Monthly Archives: January 2010

My balloon ride

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     Vacation…vacation…vacation…It is something I spend the whole year dreaming about, anticipating the relaxing moments when I don’t have a care in the world besides what restaurant to eat at or what exotic drink to order.  All day could be spent on a beach under an umbrella reading a favorite novel or poolside, pampered by endless cocktails and droplets of water to cool me off. Maybe it’s a ski resort with long days spent on the slopes and nights relaxing by a fireplace with hot chocolate and huge marshmallows that stick to my upper lip every time I take a sip. There are nightclubs for dancing until three in the morning and a small cafe open 24 hours for that last little treat before the sun comes up. These are a few of my favorite vacation daydreams. 

     They’re not realistic, I know. I don’t consider the bugs that keep lighting and sticking onto my oily skin at the beach or the jerk that cannonballs into the pool, dousing everyone and leaving me with a watered down chlorine cocktail. Or the aching knees from spending all day skiing and the inability to put one foot in front of the other without wincing from the sharp pain in my back. The nightclubs are out of the question because I can’t keep my eyes open past 10 pm and the quaint little cafe has been out of business for weeks. It’s being replaced by yet another souvenir shop. 

          Vacation, for me, feels like a hot air balloon trip, floating effortlessly above my crazy, hectic life. There may be some initial difficulty getting off the ground but reality is overcome as the basket begins to lift off and carries me to new places and to see new things. I am liberated from all my cares and responsibilities. Sweet freedom. Maybe it’s selfish, but it feels good to leave everyone behind and just enjoy. My cup overflows with nothing but time. This liberating concoction refreshes my soul and washes away the layers of dirt and grime that have accumulated from the day to day grind. Schedules to keep, discipline to dish out, conflicts to resolve, checkbooks to balance, all gone with four little words: I’m on vacation!  The balloon floats higher and higher, but ultimately, without notice, the wind changes and the balloon ride is soon to be over. 

      As the burden of replotting my course rests on my shoulders, I take the balloon down a little and try to catch the draft again before I veer too far off course. Maybe this is just a temporary setback. A mere miscalculation. Throughout the rest of the ride, I may find that sweet current again and ride the wind as far as I can take it, but eventually, I will have to come back down. Sometimes, the landing back into reality can be harsh and abrupt. Instantly bombarded with siblings bickering and dishes left in every room, I mourn the loss of my time and struggle with getting back into the swing of sharing myself again. Don’t get me wrong, my family life is not bad. I enjoy my family immensely and they give me joy every day (sometimes I have to look under piles of clothing on the floor to find it, but I do).   

     Kurtiss and I just returned from Las Vegas. It was our first true getaway since we have had kids (almost 13 years). The balloon doesn’t just lift off smoothly after being grounded for so many years but we were finally able to enjoy our time and drift carelessly in the prevailing winds. It wasn’t perfect. We were tired, had aching backs from walking all day and throbbing headaches from drinking two beers (lightweights, I know) but it was good to rediscover what time together feels like.  We had and exceptionally smooth landing as we were greeted with smiling faces, a clean house, and stories of what happened while we were gone. A sweet welcome back to our life on the ground. Time to start daydreaming again….

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I’m an air head!

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Giving in to the analytical side of myself, I decided to get a book on how to meditate. I’ve trudged along in the mornings, dedicating at least 15 minutes to the process of meditating, and I need help. I have discovered two distinct ‘awarenesses’ that I have: popcorn brain and foggy shores. Popcorn brain is fueled by caffeine. My morning coffee acts as the hot oil that warms up the kernels and gets the thoughts sizzling, just waiting to pop. Ideas begin to randomly escape and fly freely across my brain, eventually, popping uncontrollably and encouraging other ideas to pop along with them. Completely random. Not productive. Once the calamity begins, it’s hard to control and before I know it, my 15 minutes is over and I’ve popped a whole bag worth of nothing. Nothing meaningful, anyway. Now the opposite of that is foggy shores. This is that fog that hangs over the mountains on the shoreline, or in this case, my head. The fog is too thick to fight so you just sit and close your eyes, melting into the sweet sleep that greedily envelops you. Foggy shores is my brain without coffee in the morning; just go back to sleep, don’t think, no dialogue, just sleep. This will get you nowhere in meditation except maybe well rested for your next attempt.

So, I decided that help was needed and I enlisted the help of some dummies. Yes,  Meditating for Dummies. Perfect. I wanted something that would address me as a beginner but I could grow with as I got better. I wanted tools of the trade, not new age verbiage that talked of ethereal, airy fairy methods.

As I sat down this morning, armed with my two chapters of meditating insight, I awaited enlightenment. I was a little foggy so I poured half a cup of coffee to avoid the early morning bag of nothing.  It didn’t help that the wind was howling this morning, driving the rain straight against the windows or that my battery operated clock was ticking extra loud (I’ve never even noticed that clock before). Both my feet fell asleep in the semi-lotus position that I was attempting and my back does not stack like they say in the book. I’m constructed more like the leaning tower of Pisa. But, amidst all this brouhaha, I did manage to close a mental door, seal off the windows and pull the shades for a few minutes. The feeling was like a black void above my eyes. Emptiness. All my thoughts were pushed to the outer rim of my brain where I could keep them at bay and I “lived in the breath” for a few fleeting moments. Excited by this miniature break-through, I completely blew it and giggled with glee. I know, I know, I’ll never get to enlightenment if I crash and burn with every baby step but it was exciting! It was progress.

Now, being blonde, empty-headed is not something I normally strive for but I am extremely proud of the emptiness between my ears this morning. So, today, on this very blog, I am standing up and bravely stating, “I am an air head!” (with conditions).  🙂

Stay the course…

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   It is so easy to get distracted. Television, internet, books, good weather, a good sale; anything can be a good distraction from something that is difficult and I’ve used them all. Personal discipline is my challenge. I set forth at the beginning of the year to learn what it means to be disciplined in something, to do it no matter what, and I have hit my first road block. It’s not a big one, but it has given me some insight into my behavior and my past failures. I have an “All for the cause” problem. I will drop anything, meaning any personal challenge I have taken on, to aid in someone else’s challenges and help them become victorious. OK, so what’s the problem you ask? I never get anywhere in my personal journey because I am always taking the offramp to a nobler cause.  

   I have found it extremely difficult to focus on anything after the earthquake. Now, I know that it is a good cause and worthy of my attention and compassion. I want to help, pray, give money, adopt: do whatever I can do to make a difference in this time of need. It hits close to home with a brother from my church family still missing in Haiti. I am not saying that this does not deserve my attention and prayer, it does and I will continue to spend my time praying for his safe rescue and the rescue of others. What has been eye-opening for me is my willingness to give up on my challenges (writing, working out, and meditating) to focus on this event which I can do very little about. 

   I didn’t want to write. I felt too overwhelmed and numb so I didn’t want to write anything, it could wait until next week, right? (My discipline is to write something every day.) I was able to workout but I felt a yearning to just sit on the couch and watch the latest news updates or check online for news of a rescue. Laziness? Maybe…But it is more of an unwillingness to do it, like I’m fighting it. I did meditate but only for my required minimum, 15 minutes, and then I jumped back on the internet, not to write of my experience, but to read any updates from overnight. (My discipline is to meditate every morning). At the end of the day, I used up my time and was content to say, “Oh well, I just didn’t have time. This is more important right now.”  Not true. I had time but I CHOSE to override my resposibilities to take on a bigger cause. I am very familiar with the “all for the cause” highway and have taken this route many times, diverting my energy from the path I need to journey on.  Eventually, my path becomes overgrown and eventually disappears.  

Today I begrudgingly sat in meditation, wanting to turn on the news instead, and prayed. I was reminded of a finish line. I need to get to the finish line this year. I need to balance my “I must drop everything for the cause” mentality and stay the course even though I want to abandon ship. Stay the course. This balance requires discipline. Stay the course.

Psalm 91:14-16

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Please pray for the victims still not found…

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Week 2 …For Haiti

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This has been a down week, topped off by the tragedy in Haiti which has left me numb. Week 2 was a struggle.

For the lighter stuff…Meditation has been difficult at best. My children have decided that they are morning people now and are crashing my meditation party in the wee hours of the morning. They stumble out of bed, groggy-eyed and grumpy, eat, and start making their lunches for the day. Now, normally I would be ecstatic about this get up and go mentality they are showing but they are SO noisy in the process! I send them into my room so I can have some peace but the interruption itself is brutal to my zen! My thoughts begin to wander and the next thing you know, I have scheduled a doctors appointment for Sidney, found enough change for Hailey’s lunch, and put out clean clothes and deodorant for my teenager. Discipline! Discipline! Discipline! I don’t have it this week! I must take pride in the fact that I have been  ‘sitting’ every morning and just hope that the stillness in my brain will return. Just live in the breath!

Our family venture into minimalism is progressing quite nicely. The girls sat and picked through every item in their room and gave over 300 items away (they really don’t have that much stuff, we just counted every pokemon card and pet shop accessory individually). At first, there was some heavy debate over which pony was ready to pony up and head off into the wild blue yonder but after the first few items, they filled the boxes with little argument and I think they even enjoyed it (they would never admit that so you’ll just have to take my word for it :)).

40 x 40 was not in full gear this week due to my aching back and fighting off illness. I did manage to workout 4 days and lose another pound (week 2 curse!) so I am taking it and running, literally!

Now to Haiti…Helpless…Hurting…Hopeful…The earthquake vastly changed my week. I found myself cycling through these emotions in no specific order, addicted to the news, waiting for any word on rescues or a glimpse of food, water or medical aid being handed out. I watched the dead bodies being cast aside and wept for their loved ones who would have wanted a proper burial for them. This isn’t the funeral they wanted. This isn’t the way they wanted to go. There are so many dead that they are now just a number and have to be bull-dozed out of the way and buried in a big hole. They were a mother, daughter, or sister, just like I am. It’s uncomprehensible. I guess it doesn’t matter, their spirits have moved on and they are with God, but it just seems so wrong. I know I can donate. I have given what I can and am amazed at the response from the world but even so, I still feel so helpless. I guess it really is in the hands of God and all we can do is pray. It’s one of those times in life when we can’t do it our way. We can’t escape the prayer part of it and just work at it until we get the results we want. That isn’t an option here. We truly have to give up all control to a higher power and sit.  

I do believe that good will come out of this. Right now all we can feel is the pain to the point that it’s numbing. There is great sadness for the mothers torn from their children, the fathers burying their parents and the children who can’t understand that they are now orphans. Their lives have changed forever. How can we not question why? We are told God has a plan but how does it make any sense right now? It doesn’t. At this time of sadness and helplessness, I am hopeful for God’s plan. I can only hope that He has many blessings to bestow on this country and these people that have suffered so much and that this was necessary in the big scheme of it all.

51 to go

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What a week! I feel like I’ve lived a whole life in the confines of these last eight days.

We (by we, I mean everyone else in my family except me because I couldn’t quite make it to midnight) rang in the new year at a neighborhood get together. I mingled with a man from Costa Rica, a couple that worked at the Pentagon on the dreaded  9/11 and a man that had entirely too many beverages from the complimentary bar. I didn’t catch his name or what he does, but he sure was funny. There were many fascinating stories and I soaked them up, especially after coming from such a stale, unfriendly environment in our old neighborhood. A great start to the New Year.

I began my quest of the sunrise and have sat in silence every morning, seeking divine intervention while enjoying the vibrant colors. I found that some mornings I come ready to chat and others, not so much. I have a tough time clearing my head, especially on those chatty mornings, but discovered the phrase “Just live in the breath.” and it helps. Pushing all thoughts aside is not a skill that comes easily to this multi-tasker so if I can keep the grocery list and laundry in line and give the boxes to unpack an unfriendly glare, I may have a chance.

The 40 x 40 challenge – I ran my first 5K of the year. I thought I was going to die around mile 2.5 but I slapped myself, started counting telephone poles and pushed through.  The squirrels mocked me as they darted around effortlessly when I came walking, I mean, running by.  All jokes aside, I am sore and tired but feeling stronger and ready for the next run. (Now it’s unofficially 37 x 40).

What I thought would be the easiest challenge, getting rid of 100 things, has proven to be more of a bear than I thought. I went through each room and gathered two garbage bags full of clothes that were too small and things we hadn’t used in six months, and I was quite proud of the results. I tallied the items up for each person and was stunned to find that only one of us had made it to the half-way point and it wasn’t me! So, this weekend I will be rummaging through again, re-evaluating my need for certain items and surely completing the 100 item list.

Although the year sounds busy so far, there has been a stillness about it that I am enjoying. I am so excited to see what this year will hold. If it’s anything like the last few years, it will be full of uncomfortable change that eventually, after much kicking and screaming, finds its way into my predictable routine. 51 to go….

The earth move

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There was a moment this morning as I faced the upcoming sun that I actually experienced the earth move. I normally can’t wait out the entire sunrise due to school and work schedules so I settle for the pre-sunrise, the deep blues, brooding violets and gorgeous pinks but no sun. Today is Saturday so I planned to watch the whole thing. The pre-sunrise was brilliant and I had to take some pictures of the amazing colors, they were simply breathtaking. I then, sat down and awaited the sun itself. My eyes were closed and I faced the light so I could soak up the warmth and intensity as it washed over me. I’m such a lion. At the top of my vision I sensed a pulse of light. I knew it was coming. It was beautiful and I basked in it, anticipating the full sunrise soon. The pulse continued every second or so and became a little hypnotic, like a heartbeat. I began to wonder if my breathing was causing the waves of advancing light, the natural rise and fall of breathing bringing more light into my view, so I held my breath. Sure enough, the waves kept coming, having nothing to do with me. Then, still trying to gain an explanation for it, I thought someone was flashing a light in front of me (my son was awake by this time and I wouldn’t put it past him to do something goofy like that), so I opened my eyes just to check. Nope, no flashlight. I quickly closed my eyes again to see if I could find it again. There it was. Steadily crossing my field of vision like a wave of light, bringing more and more of the rays with it every time. Then it hit me. It’s the earth moving. The actual sun rising over the horizon and the rays, multiplying and hitting me with each tick of the earth’s clock. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. I kept my eyes tightly closed and just focused on the waves. Soon, my eyes were too satiated with light to notice the next wave and it was over.  Wow.

Cereal Pettiness

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Does it really matter who got the cereal from the cabinet and who gets to pour it first into their bowl? Is it fair to grab the cereal from the current owner while they are searching for a spoon and pour it? Why does the other persons cup of cereal always look bigger? Can a morning go by without this conversation?

I know God is training me here at something but I’m not sure what.

Yours, mine and ours…

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Kurtiss and I had heard about a challenge to live on 100 items or less and thought that this might be something we could do, you know, declutter our lives a bit (we just moved so we felt inspired). Let me tell you, 100 items, ain’t very many. I would like to say that this would be a breeze, that I’m not attached to my superficial, materialistic junk that masquerades as my stuff but sadly, I would be lying. Don’t get me wrong, I can get rid of things. I love to downsize. Once something is no longer functional, it’s on its way to a Goodwill shelf and a new owner but 100 things for 5 people?

Maybe they really mean 100 things for each person. Yeah, that’s got to be it! 100 items per person. That’s manageable. But, does this include the kitchen? Whose 100 has to include the silverware and drawer full of gadgets? What about jewelry, can I just lump it all together as one item? Toys and Pokemon cards? My kids will get rid of all their clothes to keep 100 Pokemon cards I’m sure. What about the linens and towels? I don’t want them on my list, that wouldn’t be fair! There are so many questions bombarding my brain! I am sweating. I don’t want to get rid of that, that’s special. Nope, not that. Anxiety. Have to keep that. Fear. What if I get rid of something I will really need? I always like to be prepared, ahead of the game. I couldn’t possibly get rid of that. Even 100 items per person is not going to be easy.

After much deliberation (and sweating), I decided that we could each get RID of 100 items. This will be a great start on our journey and help us break the dependence on our stuff. Some things don’t require any thought, give it away or must have. Those are easy. It’s all the stuff in between that has varying degrees of emotional attachment to it. As our collection of belongings gets smaller, the question will be harder to answer. What does this item give to me emotionally? Can it be replaced? Do I REALLY need it? 

I don’t know how to answer the questions right now but I look forward to the debates. I think we will all gain a little insight into ourselves as we toss away years of baggage, literally. I plan on decluttering again in April, July, and October.

Day One

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The first sunrise…

The dark violets commence. A simple, bass rumbles faintly in the distance.  The heavy hues line the underbelly of the unsuspecting clouds and set forth a strong, steady tempo. Adagio. I know what is coming and wait with anticipation. The bass is joined by a simple percussion ensemble, reinforcing the indolent pace but also adding a subtle radiance to transform the violet into a deep brooding burgundy. All hail the incessant beat as it propels forward.

There is a constant shifting of color on the horizon, a theme that will play out across the sky as the orchestra of colors reaches out to everything in sight. The burgundy has given way to a deep amber which flows into a brilliant mixture of orange and yellow. The conductor evokes perfection in every pigment. Off in the distance a whisper of pink begins, a blush of what is to come. An ensemble of strings begins and carries the beautiful veil of pink across the heavens. It is delicate, yet vibrant as it marches forth.

The canvas is aloof to the masterpiece being played out.  The melodies are unique, never to be played this way again. The strings of pink are replaced by the trumpeting of orange as it marches across the sky –  boldly making its claim. As the clouds on the horizon become singed with a burning yellow the composition reaches its peak. A flutter of anticipation in my chest as the volume is turned up to fortissimo. This is it! The finale. The symphony climaxes with every section collaborating, weaving a flamboyant fabric of reds, yellows, and oranges in perfect time. A masterpiece.

The pinks are my favorite. I get giddy inside when I see them. I have made it a personal goal to attend every sunrise this year. I am eager to spend this time in stillness. I am an early riser, so that is not the challenge for me. My challenge comes in the discipline of sitting still, more specifically, my mind sitting still. The plan is to focus on prayer, worship, and meditation.  I hope to understand discipline in devotion and hopefully gain an inner peace through this process.  My updates will not be daily but sporadic as I expect to “do a lot of time” before any breakthroughs or aha’s are revealed.