Archive for the ‘reflection’ Category

Good-bye Mary

I lost someone else.  She lived farther away so my everyday isn’t saturated with her the way it was with my aunt.  I only miss Mary when I make a conscious effort to think about her and usually I avoid pain at all costs, but this morning I took some time to think on her life and oh the lessons she is teaching me.

Mary was my stepmother.  She was kind, caring, and supportive.  She was smart and insatiable when it came to reading.  She was always looking over a cookbook or pouring through a wellness magazine to find better ways to live and eat.  She took me and my family hiking, swimming, cross country skiing and so much more.  She took me to craft shows, bookstores and any little shop that looked interesting.  She explored every part of her world with interest and wonder.  She took my kids when I needed time to myself and gave them back when I needed them beside me.  She sent me notes to cheer me up and gave me anything she felt would help me in my own personal journey.

The last few years of her life were difficult, but she never stopped searching, she never stopped hoping and she never stopped loving those close to her.

Mary spent so much time and energy trying to be the woman she thought she should be that she never stopped long enough to realize how incredible she already was.  And with her death, the upcoming new year, and my new mantra to make everyday worth something I’m coming to realize that I am doing exactly the same thing.

I spend so much time wallowing in what I haven’t done that I’m missing what I have and furthermore, none of it matters.  None of it.  In some of the greatest love stories ever written, the the Twilight series included, the biggest draw was because he loved her just because she existed.  Who he was was drawn to her because she was alive and standing right in front of him.  She needed to do nothing other than love him back.  Which in most fictional novels, she always did.

I am valuable because I exist.  It doesn’t matter if I wrote one book or a hundred, if I have a job or work part time, if I raise one child or many.  God loves me because I exist.  Simple.  I need to recognize that I am amazing.   I need to know, in the center of my being, I am enough.

God made me.  He took the time out of his busy schedule to design and sculpt me.  There are things planted in my soul that are supposed to be there and rather than pull them out or plant around them I need to cultivate them.  I need to be who I was designed to be.  No scratch that, I need to appreciate who I am for no other reason than I exist.  There are things I am and will be called to do and even though I don’t see the value in it, He does.  I was designed for a purpose that I may never see until I am gone so in the meantime I need to appreciate who I am right now, and tomorrow who I am right then.

Life is too short to wish to be something else.  Life is just long enough to appreciate who you are, right now.

Good bye Mary.  Hello to a woman who is whole, content and centered.  Thank you for the lessons, I hope I serve them well.


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The List

Since school started its first full week I feel like my depression is on a default setting.  I wake up depressed; it’s not bad about a 5 on the depression Richter scale.  It’s enough to make me miserable, but not so bad that it can’t be fought.  So I spend each day fighting, bringing up my disposition and by the end of the day I’m feeling pretty good.  Last week I sent out three query’s, met with a friend who is going to help me build a platform, went back to yoga AND I am running every other day.  I go to bed depression free and wake up to find myself back at 5 and have to start the day all over again. 

 Today I went to yoga, did my grocery shopping, ate fairly well, managed to solve my “need to be in four places at once” problem and prepared to run early so I can shower, get the kids off the bus and get my oldest daughter to her senior photo shoot before I have to make a dessert and head to a family dinner.  I change into my running clothes and check my stupid email before I head to the treadmill, (a stupid habit I need to kill) and lo and behold my third official rejection is there to greet me. 

I know rejections are coming.  I know they are part of the process but I feel so miserable about not working full time and it’s so easy to believe I am wasting my time trying to get published.  I save my tantrum for later and hit the treadmill.  I was actually beginning to like running (a little) but today it all comes back to me why I hate it.  I hate this. I can barely do 2 minutes much less the 3 I did on Saturday and the five (!!!) I’m supposed to do today? Forget it!  I gained two pounds yesterday and for the life of me I can’t remember why I am still doing this, any of this.

 I have a friend who runs while watching really bad TV.  She knows someone who runs to really bad music.  This makes perfect sense to me.  Give me anything to distract my mind from how much my legs burn, how bad my knee hurts and that my lungs are about to explode.  What do I listen to for motivation?  Teen music.  Yup teen music; Victorious, Lemonade Mouth, Selena Gomez.  Yes, I am so pathetically sad. 

 So I ran my three minutes, quit half way through my five and ran my last three.  I can’t do this!  I hate this!  ALL OF THIS!  The pain, the feeling of failure, the stupid depression.  I hate all of it. “Breakthrough” by Lemonade Mouth comes on.  Sometimes your dreams feel so far away. Yup it does.  Feels like a string of bad days.  Two weeks actually, thanks for pointing that out.  Don’t give up.  Keep going.  Prove to the world they were wrong.

 These are the messages these songs try to send out to kids.  (Which they would get if the music wasn’t considered so totally un-cool by the kids who need them) This is what I want to tell all those kids who ask me about my book.  I want to hold up a published copy and say, “Look!  I did it!  I didn’t give up and I got published!  Don’t give up your dream!  Work hard and make your dreams come true!”  So I ran.  I ran because I don’t want to give up.  I ran because I need one good thing right now.  I ran because I want to be a published author.  I reached five minutes which may not be a big deal to some, but to someone who didn’t think she’d make even three and a half minutes today, it’s huge! 

 It’s so easy to say forget your dreams, get a job and make some money.  I struggle between holding on and giving up every day.  I guess that’s where my default five is coming from, but this life is what we make it and I would rather give up the “things” in my life than at the end of it sit in a big house regretting what I didn’t hold on to.  I wrote 50,000 words in a month, (25,000 words in three days), and I ran five whole minutes when I really didn’t believe I could.  I just added one more thing to my list.  I’ll take all those little victories and hold them close and one day not only will I add “published author” to the list I will also be able to write “inspired someone else to follow their dream.”  Now that’s a list I will be proud to reflect on while sitting on a small porch of a small house in the winter of my life. 

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I haven’t written in what seems like ages.  To say I haven’t missed it would be untrue because I have, but since school is out and a few friends and I have created a summer enrichment camp to keep our children active, unplugged and curious I have been so wrapped up in planning, field trips, and projects that I have hardly had the time to ache for it like I usually do.  My mind is whirring and buzzing with ideas that keep me busy all day and well into the night, but now the end of the month has come and I hear my blog calling.  I have no time and not much to say but I did manage to find a few minutes this morning as everyone arrived late because the kids were all so exhausted they slept in.

 Summer camp has been going on for about two weeks.  We average anywhere from, well my lowest was, two, for about an hour, all the way up to 13 children with various parents in attendance.  It has been crazy, messy, exhausting and wonderful.  Our first day with 13 was a bit overwhelming and I ended the day thinking, “oh no, I might not be able to do this,” but Wednesday came and we had a mere 9 and it was almost relaxing.  We learned about constellations, made star maps and decorated t-shirts with our favorite constellations that glow!  This week we learned the stories of Pegasus and Draco.  The boys made a mythical creatures card game and the girls made dragons, colored Pegasus and painted.  We made some cool dragon pictures that are worth framing and I sat back and marveled at how the activities I planned actually worked.

Every day after lunch we have reading time for 30 minutes.  Everybody reads, including me.  The kids each go off and find a quiet, comfortable spot and read.  The timer doesn’t start until everyone is settled and it is blissfully silent for the full half hour.  After reading time is free time and sometimes a few kids (can you believe it!) keep reading!! while others meander off to play outside or continue their work on a project they started earlier. 

After the first week I noticed my son was a little more polite and back to being curious about the world around him like he used to be.  My daughter and I spent some time swimming together and it was one of those moments I will hold as a memory of this summer.  My youngest passes out at bedtime and my son reads until he can’t keep his eyes open. 

In the simplest terms I am satisfied.  I know my kids are learning and engaged.  They are moving and getting outside and they are not only with friends, they are with me.  I am reminded that I am good at this.  Good with planning activities, entertaining kids and teaching my children that learning is an awesome adventure and I am bringing a few more along for the wild ride.  It’s going to be a good summer.

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We went camping this past weekend up at our new seasonal site and as I sat with my coffee Sunday morning, staring out into our own personal piece of the forest, I couldn’t help but notice the bugs flying and crawling around.  There were those who flew in a corkscrew motion which I thought had to be quite dizzying.  There were some that seemed to fall from above as if attached to a zip line, knowing where they were going and the exact moment they were going to get there.  There were the ones that zipped back and forth like workers at an office, getting this and getting that and getting things done.  There was one who tentatively flew upward as if he was unsure of his capabilities, but was still making steady and honorable progress.  A group of gnats was slamming themselves repeated into the fire-place wall causing me to marvel at the sheer ineffectiveness of their mode of travel.  There were others, in the leaf litter, hiding and hoping never to be seen.  And then there was the moth; sitting silently, not moving, waiting for night to return.

We often see connections in things that resonate within ourselves.  I am sure all those little bugs were doing what they were created to do without any specific considerations.  It was me who saw all those personalities.  Those were my thoughts.  There are days I feel like I’m flying in a corkscrew motion not getting anything done, days where I am flying repeated against a wall, days where I am making steady progress and occasionally  a day where I actually know where I’m going and when I’m going to get there.  But the moth, that seems to be my mode of existence.  It has taken 40 plus years for me to finally learn how to sit still and listen to my soul and there are more days than not when I do and then the darkness steals in and suddenly I am blinded by a bright light and spend the rest of the evening slamming myself into it thinking; “This is it!  This is it!  It has to be!  I’ll make it be!”  Until dawn illuminates the world and I can see the light for what it really is, an empty bulb now dark and insignificant.  And I learn.

But then the darkness returns and once again I repeat the same pattern but with a different bulb.  You would think after learning and growing so often I would be able to skip the denial part of the process, go right to accepting what the universe is trying to teach me and move things along so much more efficiently, but I don’t.  I run, avoid, and hide in the leaf litter. 

There’s a new lesson on the horizon.  I have stepped up numerous times and have turn-tailed and ran every time.  It’s not that I’m scared to learn it.  I’m just not brave enough to share it and if that is the case then this blog has become obsolete.  Because if I have to walk into unfamiliar territory to learn and can’t honestly share my journey then whatever I write won’t be here, won’t be real, won’t be who I am right now and as well written (or not) as it might be, if it’s not real then it holds no value.

I’m on the edge of another uncharted expanse, not sure of where I’m going or if I even want to get there.  I hear the call across the darkness and it’s warm and inviting, but I look back to where I am and what I know and again I am simply not sure.  I think I might stay here for a little while longer, fly a few circles, slam into a wall or two, maybe hide in the leaf litter for a bit.  The lesson will come as all of them do, in its own time and in its own way sometimes with the pointed force of a zip line and sometimes slowly and softly with the dawn of a new day.

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Yeah you guessed it, it came back.  But if you think about it, I have been depression free for 11 weeks straight.  That’s nearly 3 months! 77 days! or if you really want to get technical; one thousand eight hundred and forty eight blissful, depression free hours.  And!  I did say that by the fourth week of waiting for an agent response I would be a nut job and I have made it to five with nary an outburst.  (Well none that had to do with the book anyway.)

So what happened?  Well two of my triggers are a lack of purpose and the guilt over not having a full time job.  My husband has begun to read my book and one morning he mentioned that he was having trouble getting into the story and maybe I need to put more into it to keep the reader’s attention.  He also explained that he didn’t want to just tell me he liked it even if he didn’t.  He was not going to be someone who would simply tell me what I wanted to hear and he then gave an example, “like your friend so and so, she wouldn’t tell you to go get a job if that’s what you needed instead of what you wanted.”  Bam! my two issues in the same innocent sentence.  So off he goes to work leaving me home.  I keep busy, doing laundry and cleaning.  I was working on another spiritual problem while making some teacher gifts when sometime around 2 in the afternoon it dawned on me, “Damn, (sigh) I’m depressed.  When did that happen?”

So here I am feeling like my book will never be published, I will never be a writer and I need to start looking for some sort of full time job.  The other spiritual lesson I was working on told me to take some time.  To go with the flow, relax.  Give it three days.  (OK that’s not specific or anything)  But how can I?  I need to start looking for a real job!  I need to do something!  Relax.  But!  Relax.  But!  REEE…LAAAX!  Yeah it wasn’t going well.

By evening I had the wherewithal to check where my husband’s bookmark was.  He was on page four.  Really! Page four!  I’ve read books where the introduction lasted well into the third chapter.  He was bored on page four?  I lay in bed while he brushed his teeth and my mind automatically started going over my book.  The funny scenes, the tense scenes, the ending, all the scenes he hadn’t gotten to yet.  It’s a good story!  It does not follow a typical format and when I focused on the different scenes I became confident that someday this book, one way or another, will get published.

The next morning I got called to work.  I put on my suit jacket, grabbed my coffee, kissed my husband good-bye (sent off the two younger kids to the neighbor and dropped off my older daughter to high school) and walked into school with a full and happy heart.  It was gone just like that.

Later that night I told my husband, “you need to get to chapter two and then we’ll talk.”  Ok, chapter two got his attention.  Now he complains he’s confused and still thinks he, as the reader, needs more background on the two main characters.  He tells me what he thinks chapter two means and I tell him with a wicked smile, “That’s exactly what the author wants you to think and as for the lives of the two main characters before the beginning of the book, you will just have to wait.” 

I am having a blast watching him try to work it out because honestly what he is feeling is exactly what the author (that’s me!) wants him to feel.  The character is confused and so is he and I can’t wait until the rug gets pulled out from under him (in the story that is) in about two more chapters. 

I have always had difficulty when my writing was criticized.  My mother would tell me she didn’t understand something and I refused to write for days.  I had such a difficult start that too often I doubt my ability, which scares me because I love it so much.  My husband is helping me learn how to field criticism in the safest environment possible and I am so grateful for that and while I know the day may come where I will have to go out and get a real job, my writing is going somewhere.  Someday I will not only be able to say I am a writer but also that I am depression free because I had the confidence and pride in my own abilities and in the gifts the spirits have chosen to give to me.  I will continue to choose the way of my heart, I will work on listening to my spirit teachers and I will strive to be grateful every day for all that I have and all that I am.  There is no room in any grateful heart for depression.

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The Last Great Compromise

As we took our seats where Congress makes their opinions heard and turns ideas into laws, I expected a very nicey, nicey speech about American politics.  What I got was a man sharing the difficulties of a divided house in the nicest way possible.  “We don’t get to know each other anymore.  We don’t share who we are because too often it gets turned into something we’re not and we have lost our ability to compromise.”  Yes, we have.  Kids today don’t fight and make up anymore; they kill each other.  Divorced parents don’t try to get along.  They demean and criticize despite what it does to the children.  We are more intent on being right than we are about doing right and as a society we seem to have forgotten how to listen to different opinions and compromise.  Anyone who has served on a committee or even been a Girl Scout leader knows that if you have 12 people you will have twelve opinions and in a democratic process majority rules, unless the minority decides they want to drag out the vote so nobody wins.  How is that good?  Representative Neil said it best, “until we go back to listening to each other and regarding each other as people rather than opponents, nothing will change.”  We’ve lost our way as a nation; we need to find our way back to the beginning. 

The Beginning

When this nation was just beginning to create a persona for ourselves we built our monuments and our places of work and worship in much the same way other great civilizations built theirs, with the back-breaking labor of slaves.  It’s interesting that this nation, forged for freedom, was largely built by those who were not and this is not the only irony.  Walking around Washington you are struck by the Roman and Greek architecture, by the statues of Roman Gods and American heroes.  Union station is guarded by stone statues not unlike the Chinese Stone Army.  Lincoln sits in a structure that starkly resembles the Parthenon right down to the larger than life figure residing inside.  The inscription above his head even refers to the place as a temple.  The capital building with its domed roof is so much like the domed Cathedrals of Rome and in the center of the great structure is a painting of George Washington ascending into heaven.  In a country where we are so adamant about separation of church and state, religious ideas seemed to be dripping from the walls.   Then I walked into the Library of Congress.  Originally we had no idea what the Library of Congress was, which is rather embarrassing as it is exactly what its name implies, a library belonging to Congress (duh!).  Every bit of knowledge to have ever existed resides within these walls (or nearby walls) and being a lover of wisdom and a seeker of truth the place enthralled me.  The building is in the architectural style of the Italian Renaissance and within every curve, carving, and mosaic tile every country, religion, and school of thought is represented. 

            Thomas Jefferson believed that one could never know what knowledge would be valuable when it came to governing so he collected everything and so does the Library.  Great teachers such as Aristotle, Euripides, Jesus, Mohammed, and other great thinkers are included.  All the disciplines of learning are illustrated; Science, Language, History, Art, Mechanics, etc.  In one hall marble cherub-like figures lined the staircases each dressed and holding the tools of a trade or discipline from cities around the world.  In the center of these skilled workers were two globes and more children representing the four hemispheres of the earth, an Asian, an Indian, a European and an African.  No one race above or below another.  The building continuously acknowledges contributions of knowledge and skill from all over the world.  All I could think of was yeah, this is right.  We need to get back to this; the profound belief that every person, every culture and every religion is valuable; is not better or worse, above or below and contributes something amazing and beautiful to life. 

We humans are not perfect.  We can find ugly in every culture but why did that stop us from continuing to look for the beautiful?  We so afraid to respect and embrace  different cultures or religions because we are afraid of finding out our religious choice might be wrong when there is no right or wrong religion and if there is, well it’s not ours to judge now is it.  We need to embrace the blind love of children, revel in how our differences bring substance and  beauty to our world, and once again learn how to compromise and see other people’s point of view.  That, I believe, is the path to world peace, love, appreciation and compromise.  Our country has held the answer to this timeless question all this time, who would’ve thought it was sitting smack dab in the middle of the Library of Congress.

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I’m not very political.  Admittedly there are days I fear for our country because it seems as if people in government are more occupied with making large amounts of money than doing what’s best for the country, but since I am not very political I can’t be sure if this assessment is true or not.  I am no expert on anything other than my own self and there are days when even I lack the confidence to tell what I know, but as a parent I want my children to understand Washington D.C., our system of government and that our way of life did not come easy and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I want them to grow up being grateful for what they have and where they live instead of always wanting more and trying to find happiness in things, instead of themselves.  In the blur of “vacationing” in Washington D.C. these are some of the soft moments and the thoughts I came away with.  I was so long winded I had to break it up into two posts.

“Freedom is Not Free”

How do you explain to an 8 and two six year old twin girls why the war memorials stand?  With a little guidance, the older boys were able to understand that our freedom has been purchased with the blood and the lives of our loved ones, but the girls?  Could they get it?  Should they?  I was walking ahead with the boys explaining how the Vietnam Memorial reflected our images into the stone to symbolize our connection to those we have lost.  How the words seem to disappear in the rain to illustrate how fleeting life can be and how it appears to be a part of the hill from the other side to show the Vietnam War is a part of us and our history. 

I watch a lot of documentaries.  I am the type of person who cannot fall asleep with the TV on and my husband is the type who needs the TV to keep his mind occupied so he can fall asleep.  It is the only thing that does not mesh in our relationship although we have found a way to make it work.  We watch documentaries and when he begins to doze I can shut the program off.  If it was a movie or show I can’t shut it off until the story is over.  Because I watch this stuff before I fall asleep it gets filed in my brain first and so I am blessed with tons and tons of useless information stored up in my brain but have no idea where I leave my keys on a typical monday morning.   This is the reason I remember these facts but honestly,  I think I made the last one up.  My friend was following behind with the girls and when we looked back they were far behind and we had to wait for them.  When they finally reached the rest of us my friend explained their delay.  The girls had asked what the words meant.  She explained that each set was a name of a person who had died in the war.  They thought about that for a moment and then they hugged the wall and said Thank You.  They then spent the next few minutes straightening up the red carnations someone had left at the memorial, making sure each block had a flower in the center standing straight, tall and proud.  My friend looked at me, “Vicky, I wasn’t going to rush them.”  Six and eight years old and they found their way to remember the lost.  They found a way to not only be touched by the memories but to touch me as well.

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