Saturday, January 31, 2015

It's Coming Back....S.L.O.W.L.Y......but Back



mo·jo

 noun \ˈmō-(ˌ)jō\
: a power that may seem magical and that allows someone to be very effective, successful, etc.
I lost it during a week that was, well, let me say, NOT one of my best.  It all started with my birthday and for some reason, as I look back, my birthdays have not been great days for quite some time.  For reasons too personal to ever publicly acknowledge, I find myself in a dark place on that day and for a few days following and prefer to acknowledge the happiness and pride of the day before mine, it being the birthday of my first-born granddaughter and the same day, the birthday of one of my closest friends.

So, when my "big day" rolled around this year, it brought me to a place where I became filled with anxiety about my role in life, made me think about the worth of all my creative efforts.  I did a lot of soul searching, a massive cleaning up,throwing out un-attaching and wondering.  What? Who? Where? And, it was all too much so, one by one, I cast aside the things that were making me anxious and I allowed the season of hibernation to bring me along.  I decided to let the writers write, the artists do their art, and I sat back and settled into an easier world and became a home-maker and I rebuilt my nest....just in time for the gigantic disruption of a blizzard.  And, I was ready, so ready for this one despite the fear of losing power and warmth.  The snow came, the power remained on. We were warm and I felt in control the entire time, my mind un-cluttered by those very things that I had thought I needed to do to make me "happy", and  by the time the storm had ended and it was safe to venture out, I had realized that the Universe had been kind and that I had been given the best possible birthday gifts of peace and tranquility and permission to just "be".

During my down-time, I thought, every day, about the time that I had to myself now that I was not in creative pursuit mode. I did more reading, allowing the creativity of others to fill my empty spaces.  My house is clean, closets have been re-organized, menus have been planned, futures have been discussed and more snow has fallen, and I've had time to think without the monkeys swinging in my brain and I've wondered.....why do writers write? And, most importantly, "am I a writer?". So, I went on a quest to find answers and came up with a basket full of explanations.  Each writer, it seems, has his or her own motive. Here's the one that got me back up and running, from Mary Gattskill's list of motivations.....

 An  impulse for empathy and for giving voice to the marginalized 


To reveal and restore things that I feel might be ignored or disregarded. I was once at a coffee shop eating breakfast alone when I noticed a woman standing and talking to a table of people. She was young but prematurely aged, with badly dyed hair and lined skin. She was smiling and joking, but her body had a collapsed, defeated posture that looked deeply habitual. Her spine was curled, her head was slightly receded, and her shoulders were pulled down in a static flinch. She expressed herself loudly and crudely, but also diffidently. She talked like she was a joke. But there was something else to her, something pushing up against the defeat, a sweet, tough, humorous vitality that I could almost see running up her center. I realized that if I hadn't looked closely, I would not have really seen this woman, that I would not have seen what was most human and lively in her. I wondered how many people saw it, or even if she herself saw it…
That kind of small, new, unrecognized thing is very tender to me, and I hate it when it gets ignored or mistaken for something ugly. I want to acknowledge and nurture it, but I usually leave it very small in the stories. I do that because I think part of the human puzzle is in the delicacy of those moments or phenomena, contrasted with the ignorance and lack of feeling we are subject to.
And so, I'm awake again.  I know who I am and why it is so important for me to keep writing, not to be a "great" writer, to just be "good enough", but to keep putting it out there, if only as a gift for birthdays, other birthdays, my own birthday. 
 For my granddaughter, I want you to always have empathy and to forever lend your voice to the marginalized., to lead your life looking closely, seeing the delicacies and restoring those things that you feel might be ignored or disregarded.  
P.S. I jot my mojo back.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Teach Your Children Well

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
Martin Luther King Jr.






It's beginning to feel like 1960 all over again and I'm seeing a dream becoming a nightmare and a manifest falling apart at the seams, one stitch at a time.  And I ask you, everyone, to think, for just one easy minute today, about all the people in this country who lost their lives so that others could find theirs. And I'm seeing a pendulum swinging backwards.  What have we learned? Who are we? Weren't we supposed to be so much further by now?  Why does racism still exist, polarizing our society at a time when we need unity more than we have ever before?  And why do I harbor a fear of a war, here on our soil?  

We terrorize each other.

The war I fear is Civil War and the potential is greater than anything we've imagined from our "enemies" because we've forgotten so much about respecting all people, about not judging people by their color.  We've become silent in our every day lives.  What's happening to us and when are we going to wake up?

More later.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Am I Getting Old or.......



Am I just getting wiser?

Have I finally found a place, one that is comfortable and comforting?

I took some good advice, hunkered down, and set up a space that I can call my own, where I can sit and think, read, doodle, and cherish whatever and whenever I feel like it.

No, it's not an old lady's hang out.  It's my-space, totally and I am NOT an old lady!

The pond is frozen over and it's very cold out there.  I need it to be warm in here and so much more.

When I was in Assisi, I met a very wise woman and over a lovely cup of the best coffee in the world, we spoke of so many things, things about life.  We talked about creativity and about spirit.  She asked, I revealed.  I asked, she revealed.  It was as if I had been sent my own personal guide to my inner self, and, at the same time, to my outer world.  It was through her kindness and her wisdom that I learned the beauty of loving, loving myself.  She told me that it is when you love yourself, that you take care of yourself and that the purchase of gifts for yourself reaffirms that love and commitment and it becomes easy when you break down the barriers to self-love.

There are so many barriers, so many walls that go between love and loathe. We carry dozens of self-limiting beliefs that eventually rob us of joy and happiness.  We start young, build up to a crescendo by the time we reach adulthood, finding it harder and harder to throw open the windows, to throw down the walls.It is when, for one reason or another, we finally give those walls a gigantic shove, we allow ourselves to see what was waiting for us on the other side and to find joy in simplicity as easily as in over-abundance.  Along the way, we might overlook the things that were there, on the road-map in much the same way we can miss a hidden lane that leads to breath-stopping view at sunset.

So, I opened more windows already this Winter, not in welcoming the cold, but in ushering in the warmth that comes with simple pleasures, little gifts to my-own-me from my-own-self.  And, I've made space for all that goodness, physical space where I can see my soul in action and trust me, it has taken a long time get there but there isn't a place on Earth I'd rather be right now.  Wisdom.

Friday, January 9, 2015

You First! Friday As It Was Intended




When I worked for Colgate -Palmolive, one of my greatest accomplishments was the creation of their first-ever branded wellness platform. It started out with my idea to make every Friday a day that would be dedicated to individual health and wellness.  I came to my manager with "YOU FIRST FRIDAYS" in hand and of course, he was supportive (so supportive that the management team totally overlooked the fact that I this was my initiative and they claimed it.....that's a whole other story).  Ahem....but.....the idea was such a good one that I was asked to make slight changes and expand the program to be simply called "YOU FIRST!" and later "YOUR HEALTH AT COLGATE", probably because in corporate America, putting yourself into anything and looking like you're goofing off in the nurse's office while you are actually taking care of your biggest needs, is not acceptable.  One of these days, I'll write about my "Personal Program Room" design.  But, for now, as I am a "retiree" rather than "employee", I can pretty much do what I want and today...today.....is.......ta da!  YOU FIRST FRIDAY!!!  

So, go ahead, take care of yourself today.  Be well and that does not mean "physically".  Wellness is so much more than that.  Use your eyes, your ears, your heart.  I'm doing that right now and hopefully, I will remember, if only on Fridays, to allow myself to think of what it is I need to be "well" and here's my first shot at it..........


There is something so right and so relaxing about the above photo.  I took it a week before Thanksgiving last year after a perfect afternoon out with my daughter and two granddaughters. It calms and soothes me. We were not going to be together for the holiday, so we had a Thanksgiving lunch at the Wayside Inn, not far from their home.

                                                                       
                                         http://render.photo1.walgreens.com/render2/is=Yup6aQQ%7C%3Dup6RKKtr%3AxxrYz%3DKAmDZHKrPfr%3D-DgjfDUXxWPxY7qBpHHjrxY7qBpHHjr_mtqU7grPnJJxqpxQQPexaQ0xGenxv8uOc5xQaG00o0elaQQ0qpfVtB%7CRup6lQQ%7C/of=50,480,360





                     


And today, the third of a very, very cold snap, when the sky is grey and the wind is howling, I am using all of my "wellness tools" and finding that it's times such as these, that I don't need climate controls, that my climate is just perfect all of the time and that my world is just fine because I have people who make the wind stop and the sun rise, every single day..

                                           



That, and I have a lot of lavender. Everywhere.  Lavender everything.  I love lavender.  So much.



Thursday, January 8, 2015

Growing Season

What follows is not a true story.  With the holidays behind us, it's time to return to the heartbeat of Winter and the "usual" activities.  Our writing group convenes today and the prompt is "Something Found in a Pocket".  I do not write fiction and honestly, I came up dry when trying to recall any time I found something interesting in a pocket.  I'm sure I have, but am also sure I can't recall such details.  So, I fabricated a story that is perhaps based on truth and is woven with some things that I do remember so well about a wonderful part of my life.  If you are a mother, this just might resonate.


LITTLE POCKETS

It was that time of year, the one she dreaded so very much every year.  From her own mother she had learned the expression, “season changeover” and she did what she usually did, waited until the very last minute of the current season to do this arduous task.  It had been difficult enough when she was a younger woman, carefree and living on her own but now, as the mother of a four-year-old and a dutiful wife, it was so much more of a chore. Not only did she have to shift her clothing, but she had her husband’s and daughter’s wardrobes.  With limited available closet space, she was forced to select those items that would no longer be “on duty” and place them, preferably neatly folded, into large and cumbersome plastic containers.  She knew that if she wasn’t careful about the folding she would regret her haste when the next changeover was in progress.  Ironing was not her favorite past time.  Oh, she didn’t really dislike ironing, it was taking the time to do it, lugging out and positioning the ironing board and setting up the iron that she found hard to face. So, carefully, she placed each garment in the box, allowing enough room for a good tight closure before storing them in the already full closets.  This was a job only she could do.  Just as every mother knows her own child, this mother knew her own spaces and never ceased to amaze herself at how she actually did fit it all.
The big job ahead was postponed more than once.  A late spring brought confusion.  Some days, hats, gloves and heavy coats were in order and then, the very next, lightweight sweaters replaced the bulk. But, the past few days seemed to have resolved the question of what best to wear, and it was clear that warmer weather was here to stay. With that in mind that Wednesday morning, she came home from the pre-school drop off and, after a hasty second cup of coffee and quick tidy up of the apartment, she started the job that she knew would rob her of her precious time alone before the end of the school day.  First, her closet, then Joe’s, the easiest.  The most difficult, little Sara’s, she would leave for last.  There were decisions to be made. What will she keep for next Fall and what would she pack up to pass on to her younger niece?  It’s hard to predict the growth rate of a child who is expected to do just that, grow.  She was sure that Sara would be her only child and it was that knowledge that made this job especially hard as she fingered the fabrics on the dresses and recalled with each little sweater some of the magical moments of the past winter and she wanted to put it all away, to go back to the winters before as if she could reverse time, as if she could stop time all together. Hats and mittens went into their own box.  Those, she was almost certain, would not be outgrown as soon and would be ready for the first wave of cooler air before Christmas when surely they would be replaced by friends and family. Next, the bright pink puffy coat, the one Sara wore every day for months.  Some children attach to favorite blankets or toys; Sara formed an attachment to that little coat, making it almost impossible to launder.  Thankfully, there were both washer and dryer in the apartment and Sara took long naps from which she would awaken to her freshly-cleaned outerwear.  As she handled the little coat, she knew that she needed something to replace it, so she unwrapped a tiny hooded sweatshirt, also bright pink, purchased some time ago in anticipation of the coming Spring.  “She’ll be happy with this and we can say good bye to that coat” were her last thoughts as she decided to check the little pockets before laundering and putting it into the bag for her niece. Sliding her hand into the right pocket, she hesitated briefly as she connected with an object and then, another.  Before bringing them to the surface, she allowed her fingers to explore what she had come upon, carefully manipulating them as she challenged herself to guess what they could be.  The little objects, those she decided were plastic, had wedged themselves deep in the corner of the pocket, their current location telling her that they had been repeatedly pushed there by little fingers.  Each was no bigger than half an inch and yet, they had form and the consistency of semi-hard plastic.  Her fingertips, sensitive to touch, discovered that each had a rounded front and perhaps a pointy back.  What could they be she wondered. What would a four year old girl have in her pocket? What could she possibly need?  Wasn’t her mommy always there to fill all of those needs? She stopped herself and let go of her find for a split second and then quickly retrieved them, ready to be amused. “Well, this should be funny” she said to herself, a grin about to form.  Instead, as she pulled the little objects out from their precious hiding place, in her palms rested a tiny pair of Barbie’s high heeled shoes and, in her own eyes, a tiny set of tears. Within seconds, the pink puffy coat was removed from the discard pile, its pocket replenished, and rehung in the closet of a little girl who had a mommy not quite ready to let either go, not this season.



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Abbraccio

Mind you, I am not now, nor will I ever be, a life-style blogger.  But, as I seem to have a lot to say about life and sometimes, "style", it might just be time to start spewing forth some of the things that I hold dear and perhaps some that are new as the Winter insists on marching forward.  With each day that brings lower temperatures, I hold fast in my resolve to make the best out of all of it, to stay focused and to hug myself and those things that are working well.  The Italians call these "abbracci", a word that is derived from the word for "arms".  They so often end their letters with that word, sending the reader off basked in warmth and that is exactly why the word so easily comes to mind on this very, very cold morning.

Much to the surprise of many who know me well, I have discovered the world of tea and prefer it to an afternoon coffee.  It's an indulgence because loose tea is, as it was centuries ago, expensive.  So, I consider it a luxury item and feel totally worthy of every drop.  It was a wise woman who introduced me to a shop that sells only tea.  My daughter and I share this love now. So, it's about the hug that I give myself each time I brew and the hugs that each cup delivers from one I love so much. I just want to grab that adult child and pull her into my lap for a snuggle with my arms wrapped tightly, never letting go. Abbraccio.
Go here to find it if you haven't already:  teavana.com.

My colored pencils and my great big mixed media tablet have become stationery members of the growing population of things that surround my recliner chair, the one that is right next to the baseboard heat.  Each time I pick one up to fill in the spaces on a doodle I've completed, I hug my son, the one with whom I share a love of the "process" and the materials.  I thank him for his encouragement and support and for his advice.  I would never have known that there was such a product as "mixed media" paper nor would I have known about luxury in art products.  My father gave me some cash for Christmas and a chunk of it went into my watercolor pencils.  Cup of tea in one hand, glorious pencil in the other, Winter afternoon bliss, filled with meditations that I would never have dreamed possible as I linger for a while in a world that was ours almost forty four years ago as I hugged and placed dreamy kisses on the cheeks of my first born, a Winter baby. Abbraccio.
http://www.amazon.com/Derwent-Watercolor-Pencils-3-4mm-32883/dp/B000F56QDA

And last, but certainly not least, on today's "lifestyle" analysis.....wholefoodsmarket.com.  Okay, I'm a food snob. An earlier post or maybe two, might have given you the hint.  I LOVE supermarkets. And let's just set the record straight, I am not a compulsive over-eater.  But, I do love good food and appreciate that this, itself, can be viewed as a luxury item.  I don't smoke, rarely drink, and shop in thrift shops so, I can justify this indulgence.  As the Whole Foods Market bag suggests,"buy goods, not bads" and I can't think of a better way to hug myself, to affirm my personal worth, than to properly nourish...or, am I really taking about "nurture"?  I'll let you be the judge, allow you to wrap this whole story up in a big hug to yourself as I sign off with this, a little recipe for a great morning start, and a promise to talk "lavender" tomorrow as I continue to focus on enjoying the gifts of the season. Abbraccio mio amori.

MUFFIN IN A MINUTE

1/4 C ground flax seed meal
1/2 t baking powder (make sure it is fresh!)
1/4 t Stevia powder
1 t cinnamon
1 egg
1 t olive oil
Optional add in's:  berries, walnuts, other nuts/seeds

1.  Mix all ingredients well in a coffee mug
2. Microwave for 1 min on high (1:30 if using fruit)
3. Dump out of mug onto a plate
4. Cool slightly and enjoy!

Makes a dense, bread-like muffin which is even better with a dab of jam.  I personally love fig jam and we use Earth Balance instead of butter.  Just sayin'




Saturday, January 3, 2015

Resolution

I have absolutely no intention of making any "New Year Resolutions".  None.  Been there, done it.  Never once have I stuck to one and there's one thing I know for certain about myself, I'm not good at change. So, I did not make any "resolutions" for 2015. But, I have decided to do something that I have not yet tried. The list of those items is endless. I still haven't tried a lot of things and wonder every day if and when I will.  For instance, I've never tried reckless driving and it looks so easy.  I see people doing it all the time.  I've never tried rudeness or total disregard to the rights of others.  Bigotry, nope.  Stupidity, not intentionally. Racism and homophobia.  Am I too old to start?  For that matter, I've never tried this new "living in the moment" arrangement with myself or meditation.  Er, I'll take that back, I have tried meditation but never got the hang of it and I keep wondering how people do that stuff and keep doing it because they actually get something out of it.  Okay, I am a quitter.  I give up very easily and am no stranger to the art of defeat.  I have stamina for some things but total lack for others.  I don't appear to be physically fit but a day in New York City with my daughter and granddaughters would belie that idea.  Those kids had nothing on me and I wasn't even sore the next day.  But this year, this year is different and there will be one less thing on that list of things that I have not yet tried.

This year, I'm going to focus.  I've suggested to my husband that we plan the year ahead, working as a team, and incorporate that word into as much of our lives as we possibly can. It can be our "platform", I explained, our operating system for everything in our lives from what we will eat to where we will go to what we will experience, and how.  Focused.  Thoughtful.  We're going to remember where we put our keys, our morning coffee cups, our eyeglasses.  We're going to deal with one elder care crisis at a time, giving each our total attention, sticking to the problem at hand and then, moving on.  We're going to eliminate as much clutter in our lives as we can bear and only make purchases that have purpose and room in our little home.  We're going to stop futzing around about how to spend the seasons; we're only going to focus on the time that we have and try to enjoy each season and the gifts that come along.  No "dieting" but rather, experimentation with better ways of doing something as simple as selecting foods, making meals, eating with intention rather than wild abandon.  I am going to write more, care more, and create more. Focus. More.

I've enrolled in an on-line course that will begin soon.  It's designed for those of us who will be hibernating. For four weeks, our virtual instructor will help banish the blues associated with the short and bone-chilling days of the Winter Solstice.  The promise is that we will be more productive in our creative lives, happier perhaps, lighter in spirit and more likely to enjoy the gifts of the season.  As I look out the window at this moment, I realize that the sky is white, not a hint of blue, allowing the pine trees to dominate.  I see squirrels running up and down the branches of barren oak trees, scurrying to the nests that I watched them build in the past few weeks. The contrast is brilliant, allowing only the birds and squirrels as the main attraction against the pale cold backdrop of the winter sky.  There is a shimmer of ice on the pond and I wonder where the ducks are sheltering.  And, I realize that I am staying honest, that I am keeping a promise to myself, honoring a commitment very easily as I focus on how easily the words come when I live in the moment.

Happy New Year.