Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

Getting My Summer Solstice On

Summer Solstice 2013 is here. In recent years, it seems to have become quite popular to have some sort of celebration or ritual on the solstices. Some suggest the earth’s energy is uniquely aligned at such times. Others simply mark it as a point of new beginning or transition in their lives. For me, it’s typically either the day of or the day after kiddo #3’s birthday. That means I SHOULD be celebrating in some form or fashion.

…SHOULD be.

I’m not much of one for celebrations, rituals, traditions, or anything remotely similar. There’s really no particular reason other than I’m just really lazy in that department. My kids have grown up highly deprived of the aforementioned experiences. Quite frankly, if it weren’t for their sweet daddy, they’d have no life.

Yes. I know. I rock. Just hand that mother of the year trophy over to me right now.  <sarcasm>

This year, however, I had an opportunity to participate in a real Summer Solstice event. With all of the usual obstacles and excuses removed and a very gracious invitation from the host, I couldn’t say no.

My alarm went off promptly at 5 AM and I was greeted by the usual pre-programmed pot of coffee, minus half enough coffee grounds since I ran out last night. Better make that “greeted by a very weak and nasty pot of pre-programmed coffee”. A quick shower and blow dry of the hair, application of non-toxic sunscreen, attention to clothing and teeth (much appreciated by those in attendance, I’m sure), and I was off for my 20 mile drive to the thriving metropolis of Nazareth, Texas.

We gathered at Casa La Entereza, the unique and beautiful home of Darryl Birkenfeld and JoAnn Starr. “A Labyrinth Retreat on Summer Solstice” began just as the sun attempted to peak through the morning clouds in the eastern sky. We were introduced to the first presenter and led to the labyrinth area. After a brief explanation, we each took a turn stepping into the labyrinth to begin our walk in concentric circles, silently meditating along the way. Upon reaching the center of the labyrinth, we stepped down into the kiva, pausing on each level to experience the power and energy of the seven chakra-aligned rock steps with their embedded crystal energy concentrators. The base of the kiva includes a place to sit where we continued our silent meditation. One at a time we exited the kiva and made our way back around the labyrinth returning to its beginning.

Some people are very good at emptying their minds of all thought and sensing the subtle energies that surface during a time of meditation. Me? Not so much.

My mind did something like this:

“Okay, Girlfriend. Empty your min…wow! Those rocks are sure crunchy sounding!”

“Focus, Angie. Pay attention to what you are feeli……Hey, there’s the Padre!”

“Yoohoo! You are supposed to be meditating. Pretty sure this distraction thing is………I wonder what’s for breakfast?”

I’ll spare you more torture.

Obviously I need a bit more frequent practice at the whole emptying my mind thing. Seriously, though, as I neared the end of the labyrinth two thoughts presented themselves with brilliant clarity.

Humans almost always tend to find some way to explain that which they do not easily understand when they are not comfortable with a simple I don’t know.

……and……

My typical description of the person I used to be is not supportive. I am, rather, an evolving human being, as are all other human beings. We are just at different places in our evolution.

Most probably won’t see the profoundness in such a revelation. That’s okay. It was significant to me, and that’s what the entire process is about.

Our day continued with a delicious home baked breakfast including casserole, salsa, fruit, dip, and some incredible sticky roles along with juice and coffee. A nice lady everyone calls Steve Ann (or something like that) was our cook. It was all I could do to keep my inner piglet from bursting forth and devouring the entire counter full of food. This lady can feed me anytime.

Two morning sessions followed. We divided into groups and took turns enjoying another labyrinth and kiva experience outside and a meditation inside the beautiful casa. The labyrinth activities were directed by Joe Franco of Dimmitt who designed and led their construction. When he indicated we’d be sitting in the kiva in silence for 20 minutes, I thought my brain might explode.

Might.

But it didn’t.

That proved to be the fastest 20 minutes of my life.

On my way out, I chose to walk the labyrinth barefooted. After all, the really good earth energy demands it. While it wasn’t like walking on hot coals (as if I’d know what that was like), it was quite stimulating to the pressure points. That’s New Age lingo for I’m-a-tenderfoot-and-it-was-all-I-could-do-to-tough-it-out-to-the-end. Nevertheless, I kicked some energy meridians into high gear with that trek. That’s New Age lingo for my spine tingled.

Once back inside, Elaine Sullivan led us through a guided meditation. I have some weird hang-up with my three year old self. I always have a hang-up with my three-year old self. Every “find your inner child” meditation I’ve ever done has resulted in that girl showing up. One of these days I’m going to get a shrink to help me find and unpack her baggage. Needless to say, it was an emotional and moving experience for me.

Lunch was next. The menu was a slice of heaven. We were served a delicious Paidom pot roast, mashed potatoes, brown gravy, green beans, home grown salad greens, and strawberry-rhubarb pie.

And hot rolls with sesame seeds…So much for being wheat free… I had two. Yum doesn’t do them justice.

I wonder if Steve Ann will marry me.

I’m pretty sure my husband would be okay with it.

We enjoyed a bit of after lunch relaxing and visiting with each other. I met some people who are a lot like me in their thinking and ideals. We had some good discussions about subtle energies, the link between emotions and health, and some of our personal stories. It is always comforting to find others whose journeys have led them down a path similar to mine. It certainly helps me feel much less like a total weirdo when I am in the company of others like me.

Our final session was a time of reflection and sharing led by Elaine. The connections with people, the beauty of our space, and the synergy were all so peaceful and comforting. It was a delightful end to a day of recharging and rejuvenation. Lemon bars made by a gracious retired Texas Tech professor of German topped off our day of self-reflection and healing energy.

My left-hemisphere-dominate self found the day to be well worth the time and the short trip. I am exceedingly grateful to Darryl for including me in the retreat. My brain knows it was good for me. For those who are more sensitive to subtle energies (and even those who are not), I highly encourage you to participate in the next Labyrinth Retreat at Casa La Entereza. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you. If you are one who easily senses subtle energies, you will absolutely love it.

Once again to Darryl Birkenfeld, thank you for being such a gracious host and planning a truly unique retreat experience.

See you next time.

2010: Looking Back So I Can Look Forward

Looking back is not something I typically do. There’s nothing a person can do to change what’s been done, and spending time dwelling on it is pretty much a waste of time.

This year, however, I think it is important for me to look back at the past twelve months so that I can recognize how much has changed and how far I have come, not to mention the many adventures that I experienced this year.

Twenty ten saw me take my first REAL yoga classes.

It was during one of those yogic moments of peaceful reflection that I made the decision to resign my job of 18 years.

That decision and its subsequent public announcement led to an energy shift in my workplace that was nothing short of miraculous. I don’t know who was more relieved, me or my co-workers.

It was the year we decided that maybe building a house at the farm wasn’t the best idea. We realized my in-laws wouldn’t be with us very many more years and that no one else in the family had a desire to live in their house. We couldn’t bear the thought of it sitting empty or being sold. We began to create a vision that involved once again restoring what we had rather than buying brand new.

Twenty ten was the year my sweet man helped move his aging parents to a nursing home. We didn’t realize how quickly our prediction would come to pass.

It was also the year we said “see ya later” to his handsome daddy.  We miss you, Charlie.

I realized this year that keeping forty years worth of mail and magazines is not a good idea.

I learned that while some things aren’t mine to discard, the rest of the family appreciates not having to do as much of it.

This year I figured out that it is possible to simultaneously be mad at my man for something he can’t fix and feel guilty for being mad at him.

I discovered that when meltdowns happen, I don’t really want anyone to fix or analyze the problem. I pretty much just want to be held by my man and allowed to blubber like a moron into total exhaustion.

I also discovered that sorting through 40 years worth of mail can trigger the aforementioned meltdown.

I messaged my dad and told him I’d haunt him in the afterlife if he left all his crap for me to sort through.

Sometimes having an entire week with no massage clients is a blessing to allow one to work on a more important project.

I really need to clean out my crap so my children won’t have to.

This year also saw the ongoing work on my wellness center progress from slightly nicer than trashy (requiring closed doors and plastic sheeting) to something that has become downright adorable.

My massage clientele has grown from about five on January 1, 2010 to about 75 today and from a few sessions a month to multiple sessions a week.

I have a gift. I don’t know what I do differently, and many times I feel very inadequate to help someone, yet people keep telling me I really do make a difference.

2010 was the year I realized how much I need to feel as though I am making a difference.

This year was the first year since 1992 that I have not attended August Staff Development.

I miss my friends.

I don’t miss the beaurocracy and protocol.

Twenty ten was the year I said goodbye to windowless cinderblock and electromagnetic fields.

It’s the year I discovered how amazing it is to give a massage in a thunderstorm.

It’s also the year I learned that the sound of geese flying over head is another sweet background symphony for giving a massage.

This year gave me time to can 100 pounds of apples, oodles of tomatoes, more jalapeños than I will ever need, and even make some apricot jam. I haven’t done that in probably 18 years because I was always back at work by the time the garden was ready.

This year we took our cowgirl to the state horse show, sent her off to horse camp, sent our oldest to Germany for a month, and then moved her to the far corner of New Mexico to go to school.

This year found daughter number two with a drivers license and an appreciation for the freedom even a 12 year old mini-van can bring.

It was the year my baby played on her first club basketball basketball team and decided she could live with an occasional bloody nose.

This was the year I told a man in leadership that I wanted strong female role models in my daughters’ lives.

It has also been the year I’ve had to remind myself that I got what I wished for and that everything else is secondary, even though there is some frustration.

This was the year I gave up on my hybrid car and helped my oldest get her first car.

This was the year I learned to be really really patient with licensing agencies. It took three months, but we finally got my oldest licensed to practice massage therapy in New Mexico without making any state agency enemies. The holdup was one of semantics. Terminology.

It was also the year I was glad my oldest didn’t have a job, because after completely missing Christmas last year due to work and snow, she has been home with us for a whole month. I kinda like having her around.

I hope she never gets a job, but rather finds a way to make a living on her own terms.

This was the year that 85% of my 18 years worth of retirement savings disappeared. In all fairness, it did a lot. It did things that couldn’t have been done if I had continued to work at my former job. It blessed my girls.

This was the year that I finally told my story.

And the year that I released some resentment in exchange for recognizing the gifts.

This year saw me let go of the guilt of “should” and simply enjoy “being”.

I learned that sometimes procrastination simply means the time isn’t yet right.

Twenty ten is the year I learned that there is a big difference between being a Christian and being a disciple of a man named Jesus.

I don’t want to be a Christian.

I want to be  like Jesus.

This year saw my eyes open to the historical origins of the Bible and let go of my blind belief in its divine authorship.

It also saw another major shift in my belief system.

I think I might have been wrong about a few things.

Twenty ten was the year I found some amazing people who are also on a quest for enlightenment and truth: Ronna Detrick, Renae Cobb, Don Rogers, and Chris Ledgerwood to name a few. I am grateful to have made their acquaintance and experienced their encouragement.

It was the year of a broken leg for cowgirl and a broken nose for my mom. Note to both: Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes you get your wish, but with a bit of an inconvenient side effect. Good lesson for me. I wonder if I caught on or if I’ll have to learn that one for myself sometime?

Twenty ten will go down as the year that I took a leap off of a cliff and had to build my wings during the free-fall.

My wings are in place, and now the ascension begins. There’s a pretty good climb ahead, but I have a hunch the view from the top of 2011 is going to be exhilerating.

That’s a big word that means really scary but very much worth it once the mountain is climbed.

Bring it on.

Observations on Love and Romance

The past few weeks have given me ample opportunity to observe the world around me.  It’s provided quite an education, or in some cases a bit of re-education.

It’s been fun to watch my kids, Christmas shoppers, extended family, my sweet man, good friends, movies, and more. However, I think the most intriguing observations have come from watching the many forms of love being played out in different settings.

It’s touching.

It’s frustrating.

It’s heartbreaking.

It’s beautiful.

There are a few things I have noticed that I think are important to mention.

Love is a choice. An everyday, wake-up-in-the-morning, get-through-the-day, because-I-want-to-love-you choice. It’s not a feeling that comes and goes. It exists through migraines, black eyes, busted lips, cash-flow-shortfalls, home renovation projects, crappy jobs, and more because we choose each and every moment to love another human being.

There is very little that is more difficult and heartbreaking than watching someone you love more than life itself suffering in pain. It’s true even when the injuries are relatively minor and heal quickly. Watching a child, a parent, or a lover hurt creates an overwhelming urge to throw up. Where’s a magic wand when you need one?

It is entirely possible to be madly, passionately, uncontrollably in love with someone and still want to smack ’em upside the head occasionally. Doesn’t matter if you are 20, 45,  or 70. I’m not advocating the smacking, just acknowledging that the urge occasionally surfaces.

The urge to smack a lover upside the head is usually followed shortly thereafter by an equally overwhelming urge to disappear behind closed doors and “…have a little fun when we turn out the lights…” (my regards to the musical group Alabama).

First romance is adorable. Freakin’ crazy precious adorable….when done right.

Being overly rational where love is concerned can lead to missed opportunity.

Sometimes the first time people meet and fall in love, it’s just too early. Life has a way of bringing things back around full circle. The trick is to trust the process, without waiting on the process. Roll with life. Don’t burn the bridge that will carry you over the canyon.

When the standard of perfection has been set, it’s really a waste of time and emotion to toy with those who don’t meet the standard. Just keep your eyes on the standard and know that when the time is right, it will appear beautifully, romantically, and perfectly. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to sample the menu in small doses to establish a basis for comparison.

It’s important to know the difference between having a standard created by logic and having a standard created by your heart. The heart is way smarter than the brain. The brain tends to mess things up by over thinking. I am grateful to know this lesson first hand and to be the one who listened to my heart when my brain was telling me how stupid I was.

It’s paid off beautifully.

The stronger the reaction (even negative), the more likely it is that there is unfinished business. Recognize it for what it is, and shower it with gratitude rather than attempt to drowned it in an ocean of anger.

There is a window of time in which it is good to be a bit subtle, however, ongoing efforts to be subtle and coy simply mask true feelings. When your heart and soul are already in shreds, the best thing is to be honest. Sometimes that’s all the other person needs is to see you for who you really are. If they run, then so be it.

Never ask a guy what he is thinking. Odds are he’s not. It’s a gift they have.

It’s never a good thing to expect a man to be overly romantic. Often times the ideal image we create is completely incompatible with 24/7 romantic male. Prince Charming arriving to sweep us off our feet is usually in direct opposition to the strong, hard-working, silent type. If he is willing to change a baby diaper, push a vacuum, mow the lawn, fix the toilet, clean the kitchen, cook supper, build a wall,  or feed your animals when it is snowing, that’s the equivalent of being handed a dozen red roses and being swept off your feet. Face it, accept it, be grateful, and recognize the disguise.

And finally, I am so full of gratitude for having survived my journey into love, for having a lover, friend, and companion who is willing to tolerate all my weirdness and quirky behaviors, and for time we have had and the time that remains to spend together. Each moment is priceless. Funny thing…..when I see us in photos, I see how time has changed us. When I look at him face to face, I still see that gorgeously hot 29 year old with the amazing dark brown hair and piercing blue eyes.

As I watch my girls tiptoe into the adventure that is finding love, I am swept back 25 years to that roller coaster that they are now experiencing.

It’s a stomach-turning, hands-in-the-air, scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs thrill ride, but what a rush it is.

What a rush!

For or Against and Feedback Followup

Election Day is here. Many have already cast their vote. I have not. Yesterday’s writing outlined the issues that are important to me, and likely many others, yet it acknowledged an attitude of apathy that I have developed due to frustration with career politicians, manipulation of said politicians by corporations and special interests, and the feeling that the political system has become a contest to see who can be hated the least instead of supported the most.

I added a link to my blogpost as my Facebook status yesterday along with a cocky, smart aleck comment about potentially not voting and what’s the point. Interestingly enough NO ONE had anything to say about the issues I mentioned, but I apparently struck a nerve with some by suggesting it might be pointless to vote.

It seems suggesting that one might choose not to vote ranks right up there with suggesting there isn’t really a fiery place called Hell.

The comments I received ranged from determination to vote against Rick Perry and his ridiculous monthly rent house payment being paid by the taxpayers of Texas to a plea to vote because our troops are fighting to protect our voting rights to how fortunate we are that we do have the right to disagree with elected officials or even choose not to vote.

The comment that I found most compelling, however, came from a long-time friend and former co-worker whom my oldest daughter had the privilege of having for a teacher. She said:

The reason I have voted (early) is to show that my small voice and meager pocketbook can still affect change. I am more concerned about the long term effect if our daughter sees that we are too eager or impatient to give up on our democracy. Though I am certain that tomorrow’s election results will be a sober reminder that “money” and “fear” will often win over the eligible voters who do exercise their right, I feel it is important to snub my nose in the face of corporate interests who are hoping that I will stay home and not vote. They are actually counting on the negativity and disgust factor to keep me away. I take pride in being one of their worst nightmares…a voter who tries to be as informed as possible, reasonable and one of “those” people who put signs in their yard.

I have to admit, she did an excellent job of answering my question, “What’s the point?”

The Facebook discussion raised another significant question for me.

Is it ethical to vote for a candidate simply to send a message that one is voting against another candidate? In other words, should the entire student body throw its support behind Cheerleader B simply because we don’t want Cheerleader A to win? If Cheerleader B is a good cheerleader and is likeable, then we will likely be voting FOR Cheerleader B anyway. But what if Cheerleader B is nothing more special than someone who is NOT Cheerleader A. Is it still ethical to vote for Cheerleader B solely to send a message to Cheerleader A that the student body doesn’t want her representing them? ….solely because we have a moral obligation to exercise our right to vote?

Law of Attraction gurus tend towards the philosophy that being against something or someone tends to give energy to the very thing/person we oppose. They suggest a healthier approach is to find something/someone we can champion and put our energy towards positive support.

With that in mind, I took to the internet this morning looking for reasons to support one of the candidates for governor of Texas. Already harboring a few negative opinions of my own regarding current Governor Goodhair, and armed with the comment of a close friend who indicated Bill White is a great guy, I began searching for reasons to support Bill White other than simply being against Rick Perry.

“Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find.”

I googled “why should I vote for Bill White” and was led right to his campaign page.

I compared his issues to the issues I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post.

I found several areas where I felt we might share some common ground, one of the most significant for me being his inclusive attitude toward marginalized people in Texas including GLBT groups. There was a video featuring Indo-Americans which was very positive. I was impressed that something had been produced which contained virtually no digs, slams, or complaints against the competition, but rather was totally focused on the positive characteristics of Bill White. It portrayed him as a man who is both accessible to the people and compassionate.

On the issue of border control, he used the right language to get my attention. He focused on the need to protect the US from threats to our safety while not “…disrupting lawful daily commerce and travel.” There was no mention of the need to stop illegal immigration that I found. That’s not the real issue. Safety is the issue. Deal with the problem. Penalize only those who need to be penalized.

On the issue of health care, there is evidence that he has at least attempted to improve access to affordable insurance and suggestions that he will continue to pursue efforts on that issue.

In an ironic twist of typical party-line positions, Bill White indicates he supports the rights of land owners and sees the use of eminent domain as a last resort. His focus on re-directing and re-organizing TxDOT is appealing to me as a taxpayer.

His position on energy includes strategies to not only move to more sustainable energy sources, but also improve energy efficiency in order to reduce consumption. That is significant in my book. He also mentions protecting the environment and natural resources. I’m not convinced about this in that he mentions reducing emissions, yet nothing addresses the environmental impact of massive wind farms.

As for education, I have long felt that career and technical education was being short-changed. I am glad to see a specific statement regarding support for career and technical education. It gives our kids an option for leading financially successful lives without incurring the massive debt that tends to accompany a traditional college education.

So why am I just now pursuing this information?

Mostly because I avoid television and the negative crap that accompanies any political discussion to be found on TV. The only thing I do see is the occasional negative ad that makes its way onto whatever satellite channel I am watching as I drift off to sleep or in the midst of the local news.

I am glad to know there is a viable choice that can give Texans a reason to believe in something better than what has been instead of simply a referendum against status quo. I am also grateful for friends who choose to respond to my frustrations not with defensiveness, but with real reasons to keep believing that the system works.

Identifying NOTs to Find My AMs

Life takes us on some interesting journeys. Doors open and close. People walk in and walk out. Opportunities sprawl in front of us awaiting our decision to reach out and pluck it’s juicy fruit. Yet sometimes what seems like an opportunity is actually a glimpse at what may not be part of our dream.

I typically prefer to focus on the dream itself, keeping my energies directed at what works for me rather than what doesn’t work for me. However, occasionally, it becomes necessary to look closely at the NOTs in life in order to more fully reveal the AMs.

And often times, the process of experiencing a NOT leaves me with a small treasure that enhances the AMs in amazing ways.

This morning finds me meditating on what I AM, my dreams, my desires, my space of expertise and influence. It’s leaving me with a strong desire to identify out loud some of my NOTs.

Apparently, I am NOT interested in being a fitness-center-type personal trainer. The idea of calculating METS and reps and VO2 Max just annoys the crap out of me. Of course, a good class and good instructor might have been able to send that in a different direction, yet for now, this does not feel as if it is for me.

Dear Amarillo College, enjoy my $300 donation. Be sure to use it to pay that teacher for not teaching his online class at all.

I AM interested in coaching and teaching people basic principals about how their bodies work, what strengthens and weakens the body, as well as how food, stress, and exercise work together to support health and wellness. I am a cheerleader for these people.

I am NOT interested in being tied to a bureaucratic hierarchy that is public education. Too many chiefs, not enough warriors, and way too much rigid scheduling. I’m all for having some structure in my day, but lose structure seems to be more my thing. I like choosing my schedule as I go.

I AM interested in working when I choose to work with whom I choose to work. I am also interested in answering mostly to me and the person with whom I am providing services. That process eliminates a lot of second-guessing, condescending supervisory crap that tends to make me nuts. I am rapidly approaching the point at which I think I’ve made a good decision in choosing to be an entrepreneur.

I am NOT interested in trying to please supervisors by keeping my mouth shut when I see something with which I disagree. I am not thrilled about being bound by chains of command and 47 jillion policies and procedures which have been designed to discourage negative feedback. If compliments required as much hoop-jumping as requesting a review of something that is causing concern, no one would ever get an ataboy.

I AM interested in working with those people who will provide immediate feedback on what is effective and what doesn’t seem to be improving the situation. That just works for me.  And it strokes my ego.

My ego needs lots of stroking.

I am NOT interested in working for someone from whom I have to request permission to get or give professional training. I must admit, it is nice when their dime picks up part of the tab, but that frequently seems to come with a side dish of guilt, some soul-level ownership, and a dose of “you owe me”.

I AM interested in work that allows me to choose what, when, where, and how much training I will receive or provide. Yes, taking this approach means I am likely going to be paying for the training from my own earnings, but in most cases, the earnings out pace the cost of the training in some way.

I am NOT interested in working with people who don’t value what I have to offer. Hmmm…. that pretty much eliminates my children. Except when I offer money. Then they seem to value dear ol’ mom.

I AM interested in working with those people for whom my training has the potential to impact in a HUGE way. That would include children with disabilities, adults desperately seeking something outside of the ordinary box, those looking for information to help them take control of their health, people looking for a way to release stress and tension, and service providers who know there is something out there just begging to be revealed to them.

Let’s see. If I enter this information into the trusty ol’ computer, divide by my desire to take a vacation whenever I like, add in a smidgen of creativity, weirdness, and nature, the result is……….

Exactly where I am today.

Thank you, Universe, God, instinct, Spirit, whomever or whatever you are that has led me to this particular place in life.

I’m lovin’ it!

Funeral Etiquette Fail

I’m writing funeral thank you’s this morning.

For the record, that’s one of my least favorite chores in any part of life. Funeral thank-you’s aren’t special. I’m pretty much inept at any type of written thank you. I mean, I can write a thank you that will knock your socks off, but odds are it will be so long after the actual good deed event occurred that you won’t even remember what you did to deserve a thank you.

Thank you writing ranks right up there with exercise, cleaning out my closets, and scrubbing my toilet and tub. I know it NEEDS to be done, but it probably won’t happen until the guilt of knowing I SHOULD do it overwhelms the laziness.

And as I write these thank you’s to the nice people who brought food to us in the days following the passing of my hawt man’s  86 year old dad, I can’t help but wonder if there is some sort of funeral thank you etiquette that I am stomping into the dirt.

Of course, this whole process has been an exercise in seeing how many traditionalist boats we can rock, so maybe I’m just an ongoing extension of that.

My oldest brother-in-law actually had some fun with the traditionalists.

I like my oldest b-i-l’s willingness to challenge expectation and tradition, so I’m sorta enjoying the ride. However, my paranoia meter is still pegging the max on occasion.

I think I have a few sista-in-laws right there with me.

Here’s a run down of a few of the traditions we may have smashed in the past few weeks:

1. Open casket. Nope. Not here. I find it funny how obsessed people are with evaluating the handiwork of the undertaker. Hawt Guy’s parents had made it very clear they didn’t want to be gawked at, and the boys did a very nice job of making sure that didn’t happen, much to the chagrin of a few of our older friends.

2. Flowers. My poor sis-in-law who used to own a flower shop kinda freaked when she realized there were pretty much NO flowers. None. Nadda. And yet, it totally worked for this situation. The boys took loads of family photos to the funeral home so everyone who came in could remember the living moments of happiness, energy, and handsome vitality rather than the immediate moment of the many ways age and ill health had taken its toll on the physical body. Those photos rendered the need for flowers completely irrelevant. No mums, roses, or carnations could possibly outdo the beauty of a young couple in love and their amazing family through the years.

Although I have to say, I was hoping to snag a free plant or two for my wellness center.

Fortunately someone loves me and gave me some overflow from their place.

POST BLOG PUBLISHING UPDATE: I completely missed the wreath sent by a guy that loves this family like his own. Fortunately, my hawt honey was paying attention. Thanks, Friend! You are the coolest.

3. Church. Nope. Not this go around. No rosary service. No aisles or pews. No suits and ties (at least none required). Just a few words of remembrance and encouragement out in the beautiful pasture that is Rose Hill Cemetery. Ten minutes from welcome to final amen. That’s exactly what Charlie would have wanted. Exactly.

4. And then there are the thank yous. I have a list of people who brought food to us at some point during the process. Some of them are friends of Hawt Guy and me (my? mine? us? I?) who barely know the rest of the family. A few fed us because they love our children and wanted to make sure the little hummingbirds had plenty of sugar to survive the days of being ignored by their parentals. Some are extended family both on Hawt Guy’s side and my side. Still others are from his dad’s associations and I don’t even know them.

It dawned on me about half way through the thank you list that maybe I should sign the cards with more than just Eric, Angie, & Girls. After all, there are a few other families on whose behalf I am thanking people. I promise we didn’t hog all the food just for our bunch.

Then I happened to notice the little blank space at the bottom of the front of the card and wondered if I was supposed to be writing in the name of our departed loved one.

You know….in case they don’t remember who just died and why they made that cake.

5. Sadness and grief. I think we probably failed miserably at this one. The Kleenex Corporation stock probably dropped for a few days from lack of consumption. I know the guys will have their moments of missing Charlie and remembering the way things used to be, however, this seemed more like a celebration of a life completed: Almost a bit of relief that his struggle is  over, the worry is over, and now we move on. He wasn’t ripped from us. He released us and we released him from his physical container. We get the memories. He gets his freedom. Not much sadness to scrape up when viewed like that.

And for the record, I have learned a lot in the past couple of weeks. It’s all good information, yet not exactly an area in which I want to become an expert. At least we  have some idea what to expect the next time we experience the process.

Maybe we’ll have figured out a few more rules of funeral etiquette we can break when that time comes. ;-)

My Crazy Funeral Hangups

Our family is working its way through our first funeral process in nine years. It’s the first one ever for me and my husband to be directly involved in as far as decision making.

And I say ME and my husband loosely.

I’m not making any decisions, just an occasional comment or observation for his consideration.

It’s not something at which we are professionals (thank goodness), and it’s not something that comes naturally, especially when MEN are in charge of creating a ceremony designed to both honor the departed according to their wishes for simplicity and allow those remaining to simultaneously release, celebrate, and grieve. THESE men are very practical guys. Not much for ceremony. Their motto has been, “Keep it simple and short.” I actually love that about them, yet the sensor/feeler in me keeps flipping the paranoia switch over to the “what’s everyone else gonna think?” setting.

It’s a fine line….trying to be supportive, mind my own business, and keep my paranoid intuition in check. Not exactly a role I was born to play. If I survive without pissing someone off, I will certainly be deserving of an Oscar nomination.

Red Carpet, here I come.

I am finding, however, that there are certain things that drive me a wee bit crazy. It’s not like that’s a very long trip for me, so please understand, I am not griping or complaining about the kind and well-intentioned actions and messages of others, just noticing my reaction to them and wondering out loud why they annoy me.

First, there are the messages of condolences. It’s sort of like saying happy birthday. There are only so many ways to let someone know how badly it must suck to go through the process of releasing a loved one from this life.

Hmm…I may have to use that next time someone I care about is grieving. “I am so sorry. It really sucks for you to have to go through this.”

I really think most people prefer to give condolences without getting too involved or too emotional. You know….express the concern, yet keep it professional…..CSI style.

“I am sorry for your loss.”

I have watched way too much of that show, because as much as I love the people who have used some version of that line, it sorta makes me crazy. Again, my problem, not theirs, so nobody needs to be offended or apologize. It’s not your job to adjust the thermostat to keep me happy.

I am grateful for your love regardless of how you choose to express it.

Really. I am.

I guess the whole “Sorry for your loss” just sounds too murder-investigation-y for me. Sorta like, “Sucks for you. Glad it’s not me. Keeping a professional distance is the name of the game. Oh, and I need to ask you a few questions. Where were you on the night of the murder?”

Yes, I need psychological help. Is there a doctor in the house?

On the other hand, there have been some beautifully composed messages of condolences. Some of my favorites so far have been these:

“My intention is for comfort and joy.”

“I am so sorry and will pray for peace that surpasses all understanding for your family! Ya’ll are in my prayers.”

“My love and prayers go out to Charles’s family. He was a wonderful man who will truly be missed by all who ever had the pleasure of meeting him. Love you all.

“You are all in my prayers. He was such a sweet man and had a wonderful family too.”

“Wonderful man, wonderful family. God bless you all!”

And even the simple messages that said things like, “Love you,” “Hugs and Prayers,” “Thinking of you all,” and “Thinking of you guys” are so appreciated, whether accompanied with dose of CSI or not. ;-)

I think it’s the personalization that warms my heart. I am grateful for all who take the time to send a message of comfort. I am abundantly grateful for those who add a personal touch or something just a bit different.

It’s beyond cool.

The other thing on my list of minor annoyances is flip-flopping and mind-changing, especially when I sometimes get to be the messenger of what’s NOT going to happen only to be told later that plans have changed and now people are down to 24 hours for planning and prep to be nice to us.

Especially when those people crunched for planning and prep time are the same people who asked five days ago if we wanted them to do something.

And especially when they are people I really care about.

It’s a bit awkward and frustrating to say the least.

I am grateful they are not nearly as shallow and petty as I am.

I am also grateful to be part of a family who loves each other enough to overlook the minor annoyances as just a part of the insanity and stress of the process.

No hurt feelings. No grudges.

Just an abundance of love.

Flexibility is definitely the name of the funeral game.

Annoyed or not, I am truly blessed.

The Call

No matter how prepared you are, words can’t begin to describe the feeling that accompanies a middle of the night phone call with the news.

It’s like a sucker punch to the gut, delivered with a gentle dose of love and relief.

We’ve been waiting on that phone call for quite awhile. I guess if the truth be known, it’s been about five years we’ve been waiting and wondering when the call would come. However, recent days have heightened the intensity and expectation as decisions were made to stop life extending medical interventions and let nature work her spirit-freeing genius.

The call came at about 1:30 am Friday morning. It was the hospital delivering the news we knew would be coming, and had even predicted the likelihood of it being this night. No surprise at all.

No tears. At least not yet. It’s the circle of life, Cox style.

Just a big dose of raw practical gratitude and relief.

Plus that feeling of being lovingly slugged in the stomach.

And the opportunity to pass on the sucker punch to other somewhat prepared, but not bullet-proofed guts.

The Call is actually a game of tag. We were tagged first this time. We then tagged the others. We became their gut-punch of love, relief, and sadness.

Thirty minutes after our phone first rang, we were back in bed planning on a peaceful night’s rest knowing THAT call would never come again.

WRONG.

There are just some things life skills class doesn’t teach you.

Like the fact that there is never just one phone call after a loved one passes.

And the phone calls will come at intervals designed to make sure you will not get that peaceful night’s rest tonight.

2:30 AM: “Would you like to donate his skin for skin grafts?”

Huh? It’s 87 years old and paper thin. Why would you even want it? Not exactly a decision to be made at 2:30 AM by only one of four brothers. Someone should have asked that about 3 days ago during daytime, wide-awake hours.

Another hour passed, our brains began to settle down just a bit, and the fit-full, mind-racing sleep almost overtook us again.

And the phone rang…..again.

It was Steve, the sweet guy who will graciously prepare our loved one for ceremony and burial asking my husband’s permission to begin his work. It never occurred to me that his night would be interrupted, too. However, I did give his precious wife the heads up Thursday evening that I thought Eric’s dad would pass before morning.

And so we are up. Coffee is made. It’s now 3:40 AM. Sleep will have to wait until later this afternoon when our bodies decide to slam us into the relaxing embrace of an easy chair.

Mama said there’d be days like this, but she forgot to mention there’d be a few nights, too.

Adios, Charlie. Give Alex a hug for us. You boys try to stay out of trouble up there, ya hear? Say hi to my Pappy, if you see him. He’ll be the one out hunting rabbits, dove, and pheasant.

Amazing Morning

Fall is here. The calendar says so. My pansy butt goose bumps say so. The cars that park up and down the street in front of the wellness center every Thursday and Friday night say so. The lazy sun who keeps sleeping later and later seems to be saying so, too.

This morning was one of those amazing mornings that could go on forever and I’d be okay with it.

At 6:30 AM, I took my freshly showered, bathrobed body, a cup of coffee and the two maniac, desperate-to-pee canines out back. The fog was rolling in. The full moon glistened through the filmy sheers of mist. There was an energy that begged me to breathe it in deeply, for all is well, even if it isn’t.

At 7:30 AM, I took my rugrats to school and noticed the fog-filtered rising sun-ball to the east, and the slightly smaller, yet every bit as beautiful sculpture of a moon to the west. The air was thick. Damp. Cool. No photo can do it justice. Simply Amazing.

Add to all of that the sound of the THS marching band practicing just across the street from the wellness center, and there is no doubt fall has arrived.

I think it is my favorite time of year. Temps are moderate. Wind is minimal. Moisture occasionally finds us. It is gorgeous.

Yep, this is an amazing morning.

Me Thinks He Doth Protesteth Too Much

Last week, I was forced privileged to witness the brutal brain exploding ugliness of another human being’s meltdown.

Did I mention it was ugly?

Through a series of events involving the decoration and fru-fru-ization of a previously plain, institutional public restroom, I saw what can only be desribed as another human being leaping off the edge of the sanity cliff, because someone decided to make our shared private, personal, potty space pretty and homey.

Frankly, I had always been fine with the institutional look. I do simple very well, and we are, after all, working in an institution. Yet I can respect the desperate need of another to make the space where we spend our most inventive and creative moments a little more aesthetically pleasing.

Evidently, not everyone is as accommodating of the needs of the decorating addicted as I am.

The conflict and drama that arose can only be describe as potty-gate. I could elaborate, but suffice to say the only appropriate response was a head-cocked-half-sideways-confused-German-shepherd look.

You know that moment when you look at a situation and you wonder if there is something more than just a disdain for decorating that triggered the nuclear explosion? Apparently that instinct was right. And apparently, I was supposed to learn something about harshly judging another person’s harsh reaction to a situation.

Because apparently Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can randomly screw you up even 30 years later by yanking back to present reality a really devastating, mind-altering experience that was thought to have been dealt with and buried long ago. Apparently, it can make you hate bathroom decorations with a vengeance.

So today, I must trade in my opinion of jerk and asshole for one of sympathy, respect, and admiration to a person who dedicated 20 years to the United States military, who saw things incomprehensible to most of us, and who just happened to have one of the horrible memories resurface by new restroom decor.

The old saying about walking a mile in another man’s moccasins seems appropriate here.

I guess you could call this my Memorial Day tribute a day late.

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