Monday, April 23, 2018

Namaste

Another session of yoga had just ended. "Namaste," I whispered, with my head bowed, and my hands pressed together in front of my heart. 


This beautiful Hindi word evokes peace and calm every time I say it, and I've been saying it much more often this last month. Even on days when I didn't feel very well, I still managed to meditate with Deepak Chopra, and I even did yoga while meditating. I wasn't sure that moving during meditation was "approved;" it just felt right to me.

Meditative yoga; that's a thing, right? Spending just a few moments Googling the concept put my concerns to rest. Yes, yoga and meditation go hand-in-hand, and there are many how-to videos available online to show you how to incorporate them into your day. 

Namaste literally means “I bow to you.” According to Deepak Chopra, the most common translation is  “'the divine light in me honors the divine light in you.' Namaste is the recognition that we are all equal and share a common divinity."


In the last few years, I've enjoyed taking advantage of the free 21-day meditation experiences offered by Deepak and Oprah. The most recent one I just completed was Shedding the Weight. They offer a complete library of meditation courses, and they are always available to purchase, but I've only done the free ones. There are always free samples, and if you're interested, you can check out this link HERE, and no, I'm not paid to say that. 


Yoga has helped me in several ways. It has allowed me to feel a sense of peace at times when I'm battling anxiety. I'm happy to report that I no longer have to modify the positions like child's pose; my bum knee has lost the distinction of being a bum knee. I can completely bend it, and hold poses comfortably. My rheumatologist is proud I stuck with it. My sense of balance is growing, and I'm getting stronger. I've been working on the tree pose for the last little while, and can hold it much longer before I have to release the pose (or topple over, as the case may be.)


When I first started practicing yoga, I found a teacher I still enjoy following. Her series is called Yoga with Adriene. "Find what feels good" is her motto, and she encourages her followers to not worry about perfection, but to find our own way to do each pose; to make it work for us. 

Last Saturday morning when I woke up, I had such a headache, which is one of the side effects of one of my new medications. The thing I love about Adriene is I can go to YouTube and search "Yoga with Adriene HEADACHE" or any other key word, and I can always found something specific to help me. 

Chuck and I had a big day planned, a seven hour photo shoot for the Fox River Arts Ramble, and I really didn't want to have to do it with a miserable headache. I spent about 20 minutes doing yoga, and by the time we had eaten breakfast and walked the dogs, my head was starting to feel better. 

Yoga doesn't require a big time commitment. It's a great way for me to start the day, practicing mindfulness while stretching, balancing, and strengthening my muscles. Even when I don't feel well, especially when I don't feel well emotionally, doing yoga helps me feel better. And who wouldn't want to feel better, when that's an option? 

Namaste, friends. 





Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Morning Has Broken

Do you have a favorite number? I do. It's 222. I don't consider 222 my lucky number; I'm not sure how numbers and luck are connected, but I do love stumbling across three twos in a row. 


This morning when I opened my eyes, the large red numbers on the digital clock let me know it was 2:22. I smiled; morning has broken. Remember that Cat Stevens' song? 


For awhile, I was beginning to believe my mornings were broken. 


Historically, insomnia has been a part of my life. When I went to the doctor a couple months ago, he informed me that the antidepressant my doctor in Utah prescribed several years ago is one that typically interferes with sleep. Greaaat... I was happy to learn that there were other options available that would help me mentally, and might even allow me to sleep a little longer.

Since that visit with my doctor here in Illinois, we've been tweaking medications and dosages, and do you know what I've learned? I'd rather wake up early and happy, than sleep harder or a little longer, and feel crummy. There are so many side effects with prescriptions.

For a couple of months now, on top of running a fever, and battling a sinus infection, I was taking medications that were supposed to help me sleep. The only nights I slept 7-8 hours were when my temperature was running high. So what was happening was I would wake up around 2:30, unable to go back to sleep, but feeling exhausted. I was more emotional, and not feeling like myself at all. 

So this week, I stopped taking the heavy hitter meds for sleep and anxiety, and my doctor prescribed a medication to help with anxiety that sometimes has a side benefit of improving sleep. I've been waking up between two and two-thirty, but you know what? I'm okay with that. I feel like me again. 

If I'm going to live my life authentically, I think I'll just embrace what is, and rather than label myself as an insomniac, I'll just refer to myself as an early riser. I'm a morning person; I always have been. My mornings aren't broken; they just start a little earlier than some folks'. 

Good morning, friends! No matter what time you start your day, I hope it's a good one for you!



For your listening pleasure, here are two of my favorite songs dedicated to my favorite time of day. 


Cat Stevens' "Morning Has Broken:"



Another song I just love is Dan Fogelberg's "To the Morning." 


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Need a Lift?

All of us struggle from time to time. We may be tempted to deny it. Some of us put on a brave face, and keep our troubles to ourselves. Others realize there is no weakness in admitting when life feels hard. And still others of us may feel overwhelmed, and embarrassed to admit when we feel sad or anxious. 



Depending on the time of my life, I suppose I have reacted to anxiety and depression in a variety of ways. There were times when I acted out in word or deed, revealing my frustration or anger. There were times I did not feel I could be honest about the way I felt, so I doggedly pursued focusing on the positives, and tried to put on a happy face. 



It took me a very long time to realize that no purpose is served in denying how I truly feel, and eventually, with lots of encouragement from the people who love me, I am learning to own who I am, even the sad and anxious parts. 


So why did I cry in the doctor's office yesterday when I tried to tell her what these last couple of months have been like for me? I wiped away embarrassed tears with the Kleenex she offered me. She reminded me many people, especially women, feel like we have to put up a brave front, but there is no shame in crying or admitting we need help.


Lest you think my troubles are worthy of your pity, let me just say that my life is certainly no harder than anyone else's, and it is much easier than others'. There are just times when I just let my mind race with anxious thoughts, and I feel overcome with sad feelings. I know none of us have been promised a life without trials, and I also know that when I am struggling the most is usually when I am learning the most. What lessons are there here for me this time? 



My doctor has been trying to help me find the right prescription combo to help treat my insomnia and boost my mood. When I got sick about six weeks ago, I was prescribed antibiotics, and I felt better within just a few days. But then every couple of days or so after that, I would become lethargic, and run a low-grade fever. My insomnia seemed to worsen, except on nights I was running a fever, and then I slept hard for nine or ten hours, and still woke up feeling exhausted. 


My anxiety allowed me to think that maybe I was really sick, and you know what happened when I started Googling symptoms, and checking out WEB, MD. Bad idea. I decided to leave the diagnosing to the professionals. Which is how I wound up at the doctor's office yesterday. 


The nurse doing the intake asked me if I still did the things I enjoy doing. My throat tightened. I explained that my husband and I are photographers, and as much as I love taking pictures and editing them, Chuck had to take on four of our last five assignments by himself; I wasn't up to the tasks. I have not felt well, and even when I may not have been physically ill, I just have had no energy to get off the couch, let alone work with my photographs or my blog. I haven't been able to spend as much time with my mother-in-law or little Elise because I'm not sure if I'm contagious with these random fevers. Poor Chuck has had to fend for himself for dinner after his brutal commute and long days at work. My workouts have been reduced to walking the dogs and yoga when I feel decent, yoga when I'm tired, and a little meditation when I'm just plain exhausted. 


Those crippling thoughts of "I'm not doing enough," and "I'm not enough," had begun to creep into my brain. Ooh. That is never a good sign. I definitely have lessons to learn when faulty thinking becomes my norm. 


Every day, even on my bad days, I like to start my morning with a cup of coffee, while reading words that uplift and encourage me. Many of the verses I find are beautiful gems from the Bible. Some of the quotes are sweet reminders for challenging days. 


This morning during my quiet time, I had my a-ha moment. I realized that even on low energy days, I can still be of service by lifting and encouraging others. My to-do list may not get any shorter, and the house may not be as tidy, and I may not be making much progress on some of my goals, but I can always find some time to reach out to friends and family. 


One thing I enjoy doing is combining my photography with scriptures and quotes. So today, as I try to muster up a little more energy to return to the things that bring me joy, I want to share some of these with you. Maybe you, or someone you know, could use some words of encouragement today. 


Thanks for sticking around, and for being so encouraging to me. Today, let me try to return the favor to you. 






Friday, April 13, 2018

The Wanderers


Wandering is something I love to do. Whether it's inside the house, through a store, around the neighborhood, down a canyon, or across the desert, I like to wander. My boys share my love of wandering. (Just don't ask Dylan to wander through any stores. He does all of his shopping online to avoid crowds and lines.)

The Wanderers
Wanderlust is what my boys and I have. A strong longing or impulse for wandering. When the three of us get to spend a Saturday together, we usually fill our Camelbaks with water, lace up our hiking shoes, and head for the desert. At the end of March 2015, we found ourselves wandering near the Shivwits Indian reservation outside of Saint George, Utah.


Dylan, Bridger, and I rested in the shade of a juniper tree while hiking above a dry stream. We had a general idea where we were going, but not a specific one. Dylan, the Mr. Preparedness of our group, pulled up the GPS on his phone to get a better idea of where we were. There was no real trail, but there was a dry river bed, and since we were looking for a slot canyon, we figured we were on the right track. Dylan shoved his phone back in his pocket, and we headed downstream.


Bridger, ten years younger than Dylan, scrambled up and down rocks, scouting ahead, and coming back to report his findings. He's like a mountain goat on energy drinks. I figure if I walked five miles that day, he did at least seven. 


It was a gorgeous spring day, early enough in the season that we were kept comfortable from any extremes in temperature, and the slight breeze was welcome. We hiked up and down hills, avoiding the steep rock drop offs, and simply enjoyed exploring this part of the desert.

On this particular day, I was trying to dredge up cobwebbed memories of where the slot canyon was near Gunlock Reservoir. My general memory was clear: the canyon was in the vicinity of the Shivwits reservation; specific landmarks were clouded in my brain. 

As we trudged up a very steep incline, Dylan said he was pretty certain I hadn't gone this way when I hiked with the guide from the Fat Farm, a very unflattering term he uses for where I spent a week trying to get in better shape.

"Hey! It was Fitness Ridge, not the Fat Farm, and we hiked hard on those hikes."

"Well, down here, we call it the Fat Farm, and I assure you, the trail guides wouldn't have taken you guys up here." He flashed me his trademark grin. 

Nice. Really nice. I'm the Rodney Dangerfield in my family. I get no respect, I tell ya, and I put up with an awful lot of teasing.


Eventually the river bed ran into a slot canyon. Eureka! Well, sort of. This particular part of the hike was totally unfamiliar to me, but we didn't mind. We just like hiking the slots.

As usual, the boys hiked ahead while I hung back taking pictures. The beauty of the desert is such a lovely distraction. Everything catches my eye on the desert; the clear blue of the sky, prickly pear cactus, lizards, toads, and the rugged red rocks. Sometimes I get lost in my own reveries, to my own detriment.


Lost in thought, I was wandering between the two rock walls when the boys startled me with screams from a ledge above my head. They have great fun, these two, scaring the wits out of me. No respect at all. Sheesh.


Sooo funny. NOT.


I love the way my sons investigate every little thing in nature. Both of them notice small tracks and animal homes. They are like a desert version of CSI, although there are no crimes being committed, unless making your own mother nearly wet her pants is a criminal offense. I should look into that.


Dylan found what he thought to be an owl pellet. All three of us had dissected owl pellets before; we have a strange fascination with this sort of thing, curious about what we'd find within the pellet. 

As Dylan broke it apart with his fingers, he discovered it was not something left behind by an owl, but was actually the dehydrated droppings of a large domestic animal. 

"Our own little CSI; that's what you are," I teased him. We discussed possible variations of the acronym... Cow Scene Investigator was one; there were others. Feel free to pick your own words that begin with S; we did. 


That afternoon as we headed to the truck, we all agreed that we prefer our wandering around the desert to hiking single file down a trail any day. As Tolkien reminds us, "Not all those who wander are lost." 

Most of us are just having fun.














Dylan called this a desert rose. So beautiful.




 


















Thursday, April 12, 2018

Not-So-Random Acts of Kindness




A random act of kindness is a "non-premeditated, inconsistent action designed to offer kindness towards the outside world." 

I'd like to propose that we perform "Not-So-Random Acts of Kindness" each day. Wouldn't it be so cool if each of us made a point to be consistently kind? I know; I know. I'm probably preaching to the choir here. 

I love being random as much as the next gal; my blog is called Randomocity, after all. But being intentional, and having a purpose are important to me, too. Setting a goal to be of service has got me thinking that in addition to the little random things we can do, we should purposefully set a goal to do something for someone else each day, or think even bigger, and choose a few folks we want to encourage.

Need some ideas to get started? Here are a few articles that popped up in my Google search. 







Go ahead! Be random, and be kind. Be purposeful, and be kind. Follow Anne Herbert's advice, and "Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty." Just don't limit yourself to random acts of kindness for strangers. Being kind to our family and friends matters. 

Let's  make a point every day to make someone's day a little better.  



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy

As I get older, I am delighted to discover little memories from long ago bubbling up into my consciousness, since certain critical things I need to remember for today often escape me. As long as there's a balance, that should suffice, right?


This morning, a song from childhood came to mind. The songs I sang at Vacation Bible School during the muggy summer days in Virginia were imprinted on my heart. Through singing, I learned  that Jesus loves me, and Jesus loves the little children; all the children of the world. Those songs made me happy. And then there was the Joy song, which we sang with unbridled enthusiasm. 


"I've got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart! 
(Where?) 
Down in my heart! 
(Where?) 
Down in my heart!

I've got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart;
down in my heart to stay."


Hm. As I've gotten older, I've woken up to days that felt like joy just plumb forgot to stay.

But did it really? Or was I confusing joy with those fleeting moments of happiness that came to visit, but didn't stay long? I know there are articles ad nauseam about the differences between happiness and joy, and it may seem that folks are splitting hairs about two things that seem to have much in common, but I think the differences are worth exploring. 


When it comes right down to it, the joy really does stay. Happiness is the thing that comes and goes. It seems to me happiness is something I can have for moments or days, and joyfulness is a part of who I am. 

Happiness is breathing in the first fragrance of lilacs in the spring, walking barefoot in the summer, watching autumn's jewels glisten in the trees, and sledding down a hill in winter. Happiness is a chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven, a the smell of a newborn baby, opening a letter from a friend, or reading a good book under a fleecy blanket. 


It's hard to feel happy when we are grieving, or when we are depressed, or when we are lonely. There have been times when I felt like I was in the depths; you know, that dark place our minds go when we feel like we are spinning out of control, or when people have let us down, or when we are riddled with anxiety. 



Joy is that overriding feeling that no matter how bad today seems, things will get better. Joy reminds us how precious each day is, and that we have infinite worth. Joy is having faith that we are learning important lessons about life and ourselves when we are uncomfortable, or feeling unsatisfied. 

When I allow myself to dwell in the discomfort of an unhappy moment, and I don't try to deny the way I feel; if I sit long enough with those feelings, I usually am able to remind myself that I am safe, I'm okay, and everything is going to work out. There is a sense of calm, and yes, even a glimmer that rekindles joy in my heart at times like those.



Karen Gillespie reminds us:

"Joy is our natural state; we all have access to it, no matter what craziness happens in our lives."



Whenever you are blessed with happiness, no matter how fleeting, embrace the moment, and try to remember we have joy to tide us over when our circumstances are less than ideal.

Be joyful.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Netflix and Ill

Chuck and I have never been big TV viewers. Yeah, we've watched a couple of series like The Crown and Downton Abbey since we got married, but usually if we are in front of a screen, it's because we're editing pictures on our computers. 


Lately things have been different for me because I've been watching lots of TV. I've been sick a lot these last couple of months, and I've resorted to watching TV when I'm sick, and I enjoy entertaining myself with shows while I'm doing housework.

Today has been another sick day for me, and I've been spending a lot of time on the couch with Bristol, binge-watching Parenthood, and napping. 

I blame Susan for introducing me to the show ParenthoodI'm an emotional basket case today. I cried during the grand finale this morning; you would have thought I was one of the Bravermans. 

This afternoon I started watching Gilmore Girls. My future daughter-in-law and her mom gave the show high recommendations, so I decided to see what it was about. Great; another series I'm hooked on. 

Days like today are great for binge-watching TV, drinking soda, and eating Ritz crackers. I guess you could say it was a Netflix and Ill kind of day here for me.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Historically


It was a brisk Friday morning in March when I met my friend Barbara at the Townhouse Books and Cafe for conversation and coffee. The bright sunlight streamed through the colorful jars filled with green-tinged blossoms on the windowsills.


The cream swirled around in my coffee cup, following the circular patterns made by the small silver spoon until the coffee went from black to nearly white. Barbara and I were finally getting a chance to get to know each other better after spending a couple of years together working with a non-profit that served young writers in the area.

There is something so comforting in having a confidante who will not only listen to you, but is willing to be vulnerable in sharing her own story. As the conversation continued, I started to pick up on the way I was describing myself to her, pointing out my flaws, and absolutely owning the issues that have plagued me as an adult. She, too, admitted weaknesses of her own, but to hear us talk, our shortcomings defined who we were. 

Then our conversation took positive turn as we discussed that while it’s okay to know the issues with which we struggle, there might be better ways to talk about them. 

Barbara offered a suggestion she had read about recently that encourages talking about a habit that we are trying to change by introducing it with the word historically. I loved that idea. 


Instead of bemoaning the fact that I have struggled with overeating when stressed, I am now trying to say, “Historically, I turned to binge eating when anxious or depressed, but now I am trying to make better choices.”

In an article entitled "The Importance of Self-Talk," Johnson City Life Coach Tim Peterson wrote, “Self Talk is a huge part of what makes us who we are. It impacts how we feel about ourselves, how we feel about what we can achieve in life, how we’re viewed by the world, and how we interact with others. It impacts our self esteem, self confidence and self image. Pay attention to it.” 



There are innumerable Benefits of Positive Self-Talk,” and Urmet Seepter managed to pinpoint three of the most positive outcomes in an article from Good Relaxation. Using affirmative language when talking to or about ourselves can reduce stress, boost our confidence, and foster better relationships with others. 

While Barbara and I discovered commonalities in our journeys; we’ve both been divorced, we’ve both been single moms, we are both working at de-cluttering our lives, and we love bookstores, coffee shops, and dogs, I realized what a sweet gift spending time with Barbara was to me. I was thankful to have found another wise, compassionate woman to add to my tribal circle of sisters. 

When we hugged goodbye that morning, I whispered into Barbara's ear, "Be aware of your self-talk. Be kind to yourself." She reminded me to refer to my struggles in the past tense, and I promised to remember her suggestion.

Maybe you will want to try prefacing sentences with the word historically when referencing behaviors on which you are working to improve, or are eliminating altogether. 

Let go of things that are no longer serving you. You don't have to deny you are working to make things better, you just don't have to keep talking about it in the present tense. Let those things go; keep them in the past, where they belong.


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Gratitude



"Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given; gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us." -David Whyte



Right this minute, I want to pay attention; I want to be awake to and aware of the things small and big which add a dimension of joy to my life. 



Early morning coffee in a ginormous mug. 

Sitting on the couch with as much of Bristol as will fit on my lap.


Our unborn granddaughter Aly will be coming to earth any day now.

The soft glow of lava lamps.

A husband who loves me. 


Photographs on the fridge of the people we love.

The fragrance of hyacinths blooming in the kitchen. 


Anything that connects us to our kids: FaceTime, phone calls, texts, Snapchats, videos, visits. Just knowing they make an effort to keep in touch makes me feel so happy. 

Things I typically take for granted: a car that runs, clean water, a functioning furnace, a warm bed, retirement.

The sweet, gentle nature of Sami who would rather receive love and attention than food.


Time to meditate, read, and write.

Hearing an owl at 4:30 in the morning while walking under a waning moon.



A soft denim shirt over an even softer t-shirt.

My "new to me" LaZBoy couch, overstuffed and oh-so-comfortable, given to me by a friend last week.

Extra frosting on homemade cinnamon rolls.

Stained glass windows at my favorite consignment shop.



Early morning walks with the dogs, and Gentle Leader head collars that make early morning walks with the dogs a pleasant experience now. No more feeling like my arm is going to be dislocated from my shoulder when Sami gets excited by a squirrel, or a human, or a leaf.

Bitmojis from Chuck. 



Soft fleece blankets. 

Discovering old photographs at my mother-in-law's house, and realizing I would have had the biggest crush on Chuck if I had known him in high school.

The Bennorth boys. Chuck is the one in the middle.

The promise of a new day; a trip into the city to photograph flowers and Brazilian capoeira performers, and time with our Illinois kids, visiting Grandma with them, having dinner and playing games together.

What about you? What do you have to be grateful for? What will you notice when you become aware of the gifts in this moment?