Your Power to Change Your Reality


By: Lia Varga, Guest Blogger

“What you think you become. What you feel you attract. What you imagine you create.”

Buddha

A couple of weeks ago, I had a very distinct dream. I found myself in a prison where I was the only inmate. I didn’t know why I was there, but I did not question it. I would sit in my cell all day wishing that I could leave or do anything else but be there. The people who were in control of me (I never saw them, but there was some sort of force that was trapping me there) would also torture me with my own bad memories. I would watch them replay before my own eyes and cringe and suffer through each one. I became hopeless, and let months slip by without attempting to change anything or even trying to escape. Then, I had an aha moment. The prison I was trapped in was my own mind. I created it, and I was the one controlling and torturing myself the whole time.

I realized that I had the power to change everything around me if I changed my mindset. So, when bad memories would replay in front of me, I began to grow an appreciation for them instead of resenting them. Even my darkest moments have had some impact on shaping me to be the person I am today, so I learned how to become thankful for them. Then, I broke out of my helpless routine, and began searching for a way out. Soon enough, I broke free from my own mental prison, and was greeted by all of my friends and family with open arms. I was home again.

When I woke up from this incredibly vivid dream, I needed to take a moment to let it sink in. I truly could not believe how real it all felt. That dream turned out to be a huge lesson for me. It showed me that we have a lot more control over our reality than we think, because our perception shapes our reality. If we learn ways to improve our perception of the world and ourselves, we can completely change our reality.

One of the ways that you can improve your perception of your reality is by practicing optimism. If you force yourself to think positive thoughts, and set positive intentions daily, then your brain will pay special attention to the positive parts of your day. If you focus your attention on something, you will become more aware of it and naturally notice it more. So, think positive thoughts, set positive expectations daily, and you will hence train your brain to seek out positive things. 

You can imagine the flip side of this would have the opposite effect. If you tell yourself that you are going to have a bad day, then you likely will have a bad day, because your brain will subconsciously be looking for opportunities to prove yourself right. Like in my dream, if you wake up every day and tell yourself that you have no control over your life and trying to improve it is hopeless, then you will never escape that prison. It is all about setting your intention in the direction of where you want to go. Essentially, practicing optimism and training your brain to think positively is a form of manifesting that reality for yourself.

I would like to note that there are some situations where this might be more challenging. For example, if you are struggling with a mental illness such as anxiety or depression. Dealing with these mental illnesses may make you feel like you do not have that much control over where your thoughts go. I have anxiety myself and know how this feels. However, knowing that I have tools that I can use to fight back against my unwanted thoughts makes me feel like I have more control over my anxiety, which gives me hope and ultimately makes me happier.

Another way you can break yourself out of that prison is by putting in effort to pursue the changes you want to see. Setting the right intentions is the first step, but if you can take that to the next level by changing your habits to help you achieve your goals, then you can completely reshape your reality. If your goal is to improve your mental health, then start taking small actions to achieve that goal. You could go outside more, start journaling, or put in the effort to find a therapist. It doesn’t entirely matter what you do; what’s important is that you are putting in some sort of effort to attain your goal. This tells your brain that it is important to you, and it will mark your goal as high priority.

One way that I have tried to improve my own reality is by finding peace in even the toughest situations. For a while, I found myself ruminating on negative experiences– situations that I could no longer do anything about and have long passed (like in my dream). The only person I was hurting by continuing to dwell on these situations was myself. Eventually, I realized that you cannot change or control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond. I began to mentally release situations that were bringing me down, and focusing on problems only as they came instead of problems that already happened. As I did in my dream, I also grew an appreciation for all of these experiences because no matter how hard, I learned something from each one. Every single experience in my life has led me to where I am today. Learning how to think like this brought me much peace and significantly changed my life.

Perception is everything. Your mind can be your prison or your oasis. If you recognize the power you have to change your mindset, then you will have the power to change your life. You can improve your current reality, or on the flip side, make it worse depending on how you perceive it. You can do anything that you genuinely believe you can do and attain any goal.  

 Always remember, what you think you become.

I’VE FOUND PEACE

I’ve found peace with uncertainty

And peace with knowing

Peace with complacency 

And peace with growing

Peace in life’s highs and lows

And peace with time as it slows

Peace ahead and peace behind

And peace inside my warring mind

What a divine gift to merely exist

And to be able to find peace like this

-Lia Varga

To Buy or Not to Buy, that is the question!

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

Warren Buffett

The pandemic really dealt a huge blow to the automotive industry.   I’m sure it will come as no surprise to read that a new car will cost you more than ever before and the hefty price tags don’t appear to be ending anytime soon.  After suffering huge losses in 2020, the pent-up demand for cars has outpaced supply due to a lingering semiconductor chip shortage.  With new car inventory being so slim, incentives are at 10-year low.  It’s all about supply and demand.  And with such a low supply, most automotive manufacturers won’t be quick to offer many incentives.

What this boils down to is insane prices with many dealerships selling vehicles well over MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price).  I honestly can’t believe what some dealerships are getting away with these days.  Recently, I came across an article which put the average price of a new car at a record high of nearly $50,000!*

Having worked in the automotive fleet industry, I am frequently asked about cars.  Recently, while at a family event, the discussion turned to leasing vs. buying.  Obviously, there are pros and cons to both.  When you lease, you never own the vehicle and hence do not build any equity as you make payments.  You are essentially renting the vehicle for the long-term.  Basically, whether to lease or buy will come down to a one’s needs, financial situation, and lifestyle preferences. 

Below are some pros and cons:

LEASINGBUYING
Basically, pay to rent a car for a specific time period and have no ownership.Own the car outright and therefore can drive it for as long as desired.
Mile restrictions (typically either 12,000 or 10,000 miles per year).No restrictions.
At the end, you must turn in or buyout the lease. No equity is earned.You can either trade in the vehicle or find a new buyer.  Can also take advantage of vehicle equity.
Depreciation rate doesn’t matter.New cars depreciate quickly.  In fact, it’s worth a lot less the minute you drive it off the lot!
Typically, leasing allows most people to drive a car they can’t otherwise afford with both a lower monthly payment and down payment.Down payments are usually higher.  Monthly payments will, of course, depend on how much you are able to put down. 
Miscellaneous fees and early termination charges.No extra unknown fees.
Most leasing contracts will fall under the full vehicle warranty.  So, you won’t have to worry about repairs other than regular maintenance such as oil changes.Responsible for repairs once the vehicle is out of warranty.

Leasing incentives have also dwindled, driving up costs.  Many today are opting to buy out their lease when it expires, and with good reason.  The purchase price of the vehicle is set at the beginning of the lease which means these cars are now selling at pre-pandemic prices. 

There are four components which will make up your monthly lease payment:

  1. Capitalized cost- Whenever I buy a car, I always negotiate the out-the-door price which is the price of the vehicle with all applicable fees included.  When leasing, this is referred to as the capitalized cost which is the total amount being financed including all doc fees, and other miscellaneous fees.
  2. The residual value- At the end of the lease term, this is the value the leasing company says your car will be worth.  This is important because when you lease, you pay for expected depreciation over the lease term.
  3. The money factor- This is the interest rate you will be paying on your lease.  With a vehicle purchase loan, you are paying the APR (annual percentage rate).  With a lease, it is referred to as the money factor.
  4. The sales tax.

Pay close attention to the details in the lease contract.  What are the fees for driving over the allotted miles?  For example, if you agree to drive the car 10,000 miles per year and drive over the limit, you can pay 10 to 30 cents per mile for any additional miles.  Some also charge hefty late fees if you don’t pay your lease on time.  And let’s not forget the additional fees for excess wear and tear.  All of these fees can certainly add up.

Leasing can undoubtedly put you in a new car with all the latest bells and whistles every few years.  So, if you only care about the affordability of your monthly payment and not the total costs, leasing is a very viable option.  However, it is cheaper and more cost effective to buy a car and hold onto to it for as long as economically possible.  The average car on the road today is 11 years old.  Once maintenance costs begin to outweigh your vehicle’s value, it makes sense to replace it.

As I mentioned earlier, we are in the midst of unprecedented times.  So, if you do find yourself in need of a new car, put your guard up.   Look for special sales and promotions.  The dealer, despite what they may tell you, is going to try to make as much money as possible.  Do your homework before you walk in the door. Pay attention to dealer markups which can run hundreds and even thousands more in extreme cases.

Ask to see the dealer invoice as this will show you the legitimate manufacturer charges.  And be sure to read every line of the MSRP.  A tactic dealers use is adding unnecessary add-ons or overcharging for services.  One example is the dealer prep fee which is the cost of preparing the vehicle for sale like removing the car’s plastic covering, washing, vacuuming, etc.  Many consider this fee to be a rip-off.  It is an opportunity for the dealer to make a profit on services that many feel should be included.  These fees can run anywhere from $350 to a few thousand dollars.  

Typically, the vehicle will have an add-on sticker with added options or so called “market adjustments.”  This may include things like window tinting, key and tire protection, and VIN etching.  Many dealers overcharge for add-ons that are not needed or even wanted by the consumer.

No doubt, this is a very difficult time to be buying or even leasing a car.  But this doesn’t mean a good deal can’t be had.  They are, however, difficult to find and much patience is needed on the part of the consumer.  Do your homework before you walk into the dealership and make sure they have the vehicle you want on their lot. 

Purchasing a vehicle on the lot and not placing a special order can save you a lot of money.  Dealers don’t want cars sitting on their lots because they have to pay interest on every single one of them.  Using what is known as floor plan financing, dealers finance their vehicles and pay interest on the loan.  This is why it is best to wait until the end of the month to purchase or lease a vehicle.  Your sales representative may be more willing to negotiate hoping to not pay additional interest on the car and also meet his or her month-end sales quotas.

In conclusion, don’t buy a car unless you really have to.  Whether you decide to lease or buy, shop around, do your homework, and negotiate as much as possible.  While we are seeing a gradual decline in the price of new cars, costs are not expected to stabilize to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.  In this market, knowledge is power, and patience is the key.  As they say, good things come to those who wait.

*New Car Prices Rise Closer to Average of $50,000 in 2022 | Money

Why You Should Date Yourself

“To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness.”

Robert Morely 

By: Lia Varga, Guest Blogger

Everyone has heard the expression “you need to love yourself before you can love somebody else.”  Obviously, this is very true and important to remember when considering starting a new relationship. However, I want to take this expression one step further. I don’t think it’s enough to simply “love yourself before you love somebody else.” I believe that you should also date yourself before you date someone else. I know this might sound a little strange at first, but let me explain. 

Take some time to think about some of the qualities you look for in a romantic partner. What comes to mind? Do you want them to show you love and respect? Spend quality time with you? Reassure you and stick by you when you need support? Do you need them to understand you and grow with you?

Whatever qualities you are looking for,  I want you to answer this question:

Can I give this to myself? If not, why can’t I?

If you cannot give yourself things like love, respect, and understanding, then maybe it would be beneficial for you to do a little reflection and self-work. However, if you can give these things to yourself, then why do you seek someone else to give them to you instead?

Humans are truly amazing individuals, and are always looking for ways to connect with others. That is completely natural, and a good thing! However, sometimes we rely on other people to give us the love, respect, support, and quality time that we crave. This does not have to be the case. If you learn how to give yourself everything you crave from others, it will lead to a new, deeper level of inner contentment.  

I recently learned how to support myself in times that I would normally rely on support from others, and it quite literally changed my life. I realized that if I am able to give good advice to my friends, and offer love and support to those who need it, why don’t I try giving it to myself? If you think about it, you understand how you are feeling better than anyone else. So, if you open yourself to the idea of it, then you could give yourself better advice than anyone else. 

When I tried this for the first time, I thought about all of the things that were bothering me at the moment. Then, I took a step back from it all, and mentally gave myself advice as if I were on the outside looking in. I gave myself the advice that I would give a loved one if they came to me. I listened to myself, supported myself, was kind and understanding to myself, and I gave myself some of the best advice I’ve ever received. 

After I witnessed how amazing it felt to connect with myself in such a deep and intimate way, I began to develop an inner relationship with myself and “date myself”. For about a year now, I have been emotionally supporting myself, hugging myself when I need it, loving myself, and growing with myself. All of these things were qualities I once solely searched for in others. When I learned how to source these internally, I became truly happy. And now, if anyone tries to enter my life and start a relationship with me, I think:

What are they adding to my life that I cannot give to myself?

Once you learn how to be in a relationship with yourself, you won’t want or need to be in a relationship with anyone else unless they are truly contributing to your life. You will no longer accept subpar relationships that do not serve you. That is why you should date yourself before you date someone else.

Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Support yourself when you are going through a rough patch. Spend quality time with yourself. Take yourself out on dates. Plan all of your favorite activities and do them by yourself. Build a deeper relationship with yourself, and I promise you, your future self will be glad you did.

Grief Changes You AND Your Brain

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” 

Jamie Anderson

Since losing my father on February 13th of this year, I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster of sorts. Some days I feel as though the ride has slowed down a bit only to find that it has once again rocketed out of control.  The truth is you never get over losing someone you love.  You can only learn to live with your loss.

In his bestseller, The Fault in Our Stars, John Green writes, “Grief does not change you, Hazel.  It reveals you.” I both agree and disagree.  Grief certainly does have a way of revealing a new side of you.  Since my dad passed, I’ve discovered sides to myself that I never even knew existed and tapped into strengths I never even knew were possible.  So, grief in many ways does reveal you.  But grief, no doubt, also changes you. 

Me and my wonderful father, Carmine

Rest assured, despite the pain I’m feeling, I have no doubt in the reality of an afterlife.  I know my dad is doing okay.  Recently, my daughter Lia had a vivid dream.  In it, she said, she was in an inconspicuous place filled with people she did not recognize.  She walked over to a bed in the room where she saw my father.  Panicking, she began yelling telling those present that my father had died but no one in the room would even acknowledge her presence.  Suddenly, my father opened his eyes and looked over at her.  “No, Lia, he told her, you are wrong. I am not dead.”

Lia shared a very special bond with her grandfather.  He’s come to her in her dreams a few times since his death.  Each time, he has continued to remind her that he is doing well and is not really dead.  I know the validity of his words; I know he is very much still with us.  But while this knowing brings me comfort, I still grieve.  As I’ve said many times, it is much harder for those left behind then it is for our loved ones on the other side. 

Grief is both personal and individual.  We all grieve in our own way, and it affects us in a multitude of ways.  We lost my dad and his two sisters within eleven months of each other.  My Aunt Rosina passed in March 2021, my Aunt Mary in October 2021 and my father followed in February 2022.  My dad’s death was difficult for many of us in my family because it marked the end of a generation and a swift change in our family dynamics. 

Grief creates what I like to call flares or pop ups at any moment.  I can go from feeling extremely grateful to both lost and physically drained without warning.  Many times, I’ve stared at an empty page on my computer without the ability to type a single word.  It has been difficult no doubt but also normal.  As I said, we all grieve in our own way.

Your Brain on Grief

What many don’t realize, however, is that the process of grief literally changes your brain.  Research shows that our mental capacities are deeply affected during grief.  For example, we may experience an inability to concentrate and can experience extreme absent-mindedness.  The ability to do simple tasks, make decisions or even participate in social gatherings can seem impossible.

Your thought processes are in disarray as your struggle to recognize what your mind is telling you, but your heart stubbornly refuses to accept it. Both your body and your brain are reacting to your loss and literally create a protective response.  For example, grief triggers changes in the hippocampus which handles personal attention and emotion.  Our frontal lobe which allows us to plan and find meaning and express ourselves is also affected. And last but not least let’s not forget it also alters our nervous system which handles a myriad of things including our ability to sleep, eat and breath.

According to a study in Jama Internal Medicine, people over the age of 60 had more than twice the risk of heart attack or stroke within 30 days of their partner’s death. Grief is a process which varies from person to person.  Despite having researched the afterlife and grief, I can truthfully say that I was certainly ill-prepared for the many facets of grief. 

Acknowledging how you are feeling and understanding what you are going through won’t take the pain away, of course.  But it will make things a bit easier as you regain a sense of normalcy.  John Green correctly wrote that pain demands to be felt. It’s not something within our control and the only way out of something, as they say, is through it.

As we’ve seen, grief is tied to a host of different functions both emotional and physiological. Acknowledging this and trying to understand my body’s response to losing my father has helped me to cope. Ironically, grief is a consequence of love which is both indestructible and boundless. 

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, please know you are not alone.  Unfortunately, grief is something none of us can ever escape.  You can’t experience love without grief.  But in the end, love will always prevail.

For help and grief support, please visit:  www.griefshare.org

When People Show You Who They Really Are, Listen

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Maya Angelou

By: Lia Varga, Guest Blogger

Hi everyone, I’m Lia; Josie Varga’s cool, fascinating, awesome, and humble daughter. Just kidding! I will let you all make that assessment for yourselves. I am 21 years old (as of July 11th!) and about to begin my final year of college. My mom asked me to be the guest blogger this month, and even though I am still relatively young, I think that I have gathered a decent amount of wisdom throughout my life so far that I can share. Every day brings new experiences, and every new experience brings new lessons. So if we pay attention to what the world is teaching us, I believe we can learn something new every day.

Lia Varga

About a week ago, I was talking to my mom about relationships. This includes friendships, romantic relationships, family, or any relationship of importance in your life. We were talking about some of the people who came into our lives, and soon made us forget what life was like without them. These types of relationships are beautiful, and most importantly, they make life more fun and meaningful!

Sometimes you make a new, strong connection with someone and they continue to put in the effort to maintain that relationship indefinitely. I think that these relationships are truly magical. When both parties are willing to put in the effort to grow with each other, instead of away from each other, I believe that is the strongest type of bond there is.

However, sometimes the relationship shifts. Over time, they grow distant, or one person stops putting in the effort to talk to you, or they stop prioritizing your relationship.

In this situation, you have two options: the first one, which I believe to be the most common, is to hang onto that relationship because you remember how good it used to be. You still have so much love for that person and you don’t want to see your dynamics change. So, you make excuses for them, and you hang on until there’s nothing left to grasp.

The other option is to see the situation for what it really is. If they stop treating you the way you want to be treated, you can acknowledge that in a healthy way. Don’t resent them for changing. Sometimes, we need to lose these people to make more room for the good ones.

So, when someone in your life starts showing you more of who they are, pay attention to it, and then adjust your expectations. Don’t latch on. We all deserve to have people in our lives that want to be around us. When people show you sides that you don’t like, when they show you that you are no longer a priority in their life, thank them. You probably shouldn’t waste your energy on people who don’t fully appreciate it anyway.

So again, you have two options. You can remain attached to relationships that no longer serve you, or you can accept them for what they are and adjust your expectations. What do you choose?

I know it is much easier said than done. TRUST ME. I have been in relationship after relationship where I loved the other person so deeply that I was stuck to them like gum on the bottom of their shoe. I loved so many people so intensely that I was reluctant to realize that they were not who I thought they were. But after many relationships like this, I realized:

Seeing the good in people is different than ignoring the bad.

Re-read that if you need to. It took me a long time to realize that when I loved people so much that I would “stick to them,” it wasn’t just me perpetually seeing the good in them, but I was also ignoring the red flags that they were showing me all along. I was in many ways ignoring the bad. You save yourself so much time if you acknowledge these signs when they introduce themselves, because these red flags will not simply go away if you ignore them. . . they will instead become a problem put off for later. Save yourself the trouble, you deserve better.

Pay attention and embrace life’s many lessons. Then, when people show you who they really are, I hope you listen.

When Will this Madness End?

“Don’t think for one minute that you are any less worthy of love and peace and harmony.”

Scylar Tyberius

In 1969, a 25-year-old woman (Norma McCorvey) using the pseudonym “Jane Roe” decided to challenge abortion laws in Texas. She was up against Henry Wade, the district attorney for Dallas County.  McCorvey claimed that she had been raped and fought for her right to an abortion.  The case was later rejected and she eventually did give birth. 

However in 1973, her appeal made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.  By a vote of seven to two, the justices ruled that that a woman had a constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy. Last week, the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade which in effect takes away any guarantee of abortion rights and now gives the power to each state to decide.   

While last week’s ruling does not make abortion illegal nationwide, it will make it difficult for those seeking access to the procedure in some states.  While I certainly think it is wrong to have an abortion when the fetus reaches the point when it can live outside the womb, I don’t believe our government has the right to tell a woman what to do with her body. 

There are several unfortunate cases in which an abortion may be deemed medically necessary.  As rumors swirled about the possibility of Roe vs. Wade being overturned, I honestly turned a deaf ear to it all never thinking it would actually happen.  As I sit here, I’m beyond shocked and saddened by what has been going on in this world. 

The other day I stood behind a young mother in the checkout line at the local supermarket.  As we waited, we struck up a conversation about the rising cost of food and her inability to find enough baby formula.  It’s a conversation I certainly never thought I’d have.

When her cart was finally tallied, her total came out to $279.00.  I looked over at her surprised at the total as she lifted her head looking over at me, “I have to feed my children.”  My heart broke and still breaks for that woman. 

On the way home from the supermarket, I decided to fill up my gas tank even though it was half full.  I should not have been surprised at the $55 total but I was.  Reports indicate that the annual inflation rate is the highest it has been since December 1981.  And it’s not just food and gas, the increases have affected everything from household furnishings to cars and airline fares.

Add to that, the highest illegal immigration rate this country has ever seen, COVID-19, the War in Ukraine, the supply chain crisis and high possibility of a recession into the mix and it’s no wonder why depression and anxiety rates in the United States are so high.

The pandemic has literally recreated not just the U.S. but the world.  Sadly, the effects of COVID-19 will no doubt outlive the health crisis itself.  No one knows for sure how long this will last. 

My daughter Lia asked me if I was going to put a positive spin on this.  My answer is yes and here it is.  Never before have the small things mattered so much.  Never before have I ever appreciated nature the way that I do now— the smell of roses, the warm feeling of sand beneath my feet, the incessant sound of the ocean, etc.  In so many ways, the small things in life are the new big.

Far too often we don’t recognize the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.  The situation in the world has certainly reinforced the value of those simple moments and served as an important reminder not to take things for granted.  Treasure the moments you get to spend with your family and friends and allow me to share a few words of advice:  Never miss the opportunity to show someone you care about them.  Never lose the chance to tell someone just how much you love them. If there is something you always wanted to do, take it off your “bucket list” and add it to your “now list.”

As for Roe vs. Wade, there is no telling of what the numerous long-term effects will be.  For one, women who are poverty stricken will be forced to bring a child into this world without the means to do so.  Abortion restrictions will have numerous economic impacts and cost states billions of dollars each year.  At this day and age, it is sad to see that women still need to fight for their constitutional rights.

Yes, the world has been transformed in so many ways, but there can be no growth without change.  Perhaps if we see this as an opportunity, we can take Mahatma Gandhi’s advice and be the change we wish to see in the world. 

Naomi Judd: Love is the Bridge

Love is the bridge between you and everyone. Rumi

On April 11, 2022, Wynonna and her mother Naomi Judd reunited for a beautiful performance of their hit song, “Love Can Build a Bridge.”  The two rose to fame in the early 1980’s and went on to record several No. 1 hits over a career which lasted nearly 30 years. 

Just a few weeks later on April 30, Naomi died by suicide after years of dealing with mental illness.  Her death came just one day before the mother-daughter duo was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

CD, Love Can Build a Bridge

A long-time fan, I wanted to share this post in Naomi’s honor.   I was listening to “Love Can Build A Bridge,” written by Naomi Judd, Paul Overstreet, and John Barlow Jarvis today.  The song reads:

Love can build a bridge
Between your heart and mine
Love can build a bridge
Don’t you think it’s time?

Love not only can build a bridge between two hearts; love is the bridge. Love transcends death and exists in both the physical and nonphysical.  To me, love can never really be described or seen, it can only be felt.  Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi was a Sufi, 13th century poet, and mystic whose works have been translated into many languages around the world.  Known more popularly as Rumi, he clearly believed in an afterlife and the concept of love as the connection between all things.  Below is one of his most popular poems:

When I Die

Rumi

When I die
when my coffin
is being taken out
you must never think
i am missing this world

don’t shed any tears
don’t lament or
feel sorry
i’m not falling
into a monster’s abyss

when you see
my corpse is being carried
don’t cry for my leaving
i’m not leaving
i’m arriving at eternal love

when you leave me
in the grave
don’t say goodbye
remember a grave is
only a curtain
for the paradise behind

you’ll only see me
descending into a grave
now watch me rise
how can there be an end
when the sun sets or
the moon goes down

it looks like the end
it seems like a sunset
but in reality it is a dawn
when the grave locks you up
that is when your soul is freed

have you ever seen
a seed fallen to earth
not rise with a new life
why should you doubt the rise
of a seed named human

have you ever seen
a bucket lowered into a well
coming back empty
why lament for a soul
when it can come back
like Joseph from the well

when for the last time
you close your mouth
your words and soul
will belong to the world of
no place no time

A brilliant man, Rumi wrote this poem to remind us that though our life here on Earth is temporary, death is our door to eternal life. He asks his loved ones not to grieve when his time comes, for life is merely an illusion and our demise is just the beginning of another existence.

My condolences go out to Wynonna, Ashley and the rest of the Judd family.  I know the heartbreak of losing a parent having just lost my wonderful father on February 13.  But while I feel pain, I also continue to feel my father’s love.  He will always be with me.

Mental illness affects millions of people each year.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, estimates indicate only half receive treatment.  If you’re in need of help, please reach out to the Mental Health Hotline at (866) 903-3787.  You can also reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

Love is the bridge between your heart and mine.  It is the bridge between the here and the hereafter.  It is the constant, unbreakable bond between everything and everyone. 

Right Place at the Right Time: Coincidence or Divine Timing?

“I trust in the perfection of Divine Timing and allow my life to unfold as it should.” Cheryl Richardson

Photo by: Michele Nasoni/Pixabay

In 2003, a 67-year-old woman named Dorothy was traveling on a transatlantic flight when she suffered a heart attack.  When the stewardess asked if there was anyone on board who could help, 15 people stood up.  They were all cardiologists on their way to a medical conference in Florida.  Some would say this was just a lucky coincidence.  But others would say there was something much larger and mystical at play.

Divine timing is used to describe an unseen power that forces things to happen at the right time in the right place.  It is a concept that says you are exactly where you need to be. I’ve had many incidents of divine timing in my life but what happened last week definitely takes the cake.

My friend Karen asked me to come with her to her condo down the Jersey shore last week.  She was having some remodeling done and needed to be there for the contractors.  She asked if we could leave late Tuesday since she had an afternoon appointment.  However, at the last minute her appointment was moved up and she ended up picking me up earlier than expected.

The drive to her condo typically takes over two hours.  Yet despite hitting rush hour traffic, we turned off the exit on the Garden State Parkway after just 1 hour and 45 minutes.  In fact, we both commented on how easy and quick the drive seemed to be. 

As we drove towards her condo, Karen asked me if I would mind stopping to eat before going to unload our bags.  It was about 6 p.m. EST and she figured it would be easier to just go to a restaurant and grab something to eat first.  I agreed and we settled on a casual brewpub just up the road known as the MudHen.  I had never been there before and was up for trying something new.

Once there, the host was about to seat us on the lower level when Karen noticed that there was live entertainment.  Turning to the host, she said, “My friend has trouble hearing.  Can you seat us upstairs where it’s a little quieter?”  He agreed and led the way to the stairs at the end of the room heading up to the second floor.

When we arrived at the top of the stairs, I noticed just one other family seated—a couple with their two young daughters.  Karen and I were seated at the table directly behind them.  I had my back to this family while Karen faced them.

We were there less than 10 minutes.  In fact, we did not even order our drinks yet and were in a deep conversation about something when Karen abruptly stopped talking and looked over my shoulder asking, “What’s wrong?” Feeling the sense of urgency, I quickly turned to find the mother who was seated behind us frantic and asking someone to please help her.  “She’s choking!!!” she yelled desperately pointing to her daughter who was seated across from her on her husband’s lap.  The girl’s father had his fingers in his daughter’s mouth attempting to dislodge whatever she was choking on but it was clear this wasn’t working.  His daughter was clearly choking with no sound coming from her.

Karen ran over to the table while I followed behind her.  Looking down at the father, she grabbed the girl from his lap yelling, “I got it!”  Time seemed to slow down as I watched my friend in disbelief.  In the case of an emergency adrenalin surges through us helping us to deal with the situation and often alters our perception of time.  Time can appear to either speed up or slow down depending on the circumstance.

Wrapping her arms around the little girl’s abdominal area, Karen began the Heimlich maneuver. It seemed like it was mere seconds when the food came out and the girl suddenly began crying.  At this point, restaurant personnel arrived.  Everyone was relieved when we realized that the girl was now breathing and there was no need to call 911.

The girl’s father remained there quiet seemingly and understandably in shock while the mother thanked my friend over and over.  We checked to make sure the girl was okay and then slowly headed back to our table.  At this point, I was so in awe of what had just transpired that I stared at Karen misty-eyed.  We have been friends since high school and I can honestly say I have never been more proud of her.  It is a day that we will both long remember. 

Later that night as we sat talking about what happened, I told Karen how I couldn’t believe she said, “I got it.”  Her response surprised me.  “I said that?” she asked.  Interestingly, she had no recollection of what she said and noted that she just sprang into action saying “there wasn’t much time to think.”

Several things had to align that day to put me and Karen in the right place at the right time. First, we went back and forth on which day to leave since she had to coordinate with three sets of contractors.  Secondly, I was able to go and we left earlier due to an appointment change.  Ironically, we both commented on how quick we were able to get down there despite rush hour traffic.  Karen asked me if we could go to dinner earlier since we were already out and then once we arrived, she asked if we could be seated on the upper level feeling that the live entertainment would hinder my hearing. Once seated, we were the only other table next to this family.  No one else was on the second level. 

I could go on but my point is several things had to line up in order to allow for this encounter and hence give my friend the opportunity to help this little girl.  I honestly cringe when I think of what could have happened had we not been there. 

As they say, timing is everything.  The universe has a funny way of sending us messages and putting us in the right place at the right time.  You need only listen and you never know, you may even save a life.

Dr. Phil’s 10 Life Laws

Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the decision right.

Dr. Phil McGraw

There is certainly a lot of talk about life’s do’s and don’ts.  Seriously, it would be great to have some app that has all the answers and helps us make all the right choices.   In actuality, though, it’s not that simple and there’s no such thing.  Both the choices and mistakes we make lead to some of life’s most valuable lessons. 

Dr. Phil McGraw is one of the most recognizable mental health experts in the world.  Host of daytime TV’s Dr. Phil, he has received several Emmy nominations and awards. A long-time fan, I was watching a video on You Tube in which he famously noted, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”  Very true, and one of the notations on his popular list of 10 life laws. 

Viacom CBS Press Express

Dr. Phil outlined these helpful life laws and tactics in his book, Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters, Hachette Books/January 1999.

Having gone through some difficult times lately, I’ve honestly been feeling very stuck.  His list reminded me that I am the only person who can define who I am.  Things can only change if I make up my mind to change those things.  Sometimes I think we all need to be reminded of this.

Here are Dr. Phil’s 10 life laws:

Life Law #1: You either get it, or you don’t.
Strategy: Become one of those who gets it.

Life Law #2: You create your own experience.
Strategy: Acknowledge and accept accountability for your life. Understand your role in creating results. 

Life Law #3: People do what works.
Strategy: Identify the payoffs that drive your behavior and that of others.

Life Law #4: You cannot change what you do not acknowledge.
Strategy: Get real with yourself about life and everybody in it. Be truthful about what isn’t working in your life. Stop making excuses and start making results. 

Life Law #5: Life rewards action.
Strategy: Make careful decisions and then pull the trigger. Learn that the world couldn’t care less about thoughts without actions.

Life Law #6: There is no reality, only perception.
Strategy: Identify the filters through which you view the world. Acknowledge your history without being controlled by it.

Life Law #7: Life is managed; it is not cured.
Strategy: Learn to take charge of your life and hold on. This is a long ride, and you are the driver every single day.

Life Law #8: We teach people how to treat us.
Strategy: Own, rather than complain about, how people treat you. Learn to renegotiate your relationships to have what you want.

Life Law #9: There is power in forgiveness.
Strategy: Open your eyes to what anger and resentment are doing to you. Take your power back from those who have hurt you.

Life Law #10: You have to name it before you can claim it.
Strategy: Get clear about what you want and take your turn. 

The above life laws are available on Dr. Phil’s website with commentary at: https://www.drphil.com/advice/dr-phils-ten-life-laws/.

As we all know, life doesn’t come with an instruction manual.  Life’s greatest teachers are our past mistakes and experiences—good and bad.  But as Einstein once noted the only mistake is a lesson not learned. 

Halftime; Full Life: My dad, Carmine Tropeano 1933—2022

“Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever.”

Unknown

Over the years, I’ve done countless research on the afterlife and have written much about heaven and the immortality of the soul.  But as it turns out, despite my knowledge and years of experience, I was still not prepared to lose my father—my hero. 

On Friday, January 14, 2022, I received a call from my father’s doctor.  “Josie,” he asked, “would it be possible for you to bring your father in to see me?”  My heart sank.  My father had an MRI of his brain earlier that day and this definitely didn’t sound good. Two hours later, we were told my father had a very aggressive form of brain cancer.

The following Monday, January 17, my father met with a neurosurgeon and was told there was no hope.  He was given one month—three months tops.  That day, my parents moved in with me and my family and the wait began as we did everything we could to keep my father comfortable.

In addition to dealing with his terminal cancer diagnosis, my dad also lost his vision due to his glaucoma.  While I cannot even imagine how difficult this was for my dad, I don’t think I’ve ever respected him more than I did as I watched him nearing the end of his life.  My father was always a very positive person.  He had a zest for life and was grateful for every waking minute—even with his blindness.

On many occasions when I was upset about something, he would look at me and say, “Don’t worry. Be happy.  Be happy.”  He would light up a room with his presence and unforgettable truisms.  I can’t possibly list them all but here are some examples of his frequent sayings:

  1.  “Look alive.”
  2. “Allegria; Allegria.” (Allegria relates to contentment and joyfulness).
  3. “Be happy.”
  4. “Your presence is my present.”
  5. “Un forte abbraccio.” (A big or strong hug.)
  6. “Everything is copacetic!”
  7. “Nostrovia!”  (The English mispronunciation of the Russian word, “Na Zdorovie,” which is a toast meaning to good health or simply cheers.) 
  8. “Happy Sunday.”
  9. “I feel rejuvenated.”

On January 28—just two weeks after my father’s initial diagnosis, hospice was called in.  Although the decision was difficult, it ended up being the best thing we could have done for my father.  I will forever be grateful for the kindness and support provided by Barnabas Health.  Everyone from Albina, the hospice nurse, to Noel, our aide, and Allie, our music therapist.  They were all wonderful and my family and I are beyond grateful.

My father made every attempt to greet each visitor with a smile and often kissed their hands in thanks.  A week before his death, Allie, the music therapist, came to my home and sang Italian songs to my dad.  It was a bittersweet moment.  Despite the pain of knowing my father’s passing was near, the beautiful music was surreal as we watched my father trying to sing along.  His smile and positivity were infectious. 

In fact, on the day of his wake, I received a heartwarming call from the music therapist.  Despite the fact that Allie only had the opportunity to sing for my father once, she felt the need to call and offer her condolences.  She also wanted me to know how much meeting my father had impacted her.  “Josie, I could feel the love the moment I walked into your home,” she told me.  “I’m sorry that I will not have the opportunity to come back and sing for him; what a wonderful man!”

Her words meant so much to me as they were a true testament to the impact my father had on so many lives.  There is a popular poem by Linda Ellis entitled, “The Dash.”  The dash, according to Ellis, represents the sum of everything we did with our life between our birth and death.  In closing, she writes:

“So, when your eulogy is being read

With your life’s actions to rehash. . .

Would you be proud of the things they say

About how you spent YOUR dash?”

Here is the link to my father’s obituary: https://www.mastapeterfuneralhome.com/memorials/carmine-tropeano/4857602/index.php.  As I wrote in his obituary, there are truly no words to describe what a wonderful and caring man my dad was.  He had every reason to be proud of the way he spent his dash—his life. My youngest daughter Lia told me that he taught her what true love really is.  Those are fitting words for my dad. One of the last things he said was, “I love everybody,” and he did.  He understood the value of life and made every moment count. 

 In my book, A Call from Heaven: Personal Accounts of Deathbed Visits, Angelic Visions, and Crossings to the Other Side,” I talk about deathbed visions and the many signs our loved ones receive while at the end of their life.  Despite the pain of watching my father’s demise, I am grateful for the many signs I was able to witness firsthand. 

The night my father and mother moved in with me, I had a vivid dream.  In it, I saw my Uncle Tony, my father’s brother, who passed in 2003 from the same type of cancer.  Behind my uncle were my Aunt Rosina, Aunt Maria and Uncle Angelo (all deceased).  They were all smiling and my Uncle Tony telepathically communicated with me saying, “Don’t worry.  I’m the one who is going to come for your father.” 

About two weeks before his death, my father kept saying that he saw his brother Tony.  At first, he was confused and asked us if his brother died.  When he was told that he died a long time ago, my father replied, “Then why do I see him every night?”

One day I sat with my dad offering him reassurances that everything would be okay.  He confirmed that he kept seeing my Uncle Tony.  I asked him if my uncle was saying anything to him and he replied, “No, he just waits.” I asked him if he saw other people.  He said yes but did not answer when I asked him who they were.

About five days before he passed, I saw him putting his hands up.  I went over and sat next to him and he again put his hands up saying, “Wait; wait.”  I then asked him if he was telling my Uncle Tony to wait and he said, “Yes.”

What I found particularly interesting is that my father spoke of these visions when he was not on morphine.  I also asked my father if I was right (about the afterlife). He simply smiled and nodded his head in agreement. I will forever be grateful for that moment and the undeniable peace I saw on his face.

My father left this world on Sunday, February 13th during the Super Bowl Halftime show.  Despite the ironic timing, he lived a full life and was always happy.  He was surrounded by his family and passed peacefully as we prayed over him, talked to him and cried.  Tears are the price we pay for the gift of having loved someone.  Lucky for all of us that love can never be taken from us. It never dies.

He never passed up the opportunity to dance.  I know I will dance with him again someday.  Until then, keep dancing, Dad.  Thank you for your undying love. Until we meet again, I love you always.