10 March, 2015  |   1 Comment

Lenten Update. Day 20.

We are half-way through our Lenten adventure and I am as sober as sober comes.
Still, no wine.

My skin looks great and I’m getting a lot better sleep every night.
Yay.

ladydancing

At this point, it’s been funny to hear my brain and body whisper to me, “Okay, I get it, we’ve not had drinks for 20 days, we’re all good now. We get the point.”

Silly brain and body, that’s not the point.
We’re sacrificing here.
Forty full days.

Three cheers to my first St. Patrick’s Day without beer in a long, long time!

ladydancing2

Sacrificing Instagram, however has been an entirely different story.
Maybe I’m using Instagram wrong, but I have found myself with nearly an extra two hours every day.

TWO HOURS.
TWO LUXURIOUS HOURS.
What would you do with an extra two hours every day?

With that time, I’ve started taking Barre classes, I swim at the high school. I made a few terrible pastel drawings and have a few prepared canvases ready for painting.

The pain of not knowing what everyone’s doing on Instagram is far, FAR outweighed by this luxury of time.

Beauty tip: A big part of the reason my skin looks better is that I have an extra gang of time to get places, be more considerate and think fully through the task at hand before I get started.

Am I suggesting you give up Instagram?
Heck no!

But I AM suggesting you take a closer look at the time your phone apps get.

insta

I can’t wait to get back to Instagram. Knowing how much actual extra time I have will make me far more aware of all the time I spend there.

I relish every stinking minute I’ve gotten back.

Can you give up Instagram?

8 March, 2015  |   3 Comments

Meal plans, 2 weeks of ‘em

Coming up soon, James is taking some time to hang out with his family. I’ll be alone with the girls for many days in a row. I planned our dinners for two weeks at a time instead of one week at a time.

When I write something like the above sentences on the internet, I hear the following clucking concerns in my head after I publish,

“She shouldn’t be telling the internet that.”
“Who in their right mind would be interested in some middle aged mom’s meal plan?”
“Who does she even think she is?”Meal plan, next two weeks

“She shouldn’t be telling the internet that.”
I’ve shared a lot of things on the internet, it has given me deeper friendships than I’ve had in real life. Up until the current iteration of the internet, the benefits of sharing my life online have far outweighed the risks. I’m not sure about today’s internet. I’m still taking the risk.

“Who in their right mind would be interested in some middle aged mom’s meal plan?”
Thankfully, I don’t care much about the second one. I like having a collection of our dinners. Looking back on them reminds me of where we were in our lives when we were eating those dinners (Smug Marrieds! Insuffrable Infant Parents!). And now, while we muddle through the Season of Our Beef Stroganoff.

But Who Do I Think I Am?

Meal plan, next two weeks

That’s the big one.
I’m closing in on the second half of my life and I’m still not sure.
How do you know who you are?

These are the questions I’m trying to answer this week — to get just a little closer to answering Who Do I Think I Am?

1. How do I envision my ideal day? Not with today’s current constraints (kids, pets, debt, fear) but what activities will I be doing from minute to minute?

2. Where does the “ideal me” spend her money and time?

3. How do my current insecurities affect my current relationships?

4.If God is a woman, and she is on my side, what would I ask of Her? What is she asking of me?

5. What brought me joy at eight years old?

Where were we? Oh right, meal plans.
This weekend’s Shamrock Shakes are going to ROCK.

 

26 February, 2015  |   4 Comments

Praying for you

Considerbean

Pray for me.
Pray for us.
Pray for them.
You’re in my prayers.

Funkybean

The word pray, is one of those words I avoided.
But Facebook brought it back to me, front and center.

I love the sentiment behind prayer — I’ll send you a focused, good thought. But from church, I get the idea that thinking good thoughts for someone and praying for them aren’t the same thing. There’s something about the word “prayer” that brings a third party, the notorious G.O.D. into the picture.

musclebean

My mom is a champion pray-er. She attends two prayer groups a week, prays first thing in the morning, before each meal and before bed. No one I know attends more church than she does. On top of that, she’s at all of church’s extra-curriculars. The result of all this prayer is that she looks far younger than her 79 years and has a peace in her heart I truly envy.

behatted

After Dorothy was born, I had serious anxiety and depression. We were alone and broke and miserable. Mom suggested I pray. At the very least, she said I’d feel better by “throwing it out to the universe and letting the forces that be take care of it.”

Pokebean

I can’t deny it, I did feel better when I stopped taking personal, mental responsibilty for everything happening in our lives at that time and said, “Okay, life, you got me. I’m trusting the Universe to take care of it.” Here, by the Universe, I mean the creative force that brought me and you to this moment on this miraculous earth, not necessarily God.

Or is that God?

highstepper

I prayed until I was about 11. Mostly, my prayers were a mix of superstition (Hell is scary!) and letters to Santa.

Please, may I get a bra.
Please may I get a stereo for Christmas.
Please may my dad stop being so mean to me.

Fittingly, the brilliant Karen Armstrong has said about God – “We often learn about God at about the same time as we are learning about Santa Claus; but our ideas about Santa Claus change, mature and become more nuanced, whereas our ideas of God can remain at a rather infantile level.”

I’m in the middle of that evolution. I’m not sure my idea of God has evolved that much from that eleven year old me, begging for my first bra. But when I talk about my belief in a creative force that runs through this particular reality, is that what I mean? Is that God? I’m still sussing it out.

kingbean

After listening to this Invisibilia episode (seriously, go listen), the link between good thoughts and prayers got even more blurry. The first part is about a woman with mirror touch synethesia. When she shares her nearly crippling sensitivity to others’ emotions and physical sensations, she tells us “thoughts are things.” Add to that some of the research coming out from quantum physics, and well, I believe her.

In this world of interconnectedness, I watch the praying and the non-praying collide in the great social experiment of Facebook. I watch the Santa believers and the God believers and the scientists all muddling along on the same plane. I see cancer diagnoses, lottery winners and suicide, all of them paired with requests for prayer and responses of prayer and Blessed Are The Fruits.

triumphant

I send a good thought, I hold you in my mind, I hope for the best.
But is it prayer?

 

23 February, 2015  |   Comment

Lent update. Day five.

Tween grapes.

This weekend, I volunteered in Nora Lea’s Sunday school. This to me is sacrifice. I’ve been parenting a heck of a lot more than usual. That hour of peace is golden. But, uh, tis the season of sacrifice. Ha.

The Sunday School at the church we currently attend is in the Montessori tradition — the “Atrium” or Catechesis of the Good Shepard. This is new to me. I’m from the popsicle stick Sunday school tradition of crafts and sour smelling coffee breath.

In this version of class, the kids have beautiful “materials” and do “work” and they’re silent and contemplative and I’ve never seen anything like it.

This week’s lesson was about the Maxims. And, well, it was exactly at my level. The teacher pulled out some tablets from a wooden case. Each tablet had a maxim on it and the kids talked about what each phrase meant to them.

My internal thoughts mirrored most of the kids’ reactions. She started with a doozy.

“Love your enemies.”

One little boy said, “I hate robbers – there is NO WAY I could love robbers.” My daughter named a boy on the playground who kicks her a lot and another girl joined in that he was her enemy too. I am embarassed to admit I thought about an evil old boss that is having a hard time finding a job. I thought about the secret glee I’ve taken in his struggle.

The teacher talked about ways to love our enemies – pray for them. Since I’m not quite at praying yet, I had to change it to words I could understand. To me that meant, “think good thoughts for them,” or “care about them as if they were your friend or family.”

Some more maxims from the day follow. I’m not going to give the bible quotation because seeing bible citations somehow makes my brain turn off. But as for citations, these all came from the bible and are all pretty good advice.

“Give when you are asked to give and do not turn your back on someone who wants to borrow.”
(It’s time to give. Somewhere.)

“Do good to those who hate you.”
(Hello Men’s Right’s Activists.)

“Always treat others the way you would have them treat you.”
(One of the ways I do this is when I don’t turn in my best work.)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust consume.”
(Clinging to a garagefull.)

“Say ‘yes’ when you mean yes and ‘no’ when you mean no.”
(This was the royal ouch! My flaking is seriously problematic, and if I took this one to heart, I’d have much stronger relationships.)

After Sunday School, we attended a fancy Academy Awards party at a swanky cigar shop and men’s club in Napa — my first real sober event where everyone was drinking. It was absolutely, no big deal. Three cheers for luxury! Three cheers for selfies!

HELPIE SELFIE!

19 February, 2015  |   8 Comments

This year, it’s 40 days of Oprahlent

SPRING IS HERE, y'all

Lately, I’m looking closer at religion. Ready to take control of my spirituality, not ignore it, I’m deciding for myself. My history with the stuff is complicated — whose isn’t? — and that resulted in me avoiding capital R Religion for most of my adult life.

But on the cusp of middle age, I’m ready. I look straight at Religion and decide where it squares with me. Starting with Lent.

I’m sure you know all about those studies where the act of smiling makes you happier. For me, it works. When I find myself getting in a grump, pasting the fakest smile on my face works wonders. Since I’ve had such success with the smiling method, I’m applying this logic to Lent. Much like smiling can put me in a better mood, I’m “doing” Lent, church and the whole suffering shebang to see if the spirituality will follow.

Mustard flower, yo.Yesterday I got ashes on my head and acknowledged I came from and will return to dust.

Church told me Lent is about sacrifice, reflection, forgiveness. I can get on board with all those things.

More specifically, church told me that these forty days are the time to sacrifice that which comes between God and me.

Since I’m not sure what God even is yet — much less what’s standing between us — I’m going to use the pop-culture, spiritual, self-help language I’m comfortable with instead of the religious, patriarchical language I’m not yet comfortable with.

Lent is when I sacrifice what comes between me and my best self.

Like a water stream... wait, I can't write this wayThe best self. It’s an Oprah word, but it applies here. It’s the me I was created to be. The me inside of me. The me that’s using all my gifts and talents for my specific place in the world. The best self is the me I want to be.

For Lent, I’m sacrificing three things for forty days. These things are coming between the best me and the me I am right now.

Two of the sacrifices I’m ready to share are giving up drinking alcohol and giving up Instagram.

My relationship to the both has become… just this side of problematic. It’s not a bad problem yet, it’s more like a habit that’s on the cusp of taking over.

How did I know? When asking myself what I should take a break from, both came up as the things I could never possibly give up. It made the decision easy. Since neither booze nor Instagram contributes to my best self, I’m giving them both up for forty days.

I love the notion of seasonality. I love that there are seasons for work (harvest), gratitude (November), celebration (Christmas), play (summer) and sacrifice (Lent) — not to mention atonement. So I’m trying it out. Seeing where it goes.

I’ll be checking in here periodically, with updates on both the “trying on” religion until it fits and Lenten sacrifice.

Are you giving up anything for Lent?

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