Where is Home?

Given all the violence occurring around the world today causing millions of people to be uprooted from their homes and homelands, plus the growing number of homeless people living on the streets across the US, I find myself feeling deeply grateful for the roof over my head and a warm, safe bed to sleep in at night. Every major storm, flood, fire or war causes millions to be displaced from their homes. There is no question that all living creatures seek a home somewhere on this planet, but with increasing climate change, the habitable areas are shrinking while our population is exploding.  Everywhere people are seeking shelter of one sort or another. Having a place to call “home” is a universal yearning for all of us.  Yet everyone has a different vision of home and what that means to them.   

Lately I’ve been reflecting on what “home” means to me. I’ve always known that I was a “homebody”. It’s where I feel safe to be myself and express myself in whatever creative manner I choose. As Maya Angelou once said, “The ache for home lives in all of us. It is the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” 

When I was growing up my family moved frequently, not out of necessity, but by choice. I’m not sure why, but it always felt like an adventure.  I liked exploring new neighborhoods and creating a new space of my own, even if I didn’t like changing schools so often. At age 23, with the help of a small inheritance from my Aunt Louise, I was extremely fortunate to be able to buy my first home in Fairfax, CA. I thought at the time it was where I would live forever! I began enthusiastically renovating every part of the house and yard to place my “stamp” on it. Seven years later however, I made a bold, perhaps rash decision, to move to rainy, remote Oregon where I began the process of “homing” anew.  Once I was settled on a little 2-acre farm outside of North Bend, I once again believed this would be my “forever home”.  Remodeling began inside and out with room additions, porches, gardens, etc.  However twenty years later, single and with my two grown children moved away, I felt a strong desire to remarry and share my life with another. I opened to the possibility of moving yet again.  Each move I’ve made was followed by an exciting period of adjustment, during which I always had  a strong impulse to put down new roots, literally and figuratively.  My next “forever home” was on a farm outside of North Plains.  Much remodeling and landscaping created what was for me a sort of paradise.  And again, I thought I would live there forever.  But… after another twenty years flew by, age crept up on me with the realization that physically I could no longer manage to maintain this paradise without hiring a huge amount of help.  So the difficult decision was made once more to move, this time to a smaller home and yard. Three years have passed now, and I feel the comfort of home again. Although I’ve planted quite a variety of new plants, I’ve left the house mostly intact, and so far no earthquakes, fires, floods or wars have wreaked havoc on my sense of “home”. I am so grateful to have been fortunate enough to always have a place to call home. But in today’s unstable world and with the uncertainties of health, I know that this cannot be taken for granted. I can only hope that I have developed the resilience over the years to feel at home wherever I find myself. Perhaps home really is wherever the heart is. 

Moving Forward in 2022

As I contemplate what to write after such a long pause since my last post, I feel uncertain how to begin. We’ve made it through yet another pandemic year of isolation, anxiety, stress, and frustration. There now seems to be a light at the end of this long dark tunnel, but can we trust it will last? It appears that our society is unraveling on all levels – our democracy, healthcare, homelessness, addiction, violence, schools, and supply chains just to name a few disturbing issues. And over all this now lies the shadow of war, and even more importantly the issue of climate change.

Today at 75, I’m all too aware how short life is. Thinking about my mortality definitely makes me want to re-examine my activities, my relationships and my attitudes towards life.  More than ever I’m feeling the need to reach out and connect with my friends and family. How do I really want to spend my days? Can I live more joyfully, socially connected, and grateful for what time I have left? I’ve spent too many sleepless nights in recent months worrying about all that’s wrong in the world. It’s time to let go of all I cannot change and make a commitment to myself to live more compassionately, playfully and gratefully right now.   

The question is not, “when will this pandemic be over”, but “how can I live today to the fullest”.  I am committed to devoting more time to all the things I deem as meaningful and that add joy to our world. I cannot solve the big problems, but I CAN affect those in my little corner of the world. This is my belated New Year’s wish for all of us. 

Welcome 2021

I’m happy to say good-bye to 2020.  New Years has always been my favorite holiday, but even moreso this year, although I fear the road ahead is going to be difficult for all of us.  More than ever I feel the need to focus on the positive and maintain patience and care as we enter this pandemic winter.  I know that things will get harder before they get better, but there are many ways we can support each other and get through this.  We must all do our part.

Today I especially want to celebrate all that is beautiful in our world…the earth, the stars, wildlife, music, my family and friends, and all the dedicated, courageous, brilliant people working tirelessly to save our planet.

May our hearts be at peace, may we be safe, and may we continue to be sources of healing as we welcome the new year with HOPE for the future.

Healthy Laughter

I recently read about Laughter Yoga.  It’s a movement that was begun in India in 1995 and has spread worldwide since then.  Studies have shown that it has great health benefits.  According to the Mayo Clinic it stimulates our vital organs by increasing our intake of oxygen. It relieves stress by stimulating circulation and muscle relaxation.  Physicians even claim it will improve our immune system, relieve pain, and definitely improve your mood.  But enough of the science.

I’ve always known how wonderful it feels to laugh uncontrollably.  Children instinctively know how good it feels and they laugh easily, so long as they aren’t in danger or abused.  But at some point (perhaps it’s puberty) it becomes un-cool to laugh.  I know from my own teen years on I found little to laugh about.  Life was serious business and then I had kids of my own.  Their childish antics occasionally got me to laugh out loud.  But it really wasn’t until mid-life when I met my husband, Mark, that I loosened up enough to laugh with abandon.  His wonderful sense of humor causes laughter everywhere he goes.  It’s a gift he has that enriches everyone who knows him.  I am so thankful that both my kids and grandsons share and appreciate laughter.  As a family now, we laugh all the time, in spite of the serious problems of the world that we face.  Those are the memories I cherish most in my life.  I can be driving down a congested highway and suddenly think about “soggy, burnt toast” and just crack up! (That’s an inside joke with my grandson Tyler)

So my advice to everyone is to lighten up, laugh and spread some joy.  The world can be seen through a lens of humor or despair.  The choice is ours.  We only live once and I, for one, hope to go out with a smile, not a frown. 

Gathering Memories

I recently read about an interesting technique writers use to work through writer’s block.  While I don’t think of myself as a “writer”, I thought this was an interesting exercise to awaken memories and unfold hidden recesses in my brain.  Who knows what I’ll dig up?  The exercise consists of keeping a “What I Remember” journal.

I’ve always kept a journal since my teenage years.  Back then it was about my “hot” or “not so hot” dates.  I’m embarrassed to say I even kept gum wrappers and ticket stubs.  Oh my, how my life has changed.  After those years came all the concert years and impressions of events at that time.  Those are interesting journals to review. 

Of course, there’re lots of entries about marriage and children and animals and gardens, but this new journal is different.  It’s about all the weird things that pop into my head when I begin the sentence “I remember…”.  One memory triggers a flood of other memories, such as “I remember how I used to love walking on stilts when I was 8 years old”.  And then I remember the beautiful jacaranda tree in our front yard.  And then I remember shooting bows and arrows with my family in our driveway target range.  And then I remember building little sailboats in my dad’s shop.  And then I remember the cute little guinea pigs my sister and I played with.  You get the picture.  One memory triggers another and another. 

I’m not suggesting that we should all dwell on the past, but it IS a very pleasant activity for a break from the world’s depressing daily news to remember past events, activities, homes, trips, friends, family and pets.  Even the more painful memories seem to be softened by age.  Whatever the reason, I’m enjoying this brief walk down memory lane.   If you’re old enough to have memories, savor them, and if you’re too old to remember, then start digging!

The Importance of Movement

The older I get the more aware I am becoming of how important movement is, especially now, during this pandemic.  I’m spending far too many hours sitting at my computer, piano, artist table, sewing machine, or easy chair.  Yikes!!  When I see this in writing I’m appalled. 

From the age of sixteen I realized the importance of movement.  Even if it was only a driver’s license, it symbolized movement to me.  Of course I was “on the move” much earlier.  I was always an active young girl, climbing trees, walking on stilts, ice skating, roller skating, and riding my bike as fast as I could.  Those were the days!

Later, as a singer, I became acutely aware of how important the movement of breath was.  I exercised my lungs to expand my breathing capacity.  Even today I continue to practice diaphragmatic breathing when I’m singing.  I am so grateful to never feel short of breath.

When I was studying nursing I learned about the enormous importance of the movement of blood and oxygen and fluids throughout the body.  All this movement was driven by muscles in the body that pumped the fluid around.  Once this movement stops, life ceases.  And like every good muscle, you either use it or lose it.  Muscles atrophy with disuse, and without the movement of muscles there is no movement.  Even knowing this, I find it a real challenge to keep moving when it’s so comfortable and easy and fun to sit while engaging in pleasurable activities.  I’m not a big TV watcher, but I do love to read. 

During these troubling days of protest all over the country, I am reminded about another kind of movement – that of societal change.  Every society on earth is in a state of flux.  Change is inevitable and very often necessary.  Of course I want to “only” see change for the good, but one thing I know, change will happen.  I am reminded of the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence and the physics theory of entropy.  I find both these ideas help me accept the changes all around me, whether it’s the broken potting table or our broken democracy.   But at the same time I am motivated to do all I can to stave off the effects of negative changes and total breakdown within and without.  So…It’s time to get out of this computer chair and take Penny for a walk.  Let’s all keep moving and be the maker of change and movement rather than the keeper of the status quo!

A Spark of Life

What lights my fire and makes me leap out of bed every day?  I’ve come to realize that it’s the excitement of learning something new and applying that learning in some tangible, creative way. 

As far back as I can remember I loved making things — dioramas, doll clothes, little wooden boats, embroidery samplers, rag rugs, birdhouses, etc.  Perhaps I can attribute it to scouting.  Earning badges for my sash occupied my youth.

Although I can’t remember taking piano lessons, I do remember my voice teacher and how much he encouraged me to sing. This fueled my desire to accompany myself, and hence, I self-taught myself to play the piano.  I know I drove my parents crazy listening to me practice constantly, in spite of their own love of music.  I always looked forward to an evening at home alone playing and singing to my heart’s content.

College was the most wonderful time in my life.  Not only was I experiencing independence for the first time, but those years were all about learning, learning, learning.  I loved it all, not just the music, but history, languages, science, and theater.

After college came the “busy years” of marriage and raising a family.  I truly believe that raising children is one of life’s most creative jobs. Like everything else I approached it as a new learning challenge.  I read every book I could on childrearing.  In retrospect many theories were flawed, but my dedication to the job of parenting was whole-hearted.  However, knowing that I needed to keep learning to satisfy my inner spirit, I took on projects with my children where we could all learn and grow together — such as horseback lessons, remodeling, camping, cooking, sewing, computing, theater, bug and plant collecting, and always building things.

Once my children launched themselves into their adult lives, I relished once again having uninterrupted time to explore new learning activities.  I returned to college to get a degree in nursing.  I taught myself to program computers, learned new photography skills, new embroidery and quilting skills, and animal training skills, new gardening skills.  Then I learned how to fund raise and create a city library. 

Fast forward many years to this current era of self-isolation. Once again I have found solace in the joys of self-learning and creativity.  Through websites like www.skillshare.com I have been learning watercolor painting and Photoshop.  Both of these classes lend themselves to exploring new creative outlets.  I can only wonder what I will learn and create today!

How Resilient are we?

I’ve been thinking lately about resilience.  Much has been written about it, especially lately with the pandemic looming large in our lives. For me resilience is about my ability to accept “what is” and adapt to life’s ever-changing circumstances.   There’s a part of me that really struggles with change.   Especially when it’s imposed from the outside.  At the least I find it annoying (i.e. changes in plans), but at the worst I can feel devastated by it. 

I think with age I have come to embrace the Buddhist philosophy that impermanence is a fact of life.  Change is inevitable and any attempt to hold on to “what is” causes me to suffer. I frequently tell myself, “this too shall pass”, the good and the bad.  I also try to step away from my myopic vision and view my life from a universal perspective.  In the history of our planet earth, this moment in our lives is a microscopic dot in time.  From this vantage point, I become less attached, and can then think of these changes more as a new challenge in learning to adapt.  I find this helps me become more resilient and accepting of changes brought on by this pandemic.

Of course the more changes life throws at us such as illness, isolation, economic instability, lack of safe shelter and food, the greater the challenge it becomes to be resilient. But I have to believe that humans are capable of learning to adapt. How can we choose otherwise?

Adjusting to a Covid-19 Lifestyle

Since I last wrote three weeks ago I’ve settled rather comfortably into this new lifestyle of social distancing from everyone. It reminds me of all my youthful fantasies of being a pioneer woman crossing the country in the westward expansion of the 1800’s. Now I get to experience the same feelings of separation from friends and family, except today we have “The Internet”!

No longer do we have to depend on the Pony Express to deliver a letter to loved ones weeks later. Now I am staying in touch daily with both family and friends via email, Zoom, Skype, LiveChat, texting, etc. Sometimes I’m not sure that “snail mail” wouldn’t be better.

My days are over-filled with playing music, painting, reading, genealogy research, gardening, hiking with Penny, and yes, cooking and cleaning. Spending hours sitting at my computer is not what I enjoy most. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for me.

I am so grateful for my good health and being retired now. I am content to maintain this social isolation for however long it takes to stop the spread of this virus and help prevent more deaths. When it’s eventually past, I hope I can maintain more of this simplicity in my life while still staying connected.

Shopping in the Era of Covid-19

Ever since the Coronovirus pandemic began in January 2020, shopping has become a major ordeal. Don’t get me wrong though. I am so grateful to have the ability and resources to shop at all.

Today, Mark and I ventured out to get some groceries. We equipped ourselves with masks, disposable gloves, hand sanitizer, and a long list of food needed to keep us and Penny going for the next two weeks. We have found that the Market of Choice has the most safety precautions in place and is the least crowded, especially since we shop at 8 am! We looked like a couple of bandits heading into the store today.

Once everything was selected (not an easy feat given the need to avoid getting close to any other shoppers) and paid for, we loaded it in the car and headed home. Once home we had to unload in the garage and then wipe everything down with a Clorox spray and cloth and then, one item at a time, bring it into the house to be put away.

Once that was accomplished we had to strip off the contaminated clothes in the laundry room and head to the bath to clean ourselves.

It only took us two hours. Phew! That was the big event of our week! Now we just hope we are safe for another two weeks.

Here’s a cool idea for face masks. Of course it wouldn’t look so good, if she was frowning or sneezing. Ha Ha