Tag: Leana Delle

One Hell Of A Year

It was the best of years; it was the worst of years. Okay, so that was hardly an original thought, but the perfect summation of 2016, nonetheless.

I sit here on the second day of the new year reflecting back on both immense joy and intense sorrow. And how it all flew by as quick as it did, while delivering such a wallop, I’ll never know.

The joy? Plenty of it, including my ongoing work on The Matthews & McGuire Show, getting within weeks of completing the final edit on my second novel and quitting drinking (more on this in a future blog). But I also knocked three big things off my bucket list:

The sorrow? I lost an aunt, an uncle, two cousins and, worst of all, my beloved mother who suffered a massive stroke on the very day of her 60th wedding anniversary. Years have gone by without losing a soul in our family, but the celestial train pulled into the station and refused to leave until every last seat got filled. Many of my friends had loved ones climb aboard that beast of a machine, as well, leading to a permanent heart based bond in grief and support.

So what has two days of reflection on that 12 month roller coaster ride brought me? Gratitude. Yes, gratitude, because that’s what I choose to focus on.

Don’t get me wrong. I have moments yet when I’m overwhelmed by the losses and have to retreat into my cave made of bed sheets, but I’m grateful that I had as much time on the planet with these people as I did and that we got to share so much. Besides, my mother would kick my ass if I didn’t recognize my blessings amidst the mayhem, and nothing reminds us to live quite like death. Believe me, I’ve received that message blastingly loud and clear.

I’m also grateful for the above mentioned highs that pushed me so far out of my comfort zone that it would be a major struggle to crawl back in. Each new adventure prepares us to take on the next, and I’m primed for the new year.

I wish each of you a fun filled, goal-centric, limit breaking, love induced and rockus 2017. Regardless of what it delivers, let’s take one step at a time, one day at a time, and one glorious opportunity to grow at its ever lovin’ time.

 

Derailed . . .

There’s a steady course that I’ve been running for years. One that’s well marked and comforting, for the most part, although its surface has varied over time and presented unexpected challenges. Branches have fallen and blocked my path; weather has turned nasty, requiring an added dose of determination. Even my gear has worn and needed replacing, at times. But all along, I’ve remained fully supported and confident, regardless of terrain.

Recently, however, a hand, a big one, came out of nowhere and knocked me completely off course. My feet stumbled from the trail, and I rolled into thick brush before spiraling down a cavernous ravine. After a massive tree broke my fall, I stood bloodied and bruised and assessed the situation to find it dismal.

The path where I knew I could withstand anything is no longer visible. The woods around me are dense with the thickest of foliage hiding a wealth of unknowns. It’s dusk, and I’m hearing noises that scare the shit out of me.

It’s going to take every ounce of bravery I possess to find my way – not to the trail where I ran before, as that’s gone forever – but to a new one, where I pray I’ll find sunshine again and perhaps even moments of heartfelt joy.

That’s what it feels like to be derailed.

That’s what it’s like to lose a mother.

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Why I Jumped Out Of An Airplane On Friday The 13th

Who jumps out of a plane for the first time in their mid-fifties? On Friday the 13th? Apparently, I do.

You’re probably expecting some lavish tale about a bucket list stenciled on an accent wall in gold leaf – or a vision board plastered with multi-colored parachutes. Nope, neither. Jumping had occasionally whispered to me over the years as something that might be “cool to do,” but a recent series of events upped the volume.

  1. Someone I cared about went from healthy to critically ill in a matter of days, reminding me to cherish life and live it to the fullest.
  2. I’d given up alcohol, because it began to hinder the life I’d envisioned for myself instead of enhance it.
  3. Listeners of The Matthews & McGuire Show, a podcast that I cohost with my friend, Mike C. Matthews, challenged us to risk our lives for the sake of entertainment.

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A potential life altering trifecta, of sorts. One in which a literal leap of faith seemed just the action required to “jump” start conscious living, creativity and, well, possibly a mid-life crisis.

But why Friday the 13th, you ask? Look, if you’re going to stare down fear and let it know that you’ve got a new tribe, why not take on superstition, as well? My new BFF – faith – could take them both on with one miracle tied behind its eternal promise, and I wanted to make that clear. So I strapped myself to a perfect stranger and got hurled out of a plane at 10,000 feet. 

SEVENThe ride up had been relatively smooth, other than the undercurrent of excitement and anxiety that shimmied and shook me more than any actual turbulence. There was still time to back out at that point; still time to ride back to the hangar with the pilot and slink off into defeat. Eventually, however, the houses and vehicles below became minuscule, and my butt was being scooted toward a door, which had opened without ceremony, to reveal nothing between myself and the planet below. Elongated fingers of chaotic wind reached in to pry me away from safety. My instructor was apparently in cahoots.

41“Put your foot on the step beside mine,” he demanded.

I have never moved in a more tentative fashion in my life, but I did as I was told and touched that small, suspended metal platform with the ball of my foot. One second later, we plunged – head first – toward the earth at cannonball-like speed.

skydive 2The noise of that menacing wind rushing past me I can only assume resembled a tornado (not something I’m anxious to clarify), similar to having your ear dangerously close to the track of a high speed train that’s hell bent on destruction. I broke through it, however, with my instructor coaching me all the way. A tap on the shoulder reminded me to stretch out my arms, inspiring a superhuman feeling of invincibility that I’d like to bottle and pitch on Shark Tank

Possibility of death, be damned. I FLEW! Well, I dropped, but it felt like flying, and my imaginary cape fluttered behind me in full view of the enemies I’d set out to defy.

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There really isn’t time to think about fear once you’re out the door and into that initial free-fall, plus you’re still up high enough not to panic about hitting. All that went through my mind for that full 50 seconds or so was a resounding “WOW!”

I have never been that fully present in my life. I have never felt that alive.

skydive 6Once the parachute opened, I was able to float to safety in a state of fearless awe, taking in the beauty of the earth below. Our home, where all things are possible.

Facing adversity, making changes, taking chances; all of these can be terrifying, but we don’t get over the fear of jumping before our planes take off. We get over the fear of jumping . . . well . . . by jumping.

My biggest take-away from this adventure, other than my now proudly displayed tandem certificate? Not that I did something outside of the box (or plane, as the case may be) and lived to tell about it. It’s that I can now trust myself as much – if not more – than a perfect stranger with a harness to get me safely to the other side of terrifying decisions regardless of all the scary outcomes that I imagine at the outset.

Now when I feel fear trying to feed me a line of self-defeating bullshit, I can close my eyes and go back to that place; back to 9,500 feet with the plane disappearing behind me and my imaginary cape glistening in the sun.

“Back off,” I’ll say, to fear and superstition, alike. “You have no place here. I’ve got this.”

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Photos, and mind blowing experience, courtesy of Dallas Skydive Center. Check these guys out. They rock!

“But I Don’t Have A Direction!”

Over the years I’ve blogged about, talked about and even sang about doing that thing in life that calls your name. Some folks know what that “thing” is right away, while others just don’t, in which case the conversation goes something like this:

“If you had all the time, money and resources to do whatever you wanted with your life, what would it be?”

“I honestly have no idea.”

I’ve become less and less of a fan of the resources question and now tend to lean more toward something like this:

“What do you enjoy doing?”

“Basket weaving.”

“Then do that.”

“But I’ll never get rich basket weaving.”

“Who cares?!”

I think what happens when we talk about our passion – or the thing that we enjoy doing the most – is that there’s this huge expectation attached to it. If it doesn’t pay the bills, or put us in some kind of lucrative position, there’s no point. Actually, there’s one huge point: JOY!

I-don-t-know-where-i-m-going-but-i-m-on-my-way-Carl-SaganI bought a poster as a kid that read, “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.” I joke now that I didn’t know it would become my life’s motto (I have no physical sense of direction, whatsoever, and I thank God for my GPS), but the key here is to not do nothing.

Everyone talks about having a clear vision and staying the course, but for those who don’t hear anything specific calling their name, just be on your way, despite that. Just do, or photograph, or write, or paint, or color – whatever makes you feel good. Filling our lives with passion doesn’t have to be a full-on, all or nothing pursuit.

Sometimes I still get lost on where it is I’m going – I’ll admit it – but I try to never stop being on my way, regardless. I think forks in the road can, and should, be expected and that only by moving forward can we truly discover possibility.

Are you on your way?

 

Let’s Talk

Those of you who’ve read my novel, “Control Switch,” know that I’m a dialogue junky. I love it in novels; I love it in life.

Communication is the rich thread that weaves our lives together and gives power to our heart’s desires. It can both repair and destroy, and I would loathe living in a world where it didn’t exist. That’s why my heart aches for a woman who lived without it tonight.

I just finished sitting beside a young woman and her grandmother in a restaurant. Initially, I smiled when they sat down, thinking how refreshing it was to see them spending “quality time” together. But my smile soon disappeared. Why? The granddaughter proceeded to pull out her phone and stay on it through the entire meal. The only words she spoke to the beautiful soul across from her were, “Do you want cheese on that?” and “What do you want to drink?” She might as well have been the woman’s waitress.

From where I sat I could see the grandmother’s eyes, and she appeared ill at ease and heartbroken. I could also see the girl’s phone, and the thing that kept her from engaging and was so important? Facebook.

I know, I know – we see this all the time – but I’ll never come to terms with it. I love my technology as much as the next girl, and I spend my fair share of time using it, but it takes a backseat when I have someone I care about sitting across, beside or anywhere near me. Hell, I don’t even scroll through my newsfeed when I’m sitting across from someone I don’t care about!

IMG_3533_2This couple is another case in point. I sat beside them in a park for over an hour a few months ago, and not a word got spoken between them.

I implore those of you who give a shit to put your phones down and talk to the people that hold a place in your heart. They may not all have an online profile, but they do have a profile, nonetheless. A real one full of rich memories, dreams and stories worth hearing.

Let’s talk in hopes of never becoming that grandmother. Let’s talk to foster understand. Let’s talk to encourage love.

FULLY DECLUTTERED!!

I did it! I am officially decluttered and surrounded by joy. I still haveIMG_4178
one or two things to take care of, namely the in-depth reading of old journals and letters, and the transferring of a few VHS tapes onto my computer using this handy dandy device (get one; they rock) —>

My overall place, however? I LOVE IT!

A quick recap for those who missed my prior posts: I started this project in May, which has entailed decluttering using the Konmari Method spelled out in, “The Life-Changing Method of Tidying up.” In it, author Marie Kondo suggests discarding items based solely on one criterion: whether or not they bring you joy.

First step involved clothing, followed by books, then papers, and eventually junk drawers and miscellaneous items. This past weekend I completed the most challenging category: all things sentimental (pictures, souvenirs, etc.).  Left until the end, this portion is theorized to be much easier once the rest of your place is brimming with joy, and it’s true! You don’t want anything around by this point that doesn’t do it for you.

IMG_4177Think about your photographs, for example. You know how you flip through an album (for those of us who still own such things), and on every fifth one or so you stop and smile? Ditch the four scenery pics you took somewhere that escapes your memory, and keep only the smile inducing one. I scaled down three entire albums, and the stray pics that were stuffed in a large box full of nonsense are now neatly tucked into one small container. I threw out a lot, and I’ll never miss the ones that went. All of my pics now make me smile.

I also got rid of a lot of greeting cards. I tended to keep most of them over IMG_4190the years, but think about it. Do I really need 20 cards from my Grandpa? No. I need one. Again, I still have letters to read, but they’re now scaled down to one small container, too, and some night I’ll read each one by a roaring fire. Handy for those that will no doubt beg to be incinerated.

I must admit, something I found I’ve missed during this process is the written word. I get IMG_4134emails from my mother and friends now, and I do save a lot of them in specially marked folders, but I loved the days when a long, newsy letter would arrive from home full of hometown clippings, recipes and IMG_4152updates on family milestones. And who could even consider ditching their official Sonny and Cher Fan Club acceptance letter? Not this girl. Smile inducing.

I’ve learned a lot about myself through this process, and trust me – this is not the first time I’ve de-cluttered. Those who know me know that I purge a minimum of once a year, but this truly is as “life-changing” as touted. The author swears that once you’ve done this, you’ll never revert to your old ways, and I believe it. Every closet and drawer that I started with six months ago remains joyously unchanged. Now when I walk in my door, I feel peaceful and happy. I look around my place and a sense of serenity envelopes me. I don’t just have a room to go to when I want to get away from it all; I have an entire home. And it feels like a “home” now instead of just an apartment to store stuff in and get some sleep. It’s my joyous space, and my creativity has ramped up significantly as a result.

IMG_1940I strongly recommend buying this book and taking on this project for yourself. It’s the ultimate catharsis that literally takes you from burdened to enlightened. You’ll weed through what you’ve hidden your joy behind and find your most authentic expression of self.

Can “things” really have that level of effect on us? You betcha.

If you make one resolution for 2016, resolve to surround yourself with nothing but joy. You’ll be amazed at who emerges in the end.

“JOY” TO THE WORLD!

Amélie’s – No Atmospheric Pressure

Most of you know that I love to write, but few know where I love to write.

Writers have very unique preferences on atmosphere. I have a friend who requires a specific CD to be playing while sipping java from her favorite mug and wearing a particular ensemble. Most simply flourish in either complete seclusion or amidst the noise and visual stimulation of a public place. I prefer the latter, but I dream about one latter in particular. I yearn to write in Paris.

I have actually been to Paris – causing me to IMG_2301now crave its passion like a teenaged girl after a summer kiss – but, sadly, I’ve never gone there just to write.

I currently fly a lot domestically for work, which has created an obsession with rewards programs that borders on embarrassing. The goal? To earn enough points to visit Paris – alone – and spend several weeks in cafés with creativity, wine and flirtatious grins overflowing in abundance. But what to do in the meantime?

There’s only one answer: Go to South Carolina. Yes, South Carolina.

IMG_2226I recently had a work assignment in Rock Hill – a quaint and peaceful little town wrapped in southern charm just south of Charlotte, NC. With a little time to spare, I explored the main street and stopped in at a local café/bakery called Amélie’s.

IMG_2213Instantly my creative self got whisked up in a cloud of euphoria and dropped down in front of the most glorious pastries I’ve seen since rue des Abbesses. And the taste? Pure Parisian.

IMG_2219The decor, however, inspired me before the flavor’d had a chance. A kaleidoscope of whimsical, old world funk, my eyes jolted from unique piece to unique piece in a state of awe. The upside down Eiffel Tower transformed into a hanging lamp; the stunning fixture made of kitchen utensils at the front entrance; the eclectic collection of mismatched chairs and tables dispersed throughout the place. I found myself thinking, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ everywhere I turned. The woman that did think of that? Part owner and designer extraordinaire, Brenda Ische.

IMG_2221The face behind the counter topped off the experience for me. She approached wearing a stylish chapeau with the perfect accessory of aloof yet receptive French hospitality. Not to mention l’accent du pays. Voila! L’image était complète. 

The service, the food, the decor and the music (standards in both French and English) summoned my creative spirit like Lazarus from the grave. I never wanted to leave.

IMG_2224Amélie’s currently has four locations: one in Rock Hill, two in Charlotte, and one in Atlanta. And I’m not the only one who loves all that there is love about this place. The April edition of Buzz Feed magazine listed Amélie’s as one of the top “23 Bakeries Around the World You Need to Eat at Before You Die.” I list it as the number one bakery that you need to visit 23 x 10 times before you die.

This authentic feeling café has the perfect atmosphere for my authentic self in full artistic mode, which begs me to literally beg…

“Amélie, come to Dallas. I need you. My readers need you. S’il vous plait!”

File This Under, “Never Again!”

For those who have been following my blog posts about de-cluttering, I’m here with step three. As previously mentioned, the Konmari Method IMG_1940suggests going in order of clothes first, books second and papers third. My first post, from May 19th, discussed my process of discarding ten huge garbage bags of clothing to Goodwill. My second post filled you in on how I scaled down from a trunkful of books to approximately 18 that give me joy and will continue to grace my bookshelves.

Did I take the remaining 120 or so books to Goodwill, as well? Some of them, but I also took the opportunity to turn my book purge into a social event, and it was a huge success. I highly recommend this as an addition to Marie Kondo’s many suggestions.

You will require the following:

–          A group of readers (I invited women over on a Friday after work)

–          Several bottles of wine

–          Snacks

–          Background music

–          Laughter

–        Instructions to take as many books home as desired – for free

I also threw in a few household items, knowing that one of our younger coworkers would be getting her first apartment next month. We had a lot of fun, and we got to know each other outside of the office. That is never a bad thing. Well, mostly never. With this group, it was awesome.

In this last couple of weeks I tackled papers. Yowza! You’ll have to trust me on this, since I didn’t do a “before” picture of my filing cabinet, but it was literally packed full, from top to bottom, leaving little room for more.

IMG_2634This is the “after” pic of my filing cabinet, and the bottom drawer now holds only a handful of empty files in case I need them, which I won’t. Old owner’s manuals, warranties, taxes greater than ten years old, paperwork from acquiring my U.S. immigration status, paperwork for nursing license applications, etc., even receipts for things that I no longer own – GONE!

The file contents that classify as “personal” have been set aside until I get to the last part of the de-clutter challenge – sentimental belongings (this one I dread the most).

Anyway, things just keep feeling lighter around here. I’m also happy to report that my clothes closet has not changed since I first organized it, and the only books I’ve bought are Kindle versions. It is my plan to never go back to unnecessary clutter again.

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Okay, next up? Junk drawers, which pretty much defines all of my drawers, except those in the bedroom that now look organized, neat and joyful.

Stay tuned, and here’s hoping that I don’t burn out the motor of my shredder with this mountainous stack of nonsense ——>

The Scaling Down Continues

Wow. This “life-changing” book has literally started changing my life! Go figure.

Before and After.001In my last post I talked about my project of decluttering based on the KonMari method in the book, “The Life-Changing Method of Tidying Up.” I finished going through clothes two weeks ago, so I’m bravely re-sharing my “before” pic and proudly including the “after.”

What’s left in my cheerful little closet? Only clothes, shoes and bags that bring me joy. IMG_2105Be warned, however: KonMari is not for the hurried or impatient. It’s a huge undertaking and a huge “taking,” as well – as in ten bags to Goodwill, thus far. But I can’t tell you how “joyous” it is to be wearing clothes that truly express who I am on any given day.

What I’m learning to develop is a keen eye for delight. I can already see a myriad of items that will be moved on to someone who can better enjoy their possession, since I no longer do. In the meantime, I’ll continue following the prescribed order and declutter by category – the second of which was books.

IMG_2112I had all of these books hidden away in a trunk in case I wanted to read one of them “someday.” Yeah, right. I’ve been dragging them around for almost 20 years. Ms. Kondo suggests that if you want to read a particular book “someday,” to purchase it on that day and start reading it right there and then. I’m heeding her advice, and these are all going to more deserving homes. I have about 18 left that will lovingly remain on my shelf.

It’s odd, but I almost feel as though a weight has been lifted off of me. Imagine how much lighter the effect will be when the weight has been lifted off my dining room table. This project rocks!

Next up? Papers. My overstuffed filing cabinet is calling out to me for air, its lungs congested and unable to expand. No, I do not look forward to this task, nor did I look forward to the last two, but – oh – how I love the results.

My biggest issue at this point is trying to reign in my desire to shop since I now know how fun it can be to not purchase something solely for practicality or function. If I have anything left that falls into those two categories, there still has to be full-on joy attached, as well.

Now, should I have bought that spoon rest today, because the potter looked exactly like Kevin Costner? <sigh> What can I say? I’m a work in progress.

 

 

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