Journey 39: Peace and Power in the Garden

hope of spring grasses

I love leisurely Sundays. The slower pace and freedom from appointments allows my soul to settle and expand and brings restoration to my body. It was another beautiful, warm, sunny day in the Ozarks which meant I desired to answer the call to be outdoors.

After a quiet morning of rest I enjoyed lunch with my sister Linda at one of her favorite restaurants, Red Lobster. As we savored cheddar biscuits and shrimp scampi, we chatted about life and planned a grandchild’s birthday party, laughed over funny stories and discussed what Linda would like to create in her backyard. This warmer weather is bringing spring fever with it. The desire to be creative and the longing to be outdoors are symptoms of this fever!

garden power kitty hide and seek

Back home, I gave in to the pull to the backyard and sat on the brick patio. The sun was warm and felt so good on my face and arms. The peace and stillness of the garden today, even as it still slumbers, brought an answering peace and stillness within me. I dreamed about the upcoming projects for this year, and then just allowed myself to be, fully engaging in the moment.

I had a brief but fun visit with granddaughter Aubrey, who always brings a smile to my lips and joy to my heart. Her animated conversation and bright eyes charm me. Greg joined me in taking her to her family in Carthage. It was an idyllic afternoon and perfect for a drive. As I returned home, the sun was sinking, but there was still enough daylight to tackle one last garden chore…the trimming of the ornamental grasses.

garden power electric trimmer

I unboxed my purchase from yesterday, a Black & Decker Dual Action Hedge Trimmer. I know many practically salivate over a new power tool. However, the trimmer’s rather wicked looking blade caused a tiny shiver of fear to trail down my spine. Last year I had lessons in using power tools such as a saw, a nail gun and a drill. I always feel a bit awkward handling tools and I’m very mindful of body parts such as fingers and arms! I gained some confidence last year, and I was determined to do well with the trimmer.

Under Greg’s supervision, I trimmed the first clump of grass….and loved my new tool ! So fast, so easy, so satisfying to see the stalks of grass fall. I had intended to cut back one or two clumps and do the rest later. But, hey, this was fun! In no time at all, I had trimmed back all 10 of my ornamental grasses, taking them almost to the ground. As spring arrives for real, new growth will appear.

garden power cindy at work

I was amazed at how quickly the task was completed, using the electric trimmer and how different the garden looked when I was finished. Although the stalks had turned brown, the grasses still had their tassels and added height and interest to the winter garden. It looks a bit stark out there currently, but I know that very soon, the longer days and warmer temps will cause my sleeping garden to awaken. I’m just tidying the space before that happens. I gathered the downed stalks, and piled them near the fire pit. I may burn some of them later, or compost them. The cats, who dearly love playing among the grasses, inspected my work and turned curious eyes on me. One even laid down on top of the stubble from one clump, trying that out, while two others hid in the pile of stalks, playing a game of hide and seek.

garden power stubble

The air was beginning to cool. The sun had disappeared leaving a gorgeous sunset of pinks, grays and purples in the western sky. What a beautiful end to a lovely Sunday.

garden power sunset

Journey 38: Hope of Spring

Hope of spring dandelion

With the temperature in the low 70’s today, it seemed as if spring was stirring, even though the date, February 7, would deny that. Sunshine and a warm breezy afternoon offered an invitation to be outdoors, which I readily accepted.

Gathering gardening tools and my heavy gloves, I headed into the backyard to take advantage of the unseasonable weather (we broke a record today for high temperature) and bring some tidiness to the flower border and the apothecary garden. The first thing I saw as I entered the yard was a dandelion in bloom. What a sweet harbinger of spring!

Hope of spring messy garden

And what a blissful couple of hours spent doing one of the activities that I most enjoy. Gardening is therapeutic for me, a way to expend energy and move my body while absorbing the beauty and peace in nature. Even with the brown plants, the garden is beautiful and restorative to my body and soul. Using loppers and long bladed shears, I cleaned up the hosta garden and the southern border, cutting back dead vegetation and pulling a few courageous blades of grass. The garden slumbers now, yet soon the border will be alive with colorful perennials pushing up through the soil.

hope of spring marco

Before moving to the herb garden, I pulled a canvas chair from the garage and sat in the sunshine, head tipped back, eyes closed. Birds twittered all around me and the breeze felt fresh on my face. The cats, sensing my whereabouts, joined me in the garden, playing among the dry ornamental grasses, and taking turns sitting on my lap. When I returned to work, the youngest, Marco, stole my chair, curling up to nap in the sunshine.

hope of spring cleaned up garden

The apothecary garden gave me such joy last summer and in the fall, bountiful clippings of herbs which I dried and have used over the winter. As I cleaned up the area, cutting back plants that are dry and brown above ground, they released their aroma into the air. I removed my gloves so that the scents transferred to my hands. I stopped often to stretch my back and bring my cupped hands to my nose, inhaling spicy basil, pungent rosemary and tangy lemongrass. That gave me an idea. I collected the clippings in a bucket, eyeing my fire pit.

As the sun began to sink toward the horizon, I finished my tasks for the day and returned to the brick patio. One of the things I enjoy doing with dried herbs is making my own potpourri and burning it on a small briquette of charcoal. The earthy, fresh scent that rises into the air with the smoke fills my home. I have never burned dried herbs outdoors. Making a small framework within the fire pit, using a few small branches, I added the herb clippings and set the pile ablaze. Because of the breeze, I used the mesh cover on the fire pit. The spark leapt into life, creating a homey crackling fire, and fragrant smoke roiled into the air. I settled into my lawn chair with a contented sigh and watched the result of my work burn away, gifting me as it did so with an amazing scent.

hope of spring herbs

As the sun dropped below the level of the privacy fence, a bright red spot of sunlight appeared in a gap between boards. I was intrigued with the illusion of twin flames, one within and one without the fence, beacons of light and hope. What a beautiful finish to the day. Tomorrow, which promises to be just as warm and sunny as today, I will trim back the ornamental grasses, in preparation for their new growth this spring. I bought a new power tool today, an electric hedge trimmer, just for this task. I can’t wait to try it out!

hope of spring two fires

Journey 37: Send a Card to a Friend Day…Almost

send a card to a friend day glad

Sometimes I get excited about the day’s journey, after anticipating how the experience might unfold. Using the unique holidays website, I had seen Send a Card to a Friend Day coming up and thought what fun it would be to send out ecards via text or email, or hand out an actual card or two, as a way of celebrating the day.

This morning I found several cards online I liked and began texting them to family and friends, just to let them know that I appreciate them. I had fun and gratitude is always appropriate to express. I have many people who have so enriched my life. Some I have known for a long time. Some are new friends. And some are family members I have known all their lives or all of mine!

send a card to a friend day family too

It was after I had sent out a batch of texts with cards attached, and was preparing to go to Zumba class, that this little inner nudge got my attention. Standing still a moment, a realization dawned that had escaped me earlier, while I was busy sending texts. I grabbed my phone and opened the screen to the date….February 6. February 6!! Hmmm. Opening the unique holidays site, I checked the date for Send a Card to a Friend Day. Yes, there is was, exactly when it was supposed to be….February 7. Tomorrow.

I had a moment of consternation. And then, I laughed. Ah well. Had I not enjoyed picking out cards and texting them to friends and family? Had I not heard back from appreciative friends and family? And not one said, “Pardon me, but this holiday is tomorrow!” The expression about not sweating the small stuff came to mind, and I chose to embrace the wisdom in that saying and apply it to this situation. That is part of the joy, in my journey, going with the flow. Yes, I was a day early. No, it didn’t matter at all.

send a card to a friend day journey

Throughout the day, I continued to text out cards, changing the wording to “Tomorrow is Send a Card to a Friend Day….”. There was a time in my life when such a blunder would have ruined my day, or at least, robbed me of some of the joy. No longer. Today became my own Send a Card to a Friend Day, and I loved it. I might decide to celebrate it again tomorrow, or next week, or make another mistake. Once I’ve broken through a boundary, usually self imposed, I find it much easier to keep going, moving forward into spaces that open ever wider in delightful and expansive ways. Happy Send a Card to a Friend Day!

send a card to a friend day plus

I didn’t use this card, but I thought it was hilarious, as it combines several February 7th holidays into one handy ecard!

Journey 36: Gourmet’s

gourmets sign

I love to visit new stores as they open in the Joplin area. Today I had the time and the inclination to visit a new shop that opened at 2722 S Main Street, in Joplin. With the tag line of “Your kitchen store with so much more”, Gourmet’s promised an abundance of kitchen gadgets and products and I was very curious about the “so much more.”

gourmets exterior

I was not disappointed in Gourmet’s! It is a spacious, beautifully arranged store with a large and varied inventory. I spent at least 40 minutes in the shop, browsing. And this place truly is a kitchen store first of all. There is colorful dinner ware, assorted linens, cute aprons and chef’s hats (I even saw a denim one). There are collections such as the red, black and white Kitchen Chef accessories. One whole corner of the store is devoted to grilling, with shiny grills, utensils and gadgets of all kinds. There are also wood chips available for smoking meat.

gourmets grilling section

One long wall has every kind of kitchen utensil or gadget imaginable. I had so much fun looking and sometimes, trying to figure out what I was actually looking at! In those instances, curiosity won out and I picked up the item to read the packaging. For the coffee or tea enthusiast, there is a wide assortment of coffee makers and gadgets, tea pots and cups. Flavored coffees and teas are in abundance as well. Shelves are attractively arranged with soup and dip mixes, oils and sauces, bread and, to my excitement, scone mixes. Small kitchen appliances have a section all their own, as does cookware, knives and glassware. I’m just mentioning a sampling of what is available. I was quite impressed with the amount of merchandise for sale!

gourmets aprons

As for the “so much more” part, Gourmet’s includes gift items appropriate for all ages, candles, cute wooden signs with inspirational sayings and even lamps. Ceramic owls share space with beautiful butterflies and glass bowls, and wind chimes are near the front doors. There is a seasonal section, which has Valentine’s Day merchandise this time of year. There is a handy selection of greeting cards that enables Gourmet’s to be a one stop shop for gift giving.

gourmets interior

Gourmet’s is a fun place to spend a morning or afternoon, with so much to look at. I found too that the selection of inventive and time saving gadgets inspired me, igniting a desire to cook and bake more. For those shoppers who are in need of refreshment, there is a coffee bar and a tantalizing assortment of goodies.

gourmets coffee shop

Today, I selected a package of cinnamon raisin scone mix, a tea bag holder in a cute teapot shape, and a mug with a infuser and cover, for my hot tea passion. I saw many items that could be future purchases and great gift ideas. I had a delightful time browsing this afternoon, and I look forward to my next shopping trip to Gourmet’s!

gourmets purchases

Journey 35: Dinner with Cate

Dinner with Cate taco bar

Getting to hang out with a dear friend and share a meal is a special part of the journey. Tonight I enjoyed a home cooked meal with Cate at her home. Even with the threat of winter weather and slick roads, I wanted to spend a couple of hours in the company of this cheerful, encouraging woman.

Cate prepared a wonderful dinner featuring a taco bar, Spanish rice and black beans. The spicy aroma greeted me as I entered Cate’s cozy home. She’s always been gracious in allowing me to take pics to document my firsts last year and my journeys this year. I love this picture of Cate filling her plate, her face lit up with a huge smile. What you can’t hear is the laughter ringing out as well. We laugh a lot when we are together, and chat non-stop. Because this was a celebratory dinner, for my birthday last month, Cate baked cookies for dessert. They were delicious, and also gluten free and made with coconut sugar instead of regular sugar. We both love hot tea, and had a cup with our cookies. What a perfect end to the meal.

Dinner with Cate

Cate is one of those friends that I can talk about any topic with, and we generally cover a wide range of subjects! Even though I was originally keeping an eye on the weather, I soon forgot about that as we finished dinner and carried our hot tea and the conversation into the living room. I really appreciate Cate. She has an amazing perspective on the journey, living as she does in awareness while fully engaging life. She brings a rich knowledge of so many subjects into the conversations along with a quick wit. And she is one of the most compassionate people I know. I am privileged to call her friend and to have her as a traveling companion on the journey.

dinner with Cate dessert and tea

And speaking of journey, she presented me with a hoodie tonight, that is perfect for this time of year AND has my word on it! “It’s the Journey” is proclaimed boldly across the front. Beneath those words, it says Kansas Explorers Club. I love that…an explorer’s club! Yes, I’m all in. After a delightful evening I opened the front door to head for home and discovered that it had snowed lightly. All was well, however. I made it safely home. It was a perfect evening, spent with a wonderful friend, and I left at the perfect time. That’s how the journey flows…beautifully.

dinner with Cate Journey hoodie

Journey 34: The Untethered Soul

Untethered Soul

The book club I am part of started a new book this evening, The Untethered Soul, by Michael A. Singer. I am thrilled about this opportunity to read through the book again, and discuss it with the thoughtful and lively ladies who participate in the club.

The Untethered Soul is one of the books that shifted my life dramatically a couple of years ago, when I read it for the first time. The description of the book, from the back cover, states:

What would it be like to be free from limitations and soar beyond your boundaries? What can you do each day to find this kind of inner peace and freedom? The Untethered Soul offers a simple, profoundly intuitive answer to these questions. Whether this is your first exploration of inner space or you’ve devoted your life to the inward journey, this book will transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you.

The Untethered Soul begins by walking you through your relationship with your thoughts and emotions, helping you uncover the source and fluctuations of your inner energy. It then delves into what you can do to free yourself from the habitual thoughts, emotions, and energy patterns that limit your consciousness. Finally, with perfect clarity, this book opens the door to a life lived in the freedom of your innermost being. (I highlighted the two words that are so important to me this year!)

Those paragraphs certainly intrigued me two years ago. I was ready to be free from limitations, ready to move beyond my boundaries. I knew the journey I most needed to take first was an inner one, and that can be a scary road to travel, alone. Michael A. Singer was my traveling companion on this important trek. His chapters on energy are some of the best I’ve ever read. Suddenly, so many things clicked into place and made sense. Such as why certain things trigger a reaction from me. Why I used to protect my heart area, or chakra, so much, even sitting with a pillow on my lap to make me feel more secure. As I moved purposefully through this book, old energy that had long been trapped in the region of my heart came to the surface, painfully sometimes, and I was able to set it free. It is a continuing process, this untethering.

My word last year, Beyond, first came into my awareness as I read this book. There is a whole section of the book on moving beyond, which became the name of my blog about my own journey of moving beyond my limitations and my comfort zone. It was with great anticipation that I delved back into the first two chapters, in preparation for the book club meeting tonight. Michael first focuses attention on the thoughts and dialogues that are constantly circling in the mind. It was good for me to be reminded that I am not my thoughts and that the mind seeks always to control and to keep safe, at the cost of freedom, peace and joy. It will be wonderful to slowly read through this fascinating book again and see where I have grown since my last reading. Already, a couple of things stood out.

One came to my attention this evening, as I was looking at the cover of the book before our meeting started. The subtitle of the book is the journey beyond yourself. I realized that last year’s word beyond and this year’s word journey are right there, together. Interesting! I had to get beyond my fears and limitations, my comfort zone and safe spaces, before I could really journey this year, in a way that is unencumbered. Then, as we discussed chapter one this evening, I suddenly saw these sentences about awareness: The one inside who is aware that you are always talking to yourself about yourself is always silent. [Realization] is a doorway to the depths of your being. To be aware that you are watching the voice talk is to stand on the threshold of a fantastic inner journey.

There they were, my keys words for this year….journey….doorway…and the amazing visual of standing on the threshold. I choose to pass through that doorway, and step over that threshold. The journey will take me deeper this year, deeper into myself, deeper into the Divine, deeper into life. I am excited to have Michael A. Singer again, as a traveling companion. I am grateful also for the company of the five extraordinary women, all seekers as well, who are sharing in this journey. Oh, the places we will go.

untethered soul crossing the threshold

Journey 33: Pay with Lovin’

Pay with Love sticker

What a delightful, and unexpected, journey I experienced this afternoon, led by a child. The path my granddaughter, Aubrey, set us on provided moments of fun, embarrassment, moving beyond discomfort and an opportunity for paying love forward. It also, in an amazing way, brought me full circle on a journey that began a year ago.

After I picked up Aubrey from school, I intended to take her to one of her favorite after school hangouts for a snack and playtime. However, today she informed me she wanted to visit McDonald’s instead. One of their restaurants is just down the street from Aubrey’s school, but no, she wanted to visit the McDonald’s on Main Street. And rather than go through the drive-through, she asked if we could eat inside. Since I say “yes” as often as I can, I agreed to her idea and off to the home of the golden arches we went.

Pay with Love McLovin

I placed Aubrey’s order for a child’s Happy Meal and three chocolate chip cookies, and I ordered an unsweet tea for myself. The cheerful young man behind the counter took our order then flashed a huge grin at me. “Sing….and your whole order is free,” he said. “What? No way,” I replied, thinking he was pulling my leg. (Okay, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the McDonald’s commercial during the Super Bowl last night.) Aubrey and I exchanged looks and the little smartie retreated to a safe distance….behind a wall to the rear of us, where she could peek around the corner. The young man behind the counter assured me he was sincere….if I would sing, the meal and cookies and drinks were free. The manager came over to tell me it was a promotion. I just had to sing.

I sing all the time…in the shower, in the car, while I’m working, and especially when I’m cleaning house or just feeling exceedingly joyful. My song last year was “Let It Go”, from the Frozen movie, and I can belt that tune out with gusto. This year’s song is “My Life”, which I know equally well. With two McDonald’s employees smiling at me and a line of people behind me, waiting and watching, and Aubrey peering around the edge of the wall, I sang the first song that came into my head in that moment….Happy Birthday.  Oh yes, as in:

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you,

Happy Birthday dear McDonald’s employee,

Happy Birthday to you.

I know without a doubt that my cheeks were pink by the end of my little rendition, and not from exertion! We received the meal for free, and the smiles and accolades of everyone around us. Aubrey came out from behind the wall and chatted with customers, asking me later if I knew those people. We found a place to sit and talked about what had just happened. I realized the current promotion is McDonald’s “Pay with Lovin’”, which just began today. Through Valentine’s Day, participating restaurants will choose customers at random and allow them to perform an act of lovin’ in exchange for a meal. The options include calling a family member or friend and telling them you love them, a song, a fist bump, a hug or complimenting a person in line. While I was initially surprised by the request to sing, Aubrey and I agreed it was fun, and she laughed at my choice of songs. I was embarrassed by my choice of songs! And yet, it was good for Aubrey to see me move past discomfort and do something unexpected.

Pay with Love Yaya sings

Aubrey’s reaction to me singing Happy Birthday

Pay with Love Aubrey is grateful

Aubrey thankful for her free meal

In fact, Aubrey entered wholeheartedly into the lovin’ and made a donation to Ronald McDonald House, writing her name herself on a paper heart. She was thrilled to discover that the heart would be attached to the wall and it gave me an opportunity to share with her about the goodness that Ronald McDonald House does in sheltering families while a child undergoes treatment at the hospital. She also received a small yellow heart in her Happy Meal with #Love on it, which she proudly held up in front of the wall of hearts in McDonalds. I loved sharing the experience with Aubrey, watching her give and grow.

And there was even more to the story than Aubrey realized. Almost a year ago, on February 14, 2014, I stepped WAY out of my comfort zone, purchasing white roses and handing them out to strangers. I focused on people who were working that evening, rather than spending time with a loved one, and people who were eating alone on Valentine’s Day. One of my last stops that night, was the McDonald’s on Main Street. Inside the restaurant I handed a rose to the young woman working behind the counter, and then gave roses to four men who were scattered among the tables, each sitting alone. The looks on their faces and their soft “thank you’s” were priceless and I left feeling a love in my heart that was so much deeper than romance.

It felt, today, that that act of kindness had come back to me, in the form of a free meal, and the fun and lovin’ atmosphere within the McDonald’s that Aubrey chose, not knowing what I had done there almost a year ago. I love the grace and affirmation of that return. And that Aubrey chose to pay it forward, keeping that great Lovin’ energy going, by making a donation. It will come back to you too, sweet girl, even as that love goes ever outward. Just you wait and see!

Pay with Love Aubrey contributes to Ronald McDonald House

Journey 32: Vision Board 2015

vision board 2015

This is the latest I have ever completed a vision board. I normally have my new board hanging up by the end of the first week in January. However, in keeping with allowing things to flow as they will, and allowing space to be filled at the right time, apparently the last week in January was the perfect time to complete this activity.

I enjoy making vision boards. They help me focus on my intentions and feel into my heart and soul as I am drawn to pictures and words and phrases in magazines. When something grabs my attention, I cut it out and set it aside. Only after I have cut out plenty of words, phrases and pictures do I begin the process of gluing the cut outs to a piece of poster board. The last two years, my mom and sister Linda have joined me in creating a vision board, and we met today to complete our projects. Each of us have different intentions, different dreams and desires, so it is encouraging and interesting to work companionably together, chatting while we look through magazines, laughing over a picture or article, or sharing a story around what we are looking for.

vision board 2015 open door and journey

The vision board came together well. I believe this is the first time I have exclusively used pictures and words from magazines. I have in the past printed out images and typed phrases from the computer, to fill in my board. This year, I actually found everything offline that I wanted to include. And so an open door occupies a central spot on my board, with my word, Journey pasted above, in a Celtic script.

vision board 2015 travel

My board shifted dramatically this year, mirroring my path. Almost a fourth of my board is devoted to travel, with the three countries of New Zealand, Scotland and Italy represented. Although I had the joy of visiting Scotland last year, I included it again along with the words “Edinburgh Self-catering apartments”, to signify my desire to live in that magnificent city at least part of the year. Italy is a planned trip, for 2017, and will be Dayan’s graduation excursion. New Zealand is there because I so want to visit this gorgeous country, which is as close to Middle Earth as I can get!

vision board 2015 garden

There are pictures of restful spaces, gardens and herbs on my board, representative of my desire for a simple, beautiful life. Huge sections of my backyard were transformed last year, creating a restorative peaceful place to meditate and work and play. There is more to do this year and I’m excited about the continuing transformation. I love the quote on my vision board about creating a special environment in order to catch extraordinary moments. My home and gardens offer me an opportunity to create such spaces, capture such moments. And the quote from Winston Churchill about the journey is perfect as well.

vision board 2015 quote

What is missing this year from my board is any reference to real estate. Instead of a whole section being devoted to work, there is a simple sentence, “Grow your passion and career” which leaves ample, delicious room for my life and career path to head in any direction. I’m not leaving real estate…yet…however, I am very open to where this year’s journey will take me. The simple, yet powerful, reminder to grow my passion and career is strategically placed near a cut out of Elizabeth Gilbert, who so inspires me with her writing and the sharing of her authentic life. It is amazing, and serendipitous, that I found a picture of Liz in a magazine! I think my mom actually found her….a benefit of working together to create.

vision board 2015 grow your passion

Also missing from my board are reminders to exercise and diet. I have a simple grouping of healthy foods near the words “Yoga” and “Natural Health”. Yoga is symbolic of all my methods of moving for health’s sake, including tai chi and Zumba.

I am pleased with the vision board. It now hangs in a very visual spot in my home office that is transforming into a meditation/reading/writing room. Looking at the board brings me a sense of peace and trust that all is unfolding in my life exactly as it should. It puts my intentions out there, into the universe and the hands of the Divine, and I can rest in knowing that energy has gone out and will return to me, bearing fruit. Nelson Mandela said, “Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is daydreaming, but vision with action can change the world.” I have my vision. I am open to taking the actions that flow to me, to further my vision. Sometimes, the action is as simple as saying “YES”. I am changing my world, being changed. What joy there is, in the journey.

vision board 2015 journey quote