Day 21: Shine

Until now, the summer solstice was just the longest day of the year. It had to do with the sun and the earth and little to do with me.

This year, I joined a circle of people on June 21st to meditate all day under the guidance of medical intuitive Sarah Weiss. What a powerful experience.

She said solstice is a time to “re-member.” A time to become our unique selves. A chance to know ourselves in a new way. A time to get into harmony with your best self.

I spent the day getting centered in a circle of like-minded people in a day-long guided meditation. It was so powerful that I’m still processing it. I feel changed in a deep way that is still being revealed. If you’ve ever had your piano tuned, it’s a bit like getting yourself tuned. The sheet music might look the same but the sound from the piano is so much richer it blows you away.

One of my sisters also soaked up the energy of the day. She sent out this email:

“As it is summer solstice, I looked up a meditation for today: 

"Now take from this light the energy that you need, and know that there is plenty for all. For the Source of this light is endless and ever abundant. Take a moment to experience Her abundance, and know that as you partake of Her light and Her love, so do you give your light and your love. And as you give energy, so do you receive it. And thus does the circle of life continue."

As she did the meditation, she sent light and love to individual members of our family, one by one. There are 11 siblings, so it’s a lot of light to share.

She wrote, “I like the part about there being enough light for everyone because I felt like there was never enough of anything to go around when we were kids. I also like that the abundant energy/light is female. Feel free to try this meditation and send out some light and love.”

That’s what I’m still trying to do. Send out light and love.

My simple prayer for everyone I encounter is this: “God bless them with light and love and your perfect saving grace.”

Imagine how long the daylight would last if all day long we would all just shine.

Day 20: Splurge

Sometimes you just gotta splurge.

I used to think a massage was a luxury. It was something rich people did or at least something other people did. Finally, it was something I did once a year, maybe twice. Sixty minutes, tops. 

Now it’s become a staple. I go every month.

And not just for sixty minutes.

No, I go for the gusto.

The 90 minute massage.

Decadence? You betcha.

My body loves every minute of it.

So does my soul. 

It took a while to find the right place. I discovered Kivuli massage when I was getting my hair done. I struck up a conversation with another woman getting her hair done and just loved her energy and passion for life. This stranger buzzed with joy. 

Cristin handed me her card. Kivuli Massage Therapy. What does kivuli mean? I asked.

It’s Swahili for a place of rest and respite, she said. 

Who couldn’t use that? 

So I took the card. And never went. 

A few months later, I ran into her again at the hair salon. Coincidence? Could be. But I’m a believer that a coincidence is God being anonymous. This time, I set an appointment. Now I’m a regular. So is my daughter.

 Cristin finds places my own body didn’t know needed help. Knots and twists and tangles.

She kneads them all out. I just relax and become putty in her hands. 

A massage is good practice for letting go. You surrender into someone else’s hands. You let go for 90 minutes. You turn off the outer world and tune into the inner one. No calls, no texts, no emails. No one can reach you.

At the end, you ease back into your body and discover it to be your place of rest and respite.

Day 19: The Center of Your Life

It’s easy to lose the center of your life.

To fall into the outer orbit. To find yourself in the dark outer reaches of Pluto instead of grounded safely on planet Earth.

I lost myself today, but found myself faster than usual. Making a conscious decision to mother myself for 100 days helped speed up the reclamation process.

It seemed that everyone needed a slice of me today and I quickly ran out of slices. My grandson, Asher, had Safety Town all week, which changed everyone’s schedule.

It was a great experience for him and I was glad to help do the driving and daycare pickup of his sister so his mom was free to drive him to class every day.

My own mother called a few times, wanting a slice of me. I looked at my calendar. Where could I squeeze her in? A friend called to take a walk. Another friend called to have dinner. Another friend keeps wondering when I will return her calls. 

I felt bombarded on the inside by guilt. How can I be there for everyone? Then I heard that small, still voice say: Be there for you. Get back in the center of your life. Live from the inside out.

Pausing to meditate helps. Just a brief pause to get re-centered, to re-member who you are and be a member of your own life. 

The triage of my life reminds me the order of care is: Me, my immediate family, my extended family, then my friends, then acquaintances. Once I got back in alignment, the day went down smooth as a milkshake.

A two-hour window opened up unexpectedly and I was able to bring my mom groceries and take her out for ice cream. All in a peaceful, calm, uncrazy way.

Once I made me a priority and put me back in the center of my own life, the clarity followed. That’s where the clarity comes, from the center. 

Day 18: Pocket of Joy

They say the devil is in the details.

 I say that’s where God is. Tucked in all the small stuff of life.

In the details. In the accessories. In the moments that stay with you years from now. Or at least linger until bedtime like a lullaby that sings you to sleep. 

You just have to notice them before they pop like bubbles. Every day is full of them. 

Today the pockets of joy that I tucked in my pocket….

I opened the car sunroof to let in the rain. To feel drop by drop the sky water the earth, and me.

When it began to pour, I closed it and turned the radio off to listen to the drops tap dance on the roof. It was worth pulling over the car, just to hear that sound alone.

I got to swing my grandbaby, River, who at 1 is pure joy. When she sits in the baby swing in the backyard, she opens her mouth so wide to smile, her face nearly disappears. Pretend to grab her tiny toes and she laughs herself silly and nearly tumbles out of the swing. 

In the car with Ainsley, who is nearly 3, and Asher, who is 5, we turned up the Irish music. Who cares that it's June? It’s lively and fun and wild to hear two children scream from the backseat, “And it’s no, nay, never!”

Today I felt the joy from my head down to my toes, which I took time to paint a red that screams, “Here I am! Let’s dance!”

Day 17: A Good Laugh

When was the last time you laughed so hard you almost peed your pants?

I'm proud to say it was yesterday.

I was helping my daughter, Gabrielle, declutter her basement. We were sorting through old keepsakes when she reached into a plastic tub and pulled out a wooden box. She started laughing hysterically.

What is it? I asked.

I tried to open the box, but it didn't budge. You had to slide the lid across it to get the rectangular jewelry box open.

She could barely get the words out because she was laughing so hard.

"The…Puzzle…Box," she said, rolling over laughing.
I burst into laughter, too. 

I had bought the box for her years ago when we were both hooked on the soap opera, "Days of Our Lives" and Hope had a puzzle box with a secret compartment. (You can watch it here on YouTube.) 

Silly as it sounds, that soap opera was our link to each other, even after Gabe went off to college. She watched the show at Ohio University and I watched it in Cleveland and we’d joke about all the Stefano drama and the silly episodes where Marlena was possessed and whether we were seeing Hope or Gina on screen. 

If I really want to get my daughter laughing, I could ask her, “Who are the real parents of  baby Elvis?” 

Only a true “Days of Our Lives” fan would know, and would definitely wet their pants laughing.

Day 16: Good Vibrations

Ever have one of those days when you just feel off inside?

You feel scattered, as if you sprung a leak and all your inner energy is leaking out, running every which way like school kids at recess.

When we were little, we used to break thermometers and play with the mercury.  Back then, we had never heard of mercury poisoning. The mercury formed a shaky, shiny, silver blob that we poked to break it into a dozen smaller shaky blobs. Then we scooted them closer until they rolled together and smooshed magically back into one big ball of mercury.

I sometimes feel that scatteredness within. I feel that longing to get centered, to collect all the broken pieces of me and feel whole again.

My singing bowl helps. I bought it at Ten Thousand Villages. It was made in Nepal. You tap the bowl then run the wooden stick along the edges of the bowl and it sings. Softly, then loudly. You can feel the vibration move through you. I keep it on the dresser in my bedroom. 

Whenever I feel scattered and in need of alignment, I stand over the bowl, feet firmly planted on the ground, take a deep, cleansing breath, and tap the bowl. It's like inhaling a bouquet of roses. It’s like a 90-minute massage. 

The singing bowl never fails to sing me back to my center.

And it’s much safer than mercury.

Day 15: Sacred Space

Everyone needs a home away from home.

My spiritual home is the Jesuit Retreat House. It's located on 57-acres of peace tucked back behind busy State Road in Parma, Cleveland's largest suburb.

When the world knocks me down, JRH always picks me up. 

We were there on Sunday for the baptism of my granddaughter, River. The ceremony started with Louis Armstrong singing, "What a Wonderful World." Is it ever. Every day is a gift waiting to be opened. 

The ceremony ended with Joan Baez singing, "Forever Young." It's a beautiful prayer for a baby or anyone who wants to stay young all through life. 

The family took a walk around the paved path that takes you on the edges of the woods. The path circles around, forming a long oval. In the middle is a sea of grass that always seems to be glistening, either under sunlight or moonlight.

Our oldest son, Ben, asked what that area was used for. Yoga? Tai Chi? I smiled.

I've been coming on retreats here for 32 years. What do we use that sea of green for?

Absolutely nothing. I can hear Father Jim Lewis telling me often, “God delights in your presence.” We don’t need to do a thing for God.

That field is a giant reminder for me to just be. 

To stand still under God's love and soak up the shine. 

Day 14: Words

Over the weekend I saw the movie “Words and Pictures” with Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche.

A talented English teacher, who drinks too much and writes too little, falls for an art teacher who struggles against her own body to paint. A battle is waged: do words matter more or do pictures?

It’s a love story that made me love words even more.

Words fill the places chocolate can’t reach. I sat on my backyard swing and savored just one poem, just one. To read too many poems at once is to eat an entire box of chocolates. Eating more than one piece blurs the taste of the next one. 

This morsel from Billy Collins was the perfect piece of fudge for my soul:


was what they called you in high school
if you tripped on a shoelace in the hall
and all your books went flying.

Or if you walked into an open locker door
you would be known as Einstein,
who imagined riding a streetcar into infinity.

Later, genius became someone
who could take a sliver of chalk and square pi
a hundred places out beyond the decimal point,

or someone painting on his back on a scaffold,
or a man drawing a waterwheel in a margin,
or spinning out a little night music.

But earlier this week on a wooded path,
I thought the swans afloat on the reservoir
were the true geniuses,

the ones who had figured out how to fly,
how to be both beautiful and brutal,
and how to mate for life.

Twenty-four geniuses in all,
for I numbered them as Yeats had done,
deployed upon the calm, crystalline surface--

forty-eight if we count their still reflections,
or an even fifty if you want to toss in me
and the dog running up ahead,

who were smart enough to be out
that morning--she sniffing the ground,

me with my head up in the light morning breeze.

Day 13: Tuck Yourself In

The moon has a grip on me.

Oh, the power of the moon to sway the oceans, control the ebb and flow of the tides. How can it not have power over us, when a human body is 75 percent water?

Just ask anyone who works in a hospital. A full moon can fill the emergency rooms with the mentally and physically wounded. Labor and delivery room overflow with new babies.

Still doubtful? Rent the movie “Moonstruck” and you’ll snap out of it. 

For the past two weeks, I’ve been getting to bed early as part of my Mothering Me plan. At 10 p.m., my cell phone sends gentle harp music to remind me to start shutting down my life for the day. I sign off the computer, turn off the phone, brush, floss and tuck myself in. 

I spoon a little with my hubby, give thanks to the Creator for another wonderful day, then close my eyes.

And they’re still open at midnight.

And at 1 a.m.
And 2 a.m.
And 3 a.m.
And, no way! It’s 4 a.m.?! 

Yep. Two nights this week. Wide awake all night. My mind is exhausted, but energy is running through me like a power plant. I fall asleep to the birds chirping to wake the world.

In the past when I couldn’t sleep, I would get out of bed at 1 a.m. and get things done. Write a column. Clean a room. Answer emails. Outline projects. This time, I did what a good mother would do with a child who can’t sleep: I tucked myself back into bed.

No flogging.
No beating myself up for being wide awake.
No forcing myself to fill the time to achieve something worthwhile and useful.
No scaring myself with anxiety over how tired I will be in the morning.

I simply tuck myself in. Refill the cup of water by my bedside. Fluff the pillow. Smooth out the sheet. Say goodnight. Feel the cool of the sheets. Hear the tick tock of the clock. Listen to the train whistle far off.

Then I catch myself smiling. I feel like a child playing hooky from school. The whole world is asleep and I get to be up. Maybe the moon is lonely. Maybe the stars need to know they are twinkling for somebody.  

Instead of fighting to get back to sleep, I tell myself:

Just be one with the mystery of the moon.
Just be a companion to the stars.
Just rest in the dark, and shine.

Day 12: Living Food

My 100 days of Mothering Me is making me more aware of how I have neglected me for years. 

Starting with food.

What a basic ingredient in self care.

Give your body fuel.

I don't let my car run out of gas, but I let my body regularly get at or below empty.  

I used to go to the grocery store with a finite list. Now I take a vague one and let the food choose me. 

When I shop the perimeters of the grocery store, I find the best fuel. Live healthy nourishment. Not boxed up, canned up, frozen solid food. I want food that feels alive, that recently came off a tree or out of the ground (okay, so out of the ground then off a truck.)

I try to avoid the cookie and cracker aisle, the canned goods, the boxed treats. If you just don't walk down those aisles, temptation can't find you. 

Recently on a day where I didn't do enough to take care of me, at least I took good care of me at the grocery store. First, I didn't go there hungry. Good call.

Second, I took time in the produce department and felt the food. Squeezed the avocados, the lemons, the honeydews. The strawberries called to me, "Take me home!" So I did. The avocados jumped in my cart. The lemons tumbled in. I can't live without lemons. Fresh lemon juice is like a shot of whiskey in a glass of icy water.

And arugula. What a name. It sounds like the beep of an old fashioned car horn: Ah--oo--gah! Ah-roo-guh-lah!

Squeeze some lemon juice on top, toss on a handful of pine nuts, a little olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, and my taste buds are happy. So is the rest of me.   

Day 11: Get Dirty

Sometimes you just gotta sink your hands into the earth. 

Call it gardening if you must.

 It's probably the only time we really feel the earth we are standing on, tethered to a planet spinning in space, kept here by the energy of gravity that keeps us all from floating away.

Sometimes I forget I'm a speck in this grand universe. Digging in the soil reminds me we're part of something bigger and smaller. Worms. Potato bugs. Lady bugs. Spiders. There are whole ecosystems everywhere. 

This spring it's been wild in the backyard. Chipmunks zipping back and forth. Squirrels racing spirals around the tree trunks. Birds swooping in and out. My backyard is a Disney cartoon. If only they could clean the house.

Digging in the dirt makes them all happy. Or maybe it makes me stop to see the bliss they live in that we miss. After I plant and mulch, I sit back on the swing in silence and watch them explore the mess for worms or nuts or seeds. 

And me, I just feel the earth under my feet thank me for thanking it. 

Day 10: Squeeze in Time to Play

The grandkids just had a sleepover here.

Whew! I’m exhausted from playing so hard. They squeeze play into every minute of the day all the way to bedtime. There’s always one more jump on the bed. One more time to burrow under the covers. One last tickle. One more silly song.

In just one afternoon, we played hockey in the basement with padded sticks and pucks. We played ring toss in the driveway. We raced in the Belmont Stakes on the swings. We read book after book. We climbed up and down the fort ladder and climbing wall. We played board games. We ate mini M&Ms on the porch swing and savored every bite. We drove tiny garbage trucks around a pretend landfill. We played pirates, complete with a homemade eye patch and treasure map. We blasted Irish music and sang along, “No, nay, never no more, will I play the wild rover, no never, no more.” 

After they left, I crashed.

How fun to be exhausted from joy instead of work.

Adults forget to play. We wait until the weekend, and then we squeeze in a movie after yard chores, grocery shopping, house work and other errands.

Even when we play, we turn our golf game or running or biking into one more to-do to cross off our list or we turn what used to be fun into some grand achievement with goals to set and conquer only to set new ones out of reach.

The other day, I saw some random guy walking down the street playing the banjo.  I laughed out loud. Moments like that leave a smile on your heart long after the music fades.

I still can see my old neighbors on Grant Street in Kent with the garage door open and a cloud of cigar smoke hanging over four guys sitting around a card table playing poker.

That wasn’t smoke. It was a halo, blessing them for taking time for joy.

Day 9: Give Yourself a Minute

That U2 song keeps playing over and over in my brain:

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away

With or without you, life goes on.

Unfortunately, we live so much of our lives without us in them.

I almost gave my Sunday away. Almost filled it up by returning calls and answering emails and spending time with assorted friends I “should” see. I had planned to spend the day gardening, but it poured. What now? 

I heard this little voice inside calling out, “What about me? Can you spend some time with me?” 

So I spent the day doing a fun art project. I spent the evening enjoying the Tony Awards. I spent one whole day doing only what I wanted. Selfish? No. It was a rare treat. The more I consciously mother myself, the more aware I am of how much time I used to give away to everyone else.

When you finally decide to include yourself in your life, you realize that you require attention and love. I call it “my life with me in it” which is a new concept for me. It only took 58 years to discover that I need to include myself in my life. 

Give yourself time before you give away all your time.

It doesn’t even take a lot of time. 

I call them “one minute wonders.” Just give yourself a conscious, present minute of YOU. 

A one minute gift to yourself doesn’t take anything out of you. It simply fills you with love or beauty or grace or peace.

Take one minute…

To look in the mirror into your deep blue/brown/green/hazel eyes and smile at the wonder of you.

To file the broken fingernail that you would have filed days ago it that finger belonged to one of your kids.

To inhale the scent of the clementine as you unwrap it.

To play a song that makes you want to roll down the windows and sing along at the top of your lungs.

To breathe in the final scent of the lilacs before the last one turns brown.

To really absorb the kind words your sister wrote on your birthday card.

To read a lovely poem, like this one from Mary Oliver, called The Summer Day:

“Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

I plan to savor mine, minute by precious minute.