Monday, September 30, 2013

Tender Times

She is impossibly frail, her skin hangs loosely like soft laced patterns.  Her breathing is labored, her heart is racing and yet still she hangs on, she smiles as those she loves surround her.  She has faced almost 10 decades of living.  She has faced Worldwide Economic Disasters, a World War, and many family and personal tragedies, and she's come back with her smile strong.

Now, in the tender hours I listen for her breath as she once did for me.  A time or two I even put my finger under her nose to make certain that she still is breathing.  I try to sleep to the gentle life rhythm of breath.  Yet the knowledge that I make awaken to find her gentle spirit has flown keeps me awake.

How did the years pass that brought us to this place?  I simply could not have lived 57 years.  I look into her face and see so much of my life looking back.  I also see HER life lessons that have taught ME.  More importantly I see the heart and soul of this beloved woman that I call sometimes very simply Ma.

I want to shield her from pain, from sorrow, from struggle, as she has done for me all of my years.  With all of the protecting she has done for others it's amazing that she's filled with holes as a shield held before a warrior.

So many images remind me of her.  A Pioneer bravely marking a path for others to follow.  A Traveler coming to a river at the end of a day, stopping to build the bridge.  Not because HE will need it again, but because someone young is following.  It takes courage...faith...optimism...love to be the woman she is, and has been.

One of my favorite images fills my mind.  A school day, I rush down the stairs to hustle into my morning routine only to find my Mama dancing and singing to the radio.  Her joy at greeting the morning turns my grumpiness into smiles, and I head off into the unknown wilds of the teen years smiling, not realizing until years later the precious gift she had given me.

So bitter...so sweet to face the parting of your best fan club, someone who thinks you are beautiful (even when you are really not), someone who ALWAYS believes that you can, and somehow because of that you DO.

I love you Mama...thanks...thanks again...and please keep dancing in Heaven...all those Angels need a Smile!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Do you See my White Flag?

Blowing brightly...shimmery, shiny, a white flag hanging from my front door.  Someone might say, "What are you talking about?"  Lucky you that is reading this because I will tell you! 

I was born allergic to the world with virtually no immune system.  I spent way too much time in hospital's (there was virtually no treatment for asthma in 1956), the only thing they could do was give me oxygen.

Now before anybody starts thinking..."Wow, does this lady talk about anything but her crappy health?"  I'll also explain that I came into the world to two terrific parents.  Two siblings that loved me and were patient with all of the chaos I brought into their lives.  Our neighborhood and church group rallied around and I had oh 10 to 20 grandparents that all willingly reached out to help me, to help my family.

Now segue forward 57 or so years.  It's Fall, my worst allergy season.  Ironic that my favorite season of the year I spend far too much time feeling really, really sick!  May I admit that I wish there was somebody to blame for this.  Really?  How rude is it to feel crappy a great deal of the time when the leaves are painting brilliant pictures against a canvas of azure blue!  I want to go hike some of the 111 miles of trails just sitting around my Hillside Home, NOT sit in here looking out feeling like genuine CRAP!

So...if you should happen to see my home today you will notice a white flag...OK...you won't see it, it's invisible after all, and just figurative.  On the other hand, please note that any and all messages, notes of love, hugs, and other helpful items are muchly appreciated right now as I struggle to get through this awful misery!  In case you're wondering, this post will probably NOT make it into my book, Thrive Don't Just Survive.  'Cause honey today just surviving is more than enough!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Who Are You...Who Do You Want to be?

I LOVE modern technology that affords me the ability to connect with beloved family and friends all around the globe!  Sometimes I post my less than stellar personal moments on Facebook.  Afterwards I think, now why would I share that part of me that is flawed?  An easy answer; the affirmations that come flooding in help me feel appreciated, loved, and understood.

One of my friends put it rather humorously to me in my struggling teen years.  "If you quit telling people that you're ugly, maybe they wouldn't notice!"  Do you notice though that she didn't AFFIRM that I WAS ugly.  She affirmed that I BELIEVED that I was ugly.

What kind of things do you project in your life in your daily interaction with others?  Do you feel weak, unable to live up to the standards that you desire?  Do you feel ugly, or fat?  Do you feel hopeless, that there simply is no way to attain what you would like to?

I believe that all of us have felt all of those things at some point in our lives.  If you haven't CONGRATULATIONS...and please tell me how you managed to dodge all of those miserable bullets!

Recently I re-connected with a beloved friend from my childhood.  I haven't seen her in THIRTY years.  I was stunned when I looked at her because she's only a few inches taller than me.  That makes her about five foot eightISH.  The reason that stunned me was because of the memory I had of her.  My memory made her a GIANT!  Tall, skinny, and coltish.

Now she's not all that tall, nicely built, and very gracious and poised.  So, was my memory wrong?  Had my perception of her been completely skewed?  (One of my favorite things about being 57 is perception.  That 3-D ability to view the present with lessons from the past.)  The answer is NO...my memory was that she and I were two of the tallest girls in the class for a very long time.  That was because, in fact, we were.  I was five foot five by the age of twelve, and she was five foot seven or eight by the age of twelve.  We then had to wait a very, VERY long time for the other children around us to get their growth spurts and catch up to us.  They DID catch up, and now we are both just a tiny bit above average height.  Yet in my memory she still is incredibly tall!

Why do I use this little analogy?  Before I explain I wish to use another example.  A lovely girl that I know is not any fun to shop with.  The reason?  She does NOT see what is actually looking back at her from the mirror.  She sees all the negative ideas and perceptions of herself that she has developed over a very short life span.  It doesn't matter if an outfit makes her look beautiful to everyone else.  There are almost NO outfits that make her look beautiful to herself.

WHY?  Why do so many of us carry around wounds from the past in our hearts and souls?  Wouldn't it be easier, and happier to see ourselves as beautiful, with all kinds of potential and possibilities?

Back to MY youth again.  I learned a song that changed much of my negative thought patterns.  It was called "Please Pass the Possibles to Me."  The ideas of the song encouraged the value of positive possibilities for each one of us.  WHAT?  There could be a time in my life that I felt wanted, loved, beautiful?  There could be a time when I would believe enough in my gifts and talents to write novels, or positive attitude ideas to share with the world?

I adored a little movie that came out a while back.  The title was unfortunate to my way of thinking.  It was something like, "What the BLEEP Are You Doing?"  I just paraphrased that title as close to the original as I could remember.  The title did NOT do the movie justice.  The movie was about the idea that REALITY was fluid.  It IS NOT, solid, and completely unable to flex or change.  It promoted that idea that we can in fact create our very own reality!  WHAT?

So...today, what is your reality?  Do you enjoy your own reality?  Is there anything within it that you can change?  Are you limited by your own perspectives?  Or are you limited by necessity (little things like feeding your family).  Can you create your own reality?  Sometimes, at points in your life that may be impossible...but just for a measured time.  So, if you are stuck for awhile, find ways and means to make that reality more positive.

I worked at a job that I HATED!  The work was mostly about numbers and statistics, while I'm a people sort of a person.  I HAD to keep the job.  It gave our family health insurance, AND it paid for my husband's Law School (at $15,000.00 a year that's a pretty real motivation).  So, I found ways and means to make the job work for me.  I did my best to strengthen the weaker part of me, dealing with math and statistics.  I focused on the people part of my job, and used that enjoyment to tide me over on long stretches of the things that I did NOT want to do.

Oh it didn't make my reality suddenly magical.  Yet it did a lot to make my reality MORE magical.  Viktor Frankl found ways to make living (and living with the possibility of death) in a Concentration Camp more positive.  Oh please, he didn't start skipping and singing happy songs.  That isn't called reality, that's called Psychosis, or the inability to recognize reality.  He did rise to a higher level of reality where he could bear his limited, horrendous existence.

Can you create your own reality?  The answer is YES...no equivocations.  It WILL involve some work inside yourself.  Take a journal, find a quiet corner and investigate.  List all the things you do like about your current reality, it may be small places where you can focus like, I love my parents, or I love my children, and the possibilities I see within each of them.  Or you may realize that YOU are your own Dam...the kind that stops water, not the other kind (see, I shifted reality for a moment, and you can too...hee hee).  You may be the one stopping or damming the incredible possibilities that lie within YOU!

Most importantly, BELIEVE!  YOU CAN CHANGE...YOU CAN BELIEVE IN YOUR OWN POTENTIAL!  Class dismissed!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Are You My Mother?

Dr. Seuss is one of my favorite writers of all time.  His ability to take on huge social issues by distilling them into a seemingly simple children's book was profound.  Think of "Lorax," "The Star Belly Sneech's, The Cat in the Hat....pretty much any children's book that he wrote had some deeper meanings besides the seemingly simple story idea.  Well maybe not so much "Socks on foxs," or "Green eggs, and Ham."  In this story I TOTALLY agree that I DO NOT like GREEN eggs, and HAM!  I prefer mine the usual color thank you very much.

One of my very most favorite books by Dr. Seuss is "Are You My Mother?"  A little egg hatches when the Mother is away for a short second.  The new baby bird goes around asking everyone, "Are you my Mother?"  (By the way you really HAVE TO read the story in a silly little voice.)

In my childhood I went through a phase when I was convinced that I was adopted.  Many times people would ask the question, "Are you Wendell and Sarah's daughter?"  There was always this tone in their voices and the same tone when I would respond, "Yes."  Their tone was like, "REALLY?"  A time or two the question was followed with the statement, "You don't look anything like the rest of your family."  The worst was someone who was elucidating on the fact that my sister was beautiful, absolutely quantifiably gorgeous.  She had perfect skin, perfect teeth, and knew how to style her hair to make the most of her features.  She was a pageant queen, and one of my young "Sheroes."  (You know, male is "Hero," female is "Shero,"  I don't EVER use the term heroine...we  women are NOT drugs!)

I was the tail end of my siblings, younger by 10 and 6 years.  My brother (10 years older) and sister (6 years older) were overachievers.  They were talented, handsome and beautiful, sang all over the place at various and sundry events.  They were both scholars, popular in school, and with seemingly great health.

I had been perilously close to death all of my life.  My immune system was crappy, and I was allergic to life.  When tested as a babe for my allergies my parents were told that I was the "Most allergic human they had ever seen."  Asthma and chronic bronchitis caused me to struggle on a frequent basis just to breathe.  I could not participate in sports, had to be careful about running, or playing outside.  I segued into adolescence with bad skin, frizzy hair, and crappy health (still).  I was NOT popular.  How can you be popular when you have a terrible self image thanks to a lifetime of health stuff?  You can't reach out to others when you are so awkwardly embarrassed by yourself.

Ooops, did I mention my incredibly crooked teeth as I went from childhood to adulthood.  YUP, those earned me a lot of awful names.  Then I got braces, and those earned me awful names as well.

Now you may ask, what does Dr. Seuss and the book "Are You My Mother," and my growing-up struggles?  Since you asked so nicely I'll tell you.  In the book "Are You My Mother," the small birdie had pretty serious identity issues.  After all, he came to the world and his Mom wasn't there for the shell cracking.  I have terrific parents...unconditional in their love, and supportive of my life.  Yet nobody seemed to connect ME to my parents OR to my siblings.  Instead I was perceived by many as the "runt of the litter."

I cried for several days off and on at one point so convinced was I that I was adopted. (I've always been pretty dramatic of disposition)  Mama always knew when something was "off" with us.  She had a way of stroking my "frizzy" hair, and just pulling out the hard stuff I was trying to deal with.  When I finally blurted out, "Mama am I adopted?"  Her response was instantaneous, "Trust me on this, I was there when you were born, I carried you inside me for nine months.  YOU ARE NOT ADOPTED."

I still remember the radiant joy that filled my heart.  I belonged to this remarkable four people, my parents, and my siblings.  My Mama also taught me that day that even though most of us go through an "awkward" stage in life during our adolescence, most of us grow out of it, and I certainly would, in fact I was already beautiful!  YUP, Mama saw her kids through the prettiest rose colored filter.  We were all tremendous, beautiful, talented, and a gift from her and Papa to the world.

I did, (mostly) grow out of my uglies in college.  My teeth were straight and unbraced, my skin was much, MUCH better.  I had even learned to style my hair in a flattering manner that WASN'T frizzy! My loving roommates taught me how to emphasis my good features through the judicious use of make-up.  My gifts to dance and act brought many friends into my life.

How do you define yourself?  Are you somebody's child, mother, sister, brother, husband, wife?  After my beloved husband died I had a pretty serious case of the "Whom am I's."  I took great pride and joy in being the wife of Nyle.  He could do ANYTHING, from becoming an attorney and practicing for 20 years, electric or plumbing work in the house, act, sing, dance, do computer graphics, work as a law professor, and at the end of his life have a digital recording study (he got most of his equipment through barter or building the computer himself).  What a gift it was to me to count this tremendous light of a man as husband...then he was gone.

Yet as I've walked through life, sometimes crawled, staggered, or dragged myself through life, I'm coming to understand that each and everyone of us have an identity, a value, a purpose that far exceeds earning a living, who our parents are, or spouse is, or children are....etc.  Our intrinsic value comes from none of those things.  If we have nothing...if we are thrust into the "mean streets," of our society we STILL HAVE VALUE!  Each and every human born on this planet has value.  It's tricky to realize that and see your own value.   In oh so many ways it's easier to NOT see our incredible potential.  By viewing what we could be or become it brings responsibility into our lives to become that mystical person.

It seems that for every positive experience in our life there are many more waiting to cause us grief.  Today I have a challenge for me, and for those reading this post.  Today I challenge you to look inside yourself.  What value do you have....beyond your working skills, your ability to raise a family, the way you look?  What do you consider a value within yourself?  Is it valuable to be able to lift other humans and make them smile?  Is there value in feeling the joyous beauty of life?  How about the value of feeling loved, and giving love in return?

So this post ends with a challenge and a question.  The challenge again is, "What do you see of yourself that has value?"  The question is "Who Is Your Mother?"  Meaning how do you define yourself?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Darkness of Night to Light of Day?

What tossing, twisting, turning thoughts tumble through your cranium as you do your best to coax sleep to stay?  Do you find that your nighttime thoughts are darker than your daytime thoughts?  Are you ever afraid to go to bed, knowing that sleep will NOT come easily or well?  Is it nighttime when all the fears, and "reality" of this world come out to play?

"Hold on my child, joy comes in the morning, weeping only lasts for the night..."  Some of my favorite lyrics in a song.  So many times in my life the darkness of night seems reflective of the darkness of my thoughts.  Then when I awaken to light pouring in my window the darkness of night is banished...until bedtime when it again makes its appearance.

Coping strategies...can you memorize a poem, scripture, song, something that will invite peace and rest, and banish the darkness of nighttime?  Maybe you could print a large copy version of something positive that you want to memorize or contemplate as you send your mind into "rest" mode.

When you climb in to bed can you have a "meditation basket," (my own personal go to) and a personal journal right there on your night table?  So...in this basket you have items that represent ONLY positive things...ok one exception, something negative that taught you something positive.  You take each item out.  Feel it enclose it with your hand(s), remember it...what memory does it bring back?  If it brings back multiple memories choose ONE for this night.  Use your senses to take you back to the memory or lesson learned.  Smell it, see it, taste it, (I can ALWAYS taste brine when I'm close to the ocean), hear it.  Celebrate it!  What does that mean?  In my own world to celebrate means to attach joyous connection to an experience.

Next, write thoughts as they come to your mind in your journal.  We often hear these days of the benefit of "gratitude" journals.  Instead of just approaching the ideas of things that you are grateful for, you could allow your thoughts, and feeling free rein.  Maybe something that seems negative at the surface can lead to positive new ideas.  Remember you are trying to nudge yourself into sleep so don't use this time to spend hours examining situations and ideas.  Try a bright sunshiny afternoon under a big tree in your yard for that idea.

There is no right and wrong in your journalizing.  Freedom of expression can surprise you and lead you to new ideas about old experiences.  I love to write in longhand my thoughts.  I once heard a comparison that I love.  "Pen to paper for a writer is like brush to canvas to an artist.  There is a sense of flow, a releasing as thoughts come from your brain and are transported smoothly to paper.  In this time and place in history many prefer the use of laptop computers, or smart phones.

Again, there is no right or wrong in how to record these ideas....except, there is no lasting method of saving ideas recorded on a computer.  I adore reading about the lives of my great-great grandparents.  The only medium that they had available was a pen, or pencil and paper.  Technology makes such rapid transitions these days that who knows if in 50 years there will be any way of connecting the current technology to play it back.

So...are you writing just for your own introspection?  Or do you have the historian in yourself longing to communicate thoughts and ideas that can be read by future generations?

Last but not least.  When you have expounded and explored the limitless landscape of your mind it's time to ready your mind for sleep.  So...climb into your bed in your favorite sleeping position.  Envision all of the thoughts of consciousness as though underneath them is an enormous drain.  You will now pull the plug and any and all thoughts will slide down through the drain.  You can be methodical in this cleansing process, taking each thought item by item until there are no residual concepts lurking in your sub-conscious.  Or you can do as I prefer, just dump them all into that huge space and watch as they all disappear down the drain!  Now that there are no thoughts, feelings, or memories lurking about you can let yourself slide away into rest.

The human mind and body is miraculous.  Learning to use them to your best benefit is one of the keys to a happy life.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Recipe Time

RAG PUDDING

1 cup sugar                          1 cup milk
1 cup currants or raisins         shaking of cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder               2 eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil        Flour to thicken

Wet sack in cold water put in pudding and place in kettle of boiling water for cook for 2 hours.  Serve with sauce/dip.

DIP

1 1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
butter size of egg
shaking of nutmeg
Cream and Brandy
1 tablespoon cornstarch to thicken

This recipe comes from a cookbook that my Grandma kept.  Many of the recipes in her cookbook were handed down from her Mother, and who knows how many generations before that.  I love that she mixes standard sizes of ingredients (tsp, tbl, cup) with NON-stand sizes (shaking of cinnamon, butter size of egg). 

Grandma was an amazing cook.  Even her string beans were amazing.  She cooked the fresh beans in beef consomme, and added sliced almonds for garnish.  I was not a picky eater but I was allergic to lots and lots of foods.  It was Grandma who researched what foods an extremely allergic person should eat.

At Grandma's we would sit on the porch and watch the evening slide into twilight and night.  I was always safe with Grandma.  There were no kids there waiting to attack me, to tear down my self-esteem.  That happened at school. 

Grandma did not show love in the traditional ways.  She never called me sweetie, or honey.  She did call me a "Cute little shit," and "Knothead."  Somehow, somewhere along the way I learned that those non-traditional Grandma terms for me meant the same as the traditional terms!

When Grandma was 75, my cousin and I visited her for a weekend.  She gave us some chalk and we drew a hopscotch on her porch.  Imagine our surprise and wonder when 75 year old Grandma joined us in a game!  Grandma's body aged, but her spirit was ageless...filled with wonder and delight at life's pleasures.

The day that Grandma passed away at 91 I was pregnant and felt our baby move within me for the first time.  It seemed that I learned more that day about the seasons of life...the beginnings and endings.  I personally believe that my Grandma helped our baby girl get ready for this earth.  

I love you Grandma...I hereby challenge you to a game of hopscotch in the Heavens above!