Tuesday, December 23, 2014

In clover: waiting for JOY...

Some of you who have followed my blog may recall that in the past few years, I have chosen a "word for the year."  Or rather, I try to allow the word to choose me.  I have really enjoyed this practice....past years words include: 




and last years not very pleasant word, which in February I claimed as PAIN in this blog post.

Imagine my surprise when this year, some time in November, a word found me. early.  Well before the new year.   I became certain that my word for the year is JOY.  Everywhere I looked...JOY.  Definitely JOY. 

One day, flipping through a catalog, I saw a Christmas wreath that spelled...JOY!  I was delighted by the idea of seeing my word of the year on the door every day so I placed my order and looked forward to the arrival of JOY with great anticipation. 

But JOY did not come.  Other items I ordered from this company arrived but no JOY.  I called the catalog company and was told JOY was being shipped directly to me from a third party....it is supposed to ship the very next day, the woman on the phone told me.  Yay! I waited a week but still no JOY....

In an attempt to be clever on Facebook, I posted a status that said, "My JOY is on backorder."   A friend called, concerned about me.  Not to worry, I told her, I was trying to be funny but the conversation did get me thinking....WAS my "joy" on backorder?  I didn't think so....granted, I was experiencing some challenges but I had also noticed many small, exquisite moments of JOY this advent season.  

Like cookie baking with my family...

and discovering our little park lined with luminaria, a gift from neighbors...

 and listening to the children sing....

There were more moments of JOY than I can begin to document here but still, no package containing JOY arrived.  I placed another call to the company.  The woman who answered was very polite and helpful.  I wondered if my order had been cancelled.  She told me that the only information they could get out of the supplier was that JOY would indeed be shipped and would arrive before Christmas but she had no other information.  We had a cordial conversation....I mused out loud about perhaps buying a substitute wreath for the door....she said she completely understood and would be happy to cancel the order so I would feel free to buy something else.  But I decided that I would really like to wait and see if JOY would arrive. 

Every day during my quiet time,  I reflected on the missing JOY.  I wondered if I was being stubborn and insistent but it didn't feel like that was the case.  Then,  I was given the honor of helping to lead a Longest Night Service of Healing and Remembrance.  The service was held on the winter solstice...the longest night.  There,  among those who openly acknowledged their suffering and sadness and yet still sang together, even as they cried, I felt joy mixed with sadness.   
Light amidst the brokenness...

I decided that the best we can really do is to try to leave space for joy.

And I decided to see my wreathless front door as just that.....not missing anything.....but expectant with plenty of room for JOY, whenever it arrived, if it arrived.  

The next day, a friend stopped by for coffee.  She came bearing sweet gifts....a beautiful coffee mug inscribed with the words "Comfort and Joy"

and a box of special tea, named "Warming Joy."  

I laughed with delight...my friend had NO idea I was waiting for JOY and she did not know about my word of the year.  I wondered if the message was that JOY will show up if you leave room....but perhaps not in the way you are expecting it.  I left the house content with the JOY I received. 

And then, on the day after the Longest Night, just like that.....JOY arrived.  

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it."

Wishing you joy and peace this holiday season but if that will not come for you this year, praying for you to know that you are not alone, until the light comes again.  

peace and every good and much love to each of you, 


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Monday, December 1, 2014

in clover: thanksgiving

Some of you have asked me why I have not been writing....I'm not saying for sure but I am mostly convinced that perfectionism has something to do with it.  

Author Anne Lamott  has this to say about the "p" word: 

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life...”

So...Thanksgiving, in a less than perfect post:

The THREE of us (Big C is a college freshman now...with a car...and a schedule of his own) traveled back to my home, in Western Kentucky, as is our custom.  My Dad holds space for us to be together, whoever WE might be, in a great big house he insists on calling a cabin on Kentucky Lake.  My brother and his sweet family came this year, an unusual occurrence. Big C met us there. My aunt and uncle and my cousin live near by.  Other loved ones didn't make it this year....we'll keep our fingers crossed for next year.

I usually assist my Dad with the turkey but this year I assisted my brother who has a knack in the kitchen.  He turned out a really fine bird....very pretty AND tasty! 

We took walks in the woods before and after we ate cherry pie. Three of 'em, to be exact. Pies, that is.  The dogs swam in the lake. 

I brought homemade blackberry jam and my brother made biscuits for breakfast.  

Little c and her cousins played with dolls and made quilt forts.  

Harper the Dog wrestled day and night with my brother's dog and my Dad bought some dog bowls to keep at the cabin because "we have dogs now."  

My cousin brought her new baby who looks just like she did as a baby. I kept saying that until someone found old photos to prove it! We all passed the baby around, admired her kick ass shoes and made silly faces to amuse her. 

My aunt made her famous artichoke dip AND she made her famous spinach dip AND she made a fuss over the "cowboy candy" I brought for the first time this year....I gave her the rest of the jar to take home with her.  Her mama came to dinner too. Generations of Us. 

We listened to old songs on a fancy new speaker we could all control from our phones (FUN!) and found some new (warning: not fit for all audiences!) favorites.  

On the day after Thanksgiving, we moved the stack of pies and coconut cake off the counter to make room for leftovers.  Left down low, my brother's dog helped himself to a 1/4 of a triple layer coconut cake AND the plastic wrap that was covering it.  In about 2 bites.  While no one was looking.  And no one got pissy.  EVEN though we really, REALLY like the coconut cake my aunt buys from the Senior Citizens Holiday Bake Sale.

We drank craft beer and lots of wine and tea, iced and hot.  Michael fixed us oatmeal for breakfast.  We talked about getting older and growing up.  Maybe.  Someday.  We fell asleep early and woke up early and finally managed to stay up til 10:30 on the last night. 

Dad's wife left early to catch a plane because her new grandbaby was born! On my niece's birthday!  We all relived our labor and birth stories in solidarity.

My dear friend sent an email that she lost her mother that night. 

My sister in law knitted an Outlander inspired cowl for me.  Lickety split!  I showed her how to crochet like my Granny showed me. Well, not that good but as good as I know how. 

My dad saw a coyote. 

I made sure we had too much butter and no one let me forget it.  

The turkey brine leaked all over the made-one-day-ahead sweet potato casserole. 

I FORGOT my camera (but my uncle loaned me his!).

I thought I found a geode, but it was just a rock. 

I had one job for the day-before-Thanksgiving-last-minute-go-to-the-Wal-Mart-trip.....keep charge of the list.  So I left it lying on my bed when I ran back to my bedroom to grab my phone. Wal-Mart isn't exactly close to the cabin. My brother took a picture of it and emailed it to Michael.  Whew.

We remembered family sorrows and we were somber. 

We poked fun at one another.  

We laughed.  A lot.

If perfectionism is the enemy,  I am so glad we had a less than perfect Thanksgiving.  But it seemed pretty perfect to me.

Blessings to all ya'll.  



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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

in clover: when I don't know what else to do.....

I plant stuff in the ground.  Sometimes.

I was not feeling so great yesterday but after a talk with Michael and lots of coffee, I got up, I got dressed (kind of), and I got in the car and out into the sunshine and headed out to buy some jalapeno pepper plants.  

jalapeno pepper plant

I've never planted jalapeno peppers before because frankly, they aren't my favorite.  Nor Michael's.  But my friend Kera traded me a jar of her home canned "cowboy candy"  (sweet and hot jalapeno peppers) for a jar of my home canned dill pickles.  A few days ago, I ate cowboy candy on triscuits with cream cheese until I almost popped.  And it was almost worth it. I only say almost because I have 10 + pounds to lose in - 3 weeks.

Yesterday morning, I thought about that cowboy candy and how, if I planted some hot peppers  now,  I could put up tons of cowboy candy this fall.  And that thought was enough to get me out of the house.

It. is. that. good. 

Knock-you-right-out-of-a-rut-and-make-you-plant-something  good.  


So I bought three plants and I squeezed them into my crowded raised beds.  Not the best plan for a good harvest.

basil is happy in the raised bed this year
But Michael reminds me, even if these plants don't grow many peppers, we can buy locally grown peppers at the farmers market and I can still put up cowboy candy to my hearts content. 

I love a man with a backup plan!

When I don't know what else to do, sometimes I plant things in the ground. 




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Thursday, March 20, 2014

in clover: if you give a girl a tea towel.....

My sweet friend Angie sent me a care box full of lovies a few weeks ago.  In it was all sorts of chicken cuteness...a little chicken whisk...a little chicken tea cozy....a little chicken cookie cutter...and on and on.  I had written to her about my jaw pain and she wanted to raise my spirits.  I liked everything but I absolutely adored the tea towels she included.  I hung them on my stove handle but I didn't really want to leave them there because I'm messy when I cook and I was sure I would splatter and stain them.  No way was I going to use them for drying my counters or cleaning in my kitchen.  I am as hard on tea towels as I am on shoes! I couldn't bear to put them away, though, so I hung them on the stove handle. Since I was feeling so badly, I wasn't cooking anyway. They seemed safe.  And they made me smile every time I saw them.  Sort.  Actually, my jaw pain made smiling more painful than almost anything else. 

Once I realized that the jaw pain I was experiencing was not going to go away easily, I did some research.  I found out that one of the best places in the US for treatment of this kind of pain is right here in Lexington.  Darn near right across the street from my house, in fact.  It's called the  Orafacial Pain Clinic at the University of Kentucky.  And there is a very long wait list to get in. Apparently this is an all too common source of pain....mostly for women.....mostly in my age category.  I know a lot of UK folks and a lot of doctors and I called everyone I could think of...and my dentist did too....but I was not able to get an appointment any sooner than two and a half months out.  

But exactly one week ago, I got in! (That's another post!)  I got in and I was truly amazed by the compassionate and skilled work that is being done there.  I'm beginning to feel much better and I am now hopeful that I will eventually be pain free again.  It could take several months but I am prepared for that now.  

All of this to say that yesterday I was able to do more than I have been able to do in months! 


...went back to the gym with Michael and did a light cardio work out....first time in over six months!

...went to the market and actually enjoyed picking out food and planning meals

...came home and cooked...I cooked two different soups, a full dinner AND an entree for later in the week

...worked with some of Big C's senior pictures in my photo editing software and made some plans for his graduation celebration

...laughed and smiled, and it only hurt a little

...and I found a great place for the cute tea towels...as part of the window treatment in my kitchen.  

If you give a girl a tea towel....she'll hang it in the window.  

Where she can see it, all the time, and think of her sweet friend and smile.  

And after she's hung the tea towels in this unconventional way, she'll realize that she's beginning to feel like herself again.  

Herself again, but different too.  

Because now she she has an idea of just how many people are in physical pain, all the time.  And how awful that is.  And she will be different now.  More grateful. More empathetic.  More aware.  

She'll do her best to be more of those things.



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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

in clover: listen to my word....

When I was a little girl, I talked A LOT.  My family nicknamed me "Jabberwocky."  Sometimes, out of necessity and for the sake of her sanity, my mother would "tune" me out.  I understand.  My children are jabberwockys too.  There are times when I just can't take it in and I tune them out. 

Sometimes, when I was a very small girl, sensing my mother's distraction, I would pull on her sleeve and say, "Listen to my word.  Mommy, listen to my word." We've always thought that a funny and odd thing for a little girl to say.

Last Wednesday night my spiritual direction group wrapped up a month long exploration of Celtic spirituality.  I shared this incredible blessing from John O'Donohue.   I thought it particularly appropriate on that night.

For longing

Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.

May the forms of your belonging - love, creativity and friendship -

be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.

 May the one you long for long for you.

May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.

May a secret providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.

May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness
with which your body inhabits the world.

May your heart never be haunted by ghost-structures of old damage.

May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.

May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.

John O’Donohue

With a handful of dark green pipe cleaners and some quick instruction, we set out to weave a St. Brigid cross, mindfully.  Despite my reassurances that whatever you created or didn't create, it was ok, the important part was experience, well, really, the opening to the experience, folks were nervous about doing things "right.".  No matter how many times I said it, they had trouble accepting that the outcome was of little or not consequence. 

Brigid Crosses are traditionally woven from reeds.  I had a bag of materials in the garage, saved for the occasion but Michael unknowingly "decluttered" them.  In the end I decided on pipe cleaners because I knew it would be easier for their unfamiliar fingers to manage and might help keep our focus on the meditation, rather than making a perfect cross.   I said over and over again, "Remember, it's just a pipe cleaner!"   

But even so, as we wove our pipe cleaner crosses, you could feel the judgment (and tension) begin to build.  

For most of us, our minds told us that we were:

inferior or superior
too perfect or too sloppy
too fast or too slow
too determined or too hesitant
too focused or too scattered

The interesting thing to me was the nature of this judgement. This was not the "judging of one's neighbor" that we are warned against in the Bible.   

This was different.  

We didn't judge the woman to our left or the woman to our right or the woman across the room.  We judged ourselves, pure and simple. 
We were so judgmental of ourselves,  we had no choice but to laugh at ourselves.  The only other option would have been to judge ourselves for being so judgmental! 

Do you see what tricks the mind plays? 

That voice that urges you to peek at your neighbor out the corner of your eye...to check your measure against your friends...that voice is not God. The voice that says you are not good enough is never the voice of God. That voice is not Holy or Sacred and that voice surely does not speak Truth.  That is a small, small voice. It only sounds big because it is trapped in your head...it's bouncing around and echoing off the walls of your mind until you can hear nothing else. 

That small voice should not be able to drown out the love and longings that God speaks to you,  but all too often we ignore the God-Voice that says we are beautiful, we are powerful, we are loved.  We only hear that small, small voice that says we are not enough. It's small but it's loud and man oh man is it ever persistant. 

We can't quite tune in to the God station....

we create our own static.... 

we can't quite make out the voice of the Divine.

But if we will stop and listen and acknowledge and reach out...if we share our small thoughts and big fears with trusted soul friends, we can turn the volume down on that small voice.  We can remove the static and tune into Love. 

When those small, mean thoughts cross my mind, my friend and mentor taught me to say, "Hello, old friend.  Not today."  I can choose to let those small thoughts pass on by.  You can too.

Recently a friend sent me this quote from Sue Monk Kidd's book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. 

"Mindfulness has been called a powerful form of self-healing by many teachers and practitioners. How this process creates healing is part mystery and part grace. Somehow in a slow, hidden way, we're able to be with the depths of ourselves--our true natures, our souls--while at the same time observing our thoughts and feelings and not becoming caught up in them."  

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of Love.
May you have the courage to reveal your true nature. 

Can you feel me pulling on your sleeve? 

"Listen!  Listen!  Listen to my word!

You are beautiful 
You are powerful
You are magnificent
You are infinite
You are eternal
You are loved

You ARE enough



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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

in clover: and the winner is.....

For the last few years, I have chosen a "word of the year."  Actually, it's more accurate to say that I have allowed a word for the year to choose me.   Something to pay attention to....sit with....reflect on....and notice in my life.   A word given to me for me, to consider.  

Three years ago the word was "real."  The year after that, "creativity."   Last year, the word that chose me was "resurrection." Most often my word does not choose me by January 1, although sometimes there are clues.  This year, as we traveled over Christmas and then celebrated the new year quietly at home, I had an inkling that my word could be "unravel".   Santa left some totally awesome typeface magnets in my stocking this year and I doodled on the refrigerator during the month of January.  I spelled out my top three candidates:


Later that day, I saw that little c had noticed my words and left a list of her own.  She wrote:

I paid attention to her list as well....my word could be there.  But, as January came and went, I still wasn't sure which word was mine for 2014.  

When I was quite young, nineteen, I think, I had several serious dental problems involving broken teeth, abscesses, root canals and ultimately extractions. Lots of pain that thankfully responded to meds.   Going to the dentist still invokes quite a bit of anxiety for me but in an effort to stave off suffering I have devoted myself to regular dental visits and, for the last 17 or so years, I have not had any serious issues.  

But when I went for my routine cleaning in September, my dentist told me he could see a crack in one of my lower molars on the left side.  It didn't hurt but I had learned my lesson about ignoring dental problems! I was determined to be very proactive and head off any problems before they came to pass.  I returned a few weeks later to have the tooth crowned.  

And the truth is, things haven't been the same since.  I have a wonderful dentist who has cared for me with expertise and compassion (and now I have a wonderful periodontist to care for me as well) and I don't need to go into all the details with you because...well, they are just details and aren't really important.  And I'm certainly not writing to complain about my dentists.  He's awesome.  She's awesome. But the fact remains that despite receiving the best possible care from several very experienced and knowledgeable dental professionals, I find myself in a chronic pain situation.   

It has become pretty clear to me that my word of the year is P-A-I-N.  

Throbbing, aching, stabbing, never can get away from it, not even for a minute, make you want to shoot yourself in the head (no kidding) pain.  While I  have had some aches and pains in the past, I have never been hospitalized (except for childbirth), or had a broken bone or even stitches.  I rarely go to the doctor except for routine exams and I take no prescription medications and otc stuff very rarely.  The worst pain I have ever experienced was dental (worse than labor) and even then, once I saw a dentist, had a procedure and was given pain meds, I was totally back to normal in a few days time.

This is different.  First off, the narcotics I have been given to dull the pain have not worked.  At all.  They don't even put me to sleep.  Not for a minute.  In fact, they seem to have the opposite effect on me.  And so far, my dentists haven't been able to fix me.  It's unclear exactly what is going on...whether there is a problem with an actual tooth or whether I have a bad case of tmd or both but this much I can tell you: 

I am not me right now.   I wake up and I think I am ok so I begin to go about my business and the hurt sneaks up on me. Sometimes, tears well up before I even know I am about to cry. Even when the pain is more annoying than severe, I find it very distracting. I find myself saying things like, "I just can't think straight." I can't get much done in a day anymore.  I have to prioritize carefully. 

I was determined to postpone writing about the pain until I could tell you that it was gone and I was well...and that I had figured out what it was here to teach me...when I could tie it all up for you with a beautiful and spiritually relevant bow.  When I could say, "Whew!  That was hard. I'm glad that's over. Here's what I learned." 

But it's going on six months and it's not over and I'm beginning to wonder if this is something that will have to be lived with. 

Another list might read: 


When little c was in the hospital as a newborn for nearly two months and I was having trouble finding any light, any God-ness, in the situation, my friend made a long list of things for which we could be grateful.  If I am completely truthful with you, I will say that I long for a return to my life without any level of this pain.  But I can see gifts too...for one thing, this pain seems to be drawing some amazing women healers into my life.  And, thanks be to God, they have helped me reduce my pain to something manageable.  And pain is helping me hone in on those things that I really feel called to give my time and energy to...if you only have a little energy, you learn to be pretty picky about what you spend it on.  And BS?  I don't put up with it anymore, not for even a moment.  Well, maybe a moment, but not much longer than that. And I am learning to be grateful for things like a good night's sleep which I definitely took for granted before.  And I am extraordinarily grateful for my friends who aren't scared away by my pain and will sit in it with me, when I can't be alone in it.  I am very grateful to be seen and heard by a few, even when my story is unpleasant.  Again.   As for the ones who just aren't there yet?  Who are uncomfortable with the pain of others?  Well, God bless them!  I mean it.  I've been there, many times, but thank God for those who can hang with those now suffering.  Seriously. 

One night little c brought me this "fortune teller" she made for me.  Little c can hang.  There is no doubt, c's got a gift for healing.  She has healed herself several times over!  This gives me so much hope because my c has been there and persevered.  I keep it by my bed:

One night, when I had been feeling good all day and then unexpectedly was hit with waves of pain at a night time meeting, I tearfully confided to a friend that maybe pain was my path to the Holy, at least for now.  She responded with tears of her own and when she hugged me, her tears fell on my face and I swear, by the time I got home I was feeling better.  Yes, I downed some Advil (and some vodka!)...yes, I grabbed a heating pad the minute I walked in the door but I was able to sit with my kid on the sofa and watch the Olympics and eat a Girl Scout cookie, ask him about his life and crack a joke.  I didn't have to go hole up in my room, alone.  Someone suggested that my friend cries tears made of Holy Water.  Maybe.  They sure felt holy to me. 

There may be holiness in this but I'd be lying if I told you I welcome it.  I do not.  Most days I want it to go away in the worst possible way.  Please God, let me return to my old life...moving through my days with ease and very little gratitude...going about my day turning molehills into mountains and complaining about every minor irritation that comes my way.  

I thought I was so present.  

Not. even. close. 

My plan for the year:
heal ! (notice the exclamation point...as in "NOW!")


I finally gave in and added "pain" to the bottom of the word list. 

I really want this dis-ease to go away but at the same time, I feel sure it is here for a reason.  As part of a new years meditation, I did a collage exercise. I tried not to put too much conscious thought into the collage, but rather to simply respond to images and words, without needing to know why.  My friend Patsy taught me to collage in that way....letting the images and words choose me and then sitting with them for hours, days and sometimes months.  We do learn to "go deeper" in spiritual direction.  This vignette speaks for itself, I think.

And this butterfly image is just to the left of the pain image, more in the center of the collage,....I love the butterflies, escaping their gilded box (beautiful...but still a box!) and the little girl, running in the sand among the sea oats....there is a quote from a Hafiz poem above her:

"Run my dear, From anything that may not strengthen your precious budding wings."  Hafiz 

Then I wonder...what if  I have the right words but have placed them in the wrong order?  Maybe it looks more like this: 

I keep trying to move to the end but perhaps I'm at the beginning.  

Maybe this is just the first word, and the first blog post, of a series....maybe next I will be writing about unraveling. 

My friend Patsy taught me to read my meditation collages from left to right, as in,left=now...and right=movement toward.  That helps me see myself moving from the images of pain to the images of the young girl on the beach and the butterflies escaping their gilded box. 

I don't know.  I'll sit with that.  For now all I can say for sure is:
"Whew!  This is hard. I'll be glad when this part is over.  But for now, it is what it is. Here's what I think I am being asked to consider."

(Because let's face it...whether it ends tomorrow, next month, next year, or 40 years from now, eventually this part WILL be over.)

And I will take any healing prayers you will offer for me.  This isn't going to kill my body and I am aware of that luxury.  It sure is taking a toll on my spirit, though. I think sometimes we shame ourselves, when we feel pain, but our body is not dying.  I think we say to ourselves, "Oh, it's not that bad.  It's not serious."  We don't have to wallow in pain, that's true, but we sure as heck don't have to pretend that it's not there.  How can that be helpful?  
I think we need to take turns being healed and being healer.  We need to give...and we need to receive.  

So, lay it on me, please!  Picture me, ready to receive your healing touch.  

I learned this simple prayer from a sister I knew only for a few days. 

Utubariki Mungu Asante.  

Bless us Lord.  Thank you.  

I have important work to do and am eager to return to it, full speed ahead.  When you bless me, you are blessed.  When you receive my blessing, I am blessed. Healing touch. 

Bless US Lord.  Thank you.



P.S.  Hit Michael up with some of your healing prayers too....under the weight of not only caring for me but picking up all my slack....plus working to support us ....he came down with Shingles.  Not surprising, but still painful.   Lucky for him I was able to direct him to some amazing women healers.   And guess what?  One of them, who is very intuitive, told me that she really doesn't like to work with spouses of clients...it can cause trouble, she said.  But when Michael went in and she laid hands on him, she could tell that we were LITERALLY created for one another.  As in...he was made for me and I was made for him.   "You waited awhile on him, didn't you?"  she asked me.  Yes! "Worth the wait, wasn't he?"  Yes!  "You chose well." she said.  Yes, I did. 

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