Happy Valentine's Day and First Day of Lent

In a surprise turn of events, Kika actually invited Steve and me to attend mass for Ash Wednesday. 
So Steve, Kika and I went. (Gabi is in Jamaica on a Mission trip with her school.)
After mass--Steve and I met up with our friends at Cappy's, a bar near our house.
Before we left though, Steve wiped his ashes off. 
He is shy like that. 
I on the other hand, actually fixed my ashes so it would be a nicely symmetrical cross on my forehead. 
Someone actually commented on how perfect it was.
Sheepishly, I admitted that I retouched it.


A Prayer for 2018

May God make your year a happy one! 
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain, 
But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes; 
Not by making your path easy, 
But by making you sturdy to travel any path; 
Not by taking hardships from you, 
But by taking fear from your heart; 
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine, 
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows. 
~ Anonymous 


Shadyside 5K 2017

Steve is bow hunting this weekend but surprised me by driving 90 miles just to watch me run. I was in the middle of taking a lotus meditation  photo before leaving for the race when he arrived. This is how the moment of his surprise was captured.


10 Rules For Being Human

Cherie Carter-Scott's rules of life ('Rules for Being Human') 

(Carter Scott references this quotation:) "Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood." (Helen Keller)

Rule One - You will receive a body. Whether you love it or hate it, it's yours for life, so accept it. What counts is what's inside.

Rule Two - You will be presented with lessons. Life is a constant learning experience, which every day provides opportunities for you to learn more. These lessons specific to you, and learning them 'is the key to discovering and fulfilling the meaning and relevance of your own life'.

Rule Three - There are no mistakes, only lessons.Your development towards wisdom is a process of experimentation, trial and error, so it's inevitable things will not always go to plan or turn out how you'd want. Compassion is the remedy for harsh judgement - of ourselves and others. Forgiveness is not only divine - it's also 'the act of erasing an emotional debt'. Behaving ethically, with integrity, and with humour - especially the ability to laugh at yourself and your own mishaps - are central to the perspective that 'mistakes' are simply lessons we must learn.

Rule Four - The lesson is repeated until learned. Lessons repeat until learned. What manifest as problems and challenges, irritations and frustrations are more lessons - they will repeat until you see them as such and learn from them. Your own awareness and your ability to change are requisites of executing this rule. Also fundamental is the acceptance that you are not a victim of fate or circumstance - 'causality' must be acknowledged; that is to say: things happen to you because of how you are and what you do. To blame anyone or anything else for your misfortunes is an escape and a denial; you yourself are responsible for you, and what happens to you. Patience is required - change doesn't happen overnight, so give change time to happen.

Rule Five - Learning does not end. While you are alive there are always lessons to be learned. Surrender to the 'rhythm of life', don't struggle against it. Commit to the process of constant learning and change - be humble enough to always acknowledge your own weaknesses, and be flexible enough to adapt from what you may be accustomed to, because rigidity will deny you the freedom of new possibilities.

Rule Six - "There" is no better than "here". The other side of the hill may be greener than your own, but being there is not the key to endless happiness.. Be grateful for and enjoy what you have, and where you are on your journey.. Appreciate the abundance of what's good in your life, rather than measure and amass things that do not actually lead to happiness. Living in the present helps you attain peace.

Rule Seven - Others are only mirrors of you. You love or hate something about another person according to what love or hate about yourself. Be tolerant; accept others as they are, and strive for clarity of self-awareness; strive to truly understand and have an objective perception of your own self, your thoughts and feelings. Negative experiences are opportunities to heal the wounds that you carry. Support others, and by doing so you support yourself. Where you are unable to support others it is a sign that you are not adequately attending to your own needs.

Rule Eight - What you make of your life is up to you.You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. Take responsibility for yourself. Learn to let go when you cannot change things. Don't get angry about things - bitter memories clutter your mind. Courage resides in all of us - use it when you need to do what's right for you. We all possess a strong natural power and adventurous spirit, which you should draw on to embrace what lies ahead.

Rule Nine -Your answers lie inside of you. Trust your instincts and your innermost feelings, whether you hear them as a little voice or a flash of inspiration. Listen to feelings as well as sounds. Look, listen, and trust. Draw on your natural inspiration.

Rule Ten -You will forget all this at birth. We are all born with all of these capabilities - our early experiences lead us into a physical world, away from our spiritual selves, so that we become doubtful, cynical and lacking belief and confidence. The ten Rules are not commandments, they are universal truths that apply to us all. When you lose your way, call upon them. Have faith in the strength of your spirit. Aspire to be wise - wisdom the ultimate path of your life, and it knows no limits other than those you impose on yourself.


A Burial with Full Military Honors Was An Absolutely Beautiful Way To Say Goodbye

But the highlight of my father-in-law's burial was the miracle of Jamie.

Our nephew Jamie has autism.
He has an incredible memory.
He remembers faces, names, streets and maps.
He can tell you when a Disney movie was released. When he was three he could identify every car he saw.
Well now Jamie is twelve years old.
His autism is noticeable because he has certain impulses that can attract attention.
He utters words like "cutie" or "stupid" or a hybrid of both when he meets people.
Then he bursts out in laughter.
Sometimes he has the urge to topple over chairs, or fling things.
Because of his condition, he was the only grandson that was unable to be a pall bearer.

I think he gets an idea in his head of how something should look.
So, he closes things that are ajar or opens things that are shut.
Needless to say, I was nervous about how Jamie would react when he saw his grandfather laid out in a casket.

Jamie's parents are very admirable.
They calmly manage their son with consistency, patience, and good old screen time. (Jamie loves his Ipad)
It is clear that they prepared their son extremely well for what to expect because Jamie (and his two younger siblings) were composed throughout both days of the viewing.

The funeral mass though, I thought would pose a different challenge.
Due to the assigned order of processing into church, Jamie  became separated from both his mom and his dad.
He somehow ended up in a pew in between Gabi and me.
When I saw what had happened, I felt an internal panic.
I did not know how to "manage" him.
I feared a scene or an outburst of some sort.
I think I uttered a "Oh Lord" under my breath--but I don't think I was praying.

The mass was beautifully concelebrated by two priests that knew my father-in-law.
I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Jamie was sitting without fidgeting.
I thought, it was odd and so I wondered if he had his Ipad.  I saw that he was empty handed.
I quickly looked away for fear of jinxing the serenity.
I closed my eyes and this time said a prayer of thanks and urged God to keep doing whatever it was He was doing.
The liturgical service was not short, yet through it all, Jamie remained still and appropriately responsive.
In all my years of knowing Jamie, I had never heard him respond properly nor sit quietly for church.
At the end of the mass, everyone processed out in the same order,  and I was expecting Jamie to break lose to try to join either his mom or dad.
He did not.
He walked out solemnly in between Gabi and me with his arms linked through ours,  escorting us.

At the grave site, the Honor guard was waiting motionless.
With very sharp, crisp and precise movements,
they carried my father-in-law's casket draped in the flag of the United States.
They performed a march and a salute.
I was absolutely mesmerized by the flag folding.
It was a sight to behold.
The playing of Taps and the three volley salute took the sting out of having to say good bye to a great man.
The folded flag and three shell casings, for Duty, Honor and Country--were presented to my mother-in-law with a steadfast and unflinching gaze.
You had to be there.
It was one of the most solemn and beautiful ceremonies I have ever witnessed in my life.
And, through it all--yes even with the succession of shots fired--Jamie too, remained steadfast and unflinching.
A burial with full military honors is  a perfect send off.
And so is Jamie.
Despite how "wild" and locked into his own world Jamie usually is, (and was right after we left the cemetery)  I can see how he is thriving because of his parents' love.

There are two things that I am sure happened during my father-in-law's funeral last March 13th.
The first is, I know without a doubt that a Jamie miracle happened, and the second is,
I know that he made his Papa proud.