Monthly Archives: August 2014

Master Gardener Of Your Soul ~ Michelle Church

One of my delightful childhood memories is of the “Victory Garden” my grandmother and mother planted each year. Grandma raised many children during the Great Depression and I think the habit was with her, and the skill as well.

Would that I were.
Would that I were.

Every year, according to my memory, we had a garden that must have been at least a quarter of an acre. The space was used well and I recall piles and piles of fresh, ripe tomatoes, jars of green beans and jams lining the counter during the harvest. We even had a buried old freezer in the back yard that acted as a root cellar full of carrots.

Of course when I started my own family with a bit of land to myself I continued the tradition. Visions of home grown, organic produce filled my dreams. Go big or go home! I told myself.

Turns out I should have just gone home. Even these many years later, probably because I’ve never had to rely heavily on my crops, my very best gardening years have been scraggly and ill kept. I’ve had some good tomato crops but never have I lined my counters with the red, glowing bulbs reduced to jarred elegance.

If I’m being frank, and you know I lean toward it, I suck at gardening.

I was at my most shamed when I went to a friend to ask for help with a sad strawberry crop. “I suck at this,” I easily admitted. “What am I doing wrong?”

J’dean is a good friend and even though she is practically a master gardener she made me feel okay about it. “It’s a bad year for strawberries,” she confided, “Don’t worry about it. Gardening is an experiment ever year.”

It is this advice that has kept me in the gardening ring. Every year I give it another go, though I sometimes wonder if I was born with only one green thumb and it’s the one that was cut off in a farm accident.

But this is Michelle Church and I do have a point. If gardening is a challenge, how much more difficult is religion? With it’s always changing landscape and an ever changing world and life and personality, how will we ever get it right? When will I have my spiritual “Victory Garden”, or am I destined for scraggly green beans and questionable cucumbers for the rest of my transcendent days?

No doubt even as I ask the question I know there is no valid answer. Every day we plant seeds of one sort or another in our hearts. And we watch them grow and hope the environment and the psychic weather will grow something lovely and grand. And all we have is hope and all we can rely on is faith. Every garden and every season will be different. No getting around that, master gardener or no.

Like, share, tweet, comment and plant your seeds, baby. Who knows when you’re going to need a bumper crop.

“The Secret” Is A Bunch Of Hooey

It’s not easy to admit that I am a devotee of The Secret. It’s not that I’m embarrassed about the ideology, it’s just the way we’ve translated it into our lives.

If we just have happy thoughts and good feels all the time then we shall never have anything sad in our lives. Want some jewelry? Just think real hard on it and a handsome man will be there for your, cuz every woman needs a handsome man to give her jewelry. Really? Reeeeeeeally?

This criticism aside, I do believe there’s a ton of value to it. When we look for things to be grateful over, they magically multiply. When we take steps in faith toward seemingly insurmountable goals the next steps appear for us. And…

There are times when the genie appears and makes the way easier for us, and then there are those other times. There are those times when even though you love what you’re doing and feel passionate about it, no matter how hard you try, to put on a happy face, what you’re doing can be described as nothing more than work. No getting around it. Work. Plain and simple.

Along with that work, sometimes bad stuff happens to us and we don’t deserve it and we weren’t on some sort of energetic resonation with the hell we’re going through. Sometimes there is work. Sometimes life hands us lemons. I would even go so far as to say it hands us a load of crap. That is life. The end.

Right now, things are going remarkable smoothly for me. I am enjoying work and relationships. I am reveling in creative endeavors and dreams culminating around me. And I’m enjoying every minute of it.

I wouldn’t say I’m fearful of the next shoe dropping, but it is in the contrast that I find joy in this moment. I know it won’t last because life is impermanent on every level. All of it.

And maybe that’s the actual secret. To know that we are transient beings, our suffering is as fleeting as our joys and it is in the bitter we learn to enjoy the sweet. That’s where I am today. I’m in the sweet and I plan on sucking the juice out of the peach that is, at this moment, my life.

And you? If you happen to have a handful of lemons that life so graciously handed you, call lemonsquaresme. We’ll make lemon squares together, because people like us prefer not to drink our calories.

Like it, share it, comment all about it and tweet like the birds, even if you’re in a public place. I dare you.

If You Want More Of It You’ll Need To Give It Away

A month or so ago I was privileged and delighted to be at a weekend retreat with a few dozen women. I certainly didn’t get the sleep I needed, but I’ll sleep when I’m dead, but my soul was rejuvenated and I was reminded that women are good and strong and powerful. I’m grateful to be one.

http://www.thefrugalfeminista.com/you-need-to-write-a-mission-statement-for-your-life-heres-how/
http://www.thefrugalfeminista.com/you-need-to-write-a-mission-statement-for-your-life-heres-how/

The reason I had to be reminded is that sometimes I think we hide our light. Women are curious beings, ask any man. We have passions and interests, we have skills and compassion and yet there are times we simply shove them into a hole and we walk out into life like withered flowers. So painful is this habit that we sometimes, unconsciously, wither those around us. You know, misery loves company, I suppose.

The beautiful souls I spent the weekend with were conscious. Please do not imagine them in their perfection. Don’t believe everyone was rich and famous and deeply intelligent, though none of us would complain were that true. Imagine women who are warm, women who are curious and kind, bravely sharing their light and their love and their passion for life.

I am regularly reminded how powerful women are. I come across them every day. I do business with them and I frequent their homes.

To be sure, we are each those women, the good ones, the brave ones, the gentle hearts. But how often are we the withered flowers taking pleasure in finding fault and gathering like-minded company?

I have been “that girl” more times than I’m happy to admit. I sometimes watch her from afar as she scowls through her day and I’m not gonna lie, I don’t really like her. I believe deep in my heart the more I observe her without judgment I will see less of her. After all, she is me and I know for sure I need unconditional love and understanding.

I hope to spend more time with the delightful women I know from all areas of my life, and I hope to spend more time with myself, when I am in that form. And when I do that, when we do it, cast off the armor, be our authentic lovely selves, I believe we will inspire others to do the same.

We need more of us. We just have to be them.

Like, share, comment, tweet and look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself how dazzling she is. Do it. Right… NOW!

Finding That Elusive Magic ~ Your Guide

The other night I watched my daughter build a fire. I was transfixed. I believe the method was the “log house” style. She was precise and methodical in each movement.

campfireThough I was convinced that nothing built with that much skill could fail, she was not persuaded of its success until each phase, first the paper lighting the kindling and slowly convincing the sticks to catch until the logs too were hot enough to take flight and burn. A warm and robust fire crackled cooperatively at her hands.

I have coached my daughter through many situations. I was her go-to for sustenance and safety when she was a baby, I was instrumental in her formal education and have been by her side as she lost and gained boyfriends and friends alike. But I never taught her how to build a fire.

Fire building is a skill she obtained in her voyage through life and if she has surpassed my skills so thoroughly in this area, what else has she gained without my help?

Far from being jealous or concerned, this actually makes me hungry for the knowledge and anxious to have the woman I raised teach me her magic.

Further, if my daughter, the one I raised and laughed and cried with, has magic I was never even aware of, how much magic passes me by every day? It’s everywhere I’m guessing, in the waitress serving your eggs and the postman delivering your mail. It’s in the spouse who is on your very last nerve and the driver who may have just cut you off.

We are magical creatures, we human beings. We are flawed and lovely and full of unrealized potential. I sometimes think all we have to do is look for it and Wham! it will spark up! Were we to carefully tend to that spark and feed it and nurture it with excitement and love and interest, imagine the robust and warm glow that could emanate from every person with whom we come across.

I’m going to ask Zoë to teach me how to build a fire. It’s a skill we should all have. And I’m going to figure out how to build a fire in the people around me. That’s the kind of fire that could warm the whole world.

Cupid’s Arrow ~ A List Of Ten Quirky Love Truths

A fabulous romantic comedy is a delight to my soul. I love to see people riding in and saving one another and because Hollywood has seen fit to allow women to save men from time to time, I applaud them. Beyond that, I’m going to have to withhold my affection.

Where they can do a nice job tugging at our heartstrings, much of the time the movie industry gets it all wrong. Having been in love for many, many years (What’s that you say? I can’t possibly be that old? Thank you. Thank you very much.), I’m just going to have to call BS on much of it.

A person who only points out the problems without offering a solution is of no help at all, so with that, I give you ten things that are actually romantic but Hollywood will never tell you this.

  1. Flowers are nice and all, but other stuff like buying tampons, bringing home chocolate before you asked for it and putting up with your obnoxious… I mean quirky personality characteristics, these things trump flowers 99% of the time.
  2. Getting old together is sexy. Face it, we’re all going to do it. How much more fun to do it together?
  3. Adding to the sexy pot (get what I just did there?), is laughing in bed. Truly, this is not the place to take yourself too seriously. Laughter beats the passionate-rip-your-clothes-off lustfest over and over again. That’s science, my friends.
  4. Being in love does not look like a love song every day for years on end. Sometimes, but not all the time. Sometimes it just looks like someone who is willing to get up with the baby because you want to die if you can’t sleep. Sometimes it looks like you being willing to squash every gag reflex you’ve ever had and clean up mystery goo that may or may not carry the bubonic plague in its viscous, green sloppiness. I just teared up. And I gagged too.hearts
  5. Real love looks like celebrating the other person’s victories. And it looks like telling your lover their fly is down, and has been for half a day and then reassuring them that probably nobody noticed… even though that’s a total lie.
  6. Also, real love is about lying sometimes. Don’t get your hopes up, philanderers. It’s not the deception kind, it’s the kind where you choose the best words and the kindest thoughts to buoy someone over ugliness that isn’t helpful. Do with this what you will.
  7. Sometimes true love looks like friendship. Exactly like it. The thing people can sometimes fail to see is that later it looks like romantic love and another day it might look like care-giving and then back again. True love is a moving, living, breathing entity. You just have to trust it.
  8. True love is full of symbolic moments that equal short-hand conversations. It’s a look across the room and it’s sometimes a kick under the table. After almost 28 years together Mr Dreamboat has finally come to understand if I do, indeed, kick him under the table, stopping the entire conversation to ask me why I did it is a bad idea. That’s true love.
  9. Probably Hollywood opts out of the truth because it’s not always pretty-with-a-bow. True love is sometimes work, sometimes sacrifice and if you’re all in, it’s sometimes going to get dirty. That’s just how it is folks. I don’t make this stuff up. I just report it.
  10. Finally, and possibly most importantly, true love looks different every time a couple comes together and decides to give it a go. What is Cupid’s arrow through my heart may be a pot shot to your butt. Don’t let Hollywood or the radio dictate what makes your heart sing and the sun shine in your soul. Your life and your love are as unique as you are. Remember you, and your Mr/Mrs Dreamboat get to call the shots here. No one else. Not even Tom Cruise.

Like, share, tweet and comment and love, love, love.

http://youtu.be/lWxhIiwNvwc

Chasing The Sacred ~ Michelle Church

I have proclaimed to all who would take the time to read my electronic musings, that I am not a naturally spiritual person. I’ve also explained that my perspectives change quite regularly.

Today I see myself differently. The fact is, I think about spirituality and religion a lot. I am ever pondering, reading and inch by inch I move closer to the edge of the Abyss.

The Abyss lies just beyond the edge of what we know and is the beginning of the infinite unknowable. It is grand, it is deep and it is profound. And it scares me. I’m not gonna lie.

Far greater minds than mine have wrestled with the Abyss. It seems there is no end to the books, essays and opinions about the great beyond, the nature of God and how it is exactly we should live our lives. Sometimes these resources describe it all down to the letter. I wonder if there are backstage passes into heaven. How else could you get such detailed instructions?

As I try to make sense of it all, try to tie things up in nice little bows and bring mental order to that which is sometimes nonsensical ideology and peculiar practices, what guides me on my path again and again is Leonardo Da Vinci.

simplicity-is-the-ultimate-form-of-sophistication-leonardo-da-vinci

 

The faster I run after “truth” the further behind I find myself and that is when I remember Leonardo. It is simplicity.

Chasing the sacred is an exercise in futility, the proverbial dog circling after its own tail. We will not find it in the incensed rituals provided us by organizations, we cannot find it in a check list or in the tight nods of approval from others.

It is in the smallest of moments, the most gentle of blessings, in the sunshine on the morning dew, and in the faces of the human beings surrounding us.

I have found the sacred in my pain. I’ve found it in communing with a stranger. It has lit upon my shoulder like a rare and beautiful butterfly in the most mundane of moments.

Indeed it seems the sacred can reside with us only when we stop running and start listening, only when we choose to see it in others instead of trying to create it in ourselves.

Each of us is a spiritual being. And every one of us is living a sacred life, a beautiful gift. There is no need to chase after it. It is here. It is yours. It is simple.

Like, share, tweet, comment. Thanks. Thanks for being you.

The Cure To What Ails You ~ My Gift To You

I’m not bragging, but if they gave out armchair psychology degrees, I’m certain I’d have a doctorate. It’s not just a passive interest. I’ve taken classes and regularly read articles on Psychology Today. Well, I read most of the articles. Sometimes they’re just sooooo long.
With my Armchair Doctorate in hand, my AD if you will, I have made the following observations:

One of the most dangerous states of mind is the one where we feel completely alone. Whether it’s childhood trauma or feelings we’re not sure what to do with, it is a hazardous game of chicken we play when we keep it to ourselves, believing with no actual accuracy that we are the only ones.

One of my favorite shows ever was Arrested Development. The peculiar character of Tobias Funkë once said about his own affliction, being a nevernude, “There are dozens of us!” Certainly Tobias is a little kooky, but being in a group of dozens is way better than being all-alone. We are social creatures. We seek to understand and we desire to be understood.

As much as I am a closet introvert, I too seek emotional communion. Whether it’s in the pleasure of success and anticipation, or the agony of dreams gone awry, to know that we are known, to feel that we are understood, these are things that are gifts to the soul and salve to the human spirit.

I recently had a deeply intimate conversation with a friend about family. I wouldn’t call us close friends, but she felt safe and as I listened I knew there was nothing that she required of me. All she needed was to be understood. I may not have the exact kind of struggles as she does, but I know pain. I understand the struggle. We all do.

This post, it’s about support. Wherever you find yourself on your own personal path of life, you should know you’re not alone. I need to tell you that you’re not weird or different or wrong in what you feel or how life is. Not only that, if you’re experiencing amazing successes and epic wins, feel a virtual high five from the offices of Michelle At Play. Feel it, know I am happy for you and you deserve to celebrate.

We are not alone, my friends, unless we choose to be. You don’t have to choose to be. We are each fatally flawed as evidenced by the fact that we were given a one way ticket to the undertaker upon entrance into this world. No getting around it. So make it a good one. Let down your hair. Know you are known and if you think of it, lend a helping hand to the next guy, be a shoulder to cry on and high five the next person you see on a winning streak.

Who knows what your next adventure is going to be? What we do know is that we won’t want to go it alone. And we don’t have to. Because there are, at least, dozens of us.

Comment, share, tweet and like it. So I know I’m not alone. Cuz I need you just as much as you need me.

Reasons I Love Being Me ~ A List Of Ten Things

I haven’t always liked being me. I can be a serious pain in the ass to be around. Trust me, who would know better than me? But over the years and a few different stints in therapy, I’ve come to term with the fact that I cannot be anyone else, so what’s the problem? I’ve also learned to focus on some of the things that make it awesome to be me.

I recommend you make peace with yourself. Otherwise, as a carnie once cautioned, “It’s gonna be tight, and it’s gonna hurt.”

  1. It is awesome to be me because I like all the things I like. I never say, “Ew!” over a dinner option, I never criticize my movie preferences and I am the perfect person to go shopping with. I have the same taste as… well, as me.
  2. One of the things I love about being me is my people. I love my people. Whether they were born to me, chosen by me or adopted into the crazy world in which I live, they are mine and I love them.
  3. One man’s failure is another woman’s serious learning opportunity. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever failed in my whole life, I’ve just had a lot of learning opportunities.
  4. I make me laugh. Sure, it’s awkward to admit that I sometimes read posts I’ve written that I find particularly amusing more than once, but I’m in an honest type of mood. I laugh. Sometimes I make myself laugh out loud. Not in the crazy way. At least I don’t think…
  5. Though I’m quite certain I overestimate my abilities, it’s a lot of fun to believe there’s not really anything I couldn’t do. I believe the world is my oyster and given the opportunity, there are pearls everywhere.
  6. I get to do cool stuff. Whether I’m hiking with my kids 15 minutes from my house or being Mr Dreamboat’s arm candy or learning the ropes as a brand-new radio show host, I’m having a good time.
  7. There are days I literally regret that there are only 24 hours in a day and I’m the girl who needs her 8 hours of sleep. There’s just SO much I want to do and see and learn and create.
  8. The lessons I’ve learned over my years of “experiences”, some people call them failures, some people, just not my people, have been wonderful, but I remain excited about all the things out there that are left to learn. I haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg.
  9. Every day I wake up and I get to write love letters to the Universe, to you, and it makes my heart grow bigger every time you respond and message me and comment and share. It is one of the great highlights of my life. You are my people and you are a highlight.
  10. I get to be mom to 8 (counting their companions) wonderful children, YaYa to me and mr d IIan amazing grandson and wife to a man who inspires me to try harder every single day to keep up with him on this journey we’re taking together. Lucky, lucky girl.

Like, share, comment, tweet and love your life as if it’s the only one you’re ever going to get. Because… I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but…

When The Going Gets Tough ~ The Tough Go Home

It is a hot August day and yet my mind is on the snow-covered mountaintops of winter. I can feel the cold wind on my cheeks and I know the anxiety of needing to keep moving just to stay warm.

One time, I almost had to be carried out on a toboggan. Um... No thank you.
One time, I almost had to be carried out on a toboggan. Um… No thank you.

I imagine the momentary attention that must be focused as one slides off the chairlift and the exhilarating feeling of peeking over the edge of the ski slope and racing down the hill mentally before the actual push off to shush down the mountain.

I love the word “alpenglow”; the morning light emanating off an earthen giant. I love the smell of the cold in my nose and the warmth of the gloves and the feel of the snow rushing by as I glide over its crunchy surface.

Much as I love all of those things, there is an element, and a strong one at that, of anxiety that precedes all trips to the highland. Perfect as a day on the mountain might be, there are the liabilities along with it.

Though I am sitting in my comfortably air conditioned office and though I have had a good night’s sleep, I imagine what it feels like to get up before the sun and pack the car for an outdoor adventure. It can take days to prepare, to get just the right gear, the emergency supplies for the car, the first aid kits for accidents that truly might happen. And layers and layers of clothing. Too warm as I prepare to walk out the door, too cold as I stand in the parking lot of the lodge. It is the anxiousness alone that can keep me from my outdoor adventures. When I mix in the time and expense, I sometimes decide it isn’t worth the effort.

I am looking out onto my world of green. From my window I see vines climbing the clothesline and a fat, lazy spider sitting, waiting at the center of her delicate design. Still, I easily recall when the snow flies and the longing for and the anxiety of an outdoor adventure.

Whether or not you’ve ever been skiing, whether you even like the out of doors is of not matter. As I describe the agony and as I define the ecstasy, you know. You know the pleasure of success and adventure and you know the pain of doubt and the discomfort of worry. And this is why it comes so clearly to mind on a hot, summer day. It’s not about skiing or cold or about winter at all. It’s about life.

Life is about the escapade and it is about what we learn along the way. It’s about victory and it’s about staying home with the lights dimmed when we’re just not up to the effort.

Perhaps you believe this post is about doing “IT” even when “IT” can be difficult. But it’s not. It’s about a slow burn through life. It’s about making the effort when that is the right thing to do, and it’s about staying home in front of a safe warm fire. Both are wonderful. Both are worthy.

This post is about choices and remembering you get to be the one to make them.

You decide.

While you’re deciding, like, comment, share, tweet and get some crushed ice for that drink of yours. It’s gonna be a hot one, folks.