Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pickle forks

122710 mismatched flatware 

A few months ago as I opened the flatware drawer to grab a spoon, something made me stop and look at the contents within. Huh! I pulled out a bunch of spoons and spread them on the counter. A motley collection it was: mismatched, some slightly bent, some tarnished silverplate, one poor rough-edged piece obviously rescued from the teeth of the disposal. Most of them had ornate scrollwork on the handles, not at all my style; I prefer simple and smooth, more refined and elegant to me than the fussy swirlies on these strange spoons. Where did they come from? I know I didn’t buy them. I haven’t purchased new flatware since I was married at 20 years old. Some of those original wedding pieces were still in the drawer; some I knew had been chewed up in the garbage disposal and tossed years ago. I still had most of the original forks, knives, soup spoons, iced tea spoons. I also had eight matching pickle forks. Pickle forks that I had never used (does anyone use them?); pickle forks that I would never use in the future.

It’s funny how we collect things over time, not really noticing how things slowly accumulate, getting shoved into drawers, finding homes in closets or cabinets. Things are left behind, added to our other things, given to us as gifts (even though they’re things we’d never buy for ourselves). We keep and keep. Maybe I’ll find a use. As soon as I give it away, I just KNOW I’ll need it. I even saw a magazine pic with spoons used as garden plant markers with the plant names on the bowl of the spoon. What a great idea … that I’ll never do!

When we’re young, our parents choose our stuff for us; it’s not really our stuff; it belongs to our parents and we’re told when we can use it and how. We grow up and then we really start to accumulate our own stuff; the real fun begins! We get an education, a career. We get a spouse—and all the wedding and shower gifts to start our lives together. We get in-laws, children, a house, furniture, a garden, cars. In our 20s, 30s, 40s, we busily acquire all the stuff of life, adding and adding. Christmas lights, decorations, Halloween stuff, snow stuff, golf stuff, vacation stuff … stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff. Whew!

And then one day … we open a drawer and see all the stuff that we never really intended to acquire, the stuff that doesn’t add value and help achieve our highest and greatest good, stuff that no longer serves us well. We begin to reverse the cycle. We want less stuff, not more. We want stuff that fits us better, of our own choosing; stuff that elevates, that reflects who we are. We start divesting ourselves of all the old stuff, the things that don’t match us any longer. We release the burdens, the extra weight we’ve been carting around in life. We choose a new definition, a simpler, cleaner, more spare definition, tossing away the excess frills and fussiness that are not part of our essence, paring down to the purer sense of who we really are at the core and choosing those items that serve us better.

122710 matching flatware

For Christmas, my thoughtful daughter bought me a new set of matching flatware, simple, clean-lined, perfect, my first new flatware since I was a young bride. I emptied the drawer, clearing everything out, amazed at some of the odd pieces I found in there. It all went into a donation box and I washed and dried my new flatware and put it in the drawer. (Doesn’t it look beautiful in the pic above?) Then I cleaned out the utensil drawer, getting rid of things I’ve never used (I don’t cook) or didn’t need (melon baller?), putting them in the donation box, too.

It’s snowballed and I’m starting to go through closets and cabinets and drawers, releasing things that no longer serve me well, packing it all up to donate, clearing my spaces and the excess that was burdening my life. I’m intentionally choosing what stays and what goes, not just letting the accumulation take over my spaces as before. Little by little, I’m reclaiming each of these spaces, dumping out the old, clearing the clutter from my life, getting rid of the “pickle forks” that I don’t need and will never use. I’m reclaiming my sacred spaces for myself, with intention and with love for the beauty and peace of empty spaces as well as for the things of value that I choose to keep.

It’s good to regularly stop and ask ourselves “What is no longer serving me well in my life?” We need to do a periodic cleanse and determine what that is, whether it’s pickle forks, friendships, a job, a location, a pattern of behavior. May we all have a happy and clear 2011!


Thursday, December 23, 2010



Giddy, giddy, giddy!  I get so giddy with anticipation as Advent comes to an end and we approach Christmas! I love Advent (see previous post) and all the inner work and calm presence that it provides. But I find myself yearning for the fireworks and happy joy that is Christmas!

I’m restless, anticipatory, finding it difficult to live in the present moment because I’m looking ahead to Saturday, planning my trip to my daughter’s home … then my brother’s … then my Dad’s; envisioning everyone opening the presents that I’ve chosen for each of them. Giving gifts is one of the best parts of Christmas! (Being together with those we love is the best.) I try to put careful thought into the presents and that makes it all the more delicious when I see the recipient’s happy smiles and I know I’ve hit the mark. Yippee!

I took a vacation day today and I’m glad I had a lot to do with my restless self. In the morning, I had two lab tests: bone densitometry and mammogram. Both went smoothly; in and out in an hour. Stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up a few things and bought a pretty bouquet to take to the cemetery for my mom. After the cemetery, I had a hair appointment in the afternoon. Full day and kept me busy.

122310 mom flowers

The cemetery at Christmas is absolutely THE most festive and joyful place to be! Christmas decor explodes in a riot of color and sparkle all over the hills of Good Shepherd. It’s been raining for the last 5 days, but today was nice and clear so there were a lot of families there putting up their holiday decorations; everyone working together, chatting, being family. Red, white and yellow poinsettias in big, foil-covered pots; white picket fences with gold, silver and colored garlands; cardboard fireplaces; giant red-and-white candy canes; angels, snowmen, Santas, wreaths. And the Christmas trees everywhere! Brightly, joyfully decorated with ornaments and garland wound round and round. I wish I could take pics of it all and share with you but it really has to be experienced in person. One family puts up a large cardboard fireplace and hangs stockings on it with each family member’s name; each year, more and more stockings are added to the fireplace. It always moves me; their family clearly consists of those who are still here physically as well as their loved one who crossed over.

And that’s the other beauty of the cemetery: you can feel the air almost vibrating with all the love there! I wish I could share it with you; it’s utterly amazing and always stops me for a moment as I become accustomed to the vibration there. I believe that when we think of others with love in our hearts, we often create a strong, loving connection to them in spirit, whether they’re with or without a physical body. (When my daughter was a child, if we were apart, I’d think of her or she’d think of me with love and the other would feel it with absolute certainty. My mom did that, too, all my life, and even now I sense her loving presence at times.) The physical sense doesn’t matter; it’s temporary anyway and can get in the way of the deepest connections we can make. The forever part of our selves—our spirits—are joined in a beautiful wave of love.

It’s that love connection that makes the air vibrate, I think. As people decorate with their families, they’re loving those who are with them, they’re loving those who have gone ahead of them, they’re remembering their ancestors and their people, where they’ve come from, where they’ve been. It’s all infused with a powerful, abiding, enduring love. The connections blend and blur, filling the air, the earth, the sky, the decorations, the Christmas trees. It’s an amazing experience; I think it’s especially powerful there because ALL those people are gathered there on behalf of loved ones, thinking, remembering and creating a whole lot of love energy concentrated all in one place. Even after they’ve left, that palpable energy remains in the places they’ve been. I’m really glad we still have cemeteries where so many can gather to generate this amazing and loving experience.

122310 mom headstone

I hadn’t been to the cemetery since July when I broke my ankle. Mom’s headstone was in sore need of polishing and the leaves needed to be cleared off. I tried to pry the flower vases from the holes in the ground but they were tightly and stubbornly stuck. I wrestled and wrestled with them until one of the cemetery workers driving by stopped to help, using his shovel to pull the vases out and then to clear the overgrown grass around them. I was grateful for his kind help and wished him a Merry Christmas as he smiled, waved and drove away. I arranged my flowers, cleared away the grass and polished and polished Mom’s headstone until it gleamed. I knelt and prayed, sending her love, sending love to my tios and tias, my abuelos, my cousins and friends who have all gone ahead, adding to the existing loving energy in that place. My restlessness became a calmer, quieter, loving giddiness. Filled with love from all that energy, I’m soooooo ready for Christmas.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Of Advent, anticipation and acceptance

121209 manger

Advent is a time of joyful anticipation, a space to slow down, prepare, go within and examine our hearts and souls, finding a home in our hearts for the spirit of the season; for many of us, for the love of a Savior, a new King. In the midst of holiday hustle and bustle, shopping, decorating, baking, parties, it can be hard to consider Advent being a slowing down time. I used to get caught up in all the chaos until I started focusing on the Advent aspect of this time of year. Eventually, I learned to plan and organize so that I can slow down during Advent. My trick? I take the week off after Thanksgiving, do my shopping (mostly online), write out my cards, do my holiday decorating and spend time preparing my inner life while the outer life around me buzzes with Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays, extended shopping hours, sweater sales and people frantically trying to find the perfect toy. That week allows me to get things done and frees up my time for the rest of the season so I can be more thoughtful, less hurried, more prepared. I remove myself from all the holiday chaos, intentionally, purposefully, planfully.

And that was the plan this year. I took the week off – and promptly became very ill the day after Thanksgiving. I was sick with fever, sweat, chills, nausea – oh, so sick! I lost 14.5 lbs in 4 days. I did manage to get the online shopping done toward the and of the week, but the cards didn’t get mailed, the decorating didn’t get done and three weeks later, I’m still recovering, with a lingering cough and an uncertain tummy.

Life happens and we have to adapt and adjust our plans accordingly, trusting that everything will turn out the way that it’s supposed to. I think of a young girl betrothed to be married, making her plans to become a wife. But all the plans change when her entire world is tossed upside down by the appearance of an angel with a remarkable, fantastical story. I think of a carpenter, betrothed to a girl who we understand to be faith-filled, good and virtuous. Then plans change when he is told that this good girl is pregnant—and not by him, which, according to the laws of the day, could result in her being stoned as punishment. Instead of having her stoned for her betrayal, he decides to quietly divorce her. But plans change again (another angel!) and he takes her as his wife. The lives that they had planned together took a wild, unexpected, unplanned detour. Yet with deep faith they trusted that everything would turn out the way it was supposed to turn out in some unknown way.

120809 advent candles close-upFaith is not rigid, unyielding. Faith requires flexibility, an adaptive spirit, the ability to go with the flow. Faith requires accepting the possibility of change, that things may not go the way we’d planned. We can’t stay attached to the plans when circumstances change; rigid attachment creates misery and unhappiness. We have to release our expectations and be flexible to whatever comes up.

Although I didn’t accomplish all I wanted to during my vacation week, I did slow down during Advent nonetheless, editing my plans to suit my changed circumstances, giving up a little in order to gain the peace and calm that nourishes me at Advent. Trusting with deep faith that everything would turn out the way it is supposed to turn out.

I wish you and yours the deep, abiding peace, love and happy joy of the season!



Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rainbows and angels

Prism Rainbows

I start to awaken and, as is my practice, with my eyes still closed, I give thanks for the comfort of my bed, for the shelter of my home, for the dreams I had during the night, for my sheets, blankets, pillows, for a restful night’s sleep. I open my eyes and, as I do every morning, I look toward the window where my liquid amber guardian tree stands directly outside my window with all the other trees beyond. The leaves are changing now, losing their green and turning into big leaves of golden yellow. Something on the ceiling catches my eye … and I smile. Rainbows! There are rainbows scattered everywhere in my room: splashed across the ceiling in tightly colored, long, narrow bars; brilliant red, bright orange, vivid yellow, soothing green, deep blue. More are splotched on the closet curtains, but these are refracted from the mirror and are bigger and looser, gentler-colored. I lift and drop the blankets to make a slight breeze and the rainbows start dancing all around, rainbows on walls, furniture, ceiling; so magical!

Pollyanna prismsI hang crystals in the windows of my living room and bedroom. Pollyanna was one of my favorite movies growing up and inspired me to hang the prisms years ago. During the spring and summer months, they’re just a bit of sparkle. But when the sun starts to hang lower toward the south in the fall and winter, its rays can enter the windows directly and hit the the prisms, which explode into brightly colored rainbows in my rooms.

This afternoon, vibrantly colored rainbows were streaked across the living room walls, floor and furniture. When my granddaughters were little, I’d tell them that the rainbows were angels come to play and to bring us love, blessings and happiness. My little grand-girls would dance and laugh in the rainbows or they’d chase and try to catch them if the prisms were moving from the breeze made by their play. Even now, when they see the rainbows in my home, they remember the angels. I do, too.

Lying in bed the other morning, with the colors all around me, I raised my legs overhead to practice the physical therapy exercises I do for my healing ankle (fractured several months ago). I see a rainbow on my ankle as I go through the exercises and I feel that angels are blessing the work, blessing the healing. Silly for a grown woman (a grandmother) to think such things, but I believe in magical things, in angels and blessings and healing powers. As a young woman, I wouldn’t dare share such nonsense with others; what would people think? Thankfully, I’m at an age where I can be a silly old grandmother less concerned about others’ judgments … and I can believe in angels in the rainbows.

Have a sparkly day!