Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tuesday Slice: A comfortable silence

The quiet is creeping in to our empty nest.

I wake up hours before he does.  The house is dark, intensifying the sounds of the rushing tap water as I make my coffee and the jarring metallic rattling of silverware pulled from the dishwasher.  I prepare for the day with quiet words in my ears and before my eyes.  He is just getting out of bed as I enter the shower, the music of his alarm breaking the stillness.  Good mornings are given in barely a whisper.

"How was your day?"  "Fine; how was yours?"  "It was okay."
A silent pas de deux in our small kitchen, opening cabinets and refrigerator and microwave door for a dinner of leftovers.  A smile exchanged across the table, over our plates.

Afterwards, one falls asleep on the couch, the other in the armchair. "Antiques Roadshow" is softly playing in the background.

Another afternoon goes by without a television or radio blaring.  Computer keystrokes play a staccato beat against the intermittent bluster of the central heater.  We sit back to back in padded office chairs, each staring at our own screen in the twilight of the study, occasionally bumping softly with a mumbled "sorry".

In the evening, the dishes clink as he cleans up the kitchen. The first to head to bed, I give him a quick hug from behind and wish him good night.  He will follow long after I am asleep.

Two quiet souls, at the end of noisy days.  We revel in the comfortable silence.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tuesday Slice: New markers

They arrive just a few days after I order them online.  Four sets of Tombow dual-ended brush markers.  I have no idea how to use them, but they were recommended by websites and friends, and I have two sketchbooks filled with heavy paper beckoning to be used.

My first attempts are doodles, swooshes, spirals.  Ombre swaths, experimenting with the blending pen.  The paper absorbs the ink, sometimes pilling in the process, but doesn't bleed through.

More swishes with different colors. A childlike landscape hearkens back to my elementary art classes.  Flowers emerge in response to gray February days. 

At the top of each page sits a sentence.  Though I'm no artist with words, they are the medium I'm most comfortable using, even with these lovely new markers at my disposal.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tuesday Slice: The night before the morning after

I tend to be an early-morning slicer.  Words flow more easily when I'm semi-coherent, barely a half cup of coffee consumed, inhibitions be damned.

Then I started reading The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.  The basic gist is that by rising a bit earlier and devoting time to self-improvement activities, your life will be more fulfilling in all sorts of ways.

I was already getting up at 430a to try and accommodate my tendency to wake up slowly, with time to write and exercise and prepare for work without rushing.  Except that I was always rushing, especially on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays--my blog writing days.  And my exercise routine was, well, less than routine.  So I've pushed back my alarm to 410a.  

It hasn't been too hard of a transition.  Mornings go fairly smoothly, and I have exercised more often.  I've also added meditation and reading, which are lovely ways to start the day.  The downside is that these new practices are eating into my writing time.

The good news is that now I'm semi-coherent, barely-awake by seven-thirty in the evening.  Since I limit caffeine after six p.m, it seems to be the perfect time to write; I'll review it in the morning and post then.  Hitting the "save" button in 3, 2, 1....

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tuesday Slice: Then and now

At a stop before the rest of the students will disembark at the school for military dependents, the bus pulls up in front of a gray building, and I step off.  Dressed in a white smock over my school clothes, I enter hallways filled with babble I don't understand, find my classroom, and take my seat in the corner.

It is my third day in an Italian elementary school, and I still feel like crying.  The teacher seems to understand this, and brings over a little, staple-bound drawing book of graph paper.  I take out my colored pencil set and draw a simple landscape.  When I'm done, the teacher labels the details in Italian in the peculiar handwriting that I see in the students' notebooks as well.  Using an Italian-English dictionary, I am able to communicate a little.

A few days later, I feel comfortable enough to join in round-robin reading.  I can follow along, and read aloud well enough for the rest to understand, but I comprehend little of what is coming out of my mouth.  The pictures in the textbooks help.


In third grade, I went to an Italian school every morning during the spring semester.  A bus would pick me up at lunchtime and take me back to Pinetamare Elementary, the DoDDS school down the street.  I can't really remember what it was like to segue back and forth between those environments each day, but I do remember the feeling of isolation those first few mornings.  I can truly empathize with ELL students.

The odd thing is that I never did pick up Italian.  There I was, totally immersed for hours each week, and all I seemed to get from the experience is an ear for the accent.  I lived in Germany later, spent quite a bit of time sightseeing with my family--and didn't learn to speak German.  

These experiences haunt me today whenever I attempt to learn a another language. One of my goals this year is to learn Spanish, which I've tried before without success.  Seems I first need to overcome the "I can't" mental block from my youthful language acquisition failures.  

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.