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Acrylic paining by Barbie Dallmann

It’s Magic! (acrylic painting by Barbie Dallmann)

 

For nearly three months I’ve been practicing magic. I’ve been saying the magic words and intentionally engaging in magical practices. I have even been facilitating a magic group on Monday nights at Unity of Kanawha Valley. I can say with certainty, THE MAGIC has made a huge difference in my life.

You know the magic words. You learned them from your parents. You taught them to your children. We all say them often, usually without thinking about their power. I’m referring to the magical practice of gratitude and those sorcerous words: Thank you!

The most powerful insight for me has been the discovery of the chasm that lies between simply saying thank you and actually BEING wholeheartedly grateful. When I say thank you, I smile and feel a twinge of happiness. When I am engaged in wholehearted gratitude, I get a tingling that starts in my heart and moves out through my limbs. Sometimes I feel a chill and get goose bumps; other times, I sense waves of heat moving through me. Always, my body seems too small to hold the love surging through my cells. Often the joy leaks from my eyes.

At that level of gratitude, fear loses its stronghold. I am sufficient; I lack nothing. Every space of my being is filled by love, joy, and a sense of purpose. At those times, I am living the essence of “All is well.” It is magic! And it takes practice.

The MagicOne of the daily practices I learned from this book is listing ten things for which I am grateful and WHY I am grateful for each. I sanctify each entry with the words, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” When the list is finished, I read it aloud and allow myself to feel profoundly grateful. I literally breathe the gratitude into my lungs, feel it entering my bloodstream, and imagine it traveling into my heart and circulating throughout my body.

Even Facebook has become a gratitude extravaganza for me. When I see a post that makes me smile, I take a moment to think of the friend who posted it. I close my eyes, and give thanks for the ways in which that person has enriched my life. I imagine giving him or her a warm hug and whispering, “Thank you, thank you, thank you … for being YOU. My life is richer with you in it.” Then I open my eyes and click LIKE. When I see those who have “liked” one of my posts, I do the same thing, sending love and gratitude to each one. Facebook is no longer a waste of time nor a source of irritation; it has become an uplifting spiritual practice.

As Thanksgiving arrives and the countdown to Christmas begins, I will be choosing gratitude instead of stress, savoring the richness of the season instead of complaining about the traffic, and staking my claim to peace on earth, good will to men. Now that’s MAGICAL!

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Full Moon

After I slipped down a muddy hillside, I sat in the mud and shot pictures of the moon. Some things are worth getting dirty for.

There is no doubt about it. Summer is winding down. Although the trees remain lush and green, an increasing number of dead leaves decorate my cottage deck. Sweeping them away this morning, I realized the days of denial are over. My intention to Create A Summer I Loved was fulfilled. Is it any wonder I’m dragging my feet a little? When must I officially declare summer over?

As a child, that happened on the first day of school. But here in Charleston, school started on August 11; I wasn’t even back from summer vacation yet! So, that doesn’t work. Labor Day? Well, that’s come and gone, and I’m still in a summer frame of mind. So, no, Labor Day isn’t the end of summer.

What about September 22, the official beginning of autumn? But I’ll be in San Antonio training with Brené Brown to become a Daring Way Facilitator. I can’t officially end summer while I’m still out of town. Nope. Can’t be done.

Yet, I know the leaves will turn and fall. The days will grow shorter. The nights will get cooler. Air conditioning will be turned off, and I’ll switch on the electric fireplace to combat the morning chill at the cottage. Perhaps I’ll be ready to say goodbye to summer when we set our clocks back to standard time.

It’s not really about summer being over. It’s a reluctance to release my “summer way of being.” I have enjoyed moving at a slower pace, skipping the morning make-up-and-hair routine, and being more spontaneous, adventurous, and fun. My summer has been a delightful balance of meaningful work and nurturing play.

But there are a lot of things that didn’t get done. I didn’t blog much; I didn’t write much. I haven’t put any effort at all into marketing my book. My website remains inadequate, and I have not yet cracked the owner’s manual of my new camera.

What did get done? Well, I worked 40 hours a week and completed all of my projects on time. Bills got paid. Grocery shopping done. Meals. Dishes. Dog walking. I watched the moon rise, hiked for hours in the woods, occasionally lounged in the sun in the middle of a workday, painted outdoors as the sun was rising, and sat talking on the deck late on a work night just because I didn’t want the time with my son to end.

If I’m going to move into fall and winter happily, I’ll need to take some of summer’s lessons with me. New priorities. New pleasures. More flexibility. A slower pace doesn’t mean nothing gets done. I want to continue to trust myself to get things done when they need to get done. Even blogging.

Painting

Watercolor … “Inspiration” by Barbie Dallmann

I was halfway through the morning dog walk, a little less than a mile from home, when I heard it. Subtle. In the distance. A faint fluttering of leaves in the treetops. I hoped the breeze would make it to the ground. It was a muggy morning, with intermittent sunshine coaxing wispy bits of fog from the low-lying grasses.

Then I heard it again. The sound was a little louder this time. No, not the sound of wind rustling leaves. This was a sound I never heard growing up in the treeless prairies of Nebraska. It is the sound raindrops make when they hit leaves. The tiniest splat. So tiny it can only be detected when there are millions of raindrops hitting millions of leaves.

“I hear the rain coming,” I told the dogs. “Let’s get home!”

I quickened my pace and dismissed the idea of running. Two dogs, hiking shoes, and no bra. If ever there were reasons not to run, I had plenty. As the sound intensified, I knew what was coming. The words “torrential downpour” popped into my head. I looked behind us and could see a sheet of water in the distance. There was no escape. This was going to be really bad.

A burst of wind, and my muscles tightened in anticipation. One huge drop hit my head, then two, then twenty all at once. This was not the gentle shower of a watering can, but the splash of water pouring from a bucket. Oh, my goodness! So loud, and so much water! My thoughts were racing, expecting a lightning strike or to be washed away by flood waters. Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Get home!

And then, within 15 seconds, the rain stopped. I waited for a second wave, but that was it. I marveled as the tiny, yet powerful storm moved on. The dogs shook themselves, and I laughed, swiping the dripping hair out of my face. It felt more like getting hit with a water balloon than a rain storm.

Before we got to our driveway, the sun was out again, and I saw something sparkle on the ground. A quarter and a nickel. Wow! Thirty times more money than I usually find on a morning walk. This feels like my lucky day.

 

Sign: Creating A Summer I Love

A sign in the cottage I use as a constant reminder to add the right ingredients.

It’s been several weeks since I declared my intention to Create The Best Summer of My Life, complete with a promise to provide REGULAR progress reports. I’m happy to report my summer is being filled with a balance of pleasing ingredients. In the daily conscious choosing, however, I decided to drop “regular progress reporting” in favor of occasional disjointed musings. In the end, it makes for a much more appealing recipe.

Journal Entry

Journal Entry: “How I Spent My Summer”

After my initial declaration, I created a hope-filled journal entry entitled, “How I Spent My Summer.” I used both memories from my best summers along with plans for this one.

I’ve been thinking a lot about 1970, the summer I turned 16. It was my last innocent summer. I was in love for the first time, and my heart had not yet been broken. My parents were not yet divorced. I had no summer job. For the first time, my twin cousin visited without her parents. My life was full of freedom and fun. I went to the pool, visited parks, and hung out with a fun group of church kids. No one in my crowd used drugs or alcohol, although there was a fair amount of heavy petting. From that summer, I chose the ingredients of freedom, fun, swimming, parks, and believing in true love.

Several times my good friend Ann has texted an invitation to join her at the neighborhood pool—right in the middle of the work day! It’s new for me to rearrange my work schedule for the sole purpose of spontaneous fun, but it’s on my list!

One weekday morning I loaded both dogs in the convertible and drove to Kanawha State Forest for an early hike in the woods. Just this morning I refused to accept a transcription job of poorly recorded tapes. From experience, I know listening to the droning background noise and muddy voices will culminate in frustration and a nasty headache. No, thank you. Not this summer. Instead, I happily accepted a typesetting job for a client’s second novel. It fills the workday with enjoyable reading while my fingers get a little exercise.

One ingredient I’ve been using sparingly is multitasking. It’s hard to be really present to my life when I’m focused on doing more than one thing at a time. I choose minimal juggling this summer. Instead, I concentrate on being, rather than doing, and living at a slower pace.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a LOT on my to-do list. To reclaim a little extra time, I asked my hairdresser for a wash-and-wear style, and I’ve stopped the daily make-up routine. It’s amazing how quickly I can get ready when all I have to do is take a quick shower and get dressed.

I think last night is a fair Best Summer representation. The love of my life and I ate grilled chicken salads on the back deck, enjoyed a small fire in the pit, watched the dogs playing in their kiddie pool, and chatted while playing Scrabble. Early to bed and up with the sun. Another day. Another opportunity to choose delicious ingredients.

 

Healing Hearts

memorial

Memorial in the Woods for Mom’s Ashes

I spent a couple of hours this morning reading journal entries from the year after my mother died. What a story they told. Grief stitched its way through the tapestry, leaving knots of sadness here and threads of gratitude there. In awareness of my mortality, I frantically set out to live life more fully.

The busy-ness of that year was both comforting and numbing. I traveled nearly 20,000 miles (by car, by plane, on foot), perhaps trying to outrun the pain, but more likely simply because I could. After nearly five years of care giving, I was finally free to come and go as I pleased, and, boy, did I ever come and go as I pleased!

This grief retrospective was triggered by present circumstances as my husband prepares to travel to Phoenix to attend his step-mom’s funeral. Our son is accompanying him, the ever strong, compassionate, resilient one.

There have been other deaths in the last two weeks. My friend said goodbye to her father. My former neighbor lost her precious aunt.

As I approach my inventory to choose yet another sympathy card, the cycle of life appears scrawled on the sides of small greeting card boxes: Birthday … Graduation … Wedding … Anniversary … New Baby … Get Well … Sympathy. I sigh deeply as I notice the words Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Why do I still have those? No parents, but I still have the boxes of cards. As I think about throwing them away, tears trickle down my face. Oh, I remember now why they’re still there. Maybe they can stay a little longer. Not ready for that step quite yet, it seems.

The grief journey takes as long as it takes. That first year was incredibly difficult, as I embraced and moved through the pain, one step at a time. Just last month I sorted through Mom’s recipe books and cards, put a few in with mine, put a few in storage, and threw out the rest. The process was full of smiles as I remembered the dishes she used to make. I joyfully baked her “Easter Cake” and shared it with friends. No tears, just happy memories.

Today as I stand on the fringes of the wordless grief of those around me, I breathe deeply, close my eyes, and envision their inner spirits being rocked in the arms of angels, comforting, protecting, loving. I pray they will find the strength and courage to work through the grief, however long it takes, and that they will be gentle with themselves on the long and winding road to a healed heart.

 

Mom's Ashes

Still missing you, Mom. XOXO

 

August 2014

these are my doodles as I dream about bike riding in Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii on my 60th birthday

 

I’ve been thinking lately about what it takes to create a memorable summer. Seems like the sort of thing Adventure Barbie might enjoy though, don’t you think?

If asked to pinpoint the best summer of my life so far, I’d be weighing carefully the summers of 1967 and 1984. Both deviated from the norm; each changed my life in important ways.

Go Lite Travel TrailerNo more than two days out of 7th grade, Mom and I packed the Go Lite camping trailer, hitched it to the back of an International Harvester pickup truck and headed for Indiana, the farm country where my mother was raised. We spent four weeks visiting my aunts, uncles, and cousins before heading back to Nebraska so that Dad could join us for the next leg of the journey.

We spent the entire month of July exploring Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. I swam in the Great Salt Lake and hiked in the Grand Canyon. I waited impatiently for Old Faithful to erupt and enjoyed playing cards with new groups of kids as we changed campgrounds nearly every night. I wrote post cards to my friends at home and learned many ways to entertain myself during the long drives between sites.

Go-Lite0002In August, Mom and I traveled alone once again. I remember visiting Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, my uncle’s candy store in northern Michigan, and my twin cousin in Minnesota. On my 13th birthday I was diagnosed with pneumonia, and I struggled to prepare for my impending demise. No, I didn’t feel THAT bad, but I was convinced it was a terminal illness and that people were just being kind by saying I would be okay.

Thirty years ago this week in 1984, I voluntarily left employment as a secretary in corporate America. After Memorial Day I officially began full-time as the owner and operator of Happy Fingers Typing Service, the first secretarial service in our city to offer cutting edge “computerized word processing.” That, too, was a summer of adventure as I took on the many challenges of self employment.

The experiences of both of those summers are important to the person I am today. In 1967, I had plenty of time to imagine what I wanted for myself as an adult. I believe many of my ambitions and dreams were planted during that summer of discovery. I’m also immensely grateful to my 29-year-old self for her determination, courage, and resourcefulness as she set out on her own. My life has been shaped time and again by the challenges and opportunities of owning my own business.

Now, as I count down the weeks to my 60th birthday in August, I’m determined to make this summer memorable, one with ample doses of discovery, challenge, and adventure. This summer I am committing to stepping outside my comfort zone; to making choices that will boost my levels of courage, compassion, and creativity; and to allowing you, my readers, to hold me accountable for Creating The Best Summer of My Life (so far). Stay tuned for Regular (dare I commit to weekly?) Progress Reports.

 

ReadAloudYesterday I finished my third year as a ReadAloud Volunteer in a grade school classroom of approximately 25. Next Thursday I’m going back to celebrate the penultimate day of school with a class pizza party and an opportunity to say good-bye to a very special group of people.

Reflecting on this past year’s experience induces a tearful sense of gratitude. Where do I begin to describe what it’s been like for me? Somehow the books, the kids, the teacher, the questions, and the laughter (lots of laughter) have come together to create an idyllic situation, one I have found myself eagerly anticipating each week. I enjoy practicing the reading as I try to get the voices of the characters just right. I anticipate questions that might arise and do a little research, hoping to be prepared.

This hasn’t been an experience of simply “reading books to children.” Yes, I do read books, but not to “children.” I read to lively, funny, inquisitive, and tremendously smart young people, complete human beings in every way. We’ve engaged in some of the most intriguing discussions, ranging from life on Alcatraz Island in the 1930s, to autism, inflation, Elliott Ness, ice boxes, and tooth powder. We’ve talked about the stock market, summer jobs, and even debated the pros and cons of kissing and marriage. This class has kept me on my toes all year, and I have loved every minute of the hour spent with them each week.

And so, to Mrs. Burdette’s Fourth Grade Class at Overbrook Elementary School, I say a big THANK YOU! Thank you for the smiles, for the laughter, and for the applause. Thank you for inspiring me to expect more from young people. Your ability to listen, to learn, to grow, and to share has warmed my heart. I hope you’ll always remember the fun we had with books this year and that reading will forever be an important part of your lives. I feel blessed to have been a part of your fourth grade experience.

 

 

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