Remembering Halloween from the Empty Nest

When the little gremlins and goblins come to our house tonight trick or treating it will back memories for me of Halloweens past.  Our twin sons are off at college in their freshmen years and are doing very well.  But when they were younger, I had an active role on Halloween night.

Mom always worked with our twins in the month of October to pick just the right costume for each.  I didn’t have too much to do with that.  The boys eagerly would look forward to Halloween night, mapping out plans for all the houses they would visit.  That’s where I came in.  My job was to escort Andrew and Josh around the neighborhood while Mom stayed home giving out candy to other kids.

For some reason Halloween never seemed to turn out quite like the boys had planned.  We would often get an unseasonal cold spell in late October.  I remember one Halloween night going out with the boys with the temperatures in the teens!  Their enthusiasm for collecting candy quickly ended that evening after only a few houses – the cold weather got the best of them.

I remember the boys first Halloween at 21 months of age.  They were cute just having learned to talk earlier that year. We trained them to go up to the neighbors’ homes and say “trick or treat!”.  When the big night came, Josh went up to the first house, opened his bag, suddenly got a look of fear on his face, and said to our neighbor, “Put Candy In There!!!!”

This video, the following year at age 2, shows another Halloween that didn’t get off to a good start:

The boys and I continued our Halloween tradition all the way through 9th grade.  At age 15 they were independent enough to go out on Halloween night by themselves, but when they asked for me to accompany them I happily agreed.  “This would be my last chance at Halloween night memories!”, I thought.  Their friend Jeff came along as the Grim Reaper.  Jeff was taller than me – he really did look like the Grim Reaper!

Fast forward to 2012.  Our boys are well adjusted college freshmen – each at their own campus 600 miles apart.  We visited both on two separate trips in the past month and we were pleased to see them doing so well.  We had done our job as parents – raising two smart, sociable sons who had no trouble with the often difficult transition to the freshman year away from home.  Tonight as the kids come to our door we’ll remember those little boys we had so much fun with on those Halloween nights years ago.  We miss them.

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Click! Choosing Love One Frame at a Time (book review)

It’s been said the two biggest fears people have are of death and public speaking.  There’s a third one high on the list for many: having your picture taken!  Professional photographer Carl Studna addresses this fear and much more in his engaging new book “Click!  Choosing Love One Frame at a Time”

“I do hate getting my picture taken.  It’s so damned exhausting,” writes singer Kenny Loggins in one chapter.  “Click” contains short stories from the famous and not so famous expressing similar feelings about appearing in front of a camera.  “I have always HATED having my picture taken,” says musician Karen Drucker in another chapter.  I liked reading these stories as they gave me comfort to know my own hesitancy of being photographed is a fear shared by many others.

The true value of “Click”, though, is in Studna’s wise words on why we feel uncomfortable being photographed.  He relates how our feelings about getting our pictures taken are reflections of how we show up in life.  “What would it be like to be in front of a camera and fully embody the present moment?” Studna writes. “Can you imagine how powerful an experience that would be?  Every picture would be a true reflection of your multidimensional, magnificent self!”

Ever since Eckhardt Tolle’s “A New Earth” was published there has been much written about “living in the present moment”.  Studna delivers a similar teaching in an innovative and entertaining way.  He relates different stories of people he has photographed, followed by his thoughts on human nature.  “I continually witness a large percentage of folks who find it painful viewing pictures of themselves,” the author writes.  “Their inner critic seems to be easily triggered along with all past conditioning related to self-image that needs to be healed.”  I was so engrossed with Studna’s stories and observations that I read his entire book in two days!

“Click” also contains samples of Studna’s photographs.  The hardback is printed on a glossy type of paper, different than most other books I’ve read,  which makes these striking images come to life. I appreciated that Studna included pictures he had taken of different celebrities along with the stories of these encounters (with ex-Beatles Paul McCartney and George Harrison, for example).  I wished “Click” had even more photos, as some chapters (like the stories of Kenny Loggins and Karen Drucker) were words only without pictures of the subjects to go along with them.

“I suspect the day I am truly at peace with the camera, I will be well on the road to self-realization, at ease with however I am seen, with or without a camera,” says Kenny Loggins in the first few pages of the book.  “And perhaps, in this way, future photo sessions will become my signposts on my road to freedom,” he adds.

“Click” invoked similar feelings in me.  To take why I am uncomfortable being photographed as a sign that I have more healing to do.  To be gentle with my seeming imperfections.  “We are all perfect and whole at our core, regardless of physical appearances,” Studna writes.  “Click” reminded me of that fact, even though at times I have a hard time believing it.

You can get “Click!” from these book sellers:

Hay House

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

This is another book review in my partnership with Hay House.  I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from Hay House for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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Sacred Journey of the Heart (film review)

sjfilmSacred Journey of the Heart is a new documentary that explores the keys to heart based living, combining new science and ancient wisdom.  The collection of experts interviewed in the film is a good mix of scientists and healers: Dr. Rollin McCraty (PHD Scientist from HeartMath), Sarah McClean (author and meditation teacher), Colin Tipping (founder of Radical Forgiveness), Gregg Braden (scientist and researcher), Cynthia James (minister and author), Dr. Joe Dispenza (chiropracter and researcher), and others.

The Sacred Journey of the Heart is about “taking on a love vibration instead of a fear vibration,” says Colin Tipping.  I liked best the part of the documentary that breaks down Tipping’s Radical Forgiveness method to deal with past pain:

  1. Tell the story – how were you victimized?
  2. Feel the feelings – how did that feel? Be honest.
  3. Collapse the story – walk in the other person’s shoes.  Understand why people who hurt you treated you as they did.  Don’t let them off the hook – acknowledge they did something wrong.
  4. Everything happens for a reason.  Reframe the experience from the soul’s perspective.  Your soul wanted this experience to teach you a lesson.

Once you understand the lesson, the energy shifts.  “I realize what was occurring was exactly what my soul wanted,” says Tipping.  Is this a radical approach?  Yes, but many have experienced healing with Tipping’s techniques.  In the film producer Ronna Prince works through her childhood abuse using Radical Forgiveness.  Seeing a real application of Tipping’s method gave me a better understanding of this technique.

Radical Forgiveness is just a small part of the film.  The primary message of the documentary is to encourage us to live through feelings, the language of the heart.  “The heart is the primary conduit to the deeper part of ourselves,” says Howard Martin.

I appreciated the good number of healers and experts interviewed.  The messages of some resonated with me more than others.  I especially liked the thoughts of Joe Dispenza, Cynthia James, Marianne Morrissey, and Sarah McClean.  Different experts may speak to you as you watch the film.  With the wide variety of views presented there is something here for everyone.

“Life’s real tragedy is not that it ends, but that we don’t live it to its fullest,” says Marianne Morrissey.  Sacred Journey of the Heart gives viewers techniques and approaches to consider that they can apply to their own lives.  To live in creation and joy rather than through fear.

I was given a complementary copy of this film for review purposes.  I was not financially compensated for this post.  The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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What Makes Us Healthy (CD Review)

Sometimes I read criticism of Hay House authors in that they promote a simplistic, positive thinking approach to life.  It’s all self-centered “happy talk”.  Those critics have not met Carolyn Myss.

“A spiritual path is not self serving, it’s about serving others,” Myss says early in her six part Hay House CD “What Makes Us Healthy?”.  “Its about what God expects of you, not what you expect of God.”

Myss’ CD is not for the faint of heart.  She challenges listeners in segment after segment to take a hard look at how they are operating in the world.  She’s critical of teachers who emphasize a self-centered approach.  “The human consciousness movement has changed (spirituality) to what we expect of God.  All we have to do is think and it will happen, so entitled are we.  Preposterous!”

Myss harsh tone had me thinking at times “get off my case, lady!” when listening to the CD.  But I encourage listeners to stick with it.  Her goal is to help her audiences reach their full potential.  “Everyone who I am privileged to teach is a jewel that needs animating,” she asserts.  While her approach may seem negative at first, she is trying to shake us out of our unhealthy, self-centered habits.

Myss believes that experiencing pain in our lives is not all bad.  “There’s ‘good pain’. It’s not all about being happy,” she says. “This pain is calling me inward.  I need to follow this.  Something within me is not congruent and I need to find out about that.  Not drug it.”  These words rang true with me.  I can think of times of great growth in my life, and those times were often preceded by periods of personal anguish.

One segment that spoke to me was about getting my own act together before I can really be of service.  “I still have issues to work through,” I think to myself sometimes.  “How can I be of help to others?”  Myss encouraged me to not let my own struggles stop me.  “Is there anyone I can help heal while I am healing?” she says to ask yourself.  “If I can lift this from another’s heart, I’ll take them with me.”

If you are looking for a CD of positive affirmations, “What Makes Us Healthy?” is not for you.  If instead you are open to taking a realistic look at your life, then I recommend listening to her lessons.  It made me contemplate where I am self centered.  “The spiritual journey is not a trip to the spa,” Myss concludes towards the end of her CD.  “We are expected to care for each other.  You are not here just to take care of yourself.  You (can be) a channel of grace.”

You can get “What Makes Us Healthy?” from these sources:

Hay House

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

This is another review in my partnership with Hay House.  I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the CD from Hay House for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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Eufeeling! (book review)

Enlightenment.  Joy.  Inner Peace.  However you define it, this state is the goal of my spiritual practice.  In his new book “Eufeeling! The Art of Creating Inner Peace and Outer Prosperity” Dr. Frank J. Kinslow gives tips on how to live out of this state, and how to create from it.

Kinslow defines enlightenment as “Eufeeling”.  In the first part of the book he describes this peaceful place with a surprise for the reader, “This book will open your awareness to treasures within you, yearning to be discovered … You have everything you need with you, right now.”  I liked Kinslow’s descriptions of the “Eufeeling” state, something not easy to define with conventional language, and his exercises on how we all can become more aware of Eufeeling within us.

“But I don’t always feel at peace!” you might think.  I say that to myself, too.  Is it possible to live from the Eufeeling state all the time?  What must I do??!!

Kinslow has an answer to such concerns.  “If Eufeeling is there with you right now and you are not aware of it, where should you go, and what should you do to find it?  The incredibly simple answer is that there is nowhere to go and nothing to do except become aware of it,” he writes.  “And how should you become aware of it?  The answer is without trying and creating effort.  This is the secret, the key to unlocking the amulet of suffering you have been carrying around your neck since you left your childhood behind.  Stop trying.”

Once Kinslow establishes what Eufeeling is, and how to become aware of it within, he goes on to define QE – Quantum Entrainment.  QE, Kinsolow says, “is the process that connects common consciousness with Eufeeling.  QE awakens the unmanageable mind to the joy of orderly awareness.”

With QE principles defined, Kinslow goes on to describe in the latter chapters how the reader can create from this state – a process he calls “QE Intention”.  He writes, “When you have QE Intention, you give the driver (Eufeeling) your destination and then sit back and enjoy the ride.”

As I was reading Eufeeling I got the sense that I’ve read about these processes before.  Kinslow is talking about the same type of awareness and creation methods as Wayne Dyer did in “Wishes Fulfilled” or Joe Dispenza in “Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself”.  I found Dyer’s and Dispenza’s books easier to understand.  That doesn’t mean Eufeeling is without value, though.  Different writing styles appeal to different people, and Kinslow technical style may resonate more with the detail oriented reader.

I feel the message of Kinslow’s book is an important one.  I know as I become more aware of the “EuFeeling” inside of me, a peaceful, joy oriented life is the result.

You can get “Eufeeling!” from these book sellers:

Hay House

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

This is another book review in my partnership with Hay House.  I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from Hay House for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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Ballad of Tam Lin (book review)

Kathleen McGowan’s “The Ballad of Tam Lin” is a retelling of a classic Scottish fairy tale.  Thanks to the author’s diligent research and colorful language, I found “Tam Lin” a fascinating love story set in 14th century Scotland.

McGowan is skilled at painting vivid word pictures.  Early in the book, for example, she describes a Scottish conquest of an English stronghold with this graphic language: “Upon capturing the castle, Sir James Douglas ordered that each remaining English soldier would lose his head.  He then stacked the heads in a grotesque pile in the wine casks in the food cellars, where he poured whiskey on them and set them ablaze.”  Ouch!  I was immediately drawn into the story with such imagery and wanted to read more.

The essence of Tam Lin is a love story.  McGowan describes the heroine Janet as “an action hero – not a damsel in distress waiting for anyone to rescue her.”  Janet has a childhood crush on young Scotsman Thomas Gray.  At age 11 Thomas ventures out on a hunting expedition with the elder males of his family.  Soon Thomas is separated from the hunting party and disappears.  In subsequent days no trace of Thomas can be found.  He is assumed dead.

Janet does not give up hope, however.  Aided by an elderly prophetess named Millie she senses that Thomas is still alive.  It turns out he is – he has been rescued by the mysterious Fairy Queen Elphamae.  Thomas remains missing to family and friends for years, raised by Elphamae and her elves he is given a new name – Tam Lin.  The crux of the story is how Janet wins back Thomas/Tam Lin from his elfin world through a series of adventures and tests.

I liked how McGowan takes this classic Scottish tale and adds her own elements to produce an intriguing story.  In a lengthy “author’s notes” and “history” section at the back of the book McGowan explains how she found several versions of the Tam Lin tale.  In some Janet and Thomas do not know each other as children, in others they do.  McGowan tells us how she includes the childhood interaction between the two to create a better love story later on.  The author also adds her own touches, such as the old prophetess Millie (not present in any of the classic tales of the story) to serve as a mentor for the heroine Janet.

The story is rich with metaphorical meanings.  We find out that the “evil” Queen Elphamae is not so evil once we learn of her motivations (in an encounter with Janet at the end).  And isn’t that the way it is in real life – where we can prematurely demonize people without understanding their histories.

McGowan concludes her book with her own Fairy Encounters – actual experiences she had with the fairy realm in Ireland.  Could the mythical tale of Tam Lin point to something real?  The reader can decide whether McGowan’s encounters are true.  I thought they sounded credible.

If you have read my previous book reviews you’ll notice that this is the first “fiction” book I have reviewed.  I’m more of a “non-fiction” guy.  But I’m glad I read Tam Lin.  It reminded me once again of the value of reading books of different genres.  I look forward to the next book McGowan has planned in this series, The North Berwick Witches, in 2013.

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Quiet House Tonight

We’ve just returned from an active three days of dropping our twin sons off for their freshmen years at college.  Josh is at Colorado State University, and Andrew is 540 miles away at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

The house is quiet tonight.  After 18 years of activity, Josh and Andrew have gone their separate ways.  “It’s kind of hit me that I won’t see Josh for months …” Andrew texted me as we were with his brother in Ft Collins, Colorado getting Josh settled in his dorm room.

It’s time like these that this Dad thinks back to when our sons first noticed each other, like in this old home movie when they were 6 1/2 months old:

Even though we are now separated by miles I have a feeling we’ll still keep in touch.  Those cell phones I bought them for Christmas last year are sure going to come in handy …

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No Storm Lasts Forever (book review)

“Life was perfect!” says Dr. Terry Gordon in reflecting back to June 29, 2009.  A successful cardiologist, Gordon and his wife were content in having raised three daughters and a son.  The girls were all college graduates and son Tyler had just completed his sophomore year as a business major.  Then tragedy strikes.  That night Tyler is seriously injured in an auto accident.  In a phone call early the next morning Gordon hears these dreaded words from the attending physician, “Your son is quadriplegic.”

In “No Storm Lasts Forever – Transforming Suffering Into Insight” Gordon shares with us his personal thoughts during this tumultuous time.  “I have never kept a diary” Gordon writes, yet his son’s accident leads him to describe his frustrations and perceptions as he deals with his son’s injury.  Little did he know at the time his diary was to later become this Hay House book – an inspiring tale for anyone going through a personal crisis.

I liked how Gordon relates uplifting stories of people he meets as he deals with his inner turmoil.  Before his 40th high school reunion, for example, he reconnects with his first girl friend.  He learns Marcia had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 25 years earlier.  The one time actress and dancer is now confined to a wheel chair.  “I am actually grateful for my disease,” she tells Gordon.  “It has taught me more about myself then I ever could have found out otherwise.  I learned how not to reject the pain of my adversity – how not to deny or ignore the hurt, but to embrace it as a precious gift from the Divine.  I’ve found that by working through my turmoil, I’ve been able to discover goodness within the hardship, and, more important, what lies beyond the suffering.”  These words are a comfort to Gordon as he struggles with why his son has to endure such a terrible fate.

Gordon has another chance encounter at an airport with a smiling man in a wheelchair.  The author is amazed at the man’s cheery disposition.  “His brilliant smile radiated from an enviable inner peace and happiness,” Gordon writes.  In talking to the man Gordon gets new insights.  “”I’m not going to tell you that the first two or three years were easy for me – they weren’t,” the man says.  “They were pure hell.  But you know what?  At some point (your son) Tyler is just going to have to get over it.”  After this encounter Gordon thinks to himself “When (Tyler) decides to change the way he looks at his circumstance, his circumstance will change.”

The book is full of inspiring stories like this as well as Gordon’s own discussions with his son Tyler.  Gordon is a nature lover, and often he will describe a nature scene and turn it into a lesson to help him deal with his son’s condition.  The title of the book, for example, comes from an encounter with a violent Colorado thunder storm outside Tyler’s hospital room.  “Son, even God doesn’t create a storm that lasts forever,” he tells his son.  “We must be patient, Ty.  The sun will rise again.  I promise you.”

I didn’t find the nature analogies as compelling as Gordon’s people stories in the book, but overall I recommend “No Storm” to anyone trying to make sense of a personal tragedy.   There are no miracle cures in Gordon’s memoir, Tyler is still a paraplegic, yet Gordon writes, “the most profound thing I have come to accept is that why the Gordons are facing this huge challenge is immaterial.  What’s more important is how we’re overcoming it.”  The book can give you healing insights, too, in dealing with adversity in your own life.

You can get “No Storm Lasts Forever” from these book sellers:

Hay House

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

This is another book review in my partnership with Hay House.  I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from Hay House for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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Good Night Daddy

Instant Empty Nest.  That’s what my wife Anne and I are facing when our only two children, twins Josh and Andrew, are off to college in three weeks.  The boys have been such an integral part of our lives for 18 years.  One tradition I enjoyed with my sons was “buddy night” which I wrote about last June.

Another practice I’ll miss is saying good night to the boys every evening.  Good moods or bad, happy times or sad, we always say good night to each other, as this old home movie shows:

Our 18 year olds still continue this ritual.  These days instead of kisses I’ll get a quick “high five” accompanied by “good night, Dad”.

I just know one month from today, with Josh and Andrew away at school, I’ll knock on their doors out of habit before bedtime.  But their rooms will be empty.  Our little boys grew up so fast.

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Grace, Guidance, and Gifts (book review)

One of the best books I reviewed last year was Sonia Choquette’s “The Power Of Your Spirit”.  That book, as I wrote at the time, was insightful in helping me distinguish between the unhealthy messages of the Ego and the empowering thoughts of the Spirit.  Now in 2012 Choquette has produced a worthy followup in the same vein, “Grace, Guidance, and Gifts”.

Choquette’s latest work could just as easily be called “Love Letters From God.”  I felt Spirit was speaking to me through these pages –  a devotional format with two to three page entries designed to be read daily.  The book is divided into three parts as the title implies – one third of the book addresses Grace, one third Guidance, and the last third Gifts.

The foundation of my spirituality is the unconditional love of God.  I liked how this love was emphasized over and over again in the Grace part.  One example of a Grace prayer that resonated with me: “Grace my Spirit with the humility to cease foolishly trying to exercise control over life and especially those around me, and to quietly allow my day to unfold in harmony and with respect for your own graceful divine plane, without interference, disruption, or disturbance from the ego.”  In saying these prayers I was reminded again of my own loving connection to Spirit.

The Guidance part also spoke to me.  Each entry is organized in four sections: “Message from Spirit”, “Morning Prayer”, “Today’s Mantra” and “Your Personal Blessing”.  I found reading a new entry first thing in the morning gave me a calming spiritual focus before entering into the activity of the work day.  The mantra “I trust my inner guidance even when it is difficult to understand” was one I thought of often on the day I read it.

I wish the book had a more detailed index.  “Grace page 1;  Guidance page 89; Gifts page 155” is it.  In the Gifts part various spiritual capabilities are discussed, each in its own entry (healing, compassion, patience, listening, leadership, silence, courage, friendship, and teaching are a few).  I found these entries compelling; ones I will want to refer to again in the future, but with no index to lead the way it won’t be easy.  Maybe I’ll make my own index!

I feel reading an inspirational piece at the start of each day is a powerful spiritual practice.  Choquette’s book is full of such passages, and now it will have a permanent place in my meditation room.  As a bonus a free CD is included with three meditation sessions led by the author.  “Grace, Guidance, and Gifts” is a guide I will refer to often.

You can get “Grace, Guidance, and Gifts” from these book sellers:

Hay House

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

This is another book review in my partnership with Hay House.  I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from Hay House for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

 

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