Life Outside of the Box

Erma: Start thinking big. Think outside of the box.

Sylvia: I’m tired of moves and change and being ordinary. I don’t need genius, but above-average would be just fine. Perfect, even, for now.

Erma: Some of it is necessary, the moves and the changes. The last part though, well, that you can fix. You are so far from ordinary– and certainly above-average.

Sylvia: God, I hope so!

Erma: You are extraordinary, Syl. You just need to remember that extraordinary lives outside of the box!


The ordinary think inside of the box, the extraordinary think outside of the box, but genius thinks inside, outside, below and above the box.
~Matshona Dhliwayo


Earth Angels

Sylvia: You save me time and again, Erma.

Erma: We lift each other up, Syl. That’s what we do. We save each other!

Your angel, my angel, and our angels are out there. They are the lady at Dunkin Donuts who knows you get two jellies each day and who periodically throws in an old-fashioned because she sees you’re having a rough morning; the neighbor upon whom you can rely in an instant to pack up her kids, your son and father to follow you in her car as you transport your ailing mother in an ambulance to the hospital an hour away; the friend who takes care of your crazy dog because she knows you are crazy for your dog, and she genuinely wants you to have those three days of respite you have needed forever; the woman who phones you or texts you each morning to remind you of how wonderful you are because you have forgotten- she does it under the guise of a conversation over coffee, but you both know.

Angels are everywhere.

They, our earth angels, may not have wings, but they all have something in common. They recognize need, and without being prompted, they willingly, lovingly, and compassionately perform an act that brings comfort and peace to you even if only for a moment. For a split second, a minute, an hour, a day or a week, they breathe life into us.

Pay attention

Your angel is there…I promise. And if he/she is not, it’s because you are likely someone else’s angel at the moment. Lift your wings and fly.

All & Everything

Last night she closed her eyes to the sound of teeming rain and claps of thunder. She awoke to a deafening silence amidst a gray background. So that was it. Another day ended and another in the works.

“See, Sylvia, it all keeps moving along,” Erma reassures her friend.

“Indeed. I never said the loss was all or nothing. It’s been all and everything,” professes Sylvia.


When you experience loss, people say you’ll move through the 5 stages of grief….
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance
…..What they don’t tell you is that you’ll cycle through them all every day.
~Ranata Suzuki

Clean Windows

A room can be dank because you have closed the windows, you’ve closed the curtains. But the sun is shining outside, and the air is fresh outside. In order to get that fresh air, you have to get up and open the window and draw the curtains apart. Forgiveness is like this. (Desmond Tutu)

A Window to Forgiveness

As Sylvia looked out her bedroom window this morning, she noticed the sunlight hitting it in such a way that she was struck concurrently by two thoughts: the first was pretty matter-of-fact, that she must stay home on occasion and get some cleaning done; and the second thing, well, that was a bit clearer, that even when we allow something into our hearts, minds, and souls, there is no purity in it unless we invite it without any preconceived notions or expectations. (Sylvia’s second cup of coffee had begun to work.)

It’s the most difficult thing to do, I believe, to forgive. Forgiving means you’ve been wronged or hurt. More precisely, it means you feel wronged or hurt. When Sylvia opens the windows, she becomes vulnerable, and it is that vulnerability where she risks being hurt. It is also that vulnerability that allows pure joy, love and peace to enter.

Hmm. So, you decide. Doors and windows open or closed? Forgive yourself first, and then open. Fresh air never felt so good. That’s what Sylvia has been doing on this summer day. The windows look much cleaner now.

Wait and Hope

The only one you are competing with is yourself. You’ll win the race. Slow and steady every time.

Sylvia: Love. Loss. Grief. I know time yields all and heals all, but how much time? When will I find my way again?

Erma: There’s no rush, Sylvia. Everything happens in its own time. Wait. Be patient.

Sylvia: Okay, but what do I do in the meantime?

Erma: Hope.


“All human wisdom is summed up in two words – wait and hope.” ~Alexandre Dumas


Lifelines and Memories

Sylvia and Erma are swapping stories over coffee this morning and sharing some of their favorite memories. The longtime friends and stalwart supporters of each other’s dreams agree that they are not living in the past or pining for the future at all. They use the memories and aspirations they have to garner strength and save themselves and each other on the tough days.

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“You may grow to love this person but remember they are not yours to keep. Their purpose isn’t to save you but to show you how to save yourself. And once this is fulfilled; the halo lifts and the angel leaves their body as the person exits your life.”
~Lang Leav

Two decades ago…they blinked.

Ashes to Ashes

Sylvia carries a great deal around with her. On her mind. In her heart. And yes, especially in her purse. “The contents of a woman’s purse, or pocketbook as many of us refer to the bottomless bag of life, are sacred,” Erma declares to her friend. And Sylvia, her mind wandering to the bottom of her bag, quietly pronounces in agreement, “Mine are for sure.”

Since my mother died, I bring her with me in one of my favorite totes–yes, bits and pieces of her with me everywhere I go. Literally. Though much of her bodily remains are tucked away peacefully in a carved rosewood box she now shares with my father, awaiting their intermingling, I do keep some of “her” in one of her old medicine bottles- the ultimately inconsequential labeling has long been removed. After all, it’s been over a decade since she died and since her wish to be cremated was fulfilled. I change pocketbooks frequently too, so the little brown vessel that held one of the life-saving or rather life-prolonging concoctions she required has traveled and withstood the test of time. Those bottles don’t crack easily, but admittedly, that is not the point here.

Last week as I moved Mom from the black-and-camel Michael Kors bucket bag to the bright pink, Kate Spade satchel to the less cumbersome, multi-colored, crossbody Coach, I came to a realization. Well, two, actually. First, I’m a bag lady. Second, and more of an epiphany of sorts: I’m not bringing Mom anywhere. She’s gone from this earth. And yes, even to this day, I get a lump in my throat and a knot in my belly when I say those words out loud. Here is what I’ve been bringing with me on my travels, whether to the grocery store or local “Stomping Ground” or to Brooklyn to visit our favorite young man (there is no doubt in my mind that she would have proudly bestowed upon him that moniker). That little bottle of ashes represents my mother’s greatest gift to me. It’s the constant reminder that (1) life is fleeting; and (2) when we leave this world, everything tangible has little to no real value. Those things with the greatest meaning aren’t things at all. They are people and memories of shared experiences. The sum and total of one’s physical presence on this earth is reduced to ash, dust in the wind. The heart and soul of the person, his or her spiritual presence, lives on in those he or she loved, cared for, or touched in some way while on this earth. The ashes that I carry I’ve come to view as Mom’s ultimate lesson to me. We don’t get second chances. Make this life count.

And as I start this new day, I’m thankful for so much, the very least of which is the tiny, amber-colored, prescription bottle that travels with me. Where will I go today and who will accompany me? I don’t know every detail, but one thing I do know is that I’ll do my best to make moments count, to tell people who matter that I love and respect them, and to keep creating my life. It’s not over until it’s ash. I’ll keep adding to my bonfire.

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Sylvia is reminded of one of her favorite passages– and so, she’ll keep going:

Intriguing isn’t it? One day you are the king of your world. And the next day, you stand aside, watching it all burn. Ashes slipping out of your hand, you just stand and stare, your glassy gaze fixed on something no one else could see, no one else could know…

People will talk as people do talk. And they will walk over the ashes. And the ashes will dance in front of you, reminding you every second of what was and what might have been. And you will almost give in.

But my advice is, don’t give in. Because one day, you will decide to turn the corner. Put it all behind you. Just stand strong and still as the great wind comes and takes all the ashes away with with it, leaving fresh air behind. Fresh for you to make a new world, a better world.

~Aleena Yasin

Counting on Herself

It wasn’t that her passions and appetites were finally coming to life. It wasn’t that she had learned that seizing an opportunity could be life-affirming. While those gifts were validating and restorative to her body and soul, Sylvia’s greatest gift was so much easier to access than any of those realizations. She just had to allow it. She had to allow herself to accept happiness in order to give herself the very thing that she thought she had lost. Herself. She was learning to count on the one who would never leave.

Wednesday wisdom: When you find yourself and believe in yourself, you will find the one person you can always count on.

A Solitary Bloom

It has been a day. A day of cleansing. A day of purging. Of reminiscing. Of beginning again. And although so much more can be accomplished when she has Erma’s help, Sylvia appreciates working by herself today. In her solitude, she takes her time and allows herself to bloom in her own way and in her own time. She just might be enough today– for herself anyway.


Just because no one sees you standing on your own and basking in your own glory doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. You know, and that’s what matters.


A Visit to Remember

“Where have you been hiding today after your long, productive night of writing?” Erma inquired.

With both a tear and a smile, Sylvia thoughtfully replied, “I was pleasantly spending time in the room of Remember.”


“The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.
~Frederick Buechner