About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Month: November, 2013

How to spend Black Friday

Trinity Trails

Today was a lovely day where I did not much of anything. No shopping atall … the only money I spent was at a restaurant. What I was doing today was relaxing … that was my mission.

I was raised to believe that being productive was next to godliness, and I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard “Time is money.” Here’s the thing: It’s not.

This is what I’ve learned on my own (heresy as usual): Doing nothing is a completely worthwhile activity.

Today was, of course, Black Friday, which has virtually no meaning to me, not least because my goal is always to have my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving. I don’t always achieve that goal, but this year I did. I shop throughout the year for the people in my life who I know will be on my Christmas list. When I see something perfect for someone, I buy it and put it on my gift shelf.

Each fall I make a list of what I have, and then just fill in a few gaps. My mother and her husband are big coffee drinkers, but would never spring for fair-trade or organic on their own. (“Isn’t all coffee fair trade?”) Since it needs to be fresh, that’s one of the last things I buy. I believe I did that in October.

So instead of shopping today, I slept in. Ate a leisurely breakfast. And lunch. When I went out to water the garden, I also cut back my tender plants that have been taken out by the frosts thus far. Also cut up a fall tree branch (my light-weight purple Dramm loppers, a past Christmas present, totally came through for me), and put everything in my yard carts (the city makes free mulch from our yard trimmings).

I did a tad bit of essential housecleaning, then took a long walk by the river. Tried something new–a pumpkin, coffee, and Kahlua drink, and some brisket-stuffed peppers.

Dropped by my mother’s to pick up the gravy I forgot to ask for yesterday to go with my leftovers. As I drove, I noticed how relaxed my muscles were. Ah … my strategy of doing nothing is really working.

How not to worry

How indeed. I would love to be told.

It’s the lovely four-day Thanksgiving weekend I’ve so been looking forward to, and I am worrying about work.

It seems I’ve found a way to worry even in my sleep, because when I return to consciousness, that’s exactly what I remember doing. Clearly I am not an amateur.

What to do, what to do …

  1. Release the worry, just like releasing thoughts during meditation. When I become aware of it, I let it go–like cutting the string on a helium balloon and letting it float away.
  2. Use breathwork to release the worry. Some years ago I remember reading that your guides will bring things to the surface of your consciousness so you can release them. This seemed like it could be true for me as there certainly was plenty to release at the surface of my consciousness, but release it how?! I put the question out there. The answer came in the form of a weekend breathwork workshop. The technique I use involves taking a deep, a very deep breath, using your diaphragm, filling every corner and cavity of your body with breath. (You’ll want to make sure you’ve discarded any shapewear or anything with an underwire or boning beforehand!) Then let the breath out all at once, preferably while intending to release what’s bothering you, even if you can’t otherwise name it. For example, on the in breath you could think or say, I receive love. On the out breath you could think or say, I release all fear (or all worry … and it probably comes down to the same thing). When your out breath sounds like something that’s been dammed up, you know you really need to be doing this. When it calms, you know you’ve released something that wasn’t serving you.
  3. Release attachment to a particular outcome. My intention is to trust that if I show up and do the right thing, the results will take care of themselves. I know that there are many possible positive resolutions to this situation (and the same is probably true for yours).
  4. Do something that engages you. Unfortunately it’s really too cold to garden today–that’s one of the very best and immediate ways for me to drop out of clock time and into the flow. Writing is another good way.

I suppose that in taking step 4, I’ve written just what I needed to read today. I post it here in the hope it’s of help to you too.

Out with the new, in with the old

Russel parsley stack

I enjoy using vintage dinnerware and cookware every day in the kitchen. Not only because it’s reuse–as in reduce, reuse, recycle–but because vintage things have soul, go so beautifully with my vintage house, and were build to last. They’ve already stood the test of time. We’re all survivors here in this little kitchen.

The challenge in this is that I like the things I use every day to be dishwasher safe, particularly the dinnerware. I don’t mind washing the dishes by hand on a special occasion, but I’m not up for that every day.

I’ve found plates and bowls in a great pattern made starting in the 50s (Metlox Jamestown Provincial) that are printed with “Dishwasher safe” on the back–and they are. I have it in all white. The rims look like they’re connected with little rivets.

One challenge with using vintage dinnerware is that you’re limited to the pieces that were made in the past. Usually this is more pieces than we use now, but pasta bowls, for example, weren’t part of vintage patterns. However, while browsing at an antique mall a couple years ago, I found a shallow 8″ vegetable serving bowl that’s absolutely perfect as a pasta bowl, and yesterday I bought two more.

The pattern is Russel Wright’s Iroquois Casual China (shown above, in the parsley green color I bought yesterday). This line is real vitreous china, made in a number of different solid color glazes. Russel and his wife Mary (whose influence can be clearly seen in Russel’s work) were the Martha Stewart of their era. When Iroquois Casual came out, they made an ad that showed them throwing an entire set onto a metal table, and damaging only one piece. I don’t have an entire set yet, but none of the pieces I have has ever chipped or cracked.

If only my new things were that sturdy. Mugs are another item that are better than ever today in terms of sizes, shapes, patterns, and ease of use. I have a small collection of Emma Bridgewater mugs, and today while I was unloading the dishwasher, I accidentally dropped one. It didn’t end well for the mug … it’s in multiple pieces in my recycling cart as I type (so happy my city accepts broken ceramics and glass). RIP Zinnias mug. I think it was a Christmas present just last year.

I’m sad to see it go, but I’m looking forward to using my new-old pasta bowls. I just learned while writing this post that the pattern was produced from 1947-1967, the year I was born, so these bowls are at least as old as I am, and quite probably older. I feel like I’ve completed some kind of circle by bringing them home and putting them into service once again.

Be still

still nature

All is well. You have nothing to worry about. Believe it. Be still. Relax.

This is the current playlist on my inner guidance channel.

Be still.

I have heard this before. It means: My interference is not needed at this time. In fact, there is a specific need for me not to swing into action. The universe is saying, “We got it.”

Sometimes, especially when the world seems to be going crazy around you, and all is in chaos, the best possible thing you can do is: Be still.

How to handle a narcissist

narcissus1

You might assume that the way to come out on top is to focus relentlessly on your own agenda, desires, and needs–but that’s what narcissists do, and narcissists are not effective players in the game of life. Self-obsession will take you only so far. –Phillip McGraw

I don’t like to brag, but I consider myself somewhat uniquely qualified to address this topic, as I’ve been associating with narcissists since the very moment I was born. And for the past year or so, I’ve had one within a few feet of me at the office. I sincerely hope that you, dear reader, find yourself with less expertise on this particular topic.

First, how to identify the species? I was well into adulthood before I realized what was ‘off’ about one of my family members. It may be that you, too, are an expert, and don’t even know it!

  1. The narcissist is deeply engaged with what other people think.
  2. But the narcissist doesn’t care about much else. S/he may tell you that you care too much. (I sometimes wonder if a narcissist coined the term do-gooder, for those who, you know, care so much they actually try to do something about it.)
  3. It is all about the narcissist. Not about you … never about you.

Any questions? (No, it’s still not about you.)

I recommend the following strategies for dealing effectively with narcissists:

  1. Keep your distance. Need I say that a narcissist is never going to improve the quality of your life? So arm’s length is good, and much further away than that is ideal.
  2. The narcissist is likely to attempt to use and/or manipulate you, and will likely be frightened if these attempts fail, because the world isn’t working the way it’s supposed to. Your mission is to ensure that these finely-honed manipulation techniques do not work on you.
  3. To this end, let it be known that you are serene in the face of judgment and insult. Let it be known that you don’t much care what other people think. Let it be known that temper tantrums don’t affect you one way or the other. Let it be known that you do not accept double standards or unreasonable boundaries.
  4. Some experts say that the narcissist may have became one due to an emotional wound. So have compassion for the narcissist, as this cannot be a good way to live, and may in fact be a hell on earth … cut off from others, from caring about all that’s truly important in life, from knowing that we are all one, and that ultimately, love is all there is. Be grateful that you have dealt with your issues (I assume you received your share) more productively.
  5. Remind yourself how truly lucky you are to not be in the narcissist’s shoes, by engaging in one of the many activities unavailable to him or her. Reach out in love and kindness to someone else, expecting nothing in return. Look into the eyes of someone different from you and say to yourself, I am you, you are me. Hug or kiss someone and feel the love flowing between you.
  6. Realize you are truly blessed.

Now that it’s fall

To be interested in the changing seasons is … a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring. –George Santayana

All at once the leaves are finally changing color, and just beginning to fall and crunch underfoot.

Today at lunchtime, when I took Gracie out into the front yard, I noticed how beautiful the trees have become. My Chinese pistachio, redbud, and ash are all shades of gold and red. My neighbors’ trees are also turning beautiful colors. A gorgeous one across the street that I’d never noticed before caught my eye, now that it’s wearing its fall coat.

Now come the gifts of the latter seasons. Woodsmoke hangs in the air, lingers in the dogs’ fur. Friends walking in the arched front door of my English cottage-style bungalow say how cozy it is (no one appreciates cozy in the sweltering heat of summer). Hot chocolate, Dublin Dr Pepper short ribs, brisket braised with carrots, cobbler warm from the oven–these all belong to the fall and winter seasons.

Opaque tights, booties, warm woolen skirts, layered sweaters, cashmere-lined leather gloves, a plaid wool lining zipped snugly into a trench coat–getting dressed really is more fun in cooler weather.

All these gifts are ours, now that it’s fall.

Cream of sunchoke soup

I believe in the value of trying new things as often as possible, so this weekend I bought sunchokes at the farmer’s market. I find food a deliciously inconsequential way to switch things up. Whenever I hear about someone who eats the same thing at the same time, week in and week out, or engages in other repetitive behavior, a part of me thinks, “Alzheimer’s waiting to happen!” So I like to seize the opportunity to try something new whenever it presents itself. Yesterday, it was sunchokes, something I’ve never cooked (I don’t think I’ve ever eaten them before either).

Sunchokes are a root vegetable, also known as Jerusalem artichokes. Their delicate flavor is similar to that of an artichoke heart. The ones I bought were purple on the outside with pure white flesh; they can also be brown, red, and white. Sunchokes tend to be rich in the carbohydrate inulin, which some people digest better than others.

I had some leftover cream in the fridge, so in the spirit of wasting nothing, decided to make a cream soup.

In the market basket I take to farmers’ markets, I keep a couple of ceramic egg cartons, and a small ceramic berry basket. I filled this berry basket with sunchokes, which turned out to be 9.5 ounces when I weighed them. Please adjust the recipe below to the quantity of sunchokes you want to use. I used a generous half of my carton of chicken broth.

Cream of sunchoke soup

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a soup course

9.5 oz sunchokes
32 oz carton chicken broth
4 T heavy whipping cream (or 8T half and half)
1 shallot, diced fine
6 cloves garlic, peeled
olive oil
1 pat butter
thyme
salt
white peppercorns
1 t cornstarch (optional)

Scrub and rinse the sunchokes well. These knobby little tubers really know how to hang on to dirt!

Drizzle a little olive oil on a jelly roll pan. Halve the sunchokes lengthwise and place cut side down on the pan along with the garlic, ensuring each piece is lightly coated in olive oil. You can add a bit of salt and pepper at this point if you like.

Roast in a 400° oven for about 20 minutes. Place the pan where it can cool.

In a small enameled Dutch oven, melt a pat of butter over low-medium heat. Add the finely-diced shallot and soften.

Meanwhile, dice the roasted vegetables and add them to the pot. Cover generously with chicken broth. Add salt, freshly-ground white pepper, and thyme to taste. A little cayenne or nutmeg would also be a good addition.

Bring to a boil slowly over medium heat, and then reduce heat to allow the soup to simmer. Enrich with 4 T heavy whipping cream. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the sunchokes are tender.

Dissolve a teaspoon of cornstarch in water or chicken broth, and stir in to thicken the soup as desired.

Note: If you like pureed soups, you can use an immersion blender to puree the soup at this point, instead of thickening it.

Serve with whole-grain crackers and some Chardonnay.

Bon appetit!

Be kind

New tunes are in rotation on my inner guidance channel the last couple of days.

You have nothing to worry about. Be kind.

After eight years with the company, my manager finally had all she could take from Bob and others, as well as recent policy changes, and yesterday was her last day.

With more responsibility on my shoulders, I’m feeling frustrated with one or two people seemingly giving less than their best effort, with finding urgent tasks left undone that could easily have been completed, with blow-back from the narcissist on our team, and with my own set of well-nigh impossible tasks.

Predict the future with only extremely limited and inaccurate information available? Of course … why not? I’m on it, your estimates are coming right up.

Be kind.

I know that we all have different abilities, that patience, gentle coaxing, well-thought-out strategies, not to mention well-targeted prayers, will bring out everyone’s best. The tortoise and the hare have different gifts, both no doubt essential.

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. –Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 10:16 (King James)

Breathe. Take time out for a cup of tea. Tune in to a helpful mantra. Ask for the help I need. Be grateful for all that’s right in my world. Be willing to be in non-judgment of others. Smile like the sun. These are my baby steps on the path to Zen.

Whatever happened to Hitler?

I grew up hearing an awful lot about hell. To hear the minister I grew up listening to tell it, the vast majority of people were headed there, and it was a slippery slope for those of us sitting there listening to the hellfire-and-brimstone sermon. We were the elect, and yet … there still seemed to be the possibility of something going terribly, terribly wrong for us if we didn’t do things just exactly as the minister said they should be done.

It’s been some time since hell seemed credible to me, if indeed it ever did. Thinking back, even as a child those tales of Satan and the fiery pit sounded wild and over the top. Unbelievable, you might say.

These days, always with the principle of uncertainty in mind, I’m much more inclined to believe that we come here many times to learn all of life’s lessons. I’m inclined to believe that we’re mostly all doing our best, and that usually (OK, always) it’s people’s egos rather than a fork-tailed Devil leading them astray.

However, it’s pretty undeniable that there are some people who are downright evil, and Hitler is of course everyone’s favorite example. And if there’s no hell for Hitler, what exactly happens to someone like that (or like Dick Cheney)? I’ve actually wondered for some time exactly what Hitler might be up to now, and how the reincarnation of someone like that might be handled (if at all).

Yesterday I had some time to kill between an errand and dinner in another city, so I went to Barnes & Noble, gathered a few books that looked interesting, and sat down with a salted caramel mocha to peruse them.

And found an interesting theory, not to say a fairly credible answer to my longstanding question.

Two of the books I picked up were Michael Newton’s Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls (the one I ended up buying).

Michael Newton’s story is somewhat similar to Brian Weiss‘s. He was a highly skeptical hypnotherapist who was into science, not new age stuff, when he accidentally regressed a subject to a time frame he didn’t even believe in–one prior to the subject’s current life.

His work is different than Weiss’s in that he focuses fairly exclusively on the period between lives, from death to reincarnation. He’s also been interested in developing a model of how things work on the other side, by integrating the various reports of his clients, who are at various levels of soul maturity and have differing specialties and expertise.

In his books he presents his models, illustrating each point with a case study interview. The two I found quite interesting in relation to my question were with two people whose work on the other side is with the healing and management of souls who’ve committed serious wrongdoing, or outright evil and atrocities, while incarnated.

One thing that’s consistent in Newton’s interviews of his subjects is frequent references to having limited knowledge, and to being very junior in comparison to others with much more expertise. (These souls are typically advanced from the perspective of Earth, junior from the perspective of the other side.) Newton points out that his work is necessarily limited by only interviewing those who are still incarnating, who are clearly not the ones with the most knowledge of the subjects being discussed. Nonetheless, the books are utterly fascinating and unlike anything else I’ve ever read in their level of detail.

In the case of serious wrongdoing, Newton’s case study source indicates that healers work with the damaged soul’s energy, repairing, reweaving, and reshaping it in preparation for the soul’s reparations work. The goal is to increase the likelihood of the soul’s future success, while leaving necessary soul memory intact.

In the case of those who have committed evil, persistent cruelty and harm to perhaps many others, the case study source reports that those who work in this area evaluate whether or not the soul is “salvageable.” If so, the soul is offered three options (otherwise, only the final two).

  1. Be rehabilitated, and then make karmic reparations in a series of lives in which the soul will experience “an equal measure of the same kind of pain they have caused to many people.” Newton’s case study 21 reports that most souls don’t have the courage to take this option.
  2. Be remodeled, which involves significantly diluting the soul’s energy (and thus identity) with fresh energy, such that the negative effect of the original energy is no longer present. This process is intended to set the soul up for future success.
  3. Go into limbo, a place of solitude. This option is chosen in preference to option 2 by souls who “will not stand for any loss of identity.”

I’d read before of a healing process for souls who’ve had difficult lives and require extra help recovering that one author refers to as “cocooning.” I’d wondered if perhaps someone like Hitler would be cocooned indefinitely. I suppose this thought bears some resemblance to option 3.

If you’re interested in the afterlife, the soul’s progression, and our work and purpose both here and on the other side, I recommend Destiny of Souls. I think you’ll find it as fascinating as I do.

What I know for sure

Today I thought I’d take a page from Oprah’s book (based on Gene Siskel’s original question), and write what I know … for sure.

  1. God is Love.
  2. Central heat in November is a beautiful thing.
  3. Old things have soul.
  4. No such thing as “loyal to a fault.”
  5. It’s not necessary to believe in God; God believes in you.
  6. But a world with a God you can believe in is a much, much nicer place to be.
  7. Kindness cannot be overrated.
  8. Intelligence can be.
  9. Following the crowd definitely is.
  10. Beauty is everywhere. Appreciating it is one of the best things in life.
  11. The hard things in life, the things that require effort most people aren’t up for, are among the best things I’ve done.
  12. Yield to overcome.
  13. Negativity sucks.
  14. Smile. It’s a good thing.
  15. Laugh. It’s even better.
  16. You never know what’s going on with other people. When people are having the worst days of their lives, no neon sign lights up. Imagine what could be going on, and give people a break–it’s free.
  17. Expect respect and you’ll get it.
  18. It takes all kinds. One kind would be not just boring, but dangerous.
  19. Wear sunscreen. The fairest of them all wrinkle first.
  20. Help is always available for the asking.

What do you know for sure?

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