Be That Neighbor

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take advantage of the lovely weather we were having and go for a walk. My day had been decidely disappointing and I needed to burn off some steam. I have often found the quickest cure to feeling bad about something is to walk it off.

So I grabbed my ear buds and set off into the neighborhood.

Along the way, I came across an older gentleman picking up what looked like broken glass from a car accident in the middle of the road. When I asked him what happened he said there had been a couple of teenagers that got in a fender bender and this was what remained. We both agreed the most important thing was no one was hurt.

I’d be remiss if I said I instantly jumped in and started helping him clean up the shards of what ended up not being glass but just plastic from the side mirror. I didn’t. I put my ear buds back in and kept right on my merry way.

I was, after all, walking off my bad day. 

But the more steps I took away from the sweet old man cleaning up the street by himself, the more guilt I felt.

Why wasn’t I helping? What on earth was the matter with me?

I went back and offered to lend a hand and he passed me a plastic bag. I was shocked at how many people stopped to ask what happened, got the information and were on their way. I silently wagged my judgemental finger at them (nevermind I had just done the exact same thing) and swallowed my bitter pill of disdain (after all, this wasn’t my street but I was helping out!) but it didn’t seem to bother my neighbor. He just went about picking up the broken pieces as though he were pulling weeds from his own garden.

We politely chatted, as often strangers do, exchanging information in an effort to get to know each other. All along, I had assumed we were in standing in front of his house but it turns out he lived across the street from where the accident took place! I marveled at this man’s dedication to cleaning up debris from someone else’s yard without complaint.

As our pleasant conversation continued while picking up the shattered pieces, all the crappy stuff that had been bothering me throughout the day melted away. So what if no one else was helping. It felt good to be doing such a random good deed!

Fast forward to Trash Day. I take a quick walk and along the way, I pick up random trash on the street that had fallen out of cans and place it in the receptacles (never thought you’d see that word outside the movie theatre, right?) On my way home, I discover broken glass all over the street a few doors down.

I quickly take my nebighbor’s lead and head home to collect my broom and dustpan so I can rectify the broken glass situation. I don’t post it on social media, claiming fame to my good deed, I just do it. It felt good. It felt right. My neighbors will never know there was broken glass in their driveway. I was stealth. I took care of it. Broken glass no more!

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting any Pay It Forward reciprocation. I just wanted to be the kind of neighbor like the one I stumbled upon on my walk, the one who doesn’t care where the yard lines are drawn.

But when I came home from an exhausting day and saw the dead opossum in the street in front of my house, I did want Pay It Forward reciprocation. I wanted to claim “Broken Glass this Morning!” in hopes the Universe would instantly address the opposum situation.

But of course the Universe has more important things to deal with.

I realized in an instant my kind neighbor wouldn’t have wanted anything in return for cleaning up broken glass and yet here I was demanding the Universe take care of the opossum on the basis of by golly, what goes around better darn well come back around.

Nice.

The oppossum was eventually taken care of and inspired by my neighbor’s good deed,  I continue to pick up trash on my walks. I’m just a Good Neighbor-in-Training, not quite the Master like the lovely gentleman who lives down the street.

But hey, it’s a start.

And if we all start somewhere, I willing to bet it will amount to a whole lot.

Mastering the Art of Meditating

I was so excited when I got the email from Oprah and Deepak inviting me to another Free 21 Day Meditation Experience. I promised myself this was going to be the time I meditated all 21 days in a row.

I got off to a good start. Day 1, 2, and 3 went really well. I could feel myself finding the lightness in my life and I was beginning to become emotionally balanced, I’m sure of it. But then I began to taper off and Days 10, 11, and 12 were all completed back to back on the same day. And then…well.

It’s just that meditating isn’t exactly my forte. I want it to be but I don’t really get it. My mind wanders all over the place and it kind of stresses me out just sitting there trying to focus on my breathing.

My typical meditating process goes something like this:

While Oprah gets me motivated with her words of wisdom, I organize myself in a very meditative position complete with thumbs and middle fingers pressed lightly together, face up on my knees (Deepak says I just need to make myself comfortable but sitting like this makes me feel like I know what I’m doing). I close my eyes and take a deep breath. All is well as I follow along with Deepak, repeating what he says out loud to be sure I have it before silently doing it in my head.

Then it’s time to meditate on my own. Deepak assures me he’ll mind the time. I’m good to go at first but it isn’t long before thoughts of all the shit I need to get done begin to fill my head and my heart starts racing. I try to bring myself back with my centering thought but I can’t remember my centering thought even though Deepak just said it. I try to recreate how it sounded when it rolled off his tongue but it vanished. (Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?)

Relax, I tell myself. Stop freaking out. My centering thought will come to me…wait, maybe it’s the mantra I’m supposed to be repeating. Crap! Frustration begins to set in and all the shit I have to do comes flooding back into my mind. Centering thought, centering thought–wait! It IS the mantra I’m supposed to be repeating but the hell was the mantra? I think it was Om something. Deep breath. I got this. How essential is the mantra, I wonder? I think it’s the breathing part that really matters but concentrating on trying to remember my centering thought/mantra surely must count for something. Right?

Namaste? Is that it? No, that’s the end part. I could probably use Namaste, though. At least I’d have something to focus on other than all the shit I have to do and trying to remember my whatever the hell it is. Wait, what if Deepak isn’t minding the time? Inhale panic, exhale panic. Repeat. Maybe I should start over so I’ll know what the mantra is–maybe even write it down– but I can’t start over because there isn’t time. Deep breath. Deep breath. Do people really fall asleep while meditating? Is that even possible?

And then Deepak rings the bell and tells me to open my eyes when I’m ready, (which is immediately, obviously) and I’m not sure if I’ve meditated or had a panic attack but I know I don’t feel very relaxed and I still have a lot of shit to do.

I think that’s probably the reason I’m not very consistent with meditating.

Two seconds after I’m finished “meditating”, my mantra comes to me.

Om Supra Niti Swana

And my centering thought isn’t far behind.

I am guided by my self awareness.

I’m very aware that I haven’t mastered the art of meditating but that’s ok. I’m going to keep at it so that next time the Oprah and Deepak Free Meditation Experience comes along I’ll be ready to give it another go and maybe, just maybe, I’ll complete all 21 days in a row.

And you know what? That counts for something.

Namaste.

What Kind of Museum Does Your House Hold?

Spring is in the air! Well, more or less. Warm weather, coupled with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Question of the Day, motivated me to open the windows, let in the fresh air, and begin some serious Spring purging.

While taking inventory of what to keep and what to toss, I discovered quite unexpectedly, that I haven’t been living in a Museum to Grief, as Liz suggested, but instead a Museum of Failure. Every broken thing I haven’t gotten repaired is one more thing looming on my To Do List. Every outfit in my closet that doesn’t fit is one more pound I haven’t shed. Every reminder of a life that no longer exists keeps me in a holding pattern of What No Longer Is.

So the time has come to ask myself, why in the hell am I keeping all this shit?

First off, I came to the realization that if something was in need of repair, I was kidding myself that it was ever going to happen. The fact that I had lived without it meant one thing: I didn’t need it. I tossed that failure right into the trash, and, man, it felt good. Larger items got stored for the upcoming Spring Clean Up where, I am quite certain, someone will snatch it up off the curb, repair it, and make it their own.

Moving right along.

My bedroom closet ended up housing an alarming number of clothes waiting patiently to be worn but that no longer fit. It occurred to me that when I look for something to wear, I come face to face with clothes I plan to fit into “one day”. On a daily basis, I am unconsciously reminding myself that I have failed: Failed to lose the weight, failed to fit into something I once wore, failed to reach a goal I set for myself. I needed to accept those clothes weren’t ever going to fit me again and to give them to someone who could use them. And that’s exactly what I did.

Then came time to address the things I have desperately clung on to that simply had to go.

At the top of the list was the terracotta pitcher I received at my bridal shower from someone who meant the world to me. I had convinced myself if I kept that pitcher, I would be able to hang on to the friendship. The truth is, some friendships rely heavily on proximity and this was one of them. I decided to sell it on Varagesale. When the woman who bought it from me held it in her hands as if it were an Academy Award, I knew it had found a good home.

The multicolored chairs I loved so much and where so many important conversations in my life took place were the next to go. They were designed for the life I created while I was married and had no business being in my new home. Not only did they not match anything, they served as a constant reminder that the life I spent cultivating didn’t work out. It pleases me to no end knowing they went to a lovely couple who lost everything they owned in a fire right before Christmas.

The more I purged, the more I wanted to purge! Things that had been haunting me were no longer around and had found homes where they could be appreciated. My Museum of Failure had turned into a House of Great Rewards! I not only felt emotionally rejuvenated, I had some cash to boot.

From now on instead of surrounding myself with things that remind me What Could Have Been or What Might Be or What Isn’t, I am going to start living in a place of What Is.

And, of course, be grateful.

What kind of museum does your house hold?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Canopy Bed

Writing Prompt: What was the one thing that a friend had that you wished you had when you were little? 

I can’t remember ever not wanting to have a canopy bed. From the moment I laid eyes on the very first one I ever saw, I wanted one.

Desperately.

I wasn’t a foofy girl growing up but I sure wanted a foofy canopy bed.

It reeked of femininity (something I lacked as a young girl) and somehow I felt that owning one would make me pretty, and I so wanted to be pretty. The girls I knew who had canopy beds were more poised and graceful and I was convinced it was because sleeping in a bed fit for a queen turned you into a princess overnight. If I had a canopy bed, I was certain the feminine qualities I lacked would miraculously materialize – as if by osmosis – and I would be transformed into a beautifully poised and graceful princess.

Or at least I would no longer be the lanky, awkward girl that I actually was.

My mother probably thought it was some fanciful phase I would grow out of but I didn’t. I never stopped wanting a canopy bed. Not ever. The desire to own one followed me through my childhood. It was a dream never realized, a longing never fulfilled.

That beautiful canopy bed I wanted looked something like this:

Years later, when I was married, my husband built me a canopy bed out of some plans he found in a Home magazine. His creation didn’t look anything like the picture but I appreciated the effort. The canopy was not billowing pink ruffled material, but a green dust ruffle stapled on top that was always crooked. The center of the dust ruffle always drooped down so he added beams across that he neglected to stain to match the rest of the bed. It lacked continuity and I was not decorating savvy enough to fix the blemishes. He most likely used treated wood (even though he assured me he didn’t) and that probably shaved years off our life.

The plans for the bed my husband built looked something like this:

QCanopyCoverwww.thedesignconfidential.com

I might not have felt like a princess in the bed my husband built but that bed was full of memories. It’s the bed in which all three of my children were created. It’s the bed my children slept in when they were first born when I was too tired to get up in the middle of the night and pluck them from their cribs. It’s the bed where I straddled my toddler when he had pink eye and I had to put drops in his eyes. It’s the bed the kids came flying into on Christmas morning to demand it was time to wake up and see what Santa brought even though the sun hadn’t even woken up yet.  It’s the bed where I sobbed after I had my first miscarriage…and then my second. It’s the bed my son sat on when he had something important to say after a hard day at school. It’s the bed my children would crawl into in the middle of the night when they had a bad dream or they were sick. It’s the bed my children would jump on for hours singing about little monkeys. It’s the bed I slept in while my husband slept downstairs on the couch when things started to crumble between us.

Like our marriage, the canopy bed my husband built wasn’t strong enough to last. It was unable to endure all that we put it through. It wasn’t meant to be repeatedly taken apart and put back together again so by the time we moved into our fifth house, it was finally time to accept the days of lying under a crooked dust ruffle were over.

But at least I can say I once had a canopy bed.

A Word to Guide You

“What’s your word for 2016?” the text message reads.

“Still deciding.” I reply.

“Procrastination?”

I text back an emoji sticking its tongue out. I chuckle as my eyes wander to the fridge where CHOOSE A WORD FOR 2016 has been residing on my To Do list for quite some time. I glance at the calendar. Over a week into 2016. Time to get serious.

What better place to find inspiration than the Internet? Sprinkled all over Facebook are images of words people have chosen to guide them through 2016. Some of my friends have drawn beautiful pictures of their word and pasted them on their Timeline. One of my favorite bloggers, Laura McKowen, even posted a video about her word for 2016.

And here I sit wordless.

The truth is I’ve never really had a word for the year, or at least one that I have consciously chosen. Take last year for example. Selecting a word for the year was the last thing on my mind. My two youngest children had gone to live with their father and I was heartbroken. I was just trying to get by until time healed my wounds or until I was able to accept that life had become what it had become despite my best efforts to make it the life I thought it should be.

Ultimately the Universe chose my word for 2015. It ended up being Survive.

2016 is going to be different. This year I want to chose a word that will point me in the direction toward the life I want to lead, the life I choose to lead. I want my word to inspire me and catapult me to new and awesome places.

Okay, maybe not catapult me but at least shift my focus.

So much of 2015 was spent focusing on what I didn’t have instead of what I do have.

Focus

Maybe I should choose that for my word.

Focus is a good word but since it’s something I struggle with in general, I probably shouldn’t set out to spend 365 (well, 356 now) days attempting to incorporate it into my daily life.

I continue to scroll through Facebook searching for inspiration.

Inspiration is a good one but a little open ended.

Abundance, Grace, Forgiveness, Truth 

These are also good words but none of them resonate with me enough to commit to putting them into practice for an entire year.

I come across Laura McKowen and Build again.

Build is a good one but I just got out of survival mode so I’m probably not ready to build anything just yet.

Love, Happiness, Faith , Purpose 

With so many possibilities to choose from, I instantly become overwhelmed and it’s clear to me why this task remains on my To Do List.

I take a deep breath. I assure myself it’s all good. I close my eyes. A word pops in my mind and I realize it has been the word I have been telling myself over and over again lately.

GRATEFUL.

That’s it!

Grateful

That’s my Guiding Word for 2016.

I want to feel grateful this year. I want to be grateful.

Grateful for Every.Single.Thing.

I want to be grateful for all the blessings in my life, both past and present, and show thanks for both.

I want to be grateful for all that I have instead of wishing I had something different.

I want to be grateful for whatever comes my way and instead of second guessing it, embrace it.

I want being grateful to be where I begin.

I want to be grateful right here and now.

So I am consciously choosing to be grateful throughout 2016.

Because Grateful is where I need to be.

 

What’s your Guiding Word for 2016?

 

 

 

To Copyright, or Not to Copyright; That Is the Question

I’ve been taking some online blogging courses through WordPress and some of the assignments ask you to go out and check out other people’s blogs. I started noticing that a lot of them had widgets with copyrights.

So I started wondering if I needed a copyright widget on my blog.

I asked the blogging community what they thought and got a whole bunch of feedback.

Ultimately, I decided to ask my lawyer friend, Steve, what were his thoughts on the subject.

Probably couldn’t hurt.

So I set out on the quest to come up with a copyright widget.

I’m not sure what’s more terrifying: Figuring out what to include in the copyright or figuring out how to make a widget.

But I’m all over it.

Next!

A common suggestion for becoming a better writer is to use daily writing prompts.

Or so I hear.

Let’s face it, after the epic fail signing up for the November Blogging Month contest and writing absolutely nothing, I can use all the help I can get.

But we’re not pulling up a chair for criticism this afternoon.

Instead, we are taking a deep breath and heeding this advice:

Brene Brown Quote

I love you, Melle. Now write something. Anything. JUST.FUCKING.DO.IT.

So I grabbed one of the WordPress writing prompts stuffed in the dusty jar sitting on my equally dusty desk and this is what it said:

“Today, share something you love about yourself–don’t be shy, be confident!–but that few people know about you or get to see very often.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I can’t hide my procrastination, that’s for sure. I think we’re all clear that I have perfected it. I’m so good at it, in fact, that if they handed out degrees, I would be Magna Cum Laude.

I decide to draw another writing prompt. What the hell? I can come back to this one in another post when I have had more time to think about it and come up with a super clever response.

“Tell us about a situation that was not funny at all while it was happening, but that you now laugh about whenever you remember it.”

This blog post? 

Next!

“Think about your day. Select one of your daily rituals and explain it to us: Why do you do what you do? How did you come to adopt this ritual? What happens on days when you can’t perform it.”

Daily rituals? 

The only daily rituals that come to mind are checking numerous times to be sure I unplugged the curling iron and making the bed (if you can call it that) in a frantic attempt to locate my glasses. My most consistent ritual, however,  would have to be…drum roll please…running late.

Next!

“One day, you notice a strange stat on your blog. Write a short piece of fiction or poem that describes what you see, and/or what happens.”

Hmmmm…..

 What’s that? What’s that I see?                                                                                   Another person is following me!

Next!

“Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn but haven’t gotten around to? What is it and what’s stopping you from mastering the skill?”

Well, obviously I have wanted to learn how to blog. I could write an entire blog of excuses why that hasn’t come to fruition but the bottom line is the only thing standing in my way is, quite frankly, ME. I’m the hold up here, the road block, the one preventing this from happening.

So it’s time for me to get out of my own way and get this blog going. (Again).

Next!