Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Way Home -- A Movie Review

The Way Home, a family movie starring Dean Cain (“Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”), tells the story of Randy Simpkin, a man who finds himself struggling to juggle the demands of his job and those of his family. As the family prepares for a long-awaited beach trip, Randy steps inside the house for a moment to check work messages on his computer, and while he is inside, his two-year-old son – whom his wife had asked him to watch to give her a chance to close up the house – disappears.

Randy and Christal are suddenly thrust into a parent’s worst nightmare, and they desperately look for Joe with no success. The sheriff is called, and the search begins. Thanks to Randy’s mother, whose ties with other church members spread far and wide across the county, the Simpkin home is soon filled with onlookers and well-wishing folks hoping to help finding the missing boy. After receiving clearance from the sheriff, everyone gets to work, and every inch of the fields surrounding the home is combed. It’s not long until a TV reporter arrives at the home along with a camera man and a helicopter. In front of her unfolds a breathtaking scene – hundreds of people are searching, praying, consoling and doing all they can to support the panicked family.

Meanwhile, while the search for Joe continues, Randy embarks on a different kind of search – he suddenly remembers moments he could have spent with his family which he chose instead to pour into his job. His mind wanders to imagine the unthinkable, and realizing that he might never see his son alive again, Randy falls to the ground, quickly sinking into an abyss of guilt and despair.

The day slowly drags toward the evening hours, and hopes of finding Joe alive and unharmed drip away like the colors of the setting sun – the boy has not been found so far, and with so many ponds, swamps and snakes in the area, his chances of making it through the night drop by the minute. Will the search party bring Joe Home?

The Way Home is a heartwarming, inspirational film suitable for the whole family to enjoy. In a society like ours, ultimately dedicated to weighing priorities in the wrong order, it is a painful reminder of what truly matters and what, in the end, does not. The film does a wonderful job expressing an important concept: The power of community. We have become so self-isolated and tuned into a world of progress and illusion that we have forgotten how important it is to rely on one another. This community did not. Though they all lived individual lives, the moment one of their own stumbled into trouble, everyone was ready to help in whichever way was needed.

The Way Home is based on a true story, a chilling fact that reflects our own need to look deep inside our hearts and be aware that tragedy can always be awaiting around the bend; if it does, being alone and regretful is not the answer.



Disclaimer: I am not being paid to write this review. The thoughts expressed in the review are my own and they are not, in any way, influenced by anyone involved in the making of the film.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Clear Vision

I have poor night vision. Because of this reason, I don’t particularly like to drive at night, unless an emergency arises. I have even gone as far as exploring my options of owning different gadgets that can make night driving easier, but once I took a look at the price tags, I quickly changed my mind. After all, I hardly ever need to drive at night.

Daytime driving is another business altogether. With three kids that seem to need to travel the world far and wide every day, and my own errands to run, I spend more time behind the wheel than I would like. But, let me not derail from the thought that led me here to start with.

The other day I was driving to go pick up my daughter from school, and since I left in a rush, I forgot my sunglasses. Not a big deal, I thought as I drove down the road. Well, I drove the two miles that separated me from the school and turned into the nearby neighborhood. I was suddenly blinded by sunshine and for a moment I could see absolutely nothing. So I slowed down, and as I did, I barely perceived a white car parked on the side of the road to my right. It’s a miracle I even saw it because the color of the car was completely washed out by the intensity of the light.

After I passed the car I thought of how interesting it is that there are times during the day when one can see even worse than at night. That fleeting thought, of course, led to more activity, and I was soon busy analyzing how even in life walking the middle lane is usually the best way to see things clearly. I suppose we can look at it in many ways – someone totally absorbed into the dark happenings of existence is usually too overwhelmed to see anything on his path but more and more darkness. When, on the other hand, one is too elevated and detached into the light, it is hard for him to be able to empathize with the darkness others are struggling through, and can see even less. Quite similarly, if one is always rejected and failing, he is probably blinded by the darkness of his perception of the self, but if one is too successful, even in this case, blindness is not too far behind.

Living an average life filled with a balance of woes and wows allows us to steer away from complete darkness, while still retaining a memory of what it is like to struggle and be fearful. Accepting a life which contains a bit of both allows us to move through obstacles more easily, and teaches us that life isn’t always dark or bathed in light. All days will perish at sunset and each night succumbs to the morning sun. Nothing lasts forever, and even a difficult situation will eventually turn when you least expect it, just as a wonderful outcome will probably not stay wonderful forever.

What counts is to live in the moment, and not forget that each moment that passes is a unique fraction of time that will never occur again.

Note to anyone that’s interested: This coming Saturday, Oct 23 I will be signing books at Northgate Books in Durham between the hours of 3 and 6pm. Also, the next Saturday, Oct 30, I will be at the Fall Festival in Fuquay Varina the whole day. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Rust" -- A Movie Review

Rust, an inspirational film starring Golden Globe nominee Corbin Bernsen, was a nice surprise. A little fed up with many of the plot-poor movies of late, I found myself browsing the shelves at Blockbuster not even hoping to find anything worth watching, when I stumbled into this title.

Rust tells the story of James Moore, a former pastor going through a midlife crisis of faith. Unable to come to terms with his doubts, he returns to his hometown seeking answers he hopes to find at the old church where he initially felt his calling as a child.

Upon his return, James finds the place quite changed, and he learns of a local family who perished in a fire apparently set by Travis, his childhood friend and local loon. James goes to visit Travis in jail, and while he is a little surprised about his friend’s implication, he can’t but accept the man’s own rendition of what happened the fatal night of the fire.

A few days later, a disturbed local youth takes his life, and the town mourns the loss while collectively shaking its head at what could have motivated the young man to go through with such an unthinkable act.

James continues to visit Travis in jail, and time after time, he becomes more and more convinced of the man’s innocence, even if Travis himself accepts his fate as it is; his memorable words at some point: “My mother is fine; I am fine. It’s all according to God’s plan –He creates the plan, we only have to play our part.”

Mindless of Travis’s acceptance of whatever plan may be at play, James begins to dig deeper to find out what truly happened. Friendship and an unquenchable thirst for justice set him on a path of discovery sometimes at odds with the will of the rest of the town, only too glad to have someone to blame for the deaths.

The plot continues to evolve in a crescendo of events interesting enough to stand out, yet average enough to be credible.

The film makes many excellent points. One of them is James’s growing awareness of each person being connected to everyone else. Rust is one of those rare movies with a story so compelling that it stands out on its own, without need of explosions or foul language to capture one’s attention. It is heartwarming and profound; definitely a movie that can be enjoyed by the whole family, and one filled with powerful lessons that will likely stick with the viewer for a long time to come.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Along Came A Spider...

Along came a spider…and it built a huge web right in front of my door. And when I say huge, I don’t mean it the way a fisherman would when describing his catch. When I say huge, I mean a king-size spread of sticky goodness which could trap a grown man and make him scream for his mommy.

Interestingly enough, I didn’t even notice the web at first, when I went out to place a new umbrella over my patio table. It was my son – a big boy of almost sixteen who secretly dreams of being a Ninja and claims to be afraid of nothing – that jumped a foot off the floor when he went to close the door and saw the spider proudly guarding its work of art an inch away from his face.

At first instinct I thought of removing the uninvited guest and ask him to find a room elsewhere, possibly really far away; but then, given that Morgan asked to have a Halloween birthday party, I decided to leave it alone and treat it as a nearly perfect Halloween decoration. After all, who am I to spit on a free, suggestive bit of decoration?

Jokes aside, my decision to keep the spider and even go as far as finding it a name (don’t laugh, the name is Charlie – suggested by my son in honor of Charlotte from Charlotte’s web), is actually a personal confirmation. Several years ago I was terrified of spiders, and while over time I came to accept that for some strange, arcane reason, they too had to have a purpose in the greater scheme of all things, I never forgave whoever is in charge of deciding the shape and look of living things for making spiders look so creepy and hideous. At some point of my life I have believed that if I was chased by a murdering maniac with a knife, and my only escape path was through a thick patch of woods in late summer, then I would have gladly stopped and asked to be stabbed. That’s how terribly afraid of spiders I was! Well, things have changed. I still think spiders are hideous, but while I wouldn’t pet them, I can now peacefully cohabitate with them.

So, our pet/owner relationship began (monster/crazy woman sounds closer to reality, but cut me a little slack here, will you?), and while I waited for Morgan to get home from school I brew a pot of coffee and sat at the kitchen table with the newspaper. Once in a while I raised my eyes to look at Charlie, completely immobile in the center of his web, and I couldn’t help but marveling at the perfection and beauty of what he had created. And not only that…I quickly realized that Charlie surely had one of me: Patience. The poor soul clung in the middle of that web for hours, before an unsuspecting insect finally gave itself up as a mid-afternoon snack.

The spider waited. And then it waited some more. All along, it had no certainty that anything would fly near and would be attracted to the flowery illusion of its web, but in the end, its effort and patience were rewarded. A juicy insect was drawn to the web like a sailor charmed by the melodious voice of a siren, and before it even knew what happened, its time had come. The spider waited some more, to give the insect the chance to tire out, before wrapping it into a silky grave.

By the time I looked away from the mesmerizing scene, it was too late to read any articles – Morgan’s bus was due to arrive in just a few minutes. So, I left to go welcome my daughter home, all the while thinking about the spider and its unbelievable patience. Good things come to those who wait, someone claimed. I’m sure Charlie would agree.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Riding the Wave

The past few weeks have been a little rough for our family. Aside from being pulled in a million directions by daily demands, compounded by the needs of three growing children that seem to need to be in different places at the same time, we have had to deal with some health related issues.

My mother has been struggling for a while with leg pain, and while it is wise to get different opinions, we have found that sometimes it is only confusing, as each specialist seems to have a different outlook on things, and everything is dragged along for the sake of making the right decision.

If the poor woman didn’t have enough on her plate – and this may not seem like a big deal compared to other horrible things happening in the world – the death of her twenty-year-old cat, Angel, was the proverbial feather that pushed her off the precipice. The whole family was upset, and, in all truth, they gave me a scare of a lifetime, when I called and got my sister on the phone; she started crying the moment she heard my voice and couldn’t tell me what was happening. With a 76-year-old father suffering from heart disease, for a few seconds I expected the worst, and I was the one who almost had a heart attack.

Done with the woes of one family, let’s now pass on to the next installment. A couple of months ago, my father-in-law fell off a ladder while blowing leaves out of his gutters and broke a few ribs. While he was still recovering from that, he went to play golf a few weeks ago, only to end up at the hospital needing a pacemaker. Pacemaker inserted, he finally went home to lick his wounds, and we all thought the dust would settle from that moment on, but fate had a few other surprises in store…my kitten was bitten by a poisonous snake, and he survived but needed extra care for a week; and, as a sour cherry on top of a toppling cake, my mother-in-law began to feel ill last week. In the beginning she only had a few flu-like symptoms, but they quickly evolved into something more serious; serious enough, in fact, that she had to be placed into ICU for a few days. She is fine now, and recovering nicely, but for a few days we didn’t know what to expect.

Last night I sat in my living room, after everyone had gone to bed, and thought about the weeks gone by. We had a few scares, a heartbreak or two, but in the end everyone is still fine, alive, loved and, most important, we are all still here together to tell the story. And, if anything, all these upsets only drew us closer – it is easy for extended families to lose track of what’s happening with one another, and days go by without even a phone call. During the last couple of weeks, everyone stayed in touch, and everyone felt the need to let the others know how much they were loved. It’s a great feeling – an amazing one, in fact – and it is a sad fact that we rarely think about these things until we find ourselves on top of a wave, being carried to destinations unknown.

I am beginning to see land, and in fact I am preparing for a couple of busy weeks filled with events and book signings. Will fate work with me? There is no telling, for life will continue to happen with its up and downs, to keep us on our toes. All we can do is to appreciate each moment while the winds are blowing friendly.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Last Sunday Morning in New Orleans

The morning of September 12 I woke up earlier than I had planned. Since our flight out of New Orleans wasn’t supposed to leave until one in the afternoon, I had envisioned sleeping in a little, and then taking my sweet time trying to find some extra space in the suitcase to fit all the little knick-knacks I bought the previous four days.

It wasn’t meant to be. I woke up bright and early at 6am, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t go back to sleep. Since my sister was still peacefully cuddled up in the arms of Morpheus, and I didn’t want to wake her up by turning on the TV, I decided to call it a night; I got dressed and went out.

The city was in a moment of transition. While some die-hard partiers were still lingering at the doors of bars, they were gradually being outnumbered by the growing crowd of daytime folks, busy getting their beloved city ready for another day.

I walked for miles. With coffee cup in hand, I walked down Esplanade Avenue, passed the flea market where a few vendors had already started setting out their goods, and spilled onto the boardwalk coasting the Mississippi river. I passed by a small group of homeless men just waking up to a new day, and smiled when I saw one of them shaving in front of a fountain, while he held a small mirror in front of his face. I walked a bit longer and then sat on a bench facing the river. As I got ready to take a sip of coffee from the Styrofoam cup, I heard a moan. Thinking I had maybe just imagined it, I took another sip of coffee, only to hear moaning again a few seconds later. This time I turned around. Behind the bench, maybe ten feet away, was a small elderly man, crunched near a bush. His face was pale and his eyes were shut tight, and he looked like he could be anywhere between 50 and 100 years old – his skin was leathery, and his face was contorted in agony. I called out to him and asked if he was alright, but he didn’t even respond. I called him again, but even this time I got no reply. So, I walked up to him and kneeled beside him. Only then did he show any kind of awareness. I asked him if he was ill, and he shook his head. I waited a moment, and asked him again. He only looked up at me and said: “I am not sick, I am hungry.”

His words sealed on my heart as if someone had pressed them there with a hot iron. “You’re hungry?” I asked again, almost unable to accept that in a world where luxury is often ostentatious, a man can still go hungry. “When did you eat last?”

He replied that he had only eaten a bit of a sandwich he had found discarded the morning before. My heart sank even lower – with temperatures in the 90s, and enough humidity to boil a fly in mid-air, it was possible that the sandwich he had eaten was spoiled. I asked him if he wanted me to call an ambulance, and he shook his head, so I told him to wait a moment, and I rushed to a restaurant nearby to fetch a cup of hot tea and a couple of Danish pastries. I figured that he could drink the tea now and nibble on one of the pastries until his stomach was ready to accept food again. If he was right, and he was only hungry, the hot tea and a few bites were going to work some magic. The young girl attending the counter at the coffee shop seemed a bit surprised when I asked for hot tea instead than coffee, but she produced a steaming cup of it nonetheless. I ran back to the old man and sat with him for a while as he took eager sips of the hot beverage. And, as he had said, his cramps slowly relaxed and he felt better. I sat with him a bit longer, while he told me his story – he lost everything he owned when Katrina hit, and it wasn’t long until he also lost his job in constructions. He was never able to find his daughter and grandson, and it wasn’t long before a profound depression left him mentally crippled and unwilling to pull himself together. I looked into his eyes, and saw no hope there. I asked him why he didn’t try to get some sort of help, but all he could say was that it didn’t matter. After a while, I had to leave to go back to the hotel, but I first stopped by a local grocery store and got him a few non-perishable items he could keep in his backpack. I hugged him and said goodbye, but I thought of him for days.

His story led me to think of how easily we judge things from the outside. This man is, in the eyes of the world, a beggar, a reject the rest of society probably wishes could disappear, but in reality he is simply a man in pain. When he lost everything, he lost himself, and he could no longer find the will to fight. Sad as it is, a large majority of homeless individuals are mentally ill, and while it is possible for some to find a sense of direction if they truly are seeking one, for some the cloud of despair makes the path to recovery too dark and treacherous to walk. So they give up, and survive humbly at the outskirts of a world often too busy to notice their neighbors’ painful alienation.

Today, I feel fortunate that I awoke so early on that last Sunday morning in New Orleans, and as I write this I hope that at least for a moment, my homeless friend realized he is worthy to be loved.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hi Again!

After a break of a couple of months, I am ready to jump back into blogging. The past summer has been a rollercoaster – weddings, family visits, illness, children home from school, out of town trips, and book promotions, have all kept me busier than I ever imagined.

Now the dust has finally settled. The kids are back in school, family has come and gone, everyone’s well and…when I thought I was getting ready to be rolling my thumbs, I found a job. It’s a home job, mind you, and a writing one at that – the thing I love most – but it will nonetheless keep me busy.

So, this whole story to say that I will be back to regular blogging, but rather than posting everyday, I will probably do so half the time, perhaps every other day. I do miss talking to friends everyday, and I am glad I get to do a bit of that on Our Collective Wellness while I inhale a cup of coffee in the mornings; a little time is better than no time, right?

Blog for Hope will still be posted every Saturday morning, and while my October is already almost completely booked up, we really need to put our heads together and see if we can figure out ways to put aside some funds for the winter. If you would like to volunteer as a fund raiser organizer, I will love you for it. No idea is a bad idea, so feel free to shoot suggestions.

I think this is pretty much all I wanted to share for now. I look forward to posting again in the next couple of days, and to discuss topics with many people I have come to love talking to. So, see you the day after tomorrow. Until then, take care and don’t forget to enjoy life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cajun Fest and Benefit Book Signing, Saturday September 18, 12pm-3pm

I would like to invite you to a fun and spicy event. This weekend, on Saturday September 18, 12pm-3pm, Abagayle's Books and Collectibles in Henderson NC will be hosting a book signing and Cajun Fest.

Come and enjoy a taste of Louisiana by sampling traditional dishes, and join me for a reading. $1 from each copy of The Book of Obeah and Housekeeping for the Soul sold during this event will go benefit the Louisiana SPCA in honor of all pets lost during Hurricane Katrina. Please do note that during the month of September ALL proceeds from digital sales such as downloads to your Nook and Kindle will also go to this worthy cause.

I hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blog for Hope: Will You Help?

First of all, my apologies for being away for so long -- my summer has been a very busy one, and the month of September looks even crazier.

I would like to thank you all for your kind support toward Golo's Gingerleigh's effort to raise money for Neti Pots for the soldiers. Please don't forget that next weekend she will be hosting a car wash to raise even more money. The event will take place at Eastgate Shell, 4043 Wake Forest Rd in north Raleigh. I will, unfortunately, be out of town and unable to participate, but I will surely be there in spirit.

Also, I would like to mention two other efforts you might be interested in.

The first one involves a lady who was referred to me by a minister friend. She is 60 years old and for the last ten months she has been living out of her car. She is a very upbeat lady, and an ex professional skater and drummer who ran into a lot of health problems the past year, and lost everything. Her needs: she is looking to rent a room somewhere, for $300 or $400 a month. She can help with housework, childcare, and elderly care, as long as there is no heavy lifting involved. Her car also stopped working because her catalytic converter was crumbling and her muffler was completely unwelded. We sent her to a nearby muffler shop where they also replaced her catalytic converter at a very good price. The total bill was $250 which I already have about $180 for. Anyone willing to help with the rest? If so, please e-mail me: lunanera(at)

Last but not least: Starting on August 27 and lasting through September 30, ALL proceeds from my digital book sales (Kindle, Nook and any application supported by Smashword) are being donated to the Louisiana SPCA in memory of all animals lost during Hurricane Katrina. If you would like to support our four-legged friends, this is a good chance to do so. For more information, please visit

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday weekend!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Eye on New Orleans: Katrina's Other Orphans

As we continue our Hooked on the Book campaign, we would like to take the time to honor yet another category of Louisiana residents -- our four-legged friends. During Hurricane Katrina many animals were lost and separated from their families. Thanks to the effort of the Louisiana SPCA, many were able to be reunited with their original families, while others were placed in new loving homes.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of Katrina, I am proud to announce that $1 from the sale of each hard copy of Housekeeping for the Soul and The Book of Obeah, and ALL proceeds from e-book sales, will be donated to the Louisiana SPCA through Hooked on the Book, a Books for Good campaign.

Especially during active hurricane season, donations are fundamental to upkeeping the service agencies like SPCA are able to provide, so I hope you will join me in this effort and you will help me spread the word by forwarding this information to your family and friends. For more information, please visit

And please, always remember our motto: 'If everyone gives a thread, a poor man will have a shirt.' In this case, we might not be able to weave a shirt for our animal friends, but we'll ensure that they will have a home away from home if they ever need one again.

Many blessings,


Monday, August 9, 2010

See You Soon...

As this hot, long summer is racing toward the finish line, I need some time to reorganize things; because of that, unfortunately for me, my writing time is going to be cut short.

Several exciting things are at the door: My five-year-old daughter is getting ready to start her first, long-awaited year in elementary school, one of my sons is practicing his driving skills, I’m anxiously waiting for my sister to come from Italy for a three-week-long visit, and, finally, I am gearing up to have a memorable time in ever-magical New Orleans at the beginning of September, when I will travel to Louisiana for a mini promotional book tour. A lot of excitement is certainly in the works, but also a busy time ahead which will require undivided attention and expandable energy.

So, it’s time to fuel up. I look forward to spending the next couple of weeks reading materials someone else has written, shopping with the kids and working on doing a little remodeling at my house in occasion of my lovely sister’s visit. The week after I return from New Orleans, September 18, I will be signing books at Abagayle’s Books and Collectibles in Henderson between 12pm and 3pm – if you are in the area, I hope you will stop by and say hi; I would love to see you.

I will not be posting any new blog entries until October 1, but I will stop by in the mornings to say hello. Please, feel free to drop me a line via e-mail at any time.

See you soon…


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Seeds in the Wind -- Fate vs. Chance

Some palm readers believe that one’s future should be read from the lines of the right hand, as opposed to those in the left which are, they say, the lines of birth – the original blueprint of our destiny that was drawn prior to our arrival on earth. According to that theory, we are provided with two maps: one which reflects the plan we made before being born, and one – the right hand - which reflects the choices we will make during our journey. We meet different people, enter new doors and close others; are the events we live from day to day coincidental? Or are they points already charted on the map of our existence?

In my opinion, there is no such thing as coincidence; I believe we are born with a precise path to follow, which allows for slight revisions as we walk through life. We are taught that humans have a gift of free will, but do we really?

If one considers the concept of time - and truly ponders on it – will realize that there is no such thing; time is merely a manmade illusion born out of sheer need to organize our existence through our limited five senses. Time is needed by our ego - which is born from our earthly body - but serves no purpose to our spirit, which is connected in nature to universal energy and is, therefore, timeless, ageless, birthless and deathless. Past, present and future are one, and are only separated by the need the human mind has to be in charge and control unfolding events. According to this theory – if time is simply an illusion – things which are to unfold tomorrow already happened yesterday; we just have not reached them today. Many of the stars which shine brightly in our skies today have likely been dead for hundreds of thousands of years; their distance is just so great, that their light took that long to reach us and become visible to us.

Universal perfection does not allow for mistakes; we are born to the family which will create the perfect environment for the growth of our spirit, and meet countless people and situations which will support the lessons we need to learn. That said, the journey our soul chooses to embark on can sometimes be a bumpy ride, and it will take the strength of our spirit to understand the necessity of each experience and roll with the punches. We may be born to abusive parents, meet people who only seem to create obstacles, run into predicaments which will test the strength of our resolve; yet, when all is said and done, each of those situations will have taught us something, and our test truly is one of understanding the greater, unexplained importance of each occurrence.

We are the seed the wind of destiny is blowing around. We may land on fertile ground right away, or we may be deposited on barren environs for a while, waiting out our turn to be swept again toward greener grounds; or maybe we will die there, as our charted mission is that of drying in the sun and support the hungry bird who’s looking for nourishment to perpetuate its own soul agenda. Whether our goal is that of taking center stage or merely operating the curtain ropes, our stay on earth – and that of other living beings - are all equally important, and have great value in the greater scheme of things. We are all but a drop in the vast waters of the ocean, but all together we create something powerful and beautiful, which will carry on the timeless tune of creation.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On the Path to Success (repost)

"Visualize this thing you want. See it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin." Robert Collier

Focus oriented in the right direction is one of the fundamental tools necessary to overcome. If you think it sounds too easy and simple to be true, think again. Many people loudly broadcast their wishes, but their words rarely match their thoughts, beliefs and expectations. While one minute is spent wishing for something, the other 23 hours and 59 minutes of their day are intensely spent visualizing the impossibility of the wish.

Given the right impetus and desire, every wish can become reality. The only blocks are the lack of emotional charge necessary to propel our wishes forward, the mental image we implant into our subconscious, and whether we feel we deserve the blessing. The fuel is provided by emotions; without emotions behind them, thoughts are quickly discarded as unimportant. The Universal mind only works on images we create in our conscious minds, which get deposited into our subconscious minds. Once an image is perceived by our Higher Self, if fueled properly, it will manifest in our realities. So, if for one minute we claim to wish for something, but then we repeatedly saturate our subconscious with images of poverty, disease, fear and lack of love, our Higher-Self assimilates that poverty, disease, fear and lack of love are just what we want. Like actions, images speak louder than words. The last block is usually caused by misplaced guilt; if we feel guilty of something – even if we didn’t initiate the action – we believe we shouldn’t be rewarded.

When we wish for something but then expect to see its opposite manifest, our focus is centered on what we don’t want. As we think of what we don’t want, we form mental images of the misery that will come, and we bring those images to life by feeding them with our emotions. In order to be successful in attaining our wishes, we need to re-program our conscious minds, since that’s where the process starts. Our free will allows us to choose what to focus on, and once we make a choice, we need to concentrate every emotion we feel toward our goal, rather than toward the obstacles on our path.

Very often, our realities are impacted by old images buried deep into our subconscious. By allowing painful memories to rise up at a time when we can give them our full attention, we take away their power of being in charge of us. When we choose to face them, we can feel them, hear them, see them and even feed them emotions for a brief period of time, and then make a conscious effort to release them before shifting our focus toward the goals we wish to conquer. One thing is certain – those old wounds will not go away until we consciously decide to meet them face to face, honor them for their purpose in our lives and ask them to rest in peace. Once we are aware of their existence, it is imperative that we don’t linger on their effects. We are in control of how long we will allow ourselves to think about them.

Changing our realities is possible, as long as our thoughts go hand in hand with our words. And if, by force of habit, we go down the wrong thinking path at any given time, we always have the option to stop, turn around and walk in a different direction.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A New Cell Phone

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” ~ C.S. Lewis

A few days ago I dropped my cell phone as I searched for keys on my way to my car. Though it has fallen several times and I’ve always been able to put it back together with no problem – and never mind the fact this time it actually fell on a soft carpet of grass – it was dead on collision.

I went home and called the phone company to file an insurance claim. I asked the lady on the phone if I would have any trouble retrieving my contact numbers, and she assured me that since I was going to use the same SIM card, all the information stored in it would be transferred to the new phone. The new phone arrived two days later. I diligently followed all instructions and put the old card into the phone, but when I went to look for contacts to import, the SIM card was empty! So I called the phone company again, and we tried a few more tricks, but nothing worked. The joke I had uttered for years, when I said that if I lost my phone I wouldn’t call anyone anymore, didn’t seem all that funny now; while I had other means of contacting some of the people whose phone numbers were lost, I had no idea how to get in touch with some of the others.

While I pouted about that, I thought about some of the contacts I had lost – I hadn’t talked to some of those people for years, either because we had, willingly or unwillingly, parted ways, or because our lives had simply taken different directions. I still could get in touch with those I have reasons to have in my world, either via e-mail or through common friends, so what had I lost? I was suddenly hit with the realization that old, worn-out connections had moved out of the way to make room for new ones: I now have a nice, empty address book I can fill with new friends entering my life.

While holding on to things and relationships that no longer serve us is a downfall of human nature, it is best, every so often, to let the ghosts of the past finally rest in peace. I was talking to a friend, just yesterday, and we were discussing how some of his writings have gone lost; some of the material was quite heart-felt and written during a particularly painful time in his life, but even if parts of it were pleasant and touching, the strained energy of those challenging moments was also trapped between the lines; by losing the documents, he didn’t lose his ability to write anew, but only the painful reminder that the past is called past for a reason. Resistance to change is awfully common, but it surely doesn’t help us grow. In fact, our conservative, self-preserving nature is probably the most hindering factor in our transition from one chapter of life to the next. Stagnation comes masked as familiarity, and who’s ready and willing to throw out those old slippers even if they no longer feel and look right?

Once all is said and done, we can’t lose something or someone we are meant to have in our world; all we are losing is superficial attachments to debris. Who would have known that I had to break my phone to assimilate something so simple?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cardinal Grand Cross of 2010

While many of us are busy anchoring down on earth during what appears to be a very stressful summer on so many levels – the economy is still shaky, natural disasters seem to pop up like mushrooms on a wet field, relationships are strained and people feel ‘stuck’ – astrologers around the globe are keeping their eyes firmly on the sky, as a very unusual configuration of planets is lining up in the heavens.

Personally, I am at a loss when it comes to technical information associated to planetary patterns, so I would not be of much help trying to explain what’s happening, but upon close observation of what professional astrologers have described, in relation to what’s been happening on earth, I have become quite fascinated by the Cardinal Grand Cross of 2010.

According to experts in the field, we are facing, this week, a culmination of sorts, and since several planets will be opposing each other as they align to form the cross, explosive events are likely to be triggered imminently. The forecast is not good – financial crashes, tempers clashing, social unrest and conflicts – but it is general consent that things will begin to improve in the next three weeks, after some of the new energy has had a chance to settle and be assimilated.

So, what does this mean on a personal level? This new energy has prompted many to end old relationships and arrangements that no longer work; we are nudged to let go of the old to make room for the new, to clean house and accept new patterns in place of old, ill-fitting ones. Old jobs are lost, governments are questioned, awareness of personal responsibility is raised, relationships with others are regrouped, and all around us humanity is rebelling to an old system of authority that no longer fits our current needs.

As is with everything, things are bound to appear worse before they get better, and the upcoming week truly appears to embody the doom and gloom associated with change and transition. With such new, explosive energy pouring in, many are bound to feel restless and emotional this week, and even prone to arguments which have the power to escalate rapidly. So, if you feel moody or fearful, or you suddenly feel more confrontational than usual, you are not going crazy, but only getting on with the scheduled program of a global shift of consciousness. The key phrase of this week – and of the next two, though events will not manifest as brutally after this week – is to ride the wave and float with it, rather than swimming against it. Be happy about the small things, tell your loved ones you love them, even those – especially those – you haven’t talked to in a while, and most of all, let go of what no longer serves you; you will be a much happier person once you finally understand it’s easier to walk without carrying so much baggage.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Wet Grave" by Barbara Hambly -- A Book Review

Not usually a fan of historical novels, I hesitated somewhat when I picked up a copy of Wet Grave by Barbara Hambly, but as fate would have it, I did buy the book, and I am ever so grateful I did. The story takes place in 1830s New Orleans, and highlights a time in history when justice was an elusive luxury, especially if one was a freed colored citizen.

Benjamin January, the well educated son of a placeé – a former slave kept as a mistress by the man who bought and freed her – who is now a surgeon and musician, is summoned by his sister when an old drunk prostitute is found slashed to death in her own home. When January arrives on the scene, he recognizes the dead woman as Hesione LeGros, a once beautiful society mistress he had the opportunity to befriend many years before. Nobody but January seems to care about the old woman’s death, and he is encouraged by many to abandon the case once it becomes apparent authorities are not willing to become involved.

January, however, is haunted by his own need to discover the truth and, supported by Rose Vitrac, the woman he loves, he embarks on a journey of no return, in which the hunter becomes the hunted, and some questions are best left unanswered.

When murder strikes closer to home and leaves January heart-broken and angry, he and Rose are on the run, colored fugitives seeking sanctuary in the unforgiving depths of stormy bayous. Will they discover who murdered Old Hessie, or will they also fall prey in a game of cat and mouse?

Barbara Hambly has masterfully created a story one can get lost into, with a plot as thick and edgy as the sultry heat swallowing the Deep South in mid-summer. The historical references are well developed and even sprinkled with delightful encounters; among those, the meeting of January with Marie Laveau, the notorious queen of voodoo, as he seeks guidance on his quest.

The novel is extremely descriptive, and rich details are freely dispensed to allow the reader the luxury of being transported through time and space. Wet Grave is a great read for anyone passionate of historical fiction, for mystery lovers and for those interested in southern fiction with an edge into reality.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Help to the Gulf Region

Hey folks! I just wanted to alert everyone to the fact that $1 from each sale of Kindle copies of my books will be donated to the Gulf region.

Help me spread the word...every little bit helps. :)

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Treadmill

When my mother mentioned buying a treadmill once, my father looked at her with a slightly surprised frown on his face. “That contraption won’t take you anywhere,” he said, “you walk and walk, and you never move from the point you started.” It was a joke, of course, but when I thought about those words later on in life, I realized they can be applied to more than exercise.

A treadmill is surely a great invention – one can walk in the comfort of one’s own home, sheltered from petty crime, elements, and even loneliness, as a TV is often nearby; one can also exercise without getting dressed, as a treadmill, thankfully, has no mirrors. Those are all great advantages, and it is understandable why many prefer walking on a rolling mat than on a sidewalk, but, like all things, even treadmills have downfalls.

Growing up in the city I walked everywhere, and it wasn’t long before I started noticing life exploding all around me as I did. While walking to school in the mornings, I always passed by a bakery owned by the father of one of my friends. I still remember the fragrant aroma of freshly baked focaccia, as it escaped the poorly sealed door like a genie freed from of a bottle. As I waited from my friend – she used to go help her parents at the bakery before school – I often stood outside the door, watching people walk in and out of the café directly across the street. For a few mornings, I had noticed a boy who always seemed to walk into the cafe staring down at his feet; after a few moments inside, he always came out holding a small white paper bag and never looked up. That morning he dropped his paper bag, and while normally I would have just remained frozen by the door, I had a sudden burst of courage, walked over, picked up the bag and handed it to him. He raised his eyes and smiled at me, and when he did, I noticed the skin on his neck was badly damaged from a bad burn. When he saw me looking at it, he quickly looked down, but I told him my name and asked for his. That morning marked the beginning of a good friendship that lasted many years and was a great source of support while growing up.

I still like to walk. Over the years, walking has allowed me to witness many situations I have learned something from, and has gifted me with opportunities to notice the unpretentious beauty of things and people around me. Many of those things would have gone completely unnoticed had I chosen to walk on a treadmill instead.

We often give up on exploring opportunities because we are afraid to detach from a false sense of security and comfort, at the cost of isolating and limiting ourselves. We contemplate the need of making changes in our world, but more times than not, we are not ready to let go of what’s holding us back. Even when we are unhappy of our current situation, we stick with it because it feels familiar, because we don’t want to stir the pot, because, ultimately, we are afraid of upsetting the order of things and getting lost in the shuffle. We have the power to change, and yet many of us continue walking on the treadmill, basking in the illusion that we ARE doing something while in fact we are not. In the end, we CAN turn off the switch, step off and walk outside into the real world; when we do, we will truly know we are getting somewhere.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Instant Reward vs. Long-Term Benefits

“Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.” ~ Author Unknown

Yesterday I had the best time talking to my daughter and two of her little friends, as they were telling me what they want to be when they grow up. Although Princess was definitely on top of the chart, the next two hot personas on the “want to be” list were mommy and model. That fun talk made me think about all the projects that we envision and give up because of obstacles and hardship. Are obstacles the main reason for abandoning our goals? Or could it be that instant reward often gets in the way of our allegiance to the original plan?

Humans are naturally creatures of comfort, and will choose the easy path that will cause the least amount of unease. Unless we are able to exercise a good dose of self-discipline, most of us are inclined to take the easy road and succumb to the temptation of instant reward.

Long-term benefits offer a reward which is often in our greater interest but might take months or years to solidify, while temporary satisfaction manifest immediately but is likely not what we need in the long run. When we give in to temptation we feel momentarily exhilarated, but quickly develop feelings of guilt as we feel that we have cheated ourselves. Instant reward can come in the form of indulgence or as a band-aid – regardless of which we act upon, we feel frustrated with ourselves and are more likely to give in on future occasions. There are ways to build a stronger resolve. One of them is to set small goals for ourselves - not too far down the road - and stick with them, independently from the fires that erupt around us. We can increase the amount of time between the original plan and the reward and continue telling ourselves that it is only a temporary state of discomfort.

Everything can be overcome one step at a time, if we accept that life itself is dynamic and therefore on a constant energy shift. If I was to wake up tomorrow morning and someone told me to quit smoking forever, I would find that thought overwhelming; if, instead, was told to quit for a day, or an hour at a time, I could summon the resolve to follow through for such a short time. We can’t keep our mind focused on forever but everyone can sacrifice for one day. Maybe, then, our long-term reward can become a much closer goal – one we can feel comfortable sticking with in preparation of bigger things to come.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back to New Orleans -- Let the Magic Begin!

There are moments that remain so clear in one’s mind that it would be suitable to say they were forever captured in a mental photograph. For me, one of these moments took place a little over a year ago, when on a chilly April afternoon – a snapping breeze was blowing in, unforgivably and unseasonably, from the Mississippi river only a couple of blocks down – I stood at the corner of Dumaine and Royal in new Orleans, and vowed to be back the next year or even sooner.

Earlier that day my parents and I had gone on a tour of Honey Swamp and, tired after the trip, my mother and father had decided to stay back at the hotel while I went strolling around in the Quarter. Once I crossed Canal Street, it wasn’t long before I felt as if I had stepped through a magical portal: Happy people, their lightly powdered shirts a delightful reminder they had betrayed their New Year’s resolutions, and had been unable to resist the forbidden aroma of warm beignets and coffee, walked around in no hurry, while the sound of street performers increasingly swallowed the pockets of silence with each step I took toward Jackson Square. New Orleans is one of those cities – in fact, it is THE city -- one can’t fully understand until one has experienced its magic. Unlike most beautiful tourist venues, New Orleans lives and breathes, and hums a melody of its own creation, familiar enough to make everyone feel at home within its weathered alleys, and certainly unique enough to take one’s breath away. Shy of the Eiffel Tower, New Orleans is the younger sister of Paris.

Once I got a little deeper into the heart of the Quarter, I suddenly thought of something: New Orleans isn’t only famous for its beautiful wrought iron balconies, but also for its pulsating spiritual essence…so what if I asked a little help from the very same Saints I had grown to know and appreciate throughout my life? I stopped by a bar and bought a beer, then walked down to a tobacco shop and bought a cigar -- both items are customarily offered to Elegba, the opener of doors, who’s also known as Eleggua or even St. Michael and St. Anthony, but I won’t linger on this too long, since it is really not important in this story – then sat on a doorstep, lifted the bottle of beer a trifle, and lit the cigar. As I blew a puff of smoke toward the sky, I silently offered the cigar and the beer to Elegba, and mentally voiced my petition – within a year, I wanted to be back in the same spot, and be able to once again drink in the joyful energy of the place.

After I left New Orleans, the year blew by swifter than the breeze lifting from the river. Many things happened in the interim, including the release of my two books; and now, as I am taking one day at a time venturing into the bayous of the publishing world, my petition came to pass: On September 8, I will be boarding a plane heading to the city of my heart, as part of The Book of Obeah promotional tour.

So, thank you Elegba, for opening this amazing door…I will see you in New Orleans, the cigar is on me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Power of a Decision

"You are the person who has to decide. Whether you'll do it or toss it aside, you are the person who makes up your mind. Whether you'll lead or will linger behind; whether you'll try for the goal that's afar, or just be contented to stay where you are." ~ Edgar A. Guest

If we were to sit down and think about how many decisions we make on top of a day, we would be astounded. Everything requires a decision - from the type of clothes we wear to greater choices which have the power to affect the course of our lives and that of others. Every accident, every situation, could have been different had we made a different decision.

A few days ago I was talking to a friend previously involved in relationship with a widower who has a teenage son. Since the very early days after they met, she and the boy never got along, as she felt the son was rude to her, and did things out of spite to break up her relationship with the father. After a few months of constant arguing, things got very tense for my friend and her partner. The animosity between her and the teenager continued to grow and evolved into a power struggle. Finally, rather than letting go of the hard feelings, my friend decided she was going to set her foot down and show her acquired son who was in charge. Within a few weeks her relationship with the father was defunct. Two months later, she has yet to let go of the anger sparked during the relationship. In her mind, the son was evil and the father spineless for giving in to his whims; what she always refused to see was that a lot of the friction was spawn by her own insecurities and choices. Certainly she had the right to voice her opinion and make it clear that she wasn’t happy about the father’s decisions, but by doing so she forfeited something else that was important to her – her relationship with the man she loved.

Every decision we make has the potential of being a double-edged sword, and before we indulge a certain choice or behavior we should be fully aware of what the consequences are going to be. If we feel that we are prepared to deal with those consequences because our sense of pride and self-righteousness is stronger than the loss that will ensue, then we are on the right path. If instead the relationship, or the job, is important to us – even if we feel we have the right to complain - we might need to take the time to evaluate the whole situation before we make a decision. Everything in life works on compromise; we forfeit what is less important in favor of what matters most. As we see often in the case of medication – fixing one thing while potentially hurting another – we need to weigh the pros and cons, and then decide what is best. Holding our peace may be hard, but in some instances it can be the only lifesaver if what we are protecting is dear to us. My friend’s decision was a balm for her pride and the executioner’s axe for her relationship at the same time. Did she do the right thing by standing her ground or should she have kept cool to safeguard her relationship?

Ultimately we can’t control the actions or the thoughts of others, but we do have carte blanche on how we will deal with the situations that arise. Depending on our decision, things will either turn in our favor or against us; we have the power of changing circumstances by making decisions that are based on wisdom rather than ego. The choice is up to us.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Car Rolling Down the Hill

It is not uncommon for strange things to happen when my friend Donna and I get together for meditations. Saturday night was no different, but what we learned from an odd occurrence only confirmed something we had already come to terms with.

After an unusually rough week for my friend, we decided to get together for coffee. She arrived at my house around nine at night, after my children had gone to bed, and we sat at my kitchen table discussing all that had happened. To her credit, she had really waded through rough waters – her lawnmower had died unexpectedly, she had hit debris from an accident in the very early hours of the morning which had, unfortunately, damaged one of her tires, and to crown an already challenging week, she was forced to rescue an animal whose owners didn’t care for, whom had to be put to sleep.

Being a passionate animal lover, the last task had emotionally affected her a great deal, and she was close to tears. After discussing all the situations, we both agreed that while life happens, things could have been worse – just three years before, she would not have had the financial resources to replace her dead lawnmower, or the damaged tire; her tire could have blown out while she was driving and, as painful as being responsible for ending the misery of an animal had been, she was happy the dog was finally free of pain, and she had been there to comfort the poor soul during her last moments on earth.

As always, after chatting for a while, we went to my living room, set across from each other in front of my coffee table, lit a candle and put on soft music, to facilitate a meditative state. It was like a weight was suddenly lifted off our shoulders, and after about twenty minutes of restoring meditation we went back to the kitchen to gather her things so she could leave. We hugged and I opened the door. She took one step outside and said: “Where did my Jeep go?”

We walked outside and her car, which had been parked in front of my house, was gone. A bit confused, we walked together across the yard, and saw the car had rolled down the hill, and had stopped only about a foot from a shiny red truck parked on the street in front of one of the neighboring yards. When the car had rolled down, the front tire had bumped against the curb and had come to a stop. Our first thought was that the handbrake had failed, or that, maybe, she had accidentally hit the gear shift on her way out, and it had set on neutral. None of the above – the car was in first gear, and the handbrake, upon further examination by a mechanic in the morning, was absolutely fine.

When we spoke on the phone around lunchtime, we both came to the same conclusion. It was almost as if Spirit had decided to validate our discussion by showing us that things could have gone much worse, but in the end, they didn’t. The car was fine, my neighbor’s truck was untouched, the brake was functioning, and even the tire which had hit the curb was absolutely fine and mark-free. What started as a stressful week ended up being cloaked in a comforting sense of peace, and once again we were happy that Spirit had decided to throw in His two cents to confirm that our thoughts were indeed on the right path.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"A Nay for Effort" by Dan Bain -- A Book Introduction

I would like to introduce you to someone you will surely enjoy knowing: Please meet Dan Bain, a personal friend, witty comedian, and now published author. Dan has published his first book, "A Nay for Effort", a collection of humoristic essays about life and its lessons.

Not only am I impressed with all Dan has been able to accomplish, but I also take my hat off to his decision of donating 10% of sales proceeds to schools and organizations that support education.

CONGRATULATIONS, DAN! It couldn't have happened to a better person!!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Legion -- A Movie Review

“When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.” ~ Charles L. Allen

After hearing my son gushing above the movie “Legion” for two days, yesterday afternoon I finally sat and watched it with him and some of his friends. Accustomed to the fact that to teenage standards a ‘great movie’ is usually a film heavily saturated with explosions and stomach-turning gore, I didn’t expect that I would remain glued to the edge of my seat – aside from a few times when I literally jumped – from beginning to end.

The story begins with a disagreement between archangels Gabriel and Michael. Gabriel announces that time has come for humanity to come to an end, since the Creator believes hope is lost for all of mankind. Archangel Michael does not agree, and he takes it upon himself to come down to earth, and make one final try – a baby, about to be born, has the power to save humanity, but since the higher orders are to bring life as we know it to an end, an army of angels is sent down to prevent the birth of the child.

What appears to be a battle between good and evil is, ultimately, a battle between hopeful and hopeless, as archangel Michael risks his life and his place among the blessed ones to fight for the ultimate savior – faith.

The film strongly features our society’s love affair with violence and high-power weapons, but the message it conveys is strong and to the point. When all seems hopeless, true hope is finally born, or, to quote a line from the movie: “When you are lost is when you are truly found.”

This movie is rated R, and while some of the scenes are purely funny, others can be a little disturbing, even if none of the special effects are particularly out of the ordinary. But, when all is said and done, I can assure you that after watching, you will feel a little different about the ice cream truck driving through your neighborhood…

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Expressions, Expressions...

Always having been fond of languages and intrigued by the origins of certain expressions, I would like to share some tidbits a friend sent me yesterday. I hope you will find them as interesting and entertaining as I did. (The source of this information is unknown to me, therefore I cannot vouch for its accuracy.)

In George Washington's days, there were no cameras. One's image was either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington showed him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others showed both legs and both arms. Prices charged by painters were not based on how many people were to be painted, but by how many limbs were to be painted. Arms and legs are 'limbs,' therefore painting them would cost the buyer more. Hence the expression, 'Okay, but it'll cost you an arm and a leg.' (Artists know hands and arms are more difficult to paint)


As incredible as it sounds, men and women took baths only twice a year (May and October). Women kept their hair covered, while men shaved their heads (because of lice and bugs) and wore wigs. Wealthy men could afford good wigs made from wool. They couldn't wash the wigs, so to clean them they would carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the shell, and bake it for 30 minutes. The heat would make the wig big and fluffy, hence the term 'big wig.' Today we often use the term 'here comes the Big Wig' because someone appears to be or is powerful and wealthy.


In the late 1700's, many houses consisted of a large room with only one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall, and was used for dining. The 'head of the household' always sat in the chair while everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a guest, who was usually a man, would be invited to sit in this chair during a meal. To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge. They called the one sitting in the chair the 'chair man.' Today in business, we use the expression or title 'Chairman' or 'Chairman of the Board.’

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Very Special Mission

In the aftermath of Teghan Alyssa Skiba’s senseless death, people are shaking their heads.
Whenever a child dies, many wonder why such young lives are prematurely ripped away rather than given the opportunity to live out their full existence on this earth. Whether it is because of an accident, disease, or even murder as in the case of little Teghan, the death of someone young is always a hard one to accept. It is common to hear people discredit a Higher Power and think that if a God truly exists He would not allow people to suffer and children to die.

But what if this the short time they have lived was the entire amount of time a soul was allotted for this earthly trip? What if their mission was only one of support for other souls?

In my personal set of beliefs, I think that we are born with a specific purpose, which will help us learn some of the lessons our soul needs to master before evolving. Each soul may have fewer or more lessons to learn than others, and that – along with the time needed to produce the right situations – determines the length of our stay. Once we pass on, we review what we have learned, and the lessons we haven’t mastered will have to be repeated again. Some souls reach the point of having mastered all the fundamental lessons, and it is up to them if they want to remain within the realms of light or go back to be a support system for the souls that still have to learn more.

Most of the young people who pass away are usually described as extremely loving and peaceful, and their brief stay is an undeniable gift to those who have been fortunate enough to have them in their lives, if only for a short while. There is no telling what kind of lessons they are supporting, but their presence will always leave a strong mark. They are angels who take the time to come down, and mingle with us for a breath of time, to make sure that other souls can learn to fly a little bit higher.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Window

(Painting by Pam Scarboro)

Someone sent me this by e-mail, and I just had to post it. Have a wonderful day, everybody.

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood.

The first morning in the new house, while she is eating breakfast with her husband, the young woman watches her neighbor hang the laundry outside to dry.

Pointing her finger at some visible stains on the freshly laundered garments, the woman tells her husband: “Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.”

Her husband looks on, but remains silent.

From that day on, every time she sees her neighbor hang her wash to dry, the young woman continues to make the same comments.

A month later, the woman is surprised to see sparkly clean sheets on the line, and says to her husband: “Look! She has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder what changed.”

The husband says: “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows!”

And so it is with life: What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the window through which we look. Before we give any criticism, it might be a good idea to ask ourselves if we are ready to see the good, rather than look for something in the person we are about to judge.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Devil's Drop

After promising our children that we would spend the day at a water park, my husband and I got up early and got everything together, only to find out upon calling that the water park we had planned to go to was no longer open. Not exactly excited at the thought of driving the hour and a half necessary to reach the one in Greensboro, but even more unwilling to listen to the kids complain the rest of the day, we decided to bite the bullet and face the long drive. Since everything was already prepared, and the kids were very excited from the moment we woke them up with news of the trip, we were on the road within thirty minutes.

When we arrived, we took one quick tour to identify the coolest attractions, and Morgan immediately had her heart set on a new 40-foot slide, completely vertical, called “The Devil’s Drop.” Just looking at it made me dizzy, and I was positive she would turn around the moment she got up to the top. Ha! I was in for a good surprise…Morgan went up, dad following right behind; she reached the top and stood up there like a star ready to receive a standing ovation. She grinned and lay down, and once the bar was lifted, flying down she went. I expected to see her upset by the time reached the bottom, but once again my assumption was wrong. When her little body finally came to a stop, she sat up and looked radiant. Dad, on the other hand, came down like a bullet shot by a beginner, and banged elbows and knees he didn’t even know he had; never mind the fact that his neck and back were also sore by the time he finally stopped at the bottom.

When we left the slide, I asked her what she thought of it and if she was scared. Her answer made me smile: “Well, I was a little bit scared when I first lay down, but when I began to speed, I just closed my eyes and pretended I was flying.” She went on to tell me how wonderful it felt to just be taken away, and how she just surrendered to the water and the speed with no care in the world. Dad, instead, admitted that when he took one look he could just imagine the pile his bones would make at the bottom of the drop, if something went wrong, and went down fearing the worst. Because of it, his body remained stiff, and the hard, unforgiving slide did the rest.

Much of what we experience is strongly related to the way we approach it. When fear gets in the way, we instinctually brace for the worst, and our ‘stiffness’ brings us more damage than we would encounter if we allowed ourselves to ride the wave and let it carry us to destination. Faith is a great remedy against fear – as long as we ‘know’ we are going to be alright, most likely we will be, for most of the damage along the ride is rarely caused by external sources, but rather by our own apprehension and hesitation.

In this case, Morgan knew the ride was safe, even if at first look it was easy to think otherwise; dad, instead, invested too much energy into worrying about the ‘ifs’ and the ‘maybes’ that COULD have occurred, even if the chance they would was extremely low. Worry, someone said, is interest paid on a loan you might never receive, but sometimes it is even worse: Afraid to get hurt, we might forfeit the chance to live life at its fullest.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Dream House: Visions and Nightmares -- Book Review

I ran into Victoria Roder’s novel, The Dream House: Visions and Nightmares, quite accidentally: While following a discussion on the Amazon forum which encouraged authors to pitch their books, I read a short synopsis of this story and immediately felt drawn to it.

The Dream House tells the story of Hope Graham, a woman who, night after night, is haunted by a recurring dream taking place in her childhood home. Concerned about her physical and mental wellness, she decides to visit the now abandoned and dilapidated house to seek answers and healing. She is determined to dig any secrets connected to the dwelling, and along the journey she meets several key characters: Ida, an old lady who’s an old-time resident and self-appointed ‘eyes and ears’ of the neighborhood; Clarissa, a self-absorbed woman who owned the property next door to the home Hope and her sister Samantha lived in before being adopted; and, finally, Brock, a local baker whose charm and good looks don’t go unnoticed from the moment he and Hope strike a casual conversation about the house. On her journey of discovery, Hope finds more than what she bargained for, and must now come face to face with a child’s worst nightmare, if she at all hopes to slay the demons of a painful past, and allow the energy still living in the house to rest in peace.

While The Dream House is an exciting read from the first few pages onward, the reader can’t help but gasp in surprise as the story evolves in a crescendo of emotional turmoil and paranormal suspense. What I found unique about this book, is the subtle connection between the supernatural activity described, and individual traumas buried deep within the folds of the subconscious mind.

The Dream House is definitely an exciting story. By the time I read the last page, I hated only one thing about it…that I was running out of pages to read.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Benefit Car Wash - Saturday July 17, 2010

One of our Golo friends needs a little help. Unfortunately, her health has declined considerably, and she is now unable to work. Her family is doing the best they can, but it is often very hard to manage caring for a loved one who’s sick, and work enough hours to make ends meet. In order to offer the family a bit of relief, we have decided to dedicate this upcoming weekend’s car wash to her.

As always, our car wash will take place in the parking lot of Eastgate Shell, at 4043 Wake Forest Rd in north Raleigh. We will meet between the hours of 9 and 12 on Saturday, July 17. If you would like to help us, please just show up; or, if your car only needs a little TLC, we will be happy to wash it for you for a small donation. I know it’s a bit hot for coffee right now, but if you do enjoy a good cup in the morning, Eastgate Shell will provide free coffee for all who come. In contrast, my daughter will also be on premises, selling cold lemonade (nothing cuter than a little five-year-old selling lemonade at a homemade stand.)

So, please come down and see us this Saturday, and help us spread the word through your local social networks, your friends, co-workers and family members. We hand-wash all the cars and, if I may say so myself, we do a fine job for only a love donation. Why not take advantage of this great opportunity to give your car a bath and to help a friend in need at the same time?

I look forward to seeing many of you!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hidden Blessings

Some of you might be aware that my 12-year-old son is now on his fourth day trying to leave Italy and get back home. Because of flight delays and cancellations which have made it impossible for him to make his connection, and given that he is an unaccompanied minor, the airline has refused until today to board him until they were sure he could have proper supervision during layovers. This situation has caused everyone a lot of frustration, but in the end, we will never know if all he went through happened for a reason unknown to us. When I mentioned that to someone, yesterday, they said: ‘Well, the flight he was initially scheduled to be on reached destination without incidents, so I can’t imagine what the reason would be.”

Truth is that things aren’t always what they seem. Yes, the flight arrived – even if late -- but what if we had gone somewhere after his arrival and something happened then? Of course, that’s just a supposition, but I deeply believe that many situations are averted every day without us even knowing. When anything unpleasant occurs, it is always very difficult to see the hidden blessings. The people whose alarms didn’t work - or whose cars broke down - the morning of 9/11, were probably very angry, and didn’t realize their fortune until they heard what happened. We may misplace our car keys and spend thirty minutes looking for them. Meanwhile, thanks to that delay we might have missed getting into a traffic accident. We may be upset because we haven’t been hired for a job position we wanted; yet, if we had, we might have missed a better opportunity that was right around the corner. Going through this ordeal reminded me of a story someone e-mailed me some time ago, so I am including it in this post.

“Two angels were traveling the country, occasionally seeking food and shelter during their journey. They came upon a very poor farm, and asked for shelter. The farmer and his wife shared the little food they had, and offered their bed so the tired strangers could sleep comfortably. Early after the sun had risen, the two Angels were awakened by the farmer and his wife weeping. Their only cow, whose milk was their sole wealth, had died during the night. The younger Angel became angry, and asked the older spirit why he would let this poor man’s cow die. The older Angel replied: “Things aren’t always as they seem. When we were down in the basement, I saw gold hidden behind the wall, so I patched the hole to hide the fortune away from the greedy owner. Last night, while we were sleeping, I saw the Angel of Death coming for the farmer’s wife. I asked him to take the cow instead.” ~Author unknown

As all gifts, blessings come in many packages. Some are very obvious and colorful, while some others are so subtle that we don't even recognize them for what they are.
Each moment in our lives is a perfect moment, whether we do or don’t realize its value. Through our experiences we grow, learn, become better people; for some, the most meaningful gifts have come from the difficult moments they have survived.
As we are reminded by the older Angel, things aren’t always as they seem. Even the worst tragedy or the most annoying occurrence may hold the seed of our greatest blessing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Power of Being

“I cannot tell you any spiritual truth that deep within you don't know already. All I can do is remind you of what you have forgotten.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Since the early days in the history of our world, mankind has been on an endless search of the self and God. Going back to ancient times, our need to connect to someone or something higher than ourselves has inspired individuals to create complicated rituals aimed at reaching a higher consciousness.

In many cases, the universal need of establishing a connection has been exploited by institutions to exercise control over the masses and serve the personal agendas of a few. This process has been made possible by a far-spreading propaganda which has painted God as an inaccessible entity one must seek without, even if the Bible itself (Luke 17:21) teaches us that the kingdom of God is within us.

Our first step to finding God within is through acceptance – not necessarily acceptance of situations but of the way we feel about them. We spend a great portion of our lives fighting the wave, and rejecting the simple truth of just being. Once we overcome our obsession of controlling how everything should be, we allow our experiences to manifest directly from the mind of the Creator, pure and unspoiled by human assumptions.

If we can get to the point of looking at another form of life and just feel love toward it before our mind has the chance to add labels and shelve what’s in front of us within the compartments of an illusionary life hierarchy, what we experience in that moment is God’s love – unconditional, all-serving and powerful. Labels are created by the ego because of its desperate need to quantify something which cannot be quantified. An absence of labels robs the moment of illusion and leaves only the pure essence of it.

According to the Flower Sermon, toward the end of his life the Buddha took his disciples to a quiet pond for instruction. As they had done in the past, the followers sat in a small circle around him, and waited for the teaching. But this time the Buddha had no words.

He reached into the muck, pulled up a lotus flower and he held it silently before them, its roots dripping mud and water. The disciples were greatly confused. Buddha quietly displayed the lotus to each of them, and in turn the disciples did their best to understand the meaning of the flower, without much success. When at last the Buddha came to his follower Mahakasyapa, the disciple suddenly understood. He smiled and began to laugh. Buddha handed the lotus to Mahakasyapa and began to speak. “What can be said I have said to you,” smiled the Buddha, “and what cannot be said, I have given to Mahakashyapa.” Mahakashyapa became Buddha’s successor from that day forward.

There are no labels to describe the energy of God, or Its power, just as there are no labels to properly describe who or what anything is. Simply being sets us free from the chains of illusion and the kingdom of ego.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Welcome to the Jungle...

I have always wondered what walking into a rain forest would feel like, and I have even gone as far as comparing that type of excitement to the adrenaline shot of venturing into a strange city. Yesterday, I entertained yet another thought: how has my daughter’s room come to resemble both of those places? After postponing cleaning out her bedroom and play area for a while – I think that’s part of the survival instinct to avoid something that can mean sure loss into the impenetrable – I woke up yesterday morning determined to organize those rooms. Pretty sure I was going to need a gun or a machete to make my way through, but not wanting to scare the kids on my way up, I instead grabbed a handful (a big one!) of large garbage bags and headed toward her room.

I entered Morgan’s room with a slightly elevated heartbeat, my body already knowing I was going to need extra coffee to undertake this task. The scene unfolding in front of my eyes was the mother of all jungles and could put the Big Apple to shame: toys were staring at me from every inch of the floor, as if daring me to come in; her bed was covered in little scraps of drawing paper she had shredded an hour before for a project, and her desk was covered by so many knick-knacks that I couldn’t tell the color of the plastic underneath. I took a deep breath and walked in, ignoring the evil stare of toys stubbornly guarding the entrance to the area under her bed. That was another reality altogether, which I wasn’t all too eager to enter yet.

I made my way to the bed and sat down, trying to figure out where I was going to start. I got rid of the scraps of paper, and put her unworn clothes back into the closet, barely making a dent. A decision had to be made and I needed to figure out something fast before she got back. I tried to think about what she would not miss, what she no longer used, and I continued coming up with a blank. All those toys, once I picked them up, brought something nice back to mind, and I had a hard time throwing them out; even giving them to charity, I felt like I was discarding memories. This approach wasn’t working, until I thought of a different way to tackle the problem…

What if, rather than selecting things she no longer needed, I focused on deciding which things she actually had a use for? Were there a few toys she absolutely couldn’t do without, that she played with every day? Were there any knick-knacks that were particularly dear to her heart or mine?

Feeling a solution was finally dawning, I looked around the room to collect the irreplaceable – a stuffed tiger she had since babyhood, a few board games she loves to play on rainy days, her art supplies, Hello Kitty and her clothes, and a few other pieces of memorabilia. After setting those objects to the side, I looked again, to make sure I hadn’t missed anything important; then, I opened the bags and, one at a time, I filled them without even looking. Very soon, the impenetrable jungle looked like a manicured garden.

I left the room completely satisfied, and Morgan never even missed the things I took out. In fact, she walked into her room and clapped her little hands, saying that everything looked great. Never once did her thoughts wander to the myriad of happy meal toys in a basket under her bed, or to the dress-up set she HAD to have last year and had quickly outgrown. She didn’t miss those things because she never really cared for them; they were just there, an unseen part of her room décor or lack of.

Cleaning Morgan’s room made me think of how many times we focus our energy on deciding what we need to remove from our lives to make them work, when instead it would be so much easier to think of what we need in them and rid ourselves of the rest that no longer serves us. Humans are hoarders by nature, regardless if the loot is toys, clothes or merely emotions and past experiences. Surely we can approach a cleansing by picking up each individual thing and looking at it again, but most likely, we will only pick it up, find a reason to keep it, and end up just as cluttered as we were in the first place. Sometimes, spring cleaning starts with a simple assessment of what we can’t do without; the rest we can always send to Goodwill.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ghost Walk, by Brian Keene -- A Book Review

Skeptical about rumors of LeHorn’s Hollow being a haunted ground, a local hunter stumbles into a circles of old stones etched with strange, ancient-looking symbols. Excited by his find – and hoping these stones will prove to be a priceless archeological discovery – Rich digs one of them out. Unbeknownst to him, Noden, the living darkness who lay trapped beyond the gate kept sealed by the circles of sacred stones, is now able to reach out through the opening. In order for Noden and his minions to completely come out and destroy life, all the stones must first be removed by unsuspecting humans. Noden patiently waits to make his grand entrance at midnight on Halloween night, when the veil between the two worlds is at its thinnest. His plan is incidentally facilitated by Ken Ripple, a grieving widower whose goal is to build a ghost walk in memory of his late wife right in LeHorn’s Hollow. Only one person can stop Noden – Levi Stoltzfus was raised in an Amish family, but he abandoned his faith long ago to embrace a much wider truth. Levi is powerful, and aided by Spirit, yet he cannot act alone. With the help of Maria, a young journalist, and a novelist who’s dealt Noden’s minions before, Levi embarks on a journey against time to fight the forces of darkness.

As the hunter was skeptical about the rumors surrounding LeHorne’s Hollow, I must admit I was a bit skeptical about this story in the beginning. Usually unimpressed with most New Age fiction, I sat with this novel for less than thirty minutes before I became so engrossed in it that I didn’t want to put it down.

I immediately connected with Levi, and really appreciated the standpoint of Maria, the young journalist. I also found it quite endearing that this book linked, somewhat, to another favorite of mine, the Necronomicon; while unrelated to it, this story conveys some of the same information in a not-so-ominous fashion.

The writing style is pleasant and flows unrestricted. While I am not familiar (yet) with Brian Keene’s other works, I was quite impressed with Ghost Walk, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fiction sprinkled with a good dose of magick and small town lore.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Perfect Afternoon

If one could write a recipe for the perfect afternoon, yesterday had all the right ingredients. After the baby-sitter arrived – to Morgan’s delight, since she adores her – I drove to Goldsboro for a book signing hosted by Wall2Wall Photography. While the sky appeared a bit crossed, the tears were stubbornly held back, and I enjoyed a rain-free trip. When I got there, two ladies – Elaine and Sherrill – were already there, and I parked behind one of their cars.

The next couple of hours were terrific. Some of Julie’s friends from her day job stopped by, purchased books and offered interesting conversation. The food was great – Sherrill, those Amaretto cookies were to die for! – the wine delightful and sweet, and all along we enjoyed a background of wonderful New Orleans Blues. To add to the magic, Julie’s family was there, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking to them.

After a while, one lady had to leave and my car was blocking her way, so I got my keys and went outside to move it. I initially thought of backing out all the way, but then I had this crazy thought of pulling over the side a bit and let her squeeze through. Well, squeeze she did, but my pulling to the side took a whole new meaning when I forgot that there was no side – I nicely backed into a drain ditch. Not even aware of it in the beginning, I was puzzled when my car didn’t move and thought I was stuck in the mud, until I got out and saw that the right back tire was airborne over the ditch.

We all stood there hoping to come up with a solution, when Julie’s husband decided to get his tractor and pull my car out. It only took a moment for him to pull the car and have it with all four tires on the ground. The moment we got back on the porch, a powerful storm approached; we barely made it under cover before the sky opened in a downpour.

The little “ditch accident” could have put a damper on the perfect afternoon, but once I totaled the facts, it was easy to see that nothing had happened – I was fine, the car was fine, Julie’s newly-planted Monkey Grass wasn’t even disturbed, and we had escaped the rain just in time. When the storm subsided a bit, it was time for me to head back home. As I drove, I thought back about the car in the ditch, and wondered if there was a silver lining to the little dark cloud. It wasn’t until I got closer to home that the answer to my question popped up.

Allowing minor trouble to come in and spoil our day is an easy thing to do, but it is something we can surely control. We can’t always be in charge of circumstances, but we always own our thoughts and the way we respond to challenges. The car in the ditch could have been something completely annoying, but we were able to turn it around and laugh about it, adding one more piece to an already beautiful puzzle. Life happens, but if we can strive to turn a negative into a positive, it can always be a fun adventure.