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Posts Tagged ‘transformation’

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.

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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

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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.

 

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Front Cover of Book

The cover of my first published book. To learn more, click here.

 

I’m happy that my book is finished, published, and ready to sell. In fact, I sold several copies last week from a casual mention on Facebook. Truthfully, though, I’m more excited about using my book than I am about selling my book.

Let me explain. Creating a Life You Love is predominantly a workbook; it’s intended to be a tool for increasing self-confidence and joy. Yes, I wrote a few chapters of supportive material, but like any good tool, the real power comes from using it, not from reading about how it works.

As I face the daunting task of developing and executing a successful marketing plan, I’m beginning to long for some increased self-confidence as well as a bit more joy. To that end, I picked up the book and began with prompt #1, “My Favorite Flowers.” It was easy to zip through numbers one, two, and three (daffodils, crocuses, and lilacs … I do love spring flowers!) But then the listing slowed as I thought hard about limiting my list to five. I wanted just the special ones, the flowers I can always count on to warm my heart and leave me smiling.

I doodled a bit on the page and then observed as some of my favorite flower memories floated into my awareness. There was the peony corsage made for me by my high school boyfriend. I was worried when I heard what he had planned and relieved to find the home-made corsage was actually quite pretty. But before the dance was over, all the petals had dropped down the front of my dress. I was left with a ribbon, greenery, and an empty stem. Too funny!

I remembered fondly the vase of lilacs I placed on the altar for the Blessed Virgin when I attended Catholic grade school. Each student took his or her turn bringing flowers each day in May to honor all of our mothers but Jesus’s mother Mary in particular. So many colorful aromatic flowers!

I closed my eyes and allowed the joy of flowers to wash over me. Wild flowers; spring flowers; flowers cut from our yard; purchased flowers; wedding bouquets; flowers in Moscow, Vienna, and London; the flower fields of Carlsbad; Mother’s Day flowers; Anniversary roses; dandelions; crab apple blossoms; day lilies. The deeper I waded into a lifetime of flower memories, the more joyful I became and the luckier I felt.

When my session with the workbook was over, I went grocery shopping and picked up a bouquet of roses for my office. I painted flowers in art class, and noticed periwinkle blooming in the woods.

If working with one page on one day can fill my heart so completely, can you see why I’m looking forward to completing the next 79 exercises? I didn’t just write the book on Creating a Life You Love, I’m living it!

 

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New Beginnings Painting

“New Beginnings” – Acrylic painting to be auctioned at the Charleston Art Walk April 17 to raise funds for the WV Children’s Advocacy Network

Last year at this time I was insistently resisting the label “artist” (See: I’m not THAT!). This year when I received the “Call to Artists” email, asking for donations of art to be auctioned at a fundraiser for a West Virginia non-profit, I excitedly began thinking about making a contribution. Yesterday I awoke at 4 a.m. having just finished the painting in my dreams.

I picked my way through the dark woods to the cottage and happily assembled my supplies, all the while trying to recall the details of the dream painting. I sketched it out quickly on the back of a things-to-do list, made a few notes, and then started painting. This morning I declared it finished because it brought a smile to my face.

Last year’s agony of creation is gone; today I was so absorbed in the joy of painting, I completely forgot to drink my coffee! Now, that’s seriously absorbed!

In this moment, I’m feeling happy and proud of myself. This past year, I’ve willingly worked through a lot of painful memories and purposefully healed those wounds. I’ve butted up against some major barriers, including “I don’t know what I’m doing!” and “I’m not good enough.” Patience, kindness and self-compassion have gradually reduced the size of the barriers. Although, still big enough to be recognizable, they have gradually become small enough to step over. Finally I find myself in a valley of contentment with feelings of satisfaction, freedom, delight, and whimsy. There is a sacred flow that happens now when I paint. It has become a time of communion with my higher self–a peaceful meditation. Lost in time and space, I become childlike, curious and delighted with the colors and shapes. It isn’t about getting certain results, it’s just about the fun of dabbling.

I long to more regularly feel that sense of freedom that comes from releasing attachment to outcome. I wonder what it would be like to approach every task in my life with playful curiosity and delight. When I think about where I was artistically just five years ago (couldn’t even draw a stick man) to where I am today, it makes me believe anything is possible. Yes, it does require a conscious desire to create something new as well as focused effort, but if it results in more connection, freedom, and joy, then count me in!

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Houseplants

Poinsettias stay long past Christmas at our house!

It’s -5° this morning, and I’m feeling warmer than one might imagine because I know what it’s like to live without central heating. The furnace quit working last Saturday, and repair parts weren’t available until Monday. As the temperatures plunged, Adventure Barbie was called up for active duty once again.

The task wasn’t merely to keep ourselves warm but to protect my husband’s extensive collection of tropical plants, or as I like to call them, “The Window Hogs.” We don’t need curtains; we have plants! We can’t even use one of the sliding glass doors, so surrounded is it with greenery.

The plants are varied, huge, and longstanding residents of our home; many have been with us for more than 30 years; some came from Nebraska. In freezing February 1978, we made the 1,000 mile move, navigating a 24′ U-Haul with all our worldly belongings except the plants. For the seasonally sensitive flora we found temporary homes and then drove all the way back in the spring, rented a trailer just for the plants, and brought them to West Virginia. Are you getting an idea of the status “houseplants” hold in our family?

Keeping the home fires burning

Keeping the home fires burning

So there we were, in plant preservation mode, setting up heaters and building a fire in the fireplace. We closed off three rooms, cleverly constructing a double-decker curtain reaching to the cathedral ceiling, and we used a fan to circulate warm air from the fireplace. Dannie chopped, split, and carried wood. He also regularly scooped ashes from the fireplace. I slept on the couch with the kitchen timer chirping every 90 minutes so I could add more wood to the fire. Laboring together, we kept the home fires burning and achieved a balmy 60° in our three-room botanical garden, while the rest of the house dipped below 40°.

Double-decker curtains

Double-decker curtains

As happened during the “water crisis,” I found myself appreciatively connected to those of another time and place. My mother never had central heat nor running water in the Indiana farmhouse where she grew up. Every morning, year round, the first order of business was to get the fire going–for heat, for cooking, for washing. Even in the summer when the heat was a problem, the fire was essential.

In those days every member of the family was engaged in the chores of keeping a home operating: pumping water, chopping wood, collecting eggs, feeding livestock, cooking, cleaning, farming. So much work! So much hard work! Yet through it all, each person had an opportunity to feel a deep sense of contribution and usefulness. I got a small taste of that as I lovingly stoked the fire throughout the long night.

And more plants

Now, with our furnace restored, I settle back into my routine, employing my mind far more than my physical stamina and feeling just a little less essential to the operation of the household. Certainly each age has its challenges, not the least of which has always been to accept gratefully the challenges of life and to engage wholeheartedly in the Experience of Being Human.

Adventure Barbie Rides Again!

And More Plants!

More plants

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Water in tub

This is what 16 gallons of rain water looks like in the bathtub. See my Facebook page if you’d like to see a video of the trip from the house to the rain barrel.

Five days ago a chemical spill contaminated drinking water in a nine-county area of West Virginia. We were the number two story on national news, right behind the Target credit card debacle.

Warned to neither drink nor touch the water, I had no problem keeping my distance as just the fumes were enough to give me a headache. While many shifted into panic mode, fighting over the limited supplies of bottled water on grocery store shelves, I donned a familiar persona: Adventure Barbie. I instantly shifted into problem solving mode, dipping rainwater from bird baths to heat on the stove for a Friday morning sponge bath. I inventoried the containers of water we had on hand and was thrilled to discover five gallons in the storage room, left over from the Y2K scare. My friend Elizabeth Heiser called it “Vintage,” which made the 14-year-old water seem even more precious.

With warming temperatures and rain in the forecast, we awakened the rain barrels from winter hibernation. We enacted home-wide water conservation procedures, and Dannie, as well as all affected employees, received a case of drinking water from The Home Depot before they sold the rest to the public.

Sunday found me foregoing my usual treadmill workout in favor of toting rainwater from the cottage to the house. I made eight trips, carrying two gallons (16 pounds) each time. I covered 1.7 miles in just under an hour. It was quite a workout, including two flights of steps each trip to get to the third floor bathtub. I’ll never look at a full bathtub the same, that’s for sure.

Sunday night we traveled 15 miles to St. Albans, where our friends Linda and Matt Higgs allowed us to use their shower. They also generously offered glasses of wine, some wonderful conversation, and fresh water for our empty containers.

Yesterday I contemplated how two-thirds of the people in the world do not have running water. Many spend hours every single day locating and carrying water for their families. Each time I walked the cottage path to the rain barrel, I sent love and compassion around the world, feeling connected in a way I never had before. I also lifted up enormous amounts of gratitude for my many blessings.

A couple of hours ago I received a call from the water company notifying me that our zone had been cleared. It took about 30 minutes to perform the pipe flushing procedures, and now life can return to normal.

Even as I acknowledge the many who suffered tremendous financial loss as a result of this water crisis, I send appreciation to my Adventurous Problem Solving Self for eschewing victim mode, adopting a good attitude, and keeping myself and our dishes clean.

Long Live Adventure Barbie!!! I think I need a red cape … but first, a hot shower!

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