Tag Archives: love

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The Religion Of Your Soul ~ Michelle Church

Each year, for more than twenty years, on Christmas day we pack our family into the car and head to the Oregon coast. It is because of this tradition that we ultimately built our home here Lincoln City. Even as I write this I am sitting on the bed next to my Mr Dreamboat and though the doors and windows are closed I can still hear the crashing waves charging the beach just steps away from where we lay. Sometimes our Christmas vacation lingers into the New Year.

The tradition of leaving our home on the homiest holiday of the year might seem strange to you as it seems peculiar even to me, and I am the author of this particular tradition.

The ocean is lovely, dark and deep...
The ocean is lovely, dark and deep…

So many years ago when our children were young, with all my soul I wanted to begin our own family traditions, away from those from our histories. There seemed no chance of doing so when we had so much family around, and so we devised a plan to pack up our little family and go away from all the things our lives were normally comprised of.

And 21 years later I am quite literally sitting on the bed of our convention. And strange as it is, I love it.

There is no doubt your traditions are lovely and comforting. I’m certain your elf on the shelf is pleasing, your Yule Log burns bright each year and figgy pudding is the great, undiscovered, practice your family holds dear.

What is wonderful to me in all likelihood feels foreign to you and vice versa. Though the religion of our fathers may be the same, the way we each honor them and live them out in our own lives has as many variations as there are people. There are as many religions as there are souls.

As we each step into the baby days of the beginning New Year, let’s celebrate our differences, find our common grounds and bring with us upon every doorstep we visit, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

comfort and joy

Holiday Fear… I Meant Cheer…

It is December. It is the season. The season of FamilySpendingStressWorshipandTonsandTonsofFood. I believe that’s the official name of the entire season. But really, I don’t want to talk so much about the holidays. I want to talk about you. And me. And living life in a brilliant way.

I recently read that in order to have successful New Year’s Resolutions, one should start 6 weeks in advance. Technically we’re already past that date, but today is the last day of November and, let’s be honest, if we start working on them today it’s way sooner than we’ve ever done before.

“But it’s FamilySpendingStressWorshipandTonsandTonsofFood season,” you might say to me. “How am I ever going to have the time and energy to focus on anything but that?” (Let’s call it what it is, you whined that part.)

Yeah. I get that. But recently I had an epiphany. It was in mid October when my mind rankled me out of an autumnal bliss and reminded me that the holidays were nearly upon us. “Rude!” I screamed to myself, but then I remembered: Whatever experience I’m having, I am choosing to have it. While circumstances, like holidays and viruses may come and go as they please, the way in which I experience them is all me.

Booyah!

It is nearly December and holiday cheer is sidling up to each and every one of us like a cuddly kitten that may or may not scratch us without provocation. We can ease our holiday anxieties with too much food and an attitude of simply getting through it all, or we can focus on creating goals for the coming year and experiencing the holidays with gratitude and humor.

I’ll take a second helping of the latter if you don’t mind.

family reunion

Hobbits Are For Real And Life Is Magical: My Surprising Travels To D.C.

I walked the hallowed halls of many historical buildings and through the landscapes of iconic, American monuments.

There were enormous statues, obelisks and parks dedicated to the history of our young nation. I explored museums and culture and something came alive in me that I did not yet know existed.

I had never been to Washington D.C. so how could I know it was the entrance to another existence? Moment by moment I felt intrinsically changed.

hobbit
Isn’t she fantastic!

One such moment came at my personal discovery of the species named homo floresiensis, better nicknamed, Hobbits. These little people who walked the earth some twelve-plus thousand years ago grabbed my attention just a few days ago and they won’t let go.

It is my habit upon discovering something delightful to my sensibility to continue down the rabbit hole of the world and find more things about that.

Upon returning home I discovered our tiny, remote relations are controversial, as any good hobbit should be. They are controversial and some people think they were an anomaly, while others believe they are connected in our “folk memory” to mythological creatures called Ebu Gogo.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I’m undone. I mean truly. Last Thursday as we taxied down the runway I had no idea at all that these were things. Hobbits and folk memory and Ebu Gogo (Which, by the way, means “grandmother who eats anything.” I mean, can you get enough of this stuff???).

My trip to the Capitol surprised me in its delights. Really. I didn’t know I would love it so much. So as we boarded our flight out of Dulles Airport a part of me mourned that it was over. All that discovery. All the sights and sounds and energy I’d never known before.

I’m not much for suffering and so while I simultaneously allowed myself a bit of sadness over the end of a delightful adventure, I wondered at what made me feel so alive, and, more importantly, how I might keep that feeling with me upon my return to home and family and all that is familiar to me.

It is then that I realized what made me come alive wasn’t only all that is wonderful about that particular destination, but it was the learning and discovery. It was seeing things in a new way and learning things about which I knew nothing before.

Correct me if I’m wrong, and I’m really not, but wherever we are, whether traveling or sitting at home on the couch that is intimately familiar to us, there is always something to discover. There are rabbit holes to explore every single moment of every single day. It’s just that kind of limitless world at our fingertips. Boredom, my friends, is the final frontier.

Granted, it’s not every day we discover hobbits actually roamed the earth and not every day we learn about folk memory or grandmothers who eat everything. But I like to think that there are discoveries just as important available to us every day if only we’re willing to look for them.

Isn’t life grand?

Yes. Yes I did wear feathers to school. Didn't you?

Your Life Sucks? Let The Season Change You

There is a certain angle to the sun as we head into the late days of August that never fails to remind me of walking to school. Freshly tanned by the summer sun and uncomfortable in more appropriate attire, we doggedly trudged to class with virgin notebooks, pens brimming with ink.

I loved that time of year. I hated that time of year.

It’s been many years since I trudged anywhere. If I go somewhere I’m unsure of at this point in my life, I march, in a doggedly determined way not yet mastered by my younger self.

Long gone are my school days, and yet the slant of the sun carries me back. Rather than feel wistful and all achy and stuff, what I feel now is inspired to movement. If we are to live all the days of our lives, we simply must move. .

We need growth, movement, to do things that are hard and new and scary and demanding (And what’s more difficult than vacating the public pool for the public school?). I love fall with her cool mornings and sparkling afternoons because she demands change as she begins closing up shop for the coming winter.

For the most part, no one requires attendance or homework from me these days. I choose my schedule and attend no formal classroom. Even so, I am called to create a more demanding schedule, by the sun slanting just so. I am reminded of standing in front of Tina Williams house, waiting to walk to school with my friend. Waiting to start a fresh, new season.

I remember the days when my brain was awakening from its summer slumber and I am excited by the idea of cool days and dedicated teachers inciting me to learn and grow.

Each of the seasons seems to demand something different from us, and Autumn, to my way of thinking, bids us go inside and make something of ourselves, all the while changing her gown to something a little more formal.

I’m in the mood to go school clothes shopping. Who’s with me?

must love dogs

Best Dog/Day Ever ~ Make Yours

Back when things were bad and the IRS was breathing down our throats and reading our mail and intruding even in our dreams, we had a dog. The title, “Best Dog Ever” is thrown around like confetti, I know this, but really, Scout was a gem.

Before things went south for our little family, when I would find evidence that he had been napping on my bed, on my expensive bedding, I would throw a fit and cast him dirty looks, whispering, “Stupid, damn dog,” under my breath.

It was only while my heart was breaking over the things that men and governments will do that the godlike characteristics of canines became evident to me. Scout would come to me as I sat in solitude and bafflement and without intruding simply love me.

There’s not a good way to describe it other than “love”. He would sit and be and take awaylike scout the pain that he could with his presence. It was more than almost anyone else could do. Plus he was silent and that was helpful for me. One woman’s talk is therapy and another’s is silence.

After this revelation, each time I saw the indentation of a large dog on my duvet, I would look at the brindle Boxer and ask him gently if he’d had a good nap. A good dog is worth a million duvets any day of the week.

I now have a very different life and Scout has long since passed on to what I hope are the rolling fields of dog heaven. A very different dog romps through my heart today. Preacher, a mini Australian Shepherd, is now five months old and the easiest puppy I’ve ever trained (Scout was a two-year-old rescue dog, scarred, like people).

As I sat in my kitchen yesterday training the little guy, I wondered if he would be my “Best Dog Ever” and naturally my thoughts went to Scout sitting silently, lovingly by my side as I indulged in a very rare cry. It was more like misty eyes if I’m being honest, but that’s big for me and Scout got that.

It is my hope that Preacher will never need to guide me through another horrible life event. But I’m well past believing each of us is given one and only one. Life is nothing if not an adventure and everyone knows adventures sometimes suck. It’s in the dictionary. You can look it up.

FullSizeRender (1)0505Whatever quests Preacher and I embark upon, I’m sure he will be up for the task. He will reign as my “Best Dog Ever” for this time, in this way.

It’s human nature to look for the patterns and to hope for a repeat of the things and experiences we love, while simultaneously avoiding that which was painful. We can neither recreate the past nor control the future. Deal with it.

What we can do, what will truly serve us, is to take each new day and make it the best it can be. Uniquely so. To wish for the past is to waste the present and hobble the future.

I have had many dogs in my life and each, in their way, was my “Best Dog Ever”. The key to happiness is not to repeat what has been good, but to find out what is good, no, great about today.

Today is my best day ever. Yours too, if you let it be so.

volunteer or weed

In Defense of Weed(s)

Many years ago when Mr Dreamboat and I were just starting off on the wild ride that would be our life together, we bought our very first home. It was a tiny and lovely nestled on a sleepy street in Northeast Portland, Oregon.

There we brought home our very first Baby Boy Young. Perhaps because it is so many years in my past, the only memories I have of our first little cottage are illuminated with soothing yellow lights and somehow every memory seems tucked into a perfect summer evening. Sigh…

Though we lived in our home for only a year, it was there we became a family and there we learned many other lessons as well.

One of those lessons was about weeds.

The previous owner was a young man who had bought the house and fixed it up. A nice job

You wanted to talk about pot, didn't you?
You wanted to talk about pot, didn’t you?

he did of it too. The floors were stripped of old carpet and redone in a beautiful, old patina that felt cozy and grounded. The remaining carpets were new and fresh. The house was tiny but charming in every way. Well, if I’m being honest, the kitchen was achingly small and outdated, but beyond that it was entirely perfect.

Including the yard.

Both the front and back yards were nothing fancy but well kept and tidy. He was a meticulous guy and wanted to walk us through the whole property, small though it was, before we took complete ownership.

He talked about the floors, the fireplace and the basement. When we came to the plot he walked us about the little patch of grass and pointed out the decorative beds.

“These plants I brought back from some hikes I took in the gorge. They’ve done really well. These over here are volunteers. I don’t know what they are, but they’re pretty.”

For certain it was the first time I’d ever heard a plant referred to as a “volunteer”. And without a doubt it had never occurred to me that one might choose what one thought was beautiful and worthy of a garden based on nothing but preference.

Where were the experts? What did the books have to say about it? How can we possibly value something unless we’ve been told it’s valuable?

And so the light turned on.

Weeds are only weeds when we think of them as such. Beauty is to be found in every living thing, in every living circumstance. Sometimes, if we find we like something that until now we’ve thought of as a weed, it’s not a weed at all, it’s a volunteer.

Too often I am quick to label things.

This is “good”, and that is “bad” and these things have “value” while those don’t. It is in the labeling that I am committing the injustice. When I throw something out without critical thinking I may very well be getting rid of my very favorite flower in the garden of my life.

The volunteers that have popped up in my life have sometimes been quite ugly on the surface. Challenges I couldn’t have planned for and outcomes never imagined have thrown me for a loop and sent me running for the weed killer. Until I remember…

You are the expert of your own life. You decide what should thrive and what should die. Yet sometimes if you give things a chance to grow, occasionally that which was never valued before turns out to have the most magical powers.

Got some weeds in your garden? Let’s sort them out together.

Contact me at michelleatplay@gmail.com

sunrise yoga

Thank You/F*ck You

This morning I got up, took a shower and meditated to the sounds of the ocean. Lest I give the false impression of paradise, know that mating seagulls made such a ruckus that the meditation turned into an exercise in keeping my focus and not feeling rage at the randy, squawking, feral, avian scavengers romping above my head. But I digress…

After such a hypnotic practice I finished dressing, put on a touch of make up and donned my jaunty black cape, the practical one I wear when I’m doing chores and can’t be bothered with the flowing, fancy ones.

It is the cape about which we talk today. I continue to wear it and continue to learn from the practice.

Not long after I put on my first cape, I sat in the cool Austin evening talking with a friend of mine. Daniel is a musician and has traveled the world singing the songs he’s written and entertaining what is probably hundreds of thousands of people. Beyond that, the man is brilliant.

yeah thats how i doI explained to him that the cape is making me think and grow. It’s a challenge. Often. I admit openly that I am sometimes self-conscious in it. Sometimes I want to apologize and explain that I am in all actuallity a sane person. Then I remember if I have to tell you I’m sane the likelihood that this is true diminishes dramatically.

The evening sauntered on in that comfortable way we relish good friends and conversation. And Daniel imparted a bit of the wisdom he’s acquired over millions of miles and thousands of performances.

“A performer has to come to the stage with equal amounts ‘thank you’ and ‘f*ck you.’ We aren’t anything without the audience, but beyond that you have to know you’re bringing inherent value. That’s what makes a good performance.”

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation and though it’s often top of mind, I watch myself continue to become obsequious, pleasing, submissive even.

No one finds this attractive. Especially me.

With this notation in the performer’s handbook, I am now capable of stopping myself in the act of subjection. I pull my shoulders back and I remember that gratitude is first on the list, always gratitude, but of equal importance is knowing I’m the one running the show. When I take charge, when I know my value, the “show” gets infinitely better for everyone, including the audience and including myself.

Perhaps the Performer’s Strategy isn’t for everyone. Maybe you find the words a little harsh. I get that and respect that. I’m just grateful you came to read the post.

And I’m wearing my cape. And I am embracing that delicious fifty/fifty split. You do you and I’ma do me…

Thank you, thank you very much. Michelle has left the building…

best life

Your Best Life Ever

A month ago today I drove the five hours necessary to pick up my new best friend. Mr Dreamboat had done more than his due diligence and hand picked my tiny, puppy companion and the day and hour had arrived for me to take on my new responsibility.

Preacher and I met and instantly fell in love. I with him, because he is cute and he is fluffy. He with me, likely because I give him snacks. Whatever it takes, I’m not proud.

michelleatplaycapedAs the weeks passed I’ve become confident the “Honeymoon Phase” is past and we are in the day to day routine of figuring out how to live together. He has convinced not only me (the easy sell) but Mr Dreamboat (the cynical one) that his rightful place to sleep is in our room. I have persuaded him that… well, he’s a puppy. He does the majority of the convincing in our relationship.

That said, it occurred to me just a few days ago I should be doing some sort of official training with this guy lest he become obnoxious and I rue the day we met.

Turning to the Oracle Of Truth & Enlightenment (The Interwebs), I opted for advice from Cesar, The Dog Whisperer, or whatever his name is. Cesar informs me that my puppy is a pack animal and I should always maintain my position of Alpha. Check.

I’m supposed to go through doors before the little devil does and he should walk beside me or behind me when we’re on a leash about town. Okay. I think we’ve been doing this already. What else ya got, Cesar?

It turns out this puppy thing isn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. Thus far no major mistakes have been made on my part and all the basics were already being covered, apparently on an unconscious level.

Cesar assures me consistency, kindness and gentle praise are the key factors in raising a puppy you won’t regret as an adult. In his words:

“A pack leader is, by definition, strong, stable, and consistent.”

Yes! Yesyesyes!

The rules of dog training, it turns out are no different than the rules of life. If we’re interested in leading the pack, we have to be willing to step out in front of the crowd. Consistency is key and gentle praise an important part of every day communication.

I’m convinced I am raising one of the best dogs of my life. He is smart, sweet and small enough to sit on my lap on a cold winter evening and keep me warm.

Likewise, I am also delighted to be creating a life I love. I do it on a consistent basis. I try to use gentle praise as a key part of my communication, and I try to keep good snacks on hand. Never underestimate the importance of good snacks .

In the end, whether your life is a dog or not, there’s no reason not to make it your bitch;)

old-woman

Who Can You Trust?

Once, plagued by the vague but persistent symptoms of my autoimmune “thing”, a doctor from whom I sought relief asked in a condescending tone, “Um,” insert one raised eyebrow tinged with contempt, “Are your symptoms occurring once a month, Mrs. Young?”

Because I didn’t have as much experience, rather than tell him to go to hell as would be my response today, I started to cry. This evoked far more frustration than sympathy from him. I left his office without help or comfort. Once a doctor even told me the symptoms about which I was visiting him were, “Not possible.”

Oh. Okay. Thanks for that.

That was many, many moons ago and I would not stand to be treated like that today. Also, I wouldn’t go to a doctor for the nebulous symptoms that to this day nag me onto the couch from time to time.

Because there was “No balm in Gilead…” as the scripture goes, I sauntered off into blood donationMichelle Land, clear this wasn’t a part of my normal monthly cycle but equally convinced that there was something out there that could ease my woes.

For more than 30 years I have been on a quest for wellness. Sometimes I’ve succumbed to the panaceas of the day ~ Note to self, if it’s direct sales and will cure ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, including acne and diarrhea with exactly the monthly dose you are now obligated to purchase for the rest of your life, it’s probably voodoo. Too good to be true, almost without exception, is indeed, too good to be true.

While I may have tried a few foolhardy things in my day, the good people in the healing profession also tried to steer me away from time-honored methods as well. I had one doctor tell me to stay away from acupuncture at all costs. He was, incidentally, Asian.

While I wouldn’t say I’ve necessarily “healed” myself, most of the time I feel really good. My days on the couch are limited and from time to time I continue to dabble in energy healing and the occasional weird remedy.

You can’t blame a girl for trying.

I would love to tell you what you need to do to heal your particular bugaboo, but what I’ve learned is exactly contrary to that idea.

While the medical profession is to be consulted and respected, the missing link in our wellness plan is our willingness to listen to ourselves. My symptoms are my symptoms and you can’t tell me they’re not. What makes me feel better, like acupuncture, makes me feel better, regardless of being advised against it.

While there isn’t a miracle cure, a skinny pill or a panacea to cure all that ails us perhaps the “Balm in Gilead” arrives in the quiet moments we take, the deep breaths and listening and in finally trusting ourselves to listen and trust ourselves above all others.

Listen to the silence, feel the world go round, listen to the silence, feel the lack of sound…

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I Wear A Cape Every Day. Why Don’t You?

I am wearing a cape. I am wearing a cape and for the next year, every day, I will wear a cape. I go to the store, to a friend’s house, out to dinner; there I am in high heals, trailed closely by a cape.

At first I had only a black one. It’s my practical cape, suitable for yard work and general household chores. Over time I realized I wasn’t “leaning in” to the Cape Crusade like I could and my collection expanded to a shimmery gold cape as well as an audacious red cape for those times when you want to throw your shoulders back and challenge the world with a belligerent, “What??”

This morning I’ve chosen the classic gold cape. I feel simultaneously elegant and sassy. It’s not yet ten a.m.

Yes. I know what Edna says. But the fact that I can’t actually fly and I’ve never encountered a super villain gives me latitude super heroes with those skills do not have. I will admit, however, that I’ve gotten caught on a few doors though.

My cape crusade has brought to me new friends. It has given me confidence when I needed it and it’s humbled me as I realize strangers may put me in the category of Freaks & Geeks. And then I realize anyone categorizing people as freaks and geeks is no friend of mine at any rate.

Perhaps a Cape Crusade is not for everyone. I can accept that. But what does apply to all who seek a bigger life and expanded view, is to step out of the comfort zone, do things that force us to pull our shoulders back and “put on” the powerful mien that is a birthright to all members of the family of man.

I am at the baby beginning of my yearlong experiment. I have already experienced ridicule and awe. I’ve been too tired to put the cape on, too stressed to want to talk about it and too timid to own it the way a cape should be owned. Which all amounts to progress, learning and pixie dust. Just the right amount of pixie dust.

Who knows what my Cape Crusade will teach me. The future hides treasures no man knows. What I do know is that I’m sometimes uncomfortable and there are moments of bliss, laughter and audacity to beat the band and at the end of the day, it’s really all we can ask for.

I have purposely chosen not to reveal the whole truth of The Cape Crusade. There are a few of you, a select group who resonate with a very rare kind of crazy, who would like to know more.

I’m seeking a few worthy souls to journey with me. Is that you?

Email michelleatplay@gmail.com with the header The Cape Crusades and let me know you’re interested in the journey. Oh! the fun we will have together.

May your capes, real and metaphorical, always fly free in the wind.