Make it up as you go

Make it up as you go

Intangible yet immeasurable, collecting experiences suits me.

Hubby and me, we make a good traveling team. Having named ourselves the Traveling Swordsmiths, we set out to see the USA over the last year fulfilling a lifelong dream. Fully expecting to use the extensive amounts of free time to write lots of blog posts, create a travel journal, and send daily postcards contributed to feeling some disappointment when, upon returning, found many blank pages yet to be filled. 

This stage, winding down from months on the road, had me feeling lost, longing for a map, and wondering what's next. After all, wasn't one purpose of the road trip supposed to answer that?  Having seen, heard, and tasted much, how could these experiences be put to use? What to do with this expanded form of being?

Make plans, of course! Follow a process. Or better yet create a different method. Using Sunday afternoon workshops, daily meditation, phone calls to friends and coaches, reading written journal looking for the patterns of the most energized entries, helped dissipate the sense of not having done enough. Then taping sheets of watercolor paper to the wall, opening pots of colorful paints and markers further created a shift from the typically dry, linear, left-brain analysis to a more creative, artful plan of action.  

A plan of such clarity and value, one can't help but get behind it. Er, in this case, get on it. Let's go!

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Am I a dud?

Am I a dud?

The Spanish moss is exceptionally fine on this steamy morning walk about my quiet neighborhood. With a mile to go before returning to the second cup of coffee waiting for me, an old woman driving a golf cart approaches. Just before turning down a side street, she whips a U-turn to come alongside me and says, "Hey, did I ever show you the tree that grows shells?" I stopped momentarily to say, "What? Who are you?" She ignores my questions, points repeatedly and demandingly to the passenger seat and says, "C'mon, get in. I'll show you. Get in! C'mon!" I slowly shake my head sorting out whether I should see this phenomenon or keep walking when I notice the gallon gas can on the passenger seat floor and imagine the regret I'll likely experience when it spills over my feet from her erratic driving. 

Again, shaking my head no, and returning to my walk, she hollers, "Never mind! You're a dud!" She accelerates down the side street of her original intention, and I hope that whomever she bullies next won't be called names for lack of cooperation. As she drives away, I note the rather unhappy brown teddy bear strapped in the back seat looking at me, and suddenly I'm pleased with my decision. 

Am I a dud? Apparently, some think so. We are often quick to judge, myself included, especially when we perceive someone is uncooperative. I may or may not have ungraciously retorted as she disappeared into the morning mist.  

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To tell the truth

To tell the truth

There may have been pickled relish trays on the employee Christmas banquet tables that evening in December some twenty years ago. I don't recall. I do remember feeling full of the holiday, the season, and later, that celebratory night, delight mixed with reticence at being the focal point of the traditional after-dinner skit--a modified and fun reenactment of "To Tell the Truth." 

Do you remember that mid-twentieth century TV sitcom? Its where contestants discover which of three persons (two are imposters) is the real personality. The guessing game ends when the moderator says, "Will the real so and so, please stand up?" The characters taunt the audience a minute longer with false attempts to stand. Eventually, the real person rises fully revealing their identity. 

So often we can't or won't see ourselves as we are. Blinded by doubt or longing to be something other than our most authentic selves, we look to trusted friends for reassurance. Is there a better way of knowing oneself than having our good friends' qualities reflected back to us?

Near the end of the banquet table, there are no more chairs. It's where the life-long quest to define who or what or how we are in the world, isn't an empty, pointless, and unfruitful endeavor or nearly as uncomfortable as we thought. It's the end of the table where they've placed the most sumptuous desserts, and it is where we've found our best selves standing. Instead of hesitation, there is sweet, courageous independence of telling our truth. 

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Connect with others

Connect with others

"Connect with others whether or not they love you." 

Another excerpt of my manifesto has me thinking of my reactions when discovering someone doesn't "like" me. It could happen for the things I talk about or some quality they find me lacking or I don't fit their target audience, or they just liked me in a use-me way and then dumped me once I've met their needs. 

And, to be honest, perhaps this is how I've created frenemies too? So the challenge is to recognize when I'm complicit in the lack of love and my response to it. 

Love anyway. Love always. 

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Contribute something

Contribute something

"Contribute something regardless of its scale." 

That first sentence of my manifesto, written with the intention of motivating creativity without being held back with my typical excuses. The thing isn't grand enough. I've never done X before. I should research further. That won't work because of any number of unfounded fears.

Maybe its the cold winter months coming on, the slide into the dark season that has me second-guessing. Or perhaps I'm getting more creative with my excuses! 

The tender seed of thoughts and ideas need light and air. The least I can do is place them in a sunny window and observe what happens. 

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A Manifesto

A Manifesto

Are you familiar with Holstee and their awesome manifesto? I recently signed up for their (very affordable) membership to add to my mindfulness toolbox. Guess what? Their welcome kit includes developing your very own manifesto, identifying what you value most. I found this process enjoyable. The end result is below. A personal, mindful, value-filled declaration I'll reference regularly until its time to write a new one! 

P.S. I put my face on it to, you know, claim it and hold myself accountable. 

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Born to die

Born to die

How shall we sing our love's song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?

--Madeleine L'Engle

This. 

There are days when it is crystal clear how to sing my daughter's love song, of birth and of death. On this day, my heart is full of gentle memories of her birth. She barely made a peep when her life first began. Although she certainly made up for that later, anyone who knew her will wholeheartedly agree. 

Lena loved life, needed to experience it ALL, and wanted to have fun. As she says in her children's story, "and everywhere you could hear the laughs of us."

And so, today I am reminded to love better, to experience fully and to enjoy it. 

Ms. L'Engle's poem in its entirety ...

“The earth will never be the same again
Rock, water, tree, iron, share this grief
As distant stars participate in the pain.
A candle snuffed, a falling star or leaf,
A dolphin death, O this particular loss
A Heaven-mourned; for if no angel cried
If this small one was tossed away as dross,
The very galaxies would have lied.
How shall we sing our love's song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and star show how
The universe is part of this one cry,
Every life is noted and is cherished,
and nothing loved is ever lost or perished."

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Love everything

Love everything

It's true. Love outlasts everything. It is mysterious, It is painful. And oh so wonderful. Looking with soft eyes (a technique learned in equestrian school a lifetime ago) applies to everyday life. It lets me see for the first time or see anew. 

Fyodor Dostoyevsky's full quote says, "Love all God’s creation, both the whole and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of light. Love the animals, love the plants, love each separate thing. If thou love each thing thou wilt perceive the mystery of God in all; and when once thou perceive this, thou wilt thenceforward grow every day to a fuller understanding of it: until thou come at last to love the whole world with a love that will then be all-embracing and universal."

Universal love, uh huh. 

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Searching for Clues

Searching for Clues

What do you do when searching for clues? Not the easily found online answers of where to find the best sushi, or how to build a boat. Rather the super humongous questions, as in, why am I here.  Or the more tangible, what am I going to do about it? Or the most important, what am I doing today?

Nowadays, I start by meditating. I used to ask Mom. But then she died. I can ask her in my mind, of course. "Hey Mom, what do you think about this direction?" I could always count on her for an honest answer or her even more honest "hmm." It no longer feels silly talking to the dead. If a response isn't forthcoming, I'll take that as her "hmm."

I also consult the living ... my hubby, a long-distance friend, or a colleague. So this week, I reached out to all the above when stuck on how I might honor my daughter, Lena's, upcoming birthdate and promote her children's story, "Hoofen Floofen Island" at the same time. Two birds, one stone. 

Brainstorming ensued, logistics discussed on connecting the children's story to my "work" themes of vulnerability, living and loving after child loss,  and revisiting short and long-term plans. The outcomes of these interactions remain undefined.  I'm giving myself permission to experiment without worrying about getting distracted or missed deadlines. 

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It's OK

It's OK

I almost didn't go. Pulling on the first knee-high hiking sock triggered a muscle spasm halfway up my ribcage, causing me to catch my breath and I may have cussed a bit. It is always a surprise when my body misbehaves since my mind still thinks I'm twenty-something. 

After retreating to the yoga mat for gentle stretching and breathing through lots of child's pose, on went the other sock. Out the gate I went, intent on my mission to Google map my daughter's name at a natural, cosmic, enlightened and, not surprisingly, favored hiking path near the vortex of Bell Rock. 

Having sampled a few spots for lighting, slope and a magnificent backdrop, a young hiker paused on the trail nearby as her father consulted the map, and said, "That's a golden eagle." I checked the sky and seeing nothing, decided she was mistaken. But as I turned back to the Bell, there it was soaring near the center of the rock's height and breadth. When it landed, I knew I'd found the perfect spot. 

I'm assisting with getting "It's Ok That You're Not OK" on the map in unusual ways and places least expected. Have you purchased your copy? No need to wait until someone dies to read this useful guide. It's full of profound insights whether you are grieving, supporting someone who is or preparing for the inevitable. Click the link to learn more. 

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My nerves are shot

My nerves are shot

So I was reading through some journal entries from several months back. Seriously, why do we do that? Sometimes the words make more sense, but just as often I'm reminded of the mess I was that day. But I digress. 

On this particular day, I'm chatting with myself about how I'm not as tough as I used to be. Also, that I'm more fragile. But is that true? Was my stoicism toughness or protection? Having peeled away layers of emotion this last decade, I'm probably stronger now than ever. Or perhaps I'm perfecting my balance. It has indeed become easier to say no to things I don't enjoy. Quite comfortable with the no word. So there's that. 

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If, then

If, then

I remember my mom telling me how the nearly unbearable grief I experienced from my daughter's passing was a reflection of the depth of my love for her. Not in the sense of measurement like the more grief, the more love was present because I'm not sure it is possible to measure love.  So Elaine Mansfield's comment reminds me how the two, love and grief, are inseparable, congruent, and necessary. 

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Outside the comfort zone

Outside the comfort zone

Self-promotion, marketing, advertising, asking people to purchase, convincing them to part with their hard-earned money is a skill set I'm not familiar with and most definitely out of my comfort zone. Apparently, this is not uncommon for writers, artists, or any creative professional. We just want to create a thing, right? A beautiful thing that should sell itself. Organically. Magically. Effortlessly. 

But as Dan Blank discusses in Be the Gateway, getting the thing into people's hands is as critical to the effort as it's creation. In other words, creation is only half the journey. His book also teaches me to minimize overwhelm and uncomfortableness by focusing on one connection at a time. Singular. Simple. Satisfying. 

Sure I have spreadsheets of tasks but ultimately recognizing how I get to promote inclusiveness, gladness, literacy, adventure, and travel makes this stage of publishing Hoofen Floofen Island fun again. 

In other words, shine a light on the message of the book rather than the book itself. That's a task I can get behind. 

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The Time Has Come

The Time Has Come

As I focus on all that has happened, all the living of these past many months, I find the focus is on a hard look at essentials and vulnerability. 

Planning a year long, cross-county trip, downsizing and storing only our most essential possessions, finishing the production of Hoofen Floofen Island and balancing work time, have forced a cut out the fluff mentality. After all, how does one undergo a major lifestyle change without a step back to basics?  

The huge sense of vulnerability I experienced when first developing this website two years ago (Would anybody read it? And OMG, what if they read it!?) has returned due to the release of my daughter's children's story. (What if it doesn't sell well? Why did I think I could self-publish? Who do I think I am?) My personal history has shown however, the release of all that vulnerability is the only path to see what comes next. 

I'm quite sure we've packed too much (do I really need 10 pairs of socks?). And a year from now, we may look at those possessions and wonder why many items were still necessary but that's a story for next year.

And writing this now, I'm just as sure I didn't pack enough of the books!

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My Ancestral Home

My Ancestral Home

Recently, reading Robin Botie's "Another Precious Summer," and her call to action questions at the end of the post triggered the following comment from me:

"This summer I'm returning to my ancestral home and my chosen hometown(s) from the 50+ years I lived in Wisconsin. Returning to my roots so I may start out again and again. Revisiting the haunts of my and my late daughter's, promoting the tender story she wrote, which is now an illustrated children's story. I will allow myself to stand on familiar and new coasts and declare I'm ready for whatever comes next."

A blessing and a promise. To myself. 

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Entrusting ourselves

"Allow this life to live through you," says a calm voice guiding me through morning meditation. Entrusting ourselves to say yes to the life we've been given.

Building that sort of trust as a focus in my life has been more difficult than learning to accept the fates I've been dealt. Writing this though feels like I'm creating blame for someone or something making the decisions on my human experience. Only recently, I've begun to understand the importance and recognition of how a strong base of trust can be the fulcrum between acceptance and choice.

May I remember today, I have trust, I know acceptance and I get to choose. 

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