Monthly Archives: October 2013

Traditions, Family Glue and Halloween

We have a ridiculous amount of family traditions. My niece actually wrote a paper about the traditions that attend our Thanksgiving festivities alone. It may have been a paper for her abnormal psychology class. That would make a lot of sense now that I think about it.

One of our traditions is making “spudnuts” for Halloween. My mother and grandmother would make hundreds of them for Imagetrick-or-treaters when I was growing up. We lived in a charming, little town in southeastern Idaho and people weren’t so scared of each other back then (recipe found at the bottom of this post… make them…).

When I adopted the tradition into my own family, I knew if I were to pass out the home fried delectables I would have to put a large trash bin in front of the house and risk being investigated by the police as the scary woman who tries to poison your children. We’ve given them to friends and family for the past 18 years.

This Halloween day, all my children who live nearby have taken the time off work to be here for Halloween. We will make Grandma Butler’s traditional recipe. We’ll read The Cask Of Amantillado and The Raven, we will carve pumpkins, listen to The Allen Parson’s Project – Tales Of Mystery & Imagination and we will watch Hocus Pocus. That last one is new as far as I’m concerned. My kids may see it differently.Image

Our Halloween traditions may seem a bit extreme, what with the pastry making assisted by Edgar Allen Poe and specific musical accompaniment, but that’s just the tip of The Young Family Bed & Breakfast & Zombie Apocalypse Retreat traditions iceberg. 

Not only are our holidays tradition-fests (And don’t be thinking our traditions are all traditional. Note the “Hooch” dance accompanying Thanksgiving clean-up.), but our everyday lives are built on a framework of traditions and ways of living that help define us as a family.

I like to think these happy, life habits are not burdens to my family. In fact, I fully expect many of them will be abandoned as my children raise their own delightful clans. What we gain from them now is a sense of solidarity and belonging even when we are apart from one another. We feel connected though thousands of miles may separate us.

We’ve built our family on love, a gospel foundation, acceptance, kindness and traditions. We have an imperfect family. Each of us has our hang ups and quirks. But we love each other, we trust each other and we respect and support one another.

Plus we get to eat lots of doughnuts, make stupid jokes, dance around the kitchen and tease each other about our idiosyncrasies. Those are traditions you can sink your teeth into.

Happy Halloween, my friends.

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Lethal Expectations

No matter how old I get, I seem to have the habit of re-believing that I know how life works. I think I’ve been around the block Imageenough times to kind of “get” how things are going to go and to understand how things are going to feel.

Several years ago I had a conversation with a friend. We were newly acquainted and as she shared some disappointments, BIG disappointments she’d had in her marriage, I was saddened for her and inspired by her. Sad that she had an unfulfilling relationship and sort of in awe as she talked about giving up expectations of people. She explained to me that having expectations sets us all up for disappointment.

I’ve been gnawing on the idea since we spoke. I continue to gnaw to this day because I’m not sure how you do that. How do we put aside our expectations of the people we love? I mean… really?! How do you do that?!

I am suffering from a case of lethal expectations right now. We get these ideas in our heads of how our lives will go and when, as predictably as the sun rises each morning, they DON’T go that way, we are shocked, dismayed and obligated to mourn something we never had but believe we have lost.

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This, my dear friends, is a colossal waste of time and energy.

Yet on a regular basis I go through the process. Again… and again… Somehow thinking the gods will bestow upon me placid waters, fulfilled expectations and perhaps a certificate. A certificate stating to the world that this one, this child of the universe, has learned as much as she needs to learn and that all other lessons are suspended because of the grace with which she has passed all the harsh tests she’s been through. Yeah. I’ll head out to the mailbox to see if it’s arrived yet.

What I love about old people, what I appreciate about my granny, is that no matter the ups and downs of life, they seem to have pretty stable vessels underneath them. It seems to me they’ve seen enough storms and experienced enough disappointments that when they see another one coming they batten down the hatches, if need be, and then wait for it to pass, know that it will pass, because it always does.

I surrender. I’m not sure how to put down the burden of expectations about life, but you can be damn sure I’m going to try and figure out how to do it. I’m giving up the fight. I am floating down the river. I surrender. And if I can actually swing it, there’s no doubt in my mind I’ll enjoy the roller coaster ride of life so much more.

If I can swing it.Image

Ten Things I Would Tell Me If I Were My Best Friend ~ A Rehash

This morning I need all of my friends to gather together and give me a great big hug, a Diet Coke, Chic-o-sticks and bleu cheese. Maybe not in one dish though.

This is what I look like when I'm being my best friend.
This is what I look like when I’m being my best friend.

I need them all because they each play unique roles for me, and I need their individual insights and love and humor.

Since this theoretical gathering of delightful and intelligent people isn’t really plausible, I’m stepping up to the plate to be my own best friend.

Forgive this reblog from a year ago while I rummage through the Pandora’s Box in my brain. Hopefully I’ll emerge tomorrow. If you don’t hear from me, please send for help.

Until then, here are ten things I’d tell myself if I were my own best friend:

1. You know that other voice in your head?  She’s got to go.  She pretends to be your frenemy, but she’s just a b*tch.

2. You know how when you were a little kid you thought you could be anything you wanted?  You were right.

3. Sometimes food is neither good nor bad.  It’s just food.  Give it a rest.

4. You are an athlete.

5. Do something that scares you every day, even if it’s just a little scary.

6. You are brave, brilliant and beautiful.

7. Gratitude is your real best friend.

8. The faster you can figure out what’s bothering you, the faster you can feel better.

9. Dream BIGGER!

10. You know those people that do not like you?  Their loss.  Move on.

Why No One Sends Me Flowers When I Sit On The Couch

Every time I go back to yoga from an extended absence, there’s this realization of how much I love it and how much I’ve missed out on. I’m sure that’s how I’ll feel when I go back… soon. Today I’m going running as I’ve been absent from exercise land in general. It makes me feel anxious when I don’t work out. Every person I see exercising makes me feel this weird sort of homesickness I can’t describe. It’s not very pleasant so it’s just better to get back to the work of being well than try and deal with this freak emotion.

Of all the different workouts I enjoy, it’s the yoga I think of the most often when I’m away… and running. But there’s something so holistic about yoga that makes me think of it on a daily basis. It’s so thoughtful, it’s taxing and it makes me stretch not only literally, but emotionally too.

At the end of each practice there’s a pose called shavasana or corpse pose. This is the one we all look forward to. It’s the poseImage you try not to eagerly anticipate as you’re bent like a pretzel in some unknowable, and for me undoable position. Shavasana is considered the most difficult of poses as it requires nothing of you physically, except total release and relaxation,  and requires that mentally you let everything go.

Most of the time I’m just so glad to be in corpse pose after a challenging practice that I don’t really worry if I’m doing it right. And the part of shavasana that is most meaningful to me is that it’s the piece of the practice that allows you to absorb everything you’ve just done. It’s not so much about reflection as it is a time to let everything you’ve done to your body to sink in and become a part of you.

And this is why I love yoga. It seems this idea is something I’ve needed my whole life. I get so invested in what I’m doing in my life, I get so excited and I give what I’m doing my all. And upon completion of whatever it is that’s taken my time and energy I physically crash. My crashes used to be much more dramatic and I’d have a 3 or 4 day hospital visit. When my naturopath asked me “What are you getting from this?”, I was offended and then I was curious.

What was I getting from the hospital visit? I was getting shavasana time. I needed time to process everything. I needed a place to rest and let all the big emotions I had settle down and be absorbed.

ImageI haven’t had a stay in the hospital since that realization. I still get obnoxious flu-like symptoms and become painfully unproductive. I used to push through them and I’d end up in the hospital with some sort of lung ailment and a large bill. Now I sit on the couch and I’m kind of cranky that I’m sitting on the couch. It costs less even if nobody sends flowers. The couch just isn’t as sexy as the hospital I guess.

Of course I’m writing this post for myself. Every time my body demands one of the shavasanic time outs I get a little frustrated. I’m writing this post to give myself permission to take all the time I need to absorb the past few weeks of grief and travel and life changes. But I could do that while re-watching the first two seasons of New Girl on Netflix. The real reason I’m writing this post is to give YOU permission to take the time you need.

Our culture is such that thought, reflection and meditation aren’t really valued. We go to dinner parties and brag about how busy we are. We compare overburdened schedules with other soccer moms and we boast about how little sleep we get. As obnoxiously psychosomatic as my illnesses tend to be, everyone is going to end up in the hospital or even the morgue with that kind of attitude.

Take the time you need to rest. Take all the time you need to absorb the intricacies of your life. Listen to your body and at the next dinner party you attend, brag about how much sleep you get. Let’s start a movement where corpse pose is a choice, not a premature destination.

Shall We Gather At The River? Thoughts On Religion And Religiosity

little churchI am a regular church goer. I was raised that way and it’s the way I raised my children. For better or for worse. There were times, don’t get me wrong, that my pew remained empty for weeks in a row, but by and large I would find myself back in the proverbial saddle again (You like that? Get it? Proverbial?)

It’s been weeks since I’ve attended church but unlike my younger and wilder years the reason is that I’ve been out of town quite a lot. Also, there was Conference and no regular meetings were held. And if I’m being honest I’m going through what I like to think of as a “building phase”.

I’ve gone through building phases before. They are not comfortable. The phases consist of me looking at the beliefs with which I was raised through my current state of spirituality and consciousness. What happens is I see the things that I’ve always seen, and they look different to me. So, I’m not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater (a horrible image if you’re a visual person) and some restructuring has to occur for me to continue on my path of spiritual growth and understanding.

I suppose we all do this in our own way.

I’d come to a point where I’d started to dread going to church unless I was asked to help out with the kids. There were meetings where I’d voice my opinion, and though I don’t think anyone intended it, I was kind of shamed into silence. Maybe it was me being sensitive, that’s entirely possible. I started skipping meetings. I’d go to our main worship service and maybe head out to my car afterward to wait for my family.

It was this last week when I was with a friend and voiced some of my issues that a shift began, an open conversation was had.

That's Michael and My Canadian. Well, she's technically not mine...
That’s Michael and My Canadian. Well, she’s technically not mine…

Michael (whom I swear is actually my long, lost, younger brother)  reminded me of things I may have known but forgot along the way.

He reminded me that there are as many religions as there are people on the earth. We may hold our membership on the same papers as someone else, we may read the same religious text and even walk into the same building to worship, but the way our beliefs are synthesized, the way we interpret the words and the beliefs is unique to each of us individually.

I’ve said before that I don’t like to talk about religion on my blog, and again I’m giving myself a pass on this one. This is because I’m not telling you you’re wrong and I’m right, I’m simply saying whatever it is you believe, live it. However it is you see your obligation to society, to the world, to your God, fulfill that obligation.

Perhaps it is in becoming self actualized; do that. Maybe it is founded on service to your fellowman; live it. Your beliefs might be in one God or in many. That’s not important to me. What is important is how you live it and if you are living it with integrity.

I’m going to church this afternoon and I don’t have that anxious feeling that’s attended me for some time. The last words Michael said to me as we parted were, “Stand up for yourself.” It is that idea I take with me to my worship service. But maybe it’s not standing up for myself that’s been the problem, maybe it’s that I haven’t been standing up for my God.

I’m gonna fix that.

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Saturday Gratitude ~ Ten Things

I normally wear my gratitude like a favorite coat. In the sunshine, it sparkles like so many well-cut gems, in the rain it keeps me safemy coat and dry and in the tumultuous storm it is a tent over me, providing comfort through humor and perspective. I even sleep in the damn thing. Normally.

Right now, my apple cart is upset, there’s a tempest in my teacup, I am out of sorts. It’s understandable, but not preferable, I like My Coat.

Nevertheless, I am swearing under my breath at the other drivers on the road, even thought they may or may not have done anything questionable. I am short tempered with Mr Dreamboat, who I can assure you does not deserve my humorless, snarky comments. You needn’t feel too sorry for him. While he doesn’t ever really turn into the demon of which I am capable, he is fully equipped to take care of himself. It’s just not very pleasant to be around me right now.

This is when I resort to list making and refer religiously to my own personal “Best Practice” handbook. Mostly what I do is make sure I’m eating well, get enough sleep and exercise, and, most importantly, I keep a gratitude journal, I make one up in my head if I’m in a line somewhere and I fall asleep listing the things that happened throughout the day that were blessings.

I miss My Coat. It’s not as comfy a world without it and I’m sure I’ve just misplaced it and as soon as I clean this place (my brain) up, I’ll wear it as religiously as Linus wears his blanket after all these years. Until then, I’ll keep up with the lists. Here’s one:

  1. I am grateful, forgive my predictability, for Mr Dreamboat. He can’t fix all my heartbreaks, but he comes damn near. I am grateful he is a gentle man, I am grateful he isn’t a punching bag, I am grateful to be blessed with the “real deal”. I could end my list right here and it would be complete.

    mr dreamboat
    Dreamy, right?
  2. It’s seemingly anathema to my normal preferences, but I am grateful for the clouds and the cold weather this morning. I appreciate the theme my moods and the weather have coordinated. I will make stew and have a fire and I will call it cozy instead of depressing.
  3. This morning I awoke without an alarm clock. I got nine hours of uninterrupted sleep and I needed every blissful minute of it.
  4. I am grateful to be an artist. I am grateful to have the audacity to be it, say it and live it. It makes the dullest of moments interesting, it gives me purpose and adds dimension I wasn’t before aware of.
  5. The things that I lacked in my childhood I made a point of having in my own life, for my own family and I believe I understand their importance simply because I didn’t have them. Deprivation can sometimes be a light that shows us what’s important.
  6. Today I am grateful my son and his wife are just starting out on their journey and need a little help from time to time. And I am the beneficiary. I will have Pierson today and he will eat up all my time like a bowl of ice cream. There won’t even be little drips left to be taken in over thinking. I will be entirely caught up in cuddling and feeding and cleaning and holding my nearly 8 month old grandson. Totally lucky.
  7. I live somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. It’s so remote, sometimes I have to take a nap in the middle of the drive home. And because I live so far out, I don’t really have any friends up here in the great white north, and though I sometimes forget, things have come about recently and my friends have come out of the woodwork in a natural way. A lunch here, a favor there, phone calls, texts and Facebook interactions. They’re EVERYWHERE and I am reminded I have lots of interesting, kind, funny and loving friends.
  8. I am grateful for Coke Zero. It’s medicinal (for my health conscious readers). Travel and grief make you tired. Coke Zero gets you home safely (on that long drive).
  9. I had a lap dog. I actually had three. One was a chicken killer and had to go. Both of the others had an affinity for the
    She actually qualified as a lap dog when she was a puppy.
    She actually qualified as a lap dog when she was a puppy.

    underside of moving cars and the inevitable occurred in both situations. I am grateful today that both our Australian Shepherds think they’re lapdogs. Please, don’t tell them they’re not.

  10. I’m grateful for My Coat. I can’t find it, I feel lost without it, but some people never have one and I’m so glad I normally do. And don’t you worry, it’s around here somewhere, but everyone has to take the coat off from time to time, that’s just how it works.

What Are Your Odds?

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Buckle up for safety!

It is the final day of my seven month painting workshop. I am sad to admit that I have probably missed more weeks than I have attended. But I’ve been busy with the business of life… well, and death, and sometimes chocolate. You do what you have to do.

Today I will wind through the paths  of the Northwest and in and out of the great city of Portland and over hills and under bridgesyamill county until I find myself in Yamhill County. I will pull out my French easel and wet the paints that fill my round palette and I will try to make something beautiful. I’d say my chances are 75% of making something I like. Probably more like 45% of making something I really love. I’ll take those odds any day.

But it’s not the finished product that is really my concern today. I have the paintings already chosen for the calendar I make every year. It’s not even the destination I’m interested in.

The magic is in the journey. It’s in the idea of taking risks each time I put paint to cotton, cold press paper. The magic is in my wholehearted attempt to become something more than I was before.

I believe each of us is an artist. No need to worry about the medium you use. I’m not talking about art in the traditional sense necessarily, but in the sense that we create every day. We create relationships and ideas and an ambiance that infuses everything we do and the way we make people feel and that is our art. It is our contribution to life and it matters very much. You matter.

Take today and make something of it. Bring light and shadow and depth to every interaction. Give it everything you have and at the end of the day if your odds weren’t any better than mine and you didn’t love what you ended up with, know that tomorrow is a fresh sheet of paper, a new opportunity to paint your world and go to bed happy with today’s work and excited to wake up tomorrow and try again.

It’s not about the destination…

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What It Was

One of the difficulties of having a parent die is the part where you have to reconcile what the history is and what the relationship was or was not.

I imagine, and it really is my imagination as I cannot possibly know, that this examination isn’t all that difficult for many people. And in honesty, it’s not that hard for me to see what “was” for me as well. The challenge is not in seeing the truth, the challenge is in making peace with it.

dad and some girl
That’s my father and not me.

The final stake through the heart of my relationship with my father came in the form of a photo found in a book he’d been reading some time before his death. The back of the picture proclaims August 1977 and it is of my father and myself. It completely melted my heart when I saw it. There it was, proof of a normal, loving, father/daughter relationship. I felt so comforted. I felt closure.

But something bothered me. Something wasn’t quite right about it and when I sent a copy of the photograph to my mother, she asked who the little girl was. Yeah… no matter what I hoped things could be with my father, it just always got weird.

You can imagine that at first I was fairly mortified. I fully admit that it took me at least 24 hours to reconcile what I wanted to be true versus what actually was.

In the end there’s a part of me that feels grateful the picture isn’t the sweet, lost memory I’d hoped for. As much as I’d like to indulge in reminiscing about a complicated, but charmed relationship with my troubled father, the fact is, the truth will, indeed, set me free.

What it was, was a relationship of unrequited love. I don’t think my father felt any more peace from the connection than I did. What it wasn’t was mutually gratifying.

This is the part where I go all Positive Penny on you and you need to know I mean it from the bottom of my heart. The truth really does set us free. Seeing our lives with the lights fully on, complete with blemishes and scars is emancipating. Accepting the reality of our disappointments is, in my opinion, an opportunity to take back control of the story.

While some truths are disappointing and some relationships are sad, when we can step back and take a look at them, sans judgment and without the need to define ourselves through them, then we can walk into our lives with our shoulders back and possibilities spread out in front of us.

What it wasn’t was the story or the relationship I longed for. And because it was difficult, there is so much to learn from it and miracles to be had because of it.

What it was, was life, in all its imperfect and homely glory.

happiness

I’m Not Sure I Am Sure Of Anything

I am making but a quick appearance on my blog today simply because I haven’t ever gone two days in a row, as far as I can remember, without posting.

It has been a remarkably… fraught week or so. My father passed away, my husband is taking on new and exciting business opportunities, I spent time with not-often-seen family and traveled to San Diego where I met more wonderful, accomplished people. I spent time with My Canadian and we ate toe curlingling delicious food.

And the truth of it all is that it’s difficult to write when I don’t know what I think.

I am a neophyte in the exercise of life. There are some areas that might feel “old hat” to me, but as I stretch and grow and spread my wings to fly to new areas I have never visited before, I am simply fumbling along.

I am fumbling through the loss of my enigmatic father. I am wide eyed and wondering as I venture out into the world of business, conferences and thought leadership. And there’s is not much to say when you don’t know which end is up… yet.

I definitely have gut reactions. You can be certain I have thoughts o’plenty bouncing around in my head about life, death and the meaning of chocolate. It’s just that I don’t know what to make of any of it for now.

What does it mean when your father dies? What does it mean when your kids grow up? How do you build a buisiness with staying power and panache? Where can I get more of that organic chocolate with hemp seeds ground in it?

So for today I’m not sure I have any sort of answers. I am pondering and I am tapping into the resources of my very smart friends but the verdict is still out and for today I’m not really sure I know anything for sure.

But you can bet I’ll get to the bottom of the chocolate mystery sooner than later.

Grant Me This One Wish

You may or may not get tired of me talking about the glorious opportunity each Monday presents. But it doesn’t matter if you get tired of it. It’s my blog. You’re not here to tell me what to do, and if you were, I probably wouldn’t listen anyway. I’m just in that kind of mood.

So about Monday. I like it and I like it because it is a beginning. A Clean slate. An unfettered opportunity to churn out some awesomeness. Last week, for me, was definitely weighted down by the passing of my father. Since then, I’ve been to the viewing, the funeral, I’ve had long meals at Olive Garden with family and I’ve cried my eyes out from time to time.

What last week did for me, and it did it for all of us who survived it, is  it gave me lessons and opportunities to learn something more than I ever had before. What I got out of it, and not surprisingly so, was to love more completely, dare more daringly and live closer to the ideals I value and to live more fearlessly.

I suppose that’s what losing a parent will teach most of us, by good or by bad example. Oh, and one more: No matter how I see a person, I am only seeing one facet of that jewel. There’s always more to them. It’s best not to judge.

dare greatly be braveAs for the awesomeness, I don’t think that part is so hard to do. All that entails is doing a few things that scare us. Being awesome is about being vulnerable. It’s about taking chances and making ourselves do things that are a little bit difficult to do.

If you could grant me one wish today, on this auspicious Monday, that wish would be that you would step outside your comfort zone this week. It would be that you would make that phone call that scares you, that you would risk rejection by making yourself vulnerable, it would be that you if you fail, because that’s what happens sometimes when we dare, you would pick yourself up off the ground, and after spending a few moments giving yourself a “Poor Baby”, you would take the lessons you learned from that failure and walk away.

If you were to grant me one wish today, it would be that you start living your life a little closer to the dream you have for yourself.

That’s what I’m going to do.

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