When Anxiety Strikes

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” Charles Spurgeon

Roughly 40 million people live with some kind of anxiety disorder in the United States.  While the condition is certainly not chronic for me it has happened to me over the years but the occurrences are luckily few and far between.

Last week I was vacationing in Turks and Caicos with my friend Karen.  On our second night there, I had what is known as an anxiety dream.  These are unpleasant dreams which cause feelings of distress or fear in the dreamer upon waking.  I couldn’t begin to tell you what the dream was about.  I only know it wasn’t a pleasant one.

anxietyphotoI woke up at around 3:30 a.m. with my heart racing feeling like I wanted to jump out of my skin and I had no idea why.  As I struggled to catch my breath, it took me a few seconds to realize that I was away from home in a hotel room which only made me feel worse.

Anxiety is typically caused by rampant thoughts that spin out of control. There are steps we can take, therefore, to regain control of our thoughts and hence calm down.

  1. Just Breathe: Take long deep breaths.  This is the fastest way to help your body calm down.
  2. Recognize Your Anxiety: As you breathe in an out, recognize that you are having a panic attack. Tell yourself that everything is alright.
  3. Move and Release: Get up and move around.  Go for a walk, for example, or go to a different room.  Since my friend was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake her, I went to the bathroom and splashed water on my face.
  4. Change Your Focus: Concentrate on something positive or familiar.  In my case being over 1,000 miles away from home did not help but knowing my friend was there with me helped to calm me down.
  5. Talk to Someone: Whenever possible, reach out to someone for support.  It is important to understand that you are not alone.
  6. Get Some Fresh Air: These panic attacks are often accompanied by feelings of suffocation and claustrophobia.  Walk outside, open the windows, and get some fresh air.
  7. Stay in the Moment: Don’t jump ahead worrying about things in the future.  Remind yourself of where you are try to stay in the moment and recognize how irrational your thoughts are.
  8. Relax and Think Positive Thoughts: Recognize your thinking pattern and replace them with calming, positive thoughts.

There are many things that can trigger anxiety and panic attacks.  Among them are stress, fatigue, worry, diet, caffeine and alcohol.  Anxiety can also be brought on by trauma or pain.  For females, hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause can also lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.

My experience last week marked the first time I had ever had an anxiety dream.  Truthfully, I have no idea what triggered my panic attack that night nor do I know if and when it will happen again.  But as Wayne Dyer once said, “You can’t always control what goes on outside.  But you can always control what goes on inside.”

I am stronger than my fears and so are you.

College and Bust$!!!

“You can’t continue to have higher education tuition grow at a multiple of the rate of inflation.”

Mitt Romney

 No need to be hush-hush.  Everyone knows the rising costs of college is out of control and there seems to be no relief in sight as debt continues to skyrocket for both students and their parents.  Last week my husband and I officially became empty nesters as we dropped both of our daughters off at college. I’ve literally been suffering from withdrawals as I pass their empty bedrooms but I’ve also been having trouble sleeping wondering how my husband and I will deal with our mounting expenses.

Over the years, we have tried to figure out every conceivable option to save for our children’s college education with 529 plans and the like.  Now, years later, nothing could have prepared us for how bad things have become.  Even with all the extra savings and the HELOC (home equity line of credit), we are both scratching our heads wondering how to get out of this mess and we are not alone.

My college graduation from Glassboro State College (1988)

Recent reports put student loan debt as high as $1.6 trillion in the United Sates with graduates paying an average of more than $35,000.  This is a far cry from what things were when I attended Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in the late 80’s.  Back then the total cost of attendance with room and board (in state) was a fraction of the $30,000 plus it is today.

In fact, the costs to attend college has risen over 200 percent since the 80’s.  The following is a breakdown of how costs have changed by decade with figures adjusted for 2017 dollars:

Private nonprofit four-year institution

  • Tuition for 1987-1988: $15,160
  • Tuition for 1997-1998: $21,020
  • Tuition for 2007-2008: $27,520
  • Tuition for 2017-2018: $34,740

Public four-year institution

  • Tuition for 1987-1988: $3,190
  • Tuition for 1997-1998: $4,740
  • Tuition for 2007-2008: $7,280
  • Tuition for 2017-2018: $9,970

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/29/how-much-college-tuition-has-increased-from-1988-to-2018.html

My older daughter Erica is a junior at the University of Maryland/College Park while her younger sister Lia is a freshman at the University of Delaware.  For the 2019-20 academic year, UMD raised tuition for out of state students by 4.79 percent while UDel raised it by 4 percent.  A number of factors contribute they say to the continuous rise in tuition including high demand, construction costs, increased administrative staff and less state funding.  I’m certainly in favor of raising prices when it is warranted but I’m not in favor of overpriced education.

The cost to attend college has outpaced both inflation and wage growth. While increased costs have certainly lowered the rate of return for many students, it remains difficult to compete in today’s economy without a post-secondary education. Students continue to borrow money and many parents are struggling to make up the difference.  So with high demand and the increase in student loans why should these institutions keep costs down?  It seems to be a vicious cycle.

As you may know, many countries offer free tuition.  These include, for example, Norway, Sweden, Germany and France.  Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a plan to make college free in the United States.  His plan would not only make two and four-year public colleges free, it would also get rid of all student debt.  Yes, all 1.6 trillion of it! He wants to do this by placing a tax on Wall Street.

Truthfully, I have no idea if such a thing would work or if it is even remotely possible.  Personally, I don’t see how asking a few dozen financial firms to come up with an extra $1.6 trillion (and still stay in business) could work but I do commend Sen. Sanders for attempting to fix a problem that seems unfixable.  If our foreign counterparts can do it why can’t we?

While my daughter is happy and thriving at the University of Maryland, she did not get to go to the college of her choice.  My daughter Lia is loving the University of Delaware which luckily was her first choice.  Of course, many factors were considered when deciding on a college (costs, scholarship offerings, grants, choice of major, etc.) We explained how much we can contribute to both of our daughters.  They are responsible for the rest.

Erica is in the scholar’s program at UMD and will be graduating with both a major and a minor in three years.  Lia decided to attend UDel despite the higher costs but has been working hard to offset her student loans.  I am proud of both of them but it saddens me to see how hard obtaining a college education has become. While the increased costs has made attending college less advantageous then it was years ago, it means the world to me to see them thriving and doing well.  I look forward to what the future holds for both of them.

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), a nonprofit research firm in Washington D.C., has released a list of 25 ways to help reduce the high cost of college.  Here are some examples:

  1. Attend a community college: Attending a two-year college and transferring to a four-year university will cut costs considerably.
  2. Move more class offerings online
  3. Overhaul the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
  4. Offer three year Bachelor’s Degrees
  5. Promote Dual Enrollment Programs: This includes taking college credit courses such as AP (Advanced Placement) Courses while in high school. My daughter Erica completed over 30 credits in high school which is allowing her to finish her college requirements in three years.
  6. Reform Financial Aid
  7. Eliminate Excessive Academic Research
  8. Reduce the Costs of Textbooks
  9. Reform Accreditation to Reduce Barriers to Entry
  10. Promote Competition Based on Value, Not Reputation: Colleges love to boast about their acceptance rates these days.  We need to care less about how many students they admit and more about the value they provide in relation to the dollars they charge. 

It does not surprise me to hear that more than 1 million default on student loans each year with 40 percent of borrowers expected to do so by 2023.  What does surprise me is that the government makes it extremely difficult—if not impossible—to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy.  As I said earlier, it is a vicious cycle that leaves both students and parents with few choices.

Good luck to my fellow empty nesters out there.  May your children be happy and fulfilled with their college education and may your hard-earned nest eggs not run dry!

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.

leonardo-da-vinci

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.

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.

trump

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.