Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Having done all to stand. Stand firm."


Otherwise titled, "When the adreneline runs out, don't quit."
Yesterday was a bit of a black day in my world.
There seems to be a plethora of sadness due to death and the dying of family and friends. It wears on your soul, that grief. It's also been several months since I willingly left the job that paid me money and willingly embraced a career that currently pays me only in the currency of changing my very essence. And it's been nearly a month of being a full-time mommy, having pulled Bear out of Mom's Morning Out since he was miserable: a daily misery, that once I became aware of it, made it impossible to send him away so that I could have some time to myself. So, the past few months have been full of valuable lessons, like running a business debt free, living within your means as a family, decluttering, and being an aware parent. Lessons that I at times, ran from, ignored, or did somewhat haphazardly, at best.
Change is good.
A lot of change at once can, periodically, throw you into a whirlwind of emotions.
Yesterday was one of those days.
It wasn't fun anymore, all this new work.
It was just work.
Hard work that seemed to have little to show for it.
And I wanted to do things that I don't do anymore: things like eat the wrong foods, spend money I didn't have, pay to have someone else watch my kids, go out to eat, get a mani-pedi, call the maid, get a new iPhone, and a new wardrobe, get a new, cute, smaller home with a minimal lawn and the most amazing front porch, and what the Heck! I'd really like to go to Italy for a month, too!
It was crazy.
But that's where I was yesterday.
In my past, there would have been some major acting out. Some major temper tantrums. EVERYBODY would know how unhappy I was with my current state of affairs.
Instead, though, I just kept doing those small, little things that I have been doing for the past 2+ years. I kept my food in order, and folded and put away the load of clean clothes. Cleaned the kitchen and took down some more of the clutter and carted off some stuff to the charity shop. Sitting on my plastic chair on my slab of cement that I call a porch, letting my brain and emotions empty themselves, for no longer could these emotions and feelings and fears run havoc on my life. I reached out and called friends and connected with women who are genuine and understand the effort involved in not giving in to the myriad of compulsions. And without faking it, with genuine smiles and hugs and good food in bellies, the day passed, and all was well.
Today, has been a happy day. Full of light and laughter bubbling up from deep inside. It's also been full of good, honest work and service gladly given. Feelings pass. Good and bad. Using them to measure ones happiness, spirituality, or worth is a very bad idea. Please don't do it! How many years have I spent stirring up drama or seeking drama to give my life some measure of a good or bad emotion? And how often have I used those emotions to justify whatever compulsion(s) that I was doing, be it overeating, overspending, raging, gossiping, overindulging, wasting, procrastinating... on and on I could go.
But these past few months in particular have been a new measure of small, daily disciplines and practices, and today I caught a glimpse of the change that has slowly, softly occurred. To me, that is grace. Not Grace, as some understand it, but grace. A grace that I don't deserve and haven't earned, but that is offered freely if I will only take it and work it. The grace of abstinence, of solvency, of sobriety, of being fully present... these graces require my effort to flourish. Efforts like daily steadfastness, honoring your commitments, and setting boundaries (even with yourself). Just as a seed requires water, air and sunlight to grow and thrive.
You can grow and thrive and change.
Start today with just one or two small, daily actions that you can do everyday.
- thank God and pray for the willingness to be willing
- do a 15 min chore
- rest
- repeat

Gratefully yours,

Image found here

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Good Neighbor Day 2014

You don't need a special day to be a good neighbor, or to celebrate motherhood or fatherhood or grandparents. Today, just happens to be "Good Neighbor Day", and it's usually a "get a free flower at your local florist and give it to someone" day.

Well, as you know, my friend Kathy and I started a little venture called Front Porch Nation recently. Our goal is to help change the world for the good, one front porch at a time. And our philosophy is pretty simple: your neighborhood starts on your front porch (or stoop, or the place out front where you sit or swing and make yourself available to those around you).

I wrote about what I did today and am posting it here:
By Erica Robinson, Porchista
For the Front Porch Nation, every day holds the potential to be a “good neighbor day.”
It’s part of why we get out on our front porches and be a part of our neighborhood, our closest part of the world at large.
Today, I sat on my front porch with my middle child as she excitedly waited for her friend to walk down from her home, so that they could walk to school together.
Later, I rustled up my youngest son and we headed over to a neighborhood that I had visited last week. There, tucked away in a larger subdivision, was this charming cul-de-sac.
As I admired it last week, and took pictures, it took me a few minutes to place why I liked it so much.
For one thing, the inherent shape of their half circle made all the homes face each other in a gracious, gently curving manner. But more than that, it was the love of their front porch that each one of these neighbors possessed that struck me the most.
Marsha and her puppies
Marsha and her puppies
Each carried its own style, or personality. And the happy positive of that uniqueness was you wanted to stop and visit each house.
So, I drove back this morning, with a potted blooming plant to leave with one of those neighbors, and lo and behold, one of them was sitting on her front porch!
Marsha and her hummingbird feeder. Marsha is called a "porch monkey" by her family because she spends so much time out there. We can see why she does.
Marsha and her hummingbird feeder. Marsha is called a “porch monkey” by her family because she spends so much time out there. We can see why she does.
Marsha and her two puppies (seen right and at top) spend a lot of time out on their front porch. So much time, in fact, that Marsha’s family nickname for her is “the porch monkey.”
This morning, tiny hummingbirds flew excitedly about Marsha’s feeders and plantings.
Cheerily, I offered her my gift of flowers and wished her a happy “good neighbor day” and I thanked her for her lovely porch and for being out on it.
You see, our neighbor doesn’t have to only be the person to our immediate left or right. It can be anyone.
Here are more porches in Marsha’s lovely cup-de-sac.
Marsha's cul-de-sac
Marsha's cul-de-sac porch

Marsha's cul-de-sac porch

Marsha's cul-de-sac porch

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Family History: a lesson in perserverance

F.O. Havener of Bangor, Maine, circa 1860
one of my forebearers
Over the weekend, I had the chance to read through one of the journal's of my great, great, great-grandfather, F. O. Havener. Like so many folks, he started the journal on his birthday. This one started on his 30th birthday, on the eve of the Civil War.
He was a merchant, a trader, who owned a small merchantile shop in Bangor, Maine. In it he talks about the ships that come in and the ships that sink in storms. Ships holding his cousins and uncles and friends. He has a brother who travels extensively to London and Hong Kong. He talks of his success in trading horses, and the unfortunate buying of a cow for $5 that dies that very night. Of a suspected murder and a boy who dies of hydrophobia (rabies). He speaks of politics, both local and national, church doings, and his brother-in-law George Russ of Rockland who, once civil war breaks out, was in the 4th Regiment. 

More than anything though, he records the days in terms of weather and trade.
"Lowery (blustery) and trade dull".
He seemed constantly, mildly depressed, yet he refuses to despair or give up.
He tells a brief bit about his adventures at the age of 19, when, in 1849, he set off from Maine to California to join the Gold Rush and make his fortune. He struggled there for four years and came back empty handed and in very poor health. It seems he never fully regained his strength, for he mentions several long periods of illness. At 30, he has a wife and two children and "a few sticks of furniture".

Yet, at least on paper, he doesn't seem to find his lot a dismal one. And, despite the daily litany of "trade dull" or "trade very dull", he periodically makes a rather large investment and within that same day sells nearly all of what he purchased for a tidy profit. He took risks, such a sending cargo down South (before the war breaks out), only to find his tons of potatoes rotting on him before reaching New Orleans or another shipment to England, only to lose it all with the ship went down and the captain (an uncle) having failed to procure insurance on the cargo. He lends food to his neighbors, knowing they will not pay him back, and simply marks it as "bad debt" without naming the names of those to whom he lent. 

The journal spans a course of three years, with nearly daily entries for a period of months, followed by lengthy gaps (illness?). At the end of the first year, he was tremendously happy to have made the purchase of a home off Main Street on Waldo Avenue for $800 w/terms. This home he referred to as "the Veazie house". For it had belonged to a former ship captain, Wm Veazie. He several times mentioned his pleasure in having a home. My great-great grandfather, his namesake, is born during the time of this journal. The one who later built Roxmont

And it ends, on Tuesday, May 31, 1864 "Pleasant all day  wind N west war news unimportant   Gold 192  Cotton 1.08 a lb  am better than I was yesterday  trade rather dull"

I really like this ancestor for his courage. For him writing a bit of his life that I could read and discover more about him and the world he lived in; however monotonous those days seemed to be in their running together.
Grateful for his not giving up or falling into melancholy, despite all the hardships he endured.
Happy for the joy he found in his family and the home he provided for them.
He died at age 37. It sounds so young.
And here again, I see that "family legend" is not fact: he was not a shipbuilder, nor a larger-than-life robust man. I realize, too, that my very life, and that of my kinfolk, depended on someone long ago not giving up. 
Someone who kept trying. Who was steadfast. Who, though the successes did not equal the failures or "dull days", he didn't give up on life. Thankfully, the successes sprinkled here and there were, simply, enough.
Fail, learn, and try again. And again.
Don't give up.