30 Days of Gratitude: Day 24

I’m always on the look-out for goofy or oddball vintage photos when I hit the antique stores and garage sales.  Many times they’re the centerpiece of my greeting cards and collages.  So, I need a reliable, knowledgeable and reasonably priced copy shop.  Luckily, I have MinuteMan.  Just a few blocks from my apartment, the gals at MinuteMan have come to know me and my desires.  They keep quality cardstock on hand and can size my color photos perfectly.  They’re also great fun.  If other customers come in, we always get them to yuck it up with us.  It’s a happy-making place.

Here’s a little scientific research on the benefit of cultivating gratitude care of Dr. Daniel Amen.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 14

Some of my earliest memories are of sitting around our kitchen table on the farm, the family eating and talking, when one of us would say something that contained a song lyric.  Suddenly, my mom would burst into song with that fragment as a prompt.  We’d all groan and laugh, but it was a great bit and something all the women in our family continue.

My mom, my sister and I all love to sing.  We joined choruses and choirs, sang solos for events, and generally use any excuse to warble.  My friend, Deb, also has a gorgeous voice.  When she and I get together, we crank up the volume to operatic proportions and caterwaul until the walls tremble.  And there’s just nothing as satisfying or as life-affirming for me as driving down a country road, harmonizing with my old rock ‘n’ roll favorites.  I can belt it out with Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt on a good day.

Singing is energy.  It’s light and love pouring out of my body and into the Universe.  It’s health and delight.  It grounds me.  It’s who I am.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 13

Absolutely, the best medicine.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 12

I admit it.  I’m not an easy friend.  I don’t chitchat or gossip.  I don’t like shopping or care about make-up and manicures.  I dig into your personal life and snap open your psyche.  And if you don’t behave or think the way I think you should, I’ll set you straight.  Oh, and then there’s that bipolar thing that tends to annoy and exhaust potential friends before we even get started.  No, I’m not easy.

So, it’s a miracle that I can claim two (count ’em, two!) new friends since moving back to Marshalltown five years ago.  I met Matt at the Tremont, the cafe where I first reclaimed my ability to write.  He would come in for iced tea before going to his salon across the street.  Loud, outrageous, hilarious, he’d slide into my booth and we would spin off into endless directions, talking in multiple foreign accents and laughing until we wet ourselves.  Also suffering from clinical depression, Matt and I understood each other in ways others couldn’t.  We knew when to push and challenge and when to empathize and be gentle.  I don’t see Matt as often as I did since converting to Haven as my coffee-shop-of-choice, but when we do get together, it’s like we were never apart.  That’s the sign of a true friend.

Funny how those coffee shops keep providing me with a social life.  Joyce manages the “front” at Haven.   With her Betty Rubble laugh, she sees Haven as her Shop of Joy.  Her compassion and caring keep people coming back.  She and I connected from the very first latte. She’s someone I can go deep with, talking about our feelings, our fears, our dreams.  We share a love of crafts and thrift shops.  We laugh a lot and talk in a street lingo only white, middle class, middle-aged women would ever think hip (we down w’dat, sista).  As a Christian, Joyce carries her faith gently, never shoving it onto others, just letting it guide her actions and her choices.  I respect her deeply for this since our town seems choked with rabid conservative blowhards.  Someone who actually practices their faith by action instead of word warms my cockles.

I’m blessed to have found these treasures—complex, fascinating, loving individuals who consider me their friend.  Even if I’m not easy.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 7

So many people, animals and places have taught me how to live my life, how to cultivate the best in me, and how to perform the skills needed to maneuver in the world.  These four are the ones who have floated to the top of my consciousness at this moment in time.

(Clockwise from the top left) Melanie Oates has been my spiritual advisor and mentor since 1999.  She introduced me to all the Buddhist teachings that became instrumental in managing my bipolar disorder—living in the moment, detachment, observation of self, the difference between pain and suffering, developing consciousness, etc.  Her holographic teachings—bringing in information from ancient mystery schools, current science theory, history, sociology, metaphysics, as well as using art, interpersonal relationships, and physical activity—gave me an entirely new sense of what is humanly possible.

Marshall Wright served with me as a Ministerial Guide at Lake Harriet Spiritual Community in Minneapolis.  He shucked off a financially successful business persona to live life “In The Flow.”  Marshall never lets me get away with half-truths or any kind of delusion.  He carries a big stick wrapped in love which he routinely sets in my path to stumble over.  We communicate through a kind of poetry that is open to multiple interpretations, so I find I listen very closely and choose my words with greater care.  Marshall helps me remember my connection to nature and ancient traditions.  In the picture above, he took me on a walking tour of a Florida river.  If there were crocs or snakes nearby, they didn’t bother us.  We were in the Flow.

My grandma passed on to me all her creative skills—needlework, cooking, drawing, the love of color, and gardening.  Like a fairy tale, she lived in a tiny cottage on our farm.  The path to her house wound from our back yard, through our apple orchard, to her trellised gate.  Like my dad, she tended to look on the gloomy side of life, but she never showed that side to me when I was little.  Instead, she encouraged me to tell my stories, praised my drawings and the first little quilt I made for a doll.  She helped me tend the Kitty Cemetery I kept in the woods for all the strays and kittens that died.  Gramma entered into my world and played with me there.  She taught me it was perfectly fine to do just that.

Sarah Benson was a Master of Sacred Sound.  I started working with her when we met in Colorado in the ’90’s and made several treks to her home in the Massachusetts woods.  She taught me about the sacred geometry of sound, the levels of healing and transcendence it can reach.  With Sarah’s help, I rediscovered the power of my own voice and its natural ability to foster healing in others.  Her playful, pixie-like attitude kept me from taking myself too seriously and reminded me to always turn toward joy.  Sarah died a few years ago, and is sorely missed by a world-wide community.

These are my teachers of this moment—wise and stumbling, educated and street-smart, pillars of society and apart from the world.  The one thing they have in common is love—their love of others, and my abiding love for them.

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