Sunday, April 13, 2014

Increasing the percentage

Are you good at being still?

I am not. I read an article recently about a CEO whose friend bet him $15,000 he couldn't sit still in silence for 15 minutes. Do you relate to that? I sure do. After reading the article, I went home and set a timer. I sat still in silence for 10 minutes... except I itched my arm once. And cracked my neck twice.

It's really hard for us to be still. I've been trying, but I have an addiction to doing. When I am still, thoughts come racing in - did I take the laundry out of the washer last night? What am I going to wear today? How much money are we spending on groceries? Did I pay the water bill? I wonder if it's going to rain today, maybe I should check. Oo, I could do a guided meditation online!

(I like Sacred Space, a site run by Irish Jesuits. Usually though, a "guided mediation online" means I get "distracted" on the way there and end up Facebooking. But that doesn't happen to anyone else, right? ;)

Then, 99% of the time, I get up and do one of these 500 other things.

But this week, Holy Week, I am focusing on the other 1% of the time. The time I remain with those thoughts. The time I settle down to feel God's love swirling around.

Here is a Palm Sunday reflection: "Jesus triumphal entry ends with his willingness to take into himself all the pain and suffering of our world so that together we can celebrate the beginning of a new procession on Easter Sunday"

There is a simple practice where you inhale good and love and exhale all the things that weigh you down. It's lovely. There is another meditation called Tonglen - breathing in the pain and breathing out a prayer of love.  When I read the above quote about Jesus, I am reminded of that simple meditation. One way to walk with Jesus on his journey to the cross this week is to practice Tonglen. Breathe in my pain, your pain, my neighbors' pain, envision it hitting my heart and turning to love, exhaling this prayer of love.

A yoga teacher I know is always telling us that you cannot control your mind. You can only control your breath and that controls the mind. Maybe this is how I can learn to sit in silence this week. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Eco- friendly, gluten-free road trip: Nebraska City, NE

Back during the snowy transition from February to March, Caleb and I went on a road trip. It was a surprise road trip - more HERE

The destination? Nebraska City, NE. Home to Lied (pronounced "leed") Lodge:



Lied Lodge was built during the early years of my childhood en route to my grandparents' house. We celebrated my grandparents' fortieth wedding anniversary there. We all wore denim for the family photograph. Yes, I know. Denim. 

It's making a comeback now, but please don't wear jean on jean. Please. Just don't. 

In 1993, not many hotels left a card in the room explaining that changing the sheets every night uses lots of water and soap. Not many hotels offered (and still don't) in-room recycling. Lied Lodge did. As a child, I loved recycling all the things we brought in the various bins: plastic, paper, aluminum. I also loved the indoor Olympic sized pool, the park across the street where we caught frogs and played on the playground, and the apple orchard nearby. 
One-stream recycling 2014
The last time I stayed at Lied Lodge was almost ten years ago, on the way home from visiting prospective colleges. I really wanted to show Caleb.

He kept his eyes closed the whole trip, but he is very good at directions and correctly guessed we were heading north. When he opened his eyes, we were at a lodge in Nebraska, but he thought we were in Hermann, MO. 

I would have more pictures from the outside of the lodge, but it was in the single digits while we were there, so most of my pictures are indoors. We loved swimming in the giant pool and our very lodge-y room. All the wood was sustainably harvested. 
Guess what this is? It's the CEILING in our room. So cool.
All coffee at the lodge is fair-trade and shade grown. For more about Lied's environmental policy, you can check out their website. Caleb and I were totally amazed. 

One thing I was concerned about while visiting was what I would eat. Looking for gluten-free vegetarian fare in a small town can be daunting. No need to fear! Even in this small town, I was able to find plenty of food! 

Dinner our first night was at El Portal Mexican restaurant. Our food came SO FAST.


 We had breakfast at our hotel the next morning, tried to go for a walk, and went to the outlet mall instead. Not our typical way to spend some time, but it brought back good memories for me and it was warm! We had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in what used to be a KFC. There wasn't anything vegetarian on the menu, but they were more than happy to accommodate. We loved this place! I can't remember the name, it was a very new restaurant. The family that runs it drives in from Lincoln.

Before dinner, the lodge offers $5 wine tastings. All the wines are made from grapes (and apples and cherries) grown right on site! For dinner, the lodge dining room offered TWO gluten free-veggie options.

And for our last breakfast? I thawed out a waffle I had made and left in our trunk during the weekend. 


Roadtrip cooking?


Sunday, March 2, 2014

GROWTH

Don't hate me.

I love winter. 

Snow blanket!
I love the cold air, seeing big fat snowflake drift down silently, bundling up, burrowing under the covers, drinking warm beverages, and eating hearty breakfasts. 

Homemade chai and waffles anyone? They don't sound nearly as good in July. 

I love that it gets dark early in the evenings, and it's perfect for cozying up to read a book, watching a movie, or just sharing conversation. 

But.

Now that the end of winter is in sight, I am waking up from my snuggly sweet potato slumber. I crave more movement each day. After a lovely winter weekend away from it all, I am ready for my internal spring. 

I want to do ALL KINDS OF NEW THINGS. Like take yoga teacher training, just because, and go swimming and walking and ride my bike and get up early and practice centering prayer
Plant in our living room, preparing for spring! 
Do you secretly love winter? What are all the things you want to do now that spring draws near?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Road trip!

Sometimes I think I should blog more about how much I love this guy:


But I don't want to make you all sick. ;). We are pretty excited over here in our casita, because we are going on our first weekend roadtrip! The destination? It's a mystery! Why a mystery, you are probably asking, and for who? (whom?)

I happen to love surprises. It's genetic, mom's side. So naturally, I thought it was slightly unfair that I would not get to propose to Caleb. After all, I thought, I would be so good at it! Several months after he proposed to me, I proposed to him. Only fair, after all! 

[Side note: You guys. I got so nervous. Tunnel vision. And we were already ENGAGED after all. But that's another story.]

Caleb planned our honeymoon. Initially, we thought we'd both plan it; but I ended up having so much other stuff that we decided it was better for me to have one less thing to control. So I didn't know where we were going until we got there. And here is the road we turned down off the highway:

Magical!
This weekend, it's my turn. I know where we're going, and I'm putting Caleb in the car and blindfolding him for all two hours and fifteen minutes of the drive! (Maybe - his sense of direction is eerily good, which is useful for someone like me that doesn't know right from left.)

I will give you some hints, but don't tell Caleb. And using internet search tools is cheating. Only guesses from yo' brain.  
1. It's cozy. After all, my life motto is ABC (always be cozy)
2. It's sustainable. Fair trade coffee. Local produce, seasonally. 
3. There are $5 wine tastings on Friday and Saturday nights.
4. Olympic size pool, baby. Indoor. 

That's enough hints for now...
Guess away!

**bonus points if you can name the special occasion we'll be celebrating**

Thursday, February 20, 2014

accidental musician

This weekend, I had the chance to go out with my sisters. I've never had sisters before, but thanks to marriage, I have two! At one point, we were talking about music. As some of you know, I took piano lessons for about a year and hated it the whole time. I quit and I have never regretted it. I may be one of the only people in the world who thinks this. My instrument was always my voice. I loved singing in a choir in grade school and high school. In college, I opted to not double major, just so I could spend my final semester taking Intro to Art Studio and Voice. (Two separate classes.) I also got my singing fix by going to a time of prayer every day at 3:30 pm with an incredible professor, who is now a published editor. We sang a cappella hymns every day, cementing my personal love of hymns.

Prayer chapel

Sometimes though, now that I am married, I am an accidental musician.

It almost always happens in the closet. Perhaps you could even call me a closet musician. For you see, in our closet, Caleb keeps his guitar.

Sometimes it happens when I enter, sometimes when I leave. Sometimes when I am getting a scarf off the door rack:


Initially it scared me. "Who is playing the guitar in my house?" Then it moved to surprise, "Where is that guitar music coming from?" Then I realized it was me. For whenever you bump the wall, shut a dresser drawer too hard or move the drawer, the guitar makes its own little noise. Which is quite lovely and surprisingly musical. 

Perhaps someday, I will find another outlet for my love of singing (besides singing this when no one is home). Until then, I will just keep enjoying being an accidental musician. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

We can do hard things (and how kids can carry grown-ups).

I am a little obsessed with Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat, Pray, Love. Every time I read it, I feel like I am on a pilgrimage/ great adventure. And so I have read it way more times than is probably normal...

So there is this part, under the "Pray" section where she's in India. She is staying in an ashram, a sort of Indian, yogic monastery. She follows their practices, goes to bed early, and wakes up (at 3:00 am) for a time of prayer. There's this one prayer she just can't get on board with. It's an hour and a half of chanting in an ancient language. It's a hymn of love, but there is no love in it for her.

Then one morning, she decides to dedicate this practice to her nephew, Nick. And so she does. It's a powerful experience for her and for the first time, the hymn flies by.
"The hour and a half was finished. It felt like ten minutes had passed. I realized what had happened - that Nicky had carried me through it. The little soul I'd wanted to help had actually been helping me." (p 169)

There is the cutest little boy waiting for a sponsor where I work. His name is Marvin Adrian. I seriously can't believe no one has sponsored him yet. (I am not sure if it is kosher for me to post his picture on my blog.) So tonight, I dedicated my yoga practice to him. When we were doing core work, our awesome teacher encouraged us to tell ourselves, "I can do hard things!"

Well, sweet Adrian, I sent that message over to you. I already know I can do hard things. But you are only four. And the world is going to tell you otherwise. But know that you can do hard things. You've got a lot of odds stacked against you. But you can do hard things. You can grow up healthy and strong. You can change the world. You know what else? We believe in you. And we have an awful lot to learn from you and your sweet smile.

So while I sending out these prayers and messages to Adrian, guess what happened? We did some crazy core work. I don't even know what we did, but I made it my offering. And you know what? Adrian carried me through it. And before I realized it, it was over.

As E.G. said, "The little soul I'd wanted to help had actually been helping me."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

photography

I really like taking photos. It gives me a lot of life. Here are some of my recent pictures with titles.

What gives you life?
Which one is your favorite?
succulent

floating sideways

Find the rocking horse

Canopy

My husband and coworker (work creeping)

Untitled

my life: an exploration of color

chow

"Spring? Are you here yet?"

baby bull

cast iron