Many Endings

On this New Year’s Eve, when many of us are thinking of new beginnings, I am thinking of the many endings encountered in 2015.  While the year has held many joys, we have experienced much tragedy and grief in our personal lives, as part of our community, in our nation, and throughout our world. Typically, I’m the type of person who is able to muster optimism and rally the troops, but I find that I am unable to summon hope right now.  What I am thinking about, instead, are family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and pets gone too soon–before we were ready.  But are we ever ready?  When should the last breath be?  Of what should the last conversation consist?  How should the last interaction go?

As humans, we are blessed and cursed with cognizance of our own mortality.  We know we have limited time on Earth, yet we blindly deceive ourselves into thinking that the time is unlimited.  We choose to ignore the possibility of our own demise and happily pretend that our loved ones are permanent fixtures in our lives.  While these attachments are certainly the stuff of life, and good ones at that, they also lull us into a lack of awareness of just how precious each interaction, conversation, and being is.  We don’t reflect on our carelessness in the grocery checkout line, lack of listening to our children, inaction in response to a homeless person in need, lack of interest in the education of girls in Afghanistan, or harsh words to our spouse; we assume we will have more time or someone else will take care of things.  Wake up!

Each moment is a gift.  Is the argument with your [fill_in_the_blank] worth spending the next few days fuming, or is it your pride that’s hurt?  Do you really need the extra five dollars in your purse, or could someone else really use it?  Must you really get that last parking space, or would it make someone’s day to have it offered up?  How do you want to spend your precious time on this planet?

When I look back over the last year and wonder where the time went, I realize that my best moments were spent when I was present–talking, laughing, meditating, sharing, even doing chores, but in a mindful way.  While I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, there is something to be said for having a date that marks a clean start.  Thus, in 2016, I will endeavor to be more present and mindful, especially in my interactions with others.  In order to cultivate these relationships, I’ve decided to leave Facebook and Twitter.  While I find social media incredibly useful with many benefits, I also find that I waste far too much time that could be better spent in a more productive and fulfilling way.  It will be tough; I love to see status updates, family pictures, and funny videos, and my ego is stroked with “likes” and re-posts.  Instead, I’ll stick to the therapeutic effects of writing on the blog and connecting one-on-one with people.

In closing, I’d love to connect with you via email (, text, phone, snail mail, blog comments, or in person.  My wish for 2016 is that we all wake up moment-to-moment and savor each amazing experience.  Much love and hope to you for a year filled with beautiful beginnings!Hope-2-570x379


Can two weeks change your life?

imageSince my last post, I have…been offered an opera role in a summer program, discussed the possibility of teaching a course at a university and another two at local community colleges, and been considered for a conductor’s position in Tanzania for a recorded new composition.  (I am noting the irony that I mentioned Tanzania in my last post.) Holy cannoli! My last post was on March 15th, and it is now March 31st.  In the immortal words of the Stones, “Time is on my sIde.”

So the question of the day is, “Have you ever considered the power of time?” One moment, I’m ready to forsake opera entirely due to the ongoing rejections and lack of audition responses.  The next moment, I am offered a choice role. Similarly, one minute, I am considering going back to school for yet another degree, but the next minute, I am asked to teach those very classes.

I am amazed by people and life everyday.  I am also astounded by the connections made in the past that continually resurface.  Karma is not simply a spiritual or religious concept; it is the real, day-to-day, reaping-what-you-sow.  Did you work hard? You’re typically prepared. Are you friendly and helpful? Someone will pick you up when you need it.

Listen, this blog is simply someone rambling about life, but I hope it inspires you to think about what’s important and every person, experience, and moment that shapes who you are and how you fit in the world. My challenge to you is to ask yourself whether two weeks could change your life?  You might be surprised.

What Is Important?

It occurs to me that I care far too much about what others think of me.  I recently spent a week on a wilderness spring break, not necessarily roughing it as I’ve done when backpacking, but definitely away from people, technology, Internet and cell phone coverage, and cozy amenities, like hot water for a shower.  I wasn’t using the orange shovel, but you get the idea.  I realized that while I was gone, my best moments were sitting under the stars in silence, explaining to my son why backpacking with his father for the first time was one of my fondest memories, encouraging my daughter to never say, “I can’t,” and having her dad respond with, “Your mom never says, ‘I can’t,'” beaching and anchoring a giant houseboat as a team with my husband, and thinking I was beautiful despite, or perhaps because of, the lack of mirrors, make-up, hair products, and social media.

When I’m in my usual routine, I worry myself with whether I’m measuring up–working enough, mothering enough, producing enough, looking good enough, etc.  For what?  For whom?  In nature, all you have to concern yourself with is food, clothing, shelter, and, perhaps if there’s time and energy, some entertainment.  This absolute need to take care of yourself and those with you drives your focus and makes anything else not only peripheral, but entirely irrelevant.

But what do I do when necessity isn’t driving every decision?  I obsess over details that are utterly ridiculous–son missed practicing spelling words last night, car has tree sap on the hood that needs cleaned, daughter likes playing with pretend makeup, I’m having a bad hair day, dog needs a bath, kids had too many chips this weekend, garage is in desperate need of organizing, and on and on and on.  WHO CARES?!?!

While the title of this post might indicate the importance of love, family, friends, and other top-tiered concepts in Maslow’s hierarchy, I’m talking about the foundation of that hierarchy.  It’s incredibly important for us as humans, if we are so fortunate to not be in need of basic human needs, to make ourselves in need every once in awhile.  Go camping.  Don’t use hot water.  Only cook with whole foods over a fire.  Get someplace by your own means–walk, run, swim, bike, or paddle (unless you can flap).  You get the idea.  Then, reflect on your attention.  I guarantee that it has changed.

While I am passionate by nature and tend to wax and wane depending upon the circumstance, I can tell you that every time I return to nature, I suddenly realize my insignificance in the world and my desperate need to simply take it all in and stop wasting my time on minutiae, like whether I missed a meeting or was turned down by an audition.

You owe it to yourself to get out of your everyday routine and experience life.  It is amazing.Image