Every day in our life's journey holds its own special treasures, if we have eyes to see...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What Season is This Anyway?

Winter Skies
Folks in Western Montana where I just visited, they have no idea what season it is. 50 degrees one day. Two inches of snow the next morning. Maples, Willows, and daffodils all swelling into emminent bloom. One day the natives hunker down for below-zero blasts, and the next, try to decide whether to open their windows for a bit of fresh air in the hot sunshine. Here may just be the orignation of the phrase, "If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes."

Boots Today
I have lived in several states, and all the residents use this adage as if it only fits their region, (which I find humorous but also rather endearing). And more than anything, it illustrates the oft-bemoaned fact that weather is just not willing to be put in a box, turned off on a certain date, called forth at our convenience. This, of course, comes as no surprise to anyone. We just want to get into authentic springtime  A: With enough precipitation to make it through the growing season and prevent fires, and B: Without having to keep both winter and summer wardrobes stuffed in our closets.

Flip-flops Tomorrow
But on a more philosophical scale,  it has me pondering again this whole thing about seasons.  In particular, how, though summer, autumn, winter, spring do eventually arrive, while they are coming and going, and sometimes in between, they seem like other seasons. Hang with me here, because my point is that just like seasons in the natural, seasons in our life are not cut and dried with nice straight lines to help us know when we've crossed into the next one. We don't even have a calendar that announces the equinoxes. We just have one day at a time, and as those days roll by, our seasons change. We are born. We grow, enter school, navigate through teenagerhood  and into adulthood.
Circa 2006

These things are perhaps the closest we come to lines of demarcation in our lives. And yet--within each season, who knows what the "weather" will be from one day to the next. Take parenting, for example. I'm still in that season, parenting our last couple of teens remaining at home, and sometimes I find I'm longing for a more familiar time; one that had the long, golden mellowness of summer--smaller issues like bumped heads, broken toys, and tangled hair. Things a mom can take care of with one hand behind her back. (Mostly)

But  parenting looks so different as these last couple of eaglets fast-track to the brink of adulthood. They're headed right into the sunshine, flying toward their next season. But just when I think I can store the winter gear, the wind kicks up. What tool do I pull out for this one? What wisdom do I apply here? (Boots or flip-flops?) And why--this is perhaps my greatest peeve--WHY did the electronic world bring us those time-wasting, brain-jelling hand-held devices to complicate this last stage of parenthood, because you just know that every other teen in the universe is allowed to use them 24/7 with no limits and you are the only--I repeat--the only mean parent on the planet. Urg.

Iris after the Rain
Should I publish that mini-rant? Hmmm. I suppose I will because, after all, I'm waiting 15 minutes for the weather to change, the issues to morph, the brilliancy of who they are to outshine the logistics of the moment. And that's my point, whether it's parenting, relationships, work, age--Perhaps it's not so important to be able to pin down exactly where we are in our process of life as to know that no matter what it looks like at the moment, the season always arrives.

Maybe it doesn't stay long, but it does, eventually, arrive. :-)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Gold of Adversity

So far, March has been rainy. That is wonderful news, because prior to the last few weeks, Northern California was in the worst drought since the 1970's. But like pretty  much every bad situation, that drought was not without at least one benefit--parched creeks exposed places that have not been dry in a long time. Why is this good? It uncovered what had been hidden: Gold.

Yes, gold. Once again, they're finding gold in California. Maybe not enough for the known world to begin migrating west, as it did 150+ years ago. But enough to ignite fresh enthusiasm for gold hunters. It's also started me thinking: that gold has been there all along, hidden out of sight. All it needed was some large-scale adversity to expose it. Difficulty. Drought. Lack.

Interesting. How many areas in our own lives have hidden pockets of gold--wealth of character, stamina, wisdom, kindness--that we have not known of until adversity comes? And furthermore--it is not the rich areas which are revealing their hidden treasures. It's the weak ones. Picked over. Ones we've written off as hopeless or helpless.

Which has me thinking--what if I looked at the areas in my life that are not so amazing, be they circumstances, relationships, character "flaws"--looked at them not as areas of lack, but with the understanding that somewhere beneath their everyday appearance of emptiness or drought, I might find gold.

Or peacocks.

Peacocks? Yes, random. But sort of related. Because one day this week I went to ride my horse. No gold or unexpected riches there--just horses and hay and everyday. Until I walked around a corner and saw a sight so rare and so exotic as to call to mind king's palaces and the wealth of by-gone days.And so--whether we find gold or peacocks or some other unexpected beauty--I'm wondering what we each would discover if we went looking for those riches in our weaker places...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Different Shades of Change

In case nobody else has noticed, I'll risk stating the obvious: change is not all that easy. Starting is not too bad--exciting even, at times. But that grueling backstretch where the sparkle has faded, where we often lose touch with the "why" behind the change, and we're more conscious roughness of the road ahead than the distance we've come? That part is not fun.

New, fun thing of the day? Haircut.
In my previous blog entry, I introduced my New Year's quest to do one fun new thing each day. Well, I'd love to report 100% achievement in that realm, but reality puts my score at a hopeful 30%. I'm tempted to look at the 70% of the days that I have not even remembered to think about doing something new. But I've decided that one of the new and fun things I'm going to take on is to look at what I have accomplished so far rather than what still lies before me. Because really, if I look at it that way, I've made a great start--one month in, and I've gone from hardly ever intentionally planning something both new and fun, to doing it 30% of the time. That's like improving by 1% per day! Theoretically, if I keep going like this, by December I will be operating at 120%!

Sometimes an inch takes a long time to travel.
But even as I type that, I realize I need to change. Change the way I look at changing. Change is not measured by all or nothing, black and white. Change has many different shades. So--what if instead of focusing on the distance we still need to go, we all looked at how far we've come in the areas we still need to change? It would not surprise me that if we  drop the role of chief slavedriver and critic and begin to cheer ourselves on, we would begin to realize just how versatile and amazing we actually are, not all the ways we fall short. And in doing so, vision and courage would fuel us to run our race with even more determination.

Focusing on our failures leads to discouragement and robs the days of joy and our hearts of hope. But to look at
Cool water.
ourselves and recognize how valiant and how enduring we are being in the backstretch--even if that only looks like standing still instead of laying down and giving up--that gives us strength to run another day. We'd do that for someone else. In fact, we'd be rushing to their side with cool water, holding their hand, running with them toward the finish line while shouting encouraging words like "You can do it!" "You're doing great!" and "You're almost there!"

Toots has her own style of running her marathon. Prone.
Let's do that for ourselves, shall we? Let's cheer for the 5%, the 10%, the 20% of change we have accomplished so far. Let's acknowledge how some of that change has been won by great effort, though to onlookers it might appear we are but inching along. Let's recognise how far we've come and how brave we've been along the way. Pour kindness upon these hearts of ours that are trying so hard to live life and love people well, even though we fall short. You and me--we're everyday heroes in our own private marathons. We applaud each other. Let's find at least one thing we've done right every day, and start applauding ourselves!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The New in New Year

Honor out on the trail
A new year lays ahead of us, just a couple of weeks in and still unexplored. I don't typically make resolutions at the New Year, because frankly, though I'm great at starting things, about mid-year I tend to lose contact with the why behind the do, so this year I'm saving myself that mid-summer "what's-it-all-about" feeling by trying to focus on the important things in life: loving well, seeking peace, being thankful.

But a recent conversation has given rise to a different kind of New Year's resolution. What if every day we tried one new thing? Not just one new thing, but one new FUN thing. Life gets so serious sometimes. At least mine tends to, and I forget to do things just for fun.

Marker on the new trail we took today
It doesn't have to be epic, scary, or costly. It can be as small as taking a new route to get home or trying a new recipe for dinner, or as big as taking on a new sport or musical instrument. It's not about the size of the new thing, but the fact that it is new and fun.

So, without turning it into a self-imposed task that I can fail at--that wouldn't be fun, would it?--I am embarking on a year of fun, new experiences. I'm not sure what that is going to look like--so far I've explored a new recipe, learned a new car game, worn leather for the first time--but by this time next year, I figure I'll have a whole lot better idea of what is fun for me, and just how important a little bit of spice is in the great stewpot of life as we know it.

How about you? Happy Fun New Year!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Farewell, Big House

It's official. 
We have sold our big old 1883 Victorian Farmhouse in Missouri. Nostalgia washes over me even as I write that. What a wonderful and magical season we had there. Nine years. I love the big, open rooms with the wide gracious halls. I love the two staircases, the porches, the views, the Missouri farmland with its line of trees like green billows covering hills, the wind sweeping over hayfields like waves of an inland ocean, the line of stalwart Sycamores marching up the driveway.

This is the place my children spent the last years of their childhood. My oldest was married on its steps on a perfect October day. Christmases seemed like something out of a Dickens novel--not the sadness and the social injustice, but the lights across the way where our neighbor's lovely house (built in 1893) stood out like a castle in France, and our own Christmas tree filled the window bay with twinkling joy. Even the drafty old windows we remember with affection, and laugh at how on  cold winter nights, the icicles on the tree would blow in the breeze.

Recently I chatted with a friend. "You're putting down roots, here, then?" she asked, and I realized that yes, yes we are. We're sowing ourselves into this place completely and fully, for as long as that may be. 

I never thought we'd be moving from Missouri after 23 years, but again, I cannot see the future. All I know is that I am very glad to be here in Northern California, and that though I love the old house in Missouri, I would not trade it for what my life is now. It would not bring back my children's childhood, and though part of me is grieving for the season that now is past, I am not content to look backward, as if my best and dearest days are behind me.

Even now, in the quiet before the day begins, I catch the scent of this year's Christmas tree, and pondering the possibilities of the coming days and weeks, I know that the past, precious though it is, is past. The future is yet to be. But here, now, today--I live.

I treasure those things that have passed into the realm of memory. But I don't want to be stuck there. I want to keep adding daily to the treasures of life, and living now the season I will look back on with the same fondness I now feel for our time in the big house.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Wealth


Though I'm thinking that it's good that we have an official reminder of our many blessings, part of me is much more taken with the knowledge that every day is a day in which to be thankful. Thankful that I have a new morning, and as Anne of Green Gables so eloquently put it--a new day with no mistakes in it.

Actually, I'm not too afraid of mistakes, though I do make them periodically. I think what I really want to avoid is living a life looking backward with regret or forward with fear. I want to live this day fully cogniscent, fully engaged, fully connected to people with whom I have relationship, and at peace regardless of what may unfold.

I haven't done the greatest job of that today, actually. At peace, yes, but fully engaged, maybe not so much. I've cooked food, sipped coffee, worked on an article that is due, and carried on conversations with people at odd moments. But it is only now at the end of the day when all  the pie is eaten, the cold mountain night has descended, and I'm waiting for bedtime to arrive that I am focusing on thankfulness.

So here is a very partial list:

  • Thank You, Lord, for people I love and for those that love me in return.
  • Thank You for warmth, and shelter, and light, and for the hospitality of special people and their dogs, and a certain mountain cabin.
  • Thank You for food, for laughter, for a husband who is also my best friend.
  • Thank You for stalwart sons and lovely daughters (and grandaughter) and all You have in store for them.

Faces of Eire
Thank You that You love me, and if I have not lived this day to its fullest, it does not reduce Your love for me in the slightest.

You smile upon me, You sing over me, and I know that of all my very many blessings, only One I cannot live without: You.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cooking for Love

All  who love to cook will most likely not understand what I am about to say, and those who already cook for love will be like, DUH!, but for the rest of us, I thought I'd share a recent pondering about cooking.

I have cooked at least one meal a day for over 30 years. That's a lot of food. That's also a lot of work. I think perhaps (though it is a hazy memory) I once looked forward to cooking. Or not to the act of cooking, exactly, but to having someone to cook for. Enter Prince Charming, aka Dave. Definitely. But after the initial amazement wore off, cooking did not. I was basically the cook. That has been one of my jobs through the years, and actually, I think I can say without boasting that I am quite good at it.

But I can also say that cooking does not excite me. Cooking has been to me something that must be done, and since I usually have multiple things going on pretty much all waking hours, I have often resented the time cooking demands. To off-set this, I have accrued an arsenal of tasty meals I can prepare in record time. But the other evening I was watching the Pixar/Disney film Ratatouille.

In this animated flick, a rat, Remi, is a French chef. The movie is cute, but it was in the bonus features that I heard a little phrase that may have power to transform my cooking. Well, maybe not my cooking, but how I view it. In an interview, a chef made the comment that at one point in his training, it suddenly dawned on him that he was making food for people.

Okay, I know that is elementary. I mean after all--that's who most of us cook for, right? But it struck me: what if instead of cooking to get it done, I cooked with people in mind--people I love. So I tried it the other night. The dinner itself was nothing gourmet, but somehow as I thought about giving the gift of my time to create something that would bring pleasure to people--who are, after all, the greatest tresures in the earth--I found myself more intentional.

As I put in more care, genuine creativity kicked in. A little improvisation in the form of broccoli and cauliflower roasted in a smidge of browned butter and sprinkled with garlic salt---mmmm. Definitely better than plain steamed, (or my usual fast vege--plain raw).

Nothing earth shattering, eternal, or heart-rending. But on the other hand, the fact that one small phrase has the power to change a 30-year task from something that must be done to an opportunity to bless and create is pretty cool!