Why I love Brene Brown

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Self-proclaimed “shame researcher” Brene Brown first entered my awareness a few years ago when I was listening to her interviewed on National Public Radio.  I was exhilarated to learn there was an actual person researching the phenomenon of shame and extrapolating from those findings practical, hopeful, actionable insights for people desiring to live “in the truth” of who they are.  In other words, she appeared in my life at exactly the right time, a period of intense change and transition during which I began asking myself, “How can I live more fully, less materialistically, and enjoy the fruits of just being ME in this crazy world?”.

Having been raised Catholic during the 70’s, the word shame resonated BIG TIME.  I was shrouded in shame from an early age.  It was the easiest means of eliciting good behavior, I suppose.  But damaging to the core once a person learns how to think for herself.  I don’t blame anybody for accessing this useful behavior modification technique, but I have been determined to dedicate my adult life to banishing every shred of shame from my path and seeking out ways for understanding the way people think and act, instead.

What does this random thought mean on a Wednesday morning in February, friends?  I mention it because I have discovered that Brene Brown, her research and writing, her TedTalks and mere co-existence with me during my time on this Earth, has opened up for me a very optimistic, hopeful and enthusiastic approach to moving forward in life.  We live the first part of our lives following the rules and “setting up shop,” so to speak, so we can “have” things like a good job, a nice family, a safe home and other standards of living well.  But Brene Brown reminds us to be brave, open-hearted and courageous enough to look within ourselves for the ultimate source of “living well.”  Like shame, external forces and identifiers of “success” can pull us off course from the destiny our uniqueness can attain.  Brene Brown helps me come closer to finding that “true self” every time I read something she has written and commit to practicing authenticity, allowing my true self to be seen.

I am inspired this morning by the opening quote from the chapter “Cultivating Authenticity” in Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection:

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards:  they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier.  The way it actually works is the reverse.  You must first be who you really are, then do what you really need to do, in order to have what you want.

Margaret Young

Today, I am just grateful to have access to Brene Brown’s wisdom during this time of my life, and I hope you will seek her work out, too.  Joyfully and Authentically yours, Joan

 

 

 

 

Honey, Don’t Leave L.A.

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My one and only daughter, my beautiful Isabella, has recently turned 18 years old.  I want to have profound things to say to her but every time I try, just a huge gush of emotion rushes forth.  One thing I do keep thinking about is the time I let her Dad travel halfway across the country with her at six months of age to visit his cousin in Los Angeles.  They were gone for four days, an eternity to this new Momma.  We had no social media in 1999 so I could feel like I was a part of the adventure, only occasional phone calls to hear the cooing sound of her voice.

Through that little separation, I learned many things about my love for Isa and the kind of Mother I hoped to be for her.  I wanted her childhood to be:

  • Full of adventures she could call her own, without me helicopter parenting in the background;
  • Grounded in a strong sense of family and self, so she would trust herself to make big decisions knowing that the love of her family would always support her;
  • Joyful enough so she would look forward to spreading her wings as an adult and sorrowful enough for her to understand that tears shed are a beautiful part of life’s journey and a reminder to be true to oneself and surrender love completely while the opportunity is given;
  • Magical in her own unique way, a time of exploring everything the senses could reach within the safety of a loving home;
  • Solidly anchored in self-love and a sense of personal competence and the ability to reject shame.

Over the years, my Isa’s comings and goings have been very bittersweet.  When she returned home from her Los Angeles adventure, I played with her on the sofa all afternoon and cherished my good fortune to be the temporary guardian of her being.  She hugged me and said “Mama!” when she first saw me after that separation, so I knew then that we would be lifelong friends.  Today, I am awestruck by the beauty, strength and tenderness of her character and humbled to be her Mother.

James Taylor recorded a song in 1979 called “Honey, Don’t Leave L.A.”.  It is his friend’s story about a French woman he fell in love with who ultimately left.  Her spirit was indomitable.  Just like my Isa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healing Happens in Phases: Ebbing and Flowing

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So happy to bring you this insightful piece from my Recovery Friend, Rose Lockinger.  If you are new in your Recovery or simply in need of a fresh perspective, Rose’s piece reminds us to expect a journey full of twists, turns, surprises and mini-victories.  In short, like all things in life,  when doing the work of Recovery, expect the unexpected and welcome the lessons as they unfold. xoxo Joan

 

You know how people always say that we take two steps forward, one step back, well in no other place in my life have I found that truer than with my recovery.

My recovery, and by extension, my healing process, has been one that involves phases, there are times of growth and times of setbacks, but through it all, I have learned more about myself and what I need to heal the wounds of my life.

See, I have found that the healing process is never linear, although sometimes I would like it to be.  Sometimes I want to believe that it will be achieved perfectly but this is never the case.  Like it says, progress not perfection, this process of healing involves progress.  It never just continues in a straight and logical manner but rather it ebbs and flows, and there are times when I feel like I’m actually healing and other times when I feel like I am completely regressing.

I didn’t understand that this was the way of things when I first got sober and I guess I sort of believed that my life would just get exponentially better day in and day out.  The reason why I thought this way is because my life changed so dramatically and so suddenly that I just thought it would continue in this manner forever.  The Steps seemed to work perfectly and the further I got into them the better off I became.

I found that I stopped lying as much.  I stopped craving drugs and alcohol, and I even started to believe in God, in fact so much healing occurred in that first year of recovery that to a certain degree I kind of felt like I was destined to become the most spiritual being on the planet.  That I was destined to be free from all of my character defects within the next year or so, but then reality kicked in and coming down from my little spiritual hilltop, I settled into my new way of life and I began to see that not everything was being healed as quickly as my alcoholism was.  I began to see that many of the things in my life that were particularly ingrained were going to take a lot of work to get over and possibly more pain before they were ready to be healed.

I have also found that certain times in my recovery, I thought that I was healed from something, or that I had finally overcome some trauma or defect of character only to be reminded a couple of weeks later that it was still there and there was more healing to be done.  I’d get these epiphanies and believe that I understood something that would allow me to change or heal, and to a certain extent I would, but then it would just lead me to more parts of myself that need to be healed.

Without getting too far into the abstract, I sort of believe that this is the way that life works.  We are born whole and pure, without any attachment or damage and then through the process of our life we pick up damage and get hurt by people or things.  Then once we are ready, we begin the process of healing from this hurt, attempting to get back to a place of wholeness, but the process is unique and there is no set road map.  With each layer of healing that occurs another is revealed just like the peeling of an onion, and so the job is never done  It is always ongoing.

I’ll give you a recent example from my own life to help illustrate this point.  It is something that I have written about a lot and talked about even more, but has been probably the most important thing that has occurred in my recovery and has been one of the greatest sources of healing for me.

For years I hated my ex-husband, but after working my Steps I healed a little bit from the pain that I felt he inflicted on me, and so for a time I was okay.  I believed that I had achieved peace with this part of my life and in all honesty for some time, I had.  I wasn’t yet ready to really dive into that situation and experience true healing and so I only peeled back the first layer of the onion.

Then I moved back to my home state so that I could be with my kids and in doing so, I had to invite him back into my life.  Not in the sense that we were getting back together, but in the sense that we had children together which required regular interaction with him.

Being home and being around him brought up things in me that were tremendously painful and I really struggled for a number of months with this.  There were some days where I’d thought I found peace in the situation, only to have it destroyed the following day when he’d make some offhanded comment to me, or I’d find out something he said about me to our kids.

I’d go to meetings and I’d hear bits and pieces of information that I needed in order to heal from the situation and I’d leave these meetings thinking I had finally found the secret that would unlock my healing and allow me to act neutrally towards him, but this just didn’t happen.  As the months went on and the pain got greater, I continued my lurch towards healing by taking two steps forward and one step back.

Then something happened that allowed me to know that I truly had healed from the wounds of this part of my life.  I finally felt the true acceptance of who he is as a person and what the situation was.  I no longer felt anger towards him.  In fact, I just felt compassion and realized that he was doing the best he could.

Now even though these feelings seemed to just wash over me in an instant, it was months and months of moving in that direction that lead to the actual healing.  Now, this is not to say that I don’t get upset still from time to time because I do, but it is no way shape or form like it was just a few months ago.

So that’s been the story of my healing, a process that is messy sometimes and seems to move in directions that don’t make sense to me, but in the end, work towards my greater good.  Sometimes I am aware that I am moving in the right direction, while other times I’m not even sure where I’m going, but through it all, I usually wind up feeling better.

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Rose Locking is a passionate member of the recovery community.  A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction.  She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children, she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world.  Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.  You can find Rose on LinkedIn, Facebook & Instagram

Mention Cake First

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It’s as vital as the air I breathe:  CAKE.  Very early in life, I internalized the message that cake was equivalent to joy, happiness, satisfaction, togetherness.  Maybe it was the time my cousin’s Rancher Wife friend rescued me from the terrifying scene of watching Mr. Bird saw down the bull’s horn before it blinded him.  My other cousin, Patricia, was there to help Mr. Bird take care of the bull.  They left Pete and me (ages 6 and 8) in the farm truck (the “anchor”) and tied the bull to it and began sawing.  I began screaming hysterically immediately, so Mrs. Bird came and got me and took me inside to the warm kitchen.  She wiped my tears and opened her deep freezer (what a fascinating box of frozen surprises it was!) and pulled out a slice of carefully wrapped homemade coconut cake.  We sat in her small but cozy kitchen in the warmth and slowly the cake soothed the trauma of thrashing around in a truck tied to an angry and uncooperative bull with my cousin, Pete!  Mrs. Bird taught me that day that I was better suited for the kitchen than the ranch!

So, today, I am sharing with ya’ll one of my favorite Southern Cake recipes, Apple Dapple Cake.  The photo does not do it justice – it should be covered in brown sugar-iced fresh pecans, but where was I going to get fresh pecans during an ice storm this weekend? Give yourself and your family a big treat today and grab some delicious apples, peel and dice them and create the world’s most delicious cake.  And if it is work you must today, sweeten the evening with my favorite solution to any and all things intolerable:  CAKE.

Recipe courtesy of My Momma, Miss Rhetta

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped
  • 3 cups tart apples, chopped
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

FROSTING

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk

DIRECTIONS

  1. Beat eggs and mix with sugar, oil and vanilla.
  2. Combine flour, salt and baking soda and add to egg mixture.
  3. Fold in apples and pecans.  Pour into greased and floured tube cake pan.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
  5. For frosting:  Bring brown sugar, butter and milk to a boil.  Boil only 2 1/2 minutes.  Cool and spread on cake.

Eat it, You’ll Love It, and it will DRIVE AWAY any thoughts of ANGRY BULLS GETTING THEIR HORNS TRIMMED!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Pursuit Of A Gentle Way

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Of all the adjectives one could choose to describe my personality, “Gentle” would most definitely not be among even the first twenty that come to mind.  I have a very tender heart, but years of burying and covering up my vulnerabilities have created a somewhat tough exterior.  This happens to many of us in life.  It usually takes nearly half a century of living before you start to think about yourself as not merely a physical being but a spiritual one.  I am almost one year past the mid-century mark in physical years and this is certainly true for me.  More than anything, I want to prioritize spiritual growth over other pursuits right now.  So my “Word of the Year” for 2017 is GENTLE.

The death of a beloved classmate last summer reminded me of a guiding principle for my High School education, a quote by Francis de Sales, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”  Weeks before Lori’s passing, several of my classmates and I were in daily contact with her via group text messaging.  She reached out to us in her most frightened, vulnerable state for support as she awaited news and guidance about her recent diagnosis of breast cancer.  The outpouring of “gentle strength” from my group of High School friends was, at times, mind-blowing.  We walked hand in hand with Lori through her life’s most harrowing journey until it was time for her to leave her physical body.  It was the most beautiful, intimate, raw experience of my adult life so far.

The courage it took for Lori to open herself up to so many friends from so long ago dismays me.   I will be forever humbled and convinced that gentleness is the ultimate spiritual practice.

Everybody knows compromise is a good thing to practice in business and ultimately in life.  Bending one’s will to move toward another’s best interests leads to successful relationships and a satisfying life.  Nobody likes a stubborn old goat!!!  Learning to practice gentleness begins with ME:   embracing an open, courageous, accepting heart means I also have to be vulnerable when I don’t necessarily want to face it.  Approaching a life of gentleness as a practice rather than a goal allows me to make small choices on a daily basis that ultimately lead to the value of gentleness.  Before letting myself become completely angry, for instance, I try to think less of what I want from any situation or person and more about how wonderful it is the other person crossed my path.  I can think about people and things this way because of gentleness – I am learning to accept what is and forget the rest. This practice leads to alot less brooding about what ought to be and frees up lots of time to just be in the moment.

So, in 2017, I will continue to joyfully pursue the practice of gentleness in my life.  Earlier today, I read a beautiful reflection on gentleness, and I share it here with you as a special gift for you to take on your 2017 journey:

“It’s the hard things that break; soft things don’t break.  It took me so very, very long to see it!  You can waste so many years of your life trying to become something hard in order not to break; but it’s the soft things that can’t break!  The hard things are the ones that shatter into a million pieces.”  C. JoyBell C.

HAPPY NEW YEAR and may you joyfully experience the softness of a bigger, fuller, gentler life of authenticity this year!!!!

Crockpot Italian Beef Sandwiches

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This recipe is an adaptation from The Pioneer Woman.  The sandwiches are SO delicious and so easy to make, my family has asked for them twice this week!  Here ya go:

Ingredients

Serves 6

  • 3 lb chuck roast
  • 1 envelope of Good Season’s Zesty Italian Salad dressing mix
  • 8-oz Giardiniera (Chicago-Style Italian Sandwich Mix)
  • 14.5-oz can of beef consumme
  • provolone cheese slices
  • hoagie buns

Directions

  1.  Place chuck roast into the bottom of a 6-quart crock pot then sprinkle with salad dressing mix.  Add the Giardiniera and beef broth.  Place the lid on the crock pot then cook on low for 8 hours, or until meat shreds easily with a fork.
  2. Split buns in half then scoop the meat mixture on top and add provolone cheese slices.  Serve warm.

DELISH!!!!!

 

 

“Just As You Freakin’ Are?”

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Remember that pivotal scene in “Bridget Jones’ Diary” when she tells her friends that Mark Darcy has told her he likes her “very much – just as you are“?  They react with wide-eyed amazement.  “Just as you freakin’ are?,” one of them repeats with disbelief.   It’s so simple yet rare to have that kind of love, right?

Imagine enjoying that kind of love for self:  developing the ability to look in the mirror each day and say to yourself, “I love you, JUST AS YOU ARE.”  This is the best way I can describe my life after 555 days of soul-searching sobriety.

For some unknown reason, my sobriety has yielded the spiritual gift of truly deep and unfailing JOY.  Because of joy, I have had the courage to explore many new paths in 555 days – paths I would have had to ignore while drinking, to make time for hangovers!

Here is what 555 days and approximately 2,220 cups of coffee, accompanied by lots of reading, thinking, sharing and exploring has opened up in my life:

  • Spirituality  Admitting you are powerless over a substance has a way of removing a huge burden from your shoulders and opening your eyes to the Spiritual Journey we are all on.  When I meet people now that I am sober, because of the Grace and Humility that sustain me, I am more likely to search for whatever good I can find in that person and connect in any way to the story of their life – not just their outward appearance, or even their words;
  • Creativity Before I got sober, I had to think for several months about exactly what it was that I wanted for myself that was more important than numbness.  For years, I have had a yearning to write about many things, but of course, the fear of looking stupid is a powerful inhibitor.  No, I decided to try it:  to give up numbness for the feeling of expressing myself on paper, even if nothing came of it, was a risk I decided to take.  I am SO thankful I did!;
  • Intuition It is so lovely to open up space in your life for peace and quiet.  For a long time, my drinking and subsequent numbness was the crutch I had to use to “get there” – my pseudo- place of satisfaction.  Sobriety can deliver enormous intuitive capacity to the person in long-term recovery.  Through quiet reflection, which is definitely a necessary daily practice to ensure I am not going to drink during each 24-hour period, a feeling of calm and reassurance that I can rely on my very own skills to deal with whatever life challenges me with that day.  I feel 100 percent more competent and trusting in my intuition;  
  • Financial Sobriety/ Simplicity Early in sobriety, it is common to consider all of the things that are “out of control” in one’s life as a result of the chaos regular numbing creates.  Broken relationships, employment and financial disasters are often the “Big 3” demons someone committed to long-term recovery must confront.  What I am experiencing personally is such personal fulfillment inside, my spending habits and attitudes toward money are changing.  I am starting to actually enjoy making changes to build a nest-egg rather than finding reasons to use money to cover my pain today.  Somehow, I have finally internalized the message that I HAVE enough because I AM enough. THIS is a miracle!  To read more about this concept, visit Meadow Devor’s blog @ http://www.meadowdevor.com.

In short, learning to love yourself “just as you are” is one way to express growing up.  Being a grown up was never very appealing to me, at least not every single dimension of it.  The personal responsibility and accountability part of being a grown up have strengthened the most during my 555 journey.  I believe myself when I say I will do something, unlike before, when a voice inside of me was constantly bickering in the background and telling me I would somehow mess things up entirely.

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Messing up is part of life, it is what makes us unique and human.  Many times, messes give us our biggest lessons and greatest joy.  Go forward in your journey, the path does not have to be straight!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Things I got Right (and 7 I didn’t) in Motherhood

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My Dad used to say with a great deal of disdain, “Anybody can procreate.”  The underlying meaning, of course, was that very few could raise children correctly.  All I really ever wanted to be was a Mother.  More than an archeologist, disc jockey, journalist, lawyer, nursing home administrator, speech therapist, French teacher, occupational therapist, florist or anything else – I have always “just” yearned to be a Mom – a really good one.

I always knew one absolute truth about Motherhood:  If I was going to model my maternal style on my own Mother’s legacy, I had big shoes to fill.   She managed to keep a clean house and serve three delicious squares every single day for 7 children (we won’t talk about emotional upheaval in between!).

Instead of absolute “perfection,” I have always aimed for a more realistic goal in my Mothering:  meeting my child where she or he was and lifting the goodness where I saw it.

In other words, I have been more of a “let love and joy lead”kind of Mom (similar to my vision of the Divine – never harsh or judgmental, always searching for the Light).

Now in their teens, I see my 2 teenagers’ experience of my Motherhood a little more objectively, and the 3 strengths and 7 flaws are glaringly obvious.  Here are the 7 things “good Moms” excel at that I really bombed:

  • Time Management Although we lived right across the street from the Library, my kids were always late to Story Time.
  • Potty Training  Instead of motivational charts, I employed begging and pleading, which never worked. My daughter begged me to make her a chore chart when she was about 6 and, out of frustration, she ended up making her own!
  • Volunteering  I was my daughter’s Daisy Troop leader and those poor little girls never earned badges, it was just too much; I volunteered in my son’s kindergarten class and total mayhem ensued and I had to be rescued by the School Social Worker.
  • Animals and Kids I thought the kids should have a puppy after my husband’s faithful and well trained Labrador passed away; Tango, the Boxer, made our lives wilder and more unpredictable than ever – if we weren’t searching for her with slices of cheese to encourage a timely and safe return home, I was scolding her for ruining a new rug or bringing home cow skulls.
  • Singing No, not ever did my kids enjoy singing with Mommy.  Instead, they covered their ears and pleaded, “No!!!!!!,” but when Daddy started singing, they quickly became calm and content.
  • Nursing When my kids were sick, they wanted their Dad, the calm and steady soul.
  • Cooking One time, a culinary flop was so embarrassing, my 10-year-old daughter got up from the table and started making omelets for our guests.  When I burned the bat-shaped cookies my son wanted to take to school for Halloween, he hugged me and said “Mom, I don’t know anybody who could have done better.”

In spite of these 7 maternal failings, I think my kids learned alot from their experiences!  Fortunately, I managed to get 3 things right, and I think that is going to be enough to seal their future adult lives as positive and productive:

  • Compassion   I am literally beaming with pride even today. When I visit their High School, I am almost always approached by a special needs student who proudly introduces him or herself as my son or daughter’s “FRIEND.”  Somehow, I got this right!  To be kind to the vulnerable and marginalized is not always second nature, and I guess, through living with me, my kids learned to practice (without knowing it) compassion.  THIS and only THIS was my main goal as a Mom, and this job is complete.  Thank you, God!
  • Acceptance/Inclusion There were times my kids were invited to do “yucky” things but instead of avoiding them, both my son and daughter would usually go and then come home and innocently share something amazing with me.  Like the time my son was the only child who attended an unpopular boy’s birthday party and he came home and said, “Mom, did you know you can be 7 years old and STILL in kindergarten?!”.  Or many times I observed my daughter sweetly ask a newcomer something about themselves, with genuine interest and warmth.
  • Celebrate I may have missed a few “learning opportunities” in the positive discipline arena while my children were growing up, but what they did experience alot of was celebrations of all kinds:  the dog’s birthday; the first day the Christmas lights were on in our local park; the joint 5th and 50th birthday party of my husband and our son with the bouncy house; picnics and craft parties with Big Brothers Big Sisters; going to the movies with their cousins; giving Grandma and Grandpa gifts they bought at a truck stop on Interstate 70; taking the first rose that bloomed in our garden to a teacher; sitting on the front porch with our friend with Down Syndrome and eating a Sonic corn dog.  Building moments to celebrate love, life and joy have been regular parts of my 2 kids’ upbringing, and I already see my daughter cultivating that kind of funloving, life-embracing attitude with her friends.  

One thing I know for sure, when we did things at our house, we did them with GUSTO, and for that, I am proud.  I hope my 7 shortcomings are forgiven and that my teenagers continue to move forward in life with open hearts and loving attitudes!  We can’t all be champion chart makers…..

 

 

 

 

 

When The Going Gets Tough, Cheeky Street Heads For Comfort

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October was ROCKY on Cheeky Street, friends!  My husband and I have been experiencing unexpected stress and pressure in every area of our lives.  Lots of “fight or flight” hormones are flying around between us, and that is never good on a sustained level.  How do I cope?

Some may find solace in the comfort of one good friend.  For me, when my life starts getting out of whack, especially since I had to learn healthy self-care, I always go back to my “solids”:  Family, Friends, Faith and Food.  

At age 50, I  have had to learn the difference between positive self-care (the kind that nourishes your spirit to move forward ) and numbing (exacerbating fear and anxiety by temporarily dulling natural impulses to react).  I have spent long hours reading about addiction and the brain and the impact that repetitive behaviors and thoughts have on the actual wiring of our brains.  And our ability to re-wire the brain by forging new ways of thinking – reinforced by repeating the new, changed, healthy behavior.

I believe, as neuroscience is starting to discover through research, that humans have the innate ability to literally change the pathways of our brain to become healthier, happier beings.

This means that some old behaviors have to be modified.  Overindulging, which has always been my go-to coping mechanism during stressful times, usually leads to regrets, unhappiness and failures.  In Recovery, my challenge has been to fine-tune my self-care regimen by scaling back on positive behaviors and eliminating negative behaviors.

I’ll start with Family.  As the youngest of 7, my role has pretty much been to entertain the family with my foibles.  If I could make everybody laugh, that would relieve family tension and boost my self-confidence.  And prevent me from ever being responsible – for anything!  I have had to learn new ways of relating to my family – especially when I need their comfort and reassurance – by being honest about my feelings and willing to accept natural consequences of what I receive in return (not just going for the easy laugh).  The result?  While families are almost always complicated, I am learning it is so much richer to connect authentically with siblings and other relatives – instead of going for laughter, I am trying to just be real and say things like, “I really don’t know how to do this – what do you think?” instead of glossing things over with humor.  I have spent 50 years avoiding emotional pain, for whatever reason.  One of the great gifts in Recovery is freedom from the weight of any expectations:  when you commit to just be yourself, be real, get hurt, feel anger or rejection – you find that the Universe manages to nourish you just enough to cope with real life and your relationships move out of the darkness. Family may not always be the first place I look for comfort – because honesty sometimes hurts – but I have learned that my family will never lie to me, and it is up to me to accept the truth or not.

Now about Friends:  this is a complicated part of my life because I have spent so many years trying to please others.  The friends I have are the friends that accept me and have no expectations whatsoever.  I have stopped pursuing “friends en masse” – especially when my heart stings after seeing another “happy girls trip” featured on someone’s Facebook post!  I am a one-on-one kind of girl, and my friends are diverse.  My friends don’t get alot of “tending to” from me because I always put my children first.  So the friends I have are self-confident, tough and resilient.  Not needy.  I don’t have a lot of time or interest to “fuss about” with shallow relationships, so I prefer a few deep friendships.  Some of my friendships have lasted decades!  In any event, in times of deep need, like this past month, the friends I have are thoroughly “on board” with me, even though I am not my light-hearted self.  That is so comforting.

Faith.  That anchor, that sense of believing things are happening for the best, even though you are in the midst of the dark unknown:  it is STILL with me.  Spirit has never abandoned me, not once, never will.  Yes, I get terribly frightened and confused.  Yes, I do and say regrettable things.  Yet I am confident that Spirit will guide me and my family to the right circumstances at the right time.  I try not to let FEAR drown out the voice of CALM.

My faith is a distance runner built for marathons and fear is just a puny little sprinter.  Fear may be fast and furious but Faith is ready for the long-haul.  That’s the kind of faith I am experiencing these days.

Finally, my favorite old friend in times of distress:  FOOD!

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In particular, COOKIES!  How I wish I could be strong like so many of the gorgeous women I see on Facebook, and go for that extra workout during times of stress.  But Madam Cheeky heads for her staples:  Butter and Sugar.  Food is still my weakest link and I am really striving to move toward a healthier body in Recovery.  For now, though, oh my GOD, the cookies are delicious!  This week I baked a batch of – are you ready – Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread Cookies – and friends, they did not disappoint.  Here is the recipe for you, courtesy of The New York Times:

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups four
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon alt
  • Pinch of clove
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely ground pecans
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

  1. Sift together flour, cornstarch, salt and clove.
  2. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Stop the mixer to scrape down the sides.  Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until incorporated.  Add the pecans and mix just until combined.
  3. Place the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap.  Cover with another sheet of plastic and shape into a square (I was too lazy for this step).  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Roll the dough between the plastic to 1/4-inch thick, and into a 9 1/2 x 11-inch rectangle.  Refrigerate for a t least 1 1/2 hours, or up to 2 days.
  4. Position two oven racks so they divide the oven into thirds.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Discard the plastic sheets from the dough.  Trim the edges to form a 9 x 10.5/2-inch rectangle, then cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares.  Place the squares on the baking sheets, then, with a fork, pierce each cookie twice all the way through.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 9 minutes.  If desired, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while still hot.  Transfer to a rack to cool.

Adapted from “Baking:  From My Home to Yours,” by Dorie Greenspan