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Yesterday I bought a table saw. I resisted this purchase for over a decade. While building the cottage, I used circular and radial saws. I have also used tile and jig saws, but when my son told me I needed a table saw to do the rip cuts on my vinyl plank flooring project, I balked. I was confident I could manage with a jig saw. And I did, for the few rip cuts required in the dining room and kitchen. But the hallway presented a challenge. Twenty-four, four-foot rip cuts. I did the first one with my jig saw and realized it was impossible to get the cuts straight and smooth.

Headed to Lowe’s, I did my best to quiet the ominous voice: “You’ll cut your fingers off!” Remember the movie, A Christmas Story? Remember the constant warnings Ralphie received? “You’ll shoot your eye out!!” That was pretty much what was going on in my head.

As I was unpacking the 10″ Craftsman table saw, I began to hear my father’s voice, “Don’t Touch! Don’t Touch!” As I turned the handle to raise the saw blade, my breathing got shallow, and my heart started to race. Gut wrenching fear. “Don’t Touch! Don’t Touch!”

I donned work gloves, sure that the blade would be so sharp it would cut off my fingers before I even knew what happened. Mind you, the saw was not plugged in. In fact, the cord was still encased in plastic and bound with a twist tie. I was not taking any chances that it might plug itself in, turn itself on, and come after my fingers!

The fear was so intense and so irrational that it astounded me. There was a part of me that was unpacking and assembling a much-needed power tool. There was another part–I’d say she was about four years old–that was reacting to her father’s admonitions to stay clear of HIS table saw. I know I was really young because in my mind, I could see a table saw high above me. I would need a step-stool to reach it. It seemed so big. The reality of MY saw, sitting there in front of me, was miniature and toy-like, by comparison.

There was a time when I would have said to myself, “Quit being so silly!” But I know better now. I am well acquainted with that fearful part of myself. She needs reassurance and understanding. She needs to feel protected and safe. I sat with her for a bit, reassuring her, calming her, and loving her. “I know Daddy said not to touch. We were young then. It was good for him to make us afraid. But we are grown up now. We can do this. We will be VERY careful. We will read the directions and follow the safety precautions. It’s okay. We don’t need Daddy to protect us. We know how to protect ourselves.”

So I did it. I ripped my first four-foot piece of vinyl plank flooring. Smooth and straight. Wow! So easy! Today I can’t wait for my capable, carpenter son to give me a thorough Safety Talk (via video chat from Montana) before I cut and lay the rest of the pieces.

I wonder just how many of my irrational fears were perfectly rational at one point in my life and then never got updated, much like an old software program looping in the background regulating a dial-up modem while I’m busy with a high-speed internet connection.

Updating internal software requires compassion and patience, not harsh disdain. Irrational? Now, yes. But not always. Honoring the original intention of the fear goes a long way toward releasing its hold. I’ll end with words I couldn’t image saying just a couple of days ago: “I own a table saw, and I know how to use it!”

This is me with my new saw … being as safe as my inner child needs me to be.

This morning I washed my car. It’s been a while, and it was dog-dirty. I have a Mustang convertible, and I rarely drive it with the top up. That in itself attracts a lot of dust and leaves. Then there’s the dog. I regularly drive her to the forest for stick chasing, creek swimming, and dirt gathering. It took several hours to get my sweet ride looking properly cool once again.

While I was busy detailing, I listened to ‘60s and ‘70s music on Sirius Radio, and my mind began to wander. I was listening to the soundtrack of my high school years. With certain songs, it feels like I’m time traveling. Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” takes me back to a morning ride to school, my car filled with friends, and all of us singing and swaying to that song. Good times never felt so good. I swear, I could almost hear my girlfriends laughing and singing.

During my stroll down memory lane, I remembered it was 50 years ago this month that I was excitedly anticipating my 16th birthday. I was so dead sure that my parents were going to buy me a Mustang convertible. I had been dropping hints for months, maybe for a year. I had plans to get my driver’s license on my birthday, and I imagined driving off in my brand new Mustang.

Mom kept telling me, emphatically, that I was NOT getting a car. She gave me loads of reasons, mostly financial ones, but I didn’t believe her. I was so sure that she and Dad were just saying no so that it would be a surprise. How could they refuse me? It was my biggest dream ever! It was my 16th birthday! I was certain it was happening. As the days passed, my excitement was barely containable. I could hardly stand it. When the day arrived, I was determined to act cool, to be totally surprised.

I was surprised, all right. A cake, a bottle of nail polish, and some new clothes. That was it. I nearly cried, but I didn’t. I took every ounce of my disappointment and buried it deep, deep inside myself. There was no way I was going to appear ungrateful. After all, Mom had told me time and again there would be no car.

Fast forward to this morning: me happily scrubbing down my car, singing along to the oldies and fondly remembering my youth. Suddenly, I felt my 16-year-old self looking over my shoulder, wide-eyed and thrilled, screaming with delight. The 50-year-old disappointment melted, and I heard myself saying aloud, “I bought it for you, Sweetie. Happy Birthday!” And then that 16-year-old hopeful optimist who had been so determined to act cool and totally surprised, broke down in tears of gratitude.

I have never been so happy with my car as I was this morning, nor have I ever enjoyed washing it quite that much.

Life Lessons

On January 15, 1998, I attended a day-long workshop entitled, “Stress Management For Women in Business.” The only physical reminder of that day is this pink piece of paper on which we were instructed to write a note to ourselves, our most important take-away from the class. Mine said simply: “Life isn’t about what does and doesn’t get done. It’s about … the people we touch, the experiences we have, sharing love, and helping others through this life.”

That was what I learned at the workshop.

I have learned it over and over, again and again.

At first I looked at this piece of paper regularly. Every month for the first few years. Every quarter for a while after that. Finally, every year I pulled it out and read it. You can see where I added notes and taped other quotes. I have been working at understanding what I wrote that day for a long time. For most of these last two decades, I have read this bit of wisdom and thought, “I wish I could remember that on a day-to-day basis.”

But when I pulled out the paper from my tickler file this morning, I finally felt like the wisdom belonged to me. This time when I read it, I said aloud, “Well, yeah! I already knew that.”

How true. I knew it 21 years ago. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to write the note to myself. Heck, I’ve probably known it since I was a little kid. It seems to have taken a lifetime of striving and doing, setting and meeting goals, and crossing things off my to-do list to finally work my way back to elemental truths.

I especially like that little sideways note that I wrote in blue, maybe ten years ago. It says: “Life isn’t about what we are doing … it is about what we are being. Peaceful? Loving? Accepting? Kind? What are YOU being today?”

I do so love the wisdom that leaks out of me every once in a while!

As I head into this new year, I’m feeling pretty good that I seem to know this truth right now. I’m also okay with the fact that I might forget it before the year is over. So I’ll embrace that little note at the top that says, “I commit to trusting the process.” After all, Life Lessons play out repeatedly all through one’s lifetime. They’re not finished until we are.  And I don’t feel finished quite yet.

 

 

Choosing a Cover

Calendar CoverI’m in my ninth year as a ReadAloud volunteer. I love interacting with the fourth graders on a weekly basis, reading, talking, laughing, and sharing our lives. Last year I presented the classroom a copy of my art calendar as a Christmas present. The following week one of the girls gave me a set of 36 watercolor paints. What a thoughtful gift!

Over Christmas break, I wanted to see what each of the colors looked like on paper, and so I drew 36 different colored swatches in a circular pattern. After they dried, I started doodling inside the colors and then created a sweet little bird to go in the middle. It was a whimsical piece, the result of playing around to get a feel for the strength of the pigments.

As I was painting and then doodling, I thought about the kids. I went through each face in my head many times, smiling again and again, appreciating the unique energy each one brought to the group.

The next time I went to the classroom, I gave them the painting, telling them that I believed each of the colored doodles represented one of them and that the bird in the middle was their teacher, Mrs. SINGleton. I said, “Even though each of you is very different, your teacher brings you all together to create a colorful, harmonious, fun classroom.” They cheered and applauded. Really!

Then I asked each to pick a favorite swatch. I said, “Whichever one you like best will be YOU in the painting.” What fun we had! I still remember: “Can I be the pineapple?” … “I want to be the orange flowers!” … “You know which one I’m going to pick, don’t you Ms. Dallmann?” … And on and on. There was no arguing, just joy. And every child made a choice.

I picked this painting for the cover of my 2019 calendar because I believe it represents the essence of why I paint. It’s all about having fun, creating, discovering, laughing, and connecting with others. I play with colors, shapes, and textures; I explore emotions and ideas. I laugh a lot when I paint. And every painting is part of a process, a very human process.

 

If you’d like to see more or place an order, click here: 2019 Calendars

 

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