Sunday, January 31, 2016

so the stress doesn't kill me

I woke up this morning with a new lease on life. I got myself organized for the week, planned the cooking I'll do this afternoon, and I went to the gym. I used to go to the gym five days a week and now I wonder when I stopped...and why.

I made a lovely lunch out of salad greens and my left-over salmon from last night. It was overcooked but the salad fixed that problem. 

So, taking care of myself. First priority. I can't help anyone else if I don't take care of myself.

Monday, January 18, 2016

a dream

Regis had a dream last night that he was having lunch today with Wahoo McDaniel. He didn't even know who that was so had to check Wikipedia. They say he was a was a Choctaw-Chickasaw Native American who achieved fame as a professional American football player and later as a professional wrestler. Turns out he died in 2002, so if Regis is meeting him for lunch that is not a good sign.

My intentions were so good. I meant to start 2016 with a Whole Thirty and a yoga challenge. Then due to complex problem within our family, we have had a six-year-old staying with us since right after the 1st of the year. Out the window with yoga, the whole thirty, the Marie Kondo method of de-cluttering. In with organizing appointments, school visits, toys, small clothes, homework. It is a test for an old head, believe me. It was the same anxiety I felt when I first had an infant to care for...I had dreams about forgetting to feed her or putting her in the trunk by mistake. I finally had to get a binder and a couple of notebooks and write everything down.

Things are going better and this may be shorter term than we anticipated.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

not sure where this is headed, but...

I've had a feeling, an intuition, for quite a while now...maybe a year...that there is something afoot in my life. I am not sure what it is, not really even an inkling, but I know it's coming.

A few signs have been moving me along this path. One was the end of my job at Lone Star. I didn't work that many hours but it seems to portend change. I decided to take a sabbatical from my volunteer job at the Treaty Site. I've been working with a trainer since June and I'm feeling stronger. I have been reading this book:

Marie Kondo says it is life-changing. One blogger said this: I thought I was just going to clean my closets. But something much bigger happened.

So, hmmm. Not sure where all this is headed.

Yesterday I spent an hour looking for my yoga mat. I asked Regis if he ever gets tired of looking for things. He gave me a funny look and said he had just shared this book with me through Kindle. Whoa. If he is thinking about tidying up, it's time to get serious.

I went through a major purge a few years ago. Remember the pictures of boxes I set out every month for the EF? I got rid of a ton of stuff, but in reading this book, I know where I went wrong. I went through the house by locations and randomly chose stuff to get rid of without thinking about what I truly wanted to keep. That meant I kept a lot of stuff that could have gone. I'm learning.

So, again...not sure where this is headed.

Things I am grateful for in my life right now.

  1. People. So many good people. So many new friends and so many old friends. I keep having this experience where I discover people in some strange way. It's almost eerie.
  2. There was a time when I didn't realize that relationships are constantly being transformed. I am learning that even long-term relationships go through changes. It makes me love dragonflies all the more.
  3. Physical health and strength. I realize how fortunate I am and I realize how easily both can be taken. Regis had a scare back in April that went on and on and made us feel lucky to have access to such good care. We keep learning the lesson that life is precious.
  4. Good food. Clean water. Physical safety. Reading about the refugees around the world and many people right here in my own community. Everyone does not have access to these things we take for granted.
  5. Reading. As always, books provide me with so much joy and entertainment and so many lessons. Anne Lamott's Small Victories. Strawbale Gardens. Chasing the Scream. Snowflake. (The part of the tidying up process I dread the most is the book part. Getting rid of books. Ugh.)
  6. Yoga. I have taken classes over the years, some very hard and too difficult to follow but after I had cancer, my friend, Michele, taught a class called Cairns After Cancer. It's a gentle yoga and she is such a good teacher that I learned to love it. I haven't been able to go for a while because of  conflicts with personal training and Lone Star, but I am getting back into it...when I find my mat!
  7. To hell with it. Just went out to the garage where there had been a recent yoga mat sighting. No luck. Ordered a new one. Grateful for the ease of ordering on the internet. Maybe this will be the last time I have to reorder something because I can't find the original.
Time to go and clean out the refrigerator. Will continue gratitude list later!

Christmas 2015

As always, the fall and holiday season went by way too fast and hurried. I always resolve to slow it down but I never seem to get that accomplished. Ah, well. Yesterday I posted a photo collage of 2015, some of my favorite moments. Today I am sharing some of my favorite photos from the Christmas season with a couple comments. Nothing lengthy yet.

Regis and I exchanged Christmas gifts this year. We don't usually so it was fun. He gave me this Kermit the Frog puppet. He ordered one and two came. Amazon said to keep them both. Oh, good. Now my right hand Kermit can talk to the left hand Kermit!

My old friends, Doug and Penny Beed, were in Oxford, Mississippi when they spotted these socks and knew right there they had to be for me. I can't imagine why. Weirdo turned out to be one of my favorite words from December. I invited a few weirdo friends over for New Year's Eve and they were all quite proud to claim the title.

We went to see Hank and Rita three times since it opened in July. We loved it. The last time we went was Christmas night at the Mankato Brewery. Regis took this photo from his seat in the balcony.

This was my other Christmas gift from Regis, a dragonfly lamp I had been admiring. I posted a picture of it on the Facebook page called Minnesota Dragonflies and the woman who maintains that page told me it was designed after the earliest original award winning lamp by Clara Driscoll in 1899. Who knew.

Bob and Emily gave us this adorable mug filled with carnations and evergreens. I love Charlie Brown things, too. Let's see...Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Kermit the Frog, the Grinch, Calvin and Hobbes. Seems like a part of me still lives in my childhood.

Tim and Gail had a wine and cheese party on the 19th. Very low key, no presents, good food, and good friends. What could be better?

Regis and I had several nice meals out and about over the holidays. Here he is at El Agave, drinking a Dos Equis Dark, sitting in front of the Stay Thirsty My Friends bench. Ha!

Here's our annual group photo. The kitchen is a disaster but we had a wonderful time.

So there it is. The Christmas season of 2015. A blur, a hurried bunch of chaos, but always filled with love, good humor, great food, family, and friends. Here's to 2016!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Honoring a Life That Changed Mine

Honoring a Life That Changed Mine by Lonnie Ellis

Last summer, at the Rock Bend Folk Festival, I met a man named Dana Melius. Dana works for the St. Peter Herald and we ran into each other a time or two after that and then because Facebook friends. Once, each of us had bought the same book twice accidentally, so we traded. I had two copies of Humans of New York: Stories and he had two copies of Dreams Of My Mothers: A Story Of Love Transcendent. So, we swapped but he tucked two dollars into his book because he thought he was getting a better deal. 

A couple months later, Dana's young wife died unexpectedly from complications of cancer surgery. It was tragic and her death touched me as I read the poignant posts written by Dana and his children mourning the loss of their wife and mother. 

Then one day, another post crossed my Facebook path. A post written by a man who had an experience with the Melius family years before. It was a stunning story of violence, mercy, reconciliation, and redemption. I thought it was so important to share it in light of the debates we are having in our country on gun violence and refugees. I finally contacted Lonnie Ellis, the author, to as if we could share it here. He was happy to have us do that. I'll preface his powerful piece of writing with a comment he wrote beneath the piece on Facebook. He believes in the transformative power of stories, and so do we.

Many of you have not heard this story, or heard it so fully. I only began talking about it in my late 20s. I think its because its taken a long time to start to understand who I was then. In my 20s I didn't really think of myself as the same person who participated in some really serious violence as a teenager, sometimes even as the aggressor. I think I had to understand it myself in order to share it. Another factor - I had the notion that it was ideas that were important now, that I should just talk about ideas and philosophy as the motivators. I've learned that its our stories that transform and that people need to hear these stories.

Honoring a Life That Changed Mine
A revised version of this was published as an op-ed in Winthrop News.
Rural Minnesota lost a vibrant and generous leader when Kim Melius of Winthrop passed away on November 23rd. Many knew her as a dedicated mother, social worker, and hospice caretaker. Kim and the Melius family impacted me under very different circumstances. I grieve her death knowing my life would be immensely different if not for the compassionate decision Kim and her family made eighteen years ago.
The story begins with senseless violence. In 1997, I was among twenty-two young men who drove from Glencoe to Winthrop looking to retaliate for an assault on one of our friends. In a dark yard, I stood by and watched as my friends viciously beat two young men. Some distance away, a third young man was ambushed, knocked unconscious, and savagely beaten with as many as fifty blows to the head and body. This young man was Kim’s son, Ben. He suffered a cracked skull and massive swelling in the brain. He could have died.
Sometime during the scary, painful days that followed for Ben, his mother Kim, and father Dana, they had to make a decision about pursuing justice. The other perpetators and I faced three felony assault and rioting charges. Many of us had been involved with violent acts and legal problems before. You would think the family would want to lock us up and throw away the key, but the Melius family chose a path of restorative justice instead. They sought healing for the victims, the perpetrators, and the wider communities of Glencoe and Winthrop. Where did they find the mercy? Where did they find the hope?
The restorative justice process put the perpetrators, victims, and our families in a room together for several hours, face-to-face. I had to bear witness to the real human suffering I’d caused. With every story, the consequences of our violence broke into my consciousness. I remember the strong and gracious Melius family standing in the center of it all and was inspired by them. With my mother crying by my side, I stood up and said, “I didn’t throw any punches, but I am not innocent. I contributed to a group mentality where we could do terrible things. I stood by.” I, along with the other perpetrators, did many days of community service and paid for damages. We spent hours with Dana writing an op-ed for the papers trying to bring healing to the communities shaken by our violence.
I know that felony convictions would have permanently altered the course of our young lives. We would have faced a lifetime of challenges beginning with college admission, housing, and gainful employment. But at greater risk were our souls, and this event and the Melius’ choice began a permanent transformation in mine.
I began wanting to be a different kind of person. I wanted to be the kind of person who would have stopped my friends that night—who would have even been willing to put my own body between victim and violence.
Four years later, with my transformation well underway, I set off for a college semester abroad in India. I learned that among the fifteen students from Gustavus Adolphus College was a student from Winthrop I felt must be the sister of Ben Melius. On our first day, I pulled Ambryn Melius aside.
“I think you might be the sister of Ben Melius.”
“Yes,” she said as she nodded.
“I was there that night. I was there the night your brother was beaten.”
She waited for what seemed like a long time. Then she responded, “You didn’t have to tell me that.”
Like her parents, she didn’t turn away from me. We became real friends and have continued to deepen our friendship over the years and are still close to this very day.
Over the next decade and a half, I became a faith-based community organizer, got a master’s degree in theology, and now serve as associate director of a national Catholic social justice organization in Washington, DC. All the while, Ambryn and the Melius family invited me into their home. There, I saw more of the incredible wisdom, grace, and love that enabled them to make that extraordinary decision eighteen years ago.
Kim, Ben, and Dana dared to hope for strangers who caused great pain in their family, even when we didn’t hold a lot of hope for ourselves. That changed my life. I could never thank Kim Melius enough for her part in it, but I try the best way I know how—by striving to live up to her example.
Lonnie Ellis, Washington, DC (formerly of rural Glencoe)

grateful 2015

I have much for which to be grateful. Way too much to be condensed into a list but I will try. Don't think I'm going all Pollyanna because I'm working on a list of complaints, too.

1. I am grateful for a feeling of safety. There are so many horrible things happening around the world, and so much evil talk about the horrible things, that a person could be terrified every day. I limit my exposure to it by not watching the news and by reading very little about it, but I am aware of it. I am so thankful that I live in a small town where I don't have to worry about being shot at or accosted.

2. I am grateful for access to such good food. Not only do have more than enough to eat but we can buy fresh, organic food that's grown locally. How sweet is that?

3. I am grateful for my family: my mom who came to visit for Thanksgiving, my nephew who traveled to New York City for a spectacular honor, my grandchildren who live close and who are kind and funny people, my kids who come to sit around our table and tell stories, my sweet husband who thinks I am beautiful.

4. I am grateful for technology. I have apps! I can open my iPhone with my thumbprint! I can text the people I love! I can take pictures with my phone and they appear on my computer! Ain't life grand?

5. I am grateful for books. I read two marvelous books this week: The Miniaturist and Our Souls at Night.

6. I am grateful for what Kent Haruf calls the precious ordinary. I am grateful for the fat squirrels who feast at our feeders. I am grateful for my sweet friends across the country, some of whom I can't remember how I met. I am grateful for good coffee and for Papa Murphy's pizza. I am grateful for my Christmas ornaments and I am grateful that during the great purge of the last few years, I kept a few things.

7. I am grateful for naps. I love a good nap.

8. I am grateful for warm sox and a heated mattress pad.

9. I am grateful for music and laughter. I saw part of Hank and Rita Thursday night and I am going to a comedy show tonight. Bless all their creative hearts.

10. I am grateful for my health and for my young and cute as a button trainer. He kicks my ass and makes me do 30 second Superwoman exercises...four times!

christmas past

I went through some old files of Christmas pictures this morning and put a few of them in a Picassa album. It made me nostalgic. Our little ones are growing up so fast. Ella is so grown-up...she likes to sit at the table with the adults instead of playing with the kids. Sigh. It makes me feel old.

I lost my job this week when Lone Star closed suddenly due to a major meltdown in the kitchen staff. Not sure what that means but I can guess. I feel sad for Tom and Mary and for the people who depended on their wages to live. Not so with was fun money.

Regis got me one of the DNA tests from I did it yesterday and sent it in. It will be interesting to see what it reveals although cynical me says they could say anything and how would I know.

These are the darkest days of the year. I am not fond of all the darkness and I crave light.

I have lights on the tree, an electric candlabra, lights in jars, candles, lights everywhere. I sit in front of a sun lamp every morning. Sigh. Soon the days will start to lengthen.

We're going to a comedy show tonight. That should help lighten the mood!

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

i got the holiday spirit

This is me a few years ago. I wore this outfit as I walked to the bank and people on Minnesota Avenue actually rolled down the car windows and waved. I think they thought I was part of the community holiday celebration. A little kid in a store tugged on the hem of my red shawl and asked if I was Mrs. Santa. Yup, I said, I am.

I wish I still had those white mittens. They were so soft and beautiful but eventually they got dirty and I washed them. That was the end of both the softness and the fluffiness. Sad.

Monday, December 07, 2015

several days of quiet puttering

After the blur that was fall, I have taken a sabbatical from the outside world. Since Friday, except for going out to eat to celebrate Vickie's new job, I have not left the house. I do manage to get dressed and make meals, but I have checked out of the euphoria that happens outside the front door.

I have decorated the Christmas tree, started some craft projects, and gone through the mess of papers that collected during the months of whirling dervishism. I started thinking about holiday cards. I have been knitting. I have been writing. I have been productive, just not outside of these four walls.

I have spent some time mentally organizing for Christmas. I have a tentative menu, a tentative grocery list, and plan to be more reasonable that I was at Thanksgiving.

Life can be so scary sometimes (I can't watch the news and I delete most things reality based on the social media.) so it's good to concentrate on the things over which have a modicum of control.

Off to the grocery store for provisions.

P.S. Be sure to check out 600 Words for a powerful and poignant post.