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Sunday, July 16, 2017

This Summer Sunday

Summer is steadily creeping by. Thankfully, the last three weeks have been quiet after several months of lots going on.

Now that the kids, Ado, and I are settled into the house, we've all found time to relax and just breathe. We have evenings of cooking together, watching movies together, and sitting on the deck to talk about our days. We have days where we each go our own way, but we find time to catch up sooner or later.

I've been cycling with a friend a couple mornings each week, and this same friend and I have been writing then sharing our writing with each other once a week. He's holding me accountable for producing new work, and while it's been a challenge, I'm so happy to have someone push me to create. Most of what I've written has been poetry that will be a part of my sabbatical project, giving me several pieces of the puzzle before I leave for the Pacific Coast ride. I feel like I have a head start, and I actually like what I'm seeing coming out of my own writing.

When I was in college, I took a poetry writing class during one of my last semesters. I needed some elective courses, so I decided to take writing poetry since I love to write. I'd never really tried my hand at poetry, mostly opting for short fiction, so I had no idea how it was going to go. I loved the class, and one of my poems was considered a standout by the professor as well as my classmates. It was just a short, simple poem, but everyone remarked about the imagery and the rhythm. Through the years, I've not written much poetry, just dabbled here and there. Now, though, my entire focus is poetry, which surprises me since I've always said I am a short fiction writer.

One of the more difficult aspects of writing the poetry is the subject matter. Since my sabbatical project will be pieces that somehow address MS, much of my time has been spent thinking back over the years of Mom living with MS. I've had some sad days lately. I didn't really think about how delving into memories might affect me when I wrote up my sabbatical proposal. During the past three or four days especially, as I've been working on the newest poem, I could tell when I needed to take a break and do something happier, like take Ado for a walk or go get a burrito with the boys. One afternoon, as I was getting up from the couch after taking a short break, I thought I need to call Mom. A second later I realized what I had just thought and decided to take the rest of the afternoon off from writing.

Lately, lots of thoughts about family, estrangement, and healing have been swirling in my head. I feel so incredibly fortunate that my kids like each other and enjoy being with one another. At the same time, I feel incredibly sad that my siblings and I are not all that close. We're civil to each other, but we don't go out of our way to stay in touch. My kids have their own group chat and call each other a lot. I have heard them vow to always keep tabs on one another, even as they grow old and gray. I tell myself to call my siblings, or at least email them, but I hesitate then don't do so. I don't know why I hesitate.

So I just keep living my life. Maybe one day I'll find the courage to begin calling my siblings just to say hi. Does there need to be any other reason to call?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Precious Gift

Last summer, at the end of the Northern Tier ride, I thought I'd finished my last long cycling trip. I gave away my tent. I gave away my sleeping bag. I gave away several of my jerseys. In my mind, I was done.

But like the weather in Illinois on an hourly basis, I changed my mind.

During the ride, I talked with a couple of the other cyclists about me applying for sabbatical and using the opportunity to ride the Pac Coast and Southern Tier as part of my sabbatical project. I tucked the idea away, coming back to it every now and then. Once I returned to work and had the sabbatical proposal deadline in front of me, I fleshed out my idea and presented it. The sabbatical committee approved my proposal.

About the time I found out I was granted sabbatical, things began falling apart at home. During these past four months, with all the changes happening, I've gone back and forth about doing both rides. One day I don't think I should do either. The next day I think just doing the Pac Coast is the way to go. When I think I'm settled on what I will do, the desire to do both rides fills me.

Lovely Beautiful Daughter has been my most vocal supporter, telling me I need to do both. This has been your plan for years, she says. You created your sabbatical proposal based on doing both rides, she points out.

Funny Delightful Son has been the nay-sayer. That's a lot of time away, he says. And a lot of money you could be putting into your savings, he points out.

Angel Baby is on the fence. He won't tell me to go. He won't tell me to stay home.

I don't know what to do.

Right now, at this very second as my fingers hit the keys of my laptop, I want more than anything to do both rides. I keep coming back to how my sabbatical is a gift, an opportunity to bring to fruition this idea I've been shaping, sculpting. To not accept this gift, which in a way I look at as grace with a big red bow tied around it, seems irresponsible.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Walking Towards Peace

I witnessed one of the most beautiful moments of my life the other day.

When the kids and I left Tennessee 18 years ago, we moved away from the two people known as Pa and Nanny, the kids' paternal grandparents. While married to the kids' dad, I had a very good relationship with my father-in-law. Not so much with my mother-in-law. After leaving, my father-in-law and I remained friendly towards one another. Unfortunately, because of circumstances, the kids didn't see Pa or Nanny often through the years.

This past week, we visited my sister-in-law and her family. When Pa arrived to help celebrate my nephew's 21st birthday, he went to Lovely Beautiful Daughter and put his arm around her. Funny Delightful Son and Angel Baby then went to Pa and the four of them had their arms around each other. The smile on Pa's face filled my entire being with joy. Seeing the four of them smiling together was absolutely beautiful.

Each day there, walking through my old stomping grounds, I felt more and more at peace with my past. I still sometimes wish the kids had a better relationship with their dad, and I still hope one day they will, but that is something they have to find their way to. And he has to find his way to them.

Cummins Falls


Floatin' down the creek

Angel Baby and dog enjoying the creek

Lovely Beautiful Daughter jumping from a low cliff

Double fun!


Sittin' at the bottom of the falls

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Continuing My Yoga Journey

My journey to becoming a yoga teacher continues. I completed Level 2 training this past weekend, and I walked away feeling surer than ever that I'm on the right path.

My favorite part of the 20 hours of instruction was the discussion of the Yamas and Niyamas. Though it was just a small part of the training, the delving into the philosophy behind yoga offered up much to think about. Now I am reading more about the Yamas and Niyamas from a variety of texts, and I am thinking about them often as I move through my days.

Yamas: restraints. Do no harm. Be truthful. Don't take what isn't yours to take. Keep life simple. Let go of the stuff.

Niyamas: observances. Live a pure life. Be content. Be disciplined. Never stop learning. Live with an open heart.

Both encourage the self to keep an eye on the self, monitoring behavior, adjusting, working to become a better version of the self. When we were asked which Yama we needed to work on most, I knew instantly which one it was for me: Ahimsa, nonviolence. The anger I've had and still have needs attention. For the Niyama, I mulled over Santosha: contentment. When I think about what makes me content, what comes to mind are physical things--my kids, Ado, cycling, gardening. How do I find the contentment from within, from the nonphysical things?

Now, so many questions pop up during my days. Am I practicing doing no harm? Am I being truthful? Is my truthfulness harmful to another? If so, I need to back away in order to do no harm. I especially am drawn to how if one Yama is being violated, it impacts one or more of the others. Living the Yamas really is a delicate, graceful dance. I'm finding the more I think about what I'm doing at any given moment that might be out of sync with the one or more of the Yamas or Niyamas, the more I am forced to live actively rather than passively.

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Blue Dragon Emerges

I saw a blue dragon looking me square in the eyes.

Seriously, I did. Funny Delightful Son laughed at me when I told him this. 

But I really did. At meditation. 

We were being guided through Kapalabhati Breath, and when I reached the point of exhaling every last bit of breath from my body, sitting and observing the swirls inside me, a blue dragon appeared amidst the swirls.

I left the class wondering why of all things that could have formed in my mind it was a blue dragon.

I'm not complaining. In fact, I love it was a blue dragon that emerged. I love the symbolism associated with the color blue--confidence, intelligence, calm--as well as the symbolism connected to the dragon--powerful, wisdom, regeneration. I thought, too, about how I was born in the year of the dragon on the Chinese zodiac, so perhaps there is a reason the blue dragon showed itself to me.

I'm finding that I really don't care if others laugh about my experiences with yoga and meditation. These experiences are positive for me, helping me move forward in life, set new goals. Being able to hold Crow pose and do a headstand has shown me how strong my body is. Being able to calm my mind and sit for twenty minutes in quiet, listening to my breath (also known as spiritus: the breath of God), feeling how it fills my body, has given me the determination to continue exploring the mind/body connection. The word inspiration has its roots in spiritus as well, so seeing a blue dragon while in the middle of Kapalabhati Breath isn't totally out in left field.

And yet another bonus: Yesterday, when I went for my six-month cleaning at the dentist, the dental hygienist took my blood pressure. While I don't typically have high blood pressure, the last time I was there it was 123/79, which is as high as I've ever been and I left the office bummed out that my blood pressure was inching up as I age. Yesterday . . . . I smiled when she said, "116/68." I smiled even more when she asked if I take any medications, any at all, and I replied, "None."

Monday, June 5, 2017

Becoming One with the Crow

Yesterday I was on the deck when I heard a bird call I've never heard before. I stood and listened. Then I dashed inside to get my camera to try and record the sound. Once back on the deck, the call sounded closer, so I scanned the trees and found the source.

A crow. Or maybe a raven.

I find crows incredibly interesting. I remember when I was around 12 and my sister had gone off to vet tech school that I asked her if she'd be able to bring me a crow for a pet. I'd be the coolest kid around with that pet crow. It never happened, but my fascination for crows never waned.

I was able to get some good video of the crow/raven, and now I'm trying to find information on which bird it is and what this particular call means.

video

After enjoying listening for a bit, it was time for me to go to yoga class. I had signed up kind of last minute, noticing there would only be two students attending, but it turned out I was the only one who showed up. I had my own little private yoga session.

The instructor asked me if there was a pose I'd like to focus on once we reached the end of practice, and I said, "Crow." I've tried Crow at different times, but I've never been able to truly hold the pose. She promised we'd work on it, and after 45 minutes of a prana flow series, me sweating drops all over my mat, she said it was time. I listened and watched as she explained what worked best for her. I followed her lead.

I found myself in Crow pose, and the excitement of holding the pose as if I'd always been doing it made me laugh. I was one with the crow.

When I returned home, I laid out my mat and went through the steps to achieve Crow. I had to know it wasn't a one-time fluke.

I breathed deeply as I held the pose.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Some Happy Moments

Something very interesting is happening between my husband and me now that I've moved out. We are finding we can actually be together and have a fun time. As long as I go to my place after a few hours, or he goes to his place after a few hours. I've said for the past five years or so that he and I do much better apart than we do together. I've also joked here and there, after several hours of being with my husband, that I've had more than enough husband time.

Friday was our anniversary. I hadn't been thinking about it due to the state of our relationship, and I made plans to attend a concert at Allerton. The Bashful Youngens and Birds of Chicago were scheduled to play, and I knew I would enjoy sitting on the lawn, listening as the sun went down. My husband, though, had been thinking about our anniversary and asked me to go to dinner. I countered with an offer to ride along with me to Allerton. He accepted.

And we had a nice time. The young woman of the Bashful Youngens duo has an amazing voice. The young woman of Birds of Chicago makes you want to hang on to every note that comes out of her. We watched kids dance, turn cartwheels, and blow bubbles in front of the stage. We ate pulled pork and slaw.

Yesterday, I went to his place for pizza and a movie. Actually two movies. Both were entertaining, especially the second movie which seemed like a video game turned into a movie, only it has never been a video game.

It was a nice time.

Today, we did some gardening together.

It, too, was a nice time.

But I definitely need time and space away from my husband. Time of quiet, not having to listen to talk about "those idiots" (me being one) who think there is something to climate change, or the incessant chatter coming from a TV. A space of calm, where I can sit and read and write and think without being interrupted.