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The Bliss Blog

Its cerulean blue, white puffy clouds behind a leaping and shouting high energy dude on the cover is the perfect welcome to the world of “Billy Fingers”, a nickname for William Cohen who died in a car accident a few years earlier.  What happened prior to his passing and what transpired afterward is an adventure of many lifetimes. The scribe for the story is his sister Annie Kagan who is a chiropractor and singer songwriter with a spiritual curiousity that had her studying various traditions and pondering the nature of the Universe. A few weeks after her heroin addicted, homeless 62 year old brother with a penchant for living life in the sometimes gritty fast lane was killed, he began communicating with her from the Other Side. At first she questioned her sanity and wanted to keep the ‘ transfusions from heaven’ as I like to call them, a secret, but little by little, she came to recognize that they were genuinely from her brother. A comfort for her to know that he was well and sharing information that no way he could have conjured up. He had poignant and on- target messages to offer to friends of hers that he had never met, as well as his brother in-law; some designed to save health and lives. For more than a year, these transmissions from Billy took place and Annie documented them; at times pulling back out of fear or desire to keep this time with her beloved brother a treasured secret, so that no one would make fun of either of them. He assured her that the story had to be told and that she need not worry about what anyone thought. Synchronicities  and cosmic coincendences were happening sometimes at the speed of thought.

Time line travel is part of the book as well, as Billy shares ‘remember when’ stories from his earlier years. Family dynamics come into play, since healing and reconciliation around conflicts are evident.  Irreverent humor spices up the dialogue. Deep insights and loving reminders of where we came from and where we are going drench the pages.  Readers can open to any one of them and glean a treasure.

 

Photo: The Afterlife of Billy Fingers

In the end, it becomes clear that despite the pains and challenges of this human existence, redemption involves shifting of perception and love is all that matters.

http://youtu.be/fReUbvX5blo Book Trailer for The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My Bad -Boy Brother Proved To Me There’s Life After Death

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Today,  March 8th is International Women’s Day. One block on the calendar out of 365 that was created to bring awareness to the acheivements of women as well as the perils that befall girls and women worldwide. The holiday came to be in the 1900’s with the advent of the sufragette movement which granted the right for women to vote. Hard to imagine that there was a time when that was even a discussion when there are a growing number of female leaders whose voices are raised in support of the rights of both women and men.

 

According to the U.N. :

  • Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.
  • Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
  • Up to 70% of women in the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.
  • Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18.

Further, they state:  This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”

Perfectly timed was the signing into law, by President Obama, the expanded Violence Against Women Act that was originally penned by Vice President Biden. It provides for additional protections and legal action in the cases of domestic violence.

Some of the provisions include:

* holding rapists accountable for their crimes by strengthening federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and creating a federal “rape shield law,” which is intended to prevent offenders from using victims’ past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial;

*mandating that victims, no matter their income levels, are not forced to bear the expense of their own rape exams or for service of a protection order;

* keeping victims safe by requiring that a victim’s protection order will be recognized and enforced in all state, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions within the United States;

*increasing rates of prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of offenders by helping communities develop dedicated law enforcement and prosecution units and domestic violence dockets;

* ensuring that police respond to crisis calls and judges understand the realities of domestic and sexual violence by training law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates and judges; VAWA funds train over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and other personnel every year;

*providing additional tools for protecting women in Indian country by creating a new federal habitual offender crime and authorizing warrantless arrest authority for federal law enforcement officers who determine there is probable cause when responding to domestic violence cases.

VAWA has

ensured that victims and their families have access to the services they need to achieve safety and rebuild their lives by:

• responding to urgent calls for help by establishing the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which has answered over 3 million calls and receives over 22,000 calls every month; 92% of callers report that it’s their first call for help;

• improving safety and reducing recidivism by developing coordinated community responses that bring together diverse stakeholders to work together to prevent and respond to violence against women,

• focusing attention on the needs of underserved communities, including creating legal relief for battered immigrants so that abusers cannot use the victim’s immigration status to prevent victims from calling the police or seeking safety, and supporting tribal governments in building their capacity to protect American Indian and Alaska Native women.

VAWA has created positive change. Since VAWA was passed:

Fewer people are experiencing domestic violence.

 

Between 1993 to 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence declined 67%;

 

Between 1993 to 2007, the rate of intimate partner homicides of females decreased 35% and the rate of intimate partner homicides of males decreased 46%.

•More victims are reporting domestic and sexual violence to police, and reports to police are resulting in more arrests.

•States have reformed their laws to take violence against women more seriously:

All states have reformed laws that previously treated date or spousal rape as a lesser crime than stranger rape.

All states have passed laws making stalking a crime.

Reasons to celebrate and simultaneously shudder to consider that everyday countless are held hostage by anger, aggression and fear. I know many who are survivors of violence at the hands of strangers, as well as those who they expected would love and protect them, or at least not hurt them. I have stood witness (as a therapist) with clients whose mental and physical health have been challenged mightily by such incidents and have seen some triumph and others crumble under the weight of it all.

I honor the women in my life who have been role models of strength and resilience, whose go get ’em attitude inspire(d) me to do the same. My mother, grandmothers, aunts, mentors and friends have been part of the circle of women who so light up my life.

Photo

www.internationalwomensday.com

 

http://youtu.be/h4tNFPXjNB0  Women Honoring Song by Deva Troy

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Tonight in my job as a therapist in a drug and alcohol oupatient treatment center, I facilitated my weekly Women’s Group. The topic of negative self talk came up and the ways in which it sabotagued their successes and undermined their wellbeing. Some had habitual gloom and doom thoughts, envisioning the worst possible outcome. That ‘stinkin’ thinkin’ as it is referred to in 12 step reccovery circles could be as addictive and insidious as the substances they had used that brought them to treatment. It occurred to me at that moment, that each of us has an inner bully and an inner ally. After writing those words on the white board, I asked the women to call out the attiributes of each. The words controlling, robbing self esteem, loss of respect, damaging, abusive came to mind. On the flip side, the words supportive, freeing,  safety, got your back  and by your side were some of what showed up on the ally tally.

In the same way that an external bully can devastate us and perhaps, in some cases, already have, so too can our overbearing (who put you in charge?) persona that can have us cowering in tears in a corner somewhere with just a raise of an eyebrow or a sarcastic comment. The sad part is that we believe the garbage that the bully spews at us, rather than challenging it and saying, hands on hips, “You’re not the boss of me,” in your best, determined to stand- your -ground voice. Remember that bullies are really pretty insecure and immature, who want to have the illusion of control when inside, they may be quivering in fear.

So how can we turn it around for ourselves and recognize the bully for what it is; the scared little kid part of ourselves that just wants to be heard and loved and is demanding attention, and is willing to receive  it in negative ways? Chances are, it will go sulking back into its lair. What do your inner bully and ally look like?  What do they say to you to both support and sabotague you? Whose voices come out of them?  Do the messages sound familiar?

My inner bully sometimes  looks and sounds  like a snide, snarky know it all, garbed in a trim little black suit (not the fashion choice for this gracefully aging hippie who prefers flowing and sometimes colorful accoutrement) looking over her glasses at me, wagging her finger and demanding that I explain myself. She expects me to earn my keep, justify my existence, while encouraging me to play small, since after all, there are many more talented writers and teachers out there…hmmmmppphhh. My ally IS that gracefully aging Earth Mother hippie with the long hair of my early adulthood who in 1981, had just returned from Outward Bound with a broken pinkie, frostbite on both hands, bronchitis and a sprained ankle who never moved to Vermont as whe had once contemplated….after 10 days in the wilds of Maine and New Hampshire, she found it was too damn cold! This enthusiastic, take life by storm ,compact, fiercely independent young woman is now an integrated part of the 54 year old, more curvaceous, laugh lined, seasoned woman. Over the past 30 some years, she has invited kindred spirits to join the party, who believe in her, cheer her on, remind her who she truly is. With them at her side, that bully doesn’t stand a chance!

www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DZuzi-yH9VLo Friends- Elton John

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If you are ever in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a must-see location is Tim’s Place where the motto is Breakfast, Lunch and Hugs. I recently  heard of Tim Harris and his one of a kind restaurant that immediately appealed to this veteran hugger . He is, according to his family, the only person with Down Syndrome to own a restaurant in this country. I watched, with goosebumps and tears, a you tube video that shows this wonderful young man greet customers with a smile and hugs, waiting on tables  and giving big time kudos to his kitchen staff, unabashedly telling them that he loves them. Now, how many cooks hear that from their bosses?  If that was the case, Gordon Ramsey (host of Kitchen Nightmares) would have one less aggravation to deal with when doing his restaurant interventions.  How many business owners gladly arise at the crack of dawn and do a parking lot ‘dance of magic’ each day before opening the doors? I think Tim may be unique in that regard as well.

What Tim shares in the video are these words of wisdom “The hugs are way more important than the food. Food is just food.” and waxes enthusiastically:  “I am a lean, mean hugging machine. ” I have the sense though that love is a not-so-secret ingredient in the food as well, nourishing those who partake in body, mind and spirit.  Tim’s family members are his most enthusiastic cheerleaders who clearly instilled in this remarkable young man, the belief that a chromosomal anomaly didn’t  make for anything less than a remarkable life. Tim became a Special Olympian who states in the video that he has more medals than Michael Phelps. I don’t think he was joking. He is also an accomplished sailor. Would that every parent of a child who is different from what society might deem ‘normal’ see in them the potential that Tim’s mom and dad saw in their son who seems to embrace life with all he’s got. What a difference that person could make in the lives of so many others. Consider this…a customer walks into Tim’s Place, gets greeted at the door with a hug from Tim and then carries that contagious energy out into the world. How amazing would that be?

What inspires me the most about Tim is that he sees past what others might consider limitations. Tim affirms “We are a gift to the world.”   Oh yeah!

http://youtu.be/y6He0FWoFj0

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