It doesn’t fall onto anyone else. It’s solely ours!

Part of my Valentine’s gift to myself was coming to Kripalu in Stockbridge, MA for their R&R program. You can do as much or as little as you want and select from numerous daily classes, workshops, and activities. There’s also various healing arts and services that are available should you want to pamper yourself even more so.

In their own words, “Kripalu envisions an awakened, connected, and compassionate world in which all people and communities are empowered to realize their full potential for the transformative wisdom and practice of yoga. Presence, Inquiry, Practice, Compassion, Integrity, and Service are behaviors that positively impact how we manage ourselves, how we treat each other, and how we interact and connect.” What a way to live and love!

As I read and reread the above, it’s ever so clear that all of that starts with our own journey within. Once we show up for ourselves, we can show up for others- in a healthy, meaningful and more sustainable way.

So…on this beautiful, sunny day in the Berkshires, I’m going to share with you my little takeaway from yesterday’s arrival at Kripalu. It’s their Guidelines for Self and Community Care which I think are beautiful ways to live and love…. ourselves and others!

Be present to your own body, mind, and heart. The felt sense of your own inner experience is at the root of your well-being and ability to serve the community.

Inquire into your habits. Notice impulses and behavior that are not fully aligned with your highest intentions. Your words and behavior impact your own experience, the experience of others, and the environment we create together.

 Explore new ways of caring for and expressing yourself. Allow this time to include the potential discomfort of learning something new.

Be kind to yourself and others. Each one of us is learning, growing and doing the best we can in any given moment. Embrace the opportunity for supported growth.

Demonstrate integrity by speaking and acting your truth respectfully and compassionately. Our community flourishes as each of us brings forth what is within. Our shared stories and experiences foster community and connection.

Darlings, my wish for you is that you ALWAYS take the time to be present with yourself, dive deeply into your heart, listen to the wisdom of the heart, and shower yourself with compassion and loving awareness. And…remember…it is always a practice!

Here’s to Lovin’ on YOU!

Lead with Love…always and in all ways, JTC

Blind Clarity

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” Antoine de Saint Exupery

There’s nothing as intense and overpowering as the moment of clarity. It’s when our hearts and minds are open, and we are in alignment with all things that are possible for us. It’s blinding!

I spent quite a bit of time listening to and watching several energy updates and forecasts for the new year and new decade, and it seems like clarity of thought is front and center in all things personal, professional, political and worldly. It’s about time, don’t you think?

After all, thanks to the information we have at our fingertips, and the work we’re doing on ourselves, we are evolving, transforming and growing, in rapid rates, faster than ever before. We’re more in touch with our intuition and with our bodies.

As Lee Harris commented on his energy forecast, “People are coming back to their sensory selves faster than ever before.” This, my darlings, is becoming the new normal. Yippie!

When we operate from this connected place, we can’t help but notice that we are leading from the heart. We’re leading from a place of divine truth. We’re leading with ease, confidence, joy and love. Can you relate?

Conversely, it is lack of clarity that creates chaos, frustration, sadness and fear. These emotions are poison. They sabotage our goals, dreams, and our day-to-day living and interaction with others. When we dust off our glasses, put aside the fear mongering we are seeing so much of these days, and connect to our hearts, we are able to see everything clearer, bigger, more illuminated. We are able to intentionally interact with others at much higher levels than ever before. We are blinded by the light of clarity!

I believe that, when this occurs, our senses are heightened. We are more discerning. We have a laser beam focus. There’s an emotional awareness and connection to spirit that comes from operating from our heart center.

I also believe that Mother Nature is one of our greatest teachers and that the universe self corrects in ways that bring in all sorts of disasters so that humanity can come together. Just look at the compassion, empathy, togetherness and love that arises after disasters. Our hearts get ripped open, don’t they? And our hearts may also get triggered just the same.

It’s these triggers that we need to put under a microscope. These triggers may be keeping us from living out our greatness and from serving in ways we were meant to serve… with love.

Serving with love and intention is a practice just like any other practice. And it does take time, effort, patience, persistence and perseverance.

Don’t you think it’s high time we knock down the walls of fear, frustration, tension, conflict, and separation and build foundations of love, patience, ease, compassion, and unity? Don’t you think it’s time we take our thoughts, desires, aspirations and dreams and give them life in the world? Don’t you want to live in alignment with your creative flow? Don’t you want to operative from higher levels of emotional awareness and intelligence?

Are you willing to do the work? Nothing in our lives changes unless we are willing to do the work and get clear in all matters of the heart. It’s time to step up and step out, darlings!

If you don’t know where or how to start, I am here to tell you how simple it can be. Note to self…it may be simple, but it may also be painful! Nevertheless, it all starts with getting to know you better as well as setting daily intentions. I am also here to remind you that your intentions create your reality.

So…before we get to a little practice for setting intentions, allow me to share a few questions I came across as I was perusing many, many pages of the spectacular new issue of Mantra Magazine (my fave). The ENTIRE issue is on wellness. It’s like one big interactive journal!

These questions will help you to get to know YOU. I invite you to peruse them, use them as journaling prompts or topics of conversations with some beloved friends. Use them in any way that will serve YOU:

  • When do I feel most creative?
  • What qualities do I value and desire in my friends?
  • Where do I feel at peace?
  • What makes me feel valued and important?
  • What do I look forward to the most?
  • What do I struggle with the most?
  • What makes me feel calm and centered?
  • What do I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed?
  • When do I feel confident in myself?
  • How do I want to feel in the world?
  • How can I face my fears more?
  • How can I cultivate more confidence in myself?
  • How can I improve my thinking in order to make my life better?
  • What would help me grow as a person?
  • What new ways can I express myself?
  • What do I need more of?
  • What do I need less of?
  • When do I get mental clarity?
  • How can I stay in tune with my body?
  • When do I feel emotionally fulfilled?
  • What makes me feel energized?
  • When am I most empowered?
  • When do I feel joyful?
  • What obstacles are holding me back?
  • What are my greatest sources of inspiration?
  • When do I feel most proud of myself?
  • What makes me feel valued and important?
  • What is my greatest insecurity?
  • What thoughts consume me throughout my day?
  • How much time do I devote to self-care?
  • What are the things I’d like to say no to?
  • What are the things I’d like to say yes to?

Lots to think about, right? Lots to act upon as well lots to excavate and elevate!

Now, for a little practice on intention setting all that is required is your willingness, your breath and your heart.

Upon awakening each day, resist the temptation to reach for your phone or electronic devices. Doing so will only fill your mind with clutter and distractions.

Begin your day by sitting in bed, a chair, yoga mat or meditation cushion. Close your eyes, and focus on your breath a little while. By focusing on how your breath travels through your body, you are practicing conscious breathing. Now bring your attention to your heart center, and see/feel it opening and blossoming like a lotus flower. When you feel ready, ask yourself:

What word or phrase embodies my wishes for today?

Let that word or phrase fill your heart, your mind and your awareness. You may be feeling one way, but your heart may be telling you something else. The key is to honor that voice of the heart, your instinct and intuition because the heart connects us to the flow of love.

When you are ready, open your eyes slowly, and take a few deep breaths. Keep your intention(s) close to your heart, and tap into it throughout your day and throughout all your encounters and interactions.

Darlings, I invite you to make this an every day practice. Remember, consistency creates the change we want to see. Sit as little or as long as you would like. The point is to be consistent with your practice so that you can be open to your spiritual and energetic self. This morning ritual will allow you to move throughout your day with confidence, purpose, ease and love.

As we are always reminded in yoga…. it’s a practice- not a perfect- so leave that judgemental voice out of the picture! Bid it farewell. And speaking of judgemental voices, be sure you check out my previous blog New Decade – New Voice if you have not already done so. Carry on, my darlings!

Lead with Love… always and in all ways, JTC

The Paper Man

“Just when you least expect it, someone’s creativity and agility blows you away, makes you laugh and almost makes you pee your panties.” JTC

Oh what a night!!!

It was a much needed night of laughter, friendship, love, shenanigans, delicious food and fun cocktails.

You see, I’m having my apartment painted as we speak, so everything is all packed up, bundled up and covered up. My otherwise colorful, fun and peaceful treehouse has been turned upside down. There’s nothing peaceful, colorful or fun about it right now. There’s very little room for movement and finding a place to sit without getting paint on me has been an adventure in and of itself.

So…. a night out with a lovely group of girlfriends, otherwise known as The Usual Suspects in our group chat, was just what the doctor ordered. Laughter is, indeed, good medicine for the soul. And the more we laugh, happily, joyfully and unabashedly, even to the point of tears, boogers coming out our noses, or peeing in our panties (that’s if you’re wearing them- but that’s for another blog), the more we can appreciate the little things in our lives in very big and profound ways.

The restaurant was crowded, noisy, we were noisy, and at any given time there were multiple conversations going on at the same time. You know the feeling, right? The one where you feel like a ping pong ball, going back and forth, head spinning, yet in each and every conversation. It’s the antithesis of mindfulness and giving your sole attention to the one task at hand. Fully present and engaged in that one task.

But you know what? Sometimes the task at hand is to BE fully present and engaged with ALL of it….the zaniness, the laughter, the stories, the madness, the shenanigans and antics alike. And let me just say that no topic is ever “too much” for this group. We put it all out there on the table. If it interests you, then run with it. If not, sip your cocktail and be the curious observer.

The beauty of it all is that there are no cautious or fake “representatives” at that table! We are all simply free to be ourselves and that makes it all that more meaningful. And by the way, we’re not an easy group. By that I mean that, with the exception of one or two people, we all have serious food allergies and restrictions, so ordering can get tricky and dicey. Yet, we make the best of it. More importantly, we’re not obnoxious with our questions, concerns or inquiries. Quite the opposite. We make light of it and tend to warn our wait staff beforehand. It makes the oftentimes painful process of ordering much lighter and humorous.

I believe for us it’s all about the humor, fun, entertainment, friendship, camaraderie, honesty, openness, and heartfelt genuine love and admiration we have for each other that makes our times together all the more meaningful. We are real, the conversations are raw and the topics are relevant to each of us. It’s a win-win.

It’s like a giant dose of feel good endorphins when I’m with these ladies. Female friendships are a must in my book. It’s like free therapy when you stop and think about it. How incredible…it doesn’t get any better!

So after a delightful evening of sipping, tasting, munching, chatting, laughing, catching up and planning future adventures, our time together was winding down… or so we thought.

Just when we thought we couldn’t laugh anymore (I was even losing my voice) out comes a gentleman I will lovingly call “Paper Man.”

Paper Man is an older, Asian gentleman who was sporting a Hawaiian shirt, a paper cut out hat with birds on it, and a necklace advertising his services. He was pushing a cart that had a tip jar on it. Ok…. now we were all a bit weary. However, in a matter of seconds, I was instructed to write my name down, look to the left… and voila! He cut out a profile picture of me from black construction paper, complete with my spiked hair, glasses and “Yaya” below it. Wow! Then he glued it to a white piece of paper- like a card.

Since it was my birthday celebration, he then cut out a pregnant woman on her back that, when you pulled on the legs, a baby’s head popped out from between her legs. Oh my! Needless to say, we all cracked up and were somewhat dumbfounded at his agility and how quickly he proceeded to take a paper plate and make a birthday hat for me- complete with a cut out cake and candles on top. He said something about the candles standing for prosperity, peace and happiness or something like that. I don’t recall his exact words, but you get the idea.

Little did we know the best was yet to come. After giving me my hat, he surveyed our table and his eyes landed on the pretty blonde closest to him. With that, he looked at her and told her he had a “trick or treat” for her. Oh boy! In rapid speed, he cut out a skeleton man that, when you pulled on his legs, a big penis popped out…. OMG!!! I think we were in tears. What made it even funnier and more hilarious was that the gal he picked is probably the shyest one in the group. Of all people to have been picked …wink, wink!

Paper Man left with a generous tip. He also left us thinking of how we must have him a future party. However, it will have to be after we have one with our new best bellydancer friend from a precious birthday celebration. We will simply add Paper Man to our list of future soirées.

As for my beloved usual suspects, any time I get to spend with them is guaranteed to make my heart soar, my belly sore from laughter and my throat raspy from all the convo, screaming and hysterics. It’s a night, or day, that leaves me feeling alive, refreshed, exuberant, grateful and blessed to be floating in this magical universe together.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” -Marcel Proust

Long live The Usual Suspects!

Infinite Love and Gratitude, JTC