Category: Spirituality & Religion

She made terrific split pea with ham soup and judged a restaurant by the quality of its French onion.  She also made awesome spanakopita.

She dyed her hair red, went to sleep with it wet and turned our bed into what looked like a crime scene.

She left gum in her pocket, ran her pants through the wash, and we scraped melted Bubblicious off the inside of the dryer for hours.

She thought that the towel animals that were left on the bed each day of our Alaskan cruise should be in a museum.

She loved to text tasteless jokes and funny/silly/gross photos to everyone in her address book.

She had a mouth like a trucker when circumstances warranted it but she almost always beat me at Words with Friends.

She wanted us to be the next Indigo Girls.

She was a fan of mocktails.

She taught me Shore culture and lingo so no one would mistake me for a benny.

She didn’t carry a purse and very rarely wore makeup but she rocked a dress just as well as a pair of cargo shorts.

She saved the life of one of her patients in the hospital hallway as I looked on in awe and she thought nothing of it.

She enjoyed respiratory therapy but wanted to go back to school to be a substance abuse counselor.

She loved her family and friends and always showed them rather than just told them.

She fell, sometimes quite hard, but she always got back up.

Swing Low

I’m very fortunate to have shared the last eight years, the first four as partners and the next four as friends, with Ginger Stevenson.  Ginger was one of the most courageous people who I’ve ever known.  None of us are perfect and that applied to Ginger, too.  But she had the uncanny ability to look at a seriously flawed individual and see the goodness within – even when there was very little of it to find.

Ginger knew how to have a great time – sometimes a bit too great.  I met her at a point in my life when fun was in very short supply.  When I walked Ginger to her car following our first date, which had been on her mom’s birthday, she didn’t leave immediately.  She told me later that she’d called her friend to tell her that she’d finally met someone special but she’d messed up the goodnight kiss.  Although she talked about that kiss for ages afterward (“I can’t believe you went out with me again …”), the truth was that I’d been so taken with her that I didn’t even remember it being the disaster that she described.

When I needed surgery unexpectedly, Ginger accompanied me and my parents, who don’t live in New Jersey, to the hospital.  She showed my folks how to get around town and took great care of them for days for me.  Her eyes smiling down on me were the last things that I saw before I was wheeled away.  I was scared but when she said that I would be fine, she loved me and she would be there when I awoke then I believed her – and I was frightened no more.

When she helped me to get dressed so I could go home after my hospital stay, I was too freaked out to look at the enormous scar that surgery left behind.  Ginger checked it out for me, smiled and assured me that it was a work of art.  She lied but I loved her for it.

When I faced a challenging circumstance, a friend suggested that I imagine that an historical or fictional hero was by my side.  I told her that I didn’t need to imagine – my hero was Ginger and I knew that she loved me fiercely and would protect me without fail.

Ginger Stevenson was 42 years old when she passed away this week.  She made an enormous difference in my life and in the lives of everyone who she touched.  Ginger was an extraordinary woman and I’m honored to have called her my friend.  I’m so grateful that we spent some time together, and laughed our asses off, just a week before she died.  I’d felt a sense of urgency about seeing her and I now understand why.

The world was a better place with Ginger in it.  She had an enormous heart, a contagious laugh, a persistent will and a gentle spirit.  Although I know that she’s at peace now, I can’t help but grieve – I miss Ginger already.  I will always be thankful for all that she taught me – about life, love, trust, friendship and hope.  But the greatest of these is love.

It’s Easter Sunday.  If you’re part of a Christian tradition then today you’re celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Although I am not a Christian, I can appreciate the importance of this day to those who celebrate it.  After all, what’s more miraculous than rising from the dead?

I’ve been having a bit of a tough time lately.  I’m trying to figure out how to restore some much-needed balance to my life.  I took an internet self-assessment two weeks ago to measure the extent to which my job has become my life; I answered every question in the affirmative, which, on this particular quiz was not the healthy response.  However, I also remember a time when I actually had a very full life and a very fulfilling job and managed to juggle both quite well.  I’m not sure why I’ve become increasingly more focused on work over the last several years to the detriment of everything else.  But I have realized, and not a moment too soon, that I need to shift my priorities so my job returns to being something that I do rather than all that I am.

I moved to the Jersey Shore seven years ago, after the dissolution of my long-term partnership – the intimate variety, not the business type.  One of the women who I dated shortly after relocating, and who ended up becoming an important and enduring friend, gave me a tiny bamboo plant at the beginning of our relationship.  She didn’t know that I had been so depressed that I had left all of my plants outside to die once I moved because I couldn’t stand the thought of anything relying on me for its existence.  I felt a completely irrational sense of guilt over being a plant-killer so when I received the bamboo I decided, totally subconsciously, that this was my chance at a fresh start.  If I could keep this plant alive then maybe, just maybe, I could start my life over following the unexpected end of a relationship that I thought would last forever.

Fast-forward about six and a half years.  I had become unhealthy, sedentary and a total workaholic.  And my bamboo plant, which had grown from a two-inch sprout to the thriving four-feet-plus centerpiece of my livingroom, started dying.  The decline has been slow and, for me, painful.  I tried everything that I could think of to remedy the situation but to no avail.  I consulted friends, the internet and a local botanist and no matter what the intervention still the bamboo continued to die.  And still I continued to become more and more focused on work.

About three weeks ago, at a meeting with my colleagues, I let the cat out of the bag: work had completely consumed my life and I was at the end of my rope.  Speaking the truth can be risky but it can also be rewarding — if you don’t mind people walking on eggshells around you for a while.  As it turned out, I was not the only person in the room who felt that way, which I never would have known if I hadn’t spoken up.  I have returned to a practice of honest, daily self-reflection and I am making other changes to try to shift myself back into balance.  My art, which was nearly as dead as my bamboo, has just started to excite me again and I spent several days of this long holiday weekend preparing brand new images for a solo show next month.

This morning, I decided that the time had come to dispose of the bamboo; I no longer wished to be surrounded by dead things.  I wanted to salvage the vase so I shimmied the large root base out of the narrow vase opening and into the sink.  I started washing the bamboo, I’m not sure why, with cold water — the roots were slimy with black rot everywhere and all of the shoots off of the main were a droopy yellow  or a shrivelled brown.  I snapped each shoot off and as I thinned out the plant I exposed a brand new sprout off of the bottom of the main that was actually green.  I eliminated most of the roots and all shoots except for the main and the one new growth.  I returned my diminutive bamboo to the original little pot in which it was given to me all those years ago and it now sits in my livingroom again — no longer a centerpiece but still an example of the will-to-life in action.  Apparently, this is a time of resurrection after all.


I was driving to work on Tuesday morning and my iPod was set on “shuffle” for my long commute.  The AUX jack in my car is very tempermental but that day it worked like a charm so I could hear the music through my car’s sound system.  A tune popped up that I hadn’t heard in forever and made me so happy that I started singing at the top of my lungs.  In fact, I was more than happy — I was absolutely ecstatic and I didn’t care who knew it.  As the song started nearing the end, I actually said out loud, “Gee, I really wish that I could hear that again” but I couldn’t mess with my iPod while I was driving.  Don’t you know that song repeated not once but for the rest of my commute?!  The moment of silence before the opening riff was filled with expectation time and again: would it play Scissor Sisters or would my iPod resume its shuffling?  And every time the song restarted I laughed my ass off and started singing.  I now know every word of this song perfectly — and if I don’t hear it again for quite a while that would be fine!  8)

When I got to work, I signed into SurveyMonkey to explore options for distributing course evaluation summary reports to our faculty.  I found a way to generate summary reports as PDF files automatically but it wouldn’t include the narrative comments that students made — only the quantitative results.  I asked my evaluator to contact the company to request that they integrate quantitative and qualitative results into the PDFs because I really, REALLY wanted this functionality.  She looked at me like I was nuts.  In fact, as I spoke with her about this, I could feel the tremendous relief that would result from this time-saving feature — it was as if I already had what I wanted and it felt great.  The next morning, as soon as I walked in the door, the evaluator said (I’m paraphrasing), “You’re not going to believe this but I signed into SurveyMonkey to contact them about what you want and they added it yesterday!  You should have wished for something really big!”

Well, I wished for two things that day and got them both.  Why?  The primary reason is because I felt rather than thought.  Pure positive emotion is a powerful manifesting tool and when you frame your desires such that they contain 100% of what you want and nothing of their opposite then nothing stands in the way of you getting what you want.  For example, I wanted only to hear that song again so that I could keep the fun going — I didn’t think to myself, “oh, but that’s highly unlikely given the fact that my iPod is on shuffle and I could play it for over a week nonstop and never hear the same song twice.”  If my desire had also contained its opposite then my iPod would have shuffled as usual and I wouldn’t have heard that song again.  Another reason that I got what I wanted and I got it immediately is because my desires were pretty low-stakes — if the song had not repeated then my world would not have come crumbling down around me.  But this was an important lesson for me: no matter how high or low the stakes may be, the process is exactly the same: if I get out of my own way and just revel in the pure positive emotion that comes from getting what I want, whether or not I have it yet, then what I want will come and it will do so quickly.

I invite you to play with this in your daily lives — start small until you feel like you can wish big without any qualifiers — and post your results as a comment below.  Make your life, as you really want it to be, the gift that you give yourself this holiday season.

I was driving home from PA yesterday, where I spent the day with a dear friend who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer after surviving two bouts of the endometrial variety. Her partner, a sweetheart, has a congenital heart defect that has caused repeated heart failure and strokes. The two women have said their goodbyes on more than one occasion. I suspect that they might have lots of reasons to shake their fists at whatever form of the Divine appeals to them but instead they value life and one another in ways that are inspiring. But I digress …

… driving home from PA, I passed a giant billboard on 276 that shouted, “When You Die You WILL Meet God!” Not fearing death, I was driving far too fast to notice who sponsored the message that intruded on my peaceful musings. At first I was annoyed that people who apparently have both disposable income and a skewed sense of religious zeal chose to exercise their First Amendment right using such intrusive methods. But the more that I thought about their message the more I started to pity their very limited understanding of the human relationship with the Divine.

I find it rather sad that anyone would believe that one must die before meeting God. In my opinion, that’s a little late in the game. Most religions have some conception of a Divine/human link: humanity is created in the image of the Divine; humans contain a Divine spark; humans can access the Divine through prayer, meditation or other methods; humanity is one with the Divine; humans came from Divinity and will return to it; and some go so far as to posit that humans are Gods, whether or not they know it. Even people who label themselves atheists often experience a profound sense of awe while hiking through the Grand Canyon or walking on a glacier. In none of these scenarios must one wait until death to experience the Divine.

So, the next time that you’re tooling down the highway, I’d like you to think about the many ways that you interact with the Divine, however you conceive of it, on a daily basis. If you wait until death to meet God then you’ve missed out on life.