Author Archives: Julie

Mindfulness on a Monday

Yes, I realize this is Tuesday.

It’s hard to be mindful on a Monday, that day of all days beginning the work week. No one enjoys rising early ~ at least I don’t~ and Monday is my early day. I pay for lack of preparedness by the scramble.

Most Mondays are filled up with activity. Work. school drop-off and pick-up, appointments, errands, choir, the day rolls from activity to activity, my mind racing ahead from one moment to the next.

Settling into work at my studio after getting everyone situated at school, I’m thwarted by a laptop that didn’t make it into the work bag and settle in to an hour of tasks that don’t require technology before leaving to finish those at my dining room table.

My unexpected return home disrupts the dog, who now needs his walk. There are library books to return, so I leash him, stuffing dog waste bags into my cardigan pocket.

I leave the phone behind intentionally, stepping out into the brilliant blue of fall. Can I inhabit this moment without rushing it? That is my question.

Focusing on the crunch of leaves underfoot and the sound of heavy machinery working on downtown construction finds me able to answer, Yes! Yes, I can!

I soar in the moment before being jerked to a halt by a dog bracing himself to do his business ~ very conspicously~ on a downtown sidewalk.

Sometimes inhabiting the moment literally stinks.

Balancing the library book bag on my shoulder, removing a cluster of green bags from sweater pocket and clumsily trying to tear off just one, squatting down to pick up the mess while holding the leash securely finds me wobbling in my ankle boots.

Looking back over my shoulder at the elderly man in his car, parked facing the sidewalk with driver’s side window down, I laugh, I hope you are enjoying this free morning show! We smile at each other as I stand and tie off the green bag. He nods. I continue walking towards the library to deposit the books.

Heading home, I reel my mind back from its frantic race ahead. There is still time left in the brilliant blue as I walk in the present.

My fitness tracker notes a pace that is slow, refusing to close its exercise ring as quickly as I would like.

I return home with an hour to spend before moving into the appointments, errands, school pick-up, choir, and evening family management part of the day. I anchor to a spot at the dining room table, open my laptop, and work.

The moments move on, and I choose to engage them with curiosity. When I am being mindful I am like a blank page hoping to be filled with words as I wait for an appointment to end.

Smarties

They are a taste of my childhood. Memories of a bag of Smarties candy rolls in a high cupboard ~ but not too high for me to reach them ~ are vivid, as is the sugary, slightly sour taste and chalky feel on the teeth as they dissolve.

I am sure I reached up often for a roll or two or a handful and ran upstairs to my room with a book. I am sure they were on hand as treats for younger siblings learning to use the toilet or behave in public.

It is a memory of Sunday church with small children and young motherhood, though not with me as the provider. I did not want or need to use candy bribes for my children. They must learn to obey just because.

That did not stop Grammy from slipping them from her purse and handing them out to fussy little ones or as a treat for an after service hug.

It’s amazing what you can do with that dumb candy! she would say.

I knew better. I was above carrying rolls of candy in my purse or diaper bag but tolerated an old lady’s handing them out, much to the delight of my young ones. I wish I had carried the candy.

I was reminded of Smarties several weekends ago with the visit of a dear childhood friend. We had not seen each other in person since fourth grade but had connected on social media several years ago. Finally a We really need to get together in person had worked out, and she made the three hour trek to visit.

It was a wonderful time of reconnecting and catching up, of remembering things together.

Until . . .

I have a memory of you giving me a roll of Smarties candy, but you crossed out the word Smarties and wrote Dummies on it, she said, laughing.

I was mortified and felt embarrassed by this memory. I did not recall it at all, though it made total sense due to the role (no pun intended) that particular candy played in my life at the time. We were also academic rivals (as much as could be in first through fourth grades) often coming in first and second with our grades.

She assured me that it was more playful than hurtful, though I still struggled that I could not remember the incident. What else have I done that I don’t remember in another person’s life? How do others remember me?

I allowed myself permission to have been a child that did silly, immature things. I am sure it was around the time of this incident.

One of my children immediately latched onto the story and commented, Here you are saying, “Oh I was so traumatized as a child” when really you were just a bully!

That’s the thing. We all have been harmed and harmed others, either inadvertently or intentionally. My friend was incredibly gracious to frame the story with humor, but I am sure others have stories of me that are not as funny or playful.

Those people most likely lived in my home with me, but I am sure also crossed my path in classrooms or dorm rooms or work rooms.

It was a sweet time together, and I ended up being thankful for the memory and subsequent wrestling with it. It was fun to see myself as a child and to find eyes of kindness rather than shame for that young person.

If I could go back, though, these are the candies I would give her instead.

Maybe.

Clickety-Clickety-Clickety

My mind wanders while I walk the dog. Eloquent words string together in my head. There is so much to say, I just need time to gather the thoughts.

Swirling ideas settle with each step taken. I land in the present, the clicking of dog toes on the sidewalk as anchor. Clickety-clickety-clickety. Dewey knows only present, and presently we are walking.

I learn more of my fall routine each day, having not yet claimed it fully. Maybe by actual fall I will know.

One thing at a time. Day by day. Step by step. Clickety-clickety-clickety. Only the present. Presently I sit on my friend’s porch writing.

The rhythm of days and weeks comes into focus. Walking the dog. Writing on the porch. Setting intentions. Following through.

I fight for words on this blog, in this space. There are other places I write, but this is my first love. My fingers strike the keyboard. Clickety-clickety-clickety. My rhythm is not as steady as the dog’s toes on the sidewalk. I press on.

I think to the tiny leaf on the sidewalk interrupting my morning walk. Seizing the moment I stop the dog and snap it, hoping for inspiration, trusting it to come.

I feel nothing profound. No wise words on change or seasons or fall schedules, only the ambiguity of not knowing.

And it’s okay. It has to be. In this moment it is okay for me not to know the final schedule, the outcome. I just need to be present to the clickety-clickety-clickety of now and anchor into the moment I have been given here on the porch.

Coffee for One

This Labor Day holiday morning is unusual as I prepare coffee for one. My husband is away with the teen girls visiting adult siblings in Richmond. I am home with a sick child and teen son who had to work. We are divided.

Instead of brewing a full pot, I take down the red single-serve coffee press, purchased the summer of ’89 to take with me to college that fall. I was inspired recently to forage through my parents’ china cabinet to see if it was still there. And it was.

This summer has been nostalgic in ways both good and hard. Mostly hard. The coffee press is good, bringing memories of preparing to leave home for the first time, albeit to a very controlled environment.

I remember wondering how I would make my necessary coffee and choosing to purchase a hot pot and this coffee maker. It bears witness to the importance of coffee to me, even then, much like this post does.

I grind beans and dump them in, boil water and pour, wait several minutes and press, transfer to a favorite mug and savor.

There is goodness and sadness. I miss my coffee friend. Slow mornings are a rarity in this season. I wish we were together in the slowness. I choose to enjoy my coffee for one as I read and write.

Grateful for a witness-bearer in vintage coffee pot form, I give thanks that it didn’t go the way of the Gucci bag. Protected from me to be found at just the right time, it now lives in safety on top of the Hoosier.

Welcome, home, Dear Friend.

Lunches on the Atlantic

I’m missing our lunches on the Atlantic
Finding just the right parking place
Toting portable chairs we might not use
Carrying small coolers filled with good things to eat

I’m missing our lunches on the Atlantic
Discussing the morning and all that transpired
As we listened, wrote, reflected, and shared
And risked reading stories of grief and shame

I’m missing our lunches on the Atlantic
Not getting too sandy, because benches were found
Feeling the hot sun baking us warmly
While watching the clock so as not to be late

I’m missing our lunches on the Atlantic
Moments that felt so natural and free
Sister-hearts connecting in liminal space
Knowing something inside us is being transformed

I’m missing our lunches on the Atlantic
Some sacred space you don’t realize til late
Like benches and small coolers joining together
Inviting communion over lunches on the Atlantic

Which I am missing.




Daily Bread

I cannot hear the knock due to the incessant barking of our protective terrier. I know enough to check, though. A smiling face is on the other side of the door, and I squeeze through a crack in it out onto the porch.

Would you like some tortilla chips? A friend asks. Our supplier had extras, and I was trying to think of who to give them to.

Always grateful for daily bread in any form, I gladly accept several bags. The bank account is running on fumes, and payday has yet to arrive.

I don’t know if we will get any more in the future, she adds.

That’s ok! These are great for now. I always trust that we will get exactly what we need for the day. Thank you so much.

We exchange goodbyes, and I return to the house, assuring the dog that all is well, and he can relax now. I continue on with the day and all that needs to happen, including thoughts of supper. I will plan something around the tortilla chips.

Not long after, Mom reaches out with a question, Would you like some White Chicken Chili? I have enough for extra.

I respond with gratitude, Of course! I would love that!

An errand later in the day takes me past her house, so I stop in to pick up the food. She gathers a bag with all of the ingredients along with advice on how best to prepare it if I am using the crock pot.*

This is what I want to remember. We have never lacked daily bread. Whether in crispy white tortilla chip form or whole wheat loaf embodiment, each day is this day that we have been fed.

Mom’s White Chicken Chili

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken cut into pieces
1 med onion, chopped
1 ½ t garlic powder (2-3 cloves)
1T oil

Saute in saucepan until chicken is no longer pink.

Add:

1 15 oz can chicken broth
2 15 oz cans Great Northern Beans drained/rinsed
2 4oz cans green chilis, chopped
1t cumin
1t oregano
1t salt
1/2t pepper
1/4t cayenne pepper

Bring to a boil and simmer 30 mins

Add right before serving:

1c sour cream
½c whipping cream

*Note: If preparing in the crock pot, put the sauteed chicken step in the fridge and add it 1/2 hour to an hour before serving. All of the ingredients in the middle section can be placed in the crock pot ahead of time to simmer. This keeps the chicken from overcooking. Then add the sour and whipping cream right before serving.

Follow-up note: My eldest son called after reading this to ask if we would have had food to go with the tortilla chips if the White Chicken Chili hadn’t shown up. I assured him that straits weren’t that dire, and that I had options that I was considering with ingredients in the freezer and pantry. The appearance of the chili just meant I could skip that step. I have great kids. Every. Single. One.

Having and Holding

It’s a golden day. Fifty years ago, my parents said, I do, and have been doing ever since.

Staying married to the same partner for fifty years is a pretty big deal. My mom will chime in that her parents celebrate seventy-two years at the end of the month. In May we celebrated my in-laws’ sixtieth.

That’s a lot of collective marital years.

But today is the day for Nick and Caryn and their decision to make a commitment and stay the course. Together. Fifty years ago.

Earlier this year they took a celebratory trip. The pictures are delightful. Sun and fun and horseback riding along with amazing food dishes testify to a time well-spent together.

There’s nothing quite like the actual day, though.

I texted congratulations to my parents this morning. They were on their daily ritual walk to a downtown coffee shop. It was all low-key and routine. Settled.

That is what I love about these days. They have settled in a good way with each other. I have settled in a good way with them. This may just be the best year I can remember, and I have been told I remember too much.

This year I see more clearly the young college students taking vows. The 20 year old woman and 21 year old man are not enigmatic figments of my imagination but real people with real struggles hoping for the best.

Just shy of two years later, they are handed a newborn daughter with the parting words, Good luck!

Fifty years is so long, and it is not long enough.

I type those words, and tears fill my eyes. I pause to listen to what they tell me, and my shoulders shake with sobs.

Fifty years has given them time to bear seven children, see them marry and grow children of their own.

It has given them a great-grandchild.

It has brought tragedy and loss.

t has brought joy and gain.

It has given me time to grow to be curious, to question, to engage.

It has given them time to grow to be responsive, to answer, to engage.

This fifty year celebration is all about them, and it’s not all about them.

It is about the lives that have come through them. The love that they share. The fierce fighting forward to step into more truth.

That is what brings my tears.

It is the realization of this precious gift that I have been given, that we have been given. This golden light of relationship and love.

This is a picture from my son’s wedding last year. It is by no means representative of everyone in the family. Twelve people are missing (at least!), but it gives you an idea of what 50 years can produce. Quite a harvest.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! May you feel just how loved you are today and every day.

More and more.

Overgrown

Summer flourishes with overgrown flowerbeds. Weeds crowd corners daring to be pulled.

Black-eyed Susans, Coneflowers, and Lamb’s ears compete for space among the unwanted invaders. Climbing the steps to the porch, I succumb to feelings of hopelessness. Why bother?

Remind me next summer when I think hanging baskets are a good idea, that they are really not. I tell my husband and my youngest daughter. I know one of them will remember. The porch is not my happy place right now. Dry hanging baskets only accentuate that fact.

No longer the flower lady, I am the lady with the overgrown house on the corner. Everything feels a mess, both inside and out, reminding me that when one area flourishes, another often suffers. This year it is the landscaping. The gardens. The unfinished porch.

Still the flowers fight forward. They open and bloom and stand their ground. One day I decide to set a fifteen minute timer in twilight’s glow and pull weeds. A stunning before and after rewards my effort. Never mind the thistles and thorns lurking around the corner.

I choose to celebrate the beauty that is in front of me.

Swept and Scrubbed

No cars line the street alongside my house. It is July’s end in this college town, townie summer, the pause before resume.

Dog barks frantically, running to his post at the window. His paws grasp the ledge, as he pulls himself up to look out at the culprit.

It is a moment of serendipity amidst the incessant barking when I realize the street sweeper is the source of his angst. Secretly delighted, I could not have planned a better time for it to make rounds. The cars are never all gone.

Usually we hear the barking and say, We should have moved the cars! This empty-street moment is brought to you by a last-minute vehicle inspection, a son with a driver’s license, a husband at work, and college kids still at their respective homes for summer break

The street is brushed tidily clean in preparation for August. It is washed down by the torrential rains that fell this afternoon. Swept and scrubbed, it waits in anticipation of what is to come.

I spend time sweeping and scrubbing the underside of the blog. Radically untended, post writing in this space has fallen drastically by the wayside. Though the word flourish adorns its front page, a better description of its current reality reads languish.

All is not lost. Much has been gained in other areas. It will circle back. As August approaches more settles, routine emerges, hope surfaces.

The new month beckons, swept and scrubbed fresh and clean, inviting me into its days. Gingerly, I take the first step.

Recycled Coffee

It was the last time I cared for the cats at my parents’ house. The morning routine of showing up, sprinkling treats, sifting litter, washing out the water bowl, and freshening the food dishes had ended. There was time left to relax with the cats.

I had yet to have a second cup of coffee and thought it the perfect time to fill the eco-friendly Keurig cup with fresh coffee grounds. I had been to my parents’ house countless times and drunk numerous cups of coffee. I knew the routine.

Or so I thought.

There on the counter was an open container filled with coffee grounds and a scoop. I scooped some of the grounds into the refillable Kerurig pod and inserted it into the dispenser. Pressing start, water began filtering through, filling my cup with fresh coffee.

Almost.

I cannot say exactly when I realized what was off about the situation. Maybe it was when I went to close up the coffee grounds and found this.

That is when I realized that I had just drunk a recycled cup of coffee. It had not tasted too bad. Which is also when I realized that in my world, even used coffee grounds make better coffee than some people get to drink in theirs.

First World Problems.

The thing is I know where the fresh grounds are kept. I make coffee from that canister all of the time. I think seeing the open container of used grounds on the counter suggested to me to fill the dispenser from there.

This time when I watch the cats the used coffee grounds container is empty and closed. I took the pictures for this post from that current situation. I still laugh about drinking my recycled coffee, though.

Really, it wasn’t that bad!