Frosted window pane

Candles gleaming inside…

You know the song, right? It is a lovely one, a favorite Christmas song.

frosted window pane

But now Christmas has passed, and this final weekend of 2017 we in the Twin Cities (and north) we are under a wind chill advisory. When I got out of bed this morning, it was -16F with a windchill factor of -30F. Where my parents live, it is -24F with a windchill factor in the 40’s below zero.

The window panes are indeed frosted and I post the photo evidence here. Fortunately, I think we have enough food in the house that we do not need to leave here before Monday.

I feel a little restless, having stayed up the last 3 days while my husband had to work. It was nice, and I truly enjoyed it, but I also enjoy some fresh air now and then.

This is one reason so many Minnesotans plan a winter vacation (escape) somewhere warm, usually in January, but February is a good month for that too. I realize it reflects privilege to be able to do this, and not everyone can afford such an escape.

Actually this year, hubby and I are trying to be frugal, and are not planning a winter vacation. We would like to buy a house in the next year or two, and that involves prioritizing our down payment savings. I have to confess that I am a “winter wimp” and I do not spend any more time outside in winter than is required.

Oh sure, when the temps are above 20, I will take a walk or something if the sun is out and the ground is not too icy. Back in 2008 I took a bad spill on the ice, broke my shoulder (hairline fracture) and injured my rotator cuff. It was painful, and I had a really hard time not being able to run or walk on a treadmill, or do yoga class.

It is incredible what a difference exercise makes to someone who struggles with a.d.d. or with the winter blues. Fortunately I have a gym that is only 1.6 miles away from home, and I can get over there if truly needed. I feel some guilt over wasting a lot of gasoline to warm up my car sometimes, but desperate measures, folks.

When I look back at my facebook feed from last year, I notice we were on Kauai for a wedding of two of my long-time friends. My imagination reaches back, and can access some of the warmth from that time. Aw, I really am a lucky chica. I found a photo from our motorcycle day trip into Waimea Canyon that I am sharing. Ah, sun!

Waimea Canyon

Stay warm, friends.

 

Owning our bodies

After my peaceful and grateful post yesterday, I dove into a few blogs based on some recommendations by WordPress. I read about women as superheroes, and encountered some powerful writing about racism and privilege in America. It hit me pretty hard, but the point landed, this idea that white people of this country built their foundation on treating black people as sub-human.

It is difficult to talk about this, to acknowledge it and to understand what it is like to be cast as the “other” when we are part of the dominant culture. As a pale Latina, I pass as white every day. And yet, part of me strongly identifies with this Otherness. When Philando Castile was killed in Falcon Heights, Minnesota in July 2016, I was in shock. This is not supposed to happen here, I thought.

But it happens everywhere. People are mistreated merely because of their darker skin or for their gender. Assumptions are made, and are reinforced. Political campaigns barely veil their “dog whistles” that appeal to the base, racist beliefs of their base.

There is a powerful dialogue from On Being with Krista Tippet, with Junot Diaz that keeps coming back to me on Radical Hope. If you have an interest in understanding racism and the history of oppression in this country and the context in which we have evolved today, I highly recommend it. I want to quote one passage that keeps coming back to me as an empowering framework for re-considering how we view the body.

owning bodies - on being
Photo from On Being website link

“I would remind us that, coming from a reality where our oppression was ineluctably linked to our bodies — that we had, for centuries, no rights to our bodies and that all of the traditional pleasures and all of the traditional freedoms of human agency were forbidden to those of us of African descent in the New World, for a long period of time — the body, in such a murderous regime, under such nightmarish conditions, becomes chapel, cathedral, dogma. It becomes nearly everything…

…for people like us, for people who come out of the African Diaspora in the New World, simply to fall in love, when you have historically been denied love, the right to just connect to the body which you have chosen and that has chosen you, means that an act of love is not only revolutionary, it’s not only transcendent, but it is the deific. It is Godlike. It is a taste of the omnipotent.”

I see parallels here in how slave ownership reflects a framework in which ownership of the body is central. It is a means of control and it is a means of denying basic humanity to people based on color.

I also see the ownership of body as a tool from a woman’s perspective and a feminist one. From our cultural lens, we have transcended a period when it was legal to own the bodies of African Americans. I also recently learned that early in our history, the practice of enslaving Native Americans occurred though was not explicitly legalized in the same way. (Listen to Hidden Brain’s “An American Secret” to learn more.)

Conceptually, I believe our patriarchy claims “ownership” of women’s bodies in a similar but more subtle way. Through creating laws to regulate women’s health, and their choices and ownership over their decisions about their bodies, we legalize yet another form of slavery. By judging appearance and “scoring” women on a scales of beauty or attractiveness, our media participate in this denigration of women’s bodies.

Recent disclosures of male authority figures using coercion and manipulation of women’s bodies against their will has shown the pervasiveness of this idea: women are routinely denied full access and ownership to their bodies. Women are “owned” and traded, consumed and marketed as commodities, products, objects that can be served up at will. 

empowerment
Photo credit link

As I have come to a better relationship with my own body in my yoga and meditation practices, I now see how “radical” it is to reclaim our bodies. For those women (or men) who have endured assault or other violations of the body, there can be a numbness or a disassociation with parts of ourselves. Even for those of us who have not endured physical violence, the objectification of women’s bodies in so much of our daily media have taken their toll.

We disown parts of ourselves, perhaps our hunger, or our sexuality, as an attempt to distance ourselves from what is portrayed as dirty or distasteful.  This is not a coincidence, nor is it a benign reality. Listening and attending to our bodies is a powerful tool. Disconnecting from the body separates us from our truth. 

Churches that advise us to transcend the “carnal” and embrace the spiritual do us a disservice. For when we separate the body from the spirit or the soul, we disconnect what makes us whole as people. Sadly, this is more of a lived reality for women than for men in our current ethos.

What I would like to suggest is a radical and necessary step is for women to reclaim ownership of our bodies, in both real and symbolic ways. I see this not only as a personal and a wellness imperative, but as a political act. This is certainly not a new idea. Back in the 60’s and 70’s when the women’s liberation movement was at its height, this was certainly one of the goals.

Even my own personal weight struggle has been a process of coming to terms with loving and appreciating my own body. I recognize the ways in which I appropriated the body hatred that was rampant around me. It is a bad habit, this criticism of our body, diminishing the instrument of joy we have been given. But it is a habit that can be changed. Accepting and embracing our bodies and our feelings is a tool for empowerment. It is the place we must begin for full political and personal agency.

One Hundred

According to WordPress, this is my one hundredth post. As I sit here and consider a fitting way to “celebrate” this milestone, the snow comes down and I notice it is only 4F outside (with a windchill of -10F).

I am immediately grateful for the heat, my cozy blanket wrapped around me sitting in my favorite chair in the living room. My coffee with cream sits on my side table with some scrumptious new reading. I am immediately grateful for this winter break, and to have no place I need to go today, nothing I really need to do except breathe.

Later I will chop some ingredients for stew, to be gradually cooked in the crock pot for evening. But for now, I savor the silence and gratitude washes over me. In this moment, I have everything I need. Actually, in every moment, I have what I need, when I stay in this moment.

So often I have lived my life in “fast forward” mode, rushing to get to the next thing. But by pausing, noticing, and truly FEELING this present moment, this is where I experience the most joy.

Even in moments when I am in pain, or suffering through a cold, I remind myself: this is all part of the deal. This is all part of being alive, this wonderful immune response that ensures we will survive for longer, not defeated by a virus or the bacteria that we encounter. And this too shall pass. Nothing ever stays the same, the universe is always moving, expanding, changing.

candles
Photo credit link

Each molecule of our body has energy in it, that is in a constant state of flux and motion. I consider the miracle of that, the incredible gift that we have, this life, this time to do what moves us. The choices we have are unparalleled. And yet, each moment, we make another. To stay in stillness, or to move to another position. To listen to our inner voice, or to invite in other voices.

I have been aching for a retreat, but I realize it is right here in front of me. And in my ability to enjoy this solitude, I recognize that I am also in community. We are never truly separate from others, even when alone in our homes. As humans we are all connected. We have a common home. We need to honor that, and cherish it.

Hope you have some time to pause and reflect as the calendar year comes to a close. Namaste: The light in me honors the light in you.

 

 

Motorcycle, open road and 2 fresh-air junkies

This Tuesday as my hubby and I escaped weather that was -20F (windchill factor -30F), I had an impulse to revisit a favorite trip of ours from almost 5.5 months ago, when the weather was quite different. Photos are either from his phone or mine, and/or grabbed from the web with attribution where not original.

This past July my husband (then fiance) and I took a trip around Lake Superior, starting on the Minnesota side from the Twin Cities and running clockwise. It was a wonderful journey, made precious by the fact that we had never made that trip before, and the fact that my husband had taken care of 95% of the planning beforehand.

cycle-with-camper-in-schroeder.jpg
Camping trailer, VTX, and our bear canister.

He even re-furbished a motorcycle camping trailer that we were able to use for 6 out of the 10 nights we were away from home. It would have been 8 nights but we opted to upgrade to a hotel on two of the nights when the campgrounds seemed to soggy for us as 40-somethings who enjoy comfortable beds. With hubby doing 100% of the driving, it was important for him to get adequate rest. See how good I am at justifying my desire for comfort? 😉

We wanted to explore one of the wonderful treasures of our Midwest home: Lake Superior. We love Canada and have traveled many times to Thunder Bay and that area. The first time we traveled there was just after we had gotten engaged, and we stayed in the McVicar Manor B&B. I am sad to see when I look online that this may have closed. I know Dorothy and Tom, the owners at the time, were planning to retire.

McVicar Manor
McVicar Manor B&B

Perhaps it is a seasonal closing, as I know they do spend some months of the year traveling.

In any case, hubby found many great camp sites where we could stay all around the lake, as well as a B&B in Sault Ste Marie and some other hotels where we spontaneously stayed when we encountered rain a couple of days in July.

At the start we arrived in Canada during their national holiday, just before the U.S. Independence Day holiday. It was Canada Day, eh! And we found an abundance of people camping, with Canadian flags on display at campsites. The provincial park system in Canada is amazing, and has generally more secluded sites than the typical American camp groud.

My favorites were Sleeping Giant Park and Lake Superior Provincial Park. Hubby took this wonderful photo from Agawa Bay in Superior Park, where we camped right along the shoreline. It was gorgeous, and quite warm that evening. But we started a camp fire anyway, because it is our tradition.

Agawa Bay - Superior
Original photo taken by husband of mexi-minnesotana. Use with attribution only.

The views from the Canada side were rather spectacular and hubby has hours of unedited video from his Go-Pro which attached like an antenna to his helmet. I kept teasing him about looking like a Martian with that darn thing stuck to the helmet.

Awww, but this is why I keep reading that spending money on experiences rather than things proves to be the most satisfying. There is the excitement and anticipation of the event, then the event itself and then recalling fond memories of the event.

As we cope with the dark months of winter, and I recover from the last dregs of this winter/holiday cold, these thoughts of an enjoyable vacation in the summer of 2017 warm my heart. Where are you planning your next vacation? 

O Canada
O Canada! Another view from a similar vantage point, taken by mexi-minnesotana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adult tantrums

I am a little embarrassed to admit that Christmas Eve this year I indulged in an “adult tantrum” about all that I had committed to do to prep for the holidays.

It wasn’t pretty. My hubby and I had been sick with colds during the week, so we were behind our usual holiday preparations, and I was struggling to get some things done at the last minute.

Upon reflection, I realized that the reason I was upset was not that I *HAD* to do anything for the holidays. Nobody was forcing me. I choose to celebrate the holidays in this way with my family, exchanging gifts and creating traditions especially for the children in the family.

When I reminded myself that I was doing the best I could under the circumstances, and that it is not my obligation to create a “perfect” holiday for anyone, I could finally relax and enjoy the time. When I was able to take a breath and realize that the purpose of the holiday is to pause, to reflect, and to enjoy time with loved ones, I came back to reality.

adult tantrums
Photo credit link

I realized that my inner dialogue was responsible for creating this idealized version of a holiday, in which I was falling far short. Also I know that I suffer from decision fatigue quite often. It is part of coping with an a.d.d. brain, and it is part of my reality. During the holidays, with all of the gift giving choices to make, this fatigue tends to be magnified.

Our expectations during the holidays are what typically get in the way of our joy. In recent years, I have tried “turning down” my expectations, so that I can focus on what is really important. I still wish my family might refrain from gift-giving and do something charitable instead. But I also realize that giving gifts brings people a lot of joy, and some people really do enjoy selecting gifts for loved ones.

I have explored the concept of emotional adulthood, and I realize it applies in these situations as well. We are responsible for our own feelings, and not the feelings of others. I cannot control whether others have a happy holiday. Since it is our thoughts that drive our feelings, having thoughts about “I have to…” or “I must…” tend to leave us feeling trapped, resentful, and Scroogey.

If we have thoughts instead of gratitude, for the opportunity to travel to see family on the holiday, or for all the abundance we have enjoyed in the past year, we feel joyful. If others in my family rely on me to provide their happiness, either by my getting them a perfect gift, or following family traditions to the letter, that is their business. I am not responsible for their thoughts and expectations of the holiday. I certainly hope and wish they enjoy it, but that is their own responsibility.

Holidays can be stressful for many reasons. But when we understand emotional adulthood and take responsibility for our own feelings, we can minimize our stress. That is certainly something to celebrate!

 

 

 

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, Readers.

To those who celebrate other holidays, I wish you happy celebrations also. I am taking a break from writing for a couple of days while I am up north with family, hopefully recovering from my cold.

I just wanted to thank you for reading and giving me feedback on my writing. Your likes,  comments and questions really help me understand and hone my ideas.

To those of you who blog, I am grateful to have learned about you through WordPress! What a gift it has been to discover an online tribe of people with so much wisdom and generosity.

Namaste.

Christmas fireplace
Photo credit link