Childhood Fears: The basement

you know what sounds good right now my grandfather
asked from the red recliner by the front window

a nice big bowl of ice cream from the deep freeze
what do you think Squirt want to go down to the freezer

Squirt was me and I was having nothing to do
with going down into the haunted basement

there be monsters a sign should read above the door
or beware of the portal to Hell or doorway to death

the first three steep steps had no handrail
so it seemed like stepping off into the abyss

uncarpeted glossy wood slippery to child sized shoes
no traction no handhold a sudden fall an instant death

I don’t want ice cream but my grandparents
insisted I conquer my fear of the basement

staring down into the chasm I could almost see the monsters
starring back at me from dark empty shelves

my grandfather’s power tools could be nightmares come to life
the deep freeze grumbled threateningly from the darkest corner

I could tell where the witch hid which corners the ghosts crouched
I knew what lived underneath the workbench

going to the basement for ice cream meant a battle
with my deepest fears fear of falling of slipping of dying

fear of dark corners and empty shelves of mythical monsters
and cunning beasts all waiting for my small self to wander in

all waiting for grandpa to want ice cream grandpa I said
can you come with me he just chuckled you’ll be all right

the monsters and creatures and witches may not have been real
but the fears and the deep terror in my heart were

one more night I faced the monsters alone and wished someone
would hold my hand and show me gently the way to safety

Changes

Driving home from my dad’s on Father’s Day, I had some ideas come to me as I sat in the car, trapped between dark woods on one side and a quiet river on the other. When I had a chance, I scribbled some notes, and just now typed out my thoughts. So, here’s what came from being stuck in traffic for two hours on Father’s Day. 🙂  (first draft, very rough)


Changes

“In the middle of my life, I awoke in a dark wood where the true way was wholly lost.” ~ Dante

What happens when we awaken in Dante’s dark wood and find ourselves lost and confused in the middle of our life? How do we find the light again? The path? The way? Where do we go when we can no longer go home?

Although it feels as if we’re surrounded by darkness with no way to turn, we’re standing at the frontier of who we were and who we will become. The past always inhabits the now. Who we were, what we’ve done, who we’ve been in community with throughout our lives, goes into making the person we are now. But even that is fleeting. Who we are now is a fleeting moment which moves ahead into the future and backward into the past, simultaneously. Much like a rapidly flowing river viewed from the shore. Rivers drink from a deep and distant source, and as we find our way to that deep source in our own lives, we’ll find our life’s river gives generously to the landscape around us.

Ask yourself, what is “now” inviting you to do? Where is the current of the now asking you to go? Be impatient with trite explanations. We want the answers and the questions that bubble up from our river’s deep, undying, undrying source.

Perhaps this season of life is calling you to a time of silence. Of hibernation. A time of hiding. Time alone is a natural process. A bear hibernating through the winter. An injured animal taking time alone to heal. The stillness and quiet of a time of seclusion can bring greater self-knowledge. And self-knowledge can help lead us into – and through – the next frontier of our lives. Savor the aloneness.

Stop your life’s current conversation and listen. Is it superficial? Caught up in daily-ness and busyness? Be still. Quiet yourself. What is the big question of your life? The beautiful question? The essential or serious question? Find your question. What gives your life meaning? What lights your soul’s passion? Your essential question can be different at various times in your life. Don’t resurrect older questions, although your new question may be a variation on a theme.

Ask your own question, not someone else’s. When you find the question that’s hibernating in your heart, allow it to help you find your new voice. Let it welcome you into the new conversation of your life. Give it opportunity to lead you to your new identity.

Along with a new question and a new identity, you may find your entire life reorganized, including the community around you. This may be unnerving and a bit frightening. But do the brave thing.

Put your head down and make your way through the dark woods into the light of the next phase of your life. You’ll come to a place you don’t know, but in the process, you’ll come back to yourself.

~Debi

 

Chores. Ugh, who wants to do chores?


When I feel badly about myself and about life, I tend to let things around me fall apart. Especially housekeeping. My house hasn’t been “company-ready” in several years due to events that kept me feeling badly about myself and about life. I’ve been feeling much better lately, though. Hope, joy, sunshine. I think the clouds finally parted.

This past month, I’ve spent my free time digging my way out of my mess. It wasn’t hoarder-level mess, but it was a mess none-the-less. When I realized I wasn’t even willing to let one of my best friends into my house anymore, I knew I had to get a handle on it.

I tried pulling out my old Chore Lists, but it was just too overwhelming to only be doing a little each day. I needed to do a lot each day to dig myself out. So I spent my free time in April working on my house. Sorting, cleaning, asking if things bring me joy, and I can finally see the light.

On Friday, I pulled out a Chore List to see if I was now at the point where I could work with this particular technique that has worked well for me in the past. I did Friday’s chores. And after all the heavy duty chores I’ve been doing lately, just doing a small list of daily chores felt like nothing. But it made a big difference. It’s amazing how even just a gentle reminder to make your bed can give you a feeling of accomplishment when you actually follow through.

If you just need some help keeping up on the dailyness of housework, you might want to take a look at my Chore Lists (they’re printable and free by click here). I just print out a copy of the current week’s List, hang it on the fridge, and mark things off as I accomplish them. When my kids still lived at home, we would work on the Chore Lists as a family, and everyone could easily see what had been done, and what still needed doing.

It’s so nice to feel like I can have people over again without feeling ashamed of my house (which made me feel ashamed of myself which just contributed to the whole vicious shame cycle). I hope by keeping up on the Chore Lists, I can keep the downhill slide (housewise) from happening again. We’ll see.

I don’t keep up on it much anymore, but my homemaking blog, I’m Not Susie Homemaker, is a Nag Free Zone if you’re looking for some kind, friendly thoughts on digging out of the dailyness of chores and housework.  Like it or not, housework’s gotta be done at some point.  Take it from me, procrastination just makes it worse. Boy, oh boy, do I know that one from personal experience.

Join me? I don’t think I’m the only person who struggles with this.

~Debi

https://notsusiehomemakerblog.wordpress.com/weekly-chore-lists/

Mindfulness (2)


If you missed Part One in the Mindfulness series (that sounds so official, but it’s just me sharing my thoughts and experiences), you can catch up at Mindfulness (1).

Flying home from Florida last Friday, I had the chance to use Mindfulness to overcome one of my most anxiety-producing activities. Flying.

I knew from experience that Mindfulness could be helpful with everyday anxiety, social anxiety, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and even some PTSD symptoms, but for some reason it never crossed my mind it might be helpful with my fear of flying.  I’ve lost a number of people to plane accidents over the years.  In one crash, I lost four people who were important in my life.  Oftentimes people would talk about how flying was safer than driving in a car, but it just didn’t register for me because I’ve lost more people in planes than in cars.

After each loss, the anxiety grew exponentially until I reached a point where the crippling fear would begin weeks before I had to fly.  And then when the time came to travel, I’d have a full-on panic attack.  Travel by air became impossible.  I planned all trips around cars, trains, or busses.

Long story short, when talking to a new doctor I’d started seeing, the topic of my flying phobia came up.  He told me he didn’t like seeing me missing out on so much of life when there was a quick and easy treatment that would enable me to fly again and give me back my travels.  Xanax.  (More about that at the end of this post.  I want to get onto the Mindfulness practice that helped me last week.)

Our flight home was almost delayed due to severe thunderstorms, so I spent the pre-flight time looking lists of flights that were being delayed or cancelled.  Fortunately, ours was on schedule.  A couple of minutes into the flight, I felt some turbulence, and I my stomach did it’s thing that signaled a coming panic attack.  Uh, oh.  I’d forgotten to take my Fly Happy meds!

I’ve been practicing Mindfulness so much lately, that my first response was to think, “I need to calm myself down so I can think clearly.”  I closed my eyes, took several long slow breaths.  I focused on my feet pressing firmly on the floor.  I felt my thighs against the seat of the chair.  My arms on the armrests. My head on the back of the seat. I took a few more long slow breaths, and then opened my eyes.  I was calm.  I was peaceful. I was flying on a plane in turbulence. And I wasn’t panicking!  I wasn’t even afraid.

I decided to put off taking my meds until I felt I actually needed them.  A couple of times during the flight I had momentary pictures in my mind of worst-case scenarios.  But I just asked myself, “Is this fearful event in my mind happening now?  No.  Now I’m quietly watching a movie [or eating, or reading].”  Deep breath in and out.  And I’d be fine again.

This may sound like silliness to people who don’t experience fear of flying to the level I do (did?), but for me, it felt almost miraculous.

I was so surprised — and happy — about newfound calmness when flying, I’m still in a bit of shock.  But if I hadn’t been practicing Mindfulness everyday when I didn’t necessarily need it, I wouldn’t have had the habit so instilled in me that it took over automatically in a severely stressful and anxious situation.

There was a reason it took me many years to be willing to try a medication to help me with my fear of flying.  In the somewhat legalistic church world I was living in at the time, it was considered sinful, and showed a lack of faith, if someone used a “crutch” or medication to handle a fear of flying.

Many times in ladies’ Bible studies, women would be in tears as they asked for prayer for their fear of flying and their family’s upcoming vacation.  It was a common theme.  And always they cried and expressed their guilt and shame.  And always the apologies for not having enough faith.

One day, I was that woman asking for those prayers, and an Elder’s wife came up to me quietly afterward and said she believed that God could lead us to doctors who could help us with our weaknesses.  She said that being afraid and being weak weren’t sinful, they were just conditions of being human.  If I hadn’t had that conversation with her, I don’t think I would’ve been open to the idea of the doctor’s medication suggestion.

Just telling someone to calm down isn’t effective if they don’t have the tools.  Mindfulness can be one of those tools to bring calmness in the midst of the storm (or the turbulence).  🙂

When I feel like practicing something I already know how to do, like Mindfulness, I tell myself , “Practice when you don’t need it, and you’ll have it when you do need it.”

Hope you had a great Easter!

~Debi

This is Rufus the Rabbit.  🙂

 

Photos – Florida trip

Just returned home from a short trip to visit my cousin in Central Florida.  Believe it or not, we didn’t go to Disney World or Universal Studios while there.  I wandered through some small town nature trails (St. Cloud) and we went to the beach (Melbourne).  Perfect!  🙂

Instant Ancestor: Orville Clarence Taylor


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Orville Clarence Taylor

I belong to a FB group that shares funny, unusual, or weird things we discover in thrift stores. One game that people in the group like to play is to adopt “instant ancestors.” Basically you find old photos of people you don’t know, but that you’d like to have in your family tree, then you name them and develop a backstory.

Today I adopted my first fake ancestor! It’s a boy! 😉 Isn’t he great? I couldn’t be more proud. I’m going to buy him a little picture frame and he will live on my piano. He is my fake great-great uncle thrice removed.

He reminds me a little of a young Orville Reddenbacher (the popcorn guy), so I’m going to name my new ancestor Orville. A good, solid Midwestern name from the early 20th Century. Orville’s last name, of course, is Taylor.  His middle name, Clarence, was his maternal grandfather’s first name.

Orville grew up in Terre Haute, Indiana. This photo was taken on Orville’s graduation from Wheaton College in Chicago where he received his PhD in Biblical and Theological Studies. Orville headed from Wheaton to New Brunswick that August to pastor his first church.

Before leaving the area to pursue his pastoral calling, Orville married his high school sweetheart, Corinne Magnuson. Their wedding was the social highlight of the summer, and many of Terre Haute’s finest citizens turned out to wish Orville and Corinne the best in all their future endeavors.

Watercolor Sample Collection

Someone asked if I could share some of my watercolor projects.  I do share them now and then at the end of blog posts, but I thought I’d just do a post with a collection of some of the watercolor experiments I’ve done recently.

For those who don’t know, I started doing watercolor in November (2018) as sort of a personal attempt at art therapy.  The holidays are difficult for me and I thought perhaps if I developed a new hobby with some opportunity for creativity, it’d help distract me.  I also thought it might be a good way to practice being mindfully in the moment of an activity.  It worked on all fronts.  🙂

So here’s a small sample of some of my watercolor projects.  Some are completely original works and others are based off online tutorials.  I’ve basically been learning to paint through YouTube videos.  🙂

First Spring Photos


I’ve spent quite a bit of time inside learning to watercolor this winter due to the unusually cold weather. But now that Spring is here and it’s much warmer, I’m looking forward to taking myself out on local “photo safaris” again.

Fresh air, sunshine, nature, beauty, and a favorite hobby all rolled into one. The perfect combination for my mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Here’s a sample from yesterday’s sunset photos at Dash Point Park and Pier in Tacoma, Washington.

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Storytime: Kitchen creepiness …


Several weeks after my dad installed a new sliding door between our kitchen and laundry room, I heard my mom laugh. A good, solid belly laugh. I ran to see what could be so funny. Mom was nearly doubled over, pointing at the far end of the room and stuttering between sobs of laughter, “It’s Satan! HAHAHA! It’s Satan!”

I looked where she was pointing, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary. Yellow walls, a new door, turquoise and copper cannisters, a goldfish bowl on the counter by the sink. Nothing that could earn the title of Satan.

She laughed harder. “You don’t see it, do you?”

I looked at her as she removed her cat’s eye glasses and wiped tears from her eyes. The laughter seemed less hysterical now, but quiet chuckles still shook her shoulders. She leaned against the countertop and looked back at me, laughter still lurking in her eyes.

“Oh, gosh. You must think I’ve gone crazy.”

Um, yes. The thought had crossed my mind.

“Look at the new door, Sweetie.” She walked over and began running her hand over the grain of the wood. “Look. Do you see the two horns? Here are the eyes. Here’s the pointed beard. Do you see it?”

I looked at the door as if I were looking for shapes in clouds.

And then, suddenly, I saw him. Satan’s head took up the entire door. His horns branched from his head at the top of the door. His beard just touched the bottom. I had a brief momentary shudder. The face was frightening. And then I laughed. I laughed at the humor of finding the Prince of Darkness looking out of our kitchen door as if it were a portal from the Underworld. I also laughed with relief that my mom didn’t have a straightjacket in her future.

After that day, whenever a new friend came to our house, I would take them to the kitchen so they could meet Satan. I’d trace the wood grain as mother had done, describing the facial features, one by one. And then, suddenly, that magic moment we’d been building toward. Recognition. They saw him! Sometimes a scream. Oftentimes a shudder. Many times a hand clamped over a mouth. Always horror in their eyes.

My friends didn’t like to come into our kitchen or sit in the dining room where they had a view into the room. It’s understandable, though. Satan lived in our kitchen door.

[Sadly I don’t have photos of Satan in the door. I guess people don’t think to take photos of their kitchen door. Or at least my family didn’t.]