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…

POET X

“The pages of my notebook swell from all the words I’ve pressed on to them. It almost feels like the more I bruise the page, the quicker something inside me heals.”⠀

Without question, Poet X will be in my top five favorite books I’ve read this year. ⠀

I am such a fan of the performance art of spoken word. Many decades ago, my mother ‘gave readings’. The art of performing words is unique and celebratory and deeply moving. Mom was asked often to perform her pieces and I was honored to give one of them at her funeral. ⠀

Poet X is about a high school student discovering the art of slam poetry. She doesn’t seem to fit anywhere in her world but lives within the words of her journals and poetry. When describing her intelligent twin brother: “He is an award-winning bound book where I am loose and blank pages.” An English teacher convinces this quiet girl to join the poetry club. After much hesitation, she finally joins and finds not only friends and acceptance but ultimately finds her voice.

There is only one other book I would suggest people listen to the audio version over the written word – ‘Ava’s Man’ by Rick Bragg. The ‘Poet X’ is another book that is enhanced by listening to the author’s reading of it. She reads it in an almost spoken word style. It is melodious and inspiring. I can not recommend it highly enough.

“Every time I think about Amon, poems build inside me. Like I’ve been gifted a box of metaphor Legos that I stack and stack and stack. I keep waiting for someone to knock them over.”⠀

“When she asked how I was doing, the words trip and twist their ankles trying to rush out of my mouth.”⠀

This YA book will live for a very long time in my soul. It found a crack and crawled right in. It is beautiful and powerful and a must for your to-be-read list. ⠀

One final quote of personal interest. I am lovingly referred to a ‘g’ by my friends so imagine my grin at her own reference: ⠀

“X. I love this new nickname. How it’s such a small letter but still fits all of me.”

Rain, rain, go…away?

We are preparing for rain, here in Northern California, not unlike our preparations for snow in Missouri. Bringing in the delicate items, the lamps and tchotchkes that shouldn’t get soaked. We conjured up a lean-to to cover my succulent garden, as @inspirelovely would suggest. ⠀

My friends know how much I do not like rainy days. They mess with me. I so wish I was the person who grabs a book and a comfy spot for reading. I used to have a friend who felt creatively inspired on rainy days and could produce content ten times faster. But my spirit lags in overcast weather. I have to work a little harder to keep my mind and heart buoyed. ⠀

Obviously this is a huge benefit to living in California. Each and every day the sun comes out, the skies are blue and the clouds are fat and fluffy. Every. Single. Day.⠀

I’ve learned a valuable lesson, however, in our two months living here. Everything – sidewalks and porches and cars and plants and highways – everything is dusty. When a bird relieves himself on your sidewalk, it stays there. The smog and dust of living builds up in deep layers. ⠀

There is an importance in rain. A washing away. A starting again. A renewed and fresh shine, left in its wake. Rain serves the purpose of watering and feeding nature, sure. But it also gives our everyday surroundings a much-needed facelift. ⠀

This particular rain is an important one. The wildfires have caused so much damage, even far beyond the point of burn. Our atmosphere needs cleansing so our lungs can breathe fresh clean air.⠀

Rain as rejuvenation. As renewal. Washing away the ugly. The discarded. The build-up. Leaving behind a squeaky clean new beginning. ⠀

So instead, I will lean into this rain with a new understanding. And when low-spirits lurk, I will check on the succulents in their safe tent and know we are all going to be just fine.

Clean(er)

I would venture to bet that the majority of people can’t rid their homes of all toxins immediately and right.this.very.instant. Man, would I love to. Had I only won that last lottery drawing…⠀

It’s hard to make choices for a clean, ethically-centered, toxin-free home. Clean cleaning supplies. Clean beauty products. Slow fashion. Slow living. ⠀

For us, (like many of you) it’s just one step at a time. One less candle; one more essential oil. One less toxic cleaning supply replaced with a more environmentally-friendly brand. With each choice at the point of sale, our home is moving ever-so-slowly toward a healthier space. ⠀

It’s not about chasing fads (and yes, ‘all-natural’ can be a trendy fad for some companies), but it’s about making a healthier choice whenever you can. As Anne Lamott would say – it’s not about dieting, it’s about doing better today than you did yesterday.⠀

I think that’s a perfect motto for just about everything in life, don’t you think? Don’t beat yourself up for what you can’t do. Just take it product by product. And season by season. (Because some seasons are about trying to afford diapers and school supplies and spring soccer. And that’s okay! Taking care of your family is number one. No matter what that looks like for you.)⠀

One of the free things I did recently was detox my Pinterest account. I have been unpinning many of the elaborate, multi-step projects I’ve had pinned on there for years. Instead I’ve been pinning clean products for our home and simple (read: not elaborate) ways to celebrate the holidays as well as the everyday. Detoxing my to do list or my dream lists is one way to add space and time for relationships and (…always…) reading. Hygge, if you will. Pinterest is an enormous resource for just about anything you’re looking for, but it can also be an ever-growing guilt list of things you’re not getting done. I needed to let some of that crap go. I’ve linked to my Pinterest in my profile if you need some jumping off places to declutter your mind and your online Pinterest bulletin board.

What are some ways and products you’re choosing for a healthier home and life? Teach me some of your ways…

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?

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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??) 🙂