Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Father’s Day is a wonderful day and a day of celebration for all who have father’s, or are fathers. For our family the day is a mixed bag of blessings complete with gratitude for having had wonderful father’s, both me and the children, and sad because they are no longer present in our lives, at least in a way we can touch or smell. Since the death of my husband and the father of my five children, I have spent a great deal of thought and energy to create for them a special day. One Father’s Day a few years back I spent the day with four of my five children and friends on a beautiful river outside of Nevada City, California. It was a gorgeous place deep in a gorge, trees reaching up toward the heavens and the calming sound of the river as it dipped and curved around the granite rock outcroppings. The river was clean and cool and filled with wonderful swimming holes much to the delight of my children (and me!)

I watched my youngest daughter as she attempted to swim, unaided, for the first time in her life. Rebecca tried over and over again to keep her little body above the water as she kicked her tiny legs and moved her arms as fast as she could. But time and time again she would stop as she became afraid that she might sink, or worse. After explaining to her that as she was swimming in water that came up to her chest and that she could put her feet down and stand up anytime she needed to, therefore she need not be afraid, her confidence level rose as she began to believe that she was safe and she began to experience more and more success until we had to literally pluck her, blue lips and all, from the water!

While watching my daughter in the river I was reminded once again how we limit our potential by our expectations and beliefs. We get out of life what we expect to get, what we believe is possible, what we think we deserve… and often those expectations and beliefs are the very things that are limiting our success, or our ability to really enjoy life.

When Rebecca thought of the possibility of sinking under the water, she allowed her fears and expectations to keep her from even trying to swim. After all, she wasn’t a fish! She had legs that were meant to walk on the firm surface of the earth, not fins that were mean to move around in the water… or so she believed. Until she changed her belief, she was unable to swim.

This reminds me of a story I once read about the bumblebee. Some time ago, aeronautical engineers studied the bumblebee. They measured its wing span, computed its body weight, scrutinized its oversize fuselage, and concluded that there was no rational reason why a bumblebee can take off or land safely.

See, the bumblebee doesn't know this. It doesn't know that its wingspan is too short, or that its fuselage is too heavy to sustain flight. So the bumblebee flies anyway.

I've got hundreds of true stories about people who have done amazing things because they didn't know they weren't supposed to be able to do them. And I know hundreds of stories about people who didn't do wonderful things because they had it in their heads that they couldn't.

You see, belief puts a lid on your potential. Your beliefs are what determine what you can do in this life. It's not your gender or your intelligence or your personal wealth or your parents or your age or your race or your looks or anything else.

So, if you change your beliefs about what is possible for you, you automatically change your performance to match. And when you change your beliefs and your performance, all sorts of wonderful surprises are in store for you. What can a bumblebee teach you about the relationship between your inner potential and your beliefs? Everything! So spread your wings and fly!

Anything is possible!

© Cynthia Stewart

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Through Janie’s Eyes

Over 30 years ago we didn’t have ESPN, or MSBC, or cable TV and 24-hour news, though it wouldn’t have mattered much to me if we had. I didn’t watch TV; perhaps all those hours of cartoons during childhood made television news seem boring. Besides, I didn’t have time to sit still, much less in front of a box and even had I been so inclined, I doubt very much I’d watch whatever news was airing because it made my grandmother cry when she watched it—morning, noon, and night.

I was just hitting my teens, typically self-centered and somewhat detached from the ‘adult world’, I don’t remember what I even knew about war, about politics, about Vietnam… but I do remember when some of the boys started coming home, and I remember when some didn’t.

I remember the look of emptiness in their eyes… blank, vacant, as if they were absent from their bodies in some odd way. I remember the ones who returned in wheelchairs, dismembered bodies crammed awkwardly into uncomfortable and cumbersome contraptions into a world ill prepared for them, or them for it. I remember people staring… I remember I stared too. I remember being afraid, scared of something, yet I didn’t know what. But what I remember most was Jerry.

Jerry served in Vietnam. His sister, his twin Janie, was my friend. She was older than I was, had a job, and provided a safe haven of refuge for a somewhat wayward teenager like me who was fighting wars and battles of my own. It was really through Janie’s eyes that I saw Vietnam for the first time.

Growing up in Texas, the twins, Janie and Jerry, clung together and clawed their way through, and out, of the middle of a family of twelve and into the world side by side. Identical twins couldn’t have been closer than those two. They went to school together, played together, and fought a little too, yet held on to each other through the ups and downs of report cards and rejections, dates and disappointments, elation, divorce, illness, and even death. They were best friends.

As I remember it, from the first day I met Janie she talked about Jerry. Jerry this and Jerry that… you’d have thought she was talking about a new boyfriend or God, or anything besides just a plain ‘ole dumb brother, that is unless you looked into her eyes. Those cavernous blue eyes, echoing the words her mouth couldn’t utter, and the feelings she was unable to release—those dark daunting feelings—the kind that eat their way through you from the inside out. The kind that show up suddenly when a song comes on the radio that reminds you. The kind that rise up in the middle of a sleepless night when you feel too weak, too tired to hold them a moment longer and so you let out the fear, the rage, the unspeakable pain. Those are the stories Janie’s eyes told me when she talked about Jerry, and about Vietnam.

Afterwards she told me many other stories about Jerry. She showed me pictures of their childhood; two towheads turned brunette, plopped in the middle of a mud puddle back yard, white teeth peeping through mud covered heads—pictures of small faces behind gigantic pink ice-cream cones, pink dripping off their chins and down their t-shirts—pictures of the past. Memories anchored to feelings held on paper, and Janie’s attempt to preserve the past, clinging to it, almost as if to postpone the uncertainty of the future. Pictures of perfectly groomed children preparing for first communion. Pictures of birthdays, of holidays, of high-school graduation… two blonde heads with big smiles in the center of a mass of blue robes; pictures of college; and finally of Jerry’s farewell.

As that year passed Janie let out more and more of those dark feelings that wrenched her gut through the day and held her hostage in the dark hours of night. I remember the night she brought in the carved wooden box that sat on her dresser and held her precious mementos. It was a dark mahogany color, carved on the top and sides with roses. I watched her holding it with reverence, as if the contents were more precious than rubies. Her petite white hands carefully unwrapped envelopes postmarked from Vietnam, from places I’d never heard of before, from a world I didn’t know. Letters filled with words I didn’t understand… “Fires in the hole” or “Gooks in the wire”. She read those letters to me from Jerry, her twin, her brother, her best friend; words on paper that evoked a horror and repulsion in me I didn’t even know existed until then. And then she cried. I’d never seen anyone cry so hard, and for so long and in the years that followed I remembered I’d only seen her cry twice. That night was one of them, and when Jerry returned home three years later was the other.

The pain that followed I can’t speak of, it isn’t my story to tell, but anyone looking could read the tale in Janie’s eyes. Those blue eyes spoke volumes. They spoke of fear, anger, and of heart-crushing pain. They spoke to me when Janie wouldn’t… couldn’t… but they never again shed a tear. Something changed inside of Janie the day we met the plane and watched as Jerry came home. Many soldiers came home that day. We stood in absolute silence as the boys came off the plane. I couldn’t tell which one was Jerry. They all looked the same; caskets draped in red, white, and blue.

I remember afterwards leading Janie by the arm through the airport towards the car, gently pushing our way through other families who had come for their own reunion with their brothers, husbands, children, or fathers; families who were forever changed, altered in an indescribable way through their loss. I remember the melancholy that hung so heavy around me and in me, I could barely lift my feet to move through the throngs of people, women with faces still buried in their hands, red-faced men, and children clinging to the legs of their mother’s or siblings. Then I remember the shock that followed, and soon the repulsion, and finally the fear and anger that came as we exited the airport that day.

War protesters they called themselves. I didn’t understand then. I do understand now. I remember thinking, “Why were they screaming? Why were they here?” Waving homemade peace signs while at the same time inflicting acts of violence on these heart-broken families… screaming obscenities, waving fists in the air, spitting on the clothes, shoes, and even some faces of these grief-stricken people who, with heads bowed, made their way quietly through their sorrow to their cars. I don’t remember what happened next, but I do remember the look in Janie’s eyes…

That’s what I really know of Vietnam… the Vietnam I saw through Janie’s eyes.

In memory of Jerry C ~ August 1974
© CiCi Stewart ~ Written Winter 2000

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Mist hung low in the cedars this morning like a cloak wrapped about the massive trunks of the ancient ones. Oh, what they might tell me if they could talk; or if I could understand the language I’m sure they have. I lay in bed watching the mist as it moved about the landscape beyond my bedroom, distorting the vision I typically see each morning just before sunrise. Where was the dogwood? I was certain it was there, but in this misty morning vision it eluded me.

It occurred to me at that moment that much of my life right now was like this misty morning landscape… unclear. Try as I might to make out shapes or see the future it was all an illusion that I was to make up in my own mind. What was clear to me was simply this; my house has no roof, my walls no mud, my floors no covering, my windows no glass...

I’ve been struggling so much for the past four weeks, trying to make sense of the insensible and to believe the unbelievable, and I’m sure my recent physical illness is a manifestation of all those stuffed emotions and thoughts I’ve held on to of late. If our words do indeed create our ‘now’ then it is clear to me that mine have been less than beautiful. However I have simply been describing what I ‘see’ before me; yet this morning in my hazy attempt to find clarity among the fog it occurred to me that I couldn’t see the entire picture of life-as-I’d-known-it these past few weeks anymore than I could see the dogwood that I was fairly certain still stood among the cedars across the lawn.

What I am certain about is this; regardless of what a person says with their words, or what their intentions are, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Or as a wise woman once told me, “I can’t hear your words for your actions speak so loud.”

What one DOES and how one shows up is what is real. Everything else is made up or imagined. The proof really is in the doing, not the speaking. Perhaps that is what coined the phrase, “talk is cheap”.

In the middle of another sleepless night I had a vision of my own. First the thought… what would I really love to see happen in the building or rebuilding of my home? What I first saw was the crew of Extreme Home Makeover pulling their giant RV in front of my house. A nice vision if I do say so myself. But what came next was even more beautiful and with that vision I felt my heart soften and could see how my life would be forever changed by the realization of that second vision, which was this:

My friend, Gary, orchestrating his magic and not only creating possibilities, but literally organizing and overseeing a group of people who were all smiling, talking, and working on my house. Behind him was Shaye who would bring car load after car load of people to see my house and what was happening there. All of these people where hiring us to redesign their dream home. She would bring them to me and I would walk them through the house, introducing them to the various folks who were all contributing time and energy, creating their own passion within the walls of my home.

There were many people working here from the community… a tile expert donating his time to create a masterpiece of tile work in the entry of my home. Another, a carpenter, laying wood flooring with artistic inlay designs. And then there was a glass woman, doing some sort of stain glass design in one of the windows. And there were many others as well. People with their hands in the dirt, planting flowers and shrubbery… laying huge flat pieces of stone to create a gradual upslope to the front door. There was another man and his wife who were putting in the ornate wrought iron railings that ran up the front walk and into the house up the stairs. This was something I’d helped him weld and design. In the back there was a Japanese man installing a waterfall, river, and swimming pool that all flowed together to create a water spot that looked as if it had always been present on that hillside.

People were scattered everywhere working, happily because each one of them was contributing the finest of their own creations to help me build my heart’s desire. Each of them had pride in their work and because they had so generously shared their talents with me, their work was being viewed, (and sold by me and by Shaye) to thousands of new clients they would likely never have met. It was a true community effort in the highest of humanity living. A gift of service and of love. I fell asleep, finally, with that vision in my head and in my heart. What a beautiful dream.

Later this morning I met a friend at the farmer’s market in Grass Valley and I met a man who does beautiful wrought iron work and I told him, “I had a vision…”


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Learning To Live My Life

Learning to Live my Life

As I re-read the words of a friend’s message, contemplating the relation to me and my own experience of learning to live my life, again the questions hovers just beyond the reaches of awareness, just outside the grasp of understanding. Almost as if to repeat the mantra of tragic occurrence, 'why' looms in front of the next impending thought, above the ceiling of reason that seems so very low at times such as these, behind the reservoir of familiar and comfortable thinking from which the mind draws its normal sense of solace. Not knowing anything about the mystery of God's will or the sometimes misery that accompanies the playing out of the human drama, I can only share my profound sense of hope.

In sifting through the fragments of my own memory, the recollections of strange turns-of-event and the unexpected twists in the roadway, I regret that I have little wisdom to offer myself, and to others for that matter, that would suffice to mitigate the pain and difficulty that is so much a part of human life, its endings and its many false hopes. And although choice affects a considerable part of one's perceptions of these things, life is still difficult at those points of departure or radical change that are so inescapable. The only illumination that I have found on the horizon seems to come in the form of acknowledging that the entire sequence of living is a path; one that must be endured and shouldered, but one with its own offerings as well.

I have conceded that there is no time limit placed on getting “it”, no schedule on the arrival to any zone of eureka, however temporal it may be. I think that the process lasts the entire duration of our stay here and thus, perhaps, there is no time frame for understanding, in spite of the tricks played on us by our perceptions. Maybe it is that we are asked to endure a full lifetime of learning, repeatedly engaging the lessons, the mysteries, the rhythms and the patterns of the human drama, until the time comes when we are called elsewhere. Realizing that life is a gift in spite of the occasional misery, I simply pray for sustenance, for endurance, enlightenment, and for the opportunity to grow within, with patience and some measure of understanding.

I don't know if I will ever get there, if there indeed is a 'there' in human life, but I continue to welcome faith, for myself and for all others for whom the word has meaning.

Life of the present has taken me on a journey of ups and downs so far and so high I’ve yet to catch my breath before another wave hits. Truly, if anything, I’ve learned I am certainly not in charge and the best I can do from day to day is to seek for His continued direction and the strength to carry out His will for me. I am sure that there is a very meaningful and profound correspondence to it all -- perhaps something that is known in depth, at the present time anyway, only to God above.

I have been searching for words to effectively describe the changes that I have experienced these past few months, the shifts in awareness, emphasis, perception and detailed focus that is coming from somewhere beyond or somewhere deep inside. It feels as though there is a woeful deficit in not only my understanding of this energy, but in my ability to describe it in the spoken or written word. I admit that this missive will probably be only the first of many attempts to unfold the understanding and, in turn, describe it in words that make any sense at all -- simply because I am learning as I write, as I think, and as I take each daily turn that emerges moment by moment.

There are subtle changes that I am aware of, changes inside my soul, I suppose, and changes that confirm the understanding that I rely upon almost superficially at times to explain the fact that life is constant change around me, around all of us. Striving to learn from my past, and equally from my present, I can offer to you only these simple words that reveal the very strong responsibility and accountability that I feel to my own life, to the path the is unfolding, however nebulously. I am not sure how to approach its description, the painting of the picture, for in these recent days I have been at a pronounced deficit of self-assurance -- a phenomenon that always seems to accompany an impending understanding, an impending new phase of life. These things come from somewhere way down in a realm of intuition, a realm that is sometimes without words, without description.

I feel an incredibly strong responsibility to discovering the right way to live my life, (if in fact there is a “right” way,) devoting all the energy that
I possibly can to being accountable, responsible, sensitive to the connection that I feel is ever developing, constantly unfolding, between the life of spirit, i.e. God's pure intention, and the my own assimilation of it in my life, and how my actions ultimately reflect the understanding. It is difficult because sometimes I honestly don't know where to put my feet; sometimes the understanding that I had yesterday has already exhausted its relevance and its usefulness, whatever it may have been. I can admit that things have been difficult, financially, emotionally, intellectually and on the level of basic human confidence. Some of these things I have share with friends and others have remained unspoken, but they all are related to some larger picture, some direction of new responsibility and, forgive the term, mission.

I have a profound and firm belief in this sense of mission in my life, however ill defined it may be at the moment. All the events that have transpired in recent times only further confirm my own desires to understand and delineate my place and my responsibility with respect to larger picture. Trouble is, I cannot succinctly define for myself what the larger picture is. My intuition tells me that life on this planet, our gifts and our abilities and our talents, are profoundly essential to those whom we know personally and others more distant -- a thought that I have had for some time, but only we as individuals know the details and the relevance of how they are applied, or how they will continue to affect those that surround us.

I apologize for the fact that my efforts to discover, to understand and to find my place may come across as strange, or distant or somewhat diffracted, but I can only offer that at the moment I am trying, desperately at times, to figure out what all of this means. There is more to be said, much more to be described, defined and shared, and when I have the words I will surely give them, though I hold no expectations of time or space as they relate to my ’getting it’ and I may fall grossly short with the reality of what is and what may be to come. I try to simply accept things as they are, and acknowledge the fact that the cloud I have walked beneath for protracted periods at a time, still lingers above the path.I will write more words, if and when they come. Until that end.

© CiCi Stewart

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Season of Growth

In New Mexico, you don't need a calendar to know it's the first week of October. The trees tell the story quite well as their leaves change from shades of green to the bright vibrant shades of orange, red and yellow. At the peak of the fall foliage season, it's truly a magnificent sight that draws people from all around to behold the beauty. The season progresses and the leaves fall to the ground one by one where they become nourishment for the grass, flowers and gardens in the spring.

As I spent Sunday collecting some of the fallen leaves with my youngest daughter, I wondered what would happen if a tree stubbornly held onto to its leaves - refusing to let them fall to
ground and nourish the new season that awaits only a few months from now. How would that tree be affected? How would the rest of life be affected? The tree would become burdened by the accumulation of dead leaves it collected each year. Its branches would begin to sag
under the weight of those useless dead leaves. Future growth of the tree would be impossible as it ran out of room for new leaves to bloom in the spring. It would soon lose its beauty as the lifeless brown leaves cluttered its many branches. Eventually the tree
wouldn't look like a tree at all but only a pitiful brown clump waiting to die and fall to the ground from which it once sprang with such vitality and zest for life.

And what about the grass, flowers and gardens that use the fallen leaves as nourishment and further growth in the spring? Certainly there are other sources of sustenance but none as natural and readily available as is provided by the fallen leaves. Instead, they would have to rely heavily on human intervention for their growth and survival - the tree no longer offering its own natural gift of nourishment. The entire circle of life would be burdened by the
refusal of the tree give up that which no longer serves it.

Sometimes we are like that tree. We refuse to give up beliefs and memories that no longer serve us. We hang onto them, preventing our further growth and the growth of others. We
become burdened by the accumulation of useless dead thoughts that should have fallen away long ago to be used as intellectual and spiritual nourishment. If we're not careful, we can become - like the tree - a miserable creature who's lost our vitality and zest for life, eventually living in quiet desperation, refusing to be a natural source of nourishment for the rest of the circle of life.

Spend a few minutes each day this week to think about what beliefs you're holding onto that may be burdening you - thoughts that should have fallen away long ago to nourish yourself and others. Some of them may be very old, dating back to childhood. For me, one of those useless beliefs came from the memory of a day when at 7-years-old I began to believe that people I loved would abandon me. Once I finally let go of that belief, it became a source of further growth for myselfand others.

Try this exercise. Watch a movie of your life. The movie starts with your earliest memory and progresses chronologically through your life up until now. What memories stand out as
painful and what beliefs did you create from those memories? Maybe you remember your own bully or perhaps a time when a parent or guardian was particularly angry toward you.
Maybe you tried to accomplish something and failed in your attempt. Perhaps you still carry the guilt of a wrong you committed against another. Whatever you come up with, write your thoughts in a journal. Write everything that happened in the experience and the useless belief you developed from it. Then ask yourself how you can use the experience to nourish
yourself and others. What can you learn that empowers you and others to experience further growth and learning?

Shed those old limiting beliefs just like the trees shed their leaves in the fall and make ready for the new season of growth that awaits. Send me an email and tell me what belief you're
going to let fall away this week. I'd love to hear from you. Have a great day, week, year…. great life!!!!

It's your life. Create it the way you desire!

And remember….Dream Big!