"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: intention

sleight of hand . . .

This winter and spring have been filled with recuperation, recovery and other taxes on the mind and spirit here, not only for me but for my husband, G. as well. We’ve done well during some of it and not so well for some of it. But that’s the way it goes. We’re only human and when pain fatigue sets in, you’d like to think of something better to do with your time.

Speaking of that, I’ve reflected on what to do when things appear bleak and there’s nothing obvious to look forward to in the immediate future. For example, when we had our granddaughter, A.’s high school graduation to look forward to a couple of weeks ago, there was a flurry of anticipation and preparation that was both exciting and engrossing: finding a place to stay in that seaside town (found a perfect one with minimal stay requirements and soft quiet environs that we plan to go back to often); planning what to wear (experimented thinking about more color and prints but left the tags on and returned most of the items unworn afterwards) but it was fun to “try on” those new looks; planning and giving special gifts to A., buying and preparing special cheeses and charcuterie to contribute to the family gathering spread, and so on and so on. Afterwards, there’s usually a let-down. It took us quite awhile to unpack everything, get help carrying things upstairs and then putting things away, little by little. Then, the let-down hit. So, activity is good.

In the last week, I’ve been feeling like there’s not much to look forward to except straightening out a vexing airline ticket credit that I had leftover from last year and a number of equally vexing car insurance matters to straighten out. Add to that, neither of us is wholly healed as yet, experiencing small ups and a few downs along the way. Thankfully, the weather has been pretty dry and temperate most of the time, showers and enough rain so that the gardens and trees look more lush than ever. The roses are out now and the morning glory seedlings are well on their way to getting started on their climb up the strings so that when they bloom, their blue flowers will be able to sun themselves on the 2nd floor deck.

So here’s the thing: I’ve discovered that the way to have something to really look forward to is (te-dah!) to consciously plan something yourself. I think intervals of every 2-3 months is probably good enough to get through a year. The key to this emotional sleight of hand is to be intentional about it: that is, not just rely on reacting to an invitation or thinking something will come up that may not appear. So, making invitations for a dinner party, or inviting out of town folks to visit, or going somewhere you’ve never been, even if it’s just for a weekend are things that we can make plans to do and it can cost whatever it is we think we can afford. Or not much at all. In fact, I don’t think that I can afford NOT to do it. So here’s my current idea.

It turns out that my daughter M. was able to straighten out my ticket credit by explaining my ankle injury to the travel people so that I can travel domestically rather than internationally and to extend the expiration to September when it’s not so hot everywhere. Given that I HAVE to use the ticket up by that time, we began brainstorming about places to go that we always wanted to visit, even for a brief time. She and the Helpers found a quaint place with an 180 degree view of Puget Sound from the deck of the cottage which sleeps 6, five minutes from the Seattle airport. Even though there are scant windows of time that my daughters can travel, given schooling obligations and teaching school schedules, we’re trying to find a time that they can make it out together along with M.’s partner and her daughter, J.

A few years back, I rented a cottage facing the Atlantic in Rockport for three winters running. By the third year, we were only able to make it up on weekends although we loved it everytime we were up there. For three years, Thanksgivings and Christmases were spent there en famille with everyone bunking down wherever there was room. It was a lot of fun. But it was also costly for the amount of time we were actually able to use it. Now, I’ve rationalized (that’s the only word for it) spending money on trips that will create memories for us which we might not have otherwise. Honestly, why not do that now while we still can? The injuries that we’ve had recently have brought home with a thud that these times won’t last forever.

HOW we think about things, our perspective, determines the attitude we can choose to take about something. Things can shift in an instant. I hope that with a mindset to create wonderful shared experiences for ourselves, every quarter or so, there will be many more family memories than there might be otherwise. After all, you can’t start planning for Christmas in September, can you?

Our granddaughter, J. will be turning four in September, almost the same timeframe as this trip that we are trying to pull together. What a nice way it would be to do new things together: go on a ferry ride, watch the sun set over Puget Sound, eat as much Dungeness crab as you can, go to Pike’s Place for farmers market, seafood, restaurants and people watching. And trying out COFFEE in Seattle. Now, there’s something to look forward to! Can’t wait!

If we don’t look for joy in our lives, who will?


choice . . .


I’ve been thinking about choices lately. That we start making them from the moment we wake up. Whether to squeeze navel oranges for juice (sweet citrus nectar) or to pour juice from the carton. To heat up a flaky croissant in the oven because it’s Saturday morning or to eat cereal with fresh blueberries and two percent milk like the rest of the week. To drink more than one cup of coffee while savoring reading the New York Times?

Then, onto other ones. To be annoyed about goings on that disturb the peaceable morning, or to let it go since it’s really not that big a deal? To limit how much picking up to do because it doesn’t really matter since I’m the only one who seems to notice anyway? And so it goes as the day unfolds.

It seems to me that there are two sides of my brain going on most of the time: to enjoy and appreciate what I see (gorgeous mums glowing in the morning light) or (untidy hose lying near the faucet.) Experiencing the light (gorgeous melody coming out of the piano) or shadow (dissonance from misreading some of the notes.) Maybe if I didn’t think so much of the time, I’d be able to react to things without having to choose which reaction I want to stay with.

Of course, being holistic allows us to see more than either-or options. Our Western culture is bifocal: right or wrong, black or white. We could choose to see all the shades between and see a greater whole, even being at ease with ambiguity and ambivalence.

I guess the biggest choice of all, at least for me, is consciously choosing to be happy. Even if there are still concerns about how some things may turn out in the future. And, when reading the paper can be disquieting almost all the time. Or, seeing how utterly dumb some members of Congress seem to think we, the American public, are. There’s also a thick layer of self-serving earnestness going on with publicity-seekers that our media seems to think is newsworthy these days. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of choice on TV’s new Fall programming that isn’t about revenge, sex, guns, violence or the most vapid of (new!) situation comedies.

So, back to a choice to be happy. I guess that one could choose to stay stuck in a small shuttered vision of what life can be and resign ourselves to it: whether it’s due to a lack of resources, time (we think we’re too old), or we are hung up (frozen by indecision or habit) OR the worst argument of all: that’s the way we’ve always been and we don’t think we can change. Or, we think that other people have an idea of us and we’re stuck with that, even if we’d like to be different.

Well, I’m ready. My cousin Pei-Fen entreated me to “be happy” right before she died. I remember that often because it’s up to me, no one else. I can choose to be happy, with self-awareness and intention. It also entails giving myself permission to break my mold somehow and to be content with being happy. How hard can that be?

Postscript (two weeks later): If you’re at all interested, I’ve found a few behavioral modification tips that have raised my score for being able to be happy (how hard can it be?) It’s kind of hard, actually, unless:

1.  When you react to something that feels negative, the first thing to consider is whether it’s under your control or not. If not, let it go and stop thinking about it. Do not brood about it.

2. When something IS under your control, either do something constructive about it, or let it go and stop thinking about it.

3. When something happens that makes you happy or excited, SAVOR that reaction and marinate in it for a little while. Share the good feeling with someone if you feel like it.

4. Get enough sleep.

5. Ask yourself every once in awhile if you are feeling more happy than you were before you started choosing to be happy. I’m happy to report that we are, in fact, happier! Both of us!

best of both worlds . . .

juicing photo for blogIf truth be told, I think I live in the middle way between what some would label “new age” practice (Denise Linn) and creating the good life (Martha Stewart.) Before you laugh, hear me out on what I’ve learned from each in the last couple of weeks.

1. Denise Linn‘s 28 day program’s first week focuses on intention by creating clarity about what’s important. De-cluttering your environs and your inner self is a means to an end to rid the extras so that new things can enter. I’ve described some of the results of this process in the last two posts. A lot to do in the first seven days.

2. Martha Stewart‘s new book on how to live “the good long life” is full of practical pointers for maintaining your health and enjoying life no matter what your circumstances or your age. Despite all the jokes people make about Martha, I feel that she’s paid her dues and in this book, imparts a tone of friendly good-naturedness about aging (as she is) and how to enjoy it at the same time.

Last night, I was feeling slightly uncomfortable physically from having eaten a little too much and indulging myself a lot over mother’s day meals. I remembered that I had forgotten I was doing a two-day a week fasting regimen which had me feeling slimmer and full of energy up to a few days ago. I confess I read about the two-day fasting regimen elsewhere than these two women’s writings, but basically, it’s taking in only about 500-600 calories for a day, at least a day apart, every week. It’s easier than you think, especially when you can have 250 calories at two meals even while you are “fasting.” I like to do it by juicing on those days, drinking lots of water and having raspberry zinger tea. I also discovered that a shrimp is only about 9-12 calories, and a handful of them makes a great lunch or dinner along with salad. This kind of fasting/dieting is so easy to do a couple of days a week that then allows me to eat (judiciously) whatever else I like to cook the rest of the week (fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit.)

From Martha’s book, I found a recipe for green juicing that she drinks every morning and that I use during my fasting days. I have a Breville juicer that has what seems like many parts, but does a much better and faster job juicing than my old Osterizier juicer that was hard to clean.

On a fasting day, I take out and wash these ingredients, then put them into the juicer in this order:

2-3 stalks of celery
half an english cucumber
2 granny smith apples in quarters
1 pear
half a bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley
half a bag of spinach
a big knob of fresh ginger root

When the juice is made, I stir it and pour a medium size glass of it, adding a heaping spoonful of Pure Synergy, an energy/health boost that I’ve been taking for almost a decade. Taking Pure Synergy regularly, my energy level feels elevated all day without feeling hyper. I put the remaining pitcher of green juice in the fridge to drink later in the day.

After the green juice, I’ll also drink hot coffee while reading the newspaper, drink lots of distilled water during the day and brew raspberry zinger tea to drink with honey for a pick-me-up. If I feel like it, I might make a fresh strawberry banana smoothie with soy milk as one of my “meals.” strawberry smoothie

On a fasting day, you can have up to 500-600 calories per 24 hours so it’s not like you are starving yourself, just letting your insides have a brief rest. This kind of fasting purports to improve your immune system and prolong your life. Even if it didn’t, it truly feels fabulous. And you do lose weight, or at least I have.

So, de-cluttering as Denise suggests, allowing your body and systems to rejuvenate every so often is “a good thing” as Martha would say. Besides, I can’t tell you how virtuous it feels to wash all these vegetables and fruits, lay them out on the counter and then drink the elixer of all that fresh produce throughout the day, sip by sip.

Admittedly, it’s easier to juice if you have the right equipment and Breville juicers are expensive, to be honest. But compared to the relative costs of what we might spend on some prime steaks, lobsters and legs of lamb, you could probably rationalize the cost of a juicer that will provide a means to a slimmer waist and hips as well as a glowing complexion. Instead of looking slightly puffy from too much rich food, wine and desserts, your face will look smooth and alight with health. PLUS, you can still eat all that other stuff on the days you’re not fasting. . . just in moderation.

Postscript: since I wrote this post, I received a simple electric citrus juicer that I bought on Amazon for $16. It has allowed me to quickly make fresh orange or grapefruit juice anytime that I’m thirsty. Add a couple of ice cubes and sip a cool fruit juice drink!

one wish. . .

I was in Porter Square yesterday for a late lunch and saw something that caught my eye in a shop specializing in Japanese pottery and decorative things. They were papier mache dolls of Daruma, used in a practice to focus one’s intention on a wish, place it into the Universe and follow it to completion.

Since Monday is the Chinese New Year, the year of the Dragon, I bought two of these dolls, one for me and one for George–and have been thinking about what my wish would be. Apparently, you’re supposed to make the wish and fill in one eye on the doll (see Wiki Daruma doll photo above.) Each time you look at it, you Read the rest of this entry »

moving (more) lightly. . .

I’ve been shopping for groceries and wrapping presents this week because family will be visiting from out of town next week. As I surveyed the bags of groceries in the front entryway and the wrapped gifts upstairs, I thought to myself about all the stuff we lug around with us during the holidays. Plus the cartons of kitchen things waiting to be brought up to the cottage to feed everybody, including Josie, the baby and guest of honor.

So, I started taking things out that I thought I might need, because nobody but me cares about which dishes or glasses we use. Really, they don’t. And the fewer there are to wash up, the better, don’t you think? I had also discarded the boxes things came in and wrapped soft things, rolled up with those nice printed tissue papers in red and green. At the craft shop today, looking for yarn needles because my solitary one keeps disappearing just when I’m finishing things up, I saw they had a special on four spools of moss green and burgundy ribbon for a dollar. They will dress up the small cream/red poinsettias and chocolate covered cookies meant for families here along with cards containing good cheer.

A friend wrote to me yesterday that two people close to her have died. We are both around the ages of those who passed, older than one, in fact, and it reminded me of how tender an age some of us have reached. Along with that, my back is feeling a little stiff after moving some heavy things last weekend. It’s still okay, but I am reminded that it’s probably a good idea to slow down a bit, and to lighten the load–both physically with things around me and especially mentally with all the excitement of preparing for Christmas and visits with family.

So, I think I reached the apogee of preparing for Christmas in the last couple of days. And it feels good to slide back a little, and to recalibrate myself to move more lightly, the rest of the way.

And, how are you doing?