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As life goes on and as I grow older, I have begun to worry that I have lost my sparkle. I didn’t realize when I was younger how very important it is for a woman to have her diamond-sparkle-700x394sparkle – an inner glow, an intense shine that defines your heart, your soul, your vitality. A woman’s sparkle is the light that glows in her and as my life has changed, I started thinking maybe my light had gone out.

When I was younger, the sparkle that I had was a sort of glitter – like the roughy, gritty bits that you sprinkle on art projects and kids’ crafts. I was rough myself, not worried about being particularly girly or feminine. I had my horses, I had my books, and while I wanted to be popular and pretty, I managed to forge my way as the girl next door, the reliable friend, the good student, and the non-threatening nerd. Ask anyone who went to high school with me, I wasn’t a standout for my sparkle. But that sparkle was there like that pretty glitter on paper – naïve, youthful, unsophisticated, yet reflecting a light that glowed within me in its own childlike way.

As I became a young woman, that glitter softened into a shimmery lamé material – like those glitzy cocktail dresses or fancy interior decorating touches, soft and pliant and molded into whatever is needed. As a college student and into my 20’s, I aimed only to be smart and kind and easygoing. I wanted to be pretty and feminine but often fell short and, in hindsight, never was quite as glamorous or exotic as I’d hoped. But I still shimmered, my glow was still there, it just softened and matured.

Now that I’m on my way to middle-age, my sparkle has been hardened into a diamond – formed from hardship and pressure but still shining like the sun and preciously valuable. Like that lump of coal, I had to survive in a dark place under intense stress and pain in order to discover that glitter and shimmer within my depths. I admit now that my sparkle is harder, more sharp and intense than it used to be, but thank God, still very much there.

So, ladies, if you are ever in doubt that your sparkle is gone, think back on your life. Embrace those experiences and relationships that have threatened to extinguish your inner light –and celebrate because they didn’t! Cherish those people around you who love you for exactly how bright you shine and allow you to be unique and precious and priceless. And please continue to let your sparkle shine – glowing, incandescent and proud!

 “I encourage you to remember that you are, indeed, as the stars. You glow with the same intensity. The answers that you seek outside of yourself may very well be found within the cosmic intelligence inside you. Go ahead; show the world what you are made of! Sparkle, shine, light the way, and brightly blaze as you are meant to do.”  ― Mishi McCoy

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When I was a kid, summertime was by far the most exciting season of the year for me (behind Christmas, of course, even then I was sort of a holiday junkie). It wasn’t because I was off of school – I actually loved school even during those awkward middle and high school years. It wasn’t because of the warm summer-freedomweather either – heat and humidity suck when you grow up in upstate New York where most people didn’t have A/C 20 years ago. It wasn’t because of the ice cream trips that my parents would take us on – hot summer nights were defined by Perry’s ice cream flavors and that special family time. It wasn’t because of the carnivals and parades and special events that marked evenings and weekends – although I had the extreme honor of playing in the Alexander Firemen’s Band in my college years, a wonderful throwback to a bygone era of small town community icons. And it wasn’t because my birthday always marked the beginning of summer – although up until I was about 30 years old, it was awfully fun to celebrate my birthday.  It wasn’t because baseball season had rolled in – although there is nothing better than sitting in the bleachers of a ballpark with popcorn in hand and the crack of the bat ringing through the air. It wasn’t even because camping season had finally arrived – even though those Sprucelands days were the happiest times I’ve ever had, in the wide outdoors surrounded by horses and friends.

In hindsight, I think the reason summer was so wonderful was because it meant FREEDOM. The freedom from routine school days and regular mundane activities. The freedom from parental oversight, especially as I became older and went off to summer camps for the whole summer. Freedom from dark and dreary winter weather – try living in everlasting snow for one winter and see how you feel. Freedom from mean girls and social pressures in school. Freedom to enjoy the sunshine and green grass and fresh air. Freedom to be with my friends and to be myself. Freedom to spend entire days in the sunshine, teaching horses and kids how to be effective teams. Freedom to be silly and laugh and not be serious and studious and boring. Freedom to swim and read fun books and to lay in the grass stargazing with my friends.

I walked out of work the other night into a warm summer evening and, as I took a deep breath of humid Maryland air, I had a flash of that freedom once more. And though the summer is no longer defined by ice cream (damn lactose intolerance) and the fireman’s band (geography limits my piccolo time), summer is still freedom for me. I can still enjoy bright sunshine and camping out in the night air and grilled sweet corn and fresh-picked strawberries and priceless hours in the saddle. My life has changed so much yet I’m still so blessed to enjoy the FREEDOM of summer’s fresh air, frosty glasses of white wine, and friendship.

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I write today in memory of a truly good human being named Brian. I write today in memory of a quiet and thoughtful young man – I think he only ever spoke about 100 words to me in the 6 years I knew him – but that beautiful brain of his was always working. I write today in 00f1941db3c9c3a5f36a38418b9b6a25_20170427memory of a talented ceramics artist – his works were an amazing mix of abstract and whimsy, color and form  – just like the artist himself. I write today in memory of a ukulele prodigy – he could randomly strum out tunes with a natural ear that made mediocre musicians like me jealous. I write today in memory of this strong young man with a quirky and unique sense of self – from his cheerful skull-and-crossbones jammy pants to his big charming smile, he embraced being different and special. I write today in memory of an avid outdoorsman, whose love of camping and scouting made him strong and independent, perfectly content in the silence of the woods or the beach.

One year ago today, we lost this special young man as he passed into paradise. After surviving one serious car accident two years prior (thanks to the staff of Shock Trauma and his own amazing will to recover) this beautiful human being spent 2 years trying to recover his memory, his happiness, his mental and physical health, and his newly-graduated-just-heading-out-into-the-real-world life. He struggled so hard to get back to himself and he was on a good path. And then the Lord called him home. I watched his family and friends shatter as they tried to make sense of the loss. And yet I was so comforted in knowing that he is in Heaven, watching over us and just shaking his head in that way that he had.

Today, I want to remember this wonderful young man for what he was – a truly good human being. Throughout the struggle of his last 2 years, he tried so hard to be strong and happy. He didn’t want his demons and his pain to beat him. His legacy, I hope, won’t be one of pain or anger. I hope that we all can remember his sweet smile, his artistic soul, his boundless love, his individuality, his strength. And so I pen this small tribute to a really good kid…

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When the cracks first began appearing in my marriage, a male friend of mine tried to help me understand the male psyche in a way that would sink into my confused mind. His advice to me was that Male Brains are Like Waffles, Female Brains are Like Spaghetti.** 

At the time I didn’t fully grasp what the hell he was talking about. Yes, men like to eat. Yes, men can eat endless amounts of carbs and sweets and never gain an ounce. What the hell, Rob, how is that going to help my marriage? 

13658370_1177496062280931_1439568095_nWhat he meant is this: men think of things in tidy little squares. They are able to compartmentalize not only their feelings but also their experiences, their reactions, their entire life. They can keep everything in tidy little boxes and only tackle the sections that they need to at any given time. They can even keep the syrup contained in the areas where they need to.

Women, on the other hand, are a jumbled bowl of pasta, with each strand tangled up in another one and covered 1408069256188totally in sauce. Emotions, experiences, daily moments, they all jumble together and make one massive meal. We aren’t able to separate things out as easily and so can often get confused on what part of life is what.

And yes, males and females are of the same species (follow the metaphor here, we’re both carbs) but are very different. Each are individual creations that can display dizzying arrays of variations (chocolate chip, coconut, plain with butter, pesto sauce, marinara, blond, brunette, thin, fluffy, tall, short, etc). Yet we have to remember that each is undeniably and fundamentally different from one another – which needs to be respected and handled. We need learn to communicate with the other type of food as best we can and to understand that we may never fully comprehend them. A big syrupy strawberry waffle may never be able to understand the bowl of spaghetti ala vodka sauce. But together they’d make a damn good (albeit high calorie) meal. A happy mating of carbs – and humans.

**[I know now that he actually read this theory in a book called “Men Are Like Waffles–Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences” by Pam and Bill Farrel but at that time I was giving him credit for total brilliance. Definitely read the book, its extremely enlightening and very helpful in opening lines of communication.] 

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When a person, male or female, goes through a divorce, I am convinced that they go through The Slut Phase of their lives. Now this is my own personal theory and based only on anecdotal evidence observed by me as I have watched countless friends and relations go through the breakdowns of their marriages – and I myself lived it. So there is no real science to this theory, only personal observations. I’m not particularly proud of this portion of my life – as I would guess most people aren’t in hindsight – but it happens and if you’re living it, you’re not alone.

When you are newly-separated and/or newly-divorced, you will flirt with, bat your eyelashes at, and ultimately sleep with pretty much anybody that crosses your path that takes an interest. That other person may be plug ugly or stupid or mean or crazy or have a prison record or be juggling 15 other girlfriends. But if they want to talk to you, you will jump at that chance for attention and affection.

I think it has to do with self esteem. And self worth, And self confidence. All of which take major bloody blows in the process of a divorce. Especially, god forbid, if you are not the one initiating the process. You feel hopeless and worthless, like you have lost any appealing qualities that you might have once had. You doubt your attractiveness, your brains, your ability to ever catch the eye of a decent person ever again. In short, you take what you can get and you take a lot of it.

But, rest assured, that phase passes. You wear yourself out, you get bored with the shallowness of it all, 41Ghi3tagLLyou open your eyes to the crazies and the losers. You discover there’s still a lot of yourself left after all – and you want more out of your life. And, unless you harbored a Sense of Slut prior to being in the initial relationship (which, as we all know, some people do), you step out of the Slut Phase and move onto the next chapter.

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I was a teenager in the 1990s, an experience that I cannot describe to you – you have to have lived it to truly understand it – but that’s a subject for another day. Where I was going with this thought is that as a teenager, you’re looking for guidance, for a way to frame and structure your world that makes sense to you. Thank God that I was a country kid and that my generation had a poet, a sage, a wise soul named Garth Brooks to give us that much-needed guidance. As one of those terribly awkward, nerdy, bookish teenagers, Garth-Brooks1I needed to figure out how to keep an open heart and a strong soul in the face of shallow high school concerns. Enter Mr. Brooks and his three chords and the truth. Words of wisdom indeed….

♦ The Change – As long long as one heart still holds on / Then hope is never really gone” and “But it’s not the world that I am changing / I do this so, this world will know that it will not change me.”

♦ Unanswered Prayers – Just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care / Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

♦ We Shall Be Free – When the last thing we notice is the color of skin /And the first thing we look for is the beauty within” and “When we’re free to love anyone we choose / When this world’s big enough for all different views / When we all can worship from our own kind of pew / Then we shall be free.”

♦ If Tomorrow Never Comes –Tell that someone that you love / Just what you’re thinking of/ If tomorrow never comes.”

♦ Do What You Gotta Do – There ain’t nobody in this world / That’s gonna do it for you / Do what you gotta do.”

♦ To Make You Feel My Love – The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea / Down on the highway of regret / The winds of change are blowing wild and free / But you ain’t seen nothing like me yet.”

♦ The River – oh hell, just the entire song…listen here

 

And now that I am an adult and have actually lived and experienced some of the difficult situations that Mr. Brooks was crooning about, his words still guide me and reassure me that I’m not the only one who has suffered a heartbreak and a rebuilding….

♦ Every Now and Then – “I love my life and I’ve never trade / Between what you and me had and the life I’ve made” 

♦ I Don’t Have to Wonder Anymore – “And I still don’t know / Why things happened like they did / But I parked that old pickup / On that lonesome river bridge / I took your ring from my pocket / And I held it one last time / Watched that diamond sparkle /I drew back and I let her fly / And in less time than it takes to tear to fall / Oh that old ring went under / Lord, and now it’s gone for sure / And I don’t have to wonder anymore.”

♦ She’s Gonna Make It – “And you know it’s not like she’s forgot about him / She’s just dealing with the pain.”

♦ Beaches of Cheyenne – “He promised her he’d turn out / Well it turned out that he lied /And their dreams that they’d been livin’ / In the California sand / Died right there beside him in Cheyenne.”

♦ Cowboy Song – “He’s just chasin’ what he really loves / And what’s burnin’ in his soul / Wishin’ to God that he’d been born a hundred years ago.”

♦ In Another’s Eyes – “Oh in another’s eyes / Staring back at me / I see a sinking soul, trying desperately/ To turn the tide, before it dies.”

♦ Ask Me How I Know – You make all the rules, you’re set in your ways / You gotta have your freedom, you gotta have your space.”

♦ Learning to Live Again – I’m gonna smile my best smile and I’m gonna laugh like it’s going out of style.”

♦ How You Ever Gonna Know – “You know failure isn’t failure / If a lesson from it’s learned / I guess love would not be love / Without a risk of being burned.”

♦ The Dance – Our lives are better left to chance / I could have missed the pain / But I’d have had to miss the dance.”

 

So no matter your age or what stage of life you’re in, if you’re feeling lost or in need of some guidance, find the Garth Brooks station on Amazon or (for a truly 90s hair entertaining experience), search him on YouTube and watch the old videos. Let some good old country music wisdom guide you…

 

[on a random side note, the exception to his brilliant writing rule is “Cowboy Cadillac” – it’s a catchy tune but damn those lyrics are dumb, is he writing about his woman or his truck?]

[a second random side note, I admit that I have had to overcome some disillusion and disappointment about Mr. Brooks as a human being and a husband as his first marriage ended and his relationship with Trisha Yearwood has unfolded.  It’s always hard to watch your icons reveal their flawed humanity – and in light of my own personal feelings about infidelity – it was a difficult pill to swallow.]

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Have you ever had a profound, life-changing event over a cup of coffee? I have – which I know must seem very odd to those of you out there who do not have that special place in your hearts for caffeine. Of course, anyone that knows my mother would not at all be surprised that her little daughter apple did not fall far from the coffee-flavored tree – my mom is as loyal to her coffeepot as she is to my dad, maybe even a little more to the coffee since Dad’s only been her husband since 1966. We used to joke with waitresses at restaurants that they could just run a central IV line to my mom to save them time and energy in refilling her cup. So, with that caffeine addiction running true in my genes, no one should be surprised that I am finding philosophy in coffee.

Ok, so anyway, back to my profound, life-changing moment. During one of my regular runs to Dunkin’ Donuts to grab an iced coffee (one of the few edible/potable vestiges of 1xRun_Denial_Restoration-Sale_Limited-Time-Only_24x24_Web01.jpgmy former pre-surgery life that I still desperately cling to), I was hemming and hawing over the new “limited time only” flavor selections. I just HAD to try that flavor because it was going away, what if I missed something important, what if there was some goodness that expired because I was too afraid to try something new….what if…what if?

So here’s my epiphany: Life in general should be lived like it’s Limited Time Only. Try those new flavors or that new type of ethnic food, check those items off the bucket list, embark on a new adventure, sign up for that tap dance class, travel to Scotland, learn how to sky dive. Do all those things that you want to do – because there is no guarantee of tomorrow. We, as humans, do have an expiration date so we need to enjoy our one trip on the planet. Live your life to its fullest because it is Limited Time Only!

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