Equanimity

A few weeks ago my little family and I took a trip to a neighboring city about an hour away. We had lunch, got some fabulous family pictures taken by the lovely and talented Alisha Stamper and then headed to the Springville Museum of Art.

Springville, Utah! Also known as Art City, piqued my interest as we drove up her streets. I could see myself living in a quaint town like Springville. Especially a town with an incredible art museum!

Lately I have been craving art. Can one crave art? I think so. For Christmas I took some liberties with the pocketbook and purchased myself a few Caitlyn Connolly giclee prints. She is…well, amazing.

There are a few Connolly paintings in the museum and their larger than life size could put anyone in a thoughtful mood. Art does that. In browsing the art galleries, it felt to me like all of the artists were able to portray so much in their work. It was almost as if they climbed into my heart and created their pieces with me, a disgruntled commoner, in mind. There were two pieces that touched me very deeply. I didn’t expect to be moved like I was. The first piece was a marble sculpture of a nude mother nursing her newborn. A perfect depiction of a very special brand of beautiful.

Wow. I am a mother. I have a new baby. I breastfeed. I am beautiful. This process is beautiful. How grateful I am. 

Unfortunately, with my little family in tow, it was difficult to fully acknowledge the upwelling I felt. We hurried on from one gallery wall to the next, all while monitoring little wandering hands.

Henry! Don’t touch the art! Keep your hands in your pockets.”

Yet, I was thinking:
I know, I want to reach out too, and say thank you with my gentle touch. Are you real? Did you just speak to me? How did you know just what to say?

I learned a new word: Equanimity. It means being able to keep a balanced, mental calmness, particularly during difficult situations.
I realized that I have been getting the word “apathy” confused with this new found word, “equanimity”. I read this paper which explains the difference beautifully. Maybe you’ll take a gander?

I won’t take the time to go into detail about why the girl in this painting by Justin Kunz reached out and held my heart and my tears for a fleeting moment that day. But she did and I am so grateful.

Learning the practice of equanimity is something that is becoming very important to me. This seems to be what is allowing me to survive and I’d dare say, thrive, right now.

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Equanimity 2011 by Justin Kunz, Lindon UT

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Dancing with Gratitude

From November 28, 2013

I woke this morning to a sweet text message from my hippie mother. It was a Happy Thanksgiving dance filled with spontaneity and love. Of course I had to reply in the same manner. Dancing just makes me happy, pure and simple. It raises the endorphins and lifts my spirits without fail. Today amid the chaos of trying to get out of the house for the long awaited feast at dad’s, I felt gratitude for my parents, for my children, for my husband and for a small moment in time that we took to celebrate a special connection between us all.

Today I felt an overwhelming peace in being with family. For my dear parents who slaved in the kitchen to prepare a wonderful meal for those of us that gathered. And while all my family contributed was a pot of mashed potatoes, when added to the host of other goodies, I see that it was enough. What I mean is that we all of us, in this crazy hodgepodge family of mine, have something to bring and share. It’s what makes us all laugh and smile one with another. Today I celebrate the goodness of my life and those I have privilege to share space with.

I know one thing that I love you
I love you, I love you, I love you!

Happy thanksgiving!

Esperanza Pie

Esperanza. Say it: [es-pay-rahn’-zah]. Feel it. Hope.

I am learning to have hope in all things good. Today was a lesson in hope. A lesson in goodness. A lesson in love and friendship. A day about worthy investments and doing things that matter with the people that matter.

Today I stepped into a space where hope blanketed my soul with her sweet aroma of peace and comfort. Baked at 400 degrees for 50 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Sweet Esperanza Peach Pie!

And I know it wasn’t about the pie. But the symbolism of coming together and creating something meaningful and good. Full of hope and friendship. I am filled. Thank you, my dear friend Cathy!  IMG_8232[1] IMG_8233[1]

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The Invisible Woman

I have got to get something through my head. My hard, thick skull. It seems some times it is impenetrable. Listen carefully, Holly:

It is not about you.

Why is that so hard to internalize and practice?

I read this article just now called The Invisible Woman. I am blown away when I think of the many women and mothers I know who truly are “invisible women” and take honor in that. Wow. I see you. And I thank you for your example.

 

When Old is old

I’m not sure exactly what I mean when I say “Old is old.” But it seems fitting when I think about my dear grandmother who recently passed away. She had just celebrated her 97th birthday a few months earlier and in February of this year, her body was just done.

I wonder how tired she must have been. Not just physically, but in her whole being, knowing that her last day was imminent. Did she wake each morning with astonishment? Did she appreciate her time up until the very last second?  During those last few months, though living with her daughter, Grandma was mobile and quick of mind. Her hearing was pretty much shot, so the visits we had were her just taking in her surroundings and doing her best to be pleasant, even though she had no idea what we were all talking about. I’m sure it must have been very frustrating for her.

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Grandma with her son Steve. Notice the busy-ness of the room around her. I imagine this image captures what she lived in for quite some time.

I had a nagging feeling for months before her passing that I should write her a letter- an authentic letter that was just me really talking to her with no expectation of reply. I wanted her to know me on a deeper level than just what I was up to in my life or how the weather was in my part of town. When I wrote that letter, I felt connected to her. Her life experience, though I am only aware of bits and pieces of it, (like the time she and her sister Clea kept messing up the pastry recipe and ended up making 10 pies instead of just two), speaks volumes when she herself does not. Grandma was the most quiet woman I knew. I have only ever heard her speak up in a group setting at my little brother’s baptism. And even then, she did not get up in front of everyone, she sat directly in front of him and spoke just to him. The picture below reminded me of that. Very touching.

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Grandma with her son, Gary.

I sent that letter with peace, knowing that I had truly opened my heart to her. I shared deep feelings, fears and secret stories that only she and I know. I wanted her to know I still believed in her. I appreciated her and our special relationship. I told her that I still counted steps like her. (Four on her front porch. Seven on mine.)  I reminded her that “a sigh is from the heart” as she always said.

Her quiet presence actually helped me notice her. I have fond memories of sitting with her at her pink kitchen table painting her nails. I would buy her outrageously loud red nail polish, which she’d refuse to accept. She did let me paint her nails a bright neon pink on one occasion, but when I returned a few days later, she had taken it off. How nice it was for her to humor me and share fun time with me! She let me paint her nails one last time on her last birthday.

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Aunt Vera also joined in the fun!

When I was in high school, her home was a safe place. Staying at grandmas house was a delight for me to escape my own home for a while. Her big beautiful Victorian home sits on a large plot on the corner a few blocks from the high school. Lilacs and peonies dot her yard. It is one of a few original homes of the Kamas Valley that are still standing. (The house she grew up in is just a few blocks west!)

Like most people who have lived a long time, Grandma resisted change. Each day, her breakfast consisted of a fried egg and toast. Day in and day out- an egg fried up in her little black cast iron pan on that ancient electric GE stove. When you do something so frequently, it just becomes second nature. A fried egg will always remind me of Grandma. And I find myself frying one up just in honor of her.  Of course they always tasted so much better when she fried it. Add to the egg a slice of her famous white bread (whose recipe has unfortunately has died with her) with a dollop of strawberry freezer jam and a piping hot cup of *Postum (brewed with milk, not water) and my life could not get any better! (By the way, how tragic that Postum has been discontinued!)

There are many little things that will always remind me of Grandma. Her small frame lives on in me. My hands move as hers did. My feet are her feet. My children and I will continue sit around her pink table.  What an honor it was to be able to share space with her for as long as I did.  But truth be told, that old is old and she must move on. I pray there are happy friends and family to greet her on the other side and plenty of lilacs to brighten her spirit.

Lorna Carpenter Butler, 1915-2012

Peace to you Grandma. Until we meet again. Maybe you’ll have a reply to my letter then.

 

A few of my favorite obsessions

I don’t mean to have obsessions, but we all do it: little things that we just cannot help. They lend themselves to spectacular writing material.  In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite things and behaviors that have somehow turned themselves into minor obsessions of mine.

1) Click-clacking my teeth together. I developed this strange habit when I was 15 or 16. My teeth, out of nowhere will turn into little castanets and click back and forth horizontally across my mouth while I count.  Over and over and over  like a scratched CD. I don’t even know how high I count, and I’ll start over counting if I am clicking too fast to keep up. This strange behavior would fall easily into the Obsessive Compulsive behavior category. I don’t know exactly what triggers it. The first time I caught myself doing it, I realized it was completely weird and I shook my head as if it was a ketchup bottle to make myself stop.  So clearly I remember that I was staring trance-like out of a smudgy bus window watching the blurry landscape of Portugal whiz by. Clickety-clack, clickety-clack.

I hope my teeth don’t wear themselves down from doing this.

2) Rolling my wrists until they pop. There are eight bones that make up the wrist. I remember from my time in massage therapy school. They are called: scaphoid, lunate, triquetral, pisiform, trapezium, trapezoid, capitate and hamate. After a long day of massage and during a massage, I will roll my wrists to get some movement. It sounds like popcorn popping and it is such a relief when they release. I also will roll my wrists while I am writing or typing. It feels so good!

3) When I climb into bed at the end of a tiring day, my bedspread has GOT to be completely straight. There is something about a crooked blanket that makes me feel like a raging lunatic! This is especially true when there are seams on the blanket that give you a map by which to make it straight. Putting the sheets on the bed is no different. It must be perfect. Waking up in the morning and seeing the blanket and sheets completely disheveled can set me off at the beginning of my day. How did I let a blanket gain so much control over me? Don’t even get me started on the particulars of the weight and texture of my blanket. I have yet to find the perfect bedspread. When you share a bed with someone with completely different tastes in bedding, it can make for a strained bedroom experience. Oh the pains of my life!

4) How many little things can I get started before I actually begin the big thing? For example: Before I begin mopping my disgusting kitchen floor (which I usually avoid at all costs), I will start a load of laundry (it can work while I am), bag up the trash, start the dishwasher, put my son down for his nap….but before I can put my son down for a nap, I have to wait for the laundry to get done so I can put it into the dryer while he sleeps (dryer is in his room). So I will sweep the floors throughout my little apartment, clean the bathroom, put away some clutter, put the clothes in the dryer, put my son down for a nap and then proceed to the kitchen. The problem with the way this series of events unfolds is that by the time I finally get around to mopping the floor, I am tuckered out. It is lunch time and my four year old is finished keeping herself occupied. And that is when the water color paints come out, the crumbs continue to fall on the floor and that big thing I set out to do in the first place remains undone for yet another day. Do you ever do that?

5) Reading too many books at the same time. Right now I have my bookmarks in six books. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, The Mother in Me by Kathryn Lenard Soper, River Teeth by David James Duncan and my religious reading material. I’m just not a “one at a time” kind of a girl. These are all good reads, by the way. If you’re obsessed with non-fiction like I am. (Not counting Rand’s book…but it may as well be true, what with the way our Government is taking over in so many realms!)

6) Really good food. Right now I’m on a Mexican food kick. Enchiladas, burritos, chips and salsa! Horchata! Yum! I could eat an entire bag of corn chips. Give me some homemade salsa and I’m one happy camper! Tonight my friend shared her amazing one of a kind Grape Salsa. Oh my! So good! I just love food. Who knows what I will be onto next week!

7) Cars.

8) These Chocolate Chip Cookies.

9) Pandora Stations: Gary Jules,  George Strait, Alison Krauss, 80’s Alternative, Iron and Wine, Tracy Chapman, Raffi Children’s Radio, Gotye, Kimbra, Michael Franti and Michael Jackson to name a few. I love Pandora for its ability to meet my varied musical cravings. What is your favorite Pandora station?

10) Finding new things to learn about and be utterly obsessed about. Because what is the worst thing in this life, after all, if it is not knowing? (You can interpret that last phrase either way…)

What are some of your little obsessions?

Writing Down the Bones

I’ve always wanted to be a better writer. This blog has been a small outlet for me to express raw material to a few readers. When I post something, I never edit it. I write, do a spell check, do a once over for any major errors and quickly click “publish”. I have to do this process quickly, otherwise I will chicken out and decide what I wrote was crap. It is easy to just run away or avoid writing because of fear. I admit I do this more often than not. But I am still scared, but I am getting more brave. I’m scrave. (That is a “word salad” that little Jack from the book Room taught me.) If I can get to the last line, I’ve written something. And at least it won’t fester inside of me creating a fluster-cluck of jumbled thoughts. Those make me insane.

Writing makes me sane.

For as long as I can remember, I have always written in a journal. I have 20 or so of them lined up like crows on a power line behind me. They mostly contain crap, but at least I wrote. Every day I would scribble what I saw in front of me. I’d write about my thoughts, rambling this way and that. I’d write about how boring my day was and how I couldn’t believe I was writing such boring prose about a boring day.  And then I’d read it and think, gosh, that was boring! As I learned it, it is called Free Write.

I don’t know what happened really, but those journals slowly stopped being used. My writing hand got out of shape.(Lefty) My trusty pen lost. The internet took over. Facebook. Children. Just other things that I thought took up all the time in the world. There was no time to write. Seemingly. But I was going insane. Stuck thoughts with no outlet just banging around inside of me like a full-term baby with no exit strategy. So uncomfortable!

I must write. I’ve been getting back at it recently. And though what I write may be crap, (see previous post…no, actually- don’t waste your time on it!) at least I am writing. Writing practice makes a better writer. Eventually I will have written something so extraordinary that even I will be amazed that it could come from an individual such as I.

I attended a writing conference as a 16 year old called “Writers At Work”. It was so much fun to be surrounded by other fledgling writers like myself, as well as published authors who were sharing the tricks of the trade. I want to do something like that again. I came across a conference that is scheduled for May in Ohio that I am considering attending. I’d love to be inspired again and surrounded by others who, like me, may feel stuck in their head and need some coaching to get it out. I’d love to get some feedback on how to write a memoir. I’d like to be solid at writing Nonfiction Narrative. Because that is what naturally comes out.

In Writing Down The Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, she teaches many simple truths as they relate to writing. First and foremost, she suggests writing everyday. A free-write of whatever you want. I have written today for a few hours and already I can feel a few thoughts breaking lose like the melting ice of a frozen lake. I am learning to be uncensored and more real in my words. I am re learning how to “show, not tell”, as a dear high school English teacher taught. There are so many ingredients that go into really good writing. I acknowledge that I am missing a few essential ones and am committed to the practice of writing over and over and over to finally get it right…or is it write?

Writing with the intent to teach or share information has been my M.O., but I realize that I have been going about it all wrong. The truth is, I write to more clearly see something for myself. When I write for real, it is just me telling myself the things falling out of my mind. Here Sycamore Girl, look at this. And now turn it around and see it from this side. See what you can learn from it. Look at this. I really do write for myself. And then I get scrave and click that little blue “publish” button and wait to see what happens. I go over and over in my mind the things that a fellow blogger wrote about in his very humerus post  Did my post suck today?

Maybe it did suck. But at least I am writing.

Follow up on ROOM

I thought I would take a moment and share more of my thoughts about the book I mentioned and finished a few weeks. If you haven’t read it yet, you probably would want to skip out on reading this post, as it may spoil it for you. But maybe not.

I just need to say that it was exactly what I needed to read. I don’t usually read fiction books, so when I picked this one up, it took me by surprise. Still being in a bit of a funk from the previous weeks (of emotional hell!) reading Room took me on a journey of personal introspection. I found myself feeling very connected to the little boy, Jack. The narrative he gave using his juvenile  language, his raw thoughts and bravery felt as if he was me as a child. I identified with his major reality change and the real terrifying feelings that those changes conjured up. But in the end, he was okay. A little scared and probably needing a few years of therapy, but okay. Like me.

He was me. In the 18 years since my reality change as a youth (divorce), I never have been able to voice the pain I felt. Until Jack said it for me. He was taken out of his perfect world where he knew nothing of the outside. To him, the 11×11 room was all he knew. His entire existence had been lived in that small space! So how could he know what he was missing? How could he understand what his mother was feeling, being hidden away and held captive from her world for 7 years? To Jack’s mother that 11×11 space was her death sentence, but to Jack it was his only reality. So imagine being taken out of the only thing that has been constant- now the world becomes Jack’s death sentence, but blissful freedom to his mother.

Room gave me a different perspective of my dear mother. I don’t fully understand everything about why she left, nor do I think it is necessary to really know anymore. The fact is that she felt trapped in her “11×11” space and broke out. Which ripped me from my comfortable, happy and naive existence. It was scary and difficult to adjust without her constant company. It felt like one day she was there, and the next she was gone. She was my 11×11, my safety. Adjusting was difficult, but I made it.

I don’t mean to make this sound like a “woe is me” story- its not. I needed to record my own little “coming to Jesus” feelings as I read Room. I really do feel like it altered my thoughts in such a dramatic way. I feel like I understand myself on a whole new plane. And I am closer to understanding my mother. And that is such good news.

In addition to all of that. I came away from the book with a new compassion for my own children. I must be more respectful of their realities as they grow. Yes, children are resilient, but change is difficult and can be damaging. I am so in love with their little selves. So in love. I am committed to doing all that is in my power to provide them with the continuity they need to grow into a better adult than I am. Preserving innocence, teaching adaptability and a love for people, learning and an understanding of who they really are– these are key components that each and every child needs for living the most peaceful and glorious life. No matter what size of “room” you grow up in.

Life lessons learned from a mug

When I was 13, I received a mug as a gift from my new step-mother. On the mug are four cows with grass and a fence. The phrase “…grass is greener over there…” is printed all around the bottom circumference of the mug. Its a cute mug. But as a snotty 13 year old, I certainly had a difficult time appreciating its sentiment.

A mug? Really?

17 years later, my sentiments for that mug have changed considerably. Yes, I still have the mug, and I find myself preferring it to most of the others in my cupboard. It fits my hands just so, and like the way the little glue-filled crack at the bottom of the handle rubs on my pinky, reminding me that I took the time once to fix it after it took a tumble.

I know now why my dear step-mother gifted me the mug. Because she was smarter than I was. How many teenagers do you know who have not compared their life to someone who supposedly has it better than them? I definitely did my fair share of that! Is the grass really greener over there? Maybe…but not likely. Because in my experience, the reality of the “green-ness” of the grass doesn’t matter. It is all about your perception of the grass.

I love that mug because it reminds me that despite what the grass looks like on my side of the fence, its up to me to nourish it and make it the greenest it can be. I cannot help but reflect on William Earnest Henley’s poem:

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


I am grateful for this gentle reminder my little cow mug offers me each time I hold a steamy cup of tea between my hands.
The grass may be greener over there, but “I am the captain of my own soul.”

Breaking up with Facebook

Its been nearly two weeks since I decided to pull the plug on my Facebook account. I am still not 100% clear as to why I left. There are people who leave because of privacy concerns. There are conspiracy theorists like Anonymous and their followers who think FB is going to take over the world or something crazy like that…whatever.
And then there are people like me who for one small reason or another realize that Facebook consumes all together way too much time of my day, my thoughts, and not to mention my picture taking! So, because I am terrible with time management, and I don’t really want to feel like I am being babysat by some program on my computer that regulates my time on FB, or any other site for that matter, I decided to just get rid of it all together. Although perhaps a program like that would work well for others. I’d just reset my time! Extreme? Maybe.

I do miss catching up on people’s lives, seeing pictures of new babies and fun adventures. But I do not miss the wasted time. Not one bit. I hope to direct that time toward my home, my children and to this blog. With Facebook gone, it is now up to me to reach out and create meaningful real relationships. It seemed with Facebook, all I had to do was post a picture or say something clever and, BOOM, I had recognition, debate, praise, “likes”. It was so simple. Yet I could sit in the same room with most of these people and not have a thing to say (unless the conversation began like this: “did you see that post on Facebook?…”) And that’s just too bad.

On the other hand, I do miss the instant communication that was available with my neighbors. “Do you have an egg?” or “I’m selling my office chair.” A phone call a knock on the door, or a late night trip to the store are now my options. And those are fine options, but certainly not as convenient. There are really great things about Facebook. For one, it was the main source of advertisement for this blog! Needless to say, my readership has gone down. I do want readers. I want to be heard. And that was why I did enjoy having Facebook. (Perhaps you’ll share The Sycamore?) People out there “listened”, but I usually have much more to say than what I can post in a Facebook status. Not having that little outlet should bolster my blog writing.  And this kind of writing always feels good to my heart. I am that girl who has 20+ journals on my book shelf from a lifetime of writing. Sadly, filling up my journals has taken a slower pace. My hand starts to hurt after just a few minutes of writing with my trusty old pen. That is really sad!

I go back and forth on my decision to delete. Facebook does not make it easy, or enticing to leave its multi billion member interface.  You can just “deactivate” your account, or you can actually delete it. But if you or one of your devices logs on like you did before, all of your requests are voided and you’ll have to click that delete button again. Before I cut the cord, I downloaded a copy of my entire Facebook existence so I have all of the conversations, all the photos, comments and most importantly, the thread of my son’s home birth. There are 14 days before the account is actually deleted completely. If I log on anytime before the the “scheduled deletion date”, it will not be deleted. They really really don’t want me to go!
I may or may not be back.  I have to laugh because I do have a Twitter account that I have been using a bit more the past few days. (Follow me there @thesycamoregirl) and I’ve been writing here more, which is feels so good!

We’ll see how connected I can become without the aid of Facebook.  I just need to get back to me, void of all the distractions, propaganda and other things that made me compare myself to others in a negative way. Interestingly enough, I once read this on Facebook: “You were born an original.  Don’t die a copy.”  ~John Mason

For me, I was beginning to feel a little like I was just a copy.  It felt like I was losing my authenticity. And that was enough to click delete.