Message from Beyond

One summer I signed up for six weeks of guided meditation. During the third-week session, I went deeper and deeper into the plumbless depths of my subconscious and became a bird. It was quite a shock. To top it off, I received instructions for living from another bird.

The bird made its instructions perfectly clear.

This all took place while I listened to music with delta waves, which are thought to bring on the deepest levels of sleep, relaxation and peace of mind during meditation. As I went deeper into my meditative state under the influence of the guide’s words and the delta waves, I found my befeathered self sitting in a tree that borders a fence in our backyard. Across from me, staring at me relentlessly, eyes boring into me, was a confident young bird also perched in a tree.

I was riveted by the power of our eye contact and telepathic connection across the yard from each other. The young bird then spoke to me. It was a profound, mystical, spiritual message: 

 “Back off, Mom.”

It was clear the young bird was my then 20-year-old daughter, Michele. She and I had relationship problems, largely because in my chronic anxiety I was always fearing for her safety. At the time, I was unconscious of it. But after this experience, I realized I did her no favors with my overprotectiveness and anxious hovering.

What her eloquent message relayed was that, emotionally and spiritually, she had her own tree separate from mine, and that I was to stay in my tree, and visit hers only when invited.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that.


“Love is patient and kind….It does not insist on its own way….”-1 Corinthians 13.4-7

Measure your blogging success.

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Relax.


I’ve wanted to be a famous writer since I was a teenager. It hasn’t happened yet and I’m seventy, so the outlook is bleak.

Some of my humorous articles were published in magazines about 30 years ago. My target audience was single working parents—SWOPs, I called them.  I actually was a SWOP, so I knew what I was talking about. For instance, one article covered the challenge of getting kids to school on time and yourself to work on time on weekday mornings. If you are, or ever were, a SWOP, you know how tricky this can be.

I shared my solutions with readers. For instance, I had my second-grader pick out the clothes she wanted to wear to school the night before, and lay them out on her chair. And she had to stick to her decision in the morning, or there would be a consequence. Threatening not to buy her a McDonald’s Happy Meal was usually effective, especially if she needed a piece in a set, like Papa of the Berenstein Bear figures. I had her decide what she wanted for breakfast the night before too, and set the table, maybe even pour the cereal and cover with Saran wrap, pour the juice…. Every saved step helped. Then in a flash of brilliance I suggested why not eat breakfast the night before too? That really saved a lot of time. The important thing was to make sure she ate breakfast after dinner.

And so forth. People enjoyed my columns. But after a year or so my SWOP life got so busy I ran out of time for writing and marketing my articles and gave it up. The need to focus on salaried work that covered rent money, medical insurance, and the like, and have time for my daughter, trumped having fun writing.  

I retired a few years ago and thought about trying to write for publication again, but the market in our digital age is even more saturated with aspiring writers than it was in my magazine days.

So I thought…why not blog? It sounded like fun. But I also admit to a secret hope my blog would go viral, and be so wildly popular and attract such a following that some publisher somewhere would be interested in putting out a collection of my brilliant posts.

That hasn’t happened yet either. Things with my blog have been pretty quiet. Quite the opposite of viral, and that’s putting it mildly. The other day I was feeling like a failure, pitifully unsuccessful, painfully discouraged. What’s the use? I thought. On my way out to the garden to eat worms, I vowed to quit blogging, to find something else to do with my talent, modest though it is.

But I gave it some serious thought, and what I decided was that rather than quit blogging, I would redefine success.

What is success, anyway? I had to take a long, hard look at that question and define what it looks like for me.  Not for somebody else. Success means different things to different people. And I decided that if I’m having fun when I’m writing, I’m successful. After all, what is more important than enjoying life? And if I’m enjoying myself, I am a successful blogger. If I had 10,000 followers but hated the process of writing, I would be unsuccessful. If I had one follower but was enjoying myself, then I’m successful. Well, maybe two followers. 

I do enjoy blogging. Sometimes I laugh out loud while I’m blogging away on the PC in our minuscule office. While I may have a tiny office, I have a big LOL. It booms out of the room and reverberates around our home, and my husband hears it wherever he is—in the living room, the garage, out in the yard…around the block if he’s jogging. He says it sometimes sounds like there’s more than one person in the room, like I’m having a party I didn’t invite him to.  

I get a lot of ideas for my blog when I’m grocery shopping or jogging or whatever. Sometimes they make me LOL. At first people stared at me and so I started wearing ear buds to make them think I’m talking to someone on my iPhone. I don’t want them to think I’m just some crazy senior. Anyway, let them laugh. I’m being a success. By enjoying myself and laughing I am stimulating chemicals in my brain called endorphins, which have been proven to reduce pain and stress and promote health. I’m making myself healthier. So I don’t mind so much if people stare at me when I laugh, but I do try not to fart.  

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I have some of my best blog ideas when I’m squeezing fruit in the grocery store.

One day I was squeezing and sniffing cantaloupes in Safeway and suddenly burst out laughing because I remembered my Victoria’s Secret misadventure. I walked in to all that pink and black silky-soft sexiness, feeling like a big old hippo in a pool full of dainty minnows. I was there because a friend told me they would measure me properly so I could find the correct size for my newly expanded senior body. A young svelte thing measured me in the dressing room. My band size was 44. I thanked her and told her I was going to go find a couple of bras, and she said “Oh, ma’am, the largest size we carry is 38.” I laughed, so I wouldn’t cry. I was humiliated, but eventually I wrote my popular post, “A Victoria’s Secret Reject.” No silky, naughty, X-rated lingerie for me. Back to Sears. (Sears might not be around for much longer. Then what?)

In the Tea and Coffee aisle I remembered the time I was in Kohl’s trying on sweaters, and brought a turtle neck on the sale rack into the dressing room. I put it on and when I looked in the mirror was shocked to see the neck of a bullfrog. My neck skin was being pushed up by the high, snug collar and hanging over it like a spare tire. I stifled a scream, but not quite totally, and heard the salesgirl outside ask “Are you all right in there, ma’am?” It was a depressing day for me, but in the end I laughed and wrote “Terror in the Dressing Room.”

Standing in the Pharmacy line I recalled a Girl Scout campout my daughter and I went to about 30 years ago, when she was five. We were all sitting around the campfire at night, and I related some little anecdote about my “ex-mother-in-law.” My daughter said, “Myrl wasn’t your mother-in-law, Mom. You and dad were never married.” I felt embarrassed and ashamed, but lightened up when delighted laughter burst out around the campfire. My resulting blog post was “Mother-Daughter Secret, Not.”

Standing in the checkout line, I remembered phone pranks my friends and I played when I was a kid, back in the Stone Age, before cell phones, when you had to be home to answer your phone, which was what we now call a “landline.” We would call and ask people if their refrigerator was running, and if they said yes we said “better go catch it.” Or we’d ask them to blow into the phone and then tell them “thanks, you just blew the bird turds off the line.” Those were the days.

It certainly makes grocery shopping more fun, thinking about funny things that have happened. I spend a lot of time pulling my cart out of the flow of traffic and writing ideas in my iPhone notes. And laughing. It makes jogging more fun, driving more fun, vacuuming more fun… I’m laughing right now, in fact, writing this very post. My husband just shouted from the living room, “Who the hell is in there with you?”

Now I have a difficult confession to make. Here comes the naked truth. The blog that you are reading right now (thank you!) has 60 followers. That’s an amazing number. Amazingly small, that is. There are millions of bloggers and readers in the WordPress blogosphere and only 60 of them follow my blog. Most of them are my friends, whose arms I twisted. I tell myself my work is good, but I’m just not much for social networking. That’s what you need to do to drum up blog followers. I know absolutely zip about SEO. (SEO is search engine optimization, by the way, the highly technical art of getting Google and Yahoo to direct searchers to your articles.) I don’t tie my blog in to Facebook, in fact I rarely post anything on my page.  I don’t tie it into Instagram because I don’t have an Instagram account, I don’t tweet about it because I’m not on Twitter.

I don’t do any of those things. I just write and enjoy myself and laugh in the grocery store and other inappropriate places. I will blog bravely on in obscurity, in the vastness of the blogosphere, like the humor-blogger version of John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness. Why stop, when I’m having so much fun?


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Scripture: What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? To gain 10,000 blog followers yet not have fun?


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The Power of Chocolate: Will looked horrified. “What kind of monster could possibly hate chocolate?”
― Cassandra ClareClockwork Angel

Moms and secrets, LOL

campfire-1031141_640I’ll always remember the night my daughter outed me while we were on a Girl Scout camping trip. Michele was eight when she joined Girl Scouts. I should say when we joined: I resolved to be involved. It was a big step for shy, self-conscious, anxious me. But I was a single working mother, without a lot of friends or extended family nearby, and Michele and I spent an awful lot of time with just each other. I knew I had to find more friendship and support, for both of us.

When Michele brought home a flyer that the Girl Scouts would be at her school to answer questions and enroll new members it seemed like a miracle. We went, read the flyers, walked around talking to leaders of various groups, and signed up. The two young moms who led our group were friendly and energetic and arranged for a lot of great activities. It was the right move.

We signed up for a summer camping trip at the beach. I was pretty nervous. I’m a recovering alcoholic, with thirty-two years of sobriety, but back then I had been sober for just a few years. Sobriety was still a new state of being for me and things got stressful and bumpy at times. They were smoothing out, but still I found the thought of hanging out with Girl Scouts daunting.  I felt deep down that I was different from the other moms. I didn’t’ quite belong in respectable society. And worse, I was afraid they would find out who I really was and reject me…and my daughter.

But we went. We carpooled and I really enjoyed Bev, the woman driving the van Michele and I rode in. I knew nothing about camping, but Bev was an expert. I followed her around and she told me what to do and I did it. It was a great system. She could set up a tent and cooking area and all the rest of it with her eyes closed.

After an afternoon swim for the girls and then dinner, we sat around the campfire roasting marshmallows and talking in the flickering firelight. After a while I screwed up my courage and told a story. It was about Michele’s Grandma Myrl, on her father’s side, and a huge crab.

Myrl was on a tourist crabbing boat in Alaska. A crab escaped confinement somehow and was crawling on the boat floor when it speeded up suddenly and raced straight toward Myrl. Somehow it ended up latching on to her glove.  “It was scary,” I told everyone. “In the photo it looked like it was dangling from my mother-in-law’s hand. But actually it was only latched onto her glove. Thank God the tour guide had given her gloves that were way too big!” You couldn’t see it in the photo, but there were inches of empty space between the tips of Myrl’s fingers and the huge claw.

Chuckles and murmurs and OMGs rose up around the campfire, and then Michele’s clear young voice rang out. “Grandma isn’t your mother-in-law,” she said matter-of-factly from her perch across the fire from me. “You and Dad were never married.”

I froze. Then I did what I always did, I focused on the negative, and from there I launched into my familiar, habitual catastrophic thinking. Now they knew, I thought, and they would reject me. I would be ostracized. Maybe I would be expelled from Girl Scouts. I wondered, do they even accept unwed mothers as members? I didn’t remember seeing anything about that on the form. Then my anxiety thoughts, that were gaining momentum and increasing in speed, were interrupted by a hearty, long-lasting group belly laugh that rang out around the fire, coming from moms and kids.

I relaxed. “Thanks for letting us know that, sweetie,” I said, to more laughter. And then the troop leader, a single mother like me, said, “I was never married to Lydia’s father either.” There was yet more laughter, and I laughed too, with great relief. I looked across and saw Michele laughing, and talking with her new friends. I leaned into an unfamiliar but very pleasant feeling that all was well.

That’s the night I learned that “normal” society is not uptight and boring and judgmental, as I had thought for years. It isn’t even normal, because normal doesn’t exist, except as a setting on a dryer. And I knew I was right where I belonged. With the Girl Scouts, and these awesome mothers and daughters.