Monthly Archives: August 2011

Let’s Barter

Posted in: General, Let's Barter on 08/31/11 by

Do you ever exchange goods or services without using money?  I have been practicing this wonderful technique of bartering since I have been a young girl.  I don’t know if it started because of my difficult economic situation or if I was just guided to this marvelous way to do business.  I have discovered how much fun it is to engage in this type of trade.

My first experience was in high school.  I loved to style my girlfriends hair using all sorts of rollers for curls, hair extensions to add volume, and decorated metal hair clips of my own design.  In those days they didn’t sell any hair accessories so my creations were the hit of the neighborhood.  I can remember many Friday and Saturday late afternoons when I would spend hours before a party working on two or three friend’s hair for a special event.  In exchange I would receive a beautiful belt, or perhaps a used sweater or skirt.  I didn’t exactly say, “I’ll do your hair for a piece of clothing.”  It just seemed to work out that my group of friends liked to swap.  I remember one friend made the most delicious chocolate chip cookies and I just loved it when she wanted her hair done because of the reward when I got home and opened up her tin of treats.

During my teenage years I became very serious about dancing and yet I couldn’t afford as many dance lessons as I would have liked.  My dance teacher, Yvonne, offered me two advanced classes of ballet and jazz if I would help her with the younger children’s beginning classes.  I jumped at this chance and grew to love watching the 3-5 year old girls reach their tiny little hands up to the barre and struggle to plie.   There wasn’t a lot of dancing on my part in these classes for pre-school kids, but the experience was valuable for my role as a teacher in later years.  It taught me how gratifying it is to share what you learn with others. 

After college I discovered a talent for decorating people’s apartments and homes.  I wasn’t the typical decorator who makes purchases for their client; most often I was called upon to arrange furniture, paintings, photographs, and decorative objects to create a more pleasing environment.  Many friends had wonderful objet d’ art which they had collected or had been given, but they didn’t have the ability to put all their pieces together in a cohesive way.  I understood spatial relationships quite well and could quickly transform a room from an assortment of eclectic furniture and sentimental knick-knacks to a cozy, well-balanced space.  I remember several unique trades using this gift: home-cooked meals from a talented chef served elegantly at his apartment, cashmere sweaters from a local sweater distributor and Tai Chi classes to name just a few. When I had my pottery school in Marin County, CA we would often trade a whole session of classes for dental services, and/or massage therapy.

Most recently my physical therapist that I have been seeing for 14 years for Myofascial Release called me and said, “I really want one of your paintings.  Would you be interested in trading for physical therapy appointments?  You can use the visits for anyone in your family or for friends.”  I was absolutely thrilled to receive this request.  I said, “Yes, definitely!”  I have started to work on a painting just for her and I have already used two physical therapy appointments and my husband has used one as well.  The beauty of these special exchanges is that you become aware of your connection to the person with whom you are trading.  It doesn’t seem like you are paying but almost doing and receiving for free.  It feels so good give something to another and then to accept their gift in return.  I strongly encourage you to contemplate bartering.  It will put a smile on your face.

I Am Healthy

Posted in: General, I Am Healthy on 08/24/11 by

It is amazing to be able to say that!  I will say it again, “I am a whole, happy, healthy, loving woman.”  I was sick for the first 40 years of my life. Like millions of other human beings I grew up immersed in the family disease of alcoholism.  For generations it has plagued my family.  The unbalanced life I led is so common in our society; I didn’t know anything was wrong.  I was a participant in the chaos, confusion, neuroses, pain and suffering which is present in dysfunctional families.  I call it The Dance of Death.

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri in the community of Clayton.  The only memories I have of my father are when he would beat my brother and me with his belt so severely my clothes would cling to the bloody strap marks on my legs.  He would make us wait for our “punishment” in our room before he dealt the ugly blows.  My mother closed her eyes to what was happening.  Both of them partied on weekends where I would find empty highball glasses scattered all over the living room.  I had holes in the soles of my shoes while my mother would model a new diamond cocktail ring, winnings from a weekly poker game.  My dad was also a compulsive gambler.  He died at the age of 45 when I was nine years old.

My mother attracted another alcoholic to her life soon after my father’s death.  They had a symbiotic, codependent and alcoholic relationship.  Every ten days they would consume a case of scotch which was delivered to our apartment from the local liquor store.  My mother never appeared drunk but she was distant, selfish and narcissistic.  My step- father’s disease had progressed to the point he was visibly drunk most evenings.  His attitude was condescending, nasty and self righteous. He was verbally abusive and drove his car while intoxicated on many occasions.  When I think back to that period of my history I remember keeping my personal life secret!!!  I was ashamed of their behavior.  I pretended all was well and I began developing neurotic habits for self preservation.

In my teens I danced several days after school, participated in theater groups, worked in a department store and had creative life in my head.  I imagined the way I wanted my world to be and was in denial as to the truth in front of me.  I became obsessive, compulsive and an over achiever.  Because I worked so hard I accomplished a lot for a young girl but the reality was it was inspired by fear, insecurity and a need for control.

In college I devoted myself to art and earned a B.S. in Education and a M.A. in Painting and Ceramics from the University of Missouri.  I was hired as a college instructor soon after graduate school.  I felt “happy” for a time because I was away from home and involved in teaching.  I took my job very seriously but the loneliness I felt when I was by myself was debilitating.

I longed for love . . . any kind.  I didn’t realize it at the time but I had never felt affection from my family.  I became preoccupied with thoughts of “men.”  I had guys on my mind constantly!  I was popular and had many choices but I picked the ones who I thought needed me.  Most often they were from dysfunctional families.  I dated a lot of drunks during my 20’s.  It felt familiar.  In spite of my success as an artist and a teacher, I had low self esteem and I knew something was wrong with me.

In 1969 I began a new life in another city.  Within a week of moving to Boston, Massachusetts, I was brutally raped and hospitalized.  I never received help with this trauma and didn’t properly grieve until years later.  I pushed down the pain and was then, more than ever, resolved to create the perfect life for myself, as if it were in my hands.

This was made easy for me when Joey Haudel entered my life.  He filled the position of my “Knight in Shining Armour,” albeit, distorted.  He was young, handsome, and alcoholic and had just been released from prison.  We needed each other like ducks need water.  We bonded in a codependent relationship that lasted 12 years.

Our experiences together were astounding.  What I learned about myself was profound.  Our journey is almost unbelievable.  I have told this story in a dramatic narrative, I Survived: One Woman’s Journey of Self Healing and Transformation on DVD.  It is filled with the dark world of illness and moves to the light of wellness.  I reached my bottom after years of suffering.  I was contemplating suicide but was saved by the Grace of God and the dear voice of a telephone operator who kept me on the phone for over an hour.

I spent years in recovery; beginning with Al-Anon meetings in 1973, several series of Adult Children of Alcoholic Therapy Sessions, individual therapy with numerous therapists and devouring self help books.  I had the courage to look within and face the demons.  It wasn’t easy and many times I wanted to quit.  I often felt I was too crazy to get well.  One step at a time I forged ahead and never looked back!  I visualized a healthy prognosis.  Today I am living that beautiful picture!

I am happily married to Bryan, 19 years my junior.  I am older than his mother.  We will celebrate our 25th anniversary this year and continue to share the most fabulous life.  We have one child, a precious daughter Mariah, who we adopted at birth 15 years ago.  I was 54 at the time.  I am grateful that I am able to be a good parent and relish every moment I spend with both of them as a family.  Each day I thank God for the gifts I have been given and I feel fortunate to be living a balanced life.

Sadly, Joey wasn’t as fortunate as I.  He died at the age of 42.  My dear friend Debra took her own life in 2002.  She too was alcoholic.  I feel their presence; they are the angels guiding me in my mission to inspire people to their own healing and recovery.  Let’s continue to get well.  We are all loving souls on an enlightened path of a new way of being, HEALTHY.




Living Your Dreams

Posted in: General, Living Your Dreams on 08/17/11 by

How many of us follow our heart?  Unfortunately I think the numbers are quite low.  As a child when you thought about your future did you include your day dreams in your path to success?  Because of the pressures of our world today I don’t think it is easy to find our way to peace and happiness.  But I do believe it can be done if we are open to allowing positive beliefs enrich our lives.  By being mindful of our true desires and by acting on our instincts we can awaken the talents and gifts we have come here to share. 

I became aware at a young age that I was creative.  Living in the chaos and dysfunction of an alcoholic home prompted me to find an outlet where I could find a balance.  In my bedroom there was a small chest of drawers.  All the clothes I owned fit into one drawer.  That left the other two empty.  I used those drawers to create dioramas that depicted a fantasy life I hoped one day to live.  I used any materials I could get my hands on and made each scene as colorful as possible.  Instinctively I was visualizing my future including a happy, healthy home as well as my career choice.  It felt so satisfying, to leave the gloomy, sad, and confusing life in which my family was immersed, each time I opened those secret panoramas.  This was just the beginning of acknowledging my dreams.  I have continued to pay attention to my intuition and follow that guidance to what feels right and wrong to me.  I am grateful to be living my bliss.

An exemplary example of a person following their dreams is our 15 year old daughter Mariah.  From an early age Mariah has loved to play video games.  Many children and adults as well, enjoy this pastime. Her dad and I used to worry about the amount of time she devoted to her computer and her video games but two years ago Mariah took a career and college assessment at which changed our attitude about the amount of time she spent in front of her computer.  In one hour and twenty minutes, after taking 3 on-line tests, scoring 99.9% in I.T., her vision of the future was crystallized. We began to see a budding video game designer emerge.  Mariah reads everything on line about prospective games, who is creating them (the actual designers and artists involved), what fans and critics are saying about them, which companies create the best role playing games, how easy are her favorite games to navigate, and the details of plots and story lines go on and on.  In other words, she has a passion for Video Gaming.

For six weeks this summer she attended The Academy of Art University in San Francisco as a pre-college student.  At the orientation Mariah went right to the information on job opportunities; which companies were hiring and which students from the college were being hired.  She already has her eye on potential companies where she would like to work, although she has two more years of high school, four years of college and then a two-year Masters program.  Pre-college classes were offered in 17 areas of career interest including Game Design.  She was fortunate to study with the professional artists/teachers who are on the staff at the college level.  Mariah’s class choices were Figure Drawing, Composition, Game Design and Animation.  For a girl who did not know how to draw (she literally was a step above stick figures) she made an impression on us, her parents, when she completed beautiful, competent figure drawings.  Although most people are not aware of this, drawing is a learned skill and if the motivation is there anyone can learn how to draw.  Mariah is visualizing her goals and in the process enjoying every step along the way, even when it means hard work.

In two years Mariah will graduate from high school.  As a graduation present we have offered to take her on a trip to a city or country of her choosing before she begins college.  She has chosen Edmonton, Canada because that is the home of her favorite Game Design company where she dreams of working one day.  She told me, “I want to visit the city because I want to see if I would like to live and work there.”  I said to her, “What if a job isn’t available?”  Her answer was, “I have a back-up plan.”  She then mentioned another company located in Maryland.  Knowing how people change and grow as well as unexpected experiences, it is hard to know where she will enjoy her career.  I have no doubt that wherever it is Mariah will be living a full and satisfying life laced with joy and happiness.

Regardless of your age, I hope you will meditate on your heart’s desire.  Rearrange your schedule so that you are spending time in ways that are truly meaningful to you.  We each deserve to live our dreams.

Forever Friends

Posted in: Friends, General on 08/10/11 by

There are all types of friendships.  We have acquaintances that we are attracted to for varying lengths of time. People come into our lives to balance a need we share and to mirror our soul’s growth.  Some of our contacts we meet in high school and college.  Other associates are parents of our children’s playmates or people we know in our profession or work place.  Then there are the friends with whom we have a deep and special bond.  Have you heard the expression, “You would be lucky to count your true friends on one hand?”  I am fortunate; I can.   

I treasure my friends, especially those I have known since childhood growing up in St. Louis, Missouri.  One such dear friend is Diane Kessler.  I remember first meeting Diane in 9th grade, on a double date, where she made a strong impression on me. She lived inUniversity City and I lived in Clayton, neighboring communities.  She was known in both towns as one of the most beautiful girls in high school.  But what stood out for me was her sincere and unassuming personality.  Her sense of style was unparalleled with other teenage girls, yet she was unaware of any differences.  She loved adventure and loved to have fun.  I noticed right away that she never judged other people and always saw the best in them.  Our friendship blossomed in those early years and has grown stronger as we have matured.

What has strengthened our relationship is the fact that she was close with my mother, brother and dear Aunt Letha.  Diane and my mother had lunch together everyday when they worked at the same hospital.  Her younger sister dated my brother and Diane and her sister spent a lot of time with my Aunt Letha, both in Missouri and in California.  She was not aware of the secrets I was hiding about my life behind closed doors.  Their normal, loving ties have helped me over the years in my recovery because it gave me a sense that everything wasn’t crazy in my life.  Diane’s devotion to her family, her love of animals, her unselfishness in giving of her time to so many underprivileged families, and her unwavering thoughtfulness has deepened my love and respect for her which continues to grow with passing years.

For the last 30 years Diane has lived in southern California and I have lived in northern California.  Our birthdays are eight weeks apart so we try to meet once a year or every other year and take a five day vacation together.  We usually pick a city on the west coast so that we don’t have to travel all day to our destination.  Last week we went to Seattle.  As much as we both love exciting activities when we are together we enjoy lounging, relaxing, eating good food and mostly talking, talking, talking.  It is a time to catch up and recharge for our busy lives.  She is definitely a sister I didn’t have in this life time.

We both look and feel young for our age, fortunately.  On the last day of our trip we were in a shop looking at a skin care line.  We have always tried new products and share the pros and cons of each item.  The sales clerk was a bit resistant to answer questions but she did comment on Diane’s flawless skin. At the same time a shopper started asking both of us normal questions as to where we were from, etc.  We told her we were high school friends celebrating our birthdays together.  The customer said, “I hope this isn’t inappropriate, but how many years have you known each other?”  Diane answered proudly, “We have been friends for 55 years.”  They both gasped and the young sales clerk immediately began being more attentive to Diane.  On the way out my friend whispered, “Did you notice how she took my arm and wanted to help me with the purchase when she figured out our age?”  We both got such a kick out of that.  If you are curious as to which birthday we are celebrating, I prefer not to write the number.  You can do the math. 

Wishing a Happy Birthday to my dear friend Diane.  May we spend many, many more together.  For each of you, dear readers,  I hope you will cherish your friendships and nuture them with loving care.







How Much Is Too Much

Posted in: General, How Much Is Too Much on 08/3/11 by

I understand that most people spend an average of 92 seconds reading a blog.  At the risk of losing faithful readers I am publishing an article that is both embarrassing to me and also dear to my heart.  I feel many of you will see both the sadness and the humor and will be able to identify with some of my former unbalanced traits. Here it is:  How Much Is Too Much?

I have always been a list maker.  As far back as I can remember it has been routine for me to systematize my life with layers of words shaping the next day’s activities, work, communication, reports and generally anything that has been my responsibility. 

I started this habit as a child and to this day you will find from one to several lists planted around my house.  Is this a compulsion?  Am I neurotic?  I am a Virgo, born in September, and one characteristic of this sign is the need to organize.

This practice has taken a variety of forms.  In high school each plan involved school activities and was embellished with colorful drawings.  I coordinated these daily arrangements in a large notebook which I carried with me from class to class.  I would never cross anything off the list for I thought it ruined the artistic design but I needed the security of the pages to remind me of what I had to do.  I was afraid I would forget an assignment or special activity if I didn’t write it down.  With all the chaos in my life of growing up in an alcoholic home, I didn’t trust my brain to remember.  I definitely was becoming dependent on my catalogue of personal business.

By the time I entered college in the 1960’s I had created a “mini daily notebook,” 3 ½” by 5”, filled with several colored insert pages depicting all the categories of my world, i.e. friends, classes, stuff to do, addresses, phone numbers, supplies, wish list, tomorrow, next week, next month.  A few of my classmates thought I was nuts and played a trick on me.  They stole the “precious planner.”  I went crazy!  The adrenalin was pumping; I was furious with these girls.  It felt like I had lost my purpose, I wasn’t aware that this habitual recording of tasks was such an intrinsic part of my being.  It was embarrassing.  I decided to pretend it didn’t matter and said nothing.  Instead, I created another one, this time bigger and better and under lock and key.

As my life became more complicated in my late 20’s, this habit escalated to an addiction.  Several times each day I needed to check my lists, which by now had become a detailed card catalogue.  I used 5 by 7 index cards, color-coded by type of activity.  If the card became too messy with lines drawn through completed tasks, I would copy what was “left to do” on another card, starting a whole new list.  The wooden box which held my “memory” was too bulky to carry with me so I would take only the cards I needed for the day.  Sometimes in the middle of the afternoon I would check these descriptive details just to be sure I hadn’t forgotten something.  At the time it didn’t matter to me that this was obsessive-compulsive behavior because I was totally dependent on my “paper brain” and couldn’t function without it.  Besides, I kept my “index madness” secret and therefore didn’t need to discuss it with anyone.  This was one of the many ways I tried to gain control over my life.

When I became involved with Joey, my ex-husband of 12 years, my sickness of codependency gushed out of control.  I attempted to organize the man, his daily activities and his personal affairs.  I was convinced he would fall apart if I didn’t.  I began recording for two.  I have an incredible story to share with you that will illustrate how warped my thinking had become.

Joey’s mother was quite ill and he hadn’t visited her in Boston for a few years.  I had only briefly met his parents before we moved to California.  I knew how much he missed his family and how important it was for him to take the trip back east.  We had several garage sales with goods and pottery to pay for his ticket.  For weeks I scoured sales at department stores buying clothes so that he would have the proper attire.  I purchased a suitcase as large as a trunk for the one week journey.  Then I proceeded to list the items that I was planning to pack for him with instructions on “what to wear with what.”  This meant spreading out the articles all over the apartment and methodically counting and coordinating each item.  The process took many hours and days of concentrated work.

Please, promise me you will read all these original lists carefully, as tedious as they might be, for I want you to see the excessiveness of my codependency and the need I had to control another person’s life.  I discovered theses sheets of paper hidden in my dresser years after I had begun recovery.  I am sure Joey never read the lists.  Who, in their right mind, would ever read something like this, let alone use it?  It is not understandable.  This may be one of the most unbalanced acts of my addictive personality.  IT IS ABSOLUTELY INSANE.

PANTS:  (Dress and Casual) 1. Camel Angel Flights  2. Navy Angel Flights  3. Gray Angel Flights  4. Blue Jeans  5. Gray Drawstrings  6. Navy Drawstrings  7. Rust Drawstrings  8. Gray Herringbone  9. Taupe and Gray Tweed  10.Gray-Black-White Specks  Total = 10 pairs of pants

SHIRTS:  (Dress, Pullover and Casual) A. Black Dress Shirt  B. Camel & Black Checked Dress Shirt  C. Black & White Checked Dress Shirt  D. Cranberry Pullover with Two Buttons  E. Void F. Nik-Nik Horse Scene Gray G. Blue, White, Mauve & Brown Cowboy  H. Plaid Navy with Stand Up Collar I. Brown, Gray & White with Stand Up Collar  J. Gray Silky Dress Shirt  K. Dark Brown with Camel & Rust Collar  L. Black Rust & Gray with Stand Up Collar  M. White Errol Flynn  O. Brown & White Shirt Blouse  N. Navy, Red Picture Shirt  P. White Over Blouse with Lace  Q. Blue & White Striped   R. S. T. U. V. Crossed Out  W. Camel & Brown Dress Shirt  X. White on White Dress Shirt  Total = 21 shirts

SWEATERS:   T1 – Navy Blue Solid Pullover  T2 – Camel & Rust Short Sleeve  T3 – Powder Blue with White & Navy Stripe  T4 – Black Knit  T5 – Wine Knit with Long Sleeves  T6 – Camel & Gray Knit  T7 – Navy Blue with Knit Shoulders  T8 – Gray with Blue & Red Stripes  Total = Eight sweater

UNDERWEAR:  Nine-Bikinis  Six-White  One-Turquoise  Total = 16 pairs of underwear

T-SHIRTS:  (Three for daytime, Six for sleeping)  Daytime Teal Blue – Orange, Beige & White Striped   Sleeping  Blue with Red at Neck (Hole, the collar) – Powder Blue  Orange & Orange – Face Shirt – Dark Navy – Yellow   Total = Nine t-shirts

SOCKS:  5 Gray (for Gray Shoes)  6 Brown (for Brown Shoes)  5 Camel (Beige, for Brown Shoes)  6 Navy (for Brown Shoes)  2 Wine (for Brown Shoes) 3 Rust  (for Rust Shoes)  Total = 27 pair of socks

JACKETS:  O – Velvet  # – Plaid  ^ – Leather Coat  * – Blue Gray Wind Breaker  Total = Four jackets

SHOES:   AA – Gray Loafers  BB – Brown Leather  CC – Rust Patent Leather  DD – Macramé  EE – Slippers  FF – Thongs  Total = Six pairs of shoes

VESTS:  Z – One Burlap  Total = one vest

TIES:  I – Tree (Camel & Beige)  II – Beige Knotty  III – Cranberry and Beige  IV – Black and Brown Striped  V – Dark Blue Knotty  Total = five ties

SHORTS:  MM – Rust  ^^ – Cranberry  Total = two pairs of shorts

BELTS:   00 – Dark Brown  ** – Black  (( – Tan  Total = three belts

BATHING SUIT:  One Multi-Colored Bathing Suit  Total = one bathing suit

BODY SUIT:  One Black Body Suit  Total = one body suit

SCARVES:   One White Scarf  Total = one scarf

DRUGSTORE AND COSMETICS  ITEMS:  1. Bar of  Soap  2. Revlon Face Soap  3. Shampoo  4. Razor  5.  Razor Blades  6. Comb  7. Brush  8.  Nose Scissors (Found in Red Sewing Kit)  9. Electric Razor  10. Hair Dryer  11. RNA Face Cream  11. Musk oil  12. Cologne (After Shave)  13. Eye Wash (Drops)  14. Nail Clippers  15. Scotch Tape  16. Toothbrush  17.  Toothpaste  18. Deodorant  19. Hand Lotion (Two Bottles)  20. Aspirin   21. Small Dental Floss  22. Suntan Oil  23. Sponges to Clean Luggage  24. Film  25. Camera  26. Shoe Polish (Two Bottles)  27. Rags  28. Shoe Horn  29. Herb-Lax  Total = 29 items

QUICK CHECK LIST FOR CARRY ON SHOULDER BAG:  1. Umbrella  2. Large Black Notebook  3. Passport  4. Small Notebook  5. Long Folder for Cards etc.)  6.  Book, Living Sober  7.  Kleenex  8.  Sunglasses (Two pairs)  9. Magazines (Two)  10. Books (Two)  11. Small Leather Bag  Total = 14 items

SMALL LEATHER BAG FOR INSIDE CARRY ON SHOULDER BAG:  a) Travelers Checks  b) Wallet  c) Address Book  d) Cigarettes  e) Matches  f) Comb  g) Pen  h) Green Round Comb  Total = Eight items

HINTS:  1. Match the socks with the shoe first, but if you can’t, match the pants.  (Unless the code says differently.)  2. Wear the three t-shirts (teal blue, purple and orange-rust) with the gray and rust drawstring.  Also, with the rust and purple shorts.  Vary all bright colors (interchange.)  3. There are six t-shirts for sleeping . . . . See list.  4. Match the belts with the shoes:  Black with gray shoes, Brown with brown shoes, Brown with rust shoes, with the crochet shoes match the belt with the pants or wear brown.  5. I forgot to list the two navy sweaters (powder blue with stripes and gray with blue.)  Wear these two with blue jeans or navy angel flights.  6. EXTRA plastic bags are for dirty laundry.  7. Use rust patent shoes with camel and rust if you need a change from brown shoes.


As I read over these lists today I am filled with a sense of pity for my former self.  This speaks volumes to how I spent my time obsessing over my alcoholic man.  I thank God for my recovery.  An example of my good health is the form of list making I do today.  I have one list for myself.  When I am ready to pack I check off necessities using the same list each time.  Only after years of use, when it is tattered, do I make a new one.  I consider this to be practical, not neurotic.  As for my husband Bryan and my teenage daughter, they do their own packing. 

Recently I took a trip East and packed the whole suitcase without looking at the list.  When I arrived I discovered I had forgotten my favorite blow dryer comb.  Did I freak?  No.  I considered it an opportunity to be inventive and create a new hairdo.  It worked.  I do believe planning saves time and organizational tools such as I Phones and Blackberrys are helpful but I most enjoy a small tablet listing daily chores.  This is no longer obsessive, just a reminder of “what’s up” in my busy world.  What about you?