Friday, December 31, 2010

thanks 2010

To love were my words for 2010. I knew it before, but felt it this year time and again: love is a really, really big word. I remember most little moments that passed my way, and recognizing I need to love them, just as they are.

Here are a few:
Laughing with mom and Jodi as we cleaned mom's kitchen cabinets in March. I'm all about weeding out what is no longer needed - Jodi and mom, not so much. The final task was moving all of mom's beautiful, treasured china and glass to a hutch dad made for her last year. It all glistens and sparkles from behind the glass doors.

Connecting with thoughtful, creative and amazing new friends I met through the Unravelling e-course in the spring. We live all over the world. Our lives are all very different. Yet we connected.

The Sisters at Clare's Well trusting that Tammy and I would know how to dig a ditch to bury a drainage pipe on the Sacred Path. I told Carol that I thought she had a lot of faith in us. She just smiled.

Spending a Saturday night in June home with the windows wide open. The nature center across the street was having an outdoor concert at the barn, which became a free indoor concert for me. It was perfect.

Picking dad up from the rehabilitation center he lived at for three weeks after his knee replacement in July. He met new friends there. It was strangely sad walking down the hallway with him as he said goodbye to all the nurses and physical therapists who helped him (pushed him) to recover. It was the best decision for him to go there right after the hospital. . . because he's completely let his PT work slide since.

A guest at Clare's Well telling me she felt my complete peace just before I left after my week's stay.

Invitations waiting for me when I returned from Clare's Well from two friends. For two different experiences/events. This was a true blessing.

Reading to baby Carlo and watching him point to buttons on his shirt, then to circles in the book.

Taking mom to the State Fair. She loves the fair - and it's been sad to see her miss it the past few years. She was brave tackling a day of the highest record attendance (ever!) on a motorized scooter. I'm so proud of her.

Jodi giving me $5 at Andrew's football game for concession snacks - 2 sodas, nachos and 2 popcorns - and me saying it wouldn't be enough. She grinned and said, "You're in Akron, Iowa, Jill - not the Twin Cities. You'll be fine." The total came to $4.

Laughing with Megan when we saw the olive green kitchenette in our hotel room in Portland.

Asking a current UMMer to take our picture at Homecoming.

Chatting with an off-duty pilot at Atlanta Hartsfield.

Hearing and reading happy birthday.

Watching Paul Frantzich perform at the Brothers holiday concert.

Falling asleep for the night on the living room couch at my parents on Christmas Eve.

Moving vases and dishes around in my kitchen, preparing to plant some new green plants after the Christmas decorations come down.

Gathering my favorite little books I made this year into a basket to sit next to my bed.

It was a year to love.

Friday, December 24, 2010

he see's you when you're sleeping

**This is a re-post from last year at Christmas time. One that I fondly remember writing. I was all set to keep up with the Reverb 10 prompts this month and just couldn't. They were all so juicy and introspective (which I love), but I just couldn't keep up. I have next week off from work and I plan to spend some time going through the list, selecting those that resonate with me, and doing some writing. A little gift to myself.

Enjoy the magic of this holiday, wherever you are and whomever you are with. Be it with one or with many, there is always joy to be celebrated. Take a moment to celebrate the season in your own way and notice how it allows you to connect to the whole.

Ah, Santa. The Santas around my home have captured my attention much more this year. For a while Santa's secularness and connection with the material part of Christmas sort of drove me nuts. So for the past few years I've been kind of down on the idea of Santa. This year I'm back to liking Santa more. I started thinking how hard my family worked to keep the magic of Santa alive for me when I was young, and what a true gift that is to me. My sister submitted my name somewhere so I would receive a letter from Santa, probably when I was two or three. My mom kept it, and added it to the Christmas decorations I put up in my room each year. It was big deal for me to pick out the cookies and the milk glass I'd leave for Santa on Christmas Eve. And Santa wrapped his gifts really well, and always in Santa paper.

The pictures are of a Santa decoration I've had since I was probably five or so. I believe it was a gift from a neighbor. Now I'm struck by the craftsmenship of it - it's so rare to see wooden toys and decorations now. It's always hung in my bedroom - at my parent's, on my closet door, and now at my place on my bedroom door. There's a little pull string on the bottom that moves Santa's legs and arms, which makes the little bells tinkle. I love it.

When I was in college I enjoyed watching my nephew, Andrew, live in awe of Santa. I would help him pick out cookies and pour milk and write his note to Santa. I'd stay up with my sister and help assemble toys and cardboard blocks and wrap Santa gifts. One year Santa came out to my sister's house and Andrew had a personal visit with him. He asked for a "comfortable quiet." My dad laughed so hard and couldn't believe how Andrew could know what we would all want for Christmas. If you knew Andrew at the time, this was completely fitting. He was perhaps the loudest, and somewhat obnoxious, little 3 year old. When Santa left, Andrew looked at us with big eyes and asked, "Santa drives a Ford Taurus?" (my brother-in-law worked for Ford at the time, so that's how Andrew knew about the Taurus). And after he drove away, I watched out the window as Andrew and my mom stood out in yard and walked all around the house, little Andrew pointing at the roof and mom explaining how Santa will find a way inside to deliver presents on Christmas night.

These memories simply delight me. Many of my Santa gifts are long gone, but the thoughtfulness and care my family took - and the enjoyment I've had "on the other side" of Santa - keep me believing in the magic people bring to this season.

Monday, December 6, 2010

on the sixth day. . .

Reverb 10: December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)

This isn't the last thing I've made, but hanging art on this red wall is probably the most recent thing I've made that has brought me so much joy (sometimes I think maybe a bit too much joy because, after all, it is a non-living thing). It was a stated goal of mine to complete this task when I was 34 (which I did) and one that hung out on my mental list of to-do's since 2007 or 2008. I have commitment issues when it comes to pounding nails in walls. This little project, two in my living room and bedroom and soon another in my craft room are helping me get over my wall nailing fears. I'm loving the results. Makes my place feel more like home with each new addition.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

on the fifth day. . .

Reverb 10: December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

This year I let go of worrying about things I do not have control over. The budget in my department and how it might impact my employment. The fact that my home has lost considerable value in eyes of lenders and the county. My dad making it OK through his knee surgery and rehabilitation. Weather patterns that could impact my family being together on holidays. I could go on with examples, but I'll stop.

I did and still do think about these situations, but I noticed this year that I didn't do a lot of future forecasting about them. I let the thought go through my mind when I needed it to, and let it leave when I had thought enough about it (which happened to be pretty fast, compared to other times in my life). "What is, is" has become my mantra with these situations that are out of my control. I can stew in worry and let that shut out thoughts about positive actions, or I can give them a moment of my time and then move on to new thoughts. I've practiced moving on to what I can take action with this year. It feels powerful.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

on the fourth day. . .

Reverb 10: December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)
by taking time to notice who I am becoming
by treating myself to the unexpected
by taking time to be a little spontaneous and silly
by returning to the sacred
by sharing days with others
by seeing two
and believing in one.

Friday, December 3, 2010

on the third day. . .

Reverb 10: Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

Near sunset on an early spring day in late March, I was walking on the floating dock in the nature center across the street from my home. This winding, plastic-slatted dock has long felt like a magical path to me. Tall grasses that enjoy water surround you on most of the walk, with an occasional clearing and larger observation platform where naturalists can gather with visitors to describe this habitat. You can view the red farm buildings to one side, hardwood forests to the other, and the pond all around.

This evening my gaze focused to the horizon line. The brown trees looking just a bit softer with the smallest of buds emerging. The tall grasses hinting toward green. The pond water as clear as I've ever seen. Reflecting the warm pale blue of the sky.

Warm pale blue sky. I only see the sky this color in early spring. I've noticed it for over ten springs now. The first in 1998, as a college senior who felt something beginning that evening, in a Jeep traveling back to campus on a rural highway in western Minnesota. I glanced out the window and the warm pale blue sky touched my heart. Birds flew above us, diving around in the farm fields. Greening grasses emerged. I looked at the sky, I looked at him and in my mind's eye, I saw scenes of my future. They were vivid, but fleeting. Playing out only for me to see.

The warm pale blue skies that followed each year since prompted twinges of sadness in my chest. I would turn away from them. Focus on the road. The building. My feet. I was happy to see them disappear into the vibrant bright blue sky of summer. The purple of autumn. The muted grey of winter.

Until this evening. I relaxed my body and looked through the grasses. And just gazed at that warm pale blue sky. A warmth was bubbling over in my chest. And in my complete stillness, I felt it moving through my body. To my head. My fingers. And my feet. Leaving me and moving into the earth and air around me. I allowed myself to rest in this moment and smile. This time my love was enough. It more than filled me. It spilled all around me. Gratefulness arose in my mind. For that moment twelve years ago, when I saw that warm pale blue and felt something beginning. Now, in this moment, I’m not concerned with the love that never filled that messy space between him and me. With not knowing if I will ever feel that exciting beginning of something again. It’s delicious to see that sky and feel only exciting, joyous love. Now seeing the warm pale blue spring sky is enough. I am enough.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

on the second day. . .

Reverb 10: prompt two/writingWriting. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it? (Author: Leo Babauta of Zen Habits)

This is an easy one for me to answer. I don't write everyday. Well, that's not exactly true. I write for work M-F. Emails, proposals and thank you notes, mostly. I feel fortunate because my work vocabulary is full of beautiful words: generous, thank you, gift, talent and motivated come to mind quickly.

I know I don't write everyday for myself because I struggle with finding just the right words. If they aren't coming, I stop writing. Part of that perfection and efficiency thing I deal with. I've taken a lot of writing classes over the past few years and I'm still not completely sold on the idea that writers write through the blah ideas, the lacking words, the stuck-ness. The rational part of my mind knows this has to be the case for people who make their living writing about what they are interested in. It has to be true. I know the writers I admire are human. They struggle. They don't feel in the grove. But those that continue to produce have some sort of discipline that I just don't possess right now.

For my habits to change, I have to change my attitude about why I write for me. That me as the sole audience for my words is good enough. That writing even when I'm feeling content and life is clicking is valuable to my growth. That I have something to say that I want to read, and quite possibly, that someone else would want to read as well.

And from Tammy. . . I selected the following intention from what she sent me. Happens to be a quote I've held close to my heart for over two years. It's actually my screen saver on my home computer. I haven't recited it to myself in quite a while. Just two days ago I remembered that and said it while walking around campus. Here it is:

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray - Rumi.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

on the first day of advent. . .

An idea came to me a few weeks ago. I didn't dismiss it as frivolous or foolish or something no one else would be interested it. I made space for it to blossom, and then took action.  And, amazing enough (or maybe not really), someone else had a similar idea that's all over the blogs I read. I'll share both. Here's my story first.

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year's has become a bit challenging for me in recent years. Honestly, it's become sort of a lonely time. Growing up I loved this time of year - all the fun, school celebrations, days off, decorating, dressing up, Santa, unknown presents - but as my parents have become older, my nephew now a teenager and most of my friends busy with their spouses/kids, I've felt left out of "what the group is doing to celebrate the holidays."

I've decided I need to step up to the plate and start some of my own traditions. Two years ago I started playing along with Ali Edwards and other scrapbookers and made a holiday daily album. I've started my album this year and it continues to be a delightful experience. There are a few others, but this one is a highlight.

As I mentioned, a few weeks ago I was fondly remembering the excitement of opening a window on the same Advent calendar my mom would hang up each year. I'm sure by the end of her posting it I had each day memorized, but I still loved the experience. And I realized I missed this past ritual in my adult life. So, I asked my two good friends, Tammy and Laura, if they would be willing to each come up with 25 intentions/small activities to trade - so we each end up with 25 that aren't our own. They happily agreed to play along. We each had our 25 prompts as of yesterday, and today the magic of sharing begins.

I took the sharing one step further and asked a flickr group I belong to if they would mind me posting the daily intentions/activities I select on our discussion board. I received all enthusiastic yeses!

I selected one of Laura's prompts about asking for something you want. I'm working on setting this one into action yet this evening. More to come on this. . .

And here's the other project happening right now: reverb10. I highly recommend taking 2 minutes to sign up to receive emails for this month-long daily prompting extravaganza. Amazing energy is out there, friends. It's time to tune into it.

Here's the December 1 reverb10 prompt:
One Word.

Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Author: Gwen Bell)

I selected a word for 2010 that I've given much consideration to this year. It has fit. It has made sense. It's been guiding me. But the word that comes to mind for this prompt is different: it's connect. I feel like this web of connected dotted and full lines has emerged in my life this year, from behind a cloud of doubt and fear and not tuning into what is real. It takes my breath away at times. It's my top gratitude for this past year. I'm not certain about my word for 2011 - there are a few I've been considering (as this is now part of the New Year's ritual tradition I have with Laura and Tammy). It will become more clear as to what it will be this month - it always does.