Inspiration

Within a week, I had the pleasure of listening not only to one but two truly inspirational African American women. ¬†This doesn’t even come close to expressing my gratitude for what they bring to our collective lives, but it’s something.

O, Woman

O, Black Woman,

teach me your ways.

Your sing-song voice that

carried over the ocean

and through the years;

Hum now your heart,

released through your

Hands the power of the Almighty.

Bishop, your laugh;

O, to hear your song.

Yes, Sister.

You’ve walked miles I’ll

never know,

but the Disciple’s path

we’ll share.

We’ll journey on.

I feel your heart.

I know your song.

Ms. Giovanni, look this way again.

Your eyes a-twinklin’,

Your mouth a fountain

of Joy, of Truth.

I know what you’re sayin’.

The grandmother I long to be.

Respect embodied.

No time for bullshit.

Love is too important.

The Wise Woman in me

Sees,

Knows,

Loves,

Recognizes

herself in You.

Hallelujah!

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“Easy Does It”

Like “don’t sweat the small stuff,” “one day at a time,” and “just do it,” there are slogans that some of us live by and work with.  In the current chapter of Finding Water that we’re reading, one of the mantras is “easy does it.”

Have you thought about how or when you use this phrase?  When I say “easy does it,” I really mean, slow down, do this slowly and carefully, and don’t rush it.  I only ever use it in the circumstance of some physical exertion.  If I think about what it says . . . what does it really mean?

Julia Cameron makes a case that it means if you show up daily to your artist’s work, do a little at a time, don’t obsess about it, don’t become all-consumed by it, then you will get it done eventually.  Taking it easy gets the work done. If I apply my meaning of the phrase to artistic endeavors, I mean the same thing.  Slow down.  Don’t rush the process.  Show up to do the work and let the creativity flow through you.

This doesn’t mean that every time we take time to do something artsy that it will be brilliant, but it also doesn’t imply that we have to be in the “mood” to create.  The more we create, the more we make ourselves available as creative channels, the more likely we are to have the strokes of “brilliance” and to see the Divine reflected in our works.  Days or years later when you reflect back on your work, you might be amazed that you really did that, that you really were a channel of the Divine, of Spirit, of Creativity.

I hope that, like me, you can accept the challenge of assuming a mantra like “Easy does it.”  Pick a hobby/craft/art that you want to do, need to do, but don’t make the time for because if you got in “the zone,” you might neglect everything and anything for your art.  Now, make a contract with yourself that you will set aside, say, 20 minutes a day to devote to your “hobby.”  Take a mommy-time-out if you need to.  I am today to write this. I told my kids it’s still quiet time until I’m done writing.  We have to teach by example, my friends, and then we have to respect their time in return.  Don’t expect it to be easy the first few times, either.  (I counted four interruptions from three kids.)

Twenty minutes a day, consistently if you can.  Be open.  Have fun.  Let’s give Creativity some room to move.

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Guest Post: A Journey

by Maggie Beason, wife, mother, student, Army gal, aikidoka, hair stylist, runner, woman-extraordinaire shares her latest adventure after the Hogeye Marathon.

It is hard to fall asleep when you’re flat on your back. It’s
especially hard to sleep when you have a pillow wedged between your
legs in a desperate attempt to keep your knees from either touching,
straightening or bending too much while still trying to maintain a
modicum of comfort. You wrap a blanket around you, tucking in the lose
ends around your aching body while carefully avoiding your toes; any
weight on your toes is almost unbearable and the thought of donning a
pair of socks is simply out of the question. You close your eyes and
will yourself to fall into the blissful slumber that continues to
eludes you–a side effect from having eaten five packets of Gu (Energy
in goo-form. Necessary, but rather unpleasant.) earlier in the day.

The five medals that hang on your bedpost make a jingling sound as
you fold your arm underneath your pillow to support your head as you
stare at the ceiling replaying the day’s events in your mind. Today you
added one more medal to your small, but growing, collection. It took
it’s place at the headboard with the other four medals, your goggles
and your Buddhist prayer beads. You’re not actually Buddhist, but you
are a runner. A slow one, but a runner nonetheless.

Distance runners are usually depicted as “crazy” or “nuts” and
people often say something to the effect of Willy Wonka’s famous line,
“If God had intended us to walk, he wouldn’t have invented Roller
Skates.” Silliness aside, there is something about running that gets
people in the way that shoes get Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in
Sex in the City: you just get addicted.

Once you get bit by that bug, you will run–by your own
choice–through the pre-dawn chill of a ten-degree January morning. You
will run through rain and snow for miles and miles with glee. You will
relax (or try to, anyways) in an ice-cold bath with a drink in your
hand, a smile on your lips and joy in your heart because you just ran
eighteen miles. “Uphill both ways. Man, that was a great workout,” as
you’ll later reminisce to whomever will listen. If the idea of
running for five hours over the hilly terrain, thirty-something mile an
hour head wind, freezing (or at least what feels like it) temperatures
seems like fun and you don’t mind that you are the last person to
arrive, you are a runner. If all of this seems like fun to you, well,
need I say it?

My latest addition to my collection of medals, is from the Hogeye
Marathon on April 5th, 2009, at the beautiful downtown square of
Fayetteville, AR. The race started out like any other: cold, windy and
in the company of old friends, new friends and friends I hadn’t met
yet. Two of my companions were running the half-marathon, and judging
by the hills that they had to run up on their return trip, I was
thankful that I was doing the full.

I stayed in the back of the pack for the majority of the race, and
once the half-marathoners broke away, it was safe to assume that only a
handful of runners were behind me. I was focused on taking in the
scenery and enjoying my first hometown marathon–plus, in a town
renowned for it’s outstanding University of Arkansas track and field
program, I knew that it would be a marathon composed entirely of elite
runners and myself, about as un-elite that you can get.

For the first thirteen miles the roads wound and wove their way
through subdivisions, back roads, and running trails. Spectators and
volunteers dotted the course and brought with them supplies,
refreshments and cheers (I must say, the aid stations and volunteers
were phenomenal. Well done, Fayetteville!).

Between miles thirteen and fourteen, some friends had set up a
celebration station of sorts. Bringing with them were gifts of
oranges, water, Gu and a surprise: a bratwurst and a beer for my return
visit at mile twenty.

The brat has been a dream of mine ever since I was denied one by
the vendor who had stationed himself inside the course at the
twenty-six mile mark at my very first marathon. He told me that I could
have whatever I wanted so long as I had the money for it, which of
course, I didn’t. Thus, effectively smothering my hopes of crossing the
finish line with a giant bratwurst in hand.

The next seven miles where spent with dropping temperatures, a
nasty headwind and having every single runner who was behind me, pass
me. I paused for a moment to celebrate the passing of my very favorite
mile, Mile seventeen. Mile seventeen is a huge deal for me as the
remaining miles are now in the single digits. Meaning: nine more miles
to go. However, the elation I experience when I realize this is often
diminished by the fact that there are still nine more miles to go!
Usually, by the time mile twenty rolls around I’m in pain, exhausted
and somewhat insane. But this time there was my tasty manna from
heaven, bratwurst and beer.

At mile twenty-three, a dear friend of mine met me on the trail to
offer her support, water and to snap a few photos. Mile twenty-five
found me running up Dickson Street, thanking the police officers and
volunteers who had stood in the cold for five-plus-hours. Mile
twenty-six found me on the corner of Block St. where I burst in to
tears when I saw my family cheering.

The urge to cry was replaced by the urge to vomit as I realized
that I still .02 miles left and half of that was up a hill. I trudged
on, more hobble than stride. Most of the bystanders (apart from my
family, the racing officials and the paramedics) had left by the time I
crossed the finish line at five hours, eighteen minutes and some-odd
seconds. I failed to break through my five-hour barrier, but was too
exhausted to care.

Running for five hours at a time allows plenty of time for
introspection and often your sanity gets called into question. After
four and a half marathons, I’ve stopped asking myself why. I know the
answer: it’s an almost-spiritual experience and a guaranteed way to
quiet an over-stimulated mind. It is a chance to commune with nature:
to watch the birds flit among the branches of trees, feel the rain on
our skin or the heat on our backs. And it is an opportunity to explore
what the saying “one step at a time” truly means.

So as I listen to the clinking sounds of my five medals from
Little Rock, Dallas, Fort Worth, Salt Lake City and Fayetteville, I
drift off to sleep smiling with a new appreciation for what my medals
really mean: it isn’t the destination, but the journey.

*  *  *

Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Maggie.
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SpringTime Haiku for Moms

An invitation . . .
Sun beckons to come play now.
The dishes will wait.

The beautiful weather this day couldn’t keep us indoors, even after me having two fillings replaced at 8:10am.  Off to the woods we go so I can get another go at rock climbing and so the kids can enjoy the warm, fresh air and the dog a good swim.

A few minutes alone, walking along the upper trail to fetch the draws from a climb, I felt it– the presence of nature that speaks through the living things around you and whispers on the breeze.  It’s a stillness and peace, an acceptance of life as what it is, for what it is, and all is well.  All is beautiful.  Oh, that I could bring that presence into every breath.

I’m pretty sure that the potential is there.  We have within us the ability to be still and fully present.  But how quickly I forget how beautiful it can be, even in the storms, for when the sun returns again I wonder, was the green so brilliant just the other day?  Was it this amazing last spring; did the colors so vibrantly glow?  I don’t have to compare.  I don’t have to know.  My purpose is to love indiscriminately; it doesn’t matter what the weather’s like.  I always have a choice.

Will it rain or shine?
As you make each choice, you ask.
Is Love wet or dry?

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The Ice Melts

The kids are home for their second day, but at least today is a little more unplugged.  I let them watch movies yesterday thinking the power would go off, but it didn’t until almost midnight!
ice_2009.JPG
As the kids settle into various activities, I keep drifting to the windows, looking across the rooftops and at the now-splintered trees.  The evergreens seem to have more resilience, able to take the Dr. Seussian contortions, but the deciduous trees . . . ah, the poor trees.  There’s still the crack and snap and rush of falling ice to be heard as the melting water adds the proverbial straw, adding too much weight to the exhausted wood.  At least, that’s what I imagine.

There are times when I, too, let the elements accumulate upon me, surround me and weigh me down.  I sag and droop, losing enthusiasm and very nearly my hope.  When the sun does start to peek through the clouds, I feel the cold shroud falling away.  Sometimes I cannot help but absorb some of that which burdens me.  Sometimes it’s hard to let it all evaporate, allowing myself to eventually regain my stature.  Sometimes I want to just absorb it all and snap and break and fall away.

But I don’t.  I guess I’m more like the evergreens I see on the horizon.  I can take it, and I do.  I may be taken for granted at times, even by my very self, but it’s up to me to decide how I weather all storms.

The sun is always there.  We just have to have faith and remember to keep the windows open to our heart and soul.

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Take a Load Off

(I, too, dabble in the fiction realm.  Enjoy, and pass along to others you feel might benefit.)

I wander through the woods.  The thicket scrapes against me, and my laden vest pulls me down.  It’s so heavy.  I can go no further.  I fall to the ground.

I watch the glimmer of light come closer, flicker before my eyes, dancing around, it seems.  Suddenly, it poofs into a fairy, more like a fairy godmother.

“Why have you stopped, dear?” she asks.

“I can go no further,” I say in despair, feeling the sweat all over my body, clothes soggy and clinging.

“Nonsense,” the fairy replies.  “You have all you need.  Now, get up and get moving.”

I protest, and she keeps telling me to move.  Finally, her little pixie body yanks me up, pulling me out of my pit of despair and into her full attention.

“Empty those pockets,” she orders.

So I pull out the wipes, tissues, diapers, toys, the snacks, drinks and medicines.  I pull out more toys and crumbs.  I carefully remove the sewing machine and sewing box, the computer, about half a dozen cookbooks and a small bag of make-up.  I look at the fairy pleadingly. 

“Isn’t that enough?”  I ask.

“Is it?” she asks me.

I feel lighter, but there’s still more weight than I feel I can carry.  So, I empty more pockets.  Out go all the CDs, a shelf worth of books, fancy garden tools and kitchen gadgets.  Out go the fancy planters and delicate vases.  I take the vest off for a bit and realize I have layers of clothing on.  I peel the layers off until finally I’m in a simple dress over my pretty yet practical undergarments.  I take off large rubber boots and large clunky boots until I’m left with just my sandals.  I even had extra socks on, so I take those off altogether.

I pick up my vest and put it on.  It slides on easily and hangs loosely, comfortably.  I smile.

“How’s that?” I ask, looking up at the fairy.  “Fairy?” I call out.  I look for her in all directions, but I don’t see her.

“Check your pockets now, and leave the rest behind you.  Enjoy the journey.”

I look around for her, but I only heard the voice.  Was she out there or just in my mind?

Looking in my pockets, I find a needle and thread, wooden spoon, a spade and cultivator and a pen and notebook.  There’s a mound of things around me, and I was tempted to pick some of it back up.  I love that so much; that comes in so handy; I paid so much for that . . . But my pockets now are too small.  I wasn’t sure how I had carried it all in the first place.

So I leave it.  I turn and don’t look back.  Just over the rise of hill and around the bend, the woods clear and give way to a beautiful, enchanted woodland with a rippling spring and flowers and everything I love about the forest.  No more would I feel I didn’t have room to enjoy myself, my life.

I sit on a carpet of moss by the creek, eat from the berries I picked from a nearby bush and pull out my pen and notebook.  The possibilities are endless.

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What Is EverydaySimple?

In the era of internet, my husband and I have had this domain for years. Just now are we using it for something other than an e-mail address. But what does it mean? If it’s the title under which I’ll be submitting a blog, shouldn’t I have a clear idea? After eight years, don’t I already know?

Most of us would probably like to live every day simply. We want our lives to be easier, and we’ll listen to all the tips and tricks that will help simplify our lives. Perhaps I’ll have something to offer along this line. If I do, rest assured that I’ll share.

Everyday. Simple. At best, it is a way of being, part of the journey and process. From my perspective, it is being a wife, mother, woman, seeker, educator, advocate, each in their right time and in balance. It’s having a home, a garden and hobbies, perhaps even some work that brings insight. It is taking the complications in life and mulling over them just enough to find the reality, the truth and humor. For me, it is a recurring lesson. Every day, life is simple. Everyday life is simple. Being a parent, a partner, a friend — all simple. I picture a Buddhist monk handing me a cup of tea. “But don’t you see how hard my life is?” I wail. He smiles omnisciently. “Have some tea.” “Don’t you understand? It’s difficult. Hard. Everything is so complicated!” He puts the tea in my hands. “Everyday simple.” We drink our tea.

This koan of sorts will remain with me. Perhaps it means more that what I even thought. Chances are, probably not. It is probably much simpler than that. Let’s just enjoy this journey with the understanding that we don’t have anything figured out. We’re just taking the lessons as they come, finding love and laughter along the way, and trying to keep everyday simple.

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