Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Ripple Effect

I’m sure everyone wishes they had an ‘Olivander’s’ in their neighborhood. You know, the famous store from Harry Potter…where you can buy a magical wand with supernatural powers…. I know I do. :)

Well, after the past few days I’ve been reminded that ALL of us possess the power within us, like a magic wand, to alter the course of somebody’s day, mood or life. Another way to look at it is ‘the ripple effect.’ And you don’t need an Olivanders store, or money to do it!

Over the weekend, we hit Route 66 and embarked on an adventure to Needles, a tiny town that’s situated on the banks of the Colorado River. On one side is California, the other, Arizona.

The drive wasn’t very scenic! Stark desert bordered either side of the road and I’m sure not much would thrive in the harsh conditions outside our air conditioned car.

When we stepped out of the car at the Marina Park where we’d be staying, I was hit with a rush of hot air….117o to be exact! Wow, was it hot!

Over the next few days we tried to dodge the heat by hitting the river in our friend’s boat. He’d cut the engine upstream and we’d dive off the back of the boat into the crisp cold water of the Colorado.

Dempsey learned to snorkel in the shallows and how to throw a fishing line and ride a jet ski!

I enjoyed sitting on a deck chair, under the sparse shade our pop up provided. Watching the kids paddle and splash in the water….squeezing my toes through the muddy sand as the cool water lapped over my feet. It was like meditation until Dempsey broke the spell with…”I’m bored Mummy!”  

With no TV, computer, DSI or technology available I thought about what she could do. Looking around I noticed an abundance of river rocks scattered everywhere. I picked one up and told Demps…”When I was a little girl, Poppie taught me how to skim stones.”

I stood on the waters edge and Frisbee’d the stone across the river. “Plunk” went the rock…dropping straight to the bottom! Of course I sucked at this old fashioned pastime. However, like the ripple effect my rock created when it hit the water, one by one the kids got up and had to have a go. Even Peter joined in, revisiting his childhood….

I sat back on my deck chair smiling…watching shy teenage boys interact with giggly teenage girls and oldies try to beat the youngies….I thought about how our behavior or one thing can have an effect on others…all of a sudden the kids moods changed from hot and bored into excited and animated.

The temperature overnight there only gets down to 90o….so we sat outside enjoying warm beer and watching a magnificent tangerine sun sizzle and sink into the desert. And as the moon lit the sky, a blanket of stars appeared. It was magnificent! And just as if I had a magic wand, a shooting star shot across the carpeted sky. I closed my eyes and made a wish…. :) 

We finished the night off with Dempsey and me running fully clothed through the cool sprinklers that fanned water back and forth across the dry grass. My friend Mary stood by watching and smiling…she commented, “Dee, you are crazy…Dempsey will remember that moment forever…”

And today, I was reminded again of the power of the ripple effect. Back in the land of the living and slightly lower temperatures, I spent the morning volunteering at the Let It Be Foundation. A foundation started by a lady, Ruthe Rosen, who lost her 15 year old daughter to cancer. This foundation helps families who are struggling on their journey with a seriously ill child.

As I stood with a wet rag, washing out dusty cash boxes for an upcoming charity event, the Foundation’s Junior Advisory Team sat around a large table and discussed their volunteer program.
I got goose bumps as I listened to them, so passionate about this cause, and how they could recruit other teenagers to help the Foundation.

And as I grabbed my handbag to leave, I couldn’t help myself. I felt I had to comment on these amazing teenagers…how inspirational they are! I told them, if they are the future of America then it appears it will be in good hands. :)

Ruthe interrupted and said, “Oh, everyone, this is Diana, her 4 year old daughter died…why don’t you tell them a bit about Savannah…”

You could’ve heard a pin drop as all eyes spun around to focus on me.  My voice was shaky as I told them about Savannah, about how what they are doing makes such a difference to a family’s lives who are dealing with the heartache and hardships looking after a sick child brings. And then I left the room before I burst into tears.

Driving home, tears rolled down my face.  Sometimes I get emotional talking to strangers about losing our girl.  However, I hope by meeting a mum, another volunteer today, will have a ripple effect on them.  I know they certainly had one on me today.

So know next time you smile at a stranger, you may make her day…or put pennies in a box for the homeless…or tell someone they “look great today,”…or run through the sprinklers with your child…the ripple effect and impact can be powerful and have far reaching repercussions….know that YOU, can make a difference!

Ps; and I know the lady at Vons Supermarket, who pushed in front of me certainly affected my ripple today… ;)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sometimes to be happy, you gotta know sad....

“You cry a little then you wait for the sun to come out. It always does….” - Maria, from the Sound of Music

The scars of grief can run deep….sometimes, things trigger them, like the movie '7 Pounds' that Peter and I watched Saturday night…. or having old memories bubble back up to the surface with an old's wishing for something that you know will never come true...or too many late nights, burning the candle at both ends that makes you tired and susceptible to sadness…. 

However, it’s knowing that the sadness doesn’t last….that the sun will shine again that keeps you putting one foot in front of the other when you feel vulnerable and sad.   Its finding coping mechanisms and letting yourself cry that heals the heart.

For the past week or more, I’ve been in a mid summer slump….I have a long list of things that have to be done but can’t seem to get the energy to do any of them. Like the beds in our home that need stripping, and my two university assignments that are due next week, and this blog..…it’s dealing with an over tired 9 year old and her sadness that our Australian friends are gone.   Dempsey loved having the kids around the house again, especially one her sister's age.

My friend Vicki and her family arrived back from their 10 day vacation in Cancun.  We spent four fun filled days together with them.  And when they left Dempsey was heartbroken. She sat outside in almost 100o heat, amongst the chalk drawings Bonnie and Alex and her had created, crying her eyes out…waiting for them to come back.

I finally coaxed her inside and wrapped her up in my arms on my lap.  I tried to tell her that she has to be happy she had the time that she did with them, that we’ll see them again… But it pulled at my heart strings, to see her pain.  I cried too at my friend leaving, but I know I’ll see her again, and that makes the hurt that little bit less.  You have to find positives in every negative I’ve found.

You have to find things that will transform the melancholy moods into an upbeat frame of mind.  This week, my weapon against the blues was running.  Pounding the pavement in our surrounding streets.

I find exercising, exorcises the demons…it can give you a rush of feel good energy, even when you don’t think you have the energy to do anything.  It helps when you do have to battle a case of the doldrums or find peace when having a hard day.  Its self preservation, and it works…for me anyway.

My gorgeous friend Vicki gave me this beautiful chunky silver bracelet. I love it!   It’s from New Zealand and each emblem represents something special.   One of the charms is called a Koru, its spiral shape symbolizes life, growth and peace….it reminded me of the changing journey of grief……

And I find when things get me down and overwhelm me, I find processing my thoughts, and tears….helps me to move forward…knowing that “this too will pass.”   I know taking responsibility for things I can control, like my attitude help to overcome the Debbie downer moments when I feel exposed because of grief.

Saturday night, watching the movie 7 Pounds, made me confront some of my sorrow that lies just under the surface.  I wished it was my little girl who could’ve been given some miracle cure like the people in the movie.  But wishes don’t wash dishes….or strip beds…..or teach my daughter that you have to love your life….hard days and all.  That they make the happy days all that more sweeter.

After the movie, before bed, I sat outside, immersed in the magic of the full moon, crying.  The movie was sad and made me think about Savannah....however, after my tears dried I felt like I'd been cleansed…..I knew that the next day, I would notice how blue the sky is….and like Maria out of The Sound of Music, I know, you cry a little then you wait for the sun to come out…it always does!

Monday, August 1, 2011

A lesson from Mother Nature....

Do you ever wonder about God or our existence?   I do.   Especially after losing loved ones.

These days, I’m prompted to question more, to think deeper and to appreciate what I have. Grief has taught me that. I’ll always search for the answers…….

On Friday, we took a mini vacation in San Diego.  And after visiting some places and reveling in the beauty and splendor of nature, I wondered about the big picture….how we all got here…where are we all going?

If it’s by chance…or evolution….or if there really is more meaning if we scratch the surface?

Nature was my teacher on the weekend, and of course Dempsey, who always reminds me to stay in the moment…that you can find magic in what Mother Nature has gifted us with and to never ever forget to be a kid at heart! :)

We packed the car with an overnight bag and armed with our trusty GPS we headed off to the San Diego Safari Park.

Through the entrance like ants going to a picnic, we followed other families, pushing strollers and hanging on tightly to their littlies hands.

Dempsey wanted to try the Zip line over the park…she wanted to sail through the air on a cable with the animals underneath her.   I told her “Precious I don’t think we should attempt fate, knowing our luck, the line will break and we’ll drop into the lions den!” :)

We stopped by the flamingo enclosure, and this is where I started to feel the magic of the animals….. How do they get the pink color on their feathers? And why? Why do they only stand on one leg?

The flamingo is such a beauty….a work of art! (like Dempsey) :)   It made me wonder who or what designed this magical creature?  

And as I was deep in thought, I realized Peter and Demps had wandered off, following the herd of humans onto the next miraculous attraction.

We entered the petting zoo with a handful of stinky pellets where eagerly awaiting goats followed us around.

They were hardly shy, and you daren’t bend over in front of them….they bordered on being classified stalkers!

But Dempsey loved it!  I couldn’t stop smiling as I listened to her infectious giggles at their obsession of her hand.

Down into the shady bowels of the park we went, listening to the comforting sound of man made waterfalls and the distant holler of some exotic birds.  We found the safari tram about to depart on a tour of the rolling hills where the bigger wilder animals were.

With a slight breeze in the air, we made ourselves comfortable in anticipation of seeing some magnificent animals roaming the grounds.

“Look Mummy, Look!” Dempsey screamed, pointing at the majestic giraffes!

As the tram pulled up as close as we could get to these freaks of nature, nibbling on the bark of the palm trees, I again relished in the beauty of our world and why, oh why, are some animals like they are?

It’s like someone has taken out a box of crayola’s and designed something exotic and unique. 

Admiring these towering tremendous animals, was like a magic spell had been cast on me….it was peaceful and serene, soaking in the beauty of this place.

Dempsey was excited about the gorilla enclosure, even though we saw more of the silver back’s butt than his face!

This tough guy also made me wonder….this so called close relative of ours conjured up some funny thoughts too….like, if we are here via evolution, then I’m glad we’ve evolved with a little less hair!

After trekking from one end of the zoo to the other and witnessing some amazing creatures, we stopped for lunch…..then the enormous elephants, another fascinating beast.......

Gotta love an owl with attitude!! :)

I decided to be a big kid and share the carousel with the little ones….much to Dempsey’s embarrassment! :)

A coincidence that I climbed aboard a hummingbird amongst the huge array of zoo animals on the old fashioned round about??

And as the big old machine whirred and circled Peter, I felt such a level of peace and joy in experiencing a day with a world full of natures gifts….simply in awe!

On the way home Saturday morning, we diverted to Laguna Beach…..the rhythm of the water and the crashing of the waves reminded me life is bigger than us…like a kaleidoscope.

That we are but players in the grand scheme of life….here to enjoy and find our own way on this journey. To evolve ourselves….and find our own meaning.  And, to allow nature to be our biggest teacher of what is really important in life…..

Balancing, with one hand on the car, dusting off the sticky sand on our feet, Dempsey, excited, exclaimed, "Look what I found Mummy!" 

Outside her door, one last reminder to me, of the mystery of life and the possibility of a higher place or being…a feather! :)

As Peter took on the L.A traffic back to our house, Dempsey played her DSI and I stared out the window, contemplating all I’d seen on our trip……

If earth is like this, magical and majestic…then I wonder, I just wonder about the beauty and mystery of where Savannah is? :)