Colleen Hannegan

Finding the words....and the perfect pair of glasses.

Paris in August....1971.

AdventureColleen HanneganComment

Birthdays mark a passage of time. They are a day when loved ones and friends celebrate your existence. You're plopped out on this spinning blue marble at birth and the Universe smiles and says "Here you are, and there you go!" And from then on until the end of us we have our own special date that we get free dessert at our favorite restaurant and best wishes and presents from wonderful people.

Of all those birthdays I've racked up since making my grand entrance in St. Louis, MO on August 16th in 1955, my best one to date happened in Paris, France in 1971. Sixteen spins around the sun and I was being feted to a 5 course meal at the home of the Dantec family in a small town outside Paris called Velizy.

16 in the gardens of Versailles.

16 in the gardens of Versailles.

I drank champagne for the first time, ate fresh baguettes I have craved now 46 years and brie fromage that melted on my tongue like a blessing that had only known retched Kraft cheese slices until that moment. If cell phones had been invented I'd have selfied every unbelievable morsel that passed my lips that day and forever changed my innocent girl's experience of what it meant to really celebrate a birthday.  The joie de vivre!

From left,  Mamie, Josette, Nadine, Jean

From left,  Mamie, Josette, Nadine, Jean

I was a foreign exchange student for the summer. Josette, the mother, served one delicious french cuisine after another until I was ready to burst. And the laughter we all shared. Jean, the father, Nadine the daughter and fellow teenager, and grandmother Mamie. I can no longer remember the other dishes served. But I remember how celebrated I felt. "Bon anniversaire" they sang. I couldn't understand all the words; my French was so rough and quite foreign from what it sounded like in French class back at school. 

I don't hold on to many personal items in my life. Many things have come and gone through the years, including lovers, two husbands, homes, all those clothes I owned, shoes, STUFF, more STUFF, but I have held on to what's most important in a life. They are as follows....

My big, wonderful family of 5 sisters and 6 brothers and their families, my beautiful and amazing daughter Leah, my perfect 3rd husband Al, (yes I used the word perfect), warm and loving memories of Mom and Dad who chaperoned me into this amazing life on Earth, good and kind friends and ........................ all the photos I took  and letters to and from I've kept from my summer in Paris, 1971. For 35 years they were tucked inside a white large envelope that somehow stayed with me through many, many places. 

One day in 2006 when I'd freed myself from a stifling life, I set them free as well and created a photo album. It's been 46 years and this is the first time I've written about my days in Paris. I guess it's a present to my 62 year old self. 

Like I said, birthdays have a way of presenting, and telling time.

I look into my 16 year old smiling face and it all comes flowing back to me. I remember it all, well almost all of those splendid and exciting weeks of summer and hold it dear to my heart. 

Someday, and it better be sooner than later, I'd love to re-visit Paris, stand once more at Place de la Concord, take an updated photo standing under the Arc de Triomphe and zoom up La Tour Eiffel to gaze once again onto the streets of Paris from above. Step inside Notre-Dame and see if it looks familiar at all. I absolutely want to walk across the Pont Neuf again. I recall the "New Bridge" is actually the oldest bridge crossing the Seine. 

We drove south through France to the gorgeous deep blue Cote D'Azur and visited Nice, Cannes, Monaco and vacationed with family friends. I remember the giant mosquitos that tormented Nadine and I one evening so loudly we laughed ourselves silly. "Les moustiques! Les moustiques!" we screamed.

I walked the lavender fields of  Provence and breathed in the heart of France and her people. The Dantecs showed me as much of France and it's beauty in 6 weeks as they could. Their kindness, Josette's gentle nature, Mamie buzzing about with her kitchen duties, Jean a bit irritated with my sad excuse at speaking his beloved  language. And Nadine and I riding the subway and shopping together. Both of us running away from admirers and discovering between us our sameness at being 16 in Paris.

I'd like to take another, closer look into Mona Lisa's eyes and find myself sipping champagne near Montmartre while eating an entire baguette smothered in brie. And eat gáteau. Lots of gáteau.

Nadine smiling atop Notre-Dame cathedral.

Nadine smiling atop Notre-Dame cathedral.

A tower with a view.

A tower with a view.

So I'll give myself a birthday blessing an Irish ancestor might have given me; "May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live."

I want to live happily 'till I'm 88 and I don't want anything, except another chance at Paris in a 16th summer glow.

Merci beaucoup. Et bon anniversaire!

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Self Confidence.....having full trust in oneself.

selfColleen HanneganComment

I've been thinking much about self confidence lately. How it's an aspect of our being that's required daily to achieve our goals, find a mate, a job, create art, speak up or choose an outfit to wear. I'm speaking of confidence in the goodness of oneself, your gifts, talents and finer qualities that contribute to the world in positive ways. 

It's needed as often as we need daily nutrition, exercise and to give and receive love. Confidence, from the Latin... to have full trust. So that means, to me, 100% doubtless. 

"I can fly!"

"I can fly!"

Well, I fail on a weekly basis. Some days my confidence levels are on an uber scale of high ratings. Like right now as I write this blog, I feel extremely confident I will get all my thoughts down about the subject and when my final edits are done, will be pleased with my work. I am a writer. Writers write. I know I can do this and I have a gift that oftentimes makes me feel.......yes, confident.

But not a week goes by that I don't have long moments of feeling I'm near empty on my confidence meter. Not just about writing but about anything and everything. I've compared myself to others, I've judged my reflection, I've had too many conflicting negative thoughts in my brain competing for real estate in my gray matter and I end up running on empty in confidence. Over stupid stuff like my nail polish choice, ( I told you it was stupid), and important things like my deeply personal connection to higher powers, ( it's all make believe). I'm way down low if I'm swimming in those waters. Drowning more like.

But when those put downs from others hit me, oh I crumble.  My confidence takes direct hits as if heat seeking missiles were aimed directly at my heart and blasted me to unrecognizable tidbits. Putting oneself out there is a risk every artist, writer, actor, advocate, and suffragette knows well. Comes with the territory. "They just didn't get it," I tell my hurt self. "Stop your sob fest already," my Big Girl tells my self.

An artist can't explain it; the work. The public accepts or rejects and onward we march.

When I read quotes about confidence, many come from actors and writers and citizens of the world who are visible and easily recognized. They are on the world stage in one way or another, so confidence to them means to be sure of themselves in front of lots of people frequently. Millions of people see them and judge them good or bad or indifferent. (Excuse me, but I distrust indifference. Let me know how you really feel! It feels like being invisible when people are  indifferent to  you. I really hate being treated like I'm not here or you can't see me!) That's a Leo personality trait, folks. Having others say you're boring is bad enough, but if you ignore me, oh, geezuz I come unglued. Faulty wiring on my part. But then there is much to adore about shiny bright and gift giving Leo's.....oh I feel that happy confidence coming on! Happy! Happy!

Okay, so back to my discourse on confidence and getting it and keeping it going.

Confidence is not just about being in front of others. To me, it's standing in front of my worst critic in the world, myself, and feeling completely comfortable. As is, at worst and best and all those grays in between.  Liking, loving and enjoying standing right here. Or sitting right here, in front of me or the whole big world. Whatevah! True liberation, baby, if I could just be with confidence every little and big moment I'm here.

Most of us are not on stage, up front, on TV or followed by thousands of readers. Yet, we each  need confidence to have a fulfilling life that is worth getting out of bed for and that's filled with joy and love and great meals, adventure and awesome people in it. I want to feel confident every day and every minute. To have full trust in myself. When I do, kindness follows, as does more fun, more good surprises and goals accomplished...more easily. And prosperity of every sort.

I looked up other words that describe confidence and I was pleasantly  surprised at the variety of words that showed up.

Assurance, certainty, courage, determination, poise, spirit, tenacity, aplomb, backbone, boldness, brashness, cool, daring, dash, élan, fearlessness, firmness, fortitude, grit, hardihood, heart, intrepidity, nerve, pluck, reliance, resoluteness, spunk, sureness.    

Confidence, to me, is more like ConfiDANCE. To confide in myself that dancing through life is so much more worthwhile than sitting in the stands and watching others compete for the prize. No one else can live my life or win my prizes or publish my prose or wear my clothes (with confidence) or send out my love into the world or receive my love that's mine to receive. 

Solid confidence is a deep seated feeling that who you are and what you bring to the party of life is unique and worthwhile. Self doubt is a big fat lie we listen to. Don't listen to that broken record, I tell myself.

So when I consider what confidence is, having full trust in oneself, is to decide every moment if necessary, that I am my own best friend and cheerleader. The other ingredients for a full recipe of confidence would be plenty of humility, kindness, patience and a dash of pizazz.

Because the energy, vitality and good vibrations confident people bring to the world is a place I enjoy living in. 

Even when it's just me, myself and I. Let the party continue.

 

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Learning to Dig Deep....er.

Colleen HanneganComment

When one says they are trying to get to the root of a problem, we all imagine the dig. If you don't get that root completely excised, that weed will come back and invade your lovely garden. Or the roots of the tree that are growing into the underground pipes and causing them to break open need to be thoroughly dug out. Goodbye tree and roots. 

We're talking tough roots here.

We're talking tough roots here.

I've had  ongoing lessons of digging deep and solving problems this past year. Some of the lessons have been physical and others, emotional.

My physical lesson has been surrounding the death of a molar, the root cause of its problem and how many years I hung onto that abscessed tooth. I'd invested in two root canals, two crowns, and even then the infection way down deep in my root never really cleared up. But I was determined to keep it! I would heal that sucker and use hydrogen peroxide to kill the infection. I was confident.

Oh how determined I was to save the tooth! I'd already lost one just above it, 12 years ago. Blamed that on the stress of divorce. $3800 to have an implant and crown. I never imagined I'd lose another one. I've been an exceptional caregiver of this dental work and smile. The investment of time and hygiene over my lifetime.....replacing silver fillings with enamel, regular cleanings and xrays. Even had braces in my adult years to straighten things out a bit.

But after multiple visits to my expert endodontist and my oral surgeon, the conclusion was, the tooth was broken and the abscess below was not going away. After 15 years of struggle, (seriously), I made the appointment for extraction.

Turns out the root of this tooth was deep and crooked and made removal difficult. I was awake and numbed up but I'll spare you the details of the effort needed to dig deep and get that stubborn tooth and its roots removed. The sound of those clanging extraction tools and the drill was a torture. My poor jaw. No wonder I'd put it off!

  "A pig has a plow on the end of its nose because it does meaningful work with it." Author Joel Salatin, American Farmer and author of The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs.

 

"A pig has a plow on the end of its nose because it does meaningful work with it."

Author Joel Salatin, American Farmer and author of The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs.

Like the plow at the end of a pigs' nose; they have a built in gizmo for finding the roots and food bits and solving problems pigs have to deal with. Being close to the ground helps no doubt.

The surgeon and his assistants both commented, "They don't get harder than that. If you can handle an extraction like this, you can handle anything." 

Geezuz. Within 24 hours my body, my whole body, experienced release. Deep well being and happiness! Why had I held on to this problem tooth for so long? Why was I afraid to see it go? I'd had a strong instinct it would not surrender easily. But I also completely trusted my surgeon because of the last excellent experience 12 years ago. All that holding on to infection because I couldn't deal with letting go of another tooth. Fighting infection all that time. What a waste. What a waste.

But my deep digging has also been in dealing with an emotional situation. I think I've conquered it but it just  keeps coming back up to meet me face to face. Meditation, positive thinking, journaling, trying so hard, ignoring it, running from it....nada. In my face again and again.

Just like the damned root. So I decided to earnestly seek (pray) for resolve. I had the message I needed to dig deeper, go deeper, feel deeply, my deeper, deepest compassion, patience, strength, understanding, a spiritual, stalwart stance against anger and strife. A regal knowing of my higher being standing up to the negativity and abrasion I was dealing with in the situation.

What I really wanted to do was yell, but it would not have helped this scenario. Yelling can be extremely helpful in many instances, so can kicking and screaming and fighting with your fists if necessary. Not here. Name calling feels good, but I practice that only at 2:30 am occasionally when festering frustrations pry my eyes open and my heat is rising again. Dammit!

Digging deep to be sure the complete root of my problem is excised, that all the infectious anxiety is dissolved takes a bit longer with emotions than it does to simply pull out a tooth and instantly be done. 

So I'm digging deep...er  and making sure I shovel away the resentment I've built up here, deep in my emotions. Such a process, yes? I face my human factors of good and not so good interpersonal relationships in the outside world, beyond my home where all is peaceful quiet and loving; accepting and fun.

Out there, it's life lessons to be learned and only when I dig deeper can I learn to free myself and those around me, from unrealistic expectations that because I'm considerate of others, others are going to be considerate in return. Not always. 

It's my choice to be offended or not. Or to let negativity fester over how others act out their own issues.

What a waste. What a waste. Move on. Move up. Move in or out. Whatever works. At this time, my lesson is to re-move the deep growing roots of anxiety in myself.  This is a difficult extraction.

"There’s no value in digging shallow wells in a hundred places. Decide on one place and dig deep. Even if you encounter a rock, use dynamite and keep going down." Swami Satchidananda

I'm blasting away and deep down I dig. 

 

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Fun vs. Fear ~ How shall we live?

FearlessnessColleen Hannegan2 Comments

Summertime, and the livin's easy. It certainly is easy and beautiful living here in southern California with the cool morning  marine layer holding back sun's heat until later in the day. The sky's blue face peeks out from behind those ocean mists and the cool breezes spin through the leaves on the trees, through my hair, through  my open windows in my home. I feel safe here. Mostly.

I love summertime. Who doesn't? But this summer's beginning has been besieged and held hostage by so much fear in the world, so many terrorist attacks and bloodshed and a constant roar of doom for our country's position in world affairs, that I'm having to emotionally arm wrestle local summer FUN from the death grip of local and international FEAR. Both real and imagined.

Summer fun hike over O'Neill Regional park with views of Rancho Santa Margarita.

Summer fun hike over O'Neill Regional park with views of Rancho Santa Margarita.

I naturally thrill to welcoming each new morning into my life. Hooray, another day to play. As I've entered more mature years I suddenly want to explore more ways to have fun, even if it's usually called work. Travel adventures are calling. New creative ideas are popping up more frequently. My husband and I are enjoying the fruits of our hard labor redesigning our home even if it is back- breaking at times. The results have brought us great joy and comfort.

And at the same time, I feel gnawed at and uneasy about terror in the streets of our local neighborhoods and in the world; a world that is now so much nearer to us than it once was. What to do? WHAT TO DO?? 

Seeing Manchester, England rise up from their recent bloody and fearful night and come together again this past week-end to claim LOVE is stronger than HATE and that having FUN and FREEDOM shall reign over their FEAR, touched me very much.  As did the citizens of Portland, sharing stories of bravery of the two men who offered their life for a stranger and one gravely injured for standing up to hate towards two women.  I see and read stories of bravery as often as I do of warring bloodshed.

We humans struggle between the fear of hateful deeds and the fun of peaceful sun, every day in this crazy world. Why is there so much viscious hate and cruelty among us? How can we enjoy the beauty of a day, the pleasures and joys of all we love to do if we choose fear? Fear to go, or stay, and speak up or travel? 

We are the world, yes we are. And in my world, I'm choosing fun over fear of what might happen. There is a healthy fear that keeps us safe in our daily activities but it is the unhealthy, deep seated unconscious fear of death that will prevent us from being fully alive.

Our only control is in our thoughts for goodness and actions of tolerance and kindness in our immediate place in the world.  I have faith that my smallest act of kindness I put my hands to, has a larger, healing ripple affect that goes out to many others that I do not know. Because kindness follows kindness.  I try and stay conscious in what I can build, not tear apart.  Somedays I fail, more days I succeed. I find my own peace in this.

Love will always win. Death cannot destroy love. Fear destroys love. And when we rise up and choose love and courage, our hearts will be free to live every day as if it's a perfect summer day.

Wishing all a fun and fearless summer! XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOOXOXOXOOXOXOXOXO

 

 

 

Forever Middle Aged

Love, marriageColleen HanneganComment

I’m having an ongoing friendly argument with my husband. He’s checking out his feet and legs now that it’s warmer weather and he’s wearing his shorts. He laments on the condition of parts of his aging form. I accuse him of saying “old” far too much in describing himself.

It’s getting old.

In my opinion, he’s a 69+ year old man who one might guess to be closer to 60….2.

Seeing his 70th birthday speeding towards him this year is a shocker, we’ll both agree. Eight years his junior, I’m not diggin’ the math that puts my seven-oh not all that far behind his.

Outdoors keeps us feeling young--er!

Outdoors keeps us feeling young--er!

However, I refuse to say he’s old, I’m old, we’re old. Hell no. 

The old word brings to mind yellowing plastic containers that have seen too much UV light. Old as in a horse lead out to pasture. Old as in medieval. Old worn shoes and socks. Old house that creaks. Well, maybe the creaking can’t be denied.

Old roads. Oldies but goodies. Yuck. Old hat. Old records. Old is as old does. You’re as old as you feel. No one expects an old person to be sexy or sexual. 

“Please, can we agree to the word older,” I beg. “Will you please stop saying we’re old?” 

He laughs. If I hadn’t been enjoying one of his yummy vodka tonic’s he’s made with pineapple infused vodka, I would be irritated. But he’s making me laugh instead. I can’ t help myself.  He loves to see me getting worked up when he brings up THE WORD.

Old has no room here. No closet space either. Not even a little cubby hole somewhere. Old rhymes with mold and cold. Don’t like those words either.

“It’s okay to say we’re old because we are.” he declares. I open my mouth to protest. “Do you think you’re middle aged?” he asks. “Middle age”, he continues, “is the age from our mid 30’s to about mid 50’s; 60 at the latest.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I almost scream. “People are living longer. 62 is the new middle ages; I mean 62 is only half way cooked, I mean, well, I’ll admit to being a senior citizen.” I feel myself struggling with those two words. Ten years ago I felt far away from being categorized as senior. I’m not near ready to fast forward to any old talk.

We’re both laughing at my word jams. And we both know I love my senior discounts at the car wash, movies, anywhere I can save 10%. I love a deal. But there’s no deal here to ever agreeing we’re old.

“I’ll agree to saying I’m old when I’m 85; no when I’m 81. Okay, when I’m 81 I’ll ease up on the word old. Not until then.” I tell him with a straight face and firm resolve in every fiber of my middle aged sexy being.

He’s smiling at me with that charming smile that seduced me ten years ago when we were so young. Third time marriage for both of us was the charm. When the idea that sharing the rest of my life with him seemed like a very long and happy road with so much to see and do and share.

He lowers his voice. “You will always be beautiful and sexy. You could never be anything but lovely in my eyes.” Smart man.   

Those words will never get old.

 

©Colleen Hannegan