Archive | Routines & Rituals (Issue #5)

The Word Wakes You by Téa Silvestre Godfrey

The word grabbed me awake in the wee hours of the morning. Was it something I dreamt? Or did it dream me?

Admirabilia.

That word flashes relentlessly on the inside of my eyelids. I turn to look at the clock. It’s 4:08.

A few minutes pass and I give into the urge to get up and pee.

What does it mean, I wonder?

Is it a real word?

Back in bed and snug under the covers, I turn it round and round in my head.

Little bits of admiration?

Intangible moments of gratitude we collect like memorabilia?

How does one collect the intangible?

I roll over onto my other side.

Isn’t admiration about big things?

Her bravery in the face of that cancer diagnosis.

His ability to create and build a thriving multinational business.

Their courage to leave Syria and cross the ocean to Greece.

At 5:30, I reluctantly give up hope of going back to sleep. Deep snores rumble at me from Ira’s side of the bed and he won’t be up for at least another hour.

I slip on on my fleece robe and climb the stairs to the kitchen in slow motion.

If being admirable means we’ve done something worthy of recognition, who decides what’s worthy?

I stand at the sink and stare out the window into the inky dark morning. I can’t see the rain, but I can hear it.

The ritual begins.

Turn on the water. Fill the pot half way. Swirl it around. Pour it into the sink. Repeat the process twice more.

And what if there’s no one around to witness the wonderful thing done?

‘To admire’ implies both an observer and an observed.

You and me, right?

The proverbial tree-falling-in-the-forest question.

Open the coffee maker lid and pull out yesterday’s filter full of grounds.

On Facebook we have a never-ending supply of potential observers. Lurkers, yes. But also ‘friends’ willing to spend a millisecond to click the thumbs-up or maybe the heart button.

If we share — if we post the thing — then technically we’re asking to be admired, right?

Look at my beautiful baby (who I created with my very own body). Isn’t she delightful?

Look at this puppy I rescued. Isn’t he adorable?

Look at this poem I wrote. This meal I cooked. These flowers that grow in my yard.

I’ve seen them, but you need to see them, too. Your admiration is the true validation of my worth.

Admirabilia :: Smallish things to be praised with affection.

Open the grinder and fill it with beans. Push the button and listen to the high-pitched whir of the blades.

The wonders of modern living. Electricity. Running water. Central heating. How often do we stop to admire these things? Or the folks who made them happen for us.

The designers, the builders, the inspectors. The ones who sourced the materials and manufactured all the tiny moving parts. The ones who boxed them up and shipped them to where they needed to go. The ones who sold them to me. And to you.

All efforts of daily work and rituals of service.

When I turn the ignition and my car starts without a hitch, do I stop to honor the many MANY humans who contributed to that particular moment?

“Everything in life has brought us to this moment.” (Something my son likes to say at random for an easy laugh.)

Do I post pictures of those little everyday miracles on Facebook?

Mmm. Not so much.

A deep breath while I empty the freshly ground beans into the brown paper filter. Tap, tap, tap. Must. Get. Every. Last bit.

Next, cold (Clean! Thank you, municipal water guys!) water goes into the machine and I push the little red ‘brew’ button.

The water begins to heat and then it’s pumped and through to the grounds. The familiar clicks and sighs of our beloved appliance signal there will soon be coffee.

The elixir of life. A truly marvelous ritual if there ever was one.

But only because I’m here to experience and witness it?

On its own (without me), it’s simply just a blob of atoms shaped like a coffee maker.

I walk to the couch, sit down, and wait for the magic to materialize.

My son’s bedroom door opens and out bounces Max, his little dog. He’s up and on my lap quicker than anything should move before 6 a.m.

It’s like he hasn’t seen me in weeks.

I stare into his chocolate eyes and tousle his big floppy ears.

This moment. Something he and I share almost every morning.

I close my eyes and catalog the feeling for my ‘collection.’ Fully awake now to a practice of meaning and presence.

About the Author: Téa Silvestre Godfrey

Téa Silvestre Godfrey is passionate about community and loves to cook (and eat) with friends. She’s the author of Attract and Feed a Hungry Crowd,” the editor of “30 Ways to Bloom Your Online Relationships,” and works as a writing coach and freelance editor. Find her at StoryBistro.com

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Connecting to Your Creative Heart by Anna Oginsky

Albert Camus wrote, “In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” While I wholeheartedly agree with Camus, I am finding it harder and harder to turn away from the world. The world is demanding! My life is overflowing with obligations. Slips of paper with reminders scribbled on them and to-do lists are literally busting out of every book, calendar, and bag I own. Yes, I desperately want to turn away from all of it, but sometimes I wonder: What will happen if I do?

Almost nothing.

When I returned from my first ever art retreat experience, the fact that everything I feared leaving behind was right there waiting for me when I returned came as a big surprise to me. After just one day back at home, I wondered if it was true that I even left? Was it a dream? Nothing really changed while I was away. When I returned, my children still needed me. My husband still wanted me. My dog still barked at me. There were still groceries to buy and meals to make. There were still appointments to make and playdates to keep. All the pieces of my life were still intact.

Nothing around me changed, but I was different. I changed. I changed a lot. I left for the retreat feeling overwhelmed, tired, and fearful that I had made a big mistake in investing this time and money in a retreat, of all things. It seemed impractical, indulgent even. I felt unworthy. Simultaneously, I was exploring new territory in my life at that time. I was healing old wounds and growing into a new way of living my life. I suspected there was a whole other way of moving through my days, but I couldn’t seem to access it. A retreat seemed like a great way to, at the very least, try something new.

When I returned from that retreat, I was lighter. I had the air of a child who just came in for the night after a day of playing outside — soaking in sunshine and inhaling fresh air. I was still tired when I returned, but it was a different kind of tired than I was used to. I felt it in my body, my mind, and my spirit. Just as a growing child needs sleep to integrate what transpires during the day, I needed sleep to integrate what I was learning.

Attending that first retreat was so powerful for me that I decided to create something like it for others. I had envisioned creating something similar at other points in my life, but it never seemed like the right time to pursue bringing those visions to life. Upon my return, I set to work imagining what I would offer, who would be involved, and where it would take place. Slowly, all the details fell into place and it was only up to me to make it happen.

One of the challenges I find in being creative is that it’s not always easy to know which path to take. There are always so many options! Turning away from the world not only allows us to understand the world better, it also allows us to understand ourselves better. In the time spent at that first retreat, I remembered the dreams I had previously. Away from my everyday life, I could see that what once seemed impossible was quite possible. Rather than causing my life to fall apart, attending that retreat helped my pull my life together in a new, more meaningful way by creating space for me to experience something new, different, and wildly inspiring.

As I begin making plans for this year’s retreat, I am feeling that same, familiar pull back to my lists, my calendar, and my obligations. I again wonder what will planning this retreat mean for me? How can I make it meaningful for others? What will happen if we all get up and leave our everyday lives for a few days to retreat into art, nature, writing, and each other? Now I can anticipate the answers to these questions. I know that to better understand myself and the world around me, I must turn away from it all. I know the same is true for others. I also know that we will all return to our homes changed —refreshed, renewed, and wildly inspired.

To learn more about The Heart Connected Retreat, visit here.

About the Author: Anna Oginsky

annbioAnna Oginsky is the founder of Heart Connected, LLC, a small Michigan-based workshop and retreat business that creates opportunities for guests to tune in to their hearts and connect with the truth, wisdom, and power held there. Her work is inspired by connections made between spirituality, creativity, and community. Anna’s first book, My New Friend, Grief, came as a result of years of learning to tune in to her own heart after the sudden loss of her father. In addition to writing, Anna uses healing tools like yoga, meditation, and making art in her offerings and in her own personal practice. She lives in Brighton, Michigan with her husband, their three children, and Johnny, the big yellow dog. Connect with her on her websiteTwitter; Facebook; or Instagram.

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The Goodnight Ritual by Kolleen Harrison

Ever since my two daughters were little girls we have had our “I love you” rituals at the end of each day.

As a single mom it was very important to me to tuck my girls into bed each night, snuggling them in just so, making certain they were warm and cuddly, and had whatever they may need before calling it a night. This time of days was hands down my absolute fav, as they were typically all sleepy eyed and mushy and willing to let me love and hug on them as much as I wanted to. Often times even asking me, “Please stay” or the obvious nightly question, “Mom, can we sleep with you?”

One night, when my youngest Sydnie was about 3 years old, I went in to her room per usual, sat down beside her as she lay in bed and said “I love you Syd”.She looked up at me with her beautiful big blues and said “I love you too mommy.”

I then proceeded to delay the goodnight a little longer, asking her, “Syd, how much do you love me?” She looked at me, smiled, and innocently responded, “I love you 47 mommy.” I sat there for a minute, smiling and laughing under my breath, thinking to myself, “This kid, never ceases to surprise me with some of the things that come out of her mouth!” I leaned down, gently planted a kiss on her forehead and quietly exited her room.

As I began making my way down the hallway towards my bedroom, I started to giggle even more, reflecting on her words and admiring the sweet innocence of my littlest.

The next day started out as “one of those” days. Syd didnʼt like the way I did her hair, I ran out of milk for their cereal, an argument arose because Syd wanted to wear her favorite pair of jeans AGAIN, (for God only knows how many times in a row!), and traffic was a damn nightmare!

On top of that Syd had to pay a visit to the principalʼs office at her school for continually not listening to her teacher. (Iʼm pretty sure this was Ms. Flippenʼs absolute last straw with my little bit and her “very social” ways!)

Unfortunately that evening when we arrived home, I had to do what I believe many parents dread doing, and implement a consequence for her behavior. Her punishment – “No TV, reading or coloring, and then straight to bed.”

As bedtime rolled around, the normal routine played out. I went into Sydʼs room, sat down beside her on her bed and began to get her all nestled in. I looked at her and softly said, “I love you Syd”. She hesitated and reluctantly muttered “I love you too mommy”. I could tell in her face and body language she was still somewhat mad at me, not really making eye contact and barely letting me hug on her. I asked her, “Syd, how much do you love me?” To which she replied, “I love you zero mom”.

It took all I had to not bust out laughing at her response presented in such a stoic, matter of fact, steadfast manner.

The following day came and went, without much fuss or drama. (Thank God!) Once again as bedtime descended upon us, the “I love you” exchange occurred between Sydnie and myself. Although, this particular night it was a bit out of the ordinary. Tonightʼs response not only completely and utterly melted my heart, it created a night time ritual to this day, 11 years later.

This special night when I asked Syd, “How much do you love me?” She looked at me, sat up in her bed, wrapped her precious little chubby arms around my neck and whispered “To the last number mommy.” (MELT YOUR HEART, right??!!) I squeezed her tightly, whispering back in her ear “I love you to the last number too Syd”.

Thus, The Goodnight Ritual was born.

Today, Syd is 14 years young and we still say those words to one another every night, although we have shortened it to “TLN”. (We decided to do this knowing it can be our little secret for when her friends may be around). It is a beautiful, tender night time ritual birthed from humor, love and innocence which I will gladly continue on for as long as I am able.

“I love you to the last number. Goodnight”.

About the Author: Kolleen Harrison

kolleenHarrisonbioKolleen Harrison is a creative living in the beautiful Central Coast of California. She is the Founder of LOVEwild and Founder/Maker of Mahabba Beads. Her passions lie in nurturing her relationship with God, loving on her happily dysfunctional family, flinging paint in her studio, dancing barefoot, making jewelry (that is so much more than “just jewelry”), and spreading love and kindness wherever and whenever she can. You can find her popping in and out at LOVEwild.org or MahabbaBeads.com

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Sunday Brunch: Carousel of Memories

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell

Calliope music, tinny and over-loud coming from the speakers, doesn’t quite drown out the sounds of human voices: small children squealing in delight, parents warning them to hold on and be careful. The lights blur as I ride by, my painted pony leaping upwards and gently descending as it chases other ponies (and sleds) around and around in an endless circle.

Asbury Park Carousel

The music slows.

The lights resolve into individual incandescent bulbs.

The ponies stop.

With watery legs, I slide off my stalwart steed, jump from the platform and launch myself at the adult who has been watching me. My grandfather, most likely, or maybe my great-aunt Violet.

“Did you see? I caught the ring!” I ask, and their answer is a blend of weariness and positive reinforcement.

I am five, six, seven years old, and I’ve just ended a day at the Asbury Park boardwalk with a ride on the carousel.

* * *

Outside the carousel house, the twilight of evening is melting into full darkness. The scent of hot dogs and cotton candy mixes with the salty brine of sea and sand. The lights on the rollercoaster are reflected upon the glassy ocean.

The night feels made of magic.

I am twelve years old, and I have no idea that it will be the last time I see the boardwalk with its rides active, with children running back and forth, with indulgent parents and grandparents handing over money in exchange for pretzels with mustard, paper cones full of popcorn, or wax-coated bags of salt-water taffy.

On that night, surrounded by the teeming throngs of little kids racing for the teacups, kids my age who are at once too cool to be seen with their parents but not quite ready to be away from them, and older kids – teens, really – making out in the gondolas of the Ferris wheel, I cannot even fathom that such a thriving place – an icon of the Jersey Shore – will be a dead husk just a few years later.

* * *

It’s 2009 and my husband, my parents, and I are on the east coast because my aunt – my mother’s younger sister – got married a few days before, and we’ve extended our trip to visit family none of us have seen in years.

The October wind blows cold through the two layers of sweaters I’m wearing, but I turn my face into it, and let it push my hair back behind me. The ocean is deep blue and steel gray, primal and fierce, crashing its fists of white foam on the cold sand.

The boardwalk is empty, save for a few hard-core athletes, sheathed in thermal exercise gear and clutching their dogs’ leashes as they pound down the slanted, weathered boards.

We leave Asbury Park, and head to the next town over, Ocean Grove, where the cute shops are open for business, hoping a few errant tourists will wander in.

My mother and I lived there for part of a year when I was nine, and walking those so-familiar streets fills me with bittersweet nostalgia. I liked my life when I was there, when it was just Mom and me in our apartment on the second floor, where you could see the ocean from the bathtub.

Even so, thirty years later, I must acknowledge, that her life and mine are both happier with all the changes that have taken place since then.

* * *

It is last Wednesday of March, 2017, and I’m in Asbury Park again, with just my husband this time.

We woke early that morning to the total darkness of the power being out, and the insistent keening of tornado sirens, drove to the airport feeling a bit shell-shocked, then landed, several hours later, under sunny skies.

Our hotel room has a view of the beach and vintage photos of the Jersey Shore on the walls, and after we have dinner – truly sinful burgers made of ground beef mixed with ground bacon – at a local pub, we go to the boardwalk.

The sun is low in the early-spring sky, and the air is chilly, but I find a bench and enjoy the peace of the waves, and smile at all the people walking their dogs, or just enjoying the pre-tourist season calm.

The city has changed since I was last here.

What was once a dead town is alive again.

Many of the Beaux-Arts buildings have been lovingly restored. The old Arcade is now home to small boutiques and a coffee roasting company (with a brewery right next door). Restaurants line the waterfront, and the town hosts many trendy eateries and bars – ethnic, Vegan, brunch – including (as their sidewalk sign proudly proclaims) “The Best Gay Bar in New Jersey.” (I take their word for it.)

My husband walks off to explore the Arcade, to take pictures at my behest, and I stay on my bench.

It’s probably just my imagination, but I can hear – very faintly – the sound of calliope music.

Asbury Park Carousel House

 

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Obsessions, Compulsions and Conversations with Cats by Pat West

Dickens slept facing north. He’d even rearrange furniture in hotel rooms.
The man swore by baked apples and their ability to prevent seasickness.
Favorite recipe: apples soaked in a sherry bath, filled with apricot marmalade
and drizzled with sherry syrup. He thought pears a lesser fruit.

John Cheever wearing his only suit, would take the elevator
to a maid’s room in the basement of his apartment building,
strip to his boxers and scribble short stories. At eleven
he’d have a secret slug of whiskey, at noon two martinis
and a Turkey Monte Cristo sandwich before afternoon gin and tonics.

William Faulkner typed with his toes. Stories about his drinking
might make one think he just poured bourbon into a bowl
and never ate. Not so, the man loved salmon croquettes,
made right from the recipe on the back of the salmon tin.

Eudora Welty straight pinned her pages together,
when they grew too long for the room
she put them on the table, a patchwork quilt
you could read in any direction. Her writing
filled with stuffed eggs, seafood
gumbo, beaten biscuits and Vicksburg Potato Salad,
richest food in Southern literature.

Capote wrote horizontal on a couch, cigarette and coffee
handy. Editing took place in the afternoon and his drinks
went from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis.
Evenings he ate Italian Summer Pudding: creamy chocolate
mascarpone and macerated raspberries, with layers
of coffee-and rum-soaked ladyfingers.

While living in Key West, Ernest Hemingway worked
in a pair of oversized loafers, typewriter chest-high
and only discussed the day’s writing
with his six-toed cats. He thought regular-toed cats
poor listeners. His recipe, Pan-Fried Mountain Trout,
remains a secret. He stopped each day’s work

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBio

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

Book Club by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Ten women, at first unknown
to each other, gather each month
in the rear of the old library.
Shadows haunt the back spaces
behind the racks of books,
the computers are shut and silent.

The women shove two tables together,
settle with their cups and books.
The first round is social
chitchat and by now, two years later,
our stories interweave
and overlap.

One woman clears her throat,
the talk subsides, questions begin.
For an hour the air is filled
with lively discussion, thoughtful
silence. Even, on occasion, tears
and always laughter.

What seems a marvel is the way
the book club has spilled into friendships.
We support one member’s chorus,
attend a play with another, drop off books
and stay for tea, visit at the market,
post office, café.

Our small town book club
is not small to us.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Sunday Salon: Seeking the Still, Quiet Voice

Sunday Salon with Becca Rowan

It’s a lovely, sunshiny morning here in southeast Michigan. I have about an hour to spend before the rest of the family rises, so I brew a cup of tea and park myself at my desk upstairs. I even open the window beside me because I want to hear the birds singing, although I need to wrap a soft scarf around my shoulders because the incoming breeze is still cold.

I was hoping to access a still, quiet voice inside me this morning, but, like so many mornings lately, the terrible din of the outside world has intruded and my still, quiet voice has been drowned out. 

Like many people, I’m increasingly disturbed by the situation in the world.  Our leaders often seem inhumane, lacking in decorum, diplomacy, and democracy. Their actions and ugly rhetoric are an endless piercing screech in my ears.

As someone who believes in the power of art and literature, I had hoped to use whatever small talents I have in those areas to inject small moments of beauty and clarity and thoughtfulness into the world around me.

As someone who believes in the power of compassion and empathy and kindness, I vowed to use those traits every day in my dealings with people on every scale, in hopes that such small acts of goodness could multiply and grow and help to heal this fractured world.

As someone who believes in the lessons of history, I had hoped that at least some of our  leaders would recall the examples of the past, that they would find the courage of their convictions and rise up to resist those outlying forces of evil attempting to usurp our very fabric of government.

And yet those screeching voices silence my efforts and my hopes, make them feel ridiculously ineffectual and send them slamming into oblivion,

John Adams had a simple prescription for a civil nation: “To be good and to do good,” he advised. “It’s all we have to do.” Where is the “good” right now? What “good” are they trying to achieve? What examples do they set for future generations? For now we must teach our children to be not as they are, do not what they do.

More than ever it feels to me as if it’s up to The People – meaning You and Me – to do good ourselves, and insist upon it amongst those who purport to lead. Already, it feels like an endless uphill climb. And already, I am tired.

So more and more I seek the still, quiet voice inside me. I toss the newsmagazine in the nearest trash can, only half read. I switch the television channel from CNN to the latest episode of PBS Masterpiece. I swipe the screen of my iPad clear of Facebook, Twitter, The Washington Post. I try to silence the bitter noise from the outside world. I turn on Mozart piano concertos, Beethoven quintets, Scarlatti sonatas. Even Chopin nocturnes sometimes, although they often make me cry. I lose myself in novels, in memoirs, in poetry. In those voices, I’m able to forget for a while, able to quiet the anxious beating of my heart, quell the angry bile that rises in my throat.

Nancy Peacock, a writer I admire, recently wrote this on her Facebook page:

 “I feel that I am pulling too much out of my gut without replenishing the well. So I am off to write and walk and visit the big rocks at the top of the hill. I am off to watch the turtles in the pond as they vie for basking space on the half-submerged log. I am off to cook some good food and feed my soul in the kitchen. I am off to do research and highlight paragraphs in yellow and read novels.”

Sometimes the traumas and troubles of the world threaten to drain the wells of our creativity. I have been struggling to find ways to restore that flow, to heal those wounds that threaten to destroy the enjoyment of my creative living. I hope to find it in the easy domestic routines of spring days like today, enjoying the sunshine and cool breeze blowing in the window, sipping tea and delving into the pages of a good novel, writing in my journal, copying out favorite passages from books and poetry.

From sitting with the still, quiet voice in my own heart.

 

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband and their two dogs. She is the author of Life in General, a book of personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. If she’s not writing or playing music you’ll likely find her out walking with the dogs or curled up on the couch reading with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) close at hand. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Video Friday by Jeanette McGurk

In an odd coincidence, my daughter and I had a similar writing theme this month.  She had to write a paper about a favorite ritual.  I have been ridiculously indecisive about what ritual or routine I have wanted to write about for this issue of Modern Creative Life.

As I’ve gotten older, pondering these things takes on edges of nostalgia and love that feel overwhelming. That much emotion sometimes leads to the equivalent of writer’s freezy brain.  Unfortunately it doesn’t go away as quickly as Slurpee freezy brain.

So, in desperation I went hunting for inspiration through my 5th grader.  “Umm, so what ritual did you end up writing about for school?  Easter with your cousins?  Summer weekends at Grandma and Grandad’s?  New Year’s Day cheese grits?” I ask.

“No,” she says, “I wrote about Video Fridays.”

I try to probe more, get specifics in her words but for her it is something we do every Friday.  She and her sister love this small 30 minute activity more than almost any other treat I could offer up.  And this started kind of as a fluke.

The last days of summer we tend to spend being really, really, lazy.  I have been known to pull through the McDonald’s drive thru at 3pm in my pj’s, girls in the back in their pj’s, for dunch.  Our afternoon version of brunch.  We just combine lunch and dinner.  Then around 6pm we have ice cream and hot chocolate chip cookies; custom made 4 at a time from the tube.  On these days, when all the play, and crafts and swimming are spent, the days when the Texas August heat has beaten us down into our nice cool house cave, the girls binge on their favorite YouTube videos.

These binges are epoch.

Lauren can watch 3 hours non-stop of Cookie Crumble.  A woman whose face we never see but who has lovely, well manicured finger-nails.  One of her YouTube channel activities is opening 100’s, perhaps even thousands of mystery Shopkins.  The latest craze in Kiddom is to buy mystery toy packs.  My kids love them almost as much as Video Fridays and apparently, Lauren can watch someone with unlimited resources open one after another for hours on end.

For Helen, her favorite YouTube diet consists of people sampling different mods and playing Minecraft.  She is a connoisseur and should you ask, she would recommend Pat and Jen as the best of the lot.

Does the previous two paragraphs seem foreign to you?  It absolutely did to me.  I realized one day that listening to my children talk about this stuff was like interacting with martians.  Granted, perhaps if my husband and I were better parents, the kind who meticulously screen all the content going into their young brains, we would speak Minecraft lingo and Cookie crumble.

We are not those parents.  We were 70’s kids.

We lit matches in the street.  We climbed in houses being built during the early 80’s housing boom.  We wandered for hours unsupervised on foot and on bikes without cell phones or bicycle helmets and survived.  It is not in our DNA to super screen.  But, we do like to communicate with our kids, and our kids, who are just starting to get an inkling that we are dorks, still like to hang out with us.  In fact, I was being followed constantly through the kitchen while chopping onions or putting a roast in the oven, “Mom, mom, look at this video.  It is hilarious.”  You cannot learn YouTube martian lingo in these moments.  I realized I needed a dedicated time to be immersed, undistracted.

“Girls,” I said, “why don’t we sit down after I get this in the oven.  In fact, Fridays while dinner is cooking is a good time.  We can all share a favorite video we have watched from the week.”

In that moment, a family ritual was born.

I had no idea what an instant sensation this idea was going to be.  It has spent at least 20 weeks at the top of the charts.  Any week we miss, we double up the next week.  I cannot tell you how many times I have watched the “Puppy Monkey Baby” commercial in horror.  The girls never tire of watching me cringe.  In fact, a lot of the videos are cringe worthy but occasionally I will shout with glee over a particularly fun pumpkin carving Minecraft competition or the very cool movie theater mod someone created.  It never gets old trying to mimic Cookie Crumble’s high pitch munchkin voice.  In fact I think she uses some sort of machine to make her voice do that.

I, of course, torture the kids with inspirational TED talks and nature videos.  All 5 minutes or less.  After Helen’s first 35 minute Minecraft video we had to set time limits.  So the whole thing is usually wrapped up in 20 minutes.

Seriously, it is only 20 minutes every Friday and yet, it is the ritual the kids talk about before bedtime Thursday night.  It is what we discuss at Friday morning breakfast.  It is brought up after school.  It is what Helen chose to write about above all the other rituals we have so carefully crafted over the years.

Perhaps it is because in those few minutes every week, they know, I want to know what they find funny or interesting or intense or silly.  I want to see their world, not to snoop or make sure they are not watching something they shouldn’t.  It is a ritual set aside with no purpose other than letting my children know that their world matters to me.

Years from now, when they think back on Video Friday and they have a moment of emotional Freezy Brain, I hope that is what they remember.  Well that and I hope they suddenly get the urge to look up Puppy Monkey Baby as adults and experience the cringe!

About the Author: Jeanette McGurk

jeanette_mcgurkJeanette McGurk is a Graphic Designer who entered the world of writing through advertising. She discovered writing a lot of truth with a little fluff is a lot more fun than the other way round. Now that she is no longer spending time making air conditioners, tile floors, IT and Botox sound sexy, she writes about the unglamorous yet wonderful moments of life for people like herself; in other words, anyone looking for interesting ways to put off cleaning and doing laundry.

She is a curmudgeon and doesn’t Twit or Instagram. She has heard the blog is dead but since she has finally figured out how to do it, that is the museum where you can locate her writings. http://jmcpb.blogspot.com/.

Patience and shuffle the cards – Miguel de Cervantes

I have a tarot client who lays her hand on the deck (usually after I’ve been fiddling with it), takes a deep breath and says, “Ok. Go ahead.” She’s done this for a decade worth of readings, and I swear, it still makes me twitchy.

No shuffling? No cutting? You’re just gonna let me *gulp* READ for you?

Of course, because she’s the Zen master of all things, the readings are always accurate. The cards are always where they should be.

I have another client who smooshes my cards around on the table in one huge pile. She pushes and pulls them, stacks them into an untidy pile and says, while idly making all of the face up cards go face down again, “Go for it, honey.” She says this with a giant grin on her face because she knows it drives me bonkers.

Of course, because she is the Captain of Chaos, the readings are always accurate. The cards are always where they should be.

I think that shuffling (or not) of the cards lends a certain amount of ritual to the reading.

It gives the client time to breathe. To touch the cards and do something with their hands. I ask my clients to “Shuffle til you feel like you’re finished”. During this time, I play with my stones or close my eyes and breathe in and out and try to disappear from the table. When they’re finished, they’re noticeably calmer than they were when they first sat down for this reading.

People generally get readings when they’re anxious or nervous or wondering, and the anticipation can ramp that up. The simple process of shuffling a deck of cards can lend them calm and a seemingly mindless task to distract them from their worries.

This simple act is more than just rearranging of the cards, or putting their energy into them. It’s a meditation and a ritual that allows them to be wholly present for their tarot reading. That’s what ritual really is, after all. It’s a tool or an exercise that makes us be mindful of what we’re doing.

When the bell rings in a Christian church, it’s time to pay attention to the altar because magic is happening there. When Muslims are called to Salat five times a day, they literally walk away from the mundane, face the direction of their holy land, and place their physical, mental and spiritual selves in the hands of their god.

The act of lighting a candle for a Pagan. The act of touching the beads in a mala. Even mundane tasks have rituals that bring a touch of the sacred to them. Every night, I tuck my kids into bed. Every night, I tell them I love them so much, and to have good dreams and tell me about them in the morning. I kiss their foreheads three times. Every night. This ritual has become sacred in our house, because it is ours. It’s an active and physical show of love and trust.

Whether you are spiritual or not. Whether you sling cards or not. Whatever your day looks like, I encourage you to notice those places where ritual has entered. What drives it? Why do your rituals continue? What is it, precisely, that your attention should be focused on?

Noticing your rituals will help you turn your head toward those things that require your full attention, and will help you pull a little bit of the sacred into your day to day.

About the Author: Melissa Cynova

Melissa CynovaMelissaC_Bio is owner of Little Fox Tarot, and has been reading tarot cards and teaching classes since 1989. She can be found in the St. Louis area, and is available for personal readings, parties and beginner and advanced tarot classes. You can Look for her first book, Kitchen Table Tarot, is available for pre-order and will be out April 8th.

Melissa lives in St. Louis with her kiddos, her husband, Joe, and two cats, two dogs and her tortoise, Phil.

She is on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Go ahead and schedule a reading – she already knows you want one.

Note: Image is from the Little Monsters Tarot Deck

Typical Tuesday with Laura Foley

I wake or, more preciously, am awoken, before 6 a.m. by our dogs, who insist it’s morning, in spite of still-dark skies. After a quick walk, I feed the beloved beasts— two German Shepherds,  Arlo and Alys; one yellow Labrador, Chloe. I prepare peppermint tea, return to bed with a cup for my partner and one for me.

But let me back up for a minute. For twenty years I was happily married to a man. After my husband died, I was busy raising our three children through their teen years; I also discovered I was attracted to women. Those years included many soul-searching, silent retreats, Zen ordination, Chaplaincy training,  Jungian analysis, Karate (I made it to second level Brown Belt) and Yoga (trained as an instructor).

And I discovered poetry.

Before that, I had been an academic, with degrees in English Lit. from Columbia University. I had read a lot, and studied a lot, but I had never written anything creative. At 45, as my husband was dying, I started writing. Today, 15 years later, I have six poetry books published, two more in progress.

On this Tuesday, I return to bed with two cups of tea, one for my partner, Clara, whom I have lived with for four and a half years.

After another snooze of the alarm, I get up at 7:15. The sky is brighter now, sun beginning to light the yard around our house. I jump in the shower, drive from our house in Pomfret Vermont to my favorite yoga class in Norwich. The teacher’s approach is Tantric, which fits nicely with Zen: a body-centered awareness, including explorations of how emotions manifest, how to work with them. Yoga class is a spiritual experience for me, a reminder of the ever-present, deeper stream beneath the busy-ness of a day.

After yoga, it’s off to a local coffee shop for oatmeal and a cappuccino. I make a nest of poetry books, my laptop, and spend some time reading poems on Writer’s Almanac, Poetry Breakfast, Autumn Sky, Poetry Foundation. Today I also watch a You Tube video interview with Sonia Sanchez, a poet who speaks about being in China, recites a haiku about the International Date Line. This triggers a memory for me. I grab my notebook, start to write about my father’s WWII experience (he was in China).  This is a subject I have tried to wrestle with before, how he always knew war would start on a Sunday, and it did, but it was Monday in China, because of the date line. Today the idea returns in full force, and I’m off, into the creative process.

After about twelve drafts, I feel the poem is ready to share with my online women’s group.  I have been in the habit of sharing rough drafts with them for many years; often receiving encouraging responses. They are my family, and I’m sharing work hot off the press.

By now it’s time for lunch,  soup and salad.  I spend the afternoon editing older poems, sending finished poems out to competitions and journals, preparing for the writing workshop I will lead tomorrow, in the local hospital, for those affected by serious illnesses.

At 5:00 I return home, over the river and through the trees, to our house far away, up on a hill in the woods of Vermont. My partner is preparing a delicious dinner of spaghetti squash with her own tomato sauce. Clara, originally from Spain, is a foodie, one of those fabulous, rare beings who loves to cook.

After her full day at the Law School, where she’s a professor, she unwinds by preparing me my favorite meals. As she stirs and chops, I carry in wood, prepare a fire in the fireplace, take the dogs out for a romp around the yard. We eat dinner, share stories about our day, sit on the couch with a cup of tea, some dark chocolate and a cookie. We watch Trollope’s Doctor Thorne on Netflix.

At ten o’clock, I take the dogs out one last time. I notice the brightness of the stars on this new moon night; Orion, reaching across the sky.

About the Author: Laura Foley

Laura Foley is an internationally published, award-winning poet, author of six collections. She won the Common Goods Poetry Contest, judged by Garrison Keillor; and the National Outermost Poetry Prize, judged by Marge Piercy. Her poetry collections include: WTF, Night Ringing, The Glass Tree and Joy Street. The Glass Tree won a Foreword Book of the Year Award; Joy Street won the Bisexual-Writer’s Award. Her poems have appeared on The Writer’s Almanac, in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Lavender Review, The Mom Egg Review, in the British Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology, and many other journals.

A certified Yoga Instructor and creative arts facilitator in hospitals, she is the mother of three grown children, grandmother to two granddaughters. She and her partner Clara Gimenez live among the hills of Vermont with their three big dogs.

Follow her on GoodReads, Facebook, and Twitter.

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