Are you where you want to be?


Musings: Our Mortality

Yet another friend has returned to the great eternity.  Just over a year ago I dealt with the passing of five people who were close to me, some more than others.  Four of them died within a seven-week span, and the fifth, my dear church sister Susan, just two months after that.  At the time I remember feeling a sense of dis-ease, and although I have many spiritual tools and good friends to help me deal with this kind of thing, I was aware of “descending into greyness” and came to the conclusion that I was in a mild depression, which is not abnormal or alarming given the circumstances.

Last Thanksgiving, as Rich and I spent our now traditional week down in Orlando, I was on the computer and needed to make a rare (for me) foray into Facebook.  While there I found an entry by Rosa, the daughter of a dear old friend, Santiago.  Santiago was an engineer who I came to know very well, along with his wife Josefina, when I lived on the island of La Maddalena in Sardinia, Italy in the 70’s.  But more than an engineer, Santiago was an artist.  He painted using many mediums, he created exquisite mosaics, and he was a talented guitar player and writer.  Santiago was also my unofficial mentor, and he re-awoke my dormant Muse and I began writing and painting again.

Rosa’s posting was a photo of Josefina, and the caption read: “Here’s Mummy putting roses on Pappy’s tomb for his birthday.”  My hands froze over the computer keyboard as the significance of those words sank in.  I contacted Rosa immediately and she confirmed the sad news that Santiago had had a very serious stroke from which he had never recovered, and that he had passed last April.  Once the initial feelings of deep grief subsided, I was able to feel so grateful for his presence in my life and also for the fact that just two years ago my husband had gifted me with a week-long trip to Puerto Rico so that I could visit Santiago and Josefina and spend some wonderful time with them after about twenty five years of absence.

On our way home from that stay in Orlando, Rich and I stopped to visit with old friends from our time in Italy.  PA had been Richard’s Department Head on his first ship, U.S.S. Belknap (since decommissioned) in Gaeta, Italy in the mid-80’s, and then in the 90’s he had been his CO on another tour in Naples, Italy.  PA retired in the early 2000’s and on New Year’s Day 2006 he had a massive brain aneurism which robbed him of motor coordination and most speech.  He and Deb, his devoted wife, returned to live in DeBary, FL in 2007.  PA was wheelchair bound and had very little communication capability but when we visited them, which coincided with our Orlando trips each year, we could see that PA was “still there”.  Recognition and interest would flare in his eyes and we somehow knew that he appreciated our visit.

During the evening of 3 January 2013, we heard from Deb that PA was not long for this world and, in fact, he died in the early hours of the next day.  Yesterday we attended his funeral Mass and my husband was asked to speak about PA on behalf of the family.  As I heard Rich’s words of appreciation for this man, I was also drawn to my own place of gratitude – gratitude not only for PA and all he represented both as a a Naval officer and as a family man, and for the opportunity we had to know the whole family and be enriched by their presence in our lives, but also for life in general, the precious gift that it is, and for friendship and the gift that that is. I was also grateful that God had given us the opportunity to be present and supportive to our friends at their time of loss and deep personal grief.

As I remembered our last visit with Deb and PA, I then thought about the passing of my beloved soul-sister Cawne the week following Thanksgiving.  I will be writing a separated posting about Cawne because of the important place she held in my heart and in my life.  All that I will say here is that she was one of three people near and dear to me that I have lost recently all in the space of seven weeks.  That makes a grand total of eight losses in just over fourteen months.  I cannot help but wonder what is the “message” or the lesson behind all that loss, and I have been resting in the Creator’s loving arms about that.

There are three themes that have surfaced.  The first is that I have been prepared to carry this weight and, in dealing with my own grief, I have been able to support many people as they have journeyed through their grief. The second is related to my preparation as a spiritual director.  I firmly believe that I am being groomed to help others as they deal with their grief, to be a spiritual companion in this particular stage of peoples’ lives.  And the third is that I believe Creator is also teaching me about and gently bringing me closer to full acceptance of my own mortality.

And so as I close this blog I am also acutely aware that I want to write another blog dedicated to this particular topic.  So many people, in the Western world are scared to think about death and dying and live in a state of complete fear and denial of death, especially their own or that of their loved ones.  And yet death is the one thing that we are guaranteed to have to face in life.  Because of personal denial of the possibility of death and the general culture surrounding death in the Western world, many people are completely unprepared for the moment. Without being morbid,  I want to write about the subject so that whoever reads about it can choose to be somewhat prepared.

Self Nurturing: Sedona Massage

I received my first massage many years ago.  I was living in the UK at the time.  I believe it was sometime in the sixties and I discovered a small massage and facial salon had opened above a shop near my parents home.  I very tentatively booked an appointment and remember how my heart sang and I knew that I was hooked from the very first touch.  There is nothing quite like a massage for relaxation, de-stressing, pleasure, and coming home to yourself.  Massage does for the body what a deep relationship with God does for the soul.

I probably received one or two more massages during the next few years because I really couldn’t afford more than that.  Then, about five years later, I moved to Sardinia, Italy with my first husband and our two boys.  In 1970, we helped to open a large holiday village called Forte Village in the southern part of the island not far from the capital, Cagliari. 

There were many holiday agency reps working in the village and the two girls from the Swedish company, Vingresor, were extremely grateful for the “extra mile” that I went in order to help smooth difficulties for their customers.  They came to me one day and said they would like to show their appreciation in some tangible way and asked me what I would most like.  I knew they had their own massage therapist on call in the village, so I requested a massage.  They were gracious enough to gift me with a series of four massages, and my love affair with receiving massage was rekindled. Since then I have received many massages and eventually, when I was fifty three years young, I trained to become a massage therapist myself.  I feel as much joy giving massage as I do in receiving them.

Fast forward to April 2011.  As I mentioned in my previous posting Traveling-  Las Vegas & Sedona Rich and I enjoyed a wonderful visit to Sedona, AZ.  I knew that I wanted to receive a massage in Sedona because it is a place of natural healing and there are many alternative therapy healers in the town.  As Rich and I were settling into our condo, he checked out a file of information about various activities and points of interest in the area, and called my attention to an advertisement. The wording in the ad from Sue really spoke to my heart and soul, and I knew that this was who I would book my massage with.

A few days later found me in Sue’s studio.  Little did I know that I was about to have a very significant and life-changing experience.  For the next two hours Sue worked intuitively with my body.  I have never received a massage quite like it.  She used many different modalities during the course of the massage and I knew that something very special was going on, especially when she started chanting as she worked my heart chakra.  I remember thinking, “I hope she is going to tell me what that was about”, as I felt a kind of a “whooshing out” feeling from my chest.  Then shortly afterwards, as Sue worked on my lower abdomen, I could feel “something” going on and a great deal of heat.

At the end of the massage, when Sue gave me some water to drink,  she asked me if I wanted to hear her perceptions.  My heart lifted and I said I wanted to hear everything.  She checked first of all if I believed in past lives and also asked me if I was familiar with any of the ancient civilizations such as the Mayans or the people of Atlantis.  When I assented, she shared that while she had been working on my heart chakra she was drawn into a vision where she saw me as a tall, regal person, dripping with golden jewelry, and knew that I was one of the ancient wise ones.  She felt that I was royalty of some sort and told me that whenever I walked into a room people were enveloped in a sense of tranquility and felt healed.  I told her that many people told me this today also. 

She then went on to tell me that it was no longer enough to just “walk into the room”, that I was “being called to more”.  She said that I needed to be ready for more work and not to be afraid.  I remembered Kevin’s words just a few weeks earlier at the Lenten Healing Mission.  Sue then explained that while she had worked on my lower abdomen she had felt “something birthing”, and she encouraged me to be ready, to prepare myself for some new work that I was going to be called to undertake.

As I left Sue’s studio, I felt very blessed.  I was filled with a sense of peace and yet was also aware of a very heightened sense of energy.  I felt like I could have run for ten miles.  I was very grateful for this because later that afternoon Rich and I went to experience the energy vortex at Bell Rock and I was able to climb about three quarters of the way up the rock formation without feeling tired. 

I will always remember my massage experience with Sue with much gratitude.  My main personal work since that time has been to quietly prepare myself for whatever work Spirit wants me to do.  Just two weeks after this experience, I attended a Qigong event in Orlando and a complete stranger there repeated the message: “Margo, you are being called to more.  Do not hold back.”  I will share more about this experience in another posting.   

Going Raw: Part One

(My Life-Long Love Affair With Food)

I don’t normally put sub-titles to my postings, but I felt this one deserved one.  There is no way I can share my “adventure” at going raw without giving some background as to my relationship with food.  And it is a love affair.

I have had an intimate relationship with food ever since I can remember.  Some of my earliest memories of food are:

– sitting under the dining room table in the middle of the night eating rice paper (don’t even ask!!)

– sitting for what seemed like hours on the garden gate or at the front room window waiting for Aunty Polly to arrive with ice cream and candy

– going to Aunty Peggy’s to have wonderful four course dinners that included incredible appetizers, cheese and crackers, dessert with coffee (like in a “grown 
   up’s” restaurant)

– going down to the kid’s secret den to eat as many candies as I had been able to take from the pantry without it looking as though someone had taken them
   (I’m sure my mother realized!)

– finger-swiping the frosting off a freshly baked “chocolate horror” cake (bliss!)

– sneaking teaspoonful’s of Fry’s chocolate spread (pure paradise!!)

– biting into the crusty heel of a fresh loaf of country bread slathered in real butter

– English cheddar cheese and crunchy pickled onions

So as you can see I was pretty much addicted to food from an early age.  I could describe in detail, and still can, the sensations of different foods hitting the different taste buds in the various areas of my mouth just the way someone can describe the details in a picture.  I think God proved that He really, really loved us when he gave us taste buds.

I discovered “ethnic” restaurants in my mid to upper teens and a whole new world of tastes and flavors opened up to me.  English food is usually so bland and much of it, particularly vegetables, is simply boiled into oblivion and mush.  Indian curry and crisp Chinese vegetables were like heaven, and the awesome blend of herbs in authentic, freshly cooked, Italian cuisine can still send me into a swoon today. I think you get the picture.

Moving to Sardinia, Italy in 1979 was a dream come true for this foodaholic.  The Sardinian cuisine is unique and is as beautiful as the island itself.  Home-made pasta was the norm in a Sardinian home in those days and if you have never eaten fresh home-made pasta you need to before you die.  Roast lamb, kid, and pig are nothing like anything over here.  I have eaten some of the best bar-b-q pork since coming to the States but nothing touches a succulent roast-in-the-ground pig in Sardinia. 

From Sardinia I returned to London in 1978.  It was mainly a “big mistake” but forms part of my life journey so it was important.  During the five years I remained in the UK back then the only time that I ate well was when I cooked Italian pasta or I ate ethnic.  I missed Italy badly, not just the food but the whole culture.  So it was with a happy heart that I returned in 1983 to live in Naples, Italy.

Naples, rather like Sicily, gets a bad rap in some tourist books, but I fell in love with Naples very quickly.  There’s an Italian saying that goes, “see Naples and die”.  There’s a Neapolitan saying that goes, “Napoli ti prende per la gola” – Naples grabs you by the throat.  The people are warm-hearted and friendly and the food, well I’m not sure anything I could say about Neapolitan food would do it justice.  There are amazing pasta dishes with incredible sauces and fresh seafood cooked in the simplest but most divinely-tasting ways. “Dolce” (cakes) are out of this world and the pizza, oh the pizza!!!!!  You have not eaten real pizza until you eat pizza prepared and baked in Naples.  Not even the pizza in other parts of Italy is as sublime as Neapolitan pizza. 

And then there’s REAL mozzarella cheese freshly dripping in its own liquid.  This is an absolute delicacy that is only made in Naples, Italy.  There is only one place over here that I know of where you can find real, fresh Mozzarella cheese and that is at the Fratelli La Buffala restaurant in the beaches area of Miami.  They have it flown in fresh from Naples two or three times per week.  

So, with all this love of marvelously prepared and served food, how do I get to going raw?  With great difficulty let me tell you!  I guess with age comes some sort of wisdom, and my brain began to tell my body that two hundred pounds on a five foot four inch frame was not so healthy.  And, as usually happens with the fat accumulation, my blood pressure had risen and my cholesterol was fast following it.

Thankfully, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.  Back in 2005, about eighteen months after getting to Jacksonville, Florida, my church hosted a series of classes on the vegetarian diet.  I was interested not only because I thought it would help me lose weight, combat the BP and cholesterol issue, and improve my overall wellness, but also because the classes were offered by the Cancer Society as a way to help people prevent cancer or live cancer free once they were in remission.  Because there is a history of cancer in my family I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns.

I’ll leave the “vegetarian experiment” for my next posting in this series.