Thursday, January 11, 2018

 Best Society is not a fellowship of the wealthy, nor does it seek to exclude those who are not of exalted birth; but it is an association of gentlefolk, of which good form in speech, charm of manner, knowledge of the social amenities, and instinctive consideration for the feelings of others, are the credentials by which society the world over recognizes its chosen members. ~~ Emily Post

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Embrace Sacrifice

Visualize the moment.

How do I see myself there?

What thrills me?

What contents me?

What is important to me?

In that moment in time toward which I am daily progressing how do I look, feel, and think?

Have I made myself proud? Am I pleased with the way I spent my time each day from the moment I started working toward my dream until I reached that moment of destiny?

Now, what can I do today to ensure that moment is how I desire it to be?

What action can I take today?

What thoughts need I have?

What changes can I make?

What plan can I make for tomorrow - and the week after - to propel me to my goal?

My future begins this very moment.

In every happy moment, in every dream-come-true sacrifices were made along the path. It's the way of things, the balance of things. Nothing joyous comes without something difficult being involved. Every celebration requires time given up, money surrendered, sometimes sweat, and even disagreement. The joy of a child coming into the world requires labor pain. Dream travel requires money surrendered, plans made, time arranged, packing, paperwork, patience, and more.

Everything has a price.

To expect a dream to magically appear is wrong-headed. Dreams don't come about that way.

Somewhere something is sacrificed.

Sacrifice and deprivation are not always bad. In the case of making dreams come true they are essential. They are the means to the end. They are good. They are required. They are friendly.

Embrace sacrifice. Embrace deprivation.

They are the paths down which lies the stuff of imagination and delight.

~~ I wrote this out in late summer of 2017, after buying my plane ticket for Europe. It pleases me to know that the moment in my life for which I embraced sacrifice and deprivation played out even more beautifully and magically in reality than I even dreamed. This is very good advice, this post. ~~ Cherie




Tuesday, January 02, 2018

My Word for 2018

Some lovely women I know inspire themselves with self-chosen words to lead them into a new year.

In deciding to join them, I ran into a mental wall. Hmmm. What would be an apt word for me, for my hopes, my challenges, my growth?

The ladies suggested I let the word just come to me rather than trying to sort it out myself.

So I did.

And guess what? A word came to me in all its gloriousness. That word is serendipity.

Why? Because during the past year in which both of my daughters were married with all the planning that entailed, plus the enjoyment of a month long European vacation, with all the planning that, too, entailed, plus the actual carrying out of these weddings and the joyous living of the trip, I discovered a phenomenon only slightly experienced until now: serendipity.
The Mediterranean and Me - At Last

See, planning weddings and trips have one thing in common, they will not be entirely controlled. Many aspects are out of our hands, left to others such as florists, bakers, churches, attendants, salons, photographers, Airbnb hosts, airline schedules, rental cars, cab drivers, Venice water busses, and the Eiffel Tower. People don't have the same priorities we do, much of the time. People move at difference speeds than we do. People don't understand the vision we try to convey. Snags and hitches occur outside the control of all of us, leaving delays, inferior services and products, frustrations, the need to search elsewhere, increased security checks (so many security checks!) and the definite requirement of patience. Lots of patience.

Once the realization sunk in that I could control only my own role, my own self, once I fully grasped the truth that others would, indeed, let me down, that things would go wrong, that delays were inevitable, and that I did not have enough fingers to stick into all the leaky holes in the dam, then, and only then, did I decide to quit flailing around and, instead, embrace serendipity. Again, why? Because once I gave up and let things go the way they'd go, I discovered that often things went better than I imagined. New ideas surfaced. New places appeared. New people entered the picture. Beauty arose, noticed.

Once I took care of what I could do, and left the rest to God, I found that He revealed to me His wise, intelligent, guiding hand in absolutely everything. He took gentle care of me. He guided me through fearful situations. He fed me, literally, when I was hungry. He provided water when I was thirsty. He provided kind faces when I was anxious. He introduced me to the immense joy of a Venetian water taxi merrily speeding my weary family and me along the Grand Canal when my exhausted legs and feet could tread no more. He showed me wonders I never knew existed. My curiosity grew and I saw things that before I would miss as I was struggling with all those fingers in the dam. God allowed others to help me, but more importantly, He gave me the grace to let them.

Soon, I was awakening each morning with the question, "I wonder what serendipity God will provide today? Maybe nothing. But, oh! maybe something!" More and more the days held something.

2018 now has a word for me: serendipity.

I'm excited!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

It Needs a Frame

Traveling friends and children have bestowed upon me several fascinating pieces of art from various exotic places.

My son, a professional photographer, gave me a large, matted photograph he took of the Pacific Ocean at sunset from the vantage point of a large sailboat floating somewhere in between Hawaii and Seattle, a vessel on which he crewed. Right smack dab in the middle of the sea. It's the kind of photo you sort of get lost in. It's both haunting and soothing. I love it! But it needs to be framed.

A little Italian man paints Italian scenes on paper and sells them in front of the Coliseum in Rome. A friend bought one of the Coliseum lit up at night and gave it to my family as a souvenir. Bright primary colors draw me in and make me smile. I can almost feel Italy's warmth and laid-back energy. This painting needs a frame to protect it.

A long-time dear friend hunted through the stores of Florence, Italy, for a gift for me. Finally, she came upon a below-ground-level, cave-like shop full of souvenir-type items. In this dark, musty, cluttered little hide-away she found a selection of prints. My generous and kind friend purchased a lovely print for me, a sketched and subtly-colored scene of Old Florence. Gazing at this artwork stirs my imagination. It needs a frame to bring out its glory.

While shuffling through the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Portland Art Museum this spring, I accidentally took an amazingly surreal photo of my husband and son as they studied some of Warhol's artwork. I have no idea what I did, but the effect in my photo thrills me! Weird stripes of light and color envelope the two figures while a sort of mist swirls around them. An enlargement sits right here on my desk. It needs a frame.

A daughter visited Claude Monet's home in Giverny, France, last autumn. Knowing he is my favorite painter of all time, she bought a large print of Poppy Field, painted in 1873. I adore this gift especially knowing it came from inside Monet's famous home, carried with pleasure through his enchanting gardens by my beloved daughter. It needs a glittering gold frame.

Always keeping an eye on expenses, I have been negligent in protecting my artwork. No more! I bit the bullet and forked out the dough to purchase perfect frames for each piece. They are to arrive next week.

Noble is the task of keeping art alive. Glorious is the participation in recording and preserving one's times and experiences, however humble the endeavor.

Soul-stirring artwork displayed in average homes inspires the curiosity of ordinary people, sets imagination a-flight, replaces fustiness with aspiration. Creating a moment of newness, of otherness, of far-away dreams stumbled upon, an expression simply hanging on a wall can draw our hearts into unknown delight, speaking to us of things not yet encountered but somehow yearned for. This is the stuff of personal growth, of stretched horizons, of ordinary becoming extraordinary.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of displayed art in my home is the remembrance of the occasion when the art was received, and of the love for those who gave it to me.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Possessing It All

I know four families who are moving this summer. Three are downsizing. Sorting ensues upon mountains of collected this-and-that.

Surprisingly, these families report astonishment at the number of items they possess that they forgot they owned, and haven't seen in decades. This mass of belongings has to be dealt with as there is no room for it in the new lodgings.

Sales abound. Give-aways to friends and families. Stress, labor, and money go into finding ways to dispose of material possessions, most of which probably should never have been procured in the first place. The money wasted in buying and then discarding the goods, whether sold for a fraction of the cost or given away, floors me.

Let me be clear, I understand acquiring useful things. Art, tools, furniture, clothing, and other things that have a place in day-to-day living. Even souvenirs. No, I'm referring, in this post, to things which cause a near obsessive urge to obtain but which quickly lose their sparkle, only to be relegated to deep, dark spaces for storage. Not sold or given away, kept. Possessed.

As one who is not into possessing things for the sake of possessing them, and as one who prefers clutter-free living, I am a bit mystified and amused by the degree of overwhelm these families face.

"We have so much stuff we haven't used in years!"

"Why are they stupefied?" I ask myself. Don't they see this stuff kicking around their home? Where is it kept that they aren't aware of it? Do they really have a black hole somewhere where useless-to-them items are stored out of sight?

My mindset differs dramatically. Because I have a pack-rat husband and four children, I regularly clean out and tidy closets, the storage shed, my attic, drawers, and cabinets. Before I buy anything I ask myself where will I store it? If I can't find a good answer, I rethink the purchase. I don't understand the possess-and-store mindset at all. Is it compulsive shopping? Is it keeping up with the Joneses? Is it a desperate need to be trendy, fashionable, ahead-of-the-crowd? Is it an insecure show of wealth or power? Is it a deep-seated fear that someday the obscure item may be needed so you'd better keep it or you'll be in big trouble, as if you couldn't go buy one if that day ever came? Or, is it perhaps, the sheer joy in acquiring a shiny new object? The hormonal rush?

What is the psychology behind the need to posses things? There seems to be some sort of gratification in acquiring and holding onto certain items. Does it make people feel superior? "I have [fill in the blank] taking up space and gathering dust in my [fill in the blank] and you don't. Ha!"

It isn't uncommon for family members to aggressively battle over estates of the recently deceased. These disagreeable tussles make me think there must be a perceived power in grabbing things from others' hands, and then, just having them forevermore. But how is that power? Unless the item is somehow useful and needed, what is the gain in storing it? In having it? People hoodwink others out of clothing, vehicles, trinkets, heirlooms, tools, furniture, sports equipment, photo albums, and other memorabilia. They store these things. These things collect dust, take up space. One day, they will have to be jettisoned as excess baggage.

Where is the sense, the logic in possessing unneeded, unused, unimportant things?

I stroke my chin in wonder.

In case you are wondering about the fourth family, yes, they are upsizing.  A larger house awaits them, its spaces filling up with.....stuff.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Hush, You Lying Voices

I'm off track. Backtracking a bit to find the place and time I stepped away.

So many voices screaming at me to ACHIEVE, to be SUCCESSFUL, to WORK HARD, to DO DO DO. Those voices give me anxiety. Big time.

I find myself confused between what I know and what is screamed at me.

Today, I am remembering the quiet, wise voices which whisper to me of humility, kindness, calmness, self-evaluation, compassion, relationship, struggling and striving to know what is True. I am aware of the eyes of my heart which beckon me to BE BE BE.

My purpose as a follower of Jesus is not to achieve greatness in the eyes of this world, but to pursue goodness for this and the next world. Goodness comes from God. Its pursuit takes a lifetime and is only fully realized in the Age to Come. No trophies in this realm. No accolades.

Looking back, I think I see where I strayed. Yes. There is the place where I lost my focus, where I turned and followed the lie.

And now, to walk aright, as best I can.

I live for God, not for the screamers.

It is well with my soul.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ben and Anna

Twice this week the idea of a particular habit of successful people has been put before me. My mind has been ruminating on it ever since.

The habit? Going to bed early and rising early.

In an old book I ran across Benjamin Franklin's famous adage, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." I've heard Ben's 18th century adage so often that it's lost some of its punch, I'm afraid.

Along comes Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue magazine, speaking in a documentary, stating that she goes to bed around 10:15 each evening and arises at 5:45 in the morning. Religiously. She believes this habit contributes to her success.

There is definitely something to this early/early bedtime regimen.

I'm going to try this routine for awhile and see what happens. More structure would be good. Better sleep. I read somewhere that the hours before midnight are when a body receives the most from its sleep, more healing, more rest. That would be great!

I'd also like to peacefully accomplish more in a day. When I arise after the rest of the world, I feel like I'm behind. All day. The day begins not in calm reflection and the freedom to control my time, not in caring for myself through a good breakfast and a bit of stretching, and not in the leisure to enjoy the garden and breathe the fresh air. Rather than allowing the morning to tickle me awake, I am at the mercy of whatever and whomever needs me right then and right there. Instant fast track in pajamas! I hate it.

On the days when I do arise earlier, I am stunned at how much I get done before lunch. Refreshed, energized, and in control, I feel like I am more useful to myself and others, less grumpy, too. When I retire to bed after an early morning day, the accomplishments rock me to sleep with a smile on my face.

Right now my computer clock reads 10:20 at night. Rather than stay up until the wee hours of the morning as I've been doing, I shall have a quick shower and settle into bed. Lights out by 10:45.

Sounds heavenly!