Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Don’t Settle.

Ck8I-00UoAAK5xt (1)

Girl Warrior. Don’t settle. Go along with, resign or reconcile yourself, stomach, swallow or submit to anything that doesn’t ring true to the bright and shiny person you are.

Don’t live a default life. A ‘learn to live with’ life. An involuntary life. Or worse yet, one that belongs to someone else. And you’re just going along for the ride. Sitting complacently, but maybe not so comfortably, in the back seat or sidecar. You belong behind the wheel of your own life, the one of your own making. Steer your spaceship courageously in the direction of your dreams. Not someone else’s. That’s your mission, your primary assignment here.

You only get to do this present-life thing one time, and one time only, Girl Warrior. And it is oh so very brief. So fleeting. A flutter of the butterfly’s wing. Yes, some things are eternal. Our souls. The tender memories of us. But this here-and-now Earth Walk, and all the glorious people, places and things that are gifted to us are here for such a woefully brief time. So don’t squander any of it by settling.

Don’t settle in. Don’t settle down. Don’t settle for. Anything. And that goes for the people in your life, the work you do, the place where you live, the man or woman you’re involved with, and most importantly, the desires of your heart.

Girl Warrior, don’t be afraid that if you choose not to settle you’ll be all alone. You won’t. Quite the opposite is true. You’ll be surrounded by your loving and brave Tribe of kindred spirits who also refused to settle for anything less than an authentic life.

IMG_3260 (1)

Ck8MROfUkAE3YZ2 (1)

IMG_3228

IMG_3242.jpg

IMG_3247.jpg

IMG_3307 (1)

IMG_3341 (1).jpg

IMG_3350.jpg

13418730_10153452395241266_7598726110974222228_n (1)

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Pain in the Ass.

Photo on 2016-07-24 at 10.03 AM #2 (1)

Last week’s Girl Warrior post was about pain in all of its manifestations – physical, spiritual, emotional. Feeling it. Dealing with it. Surviving it. And ultimately, moving on. Over the past five years of writing and speaking to this remarkable Tribe, I’m more often than not, writing about life lessons that I also need to learn. Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a small book I read and reread in the seventies said, ‘We teach best what we most need to learn.” He’s right.

Since January of this year I’ve been hurting. Physically. But because human beings aren’t unconnected fragments, bits and pieces, shards and shavings that have nothing to do with each other, the physical pain has also become emotional and psychological suffering as well. There have been times, far too many truthfully, where life has lost its color. Times when everything was murky dimly lit and shrouded in grey hopeless despair. No joy at all. And it hasn’t been pretty.

The kind of pain I’m talking about is fucking ugly actually. And for me, it has literally been a pain in the ass. My sciatic nerve is being pinched or squeezed and the result is chronic relentless pain running from my butt down the right leg to my ankle. Thank God it stops there. But it’s debilitating. During my darkest hour, my worst days and fearful nights, it has taken every ounce of strength, grit, iron will and determination just to stand and walk. Even sitting for any length of time has been exhausting. There has been no relief. No relief for months.

I don’t know with certainty what brought this on, although I have theories, or why it still persists all these months later. I’ve been on a medical odyssey that included numerous visits to our sweet and kind leprechaun-like family doctor, who prescribed two different types of drugs to help manage the pain: one to stop the messages from the pain in my ass to my brain and the other to help curb the inflammation. The pain-brain pill I took once. Not only was it unable to block the chatter between my two body parts, it made me feel like puking. The other medication I took for a few weeks but I grew suspicious when I realized that they were the first thing I reached for when I woke up and the last thing I took before I went to sleep. This dependency was disconcerting to say the least so I did some online research. I quit those suckers cold turkey. They were useless anyway.

I went to my Chiropractor every Thursday night for two months. He did what Chiropractors do best – manipulate, twist, pull, bend and crack. This was a lot of fun. At first it seemed to help, then it didn’t. He recommended I also try deep tissue massage to supplement “the work” he was doing. This actually felt pretty wonderful during the 45-minute session where the Therapist kneaded my ass like it was a lump of bread dough. I thought ‘whoa, I want more of this.’ I left the clinic with this big dopey euphoric grin on my face but by the time I got home I swear to God I was crippled. I couldn’t move for 24 hours. I went back, however, for another session because it felt so damn good while he was doing all that pummeling and rubbing and stroking. Plus the clinic smelled divine. Like lavender and mint tea. But again, by the time I got home I was crying like a snot-nosed baby. It was pathetic and kind of funny if it wasn’t happening to me. That was the end of that treatment.

Two sessions with a Chinatown Acupuncturist did absolutely nothing. Well not exactly nothing. In the middle of the second session, the beautiful Asian doctor paused and said “I think your husband doesn’t love you enough.” Perhaps something was lost in translation, or perhaps it was the side-affects of having my ass used as a human pincushion, but that’s what I heard. I milked this for all it was worth. Afterwards, I told E what she said and this got me several weeks worth of loving kindness, if you know what I mean. It was good while it lasted. But everyone has limits, even E.

I did all kinds of online research on Sciatica, SI joint injury and Piriformis syndrome. All the “experts” agreed that these three were the culprits. The source of my worst nightmare, the cause of my grief and agony, the reason I was down on my knees praying for an end to this fucking misery. So I culled the best of all their wisdom and advice, and tried things. There was a common theme to the exercises promoted online for the type of injury I had. They involved a lot of pulling and stretching of the ass muscles in awkward uncomfortable positions. Kind of like yoga on steroids. While I was doing the exercises I got some relief but as soon as I got off the floor and made any attempt at getting on with my day, much less my life, I was in agonizing hell. More rubber-faced Claire Danes type crying ensued.

I was miserable. I was angry and frustrated by my body’s betrayal. I was depressed. And consequently depressing to be around. I felt alone and isolated. Like no one truly understood the depth of my suffering. During the day, I put on my happy “work face” and soldiered through. On a good night, if I was lucky, I found a position that was comfortable, which was usually sitting with my back completely straight and upright, my feet flat on the floor. I would sit like this for hours and not move, fearful that if I did I would trigger those delightful pain messages. This became the new normal for me.

Sometimes I screamed bloody murder. So loud and hard that the blood vessels in my neck vibrated. I scared the shit out of E and Mel. They did their best to console and comfort me. But it was pointless. Life was pointless. Hopeless. I was an embarrassing useless burden. There were no words that could make this better. No words.

Then at the beginning of June, upon the recommendation of a colleague, I went to see an Osteopath. I had no clue what an Osteopath was but I was willing to give it try. I met with the doctor on a sunny Saturday morning. She was an intense, direct, straight shooter who listened with her ears, eyes and heart. She didn’t just see me as patient, she recognized me as a human being who was suffering. And then she went to work.

For the first time in months I can see a glimmer of light that maybe, just maybe, I might get better. Session by session, I am seeing small steady improvements as Dr. D works her magic. I don’t know what she’s doing. I don’t care. I only know I’m on the journey back. I have faith in her ability to heal. I have hope again. I stopped screaming.

They say everything happens for a reason. I’ve yet to figure out the “why” of it all, and I guess it doesn’t really matter. But if I was to add a silver lining to this, it would be that my heart has been opened wide, wider than I could have ever imagined, to those who suffer. My compassion muscle has expanded and grown exponentially. My empathy is on high alert and fully engaged. For example, in the past I have often been impatient, annoyed and horribly judgmental of people who took their ‘sweet time’ crossing the street, and kept me waiting. I’d mutter irritated “for God’s sake hurry up and get across the road already.” But now I think, “what is your story, Dear One? Are you suffering?”

My heart aches. I feel your pain. I understand.

 

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Find Your Tribe.

DSCF3936

Girl Warrior. Find your tribe. Your pack. Your posse. Your band of sisters and brothers. Surround yourself with people you trust, respect and enjoy. You don’t have to always agree. You don’t even have to always get along.

But these are the faithful ones. Loyal. Steadfast. And true. The ones who will be there for you. With you. By your side. The ones who have your back.

And will hold your hair back while you barf.

1094968_10151899261541568_1689368367_n

Ma+++Aimee+++Mel+together

IMG_3985

IMG_0650

253121_10151004957901568_1717708398_n

270642_10150725566370113_5036924_n

Find Your Tribe (1)

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Wearing the Cloak of Invisibility.

Photo by Melissa Adams.

Photo by Melissa Adams.

I’m over the hill. Shocking news I know. Truth is, I’ve been here for a while. It’s a hard one to come to terms with. So I’ve been breaking it to myself gently.

But it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. Bust myself. I’m coming clean and this is my confession.

Little back story.  I’ve been feeling invisible since I turned 50. You may think this is crazy talk, and it may be. But it’s how I feel. And I’m not alone. Other women my age have expressed the same thing. It’s a profound conversation. My jaw dropped when I discovered I had far too many “sisters” out there who felt the same way. Either we’re all suffering from menopausal madness. Or there’s something to this.

I turned 50 and it was like I put on Harry Potter’s Cloak of Invisibility. Suddenly no one could see me.

This was disturbing at first.

I am shy to the core. An introvert by nature. And an occupational extravert by necessity. I act out all day, come home exhausted from all that outgoing role-playing, and flop in front of Netflix to recover.  I tell you this because I’ve never had the spotlight on me. But I never felt invisible either. I always believed that my presence was felt, and seen, in the room. My voice, no matter how quiet, was heard. Nothing had prepared me for this.

There was no prior narrative.

One day, shortly after my 50th birthday, it hit. Like a lead balloon. I had this painful epiphany. ‘It’s like I’m not here. I don’t matter. I’m irrelevant. Insignificant. Inconsequential. Unseen.’  Not just by men.  But by everyone who was under the age of 50. Especially all the cool people. And those hipsters.

So that felt lousy.

But not for long.  I realized quite quickly, the powers of wearing the magical Cloak of Invisibility.  If no one saw me, then that meant I could do whatever I wanted. As long as it didn’t cause harm to any other living creature, human or otherwise, nor to the environment and the earth we all share.

That’s when the fun began.

The world was my oyster. I was set free. Liberated. Emancipated.  Let loose. Oh the marvelous things I’ve done while flying under the radar. I’m a free bird. Untethered. Unshackled. Unfettered. I no longer care what people think of me. That’s their business. Not mine.

If you’re a woman over 50, I want you to know that this is just the beginning. We’re the same gutsy girls who changed history in the sixties and seventies. We burned our bras. Carried placards. Marched in unison. Saw the possibilities and ran bravely towards the future. We rewrote the definition of being a woman. For ourselves. Our mothers. Sisters. Nieces. Girlfriends. Daughters. Grand daughters. And for all the men in our lives.

We are those powerful strong beautiful agents of transformation. It only makes sense, that at this time in our lives, we’ll reconstruct and revolutionize. Reshape and rebuild. Renew and redefine what it means to be a women over 50. We will not go quietly into the dark night. Not us.

Wearing the Cloak of Invisibility has been awesome in so many ways. Part of me, doesn’t want to take it off.  EVER.

I don’t know what your personal journey has been like so far, but if you’re reading this and nodding your head in agreement, then keep on reading because we’re just getting started. Fasten your seat belt because you’re in for a fabulous ride.

Here are 20 DO’S & DON’TS for you to consider while wearing the magical cloak:

1. Be creative.  This is your time to escalate. Skyrocket. Shoot right through the roof. Create things that delight you. Whether it’s a blueberry pie, a dress, a song, guitar lick, a squeaky scale on a clarinet, a blog or a book. Make it all you. All authentic. Take an ‘I don’t give a shit’ attitude with this.  See what happens.

2. Go where you want.  Don’t ask permission. Just go. Don’t be afraid to go it alone either. Some trips are meant to be solo adventures. If others want to join you, and that feels right, then the more the merrier. But don’t miss the boat because you’re the only one who wants to get on board.

3. Seek out the company of people you enjoy.  And steer clear of those you don’t. Surround yourself with people who matter to you.  These are your tribe members. You’ll know them at first sight. Open your arms and your heart wide and let them in.

4. Welcome solitude and time alone.  Still your mind. Quiet your thoughts. Get to know them. Love your own company.  Be your own best friend first.

5. Stop distracting yourself with busyness.  Instead listen to the small quiet voice of wisdom inside your head. It may tell you to go for a vigorous walk. Or that this is a day to laze around on the couch watching Seinfeld reruns. Let go of all things frantic, frenetic and feverish. Stop dancing on peanut butter. In the end you go nowhere.

6. Wear what you want.  Take pleasure in clothes that feel like you. Express yourself from the inside out. But first, you must be comfortable in your own skin. Your earth suit. Nothing you wear will feel good if you hate your body. So don’t.

7. Don’t cut your hair. Unless wearing your hair short has always been your style. But if you like long hair, and that feels authentically you, then keep it that way. Don’t cut it off because some crazy person said you were too old for long hair. Don’t listen to them. Show them the door. Long hair. Short hair. No hair. All beautiful. Make it your choice. Not someone else’s.

8. Eat and drink what you want. You’re all grown up now. You can make your own decisions about what you consume. Things that fuel your body are important. At any age. But the things that satisfy your spirit are also essential. For example, I love orange foods. Mandarins, peppers, carrots, and Hawkins Cheezies. I’ve also discovered that a Starbucks full-fat Chai Latte makes Friday night grocery shopping almost bearable.

9. Learn new tricks.  Every day. It doesn’t have to be an entire course of study. One word will do. Learn a new instrument. Or a new language. Read. Write. Explore. Investigate. Examine. Bone up. Grow your brain. And blow your mind wide open with the art of the possible.

10. Open your eyes to wonder.  Take a look at the world around you. It’s beautiful. Breathtaking. Awesome in every way. So look under rocks. Gaze up at the evening sky. Stare into the eyes of someone you adore. Spend time with a person who hasn’t been to school yet. They have much to teach.

11. Stay in the moment.  That’s all we really have. Don’t waste the preciousness of the present with worry and regret. Give fear a kick in the ass. What’s done is done. What will be will be. Que Sera Sera. Only ‘now’ matters.

12. Keep moving and bending.  Be pliable. Your body will thank you for it. It’s designed and perfectly engineered to get you around with ease. All the days of your life. But you have to honor its changing stages. Adapt. Alter. Adjust. Do whatever is necessary to keep going. Your days of running a marathon may be over. So walk. You’ll still get there.

13. Hang out with people.  All kinds. All ages. Your tribe isn’t defined by your age. It’s about who you like to be with. Who turns your crank. The faces you like to see across the table, a crowded room, in the gym, at the movies or the book club. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t be afraid to get out there. Call someone. Reach out.

14. Love.  It’s our heart’s desire. No one is ever too old. Everyone needs it. We crave it. We pine. We yearn. We covet. We’ll do just about anything to possess it. But now, more than ever, you are free to open your heart to love. Let it in. And spread it around. Make it go viral. It may be romantic and lovely. It may be with someone new. Or with the one you’ve always been with. Regardless, just love.

15. Don’t run from your emotions.  Love them all. Be fragile and strong. Vulnerable and powerful. Courageous and terrified. Ballsy and meek. Embrace the contradictions. Hug the enigma. Clutch all the paradoxes of the female spirit.

16. Give up on being perfect.  No longer necessary. Because the truth is, you already are. Divine just the way you are. Warts and all. Beautiful. Beyond compare. Know that.

17. Give up the need to be in control.  Relax. Ease up. Unclench your fist. Let someone else steer the ship. Lead the parade. Now’s the time to share the ride. It’s so much easier. You’ll wonder why you didn’t surrender sooner.

18. Be grateful.  Now more than ever take stock of all the amazing people, places and things in your life. Then give thanks. It’s that simple.

19. Embrace the messiness of life. With arms open wide. Jump into mud puddles. Roll around in the muck. Get egg on your face. Dirty your hands. Cover yourself in grime. Caress the earth. Most importantly, don’t concern yourself with cleaning it up. Just let it be.

20. Remember that you are needed.  Always have been. Always will be. That doesn’t stop because your kids have flown the coop. Or you got divorced. Or widowed. Your parents have died. Or whatever the “winds of change” are for you. No matter what your age. You matter. The world needs what you, and only you, have to give.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Unfinished Business.

IMG_0676It was inevitable. Bound to happen. I’d reach a certain age and life stage.  Then bam. Smack. Thump. I’d start thinking about unfinished business.

Well here I am. Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Right on track.

On the one hand I think, ‘Yay for me. Look at all I’ve done. Little Miss Smarty Pants.’  Then the grim reality sets in. The ugly truth. The road ahead is shorter than the road behind.  Then I think, ‘I’m just getting started. I haven’t done anything yet.  Shit.’

Age and stage notwithstanding, two things over the past year triggered this obsessive unfinished thinking.  E’s cancer diagnosis.  And a painting of Ma’s that I pulled out of storage.

Dealing with E’s cancer has brought me to my knees on more than one occasion.  I’ve felt a rainbow of emotions.  From fear to anger to sadness to joy.  And now gratitude.  This experience has reminded me of the fragile and fleeting nature of life.  How quick it all passes.  The cliche is true. Time flies.  Especially the older you get.  I can barely catch my breath on some days. I just want to scream, ‘slow down!’  I want to freeze frame the good stuff.  Fortunately, the older I get the more I realize it’s all good stuff.  Regardless of how it may appear on the surface.  I want to hold on tight.  Squeeze the life out of every last thing.

I’m overwhelmed at times by the immensity of this thing called life.  The fact that we’re here at all is utterly astonishing when you think about it.  Big bangs and creation debates aside, it’s mind blowing.

Then there’s the insignificance of my little life in the grand scheme of things. My humble place in this mysterious cosmic eternal universe.  We are all less than a blip on the radar of time.  Practically nothing.  Or perhaps not?  Why are we here anyway?  I don’t know.  But I want to know.  This, and the answers to about a million other philosophical and spiritual questions.  I’m a seeker.

I’m pretty sure that this pursuit will be the biggest business I’ll leave unfinished.

Then there’s Ma’s painting.  The unfinished one.  I found it in the attic at 204 after she died.  Vibrant yellow and orange color streaks across the canvas with etherial wisps and airy brushstrokes.  From a distance it looks finished.  A bit abstract for Ma’s typical style, but done. It’s only when you get up close that you see that it isn’t finished at all.  Not by a long stretch.  You can see that the yellow and orange were just the beginning.  The first few layers.  The background for the real painting.  Up close you can see the pencil marks where she had sketched in the foreground images.  The Sleeping Giant on the horizon.  Sail boats reflected in the water.  I don’t know for sure.  I only know that this painting was intended to be so much more than what was left behind.

Over the past year, I have spent time contemplating this painting.  I have struggled with the desire to finish it.  Complete this one little piece of her work here on earth.  But I won’t.  This is her unfinished business.  Not mine.  And quite frankly, none of my business.

But this painting is a gentle reminder of all the things that are my business to finish.  Truth is, I know I will go to my grave with tons of things left undone.  Not sure I’m okay with that.

Ironically, I love lists but I’m not a bucket list person.  At least not in the formal sense, with an actual physical list.  Like the one I make at work every day. I think I’m too lazy to sit down and compile such a thing.  Or maybe mine would be too long.  Endless.  From here to eternity.  It would take me forever.  When people talk about checking something off their bucket list, I’m perplexed.  Where do they find the time to both make the list and do all that shit on it?

Having said all that, I do have things I still want to do.  I also have things I wish I had done when I was younger.  These are the things that require a much more youthful body and brain.  C’est la vie.

So I focus on what I can still do.

Instead of attempting to accomplish, achieve, attain or actualize, I focus on what really matters.

When do I start?  Here.  This place.  This present moment.  As much as possible, I try to stay in the now.

What can I do right this minute to have a more meaningful life?  It doesn’t matter.  Meaning can be found in anything. And everything.  Doing the laundry.  Mowing the lawn.  Climbing a rock.  Soaring from the top of a mountain.  Lying on my back gazing at the sky. Kissing my love goodnight.  Holding the hand of the broken hearted.  Eating spaghetti. Writing a song. Running barefoot through the grass. Standing still.  The list is endless.  And very personal.  That’s the supreme beauty of it.

Who can I surround myself with?  Who are my people?  My tribe?  My dear ones?  They’re already here. Every last one of them.  And more will come.  Some will leave when our business together is done.

Where do I need to be to make a difference in the world?  Make it a better place than when I arrived?  Improve someone’s life, even in the smallest way?  Everywhere. Anywhere. People need help all over the place.  In my own home.  At work.  Down the road.  Across the street.  The country.  The ocean.  The earth.

How do I get it done? One baby step at a time. Occasional giant leaps.   Little tiptoes.  One foot in front of the other.  Maybe I’ll strap on a cape or sprout a pair of wings.  I don’t know.  I just know I’m going to die trying.

Why bother with all of this hullabaloo? Why not?  Just because.  That’s all I got.

I’ll take a crack at some dreams.  Hatch a few more schemes.  Make a new plan or two.  Write another story.  Wish upon a star.  Cause a ruckus.  Blow out a few more candles on the cake.  And keep going down the road.  For as long as I’ve got.

Will I die with some business left unfinished?  Most undoubtably so.  I am a work in progress, after all.

Just like Ma’s painting.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: This is The Man we all Love.

Sitting in the window of an abandoned farmhouse.

I have written a lot posts for all the magnificent Girl Warriors in my life.  My strong, fierce and beautiful daughters, grand daughter, daughter-in-law and the original warrior, Ma. Plus all the others, near and dear to me.  All glorious inspirational women.

I also have a son.  He is equally magnificent in my eyes.  Yet in many ways he’s a mystery to me.  A charming and perplexing enigma.  Perhaps it’s because he’s a boy and at the end of the day I must admit that I don’t fully understand the male species.

I was young when he came into the world.  So was he.  In truth, we grew up together.  He has taught me much since that wondrous day when I looked into his dark raisin eyes for the very first time.  I am eternally grateful for all the learning through the years. Even the difficult stuff.  I’ve probably learned more through those experiences than from the easy breezy butterfly days.

So many rights of passage we shared.  The holding close.  And the letting go.  All those milestones.  From the first step.  To the walk across the stage to receive his degree.  Everything in between.  Proud mother moments.  Heartbreaks and heroics.  Flights of fancy and family ties.  Unbreakable bonds.  Love is born.  And grows eternal in this mother-son relationship.

He stands shoulder to shoulder with the three other good men who I love dearly.  My strong and gentle big brother, my solid husband and my complicated father.  Each seemingly different.  At least on the exterior.  At once complex and full of mystifying layers.  Yet also sublimely straightforward and uncomplicated.  Always sincere.  Forthright.  Honest.  Kind.  They are the faces of strength, courage and tenderness in my often anxious world.

The 10 Steps to Becoming the Man We All Love:

The Old Man was so delighted with his grandson.

1. Be your own man. Authentic. Genuine. 100% bona fide you. The real thing.  Don’t be an impostor.  Nor live a vicarious life.  Grab a hold of what matters to you.  Put on your own jersey.  Strap on your own skates.   Play the game you love.  Not someone else’s.  Be an original.  A maverick.  The natural.  Always be the guileless boy who looks at the world with wide-eyed wonder.  Forever rub your hands together with glee and pure joy.  Be the spontaneous boy. And the solid man.  Work with your full range of emotions.  Express yourself completely.  Thoroughly.  Freely.  And if a tear falls. Let it.

2. Be brave-hearted.  Stand tall.  Stare down your fears.  Look them straight in the eyes.  Laugh at them.  Call their bluff.  Walk right through them.  Don’t go around.  Don’t avoid.  Face them head-on. Know that all courageous men have fears. Life is scary sometimes. For all of us.  Don’t be a victim.  Instead be valorous.  Do no shrink.   Roar.  Hoot and howl.  Feel the fear and get on with it.  There are no boogeymen under the bed.  No monsters hiding in the closet. Myths.  False emotions appearing real.  That’s all.  And always remember that you are far bigger than your fears.

My big brother with my nephew and my son sharing a cuddle.

3. Get a real kick out of life.  Have fun.  Find things that amuse and delight you.  Not just once and awhile.  But every day.  Don’t put it off for the weekend.  For vacation.  Or another time.   Play right now.  Cause a ruckus.  Bang on your drum all day.  Shake your tambourine.  Laugh your guts out.  Make a fool of yourself. Embrace happiness.  Enjoy the people you’re with right this very second.  Surround yourself with the lighthearted ones who put a smile on your face.  Take delight in every minute of this life you are given.

4. Be a loving man. And you will be loved.  Guaranteed.  More than you could ever imagine or dream. Open your heart wide and let in the love.  Don’t run from it.  Strong men have the guts to be tender.  Kind.  Compassionate.  Be a Gentle Ben.  Tom, Dick or Harry.  And remember, love isn’t always perfect.  Accept that sometimes it will hurt.  That’s okay.  Don’t let this frighten you. Don’t push it away.  Or turn your back.  Don’t give up on it. Love refines your heart and grows your compassion muscle.  Most importantly, learn to recognize love when it comes your way.  It doesn’t always come gift wrapped.  It may be completely different from what you had in mind.  Better even. In fact, the best thing that ever happened to you.

The proud uncle with his lookalike niece.

5. Find your tribe.  Your band of sisters and brothers. The ones where you fit in.  Belong. Feel at home with.  For these will be your family.  Some related by blood.  Others by the heart.  Surround yourself with people you trust, respect and enjoy.  You don’t have to always agree. You don’t even have to always get along.  But these are the faithful ones. Loyal. Steadfast. And true.  The ones who will be there for you.  With you.  By your side.  Through thick and thin. The ones who have your back.  Who pick you up when you fall. Help you find your way home in the dark.  They’re with you no matter what. No questions asked.  No doubt about it.

6. Follow your passions and the things that make you want to get up in the morning.  Jazzed and ready to go.  Have big dreams.  They don’t cost any more than the small ones. Your life will be so much richer for it.  Do the things that you love to do first.  And everything else will fall into place. Be enthusiastic.  Get psyched.  Pumped.   Gung-ho.  Embrace new ideas and ways of doing the things you already know. Be creative.  Imaginative. Take the magical mystery tour of discovery.  Go on an adventure.  Expand. Grow. Cultivate. Hone. Take risks. Embrace the failures on the way to your successes.  Learn and move on.

My son with “his lady” in Scotland on the adventure of their lives.

7. Be generous and magnanimous of spirit. With everything and everybody.  Don’t be stingy.  Don’t withhold. Don’t hang onto things.  Never covet. Give of what you have.  What you know.  Give a little. Or a lot.  But give. This isn’t necessarily about money.  Nor material things. It can be. Nothing wrong with that. If you’ve got it.  Give it.  But it’s also about giving of yourself.  Your time.  Your energy.  The natural gifts you came into the world with.  Take every opportunity to share these with others.  The more you do, the bigger you will be.  This will make you happier than anything you ever imagined.  For the more you give, the more you receive.

8. Be honest.  A man of your word.  Don’t make promises you can’t keep.  Nor intend to.  Be a man of integrity.  Honorable. Upstanding. Someone you can rely on.  Depend on.  Be the good guy who shows up.  Even in the stickiest of situations.  Know that when you shake on something that you are doing more than pressing flesh.  You are giving your word.  Your bond.  Don’t violate this sacred trust.  Respect others and you will be respected in turn.

My two lovely men standing tall at our wedding.

9. Defend and stand up for something.  Be righteous. Not self-righteous.  Find causes close to your heart.  Help those in need.  Shelter the weak.  The young.  The very old. Once you accept the challenge, don’t put conditions on who you’ll help and who you won’t.  Raise the bar on compassion.  Kindness.  Tolerance.  Embrace your fellow travelers.  Meet them eye to eye.  Carry the placard.  Wear the colors.  Pin on the badge.  But don’t force your beliefs down the throats of others. This is not a persuasive approach.  Don’t cloud the issues with misplaced anger.  This just creates mindless noise.  Be humble. Not sanctimonious.  Charitable.  Not complacent.  Be a leader when called upon.  And a follower when the time is right.  But most importantly, be a man that everyone wants in their corner.

10. Take care of yourself.  Do whatever it takes.  All the days of your life.  Not just physically.  But mentally.  And spiritually.  Do it for yourself.  And for all the people who love you.  Be active in every arena of your life.  Find your sport. Get out there and move.  Join a team.  Or go it alone.  Play hockey.  Or a round of golf.  Walk the dog.  Or chase the kids.  It’s all good.  Learn to cook and eat well. Spend time looking inwards.  Take a moment for introspection.  Meditate.  Pray.  Go for walks alone with your thoughts.  Get to know yourself.  And “to thine own self be true.”  Do these things and you will be the man we all love.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: We are the Girl Warriors.

The Girl Warrior on top of the wall at Hillcrest Park.

I’m a warrior.  It’s taken me decades to accept this notion.  But I now know it to be true.  How could I have been otherwise?  I was raised by one of the best warriors God ever created.  Ma, my Warrior Queen.  The courageous one.  The small package containing a fierce and valiant spirit.  My inspiration. Teacher.  Leader.  The one I will follow into the dark.

I have raised two glorious Girl Warriors.  They too inspire me.  Every day and in every way.  They stand tall.  And walk with their own swagger.  Speak their truth. They challenge. Question. Test.  They are noble.  I have a grand daughter who is a young Girl Warrior.  Already fiercely independent.  A mind of her own.  An adventurer off to see the world.  No holding her back. Then there’s my bonus Girl Warrior.  My daughter-in-law. The one who captured my son’s attention and the hearts of his entire family. Another small package containing a wondrous, magical, spunky soul.

These five extraordinary Girl Warriors have taught me much over the years. They’ve helped me unearth my Girl Warrior.  To not be afraid of her magical powers. To celebrate. Honor. Appreciate. And applaud.

There’s no age limit to being a Girl Warrior.  She doesn’t look a particular way.  She comes in all ages, sizes, shapes, colors. She’s out there.  And inside every girl who enters the world.  She’s the face of hope at the bottom of Pandora’s Box.

The 10 Steps to Becoming a Girl Warrior:

My first Girl Warrior fearlessly staring down the camera.

1. Be real.  Authentically you.  Be the girl you are when you’re alone in your room.  The girl who sings into the hairbrush.  Or dances like a wild one.  The girl who jumps on the bed with crazy abandon.  And cries in the mirror so bad the mascara runs like black rivers down her cheeks.  A girl who curses at the ceiling and vows to never speak again. The one who drops to her knees and prays that someone or something is listening. Be the girl who not only hears the music but makes the music.  The girl who doesn’t just march to the beat of her own drum but runs, leaps and flies. She’s the leader of the band.  Not the groupie.  Open the door to your room. Let the rest of the world see this strong Girl Warrior.

2. Stare down your fears.  Look them straight in the eyes.  Laugh at them.  Call their bluff.  Walk right through them.  Don’t go around.  Don’t avoid.  Face them head-on. Take a deep breath.  Or a hundred  breaths.  Make your move.  And keep moving.  Shaky legs, a racing heart, lump in the throat or dry mouth are just the silly antics of fear.  Not real.  Feel the fear and do it anyway.  Find your brave heart and take it into battle. Give yourself a hug. Then go out and kick some ass.

My second Girl Warrior standing tall in her grad dress and shades.

3. Get a kick out of life.  Have fun.  Find things that amuse and delight you.  Not just once and awhile.  But every day.  Don’t put it off for the weekend. For vacation. Or another time.  Hoot and holler right now.  Find your zippity doo dah.  Make a joyful sound. Cause a ruckus.  Bang on your drum all day.  Laugh your guts out.  Until you cry.  Embrace happiness.  Enjoy the people you’re with right this very second.  Let them see your playful radiant blithe heart.

4. Open your heart wide and let in the love.  Go where your heart leads you. And don’t run from its softness. Let it be tender.  Kind. Compassionate.  Gentle.  Extend your hand to another and grab on tight.  Then let go.  There in lies your strength.  Love again.  Then again.  And again.  You don’t have to get it right. Or perfect.  Just let love come naturally.  Accept that sometimes it will hurt.  Don’t let this frighten you. Don’t push it away.  Or turn your back.  Don’t give up on it. Most importantly, learn to recognize love when it comes your way.  It doesn’t always come gift wrapped. Your power to love is your secret weapon.

The young Girl Warrior has dressed for the part.

5. Find your tribe. Your pack.  Your posse. Your band of sisters and brothers.  Surround yourself with people you trust, respect and enjoy.  You don’t have to always agree. You don’t even have to always get along.  But these are the faithful ones. Loyal. Steadfast. And true.  The ones who will be there for you.  With you. By your side.  The ones who have your back.  And will hold your hair back while you barf.

6. Follow your passions.  Therein lies your love affair with life. Be curious.  Channel your inner Curious George.  Do things that you love to do.  Be enthusiastic. Keen. Overflowing with zeal, zest and gusto.  Embrace new ideas and ways of doing the things you already know. Be creative.  Imaginative. Take the magical mystery tour.  Expand. Grow. Cultivate. Hone. Set your heart on fire.  Grab a handful.  Then another.  And another.  Gush about the things you love. Take risks. Embrace the failures on the way to your successes.  Learn and get on with it.  Dive in with your whole heart.

The bonus Girl Warrior sits on top of the world.

7. Be generous. In every way.  With everything and everybody.  Don’t be stingy.  Don’t withhold. Don’t hang onto things.  Never covet. Give of what you have.  What you know.  Give a little.  Or give a lot.  But give.  And forgive.  For that is the ultimate gift.  To others.  To yourself.  Give it all away without hesitation.  And watch it all come back in miraculous ways.  Go out there and be someone’s blessing. You will be blessed in return.  It’s the way of the Girl Warrior.

8. Be honest. Speak up.  Speak out. Speak your truth. Express yourself.  Whatever that means to you.  However that looks.  Tell it like it is.  Or how you wish it was.  Be bold.  Audacious in your speech. Intrepid with your message. But don’t use your words to slaughter.  Use your words to empower.  Elucidate.  Illuminate. Exalt. Demystify. Take ownership of what comes out of your mouth. Make it good.

The original Girl Warrior. Our queen in her floppy hat and hot pink pants.

9. Defend and stand up for something. That’s what true Girl Warriors do.  Don’t stand on the sidelines.  Believe in something.  If you haven’t got a cause.  Find one. The mission is personal. And it’s critical.  Don’t worry if you’re the only one fighting for it.  That’s not the point. If it’s meaningful to you, then get behind it.  Breathe life into it in a way only you can.  While you’re standing up for something, avoid putting someone else down. No matter how much you disagree. Cheap shots are easy and beneath you.  Defend their right to have their own beliefs.  Don’t kick or trample on the weak. Reach out and extend a helping hand. Invite them to stand with you.

10. Dress the part. Every Girl Warrior should have a costume.  Something that is uniquely her.  At first blush, it might look just like someone else’s.  Don’t be fooled.  No two Girl Warriors wear their costumes in the same way. This is your personal power suit.  Put it on.  Strut your stuff.  Don’t apologize for the cut, color or condition.  Walk.  Run.  Skip to my Lou.  Black leather jacket.  Frilly blouse.  Skinny jeans.  Mini skirt.  Floor length gown.  A sundress blooming with flowers.  Floppy hat.  Or fascinator.  A pinstriped suit. Kick-ass boots. Red stiletto shoes. It’s not about fashion. It’s about expression. Wearing the inside out.  It’s about attitude. Character. Originality. You are a rare bird Girl Warrior.  Know this.  So put on your cape.  And fly.