To Be Or Not To Be . . . Divorced

heartinthesandEvery couple needs to argue now and then. Just to prove that the relationship is strong enough to survive. Long-term relationships, the ones that matter, are all about weathering the peaks and the valleys.”Nicholas Sparks

Statistics have shown that between 40 to 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. The rate is even higher for those who remarry with 67 percent of second marriages and 73 percent of third marriages ending in divorce. There are a host of reasons why marriages end. Money issues, infidelity, and stress are just a few.

When I was young, I spent a long time wondering when I was going to meet Mr. Right. Now that I’ve just celebrated my 22-year anniversary with my husband John, I can tell you that I don’t believe there is any such thing. The reason for my shift in perspective is simple. I’m not the same person I was 22 years ago and neither is he.

When we chose our wedding song, Beautiful in My Eyes by Joshua Kadison, I never realized then how true the words would become:

“The world will turn
And the seasons will change
And all the lessons we will learn
Will be beautiful and strange
We’ll have our fill of tears
Our share of sighs
My only prayer is that you realize…
You’ll always be beautiful in my eyes”

Through marriage or any relationship, the world will definitely turn and the seasons will change. And through all those changing seasons (raising children, dealing with job losses, health issues, etc.) it is common to fall in and out of love. The trick is to remind yourself why you fell in love in the first place.

According to a study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), most divorce cases in the US are due to a lack of communication. This breakdown in communication then leads to infidelity and a multitude of other issues. Logically, then, if you want to keep your marriage going or that spark lit so to speak, you need to keep the lines of communication open.

Sometimes couples become so engrossed in being a parent to their children as responsibilities grow that they forget they are also a wife or a husband to their spouse. So, again, the trick is to remind yourself why you got together in the first place. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Make an Effort: Marriage or any relationship is a two-way street. If you want to keep the relationship going, you have to show your partner that you still care by making an effort. Go on a date, surprise your wife with flowers, cook your husband his favorite meal, or just call to say I love you.
  2. Listen: You might read this one and say, “I do listen.” Do you?   Listen to what your spouse or partner has to say first and then voice your opinion or concern. Try to understand where they are coming from.
  3. Revisit Memorable Moments: A good way to recreate that spark or rekindle that loving feeling is to revisit memorable, happy moments. Go back to the place where you first met or your favorite restaurant while dating. Play your wedding song. Go on a second honeymoon. The list is endless.
  4. Do Something for YOU: You can’t love someone else if you don’t feel good about yourself. Don’t lose sight of what is important to you or what makes you happy.
  5. Be Honest: This might seem simple but it’s actually not. I’m not just talking about being honest with your partner. I’m also talking about being honest with yourself. Some marriages and relationships lasts, others don’t. When is enough, enough? Only you can answer that question.

 

Notice I didn’t mention intimacy or sex in the five tips above. Yes, maintaining intimacy is extremely important. Sex is important. But obviously if the feelings aren’t there, there is no intimacy; there is no desire for sex. So, again, try to remember why you fell in love in the first place.

People often say that they need someone to make them feel complete. The truth is, however, you are the only one who can make yourself feel complete. It is normal and necessary for a couple to grow and change after so many years of marriage. The challenge is to continue to find things to love about each person you become.

 

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Hello from Heaven: Ask and You Shall Receive

Smile… heaven is watching.”  

 African Proverb

You are watching television but all of a sudden you could swear that you saw someone from the corner of your eye.  How many times has this happened to you?  Seeing a glimpse of a person in spirit or even seeing a shadowy figure are actually very common.  Our loved ones do not want to scare us by appearing full on so this is their way of being subtle and non-aggressive.

angelcardAlthough our loved ones will most often appear to us in our dreams, they do appear to us when we are awake.  Clairvoyance means clear seeing or the ability to see beyond our ordinary perception.  There are different ways that this can happen.  For example, you may see an ethereal figure or mist.  You may even see an orb.  Often times, these orbs will present themselves in photos.

It is easier to receive messages from spirit clairvoyantly or in other ways when you are relaxed and not distracted.  Recently, I was in California visiting a good friend of mine.  My husband and two daughters decided to spend the day at Universal Studios while I spent the day with my friend.  That morning as we waited at the hotel for our rented vehicle, a dragonfly kept flying back and forth in front of my face.

As I watched it, I told my husband that I felt this was a sign that my friend’s deceased sister was going to be there with us.  Later in the day in my friend’s apartment, we decided to take out a deck of angel cards that had belonged to her sister.  I shuffled the cards and asked her to focus as she randomly reached for a card.

She handed me her chosen card and I read it aloud.  The card mentioned that she needed to pay more attention to signs from her loved ones and trust in the signs that she was receiving.  As I continued to read, I suddenly saw a glimpse of someone walk passed me on my left side.  Shocked, I stopped reading and asked my friend if she had just seen what I saw.  She had no idea what I was talking about.

I told her that I could sense her sister’s long hair and felt she was there with us.  Still stunned, it was my turn to pick a card.  In my mind before picking the card, I asked her sister to tell me if that was really her and, if so, asked her what was the message she wanted to share.  I then randomly reached for a card picking the “Hello from Heaven” card. It was a message from Archangel Azrael.  It read:

“Your loved ones in Heaven are doing fine.  Let go of worries, and feel their loving blessings.

“Your loved ones aren’t far away; in fact, they’re quite near.  In your quiet moments, you can feel their presence.  These really are true visitations, and I ask you to trust your intuition.  You may notice dream visits from deceased loved ones.  Know that your loved ones are happy, free of all suffering, and want the same for you.  Your loved ones want to work with your guardian angels to help you be peaceful, so watch for other signs from Heaven.”

I told my friend that I wanted to pick another card.  Again, I randomly reached for a card.  In my mind, I then asked what the angels would like me to know.  This time, I picked the clairvoyance card with a message from Archangel Raziel.  It read:

“I’m helping your spiritual sight to awaken fully so you can clearly see Heavenly love.

“Your clairvoyance may come in different forms: as fleeting mental images in your mind’s eye; as dreams; as recurring sights in the physical world; as auras and energy; or as apparition experiences.  All of the facets of clairvoyance are beautiful and varied.  Enjoy and trust them.  Hold the intention of seeing only love, and that is what you’ll see.”

We both sat there looking at each other both stunned and amazed.  Is everything a sign from a loved one?  No, absolutely not.  Do I believe her sister was really with us that day?  Yes, I do.  Do I believe her sister and the angels were communicating with us?  Yes, again!

What is important to note here is that the signs were both timely and specific.    That morning, I encountered the dragonfly outside of my hotel.  Dragonflies are known to symbolize the afterlife. Later the first card drawn by my friend encouraged her to trust in the signs that she was receiving.

At that same time, I saw a quick glimpse of her sister on my left side.  However, I was questioning whether or not what I saw was really her.  So I drew a card asking her sister if she had a message to share.  I then randomly choose the “Hello from Heaven” card.

Stunned and wanting more proof, I then choose another card asking the angels if they have a message for me.  This time I randomly choose the “Clairvoyance” card. This card encouraged me to trust what I was seeing.   Again, these signs were both timely and specific.

One of my favorite Bible passages is “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (KJV)  Our loved ones are much closer than most of us realize.  They want us to know that they are OK and they want to help us in any way that they can.  All we have to do is ask.

Da Vinci’s Code?

Love shows itself more in adversity than in prosperity; as light does, which shines most where the place is darkest.” Leonardo Da Vinci

No one can argue that Leonardo Da Vinci was a remarkable artist but what some don’t realize is that he was also a man of science way ahead of his time.  His creativity and artistic talents were paralleled with an insatiable zest for discovering some of life’s greatest wonders.

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Leonardo Da Vinci

A true Renaissance man, his intellect spanned across a vast area of knowledge including philosophy, sculpting, carpentry, anatomy, mechanics, drafting, chemistry and painting.  He was even employed as a military engineer to design weaponry.  His inventions included the 33 barrel gun organ, triple barrel cannon, crossbow machine gun and a covered tank.

Da Vinci had a fascination with flying apparatuses and designed plans for prototypes of an airplane long before the Wright brothers.  True, he was a genius but being a prodigy like him means far more than being super smart.  What separates someone like Da Vinci is his unlimited creativity and his ability to see beyond what can be seen with the naked eye.

Recently, I was watching a special on Ancient Aliens about Da Vinci.  The show questioned how he could have obtained such a vast amount of knowledge and whether or not he may have obtained information from extra-celestials.  I have no idea whether that theory is true.  But what struck me is the similarities between Da Vinci and Nikola Tesla.

In 1943, the Supreme Court granted full rights to Tesla for the invention of the radio.  He also built the first working alternating current generator.  As a result of his genius, we are today able to take advantage of all the modern conveniences of A.C. (alternating current) electric power, and many others.  Other inventions include: remote control, robotics, x-rays, the electric motor, laser technology and wireless energy.

Some speculate that Tesla, too, obtained information from extra-celestial beings. The US Patent Office has hundreds of patents registered to Nikola Tesla and it is also said that he is responsible for creating many, many more inventions which were never patented.

Like Da Vinci, Tesla was able to conceive of the invention in his mind without any need for experimentation. Many inventions have been linked to Da Vinci including the parachute and scuba gear. He is noted as saying, “There is no result in nature without a cause; understand the cause and you will have no need of the experiment.”

Despite the inventions, Da Vinci is still most markedly known for his famous works of art including his Last Supper and Mona Lisa.  His detailed sketches and unique painting techniques continue to set him apart.

More recently, there has been renewed interests in Da Vinci’s paintings because of so-called hidden codes and messages.  The eyes of Mona Lisa are believed to contain various signs including the letters LV in her right eye.  It is also noted that Da Vinci carried the painting of the Mona Lisa with him everywhere in a protected case.

But perhaps no other painting has been the subject of so much scrutiny as his Last Supper.  For example, unlike previous artists, Da Vinci depicted Jesus and his disciples without halos supposedly indicating that they were mortal.

More recently in 2010, Sabrina Sforza Galitzia calculated both mathematical and astrological signs in the painting of what she believed indicated that the end of the world would come in 4006. In 2007, Giovanni Maria Pala, an Italian musician, stated that she found hidden musical notes in the painting.

Of course whether or not any of these codes are real is purely speculative.  So much attention has been placed on these so called hidden messages in recent years that some forget to recognize what is in plain view.  Although he may have not been credited because his inventions often did not go beyond sketches, he made incredible contributions to almost every field of science and the arts.

So much has been written about Da Vinci’s religious and spiritual beliefs. While some say he was catholic and followed the teachings of the church, others say he was more of a heretic thinker or rationalist who based his beliefs on reason.  The latter holds that truth should be sought by fact and reason and not faith or religious dogma.

Of course, we cannot know for sure what his beliefs were.  However, I came across a quote by Da Vinci which truly resonates with my own beliefs and what I’ve learned in my afterlife research.  “While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.”  Although there are many opinions as to the meaning of his words, I take it to mean that he finally understood that life and death are one and the same.  I think this may well be Da Vinci’s “code.”

People often ask me what my research has taught me.  In researching life after death, I’ve learned what it means to live.  I’m not writing about death; I’m writing about life.  Death is not an end but a transformation.  Once we can understand this, we will know that we are far more than the physical body.

 You Have to Earn the Title

“Treat people the way you want to be treated. Talk to people the way you want to be talked to. Respect is earned, not given.”

Hussein Nishah

Recently, I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine.  We were discussing whether respect should be given or earned.  For example, if you’ve been friends with someone for 20 years, does that mean you have to automatically respect them?  Does the fact that someone is a family member mean you have to automatically respect them? Should we just give out respect even though they might not deserve it?  What happens when that same friend or family member treats you rudely?

respectWhen I did a quick google search for the definition of respect, the following came up: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. This definition brings up a good point.  Respect is something you feel for someone based on their qualities among other things.

My friend said something that stopped me in my tracks.  “Josie, you have to earn the title.”  Truthfully, I hadn’t thought of it like that.  There are many people out there who feel like they are entitled to respect but unfortunately don’t give respect.  There are people who expect the world from others but are willing to give so little themselves. So her point was respect is not a sense of entitlement you have to earn the title. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best when he wrote, “Men are respectable only as they respect.”

Being in a position of authority does garner a level of respect. But how many times have you worked for a boss you didn’t respect?  Was that because he or she demanded respect without portraying the character to deserve it?

Children, of course, should respect their parents.  Growing up in a large Italian family I was raised to respect my elders and know that family comes first.  But what happens when a family member is abusive?

We should always treat people with kindness.  But if you want people to respect you, you have to be the kind of person and do the kind of things that maintain respect.  Likewise, if people want you to admire or respect them, they need to be deserving of that admiration.   As the Bible states, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)

Simply put we have to feel admiration and respect for someone before we can truly give it.  And as my friend wisely said you have to earn the title.

Peace in Korea?

“The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.”  Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace 

Ahh!  Peace.  The absence of war, a state of tranquility, calm, and security.  With last week’s summit meeting between President Moon Jae-in in South Korea and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un some claim we are now living in the most peaceful time in history. The historic event marked the first meeting between the two leaders and an agreement to finally end the Korean War, 65 years after the truce and ceasefire.

Peace is not just a topic of holiday greeting cards.  It is something we all long and hope for but are we living in the most peaceful time in history?  That will depend largely on how you define peace. After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union fought a war of ideas known as the Cold War.  The US, Britain and France controlled western Germany and West Berlin while the Soviet Union controlled Eastern Europe.

summit

Korea Summit Press Pool/AFP/Getty Images (CNN.com): North Korea’s Kim Jong-un prepares to shake hands with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea.

At the same time, Korea was divided into South Korea and North Korea.  South Korea was a capitalist country but the latter became communist.  North Korea later invaded South Korea and a war raged between the two sides until it ended in 1953. However, the two sides did not officially end the conflict until the symbolic meeting last week.  On Friday, for the first time since 1953, a North Korean leader crossed the line into South Korean territory.  Although many can argue over whether or not we are living in the most peaceful of times, we cannot argue that this historic moment was certainly a step in the right direction.

Kang Kyung-wha told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that President Trump deserves a lot of credit for bringing the two sides together.  “Clearly, credit goes to President Trump.  He’s been determined to come to grips with this from day one.”

In a major step toward the terms of the peace agreement, South Korea announced that it will remove loudspeakers along the border that have broadcast propaganda into North Korea for decades. Hence, North Korea has passed a ruling to synchronize their time zone with the South.  North Korea will no longer follow “Pyongyang Time” which put their clock 30 minutes behind South Korea.

After the success of Friday’s summit, world leaders have heightened expectations for the upcoming meeting between Kim and Trump.  Many questions remain unanswered, particularly how acceptable denuclearization will be achieved and how it will be monitored.

The meeting between Trump and Kim is expected in late May or early June and it is fair to say that a lot is riding on it. In the meantime, however, this historic movement toward peace has both sides of Korea along with world leaders enjoying a much-needed feeling of peace and freedom.

Both sides have agreed to allow the reunion of families separated since the start of the Korean War and Moon agreed to visit North Korea.  While skeptics may be doubtful of Kim’s true intentions and whether or not he will truly disarm his nuclear weapons, we haven’t seen such peace efforts in Korea in nearly 70 years.

President Ronald Reagan once said, “Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”  Disarmament of a rogue nuclear nation, families re-united again after generations.  The prospect of peace in our time.  The world stands hopeful.

Where are the Miracles?

“Miracles start to happen when you give as much energy to your dreams as you do to your fears.” Richard Wilkins

The Bible mentions countless examples of miracles. There are hundreds of them, for example: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, Jesus turns water into wine, Jesus walks on water, Jesus cures a blind man, etc. So if these miracles were possible then and if there truly is a God or a higher power, why wouldn’t miracles and divine interventions be possible today?

Miracles are typically supernatural, statistically impossible events that nonetheless occur. But what one may consider a miracle may not be so incredible to someone else. This week I had the opportunity to see Tony Melendez perform a concert for the parishioners of my church. His music filled the church as he beautifully strummed his guitar. Song after song, I found myself mesmerized by him lost in his tonymwords.

Tony was born with no arms after his mother was prescribed thalidomide for morning sickness while pregnant. His confidence in his music made me forget about his disability yet his inspiring faith in God and humanity often filled my eyes with grateful tears. What a gift it was to be able to witness his presence and feel his faith.

He told the parishioners that he felt normal growing up. Yes, he had no arms. But it wasn’t like he lost them and now misses them. He never had them.

Fitted with prosthetics at the age of 6, Tony soon realized that he could do just as much without them. He learned how to live his life to the fullest with what he did have. “Please don’t tell me that you can’t,” he said. “Because you can.”

In 1987, his life changed forever after he performed “Never Be the Same” for Pope John Paul II in Los Angeles. The Pope told him to keep playing and bringing hope to others. Tony became an overnight sensation and has since never stopped playing.

There was one thing that he said, however, that really struck a chord in me. Tony mentioned how people sometimes ask him, “Where are the miracles?” In answer to that seemingly difficult question, Tony effortlessly responds that he sees miracles in the very fact that people have arms. My eyes welled up with tears as I thought about his profound words.

We take so many things for granted in life. To a man like Tony just having arms is a miracle. Think about that for a moment. We don’t realize how blessed we truly are until something is taken away from us.

I, too, was born with a disability. Luckily, my cerebral palsy is mild but I still have my challenges. My muscles are numb and weak in some areas of my leg, and I suffer from bilateral hearing loss. I understand wholeheartedly what Tony means when he says he sees miracles in arms.

Growing up, I saw the kids playing and running in the street. Today, as an adult, I see people talking or listening to music. I have never heard an entire song. There are always words that escape my ears. So, to me, the very act of listening to music is miraculous. To me, each day that I can stand up and put one foot in front of the other is miraculous.

I was once told that I had no idea what I was missing because there are so many sounds I cannot hear. I remember standing in front of the audiologist somewhat stunned and confused. How could I even begin to comprehend what she was talking about if I’ve never had the opportunity to hear those sounds? Like Tony, this is my normal.

As the saying goes, it’s all relative. Most people don’t even give the fact that they have arms a second thought. Neither do people who are not hard of hearing. So, likewise, what you may perceive to be a miracle is dependent upon your view of certain things and situations. Everything is measured by individual perception.

Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I don’t want to speak for Tony but, like me, I’d be willing to bet he’d say the latter.

Tony continues to travel around the world inspiring others through his gift of music. For more information, visit his website at www.tonymelendez.com.

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My youngest daughter Lia was there with me as we all watched Tony. Seeing him left quite an impression on her and she wrote the following poem.

LOOK AT YOUR HANDS

Do you really believe that you’ve never seen a miracle?

Look at your hands

A maze of crevices creating a path to your fingers

Opposable and capable

With these you can do anything

Your mind thinks but these hands can execute

They write stories, hold hands, catch Frisbees

Look at your hands

Do you really think that you’ve never seen a miracle?

Look at your hands

 

Tony sings for Pope John Paul II.

 

When Will This Madness End? A Note to President Trump

“I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.” 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If I don’t make it I love you and I appreciated everything you did for me,” a student wrote to a parent. As I read these words, endless tears streamed down my face. As the mother of two teenaged girls in high school, I cannot even imagine getting such a text from my daughters. It’s not only heartbreaking but it’s also inconceivable. No parent should have to worry about sending their child to school. No parent should have to question whether or not their child is safe.

Yesterday, when I first heard reports of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the shooter was still at large. My heart raced as I thought not only about the students and teachers but also my parents and other relatives who live in Broward County.  It was a huge relief when I heard the shooter, 19-year old Nikolas Cruz was apprehended.

Thus far, the death toll stands at 17 with others wounded. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said, “This is catastrophic. There are really no words.”  No, there are no words. No words will ever be enough. We don’t need words, we need action.

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PHOTO: Tom Brenner/The New York Times

Mr. President, during your recent State of the Union Address you stated, “My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American dream. Because Americans are dreamers, too.”

First let me say, I don’t envy you and would never want your job. I commend you for wanting to make America great again. You are 100 percent correct. It is your duty. However, it’s not yours alone. It is the duty of every American.

Sheriff Israel has repeatedly said, “If you see something, say something.” He also noted in a news conference earlier today that this is not the time to worry about saving money but rather about saving lives.

He went on to say that people are concerned about their rights but he questioned, “…what about the rights of young kids that go to schools with book bags and pencils, don’t they have the right to be protected by the United States Government to the best of our ability. . .”

Yes, they do! So the question is what do we do about it?  President Trump focused on the need to do more to identify and help those with mental illness.  While I think this true, it doesn’t stop there.  We do need more research to better understand mental illness and more resources to deal with it.  However, we also need stricter gun regulations.

Someone with a history of mental illness should not ever be allowed to purchase a gun. What continues to amaze me is that many of these shooters obtained their firearms legally.  In this case, Cruz obtained an AR-15.  According to Peter Forcelli, special agent in charge of the Miami field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he purchased the gun legally and no laws were broken.

Really? A mentally disturbed individual who had a fascination with guns and posted disturbing images on social media is allowed to obtain firearms and no law were broken?  I’m sorry but I wholeheartedly disagree. If no laws were broken, we need to change the laws. We need stricter gun control.

While advocates of harsher gun regulations fear for their safety, opponents fear the loss of their safety. While I understand both sides, something has to change.  We need to find a medium because what we have now simply isn’t working.

Although regulations differ from state to state, here are three key points:

*You must be at least 18 years of age and must be a citizen or legal resident to purchase rifles, shotguns or ammunition.

*People who are considered a danger to society, fugitives or patients committed to mental institutions may not purchase guns.

*A background check is required before anyone can purchase a firearm.

So if a background check is required, what went wrong? Obviously, Cruz should not have passed this background check but did. These background checks need to be more extensive. We need to do more to make sure that these guns to do get into the wrong hands.

We also need more law enforcement, not less. Although it saddens me to have to say this, we need an armed guard at each school. Every morning when I drive my daughters, I see crossing guards stationed at each school. At times, these crossing guards are police officers. So why not rotate shifts with local police officers at every school?

My daughter Lia thinks a better solution would be to have metal detectors at every school. None of this comes without more costs and higher taxes. But when it comes to the safety of our children, I think many parents would opt for higher tax dollars. If anyone out there has other ideas, I’m all ears. My point here is that we have to do something. We cannot let this violence continue.

President Trump, you said we need to answer hate with love and cruelty with kindness. I agree. What we all need to remember is that despite these evil acts, there is far more good going on in this world. But we also can’t just speak empty words. We need action.

Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott said, “The violence has to stop. We cannot lose another child in this country to violence in a school.”

No, we cannot. But this responsibility rests not only with our government and law enforcement agencies, it rests also with every single American. Let’s please make sure something is done about this cruelty and violence. Let’s remember that good will forever prevail over evil.