Tag Archives: musings

A Change Philosophy

It’s unavoidable. If you live, you experience change. Change in weather, change in priorities, change in location, change in association…the list goes on. It terrifies some and excites others but we all experience it over and over again – it’s unavoidable.

That simple fact drives me to embrace it. I have that logic sometimes. I’ve been hedging my bets on wishes for years. You know; the necklace clasp is in front so kiss it and make a wish or blow out birthday candles and make a wish or blow an eyelash off your fingertip and make a wish…all these opportunities to declare what/who you really want. I always wished for the same thing: fun. I wished I’d have fun that afternoon or evening or even just for a good day that day. I knew there was a very good chance those wishes would come true, so I just kept (keep) on making them. And you know what? I’ve found a tremendous sense of power in my wishing. Who hasn’t thought it would be wicked-cool to make wishes come true? I can do it. I do it all the time:)

first day of schoolKiddo is in his second week at a new school. This change came one week after returning from our visit with family and friends in South Africa. He had a double ear infection (then undiagnosed) and I didn’t get him to bed on time the Friday, Saturday or the Sunday before his first day…nor the Monday or Tuesday following it. We had our reasons and he got some good naps in but wow…how’s that for some change?

And still, his reports from school have been glowing. He’s been so excited to go there and his teacher is complimentary of his manners (score: 1 Mama) and besides peeing himself a little during his first few naptimes, he’s dealing well with the change at school. At home, of course, it’s a slightly different story.

Llama llama, mad at mama. If there is a whine to be given, I’m getting it. Meltdowns, temper tantrums and all things four and fearsome (ok, he’s 3.5 but he started his terrible 2’s early, too!) are directed at me – and me alone. Fair enough, I am the instigator of much of this change, but his current tactics won’t get him anywhere with the rest of the world and it’s my job to teach him that; by not indulging him now.*

Kiddo needs to learn how to roll with the punches – because there will be punches. I’m hedging my wishes (for him to grow into a happy adult) by teaching him to do so. I wish for him to see a lesson in every challenge, an adventure in every detour and potential in every surprise. I want him to have fun.

I suspect more grown ups would have fun if they responded to change the way kiddo did the past couple of weeks. It’s ok to pee yourself a little when it sneaks up on you but try and use your manners while in company and save your craziness for those you trust can take it. That exercise of discipline alone should make it easier for you to start seeing a lesson in every challenge, an adventure in every detour and potential in every surprise. And if you’re still struggling? Plant some perennials, take up a weekly class or create some other constant in your life. But please make what you can of the changes, too.

I’m always surprised when my perennials come in…
the yard becomes so familiar again!
Still, with their leaving they’ve brought forth a change~
though each time different, they will come again.

*DISCLAIMER: Hubby would argue I’m more indulgent than I should be…he’s right.

So how about you? Are you a change-a-holic or a change-a-phob? What constants have you created in your life you can come back to again and again when change becomes overwhelming?

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The Harvest

I’ve spoken before about tending your spiritual gardens. For the last few weeks I’ve been fortunate to celebrate a harvest. I went away on holiday to my family’s other homeland in South Africa and our days were filled with a bounty of spiritual food. I enjoyed the company of friends and family I rarely see, tasted food I eat often but enjoy the most in South African sunshine and allowed myself opportunities to learn and grow – so wonderful! I want to share some of these experiences with you along with my reflections – I hope you get something out of them!

  • Effort: On our second night in South Africa a friend, hearing of our arrival, dropped everything at 9 pm on a Friday to drive an hour to visit with us. What an expression of love! It makes me think about the times I’ve foregone visits with friends for simplicity’s sake. Yes, I still think it is sometimes the wise decision to make (especially if you’re taking into consideration the needs of a spouse and/or kids) but I’m reminded just how much love you can show by setting aside your own convenience to feed a relationship. Thanks, Thea, for loving me so well.
  • Hospitality: Next we went to Cape Town for a few days. When we landed the deal on that flight we contacted a friend to find out whether we’d be able to stay with her when we visited. Thinking she and her new hubby would be in a larger home by then (theirs is a small garden flat), she extended her hospitality. As our arrival neared, she contacted us to let us know she had everything arranged for our visit. She and her hubby had not moved yet, but would stay with friends so we could have use of their home. Shew, what a friend, huh? Fortunately, we also have other friends in Cape Town. Upon hearing her arrangements, my hubby’s childhood  friend’s parents insisted, rather, that we stay in their guest apartment – on the beach – with a view of Table Mountain. In short – the hospitality of our friends in Cape Town brought me to tears on multiple occasions and is due much credit for my rekindled obsession with moving there:) I thought about it the whole visit and took note of all the little touches of hospitality I found in our quarters. I want to be more mindful of the hospitality I extend to guests. I want to do as much as I can to make them feel as at home as I was in the Cape. Baie dankie, Rheeders en Nagtegaals!
  • Worship: What better place to worship than on the beach; wind and waves in your ears and salt in your breath? Our first morning in CT, I practiced my yoga with my toes in the sand and Table Mountain in my view. As I grounded, I gave thanks for all God created. I watched kiddo lead hubby across the crest of a dune (“c’mon, Papa!”) thank you. I watched dogs and people run thank you. I let the waves and the wind shift me, move me, change my direction thank you. God is so good!
  • Consciousness (kind of): After listening to some of my increasingly out there views on wellness and spirituality, a friend asked me if I would be interested in checking out an alternative healing therapy. I was:) I’m not going to try and explain the theory or the session but I do want to tell you what it did for me. The session afforded me the opportunity to settle my mind, calm my body and skim my sub-conscious for issues that were bothering me. I was reminded again how powerful a tool visualization is for me and I learned practices I can do to focus my thoughts and energies where they ought to be focused. I am so thankful God has led me to a place in my life where I am open to new ideas and interpretations…each time I explore my relationship with God in a new way another path is forged. I find each emotional or rational path I take these days leads me to a seat, in a garden, where he waits to be with me.
  • Moderation: Though natural to many, moderation has never come easily to me. I exercised moderation in my indulgence of alcohol this trip and am so thankful to hold all my memories – in full – of precious time and conversation with loved ones. This particular crop is my asparagus – it took a few years to cultivate. Hot damn and hallelujah!  😉

Do you understand why the word “harvest” comes to mind? Such fruits! I feel so blessed, so loved, so full. And I must be. Because I never know when next I’ll return to that particular, familiar table…I only know that I will.

When was your last harvest? Where were you and who were you with? Do you carry pieces of that harvest around with you, chipmunk style?

An oozing, gushing mess of Spirit

The first thing I did this morning was plunge into cold water and stretch and move my body fully with the rhythm of it; dogs gliding along at my side and a crane perched on the roof of a dock in the cove. I felt God everywhere. I swam early: 6:20 on a Sunday morning. I swam before hubby or kiddo were awake; before anyone could ask anything of me. I swam with enough time to shower and go to the early service, even! After I had my swim I lay a towel on the dock and practiced yoga, moving my body on it’s various axles and then pushing my energies in one direction…another…grounding. Directing focus and praise physically, mentally and emotionally as the birds sang their good morning’s and the lake breathed thick veils with the air above it. I thought of all the blessings that’ve touched me lately and I thought of the promise of those yet to come.

And then I went to church. On Pentecostal Sunday. Can’t say I knew much about this one going into it. In fact, just last week Sonskyn mentioned my ma-in-law was at church on a weeknight and asked me what season we were in. My response after looking it up was “huh, Pentecost…nope, can’t think of anything special that time of year!” Huh, is right! I’ve since had a realization that I have somehow missed entirely the liturgical calendar event most closely matched with my personality!

But let me back up. I sat in the pews at my parent’s church (and nearest I’ve to one for my family at the moment) this morning and listened to a young mother called to the Episcopalian pulpit early who now loves that congregation with a joyous and genuine heart. She preached to us of the Holy Spirit and shared an interpretation of the Trinity she’d enjoyed and embraced. I want to share it with you now because it is just so lovely.

See most folks aren’t up for talking about the Trinity. God is good – we get him. He’s Big Papa, up there hugging or coaching or teaching. Sometimes he disciplines us; thwarts our plans. Jesus is the peer. He’s liked by gals because of his sensitive heart but still loved by many a guy because of his manly-likeability. You know you can see his hippy ass coppin’ a squat on the grass, whittle-wood in hand, ready to talk shop on life and carve something cool. The Holy Spirit or Ghost or whatever you want to call it, though…that one’s a little harder to personify…

So the idea Mary shared with us this morning was the Holy Spirit as the embodiment of the love between Father and Son. This “oozing, gushing” extra loveliness that spills out from them and into our world, our hearts, our lives…this is the Spirit. This is what I pressed my energy toward this morning as I stood with my feet planted firmly on a dock in an empty cove…What a beautiful conceptualization of the Holy Spirit, huh?

I leave this home in a couple of days to fly to our other one. South Africa, our “other” home, currently involves living in others’ houses and adjusting our child and selves to a culture that, though familiar, is different from the one we share now. We will disrupt the lives of friends and family there and impose ourselves on them for rides, beds, company and laughter. My family will spend two and a half weeks living a life so different from the one we live here…ahh, vacation:). I feel this opportunity, this privilege, so acutely today. I’ve spent the last two days preparing mentally and emotionally for the journey we’re about to embark on with a now very chatty child and I find myself strengthened for the path by an idea that resounds so firmly in my own head and heart: I can tune in to that Spirit anywhere I need to do so.

Should travel plans derail, I’ll thank God for the laughter the story will bring later…or the conversation enjoyed while we ride the bus (Pitlochry to London ’02 reference, Sonskyn and Thea…;)) Should family not always see eye to eye on those booze-laden evenings, I’ll thank God we want to share ideas and views with one another we feel passionately enough about to yell. Should absent friends leave us feeling sad and neglected, I’ll thank God for those who go to any length to remind us we’re home.

Get ready, South Africa…I’ve got a suitcase full of oozing, gushing Spirit with your name on it! I’m planning on documenting the heck out of this trip, too. I want to capture footage on SA food culture to piece together into a series for www.vikingtogo.com at the least or PBS at the best;) I’ve even downloaded an application for my phone that will allow me to stream video live to qik.com/potluckmama. I’m going to throw some footage up there while I’m away so feel free to visit and see what we’re getting up to. I may or may not post while away, dear readers. Rest assured, though, that I will be pushing my energies in one direction – then another – grounding all the while. I’ll direct my focus and praise physically, mentally and emotionally on the Spirit wherever I can find it – giving thanks.

I hope you catch the pentecostal spirit, too, friends…it’s a happy place to be:)

You may want to check out 1000 Awesome Things while I’m gone…that should get you started down the right path! 🙂

’til next time!

A Sense of Place

I’ve felt at home many places in my life. My childhood room, summer camp, dorm rooms, staff quarters, apartments and homes.  I’ve always enjoyed new starts in fresh places and the challenges were met in great part because I was able to identify a safe place, a home base, where I could recharge, reflect and renew. These bases allowed me to venture out into new territories while still carrying a sense of place in my heart. Even in my most awkward stages of life, I have been able to identify a place to cry, pray or sit with my thoughts. The roof of my parents’ house, the cab of my first car, a state park in Nashville, the Loch trails of Scotland, a porch in South Africa. Each spirited me forth anew with balanced confidence, no matter the blows I took before or after.

I thought about this, what I’ll call a “sense of place”, when I went down to my family’s farm for my birthday the other weekend. I love that place. I always have. Such a delightful mix of dirt and sunshine and old and new. I came there as a child to run and explore and play and I go there as an adult to…well, run and explore and play. No matter that I have no legal rights to the land. I have claimed it with my heart and in the event it is transferred or sold I have still felt that sense of place with my feet in that dirt and it can be recalled through a memory, a photo or a story.

I think perhaps the ease with which I recall this sense of place is the product of practice. My mother and father made me equally welcome in both their homes, in both their lives. They also thrust me out alone into the world early in my childhood, my first stint away from home being two weeks at a girl’s camp in North Carolina when I was six years old. I learned to make Cabin 1 on Hillbrook Hill a home and from there the sky was the limit.

How important it becomes when you’ve been thrust out into the world to be able to identify and claim a “home” of your own; to carry and exert a sense of place no matter the territory. This translates easily to confidence and ease, both graces that attract others to your little circle of life. I know in my own life it’s been when I have had the least sense of place that I have had the fewest comforting companions; that I’ve felt most alone. It’s then I’ve had to be carried through by my faith that I will feel those feelings once again, that I’ve had to reflect on those places, or even that I’ve had to run to those places to remember the certainty they bolster; to recharge my sense of place.

How awful it must be if you’ve not felt these feelings. I can hardly begin to understand the struggle to find balance when you’ve never felt a sense of place. I’m sure there are those people out there. Unsettled, still searching people who never seem to relax completely. Looking for a place where they can let down their guard and recharge; prepare to go out into the unknown with perceptible balance and grace. Entire foundations have been built to provide this sense of place to people who have none. People have dedicated their lives to helping others achieve it. It is a powerful need, indeed.

Find a place for yourself. Go there and recharge. Prepare for the next day of your life and prepare to live it with balance and grace. Trust me when I say it will be easier each time you consciously do so. And, when the opportunity presents itself, please do what you can to welcome others and give them that same sense of place to carry with them. It’s a gift like no other.

This post is dedicated to the people of Rainbow Village; may your blessings be bountiful and your sense of place strong.

Mean Mama

Kiddo has been wearing me out lately. If it’s not an incessant plea for attention it’s good old fashioned disobedience. I never felt “shake the baby” urges with him as an infant but I’m feeling some kick the kiddo urges something fierce now (not repeated kicking, mind you…just a solid drop kick…one that gets some distance…).

I don’t dig the rage. It does not become me. I remember telling our flatmate two days before my wedding that he’d made me so angry I wanted to pull his head down his throat and out his arse…see? That’s ugly stuff…

At church on Sunday I lost it. I picked kiddo up from the nursery after the passing of the peace so he could be with us for communion prayers. He squirmed, spoke too much and did not follow my instructions. At one point he was reaching for a hymnal on the pew in front of us and I told him not to. He began arguing with me and I got angry. I was mostly angry about arguing about something so stupid – something I didn’t really care about – simply because I’d put my foot down. But I’d put my foot down. War was waged.

At the same time, familiar, peaceful words were left unattended. I was missing the parts of my worship I know by heart; my speaking role. And in the midst of the words I love I snatched up that damn book and I pressed it into his belly. Not too hard, mind you – but I’d wanted to shove it at him.

I cried through the next hymn, my mother’s arm across my shoulders telling me it’s ok…

Then I began to reflect. I started thinking about how I have been doing things, how I might change things, how I might rustle up a happier relationship with the 3 1/2 year old I love so dearly. Here are a few samplings of those meditations…I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts.

  1. I think stay-at-home moms generally have a better sense of routine. It is at the fiber of their very survival and most kids respond well to it. Maybe it’s not because I work…it could just be my temperment…but I wonder if I should mindfully create more structure in our time together
    1b) This idea later sabotaged me when I lost conviction on a punishment decision (withholding his bedtime story)…
  2. There’s a concept of emotional banking I’m familiar with whereas if you (for example) want to have leave to make decisions for a child without suffering him independent growth you supplement that growth with created decision opportunities: Do you want to play outside for fifteen minutes and then take a bath or do you want to go ahead and take your bath now?
  3. I was already looking for guidance before the Hymnal Incident, and our pastor was talking about Doubting Thomas. It’d take some explaining to give Mary’s sermon justice (it was very good) but the message I heard was it’s ok to have doubts: they lead to questions to meditation to growth.
    3b) This was especially comforting as I mused further and thought of how much more confident I’ve been in my parenting at other stages of kiddo’s life. I’m struggling to find my confidence on this one. It’s unsettling.
  4. I am totally getting mine. I never shut up as a kid (and rarely do now). The irony of having an incessant talker for a child is soo Alanis Morissette;)

I’ve spoken with hubby, sissy and mama about my frustrations. They brought new ideas to the table and helped me find more peace on the matter. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. What kind of parenting have you witnessed or practiced? Any guidance, reassurance or (cringe) criticisms for me?

Tending the Gardens

Spring is sprung on my side of the world. My perennials are popping back up (as are weeds) and I’m sorting through my seeds figuring out what vegetables to plant in my square foot garden. Long days are upon us and I know I will soon neglect the house and the laundry in favor of the yard and gardens. This will go on a couple of months before the heavy heat of Georgia Summer chases me back in to the air conditioning where my boobs don’t sweat. Then the yard will be on it’s own until the temperatures moderate and I’m ready to venture out once again.

The yard won’t wow anyone these next couple of months. Though I will toil, my greatest rewards will be limited: the rediscovery of plants I’ve already cultured as I pull back weeds, the potting of purchased (not nursed) plants in my patio containers. I’ll kick myself for not planting more bulbs last fall and applying pre-emergent weed treatments to the lawn. I know because it went down like this last year and I made few changes to my routine to alter the outcome.

It’s hard to believe it was Easter on Sunday. This year is flying by. It seems just yesterday I was beginning my spiritual preparation for Lent, thinking about my relationships and my self…trying to identify ways I can improve both. Now here I am, a chorus of “he is risen, indeed” echoing in my head and still I find myself wondering what I’ve actually accomplished. Fortunately, my spiritual growth is not regulated by the same seasons as my gardens. I do not have to wait for next Lent to plant my bulbs. I may find the heat of introspection chases me back to my comfort zone from time to time, but those seasons are my own and I have more control over them than those that guide my physical planting.

Knowing this, I have made some conscious decisions about my yard and gardens – both physical and spiritual.

1) I will not neglect the yard just because I value the fruits of my gardens more. If I make the effort with the yard (weeding, edging) I will have to mow less frequently. I will not have to deal with the shame an unkempt yard evokes. This behavior is neighborly. My body is my yard and my soul is my garden. Though I value the fruits of the soul, I will do the hard work necessary to get my body in good shape so that I may be free of the shame an unfit one elicits. Once the hard work is done, I’ll be able to work less frequently. I’ll take pride in my healthy body and my next door neighbor (hubby) is bound to appreciate it;)

2) I will wait for the rain before I weed. There is no sense busting ass digging at roots in solid ground. That behavior only leaves me frustrated and unsatisfied. Similarly, I will not force spiritual growth on myself when my soul is not ready. Much like rain, circumstances for growth are beyond my control. There’s no sense kicking myself for not scaling some grand spiritual staircase this Lent. I’m better off working on something else until that slow, steady rain comes in it’s own time.

3) I will prioritize and make the time. No one becomes a master gardener overnight (nor a master of anything else, for that matter). I will sometimes set aside laundry or other housekeeping responsibilities to work in the yard when weather permits. For my soul? I will tear myself away from a work project to go to the Wednesday noon church service or miss a self-imposed writing deadline to play with my son. Also, as my gardens are shared with my husband’s, I will make time to tend them together – even if that means doing the “tasks” he wants to do rather than those I’d like to do.

4) I will make every effort to learn. I will identify my trusted sources, open my mind to positive influences and make every effort to soak up ideas.Through this I will achieve growth.

5) I will not be afraid to try new ideas, even if they are foreign to me. Nor will I be afraid to cast aside those that do not suit my soil, plants or climate.

6) I will share. Just as many plants can be split and rooted to grace a new space, so can positivity be shared and fostered to grace another soul.

7) I will compost. I will not cast aside scraps of food or life lessons. Instead, I will allow them to ruminate and culture, applying them when the time comes, that I may grow beautiful vegetables and the fruits of the spirit.

So there you have it – my gardening plans. I hope the exercise of writing them down helps me stick with them:) I find sometimes the best gardens are those that require little effort (thank you, zinnias!) but even when the grandest of my planting plans are left unrealized I can at least see the outlines of them to guide me the next year. Here’s to a happy season (whichever yours may be) and a yard and garden to be proud of! What about you? Have you ordered your seeds yet? Which plants will you share with friends?

Good Businesses in a Price Economy

I spent a few hours working my company’s booth at the Atlanta Home Show last Friday. One conversation I had was with a woman interested in purchasing new appliances. I asked her questions intended to get her thinking about her renovation needs, guided her as only a trained associate can and we parted ways with the understanding that I would have one of my sales reps contact her with more information. Just after she turned the corner of the booth, she returned. “It’s going to come down to price, you know” she informed me.

I get it – I really do.  I’ve spent more time clipping coupons and comparing prices in the past six months than ever I’ve spent before! Still, I can’t help but wonder: at what point does a price-driven economy erode our expectations for and ability to provide quality service?

On Saturday, I went to a local nursery to purchase weed killer for my lawn. I know this nursery isn’t bargain basement, but opted to go there because they offer value to me in other ways. I know I can get in and out quickly because I don’t have to cross a football field of a parking lot or wind through 20 aisles to find what I need. I walk in to a well-staffed building and am able to ask questions of a knowledgeable associate, identify the correct products for my needs, check out and have my purchases wheeled to and loaded in my car for me.

After the nursery, I went to Kroger. Several of our family’s staples were on sale and I stocked up. I did not lose any sleep over Publix’s lost sales.

Next I went to the liquor store (does anyone else hear Sublime in the background?). I could have gotten my brand of wine for less cash at Kroger, but I decided I would rather support this local store in the hopes that they will continue stocking their shelves. This seems to be a challenge in my area, so the concern is real.

Each of these decisions was value-based. I considered the value of my time, efforts and cash in each and am comfortable with the decisions I made. In the situations where I knowingly paid more than I could elsewhere I valued time and efforts over cash. When I purchased more than I’d planned at Kroger there was also a convenience value (I was already there). I may not have taken advantage of the offers had they required an extra trip to the store.

I can respect the consumers’ right to weigh their own values. I exercise mine daily. What concerns me is that a price-driven economy prioritizes cash above all other values. So much so that many are willing to drain companies of their services then purchase elsewhere on price alone. This may ultimately put those companies boasting value services in a position where their lost (or matched-price) sales prompt management to drive down costs (read: furlough, head count reductions, etc.) and cause a service level decline.

I’m not suggesting this is a foregone conclusion. I’m suggesting, rather, that in a culture holding frugality in higher esteem with each passing day, we run the risk of being swept up in a price economy and letting service fall to the wayside. There is a difference between frugality and basing purchase decisions on price alone, but the distinction between the two is fine and debatable. If we don’t pause and reflect on these decisions daily we may even lose sight of it.

If you’re planning to make a major purchase, consider the service you’ll require in making that purchase – both pre and post sale. How much time would it take you to research your purchase yourself? How much are you willing to pay to rely on an experienced salesperson to help you make those decisions instead? Take that amount and hold it in your mind as you shop around. Is saving $50 on this particular purchase worth doing business with a company you get bad vibes from or one that doesn’t provide service value? It’s your decision and it will be different in every scenario – I just think we need to be mindful and ask ourselves these questions.

Let’s be frugal. Waste not, want not. But let’s also be thoughtful, supporting businesses that aim to do good business when we are able to do so. What do you say?