New Chances

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It’s the First Day of School…..again.  Moms and Dads all over the world proudly and wistfully send their hearts out the door as their children take on a new year of challenges.  I am all too familiar with the emotions this day brings.  Big expectations and hopefulness, with a sprinkle of tears over the loss of another year of youth.

The start of a new school year is like a new chance – an opportunity to discover, redefine and experience life.  Our kids probably don’t see it this way, but we parents know how rarely in life we get new chances – and how easy it can be to squander such a beautiful gift. THAT’S why it is bittersweet for us.  We don’t want our kids to really know about the frightening and painful parts that new chances bring.  Sentimentality overtakes our senses and before we know it, we are overlaying the new chance with memories, stories, pictures and gratitude our children were once innocent.  That’s how the first day of school feels for me, anyway.

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Mario’s “Turkey Hand” from pre-school.

The backpacks stuffed with homemade craft projects coming in the door are in my past now.  I have them all, they are overflowing in plastic tubs but many of them I have framed.  The innocence and tenderness expressed through the art my children have  bestowed upon us is one of the best experiences of parenthood. Now, instead of art projects, I look into their eyes for those signs of love and expressions of how they are relating to the world.  This morning, I saw a freshness in my son’s eyes I have not seen in many years.  Hopefully some of the storms of his early adolescence have passed.  In my daughter’s eyes, I saw a beautiful, spirited young woman on the brink of leaving the nest – her “senior year” eyes.  She loves her journey, and I think we are both on the same page:  enjoy every minute.

So this brings me to my final point this morning:  I have also been given a second chance, and today is a wonderful day to celebrate and “mark” it.  14 months ago, I began my recovery from addiction.  I have been given a second chance to savor the present moment free from the numb world of alcohol.  Living in the real world, fully present, each day committing to accepting my journey without altering it in any way – is a beautiful second chance.  I am ready for Sophomore and Senior year of High School and incredibly humbled by the gift of this second chance.  Even the difficult days are grounded in goodness because they are real and offer second chances to grow into the future.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

e.e. cummings

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Okay To Be Late To The Party

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13724844_10208785568789224_8461321461091356507_oI hadn’t really thought about my High School experience for years, especially while enjoying the vividly contrasting experience my children are having today in High School.  The world is so big (and scary to some – like me), and my children’s perspective of their future, because of the co-educational, diverse, academically challenging environment they are in for High School, is optimistic.  Personally, though I appear Pollyanna-ish, I am a cautiously optimistic person by nature.  “Expect the best but prepare for the worst” would be a good description of my life choices, and not always in a good way – I have missed alot of fun and friendship by choice because I felt I would not fit in.

Over a month ago, several of my former High School classmates lovingly and gracefully responded to the pleas of our friend and sister, Lori, who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed support. Lori, the Boston College Graduate with a Law Degree from Washington University, an impressive curriculum vitae and solid history as a humanitarian and philanthropist, asked for her sisters’ loving consolation for strength.  Wow.  I reached out a couple of weeks after the group had formed (I was on a social media sabbatical) by joining along with my classmates in cheering Lori’s indomitable spirit on, as we all knew she would prevail, as always.

Throughout our 24/7 conversations that took place over about 21 days, I couldn’t help but remember one of the foundations of our High School education from Visitation Academy, a Catholic, all-girls school in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, founded by the Sisters of the Visitation:

St. Francis de Sales:  “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as true strength.”

In the moments between conversations,  I randomly remembered things that happened in those days and then judged my immature 17-year-old behavior against what I know about myself and life today.  The most difficult memory to reconcile involved Lori herself.  We were co-counsels in a mock trial against my scrappy best friend (who ultimately graduated from Law School and became the First Female Chief of Staff for the Governor of Missouri).  I knew she’d knock our teeth out in the first round.  So what did I do?  I hardly prepared – I let Brilliant, Sweet Lori do the majority of the trial preparation while I focused on what I liked to think of as “aesthetics” (e.g., flirting with our lawyer sponsor and shopping for my beautiful trial outfit).  Heavy guilt and shame to bear 32 years later when this sweet angel has included me in the most intimate conversation of her life.  In fact, more recently, instead of begrudging me for the things I did or did not do in High School, Lori reached out to support me in my Recovery from alcohol addiction.  I learned in later conversations with friends that Lori was doing the same with many, many people – sending cards, donations to charities, and anything uplifting she could think of to love and support others.

I realize now because of Lori that people like her – beautiful, strong, accomplished, immersed in life – ask for help and support when they need it.  That’s STRENGTH, not weakness.

I wish this story had a happy ending involving a massive reunion including Lori after cancer had left her body for good.  It does not.  She received devastating news about a month after her original diagnosis about the cancer having spread.  She learned there were no treatment options.  She continued to love and communicate positively with her dear High School friends until she entered hospice, passing away less than a week later.  Stunned and overwhelmed with grief, many of us who had been writing to Lori through her most difficult journey gathered in the presence of our dear Visitation Nuns and honored her.  We sang our School Anthem and prayed and embraced one another.  We ate donuts, Lori’s favorite treat, and tried to reminisce about the happiness she had brought us instead of the sadness we were feeling.

Truth be told, I almost did not go.  Even during my 4-hour drive to attend Lori’s service, I was tempted to turn around and go home to sit quietly on my comfortable couch.  Why?  Because I did not feel worthy of the experience.  She was so good and I have so many faults.  At one point, the voice in my head even taunted me and tried to make me believe that I did not belong – my presence would be meaningless.  Still, I drove on to be with my Viz sisters and embrace the women we have become. I am glad I did.  Lori taught me, even after her spirit left her body, that it is okay to be late to the party – it is okay to feel like an outsider, because we all have special gifts to give.  The nuns hugged me and were so glad to see my dimples and big blue eyes!!!  My friends fell over laughing when they heard my uniquely explosive cackling.  I may not have been Lori’s best friend, but I had a special connection with her.  I did belong and Lori made space for me, even unto her death.

It’s Time to Pull the Trigger on Mindfulness

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I used to admire people who knew how to hustle (yes, both the dance and the driven work-ethic type!).  Ya know, the “early bird gets the worm” types?  Dale Carnegie quoting, biz card distributing, wink wink “let’s do lunch” types?  Then I became a Mother.  And 50.  And the world is suddenly full of hatred, violence and guns.

The world is different than it was 25 years ago and so are my ideas about success.  I still admire hard working, driven people with big dreams.  On negative days, I believe that greed and selfishness have led to unimaginable and irreparable harm to our planet and the people who depend on others to look out for them to survive.  On positive days, I am filled with hope and ambition and willingness to love every inch of this world to death.  

As I evaluate my life’s potential at 50, I have decided I want to do as much loving,helping and giving as I can until I take my last breath.  But not in a preachy, annoying, “uber Lib” kind of way (as my darling right-leaning friends would describe it).  Here is my short list of things I want to do to change the world in the little time I have left:

  • Learn as much as possible about the brain’s ability to change itself to achieve a personal sense of purpose, goodness and peace – then share that knowledge;
  • Work to help children understand their inner power to change themselves and their circumstances through simple techniques like mindfulness;
  • Listen to the life stories of all kinds of amazing people and document those memories for families and uplift the realm of personal history for children;
  • Marinate the world in love.

My mind works in strange ways, and it was actually this dutiful and loving Momma Goose who interrupted traffic on my commute home the other day who got me thinking about mindfulness.  For one brief moment, everybody’s “hustle” halted to ensure the safety of her goslings crossing behind her on the highway.  Like the Momma Goose, I want to help the world understand our innate abilities to pull the trigger on mindfulness instead of guns and violence.

In conclusion, I share with you a personal story shared by the Sandy Hook Promise organization.  Whatever it takes, for however long, taking time to help children understand that guns are not the answer is a worthwhile use of my time:

Senator Chris Murphy Ends 15-Hour Filibuster With Moving Tribute to Two Sandy Hook Victims

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cake for EVERY Occasion

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Today, friends, I am sharing a very special family recipe with you.  It’s my Mom’s “Chocolate Coca-Cola Cake.”  Throughout my childhood, the aroma of this deliciously moist cake baking in the oven meant 1 of 3 things:

  • Somebody needed cheering up
  • We were celebrating something
  • Just because

My sister baked it the morning our Dad passed away – it was his favorite and her’s, particularly so.  This afternoon I baked one to celebrate my 20th Wedding Anniversary with my husband and our 2 teenagers.  We will probably eat this for dinner!

This cake has never lasted more than 24 hours in my family’s home.  Give it a try and see if it becomes a tradition for your family!

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix together 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of sugar in a large bowl;
  2. Heat to boil the following:  2 sticks of butter, 3 tablespoons of cocoa and 1 cup of Coca-Cola;
  3. Stir the boiled liquid over the dry mixture;
  4. Add 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows.
  5. Bake in a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

ICING

Combine and heat the following

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons Coca-Cola
  • 3 tablespoons of buttermilk

Pour over 1 box of powdered sugar.  Beat until smooth and pour over warm cake.

 

 

 

That was me, 2 years ago, before I got Sober

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0429160942_HDRThis is me today.  In 9 days, I will celebrate my “First Sober Birthday” with my my AA friends and family.  I feel grateful and humble and raw.

For every person, the desire to become sober and begin living a life in the truth, however imperfect, comes from unique motivations.  Sadly, many find themselves seeking sobriety after huge losses or tragedy.  I am lucky that my story is pretty simple.  I knew alcohol consumed ME, not the reverse.  I knew I needed to find something I wanted more than the feeling of numbness and relief I got from consuming an entire bottle of Malbec on my couch every night.

I was tired and afraid.  Our family had been through so much and I sort of resented (WARNING! Resentment is so dangerous! ) having to start over again with our young children after the course my husband and I had put in motion in 2002 did not succeed.  Starting over after moving to the comfort and simplicity of small town life in the company of dear friends, in every sense of the phrase, had not been in our consciousness whatsoever.  It happened.  Everything we had planned on failed (and then some) and we were forced to come up with another plan.  Meanwhile, my parents were getting older and I  resented the fact that I was so preoccupied with caring for my own family.  I resented everybody and everything for a very long time.  I lived with the awful sense of complete domination by choices of others for many years and it broke me.  I started to drink.  Then I started to need to drink.  Then I couldn’t stop.

When you resent people and situations, you forget the power you have to change your life and you lose all hope of ever experiencing serenity.  Though I did not know this is what I was doing when alcohol dominated my life, it was.  And it was destroying me and moving closer to destroying my family.  After suffering the indignity of watching a friendship and business partnership destroy my husband and interfere with our marriage, I did not want to live in the present any longer. My drinking was the equivalent of hiding beneath the covers.

Slowly, after many bad hangovers and raging outbursts that produced nothing but hurt feelings and distance between my husband and me, I began to have tiny inklings of desire to climb out of my self-protective shell (what irony, alcoholism is anything but) and live in the truth everyday.  I couldn’t do it by myself.  I had to be humble, grateful, open, raw, willing to confess my bad behavior, open to listening to others’ stories, and willing to being broken open over and over by memories and feelings I thought I had long ago dealt with at any moment. This is the life of a sober alcoholic. And it is beautiful.

“After we’ve been in A.A. for a while, we find out that if we’re going to stay sober, we have to be humble people. ….Gratitude to God for His grace makes me humble.  When I think about the kind of person I was not so long ago, when I think of the person I left behind me, I have nothing to be proud of.  Am I grateful and humble?”

Richmond W., 1954

 

At the end of the day, however imperfect, I want to live life instead of copping out.  Even though unpleasant, feeling fear, anxiety, pain, dread and powerless are part of everyday life.  I had to learn to cope.  I love the lessons God is giving me, even unto this very moment, in coping with life and my feelings.  It has given my family a new life.  Sobriety is my joy and I am willing to fight for it every single day.

 

 

 

34 Acres, 2 Kids and a Boxer Named Tango

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“I just think you’re distracted,” Scott, the Dog Trainer, kindly pointed out.  I had failed to work with our uber intelligent Boxer puppy in advance of our training appointment once again.  “It would only take a minimal amount of work and Tango could be competing in….” (the rest of the sentence made no sense to this City Girl).  We had fancy “AKC” papers (whatever that means) that were supposed to be officially “filed” someplace, for some important reason that eluded me.  All I knew was that after letting the puppy outdoors for more than 20 minutes every 2 hours, the first thing she did was waddle over to my favorite new beautiful rug, squat while gazing directly at me, and potty. “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!  I FEEL LIKE I JUST BROUGHT TWINS HOME!,” I would scream in exasperation.  My seven-year-old daughter had to take over the role of “Handler” (what the HELL is a handler, anyway?).

 

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Oh, how the kids loved “Tango,” a name that was, in the early days, in competition with “Tiara.”  The final name decision came down to 2 main factors:  1) We had named our 34-acre piece of Kansas paradise “Tango Canyon” to honor my husband’s Argentinian heritage; 2) It brought joy to my husband and me that the neighbors, with whom we were feuding legally, had to hear us yelling “Tango” several times a day.

And, just like the enchanting and wondrous dance from Latin America, our Tango was complicated (because she was smarter than me), challenging (because we had no fence in Paradise/Tango Canyon), and charming (the Country Club Superintendent knew her personally from all the times she ran away and the Rancher across the street could never catch her fast enough to return her home, away from his cattle).  Tango became a kind of precocious Peter Rabbit in our parts and I was the tired and overwhelmed Momma Rabbit, constantly in search of her infinitely curious Peter.

The escapades involving the chasing of Tango and her valiant return home are too numerous to recount here, so since it is Memorial Day, I will recount only one.  I mentioned Ranch across the way from our land but directly across from where we lived was a beautiful cemetery called Highlands.  It overlooked the whole town of Winfield, Kansas as well as the Walnut River.  Memorial weekend was our favorite time to live across from Highlands because of the constant flow of townsfolk who would bestow their loved ones’ graves with silk flowers that later blew away in the fierce prairie wind – and my kids would gather like treasures in the wagon and lovingly present to me!  There was also a beautiful and somber Ceremony of Remembrance that the local Armory sponsored among the hundreds of flags placed throughout the cemetery by the local Rotary club.

Around 10 am each Memorial weekend Saturday morning, we would hear the patriotic trumpet music from Highlands and up the driveway we’d ramble to watch.  I guess one Saturday, when Tango was about 2, we forgot.  Or the kids were in the basement and the noise from the tv overpowered the patriotic trumpet music.  So we forgot to go, but Tango didn’t.  Off she trotted by herself (she was quite accustomed to this), to enjoy the lovely service in honor of the American fallen heroes.  When the ceremony concluded and everyone had gone home except Tango and Sergeant Pfeffer of the local National Guard, the 2 left together in his truck and returned to the Armory about 3 miles away in town.  There, Tango spent a wonderful weekend with Sergeant Pfeffer as the newly appointed “Armory Mascot.”  Sadly, I probably did not even notice that Tango was missing until late in the day on Saturday.  The kids became aware of it and set out to find her, calling “Tango” all over our land until dusk.  When she did not reappear, as usual, we became concerned and decided to call Dr. Warren, the local vet who knew just about every pet in town and was the unordained “lost dog network” figurehead.  He had not heard anything, but promised to keep us informed.  We slept better that night knowing our good friend, Dr. Warren, had his ear to the ground in search of the missing Tango.

The following day, our home phone rang a few times with the id “National Guard,” so I did not pick it up, assuming it was some kind of fundraising call preying on the emotions of patriotic Americans during Memorial weekend.  The same thing happened on Monday.  Oddly enough, Tango had not reappeared, either.  Our lines of search and rescue were going cold, but the calls from the “National Guard” persisted.  I never put it together that there could be a connection between our missing Tango and these annoying calls.  My seven-year-old, Isa, had to point it out.  “Mom, call them back!” she urged.  So I did.  On the other end of the line was a very pleasant and kind voice, Sergeant Pfeffer.  “Hi, this is Joan Tamburini, I have received many calls from this number,” I began in my irritated big-city tone.  “Oh, great! I think we have your dog,” Sergeant Pfeffer proudly announced.  He then told me the story of how Tango had wandered up to his group during the annual Remembrance Ceremony and how she had lingered by him when the rest of the crowd disbursed.  “She just happily climbed right into my truck,” he amusedly recounted.  “So she’s been here with me all weekend, keeping an eye on things and enjoying the Armory.” Oh. My. God.  Instant embarrassment and apologies from my fast-talking city mouth.  And my Isa stood before me, hand on her hip and lips pursed, judging my incompetence.

Retrieving our Tango from the Armory and meeting the delightful Sergeant Pfeffer gave our family something to do that boring Memorial Day in 2007.  When we arrived, Tango greeted us personally and gave us a tour.  She would have been the perfect Armory mascot.  But we brought her home.  And the adventures continued…….

 

 

 

T-365 Days ‘Til Our Household Shrinks

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I LOVE BEING A MOM.  I especially love days when JUST being a Mom gets to be my main focus.  Today was one of those days.  It was great!

Though 17 and 15, my daughter and son still need their Momma for support, advice, caring, guidance and help shaping their world views.  (They need Dad, too, for all the same things.  We do it differently, of course!).  It is late May and they are weary from a long school year.  My daughter is a little teary as the pressure of her impending Senior year mounts:  ACT prep; Drill Team camps, practice, leadership; saying goodbye to friends who will be leaving for college; making plans for her departure from the nest; bonding with her friends through each of the “lasts” of 12th grade.  Yesterday, I left a pair of socks with the word “relaxed” in her room for her – an “I love you” just from me for her sweet dancer’s feet.11194554_10205531647904213_7725532153420392392_o

My son, who is very much a free spirit and his own person, drudged through his 9th grade year – it has been a long year for him and he his looking forward to summer and a possible career as a life guard!  A week ago, he referred to each remaining day of the school year as “7 hours of soul-crushing disappointment.”  This morning, as it poured rain in Kansas City, and I had the entire day off to myself, I received this text from my son:  “If you get me I’ll give you a foot rub and 3 quarters.”  So I did!  We went to lunch and had a wonderful time.

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I may not always get things “right” as a Mom.  But I try and I definitely enjoy the experience.  My children know I love them and they will always be FIRST in my world.  I have been fortunate to be able to spend alot of time at home with them.  And, like many other Mothers have said before, I can honestly say that I have found things to LOVE and enjoy about every stage of their young lives.  Somehow, it always works out that the stage we happen to be in together feels like my “favorite” stage until it changes again and the new stage becomes my favorite.

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I made peanut butter cup pancakes for dinner – it sounded good to my son and will be comforting to my daughter when she comes home a little melancholy after attending her boyfriend’s graduation.  I love being a Mom.  I love living in the moment. What a beautiful blessing it is to have the privilege of bring another human being into the world and preparing them for their journey.

 

Tools For Living Sober Part 2

SOBER COURAGE

Welcometo the second part to the new feature on the Sober Courage blog, called Tools for Living Sober which is based on the highly recommended book published by Alcoholics Anonymous called Living Sober.

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The Living Sober text was first published in 1975 by AA World Services. It is a book that describes methods to stay sober that were developed by AA members after the Big Book was published in 1939. The Living Sober text was written by Barry L. an AA member who joined AA in the mid-1940’s.

There are 30 chapters in the book dedicated to the many ways that we stay sober. I have split them up into groups of six and created a 5 part series which will be published over the next several weeks.

Here is the second set of excerpts from the suggested methods for living without drinking:

7. Fending Off Loneliness:

“Although some of…

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