Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Kindness comes in all forms


Kindness seems simple enough, yet we rush through the day without giving its simple act a second thought.  Seriously, how hard is it to engage in these simple acts?  You know...  Tell someone to have a good day just to add a little cheer, hold the door for the person behind you on the way out of the store, carry someone's bag for them, give a little money to the homeless individual holding the sign (without judgement), letting a car get in front of you despite being in a hurry or a few minutes late, sending a text to say you care, so on and so forth.  Are we moving through life so quickly that we forget to be human?  Are we disconnecting ourselves further and further from one another that the simple act of kindness is outside of our reach?

There have been times that the simple act of kindness touched my soul so deeply and shed a little light in what seemed like utter darkness and for this I am grateful.  The majority of the time the individuals showing grace and kindness didn't know I was in my darkest hour, needing a "pick me up" or that I felt so terrible inside.  I have sought and received kindness in unlikely places.  I have been pleasantly surprised and felt loved when I needed it the most in my life.  

The quote above speaks volumes to a person's character, who they are, and how they make you feel, without receiving anything in return.  And today I pay tribute to the fine staff of Trader Joe's in Winston-Salem.  These people are incredible and they have lifted me up, sent a little love my way when I needed it the most, gave me hugs on days I needed it and days I didn't, and gave genuine acts of kindness all the while expecting nothing in return.  Shopping here I have experienced humanity at its best.  

Trader Joe's opened in Winston-Salem at the end of October 2012, which was a few months after my ex-husband and I separated.  As soon as it opened, I began shopping there because I believe in their mission to give healthy food choices at affordable prices and give the consumer information to make informed decisions about their food.  Beyond that they also deliver impeccable customer service.  Win-Win.  Now three years later I still shop there and I'm in there a few times per week.  I never in a million years thought I would  become as fond as I have of many of the workers.  


When I started shopping there, I wanted nutritionally sound food for the kids and I, but what I received was more than that.  When the ex and I split, as you can imagine I felt broken and alone.  There were days I didn't want to leave my house and facing the world seemed unbearable.  When feeding your family is imperative to health, I had no choice but to go to the grocery store.  I was always greeted with kindness, a smile, and a genuine friendliness.  I know what you are thinking...  Trader Joe's employees are over the top friendly, can seem insincere in their endeavors to be friendly, and they have a bubbliness that's borderline obnoxious and annoying.  I've read the reviews.  I can honestly say that Trader Joe's in Winston Salem isn't like that...  or at least I haven't encountered that.  Soon after I started shopping there, a few of the workers knew me by name and always greeted me.  Then they started giving me hugs.  None of them knew I was going through a really dark period in my life and during that time their hug meant the world to me.  There were times I would force myself to leave my house and go to Trader Joe's, because I needed the darkness to lift.  I needed to feel better.  The staff at Trader Joe's became my therapy and prescription to happiness.  So yes...  I received more than good food for my body, I received food for my soul.

Now, more than three years later, I'm not ashamed to say, I still go there to get a hug when I need one.  I have come to know several of the employees there and I have often asked myself how it was possible to have so many kind people in one spot?  My kids love many of the workers too and find themselves looking for them before they even enter the front door.  We have been showered with kindness time and time again by several of the employees, who we hold dear.  They have become our Trader Joe's family and we are forever grateful for each blessing they give us, each time they stop and chat with us asking about our day and life, each time they give us a hug or a bouquet of flowers, or just say hi.  There are several people at the store that we hold dear to our hearts and are quite fond of.



Kindness comes in all forms.  I'm grateful for the Winston Salem Trader Joe's employees and the unexpected kindness that they have given the kids and I, without expecting anything in return.  This is kindness in the purest form and a language that crosses all barriers.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Celebration of Life



Today I celebrate you.  I think of the time we had together, our conversations, the memories, and all the beautiful characteristics that made you,.... You.  I wish I could call you, hear your voice, and then sing or belt out the worst tune of happy birthday to you, but today singing into the energy of this world will have to do.  

Wow...  38 years.  What would you have been like now?  Would you be different?  Would be you the same?  Would you be a better version of who you were?  I like to think so.  I imagine you would be more settled in life, grounded in the man you were becoming.  I imagine you would still love with a strength and depth few will ever be able to reach.  I imagine you would hold those close to you, that have captured your heart.  I imagine you with the largest grin on your face, trying to make those around you smile too.  I imagine you still having a fierce loyalty to friends.  I imagine a lot of things about you, who you were then and who you were becoming.  When I think of all of this, it makes me miss you.  Miss that I won't have the opportunity to see what you would become or how your life would evolve and transform on this physical plane.  But I do see you, it's just a different view than in a physical form.  You are more radiant than what you were, a beauty that isn't defined by the shape of a body.  And that makes my heart beam and shine with an amazing love for you.







You, my brother, are missed and loved more than words can express in this short blurb.  When I think of the incredible life you had, in the short 31 years you were with us, I stand amazed.  The purity of your soul was beyond most.  The fire and zest you carried for the adventure of each day was inspiring.  The loyalty you had for those you loved was breathtaking.  Your valor made me beam with pride.  The way you looked out, for those you loved, made my heart fill with joy.  There's only one you and I'm glad I can say you were my brother, my friend, and my family.





happy birthday, Jon.  I love you.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Giver


This beautiful woman is the giver of my life.  Some people call her Dulce, which means sweet, I call her mom.  Sometimes I call her Mommy or Momma.  And for the record she is pretty sweet.  She is one of the most beautiful creatures I know and the fact that she's my mother, makes me one of the lucky ones.

Some children don't have the distinct honor of having a remarkable mother.  They have a woman who gave them life and that was it.  Not me.  She carried me and loved me from the moment she knew I was growing inside her belly.  Then when she gave birth to me, she loved and nurtured me...  and continues to do so.  She has guided me in this life and taught me to be the woman I am today.  I've learned so many remarkable things from her, too many to count.  I'll list a few, but seriously, what she has taught me I wouldn't have the space or time to write.

My mother and my teacher, these are a few of my greatest lessons she has given me.  When the seas are raging she taught me to stand strong and brave the storm.  She taught me to always be true to myself, despite what others wanted.  She taught me to be feisty and fight for what I want.  She taught me that...  I am ENOUGH.  She taught me that true beauty lies within and to embrace it.  She taught me to DREAM and to reach for the stars, even if it seems impossible.  She taught me about community and the importance of giving back to it.  She taught me to love others and to be thoughtful to their needs.  She taught me what unconditional, selfless love is.  She has taught me what true unconditional acceptance is.  She has taught me what it's like to have a beautiful, loving, and caring mother, and layed the foundation so I could be the same with my children.  Honestly this is the greatest gift.

I've never met anyone that has loved me the way she has.  Her love knows no limits, is unconditional, always abundant, and always accepting.  I could be a serial killer and she'd still love and support me.  Thankfully I'm not, so she doesn't have to test her love.  ;)  She is a remarkable human being and when I think how blessed I am to have this woman in my life, who is my mother, my heart fills with love and joy.

Happy Birthday, Mom!  I love you so much and give thanks to this great universe for giving me such a wonderful mother.  May the year ahead give you the desires of your heart, good health, more time with us, and the peace you continue to seek.  (sorry my birthday message is a day late, I suppose for me it's on time.)  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dating.... eeeeeekkkkkkkkkkkkkk!



I'm ready to enter the world of dating, but not without trepidation.  Truthfully it scares the shit out of me.  And that's putting it mildly.  It's been 1,162 days since my ex-husband and I decided to end our 18 year relationship.  Am I ready to move forward?  Yes.  Does that mean I want to date?  Not really.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I want the excitement of meeting someone new, the excitement of discovering new things together, learning about each other, the rush of the first kiss.... the initial butterflies so on and so forth, I love all those things.  But honestly, there's some real assholes out there and I'm the first to admit that girls can be assholes too.  It's scary for both sides.  Mainly, I'm just afraid of being hurt.

While entering my church, I ponder a lot of these fears and my journey.  Thank God for nature, I'm not really sure what I'd do without it.  It's here that my soul is filled with the natural energy of this world and I reflect on the "now" of my journey.  So dating has been on the forefront of my mind and I've been giving this stage of my life a lot of thought.  The thoughts that I continue to ponder are what brought me here, am I truly ready, how do I know I am ready, what do I want from a partner, what are my intentions when meeting someone, and the list goes on and on.  Remember I told you in my reflection post...  I think A LOT!  I also rely on my intuition and ask for assistance from my spirit guides that I may be led on the path for my soul's highest good.  Thankfully, that makes me feel a little better about this horrific and terrifying process.

A few weeks ago I was sitting with a friend and the topic of dating came up.  I was first asked if I had dated anyone since my separation.  I replied that I hadn't.  Next question...  "Why haven't you dated yet?"  Well, jeez...  way to get right to the point.  Truthfully, I wasn't ready.  I answered honestly. Plain and simple, I hadn't dated because I wasn't ready.  I wanted to make sure my soul was clear.  I wanted to be sure my bruises had healed and I wasn't carrying around anymore baggage.  I have known from the beginning that I didn't want to enter into anything without clearing out my own cobwebs and really taking a soul journey of self-discovery again.  I think it's unfair to enter into a dating experience or relationship when we haven't taken the time to clear this space within ourselves.

1,162 days...  when I look at that number it looks so large, but it doesn't feel that way at all.  Time is so funny in that way.  I have really taken the time to "find" myself.  When you spend 18 years of your life with someone the lines get a little blurred.  Somewhere my line became a little fuzzy and I realized I had put a lot of energy outside of myself.  Sometimes it was taken from me, but most of the time I gave it away freely, which was my own doing.  I have realized that I don't want that again.  So, yes...  time was necessary for healing to take place.  Time was necessary to figure out what I want.

Although some of this I knew before my separation, in the 1,162 days I've had a lot of time to think about myself and deepen my understanding of some of these.

  • I am ENOUGH.
  • I am worthy, but you may not be worthy.
  • I am a beautiful woman, inside and out.  My inner beauty radiates outward and is genuine.
  • I am sensitive and deserve someone who understands this and cherishes it.
  • I am an introvert.  This was a huge light bulb for me.  It was like the stars aligned when I realized this.
  • It's important to be appreciated.
  • I am strong.
  • I am independent.
  • I am ENOUGH. (I know I already said this)
  • I don't need to be taken care of, but it's nice.
  • I live my truth.  If you don't, please don't bother me.
  • I don't need someone to make me happy, I am already happy.  I'd like to have someone add to my happiness.
  • I am kind and thoughtful.
  • Words mean NOTHING without actions to back them up.  Actions speak much louder than any of the words that escape our mouths.
  • I am tenderhearted and it's not a weakness.
  • I communicate what I need, want, and desire as well as my intentions.  If you don't...  don't bother me.
  • Mean people suck.
  • I know who I am and I stand by her.
  • I am loyal to a fault.
  • I am compassionate.
  • I am a giver.
  • I wear my heart on my sleeve and although I want to guard it, it goes against my nature to do so.
  • I love easily.
  • I love deeply.
  • I feel everything...  deeply.
  • I value my time.
  • I am ENOUGH.
So...  am I ready to date?  Yes.  The largest thing I have come to realize is this...  I can't be with anyone that doesn't appreciate or respect what I have written above, to do so would be disrespecting myself.  I also can't be with someone who isn't up front and honest about themselves and living authentically.  Plain and Simple.

Dating....  eeek.  It scares the shit out of me but I am ready to explore this next stage of my life and I'm pretty excited about it. (most of the time)


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Extended Family L♥vE

The Beautiful Rodriguez Family, minus their two boys
April 2015

Our Family, Easter tradition
April 2015

I have been blessed in my life to have dear friends who have become my family.  The Rodriguez family is now part of my extended family.  I could never say enough about this amazing family who really make each day better knowing and loving them.  I've not only gained a wonderful friend in Linda but another sister who I love so much.  Ruben has become a brother to me and someone I have grown to love as such.  An added bonus in this relationship is our daughters have become best friends and sisters too.  I love the relationships that all of us share and the family traditions we have together.  I'm forever grateful for the bond we share and that fate brought us together by placing us next to each other as neighbors.

These guys are celebrating 19 years together today, which is no small feat.  It takes hard work to keep a marriage together and to nurture a strong bond each day.  They have had many challenges, personally and as a couple, and with each one they have faced it together, with love and strength.

They are amazing and I wish them many more years together!!  I love you guys and wish you all the best as you travel together in this life.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Nature is my church

Photo taken at Reynolda Gardens Spring 2015

Photo taken by my beautiful sister, Aoife Rose
Oregon, Fall 2014

Spring and fall are my favorite seasons.  Death and rebirth.  Both are so striking in beauty, that when these seasons are in full swing, I can't get enough of either.  When I'm in nature my soul is at peace.  It's here that I listen and quiet my mind.  I feel closest to the spirit of this great universe when I'm in nature, so yes it is my church.  Some go to church to worship the God they believe in...  I step outside into the bounty of the natural world and fill my spiritual cup, clear away the cobwebs in my mind, and breathe.  Restoring balance and finding the calm.

This morning as I ran in one of my favorite parks, I did just that.  My heart was filled with gratitude at the people, situations, challenges, and uncomfortable gifts I have experienced this past year.  Each one, great and small, taking me somewhere new.  I couldn't help but think of the many blessings that I have been given and how much love was in my heart, and how important it is to give thanks for everything.

I started giving thanks this morning in my church.  As I ran past the city worker clearing the fallen debris I made sure to say thank you....  I gave thanks to him for stopping the leaf blower as I ran past and then in the midst of running, yelled...  "Thanks for your hard work."  I wondered how many people say thank you to them for the work they do to keep our parks clean and looking nice.  I certainly don't say thank you enough.  So, I think it's time to share what I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for...
*My beautiful children.  God, I love these two magnificent human beings.  Watching them grow into the people they are becoming is such a joy.  They are unique in their own ways and I love them for the wonderful character they bring to my life and our family.  It's an honor to be their mother and guide them in this world.  Definitely a responsibility I do not take lightly.

*My parents.  I feel blessed to still have them here on this earthly plane.  They have given me so much in my life and I will forever be grateful for the love, teachings, and guidance they have given me.

*Jon.  God, I'm so thankful for him.  Thankful that I was able to love this human being, in this life, for 31 years.  While living, he was my greatest teacher and now in death he continues to teach me from beyond.  I loved my brother beyond what I could ever describe here.  If you've followed my blog, this one or my other blog, http://whimsicaljewels.blogspot.com/, you already know how I feel about him and the loss I feel living without him on this earthly plane.

*My siblings, Aoife and Chuck.  As the years go by, I have become closer to both of them.  I'm so very grateful for the relationships we have developed.  It is here that I find my roots and strength when I need it the most.

*My ex-husband.  Weird right?  No, not really...  He gave me the greatest gift I could ever have, my two children.  It was during our time of deep love we created something so beautiful. He's a wonderful father and although our journey together ended, I'm thankful we are able to co-parent our children in a healthy, loving environment.  This is something I am extremely grateful for and could never give enough thanks for.  I've heard horror stories from friends and strangers of the nightmares they have to go through with their exes.  Every time I hear the stories, I say a prayer of thanks for the relationship we continue to have despite our marriage not working out.

*My ex-husband's family.  I love them so much and through this beautiful family I still have an extended family that I love dearly.  I love mom and dad Becker as much as my own parents and no words could state how grateful I am for their tremendous presence in my life.

*My sweet sister-in-law, Samantha.  She is more beautiful than she realizes and I give thanks for another lovely sister.  I wish we were able to spend more time together, however, the time I do get with her is a sweet slice of heaven.  I'm filled with gratitude and love that she is a part of my life.

*My aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I have learned a lot from them and feel blessed to have such wonderful memories of each of them.

*My chosen family....  All my Friends!  God, I love each and everyone of them for how different they are, the friendship they give and the gift of knowing them.  

*My soul sister, Karin.  This small blurb could never express the gratitude I have for her.  She is an amazing goddess and I love her so much.  I've never met anyone quite like her and honestly I don't know where I'd be without her.  She's carried me when I couldn't carry myself.  She's reminded me of my light, when all I saw was darkness.  The love and friendship she has given me over the years I will be eternally grateful for....  a true, authentic connection I cherish.  

*My childhood friends that I continue to have a connection with.  We can go for years without talking and pick up right where we left off.  I love these connections!

*The ability to run, bike, walk in a multitude of choices in Winston-Salem.  Even though I long to live somewhere else, I really am thankful to be here at this moment in time.  Winston is a beautiful city and I have so many beautiful parks to choose from to enter my church for balance and restoration.

*The ability to create art.  I love creating works inspired by nature.  It fills my soul with so much joy and one of my deepest passions.

*The ability to do work that I LOVE and feel passionate about.  Everyday I go to work, I'm so grateful that I don't have a conventional job and I get paid to help others live an independent life that they choose.  

*The ability to be involved in my kids lives at school, at after school activities and picking them up each day.  It seems so simple, but I think of the many moms out there that want to do this, but due to circumstances are unable to.  I am tremendously grateful for this daily gift.  I love hearing about their day, what they are learning, and seeing them participate in sports and other activities.  It gives my heart an abundance of joy.

*My 6 senses...  sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch and my intuition.  I'm so incredibly grateful for each of these.

*MuSic!  The birds melodic song and all the phenomenal musicians out there.

*Me!  I'm so thankful for the woman I am and the woman I am becoming.  As I look in the mirror each day, I'm filled with love and gratitude for the beautiful life I have.  My body certainly doesn't look like barbie and I don't want it to.  Each curve reminding me of my femininity and how beautiful I am.  Each stretch mark reminding me of the beautiful children that I was able to carry and bring into this world.  Each wrinkle on my face reminding me how much joy I have had and the laughter I have engaged in.  Each grey hair reminding me of all that I have learned and the wisdom that is within me.  

Life is a gift.
I am thankful.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Dancing with Grief



I think a lot.  Is it possible to think too much?  I guess at times too much thinking could be detrimental.  These last several weeks have been a time of deep reflection for me.  I have been reflecting on my actions, behaviors, thoughts, patterns and where I am headed....  A LOT.  When I say a lot I mean A LOT.  So this morning I had a general idea for my writing topic, however, there was another plan in place bigger than myself.

Originally, I thought I would share a little bit about myself, elaborate on my reflection post from the other day, expose myself a little more, and some of the things I have been working on in the last few years.  So, with that in mind, I started my day "searching for myself".  Have you ever done this?  I don't mean thinking to yourself...  "who am I" although some of us could stand to ponder on that a little bit.  What I mean is, I typed my name into the google search engine to see what would come up.  I do this from time to time just to see what's out there.

You know, I'm pretty famous.  I'm not really but it was a nice thought for a brief moment.  Anyway, there is a musician named Toni Becker who is.  That's not me.  I was a musician at much younger age...  playing the lovely tenor saxophone.  I survived my teenage years because of music, so I'm forever grateful for the healing power music has.  Anyway, back to my search.  When I searched my name, my brother's on line legacy account came up, listing his online condolences.   And then it hit me...  that was my topic.  Grief.  My experience with grief has led me down a road of awakening, a life of conscious living, and it has cracked me open in a time of serious personal revelation.

Grief.  She and I have danced together many times over the years.  Throughout the years, we have developed an understanding for one another and our dance has become less awkward.  Don't misinterpret that, less awkward does not mean less difficult.  I wish I didn't know her as well as I do, but I do.

I feel as a human being, grief is the hardest part of the journey.  Letting go and saying goodbye to someone we love so dearly is hard.  It's not something you "just get over".  You can't move through it quickly because if you do, she'll teach you something else.  And through the most difficult and darkest of circumstances, she still reveals a light that teaches compassion, love, patience and understanding.  Grief is not only hard for the person dancing with her.  Those that we love and share a connection with us, also go through their own experience watching our awkward dance.  Their dance can feel like helplessness, hopelessness, and frustration with us, and with themselves for not being able to "fix it" or take away our pain.

I've had a long history with grief and we've danced together for quite some time now.  It wasn't until the last few years of my life that I started to fully understand her, and our bodies began to move in sync with each other. I have learned I can not lead this dance but must follow.  She leads the dance and I then move myself in the direction that is needed to heal.  For me, learning this was necessary to recover from the loss I feel so deeply in my heart and soul.

Grief and I have had our first awkward dance at the tender age of four, when I lost my dear grandma Verna.  God, I loved her.  She was so beautiful and I loved her sweet lap.  Even as I sit here thinking of her, with tears in my eyes, I can feel her lap as I nestle into her neck,  I remember her with deep love and adoration.  I didn't even know what grief was then, how could I at the age of four?  I came to understand what loss was and I knew it was very painful.

Then a year later, my parents divorced.  When I look back on my childhood, my experiences, my feelings and how they translate to my current patterns, I realize how deep this pain was.  I have come to realize that due to this heavy loss in my life, I developed many belief systems that I have had to ponder on and release.  I'm still working on this.  

I entered the dance floor again at the age of 15.  My step-sister, Karen, developed cancer at a very young age (21) and died shortly after.  God, I loved her too.  We had some common interests and every moment I spent with her, I always came home wanting more time.  So, when she left this earthly plane, my heart broke.  I can remember sitting in my room, crying, wondering how this had happened.  No one really talked about grief in our household or what to do to make the dance less awkward.  I didn't know about the stages of grief or what to do to cope, but my soul did.  Somewhere in my being, I found the light in the midst of the darkness and engaged in healthy coping mechanisms to get through the dance.  My parents purchased a fish tank for me, which was one of the most relaxing activities I engaged in during this time of heavy loss.  I ran.  I cried.  I listened to music.  I played music.  Thank God for my tenor saxophone.

I entered the dance floor again, a few short years later, when my dear Uncle Bob died.  He was my dad's closest sibling and his best friend.  I spent quite a bit of  time in his house and loved him dearly. When I look back at how I handled this loss, I remember just pushing through it, because unfortunately that's what I learned to do, instead of dancing slowly.  I think this loss was buried someplace within me, definitely not a very good way to cope with loss.

A couple years later, I entered the dance floor again.  This time it wasn't a family member but instead a close friend.  We were young.  He was young.  Too young.  He was days from turning 21.  This death hit hard.  I couldn't even dance.  I remember laying in bed for a week not wanting to do anything but listen to music and cry.  My heart was broken and I didn't know what to do.  Roger, was such a beautiful human being.  He had a smile that held you captive, a free spirit that loved everyone, and a lot of fun to be around.  At this time, I was in nursing school and had started learning about the stages of grief, healthy coping mechanisms, and what it means to say goodbye.  All those tools couldn't prepare me for the loss I felt or soothe my bleeding heart.

Grief called me to the dance floor again in 2002.  This wasn't a physical death, but instead a death of a relationship.  My husband at the time decided that he wanted to walk the journey of life alone, and to say I was devastated, would be an inadequate way to describe what I felt.  It was in that moment I came to understand grief doesn't call us to dance only at a time of physical death, but can call us to dance with any loss.  This experience really deepened my understanding of grief and started to help me see what all of us go through at a time of loss.  It's uncomfortable, awkward, soul wrenching, difficult and dark.  I learned that a lot of people in the world are numb and have a hard time with other people's pain.  I learned that any loss will cause grief.  I learned grief is a process that must be handled with care and allowed to happen in its own time, not forced, but instead handled with gentle understanding.  I did just that and vowed that what I learned I would hold on to and try to help others, so they didn't feel so alone.  Just as I was digging deep into my grief and processing my loss, my husband and I, came back together.

On 12/13/08, my life changed forever.  A night I will never forget.  A phone call at 1:07 am  on 12/14/08, bringing the news that caused a profound change within my soul.  "Jon is dead'" rings in my ears...  burning them actually.  If I could chose to NEVER hear those words, God I would.  The connection I had with my brother is something that I can never explain.  To know him was to love him and hate him.  He was beautiful, kind, charismatic, so intelligent, compassionate, strong, brave, lived with honor...  the list goes on and on.  He drove me crazy and I drove him crazy.  Under it all was a deep love.  A love that even death can't diminish.  If you want to read about my process and what I went through during that time, click on these links:   http://whimsicaljewels.blogspot.com/2008/12/angels-called-home.html  AND http://whimsicaljewels.blogspot.com/2008/12/o-troubled-soul.html

I think of my brother daily.  I loved him a great deal and when he died I couldn't imagine my life without him.  Even as I type those words, my eyes are welling up.  But time has passed and although I miss him, the pain that took my breath away so many years ago, no longer has the power to do that.  That doesn't mean I miss him any less, it just means I have moved through my grief.  So, after seeing Jon's on line legacy account I sat and read it.  Tears streaming down my face, remembering what a beautiful light the world lost, yet the heavens gained a bright shining star.  I'm so thankful for this little online treasure and reading how much my brother's life impacted so many.  (Thank you Tearé, I don't think I ever properly thanked you.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for purchasing this.) Like I said...  to know him was to love him.  You'd get angry with him, utter hateful words as a result, but always go back to loving him because he was amazing.  For me, I couldn't imagine not having him by my side.  He was a soldier in the world and fought for those he loved with valor.  Did I tell you he was amazing?  :)

Jon taught me my greatest lessons.  When I said goodbye to him, I felt so lost.  I felt like I was missing parts of me that would never return.  Grief and I resisted our dance several times because it was too hard.  I couldn't dance.  I couldn't move.  My pain immobilized me.  Thankfully I was able to move forward and I invited her to dance.  I needed too.  I knew that I couldn't stand against the wall any longer and had to find someway to dance even if I didn't feel like it.  Through the most profound pain I have ever experienced, I found the light again.  I learned what it was like to lose someone you cared about so deeply and feel like there was no purpose in life.  I remember feeling that each day was a gift and so many people were squandering it away with meaningless shit.  They focused their attention on the most trivial things, all the while I wanted to scream...  "WAKE THE FUCK UP!"  I've lost the most important person in my life and here you are moving through life aimlessly bothering me with nonsense.  Jon was the greatest teacher and he continues to teach me.  This loss opened my sleeping eyes and helped me realize that love remains the same even after death, be thankful for each day, see people without judgement, love openly, be true to yourself, give your love freely despite how uncomfortable it feels, be kind, live with meaning, engage in deep discussions, choose your friends wisely, really this list goes on and on too.

My dance with grief, after losing Jon, was so awkward.  I couldn't stand, let alone follow her lead.  I learned with time that the sun continues to shine and the pain lessens.  I'll never stop missing him on this physical plane, but I realize he's still here.  I just have to be "awake" to see and feel him.  Awake and aware.  I'm thankful for his love and his visits.

Fast forward to 8/9/12.  Another HUGE loss.  Grief invited me to dance once again.  I didn't want to and I screamed at her to leave me the fuck alone.  My husband decided, again, that he wanted to continue on his journey ALONE.  Again, seriously?  How the hell could this be happening...  AGAIN?!?!?  I was so devastated.  I longed for my brother during this time.  He always knew what to say when I needed it the most.  This life situation was another great teacher of grief and just like losing my brother it has taken a lot of time to heal from this heavy loss.  Losing my marriage made me pause and examine my beliefs regarding love, relationships, family, communication, self-love, self-esteem and self-worth.  I have held myself under a microscope and examined every nook and cranny, trying to uncover beliefs that no longer serve me, discover myself again, and heal from this loss that shook my being.  I felt a veil of darkness, but forced myself to see the light.  I'd say life wants us to move quickly and "get through it" but that's not true.  Honestly, it's the people in life that want us to do that.  I've realized, once again, that people can't handle other people's pain.  It creates an uncomfortable stirring within themselves that leaves feelings like despair, hopelessness, helplessness, shame, guilt, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger and vulnerability.  I've sat on the other side of grief too, watching those I love flail about, writhing in discomfort and pain.  It's hard.  I've wanted to help but knew I couldn't...  it was their journey and process, something they had to go through and sit with.  My job was to provide love and non-judgement.  That's been hard too.  We humans are so quick to judge another person's journey.  I try not to and really work on it, and even though I work to not cast judgement, I still occasionally do.  Losing my family as I knew it, has been a really hard journey.  One that I am still navigating through but I'm dancing.  Letting go and learning to live differently has been a period of discovery, and trial and error.  Sometimes I've failed miserably but not without learning something.

Last October I went through another loss.  It was through the loss of Jon and my marriage, that I was able to navigate through my grief with a little more ease.  I was able to recognize the dance steps and although she was still in the lead, following the dance wasn't quite as hard.  Losing my step-father, Glenn, was unbelievably hard.  I had come to love him so much and his presence in my life.   I can remember sitting in the park with a deep sadness, a sadness I couldn't seem to shake.  I looked at my ex-husband and said aloud...  "I'm depressed.  I'm so unbelievably sad that Glenn isn't here."  Saying those words, acknowledging the stage of grief I was in, was so liberating.  That simple act broke me free and my healing process started.

Beyond my own grief, watching my mother go through another deep loss in her life, was much harder.  This last year, she has shown an amazing amount of strength.  Losing Jon, was the hardest thing she has ever been through and practically broke her.  Losing Glenn, is easily the second hardest thing she has been through, and as I've watched her this past year, I stand amazed at her strength and growth.

Grief, I hate and love the word simultaneously.  Weird, right?  I hate it because of the loss we go through and the grief we feel as a result.  I love it because sometimes what we are grieving was necessary in order to become more than we were prior to the grief.  I've learned that grief is an individual process.  It's important to be kind to yourself as you navigate through it and dance slowly but not too slowly because it's easy to get stuck in one place.  You know that heavy feeling in your feet when you're immobilized?  In order for healing to occur we need to continue to dance, but if by chance we get stuck, it's possible to get unstuck.  There's light in the midst of darkness.  Remember time heals all wounds.  I hate using a cliché but there are reasons they exist.  I promise you, time will go by and the pain will lessen.  The first year is the hardest.  Experiencing all the firsts without the person you love so dearly...  no words can describe what that's like.  Be patient with yourself.  Love yourself by not judging your process.  Find healthy coping mechanisms that will help you through the grief.  I have several that have helped me over the years...  Being outside in nature, music, art, writing, screaming at the universe, talking with supportive friends, biking, running, crying, crying, crying, did I say crying?  I have found that a physical release, is just as important if not more important to my process, as listening to music or any of the others on the list.  The endorphins that your body releases when doing something active is a natural way to make yourself feel better.  Love yourself.  Take the time you need to heal.

After I finished this post I thought it was pretty humorous that I chose to use the analogy of "dancing with grief."  I am introverted and shy, and although I love dancing, I hate doing it because I don't like the attention it brings.  Being the center of attention is so dreadful for me....  eyes on me, no thank you.  This made me laugh and realize I need to dance more, not with grief, but in a crowded room with the sweet sound of music as it fills the room.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Disclaimer and a look at the ugly

You know that moment when you realize one of the elements that has held you back from doing something?  A light bulb goes off.  Things line up.  I had one of those moments not that long ago.  Actually, I've had a few of those lately.  So, I'm going to share one of my moments with you...

Most of the time I love writing, but sometimes I REALLY hate it!  Why?  Because it's like ripping off a layer of yourself and taking a look at the ugliness hiding beneath the protective layer.  I don't mind writing privately in my journal because it's for my eyes only.  God forbid I die...  someone please burn my journals!  Um, Karin if you are reading this...   that's one of your duties as my soul sister and best friend.  :)  Actually you don't have to burn them, Karin.  Just keep them until the time is right to share that part of me with my kids.  I have wanted to write blog posts for quite some time but I tend to resist it.  There are a few reasons this resistance presents itself...  When I write privately again it's for my eyes only.  I don't care if the sentence structure is terrible, if there's  one run on sentence after another,  a ton of grammatical errors or misspelled words.  I write to release and process the emotions, and uncover my soul, not to show how proficient I am in the English language or how good my grammar is.  Do I write often?  No, but this is an area of my life I'd like to do better in.

So what keeps me from writing blog posts?  The FEAR of looking unintelligent.  I want to write what I think freely and openly, and not be constrained by sentence structure and grammatical errors.  I, like so many other women in the world, suffer from mommy brain.  Mothers, you know what I'm talking about.  Something happens to our brain once we become mothers.  You become well versed in everything kid related.  I swear something happened to my articulation, word proficiency, language skills and grammar once I gave birth to these beautiful children of mine.

Another reason I resist writing blog posts, exposure.  I think if you have met me and know me, this may be somewhat shocking.  I really try to live my life exposed and vulnerable to those I care about.  I feel this is the ultimate connection and connection is something that is VERY important to me.  As a shy, introvert sometimes this is really hard.  Really, really hard.  And let me be the first to tell you it takes A LOT of work, courage, and bravery to expose yourself to others when you'd rather stand and be hidden.  So exposing my thoughts and feelings in an open forum with typed errors makes me feel like I'm under a microscope.

I realize that I need to write for myself as part of my healing and self discovery.  I need to explore myself in this way and share it with you as part of my process.

So here's my disclaimer...  Expect errors.  Many grammatical errors.  I will share my thoughts and feelings with you as long as you don't turn me over to the grammar police.  :)  If you are hoping to find great sentence structure and proficiency in written language, this probably isn't the blog for you.  This blog is for connection, sharing my process, my truth, healing and most of all...  love.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Reflection


When I read that quote I can hear the bells and whistles going off.  For me, there is so much truth in the quote above, its resonance is loud and clear.  At times I have fought, kicking and screaming, resisting the change that would come.  Other times I grabbed the bull by the horns, embraced what was to come, while holding on for dear life.   Then there were times, that although there was a fight, it was mild in comparison and I was grateful it was over.  Each fight I have fought, I have given it my all, and at the end my arms were in the air with victory.  Some of the victories didn't feel very good, but I made it to the end, and that alone is a victory worth celebrating.

I've had a few life changes that have struck the core of my being.  They've rattled me.  Made me feel so weak, despite those around me saying I was strong.  The reality is sometimes we don't feel very strong.  These life changes stripped me naked, left me feeling broken, alone, and afraid.  When I look over my life, and these life circumstances that shook me free, I can honestly say I am grateful.  I am grateful for the uncomfortable truths they revealed.  I am grateful for the chance to rise and expand to be a better version of myself.  I am grateful for the gifts each situation gave me.

A little over three years ago, my life changed.  I never saw it coming and in fact thought the day would never arrive.  But it did.  I felt broken.  Alone.  Afraid.  Naked.  I felt like a fraud and everything I believed in was false.  I believed in something and gave it everything I had and then....  it changed.  It fell apart.  How could something you put so much energy into, come unraveled, and fall apart so easily?

It has been 1,150 days since this major life changing event and as a result I have had a lot of time to reflect.  Reflect on who I am, who I want to become, and where I am headed.  In my opinion, self reflection can be REALLY uncomfortable.  Sometimes the person standing there looking at you, isn't very pretty.  At times I have stood, with my knees knocking together, looking at this woman staring at me in the mirror ,wondering how I got here and if I was strong enough to continue.  In all honesty, I realized I wasn't broken, only bruised, and I was grateful for that.  Bruises heal.  When I was reminded of the small blessing that bruises heal, I saw hope looking at me in the mirror and she was beautiful.

In my 1,150 days of evolution and reflection, I have made some choices that I wasn't proud of.  When I reflect on each choice I have made over these 1,150 days, I am reminded that each choice I have been given the opportunity to grow, expand, and evolve.  Some of the choices I have made, filled me with all of the uncomfortable emotions most of us try to avoid.  you know...  shame, guilt, regret, blame, hate, anger, self pity...  should I go on?  Recently, I made some choices that wanted to fill me with a few of these bad boys, but then I realized even that was a choice.  I could choose to feel those emotions or I could choose to reflect on my choices and see what I was to learn from them instead.  Choose the light or choose the darkness.  Thankfully I chose the light.

So as I reflect on a few of my recent choices, I am reminded that each person that comes into our lives, has an opportunity to teach us something, if we are open to it.  Each situation presented, gives us another opportunity to look at ourselves, our behavior, our patterns, and evolve into something else and break old patterns to become more than we once were.  We are being called to be something better and to give the world something more than we already have.

Reflection may not always be comfortable but it is necessary to learn, grow, and change.  Sometimes sharing the reflection with people in your life is just as uncomfortable, if not more, than the reflection itself.  Opening up and sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone else takes a lot of courage and bravery.  It's standing firmly exposing our naked selves.  I don't know about you, but when this happens I want to RUN...  but I try not to.  Speaking my truth and continuing to expose my naked self (not literally...  If I have to do that I really will run), is one of the patterns I am breaking.

I have had 14,834 days to become the woman I am today, reflect on all of my choices, and who I am as a result.  And I love her.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I need your HELP, please!

As my post states...  I need your help.  I'm telling you my story so that you can help me get the word out and possibly increase my chances at winning my banks giveaway.  Help me by voting for my story which will not only help my kids and I but will allow me to follow my dream of helping those in my community through art.  So here's my story...

I'm a single mom with two beautiful children.  I am fortunate enough to get up every day and do work that I love and I feel passionate about.  Honestly, it's not work.  I am also fortunate enough to work for myself which allows me the freedom to have a flexible schedule and be with my kids as much as possible, something that is VERY important to me.  Since my partner and I separated, financially it has been beyond difficult.  I have had some great angels, that have assisted me in my journey and have blessed me with financial help along the way, which has lessened the financial burden.

Last week, I went into the bank in the hopes of trying to find financial assistance and to free up some of my money each month.  Currently, I have NO wriggle room and I am embarrassed to say there are times I am wondering how I am going to put gas in my car and food on my table.  I had heard about Truliant's $25,000.00 giveaway but really didn't pay too much attention to it.  If you know me personally, you know how much I believe in synchronicity and the power of those moments that keep us in the flow of our journey.  On this particular day, the universe could not have been any clearer.  In fact the message was so LOUD it was as if a neon sign was flashing at me telling me to enter.

On the morning I went to the bank, I had opened my email and saw a message about the giveaway.  Then while sitting in the bank lobby, another message ran over a sign.  Then as I sat with the member specialist reviewing my dreary finances and whether or not they could help me, she mentioned that I should enter!  I had heard or seen information about the giveaway numerous times within a 2 hour time period!!  Flashing sign?!?  Hammer hitting me over the head?

When the member specialist told me about the details of the giveaway and what I had to do to enter, my first reaction was NO...  I don't want people to know my story or my personal business.  Oh, NO, I have to share it for people to read, see, and vote on?  Shame immediately creeped into my being.  I had an overwhelming sense of embarrassment.  eeeeeeek!  NO I can't do this.  I sat and listened, all the while my head screaming this little two letter word.  I walked out of the bank thinking, okay I have time to think about it, since I had until June 1st to submit something.   I can process my feelings, get over the idea of sharing my personal business with the world, and think about my belief system.  You know, all those thoughts that say...  Am I worthy?  Can this really happen to me?  Do dreams, my dreams, really come true?  Can they come true?  I spent hours processing it and all the while, the universe is sending little messages to enter.  It seems that everywhere I looked there it was...  info about the giveaway.  Okay, okay I hear it!

It was a long process and I finally got to the place of feeling comfortable.  With joy in my heart and excitement at the possiblity, I went on line to look at the details.  What?!?!  The deadline is May 23rd not June 1st!!  On May 23rd all entries must be submitted and voted on by the public.  Voting closes midnight on the 23rd and the top finalists will then move to the next level for the bank to decide upon.  So I NEED YOUR HELP.  

Here is the information...  My bank is giving away $25,000.00!  All I had to do was submit a picture and caption, less than 300 characters, explaining how the bank could help me and what "my why" was.  Do you know how hard it is to come up with a statement that will tell people why you need the money in less than 300 characters?  Look how many characters I have already written explaining why I need your help!  LOL

Here are a few of my details... My WHY.  I've already shared I'm a single mom with 2 beautiful children.  Children that I would like to be able to assist without this constant struggle.  Beyond the daily struggle, I would like to be able to provide them with a little money for their future so hopefully they won't struggle like I have .  This money would bring financial security into my home without wondering where my next dollar is coming from for the basic essentials in life.  I could also pay off my car, which would free up quite a bit of money each month.  ($330.00)  So yeah...  debt reduction would be grand!

Beyond financial security, debt reduction, and planning for my kids future, this money would allow me to follow my dream of assisting individuals in the community through art, mainly women and children.  I want to provide a service that empowers women and children, assists with creative expression, and provides an outlet for life's struggles.  This money would allow me to pay for the start up business cost of being able to file to become an LLC, pay for the other business fees, and purchase supplies for my business.  

So today I ask for your help.  Please vote for my submission on the Truliant mywhy website  Share it, encourage others to vote for it, in order to help my kids and I.  How you ask?  Click on the stars, share the story via facebook, share it on instagram.  Remind people that they only have until the 23rd to vote.

Here's the truliant website:  https://www.truliantmywhy.com

Here's MYWHY:  https://www.truliantmywhy.com/?search=toni%20becker

Thank you SO MUCH for helping us.  Thank you for taking the time to read my story and to share it.  With a heart filled with gratitude, I appreciate the assistance you have given us.  

Dare to dream.  Follow your dream.  Be brave.  Believe in yourself.  You are worthy of abundant blessings and your dreams coming true.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Self Love

Why is it so easy to love those around us while neglecting ourselves?  Why is it we dismiss our own needs so easily to take care of the needs of others?  Why is it we see people as selfish when they are caring for themselves?  Why is it we continually tell ourselves we don't have enough time to do the activity we enjoy doing and would assist in alleviating our stress?  Why is it we show compassion and understanding to another person, and are relentless with ourselves?  Why is forgiveness so hard and why do we avoid it like it's the black plague?

Currently these questions are at the forefront of my mind because self love is an area I continue to struggle with.  Self-love has been one of the most difficult concepts to understand, consistently maintain, and put into practice.  As I move to greater understanding, I also realize how hard we are on ourselves and so unforgiving.  I'm guilty.  Guilty of continually beating myself up for not doing better and not forgiving myself for my "short comings".  Thankfully, I have gotten better about this but I have a long way to go.

Today, I awoke and made a pledge to myself to write about self-love...  to confess and share how I have neglected myself and have gotten caught in the obligation cycle.  You know what I'm talking about...  A to do list in our personal and professional lives that is a mile long and continually keeps us busy, then there's the kid's schedules and needs, the needs of an aging and sick parent, and all of the daily responsibilities in the home.  Do you succumb to the daily challenges of obligation and neglect yourself in the process?  I do.  The forgiving side of me reminds the critical side, that I have gotten better about this.  A few years ago, I would have been physically ill from the stress and increase in obligations I have endured in the last several months.   Thankfully, I have gotten better about meeting my needs and listening to my body, and try to not to get to the point of physical illness.  I try to remind myself my energy cup needs to be filled but I don't do it enough.  Recognizing the problem is the first step in correcting the problem.

Art heals my soul.  It's a beautiful release to the emotional eruption taking place from the world around me.  It also helps me work through and process the world around me.  But honestly, art isn't my only outlet.  This morning, my thoughts were why have I neglected myself so terribly?  Why have I allowed my obligations to get in the way with that which brings me joy?  While sitting here, I have realized I was still engaging in joyful activities in my life it just wasn't the activity I wanted to do the most and in return I wasn't staying in the moment of relief and getting the most out of my joyful activity.  I miss my old friend Art but I love walks in nature, listening to music, watching a funny show, and being with my children.  I think yesterday riding my bike with "S" allowed me to break some of my inner self free and led me here in my journey.  I may not have been hanging with Art but I have spent several days in nature, listened to the birds, laughed with my children and rode my bike...  all joyful activities.

So...  what have I learned and processed from this?  I need to say NO more frequently and then not feel guilty because I did.  When I feel the tinge of guilt, feel it, then release it, practicing forgiveness.  Forgive myself when I don't say no.  Exercise compassion with myself.  Take a few moments each day to soak in my joyful activity and really be in the moment, whether it's walking in nature, standing outside listening to the birds sing, listening to music and singing along, riding my bike, laughing at a funny show or my goofy kids, writing, or engaging in art.  Participating in activities that provide joy to our soul is just as important as putting food in our bodies.

Loving yourself is just as essential as loving someone else.  You really can't give love to another without fully doing it to yourself.  I hope that today you practice a little self love and engage in an activity that makes a smile creep across your face, your belly move from laughter and your cup overflow with joy.  I did.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Beginning

Today began and I realized I must start writing again.  I have resisted it for as long as I can.  This resistance isn't doing me any good...really it's stopping myself from becoming a better version of what I am.  Listening to my inner voice and writing it down helps me.  It helps me heal just like art, music and nature.  These are my healers, my powerful coping mechanisms in life.

So here my journey begins.  This new blog I will share my journey with you and I hope you will share yours with me, if you feel led to do so.  I will also share events, workshops, and gatherings I am conducting as well as other people's events that promote healing.  All of us need healing.  Sometimes the wound is deep and requires a lot of time, other times the wound is superficial and just takes a still moment, a few breaths and a connection.

I'm here to listen, guide, and connect with you.