Laugh…

“Laugh, even when you feel too sick or too worn out or tired.

Smile, even when you’re trying not to cry and the tears are blurring your vision.

Sing, even when people stare at you and tell you your voice is crappy.

Trust, even when your heart begs you not to.

Twirl, even when your mind makes no sense of what you see.

Frolic, even when you are made fun of.

Kiss, even when others are watching.

Sleep, even when you’re afraid of what the dreams might bring.

Run, even when it feels like you can’t run any more.

And, always, remember, even when the memories pinch your heart. Because the pain of all your experience is what makes you the person you are now. And without your experience—you are an empty page, a blank notebook, a missing lyric.

What makes you brave is your willingness to live through your terrible life and hold your head up high the next day. So don’t live life in fear. Because you are stronger now, after all the crap has happened, than you ever were back before it started.” ―Alysha Speer

How This Jewish American Wiccan “Celebrates Christmas”…

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How This Jewish American Wiccan “Celebrates Christmas”

In the very near future, I will be spending a huge chunk of my time in Israel. It will be nice not having to explain holidays to anyone or explaining why Christmas is just another day to me. For now, in the suburbs of a predominantly Irish and Italian neighborhood with a good 20 churches in pretty much every direction I turn (I wish I was exaggerating), I am still explaining myself. I have no idea why people still think their religion is the only one that exists on this planet. I’ll never understand it!

I am completely respectful of other people’s religious beliefs and their holidays, so long as I am not subjected to them in a means to try and convert me, but my spiritual beliefs and holidays are often met with some extremely disturbing questions, as opposed to the few I have received recently that were honest, curious, and filled with excitement for knowledge. They were by no means offensive. When a person is open and honest, and interested, it makes it so much easier for me to be me, as opposed to feeling like I have to repress my thoughts.

A few weeks ago someone wished me a “Merry Christmas” and received my usual response, which is that I do not celebrate Christmas. This is someone whose establishment I frequent once or twice a month, and not only did she look like I’d just kicked her, but she came over to make sure she hadn’t offended me. I had to explain that I celebrate Chanukah and Yule, and that I am not Catholic or Christian. She was incredibly confused, but she came over to make sure she hadn’t offended me with a wish for a good holiday. Me, I simply like to be clear with people. I am not trying to offend anyone, but if you’re going to wish me well, wish me properly. Don’t make assumptions and please, don’t tell me I “don’t look Jewish”. I don’t even know how to answer that one without telling you off, and because I come from a rich ancestral well of knowledge and an incredibly deep DNA pool, I can assure you that we come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. We are all distinctly unique, some more than others.

Growing up, Christmas was not a word used much in our home. Not for any other reason than the simple fact that we’re Jewish. We had many Christian and Catholic friends, some who understood and some who did not, that we ourselves did not celebrate the same holiday, nor did we share the same spiritual or religious beliefs that they did. It is extremely disturbing to me that in 2013, any Jew still has to explain themselves.

People like to quote the Bible at me, and they are generally New Testament folk. They’re the kinds of people that don’t realize exactly how “new” the New Testament really is. I, myself, do not adhere to anything outside of the Old Testament. Even that kind of loses me at times. Prayer is an amazing thing, but I like to stick to my own path when it pertains to anything of a spiritual nature. I am not trying to change or convert anyone.

Today is simply December 25th to me. It’s not a holiday, but it IS my Great-Uncle’s birthday. He passed away 15 years ago, but I still remember him very clearly. I remember the last things he ever said to me, and I remember how silent this time of year became after he passed away. For several years prior to his passing, myself and two other family members would try to spend the day with him. Even though he had long since stopped acknowledging his own birthday, he still loved going out to a nice restaurant and enjoying good food, good company, and he told stories like nobodies business. They’re the kinds of stories you want to hear from someone over the age of 80, because you know that no matter how much time passes, you will never hear such stories again.

After he passed away, the tradition maintained in my home on Christmas Day was movies and good food. Either we went to the movies and came home to a really great meal, or we stayed home with a pile of movies and made a meal together. Almost always, it was homemade Italian food from scratch, or Chinese food from the best place in the area.

To know me is to know that I make killer Italian food. It’s something I love doing, but I am just as comfortable making Asian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, and pretty much anything else that I have mastered in all my years of cooking. Nothing is impossible, but I am an epic lasagna failure. It’s the only thing I make that falls apart, so I’ve stopped doing it. It is never inedible, it just never does what it’s supposed to do. Despite a family recipe for veggie lasagna that has been passed down for four generations, I completely and utterly suck at it. It’ll probably be another ten years before I attempt it again. It takes time and patience, and we all know I have no patience.

Over time I have found that people really seem to be offended whenever I clarify that I do not celebrate Christmas. They look at me like I kick puppies, torture kittens, steal winning lottery tickets, and am just, on a whole, not a good person. I look at them with the knowledge that, for over 5000 years, my people have not celebrated Christmas. It’s not on our calender and it’s not in our religious texts. It’s perfectly ok to not share the same religious beliefs. If we did, we’d be living in some kind of bizarre utopia. That’s not a world I can imagine functioning in. Differences make the world go ‘round. We can either choose to come together and learn from one another or we can continue fighting in the name of religion. The choice, however, is generally not ours to make because those that govern our respective countries are a huge part of why organized religion is failing. I could go on, but I won’t, or I assure you, I will offend you.

One year a family friend (one of my brother’s best friends at the time), on leave from the Army, wanted me to convince my brother to come to midnight mass with him. I, personally, do not spend time in churches. It has never been my thing. My brother politely declined, but as his friend became more insistent he finally said “Look, there’s a Jew hanging from a cross in no less than 7 places in there. With that track record, I don’t care to be the sacrifice sometime between midnight and 2 a.m.” We ALL laughed, and no one was offended.

This very same friend asked us about Christmas trees, genuinely wanting to know “If we put up Christmas trees, what do Jewish people do?” Never one to miss an opportunity, I turned around and said “We put up a Chanukah Bush, John.” He nodded and said “Oh, ok.” I said absolutely nothing for a few minutes, everyone was in on it because they’d heard me do this little bit before. Finally, after suppressing serious laughter to the point where I almost hurt myself, I admitted to him that I was just fucking around with him, that there was no such thing as a Chanukah Bush (though I admit, I know some people that put one up because they love Christmas trees, but don’t celebrate Christmas). Again, laughter ensued. You have to really know me to know that I will joke like that with the people that know me best, and that, while inappropriate to some, I am careful what I say in mixed company because I don’t go out of my way to be hurtful to others. I do like to be very clear though, that’s just my way. Humor and clarity.

Approximately 11 ½ years ago, Wicca was introduced to me. It is the perfect blend of a nature based religion steeped in Kabbalistic teachings. Kabbalah is Jewish Mysticism. If you don’t know what that is, use a search engine. That will explain it more clearly for you.

For me, Wicca was like coming home. It was pretty much everything I had been raised around, especially a love for animals and nature, and the elements. Part of the Wiccan Rede is “An it harm none, do as ye will”. There is no governing body, you govern yourself, and the Wiccan Rede tells you “So long as you are not harming anyone, do as you will. Live your life.” It is laid back and calm, and it brings an extra level of peace to my life. Even my Rabbi is comfortable with my spiritual beliefs. He’s one of the most open people I have ever met, so I feel supremely comfortable being myself and speaking my mind around him. Until I met him, I had NEVER been in the presence of a man of God and not felt judged. However, my Rabbi is unique. He too, is from a foundation of “You’re not harming anyone by being you. Live your life.” In this, I always feel incredibly blessed.

Almost all of my friends are religiously different than I am, and that is beyond ok. I am not sitting in judgement of them or their beliefs. I want them to be their authentic selves, and I can only hope they want the same for me. I have friends that are Jewish and friends that are Wiccan, so I don’t feel spiritually deprived in any sense of the word. We should all celebrate what we believe in and do so with those we love. We should wish the people in our lives well EVERY DAY, not just during the month of December.

So Lisa, exactly how does a Jewish American Wiccan “celebrate Christmas”? Simply put, I don’t. I ignore the insanity of my neighbors, all of whom DO celebrate Christmas, and I go about my day. I will bake Cranberry Orange scones for breakfast, I will do laundry and maybe enjoy a movie. I will play with my fuzzy little Princess. Later on, I will be making a nice meal for the family I am spending my day with. I might even get some writing finished, if I’m feeling up to it. Basically, anything goes. It’s just another quiet day for me. After years and years spent taking care of others, quiet days are something I really treasure.

Wishing you & yours a beautiful holiday season.

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Learning To Love Our Bodies

Learning To Love Our Bodies

http://celebritybabies.people.com/2013/08/14/garcelle-beauvais-blog-learning-to-love-our-bodies/

I’ve been meaning to share this blog for quite some time now. It breaks my heart that any child would ask if raisins are fattening. I openly admit to having an image problem, but I can tell you that it did not start until I left gymnastics and it didn’t begin at home. In fact, I never saw anything wrong with myself physically (except for obvious things that all girls find issue with at one time in their life or another) until people started pointing my flaws out left and right. All of a sudden, I was avoiding mirrors and wouldn’t purchase new clothes.

As women, we make this worse. Instead of building each other up, we tear each other down. It’s disgusting and I don’t want to be a part of that. If I think someone is beautiful, be it inner or outer beauty (occasionally it is both, but not all the time,), then I find absolutely nothing wrong with saying it. That doesn’t mean I want to be in a relationship with them, it simply means I’m not blind.

Zero and Double Zero are not sizes, even if that’s your “natural weight”. It should not be anyone’s goal of perfection because perfection is an illusion. Be yourself. Be comfortable in the skin you’re in because you’re going to be in that skin for a very long time. Be kind to yourself and try to achieve self-acceptance, because it’s so much easier than “perfection”.

100 symptoms of Fibromyalgia

For everyone who makes it sound like Fibromyalgia will get better or simply go away. Nice try. Making a photocopy of this for future reference.

My Writing Roots

My Writing Roots

We all start somewhere, especially in terms of writing. My roots are steeped in tradition in the sense that I come from a family well versed with the written and spoken word. I, myself, have a way with words. There’s not a lot I won’t say. I’m direct, I have no time for bullshit, I speak the exact same way that I write, but I wasn’t always like that.

At an extremely young age, I was painfully shy and introverted. My extroverted self only “came out to play” when she was completely comfortable with those around her. There had to be a measure of trust, and even still, I held back a lot. Today, I am an introverted extrovert, but I’m also an extremely dominant personality. I can’t even begin to count the times the word “intimidating” has been used to describe me. The people that know me best know that I’m actually not like that, but it’s something I can turn on in an instant. We all have built-in mechanisms we use when dealing with others. If I have to amp up my intimidation factor, I go with it. Dumbing myself down and playing the pathetic card aren’t things I do very well, which is probably one of the reasons I’m single. What can I say? I didn’t major in drama, and I’m not an actress. To quote another Scorpio woman, “I’ve never faked it for a man, and I’m not going to fake it for anyone else.” Exactly.

I started writing as an alternative form of communication. I’d been given a school assignment at the time and I put it off for as long as humanly possible, until my mother was finally clued in that this assignment was way past due, and my Mom, God Rest & Bless Her Soul, was not the type to let her kids fail. She also never sugarcoated anything. If I had no talent in any area, she’d tell me not to quit my day job. If I had talent in an area, she was the first person to tell me to run with it. More parents should be that way.

I was convinced I did not have the ability to do said assignment, but my mother said “Honey, you’re over-thinking this. Just write what you think and write what you feel. If someone doesn’t like it, that’s their problem. You’ve still done the assignment and given it your best.” It was a very simple, honest statement, but it was as if she’d opened some kind of gateway for me, and in many respects, I know that she did. How many parents ever tell their children to say what they think and feel?! None that I know, but she opened a door that day, a door that has always remained wide open for me. I’ve been writing ever since.

I might have been kind of raw initially, but that grew into talent and ability very quickly. People commented on it, people took notice, and I started winning small awards. I was known for the fact that I was a writer, and I was also known for the fact that keeping my mouth shut when a voice needed to be heard wasn’t high on my list of priorities.

As I previously said, I was quiet, shy, and observant. Most writers are great observers of others, as well as observers of behavior and body language. I immediately realized that people responded to my opinionated take on all things, and I went with it. That eventually led to me operating my own “by-subscription-only” publication. It was not a magazine, but it wasn’t a flimsy joke either. A year into that project I was faced with a decision, realizing I could not run two publications simultaneously, and soon found myself the founder & President of a non-profit fan organization specializing in an individual’s athletic career (and at this point, I say “athlete” with a very thinly veiled cough. I’m not naming names. If I did, you’d throw rotting fruit at his house. I’m actually all for that, really. I’d be happy to give you his name and address. Ok, so I’m actually too classy to do that, but I’d still love to see someone hit him with an over-ripe tomato, or 400.).

I did everything from dealing with fans one-on-one, to handling personal appearances. Public & Fan Relations is no joke. I was also responsible for a fan based publication, which went out to roughly three thousand people all over the world at a time at its height (yeah, the post office loved me!). Sounds like no big deal, but it is, especially when you have to write more than half of it, do the layout and design, approve everything for print, and take it all by hand to the copier yourself. I had gotten to the point where I was turning people down because membership was out of control. If someone hadn’t said to me one day “You’re far too talented to be working for the likes of this asshole. You need to be doing your own thing, promoting yourself and your own work.”, I might still be in that job, which is still one of the most under-appreciated, but mind-blowingly amazing things I have ever created and done.

I did not have staff assisting me with any of that work. Not unless you count the fact that a handful of people submitted work, photos, and art for the publication, most of which had to be re-written, re-vamped, heavily edited, etc. And don’t get me started on all of the fan mail, because I answered all of it, every single bit of correspondence, myself. Not in a “form letter” kind of way, but in the most personal, professional way I knew how. I would never have been able to grow if it had not been for the fans, for word of mouth, for people being hooked on the work I produced. The work was mine. Every single second of hard work was mine, and mine alone, and in turn, people tried copying it. Many took my hard work and did exactly that without offering me so much as a “Would this be ok?”, and they quickly found out that the word “copyright” isn’t a lame or tame expression, it means “I own this, don’t F!@# with it.” True writers and artists do not appreciate or respect theft of their work. Plagiarizing someone else’s hard work because you yourself possess not an ounce of talent is cowardly, pathetic, and a host of other things I am lady enough not to say here.

After many, many years of this work, which resulted in carpal tunnel syndrome, migraines, and ulcers, I then went through a series of personal & professional loss, and I had to take a step back. That step turned out to be a huge step away, a step I needed. It was a huge turning point.

Time doesn’t heal everything, but it can certainly help you see clearer than you’ve ever seen, to the point where you say “I’m done.” The only difference is, I meant it. I was done being unappreciated, I was done with the severe lack of respect, I was done catering to people who only wanted to get closer to what I had earned. It’s an extremely unattractive thing, riding someone else’s coat-tails. I went from being a sought after friend & advisor to having just a handful of people left in the world that I valued. More would continue to slip away, but after a while, you no longer think about it any more. It’s done, it’s the past, and I don’t spend a lot of time looking back.

At that particular point in time I chose a different career path and even started writing a book about my experiences in the new career. I had a lot of things I wanted to accomplish there, and only in the last year did I discover that someone else came up with a similar idea and is now turning a profit on it, which just goes to show you that there’s some truth to the saying “Everything under the sun has already been thought of.”, and yet, I am still fiercely protective of my work and ideas. I’m a writer, I have to be.

I shelved the book after getting my degree, not because I couldn’t finish it, but because my father was losing what would be a 15 year battle with cancer. I couldn’t write, constantly be at the hospital, constantly care for my mother, and maintain a decent level of sanity. The day I got a phone call from an Emergency Room physician telling me to get to the hospital immediately, I was prepared for the worst.

I stood there with my family, my father out like a light in cardiac care recovery, as a doctor quietly told me that the cancer they THOUGHT they had gotten through multiple operations, through several rounds of radiation, and the experimental treatment that landed him in the hospital for over a month that didn’t rid him of cancer, but brought all of his heart problems to light, had spread throughout his body. She was a fine physician, truly, but the next year and a half was hell on my father & my family. In the middle of all this, my Mom became sicker than she had originally been, so it was a constant back & forth. I was pretty sure I’d never write again, and at that point, I didn’t care.

I knew for quite some time that I was going to lose my father young. I always knew he would never see me get my degree (I graduated between semesters so that I could be close at hand, just in case.), that he’d never walk me down the aisle, that he’d never get to see his Grandchildren. I’d known this to the depth of my soul for a very long time, and yet the morning the phone call came, I was prepared and unprepared, all in the same breath. When I had gotten the final notice that it was time to move him to hospice, I fought like a vicious animal over it, I refused to do it, until he finally agreed that it was time, he’d had enough. By then he could no longer speak, the only person who understood him was me, and it was an extremely upsetting time for all of us.

Right about that time I picked up a newly released CD at my local Target and these incredible lyrics popped right out at me from the CD jacket. I read them to my Mom and said “Do you think I could write the eulogy? Would that be ok?” Traditionally at Jewish funerals, even the most relaxed, laid back ones, the only person who speaks is the Rabbi. I’ve always found it cold, a bit phoney, especially if the Rabbi doesn’t truly know the deceased, and I wanted to do something that I knew would honor my father when he eventually did pass away. It took me about two months to piece it together, and the night before the funeral I was up until way past my bedtime putting the finishing touches on it. It’s truly one of the finest things I have ever written, and I know I not only made my father proud that day, but I pretty much brought the house down. People who’ve known me my entire life came up to me afterwards and said “I had no idea you could write like that!”

I remember e-mailing my best friend a copy and she was so floored by what I’d written. Unable to be present herself for the funeral, we immediately made plans for her to be present for the unveiling the following year, not knowing that my mother would pass away five months later, making her even more intent on being present, because she knew & loved my mother.

I gave the eulogy at my mother’s funeral as well. A cousin I don’t really speak to came up to me afterwards and said “Ypu have a real gift, you should do something with it.” Yeah, because my incredibly expensive degree is just plain useless!! Backwards comments are so insulting.  For my parents’ unveiling, I gave an 11 page speech to my best friends (my brother’s & my own) and the few family members that deigned to show up who I share blood with, and not much else. My Aunt being the exception in the family, we’re very close and I love & respect her. I absolutely adore my Rabbi as well, and he has been an immense support from day one. He too encourages my progress as a writer.

It was right around that time that I started praying more than usual. I would often say “Mom, send me an idea I can work with. Send me something we’d both love to read.” My Mom was the person I shared books, music, movies, and TV with. We’d fight over books, we loved so many of the same things, and sometimes she’d read something and say “You could do this. You’ve got what it takes. Don’t box yourself in to a genre, you’re better than a lot of what’s out there.” Sometimes I wrote that off as my Mom being my Mom, and simply being proud of her daughter and believing in me, but eventually I did start believing that she was right. Most of the time, she was, so why couldn’t she be right about this as well?

One day, a tiny idea blossomed inside my head. I shook it off, but it became persistent and it was my mother’s voice basically saying “I like this. You can write it. Start typing, here’s an idea, see what you can do with it.”

I spent a lot of time after that writing, researching, and four months in I presented the first few chapters to my Aunt for her opinion, and because I desperately needed feedback I could trust, feedback not my own. She liked 90% of it and recommended some minor changes. A few months later I was back with the changes she had recommended and the additional chapters I’d been working on. She loved it, every bit of it, and said “You need to finish this. If I was flipping through this book in Barnes & Noble, I would buy it, and so would a lot of other people.”

Like my mother, my Aunt isn’t into the sugarcoating. If I lack the talent, I’m told I lack the talent, whereas when I’ve got it, I am encouraged to keep on pursuing it. She’s been that way with me my entire life, she’s never played games with my emotions or bullshitted me, so I respect her advice and value her opinion.

Book 1 has since received an official title, and despite being in re-writes, it will eventually be ready to be shopped around. When you begin a book and it’s not a stand-alone novel, it’s important to do the groundwork for future novels, and to think about the back story to your characters. I’ve got most of the series story-boarded out and I continue to write and do research on where the story will take you, what you will learn about each character, all while taking you on a believable adventure that you can get lost in. I, personally, prefer stories that, while fiction, are still pretty honest in the telling. There is a LOT of truth in the first book and in each of the books I have started writing chapters to. In many respects, these books are therapeutic in how they have helped me write out my anger and hostility about certain things, but also tell a story I believe in.

Writing hasn’t just given me my voice and a great deal of strength & confidence, but it’s also how I met my best friend, and many other friends that I am close to and would do anything for.

Marion found me through a mutual acquaintance when I was doing Public & Fan Relations. Four years into our friendship (this was before e-mail became so huge, believe it or not we actually wrote *gasp* letters to one another. And by “letter” I mean 6-20 page letters on a weekly basis. Marion blames me for the length, apparently I’ve got a lot to say. LOL.), she & her sister, who I am also friends with, flew here, though I was living in another state at the time, and spent a week visiting. We did everything from shop, goof off, laugh, enjoy great food, and I took them to the original Yankee Stadium where we took in their first official baseball game. It was a great week, despite the serious late July/early August heat/humidity, and we have been friends from day one. I have other friends that have also come in to my life through my writing and remained my friends through thick & thin, not caring what career change I may have made at any given time, but caring about who I am as a person, and knowing that at the end of the day, I say what I mean and I mean what I say, and that I am there for them no matter what, that my love and support will not waver. I can travel to a lot of places in this world and I have family in those countries, people who I’ve known for so long that they are closer to me than blood, and I think that’s a fabulous thing. Writing has gifted me with a lot, and I will always be grateful to my Mom for giving me the confidence to realize that this gift was in my arsenal.

So there you have it, my writing roots. Trust me when I say that as a writer, no matter what we may write about, we tell some of the best (true) stories.

We Should All W…

We Should All Work On This…

“1. Be Impeccable With Your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.”  ―Miguel Ruiz

Success…

Success

“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.”  ―Bessie Anderson Stanley

I dedicate this quote to my best friend Marion. You my dear have succeeded! XOXO.