Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Tradition Of Shame ~ Michelle Church

The traditions surrounding our Thanksgiving festivities run deep and long. There are specific recipes and particular people to carry out those recipes. The faces that surround the table differ from year to year based on need and rotating schedules, but the holiday looks the same even from decade to decade.

One of the many traditions we follow each year, before the actual meal but after the reading of the Thanksgiving Proclamation, is the sharing of gratitude.

Surely we are not the only family to do this.

Of particular interest to me this year was the final share by my very own Mr Dreamboat.

The turn went around the table clockwise and I began. Mr Dreamboat sitting to my right spoke last and it was his poignant thoughts that surprised and touched me.

tidingsThis year, Mr D shared, he is most grateful that we are each, every single member of the company, living more authentically. Throughout this last year we have all grown in ways that have cast off the shackles of shame and have more fully embraced who we are.

I know my Mr Dreamboat well. And so it doesn’t surprise me that living more fully in the light that would be the thing for which he was feeling deep gratitude. His depth and integrity are beautiful to behold.

As the holiday season is off to a running start, were I to choose the theme for this year, it would be to truly see “tidings of comfort and joy” throughout the world.

I would wish to see less concern about which greeting we use (Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, la la la), and more concern over bringing peace, acceptance and comfort to our fellow human beings.

Whether you are a believer in Jesus Christ, Allah, Buddha, a curious traveler not yet decided on what exactly it is that you believe or any other variety of belief, the holiday season provides the perfect opportunity to stop worrying about what anyone else is doing. It is an open invitation to see the very best in others.

This holiday season, no matter which god you worship, no matter if you worship any god at all, it is my hope, it is my prayer, that we choose to succor the poor, comfort those who mourn and worry less about the choices of others and more about our place in the world as bringers of joy, serial givers and emissaries of “tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O-oh tidings of comfort and joy.”

At the Young Family Ranch & Zombie Apocalypse Sanctuary, we are a family of traditions. And while turkey is nice and orange rolls are yummy, the most important tradition we try to practice in our home is unconditional love.

It’s a tradition for the ages. Let us all practice it liberally.

Like, share, comment, tweet and love your neighbor as yourself and if you can’t love your neighbor, at least take them cookies. Cookies = love.

A Post-Holiday Beauty Tip

The other day I received a handwritten letter from my young friend all the way from Paris, France. It makes it feel so deliciously old fashioned to say, “All the way from Paris, France.” Which is why I’ve written it twice.

I suppose it is deliciously old fashioned to receive a hand written letter from anywhere. I speak from experience when I say these things make going to the mailbox much more pleasurable than is otherwise the case.

Not only was my letter from far, far away and so very exotic by location, my friend, though young in age is wise beyond her years. The gift was in receiving a letter, but the wisdom within was even more valuable.

“Have you noticed that people are like 100 times more beautiful when they love themselves wholly?… I want that for myself.”

marc jacobs quoteEach of us has yearnings of the heart. We desire outcomes and sometimes things that we think will make us happy, make us beautiful. The truth is that there’s no real way to control our lives, no real way to control others and in the end we have just a bit of influence over outcomes.

Don’t shoot me, I’m only the messenger.

If we’re lucky and we practice very, very hard, we are sometimes in control of our thoughts. And given enough time and enough focus, we can find the peace within ourselves we’ve historically searched for from outside.

Further down that same path, when we, instead of searching to “become” something “other” and in it’s place focus on accepting that we simply “are”, this is when we are like 100 times more beautiful.

“There is a physical difference, I swear.”

It is not age that makes us wise, it is experiences. Well, it’s experiences if we allow them to make us wise. And it is not physical attributes that make us truly beautiful it is loving ourselves wholly.

Thank you, Beautiful Katie Bird. You are 100 times more beautiful than you even realize.

Like, share, comment, tweet and look in the mirror and simply love.

Creating Your Thanksgiving Sanctuary

It’s been a good year. I know it’s not New Year’s Eve, but I tend to evaluate the year at Thanksgiving. For the record, it’s been a good year.

There were years, quite a few in a row actually, that were steep climbs up seemingly endless mountains. Mountains with inhospitable, jagged edges. Precipitous. They were dangerously inclines, those years were. That kind of year is not my favorite.

This year was not that kind of year.

The other day a friend pointed out to me the wording I’ve chosen for our little neck of the woods (Hey-oh, Gina!). While there are no zombies living here (as far as we know), I have dubbed the Young Family Ranch as a “retreat.”

It’s no mistake. When we arrived here almost four years ago, while I cannot speak definitively for the rest of our tribe, I think it is fair to say many of our tanks were on empty. We’d fought the good fight for more years than I like to recall, but war is no way to live and everyone needs a place to regroup. A sanctuary.

As I recall the last 10+ months here at what I’m starting to think of as the Young Family Ranch and Zombie Apocalypse Sanctuary, it is the idea of sanctuary for which I am deeply grateful.

We are not strangers to difficulty, disappointment and challenges. None of us. And it’s perhaps more difficult than simply saying or writing the words, but in this life of inevitable uncertainty and disappointment, it is imperative to provide ourselves with rest, self-care and safety. quasimodo

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. May your day be exactly as you wish and if it is not, may you make sanctuary for yourself and for those who surround you.

Be well, make good choices and feel a heartfelt hug from the Young Family Ranch and Zombie Apocalypse Sanctuary.

Like, share, comment, tweet and remember to be a sanctuary to the weary travelers you meet along the way.

If You Listen Very Closely You Can Hear It…

Yesterday morning I bundled up, grabbed a few things for a day out of the house and went upon my merry way. I had grocery shopping, a hair appointment and general pleasantries on my list for the day.

It was an active sort of rain as I drove out the driveway and I felt cozy and happy with my list of “To Do’s”.

I was not the only shopper who’d targeted Tuesday morning as the best time to stock up for the coming holiday. Turns out a lot of people celebrate Thanksgiving and the aisles were already packed as I made my way from the slivered almonds to the whipping cream.

As much as I’d hoped to have empty aisles and full shelves all to myself, the other shoppers I encountered were cheerful andDo not follow the ideas of others but learn to listen to the voice within yourself polite. Manners for the win!

I rushed about the store, intent upon making my next appointment on time as punctuality is the path to respect. I just made that up. You can use it if you want to. In my hurry to get on the road, I was becoming warmer and warmer.

By the time the groceries were loaded in the trunk and I was getting in my car it was time to take off a few of the winter layers I’d dawned for my festive day of errands.

Scarf off, vest divested, I could not for the life of me figure out why I was so hot.

Making the bold move to get to the bottom of this whole over-warm thing, I looked at my car’s thermometer.

Mystery solved, it was a balmy 64 degrees outside. The over-cast helped, but you can imagine with so many layers and loads of activity I was roasting like the pasture raised turkey destined for my grill just a day from now.

It has been a lifetime I’ve spent trying very hard to ignore things. Important things.

I’ve purchased clothing that was the wrong size because I believed I was supposed to be something other than what I actually was. I’ve stuffed feelings way down deep because I believed I shouldn’t feel the way I felt. And I’ve ignored the weather because it was November and November is supposed to be cold.

As the holidays approach and we find ourselves in intimate quarters with those we love and those we don’t love so much, perhaps the finest gift we can give to ourselves is to listen and to believe.

Believe in what you feel. Listen to the niggling feelings that are trying desperately to tell you something and heed them. Follow your gut, have faith in yourself and for heaven’s sake, if your hot, take off that sweater.

That alone will help you have a happy holiday.

Like, tweet, comment, share and pass the pumpkin pie and the good feels.

Pie For Breakfast & 9 Other Reasons To Love Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday is rife with tradition and built on a solid foundation of looking at our lives with wonder and gratitude. It’s one of my favorite holidays.

If you share my love or you need to kick-start the Thanksgiving appreciation, here are a few of the reasons I love this particular holiday.

1. More than eating the meal, I love the simmering flavors on the stovetop and the many different people coming in and out of the kitchen to help prepare them. It’s a community meal and a communal effort to prepare it.
2. There’s something so serene about the early morning hours of Thanksgiving. It’s the quiet moments before the hustle and bustle of the day that are sweet and reflective for me.
3. To that end, I love taking a morning hike with the family, bird roasting, vegetables prepped. It feels indulgent and relaxing.
4. The day after Thanksgiving begs to have pie for breakfast. And it deserves pie for breakfast, so I oblige.

5. I love the entire month’s worth of gratitude I see everywhere. People reflecting on blessings big and small. I swear the earth turns a little smoother and people are more likely to meet your eye when their own blessings are top of mind.
6. I admit the holidays can be challenging, and to that end I love to take on a good challenge. Whether it’s difficult relatives, the loneliness factor or resurfacing and complicated emotions, shifting perspective and finding the sweet spot in life is a great way to start off the season.
7. Black Friday is to me what it is touted; black. I have no desire/interest in braving the crowds and buying a Cabbage Patch doll at an unusually low price. Every Black Friday, whatever it is I do choose to participate in feels easy and free of hectic stress. Sometimes it is what we avoid that makes us feel most peaceful.
8. I cannot abide Christmas music before Thanksgiving. Don’t mind me, I think I have a low tolerance for “sweetness”. I blame my father. And so when the holiday concludes, I am so excited to hear those “… sleigh bells ringaling…”
9. An entire holiday devoted to feeling the abundance of our lives is simply good. No matter who you are, no matter your circumstances, staying in that space a bit longer than usual is a good idea. Thanksgiving should be every day. Only without the horrible over-eating.
10. The festivities of the year are always exciting. It is a worldwide tradition to set aside a day of thanks and celebrating time honored traditions connects us to the world, to ancestors and to one another.

And there’s always pumpkin spice everything.

Like, share, comment, tweet and don’t forget the whipped cream. You can never have too much whipped cream.

Like this, only with whipped cream.
Like this, only with whipped cream.

Michelle Church ~ Funeral For A Friend

Yesterday afternoon as I drove the long miles to the funeral home, the skies opened up and obligingly doused my little car speeding down the freeway. I did not want the cheerful sunlight. A fitting day for a funeral is at the very least overcast, if not downright dismal.

I wonder about a life well spent. Does it consist of “greatness” and money? Or are those simply side notes?

As my friend Payton’s life unfolded in the fullness of pictures and stories from people who knew him much of his life, I was privileged to witness a life beautifully utilized in all the best possible ways.

FullSizeRenderIt doesn’t seem to me that a life well spent has one particular recipe to it. There are as many different ways to live a worthy lifetime as there are people to live them.

I don’t know exactly what Payton’s religion was. We never discussed it on the days we spent painting, but I’m not certain that part really matters.

What I know for sure about him, was that he was kind. I know that he was inclusive. He loved his wife, adored his children and was crazy about his grandchildren.

As people filed up to tell charming stories about this lovely man, what was most noteworthy to me was not how much they all loved him (which they did) but how loved they all felt by him.

Over and over again I heard friends and family use the word, “home” when speaking of him. He had a way of making you feel like that’s where you were when you were with him.

There was so much I didn’t know about my friend. I knew him only as an old man. But the further I get down this road the easier it is to see people aren’t born old, it’s a long trail to get there. And if you do it right, you have some scars with you at the end and some bitchin’ cool war stories to tell around the campfire.

Payton had scars and cool stories.

I hope when it’s my time to go that no one really concerns themselves with what religion I lived, what my specific beliefs were or myriad other things that, it turns out, have no real meaning. It is not what we affiliate ourselves with that matters so much as how we live out those beliefs.

I hope that when the music is over and people file out to eat thumbprint cookies and “funeral potatoes” that the word “home” is used over and over when they speak of me.

Yesterday afternoon I spent in the comfortable confines of the funeral home. And as I sat with bowed head and listened to the uttered prayers I could see the light sparkle through my eyelids. The rain had ceased and the sun was shimmering. A fitting honor for a life well spent.

Like, share, comment, tweet and kiss your loved ones and invite your friends in.

The Powerlessness Of Positive Thinking

When I make a point here at Michelle At Play, I like to be right. I like my points to be true. If I am, in fact, honest about life, I feel it gives my posts some gravity and weight not possible with half-truths and hopes.

To that end, I must admit that my Internet Saga continues. Ladies and gentlemen, we have spent hours, honestly, hours and hours on the attempt to procure the technology of the 2000’s, way out here on the Young Family Ranch & Zombie Apocalypse Retreat.

You may recall that I claimed to have solved our Internet woes with happy wishes, a willingness to stir the cosmic pot and pixie dust. Well, if I’d had pixie dust my problems likely would be gone.

In the spirit of transparency and a belief in the Universe as a friendly force, I will tell you the rest of the story.

Lies! They tell you lies even while they smile in your face.
Lies! They tell you lies even while they smile in your face.

I won’t give you details of the many calls to the DSL company, appointments missed and the snippy conversation I had with an unassuming rep after 3 mornings lost to waiting around for that elusive cloud of connection to land upon the computers and electronic gadgetry of our home.

Consider the sting of it all as you try to catch your breath from that run-on sentence.

The hippy-dippy world in which I live often touts thoughts as things and a positive attitude to be the panacea of all our ills. I like living here. It’s pleasant and it smells like opportunity.

That notwithstanding, I must admit to you that my suffering continues regardless of my positive attitude.

Sometimes answers and Internet don’t come to us on the butterfly wings of hope. Sometimes the desired outcome might only arrive when we continue to stir the damn pot. And stir and stir and stir.

While sugar coated happiness and a sunny attitude won’t always fix a situation, I submit to you that they won’t hurt things either.

I believe, even as the elusive tech guy – whom I can no longer look in the eye because he’s missed one too many appointments with me – is up in the office tinkering and making promises, that someday, maybe not even today, but someday I will have flawless internet. I believe it.

And even though my belief has not up to this point born the fruit of streaming video to me, someday… I know it will someday.

We shall overcome, my friends. Whatever your sorrow, your struggle, your pain, whatever it is, I believe you can overcome it. Now if we could just find some damn pixie dust…

Like, share, comment, tweet and if you have good Internet, enjoy it. Remember there are those less fortunate than you.

Facebook ~ Use With Caution

My morning routine is not sophisticated. When Mr Dreamboat is out of town, which we all know is quite often, I arise at 7 a.m. to take the youngest member of our clan to school.

It is during the time I’ve confirmed he’s awake and before I actually head out the door that I check Facebook. In doing so, I am checking in with the world in a controlled way. I’ve selected whom I will “follow” and sources of information I simultaneously enjoy and trust.

Mind Body Green = Favorite

Yesterday morning as I waited for the man-cub to get out of the shower and on the road to greater knowledge and worthy learning, I followed my normal routine.

Perhaps it was right away, maybe it took a few minutes for the matter to sink in, but when I finally realized the truth, I grinned my biggest grin and shut down the site for the time being.

What I discovered was the loveliness of the friends I’ve chosen and the delight in the sites I follow.

There were pictures of families and encouraging posts. There was expert advice on living a fulfilling life and feeding your best relationships all the goodness they deserve.

I am not always a huge fan of social media. It can be a thorn in my side, and there have been times I’ve shut it out completely and to my own benefit. What I discovered yesterday morning is that when used thoughtfully and with care, it can be the best of tools.

Social media, Facebook and all manner of other new-fangled vehicles are tools and blessings. They serve to keep us in touch with people we wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to know. They give us access to the finest minds and the best of information and, carefully tended, will give us insight and direction.

My morning routine may not be a sophisticated set of rituals, but by wisely cultivating the things I take in, my day starts with a blast of positivity, love and kindness.

Thanks, friends.

Like, share, comment, tweet and if we’re not friends on Facebook, let’s change that!

thumbs up

A Pre-Emptive Strike Against The Holidays ~ A List Of Ten

As the holidays approach so rises the level of anxiety of much of the modern world. We love them, we spend money on them, we look forward to them all year long. And yet…

It is my opinion that if we simply give them the respect they deserve, nothing more, nothing less, we can alleviate much of the stress, many of the doctor’s bills and over indulgence that simply leaves one with regrets and extra pounds.

Here are a few tips to get you on the way to THE BEST HOLIDAYS EVER.

1. Get over the “My holiday can beat up your holiday” trap. All holidays are not created equal. We enjoy what we enjoy and there’s not apologizing for it. If you like tofu and some quiet time on Thanksgiving, do it. No excuses. Our Successful Holiday Anthem? You do you. Repeat and rinse.
2. You have enjoyed many holidays before and likely you will enjoy holidays for many years to come. You don’t need to have your BEST HOLIDAY EVER this year. Put down the tinsel and step away from the tree, ma’am.
3. When we let go of overreaching expectations, often the magic comes to us rather than us chasing after the magic.
4. Because this isn’t your first, nor your last, you don’t need to eat all of the delicious things you like to eat. Eat some of them. Feel no guilt. And simultaneously remember more is less enjoyable and your future self will thank your past self with your past self made healthy food choices.
5. Look for magic. Watch the eyes of those you love, enjoy the little things and know that however grand or humble your holidays might seem, the magic is there. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to find it.
6. We were taught the magic word was please and we must admit it’s served us well. There’s always room for more tools in the tool box so, your next magic word to master is; No. Don’t bother accessorizing it with fancy explanations and excuses. Turn down the party, the food that makes you itch and the opportunity to spend more money than your future self would like to carry the burden for. It’s simple and complete. No.
7. The killer of all dreams and good events and all holiday fun is guilt. She’s an ugly mistress and, though traditionally inclusivity is the order for the holidays, lock that b*tch out. If you do over-indulge, if you do spend a bit more than you should have, get over it. Life is a journey, not an exercise in perfection.
8. Make these for the holidays. If you’re gluten free, make them with gf flour. I mean it. And bring me some, will ya?
9. See the good in others. See their efforts and try to understand those who disappoint you. Be the light of the holidays.
10. In the quiet moments of reflection with which you are blessed, be kind to yourself. Say nice things and remember you are a child of the Universe and deserve the richest and most wondrous It has to offer.

Like, share, comment, tweet and do your warm up exercises, it’s a long run from here.


It’s All Relative ~ A User’s Guide To Judging Others For Fun & Profit

I’m reading The Elegant Universe… again… in the hopes of understanding more than the scant 5-10% I understood the first time. The odds aren’t in my favor. I’m just going to have to be honest about that.

Since my first go-round I’ve read a few other books that shed a bit more light on the subject, and in order to understand them better, I thought I’d go back to TEU. It hurts my brain, but I shall persevere.

This evening’s reading involved Einstein’s theory of relativity and intergalactic space travel. Or something like that.

Deep-Space-space-6911829-500-313This portion of the book introduces us to George and later on to Gracie. George is floating in deep space, not near anything. He’s motionless, when all of the sudden, and this is where things get interesting, he sees a flashing green light in the distance. As it gets closer and closer he sees Gracie floating past him going about 10 miles an hour.

He waves to her. He’s just that friendly.

Then the author takes us through the same scenario, only this time from Gracie’s perspective. She’s floating in space, minding her own business, motionless, when all of the sudden, she sees a red flashing light that approaches her going ten miles an hour and sure enough, it’s George.

They wave to one another as George passes by.

The two perspectives are equally valid based on relativity. That’s as far as I’ll go with the science-y stuff. If I go deeper I’ll surely mess it up.

What struck me in the story is how science mirrors life and vice versa. We see each other in life, we see posts and pictures and what we see is people moving faster than we are. We see lives that are more exciting, more accomplished and we imagine we are motionless. It can be a bit demoralizing sometimes.

Perhaps the best part of our George and Gracie situation is that they’re both out there doing their thing in space, they see each other and they give a wave. What they perceive and how they view it is nothing more than perspective. They could just as easily imagined they themselves were in motion and passing the other by.

Each of us is in motion and the science to the situation is simply that there’s really no way to know who is passing whom. There’s no finish line that I’m aware of and there’s no way to compare your apples to my oranges or potatoes or my Brussels sprouts.

It’s all relative, right?

The best we can do for the future of our planet and string theory and the laws of special relativity is to know we are moving, we’re on our own path and when a flashing red or green light comes closer, wave at the person in the space suit and wish them well on their way.

Like, share, comment, tweet and can anyone out there tutor me on this stuff? Mind. Blown.