Monday, January 24, 2011

Thoughts brings presence...or presents

When I was small there was this quote bandied about in the church community, "thought brings presence". The idea was that when you lived in Heaven if you thought of someone they would appear. Well that is what we were taught. In thinking about this now I feel like that would be such a intrusion to my freedom as a spirit to suddenly  be somewhere else because someone was thinking about me. Ever wonder about that? I did and do.
When I was a very small child  my mind heard 'presents' not presence. I still think of it in terms of that childish whim. My thoughts are gifts. I am able to connect things in daily life and present a word picture to others. That is a gift for which I am daily grateful and attribute my confidence in my writing to my friend Nishan.  Nishan was my highschool art teacher and helped me recognize my artistic ability in this area when I most needed it.
When I was in the elementary school one year our main project was writing a story and illustrating it. I was absolutely stymied. I had no idea where to begin.  I knew I could not draw. I was worried and wished I could be going to a different school so I didn't have to produce this story. Finally I wrote a little story and did some very basic drawings. I got it back with a terrible grade, red markings all over it and a note saying my art work was deplorable. The hurt was unbearable at the time.  I thought I would never get over it. I threw the book in the incinerator and burnt it. It would never be in a box saved to show my children like my sisters before me.

In  high school there was an art class requirement. Being embarrassed about my lack of talent, I told my teacher about my former experience. I asked if there was something I could do instead of drawing like working with clay or painting the walls in the art room!! He laughed and thought for a minute. Then suggested that I be the class model for the drawing and painting portion of the course as long as I promised to try and draw some things with no grade attached for the individual assignments.  He would only give me a grade at the end of the course.  Ok, its a deal.  He talked me through my art work.  I was able to draw some good looking trees, flowers, vases and a chair. I did alright.  I was a good model as well. I got an A- in the course. He said I did have artistic ability. I just didn't know how to access it. With help and practice I had done some good work. He also said that my best artistic ability was in stringing words together to make word pictures. He said he loved reading some of the things I had written in English class! apparently my English teacher shared  some of my work with him.  I will never forget Nishan.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

the pull of the moon

Like many other places in the world the full moon has a huge impact on our actual being and our environment. We are at 9 degrees in Costa Rica. In central America gardeners like myself rejoice when the moon is in its full stage. Here at Rhodeside we have special moonlight horseback tours at the full moon. These are romantic and makes moon gazing all the more fun. But for the faint of heart walking on the beach gazing at the moon is just as romantic.
Another thing we can do is ride down the road with no lights on in the car and see the road perfectly. It is so bright out during the full moon.
We are especially glad for the possibilities of the effect of the full moon all over our properties.  The farmers here divide their pasture lands with the "live fencing" They take a branch or limb off the  Indio Desnudo (naked indian tree) or 'live fence tree' and stick it in the ground at the time of the full moon. Each one is placed about 18 inches apart. Making an amazing line of inexpensive, creative, ecologically sound fencing. There are a few kinds of trees that are used for this purpose however, the Indo Desnudo is the most commonly used one around these parts.

This month at full moon I moved a number of my small Flame Flower bushes around the property with the intent of making a nice little hedge on one side of our house and to make one side of our barbeque more decorative.  The bush comes in two colors, yellow and coral. This worked really well and I am so pleased with the outcome.
Another little trial hedge I planted came from a clipping again at the time of the full moon, while we were visitng in Coco further north of here.  I brought a piece of this hedge back with me to our area and placed it in the ground along side the main wall of our home. It spread like wild fire horizontally in a few weeks and I had the beginnings of a wonderful hedge adorned with pretty delicate purple flowers. I have yet to find the name of it. I am still searching.

Pineapples are the best! at full moon you take a sprout or shoot from the mother plant and place it in the ground. Water it well and it will grow another pineapple in about a year and then within 9 months you will have a fruit, ripened and ready to eat. Each mother plant produces a pineapple and up to four shoots. These shoots will each produce a pineapple and some shoots...After careful subdividing are re-subdividing we now have 70 pineapple plants on our property. They are so delicious.
On the night of the full moon I always put out a glass of n our well water and drink it upon waking first thing the next morning. I attribute all kinds of things to this amazing water. Mostly it just tastes great!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Peace of Mind or piece of mind?

 There are many reasons for this kind of harried attitude. The business of life is overwhelming. We forget how necessary it is to have recreation in our lives. Recreation doesn't mean that you have to go somewhere or have a planned activity. It can be a quiet day at home. Planned inactivity at home.  Just let it evolve.
If we do not take the time to stop, look and listen we will use up our energy reserve. We will have nothing to give. We will miss all the magic moments that fill our days with out our notice.
We need that reserve tank filled. We have to drink a lot of water, eat right, get plenty of sleep. This will help in the process of regenerating our reserves.  This reserve tank holds our inspiration. It breathes life back into our weary souls. Figure out ways to replenish your reserve tank.
There are so many ways to do this. Make time in your day for the peaceful enjoyment of your quiet moments. Read a book, go for a walk each day. Write in your journal. Take in a weekly yoga class. Go fishing. Watch the birds outside. Lay outside in the sunshine. Watch the clouds float by. Watch the fireflies and stars. Work in your garden. So do something that restores your energy bank.
I live a few minutes from the beach.  The ocean is my constant reminder. It is the soundtrack to my life.  It is powerful.  If I listen to the ocean I will not miss the opportunity to be completely present.  Quietly sitting on the beach mesmerized by the waves as they wash upon the shoreline I find peace. The warmth of the sand, sun, salty air, cool water all combine with the sound of the ocean  as it works to restore my soul.

Monday, January 10, 2011

the breath of life

In a few of my past posts I have noted the importance of breath in our lives. Ok, you can laugh at this  nevertheless we all take breathing for granted. Most of us do not even know how to breathe properly. Many of us don't breathe fully or deeply and because of that we don't get the full benefits from our amazing ability to breathe.
A friend of mine who is particularly good at breathing, well truth be told I am lucky enough to have a handful of  friends that are cognizant of the importance of breath in their lives. But this particular friend of mine said to me the other day, "we are good at something! We are good at oxygen!!" and its true we are getting better and better at the art of breathing.
Breathing gets little to no press. In fact it took yoga being in vogue, home births and birthing centers,Lamaze classes and counselling for many of us to ever begin to recognize the import of HOW we breathe and how much we take this simple involuntary action for granted.
On a daily basis, no matter where I am I encounter a variety of people. Some I know well and some I don't really know at all. However, because I have become more aware of my own breathing, I am also more aware of how others do or don't breathe.
There are so many ways of breathing and some are more useful to us than others.  It is important to be aware of your own breath as you speak. When you are aware of your breath it is just one step closer to being aware of what you are feeling because our breath changes with your thoughts and feelings. If you put one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your solar plexis you can feel the breath as it moves inside your body. With emotion you can feel it excelerate or slow down...or stop when we hold our breath!! Knowing when in a conversation to stop and take a breath or two, is so important. Like in music there are actual places to break and breathe before you continue singing. This is to give your voice fullness! How many of us want to really be able to experience the fullness of our inner voices?
For the most part I hear  high chest breathing or sighing.This high chest breathing we are taught to do in childbirth classes to "get over the pain" to "work through the contraction" I observe this kind of breathing a lot in interactions between people. Its not bad, its not wrong, it could be way more useful to these people if they stopped and took a breath  or two while continuing to share their thoughts and feelings. This is key I think. Sometimes people find it more difficult to voice their opinion or feelings.  So when they try their voices become higher (not louder) and their breathing becomes constricted or its the other way their breathing becomes constricted so their voices become higher or tighter.
What that says to me is that it is an effort for this person to be present in that moment  and with whom they are speaking and I do not even think they are aware of it.   If a breath is taken here there is a chance your muscles will relax and  can drop into your feeling body as your  breath deepens you may  be able to experience really  "feeling your feelings" with practice.
Sighing is often a symptom of depression. Years ago a wise counsellor explained that to me.  A sigh is a breath that has been released after holding it for a period of time. Sometimes we hold our breath and don't even realize we are doing this. Holding your breath and sighing is a good indication that we might  holding on to our feelings and thoughts tightly and when it gets too hard to hold them we release the breath. An audible sigh comes forth.  If we take the time it is amazing what we can notice about our breathing and our life. Interesting eh?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

the information highway

When I was first married, years ago in the late 70's I bought a roast to make a special dinner for my husband and his mother who was visiting us. I had never made a roast before and hadn't a sweet clue where to begin.  Not wanting to show my ignorance to my mother-inlaw, I called my Aunt Joyce. No answer. Then I called my Aunt Julia luckily she answered.  I was so relieved. She was such a great sport. She always took the time out of her life to help me.  Holding the phone in one hand leaning up against the kitchen counter, I stood staring at the roast in the pan, tears sliding down my cheeks I said to her, “it’s embarrassing to be me! There is so much I don't know."
"Silly goose, she said, stop crying and listen to me, ok? You can do this it is so easy. There is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about."
She went on to say that children who don’t have mothers naturally don’t have a lot of the usual information others who do are privy too. She said she wished she had known this sooner because she would have taught me more things in the kitchen before I got married.  She explained the whole process of making a roast beef dinner. She asked me what I was going to serve with it and I was pleased  to share that my aunt Joyce had taught me what foods go with what and how to time a meal to make it all come together. These things I understood. But the actual making of the meal, how to make something taste great, what spices to use and how long to cook something, that was an art I hadn't acquirred as yet.  Then she relayed this story to me that I will share as well. Many have heard this as it is well know. Nevertheless I want to share it here. It will be obvious why later.
 A young woman wants to make a roast for dinner and goes to put it in the pan…because she has watched her mother do this, she does it exactly the way she has always seen it done. She does it all from memory. She places the roast on the butcher block, slices off both ends placing each cut off piece beside the roast in the pan, sprinkles salt and pepper on it and puts it in the oven at 350 degrees to bake. Then she calls her mom.
“Mom, why do you cut off the ends of the roast and put them in beside it to cook every time you make roast beef?”
“ Hhmm”… says the mom, “ I don’t know, my mother always did that.  I will call Grannie and ask her”. So the mom calls her mother. 
Grannie says, ”well I don’t know sweetie.  I did it because that is what my mother always did when she made roast. I will call your aunt, my sister and ask her since mama passed on and I can’t ask her”
 So she calls her older sister who says…”mama cut the ends off the roast each Sunday because the only pan we had was too small for the piece of meat to fit in. She always tucked those end pieces in at the sides so it would all fit and there was no waste!!”
The recipe passed along, done absolutely the same way so it would turn out “right” was passed on mother to 

daughter, generation to generation. That is the kind of gift that I find myself wanting to give to my children and 

coveting all the time when I see it in others lives.The ability to  pass along something to another IS important. 

It is all about roots, identity, feeling grounded and feeling a part of something bigger.

Friday, January 7, 2011

all it takes is a minute


Last year I attended the funeral of a friends’ mother.  I took the opportunity to look around the cathedral where the service held as beautiful cello music played in the background. So  many lives gathered together in honor of this woman who had affected us all in one way or another.  Many in attendance at the ceremony have had an effect on my life as well. After the service, I made sure that I spoke with a couple that I have been particularly fond of over the years. I told them how their outward caring and friendliness had made a difference in my life. Their genuine caring,a wave, a personal comment to me, including me in conversations when we were at the same events or in a local place of business at the same time. These moments were important to me.  Being able to share that feeling with them brought a feeling of warmth to my heart. I was glad I did it. There are so many times that we feel a need to write or call someone and somehow it just doesn’t happen. I felt a sense of relief that I had been able to share my thoughts and feelings with them in person.
 What is the purpose of this life? Do I owe someone something for all the joys, big and little, for the sweet moments, my children and my dear husband have brought into my life?   I didn’t have the constant of a mother’s love my entire life. Because of that fact when opportunities present themselves I try to make the most of those moments. I think it is so important to let loved ones know the pleasure they have brought to my life. I know that my kids roll their eyes at this sometimes, because when I go on a trip in an airplane I always send emails to them telling them how much they are loved. I mean it. It isn't silly to me. I wish just one time my mother had had the thought to write something in a journal to me the baby she was carrying. I would have treasured it. So I did things like that for my children. I wrote in their baby books. I wrote letters to them for a long time on each birthday and the other day I came upon a few of them. So interesting to read the things you think are important at one time or another. But the point is that if I did die my kids would have these notes and perhaps they would benefit somehow from them as well.
A long time ago my cousin who is much older than I took me into her home for a year while my father was between wives. It was summertime and I was soon to enter fourth grade with all my friends.  She was a busy, pregnant mother of four at the time. Looking back now I am totally impressed that she took me in at that point in her life. And I wanted to acknowledge that fact to her and thank her for the time and energy she put into that year of my life. So I called her to thank her for taking care of me, for giving me a safety zone and a feeling of family for a year. I remember it with great pleasure and have so many fond memories of that time in my life. She said she was so surprised and happy that I had thought to call her. It only took a moment but the net result was a peaceful feeling in both of our hearts.
 The other day one of my best friends and I were driving by the driveway of my children’s first pediatrican, Dr Scott. I saw her standing at her mailbox and turned the car into her driveway. Getting out I walked up to her and she stood looking at me for a moment. I reached out and called her name saying " Hi its Gwen! " And she fell into my arms." Oh I am so glad to see you. I think of you every year on May Day when you and the children used to bring me flower baskets. I loved caring for you and your family all those years ago." I told her that I thought of her each time I drove by her home/office. And I just could not let this moment go by without notice. She started to cry. We just held each other for a moment and then said our good byes. I will stop again soon.  I could tell it meant a lot to her to know that she had made a difference. All it takes is a minute. And a minute makes all the difference.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

11:11 make a wish

Gwen with her two daughters Kathy and Ginny
Lee deMaine holding new baby Gwen
My mother died in childbirth, no I think you say from childbirth as it was the birth that caused the death. I was the child that had been born just an hour beforehand. This event has colored my entire life in so many ways. Some things are expected some come unbidden and then the ahha!
My mother Gwen's sisters, Tiny, Joyce and Doreen stepped up to the plate so to speak, when I was born. Tiny took me from the hospital into her home until i was 9 1/2 months old. Then my father and his new wife took over my care. Whenever Joyce and Doreen could wangle time with me and my sisters from my dad we got to spend time with them. This was always a highlight of our lives. Being in a home where love and happiness abounded and was showered on us while we were there. A place where we knew we were important and we felt more than anything loved.
Kathy, Gwen and Ginny at Joyce and Doreen's Christmas morning 
My aunt Joyce always trying to help us see the bright side of life and cheer our little hearts would use phrases, songs and ideas to help us see the good in life around us. On saturday mornings if I stayed overnight she would announce brightly while we were doing the laundry in the kitchen, 11:11 make a wish! and then for most of my childhood if I was mindful of the time 11:11 was when I could make a wish any day every day.  From this little phrase I began to decipher what was important to me on any given day, by looking at what I wished for at the time.
Doreen and Kathy in back Joyce and Gwen in front

Upon waking the first day of each month Aunt Joyce would always say "rabbit rabbit".  This supposedly brought you good luck throughout the month. Well it didn't always work, infact I could really say it rarely worked in my life. Nevertheless, I was faithful about saying it. I think it did shape an attitude of hopefulness in my little heart. I was in my twenties when I finally saw it for what it was a childish whimsy that no longer worked for me.
Another positive piece that aunt Joyce shared with me was to look for something to be glad about in each day. She wanted me to focus on  the good in life and on others not myself.  She wanted me to "whistle a happy tune" and magically you would feel happier than beforehand. Her motives were always kind and loving. She taught me to love opera (or at least to listen to it every Saturday at 1pm she would put on the opera and we would listen as we cleaned silver)  She taught us to sew, bake, and the importance of timing in making a meal so that everything turned out just so!  She loved to sing and encouraged me always telling me what a lovely voice I had. She gave me ballet lessons and piano lessons. She taught me phone manners. She taught me how to write a letter and helped me with my penmanship. She adored children. She was the best grandmother my children have ever had and they loved her with a passion. 
Aunt Doreen's home at the shore in NJ
She was an  idealistic, nurturing, loving, maiden, woman and I am eternally grateful for her loving force in the life of my children as well as my life.
Her sister Doreen always showed us how to do a lot of  things "outside". We learned about birds, went on outings for the purpose of buying birdseed and to go birdwatching. We went to the seashore and stayed at her house there. We cleaned the house from previous renters and then walked the beaches, built sandcastles, rode the waves and rode bikes, played games and read books. She taught us to clean window screens and put in storm windows. She taught us to mow lawns and rake leaves. She taught us to use a camera. She taught us how to recycle. She taught us about money and how to save it. She started my savings account for me.  She taught us how write checks and balance a check book.
Tiny with her son Tom and holding baby Gwen
Tiny was always open and loving. Her home was always open to the kids that came to school in the dorms and eventually she became a housemother her love for that use was so strong. I had a little contact with her after the first year of my life.....but I know that that year was a life saver for me and am grateful to her for her loving energy. Later in life I made an effort to spend time with her so I could reconnect. She a sweet soul and loving person. And I am glad that I have had an opportunity to get to know them. Each in her own way saw to it that the things they felt were important were passed on to me.
  As women they did have a lot of contact with people not in the church. Even so not one of them ever left the community in which they were born and raised to live elsewhere, except my mother, Gwen.  Two of them held down jobs outside of Bryn Athyn. Joyce was the Assistant to the president of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia and as such was on their board of directors too. Doreen was the manager of the First Pennsylvania Bank in Huntingdon Valley and on that board as well. She also was an advocate and founder of Cairnwood Village in Bryn Athyn where she now resides.  Of the three women left after my mother died, only one, Tiny,  married. Their outlook on life was steeped in the doctrines of their church and a life of use and their beliefs had never been tried. They believed what they were told to believe and didn't question any of it. They had friends outside the community as well as in the community however, most of their life revolved around the community functions and its social network. They were good, reliable, responsible and loving to all their friends and family.

The night I got married I remember they told me "it is important when sharing a bathroom that you leave the room clean for the next person and always push the toothpaste from the bottom never in the middle.That was their advice on the night before I got married. This is of course from maiden ladies. I smiled and thanked them for the advice