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50 Shades of Salt Lake

Fifty Shades of Salt Lake

Who am I: A great grandma, grandma, step mom, sister, soul friend and wife; an extremely passionate, sensual woman who is still finding her way to wholeness even as she approaches her 60th birthday? Yes to all of that and so much more, as I am still discovering. I think all any of us ever wants is to know that we are seen, loved and accepted for who we are at the very core of our soul.

Tonight, I watched 50 Shades of Gray with my granddaughter (now mom to four children herself). I had never read the books or seen the movie so was not prepared for the depth of feeling watching it ignited within me. The spark was set to feelings already tender from returning as visitor to the city and a life I had escaped from 18 years ago.

There was a man in my life then who easily could have been my Christian had I been willing to go there. A 20 year on and off affair with him in a bizarre relationship too close to 50 shades of fucked up for my comfort. Leaving him and the children of my heart; my stepdaughter and her two children, which I helped raise from their infancy. It was like leaving an important piece of my soul behind. It has been joyously bittersweet to feel that part of me come alive again. Feelings of belonging as I have with this core family have found no equal since I left.

And the movie rekindled remembrance of one whom I once thought of as the man of my heart. I dreamed of converting our relationship from the twisted expression of fiery, but limited, sexual passion into a deep and abiding friendship. Unlike Christian and Anastasia’s long awaited morph into real family and deeper heart connection, I finally shut down all contact with him stating, “no more spice games for me, please.” For there can be no deeper wound than when you open your heart to someone only to be constantly relegated back into the position of “secret woman.” A bitter betrayal that came long after I thought we had moved way beyond game playing and into true and honest friendship about which there is neither shame nor need for secrecy.

There is little I find more difficult to abide than lies and secrecy. The fact that my Christian could not honor that in me meant he was not worthy of my time and I finally shut that door and threw away
the key.

I return in a little over one day’s time to the man I have been with for seventeen years and married to for seven. And this husband of mine whom I love dearly, deeply and passionately, and is one whom I would walk through fire with does not come easily into this deep space in my heart that belongs to my Salt Lake years. It has been fun reacquainting myself with the part of me who lived here then. The woman who was mom and grandma as deeply and sincerely as if these dear ones had been birthed from my own body; who was secret mistress to a player of a man in whose arms she had known no equal of pleasure. She will always mourn the loss of the deeper heart connection she once believed might have been between them had he been willing to trust her enough to explore soul as much as body.

So my 50 shades of Salt Lake chapter will soon come to a close. Will I once again sink only into the me who is wife to a soul wounded warrior struggling to find his own way to wholeness? And to the me who is friends with, but stepmom in legal name only to his kids? To the nearly 60 year old me whose compromised body simply cannot keep up with the demands of her fun loving spirit? I feel vibrantly alive here and I am loathe to lose that feeling.

Still, the current me found has found a whole new kind of passion with her husband. It is a passion that fulfills body and soul and is born on the surviving shores of devastating emotional tidal waves. I love my husband dearly with nectar that is made sweet from the ferment of our struggles. I will take that passion of the soul over mere passion of the body any day.

Still, as much as I love my husband and his family, I cannot say that I have ever felt that seen, honored and welcomed for who I really am as I do here with these beings from my former life. I hope that as I welcome back this Salt Lake part of me into my own heart that I will always feel that no matter where I am or who I am with that I am welcome, wanted and honored for who I am at the very core of my being. And wouldn’t it just be awesome if we all felt that way all of the time.


New life begins

It is exactly 30 days since my brother in law passed away per my last blog. Hard to believe Autumn is already here. So much change in such a short time. So while hubby planted our fall crops, a sure sign life continues, I built a fire to take away the early morning chill and decided it was past time to connect with you again.

The garden this year surpassed all expectations. Every year we always say, “it’s the best garden we’ve had.” But this year – all I can say is, WOW! So I will keep the words short and let the pictures speak for themselves. One of my favorite things about gardening is how beautifully it demonstrates life. The season’s change and life continues. I find hope and comfort in that. I hope you enjoy this pictorial demonstration of summer moving into autumn. One of my favorite times of the year. But then, I say that every season.

The comfort of three sisters, a garden and kitties

I grew up in a small town in the middle of the Kansas plains. When there was a death in the family it seemed the whole town brought casseroles and flowers. And after the service, the house was filled wall to wall with people sharing tears and laughter as  the memory-filled talk flowed late into the evening. It seemed to be that way for days before we were left alone to feel a loss so big it echoed off the walls.

My brother in law just succumbed to a long and brave fight with lung cancer. He was so fortunate to be able to spend his last days at Hopewell House where care of the dying is their business. They do it beautifully – with tenderness, respect and nurturing in the midst of their professionalism. And in this place, the moments were shared with those he loved most while he was still able to share them. Space was made in the bus-i-ness of life to honor the sacredness of dying.

Doing sacred work like that cannot be easy, but the peace and comfort the Hopewell House staff brings to the dying and their loved ones must be their reward. They make dying a sacred, holy and beautiful experience and we are so very grateful. It is just too difficult to go through something like that without support. Their knowledge about the dying process and ways to grieve bring comfort beyond words.

This is Day Two. My eldest sister and I are taking turns making sure his widow, our middle sister, is not alone. It is my eldest sister’s turn today. So here I sit in the garden with my kitties. The shock has lessened. Life is less surreal. I am more rested. But I am hollow. I am not ready to actively participate in life today. I don’t want to read email, pay bills, worry about food or do anything but just be with the raw, tender place in my heart.

I cannot claim to understand the mysteries of death like Kubler-Ross and others who have dedicated their lives to teaching us how to embrace this sacred mystery. All I can say is that it is a moment of holiness beyond anything I can easily describe. And I am sad for our current culture that finds it so fearful and difficult to face head on. And I am grateful there is Hopewell House. And I am grateful I have my sisters, my garden and my kitties.

Three sisters. One whose husband died. When the transition process began, she asked that rather than coming to be with them in Hopewell House, that we hold prayer vigil instead. She asked that we hold the space for him to be at peace. We lit a fire in my garden firepit, called upon Divinity and the Angels, burned sacred incense and herbs, sent Reiki and visualized his room filled with Peace and Love.  I felt the very moment when his spirit passed. For whatever reason, I saw bagpipers lined up in a row and heard their mournful song call him home. I knew he left peacefully.

An hour later – 1:01 am to be precise, we and our husbands were on our way to say goodbye. The Hopewell House chaplain and staff poured all of his gathered relatives a glass of sparkling cider – inlcuding a glass for Chuck. We toasted him with our favorite memories and things we loved about him, clinked our glasses, including his, then followed his freshly washed and laid out body out to the transport vehicle. We had plenty of time for a tearful, respectful, sacred farewell.

I drove my sister to her home and the two beautiful ragdoll cats she hadn’t seen in a week. We had a small bite and at 6:30 am finally found our way to the numbness of sleep.  Today she will be cleaning her house with the assistance of our eldest sister and tending to the service arrangements. Her grief work involves activity. My grief work involves finding solace in my garden in the company of my kitties. I observe and marvel at the way life continues to move around me in spite of my numbness to it.

I miss that unlike my small town roots, my garden is currently not full of friends who would share a grieving moment with me. Time for that later. Still I am so very grateful to have shared one of life’s most intimate and sacred moments with my sisters. Pandora brought this song to my attention a few months ago. I dedicate it to my dear sisters and I. I’ve included the first verse, but I encourage you to check out the link I’ve included below, or find it on youtube for a great listen.

there’s a light in the kitchen, there’s a glass on the stand
three women round a table and they’re holding hands
they’re caretaking the birthing, bringing food when they can
they’re easin’ the leavin’ and they’re holding hands

That’s for my sisters and me and Chuck’s memory. . .

Follow this link for the lyrics and download options:

Do you hand out chocolates or cod liver oil?

I think we often go through life too caught up in our self-bubbles to recognize our own impact. Yet, we are very much aware of the impact other people have on us. Have you ever spent a piece of time lost in thought about what someone said to you – either for good or ill? We always notice how others make us feel – but it’s more difficult to notice how we impact others.

I remember when I had the “aha” moment of first recognizing my impact. I once had a friend who was a Unity minister. I allowed him to read through my journal, which was mostly about my struggles and inspirations in my own spiritual growth. There was something I had written that impacted him deeply.

He facilitated a weekly study group. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at group one evening to find my own words written upon the black board. The really shocking thing in that moment was to see the impact of that quote upon the others in our group; to realize it became an inspiration for them as well. Until that moment, I never knew that who I am touches other people.

In my daily transactions, even with the grocery check out person or my bank teller, I  choose to communicate that I value and appreciate them. I am not always successful and have to pull myself up short when I realize my own angst and frustrations are being dumped on others. What can I say, it happens!

And it can also be argued that if you are strong in yourself, you won’t feel the impact of another’s words or actions. But does that thought come from your heart or is it a defense mechanism? If you feel tension in your body as you ponder that concept, it is more likely to be a defense mechanism worth investigating. To me, creating deeper connections starts by inviting others to feel valued and appreciated in my presence as long as it is authentic vs manipulative.

How do I measure authenticity vs. manipulation? If I am attempting to influence how they feel about me with my words, it is manipulation. If I am genuinely interested in giving to them just for its own sake, it’s authentic.

It is hard to pause enough in the “bus-i-ness” of our lives to recognize that our words and actions always have impact on those we come in contact with every single moment. Yikes – that can be overwhelming! It is also a huge responsibility to recognize that you can touch another so completely with your words and actions. And the choice is always yours to decide what kind of impact you wish to have.

It can be an interesting tool in greater self-awareness to recognize your impact. Start by taking a moment at the end of each day to review your interactions with others. This is a great exercise if you are stuck in rush hour traffic. View your conversations from the perspective of the  person you had them with. Is there someone at work or home you are struggling with? Try to imagine how your words make them feel rather than focusing on your own feelings. If you realize there are words you wish you could take back or change, don’t waste time on self-punishment or regret. Just find a way in your next transaction to communicate what you value about that person. When you get really good at this, you can even recognize you are probably exhibiting the same behavior you chastise them for. That recognition is a moment of true power and freedom.

And be aware that there are those with personality disorders who simply cannot recognize the damage they do to you with their words. They have no ability to empathize. As always, it is important to set your own boundaries and move on to greener pastures when necessary.

However, in usual circumstances, when you begin to communicate from a place of appreciation rather than resentment, deeper connections happen. You may be amazed at how much joy you feel when you see how much joy you give to others with a simple smile and honest validation of who they are to you in your life.

It’s like chocolate – even though another’s path in life is not your responsibility, you still have the power to sweeten their moments. Even helping them recognize a harsh truth can be done gently and lovingly. What would you rather be giving – chocolate or cod liver oil? What would you rather receive? Just be assured of one thing – we are not islands to ourselves and our words definitely have impact.

Wishing you many moments of chocolate transactions!



The Unspoken Moment

True Heart Connection often happens without words. Experiencing and inspiring those moments is my passion and my joy. These rare and precious happenings often occur randomly and cannot be forced or manipulated. One of these precious moments for me came from what many would consider an unusual source.

I have four step-children with my current husband. Two of them come from a previous, 20-year marriage. In my mind, 20 years of family experiences simply cannot be erased or negated, but deserve to be honored. And while they were an unsuccessful couple, they remained an extremely successful family. They continued to co-parent as their children grew and eventually, life drew us all together.

We now share our holidays as an extended family unit. We also all share a passion for music and Karaoke singing is always a big part of our gatherings. We take turns and the performances range from the hilarious with accompanying dance moves, to the heartfelt. Speaking of the latter, the girls’ mom took a turn singing with her eldest daughter. As I listened to the words from “The Loving Time,” by Mary Black- a beautiful ballad about passionate love without a happily-ever-after ending- I felt chills along my spine. I turned to look at the youngest daughter who was listening beside me – our eyes held for a moment. The song as the story of their parent’s love, and my own past loves, rang true and touched me deeply. It was also true for her having just ended a deep and significant relationship in her life. There was as much, if not more, said between us in that one unspoken moment than we have shared in all our years of knowing each other.

It gave me such great joy to experience that with her. All of the sadness and pain from both experiences, her recent loss and the divorce of her parents, was there in her eyes. What I felt was empathy with that from my own past, but way beyond that was the joy in sharing such an intimate, vulnerable moment.

It deepened the bond I already feel with her and her mom. It is strange, perhaps, but a bond of women who have all survived heartache and loss and found an inner strength and eventual return to harmony goes beyond the boundaries of ex-wife, step-mom, or step-daughter.

In the experience of a life where we dare to love passionately, deeply, to whatever end; we break through barriers to find true, magnanimous love. I am more grateful than I can say to be sharing this life and the love we all share for the same man with these amazing women. We each love in our own way. Like the different flavors from Tillamook, it’s all still ice cream. Whether it’s wife-husband, father-daughter, or the love from a friendship born of surviving the loss of a 20-year marriage, it’s still love. And for me, I get to add that bond of woman-to-woman respect and love. It comes from knowing we have all cried the tears of troubled times and rediscovered the joys of great ones.

As we bring in the New Year, find a quiet moment to reflect on the Unspoken Moments in your life. Who inspired them for you? Were yours, like mine, perhaps from an unexpected source? Let your heart be filled with the gratitude from the privilege of sharing that precious moment.

Looking for Proof

I wish I could say that a lesson learned once was learned forever. It seems there are certain themes in my life I find myself bumping into again and again. One I’ve struggled with the most is recognizing that what I look for, I will find.

Having spent my early years with a camera glued to my eye, it’s easy to use photographic metaphor to illustrate my point. Slide a yellow filter in front of your lens, and everything you see through the viewfinder will be tinted with yellow. Recognizing that you are viewing life through the filter of your belief system, and understanding what the belief is, can be the hardest part.

The filter most difficult for me to recognize, even though I’ve dealt with it time and again, is rejection. Relationships are the best tool for self-awareness if we choose to perceive and accept what is offered. I spent two years in a not-too emotionally rewarding relationship. Yet, the time was well-spent as it was the vehicle in which I first recognized that I was viewing it through a filter of rejection. Perhaps it was also a rite of passage for it was the first time I was able to honestly acknowledge that the pain I felt inside relationship was of my own creation.

It was in the midst of a phone argument that I realized I was demanding proof of rejection. Look for it, and you’ll find it! So I made a decision to begin looking for proof of love. Guess what – I found that, too! It made it easier to be in that relationship, though it eventually became evident that we simply did not want the same things from it and went our separate ways.

That first awareness was over ten years ago. I learned that lesson well enough to not struggle with it in my current marriage. Lo and behold though, I realized I am still dealing with the same filter in my friendships and other family relationships. In my quiet time this morning, I found myself running scenes of imagined slights in my mind. And the light once again dawned that I was doing it again – seeing those relationships through the filter of rejection. I reran the scenes replacing that rejection filter with the “I am deeply loved” filter and wow – I could certainly find the evidence of that, too.

When tempted to feel frustration at still dealing with the same filter I thought I had banished long ago, I remember a powerful meditation experience. My guidance said, “you must choose for Spirit.” I replied somewhat impatiently that I already had. I then heard, “you must choose in every moment.” Oh – duh!

Why is it the simplest truths are often the most difficult to grasp? So really, it’s not a matter of getting it right so that we never repeat the error in thought again. It’s a matter of recognizing and then choosing in that moment to look through a different, more loving filter. I once heard in a Sunday sermon that when a 747 jetliner is flying by autopilot, it is off course 90% of the time. Does the plane freak out and go, “oh no, I’ve done it again! I just can’t get it right!” I certainly hope not for in those precious moments spent in reaction rather than recognition and correction, the plane could very well crash. The autopilot program simply recognizes and self-corrects and repeats the process as many times as necessary.

Working with the filter metaphor can be a fun, self-learning exercise. Ask yourself what filter you have struggled with again and again. Put a name to it. Run a scene through your mind where that filter was in play. Take three deep breaths; now remove the filter. Take a moment to connect into your heart by breathing directly into it. Find that place inside where you are connected to the love of Spirit. Now create a new filter to replace the self-limiting one. Take another moment to review your life through this new filter. Check in with your body – are you more relaxed, calm and centered with this new filter? Make a commitment to yourself to be consciously aware of this new filter as you go about your day. Acknowledge the proof when it comes that the new filter is in play. Remember, if you look for the proof, you will find it!

Peace and healing to you.

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