The Before-Math

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It’s important to squeeze the most fun out of a midlife rite of passage. Every drop of day is a chance to lap up the melting butter of existence, especially at the halfway point, or should I say, the half-and-half point (dairy humor).

We were preparing for our guests, spreading sheets and comforters over beds in smooth layers of polished cotton, plunking on pillows and daubing on extra blankets, when somewhere between the prepping and the plumping, I got a spark in my eye and a sparkle in my spirit. Lamenting the recent passing of Eagles singer Glen Frey (I’m a fan) and intent on celebrating the present moment, I began to sing “Well I’ve been runnin’ down the road tryin’ to loosen my load, I’ve got seven women on my mind . . .” as my fellow bed making friend began to harmonize the tune with me. It turned into an hour long tribute to the late singer, mixing in alternate lyrics that suited the occasion and some vocal twang whenever desired. Now that’s a way to get chores done!

The trip to the post office was just as bad– I mean good– I mean ridiculous. Picture two gurgling, giggling junior-high aged souls housed in a couple of midlife bodies, simmering, hissing and howling with humor several decades beneath them. Yes, the priming of the pump is about as important as the event itself. And so, I highly recommend a pair of obnoxious loose-cannon attitudes as the beginning fanfare for any large life event.

 

 

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Collecting

 

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As our little group gathered into a bouquet of faces that represented so many poignant things to me– constancy, enduring relationship, shared history, valued friendship, unique interpersonal alchemies– I realized once again the value of intentional collecting. Not just once, not just twice, but over and over again.

Collecting for a milestone celebration (like a rite of passage), collecting for a documentary movie night, collecting for good food and the sharing of current creative projects– can naturally lead to eventually collecting for support during a health crisis, or collecting for a time of guidance, or collecting for some cheerful encouragement amid the long term difficulties of aging. But it seems to me, the key for intentional collecting is making it a practice. Not a droll, dull, gotta gotta do it practice, but a lovely, can’t wait to see them, this will give my soul a breather, this is gonna be great! practice.

As I looked at this lovely collection of women in a warm honey-toned living room on a winter’s day, celebrating my 50th year with no-holds-barred dancing and breezy, contemplative walks, I realized that these are also the faces I hope to see when arthritis sets in and loss is the topic of the day. And we’ll only get there if we practice. Practice, practice, practice! Making hot tea together alongside heaps of Mulberry paper and cardstock to create notes of appreciation to the givers in our lives, singing show tunes and gnarly old hymns at a yearly apple picking gathering, or seeing each other for my 50th or her 40th or our 20th year together.

I don’t know about you, but I plan on collecting for a very long time . . . .

A Rite of Passage of My Own

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I’m feeling the anticipation of crossing a midlife threshold. THE midlife threshold. I’m sure in my hopscotch days I imagined this birth year moment to be gilded with starched antique lace, and celebrated with hands that pass around ribbons of candy that stick together, petrified, at the bottom of a glass bowl. 50? That’s sooo old. I know  back then since I even considered 40 nigh to the grave, 50 was for sure beyond the pale.

But here I am. And glad of it! Really. I’ve anticipated this moment for years. Because it’s now time for my rite of passage. The threshold events that I’ve lovingly crafted for the adolescent and the young adult will finally be pivoted in my direction. I’m ready to metaphor and simile my soul into some turning-the-corner memories that hopefully will loving me launch me into elderhood. No, really, it’s a positive thing!

Won’t you come along with me?

“Ordinary” Wrapped up in Extraordinary

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We continue to edge deeper into the holiday season, leaving the green grass and gentle breezes of ordinary time behind. This is not to say there has not been the extraordinary, both beautiful and excruciatingly challenging within the reeds and gentle winds, but the temperature is now dramatically changing. The challenge now is to find the “ordinary” within the extraordinary. The small spaces in the largely decorated places. The remembrance of warm cups of coffee and a glint of sunlight amongst a big season, loud, wonderfully in-your-face season.

I hope to be able to hold hands with both “the biggies”- the extraordinary, and the ordinary things that come my way. These are a few ways I might try:

– biggie: buy and write out cards   -ordinary: brew a hot cup of tea and let the card                                                            writing last for 1 1/2 hours instead of 1- moving a                                                        little bit slowly and nourishing the process

-biggie: shop for presents online    -ordinary: stop and read a great passage from a                                                           inspiring book, chew on it for a few moments,                                                             even have a conversation about it with someone

-biggie: try to use up all the Thanksgiving leftovers in the refrigerator

-ordinary: re-member how each dish was shared, people’s reactions to it, mine as well, and incorporate it into a new dish, now re-imagined with memory and gratitude.

May you make the ordinary feel extraordinary in the gratitude of the moment.

A wink and a celebration

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Turning again toward the door of autumn, under the lintel of of September, I find it can be an opportunity to seek out celebration. I spoke with a newly made acquaintance the other day who, in the context of learning to live out Pacific Northwest winters, said, “find all the colors in the gray!” A great way to attune your eye to, and celebrate, the awareness of the season you’re living in, I thought.

So I ask myself, what colors can I find in the golden turning of September? Where are the nuances, the subtleties in the spectrum of this new season, or this new season in my life? Your life? The light seems to wink at us this time of year as it passes through leaf-shapes and colors of change. How about a little celebration toward what these changes might have in store for us?

A Celebration Blessing

Now is the time
to free the heart,
Let all intentions and worries stop,
Free the joy inside the self,
Awaken to the wonder
of your life.

Open your eyes and see the friends
Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
Those whose kindness watchful and near,
Encourages you to live everything here.

See the gifts the years have given,
Things your effort could never earn,
The health to enjoy who you want to be
And the mind to mirror mystery.

– John O’Donohue.

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photo by Ginny Schneider

Second Rite of Passage: food, glorious food!!

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This time, instead of highlighting a favorite cuisine drummed up by the honored rite of passager, I chose to wallow comfortably in a different direction. Hmmm . . . or should I say Mmmmm . . . what was your favorite comfort food in your teens? That’s the question I asked all the participating ladies for Ginny’s second rite of passage in an email several weeks before, then requested they all bring their comfy contributions to our opening evening potluck.

As we sat down to table, I began the feasting with a quote to honor the theme of the evening. “On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally’s cellar.”- Thomas Jefferson.

Yes, give this decadent indulence historical backing, that’s what I say!

I continue to reflect on the marvelousness of this moment of cozy culinary array:

“Comfort foods. Delicious, creamy, amazing, comfort foods. From our childhood. From our teenage years. From adulthood. A girl is sitting on a bed in the heat of Kansas summer with a plate of cheese, crackers, and grapes, a book in her hand and the fan on high. That’s one woman’s version. Tearing through the front door on an autumn La Mirada afternoon and hit with the smell of homemade chili and cornbread after a day at school. The anticipation of the pleasure. The desire. That’s mine. Coming home from college and knowing that the requested day-long-in-the-making heirloom lasagne awaits the five home-comers. That’s another’s. No-bake cookies laced with chocolate and peanut butter from mom’s kitchen in Michigan. And yet, one more. Ours for the night: cheesy hash brown casserole, heirloom lasagne, chicken pot pie, sautéed spinach, and coconut cream pie. Heavy on the comfort. Heavy, heavy on the comfort. Stories of food and family. Heavy on the comfort.”

And that my friends, is how we began . . . .!

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Second rite of passage: considering the theme

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Ginny in her quilted “nest”.

Ginny’s first rite of passage was such a big hit on everyone’s radar (for the adults as well as the fledgling teen), that she and I were ready for round 2. Because the palette of colors was so rich in our first attempt (great food, great wisdom, great music), we thought, “why not broaden the spectrum”? Instead of a day retreat, we opted for a full weekend. More time for mentoring, more time for questions, more time for frolicking with the old fogies (I jest).

It was important when considering the thematic idea for this second rite of passage at age 18, that I look at current life circumstances and areas of “itching” importance for Ginny. Living in community was a biggie. She was considering moving in with a team of 5 other twenty-somethings (she being the only teenager) to volunteer on the south side of Chicago. So “community” was a consideration, but so could have been “living artfully” or “being the gift others open up”.

As I alluded to in an earlier post, in the end, we opted for “The Community Nest”. This one could bring out great lessons in “playing well with others” as well as incorporating fun aviary images such as “nesting”, “flying”, and “coming home”. . . . More twigs and feathers upcoming in the next post!