My Heart Loves Coffee

I had a lengthy conversation with my heart this morning

“Good morning heart, hope you have a great day.”

“Give me my morning coffee Ray. I’m not awake yet. I’m running on automatic pilot. Did you know coffee helps to protect from heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and may even help the Red Sox win the World Series?” my heart says groggily.

I scoop out Starbucks and put it into the coffee maker. I want to make the ticker happy.

“Hey, I don’t care for the name ticker. I know what you’re thinking. Remember, I’m connected directly to your scatterbrain,” says my heart.

“Don’t get fresh, your coffee will be done in five minutes.”

“Let’s think ahead Ray. Put the coffee maker on autopilot when you go to sleep. It will be ready when you awake. Better yet, move the coffee maker next to the bed.”

“That’s all I need is to smell coffee all night long,” I say.

“What’ for dinner?” says heart.

“Dinner? I thought we were talking about coffee.”

“Unlike you, I can juggle more than 1 ball,” says heart.

“Coffee’s done, heart. I hope it turns you into a kinder, gentler person.”

Nothing is spoken for a bit.

“My, you’re looking good Ray. Coffee is my miracle drink. Let’s enjoy the day and life.

CHEERS!

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You are Phenomenal

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Christopher Reeve

You’re not so ordinary. In fact, you are phenomenal. You are strong. You are resilient. You have an inner mental toughness.

Don’t believe me? Well, think again. And, I promise you will not have to think too hard and you will know that every word I spoke about you is true.

Here is a little exercise for you to do. It’s not hard. It won’t take long. You don’t need anyone but you.

All it takes is three small steps:

  1. Remember a time in your life where you faced a challenge. Perhaps the challenge overwhelmed you at first. But, you stayed with it. You didn’t run away. You didn’t hide. You were successful in overcoming it.
  2. Visualize the challenge. What was the challenge? Who was there? What time of year did it happen? What were you feeling?
  3. Picture in your mind’s eye the events of you triumphing over the challenge. How did you feel when you knew you conquered the challenge? What did it teach you about yourself?

It’s all in your history. Your history is the history of a strong, resilient good man or woman. Don’t ever doubt your capacity to overcome any challenge.

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” – Walt Disney

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Getting Over Life’s Problems

Interviewer: “Dr. Frankl, what is the difference between people who can pick themselves up and get over life’s problems and those cannot?”

Dr. Viktor Frankl, “The decisive factor is the freedom to make a decision I want to become this way or that in spite of my conditions. … The freedom and responsibility for making something out of themselves.”

Dr. Viktor Frankl’s work, Man’s Search for Meaning guided my doctoral dissertation and played an important role in my life from the moment I read it. I’ve reread it several times. Each time I read it, I gain new insights.

His work sheds light on my path through the grieving process. In his book, he talks about discovering the meaning in one’s life that one can dedicate himself or herself to in spite of the conditions he or she finds himself or herself in.

Yes, grieving hurts like hell. I can’t do anything about it. But I discovered my meaning or some might say it is a call, and I pursue it with focus and vigor. I wrote a book about grieving and share my insights in how grieving affected me and how I am working through it. I intend to work with grieving groups to help those who share a similar experience find their way through their grieving process.

What meaning drives your life? Are you a better person because of the path you have chosen? Are others better because of you? These are questions I ask myself each day.

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Music Touches The Soul

Without music life would be a mistake. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

I have always enjoyed music. Music touches the deepest part of my soul. It rouses memories, stirs emotions, and connects me to the deeply spiritual source within me. Music can make me cry and shout for joy. When Babe went into the hospital, I stopped playing music. Making the decision to being to listen to music was difficult for me. It was nearly two months after Babe’s passing before I let music reenter my life. It was a good decision to start to listen to music again.

Yes, some songs still flood my eyes with tears and my soul with emotions. That’s okay. Music is therapeutic for me. It is good medicine. I sing along with the performer (glad no one hears me). I even feel the beat down into my feet again. It is a good feeling.

If, you, like me, are grieving and music stirs your deepest emotions, don’t fear to listen to music. The joys it brings far outweigh anything else. Now, when songs play and remind me of Babe, I am filled with good memories and heartfelt gratitude.

I feel like singing. I think I’ll play some of my favorite tunes.

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Luscious Lucky Leftovers

My brain is in a dangerous place, it’s playing with alliterations. Try saying Luscious, Lucky, Leftovers ten times as fast as you can. Let me warn you of the potential side effects. In a few cases there are reports of the overwhelming desire to put Siracha on toast, scramble eggs with edema, and one report of a baseball announcer always alliterating announcing. Oops. I knew I shouldn’t have subbed for the guy. Moving on, I’ve never found a four-leafed clover, hit all the number on the gillion dollar Powerball, or caught a fish that weighed more than I do. That’s okay. What am I going to do with a four-leafed clover, gillion dollars or a fish that weighs more than me? I can do something with leftovers. I’m a lucky guy. I like leftovers. No, I love leftovers. Make that i love luscious Lucky Leftovers. I can think of a few things that taste better as a leftover. How about reheated pizza? I’m already hungry. Soup is another one. Maybe, I’ll stop while I’m ahead.

I live a simple life. I don’t buy what I don’t need. I’m at peace in nature. I like to be around family and friends. I like good music. And, I like to cook healthy, easy, with as little clean up as possible.  Today, I’m in luck. I have leftovers. Leftovers are a big deal. A really big deal. Having leftovers means I don’t have to go to the grocery. If you live alone, you know what I mean. I think HEB (my grocery) wants to hire me. I’m there nearly every day. I can’t buy a week in advance, I’ll waste the food. I can’t even think that far in advance. I buy day-to-day, sometimes I’ll go out on the edge and buy two to three days in advance. Not today. I have leftovers – Lucky luscious Leftovers.

Do I have a question from the audience? There’s a first-time caller from Dallas.

“Howdy, first-time caller from Dallas. What do you want to know?”

“I don’t like leftovers – convince me, pardner.”

“I’m going to grant your wish Dallas. Follow along, it will easy, healthy, and you’ll get your mess all cleaned up in no time.”

I’m glad Dallas didn’t ask me about BBQ. I don’t eat red meat. Don’t get me wrong carnivores. I’m not biased against red meat eaters. In fact, some of my best friends are red meat eaters.

Here’s what I’m working with: Mom’s leftover bean soup, quinoa, and black beans. Please notice the slow cooker liner. The soup is going in on high about noon. I’ll toss in the black beans and a splash of low sodium chicken broth, and forget about it until dinner.

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“Hold on, Ray. You’re going to make a meal out of that pittance?” Darn right. I head to the fridge and see what else is in there. I say a little prayer before I open the door. I hope there is something more in there besides flax seeds, wheat germ, and carrot juice. I’m in luck, look what I found: a bit of asparagus, a broccoli crown (in my last recipe post, I told you broccoli and asparagus were going to hook up), and a chunk of cabbage. I have a good idea on how to mix these three together. Read on.

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I get out my large pan, put non-stick Reynolds aluminum foil on it.

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I line the pan with my veggies. They are soaked in EVOO, my staple, sprinkled with ginger and crushed red pepper. Time to turn up the heat on these babies. I preheat the oven to 450, go into the study and check Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. I hear the bell on the oven. Time to go to work. Not much work – slide the pan in and check it in ten minutes. I use the ten minutes to make a healthy salad and put some frozen, organic blueberries in a small bowl.  Easy is the code word, folks. I check out the soup. It tastes great. It’s hot. And, I’m hungry. One caution, my asparagus is first of the season and tender. It finished up about three minutes ahead of the cabbage and broccoli. Asparagus is jealous of cabbage. What is it with broccoli?

Here’s my meal. The first photo is my plate of veggies. The other photo is the salad, quinoa, berries and soup. Are you going to eat all that, Ray? I took no prisoners.

 

 

 

You Are Strong

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” – Joseph Campbell

Life is an adventure. Today quickly becomes yesterday. Tomorrow rushes toward us. Would have, could have, and should have are excuses of no use to us. Our adventure constantly tests us. It asks you and me if we are up to living this wonderful gift called life. When we say yes to the great adventure. We have no idea if love will knock on our door. We hope it does. We have no idea as to the number of our days, we hope they will be many. We have no idea what challenges the next moment will bring, we hope we can master them and move on.

The adventure never stops. Oh, sometimes it rewards us with an oasis where we rest and renew our strength. We’re not allowed to stay there. Ready or not, our adventure rouses us from our slumber and tosses out of the oasis into a new challenge.

You are strong. I am strong.  Don’t back away from the adventure. Life would not call you to face it if it did not think you had the “stuff” to handle it.

“When you are going through hell, keep going” ― Winston Churchill

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A Place Called Home

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Maya Angelu

A few years back, I was traveling with four of my doctoral students to our research site. One of the doctoral students said, “Dr. Calabrese, where do you call home?” He knew my career took me to several states. Without hesitation, I said, “Home is where I am with my wife, the person I love most.” He didn’t understand. He said, “My home is Kansas. I knew he wouldn’t understand what I meant.

I’ve never thought of home as a house or a location. I’ve always thought of it as a place where I am with the person or people I love most in this world.

“Home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark.” ~ Pierce Brown

In that particular place, whether it is a house, car, restaurant, or coffee shop, I am at peace because I know I am loved as I am. I have to be no other than who I am.

Now, nine months since Babe died, I am recreating a home. My five daughters live out of state and here I am in Texas, alone, but not lonely. Together with my neighbors and new friends, I am recreating a place I will call home.

“I don’t care if we have our house, or a cliff ledge, or a cardboard box. Home is wherever we all are, together,”  James Patterson

I hope you have a place called home.

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