Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On Books, The Beatles and Breakdowns

If you came here today looking for my usual brand of saccharine sentiment, positive postulation and life-affirming lessons, then you had better turn away now. I mean it!  You won't find any of that here.  Perhaps those of you living in "normal" habitats don't understand what it is like up here in the frozen tundra of the north.  The high today is 32 degrees, and we are grateful for it I tell ya...grateful! A very dear friend called me about this time last year and asked if I was ready to have my breakdown yet.  My what?  Your annual pre-birthday "patience is wearing thin, going stir crazy, tired of being cooped up, why is there still snow, where are my flip-flops, where is the sun, where are the tulips, get me out now" breakdown.  Oooh, you mean THAT breakdown. Isn't it funny how those near to us know us better sometimes than we know ourselves. Apparently this is normal behavior for me right before my birthday every year. *Warning* Birthday next week.  I really do love the winter, but a person can only take so much. So in order to stave off the breakdown until the snow melts in April or May, I offer some blues bustin' helpful hints...
1. Break into that stack of books you have been meaning to get to.  Park yourself in a south-facing window and soak up that vitamin D!
2. Spend way more time than you should blog-hopping and/or face-booking, maybe you will get a glimpse of the sunshine in someone else's life.
3. Keep plenty of chocolate on hand (this is also helpful for the rainy spring, hot summer and windy autumn seasons)
4. Give up something for Lent, maybe it will take your mind off the cold. (Ok, so I am not Catholic, and Mormons pretty much give up everything from the get-go anyway, so...) (Kidding people, sheesh!)
5. Put on something comfy, climb into bed and watch the sappiest movie you have on hand (mine was "The Christmas Card") Studies have shown this behavior to be highly addictive, use sparingly only as needed for severe cases
6. Do something creative--paint, sew, scrapbook, draw, write poetry, sing, play, dance!
7. Wear clothes that don't match and are borderline silly (I am so sick of my winter clothes that this is the only joy I have found in wearing them)
8. Have a sleep-over (I actually did this last year, and it was more fun than 5 grown women should probably have)
Whew! Just writing about it makes me feel better. Now, I cannot guarantee no breakdown, but maybe just a mini one.  SouleMama gave a beautiful winter manifesto recently that actually made me almost (almost) love and appreciate this final wrap up of one more frosty, snowy, beautiful, winter season. I know at some point I will miss the snuggly warm bed, heavy with extra blankets and sitting by the fire, skiing, snowmen building, hot cocoa drinking and still, silent snowstorms.  But today I sit staring out the window at Mr. Sun just peeking from behind a cloud and think, "You can do it big guy...You can do it!"
Quote of the Day: "Here comes the sun, and I say, it's all right."
George Harrison--musician

Friday, February 20, 2009

Going Bananas?

I am having trouble quieting my "Monkey Mind" lately. Yogis believe that the "monkey mind" is that constant flood of thoughts streaming through our brains-like a monkey jumping from branch to branch. Our monkey mind is usually only interested in the next "banana". It is the part of our mind that pulls us from the present moment and keeps us from relishing the now. I have been bumping and jumping around this last month, not seeming to focus on anything important to me.  The secret, I know, is to observe those extraneous thoughts, but not to become absorbed in them.  Do you ever have those days (perhaps weeks, months or years even) when you feel like you are just treading water? You have used nearly all your energy, yet are no closer to shore? 
I take a Spinning class a few times a week (group biking class with loud music). The instructor often uses the phrase, "resistance is hard."  She is talking about the bike of course, but I am reminded of life's little lessons every time she says that.  Resistance is hard.  Life is complicated. Relationships are work. Happiness is a choice. Joy is a Blessing. 
We have become so accustomed to ease in our society that I think sometimes we forget that difficulty is part of life. Pain is part of the deal. Instead of avoiding the pain, or looking for the easy way out when it comes--we have to learn to accept it.  I believe in a God who wants us to be happy, balanced and at peace.  The hard part is finding that in adverse times.  We may not look forward to the trials that will come, but perhaps we learn to accept the pain and sorrow as part of our human experience.  From the simplest irritation to the most difficult trial, we think not, "Why me?" but "This too shall pass." Bettering our relationships, serving others, recognizing blessings, finding joy in the journey. Ha! Easy to say, hard to DO...but I can try.  As we learn to quiet the chattering mind, we find focus and gratitude in today--where ever that finds us.  
I think I have been too busy lately.  I have forgotten the vitalness of simplicity, creativity and love in my life.  Time to regroup and and re-center myself.  I did get through a teenager's temper tantrum (twice) yesterday without loosing my cool...that oughta be worth something right?
Quote of the Day: "Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."
--Albert Einstein really smart guy

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pardon My Flosculation!

I really like words.  Seriously, I use them all the time!  Reading, writing, quotidian colloquy. But I have recently heard some disturbing news.  I mean, I guess deep down inside I always knew, but until my worst fears were confirmed by an outside source, I held out hope that it wasn't true. There are words on the brink of expiration. The threshold of existence. Near their demise.  Falling, quickly and abruptly, into obsolescence!  
Words that once served a purpose and held their places proudly and alphabetically in lexicons across the world, are now being tossed aside like relics of a bygone generation.  Deemed antiquated, outdated, useless and ineffective they are being removed from dictionaries to make room for new words like woot, edamame and subprime.  I get it. Really, I do.  I understand the necessity of it.  I mean, the only reason language exists is to serve the community that uses it.  It allows us to freely exchange thoughts, feelings and ideas.  If a word no longer performs this function, it will drop out of our vernacular naturally.  It just seems so harsh, you know, to take them out of the dictionary after all they have done for us.  Toiling away year after year until suddenly, when they are no longer needed, being torn from the very pages where they waited so faithfully for some amateur philologist to find them.  And, as usual, I digress a bit. 
The point is that someone even more passionate about words than I, has taken up the cause. Launched a formal protest even, and issued a call to action!  For those of us so inclined, we can adopt one of these vanishing words and try to resuscitate it.  How fun is that!?  So, please help Savethewords.
I narrowed my choices to thural, coquinate, fallaciloquence, flosculation and ictuate, finally choosing to assimilate flosculation into my vocabulary. As part of my pledge to do so, I publicly take the oath of adoption: "I hereby promise to use this word, in conversation and correspondence, as frequently as possible, to the best of my ability." down!
Quote of the Day: "Language artfully used can make you happy to be alive."
--Ben Yagoda author   (from If You Catch An Adjective, Kill It)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sim*plic*i*ty /sim'plisitee/ n.

I happily live in a relatively small house by today's American standards.  The average home size peaked last year at just over 2,600 square feet.  The year I was born (eh hem, 1970) the average was about half of that at 1,400. And the year that my parents were born, it was a mere 983 sq.ft.  I am sure all of us have noticed the pervasive urban sprawl of mega homes and mini-mansions in just about every area of the U.S.  Homes that are 5, 6 and even 10 thousand or more square feet. Are these families with 13 children? Large extended families moving in together? Aunts, uncles, Grammy and Gramps all under one roof like the Waltons? Nope. It is just that bigger is better, right? I mean, where else will we keep all of our stuff?  Stuff.  That is the nice girl word for it.   We have all seen those yard sales where the family has a driveway and garage full of ever so lightly used canoes, skis, gym equipment, kitchen gadgets, bikes & golf clubs. Don't forget the baby strollers (umbrella, double, sleeping, jogging and the one that converts to a car seat), high chairs (tray built-in, under the table, travel, booster and the one that converts to a potty) and cribs (bassinet, portable, standard, and the one that converts to a changing table). Boy oh boy, I am exhausted just trying to figure out where they kept it.  If I have described your family, I am sorry if it hurts, but many of us have fallen into this trap of consumption. We buy more and more "stuff" in pursuit of...of...I don't know.  Happiness?  Acceptance? Freedom?  The problem is that we can never be satisfied by stuff, no matter how nice it is.
I have been pondering this idea of simplicity.  My own mantra is "Live life simply and naturally, surrounded by people and things you love." But what does that mean?  It may mean different things to different people, but what does it mean to me? For one thing, it means eating as fresh, seasonally and even locally as I can (except for chocolate which is exempt for medicinal reasons.) It means going without as often as possible. It means not taking on more "projects" than I can handle. It means giving myself permission to sit and read or write when I know I need a break.  It is recognizing the good in my life and the world and not wasting it. It means going through every room, drawer and closet at least twice a year and discarding or donating what we no longer use or love. I wish I could remember where I first heard the idea of only having things in your home that are useful or make you smile. That is a good start. I have always kept a tight budget. I never buy on impulse and usually think so long about buying something I want that eventually I realize I don't need it at all. Makes shopping simple.  But it is more than that.  Simplicity is a state of mind and a frame of reference for everything.  I know that I can do with less.  I know I am actually happier with less.  Less stuff, less stress, less food, less money, less clothes, less waste, less house, less over-scheduling, less hassle, less excess.  Less is more! More time with the family, more love, more energy, more peace, more joy, more contentment, more me! Simple living keeps us in the present. We do not hold on to the things of the past that are no longer of value to us.  We prepare for the future without always anxiously looking for "what comes next." Simple joys, simple foods, simple surroundings, simple abundance, simple gratitude, and simply loving life!
Quote of the Day: "Daydreaming of the past and longing for the future may provide comfort, but will not take place of living in the present."
---Thomas S. Monson