28 August 2010

More Zen

you live longer only when you stop trying to live longer

26 August 2010

Reduced to Stuff

I noticed first the empty porch, devoid of welcoming furniture. I walked into the charming white country cottage to its hollow foyer, lacking furnishings and breath. I understood what he meant about watching their life being dismantled, watching their stuff being divided up and sold, as if they were dead. He said nobody should have to sit back and observe while the end of their life is being managed, estate sales, auction houses, calls from siblings far away staking claims on what they want. Anything with monetary value had already been taken, sold, or spoken for. Nearly everything else was dissolved.
The house could use a coat of paint.
In the kitchen we emptied a pantry closet, throwing spices and bags of sugar away. We gathered some glass to try to sell, worthless, all of it, but not to his mother; these were her things. We looked at the blue and white plates from Cracker Barrel, the tea cups, the saucers, a full eight piece set, on display in the china cabinet, never used, maybe one plate was missing, yes, only 7 small plates, but eight of everything else, and one gravy boat. "We could sell these" she says of her plates and cups carefully displayed in the curio cabinet. "I paid $12 a plate."
Nobody will want this I thought. Nobody will want the glass platters or vases either, but I will take it all. I will send her money and tell her I sold it. Is she measuring her value by other people's desire for her stuff?
I wanted to leave. My stomach felt uneasy. I wanted to say, none of this means anything. Lets get the hell out of here and go eat. Let's celebrate life. Let's set the damn place on fire. Instead I carefully wrapped each piece of worthless glass and stacked it in the tote. I excitedly asked for a little maple basket, maybe I can put some fruit in it. I suggested she give a little candle holder to her granddaughter for her birthday tomorrow. I reveled in the new blender she gave me. The large hand painted plate will never be of much use in my kitchen, but happily, I accepted it. I couldn't finish quickly enough.
I walked around the skeleton of living space and photographed the few remaining pieces of furniture.
She was sitting in the foyer, next to the old fireplace, in a shabby wooden chair, vacant. I asked about the cabinet in the corner.
"Yes, sell it." she said.
"And what about the stuff inside it? Is that also for sale?" I inquired.
"Well" she said, "that doesn't really belong to me. It was here when we moved in." My confusion was not masked. The cabinet was hers, but the stuff in it, carefully displayed, was not. A large old book with a dark hard cover appealed to my curiosity.
"What is this?" I asked.
"Oh, that has a story!" she exclaimed. "The Atkinson's lived here." She continued. "Their grandson Tom went to Clemson, and that's a yearbook that was sent to all the families of men who died in the second world war."
"Can I open it? Can I touch the book?" I eagerly moved my hand toward the handle of the curio cabinet.
"And this other stuff?" I mused as I was reaching for the book. "Is it theirs also?"
"Oh yes, and there's more. I just didn't have the heart to get rid of it. We took care of his sister Henrietta. I offered it to the family but they didn't want any of it. So all these years I kept it on display in this cabinet."
"This is the most valuable thing you have." I said as I leafed through the pages of the old book. Loosely taped in the front was a letter to Mr. & Mrs. Atkinson from the Dean of Clemson expressing their deepest sympathy for the tragic loss of Thomas when his plane crashed while serving his country. Furthermore the letter said, this yearbook is so we never forget the price of war and we always strive for peace.
I held this book, scrolled through its pages, and thought, this is so much more than a book. This cabinet is a real reminder of humanity, the need to matter, the need to remember people and history.
The shelves had pictures, newspaper articles, and a little crystal clock. Time.
I lifted the little pile of newspaper clippings, yellow and frail. Tom Bass's obituary included very specific details of his plane crash. It ended with the details of his body being laid to rest in the family home, the very foyer I was standing in.
When I finished reading this aloud to Abbey, Grammy continued saying the story gets worse. She proceeded to tell me how the other son, TW was killed as a small child, a car backed over him. Then her dear friend Henrietta fell and broke both her hips, crippling her. She finished by saying she and Grumpy handled the affairs for her funeral when she passed.
Mr. Atkinson's obituary was included in the clippings, and pictures of Henrietta from the paper, who incidentally was very beautiful.

Name: Sgt. Thomas G. Bass, Jr.
Parents: Thomas Joseph & Lois Atkinson Bass
Date of Birth: September 14, 1920
Place of Birth: Latta, Dillon Co.SC
Date of Death: December 3, 1943
Place of Death: Salt Flats, New Mexico (plane crash)
Place of Burial: Latta Cemetery
Source and date of issue: The Dillon Herald, Dillon, SC, Thursday, December 9, 1943, page1, col. 6 and December 16, 1943, page 2, col. 3 & 4

5 years later Thomas Bass' mother died.

Name: Lois Bass
Parents: W. B. and Hernietta Gaddy Atkinson
Spouse: Thomas J. Bass (married 1917)
Date of Death: April 20, 1948
Place of Burial: Magnolia Cemetery
Source & date of issue: The Dillon Herald, Dillon, SC, Thursday, April 29, 1948, page 5, col. 2

Dead to Myself

I surrender to the lies.  I will not buy into creating an image based me.  I am dead to myself and alive in service love.  In this new life, as I care less about beauty and accumulation of possessions,  I find more beauty, and my needs are met through peace, love and joy.  As I try to deny myself I find contentment.  I look in the mirror without complaint and with acceptance.  I pass by the shelves in the market place for the horizon of blue herons and egrets, palms and pluff mud.  I stop asking God to stay with me wherever I go and I start going wherever God wants me too.

I will not believe the lie that
...bigger is better.
...stuff means anything about me.
...beauty is what a supermodel achieves.
...God blesses America above others.
...power, corruption and greed are acceptable and necessary for success.
...God wants me to have all this stuff.
...I need to defy death, (truth: God did that for me.)
...convenient is good.
...more is necessary.


Part time employment suits me.  It also requires a great deal of lifestyle change.  Today my second pay check in only 1/2 the amount I used to receive was deposited.  And ironically, I have hardly noticed the difference.  Change, being inevitable, is so much easier when it is initiated by me.

This summer, I decided my house would move in the direction of zero waste.  While we still create plenty of trash, still receive junk mail, still use plastic baggies and more, we have cut a tremendous amount of junk from our lives.  Yesterday I sent Abbey and Jake into the grocery to get 4 things while I waited in the car (I had already washed my make up off).  I beamed with joy when they came out to the car carrying the four items (and one extra for Abbey - gingerale?) but the beautiful thing was the goods were not in a plastic or paper bag.  They carried them in their hands.   I said, "babies, I'm so proud of you not getting a plastic bag."  Abbey replied, "we said no thank you to the paper receipt too."

A few steps have made a huge difference in my budget and my life.

1.  I do not buy paper towels anymore.  I used to buy Bounty.  Savings = $10 a week / $520 year
2.  I do not buy bottled water anymore.  I used to buy Dasani.  Savings = $14 a week / $728 year

So I've saved $1250 a year so far.  now all I need to do is save the other $20,000 I used to make.

3.  I only shop on the outside of the grocery store.  I quit buying food in boxes and cans.  I stopped purchasing prepared foods of all kinds.  This savings cannot accurately be measured in dollars.  My liver might stand a chance of healing from the HFCS poison; my grocery bill is substantially different.

4.  I only buy organic.  I will not pay money for chemical poisons to be ingested by me or my children.  We have also switched to organic body soap, cleaning products (vinegar and water) and laundry soap.   I shop primarily at Earth Fare, occasionally Whole Foods, and never, ever Walmart.

Confession:  I still use Bath and Body Works hand soap in all 3 bathrooms and in the kitchen.  I also still use Pureology shampoo and I don't believe it is organic.  I tried organic shampoo, but I'm a little to vain not to have good hair (for now).

5.  Abbey's diet has improved immensely.  She enjoys eating food that actually tastes good now.  I haven't fixed the ice cream addiction, but we all have our vices.

A few weeks ago, we were traveling, we were making good time on a 12 hour journey, and I said, if you guys want, I'll take you to McDonald's.  Gleefully, they cheered.  When we pulled up to the window to order, Abbey said, "what are we going to get here?  This is going to make us sick."

6.  My favorite change so far is I took Abbey off her ADHD cocaine.  Her father absolutely hated the idea that I ever agreed to allow her to take medicine to make her socially acceptable in a formal classroom.  He was right and I was wrong.

7.  We meditate, as a family.  Of course this activity tends to meet with resistance.  Imagine being a 7 or 11 year old child and your mother saying (as part of her new living plan) everyone grab  a mat and sit on the living room floor and for the next 20 minutes we are going to sit silently, pray to the God of the Universe, focus on dumping the negative energy, and receiving peace.  Wooosh - yes you too would think it crazy as hell, but I think it's helping them, and more than that, when I am no longer here to guide them, they will remember the techniques I taught them.

Now with the dietary change and the meditation, I feel confident that Abbey is going to manage her impulsive behavior on her own.  And if she doesn't, she's my Ab5i (the 5 is silent) mess, and I want her just the way she is.

8.  I quit drinking coffee.  I only drink green tea and water.  While this means I have not given up caffeine, I drink tea more moderately than coffee.  I used to drink at least a pot of coffee a day - black.  Now I drink 3-4 cups of green tea a day, and I feel good.  In addition to it being the very most powerful antioxidant I can consume, it tastes good and soothes my soul.

Finding balance is absolutely the key to my wellness.  Combined with generosity with no expectation, and gratitude to the God of the Universe, I think I have found the alchemy of peace, love and joy.  I do not want to work more than I live.  I want my work to be meaningful, well planned, and carefully executed.
I want to be healthy which means I need exercise.  I now have four hours a day to accomplish that, and I have been.
I want to eat food that fuels my body.  This takes planning and preparation which takes time, which I now have.  I make a balanced breakfast for my children every morning instead of rushing into the gas station for a muffin or a pop tart.
I want to inspire others to live better, to reject the world's idea of what it looks like to be happy, healthy, and most important of all content.  Content with who I am, where I am, and what I am.


I'd like to move downtown so that I could stop driving to work.
I'd like to use my car less - in general (I don't really want to leave the beach, so this may be more than I can handle.  I will consider looking into a hybrid.)
I'd like to use all reusable glass containers with lids and no plastic.
I'd like to use more of my free time to serve others.
I would like to rid my life of any stuff that I do not use at least once a month (maybe once a season).
I'd like to open a corner grocery/lunch stop (like Queen St. Grocery).
I will write my book(s).

14 August 2010

Wes's 30th Birthday

Buff:  I'm pretty sure some people on this planet are aliens.
Wes:  I'm pretty sure your dad's one.

10 August 2010

Zen habits

I remind myself every morning that life is short and mine may be over by nightfall. That gives me the the desire to taste and enjoy each moment. It also adds a measure of calm urgency because I want to leave a mark upon the world.  

03 August 2010

Hopi Elders

...There is a river flowing now very fast
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
Take nothing personally,
least of all ourselves.
For the moment that we do,
our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.


Only while you are alive is there hope of finding Him...
It is a hopeless dream
To think that union will  come after the soul leaves the body.
What you get now
is what you get then...
"Only spiritual practice will get you across;
be addicted to this practice."