Why I don’t say “I am proud of you.”

hax120427

I cringe when someone says, “I am proud of you”, to me or anyone else. I have had this reaction for years, not just recently. I hesitated saying it to my children while they were growing up. It just sounds so condescending to me. Like I am saying, I know better/do/think than you and am qualified to point out to you that you are on the right track. I looked up the meaning of the phrase and according to the mass online presence, it means that the person saying it has been through or knows what you have been through to accomplish what you have accomplished. This would involve a very personal relationship to have been developed between the person saying it and the receiver and a very long relationship. In my opinion, teachers, mentors and parents could be included without question. Why did I use it sparingly on my kids, if at all? Saying it made me feel oddly superior and while I know we are superior in many ways to our kids. This phrase made me feel like I was egotistically reminding them of my superiority, like a reminder of your place in the hierarchy of relationships, a putting you in your place with a smile on my face kind of exchange. It took the focus away from the celebrated victory and placed it on my feelings about it. It felt deceptive, a little bit cruel and not at all conveyed the message I wanted to tell them, which was:

You accomplished such a monumentally important thing and I hope you bask in the glow of this feeling as much as I am right along with you.

I seriously rejoice in my kids accomplishments and personally think they are the best human beings on the planet. I also have a decent amount of personal pride in my accomplishment of raising two amazing human beings. I say, “I am proud of you” in the mirror to myself everyday, because, well, I feel superior to myself and need the reminder of where I fit in the relationship hierarchy.

 

Dying Well

sacredwell

Movies and mythic journeys always talk about “dying well”. When you think about dying well in this instance it usually involves something heroic or being remembered for an altruistic life. Extraordinary experiences of profound impact on others or the world in general are usually what get written down in books or played out on screens. Immortalized character traits that set the bar high for all of us left living to aspire to.

In the Mayan culture a human would  volunteer to be sacrificed to the God’s because it assured them a place in heaven. To be sacrificed was “dying well” to the Mayans. The human sacrifice was thrown into a cenote, a deep dark cave with an underground river and if the bound human sacrifice survived the 60 foot fall, after a period of time they were brought back up and asked what the God’s told them while in the cenote.

In my experience sitting with people that are dying, people die the way they lived. Those memorable heroic moments that happened maybe once and that everyone always associates with the person…yeah, that isn’t what the dying are sorting through in the end. The end brings what one spends the majority of their time and energy on. If it was being fearful, then it is fear gripping you in the end. If it was regret, then it is regret that wafts over you and spills out of your eyes and soul. Our one defining moment is death and it is at this time that our truest spirit is expressed. Not the many faces we live and use daily in life. Those are only needed by the living. Death being the equalizer that it is, brings us to ground zero where our base energy lies…that which fuels our thoughts, desires, needs, and propels us into action. It rarely is altruistic and even rarer is heroic, at least not in historical or Hollywood terms. It is instead that day in and day out, moment to moment, small hum of energy that is not noticed by anyone but you most of the time. That lingering tug at your consciousness as you are falling asleep at night..there, that is what surfaces in the end, like it has been waiting and trying to get you to acknowledge it for a long, long time.

It makes you think about the way you live now. At this moment. If you spew anger and hatred towards your family, if you judge people, if you are jealous or resentful, if you love and respect others, show compassion, are generous… whatever you spend the most time and energy on is what will be staring back at you from the mirror placed before you in the end. And that mirror comes to us all.

And of course no one knows what happens after death, what if we continue on in some other existence based on these very characteristics that we lived in this life? What if this life is step one and our actions in it determines step two? Would you change the way you live your life now to “die well”?

Your mileage may vary

This is a great message for all…young, old or in-between! Go for the dream! Always go for the dream, everything else will work itself out.

Piaggia Del Giuggiolo

Libba Bray

Recently, I received a post that really got under my skin. It’s from Fiona (Hi, Fiona). I started to dash off a reply and then I thought that it required a much longer, more considered answer. With her permission, I’m reprinting her original comment below followed by my response. My response is lengthy; I apologize. But it is from the heart.

“I’m in a bit of a dilemma and I made a deal with my father that I would get advice from three people: my high school counselor, my voice coach, and an author. I want to go into the fine arts: writing, singing, composing. My father wants me to go to Columbia, Yale, or Harvard. I’d be fine with these but I want to go to a smaller school and then study abroad for at least two years. “It’s my life and this is a decision that will alter…

View original post 5,063 more words

Love American Style

loveamericanstyle

I spent my first Valentine’s Day out of the United States and I survived to tell about it…or actually revel in it. This post is in no way slamming American holidays or the need for them to break up the monotony of life, serve as reminders-of or give us pause to celebrate life. I rather have a new perspective this Valentine’s Day. I have spent over 15 Valentine’s Days alone or perhaps without a romantic partner is a better way to say it, as I have never been alone. This year was the first time I was truly alone on Valentine’s Day, without my friends or family around me. I had this light-bulb moment. What if love is not contingent on someone being there to fill the space beside you? What if love is just a feeling all on your own and always present…that you share with other people? What if love is not doing anything…what if it isn’t a verb but a noun? What if we are just big blobs of love walking around sharing it with whoever wants some?

I do think that being away from the media crazed madness that is consumer heaven wrapped in red cellophane heart shaped boxes has contributed to this epiphany. Instead of pushing against the imposing mountain of commercialism this year, I had infinite space to contemplate the deeper meaning of love, being in love, being love, giving love, and loving. The focus shifted.

In Bulgaria the day is a holiday as well and is called Zadushnitza (All Soul’s Day). It is a day that Bulgarians go to church, light candles and prepare their deceased loved ones meals that were favorites. The apartment manager where I am renting brought me a plate of bread, cheeses, olives and dips and told me about this day. What a contrast that our day of love is their day to honor the dead. Which had me thinking about loss, which brought me full circle to love and those I love, knowing I love them. Me, knowing I love me, so I can just be… love.  I spent the day loving myself more than I could ever imagine, sending love to my friends and family and holding them in loving thoughts. I consciously chose to love. I loved everything that I saw, felt, imagined, touched, looked at…just was love..all day. It was the best Valentine’s Day ever. I drifted off to sleep to the sounds of disco music from the disco near here, shouts of partying and fireworks going off.

The first sip of coffee this morning…was love all over again. Who knew it could be so easy but yet so hard…to find love.

Internship in Bulgaria

Alexander-Nevsky-Cathedral-in-Sofia-Bulgaria[1]

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral Sofia, Bulgaria

My next journey will be to Sofia, Bulgaria in late January. I have accepted one of four offered internships at the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria. I was offered internships in Milan, The Holy See and Romania. It was a tough decision to make but I chose Sofia for a few reasons, including the rich history of the area and my fascination with how they have maintained a cultural identity given the many invasions and rulers that have occupied Bulgaria.  I intend to research and photograph some lesser known story. I will also be spending forty hour weeks at the embassy learning all about public affairs and cultural affairs in addition to working on a research project on Byzantine sources supervised by one of my professors and a PSU class online on Gothic art. I will be busy!

The internship lasts three months and then my son will be joining me in Bulgaria and we will travel to Greece and possibly Turkey for a couple weeks. Then make our way up to Germany to see my brother and sister in law who live in Stuttgart.  Another reason I chose Sofia is to take part in a fresco photo documenting expedition with the Balkan Heritage Field School. I support their efforts to document and archive the frescoes that are being destroyed and lost to history.

I have so much to learn in the next few months before I leave, I hope my brain will expand and contain it all!  I am still learning Italian, because I am tentatively planning on applying to graduate school in Lucca. I am learning some Bulgarian, which is really hard because it uses the Cyrillic alphabet. I am brushing up on my microsoft skills (ha) and learning to use excel (I use google docs for everything).  In addition I am putting together a cookbook for my son who will be living the bachelor life and does not know how to cook, some of his favorite dishes in easy to read format.

My life is really full but it is full of the things I dearly love and as my vision of how I always wanted to live becomes a reality, I can only look around in awe and say, Thank you, I am so blessed.

Fearless

I entered a contest that is based on being FEARLESS.  After studying in Italy for three months and taking my autistic son with me, coupled with my age and all the challenges that come with getting older and trying to accomplish great things…I think I am FEARLESS. Please consider following the link and casting your vote by “liking” my photo.

http://fearlesspsu.com/gallery?sort=recent&i=105

The name is Charolette S. and in the photo am standing in the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy. It seemed a fitting image for FEARLESS.

Thanks! Image

A Photo Book on Pompeii

I visited Pompeii in November. I took a lot of photos but I didn’t feel that any of them ever captured the feelings of the place or what happened there. It was an overcast day when we went and it matched the surrounding ruins perfectly. I haven’t been able to shake the feelings that it generated in me even now. I just made a photo book of photos I took in Pompeii along with poems about the people and devastation of losing an entire city. It was and still is a tragedy for all time. It has changed me. If you are interested in the book…click on the link at the top.

Addendum: 100% of the profits generated from the book sales will be donated to The Great Pompeii Project. A preservation project developed by the Italian government to save the ruins, art and history of Pompeii. Much of it is crumbling away and lost forever to us. Please consider purchasing the book as a donation to this project. 

182 (2)

New Year, New Beginnings, New Body, New Sight…New Life

Image

As we move into 2014 I am thinking back over the last year and what a year it has been. So many changes at a fundamental level for me. Friendships have been redefined, my body has become a healthy dwelling place, my mind has relaxed into a state of grace and really life has become closer to being what feeds my soul and gives meaning to the words, ” live with intention.”  Italy was one of the defining periods of my life over the last year, Italy opened me up and breathed it’s sweet wine into my spirit. My thankfulness is overflowing for that experience and as I have only left Italy 2 weeks ago…I am still processing what took place and how the levels that living as an Italian were transformed within me. I know that seeing my mom standing in the airport waiting for us was one of the best sights ever and being a part of all of the love and support from family and friends has been the highlight of this journey. True friends, the ones that support you even if they don’t agree with you or think your ideas are crazy and family that understands you and supports your dreams and even encourages you to follow them are what it is all about. These people are why I went to Italy and they are why I came home to live near them. As I think more about connections, support, community and where my energy flows I wish all of those that I call friend a wonderful new year and I look forward to being your friend in 2014 and supporting each other in all we endeavor.

Mid Term, Mid Shift

I am half way through my term studying in Italy. It is hard to believe but it is true. I look at my calendar and cannot believe I only have a little over five weeks and I will be back home. Here is a collection of little “notices” about life here…

Italians walk looking straight ahead, not to the side or down at the ground as one would think they would with the beautiful sights and uneven cobble stones. I have learned through my daily walks to school and home that it is because one gets extremely dizzy and loses balance if line of sight is not steady. This applies to the greater picture as well.

I get up everyday looking forward to my day and the experiences that it will bring. Yes, I am tired, sore, cold, hungry and have too little time to accomplish all I need to do BUT I know I will see great art, have a cappucino break several times, stop and talk to my friends and colleagues, learn amazing things and eat tasty well prepared food. This makes it all worth it. It is balanced. When Italians get tired they stop and rest, when they are hungry they stop and eat and when they need a little shot of divinity it is around every single corner.

I will miss “my hill” and our daily time together. It gives me health, a fabulous view and solitude in which to meditate.

A walk home is never just a walk home…it is smiles to passing people, a stop at the art store to buy a paint brush, a stop at the corner market for wine, pausing in the doorway of the upholstery shop to watch the man bent over his work and listen to his classical music, deep inhalations when passing leather stores with their doors open and lit up display windows full of every color of leather purses imaginable, a stop for gelato…I could take hours to get home here.

Life is very different here, not better or worse just different and I love the rhythm, smell, taste and feel of it all.  Italian life revolves around a social structure not economic or political…at least at the street level and daily existence. This from the perspective of one who has only been here for a few weeks and barely brushed the surface. I know that family is the core of existence here and it shows.

Venezia Biennale Day One

Day one of the Biannale was overwhelming. We went to the Arsenale and saw the exhibition curated by Massimiliano Gioni. The exhibition was organized as a progression of natural to artificial forms. The exhibition began in the beginning of man as a concept in the primordial ooze of life and step by step made it’s way up the evolutionary ladder to the over evolved being that he is today. The exhibits showcased crucial milestones of man’s evolution…such as the wheel, rituals of adolescence, base instincts and the role ego plays throughout.

My emotions were stirred at a base level and I felt as if they progressed in waves as I moved from room to room. Some rooms moved me to tears…the room with the plastic people all wrapped in grey agony. The sea of screens showing videos of stories flashing and flashing before my eyes. It was an instant of gratuitous envelopment of our media saturated society…thousands of lives that happen just like that and we all watch vehemently. I can say that this exhibition was life altering. Enjoy the photos.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Our class listening to our art professor Shelley Jordon

 ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Laura and Dany sketching

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage