Day 28: Saturday Meanderings

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This hilltop home is being buffeted by the wind AGAIN. If we have one day per week when it’s still, that is something to remark upon. When my son was leaving Wednesday night, we stepped out into the evening and everything was still.

No crickets or frogs. No bird singing itself to sleep. Not even a jet or a truck. Just the lights twinkling across the lake, the stars winking at us overheard and quiet. “You’re in the middle of nowhere,” my son stated as he got into his car.

Yes, and the middle of nowhere has its advantages and disadvantages. On the pro side, we can play music as loud as we want, keep the property as neat or unkempt as we want and no one approves or complains. We can absorb the tranquility and beauty of nature from our windows and certainly from a walk around the yard or down the road. Lake, fields, hills, valley, farms, and big sky everywhere we look.

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On the con side, you have to drive a long while to get anywhere. Like to Ithaca for groceries or a concert or to a restaurant for dinner. And people don’t always want to come out to visit because it’s a bit of a hike. If they do venture this far, I hope they feel the rewards are many: the view, it goes without saying, and good food and conversation.

This is where I wanted to be when I was six years old living with my parents and siblings in a third-story apartment in Brooklyn. I hoped and prayed for this opportunity. So you could say, I’m living my dream.

Every summer which my mother, siblings and I would spend with my grandparents, flew by with a speed that was stunning and sad. I loved every minute of each day we were given here in Interlaken and every aspect of my grandparents’ home and lifestyle. Although, they were far from wealthy, there was a comfort and solace from the cold, tough and dangerous hustle of city life that I couldn’t wait to run to.

The walks with my grandmother down the lane, into and through the woods are some of my favorite memories of my childhood summers. The sound of my grandparents starting their day in the kitchen, making coffee and eggs, the smell of kerosene when the heaters were lit during cold spells, the feeling of gratitude at twilight as I sat on the tree swing and swayed as the wind pushed me–I hold these dear.

I’m thankful I can go back there and relive those good, wholesome moments and that I had them to begin with. And I’m thankful to be telling my story in the place where my happiest moments live.

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Day 27: Stranger Things, Wizarding Weekend and Wagner’s

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Stranger Things Season 2 was released this morning at 12. I’ve been counting down the days. My daughter and her friend have probably finished most of it by now. As soon as this blog post is done, I’ll be watching episode one. I’m neither a sci-fi or horror fan, last September I binge-watched the entire first season one Wednesday when I was home nursing a cold. Winona Ryder’s portrayal of Joyce Byers, a woman on the verge of losing her mind because her son’s gone missing, plus the great cast of child actors and the creepy plot line all fascinated me. And like everyone else who’s fallen in love with the show, we’ve been impatiently waiting for the next season. I’ll let you know what I think.

This morning I wasn’t watching Stranger Things because I worked out at the gym. Alan and I are members of Seneca Fitness in Interlaken and work out there most mornings. My friends Penny and Doug McGill are the owners. Anything the McGills do is top-notch and the gym is no exception. The color scheme is teal, purple, white, magenta, and lime. The bathrooms and shower areas are downright luxurious and there is an ample supply of cardio and weight machines and free weights. On top of all that, it’s always spotlessly clean, you can come and go whenever as it’s a 24 hour facility and the membership fee is very reasonable. So, we had a good sweat session, went home, showered, ate and drove to Ithaca.

We were supposed to be visiting Wizarding Weekend, which Facebook told me started at 10AM. We got there around 12:30. The side streets, Press Bay Alley and The Commons were their normal everyday selves. No vendors. No music. No people in cool costumes. Our whole reason for going was so that we could see who sells what and if Alan or I should consider applying for a vendor space next year. I guess we’ll have to go back down on Sunday afternoon. As we were already downtown, Alan said, “Should we go into Autumn Leaves?”, which is the used bookstore on The Commons. So we spent twenty minutes perusing the shelves, but left empty-handed. Honestly, we both have a boatload of books we need to read.

 

Back at home, we are doing some work and getting ready to go to Wagner’s 20th Anniversary Celebration tonight, where Mutron Warriors, one of Alan’s favorite local bands, will be playing. It should be fun. I’ll take and share pictures.

Happy Friday! What will you be doing this weekend?

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Day 26: The Hurrier I Go

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I’m sure you’ve heard this Lewis Carroll quote,

“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

There’s a certain point at which that becomes true. Not that I am encouraging dawdling or procrastination, but hurrying hurts and usually winds up hindering our progress. Oops! I spilled something in my haste. Or, now I need to apologize for snapping at my loved one because I’ve made myself miserable trying to live at this breakneck pace.

We weren’t meant to flit and speed from one place and activity to another with no rest, no time for reflection. Here is a definition of the phrase “hurry sickness” coined by doctors Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman:

“a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time.”

This article on how to overcome hurry sickness takes a good look at the problem. We need help! As a culture, many of us don’t know how to relax or slow down, even if we only have a few pockets of time every day.

We have forgotten how to love stillness and silence, how to sit with ourselves alone and just be, how to fully enjoy a walk, appreciate the preciousness of a loved one’s smile, drink in the exquisiteness of a sunset, how to be silly and laugh long and hard, and how to look for joy in the ordinary. But we can slow down and become full of wonder again.

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This time of year, you’re probably looking ahead at the next two months wondering how you’ll get through all the activities associated with the holidays. I used to just square my shoulders and tell myself to hustle more.

And I would go through it all feeling panicky, breaking down into crying jags, yelling and being sharp with my words. And then apologizing for my unacceptable behavior. I just couldn’t handle the constant go-go-go, combined with baking like mad, lots of entertaining, the purchasing and wrapping of gifts and trying to make it all magical and perfect for my kids and anyone who came to our home.

I wanted the peace I attempted to give everyone else. I craved space, simplicity, and the beauty of delighting in small things.

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After a bunch of years doing it the hard way, with the help of books or articles I read and voices on slowing down, like Ann Voskamp’s, I am learning to change my holiday style.

Here are a few questions you might ask yourself before plunging into the season:

If I could arrange my holiday season any way I chose, what would it look like?

If I wasn’t concerned about anyone’s judgement about how I did the holidays, what would I say yes to and what would I say no to?

Who is most important to me and how can I focus on showing them love this season?

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Here is an old book that I love called Unplug the Christmas machine: How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted. It touches on typical roles that women and men take on during the holiday, four things children really want for Christmas, a simple Christmas, Christmas revival, the gift of joy, and it includes a handy resource section with recipes and alternative gift ideas. Of course, it feels dated, but it also feels wise and warm and cozy. Some of the resources may be outdated, but use the internet to find something comparable. This version is out-of-print, but amazon Marketplace has copies available.

And if you’d rather have the in-print version, that’s Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season:

The other book I’ve read over and over is: To Dance With God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration. Although I’m not a Catholic, I incorporated several of the traditions listed in this book to enrich my own and my kids’ holiday season. This book actually takes the reader through the entire church calendar, but I’ve used it for Advent and Christmas, primarily.

And finally, a sweet out-of-print old-fashioned book called The Child’s Christmas. I’m not sure how I stumbled across this one, but it follows a fictional Victorian family from Advent through Epiphany. It tells of all their traditions, what they ate and played and did, what gifts they gave and received, how they celebrated. I read it to my kids when they were seven and three.

I hope we can all find comfort and joy this year!

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Day 25: Dracula and Ukulele Duets

 

The highlight of today was that my kids came over. I saw their faces, heard their voices–what they said or didn’t say. They ate dinner at our table, jumped in surprise at the Halloween bowls that snatched at their hands and laughed at the red-eyed Dracula rising from his coffin, screaming and cackling while scary music blared in the background. After dinner, Ella did homework and Judah and I played Canasta with Alan. Judah won! Then he and I went in the library where he took up residence in my hammock swing while I played “In the Bleak Midwinter” on the ukulele. Then I gave him one ukulele, I picked up the other and we played together. Judah’s so musical I knew he’d pick it up right away and he did. We played “House of Gold” by Twenty-one Pilots and the Brother Iz version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. So much fun!

Do you ever evaluate your day and look for a common theme? Here is a rambling poem-ish for today.

If I held up my hours like precious beads

clear, opaque, shining, rough

unique, ordinary, startling, dull

and wondered what held them together

my heartbeat and breath, here as long as I am

my emotion, hot and quick like lava or cool and dark as a cave

and all the nondescript in betweens, what would it be?

It would be me–all of those facets found

at edges of tears and full blown smiles,

frayed, tense times as well as moments light and tranquil.

My thoughts, feelings and what I do with them

Giving or withholding grace, kindness, help, a listening ear.

Moving with another’s mood, finding where the pauses are and holding the silence

living the uncertainties and sadness, bringing encouragement to a downtrodden soul

being myself and loving out, loving deep, loving into and through

the things I’d rather not remember and what I’m most proud of

there is an art to being alive, to being. So I will keep being me.

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Day 24: All Day Short

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The iPhone woke my sleepy self up at 7 this morning. I’m never a morning person, so knowing the misery of rising before the sun in the dark and cold was affecting most other people in our time zone, especially my kids getting ready for school, made it slightly easier.

I had an 8AM hair appointment with Penny, my dear friend who has done my hair since I was nine years old. That means during the mid-eighties’ perm rocker look, the early nineties’ spiral perm, the drastic short cut when I was eighteen and everything since then.

Penny’s salon is in the Village of Interlaken. When I walk up the steps toward the salon, I feel like I’m home. Almost as if my grandma was nearby–that kind of home feeling. It’s comforting and laid back. We chat about all the important things. We laugh and we even cry once in a while.

No crying today though. Just positive conversation with her and her husband when he stopped in for a minute. I left with my hair feeling silky and smooth. The day’s beauty was in full swing–color exploding everywhere as the trees danced around in the wind, the sky a crisp fall blue, and the sun making everything pop.

The rest of my day was a collection of nothing much. I searched for a certain color of blue fabric that a friend wanted so that I could make her a couple of pillows. And I didn’t find anything. I’ll have to email her a couple of other options. I looked at Etsy for supplies and searched online to find out how we could have mugs and clocks made up of Alan’s images so we could resell them. I texted with a few friends.

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As the sun went down, I ran outside and messed around with my camera, which I’ve never really bothered to learn to use properly. Then I went in, turned on all the Halloween lights, and made dinner: lemon-pepper flounder, baked sweet potatoes and a salad with miso-tahini dressing. (And yes, you got that right. I’m eating fish again. My body just needed a change.)

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I guess I did a lot of what Charlotte Mason called, “Masterly Inactivity”. I felt pretty useless, but my brain and body needed the relative rest and are gearing up for lots of new creative endeavors in the coming days and weeks.

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Day 23: Crafting a Journey

Today I ran errands. OMG, it took five hours. I tried to get everything done, including all the craft supplies and the grocery shopping at three different places. Driving from Interlaken to Ithaca, I drove behind a pickup truck the entire way.

At the local fabric store, a very sweet woman cut my fabric for me, but took twenty-five minutes doing it. She talked about her own craft business and her divorce and how happy she is now. After the initial hello, I settled in for a good long listen. Maybe I have that kind of face? People want to tell me things. It was ok, but my progress was slow.

After all the stops, including Wegmans where I saw my parents, and two Trumansburg stores, I crawled home following a huge, red, belching dump truck going ten miles under the speed limit.

What I listened to the whole time in the car was this On Being podcastKrista Tippett had a conversation with Mary Catherine Bateson, who wrote Composing a Life, which I’ve never read but want to. She is also Margaret Mead’s daughter. I first really looked into Margaret Mead’s life in the fictional book Euphoria that I read last year. She talked about how our life can be an art form.

These deep and rich conversations help me evaluate my own way of living and give me tools to explore the questions about whether or not my life is going in the direction I’d like it to. Am I composing or arranging my moments, these fleeting days and nights, in a manner that I can be proud of? Am I generous and kind? Do I take time for the important relationships? Am I developing my character and not giving into selfishness and being blindsided by my natural tendencies and biases? Am I growing and enriching my soul with nourishing practices? Music, instruments, books, art all come to mind for me.

It’s late and there are fifteen teenagers partying outside this room, so my thoughts are jumbled and I might not be making much sense. But, check out that podcast, if you haven’t, and OnBeing in general. And please share what you think about it.

Day 22: Transition Tidbits

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So many people I know are in transition right now, including yours truly. What I’ve experienced and know is that while you’re in it, emotions are raw, negative thoughts can overwhelm, loneliness and fear live close by, and the questions about self-worth, purpose and future beg for your attention.

You might feel like you live in a dark place, as if you’re a seed in the ground, lying as if dead, solitary and useless. Nothing is happening! What’s the point of anything? Where are my people? Am I the only one?

If you’ve been through a transition or two in your life, you know the discomfort and misery associated with these seasons. The little glimmer of hope is: it’s just a season. There will be a close to this chapter and another one beginning. Here a couple things that are helping me through my own transition.

1. Dig Deep. While you’re here, you might as well quit ignoring the really important soul-searching you need to do. Explore the questions. Live the questions, as this poet said so eloquently on Goodreads.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Sit with those words and live the questions. Live the tears, the disappointment, the hurt when friends distance themselves from you because they don’t get it, Think about what really matters to you, who are the people you care about and who care about you. You are grieving what was, what is lost.

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2. Reach out. Some days will feel like too much, which is why we all need people to help us through. Reach out to the people who love you: your spouse or partner, your parent, your friend. Let them listen, share their stories, walk with you through this.

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3. Give of yourself. On the flip side, give through your hurt. Invite someone to your place for coffee or dinner, help them with a project–basically, do something for someone else. It feels so good to give to another. Your suffering will be alleviated when you do this and you will strengthen the relationship with a person you love.

4. Be creative. As often as you can, build creativity into your life. You might have some open spaces in your schedule to pick up an instrument you’ve been meaning to practice, dust off your bookshelf and read the books you’ve accumulated, return to a hobby or craft that used to bring you enjoyment or try something new. Plant a small herb or flower garden or an indoor window box garden. With Youtube, you can honestly find out how to do just about anything.

5. Dream and plan. Also, take time to dream and plan. Take the limits off as you write your dreams and make plans to move toward them. Transition may be extremely disorienting and difficult, but now is the time that you will find new inspiration, new ideas and bursts of creativity. Don’t miss these opportunities! Don’t settle!

6. Act on it. As the ideas come to you, find a real way to bring them to life. You might change your career trajectory, you might launch a business, you might make many new friends, you might write a book, get into visual art, start building things, develop a passion for cooking, or learn how to DIY just about anything.

You still have a life with the potential for growth in every way possible. You will make it through. Be kind to yourself. You are on a journey that is unique to you. Today is full of wonder and discovery, if you keep your eyes open.

Here are a few book titles that may assist you on your journey:

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey

The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom by Henri Nouwen

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer