Excerpt for Brilliance Brewing ~ A Meditation on Change by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Psychic phenomena, prophetic dreams, lost gloves, and found avocados. Join Valerie on her raucous personal journey toward greater self-knowledge, happiness, and empowerment. Be inspired to commence your own sojourn and grow your intuition, wisdom, and joy.


“Valerie's books are one of a kind – precious and rare. She brings an incredible wit to life’s spiritual journey that makes one’s own ride a little smoother. Her ability to encompass all aspects of life with such grace and humor is astonishing to me. She has a rare gift of combining a brilliant writing style with superb humor. Truly a remarkable example of genius, in my humble opinion. Enjoy the ride! Namaste.” ~ Nicole Gans Singer, Channeler, Teachings of the Masters, teachingsofthemasters.org

“With her ability to see the hidden meanings, and the humor, in everyday events from illness to “passport malfunction,” the author takes us on an exhilarating journey that is both hilarious and through-provoking. A real gem of a read.” ~ Taylor Jones, The Review Team of Taylor Jones & Regan Murphy

“Told in Gilbert’s unique and refreshing voice and filled with thought-provoking ideas, I found the book to be both enjoyable and stimulating. Whether you are looking for wisdom and ways to improve your own life, or you just want to laugh and have your spirits lifted, Brewing Brilliance does both with ease. Keep it on your shelf to read again and again whenever you’re feeling down.” ~ Regan Murphy, The Review Team of Taylor Jones & Regan Murphy


With gratitude to Editor Lauri Wellington and Black Opal Books for continuing to shine a light on my work. To Faith, Jack, Arwen, and LP at Black Opal, and to my Canadian friends, Lauren Tatner, Eniko Tolnai, and Mathew Hart. Special thanks to Courtney Valente (cvalente@cohoes.org) cover shot photographer, sunset on the Mohawk River, Latham, New York.

Also by Valerie Gilbert

Raving Violet

Memories, Dreams and Deflections:

My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion

Swami Soup


A Meditation on Change

Valerie Gilbert

A Black Opal Books Publication

Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2017 by Valerie Gilbert

Cover Design by Jackson Cover Designs/Valerie Gilbert

Cover photograph: Courtney Valente

All cover art copyright © 2017

All Rights Reserved

EBOOK ISBN: 978-1-626947-20-7

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


To the Brilliance within us all,

just waiting to be tapped.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

A Day In The Life

Chapter 2

Señor de los Milagros

(or Why Everyone was Shorter than Me)

Chapter 3

The Lights Are On and the Motor’s Running, Part 1

Chapter 4

The Lights are On and the Motor is Running, Part 2

Chapter 5


Chapter 6

The Puppy Song

Chapter 7

On Being Happy

Chapter 8

Building Peace

Chapter 9

Avocado Dude

Chapter 10

The Mystical Bike Shop (An Interlude)

Chapter 11

Heaven’s Gate

Chapter 12

Funeral For A Friend

Chapter 13

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

Chapter 14

Food, Intuition, and Healing

Chapter 15

Meditation For People Who Don’t Want To Meditate

Chapter 16

GOING DEEP: Mining the Gold Within

Chapter 17

BEGINNINGS: Or The Land of the Purple Glove


(More Signs, Symbols and Sigils!)


About the Author


A Day in the Life

I am a “weird” magnet. This kind of weird can only be attracted in New York, a vortex of concentrated human eccentricity. Contemplate my odd assortment of vignettes as an ambling film sequence.

Scene One, Take One: Returning home from tap class, I stop into my local wine shop, which I recently remembered used to be the neighborhood bakery when I grew up here. It’s still my treat corner since fourth grade.

As I left, a very attractive man was standing in the sun against one of the buildings, about thirty feet away. Someone I know and have avoided since the passing of my beloved dachshund Mimi almost nine months ago. He’s a silver fox from Mexico, gorgeous, gay, and a dog walker. He used to be particularly attached to my dog, even though no one ever walked her but me. He would see her and light up, as many people did, since she was such a supremely loving creature.

“I love you!” he’d gush to her with his accent as he scooped her up in his arms, cuddling her to his face and rocking with her in bliss, eyes closed, while other leashes and dogs radiated out from him like a maypole.

He saw me as I walked up the street, and I smiled at him. He mouthed and mimed as I approached, “Where is she?”

I shook my head soberly as I walked closer. His smile diminished as he awaited my explanation.

“She’s gone,” I said as I stood in front of him.

He was speechless.

Now, I’ve had some pretty hideous reactions upon informing people of Mimi’s passing. “You’re killing me!” screeched a morbid neighbor, a dog-owning widow with black shellacked hair and huge black sunglasses (reminiscent of Jackie O.) who allegedly poisoned her husband. Perhaps she was recalling her spouse’s final words? She offered not one word of comfort to me. Somehow, this was all about her.

One day, a fellow doxie owner approached, and I decided not to dodge her and her giant longhaired dachshund, who my baby used to french kiss. The two dogs were a love match, although it was clear Luigi was seeing other women. Norma adored my dog, joyously exclaiming as vociferously as my girl, who squealed in delight and flopped on her back, tail wagging, upon seeing the tiny old lady and her big dog. Mimi engaged in this super friendly behavior often.

My senior neighbor Shirley, who refused to touch her, but clearly delighted in her from afar, called her a slut.

Shirley screamed when I told her Mimi had died. “But I never let her into my apartment!”

No, she hadn’t. She missed out on having her home sniffed and searched by a very low, loopy dog who hopped and skipped due to her deformities.

Back to Norma. I thought Norma, who reveled in all things Mimi, would be devastated when I told her about Mimi’s passing. I sobbed as I choked out the sad tale. Norma was unmoved and said simply that I had to get another dog.

The next time I saw her was months later, and I was ready for her. I was better, less frail.

“Where’s the puppy?” she said.

Norma’s old, and I thought she was losing it. I sighed, patiently. “She passed, Norma.”

“I know,” she retorted. “Where’s the new puppy?” Not senile. Pushy.

“I’m not getting a new puppy, Norma,” I said quietly.

“Why not?” she barked.

“Because I’m not ready.”

“Why not?” she barked again.

“Because I don’t want another dog. I’m not ready” I defended.

“Why aren’t you ready?” she needled.

“I’m just not. I want other changes in my life, not another dog,” I tried to explain, but she persisted in pressing her dog dictate.

“Well, you can have other things and a dog, too. You’re just stubborn, that’s what you are!”

Suddenly, this, heretofore, cute little old lady I adored had become my prosecutor, while the Black Widow (who still has her dog) had acted as if my loss had been hers. That’s why I don’t talk about it.

But my Mexican friend, the silver fox standing in the sun, just looked and listened earnestly as I told the tale. “She became paralyzed, and I couldn’t put her through surgery with all her other health issues. I know you loved her.”

As I teared up, he reached into his pocket for a soft, neatly folded white paper towel, obviously a backup maintenance tool for his line of work. I demurred, used to wiping my fairly frequent tears on a sleeve. But he insisted and put it in my hand. I dabbed the folded rectangle to my eyes and continued. “I haven’t been able to talk about it. She was only five, and she meant the world to me. It’s just too sad.”

Sergio did the kindest thing a person can do when one is distraught. He offered no comfort (beyond the “quicker picker upper”) and no counsel. He just listened, beholding me while absorbing my story, a witness to my pain. It was the purest expression of love. Hugging him, I offered, “She loved you.”

He looked me in the eye and blurted, “Be careful,” his Mexican attempt at saying “take care,” I suppose. As I walked away he blurted, “I love you,” just like he used to say to my little baby.

“I love you, too.” I said.

Since I was now all weepy and in need of succor, I clutched my just purchased chilled sauvignon blanc and headed over to my old stomping ground, the Catholic Church across the street. No, I don’t drink in the pews. While not Catholic, I like the sanctuary to contemplate and regroup. Before Mimi, I used to sit there and weep when my mother was dying. With Mimi, I’d sneak her in in her bag, and we’d bask in the chill air on blisteringly hot days, or thaw and re-heat on the freezing cold ones. It is a modern church and usually quite empty, which is just the way I like it, a respite from the noisy world outside.

On this day it wasn’t empty at all. There was no mass in progress, but a dispersed and disparate “crowd” of six were praying in earnest. I could feel the energy of their prayers, providing a very Wings of Desire film set atmosphere.

A white woman to my right in corduroy jeans kneeled in front of a statue. A white woman to my left kneeled in front of St. Francis (a personal favorite of mine). A black woman in a powder blue suit and hat sat in front of me. A black man was to the left—human chess pieces spread out on an invisible Catholic game board.

The black lady in the blue suit started waving her right hand before her face, silently “testifying.” This went on for a while and I took in the spectacle, one I’d never seen at this church, concluding that she was conversing with Jesus. She dropped her hand briefly but waved it again for a stretch. To my far left was a very old, tall white priest who always sits in the same chair. He’s friendly but quiet and has a bum foot, his bones and bunions exploding out of his dirty, black, Velcro-trussed sneakers. His eyes were fixed on the bible in his lap, the same book he’s read over and over for decades. Doesn’t that tome get old after a while?

An attractive young Asian business woman was in church only to text, eyes glued to her glowing appliance in the back pew. Her phone rang. This was a first for me, and I was appalled that she’d add insult to injury by making noise on top of being so “textfully” disrespectful in this sacred space. She left the main area to turn it off, I supposed, but wouldn’t you just know it? She took the freaking call in the outer hall, which we could clearly hear. I departed, leaving the Six Characters In Search Of An Author behind.

Speaking of crass, I ventured boldly into an institution I’d spent my entire life near, but had never entered. Central Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in New York City, established in 1846, with the building dedicated in 1872. While I venture freely into churches because they have open doors and people coming in and out, I had never done so in a synagogue because they seemed formidable versus accessible.

But a young lady in business attire climbed the steps toward the entrance, which made me think it was open. In all my life it had never seemed open or active. The building was a mysterious, impenetrable fortress. I seized the opportunity.

On my way to physical therapy, I was wearing shorts, sneakers, and a tee-shirt. Now, I know God doesn’t mind about that kind of stuff ’cause God Is Everything, however, the people who run the synagogue might mind. That person that day was a big guy in a beige suit. He looked a bit like a Jewish bouncer. Given how he was dressed, I thought he might give me some tsuris for my getup (yes, I was the crass one in “church” this time). The pretty Israeli (I knew where she was from because she had an accent) business gal kept him busy with questions while I slipped in and sat. I explored the right to left, back to front, reading material in my Jewish pew and took in the décor. It looked just like a church. Throw in a Jesus here and a couple of crosses there, and you could house a whole other crowd.

Now, the physical therapy. I have a new insurance plan. I was very excited about this new insurance plan until I started using it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for it. My audio book work through my union entitled me to pay for the privilege of having this insurance. I was thrilled to find out that they covered chiropractic and acupuncture, both of which I rely on. I’m an alternative therapies type and don’t count on MDs for my well-being. I prefer preventative, holistic care and use MDs on an “as needed” basis only.

In the midst of enjoying my chiropractic and acupuncture benefits, I discovered that I was entitled to only half the number of treatments I thought I was. A real pity, for the healthier I am, the less actual medical treatment I need (the old “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” thing). Getting weekly acupuncture and chiropractic was putting me in fine form and spirits. But I was also entitled to four physical therapy treatments, so I decided to cash in on that benefit, since I had wrist pain from my audio recording and editing work (I record, engineer and master the work myself) and knee pain from an old biking injury.

I needed a referral for physical therapy, so I selected the general practitioner closest to me, which wasn’t all that close. But she was a girl, which I wanted, and had a cushy address just opposite the exclusive Tavern On The Green restaurant in Central Park. And she could take me immediately, so I could start my physical therapy immediately, with only a month left to this insurance quarter to cash in on those four sessions. Strangely, she was open for walk-in appointments only. I was advised there usually wasn’t a long wait, and appointments lasted for only about twenty minutes.

Her office was on the main floor of a classic Central Park West building. The front door was on the sidewalk. I crossed the threshold and was suddenly starring in The Wizard of Oz in reverse. All the Technicolor drained from my day as I entered her desiccated den from another time period altogether—somewhere between the 1940s and the 1960s. This joint was untouched by time, money, renovations, or a cleaning crew. Everything was brown. The miniscule bathroom, which I needed to use, abutted the sidewalk. The toilet was right by the old thin window so I could hear loud footsteps on the street inches away from me as I sat exposed, pants down. My need to relieve myself vanished. I saddled up and went to the sink, which looked distinctly…unclean. I’ve seen tidier bathrooms in fast food restaurants. What kind of a doctor’s office was this?

The shop was run by three older women. A black woman was so large it proved difficult for her to get out of her chair. She remained seated against the wall in the anteroom for the duration of my visit. A petite Latina woman was friendly, efficient, and ran the desk and phone. When I’d asked if the doctor was nice, she responded that she’d been with the doctor for thirty years. And then there was the old battle-axe herself, a white gal who’d graduated from medical school in 1943. Now, I knew that little tidbit going in. The insurance site listed her stats. But I was not prepared for the full Grey Gardens effect generated by the doctor and her medical practice.

A ninety year-old former show-girl stood before me. The good doctor was rail thin, sporting bright red lipstick and long blonde hair coiffed to Barbie Doll perfection. Her breasts were reminiscent of Carol Burnett’s costume when she played “Charro’s Mother” since they were thin, long, low, and—it seemed—irregular. Her colorful polyester shirt and pencil skirt were a throwback to the 1970s (when they were undoubtedly purchased). She wore her purse around her neck hanging in front of her stomach, like the sporrans that Highland Scotsmen don over the front of their kilt. Her rectangular shoulder bag hung from a long, thin gold chain and was as thin and two dimensional as she was. The edges were totally frayed, and I could not tell whether it was made of decomposing black-patent-leather-faux “alligator” or authentic cardboard and plastic. In addition to assorted jewelry, her final accessory was a vintage stethoscope. My face registered the same shock exhibited in the countenances of the Broadway audience in Mel Brooks’s 1968 masterpiece, The Producers, upon realizing that they were watching a musical homage to Hitler.

I was frozen in an episode of The Twilight Zone, a David Lynch film, or The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Take your pick. I was on set.

I signed a few forms, my uneasy smile trying to mask my mortification. What would happen to me in this medical house of horrors? There were piles of paper everywhere, on top of army-green metal filing cabinets and index card-holders from the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. Labels were hand scrawled “Medicaid” and “Medicare.” There was no computer visible anywhere, but a fax machine collected dust. My eyes scanned the joint from top to bottom. It was a museum exhibit. A total time warp to the 1960s New York City of my childhood.

“The doctor will see you now.”

The receptionist jarred me out of my reverie. I entered the examining room. The medical equipment was from the 1930s and 1940s, including a vintage baby scale and examination table. Young Frankenstein’s lab now came to mind. The antediluvian table had stirrups for gynecological use, and musty mechanical cranks beneath. Scalpels, tweezers, and antiquated metal tools were scattered about, mixed in with piles of rubber bands, vaccines, needles, and pens. More file cabinets were piled haphazardly on top of each other.

“What’s wrong with you?” blurted the old woman as she entered the room.

“Uh, nothing. I need a referral to see a physical therapist.”

She sat down across from me on one of her mismatched chairs. “I told you to sit on the other chair, it’s more comfortable,” she directed me.

She’d said “sit on the round chair” so I’d sat on the round wooden stool. Apparently, she told me to “sit on the brown chair,” which was cracked pleather and chrome.

The stool was white and the cleanest, newest thing in the room. I stayed put.

“Do you have any illnesses?”

“No,” I replied.

“Family history?”

I gave her a brief rundown of how everyone died, including my mother’s death from cancer.

She took laborious longhand notes on an oversized index card, then looked up at me abruptly, “Breast cancer?”

“No,” I replied.

She didn’t bother to find out what kind of cancer my mother actually had. She asked me my weight and height without bothering to verify my claims. I grew a couple inches and lost a couple pounds. If she was living in a dream world, then so could I.

Dr. Norma Desmond instructed me to me hop up on the edge of the gruesome examining table. If ever a piece of equipment was haunted, this was it. I could feel the fear from myriad patients emanating from the frayed pad and rusted chrome. She listened to my heart with her trusty stethoscope. She felt my left breast then got distracted when I told her I had fibroid tumors in my uterus. She briefly palpated my lower abdomen and made no comment. So much for my right breast.

She looked in my ears with her ear-thingie then tried to get her flashlight to turn on so she could look down my throat. She fiddled with it, but it didn’t work, so she banged it hard on the stirrup. Bam. It was on.

That over, we discussed my wrist pain, the very reason I was there. She placed my wrist on the stirrup. I kid you not. Maybe this contraption did double duty back in the day, but to me, now, it was a gynecological stirrup, and my wrist was on it. Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers leered at me from the side of the room.

She asked if I wanted blood work, and had she been a real doctor, I would have accepted the offer. But not trusting her to hit a forearm let alone a vein, I declined. Perhaps this was where the large black woman came in. It’s possible that she was a nurse. But drawing my blood would necessitate her getting up, and this seemed unlikely.

Norma Desmond hand scrawled my referral for the physical therapy, said “Anything else?” then suggested I take two more referrals, one for a gynecologist and another for an orthopedist. This, then, was her specialty. Penning referrals.

Relieved to be done, I was shocked to find other people in the waiting room. All women. All older. What were they doing here? What did this doctor do all day? Right. She handed out referrals. It was clear that neither she nor her staff were in any condition to treat anyone for anything.

I approached the front desk with $20 for my $10 co-pay. “Doctor,” her receptionist ventured, it seemed to me with trepidation. “Do you have $10 change for this lady’s co-pay?”

Here was the purpose of the shiny, dilapidated purse swinging from doc’s neck. It was the bank. She didn’t trust her employee of thirty years to hold the $10s? Well, just add that to the pile of crazy.

As I exited the joint, I walked to nearby Sheep’s Meadow on this glorious May day to regroup and slowly adjust to 2014. An iced coffee from Tavern on the Green’s pleasant take-out window aided in my recovery, and a Garage Band workshop at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue completed my reentry into today’s space-time coordinates.

The camera cuts to me, medium shot, walking the streets the next day wearing shorts, tee shirt, and sneakers, clutching my hard-won physical therapy referral as I exit Central Synagogue. From there I went directly to my new physical therapy practice in a very respectable office building, only to find that this operation had not been renovated since the early 1980s. This is not encouraging in a medical establishment. One wants the latest, the newest, and the best. I was having medical disappointment déjà vu.

Hoping for some nurturing medical massage as part of the package, all I saw were boring weights and machines. Looked like I’d have to do all the work. Sigh.

My therapist was a tall, no-nonsense gal, and her very basic equipment also seemed, well, quite old. She measured my wrist with a glorified tape measure from a plastic box of supplies that could have once housed a Lego set. The joint was uninspired. Even Norma Desmond had had some freaky flair.

I tried to crack a joke but my therapist was a tough customer. She alternately boiled and froze my wrist with very hot and very cold things then sono-waved it. She showed me a few stretches and the proper way to sit at my computer. Snore. This “therapy” basically boiled down to a lecture on posture.

While she was taking my carpal deposition, we sat inches away from each other, face to face in a little cubicle.

At one point she sighed. “You have to take better care of yourself.”

I’d been working like a dog producing audio books day and night in my home studio, a distraction from the grief of losing my dog. I’d pushed myself to the point of pain and had traded sentimental grief for physical maladies.

Tears started rolling down my face.

This threw her totally off her game when she looked up from my wrist. She was offering “physical” therapy, not “therapy” therapy. She tossed some rough paper towels at me so I could clean up my emotional mess, but not compassionately the way Sergio the dog walker had gently offered his soft towel to me. Her turf was repairing tendons and muscles, not the tender buttons she was pressing. But I needed nurturing, not needling.

That being said, she gave me some good advice about posture, and her seminal “You have to take better care of yourself” had struck a nerve.

I thought I already was doing that. But there’s always farther to go.

Taking better care of yourself emotionally, financially, physically, spiritually, and mentally, the whole shebang, is what it’s all about. Loving yourself has many facets.

A day in my life combines smiling, celebrating, crying, napping, pontificating, dancing, cooking, eating well, biking, blading, solitude, more solitude, writing, and recording. Day by day, gently (and sometimes more forcefully), I edge toward beautiful new vistas where grief abates and happiness abides. Sunset. Music swells. Fade to black.


Señor de los Milagros

(Or Why Everyone Was Shorter Than Me)

I love signs from Spirit. I live by them. Dreams and visions inform my days and nights. They leave a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow, and sometimes, an entire organic, whole grain loaf fresh from the oven to enjoy.

There are many ways that Spirit communicates with us, and, when I say Spirit, I mean God, your Higher Self, your True Self, or your angels, guides, and loved ones in spirit, who are with you always. It doesn’t matter how you perceive the invisible realms. There is help and support available at all times, and I use it.

A hermit in midtown Manhattan, I work at home and live alone. It’s been this way for quite a while, all the more so since my last two pets, a dog and cat, died twelve and eighteen months ago, respectively. I was too upset to get more animals, and determined that I’d spring for a human the next time. I’m due a relationship.

However, Spirit has other ideas about this. They’ve been keeping me in quarantine, with an etheric chastity belt to boot. They keep telling me there’s more work to do before my long awaited partnership happens. This does not make me happy, for I am human and have longings for company and intimacy. However, I also believe my soul charted this path, and that I’m not an unwitting player. I understand and embrace the agenda, yet still get frustrated from time to time. For the most part, I’m pretty damn happy with my life right now. I’ve learned to raise and keep my vibration at a consistently high level. Whatever momentarily glitches get my knickers in a twist, I’m able to recover from with relative ease and bounce back quickly. Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.

Apparently, solitude has been essential for my spiritual incubation, the fertile soil I’ve needed to process my grief, angst, and what have you. Stuff. I’m very human while yet a decidedly fervent mystic. Embracing the seeming paradox of the human and divine worlds is the basis of my credo. This world is full of contradictions, being a world of duality. We must conceive beyond limitation. To transcend duality into triality, the point above the fray, and strive to attain the eagle’s eye vista.

I was told (by Spirit) that more spiritual and creative doors have to open for and within me before I am mated. I must climb higher on the ladder of ascension, and that my most important mating is with my Higher Self. This is not the hot date I’m looking for on a Friday night. I’m the only bride I know required to wear a freaking halo on her head for her wedding day. What kind of lace goes with that?

I will now discuss with you here how signs and symbols from Spirit work.

For instance, I’ve been dreaming of dumplings lately, on several occasions. Don’t ask me why. Chinese dumplings, specifically. You know, dim sum? Steamed, pan fried, whatever. Dim sum dumplings. I make note of my dreams as they are insightful, potent, and often prophetic. For someone who regularly interprets her dreams, dumplings represent…an enigma. What the hell do dumplings mean? Beats me. But I wrote it down anyway. I record my dreams every day. There were at least three separate dream dumpling incidents over the course of six weeks. Mystifying, in a very doughy way.

Well, recently, I had a breakdown. Not new. I break down all the time. And that does not mean that I am broken. It means that I am sensitive, and in touch with my feelings. I don’t put on a happy face when I ain’t happy. In fact, I read recently that babies (very in touch with the “other side” from which they have freshly emerged) will often cry not because something is wrong with them, but because something is wrong. Period. They pick up on the energetic malcontent on the planet. There’s a lot of it. Are you surprised?

Perhaps I’m depressed, a sad sack, or a genius. Or perhaps, I too, like the babies, pick up on the pain on this planet. Or recall my own. From this lifetime and others. Who hasn’t suffered? The Buddha nailed it. Life is suffering (from one perspective). From other perspectives, physical life is a joke, an illusion, a game to be conquered, a realm to be enjoyed, learned from, and, in so doing, we uplift ourselves to higher dimensions. Suffering is one perspective. It’s not the only one. The Buddha transcended it. So can we.

I wake up at four a.m. these days, when I take my new thyroid medication, which I plan to quit pronto. I’ll be letting my thyroid doc know when I see him shortly. I suspect he won’t be pleased, but then, he’s just my doctor. It’s my body.

This imbalance is a new condition. When I first went to him, I was concerned that he’d want to medicate me, but Doc was content to just monitor me without treatment (to my delight) until he learned a few months later that I was having knee surgery, at which point he freaked out.

“You’re having surgery? You’re doing it backward! You should be balancing your thyroid first, then getting surgery.”

Why surgery necessitated taking thyroid pills, I don’t know. He didn’t explain. He just huffed and puffed. But, as against meds as I am generally (I’m a vitamin girl), I went along with Doc and started the pills.

I had a bike accident six years ago and suffered a complex tear of the medial meniscus (torn cartilage in the middle of the knee), which has caused pain and uncomfortable crackling and crunching ever since. I’ve waited years for the right insurance, the right surgeon, and the right time to get the situation remedied. I wasn’t putting the big event off for the rantings of some old endocrinologist.

When the day of the surgery arrived, the hospital gave me an epidural, lightweight crutches, a turkey sandwich, and cranberry juice. It was Thanksgiving come early, and I had a fantastic time.

They gave me two pain pills after I came to. “Is there happiness in here?” I queried skeptically, for I was already pretty darn happy.

“Yes, there is.”

For a full twenty-four hours after surgery I was happy as a clam, thanks to their ministrations and medications.

Then I stopped taking the pain pills, and it all became clear to me. Surgery is pretty fun and all, but it’s not that much fun. I was high as a kite for a day.

In fact, I had a medical dream team, from a top surgeon to a darling anesthesiologist who looked like Roger Sterling from Mad Men. “Hi, I’m your bartender,” he coyly introduced himself.

Yes! A compadre. “Speaking of which,” I said, “can I drink tonight?” assuming I knew the depressing answer.

“Of course!” he replied.

I was shocked and thrilled.

“What are you having?” he asked.

“Wine.” I returned.

“Red or white?”

“Well, it’s still warm out (it was September) so I think I’ll go with white.”

“Good choice” he replied. I glanced over at the nurse to my right who was attempting to thread an IV into my wrist, a first for me. I’d heard that hurt a lot. “I’m trying to distract you with the bar talk,” said the sly anesthesiologist.

“Thank you.” I turned my attention away from the nurse with sharp things and back to the good-looking doctor who encouraged inebriation (to my relief the IV only hurt a little). I was careful to skip my happy pill with the prosecco at dinner.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I have to take this thyroid pill first thing in the morning, thirty minutes before eating. After a brief meditation when I wake up, I like to eat (it’s a happy way to start the day). Since I wake up in the middle of the night anyway, I decided that’s when I’d take the pill so when I wake up in the morning, I don’t have to wait around to get the food party started.

Waking at four a.m. of late, I’ll get up and record audio books. Since I live in New York City and don’t have a sound proof studio (which costs tens of thousands of dollars), I have to work around my sound constraints. It’s relatively quiet at four and five in the morning. I get some prime recording done then edit later. But the recording sessions necessitate silence.

I’ll have lunch between ten and eleven. Sometimes I have a glass of wine with my lunch. I look at myself askance as I glance at the clock, but then I do the math. It’s not morning. It’s lunchtime.

This one day I had an early lunch, replete with glass of wine, and, for whatever reason, I also had a nervous breakdown. Tears, loneliness, and frustration all welled up within me. I work. I exercise. I just had surgery. I meditate. I’m practically a perfect person, all things considered. I’ve survived death, death, and more death, of loved ones, human, feline, and canine. I’m all deathed out.

This glass of wine tipped me over the edge. While I believe marriage is in the cards for me (though in which deck, I don’t know), I have no idea when it will happen.

In the past, while maudlin and tipsy, I’d look for love online. This time, I went to the website of an adoption center. They had a tiny little kitten featured called Dumpling. That was all I needed, a big fat neon sign from Spirit. I grabbed my wallet and identifying paperwork and, still crying, headed to the shelter in the pouring rain.

I cried on the way down to the shelter. I cried on the way back. The whole thing felt tainted, as cute as the kittens were. It felt like defeat. I didn’t want to die a crazy cat lady, or “the single gal with the dog.” So much for my holding out for a relationship.

I was regressing. A kitty recidivist. But better a stray cat than a stray man. I adopted two females. Now I could die happy with two cats, one dog (someday), and no husband, just like God intended. I’ll probably get a freaking hippopotamus and a zebra, too. That’s what I get for liking Saint Francis, patron saint of animals.

Apparently, other people had been dreaming of Dumpling, too. Because everyone was at the shelter to get her, although I was there first. A Russian girl and her husband felt Dumpling was destined for them because their other cat was named Taco. Like tacos and dumplings go together? They’re totally mismatched cuisines. I relinquished Dumpling to a half-Asian, half-European, all-gay couple who took their little appetizer home in a snazzy purple carrier.

There was little Steven, white and ginger, who was sleeping in a car to keep warm when the driver started the engine. The kitten’s leg got caught in the fan belt and the shelter had to amputate his leg. Even with three legs Steven was still the hyperactive terror of the kitty room. Always knock on the hood of your car to wake up sleeping animals if you park outside during winter.

Little black and white Eggplant seemed depressed, or sick. I asked the shelter’s cat wrangler about this. Her siblings, Broccoli and Squash had been adopted the day before. Perhaps she was sad. I selected black and white “tuxedo” Eggplant and renamed her Marlena (after Dietrich, the original tuxedo wearer) and a tiny tiger tabby, Celeste.

Most gals get pregnant when they get drunk. I got kittens.

The sign from Spirit regarding Dumpling was crystal clear. While she was not my intended kitten, her name was the trigger, the call to action. That’s how signs work. I was meant to have these two furry lunatics to soften my life. My initial trauma about yet again committing myself to the care and maintenance of two little rascals has since melted into a pool of purring. And I subsequently found out that dim sum literally translates into “Touch The Heart.” Are my dreams cool, or what?

I had another powerful dream which mystified me at first (as is often the case until I’ve figured out the symbolism, or until the event it foretells unfolds). I saw a smallish fish tank (the size people keep in their homes) with a tiny (two to three feet) orca whale in it. The water was green/yellow, dark and murky, and the orca’s skin was rotting and falling off of it. Kinda gross. However it ascended from the depths of the tank, rising to the surface. I knew it referred to some sort of resurrection, but whose?

I made the connection one day when I looked at tiny kitten Marlena, my first ever black and white “tuxedo” cat. It turned out she was very sickly when I adopted her. Remember, I said she seemed sad or sick when I was looking to adopt her and the shelter lady replied that it was probably because her littermates were adopted out the day before? Well, after adopting Marlena, it turned out she had worms (despite their having “de-wormed” her). This seriously nauseated me since I kissed the kittens, and I wished I were a hardcore whiskey drinker since humans can get them from their pets. I resorted to my default wine for my purge and supercharged it with my intentions to kill anything untoward.

I de-wormed both kittens again then took Marlena to my regular vet a few weeks later, who said, “She seems depressed.”

She still had worms, it turned out. She was rail thin, bony, and wouldn’t eat. I was worried about her survival. We gave her one last dose of de-worming medicine (each time with a dose to the other kitten, too, since it’s always a tandem tainting, although Celeste was thriving).

While staring at Marlena, it occurred to me one day that her markings are very much like an orca’s. Her chest, chin, and jaw are white, while the rest of her (save four white paws) is jet black. I understood my dream then and knew that Marlena would rise from the depths. And she did. She’s now HUGE (not unlike a whale) at three feet long, nose to tail, tall and leggy (like her namesake, Dietrich).

And while she’s still a very picky eater, and a very sensitive, soulful spirit, she’s most certainly not underweight. She’s dignified, quiet, and mysterious. Marlena is my Egyptian Temple Cat.

On to more magic and miracles.

I’m pals with a nun I met eight years ago at a new age retreat. She’s a new age Catholic nun. While you wouldn’t expect such a combination, there you have it. She’s from Ireland and lives in Houston.

We share the same birthday (though she’s older than me) and the same “out there” metaphysical taste. She sends me things from time to time, mostly books, sometimes inspirational decks, like the “Ascended Masters” oracle cards, and articles about health or spirituality.

Being hungry for mystical experience, she’s been to healer John of God in Brazil, and Lourdes in France. Sister Eileen sent me a tiny plastic vial of their holy water, embedded in a color card of our Lady of Lourdes, sealed in plastic. I taped the whole thing to the wall by my desk. It stayed there a good year until I noticed the water table was dropping. Even in hermetically sealed plastic and shrink wrapped in yet more plastic, the holy water was evaporating somehow. Well, I didn’t want it to disappear into the ethers without my partaking of its healing qualities. So, I broke it open, poured a drop or two on the crown of my head and swallowed the rest.

As there was yet a milliliter of holy water in it, I left the plastic tube on my desk. I’d let the magical residue evaporate.

Working at my desk a day or two later, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. When I record audio books, it is of the utmost importance that nothing move, including me. I wear soft, silent clothing and keep my head steady. There are no stray sounds or rustling movements, just mouth to microphone. I’m a talking mime.

Puzzled by the movement on my desk, I stopped recording. The elliptical tube of plastic from Lourdes was rocking all by itself, as if someone had just tapped it. Except no one was there. I hadn’t rocked my desk or knocked into anything—heck, you can’t even raise an eyebrow without the sound picking up on the mic. Nothing else on my desk moved. Nothing anywhere moved. Just the tube that had held the holy water. It continued to rock for several seconds.

Who tipped the container with a flick of their spirit “finger”? Could be anyone. I don’t see ’em. But I know they’re there because it’s not possible for something to “just happen by itself.” There’s always a reason or source, cause and effect. If it’s not physical, then it’s metaphysical. It’s all energy anyway. Matter is just energy vibrating at a slower rate.

There’s also no physical explanation for how the tiny wind chime I have hanging in my bathroom started swaying by itself. It’s way above my head, to the right of my sink. If I want to ring it, I have to get up on tippy toes and nudge it with a fingertip. There’s no window in my bathroom and therefore no wind. I was brushing my teeth. As clean as my teeth are, my brushing does not produce gusts. Even with an electric toothbrush, this was not a wind-generating event.

I saw or sensed something moving, and looked up. They didn’t make a sound. But the chimes were swaying. As if someone had just gently touched them. My first thought is always, “How the heck did that happen?” I look around for the plausible, logical, physical explanation. When there isn’t one, I say, “Hola!” to whoever is there interacting with me.

Then there was the time I heard sound coming from two rooms away. I continued working, late at night, but, when the sound continued for five minutes or so, I finally went out to investigate. My living room speaker had been turned on, and my iPod, in shuffle mode, had tuned itself to one of my favorite Pat Metheny songs, Sueno Con Mexico. Those who understand just say “cool!” (which is the proper response). Those that don’t, why are you reading this? I’m all about this stuff, if you don’t know by now, and I’m not letting up. I’m here to tell you, we’re here to have fun with the unseen dimensions from whence we emerged—interacting, playing with, and breaching imperceptible walls.

My fourth tiny miracle was when I walked down Lexington Avenue in midtown lunch-hour foot traffic. It was a sunny September day, the street filled with people scurrying to and fro. A large bug flew at me. Not a common occurrence, I warily looked down to see what it was. A baby dragonfly (hello, this is Manhattan) flew right onto my heart. To boot, I was wearing a tee shirt with a big heart in the center. But this little animal totem flew directly to the left of my chest and parked. I didn’t move. I pulled over to the side of the sidewalk, with the lunch crowd rushing past me. Right in front of Victoria’s Secret, no less, with a bug perched on my boob. It stayed there a good five minutes. Gorgeous. Special. No mistaking the sign from Spirit. Dragonflies signify transformation (change, adaptability, joy, lightness of being). So, my heart was transforming. And, by the way? Victoria doesn’t have a secret. It’s called small underwear and big tits.

I’ve been going to a lot of spiritual events lately, the opposite of my hiding at home stunt that I did for the better part of a year after my dog Mimi died. I’ve finally got some spring in my step, and while I didn’t leave the house before, now you can’t keep me in. I’ve got ants in my pants. I went on a rampage, signing up for events, but one event in particular I was on the fence about. I just wasn’t sure what was in it for me. So, I didn’t pre-pay. The morning of the event, I was exhausted, and relieved I hadn’t bought a ticket. Ten minutes later, I was restless again, and decided to go.

I got a reading that morning from my friend Nicole Gans Singer, a terrific channeler, www.teachingsofthe masters.org. Her guides commented on my upcoming event that day, acknowledged that it was important that I go, and that I should meditate prior. The event was part of a big new age extravaganza, one I’m not partial to. It’s a cheesy event in a cheesy hotel. If there was anything to turn a person off of new age stuff, this was it. And I’m new age. It’s a carnival of crazy.

The speaker was someone whose work I greatly admire, however her ninety-minute event was a debacle of sorts. Her team, audio visual and otherwise, was disorganized. It was practically a joke. Fortunately, she got the joke and laughed. I like her. Despite that, on a conscious level I learned nothing, gleaned nothing, and was stuck with a bunch of weirdos, one of whom (right next to me, of course) reeked of garlic. The event seemed a waste of both my time and money. If I hadn’t known Spirit was gunning for me to be there (they explained the energetic reason why I should go), I’d have felt disgusted. But I know better now. There’s more to life than meets the eye. And I felt better not being at home. I left the carnival lickety-split and walked home from Herald Square. It was a sunny October day. I needed some exercise and some grounding, so I called my cousin while I walked home.

She’s new age, too, and she understands crazy. She’s dating a hoarder, a new relationship, and this habit of his is not to her liking, as she comes from a family with a tendency toward it. She helped him weed through his piles of stuff recently. “I asked him if I could throw something out. He didn’t answer, so I pretended I heard him say ‘yes’ and got rid of it.”

While we were talking on the phone, I made it to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue where a huge mob had assembled. I thought it was a protest. Nope. Was the pope there? No. I edged in closer to the crowd. Everyone was taking pictures. From the center of the church’s dark interior slowly emerged a heavy, purple religious float hoisted on the shoulders of many mocha-complected men. In fact, I was surrounded by people who were all darker than me. They were not, however, taller than me. And I’m not tall. This was a short, Latin American population.

Women, wearing lace scarves over their heads, swayed smoky silver incense holders in front of them, giving the pretzel, chestnut, and hot dog vendors aromatic competition. This was heavy duty ritual, and I was mesmerized. I studied the float. Jesus was suspended in his usual depressing pose. On the back, the Virgin Mary held baby Jesus, reminiscent of happier times. I got excited when I spotted a beautiful silver dove icon.

I finally asked someone what was going on.

An Australian tourist answered, “It’s the Procession of the Miracles.”

Huh? I’d never heard of that one, have you? You know why? It’s a Peruvian ritual. The Catholic Church must be on hard times if they’re hitting up South American countries for their customers and renting out Gothic St. Pat’s for parties. No wonder I was the tallest person in sight save the Australian.

“Well, the miracle is going to be making it through this mob!” I replied.

“Yeah, and when you push through you’re gonna’ be a billionaire!” he quipped with his Aussie accent.

But I didn’t want to push on just yet. I was caught up in the mystique of this ritual. I was still on the phone with my cousin, who was vicariously enjoying the proceedings. Bells clanged. Incense wafted as the procession continued through the packed crowd.

I blurted out, “Oh my God, there are live doves!”

A man clutched two white doves to his chest, preparing to release them. Remembering the last time the pope pulled that stunt (Weren’t the doves immediately attacked and eaten by seagulls? Talk about a bad sign.), I was eager to see how these two would fare on Fifth Avenue. One flew up in the air to be met by a dark gray pigeon. Would it attack and kill? Nah, it probably just wanted a date. The other, freakishly, flew right back down into the crowd, near me.

People went crazy touching it, holding it, clutching it to their faces, taking photos with their families. I was concerned that this symbol of peace was being manhandled, albeit by eager and pious people. It didn’t mean this dove wouldn’t get crushed to death by their enthusiasm. I finally got hold of the dove, taking it gently from a tiny (three feet tall?) old woman in a black shawl who’d been monopolizing it. I let it stand in my hand. There would be no clutching and crushing on my watch. I wondered why it didn’t fly. Was it hurt? It was covered in green bird crap, obviously from both birds being trapped and petrified prior to being released.

The old lady tried to grab it back from me but I barked, “No!”

I walked away from the crowd, toward the giant art deco statue of Atlas across from the church. There were planted flowers on a granite ledge in front of the statue. I put the dove on the stone shelf. It seemed dazed then meandered over the flowers. A guy near me offered to take it home, but I somehow didn’t trust him. I wanted her to escape. When someone yet again attempted to grab her, she flew up, but only as far as the Banana Republic sign, clutching the metal letters in an incredibly awkward position, like she was holding on, sideways, for dear life. Why didn’t she just fly away?

“Her foot’s stuck!” someone shouted.

They jumped up to try to dislodge it, and, with that final assault, the dove flew up and away, into a tall tree. Finally! She then dove right back down into the crowds. Why would she fly back into the mayhem when she was free of it? Was there a dove shrink here somewhere? I didn’t wait to see what happened to her next. I was done with my dove watch.

The Miracle Jesus float turned the corner, west up Fifty-First Street, along with his Peruvian entourage. Jesus’s ripped and bloodied hands and feet don’t look too different from mine, shredded and skewered by my new, tiny kittens.


There’s blood, death, smoke, magic, and mystery at its very core.


The Lights are on and the Motor’s Running

Part 1

Warming Up The Engine

“Sucking or blowing?” I inquired.

My doorman looked up at me, simultaneously confused, perturbed, and amused. “What?” he queried with his English accent.

I had returned home late at night after a screening of the amazing film The Imitation Game about British math genius Alan Turing, who broke the German code Enigma during WWII, and invented the world’s first computer in so doing. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, who was there with the director and cast for a Q&A after the film, and then exited the theater to embrace his fiancée when all was said and done. I am a fan of Cumberbatch and his body of work, and this film is fantastic.

I was all misty after the film, not because I saw Benedict, nor because he is getting married (to someone else), but because my father fought in the war, and was stationed as an American airman in England. As well, it seems (this is relatively recent news) that my father may have been doing covert work for the government, and this film was all about “covert.” I downgraded my crying from downpour to drizzle and wiped at my eyes as I approached my apartment building, shifting in mood from pensive and sad to puzzled and curious as I scrutinized my night doorman. I could not discern what he was doing outside the building. He was using a gadget on the sidewalk that looked like a leaf blower, but he then utilized it inside the lobby where, clearly, there were no leaves. Hence, my question. “Is it sucking, or blowing? I can’t tell.”

His bewilderment at my question gave way to laughter.

I go in spurts with my assorted activities, from tap dancing to spiritual seeking. I regularly get messages from Nicole Gans Singer, a childhood friend I haven’t seen since sixth grade and lost touch with for decades. She’s a medium and wonderful channeler. After being left high and dry time and again by the various and sundry “spiritual” events I attend, I’ve asked for feedback from Nicole’s guides regarding some of these events, as there’s often more (or less) than meets the eye. Maybe I did benefit from something, even if it seemed like a boring bust. It’s all in one’s perspective, and I like mine to be challenged. I keep an open mind, but am often flabbergasted by the unexpected insights Spirit has about my daily comings and goings.

I attended an event led by “energy worker” Abdy “Electriciteh” (a made up last name if ever I heard one). I’d heard about him from a Chatty Cathy in a trance mediumship class I once took, or “trance camp” as I liked to call it.

The girl gushed ecstatically, “Abdy looks in your eyes then knocks you down with his energy!”

Sounded like a barrel full of monkeys. There’s a Croatian guy named Braco (pronounced “Bratzoh”) who just stares warmly and intently at crowds for extended periods of time. It’s supposed to be healing. Or loving. Or something.

Anyone who’s come close to their favorite movie or music star knows the electrifying phenomenon that Abdy was selling. What did people get from Jesus? The Buddha? What do they get from Bono? Heck, performance artist Marina Abramović made a splash at the Museum of Modern Art doing the same thing as Braco (though her energies are very dark in focus and intent. She is not a lightworker). A little eye contact goes a long way. It’s increasingly rare in our mobile device obsessed culture. And charisma is always captivating. Comfortable eye contact, inner peace and social ease are antidotes for “text neck” and ADHD.

I was at another guy’s channeling event in New York City when I learned that Abdy “Electriciteh” was going to be in New York City. Actually, I have to stop right there. I used to attend this fellow’s channeled events regularly in years prior, and while all channeling sessions can be weird (it’s awkward, on occasion, when another consciousness takes over your body), this guy’s sessions were weirder than most.

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