May 26, 2009

I dont know what to say.

Filed under: Really Living — Tia @ 1:17 pm

That’s the truth of What Is.

Last week I took my babies to the ocean and we body surfed in waves that were more caribbean than North Florida. Sunlight glinted, causing us to shut our eyes tight to more than just splashing salt water. And in one of those waves, in a moment of utter contentment and happiness, I finally decided to stop posting on this blog. It was just like that: a wave came, I let my body glide along with it, the two of us moved together a little closer to shore, babies laughed and called to each other, sunshine warmed us, and when I stood up, I knew I was ready to close a door.

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This blog documents a lot of history. In many ways I was a different person than the me I am now when I first started writing here. The texture of my family most certainly was different. Our environment was one that will never exist in that form again.  Since the axis point of our life change I have debated how long I would continue here; many, many days the energy here has not seemed to fit. It’s been restrictive and I don’t feel the freedom to express. But so much change happened at one time and it was necessary not to let everything go at once.

I’m ready to turn the key in new locks. I’m ready for new walls and new folders and fresh air.  For awhile I thought I could accomplish the same feeling with different paint. But the feng shui was off and the past year and a half has shown me that no matter the arrangement of things, what I have to say and express would leave wrists and ankles hanging bare. It’s just constricting. Not that the things I talk about or want to share are really all that different…but it seems time to say them in a different room.

I thought the new place would need to feel very open to possibility. My life right now is still gypsie-like, with only a few hard and fast parameters. I have to bend and flex daily like no other time in my life and have a very open mind to evolving visions and destinations. There isn’t a lot of space for locked in philosophies or ideologies and I don’t feel like the voice to promote one of those anyway. Life is made of moments and of very earnest people just taking those moments and making of them what they can. No boxes, no pattern pieces stamping us all out in a row.

One of my favorite things about my “new” life is that the incredible variety of people I now come into contact with. Part of that is the power of the internet and of running an online business. But it happens in person too. It’s an amazing high to meet someone from an entirely different background and demographic and find common ground. And most of the time that commonality is over small things we each savor in the midst of our very different journeys.

I wanted the new space to embrace that. I wanted to convey the happy moments that surface even in the midst of the frenzied pace most of my days carry. I’ve got a lot on the menu and I know most everyone else does too. Sometimes, when I’m pushing through to make it to the next thing, I put in one earbud and turn on my ipod and sing. To no one but me. And it probably looks odd, especially when I stop at a traffic light and my windows are down because my van AC doesn’t work. I’m sure I seem “touched” by the heat and a little off kilter. But it always works. By the end of whatever song I was in the mood for, I found enough strength to quit obsessing about my worries and my depleted stamina and to keep going.

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So the new site is called www.singingtomyself.com. I’m sure I’ll write there but for now it’s mostly photo moments; snapshots of what gives me a happiness shot in the arm. Things are a little bare and plain over there right now and that’s just what I want. Air. Light. Open possibilities.  This site will remain up; gratefully the archives still prove helpful to readers just finding a response to a few things they were searching for. I’m lucky to have been where I have been and blessed anyone read what I wrote along the way. Like any book with chapters, it’s time to turn the page.


May 3, 2009

Rx For Peace & Progress: Take Two Of These And Call Me In The Morning.

Filed under: Really Living, books — Tia @ 4:00 pm

When I was a little girl, laying on a blanket on the grass, looking up counting clouds, I don’t remember ever saying, “When I grow up I want to be lonely”. On the contrary, my earliest memory of growing-up dreams went like this: “When I grow up I want to have 5 children.” My childhood play included muddy baby dolls and tee pees in the woods or dollhouse homesteads with multitudes of barefooted chillin’s running around. I thought the daddy would be my best friend and we would live in ordinary domestic bliss forever.

Life kind of turned out like that. I had the five babies. They were even muddy and barefooted most of the time! Truth be told, lots of times they still are. I’ve even come pretty close to an actual homestead. What little girls don’t realize (and its probably a mercy to them) is that the reality of dreams that come true have a lot of other stuff that comes with them. Like the fact that I’ve had 5 babies but only get to raise 4, having buried one when she was born with a broken heart. Or that sometimes the man you thought was Prince Charming turns into a mean toad at night, turning your humble little castle into a haunted homestead of illusion. Life is like that; sugar comes with lumps.

When dreams break and there are pieces to pick up, lots of the daily rituals that existed are gone. The cast of characters changes.  Basics like eating and sleeping are thrown off kilter. People worry less if the externals look the same for as long as possible…you know, if you still show up for work on time, have the same party you always did, come to church and sit in a neat row. So maybe a lot of energy goes to those things, just to avoid dealing with both the tragedy and the disruption caused for others. But one thing is definite: people love to give advice. I think it makes them feel like they’ve done something to help when the problem seems too big for anyone to fix. And another thing can be counted on, at least most of the time: that advice worked for them or someone they knew so they’re sure it will work for you too.

It’s well meant. Very much so and it always helps to keep that in mind. There have been two really big traumas in my life that have resulted in a constant tide of lovingly-meant advice. The first was after my Clara died. The second was after I left that abusive marriage and said out loud that I gave up.

When Clara died, it was all “stay busy” kind of stuff. For some reason, it seems grieving people shouldn’t be allowed to have too much time on their hands. Makes them dwell on the pain too much maybe. What I hated most then about those days was how easily the world kept on turning when I wanted it to stop for a second and acknowledge her existence. I hated busy-ness. I hated having Things To Do. I wanted to crawl into my lonely nursery, paint her picture for hours, tend her grave, hold my toddlers, and give the whole process it’s appointed time.

This was very different from how I’d coped with anything else. Extreme financial pressure, major disappointments, emotional despair…these were all met with hard work. Lots of hard work. I throw myself into projects when I need to push through something. Take no breaks. A task at a time, I stay too busy to think. So when I put on the breaks that May, I gave myself over to it fully but it was counter to everyone’s prescription. Maybe it’s like when someone is pushing on you and instead of pushing back, you drop your arms and let their own force make them fall.  I knew in my heart when the time was right to Come Back.  I washed her clothes and put them away. I got the nursery ready for the next baby and willed myself to dream of him whole. I started listening to life again. And I learned in vivid color that this “time”, this turning point, is different for everyone. No one can appoint it for any one else.

The end of marriage though was the total opposite. Now the idea was “you need time alone”. I have the unfortunate (for this story) historical note of having gotten married too young. I married a year after high school and lived at my parent’s home until I moved into “Our” first apartment. In most of the world, this is normal. In America, this Bad News.

So, when you do that, and it goes badly, it’s assumed at least part of the problem was that she wasn’t independent enough.  Really, it’s another way to make him less responsible. Go with me here for a second: There’s a persistant attitude regarding abused women that part of them likes it or they wouldn’t stay. Or maybe part of it is that they are too stupid/naive/young etc to notice the signs. Whatever. The crux is that this puts the responsiblity of the abuse ON HER. Nevermind that men shouldn’t abuse their women. That there shouldn’t BE signs to recognize because EVEN IF she’s stupid/naive/young, men don’t have the lisense to beat her head into the wall because dinner was late or the kitchen floor needs to be mopped.

I don’t think anyone who has spoken to me directly has thought his abuse was my fault. Not in so many words. But when they say it happened because I was too young or it happened because I didn’t have enough time on my own first, that’s missing the mark. It happened because HE. Not, It happened because SHE. Get the nuance?

So anyway, I didn’t live alone before I got married. And after I left, I went back to my parent’s house, which became more lengthy than anyone intended. Legal issues are complicated and after he was committed, a physcologist was added into the mix. You can’t rent an apartment if you can’t change your legal residence. So, we lived where we were told to live, poster children for the fact that idyllic solutions can’t be slapped on situations so far from any kind of ideal.

And somewhere in the mix of the time since then, surfaced this idea that I might be afraid to be alone. Or I might not know how. Or, if I can just somehow manage it, it will make everything better.

Well-meant, constant advice.  Any writers reading this are probably laughing… writers and other creatives know that time alone inevitably fills with words, images, and ideas faster than you slap a tick. More content is generated than can be expressed in a lifetime; the feeling being there is never enough time to get it all “done”. It’s something craved, not feared. I can’t remember the last time I was bored, felt afraid of silence, or couldn’t find something to do.  Nevertheless, when relational crisis happens, the universal advice is “you just need some time alone”.

The “work” that often has to be done, is different for everyone. For some, they have never known solitude and their biggest work is learning how to be alone with the quiet. For others, who’ve had too much time alone, their biggest work may be learning to how to dwell within community, or at least, a different community. To say one size fits all is to say we must all be hermit monastics or that there is a magic number prescription that is if swallowed, will make the rest of life go down more easily. To be sure, breaking old patterns and learning new ones, opening life up to light, and choosing health over toxicity will all make the new life better than the old one. But if this came in a bottle or in a clearly defined checklist we all could adopt, it’d be a Brave New World indeed.

I knew where my work needed doing. There are a few general “givens” that I didn’t waste time questioning. For instance, therapy always helps. Anyone. At any time. Got a problem? Go talk to someone. It’s guaranteed to help and probably in ways you wouldn’t have predicted. It’s transformative like that.  Another is to analyze what steps occurred that led to the previous choice and design some kind of map of opposites so that it’s not possible to choose that way a second time. Want different people in your life? They probably hang out in different places than the others. And they have different hobbies. You might have to learn something new, which happens to be pretty interesting and transformative all on it’s own. All that “stepping out of your comfort zone” stuff grows a person. If you spent years burying your own preferences, the process of uncovering them becomes it’s own adventure. Back it way up baby; go back to the start. Remembering what you liked and what’s been added to it in your absence is seeing new skin on your finger after a week or so under a band aid. Everything feels really fresh again, even if it’s actually quite old. It’s you that’s been changed.

Having the kind of childhood I did, with all that time in the woods, making “friends” with trees and ideas, gave me lots of time alone. Being a creative person, who paints and writes, taught me how to fill available solitude with texture. Being married to who the person I was, taught me how to work hard within the the context of emotional isolation, in the absence of camaraderie. Walking away from every tangible thing I knew, small children in tow, through a dangerous Leaving and towards an uncertain future certainly taught me how to be strong for others even as the world around me crumbles. It definitely conquered any fear of doing it alone!  Learning how to be alone is not something I need more practice doing. As I lay dying, I won’t think back and wish I’d had more time alone. I won’t wish I’d spent more time reading interesting books or trying  a new painting technique, though I like to do both of those things. Someone said to me last week that what those telling someone “you need to be alone” don’t realize is that what they are saying alienates the person they are saying it to.  This ultimately drives them away, to go be with someone else rather than “alone”.  People, like legos, really don’t make a whole lot of sense without the context of one another.

Transformation doesn’t have to have a cocoon or bubble in order to occur. In fact, I think I’m starting to believe that it rarely does. I will include the deeply spiritual practices of intentionally sequestered time for mediation and prayer. By it’s very nature, the discipline of prayer includes addressing someone, a higher power, something bigger than ourselves. Even prayer does not happen “alone”, though it does happen in quiet.

It might be more convincing that it works if it seemed anyone really did it. I know people who decided not to date after a break up for a long time…but they live very active social lives. Or online lives. Or that blurry place inbetween. There are people who maintain a private mailing address and call this “alone”, even though their hours aren’t spent that way. Others don’t tell their friends and families who is in their lives and call this “alone”. I’ve heard people say with regret (because they didn’t do it) that “you need to be alone”…only because in hindsight they wish they’d done things differently and pick needing companionship as the weakness they’d most like to purge.

As if the ability not to need people makes them super heroes. The only thing it makes them sound like to me is less human.

секс с со змеями

I think that’s ironic. Why is wanting to be in the presence of a friend considered a weakness? It’s a universal human desire, one of such magnitude that God said it was not good for man to be alone so He made him a woman. Humans need food, water, shelter, to love and be loved. We die without those things. And yes, I get that we all die anyway but if we were given a life to live for a time I don’t see the point in wasting the hours. We get ONE life and it’s later than we think. If there is work to be done after a crisis, I’d rather do it fully and then get on with living. Which is to say, I don’t want to spend my one little lifetime sorting through emotional trauma and the fallout. There’s so much more to real living than that.

If I’ve learned anything in my suffering it’s that everyone has it. Everyone knows pain and struggle. We are all valid. What we are not is all the same. What might heal you is not necessarily what will heal me. My remedy could be your poison. If I walk with you, I will know this. If I hand you a platitude and walk away, I will not. People need people, a hand to hold, a hug, room to be. Fortunately, the world is a big place full of people. If one tribe won’t commune, there’s another that needs you. In this one life we get, we can touch as many as we wish. When I read that quote last week, “it’s later than we think”, it stuck with me. There’s no time like now; it’s the only time we have.


April 28, 2009

Memories Unspoken.

Filed under: Really Living, music — Tia @ 8:57 am

When I left him, I didn’t use any labels: I told the story. Most of our friends and family had not seen any warning signs of domestic violence so the story always came as a shock. Over time, a few came to me after processing and a bit of hindsight, and memories started to seem like luminaria on a path. The story rang true. When I told my lawyer the story, he handed me a book, “The Battered Woman“. I hid it in my drawer for a good two months before I cracked it. That woman’s bruised face surely was NOT my story.

I remember the heavy feeling in my gut when I read the ad in the paper for the support group for survivors of domestic violence. That day was one of the first I felt the weight of the honesty of the label. I was in the group for a year and a half. Not a single woman there fit the stereotype I’d carried. We weren’t crack heads. We weren’t minorities. We weren’t low income. Our husbands weren’t drunks. And none of us had been punched in the face. Most of us didn’t have filed police reports. All of us had been battered.

Most of my year of private therapy dealt with moving on. Dealing with what was real, the new challenges, the legal fight, the single parenting, feeling safe again, and preventing it from ever happening again. Last spring, this time a year ago, I began feeling sure-footed and strong and stopped looking over my shoulder all the time.

But the last week and a half have been hard ones. You see, a few things happened in the world around me that triggered body memory I thought had been laid to rest.

My mom and I went shopping on the day my Tennessee legal case was signed into Florida jurisdiction. At a busy, 6 lane intersection surrounded by noisy car dealerships and no little shops or restaurants or sidewalks, we saw a woman get out of her car on the passenger side. Her face was red, her step an attempt to look determined but it was clear she didn’t know to where she was walking. My mom wondered with a chuckle what she was doing; I knew in half a heartbeat exactly why a woman leaves her car and walks into traffic. It was safer out than in and I didn’t need the glance up I gave it to know it was a man driving that car.

And then an old high school friend shot his whole family. His sweet wife and homebirthed babies and then finally himself. Behind closed doors, where no one knew the level of his depression or the demons that haunted him. Friends and neighbors said they saw no sign of previous violence but I wondered right away what their fights were like. I felt the urging pursuit at my back that night I  raced to gather my babies and enough laundry for a few days and threw them into the car at midnight before he came back. I knew if I was there when he got back he’d kill us in his insanity. I’ve heard he doesn’t remember that night. I’m certain I’ll never forget it.

And despite buoyantly hopeful, wonderful days that string together like crowded beads on a chain now, I had one day last week that picked scabs scraped open from scourging. I started crying around 10 am and couldn’t turn the water works off until about 10pm. The cummulative power of remembering bare feet worn sore from 5 miles of walking home pregnant after fleeing the car. The nervous anxiety of counting sharp objects and taking inventory while he was yelling so I’d know which way to move or stand so as not to draw his attention to their presence. The midwife visit canceled because I couldn’t let her see the stripe marks on my legs and the headache I blamed on hormones that was really from the door jam. The knowledge that these memories will not ever really go away completely and the tenuous apprehension of what effect they will have on my future. I think that day I tried to tell myself that it was all wanting answers for the days ahead that spurred the tears. I sat before a man with mature self-control and cried my heart out and felt something profound: my emotions didn’t anger him. They didn’t make him want to shake me. He didn’t begin to blame me. His inablity to fix my problem didn’t make him feel insecure in who he is. I poured it out until exhausted, a purging left in the river and walked away from rather than stuffed back inside.

One good thing that has come from the past two years has been a refusal to hide what is real. I won’t ever again carry a secret so heavy or prop up a life that can’t stand on its own. I let my intestines do more of the decision making than any part of me because my gut doesn’t lie like my reasoning, idealistic brain does. I choose to surround myself with people who love me for who I am, or who don’t and are honest about it.  There is comfort in a sacramental approach to a simple life: eat, pray, love, dance, grow, rest. I don’t think people make a whole lot of sense without the context of one another and life is not as hard as we sometimes insist on making it. We have one lifetime and it’s later than we think. If I spend the rest of my days doing those six things: eat, pray, love, dance, grow, rest, I think it will be enough.


April 27, 2009

On the privilege of motherhood…

Filed under: Really Living, money and Dave R. — Tia @ 12:50 pm

I haven’t had a lot to say lately, mostly because I’ve been doing two things:  living a very full life in such vivid color that there is no energy for both living it and talking about it, and, thinking stuff in my head through that hasn’t crossed over to “articulate enough to print”.

One of those things is the endless advice mothers get about their children and how often ideals must be set aside for the sake of honoring what is best not for your ideal children in an ideal world but for your unique children in a very flawed, messy world.  Another of those things is the memory of how often I’ve chosen things for my own children that live outside of the Ideal Box, shunned all that well-meant but too-far-removed advice, and gone with what I knew in my heart was best for them. Coupled with it, of course, comes the memories of years of chasing ideals, adopting ideals, and letting them become my other gods. These decisions always missed the mark and left a scar pointing in the direction of where I should have been.

In my heart I knew that birthing them the way I did was right for them.  I never regret the project that went unfinished because I was nursing and napping with my baby but I’ve often regreted weaning too early because of a number and someone else’s opinion. We spent long days together that became long years together, making mud, prowling the library, sleeping in, and cooking, doing that right thing called “Homeschooling”. We hiked past national monuments, through deep snow, and all through China Town doing that right thing called, “Be Safe”, which most certainly attacked ideals. And we’ll do it again, as this year, without a doubt,  will hold its own life-changing choices as we pursue that right thing called, “Moving Onward”.

My friend Julie wrote a great piece today on Motherhood that took a few of my inarticulate thoughts and helped me find some form. Read it and then go find a kid and kiss ‘em. Motherhood doesn’t have to be martyrdom.


April 7, 2009

Everybody Cut Footloose!

Filed under: Really Living, books — Tia @ 9:32 am

русская ебля


April 1, 2009

Life is not as hard as we make it.

Filed under: Really Living — Tia @ 7:13 pm

So went my recurring thought today.


March 20, 2009

A Little TN came to FL….

Filed under: Really Living — Tia @ 6:03 am

порно учителей в школе 586


March 19, 2009

Everybody FAILS sometimes….

Filed under: Really Living — Tia @ 2:02 pm

Failblog.org


Tell your inner critic to “hush”.

Filed under: Really Living — Tia @ 7:51 am

“Another reason I don’t like critics (the one in myself as well in other people) is that they try to teach something without being it. They are like all those feeble, knock-kneed women afraid of bugs and burglers, who say to their husbands (in so many words): “Go out and fight you coward!” They are second-raters who have not the courage or love to make anything of themselves. Or they are like big game hunters, killing from a great, safe distance, with great ego-satisfaction (though they are entirely safe themselves and the shooting requires no muscular effort and not much skill) some nice little creature.

Of course I am sorry for them too. Because by encouraging the critic in themselves (the hater) they have killed the artist (the lover). Know that if you have a kind of cultured know-it-all in yourself who takes pleasure in pointing out what is not good, in discriminating, reasoning and comparing, you are bound under a knave. I wish you could be delivered.

For I know that the energy of the creative impulse comes from love and all it’s manifestations- admiration, compassion, glowing respect, gratitude, praise, compassion, tenderness, adoration, enthusiasm. …

…’You are kind to painters’ van Gogh wrote to his brother, ‘and I tell you the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people’. “

-Brenda Ueland, in “If You Want to Write”


March 16, 2009

My Sentiments Exactly.

Filed under: Really Living — Tia @ 9:52 am

оргазм девки


March 12, 2009

Operation “Do One Less Thing”

Filed under: Really Living — Tia @ 10:54 am

Addendum to the post below:

I think over-productivity lies. There is not more to show for getting more done in a day, unless one would like to count more fatigue, more burn out, more exhaustion. Over-productivity has not saved us from national financial failure. It has not produced smarter children. It has not saved marriages. It has not preserved the planet. It doesn’t make us healthier, wealthier, or wise.

I think we should take a stand against over-productivity. Pressure school systems and employers to not open their doors before 8 am. Take weekends off. Let roosters announce sunrise again. Eat three meals a day and play outside at least one hour. Save overhead costs, slash budgets rather than jobs. Make the same money because our work is higher quality.

Doesn’t it make more sense for a company to stick to a 40 hour work week for all, rather than cut two employees and make the others work 60? It probably makes as much sense as keeping jobs in America instead of sending them overseas…healthy, happy people eat and spend and support. Broke, tired, unemployed people watch stock drop, eventually ambivilent.

What would happen if we all did one less thing today? If we all left 10 minutes earlier than usual? Listening to the news,  I don’t think there’s a lot to lose by trying. Except maybe fatigue, burn out, exhaustion….


Whose idea was this anyway?

Filed under: Really Living — Tia @ 8:10 am

This morning when I stepped out of the camper, the farm was drenched in fog. I was already on grumpy auto-pilot, feeling like the heavy bearing getting bounced around the ping ball machine, which might hit it’s mark and might not. So, hitting that fog like a wall, I started to turn right around and crash back on that bed.

The morning and I had already had similar run-ins: the stupid alarm hit me in a heavy cycle of sleep and then fell on the floor when I reached to shut it off…that right there is enough discouragement as to the trend of the day to make me roll over and groan back into slumber. My nose was cold while the rest of me was warm. I’m not a doctor or anything but it seems to make more sense to tuck such a nose UNDER THE COVERS rather than make the whole body match it in chills.  Trying to go through my daily inventory (what day is this? what do I have to do first? who will be the most mad if I screw up?), I couldn’t remember if this was Thursday or Wednesday, which means, I was having a hard time accessing my memory bank from the night before. Vespers, a summerish night, a long drive home, bad writing news waiting for me.

“Oh Yeah”. Bad writing news. Right before bed last night I got an email that confirmed what I’d already suspected: all the copy I finished on Tuesday has to be redone. I did what the client wanted but not my boss; if I redo it my boss will be happy but not the client. Tuesdays are writing days; this has to be coepecitic by the end of today. It was a crappy lullaby.

I guess I’m disciplined enough to make myself get out of bed at o’darkthirty. I’ll walk across the dewy lawn to the main house, make scratch waffles before my brain is really on, pack 3 nice lunches and get the kids to school on time. My kids have learned I’m not very verbal, proving the inborn intuitiveness of children.  I kiss and hug and help them pull on clean clothes and butter bread and drive, but I don’t talk about it or anything else while I’m doing it.

Babies are smart: they sleep when they’re tired and they wake when they’re not. They seem to keep this until we impose something else on them. For some, maybe it’s daycare (drop off at 7 am?). Others, it’s school (drop off at 7:30?). As homeschoolers, we delayed this change a long time. My kids woke when they were ready until a much later age than many others. Which meant, so did Mom.

Early risers make the world go around I suppose. They insist on squeezing more productivity out of the day and force it on the rest of us. I’m tired (oh am I so tired) of the perception that someone is only valuable if they are productive, and they can only be productive if they start every day at the crack of dawn. Grey productive types need Creatives sometimes, and we need our rest.

What happened to the world where the early risers were the bread bakers and donut makers? Monastics rise early to pray but what’s so special about that anymore when the rest of the country is up along with them? Shouldn’t we all sleep a bit more so the dawn is quiet and calm? Are we messing up the birds by beating them to the sunrise punch? Would it be a big deal if we went back to a 9-5 life and slept an extra hour each morning?

Maybe the recession is going to teach workaholics a thing or two. Maybe, to cut overhead costs, places will have to be open for a shorter duration, giving us more time at home and less time in traffic. Maybe “Economic Turndown” is just another way to say, “National Burn Out”, or “Take THAT Morning People”! After all, you think the stock exchange is going to notice today if you spend another 10 minutes in bed, drink an extra half cup of coffee, and walk outside to breathe fresh air on your break? Probably not, but I bet you’d smile more. I’d bet with enough days of that the bags under your eyes would firm and disappear. You might even get more work done because there’s no more dazed moments staring into space wondering what day it is.

Oh wait, that’s me. It’s Thursday, March 12. I’ve got to write, get to class (real estate law this week; I’m getting my Paralegal Cert), talk about clouds to my four year old, update two blogs, put out a few client fires, dodge anything remotely emotionally stressful on purpose, get groceries, and decide on dinner for 7.

Is there really anything about that couldn’t have waited until 9?


March 4, 2009

“In Stillness and Simplicity”

Filed under: Really Living — Tia @ 10:42 am

In my dream last night, I was doing three things: I was writing, I was shopping, and I was explaining. When my alarm went off at 6:30, I’m pretty sure I audibly moaned in protest that I was being interrupted in the midst of bargaining with the woman in the antique shop. It was as if I was both watching and participating in the scene, pile of desired white handkerchiefs in hand, and then turned to the audience/myself to say, “Can you just wait a minute? I’m about to get a great deal on these!”

On the pillow, trying to adjust to the reality that I had to crawl out from under the warmth of my comforter, I remembered with clarity something I’d almost forgotten: I used to love shopping at antique and thrift stores. I used to love “old” things. Readers won’t be surprised with the frugal or homesteading aspect of that; it’s well documented here.  Old things are without a doubt, often still useful things. What I’m in the process of currently though, is untangling my own sense of style, preference, of identity.  Without attachment to a spouse’s style, or an item’s need or purpose, or what etiquette and fashion says is necessary, I am trying to articulate what are my own tangible “essentials”.

Once upon a time, in a life long, long ago, I subscribed to Victoria magazine. I had flowered wallpaper, lacy curtains, and dreamed of “five child” houses: big white victorians with huge porches and quiet old trees. My best friend and I (still very much loved, only parted by the chasm real life and divergent husbands can cause) adored classical music, Victoria’s Secret when it was still feminine and flowers, and old stores with home things women for centuries had used and loved. It was, in hindsight, the first experimental expression of the adventure it can be to find one’s personal sense of style. From it, I take a value of things old and lasting; simple things loved for both their beauty and utility and because of that, they endure.

When I was a new bride, planning a huge southern wedding, I began the process of “registering”. I was somewhat sensitive about creating a space that was so feminine it didn’t reflect the man’s taste. You’ve all seen it: so-called “master” bedrooms that look so girlie a man couldn’t get a decent night’s sleep! I dragged the groom on store trips, clip board in hand, to choose what “we” wanted. He was bookish and formal and the choices made reflect that. Dark colors, formal china; very traditional stuff. The ladies at my bridal showers clucked their heads at my “boring” choices. After all, navy, burgundy, and forest green were beyond common at the time. I reasoned that the dark colors wouldn’t show the dirt. I reasoned that he’d feel “at home” in his house. It was years before I started feeling like I was the one that didn’t.

Our first house came; it was the nursery and the garden I most loved. There’s two enduring concepts for you: nurseries and gardens have been a part of every home since before the Victorian age! They embrace both what’s old and what’s new, fresh, and growing, all at once. I painted the baby room pale yellow and in both places, I grew and was grown.

When our second house came along, the dark towels were getting, like a lot of other things, quite old and ratty. The dark green plates had mostly broken. I was pregnant with my fifth baby and spent hours in the kitchen, the garden, and at the clothesline. It was the diapers that gave me the idea, with their clean row of white purity and old fashioned wooden pins. In an ever-complicated, full life, I craved simplicity. Clean, streamlined backdrops to vibrant expression. I decided I wanted white plates.

When tax time came, we went to a big outlet mall and I bought those white plates and heavy white coffee mugs. It felt good. It felt like I’d chosen something I really liked. The seasonal, diverse foods I was learning about looked better on them,  like a celebrated part of the process of learning to slow down and live a more sacramental life. The idea spread: I came to realize, that at my core, I like “real” things. Real materials, like wood floors, natural fibers, leafy green plants, fresh air…and more quietly, but what makes this more than a mere tangible preference of “things” is the whisper underneath of what those natural things represent to me: simplicity, honesty, consistency, visible goodness.

Because you can’t sweep anything under a rug if you have a bare floor. And you can’t hide the marks of life on a towel if it’s white. There’s no danger of toxicity if you haven’t got synthetics. And what is more consistent and reliable than a row of cotton white linens in a row, unbroken by loud patterns or abrupt colors? When it’s quiet, you can hear the birds sing; it also means no one is yelling. A wood table may warp and develop a patina, but so too do our bodies and faces. I’d rather the truth of the story be told, than masked. I like rooms that get used living and chairs that are sat in.

When I woke up this morning, to make my grandmother’s waffle recipe using my great-grandmother’s waffle iron, it occurred to me that trying to explain a preference for white towels is like trying to explain why I like tulips. One just does: it’s not something to explain or apologize for. And yet, when he likes blue and I like white, I feel a tug to say, “I’m sorry” even if he didn’t ask for that.

Our surroundings tell others a lot about us. That wacko neighbor down the street, who can’t throw anything away and has no visible sunlight anywhere in his house, tells us volumes without speaking. So does the little old lady with her eternally pink flower beds; they are full of silk stems. Nothing around her ever dies. Then again, nothing really lives either. The soccer mom who has all the latest and greatest is as beige as her clones. In a world of credit cards, our surroundings can be as plastic as the item we used to “buy” them.

I read something last week that encouraged women who are attempting to discern whether or not their man is a “loser” to listen to the stories they tell about themselves. In them, they will reveal their true character. A man who talks about how much he buys or has is probably overcompensating for what he lacks. A man who talks about winning, fighting, or intimidating is likely insecure and violent. I think the same can be (maybe not always is) true of environments.

I met someone last year who’s quiet home is filled with photos of those he loves. It’s true: his life is quiet, his love for family is profound. Another friend has a clean “front” room but the rest of the house is as tumultous as the looming bankruptcy. Yet another has walls of bright colors and emergent art as open as her mind and curiosity.  In my gypsie life, with my environment packed and locked in transition,  I can see the disadvantage those who newly meet me are in. There is no environment to guage me by.  I must seem fluid and maleable. Hard to read. A transient life tries on different identities for size and discards them as they don’t fit. To observers, it must cause some level of hesitation. Who would know from looking that I’m really a house-mouse who craves a nest?

Quietly, on the edge of dream scapes and in months of parting with the evidence of a life, I have come to realize my own tangible essentials. When one needs walls to hang their own art, they can not forever settle for borrowing another’s space, nor can the paintings spend another decade piled in the closet; the expression needs a true home. Seeing my white plates hold a meal I spent hours growing and preparing is like a sigh, an evidential proof of the life around the moment. It’s why books on the shelves feel like a room of old friends.

Did you know that sunshine on white linens removes stains? Time on the line, in the light, washes in a second chance.

(post title from a song written by Michael Card).


March 2, 2009

“WHUMP!!!….(echo, echo, echo…..)”

That’s the sound of me falling on my Triathlon-seeking butt about a month ago. Um, over and over again.  The effects have been a little personally reeling.

Thing is, when you spend a year ardently training and pushing your body to try harder and harder towards a goal, the effects are multiplicitous. It was a good stress reliever. It eliminated my back and shoulder pain. I fit my clothes better and didn’t worry about indulging in cupcakes. It helped me have an eye towards a future I had some level of “say” in, whereas most of the big picture is completely out of my hands. And meanwhile, the American universe became progressively effed-up on the large scale; the smaller picture of a fitness goal was a soothing distraction.

And so life went through the previous year. I knew all along that finances were going to prohibit my “spring’09″ race goal (can’t afford the bike). I knew January would be hellacious (legal crap of gargantuan proportion, business all around hitting the skids). And so it was.  Add 1 cup accompanying exhaustion, a sprinkle of the flu, an uncertain amount of anemia and “womens’ issues” and lo and behold a month had passed with zero work outs.

So flip the above: I was now stressed out, the nerves in my shoulder and neck are pinched daily, I’m frustrated with my clothes and think about every calorie. I got some bonus stuff in there too, like periods that wouldn’t stop and insomnia.  The biggest deal is that I’m overwhelmed with the “big picture”.

An hour ago I watched Oprah. Her topic today was on how America now faces a “wake up call” and the stories were about families learning what they can live without.  An hour before that I was gasping through my first serious run in almost 40 days (and sheesh..goal followers will remember I’m a crap runner, so “serious” still means under 3 miles!). And an hour before that I was contemplating this first day of Lent, with it’s emphasis on “lightening” what we depend on, fasting, etc.

It turns out, that in ‘09, I still live a pretty “light” life. I reside in a camper on my parent’s property; my children have rooms in the house. All of my belongings, save the clothing I’ve accumulated over the past 18 months, my toiletries, and a few books, are in storage. I own no major item (though I do, for the first time in my life, have my name on a jointly owned vehicle). I create art for walls that don’t exist. I work in a “cyber” realm. And most of my time is spent either analyzing or recovering from the past, or eagerly hoping for the future, either for myself or those who are in my charge.

Very little of it is tangible. I don’t really care at the moment whether this is right or wrong…it just “is”: I feel like I’ve given up or let go of or had tested every essential and I’m ready to nest again, live a “normal” life, accumulate things, have a space I call “mine”. In this span of years comprising my adulthood, I’ve been married, divorced, buried a child, moved many times, homebirthed, homeschooled,  and let go of the daily tools my identity has a “wife and mother” touched. You’d be surprised how much it hurts to see familiar knives and forks, sheets, and baby blankets sitting in a box, and spend every day of every week using others’.

The most applicable thing I’ve heard in months was this: “Don’t attach to a method of attaining a goal”. Whoa. Hearing that was like…well what was it like? Wind on sweaty skin. Water on a dry throat. A thorough hug after months of just co-existing untouched. I’m GOOD at goal setting. And I tend to be the kind of girl who knows what she wants to aim for. In the past couple of years, when forming whole sentences in prayer was just too damn hard, I parsed it down to single words. These are my hopes, my goals. I can make the daily steps that keeps them a priority but I can not predict what kind of method through which they will be attained. Life is just to unpredictable for that.

So, for instance, I could pray, “love”, but who would have seen him coming? I certainly didn’t. And yet, here love is. I made a few choices, and cut a few things that made room for love to come, and grew a few things that helps love to stay, and then forces bigger than I sent it my way. And I can pray, “calm” but there are several things I will do through the course of many moments and days that result in calmness, no one thing being enough on it’s own to get there.

I ran today. And I worked and attended class and those will both aim in the direction of the goals I’ve set. I don’t have any idea about the rest of the method. Maybe, like Elizabeth Gilbert said, I just need to “show up and do my job”.  Today I did it. The genius can do the rest.


February 26, 2009

Deal With The Real

Filed under: Really Living — Tia @ 10:54 am

That title is one of my newest motto’s.

It’s great for times when one realizes they have tried applying rationale, reason, love, gratitude, shame, etc to a problem and realized nothing is working. It’s still broken. No human measure it going to change it BUT the situation is not sustainable.

What’s left is to parse everything down. Quit trying to jump through a hoop. Quit trying to hold everything up.  Admit that what you’ve tried in the past doesn’t work. (Insanity is trying over again what you know doesn’t work but expecting a different result). Write down, in one very clear, black-and-white sentence, what the need is. Forget, for now, thinking about ways it can be reached. Don’t attach to any method of attainment. Just clarify WHAT IS REAL.

Here’s where I don’t know what comes next. I’m open. I’m waiting. For what? Maybe an answer from the sky. A whisper from heaven. A work of God done through a human. I don’t know. When I find out, I’ll tell ya. I promise.


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