Mmmmmm Muddy Water

juicingNot to be confused with Muddy Waters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ztavykflak

I have started juicing in the morning and it has now offically replaced my morning coffee.  I didn’t intend to quit drinking coffee but I honestly feel so much better starting my day off with fresh juice, I didn’t want to wreck that high with coffee.

I started juicing at the suggestion of my doctor; when I went to see her in late February, it as as if I was trapped in one very large panic attack and I was quite scared.  I had tunnel vision, I couldn’t breathe right and I was feeling very terrified. Like terribly terribly terrified.  I have never once in my life felt afraid to be out in the world…. until February 2013.

Turns out my adrenals were off the charts and I had to slam the breaks on how I was living.  Fortunately I was able to take a leave of absense from life and I literally shut down for about 2 weeks.  I slept. And I slept. And then slept some more.  My doctor prescribed xanex for me and I have not even taken one. I no longer felt it was okay to be fuzzy.

One month later I am feeling a million times better. I feel strong again and every day feels sharper than the day prior.  Even my hearing feels elevated.  I take deep breathes and thank the stars above for giving me another chance to heal myself.  I smile when I see myself in the mirror. This is the autumn of my life and I’m going to make the best of it.

I made these  types of lifestyle changes once before in my life, during my late 20s, early 30s and you know what? I preached loud and proud about how I was living and I drove people away from me.  I believe I was “all in yo face” about things, UGH.  I remember my mom telling me I was weird.  I was weird!  I don’t want to do that again and I keep the focus on me and my health, helping those around me or at least not harming them.  Doing work that feels right for me. That it reflects who I am.

I also will not take this all too far nor take myself too seriously.  I remember sitting in Old Jerusalem in Old Town about a thousand years ago and I was deep into a wheat grass and carrot juice bender.  I was sipping on carrot juice and eating hummus with friends and a guy yelled across the restaurant to me to lighten up on the carrot juice!  It had happened. My face, palms and feet had turned dirty orange because I was drinking WAY TOO MUCH carrot juice!  A few weeks later I got super-sick from drinking too much wheat grass and have not been able to drink it ever since.

While living in San Francisco years ago I attempted to be vegetarian, vegan and I even gave up flour AND dairy, but I did not have much luck at it.  I was an annoying Food Nazi, the worst kind of Nazi! (well, not really) I’m sure I probably didn’t go about it the right way but I did try.  I would have dreams about milkshakes and pancakes and I would literally cry when I saw bread because I missed it.  I was chubby and not feeling well and my doctor looked at me, grabbed my shoulders and said, “Please have a steak, you need protein.”   So I started eating meat again and lost a bunch of weight.  I just cut portions down tremendously and have continued that manner of eating.  Like the French, but sans the smokes. For real.

Moderation Meag, All Things In Moderation. Even Muddy Water.

Some veggies put up a fight before they get pulverized:

pulverized

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG471g76zm0&feature=youtu.be

Mindfulness, Good Deeds, Cheeseburgers, Milkshakes

Buddha_Blue_Lotus

The days and weeks since my mom’s death have been quick to pass and full of lessons, if I am in the mood to listen and thankfully I usually am.  I have made some huge changes in my life since her passing and I have been on this continual hunt for information and guidance on what to do next in life.  I have discovered so many things in the past few weeks and one message that came through loud and clear is that life is truly short and should not be wasted or fretted away on meaningless drivel.  Which is all relative to each and every one of us.

My mom knew she was dying. She never came out and said this to me but two weeks before I brought her to the hospital, we spent most of the night sitting up at her house while she told me her directives.  She had it all written down, but wanted to tell me everything.  It was a  meaningful occasion for me because never before have I had to opportunity to sit with my mom and talk with her — especially without beer.  I sat at the dining room table and she sat on the couch. She looked straight ahead and I watched her profile. She was pretty. I had never seen my mom as pretty. I saw where I got my looks! I never ever saw my mom in this light before and that night alone healed a thousands hurts that she and I had between us.

It’s not as if I am sitting around mourning the loss of my mom, no this is not the case at all.  I had essentially been prepared for my mom’s death for about two years; I’m not sure if she had had a stroke or what, but she basically checked out a while back and I was waiting until she called me in for help.  That day finally came and honestly there was no preparing for any of it — it was all very surreal and continues to reveal itself in my dreams and thoughts throughout the days and nights.  I find myself crying over the silliest things and cannot stop myself.  Honestly, I don’t mind getting lost in the tears.  But I am always surprised by it.

The first week in the hospital my mom and I got along very well, laughing together when we could, although at this point the pain was starting to engulf her, so I just wanted to be there for her. Her screams will haunt me forever because she screamed for her mother almost continually.  It was like a horror movie.  Chilling.  As the news of her condition worsened, she began to communicate to me with her eyebrows and then soon she became angry at the fact that she was dying.

She did not want to die. Not here. Not now. She was not ready.  She got mad at me.  I struggle with the guilt.  It was happening.  Her death. I just happened to be the only one there with her.

I’ve seen two people go off to hospice and both times these people were already in some type of coma to kill the pain or whatever they were experiencing.  Not my mom. I had to tell her we were going to hospice and she almost stabbed me with her eyes.

“Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!”

The doctors told me we had one hour to say goodbye to her and I was the only family member with her. I had to ask her if there was anyone she wanted to talk to (I couldn’t yet say the word “goodbye”). “No! I don’t know! Noooooo!”

I sent out a group text that we have one hour to say good bye to Mom.  In hindsight, this is beyond surreal — a damn text message.  “Boys, you’ve got one hour to say goodbye to her, but the doctors say it’s too stressful for her to be on the phone, so send me a text and I will read it to her.  Or call me and I will tell her your words.  Say goodbye in your heart, because you won’t get a chance to see her again.”

I spent the next 45 minutes reading everyone’s text messages to mom. Everyone’s thank you’s and good bye’s.  This completely shook me to my core. I have never sobbed like this in my life.  When I walked out of her room because the guys from the ambulance had shown up to wheel her out, I realized I had not said good bye.  There was still a little time, but I had no idea.

When she was in the ambulance, I ran up to the back of it and jumped up and down to look in the window. “I’m here with you Mom!! I will follow you!! I will not leave you! I’ll be right behind you!! I will see you in a little bit!!”  On one of my jumps up I could see that she was smiling.  At me.  For jumping up and down. Like a clown.

All the people I saw in the hospital who were looking at death’s door were not ready for it and were surprised that it came up so soon.  When my mom was in surgery or resting, I walked around and observed; spoke to some who were open to it.  You know what they wanted to talk about? When they were in love. When their children were small.  The first kiss.  The first and last dance.  You see old and sick people in hospitals but with some of them, their minds are still young and they don’t forget love and kisses and dances and children.

So on this Monday, April 1, 2013, I found myself strangely agitated and almost angry about my lot in life.  Thanks to the books I have been reading and the overall general messages I have been receiving (or misinterpreting), I was quite annoyed about what life was not giving me.  I was thinking about my own death — an unfortunate side affect of watching my mother’s death — and all the things I want to do and experience before I die.  I grew extremely agitated throughout the day because of all the things I have given up in life over the past few weeks, I was getting *nothing* in return.

I want to experience an exquisite love before I die.
I want to hunker down and do satisfying work before I die.
I want to give back to causes I believe in before I die.

But love has done me wrong, the chip on my shoulder from getting fired twice in 2012 is weighing me down and the slow climb of financial reckoning is taking its own sweet time.  I am fucking pissed off!

I went for a sunset run to blow off some steam and afterwards I set off to find something to eat and drove past the Blue Lotus Temple. I knew there was a meditation class this evening and instead of eating, I knabbed the available open parking spot in front and found a seat in the beautiful cobalt blue temple.

The subject of tonight’s class: preparing for your death.  I heard things that made me double over.  I heard nuggets of wisdom that made my heart flutter.  I had tears streaming down my face when the Head Monk asked if there were any questions.  I raised my hand.

“I have forgotten how to be mindful and I don’t remember what good deeds are; in fact I have spent my day being angry about what life has not given me yet and I don’t think is the way I am supposed to be. I don’t want to die with these thoughts in my head.  I saw my mom being angry about dying and she thought she was prepared.  Please tell me what to do, I feel like I’m failing at everything in life.”

“You are doing absolutely everything right; even the place you are at with your thoughts.  It was a powerful gift to be with your mom through her death and now that you have helped her, it is time to help yourself.  I will help to remind you what being mindful is and suggest good deeds but you will discover them on your own, just as you discovered this.  Don’t be a Buddhist; be a Buddha and you will always stay hungry.  It is not too late and I am glad you are here.”

So I spoke with the Monk after class. I felt so much better after we chatted that I wanted a Culver’s cheeseburger right then and there.  So off to Culver’s I went, where I not only enjoyed a cheeseburger, but a strawberry milkshake too, as I read up on my decision to become Meagan the Vegan. Moooooooooooooo!!

veg_burgers

 

 

http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Plain-English-20th-Anniversary/dp/0861719069/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364873388&sr=1-1&keywords=mindfulness+in+plain+english

mindfulness

 

Juls’ Quilts, Part 1

My mom, Juls, was a wonderful quilt maker and won many awards and accolades over the years for her art — but never really told anyone outside of the family.  Even at her wake, neighbors that she lived next door to for decades had no idea that mom was such an accomplished quilter.  Cousins, aunts, even one of her brothers had no idea that this is what my mom did up in her little condo; in a work space roughly about 6 by 6 feet.  To see all her quilts up on display was really rather moving for me, I had never seen them in this light and it blew everyone away.

Juls was able to blow the room away at her wake because as an ode to my mother, I filled the “wake room” with her quilts and it looked very much like her own personal art gallery.  It was really beautiful if I may say so myself.  Quilts on walls, on chairs, on couches, on podiums, she was everywhere.  Relatives asked all day and night, “What are you going to do with your mother’s quilts?”  My brothers were ready to bring in an auctioneer that night!  I don’t know exactly what I am going to do with her quilts, but I certainly am exploring some options.

A quilt appraisialist said that they should go to either the Illinois State Museum in Springfield or to the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska.  This appraisalist never met my mother, not many did, but she certainly was familiar with my mom’s work.  Juls was the recluse quilter that quietly won all the awards at the McHenry County Fair each year and came in to pick up her ribbons on the Monday after the fair — and into the fabric cabinet the ribbons would go.

The reasons why mom hid for so many years are starting to become clear to me as I sort through her things and empty out her life and it’s not always easy because I get upset with her. I wish she had let me in on some of her thoughts and not let them fester.  So stubborn.  Stone Head.

I always threatened my mom that I would expose her craft when she was gone and she would say, “What will I care then?”  Well, ummm true but that time is here and now the first thing I had to do was photograph the quilts.  This is not as easy as it sounds, as her quilts are huge, well most of them at least, and huge means heavy.  Thankfully I was able to use one of the studios at the Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship (where I am now also teaching and studying, but more on that later).

I sold some of my mom’s quilts at her estate sale but have hung on to a good many.  I learned that my mom had quite a following and when word got out that some of her quilts were up for sale, people came from all over the area and her estate was quickly emptied out.  I am pleased about this.  As well as a little freaked out by her empty house that I can now hear an echo when I talk.  I wonder if I made it all happen too quickly and now have very little of her left.

I am not a pack rat.  Now I am preparing to contact the museums as soon as I have them all properly inventoried.  These are just a few.

My mom was never big on talking. It drove me crazy my entire life.  When I saw her quilts up on the walls of the funeral home, I saw that mom said everything through her quilts.  There are layers and layers of her emotions and thoughts in her quilts and I will do what I can to get people to hear my mom.  

Aw Juls. You finally said something.  xo

The Abbey Resort on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Brunch View
Brunch view from the Fontana Grill at
The Abbey Resort

I grew up in Crystal Lake, Illinois, which meant that Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was just a hop, skip and a jump to get across the Wisconsin border, where things were a bit more readily available in my younger years.  It also felt like a world away from the cornfields and cows of Crystal Lake because the town has always felt like vacation, with the availability of taffy, fudge and paddle boats in the quaint and cute little downtown.

My Junior Prom was held at The Abbey and I have attended many of public and private events there over the decades, all with very fond Wisconsin memories, but none recently until I was invited by Duong Sheahan, of Live Healthier & Happier, to spend a complimentary weekend this past June to get to know the new & improved Abbey Resort and Avani Spa in downtown Fontana, Wisconsin on Lake Geneva.

Arriving at the Abbey Resort

The Abbey looks just as I remembered it from years gone by when driving up to it, and especially the atrium dining room that gives it an old world feel. But that’s about where my recollections stopped because it has been spruced up and remodeled to accomodate all your comfort and technological needs to enjoy a peaceful stay.  There is wifi coverage in the rooms but not so much in the lobby, which is fine, unless you’re there for a heavy online stay.  But this is Wisconsin so why not relax a bit and enjoy the sights and sounds.

Just as you may find it difficult to find margarine in butter-rich Wisconsin, you won’t have a hard time finding a New Glarus Spotted Cow beer, as it is only sold in Wisconsin, and many of us Flatlanders are quick to stash some in our suitcases when headed home because it is that delicious (also the allure of having something that’s hard to get is brilliant on New Glarus’ part).

The entire New Glarus family served bucket-style at the Waterfront Grill

So after the drive up from Chicago, a delicious and huge brunch spread at the Fontana Grill, I was ready to relax and see what the Avani Spa had to offer.  I opted for the Aromatherapy Retreat Wrap and yowzah it was delightful. I could barely walk afterwards, I had apparently released that many toxins, which is the point of it.  After being scrubbed with salts and then massaged with oils, you are then wrapped in hot linens and a foil blanket and then left alone to bake.  Because it can be a little claustrophobic, the masseuse does not leave you for too long to make sure you don’t go berserk. I did not, thankfully.  I then slithered to the indoor pool and enjoyed some cucumber water until I was stable enough to carry on with my day.  It was a much needed and delightful treatment, I would like it have it every week if possible.

la-la-la-dee-la I just had a spa treatment =)

There were four of us in the group and after our spa treatments, we all went our separate ways to explore or relax or whatever we wanted.  I chose to grab a bike from the recreation center and rode around the lake until I was informed that no bikes were allowed on the path; it was a walking path, so I jumped off immediately and rode the back streets of Fontana.  Again it was lovely and I’ll always be grateful that this little peach of a town is in Chicago’s backyard, yet far enough away to feel like you are in Germany or something. ha.

Forbidden bike riding on Lake Geneva

After a rest-up and refreshing, we all met for dinner at the Fontana Grill and it was a delicious meal that stretched over about three hours.  It’s moments like this you realize you are not in a big city; the courses are parsed out and you’re forced to talk to your friends or family; whomever you are dining with.  All of our instincts were to say, “c’mon let’s move this thing along!” But instead we rolled with the punches and enjoyed a fabulous seafood dinner and delicious wine suggested by our server.  And for some reason we acted like silly gooses before we went in for dinner, I suppose because WE CAN!!

Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun….

The remodeled rooms are beautiful at The Abbey and of course the free wifi kept me there probably a bit longer than if there was not, and after a good night’s rest — something powerful about that Wisconsin air that knocks you out — we met for a yoga class with Julie, the Director of Events at The Abbey.  I t was lovely to start the day this way, and we were all super hungry by the time we got to The Waterfront Grill for lunch and a trip wrap-up.

Sunday morning yoga

It was fantastic to spend this weekend at The Abbey and to see all the efforts they have made to enhance and beautify your stay with them.  They have also made some great strids in jumping into the world of social media; they hold photo contests on their Facebook page, where you must guess where a photo was taken to have the chance to win a gift certificate for the spa, and they have joined Instagram, where they post gorgeous photos of the property and events.  This past week on Twitter they held a “Your Experience Photo Contest” where you had to capture the best of your Lake Geneva experience for the chance to win a night’s stay at the resort.  They boast a lively Pinterest board and also have a Youtube channel, highlighting events and reminders that even in winter you can have a blast in Fontana.

I heart Wisconsin; always have always will.  It’s a great get-away from Chicago and there’s something for everyone to do.  My sister-in-law has recently purchased a house just off Linn Pier in Lake Geneva, so I look forward to spending more time up there in the coming months.  I want to see it in the winter as well!

For me personally, a country drive is sometimes the best meditation of all….

The Abbey Resort & Avani Spa
269 Fontana Boulevard
Fontana, WI  53125
800-709-1323
www.theabbeyresort.com

How safe is Central Mexico these days?

View of lovely San Miguel de Allende, from the Rosewood Hotel

In 2001, before 9/11, I set off on a 2-month sabbatical to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, to teach a dance class and take a well deserved break after completing a project on a global business theater in New Jersey.  I chose San Miguel because I had taken a Gabrielle Roth workshop at Escalon in Big Sur the year prior and wanted to further my studies.  One of my friends from Escalon had already moved to SMA and was teaching yoga.  She called me one day and said, “Hey Meags!  The dance teacher here is about to leave because she’s having a baby, why don’t you get your butt down here and teach for a while?”

After planning and whatnot, I arrived in San Miguel on June 29, 2001, ready to begin my two-month sabbatical and to get to know Mexico, a place I had not yet seen before.  It’s a beautiful mountainous town, not desert-ee or covered with cacti and lazy donkeys, but rather it’s considered to be the San Francisco of Mexico; it never gets too hot or too cold (well, not for too long because I certainly was hot and cold), has a bustling international artist community and has a big gay community.  Oh and Texans, plenty of Texans. Gay and straight.

I was not afraid of anything about this Mexican town yet had I listened to my mother, I would have never gone, which is why I have never listened to my mother.  Oh wait, there was one thing I was terrified of and that was scorpions.  My roommate didn’t even think of them; I looked for them all the time and guess what?  I found them all the time!  And usually in my bedroom! On the wall above me!  In the middle of the night!  I can still literally hear them stitching across the walls… even today the thought of it gives me shivers. Blaaaaah scorpions.  And fuzzy spiders. Ok I’ll stop!  But other that insect fears, I was totally at peace with this little town and all the new sights and sounds it offered.  I adored it.

Today there is a much bigger community of younger people as well, involved in all sorts of digital and technological art projects, but this community has dwindled compared to about 5 years ago.  When I arrived for the first time in my mid-thirties, I was considered one of the younger ones, but that would not have been the case had I arrived 10 years later at that age.  I was there this past March and saw how the town has exploded with people and construction, yet had also crumbled.  When the US has an economic sniffle, Mexico has full-blown pneumonia.  And the US had much worse a sniffle.  So many businesses have shuttered their doors, much like here, and people have packed up and returned to their homelands, including the people of Mexico.  When jobs are scarce here, the Mexican men cannot send money home so it’s a quadruple whammy of hardships in Mexico.

I’m not going to pretend to be educated on the exact reasons why the business of drug cartelling has exploded in Mexico, nor am I going to get into the stats of it, but it’s fairly obvious that this is where the money is in Mexico, if you can stay alive.  To read any mainstream news you would think that they are all killing each other throughout the entire country and hanging the bodies over highways so the public can see them die as they shoot them from hidden hillsides.  The stories of heads rolling into a night club or even night clubs being set on fire — now these stories make it to our media and it sends a chilling message that all of Mexico is completely corrupt and extremely dangerous.

Ever watch the 10pm Sunday night news in Chicago?  It’s a death toll of how many were shot or wounded in the city in the past few days; how many children were injured, buried, mourned.  It is perhaps the saddest time slot on TV, which is one of the reasons I don’t watch TV anymore.  The killings in Chicago are completely out of control; in a city that claims guns are illegal.  Does this news stop people from visiting Navy Pier? Water Tower Place? Wrigley Field?  No. No it does not.  It may stop some people from getting on a train to come to the City, but for the most part tourism is loud & lively in Chicago.  So while there are certainly precautions that need to be taken when heading off to Central Mexico, by no means is it a 24/7 blood bath.  Like it is on the South Side of Chicago.

The places that I would avoid in Mexico right now are the border towns and the main highways to move north/south through the country.  Although the violence is rather widespread yet focused on the northern part of the country, because this is the main and final push to get the drugs into our country and some would say it’s an all out war zone at the borders.  So avoid the border towns.  I wouldn’t even do a day trip there as many people used to so, it’s just not worth it.

I would no longer take a bus to Central Mexico as I have many times in the past, because of  the growing presence of the Mexican Army and Mexico Federal Police on the highways.  And the growing number of rogue police, army or cartels who impersonate these groups so you can never be sure who or what you are looking at — or dealing with.

Once on a bus to Phoenix in 2003, I was awakened in the middle of the night somewhere in the State of Chihuahua, by a machine gun nudging my shoulder, asking for my passport.  I did not flinch, I simply reached for my passport and handed it to the soldier.  After checking everyone’s passport, the soldiers hauled four Guatamalian immigrants off the bus and then we were on our way.  Looking back, I wonder why I wasn’t more freaked out.  I had never seen a machine gun before let alone be awakened by one.  But when I traveled the buses throughout Mexico, I always went into some sort of altered state, knowing that you have to roll with the punches becasue weird things happen out there in the middle of nowhere.  I have also driven through the country a number of times by myself and suffice to say nothing majorly scary or even close to heart breaking happened.  Today I would never drive through the country I once called home.

The buses and trucks that travel through Mexico are always being stopped and searched for drugs and immigrants, but these days you can’t be sure if the Mexican solider who is pointing a gun at you and asking to see your passport is an actual Govenrment official, a cartel dressed as a Government official or a Government official who has been paid off to act on behalf of the cartel.  Which is why it’s best to avoid busing around Mexico, a once very popular and economical way to travel the country, ever since the train lines were discontinued.  These days I would fly directly to the city I am headed for, and for San Miguel de Allende’s it’s Leon/Guanajuato Del Bajio or BJX.  Then take a taxi directly to your destination, because no one picks you up from an airport in Mexico, even if they are crazy head over heels love with you!

This past week, I learned of an incident of a Canadian couple that was severely beaten and robbed in their homes in San Miguel.  These incidents happen here and there and are never a story we want to hear but it’s especially sensitive when it happens to ex-Pats living in a foreign city.  One thing Mexico has always known is that you DO NOT MESS with the foreigners that are visiting or who have chosen to live in Mexico.  They are putting money into the country and economy and again you DO NOT MESS WITH THE TURISTAS.  But it happens, unfortunately. There is speculation — and only speculation at this time —  that it is a small group of disenchanted policemen that committed the crime.  So another couple has now returned to their homeland and the stories will be shared, as they should.

Would I go to Mexico today? Yes.  If I had the sufficient funds to get me from Point A to Point B directly, and had a secure and safe place to stay.  Do I want to go to Mexico right now?  No.  I think I’ll wait until things start to turn around.

I love Mexico and think it takes a LOT of hits for being a reckless, careless and violent country, but it is a big country, full of many people, places and things and you simply cannot place a generic label on a country of its size. It’s complicated.  It’s gorgeous.  It’s ugly,  It’s rich and it’s poor.  And unfortunately there are places in the country where violence is out of control, so just like the South Side of Chicago, I will avoid it for now.  But not forever!

As Harry Burns once said….

“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”  Amen Burnsie!

Lark in Paris for almost a year!

But this is not that type of love story rather a story of me getting back to what it is I am supposed to be doing with my life. Writing and travelling. But wait, what’s that you say, “you haven’t traveled much at ALL in the past few years, let alone write!”  True.  I stopped travelling in 2010 after returning home from living in Mexico and Texas and the only writing I’ve done has been in my Diary.  I mean journal!  But I used to travel A LOT and I’ve lived in seven America cities and three international cities and I look forward to getting back to travelling, because it does make my heart go-a-flutter and this time I’ll blog about it. Yes #BLOGaboudit.

Things are very different now as we are all very well aware.  Economic hardships have forever changed our landscapes and I realize I may have to work harder to get where I want to go, and the many rapid-fire fears are screaming at me; but I have been wanting to do this ever since I grew feet.  So if I don’t do it now, when do I do it?

Here I place the metaphorical cart before the literary horse. I am also spending my days consulting for small business who need help with their marketing efforts so at first this may be a slow moving horse, but this pony is definitely saddled up and is hankering to get out there and see the world.  ANDALE