Thursday, October 31, 2013

*Pumpkin Soup, Anyone?

One Halloween, many, many Octobers ago, our large, boisterous family was getting into costumes and putting on makeup.  We had to eat dinner before we could go Trick or Treating, and the eight kids were in a hurry to get that little task out of the way.  I couldn't wait to see what Mom would come up with; that woman is so creative!

The yellow laminate counter was covered with ten place settings. We all jockeyed into position on our assigned barstools, and waited to say the blessing.  Mom had made darling open-faced sandwiches using a Halloween theme...owls had beaks and big round eyes...there were witch's hats and bats made from bologna.  And she'd really outdone herself; there was a very large cauldron pot of pumpkin soup.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love me some pumpkin anything. I like the cookies, the breads, the puddings, the pies...any dessert, basically, made of pumpkin.  But pumpkin SOUP?  I was suspicious.

The sandwiches were yummy, and pretty cute.  I took a tentative sip of soup from my spoon.  Oh. My. Word.  It was really, really bad.  I tried to take a little more.  I knew the rules.  We had to try a little of everything, we had to be polite, and we could not complain about anything that was served.

There was a deathly silence around the dinner table that night. Occasionally, someone would shift on a barstool and the wooden legs would squeak on the linoleum floor. The sounds of spoons clinking against the Corelle bowls, and an occasional clearing of a throat were the only other sounds. Keeping eight noisy youngsters quiet on Halloween was no small feat. No one dared look up and make eye contact with anyone else for fear of making a face that could be interpreted as disapproving. We all knew the iron-clad rule at the table:  If you complain about what is served, you'll have twice as much to eat of it.

Downcast eyes, and silent stares circled the table that night.  The soup had an unusual flavor.  I like pumpkin, but perhaps because I was expecting cinnamon and sugar to accompany the flavor, I was very disappointed. Cool Whip would NOT help this dish!  I suppose it was savory, but I found it so unappetizing.  Honestly?  It tasted the way the rotten food in our pig pot on the back porch smelled.  I played with my sandwich, wishing the nasty contents of my bowl would disappear.

Finally, Mom loudly announced, "Oh, this soup is just horrible. You can dump your soup bowls into the pig pot." There was a great scraping of barstools on the kitchen floor as we all cleared out of the room out the back door.  There was nervous laughter, and great sighs of relief. There was no way we could have consumed that pumpkin soup; it was so disgusting.

The Halloween of the Pumpkin Soup is a legend that has been passed down to the next generation.  All of the grandkids know about it.  All anyone has to say at a family gathering is "Remember the Pumpkin Soup?" and the room dissolves into laughter.  

Lately, I have to admit to having my curiosity piqued by autumn recipes that call for squash and pumpkin in soups.  Bricklie has made the yummiest Butternut Squash Soup, and my sister Kathy and her daughter-in-law Ashley have had some success with trying a recipe they really liked. I'm tempted; I'm so tempted.

Today I satisfied my creative urges with pumpkin by carving. Perhaps this week, I'll give a pumpkin soup recipe a try. Who knows?  Maybe it will even be good.  I'm always looking for new experiences. Even giving an old awful experience one more try. I hope I'll be delightfully surprised.

Here's the recipe my sister's daughter-in-law tried.  I'll offer it here, so I can find it later!
Pumpkin Soup from German Recipes and More.  Kürbissuppe is what they called it!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

*A Meditation on Physics

Remnants of Autumn

We did it. We really, really did it.  I took our Boston Terrier for a walk.  Big deal, you say?  On some days, after some periods of time, yes, it is a big deal.

I could have used any number of excuses not to go. It was cold.  The mountains were foggy, and the weather was overcast.  It looked like winter. I'm not quite ready for winter.  My muscles still ache from yoga.  I have excuses galore.

The miracle today is I overcame my physics problem; you know the one:  "An object at rest will remain at rest."  It's too easy to rest, and remain at rest.  It's too easy to take the path of least resistance.

As I made the turn on the corner, just past the Russian Olive trees, I was delighted to see the autumn colors in full force in front of the nearby condominiums.  The reds and oranges filled me up, and it was easier to ignore the fact that many of my favorite trees are now bare.

We spied the ducks enjoying what remains of the water in the canal, just sitting there in the puddles, taking it easy, soaking up this sweet time before the snow flies.  I could relate; I need to soak up this time, too.  I need to wring all of the goodness that is left in this passing season.

The raccoons had left deep footprints in the mud along the banks of the canal, their well-worn paths more evident as the rushes fade from greens to browns.  I strained to see prints from our favorite foxes, knowing they had been there, even if I couldn't detect their presence.

As we passed by the plot of land the city has declared a sanctuary, I noticed two brilliant red leaves beneath the olive trees.  I didn't see the trees from which they fell, and assumed some wind had whirled them a distance before dropping them here for me.  I took them for my own, to add to my collection.

I took in the fresh air; I ignored the sounds of the freeway nearby. This walking meditation may be the only chance I have today for quiet reflection and outdoor activity.  I'm so glad I didn't give in to the temptation to stay at rest, for now perhaps physics will work in my favor for the rest of the day:  "An object in motion will remain in motion..."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Keeping Up Appearances, My American Version

There is one more thing I am absolutely obsessive-compulsive about...well, probably many more things, but I have this one thing I need to write about.  I have this thing about having my hair and makeup done before any sees me.  Anyone.  My husband.  My kids.  My friends.  Complete strangers. ANYONE. 

Early Christmas morning? I get up EARLIER than everyone else to make sure no camera captures my wake-up/no-make-up look. Going to the gym?  I need to make sure I'm presentable before I perspire.  "Come as you are" invitation?  I'll come as soon as I look like I've freshened up.  My husband surprises me by waking up early?  I duck into the bathroom to at least brush my hair, and brush on a little mascara.  My kids are home for the holidays? I'm the first one in the bathroom to get ready for the day.  I don't even like to wash my makeup off before I go to bed, thinking my poor husband won't be able to handle seeing me without eyelashes and foundation.  I do it, most of the time; but I don't LIKE to do it.  Yes, looks over hygiene.  Disgusting admission, I know.

Guess who I admired most at the hotel's complimentary breakfast this morning?  Not the perfectly coiffed woman in her business suit.  Not the shaven man in his tailored shirt and khakis.  I'm grinning at the folks who can roll out of bed, stay in their jammies, and show up to eat without so much as a comb-through.  WOW. I am in awe.  Anyone who doesn't give a thought to what anyone else thinks is my hero. (MARGARET, you know you are my biggest hero.)

When I see those posts on Facebook, and elsewhere on the internet, of people in public wearing their pajama pants and slippers, or looking a little haphazard in their appearance, I'm quietly cheering them on, envious of their comfort with and acceptance of themselves.  I'm thinking, "You go, girl!"  I couldn't do it; but I'm all for the folks who can!

As I look back at my life, there are a couple of situations that contributed to my obsession.  My mom, for starters, set the example.  She never wore much makeup, but she always had her hair and light makeup ready for the day before starting breakfast for the eight kids.  Always.  And there is one other moment that comes to mind.

When I was a teenager, I was very involved in 4H, student government, sports, and our church youth group.  One typical weekday, I had gotten up early for my at-home seminary studies, finished my last- minute homework, gone to school, hit the gym for volleyball practice, and then piled into the family van to drive the 45 miles to church for our youth group meeting.  As I remember, I had managed to change out of my perspiration-soaked volleyball uniform, but I hadn't had time to do anything about my stringy, sweaty hair.  

When I arrived at my classroom, our leader told us she was going to take our pictures that night to display at church.  I was horrified.  No makeup.  No decent outfit.  Oily, sweaty, stringy, straight hair. Was she serious???  Actually, no, it was an object lesson about making a good first impression. "We never get a chance to make another good first impression."  She was probably tired of us showing up looking like slobs, and not taking the time to attend to our appearance before getting to church.  So the lesson embarrassed me into putting more thought into the way I look.  

As I think back, I'm slightly irritated that my thinking was so severely impacted by that lesson. As a teenager, I felt like everyone was staring at me anyway. I was a good kid, going after life with gusto, with a jam-packed schedule.  I was also very impressionable. My life was go-go-go.  My choices that night were to go to church...or stay home and take a shower.  I wouldn't have made it to church at all if I'd taken the time to get ready to make a good impression.   What I really internalized was that looking good was important.  Looks triumph actions.

That night was a turning point for me.  I have since lived in fear of making a bad impression.  I have set unreasonable goals for myself, and have excused myself from some activities because I didn't have time to put myself together properly.  I worry about everything appearance-related.  Sweating at the gym. Bed head. Pit stains. Blemishes.  Poorly blended makeup.  Stray hairs.  Un-tweezed whiskers.  Spilled drink stains.  Runs in nylons.  I am a psychotic mess about worrying how others see me.

This is one of the reasons having helmet hair gave me such anxiety when we rode our Harley, and when we go cycling.  I like having a hat at the ready to cover my wild tresses, or as the case may be, my very flat, limp hair.  It is also one of the reasons I love trying on hats, and being silly.  I think there is a part of me that tries to overcompensate for worrying about how others see me.  I WANT to be a nonconformist...someone with a laissez-faire attitude...a self-actualized individual.  So I tend to make fun of myself when I feel "less than acceptable" physically.

Here I am, In All My Glory, on an early morning before school when there was a power outage. I blogged about the morning I was in a tailspin about not being able to get ready without hot water and all of my electrical hair appliances.  Just in case anyone saw me that day, and a few did, before I could get to a working electrical outlet at school, I wanted to be the first to laugh at myself. It would kill me if someone else had the first laugh.  The best defense is a good offense; isn't that what they say?  So I posted this pic on Facebook, allowing others to laugh if they would, WITH me; not AT me.  I hoped.

"I am the Crypt Keeper!"
Occasionally, to push myself out of my comfort zone, I take pictures of my scary self in the morning, and send them to my kids.  I'm often trying to de-sensitize myself about my obsession.  It's not like I'm some glamour girl; I just like to make an effort before anyone else sees me.

I can truly appreciate the self-acceptance of others who "tuck and roll," as my husband calls it.  What freedom it must be to give no thought to what others think, to live a life with little regard for looks, to have the confidence that it truly is what's INSIDE that counts.  I believe that, in my heart, I just can't bring myself to live it.  Which means I don't really believe it, doesn't it?

I'm going to challenge myself to "tuck and roll" every once in awhile.  But not this morning. This morning would have been a bad day to experiment with this concept. 

Holy cow, when I woke up, I scared myself when I saw my silhouette in the bathroom mirror.  After a wonderful massage yesterday, there were remnants of almond oil in my hair, and my short hair was sticking straight out from my head.  I couldn't convince my hair to do anything I wanted it to do. It wouldn't even tuck it behind my ears.  So, not today, but someday soon, I'm going to go au naturel, sans makeup, in comfy clothes.  (By the way, I looked up "au naturel." It means "in a natural state; nothing added" besides meaning NUDE.  I do NOT mean  to say that I'm going for a Lady Godiva look.  Just sayin'.)  ( I'm also always worried people will misinterpret my meaning, in case you couldn't tell.)

So today, I salute you who are comfortable in your own skin.  You have my deepest admiration.  I'm going to try to be more like you.  Soon.  I promise.

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Yoga Pants Actually Went to a Yoga Class!

Parivritta Virabahdrasana- revolved warrior
Yoga pants are not just for lounging, y'all!  I actually wore them to my first yoga class yesterday.  This old dog continues to learn new tricks.  I've had yoga pants in my wardrobe for years, and have found them to be suitable for walking, watching TV, shopping, wearing after overeating, and rarely, doing yoga.  I've dabbled with yoga on occasion, but never more than 20 minutes at a time.  Yesterday, I found myself in a 90 minute yoga class, much to my surprise and delight.  It is funny how synchronicity, observing moments of meaningful significance, has blessed me time and time again.

Since I have joined HAPPIER, I have widened my circle of friends. How blessed I feel each day to know that I have Yuriko in Japan, Carol in Massachusetts, Yogi in Colorado, and Janna in Idaho, cheering me on, laughing with me, and caring about me.  One of the upsides to this wonderful website is the friendships that have been forged.

Yogi posts the most amazing pictures online of her yoga poses with uplifting quotes.  Her Enlightened Yogs blog is full of peace, joy, and enlightenment.  I jokingly told her that if we really wanted to make people smile on the Happier website, we should join her and post pictures of ourselves attempting poses.  Yogi was thrilled to have us join her in posting yoga pics, and I'm sure entertained that we would even try!  

Yogi says that SAVASANA (pronounced sha'-va-sa-na), is one of the most difficult poses.  In this position, you are completely prone, with palms upturned by your sides.  The challenge of this pose is releasing all your physical weight, as well as your emotional baggage.  Since I had mastered the PHYSICAL aspects of this pose ages ago, I displayed this picture first.  Here it is,  my first attempt at Savasana:

And then, I thought, I want to impress Yogi.  I wanted to attempt something more challenging. This is
Time for new highlights, I see.
Bakasana, the crow. I absolutely surprised myself by getting my feet off the ground, even this little bit.  It did occur to me later that this could have ended very badly.  When one isn't holding a pose for very long, I suppose anything is possible, even a semi-decent result!  The Happier crowd was very supportive, and we all had a good laugh.

When Yogi found out I would be in the Denver area, she invited my daughter and me to come to her yoga class.  How could I turn that down?  Sierra and I love trying new activities and foods together.  Mark and I have experimented with yoga DVDs in the privacy of our home, and always enjoyed our 15-20 minute sessions.  Why wouldn't I want to try an hour and a half class?  (Don't burst my bubble just yet...)

When we found found the yoga room, it was dimly lit and there were soft meditation bells playing in the background.  Yogi deftly leaped off her mat to welcome us, and with an enthusiasm that was contagious, she whispered her welcome and hugged us warmly. She had a box of German chocolates and a card for me, and a Starbucks birthday gift card for Sierra. We borrowed floor mats from the closet and settled in toward the front. The room had a calm, peaceful feeling to it.  

Our intention for our practice was love; loving everything and everyone in our lives.  I felt so peaceful, and the nagging little thoughts I'd been entertaining evaporated from my mind.  The hour and a half did not actually fly by, but passed much more quickly than I'd imagined it would.  There were a couple of poses I could not, for the life of me, hold because of strength and balance issues, but I loved the class enough to want to incorporate yoga into my life during the coming weeks.

Before we left, we took pictures with our cell phones.  Yogi suggested we try her lemon spray on our wrists, and invited us to take some HAPPIER stickers.  Of course, she did.  She is a living embodiment of all things HAPPIER.  I hope my yoga pants and I will be trying yoga much more often.  For today, I'll be wearing my comfy black yoga pants to a massage; I feel like the survivor of a great and terrible car wreck.  Oh, but it's all good in my book!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Happy Birthday to My Little Hero!

Ever since her arrival here on earth, my daughter has been someone I admired.  Does that seem odd? Even when she was a baby, I felt like I had so much to learn from her sweet spirit.  I always thought it was as if our roles had been reversed.  The smaller soul had given birth to the greater soul.  As soon as she could talk and walk, that impression just felt stronger.

Sierra wants to be in the thick of life, jostling herself into position to be ready for anything that comes her way.  She is the middle child, the only daughter.  Our Sierra Sandwich, between two brothers who adore her.  Nothing keeps her down for long.  I can remember one day when she was just about counter height, she was running through the kitchen, and nailed the countertop with her forehead.  I braced myself for a meltdown, having been trained well by the older brother.  Nope, not this girl.  She stopped, stunned for a moment, rubbed her head, and kept on running.  

My little girl has always enjoyed dressing up.  She was the most dainty, feminine little thing I'd ever known.  Having grown up as the ultimate tomboy, I was never quite sure how to take this creature who loved dresses, patent leather, and frilly socks from the get-go.  She wore a dress every single day from the time she was old enough to express an opinion, which was pretty early.  If she wore shorts or jeans, it was always under duress.  Even when she got a horse as a gift from a family friend, she would pull on jeans, under her dress, to ride the horse, and shed the jeans just inside the back door when she was done.

When she was about three years old, there was an afternoon I recall with some fondness.  The rain had subsided, and her brother was heading off to meet friends to play.  "I want to play outside with the boys."  I just looked at her standing there in her dressy outfit.

"If you go outside, you have to wear PLAY clothes.  I don't want you to ruin your dress."  Her eyes lit up, and she made a bee-line for her room.  She came out several minutes later, ready to play.  I just laughed.  There she was, in all of her glory, decked out in her leotard, pink tutu, and little leather ballet flats.  It took some convincing, but she finally found something suitable, and joined the boys to enjoy the puddles and mud.

Although Sierra has always been so very pretty, I never wanted that to go to her head.  "Put her in the beauty pageant," friends suggested.  There are plenty of things she could have learned from those experiences, but I wanted her to grow up with a self-esteem built on her inward beauty, not her outward appearance. I just wanted her to realize it's what's on the inside that really counts.  She has never let me down.  

For a brief period of time, Sierra worked at the care center in food services.  It was easy for her to
remember the patient's preferences, and she always enjoyed engaging them in conversation.  One day as we were standing in line at the pharmacy in the grocery store, waiting for our prescription, her eyes opened wide in recognition, and a big grin spread across her face. "GEORGE!" she exclaimed, as she made her way through the other shoppers.  I looked in the direction she was heading, and there sat a forlorn-looking man in his wheelchair.  His expression changed when he saw Sierra.  "How have you been doing?"  She gave him a big hug, and they talked for awhile.  As she returned to our place in line and left George, they both looked happier.  She has always had a way of making everyone feel special and important.  I love that about her.

Sierra loves to make people laugh with her slapstick comedy. Most of my pictures of her are silly because she never takes herself too seriously.  I'm realizing there are limits with what she is comfortable doing.  She will do almost anything for a laugh, unless she thinks it could be misunderstood as illegal or socially unacceptable.  She will pull faces, and strike funny poses, but I'm learning that I cause her great anxiety if I ask certain favors.

The last time we were together in Denver, I wanted to take a picture of her inside the pumpkin crate at Whole Foods. She was panic-stricken.  "I could get in trouble."  

"What?  Who cares if you get in with the pumpkins? You're not hurting anything. Come on!  It will be fun!"
Bless her heart, she climbed into the pumpkins, managed a quick smile, and quickly jumped back out to safety.  When we noticed the policeman sitting just inside the door of the eating area, I think both of our hearts skipped a beat.  What's the worst that could have happened?  Someone MIGHT have asked us not to do that any more.  Okay...we were done anyway!  Until NEXT year...

Earlier, she and I had gone to Target, and the security guard's segway caught my eye.  "Hey, Sierra, take my picture riding the segway!"  I jumped on the two-wheeled vehicle.  The look in her eyes said it all.  

"Mom, DON'T!  You could get in trouble!"

"Look at me! I'm a mall cop!" I joked, "revving" the engine.

She took my picture, but not without great stress.  Poor thing. I don't think it was until this particular weekend that I realized just what a good girl I have.  She doesn't even want to APPEAR to be doing something naughty.  Bless her precious heart.   

I love this girl.  I will always love her for loving me unconditionally, and forgiving me my sins of omission and commission as a mother.  Happy Birthday, Sweetie!  You are one of life's biggest gifts to me!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Precious Ms. Peacock

Happy Birthday Eve to my beautiful daughter Sierra! This is a little walk down memory lane for her from October 26, 2013.

What a delightful place Denver is!  It's never about the place, though, it's always about the PEOPLE.  Spending time with my sweet girl Sierra just fills my heart UP!  I am so grateful for the bond we share.  

Yesterday as we were strolling through Nordstrom Rack, she stopped and hugged me, and said, "This means so much to me, Mom.  When I first moved to Denver, I would notice the daughters shopping with their moms, and I felt so sad.  I missed you.  I wanted to be shopping with MY mom." Awww...she is the sweetest thing ever!

Yesterday we were searching in earnest for a Halloween costume for her to wear Saturday night.  She kept hoping to find a ready-made TACO to wear.  

The night before while we were at Ted's Montana Grill, our favorite place for Red Rock Chicken Sandwiches, her friend looked at her and asked, "What is it about the taco that appeals to you? Is it just because it's so random that it's funny?"  Sisi nodded enthusiastically. I was puzzled, but not surprised. At Halloween, she either likes to be randomly silly, or very elegant. I was determined to help her find something besides a TACO costume.

The next day we hit the thrift store in Westminster. They had some AWESOME stuff. I found wigs, hats, and boas. Sierra would have none of it.  

"I am NOT trying on hats here, Mom.  I have a thing about lice."  I just laughed at her. 

"You don't have to try them on, but you have to take pictures of ME trying them on!" Ever the doting daughter, she complied. My kids and I had always tried on every hat in every store we'd ever gone to so I couldn't believe she wouldn't play with me. I guess this was our first "second-hand" headwear experience.  

As I donned this PERFECT white wig, I told Sierra I just knew that most of these costumes were only worn once by some darling little child having fun on Halloween, so I just get over any of the heebie-jeebies that bubble up in me, and try on the hats and wigs. It was so fun!!!  Sisi wasn't buying what I was selling, but she did take pictures.

As we walked through the aisles and aisles of costume possibilities, a brightly colored sequined dress caught my eye. "What about THIS?" I pulled it off the rack, and noticed immediately how tiny the dress was. The sequins were green, blue, and purple, and looked like a piece of Mardi Gras perfection. "This would even fit you!!!" I could tell by the gleam in her eye she was hooked. She held up the peacock-colored dress to her. It was perfect.

After we bought her dress and went to lunch at Macaroni Grill, she and I went in search of a headdress. We scoured the shelves of Michael's Craft Store, and found the perfect accessories:  peacock feathers and a turquoise feathered hair clip. The piéce de resistance:  a peacock pin. Sierra's outfit was complete. 

The real Mrs. Peacock from Clue only WISHES she looked this good. It would be hard to compete with my precious Ms. Peacock.

Ms. Peacock

Friday, October 25, 2013

*This Little Piggy...Ran Away

Mom and me in Virginia
Summer 2013

"Tell me a story about your mom," my friend Lisa said during a lull in the conversation. "I love hearing stories about your mom."  My college roommates and I had met for a Girly Getaway in Denver as summer was winding down this past summer. I smiled. Lisa remembered with fondness some of my stories about my mom.  

Before I share this one, let me just tell you how much admiration I have for my mom. She is an amazing woman who has endured one trial after another in her life, and she has shown me that no matter our circumstances, we can always be happy.  My mother has buried three husbands, her mother, and her father. She was the caretaker for her own mother, and one of my step-grandmothers. She grew up in the Great Depression, but there's just nothing that seems to ever depress her, at least not for long. She has a zest for life, and a compassion that runs deep for everyone she meets. My mom has always been my hero. I have so much to say about this wonderful woman, but for today, let me show you where I get some of my undying hope, and a bit of my naïveté. 

When grew up in a very small town in central Virginia. Our family lived in the big, old farmhouse up the hill from the railroad tracks. Four boys and four girls, in a his, hers, and theirs family. One of our annual family traditions was attending Nelson County Day. Most of the kids in our family were involved in 4H, so we entered various items in the 4H displays, and we enjoyed seeing our friends, and stopping by the different vendors' booths. Neighbors were spread out along the state highways and dirt roads in our county. This was a great opportunity to get out and see people.

There is a Nelson County Day stands out in my memory. That year it was held at the junior high. There was a sprawling mowed lawn behind the building that extended to the woods beyond. One of the highlights for the little kids was the greased pig contest. (Yes, "Rustic, Rural, and Real" was the perfectly named theme for Nelson County Day one year, as I recall.) During the excitement in a pen full of children diving for the poor pig, this little piggy squeezed through the fence, and took off for the woods. To my knowledge, he was never found.  

Later that night,  most of my seven siblings were lounging around the family room, sprawled on the floor or couch. True to form, when that many kids gather together, there was a lot of noise. The evening news was on TV, and mom was trying to shush everybody. Normally, Mom didn't pay attention to television, so she had my interest.  

"Please be quiet!" she requested again from the kitchen sink. "I'm trying to hear the news." I couldn't figure out why she would be watching the news that night. "I'm hoping they'll tell us about the pig."

"What pig?" I asked, the runaway piggy already all but forgotten.

"The greased pig that ran away at Nelson County Day.  I sure hope they caught him!"

"And you think they'll announce this on the evening news?" I asked incredulously.

"They should!  I've been wondering about him all day.  I've been so worried about him."

We all had a good laugh. That's our mom. She even has compassion for little greased pigs who escape from Nelson County Day. It's hard not to love her, and her simple way of looking at the world.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

*Resisting Winter

If I could,

I would stand at the
as each leaf falls,
and return the jewel
to its branch,
restoring autumn
to its perfection.

Time, like sand,

seems to slip
through our fingers faster,
the tighter we try
to hold onto it.

Resisting change,

just like resisting
the passage of time,
is such a futile act.

Winter will come, and

will not be stopped.
As soon as we embrace
each moment for what it is,
anxiety falls away, and
relaxation takes its place.
There is such perfection
in the present moment.

Frost will come,

and with it the
splendor of ice crystals,
glitter that glistens
like fairy dust,
as the sun dances
across the land.

Until then, the leaves will
slowly begin to rust,
and the trees will loosen
their grasp on the jewels
of the passing season.

To mourn this rite of passage

is as useless as wishing
to stop the hands of the clock.
We can cherish what is,
and welcome what is to be,
and be grateful for the
joys to be had in this
perfect moment in time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

*Tai Chi

Slowly imitating the old man from Taiwan,
I lift my arms to the golden dome of leaves
as the sun slips behind the mountain.
The master of Tai Chi, so small and steady,
Holds his pose with balance and strength,
the epitome of meditation in motion.

Canadian geese call to us from overhead;
Children laugh with abandon in the distance.
Surrounded by the golden trees losing their autumn leaves,
We move silently, attempting the moves of the master.

Lost in the moment, embraced by the beauty
of the sky and the trees, 
I discover muscles long since forgotten
as I balance unsteadily on the grassy floor.
My breath brings me back to this moment.

One day, perhaps I will stand on one leg,
poised and strong, and be aware of nothing
beyond this moment.  For now,
I hear the geese, the children, the cars.
I think of concerns, and things to do.
Breathing the cleansing air through my nose,
my thoughts return to this place and time, and
I realize that living in this moment is all there is.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Don't Be Silly, Chickens Won't Hurt You!

When Bridger was just a little boy, one of his jobs on our little farm was to gather the eggs. He never liked the job, and I could never understand why until that one day when I accompanied him to show him what an easy and pleasant task he had. Unfortunately, we didn't have a hen house, which was an ongoing disagreement between the adults in the household, but I'm not EVEN going to go there today.  Suffice it to say that the chickens ruled the farmyard, roosting wherever they pleased, and relieving themselves wherever they deemed it convenient, which did not limit them to the farm.  The sidewalk seemed to be a favorite "rest stop." A-hem.  But I digress. The chickens also laid eggs wherever they pleased, and it was up to us to discover those spots if we hoped to have eggs sizzling in the pan for breakfast. 

There were nesting spots in between hay bales, against the shed walls, and even on the ground.  Few of them used the nesting boxes provided. One of the hens' favorite spots was in the grainery. 

Our grainery was a round metal building with a metal door that latched, which we just left open for easy access.  I suppose the chickens thought of it as a gigantic self-feeder.  It kept them out of the weather, and the eggs had a soft spot on which to land. 

One day little Bridger came flying into the house.  I had sent him out to gather eggs, but he hadn't been gone long. His eyes were wild with fear as he told me he'd been attacked by a chicken.  "Oh, Bridger.  Don't be silly.  The chickens aren't going to hurt you. Just be brave, march in there, and grab the egg, and get out.  Show them that you're the boss."

"But MOM..."

"Oh, brother, I'll just go out with you, and show you how easy it is."

All the way out to the farmyard, I tried to reassure him how simple this job really was.  He scurried along, trying to keep up with my long strides.  We all had jobs to do, and this little job was his.  We couldn't have him crying about some silly old chicken every time we needed an egg.

"Here we go, Boo.  We just go into the grainery; don't even look at the chicken.  Just walk over to where she's nesting, and...

All of a sudden, there was a flurry of feathers and dust, and that little white hen turned into a feather-fueled fury.  I spun on my heel, and tried to escape as quickly as I could without injury.  I looked over my shoulder at my nemesis.  She had her legs outstretched and her wings had her flapping toward my retreating backside.  That chicken hit me in my upper back as I was shoving Bridger out the door.  I grabbed his chubby little hand, and we ran back to the safety of the house.

"Well, I guess I was wrong," I laughed nervously. "I'd be scared to death of those things, too.  I've never had that happen before."  He smiled with relief.  

From that point on, I assured him it would be okay to only gather the eggs that were unattended by the hens, the eggs that could be picked up without the wrath of our resident attack chickens.  Until that day, I'd never really understood people's fear of birds.  I have much more empathy now, thanks to that hot-headed hen those many years ago.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Small Town Girl Finds Her Place in the Universe


This post was first published on October 21, 2013. Last summer, my blog had been read 100,000 times. In the last nine months, that number jumped to 150,000. That is just so cool, and I am blown away by the growing number of readers.

A more recent photo of me, with my biggest fan. 2016

I'm just a small-town girl, living out her dreams as a retired teacher in the American midwest. My goals are minimalist in nature, trying to get the most out of each moment as it comes. My dreams do not include BIGGER and MORE. We live in a modest, comfortable home in a safe neighborhood, and I would not have it any other way.  

Having an entire day stretch before me with no commitments or obligations seems like such a gift. I love my "retired routine," and that includes my daily writing. 

This week it hit me that I have a growing audience. There have been a couple of circumstances that have allowed my blog to reach people from many parts of our beautiful world. I have a friend on Facebook who is an international celebrity who took the time to share my blog. I will be forever grateful to her for that gesture. High school friends from across the country have reconnected through Facebook. And I have made friends on the new social network of 2017 Update: Since moving to Illinois, I have met so many wonderful people in the suburbs of Chicago, and at the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin. I would like to thank each of you for taking the time to read my blog.

When I first started blogging this summer (2013), I had a following of a dozen family members and friends. I was touched that they bothered to read it at all. Over the next couple of months, more friends began to read Randomocity. And then, just lately, more and more people seem to be checking it out. To say I feel humbled and grateful for this is such an understatement.

The internet has brought the global world into my home, and faraway friends into my heart. I find myself cheering on a dear friend in Japan battling cancer. Sweet friends have reunited as the internet has fueled our friendships. I've been brushing up on my French with a couple of college students. There have been eye-opening online conversations about vegemite and honeyeaters with friends in Australia. I am discovering that Canadians celebrate their own Thanksgiving before we enjoy ours in America. Every day, my eyes feast on beautiful pictures posted by friends from as far away as Massachusetts, across the Atlantic Ocean in the United Kingdom and Russia, and the Pacific Ocean in Malaysia. 

Through the wonder of the worldwide web, I am making connections with people from all walks of life, from all over the world. I feel so blessed with each new friendship, and with each reconnection with those from my past. 

This weekend, I was so humbled when I looked at the statistics about my blog. I realize that in the larger scheme of things, my blog is very small. My audience consists of a small readership compared to those who have millions of followers, but it is slowly growing.

Every time someone takes the time to tell me, either in person at the grocery store, or on the internet on Facebook, Happier, or on my blog, that they can relate to what I write, I am deeply touched. Writing makes me so happy. Writing for a supportive and receptive audience makes me even happier. 

So, dear friends, old and new, thank you for stopping by. Thank you for taking the time to post a quick comment. Thank you for being a part of my world. I am so grateful for each and every one of you.

P.S.  May I ask a favor?  Would you mind leaving a comment today that indicates where you live? You don't have to get too specific, but I would love to attach some names and faces to these faraway places. You would honor me with your comments. I know it's a hassle, so just know that your reading this is honor enough. Thank you so very much.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Heeeere's Your Sign!

When my children were little, they would accompany me on frequent weekend shopping trips to The Wooden Nickel, an eclectic little shop down Marysvale Canyon that sold consignment items, home decor, crafting materials, and antiques.  We would poke around the shop, looking for little treasures.  My boys were drawn to the old guns and cowboy items, Sierra loved the little stuffed animals and stickers, and I drooled over the bookshelves, seasonal decorations, and scrapbooking supplies.

As we traveled down old highway 89 through the canyon, there were signs with the cautionary
words:  FALLING ROCK.  The rock walls often send tumbling rocks down onto the road, and you just never know when there will be obstacles in the path of your car.

After many such shopping trips, Sierra finally asked, "Just where IS Falling Rock?"


"Falling Rock.  Where is it? I keep seeing signs to it, but I've never seen the town."

Oh, Sisi.  The boys and I have loved teasing her about it ever since; that was nearly twenty years ago!  

When Bridger and I were in Virginia, we noticed a street sign in my sister Kathy's neighborhood, and we sent Sierra a picture of it in a text message.  "We finally found Falling Rock!"  I'm not sure she thought it was that funny.

See that sign to the right?  The bright yellow caution sign with the leaping deer?  In Utah, these signs warn motorists to watch for deer on the highway.  As someone who traveled the highways of Utah recording the information of deer fatalities and their locations (don't ask; it was a contract with the department of highways)'s easy for me to understand how they determine where to install the signs.  I think most people understand that the signs are to make drivers more alert.

Unless you're my mom.  These signs puzzle Mom.  She thinks the signs are endangering the deer population, and really, something should be done about them.

"Why would they put deer crossing signs on such a busy highway?"  We tried to explain that the deer traffic is busy there, too, so it's just a warning to travelers to watch for deer.

"Well, it seems to me that the state should put those signs on less traveled roads to keep the deer safe."

"Mom, you do understand the deer don't read those signs, right?"

"Well, they must see those signs and cross there, or there wouldn't be so many crossing on that section of highway. Why don't they move those deer crossing signs to roads that aren't so busy?  Those deer shouldn't be made to cross where there's so much traffic.  All the state would have to do is move the signs to little dirt roads or places where there aren't so many cars."

We just walk away, shaking our heads; she's so confused. And she walks away, shaking her head, thinking the department of transportation has it all wrong.  Those poor deer don't stand a chance with signs showing them to cross on such busy roadways.

As the comedian Bill Engvall always says, "Here's your sign!"

Friday, October 18, 2013

Celebrating This Boy

October 18 is the day we celebrate this boy: Bridger Waters.

When you are told that you cannot have something you want desperately, and that you shouldn't get your hopes up, it is quite exciting to have the privilege of having that very thing, even if it takes longer than you'd hoped. When I was a young mother of two, I just KNEW there was another baby waiting to be mine. I just knew it. And yet. I only had two babies, and they were getting older with each passing year. The doctors told me it probably wasn't going to happen.  

After many years passed, I finally told God, "I have done all I can. I can be happy as a mother of two perfect children. If there is to be another baby, I leave it in your hands." And just like that, within a year of letting go of my expectations, I was blessed. We were richly blessed with the miracle that is my son Bridger. His ten-year-old brother and eight-year-old sister welcomed their baby brother with open arms.  

Today we celebrate his sixteenth birthday, and it will be official:  he will get his driver's license and he will become much more independent. He will no longer need my services as his personal chauffeur. I will surely miss our hour long drives through the canyon each day to and from school. It is our time to talk, to ponder, to catch up, to listen.  

This last year we have had some great road trips together. He has been my co-pilot, sharing the driving as we traveled to Denver to see his sweet sister, and heading to Bryce Canyon to visit a good friend.  He has tackled the snarl of traffic on our trips to our house in in the city up north, a three hour ride from our rural home that takes us past Salt Lake City, and he has managed the swerving canyon roads with a conscientious attitude. He drives the way he lives his life, with purpose and intention, laughing along the way.

Bridger is an amazing young man.  He is the voice of reason when I feel stressed. He is my Jiminy Cricket when naughty words escape my lips, or I drive too fast through the canyon. He is my hiking and biking partner. He is brilliant, asking questions I would never think to ask, seeking answers diligently when I don't know how to help. He is my Music Man, entertaining me with his guitar, and pursuing his dream of learning to be the best tuba player, as he also plays the trumpet, trombone, and wishes he could play the bass.  

UPDATE: Today, October 18, 2016 is Bridger's 19th birthday. He is a freshman at Dixie State University, and singing in the choir and playing for the band while he gets his general studies done. Not only did he learn to play the bass, he also plays the guitar. He is so talented. I'm hoping he has the best birthday ever. 

Happy Birthday, Sweet Boy.  I am so thankful for the miracle that is you.
Going the extra mile with private lessons...he would love to play in an orchestra, but for now enjoys playing
in our local Sevier Valley Symphony.

We biked together for the first time this fall along the Ogden River.
Love his great attitude and cheerfulness.  Yes, he is one of my sweetest miracle boy.

Cultural events are a special treat.  We love going to concerts and Broadway productions. For his sixteenth birthday, we took his cousin Tatiana with us to see STOMP.
These hands are strong hands.  They fix things, they soothe things, they lift things, and they make beautiful music.

17 years old, bass player for Grizzly Bear Whiplash
18 years old
19 years old

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

*Shaking Off the Sadness of a Passing Season

I will be the first to admit that I had a bad attitude this morning. Maybe not a bad one as much as a slightly sad one. My mind felt troubled.  It didn't take long to figure out what the problem was.  I was not living in this present moment.  I was worrying about the future. Whenever that happens, mild anxiety sets in, anxiety and a little bit of depression.  

I had been watching the trees change from greenish yellow to yellow to golden to rust to bare all too quickly.  Life seemed to be passing me by.  Before I know it, there will be fat fluffy snowflakes drifting outside my window panes, and sweet autumn will be a thing of the past.

One of my favorite remedies when I find myself not living in the moment is photography.  Taking pictures forces me to be fully present, to notice the world around me.  I knew I needed to get outside and focus my lens and my mind on nature.  

I was afraid that all I would find would be confirmations of what I dreaded most:  the end of this beautiful autumn season and signs of the coming winter...bare limbs with the last straggling leaves clinging to them, or small drifts of snow. But the more I looked, the more I found to enjoy.  

As it turned out, I had TWO outdoor experiences today, one solo in the morning, and one later in the day with Marley.  I took my camera both times,  and soaked in all of the beauty around me...clouds and fog, leaves and limbs, mountains and trees, rocks and rivers.  I took in big gulps of air to clear my head.  I soon realized that by worrying about the coming winter, I was missing out on what is left of my favorite season.  

How often do we catch ourselves fretting over things that are not even part of our reality?  It is such a waste of precious energy.  I feel the need to chastise myself because not only is the coming winter not something to worry about, I love winter, too.  Part of me was concerned that I was not getting outside often enough to enjoy the pleasures of this passing autumn.  It seems so obvious that all I needed to do was go outside, but when we aren't thinking clearly, the obvious becomes shrouded in our confused thoughts.

How grateful I am for the moments I was able to have in solitude, and later, with my Boston Terrier. We need to enjoy every possible moment outside while we can.

My friend's field receives its final watering until next year.

The Old Church in Joseph

The Sevier River

I could look at these colors all day...

The foliage in Marysvale Canyon offers varieties of colors and textures.

Yes, I stretched out in the middle of the road for this shot!

Red favorite.

Even the leaves seemed grateful for the sun today.

Our view from Cottonwood Canyon this afternoon.

Although some trees are nearly barren, there is beauty to be found in their simplicity.  I will continue to seek out these jewels of autumn until they are completely replaced by naked trees and snow-covered landscapes.  By then, I will be ready for winter, and all of the stark beauty she offers me.