Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gratitude, A to Z

A: I am grateful for my animals.
B: I am grateful for my two wonderful brothers.
C: I am grateful for my cars - they're dependable.
D: I am grateful for my sensitive, loving dad.
E: I am grateful for ears with which to hear beautiful music.
F: I am grateful for all of my family.
G: I am grateful for my dear grandparents, now in their 90's.
H: I am grateful that hope is still alive.
I: I am grateful for my fantastic, generous inlaws.
J: I am grateful for my job.
K: I am grateful for the kindness of others.
L: I am grateful for Los Cabos, my favorite place to visit.
M: I am grateful for my beautiful, talented mom.
N: I am grateful for my precious niece and nephew.
O: I am grateful for oatmeal. I love it in the mornings.
P: I am grateful for pals who love me.
Q: I am grateful for quiet moments in my day.
R: I am grateful for retirement accounts -- I just hope they're still there when I need them!
S: I am grateful for my sister-in-law.
T: I am grateful for the trust that I have in my husband.
U: I am grateful for an umbrella when it's raining.
V: I am grateful for a hardworking vacuum cleaner.
W: I am grateful for wellness.
X: I am grateful for x-husbands, who make me appreciate what I have in my life now.
Y: I am grateful for each new year -- another chance to start again.
Z: I am grateful for Zen moments of peace and enlightenment that occasionally manage to find me.

How about you -- care to share?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Body, Living Canvas

It's no secret that I am a tattooed woman. I have twelve on my body, which really does sound like a lot -- but most are configured in such a way as to actually comprise one design that spirals around my lower left leg. I jokingly call it my "tropical gam", because I got the initial piece in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and continued adding designs of hibiscus and other exotic flowers, butterflies, and a bird. I've tried many times to take a decent photo of the art on this leg, but due to the spiral, it's impossible to capture it well, as you can tell by this pathetic attempt.

I have two on my lower right leg -- my "southwest art." One is a mountain lion surrounded by prickly-pear cactus. (I refuse to call the cat a cougar, as we all know the implication of that word as applied to a woman of my age going after younger men. I assure you, that is not the intent of the design!)

The other is an interpretation of an Anasazi pottery sherd. I have been fascinated by the Anasazi culture (an ancient Puebloan people who lived in the southwest region of the U.S.) for as long as I can remember. Just as the other designs hold personal meaning for me, this tattoo is highly symbolic of many blissful days hiking in the areas where the Anasazi once lived, exploring countless ruin sites, both well-known and very much off the beaten path. I'm thinking of incorporating a couple of petroglyph (ancient rock art) symbols into this design, but haven't quite decided how to do it.

And then there is the piece on my left shoulderblade, a rose intertwined with a beaded feather.

Because my tats are easily hidden beneath my clothing, people are often surprised (shocked might be more apt!) when they learn that I have them. People tend to have strong feelings about body modifications -- particularly ink -- whether they have their own or not. There's very little neutrality -- either you think they're cool, or you detest them. I'm usually asked two things by the inkless: "Why?" and "Doesn't it hurt?" To be honest, I'm not quite certain why I got the first one. I'm sure it had something to do with outwardly expressing a newfound liberation in my life, coupled with the fact that I've long wanted one and just decided to take the plunge! And yes, it's true -- once you have one, you may find yourself addicted to the process and becoming a collector. As for the question of pain -- oh yes, my friends, it hurts! It's difficult to describe the severe sting of the needle, but in a sense, it's a positive pain. It's a pain that takes you to another place inside yourself, where you find your mettle is tested, both fleshly and spiritually. It's an incredibly intense process. I know, I know ... sounds crazy, doesn't it? ::sigh:: Perhaps it is. But I like it.

The history of tattooing is extremely interesting to me. It's an artform that has existed since the dawn of mankind, and has played a vital role in defining and demonstrating who human beings felt that they were, and what they represented in this world. Tattooing has taken quite a journey in our own society, metamorphising from a freakish act committed by unacceptable outcasts to a more or less mainstream means of self-expression.

As one who appreciates art in so many different forms, I love being able to carry around my own special pieces everywhere I go. I cannot say with certainty when I will be done adding to my inky collection ... the menacing yet beautiful hum of the tattoo gun is such a seductive siren, and I'm drawn back to it, again and again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas ...

While it's highly unlikely to happen where I live, I still love the idea of a Christmas snowfall. With Texas being Texas, we could just as easily have unseasonably warm temperatures that would compel us to shed our winter coats in exchange for lightweight t-shirts. There is something so very magical about snow at Christmas, though.

A few years ago, my family and I spent the holiday in a lovely cabin in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Snow heavily blanketed the ground and sat like a thick vanilla icing on rooftops, weighing heavily on pine boughs. With each foray into the outdoors, our cheeks reddened and our noses ran, and while the fresh air was scented with frosted evergreen, it was pure pleasure to return to the cabin and warm ourselves toasty by the huge stacked-stone fireplace.

I remember one Christmas Eve when it snowed at my grandparents' Texas lake house when I was about 11 years old. Someone looked up from the Scrabble board, or tore themselves away momentarily from the spread of goodies that Grannie had spent days baking, and glanced out the window to first notice that flakes had begun softly falling. We bundled up in our coats, hats, and gloves and stepped out onto the wide front porch to marvel at the fat flurries. I remember the feeling of complete enchantment as we gawked at the heavens showering us with those exquisite white fluffs. And always, always, I will feel and remember the warmth indoors reflected by the fireplace (and the central heat!), the lights twinkling happily on the tree, but most of all, the love and laughter of my family. The closeness of just being together in that place at that time. I really could not imagine having had better childhood Christmases, and I realize how truly blessed I have been.

The photo in this post is, of course, Technicolor Cottage in the snow. I wish I could say that it was indeed taken at Christmas, but it was actually snapped by a neighbor on a rare February snow day a few years ago. I did have the foresight to use this picture on our Christmas cards the following year, though. And although it so very rarely happens, it does give my heart a thrill to see my little house ... in the snow.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pure, Unbridled Joy!

Oh! To have such a zest for life! This is wonderful, and definitely made me laugh out loud. I hope it makes you smile today too!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Older I Get ...

Today I was pondering some of the good things that middle age has brought my way. I certainly won’t count the gray hair, the crow’s feet and the sagging skin (and other bits) as fortuitous, but beyond the surface of who I am, I’ve come to realize that a certain amount of favorable maturity has occurred. For that, I am extremely grateful! In no particular order, here’s a brief list of things I’ve come to count as truth:

1. It's stupid to drive too fast. As I watched in my rearview mirror, the young man in the souped-up tin can darted from the left lane and charged towards my bumper at warp speed, attempting to cut in front of the car that he'd just been behind. When he veered back into the lane next to me, I glanced over and caught a glimpse of his face – such a boy, and oh, so foolish. His face was set in lines of angry concentration, a thin veil for his obvious exasperation. I do remember being his age, and how I too could scarcely abide being "stuck" behind someone driving at what was actually a normal speed. Why was I in such a hurry? From where did that impatience and impertinence stem? More to the point, where did it go? In direct contrast to my youthful Speed Racing, I no longer care how quickly (or slowly) it takes me to get from Point A to Point B. I really don’t even care if I’m going with the flow – especially when the flow is fast and furious. I’ll get where I’m going in my own good time. It will take as long as it takes. I simply can no longer be bothered to rush when I drive.

2. Taking a nap is delightful. While I don’t exactly recall being forced to nap as a child, I undoubtedly was up to a point, and I probably rebelled against it as most children do. Nowadays, however, I think there’s little that's nicer than pulling back the quilt on a Sunday afternoon, snuggling underneath with a good book or the TV’s remote control, and drifting off to dreamland in the middle of the day. If our culture only observed the afternoon siesta, I’m sure we’d all be so much better at being human.

3. Choosing your battles is wise. In my younger days, everything was an issue, especially where the man in my life was concerned. If I felt he’d let me down in the slightest, you can bet that drama ensued. If his behavior was not quite on par with what I expected, I’d first pout (expecting him to somehow just know how he’d offended), and when he failed to assuage my hurt feelings as I hoped, oh boy – watch out! Somewhere along the way, I’ve lost the desire to dwell on trivialities. If Rocky disappoints me in small ways (which he rarely does, but being human, he’s bound to on occasion), I chalk it up to the fact that he, like me, is imperfect, and I choose to forgive him instead of harboring resentment. I can’t begin to tell you what burdens were lifted when I hit upon the realization that I don’t have to prove that I’m right, I don’t have to set others straight, and I don’t have to dwell on hurt feelings. Admittedly, this is an area where I’m still learning to make application; however, just knowing I’ve successfully grasped the concept is empowering to me.

4. Little children are worth watching. When I was younger, before my brothers came along, my family and I used to joke that many people we knew who had babies did nothing when they congregated except for “sitting around and watching the baby.” As I aged, I noticed those of my peers who were having kids of their own did the same thing – just sitting around and focusing solely on the child(ren). BORING! Adult interaction was infinitely smarter, hipper, more pleasurable. When my niece came along 6 years ago, followed almost 3 years after that by her younger brother, I began to notice that my icecap was melting. Something about having those new little lives in my family made me realize how very enjoyable it is to “sit around and watch the baby.” Not only are they precious in form – sweetly plump, all unlined innocence – but it’s fascinating to observe them as they take in the world around them. They are forever changing, growing, developing, and what an absolute privilege it is to be there as their discoveries unfold! Engaging with little ones not only brings to mind the blessedness of the entire circle of life, but also causes me to draw forth at least some small part of that child that still lurks within my middle-aged body. And how can that possibly be anything but healthy and good and right?

5. I’m not a wimp. I’ve learned that I can actually withstand a good deal of physical pain, whereas I once would’ve been certain I’d crumple and wither away at the slightest hint of discomfort. (How else to explain the fact that I have 12 tattooed designs on my body? And I used to think I was afraid of needles!)

6. It doesn’t all have to be done today. OK, so maybe this is really just an excuse for bone-idleness, but I’ve truly come to the conclusion that my seemingly never-ending “to do” list doesn’t really have to get done right away. I hope to accomplish everything some day, but many times, when I’d rather grab a good book or a cold beer, that’s what I choose to do. Thus, the list goes on, and the chores remain … but that's ok. It really is.

So, there you have it – a few things I’ve learned as I continue on my journey. It’s so nice to reach a new place of understanding, to take on a point of view that you perhaps never felt possible. Certainly we're all on this journey of discovery together, and as we make our way from cradle to grave, I believe it's important to take inventory every now and then of what we know. Sometimes, even the smallest things are amazingly, eye-openingly profound.