Thursday, December 31, 2015

That’s a Wrap


As we wrap up another year, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the past year and appreciate where I have been. My year centered on downsizing, simplicity, and traveling (you may click on the hyperlinked posts below).











My travels included Hawaii, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Montana, Italy, France, and more than a few trips to Lake Chelan in eastern Washington. We seemed to be somewhat plagued by less than optimal weather, as in the wettest and coldest for whatever the time of the year we happened to be in each spot. We did not let this get to us. Living in the Pacific Northwest one learns to adjust to changing weather, have a plan B and C just in case, and dress for whatever comes our way.

While traveling I have realized I don't need a lot of stuff in order to enjoy myself. I have taken simplicity in our travels and have brought it home where downsizing is the order of the day. As I continue on my path into a new year, I know downsizing, simplicity, and traveling will follow.

Take a moment to reflect on the past year. What did it center on for you? Did you let it get to you or did you adjust along the way? As we begin a new year you might consider having a plan B and C just in case, and don't forget to dress for whatever comes your way. Join me as I put a wrap on the old year and toast the new year of possibilities ahead. Cheers!

A champagne cheers photo courtesy of Bill Masson

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

All is Calm, All is Bright

My Dad spent many a Christmas Eve with us. I would cook up a Christmas feast which sometimes included a roast goose and all the fixings. We would take our time sharing gifts and enjoy a yule log fire. My husband, Dennis, would set aside a special log sometime during the year when he was splitting wood. When we sat down to open gifts, he would light the fire then we would each write a wish on a piece of paper and toss it into the flames. Before the designated yule log burnt up completely, Dennis would make sure a chunk of the charcoal was saved. The following Christmas Eve, he used the old yule log chunk from the prior year when he set the new yule log on fire, thereby continuing our good wishes from year to year.

After Dad died, we were left with a sense of sadness with the first Christmas Eve without him. Instead of doing what we had been doing with my Dad, we were determined to start new traditions and make new memories. I haven’t roasted a goose or have had a yule log fire in twenty-five years. When I look back over the years since Dad died, I can see making new traditions was just what we needed to do to help move us forward.

The holidays can bring up many memories. How about allowing for a season of change? It’s time, and it’s okay for you to enjoy the holiday season. Start by making new traditions and wonderful memories for the future.

During this holiday season I wish you all the best calm and all the best bright!
Cozy fire photo courtesy of Rachel_pics

Monday, December 7, 2015

The No-Gift Giving


I recently received a text from my friend Ann. She had been out and about and saw an ornament that reminded her of me. She wanted to buy it but her husband reminded her that I am in the process of getting rid of things. Ann carried it around the store with her for awhile then decided to take a picture of the ornament and send it to me instead of buying it. I told her the photo was perfect. It’s a gift just knowing Ann saw something that reminded her of me, and in that moment wanted to share it with me, but because she cares she didn’t buy it. Thank you Ann! I can keep the picture and know it was something she intended to buy for me, and it won’t take up any space.

I was thinking what a great way to give someone a gift, the no-gift giving when not a gift is a gift. With so many cell phone cameras around these days perhaps we should all get on the no-gift giving band wagon. It would be another way of sharing our love without accumulating stuff.
Ornament photo courtesy of Clark family archives.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanks and Giving

I feel as if the holiday season sort of tiptoed in on me this year. Of course I knew it was coming, but with being out of the country for five weeks, then coming home only to have my husband then me come down with a sinus cold, which took up the better part of three weeks to get over, I now find myself staring at the end of the year and holiday season.

I make an effort to keep the holidays in perspective. I no longer try and make everyone happy. That never worked for me. As a matter of fact, it only made me sick, crazy, and unhappy, so what’s the point? Over the last few years, I’ve chosen to not get caught up in the frenzy of the holidays, that means I don’t always spend time with family and friends based on what holiday it is. I would rather give time to others when the time is right for all parties. And yes I understand the significance of family gatherings any time of the year, but personally I would rather not come in contact with a large group of people during cold and flu season.

I would rather focus on what matters-letting people know I am thankful they are in my life. How many people actually tell you that? While it may be understood, there’s nothing like saying it. This holiday season, make it a point to tell the friends or family that matter the most to you that you are thankful they are in you life. Send it in an email, write it in a card, call them on the phone, whisper in their ear, or look them in the eyes. What's important is that they know how you feel, and that truly is the best of the best in giving.

Whether the holidays have tiptoed or shoehorned their way into your life, don't let your feelings be just understoodJust understood is easier than actually putting heartfelt sentiments into words. This holiday season step outside your comfort zone and share how you feel with a few simple words: I am thankful you are in my life. It’s that simple, but means oh so much. And if you have a cold or the flu, do your family and friends a favor-stay home! Giving during the holidays should not include a cold or the flu.
II photo courtesy of Marina Montoya

Monday, November 9, 2015

Packing Your Patience


In the last few years my husband, Dennis, and I have done quite a bit of traveling. One thing is for certain, not everything goes as planned. While I hope most things will go smoothly, I know there will be times when I must rely on my patience to see me through. And to tell you the truth, it can be easier said than done.

Before I hold-in my feelings and seethe, or explode and lose all sense of, well, sense in the moment, I remind myself to take a big breath followed by another, and another, and as many more breaths as necessary, before I react. There is something quite soothing about oxygen at an unsettling time. It’s interesting to me how inhaling large amounts of oxygen and focusing on my breathing slowly clears my head and brings on a sense of calm. It is within the calmness when I can be of assistance to the moment and be rational. Lately I have added quiet humming to my patience repertoire and it, too, brings on calmness and a sense of peace, although it may unnerve the people around me. Oh well! Better a calm sensible me, I’d say.

Before I head out the door for a trip, I will remind Dennis and myself to pack our patience. It’s a reminder that patience will see us through, and the two of us can figure out whatever comes our way. Bringing attention to the word patience may be a subtle reminder but it gives strength to the word and becomes more available to me when I need it.

Packing my patience for traveling and seeing the positive impact it has made has helped me focus more on patience in my daily life. The more I focus on patience the more it becomes a habit. I find patience with others is easier than patience with myself. But that’s okay; I’m learning more about the positive impact of patience in my life, and know I’m worth being patient for. I pack my patience along with me everyday. When was the last time you considered packing patience into your day? The next time you are sitting in traffic, try focusing on your breathing, or better yet hum a little tune over and over. Here a hum, there a hum, everywhere a hum-hum. Ah, don’t you feel better?
Patiently waiting photo courtesy of Clark family archives

Monday, November 2, 2015

Welcome Back!

Since my last post was dated September 20, it’s time for me to explain where the heck I’ve been. In the past I have always let you know when I was taking a break from posting, so I apologize for seemingly falling off the face of the earth. Instead of taking the summer off this year I chose to post every other week throughout the summer and into fall. This worked well for me and it kept me in touch with you. I had even planned to continue this posting interval while I was on vacation. What I hadn’t planned on was extremely slow Internet issues in Italy making it difficult to send email at times let alone trying to set up a blog post. That being said, I’m back to my weekly musings and I would like to welcome you to my sixth year of blogging.

I must say, I have missed you and my head is full of so many posts that I could burst. There will be changes and surprises in the year ahead and I can’t wait to share them. As always, if you enjoy this blog or a particular post, email it to a friend, blog, tweet, share, or recommend it. In this way you are sharing the It Is What It Is love and helping to inspire others. Thank you for continuing to follow along.

With love,

Photo courtesy of Clark family archives

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Healing Elements

A few years ago, I was having dinner with my friend Anita. We talked about what we would do if money weren’t an issue, as in winning the lottery. We would have to buy lottery tickets in the first place; but what if? We both mentioned traveling more and agreed regular facials and massage would be a must. Nothing we mentioned seemed extravagant at all, even if we had won the lottery. Days later, thinking it was interesting how neither Anita nor I were over the top on anything we talked about, I mentioned this conversation to my husband, Dennis. He just looked at me and said, “You could do that stuff now; you don’t need to win the lottery.”

What was top on my list? Schedule a massage. My friend Phyllis had been going to a local massage therapist at Healing Elements for some time and raved about how skilled Jennika Brewer was. At the time, I was seeing an acupuncturist monthly, so I decided to alternate each month between acupuncture and massage. I found my body seemed to respond in a more positive way when I had massage. I had been doing acupuncture for a number of years and had felt I wasn’t getting the same benefits I had initially. After a few months of alternating between the two, I dropped the acupuncture and have been going to massage appointments at 4-6 week intervals ever since.

Prior to Dennis’ comment, I thought of massage as a luxury, not as something clinical like acupuncture. I was wrong. They both deal with well-being. Just what is well-being? Simply put, a state of being, in that it embraces a state of being happy, a state of being comfortable, and the all encompassing state of wellness - all healing elements.

While I haven’t ruled out heading back to acupuncture if I feel the need in the future, having a massage on a regular basis has become one of my priorities. It doesn’t matter whether I have an issue I am dealing with or I just want the peace and relaxation that comes with a massage. It is truly a healing element as are my other priorities: meditation, working out, and eating well - which altogether helps me embrace happy. When my well-being is in balance, I feel my best and can be my best for whatever comes my way. No extravagance there!
Smile photo courtesy of Fergus MacDonald

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Patience, Gratitude, and Blackberry Jammy

After what has been one of the warmest and driest summers on record for the Pacific Northwest, this past weekend we abruptly cooled, and the rains moved in with a series of storms in the western part of Washington State. Our power was knocked out at the onset of the storm and it’s still out four days later. Having a generator relieves a few of the issues when losing power, but having patience and gratitude goes a long way in keeping us on track with the day-to-day disruptions.

When I was running in-between rainstorms yesterday, it smelled as if I was running on a trail through the woods. When in fact I was running on a paved road near my home. After the storm, the considerable debris from the cedar and maple trees lining the road made for a different type of run for me. As I dodged left and right, around and over debris, I was creating a strong woodsy scent along my way. By the time I finished my run, I was in a wonderfully happy mood. When I run, I generally feel happy, but I can honestly say I felt as if I didn’t have a care in the world. Even though I was longing to take a hot shower, but without electricity, a cold and let’s just say invigorating shower was what was on tap for me.

Prior to the recent storm, I have been enjoying my runs filled with the heady scent of blackberry jam from the large clusters of shiny, juicy berries aging on the vines in my neck of the woods. I am keenly aware of the scents around me from season to season, but now I'm thinking there has been an intense amount of aromatherapy going on around me as I run. When I researched aromatherapy and the scent of cedar, I found it to be a stress reliever. Well hallelujah, just what I need right now.  I also found the scent of blackberry to be strengthening and exhilarating, as well as a mood balancer. Wow! Combine that with the cedar and no wonder I was feeling so great after my run yesterday.

While one never knows what disruptions the day may hold, I will strive to hold onto my patience whether the power is up and running or not. And hey, I can always hit the road and enjoy an aromatherapy-inducing run if I find my patience waning. Through all this, I will continue to be grateful for many things. Even though I have found myself to be less than comfortable these last few days, I can grin and bear it when taking a cold, invigorating shower knowing the storm has slowed the fires burning out of control in eastern Washington. On a personal note, I will be grateful for a hot shower when the water heater warms up once again. And lastly, in the next few weeks I will be grateful for and celebrate running as those jammy berries age a bit more to the blissful aroma of blackberry wine in the mood-balancing last weeks of summer.

Just in case you were wondering - yes, I have eaten handfuls of those beautiful berries. And if that doesn't fill one with gratitude, I don't know what will.

Blackberry photo courtesy of Colin

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Back Off

In the last few months I have been getting ready for a yard sale, and the preparation for this event gained momentum in the last two weeks. Priorities being what they were, I needed to focus on the job at hand - yard sale. Which meant I was not able to do the things I normally do and that included writing. Allowing myself time to write and post on my blog is important to me, and I miss it if I’m not able to. But, in order to simplify and not find myself running hither, thither, and yon, trying to do it all, I focus and back off from everything else - even the things I enjoy. This focus on simplicity and priorities helps me sort out the complicated, helps me get things done, and helps keep my sanity - seems like a win-win situation.

Backing off may sound counterproductive to moving forward, but it’s not really. In the end analysis, backing off guides me to re-evaluate that which I do. It helps me see what I do in perspective. It helps me prioritize what I normally do on a daily basis and appreciate the doing.

The yard sale is behind me and I can focus on getting caught up on the things I backed off of. I know there will be new priorities in my near future, and once again I will need to back off of my normal responsibilities. Until then, I will be glad to resume whatever normal is for me.
Connection photo courtesy of Viewminder


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Returning History

One never knows where the road ahead will lead.

In 1805 and 1806, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery passed through what would eventually become Fort Benton, Montana Territory, on the Missouri River. My husband’s Great, Great, Great Grandfather, Sergeant Patrick Gass, was a member of the expedition, published the first journal, and was the last member to die in 1870.

In 1868 my Great, Great, Great Grandfather, John Peter Carolus, traveled the Missouri river by steamboat from St. Joe, Missouri, to Fort Benton, Montana Territory. In 1870 his son Jacque (Jacob) made the same trip with his brother George.

On March 13, 1993 my husband purchased an antique book binding press with the markings: Wells Fargo, Fort Benton, Montana Territory. We have since found that Wells Fargo was in the community of Fort Benton from about 1866 to 1870.

In the fall of 2013 my husband and I took on the mindset - we are moving! Those three words became great motivation to purge and clear a path forward as noted in my post Puzzling Moves. Since then, we have made major headway by donating, selling, giving, recycling, and tossing. What we have enjoyed the most on this part of our journey is the donating and giving. Thus, what to do with the book press?

“For it is in giving that we receive.”
St. Francis of Assisi

On July 16, 2015 we arrived in the community of Fort Benton, Montana, to return the book press. We met with historians from the Fort Benton/Great Falls area who were thrilled to receive the press, and to meet with a descendant from the Corps of Discovery. With the guidance of the Executive Director of the River and Plains Society, Randy Morger, we toured the heritage complexold Fort Benton and the Starr Gallery of Western Art, Missouri River Breaks Interpretive Center, Hornaday Smithsonian Buffalo, Museum of the Northern Great Plains, Museum of Agriculture, Homestead Village, and the Museum of the Upper Missouri. While in Great Falls, we toured the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center and were guided to various landmarks from the expedition by Don Peterson, a Lewis & Clark Foundation member, author, and historian. For anyone familiar with the expedition, we saw Decision Point, Great Falls, Great Springs and several of the Lewis & Clark portage sites.

Our recent experience in Montana was a trip of a lifetime for us both. Although we were returning history, our family history was brought home to us. While we continue in the process of downsizing our past to create a better future for ourselves, it has been remarkable what we have experienced, and look forward to wherever the road may lead.



I would like to personally thank Ken Robison, author and historian at the Overholser Historical Research Center in Fort Benton for introducing us to Randy Morger and Don Peterson. With all the history and new friendships, we hope to return soon.

Photo courtesy of Ken Robison

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Coma Song

What’s your coma song? If you don’t know what it is, think about what song or type of music makes you move, wiggle a toe, or bob your head. Can’t think of anything? Come on, you know what I’m talking about, when you can’t seem to sit still whenever the song is playing. Perhaps you are ashamed to admit marching bands hit your groove thing. It’s okay. Whatever it is that makes you twitch, it has coma song written all over it, so to speak.

So now that you have a coma song, what should you do with it? You want to make sure your family and friends know what your coma song is in the event you should ever end up in a coma. I have even included instructions for my coma song in my Health Care Directives. Yes, in those documents you can make sure particular music, even marching, is played should you ever be in a coma.

For example: I can’t sit still when Billy Idol songs are playing, and it's not like I even had any of his albums; but nevertheless, that is the music I want playing should I ever be in a coma no matter how old I am! If there is any possibility that I can journey back from the depths of a coma, Billy will make it happen. So, once again, what’s your coma song?
Tuileries, Paris photo courtesy of Clark family archives

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Eating to Live: Craving Kale


This spring we traveled to Asheville, North Carolina. The manager of the B & B we were staying at suggested we try Posana Cafe for dinner. She mentioned how incredibly wonderful the food was, it was a gluten free restaurant, and she now craves their kale salad and must have it on a regular basis. While we aren’t gluten free, I find restaurants fully committed to being gluten free usually have wonderful, fresh, and novel approaches to the food they serve. So, off we went to Posana.

Since my surgery last fall, my pipes (as I refer to my newly connected Crohn’s free intestinal zone) are working the best they have in years. I am eating foods I had long ago given up, and trying foods I have never eaten like kale. While kale has been around gardens and local grocery stores for years, it's the cool kids food of the moment. With the fact there are more interesting ways of serving kale than ever before, and the health benefits of eating it regularly are nothing short of amazing, I now add kale to my morning smoothies in small amounts and slice it sliver thin to add to salads. But I have never had a fully kale salad as I was unsure about all that fiber and how it would move through my pipes. Since I found the craving of kale comment rather interesting, I thought I better try this Posana salad. So I did, and now I crave Posana’s kale salad, too.

I found the recipe for the crave worthy salad on-line and can eat it whenever the mood strikes.  I know - how can anyone crave the rather firm, hard to digest kale with a slight cabbage flavor? All I can say is the executive chef at Posana knows food and knows how to do magic with kale. Since I have prepared the recipe almost weekly since our visit to Posana, I understand how the flavors work. First off, remove the hard center rib from each leaf, slice kale very thin and chop-chop to incredibly small pieces. Then, with your hands, massage olive oil and fresh lemon into the green chopped mixture. This process breaks down the firm kale leaves, imparts a light lemon flavor, and since you have had your hands in the mix - helps you become one with your kale! The addition of Manchego (a firm, nutty tasting Spanish cheese), and toasted pumpkin seeds (I use toasted sliced almonds) is just what the green glob of kale needs to override any residual cabbage flavor. The pièce de rèsistance is the addition of dried black currants. Their intense raisin flavor along with their natural sweetness finish this kale salad in a remarkable, but crave worthy way.

What’s this kale craze, or should I say kale kraze, all about? Consider kale a super food loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, iron, a great source of fiber, and, wait for it, protein! Wow, I know, right? I’m sure you are all quite excited over the possibility of kale in your life right now; okay, maybe not so much. But I just bet you will change your mind on kale when you try the Posana kale salad. Come on; be a cool kid and click the hyperlink to the recipe noted here. If you are ever in Asheville, stop by Posana Cafe and tell them hi for me! One last thing, you may be interested to know National Kale Day is October 7, 2015; party on!

Glowing kale courtesy of deedavee easyflow

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Going With the Flow

I had a full day scheduled this past Saturday. I was heading out to do errands prior to an Italian language class I was taking, with more errands on the way home. From the moment I left, I felt I was being alerted to be more careful as most other drivers seemed to be absolutely crazy. At three different stop sign intersections, nobody bothered to stop but me. As I came up to various parking lots, cars seemed to pull out without stopping, or stopped suddenly last minute before entering my lane. I picked up on the signs right away. I knew it was one of those days the universe must be trying to tell me something. When that happens, I’m on alert. I take my time and slow down; but mostly I pay attention, and go with the flow of whatever is going on.

In all my driving years, I have never had a flat tire, but as I walked up to my vehicle after the first of my errands, the gal parked next to me says, “Hey, you’ve got a flat tire!” I replied, “Looks like you can’t get any flatter than that; and hey, thanks!” You would think this happens all of the time, as I didn’t really react other than taking care of the priority at hand. The first thing I did was pull out my cell phone and call AAA, the good ‘ol American Automobile Association. Then, using my phone once again, I searched for the closest Les Schwab tire dealership which happened to be only 5 minutes away! There is something to be said for technology in hand. In 20 minutes someone arrived to put my emergency tire on, and in another 20 minutes, I was heading to Les Schwab to have the rather large nail embedded tire repaired. Oddly enough, they seemed to be waiting for me. Again, 20 minutes later, I was on the road.

While I knew I would not make the language class, it was okay. I reorganized my priorities and did not let this ruin my day even though I had planned this day around the class in the first place. As a matter of fact, I felt like I was in a protective bubble the entire time I was away from home. As I drove, I seemed to have more space around me. When I wanted to pull out into traffic, the traffic was non-existent at that particular moment. I can’t tell you how many times I said, “Thank you!” – to the universe.

All in all, I had a great day. While it didn’t exactly go as planned, hey, okay with me. Going with the flow at any given time keeps me centered. I could have reacted entirely different; but, hey, that’s not me.
Going with the flow pic courtesy of Taro Taylor

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Unwinding Into Summer

As we look ahead, next week marks the official start to summer. When summer rolls around, everywhere I go there seems to be a chaotic intensity. School is out, the roads are full of people going hither, thither, and yon, the grocery stores full of, well full of everyone, and everyone is in a hurry. Time to unwind into summer.

Warmer weather works us into a frothing frenzy of going here, going there, doing this, and doing that. Summer is the peak of busy. For me, I will continue to focus on simplicity. Remember my word for the year? It’s easy to let myself get tied up in knots trying to do everything I want to do or need to do. If I find myself momentarily tied up in knots, simplicity will allow me to relax, slow down, and unwind those knots. By unwinding the knots, I will allow myself to embrace summer, and unwind into it. By unwinding into summer, I am able to enjoy the simplicity of each moment. Whatever I am doing, I am doing it as if there is nothing else more important for it is the priority. Will you be one of those people I see going hither, thither, and yon? Or, will you be untying those knots and unwind with me into summer?

Knots photo courtesy of Gurmit Singh

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Someday

“Gazing outward into the light.”
Ani Gurnee

So what’s all this bucket list business we hear about? You’re familiar with the idiom kicking the bucket, with regards to dying? A bucket list refers to the same bucket only prior to kicking it. Where does the list come in? Think of it as what you would like to experience someday before you die. It is not related whatsoever to your day-to-day list of things to do. In other words, you would not see scrubbing toilets or vacuuming on your bucket list – at least I hope not; but whatever rocks your bucket!

With that, have you reviewed your bucket list lately? I’ve never really thought of having a bucket list per se, but I do know there are things I would like to experience someday. As time passes, the things I thought I might have wanted to do or see have changed, but what hasn’t changed are the following:
  • Aurora borealis or northern lights – I would like the trip itself to be an event, just in case the lights don’t quite dance across the sky in a major way when I am in the vicinity. With that, the trip will someday be along the coast of Norway from Bergen to Kirkenes - twelve days and thirty-four ports of call on a Hurtigruten freight/passenger ship. They have been traveling these waters since 1893, so if anyone knows how to hunt the light, they do.
  • International hot air balloon fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico – Someday I'll see the balloon glow take flight in the early morning hours and punctuate the darkness of the night sky. With over 500 balloons taking to the sky, it is the world’s largest ballooning event and has been held the first week of October for over 40 years.
  • International fireworks competition, Vancouver, BC – It’s been held the last week of July for 25 years and is the longest running offshore fireworks competition. Because it is a competition from 3 different countries each year, someday it will prove to be a breathtaking site with each country competing to be the best party in the sky.
My someday arrived last July when I checked-off the first of my bucket list items by observing fireflies, lightening bugs, in North Carolina. It was on the way home from seeing those fairies of the night that I contemplated the other things I have longed talked about doing someday; and like a flash, I discovered they all had something to do with light. Without realizing it, I had longed to infuse my life with more light! Ever since then, whenever I consider my bucket, I feel a warm glow come over me. I don’t know why I hadn’t made that connection previously, but I’m glad I finally connected the lights. I see the light now and my bucket is full of it – light, that is. What’s in your bucket? Shouldn't you start making someday today and rock your bucket?
Northern lights Tromso photo courtesy of Gunnar Hildonen

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Have a Song Filled Day

Please note: excerpts of the following post come from an email I sent to my sister. Pardon our style...

First off, you should know, my sister Becky is amazing - but doesn’t realize it.

Second off, (Is there such a thing as second off?) she is not only amazing, but has an amazing singing voice as well. At the drop of a proverbial hat, she can belt out a tune a cappella, as in without any music whatsoever. Singing a song with music can be difficult enough, but somehow she can pull it off without. For example, she brings people to tears when she sings the Our Father prayer or the national anthem. Like I said, she is amazing!

Third off, (It seems like I should keep things consistent.) she doesn’t always tell people when great things happen to her. For example, last summer my mom (little joke between sisters) told me Becky was asked to sing while at an employee barbecue. So she did, and rocked it, of course. Because, once again, she is amazing! But this event I had to ask my sis about.

Fourth off, (This is kind of fun.) when I did finally communicate with her in an email, I told her, “I think sharing with others about the good things that happen, no matter how small, is healing to your heart as well as theirs. It repeats the love all over again. As opposed to constantly talking about all that is negative. Hmm, this could be a good post!” 

Fifth off, (Yes, this whole off-thing is tongue-in-cheek.) Becky has had many challenges in her life and at times is her own worst enemy. That could be any one of us. She is striving to be her best self by moving away from the negative and the negative self-story. Thus, “Talking about the good things happening in your life is spreading the love, and in itself is a good thing.”

Sixth off, as I noted to my sister, “Share the song in your heart and have a song filled day. As a matter of fact, print that statement out and post it at home, the car, and at work. It will remind you of the song you have in your heart, and help you strive for it when things aren’t going quite so well.”  So, fill your heart with the good things, forget the bad; and even if you can’t hold a tune, celebrate what is.

 Love you sis,
Song filled day banner posted in my sister’s office and part of the Clark family archives.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cotton Head

It began in my forties. Now, where did I put...?

After nearly obsessing, okay obsessing, about the item, I usually find what I am looking for – eventually. Then, there are the times I head upstairs for a particular reason, and only upon coming back downstairs find I had gotten side-tracked and done something else, or three something else’s instead. Oh, and I mustn’t forget, pun intended, about the times I go barreling out to the garage while making a meal, where I store canned goods and have an overflow refrigerator, only to stop dead in my tracks and can’t think of what I was going to get. Even after a detailed racking of my brain about exactly what I was doing, picturing what I was doing, and looking through the cupboards, many times I can’t remember what it was I wanted until I get back into the kitchen. And, I am not alone in this!

If you are unaware of the term cotton head, it refers to fuzzy thinking or short-term memory loss associated with women as they approach menopause, and can carry on through menopause. It’s thought to be related to estrogen levels, or lack thereof. It is considered temporary. Ha! I know a number of women who are post-menopausal (50’s-80’s) and it is a regular topic of conversation for everyone. And no, it’s not like it’s a new topic every time someone brings it up. We aren’t that far gone.

I was a little more than annoyed by all of this in the beginning, then realized I had better success remembering when I didn’t obsess about it. I remember, yes, it does happen from time to time, thinking of it in a funny way when the memory lapses first occurred. I would smile and think to myself, oh well, it will come to me at some point. I did this for some time with no improvement. I thought perhaps I was letting my brain get lazy, so I tried memory games, and the like. These seemed to help speed the process along, and I would remember what it was I had forgotten seemingly faster. What I most often do now is force myself right there and then to remember. No obsessing and going on about it. I just simply relax and focus. I swear I can even hear my brain snap to attention. It’s been affective but is not foolproof.

Is all this cotton head, loss of control business something to worry about? I am sure there are those who feel like they are losing their minds and worry about Alzheimer’s. But what I understand is this: If you misplace your keys, let’s say three times a day or more - no worries! Seriously, no worries! If you don’t know what the keys are for – that, my friend, is different.

So cotton heads of the world  don't worry about it. You’ll think of it – eventually. Just smile and know you are not alone standing in the garage wondering what the heck you are doing there. If it helps, picture all sorts of people standing right there with you having a great, big laugh.

Cotton candy head courtesy of Thomas Galvez

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Plucking Weeds

A weed is a plant, or thought, habit, person...growing where it is not wanted. Some weeds may be easily plucked out and never seen again; others sprout even more weeds where there had been only one. What to do? As a Master Gardener, I was taught to identify the weed, and then determine the best strategy to eradicate it. Why is this important?
  • Weeds can be competitive – as in more successful, sometimes to the detriment of everything else in their wake.
  • Weeds can be pernicious – as in having a harmful effect to the health and environment it resides.
  • Weeds can be persistent – as in continuing to exist or endure; otherwise known as tenacious.
Consider Equisetum, or Horsetail as it is called. It is a true living fossil, and can adapt to even the worst growing conditions. It does not respond to threats by herbaceous weed killers or rooting out because their roots extend to China! Actually, roots or rhizomatous stems can be up to 6 feet long and send out horizontal runners sending out new shoots and even more runners. Try yanking on that!
Weeds mean different things to different people. What I may consider a weed, someone else may cultivate and care for. So, I say again, what to do? The best thing I have found in dealing with weeds in my garden, and in my life, is to remove them as soon as possible. Because sooner or later - what was a weed will still be a weed - only bigger. And since they are competitive, pernicious, persistent, and can only become more difficult to eradicate the longer I wait to get rid of the thing, I have adopted the practice of mindful plucking when I first identify a weed. The more mindful I am about identifying weeds, the better I become at getting rid of them. And when all else fails, I find satisfaction in getting my blowtorch out and taking aim. Flame on!
Horsetails a poppin' photo courtesy of Bradley Davis

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Path to Peace

On April 29 - I consider the life of a man struggling with countless complicated issues. My brother, Mike, took his life two years ago today. Many may still wonder how this could happen and why. What I will say is this: In the end, every corner of his life seemed to be failing. So let us not just consider his life, but take note of his death. This was his choice, and I honestly feel a great relief for him. His struggle is over and he is now on a path to the peace he had long searched for.

If Mike had died of a heart attack or cancer, we would not be asking why, we would not be contemplating the what-ifs. There are no do-overs in this, and there are no what-ifs. It is up to us, the living, to accept Mike’s choice, send love his way, and move forward. His family and friends have different memories of him, the best of these we should hold near our heart.

While I know Mike has found his peace, I am not so sure some of those who loved him have. So I offer you my favorite prayer by St. Francis of Assisi, in the hopes you may find your path to peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

On this day, my thirty seventh wedding anniversary, I continue to light a pathway of peace for Michael.

Pretty lights photo courtesy of ANDR3W A

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Resetting the Highs and Lows

My grandparents were orchardists, and weather was a vital part of their livelihood. In order to track weather trends, Grandpa Leo would head outside to his thermometer hutch every morning and evening to record the high and low temperatures for the day. He had a U-shaped maximum-minimum style mercury thermometer with two magnets that would move along as the temperatures went up or down. After resetting his thermometer, he would note the temperatures in a little black notebook he kept in the hutch.

When I was little girl, staying at their home, Grandpa Leo and I would head out to reset the thermometer together. He would pick me up so I could reach the stylus magnet and move the internal temperature magnets to the current temperature. This needed to be done in order to guarantee a proper maximum-minimum reading. As I grew older, he and I would sit underneath the big, gnarly apricot tree on summer evenings and talk about the weather – how he could smell the rain coming, what the wind direction indicated, what the color of the morning or evening sky might mean, and what the various cloud formations suggested. To this day, first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, I check the outside temperature readings. Grandpa would have loved my weather station because I can track not only highs and lows, but also rain accumulation, wind direction and speed, and an assortment of other weather related data.

Being a gardener, I follow weather trends closely. As if I have a crystal ball, people are always asking me what my weather forecast may be for the week ahead or a particular season. Years ago, weather seemed to be more predictable. In recent years, though, forecasting has become a bit more difficult. With record setting temperatures, rainfall, and snowfall, or lack thereof, my forecasting is not as reliable. But still, I watch the trends, keep an eye on the color of the sky and those cloud formations, take note of the wind direction and how it feels, stick my nose in the air and take in the smell of moisture heading my way, while always tracking those highs and lows. All in all, I do a pretty good job, and I think grandpa would think so, too.

My forecasting isn’t always sun filled days, but swings in temperatures, storms ahead, and everything in between. I’ve learned that weather, as well as the ups and downs of life, can sometimes be predictable; but like most things, out of my control. In order to weather the storms ahead, it is up to each one of us to take note of the trends, keep an eye on what's going on around us, and stick our noses in the air to sense what may be heading our way. But most importantly, we must never forget to reset our highs and our lows on a daily basis. After all, tomorrow is a new day and the forecast ahead is always changing. As I look into my crystal ball, I predict winds of change for all in the days to come.

Max, min and reset button photo courtesy of florriebassingbourn

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Do the Right Thing

Thinking about Bucky Beaver in my last post, and continuing to stroll down the memory lane of a young girl, I am reminded about the time I adopted a rather awkward cousin.

Once I learned the basics of swimming, I was a regular at our local swim pool. Joe, one of the lifeguards, was a tall, gawky guy. He wore heavy lensed black framed glasses, had large ears, massive puffy lips, and a very interesting way of moving those long legs of his as he walked the deck around the pool area. He was someone the kids were always snickering about. Having been taunted by the Bucky Beaver moniker, I made sure to not go along with what the other kids were saying, but I had not stood up for him either. One day, I had had it with the funny things they were saying about him, and the who’s this mockery. When they started in, as they usually did when he was on deck, I spoke up and said, “That’s not nice, and by the way, Joe’s my cousin!” They all looked at me, then turned to him and yelled, “She says she’s your cousin.” I looked right at him with a little nodding of my head, and he replied, “Michelle? Of course she is, who didn’t know that?” Those pool kids never made fun of him again. Afterwards, Joe and I always called each other cousin.

When shy me spoke up, I remember my heart beating rapidly, my breath slowing down, and my ears throbbing, as I worked up the courage to speak my mind. I had thought about the moment and knew it could backfire, but I didn’t care anymore. Once I said my peace, I felt an enormous amount of happiness flood through my body like a burst of sunshine. I knew I had done the right thing.

As I grew older, when my friends would make fun of someone, I would not hesitate to say, “Hey, that’s my cousin!” They would turn to the kid, ask them if I was their cousin, and whoever it was always smiled and said, “Yes!” It stopped the taunters dead in their tracks, and stopped the taunting. Back then, I was known to have many cousins.

What did I get out of all of this? Well, for one, Bucky Beaver was fighting back with one little victory at a time, and the other thing I could see happening was a moment of shameful insight realized by those who did the taunting. Perhaps it was a lesson learned going forward in life for some of those kids, I will never know. What I do know is this, doing the right thing always outshines anything else. You can feel it light you up from the inside-out. How cool is that?
The sun shines on everyone photo courtesy of lee

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bucky Beaver


Through adversity, we can become our best selves.

When I was in elementary school, one of my teachers would roll in a TV on an elevated cart once a week so we could watch the Bucky Beaver show. I don’t remember much about the show except that it was in black and white, Bucky was a puppet, and we were learning about Lewis and Clark. But Bucky and I have some serious history. You see, about that time, my adult teeth were growing at a much faster, larger rate than the rest of my face. I also had an overbite, otherwise known as bucked-teeth. So, once Bucky showed up in our classroom, I was given the lovely nickname Bucky Beaver. 

While there were a lot of hurtful childhood nicknames that would be thrown my way from time to time, Bucky Beaver really hurt. I was already self-conscious of my teeth, and this nickname made them feel much larger than they actually were. I was a rather shy child, and I did not care for this kind of attention at all. When provoked, I learned it was in my best interest to not react, so as not to lend more fuel to the proverbial fire. My parents told me things like, kids will be kids, and they are just jealous, but that doesn’t really make you feel any better when taunted by, Bucky Beaver, Bucky Beaver!

As I observed the various nicknames and taunting going on in this social stew of elementary school, I made it a point to not include myself in this type of hurtful behavior. We all knew who the bullies were, and I could see they were the one’s with the problem. They were just deflecting their own insecurities. I wouldn’t have been able to put it in those words back then, but I began to see what was actually going on. While they were deflecting, I was doing my best to ignore them, something else my parents suggested. By choosing to ignore, I became the one in control of the situation.

Bucky helped me realize I was better than the sum of the words directed my way. He helped me move beyond the taunting and show those bullies just how great I could be. I excelled in my studies, playground activities, sports, and whatever else I put my mind to. Bucky Beaver, Bucky Beaver, fell to the wayside, as I was no longer someone fun to intimidate.

I may not be a kid now, but I can still see who the bullies are. Young or old, they are out there deflecting their insecurities. The only thing the rest of us can do is to be better than they are. I didn’t know at the time, but good old Bucky Beaver started me off on a course of life lessons learned. Thanks Bucky!
Smiley photo courtesy of Clark family archives

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Perspective


Each morning, throughout the day, and the last thing at night, we watch the surf. When one is visiting Hawaii that is what one should do. Rather than trying to see all of the sights of whatever island I am parked on, I kick back and say, alo-haaaaaaa.

I had been staring at the movement of the water and looking out across to Lanai and Molokai for two weeks. I walked and ran in my adopted neighborhood of West Maui nearly every day. One day I decided to head up, and up away from the beach. When I turned around, I was quite taken by the panoramic view; but moreover, I was surprised at the awe-inspiring perspective of it all. The islands I had been viewing from the beach seemed to have grown. While the sands had been shifting in front of us days earlier creating and taking away beachfront, there was no way those islands grew higher, but here I was looking at what appeared to be much taller islands.

After my hill climb, the word perspective kept dancing in my head for days. When a word continually bounces around in my brain, I know I must give some sort of awareness to it. By giving this random word center stage, I allow the awareness to become a point of learning. I allow the word to speak.

I know perspective is a way of regarding something. It's a frame of reference that lends to my interpretation. Whether it's a sense of proportion, as in my view across the water, or it's my understanding of the relative importance of something, perspective is my point of view. Viewing the islands from a hilltop, I can see I should allow for the possibility of change in perspective depending on what information I have at the time, depending on how I look at things. Rather than being rigid in my perspective, I must strive to be fluid, like the ebb and flow of the waves I've been watching. This fluidity brings me peace and allows me to see my life, and the world around me, in a more understanding way. It allows me to bring acceptance to whatever comes my way. By allowing the word perspective to speak to me as I stand on the hillside, I hear and see perspective in all things can and does change.

Now, if I had been driving all over the place trying to see the sights and do everything I possibly could, I just might have missed this learning opportunity. As I look out of West Maui, beach level or hilltop, I have certainly expanded my horizon. Alo-haaaaaaa.
Beach photo courtesy of Clark family archives

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Shifting Sands

Over the course of a few days, on a recent visit to Maui, Hawaii, we watched the beach move from one location to another. We had a rocky shoreline in front of us when we arrived, then a few days later the entire beach had shifted from a sandy beach condo complex just north of us. We were left with the sandy beach while the resort was left with a ten-foot drop to the volcanic rocks. While I know the ocean and the sand are in a constant state of movement, to see how quickly something like this can happen was simply jaw dropping remarkable.

These shifting sands remind me of how fast life can change. One minute all is is well, and you are drifting along happy as a clam, then BAM, the tides change, and everything goes topsy-turvy. Change is often difficult to deal with, even when you can see it coming; but when you don't, well that's a whole different beach altogether. I find the key to change is some form of acceptance. Until I find acceptance, I ponder my choices. As you can see by the pictures, there was no stopping the strong tides and shifting sands, so rather than fighting the tides, I simply float along and see where the tides take me. Even if I can't land where I would like to, where I end up may be even better. Think of it this way - same sand, different beach.

Much aloha,
Shifting sands photos courtesy of Clark and Frye family archives

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Recycling Love


As I have been going through the boxes of cards and letters saved for me from the time I was born, to the ones I have kept throughout my life, it has felt somewhat like an archeological excavation. Previously, it seemed sac religious to dispose of these items. Now, not so much!

But what to do with forty years of valentines, anniversaries, birthdays, Christmases and the miscellaneous I love you’s shared with my dearest friend, my husband? I began by sorting the best of the best out, sorted through those again, then divided them up by event. I saved maybe a dozen of each event for each of us. This past Valentine's Day, we “shopped” our old cards and recycled our love. This is the ultimate in green giving, the best of recycling. We are saving trees, saving gas and probably saving in ways we don't even know about. Weird? Maybe, but there again I'm thinking, not so much.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy receiving cards and letters sent to me, and I will continue to send them to others. But, I'll use more of the cards I receive for bookmarks in cookbooks, books I am reading, and to jot down notes. I just won't be keeping them forever, and you don't have to either.

How about recycling all cards? My mother-in-law once sent the Christmas cards she received back to the senders the following year. It had something to do with using construction paper, covering areas where the sender had written anything, and wrapping the construction paper around the card to form an envelope. She only heard from one person who noticed, and she sends out and receives an extraordinary number of cards. Sounds like a lot of trouble to me, but you could send a delightful card back and forth to the same person, as in, Happy Birthday, and backatcha, again and again. Gives a whole new meaning to re-gifting.

Be creative, be green, simplify, or whatever you want to call it, but STOP the madness of saving all of these cards! I am now wondering what my friend Phyllis is going to do with the monthly anniversary cards she and her husband share each month. Yes, each month; yes, she saves them, and this has been going on for more than twenty years! Sweet remembrances, but I am having a difficult time picturing twelve times the anniversary cards. And I thought it looked like every Hallmark shops worst nightmare when I sorted through my cards and had them covering my entire family room.

Saving special memories is something we all do in one way or another. Getting rid of the collection of memories in our attics and under our beds is another thing. Be green, follow my lead and move on. Enjoy the cards, but I am here to tell you, there are no Hallmark SWAT teams! Well, if there are, they didn't burst into my house. So will I regret what I have disposed of, I’m thinking, not so much! Will my family miss going through my detritus? Again, not so much. And to all those people who think there may be money left in some of those cards, not so much!
3D recycle symbol courtesy of Chris Potter


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