Trash or Treasure?

Our community provides a special type of trash pick-up a couple times each year. Folks put their unwanted or broken items on the curb at a set time period and the municipality arranges for trucks to come around and collect the discarded items. We experienced a similar service when we lived in Sydney, Australia many years ago, although the setting-out period seemed a bit longer than it is here and now.

What is interesting of both experiences is that during the setting-out period and right up until the collection happens, a trove of “collectors” drive through neighborhoods looking for salvageable items. Because I, too, was once a “dumpster diver,” I no longer arrange garage sales or consignments for my unwanted items. Instead, if something has lost its use or appeal in my world, I wait for these community collections and simply set those things out on the curb. I know they will find use in someone else’s life.

For example, the photo shows what’s left of the treasures we placed on the curb just a couple of days ago. These remnants are truly trash. What you don’t see is the 24-year-old foldable beach umbrella, the treadle sewing machine in an oak cabinet, new but unused light fixtures, a charcoal barbeque grill and accessories, and tail lights from a car of the previous owner of our house (left behind when they moved four years ago).

I was a bit sad to release the treadle sewing machine. It served as a reminder of the way I learned to sew, taught by a Polish neighbor lady when I was nine years old. This particular machine had been given by a family member as payment of a debt owed to me, but it languished in the garage for a couple of years while I waited for the cigarette smoke to dissipate from the oak cabinet. That never really happened, and we need the space for other items. Thus, it was time to truly let it go.

I’m finding it easier and easier to let go of long-held memorabilia that I once found so dear. Certain ones, family heirlooms and artwork, are finding their way to my children now. The rest? If they still hold a space in my heart, they stay… like religious statues on the bookshelf or family photographs on the walls.

Trash or treasure? Now I keep only what holds meaning for me. And when it doesn’t? It’ll be time to let that go as well.

Time and the Space Between

I often have a love-hate relationship with time. Never enough. Can’t save it. Runs out. My “to do” lists have shortened over the years, but I struggle to accomplish what I put on paper. This time challenge affects another life objective – balance. How do I accomplish all I set out before me AND experience self-care?

Lists help me to feel accomplished in my daily tasks and to stay organized. Paper lists get checked off and then thrown away. Spreadsheets can be tedious to update. Calendar notations get an “X” when a task is done. My computer calendar (Google) displays across platforms to any device; notifications advise me of appointments. I finally figured out a way to combine the best of all of them.

My areas of Life focus fall into five major categories: Spirituality, Home, Writing/Working, Creativity/Art, and Relationships. I also have time designated for the “Space Between” major categories and end of day reading. A nod toward balance. Each category is color-coded for easy identification on my phone or computer. The colors and a set time serve as a welcome structure that allows me to dedicate time each day to things that matter to me AND achieve mental balance. Most categories are scheduled for every day of the week, while having flexibility within each allotted timeframe to prioritize tasks.

Right now, I’m in the “Space Between” (a gray area). We had an early dinner, so my writing was interrupted and delayed for a few moments. Next comes “Relationships” (lilac) when we’ll watch a binge series or a livestream college volleyball game my granddaughter plays in tonight. Sunday’s holiday lunch with family is in red.

This new system gives me permission to pace myself through all my many interests. Today I’ll do what I can in the time I have. Tomorrow, I’ll do a bit more. The schedule helps me stay focused and progress. Each day I’ll fully utilize the time given to me and do so with balance and serenity. It’s working already!

Filling the Void

Ever since the 2021 Inauguration, I’ve noticed a common thread in social media postings. Some have described their feelings as an “emotional hangover,” “the country taking a big exhale,” “exhaustion,” or “confusion.” In many examples, people express surprise about their state of mental confusion. There should be joy now that the main problem is gone. They ask “Why?”

Unfortunately, I recognize one possible reason for this awareness, coming so soon after recent national events. The abusive behavior has left the relationship. The narcissistic control has lost his voice.

I’m familiar with some of the behaviors that abusers employ, as well the survival techniques utilized by their victims. I know the feelings of living in a state of heightened awareness, of practicing caution so as not to garner the abuser’s attention, of “walking on eggshells” and being careful what to say or how to behave. I became skilled at anticipating what was needed and how to resolve problems long before they materialized… albeit useful skills in the business world.

A person can survive in such unstable and hostile environments for years. I know. I did. One must, when this way of living is all that is familiar … until it ends. Then what?

When the abuser is no longer part of the victim’s life – e.g., either because the child leaves home or the wife divorces her husband – there’s a void that must be filled. Instead of the abusive behavior, what replaces the tension of living under those conditions? It’s a void that is first filled with feelings of abandonment and confusion, a sense of loss, direction and purpose, and exhaustion and emotional depletion.

Whether the abuser has been someone close or a national political figure, the behaviors exhibited can trigger former victims in numerous ways. However, if the victims have done responsible healing work to address their PTSD responses, they will quickly see through obnoxious or insulting behaviors. They will likely implement methods to protect themselves, such as avoidance or distraction, to sidestep engagement with the abuser. I would turn off a television program or delete videos and photos from my social media, so I didn’t have to hear or see a certain government official. These methods can help.

Still, the void remains for a short time. It’s up to the victim to find ways to move forward from the dazed and confused state. To feel comfortable without the chaos. To trust they are safe beyond the abuser’s controlling behavior. To focus on their own healing nature and positive ways of living. To find purpose again through what they choose to create.

It’s taken me a couple of days to move beyond the void and find that purpose again. I’m no longer worried about what is going on in the White House. The hate has been replaced with empathy, compassion, and kindness. The words are respectful. Ideas and plans are proposed for the good of many and not the favored few of the top 10%. I can listen and watch and be informed without the fear. I’ve been able to let go of the tension that grew within me during the past five years. I have filled the void with joy, hope, and creativity. I can breathe again.

 

After the Insurrection

It’s been several days since a right-wing, domestic terrorist group, cleverly incited by the president and his accomplices, invaded the Capitol building and threatened our American Democracy with a violent coup attempt.

I know what it feels like, what it looks like, to have someone come into your home and wreak havoc on the space, safety, and occupants who reside there. The span of years passed has not diminished the emotional toll that lingers in my memory.

I know what it feels like to be stalked and physically assaulted by someone you trusted… even loved. To hear threats and lies told as easily as ordering food from a menu. To fear the lack of emotion in threatening words and promises of death that batter your psyche.

I’ve now seen enough photos posted of those Capitol marauders desecrating a respected institution and building. Investigations are underway and there’s no doubt much will be revealed. There are enough shares of blame and responsibility for all concerned to last for years. Karmic law will prevail.

So why am I still so emotional about this week’s destruction? Why break into tears or speak with a cracking voice about the event? My initial anger about the week’s atrocity has mostly dissipated, transmuting into a growing concern about what to do next as a country. I wonder what common ground can look like after so much disagreement.

  • What issues have priority in the minds of enough caring people that warrant time, energy, and creative ideas to bring them to fruition for the benefit of many?
  • What does it take to end systemic racism?
  • How can we work together – with all parties represented – to find the way forward for the good of this country’s citizens and not for local leadership rewards or Congressional greed and power plays?
  • What needs to happen to reestablish the integrity and credibility of this country?
  • Is it possible to elevate the consciousness of the majority of citizens to include compassion, equality, and mutual respect?

I don’t know what my part will be, but I have to try. I have to participate. I can’t stand idly by and do nothing. I live here. The work must be done. I have a responsibility to help my community to progress in its evolution and move forward into the future. All of us… together.

Cell Phone Blues

My ongoing quest to reduce living expenses, especially for items that I consider basic tools for living (AKA needs), has now impacted my choice of phone plans and the phone itself.

About two and one-half years ago my husband and I migrated from one major cell phone provided to another. This change, plus our “senior” age category, allowed us to go from $149 per month to $79 per month for two phones (unlimited talk and text, and sharing about 3GB of data per month). It meant we also had to buy new phones for the new provider system at a cost of about $600 per phone. We use Android phones.

Due to what I often refer to as “planned obsolescence,” my cell phone started dropping calls a few weeks ago – a phone less than three years old! I did make the trip to the cell phone store to see if they could resolve the issue; it worked for one phone call.

While this is extremely annoying, I had fortunately purchased a “burner” phone ($60) from a big box store several months prior on a pay-as-you-go plan (no contract, $25/month for unlimited talk, text and 3GB data PLUS Wi-Fi ready). I reactivated the plan when I started having issues with my primary phone. Thus, if I was on a call and it dropped, I would simply call them back on my burner phone. Even this became annoying.

The time had come to replace the dysfunctional phone, but I didn’t want to change my number. I’ve had it for years. It’s tied to all my rewards and accounts. I like it.

I “chatted” with a customer service rep (more than one, actually, just to verify) from the no-contract company about buying one of their more expensive phones ($149-$249) and transferring my number to it, and then being on the basic phone plan. After that, I could just cancel the burner phone plan, but keep the phone. They confirmed that this was possible and offered FREE delivery via Federal Express to “order online today.”

While that was a much more reasonable price, and moving from our current discounted “senior” plan is possible without affecting my husband’s line (which is also his business phone), it won’t really save us any money on a monthly basis now. However, it will be easier to track his business phone expenses separately from mine… AND… I will be the test case with this “simple” provider prior to his eventual retirement and transition to a less expensive plan, too. I told the “chat” rep I wanted to think about it overnight.

I also wanted time to transfer (back-up) all my photos to my cloud account and be sure I was ready to shut down this pricey paperweight.

I woke up with a new idea! What if I transferred my long-time phone number to the burner phone I already had in my possession? Just deactivate that existing number and replace it with my own? Then I wouldn’t have to buy a phone at all right now. I liked that idea a LOT! So I got back on “chat” with another rep, presented my questions, and YES, it was possible. (NOTE: I had asked staff at the big box store about doing this and they said it could not be done. Glad I kept asking.) The chat rep finally gave me their customer service phone number to contact them directly and for someone to guide me through the process.

I’ve come to believe that making changes to phones and phone plans is like buying a car. It takes hours to go through the process, and is sometimes frustrating with the slowness of how it’s done and all the details you have to have available and the voice permissions from the other account holder to leave the account and on and on and on. Finally, after nearly THREE hours on and off the calls, my favorite number was transferred to the $60 phone I’ve been using as backup. The text, talk, and internet tests succeeded, too.

The “new” phone pretty much has all the features of my former, expensive phone. It’s perfect for the way most of our family communicates anyway (via text). Some of the maneuvering buttons are in a different screen position, but no big deal. I had to reinstall some of my favorite apps and review the notification permissions, but I have limited them considerably to what I allowed before. The phone is lighter weight and slightly smaller in size. I can always upgrade to one of their more expensive phones – but still FAR cheaper than what we’ve been paying.

The next day I went through their automated phone service to re-establish my auto-payment account (to lock-in that $25/month plan), since the payment details on the account I had got wiped out when they deactivated the burner number. For some reason, I can’t seem to reactivate the online (internet) account like I had before. Perhaps I need to wait a few days for the system to catch up with my plans.

Meanwhile, I’m content with the transition to this new phone and provider and I look forward to reconnecting with family and friends.

 

The Rememberer

I am the rememberer.

The collector of stories and pain.

The recorder of wisdom and healing.

I am the bringer of light and carrier of peace.

The observer of love and conflict.

The knower of truth and the compassion in consequence.

I am the encourager through struggle.

The author of life and director of purpose.

The listener of the soul’s whispers.

I am a guide to the traveler and shelter for the weary.

The echo of footsteps and the meaning for smiles.

The calmer of fears and encourager of faith.

I am the place of eternal rest.

I am the energy of life in all.

I am the rememberer.

I am complete.

I am you.

(poem written by Carla Ryan 7/11/2020 during labyrinth meditations)

Re-defining Spiritual Community

After more than a year of planning, 2020 began with great expectations for launching New Thought Grand Valley as a new Religious Science spiritual community. Since January, however, interest in creating the organization has ebbed and flowed in the hearts of our core founders. I’m familiar with the efforts involved to build such an organization from the ground up… not something I want to do alone.

I continue to nourish the vision of a vibrant, community-based, mission-centric Religious Science home, one that welcomes all who wish to participate and contribute their time, talents, and treasure. In order to start where I am, I began holding a weekly discussion/class night at my house. Participants came each week to grow in consciousness. Two students expressed spiritual education goals toward seeking specific credentials.

Then COVID-19 arrived.

In the midst of this unplanned retreat, the expansion of possibilities appeared. The weekly group now meets via ZOOM. We’re gaining more technical skills, staying connected, and growing in consciousness. We connect in the cloud, face-to-face and heart-to-heart in the digital realm. A spiritual community is taking shape.

I like the ZOOM format. And because there are no transportation issues or geographic limits for student participation, it’s become my preferred teaching method. I’m doing what I love best as a minister – teaching. I’m developing more curriculum and will submit courses for consideration as part of Emerson’s Distance Learning list. Also, I’ve been accepted by Emerson as a member of their “Faculty.” That page on their website should soon be updated. In this way, I can serve both local or remote students and even mentor some along their spiritual path.

Learn. Study. Teach. Share. Repeat.

The next series (“The 5 Love Languages”) originally scheduled for the last half of May HAS BEEN CANCELED. This is an easy, yet meaningful, three-week series to offer since the author (Gary Chapman) provides access to all the materials via his website (study guides, profile/quiz, books for purchase). With so many people “forced” into quarantine, it seems like a good time to re-examine our personal relationships.

What about the future of the new church? I don’t know. I remain somewhat detached from the outcome.

Meanwhile, there is nothing lacking in my life. While I’ve published two books in the past two years, I have several other manuscripts in development. I’m part of the leadership team for a local, 43-year-old Interfaith group, which is entering another stage of expansion and evolution. There are multiple projects around the house.

COVID-19 caused the world to slow down in many ways, but not here. This time of reflection and contemplation, of re-evaluating what’s important, of what’s mine to do, has brought my life new energy and focus. I am in constant gratitude for the time and space this retreat has provided… to make new decisions and to consider another meaning for “spiritual community.”

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Gardening Experiment – Day 16

In the 10 days since my last post, the garden has really progressed. In fact, it’s in!

I thought the radishes grew fast. O.M.G. Did they ever! However, the garden project accelerated when next to the radishes the corn seeds started piercing the dirt – 22 baby corn stalks made their appearance within a week!

And then the green beans started popping up, too. The first and tallest one (so far) was growing an inch each day!  I don’t remember a plant ever  doing that. It wasn’t long before other bean sprouts began busting loose from their pod seeds.

Since we had a bit of a cold spell for a couple of days, I wouldn’t put the tender, little plants outside. They stayed on the counter in front of a north-facing window. That didn’t seem to slow down their growth. It was fun to turn the plantings around every hour or so and see how the bean stalk turned back toward the window’s light. The corn stalks were slower-growing, but within a few days they were a couple of inches above the dirt.

All this growing made me realize we needed to get the raised garden beds installed as quickly as we could. I did some online research and found kits made of pre-cut cedar boards with dowels inserted at the corners to secure the boards into the rectangle shape. I ordered two garden beds and they arrived in less than a week… just as the weather started warming up.

As the weekend approached, we prepared the ground. We removed some of the grass in a sunny (but dead) spot away from the house (a change from the original plan), filled in low spots with old soil from miscellaneous plant pots scattered around the property, and pinned down weed-block cloth over the selected area. We bought bags of dirt and PVC pipe to construct the simple, arched frame for the netting. Then we tackled the assembly of the raised garden bed kits.

I just want to say that I’m grateful for my husband’s brute strength and his give-me-the-hammer construction method. The dowel holes barely matched up with the ones in the side boards. Each corner had to be muscled together with hammer and screwdriver and even a bit of re-drilling. Once the corners were together, the rest was easy. We poured in the bags of dirt,  constructed the PVC frame, and attached the netting.

Today I put the baby plants in the ground. All of them. I added a couple of tomato plants, purchased shortly before the install. I added new soil to a few empty pots and planted even more seeds. I figure if nine-year-old seeds can grow, so can seeds from 2020. Now it’s hoping the weather forecast is accurate and these plants have a good start before summer arrives.

More updates are sure to come. Stay tuned.

Gardening Experiment: Day 6 – It’s Getting Real!

Day 6… and I’m starting to panic. The radishes are growing so much faster than I anticipated. I thought I might have at least a couple of weeks before they grew to this height and thickness. When I look back at all the gardens I’ve planted in the past, I doubt I EVER actually counted days until seedlings appeared.

When you compare the photos from yesterday to today, it’s like these seedlings are in a growth race. I’m stunned! They certainly like the amounts of water and sunshine they’re now getting on a daily basis. Time to plan the raised garden bed.

We went outside to look at the yard and what direction the spring sun hits it. Since we have a couple of spots where the dead grass is an eyesore, it makes sense to position the raised garden beds over those spots… but not block the sprinkler heads. We’re trying to find the sprinkler heads now. The grass is really thick.

Since I’ve built raised garden beds before, I quickly drew a sketch, but at half the size of my previous construction. Next, I’ll go online to order the materials.  We can do a drive-thru pickup at the local lumber/hardware/garden store. I’ll have to go back later for manure, soil, and bird  barrier netting. Also to keep out the dogs.

We’ll likely build one garden bed for the seeds and plants I’ve already planted. We can do another later for the herbs. The far end of the yard (garden) has a bit of dappled shade, which will be better for more delicate plantings.

Looks like I’ve got work to do.

Garden Experiment: Day 5 – Coming Alive!

On the second day I snapped a picture of the dirt in the egg carton. A sunny day meant that the seeds could be warm outside. Zoey, one of our dogs, kept watch for birds. None appeared. After a couple of hours, I brought the mini garden back inside.

Today is Day 5 (4/8/2020). Last night there was an explosion of growth! Look at the radishes! I’m excited mostly to know that the seeds – as old as the envelope said they were – are still able to produce a plant. How exciting is this already!?

These little seedlings got to go outside today for the morning and early afternoon. Perfect spring weather. The sun really dried out the soil. Once back inside I re-watered the radishes and their sleeping buddies for the night. It’ll be interesting to see how much they grow overnight. I’m now looking forward to the morning and more garden growth. Stay tuned.