Is There Such Thing as Luck?

When it comes to luck, you make your own.”

Bruce Springsteen
 

When I was little, I remember spending hours combing the grass for a four leaf clover. According to tradition, the four leaf clover is said to bring good luck. And who can’t use a little bit of luck, right?fourleafclover

Luck of the Irish is a phrase which is generally thought to mean “extreme good fortune.” But as noted on mentalfloss.com, the term is not of an Irish origin but American according to Edward T. O’Donnell, an Associate Professor of History at Holy Cross College and author of 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History.

“During the gold and silver rush years in the second half of the 19th century, a number of the most famous and successful miners were of Irish and Irish American birth. . . .Over time this association of the Irish with mining fortunes led to the expression ‘luck of the Irish.’ Of course, it carried with it a certain tone of derision, as if to say, only by sheer luck, as opposed to brains, could these fools succeed.”

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches us, many wonder if there is actually such thing as luck. Some say there is no such thing as luck and everything can be chalked up to taking chances in life. Still others say some people are just lucky. Let me give you some examples.

When I was working on my book, Visits from Heaven, I happened to contact ARE Press in Virginia Beach, VA, for reprint permission. When I did, they expressed interest in the book and asked me to submit a book proposal. They liked my book proposal and the rest is history. When some people heard this, they said I got lucky. But did I?

It was my book proposal that sold my book. I spent a long time researching evidential afterlife communication and interviewed some of the top experts in the field. So I don’t think it was luck in this case. I worked hard and it was noticed.

However, what you don’t see are the many rejection letters that I received on the way to final acceptance. One of my favorite quotes by Author Brian Tracy is “I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active.  Show up more often.”  So I kept pushing and showing up.  I believed in my book and wouldn’t quit.

It had more to do with my determination than luck. That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in luck.  On the night that I met my husband John, it was freezing and icy outside.  My friend Sara showed up at my apartment wanting me to go out.  I did not want to go out.  I was comfy in my sweatpants and had no interest in braving the icy roads.

She persisted, however, and I ended up relenting. That night, I met my wonderful husband John.  So if you ask me, that night was due to a bit of luck.  But had I not decided to go out, I obviously would not have met John.

The point I’m making here is actions determine outcomes. If you want something, you have to make it happen.

What about the neighbor who won the lottery twice? You might say what a lucky guy he is! I mean who wins twice? The person who keeps taking chances and playing the lottery.  If you play, there’s always a chance you’ll win.  Although the probability of success may be miniscule, it’s still greater than zero.  The odds will always be greater when you at least try.

WHAT GOES AROUND, COMES AROUND

“Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.”
Wayne Dyer

We’ve all heard the popular wise sayings, you reap what you sow and what goes around, comes around. Growing up my mother was a bit more frank with me. She’d say things like, “You better be careful what you say and do because it might come back to bite you in the ass.” This was just her way of saying you get back whatever you put out thands-1150073__340here in the universe.

But how true is this? Today, I went to my local Shoprite to do my weekly food shopping.  Rain fell in the damp air outside as I shopped.  As many of you know, I had surgery on my right Achilles tendon in April 2016.  I’m still recovering and the pain seems to worsen whenever the weather is rainy.  Today was no different and, honestly, I could not wait to go home, take some Advil, and put my feet up.

As I was in the checkout line, the cashier was chatting with the boy who was bagging my groceries. She explained that after 13 years of marriage she was getting divorced.  I could clearly see how upset she was but didn’t say anything at first.  But then she went on to say that she had been both verbally and physically abused by her husband.  “Everyone told me I deserved better,” she said.  “My friends would tell me that I was a beautiful woman and shouldn’t take that from anyone.”

Sensing how upset she was, I couldn’t resist the urge to talk to her.   “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear what you were just saying,” I said.  “Yes, you are a beautiful woman and, no, you don’t deserve that.  No one deserves to be abused.”

I’m sure the other customers who were waiting in line were not happy with me at this point but I continued. I told this woman about a friend of mine who was in an unhappy marriage for a long time.  I went on to repeat to her what I had also told my friend, “It’s not over until you say it’s over.”

She nodded in agreement as a smile warmed her face. “You will find the happiness you so desperately want but you have to first let go of toxic relationships,” I added.  “When you let go of all the bad, you will make room for all the good.”

I’m proud of you, I told her. She looked at me seemingly stunned by my words and reached forward to take my hand.  “Thank you,” she told me.  “I really needed to hear that.  People don’t usually listen to me like that.  Thank you so much.”

I said goodbye and made my way out of the store. When I reached my car, the rain continued to fall and so did the pain in my leg.  I’m guessing I was limping a little more than usual.  Suddenly, a woman came up behind me.

“Here,” she told me, “let me help you.” I looked at her a bit dazed as she helped me put the rest of my bags in my trunk.  Then she quickly took my cart and walked it over to the holding station for me. “Thank you,” I said.  “That was very nice of you.”

I got in my car thinking of the kindness this woman just showed me. It made my day a little brighter despite the dreary weather and ache in my leg.

The Law of Attraction is one of 12 Universal Laws. The law basically states that like attracts like.  Our thoughts, words and actions give off energy which, in turn, attracts like energy. So, in other words, you will harvest whatever you plant in this world. If you want good, you have to do good.

Today, I witnessed the truth of this law. I helped a stranger and, in turn, a stranger helped me.  I begin and end this blog with one of my favorite quotes by Wayne Dyer, “Loving people live in a loving world.  Hostile people live in a hostile world.  Same world.”

True, same world. One world. The choice is ours.  Why wouldn’t anyone choose love?

BE WHO YOU ARE

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something. Neil Gaiman

The Disney cable network decided to offer a free month of movies. Yesterday, my family and I opted to watch the Disney classic Aladdin.  In the 1992 film, a street urchin named Aladdin happens to meet a beautiful girl (Jasmine) who has run away from home.  The two become fast friends and fall in love.  But when Aladdin realizes that Jasmine is actually a princess in disguise he understands that he is not worthy of her.

3_wishes_by_kevomacWhen Aladdin later comes in contact with a magic lamp, he is told by a Genie that he has three wishes. Thinking it over, Aladdin’s first wish is to be made a prince so he can then marry Princess Jasmine. But in the end, Aladdin’s true identity is exposed.

The Genie then tells Aladdin that he has one final wish left and can be made a prince once again in order to marry the princess. But Aladdin decides to keep his promise and free the Genie with his third wish instead feeling that he cannot continue to pretend to be someone he’s not, not even for the love of his life.

This movie may be a Disney animated classic. But it’s not only legendary for the story.  More importantly, it’s legendary for its simple, yet timeless message.  Always be who you are. In the end, as in the movie, true love will prevail.

But if the message is simple why is it so hard for us to be true to ourselves? There are several reasons.  For starters, maybe you are in denial and really don’t know who you are and what you want. Maybe you are still trying to find yourself.

As in the case of Aladdin, most times we deny who we are in favor of acceptance. Think about it. How many times have you denied who you are, how many times have you buried your true feelings deep within in order to satisfy or please someone else?  How many times have you kept quiet for fear of being ridiculed?

Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, said it perfectly when he noted, “Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive—the risk to be alive and express what we really are.”

We all crave acceptance. We all want to fit in.  But we shouldn’t have to lose ourselves in order to get there.  In a society that is constantly trying to make us something we’re not, it has become increasingly difficult to be true to ourselves.  For many, it’s a constant struggle.

Being who we are means having the courage to turn a deaf ear to what others expect of us and tuning into what we expect of ourselves. It means reaching within and being totally honest with ourselves.  It means not only being aware of but also listening to our deepest desires and being true to our own personal values.

By the end of the movie, Aladdin’s three wishes are granted by the Genie. They are:

  1. Make me a prince.
  2. Save my life and
  3. I wish for your freedom.

Likewise, I wish for your freedom. The freedom to just be you.

The Good, The Bad, and The Compassionate

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama

It’s a pretty scary world we live in these days.  This month alone we’ve seen attacks on police officers in the United States.  We’ve seen unspeakable acts of terror in Germany, France and Turkey.  This week a priest had his throat slit by terrorists at a church in France.  And the other day in Japan a man wielding a knife killed and injured several disabled individuals because he felt they were not fit to serve in society.

We live in a world with both bad and good.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”  But when we are overwhelmed with all the bad, it’s hard to see the good.  It’s hard but more necessary than ever before for all of us to remember that despite all the terror in this world, there will always be more good than evil.  Evil will never prevail because good will always be stronger.

I once read an interesting post which said evil and suffering is actually a necessary part of God’s design.  The writer’s point was if everything was perfect in this world, we would not learn the true meaning of such virtues as forgiveness, courage, kindness, justice, mercy, remorse, generosity and self-sacrifice.

True.  But I would add one other thing to the list and that is compassion.  I’ve read many differing definitions for compassion.  Some state that it literally means “to suffer together” while others claim it means the ability to understand the emotional state of another person and having sympathy for the misfortunes of others.  All are correct.  However, the most important part of compassion in my opinion is that it involves the willingness or desire to help others and alleviate their suffering in any way possible.

I was born with a disability known as cerebral palsy.  On April 12 of this year, I underwent surgery to my right foot and Achilles tendon area.  For several months, my leg had become increasingly spastic and painful.  I was told that my Achilles tendon had begun to fray pretty much like an old rope and I was also shown that I had a huge bone growth.

Removing the bone growth would require extensive surgery and a serious recovery so instead I found a doctor who is known for a procedure he pioneered known as SPML (Selective Percutaneous Myofascial Lengthening).  In addition to lengthening my tendon, several holes were drilled into my bone growth in order to increase blood flow to the area.

procarephotoTruthfully, I was not prepared for the extent of my recovery.  I am now suffering from nerve damage and cannot feel part of my foot and leg.  Hopefully, the feeling will come back sooner than later. I am currently going for physical therapy and have pretty much had to learn how to walk again.  According to my physical therapist, a wonderful-caring man named Dean, my muscles are not working properly so I have to pay attention to every step I take so that my brain makes the connection.  I can hear his voice now, “Heel, step, back…heel, step, back.”  Has it been tough?  Yes, absolutely.  But one of the things that has truly helped me through this ordeal is the compassion I’ve been shown not only by my family and friends but also by complete strangers.

Complete strangers have let me lean on them as I walked through parking lots to my car or have offered to put my bags in the car for me at the supermarket.  Friends have left food and goodies at my door anonymously and have sent flowers and cards to brighten my day.

There was one older woman that I remember most of all.  For some reason, walking on the hard floors at my local Shoprite would cause me a lot of pain and with that pain came more limping than usual.  On this particular day, I could barely make it out of the store.  I only had a handful of items to buy so I didn’t bother getting a shopping cart.  This was a mistake as I didn’t have anything to lean on.

As I made my way slowly out of the store, a woman came up to me and asked if I was OK.  “You look like you’re in pain,” she told me.  To this, I replied that I had recently had surgery on my leg and would be fine.

“Oh,” she replied, I can see the pain on your face.”  Then she reached forward and took the two bags from arms.  At first I tried to refuse her help but she was insistent.  So finally, I smiled gratefully and led this beautiful soul to my truck.

When we reached my vehicle, she put my two bags in the back and reached forward to give me a much-needed hug.  I was all teary-eyed as I thanked her for her kindness.  “God bless you,” she told me.  “We all have crosses to bear but everything will be alright.”

I stood there as she walked away shocked by her words and her compassion. As I got in the truck, the tears flowed.  Unbeknownst to her, I had been feeling so sorry for myself and her words and encouragement gave me a much-needed boost.

Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t even ask for her name.  But what I do know is that her compassion will forever stay with me.  Her kindheartedness will forever remind me that despite the immoral things that may be happening in this world, the good will always outnumber the bad.  It is this good that we all need to focus on.  As the Bible states, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 ESV)

Rediscover Your Self-Confidence

“Confidence doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s a result of something… hours and days and weeks and years of constant work and dedication.”

Roger Staubach

Emily

Guest blogger, Emily Sorrentino

There is a bold and noticeable difference between the way someone with self-confidence strides into a room and the way someone with little confidence wanders into the same room. There is a difference in the way these two people talk and sit and smile. It’s apparent in the subtle way someone with confidence holds their head and chest. Their movements are sure and purposeful. They exude a physical sense of conviction. But this doesn’t mean that they are better than everyone else, and the physical aspect of their confidence does not imply that the trait is genetic or hereditary.

Throughout the years of my own struggle to find self-confidence, I’ve realized that confidence is a quality that can only develop if we personally will it to. In my previous blog post, I mentioned that there are many aspects of my life and personality that I love and that make me who I am. I can safely say that my confidence is at the top of that list. My confidence in both myself and my abilities makes everything else I do easier because I am not afraid to make mistakes or try new things. Does this mean I always succeed? Not by a long shot. But I also know that if I don’t succeed, that’s just fine.

So, if confidence isn’t hereditary and it isn’t something that we are born with, why does it seem to come naturally to some people and evade others? Truthfully, it doesn’t come naturally at all. Living a fearless, confident life only comes from attitude adjustment and personal esteem boosts.

People who suffer from low self-confidence don’t necessarily lack praise from others. They lack praise from themselves. The days I started to feel more confident were the days I started telling myself that what I do is great and what I’ve achieved is outstanding. Even when I didn’t believe it, I was assuring myself that I’d done a good job at something. Eventually, that self-assurance motivated me to work harder and improve. Over time, I found that I was actually doing something well because others would praise me, too. Though I didn’t need approval from others to feel good, it reinforced my sense of pride.

I can remember one specific instance where this was applicable in my life. I’ve been a black belt for over three years now. Since my promotion, I’ve grown as a student and a teacher of martial arts. However, I was not always so sure of my abilities. The day I was to be promoted to black belt, I was told that the entire dojo (school for training in martial arts or self-defense) would be participating at the tournament. We all had to perform a kata (an individual training routine for martial artists similar to a dance routine for dancers) and we would be judged and ranked within our group of ten. I was nervous, to say the least. I used to be simply terrified of doing anything in front of people. Just before my turn, I was shaking and I felt sick to my stomach. Everything felt blurry. Even as I performed for the judges, I felt empty and mindless. When I finished and received my scores, I could feel the heat rise in my cheeks. I numbly returned to my seat and finally breathed. However, as ranking was called out, it so happens that I was surprised to learn that I came in first place. I didn’t know how but I ran and received my medal.

When the day was over, I wondered how I could possibly be good at something when I was so scared to do it. I realized that our fear holds us back from discovering our true strengths. All that time, I could have held my head high and looked poised instead of mortified. In the competitions since then, I have taken first place not just because of my talent, but also because of my visible fearlessness and confidence.

This idea of fear holding us back is universal and so obvious in everyday life. We are shown, through social media and everyday interactions that people who put themselves “out there” too much are showy attention hogs. A girl who wears so much makeup and posts a selfie online is “asking for attention.” But what if she just likes the way she looks? What if she’s just a confident woman and wants to share it with her friends? We are taught to shame people who love themselves. This leads to less and less people showing off their confidence. If we stop worrying about and fearing what others may think of us, we can fully, and without hesitation, plunge into life with no apprehension. Don’t be afraid of yourself and what you can do.

As I said earlier, those who lack self-confidence and self-esteem don’t necessarily lack praise from others. They do, however, lack praise from themselves. Truthfully, self-confidence must always begin and end with you.   Because you are the only person who can ever really stand in the way of your success.

 

No More Pain

We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” Ronald Reagan

josielegbrace

Me and my dad.

I was born with Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy (SDCP). Basically, this means normal muscle tension is disrupted due to problems with brain-to-nerve communication. This leads to blockage of effective muscle movement and causes muscles to become spastic and tense. Cases of Cerebral Palsy are mild to severe. I am fortunate in that my case is mild.

Having a mild case does not come without pain, however. Over the past several months I have been experiencing extreme pain and stiffness in my right foot and Achilles tendon area. One doctor after another seemed to have no answers for me. After taking anti-inflammatory medicine and and wearing a corrective boot for almost three months, one doctor asked how I was doing. When I responded that I did not feel any improvement whatsoever, his response was, “Well, this is very difficult to treat.”  He then told me to continue taking  the same medicine and wearing the same boot.

Needless to say, I realized that he had no idea how to help me and went elsewhere. Fortunately, I visited with an orthopedic surgeon this week who specializes in Cerebral Palsy named Roy Nuzzo in Summit, New Jersey. Dr. Nuzzo will be performing two surgical procedures on April 12. One is a procedure he pioneered known as SPML (Selective Percutaneous Myofascial Lengthening) which is a non-traditional, minimally invasive procedure used to lengthen and release the affected tendon. He will also perform an additional surgical procedure to increase blood flow to the area to help treat my calcific tendonitis.  Of course, I am not happy about having to have surgery but I am happy to finally find someone who can help me.

This week, while having dinner with my two daughters, the pain in my leg was making it difficult for me to even stand up. My daughter Lia noticed my distress and helped me to a chair in the kitchen. “Mom,” she told me, “I wish I could take your pain and divide it among everyone else in the world.” I looked at her quizzically.

“Why would you do that?” I asked.

“Because,” she cleverly told me, “if everyone in the world takes a little bit eventually there will be no more pain.” Tears formed in my eyes as I reached over to hug her. I am so proud of Lia; she is wise beyond her 14 years.

Her words reminded me of the first universal law . . . the law of divine oneness. Everythingoneness in the universe, though perceived to be separate, is connected. And everything comes from the same source. Whether you call that source God, Jehovah or Allah doesn’t matter.

Since we are all part of this universal consciousness, everything we do, say or think will affect everyone else. Like attracts like.

My daughter Lia is correct when she claims if everyone could just take a little bit of pain there would eventually be no more pain. If we could all just do a little to make the world a better place, we would do more good than we could ever imagine. As Ronald Reagan once said, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”

Our actions, both good and bad, create a ripple effect. Every act of kindness for example, no matter how small, helps someone else. Think of it this way, kindness and goodwill increase tenfold when shared.

THE HEART. . . THE SAFEST PLACE TO BE

“None of us can hold someone we love in our arms forever but the one thing we can do is hold them in our hearts.”

safestplacetobeLast week, I was asked to help a woman who just recently lost her son.  Admittedly, requests like these are the hardest part about what I do.  The truth is while I strive to help the bereaved find comfort in the knowledge that love truly doesn’t die, I can’t bring their loved ones back physically.

People ask me all the time if dealing with the loss of a loved one is easier for me now that I know there is life after death.  It’s definitely easier but it’s in no way easy.  When I lose a loved one I find comfort in knowing that life does go on and that I will see my loved ones again but at the same time I miss the physical contact.

The other day I came across a quote that has really stayed with me, “It hurts when you love someone in your heart but can’t have them in your arms.”  I got to thinking this may be true but isn’t the heart the safest place to be?  None of us can hold someone we love in our arms forever but the one thing we can do is hold them in our hearts.

No matter what happens, death cannot take that love away.  No one can.  That love is always there.  It transcends death.

That being said nothing can prepare us for the death of a loved one.  Grief is very personal and individual.  In other ways, it’s our own.  There’s no right or wrong way.  There are no right words.  There are no proven healing methods.  We all grieve in our own way.  What works for some does not work for others.

The word bereaved literally means to be torn apart.  So the way we eventually put the pieces together is our choice.  The one thing that does make a difference is time.  Not to say that the pain is not still there but it certainly helps to have time to reflect and get passed all those “firsts.”  For example, the first birthday without them, the first Christmas, etc.

On Grief and Grieving, a book by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, describes the five stages of grief.  They are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.  It’s important to note, however, that not everyone goes through all of them, nor do they necessarily occur in this order.  As I said, grief is a deeply personal and singular experience.

No one can tell you how you should feel, how to get over it or how long it should take.  The only person who can understand and deal with the emotions you are going through is you.

According to Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD, grief is the internal expression of loss whereas mourning is external. In other words, grief is how you deal with it on your own while mourning is what you do in public.

There are no easy steps in dealing with grief; no magic tips.  But I would like to mention two things.  First, don’t hold in the grief; let it out. Be honest with yourself about what you are feeling and find ways to express them.  For example, talk to a family member or friend.  Or if you don’t want to talk about it publically, write how you are feeling in a journal.

I once wrote back to one of my readers suggesting that she write a letter to her deceased husband.  She did and wrote me sometime later explaining how therapeutic it actually was for her. Many of the bereaved feel like they never got to say goodbye or say one last I love you.  Well, you still can.  Write a letter.  Talk to your loved one.  I know I have said this a zillion times in this blog and elsewhere but our loved ones are very much aware of what is going on in our lives and they can still hear us.  They are still there spiritually.

Second, find ways to keep their memory alive.  My friend Nancy bought herself yellow roses on her wedding anniversary, for example, because this was something her deceased husband always did.  When you do little things to keep their memory alive, you will be forever reminded that their love has never left you.

Getting back to the quote I mentioned earlier, “It hurts when you love someone in your heart but can’t have them in your arms.”  Yes, it certainly does but when they are in your heart, no one can ever take them away from you.  No matter where you go and no matter what happens in life, in your heart they will remain.