Finding Space

No, this is not about outer space or even about indoor/outdoor space. It is about mental space – about room in our head for new thoughts. I was reflecting on the physical space in our house and how at times it seems so large and yet yesterday as our grown children were home for the day and our grandson was here the house had shrunk. (all in a good way mind you- it was a delight to have them here!)

It got me thinking about space. How do we use it? If we need to how do we find more space? What about mental space? What about all those emotions that came swirling into me as we talked, played and dealt with both light and heavy subjects.

After they all headed out, two to NY and three back home a few miles away, I thought about a good old fashion house cleaning. I thought about crying tears of joy for all that we have and a few tears of sorrow and loss for the hard year it has been for everyone.

This thinking started again in the a middle of the night discussion with myself. I was thinking about each room in the house and where we were collecting things that did not need to be there. Where we were holding onto things but not using them, not even looking at them? There is a collection of older framed pictures that I know I will not hang in the house but have not gotten rid of them. There are the three bookshelves of children’s books. Some books are worth keeping but others are out dated or are ok reads but I don’t really need to hold on to them. There are those emotions that I can’t quite let go of and they resurface in the night. The what ifs? How do I let go of those as well?

So when the what ifs started popping up in my thinking I pushed my thoughts back to physical things that I can do.  My thinking scanned the book shelves and landed on the shelf of personal journals – a full shelf of black composition notebooks and a few fancy spiral notebooks with writing in them. What do I do with those? These are taking up physical space but also a large emotional space that I have not returned to in years.

I can’t give those away. I did not write them for anyone else to read. In all honesty most of them are pretty dry. I was not a good journalist as a young person.

I had the diary with the key but never really wrote in it. I never wrote in middle school – those were the years I was drawing a bit. High school and college left me busy with homework and a few friends so extra writing was not going to happen. images.jpgSomewhere as an adult with kids I started journals again. Most ended up with notes about things to get done. Some notebooks have pages and pages of positive affirmations to help me get over the emotions of cancer or other fears that had taken over my thinking in those young years.

So again what do I do with them? I have decided to put them in order of years and begin to go through them writing down comments and thoughts from the pages that seem interesting or the story starters that are hidden in these pages. I am going to try and move them to a digital document. They can have a digital presents as I get older but I can let the paper go.

Making space – physically and mentally

This is a hard move for me. I see that there might be an interest in seeing how I wrote – seeing the hand writing or see that for a few years journalling was really just writing positive statements. Release pages and pages of writing is tricky.

But them I come back to who did I write these journals for? I wrote them for me to work out my thoughts and ideas. I wrote them to clarify the happenings of my life. They were not written as tales for my children to read. They were not written to go out into the world for someone else to read. They are just short private notes on what was/is working on not in my life.

It occurred to me that really rewriting these is about making not only physical space but emotional space in my life. It is about reading, reviewing and saving the parts of the journal that are important to me and letting go of the rest. It is really about making emotional space in my life – review and let go.

I realize that journals can be about what we are thinking of in the moment but they are also ways of helping us to let go if we go back and reread them. If we review and spend a bit of time with our own writing it might help us see what we have learned in life or where we thought we were going.

It also seems to me that rereading is a good way to say good bye to old fears, emotions and troubles of our past. And so I begin one journal at a time – reading, reviewing and letting go. (A good task as the garden closes down and the cold winter days approach.)

Tell me what do you do with old journals? Do you reread them?  Do you leave them for your children or grandchildren to read?

Just as important – why do you journal?

( On a side note I am thinking this might be good to do with my garden journals as well. There are now 5 of them. It might be interesting to really read them and see what has happen in my garden over that last 5 years and see what I  might have learned! )

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Changing Seasons

It is now 7:06 pm on Monday night. The trees are a dark outline, the sky is a deepening blue with light edges near the horizon. The sun set at 6:43 p.m. Dark comes early now.

This afternoon while sitting with my Grandson (age 3 1/2 months) we notice the sharp shadows of the sun that had moved south. It was no longer over head in the afternoon providing sun to the garden beds. We noticed the leaves and acorns crackled as we strolled over them on our morning walk. The air had cooled and we both were bundled up in jackets as we headed out to walk the neighborhood or just IMG_8086.jpgto sit on the back deck. (note the hat and mittens are a bit large for this little guy but his head was warm- that was for sure.)

Fall has arrived in all its glory. The smell of wood fires at night, the lights on in windows as the evening arrives, the trees are changing colors and the flowers fading. The insects are disappearing with each cold night. We will not see them again until spring.

Right now Mason, my grandson, just looks in wonder at everything around him. He is happiest when outside. His eyes are wide taking in everything around him. He tries to follow the movement of leaves in the trees. I have IMG_8091.jpgshared with him the colors of flowers as they begin to fade. I realize for him none of this makes sense. Yet on another level his puzzled face and deep stares at each plant, at the suns bright light, the wind on his face tells me at a deep level this tiny human being understand the amazingness of our world.

I get goosebumps as I watch him for he shows me how to look at our world as a new comer. The ability to see things as if for the first time. The sagging Begonia plant became an exciting exploration of red/orange flowers, white flowers, leaves with fuzzy edges and yellow stamens inside each flower. The drooping basil plant bought wide eyes when webrushed against it and the aroma took over. We both sneezed at the strong scent of the crumples and darken leaves.

Our explorations are short for napping, and feeding are still the main part of our day.  What can you expect at 3 and half months?  These little journeys leave him ready for a bottle and a good nap. They leave me marveling at how much we miss each day. He naps and I sit in wonder.

I am excited to continue to share this world of ours with him as he grows. Partly to share so he can learn about it but also for me to be able to take a fresh look at what is outside my door.

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Reaching 45 – an anniversary

I have shied away from using the number 45 due to it’s negative connections right now – there is a Colt 45  gun- a topic to hot to talk about for me in my life of wanting non violence. There is 45 the nickname for a President that I can’t talk about right now and I am way past 45 years of age. There is, of coarse, a happy memory of 45 records for those of us who are old like me. (Are there some of you who don’t even know what a record is? I bet so! )

Or there is the angel numbers 45 that are telling me –

( I must confess here I know nothing about angel numbers but found it while googling 45 – who knew there was such a thing??!!)

when you run into the number 45 you have an angel checking in with you and they will tell you –

  • Now is a good time to rid your life of bad habits. It’s time to let go of your unhealthy fears, self-doubts, and unnecessary worries.
  • Many changes are taking place and when they all occur at the same time, it can get quite overwhelming and stressful.
  • Keep a clear and optimistic perspective on life and focus on the things that add to your self-improvement.

Good things to think about when you have been married for 45 years.

For me the month of September has been filled with thinking about the 45 years ago when my husband and I got married. It was 45 years ago that we finished college and started off on an adventure of creating a life together away from our families. A time of living in new places, finding new friends and struggling to find jobs, then professions and also due to being in our early 20’s trying to figure who we were both as individuals and as a new couple.

This time was scary, exciting, overwhelming and amazing all at once. So much going on. There was Watergate (Hmm – another issue with impeachment), there was Worldwide Inflation that helped to cause dramatic increases in the cost of fuel, food and manufacturing, and I could go on but this is not the point.

The point is in each of our lives so much happens. At times it feels like a very long time. 45 years is a lot of years. Yet, as I sit and think about it, it seems to have happen quickly. I wonder how we got here.

There were

  • years of teaching and working
  • years of raising two children and all that it entails
  • buying a house and them moving to another one
  • adding on to a house to give us a bit more room
  • years of watching our parents decline and leave this earth
  • years of developing dear friends all long the way
  • years of gardening, travels, and spending time with friends

More and more details pop up as I begin to list – the years show up as a quickly moving movie in my head.

IMG_6780.jpgThen there is the current year of September to September – there was a wedding for IMG_8077.jpgone, a baby and a battle with cancer for one, a whole set of kittens we did not expect, an open heart surgery for my brother and there was love!  The family and extended family gathering for last Thanksgiving, the moving of a niece back to the mid west helping to pull our extended family closer. There was the joy of planting seeds, watching a little one grow and so much more.

There is the private life of husband and wife – times talking over coffee and tea, the long walks and talks we have, the many trips to the north shore to stare at Lake IMG_8070.jpegSuperior when the sun rises, the time of quiet where we know we don’t need to say anything. There has also been plenty of worries, woes and issues but they seems to fade away for me.

As the 45 angel says (whoever that may be): There is so much going on right now that it is a good time to keep a clear and optimistic perspective on life and focus on the things that add to your self-improvement.

So as we finished one more celebratory dinner as  September comes to a close – sharing a too large piece of carrot cake (that neither of us should have had) and a glass of wine we marveled at the years. We think about how we began and how we are still seeking to understand who we are as individuals and as a couple. Knowing that we are super happy to have wandered these last 45 years together and look forward to as many more as we can claim. (Knowing that a bit less carrot cake and wine and a bit more yoga and walking may extend those year. Looking for self improvement as the angel 45 says.)

Love to all on a lovely cloudy rainy yet beautiful night for a life well lived full of people to care about and a world to protect and care for. Life is good!

 

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Seeing and Naming

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“Painting these close-ups was a way of learning to look, a way of removing the blinders with which we gallop through the world, slowing down, shedding our notions and concepts of things, and taking things in as they really are.”

This summer when my Grandson was born I started a nature journal for him. Well, really for me to learn how to create a nature journal. I wanted to play with this idea so when he is older we can build one together. I know that so many young children have lost touch with the world outside their front door. Children and often times their parents no long have the names for the trees, bushes, bugs, birds or flowers they walk by on the few times they choose to stroll around their neighborhoods.

IMG_7837.jpgI have to admit that I also have lost the names of some critters and plants. I know basic birds, trees, bugs and I am pretty good with flowers since I garden but I know that my mother could have name so many more. It was a part of her education when young. It was part of my older sisters and brothers as well but as I came along botany was slowly dropped from the curriculum. I was not asked to make a leaf collection or a bug or butterfly collection. (maybe it was good since it meant a great deal of killing off bugs and butterflies to put IMG_7840.jpgpins in them and arrange in a box with their names)

When I was teaching I tried to keep this in my science curriculum but it often fell to the way side. (and honestly many of my fellow teachers find it hard to get any science taught in the elementary grades, let alone science not required by the district, state or nationally)

The thing is we did not find a substitute for the bug and leaf collecting. So we stopped looking for and at them. We stopped naming them. The Maples, Oaks, Elms IMG_7990.jpgall just became trees. The insects also seems to have lost their names. They have just become bugs and most times people assume bugs means pest. Pest means we kill it.

We are losing our connection to the natural world generation by generation. We are forgetting what is out in the world around us. We have lost the understanding of the connections and web of life that we live in.

It has been wonderful to watch the young people begin to gather around the climate change issue. Their voices reaching out for the need to change. They are calling for big and global changes, which need to happen and happen quickly.

But – I also know that this generation and the young ones to come need to have guides who are helping them make deep and meaningful connection to the earth. They see the need to save mountains, rivers, air, and water but do they also see the need for the little bugs, the birds, the microbes in the soil. There are so many layers to the world we live in.

IMG_8044.jpgMaking this deep connection means seeing. It means really looking closely at the leaves, the flowers. What insects are in your yard or park? Can you name the butterflies that go by your window? Are you able to name the bird that landed on the deck or porch out your back door?  Can your kids or grandkids name them?

This is where I am – learning to see and name the critters and plants close to home and in my state. I am working on drawing some of them and writing about them in a simple journal for my grandson. When he is old enough we will wander together – looking, digging, naming and writing about and drawing what we see.

I hope to help one more child make a connection to the earth and know why we must work to save this lovely planet we live on.

(Personally, I am afraid to many of the people in charge of our world are not seeing and cannot name what they do see of the natural world. They have lost this connection to the earth as well. They live within big cities, cars, planes seldom taking time to feel the earth beneath their feet, the wind and sun in their face and the woods surrounding them with grace. We need to help change that as well.)

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Riding the rollercoaster of health

download.jpgHealth is an interesting thing. It amazes me as I watch people eating, sitting around, walking, running and so on. Some people seem to be able to do and eat anything and tumble through life relatively healthy. (Although you never really know what is hiding in their system.)

Then there are others who work hard at being healthy. They exercise, they watch what they eat (fresh foods, mainly veggies, low fat protein – you get the idea) and yet they find themselves facing big health issues. The Big C (cancer of some kind) or the Big H (heart issues of some sort) or any other issue that pulls them down both physically and emotionally. There is the same issue in the elderly – those who live to be 95 and are clear headed and healthy and those who may even be from the same family but find themselves with Parkinson or Alzheimers. It never seems fair.

Although, I know that no one ever told us that life was going to be fair. It just seems like a good idea – thats all. The idea of fairness – of universal good health for all.

So I find myself on a mid September’s day just a bit pissed off (sorry about the language – it is how I feel today) at the why’s of life.  Why cancer, or why heart disease or anything else?

I know there is no answer for this question – we each get what comes our way. Each person finds their own way through the journey of life – the ups and downs of health, or the loss of a loved one too early.

There is the statement of how these events build character or empathy towards others. All a good thing I suppose when I look at those who bully their way through life on the easy road not understanding how others feel or struggle just to move from day to day.

IMG_7990.jpgIt is a warm, sunny, breeze day. The Maple trees have started their fall color change, the Sumacs are blazing red here in the northland. The birds are gathering for the flight south. It is glorious out but internally I am fighting the worry of a daughter on the last leg of chemo. The concern at how much this is taking from her body as she fights Breast Cancer and begins the journey of raising her son.

I struggle with my own fight with cholesterol and heart disease. I am the person walking daily, watching closely what I eat and drink, doing yoga daily if I can and yet the numbers will not go down. The tiniest bit of stress and the LDL shoots up. The family history is something I cannot change. My physical reaction to medications I cannot change. So I wonder what are my next steps towards healthy long life.

All I can do is acknowledge the truth of the situation. Do the best I can in helping and caring for myself and my family. Then turn to the things in life that are glorious. The beautiful day, the new baby boy sleeping by me, and the people who support and care for us on our journey.

It is in these days of “character building” and “empathy creation” that I look to writers who have also struggled during their life. I look to see what keeps a person moving forward. What gives them the drive to remain positive and push past these hard days? What helps us look to the cool breeze knowing this day offers joy as well as sadness?

A bit of poetry from Mary Oliver, a quote from Kahlil Gibran, or Dr. Nikki Martinez.

Here is a quote from Dr. Martinez –

“As someone who lives with a rare disease, people often have a very different perception of how I think, feel, and live each day of my life. While I have an illness, I am NOT my illness. It is merely a part of me. An important part that has defined who I have chosen to be, the kind of life I have chosen to live, and the kind mindset I choose to live by. While many people let their illness define them and drop anchor, I chose to redefine my life. I lived a life that gave me purpose and meaning.”

Here is what I hold on to –

  • I have an illness – I am NOT my illness
  • The kind of life I choose
  • The kind of mindset I live with
  • I work to set my life to give me purpose and meaning

Each of us has things that create struggles in our life – health, loss, work, family – whatever. It is how we choose to look at those struggles that makes a difference. Taking each day as it comes and working to make the best of it.

So who do you turn to when struggling with your mindset and life?

(I always like to know what keeps people moving forward – what helps you?)

 

Everyday Power – Chronic Illness quotes –

https://everydaypower.com/chronic-illness-quotes/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Caught in Between

I am on year six of retirement – which I started by calling it “refirement”! I saw this time as a chance to start new, to begin again. This is a time to learn, develop and create. I have been doing that over the last few years.

pinellmsm2.jpgI have been learning to draw, like Linda M. Lifkin, using botanical art (image to the left), working on writing and developing my gardens. All of this is great fun but behind it is the ever frustrating feeling of a beginner. The feeling of not knowing enough, not being “good” enough. I grew up in a world of right and wrong – not a world of developing or growing. You either knew things or you did not. You were good at something or you were not. Somehow the idea of developing – the getting to know a new skill was never discuss or shown or praised or even just acknowledged.

So here I am an old lady sitting in between – the in between of developing skills. I am in the place of knowing a little, being able to do a little but not good or very skilled at any of it.

It is an odd place to be – I seem to write about it often. (Sorry to those of you who keep reading my posts. This seems to be the place I think these things through and repeat myself often.)

This is where I have to face the fact that I am not very persistent when learning something new. At least when learning something new just for myself.

I was great at pushing through and learning new things when teaching, the learning I did them was for my students. I was great at getting my children and students to acquire new skills – helping than to develop the skills of practicing a new bit of learning.

Now as I am learning things just because they would be fun I find it hard to stay with it. An example is that it is hard to make time in the day to just sit and draw. I am haunted with the feeling that I should be up doing something productive. I struggle with the idea that learning a new artist skill or craft is not productive.

Productive is when you are doing an activity like making tomato sauce from the hundreds of  tomatoes in the garden. I will quickly learn how to do that and complete that task. It is a learning that benefits other people. I am doing something for others – storing food to feed the family come winter.

My drawing is just for me. I don’t plan to be an artist that sells paintings or drawing. I don’t even think my drawing will come out of my sketch books. In my mind it then means I am not doing something productive and should stop learning this new skill even if inside myself I would really like to learn how to draw.

I have gathered the resources – drawing pencils, colored pencils, paper, sketch books download.jpgand books about drawing. I watch videos about drawing. Then I go to draw and I put it away. “Not now” I say “I need to go wash the windows or do laundry or weed the garden.” There is always something to do that blocks that time to practice the new skill. The skill that is hard for me but fascinates me and pulls at my soul.

I drawing when I take classes that cost lots of money – I don’t want to waste the money spent and so I draw for the six weeks of class. The problem is like any new skill six weeks is just a beginning. If I really want to gain any real skill I need to keep at it.  One needs to draw daily – making the pencils feel at home in your hand, training your eye to see and your brain to move a 3 d shape from the world into a flat drawing with looks like it has depth. It is hard I have found out.

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It is all so amazing and I want the skill. I can imagine the joy of watching an image appear as your pencil moves across the page. The wonder at stepping back and being able to say – hey that looks like true Echinacea.

I realize this being caught in between is really like having that internal editor when you are writing. The little guy or gal on your shoulder shaking their head going – nope not good enough, nope that sentence sounds stupid, nope you will never be a writer.

So now I have that same like guy in much more colorful clothes whispering in my ear – “No stupid idea to draw, you should be off doing something for others. Go now and get busy. You need to put that pencil away.”

It is now September 2nd and I am determined to go face to face with this artistic IMG_8671.JPGdemon. I plan to find a way passed this guy and take the pencil in my hand and begin to draw again. Darn, it is amazing how hard learning something new can be!

Are you learning something new that you tests your patience or makes you think about your endurance to stay with a new task?  What helps you stay with a task that is hard and new for you?

Boy – it makes me think of my students who were learning factions, or geometry or reading or science concepts – all this new stuff is hard to get into our brains. Especially hard if we don’t see a use for it. Why and how will I use this new learning?   It seems to matter.  Having a purpose to learning it important I think.

Hmmm  what is my purpose for drawing?  What makes me want to learn to draw?

Good questions to ask our selves and our students as the school year begins!

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Habits and Patterns

A habit is :

  • a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

A Pattern is:

  • a regular and intelligible form or sequence discernible in certain actions or situations.

Walking this morning I thought about habits and patterns. I thought about learned behaviors and learned responses to behaviors. When I was little things needed to be done in a certain way. I was taught this is the way you make a bed, or do the dishes or these are clothes you wear – the length of a skirt or the type of shirt. These things and statements were repeated over and over creating a pattern of behavior.

When I grew up these patterns or now habits were pretty easy to change if I needed or wanted to. I learned from others and had experiences outside of my family that showed me new ways of being. I could give up my skirts for my jeans, I make my bed but not the way I was taught. I was able to change.

Now as an even older woman I also know there are deeper ways of being – family images.jpgpatterns that are entrenched in my thinking and reflect in my language and the things I do. Most of the time I am unaware of them but once in awhile they pop up. I make a statement that my mother use to say to me as a child. She was famous for giving a compliment with a “but” at the end of it.  “Joanne your hair cut is great but do you have to wear those shoes?” At first glance it is not a big deal. Just a small side comment. I have caught myself many times with that “But” at the edge of my tongue ready to slip out. I have learned to stop it. Just give the compliment.

The problem with those little side comments, the “buts”, is if they come often and are repeated by other family members over time you begin to think you can’t do anything right. It creates a negative thought pattern for the person experiencing this behavior and with time the negative thinking can become a habit.

There are also families where this situation plays out in a positive way reinforcing a child to grow and think well of themselves. The patterned behaviors and family habits give a child the room to grow and expand their thinking.

Each of us has patterned ways of thinking that make up who we are. They are deep habits that either help us or sometimes hurt us. The patterns can move us forward in life in positive ways. There are also the patterns that can be the cause of trouble, depression or even anger. Reading Educated by Tara Westover shows the extreme in family patterns and how hard it is to change and walk away from them. (If you haven’t read it you should – it is not an easy read – I warn you family dysfunction and stepping back into old patterns and habits are clearly seen.)

So why all this writing about patterns?

Well, one I was reading Educated and it reminded me of my family patterns – nothing that extreme or negative but still little things that set me off on some negative thinking as I grew up and it has taken awhile to change.

Number two is taking care of a grandson now makes me think about my language and actions. What patterns do I want to be sure I avoid and what actions and language can bring forth positive thinking and being?  (I remember thinking about this when my children were first born. What did I not what to repeat with my own children? What did I want to nurture? )

Number three in my thoughts today is the start of school. In each classroom we have students who come with patterns positive and negative that have been already deeply ingrained in their way of being. They already have a sense of self (good or bad), many will have thoughts on how to treat people, they have a sense of what they think is right or wrong.  We, as teachers, also have language patterns ingrained in how we approach each child and the situations we deal with. We have our thoughts on behavior and how to treat others.

All these actions and patterns get mixed together in a family or a classroom or society. It can be pretty crazy when we do not listen to ourselves or to others. It is hard to change our way of thinking and being. Old patterns die hard.

All I know is first we need to see our own patterns for what they are – do they help us or do they create harm? Then we need to be able to listen and see what others are feeling and what is driving their actions and thoughts. This is what we call empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

These two steps are really hard, especially when the behaviors or language bring forward deep emotions or negative feelings.  So what do we do in this world that is so deeply divided, where emotions are high and families are struggling?

As a teacher, a parent and a grandparent I plan to work towards empathy. I plan to remind myself to think about what patterns or habits have brought me to act a certain way or what patterns made the other person act the way they are. How to we hear each other and support each other?

I think reading children’s books on empathy daily or weekly might be a really good thing this year! Learn to care about each other might be a really good thing!

 

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