A Little Help From My Friend

“I always say to people when they lose someone, ‘Now you have an angel you can call by name,'” Oprah Winfrey

Before my friend Janice passed away I had very little knowledge or experience with after-death communication.  Looking back now I realize that those times in my youth where I would suddenly smell that distinct aroma of my grandmother’s home… baking pie, cinnamon, pipe tobacco and just a hint of talcum powder, that it had to be Grandma popping in to say hello.  Or those incredibly vivid dreams when I would awaken from sitting at the table and drinking tea with my Grandpa, and know that he had come for a nice nighttime visit.  Back then I attributed things like that to coincidence, or imagination, or just too strange to be true.

But then Janice crossed over in such a dramatic fashion and I was simply jarred awake to a new level of perception.  In the months that followed I would experience communications and signs that would leave no doubt in my mind that Janice was reaching across the veil and carrying on the conversation we’d started here on this earthly plain. 

Way back when my daughter was 7 years old she became involved in a production of Les Miserables put on by our local high school theatre company.  I would pick her up and drop her off at rehearsals and was always very impressed by the dedicated teachers and volunteers who worked tirelessly with this big group of kids.   I had been a theatre major in University and it was years since I had taken part in anything theatrical.  I asked my girl to let me know if she heard of anyone needing help because I would be happy to volunteer.  I was suddenly very excited to get involved in the theatre again after so many years.  Just as long as it wasn’t costumes.   I hated doing costuming.

“Mama, this lady needs help”, my daughter pulled me by the hand and introduced me to Janice.  Bazinga!  Instant recognition.  We were laughing and joking within the first five minutes, and I knew that I was going to have a great time working with her.

And of course, she was the Costume Designer.  Sigh.  Ahhhh well, it was time to dust off the sewing machine, load up the glue gun and fire up the bedazzler, because apparently I was going to make some costumes.

We worked closely together for the next few years.  Janice was the brilliant visionary, pulled by the creative muse that had her flitting from project to project haphazardly.  I was the organizer.  I kept her on task (some of the time), looking after the details so that she could concentrate on the BIG PICTURE.  We were the perfect pair.  I was the Laurel to her Hardy, the Captain to her Tenille, the Tweedle Dum to her Tweedle Dee.  Through production after production we worked diligently, getting hundreds of costumes built, compiled, organized, fitted, ironed, hung up, cleaned and stored away.  The tasks were daunting but we had a group of willing and able volunteers to work with us and show after show we managed to get it all done and looking pretty damn good, too. 

But then…. Janice left this world suddenly, during intermission at Beauty and the Beast.  One moment we were laughing together and the next she was gone.  Aortic aneurism, they told us.  It was instant and painless, and she was doing what she most loved in the world.  Her last moments of this lifetime were spent in pure joy.  We would have chosen to keep her here with us many more years, but as far as exits go, she picked a great one.

After the immediacy of the departure, we were faced with getting through the production, helping the kids handle their shock and grief, helping to plan the celebration of her life, and the myriad details that all of those things entailed.  The next few weeks were a blur.  Catching our breath, the three remaining members of the production team began to consider the future.  Who would be the new costume designer?     Would we even be able to continue on as we had been, mounting productions with 100 + kids?  Janice had been a vital part of the team and how could we go on without her expertise?

And that is how I became a Costume Designer.  I volunteered.  And they gratefully accepted.  What the heck had I gotten myself into?

The spring production was Anything Goes.  The size of the cast was just under 100.  The number of costumes needed would be over 400 and of that number about 200 would have to be created from scratch.  I would need to learn how to design a sailor uniform that could be mass produced, design a full, matching wardrobe for Reno Sweeney and her Angels, source 40 pair of tap shoes and keep it all under budget.  Oh yes.  And work full time at my day job while doing it all.

What me, worry?

Funny things happen when you have an Angel on your side.  I began noticing little things.  I would think to myself, “I sure would like to get some matching fur coats for Reno’s gals” then *poof* I would walk into the thrift store and find 4 matching vintage minks for $20 each.  I would need a pin striped gangster suit with matching hat and *shazam* there would be one in the perfect size hanging up with the randomly donated graduation dresses.  Capes, bonnets, bows, velvet, sequins, knowledge, volunteers, sailor hats, and everything I needed or wanted began to show up in the craziest ways. 

There is one thing that still makes me shake my head in wonder.  I needed a long length of fake white fur, about 3 inches wide, to trim out one of Reno’s travel outfits.  I had just designed the outfit and not surprisingly the perfect polka dot fabric had shown up in the clearance bin at the fabric shop, the exact right hat had fallen off the top shelf of the costume storage locker and the coolest brass sailor buttons had shown up in my sewing basket (I still don’t know where they came from).  I was rummaging through bags of notions that Janice had stored in her basement.  I pulled out a big bag and inside was, you guessed it, white fake fur.  But the really amazing thing?  It was a long strip of 3 inch wide fabric that was the exact perfect length to finish Reno’s outfit.  I kid you not.

Thanks Janice.

For many more productions, projects and creations I have enjoyed Janice’s help.  She always seems to bring me what I need, helps me figure out how to create what is needed and never stops making me laugh at her shenanigans. 

And sometimes I still hear her giggling in my ear, “Suck it up buttercup, it’s time to get things done”. 


Meet You At the Top!


“The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.” Rumi

My friend Yummy (bet you guessed this isn’t his real name) popped by for a visit this weekend.  Yummy and I first met many years ago when we were both involved in the same play.  He was an actor and I was a costumer.  Sizing him up, literally,  I was whipping my trusty tape measure around his various parts.  Chest, waist, hips, head, neck, sleeve length…  I had finished up and Yummy still stood there expectantly. 

“Don’t you need my inseam?” he asked, guilelessly.

“No.  Sorry to disappoint.”  My smart-assery has a mind of it’s own and sometimes these things just fall out of my mouth.  Luckily he laughed loudly and at that moment our bond was formed.

After he left the fitting room, Janice explained to me that Yummy is the Reverend at our local Anglican Church. 

No no no!  A man of the cloth and I make jokes about his enjoyment of having his inseam fondled?  

“Excuse me, Janice. Could you lend me a hand?  I seem to have something lodged here in my mouth.  Oh wait, it’s my foot.”

That moment, while a bit fluster-inducing at the time, was serendipitous.  Had I known in advance that Yummy was a minister I would have treated him in a completely different way, maybe bowing, calling him “your eminence” and trying not to make eye contact.  Meanwhile  I would have been nervously guarding the real me for fear of incurring wrath, judgment or whatever the 21st century equivalent of burning at the stake might be.  Preconceived ideas are a bitch, aren’t they?

Instead I accidentally let my true self shine through and being received with humor and acceptance allowed me to trust this man, despite his cloth.  Our friendship has grown and blossomed over time and even though I was away for 3 years and we didn’t have any communication at all, Saturday when he walked up onto my sunny front porch and sat across from me in the rocker, our conversation picked up like no time had passed at all.

I complimented him on his column.  He writes  for the Daily Townsman here in Cranbrook, and I have often found myself shouting out loud while reading his teachings “YES!  EXACTLY!  THAT IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO SAY!”  His Christian teachings are progressive, all inclusive and centered in love.  If you ever wonder what Jesus would do, you could simply watch Yummy and you’d get a pretty good example. 

During our conversation I was explaining (okay, complaining might be a better word here) how I feel like the Christian churches have stolen Jesus for themselves and how it pisses me off that such an amazing teacher could be used to create divisions and exclusivity.  I then paraphrased the Hindu saying I picked up on the wide wide world of web somewhere: 

There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading in the same direction, so it doesn’t matter which path you take.  The only ones wasting time are the ones who runs around and around the mountain, telling everyone else that their path is wrong.

Surprised, Yummy asked me where I had heard that saying, then went on to explain that he uses the same saying in his teachings quite often.  But, Yummy takes it further.  (this is awesome… you’re going to love this…)

Yummy explained that at the base of the mountain our paths are so far apart we can barely see each other, if at all.  But as we climb that mountain the paths get closer and closer until, when we reach the top we are close enough to embrace. 

It is so beautiful I want to cry!

And the dogma pushers, the judgers, the fundamentalists?  He simply says “God Bless You” and leaves them to their path. This is a page I will most definitely take from his book.  Because who am I to judge what stones make up their path?  If they need to believe that I am wrong in order to feel they are right, then God bless them.  If they trip on those stones, then I wish them a gentle landing.  I know I have tripped plenty on my own path.  I mean, really, aren’t I just as guilty of judging them for judging me? 

And when we meet at the top of the mountain I bet we hug each other and laugh about the crazy journeys we’ve taken and all of the trips and falls along the way.   Until then, I send love to ease your path so that whatever your journey, it will be smooth.



The Senses Awaken

“Lose your mind and come to your senses.” Frederick Salomon Perls

My American Husband and I were long distance friends for about a year before we finally met face to face.  We had been members of an online community of movie lovers who started as strangers from all around the globe and ended up finding each other as friends, lovers, spouses, and eventually even co-parents.  We called ourselves the Movie Regs and met every evening for conversation, trivia games and laughter.  For a single Mom, this was the only social life I had the time or money for, and it was surprisingly fulfilling.

After a year of emails and phone calls, we finally decided to meet for a 5 day getaway in Idaho.  We figured that if the chemistry was good and our friendship was meant to blossom into something more, the 5 days would be sufficient to determine that.  In reality, 5 minutes would have been enough because our chemistry was most definitely good.  It took us an hour to get out of the Spokane airport because we kept have to stop and kiss on each other.

Too much information?  Probably.

On our second day in Idaho we stopped at a local market and picked up some fresh fruit to have for dessert.  Ranier cherries, plump, yellow and pink, and redolent of that amazing scent that perfectly ripe cherries have.  We ate them warm while sitting outside in the sunshine.  We spit the pits off into the bushes, and didn’t mind too much when our hands and lips got a bit sticky with the juice.  They were succulent.  The perfect food.

To me,  Ranier Cherries taste how falling in love feels.

Our senses hold so many memories. The smell of baking apple pie is a visit from my Grandma.  My American Husband can’t hear “I Shot the Sheriff” without remembering his Dad (“What kind of song is this? What is this world coming to??”) And the sound of a spoon dragging along the top of a bowl of cheerios, dunking them in milk, well… you know who you are.

But what about those sense memories that harken to other lifetimes?  My Dad has had vivid memories of a lifetime in the Incan Empire since he was a tiny boy.  He won’t wear the color red.  He hates the taste of cornmeal.  His senses remember what happened centuries ago and he carries those memories in the sights, and tastes of this present time.

For me, the sight and scent of apple blossoms bring back a flood of happiness from a time I lived  a gentle, loving life as Constance Willoughby.  And the smell of dust in the dry air make me remember how it feels to choke with asthma, though I have perfect, healthy lungs.  I get anxiety from the sight, smell, taste and feel of saffron.  These things belie logic and make me wonder how many memories from other lifetimes are stored in these senses of mine.

Curiosity piqued, I intend to do a little experimenting.  I have a sense memory tangled up in lavender.  I have no idea why it is, but when I smell or see lavender I am filled with such a deep sadness or maybe a better word is longing.  Why does lavender (and no other flowers, purple or otherwise) create this reaction in me?  Is this a past life sense memory?

I aim to find out.  During my past life travels I have determined that if I set my intention to find out a specific answer to a question (Like why do I have stage fright?  Or when did I have a past life with this person? etc. etc.), I typically end up going to the lifetime that best provides the perfect answer.  With that in mind I will do a regression tonight, setting the intention to find out what this association with lavender is all about.   Why such a visceral reaction to an otherwise lovely flower?  Inquiring minds want to know.  If anything of interest comes up I will be sure to write about it in tomorrow’s blog.

Where will Brenda’s travels take her next?  Find out on the next episode of…. Past Life Tourist.

Don’t touch that dial.


An Ode to the Western Women

Beautiful painting by artbylindy.com
Beautiful painting by artbylindy.com

“The world will be saved by the western women.”  The Dalai Lama

People of a certain age might remember a commercial from the 1980’s for some sort of perfume.  This sexy woman comes strutting into view, singing sassily, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never never let you forget your a man, cause I’m a woman.”  If you want to refresh your memory go have a look-see here.

As an impressionable teenager I watched this, and things like this, with excitement and enthusiasm.  Yes!  I can have it all.  I can have a fulfilling career, a marriage, a family, and, happy days are here again, bacon!  And it was with this attitude that I, and so many like me forged ahead to create this utopian world for ourselves.

Fast forward 15 years.  I can bring home the bacon, but really, you expect me to cook it too?  And when that is all done, dishes dried and put away, then I get to bathe the baby, read stories, sing songs, try to fit a full day’s worth of parental loving into a few short hours, tuck her in bed, along with a healthy dose of motherly guilt, then throw in some laundry, set up coffee and lunches for the morning, pay the bills, and with my five free minutes before I collapse into bed I get to never, never let you forget your a man?  Oh lucky me.

The problem with being able to have it all, is that we ended up having it all.  My  cup literally was running over. My balls were in the air and I was juggling as fast as I could, keeping everything going, being the best superwoman I could be.  But baby, it was giving me a supersized case of the shivering fits.

Women of my generation (give or take a few decades) faced that double edged sword.  We juggled and danced and whistled and then we fell down.  The lessons came in so many ways, but the results were universal.  We needed to stop life as human “doings” and get back to life as human “beings”.  We were broken open in so many ways.  Our wake up calls came in the forms of divorce, losing jobs, sickness, loss, death.  There were tough times, impossibly tough, but we have finally been delivered to this moment in history and we are ready for what comes next.

In my spiritually inspired journey over the past couple of years I have travelled many places, attended many seminars and lectures, taken classes and workshops, all in the attempt to understand this existence.  In my travels I have noticed something interesting.  The demographic at all of these events is predominantly women.  We range in age from 20 to 102, but the vast majority of us are in those tender middle years, floating in our 40s, 50s and 60s.  We have softer skin around our jawlines, our curves are not as perky as they once were but we have grace and beauty in our souls that shines brightly.  And we find each other.

It’s like an old movie where the man and woman look across the crowded dance floor.  Their eyes meet and there is this zing of recognition.  But for us it happens with like minded souls.  We come to the workshops, we look around a sea of strangers and our eyes meet.  Wham-o!  I know you!   We introduce ourselves and start to talk as if we entered in the middle of a sentence.  We know each other instantly.  Our stories spill out and we hug and hold hands and laugh and feel like we’ve finally found our long lost sister.

First there was Katie from Australia, who had been healed of liver cancer at a Dr. Brian Weiss seminar.  She is intuitive and shares her truth in such a matter of fact way it inspires me to do the same (no matter how crazy I may seem).  Then there is Diane from Oregon.  She taught me about loving Jesus despite Christianity and let me practice doing a regression on her over Skype.  Joan, my beloved Reiki Master who has taught me so very much in such a short time.  She writes me poetry to support my journey and reaches out in love when I don’t even know I need her to.  And I always need her to.   There is also another Kate.  She and I attended the same past life workshop but didn’t meet until the not so random workings of the interweb brought us to each other and we discovered a kinship and commonality that continues to surprise me.  That same random internet brought others, people who have read my experiences and have felt inspired to reach out to me.  Their reaching out has allowed us to connect and build a network of likeminded people that literally spans the globe (and I’m not even exaggerating here).

And in this interweaving of relationships we have created a tapestry of love and compassion.  We are indeed greater than the sum of our parts.  Together we learn, inspire, teach and grow.  We gain strength through adversity, we laugh and bless each other, we journey and grow to greater understanding because of each other.

And we will save the world.  Of this I have no doubt.

The Empty Chair

The table is set with the finest china and crystal.  My Izzy has outdone herself.  She works diligently to keep our family happy during this holiday season, though in the moments she allows herself to be still she suffers the pain of her broken heart.  She cloaks herself in noise and chaos to keep such moments at bay.

It has been a day of delightful surprises.  Shiny coins hidden away for the children to happen upon.   A lovely red cardinal for Izzy and the girls singing through the kitchen window, bright red against the bleak winter.  And now a fresh blanket of snow to brighten the dark night.

The family sits.   William, my son,  looks diminished somehow, as if the past year has taken some of the air out of him.  His wife, Clara fusses over their daughters, tying bibs and settling them in.   Faith and  Temperance pass bowls of steaming vegetables and soft white buns.  Hudson and Hinton argue with good nature over who shall carve.  Hinton, the eldest, prevails.  The older grandchildren giggle at their tiny table, set beside the fireplace while the younger babes are tended next to their parents.   All have gathered for the feast.  It is a typical scene, one we’ve acted out so many times before, but this time there is a great difference.  This time the room is filled with the presence of the empty chair.  Nobody speaks of it but its presence will not be denied.  They carve, and serve and pour and cut and sip and laugh and talk, comforting sights and sounds.  Their faces glow in the shimmering candle light, tentative joy, tentative sorrow.

I wonder if they know how happy I am to have them all here.

Hinton, my son, finally raises his glass.  His face freezes as he fights emotion.   After a moment he smiles, and toasts the empty chair.  The others join him.   Family.  We come together in good times and in bad.  We share the love and laughter and we hold each other tightly through the tears.

“To our lovely Mother, may her spirit rest.  There is surely a feast in Heaven tonight!”  They smile.   They tap their glasses and wipe their tears.  And soon the memories start and there is laughter.

I sit here in this empty chair, abiding love.  Yes … there truly is a feast in Heaven tonight.


A Ticket to Ride

“Why are all of your past lifetimes so bleak and traumatic?” asks my American Husband.  Yes he has a point.  I suppose that when a person is looking to explore past lives to effect any kind of healing then that person is bound to dig up lifetimes of tragedy and impact.  I had been at the Omega resort for 3 very intense days when I made the conscious decision that I needed a break from all of the drama and trauma.  Reliving lifetimes like this and this had taken a huge emotional toll on me and I was exhausted.  So that Wednesday afternoon when Dr. Weiss took us on a soul journey, I set my intention to deliberately experience a lifetime that was uneventful and just…. happy.

That is when I met Constance Willoughby.  Constance lived in the early 1800’s somewhere in the New England area.  She had a lovely life where there were no wars and no lost children, where everything played out in a most expected way.  She was sheltered and loved, first by her family of origin, and then by her husband and children.  When I decided to write about Constance’s lifetime I focused on her friendship with her maid, Izzy.  It was not a conventional friendship, but it was a deep and abiding one nonetheless.  While this was a normal, ordinary kind of life, it has quiet lessons that have served me well.  Lessons about love, and family, and friendship.

Every lifetime is like a different ride in an amusement park.   Some lifetimes we choose to ride the roller coaster, with all of the dramatic highs and lows, the terrifying drops and those gut wrenching moments when we are turned upside down and don’t know if we will survive.   Other times we choose to sit on the carousel and spin around and around until we either catch that brass ring or we just get dizzy and sick.  And then there are times, like Constance, that we choose to glide gently through the tunnel of love and just truly enjoy the ride.  All of the experiences have their own merits and the great thing is that we have unlimited tickets, so we get to try each and every ride as many times as we like.

And when we get to the end of the ride we arrive back where we started from, hop off  and say “Wow that was FUN!  Let’s go again!”