Learning the rhythm of relaxation…

It was an unseasonably cool day today. I know I have a long way to go with the California heat (and truly, I’ve enjoyed the warmth of it) but it’s also nice to have an incredibly cool day with the windows open wide.

We are excitedly anticipating a big group of family coming to see us at the end of the month. But of course that means projects and to do lists. Admittedly, I love to have looming projects ahead. I love the challenge of overcoming and conquering the unknown.

But I am learning more and more the value of stopping. Sitting for a few minutes. No, not just sitting but sitting and unwinding the Monkey Brain of mental activity even when physical activity has momentarily stopped.

“Destroy the idea that you have to be constantly working or grinding in order to be successful. Embrace the concept that rest, recovery, reflection are essential parts of the progress towards a successful and happy life.” – Zach Galifianakis

We DVR’d and watched the CNN show, Chasing Life, last night. Dr. Sanjay Gupta travelled to Norway – in the midst of their three month period of 24/7 darkness – to find out where they find their happiness (consistently ranked the Happiest Nation in the World.)

It was fascinating to hear their stories. Stories thick with personal challenge and empathy for others. Kindergarten classes held in the forest with little play supervision. Can you imagine a U.S. classroom teacher allowing their students to climb high trees?! It made me cringe to watch. And yet the students developed such a strong sense of independence and self-confidence. Not to mention how they helped each other through the process of play.

Dr. Gupta interviewed a ski-survivor. After a horrific ordeal in frozen water…heart stopping for several minutes…she was now alive and participating in all sorts of sports. When asked if she was back 100% her reply floored me:

“I’m not 100% but I am 100% of what I need.”

Do I have 100% of what I need? It is a worthwhile question to hold close for awhile.

As so many others in the world, I have felt such a heavy loss with the sudden death of author, Rachel Held Evans. And just like others, she represents such a moment of hope for me. I was at a crossroads when I found her blog. Having been brought up in a strongly conservative christian church, I was feeling at odds with what I understood God to be and how He was represented within the Church as a whole.

Rachel merged the contradictions for me. She led me through the difficult process of letting go of human church expectations and pointed me more fully to the face of my Heavenly Father. To compassion and forgiveness. To acceptance of all humans as possessing equal value in the eyes of God. I was challenged to look at the periphery of life and notice those that were being left out of the public conversation.

I have been simultaneously grieving her 37-year-old-wife-mother-of-two-young-babies presence in the world while also feeling challenged. When such a strong human advocate leaves a void, how is it best filled?

And with any tragedy, it shook my priorities. I spend more mental space than I care to admit on what my next Instagram picture will be. It suddenly seemed so meaningless. I mean, let me be clear: being on Instagram is not meaningless. Finding inspiration is never unnecessary. Nor sharing inspiration. But the amount of mental space it takes up in my mind is silly.

Everyone knows blogging is dead. Yes. I realize that’s a commonly accepted thought. In my heart of hearts I think it might experience an uprise as people tire of quick and easy and return to a deeper delve into thought and ideas.

I am not good at vulnerability. While I don’t believe in divulging everything to everyone, I would like to go back to a time that I was more open and honest with my blog readers. A braver time. I think there are areas in my life that might be similar to others. Things we tend to brush under the carpet and smile relentlessly.

Wouldn’t it be easier if we tried to work through some of that together? There is a place for frivolity and fiction in life. It’s good to sit back and relax. It’s necessary. But I’ve spent too much time in the realm of easy lately. Self-examination has fallen by the wayside; too wide of a pendulum swing.

Iron sharpens iron we are told. I need your input and advice. I value it. I need to re-learn to do life in partnership with others.

Drawing from Dr. Gupta’s discoveries: Challenges give us confidence and self-worth. It stimulates creativity. Spending time in nature, exercising, developing deeper empathy for others – all foundations of happiness.

I’m up for the challenge. How about you?? We need to take care of each other.

 

Mom’ish

I’m not even sure anymore what, indeed, is a ‘traditional mother’. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking I was too untraditional as a parent of two. School letters lay in a towering pile, unopened, until dust made itself comfortable. Sage wisdom and encouraging words came to me always too late for the needed circumstance; sarcasm and humor usually in its stead. Things I was supposed to discipline seemed immaterial while insignificant things loomed too large in my haphazard disciplinary arsenal. ⠀

“You wouldn’t know how to ground me anymore than I would know how to be grounded.” – a line from the movie ‘Easy A’ and one that my daughter pointed out as all-too-accurate for our relationship.

The older I get, however, the more *typical* I am finding those things to be within the brave community of motherhood. I’ve commiserated with other mamas who also felt the things they did – and didn’t do – seemed out of the realms of ‘norm’. I think untraditional is much more traditional than we know. ⠀

My mother was a 7th grade English teacher. She conjugated verbs and added ‘ly’ in all the appropriate places. A bit of her grammar-nazi thinking was eventually passed down to me as well. For that reason, this book title screamed out to me and within 5 minutes it was in my Amazon cart and soon after, on its way to my door. An early Mother’s Day present from me to me. I’ll circle the many recognized lines within its covers and add it to My Funeral file on my computer. (A desktop icon because they’ll never go digging any deeper than that.) ⠀

Don’t use funeral flower gladiolus unless you buy them from Trader Joe’s. Eliminate all cliches from your heartfelt tribute and by all means, if you use a cutesy, curvy font for my birth-death dates I will haunt you and your unborn children for eternity.

Mothers with a loose grip on your mothering style, do yourself a favor and grab this book. ⠀

There’s plenty of room in the margins for copious notes for your offspring…

Old Sac Town

 

We’ve heard many people around here talking about Old Sac Town – an area in Sacramento with historic museums and shopping. So yesterday, on Scott’s day off, we decided to go check it out. But first, coffee.

Scott picked out the coffeeshop from a google search.

I can’t imagine what drew him to this coffeeshop…… -ha!

It was a cute little coffeeshop. I mean – when you have drinks named the ‘Keith Richards’ or the ‘Kerouac’ – how could we go wrong?!

Old Sac Town was quaint, but I think our expectations were a little different so we ended up a little disappointed. But it’s always fun exploring together so we had fun.

The Tower Bridge in downtown Sacramento is a vertical lift bridge over the Sacramento River. It’s a striking part of the Sacramento skyline.

And how about staying in a hotel on the river??

It was interesting to see the old buildings along the riverfront.

The below picture: Scott thought it looked like a good juxtaposition. So when Scott throws around the word ‘juxtaposition’, you take the picture! 🙂

We expected cute antique shops, etc. When we lived in Omaha, we were true fans of Old Market which is a fantastic place to shop. Lots of variety and independent shops. Unfortunately though, Old Sac Town appeared to be a lot of tourist shops with souvenir-type gifts, t-shirts, and tchotkes.

Lots of restaurants and Sacramento tshirts. -ha.

But any time with Scott, is time laughing and having fun. So all’s good.

It’s fun being a naive tourist in your own new city. I take a lot of those pictures you take as you zoom by in the car and the images never turn out that great. You know those? Yeah. Those.

acs_0610

Right now in California, the flowering trees are truly gorgeous and getting ready to explode!

Look at all those buds ready to bloom. It makes me want to come back to this very spot in a few weeks. It must be an overwhelmingly beautiful tree.

It’s nice to see the foothills and mountains now that they are snow-capped. They mostly look like clouds in the distance. Occasionally you see cars driving around town, covered in snow and you know they’ve come down from the mountain area.

I’m not sure when I’m going to get used to seeing weed talked about so freely here in California – all legal.

It was a fun day doing a bit more exploring around our new state.

Sacred

I remember the Wednesday night youth group so vividly, for some reason. I was in late high school or early college, that part is a little fuzzy. But I’d recently received a new Bible. I said something about it being new at our youth group meeting and a couple of guys in the group (older than me) wanted to see it. To ‘approve’ it.

One of the guys asked, “You’ve already written this much in it??” Another guy grabbed it, looked at it and said (while tossing it back to me), “Nah. She just copied it all from her other Bible.”

I felt immediate, and yet unexplainable, shame. They’d ‘busted me’.

I have thought of that interaction a few times over the years when I’ve purchased a new Bible. As I sit and copy my notes and underlinings from old to new I think, ‘Big freaking deal!! I LIKE reading my old notes. I LIKE that at one point in my life a scripture meant one thing and at another point in life it means something slightly different. I LIKE comparing my growth and understanding! Why did I have to feel any amount of shame for that?!

I love the stubborn SO WHAT that happens as we mature through life. Calling out someone’s BS, even decades later and only in the presence of yourself, is still therapeutic.

For some reason, the little tear in the leather cover of my current Bible became a huge mess during our recent move. The whole front cover is torn up and even though I’ve tried to ‘work with it’, I came to the conclusion the other day that I would certainly need a new Bible sometime soon.

I looked on my bookshelves for a different Bible to use and saw, sitting there, my mother’s Bible.

A sacred piece of my mother who is now gone – renewed to new eternal life after fighting the stupid disease of Alzheimer’s for the last eight years of her life.

My mother. The spiritual giant. The Sunday school teacher. The prayer protector. Her Bible was a sacred book that I’ve cherished having on my bookshelf.

I pulled her Bible down from the shelf and looked it over. It’s been awhile since I’ve flipped through the pages. The thought began to percolate. ‘Could I just use her Bible?’ Would it be impossible to make it my own? Would it feel wrong – like committing the cardinal sin of rummaging through her purse without asking first?

Mom used a red pencil to underline important scripture. (A crossover from her career as a 7th grade English teacher, perhaps?) I usually use a mechanical pencil. Plain ol’ gray lead. I very quickly decided I would adopt her Bible as my own.

So as I have always done, I first transferred my notes and underlinings. Time after time after time I would flip through to the correct reference and, pencil ready in hand, I would start to underline only to find the thin red markings of her own hand. The same scripture. The same yearning to mark this passage as important and timely. What was she experiencing at the time that she underlined those words? What life event was she praying about or worrying her way through? The lump in my throat grew harder and harder to swallow.

It was no surprise to me that she was a Bible-reading, passionate-praying mother of two daughters and four grandchildren. I know full well that our lives have been covered by her petitions before God.

But to write in my handwriting next to her delicate penmanship felt like joining hands together. It felt like an adult woman and an adult woman, combining forces to pray as one for the same people they hold dear. It was invigorating to imagine her struggles and confusion and developing understanding of grace and love from a Father who loves us both. Same ages. Different times.

I began to understand that the thing I was saving as precious and sacred was not the book with the onion-skinned pages, but the cries and struggles and triumphs of the red-lined words from the woman who forged the way before me. It is her spiritual journey that is sacred, not the book that housed the words. The God she served is the same one I turn to in complete frustration as well as amazement and awe. Her imperfection is what stood out to me as I held our now bonded book of promises. Her perfection was always clear and obvious in life. But to imagine her insecurity and imperfection as a mother, a wife, a child, sibling and believer – that is what I needed to see. Uncertainty and falling short – that was something with which I could relate.

Sacred moments are so often dusty and dirty and completely unexpected. They are found in the tiny places in our lives, not in the grand moments of success and accolades. The sacred is quiet and holy and unquestioningly saturated in love and understanding. Sacred is a red pencil in the hands of a faithful believer.

I have looked forward to returning to ‘our Bible’ this week. I imagine her thoughts as I read stories of characters who walked the earth in a much earlier time but that experienced the same moments of humanness that we are still going through today.

I cherish the book, her Bible from years past. But it is her selection of certain passages due to the journey she chose to follow – that is the sacred moment of eternity as I run my own fingers over her red-penciled life.

Finding the sacred among the ordinary. That was the unexpected gift I received as I now hold the same book of truth she held and pray for all those that come behind us. Sure, may they find us faithful. But may they also find us flawed and bruised and worried – but continuing to believe in a God who saw our brokenness, and loved us all the more.

POEM OF THE ONE WORLD
Mary Oliver

This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water

and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to

where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else

which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.

Holding on and letting go

I’m beginning to find my groove here in California.

My home colors are very neutral but my office and workspace? Color invades. My colored glass collection. Crafts of all shapes and sizes. Yummy yarns and hard-to-resist notebooks holding ideas and budgets and books read. I admit to feeling a bit like a superhero lately, releasing them from their boxes and letting them ‘breathe free’.

Minimalism is often confused with taking things down to the bare minimum. When actually, it’s about surrounding yourself with things that serve a purpose – be that utilitarian or simply making you smile. When the sun streaks through each color of glass, it’s a rainbow of happy in the late afternoon.

I wouldn’t be content with a striped down home. I need a little tchotchke and a little zing. Sometimes holding on is an act of self-care. I am, however, releasing something I’ve held onto for far too long. Facebook. Instead of telling myself it’s forever, I’m saying it’s for November through the end of the year. By the new year, I’m hoping it has become obsolete in my world. In reality, I don’t spend a lot of time on it anyway. But when I start scrolling down my feed, I don’t know…I don’t usually feel joy.

Here’s the thing I’ve noticed: Even though I share part of my life here online, I’ve become more and more uncomfortable with the way people feel as if they are keeping in touch with me because they’ve read all about me online. It’s a false sense of connection. It’s an epidemic we are all experiencing these days. We *feel* like we know people we’ve never met and we *feel* as if we are staying connected to those we do know and love, simply because we read their updates regularly. Face to face and voice to voice is falling by the wayside completely.

I’m no Luddite. I luuuuuuuv my mobile phone and social media. Don’t get my wrong. But I love real relationships even more. Hanging up the phone after a conversation or walking out of a coffee shop after a sit down with a friend, feels exhilarating and renewing. I don’t want to lose that feeling. I want to hang on to the belief that those relationships still exist.

Sometimes moving forward, is reaching back into the past and holding on to what is essential and important. Authentic relationships develop in many ways. (And meeting many of you through social media has been such a joy to me.)

Following my gut tells me Facebook is not feeding into my world in a positive and rejuvenating way. And I want to honor that gut instinct.

How do you self-protect while also enjoying the thrill of the online world?

——————–

Amendment:

As I was editing this post, I read a comment on my last Instagram picture. It is from someone who I’ve met through social media and consider a trusted and heart-filled friend. She commented about a recent podcast she’d listened to that encouraged their listeners to daily ‘show ourselves kindness and grace’. Showing ourselves kindness sounds much more lyrical and lovely than my phrase above, ‘self-protect’. I am permanently replacing it in my mind and vocabulary.

(And isn’t it doubly apropos that my Instagram’s friend’s name is Grace??) 🙂

but first, sanity

Scott and I had hoped to thoroughly experience the coffee shops of Kansas City this summer and fall. I have an extensive list of shops to visit and we’ve been carefully checking them off, one by one.

Even though we are knee-deep in hotel reservations, putty knife hole-filling and putting together far too many boxes, we decided to step out of the moving fray for just a bit this morning and take our laptops and ever-expanding To Do lists to the Filling Station coffee shop to work from there. We needed to be ‘filled up’ with a different perspective and environment. (One that doesn’t include boxes and packing tape.)

It was invigorating to work in a sunlit atmosphere with the smells of coffee beans and blueberry muffins wafting through the air. The noise of people working and laughing was just what we needed.

I am once again reminded that people process change in different ways and that great latitude needs to be offered to friends and family in order for everyone to feel secure and included. As my wise friend, RuAnn, once told me: Sometimes you just have to do the next thing. And these days, the next thing is buying pheromone spray for the cat and setting aside emergency clothes just in case our moving truck doesn’t arrive for a few weeks. There are papers to sort through and the delicate navigation of not killing your spouse (or being killed) while deadlines continue to mount.

Doing life is hard work sometimes. Offering mercy to others – and yourself – is often a mental tweak that lays down the defensive rhetoric and backs away, quietly, in love.

Filling up our tanks is vital work. I needed a holy filling station this morning? Coffee and Jesus, baby. Coffee and Jesus. 😁

I am going to start tagging my posts on social media with the hashtag: #kccold2californiagold to bring together all the various posts. There will be some on Instagram and some on Facebook. I hope you’ll follow along for the whole wild ride!

“Are you sure about this??”

We prayed for the Lord’s direction. Over and over and over again I prayed: “This needs to be your decision. We want to be where YOU want us to be.” I felt like I was prepared for either answer. But when the answer finally came, my first reaction was:

“Are you surrrrre about this one, Lord?!”

We are two born and bred Missourians. We proudly hail from the 816. However, we are also two people who LOVE a good adventure.

So when Scott was offered a job promotion this week, we were intrigued. And now it’s official. As of September 15, we will be two Midwesterners living in northern California. Yep…California! 

Sacramento area, to be exact. Roseville, California to be even more exact.

Do we know what the precise plan is? We don’t. This is an extreme practice in patience…and both of us are failing at various times throughout the day. It all happened within the span of a week and a half. Then we were given three weeks to move. If you know me at all, you know I’m now up all night planning and making lists. The scratchpad next to our bed is scribbled all over with dark-of-the-night notes. We are a million emotions all at once.

So that’s the big adventure we are about to go on and we’d love to have you go along with us. We welcome any advice you have and we’ll take you along as we discover new places and people on the west coast. (Do we have to start saying ‘left coast’??) We’ll be a couple of hours from a lot of cool places: Lake Tahoe, the Redwood Forest, San Francisco, Reno – lots of things for you to do when you come for a visit! (wink*wink)

Meanwhile, let’s figure this thing out together, ok?! Let’s go!