Category Archives: Personal Stories

fate is chance, destiny is choice

cristina carlino

Unpublished Work © 2011 Cristina Carlino

about fifteen years ago, i scribbled those words on a piece of paper.  i didn’t  know where they came from or who said it first if it wasn’t me,  but those words were  one of the first of dozens of  messages i would write for the outside of skin and body care  bottles for philosophy, the company i founded in the brand new year of l996.  to create a second skincare company was my very conscious choice back then, although i did not at first know its name or at all what the company would become. philosophy became and remains in its own new way, a most wonderful  part of my life’s destiny.

today, i find myself thinking of that line again and what it can mean to our lives in this brand new year of 2011.  for me, rather than resolutions of what i’d like to do, i am looking at what i want to choose.   fate is chance  – what appears  to occur as an unplanned reunion,  buying  the winning raffle ticket,  or who you are seated next to in the movies,  destiny is choice-  a deep desire. if you are choosing positively , it will be courageous, exciting and very conscious.    as for all of the outcomes, they  all belong to a divine order.

so  today i choose to make conscious choices  and for this moment to start with what i won’t  be choosing rather than what i will be choosing .

l.  i won’t  choose past lives. i choose this one ,

2011 can be so much more original than just a sequel to 2010.  the less clinging to the past, the more enlivening my today.

2. i choose the future. i am choosing to be where i am.

when i look down at my feet and can be right where they are now, my dreams for the future are germinating in the rich soil i stand on.

3. i won’t choose gridlock.  i will find a new path when the one i am on is taking me nowhere.

choose to tell the  truth about what may  just be  persistence to making a closed door open  when in fact there is an open door just waiting for me at the other side of the room.

4. i won’t choose more walks then naps. dreaming can take me anywhere

and always in the divine magical privacy of my very own world.

5. i won’t choose mindless over mindful.

this includes not watching any reality tv show where a woman can’t stop eating toilet paper.

6. i won’t choose sugar. why add to my mood swings?

although it’s a hidden  ingredient in more foods than we know, i won’t choose the ones where sugar’s glistening on top.

7. i won’t choose to choose people, clothes or shoes that don’t make me either feel better or look good

choosing  the wrong things and people is an act of self hate and self sabotage. 

8.  i won’t choose guilt. i’ll embrace the words, “ i am doing my best.”

opening the door to guilt is just putting out a welcome mat for everything  in the world being your fault when very little has anything to do with you.

9. i won’t choose lies. not even little ones.

the little ones don’t stay little for long.  and the ones we tell ourselves hurt the most of all.

10. i  won’t choose gossip. it can ruin the life of another.

as well as my own.  i am so grateful to have discovered that gossiping feels physically awful.

11. i won’t choose to let others make important choices for me.   i choose for me.

unless you are a child, nobody else can know what is right for you.

and i am choosing above-all, to be here and awake in the moment as much as i possibly can.  because this moment  is where my joy of just being lives and my best, most conscious and courageous choices are always  made.  i am staying in a loving partnership with God, the master planner. for 2011, i choose faith knowing that whatever the divine’s outcomes, i will grow and blossom.  when you think of it, who could have created a greater adventure?

let the good times roll.

peace and blessings


a perfect thank you note

Unpublished Work © 2011 Cristina Carlino

christmas is over.  santa has hopefully come and gone at your house and now that all the wrappings are up off the floor, you may have some additional people to thank. but how do we say it?   we all know how the letter to santa goes:

dear santa:

here is my list of gifts i would  like you to bring me: (fill in the blanks)

please bring me as much as possible if not all of it.  i’ve been good.  all year.


but is there a standard form for the thank you note you write on the flip side?    our mothers taught us  to be polite and tell the person how thankful we feel.  but what if finding  ten words for how we feel about the blue sweater makes us feel  like we’re climbing mt. everest?   maybe it’s not about the sweater.

the etiquette experts  write that  the proper thank you should still be written by hand  and sent in the snail mail.  it should start with “thank you for the _____”, and end with “thank you again for the ______________.”  no note is  needed if the person lives in the same house with you and  a note to someone you’ve already thanked in person is best but optional.   i don’t have any set rules to offer.  but i learned my gold standard for writing thank you cards at christmas and every other time of the year from the same person who taught me to write these notes  in the first place.  my mother.

every year on my birthday when i was a young girl, she sent me a note to thank me for being her  daughter.  she described her impressions and feelings for me  in the most wonderful,  beautiful and thoughtful words that i knew were sincere and  meant only for me because i could feel  each one of them lift off the page  and float gently  into my heart.  and that is where those words remain to this day.

which reminds me that a perfect note may be the one that does not give thanks first for the sweater  but for but person who gave the sweater.  who they are to us.   a friend you cannot imagine a christmas without.  your cousin you haven’t seen for years but still somehow knows the exact right funny thing to send you. the person to whom you can say, “you mean so much to me” and “i love you.”  sincerely.

and what if the note goes to someone who is not your favorite for a sweater you wouldn’t wear out of the house on a dare? this may end up being the the most important note of all for us to write.  to appreciate that if nothing else, they  took their  time and made an effort to think of  us and buy and wrap a gift that arrives on time so that  we may have another surprise to open and discover.  often within ourselves.  we discover our compassion and gratitude for  realizing that underneath all of the gifts, what we all crave at our core is to be appreciated.  we can let the person and what’s given, as well as ourselves, be enough.

and so i write this note to you, knowing that  it may not be delivered in the perfect form but sent with my sincerity.  which is the only starting point:

dear __________(fill in your name)

thank you for being my new (and some not so new) friends.  our connection has opened up a world to me i could not begin to understand a year ago and a joy i would never have imagined.  i am so grateful.


the best gifts for 2010 are the ones you can’t wrap!

Unpublished Work © 2011 Cristina Carlino

tis  the countdown to  christmas and if you’re a little nervous about  what  you can still get in these last minute shopping hours,  below is a list of gift suggestions that i have come to discover, in my 49 years,  are timeless.   While there are many to choose from, my best picks all have this in common:  they  won’t need bubble wrap for protection, don’t come in packages, do not require batteries and  are perfect when  returned and re-gifted.  over and over again.

gift  #1:  your attention- to listen purely to someone with your ears and mind wide open.  to be heard  is the gift everyone needs and few  receive.

gift #2:   a compliment- to really see someone and to tell them  sincerely,  “you look very pretty” or  “your home looks and feels so welcoming,” makes a warm blanket for the heart.

gift #3:   courage-  to be anxious about showing up and to show up anyway.  to not miss living our celebrations because we are living our fears.

gift #4:   your courtesy- a polite and gentle spirit will never go out of style.

gift #5:  encouragement- giving someone the encouragement they need to grow tomorrow, may help  them  blossom in 2011 beyond their dreams.

gift #6:  forgiveness- a forgiving heart can set everyone free. especially you.

gift  #7:  a hug- a body that offers a warm embrace  at the perfect moment when it is needed most is a lovely surprise.

gift# 8:   kindness-  does not require instructions manual.

gift #9:   a belly laugh-   will be heard much farther than tears.

gift #10:  patience-    not always so easy to find at this time of year, but like underwear, you can never have too much of it.

so these are my favorites.  no package no price tag.   WHICH IS NOT TO SAY, we shouldn’t go excitedly looking under the tree for those delicious  little bowed  boxes with our  names on them or perhaps an item  that is just too oversized  for tissue like a vacation trip to Paris or that pony you’ve always wanted.  they are all wonderful.   But rather to consider trying to recall a gift you got last year.  And then the years  before that.  and  even before.   do you remember a special present you received as a child?  is there a reason why the little-little ones tend to get a lot of toys. toss them to the side and are more intrigued with the empty  boxes?  i wonder if it isn’t because when we look back, what we likely recall more vividly than anything are the people who gave  us the gifts.  the invisible presents.  they way we felt because of how they listened to us  or laughed with joy  just to be with us and watch us receive.    the present that keeps on giving.  our true heart’s desire.   or as the great ralph waldo emerson once wrote, “the only gift is a portion of thyself.”

with peace and holiday blessings

great expectations

Unpublished Work © 2011 Cristina Carlino

tis the season. i do love this giving time of the year.  and all of them, actually. yet sometimes it can feel more like a holiday for me on a regular day than on the holidays. you come home one tuesday in august to find a surprise little gift in your mailbox that  makes your day.  you call a friend you’ve been out of touch with out of the blue and at the exact right moment when  she needs to hear your voice most.  you have a surprisingly open and serene grown-up meal with your siblings plus that brings you even closer than you could have ever thought possible.   and it’s all like magic.

and then it’s december.  and the enthusiasm and excitement of christmas and parties and the new year ahead fills the air. expectations are at their highest and at no other time of the year are there as many low, unhappy people. so what gives?  the late, great british  novelist, charlotte bronte,  wrote, “life is so constructed that the event does not, cannot and will not match the expectation.”  a little bleak but two hundred years later doesn’t it still hold up?   is that why our  unfulfilled (or fulfilled) expectations and disappointments  of the holidays  leave us diving into the second half of the pecan pie or a vat of eggnog or each other like at no other time of the year?   so now what?  do we either strive to have expectations that are sadly, sadly low or expect to have no expectations?  (wait! isn’t that an expectation?)

i don’t know the answer, but this year i’m trying out some new expectations.  so i’ve made a list (and checked it twice) of expectations i want to try to  have and expectations to not have for the holidays.   see if they work for you.  i’m afraid none of these are for santa to deliver.  but for us.

  1. don’t expect the people i know and love to be mind readers.  no matter how well i think they should know me.  it’s a gift to have a voice that can say both “will you help me set the table?” and “i love you so much.”
  2. don’t expect a lion to be a bunny rabbit.  your relative (you know the one) who roared the loudest last year (and every other year you’ve been alive) will likely not turn cute and sit  silently in his cage this year. a lion roars.
  3. don’t expect to have no expectations.  few spiritual masters have ever lived who have transcended human wants.   don’t try this at home, boys and girls on the holidays.
  4. don’t expect yourself to do the holidays perfectly.  don’t expect anyone else to make them perfect for you.
  5. do expect to experience some joy every day.  joy is your job.
  6. do expect to take at the very least, decent care of  yourself whatever that looks like to you.
  7. do expect to be kind and grateful for what is given.  even if you can’t wait to return it.
  8. do expect a miracle!  there!  i said it!

they happen every day.  babies are born, lives are saved, flowers blooms, and we can be present to the moment.   we can be in acceptance of what is.  we can let it be. we can be at peace.  and from there, we can have a new perspective. the true miracle.  surprises and simple magic beyond our wildest imagination can then reveal themselves.  rapture!  we discover we have plenty to give and to receive just as we are.  that is the great expectation.

peace and blessings

finding our way home for the holidays

Unpublished Work © 2011 Cristina Carlino

thinking of home has me thinking more than ever this year of all the people who are finding  themselves  hanging on to their homes by their fingernails or those who are dreaming of just one good night’s sleep in a local shelter.  the increased reported numbers of adults and children living in subways and shelters in new york alone is up over 30 percent from 2009 –  a fact that is hard for me  to wrap my head and warm woolen scarf around.   it’s easy to feel bad and guilty.   harder to remember that guilt is a weak and useless emotion next to the strength of gratitude.

gratitude  for even the most simple of things, like a warm piece of toast with a little butter.   or for the ability to supply that and a word of kindness to someone in need.  gratitude is one of our great and only  god given powers.  but it’s hard to be grateful when we feel we are not having the relationships or other goodies we may want.  easy to take for granted all we have and have always been given.  it’s easy to be grateful when we have a windfall of good fortune. harder when we are without shelter and trying to protect ourselves from the wind.   but whatever our particular situations may be this particular thanksgiving, our ability to give thanks is what still is our great equalizer.  it brings us to our home.  maybe not the home where we get our mail delivered – maybe not the mansion we’ve imagined should be ours or a simple, small house with the roof over our head – but nonetheless our ‘home.’   ours  to carry with us wherever we go.

this year something i am grateful for is i have had the willingness to further pump up what i have come to see is a gratitude muscle. it has to be exercised daily.  otherwise,  like everything else it starts to get weak and flabby.  thanksgiving is the perfect day to begin again.  maybe not a diet but a workout of thanks.  sincere thanks.  so where do we start?  simply.   i’m thinking of the classic children’s poem written by the great robert louis stevenson for this holiday.  it’s called, appropriately, “thanksgiving.”

“the world is so full of a number of things, i’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”

to this i will add “amen”.  and a-women, too.  beginning with the fact that i can breathe and that i have fingers to type (although certainly not without error).  i am grateful to have you reading my words.  i have a world to be grateful for.  and a world of love to give in return.  how about you?

peace and thanksgiving blessings

be a hero (with your super power)

Unpublished Work © 2011 Cristina Carlino

happy november. i’m thinking about heroes this month and since november kicks-off with halloween night,  i’m also still smiling about the droves of  little heroes i saw out sunday  night.  they were disguised as spider man and princess tiara and a skeleton dressed in a sweat shirt to stay warm.   and then there were lots of their parents – adult heroes dressed in costumes, too.  more than i’ve ever seen. i am grateful for all of them and for the melting pot of heroism that is brewing out there .  just in time to inspire us and save us .

and while few may ever fulfill the fantasy and “leap tall buildings in a single bound,” morph into a favorite animal, or save the world from all evil,  it’s a dream come true for me that we  are getting we don’t have to be perfect or the best who ever lived to be heroic.   we have only to do something unselfishly for the benefit of the greater good.  that’s what ben franklin first said and i’m sticking to it.  not the greatest number but the greater good.  to make a difference in one life, one million lives, our own lives.  small things.  big things.  our families, our jobs, our neighbors, strangers whose lives we may change without even knowing it.

i love the mother teresa’s quote, “we cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.”  come to find out, all that great love adds up.

in november  i’ll blog about a few famous  heroes whose deeds seem very great to us, including my friends, bob and lee woodruff and the late dana and  christopher reeve who i deeply miss.  all who are and we super people and models of doing the right thing.   ultimately they teach me about great love.   that the primary requirement to being  a hero is to be a  decent person with a respect and love for ourselves and faith in humanity.  that we be honest and fair and true to our word.  this is our super power.

come as you are.  wear a costume if you wish.   but come.   i’d love to hear from you.  how are you showing up for your life?  who is a hero in your life?   who are you a hero to?

peace and blessings

breaking records- with a little help from our (girl)friends…

Unpublished Work © 2011 Cristina Carlino

i read a quote this week that reminded me adversity  can break us or it can inspire us to break records. the good  kind.  this breast cancer awareness month, records have been broken.  the record number who lost their lives to this dreadful  disease is  down and awareness of prevention  is up.  she colors my day surpassed its previous reach.   the pink crayon has now  been clicked over ll4,000 times – each time creating for a cure.   project miracle is delighted with these numbers.

and we know, ultimately it’s always just about one.  one story. one woman.  one friendship at a time.  no one breaks records alone.  not the good kind.  not even our  own personal best. can you imagine trying to reach your goal without the “that-a-girl’ support of a good friend cheering  us on the path and celebrating with us at the finish line?   all it takes is one friend.   here’s my one story.  it’s about my friend, kelly.  we have been inseparable from the start.

“i am woman hear me roar in numbers to big to ignore.”  kelly and i sang out helen reddy as loud as we could.  our legs were pumping as hard as they could to make our swings fly high above the playground.  we were in the fifth grade.  it was the last day of school before summer.  so we decided to show up in halter tops.  we were brave and wanted to break the glass ceiling of a dress code we thought was invented by the self righteous. the result: we were sent home to change.   a moment of adversity, but neither of us opted to break the dress code again.   instead, we got into student council and figured out how to change the rules.   and that’s what we’ve done.  year after year.  a kept roots in arizona.  kelly moved to hollywood.  but we  have never really been apart.  many years later, both kelly and i sadly lost friends to breast cancer.  breast cancer?   we had never heard of such a thing when we were young girls.  kelly became one of the founders of the women’s cancer research fund.  she inspired me to follow her lead and turn my grief into charitable  good.

then, about seven years ago, kelly began to  ride another new wave.  literally.  she met a volleyball player named gabby and her surfer husband, laird.  (laird was to become the subject of the current new york times bestseller, “The Wave”,)  kelly spoke about her new companions endlessly and i didn’t get tired of hearing it.  i watched as in their company, kelly became brand new and better physically than i had ever remembered her at any other time in her adult life.  she was not just living in the moment but exploding into it.  like we both did when we were nine.  this past summer, i got to meet laird again and read about him as well.  with kelly at the inspiration-helm, my own desire to not just live in the moment  but explode (in the good way) into it was ignited.  i am now breaking my own personal  record and working  daily to  get back into better physical shape than i have been in years. i feel wonderful.   next summer, i’m going to be in california at the pacific with kelly and my daughter and our very own surfboards on the waves.  the baby waves.  exploding into the moment.  as we close out this last week of breast cancer awareness month, this is my plan and my prayer. for my one story.  for all of our stories.  that we be alive, healthy and grateful together.  and breaking records.

who do you pray to be with next october?  have you told her yet?  i’d love to hear your story.

peace and blessings