Tag Archives: life is beautiful

whose boat is on the running stream…

“What should I possibly have to tell you, oh venerable one? Perhaps that you’re searching far too much? That in all that searching, you don’t find the time for finding?”
~ Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

ecbracletred22-020

We are cleaning house to host Christmas. And as is often the case on such endeavors (at least in my life) things have been found that elicit powerful and profound reactions.

I was tidying up our mantle and found a stone jar with a fossil lid. Curious, and willing to delay the tidying up to explore, I opened it up only to discover something I probably needed to find.

It was a 5 foot long string of red beads.

as i pulled the strand out, I thought back on when I must have bought it. 17 years ago, when I was in Quito and roaming one of the many folks selling things in the parks.  I remember picking this one out because it had two “gold” beads in it.  I twisted the string of beads onto my wrist, feeling a simple pleasure as I felt them wrap around.

It is a simple standard of beauty that has carried with me. Many of the indigenous women, of varying tribes, in Ecuador wear them. It is said to ward of evil and to protect the wearer. One will see these wrapped in various widths and on various ages of the women in Ecuador. Red bracelets are actually something pretty widespread and come in a variety of materials.  It is a familiar one to me, and I have worn it on my wrists for these past few days, a certain level of comfort in seeing its length wrapped around my wrist. I touch them, roll them against my skin, admiring the variety of sizes the beads come in.

Last night, I was in the bath tub and wondered if the string would suffer from getting wet. I rolled and untangled my bracelet and gently laid it out to dry.  This morning I picked it up and twisted it back on my wrist.  There was such a comfort in that ritual. I wondered how many other women had gone about starting their day by twisting these beads around their wrist, in a mix of superstition, habit, and because of the gentleness of it.

 

red beads
This is my red bead bracelet.

“For such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boat is on the running stream.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Advertisements

a moment, but not the dream… a reflection of a gentle experience

“some moments are nice, some are nicer, some are even worth writing about.”
~ Charles Bukowski

I am reflecting on the gentlenesses that life has a tendency to bring.  Those moments that are often soft, quiet… almost imperceptible.  Moments, though, that are imbued with something that makes them stand out from other moments… not because they are nice, nor because they are even nicer, but because they somehow separate themselves from the other memories and cast a soft glow where they stand.  They don’t have to be personally significant, often one is a mere observer or pulled in by the experience.

I love those moments. I should write about them more.

This past March, sufficiently recovered (physically) to travel, my son (Squink) and I set off to Mexico to meet his student exchange family. A formal program through my son’s school that introduced kids to foreign travel and boosted their language skills. It was a delight. I got to know some parents much better and was reminded why there are parents that I would do best to avoid!

So, Squink and I hopped on a luxury bus with a ton of other parents and their children and made our way south to Old Mexico!

I had a glorious time, met some wonderful parents. Our Mexican counterpart (the parents) hosted us at a wonderful beach party. There was loads of laughter and fun. There was a lot of food, and chasing, and merriment.

A mother, one that had been Squinks soccer coach in first grade,  on the trip with us revealed that this was her first beach experience. She had never seen one before and how delighted she was to have the experience. She was a little timid about getting in the water though. She and another mom and I had all laid our towels on the sand together (me for protection from a mother in our group that I find to be insanely manipulative) . We shared our snacks and laughed… this was in and of itself, a great moment… but it was destined to be greater. We walked along the water line with the mother and managed to get her to put her feet in the water and seemed happy to stay there… but the other mother and I insisted it was not the full experience.  She was nervous, did not want to do it alone.. so the other mother and I looked at each other and declared that we would go in with her… and nervous exchange and we were tossing off our t-shirts and getting down to our suits, and we all ran towards the water and jumped in, all the way in.

We all raised our head from the water at about the same time, laughing and smiling. checking into how the others felt. Our kids had seen our mad dash into the water and we had them swimming around us.  In terms of being a mom, it was a rare experience, especially with  women who are not close confidantes. There was a purity in that moment that made that simple act of jumping in the water together something magnificent, something to be treasured. I equate that experience for the mom who had just had her first ocean experience with the first time I saw snow.  It had a magical mystery to it, and that first time I saw snow was magical.

While there are many wonderful memories from that trip, the one I describe here was magic.  On the long bus ride back home, I told the mother (with previous ocean experience) that was with us when we jumped in the water that it was my favorite part of the trip, she looked at me across the aisle and said to me “mine too”.

I know not to question it too much, to just accept that it happened and treasure it like I do.

This is of Squink and me just after the event, in Mexico
This is of Squink and me just after the event, in Mexico

“I like the posture, but not the yoga. I like the inebriated morning, but not the opium. I like the flower but not the garden, the moment but not the dream. Quiet, my love. Be still. I am sleeping.”
~ Roman Payne

Volunteering at the gala… (day 6)

I have been serving as logistics co-chair for the grand unveiling of a historic home in Tempe, AZ.  Doing so has been a labor of love for me for several different reasons. It was a historic home, and since my family has ties to Arizona back into its territorial days, keep that alive is important to me. The other facet is that it is a water conservation project as well. With my maternal grandfather building and working on many of the dams (in his era) and helping to make sure that Arizona got its fair share by giving testimony to the American Congress as it tried to deal with water rights for the Colorado River, this project seemed like a perfect storm for me.

The day of that gala came, a wonderful party that showcased how beautiful the house was to those who attended. The idea being that it will be rented out to the community for events. The home is an adobe house built in the 30’s, and it looked stunning on a hilltop with lights.

One of our needs for the event was traffic management. Since I believe that one cannot take on a job without being willing to do it, and no one wanted to volunteer for it, I went down and was traffic controller. It was a quiet time, but I had fun!  I was able to get a glass of wine to keep me warm and took a lot of selfies. I tried to photograph the house, but the phone did not really capture how beautiful it looked! 

There were fun shadows and I played with those instead:

I went back tot eh party only to be told that all the water conservation toilets were stopped up. Actually what it was is that the buttons for the flow were stuck and thus no one was able to flush – still, it was gross. Of course, it took 4 people to fix this issue, me to clean it, two men to look like dorks and watch, and my co-chair Debby to photograph it!

 

In the period where I had to live the life of a citizen – a life where, like everybody else, I did tons of laundry and cleaned toilet bowls, changed hundreds of diapers and nursed children – I learned a lot.~ Patti Smith

I did have a wonderful time, the grand majority of the volunteers were awesome and I  am proud of the event and my role in it!

 

Don’t fear the reaper

A friend posed a link to this on Facebook – Everything Doesn’t Happen For A Reason

I was thunderstruck… it hit me hard and in the gut.

So, I think my hang up on being told  “life is tough, get a grip” was that I interpreted it to mean that I had no right to grieve.

Now, I have no idea if that was the intent of what my mother told me, but it most certainly came across to me that way.

And created and angst that permeated everything… I still have a hard time wanting to trust her or my aunt with anything related to how I am feeling and how I am doing. I suppose, since they are family, that I need to get past that, but like all matters it will take time.

However, being told it was OK to grieve began that catharsis my body was looking for.  I am reminded about how I felt when, after a year of trying to figure out what was wrong with me while I was in college, a weird circumstance led my physician and I to a diagnosis. That relief, that it was Valley Fever, was intense. A huge high, one that allowed my doctor and I to make better decisions about my health care. This included my attending a mindfulness based stress reduction class.  That class was a game changer for me, and I have never regretted taking it.

So, now that I was armed with permission to grieve, I did and I am and I feel ok about where I am and where I am going.

I have chosen to continue advocating for cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine. That there is something that can help prevent this from showing up in young women (and young men, in terms of other HPV related cancers) is something worth being willing to talk about.

Last night I was able to attend a local chapter of Dining for Women and was asked to speak about Cervical cancer, HPV, and the Amazon basin. This is the program that DFW is supporting this month;  DB Peru. The organization did their work in researching it, I loved everything about it and what it wanted to do.

I had such a great time talking with these women. I was invited by a friend of mine through the Junior League of Phoenix. This group had been meeting for nine years, and I could see why – they were funny, a bit irreverent, celebratory… they had everything that makes something work as done by women.

I wonder if I should work on getting a chapter started? Any takers?

These gems have life in them: their colors speak… (day 33)

The Day 33 prompt is:

What is/will be the subject of your next book?

The story I am writing about centers around a young woman named Clara and how her life is filled with love… a gift imbued through some magical experience had during her parents conceiving her. It is a story about how love has so many faces and how it is so important for humans to experience it. The story looks at how love contrasts with so many different emotions (as personality types). It examines the duality of life, but with rose-colored glasses. It begins with a description of Clara and her family and how they fit in to her ancestry. It follows her as she navigates out of childhood and moves into maturity. It examines the people she loves and how they are part of the magic spell she was cast upon her conception. It is a story about the role of others in personal redemption stories. It is about love, all the different kinds of love.

Image used from this article.

I remember, as a child, sitting in my gated front yard in Quito, Ecuador, looking at the people passing by on the street in front of me. A mix of men in hats, women in indigenous clothing carrying a small child strapped to their back and leading a yellow dog on a rope used as a leash.  Considering the tremendous difference between the huge Spanish colonial home behind me and the various levels of poverty and status in front of me…

I knew the gate was to keep people out, in part because I was young and vulnerable and with a high potential to be kidnapped. I stared at the glass shards embedded on the top of the wall surrounding our property, and thinking that the sun glinting off the various colors of glass made them look like jewels.  This memory, combines with many others serve as background material for the story. I had a truly magical childhood. While it was not without some pain, it was still magical and I want to re-tell it in the style of literature that came from that part of the world.

These gems have life in them:  their colors speak, say what words fail of.
~George Eliot

My hat tip today goes to Laura Hile, because she had me at pirate!

Sleep, Pretty baby, Do not cry, And I will sing a lullaby. (day 6)

I now get to step six of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative:

6. This step is where everything begins to change! Once you have the mental images of what your thoughts and emotions look like (and even if there’s no image at all, this practice still works), picture yourself holding the image (or lack thereof) in the same way a mother holds a newborn baby. Picture the image of your painful thought and emotion wrapped in a warm blanket, being held with very loving care closely to your heart, your chest, as you extend it very sincere compassion from your heart center. (You can also use the imagery of wrapping the thought/emotion in a warm blanket and placing it in a baby carriage, and rocking the carriage back and forth.)

It is interesting to get to this point and realize that in some way, I have been doing this when I talk to little girl Blair at the end of each exercise leading up to this one. I don’t know what I should do other than what it says. I will start by saying that it is awkward to picture myself rocking a lava-lamp like image like I did my own baby. I am not attached to it, I don’t particularly like this image-child. But I am guessing the intent is to see these emotions as something that come from a need for love. So, I am picturing myself trying to love it. It feels much like the way I came to love the color orange.

orange

Growing up in South America my friends and I often talked about how much we loved one color over another, but it never occurred to me to hate a color… at least until I moved to the USA. In “America” stating one favorite color was often a conversation that included what colors we did not like… and I recall sitting in my classroom, with girls proclaiming a love for pink or red or purple and boys loving blue or green… While this gender division for color preference was a bit of a surprise was the number of child who emphatically stated a dislike for yellow, and a hatred for orange.  I was so taken aback as one child after the other made these proclamations, and as someone who loved all color having to pick one, and not knowing which… but seeing how much people disliked orange aroused something in me, something that felt sorry that it was so disliked and when my turn came, I proclaimed my love for orange. I don’t recall what I said for the color I disliked, I probably said I did not dislike any color.   I embraced orange, which took some getting used to, after all I really did not have a favorite… but tried it on, as they might say, as my favorite. So here I am over 35 years later fully loving of that magnificent color orange.

So, I am trying to love this image of my feelings in a similar way.  It feels awkward, but manageable.

Action – reflection:

I was at a leadership retreat recently where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year-old. We were to talk to her about how wonderful she was, because it is easier to do that than to tell ourselves. It is much easier and carries a much deeper felt reaction to do this exercise.

IMG_7461                 E62EDBED-16E4-46FD-B424-D4875F8D33E9

Little girl Blair, love as fiercely as you have since you were a baby, and keep doing it for the rest of your life. It will serve you well.

 

Every breath you take (day 5)

I now get to step five of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative:

5. Breathe. We’re at the half way mark and I’d like to offer you a sincere congratulations on completing the first half! Our natural tendency is to suppress these uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, often telling ourselves that we’ll deal with them later—but honestly, does later ever come? Unfortunately for most of us, it never does. So even just by taking the time to become conscious of, and identify these unpleasant thoughts and emotions is a huge step! Let’s not stop there however, because here’s where the really good stuff starts to happen.

For the past week, I have been taking part in the mindfulness summit. I can say that this has all been very complimentary to what I am trying to accomplish personally. I first learn about mindfulness from my doctor.   For the previous year I had endured a health problem that we had trouble trying to identify. I was sleeping almost 20 hours a day on average, and felt a lethargy like no other. I know something was wrong, but I had no idea what.  A fluke helped us diagnose me with valley fever, and the immense relief was fleeting. After a year of intense worry, I was frayed and very depressed and prone to sudden and intense anxiety. My doctor, as luck would have it, was a practitioner of MBSR, and was getting ready to host a session for willing patients. It was something that my insurance at the time would cover. I signed on right away. I hated being medicated for the anxiety and depression. I took his 8 week course and my life was changed. This happened about 20 years ago, I have had maybe 3 anxiety attacks since then and all within the first six months after I finished the course.  Within three months after finishing the class, we decided to stop my medication. I felt like a new person in so many ways. I was able to bring a mindfulness to everything I was doing.

My cancer diagnosis, really threw it a curve-ball. While I don’t think I was having anxiety attacks, I was experiencing something very different, though built-in with anxiety. As I found myself less able to manage the stress that I had been able to manage in my early days of practicing MBSR. A friend mentioned that she was considering doing it, I told her she should and then realized that I might need to have a chance to revisit those lessons. That I had most defiantly moved away from a life of intention and presence.  I decided to bring my son on this journey with me. In part because another friend was talking about how the school he works at is bring in mindfulness to their curriculum, for both students and teachers.  If they could do this with kids, I certainly could with my son. So, I found a free online class, and we started the lessons.

They are something that I consider both easy, and not easy. They make you ask yourself some interesting questions and you have to make some big choices about the person you want to be.   While not a physically taxing endeavor, it can be emotionally.  I had to realize that I was not in a very good place. That it had to do with how my family and I behaved before, during and after my diagnosis. That I could not be accountable for them, but I could be accountable for myself. Sounds easy, it really wasn’t.

I have since learned that it is not unusual to experience the year or so after your treatment options end with more intensity than any other part. This article outlines pretty well, though it speaks to breast cancer which is not what I have had.

“But for many, the time after treatment is a stage of uncertainty physically, mentally and socially.”

I find thoughts of maybe I should have asked for Chemo just in case (I did not need it, my stage 1a1 and type, said it was not necessary), mixed in with concerns over aches and pains being signs of recurrence. This is all a brain trick. On one hand I know better, but my body doesn’t believe me.

I have arrived at a point where I know this is ok. I have three weeks of my efforts and personal mindful mediation coupled with one week of mindfulness summit behind me, these experiences have re-awakened me to less of that negativity that was invading my space. I look forward to my future much more than

The next steps are vaguely reminiscent of the aspect I have been including as a reflection at the end. I wonder how this will go. ♥

Action – reflection:

I was at a leadership retreat recently where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year-old. We were to talk to her about how wonderful she was, because it is easier to do that than to tell ourselves. It is much easier and carries a much deeper felt reaction to do this exercise.

IMG_7461                 E62EDBED-16E4-46FD-B424-D4875F8D33E9

Little girl Blair, don’t forget to breathe. You are loved. Never ever forget that.

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 11

Prompt 11

Describe the research process for your book. Did you interview people? Travel? How prominent a role did the Internet play? If you didn’t do new research, how did you learn what you needed to know to write your book?

On going.

There are some major themes I want to use and one of those was/is love.

Love is an interesting philosophical topic and I started at Wikipedia for some thoughts… I used the Greek words for love as a start…. but at some point my own life experience intervened and I remembered that there had been some discussion of other Greek words, so I moved to google and found a list of six.

I liked the idea of the central characters to the story each representing these different kinds of love and how they can play out. So to this end I created a character spread sheep based on the specific aspects of each form that I wanted to use; who represented them, what was the conflict to illustrate it, how does the resolution show their aspect of love to be a higher state of being (this is magic realism after all, where emotions can have magical effects on the world).

If certain people inspire me, I talk to them, not as a strict interview process but as a way to see how the aspect of them that I am intrigued by affects their mannerisms and such. If there is something specific, like plane travel in the 1960’s , I look on-line and then follow-up with googling pictures and talking to people who experienced it.

Travel, since the stories I am currently working on are shaped by the landscapes of my youth in Latin America, travel was involved.. though not recent travel. I am starting to think that I should go back, with a keen eye… but the truth is that in many ways it is just a form of homesickness and I just want to go back.

In terms on doing that which did not involve research, I guess it is based on my very own experiences (which I consider a kind of research anyway and thus I find myself in a circular argument.

separ

The hat tip today goes to Mary Ellen Stepanich, PhD as she reflects on the changing face of customer service. I have to agree, the face to face exchange between a provider and a subscriber has changed rather dramatically.

Messages from my mirror

The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.
~ St. Jerome

Today I scheduled a follow-up eye appointment for October.

As I opened up my calendar I realized that the four months would land on the day before I had my surgery, which was when my eye problems started.

In the eight months since my life was spared and my body was torn apart in order to do that… a lot has happened.

One of the things that I find most striking is that my eyes have changed. I have been trying to figure out what it is that I have noticed.

I am not sure when I started to think my eyes looked different to me, but I recall wondering if somehow my irises had become lighter or cloudier in color. Cataracts at my age?

The crux is that they don’t look happy to me, they looked pained, tired, and perhaps even scared.

I don’t know that I am any of those things, but I am a very different person than I was in 2014 B.D.

That B.D. is Before Diagnosis.

This process has been hard, but the hardest part was learning to stand up for myself. Standing up to a mother and aunt that I know love me, but who felt that age gave them some sort of prize that included tearing me down… I am sure that is (was) not their intent… but as they threw things at me that I would have previously have bowed my head to and ignored but in the middle of my fight to feel whole again seemed unduly cruel coming from them. As I said, I am sure they did not mean it, but they still hurt me very deeply on a level that a doctor could not touch.

I think, perhaps, that is part of the cloudiness that I see in my eyes.

It is also navigating my health after a pretty invasive surgery, the unwanted weight gain, the change in shape, the pain, the aches… the health of my eyes included.

They are better now though, the scars left on them through repeated injury (and a misdiagnosis) are healing, are almost gone. The burden of the change of lifestyle for them is permanent… eye drops for life, they said. Keep them moist, they said. I will, I reply.

But when I got home from my appointment today, I looked in the mirror and still saw that certain kind of cloudiness, and I hoped it was not permanent.

Then there is this.

image1

“Behind these eyes there is a girl trapped within her pain – a girl feeling all the emotions of anger and sadness. She’s fighting for a way out.”
~ Chimnese Davids

I do not crave Squirrel Poop!

I crave PEANUT BUTTER!!!!!!!!!

For the past 5 weeks I have consumed at least 10 jars of peanut butter. At least 10 JARS! This is crazy.

It is like one of those insane cravings that can’t be sated. It has to be smooth – or as they say in peanut butter parlance – “creamy”.

Yes, I tried to curb the insatiable craving by buying a jar of the crunchy (or chunky) stuff. It merely slowed down the intake, but not enough to think it was effective. It was actually a catalyst for a dangerous turn in this craving period. I had to eat it with chocolate. Yummy combo yes, but not when you are a super dark dark chocolate lover and find that combination is heinous….so you run out and buy some crappy milk chocolate to make it palatable. And even if you return to the no sugar added creamy peanut butter your love, the taste for hints of milk chocolate remains.  So, I elevated the experience buy snagging some of  my son’s Lindt’s.

Only to find the creaminess of their center the absolutely perfect complement to the spoonfuls of peanut butter that I have been shoveling ion my mouth. It was heaven, though there is a lot more guilt from digging in to my son’s stash of favorite chocolates.

Creamy peanut butter, it is really awesome.

“Who uses crunchy peanut butter?” he asked the room. “You might as well eat squirrel shit.”
~ Michael Thomas Ford, The Road Home

I am not sure about the source of the craving, but the all-knowing Google gave me the impression that this is not an isolated thing, that there are many people out there with a hankerin’ for the thing I most currently consider a nectar of the gods.

There is a possibility that I am in desperate need of something that my body has been missing, much like the fierce beef carnivore I would become back in the days when I actually got my period. The interesting thing now, since I don’t get a bloody period, but do get a hormonal one is that I still crave beef, just not with as fierce a drive.

Ewww, gross.

Let us get back to peanut butter.  Creamy peanut butter!!!

It is insane, I am carrying around jars of peanut butter with me, I make runs to the grocery store when I polish a jar off. I have bought big jars, and normal jars. I eat it straight out of the jar.

My husband must think I am crazy, but even he has helped me give in to this madness by running to the store late at night to help keep me in stock.

It has to be plain or chocolate, no bread, no jelly… just peanut butter. and lately some chocolate is nice (but not required). Preferably off a spoon, but a knife or fork will do.

At least one site says that it helps fight stress. Maybe so. It makes sense, the past year has been stressful in a novel way. If peanut butter saves me through it, it is indeed the fruit of the gods… and gloriously explains my 30 pound weight gain.