Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday Slice: The eyes have it

I really couldn't afford it.  The holidays have left me strapped for cash, and I am counting pennies until payday.  

But the idea of making a SoulCollage© card to set intentions and gain insight for an entire year intrigued me.  I pulled out my card journal, and realized I had not made a single card in 2017.  How did that happen, especially since I had set a goal to make twelve cards last year?

Oh, because last year was a wash, going by in an unfocused, hazy, reactive blur.  Yep, I needed to go to this workshop, if only to attempt to make 2018 a bit more productive.  And I sorely needed some creative time.

Stephanie greeted me warmly  despite my prolonged absence; I felt like the prodigal son returned home.  The room filled with a vibrant group of women.  We took our seats at tables already set with cutting mats and supplies. The process was explained, and Stephanie began the meditation.  We connected and reconnected to earth and sky as we quickly pulled images for each month and scribed our feelings and thoughts about each one.

A theme emerged in my chosen images:  eyes, all facing forward or looking to the right. Five of the images were animals, which is unusual for me (although the fall-colored owl was no surprise--owls are my favorite!).  Each set of eyes conveyed a different emotion--purposeful, steadfast, optimistic.  Happy-yet-wary, soul-piercing, wide-open and curious.  Saddened, dulled by hunger, accusatory, surprised.  And finally, a no-eyed jellyfish to wrap up the year.

Meditation and scribing done, it was time to fit all those images on a 5x8 inch card.  Trimming away these precious images was almost painful, but necessary--a life lesson in itself.

This card now sits on my desk, staring at me as I type this morning, daring me to focus this year, take it all in, be steadfast and optimistic and curious.  Melding the images with my One Word, the eyes are telling me "Enough!  Observe what is truly going on and make those necessary changes; we can see through your excuses.  You know what to do, so do it!".

Here's to a more focused, intentional 2018.  I'm looking forward to December, when I will relax and go with the flow, like an eyeless jellyfish floating in a warm current.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tuesday Slice: Sacred places, holy spaces

We visited a lot of churches in my growing-up years--a LOT of churches.  When you are raised in a Catholic, military, globe-trotting family, it's almost a given that if there is a Catholic church nearby, you will visit it.  

During tours stateside, joining the local parish gave us a connection to our new community, and attending Mass a sense of continuity in a life that was punctuated by moving every eighteen months to three years.

When we lived overseas, we learned the meaning of religious tolerance through the sharing of the military base chapel.  Catholic Mass at 8a followed by a Protestant service at 930a often meant greeting friends entering the chapel as we left.  My progressive parents allowed me to explore religious practices with my non-Catholic friends; I remember being in awe of Jewish Sabbath prayers intoned in Hebrew, equating them to our own High Mass in Latin.  My parents also believed in experiencing as much as we could about the countries we lived in, and that including touring the churches and cathedrals of Europe.  We visited Rome several times during our tour in Italy; after a long day of walking from one church to the next, I remember kneeling in front of an umpteenth alter and telling my mother that I had run out of things to pray for.  (I was seven; my list was shorter then.)

My Catholic practice has fallen by the wayside since then, but my idea of sacred space has broadened.  

I distinctly remember the day I drove past the hospital where my daughter was born, and felt compelled to make the Sign of the Cross.  The place where I became a mother, where doctors and nurses worked so diligently to keep my 26 week premature infant alive, had become sacred to me.  When my son was born there almost five years later, I found myself once again making the Sign and issuing a silent prayer of gratitude when that hospital came into view.

Porches have been sacred spaces, my own and my friends'.  Gazing at the stars and talking about feeling a Divine presence as teenagers in Germany; dancing on my back porch and being present in my own body in El Paso; sitting on my neighbors' porch and talking about our fears, being strong for each other; these were all holy spaces.

When I think about profound, still moments in my life--sunsets at the top of a hill, stargazing from the side of a road, looking out over an untouched field of snow, walking through a quiet forest--they all feel sacred to me. The same goes for not-so-quiet moments with friends when we are fully present and connecting. 

And now that I am somewhat empty nesting, I gaze across the kitchen table at the empty seats of my children, and those seats seem sacred, too.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tuesday Slice: 2018 One Word

The book had been sitting on my nightstand for three days:
The plan was to re-read it sometime over the next few days and fill in the corresponding page in Leonie Dawson's "My Shining Year" workbook. 
I wasn't going to Slice over the holidays, but the email prompt this morning aligned with the task on my to-do list: write about your One Word for 2018.  Still in my comfy flannel pajamas, second cup of coffee in hand, I settled back against my bed pillows and quickly skimmed through Gordon's book.  I answered the prescribed three questions about needs and barriers, then centered myself to receive my word.  It came quickly; in fact, it's been screaming at me throughout much of 2017:
Enough.  It's a funny little word, if you look at it and say it several times, considering the odd spelling rules of the English language.  

I am enough. I have enough--stuff, willpower, strength, faith, experience--to get me started and through and above all the tasks and goals ahead.  "Enough" doesn't mean I'm settling for the status quo; it becomes a battle cry when my boundaries and dreams have been breached or threatened.  

I have not, however, had enough hot cocoa this winter break.  I'm off to make myself a cup of chocolate goodness, and dream about what my One Little Word holds in store for me this 2018.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday Slice: When you don't have anything good to say

"When you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all."

How does that work, for writers?  Fiction is easier, I suppose.  One just re-enters the world created by the pen and continues where one left off.  Work the problems out, write the happy ending.

Real life isn't so easy to escape.  When bad things happen in clusters--even not-so-bad, just annoying and expensive--an overwhelming funk starts to creep in.  I try to remind myself that these issues are first-world problems; my basic needs are more than well-met, anything else is icing on the cake, and I just need to stop the whining and move on.  

The self-talk and gratitude journaling isn't working this week.  I just want to run away to a retreat center and sleep and walk and meditate and pray and eat salads, then come home to a magically clean house with all my bills paid and everything is fixed and all deadlines are met.  

Maybe escaping into fiction is exactly what I need.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Advent

Little by little, the season appears.  

Leaves fall
Cool winds blow
Trips to the mall

Lights are strung
Cards arrive
A wreath is hung

A manger goes up
Cinnamon in the air
Cocoa in a cup

Little by little, the season appears.

Boxes on the doorstep
Covered outdoor plants
Chilly mornings overslept

Homecoming hugs
Classes done
Red and green mugs

Making room for the tree
Sweaters unpacked
Finding the magic key

Little by little, the season appears.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Which weighs more?

The air was crisp, colder in the shade of oak trees refusing to give up their leaves, gleaning the last rays of autumnal sun on the hike and bike trail.  The crunching of gravel seemed almost too loud on this quiet, breezeless morning; I was glad when my path took me onto paved walkways for an auditory respite.

Too quiet.  My mind decided to fill the noiseless void with anxiety-ridden thoughts of parenting fails over the last two decades.

Mother-guilt is something I'll take to the grave.  The times I let them cry a bit too long before picking them up (the books said they're supposed to learn to self-soothe!).  The accidents that happened because I turned my back for a moment. The selfish, soft-spoken pleas to just-go-to-sleep, because I was the one who needed the rest. The times my patience wore thin and my voice got shrill and loud.  The days when I got in the car to drive myself around the block six times to calm down. When I was late for pickup, spent too much time on the computer, didn't set a good example in home-caring/self-caring/ being kind.

In an effort to make myself feel better, I thought of the things I did "right".  Rocking my babies to sleep with lullabies.  Filling the house with books and music and craft supplies to engage their minds and hands.  Reading bedtime stories and tucking them in with kisses and blessings.  Dropping them off and picking them up from school, with talk time in the car.  Attending parent conferences, band concerts, halftime shows.  Taking them to the doctor/ dentist/ orthodontist for physical and emotional needs.  Hallway hugs, phone call check-ins.  Traveling through states, out of the country, and establishing traditions at home.     

The older my children get, the more I worry about our past affecting their present and future.  The guilt makes me rejoice in the accomplishments they make in spite of my mistakes, but grows whenever there are issues I feel I may have caused. 

In the delicate balance of a child's psyche, which weighs more--the love and care we managed to give, or the times we failed miserably in that attempt?  I pray it is the former, not the latter--and that my children will forgive me my faults, perhaps when they become parents themselves.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Celebrate me home

For the past several days, I've been waking up to the same song playing in my head.  
It's a bit annoying, as my mind is breaking the "no Christmas songs until Santa arrives at the end of the Thanksgiving Day Macy's Parade" rule we have in this house. (We also listen to Christmas music until the twelfth day of Christmas, January 6th...but I digress.)

I'm guessing the mental jukebox picked this tune because it's our first empty nesting holiday season, and we'll have both fledglings under our roof come Christmas time--one driving home from college, the other flying in from Japan.  My father and his wife will join us for New Year's Eve--the most family members here since our daughter graduated from high school in 2012.  After my father leaves, we will meet our daughter's Japanese boyfriend as he visits our home for the first time.

There's a homecoming today, too.  I join current and former staff and students as we meet in my neighborhood elementary school to celebrate its fortieth anniversary.  Our daughter and son both attended the school, and because of their age difference, I was an Anderson Mill parent for eleven years before becoming a teacher there for three more.  I have fond memories of the tiny resource room I inhabited, all the while working on my Library Science degree, supported by the principal and mentored by the librarian. I'm hoping to see several of my students this afternoon.

We will be celebrating our loved ones home this holiday season, indeed.  Maybe I'm not so annoyed by the earworm after all.