Sunday, February 3, 2019

My Dear, let go. I've got you.

There are times in our lives when that which we have clung to for awhile--hours, days, weeks, years, decades, generations even--no longer serves us. And it is time to let go.

It can be scary to let go. We may think we'll lose our roots and fall. It can become paralyzing to let go of the comfort to which we've grown accustomed. And then, one day, we can hold on no longer. A big wind comes and forces us to let go. We do, in fact, lose our roots. We do fall. We do enter a new phase and evolution of life. And right there beside us is someone to lean on. Someone to catch us. Someone to say, "My dear, let go. I've got you. Let go."

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Burn the Good Candles and Avoid the Piles

the last 18 months or so have been eye opening and life changing.

I have gone through another stage of evolution and metamorphosis brought on, in large part, by a catastrophic family event. We all survived. Though not fully intact, we at least are all still breathing.

A few lessons I've learned, relearned, or had solidified:

Image result for candle litBurn the Good Candles: You know, the expensive ones you either splurge on or are given as gifts. The ones that burn all the way down, throwing off an ambient twinkle of light and casting a delicious aroma throughout the room? Yea, that one. Burn it. In the morning, afternoon, evening, or any combination thereof. burn that sucker cause it's meant to enjoy. I wonder, in essence, if by delaying the burning of the candle, we're really denying (or delaying?) our own happiness and delight. I've heard people say you can't know happiness without knowing sorrow, I disagree. Burn the candle. enjoy the light and aroma and know you deserve to be cloaked in happiness any damn time you want.

Avoid the "piles": by not starting them: I am not all the way there yet on this one, so it's a lesson I am still learning. I have spent several HOURS this week just decluttering my bedroom and my kitchen hutch. No, I don't think you understand, like the piles grew piles which grew piles. I could barely walk in my bedroom and only part of my bed was actually accessible. Yes, that bad. It got overwhelming to me, so I just piled more $hit on the already-overwhelming piles and then it became paralyzing. I didn't know where to start. I couldn't put my clothes away because the piles were blocking my dresser. But I couldn't move the piles blocking my dresser because I had no place to move them to without causing the ultimate collapse of the clothes which were precariously balanced on the see where this is going. So, just don't start the piles to begin with and they won't become overwhelming to the point of paralyzing. SO much easier said than done, and I am still practicing this. In the metaphoric analysis of this, I wonder what the piles could represent? I'll have to ponder on this...or sometimes a pile is just a pile.

I am not God: When I am doing school tours with prospective students, I explain we spend many hours on pathologies (what can go wrong w/ the body) and hands on body work (how we, as LMTs can address the pathologies) and I highlight that I didn't say, "fix" them. I elaborate that we don't teach the God-Complex so often prevalent in the field of body work. Isn't it odd that I can easily differentiate what I can and cannot do in bodywork, but not in emotional or spiritual work with my clients, friends, and family. In my bodywork practice, I am clear in saying (to myself and my clients), "I cannot heal nor fix you. We can, however, work together to create a space where healing may occur." So no, I am not God, I cannot save, fix, nor heal you...but let's have coffee, maybe together we can create a space where healing can occur?
Image result for african american hands
I cannot touch without being touched; heal without being healed: See above. I cannot do to you without also doing to me. In my pursuit of providing balance in mind, body, and soul to my clients I am also creating space for that to occur within me. In all truth, I cannot say hashtag nailedit just yet, but together, we are working on it--for you and for me.

The Act of Meditation: is just that--an act. Or you can take it further and make it an actION. You can go through the motions just like an actor does, hit play on that fabulous meditation app and feel good that you've listened to a gentle rainstorm while guided into peaceful bliss...OR you can use that calm, soothing voice as a jumping off point for the ACTION to follow. Meditation must extend beyond the 5, 10, 20 minutes you spend engaged in it; it must transfer into the actions of my life. Am I returning to my centering breath when things get heated? Am I reminding myself to flow like water, or float like a careless leaf in the wind? Am I reminding myself to sit with my feet firmly planted on the floor to reground my body and thoughts? So the act of meditation is merely an act I go through...until I decide to make it an action.

So these are a few of my random thoughts on this chilly morning. My house is waking up, the candle is lit, and I am turning the act of my morning meditation into an action. I hope you'll join me on this messy journey...until next time.
Image result for messy life

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Beauty & ugliness; life & death

Sunday's hike was a beautiful one. It was all about death; about life.
Life and death. Beauty and ugliness. 

Those two sentences can be at odds with one another, but really they're not. This season (Autumn in general, not this specific year) for me represents a lot of death, endings, transitions. It represents a lot of sadness, grief, and loss. It was October 24th that I lost my dad. Five days later Stacey, my landlady, wrongfully evicted me from the house I'd been renting. And my grandmother began the final stage of her battle against cancer and died on January 15th. That was all in one year! So to say this time of year holds a lot of ugly for me is an understatement. 

Through the last seven years, however, I've found the beauty. 

My dad died and birthed in me a new direction in life. My landlady evicted me, freeing my homing situation up to be able to move in with my grandma to take care of her in her home, allowing her to die here (I have since bought the same house and made it my home). My grandmother died with my mom and me on each side of her holding her hand as she made her last exhalation. 

Now, I can see the beauty. Were it not for the death of that season of my life, I would not know the beauty of today's. 

And so that is what I chose to focus on in my hike. Surrounded by death and dormancy, I sought out the beauty. All around me, it was bountiful. From the trail runners taking their muddy shoes off in the parking lot to the beautiful cardinal who guided me into the forest. The pond in the hollow, teeming with fish gave beautiful backdrop to the leaves which had fallen and, previously, obscured the view. A few purple flowers remained vibrant, defying the brown, decaying leaves around them. And, much to my delight, I found an acorn (or tree seed of some sort) on a rich patch of green moss with life bursting forth as it had begun to sprout.  

Sometimes life can hold up death; let it go.
because sometimes, only in death can life begin

I entered the forest a little melancholy and reluctant, I don't usually like this time of year for all that it represents and the long, dark, cold days ahead. But I emerged from the drag forest with a new perspective and outlook. I chose to focus on finding glimpses of life and beauty, even amidst the death and ugly of the season. Lo and behold, I found it. 

I wonder how this lesson could be applied to other aspects of my life. Something to ponder, for sure. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Give from the Heart, Not the Ego

It is the time of year for lots of charitable giving. There are various trees with children’s names on them, schools with wish lists, foster care agencies with children in care. . . and they’ll tell you exactly what they want for Christmas. Purchase that list. Charity is about serving others, not yourself or your ego so get the gifts on the list. If you want to do additional, fine, purchase extra stuff you “think” they would *LOVE*, but only after you’ve purchased what they’ve requested. They know what they want, you don’t. it’s not your time to make a political statement—if a girl wants a barbie and pink sparkly shoes, gift her those; if she wants Legos and Hotwheels get her those. Same for a boy—if he wants transformer shoes and a pocketknife, get him those; if he wants sparkly shoes and a barbie, get him those. This is not about you, it’s about the child and helping their family.

Let me speak from experience: Years ago, we put together a “Christmas Wish List” for a generous individual to help provide my then foster son (now adopted). We worked together to thoughtfully put together the wish list for him. One thing he included were specific Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies. We specifically put NOT THE BOOKS—DVDs ONLY. And what did they end up gifting us? All of the books. What did we already have copies of? All of the books, which he had read at least twice already. We also put NO CLOTHES as my son has always had his own unique style, a dark style some may say. What’d we get? Literally grranimals matching tops/bottoms from Target that I took one look at, knew he’d never wear them, and donated them to another person who asked for that type of clothing.

I know we all really want to help this, and every, holiday season. Please be mindful of the reason for helping is to make someone else’s life better and more enriched, not your own. If you are uncomfortable purchasing a specific item, you can skip it—usually the lists have several items in varying price ranges and few families “expect” you to purchase the entire list. In fact, few families “expect” anything, we’re just grateful to have any support. Please do not read this as any type of dissuasion from helping, in fact, it is an encouragement to help, and a little review on what that may look like. If you use a small agency (like a local foster care agency or school), why not call them and ask for clarification? Our Foster Care Specialist could’ve told the family my son already had every book, that’s why we were asking for the movies specifically. I assure you, each family is super appreciative of the help you’re offering, and by generously securing the items on the list—you’re truly making someone’s Christmas more joyful, you may even find YOUR Christmas more joyful in ways you can’t even imagine. . . Just think of that child opening the transformer toy, even though they’re a girl. Or the boy opening a beginner sewing machine, even though they’re a boy. In that moment, they will know they are supported, loved, embraced and valued by the community—by you. That oughtta lift even the Scroogiest of all Scrooges’ spirits this holiday season.

So give, give generously, give often, give from your heart and give what’s on the list as you’re able.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday Meals/Dishin' w/ Donald

I love to cook. I love to experiment. And I love to share my experiences.

To that end, I am going to do a series called "Monday Meals" or "Dishin' with Donald" today happens to both be Monday and sharing my experience with a recent dish...double score!

The recent Instant Pot craze has come over me! On Amazon Prime Day (mental note: create and celebrate Optimus Prime Day), the IP was offered at a price I could not resist. My long beloved crock pot had broken (apparently you cannot put a glass lid 1" from a gas burner or else...honey, glass shards shot from here to the heavens!) and I really needed some options other than the oven to cook my meals. And y'all already know I love me a slow cooked roast, brings out the southern gent in me! So many memories walking into the house from a long day of school, a several block walk in the freezing temps (uphill, in the snow, both ways) but I digress. . . suffice it to say, I bought the Instant Pot and was so excited.

Since then, my excitement has been squelched. I'm just not in love with it for, well, really anything except making broth to be honest. People tell me I need to keep playing with it and experimenting so that brings me to today's Dishin' with Donald.

One of my favorite cold-weather, budget meals is bean soup. I can make a $2 bag of beans turn into a week's worth of meals! With a few additions each day, the meal turns into a different dish each night (think: onions, garlic, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, celery, jalapenos...). I scoured the wonderful world wide web for a solid looking recipe, sent some messages to friends who are IP devotees and set out to make my pot of beans. "They" told me I could go from dry beans to an edible pot of beans in an hour's time. While they were not incorrect, the beans lacked a level of depth and complexity an all-day slow-simmer infuses. The recipe I (mostly) followed is included here for your consideration.

First I saute'd some onions, carrot, celery, garlic and bell peppers using the saute function. Then I added my 2 cups of dry beans along with 8 cups of water. I set the IP to "Pressure Cook" for 30 minutes as the recipe called for. After about 20 minutes, it finally got to pressure and began cooking. YES!!! But there was no delicious aroma wafting through the house. Oh well, if it can save me time I can forsake the aromatic delights! After the 30 min. pressure timer went off I did a Natural Release, which took another 30-45 minutes. I got a little aroma, but not much. I left it on warm for another 10 minutes while the boys played XBox. I went to taste and...the beans were not cooked thoroughly nor were they very tasty. I added several more shakes of spices and set back to 10 more min. on pressure. It only took about 5-10 min to get to pressure, then cooked for the 10...after 45 minutes of Natural Release, I did the Quick Release because we were getting H-A-N-G-R-Y !

upon opening the lid, I knew it was not the same. The liquid was quite watery and not at all the delicious thick nectar I'd come to expect with a pot of beans. The flavor of the beans was...ok, at best. It left me wanting more and feeling like each spoonful left me slightly cheated based on what I *knew* I had put in the pot and the flavor I should reasonably expect (I've been making beans for 20+ years, I know how to cook them and what to expect flavor-wise). The texture of the beans was the only highlight of the dish. It was perfect! not to mushy and not too firm, just right, as Goldilocks might say.

This Dish will earn only two out of five stars for:
Texture: 5
Ease: 4
Speed/Time: 3.5
Taste: 1
Expectations: 1

In summary, maybe some things just aren't meant to be Instant. How could an hour in the IP possibly compare to six hours on the stove top, the steam and aroma being slowly released into the air, buildint excitement and anticipation. Stirring every hour or so to avoid scorching and little taste tests along the way to whet the appetite. Perhaps, like friendship, some dishes are meant to be developed over extended periods of time and the nuances slowly coming together. I believe I will toss the remaining beans into my old pot and simmer for a few hours today, if only to reacquaint old friends.

Next up: Baked Potatoes in the IP!

Click here for recipe

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Best Parenting Advice EVER

Before becoming a Licensed Massage Therapist, I was a youth worker. I worked with thousands of youth a year. Sometimes these programs included a parental component as well. And I doled out the best. advice. ever. to those parents sitting in the room. I shamed the ones who could not make it, blaming their lack of priority on their child...sometimes I even verbalized this shame. I mean, it's your child for crying out loud, you mean to tell me you can't give up an hour of your week!?

And now I am a parent. And I have only one piece of advice to give to parents any longer:

Parent the child you have, in the moment you have.

That's it. One single piece of advice is all I've got. I used to teach parenting workshops to improve communication with your child, dole out suggestions on how to engage better with your child, and I guess I've got some thoughts on those components of parenting today. But I have no advice, only what has worked (and in some cases, what has NOT worked) for me in my messy, little family.

In fact, I wish I could go back to every single one of those parents and apologize and say, "forgive me mothers and fathers, for I knew not what I was doing...not. a. single. clue." Because the fact is, some of those parents couldn't make it to the workshop, and already felt bad about it. Some of those parents were already engaged in wonderful communication(s) with their child and didn't even use a single "family building activity" that I designed or selected for them. I go back and read those manuals and think, "my God, what beautiful writing!" and also "My God, what awful approach!" I mean, sure, as parents we could all use some refreshers, breaks, new ideas, and creative solutions to foster better relationship with our child(ren), but the last thing we need is advice. Suggestions, sure. Advice, please no.

So to all the parents out there, especially my fellow single parents: You are doing a great job! Even when you think you're not, you are! And if you're not YOU have it in you to do great! Dig deep and find that endless well of love inside you to follow my one single piece of parenting advice:

Parent the child you have, in the moment you have. Nobody knows how to do that better than you.

We live in all of our truths, unapologetic, messy, fully. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Musical Reflection

Another prompt from my upcoming book on Journaling for your Mind, Body, & Soul. 

Put your favorite music on and listen for five uninterrupted minutes. Just enjoy the music and your time with it. Enjoy in whatever way that means for you. Dance with it. Sing with it. Sit quietly and absorb it. Experience memories, emotions and thoughts with it. Enjoy without limitations.

Now turn the music off and let it simply be inside you for the next however long it takes to complete the following prompts:

What music were you listening to?

Has your favorite band, style or genre changed over the years, remained the same, or a little of both?

If you were to select a song to represent the different components of you, what song would you select for:

Your mind?

Your body?

Your soul?

Your birth music?

Your death music?

What influenced the musical selections above? How are they similar/different?

If you could select only one song that would precede your entry into every room, to announce you essentially, what song would you select? Would it be different for different “crowds” or populations of people? Why do you feel this song represents you?

Image result for music