Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I didn't really learn much

It was a long day.  Our first day "back to school" lasted until after dinner because Elliot has been down with a cold and kept doing his work in chunks of time when he was feeling up to it.  I was surprised at his determination to keep going instead of making excuses.  We are working on a lot of new things in addition to sharpening skills that need to be mastered. 
Then, at the end of the day, while saying goodnight to my third grade son, I told him how happy I was that he worked so hard in spite of not feeling well.  He said, that's okay, I didn't really learn much.


So I learned that the introductory lesson to keyboarding skills, cursive handwriting, learning to research and take notes for a report on the Indonesian rainforests, writing poetry based on an example from classic poets, equating coins and values is nothing much to learn.  It's the standard stuff of third grade.  I was ignorantly happy all day because in my mind, we seemed to be on track.  The standards were not so challenging as to make him cry or leave him completely lost.  Elliot could re-enter a regular school and be just fine.  We aren't hiding from anything or anybody.  (These negative thoughts sometimes creep in, no matter that he scored at a fourth grade level in vocabulary on his second grade end of year test.)

So, hmmm.  All those hours of lesson planning and offering what I thought was "new" material turn out to be nothing much. What will bring a sense of wonder and excitement back?

Time to get tough.  Time to dig deeper.  Maybe today will be about discovering something completely unexpected. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Elliot's Story of Helping the Homeless Grows

Today was a big day for Elliot.  He was interviewed by local journalist Tony Smith from WFMY News 2 in Greensboro for his mission to help people experiencing homelessness in our city.

Here's the interview!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Rainy Day Gratitude

This morning it's raining! Beautiful rain making puddles in my garden! Rain that makes the house feel like a home. Rain that is a relief from southern summer sun. Today I'm going to do a lot less thinking and writing, and a little more showing.  If I were to write a gratitude list for Sunday, my list begins with family and friends, and follows with a beautiful place to live.

We are growing a tomato plant that is actually five tomato plants that grew together.  I named it Audrey.  So far, only two have ripened but it's loaded with beautiful green orbs!
Rain falls in a curtain outside the screened in porch. 
A favorite spot for watching Elliot play outside.
This is the entrance to the front door. 
I love this tree in our front yard.
Rain on the window pane reminds me of when I was a child, watching droplets fall.
Our kitchen island is a century old baker's table, which Richard fixed up with a new top and legs.  The veggies are from the local farmers market.  Unfortunately we didn't do as well as we hoped with our own garden.
This is our dining room.  Lots of thanks are given around this table.  Elliot regularly thanks God for EVERYTHING.
This is the central area of the house, and what you see if you walk through the front door.
This is our next project, converting a closet into a LEGO build room.
Elliot's room....he sleeps under a tree that he helped to paint when he was in Kindergarten.
This is my current project, refinishing an old dresser.
A puddle reflects the leafy canopy in the front yard.   

   I am so thankful to live in a beautiful place, with friends and neighbors who make it even more enjoyable. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Our Way to Somewhere

"Everything is on it's way to somewhere.  Everything." --- George Malley in Phenomenon

     This morning I woke up earlier than usual, made coffee and turned on the television. I scrolled through listings of movies with thumbnail images, hoping for something not overly violent or suspenseful.  I woke up to death anyway, but it was a beautiful experience.  I wanted to ease into my day feeling uplifted. Usually great writing or nature will do this, yet I often forget to look for beauty on the other screen in the house, where human nature is on colorful display.  I landed in the last 40 minutes of Phenomenon, a movie with thought provoking quotes that Richard spoke to me during the first weeks of our relationship.  At that time, I was too busy being in love to watch the movie that made such an impression on him.  Nine years later, he came downstairs and found a snuggled up me watching one of his old favorites and sat close.  It was a great way to start the day. It reminded me to enjoy the love of my life as if we are both on our way to that somewhere beyond, instead of focusing on the illusion that we are on a hamster wheel. 

      Lately I've encountered spiritual teachings on how we get beyond the mind-chatter and the negative voices within. From these ideas,  I discovered that I am resentful and angry if I feel challenged during conversation, no matter that the challenge is provided to improve the quality of my thought or expand my perspective.  Although we might agree on the most important values of life,  often I feel tension and conflict and have trouble sitting back and letting things pass, like leaves floating down a river.  I want to live up to the statement spoken aloud that Elliot asked me to write down, which is my claim that "the loudest, angriest person is not always right."  I found myself at a crossroads.  I thought, well, I can either become furiously mean and angry, amplifying the assertion of my right to experience what I'm feeling and thinking, or I can get really quiet, calm and unresponsive.  I could just be quiet and that would deflate an argumentative discussion.  I tried both.  My loud, emphatic, angry response was more effective, or maybe more damaging.  I wasn't "right" but I had a lot of defensive feelings that burst out. It seems I have more work to do.

My outburst sparked a change, first because I stood up for myself, which is not easy to do.  I like things to be peaceful and I like to stay calm and enjoy my day without drama.  Second, it drew attention to something rumbling under the surface that needed more than a band-aid style fix up.  Third, it helped me to realize that I no longer need to ruminate in silence, wondering how to solve the problem.  Action, even a loud action, meant that I was working toward understanding instead of hiding it under a blanket of silent suffering.

After my outburst, the negative mind chatter related to that issue was suddenly silent.  It also helped the memories attached to that problem, the pattern that went on behind the anger, to melt away.

I'm recovering my sense of peace by tackling a physically demanding project.  For me, repetitive, physical tasks like cleaning the house, sewing, gardening or refinishing furniture release me from the mental loops that keep circling without an answer, maddening me with obsessive, negative thoughts.   I want to put to death the inner critic, get off the manic language train.  So I go to work on something else.

I'm on my way to somewhere.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Writing Can Take you Places

     My thoughts are as insignificant and as plentiful as ants marching to my kitchen.  They often annoy me unless I am actively collecting them for a mental construction like Elliot practices with Lego bricks.  Sometimes I get very excited by these invented clusters, which when spoken aloud are often destroyed by the argumentative men in my life.  It is a pattern and a feeling I am used to.

     My father had a habit of silencing me (or anyone else) during a discussion by incrementally raising his voice with each exchange until the force and volume of his statement (which also included a pointed finger) ended the discussion.  From childhood I learned that the loudest, angriest, most emphatic, righteous authoritarian person won the debate.

     He beat me at every game we played and sent me off into my independent life nodding my head in agreement with his political ideals but with a broken heart that required freedom to live not challenged every step of the way.

     To begin to see my life through the inner eye of soul-consciousness is like walking on a road littered with the discarded thoughts of anyone who has ever played a role in my education; from the people who wrote the textbooks (so neat and factual), to the ones who showed me how to make some use out of the available language.  I need a method of collecting and arranging the random, free flowing words, the insights, the questions for which I often attempt to construct solutions.

    Flimsy cardboard houses that can be blown down by the huffing, puffing wolf.

   So far the only method I have is to keep these random, handwritten journals.  They are mind-exhaust.  The spent, used up thoughts that have traveled through my consciousness, up into the air, only to live the brief life of a butterfly seeking a mate and nectar, fragile and temporary.

    Yet, the monarch migrates to Mexico, their children back to Canada.

     Writing can take you places.

     I am a writer because the arguments held in my childhood home had an inner, secret life that carried on after the last loud, emphatic statement spoken by my father.

    Anger, even over the smallest, insignificant ant of a discussion was the power of my father's inner abused child that could not speak out against his abuser.  For the rest of his life he was determined to do two things: avoid hunger and stand up for himself.

   For his daughter growing up with an imaginative, sensitive mind, the last objective felt unnecessarily harsh.  It set up a pattern of seeking strong men who could defeat me with either brute strength, intellectual discourse, or both.

     I once became obsessed with a man who was my boss.  I sought his approval, attention and love at every turn.  Like my father, he was a grower of plants and he smoked.  He had the darkest, surliest moods but could surprise you with practical jokes and teasing.  I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life and foolishly, insanely, wrote long letters to him, one of which was discovered by my then-husband, who promptly divorced me.

Words can take you places you never expected to go.  Which is also why I value silence.  The silent calm mind brings peace to the soul.  It isn't actively seeking shelter or a solution.  It has no need to be correct, to appear intelligent or interesting. It doesn't attempt to seek love, because it is love. It is beautiful in its simplicity like the glassy surface of a calm river or lake.  In the silence, quiet noises of things that are not language can be experienced.  The white noise of a fan in an upstairs bedroom.  The low rumble of a passing car.  The tiny bell of a cat's collar.

     Let them all win.  Let their words blow over like a storm that will pass.  Let the little ants of dissension march whichever way that they will.

   Engaging in dialogue is a choice, and one that can bring pain, frustration and a sense of defeat.  I am learning that the real value is knowing how not to attempt to "win" the game, but to find a place within where the heart is relieved, unrestrained, free.

 Arguments wrap us in bondage and burn the fuel we could be using for joy.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Soul Calendar

What makes your soul vibrate and your living being float above the muck of onerous chores, unkind people, politics, failed expectations, violence and fear?  I have slogged through so much, struggling to find an answer to things that my brain can solve from a distance but my limited reach does not touch.  If I could offer something of value, it would be a collection of ideas.  The trouble with ideas is that they float around and sometimes never manifest into a better reality.  Yet this morning, something hit me.  Something I can actually do for myself that will make an impact on my daily life.  I plan to keep a soul calendar.

The soul calendar is the place to write down the way you want to feel and the light you plan to extend into the world.  Jill Bolte Taylor writes in My Stroke of Insight that we are all responsible for the energy we give to one another.  While I will still keep my regular calendar of events and to-do lists, after logging in the dental appointments and the upcoming WHO concert (Pete and Roger are coming to Greensboro and Richard bought our tickets!  I'm over the moon happy and excited!), I will open up a new calendar and write the first soul-good entry:  sink down into happy peace.

There are experiences I forgot to write on my regular calendar.  I had over looked writing down the way I want to live.

I left out these:

Take time to notice the beauty of your loved one's face.

Sit outside for several minutes in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, at night.  Feel the earth, the sunlight, the darkness, the air.

Lift up one problem and send it flying into outer space.

Exercise in the afternoon.  It will give you energy and motivation to prepare the evening meal with enough energy left over to tackle the dishes.

Find something in your memory that evokes a feeling of comfort and love.  Yesterday I remembered the scene of a snowy dark New Year's eve when our neighbor played a harmonica while we sat together eating ham roll ups.  There were no electronics, just people in candle-light, warmed from the inside by the comforting love of family, friendship, homemade food and music.

Eat light.  Fresh vegetables are in season.  Tasting the first green bean from my garden this week brought my father's memory back to life.

Focus on one small thing to be happy about; the progress of a new habit, a return to the enjoyment of something left behind.  Think of all the times you were forgiven.  Remember that it's never to late to do something big and always nearly effortless to do something small but meaningful.


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