Today has come and gone like so many other days of the year. But today was different...it was Christmas. 365 days of anticipation fulfilled in this one day. There were actually no more or less seconds than any other day. But we hoped for it, prepared for it, prayed for it to come quickly...and then when it finally arrived...for it to slow down to an almost stand-still so we could linger in each magical moment. As today comes to an end, the kids are nestled all snug in their beds once again, giving me time to reflect. Will they greet tomorrow with the same zeal of today? Will they look back in reverie for “today” which will, by then, be yesterday? Will they have their sights set on 365 days from now? I pray to prepare for, live in and cherish each and every day like it’s Christmas so my girls can know how to do the same. Perhaps that is why today felt like the best Christmas ever...because slowing down and simplifying is allowing me to do just that. Wisdom nudged me to stick with the essentials this year and let go of the rest. It changed my preparation for and experience of today. I wasn’t perfect at it but I took more occasion to pause, reflect and shift gears when necessary. As I sit in the quiet close of today, staring at the babe in a manger before me, I am reminded of the gift of such humble beginnings...the magic of a rather simple moment...when a star shone bright enough for long enough to awaken us to the magic taking place at the birth of a king. His resurrection is the fulfillment of that birth, the perpetual rebirth of that same powerful presence within us, and an eternal bright star calling us back to the magic of now...when time stops and nothing else matters. Isn’t that what today is all about? Merry Christmas my loves near and far. I am blessed to have shared time and space with you at some point along life’s way...even if only in Spirit. Wishing you more magical moments everyday in this year to come.
This season can be maddening...if I succumb to the external noise and stir of the season...which I admittedly have. The newest addition of the tiny elf to our family was the tipping point. I have rapidly grown to regret my decision to cave to some external pressure to allow her to make her way in to our family. I can’t blame it all on little elfie but I feel that she is yet another huge distraction from what is really going on this season. Beings are working diligently on our behalf to light up the planet and we scurry about at an insane pace trying to perfect upon their efforts...or maybe it’s just that I do...rather than tapping in to the beauty and magic of the season without getting lost in the swirl. I had the occasion today to reminisce about the tornadoes of this past summer. This season feels a bit like that kind of storm. There is a powerful stir happening and we can get sucked up into it and be tossed about at breakneck speed, we can hold steady yet be crashed into, or we can move into the eye of the stir where the peace and calm exist. One of my daughters shared her perspective on Christmas lights during our drive home this evening...that they are visual displays of people’s belief in something higher than themselves be it Santa or Jesus. Such wisdom from her youthful lips that I found soothing for my soul to hear. The biggest unrest of the day (the latter of which was spent immersed in consumerism) was that I had lost my way as a responsible conscious mama...and failed to teach my offspring what this season is really about. Her words alone inform me that Wisdom is having Her way with my daughter in spite of myself. I am grateful that She is getting through in spite of me feeling a bit caught up in the swirl. Out of the mouths of babes come some of the most profound things. In God’s most infinite wisdom, God must have been on to something when deciding to show up as a newborn.
I dedicated 2018 to learning and mastering the art of loving myself. It was given as the second of the 10 commandments so it must be pretty important. I wrote this at the beginning of the year and just took a fresh look at it. The overwhelming feelings I am experiencing this Advent season reassure me that I am well on my way. That said, I would like to share my reflections a year ago to let you in on a bit of my journey. Perhaps you will find it useful in some way. That is my prayer anyhow.
For as long as I can recall, self-love has been a hard one for me. I am not saying its easy for anyone...from the countless life stories I have been told...but it has been particularly challenging for me to do this. For all the times I have been told “I love you” by very convincing people, those words haven’t reached down into the bottom of the pit that is most empty. I have felt an emptiness my whole life that no additions to the family could fulfill, no amount of friends could eliminate, no boyfriends could fix, no parental reassurances could soothe. I have climbed mountain tops (literally), sought out spiritual teachings and worked intensively for 13+ years with a teacher and that didn’t fix it. Oh it helped a great deal and I had moments of “fulfillment” along the way but the hole never went away. I tried serving as a minister for 10 years...that helped increase my sense of worthiness but never completely fixed the problem and created a whole new set of issues to contend with. When I left the order and returned to my family and some friends of old, I found comfort but the pit remained unfulfilled. My resentment toward my husband grew for all that he could not satisfy...and towards myself for the love I have not been able to give in return when I feel I am drawing from crumbs inside. Most people would not know this about me. They would think I have it pretty together and that I have a pretty good grasp of what real love is. They would likely assume I feel pretty whole and complete as is. What they don’t know is how skittish I have felt inside...how impulsive I am the moment I slow down enough to get nearer to that pit that beckons me in order to inform me of its presence. I have hated it with a vengeance. My teacher tried to push me there through countless spiritual practices. I have been challenged by other life mentors along the way to look at what I am running from. I think its the same thing most of us run from. I cannot be alone in this feeling. In fact, I think it serves a very useful purpose as painful as it is. This is the year that I devote to turning towards this feeling...towards this inner most vacuous place inside of myself...and the year that I do it with love, self motivation and self dedication. I am not doing it because a teacher is nudging (as happened when I was a student) or ordering (as happened when I was a priest) me to go there…nor because it makes me “good” in some way or better able to serve the needs of my fellow humans (although I would be delighted if this were the outcome). I am going there because it is clear to me by now that no one else can do this for me...no one else can fill this vacuous pit BUT me via my attention on it. I can beg for God’s love to fill me up but if I am unwilling to love the very depths of my own being than how can God find a welcome space to dwell in because I have already declared it unworthy? My heart aches for the kind of attention that only I can give it. It longs for the kind of deep fulfilling love that only I can give. Trying to do good for the sake of earning someone else’s love is hog wash and just plain doesn’t work...even if that person is Jesus Christ. I know in my mind that there is nothing I could do to earn His love...he already died for me so that I could be filled to the brim. There is a problem with my willingness to accept it...or lack of. I have believed myself to be unworthy in some way...unworthy of the most perfect of all Loves. My mind knows that this is not true...and I have experienced the reality of this unconditional Love in moments of Divine Inspiration and in deep contemplation. I have felt ecstatic Love course through my being and felt this Love to be personally available to me...but I have repeatedly chosen to walk away from it. I have chosen to turn against Love and to stack evidence in favor of why I am not worthy. The reality I then live in is one of deprivation and lack. It is painful, lonely, desperate. I want to describe this in full for the average person that lives with this experience daily and neglects it...or busies themselves in hopes that it will go away. I want to detail out this journey in the event that I can successfully turn the tide on this one and live inside a whole new reality feeling my perpetual worthiness. I want to be able to look in the mirror and see a person who knows that she is worthy of love staring back at me. I want to feel my cup running over and I want to feel an organic freedom to give freely from this overflowing cup. I want to love from a place of wholeness and completeness. I want to see my partner as someone to share life with vs. someone who I need something from in order to feel whole. I want my daughters to have the freedom to be themselves and succeed or fail in whatever way is right for them so that they can ultimately learn the lessons they are here to learn and not have it mean something about my own goodness or badness...my own worthiness or unworthiness. Since we left the spiritual order to embark on a secular life once again in order to salvage our marriage and fully assume the responsibilities of parenting, I have found countless ways to busy myself from moving (on too many occasions to count), settling girls in new schools 3 times for each of them, myself in 3 new jobs and sought out new friendships and attempted to establish a sense of belonging in each new location. We are now settled...or at least settling in...enough so that I can bring renewed attention to myself. In deep meditation when the answers to my questions would determine which direction my life would go, I was told to step down from actively serving as a priest but to write my story. I was instructed to depend on Jesus in a way that I had not before. I have toyed with these internal commands ever since receiving them 5 years ago. I have attempted to put pen to paper but always had the approval of or gift to others in mind when doing so which felt like it tainted the process. Now I write for me...and for the three people I share this home with. I write in attempts to remain close to this process of learning the art of self-loving and to document a process that might somehow serve to benefit at least one other person at some point in the future. If one person’s life is benefited by my living, then I will consider my life to have meant something. For now, that person is me. Hi Kelly...I have finally shown up to love you. What do you need from me? I am all ears.
$91..easily the cost of a sweater, a pair of designer jeans, an Athleta jacket or a pair of shoes bought new at a women’s clothing store. At Goodwill $91 bought me 3 jackets, 2 sweaters, 2 scarves, 1 pair of jeans and a black knit stocking cap. It also purchased 4 Christmas presents, a stylish gift bag and 3 brand new rolls of holiday gift wrap. The icing on the cake was the $6 gala dress that needs just a few minor alterations. It is a secret pleasure of mine to roam the aisles of a thrift store to see what grabs my attention without draining my bank account. I have a quiet passion for re-purposing most anything to extend its life and the longevity of our landfills. This love took root in me early on in life sifting and sorting through the many stored goods in my grandma’s musty basement. Pantry shelves were an eye sore or a treasure trove whichever way you chose to see it. It grew during frequent stops to neighborhood yard sales with my parents and the occasional weekend trips to flea markets with my dad where I watched him scurry about with contained delight. When we moved to Europe the open air markets were some of my most remembered outings watching him speak English slower and louder to overcome any language barrier while haggling for a better deal. During high school, thrift stores were the place to go for men’s boxers and pajamas...not sure how those became popular but pretty much grosses me out now to think about it! In college, thrift stores were the cool place to shop thanks to the hipness of ‘grunge’. Mainstream clothing manufacturers hadn’t caught on yet to the fact that they could make bank off of faded, distressed and torn clothing products. As a new mom, thrift or consignment was the only way to go. How satisfying to walk out of a store with a bag full of clothing for the next growth cycle that I paid for with store credit. My husband tried to convince me that using up the credit didn’t mean free but I wouldn't buy it. In Bellingham, WA, thrift store shopping was cool and conscious. Most kids wouldn’t bat an eye if you revealed where you got your new digs. The first fall in our Shorewood school, my third grade daughter’s brand new Star Wars back pack (with original tags to boot) was something to drool over until she naively announced to her new-found friends that she scored it at Goodwill. Their snubbed noses was her turning point. Thrift was no longer cool or acceptable; in fact, it pretty much grossed her out. Our limited clothes shopping budget and her disdain for most secondhand goods, has left her with a minimalist wardrobe by default. Tonight wise thrifty mama made an appearance. A swift Google search put us in touch with scores of her favorite female celebrities who are intentional about thrifting. While I normally frown at our collective tendency to put the "stars" on a pedestal and then gawk at them, I was grateful for a little reinforcement from the celestial realm. It was good medicine for me too as I found myself shamefully confessing where I bought this or that as if I somehow needed to make excuses for how I satisfy some of our family’s needs and wants. When I was younger it was cool...then it became practical and at times a downright blessing. Most importantly, it has always been difficult for me to reconcile buying new when gently used means one less material item to burden our already overly stressed environment and gluttonous landfills. As my oldest nodded off to sleep she asked if she could at least "occasionally" buy something new. Her request affirmed that the stars aligned and wise thrifty mama got through...and now my not-so-little one is a little wiser too. *If you have thrifty stories you would like to share, please do!
Following the last of the winter thaw, Wisconsin's spring of 2018 ignited with a bang. In just shy of a week, brown was overtaken by electric shades of green in all directions. Quiet was drowned out by a chorus of crickets, frogs, and wind that carried the scent of all things growing wildly. The gentle pitter patter or thunderous downpour was a sure indication that mowing would soon be a priority on the exponentially growing list of chores. Just one cycle of the seasons ago, spring meant a walk to the neighborhood coffee shop or farmer’s market without a burdensome winter coat. Now coffee is conveniently and solely brewed 10 steps from bed and the market produce is 10 yards from the kitchen door. I’d like to say these conveniences mean life is slower and simpler now...but it’s not really. In fact, rural farm life is busier and more complicated in many ways...even on our humble plot of land. It’s demands are relentless so long as the sun keeps shining and the rain keeps falling...and harvest is nothing to joke about. As swiftly as spring arose, autumn descended along with the beckoning call to pick, dry, boil and can to ensure that not an ounce of the summer’s energies were wasted. Farming on any scale is not for the faint of heart or hand. This is where slow comes in. Each day requires a mindful walk about the land to hear which elements are speaking the loudest. Rushing risks missing the call to be pruned so that more vital sunlight can find its way to vulnerable fruits struggling to hang on...or the call of the cabbage leaves being silently invaded by stealthy slugs. Simple comes in next. Routines need to be paired down. When too many steps are involved the most vital one risks being overlooked and imminent death might be the consequence of such forgetfulness. When too many activities are added to the schedule, essential rejuvenation time is missed out on which creates a painful domino effect and life becomes infinitely more difficult for the human residents of this shared land. As the vital life force withdraws deeper into Mother Earth, we breathe a sigh of relief. The push is coming to an end for a season and the return of brown and decay means our bodies can rest and the creative life force can be harnessed anew. For me, this is evidenced by words emerging more freely and abundantly. For Tim it means breads, pizzas and pastries are making their way into and out of the oven once again...and our home smells divine. For our girls it means a deeper dive into academics and extracurricular pursuits that align with their heart’s budding interests. In what ways do you embrace the gift of death that autumn and winter bring? I dread the thought of disrupting our seasonal cycles in such a way that we one day find ourselves reminiscing about this gift of death with nostalgia.
He extended a weekend invitation to his wife and four daughters, the kind of invitation you might chuckle or cringe at as a young girl. I cannot recall if I did either. I think, like most of our family outings, I fondly looked forward to the hangout time we would have together. Whatever else was icing on the cake. All I knew about this peculiar invite was that it included our pop-up camper, clothing for mixed weather, plenty of food and snacks including our favorite black and red licorice and oodles of card games. We loaded up into our rather lengthy striped brown and tan van that had pull out bench seats. I can distinctly recall its musty vinyl smell and how I felt riding in it. I recall moving about freely unrestrained by cumbersome car seats and seat belts that are now the most basic requirement for good parenting. My eyes were wide as saucers as I took in the scene upon arriving at our weekend destination...a wooded lot full of downed trees and an abundance of open space to cartwheel and roam free in to our heart’s content. I recall chilly autumn air with just a faint touch of warmth kissing my reddened cheeks. I recall the sound of the pull cord on the old chain saw and the revving motor that spewed out smoky clouds while in use. I recall the large open space in our van growing smaller by the second as we filled it with stacks of freshly cut wood. I recall waking up in the middle of the night to the anxious stirring of my parents as they wrestled with the small heater in attempts to get it to bring some much needed warmth into our freezing cold camper...and then again in the early morning to a mound of snow atop our camper and all around us. In my memory the whole scene lives on as fondly as one of Laura’s fictional tales in Little House in the Big Woods...except we were the Little Camper in the Big Wood Lot. In my memory there was no arguing or fighting. Our ages were still pretty spread out so there was a comfortable buffer between us that seemed to eliminate any need for competition that might creep in later on in life. My mom might recall it differently...but that is the beauty of memory and story...I get to recall it and tell it as it lives on in me. This past Saturday I invited my husband to be my date at a fancy ball of sorts. It was a lovely occasion and might have stood out in my younger years as the preferred venue for a ball with the preferred attire. Last night and this evening when I learned that he would be chopping and stacking wood, I eagerly rearranged my schedule so that I could help. I am not sure if it was the familiar roar of the chainsaw, the methodical slicing through the dense wood, the sound the logs make as one gets stacked upon another, the campfire fueled by the brush and plethora of irregular woodcuts, our girls running around in the crisp autumn air with the waxing full moon in the backdrop or the feeling I had toward my spouse that in that moment that things were just right...but it all came back...that invitation to the Woodcutter’s Ball decades ago. I thought to myself that if I had to choose, the Woodcutter's Ball is the one for me. It felt like it was yesterday and my heart swelled with an unexpected gratitude for that moment in time then...and this moment in time now. Thank you dad for all of the ways you included us in the experiences that were meaningful to you then so that they can give meaning, depth and a simple richness to our lives now. I love you to that waxin g moon and back.
Tonight was one of those nights that felt close to perfect...minus the parts that weren’t so perfect. I’m going to focus on the near-perfect for now cuz I’d like our nights to feel this way more often and I have a quiet hunch that focusing on them will help toward that end. I think the weather shift was forcing some old shit out and opening the way for something new to come in. Dinner was yummy, peaceful and fun. We all seemed to have happy moments in our day to highlight...new treads on the truck, an audition that led to a favorable outcome, fantasies about a limo ride to the Dells paid for by the Brownies!, and an invitation to a gala. Red licorice chased dinner followed by dancing to everything from Bruce Springsteen to one of my all time favs, John Denver. Watching our youngest bust her fancy moves while slow dancing with our firstborn to "Rocky Mountain High" while reminiscing about her birth in a Colorado spring snowstorm and all the ups and downs we have experienced since...I felt my heart flutter as tears rolled down my face taking it all in...allowing myself to feel it all...especially the gratitude part for the triumphs over the tribulations. My heart was full and life felt pretty perfect in that moment. The remainder of eve following had its moments of turbulence with the usual resistance to bed time, testing technology boundaries, and an emotional meltdown when the boundary didn’t melt. I pulled away from my usual engagement and gave room for reflection and contemplation. The outcome was better than expected and left us all seemingly wiser. Now I’m going to sign off from this nearly perfect night and go to bed. It’s significantly later than a bedtime I cannot seem to keep. I will work on perfecting that another night. For now, goodnight!
Sometimes I grow weary of my unwillingness to self discipline. Perusing social media makes me feel depressed and lose site of the blessings in my own life and objectifies others as something to be jealous of vs. seeing them as beings who have lived complex lives and overcome a myriad of challenges and obstacles to be where they are today. I want to stop but don’t know how. I have fallen prey to something beyond my ability to comprehend right now. I’m filled with jealousy and envy and it’s toxic to my very well-being. What is the best remedy? Remove the apps? How else will I communicate what is of value to me? Does it matter that I try to communicate such things anyway? I see others living in beautiful homes, adventuring in the coolest of places, along side of the most interesting companions with the world's smartest and most talented offspring, contributing the most valuable things to the world. It’s nearly impossible to measure up. What would happen if I removed them? Who would know me? Who would care? I love to write but I hate the idea of putting things out there that spark the same internal processes that I find to be so toxic. Why do we keep going with this poisonous habit? For the shred of good it offers...the moments of intermittent connection, the nostalgic ties to the past which I might argue are more harmful than good by how these reminders make my poor heart feel. I frequently find it to be detrimental to my psychological and spiritual well-being yet find myself returning to it for the crumbs it gives me in exchange for my vital life force. Images are powerful. They have the power to communicate so much so quickly. It’s equally as interesting to contemplate all that we choose to eliminate from a picture. Words force our minds to slow down, process, digest, own or release depending on their inherent value to us. What would happen if I stopped posting? Who would miss out? Who would gain? Me, my girls, my spouse? Those I would take the time to call or make the time to see instead? My introverted tendencies have found a way to engage when I might otherwise keep to myself. But does this engagement serve any purpose beyond giving me a false sense of connection? We...I...try to freeze a moment in time as if simply living it is somehow not enough. The joy of a moment is ours...and shared is ours multiplied...but somehow when it gets “posted” for the world at large something of it gets lost, cheapened for all that another might deduce of that slice of life we provided for them to make shit up about. It’s the journey leading up to the moment that we truly hold near and dear and that we see in the images we personally snap and freeze in time. When someone else looks they can only see the exact moment in time from the vantage point we have opted to freeze...and make up the rest according to their own world view and whatever fits with their beliefs and patterns of thinking. It’s really a crazy thing that we have grown to value a two dimensional screen and the things it communicates to us more than we value the present moment in time we are actually living in and experiencing...the beating of our heart, the pulsation of blood and vital life force coursing through our veins, life giving oxygen flowing into and out of our lungs, the simple raw feeling of being in our bodies living the lives we have been gifted to live.
I cannot see myself as separate from the natural world that surrounds me. It is not dependent on me as I am on it. I possess tremendous power to create and cultivate or dismantle and destroy by the choices I make. I fall prey to fatigue and laziness causing me to rationalize my decisions. My children and their own will bear the consequences of these rationalizations. This is a hard reality to face and inspires me to hold myself more accountable to living green and motivating and educating others to do the same.
This moment I am in right now is sweet...sweet because I have set a boundary. Life has tossed me to and fro enough that I have finally had enough of certain things to the point of putting my foot down. It’s an inside outside job. I have spent many a year falling prey to comparisons and finding myself coming up short. It’s generally my own self assessment that determines another to be better than me...or another's experience of life to be somehow better than my own. It has been a painful, abusive, devaluing way of treating myself. In this sweet moment I feel acceptance and self-forgiveness for the pain this habit has caused me...and in doing so feel somewhat freed of its possessive hold on me. Simultaneously I feel done with allowing anyone outside of myself to do the same. I have lost my tolerance for it. I feel this new tender but firm “no” inside that time will serve to strengthen provided I persist in vigilance and firmness in my word. I pray for clarity of sight and assertion of voice. Thank you.
I'm Kelly Isabelle.
Full-time workin' mama & spouse aspiring to live a slowly paced, sustainably minded, creatively expressed, clutter-free life shared with kindred folk.