Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Faerie Wood- Part I

Three generations of women snuggled into the beautiful waterfront cottage at Alderbrook Resort. We spent 0ur first afternoon and evening watching the wildlife play in the waters of Hood Canal, working on a puzzle and telling stories.  
The stories flowed from Sister 
and I reminiscing about our childhood antics, to the childhood of my 89-year old grandmother. That was a much different childhood, one focused on trying not to upset the adults, who were a highly unstable pair. We did get quiet long enough to recognize the setting sun; the blue, purple, orange and pink glows were cast across the sky and reflected in the smooth, glassy water.

Our gaggle moved to the living room as our fireplace warmed up and more stories were told while freshly baked M&M cookies were happily eaten. My mother, the oldest of her siblings, had a childhood stunted by the need to help grandma care for the other 8 children as they came along. Especially when my grandfather, who served in three of our armed forces, was sent away on assignments. As our cottage darkened to match the sky outside all I could see clearly was grandma’s white hair and the fire reflecting off of her and mother’s eyeglasses. They told the story of how grandma “squeezed all the other kids together”, so that my mom could have her own room at the age of 17 and have some semblance of peace and privacy.  “She even got me my own radio”, my mom says quietly and with a slight smile. It was such a sweet moment in our storytelling. Followed by a debate about whether my mom actually requested suitcases for her graduation or whether it was my grandparents' not-too-subtle hint that after high school graduation one was to move along.
Near 11pm we snapped out of a 6-hour spell. A peak outside revealed that the bright, nearly full moon and the power of our stories had pushed the water 30 yards from our cottage; clear to the end of the neighboring docks. I imagined our stories and memories washed up on someone else’s shores. After the ‘grown-ups’ went to sleep, Sister and I spent another hour or two upstairs telling and re-telling our own stories, giggling until I had to get tissues. We listened to the strange night sounds from the exposed beach and whispered furtively about what sort of creatures were out there. The entire evening felt magical.
I woke to the sound of solid, steady rain. The last flannel clad storyteller to stagger to the breakfast table, as I have been my entire life, I confirmed that I had heard rolling thunder in the wee hours. Magical and rare in the Pacific Northwest. Our temperate rainforest was holding true to form and the sheet of gray rain and mist covered any view of the land and mountains across the water. It now appeared as though the water stretched on forever. The tide had moved back and someone else’s stories and memories were now splashing against our deck. We talked slower and more thoughtfully now, about our web of current friends and family. As we completed our “Magical Fairies” puzzle, we planned for the family reunion that my mother and grandmother will host next summer. It seems that nighttime by the fire is when memories are told and a rainy morning at the puzzle is for staying in the present and planning for the future.

Mother opted to skip on the day’s outing and stay in with grandma.  Sister and I talked over each other, as we are known to do, so that neither of us could fully finish a sentence before the other began. In this chaotic fashion, we discussed several options for our outing. The “Staircase” hike near Lake Cushman in Olympic National Park, the less than 2-mile web of trails just across the street, scouting out restaurants for lunch the next day, just driving around and ‘checking out’ the nearby towns if the rain was too much to hike in. With all of these possibilities misting up the air inside the cabin, we grabbed two raincoats, two water bottles, two M&M cookies and one small map of the trails across the street, and the “two girls” headed out for our adventure.  I turned to grandma and said, “I think we’ll be gone a couple of hours or so!”  And mother, who was just setting down plates of leftover chicken enchiladas for herself and grandma’s second breakfast, said merrily, “Oh, take your time! Have fun! We won’t worry!”  

And with that blessing, and the rain pouring down, we headed off on what was to be a grand adventure, Christopher Robin and Pooh style!  Little did we know that the many small events and circumstances of our afternoon would ripple across the water of the canal and back to the quiet cottage. But then, little did we know how disruptive faeries can be…..

 Check back for Part II…The rainforest, angry mountain goats and the river runs through it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Faerie Wood

I have just returned from a wonderful weekend away with my sister, mother and grandmother. No internet or computers...which is a lovely thing!

Many adventures and stories to reflect on. But rest assured that I will share the story of the "Faerie Wood" and perhaps I will share the story of the ensuing ruckus that the Faerie Wood created. 

There is one thing certain about traveling with the women in my family. There will be adventure, there will be merriment and there will be a ruckus! Guaranteed!

Oh yes, and food and snacks aplenty! 

Sister disturbed them. I did not want to follow sister Gretel to the "little shack over here" as she worked to find our way back to the main trail. Rain washouts made for some tricky traversing.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Revisit Your 'List'

As our fall days of mist and gray snuck up on me this past week, I found myself visiting the Daily Good website more often, in an effort to chase away the seasonal blues. It was there that I stumbled upon this great TEdx talk on KarmaTube, "Rethinking the Bucket List"

Kathleen Taylor has worked for over 20 years as a hospice and end-of-life counselor. She has sat with patients and with their grieving family and friends. She makes a bold point about a commonality that she saw among people facing the end of their lives. They no longer had the capacity for bullshit. She encourages listeners to find their ‘true, authentic self’ now. Do not wait until the end of your days to stop the bullshit. She does say it much more eloquently than that, so I encourage you to check out the link above.

Taylor ecourages us to re-think the notion of ‘bucket lists’. Several months ago I wrote about my “50 by 50 list”. You can read about it here.   Make a “Bucket List” or a “50 by 50”, “Ten things for 2014”, “Weekly Wellness”, “Daily Do’s”…the name matters less than the intention behind it. There should be no room for bullshit on your list. Does your list reflect your genuine self? If you truly want to climb Mt. Everest, then by all means put it on the list. But if what really feeds your soul and heart is time spent with your grandchildren, puttering in your garden, lunches with friends, short walks on the beach, then put those things on the list and leave Mt. Everest to others. It’s a bit over-hiked anyway.

I remember reading an article by Martha Beck that posed the question, “How to find your authentic self?” One of the tricks shared in the article was that if you feel unfilled in your daily work and life, if you feel you have lost touch with your true and genuine self, think back on what you enjoyed as a child.  In other words, how did you spend your days before you had the capacity for bullshit? How can you put more of that in your life now?

 I did have that thought in mind when I made my list. Judy, the kid who loved weekends at Gramma and Grampa’s house, big crazy family meals, lots of cousins, friends and laughter. Eventually the children were chased outside and oh, how we loved the woods! I cannot count the number of ‘games’ we played in our little patch of Northwest forest. Summers in Indiana, we were sent out to check Grampa Wink’s garden, for cucumbers, radishes and peppers that may need picking. That love of the outdoors and the feeling of adventures waiting is very much a part of who I am and what I love. And it led me to four items already crossed off the list and at least ten to go. Some of them, like my front porch herb garden, require regular attention and provide a satisfaction similar to Grampa Wink's garden years ago. Some day maybe vegetables, but for now chives, peppermint, cilantro and oregano keep me happy!
Indiana- 2012 Family Reunion

When I wrote my post back in February I had crossed eight items off my list. I am amazed to find that seven months later I have crossed off a total of seventeen items. They are not the big ones, like taking my boys to Ireland or visiting the Grand Canyon. Rather they are the ones that allow me to live more authentically and offer the best ‘me’ that I can to the world, and to my family and friends. In fact nine of the items checked off directly involve loved ones.

Summer of 2012!
Many things on my list are not ‘one and done’ sort of items. Consider items that cause you to continue living and doing what you really want rather than one-time events to check off. For instance, # 36 “Be a proper Auntie” will never be done, and in fact a new little one to love arrived just last week! My #46, “Host brunch as often as possible”, is an ongoing attempt to create a sense of love and family for whoever joins us. Some friends that I had lost contact with were added to my list, to reconnect and stay connected. I mention special trips and hikes with my sons in my previous post. The overall effect of working through my list has surprised me; it makes my inner child very happy. Family, food and wilderness may not be your cup of tea. I simply offer it as an example.

Whatever sort of list you choose to make, the important thing is to take the time to think about what you really want out of this life. What do you want to receive and what do you want to give? What makes you happy and brings you joy? Who do you want in your life? Yes, who makes you happy and brings you joy? If you aren’t sure, ask your inner child. What would you have answered when you were six years old?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Love and baking; messy endeavors

When my kids were little and would help me bake I always assumed the mess that was left behind in the kitchen was a result of having little helpers.  Nope.  It is all me.  I make an absolute mess. Flour, baking soda, bits of cookie dough splattered about the counter and my clothes.  A mound of measuring cups and wooden spoons, an array of ingredients and spices; it is a work of art. And a work of love.

My rules of baking: Do not follow the directions precisely. Always modify the recipe with a little something different! Turn on some music. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or iced tea... add a little bitters...may as well start the creativity early.
Make a mess, do not clean up as you go, it hampers creativity. Turn up your music.  Sample as you go. Measure salt, baking soda and baking powder carefully, that’s the science part. As for the rest of it, do not be so careful; be bold with butter and flour.  
Be absolutely daring with extracts, spices and all things chocolate! Sing along with your music. The most important rule- decide who will be the recipient(s) of your work of art and love.  Giving and sharing my baked treats is the best part of all. Not just because it keeps me from gaining 40 pounds, but because it is part of my love language.  

 I have written before that ‘food’ is one way my family shows our love and takes care of one another.  Chicken soup when you are sick, tea and toast when you are really sick.  Macaroni and cheese or milk noodles when you are sad or homesick. Big dinners if we are proud of you. But cookies, cupcakes, pies…those are just because…just because we love you! 

That is why I cannot follow the directions too precisely, because love is not about precision. Love is messy. And everyone is a little different. My family and friends are all special to me in their own way and their baked ‘gifts’ need to be a little unique, just like them.  The beauty of all this is that the more ingredients you have,  the more friends and family, the more love in your life...the messier and more marvelous life becomes. Sing while you bake and sing while you love. Embrace the mess and focus on the gifts. 

Congratulations on your engagement Ty, and welcome to our messy and marvelous family Kenzie- we are thrilled to have you join us! Love each other boldly; be daring, creative and courageous together.

Just Only Judy