Monthly Archives: December 2012

It’s Life, Ya Gotta Love It

I was reading an article in the local newspaper about recovering addicts. Honestly, I didn’t read the whole thing and I’m not sure what the point of the article was. It may have been that it’s the beginning of the new year and maybe we should take a closer look at our vices.

Okay. I’m in. My vices tend to be a leaning toward profanity, an affection for Diet Coke and occasional forays into self pity and cynicism. While I don’t want to underplay the serious nature of the above mentioned vices, none of them are life threatening.

Oh, I sometimes have cheese ball issues, as we’ve discussed, but I don’t consider it a regular problem and in fact the issue only appeared once or twice this year. It just seemed bigger cuz I told you all about it. But I digress.

Point being, they don’t really have 12 Step programs, as far as I know, for my “issues”. They are benign and I’m on my own with them. That’s fine by me, that’s when I usually indulge in them anyway, when I’m alone.

So here I am with my lack of 12 Step help, a partially read article and no cheese balls. How’s a girl supposed to start the New Year like that? I will tell you.

The part of the article I did read, the reason I brought it up to begin with, was one of the brave women interviewed was quoted as saying something that really stuck with me. She said in the article that she learned to accept life on its own terms.

I will most certainly make my yearly goals this year. I will try to become a better me. I will work toward my dreams and a bigger, better, more loving, healthier, more service oriented life.

But if I could have only one goal reached this year, if I had to boil it down to just one, concise idea, it would be to accept life by the terms with which it comes to me.

It is what it is.
We are what we are.
And that is enough.
I am enough.
We are enough.

Happy New Year.

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It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

My fourteen year old has been, understandably, obsessed with the idea of the end of the world. Maybe it’s me, but I’ve definitely thought about it. Please don’t misunderstand me, I continued paying my bills and I didn’t even gorge myself today at lunch (AND it was even my favorite sushi place). But there is a little part of me that wondered “Hmmmm….., what if….?”

So I let Chase stay up until midnight and at 12:04 a.m. he came in and reported to me that we were, indeed, still alive. Tragedy averted.

This morning as I watched the news during my “lazy girl works out on the treadmill” run, the news confirmed that we were all still alive. What I liked best about this auspicious news was the astrologist’s take on the whole Mayan Doomsday Fiasco. Don’t laugh, just because I said astrologist.

So anyway, the astrologist’s perspective was that the end of the world was not a literal end, but more an ushering in of a new time. So I’m running with that.

I think we could all use a “New Time”. I imagine this new time ushers in greater acceptance of others, peaceful living and help for those who need help. Those that are obvious and those that hide their needs well. I imagine powerful women and strong, gentle men.

Our New Time will include greater service to others, good news abounding and honest, cooperative business. It will usher in a greater need to accept that the wellness of the one affects the wellness of the whole. It will be, to quote Ronald Reagan, a “kinder, gentler” world.

Even if it’s not the Age of Aquarius, I choose this New Age. I choose it for myself. And at the end of the day, that’s all we have anyway, our choices.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

It Is What It Is

Over the last few days I’ve had a wide variety of experiences and feelings. I’ve been welcomed in some circumstances and I’ve found myself uncomfortably unwelcome in others. I’ve been surrounded by great minds that seemed to embrace me, as well as people who wouldn’t meet my eyes. I don’t know why.

I’ve thought quite a lot about the juxtaposition. How much of it is “real” and how much am I creating my own reality? I have a pretty good radar for that kind of thing, so it’s not like I believe my radar is off, but what part am I playing in the creation of the situations?

In all honesty, I can’t be sure. Who knows where and what we bring to and upon ourselves. Either way, our experiences, both good and bad are opportunities to grow and learn.

I am not blameless in a bad situation, nor am I completely at fault. It is what it is. What I do have ownership of is whether or not I feel victimized, superior, loving, harmonious, angry or saddened. What I do own, is my attitude as I journey into the next situation. What I AM responsible for is who I become through all my experiences.Imagelife

Ten Ways To Make The World A Better Place

In the best of circumstances this is a complicated time of year. We all wish to “go home” in our hearts and feel some sort of peace with ourselves, our families and our world. And if all the stars align, we might catch moments of Christmas magic just like we did when we were innocent, believing children.

Recent world events have not been the “best of circumstances”. While we mourn as a nation, there are complex feelings of wanting that Christmas joy and, at least for me, a sort of survivors guilt from focusing on matters so trivial even as the sweet faces of slain children flow through our Facebook news feeds.

My solution is deceptively simple. Every time I’ve ever gone into a situation hoping that it would turn out well for me, it’s been a crap shoot. However, every time I’ve gone into a situation hoping to make it a pleasure for those around me, I’ve come out feeling that elusive joy we are all seeking.

With that, I give you Ten Ways To Make The World A Better Place:

1. Every time you’re asked at the grocery store to donate a dollar to a worthy cause, do it. Every Salvation Army bell-ringer? Get out the change. Give and give and give. Even if it’s just a little. And then notice how you feel just a little bit better.

2. When we ask someone how they’re doing, let’s get out of our heads and really listen. Answers like “I’m okay” actually mean something different. Stop, look, listen and then let them know they’re heard.

3. Forgive. There are quotes and more quotes about the reasons to forgive. It’s easier said that done. It’s more gratifying than we could ever imagine. Forgive yourself, forgive your spouse, forgive your children, forgive us all for being frail and human and quirky and disappointing and weird. Forgive today and then turn around and do it again tomorrow.

4. Let us feed our brains with all that is good. Just because we’re not consuming the news like it was a bag of Lays Potato Chips does not mean we’re sticking our heads in the sand. I promise there is as much good news in the world as there is bad. Why not focus on it? And if we can’t find it, we should make some of our own.

5. When a good thought about someone else pops into our head we should express it. Tell the woman she has nice shoes, tell your wife you’re glad she is such a good mother, tell the grocery clerk she has a pretty smile. Don’t be shy! Say it!

6. Be slow to take offense. There are moods I get into that bring out the Demon Girl in me and I see offense in every movement of the people around me. Fortunately I’ve figured Demon Girl out and I can often allow her reign, but don’t take her opinions seriously, quickly recovering and finding happiness in giving others leeway.

7. Focus on cooperation instead of competition. We’re all one big family rotating around that big yellow sun. When we finally stop believing other’s successes hurt us and we finally embrace our oneness, that’s when the party starts.

8. Bark less, wag more. Ya’ll know I love dogs, well we all know we love the dogs that bark less and wag more. Let’s be those dogs.

9. Let’s leave this place better than we found it. I know it might sound a little silly, but pick up the fallen can from the grocery aisle instead of leaving it for the worker. Tidy up around yourself. Put your dishes away and make your mama smile. Recycle or up-cycle. Just do a little somethin’ to make things a little nicer for everyone.

10. Believe. Believe in the good and the beautiful and the divine. Seek it, embrace it, see it and revel in it. We cannot improve our world be focusing on the negative. Believe in good people, make good plans. Live good lives and that will be enough.

What’s That Mean?

I have a favorite television show I try to watch when I can. I can’t seem to get focused enough to be really dedicated to it, but I like it.

At the end of the credits, post-episode, the final screen is of a young teen pointing into the distance and the track plays his voice saying, “What’s that mean?” in a sort of sonorous tone. It’s catchy, and semi-irritating.

Last night I sat at dinner with one of my dear friends. She is young and smart and interesting and for some reason I am freed in her presence to lay the whole truth that is Michelle at her feet. I do it not in an attempt to bare my soul, but to receive her commentary and insight. Of which, she is well stocked.

One of my “take-aways” last night was a question she has repeatedly asked me in the past. As I admitted concern over certain behaviors I’ve adopted, she asked me the same question she has asked before. “What is your attachment to that?”

I realized while she saw no inherent problem with my activities, she wondered what message or perspective I might have with it. Cut to the still of a young man pointing into the distance, “What’s that mean?”

Oh. I get it. It means whatever I believe it means. If I see my behavior as good or bad or artistic or indifferent, that is exactly what it is. One of the grandest gifts we’ve been granted during our sojourn on this planet is to create our world. By affixing others’ definitions of what we want, what we do, how we look and what we choose, we are abdicating our glorious opportunity, our responsibility, to create the world in which we wish to live.

You know what that means? My behaviors are artistic. I choose luxury. My life is joyful. My possibilities are endless. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what that means… to me.

And whatever you choose, that’s what yours means to you.

May God Heal Us

I don’t know how I could be a blogger and not acknowledge the tragedy that has transpired in our nation. I do not want to write about it. I do not want to think about it.

I am truly rendered speechless. Ironically, it is one of my children who rescues me from my writing paralysis. My daughter Zoe writes:

“My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by all of these shootings. The Clackmas Town Center shooting- my friends and family were there and I am grateful for their safety and the outpouring of love within my community. The Sandy-Hook Elementary tragedy- May the arms of the Lord hold the families of those poor babies who were murdered and comfort them. And the shooting on the strip earlier this evening.

May those who were hurt have the strength to heal and may those who need help have the strength to get it.”

Our children are the treasures of this world. Let us protect them by loving them, leading them and healing them, as we ourselves heal from the evils of this world.

God bless us, every one.

Love, Love, Love… dunt da dunt… Love, Love, Love

So the influx of children returning home for the holidays has begun at the Young household. Zoe got home on Thursday morning for the holiday break. She and friends drove through the night to get there in time for Chase’s school talent show (which he nailed) as well as a girls day including lunch, pedicures and chick flicks.

Zoe is the first of my flock to return. Next Saturday the remaining four will arrive. I think I speak for the whole family in saying, WE ARE ALL SO EXCITED TO BE HOME TOGETHER.

This makes me feel like a successful parent. I am excited for my children to go out into the world to pursue their dreams, and I am thrilled when they look forward to returning, like conquerers making their way home to share tales of glorious battles won.

Zoe’s adventure into the world involves majoring in psychology. I love that my daughter has embraced the study of human behavior, AND it makes me feel a bit naked as she naturally analyzes the people around her with the newfound tool of knowledge.

I often joke about all the different reasons my kids will need therapy, and it was such a moment yesterday when Zoe stopped me and explained that studies show that the most important ingredient to successfully parenting is that there is warmth in the relationships.

WINNING!

I am errant in the parent category in so many ways. I drop the ball more than I like to admit. But this tidbit of information comforted me a great deal. It seems to me that we’re all just faking it to get through the roller coaster ride that is parenting, and I have admitted to my children on more than one occasion that I’m not sure what exactly I’m doing, but that I promise I am doing it with their best interest in mind. Mistakes and all.

Things have not always gone smoothly in our household. My children are wonderful beings, and they are all quite human. Who saw that coming? But I do believe that each one of them knows they are loved. They are valued for who they are. They are cherished.

It seems to me that the Beatles had it going on. All you need is love. And when it comes down to it, none of us really has control over anyone else, even our children. We only have influence. And what influence is more powerful than love?

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

Tragedy Too Close To Home

Humans have a difficult time “humanizing” more than a few hundred people at a time. In other words, we have a circle of people that we know and we empathize with, and the further out from that circle we go, the more those far away humans are concepts rather than individuals.

I believe that this occurs in our brains because without it we would be overwhelmed by the atrocities that happen in our world. Imagine hearing about the destruction that happens in the Middle East and internalizing each and every death that transpires as if it happened to someone you knew. We would be devastated daily. It would be impossible to function.

Indeed, I think there are some people who actually do have that capacity and it renders them incapable of functioning, always haunted by the grief this world has to offer.

Gratefully, most of us have the protective barrier. We see the world, we feel sad for the tragedies that come to pass, and we move on, perhaps thinking from time to time of them, but with the barrier in place, we’re able to laugh, buy tooth paste and get on with our lives.

Yesterday, as I was on my way to visit Granny I passed the shopping mall where I have dropped my children off for movies, shopping and mall roaming. While Chase and I drove blithely past, a gunman with a mask and some unknowable, angry history, opened fire on the food court where I’ve eaten with my children.

Both my son and daughter worked there in their teens. My guess is, having lived in the community for over 20 years, there were people there at the time that I know and love. People that are human and have voices and lives that are interesting to me.

I have spent many hours Christmas shopping at Clackamas Town Center. I’ve gone to many movies and I’ve celebrated birthdays with my family in the restaurants. So it is far too close to home for the barrier to be of much assistance to me.

I don’t want to pretend that this is MY tragedy, or that my day is ruined and I can’t eat or sleep. I just want to say that I understand the protective barrier we have been gifted is a powerful tool. It is good to be able to not feel each pain in the universe as if it were our own.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the many people this tragedy has affected. My heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones, yes, even to the family of the tragic person who created it.

Ten Acts Of Service

Yesterday my daughter Carrie called to nail down some specifics about Christmas. We chatted for a while and before she had to go she asked if she could tell me a nice Christmas story. Who doesn’t love a good Christmas story this time of year?

Carrie works in the service industry and over the weekend there was quite a wait at the restaurant where she works. A couple coming in for dinner decided to wait in the bar until they were alerted by pager that their table was ready. But even the bar was full with just two empty stools that were not by each other. Before they could even ask another couple moved down so that they could sit together.

So they bought their dinner for being kind enough to move. When the pager finally went off they decided they would be just as happy at the bar and found someone who had a terrible wait ahead of them and gave up their table.

Finally the meal was over. They’d sat at the bar the whole time and had eaten their meal there. The bartender who had served them received an inordinately high $50 tip.

Nice. Very, very nice.

Carrie talked about how much fun it will be when she’s in a position to be that generous. I thought about that and realized we are all in a position to be generous regardless of what means we use to do so. It doesn’t have to cost any money at all. Think about it. The chain of kindness began with the couple who moved aside for someone else.

This started me thinking about kindnesses that truly altered my life. Here are ten acts of service that rendered me deeply grateful:

1. On a day when I was so lonely and so desperate as a single, working mother, a woman from church went out of her way to help me with a project. She had no idea how my day had gone, making her simple act of service even more touching. Every time I try to tell someone about it I tear up but can never truly express what it meant to me.

2. On a similarly difficult day, I received a card in the mail from a friend. I didn’t know that day was going to turn out so bad, so how could she? But there it was in the mailbox, a card that told me how strong she thought I was, how inspiring it was to see me work through that time. I saved the card, but what stays with me today is that the words made me stronger. If someone else thought I was inspiring, I should at least do them the favor of trying to be inspiring.

3. While Aaron was away at Rock & Roll camp, I was at home trying to fight the good fight. My kids were at home trying to pretend life was normal, which of course, it was not. Every day I saw them make sacrifices and push down natural childhood behaviors in order to lighten my load. It was humbling to be so lovingly served by my children.

4. It is not a one time event to watch my husband take on a role or obligation that should naturally be my responsibility. He knows what I don’t like (I like to write to people, but talk to people, not so much) and will talk to other parents to arrange things, or go to a meeting I am dreading. That is what makes marriages wonderful. Daily acts of kindness.

5. When Aaron was in the hospital this last May, I was fine. I was strong. I had it handled. But my sister knows me sometimes better than I know myself. She and her husband drove for hours to come spend the day with me when I didn’t even know I needed them to.

6. One time my heart was broken in a way I didn’t know it could be broken. I think people around me didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t the kind of thing I talk about (again, comfortable with writing, not so much with talking mostly). So when an acquaintance dropped by my house with a paper bag full of chocolate and a few words about how some times there’s nothing to say, there is only chocolate. Well… that’s what I’m talking about.

7. I don’t want to name a specific time, but on many occasions when I have felt self conscious or unattractive or simply “average”, and someone has kindly complimented my shoes or my hair or told me I looked pretty. Thanks for that. I needed it.

8. My granny tells me I am wonderful every time I see her. I know she is biased. Of course she is biased, she is my granny. But just hearing her say how wonderful I am, bias and all, still makes me feel wonderful. Words, especially those spoken with love, are powerful service.

9. This last summer when I was getting ready to go to my first art show, Zoe was frustrated with me because I didn’t tell her when it was. It was a private show, and only one evening and I thought she was busy. Hello-o, she’s a twenty year old young woman with quite a lot going on. Because I didn’t tell her when it was, she had to make last minute arrangements to be there. “You’re busy,” I told her. “Don’t worry about it!” Nevertheless, she left her job several days early and made the 13 hour drive home just so she could be there to support me.

10. And last, but certainly not least, are the tender mercies of a loving God. The “coincidental” moments when life comes together to serve you in the simplest, and most elegant ways. The sunsets and the sunny days. The people you meet, just when you need them. The moments of transcendence that happen in the most banal of times. Now that’s an example to follow, all the days of our lives.

I know I can never give as much as I’ve received, but why not try, right?

Creating Happiness

ImageFor some reason it takes an alignment of the stars for me to do certain things. You will not find me on the couch whiling away the day reading a book unless I am sick. Similarly, you won’t catch me “wasting” my day doing a crossword puzzle unless I’m on vacation. And for some reason I don’t do creative ventures unless my work is done and my family is happily settled in their own interests.

It’s stupid. It will actually be one of the things I address while goal setting this coming year. Things have got to change. Life is short.

But yesterday there was an alignment of the stars. Yesterday was Sunday, and the rules at our house are different on Sunday. I admit we’re not “strict” on the Sabbath, but we do try to treat it differently than other days. We are generally successful in making it a more relaxed, family type day. So the normal rules are off.

Dear Reader, do not judge me when I admit that I got out my glue gun, ribbon, pipe cleaners and a toilet paper roll and began a joyful creation project. It is a guilty pleasure to write those ingredients. They are cliché. They are kitch. It was heaven.

I cannot seem to capture the glory that is my themed tree topper in a photo. And even if I could, there’s no way to show you the sweet sting of creativity on my fingers from using the glue gun. It is a glorious feeling. And I shall visit it again sooner than later.

Let us not waste our days. We should, from time to time each give in to the impulses we have to simply do as we please.

I wish each of us a creative and happy week.