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Being Grateful in Every Moment

imageI was once a full-on hippie, living from my car, camping my way across this North American continent.  Barely 18 and driving myself from the Midwest to Alaska. I rejected family, commitment, and mostly, responsibility.  I sought truth, the wild, beauty, and answers to the purpose of this life.

My life today is different.  I live in a lovely home, work a professional job, have a husband, children and daily commitments.  I have to carve time for adventures into the wild, and usually I bring my children with me.


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Yet the truth seeker, the beauty seeker, the wild seeker, she has not left.

So when I recently overheard someone telling a group to “stop seeking the answers of life for as soon as you find the answer, the questions will change” I was shocked.

Isn’t that the very point?  Follow with me for a moment.  As a child I was obsessed with reading historical literature (the whole living a thousand lives through books).  Then I became obsessed with religion and spirituality.  That transitioned into a questioning of the status quo and American Dream, which lead me to Alaska and exploring true wilderness (while learning to do so safely).  From there I delved into science, which lead me to a rewarding career.  The professional life and subsequent financial planning led to questioning my values and purpose in life.  Thanks to all the previous questioning (and answering) it was easy to  know my/my partner’s values and uproot our lives to better align with those values.  Now that we have children, all of those previous cycles of questioning and answering have culminated in the responsibility of raising people who will go out into the world and make their own way (a bonus of the Alaska years is knowing how to safely take them into the wild).

The constantly changing questions in my life have fueled my evolution.  

So, what does ring true to me?  I no longer reject commitment, responsibility, even tradition.  What I have come to believe wholeheartedly is:

The purpose of life is to be grateful in every moment.  

I used to read that line and scoff, how can I be grateful in the face of loss, tragedy?  Now I live these words, for the worst in my life has prepared me for the best.

And the commitments I used to flee, now I am thankful. Every commitment in my life, shows how my life is interconnected to those I love.

As I wrote that last line, I received a message from a beloved friend.  Her eldest is in the hospital with a newly-diagnosed, serious disease.  He is three.  Her third child is in her womb, past her due date.

My heart races to her, yet she is across the country and I cannot immediately be there. I am trying to get there.  Once there, I could help, sure, but I cannot take the challenging roles she must play out.  I cannot birth her baby for her, as much as I wish.  She has been up at night for weeks taking care of her son, waiting for some cure, diagnosis and she is exhausted.  I could sit at her son’s bedside but it is her that he wants and her that needs to be there.  In times like this it is so clear how strong we must be (in this instance, as mothers) and how deep our commitments must run.

It is moments like these that the biggest lesson I have learned comes heavily to me.

My life is to love.  My life’s work is to act on that love, to be strong for those who need strength, to be present for those who need me.  

It’s why the outcome of the mountaintop retreat is for me to give up my career in the next 8 months.  I have the answers to the questions that particular career gave me, and my focus has shifted again.  My role has changed and being at work, no matter how rewarding at one time, is no longer my focus, nor deepest commitment.

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Precipice

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Precipice.
Today that is where I stand.
Much as I did 14 years ago on the rim of the Grand Canyon.
Looking down into unfathomable depths, unbridgeable gaps.

Then, I merely hiked to the bottom and back. A personal challenge, beautiful memory and party anecdote.

Today, it is different. My baby goes in for an EEG tomorrow.

My baby.

Hopeful epilepsy isn’t uttered and I can quiet another nagging voice inside my head.

Hopeful, our reality won’t forever change.

I gave up years ago, the bliss of worrying for only oneself, the naïveté that my children would be unharmed.

I have lost babes.
I have held both of my sons, carrying them into operating rooms.
Tomorrow’s procedure is without pain or blood,
Yet it kills a little bit of my naïveté yet again.
My reality has become seeing love and beauty, in all moments.
Thankfulness at what we have, whatever it may be.
Focusing on that which is real, that is, the health and happiness of my family.
Let it be.

I’ve been Liebstered!

 

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Thanks to the adorable  Random Indi for nominating me.   Apologies for the lateness (I was at the beach, and unplugged for the week).

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The Rules
1. It must link back to the person that nominated you.
2. Nominate 11 bloggers who have less than 200 followers.
3. Cannot nominate the person who nominated you.
4. Provide nominees with 11 questions of your choice.
5. Must inform nominees of your nomination.
6. Provide nominees with a link to your post for more info.

Random Indi’s Questions:

How did you pick your blog name?

“Life Imagined” was immediate.  I had the title years before the idea of a blog occurred.  Originally it was the working title of a novel.

Life imagined stems from:
“…if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endevours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours… In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex…” –Henry David Thoreau
The truth in this quote has struck me since high school.  Additionally, my mother always cautioned me to be careful what I fill my mind with, as what fills ones’ mind, fills ones’ life.

Thoreau’s quote is an extension of that thought.  By dreaming ones’ life imagined, and taking steps to achieve it; we create or attract that very life.

Of course life and God add their own plans to the mix.


What is your favorite post you’ve written? (provide link)

Hmmm. The one I just finished, it details how one of my favorite artists influenced my writing routine.

What’s the most delicious food you’ve ever eaten?

Wow.  That is such a hard question.  I am blessed to eat phenomenal food on a regular basis.  What elevates a meal for me is a gorgeous, natural setting and direct from the farm  freshness.  Any time I am ocean-side and lucky enough to eat fresh-caught seafood (especially sushi, served tiradito-style) accompanied by loads of local, organic produce (mushrooms, tomatoes, basil, mint) I am very happy.  Add to that fresh raspberries for dessert and crisp savignon blanc (French or CA) and I’m in heaven.

One memory stands out at the moment, The Galley in Morro Bay, California (lovely owners, Inn, service, authentic fishing town, excellent oysters and a Costa De Oro Pinot Noir).

In general, I love food that creates new flavor profiles.  Those meals inspire me in the kitchen and help me continue to create heathy, tasty meals.

Cat or dog?

Dog 1000%
Helps that I am allergic to cats.
Ruined, because I had the best lab ever. He was giant, loyal, sweet, protective and even cat-lovers loved him.
Miss trail running and hiking with him, watching the boys climb all over him. Love.

What’s your favorite movie?

I am really bad with deciding favorites.  I really like movies that transport me, change my look on life.  Usually my favorite changes with whatever has moved me recently.  Looking back, I’d say Pride and Prejudice.  That is one movie that never fails to completely pull me in.  I even start thinking with a British accent.  Brings me back to my childhood love affair with all things Austen.

What is one of your talents?

Creating beauty.
Be it transforming a friends house, planning a garden to block street intrusions and capture lovely views, or creating a meal from disparate ingredients, moments before friends arrive.
My mother raised me to appreciate beauty and create it in every aspect of life.

What is your favourite season of the year?

They all have magic don’t they?
Autumn, is the one I love the deepest.
There is something about the start of a school year, new beginnings, studious preoccupations, learning, turning inward in preparation for winter that stirs the depth of me.

What makes you smile?

Everything.
Life is beautiful, surprising, complex. I am grateful every day.
Definitely, being in the moment, exploring the world with my boys, always brings a big smile.

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Why did you start your blog?

I wrote about that here. Essentially, I have to write and I have a really good friend.
Rather than rehashing that, let’s get into what I concerns me about with blogging.  I hope I don’t come across as a know-it-all.

I am merely a student, a very curious student of life.  I am blessed to have many interesting opportunities, and friends who share knowledge in all areas of life.  I want to share those experiences/information in hopes of inspiring/amusing/fueling knowledge and change for another.

What is your favorite quote?

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”
― Aldous Huxley

Favorite song?

Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fahr069-fzE
However, I love spotify for my divergent moods. Deuter for writing/yoga/working, Bon Iver & Florence and the Machine for singing, B.O.B and Jay Z for cooking/dancing.

 

I hope you enjoyed this!  Now I nominate the following bloggers:

– Erin at www.happilyhowards.com

–  Mitch of exploratorius.us

– Christina of www.cityloveee.blogspot.com

– Luisa of www.littlediaryof.blogspot.uk

–  Bethanny Kate of www.missbethanykate.com

–  Hannah of http://hannahishrh.blogspot.com

– Kelsey of http://www.lifeoutloud.kelseymcevoy.com

–  Ash of http://www.thornandsparrow.com

–  Emily of  http://brunchandbrains.blogspot.com

–  Ann of http://shenannigann.com 

–  Louise of http://www.heylouise.com/blog/

 

Here are your questions:

1) What is your favorite season, why?

2) What is inspiring you most, right now?

3) What project or purchase for your home is on top of your to-do list?

4) What setting/place brings you the most peace/calm?

5) Favorite flower?

6) Your lesson of 2014?

7) Your song of 2014?

8) Favorite book, why?

9) What do you envision your life being like in 10 years?

10) If handed 10 million dollars, what would you change about your life?

11) If teleportation were possible right now, where would you go first?

 

Can’t wait for the responses!

Before I pick up my pen- writing routine

image I was once told that Jamie Kirkland (one of my favorite painters), does not pick up her brush until she has reached a meditative state.  Given that my attraction to her paintings is for their serene quality, I believe this statement, whether true or not.

I have since employed the same technique before picking up my pen to write (or my camera to shoot).  I feel a heightened mental and sensory state occurs after a bit of meditation.  My words and purpose seem to vibrate at the surface of my awareness.  My work has greater clarity and concludes with greater satisfaction.

I’ve written before about writing and Morning Pages (see Julia Cameron).  I still employ the technique of daily, 15 minute, uninterrupted, stream-of-conscience writing.  However, as the mother of toddlers, I have had to modify the practice.

The idea of setting an alarm for before they awake, to write for 15 minutes in bed before anything else, is great.  The reality with toddlers is they wake up on their own schedule.  I recognize that this season of my life is dedicated to needs.   The needs of the boys, work, hubby, and my own needs.  I often need to sleep until they awake, to catch up on the missed sleep of previous days, weeks, years.  Yet the creative side of myself cannot be put on the shelf,  so I modify and find a space for creation in my life.

Writing Routine

My routine begins when I step into my studio for the day. First, I space clear (put away anything out of place).  Since I usually do this before leaving in the evening, this doesn’t take long.  I am one who has difficulty ignoring a mess.  I find the mind keeps returning to things left undone.

Second, I do a few yoga postures to release any tension and quiet my mind (reach my meditative state). Third, I set my intention for the day.  Typical intentions are: health, strength, listen, love, respect, calm, centered, open.

Next, I light a few candles (repeating my intention each time), turn on some centering music (Deuter and Takenobu are regulars), and set my phone timer for at least 15 minutes.

It is then that I pick up my pen and write uninterrupted until the timer goes off.  I write continuously, stream of conscious.  It is important to not self-edit, to not worry about a reader.  This way one can really see where they are and what is needed in ones life that day.

This morning, my entire focus was on sharing my routine with others.  It has helped me greatly in my life.  I share in case it helps someone else.  So here it is, Namaste.

Mountaintop Retreat Part III- what didn’t work?

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Maybe some of you have perfect days and vacations where everything goes smoothly, all of the time.  I don’t.  Actually, I am thankful for the hiccups, but more on that later.

I am finally getting back to the outcome of our couples retreat. Remember the one from two months ago, high on Telluride mountain (Mountain Village, that is)?

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With a gorgeous suite upgrade, fantastic dining, kids happy at home with Nana, and my beloved hubby at my side;  how could it not be perfect?

One word.

Expectations

always my Achilles (coincidentally, that is also my physical ailment).

I thought I had mastered the art of no expectations.  I finally learned how to enjoy a date night, hotel, restaurant, trip; by have zero expectations on how things will go.  Unfortunately, I forgot to do the same with regard to the outcome of our couples retreat.

I had expectations that I didn’t recognize beforehand.  Such as, no work,no tv, and (a bit outside my comfort zone to mention) praying together.  Of course I was disappointed when my unspoken expectations were not met.  That disappointment was a buzz kill and wasted precious time that we had together.

So, whether you are doing a date night to discuss your direction or a full on retreat like we did, I highly suggest setting ground rules well in advance of heading out together.

Thankfully, we worked through them and (silver lining) found out new things about one another. Refreshing that can still happen after fifteen years.

Now, let’s get back to the topic that makes me uncomfortable.

Prayer.

I have been a Christian for as long as I have memory of and for the first time enjoy going to church. We happen to have found a wonderful one in our new hometown. I also have been raised with prayer, as a family, in church, and internally all my life.  While my husband is also a Christian, he has not been raised with the same use of prayer.  Our comfort levels regarding praying together were very different.

This was new territory for us.  While I consider myself Christian, I believe that we, as humans, have very imperfect knowledge.  I do not claim to know that my version of Christianity and spirituality are the one way to God.  He gave us different languages and cultures, why would he not give us different ways (prayer styles, beliefs, even religions) to reach him?

So this hiccup, resulted in my opening my mind to my husbands way of communing with God and opened him towards my way.  It turned into a critical moment of practicing non-judgement.  Once we each saw passed the words we were using to describe connecting with God, we saw how similar our ways really were. It was yet another moment in my life where I learned to listen.  What I heard was not only my partner but also, my own core beliefs. I do not know everything.

What I do know, is what works for me.

And that is, Prayer.

It has always been the one thing that works for me when nothing else does.  Whenever life feels like too much,  pray these words:

“Lord, forgive me.  I accept your love, I accept your forgiveness.”

 I repeat them until I have the strength to start again.  It has never failed me.

Please share, what works for you?

The conclusion of our retreat and the big life changes resulting from our soul-searching will be posted in the next week.  Stay tuned!

“Be true to yourself.”

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A wise woman, who knows me well, told me, “Be true to yourself, share what you have learned”.

These words stopped my thought patterns and focused me on the big picture.  When am I true to myself?

When I am helping others, sharing what I have learned from great books and wise people.  

Given that a new season is upon us, the time of rebirth and change- this is my focus.  Be true to myself.  In all ways, at all times, in all things.

This woman lived life according to her own terms.  Abandoned by her husband at the start of the Great Depression, she was left to raise her daughter and  niece, alone.  She was strong, I don’t know if she began life that way or if she became that way through life’s lessons.

What I do know is she found solid work, supported her family, raised those girls and lived an elegant life centered around her loves.  Namely, the piano, family, an orderly self and home, red lipstick and beautiful hair (perfectly coiffed until the very end of her 90 years). She taught me discipline, appreciation for the arts, and how to play the piano.

She taught me another thing that stands out now, no excuses.  Life will throw at you what it will. All you control is your reaction to life.  You are the only one who can make the life you want happen.

I wish she had written, so I could learn from her thoughts on life instead of relying on the memories of how she conducted herself.  That is why today, I am writing.  There is no need for each of us to go through all of the lessons in life.  We can share what we have gathered and learn from one another.

What do you feel called to share today?

Link up & New page

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Additionally, please check out my new page, the deeper side, this week exploring loss.

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Change

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Mountaintop Couples Retreat- Part II (why are we together & where are we going)?

 

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Question #1. Why are we together?

What an opener.  How does one even answer that?

And yet for us, the answer came almost immediately.  Jarring in it’s truth, it is why we work as a couple.

We are together because we bring what the other needs to move farther into a deeper, more fulfilling life.  To evolve, if you will, from where we started in life.

I was raised with unconditional love.  For all our faults, my family gave me unconditional love from birth.  I’ve also had unconditional love spiritually, as I have had faith since early childhood.

My husband was raised with the mantra of “no excuses”.  It doesn’t matter what is thrown in your path or how hard things get, you are responsible for living the life you desire.

Combine the two and we can build a life that knows no limits.  We balance each other out and have the opportunity to raise children who are fully loved, loving, and self-responsible (responsible for own well-being).

Why are you together with your partner? I’d be interested in others’ answers.

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Question #2- What direction are you going as a couple?

As we worked through the questions, a thought kept reoccurring.  My husband and I have been able to stay together as a team through the past decade because we asked most of the important questions when we were first getting serious.  We had a long distance relationship.  You can only use small talk and recounts of your day for so long.  To fill hours on a phone or pages in a letter (email was just beginning when we met), you have to get real.  We discussed everything from our values, to how we wanted to raise kids, to what old age would look like.  We have been through so much in the last 15 years, but through it all we have been generally heading in the same direction.

The beauty of doing a retreat as a couple (as opposed to a group) is you can start from where you are.  For some, this is will be the first step in determining the direction and mission of your family.  For us, rather than finding our direction, our goals became clearer, refined.  We focused on refining how our team works and treats one another.  The planning for our future was less a battle of what direction to go and much more a discussion of when to enact certain changes we knew we both desired.

Our direction is clear, we want a life filled with love, exploration, helping others and the freedom on make our own life choices.  We began this fifteen years ago.  We are now well on our way, living in our desired location, raising our two beloved sons, and saving for the day when we no longer need to work full-time jobs.

To achieve this, we need to continue to simplify our lives.  Avoid added distractions, expenses, and negativity.

The beauty of acknowledging our direction is how simple it is once again to say no to things that do not aid us.  For the past year we have discussed getting a camping trailer, it aids our goal of exploring and spending quality, family time in nature.  However, it hurts our savings goals and our simplification goal.  We would have to find a storage place and maintain yet another big purchase.  After our retreat, we no longer need to discuss it, it doesn’t fit where we are right now.  There is beauty in knowing your decisions are rooted in your life direction and you as a couple do not need to keep rehashing the same ideas.

What is your direction as a couple?  Are you beginning your journey or well on your way?

 

Mountaintop Couples Retreat- Part I

imageThe couples retreat was heavenly.  Began the journey with an easy car ride through the mountains filled with deep conversations stemming from the workbook.  I felt lucky in that my hubby was completely on board with the idea and I didn’t feel I was forcing him to do anything.  It definitely helped that we were both extremely overworked (hubby had two days off in the past seven weeks) and  were in need of time together, away from our precious kids.

The previous post centered on why we were doing a couples retreat.  This post centers on how to prepare for a couples retreat (or simply time you plan together to discuss life, your relationship and direction).

Prep

While we based our retreat off a workbook specific to a Christian focus, there are any number of retreat workbooks out there.  The important thing is to ask and answer questions as a couple that help get to the root of your direction in life, values and the direction you want to go for the next month, year, five years…

I highly suggest that each person review the workbook during the week before the retreat.  Starting even earlier would have been helpful.  The more time you have to think, pray, dream and daydream over the topics and plans for your life as a couple- the better spent your time together will be.

Focus and Ground Rules

It helps to began the trip knowing what the focus of the retreat will be and the ground rules.  The focus should be on yourself and not on changing your partner.  This of course triggered recall of one of my favorite quotes.

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” ― Aldous Huxley

This is critical, as a sure way to block progress would be to bring up past grievances you have with one another.  Which called to mind another favorite quote.

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We proved this one to be a true but more on that in the upcoming Mountaintop Couples Retreat- Part III (sounds like a horrible movie sequel).  Thankfully our retreat was anything but horrible.

After a shorter than expected drive, we arrived in Telluride, which is every bit as breathtaking as its’ reputation.  We entered the resort prepared for our three days of couples visioning and planning for our family’s future.

We were then royally upgraded to a beautiful residence and patio all overlooking the view posted at the top.  Gratitude, my constant mantra, was easy to come by in this moment.

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