Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mad skills

Fia Madrona Rose MaGillicutty is living up to her name. Fia is Italian for fire. She told us about her latest transgressions this weekend, with her bottom lip flattened and turned down - and not a smidge of regret in her eyes. She colored on the wall with crayons and her momma was very mad at her. She told her if she was a spanker momma, her bum would be lit up like a Christmas tree, but she was not a spanker momma so Fia had to help clean up her mess instead. Fia did help clean up and she did mention she would not do that particular bad thing again. Any time soon. But she also said that she hoped her momma wouldn't be bad again either, so she didn't have to become a spanker Fia. She doesn't like to dish out punishment to angry mommas, but a girl has to do what a girl has to do. She is a powerful little 2 year old wad of feisty sass.

Postings lately have been about relationship - a vital, necessary component of well being. In Fia's story, we have an example of natural consequences vs. punishment. Discipline is teaching, not just punishment. Since there is no such thing as human intimacy without conflict, healthy relationship requires mad skills, huge commitment, tremendous humor, calm acceptance without assumption or judgement and deep generosity to maintain just one. And that doesn't even describe the skill it takes to parent little power houses like Fia. Most of us have to negotiate many, many relationsips - internally with ourselves, with all our loved ones, with co-workers, and with the public. The best overall approach is to be willing to live in truth, self correct, limit expectations, appreciate deeply, attack problems not people, rely on natural consequences and clear positive behavioral requests when making change requests - and to stay grateful. Here's wishing you the commitment to develop some mad skills. XOXO

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pick your battles

So we were talking this morning about something I can't even recall. I was sipping my coffee in bed. Without a word, Dan opened the window wider, removed the screen, hopped up on a chair, then a tabletop and climbed out onto the roof. It's a pretty steep roof. He was wearing nothing but his sleeping shorts - elastic waist, red plaid cotton. I heard thump thump thumping but by the time I looked out, he was nowhere to be seen. I started remembering a John Prine song about a guy who woke up one morning, slipped in his kitchen and died. "And Oh what a feeling when my soul went through the ceiling, and on up into heaven I did ride". Figured the mystery would eventually be solved and since I hadn't heard any really alarming noises, I went about getting my morning together. Have to say I was glad when he reappeared and did the window routine in reverse. Huh. That sort of thing doesn't happen every day - but more often than you'd think. In the past, I'd have been really really angry that he would just do something like that without telling me before hand. The roof was slick with rain and we're getting too old for stuff like that.

Mystery solved, but I had to ask. He was heading to the shower without a word of explanation when he got back in. Really. I felt my head cock at that angle Jake dog uses when he's trying so hard to understand us. Once he told me, "Duh". It's been raining a lot, the gutters were full of leaves and were dumping water at the edges of the house. There was damp in the corners of the basement this morning when he went down to the laundry room. So he crawled out the bedroom window in skivvies in the rain and shoved the leaves out of the gutters. Did what he had do and cheerfully went on about his day with no further comment. No surprise there. It's who he is and I do admire that about him. Earlier in our relationship, though, we would have argued about his failure to telegraph intentions, reckless climbing, my worry for him. But really, it didn't even bother me over much. I like being surprised after 30 years of marriage. It's actually pretty fabulous. Wishing you mysteries, where with all to do what needs to be done without complaint, patience, wisdom to pick your battles and quiet, calm acceptance of the answers. XOXOXO

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


So, he said nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not "You OK?" "How did the tractor get into the pond?" "Don't worry, we'll fix it." "What do you think we should do?" Nothing. He just waded into the pond wearing his good shoes and dress pants, laid down in the shallow water and mud, fished his arm under the mower, unfastened and took off the mower deck then shoved the tractor out of the pond. Mud up to his knees. Then he laid down on the grass, refastened the mower deck, got on it, started the tractor and drove off. The waves of water, mud and anger were washing off him like sound waves after a huge bomb drops. He finished the entire lawn - which took another 45 minutes - before he made eye contact or spoke one word to any of us.

I can barely think about it without guffawing now. At the time, I was beyond furious and insulted by Dan's behavior. I speak about what's going on with me. I solve problems with words. If I stop talking, it's bad. Really, really bad. I've completely disengaged. So, I presumed he meant it that way too. In his defense, it was his brand new John Deere with a price tag that had several zeroes at the end. And it was stuck in the pond. Sarah had been mowing the walking path by the pond, backed up to get a section, thought she had it in forward - but it was in reverse. He realized something was up when he saw us three girls marching across the field as he was pulling in the drive wearing his nice work clothes. So it was a shock for him. But to me, hey, it's just a tractor. Relationships matter more.

Later, I realized that his silence was sincerely the best he had to offer and was a genuine effort at relationship - the opposite of what I assumed. He couldn't think of anything to say that would be remotely good, so he said nothing, drove until he cooled off, then asked questions later. There is no such thing as relationship without conflict and calamity. We really, really need relationship, but we could do without the assumptions or the tendency to attack each other rather than the problem. Here's wishing you some good stories to tell the grandkids. They offer many opportunities to examine your assumptions. XOXO

Monday, May 23, 2011


We sat out on the front porch watching the storm whoosh in Sunday afternoon. Straight up and sideways lightning, rolling thunder. Wind gusts and pounding rain. If we ever have a tornado, Dan and I will be sucked right up into the stratosphere because we'll be watching it blow in. Sarah told me that she'd been fiercely missing Olympia lately. The overcast, the mists, the lake - and the constant temperatures. Then the storm rolled in. They don't have thunder storms in Olympia. Or such big, big skies. If you're out at 4AM, you'll see an incredible number of shooting stars too. We can have anything, but we can't have everything. So we need to make lots of peace and awe deposits into our savings account. Partly so we have it to use later, but mostly so that doing it becomes automatic. Fish till we ache, pull weeds, surf the wind, run, look up. We'll need those moments when we're in the midst of storms. Wishing you the pleasure of a good storm and a big, big sky. XOXO

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Some days are like that. Even in Australia. Remember Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst? It's a children's book I loved to read to my kids. Everything went wrong for poor Alexander and he just kept wishing for escape to Australia. Finally, his mom explained the ugly truth to him. The facts don't change, but your interpretation can. Left the plants out to harden then forgot to bring them back in? Pretty stinky. Audit by the IRS? Rotten. Funeral? Worse. Calamity, death and taxes happen - even in Australia.

Again, the point of these stories is to take the ordinary and turn it into deliberate practice to create growth. Ordinary people handle terrible situations well - every day. People who intentionally practice using mindfulness (the ability to be present to our emotions and lives with calm acceptance)and their character strengths find those things ready and available in hard times. Curiosity, kindness, persistence, optimism, hope, spirituality, humor, creativity, courage? If we have them, we need to use them with gusto and regularity. We never know when we'll need them for more heavy duty purposes. It takes time to build habits that include self care - exercise and a friendly relationship to healthy food; meditation; - and care for our relationships - compassion for ourselves and others; kind acts. If we live, there will be hard times. We need the buffers that help us cope with them. Hoping you have the wisdom to cultivate fun, relationship and accomplishment and little need for them in a pinch. XOXO

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Unfortunately, for a two year old, she speaks very clearly and coherently. And she has an inventive little mind. So, naturally, Fia completely greened her friendly, Mr. Rogers' type neighbor yesterday. After her Aunt Allie told her, to stop the nose picking habit, that there are monsters in her nose that will bite her fingers (I could have told Allie that was a bad idea, but I wasn't there at the time), Fia concluded that there must be monsters in all the human orafices. Not five minutes later, Friendly Neighbor told Fia hi and she told him that there were monsters in her butt and they like to eat poo. We can only figure that she took Aunt Allie's story and ran with it. Literally. At the time of the greeting, she was running back and forth across the grass shared by the neighbors - little egg beater legs powered by the monsters in her butt. Makes a sort of 2 year old sense, if you think about it. I think her 3 year old brother, Alder, picked up on Dwight's discomfort because he added to the mix in a very scoffing tone that his monster didn't eat poo, just warm pee. I'm thinking Dwight will never recover and am wondering about myself. My one hope is that Dwight has grandchildren too.

Here's hoping you, too, rather than experiencing post traumatic stress, can turn moments like this into opportunities for personal or spiritual growth. XOXO

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Not rusting

Maybe it's because I try so hard to wake up in a new world every day. I don't try to forget that I'm a codger. I just do. I'm surprised to notice that some parts are wearing out or behaving in unruly ways. I have a little clear white hair that keeps growing out of my chin. I yank the sucker out and forget about it, then to my chagrin, back it sprouts. FAST. Unpleasant reminder that I may think I do not need vigilent grooming due to advanced age, but I do. That ankle I sprained jumping off the bunk bed with Alder Finn and Fia after they moved here in December still hurts when I walk down stairs, especially in the mornings. Until I move a little bit, my joints are stiff when I get out of the car after a ride longer than 15 or 20 minutes. Been here with myself growing old for a long time. Honest, I don't mind that the rules apply to me too. As a general rule, I like rules. I don't mind that being human is temporary. Makes for a very wild ride. I don't mind that we will rust out or wear out eventually. I will wear out. A few aches and pains won't stop me from jumping off bunk beds or kayaking or swinging my guts out at the playground. Guess that's it. I don't love the dumb reminders that the clock is ticking. But I'm wearing out, not merely rusting. So, got that goin' for me.

I am a fan of making fun. Everywhere I find it. Our own foibles are fertile ground. The anecdotes posted on here are examples of how to be mindful about living our lives. I intend for the stories to illustrate how to use every day experiences (bad and good) to create well being. What I mean by well being is - more and frequent positive feelings, solid relationship, a sense of accomplishment, healthy spirituality, and resilience in our lives. As I've said earlier in the blog, a few people with marvelous good fortune and/or fabulous brain chemistry have been gifted with these qualities from birth, but most of us mere mortals have to work at it. They are skills that can be learned by anybody willing to work at it. People have scientifically studied the elements of lives well lived to figure out the ingredients for living well. Our attitudes (how we talk to ourselves) and the choices we make as a result of those attitudes create good relationships, supports, beliefs and the ability to view difficulty as opportunity for growth. Here's hoping you rust out too. XOXO

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New. Again.

Last night for a couple of hours I had all 3 of my grand babies in bed. Ollie was asleep on Fia's shoulder and Alder was right beside Fi Fi. I was falling asleep, but I kept opening my eyes to look again at that sweet row of beautiful, peaceful, serene faces. I wanted to memorize it. Save it for later use. Because that exact moment will never be again, it shimmers with magic if we allow it to. Here. Gone. One of Allie's (my youngest child) college friends said he didn't understand what was so charming about babies. "Yeah, yeah, they see things with new eyes. They point and say, 'Grasshopper'. So what? I've already seen tons of those. I know about grasshoppers already." So glad I don't still know it all. I love waking up to a new world every day. This morning, Alder and Fia and Dan and I (Ollie got snatched away by his parents in the middle of the night, Boo!) sat at the breakfast table on this rainy cold Sunday watching humming birds and orioles and finches and chickadees and wood peckers come eat, then fly away. We saw tons of birds. Over and over - for the first time. Here's hoping you see old things with new eyes over and over every single day. XOOX

Saturday, May 14, 2011

All it's worth

In one day. Just one day, we got humming birds, orioles, blue birds on our feeders, all the trees were flowering - for some reason we're always the late bloomers in town - and we saw a wild turkey by the pond. We have lilacs all along White Oak and they smell up the whole place. The dark pink blooms of the crab tree were ringed with hundreds of blooming daffodils, the tulips were still pretty and I got my first whiff of iris. The old fashioned light purple ones smell like grape Koolaid. Try it. Some years we can soak up that spring bounty for weeks. It was just glorious this year. And too brief. The wind and rain came and now the the ground is littered with warm, colorful petals. The spring flowers are withered by the heat/wind/rain/cold combo, now the wind is flinging their remains. We've still got the birds and they'll stay the rest of the summer performing antics and being pretty. And the next set of flowers to bloom is getting in place for their show. But, see what I mean? Enjoy it for all you're worth when it happens. It never lasts. Some years, remarkably less. But neither does the bad stuff. I know I got my spring's worth in that one day. Here's hoping you do too. XOXO

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Sassy britches two year old Fia has been showing movies on the track lighting in her kitchen - with her finger. She points up and tells me "It's my favorite movie. You yike it? You hate it?" Not only can she show movies, the track lighting in her kitchen makes ice cream too. She just reaches up, gets it, and hands it to you to eat. And you'd better eat it with grave appreciation or she gets hoppin' mad. Keeps me right in the moment, mindful, keeping up with those babies. Because no matter how occupied and serious grown up discussions and intentions might be, how could we not go along with a fabulous imagine?

She's a lover of fashion too, our little bit of a fuzz. Gets it from her Abuela. She always compliments my necklaces with her bitsy hands gently touching it, then my face. "I yike your neckas, Buela. You're my favorite gurul." I was so lucky to have sweet, attentive parents. But getting to be one - and now getting to be the Abuela - that is just way way better. And it's totally within our power to be attentive now, whether we saw others do it before or not. The world is brimming over with things that can put you back in the present moment with appreciation and joy - living right along side the yuck. Me, I'm paying most of my attention to the good stuff. Wishing you plenty to notice. XOXOX

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Good enough

I tend to be a little slow on the uptake. Live in the moment, think about it later. So I've been thinking about being a mother two days after the day that celebrates it. It is way too easy to feel like a failure if you're a mom. If I could have been as good at motherhood as I wanted to be - if the job done could exactly mirror how much I love my children and grandchildren, I'd deserve nothing less than total, fall on your knees worship. Wasn't nearly that good and I deeply appreciate the fact, for everybody's sake. If I'd had it my way, I'd have been the perfect mother, and my children would all be emotional cripples. All we need to do is good enough, so long as we strive to self correct and offer our best as often as humanly possible. Even at mothering. People need adversity to overcome so they develop skills and then confidence in their skills. Make it too easy, you get spoiled, bored snot bombs. My children are all well balanced human beings because I was NOT the perfect mother. They have so much to thank me for. Seriously. Hear that girls? Certainly, abuse, neglect, trauma etc. are not even remotely good enough. But flawed with good intentions spit shined with an inhuman amount of effort? That is so very very good enough. And the only flavor mothers come in. Thank goodness.

So we all have, or had at one time, what seemed to be all powerful, should know better mothers. Should we have expected things to be fair? Should we have expected to be safe? Should we have expected our loved ones to know what we wanted and needed and do their best to provide it? Should we expect all that now? Being human, surrounded by other less than perfect humans in a society created by humans? Nope. I don't think so. I really think we should strive for all that - in ourselves and in one another - and far more. And expect none of it. Be grateful when we get some semblance of it, strive to create it whenever we can and hope for good enough. I wish you good enough. XOXO

Monday, May 9, 2011


It started with a few medical tests I do not recommend for recreation. Got me thinking about expectations again. We must follow doctor's orders, but nobody I ever talked to thinks a colonoscopy is fun. And though Thursday night and Friday were lost, the day of the test was fun- not at all what I expected. Because my eldest, Sarah, took me, and we spent the day laughing. Expectations play a roll in all sorts of things, including how you assess the outcome of various events. But expectations often just turn out to be wrong or they spoil things all together. They only work if you prepare ahead to laugh whenever possible and adjust downward through the rest. And even then, you'll still be surprised. So, I just enjoy being surprised.

The same weekend, I took my annual run to Sunrise Nursery to prepare for my Mother's Day gardening extravaganza. I always love the job of buying plants and flowers. Usually get lost on the way there with my best friend, buy way too much, struggle to get it all in the car... It's a fun, fun tradition and I expected this to be the same. But Michelle moved to Paris. The rip. Even so, we've managed to make this trip together every year - except for this one. So, I went all by my lonesome and I was surprised by how sad it made me. Fought off a grouch the whole afternoon. So much for expectations. It takes vigilence to rid yourself of them. I have much to learn.

Mother's day expectations were way higher even still, silly girl that I am. My entire family with their babies in tow were in and out over the course of the weekend, to my abject delight. But again, the day of Mother's Day, I expected early arrivals and the early completion of farm tasks. Every year I conscript my childrens' labor on Mother's Day as my gift request. Help me plant. They did. Just not on my time table. I started to feel sorry for myself for not getting exactly what I wanted when I wanted. But that's just silly. Some of the labor in fact is still happening. Allie traumatized herself today by sticking a rake through a frog in her effort to help her mom. My gardens got mostly planted all weekend long instead of according to my plan. Now, it's hard to walk, my fingernails will never be the same, there is still a lot to do - but my yard is beyond lovely and so is my family. Plus I've got that glow-ish feeling you get from hard work, good food,lots of baby kisses, and low and frequently adjusted expectation. I wish that and more for you. Minus expectations. XOXO

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Seize the moment

Those spider web trampolines are here already! I like to look at them in the early mornings because they're all covered in dew and when the sun hits them they really sparkle. All along my path - you can't go three steps without seeing them. I mostly noticed them before in the late summer and fall. We still have daffodils and tulips and bare naked trees, but those industrious spiders are already spinning their little trampolines from the tips of one blade of grass to the next. Amazing little things. Some webs are not as big as my palm but they all have this vortex - a dip with a hole in the middle where the spider dwells. She waits there for some unsuspecting little bug to spot her toy, take a bounce and "kaprise". They're lunch.

But I think I have just solved the mystery of why I never see them in Spring. My lawn mowing husband is usually very enthusiastic this time of year. But he didn't do my path this weekend because it was too wet down there. And he wanted to get over to the lake to wind surf. He's becoming delinquent in his lawn duties already. And that's all it takes. Give them a week and they spread out onto acres of pathway. Do you think the poor little buggers go hungry in the spring time when he's more diligent about his mowing??? Nah. But do you think they hear the mower coming and evacuate in time? I will investigate and let you know.

Here's hoping you seize the moment - and evacuate in time when necessary too. XOXOOX

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Dreamed my daughter Jesse had a new baby girl that someone tried to snatch away.  I was a hell cat.  The cute, cute baby girl and my Jesse bug were fine.  One does not mess with me or mine in my dreams.  It wasn't even a close call this time.  I kicked bootie and let me tell you, it was fun. 

I used to have helpless dreams - when bad things happened, I couldn't control the outcome or I'd wake before I knew how it ended.  Then I decided it was my flippin' dream, so I stayed in bed rewriting the ending every time I disliked it.  It's a rare thing now for me to dislike the endings or to wake up before I get there.  Even dream landscapes can be sculpted.  I am a force to be reckoned with in the dream world.  Haven't yet designed my orange squirrel costume, or named my super heroe self.  But I think it might be fun to see her in an episode or two.  I'll keep you posted.  Here's wishing you a few super heroe episodes too.  XOXO

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tiny bit

So, did I tell you how much I hate getting up at 6 AM?  Thought so.  Yesterday, Dan made it a little easier by bringing me coffee in bed.  I took a few sips, drifted back to sleep, took a few more.  Sat the cup on my chest just below my collar bone, resting my chin on it.  Drifted back to sleep.  Dumped it right down my front.  WOKE UP.  Never claimed to be a rocket scientist.  I didn't tell yesterday because I was still kinda greened, ( my dad's word for embarrassed).  Took me a minute.

Some things are bad enough to pin you right to the wall - like one of those insects on display at the museum.  Or pouring hot coffee down yourself at 6AM.  Actually, if you've lived longer than a few years, you know -many, many things are way worse than hot coffee beneath the collar bone. Nobody escapes bad moments.  All the positive thinking in the world won't negate the facts and your pain in reaction to them.  Cognitive behavioral perspectives and healthy self talk and relaxation breathing and exercise all help a tiny bit.  But sometimes we're just pierced through and have no choice but to just be there until the pain passes.  Which it will, one way or the other.

My grandmother said "A burnt child dreads a fire".  Since we've all been burnt a time or two in some manner, and will be again if we live, we can easily take up all the room in our lives if we spend now in dread of the next bad moment.  Even if it is human nature, we need to do our best to fight the instinct.  Breathe through the bad parts, talk back to the "what if, if only, how could" borrowing trouble parts.  If it's bad enough, we don't need to make it worse with foolish interpretations and generalizations.  We need to be still.  Let it be. Laugh at ourselves and remind ourselves we can handle it.  Do the next right thing, then keep on.  It passes.  Always much too slowly, but suffering passes.  Reality doesn't change but our reactions of terror, grief, rage, revulsion to it do diminish.  And there's still some blue heron somewhere lifting off a pond as we drive past it, whether we see it or not.  Notice it gracefully floating there before it takes off.  It doesn't negate the bad, it sits beside it, still beautiful anyway.  Wishing you sweet moments, even in the midst of the bad ones so they help a tiny bit.  Sometimes that's all we get for a while and it really is all we need.  XOXO

Monday, May 2, 2011

If you don't watch out

Peach blossoms
Running down hill with arms stretched out so you can launch into flight
Colonoscopy scheduled for Friday.  Ugh
Feeding fish in a coy pond
Poised daughter presenting her redesign of an eyesore into a beautiful park
Bee lines
Boat load of weeds to pull in my gardens
Red Buds blooming down south just a little
Babies running, legs going like egg beaters
Deer threatening to jump out in front of your car
Soccer in the street at 4AM
Gorgeous wooden sculptures by lovely neice
Bin Ladin shot in a fire fight

Just a partial list of things I noticed/thought about in the last work-out hour.  There's always a choice to complain, get scared, notice and react only to what's wrong. But replaying the busy weekend spent in Muncie for Allie's landscape architecture presentation, then down to Bloomington to see my neice's sculptures at the IU art museum,  I choose to be present to and dwell on the good stuff.  The trip was as good as the arrival.  What a pretty time of year to travel south!  Even squished beside 2 car seats in the back of a little silver Saturn.  I could have focused on the squished part and the few and fleeting bad moments the grand babies had when they were resisting feeling "stuck" in their car seats. Nope.  I am way more willing to appreciate that bees have to have water close by, so where there's a hive, there is a bee highway.  There really is such a thing as a bee line. Bees moving back and forth from the hive to the water.  Watching for that is just way cooler than being afraid that you're gonna get stung.  Too much watching out is borrowing trouble and I have no use whatsoever for that.  I love to drive home on the winding stretch of White Oak.  It's usually a time of day when deer might bolt out in front of the car, so I always look ahead.  Figure I'll avoid a splat whenever possible.  I always honk when I see one - hoping it's a deterrent.  My husband yells "Hey deer!  Here deer! I've got caaaannnnddyy!" They stare at him like they're thinking about it, but I think their mommas warned them about guys like that.

It's not all sunshine and lolly pops.  Never is.  And I am willing (to a point) to watch out for the bad stuff. Just not too much.  So here's hoping you take a few deer infested curves or check out a bee line.  XOXOXO