Sunflowers and Noticing

Inadvertently this spring, I threw a seed mix into my garden just to use it up.  Nothing much came of the seed mix until we noticed one distinct weed was growing above the rest (weeding is taking a back seat to bramble fun).  Last week, it flowered and revealed a lovely, bright yellow sunflower.  Every day, the kids and I peek at our beautiful flower and admire…a bit of sunshine amongst the green weeds and bramble.

It’s continually fascinating to me how the Universe continually hammers a message at you until you finally reach a point of listening and understanding.  Sometimes, your subconscious already has picked up on the hints and is busy setting up hints for my slow processing speed.  My requests for books from our local library usually mirror whatever angst is going on in my soul, so after a period of feeling intensely busy all the time, I went to the library, and there on the order shelf was a plethora of books on calm, slowing down, slow living and mindfulness (tax time usually involves a selection of books on off the grid living).

Whining and lamenting my frustration at never having any breathing time or the opportunity to do what I wanted to do, I started my trek through these books…jotting down quotes of inspiration while taking short breaks from working, ferrying people around and errands of life, but still not connecting the dots.  Thankfully, the Universe never gives up that easily.

My constant mental complaining and whining only led to out loud whining and complaining…poor me…so busy…never any time for me. 

A few days ago staring through the window admiring the sunflower with my teens while making dinner, one commented to the other “It’s so cool the way it follows the sun.”  “Yah!” said the other “You can always tell what time a day it is by looking at where the head is.”

Record screeching halt to dinner preparation.  “What?!  It follows the sun?!” 

“Of course, Mom!  Didn’t you notice?!” 

Weakly answering, I said “No, I just thought it was a pretty flower.”

I received some deserved disdainful looks from my teens at this point. 

The next couple of days, I stopped and noticed our sunflower following the sun; it faced east in the morning and by the evening it was facing west.  Because sunflowers do not swivel 360, I noticed how it moved its face to follow the sunlight. 

And you know what, it didn’t stop there.  I started stopping and noticing the way my impatient mind would carry itself off when I was working or doing housework, and I started bringing it back to focus on the task at hand.  I started stopping more to stare out the window for a few seconds and notice what the bird was doing on the lawn or the dog digging a new hole in the lawn.  I dug into my book selections with a new mind of actually paying attention to what I was reading.  I started recognizing that feeling of over committing to something where it would manifest as quantity over quality and turned down some invites, rescheduling them in a more qualitative way.  I started noticing that anxiety rumble and started breathing.  I started noticing my bad attitude and changed my attitude or changed the plan. 

My life quality is going back up again.  I can almost feel myself welling a bit when I say this.  Anxiety and mindlessness are soul-sucking places to live. 

All this due to a sunflower (and teenagers).  Thank you, teachers.  I’m paying attention now and following the sun.

Our Pretty Flower

Sharing Abundance

One of my own personal acts of gratitude for the abundance in my life has been to tip and tip well whenever I dine out.  My husband started this trend for our family, and at the time being in the mindset of frugality, I failed to see why it was necessary to tip so high whenever we ate out.  My husband has always been a generous soul, and it was one of the many aspects of his character that I loved and continue to love about him…even if it did cause momentary irritation.

Now understanding that my own experience of lack and abundance has to do with perspective, I have embraced his generosity as my own.  In enjoying the comradery of my family and being served a wonderful meal, I celebrate the abundance that allows me the option to not cook, as well as appreciating the beautiful people who spoil me.

Photo by Melissa Walker Horn on Unsplash

Financially, there have been many times in our family life where eating out was not an option.  Recently in fact, my hubbie experienced a layoff which meant the luxury of eating out was off the table (literally); however, celebrating abundance is a habit that tends to stick regardless of circumstance, and having to weigh the cost of eating out including our generous tipping into the equation has enhanced the specialness of the occasion when we chose to do so.

Besides the benefit of being remembered by servers and eyes lighting up when we enter certain restaurants, these little habits of celebrating and sharing abundance have enriched my life and remind me to walk in gratitude because there truly is so much to be grateful for.

The Little Things

“Mom, I found a baby rat lying on the ground.”  Abruptly pausing mid conversation, I offered up a suggestion knowing as it left my mouth that it was a futile one as the little creature, they held in their hands, had its eyes still closed and was obviously less than 2 weeks old.  ”Did you see the hole it came from, maybe you should put it back” and when confirmed that this was indeed impossible due to being unable to find the hole and a large number of dogs playing in the immediate vicinity, my shoulders sagged.

Knowing how the rest of the afternoon was going to play out, I still allowed myself the luxury of having an internal whine session. “I have so much work…can’t I just let nature take it’s course!”  “Why is it always us who ends up finding these creatures.”  “It’s a rat!”  This whine session plays itself in my head within seconds and then…

“Tuck it in your work glove and keep it warm…let’s get it home.” 

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

The sad end to the story was that this little one died in my daughter’s hands, but not before buying $30 in baby formula and $10 for batteries for the food scale so we could weigh it, as well as tearing the house apart for a syringe small enough (we found one…who knew!…the argument against minimalism).

This little moment got me to thinking though (a recurring theme in this blog…the result of too much ruminating and coffee) is it not these little actions that say the most about me and what I value.  It’s one thing to blog about kindness and then snap at a cashier because the lineup is too long, and lectures to my kids on patience don’t carry much weight when I’m sighing heavily or tailgating a new driver. 

Thankfully though, I do believe I am the sum of hundreds of little moments which gives me a little leeway when I fail and fall short (often) of who I am learning to be…nothing like a bit of failure to add a bit more shine to the wins.

Please don’t think that I expect you to go out and rescue baby rats.  We each have our different journeys, and baby rat saving may not be yours.  Others near and dear to us would have made a different call regarding the rat baby and that would possibly have been kinder.

What I am saying is that right now in my house, I have baby formula, a syringe and a fully functioning food scale as evidence that one time I managed to override my selfish tendencies and act in alignment with my values, and I’m feeling good about that….though very sad for the baby rat.

Himalayan Mindfulness

Picture a backyard on a steep slope covered with blackberry bushes as far as the eye can see, throw in three grumpy teenagers and their mother, you have our backyard.

Seizing up on the realization that I have a very limited time frame with free labor in the house, my summer project is for once and for all deal with our yard full of blackberry bushes (my daughter says I say this every year).  While ideally I’d love to have the importer of said Himalayan blackberry bushes over to clean up our yard, the next best thing is family.

Yes, there are easier ways to remove bramble, but hiring help would involve money (currently earmarked for removing DS’ wisdom teeth).  Chemicals are not an option as we have a small pond, and my first priority is to protect any life that exists in it…even if the dogs may have already eaten said life as they seem to have their heads in the pond every day. 

Photo by Molly Frances on Unsplash

So here we are, clippers and compost bags in hand (why Himalayan blackberries are compostable is a mystery to me…we are the reason I never accept our hometown’s yearly offering of free dirt from our city’s compost…do I really want to import all those blackberries back?!).

That aside, there is something therapeutic about tackling blackberries with hand clippers.   It has the same effect on me as hanging laundry or doing dishes…takes me to a place of mindfulness which I find soothing in a twisted way.  Relegating the whining to the background, I notice and rescue all the little creatures that show up in our efforts especially ladybugs.  Blackberry is quick to remind when you are not mindful as evidenced by the many scratches on my arms and pricks to my well-gloved bands, and as we climb higher up our hill, the view is just amazing putting me more into a state of Zen.

So if you’re in need of some therapeutic activity, I’m going to trademark a new mindfulness routine called Himalayan mindfulness…gardening in a mindful way.  You achieve Zen…I get my backyard back.  Win-win.

Non-Useful Musings

“Thank you, Auntie Jane, that was a very useful conversation we just had,” says my nephew as we lay side by side in hammock on my recent visit to Florida.  Bemused, I accepted the compliment in stride as evaluating all the other “non-useful conversations” we’ve had this week will just lead nowhere useful to the enjoyment of this little moment of relationship.  Seeing the look of satisfaction on my nephew’s face, my niece hops into the hammock as her brother vacates to see if she can derive the same “usefulness” from me.

Photo by Vu Thu Giang on Unsplash

Reveling in my sister’s hospitality and generosity, I have been spoiled to enjoy this particular visit alone.  Usually attended by my children who capture the complete attention of my nephews and niece with their ability to do everything amazing and teenagerly, this visit I left the competition at home and have appreciated the opportunity to connect with them.

Setting my intention for this visit, I committed to follow the little openings that life with children allow in order to get to know them all a little bit better.  Some of them are more eager to connect then others, and I had to make sure that I took advantage of every moment whether they were convenient for me or not.

I am happy to say that I have succeeded in my intention.  These delightful little souls of curiosity and joy have made me laugh, be patient and listen, but most of all remind me of the gifts of living with an open heart.  

Intentions are like donning a pair of glasses and choosing which way I want to view the world.  Do I don the ones that show every wrinkle in harsh detail or do I choose the rose-tinted lens that bring a hue of sunshine and brightness?  I wish I could say I always choose the rose-tinted lens, but instead of beating myself up for my flaws, I will celebrate my wins…and this trip was one of them.

Useful or not, from my perspective, it is indeed an honor to be “Auntie Jane.”

Afternoon Despair

With a roll of the dice, fortunes are gained and lost.  Head in one’s hand despair and frustration give way to joy and exultant glee; yet even amongst the rubble of poverty, there is an opportunity to extend a helping hand and to show generosity of spirit…that is unless you’re related to me and stakes are Boardwalk and Park Place.  Yes, my friends, this is the unpredictable world that is Monopoly.

I tend to be one of those parents who is invested in encouraging my children to pursue topics of interest and know that this investment means a large portion of my own time will be spent pursuing this interest alongside them, learning something that I up to this point have been totally uninterested in learning about, but gradually as in all things, the more you learn, the more your interest develops.  I can credit my children’s interests in having an assortment of miscellaneous information that I never in my lifetime thought I would accumulate from an intimate knowledge of spiders (total terror has turned to respectful fear) to building a personal computer (where is the on button to is that video card compatible with that motherboard) to learning how far we can distance cycle (never thought the end of the block was so far to wow, where’d these muscles come from!).  All this and more, I can credit to my children’s various passions through the years.

There was, however, one rather long-lived passion that could render me into my own abyss of despair and that passion was Monopoly.  Never in my own personal experience was there a game that could occupy so much time and result in so many tantrums including my own.  My children also had a knack of requesting said game around lunchtime which basically meant that my entire afternoon was now gone to be spent in the clutches this game.  Still to this day, I don’t fully understand the lure of this game for my children…it was so long!  My suspicion was that it was the feeling of all that cold hard cash.  Nothing thrilled them more than a pile of $500 bills and the joy of holding your fate in their hands.

Sadly, I even tried to throw the game in order to maybe obtain a little time with my book while my children played together, but to my kids’ credit, they always tried to make sure everyone stayed in the game as long as possible with loans and forgiving of debts.  Nope, once you were in, you were in.  To this day, I think the developers of this game have a cruel sense of humor. 

Having passed through this stage (happily) with the lure of video games, imagine my horror at being requested to play this game at a recent visit to my sister’s followed by the realization that I will never be free of this game.  If it’s not nieces and nephews, it will be grandchildren.  Being the good auntie that I am, I sat down with a wave to my afternoon.  However, there was a silver lining.  Apparently, technology has indeed shortened our attention spans, and in an effort to stay current, the manufacturers of Monopoly have shortened versions of their game.  With the same tantrums, the game can now be zipped through in less than an hour and sometimes twice!  Hello, Junior Monopoly!

Whoever espouses the view that video games are the epitome of evil will be staunchly opposed by me. All I can say is Thank goodness for video games…now, where’s my book!

The S Word

When my children were little, there was one word which they knew they were not allowed to say. Upon hearing this word from others outside of the family or within it, they would look at me wide eyed, mouth gaping open in shock and whisper “they said the S-word!” The S-word was stupid.

This word came back on my radar after a recent chat with a group of friends. In the course of the conversation, comment was made that there was very little difference between courage and stupidity.

What?! (Sound of car brakes squealing)

An ocean of difference resides between courage and stupidity, but not being one of those quick on my feet thinkers, I couldn’t articulate why in the moment and stowed the comment away for further reflection. It saddened me though to hear those words used in conjunction with each other and within a group of amazing, courageous women.

The definition of stupid as per Google is “having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.” The definition of courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one.”

Would you rather be someone who does something unintelligent with courage or would you rather be someone who does something stupid that frightens them? I can see how the definitions could get intertwined.

Admittedly, I speak with bias. Stupid is that word for me. That jarring word conjures up an image of a heart and a small knife…death by a thousand cuts…soul death by a limiting belief.

The oceanic difference between stupid and courage is energy. Words (spoken or unspoken) have energy attached to them, either positive or negative…rarely neutral. Sometimes, we infuse the energy, and sometimes, the word holds the energy already. Word energy manifests through feeling and effect. Courage lifts, stupid puts down. Courage is vulnerable, stupid is small. Courage welcomes the lessons of failure, stupid fears and avoids them. Courage invites company, stupid stands alone in shame.

With time and internet access (that’s what I’m blaming), my children’s height and vocabulary have expanded greatly, and while they humorously enjoy testing out their new definition of the S-word on their poor mother (who feigns wide-eyed shock and mouth gaping…my teens like a little shock value), the original version of the S-word is one they still choose not to use and for that I am grateful.