April 20, 2011

Mottos To Live By

"At No One's Expense" has long been my personal adage, though, at times, I don't live up to it, (Just ask my children). I do try. I really do. It is important to me that I hurt no one and that any actions on my part would only help those around me, help them feel better about themselves or to know that they are loved.

I like the  brevity of "At No One's Expense." Meaningful. Concise. Brief enough to embroider on a pillow if I so choose to. To date, I don't choose to!  While a statement that is "curtailed of its fair proportions" is easy to embroider it lacks in the finer details. 

My mini-mission for the month of April, is to find my own motto, to delve and explore, explore and delve into life mottos, (great way to put-off-until-tomorrow more responsible chores).

Wanderings through the archives of adages and maxims has definitely scratched parts of my heart and brain.  Some make me wish I was more courageous, some inspire me to fly inspite of my totally debilitating fear of heights. Some hint that my level of self esteem and self worth may be sorely lacking and others suggest that I "get over myself!"

John F. Kennedy inspires me with "Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth." 

After years and years of hacking away at comformity in my life I've come to realize that the older I grow the more non-conformists I see who look exactly like me! 

Judy Garland said it a little different, "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else."    

Helen Keller was quoted as saying, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."  Mmm, nice. Would fit well on a pillow and speaks of fortuity and sagas! Alas, while there has been adventure in my life and some daring moments, but as far as living daring adventure, well, Ms. Keller, I am afraid in comparision there has been more nothing and I kind of like that.

Have you heard of Mary Anne Radmacher?  A writer and teacher, even has a Wall on Facebook.  She suggests, "Choose with no regret." Not for me, I would be paralyzed from making any choices at all if I believed that choices could not have the option of being wrong.

Yoda, "Do or do not, there is no try." 
Yoda, sir, what about Publilius Syrus, when he said, "No one knows what he can do until he tries".

So many mottos, so many adages, so much wisdom, but I have weeded out the two that speak to me the most.

William Henry Channing composes philosophical music with his  quote: "To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common--this is my symphony."

Doesn't it just make your life come into focus, the living is in the details!  I feel as if he looked into my head and my heart and wrote this for me. But, Frederick Douglas's quote fits better on a pillow and sings to me too!

"At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed."

April 19, 2011

Trees, Creativity and Longevity

Trees are the longest living of all of God's creations on this earth. What can they teach us?

Not only does the tree live by the adage "Do No Harm" but every moment of its being a tree is conducting life in a productive, nurturing and creative manner.

The tree takes carbon dioxide into its leaves and through photosynthesis produces oxygen which benefits us all, fresh air for all breathing creatures.

The roots of the tree disperse through the earth, aerating the soil, preventing the ground from compacting. Have you ever tried to dig a hole in compacted earth?  Imagine a delicate seedling trying to break through, or a little earthworm bumping its little noggan on the hard mass of compacted earth.

The profusion of branches and leaves across the sky provides shade, a little haven of respite on a hot day. Those branches are also nooks and crannies for birds to nest, squirrels to hide their stash of winter stores.

When the leaves drop in the winter, they cover the ground, providing a blanket  As the leaves decay the process warms the soil and protect the bulbs and corms and sleeping plants. Nitrogen is produced, to feed the roots and plants.

There is never a time, in its natural state, when a tree is not being creative. It is constantly growing, bud, leaves, branches expanding it's horizons.  Even in the state of dormancy the tree is creating miles and miles of roots underground.

While a tree does not protect itself by attacking its enemies, it does not stand idly by and let it's enemies attack it.  Tree's produce bark to protect it's tender wood from infestation, from scorching in the sun's heat and from exposure to the elements. Some trees create their own chemicals, oils or gas that thwarts intruders.

Is it any wonder the bible uses a "tree" to hold the forbidden fruit even though fruit grows on so many other plant types.

Is winter a tree's sabbath?  Does it "keep holy the sabbath" by its resting?  What does a tree "DO" in the resting?

Every part of the tree above the ground is idle, it grows no leaves, no branches during dormancy. But underground, ah, underground the root system is expanding, big roots, tiny capillary roots, all are growing, preparing the foundation for the next season's growth.  Is there a message in the tree for us.  Is our day of rest merely a day to attend religious services or a period for a tranquil, openness of soul?  A day to while-away or the opportunity to really be in a state of attention, to listen, to prepare the foundation for...?

Creativity is vital to the longevity of the tree.  I believe it is also vital to our health and longevity. As long as we continue to create, to learn, to teach, we maintain vitality. What do you do to maintain your vitality?  

April 18, 2011

Jennifer Gilligan

My best friend, Jennifer Gilligan. has passed. 
A little over 38 years ago Jen and I met through our husbands, John and Jack. 
As I remember it, I had just had my daughter Nicole. She was about 4 weeks old but I was deathly ill. Jack came by the house to see the new baby and introduce himself. He was waiting for John to come home and I couldn't lift my head off the pillow it was resting on. I was so ashamed but he made me feel so comfortable. He was really nice.

John came home, we all talked and made plans to have Jack bring his wife Jen and their 3 kids by.  It might have been days or weeks before that happened but when they came by I met the best friend I would ever have. Jen was a woman who shines. She was the very definition of woman, friend, mother, wife.  She truly lived for her kids.  She lived for her husband and she lived for her friends.
We were sisters from different mothers.  Jen was from New Jersey, recently moved to Palo Alto, California. She and Jack had 3 young children. Jenny, John and Michael. John and I had 3 young children, John, Adam and Nicole.  Jenny was maybe a year or two older than their John and our John was a year younger than theirs. Thier Michael was maybe a year older than our Adam and then there was our Nicole.  Jen was maybe one of the first "non-family" people to hold Nicole or to change her diaper. When Nicole was about 18 months old, Jen gave her her first haircut, a cute little shag cut. Nicole loved Jen. Adam and John loved "Miss Jen" too.
Our husbands both worked for Ma-Bell, the telephone company so they had lots to talk about. Jen and I both loved our husbands, more than life itself second only to our love for our babies and after a short time our love for each others babies.
Then we discovered a love for making our own music. We bought guitars. Jen bought a 12 string Ovation, I had a steel string Yamaha.  We played and sang every chance.....Jen is dead!
Cancer. Cancer killed her and god-dammit, I miss her.
Jen, I miss you. I love you. I miss you. I love you.

April 16, 2011

What Do You Love?

What do you really love?

Do you really love rainy days, droplets running down the window as the reflection of the candle flickers on the glass?  The dark skies, the flashes of lightening and the crackle and rumble of thunder? Or, is rain just not your thing?

Do you love baths? Sinking into a deep tub of hot water, steam on the mirrors and some nice Michael-Bubble-ish music softly playing. Do you love your baths with rich oils or salts or do you love to surround yourself with masses and masses of bubbles? Or, does the thought of sitting in a tub of water mixed with your own dirt make you shiver with disgust?

What do you really love?

I love sipping tea in my favorite cup.  It is big and handcrafted, with a good sized handle, not those little sissy handles you can only hold with your fingertips.  The potter carved a whimsical character, part woman, part bird flying through the sky along side the stars, a carving I am sure makes the tea (or soup) so much more scrumptious.

I love drinking a full-bodied Merlot from a small hand-blown glass, a glass with bubbles still in the glass, tumbler style, no skinny uppity stem to hold the glass "the correct way."  Just the little glass, a little not-perfect, not quite round, thick glass. Alongside my little tumbler of Merlot, I love thin slices of good parmesan cheese. Not thin enough to see through or fall apart when you lift the slice to your lips but thin enough to see the light of the salt lamps on the hearth.  Of course, there will be a couple of pieces of sourdough garlic bread on the plate because that, I also love!

I love sitting in the living room and listening to the conversations of my grown children in the family room. I love the humor, the intelligence, the love...did I mention humor...of those wonderful beings.  Was it really so long ago that they were just twinkles in their daddy's eyes?

I love driving. I love being behind the wheel of the car, mirrors custom set to me and what I want to see.  I love the feel of that seat belt, snug but not too tight. I don't love cruise control, yuck!  So passive, so disconnected from the road, the journey, the experience.  I like my left leg bent so my left foot rests on the seat, my hands at  10:00 and 2:00, like my dad taught me, my left arm resting on my knee and the window sill.
Asphalt disappearing under me, the little mirages up ahead.

I love to read while my husband rests his head in my lap. I love to run my fingers through his hair and I love the smile on his sleeping face while I do so.

I love the smell of coffee beans, lavender, new pencils, lemons and oranges, dirt, first rain, sandlewood, patchouli and my husband after he's been working in the yard. I love trees, I love clouds, I love the feel of old, old shirts, old sheets and old jeans. I love sharp pencils, climbing trees, sitting on big rocks with my feet in the creek. I love children's hands and old hands, holding hands and giving a hand.

I love the dishwasher to be empty when I go to load it.  I love to fold the towels fresh out of the dryer.
I love it when I find an old book at a used book store that has writing in the margins and underlined and highlighted sentences here and there.

I love over-sized sweaters and soft pajamas and I especially love that my pajamas are for lounging around in, not for sleeping (wink wink nudge nudge).

I love my little rice pillow that I warm up in the microwave before bed and keep at the foot of the bed to warm our toes while we sleep.

What do you love?

April 07, 2011

Top Three

Thanks to Allison Writes,  I learned a new game today. Top Three. Just listing your top three of anything. "Helps to pass the time when there is nothing else to say"....like that could ever happen to me!!!

My top three of life's goodies could change on an hourly basis and, to be honest, often do.  My favorite food today, being that it is a cold afternoon, dark skies threatening still more rain, would be a thick beef stew with fresh bread.

Top Three Cold Rainy Day Meal:
Thick Beef Stew with Warm Home-Baked Wheat Bread
Warm Beef Barley Soup with grilled cheese sandwich
Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

What will we really be eating? Little Ceasar's Drive-thru special large pepperoni pizza...too depressed to cook.....could we have a little sunshine here, dang-nab-it!!!

I have to admit, I've been sitting in the quiet of the house, no music, no tv, no sounds at all....hmmm, makes me wonder if its cold in here because I forgot to turn the furnace on this morning....I'll be right back.

Top Three Favorite Sounds: (on a day like today):
The low rumble of the gas furnace.  It's on now, set it to 70.....shhh, don't tell Frank!
The plop, plop sound of a thick beef stew with plenty of potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage and barley as it bubbles on the stove.
The soft tones of my CD, Jazz for A Rainy Afternoon

Top Three Favorite Rainy Day CD's:
Jazz for A Rainy Afternoon
Come Away With Me, Nora Jones
Wreck Of The Day, Anna Nalick

Top Three Favorite Rainy Afternoon Activities:
BED...all bed activities rolled up into one long fun afternoon.
Pajamas, book, fire in fireplace, candles....the scent of sandlewood and patcholi...or beef stew!
Glass of Merlot (Apothic Red, 2009),  a big, soft Jake t-shirt (Life is Good), yoga pants, snuggly over-sized sweater and lap top....let the words flow.

Top Three Authors for a Rainy Afternoon Book:
Muriel Barbery, love her use of words, of course, I always keep a dictionary close at hand...
Robyn Carr, love her little community of Virgin River, I so want to live there..
Sara Gruen...horses, elephants, relationships...

Top Three Wishes for a Rainy Afternoon: (closely related to my favorite rainy afternoon activities)
Wish I'd shaved my legs this morning!
Wish my super soft lilac pajamas with the the tiny little daisies were clean.
Wish I had a bottle of Apothic Red Merlot (even 2008 would do).