It’s All in Your Approach

turkey5

Thankful

Week before Thanksgiving,
I limp around real strange.
Huddle in the corner,
As though I have the mange.

All the other turkeys,
Just gobble, gobble on.
I’m silent, and I act
As if my gobbler’s gone.

Everyone is thankful
On Thanksgiving Day.
Friday it’s forgotten.
You all go on your way.

I know what thankful is
So listen when I say.
“It’s great to be a turkey,
After Thanksgiving Day.”

Unknown

or

Run, turkey, run!

turkey2Either way, make it a great day!

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Healthy vs. Unhealthy Media Messages

cokeadI’ve been working on this book for young people on media literacy which is a big focus of the Common Core. (If you’ve been hiding in a Tibetan Cave, the Common Core is the latest national attempt at early education in the United States. It aims to create higher level thinkers and has come up with a protocol for that.)

Media literacy is replacing media protective theory: rather than just saying “don’t engage in any way” the goal is to teach our 21st century humans (and by default, their parents) how to navigate the very creative language that is media. Not in a media bashing kind of way, but rather in a “check out these super tricks to create effects you need to know about” kind of way.

My particular focus is on television. My friend and publicity consultant Jess Todfeld from New York  said an industry insider told him “the shows are just the things stuffed in around the commercials.” That makes you think, doesn’t it? Television is a business, pure and simple.

Well, maybe not so pure. Or simple. Personally, I’m a television lover. I love the way the hero’s journey made its way into livingrooms around the world and gives people a point of reference to share. I can often tell I’ll like somebody right away when they tell me the shows they like. But I’ve also worked with the media behind the scenes people in enough capacities to be skeptical.

To watch the news knowing it’s not the news. (Think “Nightcrawlers,” Jake Gyllenhaal’s Academy worthy performance as a stringer for KTLA news.) To watch the product placement in our favorite films and realize the reason viewers want to buy an Apple computer when the movie is over is because their subconscious was just hit with 23 Apple images in the course of two hours. (This is so obvious on repeated viewing versions, but hardly noticeable at all on an action-packed first run.)

I remember this fantastic assignment in Mr. Bonin’s freshman English class at UCLA. The year was 1982. Levi’s was doing these spreads with a group of friends all hanging out and laughing. The clear message was “If you wear Levi’s, you’ll have friends. Beautiful friends. Lots of beautiful friends.” But when you folded the spread and held it up to the light, the friends were all groping each other! The hidden message was, “If you wear Levi’s, you will have lots of sex with beautiful people. And you will be so happy.”

Conspiracy theory? I think not. I saw it with my own eyes. I never looked at visual images as passively after that, more out of curiosity than skepticism at first. But it took that discussion to set me down the path. Because of this trajectory, I’m a huge fan of The Core’s new approach to equipping our babies to decipher what they’re being fed. It’s so key that they (indeed, we)  learn to distinguish clear from hidden messages, and be able to vet healthy from unhealthy messages in both.

For example, in the coke advertisement above, what’s the clear message? The clear message is “Coke is your friend. It is, in fact, the friendliest (drink) friend on the entire earth. Drink it.” The hidden message is that “Coke makes you powerful and strong. When you drink coke, your hand is almost as big as the entire earth! And you will never be lonely when you drink Coke. In fact, you will be friendly, too, because now Coke is inside you and you will take on all its attributes. YOU are the friendliest, most powerful person on earth”….or something like that.

Nobody mentions the fact that police have been known to carry liters of coke in their trunks to clean the blood off the street after an accident. Or that it works nicely as a toilet cleaner to remove all the grime. Or that it dissolves meat, teeth, and a slue of other things.

Health or unhealthy media messages? Look closely and you decide.

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The LOVE Campaign

bracelets2I was sitting with a group of teens at an athletic event recently and noticed how quick they were to say mean things about themselves: “I’m so fat,” “I’m so ugly,” “I’m not good enough”–the list goes on. As adults, we do this, too. Sometimes it’s learned. Sometimes it’s years of low self-esteem piled in our subconscious minds. All the time it’s destructive, both to ourselves and those around us.

I couldn’t get that teen scene out of my head. Thoughts are powerful. They become things. They form our actions, our beliefs, our behaviors towards each other.

The next day it came to me in a moment that was so overpowering I expected to see lightning shoot down out of the bright day sky. What if each one of our kids could start today, right this minute, and shift their self-degradating thoughts to loving thoughts, first towards themselves and then towards other? In 20 years, we’d be looking at a whole new world. My first thought was to start this campaign with teens so that’s what I’ve done. (Admittedly, my husband and I were the first to snatch bracelets up when the UPS guy dropped them off. Why not? Can’t we all benefit from bathing our thought processes in love?)

Enter, The LOVE Campaign (TLC)

Let Old Views Evaporate

Here it is, plain and simple: by consistently watching your loving thoughts towards yourself grow, you will be more loving and have more loving thoughts toward others. With all that TLC, think of what we can do in the world. You know that’s what you’re here for, right?

Step 1—The Challenge

Put a LOVE bracelet on your right hand. As long as you send loving thoughts to yourself, you keep it there. Thirty days forms a habit and you want those love thoughts to be habitual, don’t you? Your goal, then, is to keep it there for 30 days. Any time you think or say anything negative about yourself, you’re going to need to move that band to your left hand, come up with 5 loving thoughts to wipe out the negative ones, then move it back and start counting again from 1.

Step 2-Next Level It

Once you’ve made the outstanding achievement of keeping that bracelet on the right for 30 days, start the same process over—with one slight change. This time, you’re going to think loving thoughts about others. Thirty days to form the habit and you’ve met the Next Level Challenge. (Once you’re giving yourself all that TLC, this shouldn’t be as hard as it may seem now. Many of our negative thoughts towards others come because we’re not feeling so terrific about ourselves.)

After that, you have a choice. You can keep your bracelet just in case you need a refresher. Or, you can choose to give it to a friend you think could benefit from the same process. You know—pay it forward.

NEXT Next Level

Think about how others may benefit from reading about your experiences. If you’re one of those go-getter types like me, you’ll want to keep track of this process. Write down your ideas as you go, either digitally on your cells or in a paper journal. Then, get those notes to me. I’m going to compile some of these with the intention of sharing with others how they can create love in their communities, too.
Now, go. LOVE boldly. Why? Because you—and your world—are both worth it!!

Contact info for writings:
Jamie Weil: PO Box 1925, Cottonwood, CA 96022 or jamieweilwrites@gmail.com.

Sponsored with love by Jamie’s Creative Endeavors, LLC.

Posted in body image, creativity, habits, health, healthy living, hope, Inspiration, mental health and children, mindful, parenting, subconscious | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Be Here Now Like Only You Can

troward.2I’m reading a book right now that vascilates between lucid moments of insight and complete obscurity.  The writing is full of 1900-isms, co-influenced by Thomas Troward’s early British education and later years as a judge for 25 years in India.

He’s challenging to understand (think Philosophy 500 level) so I’m grateful I’m taking a class along with it. We discuss the question marks scribbled in our margins. Mine usually say, “HUNH?”

The book is called The Creative Process in the the Individual and emanated out of a speaking engagement Troward was invited to give about his epistemology. The part I love the most is that he didn’t even really start diving into this creative work (in writing, anyway) until 57 when he retired from the bench.

What’s interesting to me beyond the book itself is the influence it has had on much of the modern day ideas and is even mentioned in such pop culture icons as “The Secret,” and indeed the whole “New Thought” movement. His influences are a melding of daily Biblical readings and membership in the Church of England from 1-18 years old mixed with Hindu and Buddhist influences from spending a quarter of a century in India.

New Thought, or how I understand it, is basically buying into the premise that what we think affects what happens. You know, back to the old “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Thanks for that, Mr. Ford. It’s not hard to see that our thoughts create our realities. We bring into being (for better or worse) that which we focus on with our mental energy. He, the judge he was, talks much about laws–the laws of the universe–and how our thoughts filter through those laws to create realities we may not even be aware we are creating.

That’s where you come in. You and I, and each other being on the planet without exception, is here for a purpose so unique and beautiful that nobody else can touch it. Just as you have a unique fingerprint, you have a unique physical manifestation (life) that only you can imprint on the world. By using this to its fullest, you evolve all of humanity, and this is happening at a more rapid rate than ever right before our eyes.

Each of us has a creative space inside. We are meant to find it and share it with the world while we are here. Often others can see it better than you can yourself. We’re made like that. Your best measuring stick is to hold it up against your highest bliss and see if they match.

 

 

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What A Difference A Day Makes

DSCN5916When we were out walking Ms. Bay today, my husband commented, “What a difference a day makes.” He was referring to the crisp autumn air, the sunshine stretching around white puffy clouds, and the beautifully-colored Fall days that Northern California loves to show off.

This, up against yesterday. Yesterday when we walked Ms. Bay, her yellow labrador ears were flapping in the wind. Her eyes were slits barely capable of staying open in the hurricane-like blasts. A tumbleweed blew across our newly-greened pasture grass. Three levels of competitive clouds pushed through the sky, racing to see who could get there first. Trash cans blew over making loud crashes like local yahoo gunfire.stormy_sky_02_by_the_night_bird-d59ixge

It’s all malleable. It’s always shifting. Life imitates weather, or vice versa.

It made me think of Jaylen Fryberg and the Washington State shooting last week at Marysville-Pilchuck High school. The media seemed puzzled that this popular freshman who played football and was homecoming prince had reached a point where he felt the solution to his problems was to shoot up the school cafeteria and kill his friend, himself, and hurt his other former friends. This turned the paradigm of unhappy loner teen on its head, and gave us yet another level to think about as a culture.

First, being a teen–any teen–is tough. It doesn’t matter what clique you belong to, who or who doesn’t like you, who or who didn’t break up with you, or the level of parenting accessible at home. It’s full of raw emotion, many firsts, and days that feel overwhelming. I think that’s why, at 50, I still choose to write about those years in the form of young adult fiction. I think that’s also why people my age still refer back to that time with such strong feelings, and not just at high school reunions.

But as you get older, you realize what a difference a day makes. You start to see (hopefully) that you can choose how those days go, for you are the co-creator of your days. You can choose to wait out the hurricane-like winds that blow trash cans down, knowing that tomorrow likely will be a gorgeous autumn day. You let your thoughts work for you, not against you. Or, you can let yourself get lost in the hurricane, crashing into other life, and damaging it irreparably.

As a teen, it sometimes feels like there’s not a choice. As an adult, it can feel like that, too. The truth is, though, there’s always a choice.  And knowing that shift is just around the corner can make all the difference.DSCN5919
As I finished this, my son and his friend, Bailey, came out of their teen man cave, which piles up with empty plates and football games on lazy Sundays like these. Bailey looks out the window and says, “Wow. What a difference,” noticing the weather change.

“I just blogged on that,” I said.

“See, there. I was reading your mind. Hashtag Pisces Thing,” he laughed.

“It’s true,” I said, totally believing in the #Piscesthing. “Here’s the gist.” I recounted my words of wisdom to my teen boys.

There was a pause as they looked outside.

“So what’s for dinner?” they asked.

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Pet Acupuncture

pupThis is Bailey. Our pet name for her is Ms. Bay. When she came home to live with us 12 years ago, she was about the cutest, sweetest thing we ever saw. Abe was 15. Jordan was 4. She’s grown up with our family and is the best example of unconditional love you’ll ever find. She makes friends instantly with people and animals alike. I constantly marvel at her ability to read any situation and respond with grace. And she’s still the cutest thing we’ve ever seen.

She once had a mischievous streak. During her younger years, she chewed up everything, including that center island in our old kitchen that’s showing in the photo. She also very much enjoyed a few chair legs and the bottom of our staircase, all of which needed special attention when we moved from Torrance. Shoes were her weakness–the kids all knew not to leave them on the ground or she would sneak over, grab ‘em, and run for her life. Everything, in fact, was fair game. True to her breed she ate a few Christmas balls off the tree and a frisbee or two. For a solid two years, all my pajama bottoms had holes in them from where she would grab on as I walked through the garden.

At the time, I remember asking the trainer when it would stop. It was driving me nuts. At about two years old, he said. At about 3, she stopped nipping at my pjs. At about 4, she stopped chewing up the house. And most recently, she’s given up the shoe chase. It’s safe to put down a pair of shoes and know they’ll still be there when you go to get them.

And it makes me a little sad.vet1

But just as with people, we redefine fun. It’s far more productive than moping about and lamenting about the past.

The highlight of Ms. Bay’s day is our morning walk. My husband and I take her down our street and we can gauge how much pain she’s in by whether or not she wants to walk the extra stretch to the mailboxes. We say the walks are for her, but really I think they’re for us. We hear the birds welcome the morning. We wave to neighbors starting their day. We greet neighborhood dogs every now and again, like Otto, or the Big Dogs (Manny and Homer) or the Little Dogs (Ethel and the smaller version of Ethel.) We see the clouds so beautifully painted in the morning sky around these parts. We watch Ms. Bay’s tail wag the whole way. Pure joy.

She’s moving into her Autumn now. Things are starting to hurt. Her eyes are turning silver. Her back seems to be bulging a bit. After taking her to the vet and running some tests, the doc threw out a possible Cushing’s Disease diagnosis. So we’re in that stage of balancing opinion over intuition. Our collective intuition is that it’s more pain related than anything else.

We decided to take her the Eastern route and hit up one of the few pet acupuncturists in Northern California. I completely believe in the principles of acupuncture and have often had great luck myself where Western medicine has come up short.

With dogs, the way it works is a laser is used over the sore areas and this feels very good. Look at this happy face. This relaxes them to sit down on this nice rug.

accu2After this goes on for about five minutes, the vet puts the needles in and they stay like that for about 20 minutes just like in humans. As we were sitting with the vet tech, with Ms. Bay under needles, she said that she’d seen some miraculous results with paralyzed dogs who couldn’t walk with they came in. They had been completely restored to walking condition. And not just dogs. She’d seen some horses respond really well to acupuncture, too.

This is what the needles look like.accu1 Okay. So you can’t really see them very well through her very thick coat. But see those wires? They’re hooked up to an electrical stimulator and that makes the procedure all that much more effective.

When Ms. Bay was done, she seemed very happy. She was bouncy again. We will definitely be taking her back regularly through her Autumn years to make that golden time as happy as she has made our last 12 years.

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E Pluribus Unum

29We spent Saturday on Whiskeytown Lake, one of the many gems of California North. Whiskeytown’s beautiful sapphire-blue waters provide miles of fun for frolickers, human and animal alike. Waterfowl gather in coves along the green-shrubbed shoreline and race boats across the lake. The water is clean and cold, but not so cold teenage boys can’t swim, tube, or jump from high cliffs that line the lake. Nearly 40,000 acres surrounding the lake are filled with four waterfalls, sparkling mountain creeks, 70 miles of trails, and opportunities to explore the history of the California Gold Rush. Shasta Bally is the highest point in Whiskeytown at 6,199 feet and is often snow-capped.

It’s a beautiful place and one I grew up with. Many memories of love and friendship were nurtured here. It is the first place I ever scuba dived. It is the first place I ever parasailed. It’s the first place I learned to ski solo with my best friend’s dad waving his hand madly for me to drop the ski. It finds its way into my novel writing because of the early childhood memories.

We’ve also made a few memories here as adults with our own children. There was the moonlight kayak ride where hurricane-style winds came up and half of our group needed to be rescued by the Coast Guard. (A point of pride for us: despite paddling in place for 3o minutes in the dark, Mike and his teen, and me and my teen made it in without aid under the moonlit hurricane.) There’s just hanging out at Brandy Creek and watching the kids swim out to the raft and jump.

What I never realized until this weekend was Whiskeytown’s greatest resource: its biodiversity. Whiskeytown is home to more than 750 native vascular plant species along with at least 160 bird species, 62 mammal species, 33 reptile and amphibian species, and 8 native fish species. In addition to the vascular plants and vertebrates, Whiskeytown boasts a diverse array of less obvious, but equally important species, such as lichens, bryophytes, fungi, and arthropods of many kinds. Investigators have yet to fully study and record most of this diversity, and new species of all types are likely to be confirmed as biologists complete inventories within the park. (This directly from their website.)

It struck me as I was watching all the different types of birds in a cove. I remembered underneath the water there were so many types of seaweed. I looked around the shores at so many types of plants.

This diversity makes the place thrive as an ecosystem. It’s one of the many things I wish we modeled more as a human species. So often I hear people speak as if anybody who disagrees with their religion, politics, life philosophy, gender thoughts, feelings on race and ethnicity is the enemy. Indeed, we fight wars and form hate groups based on fear of difference. But these differences are what gives our planet biodiversity. The contrast is healthy and beautiful. How boring would it be if we were all the same? I don’t understand how that is even desirous, but I certainly can see evidence people want that. What would our world look like if we made this choice: rather than fear diversity, each human celebrates our magnificent tapestry called the human race. Imagine all the people. In that way, we could be the manifestation of what we write on our money. E Pluribus Unum. From many, to one.

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The Anatomy of Sick

sickI can’t remember the last time I was as sick as I was last week. I’d say I caught a cold, but I think more accurately it slammed me into the wall, put its fingers up my nose and pounded my head repeatedly until I couldn’t breathe. I don’t do sick well. It’s really not pretty for anyone.

It started with my son saying, “I’m not feeling well.”  As soon as that happens, I usually arm up prophylactically with Wellness Formula or Eastern herbs and Vitamin C. But this time, before I got a chance to put my armor on, I woke up the next day with a sore throat. I hightailed it to the acupuncturist, picked up some herbs and lozenges and went home for a good night’s sleep, positive I would get around this thing.

No such luck. The next morning was worse. This time, I went for the big guns and hit the Western doc. I showed up, looking like death, and he agreed with me. “Yep. You’ve got a very sore throat, don’t you?” He shot my Z-Pak over to the pharmacy and I was on my way to wellness by tomorrow. At least, that’s how it usually works.

Despite my armoring up right there at the Walmart Pharmacy with my double dose, the next day was horrible. So I decided my body just wanted to be sick that day. I’d give it what it wanted: a couch bed and some adjusted goals for the day. Here they were:

1. Work my way up the chain with  my newly discovered Words with Friends (I know, I know–last on the train)

2. Watch really bad movie I’ve been wanting to watch

3. Resist urge to check email

4. Watch inspiring short film I’ve been wanting to watch

5. Drink copious amounts of tea

6. Relax as much as possible

Lofty goals, I know. Where did I fare? I did work my way up to the #2 position with WWF and learned about a whole sub-culture. (Those top 3 are very serious about maintaining their positions, btw, and I think it must be a full time job. I think maybe that’s why I don’t play these games on a regular basis.) I did watch “How I Escaped the Cult” on Netflix which actually turned out to be quite riveting. I drank in excess of 10 cups of Good Earth Original & Spicy tea. I watched a short called “Helium” (in subtitles) about a little boy who was terminally ill and afraid of dying and how one man tapped into his imagination (on his terms) to make him less afraid. That made me cry, but did make me feel better that I wasn’t dying quite yet.

The only goal I failed to meet was the email one, but heck. My phone was right there and what was I to do between my WWF turns? Besides, progress not perfection, to steal a quote from Denzel.

During this whole time, I also read some reading from a class I’m taking on the Creative Process by Thomas Troward. It talks about the Source of all that is creating us (physical manifestation) to enjoy and experience the physical aspects of life through us. Hmmmmm, I thought. I wonder if God is enjoying playing WWF or if I can bring this thing around and start having some better fun here. I decided to go outside and watch the yellow finches eat from the feeder. I sat in the hot tub and floated (my new at-home floating technique) with my eyes closed and thought about all the sensations–the water against my skin, the sound of my forced breathing, the air on my face. I visualized full and complete health. And I decided to release the Ick into the Ether where it could dissipate. I’d drunk enough tea for one stint.

Today, I feel better. I was able to go on date night last night and see the amazing Denzel Washington in “The Equalizer.” (Twelve thumbs up!) I had a delicious whole foods dinner at the Savory Spoon with chipotle lentil soup, local greens, and hot tea (tea was my husband’s lovely idea).  I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful, too, for my new word playing friends that entertained me on my down days, for Thomas Troward for reminding me to look beyond, for my family for giving me a chance to regenerate, for my extra soft kleenex that did not chafe my nose, and mostly, for my cold reminding me how grateful I am to be 100% healthy.

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Attitude is Everything

imagesLast week I traveled to Tucson, Arizona to celebrate my oldest son’s 27th birthday. Getting to Tucson–or anywhere–is not as easy as when we lived 15 minutes from LAX.  Currently, we live in a po-dunk town with an even po-dunker of an airport so to go anywhere, I first need to drive a minimum of 2.5 hours and shuttle from my car 15 minutes to get to the airport. It’s a long prep just to get on the plane and get home after the trip. A good time for that audio book.

On the way to Tucson my two connections were silky smooth. No problems at all. I met a tribal judge on the Tucson leg who had gone to law school at Berkeley like my step-brother and my step-dad. She was reading Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now. How could we not be friends?

I spent a fantastic week celebrating with my son and his friend, Kelly. We hiked, we explored, we went to movies, farm to table eateries, local coffee shops, fancy birthday dinner, and just had space for one-on-one time to talk and to enjoy each other’s company.

We also got to meet the final five winners of the Last Comic Standing and see them perform. This was special for us because we had watched this show since he was in high school. We always loved laughing with (and at) the different comics. No matter how hard high school was (and we definitely did have some dark days during that time) that show always gave us something to look forward to–an hour we knew we could count on to be together and laugh. The live show just happened to be booked at The Fox theater in Tucson where my son is working while finishing up a PhD program at University of Arizona. It’s a beautiful, restored theater with lovely people on staff. To be able to be in that space and share that experience with my son and Kelly felt sacred and colossally fun!

While walking around in my perpetual good mood, I became very aware of moods of those around me, especially concerning the weather. The Tucsonians were very concerned about flash floods. There was much talk about it. The grad department at the University closed down in the early afternoon. People were sandbagging. News coverage was all about the impending storm.

I thought about how we all can jump on the bandwagon. We’re in a good mood and everybody else is yelling, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” and then pretty soon we’re asking ourselves, “Should I be more concerned that the sky is falling…or, should I stay anchored in my intuition and act accordingly.”

It did sprinkle one day, by the way, but that’s about it. The cloud cover kept us nice and cool and in the high 80s instead of the 100s which was a beautiful thing. The other benefit of the mass hysteria about the un-storm was it kept the streets/restaurants/etc. traffic free for us to enjoy. The only place packed out was a country bar called Denim and Diamonds. These people came to dance and were going to dance no matter what.

After a fantastic week, I boarded the plane in Tucson knowing I’d be home after a few connections to make the long drive home. However, when we landed on the runway of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, the pilot mentioned the airport was on lockdown. My first thought: another opportunity to practice attitude.

What happened next reminded me of the reactions to the un-storm. Inside the plane, people started making calls. Going on their news feeds to find out what was happening. Yelling out their findings.

“Somebody’s been shot and the airport is on lockdown,” somebody yelled.

“No flights going in or out,” somebody else yelled.

The passengers had informed each other before the crew chimed in, an interesting influence of our 2014 culture. The stories, you may imagine, we’re just pieces of a truth. We really did not find out the “real” truth (or did we?) when we got to the airport. The media tries to cover such things, but as we all know, they get it wrong as well.

Sitting out on the runway for two hours does not bring out the best in people. I heard things like, “This is a nightmare” and “I have no idea what I’m going to do.” I can relate. Nobody wants to miss their connecting flight and be told, “Sorry. All flights are full and we can’t get you out for two days.”

Wait. What?

There was a time when this experience would have unraveled me. I’d have been yelling and demanding justice be served. This time, I was determined to be kind to the people trying to help me, to my fellow passengers, to strangers in the same conundrum.

And here’s what happened. I made a new friend and we shared a ride through the airport, my phone because hers died and ideas on how to get out of this scenario in a way that would serve all needs. I also was asked if I wanted to go on stand by (me and about 100 other people, btw) 20 minutes after I finally reached the front of the mile long customer service line. The woman looked at me and paused before she asked, as if she was sending me “you will get on that plane” energy. I asked her about my bag because it was locked up in the manhunt downstairs. (They still hadn’t found the shooter.) She asked me to describe it. My first thought started out, “There’s no way in hell that bag is making it” but before that thought could even finish, I rewound and reprogrammed: I will get on that plane and so will my bag.

As I stood at the gate, waiting for the stand-by names to be called, I felt a seed of doubt trying to take hold in the soil of my brain. Denied! I will get on that plane and so will my bag. 

And guess what? We did.

So here’s my takeaway: send love to those around you,  sing when you can, dance always, and welcome opportunities to practice all those things in various venues, even crime scenes.

 

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Rafting Life’s River

rafting3Comparing life to a river is a worn out cliche, I know. But on this day, the day following my oldest son’s 27th birthday and just a few days before my youngest son’s 16th, I can’t think of a better symbol for this journey. (Not even a box of chocolates, Forrest.)

The river thing is fresh and vibrant in my mind having just gone on an all day white water river raft that my 78-year-old aunt arranged on the Rogue River in Grants Pass, Oregon. (We’ll get back to her because she’s pretty amazing.) All day I kept returning to the life/river thing. The day’s story tells it all.

I got up at the crack of dawn. Well, 6:45 a.m. The almost-crack. But on a Saturday, that’s extra early. I think my Aunt had already been up an hour before me playing “Words with Friends” or something on her phone in bed so as not to wake me. We headed north bound for Morrison Lodge. I had looked forward to this hour and a half drive to have one-on-one time with Aunt Necie. Usually when I see her we’re surrounded by hoards of people and I don’t really get to connect just with her.

I wasn’t disappointed. I learned all kinds of things about my ancestors. One that stands out: my paternal Grandma was a foster parent and my dad and his sisters had grown up with  fosters, including one named David during Dad’s freshman year. That had never come up before.  And, then, why would it? This time alone framed a window for those very interesting stories to fly through.

As we arrived at the Lodge, we met our raft mates and our guide. I thought about how we were going to spend the day together with these six strangers in a raft. Life is like that, isn’t it? Different people get in your boat at different times for different reasons. It may be a group of people that are easy to be with. It may not. You may have a strong guide that will lead you where you need to go…or your guide may pop out of the boat and go flopping down the Rogue leaving you stranded on a rock. (Ahem, Eli.)

We took off down the Rogue in the cool morning. The river was stunning. A quiet, peaceful sanctuary filled with white egrets, blue herons, and osprey with ginormous nests high above us. Glassy water created a mirrorraft5river3 for the beautiful black basalt lined with white granite cracks.

Everything was so magnificent. Just to share this creation with others in our boat magnified the beauty. I sat looking out at the miracles surrounding us. I reached my hand over the raft and watched my fingers create a wake in the icy, clear water. I thought about how we are truly surrounded by this same beauty donning different masks each day.

As we floated along, the scenery changed. Sometimes rocky, sometimes filled with thriving evergreens. We saw otters, beavers, turkey vultures of unusual size…we saw deer, and ducks, and–wait, what? A nutria? Turns out these very large river rats are the nemesis of Oregonian farmers because they tunnel into the land and ruin their crops. (Yep. Everybody’s got one of those in their lives somewhere.)

Then came the rapids. Not as smooth as the beauty-drifting, but it’s own kind of white-water experience. When life gets like this–and it’s going to get like this at times because that’s just the nature of the river–we need to remember we still have guides. We still have oars. We still have life jackets.

UNLESS OUR GUIDE FALLS OUT OF THE BOAT AND TAKES THE OARS WITH HIM!

There we were, six passengers stuck on a rock in the rapids, and our guide was floating downstream in the icy river along with several of our oars. This was supposed to be a pansy river ride. We weren’t wearing helmets like those people in my first picture up above and half of us didn’t even wear life jackets much of the time. We signed up for the low-adventure, pretty scenery full day tour.

Don’t you hate it when that happens? When you thought you were going down one kind of ride then all of the sudden somebody cheats or dies or gets cancer or is murdered or has a psychotic break or… And there you are, on this freakin’ river, with the person you were hoping could navigate no longer there to help and you have to figure out what the freak to do. This is when the people in your boat become very important. Choose accordingly.

I was worried about my aunt and she was worried about her phone. She was getting it into the dry bag and I was thinking, “If she falls out, how am I going to go get her? Do I jump out after her?” (She later told me she was not afraid of that at all.) The farmer on our boat–because farmers are self-reliant and can do ANYTHING–stepped up and started doing stuff. I have no idea what he was doing. Just stuff. It looked like stuff that could save us from our predicament so that gave me hope.

Soon, everybody started doing stuff with him. We rocked back and forth. (Not helpful.) We found rope. (Helpful later.) We all moved to the back of the boat. (Eventually what worked, but we could have easily flipped.) Eventually, the guide returned to the side of the river and a joint effort with all (okay, really he and the farmer) set us free back down the river.

Right after that, the river was calm. No rapids anywhere. It was just like none of it ever happened, except for one thing. We kept talking about it. The guide kept talking about how that was a first. The passengers kept talking about the farmer saving the day. I FB- statused of course as a follow-up. And now, I blog. The conversation keeps an event, which in reality is only a few moments and an adventure, alive.

So goes real life. There’s an event of some kind. It lasts a few minutes, but the conversation keeps it going for weeks. Just take a look at CNBC for events that affect the market or ESPN for stories about football players behaving badly. The conversation could send the NASDAQ plummeting or it could change NFL regulations for the better. The conversation has much power, a fact the media uses to bulk up their ratings every second. It can destroy and/or it can transform.raft4

Back to my aunt. At 78-years young, she’s out kayaking in lakes across the state where she drags her kayak in her truck or her van (and her shovel in case she gets stuck due to drought conditions and boat ramps.) She goes out by herself and has done that for as long as I can remember. She’s such a model of a strong woman to me. I’ve watched the way she’s navigated life through celebration and tragedy, always finding a way to glide gracefully down life’s river no matter what. I hope to copy that as I float. I’m so grateful she’s in my boat.

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