Tag Archives: perspective

Where In The World Are You Going?

Just a few weeks ago I sat in the airport listening intently to understand even one word of the Spanish announcement, I felt a rise of excitement and anxiety as we ventured into places unfamiliar, extraño, if you will.

Mostly the answer was no. No, I did not understand any of the words despite years of avid Spanish study.

China Town in Mexico City. International, baby!
China Town in Mexico City. International, baby!

It was disappointing, but not surprising. I hadn’t practiced the language for years except to say, “Me encanta la lengua pero no lo hablo mucho. Por eso no hablo bien.”

Which of course sounds pretty good because I can pop that sentence out like a boss… because it’s mostly the only Spanish I use anymore.

It means, “I love the language but I don’t speak it much. That’s why I don’t speak it well.” Yeah…

But life is never linear and what we believe we “are” is more location than definition. Wait, let me explain what I mean by that.

So often we look around ourselves, we evaluate our circumstances by what perceive we’ve achieved, how our day played out and maybe, if you’re like me, we judge who we are based on our most current results.

As if what appears today is a definition of who we are. You know, like, “I don’t speak Spanish well today, which means I don’t speak Spanish well.” Which is another way of saying, “I suck.” Unfortunate and inelegant.

Harsh, I know

The reality of the situation was that I had, indeed, studied Spanish for a lot of years in earnest. I’d traveled to Mexico and Guatemala with the specific goal of immersion study. I had done the work.

Also true was the fact that I hadn’t practiced it much in recent years. It was hard to speak it and even harder to understand the words spilling out of a static-y sound system in a busy Southern California airport.

As our trip to San Miguel unfolded, each day I practiced speaking and trying with all my might to understand what is a truly lovely language. Every day I discovered anew how much I enjoy it and, to my delight, I discovered the skill was never lost. It was there to be rediscovered all along.

Our circumstances are in no way a definition of who we are. Who we are is a manifestation of a graceful Universe. We are expressions of a limitless God.

Further, our circumstances are simply feedback and nothing more. They are either encouraging us further along the path we’re on or begging us to choose something different, something more worthy of us.

The more I tuned in, the more my brain cooperated, spitting out words I’d long since forgotten right on demand. It was fun. I was encouraged. But perhaps most importantly I was reminded not to judge myself so harshly. Where I am, is not a definition of who I am, it’s merely a location. And I am not a tree, I can move any time I choose.

Where will you go next?

The Value Of Your Soul As Decided By Your Laundry

It took me more than 25 years to clean my laundry room. Give or take. It began with my first child and, fittingly, now that my last is the only one living with us, I seem to be getting a handle on it.

At first the trouble was that I was a new mom. That morphed into mom with babies and small children and then busy schedules and finally to a laundry room that’s really big and too much clothing.

The most recent difficulty was that there were stacks and stacks of clothes on the counter and much of it I couldn’t figure out whose it was nor if they still wanted it. This was perhaps the worst laundry room torture of all.

Finally I had the time to clean the room but couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the clothes. I’m serious. It was torture.

Weeks ago I began the last, and hopefully final, odyssey into the laundry room. All much children were at least in close proximity to the house so I could ask them to go through the clothes to decide what was theirs and what was wanted.

This was a pretty big failure as not one of them cared about me and my need to have a laundry room that didn’t qualify for an episode of Hoarders (a truly disturbing reality show that should be banned, or at least cleaned out).

laundry-pileI abandoned my effort out of frustration and, let’s be honest, disinterest, and went to the beach for a month instead. Going to the beach is more fun than cleaning out my laundry room.

We’ve been back for a couple of weeks and the half filled bags for Goodwill taunted me and goaded me into finally taking the plunge and getting rid of the detritus that haunts my laundry room. Today I took 6 bags to be donated and my laundry room, while not magazine ready, is clean and organized with nary a stray sock to be found.

It’s taken me 25+ years to get my laundry room clean. Twenty-five long years. But I suppose the only thing I regret in those 25 years is all the anxiety it caused me. You see, if I am judged only by the content of my character, no one gives a damn about the cleanliness of my laundry room.

We worry too much about things that don’t matter. We wonder about “worthiness” and our value in this world. The fact that we even exist is nothing short of miraculous. We are all on our paths and our value is inherent.

It feels good to have a project completed. Hopefully for the last time. But it feels good to know that it never really mattered, that it’s all just a part of the journey.

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

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;)


A Vacation For The Overworked Ego ~ A List Of Ten Things

If you ask me the ego gets a bum rap. Designed specifically to protect us and keep us far from harms way,a list of ten things we malign its existence and constantly shame it, never giving it the applause it deserves for saving our sorry, vulnerable asses.

Shame on us.

The ego, unlike any other human being, has been with you from the beginning and knows your pain as intimately as you do. That’s why it’s there for you, protecting you from the agony of middle school rejection and encouraging you not to try lest you fail miserably in the first round of the spelling bee again. Sure “anchor” has an h in it. I knew that.

But for the ego, we would go through humiliation again and again.

While the ego is actually a friend to us, perhaps the best way to thank it for its tireless work on our behalf is to give it a rest once in a while. Stop scaring it and make friends with a different sort of world so the overworked part of ourselves can take a little rest.

Your ego will thank you:

1. Give in to the fact that none of it’s personal. People laughing at you or laughing with you, it’s all the same, if you allow it to be.
2. Remember, and you can remind the ego of it, that people are not responding to you, they’re responding to themselves. Whether you’re, “…the GREATEST…,” or, “…the WORST…”, it doesn’t matter. Put the ego to bed and stop worrying about it.
3. As soon as we give into the fact that at some point in time the ride will end, the ego can stop worrying that you’re going to die. You are going to die. It’s best to stop worrying about something that will happen if your ego is working overtime or not.
4. There is no perfect life without Photoshop so stop trying to get one. Ego, you are dismissed now from dusting and otherwise proving that you are perfect. You are not. Not even on your best day. On your best day you are you, flawed, fragile and perfect in your imperfections.
5. While there may be a few absolutes like gravity and death, everything else is up for questioning so your ego can give in to the idea that you will inevitably be wrong. At least from time to time and likely often. Take a nap, Little Ego.
6. Though Facebook is a vehicle used to prove otherwise, everyone else is as flawed as you are. No one has the perfect life so we can give it up and make peace with our stained shirts and imperfect children.
7. Sure I applaud the ego, but its nagging desire to tear down others is ill-advised. I can never figure out why we can’t figure this one out; Your flaws do not equal my perfection.
8. Conversely, when we teach the ego the pleasure of finding the beauty in others and in our own world, the ego settles down and enjoys a world infused with beauty.
9. After a long day, it’s important to remind the ego that tomorrow is a completely fresh start. Everything gets reset.
10. When all else fails, it’s best to take the ego by the hand, thank it for its tireless work and allow it to pull our shoulders back and continue to fight the good fight. It’s best to do that after a good night’s rest though.

Procrastination ~ A Useful Tool For Happiness

Every morning each of us awakens to new options. Every day is a fresh beginning. And even if our day looks a lot like it did yesterday, it’s not. Don’t be fooled.

Today is a day to choose new choices, think new thoughts, drive a different path to wherever you went yesterday that you’re going again today and most importantly, it’s a chance to see the world differently or perhaps for the first time.

There are things to put off today. Procrastinate worry? Don’t mind if I do. Wait until “tomorrow” to think dark and paranoid thoughts? Good idea. In fact, those things have no business being in your “today”.

I awoke this morning to Mr Dreamboat at my side, an all too rare occasion. The sun is shining on the Northwest Spring and I have goals to mull over and laughter that needs tending to. 

This truck was stopped at a checkpoint. Inside the barrels; laughter. Tons of it. The government tried to confiscate it, but it got away and drifted to your neck of the woods.

Please don’t misunderstand, I have challenges and things that concern me just like everyone else. But time has proven that when I live in the present and feel as much joy as I can, those challenges find a way to work themselves out. The world keeps on spinning, I embrace the fact that we are each on our own path, now let me get to that laughter.

I hope wherever you are and whatever weather you’re subjected to, that the sun is shining in your heart like a Northwestern Springtime. And I hope you claim barrels of laughter as your own. 

Problems be damned.

At Sea

I am sitting on the love seat in the family room at the beach house. From this vantage point, through the windows I see nothing but the ocean and if I give into it, I can imagine the gentle sway of a ship at sea. Our own personal vessel carrying us wherever we may want to go.

This is only a momentary indulgence as today we pack, change the bedding, throw away the remainder of the junk food and go back into the day to day reality of our life together on the Young Family Ranch & Zombie Apocalypse Retreat. Or a schedule thick with travel for Mr Dreamboat. Whichever.

We have been on holiday, a lovely word we Americans should take advantage of more often, for nearly 10 days and at some point, it seems ludicrously indulgent to continue. Though ludicrous indulgence is nothing to scoff at if you ask me.

But really, I’m happy to get back to the day to day. I have dreams to build and goals to achieve and all sorts of plans to implement. It’s going to be a great year, though it will have to work hard to meet last year’s highs. I’m willing to give it a go.

As I take a look at my life, the highs, the lows, the holidays and the day to day drudgeries none of us can escape, I realize the “blessings” were in each one of them. Not just the prayers that were answered, but those that were not. I see the character building that occurred not only when I was under the gun, but when I was indulged and pampered. It is in each moment of our lives that we are given gifts. It is in every moment of living and breathing that we are growing, in one direction or another.

I choose up. Or at least most of the time I think I do.

As I write this, Mr Dreamboat has come to sit by my side. I can feel the warmth coming from him even though we are not touching. The waves are thundering in and since I cannot see the shore, I continue to imagine we are at sea together. Not drifting, but on the grandest of holidays.

It’s all about perspective.


Life Is Beautiful, Here’s The Proof!

Recently I’ve been looking for evidence of what I don’t believe. I’m not going all religious here, I’m

actually talking about perceptions of life.

A blogging friend of mine recently commented that we all look for evidence to support our beliefs whether they are true or not. That’s how we build our world. I was glad for this information and simultaneously haunted by it.

If we’re all so busy looking to prove what we believe, how can we EVER know the truth. Or perhaps that’s just it. There isn’t THE truth, just A truth.

So I pondered this, I tried to figure out how to alter… well, alter me, and I realized that the “goggles” I have placed over my eyes, or the ones I was given, will always, no matter what I do, color the way I see the world.

Simultaneously, I must embrace the fact that you have your own goggles and they may not be colored at all the same as mine. That’s just how it has to be.

But what if we all, in a moment of brilliance, decided to look for evidence of the best in the world. I mean,

we’re gathering evidence subconsciously anyway, why not look for evidence of all that is good?

I’ve been practicing. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Once I consciously began looking for the opposite of what I believed, I could more clearly see how I’d been gathering all evidence to the contrary.

What was exciting, but not entirely surprising is that there was evidence for both views of the world. The only difference was that one set of findings made me feel happy and hopeful, while the other made me feel sad and anxious.

For today, let’s look for evidence of:

Kindness in others.

Let’s seek to find proof that life favors us.

We should be seeking the truth that we are blessed and that people like us… No! They LOVE us!

Let’s look for proof that we are attractive and fit and that we are SO lucky that it’s Monday and that things are really looking up!

There is certainly evidence out there that “it could have been so much worse than it is” and that it’s all going to be okay.

Surely we’re on the right track. This is going to be an excellent day and there are opportunities knocking at our door even as I write this and you read this.

It’s all out there. I know it is. And as for me, I going out to go find it!

Yay for Monday!

Ten Blessings

I tend to get a bit reflective on my birthday. It’s sort of like rehashing the movie as you walk out of the theater. Our conversations sound like this, “I loved the part where…,” or “What was your favorite scene?” We do this after movies. I rehash at the end of each day.

So this morning as I’ve arisen before the masses that live with me, I am reflective not simply on the last year of my life, but in particular, I’m am reflecting on the challenges that have come to me throughout my years on earth, but turned out to be incredible blessings…

  1. I am grateful that I grew up with a serious illness. Having asthma and being Imagehospitalized many times for it, taught me to take care of my body.
  2. When I was 14 years old I was in a farm accident where my left thumb was cut off. The insurance payout sent me to BYU where I met Mr Dreamboat. Left thumbs are easy to live without. I wouldn’t want to live without Mr D.
  3. Through many different circumstances, many of them challenging and some of them downright ugly, I find myself in the tiny, relatively remote burg of Amboy. While I sometimes complain about persnickety toilets and long drives to the grocery store, it is a huge blessing to live here in the quiet of the country.
  4. We suffered incredibly as a family when Aaron went to jail. We suffered financial blows and my children were without there father at pivotal times in their lives. We suffered in unspeakable ways, some of which have not yet manifested, I am certain. But the blessings and the lessons, they are of remarkable, even infinite value. I cannot mourn that which has brought me so much.
  5. My childhood was not idyll. However, the self reliance I learned has been pivotal in helping me survive hardships as an adult. I may not have gotten what I wanted but I got what I would later need. Resilience is learned and a special gift.
  6. ImageFor many years I was very self conscious that I didn’t finish my college education. Because of that I have spent the last 26 years educating myself instead of leaving off at the required four. I pronounce myself Dr Michelle! And give myself the letters GA for Grand Authority.
  7. I am grateful for the lean years in my marriage, they taught me how to “make do”.Image Now there’s a college course everyone should be required to take. Healthy, nutritious, cheap meals 101. How to make a house beautiful with $1.95 and only 2 hours, 201. Thrift shopping for the proud, Only For Upper Classmen. Call me for course options.
  8. I am grateful to have had my heart broken in so many ways by so many people. As I have put it back together I learned how to spot the scary people, to trust my own judgment and that even though I see some really bad behavior, I can never truly know what drives people. It’s best to just keep moving forward.
  9. I’m glad about the faulty Hyundai I drove when my two oldest children were little. I parked it on a hill in case I needed a “running”start. One day it was just too tired to make it up that hill. In the rain. With a toddler and a baby in tow… While I like my luxury cars, any car that starts every time is a blessing in my mind.
  10. All the things that didn’t turn out the way I wanted, all the fairy tales I told myself would be my life, all those deep disappointments were just making way for a life so much better than any I could have dreamed up for myself.

Happy birthday to me.