Tuesday, July 28, 2015

About Bread - and Friendship

More than 30 years ago I found this poem, and I had a friend write it in calligraphy, I framed it, and I gave it to my mom (who is an amazing bread maker). It's been off her wall for awhile, and I haven't been able to internet search it and find it. However, the phrase, "Be gentle when you touch bread, let it not lie uncared for, unwanted," has rolled around in my mind for many years. I was looking for an apron in my mother's linen closet the other day, and because she throws nothing that has sentimental value away, there this was, propped up on its side, in the corner of a shelf. 

Be gentle when you touch bread
Let it not lie uncared for--unwanted
So often bread is taken for granted
There is so much beauty in bread
Beauty of sun and soil, beauty of honest toil
Winds and rain have caressed it,
Christ often blessed it
Be gentle when you touch bread.

I was happy to see the poem, and then Googling it, I found it online. Oh well, the time was now for me to find the entire piece. 

My heart is sad this morning over a broken friendship. One that was nurtured, torn, and forging a new pattern, but one that could not move from the past into the present. Good-byes were sharp, doors slammed, honest words opened old wounds, and no amount of caressing right now, can heal. 

Be gentle with life, with family, with friends, with relationships. 
Let them not go uncared for - 
So often those we love are taken for granted.
There is so much beauty in caring
Beauty of kindling, nurturing, proofing, beauty of honest toil
Good and bad have caressed them
Christ has blessed them
Be gentle when you touch a friend - 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Owls - Western Screech Owl -

An owl has taken up residency in a tree in our backyard. A juvenile Western Screech Owl, to be exact. It spends about 4 out of 7 days in our tree, flying away at night (nocturnal, hunters). This morning Scott and I woke to a bundle of birds screeching in our backyard. I walked out, and a Bluejay was in the same tree just a screaming at the owl. The Bluejay headed to our shed, perched there and squawked. The Jay left, the Owl remained.

Native American lore states that owls are the harbingers of bad news, typically death, and owls are to be avoided. Owl feathers are not to be used in cleansing ceremonies, because they cannot rid the human body of bad energy. Hearing owls hoot is considered bad luck. They are said to give supernatural warnings, particularly as messengers of death. 

In European mythology owls symbolize wisdom, deeper knowledge. An owl is seen as a keeper of souls, often the transporter of souls from earth life to spirit life. Because of its nocturnal nature, it brings secrets, sacred information, and pure energy to its realm. 

Last fall I saw an amazing Great Horned Owl outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, right at dusk. It flew directly at the passenger window, me, looked right at me, pierced my soul, and flew away. 

I felt this owl was giving me a message, a gift - the gift was to celebrate the dark times, gain wisdom from my "evening" travels, and listen. 

This young owl in our backyard (we're naming it Archimedes) has energy similar to the Autumnal owl. It's yellow eyes are penetrating, but not invasive. It brings peace - saying explore the dark times (just as it does), don't be afraid to hunt for what you want, and be at peace in the chaos (our yard is not always quiet, yet it rests). 

I like that. I like this owl. It beats all other animals that have resided in my yard (all uninvited, but welcomed). 

Here's to all that is dark - yet good, looking up, and sifting through the obvious (trees and branches and leaves) to find the gems. 

G'Night -

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pioneers - Mom - Sisters - Authenticity -

Had lunch with my half of my Walker sisters and all of my Walker mom at Sundance this week. 
A beautiful place with gorgeous women. 
Thinking of Pioneer Day, July 24, and the gratitude I have for the women in my life. 
I come from pioneer heritage - women and men who crossed the United States in search of a place where they could live their truth, landing in Utah and Idaho. 
No wonder I am continuously in search of my own authenticity. 
Being true to self is extraordinarily important to me. 
The women below understand the concepts of respect, caring, understanding, support, and space. 
I love them all - and miss, like crazy, my sisters who are not in this photo. 
Happy day - 

Maria, mom of 6, grandma, special needs educator and advocate.
Alice, mom of 7, grandma, great-grandma. Expert in fishes and loaves, accounting, caregiving . . .
Vicki, mom of 4, mother-baby nurse and charge nurse.
Sheri, mother of 3, art educator, artist. 

When pioneers moved to the West,. With courage strong they met the test. 
They pushed their handcarts all day long,. And as they pushed they sang this song. 
For some must push and some must pull, as we go walking up the hill,
 and merrily on our way we go, until we reach the valley - o. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Religion - Spirituality - the Age Old Conversation -

Sat through church, without grandchildren to occupy me my thoughts went in this direction - again. I often wonder why I go to a physical building for my spirituality meals. Yet my heart and head know the power of community - the cohesiveness, responsibility, opportunities, service, support that comes with community. But often the void overshadows the unity. For a major portion of my life I have doubted, and yet I begrudgingly participate in worship services. And who does that benefit? And why do I stay?

So I ask - again -

Can one have religion without spirituality?

Can one be religious without being spiritual?

Can one be spiritual without being religious?

Some say that religion is external behavior that is community-based, and that spirituality is internalized personalized behavior.

So is spirituality behavior or experiences that are very personal but yet take us out of ourselves and connect us to a higher consciousness that is not bound by our world or our time. Is religious behavior rituals, traditions, celebrations that connect us, outside of ourselves, to the higher consciousness of religious community to which we belong?

How do you define religion?

How do you define spirituality?

Do you see yourself as more spiritual or religious?

Do they go hand-in-hand? Can you have one without the other?

Deepak Chopra writes, "Religion is belief in someone else's experience. Spirituality is having your own experience."

Other sayings such as "Religion is for people afraid of going to hell; Spirituality is for people who have already been there," are rampant. "Not all religion is to be found in the church, any more than all knowledge is found in the classroom." "To love God is to serve God; to serve God is to serve your fellow-man/woman."

What is it? Where are you on the religion - spirituality continuum?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Being Over 50 - YOLO

For the most part, I'm pretty darn happy with my age and stage. Until - I get invitations to dinners at Sizzler and Golden Corral, which include a short conversation on preparing for retirement, hearing aids, will writing, and Senior Citizen discounts (in caps, as if I can't see or hear the phrase).

I'm fine with being over 50, except when shopping for clothes no longer includes shopping at the mall - because 75% of mall stores cater to those under 40, those wanting to dress like their preteens to college-aged, and 25% cater to orthopedic shoes and polyester easy-to-wear.

I'm fine with being over 50, until I am called "ma'am," "dear," or "honey."

I'm fine with wearing progressive eyewear (I can read a label and see the items on the shelf, read a text and see my students); I'm fine with buying shoes that are more about fit than fashion, as long as they are fashionable; I'm fine with reminiscing, as long as it means moving toward today; I'm fine with bumps and bulges and sags and unevenness, as long as I'm fit. I'm fine with sharing photos of grandchildren, as long as they're on my phone and not in my wallet.

I'm good. I'm happy. I'm loved - dang grandchildren. I'm in love - beauties they are. And if my feet hurt at the end of the day, if I need to color out that gray, remove that facial hair, exercise like crazy, eat as healthy as I've ever eaten, then that's the price I pay for living life to the fullest.

Lists about aging or remembering you're from a certain era drive me nuts. Emails from AARP about "bests" drive me crazy (TG they were referencing Huff and Kimberly Inskeep).

Retirement? Hell, I'm just beginning! And - I have license to embrace -

The Top Things I Love About Being Over 50

It is all too apparent none of us are living on the "Benjamin Button" timeline. As I don't intend to add fodder to the excessive lamenting about aging (except maybe in the first few minutes of climbing out of bed), I am choosing a posture of downright celebration, calling out the abundant benefits of each passing year. Here are the things I love about being in my 50s; regardless of our age, these things apply more broadly to the beauty of getting older, and when embraced can perhaps allow you to skip some stages and realize earlier freedom before reaching mid-life.
1. I've stopped attempting to be all things to all people. I've learned to focus on the things I do best, and the people who need them most.
2. "No's" are no longer immediately followed by guilt and second-guessing and "Yeses" have become even more certain and enthusiastic.
3. Life's embarrassing moments have a much shorter smack and now quickly move to my "hilarious memories" file.
4. No one expects me to be the one who knows how to work the remote on the Apple TV (but I do, and I get a kick out of how much it impresses people).
5. I now know there are only a few things in life really worth putting your stake in the ground for--and for those things, I am confident enough to stand up for them with all my might.
6. My relationships are truer and deeper then ever. The friends and family who have endured together through heartache, triumph, loss, conflict, or just a bunch of normal Tuesdays, are those who I now truly know -- and feel deeply known by.
7. Glasses have become a fun fashion accessory (albeit a total necessity). They are also a handy prop for slipping into a sage-esque alter ego, should the need arise.
8. I no longer feel a strong desire to be the one who is right. I simply want truth to be found, regardless of who points to it.
9. I've learned how to make really amazing lasagna because I no longer feel captive to recipes.
10. I've embraced YOLO more than FOMO (for my friends without a 19-year-old daughter as an interpreter, that's "you only live once" and "fear of missing out").
11. Now that my daughter is grown, I get to spend my time in awe of the woman she's become instead of worrying about what she might become, navigating the dance of both speaking up and shutting up.
12. I've found a liberating simplicity, going through drawers and closets letting go of "stuff."
13. If I overreact or get a little teary, I can slough it off with a little laugh, muttering something about "hormones."
14. I've let go of "balance." It really doesn't exist. Instead, there is a willingness to let go of what doesn't matter for the sake of the things that do and doing them fully.
15. I've learned true strength is rarely obvious and never self-promoting.
16. The phrase "Actually, I'm going to bed" rolls off the tongue, with a lilt of triumph.
17. Research has shown that cognitively, we are at our highest point between the ages of 40 and 68. We more quickly solve problems and recognize patterns (which has definitely strengthened my position when stressing a point with my husband).
18. I've embraced the power of admitting I don't know how to do something (which has also strengthened my position when my husband is stressing a point with me).
19. My husband and I now value one another's differences.
20. I've seen that the core of business is solving problems. When problems come up, it is not a crisis -- it's the job.
21. I know that no problem to be solved is more important than a person to be loved.
22. I'm one step closer to getting away with those quippy truisms that the Dowager Countess of Grantham can cunningly slip in.
23. With time comes more great stories. I have a treasure trove of zingers (both heartfelt and hilarious) that I can bring out at dinner parties.
24. I have "gotten complete" with my past. I know my story, the parts of it I want to carry forward, and the parts I want to leave behind.
25. For the first time in my life, the President of the United States is younger than me, giving me the opportunity to say "Well, when I was your age ..." with an air of wisdom, should I ever meet him.
26. I no longer care if I get the credit. In fact, it can be a fun game to avoid it.
27. Research show that three quarters of women in their 50s feel more confident than ever before (which may be why I'm so much better at getting out of speeding tickets; wait -- should I not be proud of that?)
28. As women age, we are more willing to take risks (while men grow more risk averse). Because ... YOLO.
29. I've learned that if I give any time to comparison, I lose time I could be using to love life and people better.
30. I am more able to see how "this OR that" can be "this AND that" through increasing sophistication of thought.
31. I now assume the best about people's intentions. This one action breathes abundant grace into all relationships.
32. Tough conversations are no longer something to put off, but rather something to go after with boldness.
33. I am eager to both give and receive feedback and understand that both postures take intense humility. I'm willing to risk a little bit of relational equity for the greater good of speaking and hearing truth that yields growth.
34. They say, "It's not what you know, but who you know," but there is also some truth in "who you know won't want to know you for long if you don't know much."
35. My days are always better when they start out with a yummy breakfast, and end with a yummy dinner. Good food does enough for my spirit to allow a few extra pounds.
36. I love my mom and dad more than I ever have in my life.
37. My grandfather was right; you'll never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul so be generous while you can enjoy seeing the difference it makes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Welcome to the World - Asher!

I am blessed with amazing role models in my life. I can say that I have never felt lesser than anyone, and I attribute this to the men and women who mentored me along. I learned to love myself, love others, be accepting - regardless of age, religion, gender, ethnicity, to be curious, kind, and to think for myself. There was never a separation of duties in my home of origin - the girls mowed lawns, the boys washed dishes, and we all took turns dusting, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, and folding clothes. I was taught that home was a heaven here on earth, a sacred place, where the real work of the world took place. 

Meili had #5 this week - I am so very proud of her and Tyler; they are amazing parents to beautiful children! And I see Meili and my other children teaching the same lessons I was taught, and that I diligently taught my lovelies. 

I'm particularly thrilled that they are willing to rear families today, and rear them in goodness, in homes filled with love for each other, love for spouses, love for life, love for God. These children are taught that the world is a beautiful place, that people are innately kind and generous. It's a sacrifice of self, losing oneself to teach others to find themselves, and my daughters, as stay-at-home mothers are rearing wise kind little ones. 

“When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sounds of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women (and their amazing husbands) in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradle and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in Congress?” Neal A Maxwell

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Couple of Favorite Teds -

Ted Talks - and two things that are on my mind, quite a bit - addiction, women's rights.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Speaking of Divorce (no, we're fine) -

A friend confided to Scott and me that he and his wife were divorcing. It came as a surprise and shock really, to us, and our friend said it had to him as well.

12 years ago this week I asked Clark for a divorce. He said, "You've said this before, what makes this time any difference?" And my response, "Because I'm finished."

I think my final request and tenacity to stick with this surprised him, and the news of our divorce certainly shocked family and friends.

As much as those outside of our house were startled that Clark and I were divorcing, it was our adult children with whom I was the most concerned.

The day we told the children we were divorcing was a day I will sadly, never forget - my heart was aching for them, for the news, and I knew there was no way out. A Sunday, almost a month after beginning the paperwork, and just a couple of weeks before the divorce was finalized, we packed a picnic, took the kids up Hobble Creek Canyon (they had both been working out of town for the summer, which made the arguing, parsing, and filing easier), and in between making sandwiches and talking about the week's activities, I told them their father and I were getting a divorce.

They were angry, angry, angry, and questioned the summer, the past year, their lives, and our lives as a family. And we couldn't rally around each other to hold us together like we had in the past. We were all separate - separated.

How do you reason with something that is so terribly entrenched in emotion? There is no rational way to explain divorce. "Your dad and I don't get along." "We've grown apart." "We're not happy." What can be said? A divorce isn't always about infidelity, porn, finances, lying - it can really be about irreconcilable differences.

Two weeks ago Scott and I had the privilege of spending a week with our daughter, her husband, and their two lovelies. Scott and I have been together 11 1/2 years, and Jenna and Cliff have been very supportive of Scott and me. But still - would this week, with a stepfather/in-law, work? It did, spectacularly, because time does heal, and because of the blessing that 2 little ones will never know any different. They won't know the wounds of Gma's and Gpa's divorces. And as long as their parents and Scott and I are healthy, they will be as well (fingers crossed).

And healthy - that's a huge responsibility. Because Scott and I both brought bad habits and destructive ways of thinking into our marriage. We've had to work so very hard at being better people and building a strong relationship - something we took fore granted in our previous marriages. I can't complain to my friends about tough times, because there really is no sympathy the second time around - I should have learned from the past!

Back to this friend. There are many similarities between Clark and I and this friend and his spouse. (In fact, as I write this, I have 2 other very good friends who have recently divorced, at similar stages, with similar responses.) Been married longer than 20 years. Have adult children - building relationships - forging lives separate from their parents. They are respected and loved in the community. They are involved in the religious and secular community. People will be stunned. There will be questions. There will be no answers. There will be judgment passed, sides taken, and heartache - in the community, in the family. There will be advice - oh goodness, the most terrible of advice from those only wanting to save you and your marriage, as if you haven't already tried every trick in the books.

What's the secret to a healthy marriage? Well, Michelle Shocked sings, "The secret to a long life is knowing when it's time to go." And honestly, that's my advice. I knew when it was time to leave, for sure. I calculated when there would be the least heartache, the least pain, the least impact in my family, and then waited, and when the moment was right, I left - hoping and praying that Clark, Ronda, Tyler, Jenna would be happy, could find happiness, as we all moved forward - forward.

To my stunned friend: maybe the blessing is that your children are healthy, your children are adults, your bills are paid, your careers are grounded, and your time is now to move. Even with the heartache and pain and anger and frustration and guilt and self-doubt and second-guessing and questioning and answering - it's time.

Am I advocating divorce over "working through one's issues"? Absolutely not. But when 20+ years of therapy have kept a family together, artificially, the choice is simple - exist or live. I know many folks who choose exist - yuck, but kudos to them for their commitment. My advice to them is this - begin looking for the good in your partner, even if you haven't done that in years, begin so now, and I say that in urgency. To those who have chosen to live - move forward, no regrets, lessons learned, and then build a life that you are happy to share with your children and grandchildren (and if you're going to take back your maiden name, do it now. Much simpler now rather than later).

Good luck - And don't listen to me, listen to you - perhaps for the first time, listen to you.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Defining Moments - Note to Natalie -

I would imagine most of us have heard the saying, "Don't let your experiences define you, you define your experiences." While this is all dandy and ideal, it is idealistic - there are moments in all of our lives that shape us, defining us as we continue on our journey.

I've been going through the past 40 years of photos - putting them into new albums, making sure their in order, and boy oh boy, a project that I figured would take me a month has now lasted 6 months, and I'm halfway finished.

Why? The journey - the experiences in my life that have defined and shaped me are more than evident in these pictures: 1st marriage, Tyler's birth, Clark graduating from BYU, our first home in Brigham City, parties, friends, travels, Jenna's birth, adventures, school beginning, new car, family reunions, the trip to Washington DC that shaped our desire to move from Utah and live in the East. Moving to Alabama, new home, travel, adventures, friends, school, church, family visits, new home, setting down roots, me beginning school. Move back to Utah, Clark in school, graduating, building house in Springville, Tyler, Jenna - growing, growing, Tyler graduating from high school, Tyler's mission, Jenna graduating from high school, me graduating from college, separation - all of us growing up and growing away. Divorce. Marrying Scott.

Whew - traveling back in time has been tough, therapeutic, and has helped me put my life's events into perspective. Hindsight - easier to see where you've been than where you're going?

And 12 years later, the adventures, journeys, travels, experiences have not stopped. Time does not stop experiences, and we are shaped by them - and if we aren't, then we are stone, stagnating. We cannot move forward until we acknowledge the past and place those experiences along our map - acknowledge, ache, cry, linger, dig deep, be bitter, laugh, and then - move, carrying them along with us as we move.

On Friday I learned that Scott's daughter, and her husband and family, are moving to Florida in a month. As I thought about how happy I am for them, how excited I am for them for this experience, I thought about how my move away from Utah was one of the most defining experiences in my life.

And then - just like that, I thought, "I defined those experiences, and they are such a part of that map of my life that I am continually learning from these experiences." And the light-bulb came on, and the words of Karin, Sue, Maxine, and others, clicked.

Cancer - another experience that will continue to be a part of that map of my life. I will continue to learn from these experiences - I have. And yet - just like my experiences in - Idaho, Utah, Alabama, marriage, family, divorce, remarriage, and on and on - I determine how I carry it, how I define it.

Idealistic - sure.

Natalie - enjoy the journey - seize the moment - and take it all in. It will shape you and yours, if you allow it to. Don't be a rock.

Two people I love so very much - one just 2 years old, the other, 66. 
Both experiencing life's journey - at different points of life, yet not so different. 
New path for both - Big Springs, Island Park, ID. June 30, 2015.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Dumbing Down - Daily Om

I get quotes daily from DailyOm, and I love them. Madisyn Taylor does a great job of writing inspirational thoughts, and it seems like they are always what I need for the day. Take this one for example.

Happy Independence Day - be true to you!

Dumbing Ourselves Down
Wanting To Join

by Madisyn Taylor
When we dumb ourselves down, we sell ourselves short and lose an opportunity to shed light where it is needed.

The ability to go into any social situation and sense the level of consciousness in that situation is a gift. It enables us to move considerately in a world that holds people of all levels of awareness. However, there is a difference between shifting our energy to accommodate people and dumbing ourselves down to a regrettable degree. Sometimes, when we get into a particular social situation, we may feel pressure to play it small in order to fit in. Perhaps everyone is drinking or smoking excessively, engaging in gossipy small talk, or complaining bitterly about politics. It is one thing to notice this and modify our expectations and another thing entirely to join in.

When we notice where people are coming from and acknowledge to ourselves that their energy is not in alignment with ours, we have several choices as to how to proceed. One viable option is to quietly endure the situation, keeping to ourselves until it is time to leave. In this way, we take care of our own consciousness and protect our growth process. Another option is to interact in a way that honors and pays respect to the people in the group, while gently attempting to shift the level of consciousness with our input. In order to do this, we must maintain our own vibration, which means that joining in by dumbing down is not an option.

When we choose to dumb ourselves down to fit in, we not only sell ourselves short but we also lose a possible opportunity to influence the situation for the good of all concerned. Our desire to join in may come from our natural yearning to feel connected to the people around us. There is no shame in this, but being able to stand on our own, separate from the crowd, is a powerful milestone on any spiritual path. It can be difficult in the moment, but when we arrive on the other side, our integrity intact, we may find ourselves feeling positively smart.